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CRUMBS OF COMFORT FOR GOD'S AFFLICTED SAINTS. “I will also leave in the midst of thee an aflicted and poor people, and they shall
trust in the name of the Lord.”—ZEPH. iii. 12. And surely the Lord has fulfilled His promise ; for, go where we will, we find that the majority of the Lord's family are a poor and afflicted people. As we take up the pen, we hear of one exceedingly poor and destitute, and apparently fast nearing her end; and yet it is wonderful how grace supports her, and with what thankfulness she receives the least mite; and her language is, “The Lord, I know, will never leave me, nor forsake me; I can trust Him; He has never failed me yet. I am not afraid to die.' It was said to her, " Then you do not murmur at your lot?” She replied,
Oh, no! I have many mercies, and Jesus is dear to me." Well, beloved, a religion that will thus support and even keep one cheerful when there is but a crust in the cupboard is real and genuine, and worth possessing ; and now, as there are many like the one referred to, who are struggling to obtain the bread that perisheth, or, if not, have yet trial and care in some form or another, we would at this season address such, trusting it may be the Spirit's pleasure to cause us to pour into their souls the balm of consolation, that they may trust in the name of the Lord; and first, beloved, let me remind
thatGod has appointed thine afliction in love.--For “whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.” It is a father's hand that holds the rod; it is a father's hand that guides the strokes. If He chastises His children, they are His children still. A parent's rod does not alter a parent's love. The discipline is well, and proves relationship. The worldlings go on smoothly enough; it seems all joy and mirth with them; and, when they come to die, the wicked have no bands in their death : but the children of God are an afflicted, tempest-tossed, but not lost, people.
“ Did I meet no trials here,
No chastisement by the way,
I should prove a castaway ?
Sunk in earthly vain delight;
Must not, would not, if he might.”
Love to His people, then, is at the bottom of every dispensation of God's providence they have to pass through. And then
There is a needs-be for them, or we should not have them.--Afflictions are sent to bring us to our Bibles and our knees : and what a solace in the hour of trial is prayer! How, under such pressure, our ejaculations become heart-felt? How mixed with tears the meltings of a subdued and softened spirit! We have been cold enough at the throne when all has gone well with us; fine and formal have been our polished sentences when we have gone to the throne by way of duty, instead of having been driven to
it by distress. But all sentiment vanishes when the weight of affliction is felt; the heart becomes in earnest; the need is great, and our petitions are to the point. Ah! beloved, can we not look back to the place of affliction, and think how we poured out our soul in agony before the Lord, how, in answer to our cries, He blessedly calmed the troubled heart, delivered us from our many fears, and made us rejoice in His salvation ? Such seasons are memorable in our experience; we feel that we would not have been without them. They have been growing times, and we have been
Taught obedience to our God
By the things we have endured.” Furthermore
The Lord will most certainly support under them. He giveth “songs in the night.” Mark, “ He giveth ;" then we sing, not otherwise : and, when we thus sing through our tears, we sing away our fears. It is well to silence our doubts by singing praises unto the Lord.
" Come," would Luther say to Melancthon, when prospects looked dark and distressing at the beginning of the Reformation, Come, let us sing the forty-sixth Psalm, and let earth and hell do their worst."
Oh, shame upon. some in the present day who under-value what those dear men of God were raised up to achieve, and would drift our beloved country again into the thraldom and tyranny of popery!
But to return. The Lord will blessedly support His afflicted ones. will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” are His own words; and we have Jesus' sympathy when in trial. In all their afflictions He was afflicted; that special one of thine, beloved, is included in the “all," and Jesus is looking on. Therefore can we appeal to Him, and say,
" Thou tellest my flitting, and puttest my tears into Thy bottle; are not these things noted in Thy book ?"
“God is the refuge of His saints
When storms of dark distress invade;
Behold Him present with His aid.""
Oh, how truly valued is grace when it is felt to sustain under trial! And then we may recollect that
They work for our good.-Sanctified afflictions work spiritual advancement. Rich mercies are often hid under dark providences. “ All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”
God's providence is like a beautiful piece of machinery, all working with its little wheels within wheels for some purpose, and that purpose the eternal good and profit of His people. Dark and mysterious as the
way may often be to us, yet God knoweth the way we take; and, when He hath tried us, we shall come forth as gold ; and the gold that is brightest has been tried in the refiner's fire. The tree that bears the most fruit has been well shaken by the wind. The wound that is most effectually cured has been well probed. The vessel that sails steadiest is that which has its proper proportion of ballast.
How frequently is a heavy load of miseries followed by a joyous train of mercies ; and, when we behold the waggon-load of blessings, like good old Jacob, our spirits revive. Then
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
He hides a smiling face.” Their duration is brief.-- They are but for a moment, while the joy in reserve is for eternity. The day of adversity ends, but the morning without a cloud never terminates. It is true we meet with Christians whose trial is of long standing; year after year, it may be, they have been heavily burdened, yet for their comfort we may remind them that, if long lasting, they are not everlasting. Life is but a span, a vapour which soon passeth away, and, brief as it is, the Lord will not let us linger on the way. We often try to feather our nests and settle upon our lees, but all attempts to be at rest in the wilderness will always prove a failure. God knows that wild beasts abound there, and therefore that carnal rests would be fraught with danger, so He gives that which will keep us stirring and pressing homewards. And then,
They are calculated to teach us how frail we are.—When we think of the sickness and disease that this poor mortal frame is subject to, surely there is no room for creature-pride.
"Strange that a harp of thousand strings
Should keep in tune so long.” We are fearfully and wonderfully made; and yet what a peacock kind of life many lead, strutting about in perishable plumage ; but sanctified trials keep us humble—teach us our frailty, and cause us to see how dependent we are upon a covenant God for all.
“I must expect a daily cross;
Lord, sanctify the pain;
And yield some patient gain.” It is on the heights we crow; it is in the depths we cry. Too apt are we in prosperity to say, “We are lords, and will no more come unto Thee" (Jer. ii. 31). But in adversity our language is, “We are sinners; to whom can we go but unto Thee? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” Therefore adversity must be better for us than prosperity; as the wise preacher says, “It is better to go into the house of mourning than into the house of laughter."
There are few that go into such depths but what they will find some fellow tried one has gone deeper. Often must we acknowledge that our groanings are heavier than our stroke ; but Job asserted that his stroke was heavier than his groaning. We are tried, but joy breaks in upon us; he declared that he was tried every moment. We have many sorrows,
but our Saviour A Man of sorrows.” And then,Affliction leads into the footsteps of the worthies, and of our divine Master Himself.—
Yes; all the worthies who have gone before had to tread in the pathway of tribulation; their trials were diverse and peculiar, but all had their share. For instance, how specially trying was Joseph's burden, to be falsely charged with a sin he never committed, and thrust into prison when blameless; this was trying, indeed, yet how sweetly comforted by the Lord. The Lord was with Joseph, and showed him mercy. Again, look at Eli, how peculiarly painful his burden, even the wickedness of his children. The sons of Eli were sons of Belial; they knew not the
Lord. What a heavy trial this to a godly parent, and to a praying mother. It is no slight mercy when we see our dear ones walking in the fear of the Lord. Again, look at Nehemiah's trial, which was in connection with the sorrow and misery that was felt in his native land—“I sat down and wept and mourned and prayed before the God of heaven;" and how many of the Lord's children in the present day could sit down and weep on account of much that is going on in their beloved country that is Christ-dishonouring. And then look at poor Job. Oh, what a combina
, tion of suffering he had to pass through! His oxen taken away, his sheep killed, his servants struck down, his beloved children torn from him, his houses levelled to the ground, and his wife, who ought to have been a comfort to him, bidding him curse God, and die. Truly might poor Job say, “God maketh my heart soft; the Almighty troubleth me. ,
" And then, New Testament, as well as Old Testament, saints had to pass along the same pathway. Paul, for instance, tells us he "served the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears and temptations,” while it is written of the apostles, “We both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; and labour, working with our own hands : being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” So it is, beloved, if we are tried and tempted, we are but following in the footsteps of the worthies who have gone before. And then it is but following in the footsteps of our divine Master, with this difference, that He went down into the depths; we only have to wade through the shallows in comparison. “ He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth : He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.' Oh, to love Him more for what He has passed through for us! And then, further,
Affliction brings fruit unto God.- “ Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I have kept Thy word.” A dear servant of God, now in glory, said, “I find afflictions good for me. I have ever found them so. They are happy means in the hand of the Holy Spirit to mortify my corruptions, to subdue my pride, my passion, my inordinate love to the creature. They soften my hard heart, bring me on my knees, exercise and increase faith, love, humility, and self-denial. They make me poor in spirit,
That brought me nearer to my God.'” Well, this is bringing forth fruit unto God, but methinks we cannot all sing so clearly and cheerfully, "O happy rod." Have you not known what it is, beloved, to have a trial so acute that the promises of God have seemed blunted to you, and the very heavens only as brass over your head ? You have felt, “I cannot pray,” I cannot read my Bible, all is too much for me. But still, beloved, when the thick cloud has passed away, then how softened it left you, and how pointed and precious and penetrating did the word of God become; they afterwards did yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness, although you cannot, it may be, quite sing, “O happy rod." And lastly, think, beloved,
” They all end in a crown of glory.—"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him." Yes, the diversity of the pilgrims' trials all work out one end—viz., to meeten them for glory; and
this is the reason they are to count it all joy when they fall into diverse temptation. Let us not then be murmuring at the cross, but keeping the eye of faith fixed upon the crown; thus shall we forget the former, and reach forward after the latter; in this way we shall “ so run that we may obtain.” And recollect, tried one, we but bear the cross for time, yonder we shall wear the crown for eternity. Many a Christian has carried his afflictions to the grave, but no Christian has ever carried them beyond it. This is our consolation—they will be left behind with all our worldly goods and chattels—no sorrow can enter in at the pearly gates, for it is said of the inhabitants of the celestial city, “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Let, then, the consideration of these things cheer us; pick up the crumbs of comfort we have been led to scatter for afflicted ones, and think, as reminded, that the Lord has appointed thine affliction in love; that there is a needs-be for every one, or we should not have them, and the Lord will most certainly support under them; and then, depend upon it, they work for our good—they teach us how frail we are, and lead us into the footsteps of the worthies who have gone before, and into the pathway of the Divine Master Himself; and, while the duration is short, they end in a crown of glory, a mansion of bliss, everlasting rest and joy.
“Though rough and thorny be the road,
home apace to God.
For heaven will make amends for all." Ilford.
A VERSE ON AN OLD SAMPLER.
Sarah F 1798." I have every reason to believe that the prayer breathed in the above was answered, as the worker grew to be a very godly old lady. She loved her Bible, and would talk freely of God's dealings towards her both in providence and grace, to all who visited her; and, when through age and infirmity she was prevented from going to the house of God, she was greatly pleased to hear from others an account of the sermon. a lover of truth, and would impress again and again on her young visitors that "
excuses were lies.” She had little of this world's goods, but God gave her a “grateful heart to taste His gifts with joy." Her end was peace; she was taken from this world at night in the unconsciousness of sleep.
“Watch, therefore ; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth
Therefore be ye also ready; for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh."
R. W. J.
There may be, and often is, much of true grace when there is not a drop of comfort, nor a grain of consolation.