I. OUT OF THE DEEP OF SUFFERING AND SORROW.
Save me, O God, for the waters are come in even unto my soul: I am come into deep waters; so that the floods run over me.—Ps. lxix. 1, 2.
I am brought into so great trouble and misery: that I go mourning all the day long.—Ps. xxxviii. 6.
The sorrows of my heart are enlarged: Oh! bring Thou me out of my distress.—Ps. xxv. 17.
The Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping: the Lord will receive my prayer.—Ps. vi. 8.
In the multitude of the sorrows which I had in my heart, Thy comforts have refreshed my soul.—Ps. xciv. 17.
Each heart knows its own bitterness; each soul has its own sorrow; each man’s life has its dark days of storm and tempest, when all his joys seem blown away by some sudden blast of ill-fortune, and the desire of his eyes is taken from him, and all his hopes and plans, all which he intended to do or to enjoy, are hid with blinding mist, so that he cannot see his way before him, and knows not whither to go, or whither to flee for help; when faith in God seems broken up for the moment, when he feels no strength, no purpose, and knows not what to determine, what to do, what to believe, what to care for; when the very earth seems reeling under his feet, and the fountains of the abyss are broken up.
When that day comes, let him think of God’s covenant and take heart. Is the sun’s warmth perished out of the sky because the storm is cold with hail and bitter winds? Is God’s love changed because we cannot feel it in our trouble? Is the sun’s light perished out of the sky because the world is black with cloud and mist? Has God forgotten to give light to suffering souls, because we cannot see our way for a few short days of perplexity?
No. God’s message to every sad and desolate heart on earth, is that God is Light, and in Him is no darkness at all; that God is Love, and in Him there is no cruelty at all; that God is One, and in Him there is no change at all. And therefore we can pray boldly to Him, and ask Him to deliver us in the time of our tribulation and misery; in the hour of death, whether of our own death or the death of those we love; in the day of judgment, whereof it is written—“It is God who justifieth us; who is he that condemneth? It is Christ who died, yea, rather who is risen again, who even now maketh intercession for us.” To that boundless love of God, which He showed forth in the life of Christ Jesus; to that perfect and utter will to deliver us which God showed forth in the death of Christ Jesus, when the Father spared not His own Son, but gave Him freely for us; to that boundless love we may trust ourselves, our fortunes, our families, our bodies, our souls, and the bodies and souls of those we love.
To all, sooner or later, Christ comes to baptise them with fire. But do not think that the baptism of fire comes once for all to a man, in some one terrible affliction, some one awful conviction of his own sinfulness and nothingness. No; with many—and those perhaps the best people—it goes on month after month, year after year. By secret trials, chastenings, which none but they and God can understand, the Lord is cleansing them from their secret faults, and making them to understand wisdom secretly; burning out of them the chaff of self-will, and self-conceit, and vanity, and leaving only the pure gold of righteousness. How many sweet and holy souls, who look cheerful enough before the eyes of man, yet have their secret sorrows. They carry their cross unseen all day long, and lie down to sleep on it at night; and they will carry it perhaps for years and years, and to their graves, and to the throne of Christ before they lay it down; and none but they and Christ will ever know what it was; what was the secret chastisement which God sent to make that soul better which seemed to us already too good for earth. So does the Lord watch His people, and tries them with fire, as the refiner of silver sits by his furnaces watching the melted metal till he knows that it is purged from all its dross by seeing the image of his own face reflected on it.
Town and Country Sermons....