All seemed dark and mysterious!
(John MacDuff, "Loving Counsels" A New Years Address, 1868)
"On my bed I remember You; I think of You through the watches of the night." Psalm 63:6
Some of you can look back over this past year to a time of sickness, when you experienced divine help and consolation — when first you were summoned to retire from the busy throng, and from the scenes in which you delighted. All seemed dark and mysterious. The consciousness that health had departed — that disease was progressing — and that pain and weariness was confining you, as a prisoner, to the bed of suffering. All this pressed hard upon your spirit, and filled your soul with despondency and gloom. The trying dispensation, instead of appearing what it eventually proved — a precious blessing — seemed to be a dire and heavy calamity!
But He, who works His purposes of mercy and love towards His children, in a way often contrary to their expectations and plans — did not leave you to linger in darkness and despair. He came to you in the night watches — He made all your bed in your sickness — He brought promise upon promise to cheer your drooping spirit! He taught you that your sickness and suffering, were needed — to refine, elevate, and sanctify you! He taught you that He designed, thereby . . .
to draw you nearer to Himself,
to wean your affections from the world, and
to bring your will into sweeter and more perfect harmony with His own!
Oh! surely, you have good reason, this day, to bless God for that bed of suffering — that couch of weakness, and those wearisome days, and long sleepless nights, if, thereby, you have . . .
been enabled to realize more fully, that God is your all, your portion, your Father;
been brought into closer relation, and more endeared intimacy, and fellowship with Jesus — the sympathizing Brother — the tender loving Friend;
become more deeply sensible of the Holy Spirit's work within you — of His power to comfort, support, and sanctify you.
Looking back upon that eventful period, your feeling now is:
"Thank God for my trial-time of sickness — for calling me away from the busy throng, that I might be alone with Him! Thank God for teaching me . . .
my own weakness — and His strength;
my own emptiness — and His fullness;
my own sinfulness — and His pardoning love;
my own utter helplessness — and His upholding, comforting, and sustaining grace!
Thank God . . .
that the anguish of that season of pain, distress, and suffering — was so often solaced by His love;
that its loneliness was so often dispelled by His gracious presence;
that its gloom was so often brightened with His smile;
and that its calamity was so often sanctified by His grace!
Thank God that I can now sit loosely to the world, and feel, that I am only a stranger and a pilgrim in it, journeying to my heavenly home! Thank God that I can rest in the assurance of having One ever near, to whom I can reveal every doubt, and care, and perplexity — on whose arm I can confidingly lean in 'coming up from the wilderness;' from whose infinite fullness I can at all times obtain . . .
strength for duty,
patience for suffering,
support under weakness,
and comfort in the midst of sorrow!
His grace is 'sufficient' to bear me up amid all earthly trials and sorrows, temptations and infirmities — and His strength can guide and uphold me in duty, service, and suffering — until that blessed hour, when, the conflict ended, and the victory won — He shall conduct me safely to my eternal home!"