by James W. Alexander
In every age, perhaps we might even say in every Christian experience, there are junctures in which it is difficult to reconcile the dispensations of providence with the goodness of God. The controversy began in the patriarchal days, and is the grand argument of the book of Job. "Why do the wicked live, become old, yes, are mighty in power?" Job 21:7. The seventy-third psalm is occupied with the clearing of the same paradox. "But as for me, my feet almost slipped; my steps nearly went astray. For I envied the arrogant; I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have an easy time until they die, and their bodies are well-fed. They are not in trouble like others; they are not afflicted like most people. Therefore, pride is their necklace, and violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes bulge out from fatness; the imaginations of their hearts run wild. They mock, and they speak maliciously; they arrogantly threaten oppression. They set their mouths against heaven, and their tongues strut across the earth." (Psalm 73:2-9).
Jeremiah, pre-eminently a sorrowful man, breaks forth thus—"Righteous are you, O Lord, when I plead with you, yet let me reason the case with you of your judgments—Why does the way of the wicked prosper?" Jer. 12:1. The worst men are sometimes apparently happy, and the consequence is, that the believer is envious of the ungodly. Enemies of God appear to him to succeed in every undertaking. Wealth flows in on them; they arrogate to themselves an exemption from all reverses, and feel insured even against providence; they fill the public eye, they build and decorate, they gather about them the mirthful and the revelling, they leave wealth to their children.
In the very same view, pious men are thought to be unhappy, and beyond a doubt are afflicted. Nothing is more true of them, as a class, than that they suffer. If we look at all the retinue of believers, following Christ up the steep ascent, we behold them bearing the cross, while the rugged path is marked by the blood of their feet, and their eyes are wet with weeping. They come out of great tribulation.
Under the perplexities of this contemplation, what is left for the believer in his anguish—but to seek the resort which we have been pointing out, and to search among God's glorious attributes for some one which may be a solace? The name of the Lord is a strong tower. But no gate of that fortress is unbarred for our entrance, until we approach under the banner of Christ. We compass the lofty, forbidding wall—but find no crevice open for sin. Yet the attributes and character of God are all we have.
For look heavenward, and consider—If God were ignorant or unwise, we might suffer without his knowledge, or sink in waters which he could not explore—we might be lost in mazes where his eye could not follow us, or be carried away in whirlwinds which he knew not how to quell. If he were limited in power, we might groan under the very burden which he could not lift off. If he were afar off, in some pavilion beyond our system, he could not be reached by our cry of anguish when the deep waters went over our soul. And were he not here this moment, it would be mockery to pray. If he were not good, our happiness would be nothing to him, and we might have hellish pain forever and ever. If he were not merciful, he could not care how wretched we are. If he were not gracious, we Would sink in despair, being sinners. But because he is Almighty, All-wise, All-seeing, Everywhere present, boundless, everlasting, and unchangeable, in goodness, mercy, and compassion—we have in him a refuge and stronghold, to which we may continually resort. The perfections and attributes of God afford a refuge—and in time of trouble, faith resorts to this refuge.
The perfections and attributes of God afford a refuge. Raise your eyes towards the loftiness of our stronghold. But take off the shoes from off your feet, for the place is holy ground!
As sinners, you will first be arrested by a trait of Divinity—God is just. The Judge of all the earth will do right. The reverse is inconceivable. When we think of a being who can do wrong, we no longer think of God. Nothing which he does can be unjust, arbitrary, or harsh. He smites down the venerable and beloved shepherd, in the very moment when his dearest earthly stays have been purposely removed. Or he overwhelms in the tide of sudden death, a mingled throng of youth and the elderly—both loveliness and crime. Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Hush your insane murmurs, O worm! "Be silent, O all flesh, before Jehovah; for he is raised up out of the habitation of his holiness!" Zech. 2:13. "Yes, surely God will not do wickedly, neither will the Almighty pervert justice." (Job 34:12). "And after these things I heard a great sound of a numerous crowd in Heaven, saying, Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and honor and the power to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments!" (Revelation 19:1-2).
We cannot imagine a motive which an Infinite Being could have to do an act of injustice. All the earth and all heaven unite in praising Jehovah as righteous. But O reader, can we climb up to our refuge by this frowning battlement! No! It is impregnable. If indeed we were so far freed from personal regards as to be governed in our thoughts and judgments by a sense of general equity, and respect to the honor of God, it is conceivable that we might acquiesce fully in those decisions of the Most High, which would contravene our own happiness. We would then submit to naked Justice.
Some urge this as the first step in a sinner's return; but the Bible knows no such refinement of abstract submission—it would, if possible, be the last and not the first step of sanctification. It would be the mighty effort of the giant, not the infant motion of the new-born soul. Let me not for a moment be misunderstood. Submission to God's will, and that in the most absolute sense, is the duty of every believer; and is a state of mind to which the influences of the regenerating and sanctifying Spirit infallibly lead. But there is an order in the dispensation of gracious affections; and agreeably to that order, it is not the first demand on an unreconciled heart that it should yield a legal submission to infinite justice, so as to be willing to endure everlasting condemnation, however righteous.
Such a submission to 'naked justice' is not to be looked for in our present state, and this for two reasons. First, because God made man a being desirous of happiness. It is a radical principle. It is God's own work. It is not one of those desires which came from the poison of the forbidden tree—but a propensity wrought into the first Adam, throbbing in the heart of the first Eve, actuating the holy pair among the trees of the garden, and appealed to, by Jehovah, in the first threat and the first promise. Let the thinker confront his God in Paradise—and say whether the propensity for personal happiness which is there recognized—is necessarily sinful. We are unable to think of anyone as a reasonable human being, who does not, in all possible circumstances, desire his own welfare.
One may choose a present evil, or relinquish a present good—but it is in every case with the hope of avoiding some greater evil, or obtaining some greater good. Human speculation has added to the words that are written in this book, by enjoining a false duty—that of being willing to be eternally miserable—as impossible, as it is uncommanded by God. Suppose it proved that my individual misery forever shall be for the greatest good of the universe, does this make me content to suffer misery—except under a hope of amends or relief? No—the Gospel takes away all that is earthly—but pours back all heaven into the bosom. Indeed, when we closely examine this false theory, it is a contradiction in terms to say that a man desires unhappiness—inasmuch as the accomplishment of our desires is happiness itself. Therefore, a total disregard of private interest or individual enjoyment is not commanded in all the word of God. We are to love our neighbour as ourselves. We may then love ourselves—may? we must love ourselves—and self-love becomes sin only when it becomes selfishness. The other reason why so stoical a submission to abstract justice is not demanded in our present state is, that it presupposes an extent of knowledge more than human. Our views are so limited, that we cannot take in all worlds and systems and ages—yet we must take these in, to determine what is best, wisest and most just in the government of God. Our ignorance, therefore, joins with our self-love, with that self-love which God's finger engraved on the decalogue, and infused into the heart, to prevent our finding a refuge in the mere justice of God. We submit to it as righteous; we do not enjoy it as happiness, until we join other views of God, and catch a glimpse of full-orbed Deity in the Sun of Righteousness.
Let us descend into our experience. A sudden or a lingering anguish comes and kills my peace. I break the seal of heart-wasting tidings, or I stand by the coffin of my first-born. The Judge of all the earth will do right. This comes home to the understanding as a glorious and undeniable truth. But then it may be right that I should be wretched. God will act as a righteous King; but it may be righteous for him to make me miserable. Justice, so far from comforting, is my terror. I look up to the precipitous side of the fortress, and see the bristling weapons of vindictive law barring my ascent. It was right for the flaming sword to keep the gate of Eden. It was right for the Salt Sea to surge over Sodom, Gomorrah and Zeboim. It was right that Judas should go to his own place. It was right that the sword should smite the Shepherd when he stood as the substitute for the sheep. It is right that in yonder lake the smoke of their torments goes up forever and ever. It may be right that this great pang should enter my heart from the right hand of Infinite Justice. No! more, not only it may be right—but O conscience, conscience, relentless conscience, you cease not day nor night to tell me, it is right—it cannot but be right! I feel it to be right. All within me rises to confirm the verdict with horrid acclamation—I am a sinner; "the soul which sins—it shall surely die." In the mere justice of God, then, I find no solace in affliction.
My unconverted friend, you deny yourself all other resource. That justice I plainly see to be against me. I cannot scale that eternal wall. Justice exacts the punishment of sin; but I am a sinner. Justice exacts obedience, full, unbroken and implicit; but I have long since broken the covenant. The afflictive stripes which I now endure, are but the pledge of my penalty. Yet they are just stripes—they are such as it befits Infinite Justice to inflict. It is a wonder—that I have not long since been given over to the executioner. Where can I look?—in what cleft of burning Sinai can I find a refuge?
Thus it is that the attribute of God's Justice, viewed alone, gives no comfort, and opens no stronghold to man, considered as a sinner. And it is for this very reason, that the eye of the sufferer is directed to another quarter of the heavens. I hasten to the point indicated in the outset. When we begin to learn from the Scriptures, that God is a God of love and tender compassion; that his very stripes are awakening us to fly to him; that he does not willingly afflict and grieve; that whom the Lord loves he chastens; when behind the lifted rod we discern a Father's tears; and when, as being in covenant, we consider that the same afflictions are accomplished in our brethren that are in the world; that they are not by chance—but appointed with the full consent of Him who rules on the throne, and who loved us so that he died for us, and is now our Guardian, Friend, Surety, Advocate, and Husband—when we find that he has brought us into this wilderness with an intention, and hedges up our way with preventive tenderness—then the desert begins to smile; and the thirsty wilderness seems moist with springs of water; the sandy desert appears newly clad with trees of pleasure; the "land is as the garden of Eden;" the voice of the Lord is heard among the trees of the garden. After sultry heats, the cool of the evening reveals the form of the Shepherd; he leads us beside the still waters. "Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me."
And O how suddenly can this change be wrought in the soul! Think not even a sudden death is denied these revelations. It is not sudden to him who sends it. Whether he gently unwinds the silver cord or dashes the golden bowl to pieces at a blow; whether the aged servant in his bed ebbs away into eternity by long decay, or welcomes his Master in some spasm of the heart; or loses his earthly consciousness amidst the shrieks and strangulation of shipwreck—what difference does it make? God was there; Christ was there. On this side we see corpses and desolation; on that side they see a delivered spirit, embosomed in love, entered into the eternal stronghold and refuge!
Inexorable Justice no longer appals us—when it is satisfied in Christ. It is the love, the mercy, the grace, the long-suffering, the fatherly compassion of our God, which is our citadel. "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe." What name is this? "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin, and that will by no means spare the guilty." This name is our strong tower; this God is our stronghold. We may take refuge in every name and attribute as in a separate chamber of our fortress. And the consolation is not confined to any specific case—but has a generality wide enough to embrace all who find the true entrance. The promise is exceeding wide, and opens its doors to all the throng of the wearied and heavy-laden.
The teaching of the Scripture is, therefore, plain—we have a refuge. The love of God—under the various names of goodness, bounty, long-suffering, compassion, mercy, and grace—is that which opens to us in our flight. Only convince a man, on gospel grounds, that God loves him, and in proportion to his faith, you make him a happy man. Let him only know the things that are freely given him of God, and he is comforted. "When, by the Spirit of God," says Luther, speaking of his conversion, "I learned how the justification of the sinner proceeds from God's mere mercy, by the way of faith—then I felt myself born again, as a new man; and I entered by an open door into the paradise of God. From that hour I saw the precious and holy Scriptures with new eyes." He had entered the stronghold.
Let a man comprehend the import of the declaration that God is good; let him think who and how great God is; what and how copious his all-sufficiency; how boundless his ability to bless; how exquisite the pleasures at his right hand for evermore—and then let him stand and wonder at the greatness of affection affirmed of such a Being, who sits at the fount of all conceivable good, creates all susceptibilities of enjoyment, and floods them with holy fullness. Let him muse on this until he has begun to conceive what God is—what God's love is—and how it must gush from this spring-head, and stream into swelling rivers of deep and spreading beneficence, of vast and solemn bliss, from its sources in the heart of infinite favor! And then let him turn inwards, and shudder to behold that the object of all this is—himself. I say, let a man thus be told, and thus understand, and thus believe that God loves him—and he is a happy man—he now knows that God is a refuge!
You do not bless the afflicted sinner, I repeat it, by saying to him that God is just. Sinners also believe and tremble. The never-failing replication of his conscience is, and "because He is just—I am wretched." But when you would revive the spirit of the contrite, say to him—God is love! Yet God's love itself, will be a dead letter to him, unless he looks at the cross; but let him so look, and he beholds a door. Thus the solitary young monk was led in by Staupitz—"Look at the wounds of Christ," he said to Luther, "and you will there see shining clearly the purpose of God towards men. We cannot understand God--outside of Christ." Hence the maxim of the Reformer's after years—"I cannot come near the absolute God." Love is the attribute which shows us most of God. Here we gaze on most of the divine effulgence. Power might be malevolent; knowledge might be distant; immensity might overwhelm; but love, essentially, in itself, is blissful, and to all around it communicates bliss. It is only at the cross, that we can reconcile the seeming opposites—"God is a consuming fire," and "God is Love."
The different ways in which Jehovah shows his love may have different names; but it is only the same adorable, undivided Perfection, shining in love. The rainbow that is about the throne may have its distinguishable colors—but the ray is one, and its name is Love. "For you, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and plenteous in mercy unto all who call upon you; a God full of compassion and gracious—long-suffering and plenteous in mercy and truth." This is not tautology—it is human mind and language sinking under repeated efforts to express the inexpressible, to go around the tower of glory, and survey first one side and then another of that structure which is the center and glory of the Church. Let men of the world consider this. Their rock is not as our Rock, even themselves being judges. Here is our city of strength, O worldlings! "Go around Zion, encircle it; count its towers, note its ramparts; tour its citadels so that you can tell a future generation: "This God, our God forever and ever—He will lead us eternally." (Psalms 48:12-14). Or in the words of another Scripture, "Jehovah is good!"
In time of trouble, faith actually resorts to this refuge. The lofty gates have been open for ages, and the fugitives of all nations have been pressing in; but still there is room! Times of trouble have not ceased from our world. In such times, we need some refuge, stronghold and solace. Every man seeks some refuge of this kind. Let a sudden storm ruffle our bay, and the squadron of small boats are instantly dispersed, each making for its little haven. The hiding-places of men are discovered by affliction. As one has aptly said, "Our refuges are like the nests of birds; in summer they are hidden among the green leaves—but in winter they are seen among the naked branches."
Ungodly men being afraid of God, and feeling that they are at enmity with him, go anywhere else for solace in affliction. Some turn to worldly business, and buy and sell with redoubled activity; some count up the idols that remain, and plan new enterprises; some go into light company, read light books, or flutter through the dance of light amusements; some have been known to enter the sty of drunkenness. Troubles drive each one to his refuge, and each has his little retreat, his shrine and his idol, which he seeks at such times.
And the child of God has his refuge—and runs into it in times of trouble! Above the raging of the water-floods, when all around is alarm, he hears the voice, as of a trumpet, saying from the refuge—"Come, my people, enter your chambers, and shut your doors behind you; hide yourselves for a little while until the fury has passed by." (Isaiah 26:20). And emerging from the waves, he responds—"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful, because I come to you for safety. In the shadow of your wings I find protection until the raging storms are over!" (Psalm 57:1). "When my heart is overwhelmed within me, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I." "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. That is why we are not afraid even when the earth quakes or the mountains topple into the depths of the sea! The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge!"" (Psalm 46:1-2).
Such cries of exultation have often risen from the ocean-waste, when God's children have been swallowed in the deep. Can I doubt that when the long-remembered steamer President was mysteriously crushed by the Atlantic surge, the lofty voice of Cookman, which I have so often heard with a thrill of delight calling sinners to Christ, as with the clear penetrating notes of a clarion, can I doubt that that voice was lifted above the noise of the waves, in some such strain as this—"The Lord on high is mightier than the voice of many waters, yes than the mighty waves of the sea!" And need we doubt, that in a recent catastrophe, more than one sanctified spirit, even in that little moment on the deck, or struggling in the current, or locked up in those lower chambers of death, was enabled to gather itself and say, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit! The moment of death requires simple exercises, thanks be to God; the way into that refuge is direct, especially to one who has been coming to it day by day for years. The word stronghold in the text, means in Hebrew a dwelling-place, abode, or mansion. It is the same used it the ninetieth Psalm—"You have been our dwelling-place in all generations." To the believer, God is not merely a retreat—but an abode; not a refuge just found out when trouble surprises—but a habitation to which he has learned continually to resort; not a temporary shelter—but a stronghold, where he dwells, and where he loves to dwell. "For this," says the Psalmist, "shall everyone pray unto you, in a time when you may be found; surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come near unto him—you are my hiding-place."
Here is a refuge to which faith actually resorts in every trouble. The heart knows its own bitterness; and sometimes the sharpest arrow is rankling just where others cannot perceive it. Many are the afflictions of the righteous—some of the sorest are not catalogued in books, or rehearsed in sermons. Sometimes single darts wound here and there—and then again, whole communities suffer. One disaster in war, or on the ocean—directs the 'river of sorrow' into a thousand homes. The falling of a hoary head—that crown of glory, if it is the head of a believer, a friend, an example, a father, a pastor—carries down with it the sorrowing hearts of a church, or indeed, as we have felt this week, of a whole Christian population. When it was whispered from one to another in our city, that a beloved father in the gospel had died during the night, who was there that did not feel that it was a bereavement, and that the loss was a loss of the Christian society? (This was penned just after the death of an eminent pastor.)
Such will be the case with all of us, in our several afflictions, if our faith resorts to God as a refuge. It is this, far more than exemption from trials, which makes life blessed. Perhaps you have been tempted to say, Blessed are the prosperous, the rich, the proud! No! Asaph had some such thoughts; but when he went into the sanctuary, and took a heavenly view, he saw and understood the end of the wicked. It was one who knew, that said—Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Happy are they only, who have sorrow sweetened by the divine promise. They glory in tribulation. They have storms—but they have both an anchor and a haven.
God's goodness cannot be manifested more clearly than in a sanctifying process, however severe. Let me thus reason with such as are in trials. We have asked to be made holy. Again and again we have besought the Lord to withdraw us from evil ways, to divorce us from the idols which seduce us; and now we hear him saying, "This is what I will do: I will block her way with thorns; I will enclose her with a wall, so that she cannot find her paths. She will pursue her lovers but not catch them; she will seek them but not find them. Then she will think: I will go back to my former husband, for then it was better for me than now." And, so saying, the soul recognizes the goodness of God, and faith enters the stronghold.
There are thoughts in the darkened chamber of sorrow which visit us nowhere else. They are important, beneficial thoughts, to instruct, confirm, purify, arm, and comfort; thoughts of our sin, our selfishness, our idolatry, our worldliness, our unbelief; thoughts of the abiding joy laid up in heaven, where sickness, alarm, despair, and sin never come. And I speak the mind of all sanctified affliction, when I add, that among them all, no thought is more constant than that of God's goodness as an eternal refuge. "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength."
1. How admirable and lovely is that religion which makes such provision for times of trial! And the provision is God.We are told, not that a refuge or fortress is found in this or that consideration—but that the name of the Lord is a strong tower. True religion derives all its graces and all its glories from its principal object. If the believer is to rejoice, it is in God. The course of our experience shows us, that every reliance sinks away from under us, and nothing under the sun can be our support. Youth, and vigor, and strength soon decay. Health is one of the most precarious and perishable of our brief possessions. Wealth—I will not condescend to name it, as a solace in heart-trouble. Friends—they are blessed gifts; let us ever thank God for them, discharge our duty to them, and dwell in love among them—but their arm reaches but a little way. Often the most that they can do is to weep with us. And ah! how soon, how rapidly do they depart! Until at length the aged disciple looks around to wonder at his own solitude; and if he sees near him so much as one of the companions of his youth, is ready to tremble at the prospect of speedy separation.
Christian experience, I say, shows us, sooner or later, that there is no resting short of God. Tread on any ground but this, and it proves a quicksand. But oh, how rich is the possession of God's saints! The mighty God of Jacob is their refuge, and underneath them are the everlasting arms! "I will never, I will never, I will never, never, never, never leave you, nor forsake you!"—such is the meaning of the text. Here is a heavenly tower of vast dimensions, every chamber filled with bounty, and every gate standing wide open. As the officials of Israel were commanded to see that the highways to the cities of refuge were kept in good repair, so that the fleeing culprits might meet with no obstruction—so it is a chief duty of the gospel ministry to facilitate the flight of all afflicted people to the tower of strength and consolation. O that I were able to recount and to describe the numerous instances in which I have seen the heart-broken child of God taking courage amidst redoubled calamities, in the attributes of a reconciled God! This were enough—if there were nothing else—to recommend the Christian religion to all who suffer pain, fear, or bereavement. And hence, indeed, we observe, that the followers of the Lord Jesus consist in a great degree of those who have been drawn to him by the necessities of deep affliction.
2. How serious is the question—Am I acquainted with God as a strong tower in the time of danger?It is not everyone who possesses this resort—or who knows the way to it. As has been intimated, the flying of the soul to God, in times of trouble, presupposes some knowledge of him, reconciliation with him, and trust in him. The calamities of life are such indeed, and come with poignant sting to those who have no God. The afflictive bolt falls with almost crushing violence, on the man who is at ease in his possessions, and who cries in vain to his god of silver and of gold.
Beloved reader, be persuaded to remember your Creator, before the evil days come. Hearken to the voice of all experience, and believe that you will bitterly regret your impenitence and procrastination, when sudden affliction comes upon you. You cannot possibly make a better use of these halcyon days of youth, of health and of ease, than by providing for the dark and cloudy season. God is graciously ready to welcome him who turns to him, even in the hour of his desolation, and, like the prodigal, cries, "I will arise and go to my father!" But more pleasing is it to God, and more profitable to the soul, when one amidst the sunshine of hope and prosperity, looks up and says, "Father, you are the Guide of my youth!" Nothing is more certain, than that the days are hastening on, in which you will find these to be true sayings. Therefore, be exhorted, without delay, to flee into this everlasting tower, that you may be safe—safe not merely from the clouds of worldly sorrow—but from the insufferable tempest of God's eternal wrath and curse!
3. It only remains that I should beseech those who are sufferers at this time, actually and immediately to betake themselves to this refuge.Behold the Rock of your Defense! Behold in every several attribute a chamber of protection! Call to mind the lessons of your whole Christian life, with regard to the Truth, the Justice, and the Goodness of God. Even under the Old Testament, amidst many imperfections of knowledge, God's people learned to confide in him, under the heaviest strokes. Abram, Jacob, Eli, Job, David, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, have all left us their testimonial.
So clear was this, that even the modern Jew, in his wanderings has lessons of resignation, which are unknown to the pagan philosopher. "During the absence of the Rabbi Meir, his two sons died — both of them of uncommon beauty, and enlightened in the divine law. His wife bore them to her chamber, and laid them upon her bed. When Rabbi Meir returned, his first inquiry was for his sons. His wife reached to him a goblet; he praised the Lord at the going out of the Sabbath, drank, and again asked, 'Where are my sons?' 'They are not far off,' she said, placing food before him that he might eat. He was in a genial mood, and when he had said grace after supper, she thus addressed him—Rabbi, with your permission, I would gladly propose to you one question.' 'Ask it then, my love,' replied he. 'A few days ago a person entrusted some jewels to my custody, and now he demands them. Should I give them back to him?' 'This is a question,' said the Rabbi, 'which my wife should not have thought it necessary to ask. What! would you hesitate or be reluctant to restore to everyone his own?' 'No,' she replied, 'but yet I thought it best not to restore them without acquainting you therewith.' She then led him to the chamber, and stepping to the bed, took the white covering from the dead bodies. 'Ah! my sons, my sons,' loudly lamented their father; 'my sons! the light of my eyes and the light of my heart!' The mother turned away and wept bitterly. At length she took her husband by the hand and said, 'Rabbi, did you not teach me that we must not be reluctant to restore that which was entrusted to our keeping? See, the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away, and blessed be the name of the Lord.' 'Blessed be the name of the Lord,' echoed the Rabbi, 'and blessed be his holy name forever.'"
But all Old Testament resignations and hopes are but a morning twilight, compared with the meridian faith of the Gospel. Now, we behold in Jesus, not only a Master and a Comforter—but a fellow-sufferer, a forerunner, a sympathizing High Priest. By him, as a medium, we approach our fortress; for he is the way, the truth, and the life. Not even sin can keep us away; for he has borne our sins in his own body on the tree. Come then, and drown your griefs in the sea of everlasting love! A little longer, and you shall be admitted to a nearer view of those divine excellences, which, even in distant prospect, have sustained your head amidst the billows. And, then, when fully entered into your eternal fortress, how speedily shall you forget all the trials of the pilgrimage!
My beloved brethren, what we need, in order to support our fainting souls—is only a larger measure of that faith, which is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen; which shall make the coming eternity as real to us, as the events of the passing life; which shall turn our doctrines and tenets respecting God and heaven, into heart-experience, and actuating motive. Then shall we abide in God, as in our tower! Then shall we be encircled in his pavilion of love. Then shall we dwell in the house of the Lord forever!