Letters on Spiritual Subjects
Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the
knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
It is the pleasure of our dear Father to exercise you in
a very particular manner, and to continue it long upon you. But be not cast
down thereat, as if some strange thing had happened, for as many as the Lord
loves He rebukes and chastens. But it may be you will say, "My affliction is
very uncommon, has lasted a great while, and it is likely to endure so long
as I am in this world."
Well, be it so. Yet remember that God's special love
to you ordained this particular trial, and His everlasting kindness
keeps it still upon you. This was the means Infinite Wisdom pitched on for
the display of boundless love to you. By this you are to be made conformable
to Christ in sufferings and fitted for a conformity to Him in glory. Since
free grace has saved you—give it leave to carry on your salvation in its own
way. What though you pass through much tribulation, the Kingdom is at the
end. I doubt not but the Lord at times has opened much of His love to your
soul in the present afflictions, but the brightest discoveries are ahead.
The great opening of God's heart, in the gift of every trial, is reserved
for us until we get over Jordan, on the other side of death, into the land
of promise. Then we shall remember all the way the Lord led us through the
wilderness, and see it was the right way to the city of God.
Then the mysteries of Divine Providence shall be unfolded,
the cloud taken off every dark dispensation, and the veil from our
understandings. There the secret springs of boundless love, infinite
wisdom, and Almighty power which ordained, managed, and overruled every
scene of providence, for the glory of God and our advantage, shall be laid
open, for we shall see as we are seen. We shall bless God when we come to
heaven for every trial, even the bitterest, sharpest, longest affliction
that attended our mortal life; because we shall see how the Lord
uninterruptedly carried on the designs of His own glory and our salvation by
every change that passed over us.
Meanwhile, we must live by faith, and labor after an
increasing submission to the Divine Will under the sorest rebukes; and bless
God for every stroke, until grace is swallowed up in glory, when our wills,
with the highest complacency, shall everlastingly flow into the will of God.
And even now we have reason not only to be patient, but also to rejoice and
glory in tribulation. And were the eye of our faith, strong enough to pierce
the cloud of afflictive providences, and discern the love of our
Father's heart, which, as an infinite deep, couches beneath, and is the
spring of every dispensation, we would sing in sorrow, take pleasure in
distresses, and glorify God in the fires!
"For our light and momentary troubles are
achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Cor.
4:17) There are three things comprised in these words, which I desire you
may be enabled frequently to meditate upon.
First, the lightness of the saints'
Secondly, the shortness of it.
Thirdly, the advantage of all their present
First, the lightness
of the saints' affliction. "Our light affliction." It is not said the
afflictions of the world are light; but OUR affliction is light. And it is
so, if compared with what we have deserved, and the damned in hell endure.
Light, if compared with what Christ once bore, when for us he was the Man of
sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Light, because by virtue of Christ's
suffering for us in our room and stead, the curse is taken out of all our
afflictions. Again, they are light, because Omnipotent strength is engaged
to support us under them; underneath are the everlasting arms.
We have not, are not, shall not be left to go through any
trial alone. The God of Jacob is our refuge and strength, a very present
help in trouble. The Lord Jesus is our sweet companion in tribulation. He is
with us, to sympathize with us in our sorrows, to sustain us under our
burdens, to pardon all our unbelief and impatience when in the furnace, and
at last completely and gloriously to deliver us and bring us forth as gold
seven times refined.
No affliction, indeed, for the present is joyous, but
grievous to our frail flesh. It is so in itself, but much more so to us;
because we live so much by sense, and so little by faith. Every trial that
passes over us has a light as well as a dark side. And we should look upon
every affliction with a double view; as it is oppressing and grieving to
weak nature, it is, in itself, evil; and calls for submission to the Divine
will. But then, as the same affliction is viewed as flowing from God's love,
and effectually managed for His glory and our advantage, so it is good, and
ought to be a matter of our joy and thanksgiving.
Let us leave it then to those who have no interest in the
God of all Grace to think afflictions heavy; for woe to them that are alone.
But as for us, that are savingly interested in God (in all His Persons and
in all His perfections as engaged in covenant for our good), let us go on
rejoicing in tribulation, esteeming all our afflictions, as indeed they are,
Secondly, the shortness
of the saints' affliction is matter of great consolation; it is but for a
moment. A moment is but a short space—the smallest division of time; and
unto this of a moment are our longest afflictions compared. Suppose they
should last as long as we are in this world; yet, even our whole life if
compared with a vast eternity is but like a moment; and as Mr. Dod well
says, "What can be great to him that counts the world nothing? or long, to
him that counts his life but a span?"
Oh! were we more frequent in our converse with eternity,
it would make the afflictions of this present time appear short. Did we live
more in the views of approaching glory, we would remember our afflictions as
waters that pass away; that are here one moment and gone the next. But alas!
such is our folly, that we are taking thought for a great while to come, and
so make our 'imagined future trials' present distresses; whereas, were we
under the most pressing weights, and did take thought for no more than the
day (and sufficient to it is the evil thereof), living by faith on the
borders of glory, as just entering into the mansions of rest, it would
alleviate our sorrows, and make the longest trial appear short.
Could we thus reason with ourselves every day, "Well, I
have got one day nearer home; the afflictions of the past day I shall never
go through any more, and perhaps before I see another day in this world I
may see glory's day—a morning that will have no clouds nor evening to
succeed it, no sorrows, sin, nor death to darken its luster!" Oh, what a
means would this be to increase our patience, and make us of an enduring
spirit! And what matter of comfort is it that while our short-lived
afflictions last, Christ will be with us in them! He is with us when we
pass through the waters, that the rivers do not overflow us, that the
swelling waves of affliction do not overwhelm us; and when we walk through
the fires, that the flames kindle not upon us, that fiery trials do not
consume us. The priest's feet were to stand in Jordan until all Israel were
fully passed over. So our dear Lord Jesus will stand among the distresses,
dividing the waters before us, until all His children are fully passed
through them. His presence with us in affliction will make it light; and His
delivering-kindness out of it will make it short.
Thirdly, the advantage of
the saints' affliction is also an encouragement to faith and
patience—it works for us. But what does it work? Why, no less than glory!
And it works glory for us as it prepares us for it. Glory was prepared for
us, and settled upon us, in God's everlasting covenant with His Son, before
the world was. And affliction is a means Infinite Wisdom, Power, and Grace
makes use of to prepare us for glory; that glory which was prepared for us
before time, and will last to an eternal space beyond it. And who would
think it much to endure affliction, who sees it is but for the trial and
perfecting of his graces, and that the exercise of each might be found unto
praise, honor, and glory at Christ's appearing.
Now then, let us bring things to the balance of the
Sanctuary, and learn to judge of them aright. Let us amass together all the
afflictions of a believer's life, and put them in one scale, and glory in
the other, and see if that does not infinitely outweigh them, especially, if
we cast in the additional weights that are on glory's side! Here is
affliction on the one side, but glory on the other; light affliction, for a
moment, but a weight of glory, yes, an exceeding, a far more exceeding and
eternal weight of glory! Well might the Apostle say, "For I reckon that
the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with
the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).