James Smith, 1842
"Let us search and try our ways — and turn again to the Lord." Lamentations 3:40
Affliction calls us to reflection, self-examination,
and prayer. It is . . .
a solemn pause in the discourse of human life;
a short stop in the pilgrim's journey.
The Lord calls us aside, and says to us, as Jesus to His disciples, "Let us go aside into a desert place and rest awhile."
Look back, believer, upon the ways in which your God has led you; review His dealings with you; look at your conduct in reference to Him. Search your ways. What course have you been pursuing prior to this afflictive dispensation? What spirit have you manifested? What have you been habitually aiming at? Try your ways. Try them by the precepts of God's holy word. Try them by your professions; by the examples of holy men; try them by the character you have to sustain.
Have you been doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with your God? Has your conduct declared plainly, that you seek a country, a city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God? Have you been walking after the Lord — or contrary to Him? Have you been setting your affections on things above — or minding earthly things? Have you been laying up for yourself treasures in Heaven — or laboring more especially for the food that perishes? Do not put away the questions — but search and try your ways.
Has the Lord reason to say to you, "O my people, what have I done unto you? How have I wearied you? Testify against me. Have I been a wilderness unto you? a land of darkness? Why have you so backslidden from me? "
Turn again to the Lord — He invites you back! He acknowledges that you have done evil things as you could — but He says, "Yet now return unto me." Turn to Him with confession of sin, mourn over your follies and transgressions, and bemoan yourself before Him. Turn to Him with all the heart, not insincerely.
He says to you, "My son, give me your heart! This sickness is sent to demand it, surrender it without hesitation, surrender it without reserve.
As a Father — I ask your love!
As a Savior — I ask your confidence!
As a Friend — I, ask your company!
As a God — I ask your entire dedication to my service and praise.
You have deserved wrath — but you shall find mercy!
You have merited condemnation — but you shall obtain remission!
You may expect banishment — but you shall be accepted in the Beloved, to the praise of the glory of my grace."
He says to you, "I have blotted out your sins as a cloud, and your iniquities as a thick cloud! Return unto me, for I have redeemed you. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against the Lord your God — and he who confesses and forsakes His sin, shall find mercy. Will you not from this time cry unto me, My Father, you are the guide of my youth? Return, O backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings."
What can be more precious? How can mercy be more free? He imposes no hard conditions, He requires no costly sacrifice, He says, "Confess — and be pardoned; ask — and be blessed; receive — and be holy; obey — and be happy." Oh say unto Him, Behold, Lord, I come unto you; for you are the Lord my God. Then you may sing:
Instructed now I bow,
And own your sovereign sway;
I turn my erring footsteps back
To your forsaken way!