54. On Trials
When I look into the world, and see all around me in pursuit of happiness;
that certain something unpossessed, yet still desired; which eludes the
grasp of thousands, who think they have just to make one effort more to
seize the flattering shadow and be happy; I ask why all this restlessness,
this feverish thirst for that which cannot satisfy an immortal soul? Is it
not that man, blinded by his passions, fondly hopes to find happiness in a
world, from where it long since took its flight, when Adam ate of the
"Thorns and thistles shall the earth bring forth to you," is the language of
Jehovah to his fallen creatures, when he cursed the ground for man's sake;
and if the divine inspiration of the Bible rested upon the truth of this one
declaration, every age and every heart must feelingly witness to its holy
Vain man would attempt to be happy while remaining at a distance from his
God. He plucks the flower, and it withers in his hand. His fond expectations
of earthly bliss, like wave succeeding wave, roll along in quick succession,
without bringing him any nearer to the desired haven of rest and happiness.
This world is not a resting-place to the wicked, nor the resting-place of
the righteous. "There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked." His desires
are restless, his passions are restless, his spirit is restless. He needs
what he has not, and does not truly enjoy what he has. He is of the earth,
earthy. His aims, pursuits, and pleasures, all spring out of and settle upon
the world. Thus he reaps those thorns and thistles which spring up in such
abundant crops, wherever he erects his dwelling. Disappointed and chagrined
that happiness is ever eluding his grasp, he grows peevish in his spirit, or
a complainant against his kind, yet insulted Creator. No wonder that misery
marks his steps, even though, like those of Asher, they be "dipped in oil."
(Deut. xxxiii, 24.)
Worldly riches cannot give quietness; when God gives trouble. Oh my soul,
learn true wisdom from what you see around you. Every situation is planted
with thorns in this wilderness of sin. Vain, then, is the expectation of
man, to find a place of pure, uninterrupted rest below the skies. And yet,
what crowds are daily in search of such a place of rest in the midst of a
polluted and tempestuous world! Some think it lies in the region of wealth;
others in that of pleasure; others in that of honor. Some fancy it is found
in the busy throng; and some in the stillness of retirement. But all who
seek it in the world shall never find it.
You, blessed Jesus, are the true and only resting-place for guilty sinners.
Believing in you, they enter into rest. Your people, it is true, must bear
your cross, but they enjoy your consolations also; they feel a peace and
calm within, which all the panting candidates for worldly happiness can
never obtain. They have peace with God, peace in their own consciences; and
study, as much as lies in them, to live peaceably with all men.
Thus they are enabled to bear with composure the varied trials of life;
looking with assured hope to that rest which remains to the people of God,
when this stormy world shall have passed away, and its votaries be doomed to
that doleful place, where they have no rest day nor night, but where the
smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever!
Oh divine Savior! be my portion, the lot of my inheritance. Then shall I
rejoice in the midst of sorrows, and be calm in the midst of storms. Oh!
speak peace to my troubled soul, and then all shall be still. Blessed
Redeemer! all who come to you find rest unto their souls; and I would now
come. Receive me in mercy. Cause me to know you as my Savior, and to rejoice
daily in the joyful sound of mercy extended to the chief of sinners.
When a sinner is first brought to the knowledge of the truth, and
experiences the joys of faith and the sweets of pardoning love, he fancies
that the bare mention of his own comforts will he sufficient to make all
around him anxious to possess them too. A little experience, however, shows
him, that the hard heart of man is not so easily to be moved.
Instead of converting those about him, he raises up a host of foes, even in
the bosom of his own family, and among his kinsfolk and acquaintance. He
becomes the object either of their pity or their scorn; and meets with cold
neglect, or many sharp rebukes, where once he enjoyed a hearty welcome. His
name is cast out as evil; his motives are maligned; his actions deemed
precise and singular; his conversation whining cant; yes, his whole life
condemned as unbecoming a true man, or even a person endued with common
sense. The consistent believer in Jesus must, therefore, expect trials and
opposition from an ungodly world. "As he that was born after the flesh,
persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now."
The blessed Savior has given his people clear and repeated intimations to
that effect. "Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall
separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your
name as evil for the Son of man's sake; rejoice you in that day, and leap
for joy, for behold your reward is great in heaven."
The Christian's trials arise from various sources.
They spring from HIS GENERAL CHARACTER.
If the believer be divested of all unnecessary singularity in dress or
deportment; yet his attachment to the Redeemer, evidencing itself by a firm
adherence to the precepts of the Gospel, and a rooted aversion to all sin,
will, of itself, create dislike, and beget such a secret enmity in the
hearts of the ungodly, as cannot fail of showing its malignity by outward
contempt or ridicule.
There was nothing of singularity in the character of the blessed Jesus,
except his unspotted holiness; his unbounded benevolence; his perfect
conformity to the divine law; his heavenly wisdom; his deadness to the
world; his boldness in reproving sin; his entire resignation to his Holy
Father's will; his divine power in healing diseases, feeding the hungry,
casting out devils, and stilling the raging elements; and yet, with all this
display of majesty and glory, of tenderness and compassion, how hated, how
despised, how persecuted, was the Savior of mankind! If they thus treated
the master of the house, they will also despise those of his household.
"If," said our Lord, "they hated me, they will also hate you."
Have you, Oh my soul, reason to believe that you are born from above; that a
divine change has passed upon you? Where are the fruits of faith? Where is
the opposition of the world? Examine well; for it is declared—"woe be unto
you, if all men speak well of you." Is the image of Jesus stamped upon you?
Are you bold in confessing Christ before men; faithful in discountenancing
every thing that is contrary to his blessed word? Do you acknowledge him to
be the Lord your righteousness, your only atonement, advocate, and friend?
Lord, grant that I may, through grace, be able to say, "you know all things,
you know that I love you."
I need not court opposition—only let me live a life of faith in the Son of
God; and opposition will be excited, as naturally as fire introduced into
water occasions a contest between the two elements: for "all that will live
godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution."
The believer's trials frequently arise from HIS PECULIAR SITUATION.
This added to the former, namely, his general character as a true Christian,
whereby he tacitly condemns the conduct of a wicked world, brings still
greater odium upon him, and puts all his graces to the severest test.
A pious wife, child, or servant is often severely tried in the furnace, by
being brought into immediate contact with an ungodly husband, parent, or
master. The natural enmity of the heart, aided by natural authority,
receives additional strength; and fails not to vent its utmost malice
against the unoffending lambs of Christ's flock. Like the savage wolf of the
forest, such characters seem to take delight in devouring the weak and
defenseless, and satiating themselves with the miseries of others.
Many hearts are made to bleed by the unkindness of these adversaries to the
truth, whose only charge against the objects of their cruelty is, that they
dare not comply with their sinful commands in direct violation of the law of
But Jesus is the good Shepherd. He watches over his flock with tender care
in the dark and cloudy day. In the midst of all their outward troubles, he
gives them inward peace. While trusting in his unchanging love, they
experience a joy, of which the utmost rage of persecution cannot deprive
If such be the blessedness of the lambs of your flock, Oh gracious Savior,
give me a holy courage in your cause, a holy confidence in your mercy, a
holy consolation from your exceeding great and precious promises. Let me
never dread the sneer nor the frowns of the ungodly. Preserve me from sinful
compliances with the customs, and from sinful conformity to the spirit of
the world. Make me valiant for the truth; ever daring to be singular in the
cultivation of Christian tempers, and scrupulous in the choice of Christian
companions, whom you have called the salt of the earth, and the light of the
world; and to whom it is your good pleasure to give the kingdom.
The believer's trials sometimes spring from THE IMMEDIATE HAND OF GOD.
The wife is deprived by death of her earthly support, a tender husband; the
husband, of an affectionate wife. The parent sees the hope of his declining
age sink into the grave; the child is left an orphan in a wicked and
ensnaring world. The tenderest ties are snapped asunder by the unrelenting
hand of death. Diseases of various kinds are commissioned to invade our
frame. One faculty after another is taken away, or greatly impaired. Earthly
comforts droop and die. Riches fly away; poverty advances, and nothing but
clouds and storms appear in sight.
In such a situation, the poor trembling believer is sorely assaulted by the
tempter to doubt of his interest in Christ, of the love of God to his soul,
of the truth of the promises, of the power of his Redeemer, of his
willingness to save. In short, he is tempted to unbelief and hard thoughts
At such bereaving seasons, injudicious friends are apt to suspect his
character, and, like those of Job, to charge him with hypocrisy. The ungodly
rejoice over him, saying, "There, there, so would we have it. You see what
is the end of his prayers and religion. If he be a child of God; let him
deliver him, if he will have him."
But the triumphing of the wicked is short. The very storm which purifies the
humble believer, often strikes the scorner dead. Death, like a tiger, darts
upon him in a moment, when he is least aware of his approach. He, who, being
often reproved, hardens his neck, shall suddenly be cut off, and that
without remedy; while the child of God calmly waits the hour of his
dismission, and even longs to depart, that he may be with Christ.
Oh the depth of the goodness and severity of God! By these trials, the Lord
brings the faith and love of his people into lively exercise, and thus
demonstrates the efficacy of true religion.
The graces of the Spirit generally thrive most in a rugged soil, and in
tempestuous seasons. Like the Israelites in Egypt, they increase in the
midst of oppression, persecution, and suffering; for as gold shines
brightest in the furnace, so the Lord's people glorify him most in the
fires. (Is. xxiv, 15.)
The believer's trials arise also from HIS INWARD CORRUPTIONS. This is more
painful to him than all the rest, because the sufferings he endures from
indwelling sin are the bitter fruits of that evil nature, which is so
offensive to God his Savior.
He can bear with calm composure the taunts of men; he can patiently submit
to be accounted a fool for Christ's sake; yes, he can suffer joyfully the
spoiling of his goods, and even the loss of life itself; but he cannot
endure the inward workings of corruption. He cannot submit to the power of
indwelling sin. He cannot tamely allow his mind to be assaulted by his
spiritual enemies. He cannot bear the thought of losing that joy and peace
through believing, which is the very foretaste of heavenly felicity. Oh the
anguish of his mind, when corruption rages! How fervently does he pray for
deliverance! How precious is the blood of Jesus at such seasons! He flies to
the strong for strength. He takes refuge in the wounds of Jesus, and is
This trial, like every other, is over-ruled for good. A holy watchfulness,
an increased dread of sin, a jealous, godly fear, a spirit of prayer, a more
simple dependence on Christ, a more hearty loathing of self, a more ardent
breathing after holiness and heaven, are excited in the soul. Thus, through
grace, Satan is defeated, and the tempted believer comes out of the furnace,
as gold tried in the fire, leaving nothing but the dross behind.
Happy are the people who have God for their Lord, yes, happy are you, Oh
Israel; who is like unto you, Oh people saved by the Lord, who is the shield
of your help, and the sword of your excellency! and your enemies shall be
found liars unto you. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the
Oh! 'tis sweet to trust in Jesus,
To rely upon his word;
Cares and sorrows fly before us,
When we trust a pardoning God.
Here we meet with heavy crosses;
Many burdens we must bear;
But the Lord can make our losses
Lighter than the ambient air.
Then, my soul, why so distressed?
Why cast down with anxious fear?
Jesus helps the weak oppressed,
He the drooping soul can cheer.
Gird your loins, let hope support you;
Speed with cheerful haste your way;
He who called you to the journey,
Will conduct to endless day.