THE TREE OF LIFE by Octavius Winslow
Be Not Afraid Or, the Voice of Jesus in the Storm
Immediately he spoke to them and said,
"Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Mark 6:50
Our Lord had just performed one of His most notable miracles. He had fed five thousand men with five loaves and two fish. Let unreflecting doubters, wont to impugn the integrity of the Bible, and to reject the evidence of miracles, candidly and solemnly weigh this fact, as those who are responsible to God for their belief; and accept with humility and faith the conclusion to which it must inevitably lead them- a firm persuasion of the Deity of Christ and the truth of His Word. Anxious to avoid the popular excitement to which this benevolent display of Divine power gave rise, our Lord retired to a mountain, and was there alone. His disciples, thus dismissed by their Master, "went down to the sea, and entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum." It was during this voyage the incident occurred which supplies our present subject. The topic which it naturally suggests is, "THE VOICE OF JESUS IN THE STORM" -a topic replete with deep instruction and sweet comfort.
There is a chapter in every Christian's higher life corresponding with this incident in the life of Christ. The believer's path to glory is "through winds and storms and waves." His spiritual life is, figuratively, a voyage- tempestuous seas his pathway, but heaven the port he will ultimately and surely reach. It is in the storm the voice of Jesus is now heard. Let us consider the disciples in their present condition as illustrating much of the spiritual history of the Christian.
The first spiritual storm he combats is, his earliest conviction of sin; and a blessed storm it is! The Holy Spirit like "a mighty rushing wind," breathes over the soul, and the anxious cry of the Philippian jailer is heard, "What must I do to be saved?" Until now the soul has lived in all the quietness of spiritual insensibility. There has indeed been a calm, but it was the calm of death; peace, but the peace of the grave. The soul has been dead in trespasses and sins. But now there is a storm, an awakening, a resurrection from a death of sin. The law of God has been applied to the conscience, its holiness is seen, its condemnation is felt, and the soul cries out, "Lord, save, I perish!"
My reader, has this storm of sin's conviction passed over you? Has it roused you from your deep, Jonah-like sleep? Has it driven you out of your lying refuges, your false pleas, and your fatal hope? Have you felt the vessel of your soul sinking amid the dark, surging waves of condemnation yawning to receive you? Spirit of the living God! blow upon the soul that it may live! Alarm the careless, awaken the sleeper, quicken the dead, and create such a tempest of sin's conviction, as the voice of Jesus alone can still.
We do not assert that all conviction of sin, in its first stage, partakes of the same character. There is a diversity of operation in the Holy Spirit's work. With some, the first storm of conviction is not so violent; it is more the soft, gentle breeze, breathing as from the sunny south. With others, it is the north wind that blows powerful and penetrating; but, in both cases it is the same Spirit that quickens, and both operations illustrate the mystery and sovereignty of divine grace.
Be careful, there fore, of ignoring your conviction because, measuring your experience by others, you find your early conviction of sin was not of so pungent and marked a character as theirs. This would be unwise. There are two gates into the great temple of God's converting grace- the north gate and the south gate. (Ezek. 44:9) Two individuals entering, the one by the north, and the other by the south gate, will meet together in the same sacred edifice, and together unite in the same eternal song, "By grace are we saved!"
To deny, then, your conversion, because you were rather drawn to Christ than driven, were borne to the cross upon the gentle wing of the south gale, rather than upon the strong, rude wing of the north wind, would be both unwise to yourself and dishonoring to the Spirit. You felt yourself a sinner, you saw enough of the plague of your own heart to despair of all salvation in and of yourself, and thus spiritually convinced you went in faith to the Lord Jesus with the acknowledgment,
"Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on You."
See, then, that you do not grieve and disown the Spirit by denying His most blessed work of grace in your soul. Wait His time; sooner or later, He will show you more of your sinfulness, will reveal to you greater abominations than you have yet seen, when your deeper experience, your increased knowledge of Christ, and the blood that cleanses from all sin, will enable you to look into this new 'chamber of imagery' in your soul without despair.
Acknowledge, then, the sovereignty of the Spirit in conversion, be thankful, and praise God that you know anything at all of yourself as a sinner, and anything of Christ as your Savior. "It is the Spirit that quickens." Blessed are they who feel His gentlest breath!
"As blows the wind, and in its flight,
Escapes the glance of keenest sight,
So are the wonder-working ways
Of God's regenerating grace.
As over our frame we feel the gale,
Gently or mightily prevail,
So some are softly drawn to heaven,
And others as by tempest driven."
The disciples in the storm is also symbolic of some of the spiritual exercises of the believer in his Christian journey. Probably, when these disciples of Jesus embarked upon their voyage, they little dreamt of the tempest that awaited them. They, doubtless, expected a smooth and safe passage to the other side. And thus when many of God's people set out upon the Christian voyage, and spread their sails to the fair, gentle breeze, they little anticipate the tempestuous winds and high seas they will encounter before they reach the haven where they would be.
But the Lord sees the 'needs be' for those storms, and so in wisdom and love, He sends them. Hence, soul-storms consist often of a more painful acquaintance with self- a deeper knowledge and conviction of indwelling sin- the power of the law brought into the conscience- a sense of divine wrath- the hidings of God's face- the fiery darts of Satan. All this is needful to help the soul onward. We have need to be shaken out of our spiritual slothfulness- to be roused from spiritual apathy- to be stirred up to prayer. Light winds help us onward but little, smooth waves still less.
"More the treacherous calm I dread;
Than tempests bursting over my head."
This, perhaps, is in answer to prayer. You have long asked the Lord to speed you in your heavenly course, to advance you in the divine life, to increase your personal holiness, and to endear Himself to your soul. You have longed to feel the Savior more precious, for a closer walk, for more matured fitness for heaven, for a stronger and more favoring gale wafting you more truly and rapidly onward to the eternal haven. The Lord has answered your prayer in a way you may not have expected, but still it is the right way. He has sent the storm; the waters have come into your soul; and the frail, trembling bark has well-near submerged.
But what line can measure the increased speed your soul has attained through those tempestuous days and dreary nights pursuing its way homeward-bound? The character of God has been more blessedly unfolded to you; you have got a firmer hold upon Christ; the faithfulness of the Covenant has been more thoroughly tested; the promises have become more precious; and all this has been in answer to your many earnest and long-offered prayers that your soul might "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." God has answered you, but in His own way.
There are, then, the storms of adversity which the believer encounters in his course. Our Christianity does not exempt us from those afflictive events which are alike common to the world. Life is a troubled-sea; and all who plough it more or less encounter the storms of adversity which sweep its surface. Affliction, sooner or later, in some one or more of its endless forms, is our portion here. It is a necessary discipline. It is a preparatory process for the appreciation and enjoyment of heaven.
I do not think that heaven would have the enjoyment it possesses without trial. Its happiness is so great, there must be an education, a fitness of the soul for its enjoyment. That education is obtained in the school of sorrow. All the saints in glory, headed by Christ their Leader, came out of great tribulation. And if the Elder Brother- He, the sinless Savior, He, the blessed Son of the Father- was not exempt from tribulation, shall we ask, shall we desire it?
Diversified are the storms of God's people, deriving their character often from the peculiar position in which each believer is placed in life, just as the storms which sweep the ocean derive their intensity from the latitudes in which they occur. Do we possess affluence? -the storms of adversity sweep it away, and we are poor. Are we in places of power? -the wind of popularity changes, and the idol of today becomes the football of tomorrow. Is our table encircled by loved olive branches, or does the gentle vine entwine in clinging beauty around our dwelling? -death enters and bears away the fond treasure of our heart; the olive branch fades, the tender vine is smitten and dies.
"Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers out of them all." "Through much tribulation we are to enter the kingdom." But oh, how helpful in our heavenly course are these rude and fierce tempests! Many of the Lord's people will testify that their souls make little or no real progress in the divine life, but under the pressure of adversity. As we have remarked, light breezes and smooth seas help them on but little. The vessel is so slow sailing, and withal so heavily-laden, that nothing but strong winds and tempestuous waves, and cross seas, speed it on in its heavenly way.
To change the figure: just as the tempest impels the root more deeply and firmly into the earth, the tree thus acquiring vigor and growth by the very means that threatened to sweep it from the forest, so "God's trees of righteousness," trees of His own right-hand planting, are "rooted and grounded" in Christ and in faith and in love by those very trials, afflictions, and sorrows which seemed the most adverse to their well-being. Affliction is a sowing time, a growing time, a harvest time- the discipline not pleasant now, but afterwards yielding the peaceable fruits of righteousness to those who are exercised thereby.
Testify, O afflicted one, what a precious, priceless blessing that affliction has been to your soul. Testify how the storm that made you poor, enriched you with God's love; how the tempest that broke the stem of your beautiful flower, brought you more closely beneath the shadow of the tree of life; how the contrary winds, and the cross seas, and the surging waves impelled your bark onward, giving you, through the glass of faith, a closer, brighter view of the desired haven where Jesus is bringing all His spiritual mariners. But for the storm how little should we know of His power who controls our tempest, and of His love who quells our fears.
And where was Jesus while the disciples were in the storm? He was alone in the mountain in prayer- in prayer for them! Why did He withdraw His presence well knowing that dangers and fears awaited them? That they might learn the great lesson of the Christian life, namely, that, "without Me you can do nothing." It is thus the Lord now deals with us. He will have us know our weakness, and dependence upon Him our strength. He will wean us from ourselves, and deaden us to the world, and teach us where our great supplies of grace and power and comfort are.
And all this time of our earthly storm and danger, where is Christ? He is in heaven, now to appear in the presence of God for us." He is in glory praying for His Church. With a sleepless eye of love resting upon our storm-tossed souls, He is interceding for us with the Father, that our afflictions engulf us not, that our faith fail not, that our fears prevail not, but that we may be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.
Oh how sweet a truth is the intercession of Christ! How soothing and sanctifying the thought, that we are now resting upon His bosom, are entwined with His prayers, that our names are borne upon His heart, that our needs are breathed from His lips, and that our people are ever represented before God in His own! We make too little use of the intercession of Jesus, our great High Priest within the veil. It is too seldom the subject of our meditation, is too loosely entwined with the events and experience of our daily, professional, and home life. By this neglect what loosers we are! What a fount of sympathy our own hands seal, and from what a source of succor we sever ourselves!
Is there any thought more strengthening, animating, and promotive of our holiness, than that Christ is each moment praying for us in heaven? We ask the prayers of the Lord's people, and are strengthened thereby. How much more needed, precious, and prevalent the intercession of Christ! Earthly friends die, or distance removes them, and in process of time we, perhaps, lose their sympathy and prayerful remembrance. But, "Jesus ever lives to make intercession for us." Exalted though He is in glory, the same heart beats within that breast that throbbed and sorrowed and bled on earth.
Encircled by myriads of glorified spirits, He is not neglectful of His saints below. He trod the path you now tread, and sanctified it. He passed through your temptation, and foiled it. He drank your bitter cup, and sweetened it. He traveled through your darkness, and illumined it. He bore your cross, and lightened it. He suffered your persecution, and disarmed it. He experienced your death, and plucked the sting from the last foe. He lay in the grave, and left an undying light and fragrance there.
Look up to Him, then, as your Intercessor. Nothing that He asks the Father is refused Him. He never receives a denial. Your suit, blended with His own, prevails in the Chancery of heaven. And when through suffering, or languor, or sorrow you cannot pour out your needs yourself, Christ is praying for you, employing His interest in your behalf with God. And Him, the Father hears always.
And could the Lord be ignorant of, or indifferent to, the present position of His disciples? Impossible! He beheld them from the shore. They recognized not Him, but His wakeful, watchful eye rested upon them. "He saw them toiling in rowing, for the wind was contrary unto them." The yawning ocean, the billow's spray, the misty storm could not veil them from His view. Lord, You know my present position. You see my mental conflict, my spiritual exercises, my bodily infirmity, how high the waves, how contrary the wind, how fierce the tempest, how exhausting the toil in rowing. Sweet and comforting assurance, my reader!
Others- the nearest and the dearest- may know nothing of your inner life, the world of excitement within, the anxiety of mind, the nervous pressure, the spiritual conflict, the trial, the sorrow, the need through which you are passing; enough, that Jesus stands upon the shore of glory, and gazes down upon all the way you take with an eye of watchful, faithful love! Nor will he ever remove that eye until He brings you home to Himself in heaven.
"Begone, unbelief, my Savior is near,
And for my relief will surely appear;
By prayer let me wrestle, and He will perform;
With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm.
"His love in times past, forbids me to think
He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink;
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in view,
Confirms His good pleasure to help me quite through."
But Jesus, as in the case of Lazarus, tarries. "It was now dark, and Jesus had not come to them." Why this delay? Oh, there was infinite wisdom and divine love in it. He waited but the fittest moment to appear on their behalf. In the same light as we have already exhorted, let us view all the Lord's postponements and delays in appearing on our behalf. He waits the appointed time. It is, perhaps, dark- oh, how dark! -and still there are no signs of Christ's coming to your help. Be it so. He would have you now learn, that it is good for a man that he has hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."
There is no obscurity with Him, "He judges through the dark cloud." And when the night, long and dreary, has deepened into a darkness that might be felt, at this juncture Christ appears walking upon the water. It has been a night of weeping, but now the morning dawns, and it is a morning of joy. There is a day-dawn, beloved, succeeding the darkest and longest night of our history. "The night comes, and also the morning." Faint not in the day of adversity. Let faith and hope hold out, and patience have her perfect work until Jesus comes. "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, I will get to the mountain of myrrh, and to the hill of frankincense."
O yes, Christ is coming! and all these clouds shall quickly melt into the light and splendor of millennial and eternal day. The "Bright and Morning Star," already high in the heavens, shines through the interstices of the clouds which drape and darken the sky, and will soon beam forth in its full, unclouded effulgence. This night of weeping will soon have passed, and then will come the glorious morning, and the perfect and endless day of millennial bliss.
"And about the fourth watch of the night He came unto them walking upon the sea." The fourth watch, or about three o'clock in the morning, the darkest and most wishful period of the night. Their emergency was His gracious opportunity. The height of their fears was the measure of His love. It is thus with his people now. It is dark, and Jesus has not come to us. But it must grow darker still! The "fourth watch" must come.
The darker the night the more visible the stars, and more brilliant the heavens. God's interpositions on our behalf are never so marked and grateful as when our extremity is the greatest. Jesus' love never shines so bright, His pity never appears so tender, His grace never so illustrious, as when we are brought to our wit's end. He waits until the "fourth watch" of our night of tempest and of anxious toil; and then, when weary and exhausted with rowing against wind and tide, our difficulties only exceeded in their height by the fears which they inspire, treading the crest of the billows He advances to our deliverance!
What marvellous words are those- "walking upon the sea." He made it. He set its bounds and He controls it; and now, in all the majesty of His Deity, blended with all the sympathy of His humanity, He comes to the help of His disciples. How truly did He now appear the Sovereign of the seas, the Head of creation! "The waters saw you, O God, the waters saw you; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled." They acknowledged the Godhead, and obeyed the voice of their Creator, proud that He trod their limpid pavement.
Who can tread the broken and dark waves that often dash and foam and surge around us, but Jesus! What are our troubles, what our sorrows, what our needs, what our difficulties, to Him! He can as easily control the huge billows which come into our soul, as He walked upon the sea to the rescue of His disciples. Oh, how we limit the Son of God! What low views we have of Christ! -of His power, His grace, His love, His nearness to us at all times!
We turn again to the disciples. So supernatural was their Lord's appearance as He approached them- His feet tipping with golden light the mountain billows- the disciples were afraid, for they knew not that it was Jesus. Little thought they how near to them, amid the storm and in their highest fears, was their best, most powerful, and ever faithful Friend!
And thus we often, too, mistake our blessed Lord. We are so filled with fear, are so desponding and sinking, that, looking at God's character through His dealings, and interpreting His promises by His providences, like the disciples in the storm, appalled and overwhelmed with terror, we cry out for fear! And when, too, the Holy Spirit gives us a deep, and still deepening, sense of our sinfulness, and we have a vivid perception of the justice of God, seeing Christ through this dark and hazy medium, just as the disciples saw Him only through the gray twilight of morning, we exclaim, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" mistaking our Savior for an avenger, our Friend for a foe.
How groundless for the most part are the fears of the believer in Jesus! There is but one thing we need fear- sinning against God. "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" "You, God, see me." Such is the strong language of a God-fearing man, a saint of God fearing only sin. But we have no reason to distrust God, or to fear that Christ will not come to us walking upon our troubled waves just at the crisis when our peril is the greatest and our alarm the highest.
"He talked with them." He brought them at once into communion with Himself. The first tones of His voice betrayed Him, and its first accents allayed all their fears. Jesus talks with His people now. They hear His voice amid the raging tempest, in the cloudy pillar, from 'the secret place of thunder,' and in the still, calm hour of pensive thought.
"It is the voice of my Beloved," exclaims the Christ-loving disciple, speak how and when it may. "My sheep hear my voice, and they know not the voice of strangers." Have we this mark of the true sheep of Christ? Can we distinguish the voice of God from man, the voice of truth from error, the voice of Christ's true ministers from false teachers, the voice of Jesus from the voice of all others? "The sheep follow Him, for they know his voice."
Jesus still talks with His people. He speaks pardon to the guilty, peace to the troubled, comfort to the sad, heart-cheer to the fearful, and hope to the despairing. There is but one voice that can still the tempest of the soul and give it peace. Let no voice but Christ's assure you of your salvation- no voice but God's ever pronounce you pardoned. He has delegated no priestly authority or power to man either to bind your sins or to loose them, either to confess or to absolve you. It is daring presumption that claims it, the deepest blasphemy that employs it, and the basest and most abject prostration of the intellect that acknowledges it. I return to the thought, let no voice but that of Christ pronounce your sins pardoned. Let nothing but an applied Atonement, the blood sprinkled, allay your convictions, quell your fears, and assure you that you are really, truly saved.
And, then, with regard to prayer, endeavor to realize the idea of real fellowship and communion to be just this- Jesus talking with you, and you talking- as did the disciples on the mount- with Jesus. How will this conception of what true prayer is simplify your approach to the mercy-seat! Prayer is, Christ talking with us, and we talking with Christ. Dwell upon this thought until all your vague, cold views of prayer vanish, and you find yourself sitting at the feet of Jesus, bathed in the sunshine of His presence, talking with Him in all the simplicity of a little child, and gazing up into His face in all the confidence of a loving disciple.
"It is I, be not afraid." Such were the thrilling words with which He calmed their excited feelings, soothed and assured their troubled minds. Words of marvellous significance! Of all the many titles which He wore, not one is mentioned now. Nor is this needful. This one word, this divine personal pronoun, contained and expressed them all: "IT IS I"
Such is the voice of Jesus to us now. It speaks in every storm- faith hears it in every circumstance of life. Christ's union with His people involves His personal control of all the events of their individual history. Indeed, there is not an incident in your momentous life which does not bring Jesus to your side, riding as in a chariot, bright or somber. The checkered events of your daily life are so many comings of Christ to you, and are equally so many errands bidding you go to Him. He wants us to meet Him in all His providential dispensations.
If each one contains His heart- as it most assuredly does- He asks the union of our heart with His. Listen, then, to the voice of Jesus in the storm. "It is I" -who raised the tempest in your soul, and will control it. "It is I" -who sent your affliction, and will be with you in it. "It is I" -who kindled the furnace, and will watch the flames, and bring you through it. "It is I" -who formed your burden, who carved your cross, and who will strengthen you to bear it. "It is I" -who mixed your cup of grief, and will enable you to drink it with meek submission to your Father's will. "It is I" -who took from you worldly substance, who bereft you of your child, of the wife of your bosom, of the husband of your youth, and will be infinitely better to you than husband, wife, or child. "It is I" -who have done it all.
I make the clouds my chariot, and clothe myself with the tempest as with a garment. The night-hour is my time of coming, and the dark, surging waves are the pavement upon which I walk. Be of good cheer, be not afraid; "It is I -your Friend, your Brother, your Savior. I am causing all the circumstances of your life to work together for your good. It is I who permitted the enemy to assail you, the slander to blast you, the unkindness to wound you, the need to press you. Your affliction sprung not out of the ground, but came down from above a heaven-sent blessing disguised as an angel of light clad in a robe of ebony. I have sent all in love. This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God. This bereavement shall not always bow you to the earth, nor drape in changeless gloom your life. It is I who ordered, arranged, and controlled it all! Be of good cheer; be not afraid."
Oh, responds your heart: "Then, Lord, I bow humbly to Your will. I welcome the affliction, and embrace the cross. It is no longer a baptism of fire since You are with me. This couch of weakness is strength; this bed of suffering is feathered; this flaming furnace is a paradise, while I hear Your gentle voice floating above the storm, 'Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.' Enter, dear Lord, into the door of my heart, for You have it. Then I shall rejoice in tribulation, glory in infirmity, and welcome the storm. I cheerfully drink the cup of sorrow You have given me, and would return it to You over-flowing with Your praise.
"The moment the disciples received Jesus into the ship, the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. What an instantaneous and delightful change! Thus is it with the tempest-tossed believer. When the Lord Jesus draws near and manifests Himself, all is peace! The storm of mental anxiety subsides, spiritual fear ceases, the burden is lightened, despondency vanishes, and a great calm diffuses itself over the soul. "He stays His rough wind in the day of His east wind." The fear that produces torment gives place to perfect love; the legality that engenders bondage is succeeded by the spirit of adoption, crying "Abba, Father;" and the heaven-bound bark glides placidly along the dimpled sea, and rides gently over the gold-tipped waves, and steers straight for the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, into which it has are abundant entrance- and so He brings them unto their desired haven.
All believers may not have this "abundant entrance" into glory- that is, they may not all enter heaven in full sail- nevertheless, all shall assuredly enter there, though, like Paul's shipwrecked mariners, "some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship." Delightful thought, that all who are in the gospel-ship, all who have God their Father at the helm, all who have Christ for their pilot, shall weather every tribulation, and trial, and temptation of life, and reach heaven at last!
But let it not, my reader, concerning yourself, be a matter of uncertain and doubt. Agonize for an assured hope of heaven. Be satisfied with nothing short of "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Press forward until you have found the rest, the only rest, of a poor sinner in the blood and righteousness of Christ. Then you may confidently commit yourself to all the vicissitudes of the Christian's voyage. You may have cloudy skies, and tempestuous seas, and dark nights, but you will find Jesus a "hiding-place from the wind and a covert from the tempest."
He who created the winds will control them; He who made the sea will command it; He who formed the clouds will balance them, and through deep and dark waters will lead you to the Rock that is higher than you. In every stormy wind, in every darksome night, in every lonesome hour, in every rising fear, the voice of Jesus shall be heard, saying, "Be of good cheer: it is I, be not afraid."
Do you shrink from the "swellings of Jordan?" Are you in bondage through the fear of death? Do you dread the solemn, the appalling hour? Why these fears! Jordan's waves are all under the control of Jesus! He has had more to do with death than we ever shall. He passed through the trackless deep, and left a path paved with the foot-prints of His feet; and when we reach its banks, and enter the cold stream, we have only to follow His footsteps- for He has abolished death- and pass dry-shod over Jordan.
Repenting sinner, Jesus waits to receive you. At the voice of your weeping, He will be gracious to you. His own Spirit wrought in you this contrition, unsealed these tears, inspired these desires, awoke these confessions; and the work the Holy Spirit has begun in your soul, Jesus Christ will complete in your full, free, and present salvation. But you must believe in the Lord Jesus now, and with all your heart. You must accept Him just as He is and just as you are, without qualification or demur. There must be no adding to, or taking from, the Savior's work. Not a thought or feeling that will cast the shadow of a shade upon His glory.
It would not be a greater dishonor to Christ to deny His very being than to deny His ability and willingness to save a sin-distressed, wounded, broken-hearted sinner. As to one point there can be but one rational conclusion, namely, that unless you accept Christ as your only Savior, and Christ receives you as an undone sinner, Christ and you can have no agreement, or fellowship, or union whatever. If you are looking at works, and duties, and fitness as grounds of acceptance with God, instead of looking wholly and exclusively to Jesus, it will cost you dear in the end.
You must come to God, bringing nothing but your sins with you! You must renounce your baptism, your obedience, your duties, your graces, your sanctification, your tears, your humblings, your sacraments, as grounds of acceptance, and nothing must be seen, nothing trusted in, nothing held up but Christ. All these things, valuable in their proper place, yet mixed up with your faith and love and trust in Christ, will but poison and corrupt your graces, neutralize and defeat your salvation, and keep you out of heaven forever. Christ must be, in the great matter of your acceptance with God, all, and in all.
Be equally trustful and hopeful as to the well-being and safety of the Ark of God, His Church, now tossing amid the billows. It is true, the sky is lowering, and clouds are gathering, and the sea is swelling, and many of the officers and crew are mutinous against Christ and His truth; nevertheless, her great Captain and Pilot stands upon the heavenly shore, and He is present by His Spirit, and watches with a sleepless eye of love His storm-tossed Church ploughing through the deep, its way to glory. All these things shall work together for its good; all shall conspire but for the furtherance of the gospel, the triumph of His truth, the increase of His kingdom, and the glory of His name.
Error may for a time be in the ascendant, Infidelity, Ritualism, and Popery, may have their day; but, give Divine Truth time, and it shall, it must win. The victory may be deferred, the contest may be protracted, the end apparently uncertain; but the triumph is as sure as the result will be manifest and glorious. Were it otherwise, we might well enfold ourselves in the mantle of despair. If there be not in the gospel of Christ, if there be not in the Church of God, if there be not in the eternal principles of truth and righteousness, elements which give them a present superiority, and ensure them a final supremacy, what stimulus should we have for present effort, and what ground should we possess for faith and hope in the future!
But we have no misgiving. Possessing the consciousness of ultimate triumph; firm in our belief in the divine promises, and in the final reign of Christ, we are calm in defeat, hopeful in discouragement, and trustful when all things seem against us. "Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters roar and be troubled."
Amid the raging elements we hear the Heavenly Voice, "Be still, and know that I am God." Yes, Lord, we will be still, trustful, hopeful. "The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yes, than the mighty waves of the sea."
It is well, my soul, though the dark cloud lowers,
And the reaper has gathered your choicest flowers;
Though the tempest roar, and the waves run high,
A sweet voice whispers- Fear not, it is I!
Those accents so tender, so loving, and kind,
Can scatter the tempest, and silence the wind;
Can still the rough waves into perfect repose,
And cause the waste desert to bloom as the rose.
Then, since it is the hand of an infinite God
That in wisdom corrects me, I'll smile at the rod,
Yes, rejoice in affliction, so graciously given,
To wean me from earth and allure me to heaven.
And when the wild storms of life's journey are past,
And the haven of glory is entered at last;
Midst the songs of the ransomed my anthem shall swell
To the praise of His name who did all things so well.