IT IS WELL
But sure enough, the woman soon became pregnant. And at that time the following year she had a son, just as Elisha had said.
One day when her child was older, he went out to visit his father, who was working with the harvesters. Suddenly he complained, "My head hurts! My head hurts!"
His father said to one of the servants, "Carry him home to his mother."
So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap. But around noontime he died.
So she saddled the donkey and said to the servant, "Hurry! Don't slow down on my account unless I tell you to."
As she approached the man of God at Mount Carmel, Elisha saw her in the distance. He said to Gehazi, "Look, the woman from Shunem is coming. Run out to meet her and ask her, 'Is everything all right with you, with your husband, and with your child?' "
And she answered, "It is well." –2 Kings 4:17-20, 24-26
A dark cloud was now settling upon the home of the Shunamite woman and her husband. As the evening of life drew on, and life itself had lost its object and its charms, according to the promise of the prophet, God gave them a son. It was an unexpected and precious gift. He came like a winter's flower, to gladden them with its late and delicate beauty, and to refresh them with its rich and rare fragrance. The stillness of their home was now broken with the echo of childhood's gaiety, and the walls which the twilight shadows had been slowly darkening now smiled with unusual light. Life assumed another aspect with its new object and a new purpose. God had given them a being whom, by the tenderest of bonds and the dearest of rights, they could call their own. Approaching towards manhood they seemed about to reap, in a more full enjoyment of their treasure, the reward of their early anxiety and care. He would now become their grown-up companion, the beautiful staff of their declining years--abroad sharing the field-toil of his father, and at home charming the hours of his mother, and often kneeling at her side while both would implore the blessing of Israel's God.
But God's thoughts and purposes were otherwise, and He was about to accomplish in His own way His wise and gracious designs. Just at this juncture the household plant they loved so fondly and nurtured so tenderly, whose unfolding beauty inspired such gladness and hope, sickened, drooped, and died. "One day when her child was older," says the simple, touching story, "he went out to visit his father, who was working with the harvesters. Suddenly he complained, 'My head hurts! My head hurts!' His father said to one of the servants, 'Carry him home to his mother.' So the servant took him home, and his mother held him on her lap. But around noontime he died." What a withering of all their hopes! what a crushing of all their expectations! how anguished were now those parental hearts! and how desolate that happy home, the shadows of which fall deeper and faster since the spirit that was its light is gone. "Like a flower, we blossom for a moment and then wither. Like the shadow of a passing cloud, we quickly disappear." Job 14:2
With a mother's smitten heart the Shunamite woman hastened to the prophet Elisha at Mount Carmel, to relate her calamity and seek in his counsel and sympathy, direction and soothing, in her affliction. With what frame of mind and with what words of grief does she approach the man of God? How does she deport herself in her sad bereavement? Does she upbraid him for promising her a son, or murmur at God for recalling him? Does she indulge in vain lamentations that a gift unasked, when it had become so lovely and precious, had been so early, so rudely, and so suddenly removed? Is there any indulgence in excessive grief, in fruitless regrets, in repining thoughts, in rebellious words, anything that betrays opposition to God's will, that disputes His right, or that impeaches His wisdom, faithfulness, and love? Far, very far, from this is the posture of the Shunamite. Listen to her reply to the question of the prophet's servant sent by his master to inquire of her welfare. "Is it well with you? is it well with your husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, IT IS WELL!"
O, touching picture of deep yet chastened sorrow! Lovely attitude of soul--meek and submissive--in the hour of keen anguish! The child was dead, and it was all winter now, but--It is well! The hope of future years was extinguished, and it was all disappointment now--but It is well! The "strong staff and the beautiful rod was broken," and the weight of years bowed them to the dust now, but--It is well! Could it be otherwise? The stricken parents knew that their covenant God "Himself had done it," and that it was well done. It was wise, it was righteous, it was even good, because He had done it.
What moral sublimity invests this picture of domestic bereavement? What a study, were it the province of a human pencil to portray an attitude of soul so spiritual, so unearthly, almost divine! Has it no reflected image? Can we not find its copy? Yes! death still reigns--bereavement still desolates--sorrow still has its home in the human heart. But the same grace that formed this beautiful picture of holy submission, of sweet, cheerful acquiescence in the will of God, that could say, when the loved one was smitten, It is well! still lives to produce the same holy and blessed fruit.
If, dear reader, you are lying at God's feet, His afflicted, chastened child, gazing in calm, mute submission upon the wreck of human hopes, and gently whispering, "My God, my Father, it is well!" then your spirit is as this Shunamite's, and God fashions your hearts alike. May the Holy Spirit graciously give His divine teaching while we glean the instruction and the comfort which these words so richly contain.
In looking back upon the by-gone Year, and forward to the New--the past, perhaps, in some of its aspects, sad and mournful, the future, cloud-veiled and uncertain--how suitable the sentiment and the spirit embodied in the words selected as the basis of our address--"IT IS WELL." We purpose, in the following pages, to view them as the grateful acknowledgment of the REDEEMED soul--as the believing acquiescence of the chastened soul--and as the triumphant language of the glorified soul.
It is proper that we should seek our first illustration of this truth in the salvation of God. Salvation is God's greatest work; in nothing has He so manifested forth His glory as in this. He embarked all His infinite resources, and staked all His divine honor in the accomplishment of this work so dear to His heart--the salvation of His Church. The universe is full of His beauty, but myriads of worlds, on a scale infinitely more vast and magnificent than this, could give no such 'concept of God' as the salvation of a single sinner. Salvation required the revelation and the harmony of all the divine perfections.
CREATION affords only a partial view of God. It displays His natural but not His moral attributes. It portrays His wisdom, His goodness, His power--but it gives no idea of His holiness, His justice, His truth, His love. It is but the alphabet, the shadow of God. These are parts of His ways, and how little of Him is known! But in the person of Immanuel, in the cross of Christ, in the finished work of redemption, God appears in full-orbed majesty. And when the believing soul surveys this wondrous expedient of reconciling all the interests of heaven, of uniting all the perfections of Jehovah in the salvation of sinners by the blood of the cross--"Mercy and truth meeting together, righteousness and peace kissing each other"--it exclaims, in full satisfaction with the salvation of God--It is well!
The anxious question of an awakened soul, as it bears its weight of sin to the cross, is, "Is the salvation of the Lord Jesus a work commensurate with my case? Will it meet my individual condition as a sinner? May I, in a deep conviction of my guiltiness, venture my soul upon Jesus? Am I warranted, without a work of my own, apart from all my merit or demerit, to believe in Christ and indulge the hope that I shall be saved?" The Bible, in brief but emphatic sentences, answers these inquiries. "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." "Him that comes unto Me I will in no way cast out." "By grace are you saved." "If by grace, then it is no more of works." "You are complete in Him." The Holy Spirit giving the inquirer a possession of these declarations, working the faith that receives the Lord Jesus into the heart, the believing soul is enabled to exclaim, "It is well! I see that it is a salvation for sinners, for the vilest, the poorest, the most unworthy. I came to Christ, and was received; I believed in Him, rested in Him, and I am saved. Christ is mine, His salvation is mine, His promises are mine, His advocacy is mine, His heaven is mine. It is well!"
But it is not always that in the same strength of faith the child of God can say, 'it is well with his soul'. Through the feebleness of your faith, and the power of indwelling sin, and your many conscious backslidings and infirmities, you may be led to question the well-being of your state. Harassed with doubts, assailed by temptations, agitated by fears, you tremble to say, "It is well with my soul." But let me caution you against a rash judgment or a hasty conclusion as to your real condition. I have a message from God to you, my reader: "Say unto the righteous, it shall be well with him."
Now, in all the spiritual exercises through which the believer in Jesus passes, it must in truth be well with him as to his real standing in Christ. You may be walking in darkness or in light; you may be mourning in the valley or be rejoicing on the mount; now conquering, now foiled; now weeping, now rejoicing; yet it is still well with you as a pardoned, justified, saved sinner. Nothing can touch your interest in the Savior--or expel you from the covenant--or change the love of God towards you.
There are tides in the faith and comfort of a child of God even as there are in the ocean. The believer has his ebb and flow, his fluctuations of spiritual feeling. It is often low tide with his soul. The waves of spiritual joy and peace ebb, and all looks barren and cheerless. The arid sands, the moss-covered rocks, the entangled weeds that line the shore when the ocean's waves have receded, are, in his mournful view, but the apt emblems of his spiritual state. And now he begins to question the reality of all his former experience, and the sincerity of all his past professions. He abjures his adoption, doubts his interest in Christ, puts from him the promises, appropriates the judgments, keeps back from the ordinances, and his soul refuses to be comforted.
But, beloved saint of God, is there no flow, as well as ebb, in the spiritual joy and comfort of the believer? Is there no return of the tide of faith and consolation and hope in the Christian's experience--the waves of love's infinite ocean, of the soul's perfect peace, of glory's anticipated joy rolling back again upon the shore, in sweet heavenly cadence! Oh, yes! Listen to the divine assurances of this: "I have loved you with an everlasting love"--"I have chosen you, and not cast you away"--"Yes, she may forget, yet will not I forget you"--"I will never leave you nor forsake you"--"I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not"--"I will restore comforts unto you"--"Though I spoke against him, yet do I remember him still"--"I will not leave you comfortless"--"You have a little strength"--"Therefore will the Lord wait that He may be gracious unto you"--"He will be very gracious unto you at the voice of your cry: when, He shall hear it, He will answer you"--"He restores my soul." All these exceeding great and precious promises, beloved, are yours. They are your Father's epistles of love, and He bids you read, believe, and enjoy them.
Yet, with all affectionate fidelity would I exhort you not to rest where you are. Be not satisfied with your present state, but seek to obtain a renewed application of the atoning blood, a fresh "blink of Jesus," as Rutherford says, looking away from your sins, backslidings and unfruitfulness, your infirmities, shortcomings, and flaws to Christ, and getting a closer, clearer, fuller view of the cross. The all-sufficiency of Christ meets your case. Sweet truth! I ask not how peculiar, how aggravated, how desperate, how discouraging, the state of your soul may be; I hesitate not to affirm that such is Christ, such His love, His compassion, His fullness, His power, your condition of soul comes within the scope of His sufficiency. Christ's merit meets your demerit; Christ's unchangeableness meets your backslidings; Christ's grace meets your corruptions; Christ's blood meets your guiltiness; Christ's fullness meets your emptiness; Christ's power meets your impossibilities; Christ's compassion meets your misery; Christ's sympathy meets your sorrow; Christ's intercession covers all your circumstances and needs. "Christ is all and in all." "From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another."
Oh, it is, it must be well with those whose sins are forgiven through Christ, who are 'accepted in the Beloved', whose God is the Lord, and upon whom His eye of love and delight rests from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. Say not it is ill with your soul, and not well, because the Holy Spirit is inserting the plough more deeply into your heart, thus discovering more of its hidden evil, detecting the lurking sin where its existence was not suspected, and discovering the flaw and the failure in the action, the principle, the motive, the end, which the fair surface, self flattery, or specious reasoning, had concealed. O say not that it is ill with your soul, and not well, because Jesus does not speak, God does not smile, and prayer is not answered. "For a small moment," says God, "have I hidden myself from you; but with great mercies will I gather you." In the dreary, lonely, trying path you now tread, you may trace the 'footsteps of the flock', and yet more distinct and blessed than all, the footprints of the Shepherd of the flock. Be not, then, cast down. The Lord will bring you through this night of weeping into a morning of joy. And your knowledge will be the deeper, and your faith the stronger, and your joy the fuller, and your hope the brighter, and your song the sweeter and the louder for all the painful exercises through which your soul has passed, and with deeper emphasis you shall exclaim--"IT IS WELL."
But these words express the sentiment and feelings of the CHASTENED soul. It is the language of faith in trial. Let us trace some of the afflictive circumstances under which the child of God can say, "It is well."
Affliction and poverty are the distinctive features of the saints of God under the new dispensation; affluence and exemption from great suffering were probably those of the saints of the former economy. The character of the gospel economy is unique. It is the dispensation of suffering, the economy of the cross. The suffering of the old dispensation was more in type, and shadow, and symbol; that of the new is the great, the dark filling up of the outline of the picture. The Son of God SUFFERED--the Son of God DIED! And Christianity derives all its efficacy, and the Christian dispensation all its character, and the Christian all his glory, from this single, this wondrous fact. "Unto you it is given, in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe in His name, but also to suffer for His sake." "Whoever does not bear His cross; and come after Me, cannot be my disciple."
Such is the nature of Christ's religion, and such the terms of His discipleship--suffering and self-denial. By those who are not initiated into the mysteries of the kingdom of grace this is a truth hard to be understood. To them it is inexplicable how one whose person is loved by God, whose sins Christ has forgiven, whose life appears holy, useful, and honored, should be the subject of divine correction, and, perhaps, in some instances, should, more than others, seem smitten and afflicted by God. But to those who are students of Christ, who learn at the feet of Jesus, this is no insoluble problem. They understand, in a measure, why the most holy are frequently the most chastened. Ah! beloved, in the school where this truth is learned, all truth may be learned--at the feet of Jesus. There is no mystery in revelation that may not be satisfactorily elucidated, no discrepancy in truth that may not be sufficiently explained, no doctrine that may not be understood, or precept that may not be welcomed, sitting in the attitude of a little child at the feet of Christ, the Great Teacher of men.
In His light we shall see light. But men turn from the sun and wonder that in the study of divine truth, shadows should fall darkly upon their path. They study the Bible so little beneath the cross with an eye intent upon Christ, from whom all truth emanates, of whom all truth testifies, and to whom all truth leads. Reader, are you a sincere inquirer after the truth? Then listen to the words of Jesus: "I Am the Truth." You have sought it in the schools, you have sought it in systems, you have sought it in creeds, you have sought it in churches; and many a weary step you have trod in quest of the precious gem, and your heart has sighed and your spirit has panted in vain. Lay aside your philosophy, your reasoning, your caviling, and receive the gospel of Christ as a learner, not as a teacher; as a sinner, not as a saint; as a humble child, not as a proud philosopher; as one who is really desirous of knowing how he may be saved.
What does the Truth Himself say? "This is life eternal, that they might know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." The crisis in your life speeds on when all knowledge, except the knowledge of Christ loving you, pardoning you as a guilty sinner, saving you as a lost sinner, and reconciling you to God as a rebellious sinner, will prove as unsubstantial as a shadow, as unreal and fleeting as a dream. Oh, let this be the one desire and earnest resolve of your soul, "That I may know Him"--"Yes, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus"--"Acquaint now yourself with Him, and be at peace, thereby good shall come unto you."
Such, then, as have learned of Christ can understand why a child of God should be a child of affliction, why "the Lord tries the righteous." Declarations such as these have a significance of meaning they can well comprehend. "I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction"--"It is good for me that I have been afflicted"--"Whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives"--"As many as I love I rebuke and chasten." But what are the general grounds of this believing acquiescence in the afflictive dealings of God expressed by the chastened soul? We can but group them in the smallest possible space.
Tracing the affliction, whatever its nature, to God as the First great Cause, faith calmly acquiesces, and says, "It is well." From nothing does the believer find it more difficult to disengage his mind, in the first blow of his affliction, than second causes. The reasoning of the bereaved sisters of Bethany finds its corresponding frame of mind in almost every similar case, "Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died." Ah! that "if," in the first hour of the heart's anguish, what bitter self-accusation does it occasion, what deep aggravation of the wound does it produce. But with second causes the child of God has nothing to do. Second causes are all by the appointment and under the control of the First Cause. They are but the agents God employs, the means which He selects, to accomplish His own eternal purpose. "He Himself has done it," is the voice of His word, and faith responds, "It is well." Rise, then, O child of sorrow, above the circumstances of your calamity--dwelling upon which will but intensify your suffering, prolong your grief, and rob you of comfort--and rest in the Lord, from whom your affliction proceeds. "For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hands also heal." Then shall you indeed exclaim, from the depth of your stricken heart--It is well!
The believer, regarding all God's dispensations in the light of needed discipline, cheerfully acquiesces in the wisdom and righteousness of the divine procedure. Discipline by trial is an essential element in the Christian's sanctification and instruction. Our adorable Lord, as man, exemplified this truth in His own personal history. We read that, "Though He were a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered." The lesson which Christ learned--to Him a new one--was the lesson of obedience--obedience to the will of His Father in suffering. As the curse expanded before Him, into more perfect and dreadful proportion, He came to learn more of the evil of sin and more of the difficulties of redemption, and so more deeply the lesson of obedience--doing and suffering the will of God. It was thus our blessed Lord was perfected through suffering.
And this, beloved, is the school in which the "many sons," Christ is bringing to glory learn submission to the Father's will. The discipline which was becoming in the case of the Head, cannot be without its need and its blessing in the case of the members. There is much--many deep truths of God, and many holy lessons of practical Christianity--to be learned in the pathway trodden by the Savior, which can be learned in no other path--the path of afflictive discipline.
When bereavement darkens our homes, and funeral following funeral leaves our doorways; when joys are blighted, and hopes are crushed, and hearts are sorrowful, then it is that the most difficult, yet most holy, of all lessons is inculcated--submission to the will of God, expressed in the language of the Shunamite, "It is well." But, oh, how needful and how wholesome this discipline! Who would be exempted from it that has once plucked and tasted the fruit which clusters so richly on the blossoming rod? If submission to the divine will is ever learned, beyond all question it is where Christ learned it, by the things which we suffer.
And, oh, what holy fruit is this--the will of God accomplished in us! The pathway may be through the furnace, whitened seven-fold with the heat, but if your will has become more pliant with the will of your Heavenly Father, if the Christian character has become purified, and the graces of the Holy Spirit have become strengthened, and a wider and freer scope has been given to faith, and hope, and love, then ought we not to rejoice in tribulation, and exclaim, "He has done all things well"?
The canker-worm has been busy at the root of your pleasant gourd, the cold north wind has blown rudely over the long-nurtured buds, and the fell hand of death has laid the cedar low, and in the anguish of your soul you exclaim, "Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by? behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, with which the Lord has afflicted me in the day of His fierce anger"--but the Son of God drank a deeper and bitterer cup, and trod a more suffering and a gloomier path than you, and yet could say, "My Father, not my will, but Yours be done," and shall you shrink from a training and a discipline through whose courses God led the Elder Brother and High Priest of our profession? "Oh, no!" you reply; "the self-knowledge I have already attained unto has been so needful and so salutary, that I would not desire that the cup of sorrow had passed my lips untouched. I little thought that I was so unbelieving, until the Lord tried my faith. I little suspected that pride so lurked within, until God made me stoop. I little imagined that I was so impatient, self-willed, and restiff, until God bade me wear the yoke, and wait for His will. I little supposed that my strength was so small until the Lord laid upon me the burden. And little did I suspect that my heart was so idolatrous--its affections so closely entwined around the creature--until my Father asked the surrender. Little did I believe how limited was my knowledge of Christ, how deficient was my acquaintance with divine truth, and how estranged my heart was from true prayer, until the affliction of my God set me upon examining my resources to meet it. Then I discovered how shallow was my experience, and how low and meager was my Christianity."
Thus when we trace the discipline to its necessity, the rebuke to the sinfulness that occasioned it, the chastisement to the evil it was designed to correct; the meek and lowly heart can say, "It its well!"
And when the present and hallowed results of the divine dealings are in a measure realized--when some sheaves of the golden fruit of the precious seed sown in weeping are sickled--the heart awakened to more prayer, Christ more precious, sin more hated, self more loathed, holiness more endeared, and the soul brought into greater nearness to God--when the suffering Christian reviews the divine supports he has experienced in his affliction, how God encircled him with the everlasting arms, how Christ pillowed his languid head, how the Holy Spirit comforted and soothed his anguish, by unfolding the sweetness and fullness of the Scriptures, sealing promise upon promise upon his smitten heart, his chastened spirit can exclaim, "You have dealt WELL with your servant, O Lord, according to your word." You have broken but to bind up, have wounded but to heal, have emptied but to replenish, have embittered but to sweeten, have removed one blessing but to bestow another and a greater.
"You do but take my lamp away,
To bless me with eternal day."
"Whom have I in heaven but You? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside You."
But the place where the clearest view is taken of the present unfathomable dispensations of God, and where their unfolding light and unveiling glory wake the sweetest, loudest response to this truth--"He has done all things well"--is HEAVEN. The glorified saint has closed his pilgrimage; life's dark shadows have melted into endless light; he now looks back upon the desert he traversed, upon the path he trod, upon the river he passed, and as in the full blaze of glory each page unfolds of his wondrous history, testifying to some new recorded instance of the loving kindness and faithfulness of God; the grace, compassion, and sympathy of Jesus; the full heart exclaims, as no angel's lips could utter it--"It is well!"
The past dealings of God with him in providence now appear most illustrious to the glorified mind. The machinery of divine Government, which here seemed so complex and inexplicable, now appears in all its harmony and beauty. Its mysteries are all unraveled, its problems are all solved, its events are all explained, and the promise of the Master has received its utmost fulfillment, "What I do, you know not now, but you shall know hereafter." That dispensation that was enshrouded in such mystery; that event that flung so dark a shadow on the path; that affliction that seemed so conflicting with all our ideas of God's infinite wisdom, truth, and love; that stroke that crushed us to the earth, all now appears but parts of a perfect whole--and every providence in his past history, as it now passes in review, bathed in the liquid light of glory, swells the anthem--IT IS WELL!
But when from that elevated position the glorified saint looks back upon all God's conduct in grace--electing, redeeming, calling, and preserving him; when he thinks of the righteousness that gave him acceptance, the blood that procured his cleansing, the grace that effected his sanctification, the upholding power that kept him from falling, and that conducted him at last to glory--a sinner, perhaps the very chief, saved by grace--oh, what music do the words awaken through all the bowers of paradise--He has done all things well! In what new and perfect light is every truth of the Bible now placed! All is cleared up! All that perplexed the mind in the doctrines of the revealed word, and all that embarrassed it in the administration of the divine government, gives place to complete satisfaction. "I shall be satisfied when I awake with your likeness," is the fond anticipation of the believer on earth; that expectation is the full realization of the believer in heaven.
The beatific vision has brought his whole soul into the most perfect harmony with God. He is satisfied with the character and perfections of God which now unfold their grandeur without a cloud, and fill the soul without a limit. "Now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now we know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known." An angel's sight and an angel's knowledge, enkindle an angel's fervor; and as growing discoveries and endless illustrations of the divine perfections increase with eternity, glory, honor, and thanksgiving to Him who sits upon the throne, will be the saint's undying song.
He is satisfied, also, with all God's providential dealings with him in the world he has passed. The present is the repose of faith--and faith can say, amid scenes of perplexity and peril, of obscurity and doubt, it is well, trusting in the wisdom and faithfulness of God. And yet how difficult often do we find it to trace God's design, or connect His strange dealings with a wise purpose or a gracious end. We cannot unravel the web! Is it not so, my reader? Let faith look back upon the past of your life, not to revive its painful emotions, but that with steadier wing and bolder flight it may bear you forward.
That dark cloud of sorrow that settled upon your fair prospects--that blast of adversity that swept away riches--that stroke of providence that tore from your sight the wife of your youth, or hurried the child of your hopes prematurely and amid harrowing circumstances to the grave, or that placed the friend of your bosom, the life-companion, the sharer of your toils, into darkness--or that came near to your own person and arrested you with disease--you pause and inquire, why is it thus? Ah! the full answer you may never have in this world--for faith must have scope--but by and by, if not here, yet from a loftier position and beneath a brighter sky, and with a stronger vision, you shall look back, and know and understand, and admire it all, and shall be satisfied.
The glorified are satisfied, also, with the conduct of God's grace. If there is often inexplicable mystery in providence, there is yet profounder mystery in grace. Loving him as God does, yet that He should hide Himself from His child; hating sin, yet allowing its existence, and permitting His children to fall under its influence; leaving them often to endure the fiery darts of Satan, and to tread dreary paths, cheerless, starless, the sensible presence of the Heavenly Guide withdrawn, and not a voice to break the solemn stillness or to calm the swelling wave--ah! this is trying indeed!
But all, before long, will be satisfactorily explained! Then the glorified see how harmonious, with every principle of infinite holiness and justice, truth and wisdom, was God's scheme of redeeming mercy; and that it was electing love, and sovereign mercy, and free favor, that made him a subject of grace on earth, and an heir of glory in heaven. And as he bends back his glance upon all the way the Lord his God brought him the forty years' journey in the wilderness--traces the ten thousand times ten thousand unfoldings of His love--the wanderings and the restorings; the stumblings and the upholdings; the falls and the upliftings; the love that would not and the power that could not let him go; the faithful rebukes, the gentle dealings, the tender soothings, the unwearied patience, and the inexhaustible sympathy of Jesus, with what depth of emotion and emphasis of meaning does he exclaim, I am satisfied--it is well!
The saints are satisfied, also, with the heaven of glory to which they are brought. They wake up in God's likeness. Positively and perfectly holy, positively and perfectly happy, actually with Christ, and contemplating, with an intellectual and moral perception all unclouded, the glory of God, how completely satisfied is he with the new world of purity and bliss, of light and splendor, into which his ransomed spirit sprung. The last polluted earthly passion has died away, the last remnant of corruption is destroyed, the last moan of suffering and sigh of sorrow is hushed in the stillness of the tomb; the corruptible has put on incorruption, the mortal has put on immortality, and the glorified spirit stands among the throng of holy and adoring ones who encircle the throne and swells the universal anthem--IT IS WELL.
"This life's a dream, an empty show;
But the bright world to which I go
Has joys substantial and sincere;
When shall I wake and find me there?
Believer in Jesus, how animating the hope, and how elevating the prospect before you! Ascend with me to the upper world. Place yourself in imagination as a glorified spirit amid the splendors of the holy city. To what are you come? To Mount Zion--to the heavenly Jerusalem--to an innumerable company of angels--to the general assembly and church of the firstborn--to God the Judge of all--to the spirits of just men made perfect--to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant.
Return back to earth! With this blissful vision before you--all so soon to be realized--what manner of people ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness? How unearthly, how heavenly, how separate from the world, how Christian in principle, how Christ-like in spirit, temper, and conversation. How like him in our communion with each other--loving, forbearing, and forgiving; gentle, charitable, and kind. How condescending in position, liberal in wealth, humble in prosperity, submissive in adversity, contented in poverty, devoted and active in the Master's service!
Sorrowing Mother!--"it is well" with the child (that is, if the child was a true Christian– for there is no salvation outside of faith in Jesus –editor). The spirit has returned to God who gave it, and now communes with its Creator, of whose greatness, and wisdom, and glory it knows infinitely more than the profoundest philosopher or the holiest divine. It is safer and happier with its Father in heaven than with you on earth. And who can tell from what evil it is taken, and from what bitter anguish you are preserved--anguish greater in his life than now wrings your heart in his death. He has gone where innocence has no snares, where there exists no temptations to beguile, and where no foes invade. Your child may have stolen your heart from Jesus, who did not intend that His precious gift should supplant Himself in your love. It is well with him.
And is it not well with you? The vacant place is occupied with a sympathizing Savior--the stricken heart turns to Him who smote it--and the ensnared and truant affections, severed from the idol they had worshiped, find their way back again to God. It is well that your Heavenly Father has dealt with you thus. It is well that He condescends to instruct you, though it be by chastening, and to heal your heart-wanderings, though it be by suffering. Twice gracious has your God been to you--gracious when He loaned the blessing--a little flower to gladden you a while with its presence, and now to cheer you with its memory--and gracious in taking it away, transplanting it to a holier soil and sunnier skies, beneath whose influence its youthful faculties and young affections have expanded and ripened into more than an angel's intellect and a seraph's love. "It is well with the child."
Bereaved Christian!--"it is well." God has smitten, and the stroke has fallen heavily. The blessing you thought you could least spare, and would be the last to leave you, God your Father has taken. Why has He done this? To show you what He can be to you, in your extremity. It may be difficult for faith, in the first moments of your calamity, to see how it can be well, or to acknowledge that it is really so. But be still, and wait the outcome. Banish from your mind every hard thought of God, stifle in your breast every rebellious feeling, suppress upon your lip every repining word, and bow meekly, submissively, mutely to the sovereign, righteous will of your Father.
The blessings, like spring flowers blooming on the grave over which you weep, that will grow out of this affliction, will prove that God never loved you more deeply, was never more intent upon advancing your best interests, never thought more of you, nor cared more for you, than at the moment when His dear hand laid your loved one low. Receive the testimony of one who has tasted, aye, has drank deeply, of the same cup of grief which your Father God now mingles for you. Let us drink it without a murmur. It is our Father's cup. As a father pities his children, so does He pity us, even while He mingles and presents the draught. It is bitter, but not the bitterness of the curse; it is dark, but not the frown of anger; the cup is brimmed, but not a drop of wrath is there!
Oh, wondrous faith that can look upon the beautiful stem broken; the lovely, promising flower, just unfolding its perfection, smitten; the toils and hopes of years, all, and in a moment, extinguished, and yet can say--"It is well!" Go, now, precious treasure! God will have my heart. Christ would not desire that I should be satisfied with His gift of love, but that I should be satisfied with His love without the gift. "You alone are my portion, O Lord."
The world looks dreary, life has lost a charm, the heart is smitten and withered like grass, some of its dearest earthly affections have gone down into the tomb, but He who recalled the blessing is greater and dearer than the blessing; and is just the same Himself, as when He gave it. Jesus would be glorified by our resting in and cleaving to Him as our portion, even when the flowers of earthly beauty, and the yet more precious fruits of spiritual comfort and consolation wither and depart. Satan would suggest that we have sinned away our blessings and forfeited our comforts, and that, therefore, the Lord is now hiding His face from us, and in anger shutting up His tender mercies. But this is not really so. He is hiding the flowers, but not Himself. In love to them He is transferring them to His garden in heaven, and in love to us He thus seeks to draw us nearer to His heart. He would have us knock at His door and ask for a fresh cluster.
We are so apt to cherish our blessings, and rest in our comforts, and live upon our frames and feelings; that we lose sight of, and forget Him. He removes His gift, we might be always coming to Him for more. Oh, matchless love of Jesus!--it is well.
"Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
Savior, to your cross I cling;
You have every blow directed,
You alone can healing bring.
"Try me until no dross remains;
And whatever the trial be,
While your gentle arm sustains,
Closer will I cling to Thee.
"Cheerfully the stern rod kissing,
I will hush each murmuring cry;
Every doubt and fear dismissing,
Passive in your arms will lie.
"And when through deep seas of sorrow,
I have gained the heavenly shore,
Bliss from every wave I'll borrow,
And for each will love You more."
--Mrs. E. C. Judson
Sick one!--"it is well." 'Is it so, can it be?' you doubtfully inquire. Yes, it is and must be so, since He who loves you has permitted, no, has sent this sickness. His wisdom cannot err, His love cannot be unkind. This trying dispensation may appear adverse to your best interests. It has, perhaps, come at a time when you could be least spared from your domestic duties, the engagements of business, or the work of the Lord. Thus secluded from your family, withdrawn from your customary employments, or, what may be a yet more painful reflection, exiled from the public ordinances of the Lord's house--those means of grace that have been so precious and profitable to your soul--you marvel how this sickness can be well.
Marvel not, since God's ways are not as our ways, nor His thoughts as our thoughts. He works His purposes of mercy and love towards us in a way often directly opposite to all our anticipations and plans. This sickness may appear to you a heavy calamity, the result may prove it an untold blessing. Sanctified by the Spirit's grace, that bed of suffering, that couch of weakness, those wearisome days, and long, sleepless nights, shall teach you precious truths, and realize to you precious promises, and bring your soul so near to God, and so endear the Savior to your heart, as shall constrain you to exclaim--"Lord, it is well!" "Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still." "Let patience have her perfect work, wanting nothing."
Do not be over anxious as to your recovery. God's time is best. Not one pain, not one moment's sense of weakness more than is needful, will God permit. Nor will He keep you upon that bed of suffering, nor a prisoner within that shaded room, one day longer than is necessary to accomplish the good He designs to bestow. Be trustful--be passive--lean upon Jesus, who will make all your bed in your sickness--open your heart to God in inward, silent breathings--and commit yourself, your family, your calling, yes, all your interests entirely to Him, and all will be well.
And suppose this present sickness should be unto DEATH--will not that be well? What! not to be released from a body of infirmity and sin? Not to go home, and take possession of your glorious inheritance? Not to go and see Christ in His glory, and be reunited to those who have gone before, and mingle with prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and be as they are, perfected in holiness and love? Oh, yes, it will be far better to depart and be with Christ, if He sees fit. Tremble not to cross the flood. Our true Joshua has paved the path with precious stones--the doctrines, truths, and promises of His word--upon which your faith may plant its feet, and so to pass over dry shod into the heavenly Canaan. The bitterness of death is gone, to all who believe in Jesus, and "it is well."
Child of ADVERSITY--"it is well." Can you respond to this, now that God may have taken from you health, friends, riches, earthly comforts, and creature supports? It must be well, since providence and not accident, God and not man, has done it. But weep not, be not cast down, all is not gone. God is still your God and Father, Christ is still your Friend and Brother, the Spirit is still your Comforter and Guide, the covenant is still your inexhaustible supply, the promises are still left you, and all these losses and trials are working together for your good. Beware of rash steps, of creature-confidence, of distrusting God. Make not 'man' your arm, be not too curious to know the Lord's designs, but remember that "in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."
God will not leave you in this time of adversity. In Him let your faith be filial, implicit, unwavering. If you honor Him by trusting Him now, He will honor your trust by and by. Give yourself to prayer. You will find it a sweet outlet to your full and burdened heart. All will yet be well. Stand still, and let God solve His own deep and mysterious problems, and you will then see how much infinite love and wisdom, and faithfulness and goodness was enfolded in this dark distressing calamity. But before this, in faith and submission, learn to say--it is well.
Is it well with your SOUL, my reader? Are you converted by the Spirit of God? Is your soul saved? This is the only part of your being that is worthy of a moment's serious thought. Everything else in comparison is but as the bubble that floats down the stream. This busy life will soon cease; its last thought, and care, and anxiety will yield to the great, the solemn realities of eternity. Are you ready for the sequel? Are you in a state of pardon, of justification, of peace with God through Christ? How is it with your soul? Will it be well with you in death, well with you after death, well with you at the judgment-seat of Christ? Have you come to the Lord Jesus as a Savior, to His blood for cleansing, to His righteousness for acceptance, to His cross for shelter, to Himself for rest? Have you fled as a sinner to Jesus as the Savior?
Look these questions, I beseech you, fairly, fully in the face, and answer them in your own conscience, and as in view of that dread tribunal at whose bar you will soon be cited. What, if you should prosper in temporals, and be lean in spirituals! What if you should pamper the body and starve the soul! What if you should gain the world--its riches, its honors, its pleasures--and be yourself through eternity a cast-away! To die in your sins, to die without union to Christ, to die unreconciled to God, tremendous will be the consequences; so dire will be your condition, so fearful and interminable your sufferings from the wrath of a holy and righteous God, it would have been good for you never to have been born. The unrighteous will be "punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power."
But there is hope! Does this page meet the eye of a penitent mourner, one whose heart is smitten with godly grief for sin? Truly can I say it is well with your soul, if this be so. If the sacrifice you bring to God's altar is that of a broken heart, be it known to you that the sacrifice of a broken heart and of a contrite spirit God will not despise. Despise it! Oh, no! It is the precious, holy fruit of His own Spirit in your soul, and in His eye it is too holy, too costly, too dear, to be despised. Bring to Him that broken heart, and Jesus will bind it up, heal and fill it with joy, and peace, and hope. It was His mission to receive and save sinners--it is His office to receive and save sinners--it is His delight to receive and save sinners; and if you will but approach Him, exactly as you are, He will receive and save you. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved."
On one ground only is there a possibility of your rejection. Come with a price in your hand with which to purchase salvation--be it your tears, your confessions, your sacraments, or whatever else it may be--and Christ will have no dealings with you. It is as though a sound man should come to be cured of the physician; or, as though a full man should come to sit down at a banquet; or, as though a beggar should offer to purchase at the door the bread he had craved in his hunger. But come to the Lord Jesus empty-handed, broken-hearted, sin-burdened, with no plea but your deep necessity, with no argument but your utter unworthiness, with no price but your insolvency, and Jesus will receive you graciously, will welcome you freely, and save you eternally. "And when they had nothing to pay He frankly forgave them both."
Christian professor, is it well with you? Is your soul prosperous? Are you making progress towards heaven, advancing in the divine life, and walking worthy of your high and holy calling? Is Jesus increasingly precious to you, is your heart warm with divine love, and have you the inward testimony--the comfortable, cheering witness of the Spirit--to your interest in Christ, and your adoption into God's family? We are entering upon a New Year of our earthly pilgrimage; let us commence it with a new setting out for heaven. Begin the year with a renewed application to the atoning blood, with a fresh draft upon the supplies of the covenant of grace, with a fresh coming to the fullness of Jesus, with a closer, clearer, more simple sight of the cross. Do not let us commence the New Year with the old stores, but let us repair to our true, spiritual Joseph for a fresh impartation of new grace, new strength, new faith, new love, new courage. Let the old things pass away, and forgetting the things that are behind, let us start anew for glory.
It is recorded of the children of Israel, that when they reached the confines of the good land they ceased to eat of the old corn, and "ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year." In like manner are we invited to live upon the foretastes and pledges of the coming glory; to partake of the new corn, and to press into our cup the first ripe fruits of the new vintage. Let us relinquish the old stores for the new. Let no remembrance of past backslidings, no lingering taint of past sins, no cloud-veiling of past sorrows discourage us from laying all our burdens at the foot of the cross, making it the starting-point of a new and more advancing stage in the glorious race that is before us. Jesus stands prepared to supply every need, to sympathize with every sorrow, to uphold us with His hand, to guide us with His eye, and to conduct us by a right way safely to heaven. In a little while and we shall behold Him. All things betoken the shaking of the heavens and the earth, when the "Desire of all nations" shall come. The late movements in the East--the present trembling in the valley of dry bones (the Jewish people)--the diffusion of the gospel as a witness to all nations--the daily fulfillment of prophecy--the rapid transit and close intercommunication with all parts of the globe, are striking and significant indices of the great events which are approaching. The grand event to which all others point, and of which all are but the herald, is--the Personal Appearing of the Son of Man. "The coming of the Lord draws near." In a little while He that shall come will come, and then shall be the rapture of the saints! In view of this illustrious and solemn event, let our attitude be that of holy, watchful, prayerful expectation, "looking for and hastening unto the coming of the Lord." Let brotherly love abound--let charity towards one another increase--let the saints of different Christian communions band more closely together in the Lord's work--and let all seek to be filled and animated with the lowly, gentle, winning, loving spirit of Christ, the one Lord and Master of His ONE Church.
Saints of the Most High! over these broken waters of a sinful, sorrowful, toilsome life we shall soon have passed, and standing upon the "sea of glass," with the harp of God in our hand, there shall be reflected from its tranquil bosom the glory, and there shall breathe from every string the praise of our God in having done all things well! Oh, what harmony shall we then see in every discrepance, what wisdom in every labyrinth, what love in every affliction, what tenderness, gentleness, and forethought in every stroke of His hand, and in every event of His providence! The mystery of God will be finished, and God will be all in all.
"Through the love of God our Savior,
All will be well.
Free and changeless is His favor;
All, all is well.
Precious is the blood that healed us,
Perfect is the grace that sealed us,
Strong the hand outstretched to shield us,
All must be well.
"Though we pass through tribulation,
All, all is well.
Ours is such a full salvation,
All must be well.
Happy still in God confiding,
Fruitful if in Christ abiding,
Holy through the Spirit's guiding:
All, all is well.
"We expect a bright tomorrow;
All, all is well.
Faith can say in deepest sorrow
All, all is well.
On our Father's love relying,
Jesus every need supplying,
All in living, all in dying,
ALL MUST BE WELL."