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sources fail us. While David said, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous,” he also added, “but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” And our Saviour says to his disciples, “In the world
ye shall have tribulation;" but he also says, shall have peace.”
16 In me ye
JAN. 6.—Happy is the man whom God correcteth. Job v. 17.
CHRISTIANS should be able to derive this confidence with regard to their afllictions. Although “man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward,” yet the believer is not only supported under his troubles, but he derives some of his choicest mercies from them through the sanctifying influence by which they are often accompanied. If a person has no outward troubles, his heart may be filled with inward bitterness, which is known only to himself. Well, but while the cup of affliction is going round from family to family, and individual to individual, while one is saying, “ I am made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed me;" and while another is saying, “Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness;" he may find these afflictions to be very salutary. They may be so sanctified to us as to subserve and promote the very purpose of our salvation; and they are much more likely to do so than our successes. The Christian's character is far more formed from bis trials than his indulgences. “Blessed is the man who endureth temptation.” How many can bear similar testimony to David as to the benefits of affliction !-" It is good for me that I have been afflicted; before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I have kept thy word.” How many have found in the valley of Achor" a "door of hope;" having met God at first in the chamber of sickness. “Oh,” says one, “if it had not been for these trials and bodily infirmities, I might have gone further from God. I might have lived according to the course of this world, and perished at last along with it.” “Blessed,” says David, “is the man whom thou chasteneth, and teachest out of thy law.” Nor did he speak from reason or faith only, but from experience. Luther says, “I never knew the meaning of the word till I was afflicted.” “We fear,” says Bishop Hall, “our best friends. For my part, I have learned more of God and myself in one week's extremity, than the prosperity of a whole life
had taught me before.” If the vine had reason, it would be thankful for the sharpest cutting of the gardener's knife; or if the fallow ground had reason, it would be thankful for the ploughshare which tears it up, and is prepared by this process for the reception of the seed. Oh, to be able to say in our trouble, I know that these trials are “ working for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” Oh, what to the believer are all the afflictions of the present time, compared with the glory that shall be revealed in them? What are all outward losses to those who can say, I “have in heaven a better and an enduring substance" ?
JAN. 7.— Ye received the word with joy of the Holy Ghost.
1 Thess. i. 6. The gospel is a system of consolation and comfort. Here it is worthy of our notice, that the very word gospel signifies good news-glad tidings—great joy; and with this name the truth well agrees. What is its principal and distinguishing theme? Is it a matter of mere curiosity—the solution of a problem-a scientific theory, in acquiring the knowledge of which, it is merely necessary to inform the judgment? It is not only “a faithful saying,” but “worthy of all acceptation.” If it be any thing it is every thing; if at all important it is all-important. It is a message to the heart, and a message that contains all that the poor, wretched heart of man requires in his woes, wounds, and weaknesses. It is an answer to the questions, “What niust I do to be saved ?” "Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God?” It tells us how “he remembered us in our low estate;" that his thoughts towards us are thoughts of peace, and not of evil; “that he has sent his only-begotten Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world, through him, might be saved;" that he has made peace by the blood of his cross; that he has wrought out and brought in everlasting righteousness, so that we may say, “Poor as I am, I shall attain unsearchable riches ; and degraded as I am, I shall rise to glory, honour, immortality, and eternal life." And how ought this gospel to be received? We know that when the Roman conqueror proclaimed the liberty of the Grecian States, the people for hours together filled the air with exclamations of
delight. And shall we not receive joyfully the word which proclaims peace, and brings glad tidings of great joy, that publisheth salvation, that says unto Zion, Thy God reigneth? The dispensation of the gospel is characterized by the prophets as a mission of joy. We find them employing every image to express the joyfulness of the scene.” They tell us that then “ "the
of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped; that the lame man shall leap like a hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall sing.” They call upon the whole material creation to rejoice, for the Lord is come. “Shout, ye lower parts of the earth, break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein; for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.” If we pass from the language of prophecy to that of history, we shall find that in this manner the gospel was originally received. When Philip preached Christ in Samaria, “there was great joy” manifested. When Paul went among the Galatians, they “received him as an angel of God," and were ready to make every kind of sacrifice to such a messenger of mercy. And here the apostle states that the Thessalonians received the word “with joy of the Holy Ghost.” And he describes the Philippians as rejoicing in Christ Jesus, having no confidence in flesh.” And the Apostle Peter thus addresses believers :“Whom, having not seen, ye love, and in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing ye rejoice, with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
Jan. 8.- As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort
ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem. Isa. lxvi. 13. The anxious, tender mother regards with affectionate solicitude all her children, but she is most concerned for the poor, weakly, sickly child. The knee, the bosom is for him, for him is the prepared delicacy, the noiseless room, and the breathless step, and the frequent watching and leaning over the bed of languishing, and the entreated reception of the offensive draught, accompanied with the sincere assurance—“Ah, my child, how gladly would I take it for thee!” And thus it is with the Lord's afflicted people. The Lord has assured to them, and provided for them, very special privileges. As their day, so their strength is. And as the sufferings of Christ abound in them, their consolation also abound
eth by Christ; and thousands can testify that they have had clearer discoveries, richer communications, and tenderer supports, under their most painful trials and afflictions, than they ever experienced in seasons of ease and prosperity. And what do we need more than this to soothe and comfort us? If the Lord be my portion, what can I want beside? “God,” says the church, “is our refuge and strength; a very present help in time of trouble.” No creature can be substituted for him, but he is more than a substitute for every creature, and his presence peoples, and fertilizes, and gladdens the gloomiest desert. “Behold,' says God, "I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and there will I speak comfortably unto her. And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope; and she shall sing there, as in the days of old.”
JAN. 9.–Our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus. Gal. ii. 4.
This includes a freedom from the bondage of corruption. What a number of tyrants does every singer serve!
What a tyrant is Satan! The “spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience,” who “takes them captive at his will." He first seduces and then torments his victims. What a tyrant is the world! They who have faith overcome the world, but all others are overcome by it. We read of those who walk accord. ing to the course of the world,” as if they were perfectly at liberty, but they are rather drawn or dragged along in that course. They are always disappointed, and complaining, and murmuring, and always speaking against the world, while yet they suffer themselves to be deceived and tantalized by it. Their time is not their own—their will is not their own. They must do and say as others do—they cannot do as they would. What a tyrant is Sin! “He that committeth sin,” says the apostle, “is the servant of sin;" and though, as Peter says, sinpers may boast of their liberty and utter great swelling words, yet, says he, “While they promise to themselves liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption, for of whom a man is overcome of the same is he brought into bondage.” Is he free who is under the dominion of pride and revenge, and envy and malice? What wretch upon earth drudges like one of these with whom reason remonstrates and conscience condemns—who sees and approves
better things, but follows worse? Oh, says the apostle, looking back to the days of his unregeneracy, Oh, says he, we were “some time foolish and disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures—living in malice and envy-hateful, and hating one another.” But after this the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man appeared. And how did it appear ?—“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Grace never leaves its subjects as it finds them. It finds them slaves of Satan and of sin; but it says, “sin shall not have the dominion over you, for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” “Ye were the servants of sin, but
ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.” “Being made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness." Why, these Christians are servants still! yes, but not slaves. They have a Master, and they obey him. Our Master, who is in heaven, requires nothing of us but what is reasonable and righteous. His work is “honourable and glorious.” He draws by “cords of love and with the bands of a man." His yoke is easy, and his burden is light; and his “service is perfect freedom.” We are upholden by his free Spirit; and we can say with David, “We will walk at liberty, for we seek thy precepts.
Jan. 10.-I know that this shall turn to my salvation.
Phil. i. 19. While the Bible enjoins us to be humble, and forbids every thing like rashness and presumption, it admits of confidence and assurance; and what a recommendation of religion this is ! Nothing is so distressing as uncertainty with regard to any very valuable interest, such as the issue of a malady, or the title to an estate, or the success of an enterprise. In what wretchedness must a Christian be who possesses no confidence and certainty with regard to those “things which are unseen and eternal”! But this confidence is attainable. The Christian can gain this confidence and certainty with regard to four things :—First, With regard to the doctrines of the gospel. He may not only have faith unfeigned, but be “strong in faith.” Take a Christian who has been in the ways of God forty or fifty years : ho