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of revealed truth under this aspect. To feel himself under an unutterable obligation is no oppressive load, from which the contrite in heart is anxious to be released. He cheerfully takes his proper place; loves to sink into the lowest depths of self-abasement; and values the blessings of salvation infinitely more for that
XXXI. ON PATIENCE. Heb. X. 36.—Ye have need of patience. This epistle was evidently directed to persons in a state of calamity and suffering, and contemplates its readers under that aspect. It was addressed to Jewish converts, who suffered from the rancorous bigotry and malice of their countrymen, who, in the commencement of christianity, were its most violent and formidable persecutors. It attaches to some remarkable period of persecution which they had sustained immediately on their professing the gospel. “ But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; partly, whilst ye were made a gazing-stock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.”* In this trial they had conducted themselves with great constancy and firmness, “ taking joyfully the spoiling of their goods.” Hence the apostle takes occasion to admonish them still to persevere in the hope and profession of the gospel, intimating they were not to expect an exemption from future trials. “ Ye have need of patience.”
* Heb. x. 32, 33.
The state of christianity, in every age, has called for the exercise and cultivation of this grace. It is a quality in the composition of a christian which is never unnecessary, as he must not expect long to be in a situation where its exertion is not demanded.
I. The circumstances of christians are often such as to render its exercise indispensably requisite, if they would glorify God, by evincing a suitable spirit and conduct.
1. The trials which good men are called to endure are often very severe. They have their full share in the ordinary ills of life; besides trials which are peculiar to themselves, arising out of the nature of the christian profession. On many of them poverty presses with an accumulated weight.
They find it difficult, or impossible, with all the exertions they can make, to procure an adequate provision of the necessaries of life for themselves and families. They are obliged to content themselves with a scanty and insufficient diet, with clothing insufficient to protect them from the inclemencies of the season, which is sometimes aggravated by the state of their health being such as calls for certain comforts and indulgences, which it is out of their power to procure. Their subsistence is precarious; so that when they rise in the morning they have no certainty of being able to provide for the day that is passing over them; which is enough to overcast the mind with anxious and dismal forebodings. They could endure hardships themselves, perhaps, with tolerable composure; but it is distressing to see the helpless and innocent babes asking, with imploring looks, for that relief from hunger which they are unable to supply. How many a pious head of a family, in this and in almost every other country, is placed, at this moment, in these afflicting circumstances ! and, surely, it will be readily acknowledged that such“ have need of patience.”
2. The trials under which many of the people of God are labouring are various and complicated : a confluence of afflictions meet together, and heighten and exasperate each other. The evils of poverty are aggravated by sickness and bodily pain; a constitution broken down with the weight of years and infirmities is added to domestic trials and disappointments, the most difficult to sustain. Those from whom assistance was expected, became cool and indifferent, perhaps hostile; and the anguish arising from confidence betrayed, and friendship violated, is added to every other evil. Thus David, in his old age, when his natural strength was much abated, had to struggle with the unnatural rebellion of his son, and with the treacherous desertion of some of his most intimate
and endeared friends, those with whom he had often taken sweet counsel, and gone to the house of God in company. “ Had it been an enemy I could have borne it, but it was thou, mine equal and my guide.” When he had reason to hope he had surmounted his difficulties, and by great exertion and resolution weathered the storms of life, and was about to enter into a peaceful harbour, a sudden hurricance arose, which drove him back into the ocean, and threatened him with total destruction. Job, in like manner, was visited with stroke upon stroke: first his property was torn from him, then his children, then his health ; lastly, the friends, from whom he expected support and consolation, turned his enemies and accusers. As he had great need of patience, so his exemplification of it, though far from being perfect, was such as to render his name illustrious through every succeeding age.
3. When heavy and complicated trials are of long continuance,-when, after enduring them long, no prospect of deliverance appears, no mitigation is experienced,—when there is none who can venture to set a period to calamities,—this is a circumstance that puts patience to the severest test. It is much easier to bear a very acute pain or affliction for a short time, than one much more moderate during a very protracted period. The duration of trials is a severer exercise of patience than their severity. For a certain time the soul collects itself, and summons up its resolution to bear; but when
the suffering continues long, the mind becomes weary of exerting a continued effort, and is apt to yield to the force of impatience and inquietude. In these several situations, the christian has need of patience.
II. Let us consider the nature and the excellence of true patience. It is a grace of the Spirit of God. God condescends to be called the “ God of patience;" and we read of] “ the kingdom [and patience] of [Jesus] Christ,” — [of] “the word of his patience." By means of it, they who suffer possess their souls. Another intention of this passage it is not necessary to mention : the present [being] instructive, and sufficiently adapted to the apparent design of the writer.
[There is] a great difference in the manner in which the same trials are borne by different persons :— some restless, complaining, dissatisfied with the conduct of Providence, and at all around them ; others, though they feel, are yet composed, tranquil, self-possessed, capable of exercising their thoughts, and of exerting their reason, without disturbance — they “ possess their souls.” The happy effects of this frame of spirit are the following:
1. He who in “patience possesses his soul,” is able to trace his afflictions to the hand of God; looking through inferior instruments to the hand of the Supreme Director
2. He is prevented from forming an erroneous and exaggerated estimate of his sufferings; from