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way with sighs and groans unutterable in the valley of the shadow of death, he is infinitely happier than the most joyous and favoured of the children of this world. For God is with him, preparing him for himself, and perhaps passing his soul through some faint experience of hell beforehand, that he may be purged from sin and saved from hell for ever. Yea, he may be passing through the fire now, that the fire may never have power to touch him hereafter. But the prosperous child of this world is drawn of Satan through a career of pleasure here, that he may be kept from God and plunged in fire hereafter.
To return once more to the beautiful figure under which our Blessed Lord has illustrated the work of his grace; it is manifest from its nature that it has, at a definite period, for which no other period can be exchanged, its beginning, its progress, and its end. It is just as peculiar and appropriate, and we may add essential, as the seed-time to the husbandman, and the summer to the growth of nature, and the autumn to the
If the seed-time be deferred to the autumn, will the harvest ripen in the winter? If the careless husbandman refuse to sow in the spring, or the thorny earth refuse its ministrations in the summer, and produce but nettles, what is there for it in the autumn but to be burned ? “ Whose end,” says the apostle, comparing it to the fruitless soil, “is to be burned.”
There are days of grace in the summer season of our souls, presenting influences and opportunities of heaven, like the glorious autumn Sabbath with its crystal atmosphere, its heavenly repose, its serene and sacred light; days given of God in mercy to the soul for its growth in God's own likeness. There is a season of such visitation for every soul, but certainly it is not often repeated, it may never return, and therefore, if neglected, is neglected for ever. And if the work of grace be not begun in life, it will neither be begun nor completed in eternity. Habit, the habit of grace as well as sense, is a thing of time. The formation of character takes time; a character for heaven as well as hell. If the heavenly work be begun in season, it is well. But if not, then you are taking all the time of your probation for evil; and if the period for the growth of good be passed, you are lost; it is the destruction of the soul for ever. Then cometh the end. The angels are the reapers. Let both grow, tares and wheat, together until the harvest.
The trials of faith-Trials of character, and trials to mend cha
racter-Inward and external trials—Christian sympathy.
It is singularly beautiful to behold the sacred light that shines through periods of sorrow. Some of the simple hymns of Cowper transmit that light as an opal; for they were the childlike record of his own experience, and they have given a household language, as familiar as that of childhood, to some of the dearest processes of the Divine life.
Trials must and will befall;
But with humble faith to see
This is happiness to me.
Trials make the promise sweet,
Trials give new life to prayer,
Lay me low, and keep me there.
Trials are among the most signal way-marks in the Pilgrimage of Faith, trials at the beginning, trials in the continuance, trials at the end. Yet not trials always, nor trials unmingled, but enough constantly, or at intervals, to prove thee and show thee what is in thy heart, and to lead that heart for healing and rest to God.
When comforts are declining
He grants the soul again
To cheer it after rain.
In holy contemplation,
We sweetly then pursue
And find it ever new.
The history of Faith, and of God's discipline for its increase and perfection, ever has been and ever will be a record of trials. Character is read and known in the temper of the soul sustaining them, and they themselves are the costly instruments of God in refining and establishing the soul. We are in the shop of the Great Jeweller, preparing for our places in his palace above; and they whom he means to make the most resplendent, said Leighton, in this beautiful figure, he hath oftenest his tools upon. Until this discipline of God has been applied to him, a man knows not of what elements his
nature is composed, nor what hidden evils may be festering in his bosom. God must bring them out, and redeem him from them, or he can never be prepared for the kingdom of heaven. A jeweller may find, in making up a casket, a magnificent stone, in which there seems to be a flaw. If it extends through the stone, it is useless for his purpose, and must be laid aside for some inferior end. Therefore he begins to file it to see how deep it goes, and it may be that after a little of this operation, it will show itself clear ; but if not, then it is unfit for the place he had designed it to fill. So it is with God in making up his jewels; there is much filing needed to prepare them for their heavenly setting. Sometimes there are such flaws, that a Christian's usefulness here is wellnigh destroyed, even if his hope of happiness hereafter be not ruined. How deep the interest, while the fires of God's discipline are at work upon a man to burn out his dross, or some keen file is applied to remove the evils in his character !
God sometimes sends trials not for general sanctification merely, but to thwart and break up particular schemes which were wrong, but which the Christian was trying to persuade himself he might lawfully accomplish. God may send a particular trial, on purpose to do this; it may be such a trial as removes away from a man's power some dear thing on which he had relied for the prosecution of his scheme. A man is driving on,