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'Twas he who taught me thus to pray,
Sometimes a man is called to endure temptation in a succession of little things, that are more difficult to be borne than great things. It is the rarest of all grace which is carried into daily, hourly exercise in the common-place business and intercourse of life ; we are so disposed to put off the exercise of grace to great occasions, and to let nature and not grace have its perfect work on all common ones. But it is a most wise remark of one of the Apocryphal books, He that despiseth little things, by little and little shall he fall. Our piety will be destroyed by small temptations, if we do not call it into exercise on small occasions. Let this be remembered in the common walks of life. Let it be remembered in the daily occupations of the household, and in all our intercourse one with another.
Christian communion and sympathy are of great value and comfort to a tempted soul. It is especially in spiritual things that as iron sharpeneth iron so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. But there are cases in which a man hardly dares believe that ever any other person experienced such assaults and evils as his own soul has to pass through. There are cases in which he is very unwilling to repose confidence in any human being, and can go to none but God. And sometimes the more exclusively he is shut up to God, the better.
There is an affecting and instructive delineation in the picture drawn by Bunyan of Christian in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. When Christian had travelled in this disconsolate condition some considerable time, he thought he heard the voice of a man going before him, saying, Though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death I will fear no ill, for thou art with me. Then was he glad, and that for these reasons. First, because he gathered from thence that some who feared God were in this valley as well as himself. Secondly, for that he perceived God was with them, though in that dark and dismal state ; and why not, thought he, with me; though by reason of the impediment that attends this place I cannot perceive it. Thirdly, for that he hoped, could he overtake them, to have company by and by. So he went on, and called to him that was before; but he knew not what to answer for that he also thought himself to be alone. And by and by the day broke. Then said Christian, “ He hath turned the shadow of death into the morning.” And thus is God able at any time to turn the shadow of death into the morning. When he gireth peace, who then can make trouble? But until he be pleased to
give peace, the soul must trust submissively to him, even in the darkness. Because there seems to be no light, but only darkness, that may not be any positive proof that God is not with the soul. The soul may not be able to perceive it, by reason, as Bunyan expresses it, of the impediment that attends the place; and yet God
may be guiding and blessing the soul, even in such thick darkness. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, said David in such a case, then thou knewest my path.
God of my life, to thee I call,
Did ever mourner plead with thee
Fair is the lot that's cast for me;
Faith still put to the test- Is it faith in sight, or faith in God ?
Three days in the wilderness—Light out of darkness, strength out of weakness—The discovery of God in self-disappointment and abasement.
It is a great thing to learn to trust God. And a man does not learn it, ordinarily, till he passes through affliction, and oftentimes he has to experience much affliction in order to learn. He has to be stripped of his self-reliance, and the props and crutches, on which he has supported himself and his virtues, have to be taken away, together with the dear things in which he trusted for comfort and happiness; and then it is to be seen whether his soul relies on God. A man may have the principle of reliance, but habits of reliance are not to be formed at once; and so a man may have the principle of submission, but the habit of submission, the grace
of resignation, is a thing of time and discipline and gradual formation. It is easy to trust God in prosperity, and a man may think he has formed the habit of trust