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ing him, but let him be overwhelmed with adversity, and then how often does he find his piety deserting him, and that he has yet to learn this simple lesson of dependence on God.

We have said that inward trials are sometimes better at the very commencement of one's Christian course than ever, more experience being gained from them then, than ever afterwards. Yet it is not till the lapse of some time, ordinarily, that the soul learns to read and understand such trials aright. And always the soul is a learner, as a little child, and even old lessons are new ones.

O let me then at length be taught

What I am still so slow to learn,
That God is Love, and changes not,

Nor knows the shadow of a turn.

Sweet truth, and easy to repeat!

But when my faith is sharply tried,
I find myself a learner yet,

Unskilful, weak, and apt to slide.

We find it recorded immediately after the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt, that they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. It was a sharp and sudden teaching of their dependence on God. Three days in the wilderness and no water. A multitude of some hundreds of thousands of people must have suffered much under these circumstances. To realize their suffering, to have an adequate idea of it, we should need to be put in their situation, beneath a burning sun, a cloudless sky, surrounded by the bare, dry, grey, shining desert. Three days and no water! This seemed indeed a deplorable commencement of their journey. They thought, when God had brought them safely through the Red Sea, that that was the way in which he would cause them to triumph continually. They knew

very little of themselves, still less of God. They knew very

little of God's methods of discipline, very little of their own need of that discipline. They could sing God's praises, on occasion of a great deliverance, provided Moses would prepare an ode for them ; just as the most careless and irreligious of men might pray to God with the voice, if a form of prayer were prepared and printed for them, without the least degree or beginning of the Spirit of prayer in their hearts. But their obligations to God and their dependence upon him they had scarcely begun to realize. All the discipline of faith they were yet to experience. They were just entering on a school, the lessons of which were to be of forty years' duration. Probably they thought, when the Red Sea was between them and their enemies, and they had beheld Pharaoh and his host (for dread of whom they had stood shivering) all whelmed in the returning billows, that now there was no more for them to do, but just to march straight, without hindrance or

difficulty, into the promised land of freedom and of plenty. Little did they know how little they were prepared for it. Little did they know what there was in their own hearts.

And therefore, after the first triumph, after God bad brought them safely out of Egypt, and across the Red Sea, their first experience was trial and disappointment. The course which they thought was to be one of constant advancement and victory, they speedily found to be one of self-mortification and delay. They plunged at once into the wilderness; not a wilderness in our sense of the term, which to them would have been comparative security and repose ; not a region of wild woods and thick pathless shades of the undisturbed primeval forest; but an open, uninhabitable, barren, parched desert, which to most of them, who had scarcely ever stirred from the green banks of the Nile in Goshen, must have been a strange and gloomy experience. Such is the first disclosure of self to a soul escaping from its native city of destruction. Such is sometimes the early unexpected experience of the converted soul setting out on its pilgrimage to heaven. Such, too, is sometimes the experience of old saints in new Christian enterprises.

And they wandered on three days through this desert, and found no water. They began to forget and almost to doubt their experience of God's mercy at the Red Sea, though as yet they did not go so far in their


murmurings as to accuse Moses of having brought them into the wilderness to perish with hunger. But now they are coming to a green spot, and certainly there will be water. They press on eagerly; the report runs through the whole host to the furthest outskirt of the multitude. Water! water! Green trees and living water! The foremost press to the fountain ; but what a fearful disappointment! The water is so bitter that it cannot be used; nay, perhaps it is poisonous. And now the people begin to despair and murmur, for if they have not water they must die. And now again God interposes, as when he opened for them the Red Sea. He heals this bitter fountain in the desert, and makes it sweet for the thirsty multitude. This is God's doing, and thus by mingled trial and mercy they are to be taught their dependence upon God. Their trials shall prepare them for their blessings, and their blessings shall prepare them for their trials, and in all things they shall know God.

Three days in the wilderness and no water constitutes one form of the trials of faith. It

may strued temporally or spiritually; but be it the deprivation of expected and needed blessings either way, it is hard to bear. Be it water for the parched tongue, or water for the thirsty soul; it is terrible to be without it. But despair is much worse. Famine may cut the soul off from God's present mercies, but despair cuts the soul

be con


off from God. Bunyan's account of Hopeful's conversion is instructive. Did you do as you were bidden, said Christian, when Faithful taught you to pray ? Yes, over, and over, and over. And did the Father reveal the Son to you? Not at the first, nor second, nor third, nor fourth, nor fifth, no, nor at the sixth time either. What did you do then ? What! why, I could not tell what to do. Had you not thoughts of leaving off praying? Yes, and a hundred times twice told. And what was the reason you did not? I believed that that was true which had been told me, to wit, that without the righteousness of this Christ, all the world could not save me; and therefore thought I with myself, If I leave off I die, and I can but die at the throne of grace.

And withal this came into my mind, If it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come and will not tarry. So I continued praying, until the Father showed me his Son.

Here for Hopeful were the three days in the wilderness and no water. Just thus it is with many, who start fair from Egypt, thinking to accomplish all good things speedily; then comes the check, the first trial of faith, when many turn back, like Pliable, at the first difficult and painful experience. But if present disappointment be painful, unbelief, despair, and the turning back of the soul, are perdition. Perseverance in faith loses no present blessing, but gains an eternal crown.

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