"My soul with various tempests tossed,
Her hopes o'erturned, and projects crossed.
Sees every day when straits attend,
And wonders where the scene will end."
When people are in prosperity, and are at ease, the tried pathway of the child of God, as set forth in this verse, can be but little understood. Carnal religionists and hypocrites, who are strangers to the "the path of life," are also strangers to the trials that are peculiar to the chosen of God. What multitudes of professors of Christ's name there are who have no heartfelt knowledge of Christ Jesus. Just the mere outward profession just a round of bodily exercises, or they may be very earnest contenders for what they esteem to be Bible truth, but they have no heartfelt knowledge of Jesus, the dear Lamb of God. They have never known what it is to be of a humble and contrite heart, to tremble at God's word. He has not spoken to them, and they have not poured out their hearts in sighs and supplications at the mercy seat of God. They are dead in trespasses and sins: for they know not God the Father, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.
Believers in Jesus Christ are sharers in common in all ills that affect mankind, but in those ills they are exercised in a way before and to the Lord their God that the world knows nothing of. Then there are those dispensations of Jehovah's providence which none but the elect know: for the Lord tries the righteous, and no others are thus dealt with. All their afflictions are in everlasting love; it is in infinite wisdom they are subjected to discipline, to corrections, to chastenings, to reproofs, rebukes, fires and floods, all for their ultimate good. The rest of the world is not dealt with in this manner. There have been many seasons when my heart has said:
"Dear Lord, though bitter is the cup
Thy gracious hand has dealt to me,
I cheerfully would drink it up;
That cannot hurt which comes from Thee.
Dash it with Thy unchanging love,
Let not a drop of wrath be there;
The saints, forever blest,
Were once afflicted here.
From Jesus, Thy incarnate Son
I'll learn obedience to Thy Will,
And humbly kiss the chastening rod,
When its severest strokes I feel."
The sovereignty of God is very manifest even in His dealings as our heavenly Father. Some of His dear children are given a much larger portion of afflictions, or they are called to endure sorer conflicts; but if their sufferings abound, their consolations abound by Christ Jesus. Of Saul of Tarsus God said, "I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name sake." All trouble is hardening, and we become impatient, murmur, and if self pity gets us in its grip this much increases our trouble. When our troubles constrain us to show them before our God this is proof they are working for our good. (Isa. 26:16; Psa. 50:15). "It is good for me to draw near to God." (Psa. 73:28). Here at the footstool of our God we do not only pray for relief and grace to sustain us in our distresses; not only do we cry for strength to be able to stand in the conflict, but for mercy, that God will pardon our fretfulness and hush our murmurings. Oh! we long for nearness, and tokens of love from the Lord, that He will speak a kind, assuring word to us; we cry to Him that He will not be to us as a stranger in the land, and as a wayfaring man that turns aside to tarry for a night (Jer. 14:8), or
"More frequent let Thy visits be,
or let them longer last;
I can do nothing without Thee;
Make haste, my God, make haste."
Oh that His presence may be felt to be with us in our tribulations, in the fires, when swallowed up. Without the graciousness of the Lord, we altogether fail to glorify Him in the fires (Isa. 24:15.) Oh that the Lord will give us a heart to cleave to Him. Our unbelief, our fears, the insinuations of the devil, would wrench us away from our covenant God. But God, who performs His good work in us until the day of Jesus Christ, moves us in our distresses to cleave to Him, who is the only Hope and Rock of our salvation. In these times of our soul's adversities unfeigned faith, and our love unfeigned, live; much that is spurious, much that is dross, is burned up in fiery trials, and when we say,
"All my trust in Thee is stayed,
All my help from Thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of Thy wing."
They are no idle words, but the very experience of the child of God who flees to Christ for refuge. Oh! the Lord chastens His people, but ever for their profit that they may be partakers of His holiness. He wounds, and His hands make whole; He brings us low, and humbled in His sight. But He will lift us up.
Truly He will be with us in all our straits, and know our souls in adversities. He discovers deep out of darkness, and brings out to the light the shadow of death; and He will verily rebuke the devourer for thy sake, ye weak and trembling children of God. He makes believers to know the riches of His grace and wonders of His love in the depths of their afflictions, and when they are weakness, and our God sees we have no might against the powers that oppress us, He moves us to cry to Himself for succor and consolation. Thus He so graciously makes the power of our precious Christ to rest upon us (II Cor. 12: -10) and out of weakness we become strong in the Lord and the power of his might. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not a mere arrangement of doctrines, not a system of philosophical teachings that men may gather out of the Bible, in which men may esteem themselves wise. and sport themselves in their self-acquired speculations. But our Lord Jesus Christ is, He is very Being, and they that are His have been brought to Him, having been taught of the Father (John 6:45). They have been apprehended of Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12). He has a gracious, almighty hold of them; and He will not give them up, neither shall any power pluck them out of His hand (John 10:28-29). They have been called to fellowship with God's dear Son, and in His fellowship. He shows them the Father; they joy in God through Him, and have access to the mercy of God, and have peace with God. By our dear Saviour we have received the atonement, and thus, though poor and base and vile, we believe through His graciousness with all the heart.
Oh! thus to know God our Father which is in heaven; the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, is life eternal. His flesh is meat indeed, and His blood is drink indeed. Oh! have we not proved that Christ often captivates our thoughts, calls forth our trust, engrosses our affections, inspires our soul with hope? His blood and righteousness, his sacrifice, and His High Priesthood, give courage and joy to us poor sinful worms and we say, "O guide me with Thy counsel, dear Saviour, and afterward receive me to glory." "Christ liveth in me": Yes, it is Christ in us the hope of Glory: For God has called us to his eternal glory by Christ Jesus.
Frederick W. Keene
Selected: Sovereign Grace and Pilgrim,
January - February. 1934