Dear tried children of God, the things which you have been and are now being taught of the Lord are far more precious “than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honey comb.” They are a seal and earnest of the Holy Spirit, declaring you to be one of the chosen of God, “a child of Jehovah, a subject of grace.”
Since the time when it pleased God to give me a hope in his mercy, my soul has rejoiced in witnessing the like precious faith bestowed by our gracious God upon others; and though I have continually to sigh over my own sinfulness and unprofitableness, yet I do feel that my heart flows forth in affection to the dear children of God. They are, I hope, my kindred in Christ Jesus, and I do feel them more dear to me than all others. I am much interested in my heart when the dear children of God amidst their tribulations give expression to their thoughts, how they are tossed about in the midst of their trials, how they are filled with wonderment, how their souls are exercised unto their God desiring to know why am I thus, why these mysterious, painful, bitter trials, how can all these things be working for my good. So, at times, am I exercised, and I need the Lord again and again in my soul’s tribulations in his graciousness to sanctify all things unto me, that I may be enabled to rejoice in tribulation, and in some measure to know that tribulation worketh patience and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us (Rom. 5:3-5). The word tribulation is derived from Tribulo, to thrash, to beat. And very much, of the tribulation, distress, vexations, persecutions of the household of faith have this signification unto them in the Lord our God appointing them unto us. We are thrashed, and beaten under these trials, and there is, as grain is thrashed, a separation of the chaff from the wheat. When I have been brought under the rod, and have felt to sorely smart under the stroke, it has been given me in some of these seasons to have deep and sacred musing upon the suffering of Christ as declared in the 53rd of Isaiah, “For the transgression of my people was he stricken.” Though tribulations arise in many forms, and from many things, yet all is for our profit, it is our portion as appointed by our heavenly Father. Yes, this is the predestined way to “enter the Kingdom.” None of the redeemed of the Lord can escape it or go around it. “We must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom” (Acts. 14:22). All the trials and sufferings are in number and weight and duration as pleaseth our God. His chastenings are for our profit. They are tokens of his love evidences that he deals with us as with sons (Heb. 12:1-11; Rev. 3:19). It is, as with Israel of old; so with all the true circumcision (Phil. 3:3, Col. 2:11), those that are Jews inwardly ( Rom. 2:28, Rev. 2:9). All our journey under the divine guidance, all the teaching is to humble and prove us, that we may know what is in our hearts (Deut. 8:2). For all the Israel of God “shall know every man the plague of his own heart” (1 Kings 8:38). If in all outward circumstances our way should be strewn with flowers, yet this inward tribulation would yet be with the child of God. “All the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning” (Psalm 73:14). Sometimes, beloved of the Lord, I have murmured at my lot; I have fretted under this or that stroke; I have judged it to be unkind and cruel; I have winced under the strokes, and bitterly complained. But at such times I have seen only the rod, and not the hand that held the rod and directed every stroke. I have not while in this murmuring state remembered the love of him who dealeth with me as with a son. Though I have cried and wept, and said it was hard and unkind, the strokes were not diminished. In Proverbs 19:18 it reads: “Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying.” Thus I feel the Lord has dealt with me; and when he has thus said to my soul, “Hear ye the rod, and who hath appointed it” (Micah 6:9). I have found it had indeed a voice. It told me of my naughtiness, the pride of my heart, and that I am a poor, vile sinner still. It also spoke of the tender love and faithfulness of my Father, God. I then felt that all was needful to humble me. O how I need, it seems to me, to be chastened all the time, for I am so continually going astray. The Lord our God is the One who appoints the rod. Then, whether it be men or devils, whatsoever thing causes grief to our souls, whatsoever the affliction, God, appoints it. Not one stroke can any creature, anything, any power, inflict upon us more than God, even our own God, has ordained. “Ye shall have tribulation ten days” (Rev. 2:10). If the Lord has appointed the number ten we never shall have eleven. His word declares, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will” (Rom. 8:28; Ephes. 1:11).
When the glorious doctrine of our God has been my souls meditation, I have felt a rest and quietness therein, and have felt to say, “My times are in thy hand” (Psalm 31:15). Our times are not at our own disposal.
All would be sunshine if we could arrange it. Our tithes are not in the hands of men; they can do no more than what our God has decreed. They can afflict us only to the measure that God metes out to us (Isaiah 54:16-17). The devil has not the disposal of our times; all his power to afflict us is subject to the will of our God (Job 1:12; 2:6). Therefore it will ever be true with us, that
“Our times of sorrow and of joy,
Great God are in Thy hand;
Our choicest comforts come from Thee,
And go at Thy command.”
“When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble? and when he hideth himself, who then can behold him? whether it be done against a nation, or against a man only” (Job 34:29).
How sweet is the mercy of the Lord unto us to be able to say, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted” (Psalm 119:71-75). By and by we shall have come through all the tribulation that our God has appointed us. Well may we then, even now, in faith’s sweet anticipation, “Be of good cheer” (John 16:33).
We shall be more than conquerors through him that hath loved us.
FREDERICK W. KEENE,
THE LONE PILGRIM,
Volume 8, No. 86,