During the past few months I have met with several cases of deep affliction among our brethren which have awakened within me a desire to write a few thoughts to the poor and afflicted in Zion. This undoubtedly includes all in Zion, yet there are frequently cases of deep affliction that awaken within us the strongest sympathy. The Lord’s people are ever an afflicted and poor people. The afflictions are among the bright evidences by which they are known to each other and in the record of his word. They are channels of sorrow through which the river of everlasting love flows, full of the wonderful goodness of God. But how keen are the pangs of sorrow and distress that fill the soul of the tempted saint. How many and varied are the sources from which these ties of sorrow roll upon him. We are living in the land of the dying, and the daily scenes around us impress this upon the mind of the saint. The dreadful effects of sin, sickness and sorrow, disease and death, are seen everywhere about us. Our life in this world is a pilgrimage in a land of sorrow, and the way-marks along the route plainly trace the way over which the saints of all ages have traveled. “They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (of whom the world was not worthy) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” – Heb. xi. 37, 38. We are constantly reminded that we have no abiding rest this side of the eternal world. The sore trials and conflicts that are experienced by our brethren as well as by ourselves remind us that it is improper for us to build too much upon the transitory things of time. The ties of earthly relationship and the pleasures of this life, with all that pertains to time, must soon pass away. “The fashion of this world,” says Paul, “passeth away.” Is it wise that the saints should build upon these earthly things, to the neglect of their duties in the way of truth? Is it like the wise man who dug deep and built his house upon a rock? Besides teaching them the transitory nature of all earthly things, the temptations and afflictions experienced by the saints bring them near the throne and in sweet communion with their God. The strong cries and supplications for mercy poured forth from an afflicted heart are so many evidences of life and grace. It is in this furnace of affliction that the sweet lessons of humility are learned, and the poor and needy in Zion shine in the beauties of holiness. The bitter bud bears fruit in the opening flower, to the honor and glory of the Lord’s great name. But how dark is the way over which we are frequently called to pass. “How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”
“Could we see how all is right,
Where were room for credence?
But by faith, and not by sight,
Christians yield obedience.”
It is a comfort to witness the calmness with which the tempted saint frequently endures the fiery ordeal through which he is brought, by the grace of God. The pathway of affliction is brightened by the radiant light of the eternal world. The sorrowing saint is lifted above his dark surroundings and made to rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only are his trials blessed to his own good, but also to the good of his brethren. They enter into his feelings, and in a measure feel the weight of his burden. “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it.” “It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting; for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” There is a purpose, yes, an eternal purpose of God in all that transpires in our pathway from the cradle to the grave. The events in our earthly journey are so closely connected, interwoven one with another, that it is impossible that a single one should fail. All move on in fulfillment of the eternal decrees.
“Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up his bright designs
And works his sovereign will.”
The tempted saint may struggle against, and earnestly desire relief from the tribulations of the way, not knowing “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.” In the dark hour of conviction for sin, how he struggled for relief from that burden; how little he then knew of the glorious light that was so soon to break upon him. And in his experience afterward he is frequently found fighting against the ways of God.
“Not knowing that the least are sure,
And the mysterious just and true.”
He doubts not but what the purpose of God toward him will be accomplished, but he does not as yet see the great benefit that is to flow unto him through the accomplishment of that purpose. Little did the disciples seem to know at the crucifixion of Christ that the great and glorious purpose of redemption was accomplished in that, to them, dark and trying scene. They saw nothing at the time beyond the dark trial through which they were passing. So with the believer of to-day in the way over which he is led. He frequently sees nothing beyond the circumstances that surround him. But the Lord’s great purpose is accomplished over all of our struggles, murmurings and complaining, and we rejoice that it is so. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
“He gave me a will to accept what he gave,
Though I was averse to his purpose to save;
He wrote in his will my repentance and faith,
And all my enjoyments for life and for death.
My trials and sorrows, my conflicts and cares,
The spirit of prayer and the answer to prayers,
The steps that I tread, and the station I fill,
My Father determined and wrote in his will.”
May the afflicted in Zion find refuge at the throne, ever leaning upon the strong arm of their God, and rejoicing in hope of his glory.
Yours in fellowship,
WM. M. SMOOT.
Occoquan, Prince WM. Co., VA., Aug. 3, 1880.
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 17
September 1, 1880