6. The Day of Affliction

 •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 7
 
I have borne scorn and hatred,
I have borne wrong and shame,
Earth’s proud ones have reproach’d me,
For Christ’s thrice blessed name:―
Where God His seal set fairest
They’ve stamp’d their foulest brand;
But judgment shines like noonday
In Immanuel’s land.
Affliction
Know you not that Christ wooeth His wife in the furnace? “Behold I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.” He casteth His love on you when you are in the furnace of affliction. You might indeed be cast down if He brought you in and left you there; but when He leadeth you through the waters, think ye not that He has a sweet soft hand? You know His love grip already; you shall be delivered, wait on. Jesus will make a road, and come and fetch home the captive.... Your winter night is near spent; it is near-hand the dawning.... This wilderness shall bud and grow up like a rose.
It is good that your crosses will but convoy you to heaven’s gates: in, they cannot go; the gates shall be closed upon them, when ye shall be admitted to the throne. Time standeth not still, eternity is hard at our door. Oh, what is laid up for you! therefore, harden your face against the wind.
The thorn is one of the most cursed, and angry, and crabbed weeds that the earth yieldeth, and yet out of it springeth the rose, one of the sweetest-smelled flowers, and most delightful to the eye, that the earth hath. Your Lord shall make joy and gladness out of your afflictions; for all His roses have a fragrant smell. Wait for the time when His own holy hand shall hold them to your nose; and if ye would have present comfort under the cross, be much in prayer, for at that time your faith kisseth Christ and He kisseth the soul.
Every man thinketh he is rich enough in grace, till he take out his purse, and tell his money, and then he findeth his pack but poor and light in the day of a heavy trial. I found that I had not to bear my expenses, and I should have fainted, if want and penury had not chased me to the storehouse of all.
Venture through the thick of all things after Christ, and lose not your Master, Christ, in the throng of this great market. Let Christ know how heavy, and how many a stone-weight you and your cares, burdens, crosses, and sins are. Let Him bear all.... And then, let the wind blow out of what airt it will, your soul shall not be blown into the sea.
Lay all your loads and your weights by faith upon Christ; take ease to yourself, and let Him bear all.... I rejoice that He hath come, and hath chosen you in the furnace; it was even there where ye and He set tryst. That is an old gate of Christ’s: He keepeth the good old fashion with you, that was in Hosea’s days: “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak to her heart.”1 There was no talking to her heart, while He and she were in the fair and flourishing city, and at ease; but out in the cold, hungry, waste wilderness, He allured her, He whispered news into her ear there, and said, “Thou art Mine.”
Wants are my best riches, because I have these supplied by Christ.
We fools would have a cross of our own choosing, and would have our gall and wormwood sugared, our fire cold, and our death and grave warmed with heat of life; but He who hath brought many children to glory, and lost none, is our best Tutor. I wish that, when I am sick, He may be keeper and comforter.... But I know it is my softness and weakness, who would ever be ashore when a fit of seasickness cometh on; though I know I shall come soon enough to that desirable country, and shall not be displaced: none shall take my lodging.
Your afflictions are not eternal; time will end them, and so shall ye at length see the Lord’s salvation. His love sleepeth not, but is still working for you. His salvation will not tarry nor linger; and suffering for Him is the noblest cross that is out of heaven.... It is a love-look to heaven and the other side of the water that God seeketh; and this is the fruit, the flower and bloom growing out of your cross, that ye be a dead man to time, to clay, to gold, to country, to friends, wife, children, and all pieces of created things; for in them there is not a seat nor bottom for soul’s love. Oh, what room is for your love (if it were as broad as the sea) up in heaven, and in God! And what would not Christ give for your love? God gave so much for your soul; and blessed are ye if ye have a love for Him, and can call in your soul’s love from all idols, and can make a God of God, a God of Christ, and draw a line betwixt your heart and Him.... Let the Lord absolutely have the ordering of your evils and troubles; and put them off you by recommending your cross and your furnace to Him who hath skill to melt His own metal, and knoweth well what to do with His furnace. Let your heart be willing that God’s fire have your tin, and brass, and dross.... When ye are over the water, this case shall be a yesterday past a hundred years ere ye were born; and the cup of glory shall wash the memory of all this away, and make it as nothing.... The Lord is rising up to do you good in the latter end; put on the faith of His salvation, and see Him posting and halting towards you.
If your Lord call you to suffering, be not dismayed; there shall be a new allowance of the King for you when you come to it. One of the softest pillows Christ hath is laid under His witnesses’ head, though often they must set down their bare feet among thorns.
Suffering and Reproach
Christ is pleased to feast a poor prisoner, and to refresh me with joy unspeakable and glorious! so as the Holy Spirit is witness that my sufferings are for Christ’s truth.... Now, I testify under my hand, out of some small experience, that Christ’s cause, even with the cross, is better than the king’s crown; and that His reproaches are sweet, His cross perfumed, the walls of my prison fair and large, my losses gain.
I beseech you therefore, in the bowels of Jesus, set before your eyes the patience of your forerunner Jesus, who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not, but committed Himself to Him who judgeth righteously. And since your Lord and Redeemer with patience received many a black stroke on His glorious back, and many a buffet of the unbelieving world, and says of Himself, “I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not My face from shame and spitting”; follow Him, and think it not hard that you receive a blow with your Lord. Take part with Jesus of His sufferings and glory in the marks of Christ.... Be you upon Christ’s side, and care not what flesh can do. Hold yourself fast by your Savior, howbeit you be buffeted, and those that follow Him. Yet a little while and the wicked shall not be. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.” If you can possess your soul in patience, their day is coming.... The way to overcome is by patience, forgiving and praying for your enemies, in doing whereof you heap coals upon their heads, and your Lord shall open a door to you in your troubles. Wait upon Him as the night watch waiteth for the morning. He will not tarry. Go up to your watchtower, and come not down; but by prayer, and faith, and hope, wait on. When the sea is full, it will ebb again; and so soon as the wicked are come to the top of their pride, and are waxed high and mighty, then is their change approaching. They that believe make not haste.
The worst things of Christ, His reproaches, His cross, are better than Egypt’s treasures. He hath opened His door, and taken into His house-of-wine a poor sinner, and hath left me so sick of love for my Lord Jesus, that if heaven were at my disposing, I would give it for Christ, and would not be content to go to heaven, except I were persuaded that Christ were there.
I find that my extremity hath sharpened the edge of His love and kindness, so that He seemeth to devise new ways of expressing the sweetness of His love to my soul. Suffering for Christ is the very element wherein Christ’s love liveth, and exerciseth itself... And if Christ weeping in sackcloth be so sweet, I cannot find any imaginable thoughts to think what He will be, when we clay-bodies (having put off mortality) shall come up to the marriage-hall and great palace, and behold the King clothed in His royal robes, sitting on His throne. I would desire no more for my heaven beneath the moon, while I am sighing in this house of clay, but daily renewed feasts of love with Christ.
Thanks be to God that you have so learned Christ as to be made a man for Christ of no reputation, for Him. Your despised Master, who made Himself while He was amongst us of no reputation, is now exalted in glory. There is none now to gibe Him by bowing the knee, none now to spit in His face, none now to bring Him under mocking of the purple robe, none to put on His head a crown of thorns. And as you now partake of His sufferings, so shall you hereafter of His glory. You shall sit honorably on thrones; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you shall receive the crown. I am convinced that it is for conscience toward God that you suffer. The bottom of your testimony and suffering is not so narrow as some think, who study more to decline the cross than to be tender for every truth.
Sickness
Sure I am, it is better to be sick, providing Christ come to the bedside and draw by the curtains, and say, “Courage, I am thy salvation,” than to enjoy health, being lusty and strong, and never to be visited of God.
It is a blessed fever that fetcheth Christ to the bedside.
I hear that Christ hath been that kind as to visit you with sickness, and to bring you to the door of the grave; but ye found the door shut (blessed be His glorious name!) while ye be riper for eternity. He will have more service of you.... We have all idol-love, and are inclined to love other things beside our Lord; and, therefore, our Lord hunteth for our love more ways than one or two.
I have heard of your infirmity of body, and sickness. I know the issue shall be mercy to you, and that God’s purpose, which lieth hidden underground to you, is to commend the sweetness of His love and care to you from your youth. And if all the sad losses, trials, sicknesses, infirmities, griefs, heaviness, and inconstancy of the creature, be expounded (as sure I am they are) the rods of the jealousy of an Husband in heaven, contending with all your lovers on earth, though there were millions of them, for your love, to fetch more of your love home to heaven, to make it single, unmixed, and chaste, to the Fairest in heaven and earth, to Jesus the Prince of ages, ye will forgive (to borrow that word) every rod of God, and “let not the sun go down on your wrath” against any messenger of your afflicting and correcting Father.... See that the mark at which Christ hath aimed these twenty-four years and above, is, to have the company and fellowship of such a sinful creature in heaven with Him for all eternity; and, because He will not (such is the power of His love) enjoy His Father’s glory, and that crown due to Him by eternal generation, without you, by name,2 therefore believe no evil of Christ: listen to no hard reports that His rods make of Him to you. He hath loved you and washed you from your sins; and what would ye have more? Is that too little except He adjourn all crosses, till ye be where ye shall be out of all capacity, to sigh or be crossed? I hope that ye can desire no more, no greater, nor more excellent suit, than Christ and the fellowship of the Lamb for evermore. And if that desire be answered in heaven (as I am sure it is, and ye cannot deny but it is made sure to you), the want of these poor accidents, of a living husband, of many children, of an healthful body, of a life of ease in the world, without one knot in the rush, are nobly made up, and may be comfortably borne.
Weakness
Oh, how sweet it is for a sinner to put his weakness into Christ’s strengthening hand, and to father a sick soul upon such a Physician, and to lay weakness before Him to weep upon Him, and to plead and pray! Weakness can speak and cry, when we have not a tongue. “And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thy own blood, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live.”... As for weakness, we have it that we may employ Christ’s strength because of our weakness.
I should succumb and come short of heaven, if I had no more than my own strength to support me; and if Christ should say to me, “Either do or die,” it were easy to determine what should become of me.... Christ is kindest in His love, when we are at our weakest; and if Christ had not been to the fore, in our sad days, the waters had gone over our soul. His mercy hath a set period, and appointed place, how far and no farther the sea of affliction shall flow, and where the waves thereof shall be stayed. He prescribeth how much pain and sorrow, both for weight and measure we must have. Ye have, then, good cause to recall your love from all lovers, and give it to Christ. He who is afflicted in all your afflictions, looketh not on you in your sad hours with an insensible heart or dry eyes.
Chastening
Ye are His Wheat, growing in our Lord’s field; and if wheat, ye must go under our Lord’s threshing-instrument, in His barn-floor, and through His sieve,3 and through His mill to be bruised... that ye may be found good bread in your Lord’s house.... I am persuaded your glass is spending itself by little and little; and if ye knew who is before you, ye would rejoice in your tribulations. Think ye it a small honor to stand before the throne of God and the Lamb? and to be clothed in white, and to be called to the marriage supper of the Lamb? and to be led to the fountain of living waters, and to come to the Well-head, even God Himself, and get your fill of the clear, cold, sweet, refreshing water of life, the King’s own well?... Up your heart! shout for joy! Your King is coming to fetch you to His Father’s house.
Oh thrice fools are we, who, like newborn princes weeping in the cradle, know not that there is a kingdom before them! Then let our Lord’s sweet hand square us and hammer us, and strike off the knots of pride, self-love, and world-worship, and infidelity, that He may make us stones and pillars in His Father’s house.
It is the Lord’s kindness that He will take the scum off us in the fire. Who knoweth how needful winnowing is to us, and what dross we must want ere we enter into the kingdom of God? So narrow is the entry to heaven, that our knots, our bunches and lumps of pride, and self-love, and idol-love, and world-love, must be hammered off us, that we may thring4 in, stooping low, and creeping through that narrow and thorny entry.
On this side of the New Jerusalem, we shall still have need of forgiving and healing grace. I find crosses of Christ’s carved work that He marketh out for us, and that with crosses He figureth and portrayeth us to His own image, cutting away pieces of our ill and corruption. Lord cut, Lord carve, Lord wound, Lord do anything that may perfect Thy image in us, and make us meet for glory