June 29: The Rough And Thorny Way

“Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.” Hebrews 11:25.

THE believer should never fail to remember that the present is, by the appointment of God, the afflicted state to him. It is God’s ordained, revealed will, that His covenant children here should be in an afflicted condition. When called by grace, they should never take into their account any other state. They become the disciples of the religion of the cross—they become the followers of a crucified Lord—they put on a yoke, and assume a burden: they must, then, expect the cross inward and the cross outward. To escape it is impossible. To pass to glory without it, is to go by another way than God’s ordering, and in the end to fail of arriving there. The gate is strait, and the way is narrow, which leads unto life; and a man must become nothing, if he would enter and be saved. He must deny himself—he must become a fool that he may be wise—he must receive the sentence of death in himself, that he should not trust in himself. The wise man must cease to glory in his wisdom, the mighty man must cease to glory in his might, the rich man must cease to glory in his riches, and their only ground of glory in themselves must be their insufficiency, infirmity, poverty, and weakness; and their only ground of glory out of themselves must be, that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The believer in Jesus, then, must not forget that if the path he treads is rough and thorny, if the sky is wintry, if the storm is severe, and the cross He bears is heavy, that yet this is the road to heaven. He is but in the wilderness, why should He expect more than belongs to the wilderness state? He is on a journey, why should he look for more than a traveler’s fare? He is far from home, why should He murmur and repine that he has not all the rest, the comfort, and the luxuries of his Father’s house? If your covenant God and Father has allotted to you poverty, be satisfied that it should be your state, yes, rejoice in it. If bitter adversity, if deep affliction, if the daily and the heavy cross, be your portion, yet, breathe not one murmur, but rather rejoice that you are led into the path that Jesus Himself walked in, to “go forth by the footsteps of the flock,” and that you are counted worthy thus to be one in circumstance with Christ and his people.

March 18: Trials In Exile

“I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” Rev. 1:9-10.

Our adorable Immanuel frequently reveals the most brilliant beams of His glory in seasons of the most painful trial and deepest gloom. The dark providential dispensations of God often bring out in richer radiance the glories of His beloved Son, as the darkness of night reveals more distinctly and brightly the existence and beauty of the heavenly bodies.

For the manifestation of this remarkable revelation of His risen glory to His servant, our Lord selects precisely such an occasion- an occasion which, to the eye of reason, would appear the most unfavorable and improbable; but to faith’s eye, ranging beyond second causes, the most appropriate for such a revelation of Jesus. The emperor Domitian, though not released from his fearful responsibility for the act, was but the instrument of executing the eternal purpose of grace and love. God’s hand was moving, and moving too, as it often does, in the “thick darkness.”

Exiled as John was by this Roman emperor to a desolate island of the Aegean Sea, “for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ,” the Redeemer was but preparing the way for the revelation of those visions of glory, than which, none more sublime or more precious ever broke upon the eye of mortal man. God was not only placing His beloved servant in a right posture to behold them, but was also most wisely and graciously training and disciplining His mind spiritually and humbly to receive them.

But mark how this dark and trying incident was making for the good of this holy exile. Banished though he was from the saints, from society, and from all means of grace, man could not banish him from the presence of God; nor persecution separate him from the love of Christ. Patmos, to his view, became resplendent with the glory of a risen Savior- a reconciled God and Father was his Sanctuary- the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, overshadowed him- and the Lord’s day, already so hallowed and precious to him in its association with the resurrection of the Lord, broke upon him with unwonted effulgence, sanctity, and joy. Oh, how richly favored was this beloved disciple! Great as had been his previous privileges- journeying with Christ, beholding His miracles, hanging on His lips, reposing on His bosom- yet never had he been so privileged- never had he learned so much of Jesus, nor had seen so much of His glory, nor had drunk so deeply of His love, nor had experienced so richly His unutterable tenderness, gentleness, and sympathy; and never had he spent such a Lord’s day as now, the solitary in habitant of an isolated isle though he was.

Oh, where is there a spot which Jesus cannot irradiate with His glory; where is there solitude which He cannot sweeten with His presence; where is there suffering, privation, and loss, which He cannot more than recompense by His sustaining grace and soothing love; and where is there a trembling and prostrate soul, which His “right hand” cannot lift up and soothe? This, then, was the occasion on which the Lord appeared in so glorious a form, with such soothing words and sublime revelations, to His beloved servant.