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treated as children sent to school, under education preparing for glory. They may be, for a times under great trials. They may be tried as the widow was by the unjust judge, when she came to be avenged of her adversary: Hear, said our Lord, what the unjust judge saith: Lest this woman trouble me by her continual coming, I will avenge her: and shall not God avenge his own elect, that cry day and night unto him?
Fatherly chastisement, therefore, is inseparably connected with the adoption of children, and the love that God bears to them. If then a Christian should say, Why am I thus? and why do such afflictions thus surround me?”- the answer is evident: Because you have a father, and because it is his method: Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth: If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But, if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. You have then no evidence that you are under education: you have no evidence that God is leading you by that narrow path, pointed out by himself, suited to your case and condition; by which you will not only arrive at glory, but be made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light.
Not a day passes over our heads, but we have an illustration of this case in our own families. Have we children?-Why do we put them under
task-masters and tutors ? Why?—that their minds may be trained to patience and submission. Do we treat our servants thus ?
A Christian may, under a sense of his high privilege and his high calling, walk gratefully as it becometh one of the sons of God: yet there are cases and circumstances in which even such men as David, Hezekiah, and Peter experience that it is good to have fear as well as love in exercise; and that when love fails, it is good to have fear kept alive in the heart, and to have an experience of the affliction, and misery, and pain that sin occasions, and that it is an evil thing and bitter to depart from the living God. Does a man argue,
“I am a son; but I know not trouble?" I will say to such an one, “Stay a little: perhaps it is at the door: and it will be well if you do not faint, under what you have soon to meet with. The Apostle tells us, that all the children of God are partakers of this dispensation.” Does another say,
“I am so chastised, the rod is so heavy on my back, that I fear I am not a son?” This man forgets the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children; for this dispensation of suffering is rather a mark that you are a child : it is God's constant method : for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? Wherefore, says the Apostle, lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make
straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healed.
But,” say you, “ I am more distressed, because a good man is the cause of my suffering." Here you dwell on the instrument! Here you forget the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children! The scourge may consist of various cords; and any instrument will serve God's purpose when he chooses to employ it. Be thankful, therefore, that God will teach, and correct, and chastise you ; and that, by any means which may have a tendency to bring you nearer to himself.
What have any of us learnt to purpose, but in this way? so that we have had reason to say, with David, “ It is good for me that I have been afflicted: before I was afflicted I went astray: I had forgotten the exhortation, which speaketh unto me as unto a child; but afterwards I perceived the peaceable fruits of righteousness arise from my trouble. I perceived the necessity of that education, which I thought trying and severe.”
Lord Bacon remarks, that, however temporal prosperity might be promised to the Church under the old dispensation, affliction, and suffering, and trial, are the promises made to the Church under the new.
We see, therefore, that it is one of the privileges of a Christian, that his afflictions, of whatsoever
nature they be, are but the discipline of a father,
II. I was to consider the TWO DANGEROUS EXTREMES of which we are here admonished, while under this fatherly chastisement.
We satisfy ourselves often in avoiding the error on the right-hand, while an equally dangerous one lies on the left. A traveller, in passing over a bridge, thinks perhaps that he cannot go too far on one side to avoid a dangerous precipice on the other; but there is danger on both sides.
To despise and to faint are the two extremes to which we are liable under our sufferings. Let us consider these extremes.
1, Pride will stand up, and hold out long. There is a stiff neck, an unbending spirit, an indisposition to yield. It requires many severe strokes to bring a man before God: nor will these avail, unless the grace of God accompany them. The man is infatuated: he goes from one broken cistern to another. He tries, if possible, to build himself up. He has no thought of returning to God.
This is DESPISING the chastening of the Lord.
There is a remarkable illustration of this subject in the second chapter of the prophecy of Hosea. Israel said, I will go after my lovers, that give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink. Therefore, behold, saith the
Lord, I will hedge up thy way with thorns, and make a wall, that she shall not find her paths: I will bring on disappointment, and discipline, and chastisement, till she be taught to say, I will go and return to my first husband, for then was it better with me than now.
You have seen a perverse child, because you take away the knife from it, that it shall not be in danger, dash its bread to the ground. Thus is it with those who will have their own will and way. This stubbornness of heart, this stiffness of neck, this refusing to bow down, and to say, Thy will be done on earth, as it is done in heaven--this is the temper which leads us to despise the chastening of the Lord.
A man may say, “I thank God I do not faint, whatever be the circumstances of my dispensation: but I bear up under it.” Do you despise it? do you neglect it? do you not at all listen to the voice of God in it? or do you say, with Job, Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me? In this way men are seen kicking against the pricks, as the Scripture expresses it; and to such I would say, Take heed, while you despise the gentle stroke, and think lightly of what God is doing, lest he take to himself bis great power, and bring a heavier stroke on you; for he hath said, He, that being often admonished, hardeneth his neck, despiseth and neglecteth the chastisement, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.