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attempted, and so much may be done by the faithful servant of the Son of God, in the very shortest term of active usefulness, at a period like that now passing ; in a land whose far-distant west is but a band's breadth from the Orient-a land of such providential loving-kindness, such ancestral renown, such amazing developments, hour by hour, and such wonders of magnificent and overpowering anticipation, in the accelerated coming of the future of prophecy and of hope ; 0 let each be valiant for the truth as in Jesus, until he shall hear the summons—“Come up hither and take thy crown l's Amen.
BY REV. GEORGE SHEPARD,
THE SUFFERINGS AND THE GLORY. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be com
pared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."-Rom. viii. 18.
The apostle speaks in a similar strain in 2 Cor. iv, 17. “For our light afiiction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
The present is a state of afflictions and trials. They fall somewhere; they come at some time. The apostle represents the entire world as in a burdened and suffering condition :Inot only Christians. but all men ; not only the rational, but the irrational, and even the inanimate. “For we know," he says, “ that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain until now: and not only they, but ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our bodies." In the text, the apostle speaks of sufferings here, of a glory which shall be revealed in us, and of the comparison between the two.
I. Let us turn our minds, for a few moments, to the present sufferings, or the sufferings of this present time. There may be here a reference to the peculiar tribulations of Christians in that cruel and persecuting period. But the language is not confined to that period; for sufferings on the part of Christians, were not peculiar to that period; as has been remarked, they are the lot of all time.
In speaking of the sufferings of Christians, I shall first adduce those sufferings which are peculiar to the Christian character and experience. As the disciple of Christ, the renewed heart has joys with which the stranger intermeddleth not, so he has sorrows of which the mere worldly mind has no experience.
His sufferings from the presence and workings of sin within him, are often keen; sometimes overwhelming. He is not yet wholly delivered from sin ; but he hates it, and watches and prays against it, and if endowed with the spirit of his Master, he will resist it even unto blood. There is suffering in these conflicts—these wrestlings with the enemy; and if sin gets the advantage, as it sometimes will, and he is thrown down and defiled, there is greater suffering still. David calls it the anguish of broken bones. More than this occasionally, even the bitter agony of a broken spirit, all this, because he is a Christian of so high attainments, that sin has become to him the greatest possible evil and offence.
The Christian sometimes suffers from the assaults of the adversary. We know that Christ's sufferings from this quarter were very great ; none greater came upon him, except those connected with the scene of the crucifixion. As it was with the Master, so it will be with the disciple. The great enemy will assail him, and vex and worry, and turn for a season, even the springs of his happiness into waters of wormwood.
There are sufferings to the Christian from an opposing, not to say persecuting world. The world does not love the pure gospel of Christ, the world hates it for its claims, its restrictions, its penalties; and those who have professed it, have in times past encountered all the ills human malice could dispense. They have had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings.; yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonments. They have been stoned, they have beon sawn asunder, tempted, slain with the sword. All the instruments and engines of death have been often employed, and their utmost capabilities in the work of torture have been exhausted upon the followers of the Lord Jesus. Multitudes in every period have tested the whole fearful meaning of the declaration, we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God."
But there is a more refined persecution ; it strikes not the body; the iron, in this case, enters the soul; there is the taunt, the sneer, the shaft of ridicule, the uttered blasphemy. Christ's saying has been verified in every period of the church, that a man's foes shall be they of his own houshold. And, perhaps, no suffering for the cause of Christ, can exceed the sufferings of those who cannot be Christians peaceably, with toleration at home; who have not only no sympathy there, in their best hopes and joys, but have even forfeited confidence, and are subjected to an outbreaking opposition and an unnatural hate from those most dear to them, simply because they love the Saviour, and profess and obey his gospel.
The Christian, in some instances, suffers intensely from the fluctuations of experience. The light is withdrawn from him, and hope is almost extinct, and there comes over him the dreary sense of the divine abandonment. He feels to some small extent as Christ when he.exclaimed, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?" in some measure as David did, when he uttered those dismal interrogatives, “Will the Lord cast off forever? And will he be favorable no more ? Is his mercy clean gone forever? Doth his promise fail forever more ? Hath God forgotten to be gracious ? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies ?" And he may add with the psalmist, “This is my infirmity." It is, perhaps, bis infirmity-a mysterious disease, reaching to the seats, and rudely sweeping all the chords of feeling ; operating, in some instances, as an iron shutter to all the windows of the soul, keeping from the imprisoned tenant every descending beam of day; so that everything wears a hue of gloom ; the prayer attempted seems all heartless and scattering, a mockery to the great hearer of prayer; the hope once cherished, a baseless delusion; God appears only as awful in justice and holiness ; Christ only as the armed and avenging King; the Comforter, ONLY as the grieved and banished spirit; death, the personification and embodiment of all conceivable terrors. Such the working of the infirmity. And who can tell the suffering in such a case! Who but the sufferer knows it?
There is another class of sufferings I will advert to; those of a worldly and providential nature. With these, the Christian is visited in common with the rest of mankind.
The Christian, equally with others, is exposed to the vicissitudes of the world; the defeating of earthly plans, the blasting of worldly hopes to the evils and deep distresses of remediless poverty. Even Christ himself had not where to lay his head.
There are also the sufferings arising from sickness and decay. These, at some time and in some form, all must encounter. If any bave lived years without feeling the wilting hand of disease upon them, let them be thankful, and not presume that it will long continue to be so wit, them. The Christian may have great consolation in the season of his visitation, but the visitation he must ordinarily receive; he may not hope to escape.
It has probably struck the attentive observer, that the Christian's sufferings, of a bodily nature, are often far greater than the sufferings of those who die in hardened impiety. Not unfrequently do we see the ungodly and profane, passing quietly out of life, having no bands in their death; whilst others, eminent for holiness, linger and wear out by the simple force and process of tormenting pain. God's reasons for so doing we will not now undertake to penetrate. • It may be to show the power of godliness-the sustaining energy of the Christian's hope. It may be a discipline--the kindling of a fire to purge away the remaining dross of sin. It may, in part, be & chastisement; light strokes administered, in a momentary but corrective displeasure, for some offences or neglects which cannot be passed wholly by. Whatever the cause, the sufferings are sometimes great. The Christian's death-bed, while it may be a place of inward peace or positive triumph, the last struggles of a crowning victory, it may also be a place in which centre the sharpest piercings, and over which roll the heaviest billows of pain.
There are the sufferings also attendant on bereavement-the removal by death of beloved friends. The cords of attachment grow strong, and very closely bind heart to heart. The parental, the filial, the fraternal, the conjugal tie, seems to pass around often and encompass every other joy; and when sundered, it is as though everything were taken. The circumstances, perhaps, all administer to the heart's deep anguish. He sank down among strangers; he sleeps in a foreign grave, or on the coral bed. The Christian knows it is all wisely done; but he feels the cleaving stroke. And in the fresh intensity of his sorrow, in the first tumult of his grief, he realizes not the assuaging power of these divine considerations. He dwells only upon what he has lost. His memory recurs and fixes with a mournful tenacity, upon those objects and thoughts which are the most perfectly adapted to harrow still more, the already torn and throbbing sensibilities. The room, the seat the loved one occupied; all the little arrangements as he left them; the books as he marked and laid them away; the garments where he hang them; the trees those hands did plant; the grounds those feet did tread-each is made to contribute its pang in this ministry of grief, till the heart can hold no more, till in its paroxysms it swells and heaves almost to bursting. Such the anguish of bereavement, sometimes, before religion has had time to soothe by its healing appliance.
I will not dwell longer upon the sufferings of this present time, nor go more iuto details. They are manifold and inevitable. We may be spared for a season, we cannot be perpetually. Sooner or later, each must take his share. A long forborne stroke is apt, when it comes, to be a repeated stroke. It is a world of change and of suffering; there are withered hearts and blighted hopes; friends parting; countenances changing; graves opening; tears flowing. There are the pains of the body, and the sorrows of the mind; the afflictions of life, and the bitter agonies of death; and the Christian drinks as often and as deeply of this cup as do others.
II. But let us turn away, in the second place, to that other and contrasted scene, “the glory which shall be revealed in us" And what can we say here? The sufferings are matters of experience; the glory, only of faith; not yet revealed; indeed, it cannot be fully revealed. Our natures could bear no open manifestation. Mortal eye cannot behold, nor ear hear, nor heart conceive, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. Were it not so, mortal language would fail in its powers of communication. The spirit of inspiration makes some attempts to shadow forth the coming blessedness of the Christian. It is glory that shall be revealed in us; a glory in the presence of God; the glorious liberty of the children of God; the riches of the glorious inheritance of the saints; an exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Here we come to Paul's magnificent and laboring utterance,-exploding language, as it were, by the swelling hugeness of the idea,-a greatness excessively exceeding,-a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; one of the strongest and most remarkable expressions ever penned or uttered. We are farther told of the life; the eternal life; the crown of life; a life hid with Christ in God; of an enduring substance; an immovable kingdom; a building not made with hands, eternal in the heavens; Christians are to walk in white; they are to reign with Christ; they are to have bodies fashioned like unto his glorious body. These various modes of description are obviously intended to set forth to our minds, as vividly as the nature of the case admits, that state of wonderful exaltation and happiness. That state is the Christian's sure possession; toward it he is borne on the rapid wing of time; a state in which there will be no sin; none of these sufferings and conflicts and bitter mournings; where all tears will be wiped away, all trials merged in triumphs,-a state of renewed intercourse with redeemed friends, and high companionship with saints and angels; a state of enlarging and striding knowledge, where we sball see as we are seen, and know as we are known; a state in which love will be perfected, and all pervading, and all blessing with its sweet and hallowed intensity. But why attempt to describe that state, that glory which shall be revealed, but not yet revealed; when all our attempts seem as notb. . ing, and we can only retreat back upon Paul's doubled hyperbole,