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The believer exercised with the outward cross, carries it with patience, and finds it a great help to him in his walk heavenwards.
WE call that a cross, which opposes our will. This opposition renders it painful and grievous. A very little matter, the least trifle, becomes a great cross, when our will is set much against it. How then can the believer rejoice with an heavy cross upon his back? Or how can he rejoice all his days, if he must carry it to his grave? The blessed gospel discovers how this may be, and the blessed spirit gives the experience of it: for he continues to teach the doctrines of grace, and under the cross he enforces them. What has been treated of in the former chapters, he now applies with life and power. The doctrines are put to the trial, and it appears that they are of God: for none could produce the effects which follow upon believing them, but `an almighty arm. Faith is tried in the fire, and the believer is convinced it is in the faith of God's elect: for the promise is made good" When thou walkest through
the very fire thou shalt not be burnt, neither shall the "flame kindle upon thee." His love to his reconciled God is put into the fiery furnace, and it comes out, like the three children, sensible their God had been with
them in the furnace, and their God had brought them out; for which, marvellous instances of his love to them, their love was increased to him. This is God's way. He gives grace, and then tries it. When he has enabled the sinner, by believing to find peace and love, then he would improve those graces by daily exercise, and if the exercise of them be very sharp and afflicting, it is only to establish the trust of his heart, and to confirm the affection of his soul more perfectly in his God. His God. Mind that. His God still. The cross is not sent to weaken that relation. He is the same tender Father to his children, when he puts it upon them, as when he takes it off: and he would have them by faith to experience it. While they depend on his being perfectly reconciled to them through the obedience and sacrifice of Immanuel, they will see the same paternal affection invariably set upon them, and always disposed to do them good. His love changeth. not. The happy objects of it have given this glorious testimony, even when under his cross- "WE KNOW "that all things work together for good"-they found Whatever he sent to them came with a message of his love. "Hear ye the rod, and him that sent it." They hear what he says by it, for it speaks of the Father's love, and the belief of this quiets their minds under the stroke of his rod. Thus it answers his purpose-This cometh not forth of the dust, but is appointed for me; my Father sent it, not in anger for the punishment of my sins, but in the tenderness of his affection. He is not dealing with me as the supreme disposer of all events, who may afflict and justly his rebel creatures according to his sovereign will; but he has sent me this affliction with a message of grace and peace-I know it is well ordered-I kiss the rod, and I bless him that sent it.
The apostle Paul uses this argument to the suffering Hebrews. They had endured a long and great fight of afflictions. They had need of patience: He therefore gives them in the 11th chapter a short history of the
Lord's favourites, and shews that they all carried his cross, and that he supported them all under it: Yea gave them strength to run their race, till every one of them won the prize: Then he requires them to look to Jesus, the greatest sufferer, out of whose fulness they might receive faith to run, and patience happily to finish the same race. And least they should be weary through suffering long, or faint in their minds under hard suffering, he reminds them of the character of their heavenly Father, who out of the tenderest love appointed their crosses:- "Have ye forgotten the exhortation, says "the apostle, in which your Father speaketh unto you as unto children; My Son, despise not thou the "chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art re"buked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chast"eneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. "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
દ્વ not sons." O what a blessed exhortation! How full of love-the love of God the Father-love to his child, who wants correction-love that would not touch him with the rod till he had most tenderly informed him of his gracious purpose: My son, my beloved, this chastening is from thy Father. It was determined for thee by covenant love, and settled upon thee for thy portion in the great charter of heaven. All thy crosses were then mercifully appointed-their weight and measurehow long-how great-how many-what strength was needful to bear them-what comforts under them—and what holy fruits should be produced by them-all was fixed by love, is now given in love, and is to bring thee to greater enjoyment of my love. My dear child, despise not then my chastening nor faint when I rebuke thee. Be assured it is for thy good. There is a needs must. It is so necessary, that I cannot love thee without chastening thee, nor receive thee among mine adopted without scourging thee. See then, how thou takest
my correction. Look at thy temper and behaviour under it. Examine. Art thou patient? Not suffering merely, but suffering quietly is the proof of thine adoption-If ye ENDURE chastening-If when I afflict, thou canst possess thy soul in patience under mine afflicting hand, then I deal with thee as with sons-I give thee thy portion of suffering, and I give thee thy portion of grace to bear it. All my children want correcting, and they all have it for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not? They are all sufferers. Mine only begotten was the greatest. None of you can suffer as he did: But whoever is following him must share with him in his cross, and bear it after him. If any be without my chastisement, whereof all mine are partakers: If they cannot bear it, have not faith to receive my loving correction, and therefore no patience to wait the blessed issue of it, such do not belong to my family; they are none of mine; they are bastards; and not sons.
How should the argument in this scripture reconcile the believer to suffering? How easy, yea, how happy, should it make him under the cross? He suffers, but it is from his Father, who in most perfect love and infinite wisdom appointed the cross, and appointed also the precious fruits, which it should produce. O my soul, keep this in mind. Remember whose cross thou art carrying. Thy Father contrived it. He sent and continues it that it may work under him for the best. is the chastening of his richest love. Receive it then patiently, thankfully at his hands, and thou wilt find it full of blessings. But take heed how thou consultest sense or carnal reason. These are always enemies to the cross for they judge of it only by feeling, and always refuse to believe what God says concerning it. Adhere to the truth: And reject every suggestion, which would insinuate to thee, that there is any thing but love in the chastening of the Lord. He is thy Father. He never loves thee more, than when he chastens thee. There is no hatred in his heart. No vengeance in his hand. He assures thee of this from the infalli