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OR, WORDB OF SPIRITUAL CAUTION, COUNSEL, AND COMFORT. “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any

tronble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."-2 COR. i. 4.



Wherefore comfort one another with these words.—1 Thess. iv. 18. BELOVED READERS,-As we have often remarked, we do not address you as strangers, but as brethren and sisters in one common bondas members of the same living family. Hence your trials and your sorrows we feel to be ours, and we know that our trials and our sorrows are, upon the same principle, yours. We desire, therefore, to speak to you, from time to time, of “the good hand of our God upon us,” that so you may be cheered and comforted as you contemplate His divine faithfulness and love and power. Oh, it seems that if we, of all men, did not speak well of His dear and blessed name, the very stones in the street might cry out against us. Moreover, in these last days—these days of rebuke and blasphemy-shall we, alas ! as most do, forget the words with which the apostle John opens his epistle, where he says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; that which we hare seen and heard, declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us : and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.” His knowledge, therefore, was personal and experimental, not merely theoretical ; hence “out of the abundance of the heart” he spake. Readers, in our humble way would we do likewise, and that, too, for your encouragement.

One of the last three passages we read, previously to our recently being so laid aside as to be unable for a season to read, or even hear


read, a single portion of God's blessed word, was Daniel iii. 25 : “He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the Fourth is like the Son of God.” It would seem as though, under the circumstances, this precious Scripture was given as introductory to the state of things which was about to ensue. We often thought so during that neverto-be-forgotten period. It would be brought again and again to the mind, whilst the dear book itself was of necessity closed. If ever a privation were felt, it was then! If ever the word were valued, it was then! If ever the power to read the word were considered a privilege and a blessing, it was then! We repeat that, during that season of solitude and suffering, we often thought that the sweet portion which we have just quoted was given of our God that it might be a solace in our time of trial; that it might furnish material for thought when the eye was unable to take in fresh matter for reflection; that, in a word, it might abide by us as a help in that time of the trial of faith which we were about to pass through. Christ with His people in the fire, supporting and sustaining them, in connexion with the needs-be that they should be in heaviness through manifold temptations,” is a glorious subject. But in this subject, dear readers, is involved much-yea, very, very much.

In reference to what we may be led in the present paper to advance, we would not have it supposed for one moment that we would at all assimilate our faith in its degree or Divine operations to that which was so sweetly in exercise in the three Hebrew worthies. No, indeed, we have had recently to be taught, as again and again -ay, ten thousand times over—we had aforetime been taught, that, if our salvation, or our hope of salvation, depended upon our faith, ours was a lost case! No, no, blessed be God, it is upon the self-same LORD, who is the Author and Finisher of faith, that our safety depends, and not in the leastwise upon the faith itself. The one fluctuatesis now weak, then strong; at one moment its possessor trembles, at another triumphs ; to-day on the mount, singing the high praises of Jehovah, the Lord of hosts; to-morrow it may be down in the very depths of a felt darkness and seeming desertion. But, amid all these changes in the partaker or possessor of faith, there is not (blessed be God !) the semblance of variation in the great and glorious Lord who upholds His weak and trembling ones with His almighty arm, and so often tenderly rebukes them, after some of their seasons of darkness and doubting, with His loving, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"

Dear reader, it is so often with us—if we know anything of our own heart—as it was with poor, froward, heedless Peter-a beholding the boisterous wind, instead of having the eye stedfastly fixed upon Him who "holds the wind in His fists,” and “measureth the waters in the hollow of His hand.” So little, alas ! serves—whether it come in a way of pain or pleasure—to divert us from the only Object of peace, satisfaction, and joy : that Object is Christ !

A simple illustration occurs to us at the moment of writing. Some twelve or fourteen years ago, when we were wont to cross the Irish Channel once or twice a-year, we had been detained at Plymouth for some days by stress of weather—it being, if we mistake not, the winter season. The Lord was graciously pleased to meet our excessive fear and nervousness by the sweet whisper into the heart of the last four verses of the 121st Psalm: “The Lord is thy Keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord_shall preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore." Nothing could have been more appropriate-nothing more blessed. In a few nights afterwards we were seated upon the bridge of one of the Holyhead mail-boats, under the lee of one of the paddle-boxes. It was a partially-moonlight night, but very stormy, with a tremendous sea running. As the ship plunged down into the trough of the sea, it seemed as if she could never rise and "right" herself again. At times she was almost upon her beam-ends, and we had enough to do to hold on, in order to retain our seat. Under these circumstances Satan sought again and again to take advantage ; and, as we looked at the foaming billows playing as they did all around the ship, and as far as the eye could reach—the crested waves being beautifully lighted up by the moon as she occasionally broke through the fast-flying clouds that intervened—the heart would sink, and fears arise. But, when enabled to look up-to think of and to plead the fulfilment of the promise, “ The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore, how sweetly was the mind stayed, and what a triumph we were permitted to enjoy over all the attacks and insinuations of the great adversary! The blessed reality of that Scripture was never more felt than at that time, “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." It was found that he could not withstand the word of the Lord. The It is written" was too unanswerable, even for that subtle foe!

The recollection of that night, dear reader, has often since been most cheering, and has served so to show the distinctive effects of looking at the trial or the dispensation, be it whatever it may, and To Him who has pledged Himself to support—to sustain-and finally to bring off more than conqueror.

To look, beloved, even at the promise, in the abstract, will not suffice. That promise may be blessed, precious, appropriate to the last degree. It may contain all and every thing that our poor hearts could wish, or circumstances require; but, after all, it is THE PROMISER—the great and glorious PERSON of the God-MAN Christ—we want. We need HIM to speak to us, personally and individually, amid the howling of the tempest. We want to see Him walking towards us on the sea of trial and tribulation. Ah, how precious the sight! How diverting from all surrounding objects ! How all-engrossing and how fear-assuaging the discovery, “ It is the Lord,when we cry out from fear, and when He straightway says, “Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.” Oh that glorious I! We do not for one moment wonder at Peter's wishing to go forth to Him, that He might, as it were, clasp His precious Person, the more so as it was upon the mighty waters! The greater the danger the greater the need; and the more manifest the Deliverer the more earnest the delivered ones for nearer access and sweeter fellowship!

But do observe, beloved, the why and the wherefore of Peter's sinking-what it was that caused him in such terror to exclaim, “Lord, save me.” Oh, it was through the eye being, even for only a moment, diverted from Jesus! As long as he contemplated Himwhilst his eye and his heart were fixed upon Him who is mighty to save-all was well, Peter feared not: but the looking off from the one great Object of all strength and adoration immediately renewed his fears, and filled him with the darkest and gloomiest apprehensions of the consequences. And, depend on it, beloved, as it was with Peter, so is it with us. It is not our faith, it is not our hope, it is not our lore, that can satisfy or make peaceful, joyous, happy. Oh, no, these are too weak and too variable; it is JESUS ONLY that can stay the mind, fill the heart, compose the soul, and give us, in the face of ten thousand adverse circumstances, to exclaim, “I have all, and abound.”

Readers, dear readers, it is to THE PERSON of our GREAT and GRACIOUS LORD we would desire to be instrumental, in the hands of the Holy Ghost, of leading up your thoughts and contemplations. Do not mistake us. We would not have you suppose that we have personally experienced or enjoyed much of His divine presence in our recent-yea, in our present-deep and bitter trial. No, we have been supported and sustained, and that wonderfully ; but we have had but little enjoyment, scarcely, if any, triumph personally. We have accounted for this upon sundry grounds; first, we have been wholly laid aside from our happy work. It is in ministering the word that our souls have so long been fed and nourished. Our pulpit has long been our banqueting-place. That for nearly ten Sundays was unoccupied as far as we were concerned. Hence the blank in our heart, the dearth and death upon the spirit.

Again, under recent circumstances especially, had we had much enjoyment—had we been privileged to bask in the sunshine of His smile, as we have numberless times known what it was to do—we should have been unfitted for earth and its claims; our feeling would have been precisely that of the dispossessed Gadarene, who desired—and well he might—" that he might be with Him." His loving Lord, however, had other work for him to do; and we can quite understand the feelings of sorrow and disappointment which at first took possession of him, as connected with the fact: “Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee."

Further, as far as we personally are concerned, we are compelled to admit that the Lord is only taking us at our word. We desired earnestly and ardently to be raised up, at all events and under any circumstances, in order that we might once more minister, in His great and glorious name, to our poor fellow-sinners, to

“Tell of His wondrous faithfulness,

And speak His praise abroad.” Not more earnestly and fervently did Hezekiah wish and pray that he might be raised up than did we. We must testify, however, to the fact that before the Lord began to restore, He brought us to an acquiescence that it should be as He willed. No sooner was this state of mind wrought, than, under His gracious hand, we began at once to amend in regard to bodily health and spirits.

We have been greatly struck, beloved readers, with the power and preciousness of the word of the Lord in this respect. Permit us to dwell upon it for a little, and the Lord grant that it may be a word of encouragement to the trembling and the anxious among you. Long, dear readers, have we felt the force of that Scripture, He that watereth shall be watered also himself ;” and again, “It is more blessed to give than to receive ;" but we never remember to have experienced it so fully as of late. It is true, that in reference to the first half-hour we were permitted and privileged to speak in the Lord's name (some five-and-twenty years ago) it seemed to make ample amends-yea, abundantly to recompense - for all the trials and sorrows and anxieties and temptations we had undergone and encountered for the whole of our previous life! It was perfectly astonishing what the peace and what the satisfaction of that wondrous half-hour in that little upper schoolroom at Portsmouth. But of late, thinking, as we had often done during our illness, that we should never be able to preach again, we went, on the first occasion of our again attempting to preach, with much fear and trembling to the work. Our dear son, during our recent stay with him at Carlisle, had much pressed us to take his pulpit. It was the last Sabbath evening of the year. We had listened to him in the morning from the sweet words, " Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” It was a precious_sermon. As we listened, we could but think, “ What hath the Lord wrought both for him and for me ?” It was indeed felt that there was abundant reason for setting up Eben-ezer.” When we came to the pulpit, however, we found at once His dear sustaining hand, and, in spite of all creature feeling and passing circumstances, realized once again how blessed a privilege it was to speak in the name of such a Lord, and to labour, however imperfectly, for such a Master! We would speak this to His praise and glory!

Again, we were perfectly amazed at His strengthening hand-yea, His comforting power-in a still more recent service. "We speak of these things, not to call attention to self, God forbid! There is

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