MY DEAR SISTER,
The secret of all true happiness lies in a cordial acquiescence in the will of God in all things. It is
"Sweet to lie passive in his hand,
The great doctrine that God exercises a particular providence over every event, is most precious to the heart of every Christian. It enables him to see the hand of God, in directing all his affairs. Hence, the exceeding sinfulness of a repining, discontented, and unhappy temper. Indeed, it is difficult to reconcile the habitual indulgence of such a disposition with the existence of grace in the heart. The very first emotion of the new-born soul is submission to the will of God. Many people lose sight of the hand of God in those little difficulties and perplexities, which are of every day occurrence, and look only at second causes. And so they often do in more important matters. When they are injured or insulted by others, they murmur and complain, and give vent to their indignation against the immediate causes of their distress; forgetting that these are only the instruments which God employs for the trial of their faith or the punishment of their sins. Thus, God permitted Satan to try the faith of Job. Thus, he permitted Shimei to curse David. But the answer of this godly man is worthy of being imitated by all Christians under similar circumstances. "Let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, curse David." Thus, also, the Lord employed the envy of Joseph's brethren, to save the lives of all his father's family. "But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive." The principal reason why the histories of the Bible are so much more instructive than other histories is, that the motives of men and the secret agency of divine Providence are brought to light. Hence, also, the reason why the events recorded in Scripture appear so marvellous. If we could see how the hand of God is concerned in all things that occur within our observation, they would appear no less wonderful.
In this doctrine, we have the strongest possible motive for a hearty and cheerful resignation to all the crosses and difficulties, trials and afflictions, which come upon us in this life, whatever may be their immediate cause. We know that they are directed by our heavenly Father, whose "tender mercies are over all his works;" and who "doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men." And, whether we are Christians or not, the duty of submission remains the same. When we consider the relation which man sustains to God, as a guilty rebel against his government, we must see that, whatever may be our earthly afflictions, so long as we are out of hell, we are the living monuments of his mercy. "Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins."
But, if we have evidence that we are the children of God, his promises furnish the most abundant consolation, in every trial. We are assured "that all things work together for good to them that love God." And of this we have many examples in the Holy Scriptures, where the darkest providences have in the end, to be fraught with the richest blessings. It was so in the case of Joseph, already mentioned. We are also taught to look upon the afflictions of this life as the faithful corrections of a kind and tender Parent. "For whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth." How consoling the reflection, that all our sufferings are designed to mortify and subdue our corruptions, to wean us from the world, and lead us to a more humble and constant sense of our dependence upon God. Besides, the people of God have the most comforting assurances of his presence, in affliction, if they will but trust in him. "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy steps." "Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved." "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble: therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof." "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand." O, how ungrateful for a child of God to repine at the dealings of such a tender and faithful parent! O, the ingratitude of unbelief! Who can accuse the Lord of unfaithfulness to the least of his promises? Why, then, should we refuse to trust him, when the assurances of his watchful care and love are so full, and so abundant?
We have not only strong ground of confidence in the Lord, under the pressure of afflictions in general, but we are particularly directed to look to him for the supply of all our temporal wants. If we have evidence that we are living members of the body of Christ, growing in grace and the knowledge of him, we have the most direct and positive assurances that all things needful for this life shall be supplied. Our Saviour, after showing the folly of manifesting an anxious concern about the supply of our temporal wants, since the Lord is so careful in feeding the fowls of the air, and clothing the lilies and the grass of the field, says, -- "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." By this, however, we are not to understand that the Lord will give us every earthly blessing which we desire. We are so short-sighted as often to wish for things which would prove positively injurious to us. But we are to understand that he will give us all that he sees best for us. And surely we ought to be satisfied with this; for he who sees the end from the beginning must know much better than we what is for our good. The Scriptures abound with similar promises. "O fear the Lord, ye his saints; for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." "Trust in the Lord, and do good, and verily thou shall be fed. I have been young and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly." "But my God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." It must, then, be a sinful distrust of the word of God, to indulge in anxious fears about the supply of our necessities. If we believed these promises, in their full extent, we should always rest in them, and never indulge an anxious thought about the things of this life. This, God requires of us. "And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind." "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed?" "Be careful for nothing." And nothing can be more reasonable than this requirement, when he has given us such full and repeated assurances that he will supply all our wants. The silver and the gold, and the cattle upon a thousand hills, belong to our heavenly Father. When, therefore, he sees that we need any earthly blessing, he can easily order the means by which it shall be brought to us.
From the precious truths and promises which we have been considering, we infer the duty of contentment in every situation of life. If God directs all our ways, and has promised to give us just what he sees we need, we surely ought to rest satisfied with what we have; for we know it is just what the Lord, in his infinite wisdom, and unbounded goodness, sees fit to give us. But the apostle Paul enforces this duty with direct precepts. "But godliness with contentment, is great gain." "Having food and raiment, let us be therewith content." "Be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Here he gives the promise of God, as a reason for contentment. It is, then, evidently the duty of every Christian to maintain a contented and cheerful spirit, under all circumstances. This, however, does not forbid the use of all lawful and proper means to improve our condition. But the means must be used with entire submission to the will of God. The child of God should cast all his care and burden upon him; and when he has made all suitable efforts to accomplish what he considers a good object, he must commit the whole to the Lord, with a perfect willingness that his will should be done, even to the utter disappointment of his own hopes.
Your affectionate Brother.