For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles.
I. THE REVEALED PURPOSE OF DIVINE DISCIPLINE. Though oftentimes men fail to recognize the truth, there is in reality a purpose in human life, a purpose wise, beneficent, Divine.
1. The means: affliction. By this is intended here what is endured in Christ's service; as, for example, by missionaries and evangelists. Yet in the case of the true Christian affliction of every kind partakes of this character. The apostle says of affliction that it is "light" in quality, and that it is "momentary" in the time of its incidence. This is evidently a matter of comparison; for it is only when compared with the "weight" and the "eternity" of glory that earthly affliction can be denominated light and transitory.
2. The end: glory. This is future; for the present state is not characterized by this quality, save as a stormy day may be diversified by rays of light which break through the riven clouds. It is Christ's glory, such as that into which he entered when he had accomplished his vicarious sufferings. And, being such, it is weighty and eternal.
II. THE CONDITIONS UPON WHICH THE CHRISTIAN PROFITS BY DIVINE DISCIPLINE. In this passage God's part and ours are interwoven together. We can only receive the advantage by submitting to and falling in with the intentions of God. It is not a matter of course that the afflicted should be the better for their painful experience.
1. What is seen, what is known by sense, must be regarded and dealt with as of inferior importance, as soon to pass away. Men are prone to exaggerate the events of this perishing life; but Christians must see them as they appear to God.
2. The regards must be steadily fixed upon the unseen; i.e. upon the Christ who has gone before us, and who is apprehended in the exercise of faith; upon the heaven which is to be rest to the weary, joy to the sad, relief to the burdened; upon the God who, though invisible, is "near unto all who call upon him," and is the true Life of all holy souls. It must be remembered that these realities, in which Christians are deeply, supremely interested, are eternal. Over them decay, time, and death have no power; of them the glorious things of earth can give but the promise and the earnest.
3. Thus shall strength be experienced to endure what is appointed for us to bear on earth; and thus shall an aspiring hope anticipate the glory which shall hereafter be revealed. - T.
For our light affliction.., worketh for us a... weight of glory.I. A FEW PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS UPON AFFLICTION.
1. There are afflictions which are common to humanity. Disease and death (Genesis 3:17-19).
2. There are afflictions which are of a self-procured character. We can no more sin with impunity against physical laws than we can against moral laws.
3. There are afflictions which are of Divine appointment.
4. Afflictions are not meritorious. They cannot make atonement for sin, nor regenerate our nature.
5. Afflictions in themselves, abstractly considered, are heavy, but light when compared with those of others.
II. LET US PONDER OUR AFFLICTIONS. They are light —
1. When compared with the demerit of our sins.
2. When compared with those of our forefathers. The saints have had to suffer hunger, thirst, nakedness, fire, faggot, sword, imprisonment, and death (Hebrews 11.).
3. When compared with those of Christ.
4. When compared with the weight of glory referred to in the text.
5. Being but for a moment when compared with the eternity of glory.
6. When compared with the exceeding greatness and infinite excellence of the glory.
III. CONSIDER THE BENEFICIAL AND GRACIOUS TENDENCY OF OUR AFFLICTIONS. All trials, whether personal, relative, or national, may be regarded in the light of a gracious discipline. The tendency of affliction in the saint is —
2. The development and exhibition of principle and character. It is possible for a man not to know his own real character and strength of principle, till cast upon his own resources. What a living embodiment of magnanimity, self-denial, goodness, and moral sublimity in the lives and deaths of many of the people of God!
3. To test the truthfulness of our Christianity and exhibit its character before the world.
4. The exercise and perfection of our faith. Faith is a principle which is strengthened by exercise. In trials faith finds ample scope for action (Hebrews 11.).
IV. THE FUTURE GLORY OF THE SAINT IS —
I. Substantial. The word weight gives us the idea of ponderousness. The Greek word "doxa" and the Hebrew word "kabhodh" mean an opinion, doctrine; and then praise, dignity, splendour, and perfection. The words are applied to the visible manifestations of the Divine Being. Heaven is spoken of as a most glorious locality. It is compared to "a house eternal in the heavens," a "mansion," "an inheritance incorruptible," a "great city," and "a prepared kingdom." There will be perfect correspondence betwixt the resurrection body of the saint and heaven as an abode (1 Corinthians 15:39-58; Philippians 3:20, 21; 1 John 3:2). Glory embraces also the perfection of the soul. We shall be perfect in body and in mind. Enjoyments and employments will be all complete.
2. Ever-enduring. "The perpetuity of bliss is bliss."
3. Ever-increasing. Progress is as essential to man's nature as gravitation to the universe, and light and heat to the sun.
(C. Briggs.)1. The text contains, a repetition of ὑπερβολη, which is generally used when a person in any excited manner oversteps the truth. What the apostle means, therefore, is that no proportion whatever can be instituted between present affliction and future glory.
2. Now, there is much in God's dealings with our race which seems hopelessly intricate, and we satisfy ourselves by referring to the disclosures of another world when, evolving order from confusion, God shall vindicate His proceedings on the broad stage of the judgment. But while in the main this course may be correct, we must take heed that we do not refuse to be wise up to what is revealed. It would be a great clue for us, in the labyrinth of Providence, if we were to regard all that takes place in the body as preparatory to the dispensation of another state: e.g., we ought to be able to show that all which a righteous man suffers goes to heighten and multiply his future enjoyments; so that each sorrow shall not only be counterbalanced, but shall be distinctly preliminary to some portion of happiness. The apostle speaks of the affliction as "working out for us glory." There is a vast deal more asserted than the mere succeeding of glory to affliction; there is the connection of cause and effect; the present and the future are so linked, that the two may be surveyed as parts of the same dispensation.
I. IN WHAT SENSE CAN IT BE TRUE THAT "AFFLICTION WORKETH FOR US GLORY"?
1. It cannot be that suffering in this present life is to be accounted a make-weight for punishment in the next. We have heard persons express a hope that they should endure all their pains on this side the grave, as though pain had a power of making compensation for sin. No doubt pain is the consequence and punishment of sin; but it is evident that the future and not the present is the time at which God's threatenings are especially to take effect. And if present suffering do not pass instead of future, much less can it procure for us favour and enjoyment. The splendours of eternity are too rare and costly to be procured out of the anguish of the sinful.
2. But if affliction do not procure for us glory through any inherent merit, it must have a working power; it must be because of the discipline which affliction exerts. Whatever was required for the pardon of our sins, was wrought out for us by our Surety. Nothing more is needed in order to our being freely forgiven and graciously received. But while all this has been done for us, there is something which remains to be done in us. This is what Scripture calls "the being made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." It were comparatively but little worth that we should be admitted into God's presence, if there were no change rendering us capable of enjoying what is celestial and pure. To effect this work is the orifice of affliction. When you have admitted the need of refining, you must expect that the furnace of affliction will be placed in the pathway of the Christian.
3. Our text goes further. Not merely is affliction preparatory to glory, but that glory is to be increased by affliction. One Christian is evidently much more tried than another. The meekest and most devoted are often most so. Therefore we conclude that affliction produces different degrees of fitness, and that with these different degrees of fitness are proportioned different degrees of blessedness in the scale of future rewards. Upon this supposition, but on no other, that as "one star differeth from another star in glory," so does one saint in heaven differ from another — can full force be ascribed to the language of our text.
II. THE NOTICES OF THE INVISIBLE WORLD WHICH WE MAY EXTRACT FROM THE PASSAGE.
1. That there shall be different degrees in the happiness of the saints in heaven. The dispositions and faculties of our fellow-men are almost infinitely various. If this variety did not exist a dull monotony would be introduced. Yes, religious men are cast in great varieties of mould. The lines of distinction are strongly marked between Peter and James and Paul. So one apostle was fitted for engaging in enterprises which would not have suited another. And so with all. There are no two Christians who are quite alike as Christians. One is remarkable for his humility, another for his love, a third for his faith, and a fourth for his zeal. And God places each Christian just where there is scope for his particular gifts. If there were no difference amongst Christians, the Church would lose its beauty and power. Is it, then, to be for a moment imagined that heaven alone should not consist of this wonderful diversity? Shall death produce over the whole face of humankind that uniformity against which God has now marvellously provided? This does not interfere in the remotest degree with the perfection of the happiness of every justified saint. That being is perfectly happy who has just as much happiness as he is capable of enjoying. And besides these arguments from analogy, you find in Scripture abundant reason for the opinion, that in hell the quantity of misery is not the same to all, and that in heaven the quantity of happiness is not the same to all. By being enormous in guilt, we may increase the capacity for pain; and by being eminent in piety, we may increase the capacity for pleasure. We should conclude indeed rashly if we should set down a believer more than ordinarily tried as designed for one of the highest places in heaven: for we cannot tell what training we may require for the lowest place in heaven. But putting together the simple propositions, that there are degrees of happiness above, and that affliction is one of the chief modes by which God prepares man for happiness, it follows that the sufferings we endure may have an effect in fitting us for a loftier throne, a richer crown, a nobler heritage; and thus may the apostle's words most literally come true.
2. There is much material for thought in the hint that affliction at the most is "light," and at the longest "but for a moment." Now we can hardly expect that such verdicts will be assented to while we are on earth. The soul must be in glory before they can be pronounced with a deep feeling of their truth.
3. Observe, in order to the obtaining a better glimpse of things within the veil, that the aim of the creature has always been independence, and one great object of God's dealings with our race has been to prove the nothingness of the creature, by placing him in a variety of estates, in none of which he is able to sustain himself. And we may well believe that the lesson thus painfully and woefully taught shall be continually in the view of the glorified multitude. Shall they not be conscious that Christ not only brought them to glory, but that Christ also supports them in glory? We find an intimation of this in a "weight of glory." The Greek word is always used of something massive and hard to be borne; and it seems implied that the glory itself will be so ponderous, that the saints need help in sustaining it. In other words, they will be no more able to do without Christ in wearing their crown, than they could do without Christ in winning their crown.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
I. THE MANNER IN WHICH THE APOSTLE TEACHES CHRISTIANS TO VIEW THEIR AFFLICTIONS.
1. We are apt to magnify our troubles rather than to diminish them. In the human mind there is a strong aversion to trouble of any kind. It is indeed true that affliction, in itself, is not agreeable. "Now no affliction for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous." But here the apostle makes it out to be a very insignificant thing. You think it heavy — a burden greater than you can bear, but the apostle says that it is light. And, besides, you think the time of your affliction long, however short it may be, and anxiously desire its removal; but the apostle wishes you to view it even as momentary. But Paul is here speaking comparatively. His eye was full of an exceeding weight of glory which language could not express; in comparison to that his affliction was levity itself, and by faith he saw the eternity of that glory, and then it seemed contracted into a point that was invisible.
2. You cannot feel sympathy with the apostle, in this exalted view of affliction, if you remain on the low ground of this world, where you are involved in darkness. You must aspire to attain the height of the subject. You must endeavour, in some measure, to comprehend the glory to be revealed.
II. THE INFLUENCE OF AFFLICTION IN PREPARING CHRISTIANS FOR FUTURE GLORY. "Worketh for us." Affliction is part of the discipline of the covenant of grace; and it worketh the peaceable fruit of righteousness in all who are properly exercised under it.
1. Afflictions work in Christians a meetness or suitableness for glory. Naturally they are unprepared, and corruption is strong within them. But afflictions weaken the power of corruption. The mind of the Christian may be unduly set upon worldly objects. These are removed, and then the Christian seeks his enjoyment in God, and raises his mind to heaven.
2. In proportion to the extent of the affliction of Christians will be their future glory. All that you can do or suffer for Christ, in itself, is without merit, but yet it will be rewarded.
III. WHAT THIS GLORY IS. Who can describe the greatness of things eternal? We can only judge from what we see; and it must be confessed that in the visible universe there is much that impresses us with the greatness and the power of God. But we must beware of losing ourselves in generalities. We are not destitute of definite ideas on which to fix our minds.
1. This is an exceeding weight of glory; it will, in its very nature, be substantial, weighty, solid. Now this forms a striking contrast to the objects of the world, even the weightiest and most important of them. But men consider wealth weighty. It is, however, all a mistake, "for riches make to themselves wings." All the riches of this world are, in comparison, less than nothing and vanity.
2. This is such a weight of glory that Christians could not sustain it if they were not prepared and strengthened by Omnipotence to do it. Even in the world men are not always able to sustain their circumstances. Some sink under the load of affliction, prosperity. Now to bear up under this weight of glory it is necessary that the soul of the Christian should be absolutely perfect, completely delivered from sin; and at the last day, when there will be a vast accession to the glory, a body fashioned like unto Christ's will be necessary: thus the soul and body of the Christian will not only be adapted to each other, but they will also be adapted to the glory which is to be bestowed upon them. At the present time you could not bear this glory.
3. And what will it be? It will be all the fulness of the Deity — all the glory of God in Christ.(1) You will be blessed with all knowledge; all mysteries, in nature, providence, and grace, will shine out clearly in your view.(2) Immense dignity will be conferred upon us; in the presence of the greatest spirits you will be honoured by God Himself, and will be exalted to sit on the throne of Christ.(3) Your happiness will be complete; you will experience the fulness of joy.(4) Add to all, it will be eternal, unlike the glories of the world, which are evanescent. Now, with this prospect, will not Christians welcome all their affliction?
1. Solidity and excellency. Glory is called a weight, because the same word, "chabod," which signifieth a weight, signifieth also glory, and weight addeth to the value of gold and precious things. All words are too weak to express heaven's happiness, and therefore he heapeth expression upon expression.
2. Eternity. This is opposed to the momentariness of our affliction. Both properties suit with God's infiniteness and eternity. In the other world God will give like Himself. See how the apostle doth —
I. LESSEN THE AFFLICTIONS OF OUR PRESENT CONDITION, that we may not faint under them.
1. The evil expressed, "our affliction." God will have all tried, and the most eminent most tried (Revelation 7:14). Christ Himself was made low before He was exalted. And the members follow the head by a conformity of suffering (Acts 14:22).
2. The evil lessened. The highest comfort which philosophy could afford was, that if afflictions were great, they were short; if long, light; meaning thereby, that if their afflictions were grievous, they would shorten their lives; if of long continuance, by bearing they learned the better to bear. But here both light and short, too, in respect of our glorious reward, which being infinite, maketh them light, and being eternal, makes them short.(1) Our affliction is light, not in itself but —(a) Comparatively, in respect of the excellency and infiniteness of the heavenly glory (Romans 8:18). The trouble is nothing to the recompense, nor the cross to the crown.(b) Copulatively. Though affliction be not light in itself, yet by the strong support and comfort of the Spirit, God maketh it light and easy to us.To a strong back a burden is light which crusheth the weak and faint; a man well clad may without great annoyance bear the cold of winter, which pincheth the naked (2 Corinthians 1:5; Romans 8:37). Now there is a more liberal allowance of these comforts and supports to God's suffering servants than to those who live at ease (1 Peter 4:14).(2) It is short as well as light. If they should last for our whole lives, they are but momentary compared with eternity.(3) To make this more evident, let us consider how the afflictions of God's people are long and short.(a) Concerning their length. They seem long to those that reckon by time and not by eternity. The longest time to eternity is nothing (Psalm 90:4). They seem long because of the impatiency of the flesh. We love our own ease, and therefore affliction soon groweth irksome. An hour seemeth a day, and a day a week. Winter nights seem long in the passing.(b) For their shortness; they seem short, partly because they are not so long as they might be in regard of the enemies' rage (Zechariah 1:15).Satan and wicked men know no bounds. Partly they are not so long as we deserve. The evil of one sin cannot be expiated in a thousand years; but God "in the midst of judgment remembereth mercy" (Habakkuk 3:2). Partly they are not so long as they might be in regard of second causes and probabilities (Habakkuk 3:2). Partly because faith will not count it long; for to the eye of faith things future and afar off are as present (Hebrews 11:1). Partly because love will not count it long (Genesis 29:20). If we had any love to Christ, we would be willing to suffer a little while for His sake. But chiefly in regard of our eternal reward and blessedness; so it is a light affliction, that is but for a moment, like a rainy day to an everlasting sunshine.
II. GREATER HEAVENLY THINGS. They are set forth by unwonted forms of speech, but such as you may observe an exact opposition of our happiness to our misery.
1. Affliction and glory. In our calamities we are depressed and put to shame, but whatever honour we lose in this mortal life shall be abundantly recompensed in heaven.(1) Are you pained with sickness and weariness of the flesh? In heaven we shall have everlasting ease (Hebrews 4:9).(2) Are you cast out by man? There you are received by the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:17).(3) Have you lost the love of all men for your faithfulness? You shall everlastingly enjoy the love of God (Romans 8:39).(4) Are you reproached, calumniated in the world? Then your faith shall be "found to praise, glory, and honour" (1 Peter 1:7).(5) Are you cast into prison? You will shortly be in our Father's house (John 14:2)(6) Are you reduced to sordid poverty? There you read of the "riches of the glory of the inheritance of the saints in light" (Ephesians 2:18).(7) Have you lost children for Christ? They shall not come to you, but you shall-go to them.(8) Must you die, and the guest be turned out of the old house? You do but leave a shed to live in a palace (2 Corinthians 5:1). If you are forced out by the violence of man, the sword is but the key to open heaven's doors for you.
2. "A far more exceeding weight of glory" and "light affliction." Things excellent we count weighty; small, light (1 John 3:2).
3. This glory is eternal, in opposition to our momentary affliction. If we desire to prolong this life, which is obnoxious to divers calamities, how much more should that life affect us which shall be fully happy and never have end?
III. SHOW HOW THE ONE IS THE FRUIT OF THE OTHER.
(T. Manton, D. D.)
I. THE MANNER IN WHICH AFFLICTION IS TO BE ESTIMATED BY THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER. It signifies something that beats down, presses sore, and is in itself grievous and tormenting. The forms of human trial are like the lineaments of the human countenance, boundlessly diversified.
II. THE BENEFICIAL TENDENCY OF AFFLICTION. The present state of man is not his ultimate condition, nor is this world his final home. While on earth his state is not only one of probation, but also of discipline and —
1. It is designed to correct and reclaim. There is in the heart of man a natural proneness to wander from God. In vain, perhaps, have been the attempts of other agencies to win the thoughtless wanderer. It is in mercy, therefore, rather than in anger, that he is smitten with affliction, that he may return to God.
2. The grace of God beats the spears of affliction into pruning-hooks, to them that are in Christ.
3. In affliction there is something which exerts a subduing influence upon the mind. It prostrates pride, subdues self, disenchants creation of its bright and fleeting colours. It is often the means of bringing the will of the Christian into a more entire subjection to the will of God.
4. It has a tendency to purify, refine, and elevate the Christian character. The trial of faith is said to be "more precious than that of gold."
III. THE GLORY FOR WHICH THE CHRISTIAN BELIEVER IS PREPARED BY SANCTIFIED AFFLICTION.
1. The final issue of sanctified affliction will be a higher position, greater felicity, more glory in the heavenly state. The Christian would have had glory without it, but he will have more by reason of it.
2. This glory will be eternal in its duration. The highest enjoyments this world can afford are short-lived. Life itself is short. "The fashion of this world passeth away." But the glory of heaven will endure for ever.
3. This glory is further spoken of under the idea of weight.Conclusion: The design of God, in afflictions, being to prepare us for "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory," let us devoutly strive to improve them.
1. By deep humility and self-abasement. When the soul is truly humbled before God, His Spirit lifts it up, and lets in upon the feelings the genial light and warmth of the Sun of righteousness.
2. By a renewed consecration of ourselves to God.
(J. Lambert.)I. THE CELESTIAL STATE WILL IMPART EXALTED AND PERFECT FELICITY TO THOSE WHO SHALL ENJOY IT. It will be a state of —
1. Unsullied and absolute holiness. Mourning, as now you do, over your waywardness and sinfulness, how must you exult in the prospect of being "made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light!"
2. Vast intellectual illumination (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). As to the objects of celestial knowledge, we may believe them to be the Divine character and perfections; the reasons of providential government, the counsels of grace; the breadths, and lengths, and depths, and heights of the love of Christ which "passeth knowledge," etc. As holiness is our moral glory, attainment of such knowledge, will be our intellectual glory, both being associated with happiness which is incomparable and supreme. "The tree of knowledge," there will hide no serpent in its foliage, and instil no poison with its fruit. It shall be "the tree of life," as well as "the tree of knowledge," and there shall not be a leaf that adorns it, or a cluster that enriches it, that will not be found redolent with rapture, and that can decay or die. Ye who love and long for knowledge, endeavour to find your sphere in heaven; and while now, at the best, you can but collect the fragments and the crumbs, be it your high ambition to pant always for the full banquet of intelligence in immortality.
3. Delightful communion. A vast proportion of the enjoyments of the present life arises from intercourse; the more refined that intercourse, the more delightful it is; and the delights of intercourse will be found perfected amidst the purity and the expanded illumination of the skies. If man be permitted to enjoy fellowship with God, while still he bears the remains of his sinfulness, much more will he possess that fellowship when all his impurities shall be removed, and when he shall exist perfectly in the image of his God. Intercourse with God is the very life of heaven; and were that intercourse to be withdrawn, the light would wane, and the glory would be shrouded, and the music would be hushed, and the bliss would die, and the reward would be transformed into wretchedness.
4. Active and devoted employment. The rest of heaven is not synonymous with indolence; it is rest merely from corporeal languor, pain and disease, mental sorrow and foreboding. But this rest is not incompatible with employment. As Luther said, "God requires servants in heaven as well as on earth." Worship, in presenting the expressions of adoration and of praise; study, in the contemplation of the grand themes of knowledge; and active employment, in promoting the high behests, which probably will be multiplied upon us by the vastness of our capacities and by the deathlessness of our existence.
5. Permanent and imperishable duration. Heaven bears over its golden portals the inscription, "There shall be no more death." You read of heaven as a substance; it is "a better and enduring substance." As a kingdom, it is an "everlasting kingdom." As an inheritance, it is "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away." There is nought in that world of glory, which is not for ever and for ever.
II. THE CONTEMPLATION OF THE CELESTIAL STATE OUGHT TO PRODUCE POWERFUL INFLUENCES AND EFFECTS, WHILE WE ARE EXISTING IN THE PRESENT LIFE.
1. We ought to embrace the one appointed method, by which alone the enjoyment of the heavenly state is to be secured. Do any of you ask what is the way to heaven? By the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
2. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ," if you would "be saved." Bear with fortitude, in the prospect of that celestial state, the various difficulties and sorrows of the present life. In the context you see how the fortitude of the apostle and of his companions was secured by the prospect of the future.
3. There ought also to be a constant anticipation of the period when the celestial state shall be entered by ourselves. Conclusion: Let me remind you there is no middle state, no compromise between a destiny of splendour and a destiny of darkness and despair.
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