If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? and if in the land of peace…
I. The troubles of THE MIND in this life are often sharp and bitter, enough to tax its powers to the seeming limit of endurance. When the mind looks back upon its past history, views its present state, and anticipates its future destiny, and finds in them respectively occasions of regret, shame, and alarm, it is filled with acute suffering. And if this survey is directed to its moral condition and relations, if it is led to view itself as endowed with a capacity to know and choose good and evil, as having its being under the government of God, bound to obey His laws, and liable to answer at His throne for all its faults and offences, it tastes the bitterness of an accusing conscience, and is stung with keen remorse, and agitated with horrible dread. Yet, in such moments of unwonted moral illumination, we do but guess of that which shortly shall be. What the eye then sees, it sees, after all, but "through a glass darkly." And oh! if the glimpse be so horrible, what shall be the naked vision? If such periods be so rich in suffering, what shall be the eternity they foreshadow? For memory is now exceedingly imperfect, and self-knowledge partial, and the horrors of the prospect before us mitigated by the medium of future opportunity and preparation, through which they are seen. Time covers up much of our wickedness from ourselves; and self-love and the "deceitfulness of sin" so ten the ugliness of our faults; and futurity presents a thousand avenues of escape, and "convenient seasons" of reformation. Thus we now have resorts and refuges whither we can betake ourselves from the arrows of conscience. Then, oh! "if in this land of peace wherein we trust," — wherein there is so much in which the soul may confide, so much to stay it up, and give it quietness in reference to its controversy and reckoning with God, — we find the sense of our sinfulness and the apprehensions of wrath too much for us, a wearisome "burden too heavy to be borne," what, oh! what "shall we do in the swelling of Jordan," when "the waters shall overflow our hiding places"? And if "a wounded spirit we cannot bear," now, while there are so many nostrums of our own to soothe its pains, while there is a sovereign balm at hand to heal it, and a good Physician near to bind it up; how, oh! how shall we endure its smart, when "indignation shall vex it as a thing that is raw" beneath its own eye; and the eye of God, shining into it with an insufferable brightness, shall give it a keen sense of what it has been, is, and shall be, and all the universe cannot afford it a covert, or a balsam to assuage its agony?
II. THE BODY has its pains, too, in this life, and they are many and exquisite. We are "fearfully" as well as "wonderfully made," compacted of an infinite number of frail, delicate, and sensitive fibres, which are broken and lacerated by very trivial causes and accidents. What, then, may be the sufferings of which an immortal and "spiritual body" may be capable? And how intolerable the anguish, of which the refined and exquisite texture of that indestructible and everlasting organisation which awaits us at the resurrection, may be susceptible!
III. We are here forced to endure distresses of estate, of OUTWARD AND RELATIVE SITUATION. Here is one who wears the outward paraphernalia of consequence and prosperity, but there is a worm gnawing at the heart of his happiness. There is some hidden mischief that spoils all; some vicious, or sickly, or idiot child, it may be, some wayward spirit in his family, some "root of bitterness" in his domestic circumstances, which men either do not see, or justly estimate, that poisons all his good things. Yonder is a man who might be happy, if there were not so many above him in society, whose level he cannot reach. A little matter will suffice to destroy the sweetness of a thousand blessings. Now, if we find it so hard to bear the inconveniences and annoyances of this life, where is the strength to endure the discomforts of a situation in a world, where all the society is vile and malignant, "hateful, and hating one another," and all the circumstances fraught with nothing but mortification, disgrace, restraint, impotent desire, ineffectual effort, and hopeless resistance? Oh! then, let the exhaustion and vexation wherewith our Omnipotent Antagonist makes known His power in the milder visitings of His displeasure that reach us this side the grave, persuade us to leave off our mad rebellion, and seek a timely peace.
(R. A. Hallam, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?