Hebrews 12:11
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, etc. Two aspects of discipline, distinct yet vitally related, are here set before us.

I. DISCIPLINE IN ITS ENDURANCE. "All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous, but grievous." All life's discipline, while we are enduring it, is painful. It is so even to sincere and saintly Christians, for:

1. The Christian is not insensible to pain. Christianity offers no encouragement to stoicism. It does not call upon us to repress or to blunt the natural susceptibilities of our nature. We are summoned in the Christian Scriptures to feel for others and with others. "Rejoice with them that rejoice; weep with them that weep." Insensibility is neither manly nor saintly, virtuous nor blessed. Our Savior was deeply moved by the afflictions and griefs of others (cf. Mark 7:34; Mark 8:2; Luke 19:41; John 11:33, 35, 38). And he felt acutely the sorrows and sufferings which fell to his own lot (John 12:27; Matthew 26:38; Luke 22:44; Matthew 27:46; Hebrews 5:7, 8).

2. Pain or trial is an essential element of discipline. Our text speaks of discipline as "chastening," and that is painful. If we speak of it as correction, that is not easy to bear. It may be administered in various forms, but in every form it carries with it trial or suffering of some kind. Take away the trying element from the experience, and you take from it the character of discipline.

3. The endurance of discipline demands the strenuous exercise of spiritual powers. The writer speaks of those who have been exercised by the chastening. This exercise is not an amusement, but an arduous putting forth of mental and moral powers. Suffering sorely tests our submission to the Divine will. Tribulation tries our patience and piety. Enigmas of providence and dark passages in our own experience test our faith in the Divine Father. Remember how God's servant Job was "exercised." And St. Paul (2 Corinthians 4:8-12; 2 Corinthians 11:23-30; 2 Corinthians 12:7, 8). And the Christians in Smyrna (Revelation 2:9, 10). If we did not feel the pain of the discipline, we could not derive any profit from it. If the chastening were not grievous for the present, it could not result in any blessing hereafter.

II. DISCIPLINE IN ITS FRUIT. "Yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness." It is a well-attested fact of human experience that trial borne in a right spirit, and sanctified by God, results in rich benefits. But notice:

1. The condition of the fruit of discipline. "It yieldeth fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby." The chastening must have been felt, and recognized and accepted as discipline, in order to the reception of its fruits. Suffering is the condition of the deepest serenity. The pain of moral conflict must precede the glory of moral conquest.

2. The season of the fruit of discipline. "Afterward it yieldeth," etc. Not while we are passing through the painful experiences do we reap the rich result of them, but "afterward." Time is required for the fruit to form and to ripen. There are beautiful pictures which cannot be truly seen when we are near to them. So viewed, they appear to be inartistic and rough daubs. But, viewed from the right angle and from a suitable distance, their beauty captivates the eye and delights the soul. We must leave our disciplinary experiences and travel into the "afterward," before we can discover their true significance and their gracious uses.

3. The character of the fruit of discipline.

(1) The fruit of righteousness. Alford: "The practical righteousness which springs from faith." "Before I was afflicted I went astray," etc. (Psalm 119:67, 71).

(2) The fruit of peace. "Peaceable fruit." Alford: "This fruit is called peaceable in contrast to the conflict by which it is won." Ebrard: "Exercise in hard bitter conflict brings peace as its fruit." Tholuck: "Fruit of righteousness to be enjoyed in peace after the conflict." Generally the deepest and most constant peace is possessed by those who have passed through the sharpest sufferings or the severest struggles. "Our afflictions are not for naught. They are the fruitful seed of future glories. They are blessings in disguise. They are meant for good, and are productive of good. They are like the early processes of the garden, when the soil is broken up and weeded, in order that fair flowers may at length adorn it. q-hey are the quarrying and chiseling of the marble before the living statue can stand out in symmetrical proportions. They are the instruments, without which no harmony can be secured in the ultimate concert. They are the medicine of our convalescence, the drudgery of our education, the spring pruning of our vine trees, without which we can never be healthy or happy, fit for heaven, or qualified to bring forth fruit whereby our Father may be glorified." In conclusion, our subject should encourage us to be:

1. Patient under our discipline. Discipline is like a tree; it requires time and seasonable influences to produce the ripened fruit of peace and righteousness. Wait patiently for the "hereafter." "Behold, the husbandman waiteth," etc. (James 5:7).

2. Resigned under our discipline. Let us not rebel against the suffering which is designed for our sanctification; but let us "be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live."

3. Hopeful under our discipline. The trial may be bitter, but it wilt be brief, and the fruit thereof will be blessed and eternal (cf. Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17, 18). - W.J.







Afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness.
When our heavenly Father "puts His hand into the bitter box" and weighs out to us a portion of wormwood and gall in the form of bodily pain, we very naturally ask the reason why. Nature suggests the question at times in petulance, and gets no answer; faith only asks it with bated breath, and gains a gracious reply.

I. PAIN TEACHES US OUR NOTHINGNESS. Health permits us to swell in self-esteem, and gather much which is unreal; sickness makes our feebleness conspicuous, and at the same time breaks up many of our shams. We need solid grace when we are thrown into the furnace of affliction; gilt and tinsel shrivel up in the fire. The patience in which we somewhat prided ourselves, where is it when sharp pangs succeed each other, like poisoned arrows setting the blood on flame? The joyful faith which could do all things, and bear all sufferings, is it always at hand when the time of trial has arrived? The peace which stood aloft on the mountain's summit and serenely smiled on storms beneath, does it hold its ground quite so easily as we thought it would when at our ease we prophesied our behaviour in the day of battle? When nought remains but the clinging of a weeping child, who grasps his father's hand; nothing but the smiting on the breast of the publican, who cries "God be merciful to me a sinner"; nought but the last resolve, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" — no real loss has been sustained, say, rather, a great gain has come to the humbled heart.

II. HEAVY SICKNESS AND CRUSHING PAIN SHUT OUT FROM US A THOUSAND MINOR CARES. We cannot now be cumbered with much serving, for others must take our place, and play the Martha in our stead; and it is well if then we are enabled to take Mary's place as nearly as possible, and lie at Jesus' feet if we cannot sit there. The Lord must do all, or it must remain undone. The weary head could only exaggerate the need; the sinking spirits could not suggest a supply. All must be left; yes, must be left. The reins drop from the driver's hands, the ploughman forgets the furrow, the seed-basket hangs no longer on the sewer's arm. Thus is the soul shut in with God as within a wall of tire, and all her thought must be of Him, and of His promise and His help; grateful if but such thoughts will come, and forced if they come not just to lie as one dead at the feet of the great Lord and look up and hope. This cutting loose from earthly shores, this rehearsal of what must soon be done once for all in the hour of departure, is a salutary exercise, tending to cut away the hampering besetments of this mortal life, and make us freer for the heavenly race.

III. SICKNESS HAS CAUSED MANY WORKERS TO BECOME MORE INTENSE WHEN THEY HAVE AGAIN BEEN FAVOURED TO RETURN TO THEIR PLACE. We lie and bemoan our shortcomings, perceiving fault where it had in healthier hours escaped observation, resolving, in God's strength, to throw our energies more fully into the weightiest matters, and spend less of force on secondary things. How much of lasting good may come of this! The time, apparently wasted, may turn out to be a real economy of life if the worker for years to come shall be more earnest, more careful, more prayerful, more passionately set upon doing his Lord's business thoroughly. Oh that we could all thus improve our forced retirements! Then should we come forth like the sun from the chambers of the east, all the brighter for the night's chill darkness, while about us would be the dew of the Spirit, and the freshness of a new dawning.

IV. PAIN, IF SANCTIFIED, CREATES TENDERNESS TOWARDS OTHERS. Alone it may harden and shut up the man within himself, a student of his own nerves and ailments, a hater of all who would pretend to rival him in suffering; but, mixed with grace, our aches and pains are an ointment supplying the heart, and causing the milk of human kindness to fill the breast. The poor are tender to the poor, and the sick feel for the sick when their afflictions have wrought after a healthful fashion. Grief has been full oft the mother of mercy, and the pangs of sickness have been the birth-throes of compassion. If our hearts learn sympathy, they have been in a good school, though the Master may have used the rod most heavily, and taught us by many a smart.

V. PAIN HAS A TENDENCY TO MAKE US GRATEFUL WHEN HEALTH RETURNS. We value the powers of locomotion after tossing long upon a bed from which we cannot rise, the open air is sweet after the confinement of the chamber, food is relished when appetite returns, and in all respects the time of recovery is one of marked enjoyment. As birds sing most after their winter's silence, when the warm spring has newly returned, so should we be most praiseful when our gloomy hours are changed for cheerful restoration. Gratitude is a choice spice for heaven's altar. It burns well in the censer, and sends up a fragrant cloud, acceptable to the great High Priest. Perhaps God would have lost much praise if His servant had not much suffered. Sickness thus yields large tribute to the King's revenue; and if it be so, we may cheerfully endure it.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

It is of sorrow I would speak. None can escape it. A man unacquainted with suffering would be a monstrous exception. You have doubtless seen the famous painting of a modern artist, "The Call of the Condemned, during the Reign of Terror." The prisoners, already sentenced by the revolutionary tribunal, are there, huddled up together in the vast hall and beneath the low arches of the Conciergerie. In the background, the door stands open, and the jailer, behind whom the fatal chariot is visible, reads the names written upon the list of death. All listen; some have already risen and press the hands of their friends in a farewell grasp; others, whose countenance is ghastly and full of anguish, wait; others veil their feelings beneath stoical scorn; they seem to say, "To-day or to-morrow, what matters? It is but a question of time." Thus it is with each of us; we are doomed to suffer; none of us is forgotten on the roll of the elect of affliction. Well! here is a strange fact: this question of suffering, the most universal and individual, the most ancient and actual of all questions, remains one of those which natural reason is absolutely incompetent to elucidate. Interrogate the ancient world, the Greek or Roman societies with their most illustrious philosophers, and you will find that every one of them, in presence of suffering, has but one of two counsels to give man: dissipation with Epicurus, or indifference with the stoic Zeno. I cannot, however, forget that some few more clear-sighted souls have seen in affliction a mysterious instrument of Providence, a means of education for man; but these were only stray gleams, like flashes of lightning illumining the darkness of ancient philosophy. This is what Seneca writes to a mother who had lost her son by death: "Prejudice, which causes us to mourn so long, leads us further than nature commands. See how vehement are the regrets of dumb animals, yet how short is their duration! Cows that have lost their offspring moan but two or three days; mares pursue their wild and wandering course no longer. When the savage beast has followed the traces of her young and scoured the forest in every direction, when she has returned time after time to the den ravaged by the hunter, her fierce grief is very soon appeased. The bird that whirls with startling cry round her empty nest is quieted in an instant, and resumes her wonted flight. No animal long regrets its young; man alone loves to nurse his sorrow, and grieves, not by reason of what he feels, but in proportion as he has determined to grieve" ("Consolation to Marcia," ch. 7.). Having read this page, open the gospel and, with adoration, acknowledge the debt of gratitude you owe to Jesus Christ. According to Holy Writ, suffering is neither a simply natural phenomenon nor an effect of the primordial will of the Creator. According to Scripture it is an anomaly. God did not ordain it; in the beginning God beheld His work, and lo, it was good. Suffering is the logical, inevitable consequence of the false relation in which man has placed himself with God (Hosea 14:2). But, if Scripture lays down this grand general principle that suffering is the consequence of sin, it affirms, none the less clearly, that in our earthly life sin and suffering are never fully equivalent; it forbids our drawing from exceptional affliction the inference of exceptional guilt; it interdicts our taking the Divine balance into our own hands and interpreting the judgments of God according to our imperfect knowledge of things. Such, in a few words, is the teaching of Scripture on what we might call the theoretical side of the problem of suffering. But if, looked at in this light, this teaching appears to us measured and limited; everything changes when we look at it from a practical point of view. Here light abounds: when we endeavour to demonstrate the providential action of suffering, its salutary effects upon souls, the various and often sublime ends to which God makes it serve, we feel that lessons gush forth from every detail, and that we are verily at the school of the Divine Educator. Let us, first of all, lay down a principle: Suffering in itself is not good. Suffering is what we make it. It can produce humiliation or revolt, it regenerates the heart or renders it a thousand times more vile; it is the pensive and gentle angel that brings us back to the true life, or the demon that beholds with a cynical sneer the nothingness of all hope; it causes the sacred source of repentant sorrow to gush forth, or, like a consuming fire, it parches and withers in the depth of the soul all the germs of the future. It is blessed or accursed, it raises to a new life or it kills. The two wretches agonising upon Calvary, one on Christ's right hand and one on His left, are both crucified, but the one believes whilst the other blasphemes; the one repents whilst the other hardens his heart. In consequence, the point to be solved is, not only if we suffer, but if we accept affliction as coming from God. For those who bear suffering in this spirit I would show what it may be and what are the fruits it may yield. In the first place, I say that affliction gives us a fuller understanding of religious truth, Not that it teaches us anything which is absolutely new, but it makes realities of those beliefs which are often in danger of being considered by.us as pure abstractions. You will be convinced of this if, for a moment, you examine the notion which sorrow gives us of God, of others, and of ourselves. As regards the truth concerning God. For many God exists only as a cardinal notion, in truth, but as a mere notion nevertheless. What is required that He may reveal Himself to such, as a living and present Being, that truly religious faith may be joined, henceforth, to purely intellectual faith? A profound thinker (Schleier-reacher) has told us, Man must feel that he is dependent upon Him. Religion comes into existence together with the sentiment of dependence. Now, what is most sure of producing this sentiment within us? Affliction. Just as the darkness of night unveils to our gaze the splendours of the starry heavens, even so it is in the gloom of trial, in that night of the soul, that the eye of faith most clearly discerns the glories of Divine love. As regards the truth concerning men. This demands no proof. At all times it has been said: We know men only when we have suffered. As regards the truth concerning ourselves. Does a man know himself when he has not suffered? Does he take a serious view of evil when he has not felt its pangs? Can he have a correct idea of his weakness when he has not been vanquished? If death is the wages of sin, suffering is its humiliating earnest, and we may well discern in it the cruel effigy of the master to whom we have sold ourselves. Therefore affliction gives us a fuller understanding of the truths concerning ourselves, our fellow-men, and God. It does more, it acts upon conscience, it subdues the will. Would the idolatrous Canaanite ever have thought of coming to Christ if her heart had not been rent by the fearful spectacle of her demon-possessed daughter? Would Jairus, ruler of the synagogue, have called the Saviour if he had not seen his child in the agony of death? Count those who followed Jesus during His ministry upon earth, question the innumerable multitudes which compose His retinue throughout the ages, and you will see that most of His disciples went to Him because they suffered. And as suffering has begun the work of their salvation, it serves also to continue and perfect it. Without it, pride, self-will, guilty passion would spring up again like vivacious roots, but the hand of the Divine husbandman passes and cuts them off, and the sap of life, which would spread with so much vigour in wrong directions, is forced to rise and spread itself out in holy affections. Thirdly, I have indicated the action of suffering upon the heart. We must consider this side of our subject for a few moments. There is a fact which we may observe daily; it is this: when a man is for the first time smitten with disease, for the first time also he thinks that others suffer like himself; this is for him a sort of discovery; he knew the name of the disease which lays him low, but he did not really believe in its existence. We have heard of deaf and blind individuals, of persons who have suddenly become poor; we have felt for them a sincere sentiment of superficial commiseration, but if we are unexpectedly threatened with one or other of these terrible trials, then the image of those whom it has before smitten starts up before our eyes, we are surprised to find they are so many, we reproach ourselves with having too long ignored them. From this experience flows sympathy, that Divine sentiment which signifies that we suffer with others, and which has become the mightiest power of consolation the world has ever known. It is to the afflicted that God has entrusted the sublime mission of consolation; the terms widow and deaconess originally signified one and the same thing, and, in the order of joy, as in the order of mercy, it is the prerogative of the poor that they are called to enrich others. What is it, in reality, that has produced the Church and transformed the world? A unique, incomparable, inexpressible grief which has found its consummation in the sacrifice of the Cross. Finally, I have said that affliction is the means which God makes use of to awaken and entertain within us the sacred life of hope. Hope is that virtue of the soul by which we affirm that the future belongs to God. Christian hope lies not at the soul's surface, it dwells in its innermost depths, and appears, radiant and strong, in the hour when all things fail us. Now, is it not evident that hope is the daughter of affliction? It is not those that are satisfied who hope. Those that are satisfied find their reward here below, as Jesus Christ tells us (Matthew 5:5-16), and that is the manifest sign of their condemnation. See the Jewish nation under the old dispensation: two nations mingle in this one nation. Throughout the history of the Church I find these two nations; if the Church is still standing, if she has not died, dishonoured by the ostentation, pride, and pollution of her representatives on the earth, by so many crimes perpetrated in the name of Jesus Christ, we owe it to those of her children who from age to age have maintained the sacred tradition of voluntary suffering and of sacrifice, and who have never ceased to expect the reign of God in righteousness and in truth. There exists, in the Roman Catholic religion, an institution which has always impressed me strongly: it is what is called perpetual adoration: in certain monastic orders, nuns relieve one another day and night, so that there are continually some praying before the Holy Sacrament.

(E. Bersier, D. D.)

I. First, we have very clearly in the text SOME CHASTISEMENTS.

1. Keeping literally to the words of the text, we observe that all which carnal reason can see of our present chastisement is but seeming. "No chastisement for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous." All that flesh and blood can discover of the quality of affliction is but its outward superficial appearance. We are not able by the eye of reason to discover what is the real virtue of sanctified tribulation; this discernment is the privilege of faith. How very apt we are to be deceived by seemings! Understand that all that you can know about trial by mere carnal reason is no more reliable than what you can discover by your feelings concerning the motion of the earth. Nor are our seemings at all likely to be worth much when you recollect that our fear, when we are under trouble, always darken, what little reason we have. I remember one so nervous that, when going up the Monument, he assured me that he felt it shake. It was his own shaking, not the shaking of the Monument; but he was timid at climbing to an unusual height. When you and I under trial get so afraid of this and afraid of that that we cannot trust the eyesight of the flesh, we may rest assured of this, that " things are not what they seem." Besides, we are very unbelieving, and you know how unbelief is apt always to exaggerate the black and to diminish the bright. Added to this, over and above our unbelief there is a vast amount of ignorance, and ignorance is always the mother of dismay and consternation. In the ignorant times in this country men were always trembling at their own superstitions.

2. The text shows us that carnal reason judgeth afflictions only "for the present." "No chastisement for the present seemeth to be joyous." It judges in the present light, which happens to be the very worst in which to form a correct estimate. Suppose that I am under a great tribulation to-day — let it be a bodily affliction — the head is aching, the mind is agitated, am I in a fit state then to judge the quality of affliction with a distracted brain?

3. This brings me to observe that since carnal reason only sees the seeming of the thing, and sees even that in the pale light of the present, therefore affliction never seemeth to be joyous. If affliction seemed to be joyous, would, it. be a chastisement at all?

(1)It never seems to be joyous in the object of it. The Lord always takes care, when He does strike, to hit in a tender place.

(2)Nor is it joyous in the force of it.

(3)Nor as to the time of it.

(4)Nor as to the instrument.

4. Nay, more, the text assures us that every affliction seemeth to be grievous. Perhaps to the true Christian, who is much grown in grace, the most grievous part of the affliction is this. "Now," saith he, "I cannot see the benefit of it; if I could I would rejoice. Instead of doing good, it really seems to do harm." "Such a brother has been taken away just in the midst of his usefulness," cries the bereaved friend. A wife says, "My dear husband was called away just when the children needed most his care."

5. But now let me add that all this is only seeming. Faith triumphs in trial. There is a subject for song even in the smarts of the rod. For, first, the trial is not as heavy as it might have been; next, the trouble is not so severe as it ought to have been, and certainly the affliction is not so terrible as the burden which others have to carry.

II. We have spoken of sore afflictions; well, now, next we have BLESSED FRUIT-BEARING.

1. I want you to notice the word which goes before the fruit bearing part of the text. "No chastisement for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless." Now what does that mean? That this fruit-bearing is not natural — it is not the natural effect of affliction. Trials breed discontent, anger, envy, rebellion, enmity, murmuring, and a thousand other ills; but God overruleth and makes the very thing which would make Christians worse to minister unto their growth in holiness and spirituality. It is not the natural fruit of affliction, but the supernatural use to which God turns it in bringing good out of evil.

2. And then observe that this fruit is not instantaneous. "Nevertheless," what is the next word?" Afterwards." Many believers are deeply grieved because they do not at once feel that they have been profited by their afflictions. Well, you do not expect to see apples or plums on a tree which you have planted but a week.

3. Well, now, you will note in the text a sort of gradation with regard to what affliction does afterwards. "It brings forth fruit"; that is one step. That fruit is "the fruit of righteousness"; here is aa advance. That righteous fruit is "peaceable"; this is the best of all.

III. And now for the third point, and that is FAVOURED SONS. "Nevertheless, afterwards it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness in them which are exercised thereby." It is not every Christian who gets a blessing from affliction, at least, not from every affliction that he has. I conceive that the last words are inserted by way of distinction — "those that are exercised thereby." You know there are some of the Lord's children who, when they get a trouble, are not exercised by it, because they run away from it. There are others who, when under trouble, are callous and do not yield; they bear it as a stone would bear it; the Lord may give or take away, they are equally senseless; they look upon it as the work of blind fate, not as the fruit of that blessed predestination which is ruled by a Father's hand. They get no benefit from tribulation; it never enters into them, they are not exercised by it. Now, you know what the word "exercised" means. In the Greek gymnasium the training master would challenge the youths to meet him in combat. He knew how to strike, to guard, to wrestle. Many severe blows the young combatants received from him, but this was a part of their education, preparing them at some future time to appear publicly in the games. He who shirked the trial and declined the encounter with the trainer received no good from him, even though he would probably be thoroughly well flogged for his cowardice. The youth whose athletic frame was prepared for future struggles was he who stepped forth boldly to be exercised by his master. If you see afflictions come, and sit down impatiently, and will not be exercised by your trials, then you do not get the peaceable fruit of righteousness; but if, like a man, you say, "Now is my time of trial, I will play the man; wake up my faith to meet the foe; take hold of God; stand with firm foot and slip not; let all my graces be aroused, for here is something to be exercised upon"; it is then that a man's bone and sinew and muscle all grow stronger.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. WHAT ARE THOSE FRUITS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS WHICH THE DIVINE CHASTENINGS ARE SENT TO PRODUCE.

1. The mortification of our sinful lusts.

2. A more warm and active zeal and diligence in all the great duties of life and religion.

3. Another good fruit of affliction is manifest in the visible growth and improvement of those particular virtues and graces in which we have been too deficient.(1) One great design of affliction is to revive our regards to God; and to engage us to seek our happiness from and fix our dependence only upon Him.(2) Another Christian virtue which afflictions are very proper to cultivate is humility.(3) Patience is another grace that is often much improved by afflictions. For without them it could have no exercise or trial.(4) Another Christian grace which afflictions are sent to exercise and strengthen is faith.(5) Submission and resignation to the will of God is another Christian grace that is often much improved by affliction.(6) An increase of heavenly-mindedness is another good fruit that is often produced by afflictions. And to produce this indeed they have the directest tendency. For when the soul is well weary of this world it will naturally begin to look out, and long for a better.

II. WHY THESE ARE CALLED THE PEACEABLE FRUITS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

1. Because they will help us to bear afflictions with the most quiet and peaceable temper of mind whilst we are under them.

2. Because they give it an habitual peace and serenity afterwards,

III. WHO THEY ARE ON WHOM AFFLICTIONS HAVE THIS HAPPY EFFECT.

1. It is most certain that all who are under afflictions do not receive benefit by them.

2. It is not every good man that reaps all those advantages by his afflictions I before mentioned.

3. The meaning is that the Divine discipline has this design and tendency, that afflictions are in their own nature a powerful expedient to reform the mind and make the heart better, and to procure the greatest spiritual benefit to those who are exercised thereby. And

4. That they actually have this effect upon those who take a proper care to improve them. They take effect the same way that all other means do, that is, by being carefully used, attended to, and improved by us.

IV. WHAT IS NECESSARY ON OUR PART TO PROCURE THESE HAPPY FRUITS OF AFFLICTION, or in what manner we are to behave that they may actually yield to us the peaceable fruits of righteousness whenever we are exercised thereby.

1. The first thing necessary on our part in order to improve affliction is serious thought or deep self-reflection.

2. A constant watchfulness under our afflictions is equally necessary to our receiving real good from them.

3. Another means to get good by afflictions is frequent and persevering prayer.Conclusion:

1. We hence learn that it is a great mistake to think, as some good Christians are ready to do, that all afflictions are sent in a way of anger, and are tokens of God's.

2. From what hath been said upon this subject we may distinctly see what it is to have afflictions sanctified. Afflictions are then sanctified, and then only, when they increase our love to God, our humility, our patience, our faith, resignation, and heavenly-mindedness.

3. What reason have we to adore the wisdom and goodness of our heavenly Father in laying His children under those afflicting dispensations which are necessary to their true interest?

4. What hath been said may tend to prepare us to meet the future sufferings of life and teach us how to bear them.

5. How little reason have we to he very fond of a world so subject to vicissitude, anxiety, and sorrow!

(John Mason, M. A.)

The first time I went to a potter's house was in a very remote part of the Southern States. I do not know that what I witnessed there was a fair sample of the ruder forms of pottery, but I judge it was. I had never seen a vessel shaped on the wheel before, and I asked the potter to let me see him make one. He took a little lump of clay, but instead of putting it immediately on the wheel, he took it in one hand and began to give it very heavy blows with his fist. I almost thought he was angry with the poor clay before him, and I said, "What are you doing with it? I thought you were going to make a vessel." "So I am, when I get it ready. I am getting the air bubbles out of it. If I were to put it on the wheel as it is, it would be spoiled ill a few moments. One of those little bubbles would mar all my work. So I beat it and beat it, and in this way get all the air out of it." Ah! I thought, so does God have to treat us. The great difficulty with us is those little bubbles of self-conceit, of our own self-will, and sometimes of our self-righteousness — something that, in the process of God's work, would wonderfully mar it. So He has to deal with us severely; but He is not angry with the poor clay before Him. He is not angry with us when He puts us through this process of adversity. He is only getting out of us all that would mar His blessed work. How wise it is, then, for us just to accept, with perfect simplicity, His will!

A sky never clouded would cause a barren earth.

(Good Words.)

Dr. Bushnell's Life.
Dr. Bushnell lost a son. When, a year or two after, he went into the country to preach for an old friend, the latter noticed an increased fervour in his preaching, and, in intimate talk, perhaps, alluded to it, when he said, earnestly, "I have learned more of experimental religion since my little boy died than in all my life before."

(Dr. Bushnell's Life.)

So it must ever be. Day out of night, spring out of winter, flowers out of frost, joy out of sorrow, fruitfulness out of pruning, Olivet out of Gethsemane, the ascension out of Calvary, life out of death, and the Christ that is to be out of the pangs of a travailing creation.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

Of Anna, Lady Hacket, it was said that as a ball when forcibly struck down rebounds the higher, so what had beaten down her worldly hopes raised her faith to a more steadfast persuasion that God, who is the Comforter of those who are cast down, would still be her God and guide unto death.

(H. Clissold, M. A.)

I have been all my life like a child whose father wishes to fix his undivided attention. At first the child runs about the room, but his father ties up his feet; he then plays with his hands until they likewise are tied. Thus he continues to do, till he is completely tied up. Then, when he can do nothing else, he will attend to his father. Just so has God been dealing with me to induce me to place my happiness in Him alone. But I blindly continued to look for it here, and God has kept cutting off one source of enjoyment after another, till I find that I can do without them all, and yet enjoy more happiness than ever in my life before.

(E. Payson.)

Ulrich Zwingle was a convinced reformer, and a self-denying pastor, before the plague broke out in Zurich, but that visitation was to him as life from the dead. He had returned hastily, while still an invalid, from a watering-place where he was seeking health, to minister to the dying, till struck down by the scourge himself; but when he rose again, it was with such a sight of spiritual things, and such a power of ministry, as he had never had before, so that two thousand of his fellow-citizens were soon after converted by his preaching.

(J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

Robert Hall, although he had been admitted to membership in his father's church at fourteen years of age, after " a very distinct account of his being the subject of Divine grace," believed that his moral transformation was effected much later by means of the terrible discipline of pain which interrupted his ministry, and even for a time unhinged his reason. "There can be no question that from this period he seemed more to live under the prevailing recollection of his entire dependence upon God, that his habits were more devotional than they had ever before been, his spiritual exercises more frequent and more elevated."

(J. F. B. Tinling, B. A.)

As musicians sometimes go through perplexing mazes of discord in order to come to the inexpressible sweetness of after chords, so men's discords of trouble and chromatic jars, if God be their leader, are only preparing for a resolution into such harmonious strains as could never have been raised except upon such undertones, Most persons are more anxious to stop their sorrow than to carry it forward to its choral outburst.

(H. W. Beecher.)

Men think God is destroying them because He is tuning them. The violinist screws up the key till the tense cord sounds the concert pitch; but it is not to break it, but to use it tunefully, that he stretches the siring upon the musical rack.

(H. W. Beecher.)

The Rev. James Hog, of Carnock, an eminent minister, was long under deep mental distress. When he had lived in Holland for a considerable time, it pleased God unexpectedly to impart a great measure of light to his mind. "Oh, how sweet," says he, "the light was to me, who had been shut up in a dark dungeon! for sometimes I could do nothing but cry, 'Send out Thy light and Thy truth.' After I had thus cried, not without some experience of a gracious answer, and expectation of more, I quickly found my soul brought out of prison, and breathing in a free and heavenly air; altogether astonished at the amazing mercy and grace of God."

There is a striking passage in which a great philosopher, the famous Bishop Berkeley, describes the thought which occurred to him of the inscrutable schemes of Providence, as he saw in St. Paul's Cathedral a fly moving on one of the pillars. "It requires," he says, "some comprehension in the eye of an intelligent spectator to take in at one view the various parts of the building in order to observe their symmetry and design. But to the fly, whose prospect was confined to a little part of one of the stones of a single pillar, the joint beauty of the whole, or the distinct use of its parts, was inconspicuous. To that limited view the irregularities on the surface of the hewn stone seemed to be so many deformed rocks and precipices." That fly on the pillar, of which the philosopher spoke, is the likeness of each human being as he creeps along the vast pillars which support the universe. The sorrow which appears to us nothing but a yawning chasm or hideous precipice may turn out to be but the joining or cement which binds together the fragments of our existence into a solid whole! That dark and crooked path in which we have to grope our way in doubt and fear may be but the curve which, in the full daylight of a brighter world, will appear to be the necessary finish of some choice ornament, the inevitable span of some majestic arch!

(Dean Stanley.)

Keen students of nature, and especially of marine life in all its forms, often welcome the tempest, because after it they frequently get their choicest specimens. In the journal of the late Dr. Coldstream it is thus written: "This morning, as the storm had subsided, I determined to go down to the sands of Leith, that I might revel in the riches that might have been cast up by the deep after the terrible storm." So it is with believers; their very richest experiences and the choicest tokens of Divine favour are often got in and after their stormiest trials.

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