If you falter in the day of distress, how small is your strength!
I. THE TESTING TIME THAT COMES TO ALL MEN. It is true that prosperity has its own perils, and makes its own demands on the human spirit. But when the sky is clear above us, when loving friends stand round us with protecting care, when privileges abound on every side, it is comparatively easy to maintain an equable and obedient mind. We can all row with the stream and sail with the favouring wind. But the hour must come to us that comes to all in time, when we have to face difficulty, or to bear obloquy, or to sustain heavy loss, or to go on our way with a lonely heart, or to suffer some keen and all but crusading disappointment. When we are moved to say with Jacob, "All these things are against me;" with Elijah, "Lord, take away my life;" we faint and fall in the day of adversity.
II. THE RESOURCES THAT SHOULD BE AT OUR COMMAND. When that hour comes to us, as it certainly will, we should be prepared to bear ourselves bravely and well; for there are many sources of strength with which we should be supplied. There is:
1. Ordinary human fortitude. Such manliness and strength of will as have enabled many thousands of souls - even without any aid from religion - to confront danger or death, or to show an undisturbed equanimity of mind. in the midst of severe sorrows. But beyond this there is for us:
2. Christian resignation. The willingness to leave the whole disposal of our lives to the wisdom and the love of God; readiness to endure the holy will of a Divine Father, of our best Friend.
3. Christian faith. The assurance that God is dealing with us in perfect wisdom and parental love at those times when we can least understand his way.
4. Christian hope. The confidence that "unto the upright there will arise light in the darkness;" that God will grant a happy issue out of all our afflictions; that though the just man fall seven times, he will rise again (see ver. 15); that though weeping may endure even for a long and stormy night, joy will come in the morning (Psalm 30:5).
5. Communion with God. To the distressed human spirit there remains that most precious refuge, the leaning of the heart on God, the appeal of the soul to him in earnest, believing prayer.
III. THE INFERENCE WE ARE OBLIGED TO DRAW. If, with all these resources at our command, we "faint;"
(1) if we indulge a rebellious spirit, repining at our lot and thinking ourselves hardly used; or
(2) if we yield ourselves to misery and melancholy, showing ourselves unequal to the duties that devolve upon us, resigning the useful activities in which we have been engaged; - then we must conclude that "our strength is small;" we have failed to enrich our souls with that spiritual power of which we might and should have become possessed. Bat that we may not have to deplore our weakness in the day of adversity, and that we may not give a sorry illustration of Christian life as it ought not to be seen, let us learn what is -
IV. OUR WISDOM AT THE PRESENT TIME. And that is to be gaining strength, to be continually becoming "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." This is an imperative duty (Ephesians 6:10; 2 Timothy 2:1; 2 Peter 3:18). And we are not without the necessary means. If, in the days of sunshine and prosperity, we are daily nourishing our faith, our love, our hope, our prayerfulness, by constant exercise in devotion and in sacred duty, by using the privileges so amply supplied to us, by cultivating and cherishing our onion with Jesus Christ our Lord, we shall be strong, and we shall not faint. - C.
I. THE OCCASION REFERRED TO. "The day of adversity."
If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small
I. CHRISTIANITY SHOULD PRESERVE FROM DESPONDENCY IN FAILURE. There is a tendency in trouble to dispirit. It may be checked by the force of natural energy of heart. The greater number of men are apt to sink under disappointment. Many cannot row against the tide. The evil of this depression is great. In relation to the worldly business. The man is as one possessed with a spirit of defeat. There is no ingenuity to plan; no vigorous employment of offered opportunities. This despondency affects other things. Begun in business, it extends to all departments of feeling and activity. Christianity tends to check this, because it limits the sphere of failure. It also changes its character. It teaches us that if we fail it may be the means of our greater success. The prostration, the sorrow, the want, may be the discipline of life everlasting. Sometimes the failure may be traced to the Christian's own fault. Then these considerations are inapplicable. But then the evil may be overruled for good.
II. CHRISTIANITY SHOULD PRESERVE FROM IRRITATION IN FAILURE. If the timid are most in danger of despondency, the proud are most in danger of exasperation. And who is so free from pride as not to be in danger of this? Failure may easily excite the evil passions of the soul, sour the temper, and arouse to anger and to wrath. If a man were only irritated against himself, there might not be much amiss. But the danger is nearly all the other way. The failing man is often found cherishing a wrong temper towards his fellows. To check this evil Christianity begets humility, and produces a spirit of benevolence.
III. CHRISTIANITY SHOULD PRESERVE FROM DISHONESTY IN FAILURE. Want is a temptation to dishonesty. It is not an excuse for it. Many who never had a thought that was not honourable have fallen into sin when they fell into trouble. And even when the trouble has been much less than entire failure. There is temptation to do wrong in order to evade, or conceal, or repair misfortune. Making us to love truth and equity, Christianity connects our self-respect with these principles. And, as Christians, we should be supremely concerned for the moral honour of Christianity.
(A. J. Morris.)
1. Reverse of fortune — poverty and want.
II. THE ACTION REPROVED. " If thou faint." Not the suffering of pain or the feeling of sorrow, but the excess of an allowable feeling.
1. When we yield to impatience, entertain hard thoughts of God, and distrust His goodness.
2. When we are so absorbed by adversity as to forget past prosperity.
3. When we yield to sorrow so far as to preclude necessary exertion.
4. When it causes us to yield to unholy methods in order to extricate ourselves from the difficulty. The Jews appealed to Egypt.
III. THE FAULT EXPLAINED. "Thy strength is small."
(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) IV. THE REMEDY. 1. Call into exercise the strength you have. "To him that hath," etc. 2. Cherish higher thoughts of God. 3. Wait at the throne of grace. (J. Bunting.)
(2) (3) (4) (5) IV. THE REMEDY. 1. Call into exercise the strength you have. "To him that hath," etc. 2. Cherish higher thoughts of God. 3. Wait at the throne of grace. (J. Bunting.)
(3) (4) (5) IV. THE REMEDY. 1. Call into exercise the strength you have. "To him that hath," etc. 2. Cherish higher thoughts of God. 3. Wait at the throne of grace. (J. Bunting.)
IV. THE REMEDY. 1. Call into exercise the strength you have. "To him that hath," etc. 2. Cherish higher thoughts of God. 3. Wait at the throne of grace. (J. Bunting.)
IV. THE REMEDY.
1. Call into exercise the strength you have. "To him that hath," etc.
2. Cherish higher thoughts of God.
3. Wait at the throne of grace.
Scientific Illustrations.The wych-elm manifests the approach of winter earlier than any other tree. It becomes ruined and denuded by a touch of the frosty air, and contributes no splendour, no beauty to our autumnal scenery, as its leaves curl up, become brown, and flutter from their sprays, as early, when growing in exposed situations, as the middle of September. This character of itself marks a difference from the common elm, which preserves its verdure, except from accidental causes, long after this period, and with a fine mellow yellow hue, contributing a full share with other trees to the character and splendour of autumn. The wych-elm is an emblem of the susceptible, tender human character. The soul of such a man is highly sensitive to all external impressions. The first frosty touch of a great sorrow shakes his life to its centre. Men of a more robust type are chastened by sad events; and, mellowed by chequered experiences, live on to the tranquil maturity of their existence. But he, unfortunately, cannot face the rough blasts of adversity, and perishes at once under their cruel, chilling influence. Even the cold breath of slander sometimes bears for him a sentence of death.
Scientific Illustrations.Humming-birds, colibris, and their brothers of every hue, live with impunity in the fearful forests where tropical nature, under forms oftentimes of great beauty, wages her keenest strife in those gleaming solitudes where danger lurks on every side — among the most venomous insects, and upon those most mournful plants whose every shade kills. One of them (crested, green, and blue), in the Antilles, suspends his nest to the most terrible and fatal of trees, to the spectre whose fatal glance seems to freeze your blood for ever, to the deadly manchineal. It is this parroquet, which boldly crops the fruits of the fearful tree, feeds upon them, assumes their livery, and appears, from its sinister green, to draw the metallic lustre of its triumphant wings. Nature endows the birds, as she also endows men, with a marvellous capacity for accommodation to circumstances. Beautiful birds are not made out of what we should consider wholesome food, and beautiful characters are not made out of the choice events of history. Nature supplies us with an appropriative power whereby we transmute everything to the purposes which she intends to serve. We know to what splendid purposes genius has been able to turn poverty, jails, cruelty, persecution. Some of the finest characters in history have been formed by and flourished upon these unpromising elements. The bird does not take the poison and submit to death; it transmutes it into life and beauty. The hero does not let circumstances subdue him; he makes circumstances subserve the growth of his character.
(H. W. Beecher.)
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