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Some persons say that such a doctrine as this is very easy to preach but very hard to practice; but this is a mistake. It is easy and delightful to practice. It is the contrary which is hard. It is the spirit of insubmission and resistance which is hard. It is the kicking against the pricks which is hard. Whoever learns the lesson of submission to the will of God learns the secret of comfort and happiness. He enjoys everything good more, and suffers everything evil less, than another. In fact there is a kind of pleasure in receiving a cup of trial and sorrow from the hand of one whom you love and adore, when you come thoroughly to feel that he has the right to do with you just as he pleases, and that he will only please to do what is right. Many souls in this frame of mind have welcomed disappointment and sorrow. They open their doors to trouble and bid it come in, since it is sent from God.
The celebrated words of Kirk White are not mere poetry; they express feelings to which many hearts can respond :
“Come, Disappointment, come!
Not in thy terrors clad;
But I recline
Beneath thy shrine,
Though Fancy lies away
Before thy hollow tread,
And though the tear
By chance appear,
Come, Disappointment, come!
Though from Hope's summit hurld,
To turn my eye
Come, Disappointment, come!
Thou art not stern to me;
From sun to sun
My race will run I only bow, and say, My God, thy will oe done! This submission, however, which makes us willing to receive calmly and patiently whatever divine providence sends, does not prevent our feeling it. Some persons seem to confound resignation with insensibility, or at least they imagine that great grief shows want of resignation. But I suppose that resignation, after all, does not tend so much to diminish the depth, as to change the character of sorrow, When we lose a friend, for example, by death or some unhappy alienation, we may feel the loss more or less, according to the circumstances of the case, without being resigned to it at all. On the other hand, there may be the most entire and happy acquiescence in the divine will, under the pressure of a sorrow which entirely overwhelms the soul. We must not, therefore, infer, when we see a wife overwhelmed with grief at the loss of a husband, or a mother for a son, we must not infer from the depth of the sufferer's anguish that she is not resigned. She may be perfectly so. Resignation does not turn grief into gladness. It does not weaken sensibility, or stop tears. It takes away the repining, the restlessness and the bitterness of grief,—but leaves the melting tenderness of the soul the same as before. Resignation does not destroy suffering, -it makes us willing to bear suffering. It takes away resistance to sorrow from the mind, not the sorrow itself. But in doing so it changes the whole character of the sorrow, not by diminishing its intensity, but by destroying its sting. It remains as great as before, but it ceases to be suffering.
We must say then to the mourner, mourn on,—but mourn, lying sweetly in the arms of divine love. Mourn on, there, and your mourning will be the joy of grief, with all its anguish and bitterness taken away.
Let us all then come at once, and acquiesce cordially and happily in the control of the mighty hand which is over us.
That hand, most certainly is over us, and struggle as much as we may, we can never resist its power. We are now where we are, and what we are, not because ten years ago we planned and designed it, but because God has brought us on to our present position, in a way we knew not of,
And where and what we shall be ten years hence, depends upon God's designs for us, not upon our own schemes and plans for ourselves. He will decide whether we are soon to be swallowed up in the vortices of sorrow and death which are whirling around us, or whether we shall float on a little longer. A thousand years hence we shall be where and what he pleases,enjoying such means of happiness as he may prepare for us, or suffering the pains which his righteous retribution may provide for spirits which cannot bear his gentle sway. Let us learn soon the lesson, “ Thy will be done." He who can say this always, everywhere, and under all circumstances, is safe and happy, let what will befal him. His soul is enveloped in a protection which no sharp arrow can pierce. He cannot be hurt; he cannot be wounded. His experience in life will admit of one change,-from joyful happiness in glad hours, to sad happiness in sorrow and tears. Whatever the change is, it will be peace and happiness still. Let us all learn then to say, “ Thy will be done."
This kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting:-What kind ? A kind of hard, inveterate devils, that get into the heart and stay there. They used of old to take the form of lunatics, and often cast men into the fire, and often into the water. But they have changed somewhat their mode of operation, and having become more refined and quiet, more cunning and less tangible, are far more difficult to be cast out. They know better how to keep concealed, and how to act without violence. They used to inhabit only the hearts of pagans, and men dead in trespasses and sins, but since they have tried successfully the experiment of going into a heart empty and swept and garnished, and set up an establishment there, they often steal into the hearts of God's own people, yea, sometimes seven devils of them together, making no noise, but all so quietly and gradually, that the poor deceived heart does not even know their entrance.
But when they have so got in, it is sad havoc that they make with a man's piety. They fill the heart with tombs and desert placru. they cast out its warm affections, and introduce habits of coldned conformity to this world. They go so far, oftentimes, as to make secret prayer and family prayer to become a mere form and a burthen, and the word of God a sealed, unattractive book.Sometimes for a season they get so completely the mastery, that there is nothing in the heart or the habits that can be called secret prayer at all. But when this is the case, then generally they are on the eve of some daring and riotous outbreak. They will take possession of men thus secretly mastered, as if they were swine, and will make them run violently down the steep places of their passions into the sea, and perish in the waters. And they who do not go thus outwardly lunatic are none the less to be pitied, so long as the devils stay secretly within them, and wander from room to roon, eating up all the piety they can find, and destroying all the soul's spiritual power and comfort.
This kind goeth out but by prayer and fasting. But a man who has had these devils a long time, gets entirely out of the habit of such prayer and fasting as are requisite to overcome them. They are like rats, that stay and thrive in houses where there is much feasting and good cheer. Where there is little prayer and fasting, they have all things to their own mind, and grow strong and multiply. Then it becomes more and more difficult for the man that entertains these devils to pray and fast; but yet prayer and fasting become more and more necessary, if he wonld ever get back the command over himself, if he would have the Lord Jesus overcome and bind and cast out the devils, and the Holy Spirit enter and make the heart's chambers his own pure and peaceful abode.
In all spiritual duties, when there is the greatest necessity for them by reason of the sad declining state of the heart, then they are the most tedious and difficult. It is so with fasting and prayer, when there are many devils. And sometimes the whole church gets into such a state that you might as easily move a mountain with a bodkin, as set it of a truth to fasting and prayer. When there has been a long period of worldliness, comfort and ease, when Ephraim in prosperity has got settled on his lees, it is a very difficult thing to disturb him. The mere appointment of a day of fasting and prayer will not do it. The mere formal observance of a day of prayer and fasting will not do it. No, not though there be a good attendance on such a day, and good prayer-meetings attending it, and good Christians going without their dinners, and congratulating themselves that there is once more a fast day in the church. Oh no, that will not do it. Many a man may go without his dinner to frighten the devils, but invite them all back again at supper. Oh no, unless the fasting comes from the heart, and the heart weeps and prays in secret, there is nothing gained. Real fasting and prayer is hard work, when the evils in the heart have grown quietly and unperceived, and have lain undisturbed in a period of worldly conformity.
Alas! a man has to buckle on his armor, and labor and tug, and strive, before he even finds himself in such a state that he can begin to pray and fast in earnest. Depend upon it, ye Christians who have been fasting and praying, because such a season has been appointed, that your work is but commenced in the observance of such a day. It is a season given you to start from, not a journey gained. It is a signal, at which you are to enter into your closet, and shut your door, and knock, and weep, and pray, day after day, day after day. Now, if you begin to do this in the observance of a set day with others, you are indeed doing a great work. You have adopted a fast, such as God chooses, you are engaged in a work which the Savior loves to see, and if you persevere, the devils will give way before you, and the Holy Spirit will fill your heart with power, and peace and joy. But doubtless you must do this as an individual, and not in reliance upon church meetings. You must do it for YOUR OWN HEART, and not merely because the church needs reviving. The church does need reviving, but remember, it is because you need reviving.