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The Rainbow in the Clouds
by John MacDuff
"When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will be
seen in the clouds" Genesis 9:14
"The Lord Reigns." Psalm 93:1
No rainbow of promise in the "dark and cloudy day" shines more radiantly
than this. God, my God, the God who gave Jesus, orders all events, and
overrules all for my good! "When I," says He, "send clouds over the earth."
He has no wish to conceal the hand which shadows for a time earth's
brightest prospects. It is He alike who "brings the cloud", who brings us
into it, and in mercy leads us through it! His kingdom rules over all. "The
lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord."
He puts the burden on, and keeps it on, and at His own time will remove it!
Beware of brooding over second causes. It is the worst form of atheism!
When our most fondly cherished gourds are smitten; our fairest flowers lie
withered in our bosom; this is the silencer of all reflections– "The Lord
prepared the worm!" When the temple of the soul is smitten with lightning,
and its pillars rent: "The Lord is in His holy temple!" Accident, chance,
fate, destiny, have no place in the Christian's creed. He is no unpiloted
vessel left to the mercy of the storm. "The voice of the Lord is upon the
waters!" There is but one explanation of all that befalls him: "I will be
dumb, I will open not my mouth, because You did it."
Death seems to the human spectator, the most capricious and severe of all
events. But not so. The keys of death and Hades are in the hands of this
same reigning God! Look at the parable of the fig-tree. Its prolonged
existence, or its doom as a cumberer, forms matter of conversation in
heaven; the axe cannot be laid at its root until God gives the warrant! How
much more will this be the case regarding every "Tree of Righteousness, the
planting of the Lord?" It will be watched over by Him, "Lest anyone hurt
it." Every trembling fiber He will care for; and if made early to succumb to
the inevitable stroke, "Who knows not in all these things, that the hand of
the Lord has wrought this." Be it mine to merge my own will in His; not to
cavil at His ways, or to seek to have one jot or tittle of His will altered;
but to lie passive in His hands; to take the bitter as well as the sweet,
knowing that the bitter cup is mingled by One who loves me too well to add
one ingredient that might have been spared!
Who can wonder that the sweet Psalmist of Israel should seek, as he sees it
spanning the lower heavens, to fix the arrested gaze of a whole world on the
softened tints of this Rainbow of Comfort, "The Lord reigns, let the earth
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2. A Loving Purpose
"The Lord has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant." Psalm 35:27
What is "prosperity?" Is it threads of life weaved into a bright outcome? a
full cup? ample riches? worldly applause? an unbroken circle? No, these are
often a snare; received without gratitude; dimming the soul to its nobler
destinies. Often spiritually it rather means God taking us by the hand into
the lowly Valleys of Humiliation; leading us as He did his servant Job of
old; out of his sheep, oxen, camels, health, wealth, children; in order that
we may be brought before Him in the dust, and say, "Blessed be His holy
Yes! The very reverse of what is known in the world as Prosperity
(generally) forms the background on which the Rainbow of Promise is seen.
God smiles on us through these rainbows and teardrops of sorrows! He loves
us too well. He has too great an interest in our spiritual welfare to permit
us to live on in what is misnamed "Prosperity." When He sees duties
languidly performed, or coldly neglected; the heart deadened, and love to
Himself congealed by the absorbing power of the present world, He puts a
thorn in our nest to drive us to the wing, and prevent our being grovelers
I may not be able now to understand the mystery of these dealings. I may be
asking through the tears, "Why this unkind arrest on my earthly happiness?
Why so premature a lopping of my boughs of promise? Such a speedy withering
of my most cherished gourd?" The answer is plain. It is your soul's
prosperity He has in view. Believe it, your true Ebenezers will yet be
raised close by your Zarephaths (the place of furnace).
His afflictions are no arbitrary appointments. There is righteous necessity
in all He does. As He lays His chastening hand upon you, and leads you by
ways you know not, and which you never would have chosen. He whispers the
gentle accents in your ear, "Beloved I wish above all things that you would
prosper, and be in health."
Rest in the quiet consciousness that all is well. Murmur at nothing which
brings you nearer His own loving Presence. Be thankful for your very cares,
because you can confidently cast them all upon Him. He has your temporal and
eternal "prosperity" too much at heart to appoint one superfluous pang, one
needless stroke. Commit therefore, all that concerns you to His keeping, and
leave it there.
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3. The Safe Refuge
"A man shall be a shelter from the wind; and a refuge from the storm; like
streams of water in the desert; and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty
land." Isaiah 32:2
"A man!" This first word forms the key to the precious verse, It is "The man
Christ Jesus!" And when and where is He thus revealed to His people as their
hiding place and shelter? It is, as with Elijah of old, in the whirlwind and
the storm! Amid the world's bright sunshine, in the tranquil skies,
uninterrupted prosperity, they seek Him not! But when the clouds begin to
gather, and the sun is swept from the firmament; when they have learned the
insecurity of all earthly refuges, then the prayer ascends, "My heart is
overwhelmed, lead me to the Rock that is higher than I." The Earthquake, the
Tempest, the Fire, and then "the still small voice!" Sorrowing believer, you
have indeed a Sure Refuge; a Strong Tower which cannot be shaken! The world
has its refuges too. But they cannot stand the day of trial. The wind passes
over them and they are gone! But the louder the hurricane, the more will it
endear to you the abiding Shelter; the deeper in the clefts of this ROCK,
the safer you are.
A Man! Delight often to dwell on the humanity of Jesus; you have a brother
on the throne! a "living Kinsman," one who "knows your frame," and who, by
the exquisite sympathies of His exalted human nature, can gauge, as none
other can, the depths of your sorrow.
An earthly friend comes to you in trial, he has never known bereavement,
and therefore can not enter into your woe. Another comes; he has been again
and again in the furnace; his heart has been touched tenderly as your own;
he can feelingly sympathize with you. It is so with Jesus. As man, He has
passed through every experience of suffering. He has Himself known the storm
from which He offers you shelter. He is the ROCK, yet "a Man!" "Mighty to
save;" yet mighty to compassionate! "Emmanuel, God with us!" He is like the
rainbow in the material heavens, which, while its summit is in the clouds,
each base of its arc rests on earth; or like the oak which, while it can
wrestle with the tempest, yet invites the most feeble bird to fold its wing
on its branches!
Mourner! Go sit under your "Beloved's shadow with great delight." Hide in
His wounded side! The hand which pierced you is ordering your trials; He who
roused the storm is the hiding place from it; and as you journey on, gloomy
clouds mustering around you, let this bright rainbow of comfort ever arrest
your drooping eye; "For this reason He had to be made like His brothers in
every way... since He Himself has gone through suffering and temptation, He
is able to help us when we are being tempted."
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4. The Reason for Chastisement
"Whom the Lord loves He chastens." Hebrews 12:6
What! God loves me when He is discharging His quiver upon me! emptying me
from vessel to vessel! causing the sun of my earthly joys to set in clouds?
Yes! O afflicted, tossed with tempest; He chastens you because He loves you!
This trial comes from His own tender, loving hand; His own tender,
Are you laid on a sickbed; are sorrowful months and wearisome nights
appointed unto you? Let this be the pillow on which your aching head
reclines. It is because He loves me!
Is it bereavement that has swept your heart and desolated your dwelling? He
appointed that chamber of death, because He loves you! As it is the
suffering child of the family which claims a mother's deepest affections and
most tender solicitude, so have you at this moment embarked on your side the
most tender love and solicitude of a heavenly Father. He loved you into this
sorrow, and will love you through it. There is nothing capricious in His
dealings. LOVE is the reason of all He does. There is no drop of wrath in
that cup you are called to drink. "I do believe," says one, "He has
purchased these afflictions for us, as well as everything else. Blessed be
His name, it is part of His covenant to visit us with the rod." What says
our adorable Lord himself? The words were spoken, not when He was on earth,
a sojourner in a sorrowing world, but when enthroned amid the glories of
heaven. "As many as I love I rebuke and chasten." (Revelation 3:19)
Believer! rejoice in the thought that the rod, the chastening rod, is in
the hands of the living, loving Savior, who died for you! Tribulation is the
King's Highway and yet that highway is paved with love. As some flowers
before shedding their fragrance require to be crushed, so does your God
think it suitable to bruise you. As some birds are said to sing their
sweetest notes when the thorn pierces their bosom, so does He appoint
affliction to lacerate, that you may be driven to the wing, singing, in your
upward soaring, "My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed!"
Be it ours to say, "Lord, I will love You not only despite Your rod, but
because of your rod." I will rush into the very arms that are chastening me!
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"I the Lord change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed."
The Unchangeableness of God. What an anchor for a storm tossed sea! "Change
is our portion here!" Scenes are altering. Joys are fading. Friends! some of
them are removed at a distance; others have gone to their 'long home'. Who,
amid these checkered experiences, does not sigh for something permanent,
stable, enduring? The vessel has again and again slipped its earthly
moorings. We long for some secure and sheltered harbor.
"I change not!" Heart and flesh may faint; yes, do faint and fail but there
is an unfainting, unfailing, unvarying God. All the changes in the world
around cannot affect Him. Our own fitfulness cannot alter Him. When we are
depressed, downcast, fluctuating, our treacherous hearts turning aside "like
a broken bow," He is without one "shadow of turning." "God who cannot lie,"
is the superscription on His eternal throne; and inscribed on all His
"I change not!" Precious name! It forms a blessed guarantee that nothing
can befall me but what is for my good. I cannot doubt His faithfulness. I
dare not arraign the rectitude of His dispensations. It is covenant love
which is now darkening my earthly horizon. This hour He is the same as when
He "spared not His own Son!" Oh, instead of wondering at my trials, let me
rather wonder that He has borne with me so long. It is of the Lord's
unchanging mercies that I am not consumed. Had He been man, changeful,
vacillating, as myself, long before now would He have spurned me away, and
consigned me to the doom of the cumberer. But, "My thoughts are not your
thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord." He is without any
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6. Divine Sympathy
"I know their sorrows." Exodus 3:7
Man cannot say so. There are many sensitive fibers in the soul the best and
most tender human sympathy cannot touch. But the Prince of Sufferers, He who
led the way in the path of sorrow, "knows our frame." When crushing
bereavement lies like ice on the heart, when the dearest earthly friend
cannot enter into the peculiarities of our grief, Jesus can, Jesus does! He
who once bore my sins also carried my sorrows.
That eye, now on the throne, was once dim with weeping! I can think in all
my afflictions, "He was afflicted," in all my tears, "Jesus wept."
"I know their sorrows!" He may seem at times thus to forget and forsake us;
leaving us to utter the plaintive cry, "Has God forgotten to be gracious,"
when all the while He is bending over us in the most tender love. He often
allows our needs to attain their extremity, that He may stretch forth His
succoring hand, and reveal the plenitude of His Grace! "The Lord is very
pitiful and of tender mercy."
And "knowing" our sorrows, is a guarantee that none will be sent but what
He sees to be needful. "I will not," says He, "make a full end of you, but I
will correct you in measure." (Jer. 30:11) All He sends is precisely meted
out; wisely apportioned. There is nothing accidental or fortuitous; no
unneeded thorn; no superfluous pang. He "puts our tears in a bottle." (Psalm
61:8) Each one is counted, drop by drop, tear by tear, they are sacred
things among the treasures of God! Suffering believer, the iron may have
entered deeply into your soul; yet rejoice! Great is your honor; you are
partaker with Christ in His sufferings. Jesus a sorrowing, sympathizing
Jesus, "knows" your aching pangs and burning tears, and He will "come down
to deliver you!"
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7. A Gracious Condition
"If need be." 1 Peter 1:6
What a blessed motto and superscription over the dark lintels of sorrow! "If
need be!" Every sharp arrow from the quiver of God is feathered with it!
Write it, child of affliction, over every trial your God sees fit to send!
If He calls you down from the sunny mountain heights to the dark glades,
hear Him saying, "There is a need be." If He has dashed the cup of
prosperity from your lips, curtailed your creature comforts, diminished your
"basket and your store," hear Him saying, "There is a need be." If He has
ploughed and furrowed your soul with severe bereavement; extinguished light
after light in your dwelling; hear Him therefore stilling the tumult of your
grief "there is a need be." Yes! believe it, there is some profound reason
for your trial, which at present may be indiscernible. No furnace will be
hotter than He sees to be needed.
Sometimes indeed, His teachings are mysterious. We can with difficulty spell
out the letters, "God is love!" We can see no "bright light," in "our
cloud." It is all mystery; not one break is there in the sky! No! "Hear what
God the Lord speaks." "If need be."
He does not long leave His people alone, if He sees the chariot wheels
dragging heavily. He will take His own means to sever them from an absorbing
love of the world; to pursue them out of self; and dislodge usurping clay
idols that may have vaulted on the throne which He alone may occupy. Before
your present trial He may have seen your love waxing cold, or your influence
for good lessening. As the sun puts out the fire, the sun of earthly
prosperity may have been extinguishing the fires of your soul. You may have
been shining less brightly for Christ, effecting some guilty compromise with
an insinuating and seductive world. He has appointed the very discipline and
dealing needful; nothing less could have done!
Be still, and know that He is God! That "need be," remember, is in the
hands of Infinite Love, Infinite Wisdom, Infinite Power. Trust Him in little
things as well as great things, in trifles as well as emergencies.
Seek to have unquestioning faith. Though other paths, doubtless, would have
been selected by you had the choice been in your hands, be it yours to
listen to His voice at every turn in the road, saying, "This is the way,
walk in it." We may not be able to understand it now, but one day we shall
come to find, that AFFLICTION is one of God's blessed angels; a ministering
spirit, "sent forth to minister to those who are heirs of salvation."
Lovelier, indeed, to the eye, is the azure blue; the fleecy summer vapors,
or gold and vermilion of western sunsets. But what would become of the earth
if no dark clouds from time to time hung over it; distilling their
treasures, reviving and refreshing its drooping vegetable tribes?
Is it otherwise with the soul? No. The cloud of sorrow is needed. Its every
raindrop has an inner meaning of LOVE! If, even now, afflicted one, these
clouds are gathering, and the tempest sighing, lift up your eye to the
divine scroll gleaming in the darkened heavens, and remember that He who has
put the Rainbow of promise there, saw also a "need be" for the cloud on
which it rests!
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8. Presence and Rest
"My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest." Exodus 33:14
Moses asked to be shown "the way." Here is the answer: The way is not shown;
but better than this, God says, "Trust Me, I will go with you!" Afflicted
one! hear the voice addressing you from the cloudy pillar. It is a
wilderness promise which "the God of Jeshurun" speaks to His spiritual
Israel still. He who led His people of old "like a flock by the hand of
Moses and Aaron," will manifest towards you the same Shepherd love. The way
may be very different from what we could have wished; what we would have
chosen. But the choice is in better hands. He had His own wise and righteous
ends in every devious turning in it.
Who can look back on the past leadings of God without gratitude and
thankfulness? When His sheep have been conducted to the rougher parts of the
wilderness, He, their Shepherd, has "gone before them. When their fleece was
torn, and footsore and weary, He has borne them in His arms. His presence
has lightened every cross and sweetened every care. Let us trust Him for an
unknown and checkered future. Other companionships we cherished may have
failed us, but One who is better than the best, goes before us in His
gracious pillar cloud. With Him for our portion, take what He will away, we
must be happy; we can rise above the loss of the earthly gift, in the
consciousness of the nobler possession and heritage we enjoy in the Great
Bestower. He may have seen fit to level clay idols, that He, the All
Satisfying might reign paramount and supreme. He may have seen to take
earthly "presences" away, to give us to breathe more earnestly the prayer
"If YOUR presence go not with us, carry us not hence." He will not allow us
to rear havens on earth, and to write upon them, "This is my rest." No-
'tenting time' here; resting time yonder! But "Fear not," He seems to say
"You are not left without a friend or without solace on the way Pilgrim in a
pilgrim land! 'My presence shall go with you.' In all your dark and cloudy
days; in your hours of faintness and depression; in sadness; in life and in
death! And when the journey is ended, the Pillar needed no more, 'I will
give you rest'."
The pledge of Grace will be followed with the fruition of Glory!
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9. The Giver and the Taker
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the
Noble posture this; to kneel and to adore! To see no hand but ONE! Sabeans;
Fire; Whirlwind; Sword; are all overlooked. The Patriarch recognizes alone
"The Lord" who gave and "The Lord" who has taken. What is the cause of so
much depression, needless sorrow, ungospel murmuring in our hours of trial?
It was what Rutherford calls "our looking to the confused rollings of the
wheels of second causes;" a refusal to rise to "the height of the great
argument," and confidently to say, "The will of the Lord be done!" a refusal
to hear His voice; His own loving voice, mingling with the accents of the
rudest storm; "It is I!" "Is there evil in the city, and the Lord has not
done it?" Is there a bitter drop in the cup, and the Lord has not mingled
it? He loves His people too well to intrust their interest to any other. We
are but clay in the hand of the Potter; vessels in the hand of the Refiner
of silver. He metes out our portion. He appoints the bounds of our
habitation. "The Lord God prepared the gourd." "The Lord God prepared the
worm." He is the Author alike of mercies and sorrows, of comforts and
crosses. He breathes into our nostrils the breath of life; and it is at His
summons the spirit returns "to the God who gave it!"
Oh, that we would seek to regard our own lives and the lives of those dear
to us as a loan. God, as the Great Proprietor, Who, when He sees fit, can
revoke the grant or curtail the lease He gave! All mercies by Him bestowed;
by Him continued; by Him withheld.
And how often does He take away, that He may Himself enter the vacuum of
the heart and fill it with His own ineffable presence and love! No loss can
compensate for the lack of Him, but He can compensate for all losses. Let us
trust His love and faithfulness as a taking as well as a giving God. Often
are Sense and Sight tempted to say, "Not so, Lord!" But Faith, resting on
the promise, can exult in this Rainbow spanning the darkest cloud, "Even so,
Father, for it seems good in your sight!"
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10. Deliverance in Trouble
"Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will
glorify Me." Psalm 50:15
How varied are our days of trouble! Sickness, with its hours of restlessness
and languor. Bereavement, with its rifled treasures and aching hearts. Loss
of substance; the curtailment or forfeiture of worldly possessions; riches
taking to themselves wings and fleeing away; or, severer than all, the
wounds from friends; abused confidence; withered affections; hopes scattered
like the leaves of autumn!
But "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." Tried
one! He leaves not your defenseless head unsheltered in the storm. "Call
upon Me!" He invites you into the pavilion of His presence! Better the
bitter Marah waters with His healing, than the purest fountain of the world,
and no God! Better the hottest furnace flames with one there "like the Son
of God," than that the dross should be allowed to accumulate, and the soul
left to cleave to the dust! He, "the purifier of silver," is seated by these
flames, tempering their fury! Yes, He gives the special promise, "I will
deliver you." It may not be the deliverance we expect; the deliverance we
have prayed for; the deliverance we could have wished. But shall not the
most severe trial be well worth enduring, if this be the result of His
chastening love; "You will glorify Me." "Glorify Him!" How? By a simple
unreasoning faith; by meek, lowly, unmurmuring acquiescence in His dealing;
these dealings endearing the Savior and His grace more than ever to our
The day of trouble led His saints in all ages to glorify Him. David never
could have written his touching Psalms, nor Paul his precious epistles, had
not God cast them both into the crucible. To be teachers of the Church of
the future, they had to graduate in the school of affliction. If He is
appointing similar discipline, let it be our endeavor to glorify Him by
active obedience, as well as passive resignation; not abandoning ourselves
to selfish, moody, sentimental grief; but rather going forth on our great
mission; our work and warfare; with a vaster estimate of the value of time,
and the grandeur of existence. "Give glory to the Lord your God before He
cause darkness; and before your feet stumble upon the dark mountains; and,
while you look for light, He turned it into the shadow of death, and make it
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11. Pitying Love
"Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear
Him." Psalm 103:13
"Abba, Father!" is a Gospel word. A father bending over the sick bed of his
weak or dying child; a mother pressing, in tender solitude, an infant
sufferer to her bosom. These are the earthly pictures of God. "As a father
pities." "As one whom his mother comforts, so will I comfort you!"
When tempted in our season of overwhelming sorrow to say, "Never has there
been so dark a cloud, never a heart so stripped and desolate as mine," let
this thought hush every murmur, "It is your Father's good pleasure!" The
love and pity of the most tender parent is but a dim shadow compared to the
pitying love of God. If your heavenly Father's smile has for a moment been
exchanged for the chastening rod; be assured there is some deep necessity
for the altered discipline. If there be unutterable yearnings in the soul of
the earthly parent as the lancet is applied to the body of his child;
infinitely more is it so with your covenant God as He subjects you to those
deep wounds of heart! Finite wisdom has no place in His ordinations. An
earthly father may err; is ever erring; but "as for God His way is perfect."
This is the explanation of His every dealing: "Your heavenly Father knows
you have need of all these things!"
Trust His heart when you cannot trace His ways. Do not try to penetrate the
cloud which "He brings over the earth," and to look through it. Keep your
eye steadily fixed on the rainbow. The mystery is God's, the promise is
yours. Seek that the end of all His dispensations may be to make you more
confiding. Without one misgiving commit your way to Him. He says regarding
each child of His covenant family, what He said of Ephraim of old (and never
more so than in a season of suffering) "I do earnestly remember him still."
While now bending your head like a bulrush; your heart breaking with sorrow;
remember His pitying eye is upon you. Be it yours, even through blinding
tears, to say, "Even so Father!"
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12. The Blessed Hope
"That blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and Savior
Jesus Christ." Titus 2:1
What a bright rainbow for a stormed-wreathed sky! Hope is a joyous emotion!
Poetry sings of it; music warbles its lofty aspirations; but alas! how often
does it weave fantastic visions then vanish! "In the morning" the flowers of
life are flourishing and growing up; "in the evening" a mysterious blight
comes; they lie withered garlands at our feet! The longing apparitions of
the whole life seem realized; one wave of calamity overtakes us, and washes
But, there is one "blessed hope" beyond the possibility of blight or decay;
"The hope of the glory of God," the "Hope which makes not ashamed;" "the
glorious appearing of the great God and Savior!"
If we long on earth for the return of an absent friend or brother,
separated from us for a season, by intervening oceans or continent; if we
count the weeks or months until we welcome him back again to the parental
home, how should the Christian long for the return of the "Brother of
brothers," the Friend of friends: "I will come again," is His own gracious
promise, "To receive you unto Myself!" Oh happy day! when He shall be
"glorified in His saints;" when His people will suffer no more, and sin no
more. No more couches of sickness, or aching hearts; or fevered brows; no
more opened graves, or bitter tears; and, better than all, no more guilty
estrangements and traitorous unholy hearts! It will be the bridal day of the
soul. The body slumbering in the dust will be reunited a glorified body to a
redeemed spirit. The grave shall be forever spoiled; death swallowed up in
eternal victory. "So shall we be forever with the Lord."
Reader, do you "love His appearing?" Are you looking with eager expectant
attitude of those who are "looking for, and hastening unto the coming of
God." "Yet a little while, and He that shall come, will come!" If you are a
child of the covenant, having conscious filial nearness to the Throne of
grace, you need not dread the Throne of glory! True, He is the "great God,"
but He is "our Savior." It is a "Kinsman Redeemer" who is ordained to "judge
the world in righteousness." Yes! turn your eye oftener towards this bright
Rainbow spanning a glorious future; for remember, it is "to them who look
for Him," that He shall "appear the second time without sin unto salvation!"
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13. A Gracious Removal
"The righteous is taken away from the evil to come. He shall enter into
peace! They shall rest in their beds." Isaiah 57:1-3
How this thought reconciles to earth's saddest separations! The early (what
we are apt to think the too early) graves of our "loved and lost," have
saved them from much sorrow, much suffering, much sin! Who can tell what may
have been brooding in a dark horizon? The fairest vessel; the life freighted
with the greatest promise; might have been made shipwreck on this world"s
treacherous sea. My God knows what is best. If He plucked His lily soon, it
was to save it some rough blast. If He early folded His lamb, it was to save
it having its fleece soiled with earthly corruption. If the port of glory
was soon entered, it was because He foresaw the threatening tempests that
screened from our limited vision; "So He brought them to the haven where
they would be!"
Yes! the quiet haven! The storms of life are over! That shore is
undisturbed by one murmuring wave. "He shall enter into peace!" the rest
which "remains!" Did the ransomed dead, at the hour of their departure, sink
into blank oblivion; inherit everlasting silence, sad indeed would be the
pangs of separation. But, "weep not, she is not dead, but sleeps." Yes! weep
not! She is not dead but lives! At the very moment earth's tears are
falling, the spirit is sunning in the realms of everlasting day, safely
housed, safely home! The body "rests in its bed." The grave is its couch of
repose! We bid it the long "good night" in the joyful expectancy of a
glorious reunion at the waking time of immortality; the "morning without
clouds," whose "sun shall no more go down."
Child of sorrow! mourning over the withdrawal of some beloved object of
earthly affection. Dry your tears. An early death has been an early crown!
The tie sundered here links you to the throne of God. You have a brother,
sister, a child in heaven! You are the relatives of a ransomed saint! We are
proud when we hear of our friends being "advanced" in this world. What are
the world's noblest promotions in comparison with that of the believer at
death, when he graduates from grace to glory? When he exchanges the pilgrim
warfare for eternal rest?
Often, in your hours of sadness, contrast the certainty of present bliss,
with the possibilities of a suffering, sorrowing, sinning future; the joys
in possession, with the evils which might have been in life. You may now,
like the Shunnamite of old, be gazing with tearful eye on some withered
blossom, but when the question is put, "Is it well with you? Is it well with
your husband? Is it well with the child?" in the elevating confidence that
they have "entered into peace," and are "resting in their beds," be it yours
joyfully to answer, "It is well."
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14. Unveiled Mysteries
"You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand."
Much is baffling and perplexing to us in God's present dealings. "What!" we
are often ready to exclaim, "could not the cup have been less bitter; the
trial less severe; the road less dreary?" "Hush your misgivings," says a
gracious God; "arraign not the rectitude of My dispensations. You shall yet
see all revealed and made bright in the mirror of eternity!"
"What I am doing" -it is all my doing, my appointment. You have partial
view of these dealings; they are seen by the eye of sense through a dim and
distorted medium. You can see nothing but plans crossed, and gourds laid
low, and "beautiful rods" broken. But I see the end from the beginning.
"Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
"Later you will understand!" Wait for the "later" revelation! An earthly
father puzzles not the ear of infancy with hard sayings and involved
problems. He waits for the manhood of being and then unfolds all. So it is
with God! We are now in our infancy; children lisping in earthly infancy a
knowledge of His ways. We shall learn the "deep things of God." in the
manhood of eternity! Christ now often shows himself only "behind the
lattice," a glimpse and He is gone! But the day is coming when we shall "see
Him as He is!" when every dark hieroglyphic in the Roll of Providence will
be interpreted and expounded! It is unfair to criticize the half finished
picture; to censure or condemn the half developed plan. God's plans are here
in embryo. "We see," says Rutherford, "the broken links in the chain of His
providence. Let the Molder work his own clay in whatever frame He pleases."
But a flood of light will break upon us from the sapphire throne; "In your
light, O God! we shall see light." The "need be," muffled as a secret now,
will be confided to us then, and become luminous with love.
Perhaps we may not have to wait until eternity for the realization of this
promise. We may experience its fulfillment here. We not infrequently find,
even in this present world, mysterious dispensations issuing in unlooked for
blessings. Jacob would never have seen Joseph had he not parted with
Benjamin. Often would the believer never would have seen the true Joseph had
he not been called on to part with his best beloved! His language at the
time is that of the patriarch "I am indeed bereaved!" "All these things are
against me!" But the things he imagined to be so adverse, have proved the
means of leading him to see the heavenly king "in His beauty" before he
dies. Much is sent to "humble us and to prove us." It may not do us good
now, but it is promised to do so "at our latter end."
I shall not dictate to my God what His way should be. The patient does not
dictate to the physician. He does not reject and refuse the prescription
because it is nauseous; he knows it is for his good, and takes it on trust.
It is for faith to repose in whatever God appoints. Let me not wrong His
love or dishonor His faithfulness by supposing that there is one needless or
redundant drop in the cup which His loving wisdom has mingled. "Now we know
in part, but THEN shall we know even as also we are known!"
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15. The Choosing Place
"I have chosen you in the furnace of affliction." Isaiah 48:10
The Furnace of Affliction! It is God's meeting place with His people. "I
have chosen you," says He, "in the furnace of affliction. I will keep you
there, until the purifying process is complete; and if need be, in a
'chariot of fire' I will carry you to heaven!" Some fires are for
destruction, but this is for purification. He, the Refiner, is sitting by
the furnace regulating the flames, tempering the heat; not the least filing
of the gold but what is precious to Him! The bush is burning with fire, but
He is in the middle of it; a living God in a bush; a living Savior in the
furnace! And has this not been the method of His dealing with His faithful
people in every age. First, trial; then blessing. First, difficulties; then,
deliverances. Egyptian plagues– darkness, brick kilns, the Red Sea, forty
years of desert privations; then Canaan! First, the burning fiery furnace;
then the vision of "one like the Son of God!" Or, as with Elijah on Carmel,
the answer is first by fire, and then by rain. First, the fiery trial, then
the gentle descent of the Spirit's influences, coming down like "rain upon
the mown grass, and as showers that water the earth."
Believer! be it yours to ask, "are my trials sanctified?" Are they making
me holier, purer, better, more meek, more gentle, more heavenly minded, more
Savior like? Seek to "glorify God in the fires." Patience is a grace which
the angels cannot manifest. It is a flower of earth; it blooms not in
Paradise; it requires tribulation for its exercise; it is nurtured only amid
wind, and hail, and storm. By patient, unmurmuring submission, remember,
you, a poor sinner, can thus magnify God in a way the loftiest angelic
natures cannot do! He is taking you to the inner chambers of His covenant
faithfulness. His design is to purge away your dross, to bring you forth
from the furnace reflecting His own image, and fitted for glory! Those
intended for great usefulness are much in the refining pot. "His children,"
says Romaine, "have found suffering times happy times. They never have such
nearness to their Father, such holy freedom with Him, and such heavenly
refreshment with Him, as under the cross!" Beloved! "think it not strange
concerning the fiery trial which is to try you . . . but rejoice!"
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16. Mourning Ended
"The days of your mourning shall be ended." Isaiah 9:20
The believer has "mourning days." The place of his sojourn is a valley of
tears. Adam went weeping from his paradise, we go weeping on the way to
ours. But, pilgrim of grief! your tears are numbered. A few more aching
sighs; a few more gloomy clouds; and the eternal sun shall burst on you,
whose radiance shall never more be obscured! Life may be to you one long
"Valley of Baca" a protracted scene of "weeping!" but soon shall you hear
the sweet chimes wafted from the towers of the new Jerusalem, "Enter in to
the joy of your Lord!" "The Lord God shall wipe away all tears from off all
"The days of your mourning!" It is a consoling thought that all these days
are appointed; meted out; numbered. "Unto you it is given," says the
apostle, "to suffer!" Yes! and if you are a child of the covenant, your
mourning days are days of special privilege, intended to be fraught with
blessing. To the unbeliever, they are pledges of everlasting woe; to the
believer, they are preludes and precursors of eternal glory! Affliction to
the one is the cloud without the Rainbow, to the other, it is the cloud
radiant and lustrous with gospel promise and gospel hope!
Reader! are you now one of the many members of the family of sorrow? Be
comforted! Soon the long night-watch will be over; pain, sickness, weakness,
weariness. Soon the windows of the soul will be no more darkened. Soon you
shall have nothing to be delivered from, your present losses and crosses
will turn into eternal gains, the dews of the night weeping, (nature's
tear-drops) will come to sparkle like beautiful gems in the morning of
immortality! Soon the Master's footsteps will be heard, saying, "The days of
your mourning are ended," and you shall take off your sackcloth, and be
girded with gladness.
Up to that moment, your life may have been one long DAY of mourning! but
once past the golden portals, and the eye can be dim no more; the very
fountain of weeping will be dried! The period of your mourning is counted by
DAYS of your eternal rejoicing by eras and cycles! "Why are you then cast
down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? hope in God!" I will
gaze through my tears on this celestial rainbow, and sing this "song in the
night," which the God, Who is to wipe my tears away, has put into my lips:
"And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying; neither shall
there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away!"
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17. The Abiding Friend
"I will never leave you, nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5
No human friend can say so. The closest and dearest of earthly links may be
broken, yes! have been broken. Distance may part, time estrange, and the
grave separate. Loving earthly looks may only greet you now in mute smiles
from the portrait on the wall. But here is an unfainting, unvarying,
unfailing Friend. Sorrowing one! amid the wreck of earthly joys which you
may be even bewailing, here is a message sent from your God, "I will never
leave you, nor forsake you!" Your gourd has withered, but He who gave it you
remains! Surrender yourself to His disposal. He wishes to show you His
present sufficiency for your happiness. As often your heart in silence and
sadness weaves its plaintive lament, "Joseph is not, and Simeon is not!"
think of Him who has promised to set "the solitary in families" (Psalm 68:6)
and to "give unto them a name and a place better than of sons or of
daughters!" Alone! you are not alone! Turn in self-oblivion to Jesus. It is
not, it cannot be "night," if He, "the Sun of your soul," be ever near! In
the morning, He comes with the earliest beam that visits your chamber. When
the curtains of night close around you, He, to whom "the darkness and the
light are both alike," is at your side! In the stillness of night, when in
your wakeful moments, the visions of the departed flit before you like
shadows on the wall, He, the sleepless Shepherd of Israel, is tending your
couch, and whispering in your ear, "Fear not, for I am with you!"
Your experience may be that of Paul, "All forsook me!" But, like him, also,
you will doubtless, be able to add in the extremity of your sorrow,
"Nevertheless, The Lord stood with me, and strengthened me!" He can
compensate by His own loving presence, for every earthly loss. Without the
consciousness of His friendship and love, the smallest trial will crush you.
With Him in your trial, supporting and sustaining you under it, (yes, coming
in the place of those you mourn), you will have an infinite and
inexhaustible portion, in the place of a finite and mutable one. Many a
cloud is there without a Rainbow in Nature; but never in Grace. Every sorrow
has its corresponding and counterpart Comfort. "In the multitude of the
sorrows that I had in my heart, your comforts have refreshed my soul" (Psalm
94:19). If in the midnight of your grief your earthly sun appears to have
set forever, an inner, but not less real sunshine, lights up your stricken
heart. The stream of life may have been poisoned at its source, but blessed
be His name if it has driven you to say, "All my springs are in YOU!" "The
Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore will I hope in Him!"
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18. Unwilling Discipline
"He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men."
In our seasons of trial, when under some inscrutable dispensation, how apt
is the murmuring thought to rise in our hearts; "All these things are
against me!" Might not this overwhelming blow have been spared? Might not
this dark cloud which has shadowed my heart and my home with sadness, have
been averted? Might not the accompaniments of my trial have been less
severe, "Surely the Lord has forgotten to be gracious." No, these
afflictions are errands of mercy in disguise! "He afflicts not willingly."
There is nothing capricious or arbitrary about your God's dealings.
Unutterable tenderness is the character of all His allotments! The world may
wound by unkindness; trusted friends may become treacherous; a brother may
speak with unnecessary harshness and severity; but the Lord is "abundant in
goodness and in truth." He appoints no needless pang. When he appears like
Joseph to "speak roughly," there are gentle undertones of love. The stern
accents are assumed, because He has precious lessons that could not
otherwise have been taught!
Ah! be assured there is some deep necessity in all He does. In our
calendars of sorrow, we may put this luminous mark against every trying
hour, "It was needed!" Some unfruitful branch in the tree required pruning.
Some wheat required to be cast overboard to lighten the ship and avert
further disaster. Mourning one! He might have dealt far otherwise with you!
He might have cut you down as a fruitless, worthless cumberer! He might have
abandoned you to drift, disowned and unpiloted on the rocks of destruction.
Joined to your idols, He might have left you "alone" to settle on your lees,
and forfeit your eternal bliss! But He loved you better. It was kindness,
which blighted your fairest blossoms, and hedged up your way with thorns.
"Without this hedge of thorns," says Baxter, "on the right hand and on the
left, we would hardly be able to keep the way to heaven."
We, in our blind unbelief, may speak of trials we imagine might have been
spared, chastisements that are unnecessarily severe. But the day is coming
when every step of the Lord's procedure will be vindicated; when we shall
own and recognize each separate experience of sorrow to have been an
unspeakably precious and important period in the history of the soul. Yes!
child of God. The messenger of affliction has an olive-branch in one hand, a
love-token plucked from the bowers of paradise; and in the other, a chalice
mingled by One too loving and gracious to insert one needless ingredient of
sorrow! Remember, every drop of wrath in that cup was exhausted by a
surety-Savior. In taking it into your hand, be it yours to extract support
and consolation from what so mightily sustained a greater Sufferer in a more
awful hour, "This cup which YOU give me to drink, shall I not drink it?"
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19. Death Vanquished
"I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!
And I hold the keys of death and Hades." Rev. 1:18
An enthroned Savior speaks! "I am the Living One". Others have passed away,
but I ever live, and ever love! I am now living! A personal Savior; "Christ
your life!" Are you stooping over some treasured house of clay which the
whirlwind has made a mass of ruins? I roused the whirlwind from its chamber.
I appointed the startling dispensation. I ordered the shroud, and prepared
the grave! Let not "accident," "chance," or "fate," enter into the
vocabulary of your sorrow. I am the Lord of death as well as of life. I have
the keys of "Hell and of the grave" suspended at my belt. The tomb is never
unlocked but by Me. Let others talk of the might of the King of Terrors. He
has no might but by my permission.
More than this, mourning one! I was "DEAD." I myself once entered that
gloomy portico! I sanctified and consecrated it by my presence! I was a
tenant of the tomb. This now glorified body was once laid by human hands in
a borrowed grave! Can you dread to walk the Valley trodden by your Lord?; to
encounter the "last enemy," which He fought and conquered. Death! It has
been converted by Him into a "parenthesis in endless life."
"I am He that was DEAD"; "I Am He who lives." What more could the Christian
desire than this twofold assurance? On the Day of Atonement of old, the
blood was sprinkled alike on the mercy seat; the voice of blood arose from
the floor below, and the mercy seat above. So it is with the voice of our
Elder Brother's blood. It cried first from earth beneath and now from
Heaven. His dying love, is now ever living, imperishable and immutable as
His own being!
As the Rainbow in the material firmament can never cease to appear, so long
as the present laws of nature continue, and there is a sun in the heavens;
so the Rainbow of the Everlasting Covenant, and all its blessings, can only
fail when Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, ceases to shine, and ceases to
be! With such a Rainbow over-arching the future, one limb resting amid the
cloud-lands of life, the other melting its hues into the deeper shadows of
the Valley of Death, "I will fear no evil, for You, O SAVIOR GOD, are with
me, your rod and your staff they comfort me."
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20. The Greatest Gift
"Since God did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won't
God, who gave us Christ, also give us all things?" Romans 8:32
These are amazing words! God; the Infinite, God; identifying Himself (so to
speak) with the experiences of human sorrow; silencing every murmur with the
unanswerable argument "I spared not my own Son. I gave my greatest gift for
you; will you not cheerfully surrender your best to Me? Can you refuse after
this unspeakable gift of My love, to trust Me in lesser things? The greater
gift may surely well be a pledge for the bestowment of all needed
He promised to give "all things"; these "all things" are in His hand. They
will be selected and allotted by His loving wisdom; crosses as well as
comforts; sorrows and tears, as well as smiles and joys. Mourning one, this
very trial which now dims your eye, is one of these "all things." Trust His
faithfulness. He would as soon wound the Son of His love as wound you!
"Won't God, who gave us Christ, also give us all things?" There is a
"blessed impossibility," after the bestowment of the Gift of Gifts, that He
will inflict one unnecessary trial, or withhold one needed benefit. Think of
His love when He offered His Isaac on the altar. It is the same at this hour
infinite and immutable. Yes! We may well be reconciled, even to the denial
of earthly blessedness, because ordered by Him who gave Jesus! Lying meekly
in the arms of His mercy, be it ours to say in filial confidence, "Lord,
anything with Your love; anything but Your frown!"
"All things." The whole range of human needs and necessities is known to
Him. The care He invites me to cast upon Him is "all my care"; the need "all
my need!" This is His own special promise. "And God is able to make all
grace abound toward you; that you, always having all sufficiency in all
things, may abound to every good work." (2 Corinthians 9:8) He will give me
nothing and deny me nothing, but what is for my good. Let me not question
the appointments of infinite wisdom. Let me not wound Him by one dishonoring
doubt. Let me lean upon Him in little things as well as in great things.
After the pledge of His love in Jesus, nothing can come wrong that comes
from His hands! If tempted at times to harbor some unkind misgivings, let
the sight of the cross dispel it. Looking to the Rainbow in the cloud
gleaming with the words, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me!" be it mine
Lord, though You bend my spirit low,
Love only will I see;
The very hand that strikes the blow,
Was wounded once for me.
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21. Sleeping and Waking
"Those also who sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." 1 Thessalonians
Or, as these words have been rendered: "Those who are laid asleep in Jesus."
We bid an earthly friend "Good night" in the pleasing expectation of meeting
next morning. The saints are "laid asleep" in the grave of Jesus, in the
sure and certain hope of meeting Him in the morning of immortality!
Child of God! weep not for those who have "departed to be with Christ." It
is with them "far better." Do not think of them "gone." That is a word taken
from the vocabulary of death, and which, it is to be feared, is often
employed with many in the heathen sense of annihilation. Seek not "the
living among the dead." Think rather that the last sigh was scarce over on
earth, when the song was begun in Heaven! The Spirit winged its arrow-like
flight among ministering seraphim. Hear that voice stealing down in the soft
whisper of Heaven's music, and saying, "if you loved me you would rejoice,
because I said, I go unto my Father!"
The body, the casket of this immortal jewel– the soul, is left for a season
to the dishonors of the tomb. But it is only for a brief "night-watch." That
dust is precious, because redeemed. Body as well as soul was purchased by
the life-blood of Emmanuel. Angels guard these slumbering ashes; and the day
is coming when God shall "send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet,
and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end
of Heaven to the other." Oh, if there be "joy among the angels of God over
one sinner who repents," what shall be the joy of those blessed beings over
the myriads of rising dead, hastening at their summons to their crowns and
Christian mourner! "Your brother shall rise again." Wish him not back amid
the storms of the wilderness. Be thankful rather that the wheat is no longer
out in the tempest and rain; but safely garnered, eternally housed. Would
you, if you could, weep that blessed one back from glory? Would you ask him
to unlearn Heaven's language and be once more involved in the dust of
battle? No, rather "rejoice in hope of the glory of God." Death is not an
eternal sleep. "Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and
will not tarry." Jesus is now whispering in your ear the glorious secret
hidden from ages and generations, and which was left to Him, as "the
Abolisher of Death," to disclose: "Your dead shall live; together with My
dead body shall they arise." He is pointing you onward to that hour of
jubilee, when the summons shall be addressed to all His sleeping saints:
"Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust!"
Oh happy day! when I shall see my Savior God in all the glories of His
exalted Humanity; and with Him, the once "loved and lost," now the loved and
glorified, never to be lost again! "The Lord my God shall come, and all the
saints with you." Not one shall be wanting. In concert with those whose
tongues are now silent on earth, we shall then unite in the lofty anthem,
sung by the ingathered Church triumphant, "O death, where is your sting! O
grave, where is your victory! Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory
through the Lord Jesus Christ."
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22. Invisible Harmonies
"We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to
them who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
We are apt to, "limit the Holy One of Israel", and to say, "Some things have
worked together for our good." God says, "All things!" Joys, sorrows,
crosses, prosperity, health, sickness; the gourd bestowed, and the gourd
withered; the cup full, and the cup emptied; the lingering sick-bed, the
early grave! Often, indeed, would sight and sense lead us to doubt the
reality of the promise. We can see, in many things, scarce a dim reflection
of His love. Useful lives taken; blossoms permanently plucked; spiritual
props removed; benevolent schemes blown up. But the apostle does not say,
"We see," but "We know." It is the province of faith to trust God in the
dark. The uninitiated and undiscerning can not understand or explain the
revolutions and dependencies of the varied wheels in a complicated machine;
but they have confidence in the wisdom of the Engineer, that all is designed
to "work out" some great useful end. Be it ours to write over the mysterious
dealing, "This also comes from the Lord of Hosts, who is wonderful in
counsel and excellent in working." Let us "be still and know that He is
God." "We have a wonderful advertisement of a Physician from the Spirit of
Truth," says one, "who heals all your diseases. He requires but one thing,
to take all He has prescribed, bitter as well as sweet!" He will yet
vindicate His own rectitude and faithfulness in our trials; our own souls
will be made better for them; He himself will be glorified in them. "Doubt
not my love," He seems to say, "the day is coming when you shall have all
mysteries explained, all secrets unraveled, and this very trial demonstrated
to be one of the 'all things' working together for your good. Men see not
the bright light in the clouds, "but it shall come to pass that at EVENING
TIME it shall be light!"
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23. The Unchanging Name
"Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today, and forever." Hebrews 13:8
All is changing here. Life is a kaleidoscope, made of shifting forms; new
scenes, new tastes, new feelings, new associations; and alternation of cloud
and sunshine, tempest and calm. Its joys are like the airy bubbles on the
stream, tinted with sunlight; we touch them; they are gone! We have to tell
of vacant seats in our sanctuaries; vacant seats at our home-hearths; the
music of well known voices hushed. Often just when we imagine we have at
last obtained a stable footing, the scaffolding gives way, the props on
which for a life time we had been leaning fails, and we feel ourselves out
amid the pitiless storm.
But is there nothing stable amid all this mutability? Nothing secure and
abiding amid these fleeting shadows? Yes! Jesus is without any variableness.
Nineteen hundred years have rolled by since He left our world. The world has
changed, but He is to this hour the same. We can follow Him through all His
wondrous pilgrimage of love on earth. We can behold Penitence crouching at
His feet, and sent away forgiven. Sorrow tracking His footsteps with tears,
and sent away with her tears dried and her wounded spirit healed. Pain and
sickness pleading with pallid lip and wasted feature; and Disease, at His
omnipotent mandate, taking wings to itself and fleeing away! And He who is
now on the heavenly throne is "that same Jesus." His ascension glories have
not altered His changeless heart, or alienated His affections. In Him we
have a Rock which the billows of adversity cannot shake. The spent fury of
the chafing waves may reach us; no more; and this only endearing the
security and value of the abiding Refuge!
How often does God rouse the storm to drive us from all creature
confidences, to the stable One! How often does He poison and pollute the
stream to lead us to seek the everlasting Fountainhead! "We may have lost
much; but if we have found You, O blessed Jesus, we possess infinitely more
than we have forfeited. We can glory in the persuasion that nothing can ever
separate us from Your love."
A look may alienate us from our best earthly friends; an unintentional word
may estrange, the grave must sunder. But "the Lord lives, and blessed be my
Rock, and let the God of my salvation be exalted." What You have been
"yesterday"; yes, from everlasting ages; You are to this day, and You shall
be forever and ever! We can look to the rainbow of your promises and behold
all of them in You "yes and amen!" You are addressing us from your throne in
glory; that throne spoken of in Revelation as encircled with "the rainbow of
emerald" (the emblem of perpetuity), and saying, "Fear not, I am He that
lives and was dead, and behold I am alive forever more!" "Because I live,
you shall live also!"
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24. Strength for the Day
"As your days so shall your strength be." Deuteronomy 23:25
Believer! have you not felt it so? Have you not found plants distilling
balm, growing beside sorrow's path? supports vouchsafed, which were
undreamed of until the dreaded cloud had burst, and the day of trial had
come? Trouble not yourself regarding an unknown and veiled future; but cast
all your cares on God. "Our sandals," says a saint now in glory, "are a
proof against the roughest path." He whose name is "the God of all grace" is
better than His word. He will be found equal to all the emergencies of His
people; enough for each moment and each hour as they come. He never takes us
to the bitter Marah streams, but He reveals also the hidden branch. Paul was
hurled down from the third heavens to endure the smarting of the "thorn",
but he rises like a giant from his fall, exulting in the sustaining grace of
an "all-sufficient God."
The beautiful peculiarity in this promise is, that God proportions His
grace to the nature and season of the trial. He does not give an 'advance
supply of grace', but when the needed season and exigency comes, then the
appropriate strength and support are imparted. He does not send the rainbow
before the cloud, but when the cloud appears, the rainbow is seen in it! He
gives sustaining grace for a trying day, and dying grace for a dying day.
Reader! do not morbidly brood on the future. Live on the promise! When
tomorrow comes with its trials, Jesus will come with tomorrow and with its
trials too. Present grace is enough for present necessity. Trust God for the
future. We honor Him, not by anticipating trial, but by confiding in His
faithfulness, and crediting His assurances, that no temptation will He send
greater than we are able to bear. Even if you should see fresh storm-clouds
returning after the rain, be ready to say, "I will fear no evil, for You are
with me!" Insufficient you are of yourself for any trial, but "your
sufficiency is of God." The promise is not "Your grace," but "My grace is
sufficient." Oh, trust His all-sufficiency in all things. Jehovah Jireh,
"the Lord will provide." See written over every trying hour of the future,
"So shall your strength be!"
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25. The Grave Spoiled
"I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from
death. O death, I will be your plagues. O grave, I will be your
destruction." Hosea 13:14
Christian! the grave is lit with Emmanuel's love. The darkest of all clouds,
that which rests over the land of Hades, has the brightest rainbow in it.
These gloomy portals are not to hold your loved and lost ones forever. The
land of forgetfulness, where your buried treasures lie, is not a winter of
unbroken darkness and desolation. A glorious spring time of revival is
promised, when the mortal shall put on immortality, and the corruptible
shall be clothed with incorruption.
The resurrection of the body! It is the climax of the work of Jesus; its
culminating glory. Paul represents a longing Church as "waiting for the
adoption, the redemption of the body." It was the pre-eminent theme of his
preaching; "He preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection." It was the
loved article in his creed, which engrossed his holiest aspirations, "If by
any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead." It was the grand
solace he addressed to other mourners. It is not when speaking of the
immediate bliss of the departed spirit at the hour of death, but it is when
dwelling on the "last trump"; the dead "rising incorruptible," and "caught
up," in their resurrection bodies, "to meet the Lord," that he says,
"Therefore comfort one another with these words." Blessed day; the Easter of
creation! the dawn of the Sabbatic morn! the Jubilee of a triumphant Church!
Christian mourner! go not to the grave to weep there. Every particle of that
moldering dust is redeemed by the oblation of Calvary; and the great
Abolisher of death is only awaiting the ingathering of the elect to give the
commission to His archangels regarding all His saints, which He gave of old
regarding one, "Loose him and let him go!" And who can paint the glory of
these resurrection bodies, reunited to their companion spirits, fashioned
like their Lord's? Every sense, every faculty, purified, sublimated,
overflowing with holiness; emulous with ardor in His service; eager to
execute His will; retaining it may be, the personal identities of earth, the
old features worn in the "nether valley." The Lamb, in the midst of the
throne, "leading" them and "feeding" them; climbing along with them, steep
by steep, in the path of life, and saying at each ascending step in the
endless progression, "I will show you greater things than these!" Meanwhile
He has Himself risen as the pledge of this resurrection of all His people.
The Great Sheaf has been waved before the throne as the Pledge of the mighty
harvest. "Christ the First Fruits, afterwards those who are Christ's at His
coming." "Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection!"
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26. Everlasting Love
"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving kindness
have I drawn you!" Jeremiah 31:3
Believer! are you tempted now to doubt His love? Are His footsteps lost amid
the night shadows through which He is now conducting you? Remember He had
His eye upon you before the birth of time; yes, from all eternity! What
appears to you now some sudden capricious exercise of His power or
sovereignty, is determination and decree of "everlasting love." "I have
loved you," He seems to say, "suffering one, into this affliction; I will
love you through it; and when My designs regarding you are complete, I will
show you that the love which is 'from everlasting is, to everlasting!'"
Child of God if there is a ripple now agitating the surface of the stream,
trace it up to this fountain-head of love. God is faithful. He cannot deny
Himself. If some dark clouds are now intercepting those gracious beams, He
must have some wise end to subserve.
"For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with great compassion I will bring
you back. In a moment of anger I turned my face away for a little while. But
with everlasting love I will have compassion on you," says the Lord, your
Redeemer. "Just as I swore in the time of Noah that I would never again let
a flood cover the earth and destroy its life, so now I swear that I will
never again pour out my anger on you. For the mountains may depart and the
hills disappear, but even then I will remain loyal to you. My covenant of
blessing will never be broken," says the Lord, who has mercy on you. Isaiah
God sets His rainbow in the dark sky; and as if it were not enough that His
people should look upon it and take comfort in its many and varied promises;
He himself graciously becomes a party in gazing on the covenant pledge, "And
the rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I shall look upon it, that I may
remember the everlasting covenant!" (Genesis 9:16) He puts himself (so to
speak) in mind of His own everlasting love! In His saint's dark and cloudy
day, when they imagine that their eyes are alone resting on the tokens of
covenant faithfulness, the eye of a covenant keeping God is resting upon
them too. "I will look upon my own promises," He seems to say. "They shall
be memorials to Myself of my purposes of unchanging mercy." Nor is this love
merely a general indiscriminate affection. The verse speaks of each
individual member of the Covenant family, "I have loved you!" "O my Father",
says Madam Guyon, "it seems to me sometimes as if You did forget every other
being in order to think only of my faithless and ungrateful heart."
Let us seek to view our trials as so many cords of loving-kindness, by
which our God is seeking to draw us, yes, and will draw us nearer Himself.
Who knows what mercy may be bound up in what may seem to us dark and
mysterious dispensations? We are apt to misname and misinterpret His ways.
We call His dealings severe trials. He calls them "loving-kindness."
Drooping saint! let your eyes rest on the rainbow over-arching the throne of
God, spanning from eternity to eternity; and read for your comfort the
gracious declaration, "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to
everlasting upon those who fear Him."
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27. Invoilable Attachment
"There is a friend that sticks closer than a brother." Proverbs 18:24
Close is the tie which binds brother to brother; the companions of infancy,
sharers of one another's joys and sorrows; cast in the same human mold;
having engraved on their heart of hearts, the same hallowed associations of
life's early morning.
But the time for separation at last comes. The birds must leave the
parent's nest, and try their pinions beyond their native valley. The world's
call to work and warfare is imperious. The old homestead, like a dismembered
vessel, is broken to pieces; and the inmates, like the vessel's planks, are
strewn far apart on life's ocean. The world's duties sever some; unhappy
estrangements at times, may sever others; death, at some time, must sever
But there is One whose friendship and love, circumstances cannot estrange,
distance cannot affect, and death cannot destroy. The kindest of earth's
relatives may say to us regarding this true Elder Brother, as Boaz said to
Ruth, "It is true that I am your near kinsman, however there is a kinsman
nearer than I." He is brother, yes more than a brother; Friend, Counselor,
Portion Physician, Shepherd, all combined! Happy for us, when the old
avenues of comfort are closed up, to hear Him, whose faithfulness is
unimpeachable, saying, "I will not fail you or forsake you!" Happy for us
when the old moorings give way, to have one safe Anchorage, that cannot be
removed or shaken. "I shall now go to sleep," said a remarkable saint, who,
driven about with storm and tempest, at last found the safe Shelter, "I
shall now go to sleep on the Rock of Ages!"
Tried believer! He has never failed you and never will. With Him are no
altered tones, no fitful affections. The reed may be shaken, but the Rock
remains immutable. He is Himself the true "rainbow in the cloud." The
promises of scripture, like the varied hues in the natural rainbow, are
manifold. But all these promises are "In Him" (2 Corinthians 1:20). Yes, and
it is in the "cloudy day" that this Divine encircling rainbow most
gloriously appears. Never would we have known Christ as the "Brother, born
for adversity," unless by adversity. It is trial that unfolds and develops
His infinite worth and preciousness. When the love of earthly friends is
buried in the grave, the love of the Heavenly Friend shines forth more
tenderly than ever. As Jonathan of old, wandering faint and weary in the
woods, found honey distilling from a tree and was revived by eating it; so,
faint and weary one; wandering among the tangled thickets, the deep glades
of affliction, seat yourself under your "Beloved's Shadow with great
delight," and let His "fruit be pleasant to your taste!" This "Tree of Life"
distills a balm for every broken, wounded, bleeding heart; every faint and
downcast spirit. Yes, Jesus will make, in this the hour of your loneliness
and sorrow, His own life giving, life sustaining words and promises,
"sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." Though now exalted on the
throne, "inhabiting the praises of eternity," He still manifests the
Brother's heart and the Brother's tenderness. "He is not ashamed to call
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28. The Supporting Presence
"When you go through deep waters and great trouble, I will be with you. When
you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk
through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will
not consume you." Isaiah 43:2
What a diversity of afflictions in this trial world! "Waters," "rivers,"
"floods," "flames," "fires!" The Christian is here forewarned that he will
encounter these in some one of their innumerable phases; whether it be loss
of health, loss of wealth, loss of friends, baffled schemes, or blighted
But, blessed thought; these trials have their limits. The floods will not
"overflow," the fires will not "burn," the flames will not "consume." God
will "stay His rough wind in the day of His East wind." He will say, "Thus
far shall you go, and no farther."
And, better still, Jesus will be in all these trials, and prove sufficient
for them all. We shall hear in the midst "of the great fight of afflictions"
the sound of our Master's footsteps. He Himself has passed through these
flames, braved these floods, and bowed His guiltless head to these storms.
He comes to us as He did to His disciples in the very midst of the tempest,
and says, "Fear not, it is I, do not be afraid."
Believer! what is your experience? Is it not that of the triumphant
Israelites? "They went through the flood on foot; there did we rejoice in
Him" (Ps 66:6) "The Flood!" the very scene of your trial, you were able to
march boldly through it, unappalled by the threatening waves; yes, with your
lips vocal with praise! How this moral heroism, this strange "rejoicing?" It
was because the God of the Pillar-cloud was at your side. Your rejoicing was
"in Him." He made you "more than conqueror." You may have many adversaries
ranged against you: "Tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness,
peril, sword." But there is ONE in the midst of fires and flames and floods
mightier than all; and with Him at your side, you can boldly utter the
challenge to the heights above and the depths beneath, "Who shall separate
me from the love of Christ?" "Oh, Sirs!" says Thomas Brooks, "there is in a
crucified Jesus something proportionable to all the difficulties, needs,
necessities, and trials of His poor people."
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"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our
weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we
are– yet was without sin." Hebrews 4:15
"Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the
radiance around Him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of
the Lord." Ezekiel 1:28
What an elevating truth. The Sympathy of the God-man-Mediator (the true
Rainbow in the cloud), JESUS in our sorrows! What a source of exalted joy to
the stripped and desolate heart! What a green pasture to lie down upon, amid
the windy storm and tempest, or in the dark and cloudy day!
The sympathy of man is cheering and comforting; but "thus far shall you go,
and no farther." It is finite, limited, often selfish. There are nameless
and numberless sorrows on earth, beyond the reach of all human alleviation.
The sympathy of Jesus is alone exalted, pure, infinite, removed from all
taint of selfishness. He has Himself passed through every experience of woe.
There are no depths of sorrow or anguish into which I can be plunged, but
His everlasting arms are lower still. He has been called, "The great
sympathetic nerve of His Church, over which the afflictions, and
oppressions, and sufferings of His people continually pass." Child of
Sorrow! a human heart beats on the Throne! and He has your name written on
that heart. He cares for you as if none other claimed His regard. As the
Great High Priest, He walks in the midst of his Temple lamps (His golden
candlesticks,) replenishing them, at times, with oil; trimming them, if need
be; but all in order that they may burn with a steadier and purer luster.
He was "tempted in every way." Blessed assurance! I never can know the
Sorrow into which the "Man of Sorrow" can not enter. Ah rather, in the midst
of earth's most lacerating trials, let me listen to the unanswerable
challenge from the lips of a suffering Savior, "Was there ever any sorrow
like unto my sorrow?" Yet He refused not to drink the cup of wrath! He
shrunk not back from the appointed cross! "He set His face steadfastly to go
to Jerusalem;" and even when He hung upon the bitter tree, He refused the
vinegar that would have assuaged the rage of thirst and mitigated physical
suffering. Are we tempted at times to murmur under God's afflicting hand?
"Think about all He endured when sinful people did such terrible things to
Him, so that you don't become weary and give up." Hebrews 12:3. Shall we
hesitate to bear any trial our Lord and Master sees meet to lay upon us,
when we think of the infinitely weightier Cross He so meekly and
uncomplainingly carried for us?
Afflicted one! Have your eye on this radiant Rainbow in your cloud of
Sorrow! You may, like the disciples on the Transfiguration mount, "fear to
enter the cloud," but hear the voice issuing from it, "This is my Beloved
Son, hear Him."
Jesus speaks through these clouds! He tells us our cares are His cares; our
sorrows His sorrows. He has some wise and gracious end in every mysterious
chastisement. His language is, "Hear the rod and He who has appointed it"
(Micah 6:9). He has too kind and loving a heart to cause us one needless or
Oh that we may indeed hear the voice out of the cloud, and seek that the
trials He sends in love may be greatly sanctified. Let us not dream that
affliction of itself is a pathway to Heaven. Clouds do not form the material
rainbow. These glorious hues come from the sunbeams alone. Without the
latter, we could discern nothing but blackened heavens and dismal rain
It is not because those clad in "white robes" had "come out of great
tribulation" that they were enjoying the beatific Presence; but because they
had "washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb"
(Revelation. 7:14). We have only reason to glory in affliction when it has
been the means of bringing us nearer the Savior, and leading us to the
Jesus! my only hope you art,
Strength of my failing flesh and heart;
Oh! could I catch a smile from Thee,
And drop into Eternity!
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30. A Speedy Coming
"Yet a little while, and He shall come and will not tarry." Hebrews 10:37
"A little while," and the unquiet dream of life will be over, and the
"morning without clouds" shall dawn. A few more tossings on life's
tempestuous sea, and the peaceful haven shall be entered. A few more
night-watches, and the Lord of love will be seen standing on the heavenly
shore, as once He did on the shores of an earthly lake, with an eternal
banquet of love prepared for His "children." Yes! "He comes!" that is the
Church's "blessed hope." It is the voice and presence of her "Beloved" which
will turn "the shadow of death into morning." The dead; the ransomed dead;
shall "hear His voice and come forth;" those "asleep in Jesus" God is to
"bring with Him." His final invitation is not, "Go, you blessed, to some
bright paradise of angels prepared elsewhere for you;" but "Come share my
bliss; be partakers in My crown," "Enter into the joy of your Lord!" Paul's
heaven was described in two words: "With Christ." John's heaven was made up
of two elements: of likeness to Jesus, and fellowship with Jesus. "We shall
be like Him," "we shall see Him as He is." In his sublime apocalyptic
visions, when "the door was opened in heaven," the first object which
attracts his arrested gaze is, "One who sat upon the throne" around whom was
"a rainbow like unto an emerald." (Revelation 4:2,3)
Our happiness will not be complete until we are ushered into the full
vision and fruition of Jesus. We are nourished in this far off land from
"the King's country," but we shall not be satisfied until we see the King
Himself. Jacob received full wagon loads from Joseph, but he could not rest
until he had seen Joseph with his own eyes; when he did so, the aged man's
spirit "revived." We receive manifold pledges of covenant mercy from the
true Joseph, in this "house of our pilgrimage" but we long to "behold His
face in righteousness." We shall only be "satisfied" when we "awake in His
"Come! Lord Jesus, come quickly!" "He will not tarry!" Each sun, as it
sets, is bringing us nearer the joyful consummation. Time is hastening with
gigantic footstep, to the advent throne. The sackcloth attire of a now
burdened creation will soon be exchanged for the full robe of light and
beauty which is to deck a "Sabbath world."
Happy day! when "the Rainbow," in a nobler sense, "shall be seen in the
cloud;" not the Rainbow of Promise, but He in whom all the promises blend
and center; "Behold, He comes with clouds!" Seek ever to be in an attitude
of watchfulness. Like the mother of Sisera, let faith be straining its ear
for the whir of the chariot wheels; that when the cry shall be heard;
"Behold, it is He!" we may be able joyfully to respond, "Yes! this is our
God, we have waited for Him!" "It will be good for those servants whose
master finds them watching when he comes. I tell you the truth, He will
dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come
and wait on them." Luke 12:37.
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31. Eternal Joy
"Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return to Jerusalem, singing
songs of everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will
be overcome with joy and gladness." Isaiah 35:10
Believer! leave your "Rainbow in the cloud" behind you; and with your eye on
the "Rainbow round about the throne" (Revelation 4:3), think of the glad
return of God's ransomed ones to Zion; every tear drop dried, every pang
Once wanderers "in the wilderness, in a solitary way," prisoners "bound
with affliction and iron," mariners struggling in a tempest (Psalms 112:4,
10, 23); mark the termination of their checkered history. God is not only
represented as succoring their fainting souls, shivering in pieces their
chains, and enabling them to buffet the angry surges; but He leads the
pilgrims to "a city of habitation." He rescues the captives from "darkness
and shadow of death." He brings the storm-tossed seamen to their "desired
haven," and puts the "everlasting song" into the lips of all, "Oh that men
would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the
children of men!" (Psalms 112:7, 14, 30)
Sorrowing one! tossed on life's stormy sea, soon will that peaceful haven
be yours. From the sunlit shores of glory, each and all of your trials will
be seen to be special proofs of your Heavenly Father's faithfulness, circled
with a halo of love! You may now be going forth "weeping," bearing your
precious seed, but you shall "doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing
your sheaves with you."
As some seeds require to be soaked in water before they germinate, so is
immortal seed often here soaked in tears. But, "those who sow in tears shall
reap in joy." Though "weeping may endure for the night, joy comes in the
morning!" "You are," says Rutherford, "upon the entry of Heaven's harvest;
the losses that I write of are but summer showers, and The Sun of the new
Jerusalem shall quickly dry them up." The "song of the night" shall then
blend with the song of the skies, and inner, glorious meanings will be
disclosed to sight, which are now hidden from the eye of faith! "Sorrow and
sighing shall forever flee away!" "No sickness, no sorrow, no pain," said an
aged saint now entered on these glorious realities; "but this is only your
negative. What, O God! must be your positive?" "Songs," "everlasting joy,"
"joy and gladness." It will be song upon song, joy upon joy, gladness upon
gladness! These songs of Heaven will be "songs of degrees." The ransomed
will be ever graduating in bliss, mounting "from glory to glory," each song
suggesting the keynote of a louder and loftier one.
Reader! are you mourning the loss of those who "are not," the music of
whose voices is hushed for the forever of time, and who have left you to
travel companionless and alone the wilderness journey? A few more fears, a
few more tears, and you shall meet them in the day-break of glory! No, more;
they have but anticipated you in an earlier crown. If they have left you
behind for a little season to continue your night-song; think with bounding
heart of that eternal day, when, looking back on the clouds floating in the
far distance in the nether valley, you shall be able to join in the anthem
said to be sung by the twenty-four elders as they gaze on the throne
encircled by the "RAINBOW OF EMERALD," for "they rest not day and night,
saying, Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!" (Revelation 4:3, 8)