REST in the Lord, O devout soul, and bear patiently the cross imposed upon thee by God. Meditate upon the awful passion of Christ, thy spiritual Spouse. He suffered in behalf of all, He suffered at the hands of all, He suffered in all things. He suffered for all, even for those who despised His Holy passion and trampled under foot the blood of the covenant, counting it an unholy thing (Heb. x. 29). He suffered at the hands of all. He is delivered up (Rom. viii. 32), He is stricken (Is. liii. 4, 5), He is forsaken (Matt. xxvii. 46) by His heavenly Father, He is deserted by the disciples whom He loved (Matt. xxvi. 56), He is rejected by the Jews, His own peculiar people (Matt. xxvii. 21, 22), who chose the robber Barabbas instead of Himself. He is crucified by the Gentiles, He bore the sins of all mankind, and so the whole race was concerned in the guilt of His death. He suffered, also, in every conceivable way. His soul was exceding sorrowful even unto death (Matt. xxvi. 38); and, overwhelmed with a sense of the divine judgment, He cried out on the cross that He was forsaken of God (Matt. xxvii. 46). His body sweat, as it were, drops of blood (Luke xxii. 44); His head is crowned with thorns; His lips taste the bitter myrrh; His hands and His feet are pierced with nails (Ps. xxii. 17); His side is lacerated with the spear; His whole body is scourged and stretched upon the cross. Ah! He suffered hunger, thirst, cold, contempt, poverty, insult, wounds, and the awful death of the cross. But oh, how unseemly it would be that the Lord should suffer thus, while the servant lives in undisturbed joy! Oh, how unseemly it would be that our Saviour should be severely punished for our sins, and we should continue to take delight in them! How unjust it would be that the head of the body should be afflicted, and the rest of the members should not suffer with it! Nay, rather, as it behooved Christ to suffer, and thus to enter into His heavenly glory (Luke xxiv. 26), so also we must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God (Acts xiv. 22).
Think of the inconceivable reward held out to thee. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. viii. 18). Whatever our suffering may be here, it is only for a time –- nay, it is sometimes but for a day –- but the glory that awaits us is forever and ever. God knows perfectly all our adversities, and some day He will bring them all into judgment (Ecc. xii. 14). Oh, how distressing it will be for us to appear in that august gathering of all the universe without the ornaments of the cross and of our sufferings for Christ upon us. “And God Himself shall wipe away all tears from their eyes” (Is. xxv. 8; Rev. vii. 17; xxi. 4). O happy tears, which such a hand of such a Lord shall wipe away! O blessed cross, that shall in heaven be exchanged for such a reward! Scarce ten years did King David spend in exile, but for forty he ruled in his kingdom (2 Sam. v. 5). Here we may see prefigured the brevity of our life of suffering, and the unending glory which is to follow. “Tis but a mere point of time after all in which the saints of God, often objects of the world’s pity, suffer the hardships of the cross; for “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Ps. xxx. 5).
Consider, moreover, the tribulation which the saints of the past have endured. Behold the patriarch Job, “as he sat down among the ashes” to weep (Job ii. 8); John the Baptist fasting in the wilderness (Luke iii. 2); Peter extended upon a cross, and James beheaded by the sword of Herod (Acts xii. 2). Think of Mary, the blessed mother of our Saviour, standing with pierced heart under the cross (John xix. 25), who in some sense becomes a type of Christ’s Church, the spiritual mother of our Lord. “Blessed are ye,” says Christ, “when men shall persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake, * * for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. v. 11, 12). O glorious persecutions, which link us to the apostles and prophets, and to all the saints, aye to our blessed Christ Himself. Let us patiently suffer then with the saints of God, who have suffered in His cause; let us even rejoice to be crucified with those who have been crucified, that we may at last be glorified with those who have been glorified. If we are indeed sons of God, let us not refuse to share the portion of the rest of His children. If we truly desire to be heirs of God, let us joyfully accept all that heirship involves. But let us remember that as sons of God we are heirs not only of the joy and glory of the future life, but also of the sorrow and of the suffering of this present life, for “God scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. xii. 6). He punishes our sins here that He may spare us punishment in the day of judgment; He lays tribulation after tribulation upon us here, that there He may bestow upon us an exceeding weight of glory; and, indeed, the reward far exceeds, in proportion, the persecutions we suffer here.
But consider the blessed advantages of the cross. It destroys the roots of worldly love in us, and implants the love of God in our heart. The cross begets within us a hatred of the world, and lifts up our minds to the contemplation of things heavenly and divine. If we mortify the deeds of the flesh, the Holy Spirit lives within us; and as the world becomes bitter to our souls, Christ becomes sweeter and sweeter. Greater, indeed, are the mysterious influences and blessing of the cross, since by it God calls us to contrition for our sins, to a true and holy fear of Himself, and to the exercise of patience. When the Lord stands at our heart’s door and knocks, let us open to Him, and hear what He shall speak in our souls. Oh, the world and the carnal outward man may look with contempt upon the cross, but to God and in the eyes of the inward spiritual man it is glorious. What could be more abject and despicable than the passion of Christ, our Saviour, in the eyes of the Jews; and yet what could be more glorious and precious than that same passion of Christ in the eyes of God; since this is the price He paid for the atonement of the sins of the whole world (1 John ii. 2)? And so the righteous man is afflicted: “The righteous man perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart” (Is. lvii. 1); but how precious is the cross, -- “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Ps. cxvi. 15). The Church, the bride of Christ, is black without (Cant. i. 5), because of her afflictions and persecutions; but within she is comely and beautiful, because she enjoys the consolations of the divine Spirit. The Church is as a garden enclosed (Cant. iv. 12), and so is every faithful soul, since no one knows its beauty unless he is within it. And never shall we know fully and perfectly the consolations of the Spirit of God, unless the power of the flesh over us is destroyed by affliction. If the love of the world fills our hearts, then the love of God can find no entrance therein. A vessel already full cannot be filled with some new liquid unless it be first emptied. Let us therefore empty our hearts of the love of the world, that we may fill them with the love of God. So God, in sending the cross, seeks to destroy the love of the world in us, that the divine love may find place in our heart. The cross, moreover, leads us to prayer, and becomes the occasion for the exercise in us of Christian virtues. When the north wind blows upon the garden, its spices flow out (Cant. iv. 16), and when persecutions sweep over the Church then are developed these peculiar graces and virtues which are so pleasing to God. The beloved Bridegroom of the soul is white and ruddy (Cant. v. 10); while in His holy innocence, ruddy in the blood-marks of His passion; and that the beloved bride of Christ may be made pure and white in her virtues, she is made ruddy by her sufferings for His name’s sake. From the hardest stone of our afflictions divine grace can bring forth oil and honey, and from the bitter root of present suffering the sweetest fruit of eternal glory.
And to this eternal glory, O Lord Jesus, lead us on and on, and to its blissful enjoyment finally bring us! Amen.