We say to ourselves, first of all, "it has pleased God to appoLt that wc must, through much tribulation, enter the kingdom of God." The form of this tribulation is not uniform. It is not the same in any two contemporary cases, and it has not been the same in any two centuries. But, in one form or other, trihulation has been the lot of all God's children ever since He began to call men to His kingdom and glory.
In the first century, it was often rough usage at the hands of the people or the authorities: the loss of property, of liberty, sometimes, of life. In our day, it cannot be these, at least, not in the open direct manner of the early centuries.
We live in a day when the purpose of God required, and has brought about, liberty of conscience as the law of the public life, and when, consequently, we can profess and serve the truth without molestation, and, in many cases, without disadvantage.
Having lost this mode of pa,rtaking of the sufferings of Christ, shall we, therefore, be without tribulation? What does Paul say -that "if we are without chastisement, whereof all (the children) are partakers, then we are bastards, and not sons." The absence of persecution will predispose every true believer to expect trouble in some other form -not only to expect it, but, in a sense, to desire it, and, in a sense, to rejoice in it when it comes; for it has a work to work in every true saint. On this ground Paul said, "And not only (do we rejoice in hope of the glory of God), but we glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, etc."
The work to be accomplished by trouble is a delicate mental result, not at all appreciable to the natural thinker, however deep or polished, but of great value to the individual and very precious in the sight of God -"in the sight of God of great price, a meek and quiet spirit." It is to produce this result that He in love corrects and afflicts His children, "not willingly" so far as their pain is concerned, but quite willingly so far as the effect is concerned. "He chastens us . . . for our profit• THAT WE MAY BE PARTAKERS OF HIS HOLINESS" (Heb. 12: 10). If we consider what this holiness means, and how trouble acts in its development, we will be "comforted in all our tribulations that we endure."
How natural it is for us to stagnate in spiritual things. How inevitably the mind of man, when let alone, seems to settle into self-consciousness and self-service only, and to become insensible to the existence and purposes and claims of God: how indisposed to self-sacrifice; how liable to live for this life; how unfitted to live as men called to the fellowship of God and of Christ; how incapable of seeing and feeling that we are nothing but shadows fleeting across the surface of the troubled waters, and that God only is the eternal enduring reality, working all things after the counsel of His own will, and requiring of us a constant hearty worship, and a steady unfaltering obedience to all His beautiful commandments.