A. C. Thompson.

Out of great tribulation : a sermon occasioned by the death of Mrs. Sarah R. Baker, preached June 2, 1867 online

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''Out of Great Tribulation^



A SERMON



OCCASIONED BY THE DEATH OF



Mrs. Sarah R. Baker,



PREACHED JUNE 2, 1867,



BY

A. C. THOMPSON, D. D.,

PASTOR OF THE ELIOT CHURCH, ROXBURY.



BOSTON:

Press of Geo. C. Rand & Avery, 3 Cornhill.

1867.



" Out of Grea t Trie ula tion'



A SERMON



OCCASIONED BY THE DEATH OF



Mrs. Sarah R. Baker,



PREACHED JUNE 2, 1867,



BY

A. C. THOMPSON, D. D.,

PASTOR OF THE ELIOT CHURCH, ROXBURY.



BOSTON:

Press of Geo. C. Rand & Avery, 3 Cornhill.
1867.



Mrs. Sarah Reed Baker, wife of Abel Baker, born in Cambridge,
Dec. 22, 1791, — having buried seven out of eight children, — after a
most painful and protracted sickness, died in Roxbury, Lord's Day morn-
ing. May 26, 1867, aged seventy-six years, five months, and four days.

" IN HOPE OF ETERNAL LIFE."



Digitized by tine Internet Archive
. in 2010 witii funding from
Boston Regional Library System



http://www.archive.org/details/outofgreattribulOOthom



SERMON



u



OUT OF GREAT TRIBULATION."



These are they which came out of great tribulation, and have waslied their robes,
and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. — Rkv. vii. 14.



The apostle, on Patinos, witnesses a succession of
most wonderful scenes. He hears enrapturing and
startling sounds; is addressed by elders and others, —
by a voice, as it were of a trumpet, and by the Son
of man, whose voice is as the sound of many waters.
Still the venerable man of fourscore and ten, though
now in the spirit for so considerable a time, — -sufficient,
we should think, to allow the first shock and all timid-
ity to pass away, — ventures as yet to ask no ques-
tions.

What awe must come over even the most mature
minds when once translated to heaven ! Pertness,
forwardness, or loquacity has no place there. The
aged John is deeply reverent. He gives rein to no
prying curiosity. Enough for him that he sees and
hears what the Holy Spirit presents in vision.

Nothing escapes his observation. His eye, however,
is directed to one quite conspicuous company of celes-
tial inhabitants. They stand in a group. The fact of
association and classification is thus suggested. No



feature of the heavenly state is more plainly made
known than this. Who is not aware of the peculiarly
enlivening influence of sociality upon all services and
enjoyments, especially when persons of similar expe-
rience and marked congeniality are brought together ?
Isolation is a rebellion of one. Asceticism and per-
manent solitude are anti-Christian : like every thing
else abnormal, they must remain outside of the celes-
tial city. Allowing for due temporary retirement and
meditation, we must believe that world to be emi-
nently a social one, and that, upon certain occasions at
least, the inhabitants are distributed on the principle
of elective affinities, and resemblance in anterior his-
tory.

That portion of the jubilant host now especially en-
gaging the eye is a prominent one. Citizens there
exhibit diversity of features, manners, excellences, and
adaptation for service. It is possible, that, in the New
Jerusalem, there will be a great variety of services ;
that, while direct adoration and praise hold a large
place in the more active occupations, there may be a
difference answering to tastes, temperaments, and ca-
pacities, as endlessly varied as those of earth. Some
of them may be of a very humble character. If so,
there will not be wanting those just as ready for such
offices as for any, and in such they will be as happy
and as acceptable as others ; for the truest mark of a
holy mind is cheerful contentment with present posi-



tion, and an honest endeavor to make the most of it.
None will feel above or disinclined to any branch of
appointed duty. There is more humility there than
here ; and will the highest saints be otherwise than
like angels, all of whom are ministering spirits? "I
regard myself," said a truly Christian person, " in the
church and in the world, as a part of a building. It
is not for me to pretend to be a polished corner-stone,
or an ornamental pillar; but if I am only a little crumb
of mortar, though lodged out of sight in the building,
it his honor enough for me. The building would not
be complete without me ; and it would be a sin for me
to withhold even that little crumb of aid. However
small the place assigned me, it must be filled." So,
doubtless, do all feel, who, as lively stones, are built
up a spiritual house, when once the scaffolding is
taken away, and a holy temple unto the Lord stands
revealed.

But the group now attracting the apostle's gaze
stands high. It exhibits peculiar splendor. Their
garments have a singular brilliancy. "And one of
the elders answered, saying unto me," — replied to
my perceptible though unexpressed desire to know, —
" What are these which are arrayed in white robes ?
and whence came they?" The inquiry is put, not to
draw out information, but to fasten particular atten-
tion. " And I said unto him. Sir, thou knowest." We
might suppose that one so aged, so well informed, so



10



fully inspired as John, would require no informant.
But this world, even with apostolic gifts and advan-
tages, is a place of ignorance compared with heaven.
Elders are needed as teachers of those newly arrived
and less informed. This one, who is at home there,
and knows all the celebrities deserving special con-
sideration, would have the apostle mark that shining
company, and know whence they came.

Who are they ? What was their place and condi-
tion on earth? Were they the noble born, the learned,
the courtly, the renowned ? So a heathen man would
anticipate. The unenlightened, spiritually unenlight-
ened, mind of every age and land is addicted to hero-
worship, and peoples the realm of happiness with
demi-gods, — those who make a figure here by their ac-
quisitions, their social position, or mental superiority.
The lively oracles estimate men on a very different
scale, — the scale of moral worth. In the eye of God,
men are valuable and honorable according to that
which he does for them, and the use they make of it.
We notice the elder's reply to this aged seer. "These
are they which came out of" — what? out of kings'
houses, out of halls of science, or halls of legislation ;
out of the circles of high refinement, or the ranks of
enterprise and prowess ? " These are they Avhicli
came out of great tribulation." A prominent place
and a radiant robe are assigned to those saints who
have experienced severity of trial.



11



That severity comes in many forms. There may
be h'teral martyrdom, — the surrender of life in testi-
mony to the truth. Noble indeed is the army of such.
It was headed by the first believer, who went from
earth to glory. But Cain has had a terrestrial im-
mortality. He lives still. Ever and anon he steps
forth to lay low some brother, whose only offence is
that his deeds are righteous. Caves of the earth,
dens of wild beasts, dungeons, the stake, the scaffold,
the battle-field, have had their thousands who pass
through great tribulation. We cannot help noting
the fact, that the only individual name of a deceased
saint honored by our Lord with mention, since he as-
cended on high, is that of a faithful martyr, Antipas,
slain at Pergamos, where Satan dwelt.

There is a social, protracted martyrdom, requiring
every day hardly less of faith and courage than are
needed once by the man who seals his testimony
with blood. So long as godly persons remain out of
heaven, and sons of Belial out of hell, David will not
want his Shimei, nor Paul his accusers. The royal
psalmist declares, " God hath set me up for his mark :
his archers compass me about." Maliciously skilful
and unwearied they are, uttering all manner of evil
falsely.

There is the martyjdom of severe sickness. What
months, what years, of bodily distress are often endured
by the children of God ! Almost without interruption,



12



and with only occasional mitigation, they suffer on,
shut away, for the most part, from the alleviations of
social life and religious ordinances. Now and then is
one hound to the rack, lo ! these eighteen years.

There is the martyrdom of mind. This may come
in the form of derangement ; all normal action being
suspended, and reason giving place to dismal delirium
or maniacal frenzy. Men of sanctified genius, like
Cowper and Collins, become victims, as well as those
from other walks, grades, and ages of Christian life,
who are to be found in the lunatic asylums of different
lands.

It may take the less decided form of melancholy,
always connected with bodily disease ; the nervous
system being enervated, and the mind becoming a
prey to illusive convictions, to most whimsical and
j)ainful hallucinations. The suffering is real, and a
real cause exists, though the particular fancy be un-
founded. Great indeed is the tribulation from this
source.

There is also the form of mental decay. Paralysis,
epilepsy, or other affections, laying a relentless grasp
upon one's system, the mind sympathizes. The brain,
its immediate instrument, being impaired, torpor of
perceptions, and dimness of recollection, come on.
The failure of mental activity may be imperceptible ;
but decline, gradual or rapid, takes place, and some-



13



times consciously to the patient, occasioning him the
keenest arrief.



&'



■' He cries, These things confound me ;
They settle on my brain :
The very air around me
Is universal pain."

To witness or experience dilapidation of body and
mind in old age is sufficiently trying ; but how much
more so amidst all the freshness and high hopes of
youth ? Sadness and anguish beyond utterance does
it occasion both the sufferer and his friends. Such
are forms of great tribulation, out of which some of
God's dear children pass to heaven.

There they are arrayed in white robes: their attire
has a marked character of soft and exquisite purity
and brilliancy. The choicest beauty and sweetest
influences of glory seem to concentrate on them.
Their raiment probably resembles that of our Lord
when he was transfigured, which became " white and
glistering," — " exceeding white as snow."

But how came that raiment so spotless and shin-
ing ? " They have washed their robes, and made
them white," — not in streams of charity, not in
baptismal waters, not in the tears of penitence, not
in the blood of patriotism or of martyrdom, but " in
the blood of the Lamb." Fires of the furnace, in
seven-fold intensity, cannot purge the deep stains.



14



Jesus' blood alone cleanseth us from all sin. Again
and again let it be reiterated, not great tribulation,
but the atoning fountain, purifies from the dust of
earth, from the dark blots of guilt. While, however,
purification is effected only by the blood of sprink-
ling, and while every saint is made meet for glory by
the same efficacious cleansing, those who came out of
great tribulation are advanced to a high place, and
have raiment of peculiar beauty.

There is suggested a lesson of resignation and hope,
in view of the severe and more protracted trials of life.
Not only are we to recognize the general fact, that
God's discipline of his children here is preparatory
to their place and service in heaven ; but also that
great tribulation is with a view to greater eminence
in glory. There is no more reason for discontent
under a heavy than under a light pressure of his
hand.

God teaches with peculiar distinctness, not only
that he will have us suffer as well as do his will, but
bear long, and bear to the end ; that the time for
authorized murmuring will never come ; that no du-
ration of debility, and no amount of pain, is an apol-
ogy for hard thoughts of Him " who maketh sore,"
and with whom a thousand years are as one day.

Good men, like Job and Jonah, are sometimes
under the temptation of impatience to die ; friends,
too, are impjitient to have them in heaven ; but all



15

such feelings are an impeachment of the wisdom and
goodness of God. He detains no one here too long ;
no one suffers too nauch. Whose active service is
indispensable to him ? The ardent, energetic Saul of
Tarsus, when converted, asks, " Lord, what wilt thou
have me do ? " but our Lord sends even him word,
" how great things he must suffer ; " and Paul's apos-
tleship of multiplied trials was no less remarkable or
needful than that of his preaching.

It may be that some us, in contemplating extreme
cases of this kind, have prayed unconditionally for
the convalescence of a dear friend, or have wondered
that God did not grant a speedy release. Not so,
however, the sufferer, if the discipline has been fully
sanctified to him. " Nevertheless, not as I will, but as
thou wilt," is the cry : '• my Father appointed it ; I
would have nothing otherwise."

Will not the observation of all present bear me
out in the remark, that the grace of our Lord Jesus
Christ seldom shines forth in a more beautifully bal-
anced and sustained spirituality and general develop-
ment of Christian graces, than may be seen in situa-
tions of enduring distress? Unquestioned and mature
as piety may have been previously, still, does not the
sufferer usually appear in the lasting ordeal to be re-
fined as silver is refined, and tried as gold is tried ?
Does not tribulation work patience and the whole
charmino' cluster of virtues which are the outsTrowth
of that primal and fruitful istock ?



16



The highest attainment which any one can make is
to be cheerfully submissive to the will of God ; desir-
ous of nothing else than for his glory ; to be, to do, or
to suffer just what and where he pleases, — an attain-
ment seldom so conspicuous elsewhere as on the couch
of distress, or in the living martyrdom of reverses,
afflictions, and persecutions. Severe and lengthened
sufferings are God's sieve and fan, that leave little or
no visible chaff behind : they are the furnace whence
come brightest vessels of honor for the upper sanctu-
ary. Martyrs of the stake, the sick-room, and the
hospital are wanted there. For the special sphere
and service assigned, all this great tribulation is
needful. Not a soul in that honored company could
do with one day less of the long sickness, or one less
pain of the lingering torture, endured here. Such pres-
ent trial of faith being much more precious than that
of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire,
will be found unto praise -and honor and glory at the
ajDpearing of Jesus Christ, when all present mysteries
of suffering piety will be cleared up, and lost in the
glory resulting to God the Father, Son, and Spirit, for
ever and ever.

Six months ago, we began to miss from our solemn
assemblies one who had long worshipped with us.
Her immediate departure from earth was looked for,
so severe was the attack of disease, and so excruciat-
ing her bodily distress. From that tune onwarrl, we



17



saw her dying daily ; and yet her life prolonged be-
yond all expectation, the same wearisome days and
nights, still, still appointed her, the suffering of a
nature that precluded material relief from human
hands. Why was it ? " In her tongue is the law of
kindness : " that lineament in the Bible-sketch of an
ideal woman was prominent in her. Kind words
flowed most readily from those lips now sealed in
silence. As w^e stood beside her remains, nothing so
convinced us that she was no long;er with us, as that
we heard none of the pleasant words which were in-
variable when we had met her heretofore.

The law of kindness was in her heart. Was it not
out of the abundance of the heart that her mouth
spoke ? It would seem as if she gave all diligence
in " adding to brotherly kindness, charity." So deep,
so uniform was it, as to be more than mere kindness :
it was sympathy.

That law dwelt in her hands. Her good will found
expression otherwise than in w^ords simply. Kind
deeds were her occupation. Those hands, so long, so
constantly busy in thoughtful ministrations, are now
folded in motionless repose ; and who of us has
known one that surpassed her in the sweet charities
of life, in skilful, unwearied acts of well-doing ?

It was a law with her through the sixty years of
married life. It governed. A kindness not fitful was



the life of her life. Of her it might be truly said,
" Charity never faileth."

She has taught us what an amount of delightful
meaning there is in the word neighborly. She cre-
ated around her an atmosphere fragrant and cheering
as the breath of spring. She won us to kindness ; for
her acts did more than make happy : they suggested
a principle ; they taught us a lesson. The manner
and the spirit were more even than the liberality.

Such a character and example are a great social
benefaction. The kindness of that heart which has
now ceased beating, made many another heart all the
kinder. What a lesson of unselfishness did she teach
us ! Who evet witnessed an ungracious act in her ?
More truly might it be said of her than of the Em-
press Josephine on her death-bed, " She never caused
a tear to flow."

By his dealing with her, God has taught us pro-
foundly. We see that no tenderness of heart, no
amount of beneficence, can purchase exemption from
the furnace of trial. We should have selected for
her the easiest departure possible ; God chose a
lingering anguish ; and his word to us all is, " Be
still, and know that I am God." Repeatedly, in un-
complaining wonder, did she exclaim, " Why is his
chariot so long in coming ? " till the evening before
last Lord's Day it was said to her, " You will be better
to-morrow." " Yes, I shall be well," was the answer :



19



" I shall be in heaven to-morrow ; " and, on that holy
day of rest, she fell quietly asleep in Jesus.

Do any of you, my friends, deem yourselves to be
in great tribulation, — some severe trial in person,
estate, name, or family ? Are you not thus coming
into the fellowship of Christ's sufferings ? The Holy
Spirit, the hand of God, leads us to no desert, no Geth-
semane, no Golgotha, where Jesus has not been before
us. Enough for the servant to be as his Lord. What-
ever of purity we now have is by the blood of the
Lamb. Whatever of beauty the group arrayed in
white robes have, is only a lustre reflected from him
who is the light of heaven. Remembering the far
more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, let us
be cheerful, yea, more than cheerful, under present
afflictions.



£ME CONGREGATIOMAt Liast^SS

14 Beacon Srstir
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Online LibraryA. C. ThompsonOut of great tribulation : a sermon occasioned by the death of Mrs. Sarah R. Baker, preached June 2, 1867 → online text (page 1 of 1)