Thomas Carlyle.

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against us, it must not be thought that there is
no pertecution. There are the persecutions of
private life — the persecutions of family, of kin-
dred, of friends — the realization of the Saviour's
own words in Matt. x. 34-36; and to spirits of
affectionate sensibility, these are many a time
worse to bear than the proscriptions, and prisons,
and banishments, and deaths, of more public
opposition. To such spirits, the forfeiture of a
father's or a mother's smile, the alienation and
loss of relations and bosom friends, may have
more in them of the terrific and the tempting
than the most excruciating of corporeal tortures^
or the worst forms of death.

But although, in the passage before ns, and
in others of a similar description, there may
be a primary reference to persecution and ito
trying effects, there is not the slightest reason
for restricting the application of them exclu-
sively to sufferings of this one kind. By such
a principle of restriction, the afflicted people of
God would be deprived of a large amount of
their consolation — no inconsiderable proportion
of what is addressed in the New Testament to
sufferers having evidently the primary refe-
rence that has been mentioned. But in the

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fnll spirit of it, it is applicable to the children
of God m:\j^^fsally> in all their Tarieties of pro-
vidential trial. And the varieties, in both kind
and measure, are without end. There are
afflictions in the form of p^vonal diseases;
afflictions in the diseases and deaths of near
and dear relations — ^fathers, mother^ husband^
wives, sons, daughters, kindred in every degree
— ^ri,ends, companions ; afflictions in the losses
and the crosses — the baffled schemes, the frus-
trated hopes^ the mortifying reverses, the diffi-
culties, anzietieSy and privations, in the afiairs
of life; afflictions from poverty, with all its
attendant train of evils, personal and domestic,
bodily iwd mental; afflictions from the treachery
of false friends, and the malice of real enemies;
afflictions from the wickedness of the bad, and
from the kind intentions, but unwise and im-
prudent measures, of t^e good. Enumeration
an4 description, indeed, would be endless — the
lot of no one individual being, in this particular,
the same with the lot of any other. Some have
dealt out to them what we are acQustomed to
call a hard and heavy lot — such as that of Job
in the period of his divinely permitted bereave-
ments and sufferings; and to some there is
allotted a scene of trial as long-continued as
that of others is varied and accumulated — ex-
pending even to the close of a protracted life.

And yet, respecting his own troubles, and
tl^e troubles, without exception, of his fellow-
believers, what says the apostle here?— ** Our
Ught eviction, which is but for a moment**

1 . In the first place, they are ** light.** I need
hardly say that the term is used comparaUvely,
But compfU'atively with what ? It is not of his
own sufferings comparatively with those of
others that he speaks, nor of the sufferings of
any one individual or class of them compared
with those of the rest, nor of then: sufferings
compared with those of the men of the world.
Yet comparison is meant, and must be meant.
What, then, may be its implied points ! There
are, I think, JJwr, which we may natura^y pre-
sume to have been in the apostle's mind.

First, They are light, compared with vhat we
deserve. This is a point of comparison which
we do well never to let slij^ from our remem-
brance. The habitual presence of it to our
minds will make us at once thankful for the
very least of God's mercies, and submissive
under the very heaviest. of God'4 inflictions.
What is our desert ! What should our doom
be, were that desert to be the standard of our
treatment I The apostle, in one short sentence,
tells us : •* The wages of sin is death.** The ** second

death" — eternal death — ^is what is due to us on '
account of our sins. While we have anything
whatever short of this, we have it in opposition
to desert — we have it from mercy — we have
what we have no title to. O how " light '* the
very heaviest and most accumulated load of
woes that can ever be laid upon us in this world, 1
when put in comparison with this I Let the
child of God, when tried to the uttermost —
when "afflicted with wave upon wave," the
** billows going over him " — bear this considera-
tion steadily in mind. Let him but put the
question to himself. What, and where should
I have been, if I had had my desert ? and then,
when his load is at the very heaviest, he will
say, with grateful emphasis — Aotr light I

Secondly/, They are light, compared with tchxt
we even now enjoy. How unspeakably rich and
various the favours conferred upon us, even in
the midst of our most deeply felt privations,
and our most overwhelming trials I Well
might the apostle, when he enjoins on be-
lievers, ** in everything by prayer and suppli-
cation to make their requests known unto God,
interject the phrase, " with thanksgiving ; ** for
when is it, when can it ever be, that they have
not good reason to blend thanksgiving with
their prayers and supplications! The reason
for this consists not merely in the remnant of
temporal mercies that are still to be found in
their lot — ^no, nor chiefly; it consists in far
better and higher blessings — the present bless-
ings of God's salvation — blessings which, in
their convictions and in their experience, they
know to be incomparably superior to any be-
longing to this world it is possible for them
either to enjoy or to lose. In the midst
of his severest ** affliction " — even when all
earthly good seems to be failing him — when
the apt similitude for his condition is that of
" a dry and thirsty land, where there is no
water" — the believer can adopt the language of
those who have passed through the sultry and
barren wastes before him, and sing : ** Because
thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips
will praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while
I live; I will lift up my hands in thy name.
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and
fatness;* and my mouth shall jSraise thee with
joyful lips, when I remember thee upon my
bed, and meditate on thee tn the night watches."
** Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiri-
tual blessings in heavenly places in Christ ! "
While in the heartfelt enjoyment of this love
of his covenant God, and of all covenant pro-

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mises and blessings, although far froiD iiiten- I
sible to the pressure of his trials, he will still,
with a plajntive cbeerfulness, be able to sing
— OhowUghtl

Thirdly, They are light^ compared with ir^
•» kop$ we atUicipate, Lighter still — O how un-
speakablj lighter, when thw compared 1 What
our hopes a^tici^te Is the ** far more exceed-
ing^ and eternal weight of glory." But this
forms our second tbpic, of which the illustra*
tion must be reserved. We shall then see how
all the afflictions of the present life, when laid
in the balance against this *' weight of glory/^
^fly up, and kick the beam." Meanwhile, t
can only observe, that the Apostle Peter makes
this very use of the Christian's prospects— 1
mean, for lightening the burden of his present
sorrows : — ** Blessed be the God and Father of
our Lord Jesys Christ, who, according to bis
abundant mercy, hath begotten us again unto a
lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ
from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible;,
and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, re*
served in heaven for you, who are kept by the
power of God through faith unto salvation, ready
to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye
greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need
be, ye are in heaviness through manifold tempta-
tions : that the trial of your faith, being much
more precious than of g^old that perisheth,
though it be tried with nrie, might be found
unto praise and honour and glory at the appear-
ing of Jesus Christ."— 1 Pet. i, ^6. I only

FoiniWy, They are " light," when compared
with ikt tpirU (xnd ttrength pledged in dvoinepromm
to enable ui to hear them. Light and heavy, you
are well aware, are relative terms — relative
to degrees of strength. What to a powerful
man is like a feather for lightness, may by a
feeble man be felt an oppressive load. Now,
what is the strength of the believer ! Not his
own. Were that the case — had he no power to
trust to than what lay in himself — well might
he dread even the lightest burden. But divine
strength— the strength of God — is his. He is
"strong in the Lord and in the power of his
might." Under every trial, his gracious Lord
says to him : "My grace is sufficient for thee;
for my strength is made perfect in weakness.''
There is no case of trouble imaginable to which
this assurance d6es not extend; and what can
be too heavy to be borne in the strength of the
Lord ! It is this that enables the believer to
say : ** Wherefore I take pleasure in infirmities,
in reproaches, in necessities, in persecntions, in

distreeses for Christ's sake : for toft«i lam tMiy
Am aw I tlTMi^."— ^ Cor. xiL 6^10. Along with
impaisted stieiigllh I have afisodated the spirit
irith whidi 4he Christian is enabled to meet
andi to findnre "affliotioas"-^^pri»ch 'sustains
him jmdcr them, and causes 'tfasnr to feel
"light." This I msjr illustrate from tin words
of the Saviour himsetf : " Come unto me, aU ye
that labour and are heavy laden^ and I will
giye you rest Take my yoke upon you, and
l«am of Bte; for I am meek and heart:
and ye dudl find rast unto your sools; For my
yoke is easy, and my burden is Bgfat.'' — Matt.
zi 28-80.. 01 it is when this "rest to the
soul" has beoD thirq^gh grace found and expe^
rieneed, that the truth of the oondnding decla-
ration is hsppUy felt. By the possession of this
inward " rest," there is a life, a buoyancy, an
energy imparted to the spirit, such as, to the
subject of it, rend^^ both the "yoke'^ of
obedience "easy," and the "burden" of trial
"light." All are aware how widely different
are our feelings, whether in discharging diffi-
cult and self-denying duties, or in beimng up
under the pressure of heavy trials^ when, on
the one hand, the mind is at ease and happy,
and when, on the other, it is oppressed and dis-
turbed. In the latter case, nothing is either
done efifectually and to puri>ose^ or endured
with manly patience and cheerfulness. All
IB languor and listlessness. Every difficulty
looks in8urmountable;^very affliction incurable.
Whereas in the former there is a vivacity, a
nerve, a vigour, infused into everything. Trials
seem comparatively as nothing. There is an
elasticity of mind that overcomes their pressure;
an upward spring, more than equivalent to the
downward gravitation. There is a light within
that penetrates and cheers the gloom without
Such appears to be the import of the words of
Nehoniah to the restored captives of Israel:
" The joy of the Lord is your strength." Thus,
when Paul experienced the inward delight that
sprung from a sense of G^d's pardoning mercy
and paternal love, he could smile amid suffered
and impending calamities, and of even his
heaviest burdens say — how light!

But there is a eecond epithet here applied to
the afflictions of Qod'a people— they are "M
for a moment," And here too, I nfeed not say
the epithet is comparative. Long and short,
like light and heavy, are relative terms. The
afflictions of one man may, in direct compari-
son, be longer than those of another; even^
in proportion to the duration of their respec-
tive lives, very much longer. Bat the point

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of oompftrBBOxi in the paisage before us is
xnaiiifastlj that of tmjporal to eUmal, The

j afflictioni may be oonsidered as extending
through the entire length of the present life;
and still, even suoh a continued oonrse of sof-
fering may be regarded as what the apostle
prononnoes wuimnUary, It is so, in comparison
with a ooming eternity — ^with the perpetuity of
everything in the state by which the present is
to be sncoeeded. There is no comparison, in-
deed, capable of being instituted between the
longest conceivable pmod of time and eternity.

■ The longest is no 'more a portion of eternity
than the shortest. Eternity admits not of com-
parison with either. If the very longest were
any portion of it, then a certain number of
such portions must make up the whole — ^must
exhaust eternity. A moment, then, is to eter-
nity the same as a thousand years. The longest
life ever Hved by man was to eternity less than
the twinkling of an eye compared to that
longest life. Though that life of nine hundred
and sixty-nine years had been filled with all
the variety of sufiering from its first breath to
its last, the afflictions might still have been
i-alled, as here, ^ light afflictions, which are but
for a momenta* The contemplation of eternity
makes time shrink into nothing.

I would fain have gone forward, in this paper,
to the prctpecU of the believer, which are here
set in such striking contrast with his afflictions.
I fear, however, I have already written about
enough for the space allotted me; and must
(reluctantly, I confess, to myself, but it may
be, satisfactorily to the reader) have done for
the present.


Akovo the many unanswerable evidences that attest
the dirine origin and nature of the Christian faith,
there is one that requires neither the research of the
learned nor the extensive reading of ihe laborious

No human argument seems so calculated to bring
this conviction home to the mind as the interesting
class of evidence alluded to; and it may be acquired
by the exerdse of candid obserration hi intercourse
with our fellow-creatures. It is to be sought for
chiefly among the unlettered poor, whose worldly
advantages have been too scanty to cause the de-
velopment of ai^ great mental resources.

It will be found that divine teaching not only puri-
fies the heart and sanctifies the life, but improves
and exalts the intellect. Education and the influence
of society give a tone to conversation; and those who
have bad such opportunities of improvement can
discourse on topics suitable to the circle in which
they move; reading, and general occurrences, supply

variety; and thus, with httle knowledge, and no ex-
perience, of true relig^ th^ may, in secular affidrs,
be entertaining, and even instructive.

It is altogether different with the illiterate man,
whom poverty forces into a struggle for bare subsis-
tenc0« His thoughts are occupied with the plodding
labour of his every-day life; his habits take their
tinge from his droomstanoes; and his range of ideas
are Umited as they are depressed. Let this indivi-
dual become a subject of divine grace, and he is visi-
bly a ** new creature;** the difference between him
and his former self is so evident, that it cannot be
mistaken, while it is not to be accounted for in any
way but one. His intellect, which vras so obtuse that
it embraced nothing but the gross objects of sense,
expands under the quickening influences of heavenly
light; and even his mannen partake of the change.
If he was rude before, he is now softened down; and
his conduct towards those who, in the wise disMbu-
tion of Providence, have been placed above him in
worldly station, is modelled upon the Gbspel precept :
** Honour unto whom honour is due.** But the Gospel
has also taught him that the children of God are all
one in Christ Jesus; and that although he is so vile
that he can never on this earth estimate the depth
of that pit whence he has been delivered, yet he is
precious for whom Christ died; and his being clothed
in the meanest garments here does not make him
less an heir of glory; so that the grace of true humi-
lity is thus blended vrith that self-respect which
elevates him in the scale of society. He pities the
proud man who has his portion in this life, and is
" without God in the world,** while he knows not his
own perilous condition; but he obeys those who have
the rule over him in all things lawful, whosoever they
be — ^he prays for their salvation, and r^'oices in their

An intimate acquaintance with the Word of God
furnishes matter for exalted thought, and gives
dignity to the mode of expressing it. An instance
occurs to me which may illustrate this. During the
prevalence of cholera, some years ago, a very poor
woman had left her humble hut in the hills to seek,
in a neighbouring town, some necessaries for the
comfort of an aged mother. Many were afraid to
venture into a place where so dreadful a disease was
fiitally raging; and before entering it she was warned
of its sad condition. She determined, however, in
calm and quiet confidence, to perform her errand of
filial love and duty; and her observation to her kind
informant was: "Oh, if they would have the blood
of sprinkling on their door-posts, the destroying angel
might pass them by.**

One who has studied the Bible with a critical and
scientific eye can talk of its unrivalled philosophy —
its most ancient and wonderful history— its minuf e
chronology— its sublime poetry, and yet never have
discovered the "hidden manna** contained in its
sacred pages. But one who has searched the Scrip-
tures, and continues to search them because they
reveal the will of God to man, and testify of Christ
his Saviour — as the prophets wrote of him — ^his birth,
his life, his death, his resurrection; and, taught of the
Spirit, has found the peari of great price— although
he brought to the sacred task no literary aids, can

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speak of tkeir contents with a power and an unction
that mere head learning can never confer. He can
apeak a word in season to the saint and to the sin-
ner. His homelj language becomes embellished; he
draws his stores from the inexhaustible fountain, and
we gladly turn away from the mere lettered exposir
tioii of the Bible to listen to him who speaks of
eternal things, because he belieTOS; while his soul
kindles with the gLowiog remembrance of w^at he
has felt, and seen, and handled of the Word of life.

As an example of the truth of these observations,
I submit a sketch of an individual who was a re-
markable instance of this divine teaching. He was
a native of the west of England, and had been, in his
youth, by trade a rope-maker, but had enjoyed very
few educational advantages. Before I became ao-
quaintedwith him he was a feeble old man, very
poor, and unable to work for his bread; but his Chris-
tian character had promoted him to the office 'of
deacon in a Dissenting chapel, where he was in-
trusted with the collection of seat-rents, which might
afford him a small livelihood. The oi^ deacon had
nothing in his outward appearance to recommend
him; he was a very ordinary-looking person, with,
tender eyes, and afflicted with a complaint which,
causing a frequent involuntary convulsive sort of
motion in the head, sometimes im{>edcd his speech.
He was extremely illiterate, and could not, with
ease, converse on ahuost any subject, except it was
in some way connected with the ** one thing need-
ful;" but when he entered upon that ideas .flowed
spontaneously, and he soon became an dbjeot of in- •
tereit to any person who could appreciate the breath-
ings of a devout spirit. The cold and doudy world
had no power to call forth his ciH[>abilities; but the
** Sun of Righteousness" had iurisen on his soul, and
great was the transformation produced by his beams.
The tongue of the stammerer was made to speak
plainly, and his observations were apt and edifying.

A gentleman, who attended the same place of wor-
ship with the deacon, was in the habit, immediately
after the service, of putting to hhn the common
question of idlers : *' What news is there ?" Week
after we^k the Same query saluted his ears, under the
same circumstances; the old man was modest, and
for a time he endured. At length, however, he took
oourage to reply, and on being once more asked,
"What's the news?" said: "Why, the best news
ever I heard was, that Jesus Christ came into the
world to save sinners." From that day the question

was not repeated. Deacon H was an oocasional

visitor of ours; and one who now, like the subject of
this brief notice, rests in the silent grave, then de-
iigfated in showing him kindness, and would some-
thntt, by a remark, draw forth from the old Christian
a pointed and strildng response. One very cold day
he caQed, the wind was blowing firom the north, and
it was said to him, rather playfu&y, in allusion to
some of us, " You know n^hing good ever came firom
the north." " We read in Esekiel," said the deaoon,
jtry composedly, " that there was a north gate upon
the temple as well as a south, and that the ohil<teen
of God entered by both; tliose at the north entrance
were driven to take refuge in the imputed righteous-
ness of Christ, by the tenran of the law, but those

who came in by the south Jgate were those who were
drawn with the- coids of love."

Poor H was, for a time, laid aside by illness,

and during part of the period he was exercised with
considerable anxiety and depression of mind; but
these mists were cleared away by the bright light he
loved and sought. It was interesting to hear him
relate how he was delivered out of that trial, and re-
fer with delight to the portion of Scripture that wis
made the means of comforting him. " I was think-
ing," he said, " of the sad strait the people of Jeru-
salem were in when threatened by an oiemy they
had no power to resist. They were nmch ninid ; they
had ho help in man; and the multitude that came
against them was great. But they and their king
cried unto the Lord; he hearkened, and delivered
them.' They had no need to fight — only to stand still
and see the salvation of the Lord. They went out and
looked, and behold, where were the enemies they
dreaded? — ^they were all dead men! What, then,
had Judah to do ?— just to gather ilp the spoil," con-
tinued the old man, with a delighted countenance;
" so I took courage. I saw that the work I could not
do for myself was done for me, and I — ^why, I was
privileged to reap the fruit of it."

My humble acquaintance, H » now ngoices in

the presence of that Saviour whom, having not seen,
he loved. Memoky, aided by a few incidental no-
tices, has enabled me to recall a few of his sayings.
Years have gone by since I beheld it, but I can still
picture to myself the happy expression which the
calling to remembrance of God's loving-kindness pro-
duced on a face much more indicative of suffering
than pleasure ; for this world brought him far more of
the former than of the latter. He was a connstent
and devoted servant of his divine Master; and it may
be said that his works do follow him in the form of
that testimony his life bore to the immutable truths
of the Bible. I cannot help thinking that such as
he supply an internal evidence of the power of divine
grace upon the human mind, which may be externally
seen by those who wiU but lend themselves to the
inquiry, and honestiy apply the result of their ex-


No sickness there-
No weary wasting of the frame away;

No fearfid shrinking from the midnight lur —
No dread of summer's bright and fervid ray 1

No hidden grief—
No wild and cheerless vklon of despair;

No vtdn petition for a swift relief—
Ne teariU eyes, no broken hearts are there.

Care has no (lome
Within the realm of ceaselMs prayer and song;

Its billows break away and mdt in foam.
Far from the mandona of the wjpait tinrongi

The storm's black wing
Is never spread athwart celestial skies !

Its wailings blend not with the voice of springy
As some too tender floweret fades and dies I

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No night distils
Its chilling dews upon the tender frame;

No moon is needed there ! The light which fills
That land of glory from its Maker came !

No parted friends
Cer mournful recollections have to weep !
No bed of death enduring love attends.
To watch the coming of a pulseless sleep !

No blasted flower
Or withered bud celestial gardens know !

No scorching blast or fierce descending shower

Online LibraryThomas CarlyleThe Christian treasury, Volume 2 → online text (page 11 of 145)