WHE LIFE SEEMS HARD. By REV. GEO. THOS. DOWLI G, D. D.

"God did prove Abraham." — Genesis 22 : 1 (Revised Version). ISAAC means "laughter." This was the name Abraham had given to his only son because of the joy he had brought into Abraham's tent. All the promises of the future centred in that boy, and so whenever he spoke to him he called him " Laughter." But one day, according to the story in this chapter, which I want you to read, if you will, after finishing this sermon, his " laughter " was turned to mourning, and his joy to heaviness. God said to him: "Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Laughter, and get thee into the land of Moriah ; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." Surely no man ever had a harder duty than that. Such a command seemed the very refinement of cruelty. otice it : " Thy son ! " " Thine only son ! " " Thine only son, whom thou lovest — Laughter ! " " Offer him ! " 23

24 SATURDAY IGHT SERMO S. We may not be able to explain the whole of this chapter. But that is nothing new. You cannot explain the whole of your grape-vine. And you do not need to. Its clusters may be

just as sweet to you as though you could understand all those secret processes which none but God can understand when He takes the rain falling upon 3^our vineyard and performs again the old miracle, by turning the water into wine. But no mystery of nature shall ever lead me to reject her clusters of fruit. And so is it with my Bible. Let us always remember that mystery is only another name for our ignorance. What are some of the clusters which this Mount Moriah experience of Abraham may bring to you ? I think in the first place we may know that when God tries you, it is not always because you have done wrong. He was not punishing Abraham ; he was honoring him. " What have I done ? " I have heard that cry accompanied with wringing of hands and tear-stained cheeks. Perhaps you have not done anything at all. He is " proving " you ; not punishing you. The stronger the bridge, the greater the burden we place upon it. The more valiant

WHE LIFE SEEMS HARD. 25 the general, the more thoroughly his king puts that valor to the test. I once heard Charles Spurgeon say in speaking of Mr. Muller and the manifold disappointments which he had encountered in the establishment of his orphanage : " Mr. Muller has had very much greater trials than I, for he is a great Christian ; but God knows that I am only a little child." Do not mistake "proving" for punishing. And here is something else which this teaches us : That everything we own belongs to God

when He wants it. Until we learn that lesson, each new experience which runs counter to our wishes, surprises us, and thrusts us into the Castle of Giant Despair. But when we have once wrought this supreme thought into our lives, then, but not till then, we may begin to know the joy of an accepted sorrow. That was Abraham's path of safety, and that must be ours ; to realize that we are not serving a hard Master ; that He will not ask us to do or to suffer anything which is not reasonable, and that in the end it shall be for our good. The first way out of every hard duty is to do it ; not to shirk it ; not to groan over it ; but just to do it.

26 SATURDAY IGHT SERMO S. We all know the story of Michael Angelo ; how, when they found him bending over a rough block of marble, and they asked him why, he answered : " I see an angel in this stone." But perhaps we have never thought of the way in which the angel was brought out. It was by taking aw^ay. What He is seeking to do with us is to bring out the angel, and sometimes He finds it necessary to do it in the same manner. " Offer him ! " One more thought : Always know that if we have Abraham's confidence in Abraham's God, somewhere, somehow, sometime, everything will come out right. Perhaps you are being driven to heaven in a chariot of fire. Well, others have been before you. But no matter if God drives. AVhatever else you lose never lose your faith in Him. An aged Christian, when about to die, reviewing his life, said :

" The greater part of my heaviest troubles never came to pass." Oh, how much joy you have lost out of your life if you never have learned the meaning of the fifty-sixth Psalm, in which David cries : " What time I am afraid I will trust in Thee."

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