PERSISTENT FAITH BY JOSEPH A. SEISS, D.D., LL.D.

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Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. — Job 13: 15. IT is the patriarch Job who here speaks. He was a great sufferer. He had been a rich man, — rich in sheep, camels, oxen, and asses, the sort of property which then made up rich men's estates. But all these had been wrested from him, — burnt up, or carried off beyond recovery. He had a great household of servants; but these were smitten with the sword, captured, or otherwise destroyed, until scarcely one was left. He had seven sons and three daughters, all settled and happily situated in life, full of comfort in each other, and the particular pride of their father. But, in the midst of life and its festive enjoyments, a great storm struck the house in which they were assembled, overthrew it, and killed every child he had. Nor was this all. Troubles never come sinelv. Wave upon wave had dashed over him, but other and mightier ones came. He was himself stricken with sore sickness. An elephantine leprosy seized him, and covered him with swellings and ulcerations, making him a loathing to himself. His 406

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friends could no longer recognize him amid the distortions of his features, and were so horrified at the spectacle he presented when they saw him, that they lifted up their voices and wept, rent their mantles, and sprinkled themselves with dust. And still more to intensify his sufferings his wife turned adversary and tempter, and urged him to curse God and die, rather than live on in such wretchedness. And to all this came the harsh and persistent accusations of his mistaken friends, who referred his distresses to some flagrant guilt, which they charged him with hiding in his heart. He knew and protested that he was not a hypocrite, and yet he was at a loss to understand his case. It is a hard thing to be tormented without being able to know why. And with all the rest of Job's miseries, this inability to unravel the mystery was no small part of his distress. One of the intensest of his cries was for God to show him wherefore He thus contended with him. But amid all these intensified sufferings Job still spoke of having an adequate Helper in whom to trust. His faith was greater than his trouble. And even if his sufferings should be intensified, doubled, and protracted till life could no longer hold out under them, he would still hopefully confide in God. Satan alleged that Job would give up his religion if his riches and prosperity were taken from him ; and so the accuser was allowed to afilict him. But the result demonstrated that his devo-

408 PERSISTENT FAITH. tion had a deeper foundation than a mere selfishness which looked only to the enjoyments of a prosperous earthly life. Job was a true believer, and showed that if deprived even of life itself he had faith in the Almighty, and that to Him He would cling. Nor was this a mere foolish fanaticism. There is an Almighty One, who ever lives, and we in Him. He is the Lord of all realms and of all things. No hair can drop nor sparrow fall without Him. Our hearts beat because He sustains them. Life and death, prosperity and adversity are alike from Him ; nor can anything be or come to pass without Him. Nor is He less the friend, protector, and saviour of His believing people amid the worst seeming adversities than in the brightest of earthly comforts. However hot the furnaces through which He leads them, or extreme the demands He makes of them, they shall not be the losers in the end. Nay, to lose life for His sake is the sublimest saving of it. Such unfaltering faith in the divine goodness amid earthly suffering is not as common, even among Christians, as it ought to be. People believe in God ; and while things are prosperous they think Him good, and readily trust and hope in Him. But when long and multiplied adversities come, and the soreness of trial and hardship is felt, and their days and nights are filled with grief and sorrow, they are apt to be fretted, sometimes even to desperation. Though they have more comforts left than Job had, they are prone

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to feel and act as if there were no God, or as if He were dead, or had lost His power and graciousness. And many are so shaken by their trials that they fall out with God, and will not believe that He cares for them, or that there is any good in trusting in Him. But God is merciful even to such, and it is not right for us to blame them too harshly. Human nature is weak. Faith has some hard battles to fight. And things often come to such a pass that we are greatly at a loss to know what to make of them. God's footsteps are in the sea. Many are the occasions on which He seems to hide himself. Expectations are disappointed or reversed ; earnest pravers are not answered; our thinking is baffled and confounded ; matters take on a contrariness that seems to throw everything out of gear; and we wonder what possible good is in it. It is easy enough to be pious when all runs smoothly. But when clouds and tempests come, and darkness takes the place of light, and the dealings of God give us pain, and the sword at every step is made to pierce our bosom, and everything in the world seems turned against us, then to be confident in the Lord demands an amount of grace and faith not so easy of attainment. And yet such a victorious confidence is possible. It was shown in Job, and should be aimed at by us. His adversities were intense and many ; but they could not dislodge nor even shake his steadfast trust in God. His wealth gone ; his children gone; his health gone; his wife turned against

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him; his best friends coudemning him as a wicked dissembler ; and with seemingly nothing left to him but a miserable death and a clouded fame, he successfully held on to his faith in the love and justice of God, and cried his victory over every doubt. From the lowest depths of his sufferings came the word of triumph, " Though He slay me^ yet will I trust in Him. ' ' Job did not come to this rare and high attainment all at once. He was a man of like passions with us, and had to be taken through many sharp contentions and anxious exercises of soul to become such an exemplary believer. Nor was it without many a faulty word and passion that he came to the full victory of faith. At first he thought himself better than he was. It required the severity of his trials to reveal to him his defects, and to bring him to patient waiting upon God. But he was loyal in the centre of his being, even when speaking unadvisedly with his lips ; and this it was that finall}- brought him through as a grand example of confiding patience under the worst adversities. Faith and trust in God cannot unmake grief and sorrow, nor render suffering and death attractive and beautiful. Even the spotless Son of God had His pains and distresses of both soul and body ; and His followers cannot hope for exemption. The thorns will pierce and sore trials will come. Flesh and blood will be made to smart. But where the soul is stayed on God, faith has wonderful power to buoy up the spirits, to reconcile

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY. 4II US to our lot, and to steady the soul. It looks

through the clouds. It is not vanquished by the darkness it cannot penetrate. It furnishes an anchor of hope both sure and steadfast, which links the believer to the continent of eternal glory. And a grand example for our encouragement and imitation is here. To fret and vex ourselves because things go badly with us is not the way to master troubles, nor to help us when they come. We may not be able to see through them, but God does, and stands pledged to make all things work together for good to them that love Him. The great matter is to hold on, hold in, and hold out, as Job did, sure that the end will abujidantly justify all the ways of God and restore unto us double of all that we have suffered. Lazarus was not the loser by reason of his poverty and sores ; and Job became all the more renowned and glorious because no sufferings could dislodge him from his trust in the Almighty. Therefore, faint soul, hold on ; hold in ; hold out. 1. 68 FREE BOOKS http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books 2. ALL WRITINGS http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000

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