“CAST DOWWN, BUT NOT DESTROYED”
I well remember meeting you at the Chapel and also the sense of prayerful desire granted for you and others who were at the University at that time. Such desires, for the good of the souls of my young friends, I have often proved to be “Of the Lord” and in some cases they have been most graciously answered. Yet, so often with prayer and spiritual longing, there is appointed a “Trial of Faith”, in some cases lengthy and grievous.
This has been the case with you and you have known deep desponding and the darkness of a multitude of misgivings and fears. I would seek to encourage you and first I would mention the words of Psalm 11, 5 “The Lord trieth the righteous”. The “Righteous”, in the sense of the teaching of the word here can only be a man justified by grace, though a great sinner, and this in an increasing knowledge of himself. Only by this way of abounding grace, in Christ Jesus, can a man be justified, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. How sore these searchings of heart, together with the attendant trials of faith, can be, is shown in Holy Scripture. They are not outside the hand and control of God. Job is a case in point, and the experience of David as portrayed in the psalms gives evidence of the same fact, that “The Lord trieth the righteous”. There is a promise as to the outcome of these trials of faith and anxious questionings of the mystery of the wisdom of grace in the trials, in Psalm 34, 19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth him out of them all”. The former part of the verse has truly been your sad and solemn experience; shall the latter fail? Who is the guarantor? Even He who is faithful that promised (Heb. 10, 23), and who has shewn His absolute faithfulness to His covenant
undertakings “Even unto the death of the cross”, (Phil. 2, 8). Here indeed is sure ground of hope, even if the experience of hope and its exercise in heart and mind may seem so weak. What a mercy that grace can never be connected to our “merit” (otherwise it would not be grace), but always with the merit of the blessed One, in whom is the “Yea and Amen” of all the promises; the One who pledged Himself and will most surely perform them.
Do you ask the necessity of such heavy trials as your own and many others? Do you doubt the necessity of their lengthy duration? 1 Peter I, 6/7, Hebrews 12, 1/11, (where Proverbs 3, 11/13 is quoted) together with the related experiences of the sore and long discipline, (chastisement), to which the Lord’s people were subject, as described in the Scriptures, all have a bearing on this. A wiser eye than ours sees the necessity of such purging, a kinder hand than ever we know upon earth holds all in His control (see Matthew 28, 18); and a heart of unchanging love, revealed in Christ, shall never fail to cause “All things to work together for good”. The necessity of the trial of faith (or the discipline), is not simply in ourselves. There is a greater reason, to make a soul meet for the inheritance. This is an invaluable thing, the stripping of self-confidence and self-righteousness that our ALL shall be found in Christ. Also in this, mysterious and impossible as it may seem to you, the Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit shall be glorified.
When David wrote, “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit (Pit of noise), out of the miry clay (Slippery bog), and set my feet upon a rock and established my goings” (Psalm 40, 2), he glorifies God, not only in the deliverance, but also in preserving the spirit of prayer in the pit, and the Lord’s willingness to incline His ear to listen to such a sinner in such a place who could only ‘cry’, (Noisy complaint and weeping).
Some years ago, when I was in considerable trouble and sore soul-exercise, the words of Cowper’s hymn were brought very powerfully to my spirit,
“God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform,
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.
At the time I happened to call to see a friend, and he turned to this very hymn and said to me, “Have you ever noticed that Cowper writes, “Blind unbelief is sure to err, and scan His work in vain?” He does not write ‘May err’, but Â‘Is sure to err’. I then realised where my misgivings were coming from.
How great is the mercy and compassion of the Lord! “Like as a Father pitieth His children so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him; He knoweth their frame and remembereth they are dust”. To Paul, the Lord spoke in an hour of most painful affliction saying, “My grace is sufficient for thee, my strength shall be made perfect in weakness”. Would we prove the greatness of That strength, is it not in the way of the proof of our own weakness that this shall be proved.
Perhaps I might add an expression of my sincere sympathy with you in this sore trial of your faith and in the loneliness of your path. May it be granted to us to see more clearly the unity of the Church of Christ in the dear Redeemer and at times to view the “Great cloud of witnesses” which encompass. No, the lonely seeking soul, out of reach of Spirit-taught friends, and out of touch with a Christ honouring means of grace, can never be alone. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it, even the fulfillment of His word, “Lo, I am with thee alway, even to the end of the world”.
Please accept this assurance of my love to you in Christ.