A LETTER “MEDITATION IN AFFLICTION”
By John Duncan (Edinburgh), 1848.
My very dear Friend,
I need not say what grief your brother’s letter informing us of your illness has caused to me and to my dear wife. How frequently and how strikingly has the Lord been bringing before you the solemn admonition that “here we have no continuing city”.
Since this earth became a place of sinning, it has most righteously become a place of suffering, and it is well that we trace all that we endure to that cause, that we may “glorify God in the fires”. Our suffering, indeed, can be no expiation for sin. But you know of One who, though He “knew no sin”, was made sin for sinners and a curse for accursed ones that such might be redeemed and “made the righteousness of God in him”. With what astonished joy did His now penitent betrayers and murderers gladly receiving the word, find in the death of Jesus the Messiah the fulfilment of the prophetic word; “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed”. What a display is here of the character of God against who we have grievously offended! Here let us sinners ever look on Him whom we have pierced, and while, through the working of the spirit of grace and supplications, we mourn for Him, let us aim, however dim our eyes or weak our faith may be, to join the company of those who adoringly and gratefully exclaim “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and gave His Son to be the propitiation for our sins”.
Christ crucified is the beginning of the confidence, and let the same be held steadfastly to the end. But though our sufferings cannot be expiatory, by the blessing of the heavenly Father, bestowed through His only begotten Son our Lord, and conveyed to our souls by the Spirit of all grace they may, and repairing in
humble, penitent believing faith to the Faithful who has promised, we may and should rest assured that they will, contribute abundantly to our sanctification: the chastisements of the Father of spirits being, not for His pleasure, but for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. May He cause this affliction to work out the peaceable fruits of righteousness while you are exercised thereby!
It becomes me not to obtrude subjects on your meditations, persuaded as I am that the Glorifier of Christ is your leader and guide into all truth. As, however, He is pleased to make use of instruments, and I would wish to be helpful as far as enabled to all the flock, and especially to you, my dear friend, I may venture to suggest the following very imperfect outlines of subjects of meditation for a time of trouble.
1st. Our frailty and entire dependence as creatures on the self existant and infinitely glorious Jehovah.
2nd. Our awful inconceivable guilt as apostates from Him who made man in His own image, after His likeness; the entire depravity of our natures as fallen, and our personal actual transgressions by omission and commission, in youth and riper years, before we knew God, and since; and most particulary in sins against Christ, His Gospel, Spirit and grace, etc.
3rd. The believing contemplation of Christ in His person, covenant engagements, mediatory work, all-sufficiency, grace, truth, and saving benefits.
4th. The patience, long-suffering and abundant grace of the Heavenly Father, as it has been so richly manifested in the Son of His love and in His dealing with us.
5th. The shortness of time, the certainty of death, the vanity of the world, the solemnity of judgment, the preciousness of the mercy seat, the necessity of entire sanctification.
6th. The glory of the exalted Redeemer, the perpetuity of His intercession, the fidelity of His promises. His power to guide unto death and through it, the blessedness of those that are at home with Him in the mansions which He has gone to prepare, the unutterable blessedness, transport and triumph which are stored up in the words of eternal lifeÂ—”I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am ye may be alsoÂ”.
Pray for me, for my mind is often despondent, and my faith and hope sadly and disgracefully feeble and low. How needful is the blessed Spirit. I hope the Lord may be pleased to spare you a little before you go hence, and make you a blessing. My wife unites in tenderest sympathy and love.
This letter was written to Margaret MacPhee, Glasgow, an eminent Christian woman, familiarly spoken of as “Peggy Phee”, who died not long after the date of the letter. Dr. Duncan and his wife were on terms of intimate Christian friendship with “Peggy Phee”.