Man that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. (Job 14:1) Trouble is the legitimate offspring of sin. The psalmist David speaks in this wise: "The wicked are not troubled like other men." Who are these other men whose troubles are not like the troubles of the wicked? God's saints, the poor people of God. God's saints have troubles peculiar to themselves, such as mere men of the world are utter strangers to. Troubles have a very different effect on the minds of the men of the world to what they have on the minds of God's people. "The sorrow of the world worketh death." (2 Cor. 7:10) Some, in their calamities and under the power of the devil, have committed the awful crime of suicide. They sink to hell in the very act of breaking God's law: "Thou shalt do no murder."
Many of God's saints have been tempted to this sin. Many have been afraid to go into a dark place when alone. It has been powerfully brought to their mind; but the Lord was their keeper. He has said to the enemy, "Hitherto shalt thou come, and no further." (Job 38:11) Worldly trouble cometh even to them. But the men of the world say, when they are overcome of sorrow and trouble, Sorrow must have drink; but it is only heaping coals on the fire and increasing their trouble. It is, as the Scripture expresses it, "a refuge of lies." God says, "Call upon me in the day of trouble;" like Hezekiah, who spread before the Lord the letter he had received from Sennacherib the king of Assyria.
There is trouble at this time, especially in the north, where I come from. I have seen many who have had recourse to other refuges. They have turned Chartists. (The Chartists were a body who agitated for political reform between 1837 and 1848). They have associated themselves with this class of men for the redress of their grievances. Yes, and they have even had recourse to the pike. But this is decidedly wrong, especially for those who love the Lord. It is their part to go to the Lord and spread their cause before him. He has said, "Cast thy burden on the Lord, and he shall sustain thee." (Ps. 55:22) They have a throne of grace to go to. God says, "Call upon me in the day of trouble, and I will hear thee."
For our edification, let us consider: there are some troubles peculiar in a religious point of view, or soul troubles, and there are providential trials and difficulties experienced in God's family.
Soul troubles. "Call upon me in the day of trouble." Some say religion begins its course in love and joy. I did not so learn Christ. It is contrary to the Word of God, contrary to the teaching of the Holy Spirit. When religion commences in the soul of the sinner, trouble commences also. Trouble assails the soul. The blessed Spirit wounds the soul of the sinner, and sorrow and distress is his portion. The blessed Spirit, in the very commencement, makes sin burdensome. Job says, "Thou makest me to possess the iniquities of my youth." (Job 13:26) The blessed Spirit discovers to the poor sinner the sin of his nature, his depravity, the carnality of his heart, and makes him sore distressed so that he cannot look up. There is a heaviness in his heart which makes the poor sinner to stoop. He is weary and heavy-laden, he is burdened. It is not pleasant to feel the burden of sin in the conscience; but the results are blessed. The sinner must first see and feel the malady before the cure can be effected. "The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." (Matt. 9:12; Luke 5:31)
The curse of God seems to be upon them. David says, "The pains of hell gat hold upon me." The curse of the law gets hold on the conscience of a poor sinner; he finds sorrow and trouble. This is the work of the Spirit in the conscience of the sinner. The Lord pulls down the sinner, but he brings him up again. The law brings him into bondage, but grace proclaims hope. It is a day of trouble to the sinner. When the soul is in these circumstances, how adapted is this exhortation to his case, "Call upon me in the day of trouble!" He cannot but call on him in sighs, in groans, in pantings, in breathings after God. His very heart and soul are going out to the Lord. To the Lord he cries, beseeching him to help and to have mercy on his soul. Again he hears the following declaration, just adapted to meet his case, "I will look down from heaven, from the height of my sanctuary." What for? "To hear the groaning of the prisoner." (Ps. 102:19,20) How it enters into the very case and feelings of the poor sinner when he is shut up in soul trouble!
David says, "I am shut up." Here is a poor destitute sinner; he cries unto the Lord. What does the Lord say? "To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my Word." (Isa. 66:2) The soul, therefore, is calling upon him in the day of trouble, and in his own good time he will hear; he will come down to the help of the poor sinner. David saith in Psalm 40, "I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings." Yes, the Lord did something more to him than hearing him, or listening to his cry; he brought him up. He set his feet on the Rock of salvation, on the Rock of Ages, a sure foundation stone. God is represented in the Scriptures as a rock. The work of salvation is a perfect work. When the sinner feels that he has for his stand and his rock the holy God, he finds that with the more weight he presses the more firm he feels; he is then satisfied with his foundation. He finds that a new song is put into his mouth, even praise and thanksgiving. David called on the Lord in the day of trouble, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him from all his trouble. David glorified God; he blessed and praised the Lord for his goodness.
Have I a soul here in legal bondage, trying to do good on the ground of his own doings? The more you work, like the poor woman recorded in the Scriptures as having an issue of blood twelve years, you will like her grow worse. My friends, may God make you sick of yourselves. May that poor sinner see his weakness, his guilt, his condemnation. Though the soul be in bondage, yet there shall be a calling on the name of the Lord. God puts into the heart a cry for help. Not like the Pharisee, who said, in a proud self-righteous spirit, "God, I thank thee I am not as other men are." No; a sinner cries, like the poor publican, in broken accents, "Lord, have mercy upon me! O Lord, what a miserable wretch I am! What a sinner I am! Lord, save me, or I perish." This cry never gets stale, my friends; the Lord will hear him. God leads the sinner to feel that the law is satisfied. He is brought out of bondage into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. One dear Christian (William Huntington) was nailing up some branches on the wall of his garden when the Lord broke in on his soul, and when in his employment he wanted his hoe, he could not collect his mind sufficiently to recollect, when he reached the tool-house, what it was that he wanted; so that he cried out, "My soul has got a holiday, and my poor body shall have one too." He sighed, and groaned, and cried to God; and in the day of his trouble the Lord came down, and gave him the witness of the Spirit, and he experienced the glorious liberty of the gospel.
I shall never forget the night when God made himself known to me, and showed me his loving heart. And really, friends, it is quite overcoming when such is the case, to think that he should ever show so great mercy to me, such a vile brat of hell. Some of your fine parsons, with bibs on and rings upon their fine turned-up fingers, would say, "You should not come with such language;" but such men know nothing at all about the matter. Our poet beautifully expresses it,
"Hail! sovereign love, that first began
The scheme to rescue fallen man;
Hail! matchless, free, eternal grace,
That gave my-
poor, wretched, guilty, hell-deserving
Israel was to keep in remembrance their being brought out of Egypt--the bringing them out of their trouble. O the soul trouble I had! O the wretchedness, the horror! But the Lord in his own due time manifested himself, and applied the pardoning love and blood of Christ to my heart. I felt more happy than an angel! "What! All my sins and iniquities gone!" I said, "Where is my sin?" I could not find a single sin. It was God's doing; he had put it all away. I said, "Where is it?" I felt indeed happy. Where is the devil at such times as these? The devil feels he cannot stand his ground before the King of kings and Lord of lords. The blessed soul is brought into the liberty of the sons of God: "Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." (Gal. 5:1)
The Lord says, "Call upon me." Now the precious soul begins to glorify the Lord. He feels him in his heart. When the soul is thus brought into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, he is astonished at the love of God, and he says, "Why does the Lord love me?" He finds that he is one of his blessed people. He wonders at the riches of God's grace, and he glorifies the Lord. He offers up praise for the great things God has done for him. He honors him who has brought his soul out of bondage into a large place. He rejoices in the God of his salvation, and yields him perfect obedience.
He glorifies the Lord Jesus Christ. He is at a loss to set forth his praise. He finds he cannot lift the dear Redeemer too much to the notice of others; he cannot glorify him enough. He wants to exalt him, to crown him Lord of all. His language is, "Bless the Lord, O my soul." Thus they glorify the dear Redeemer.
Why do they glorify the Eternal Spirit? Why, for convincing them of sin; for bringing down their proud and rebellious hearts; but more particularly for taking of the things of God and revealing them to their souls. They honor the Eternal Spirit as a glorious Person in the ever-blessed Trinity. They find their need of him, and that they could not do without his influences. They glorify a Triune Jehovah,--"the Three that bear record in heaven." (1 John 5:7)
Now this is what generally takes place in the soul, in the experience of God's people, when the Lord has heard their prayers, when he has blessed them by the good Word of his grace, and his presence is sweet to them; then he is the fairest amongst ten thousand, and the altogether lovely. "This," the man says, "is just what I wanted; now I shall go on my way rejoicing. I shall never have such hardness, such misery as before." Some are for going to heaven in silver slippers, or in a carriage and four. Some are, like Peter, for building their tabernacles. They fancy they are never to go into the valley again. But days of trouble are not gone yet. We must be weaned; we must be taken from the breast. I have many fathers and mothers here tonight, and they know what it was with their children. There is a deal of trouble yet. And, like a weaned child, there is a deal of kicking and rebelling.
I wish to tell you respecting my own soul's experience, as being the case generally with others. There is a time of trouble comes on again, my friends. The beauty of the glory of the Redeemer seems to be obscured, and there is a cloud and darkness overshadows the mind of man, and a darkness which results in a hardness of heart. He cannot pray, he cannot feel at the time of offering up his prayer. He begins to feel he is moping in the dark. His words do not leave his mouth aright, or so readily as before. Like Job, he seeks God on the right hand and on the left. Trouble assails him. And when the child of God is in this state, Satan comes in to him as a flood, and suggests all manner of abominable wickedness. There is worldly-mindedness, too, creeps in, and all sorts of evil occur to his mind. He says, "Lord, I did not think I was so vile. I abhor myself." He is in soul trouble. There is a stirring up of his wicked nature.
Poor soul, let him turn to the Bible, to read that which has been his companion. It has before been found to be very precious to his soul; but, ah! it does not afford him now any comfort. When my soul was brought into gospel liberty, even the sight of the Word of God as lying on the shelf filled my soul with joy. When the soul is brought into this state of trouble, he looks to the Book, and he cannot think how it is he cannot extract one drop of comfort from it, nor one drop of honey. There is a feeling of heart-hardness. Yea, even, if the Bible and the daily journal lie on the table together, he takes up the latter in preference, and he says in the anguish of his soul, with Job, "O that it were with me as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; when his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness!" So that here is a looking back; and the Lord's commandment is, "Ponder the path of thy feet."
During my last visit a friend showed me a letter written by the departed, wherein he mentions having lately visited many of the spots where the Lord had blessed him with the enjoyment of real gospel liberty of soul. And it is not long since that I had, when traveling on horseback to a place I had to preach at, to pass by the wood (for I had no closet then, and there being only one field near I had to resort to the woods) where the dear Lord was pleased to break in upon my soul, and set me at happy liberty. I had made two holes at the bottom of the ditch with so frequently kneeling there. And, my friends, it is good to look back. The Lord told Israel of old to remember all the way the Lord had brought them. He told them to remember how he had brought them safe through the Red Sea.
When the soul that is in this trouble comes to hear the minister preach, he comes and wishes to hear with the hearing ear and understanding heart; but in vain does he begin to enter into the subject; for the devil is busy in reminding him of some project, or of something he has to do. I will relate to you one instance of a good woman who was a clothes dealer. Late one Saturday night a man called to buy a coat. After a deal of bargaining, he discovered it was too little for him. A tailor was called in, and not being able to settle how it was to be let out, as it did not fit in the back and was too long, the coat was left till Monday morning. Monday came, and with it came the man and also the tailor. During the conversation the old woman called out, "O! I have a better plan than you. I know how it must be let out; the devil told me all about it yesterday morning during the sermon. I can tell you exactly how to do it." This good woman was a member of the church at Manchester, over which my old friend Gadsby is now pastor, before he was settled there. She has been dead now some time.
I merely relate this to show that Satan does harass and perplex the minds of God's saints with secular objects, and by distracting their imagination prevents them from deriving good to their souls. The man does not hear the Word preached as he used to do; he has got into soul trouble. His feelings are not the same, and he blames the ministers of God, and makes them stand the brunt of all this. His soul is lean, and brought into darkness, wretchedness and bondage. The enemy thus taunts him: "Where is all thy religion now?" Like the Israelites who were carried away captives, they were in a state of trouble; they hanged their harps upon the willows, and were taunted by their enemies requiring songs and psalms, while in a situation of grief and despondency. They said to them, "You have songs of deliverance, of great goodness?" But, alas. They could only reply, "How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" There was bondage here, my friends. God's saints are sometimes in this predicament. "Where is all thy religion now? Thou hast the form, but not the power!" Such is the language of the enemy, and they fear they are like the stony-ground hearers. The soul staggers. I was in this frame one time myself. I frequently said to myself, "O that I had never entered upon the course of religion. I am afraid I am only a deceiver!" The Lord says, "Who is among you that feareth the Lord? Let him trust in the name of the Lord." Even this declaration cannot be observed without spiritual influence. One of old was in something of this kind of strait, when he said, "My soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than life." We seem to have a hatred against everything, that is God-like, and even are tempted to curse God, and persuade ourselves that the Bible is false and the result of priestcraft. O how the saint striveth! There is inward groaning at the bottom of his soul.
God will come down to the help of this soul. He says, "Call upon me in the day of trouble." The page of inspiration says, "Be instant in season and out of season." Perhaps the person may say, I have no desire to call upon the name of the Lord; but God will give this desire. The Lord will come down to thy help in his own time.
David saith, "My soul waiteth for the Lord, more than they that watch for the morning." David then, you see, had been in this state. He says, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free spirit." (Ps. 51:12) Salvation is like a bulwark round the church of God; the joy may be lost for a time, but not the salvation. There is something in the case of the woman at the time of Christ. They had enjoyed his presence and conversation, but when he was crucified they thought it was all over with them. They could not lie in their beds; they were up very early in the morning to look for him. They went to the sepulchre, and Mary cried, "They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him." Their joy had for a time fled. The joy of the saints of God is when they have his presence with them, and when he manifests his love by the comfort he imparts to their souls. There is deliverance after deliverance in this vale of tears.
I have been myself in the state of bondage I have been describing for twelve months. I cried unto the Lord day after day. While in this state of mind, the passage, "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous," was powerfully impressed upon my soul. The blessed Spirit began to preach to my soul. He is the best preacher I have ever heard. My chains and fetters were broken off. I felt in my soul a sweet satisfaction of a change effected within me.
May God of his great goodness apply the Word to each of our consciences, and bless our souls. Amen.