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PART II. THE POWER OR EFFECTS OF FAITH IN THE REGULATION OF MAN’S INWARD NATURE.



CHAPTER SIXTH.


POWER OF FAITH IN ENABLING US TO BEAR PATIENTLY THE DEFECTS OF OTHERS.


The doctrine of faith requires patience with the infirmities of others. The crosses, which Christians experience from this source, tend to their purification. Our own happiness, as well as our spiritual good, promoted by submission and patience under such trials. It is the will of God, that we should be afflicted; and that we should be afflicted in this manner, as well as in others. Truly christian and holy persons have their defects.

THERE are but few practical directions, which are more important to those who desire to be wholly the Lord’s, than the direction that we should bear with entire meekness and patience the infirmities and defects of others. The adoption in practice of any other principle than this necessarily involves us in continual disquietudes and troubles.

1.—We should bear patiently with the infirmities and defects of others in the first place, because the doctrine of faith requires it. The doctrine of faith, as was seen in some remarks near the close of the last chapter, will not admit of exceptions and distinctions, We do not, and cannot, have acceptable faith in God, unless we have faith in him to the full extent of what he claims to be, and of what he is. We had occasion to make the remark in the passage just referred to, that faith restores God to events, and makes him present in all things that take place; and also, in words nearly to the same effect, that faith identifies every thing with God’s superintendence, and accordingly makes every thing, with the exception of sin, an expression of his will. The doctrine of faith, therefore, requires us to believe, that God, in his permissive will at least if not in his direct agency, sustains a connection, and sustains it for good and wise purposes, even with human infirmities.

2.—We should bear with patience the infirmities of others, in the SECOND place, because, in their results to ourselves, they evidently tend to our own purification. And this remark tends to illustrate what has already been said, viz., that God for wise purposes has a connection even with human infirmities. It is very clearly a part of God’s spiritual economy to purify his people by means of the various crosses which he lays upon them. We are not at liberty to make crosses for ourselves, but are cheerfully and quietly to meet and endure them, when they come upon us in the divine providence. Now, the infirmities of men, the many and trying infirmities of all around us, are a cross, which the divine providence lays at our feet at every step of our progress in the path of life. To be obliged to meet and to bear these infirmities is an affliction, oftentimes a heavy affliction. But it has a purifying power. It strikes a blow at self love. It makes us better.

3.—We should bear the infirmities of others meekly and patiently, because, in the THIRD place, to meet them in any other way is only to increase, instead of diminishing our affliction. To permit ourselves to be unduly disquieted and troubled, is to add interior affliction to that which is external; and that, too, with much injury in other respects, without any compensating gain. The indulgence of a fretful and repining spirit, whether it result from the infirmities of others or from any other cause tends to weaken faith, to harden the heart, and effectually to separate us from God. On the contrary, he who manfully bears this cross, heavy as it sometimes is, experiences an internal support and blessing which is exceedingly consoling, and which truly makes the yoke of this temptation easy, and its burden light.

4.—In the FOURTH place, it is obviously the will of God that we should thus be afflicted, in a greater or less degree, in the present life. “In the world,” says the Savior, “ye shall have tribulation.” Christ himself was a man of sorrows; and God sees fit, for mysterious but wise reasons, that Christ’s people should also know the bitterness of grief. And one of the forms of affliction, to which we are subject here, is the grief which we frequently and necessarily experience in connection with the imperfections of our fellow-men. God is willing that we should in this way be reminded of our fallen condition; and he sees it also, as we have already intimated, to be for our good. As there is nothing so desirable and glorious as being perfectly in the will of God, we ought to be not only resigned but happy, in experiencing an affliction which comes from the hand of Him, who doeth all things well. It will aid us in some degree, if we always remember, (which is sometimes not the case,) that afflictions which come through others, such as jealousies, misrepresentations, and various human persecutions, are as much afflictions sent upon us from our heavenly Father, as the physical trials to which we are subject. Christians have frequently experienced the practical benefit of this important truth. When, as they supposed, they had been misrepresented and injured by others, as soon as they connected with this unpleasant experience the idea that the hand of God was in it, they have found a sweet peace and resignation pervading the mind, which made even suffering delightful. And what was not the least beneficial result of this important view, it has enabled them at once to exercise the most kindly and Christian feelings towards those, who had been the wicked instruments of their suffering. Thus should the mind, in suffering as well as in joy, and in all kinds of suffering as well as all kinds of joy, soar above the creatures, and connect itself with God.

5.—We would observe, further, that these remarks apply to the afflictions we endure from the infirmities of those who are most advanced in religion, as well as to afflictions from other sources. Truly holy persons may at times entertain peculiar views with which we cannot fully sympathize, and may occasionally exhibit, notwithstanding the purity and love of their hearts, imperfections of judgment and of outward manner which are exceedingly trying even to “those of the like precious faith.” We naturally expect much more from these persons than from others; and hence the keenness of our sorrow, if, notwithstanding their exemption from intentional sin, there is not an obvious perfection of judgment, of expression, and of manner. But we must learn to bear with trials from this source also, always remembering, although we are permitted to indulge the humble hope, that there may be, and that there are instances of holiness of heart on earth, that absolute perfection exists only in another world. Unless we adopt this view, and act upon it, we shall be apt unnecessarily to distrust the profession and hopes of others, which would be a great evil to ourselves and to them.