While many teach that Christianity must bring health and wealth, those who read Scripture understand that the opposite is true: our faith carries us through darkness. The Christian life does not promise happiness and blessing; rather it calls us to take up a cross and follow Jesus. Many who have preceded us have experienced dark and difficult providences, and they have by faith endured and improved these providences. God is glorified when his people trust him in the midst of their difficulties.
One of the most curious expressions of this truth is found in the records of late August 1662, when the English King Charles II enforced an ‘Act of Uniformity’ on the English Church and drove out the best and brightest of Christian Ministers. Rather than compromise their principles, they left their pulpits and faced an uncertain future, trusting in the providence of God for themselves, their families, and most importantly, for their churches. Many of them left a record of their farewell sermons. In these, they interpreted this dark providence and encouraged God’s people to faithfulness, even in the face of severe suffering. Here is an example of how strong their faith was. It is from one of the divines who served in the Westminster Assembly, Lazarus Seaman.
We must consider of this; that if we would please God, it must be through Christ; and then we must carry ourselves, as directed by Christ Jesus in his Word; and nothing can take us off that Principle, no pretence whatsoever; for Christian Religion is such a thing in the nature and substance of it, as Jesus Christ is the Author of. Therefore, if Christ be the Author all that belongs to Christian Religion, as to its substance, we should account nothing of moment in Religion, but onely that which we can ascribe to Christ, the Author of it. The care of the Church is in the hand of Christ, whatsoever Providences are let in on the Church, to exercise or try the Church, all must be borne patiently; but every Member must worship him: God hath made Jesus Christ a Shepherd, &c. In what he finds fault, we must not justifie; what he commands, we must approve, what he calls to be done, we must practice, what is not his, we must not own as his. Much may be drawn from this, both for Instruction and Consolation, that Christ is the great Shepherd: Though he dye in his Members, he shall rise in his Members: I may say; though he dye in his Ministers, he shall rise in his Ministers.
What a wonderful word and application! We bow before Christ’s providence, even when it seems to be contrary to what we might perceive to be best. Oh Lord, help us to learn this lesson and rest in your sovereignty, at all times and in all circumstances. Amen.