My brothers, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations;…
Luther has somewhere made that fine confession, that there were chiefly three things which had introduced him into the depths of true divinity, and which he was, therefore, accustomed to recommend to every one as proved — viz., silent meditation on the Word of God; persevering and ardent prayer, together with the Word of God; and inward and outward attacks on account of the Word of God. It is trial which must arouse the spirit plunged into earthly concerns, and benumbed by the influence of the world out of the sleep of security, and point him to that Word which leads the foolish to wisdom, the sinner to righteousness, Besides, in many cases, especially in the days of carnal ease, the flame of prayer, even on the altar of the regenerated man's heart, would burn out, if trials, returning from time to time, did not carry fresh wood to stir anew the fire of devotion. It is only by struggling that the inward life can become strong: it is only in the storm that the stem of life and godliness can take deeper and firmer roots.
I. In Germany it is one of the requisites of civil law, that he who wants to become a citizen SHALL PASS THROUGH THE POPULAR SCHOOL. They, therefore, speak of a legal school-duty which no one is permitted to shun. There is, also, such a duty in the kingdom of God. He who wants to become a citizen of that kingdom must not refuse to enter the school of suffering which the Lord Himself has instituted on earth, and sanctified by His example. Already, as the natural descendant of Adam, the first sinner, every one has to carry his share of the common misery which weighs on humanity, and cannot avoid it. But what for the natural man is only a constraint laid upon him from without, is, in the case of the Christian, spiritualised and glorified into a deed of voluntary obedience. "The disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord. If any man will come after Me, let him deny him. self, and take up his cross and follow Me." "We must, through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God." They declare the duty of suffering to be a general law of the Christian life. If, therefore, we look into the roll of the citizens of the heavenly kingdom, we do not find there a single one who had not, in the school of suffering, to resolve heavier or easier tasks, and been obliged to stop longer or shorter there. You have, therefore, no right to complain, if the Lord takes you into the school of suffering, and there assigns you your task. You thereby only fulfil an obligation incumbent upon you as a citizen of the kingdom of God. You will not wish to be exempt from what is the lot of every one. Yea, it is an honour for you to belong to a school through which have passed the prophets and the apostles themselves, and out of which are come the first-fruits of the creatures of God.
II. The peculiarity of each school arises out of THE FIXED AIM TRIED TO BE ATTAINED WITH THE PUPILS, AND FOR WHICH, THEREFORE, ALL SCHOOL ARRANGEMENTS ARE CALCULATED. Thus, the burgher-school wants to form able burghers; the practical school, clever tradesmen; the military school, gallant soldiers; the college, intelligent servants of the sate and of the Church. In a similar manner, Christ's school of suffering pursues a fixed aim. He wants to form His pupils into thoroughly-qualified men; in short, He wants to make nothing less of them than princes and priests in the kingdom of the immortal God. His patience and His obedience, His meekness and His humility, His firm faith and His persevering hope, His victorious fight and His glorious perfection, are to be reflected in the trial of their sufferings, so that He may be able to behold in them the true followers of His spirit, and sharers of His glorious life. From this point of view the apostles considered their sufferings, and by this the sharpest sting of them was broken, and the bitterest cup was wonderfully sweetened. "We always bear about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus." We are sorry to perceive that this apostolical apprehension of sufferings has become so rare among us. If faith can only lay hold on that thought, the burden of suffering is thereby diminished, and we are able to say, with St. Paul, "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."
III. But, besides the aim of the school, there must, in each well-regulated establishment, also exist A FIXED PLAN AFTER WHICH TO PROCEED. If there is to be progress in the studies of the pupils, a well-pondered plan must not be wanting, by which is determined in what gradation the various branches are to be imparted, and what method of teaching must be observed. For Christ's school of suffering, too, there is a fixed plan according to which the pupils are treated. It is in good hands, for it has been made by Him who gives term and measure to each thing, and always remembers that we are dust and ashes. As soon as the height fixed by Him is reached, the waters will fall again, the storm will abate, thou wilt again perceive the dry land, and thy soul will be permitted to thank the Lord on her harp, that He has been the help of thy countenance and thy God.
Parallel VersesKJV: My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;