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shall prosper in his hands.* What more could we ask? What else desire to anticipate? And for what other end could we wish to live? The grave will soon receive our dust, but not our spirits, nor our influence. If faithful to Christ, the former will be with him in the sphere of brighter visions and more blessed activities, awaiting the glorious consummation; the latter will be descending the stream of time, carrying blessings to unborn ages.
O, Jesus, teach us by thy cross to live for thee! Farewell, forever, all selfish aims, all lying vanities. Drawn to thy blessed cross, by chords of love, may we cast down all our burdens and our attainments together there, that whether living we may live to thee, or dying, die to thee, that living or dying we may be thine. Amen.
BY REV. FREDERICK B. THOMSON,
AMERICAN MISSIONARY IN BORNEO.
MISSIONARIES PURIFIED BY AFFLICTION.
PREACHED AT PONTIANAK, ON SABBATH, JUNE 26, 1842, TO THE MEMBERS
OF THE BORNEO MISSION, AND PUBLISHED AT THEIR REQUEST.*
« Behold I have refined thee but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace
of alfiction.”—Isaiah xlviii. 10.
In the world ye shall have tribulation. Such is the heritage of the saints upon the earth. It applies to all God's people, particularly to his dearest children, and pre-eminently to those designed to become instruments of great and extensive good. This principle is strikingly illustrated in the lives of the patriarchs and prophets. The most touching incidents in the history of Abraham and Joseph, of Moses and David come directly in point. But the whole course of discipline through which the ancient church was called to pass, both in the wilderness and in the promised land, may justly be adduced for the same purpose. Indeed it is evidently to this that our text has more especial reference. Even God's eternal Son was not excepted from the operation of the rule. “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” True, the specific object may be, and doubtless often is different, and sometimes widely different, as in the case of the Savior, compared with believers. "But in regard to the latter, with whom we are now chiefly concerned, the general reason is obvious. It is thus they are
• The following was the resolution of the Mission :—-Resolved, That the sermon of Brother Thomson, furnished at our request, be sent to the Editor of the National Preacher, with a request that it be published, and a copy sent to as many Mission Stations as known and practicable."
“ Pontianak, Sept. 17, 1842.”
purified from the dross of sin. It is thus they are freed from the elements of earthliness. It is thus they are refined and made not only susceptible of a warmer sympathy or fellow-feeling for the wretched, but actually more holy, more harmless, more entirely and sincerely devoted to the service and glory of God, in a word, more like their blessed Master. For it is only as they reflect his image that they can please God or benefit their fellow-men.
The process is often dreadfully severe, though always tempered to the weakness of our nature and carried on gradually so as not to overwhelm us at once, by the suddenness and awfulness of the change it is to produce. This cannot be effected at a single stroke. Should He immediately finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, the spirit would fail before him and the souls which he has made. But He knoweth our frame, He remembereth that we are dust. Hence, He says: “Behold I have refined thee, but not with silver," that is, not in the way in which silver is refined.
It is well known that the precious metals, and especially silver, require the most intense and searching power of fire to purge away their impurities ; such devouring heat in fact as will infallibly consume all but the essential unadulterated inass. This is an emblem of the final test to be applied in the judgment. But happily our God and Savior has a more penetrating eye, and a more exquisite discernment than the most skilful artificerin gold and silver. He can perceive the faintest traces of his own likeness, not only before the process of refining is complete, but as soon as they are impressed upon the soul so that He can try, approve, and choose in the furnace of affliction, and need not leave the decision either for himself or for us to the more fiery ordeal of the judgment. Then He will satisfy the universe. But He always satisfies himself before, and is willing to afford us all the benefit of his divine satisfaction.
To secure this result, however, those whom the hand of God has touched should hear the rod and who hath appointed it. We must attend to the voice of God in our afflictions. Leaving out of view all second causes, we must see and acknowledge his sovereign right and power alone in these things, and then with all humility, meekness, and docility, enquire wherefore He is thus contending with us? what is the cause of the chastisement ? what is the design of our Father in its infliction? This is necessary in order to view the dispensation aright, and especially to turn it to his glory and the profit of our own souls.
I. I need not say, dear brethren, that I have a special aim in bringing this subject to your consideration on the present occasion. It is no new reflection that the hand of God is upon us. From the commencement of our mission to this very day, one wave of trouble has rolled quickly upon another till it seems almost as if we were at last to be swallowed up, and no trace of our existence to be left but the
sad and cheerless record of our blasted hopes and unrealized anticipations. The fair fields of labor we expected to enter have been shut and barred against us. Our forces have been scattered, and our energies enseebled. After a lapse of five years, during which our original number has been almost doubled by new recruits, those remaining in the field are even less than the first company which arrived. Truly we have been sifted like wheat. Some have been forced away by unconquerable bodily disease, and one by the more inveterate maladies of the soul. Sickness has entered every house, and death has snatched a victim from almost every family. The infant has been taken from its mother's breast, and the mother has been called to leave her sucking child in the hand of strangers. The sweet home of the husband and father has been made desolate, and his heart-strings rent by the pangs of separation from the wife of his youth and the object of his tenderest attachment; he has been doomed to sit and sigh in the weeds of widowhood. Yes, “I am the man that hath”
seen aslliction by the rod of his wrath.” Even now, when we were beginning fondly to hope that the Lord would turn our captivity as the streams in the south, and to pray, with some confidence of expectation : “Save, now, we beseech thee, O Lord! O Lord! we beseech thee now send prosperity," the knell of death has again reached our ears, and one on whom we calculated with the utmost. assurrance to come and cheer us on our way, and help us in our work, has been taken to another sphere, and called to the performance of other duties. Yes, Stryker, who panted to be with us, to see our faces in the flesh; to joy and sorrow, to labor and suffer with us, has taken his flight from earth and entered the world of spirits !
But we have not merely suffered among ourselves. The cause 10 which we are devoted has, in the same period, experienced the saddest reverses. I do not refer now so particularly to the disappointment and disaster which has attended the most enlarged plans and the most vigorous endeavors to establish and sustain individual missions, though these are by no means unworthy of consideration, but to the general barrenness of those results of missionary labor which are most of all to be desired, together with the severe and repeated checks which have impeded the operations of the whole scheme, and the awful shocks to which the entire system of means and measures has, in consequence, been subjected.
I am well aware that great and distinguished mercies have been mingled with our cup of adversity. Our cause, while made to suffer so grievously in some respects, has been most abundantly favored in others. While plans have been thwarted, operations trammelled, and missions broken up in one quarter, in another the Spirit has been marvellously poured out, and souls in unwonted numbers have been gathered into the kingdom. Nor have we ourselves, though contending with an almost unremitted tide of afflictions, been deserted in the conflict, or left without marked tokens of the Divine regard. Many a wound which pierced to the quick has been graciously healed. The breach, which seemed heaven-wide, has been mysteriously closed. Apparent evil has been converted into certain good. And in a thousand ways the Lord has been declaring himself ready to turn and repent, and leave a blessing behind.
Yet who can look at all the various and continued chastisements of his hand without something more than a suspicion that He is still contending with us ? that He sees much which is wrong in our principles, our feelings, or our conduct ? and that He means to refine us in the furnace before He gives us the most divine success in our work?
Let us then endeavor to take these things deeply to heart, and to this end :
II. Humbly call to mind and contemplate, at least, some of the causes which we may suppose have induced those fatherly rebukes which we have experienced.
But the question we shall thus be called to answer embraces too many points of serious moment to be treated, at large, in a single discourse. The most that can be expected of us will be to suggest topics of solemn reflection, rather than to discuss the merits of the case. Nor even, with this limitation in view, do we intend to survey
the whole ground. It may easily be that the church is as deeply interested as her messengers, in the secret reasons of our common calamities. But while we consider ourselves in a deeply interesting and holy sense one with the church, and would keep the chords of sympathy between us always vibrative, and always tender, yet isolated as we are in situation, though not in heart, we are ill qualified to judge either of character or conduct at home, nor would the office of censors at all beseem us if ever so well qualified. We take it for granted the church in all her various tribes and sections will devoutly ponder the same momentous question, but as it will behove all“ to mourn apart,” not only sectionally, but individually, so we consider it our especial province to examine, apply, and improve the subject as missionaries.
Until we have thus cleared ourselves, we have no right even to think the difficulty is elsewhere. Indeed, notwithstanding it is a matter of common concern, and must be canvassed as such, each individual should be very sure it is not in himself before he imputes it to others, lest, at the very moment he condemns the offender, the Judge of all should thunder in his guilty soul : “ Thou art the man!”
Such is the spirit in which I desire to present this topic to your solemn consideration, and while, with great diffidence, offering my reflections for common profit, I would fain have my own heart alive to every searching truth and every awakening sentiment which may be uttered.
At the same time, it is not my design to be personal, and therefore,