The Young Lady's Guide to the Harmonious
Development of Christian Character
by Harvey Newcomb, 1843
SUBMISSION. DEPENDENCE. CONTENTMENT.
The secret of true happiness lies in a cordial acquiescence in the will of God. It is "sweet to lie passive in his hand—and know no will but his."
The doctrine of a 'particular providence' is precious to the Christian's heart. It enables him to see the hand of God in every event. Hence the sinfulness of a repining, discontented, unsubmissive temper. It is difficult to reconcile the habitual indulgence of such a disposition with the existence of grace in the heart. The first emotion of the new-born soul is submission to the will of God. We are prone to lose sight of the hand of God in the little difficulties and perplexities which are of every-day occurrence, and to look only at second causes. And so we often do in more important matters. When we are injured or insulted by others, we are disposed to murmur and complain, and give vent to our indignation against the immediate causes of our distress; forgetting that these are only the instruments which God employs for the trial of our faith or the punishment of our sins.
Thus God permitted Satan to try the faith of Job. Thus he permitted Shimei to curse David. But the answer of this godly man is worthy of being imitated by all Christians under similar circumstances: "Let him curse, because the Lord has said unto him, Curse David." Thus, also, the Lord employed the envy of Joseph's brethren to save the lives of all his father's family. "But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive."
The principal reason why the histories of the Bible are so much more instructive than other histories is, that the motives of men, and the secret agency of divine Providence, are brought to light. Hence, also, the reason why the events recorded in Scripture appear so marvelous. If we could see how the hand of God is concerned in all things that occur within our observation, they would appear no less amazing.
In this doctrine, we have the strongest motive for a hearty and cheerful resignation to all the troubles and difficulties, trials and afflictions, which come upon us in his life, whatever may be their immediate cause. We know that they are directed by our heavenly Father, whose "tender mercies are over all his works," and who "does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men." And, whether we are Christians or not, the duty of submission is the same. When we consider the relation which we sustain to God, as guilty rebels against his government, we must see that, whatever may be our afflictions, so long as we are out of hell, we are the monuments of his mercy. "Why does a living man complain—a man for the punishment of his sins?"
But, if we have evidence that we are the children of God, his promises furnish abundant consolation in every trial. We are assured "that all things work together for good, to those who love God." And of this we have many examples in the Holy Scriptures, where the darkest providences have proved, in the end, to be fraught with the richest blessings. It was so in the case of Joseph, already mentioned. We are also taught to look upon the afflictions of this life as the faithful corrections of a kind and tender Parent. "For whom the Lord loves, he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives." How consoling the reflection that all our sufferings are designed to mortify and subdue our corruptions, to wean us from the world, and lead us to a more humble and constant sense of dependence upon God!
Besides, the people of God have the most comforting assurances of his presence in affliction, if they will but trust in him. "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your steps." "Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain you: he shall never allow the righteous to be moved." "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling." "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with his hand." How ungrateful for a child of God to repine at the dealings of such a tender and faithful Parent! O, the ingratitude of unbelief! Who can accuse the Lord of unfaithfulness to the least of his promises? Why, then, should we refuse to trust him, when the assurances of his watchful care and love are so full and so abundant?
We have not only strong ground of confidence in the Lord, under the pressure of afflictions in general, but we are particularly directed to look to him for the supply of our temporal needs. If we have evidence that we are living members of the body of Christ, growing in grace and in the knowledge of him, we have the assurance that all things needful for this life shall be supplied. Our Savior, after showing the folly of manifesting an anxious concern about the supply of our temporal needs, since the Lord is so careful in feeding the fowls of the air, and clothing the lilies and the grass of the field, says, "But seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." By this, however, we are not to understand that the Lord will give us every earthly blessing which we desire. We are so shortsighted as often to wish for things which would prove injurious to us. But we are to understand that he will give us all that he sees best for us. And surely we ought to be satisfied with this; for he who sees the end from the beginning, must know much better than we what is for our good.
The Scriptures abound with similar promises. "O, fear the Lord, you his saints; for there is no lack to those who fear him. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." "Trust in the Lord, and do good, and verily you shall be fed. I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread." "No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly." "But my God shall supply all your need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus." "Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."
It must, then, be a sinful distrust of the word of God, to indulge in anxious fears about the supply of our necessities. If we believed these promises, in their full extent, we would always rest in them, and never indulge an anxious thought about the things of this life. This God requires of us. "And seek not what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, neither be of doubtful mind." "Therefore take no anxious thought, saying, What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or with what shall we be clothed?" "Be anxious for nothing." And what can be more reasonable than this requirement, when he has given us such full and repeated assurances that he will supply all our needs? The silver and the gold, and the cattle upon a thousand hills, belong to our heavenly Father. When, therefore, he sees that we need any earthly blessing, he can easily order the means by which it shall be brought to us.
From the precious truths and promises which we have been considering, we infer the duty of contentment in every situation of life. If God directs all our ways, and has promised to give us just what he sees we need, we surely ought to rest satisfied with what we have; for we know it is just what the Lord, in his infinite wisdom and unbounded goodness, sees fit to give us. But the apostle Paul enforces this duty with direct precepts. "But godliness with contentment is great gain." "Having food and clothing, let us be therewith content." "Be content with such things as you have; for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you." Here he gives the promise of God as a reason for contentment. It is, then, evidently the duty of every Christian to maintain a contented and cheerful spirit in all circumstances.
This, however, does not forbid the use of all lawful and proper means to improve our condition. But the means must be used with entire submission to the will of God. The child of God should cast all his care upon him; and, when he has made all suitable efforts to accomplish what he considers a good object, he must commit the whole to the Lord, with a perfect acquiescence in his will—even to the utter disappointment of his own hopes.
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