A cause and a cure for misery: J.W. Alexander

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In a precious volume titled Consolation, consisting of discourses addressed to the suffering people of God, James W. Alexander tells us about the main ingredient that is needed to make life miserable. And then, thankfully, he explains what is needed to set things right.

Spiritual Quiet is favoured by Submission.

The first law of religion is submission. “Thy will be done;” and where it does not exist there is no piety, and just as truly there is no tranquillity. What a hideous sight to see a human creature in full rebellion against God’s providence; repining at his allotments; fighting against his dispensations, and cursing his judgments! But it is not more sinful than it is wretched; and hell is not only wickedness, but woe: the wickedness makes the woe, or rather is the woe. The true recipe for miserable existence is this: Quarrel with Providence. Even in the smaller measures of this temper there is enough to prevent tranquillity. And hence, when God means to make us happy, he teaches us submission — a resignation of every thing into his hands, and an acknowledgment that whatsoever He does is wisest and best. O how sweetly even afflictions fall when there is such a temper to receive them! “Shall we receive good at the hands of the Lord’, and shall we not receive evil?” “Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins?” Such dispositions tend to stillness of soul; and even amidst chastisement there is internal quiet.

A Word on Patience from J.W. Alexander

The life of a Christian is one of tribulation and suffering in this vale of tears. Yet, the joy of the Spirit of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10). And therefore, we may “glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience” (Rom. 5:3).

James W. Alexander wrote a volume in 1852 titled simply Patience that is designed to help Christians better understand this patience to which we are called in the midst of tribulation. How is it that patience may have her perfect work (James 1:4, the verse upon which Alexander’s work is based)? Here is a good word from a wise pastor on what Christian patience really is, which we would all do well to consider.

In one view the suffering life of many Christians, and those the best, is hard to understand, for it seems at war not only with God's fatherly goodness, but with his gracious covenant. (Read Jer. xii. 12, and Psa. lxxiii.) But we must never lose our hold of two cardinal pillars, the very Jachin and Boaz of our temple: (1) that happiness in this world is not the chief good; the affirming of which is the radical error of all the common public economy, and much of the philanthropy of the day; and (2) that the education, or discipline, or training, or perfecting of a soul is so great and divine a work, that it is worth a lifetime of distress; so that no redeemed saint will look back on the longest sufferings of the present life as more than the scarcely perceptible moment before an eternity of holy delight. Angels look down and see poor sin-wounded creatures fighting against their chief medicine. As has been said, God does not afflict nor grieve the children of men "willingly," arbitrarily, out of any love to see them suffer, or any indifference to their sorrows; but with a wise and definite end, which will be revealed hereafter. The entire process of Christian endurance, pain-bearing, or patience, from beginning to end, in all its connection of parts, is more deeply interesting to one who could read it, than any drama ever enacted on the stage. So it will one day appear, when not only the particular sufferer, but all the company of God's elect in heaven, shall look back and see many a mystery of providence resolved. They will rise to higher admiration of the divine plan, when they shall be instructed why Joseph had his youth oppressed by cruelty, exile and imprisonment; why David was a persecuted fugitive, and a bereaved father; why the apostles were as sheep appointed to the slaughter; why the early Christians were mowed down by the sword; and why to this day they that will live godly suffer persecution. They will recall ten thousand cases, (for eternity has neither limits nor weariness,) in which some of the best of men have lain under pangs, or in languishing from sore diseases; or journeyed through a valley of gloom and depression; or been marks for arrows from the bow of wicked fellow-creatures, and more malignant demons; and why others, with hearts sickened by hope deferred, waited years and almost lifetimes without seeing the accomplishment of their strongest desires. When these several circles are complete, and every covering removed, and God's light thrown on dark places of the spiritual temple, it will appear, that this very divine product, to wit, holy patience, has been as dear to the great Architect of the Church, as is the costliest sculpture to the most devoted enthusiast in art. And therefore we are exhorted not merely to have patience, but to let patience have her perfect work.