By William Bridge (1600-1670)
Faith, true saving faith, loves to dwell in the wounds of Christ. And believe it, the sight of a suffering Christ will teach one to suffer – nothing like it. The example of Christ, especially the sight of Christ’s sufferings, will not only teach you to suffer, but will sanctify your heart by the suffering, and will provoke you to suffer. What, shall the Lord Christ suffer such great things for me, and shall I suffer nothing for him? Study the sufferings of Christ.
Beloved, suffering times are gaining times; and if your heart and mind were but possessed with that truth, it would not be a hard thing to suffer hard things, and that by faith. I shall therefore spend a little time to make out this, for the strengthening of your faith, that suffering times are gaining times.
Suffering times are teaching times: ‘Blessed is the man whom thou chastisest, correctest and teachest out of thy law’. Schola crucis, schola lucis the cross is God’s free school, where we learn much. Suffering times are teaching times.
As suffering times are teaching times, so suffering times are sin-discovering times; afflictions recall sins past, and prevent sin to come; afflictions shew [show] us the emptiness of the creature, the fulness of God, the vileness of sin. As suffering times are sin-discovering times, so suffering times are self-bethinking [self-examination] times. You see many a man run on in the day of his prosperity, and never bethinks himself. There is many a man that, I may say, doth owe his conversion to his affliction, and can say, If I had not been afflicted, I had never been converted.
As suffering times are self-bethinking times, so suffering times are fruitful and growing times: ‘Every branch in me he pruneth that it may bring forth more fruit.’ Suffering times then are growing times.
As suffering times are growing times, so suffering times are truth-advancing times. In the time of prosperity we lose truth, in the time of adversity we find truth and bear our testimony for truth, then truth is advanced.
As suffering times are truth-advancing times, so suffering times are uniting times. In times of prosperity, professors wrangle, fall out, divide; but when the shepherd’s dog comes, then the sheep run together. Suffering times are uniting times.
As suffering times are uniting times, so suffering times are praying times.
He that will not pray, we say, let him go to sea, there he will be sick, and that will make him pray, that is the meaning: ‘In their affliction they will seek me early’. Suffering times are praying times.
As suffering times are praying times, so suffering times are soul-assuring times. There is many a man or woman goes up and down many years doubting, and hath no assurance; and when they grow sick, God doth send in his evidence for heaven by the hand of that sickness, and he hath assurance for heaven that never had it before: according to that in Hosea 2:14, ‘I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak to her heart’.
As suffering times are soul-assuring times, so suffering times are weaning times. When this mustard is laid upon the breast of the world, then are we weaned. Suffering times are weaning times.
Suffering times are heavenly times and glorious times. When the world is most bitter, heaven tastes most sweet and glorious; for, says the apostle, ‘then shall the Spirit of God and of glory rest upon you’. When? In suffering times, when the people of the Lord doth suffer, the Spirit of glory shall rest upon them. Suffering times are glorious times.
And if all these things be true, then surely you will say with me, suffering times are gaining times. And if you would but think of this, and possess your heart with it, you would be more willing and able to suffer. Christians boggle and startle at sufferings. What is the reason? They do not know the gains of suffering.
And if you would strengthen your faith, so as you may be able to endure hard things, think upon this much, and press it upon your own soul, carry this away with you, if no more: suffering times are gaining times. Oh my soul, suffering times are gaining times: and thus you shall be able to hold out and suffer.
(Excerpts from Article in Banner of Truth, August 6, 2021)