Wonderful thoughts from Octavius Winslow –
Christian sufferer! you marvel why the Lord keeps you so long upon the couch of solitariness, and upon the bed of languishing—why the “earthly house of this tabernacle,” should be taken down by continued and pining sickness, the corrodings of disease, and the gradual decay of strength. Hush every reasoning, anxious, doubtful thought. Your Heavenly Father has so ordained it. He who built the house, and whose the house is, has a right to remove it by what process He sees fit. The mystery of His present conduct will, before long, be all explained. Yes, faith and love can even explain it now, “Even so, Father, for so it seems good in your sight!” Yours is an honorable and a responsible post. God has still a work for you to do. You have been waiting year by year in the quietness of holy submission the summons to depart. But God has lengthened out your period of weariness and of suffering, for the work is not yet done in you and by you, to effect which this sickness was sent. Oh what a witness for God may you now be! What a testimony for Christ may you now bear! What sermons—converting the careless, confirming the wavering, restoring the wandering, comforting the timid, may your conversation and your example now preach from that sick bed! And oh, for what higher degrees of glory may God, through this protracted illness, be preparing you!
That there are degrees of glory in heaven, as there are degrees of suffering in hell, and degrees of grace on earth, admits of not a doubt. “As one star differs from another star in glory,” so does one glorified saint differ from another. Will there be the absence in heaven of that wondrous variety of proportion which throws such a charm and beauty around the beings and the scenery of earth? Doubtless not. Superior grace below, is preparing for superior glory above. And the higher our attainments in holiness here, the loftier our summit of blessedness hereafter. For these high degrees of heavenly happiness, your present and lengthened sickness may, by God’s grace, be preparing you. Sanctified by the Spirit of holiness, the slow fire is but the more perfectly refining; and the more complete the refinement on earth, the more perfectly will the sanctified soul mirror forth the Divine Sun in heaven. Be, then, your beautiful patience of spirit—meek and patient sufferer—increasingly that of the Psalmist, “I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.”
Has the Lord recently recovered you from sickness? Then see that He receives much glory from your recovery. Let your life, which He has anew snatched from the grave, be anew consecrated to His service. Preserve in constant and grateful remembrance the hallowed seclusion, the sacred impressions, the solemn transactions of the sick chamber. “Vow, and pay your vows unto the Lord.” Be doubly guarded against that which, previously to your illness, deadened the life of God in your soul. It is not seemly for a Christian to emerge from the solemnities and retirement of sickness, light, trifling, and earthly. We look for it far otherwise. We expect to see the froth of vain conversation subsided, the dust of earth blown away, the clinging attachment to objects of sense weakened; and in their place, sobriety of spirit heavenliness of deportment, and weanedness from earth. Let these Christian traits be yours, beloved reader. Let it appear by your increased spiritual-indedness, that you have risen from the bed of sickness, and come forth from the place of solitude, like the “bridegroom coming out of his chamber, rejoicing as a strong man to run a race.”
Cherish in your heart and perpetuate in your life a grateful sense and remembrance of the Lord’s mercy in your recovery. He it was who healed you. He gave the skill, and blessed the means, and rebuked the disease. You were brought low, and He helped you. A monument of His sparing mercy, may you be a monument of His sanctifying grace. Let the life which He has ‘redeemed from destruction,’ be as a pleasant psalm to the Lord. “O Lord my God, I cried unto you, and you have healed me. O Lord, you have brought up my soul from the grave; you have kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. Sing unto the Lord, O you saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness; for his anger endures but a night: in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto you forever.” “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits; who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from destruction, who crowns you with loving-kindness and tender mercies.”
Go, with lowly and adoring spirit, to the house of the Lord, saying, “I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.” There lay yourself, a living sacrifice, upon the altar of your living High Priest—a renewed consecration to God.
“Here in Your courts I leave my vow,
And Your rich grace record;
Witness you saints who hear me now, If I forsake the Lord.”
You who visit sick and dying beds, tread solemn and important ground. You have need to visit much the throne of grace for the wisdom and the grace which such a sphere of labor requires. Remember that you are brought in contact with those with whom God is especially dealing. Your advantages for instruction and impression are great. Sickness has given a distaste for the world; God’s judgment has perhaps aroused the conscience, and his dealings have made the heart soft. Your first step will be to ascertain, as far as it is possible, the real state of the soul. What medical man would attempt to prescribe for his patient without first thoroughly ascertaining the nature of the disease, its symptoms, phases, and the course of treatment demanded?
But your post is infinitely more important and responsible than his, whose only office is to heal the body. Having learned this, you will then be prepared to bring the grand remedy contained in the gospel of Jesus to bear upon the case. Let your unfoldings of that remedy be scriptural, simple, and appropriate. You will present such statements of divine truth as the nature of the case requires, making prominent the two great ingredients in your Divine recipe—the fall in the first Adam—the recovery in the second Adam; out of self, into Christ. Before the truly awakened, yet anxious, restless soul, you will array all the precious promises and gracious invitations of the Gospel, so amply provided for such. You will lay peculiar stress upon the finished work of Jesus, and the perfect freeness of the remedy which he has provided; especially holding up to view the great and glorious fact, that Christ died for the ungodly. You will explain faith to be the one simple channel through which flow pardon and peace to the soul—”believing in the Lord Jesus Christ;” while you unfold his richness to meet all the necessities of his own beloved and called people. But the Spirit of truth will be your Teacher and your Guide. Looking up to Him, and leaning upon Christ, your labor in this peculiarly difficult, trying, and important sphere of Christian exertion will not be in vain in the Lord.