The last pang, and groan, and tear!
(John Angell James, "Afflictions")
The Christian looks to the end of afflictions! The end may sometimes come in this world. In reference to this, the utmost that the believer can be sure of, is that afflictions will end in God's time.
They may last for his whole life.
The sickness which afflicts his body may be unto death!
The trial which beclouds and distresses his spirits — may be his lot for life!
The loss which he has sustained may be irreparable — and he may go down to the grave in poverty.
But on the other hand, they may not! God may be bringing him "through fire and through water, to bring him out into a wealthy place."
The Christian leaves this in the hand of God, and endeavors to maintain a hope which shall save him from despondency — checked at the same time by a reverence that guards him from unwarranted presumption.
But if the end of the trial does not come in this world — it will come in the next world — when they will not only forever cease, but leave an eternal blessing behind! "I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us!" "Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!" Four things are set forth in these passages:
1. Our afflictions will have a termination! This is sweet. They are to end — they are not to last forever! The last pang, and groan, and tear are at hand — and how near the Christian never knows!
2. Our afflictions are not to end like those of the brute creation — in the grave merely — but in Heaven! The last pang, and groan, and tear are to usher in that blessed state of which it is so beautifully said, "The Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters — and God Himself shall wipe away all tears from their eyes!" Heaven shall terminate all the afflictions of the righteous!
3. Heaven is so glorious, that the first view of its scenes, and the first moment of its enjoyment — shall make amends for the longest life of the most protracted and intense sufferings!
4. The sufferings of our earthly pilgrimage — will enhance and increase the felicities of Heaven!
Their submissive endurance;
the graces which they call into exercise;
the sanctification which they promote;
the heavenly temper which they cultivate —
will be the means of ripening the spirit, and making it fit for its eternal inheritance!
Every tear that is shed,
every groan that is heaved,
every loss that is sustained,
every moment of suffering that is endured,
every disappointment that is experienced, which is borne with patience, with resignation, with unwearied holiness — will not only be followed with millions of ages of ineffable felicity — but will prepare the soul for its enjoyment, and add something to its weight and its luster!