"As many as I love — I rebuke and chasten. Be zealous therefore, and repent." Revelation 3:19
"Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word." Psalms 119:67
"It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees!" Psalm 119:71
"I know, O Lord, that in faithfulness You have afflicted me!" Psalm 119:75
As God loves his people with an everlasting love, he takes the deepest interest in their welfare, and rejoices to do them good. But love can frown as well as smile; rebuke as well as commend; and God's rebukes are often very pointed, and very sharp. "As many as I love — I rebuke and chasten." Of one thing we may be sure, he never rebukes us for doing right, nor does he chasten us without reason. Whenever we feel the rod of God — we may be sure that we deserve it; and whenever our Heavenly Father rebukes us — we may rest satisfied that we are wrong. The most tried — have often the clearest proofs of the Lord's love. And when the Lord afflicts — he especially comforts.
Mary Scott was in a good situation, enjoyed many privileges, and was doing well; but she got vain, dressy, and carnally-minded. She thought too much of earthly things, and too little of heavenly things — and at length you could discern but little difference between her and the world! The Lord then laid His afflictive hand upon her — she fell sick, had to leave her pleasant situation, her little all was soon spent — and she is now poor, and totally dependent on friends.
But God has attended the painful dispensation with His blessing — so that she is now humble, spiritual, and heavenly-minded. Worldly things have lost their charms — and spiritual things appear all-important. She now deeply deplores her former worldly course. Her Bible is now her precious companion, and she finds sweet access to God at the throne of grace. She now looks forward to Heaven, rejoicing that there shall be no more pain, nor sorrow, nor crying. She often blesses God for her affliction! This was a loving rebuke from her heavenly Father!
Thomas Davy was rising in the world, his business increased, his name gained reputation, and he began to look important. He had been a simple believer in the Lord Jesus, he loved his Bible and his prayer-closet, and always filled his place in the church. He would speak well upon spiritual and experimental subjects, and enjoyed the company of the saints. But, poor fellow, he could not stand prosperity. He became proud. His Bible was very much neglected. Prayer, especially family prayer, became formal and lifeless. The ordinances were slighted, and when he did attend, he was nearly always late. He never sought the company of the most spiritual Christians — but was taken up with men of business. He was at his business books now, when he used to be at the prayer-meeting; and his relish for spiritual things appeared to be lost.
Under these circumstances, God came forth to rebuke him. He had several losses, his speculations failed and business struggled. He could not meet his bills, and his creditors threatened him. Poverty stared him in the face, and he knew not what to do. He felt his distance from God, and how ungrateful he had acted. His conscience reproached him, Satan harassed him with temptations, and he was at his wits' end.
But when thoroughly convinced of sin and folly, he returned unto the Lord with weeping and with supplication. Broken-hearted and cast down — he appealed to the Divine mercy, and God restored unto him the joys of his salvation. He now walks humbly with God, is jealous of his own heart, and often prays with Agur, "Give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the Lord?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." This was a loving rebuke from his heavenly Father!
Eliza Brown was naturally proud and high-minded, and thought only of her figure and personal attractions. Being brought to know the Lord — for a time she walked wisely, and was happy in God. But she gave way to her natural besetting sin of pride, carried her head high, and her heart became haughty. She soon lost the humility that was manifest in her life. Meekness and gentleness seemed to forsake her — and she became spiritually dry and barren. For a time this was allowed to continue — but at length the Lord came forth to rebuke her. He smote her with a disease which deprived her of strength, destroyed her beauty, and left her deformed!
At first, her heart rose in opposition to God — she kicked like a wild bull caught in a net, and spoke harshly of God. But the Lord followed her with stroke upon stroke, until at length her proud spirit yielded, she fell down before God, confessing her sin, and mourning over her rebellious feelings. Then the Lord sweetly breathed upon her soul, and she felt a sweet peace of mind, her heart melted like wax before the fire, and she cried, "Lord, do with me as seems good to You." Meekness, humility, submission, and acquiescence in the will of God now characterize her. And, though at times she finds the old feelings arise, and her natural pride work — she daily seeks grace from God, to crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts. This was a loving rebuke from her heavenly Father!
James Grant was a genuine Christian, and walked closely with God. But he was led into temptation, and gave way to the tempter. He soon experienced the hardening tendency of sin, and distance from God was the result. His tenderness of conscience forsook him, a spirit of levity and frivolity seized him, and he strayed yet farther from God. His faithful pastor reproved him — but he took offence. Christian friends expostulated with him — but he wished them to mind their own business. At length, for a time he seemed to be given up by God, though he never threw off the profession of religion, or neglected many of its outward forms. The God of love is patient, and is kind; and so it was in this case.
But at length the afflictive stroke fell. Rheumatic fever seized him. The pain was excruciating. The weakness was excessive. He was a mere babe in strength, and was racked with pain. Often in the deepest agony of soul he cried to God — but there was no answer. He prayed — but no notice seemed to be taken of his prayers. His was now a gloomy case. He had to do business in deep waters — all the waves and billows of distress and sorrow seemed to go over him. He reviewed his past life, condemned his sinful conduct, was filled with self-loathing, threw himself down into the dust before God, and justified him in his holy severity. He acknowledged that Hell, and the lowest place in Hell — was his desert, and he sunk into self-despair.
And now, when all hope of deliverance seemed to be taken away — the Lord appeared for him, and turned his captivity. Once more, he crept to the cross. Once more, he gazed upon his crucified Savior — until his heart was filled with grief, and his eyes with tears. And while his eyes were intently fixed upon the cross — he felt a softness creep over his soul, a sense of pardon was realized. and joy and peace in believing were again enjoyed. The Lord restored his soul, and not only so, he healed his body, returned him to his position in society, saying, "Go, and sin no more!" This was a loving rebuke from his heavenly Father!
"As many as I love — I rebuke and chasten." If therefore the Lord loves us — we must expect to be rebuked by him when we turn out of the godly path. Often shall we need it — and as often shall we receive it. Never let us turn a deaf ear to his kind rebukes — but take them all as flowing from his infinite love. And whenever smitten either in body or soul, personally or relatively — let us say with the Church, "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord." And if upon diligent search we find that we have wandered, or withdrawn our hearts from God — let us adopt the language of one of old, "I will go, and return to my first husband, for then was it better with me than now." But never let us give way to the thought that God is turned against us, or is changed in his love to us; seeing he has sworn that he will not be wrathful with us, nor as a judge rebuke us. It is love, paternal love, which rebukes us; and it is for our profit, and to make us partakers of his holiness.