A Preparation for Suffering in an Evil D, Affliction, Biblical Counseling, Edward Polhill, Grace, humility, Suffering
The previous post in this series may be found here: https://memoirandremains.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/edward-polhill the-fear-of-god-which-prepares-one-for-affliction/
To prepare for suffering we must first become humble.
If we would build our Christianity as high as suffering for religion, we had need lay a deep foundation in humility for it. Our Saviour Christ was not only a pattern of suffering, but of humility too: St. Peter tells us, that, “he suffered, leaving us an example,” (2 Peter 2:21). St. Paul tells us, how he came to suffer; he emptied himself, or made himself of no reputation, “he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, the death of the cross,” (Phil. 2:7, 8). He laid by his robes of majesty, and became, as it were, nothing, that he might suffer for us. If we would follow Christ in suffering, we must put off our ornaments, and lay by our proud plumes; we must empty ourselves of all our self-excellencies, and become vile; yea, nothing in our own eyes, that we may endure the trial.
Edward Polhill, The Works of Edward Polhill (London: Thomas Ward and Co., 1844), 350. A great deal of the pain for suffering lies in the loss of one’s present expectation and self-concern. There is the physical pain, but often the loss of hope and expectation and “glory” hurts more. Thus, to suffer we would first need to be concerned with nothing beyond that granted by Christ.
Polhill first notes that humility stems from a right view of God. To see God clearly one immediately becomes humble.
Humility dwells in an enlightened mind, and hath such rays from God, as make the heart, where it is, take up very low thoughts of itself. Of old the appearances of God in outward symbols of glory, made men lie very low before him. When Job heard the voice of the Lord out of the whirlwind, “he abhorred himself in dust and ashes,” (Job 42:6). When the prophet saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, he cried out, “Woe is me, I am undone,” (Isa. 6:5).
Therefore, humility fits one to receive suffering from the hand of God:
Such thoughts as these do so abase and annihilate a man in his sense, that the great and glorious God may do anything with him; his own littleness will Keep him from murmuring under any cross or affliction that comes from the Most High.
Second, God does not give us trials without providing the grace to sustain such trials:
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (ESV)
As Polhill notes, humility fits us for grace:
Humility puts the soul into a capacity to have larger effusions of grace bestowed upon it; “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble,” (James 4:6). God hath two hands; with the one, he casts down the proud that lift up themselves against him; with the other, he lifts up the humble that lie at his feet for mercy. Humility is not only a grace, but a capacity to receive more of it. He that goes to a river to take up water, puts the mouth of his vessel downward to do it; he that goes to God for grace, must put his mouth in the dust, and cry to have it, not for his worth’s sake, but for his spiritual poverty. A humble heart is, as Parisiensis calls it, a spiritual vacuum; and as nature doth not suffer a vacuum in bodies, but fills up the space one way or other, so grace doth not suffer a vacuum in spirits, but fills up the humble soul with fresh supplies of grace.
Third, humility makes us willing to receive trials from the Lord:
Humility makes a man freely to bow and subject himself to God in all things. This is a choice and excellent preparative for suffering; the same which our Saviour commends to weary and heavy-laden souls: “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart,” (Matt. 11:29). Christians are to take up a double yoke, the yoke of evangelical commands, and the yoke of the cross that accompanies them; in both subjection is requisite; in the one, subjection to Christ’s authority commanding; in the other, subjection to his providence ordering: and that christians may be subject to both, they must look to the great pattern, and learn meekness and humility from him.
The proud person stands in the posture of the σταθεὶς πρὸς ἑαυτὸν, standing to himself, (Luke 18:11); he stands upon his own bottom, and thinks himself able by his own power to do or suffer anything as he pleases: but standing in his own presumption, it is very likely that he will fall off as soon as the trial comes. But it is otherwise with the humble man; he knows that he is weak in himself, and must be strong in God, and therefore he will not trust in his own power or will, but look up to God for support and comfort in the evil day. It is a notable passage of St. Austin, “Multos impedit à firmitate presumptio firmitatis, nemo a Deo fit firmus, nisi qui a seipso sentit infirmum:” A presumption of firmness hinders many from being firm; no man is made firm by God, but he that feels infirmity in himself. … The greatest christians may fall, by presuming upon themselves; the least may stand, by depending on the power of God: the poor in spirit would not be their own keepers, but would commit themselves unto God, (Ps. 10:14), as being safer in his hands than in their own. Humble souls, not being able to bear up their own weight, lean upon the Rock of Ages; and, having no rest in themselves, they acquiesce in the centre of souls.
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