The Cure Of Trouble
( Originally Published 1895 )
"Let not your heart be troubled : ye believe in God, believe also in me. "—John xiv. 1.
PROBABLY this fourteenth of John is the most popular chapter in the Bible. If all else were to be blotted out and we were only going to have one chapter left, I think that the majority of the votes of Christendom would retain this. Surely no other chapter is used so frequently in the darker hours of human life. How often is it read in the sick-room. How many weary, tired ones have pillowed their heads upon it and found it softer than down ! How many have lost their fear of death and come into glorious faith in the immortal life through the open, welcoming doorway of this wonderful chapter !
It was spoken first to a little company of men who were in trouble. It was at the last supper which Jesus had with his disciples. The meal had ended, and Judas had slipped away into the darkness and gone out to hunt for his fellow-conspirators and complete the betrayal of his Lord. It is just before the Savior rises and leads them out into the garden of Gethsemane. The conversation about his betrayal—which had aroused their sensitive hearts and caused them to look into the faces of each other with alarm and astonishment and cry, "Is it I, is it I?"—had filled them with gloom, and the Savior speaks to them these wonderfully comforting words, and gives them the assurance that though absent from them in the flesh, he will still be loving them and caring for their interests; that he will not forget them, but in the Father's house of many mansions will be preparing a place for them. /He will be their representative- in heaven, caring for their treasures and preparing the way so that when the journey of life is over, and they have finished the work given them to do, heaven will be ready to receive them. He will come to meet them, and eternity shall be spent in glorious fellowship with himself.
Not only does he promise them this future re-ward and heavenly rest, but he assures them that their life on earth is to be full of sympathy, and comfort, and victory. "I will not leave you comfortless," he says, "I will come to you." And furthermore, he declares that the presence of God shall so dwell with them that they shall have greater triumph after his departure than while he is with them. Perhaps they did not understand how that could be possible until Pentecost, when the three thousand converts were made in a single day.
Napoleon once said, " When I am dead, my spirit shall come back to France and throb in countless revolutions." And his words have been verified. The revolutionary spirit has not yet died out in France, and the curse of that man who was incarnate selfishness still stirs discord and trouble in Europe; but it is growing less every year and is gradually fading out and dying away like an echo. But while it is true of Napoleon, and true of every such man, that. his influence lessens as you get farther away from him, the influence of Jesus Christ rises with every year and every day. That is what Christ predicted when he promised that the Comforter should come to the disciples, and should abide with them and with all those who - believe on him down to our day, and forever. " He that believeth on me," said Christ, " the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." Not to get less and less, but larger and greater, in spiritual presence and power, accomplishing greater and greater things, until such mighty velocity shall be gained that nations shall be born in a day out of darkness into light.
The great message of our text is that there is a cure for trouble. How close that brings it to us !
Man is as prone to trouble as the sparks are to fly upward. What little things can trouble us ! And what great avenues there are for trouble to come into our lives ! Yet real trouble does not come from anything outside of us, but it has its source in us, in our hearts, in our thoughts. Nobody outside of ourselves has really the power to trouble us. Real trouble must come from within us. We speak about trouble from loneliness. But if one's heart is full of a great purpose, and one's hands full of a great work, there is no power in loneliness to give us trouble. Henry M. Stanley found Dr. Livingstone in the heart of Africa, surrounded by savage tribes, where he had not seen a white face for many years, in the midst of indescribable loneliness from any human standpoint; yet he was not lonely, and the presence of Christ was so apparent in his life, filling it with peace and comfort and gladness, giving him victory over every earthly surrounding, that a few weeks of conversation and association with him transformed the infidel Stan-ley into an earnest believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is no power even in disgrace, in prisons, or bondage, or punishment of any sort, to give one trouble, if one is mastered by a great devotion to a noble purpose. Peter slept like a child in its mother's arms when he was shut up in prison, and did not hear the angel as he opened the barred doors. He was sleeping so peacefully that he thought it was still a dream after he was taken into the street. Paul and Silas had been whipped and beaten, and turned over to the jailer as the worst possible criminals, and were thrust into the vilest cell in the prison, handcuffed and chained; yet they had a joyous praise service at midnight, and before daylight had sinners at the altar seeking and finding the Lord. John Bunyan spent twelve years as an outcast in prison, and lived in the sweetest peace, and had immortal visions—visions so inspired of God that they will never die, but go on comforting every new generation and, like the words of the Master, widen their influence every year.
There is no power in death, even though it come cruelly and harshly, to destroy this peace. Stephen in the hour of death had the face of an angel, and had comforting visions of his ascended Lord. The stones of the mob, and even the gnashing on him of their teeth, had no power to shut out the glories revealed to him.
On January 10th, 1860, the Pemberton mill, a large cotton factory at Lawrence, Mass., suddenly fell into ruins, burying the operatives in the débris. Some were rescued alive; others would have been, but a broken lantern set the ruins on fire and the rescuers were driven from their work. As they turned away, they distinctly heard some imprisoned girls who had been brought up in the Sunday-school singing that precious hymn of William Hunter's,
"My heavenly home is bright and fair."
And up from the flaming jaws of death there came the brave chorus,
"I'm going home to die no more."
No, we may be sure we carry the source of trouble in our own hearts. Many a man on a throne has been troubled with the bitterest, sorest trouble that man can know. Wise men like Solomon have, in spite of their intelligence and their wisdom, been full of the keenest anguish and trouble. Rich men who lived in palaces, who could fly to the ends of the earth to find enjoyment, and gather luxuries from every clime, have yet committed suicide trying to escape their troubles. Brilliant men, having the ear of the world, poets, orators, statesmen, leaders of great armies, have been mastered by their passions and their lusts, and have fallen like Lucifer from heaven, ending their days in drunkenness and debauch and shame, wallowing in trouble. No, indeed ; trouble does not come from things outside of us, but from what is within us. And if you want to give a man peace and cure his trouble, then you must change his heart.
Let us look at the three elements that enter into this cure of our trouble by the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first is faith. " Ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions." Faith in those three great realities is a death-blow between the eyes to trouble. Think of it ! I believe in God. I believe that back of all combinations of the universe there is God, and that he has created this universe with all its wonderful beauty and harmony to meet the requirements of his children, to contribute to my joy, to help to educate and develop in me a noble man-hood that shall be worthy to dwell with him for-ever. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came out from the Father's heart to be born my brother, to carry the infirmities of my flesh, to share the pains and aches and weariness of my mortal life, to be tempted in all points like as I am, yet remaining spotless and without sin; going bravely to the cross and dying there with joy despite the pain, because thereby he might ransom my poor guilty soul and save me from sin. I believe in the Father's house with many mansions, in the everlasting life after death. Add it up, see what it amounts to. God, Christ, immortality—how can a man believe that with all his heart without finding his troubles scattered to the winds? And there is no doubt about it to the man who really gives his heart up to obey the Lord Jesus. Paul speaks for all of us when he says concerning his faith in the personal Christ, " I know whom I have believed."
When Dr. Alexander, one of the professors of theology in Princeton University, was dying, he was visited by a former student. After briefly exchanging two or three questions as to health, the dying professor requested his old student to recite a verse of the Bible to be a comfort to him in his death-struggle. After a moment's reflection the student repeated from memory the verse of Paul to Timothy—" I know in whom I have believed, and that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him unto that day."
"No, no," replied the dying saint, "that is not the verse; it is not `I know in whom I have believed,' but `I know whom I have believed.' I cannot allow the little word `in' to intervene between me and my Savior to-day. I cannot allow the smallest word in the English language to go between me and my Savior in the floods of Jordan."
Love is another element that enters into this divine remedy for trouble. How lovingly the Savior talks to his disciples. " He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." How can a man take that consciousness into his soul and yet not be comforted? What more can I say to you than I have said in these days that are gone by about the tender, gentle, compassionate love of Christ?—love stronger than a father's, more gentle than a mother's, more faithful than a brother's, more intelligent than a friend's, abiding with us always, shining out most clear in times of darkness and trouble, and with us in most loving presence in that solemn hour when all earthly friends must be left behind. If there exists this precious love-life between my soul and Christ, surely no real trouble can disturb me.
One other element enters into it, and that is hope —hope that maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. A hope which is an anchor to the soul, cast within the harbor, holding firmly in all storms, victorious over all discouraging experiences, and making a silver lining to every cloud. Thackeray calls hope " the nerve of life." And there can be no other such sub-lime hope as that with which Jesus Christ sustains and strengthens his disciples. The saddest thing that is ever said in the Bible about an unconverted man is that he is without God and without hope in the world. Brother, what is your hope to-day? Hope in one's self is futile, it is sure to perish. We must have some hope above and beyond ourselves. Two fishermen at sea were once talking about heavenly things. One of them depended entirely upon his feelings and was always counting up as a source of trust the things he had done. His comrade replied, "Ah, John, you are anchoring in your hull; you must throw your anchor out." There is no safety to be found in our self-righteousness. There is no safe anchorage on earth for a human soul. Above us, within the vale, lies the firm ground where we must cast our anchor. When John Knox lay dying, his friend asked him, " Hast thou hope?" He spoke nothing, but raised his finger and pointed upward, and so he died. All will be well, brother, if your anchor finds holding-ground in heaven.
And the result of the cure is peace. Quaint old Matthew Henry beautifully says that when Christ left the world he made his will. His soul he bequeathed to his Father, and his body to Joseph of Arimathea; his clothes fell to the soldiers, and his mother he left to the care of John, the be-loved disciple. But what should he leave to his poor disciples who had left all for him? Silver and gold he had none; but he left them what was far better—his peace. A lady who had passed through the terrors of the Vicksburg siege and had had the awful din of bursting shells and the roar of cannon and turmoil of war ringing in her ears for weeks, wrote to a friend the night after the surrender : " Silence and night are once more united. It seems to me I can hear the silence and feel it too. It wraps me like a soft garment; how else can I express this peace?" So a man who has been in the midst of the turmoil of passions, who has had the din of rebuking conscience ringing in his ears with warnings and threatenings, who has known regret and remorse, who has heard the roaring of the evil one as he came every day nearer, seeking to devour him, who has sought to do good and yet been led to do evil, when he finally gives over the struggle and surrenders his will and his heart to the Lord Jesus Christ, when his sins are forgiven, his passions are curbed, his heart is cleansed and purified, his conscience is void of offense toward God and men—oh, the blessed peace that wraps that soul about like a soft garment !
O brother, come and accept this peace to-night. For rest assured that the time will come when only the consciousness that you age a poor sinner saved by divine grace will give you peace. Dr. Cuyler says that when the richest man who has died in New York within his memory was on his dying bed, he asked his attendants to sing for him. They sang the old familiar revival hymn, "Come, ye sinners, poor and needy." The dying millionaire said to them, in a plaintive tone, " Yes, please sing that again for me. I am poor and needy." Ah ! what could fifty millions of railway securities and bank stocks do for him on the verge of eternity? One verse out of the fourteenth chapter of John could bring him more peace than all the mines of California multiplied by all the bonds in the national treasury. Come to the Savior tonight, and "my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus."