THROUGH MUCH TRIBULATION.
S. Enurchus. September 7. "AND THAT WE MUST THROUGH MUCH TRIBULATION ENTER INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD."--ACTS xiv. 22.
THERE is, perhaps, no Saint of whom less is known than of the Holy Bishop S. Enurchus, in whose honour we keep to-day. He came from Rome, and he was Bishop at Orleans in France, and there he built a church, which he called by the name of the Holy Cross. That is all that I, or that any one, can tell you of him. But this we know, that, through great tribulations, through great battles with Satan and with himself, through great fears, he entered into the Kingdom of GOD. How do we know it? Because the HOLY GHOST, That cannot lie, has said so by the mouth of S. Paul and S. Barnabas, as I just now read to you in the text.
But there is something strange in this, too. Those great Apostles were going round to the different cities where they had preached the true faith, and encouraging those that had believed, to remain constant to it.
"Confirming the souls of the Disciples, and exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of GOD." This is a wonderful way of confirming people in their resolutions, by telling them that they must have great tribulation. Remain firm in the belief we have taught, continue to do the things we have commanded you. Why? Because they will bring you to honour, or riches, or pleasures? Because they will make you like the kings and great men of the world? Not at all. Because they will bring you to great tribulation.
See how different GOD'S ways are from men's. If we want people to follow us,--if we wish them to help us in anything that we have begun, we show them how it will make them happier, or wiser, or richer to do so. GOD shows them that it will bring them sorrow in this world to keep His Commandments. S. Paul tells us so, very plainly:--"If in this life only we have hope in CHRIST, we are of all men most miserable." But just notice the text: it is not, we shall, but, we must,--"we must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of GOD." No help for it. We must have trouble somewhere; but it depends on us where. Trouble in this world, or trouble, even everlasting misery, in hell. Trouble in this world, and joy hereafter: pleasure, such as it is, in this world, and, hereafter, "the worm that dieth not and the fire that never shall be quenched."
You have all of you heard of the gold-diggings. Suppose I were to take you there, without telling you where I was going to carry you, you would see men working under the fierce heat of the sun, the sweat pouring from their faces,--sometimes parched in a dry rocky country, sometimes up to the knees in mud and water,--living on the vilest food, sleeping in the meanest huts, never able to be without a sword or a pistol, exposed to all sorts of dangers--dangers from cold, dangers from heat, dangers from fever, dangers from thieves;--and you would say, "What madmen are these to risk themselves so, to give up all comforts, all pleasures, for a life like this!" "Yes;" they would answer: "but we do it for gold. A few years like this, and we shall return rich men to England. We shall soon forget all our present troubles in our happiness then: a little labour, a little suffering, a little fasting is very well borne now, if we only keep that in sight."
Well, perhaps it is: at least the world says it is. But then we,--why do we not say the same thing? Why do not we make up our minds contentedly to bear what we do not like here, so we may attain to GOD'S Kingdom hereafter? Suppose the gold-digger gets what he wants, and returns home; how long has he to enjoy what he has gained with so much trouble, and with so much danger? And suppose, instead of returning home, he is seized with one of the fevers that are so common in that country, and dies,--then how much good will his gold bring to him?
Now, we, if we are true Christians, need fear neither of these things. Whenever we do enter into our heavenly possession, it will last for ever; and a fever, or an accident, or sudden death, can only send us the sooner to it.
"We must through much tribulation enter the Kingdom of GOD." But why must we? Why not pleasure here, and pleasure by-and-by, as well? Because CHRIST did not so: He Himself went not up to joy, but first He suffered pain: He entered not into His glory before He was crucified. He calls us to nothing worse than that which He Himself suffered. To nothing worse? Why what are all the things of which we complain, to the least part of the LORD'S Passion? "When He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them, and the sheep follow Him."
And then, again:--"We must through much tribulation enter into the Kingdom of GOD," because of our sins. Why should a living man complain--a man for the punishment of his sins? He Whom we follow, "did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth." What He did, Who deserved it not, shall not we do, who deserve it?
And yet when one hears so much complaining, so much discontent as there is in this world, one would think that it was we who were innocent and who suffered unjustly; that GOD dealt hardly with us: that whereas we had deserved all manner of blessings at His hands, He had given us all manner of sorrow. And all this, whereas in truth it is because He would have us happy hereafter, that He afflicts us now, because He would have us reign hereafter, that we suffer now.
Therefore, you see, I had good reason for saying that the Saint of this day had a life of trouble and sorrow; else he could not now have sat down where there are rivers of pleasures for evermore. We hear this, and we think it is all very well and very true; we see the Bible says so, and we say that we believe it: but then, when the least little disappointment troubles us, when we have any pain, or when we think we are treated unjustly, or when we have set our minds on anything and cannot get it, then we are ready with Jonah's answer to the question, "Doest thou well to be angry? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death." It is so very easy to hear, and so very hard to do.
We hear enough; would GOD that we did a little more. "What do ye more than others?" If that question were asked of us, how should we answer it? Let us take heed lest we have to say what I told you S. Augustine said: Others, who have far less means of serving GOD, others, who have not half our privileges, deny themselves, take up their Cross, follow CHRIST, take the Kingdom of Heaven by violence; and we, with all our going to the House of GOD, all our sermons, all our means of knowing and loving CHRIST, are cast into hell!
From which GOD save us, for JESUS CHRIST'S sake, to Whom, with the FATHER and the HOLY GHOST, be all glory for ever. Amen.