Sea Difficulties to Mariners to Endless Bliss
by John Kay
"These things have I spoken unto you that ye should not be offended," said Christ; and "Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in me," adds, in another place, the same Divine person. And indeed that the causes of offence are many we but too well know, in the grievous rebellion of our carnal nature, as regards the supernatural profession of Christ.
First. "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee." "Forget also thine own people and thy father's house. So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty, for he is thy Lord." A loss of natural kindred is thus one cross that makes our flesh shrink. (Gen. xii. 1; Psalm xlv.10,11.)
Secondly. The multitudinous difficulties in the way itself (Christ is the way) make us stagger. How many severe winds blow at us in the face to begin with, or afterwards! The wind Euroclydon is a notable one. (Acts xxvii. 14.) For no sooner has the south wind of a desire after heaven blown at times, perhaps softly, and supposing we have obtained our purpose, (of fleeing from the wrath to come,) lo, what bursts on our startled soul but this unexpected Euroclydon, a boisterous tempest, insomuch so that finally all hope that we shall be saved is taken away. (Acts xxvii. 2O.) O the wringing of hands that ensues! O the calling of ourselves the most miserable of men, though all the while we are in the royal way! But this we cannot believe till God makes us see it, though prophecy forewarned us of it. But, alas, we sew pillows to our armholes, which wrath mercifully tears all to ribands, and scatters, like Ezekiel's hair, to all winds. (Ezek. v. 2, 1.2.) For Paul, by the Spirit, forewarns all us fleeing from the wrath to come, concerning this unwonted wind, Euroclydon, of most desperate trouble and dismay. "Wherefore, when we could no longer forbear, we sent Timotheus to establish you, that no man should be moved by these afflictions. For yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto. For verily when we were with you we told you before that we should suffer tribulation, even as it came to pass, and ye know." (1 Thess. iii. 1, &c.) But this Euroclydon, or wind of soul-trouble, blows from all quarters at once; that is the worst of it to our slender reckonings, although it is a title-deed manifest to our interest in Christ. For of them who enjoy Christ perfectly it is said, "These are they who came out of great tribulation." The Euroclydon of dismay is dreadful at times on living souls. It made Hezekiah turn to the most secret closet of groaning supplication, and to feel the sentence of destruction in his own feelings. It made him (wise as he was) to be chattering like a swallow, or a crane; "like a lion, so would the Lord break all his bones," said he, so upset was he. (Isa. xxxviii. 13, 14.) So completely was David blown up by this "tempest," that all rationality was apparently destroyed in him for a time. " And David arose and fled that day for fear. And he feigned himself mad in their hands. Then said Achish unto his servants, Ye see the man is mad; have I need of mad men, that ye have brought this fellow in my presence?" (1 Sam. xxi. 10, 13, 14.) David spake of himself also thus to Saul; "After whom hast thou come out? after whom dost thou pursue? After a dead dog? after a flea?" (1 Sam. xxiv. 14,) so completely through and through was the renowned, valour-endowed king of Israel, David, blown by the felt Euroclydon of trouble of soul, yea, and of body too, as it says of him, as I have quoted, "he arose and fled." The fear of Saul was upon him. And the fear of God, as a consuming fire, seeking to slay us, is upon quickened souls at times. "For I said in my haste, I am cut off." "And it came to pass by the way, that the Lord met him, and sought to kill him." (Exod. iv. 24.) "I shall perish one day," said David in heart. (1 Sam. xxvii. 1.) Yea, and "their heart shall meditate terror; the show of their countenance doth witness against them; and their faces shall be as flames." Peter speaks of the fiery trial, and cautions us not to think it strange. (1 Peter iv. 12.)
It is acknowledged that this Euroclydon of sorrow does not equally try all the vessels of mercy. Some are more dismally tossed than others; but this I will maintain, that all the elect are sailors, and therefore are on the moving waters of unsettledness. Otherwise, what need have they of "an anchor," if they never are made to venture on the stormy main? Thus Christ is compared to an anchor; (Heb. vi. 19;) for he is our "hope," and you know those on the seas are to look for extremities. "Our Lord Jesus Christ, who is our hope." (1 Tim i. 1.) Thus anchorage amid sea difficulties, as well as victory over the stormy blasts of life, is our Lord Jesus to the seed of promise. For it is he that sends forth judgment unto victory to the bruised reeds and flax-like scorched penitents of Israel. If, therefore, navigation is part of the Christian's tempestuous learning, alas! alas! what rocks and what shelves, I will warrant you, there are on the sea between time and eternity, which the Christian has to sail over! The sea between nature and grace is thus a stormy passage; as it is written, "Our God shall come, and it shall be very tempestuous round about him." (Ps. 1. 3.) The roarings of the old lion, Satan, are loud, like as the surges and storms on the sea swell and dash and howl inward blasphemy, providential difficulties to try us, the mocking of the Arabians, (the empty professors,) in perils from false brethren, the treacherous calm of worldly ease and prosperity, and the rude and rough handlings of sorrow by which we are distracted at times - these things make navigation from nature to grace perilous, and (as far as we can see at times) at a great risk. "I perceive that this voyage will be with much damage." (Acts xxvii. 10.) For our God shall come, and walk, and dwell in the regenerate soul, which causeth no little uproar in the carnal feelings. O the jagging, pulling, and tearing that there are in the soul when our God actually comes thereinto! O the tossings of the carnal mind! "And he shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that he may judge his people," and gather together our dissipated and dispersed feelings, inasmuch as we have, in the new man, made a covenant with him by the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus: "And the heavens declare it in our souls, for God is judge himself of it there," (Psalm 1. 6,) for "the Spirit heareth witness thereto in our souls." O the clashing that these things make in the soul experiencing them! The heavens from above, and the billows from beneath, amid varied vicissitudes and unlooked for changes, surely make this navigation very perilous! How I am certain every free-will vessel will be wrecked, and every volunteer cruiser must be mast-dismantled and sunk. And why? Because they began with God; and God did not begin with them. And these gallant ships God sinks at the mouth of the dead sea of final and due destruction. He dismantles all free-will gallies with oars, all academy-made ministers and their flocks, all Balaam-akin head-Calvinists and their deluded adherents, God shipwrecks them all finally by bulging in their sides with the heavy cannonade of a conviction of a capital crime. They are charged with letter-Christianity, or freewill; and, amid the triumphant artillery of heaven, "they thus lie with the mighty that are fallen of the uncircumcised, and with them that, go down to the pit that are slain by the sword." (Ezek. xxxii.) Thus, no free-will vessel can race over the bar that guards the entrance to the heavenly harbour. No boat of man's plotting can ever get over that formidable barrier, among the vessels, of mercy finally victorious over the perils of the Christian seas. It is only God-made, supernatural, and experiencing vessels of honour, with all their streamers flying, and their perfect equipment, terrible as an army, and more brilliant than the sun itself flaming in the noon-day firmament, that can ever finally outrace the devil, sin, death, and hell, and shoot out of the perils of the sea of life into the tranquil harbour of eternal rest.
Abingdon. I. K.