But since the chief reason for enduring the cross has been derived from a consideration of the divine will, we must, in few words, explain wherein the difference between philosophical and Christian patience lies. Indeed, very few of the philosophers advanced so far as to perceive that the hand of God tries us by means of affliction, and that we ought in this matter to obey God. The only reason that they adduce is that so it must be. But is not this just to say that we must yield to God because it is in vain to contend against Him? For if we obey God only because it is necessary, provided we can escape, we shall cease to obey Him. But what Scripture calls us to consider in the will of God is very different: namely, first justice and equity, and then a regard to our own salvation. Hence, Christian exhortations to patience are of this nature. Whether poverty, exile, imprisonment, contumely, disease, bereavement, or any such evil affects us, we must think that none of them happens except by the will and providence of God, that everything He does is in the most perfect order.
What! Do not our numberless daily faults deserve to be chastised more severely and with a heavier rod than His mercy lays upon us? Is it not most right that our flesh should be subdued and be, as it were, accustomed to the yoke, so as not to rage and wanton as it lists? Are not the justice and the truth of God worthy of our suffering on their account? But if the equity of God is undoubtedly displayed in affliction, we cannot murmur or struggle against them without iniquity. We no longer hear the frigid cant, “Yield because it is necessary”; but a living and energetic precept, “Obey because it is unlawful to resist. Bear patiently, because impatience is rebellion against the justice of God.”
Then, as that only seems to us attractive that we perceive to be for our own safety and advantage, here also our heavenly Father consoles us by the assurance that in the very cross with which He afflicts us, He provides for our salvation. But if it is clear that tribulations are salutary to us, why should we not receive them with calm and grateful minds?
In bearing them patiently, we are not submitting to necessity, but resting satisfied with our own good. The effect of these thoughts is that to whatever extent our minds are contracted by the bitterness that we naturally feel under the cross, to the same extent will they be expanded with spiritual joy. Hence arises thanksgiving, which cannot exist unless joy be felt. But if the praise of the Lord and thanksgiving can emanate only from a cheerful and gladdened breast—and there is nothing that ought to interrupt these feelings in us—it is clear how necessary it is to temper the bitterness of the cross with spiritual joy.
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