Are we not too apt to cull out the easy work of the Gospel, and to call this love to God? Whereas true love is supreme, and ready to be at some loss, and to part with near and dear objects, knowing that He "is able to give us much more than" we lose for Him. Our resolution to keep His commandments will soon be put to the test. Some trial to the flesh will prove whether we flinch from the cross, or study to prepare ourselves for it. Few of us, perhaps, have literally known this trial of David. But the lesson to be learned from his frame of mind under it, is of great importance to all who profess to have their "treasure in heaven." It teaches us, that only exercised faith will sustain us in the time of trouble. This faith will enable us instantly to recollect our heavenly portion, and to assure our interest in it, in a remembrance of the law of our God. Had David forgotten God's law, no other resource of comfort opened before him. But it was ready—substantiating to his mind "the things that were not seen and eternal." Look again at the Apostle's deliberate estimate of this very trial—not only bearing his loss, but absolutely forgetting it in the enjoyment of his better portion, "Yes, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things; and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ."
The temper of mind under such trials as this, serves indeed most clearly to discover the real bent of the heart. If we are in possession of a spiritual and heavenly portion, we shall bear to be robbed by the bands of the wicked, and yet, "hold fast our profession." David, under this calamity, "encouraged himself in the Lord his God." Job, under the same visitation, "fell upon the ground, and worshiped." The blessings, indeed, we lose, are but as a feather compared with the blessings which we retain. The Providence of God is an abundant support for His children. Their prospects (not to speak of their present privileges) effectually secure them from ultimate loss, even in the spoiling of their worldly all. Thus the early Christians permitted the bands of the wicked to rob them—no, "they took joyfully the spoiling of their goods; knowing in themselves, that they had in heaven a better and an enduring substance." We have, indeed, little reason to be frightened from religion by the anticipation of its trials. The exchange of the world for God, and of the service of sin for the ways of heaven, leaves no room for regret in life, in death, or in eternity. The Christian's darkest hour is ten thousand times brighter than the brightest day of the ungodly. The hope of the crown will enable us to bear the cross, and to realize its sanctifying support as a matter for unbounded praise.
But how desolate are the poor votaries of the world in the hour of trouble! Ignorant of the all-sufficiency of the refuge of the gospel; instead of being driven to it by the gracious visitations of God, they would rather retreat into any hiding-place of their own, than direct their steps backward to Him. Their circumstances of distress are most intensely aggravated by the sullen rebellion of the heart, which refuses to listen to those breathings of the Savior's love, that would guide them to Himself, as their sure, peaceful, and eternal rest! Would that we could persuade them to cast their souls in penitence and faith before His blessed cross! The burden of sin, as Bunyan's pilgrim found, would then drop from their backs. And this burden once removed—other burdens, before intolerable, would be found comparatively light; no—all burdens would be removed in the enjoyment of the Christian privilege of casting all—sin—care—and trouble, upon Jesus. Contrast the state of destitution without Him, with the abundant resources of the people of God. We have a double heaven—a heaven on earth, and a heaven above—one in present sunshine—the other in "the city, which has no need of the sun"—where our joys will be immediate—unclouded—eternal. Thus our portion embraces both worlds. Our present "joy no man takes from us;" and we have "laid up treasures in heaven," where the bands of the wicked can "never break through, nor steal."
Christian! does not your faith realize a subsistence of things not seen? The only realities in the apprehension of the world are "the things that are seen, and are temporal." Your realities are "the things that are not seen, and are eternal." Then, remember—if you be robbed of your earthly all, your treasure is beyond the reach of harm. You can still say, "I have all, and abound." You can live splendidly upon your God, though all is beggary around you. You confess the remembrance of the law of your God to be your unfailing stay, "Unless Your law had been my delights, I should then have perished in my affliction."
"The bands of the wicked have robbed me." Aforetime they derided him, and now they have defrauded him. Ungodly men grow worse, and become more and more daring, so that they go from ridicule to robbery. Much of this bold opposition arose from their being banded together: men will dare to do in company what they dared not have thought of alone. When firebrands are laid together, there is no telling what a flame they will create. It seems that whole bands of men assailed this one child of God; they are cowardly enough for anything: though they could not kill him, they robbed him; the dogs of Satan will worry saints if they cannot devour them. David's enemies did their utmost: first the serpents hissed, and then they stung. Since words availed not, the wicked fell to blows. How much the ungodly have plundered the saints in all ages, and how often have the righteous borne gladly the spoiling of their goods!
"But I have not forgotten your law." This was well. Neither his sense of injustice, nor his sorrow at his losses, nor his attempts at defense, diverted him from the ways of God. He would not do wrong to prevent the suffering of wrong, nor do ill to avenge ill. He carried the law in his heart, and therefore no disturbance of mind could take him off from following it. He might have forgotten himself if he had forgotten the law: as it was, he was ready to forgive and forget the injuries done him, for his heart was taken up with the word of God. The bands of the wicked had not robbed him of his choicest treasure, since they had left him his holiness and his happiness.
Some read this passage, "The bands of the wicked environ me." They hemmed him in, they cut him off from support, they shut up every avenue of escape; but the man of God had his protector with him; a clear conscience relied upon the promise, and a brave resolve stuck to the precept. He could not be either bribed or bullied into sin. The cordon of the ungodly could not keep God from him, nor him from God: this was because God was his portion, and none could deprive him of it, either by force or fraud. That is true grace which can endure the test: some are barely gracious among the circle of their friends, but this man was holy amid a ring of foes.