3. 'Is patient with the bad' is one of the tributes of praise that is paid in the fine paraphrase to that heart that is full of the same love that is in God. A patient love to the unjust and the evil is one of the attributes and manifestations of the divine nature, as that nature is seen both in God and in all genuinely godly men. And, indeed, in no other thing is the divine nature so surely seen in any man as just in his love to and his patience with bad men. He schools and exercises himself every day to be patient and good to other men as God has been to him. He remembers when tempted to resentment how God did not resent his evil, but, while he was yet an enemy to God and to godliness, reconciled him to Himself by the death of His Son. And ever since the godly man saw that, he has tried to reconcile his worst enemies to himself by the death of his impatience and passion toward them, and has more pitied than blamed them, even when their evil was done against himself. Let God judge, and if it must be, condemn that bad man. But I am too bad myself to cast a stone at the worst and most injurious of men. If we so much pity ourselves for our sinful lot, if we have so much compassion on ourselves because of our inherited and unavoidable estate of sin and misery, why do we not share our pity and our compassion with those miserable men who are in an even worse estate than our own? At any rate, I must not judge them lest I be judged. I must take care when I say, Forgive me my trespasses, as I forgive them that trespass against me. Not to seven times must I grudgingly forgive, but ungrudgingly to seventy times seven. For with what judgment I judge, I shall be judged; and with what measure I mete, it shall be measured to me again.
'Love harbours no suspicious thought, Is patient to the bad: Grieved when she hears of sins and crimes, And in the truth is glad.'
4. And then, most difficult and most dangerous, but most necessary of all patience, we must learn how to be patient with ourselves. Every day we hear of miserable men rushing upon death because they can no longer endure themselves and the things they have brought on themselves. And there are moral suicides who cast off the faith and the hope and the endurance of a Christian man because they are so evil and have lived such an evil life. We speak of patience with bad men, but there is no man so bad, there is no man among all our enemies who has at all hurt us like that man who is within ourselves. And to bear patiently what we have brought upon ourselves,--to endure the inward shame, the self-reproof, the self- contempt bitterer to drink than blood, the lifelong injuries, impoverishment, and disgrace,--to bear all these patiently and uncomplainingly,--to acquiesce humbly in the discovery that all this was always in our hearts, and still is in our hearts--what humility, what patience, what compassion and pity for ourselves must all that call forth! The wise nurse is patient with her passionate, greedy, untidy, disobedient child. She does not cast it out of doors, she does not run and leave it, she does not kill it because all these things have been and still are in its sad little heart. Her power for good with such a child lies just in her pity, in her compassion, and in her patience with her child. And the child that is in all of us is to be treated in the same patient, hopeful, believing, forgiving, divine way. We should all be with ourselves as God is with us. He knoweth our frame. He remembereth that we are dust. He shows all patience toward us. He does not look for great things from us. He does not break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax. He shall not fail nor be discouraged till He have set judgment in the earth. And so shall not we.
5. And, then,--it is a sufficiently startling thing to say, but-- we must learn to be patient with God also. All our patience, and all the exercises of it, if we think aright about it, all run up in the long-run into patience with God. But there are some exercises of patience that have to do directly and immediately with God and with God alone. When any man's heart has become fully alive to God and to the things of God; when he begins to see and feel that he lives and moves and has his being in God; then everything that in any way affects him is looked on by him as come to him from God. Absolutely, all things. The very weather that everybody is so atheistic about, the climate, the soil he labours, the rain, the winter's cold and the summer's heat,--true piety sees all these things as God's things, and sees God's immediate will in the disposition and dispensation of them all. He feels the untameableness of his tongue in the indecent talk that goes on everlastingly about the weather. All these things may be without God to other men, as they once were to him also, but you will find that the truly and the intelligently devout man no longer allows himself in such unbecoming speech. For, though he cannot trace God's hand in all the changes of the seasons, in heat and cold, in sunshine and snow, yet he is as sure that God's wisdom and will are there as that Scripture is true and the Scripture-taught heart. 'Great is our Lord, and His understanding is infinite. Who covereth the heavens with clouds, and prepareth rain for the earth, and maketh the grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth snow like wool; He scattereth the hoarfrost like ashes; He casteth forth His ice like morsels. Who can stand before his cold?' Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus Christ.
And, then, when through rain or frost or fire, when out of any terror by night or arrow that flieth by day, any calamity comes on the man who is thus pointed and practised in his patience, he is able with Job to say, 'This is the Lord. What, shall we receive good at the hand of God and not also receive evil?' By far the best thing I have ever read on this subject, and I have read it a thousand times since I first read it as a student, is Dr. Thomas Goodwin's Patience and its Perfect Work. That noble treatise had its origin in the great fire of London in 1666. The learned President of Magdalen College lost the half of his library, five hundred pounds worth of the best books, in that terrible fire. And his son tells us he had often heard his father say that in the loss of his not-to-be-replaced books, God had struck him in a very sensible place. To lose his Augustine, and his Calvin, and his Musculus, and his Zanchius, and his Amesius, and his Suarez, and his Estius was a sore stroke to such a man. I loved my books too well, said the great preacher, and God rebuked me by this affliction. Let the students here read Goodwin's costly treatise, and they will be the better prepared to meet such calamities as the burning of their manse and their library, as also to counsel and comfort their people when they shall lose their shops or their stockyards by fire.
'Blind unbelief is sure to err, And scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain.'
And, then, in a multitude of New Testament scriptures, we are summoned to great exercise of patience with the God of our salvation, because it is His purpose and plan that we shall have to wait long for our salvation. God has not seen it good to carry us to heaven on the day of our conversion. He does not glorify us on the same day that He justifies us. We are appointed to salvation indeed, but it is also appointed us to wait long for it. This is not our rest. We are called to be pilgrims and strangers for a season with God upon the earth. We are told to endure to the end. It is to be through faith and patience that we, with our fathers, shall at last inherit the promises. Holiness is not a Jonah's gourd. It does not come up in a night, and it does not perish in a night. Holiness is the Divine nature, and it takes a lifetime to make us partakers of it. But, then, if the time is long the thing is sure. Let us, then, with a holy and a submissive patience wait for it.
'I saw moreover in my dream that Passion seemed to be much discontent, but Patience was very quiet. Then Christian asked, What is the reason of the discontent of Passion? The Interpreter answered, The governor of them would have him stay for his best things till the beginning of the next year; but he will have them all now. But Patience is willing to wait.'