Revelation 14, 12.—Here is the patience of the saints; here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
The duty, necessity, and good effects of patience, are often set forth in the word of God. This is the more remarkable, because, by the wisdom of the world, patience, unless accompanied by selfish cunning, or a proud contempt of others, is regarded rather as a weakness than a virtue. Strongly contrasted with this vulgar estimate of patience, is the prominence with which it is exhibited, commended, and enjoined in Scripture. The application of the term, however, by the sacred writers, does not coincide exactly with its ordinary usage. Nor is its use in Scripture altogether uniform. The name is sometimes applied to the -humble, submissive endurance of suffering; sometimes to consistent perseverance in any good course. It is used, however, in a higher sense, including both the others ; and even where the lower sense would seem appropriate, there is often at least an allusion to the higher. Evangelical or spiritual patience is not mere resignation to the ills of life and the dispensations of Providence, nor mere perseverance in the path of duty, although neither of these can really exist without it. It is something more than either, or than both combined, that is described in Scripture as the characteristic patience of the saints, or, as it is frequently expressed, their patient waiting upon God.
This English phrase, to wait upon, has gradually undergone a change of meaning. In modern usage it denotes a personal service or attendance, either literal, as when the servant waits upon his master, or metaphorical, as when one friend is said to wait upon another. The original words which it is used to represent signify simply the act of waiting for, including expectation and a personal interest in the thing expected. This, too, is the primary import of the English phrase itself, waiting upon and waiting for, having been once synonymous, and being often interchanged in our translation of the Bible. As applied to servants it expresses strictly nothing more than their habitual expectation of their master's orders. Its general sense of service or attendance, is a secondary one, derived from this. In those parts of Scripture where the duty of waiting upon God is explained or enforced, the idea of serving him is certainly implied, but the direct and primary meaning of the phrase, is that of waiting for, expecting God, his presence, his favour, the fulfilment of his promises, as well as the utterance of his commands. That state of mind which waits for God in this sense, is spiritual patience. The Apostle's declaration to the Hebrews, "Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God ye may inherit the promise," (Heb. 10, 30,) seems, at first sight, to mean merely that the complete fulfilment of the promise would be long deferred, or, in other words, that they must wait long for it, because it could not take place until after they had done the will of God. But the words are applicable, in a higher sense, to the necessity of spiritual patience, as a characteristic and essential element of Christian life, without which no one can perform either part of the great work described, *'. e. can either do the will of God, or be partaker of his promises. The same necessity is intimated by the same apostle, in the same epistle, when he expresses his desire that those to whom he writes may be followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises. (Heb. 6, 12.) So far, indeed, as the necessity of any act, or habit, or affection, can be expressed by an exhortation to perform or cherish it, the necessity of spiritual patience may be said to be frequently alleged in scripture, both directly, as a matter of religious obligation, and indirectly, as an object of God's favour and a source of blessing. "Blessed are all they that wait for him." (Isaiah 30,18.) "It is good that a man should hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." (Lamentations 3, 26.) "The Lord is good to them that wait for him—to the sonl that seeketh him." (lb. 25.) This patient waiting upon God, is represented not only as acceptable to him, and as a source of good in general, but of specific benefits, without which spiritual life can never flourish, if it can exist. For example, it is represented as a source of strength, i. e. spiritual strength, the power of performance, and ordinance, and resistance—of withstanding evil and of doing good. This strength, the soul, convinced of its own weakness, cannot cease to long for, since, without it, it can neither do that which is pleasing in the sight of God nor shun that which offends him. Now this strength is exhibited in Scripture, not as the result of anynatural power, inherent or acquired, nor external advantages, defences, safeguards, and facilities of action, but of patient reliance upon God. "Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thy heart; wait, I say, on the Lord." (Isaiah 27, 14.) It is indeed contrasted with all other means and causes of strength, as being the only one that can be trusted, while all the rest are imperfect and delusive. Even the strongest who rely on these, shall fail and be exhausted; but " they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40, 31.) be ashamed," i. e. according to the usage of the Bible, disappointed and betrayed, "that wait for are." (Isaiah 49, 23.) This assurance against future disappointment comprehends within its scope the highest hopes of the believer, the reality of which is expressly connected with the exercise of patience. "They that wait on the Lord shall inherit the land." (Psalm 37, 9.) "Wait on the Lord and keep his way; he shall exalt thee to inherit the land." (lb. 34.) Nay, eternal life is spoken of as sure only " to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, honour, and immortality." (Romans 2, 7.)
So far from warning us against excess in the employment of this means for the recruiting of our spiritual strength, the Scripture points it out as the highway to perfection—" only let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing "—not only perfect and entire in patience, but in all that spiritual patience tends to generate and foster. (James 1, 4.) It is presented likewise as the only security against the disappointment and frustration of our strongest confidence and highest trust. They who rely upon themselves or upon any other creature for this same security, shall surely be confounded; but God himself has said, •" they shall not
Such are the terms in which the duty, necessity, and blessed fruits of patience are exhibited in Scripture. The very strength of the expressions and the comprehensive nature of the promises which they involve, might suffice to show that the patience of which such things are affirmed is neither resignation, fortitude, nor constancy of purpose, but something more than either, though inclusive of them all. The idea of patience, in its ordinary sense, is of course presupposed. That the heavenly patience thus enjoined and blessed, is, like all other patience, tranquil and quiet, the negation and the opposite of turbulence, disorder, and undue excitement, is clear, not only from the name applied to it, but also from the declaration, "it is good that a man should hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord," (Lamentations 3, 26,) and from the junction of the two commands, "rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him" (Psalm 37, 7.) Is it then a mere inert quiescence, a stagnation of the soul, without affection" or activity, that God's word sets before us, as a duty, as a necessary source of strength, and as the highway to perfection. Such a conclusion is well suited to the tendency of human nature to extremes ; but if it were correct, the Apostle could never have used such a combination—in exhorting the Hebrew Christians—" that ye he not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises." (Hebrews 6,12.) The patience that is heir to the promises of God, is therefore not a mere negation, not a stagnant patience, not a slothful patience. It is urged on to action by a potent principle, the love of God, without which patient waiting, in the true sense, is impossible. "The Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patient waiting for Christ." (2 Thess. 3, 5.)
But this divine love may itself be personated by a mere inert affection or by a corrupt one, which refuses to be subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. He has therefore taught us that obedience to his will is an essential characteristic of true patience —" Wait on the Lord" and " keep his way" i. e. walk in the way of his commandments, are inseparable precepts, forming, not severally but together, the condition of the promise: "he shall exalt thee to inherit the land." (Ps. 37, 34.) They for whom glory, and honour, and immortality, and eternal life are reserved, are they who seek it, not simply by patient continuance, but by patient continuance in well-doing. (Rom. 2, 7.) "Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye may inherit the promise." (Hebrews 10, 36.) The patience of the saints, then, is neither an inactive nor a lawless patience, but a loving and obedient patience. The same perverse tendency which leads men to convert quiet and patient waiting for salvation, into absolute inaction or a disregard of. duty, will lead them to convert the requisition of obedience into an exhortation to reliance on themselves or their own meritorious service. But the patience of .the saints is a believing patience, which not only believes the truth, but trusts the promises —a trust implying self-renunciation and despair of self salvation; for without these an implicit trust in God's grace is impossible. It is through faith and patience, a patient trust and a believing patience, that the saints in glory have inherited the promises. From such a faith, hope is inseparable. He who would not be slothful, but a follower of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises, must do so by "showing diligence" in every duty "to the full assurance of hope unto the end." (Heb. 6, 11.) The patience of the Scriptures springs neither from despair nor fear, but from hope, which is the opposite of both. It is not a mere quiet endurance of the present or a quiet retrospect of the past, but a quiet expectation; and that not a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, but an expectation of good—a hope —an assurance of hope; the more assured the hope the more perfect the patience; patience can have her perfect work only where there is full assurance of hope to the end—" For if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it." (Romans 8, 25.) "It is good that a man should Iwpe and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." (Lamentations 3. 26.)
The faith and hope which are thus represented as essential to the patience of the saints, are not merely a vague trust and expectation founded upon no sufficient reason, or simply on the attributes of God, or his promises in general, without regard to the restrictions and conditions by which they are accompanied, but a specific trust and expectation, having a definite object, reason and foundation. We have seen already that the exercise of Christian patience is described in Scripture as a patient waiting, not for something unknown—not for evil—not for good in the general, but for God. "Blessed are all they that wait for Him." (Is. 30, 18.) "Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him." "Those that wait on the Lord shall inherit the earth." "Wait on the Lord and keep his way." "Wait on the Lord and he shall save thee." "They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength." "The Lord is good to them that wait for him? "They shall not be ashamed that wait for me." Here is a definite object of patient expectation set before us. It is not mere waiting, nor mere patient waiting that will answer this description, but patient waiting for the Lord, by loving him, obeying him, believing him, confiding in him, seeking him. "The Lord is good to them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him."
The object of the Christian's patient expectation is made still more definite. It might be asked how or why should men wait for or expect the Lord? He will be forever what he is. He will be forever, as he is now, intimately present to his creatures. If the object of expectation be supposed to be some special or extraordinary manifestation of his presence or Ms power, such an expectation would be apt to prove fanatical, and instead of promoting quietness and patience would more probably destroy it. But the definite object of the true believer's patient expectation is the manifestation of God's mercy in his own salvation, in his complete and final deliverance from suffering and from sin. "Wait on the Lord and he will save thee." (Proverbs. 20, 22.) "It is good that a man should hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord." But even here, the expectation of the Christian might be too vague to secure the exercise of genuine patience. He might look to God for salvation, but without understanding how it was to be procured or how it could be reconciled with the divine justice. While this doubt or ignorance existed, he could hardly rest with implicit trust even on God's mercy, and could not therefore be expected to possess his soul in patience. The only remedy for this uneasiness and restlessness of spirit, is a just apprehension, not only of God's nature as a merciful being, but of the precise way in which his mercy can and will be exercised, in which he can be just and yet justify the ungodly. In other words, the soul must not only see God as he is in himself, but see him in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, and not imputing their trespasses unto them but imputing them to Christ, making him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. The man whose hope is fixed, not on abstractions or on generalities, not even on the attributes of God, as such, nor on his promises at large, but on the positive, distinct, specific promise of justification and salvation even to the chief of sinners,who renounces his own righteousness and submits to the righteousness of God, by a simple trust in the righteousness of Christ, that man may indeed be said to " wait for the hope of righteousness by faith." (Galatians 5, 5.) The attitude of that soul is indeed one of waiting, of patient waiting, of patient waiting for God, of patient waiting for the salvation of the Lord, of " love to God and patient waiting for Christ."
Beyond this it is impossible to go in making the object of our patient expectation either greater or more definite. He who waits for the hope of righteousness by faith, through the love of God and the patient waiting for Christ, may have a faint hope through his own infirmity, but cannot have a vague one through the vagueness of the object. His hope, and by necessary consequence, his patience, may be variable, fluctuating, and capricious, but not from any want of amplitude, or fulness, or distinctness in the object. The more he sees of that, the more jJrofoundly tranquil and unbroken will the patience of his spirit be. If we know not what we hope for, or if we doubt of its reality or excellence, or of its being attainable by us, we may still have hope, but we cannot have patience. Our hope will be a restless, an unsteady, an impatient, a capricious hope. "But if we hope for that" which, though " we see not we believe" and know to be real and excellent and within our reach, "then, then, do we with patience wait for it," not because we no longer desire it, but because we do; not because we are willing to postpone the full fruition of it, but because we are so filled with the joyful expectation and the assured hope of obtaining it at last, that we are willing to wait the will of Him on whom it all depends, and whom we know to be able to keep that with which we have entrusted him, until that day, however distant. This is the kind of hope that generates true patience ; and if we would indeed " be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises," let us lay aside our fluctuating, short-lived hopes, which are extinguished at the first blast or drowned by the first wave that washes over us, and let us not be slothful, but diligent in duty, in the full assurance of hope unto the end. (Hebrews 6,11.12.) We have now seen reason to conclude that the patience of the true believer, though a state of rest is one of rest in God, and therefore not a slothful or inert one, but a diligent and active one; not lawless, but obedient; not compulsory, but willing; not fearful, but loving; not despondent, but hopeful; not vague, but definite; not resting on the reason, or the fancy, or on nothing, but on God, on Christ, on salvation, on the righteousness of faith; not capricious and short-lived, but constant, uniform, and persevering. The connection which has been already pointed out between this patience, and the love of God and faith in Christ, is a sufficient answer to the question, whence does this patience spring, by what is it produced, and how shall we obtain it? Are we still without the love of God and faith in Christ? Then patient waiting is for us impossible. We may wait long, we may wait forever, in the sense of doing nothing, sinking deeper in sin, and growing harder
under it; but if in the sense before explained we would possess our souls in patience, we must believe, and love, and hope. Faith lies at the foundation. "Where faith is wanting, there can be no patience. With little faith there can be little patience. ]STot that the highest degrees of faith are necessary to a genuine patience; much less that faith which is assailed and tried can breed no patience. But of these trials, patience often springs; patience not only in the lower, but the higher sense; .not only the passive power of endurance, but the active power of humble, hopeful, joyful, and believing expectation; "only let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing, knowing that the trial of your faith worketh patience." (Jas. 1, 3. 4.) But this effect supposes an internal preparation, without which mere external trials of our faith, instead of working patience, would render it impossible. And this internal preparation can be wrought by nothing but a spiritual influence not only from without, but from above, from heaven, from God. None but the Holy Ghost can work in our darkened and corrupted heart, that humble, yet triumphant expectation of deliverance through the righteousness of Christ, which is the life of spiritual patience "For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith," (Gal. 5, 5.) This hope, and the faith from which it springs, and the love to God by which it is accompanied, are all his gift. Patience and all the elements of which it is composed must come alike from him. The Lord alone can " direct [our] hearts into the love of God, and the patient waiting for Christ," (2 Thess.
3, 5.) The sum of all these Scriptures seems to be that there is a patience necessary to the Christian life, a patience which includes resignation and endurance, but includes far more; a patience which God approves, and upon which he has promised his blessing, as a source of strength and as a means of perfection; that this patience is a rest in God, not slothful but diligent, obedient, loving, and believing, springing from the hope of salvation through the righteousness of Christ and from faith in him, augmented even by the trial of that faith when it is genuine and does not fail; a patience wrought by the Holy Spirit directing our hearts into the love of God, and the patience of Christ, or patient waiting for him.
If in what has now been said, the declarations of the Scriptures should appear to be distorted from their natural, simple meaning as applied to patience in the lower sense, let it be considered in the first place, that some of the things predicated of patience in the Word of God are wholly inapplicable to a mere submissive temper, power of endurance, or freedom from uneasy restlessness and discontent. In the next place, let it be considered that the higher patience which the Word of God describes, and which the grace of God produces, so far from being opposed to the one just mentioned, or in any sense at variance with it, that it includes it as the whole includes the part, or as the spring includes the stream, or the plant its fruit or flower. While it still stands true, attested both by Scripture and experience, that a mere philosophical or natural patience can never lead to those results which are ascribed to Christian patience in the "Word of God, it is equally true and equally well ascertained, that this is the only certain and unfailing source of meekness, resignation, and tranquillity accessible to man. The patience of wrong, or sufTering, or hope deferred, which springs from mere prudential motives or from self-control, can never rise higher than its fountain in the heart, and must therefore prove unequal to the greatest emergencies of human life. But break a man's heart with a conviction of sin, open the eyes to the impending danger, make him feel his incapacity to help himself, and his urgent need of superhuman help, then let him see Christ as an all-sufficient Saviour, just such a Saviour as he needs, and has at last been made to wish for, let him understand and appreciate the freeness of the gospel offer, let him close with it in hearty acquiescence by a true faith, let him feel the love of God shed abroad in his heart and controlling his affections, let him see the hope of full salvation, and of future glory streaking the horizon like the dawn of a celestial morning; on this dawn let his eye rest with a full persuasion that the day is breaking, that the sun is there, that it will rise, that it will soon rise, and with this conviction, what will he care for the expiring of the few nickering tapers that surround him? The patience which will best enable men to bear the wrongs, and sorrows, and delays of life, is patient continuance in well-doing, the patient waiting for Christ, the patience which is joint heir of the promises with faith, the patience of hope, which waits for things unseen, looks for the hope of righteousness by faith, and quietly waits for the salvation of the Lord. Where this exists, the forgiveness of injuries, the endurance of sufferings, the loss of all things, are comparatively easy.
If, then, we would exercise the lower forms of patience, we must do it by securing the possession of the higher. If faith and repentance are unknown to our experience, we must repent and believe before we can expect to bear and forbear even in this world's matters with a truly Christian spirit. If we have repented and believed, we must learn to love and hope, as necessary elements of patience. If we have already studied in this school, and begun to practice its celestial precepts, let us show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end; let patience have its perfect work, that we may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Let us wait on the Lord and keep his way. Let us rest in the Lord and wait patiently for him. Let us hope and quietly wait for his salvation. Let us through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. Let us by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory, and honour, and immortality. If we hope for what we see not, let us with patience wait for it, and ere long we shall see it. We shall see it. Faith shall be turned into sight. The work of patience shall be done forever; and while the patience of the philosophers and worldlings shall be seen in all its hollowness and emptiness, a voice from heaven shall say even of the weakest and unworthiest of us who have thus preserved our souls in patience, "Here is the patience of the saints ; here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus."