Center for Biblical Theology and Eschatology

Christian Suffering

by Hans Martensen


All sufferings that befall the believer in following Christ have this in common, that, despite the general connection that exists between suffering and sin, they are allotments of the disciplinary grace of God. The sufferings of a Christian are veils beneath which the love of God conceals itself. The sufferings that may befall a Christian may be regarded partly under the point of view of fatherly chastisement, partly under that of fatherly trial. Chastisement is not equivalent to retributive punishment, which is appointed to the ungodly. For the judgment upon the ungodly embraces only retribution as such, a revelation of God’s righteousness, that they may receive what their deeds have deserved. In chastisement, again, although this includes punishment and retribution, yet paternal love predominates, which will lead and prepare the disciple to a renewed exercise of godliness. “No chastening for the present (that is, so long as it lasts) seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb. xii. 11). “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten” (Rev. iii. 19). This experience ever recurs in the history of God’s children; and we may maintain that the higher a man stands in the kingdom of God, the more will he experience, internally or externally, the chastening hand. Precisely with the saints and elect God reckons exactly, and in them much is chastised which remains unchastised in those who stand on a lower stage. Every chastisement is likewise a trial; but every trial is not a chastisement. Trial as such contains nothing of punishment and retribution. It is so far an unmerited suffering, which may overtake the believer in the midst of the work of sanctification. It aims to establish his fidelity more deeply, to confirm his election (the consciousness that he is God’s child), victoriously to reveal his love to God as the pure, unselfish love, that God may be glorified in His servant. As regards the undeservedness in this kind of suffering, we may recall the word that the Lord spoke to the man born blind: “ Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents, but that the works of God may be manifest in him ” (John ix. 3). Yet it must be remembered that this expression, “ an undeserved suffering,” must ever be limited, on account of the sinfulness cleaving to all and every one. Only in the case of Christ can we in the strictest sense speak of an unmerited suffering.

        Whether now we are to understand our own sufferings as chastisements, or as purifying trials, or as both together, are questions to which each one must give the answer within himself. Two men may suffer the same thing, and yet it is not the same (duo,-quum patiuntur idem, non est idem). For the moral state of the individual cannot be judged after his suffering; but the suffering must be judged after each one’s moral state. But then, although in the suffering that befalls us there is ever something inscrutable, yet in very many cases we will discover an internal connection between our suffering and our individuality, and that the cross laid upon us is just the suffering that we needed for our exercise and confirmation, for attaining greater ripeness.

        The import of the sufferings of the believer, of the just, is the problem whose solution is striven for in one of the books of the Old Testament, namely, the book of Job, that wonderful work, that is among the highest that sacred poetry has produced, whether we regard the descriptions of nature contained in it, the exhibition of the mysteries of the visible creation, or its psychological descriptions, its exhibition of the mysteries of the human soul, the suffering human soul (wherefore also for both the greatest poets, Shakespeare and Goethe, this poem has had the value of a fructifying fountain). In its range of ideas it is properly a work of the meditative Wisdom under the old covenant. It belongs also to the circle of the Old Testament books of wisdom, in which not the specially Israelitic and positively Mosaic forms the object of contemplation, but the universal human (as, e.g., also in the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes). It goes back to the original religion which existed independent of Abraham’s, wherefore Franz Delitzsch has aptly designated the book of Job as a Melchizedek among the books of the Old Testament. Job is no Israelite, but a just man in the land of Uz, who believes in the living God, before whose face he has walked, but who by a succession of terror-messages that struck him one after the other, and finally by one of the most frightful diseases,—Satan smote him with boils from the sole of the foot to the crown of the head, and he sat in the ashes and scraped himself with a potsherd,—was suddenly plunged from the highest step of earthly happiness into the deepest abyss of suffering and temptation, into a seemingly God-forsaken condition. The sting of these sufferings is the incomprehensibleness, the mystery in them, that such a thing can befall the just. The solution of the riddle is given beforehand to the reader in the prologue in heaven, where the Lord permits Satan to assail Job with every kind of plague, that his righteousness may be proved and approved, that the Lord, who sees to the issue of the sufferings, may be glorified in His servant.

        But to Job himself this riddle is impenetrable, and becomes only the more so by all the grounds of comfort of the friends, who, instead of extracting the sting of his suffering, press it in yet deeper, in that they are unable to give him any other interpretation and comfort but that his suffering must be a just punishment, or at least a retributive chastisement for some guilt, and they call him to sorrow and repentance. Job fights a tragic fight with the riddle of his life; for his suffering appears to him a fate, a blind destiny: the God in whom he believes changes for him into a fatalistic power, a God whose omnipotence is only a capricious, despotic power. The God of kindness seems to him to disappear; and yet he cannot give up believing confidence in Him. His discourse is an unbroken alternation of faith and unbelief, of humility and defiance, of hope and despair. Then there suddenly appears, in contrast to the three aged friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, the young Elihu, as representative of a new view of suffering. That Elihu indeed is to represent a new view already appears in the introduction of his discourse (chap. xxxii.): “Great men are not always wise: neither do the aged understand judgment. Therefore I will also speak; hear me; I also will show mine opinion. —For I am full of matter, the spirit within me constraineth me. Behold, my belly is as wine which hath no vent; it is ready to burst like new bottles. I will speak, that I may be refreshed: I will open my lips and answer.” Elihu is not what many would make him, a young philosophic phrasemaker, who boastfully praises a hollow wisdom. He has a really new wisdom to bring; but this has yet, like every new wisdom on its first appearance, the taste of new wine.

        The mistake of the old view did not consist in conceiving suffering as punishment and as retributive chastisement, but in making this point of view the only one, embracing and explaining all. The new wine, the new wisdom by_ which Elihu is inspired, and by which his inmost being is pressed to utter it, is the conception according to which suflering is not merely retributive chastisement for a wrong committed, but also preventive, cleansing, and purifying trial. His view of sin approaches the evangelical standpoint, points to the many sins that are hidden from the view of the man himself, and to the acknowledgment and cleansing of which God will lead the man even through suffering. We also find in Elihu the conception of chastisement, but in a far wider meaning than his friends had formed it, in that he assumes into it the other conceptions of education, instruction, correction, by means of sufferings; and that Job truly needs correction appears even from his boasting of his own righteousness, wherewith he constantly appeals to his works. While Job complains that God regards him as his enemy, while he disputes with God, because he “will not give him an account of all that he does,” Elihu reminds him that men pay no regard to the voice of God’s grace, which so often speaks to them for their salvation. “ For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; then He openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their chastisement,—(chastisement here means educative suffering, to the understanding of which He opens the ears of men),--that He may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword ” (chap. xxxiii. 14-18). Thus, amid suffering, Elihu points to God’s grace. And in contrast to Satan, the accusing angel, who spies and discovers the _sufferer’s weakness, Elihu reminds him of this, that by the sufferer there also stands an angel of grace, “ one of the thousands ” of the heavenly hosts, an advocate and substitute, who leads the sufferer to faith, to humiliation before God, and to quiet surrender. “He will pray to God, and He will be favourable unto him, and he shall see His face with joy; for He will render unto man his righteousness.” The ever-recurring thought in Elihu is this: that as against God the Lord, Job and every man is wrong, and that humility alone as against Him is man’s right position. “Job hath spoken without knowledge, and his words were without wisdom (prudence). My desire is, that Job may be tried unto the (victorious) end, because of his answers for Wicked men ” (chap. xxxiv. 35 f.).

        Meanwhile the deeper and more satisfying solution of the riddle is already given in the prologue, namely, that Job by no means suffers only for his guilt, but because God will be glorified in His servant, who, notwithstanding all trials and temptations, yet does not forsake his God, which serves to shame Satan, who, so to say, has lost his case,—a prelude to the infinitely greater case that he afterwards lost through Christ’s sufferings,—and therewith for edification, and as an example for all who place their trust in God. Job and his friends know not this prologue performing in heaven, know not the plan and purpose of God. Were that and this known to them, they would not have got into all these perplexities. They, as it were, only represent persons in a drama, the connection of which they do not understand—herein, again, a type of us all, who possess only a partial knowledge of God’s dealings with us, who, if this expression may be allowed us, are likewise unacquainted with the prologue in heaven preceding our life and all history, which we must know in order really to understand God’s government and ways with us: wherefore we are directed, in humility, in unconditional obedience, to bow ourselves under God’s unsearchable purpose. Elihu already recalled to mind the unfathomableness in the wonders of the visible creation. But this unfathomableness, and likewise the requirement that we should hold fast to the invisible in humility and faith, even where we do not see, is expressed in the grand majestic discourse, in which at last the Lord Himself, after Elihu’s discourse is ended, and without initiating Job into that which the prologue has revealed to us,—corrects His servant Job because of his folly in seeking to contend with God. Accordingly, the veil of unsearchableness is not lifted; but the sting of it, its bitterness, is taken from it by this, that it is God the Lord Himself who reveals Himself to His servant Job, and although correcting him, yet confesses him as His servant, wherefore Job here deeply humbles himself, and so attains to peace, while he says: “ Therefore have I uttered that I understood not things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.—Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes ” (chap. xlii. 3, 6). For although face to face with an impenetrable secret, he is yet irradiated by heavenly light, and has the certainty that God accepts him.

        The conclusive understanding of suffering appears in the book of Job not in any doctrine expressed by word, but in the actual close of the history, where Job’s sufferings result in glory; he is restored to his earlier happy state, yea, higher than before. But just here is seen the great interval between the Old Testament and the New. For as Job lacks the view of the suffering of Christ, of the crucified Christ, who, amid all temptations, reveals to the believer a gracious God, while that his suffering likewise unveils the abyss of sin hidden in every man; and as Job lacks, with the full consciousness of sin, the comfort that springs from the cross of Christ, he must also lack the comfort which springs from this gospel passage : “ Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?” (Luke xxiv. 26). The future glory beyond only glances through in single passages of the book of Job. Only in following Christ, only in Christian patience, the hope of glory soars aloft, where our every wherefore will be answered, where we will fully understand the heavenly purpose concerning us, and where we will recognize its full meaning after the righteousness of the Lord, not only the judicial and retributive, but also the distributive and all-adjusting righteousness.

        Having set forth suffering as chastisement and trial, we must mention yet a third class of sufierings, namely, sufferings for righteousness’ sake, for Christ’s, for the kingdom of God’s sake, in which we can also include Job’s sufferings in their wider sense, so far, namely, as they also are to serve to glorify God, that is, to establish more firmly the kingdom of God in the heart of man. In those sufferings for righteousness’ sake is fulfilled in its deepest import that word of the Lord, “He who loseth his life for my sake, the same shall find it” (Matt. x. 39). Of sufferings for Christ’s sake, the apostle speaks (Col. i. 24): “ Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afiiictions of Christ in my flesh.” The meaning is, of course, not that something is lacking to the atoning suffering of Christ, that His atoning sacrifice is not perfect, not sufficient, but must be completed by continued atoning sacrifices, which is the error of the Bomish Church. Rather the apostle will say that, like as Christ our head had to suffer for righteousness’ sake, even so also His Church, the communion of His saints, of those justified by Him, must undergo sufferings and conflicts, that the kingdom of God may be extended on earth, in that His followers, like Himsel , “ are a sign that shall be spoken against in the world” (Luke ii. 34), and are to experience essentially the same sufferings from the world as the Lord Himself. Not alone, martyrs and His great witnesses have experienced this. Nay, something of this each of His followers will have to experience in the opposition of the world to the confession of Christ, whether that opposition express itself in persecutions or in ignoring and contempt. Such sufferings may be embraced under the title “ cross,” that word being understood in its strictest meaning, because by them we approach most nearly to the sufferings of Christ. Yet the designation “ cross” is also extended to the trials with which a Christian is visited, while we, when regarding the sufferings under the point of view of punishment or retributive chastisement, prefer to use the expression that “the hand of the Lord” is laid upon the sufferer. But just because suffering for righteousness’ sake is the highest of all Christian suffering, the Christian must carefully beware that he do not confound, without more ado, his personal concern, or, say, the cause of his Church party, with the cause of Christ, whence an imaginary martyrdom arises. Also, it must not be forgotten that sufferings that one suffers for God and His kingdom’s sake are likewise to be viewed as sufferings for the man himself and his salvation’s sake. Even of Christ’s sufferings, which were all undertaken by Him for the kingdom of God’s sake, it holds good that He Himself “learned obedience by the things that He suffered,” and “by suffering must be made perfect” (Heb. ii. 10, v. 8 f.).

        If we understand “the cross ” in a wider sense, so that it embraces all sufferings so far as they are trials, we can distinguish a twofold cross. There is a cross, a suffering that is laid upon us without our will. We are, like that Simon of Cyrene (Mark xv. 21), compelled to bear it; for example, a sickness, the loss of a beloved one. But now all depends upon how we bear it, whether with resistance or in faith and obedience, in yielding ourselves to the will of God. There is also, however, another cross, which is not so much laid upon as offered, presented to us, and in which it depends upon our will, our free choice, whether we will accept it or leave it. If we decide henceforth to live our life in following Christ, that is equivalent to the decision to take up the cross, because we then have chosen a life of self-denial. When Luther felt called to testify against the corruption of the Church, he chose the cross after the example of Christ; for he could foresee all the opposition, all the enmity and persecution, all the dangers to which he exposed himself. But the same thing recurs in the smaller every-day relations, as often as the question is to make a sacrifice, to bear a burden, to engage in a contest, which one could as easily avoid. It is more convenient to remain in one’s domestic and social quiet, than to come forth with the testimony for a good and righteous cause, when the latter has public opinion against it, and we might thereby in one respect or another injure ourselves, as it is called. In general calamities, like plague, war, or famine, it is more convenient to care for one self than to make sacrifices for the whole, perhaps with danger to health and life. It is more convenient to withdraw from a burdensome situation, in which one earns more unthankfulness than thanks for his labour, into quietness, than to remain in it because duty—which to the Christian means the same as God’s will—requires it of us. In countless cases no compulsory duty can bring us to accept the cross, but only the duty of love. Could our glance penetrate into secrecy, we would see how the earth all around is full of the cross that men refused, or that they cast from them. Compare 2 Tim. iv. 10: “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world.”

        The sedatives, the grounds of quieting and comfort which we have to apply amid our sufferings, are different according to the nature of those sufferings. The chief sedative, the deepest and strongest ground of contentment, is the consciousness of the grace of God in Christ, the consciousness that we are beloved of God in Christ, that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and that all things must work for our good, if we love God (Rom. v. 5, viii. 38 f.). But this finds its special application in the different situations. If we must view our sufferings as chastisements, there must be a comfort for us in this, that they are fatherly chastisements, that aim at our salvation, our improvement, that we may bring forth the fruit of righteousness. Yea, there may be times in which we must repeat that word of the prophet, “ I will bear the anger of the Lord, for I have sinned against Him” (Micah vii. 9), but in which we also, with this humiliation under the righteous hand of God, should wait on Him, in the firm confidence that He will again lift the light of His countenance upon us. When we, again, can regard our sufferings mainly as trials, our comfort lies in this, that these sufferings are to serve for our education, that within us a progress, a transformation into the more perfect may take place, which otherwise would not come to pass. They are to purify us like a fire, in which the dross is separated from the pure metal, in which also the finer egoism and pleasure-seeking is to be burnt out and consumed (1 Pet. i. 6 f.). And sufferings not only serve to purify, but also to edify. They teach us self-knowledge; for only in suffering do we become aware of very much on and in ourselves, which otherwise we would never notice and experience, learn also to know the world in its unsteadiness and unreliableness, learn to know God the Lord as the alone abiding and reliable One. They form us to more intimate communion with God, to surrender to God, to an intercourse of prayer with the Lord, such as is hardly to be learned in any way but this. They teach us to thank God for much for which we otherwise would certainly not have thanked Him, at least with all our heart. And as they train to surrender to God, and at the same time—provided they are understood and borne in the right way—make us more sympathetic for men’s lots, milder, more forbearing with their weaknesses; so they also train us to genuine freedom of spirit, to internal independence of the world and of worldly things. “ My soul is like one that is weaned from his mother” (Ps. cxxxi. 3; comp. Phil. iv. 11-13). Certainly it is very painful to have to suffer, to lack, want, whatever it be, whether love, or honour, or health, or other good things of life; very painful to have to fight the lonely fight with one’s own heart. And only too often we behave in this not otherwise than the crying child which is taken from its mother’s breast, and passionately desires to be put to the breast again. We would fain return again to the rest and comfort of life, to the sweet habit of existence, to the wonted unions of love and intercourse, to the recognition and applause of men. But it is so wholesome to us “to be weaned ” from all that, as we simply can have no continuing place either in the one or in the other, as at last the whole fashion of this world is for us to pass away. All depends on this, that the inner transformation may take place. We are to cease to be children, and become of age, that we may go and stand alone. To this we must be trained by the struggle against hindrances and misfortunes, to which also belongs the resistance, the opposition we experience in our efforts, must be trained, and ripen to firmness of character, to independence. True, indeed, this success only befalls those who in obedience bow beneath the 'will of God. In the opposite case, suffering rather produces bitterness against God and man, and the whole wretchedness of egoism.

        But sufferings not only according to God’s will serve to purify and edify, but also to prevent (prophylactically; compare Elihu in the book of Job). “Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me” (2 Cor. xii. 7). The apostle does not say he was exalted by the abundance of his revelations. He only says that he felt a temptation to this, and that his sufferings were given to him as a counterpoise, whether we understand by the stake or thorn in the flesh a strong inner temptation, or a suffering brought upon him by opponents, or, what may be the most probable, a severe and protracted bodily suffering. This is given him by God as a preventive, defensive, quenching means, and is ever anew to conduct him into the school and exercise of humility. The application is plain to all of us. Our sufferings are to help us to gain the victory over temptations, in which without them we might easily come to a fall. They may be compared to a drag which is put on a coach to keep it from rolling down with headlong rapidity.

        What has been said above of the more earnest, deeply incisive sufferings, is also applicable to those disturbances, annoyances, discomforts, and plagues, mostly touching but the surface, which daily life brings with it, and which can so often make us impatient and excitable. In contesting these plagues, our mind is to be fashioned to freedom and repose, to what the quietists call “holy indifference” (passivity). Such daily recurring little plagues have also their prophylactic, defensive object. This especially applies to the little torments that our corporality causes us, and the care we have to employ to overcome them. Were they not present, we would be in danger of falling into a false spiritualism. As pure spirit-beings, we would be quite intolerable with our egoism. Therefore we need these bodily restraints.

        Under sore, mysterious allotments, like Job’s sufferings, there is no better quietive than this: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. v. 6), and that with this we likewise renounce the unreasonable requirement, that already in the midst of time a theodicy shall be given us, that is, that God shall justify to us His government of the world, the ways of His providence, while we often forget how we ourselves are to be justified before God. We must familiarize ourselves with the thought, that so long as we only know a fragment of the divine government, and are not yet able to survey the connection between the whole and the individual, so long as we have not yet heard the “ prologue in heaven,” many an inquiry must remain unanswered, and we must keep alive in us the consciousness that as against God’s wisdom our wisdom, even as against God’s righteousness our righteousness is ever wrong. Instead of asking, Why? we must ask, Wherefore? what problems will God set us? what duties does He lay on me just now? And if it be said that that unanswered Why remains ever in the soul like a thorn, we remark, in reply, that the point of this thorn is broken off to the believer, who knows that he humbles himself not only under the hand of omnipotence, but also under the hand of wisdom and grace, and that the same hand that now bows him down will in due time raise him up. And although at the moment it is hidden from us when and how our God will exalt us, yet we know that the true exaltation of man consists in nothing else than the glorious liberty of the children of God.

        A great error in which many men, meditating and brooding over their sufferings, are found, is that they regard their person as the proper centre of the world, and think that they, as isolated individuals, are the object of the divine government, while they ought to think that as individuals they are yet likewise members of the great whole. Now, since suffering is inseparable from the whole of this sinful world, the individual, who is a member of the whole, must also necessarily suffer, not merely for his own sake, but also for the whole. That the individual suffers with the whole is seen most strikingly in public calamities, social misfortunes, where the individual must bear his share of the general suffering. But, even apart from this natural connection, there are without the possibility of drawing a sharp, distinctly recognisable boundary—certain sufferings in the life of every man, which he hears not only for his own sake, but for the whole, for the entire race, people, family, be they moral and mental, or bodily sufferings, whether he have received them from the past as a sad inheritance, or as a burden rolled also upon his shoulders by the present. And there are individuals who can very properly be designated as the bearers and vessels of the general suffering, because in them the sufferings diffused over the whole appear in a greater concentration, as a disease diffused through the whole bodily organism may take its chief lodgment in particular organs. In such cases, however, the creature dare not argue with the Creator, nor the clay quarrel with the potter, and ask: Why hast Thou formed me thus? Why hast Thou assigned me just this place in Thy order of the world? Why hast Thou not given me a more favourable position, in which existence were more tolerable and comfortable, were more beautiful? And even if this world of sin and corruption is inconceivable without sufferings, why didst Thou not at least make an entirely different and more perfect division of them? Instead of darkening the counsel of God by such unreasonable speeches, the only right thing is to say, “ I will be silent, and not open my mouth ” (Ps. xxxix. 10), obediently to enter upon the task set us by God, to leave the division of the sufferings, their measure and limit, to the Almighty and alone Wise, in the confidence that He on that day will certainly justify Himself, not only in His judicial, but also in His distributive righteousness.

        As a counterpoise to the one-sided, individualistic view of our sufferings, as also in order to lower our claims, it is advisable carefully and diligently to observe the sufferings of the whole, and then to ask ourselves, what right we have to be discharged from participation in these sufferings? We here mention Baruch, who, as scribe of the prophet Jeremiah, had to write down the severe words that God the Lord caused to be spoken by the prophet to His people (J er. xlv.). Baruch himself felt very unhappy in those evil, disturbed, and joyless times. He complained: “ Woe is me now! for the Lord hath added grief to my sorrow; I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest." But the Lord said to him: “Behold, that which I have built will I break down, and that which I have planted I will pluck up, even this whole land. Amt seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not; for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh (that is, upon the whole earth), saith the Lord; but thy life will I give unto thee for a prey in all places whither thou goest.” Baruch is thus exhorted amid the general misfortune not to desire great things, and something extraordinary for himself; amid the everywhere prevalent unrest, not to claim for his own person more quiet days. “ Thy life will I give unto thee for a prey,” it is then said, and by this the earthly life is meant, which God of special grace will preserve to him wherever he may be driven away. And indeed there are times of overthrow and of general devastation on earth when one must regard it as a gift of grace if a man can only prolong his earthly existence. But from the standpoint of Christianity, we can say that whatever fate may burst upon the earth and the individual, yet the Lord will at all times grant grace to His believing people that they may save their soul, that they may grasp and keep eternal life. But as regards earthly happiness, the claims we make of life, we all need the exhortation: Thou seekest great things for thyself: seek them not. Behold these great revolutions round about on earth; see how the proudest kingdoms dissolve and sink into dust: place before your eyes all the unhappiness, all the misery that prevails far and near in the world of man. Behold the terrors of war, the misery of poverty, in which thousands of your fellow-men must daily struggle for an existence that hovers on the borders of starvation: behold the misery of pestilence, devastating whole countries; see how death snatches away the living in masses, without regard to age and rank. And yet seekest thou great things for thyself? desirest amid this great world-calamity—and at all times this world is in trouble and great calamity—to have good and quiet days for thyself alone 2 Seek it not: think in what kind of a world thou art, and to what a race thou belongest, and thank thy God that for all this it is still given thee to save thy soul (comp. 1 Tim. vi. 6 fi'.).

The noblest and highest form of suffering for the whole presents itself to us where God’s grace will glorify itself in the sufferers in such wise that they thereby become a blessing for the whole, for many of their fellow-men. Such a suffering form appears to us in Job, who suffered not only for his own sake, but likewise for the whole, so far as he was to stand as a picture of human misery, like a vessel in which human sufferings in special multitude and multiplicity should be collected, but which in this should glorify God, and at the same time should become to men a type of patience (Jas. v. 11), adapted to become, as well by his virtues as by his weaknesses, a mirror even for the latest generations. So also with those followers of Christ who have suffered persecutions for righteousness’ sake, and thereby also for the whole. In them Christ is glorified, and they illumine their brethren as comforting lights. But in the wider sense of the word, it must be said that God will be glorified in all His believing ones in their sufferings, and that they are all called to give an edifying example to their fellow-men.

This article on suffering is from the 1884 book entitled "Christian Ethics" by Hans Lassen Martensen (1808-1884). He was born in a middle-class Lutheran family in Germany (Flensburg, in the Duchy of Schleswig). He studied theology in Copenhagen, and later was ordained in the Danish Church.

[ Top | Eschatology | Bible Studies | Classics | Articles | Other Articles | Sermons | Apologetics | F.A.Q. | Forum ]