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[Handwritten at top]: "The Purpose of Suffering"

Mar 20 1950



The farewell sermon of the Rev. Calvin McQuesten to the patients of the Mountain Sanatorium, was preached on Sunday morning, March 19, in the Sanatorium chapel, and broadcast through the whole institution.

Mr. McQuesten has served the Mountain Sanatorium continuously since the closing years of the First World War. Upon the consummation of church union in 1925, he was appointed the official representative of the United Church of Canada. This year Hamilton Presbytery of the United Church decided to appoint one chaplain to take care of the two city hospitals; St. Joseph's Hospital as well as the Mountain Sanatorium. To carry this policy, presbytery dispensed with services of Mr. McQuesten to take effect the end of this month of March.

Mr. McQuesten's sermon, a partial text of which follows, was based on St. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews, Chapter XII -- "Therefore, with all this host of witnesses encircling us, we must strip off every handicap, strip off skin with its clinging folds, to run our appointed course steadily, our eyes fixed upon Jesus as the pioneer and perfection of faith--upon Jesus who, in order to reach His own appointed joy, steadily endured the cross, thinking nothing of its shame, and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Yes, compare him who steadily endured all that hostility from sinful men, so as to keep your own hearts from fainting and falling. You have not had to shed blood yet in the struggle against sin. And have you forgotten the word of appeal that reasons with you as sons?1

"My son, never make light of the Lord's discipline, never faint under His reproofs; for the Lord disciplines the man He loves; and scourges every son whom He receives."

Discipline Portion Of All

"It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for where is the son who is not disciplined by his father? Discipline is the portion of all; if you get no discipline, then you are not sons but bastards. Why, we had fathers of our flesh to discipline us, and we yielded to them! Shall we not for [sic] more submit to the Father of our spirits, and so live? For while their discipline was only for a time, and inflicted at their pleasure, He disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His own holiness.

Discipline always seems for a time to be a thing of pain, not of joy; but those who are trained by it reap the fruit those who are trained by it reap the fruit of it afterwards in the peace of an upright life.

"So up with your listless hands! Strengthen your weak knees! And make straight paths for your feet. II Corinthians I: 3,4--Blessed be God, the Father of mercies; and the God of all comfort who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.

Value Of Suffering

"What do you find the most difficult statement in the Bible to believe? Is there any more difficult than that in the Romans -- "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." How can such a serious sickness as yours for instance, work out for good, especially when it lasts for years, and you know how much your family need you?

"The Bible has much to say about the value of suffering in perfecting character. That was the theme of that passage we read from the Epistle to the Hebrews. It was a favourite theme with this writer; and he makes some amazing statements about it. The writer of this letter to the Hebrews even speaks of Christ Himself, Son of God though He was, learning by all that He suffered (Heb. v,8). And again (speaking of Him as "the Captain of our Salvation" or as Moffatt translates it "the Pioneer of our Salvation") he says, He was made perfect through suffering."

"But how true is it for us, you and me, personally, that we may be made better, finer, people by sickness and suffering? Let us, in our attempt to answer this, go back for a moment to that great statement of Paul -- "We know that all things work together for good." Is that true? Taken alone, without the rest of the sentence, it certainly is not true. Many people are embittered, hardened, by suffering. They become more and more unhappy, and make every one around them unhappy. Paul, who in his own life knew what suffering was, would never have made such a foolish statement as that. What he did say was "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God." And that is something quite different.

Broader Sympathies

"Suffering enlarges our sympathies with other people. People who are always strong and well haven't as a rule that same sympathy with other people as those who have suffered. These strong, healthy people, live a comparatively isolated life, and when they get old and their physical strength fails, often they have not much left to live for. Also, physical handicaps may give us not only wider sympathies but wider interests. I have been a cripple all my life, with only one good arm and one good leg. It was a case of birth paralysis. When I was young, I had a fling at playing games, baseball, cricket, football and tennis. But I was never really good at any of them. And the result was that I developed wider interests, a love of nature, especially birds, a fondness for reading and a keen interest in political life, municipal and provincial, national and international. When I was 14 years old, my ambition was to be Prime Minister of Canada. I pity the young men who read nothing but the sporting pages and the crime columns of the newspapers, and the girls and women who read little but the fashion and social pages and the details of the sex murders.

"But I know many of you here have developed both wider sympathies and wider interests since coming here. When you leave here, you will go out into a bigger world in spite of the limitation of health that may never be robust. I think it quite wonderful what some of you have made of yourselves.

What We Do For Nothing

"But, of course, the real test of a worthwhile life is not what we have done with and for ourselves, but what we are doing for others. That is why I chose that text from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, in which Paul declares that the God of all comfort comforts us in all our trouble that we may be able to comfort others who are in trouble by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God.

The Father's Purpose

"Finally, I wonder if your realize that this would be a very much poorer world if there were no sick people in it. You may feel useless but you are not. You are necessary to develop kindness and sympathy in other people. A world composed of nothing but healthy and successful people would be an aggregation of self-centred individuals, a very mean kind of world indeed. But at Christmas time especially, the hearts of your friends who have good health are drawn out in kindness and tenderness toward you. And they are finer, better people because of you. Yours is not an easy part to take, I know. Your hearts must ache to be at home with those you love. But by just being what you are and where you are, you contribute immeasurably to developing that spirit of loving-kindness, which was the Father, God's, chef purpose in sending the Son of His love down to earth that He might show to all the world the heart of God Himself. And it was for that purpose that Father and Son together paid the final price of agony and death upon the cruel cross."

1 Note: Quotation marks are inconsistent throughout this article.

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