God's file and flail

(Thomas Watson, "The Lord's Prayer")

"God disciplines us for our profit."
Hebrews 12:10

What profit is in affliction? Afflictions are
disciplinary. Afflictions teach us—they are the
school of the cross.


Affliction shows us more of our own hearts.
Water in a glass looks clear—but set it on the fire,
and the scum boils up. Just so, when God sets us
upon the fire—corruption boils up which we did not
discern before. Sharp afflictions are to the soul, as
a soaking rain to the house; we do not know that
there are holes in the roof until the shower comes
—but then we see it drop down here and there. Just
so, we do not know what unmortified lusts are in
the soul, until the storm of affliction comes—then
the hidden evils of the heart come dropping down
in many places. Affliction is a sacred eye-salve, it
clears our eye-sight. Thus the rod gives wisdom.

Affliction quickens the spirit of prayer. Jonah
was asleep in the ship—but at prayer in the whale's
belly. Perhaps in a time of health and prosperity we
prayed in a cold and formal manner, we put no coals
to the incense. Then God sends some affliction or
other—to stir us up to take hold of Him. "They
poured out a prayer—when Your chastening was
upon them." Isaiah 26:16. In times of trouble
we pray feelingly and fervently.

Affliction is a means to purge out our sins.

Affliction cures the pestilence of pride—and the
fever of lust. Affliction is God's file—to scrub
off our rust. Affliction is God's flail—to thresh
off our husks. The water of affliction is not to
drown us—but to wash off our spots.

Affliction is a means to wean us the world.
The world often proves, not only a spider's web—but
a cockatrice egg. Corrupting worldly things, are great
enchantments. They hinder us in our passage to heaven.
Affliction sounds a retreat, to call us off the immoderate
pursuit of earthly things. When two things are frozen
together—the best way to separate them is by fire; so,
when the heart and the world are together—God has no
better way to separate them than by the fire of affliction.

Affliction is a means to purify us. It works us up to
further degrees of sanctity. "God disciplines us for our
profit—that we may share in His holiness." Hebrews 12:10.
The vessels of mercy are the brighter for scouring. As you
pour water on your linen when you would whiten it—so
God pours the waters of affliction upon us to whiten our
souls. Afflictions are in themselves bitter—but they bring
forth the sweet fruits of righteousness. Hebrews 12:11.