While I am mortal, I must taste of the waters of Mara; drink of the cup of
adversity; and swim the tempestuous ocean. It is the perfection of angels,
that they could never experience the pain of mental disquiet, or the
pangs of anguish. And it is the happiness of departed saints, to obtain joy
for mourning, a crown for crosses; and to forget their misery, if not
wholly, yet to remember it as waters, once swelled to a dreadful flood—but
which now have forever flown away. It is, then the misery of the sons of
men, only while here, to be, as it were, a mark set up for the arrows of
tribulation, and to be engaged in constant war, and in perpetual broils. But
it is the privileges of the Christian soldier to wear the shield of faith,
with which he shall be able to quench the fiery darts of Satan, and to ward
off the sling-stones of tribulation which pelt him from every quarter. How,
then, may I triumph under all my afflictions? Consider,
1. Afflictions come from God, whatever, be the instrument.
"You have chastised me, and I was chastised—you have afflicted me in
2. Afflictions are sent out of love. "Whom the Lord
loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives."
3. Afflictions are for my good. "Our human fathers
punished us for a short time, as it seemed right to them; but God does it
for our own good, so that we may share his holiness."
4. Afflictions are for the exercise of grace, even of
that noble grace of faith. "When I am afraid, I will trust in you;" here
faith is improved by affliction. "Consider it a great joy, my brothers,
whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your
faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that
you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing." "And not only that, but we
also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces
endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character
produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God's love has been
poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us."
5. Afflictions are noble antidotes against, and
preservatives from sin. "Before I was afflicted, I strayed—but now I
keep your word."
6. Afflictions assimilate the saints to their
glorious Head, their sympathizing and feeling High Priest, who was "a
man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." Yes, in the work of redemption,
"the Captain of their salvation was made perfect through sufferings."
7. Afflictions give a general disgust of all
created things, and prove the creature to be subject to vanity; hence,
says one much tempered in affliction, "I have seen an end of all
8. Afflictions teach humanity and sympathy to
fellow-creatures in the same circumstances. Israel, from their being
strangers, were to know the heart of a stranger, and deal kindly with him;
and in this men ought to imitate him, "who suffered being tempted, that he
might know how to support those who are tempted, and be a merciful High
Priest to his people."
9. Afflictions make very humble, and break the
haughty mind and bring down the lofty thought. "I shall go softly all my
years, in the bitterness of my soul; my soul is as a weaned child." And God
has this in view by them—to hide pride from man.
10. Afflictions make the man rightly exercised therein,
to know himself, and think on his former ways; to resort often to the
throne of grace, go often to God, and increase, as it were, the acquaintance
between God and his soul. "In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord.
11. Afflictions give clear and certain proof of the
providence of God, who in six troubles and in seven delivers out of
them. They preach his power, who makes his people pass through fire and
water, not to ruin, which we might well expect—but to a wealthy place, to
heaven and to glory.
12. Afflictions prepare for glory, and make us fit to
join the company of those who came out of great tribulation, and have washed
their garments and made them white in the blood of the lamb, therefore are
they before the throne of God, and enjoy him in all his divine plenitude,
world without end.
Shall I, then, despise the discipline of heaven, from
which none are exempted, no, not even the Son of God? Yes, all the heirs of
glory are brought up in the 'school of the cross'. O royal privilege,
inestimable blessing, to be under the care of heaven, and tutelage of God!
Away, despondency, begone; you would cast a covering over the love of him
who is my tower in troublous days; and make me conclude hard things of him
who has thoughts of kindness towards me. Can infinite wisdom be at a loss to
contrive, or infinite power confounded to bring to pass, to bring to
perfection, my relief? Until then, I shall, I will believe; nor shall I look
to means, or tie Omnipotence to them.
Bring Israel to the rock to quench their thirst! What!
Can solid flint be converted into a cooling stream? But, lo! the aged rock
divides asunder, and lets the promised springs refresh the parched
multitude! Omnipotence, rather than not perform, will stop the course of
nature, and make the restless billows rise in liquid walls, that Israel's
bondaged sons may tread the trackless sand! Omnipotence will bid the raven
feed, with morning and evening care, the wandering prophet; and forbid the
fire to burn, or even to singe the garments of the glorious martyrs. Yes, to
feed his chosen people, he creates and rains down manna from above.
Who, then, should bound his power, or doubt his
faithfulness? God will never break his word, whatever men think; nor falsify
his faithful promise. Cursed unbelief implies, that either God promises what
he never intends to perform, or what he is not able to perfect; both which
are blasphemous! Both which, O my soul! abhor, and rather rejoice in
tribulation, which, when watered with the dew of heaven, is so far from
being a barren soil—that it is the nursery of other graces, and produces
endurance; endurance produces proven character; and proven character
produces hope; and hope produces strong confidence, and sweet dependence on
that God whose love is shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit.
Again, in affliction the saints are ascertained of the
love and care of God, when their prayers enter into his holy habitation, and
their requests are answered to the joy of their soul. Hence it was sin in
Israel to chide with Moses, and to quarrel with God, when brought into
difficulties and dangers that seemed inextricable every way. Before them the
Red Sea forbids them to advance, high hills on every side hinder their
escape; and behind advancing hosts, swollen with rage, and ravening after
blood, deny a safe retreat. Now man is more than bewildered; all courage
fails; faith and hope are low; fears are high; and, alas! their eye is not
towards Him who can do all things, and who did instantaneously, to manifest
his power, and fix his people's faith in himself, divide the raging floods,
and build the restless waters in crystal walls, to bound their steps in ways
not known before, and clothe them in shady night which darted pitchy
darkness in the eyes of the keen pursuer.
Seeing You, O Governor of men! can make crooked things
straight, rough places plain, and affliction even to become a friend—I will
rejoice in you forever, nor quarrel at your conduct. Yes, woe to them; nay,
woe to me, if I use any unlawful means, or be too anxious to set my nest on
high, that I may be delivered from the power of evil. Agitating affliction,
like the ebb and flow of the sea—casts out mire and dirt, sweeps its
troubled bosom, refines the affections, and purifies the soul. Take courage,
O my soul! and mind that in a little while—and sin will be no more, and
sorrow will be no more, and temptations will be no more, and troubles will
be no more; and time will be no more. But yet a little while, and love, and
life and light, and liberty, and joy, and glory, rapture and delight—in a
word, God and all his fullness—are yours for evermore!