James Smith, 1842
"Before I was afflicted I went astray — but now I keep Your Word!" Psalm 119:67
Ease and prosperity breed a number of temptations, and it is but seldom that we escape being taken in some of them. Hezekiah could pray, wrestle, and prevail with God in affliction — but when ease and prosperity were his lot, he soon turned aside! In ease and prosperity — the heart gets hardened; and the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. Even the Lord Himself gets no attention; hence He complains, "I spoke unto you in your prosperity; but you said, I will not hear. This has been your manner from your youth, that you obeyed not my voice." Jeremiah 22:21.
David could maintain his character in afflictions, much better than in prosperity — it was from the mount of prosperity that he fell, in the case of Uriah the Hittite. The prosperity of fools destroys them, and the Lord's family would be very much injured, if it were not for trials and troubles.
Look at the afflictions of David — how many, how various! Saul hunts him for a long period, like a partridge upon the mountains; Keilah, the city he lived in, is burnt — his wives and property are gone into captivity, and the people talk of stoning him. His beloved child, by Bathsheba, is taken away in judgment. Amnon ravishes his sister Tamar. Absalom raises a rebellion, defiles his concubines, drives him into exile, and is at length cut off in his sins. The three days' pestilence came upon the land in consequence of his sin, and seventy thousand people are cut off. These and other afflictions, are recorded in his history; and be looks upon them as the consequences of his going astray.
Affliction is to call him back to his closet, his Bible, and his God. Afflictions are corrections for sin, and intended to teach us. "Your own wickedness shall correct you, and your backsliding shall reprove you; know therefore and see, that it is an evil and bitter thing, that you have forsaken the Lord your God, and that my fear is not in you, says the Lord Almighty!"
Rightly viewed, our afflictions humble us before God, give us a greater hatred to sin; and urge us to cleave to the Lord with full purpose of heart. They are designed to reveal to us the nature of sin, the effects of transgression, the necessity for watchfulness, and the need of being daily upheld by the right hand of Jehovah's righteousness. When they lead us to search, plead, apply, and obey God's word — they accomplish a most desirable end; and it is evident they are blessings in disguise, and have done us real good.
Believer, prize your Bible; study the Lord's will; aim in all things, and at all times, to be ruled by its wholesome and holy precepts.
I know your judgments, Lord, are right,
Though they may seem severe;
The sharpest sufferings I endure
Flow from your faithful care.
Yes, I have found it good for me
To bear my Father's rod;
Afflictions make me learn your law,
And live upon my God!
Before I knew your chastening rod
My feet were apt to stray;
But now I learn to keep your word,
Nor wander from your way!