put you so many times into the furnace?
(John Flavel, "The Fountain of Life" 1671)
You have a further advantage to a holy life, by all the
chastisements with which God visits you.
By these afflictions, God prevents your straying and wandering.
Others may wander even as far as hell, and God will not spend
a sanctified rod upon them, to reduce or stop them; but says,
"let them alone!" Hosea 4:17. But if you wander out of the way
of holiness, He will clog you with one trouble or other to keep
you within bounds.
Holy Basil was a long time sorely afflicted with an inveterate
headache, he often prayed for the removal of it. At last God
removed it, but in the place of it, he was sorely exercised with
the motions and temptations of lust; which, when he perceived,
he heartily desired his headache again, to prevent a worse evil.
You little know the ends and uses of many of your afflictions.
Are you exercised with bodily weakness? It is a mercy you are
so; and if these pains and infirmities were removed, these clogs
taken off, you may with Basil, wish for them again, to prevent
Are you poor? Why, with that poverty God has clogged your pride!
Are you reproached? With these reproaches God has clogged your
Corruptions are prevented by your afflictions. And, is not this
a marvelous help to holiness of life?
By your afflictions, your corruptions are not only clogged, but
purged. By these God dries up and consumes that spring of sin
which defiles your lives. God orders your wants to fill your
wantonness; and makes your poverty poison to your pride.
Afflictions are God's medicines, to purge ill humours out
of your souls. They
are both fire for the purifying; and water
for the cleansing of your souls. Christ's blood is the only
fountain to wash away sin. But, in the virtue and efficacy of
that blood, sanctified afflictions are cleansers and purifiers too.
A cross without a Christ never made any man better; but with
Christ, saints are much the better for the cross. Has God been
so many days and nights a whitening you, and yet is not the
hue of your conversation altered? Has He put
you so many
times into the furnace, and yet is not the dross separated?
The more afflictions you have been under, the more assistance
you have had for this life of holiness.
By all your troubles, God has been weaning you from the world,
the lusts, loves, and pleasures of it; and drawing out your souls
to a more excellent life and state than this. He often makes you
groan under your burdens. And yet will you not be weaned from
the lusts, customs, and evils of this world?