Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

The necessity of afflictions

I complain without a cause, seeing it is good for me to be afflicted. Whatever be food to the soul, surely affliction is a good medicine. There is a necessity for affliction, to preserve the health of the soul. Can a much esteemed flower think that it is unkindly dealt with, because the weeds that twisted with its roots are plucked away with force, such force that the flower seems to be pulled along? Just so am I displeased at severe afflictions, sent to root out some rampant lusts, or deep rooted earthly affections, when afflictions less severe would prove ineffectual for such a noble end. Corruption is never totally removed—it is only subdued in part. The more I am afflicted—the more it is subdued.

Neither is grace perfect here; but the more grace is exercised, the more perfect it grows. The better part never suffers in affliction; for even when it is so ponderous and crushing, that under it the outward man decays, and wastes away, yet the inner man is renewed day by day. By afflictions—my sins are mortified, my lusts subdued, my fond and foolish desires reprimanded, my afflictions purged, my eager grasp of created things loosed, and I am instructed on the vanity of all sublunary things. Again, dare I be displeased, that, by various, repeated, and uncommon afflictions, and from sinful instruments too, my faith is tried, my patience and resignation proved, my love and esteem of heavenly things heightened, and all my graces improved invigorated, furbished—to the glory of God, and advantage of my own soul?

Every new trial is like a new combat to the valiant hero. If he comes off a conqueror, it is another trophy added to all his former victories, and a fresh display of his military skill in the eyes of enemies and friends. There never was a traveler to the throne of God—but pursued his way through the thorny path of affliction; and yet there is not, this day, one person in all the magnificent assembly of heaven, that has the least complaint upon the hardships or afflictions that befell him along the way. Why should I, then, so much complain of the deep steps and rugged roads, the stormy days and dark nights, that distress me in my pilgrimage, seeing that, when I shall see things in the light of glory, I shall approve of all. The storm of hail, claps of thunder; and midnight-gloom—shall only multiply the stanzas of my eternal song.

While here below; the 'intoxicating juice of carnal pleasure' breeds diseases; so that the 'bitter medicine of affliction' is absolutely necessary to dispel those infections which threaten damage to the soul. Since it is not my happiness to be free from sin below; it is my happiness that I am not without afflictions—which are a noble antidote against sin. I have reason to bewail, bitterly to bewail, the corruption of my nature; but not the correction of my corruption. Were I punished as I deserve; instead of being washed with the soap of affliction; I would be swept away with the broom of destruction. What condemned criminal would rage at the loss of a finger, who deserved to have lost his head? So; why should I repine at a little ill; who deserve a great deal worse?

Indeed, at all times, and in every case, I should not look to the hand of God—but into his heart; not barely look upon the providence with fear; but into the promise with faith; where, be the providence adverse or prosperous, to my comfort I am told that all things work together for good to God's called and chosen ones. If my fluctuating bosom is composed amidst all my sorrows, by a firm belief in the promise—that happy moment I find the promise performed to me; and aver, with the royal sufferer, "It has been good for me that I have been afflicted."