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."