Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

One fruit of affliction

The world complains of affliction as the worst thing that can befall a man—but for my part I never shall. Were it as bad as we apprehend, how is it that from Adam to this very day, the saints have had so large a share of it? Now, among the many precious fruits of affliction, I shall only name one, and that is—earnestness and importunity with God in prayer. A gracious soul may walk with God in close communion, as Enoch, captivated with the glory of his countenance, and lifted above the world by the outlettings of his love. But as this is not the ordinary attainment of the saints in general—it is their mercy to be driven near the throne, and made earnest in their prayers. A godly man may walk in the course of pious duties—but affliction gives a sharper edge to his devotions, importunity to his petitions, and makes him draw nearer to the throne, stay longer, and cry louder.

Of this we have examples in the practice of scripture-saints. See how Lot, when Sodom is in flames behind him; his wailing wife and weeping daughters hanging round him; desolate mountains before him; where he is commanded to escape; terror without, and trembling within. See, I say, how he doubles his request, "It is a little one, O let me escape there! is it not a little one?" See another example in the case of Jacob, who was not long escaped out of Laban's hand, until he is informed of another and more furious foe come out against him to cut him wholly off. Immediately he pleads the promise which God had made to him, of doing him good, and also bidding him return unto his native land, yet confessing this was less than the least of all his mercies. Then he lodges alone that night, and when alone expresses all that grief, pours out his soul to God: 'Did you not promise that in my seed all nations should be blessed, and from my loins the promised Messiah spring? and that my seed should be numerous as the stars, innumerable as the sand? But where is the accomplishment of the promise, the veracity of the promiser, if I and all my seed are slain?' This no doubt, was the subject of his prayer, and the theme he insisted on in the wrestling-night; and, lo! the very Savior about whose kingdom in the world he was so concerned, appears to him in the very same likeness which he would afterwards assume, and allows himself to be wrestled with—in weeping, prayers, and supplication—and to be overcome by the all prevalent strugglings of omnipotent faith—until this surprising language drops between them, "Let me go!" "I will not let you go except you bless me!" which was granted, and confirmed by a change of his name from Jacob to Israel. Surely then, never was a sweeter night on earth; and can it be doubted but that was a singular fruit of a singular affliction!

Here we must also admire the earnestness of Moses in prayer with God, in the time of Israel's calamity, through sin: "And now, O Lord, let the power of my Lord be great: pardon, I beseech you, the sin of this people." Of Joshua, when Israel was smitten before their enemies: "What will you do to your great name?" Of David, under his various persecutions—and of Hezekiah when he received the railing letter from the Assyrian monarch.

Not to mention any more in the Old Testament, I shall name one in the New Testament. Peter is apprehended by Herod, put in prison, and the day set that he should suffer: this was a great affliction to the church, one of her prime pillars, one of her apostles, so near a shameful cruel death. But prayer is made of the church unto God without ceasing, and the outcome is Peter's deliverance in a miraculous manner. O! how, when pressed upon by affliction, do we press upon the promise, plead for the performance, and are importunate with God! As an affectionate parent keeps back from his child what he knows to be needful for him, that he may be delighted with its little pretty arguments to obtain it—so deals God with his people.

Then rather than that I should grow remiss in my supplications at the throne of grace, through the languor of my love—may the weight of my afflictions add fervor to my devotions, and eagerness to my requests!