Solitude Sweetened

by James Meikle, 1730-1799

The glorious fruits of sanctified affliction

"For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison!" (2 Corinthians 4:17)

Two things render affliction either easy or intolerable, namely, its kind, and its continuance. If it is ponderous and crushing, and continual—this makes affliction break all the bones, and wound the very spirits. But when it is light, and over in a moment, which is the case with all the afflictions that befall the children of God, I wonder why or how I can complain. But how astonishing beyond expression must it be, that this light and transitory load of affliction should work for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!

Truly I have no reason to complain because of my troubles and trials, since they work more good for me than now I can conceive. And little do I think, while grappling with my afflictions and fears, that they are procuring for me in the highest heavens. God has so connected the seed-time of tears with the harvest of glory, that those who sow weeping, shall reap with everlasting joy. Would I grudge to carry a stone for a day or two, if assured that when I laid it down, I should receive a crown of gold? Why, then, repine under my afflictions?

But, again, what proportion is there between—the cross and the crown; the trial and the triumph; the affliction and the comfort; the burden of grief and the exceeding weight of glory?

Here our afflictions own the creature as the instrument, and sometimes have their origin in imagination; here they are light, and they are transitory; but the glory above is massive and weighty, is permanent and eternal, and is the immediate gift of God, neither by nor from the creature. Moreover, affliction works for our good, even here—For,

(1.) To the saints, it bears, as it were, its own reward in its bosom, yielding to all that are rightly exercised therewith the peaceable fruits of righteousness. It deadens the pleasures of sense, and gives the soul a relish for spiritual things; yes, it divorces the soul from the creature, and draws it near to God.

(2.) There is no proportion between all that can befall the saints in this state, and that joy wherewith they shall be comforted in eternal glory. In no person, do all afflictions meet at one and the same time. Job's case came nearest it—but at all times he had the exercise of his reason, and the testimony of a good conscience, with an invincible faith in God, which made him conquer, even while he seemed to fall. The afflictions, then, of saints, are verily light; but their future glory is a weight filling every power, replenishing every faculty, overflowing the whole soul, and satisfying every desire. Now, in all the sons of God, the heirs of glory, every heavenly gift, every blessing of love, every degree of felicity, every beam of glory—centers, meets, and rests forever. Therefore, there is no proportion between their sufferings and their consolation.

(3.) Affliction is of no continuance; the apostle elegantly expresses it by a moment, which of all times is the shortest. And indeed though the affliction were severe and very ponderous, yet this lightens it much—that it is over and gone in a moment, no sooner felt than fled, to return no more. But the exceeding weight of glory, to pitch up their felicity to the highest degree, is also eternal.

But some may think, How can affliction be thought either light, or but for a moment, since, for their part, it is all they can do to survive under the pressure and weight of their many adversities? And as to their being over in a moment, they rather think with Heman, "that they are afflicted, and ready to die from their youth up;" or, with Asaph, that they are "plagued all the day long, and chastened every morning."

Yes, though the outward man be crushed, and seems to perish, yet it is to our advantage, for thereby the inward man is renewed day by day, and grows up in strength unto eternal glory. And this mitigation arises from the divine sympathy of him, who in all their afflictions is afflicted. Moreover, how often does the joy which God pours into the soul, in the time of affliction, overbalance and outweigh all the sorrow that arises from them.

And, as to the second complaint—of continuance. As a moment bears no proportion to one's life; so our whole life bears no proportion to the eternity of glory which shall take place, when the hour-glass of time has not a sand left. A moment stays not, and when gone cannot be remembered; for even millions of moments put together make but a duration, which, when past—is only like a tale that is told. Now, life consists of so many moments, therefore a moment bears some proportion to our life, though very small; but eternity is not composed of moments, life-times or ages—therefore the whole life bears no proportion to eternity. That which endures but for a while may be divided into the smallest parts—but what continues forever cannot be broken down into numbers.

Now, is it much to pass through the shallow stream of affliction, that can rise but to the ankles, in order to plunge into the pleasures of God's right hand, which are a great river, even waters to swim in? Can any child of heaven quarrel with the kindness of God, who makes light and momentary affliction work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?

Take courage, then, my soul, and be strong! Look into God's dealing with you, for his ways can stand the strictest search, as through them all, even in the afflicting hand, Fatherly-kindness and eternal love shine forth. Now I see what I never saw before, that afflictions sanctified are indulgences; and trials the special gifts of Heaven. And I do not wonder that all the saints are, I say not punished—but privileged with them, of one kind or another; since they here keep sin low, and for them accumulate eternal weights of glory in the eternal world.

My not looking into the ways of divine wisdom, and to the extent of the promises, has made me have very odd thoughts of afflictions; and, concluding them to be the signs of divine displeasure, I have been ready to question my saving interest in God, and was bewildered how to understand the word of truth. But now I see, that though sometimes he sends afflictions to chastise his saints for sin, and curb their carnal affections, (and how kind is it thereby to punish sin, and prepare them far glory, and glory for them!) yet, that at other times he sends them to improve the soul, and exercise every grace in his saints. "We also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope." (Romans 5:3-4)

Why, then, do not I, like the great apostle of old, rejoice in afflictions, which, where grace is in exercise, sets all the wheels of the soul in motion—affliction producing endurance, endurance producing proven character, and proven character producing hope; and hope, being no way ashamed to confess her confidence in him who has shed his love abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit, gives a heavenly boldness. Should I then be disconsolate, because some fogs dwell on the eyelids of everlasting morn, which, when the sun arises, shall never more be seen? Should any shades in this early twilight give sorrow, which are to be swallowed up in the brightness of eternal glory? A little patience—and I am past every one of my troubles—and, possessed of all the transports of perpetual glory!

Even from the vastness of my affliction and sorrow here, solid joy may rise; for if affliction sometimes almost crushes me, and I am sometimes likely to fall under it—ought I not to consider, that this eternal weight of glory shall far, very far, exceed the present burden? Now, if my afflictions are so much—how much more, infinitely much more, will my glory be! Yes, it shall be such, that were I not replenished with immortality, and upheld by the Most High, I would fall under the insupportable emanations of divine glory! But I shall be all power in that happy state, where, to my sweet experience, I shall learn—that my light afflictions, which were but for a moment, wrought for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!