It was a wise decree that man should bear
Affliction’s burden in this vale of tears:
Were all enjoyment, without grief and care,
How would he pass the current of his years?
Seduced by pleasure, roll’d by vice’s cheers,
Prurient desires would taint his easy heart.
Alas! what were our hopes without our fears!
There is a mercy in affliction’s smartÂ—
It heals those wounds of sin which nick all human art.
Afflictions are designed to brighten the graces of God’s peopleÂ—to strengthen their faith and patience. Hence it is said, “The trying of your faith worketh patience.” “Now for a season (if need be) ye are in heaviness, through manifold temptations;
that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold which perisheth, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” Sometimes the Divine Being by afflictions designs to transfer the affections of his children to a better world, while He enables them to declare, “Our light affliction which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” Divine chastisements lead to the exercise of resignation and submission. “Tribulation worketh patience.” “The will of the Lord be done.” They cause the soul to cleave unto Christ, and to exclaim, “Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside Thee. My flesh and my heart fail;
but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.”
Respecting affliction as a privilege, listen to the language of experienced Christians: “How good it is (says one) for me to be afflicted; for before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I have kept Thy word.” “I was at ease (says another) I doted on my children, they became my idols; but I saw them unexpectedly snatched away, and now I have learned, how necessary it is that God only should be my portion.”‘ “The wheel of business (says a third) ran round so rapidly, that nothing else engaged my attention; but suddenly it stopped; mortified and dispirited, I retired;
I flew to the Bible, and there I read. ‘Set your affections on things above, and not on things on the earth.’ At once the passage was explained, and my own conduct became the best expositor.” “Fain (says a fourth) would I have gone through yonder flowery
fields, where the refreshing stream delightfully glides along, and where the prospects seem so charming and pleasant. But no, says providence, you must tread a different path; a path where, to all appearances, nothing but barrenness, briers, and thorns could be seen. Here (says the Christian) as I advanced, behold the crooked was made straight, the rough places plain, and the wilderness became a fruitful land; while, looking with more discernment on yonder field of pleasure, there I saw that, though thousands entered with such willing feet and happy countenance, yet behold the end was indolence and wretchedness, poverty and death. Thus would I no more desire my own will, but be resigned to Him who knows what is best for His creatures; and who, though He leads them not in a path of their own choosing, yet conducts them in a right way.
I knew an excellent woman (says one) who was extremely generous to the poor in the days of her affluence. At length the wicked conduct of her own child reduced her to poverty. She then said to me, “It was once my duty to do good, it is now my duty to suffer ill; but all will be peace and joy hereafter; these ‘light afflictions’ I find, “are working out for me a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
Martin Luther in his last will, says, “Lord God, I thank thee, for thou hast been pleased to make me a poor and indigent man upon earth. I have neither house, nor land, nor money to leave behind me. Thou hast given me wife and children, whom I now restore to Thee, Lord, nourish, teach, and preserve them as Thou hast me.”
A tract distributor, in an American amls house, met with a poor but pious man, who had once been wealthy, but who thankfully received a tract, and said, “You see sir, I am poor, but I have seen better days. I am sixty-five years of age. I once had a large property, but it is gone. I had children too, but they are all dead. A wifeÂ—(his tears flowed)Â—but six months ago she departed to her eternal rest, and on the eve of her departure she sang,
Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are.
Ah! sir, there is no delusion here. Many would persuade me, that faith in Christ is a delusion; but it is not so. Property! it is a delusion; I had it, but it has vanished. My children have vanished Â—my dear wife is goneÂ—but faith in Jesus, that remains.”
While God manifests His gracious designs in the chastisements His hand inflicts, the believer has reason to rejoice, even in affliction. God promises to support His suffering family, and directs them to contemplate a time when all their trials will come to an end. They are under His control, are sent in mercy, and will end in good. “We know that all things work together for good to
them that love God.” While they continue. He gives the promise of Divine support; “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble: therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Precious promises! What more can be desired than the support and presence of your God!
O Christians, every day of trialÂ—every hour of conflict, hastens you to the haven of eternal peace. As sometimes the tossing and driving of the tempest may hurry a shattered ship sooner to its harbour than the fairest wind that blows; so the rough winds of earthly sorrow, as well as the raging sea, and perhaps more hastily, may urge the Christian mariner to the port where every storm shall cease. Keep that peaceful port in view. Faith will soon be lost in sight; hope make way for certainty;
time and its shadows be eclipsed by the glories of eternity. The dark night of life will shortly close; affliction’s last tempest be hushed in peace; and the bright morning of eternal day open on the tranquil and enraptured soul. Then an eternal farewell to chastisement, to grief, and pain. O it will then be seen that the discipline of our gracious Father has succeeded well in elevating His children to His throne of glory! Precious affliction! Triumphant issue!
In the floods of tribulation,
While the billows o’er me roll,
Jesus whispers consolation,
And supports my sinking soul:
Thus, the lion yields me honey;
From the eater food is given;
Strengthened thus, I still press forward,
Singing, on my way to heavenÂ—
Sweet affliction! Sweet affliction!
That brings Jesus to my soul!