The school of the cross is the school of light…
…it discovers the world’s vanity, baseness, and wickedness, and lets us see more of God’s mind. Out of dark afflictions comes a spiritual light. In times of affliction, we commonly meet with the sweetest experiences of the love of God.
Doth not God oft times even take occasion, by the hardest of things that come upon us, to visit our souls with the comforts of his Spirit, to lead us into the glory of his word and to cause us to savor that love that he has had for us even from before the world began till now? A nest of bees and honey did Samson find even in the belly of that lion that roared upon him. And is all this no good; or can we do without such holy appointments of God? Let these things be considered by us, and let us learn like Christians to kiss the rod, and love it.
The lamps of Gideon were discovered, when his soldiers’ pitchers were broken: if our pitchers are broken for the Lord and his gospel’s sake, those lamps will then be discovered that before lay hid and unseen.
People that live high and in idleness bring diseases upon the body; and they that live in all fulness of gospel ordinances, and are not exercised with trials, grow gross, are diseased and full of bad humors in their souls. The righteous are apt to be like well-fed children, too wanton, if God should not appoint them some fasting-days.The Lord useth his flail of tribulation to separate the chaff from the wheat.
Observe Paul: he died daily, he was always delivered unto death, he despaired of life. And this is the way to be prepared for any calamity. When a man thinks he has only to prepare for an assault by footmen, how shall he contend with horses; or if he looks no further than to horses, what will he do at the swellings of Jordan?
Oh, when every providence of God unto thee is like the messengers of Job, and the last to bring more heavy tidings than all that went before him; when life, estate, wife, children, body and soul, and all at once, seem to be struck at by heaven and earth, here are hard lessons—now to behave myself even as a weaned child: now to say, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Our afflictions work out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Our afflictions do it, not only because there is laid up a reward for the afflicted according to the measure of affliction, but because afflictions, and so every service of God, make the heart more deep, more experimental, more knowing and profound, and so, more able to hold, to contain, and bear more.
Let Christians beware that they set not times for God, lest all men see their folly. “It is not for you to know the times and the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power;” yea, I say again, take heed lest, for thy setting of God a seven-day’s time, he set thee so many as seven times seven.
God’s time is the time, the best time, because it is the time appointed by him for the proof and trial of our graces, and that in which so much of the rage of the enemy and of the power of God’s mercy, may the better be discovered unto us. “I the Lord do hasten it in his time;” not before, though we were the signet upon his hand.
Afflictions are governed by God, both as to time, number, nature, and measure. In measure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: “He stayeth his rough wind in the day of his east wind.” Our times, therefore, and our conditions in these times, are in the hand of God, yea, and so are our souls and bodies, to be kept and preserved from the evil while the rod of God is upon us.
Ease and release from persecution and affliction come not by chance, or by the good moods and gentle dispositions of men; but the Lord doth hold them back from sin, the Lord restraineth them. 2 Chron. 18:31.
“And he stayed yet other seven days.” It is not God’s way with his people to show them all their troubles at once, but first he shows them a part: first, forty days, after that, seven other days, and yet again, seven days more; that coming upon them by piecemeal, they may the better be able to travel through them. When Israel was in affliction in Egypt, they knew not the trial which would meet them at the Red sea. Again, when they had gone through that, they little thought that yet for forty years they must be tempted and proved in the wilderness.
“And Noah removed the covering of the ark, and looked;” the failing again of his expected comforter caused him to be up and doing. Probably he had not as yet uncovered the ark, that is, to look round about him, if the dove, by returning, had pleased his humor; but she failing, he stirs up himself.
Thus it should also be with the Christian now. Doth the dove forbear to come to thee with a leaf in her bill as before? Let not this make thee sullen and mistrustful, but uncover the ark and look; and by looking, thou shalt see a further testimony of what thou receivest by the first manifestations. “He looked, and behold the earth was dry.”
God doth not let us see the hills for our help before we have first of all seen them drowned. Look not to them, therefore, while the water is at the rising; but if they begin to cease their raging, if they begin to fall, and with that the tops of the mountains be seen, you may look upon them with comfort; they are tokens of God’s deliverance. Gen. 8.
It was requisite that the hills, Gen. 7:19, should be covered, that Noah might not have confidence in them; but surely this dispensation of God was a heart-shaking providence to Noah and them that were with him; for here indeed was his faith tried, there was no hill left in all the world; now were his carnal helpers gone, there was none shut up or left. Now therefore, if they could rejoice, it must be only in the power of God.
Noah was to have respect in his deliverance not only to himself and family, but to the good of all the world. Men’s spirits are too narrow for the mind of God, when their chief end, or their only design in their enjoying this or the other mercy, is for the sake of their own selves only. It cannot be according to God, that such desires should be encouraged. “None of us liveth unto himself;” why, then, should we desire life only for ourselves?
The church cries out thus: “God be merciful to us and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us.” Why? “That thy way may be known upon earth, and thy saving health among all nations.” So David: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free Spirit; then will I teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”
So then, we must not desire to come out of trials and afflictions alone or by ourselves, but that in our deliverance the salvation of many may be concerned.
In every affliction and persecution, the devil’s design is to impair Christ’s kingdom; wherefore, no marvel that God designs in our deliverance the impairing and lessening the kingdom of sin and Satan. Wherefore, O thou church of God, which art now upon the waves of affliction and temptation, when thou comest out of the furnace, if thou come out at the bidding of God, there shall come out with thee the fowl, the beast, and abundance of creeping things. Gen. 8:17. “O Judah, he hath set a harvest for thee, when I returned the captivity of my people.”