Christian, when you are “Smarting” under the Rod. Part 5. “How Afflictions Work for the Good of the Saint”

Excerpts taken, adapted and condensed from, “Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod” or, “The Silent Soul with Sovereign Antidotes”
Written by, Thomas Brooks, 1659, London.

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First, and that more generally, afflictions shall work for the good of the saint.  ‘It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young.’ –Lamentations 3: 27.

A gracious soul secretly concludes—as stars shine brightest in the night, so God will make my soul shine and glisten like gold, while I am in this furnace, and when I come out of the furnace of affliction—Job 23:10, ‘He knows the way that I take; and when he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold!’ ‘It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.’ Psalm 119:71.

Surely, as the tasting of honey did open Jonathan’s eyes, so this cross, this affliction, shall open my eyes. By this stroke I shall come to have a clearer sight of my sins and of myself, and a fuller sight of my God, Job 33:27, 28; 40:4, 5; 13:1-7.

Surely, this affliction shall proceed in the purging away of my dross, Isaiah 1:25.

Surely, as ploughing of the ground kills the weeds, and harrowing breaks hard clods; so these afflictions shall kill my sins, and soften my heart, Hosea 5:15, 6:1-3.

Surely, as the plaster draws out the infectious core; so the afflictions which are upon me shall draw out the core of pride, the core of self-love, the core of envy, the core of earthliness, the core of formality, the core of hypocrisy, Psalm 119:67, 71.

Surely, by these afflictions, the Lord will crucify my heart more and more to the world, and the world to my heart, Galatians 6:14; Psalm 131:1-3.

Surely, by these afflictions, the Lord will keep pride from my soul, Job 33:14-21.

Surely, these afflictions are but the Lord’s pruning-knives, by which he will bleed my sins, and prune my heart, and make it more fertile and fruitful; they are but the Lord’s portion, by which he will clear me, and rid me of those spiritual diseases and maladies, which are most deadly and dangerous to my soul!

Surely, this affliction is such a potion, as will carry away all soul-diseases, better than all other remedies, Zechariah 13:8, 9.

Surely these afflictions shall increase my spiritual experiences, Romans 5:3, 4.

Surely by these I shall be made more partaker of God’s holiness, Hebrews 12:10. As black soap makes white clothes, so does sharp afflictions make holy hearts.

Surely by these God will communicate more of himself unto me, Hosea 2:14.

Surely by these afflictions, the Lord will draw out my heart more and more to seek him, Isaiah 36:16. Tatianus told the heathen Greeks, that when they were sick, then they would send for their gods to be with them, as Aganmemnon did at the siege of Troy, send for his ten counselors. Hosea 5:15, ‘In their afflictions they will seek me early,’ or as the Hebrew has it, ‘they will morning me;’ in times of affliction, Christians will industriously, speedily, early seek unto the Lord.

Surely by these trials and troubles, the Lord will fix my soul more than ever upon the great concernments of the eternal world, John 14:1-3; Romans 8:17, 18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

Surely by these afflictions the Lord will work in me more tenderness and compassion towards those who are afflicted, Hebrews 10:34, 13:3. The Romans punished one that was seen looking out at his window with a crown of roses on his head, in a time of public calamity.

Surely these afflictions are but God’s love-tokens. Revelation 3:19, ‘As many as I love—I rebuke and chasten.’ Seneca persuaded his friend Polybius to bear his affliction quietly, because he was the emperor’s favorite, telling him, that it was not lawful for him to complain while Caesar was his friend. So says the holy Christian—’O my soul! be quiet, be still; all is sent in love, all is a fruit of divine favor. I see honey upon the top of every twig, I see the rod is but a rosemary branch, I have sugar with my gall, and wine with my wormwood; therefore, be silent, O my soul!’ And this general conclusion, that all should be for good, had this blessed eject upon the church—Lamentations 3:28, ‘He sits alone, and keeps silence, because he has borne it upon him.’

Afflictions abase the carnal attractions of the world, which might entice us. Affliction abates the lustiness of the flesh within, which might else ensnare us! And it abates the spirit in its quarrel against the flesh and the world; by all which it proves a mighty advantage unto us.

Afflictions and the Law

Written by Samuel Rutherford  (c. 1600 – 1661) 
Edited for thought and sense by Michael W. Pursley

Afflictions are the servants and attendants of the accusing law…

danger43…They are sent out to cause us lay hold, by faith, on peace made, and pardon purchased in Christ. The hot furnace is the workhouse of Christ; in that fire he taketh away the scum, the dross, the refuse of the true metal, that faith may be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearance of Jesus Christ.

Afflictions drive us to seek God

Afflictions being God’s firemen; and his hired labourers, sent to break the clods, and to plough Christ’s land, that he may sow heaven there; but Christ must bring new earth to the soil. In prosperity we come to God, but in a common way; as the grave man came to the theatre, only that he might go out again. But in trouble, the saints do more than come; they make a friendly visit when they come. Also, the prayers of the saints in prosperity, are but summer prayers, slow, lazy, and alas! too formal. In trouble, they rain out prayers, or cast them out in co-natural violence, as a fountain doth cast out waters. Both these are in one well expressed by the prophet: “Lord, in trouble they have visited thee; they pour out a prayer when thy chastening hand is on them.”

We must be made like Christ…

…in the cross and the crown, (2 Tim. 2:12,) and conform to him. (Rom. 8:29.) Christ the corner-stone: though there was no sin in him, yet before he was made the chief corner-stone, he was by death hammered. (Acts 4:10-12.) And much more, the strokes and smiting of the cross must knock down all the superfluity of naughtiness, and every height, till by smoothing and chipping, the child of God be made a stone, in breadth, length, proportion, smoothness, some way conform to the first copy, and to Christ the sampler-stone.

The justified person may be afflicted for sin.

Sin offendeth God, who by that one sacrifice is for ever pacified, (Heb. 10:14; Matt. 3,) but as it offendeth and diseaseth the minds of the faithful: not that afflictions simply, properly, and immediately do ease, quiet, and cure the conscience, (for their natural effect is to deject and terrify, as appendices of the law;) but that they awaken and stir up our dullness, to a lively apprehension of Christ’s righteousness.

And so, while God, as a father, correcteth for sin, which is an offence of Divine justice; sin is considered as a disease troubling his child; which in love, and in pity, he seeketh to make riddance of, in manner aforesaid, and not in anger and displeasure.

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Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage:  Samuel Rutherford (c. 1600 – 30 March 1661) was a Scottish Presbyterian pastor, theologian and author, and one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly.

Rutherford was educated at Jedburgh Grammar School and Edinburgh University, where he became Regent of Humanity (Professor of Latin) in 1623. In 1627 he was settled as minister of Anwoth in Kirkcudbrightshire,Galloway, where it was said of him ‘he was always praying, always,preaching, always visiting the sick, always catechising, always writing and studying’, and from where he was banished to Aberdeen for nonconformity, ‘being very powerful on the side of the Reformed faith and of God living’, there in Aberdeen, ‘his writing desk’, was said to be, ‘perhaps the most effective and widely resounding pulpit then in Christendom’. His patron in Galloway was John Gordon, 1st Viscount of Kenmure. On the re-establishment of Presbyterianism in 1638 he was made Professor of Divinity at St. Andrews.

Rutherford was chosen as one of the four main Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly of Divines in London taking part in in formulating the Westminster Confession of Faith completed in 1647, and after his return to Scotland he became Rector of St. Mary’s College at St. Andrews in 1651. Rutherford was a staunch Protester during the controversy in the Scottish Presbyterian church between the Resolutioners and Protesters in the 1650s, and at the Restoration of Charles II his Lex Rex was burnt by the hand of the common hangman, and the “Drunken Parliament” deprived him of all his offices and voted that he not be permitted to die in the college.

His epitaph on his tombstone concluded ‘Acquainted with Immanuel’s song’.

Rutherford’s has been described as ‘Prince of Letter writers’ and C. H. Spurgeon described Rutherford’s letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men, continuing in an 1891 review of Rutherford’s (posthumously published Letters (1664) ‘when we are dead and gone let the world know that Spurgeon held Rutherford’s Letters to be the nearest thing to inspiration which can be found in all the writings of mere men’. Andrew Thomson, a Scottish minister, in a 19th-century biography observed ‘the letters flash upon the reader with original thoughts and abound in lofty feeling clothed in the radiant garb of imagination in which there is everything of poetry but the form. Individual sentences that supplied the germ-thought of some of the most beautiful spiritual in modern poetry’ continuing ‘a bundle of myrrh whose ointment and perfume would revive and gladden the hearts of many generations, each letter full of hope and yet of heartbreak, full of tender pathos of the here and the hereafter.’  Rutherford was also known for other spiritual and devotional works, such as Christ Dying and drawing Sinners to Himself, “The Trial and Triumph of Faith”.

A humble soul endeavors to honor and glorify God… Part 8

Written by Thomas Brooks (1608–1680). Edited for thought and sense by Michael Pursley.

A humble soul endeavors to honor and glorify God, in afflictions, rather than to get out of afflictions.

downloadSo did Daniel, and his three friends, the apostles, and those worthies of whom this world was not worthy; they were not curious about getting out of affliction, but studious how to glorify God in their afflictions. They were willing to be anything, and to bear anything, that in everything God might be glorified. They made it their business to glorify God in the fire, in the prison, in the den, on the rack, and under the sword.

Lord, says the humble soul, do but keep down my sins, and keep up my heart in a way of honoring of thee under all my troubles, and then my troubles will be no troubles, my afflictions will be no afflictions. Though my burdens be doubled, and my troubles be multiplied, yet do but help me to honor thee by believing in thee, by waiting on thee, and by submitting to thee, and I shall sing care away, and shall say, It is enough.

When Valens the emperor sent messengers to win Eusebius to heresy by fair words and large promises, he answered, Alas, sir! These speeches are fit to catch little children that look after such things, but we that are taught and nourished by the Holy Scriptures are readier to suffer a thousand deaths than to suffer one syllable or tittle of the Scripture to be altered. And when the emperor threatened to confiscate his goods, to torment him, to banish him, or to kill him, he answered, He need not fear confiscation that hath nothing to lose; nor banishment, to whom heaven only is a country; nor torments, when his body will be dashed with one blow; nor death, which is the only way to set him at liberty from sin and sorrow.

Oh, but when a proud man is under troubles and afflictions, his head and heart are full of plots and projects how to get off his chains, and to get out of the furnace. A proud heart will say anything, and do anything, and be anything, to free himself from the burdens that press him, as you see in Pharaoh; but a humble soul is willing to bear the cross as long as he can get strength from heaven to kiss the cross, to bless God for the cross, and to glorify God under the cross John 1: 20, 21.

From The Complete Works of Thomas Brooks, Vol. III, “The Unsearchable Riches of Christ”

Thomas-BrooksMeet the author and part of your Christian heritage: Thomas Brooks (1608–1680) was an English non-conformist Puritan preacher and author. Much of what is known about Thomas Brooks has been ascertained from his writings. Born, likely to well-to-do parents, in 1608, Brooks entered Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1625, where he was preceded by such men as Thomas Hooker, John Cotton, and Thomas Shepard. He was licensed as a preacher of the Gospel by 1640. Before that date, he appears to have spent a number of years at sea, probably as a chaplain with the fleet.

After the conclusion of the First English Civil War, Thomas Brooks became minister at Thomas Apostle’s, London, and was sufficiently renowned to be chosen as preacher before the House of Commons on December 26, 1648. His sermon was afterwards published under the title, ‘God’s Delight in the Progress of the Upright’, the text being Psalm 44:18: ‘Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from Thy way’. Three or four years afterwards, he transferred to St. Margaret’s, Fish-street Hill, London.

As a writer C. H. Spurgeon said of him, ‘Brooks scatters stars with both hands, with an eagle eye of faith as well as the eagle eye of imagination’. In 1662, he fell victim to the notorious Act of Uniformity, but he appears to have remained in his parish and to have preached as opportunity arose. Treatises continued to flow from his pen.