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It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn
Though the Word of God furnishes a Minister with a rich variety of topics ; yet his discourses will be much influenced by his feelings, and coloured by his own experience. Is he a man strong in faith?—like one standing upon a mountain, he will naturally discourse to others on the firmness of the foundation on which he stands, and will describe to them the beauties of the prospects around him. Does he, on the contrary, tread the valley of tears ?-he will then naturally become the companion of the afflicted, and point out to them what he himself learns in the vale.
The hand of God is discernible in all this, Brethren. He teaches men, by men. As the Apostle speaks, Whether we be afflicted. ... whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.
Thus, in the text, we find David, who was an eminent prophet and preacher, leaving on record a part of his own experience: It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
From these words I shall take occasion to discourse on the following observation :-SANCTIFIED AFFLICTIOŃS STAND AMONG THE BEST EXPOSITORS OF GOD'S WORD.
In discoursing on this Observation, let us enquire í 1. WHEN AFFLICTION MAY BE SAID TO BE SANCTIFIED.
2. HOW IT HELPS TO EXPLAIN THE WORD OF
I. WHEN IS AFFLICTION SANCTIFIED?
By sanctified afflictions, those afflictions may be understood which man receives and employs to holy purposes. Sanctified afflictions are those stripes, by which the heart is made better. While some men faint under these strokes, and others despise them, sanctified afflictions become a wholesome discipline, and administer inestimable instruction to God's disciple. He not only learns his way by them, but they teach him to go forward in his way: such afflictions bring a wanderer, like: Dávid, back to his God, to his neighbour, and to himself.
Still the question returns, When is affliction sanctified?
1. Affliction is sanctified, when,-instead of ascribing it to accident, talking of chance, or dwelling on what man can do, and going to creatures for comfort, -WE MARK THE FINGER OF GOD IN WHATEVER BEFALS Us, and say with Job, The
US Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord: or when we are taught to say, with holy David, I was dumb, and opened not my mouth, because thou didst it: or when, under reproaches, we again say, with David, So let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David.
2. Affliction is sanctified, WHEN A MAN IS
BROUGHT INTO HIS PLACE.
arise and go
To bring the prodigal back to his father, is the design of every dispensation: does he say, I will go to my
Father? does he say, I have sinned against thee, O Lord ?-Wherefore, then, shall a living man complain?–a man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search and try our ways, and turn unto the Lord, for he will still hear? - Is this his language ?- It is then the language of a sanctified heart.
3. Affliction is sanctified, WHEN THE WORD OF GOD BECOMES PRECIOUS.
The man has not only a Bible in his house, but he now takes it down, reads it, and makes it the grand resource of his afflicted soul: it is now read as a reality. When affliction is sanctified, the word of God is leaned on as a staff: it is taken as a cordial. When, in short, the soul can cast anchor on that word, and the man can say, Remember thy word unto thy servant, O Lord, on which thou hast caused me to put my trust, then are his afflictions sanctified.
4. Affliction is sanctified, WHEN IT AWAKENS A MAN FROM HIS CARNAL SECURITY; when it drives him from his refuges of lies; when it reminds him of his secret temptations, and sets before him sins unrepented of, and almost forgotten.
Take an instance of this. We are verily guilty, said the brethren of Joseph, we are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us and we would not hear: therefore is this distress come upon us. What language is this? We are guilty! we are verily guilty! How strange, that the sons of a pious father should not perceive their sin before! So is it with us, my Friends, till the enchantments of this world are broken.
5. Affliction is sanctified, WHEN FAITH JOINED WITH REPENTANCE ; when the soul, under its sufferings, still clings to the mercy of God in Christ; crying out, with Job, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: or, with Jacob, when
he wrestled with God, I will not let thee go 'except thou bless me. That affliction is not only sanctified, but eminently blessed, which brings a sinner to Christ, which teaches us to wait his time, and to acknowledge his mercy in "all things.
II. I propose to consider. HOW SANCTI. FIED AFFLICTION EXPLAINS GOD'S WORD.
Before I was afflicted, says the Psalmist, I went astray; but now have I learnt thy word; or, as in the text, It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes. never,” said Luther, “ knew the meaning of God's word, till I was afflicted :" and the preacher can say,
" I well know now what it is to have preached from a text, which I did not so much as understand, till it was thoroughly opened to me by experience.” · Sanctified affliction puts men on enquiry. It makes them look within, as well as without. It quickens the attention, and sharpens the sight. It stops a man in his mad career; and it gives him an opportunity to compare what God has said with what he actually brings to pass.
Let no one mistake me here, as if I asserted that affliction would do this thing of itself. Affliction will only explain and open God's word, as it is an instrument in the hand of bis Spirit,