Ps. cxix. 71. It is good for me that Ihave heen afflicted; that I
might learn thy statutes.
DAVID had " been afflicted from his youth up"
and we think it highly probable th^t to that
very circumstance he was indebted, under God, for
those extraordinary attainments in devotion and
holiness, which have rendered him a pattern for the
saints in all future ages. By means of his trials he
was constrained to take refuge in his God : and by
constant communion with God, he obtained a deep
insight into his revealed will, and a rich experience
of his superabounding grace. This seems at least to
have been his own view of the case, long after his
afflictions had ceased : for to his familiarity with
affliction he ascribes his enlarged acquaintance with
the statutes of his God : " It is good for me that I
have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes."
In confirmation of his testimony, we shall shew,
I. The benefit of affliction, as leading to knowledge —
Affliction, in itself considered, is an evil : but, if
viewed in connexion with the benefits resulting from
it, it may justly be esteemed '* a good." Thousands
there are who have reason to bless God for it, as
instrumental to the bringing of them to the know-
ledge of a Saviour, whom, without such trials, they
would have continued to neglect. Indeed it is
eminently and extensively useful in this view :
1. It opens our ears to instruction —
[People who are at ease, however eager they may be after
human knowledge, have no desire after that which is spiritual
and divine. If it be tendered to them, they reject it : if it be
pressed upon tliem, they cast it behind their backs with indigna-
tion and scorn. To one who would instruct them in arts or
sciences, they would feel thankful : but to one who would lead
them to the knowledge of the true God, they make no return,
but that of contempt and hatred^.
But when heavy affliction is come upon them, they are
softened :
* John lii, J p. Matt. vii. 20.
416 PSALMS, cxix. 71. [424.
softened : they will listen to advice ; they will even be thankful
for it: they will read the Scriptures, or some other religious
book : and will pay considerable attention to those subjects which
hitherto have provoked only their derision.
With this view, and for the production of this very effect,
God frequently vouchsafes to send it'' : and those who are
brought by it to this measure of thoughtfulness about their souls,
have reason rather to be thankful for it as a benefit, than to com-
plain of it as a judgment.]
2. It makes us sensible of our need of better
things than this world can give —
[In the midst of carnal enjoyments a man wishes for nothing
more : but when trials of various kinds oppress his mind, his
taste for earthly gratifications is weakened : their insufficiency to
remove, or even to alleviate, trouble is felt ; and they no longer
afford him that kind of satisfaction which they once did.
Amusements, and company, have lost their relish : his mind is
indisposed for them : they are become to him insipid, unde-
sirable, irksome, odious. Something more substantial is now
wanted : something on which his soul may rest, as conducive to
its present and eternal welfare. This was the effect produced
upon the Prodigal. Whilst he could revel in luxury and pleasure,
he cared for nothing ; but when his money was expended, and he
was a prey to want, and could find no help, no pity, from man,
then he began to reflect on the abundance that there was in his
Father's house, and to desire a participation of it, though in the
lowest and most menial office there. And had he not reason to
be thankful for the trials which produced so blessed an effect ?
In like manner then we also should acknowledge as a blessing
every trial that is sent us for the accomplishment of so good an
3. It drives us to God in prayer —
[Those who never called upon God in the time of their
prosperity, are often stirred up to seek him in a season of adver-
sity. " In their affliction," says God, " they will seek me
early '^ :" and to the same effect the Prophet testifies, *' Lord, in
trouble have they visited thee ; they poured forth a prayer when
thy chastening was upon them^." In the 107th Psalm this
effect of troubles is marked in every instance : " Then cried they
unto the Lord in their trouble^:" and in every instance this was
the prelude to their deliverance. Who then that experiences this
effect from his trials has not reason to be thankful for them ?
Let it only be said of us, " Behold, he prayeth ;" and we shall
have no cause for complaint, though we should have been struck
•'Job xxxvi. 8 — 10. " Hos. v. 15.
" Isai. xxvi. I6. * ver. 6, 13, ig, 28.
424.] THE BilEFIT OF A l- ^LleTI0^7. 417
blind, like Saul, and had our blindness continued to the latest
hour of our lives ^]
4. It brings us to a saving knowledge of the Lord
Jesus —
[Of itself, affliction cannot eftect this; but when accom-
panied by Divine grace, it often does. Indeed where a willing-
ness to receive instruction, and a desire after spiritual blessings
are excited in the soul, and issue in fervent prayer to God, there
we may reasonably hope that all spiritual blessings will flow into
the soul. God will not suffer any to seek his face in vain.
Even though, like Manasseh, we may have brought down God*s
wrath upon us by the most heinous ini([uities, yet if we humble
ourselves under his chastisements, and implore mercy at his hands,
we shall, like him, be heard, and be made stupendous monu-
ments of his power and graced. Did he ever regret the sufferings
by which he was thus brought to enjoy peace with God ? either
shall we, whatever trials may be made subservient to this blessed
But will the end really compensate for the means
used to effect it ? Yes : and to prove that it will, we
shall proceed to shew,
II. The blessedness of knowledge, though gained
by affliction —
Such knowledge as we are speaking of, the know-
ledge of God in Christ Jesus, is indeed inestimable.
Let us view it,
1 . As compared with the price paid for it —
[It is said by Solomon, " Buy the truth, and sell it not.'*
ow as we have before spoken of affliction as the means of bring-
ing us to the knowledge of the truth, we may, in popular lan-
guage, call it. The price paid for knowledge. Whatever then the
affliction be, we do not hesitate to say that it is richly recompensed
by the fruit which it produces.
Suppose the affliction to be of a temporal nature: we have
been bereaved of our dearest friends and relatives ; we have suf-
fered the loss of all our property, and been reduced to very em-
barrassed circumstances ; our health also has been destroyed, so
that we are sinking under an accumulation of woes. Suppose
our case as distressing as that of Job himself: still, if it liave
been sanctified to our eternal good, we can call it by no other
name than, A blessing in disguise. Did Job, when brought to a
deeper view of his own depravity, and to a richer discovery of the
. ^ Acts ix. 3, 4, 8. ^2 Chron. xxxiii. 11—13.
418 PSALMS, cxix. 71. [424.
Divine perfections, regret the sufferings which had been overruled
for that end ? Did he not rather abhor himself for having judged
too hastily respecting the designs of God ; and cordially approve
of those dispensations, which in his haste he had been ready to
condemn ? Thus shall we also do, when once we have " seen the
end of the Lord*^." We may in our haste exclaim, "All these
things are against me :" but at last we shall testify of all God's
most afflictive dispensations, as Joseph did, that " God meant them
for good'."
But suppose the trials to be of a spiritual nature. These are
yet far more afflictive : " A wounded spirit who can bear ?" How
grievously David was oppressed by them, we are informed in many
of his psalms'' But yet his testimony in our text was the
real dictate of his heart. And we may ask of others, Were the
wounds which brought you to the heavenly Physician too severe ?
Do you not number them amongst your richest mercies ? Has not
every loss been more than compensated in the acquisition of sal-
vation; and every pang more than recompensed in the peace and
joy to which, through the knowledge of Christ, you have attained ?
It was a matter of just computation with the Apostle, that " the
sufferings of this present life (whatever they may be) are not wor-
thy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us."]
1. As estimated according to its own intrinsic
worth —
[But who can ever rightly appreciate its worth ? St. Paul
" counted all things to be but dross and dung in comparison of it'."
We must be able to estimate all the miseries of hell, and all the
glories of heaven, before we can form any estimate of its value ;
and, if we could ascertain the full importance of those, we should
still be as far as ever from having a complete conception of the
worth of spiritual knowledge ; unless we could estimate also all
the glory that will accrue to the ever blessed Trinity from the
contrivance and execution of this stupendous plan, and the ap-
plication of this salvation to a ruined world.]
Address —
1. To those that are at ease —
[How faint, for the most part, are your desires after spiritual
knowledge ! Whether you hear, or read, or pray, what formality
pervades it all ! But, if God have indeed designs of love towards
you, you will be taught by the rod, what you will not learn with-
out : " He will cause you to pass under the rod, in order that he
may bring you into the bond of the covenant," And if lesser
trials will not accomplish the purposes of his grace, he will visit
" Jam. V. 11. * Gen. 1. 20.
•' See Ps. xxxviii. 1—8. & Ixxvii. 3 — p. & Ixxxviii. 6, y. & c\u 1 — 10.
' Phil. iii. 8.
you with heavier: ''from chastening you with rods he will scourge
you with scorpions." Yet think not that a season of affliction is
in itself favourable for the pursuit of spiritual knowledge : it is
far otherwise : pains of body, and distress of mind, have a ten-
dency to impede, rather than assist, the exercises of the mind.
Ask those who are in deep affliction, Whether they find it easy to
collect their thoughts, and fix them with energy on the concerns
of their souls ; and they will bear one uniform testimony, that
health is the time to seek the Lord. Be persuaded then, now
vyhilst you are at ease, to study " God's statutes," and especially
those which declare to us the way of salvation ordained for sinful
man. Know that there is no other knowledge of any importance
whatever in comparison of this ; and that, if even the most
grievous sufferings should be welcomed as accessary to the
attainment of it, much more must it deserve all the time and
attention that can be bestowed upon it. You never need
fear that you will hereafter have occasion to complain, that its
fruits did not repay you for the cultivation of it.]
2. To those that are under any great affliction —
[The rod under which you suffer, has a voice, to which you
should listen with all possible attention'". It is sent to you in
love and mercy. God designs to teach you, by means of it, many
things which you would not so well learn without it. It may be
that you are already instructed in the Gospel of Christ ; but yet
there is much of which you are ignorant j and many things which
you do know, need to be known by you in a very different
manner. Even our blessed Lord himself, " though he was a
Son, learned obedience by the things which he suffered," yea,
and " was made perfect through sufferings." Be content to have
God's work carried on and perfected in you in the same way : and
be more anxious to obtain the benefit which your affliction is sent
to impart, than to get rid of the affliction itself. If your tribu-
lation work in you patience and experience and hope, learn to
glory in it, and to number it amongst your richest blessings.
And do not wait till the affliction is removed, to acknowledge
God's goodness to you in sending it ; but now, whilst you are
tinder the affliction, get it so improved and sanctified to the
good of your soul, that you may be able to say, " It is good for
me, O Lord, that I am afflicted ; for by means of it I do learn
thy statutes :" I see, " it is in very faithfulness that thou afflictest
me ;" and, if only thou " make me a partaker of thy holiness,"
send me what thou wilt, and ivhen thou wilt : be the cup never
so bitter to my taste, 1 will say, " ot my will, but thine be
" Mic. vi. 9.

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