Although affliction comes not forth of the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground;…
The words of Eliphaz imply that the general state of man in this world is a state of trouble and affliction. Yet those afflictions and troubles do neither grow up by a certain regular and constant source of nature, nor are they merely accidental and casual. They are sent, disposed, directed, and managed by the conduct and guidance of the most wise providence of Almighty God. If there were no other ends in God's sharp providence than to keep men humble and disciplinable, His ways would be highly justified.
I. WHAT PREPARATION IS FIT TO BE MADE EVERY MAN BEFORE AFFLICTIONS COME.
1. A sound conviction of the truth that no man can by any means expect to be exempt from afflictions. Every man shares in common public calamities. And every man has his own personal evils, such as befall the body, the estate, the name, or men's friends and relations. No man is exempt from these crosses at any time by any special privilege, and sometimes they have fallen in together in their perfection, even upon some of the best men that we read of. Even the most sincere piety and integrity of heart and life cannot give any man any exemption or privilege from afflictions of some kind. This consideration may silence that murmuring and unquiet and proud distemper that often ariseth in the minds of good men; they are ready to think themselves injured if they fall under the calamities incident to mankind. They sometimes even take up the idea that they are hated or forsaken of God because sorely afflicted.
2. Another preparative is to reason ourselves off from overmuch love and valuation of the world. Philosophy hath made some short essay in this business, but the doctrine of the Gospel has done more.
(1) By giving us a plain and clear estimate and valuation of this world; and(2) by showing us a more valuable, certain, and durable estate after death, and a way of attaining it.
3. Another preparative is to keep piety, innocence, and a good conscience before it comes. Have the soul as clear as may be from the guilt of sin, by an innocent and watchful life in the time of our prosperity, and by a sincere and hearty repentance for sin committed.
4. Next preparative is to gain a humble mind. When affliction meets with a proud heart, full of opinion of its own worth and goodness, there ariseth more trouble and tumult than can arise from the affliction itself. If any man considers aright, he hath many important causes to keep his mind always humble.
5. Another preparative is a steady resolved resignation of a man's self to the will and good pleasure of Almighty God. That will is sovereign, wise, and beneficent.
6. The last preparative is, labour to get thy peace with God through Jesus Christ.
II. HOW AFFLICTIONS INCUMBENT UPON US ARE TO BE RECEIVED, ENTERTAINED, AND IMPROVED.
1. A man under affliction should have a due consideration of God as a God of infinite wisdom, justice, and mercy.
2. He should realise that afflictions do not rise out of the dust, but are sent and managed by the wise disposition of Almighty God.
3. That the best of men are visited by afflictions, and it is but need they should.
4. That all the Divine dispensations are so far beneficial or hurtful as they are received and used.
5. The consequences of all these considerations lead us into the following duties: To receive affliction with all humility, with patience, and subjection of mind; to return unto God, who afflicts; to pray unto God; to depend and trust upon God; to be thankful; to put ourselves upon a due search and examination of our hearts and ways.
III. THE TEMPER AND DISPOSITION OF MIND WE SHOULD HAVE UPON AND AFTER DELIVERANCE FROM AFFLICTIONS.
1. We ought solemnly to return our humble and hearty thanks to Almighty God.
2. Endeavour to express the thankfulness by a sincere and faithful obedience to the will of God.
3. Take good heed lest the heart be lifted up into presumption upon God. And —
4. Be vigilant and watchful lest evil take you at unawares. Nothing is more likely to procure affliction than security and unpreparedness of mind. It is well also to keep deliverances out of affliction in memory.
Parallel VersesKJV: Although affliction cometh not forth of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground;