William Nicholson, 1862
"Affliction does not come from the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground. Yet man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward." Job 5:6, 7
Man is born in sin, and therefore born to trouble. There is nothing in this world we are born to, and can truly call our own — but sin and trouble! Both are as the sparks that fly upward.
Actual transgressions are the sparks which fly out of the furnace of original corruption. Such is the frailty of our bodies, and the vanity of all our enjoyments, that our troubles arise thence as naturally as the sparks fly upward — so many are they, and so fast does one follow another.
Why then should we be surprised at our afflictions as strange, or object to them as severe, when they are the effects of sin, and under the Divine superintendence?
I. Afflictions are the Common Lot of Man. "Man is born to trouble!"
1. These afflictions are . . .
(1.) Man is frequently the subject of illness and disease. Painful — prostrating — protracted illnesses. Or he suffers from it relatively — as some members of his family are sick and near unto death.
(2.) Man is frequently the subject of worldly losses and financial troubles. Induced, it may be, by the injustice of others — his plans fail — his speculations are unsuccessful — or financial troubles may be the result of long and protracted sickness. Yet all is acute and painful.
(3.) Man is frequently the subject of poverty. He lacks of the comforts of life — be frequently in straits — and his way apparently hedged up. This may be the result of injustice — it may be the effect of sin — it may be the result of imprudence.
(4.) Man is frequently the subject of bereavements. The loss of some dear friend, the desire of the eyes — the object of affection, consigned to the dust!
(5.) Man is frequently the subject of persecution. The result of enmity, envy, malice. The character traduced and blasted. Slander is like a dagger to the upright and conscientious mind.
(6.) All men will soon succumb to death. Health is vanishing — strength is decaying — faculties are impaired. Such sensations are painful.
2. None are exempt from afflictions. For wherever there is sin, there is trouble. "Man is born to trouble!"
The poor endure it — the rich are not exempt.
To the pious, a bitter cup is assigned — and the wicked too have aching heads and hearts.
Grandeur, nobility, royalty, are also associated with trouble.
The heart of the peasant, and that of the monarch — are alike smitten with anguish.
In youth, in middle age, in later life — there is trouble.
In health, in wealth, in honor, in elevation — there is trouble.
In successful enterprise,
in vast financial accumulation,
in places of nobility,
in beautiful mansions, and splendid palaces
— there is no exemption from trouble!
Go where you will, you will find trouble! Take the wings of the morning, and fly to the uttermost parts of the earth, and even there you will find it. Enter the deep shades of solitude, it is there.
Crown yourselves with royalty;
take the exhilarating wine;
engage in the giddy dance;
listen to entrancing music and convivial songs;
visit the drama, and other theatric performances
— and you may for a season drown your sorrow.
But the clouds of trouble are sure to gather over your heads!
You are born to trouble.
It is your inevitable lot.
You will yet have to sicken, to suffer, and die!
Brethren, you know that, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows!" John 16:33
3. Afflictions are designed for chastisement. They form a kind of punishment for sin committed. It supposes some fault, which it is intended to correct. Perhaps the sufferer has neglected God and his soul — has been worldly-minded — another has been remiss and negligent, cold and indifferent in spiritual affairs. Afflictions are designed to awaken — correct, reform, divert from sin and the world — and to transfer the affections to Heaven. They "are for our profit." Hebrews 12:10.
But though Divine chastisements are punitive — yet not vindictive, like those inflicted on the wicked, either in time or in eternity. Punishment is of two kinds: vindictive and corrective. The one is in wrath, the other is in love; the one is for the good of society, the other for the good of the individual, to recover from the evil which affliction is intended to correct.
By affliction, God separates the sin which he hates — from the soul which he loves.
Two things should comfort believers under afflictions:
1. That what they suffer is not Hell.
2. That it is all the Hell they shall suffer.
Our enjoyments are greater than our afflictions.
And our afflictions much less than our sins.
The more we fear sin, the less we shall fear sorrow.
It is a worse sign to be without chastisement — than to
be under chastisement. "If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with
sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten?" Hebrews 12:7
II. Afflictions Are Divinely Appointed.
When we see no natural cause for what befalls us, we are ready to ascribe it to mere accident. When our plans have been well concerted, and the means of their accomplishment have failed — instead of suspecting that the hand of God is against us to defeat the enterprise, we are ready to impute it to some unknown cause, or to imagine that it arose from chance. Ecclesiastes 9:11.
1. The source of affliction is not chance or mere natural causes.
"Affliction does not come from the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground." If they came from chance, there would he nothing wise, intelligent, reasonable, or good, in them — they would be dark, confused, and miserable.
The only remedy, supposing things came by chance, or by mere second causes — would be that which the wicked generally apply — attempting to forget the calamities that befall us. So far indeed as things are supposed to come by human agency, there is often worse than no reason for them; for in proportion as the hand of man is in our troubles, we have to complain of injustice, oppression, and deceit.
2. Afflictions are Divinely appointed.
This truth has been greatly abused by wicked men; and sometimes injudiciously applied by good men. Still it yields effectual support to the Lord's afflicted ones.
Job could say, "He performs the thing that is appointed for me."
David rejoiced to say, "All my times are in your hand."
Judah in captivity derived comfort from the Divine appointment: "Who is he who says, and it comes not to pass, when the Lord commands it not?" Lamentations 3:37.
And Paul comforted the Christians at Thessalonica by the doctrine of Divine appointment: "No man should be moved by these afflictions, for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto." 1 Thessalonians 3:3.
This doctrine that afflictions are appointed by God, is comforting, for it indicates that:
(1.) Our afflictions will be mingled with mercy. They are appointed by our gracious Father, who knows our frame, etc. They are sent by the God of love.
To one who loves God, it is a great comfort to see his hand in everything that befalls us. We can take well what he does, let the conduct of mankind be what it may. It is enough, and ought to be enough, that it is the Lord's doing, and let him do what seems him good. "I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You are the one who has done this!" Psalm 39:9
When Job was deprived of all his substance by the Chaldeans and Sabeans, he said, "The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised!" To have everything ordered and arranged by God, is all that we can desire.
(2.) Afflictions are sent in wisdom. And it is highly conciliating to view every separate event, as a part of God's one all-wise scheme, and to know that when our plans are frustrated, God's plans remain unalterably wise. He knows what is best for us, and his plan never fails!
(3.) Afflictions are designed to produce glorious results. "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose!" Romans 8:28.
All our present ills are the seeds of future bliss, and will be followed by a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory in the kingdom of God's dear Son.
When such sublime results shall be realized, we shall
perceive that "Affliction does not come from the dust, neither does trouble
spring out of the ground." Afflictions are but blessings in disguise!
1. Christians, be thankful that afflictions are "chastisements," sent to correct, and not to destroy. They are sent in love, and not in anger. 1 Corinthians 11:32; Revelation 3:19.
2. If we are ready to faint in the day of adversity — look to Jesus, and remember his sorrows. Hebrews 12:2. Pray. Be patient.
3. Be submissive. God's design for afflictions is our sanctification, and eventual glorification. "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it!" Hebrews 12:11