It is a consolation to the children of God, that he can make their afflictions profitable to them. I shall,

I. Show that afflictions may be profitable to the children of God.

II. That he is able to make them profitable to his children, III. That this is a matter of consolation to them.

I. Let us consider, that afflictions may be profitable to the children of God.

No affliction is for the present joyous, but grievous. All men naturally dread calamities. Our Saviour's heart recoiled at the prospect of his approaching sufferings. The righteous as well as the wicked look upon afflictions as real evils, from which they always wish either to be exempted, or delivered. But notwithstanding the painful nature of afflictions, they may eventually prove very beneficial to the children of God, in various respects.

1. They may be greatly instrumental in turning off their attention from the world. While they live in the world, they are obliged to attend to worldly objects, and their duty often leads them into danger. They insensibly suffer the cares, concerns and enjoyments of the world to engage too much of their attention, and divert them from more noble and more important objects. They are prone to mind earthly things, and to become worldly-minded. But afflictions have a direct tendency to turn off their eyes from beholding vanity. When pains, or sickness,


, or disappointments, or bereavements, fall upon them, the glory, the beauty, and the importance, of the world all vanish, and more serious and interesting objects absorb their attention. Adversity turned off the mind of Job from all the scenes and prospects of living, and fixed his whole attention upon the serious subject of dying. The loss of his substance, the loss of his servants, and especially the loss of his children, threw him into the dust, and constrained him to say, “ Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither.”'. More common and moderate afflictions checked Solomon in his career of glory, and made him exclaim in the bitterness of his soul, “ Vanity of vanities : all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” Let men be ever so much absorbed in the pursuits and enjoyments of the world, heavy and repeated strokes of adversity never fail to withdraw their attention from such vain and momentary objects. Let the young or the old, the rich or the poor, the high or the low, the righteous or the wicked, be brought into severe affliction, and they will, for a season at least, turn their backs upon the world, and appear to pay no regard to those earthly concerns and pursuits, to which they had been before awake and alive. Here then we see one way,


in which afflictions may be profitable to the godly. They may turn off their too great and too constant attention from the low and trifling concerns of the present life, and prepare them to attend to things of everlasting consequence.

2. Afflictions may turn off their affections as well as their attention from the captivating objects of the world. They would not mind worldly things too much, if they did not love the world more than it deserves. But their attention may be diverted from the world, while their undue love to it remains. They never ought to love the world for what it is in itself, or give it the first place in their hearts; because this is totally inconsistent with that supreme love and regard which they owe to God. So our Saviour taught his disciples. “ No man can serve two masters : for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” And the apostle John represents supreme love to the world, as totally inconsistent with true love to God. “ Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world; if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." While the children of God live in the world, they are constantly exposed to imbibe the spirit of the world, and place their hearts upon worldly objects, which are unworthy of their supreme affection. In this sinful and dangerous state of mind, they stand in peculiar need of divine corrections, which have a direct tendency to detach their affections from lying vanities which cannot profit. When God disappoints their worldly hopes, or bereaves them of the objects which they had been idolizing, they are constrained to see the vanity of the world, and to feel their obligations to withdraw their affections and dependence from it. In the time of affliction they find that the world has nothing in it to soothe and comfort their wounded hearts. It serves to increase, rather than diminish their sorrows. They cannot but hate it as the worst of enemies, which has so often deceived them, and robbed them of superior happiness. In this respect, afflictions may be of great advantage to the children of God. Besides,

3. They may be of much greater benefit to them, by raising their affections to God, the source of all good. When afflictions have turned off their attention and affections from the world, they directly point them to God. By taking away every other ground of dependence and consolation, they may be said to drive them to the fountain of all good. When David had been plunged in the depths of sorrow and distress, he felt constrained to return to God for relief. He said, “ Return unto thy rest, O my soul.” The prophet Habakkuk resolved that when the fruits of the earth and the enjoyments of the world

should fail, “ he would rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of his salvation." Saints always set their affections either upon things below, or upon things above; and when their affections are taken off from things below, they never fail to set them upon things above, where God is, and where Christ, and their richest treasures are. And whenever afflictions draw the attention and affections of the children of God from the world, and fix them upon heavenly and divine objects, then they become in the highest degree beneficial. They completely answer the gracious design of God, and serve at once both to display his glory, and promote the good of his people. This leads us to consider,

II. That God is able, in all cases, to make afflictions produce the good effects which have been mentioned. He says to every one of his children, in the text, “I am the Lord thy God, which teacheth thee to profit.” You are ready to imagine, in your melancholy moments, that the evils I have brought upon you can never do you any good, and if you abuse them, and sorrow only after a worldly sort, they will really work your ruin. But I the Lord your God am able to teach you how to improve them to your spiritual and everlasting benefit. I can cause you to learn those things by your sufferings, which you could not have learned by any other means, and which you will have reason to be thankful for, both in this life and in that which is to come. But in order to illustrate the truth of this gracious declaration, it may be proper to observe two things.

1. That God is able to bring himself into the view of his afflicted children. He is the first and the last, the greatest and the best of all beings. He is the creator, preserver, and owner of the universe. He possesses the most amiable, glorious, and awful perfections. He is eternal, immutable, independent, almighty, all-wise, and infinitely holy, just, and good. His eye looks into every heart; his hand supports and directs every creature; his presence fills every place; his holiness abhors every sin; his benevolence commiserates every submissive child of sorrow; and his justice frowns upon all the stupid, impatient and rebellious. A realizing sense of the immediate presence, and glory, and majesty of such a being must necessarily fill the mind, and shut out every other object. Now God is able thus to bow the heavens, and come down into the minds of the afflicted, and seize every power and faculty of their souls, and fix them entirely upon himself. Though they often feel a melancholy pleasure in pondering upon their own troubles, and complaining of this evil world, yet God can divert their attention, by drawing near to them, and causing them to realize his presence, greatness, and sovereignty. And

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it is only in this way, that he can effectually turn off their attention from the scenes and objects of the world, because their minds must be fixed either upon himself, or upon his works. He may, indeed, turn their attention from one worldly object to another, without bringing himself into their view. But in order to take off their minds from all created objects, he must draw their attention to himself, and fix it upon his own great and glorious character. This he is able to do whenever he pleases, and as long as he pleases. He can make all times, and places, and circumstances, and objects, lead their minds to himself, so that they cannot see nor contemplate any object, without seeing and contemplating some or all of his perfections. He can make the whole world appear to be full of himself, and cause the afflicted to look upon all things as less than nothing and vanity, in comparison with the Lord their God, who has them in his hand as the clay is in the hands of the potter, and can dispose of them for time and eternity, according to his sovereign pleasure. But barely bringing himself into their view, and turning off their attention from all created objects, will not afford them any relief; because they may behold God, and be troubled. It is, therefore, necessary to observe, 2. That he can place their affections as well as attention

“ The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the Lord.” The hearts of all men are in his hand, and he can turn them, like the rivers of water, whithersoever he pleases. When he brings himself into the view of the afflicted, he can awaken every holy affection in their hearts, and give them the sensible enjoyment of himself, which is far better than the enjoyment of sons, or of daughters, or of any earthly good. After he has drawn the attention, he commonly draws the hearts of his children to himself. This appears from a variety of instances, recorded in scripture. God

gave Job a most realizing sense of his majesty and glory, and at the same time filled his soul with correspondent affections. “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself

, and repent in dust and ashes." Such views of God, and such holy and devout affections towards him, effectually banished all his murmurs and complaints under his heavy afflictions. This he acknowledged before God." Then Job answered the Lord, and said, Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer : yea, twice; but I will proceed no farther.” The vision which Isaiah had of God, sitting on a throne high and lifted up, was attended with holy and humiliating feelings. And the manifestation of the divine glory on VOL. III.



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the mount of transfiguration, filled the hearts of the disciples with holy joy and rapture. They could not bear to think of having their divine views and affections interrupted by any inferior objects. They said with the greatest sincerity and sensibility, “ It is good for us to be here.” God is always able not only to give his afflicted children a lively view of his own glory, but also to give them the spirit of adoption, and make them love him as their father, their friend, and their supreme portion. After David had been repining at the ways of providence, God cured him of his hard thoughts, by giving him a realizing and joyful view of himself. While he beheld and loved God, he could say with the highest satisfaction, “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee?" Thus God is able to draw off the attention and affections of his afflicted people from all earthly objects, by causing them to see and converse with him in his providence, and enjoy the tokens of his favor. This is his high prerogative. It belongs to him alone, to produce such effects in the hearts of the afflicted, and teach them to profit by their painful trials. Men cannot teach one another to profit

, either in prosperity or adversity ; because it is out of their power to give one another a realizing sense of God, or to excite holy affections towards him. But he is able to make all things work together for good to his afflicted children. And now,

III. They ought to consider this as a sufficient ground of consolation. So he tells every one of them in the text. I am the Lord thy God, which teacheth thee to profit.” By declaring himself to be their God, he assures them that he is both able and ready to heal the wounds which he hath given them, and make their outward afflictions the means of spiritual light and consolation. For his covenant faithfulness obliges him to consult their good, and employ all his perfections, in the course of his providence, to promote it. When he became the God of Abraham, he said, “I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” And he says the same thing, in substance, to every one with whom he enters into covenant.

6 He that overcometh shall inherit all things: and I will be his God, and he shall be

my It is a solid foundation of comfort to all the children of God, under their severest trials and afflictions, that he bears a covenant relation to them, and has engaged to treat them as children. They may always be assured, that all his dispensations towards them are the genuine expressions of his fatherly care and kindness, by which he means to teach them to profit. But, besides his acknowledging his relation to them in their afflictions, as their God, he has expressly promised to



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