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I am afflicted very much: quicken me, Lord, according unto thy word.—Ver. 107.
HERE we have—(1.) A representation of his case and condition, I am afflicted; his condition was calamitous, and here is the degree of it, very much. (2.) His prayer, quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word; wherein we have the nature of his request, quicken me, O Lord; then the argument, according unto thy word.
For the first, ‘I am afflicted;’ it may be understood of outward pressures, or soul troubles. From thence note—
Doct. God’s people are liable to sad and sore afflictions here in the world.
He doth not so fondly and delicately bring up his children but that he exerciseth them with sharp afflictions. David, a man dear to God, much in communion with him, ever and anon you hear him complaining of trouble. It is the church’s name, Isa. liv. 11, ‘O thou afflicted, and tossed with tempest, and not comforted.’ God’s people are sometimes afflicted in the outward, sometimes in the inward man. In the outward man, either by enemies, the more because they are godly: 2 Tim. iii. 12, ‘All they that will live godly in Christ Jesus must suffer persecution.’ They must not dream of worldly ease, and think to go to heaven upon a bed of roses, but sometimes their way is strewed with thorns, and they have fiery trials: 1 Peter iv. 12, ‘Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you;’ no more than you would to see a shower of rain fall, or a cloudy day succeed a fair: we would laugh at one that should be troubled to see a shower fall. So some times by sickness under God’s immediate hand. In the 3d epistle of John, the apostle saith of Gaius, ‘I wish that thou mayest prosper, and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.’ It seems he had a healthful soul in a very sickly crazy body. And Paul’s thorn in the flesh notes some racking pain, stone or gout, which he alludes to thrusting up a stake in the body of slaves. The inward man, that hath its affliction too, anguish, sorrow of heart, sometimes by reason of God’s desertion. Christ Jesus drunk of this cup: Mat. xxvii. 46, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ And the cup goes round; his people pledge him in this bitter cup, and often complain of a withdrawing God, that they cannot find God as they were wont formerly. Many times perplexing lusts and prevalency of sore distempers: ‘O wretched man,’ &c., Rom. vii. 24, so Paul groans; and sometimes from temptations and assaults from Satan: Luke xxii. 31, 32, ‘Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat; but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.’ Christ did not pray to exempt him from it, but to preserve him in it.
If you ask why God’s children are thus afflicted, I answer—It is not heaven we now enjoy.
1. We are not in our eternal rest, therefore here we must be exercised, tried, afflicted. The world is a middle place between heaven and hell, therefore hath somewhat of both; their principles and actions are mixed, so their condition is mixed, intermixed with sorrows and joys, until they come there where they shall rest from all their labours. So it must be.
2. God doth it to purge out sin: Isa. xxvii. 9, ‘By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged, and this is all the fruit to take away his sin.’ Gold is cast into the fire. Why? To have its dross consumed. Corn is beaten with the flail. Why? To be severed from its chaff, husks, and straw; and iron is filed to get off its rust; so this is the fruit of all—the taking away sin. Afflictions are a necessary cure for sin: John xv. 2, ‘Every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.’ Look, as in a vine there are certain superfluous luxuriant leaves and branches that grow up with the fruit, and hindereth the increase of it, which the vine-dresser pares off, not to destroy the vine, but to cultivate and manure it, so it is with no ill intent; so corruption grows up with our graces, and hindereth us that we cannot bear fruit, when we are in a flourishing condition; therefore these need to be purged away.
3. God doth it to humble us. This was that which God aimed at in all his afflictive dispensations towards the people of Israel, Deut. viii. 2. God’s eminent servants need affliction to humble them. David had many things to puff him up, his royal dignity, the gift of prophecy, familiarity with God, great opulency, many victories, pride of life, &c.; and he needed many afflictions to keep him humble, Ps. cxxxii. 1. Paul, he was apt to be lifted up with abundance of revelations, therefore God humbled him with ‘a thorn in the flesh,’ 2 Cor. xii. 7.
Use 1. If we he out of affliction, let us provide for a time of exercise. David, a saint, is afflicted. God’s bosom-friends may feel his hand sore upon them. David, a king, is afflicted; those in the highest station have their incident cares and troubles. David, an Old Testament believer, saith, ‘I am afflicted.’ I observe this, because God then dispensed himself to his people in and by temporal promises, and yet even then they had great mixtures of trouble, to show that which they had in the world was not all they had to expect from God. The promises now in the New Testament, now life and immortality is brought to light, they run to us in another strain, not of temporal, but spiritual things; therefore we must expect our portion of sorrow before we go to heaven. Be not of such a woman-like nature, and so delicately brought up, as never to see evil days; for aught I see, we are entering upon our trial. The strain of our ministry is mainly consolatory usually, but there comes a time of expense and laying out, when such comforts are to be laid up in our heart, therefore let us be provided.
Use 2. If we be for the present under affliction, let us bear it with patience, observing how God’s ends are accomplished. It is smart and grievous now, Heb. xii. 11, but it will be salutary and healthful; it will yield to you righteousness, and that righteousness will yield you peace—give the peaceable fruit of righteousness. If God will take away the fuel of our sin, empty us of our pride, self-conceit, weaken the security of the flesh, let us ‘be content, only let us take heed that the time of mortifying sin be not the time of discovering sin, and that we do not trespass the more. To be sinning and suffering is the case of the damned. Take heed you do not sin in your suffering; especially take heed of those sins that are proper to affliction. Fainting: ‘If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is but small.’ Distrust of God’s providence: ‘I shall one day perish by the hands of Saul.’ Despair of God’s promises: ‘I said I am cut off,’ &c. Then you lose the benefit of God’s family discipline when you yield to these sins. But see how it drives you out of the way of hell, for affliction is a gentle remembrance of hell; for look, as those whose garments were singed, as when they threw the three children into the furnace, their own garments were singed by the force of the flame, they knew what it was to be thrown into the pit; so the Lord in effect doth tell you what will be in hell; this is a gentle remembrance, stand farther off, that ye may not be condemned with the world, 1 Cor. xi. 32. Arid then, how it quickens you to look after heavenly things; for when the out ward man decays, then look to things not seen, 2 Cor. iv. 17; when you are fitted more and more for your change, when you grow more humble, mortified, as stories are hewn and squared for the building.
Let us come to the degree, ‘I am afflicted very much; the Septuagint renders it, ἐταπεινώθηω ἕως σφόδρα, ‘I am afflicted very sore.’
Doct. The afflictions of God’s people may not only be many, but very sore and heavy.
So David here, and Ps. lxxi. 20, ‘Thou hast showed me great and sore troubles.’ Why many?
1. Many and strong lusts are to be subdued, and we need great afflictions to subdue many and great corruptions. Some stains are not easily washed out, but need much rubbing. When pride is deeply rooted in the heart, God brings down even to the grave, that a man goes up and down like a walking ghost, and like a skeleton or dry bones. There is such an one described, Job xxxiii. 17 with 22; and why? To bring down pride in his heart? The physic must be according to the distemper; if the distemper be more rooted, the physic must be more strong: Ps. cvii. 11, 12, ‘Because they rebelled against the word of the Lord, and contemned the counsel of the Most High, therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help.’ When people begin to grow high and stomachful, contemptuous against God and his ordinances, then God brings them into sore distresses, to break their pride and stoutness of heart.
2. That God may have the more experience and trial of his people. In daily and little afflictions there is no trial of their courage, faith, patience, and submission, and all other graces. The trial of faith is in extremity. Graces are exercised to the life, when we are even at the point of death: 2 Cor. i. 9, ‘We had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God, which raiseth the dead.’ So patience, it is not tried but by sharp affliction; therefore the apostle saith, ‘Let patience have its perfect work,’ James i. 4. So Christian courage and resolution, that is tried in deep affliction, when we are ‘slain all the day long,’ Heb. xi. 35, 36; Rom. viii. 37, ‘In all these things we are more than conquerors.’ The strength of a man’s back is not tried by a small weight, but by a heavy burden, how much he can bear; so the sharper the affliction, the greater the trial.
3. That they may have the more experience of God, for the sharper the affliction the sweeter their comfort, and the more glorious their deliverance: Ps. lxxi. 20, ‘Thou which hast showed me great and sore troubles, thou shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.’ God’s power in raising them up is more seen: 2 Cor. i. 10, ‘Who delivered me from so great a death.’
Use 1. If we be under sore troubles—
1. Let us not faint; remember it is no more than we have deserved. God will not afflict a man above his deserts; he cannot complain of wrong, Ezra ix. 13. It is never more, it may be less; when our afflictions are great, our deserts are far greater: Isa. xl. 1, ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God.’ Why? ‘For she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.’ God saith double; he relents presently.
2. Consider the degree of affliction; it is not measured out by yourselves, but measured out by a wise God; though afflicted very much and very sore, the measure it is ordered by God, as well as the kind of it. If it were measured out by ourselves, it would be too light, it would be too gentle; the patient must not be trusted in searching his own wounds; and if it were left to our enemies, they would know no bounds: Zech. i. 15, ‘I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.’ But it is left to the wise, just, and gracious God and Father; he tempers the cup in his own hand; and therefore when the affliction is grown sore and strong, it comes not only from a wise God, but a tender Father, that best knows what is good for us. Job xxxiv. 23, that is a notable place, ‘For he will not lay upon man more than right, that he should enter into judgment with God;’ that is, the party afflicted hath no just complaint against God, can take no exception against God’s proceedings, for he perfectly understands our need, and understands our strength. God perfectly understands our need: 1 Peter i. 6, ‘If need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.’ And understands our strength: 1 Cor. x. 13, ‘Faithful is he, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able.’ Many parents do not correct their children in measure, being ignorant of their nature and disposition. Many physicians mistake their patients’ constitution, therefore the physic may work too strongly and too violently for them; but God understands our need and our strength, and so suits all his remedies accordingly.
Use 2. To reprove those fond complaints that are extorted from us in deep and pressing afflictions; as if—
1. Sometimes, there was never any so afflicted as I am. God’s people have been sore troubled: Lam. i. 12, ‘Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me.’ Yes, others have been afflicted in the same kind and degree, if not worse: 1 Peter v. 9, ‘All these things are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.’ You think it is such as the like hath never been known or heard of, for every man’s own pain seemeth most grievous: Lam. iii. 1, ‘I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath.’ Other prophets foretold them, I see them executed. The best of God’s people have their measures of hardships; you are not singular, do not stand alone. This is one of Satan’s deceits. Satan will suggest this to a child of God, that he may question his Father’s affection, lose the comfort of his adoption, and put yourselves out of the number of God’s children. Your lot is not harder than the rest of God’s children; all that are in the world have the same trials, troubles, pressing evils upon their hearts now and then.
2. Another you find complaining, taxing God of unfaithfulness, as if he would break trust, and lay upon you more than you are able to bear, and you deceive yourselves; for if you cannot bear your present burden, you would bear none, you do not improve Christ’s strength: Phil. iv. 13, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.’ Christ doth not help us in such a degree, or one trouble, and no more, but in all.
3. Another we find complain, I am cut off; God will be merciful and gracious no more, Ps. lxxvii. 8, 9, &c.; he hath forsaken me and forgotten me. God’s children have been brought thus low, yet have been raised, as the church: Ps. cxviii. 18, ‘Lord, thou hast chastened me sore, yet hast not given me over unto death.’ Within a little while he will show this was but our infirmity; this would stop these idle complaints by which we give vent to our daily impatience.
We have seen David’s case, but what doth he do? He goes to God about comfort and relief, ‘I am afflicted very sore: O Lord, quicken me, according to thy word.’ There observe—
1. That he prays, and makes his addresses to God.
2. For what he prays.
Doct. First, That he prays. Observe, affliction should put us upon prayer and serious address to God. Thus God’s people are wont to do: Isa. xxvi. 16, ‘Lord, in trouble have they visited thee; they poured out a prayer when thy chastening was upon them.’ They that have neglected God at other times, will be dealing with him then, and this God expects: Hosea v. 15, ‘I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face; in their affliction they will seek me early.’ It will be the first thing they will do, the greatest thing they will take care of; as that which we most care for, most is thought of in the morning. Nay, it is that which God enjoins: Ps. l. 15, ‘Call upon me in the time of trouble.’ Some might hang off when God’s rod is upon their backs, or be discouraged by the bitter sense of a trouble; therefore God doth not only give us leave, but commands us to call upon him. This is the special season when this duty is performed with life and vigour: ‘Is any man afflicted? let him pray,’ James v. 13. Let him thus give vent to his trouble, it doth mightily ease the heart. An oven stopped up is the hotter within; the more we keep down grief, and do not unburden ourselves, the more it presseth upon the heart. Wind imprisoned in the bowels of the earth makes a terrible shaking there till it gets vent; so till our sorrow gets a vent it rends and tears the heart. The throne of grace was appointed for such a time, Heb. iv. 16; when need comes, then it is a time to improve our interest, to put promises in suit; when God seems to be an enemy to us, when, to appearance, he executes the curse of the old covenant, oh! then we should work through all discouragements, then we should hold God to his second grant and charter, and come to his throne of grace, and keep him there.
For the reasons:—
1. God is the party with whom we have to do; whencesoever the trouble doth arise, there is his hand and his counsel in it; therefore it is best dealing with him about it, in all afflictions, public or private: Amos iii. 6, ‘Is there evil in the city, and the Lord hath not done it?’ Let men but awaken their reason and conscience, who is it that is at the upper end of causes, that casts our lot upon such troublesome and distracted times? So in private afflictions, David owned God’s hand; Shimei had mocked him, but he looks higher; the Lord hath bid him curse. So Job; he doth not say the Chaldean and Sabean hath taken away, but the Lord hath taken, Job i. 21. Afflictions have a higher cause than men ordinarily look at; they do not come out of the dust, but come from God. See what inference Eliphaz draws from this principle, Job v. 8, ‘I would seek unto God, and unto God would I commit my cause;’ that is, I would go and deal with him about it; it was Eliphaz’s advice to Job, and it is seasonable to us all.
2. It is God only that can help us and relieve us, either by giving support under the trouble, or removing it from us; so saith David, Ps. lvii. 2, ‘I will cry unto God most high, unto God that performeth all things for me.’ A believer looks for all things from God; when all things go well with him, God is his best friend; when all things go ill with him, God is his only friend; he runs to none so often as to God. Now upon these principles we go to God; but for what end? Let us see what we go to God for.
[1.] That we may know his mind in all his providences. The affliction hath some errand and message to us, something to deliver us from God; now we need to ask of God to know his mind: Micah vi. 9, ‘Hear the rod, and who hath appointed it.’ We should not only be sensible of the smart, but look to the cause; therefore, if we would know the cause, let us go and expostulate with God about it; as Joab, when Absalom set his corn-field on fire; he sent for him once and twice, but he comes not, until he sets his corn-field on fire, and then he comes and expostulates with him, ‘Who hath done this?’ 2 Sam. xiv. 30, 31. So when we make bold, and will not come to God, nor take notice of his messages, God comes and lets out his wrath upon our comforts and conveniences; now let us deal with God about it; wherefore is all this?
[2.] That we may have strength to bear it. Alas! we can bear or do little of ourselves, for that doing refers to bearing: Phil iv. 13, ‘I can do all things through Christ that strengtheneth me;’ that is, I can suffer want, need, hunger, thirst, nakedness, and run through all conditions, ‘through Christ that strengtheneth me.’ Now you must ask it of God: James i. 5, ‘If any man lack wisdom, let him ask it of God.’ It is wisdom to bear affliction, if he would wisely carry himself under the rod; that he may not discover his folly, he must ask this strength and grace of God.
[3.] Wisdom to improve our chastisements, that we may have the benefit and fruit of them: Isa. xlviii. 17, ‘I am the Lord thy God, which teacheth thee to profit;’ that is, to profit by afflictions, to reap the fruit of them. So Job xxxiii. 16, ‘He openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction.’ God, by a powerful work upon the heart, impresseth their duty upon them, that they may see wherefore it is that he hath afflicted them.
[4.] We go to God for deliverance and freedom from the trouble: Ps. xxxiv. 19, ‘Many are the troubles of the righteous, but out of them all the Lord will deliver them.’ It is God’s prerogative to set us free. We break prison when we attempt to escape merely by our own means; therefore either we shall have no deliverance, or no kindly one. God hath delivered, doth deliver, and we trust will deliver. This must be sought out of God; God helping together with your prayers, 2 Cor. i. 10, 11. Prayer must fetch it out from God, or it is no kindly deliverance. Well, then, in our affliction, we need to be often with God.
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