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14 August, 2014

Evidences & Results Of Sanctified Affliction - Part 2

 By John Angell James

Part one

Notwithstanding these views, still the sufferer has his SINS brought to remembrance. "I have endured my punishment; I will no longer act wickedly. Teach me what I cannot see; if I have done wrong, I won't do it again." Job 34:31, 32. 

This is his language; and in answer to his prayers, God shows him his sins, his defects, his rebellions, his backslidings, and he is deeply abased and humbled before God. Confession, purposes of amendment, plans of improvement follow. Oh! it is a blessed sign of good, when the sufferer is taken up with a sense of SIN; when not only the past life is reviewed with a more searching scrutiny, and a more rigid exaction, so that sins passed over on former occasions come out more distinctly and impressively to view—but when the chambers of imagery in the heart are laid open, and the soul grows in accurate and humbling acquaintance with itself. All this is quite compatible with our recognition of God's love. Yes, the more we are assured of God's love—the more clearly do we see our sins.

Connected with all this, and in some measure implied in it, is deep SUBMISSION to the will of God. A quiet bowing down, and lying still at the feet of God; a giving up of ourselves to his disposal, willing that he should determine for us; a patient endurance of lengthened visitation; a grateful recollection of what still remains, controlling a mournful calculation of what is lost; a quiet consciousness that God has exacted of us less than our iniquities deserve—in short, such a disposition under the rod, as seems to say, "Anything from your hand; anything with your smile; anything but your frown."

A readiness to dwell upon our mercies, especially our spiritual blessings—is a fine evidence of a holy state of mind. It is delightful to hear the sorrowful believer talking of his mercies, and thus setting one thing over against another.

Such is the proof of a sanctified affliction, which is furnished by the conduct of the sufferer while his trouble lasts. If, on the contrary, the mind is wholly absorbed with a sense of sorrow; thinking only how it may be removed, and caring nothing about improvement; if there is no remembrance of SIN, no desire after holiness; if God, as the source and sender of the affliction, is forgotten, and the mind dwells exclusively with peevishness and reproachfulness on second causes; if there is, though not words of complaint, murmuring, and rebellion, and thoughts and feelings that imply something like a sense of unmerited hardship in the painful visitation—there can, in such a case, be no benefit derived from the affliction. It is merely the bitterness of the medicine without its beneficial effect—the pain of the chastisement, without the compensatory result in the improvement of the conduct. 

II. I now go on to set before you those proofs of a sanctified affliction which are furnished by the conduct, AFTER the trial is removed.

1. If, when the hand of God is withdrawn, and prosperity again returns, the views, feelings, and purposes remain which the soul entertained in the season of darkness; if, for instance, there is the same solicitude for spiritual improvement, and, even amidst the glow of health, the tranquility and repose of altered circumstances, and the freedom from apprehension for the future; if there is a still prayerful and anxious desire not to lose the benefit of trouble, but to be made more holy and heavenly—there is every reason to believe that the visitation of God has left a blessing behind. 

The passing away of severe trial leaves the soul so buoyant and joyous, so prepared for the feelings of earthly delight, and possessed of such a capacity for the most vivid enjoyment, that if amidst such circumstances, there is a sobriety of mind, a seriousness of spirit, a solemnity of manner, a prayerful concern after increased spirituality—there is a sanctified affliction! Yes, when such devout aspirations after conformity to God's will and image survive the night of sorrow, and still live, and grow, and thrive, under the sunshine of prosperity—the beneficent end of the chastisement has been indeed accomplished!

2. When one of the first businesses that are attended to after the return of prosperity, is to put in execution the vows that were made, the plans laid, and the purposes formed, in trial; when defects in duty are immediately attended to; when sinful practices are discontinued; when discovered corruptions are mortified; and when languishing graces are revived—then good is certainly gained by suffering!
It is indeed a blessed sight, and a proof of growth in grace, when the soul, liberated from the prison of its distress, goes straightway and most diligently—to the work of increased sanctification. 

Perhaps few professors are ever greatly afflicted, without some purposes of amendment being formed, as well as convictions of the need of it being felt. How many of them forget their views, abandon the plans of their improvement, and become as lukewarm, worldly, and as careless as ever—when the Lord is pleased to terminate their severe affliction. Some few, however, there are of the mind of David, who said, "I will go into your house with burnt offerings, I will pay you my vows, which my lips have uttered when I was in trouble," Psalm 66:13, 14. 

There is a proper custom prevailing in all sections of the Christian church, of publicly acknowledging in the house of God any special mercy received at his hand. It is to be feared that, with many, this is nothing more than mere form; and that by others, who are really sincere, and even ardent at the time, it is regarded, or at any rate acted upon, as if it were a kind of clearance of all other obligations to increased holiness imposed upon us, even by our own declarations and promises in the hour of affliction. If, however, this religious observance is faithfully employed, as a means to fasten upon the heart and conscience the obligations of the season of sickness, and to summon the soul to the business of renewed devotedness to God—it may be truly concluded that the affliction has done its own proper work.

3. When besetting sins are mortified by trial, it is a good sign—and it is a sign frequently exhibited in God's afflicted people. Almost all of us have 'favorite pet sins'--which there is not ordinarily that concern and labor for putting them away, which there should be. They are indulged, instead of being resisted. Thus they gain strength by such indulgence, and most sadly disfigure our character and disturb our spiritual peace!
Prosperity, like sunshine upon weeds, often causes them to grow rapidly! And then God in great faithfulness, love and mercy sends adversity, like frost, to kill them. Upon a bed of sickness, and in other severe trials--they are often remembered, understood, and seen in all their sinfulness. They are then lamented, confessed, and mortified.

Nothing can be a darker sign than for a professor's conscience to be so dull and drowsy during a time of trial, as to leave him unadmonished respecting these predominant sins. It has been sometimes a blessed fruit of tribulation, that these predominant sins have been weakened, if not eradicated. It is worth any amount of suffering to secure this result. Happy the Christian who comes out of the furnace, with his dross removed by the fire! No matter what he has lost--he has gained freedom from these inward enemies of his peace and purity.....