Suppose someone says to God, 'I have endured my punishment; I will offend no more.
I. PRAYER. The whole passage is concerned with prayer, with what it is meet to say unto God. Affliction does not teach all men to pray; some only learn despair and hardness of heart. But the designs of affliction is to lead us to God. It makes us feel our helplessness; it reveals to us the action of an unseen hand, and so reminds us of the presence of God; it shows us that earthly things will not satisfy; it gives us an opportunity to use and enjoy the Divine blessing of that peace which the world can neither give nor take away.
II. PATIENCE. "I have borne chastisement." Here is a reflection gathered from the contemplation of experience. It is a thought that comes from a soul enriched by what it has passed through. We have to let "patience have her perfect work." A visitor to the Royal Hospital for Incurables is struck with the spirit of peace that pervades it. What is outwardly a palace of pain is found to be in fact a home of peace. The sufferers have been drilled by suffering into patience; into more than patience, indeed, for a cheerfulness is seen among the hopeless sufferers. Long endurance has brought forth wonderful fruits which we scarcely see among the happy and heedless.
III. HUMILITY. The prayer reveals in every clause a spirit of humility. Pride is broken down completely. Prosperity was self-contained and self-satisfied. Its favours were too much accepted as rights and even as rewards. But affliction has dispelled the illusion. It may be that the trouble is not the punishment of sin; but still it proves the weakness and littleness of man, and it makes him see that he has no claim on the good things that he had been enjoying.
IV. CONTRITION. All men who suffer greatly are not great sinners; often the best men suffer most. This is made clear to us by the Book of Job, and Elihu is not so blind to it as the three friends. Still, every man sins, and therefore every man needs to learn contrition. Now, the school of affliction is designed to lead. us into this wholesome condition. Without comparing one person with another, without venturing to charge our neighbours with sin because they suffer, without supposing that there is any proportion between the guilt of sin and the amount of suffering, we may yet, each for himself, search our own hearts and make confession of our own sins in the still hour of sorrow.
V. AMENDMENT. The sufferer is to seek for guidance for the future. Where he is wrong and does not see it, he prays that God may reveal his error to him. Then he will abandon the mistakes and sins of the past. He resolves not to do iniquity any more. It is not every sufferer who so acts. Purgatory does not always purge. But the good man will try to turn his affliction to advantage, not only by heart-searchings into the past, but also by earnest resolves to live better for the future. - W.F.A.
I. But first let us commune together upon the text in its more natural application as addressed TO THE AFFLICTED.
I have borne chastisement.
I. SHOW WHAT RESOLUTION IS IN GENERAL. It is a fixed determination of the will about anything. It supposes —
1. A precedent deliberation of the mind about the thing to be resolved on. Peremptorily to determine and resolve upon anything before deliberation is not properly resolution, but precipitancy and rashness.
2. Resolution supposes some judgment passed upon a thing after deliberation. This judgment of the necessity and fitness of the thing is not the resolution of the will but of the understanding. To be convinced that a thing is fit and necessary to be done, and to be resolved to set upon the doing of it, are two very different things. An act of the judgment must go before the resolution of the will.
3. If the matter be of considerable consequence, resolution supposeth some motion of the affections; which is a kind of bias upon the will. Deliberation and judgment, they direct a man what to do or to leave undone; the affections excite and quicken a man to take some resolution in the matter.
II. WHAT IS THE SPECIAL OBJECT OR MATTER OF THIS RESOLUTION. What it is that a man when he repents resolves upon. It is to leave his sin and return to God and his duty. He that truly repents, is resolved to break off his sinful course, and to abandon those lusts and vices which he was formerly addicted to, and lived in. The true penitent does not stay in the negative part of religion, he is resolved to be as diligent to perform the duties of religion as he was before negligent of them.
III. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN A SINCERE RESOLUTION OF LEAVING OUR SINS AND RETURNING TO GOD. Three things.
1. It must be universal, in respect of the whole man, and with regard to all our actions.
2. A sincere resolution implies a resolution of the means as well as of the end.
3. It implies the present time, and that we are resolved speedily and without delay to put the resolution into practice. There is this reason why thou shouldst immediately put this resolution in practice, and not delay it for a moment. Thou mayest at present do it much more certainly, and much more easily. Thou art surer of the present time than thou canst be of the future: and the longer thou continuest in sin, thy resolution against it will grow weaker, and the habit of sin continually stronger. Sin was never mortified by age.
IV. IN THIS RESOLUTION OF AMENDMENT, THE VERY ESSENCE AND FORMAL NATURE OF REPENTANCE DOTH CONSIST. A man may do many reasonable actions without an explicit resolution. But not matters of difficulty. There is no change of a man's life can be imagined, wherein a man offers greater violence to inveterate habits, and to the strong propensions of his present temper, than in this of repentance. So that among all the actions of a man's life, there is none that doth more necessarily require an express purpose than repentance does.
V. SOME CONSIDERATIONS TO CONVINCE MEN OF THE NECESSITY AND FITNESS OF THIS RESOLUTION AND OF KEEPING STEADFAST TO IT.
1. This resolution of repentance is nothing but what, under the influence of God's grace and Holy Spirit, is in your power. It is a power which every man is naturally invested withal, to consider, and judge, and choose. As to spiritual things, every man hath this power radically. He hath the faculties of understanding and will, but these are hindered in their exercise, and strongly biassed a contrary way, by the power of evil inclinations and habits; so that, as to the exercise of this power, and the effect of it on spiritual things, men are in a sort as much disabled as if they were destitute of it. When we persuade men to repent, and change their lives, and resolve upon a better course, we do not exhort them to anything that is absolutely out of their power, but to what they may do, though not of themselves, yet by the grace of God.
2. Consider what it is that you are to resolve upon; to leave your sins, and to return to God and goodness. Consider what sin is. Consider what it is to return to God and duty.
3. How unreasonable it is to be unresolved in a ease of so great moment and concernment. There is no greater argument of a man's weakness, than irresolution in matters of mighty consequence.
4. How much resolution would tend to the settling of our minds, and making our lives comfortable.
VI. DIRECTIONS CONCERNING THE MANAGING AND MAINTAINING OF THIS HOLY AND NECESSARY RESOLUTION.
1. What an argument it is of vanity and inconstancy, to change this resolution, whilst the reason of it stands good, and is not changed.
2. If we be not constant in our resolution, all we have done is lost.
3. We shall by inconstancy render our condition much worse. Application —
(1) (2) (3) (J. Tillotson, D. D.)
(2) (3) (J. Tillotson, D. D.)
(3) (J. Tillotson, D. D.)
(J. Tillotson, D. D.)
1. The first lesson is, it is meet for them to accept the affliction which the Lord sends, and to say unto God, "I have borne chastisement." We notice that the word "chastisement" is not actually in the Hebrew, though the Hebrew could not be well interpreted without supplying the word. It might exactly and literally be translated "I bear," or "I have borne." It is the softened heart saying to God, "I bear whatever Thou wilt put upon me; I have borne it, I still bear it, and I will bear it, whatever Thou mayest ordain it to be. I submit myself entirely to Thee, and accept the load with which Thou art pleased to weight me." A constant submission to the Divine will should be the very atmosphere in which a Christian lives. We must not be content with bearing what the Lord sends, with the coolness which says, "It must be, and therefore I must put up with it." Such forced submission is far below a Christian grace, for many a heathen has attained it. Neither, on the other hand. are we to receive affliction with a rebellious spirit. Neither, as believers in God, are we to despair under trouble, for that is not bearing the cross, but lying down under it. The Christian, then is not to treat the cross which. God puts upon him in any such way as I have described, but he is to accept it humbly, looking up to God, and saying, "Much worse than this I might reckon to receive even as Thy child; for the discipline of Thine house requireth the rod, and well might I expect to be chastened every morning." We should receive chastisement with meek submission. The gold is not to rebel against the goldsmith, but should at once yield to be placed in the crucible and thrust into the fire. We should accept chastisement cheerfully. The next duty is to forsake the sin which may have occasioned the chastisement. "It is meet to be said unto God, I have borne chastisement; I will not offend any more." There is a connection between sin and suffering. There are afflictions which come from God, not on account of past sin, but to prevent sin in the future. The third lesson in the text to the afflicted clearly teaches them that it is their duty and privilege to ask for more light. The text says, "That which I see not, teach Thou me. If I have done iniquity, I will do no more." Do you see the drift of this? It is the child of God awakened to look after the sin which the chastisement indicates; and since he cannot see all the evil that may be in himself, he turns to his God with this prayer, "What I see not, teach Thou me." It may be that, in looking over your past life and searching through your heart, you do not see your sin, for perhaps it is where you do not suspect. You have been looking in another quarter. Perhaps your sin is hidden away under something very dear to you. Jacob made a great search for the images — the teraphs which Laban worshipped. He could not find them. No; he did not like to disturb Rachel, and Laban did not like to disturb her either — a favourite wife and daughter must not be inconvenienced. She may sit still on the camel's furniture, but she hides the images there. Even thus you do not like to search in a certain quarter of your nature. This is the right way in which to treat our chastisements: "If I have done iniquity, I will do no more. That which I see not, teach Thou me."
II. And now, I am going to use the text for THOSE OF US WHO MAY NOT HAVE BEEN AFFLICTED. What does the text say to us if we are not afflicted? Does it not say this — "If the afflicted man is to say 'I bear,' and to take up his yoke cheerfully, how cheerfully ought you and I to take up the daily yoke of our Christian labour"? "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might." We have yet another remark for those that are strong. Should not the favours of God lead us to search out our sins? Do you not think that while enjoying God's mercy we should be anxious to be searched by the light of the love of God? Should we not wish to use the light of the Divine countenance that we may discover all our sin and overcome it?
III. The last remark I have to make is to THE UNCONVERTED. Perhaps there are some here who are not the people of God, and yet they are very happy and prosperous. Take us at our worst — when we are most sick, most desponding, most tried, most penitent before God, we would not exchange with you at your best. Would we change with you, for all your mirth and sinful hilarity?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
I will mot offend any more.
I. WHAT KIND OF REFORMATION IT IS THAT WE SHOULD RESOLVE UPON UNDER THE ROD OF THE LORD.
1. In the work of reformation under the rod, we must have reference to Him that useth the rod, go to God, and set ourselves to amend what is amiss, as under the eye of God.
2. You must be sure to have your work guided by God Himself.
3. You must be careful to reform in one particular, as well as another; you must go through-stitch with this business. He hath not reformed in anything aright that doth not reform in everything blameworthy.
4. You must not only reform in what you yourselves do, or may understand to be amiss, but you must take direction to know what is blameworthy; be eager and earnest to understand wherein you do amiss.
5. A Christian under the rod should be so wrought upon with a resolution to reform, that he should, by solemn covenant, bind himself to God for the future.
6. Christians under the rod must severally and personally, and not only jointly and in company and assemblies, reform what is amiss, according to the afore-mentioned rules. Christians should not look on this reforming as a task necessary, and a duty commanded; they should regard it as an employment comely and lovely.
II. WHAT ARGUMENTS MAY PREVAIL WITH CHRISTIANS THUS TO REFORM UNDER THE ROD?
1. Some in relation to God.(1) Because God that calleth for reformation under correction is the author of every blow, of every scourge.(2) God afflicts us because we are blameworthy, because we have sinned.(3) God is exceeding just and gracious in every rod He useth, in every stroke that He giveth, in every affliction that He sendeth. God will not make the staff too heavy nor the rod too big.(4) The Lord considers the frame of every man's spirit, the carriage of every soul under His correcting hand.(5) The Lord is no respecter of persons.(6) This is the very end God aims at, that by His rod people might be reformed.(7) His Majesty will account Himself honoured, in sort we may make God amends, not by way of requital, but by way of manifestation.
2. In relation to ourselves.(1) For driving arguments. Not to reform under the rod, it fastens a black mark of shameful ignominy and reproach upon the heart of a sinner. It is a sign of unspeakable foolishness and extraordinary brutishness.(2) Drawing arguments. This is the way to gain the comfort of the Lord, the tender bowels of His compassion. The worst things you can suffer, shall turn to your joy and everlasting comfort.
III. WHAT COURSE WE SHOULD TAKE TO BE WROUGHT UPON TO ATTAIN UNTO THIS FRAME OF SPIRIT.
1. Thoroughly, from Scripture light, inform ourselves concerning the sinfulness and the ugliness of the course whereof you. must reform.
2. You must be deeply humbled for whatever it is that under the rod you do discover to be out of order, both in your heart, mind, and actions. Thus go to God, pray unto God, wait upon God, and expect deliverances from Him.
II. A PRAYER FOR DIVINE TEACHING. "That which I see not, teach Thou me." A prayer necessary for all; but peculiarly seasonable in the time of affliction, since one of the principal ends for which affliction is sent is the discovery of sin, and one of the chief benefits derived from it is the knowledge of ourselves.
1. This prayer may have a reference to the rule and measure of our conduct, the holy law of God. Consider what low, imperfect ideas the generality of mankind entertain of the law of God: and what a poor measure of outward conformity to its precepts appears to satisfy many.
2. This prayer may have reference to the application of this rule to our own characters and conduct, whereby we become acquainted with our own sins in particular.
III. A PIOUS RESOLUTION, FOUNDED ON THE FOREGOING CONFESSION AND PRAYER. "If I have done iniquity, I will do no more." This implies a total renunciation of all sin, and a full and fixed purpose of new and better obedience. Wherever the grace of God is known in truth, there is an absolute renunciation of all sin, and an entire surrender of ourselves to the service of God.
That which I see not, teach Thou me.
(J. Slade, M. A.)
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