“Affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble spring from the ground. Yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward!” Job 5:6-7
As affliction proceeds neither from blind necessity, nor from casual accident — but from the hand of your Omniscient Governor and Judge. So nothing can be more certain than that it is designed for the accomplishment of some great and useful purpose!
Now the design of affliction is expressly revealed in the Word of God. He has condescended to explain the reasons of His dealings with you — and it is alike your duty and your privilege to consider and to concur in His declared design.
The general end of affliction, as it is explained in God’s Word, is the moral and spiritual improvement of believers — in other words, their progressive sanctification, and their preparation for glory. Oh! how important must the right use of affliction be, if it is intended to terminate in such a blessed result. It stands connected with our everlasting welfare — with all that we can enjoy on earth, and all that we hope for in Heaven.
The Day of Adversity
But more particularly, the day of adversity is intended for our instruction. The Lord’s rod has a voice which speaks to us lessons of heavenly wisdom. Therefore, we are required “to hear the rod, and Him who has appointed it.” (Micah 6:9.) “The rod and reproof give wisdom.” (Proverbs 29:15.) It presents to our minds many of the same great truths which are declared in Scripture — but which we may have overlooked, or failed rightly to understand — until they were pressed on our attention, and made the matter of our personal experience in the day of trouble.
Thus, it teaches most impressively, that great Scriptural truth of the vanity of the world, and its insufficiency as the portion of rational and immortal beings. This is a truth which might almost be regarded as self-evident; yet it is one which is very slowly and reluctantly admitted by the young disciple, and which can only be effectually impressed on his mind, and unfolded in all its extent, by the experience of disappointment and sorrow.
In like manner, the day of adversity teaches us the great lesson of our entire and constant dependence on God. But a little while before, we were rejoicing in the midst of prosperity — our health was sound, our business prosperous, our families entire. But the sudden stroke has come which has smitten our bodies with disease, our business with bankruptcy,or our families with death. And that stroke has come from the Lord’s hand!
Oh! in such circumstances, we are impressively taught that we are absolutely in God’s power and that all that we have is at His sovereign disposal.
We depend on Him, day by day, continually for our personal preservation, our worldly prosperity, our domestic comfort, for all, in short, that we desire or need on earth.
These are some of the lessons which adversity, when viewed as a means of moral instruction, is fitted to inculcate and to impress with great practical power on our hearts. When these lessons are duly considered; and, above all, when they are submissively embraced and acted on — the disciple will learn from his own experience the value of affliction, and admire the wisdom with which God suits His lessons to the most urgent necessities of his soul.
James Buchanan was ordained near Edinburgh, Scotland in 1827, at the age of 23. A year later, he was pastoring a large church, filled to overflowing. His preaching was noted for its fulness, clarity, and impassioned oratory and his writings included three published books, two on the subject of affliction and the third a practical treatise on the Holy Spirit. The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred on Buchanan in 1844 by Princeton College, New Jersey. Some time later the University of Glasgow honored him with the degree of Doctor of Law. In 1845, Buchanen accepted the chair of Apologetics in the New College, Edinburgh, and in 1847 he was appointed to the chair of Systematic Theology. Buchanen’s last great published work was on justification, in 1866. Two years later in failing health, Buchanan retired from the chair of Theology. He died in 1870.
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