Proverbs 3:11
Well does this lesson contrast with the preceding picture of prosperity and opulence.

I. THE RELIGIOUS VIEW OF SUFFERING.

1. It is not a dark doom, a cruel fate, a Blind necessity of things. Such were the ideas of the heathen.

2. Its cause may be known. This is ever a great solace - to be persuaded that our troubles lie in the reason of things, that nothing is chance or caprice.

3. That cause is in the Divine mind and will. The power of God is manifested in our suffering; we are but as the clay on the potter's wheel. Still more the love of God is manifested in our suffering. There is always some mitigation accompanying it. "It might have been worse" may be said of every pain. It serves as the foil to set off some greater good. "The ring may be lost, but the finger remains," as the Spanish proverb says.

4. The object or final cause of suffering. Purification from inward evil; correction of faults. The mind grows of itself; the schoolmaster can do little more than point out and correct faults. So with life's education from the religious point of view. And the most fertile minds need most; the discipline of suffering. The pruning knife is not applied to the puny plant; languid minds are the least touched by affliction. In these adjustments, love is still revealed.

5. Suffering must be viewed under the analogy of the parental and filial relation. Let these words once become clear, Father, son, in their application to God's relation to us, and ours to him, and the theory of suffering is mastered (comp. Deuteronomy 8:5; Psalm 118:18; Lamentations 3:31-33).

II. THE RELIGIOUS TEMPER UNDER SUFFERING.

1. Humility. No indignant questioning, scornful recalcitration, proud efforts of stoical fortitude. These will but defeat or delay the end. The medicine benefits not if the patient sets his mind against it as unneeded.

2. Patient endurance. Perseverance in a passive, receptive, attitude is far more difficult than perseverance in activity. We haste to snatch at good. But God is never in haste. His processes are slow. And to receive their benefit we must learn the wisdom of the word "wait." While we are thus waiting, things are not at a standstill; God is working, producing a spiritual shape out of the passive material.

"Maker, remake, complete,
I trust what thou shalt do!" (R. Browning's noble poem, 'Rabbi Ben Ezra.') J.







Despise not the chastening of the Lord.
The text is a kind of condensation of practical wisdom for the direction of life. It has reference to those dealings of God with men which have a stern and severe aspect, which are in themselves painful and unwelcome, and under which the human soul cannot well be satisfied or sustained aside from the two considerations, first, that they are the appointments of God, and second, that they are designed to be instrumental of our good. One of the most striking and unusual marks of human destiny is to be found in the afflictive dispensations which trouble us. The general counsel of the text is aimed at one of the common errors of men, viz., not being affected by our trials in a wise and beneficial manner.

I. CONSIDER OUR AFFLICTIONS AS CHASTENINGS, CORRECTIONS.

1. They are of God, and God takes no pleasure in the miseries of His creatures. They must be disciplinary — a part of the discipline of His love. It is a wonder that God should love us at all; no less a wonder than that, loving, He should afflict us.

2. The rule or order of human afflictions indicates their corrective intent. All of them do not come under this principle, indeed, but many of them do. God makes the miseries of life follow close and visible the sins and crimes of life to a very wide extent. They follow the sins of individuals and of nations. But we cannot rank all miseries under this rule. If we could know as God knows all the secondary causes which He employs, it is extremely probable that we should attribute many human miseries to human sin which we now attribute to the just and naked sovereignty of God. Whenever we can see the connection, and trace our unhappiness to a fault, that unhappiness is clearly the blow of a rod of discipline.

3. A state of entire innocence would have kept the world from all suffering.

4. The nature of our afflictions has in it something very remarkable. They are not so heavy as to crush us. They have many accompanying alleviations. For the most part we are able to bear up under them. They are not destructive, they must be disciplinary.

5. Consider the manner in which our afflictions ordinarily come upon us. They commence gently, and if the chastised do not amend, they are increased.

6. The alleviations which accompany earthly afflictions furnish almost a demonstration that the afflictions are designed for amendment.

II. THE IMPROVEMENT OF THIS SUBJECT. It becomes us, who have so many distresses to bear, to consider well the design of them. The world we live in, with its mingled chastisements and mercies, perfectly accords with the declarations of the gospel, that God is displeased, but waits to be gracious. And we shall soon have done with this system of disciplinary affliction for ever.

(I. S. Spencer, D. D.)

People sunk in heathenism do not trouble themselves about the true meaning of life. They are at the unreflective age of experience. They are in a position of ignorance or indifference with respect to the moral and religious aspect of man's life. But with the rise and growth of reflection the significance of existence comes to the front, and presses in upon the mind, sometimes with painful urgency. This inquiry seems to us, who have eighteen centuries of Christian teaching, a comparatively easy one. But the answer varies to some extent with the individual. The attitude assumed towards God and the truths of revealed religion enters into the matter. This is seen by comparing the views of a sceptical and a believing person. The question as to the true interpretation of life was weighed and discussed by the wise and good men who wrote the Scriptures. Their conclusion was that life is, in part at least, disciplinary in its nature. Its hindrances, trials, sufferings are connected with the fatherly goodness of God, and offer opportunities for spiritual growth and improvement which would otherwise be impossible. This idea is, however, associated in most minds with the severer dispensations of Providence, and with these alone. But it really runs through life. The world is so constituted as to be a school of training for the human spirit. The moral government of the world gives clear evidences that God wills other ends than happiness, ends that even involve the present loss of happiness.

I. THIS BROADER AND DEEPER ASPECT OF THE MATTER IS DISCLOSED IN THE RELATIONSHIP SUBSISTING BETWEEN MAN AND NATURE. In the natural world the fullest scope has been left for effort, inquiry, perseverance, diligence. Had the world, as created by God, given a premium to indolence and incapacity it would have given us no hint of a Divine purpose underlying our life, but constituted as it is, it forces us to the conclusion that life was meant to be disciplinary in its character.

II. THIS TRUTH IS REVEALED IN OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MEN — WITH SOCIETY. The moral law, which is our guide to duty, is stamped upon the consciences of men, so that there is no excuse for ignorance regarding it. But though the abiding principles of God's kingdom are plain and undeniable, they do not save us from the trouble of thinking. The very difficulty of doing the right thing, we know, is a sign of the moral purpose underlying our life. Life is a discipline, but life may not be in any true sense a discipline to this individual and to that, because so much depends upon the attitude of the soul to God, and to His will. It remains with each man to enter into God's redeeming purpose, and to become a fellow-worker with Him.

(Morison Bryce.)

I. WHAT IS IT TO DESPISE THE CHASTENINGS?

1. To receive them without any emotion. Trials should be felt; the heart should smart under the rod.

2. To fail to look into the cause of them. When afflictions come men seldom seriously set themselves to see why God contendeth with them.

3. To fail to be altered and improved by them. If a child is not better for his parent's discipline, we say that correction has been thrown away upon him.

II. WHAT IS IT TO BE "WEARY OF HIS CORRECTION"?

1. It is the fault of those who make too much of their afflictions. Some are "swallowed up of overmuch sorrow." It overwhelms, stupefies, consumes them. They brood over every circumstance of the stroke which has befallen them, and see it in the most aggravated light. Their imaginations even add to the reality. The believer, when he meets with sorrow, should consider the bright as well as the dark side of the Lord's dealings with him. It is the sore temptation by which sufferers are sometimes exercised to be led to doubt, because of their suffering, that they are objects of the Lord's interest.

2. It is the fault of those who rebel against the correction, who fret and murmur at the stroke. We weary of correction —

3. When we cannot wait the Lord's time for the removal of our trials. We almost long to take the times out of His hands, and arrange things for ourselves. As trial never comes a day too early, so it never stays a day too long. We have afflictions to sustain, trials to endure; but we have a God of all comfort to make those trials easy.

(A. Roberts, M.A.)

I. WHAT MUST BE OUR CARE WHEN WE ARE IN AFFLICTION?

1. We must not despise an affliction, be it ever so light or short, as if it were not worth taking notice of; or as if it were not sent on an errand, and therefore required no answer. We must not be stocks or stones, insensible of them.

2. We must not be weary of an affliction, be it ever so heavy or long, nor faint under it; nor be dispirited, nor driven to use indirect means for our relief and redress of our grievances. We must not think that the affliction either presses harder, or continues longer than is meet, nor conclude that deliverance will never come because it does not come so soon as we expect it.

II. WHAT WILL BE OUR COMFORT WHEN IN AFFLICTION?

1. That it is a Divine correction.

2. That it is a fatherly correction. Afflictions not only consist with, but flow from, covenant love. They are so far from doing any real hurt, that they become the happy means of sanctification.

( Matthew Henry.)

The course of human life is a course of chastening. It is not a word confined to the vocabulary of religion. But chastening seems to be unequally distributed. There is s possibility of treating godly chastisement in an ungodly spirit. It may be despised, or it may be endured with impatience. God's purpose requires time for its exposition and realisation; and we require patience to abide its complete unfoldment. Patience often accomplishes what the most overwhelming strength could never effect.

(J. Parker, D.D.)

Scientific Illustrations.
Scarcely any gem reveals its true beauties in a natural state. The diamond in the rough is most unattractive, and would be thrown away by a casual observer as a worthless pebble; its perfections are hidden under a hard crust, which can only be removed by its own powder. The deep velvet hues of the sapphire, the glowing brilliant red of the ruby, the soft clear green of the emerald, and the delicate strata of the onyx, alike only display themselves in their true character after the lapidary has used his skill in cutting them into facets and polishing them; and on the perfection of this operation depends in a great measure the beauty of the gem. As it is with these, so it is also with human gems.

(Scientific Illustrations.)

Neither be weary of His correction
The text assures that there is nothing in our present affliction that need make us despair. Suffering is altered in character as soon as we enter into possession of the Divine favour. It is no longer absolute and irremediable; it forms part of the plan of Divine love. It has not, however, ceased to bear its character of chastisement. How does affliction help us to realise the Divine love?

1. It acts as a dyke against the overflow of evil, it incessantly restrains and thrusts it back. Pain is a restraining and preserving power in this sinful world.

2. It acts as a preparative. Suffering, under the influence of grace, fills up the infinite distance between man and the Cross. It was the suffering of a God who humbled Himself that saved us; and it is suffering dispensed by this same God which prepares the sinner to believe in the crucified One. Suffering also makes us seize the salvation thus wrought for us, but which must be consummated in us. It must, therefore, pursue its work on this redeemed earth, where sin still dwells.

(E. De Pressense, D.D.)

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