When Divine Providence Goes Cross to our Affections, Prayers and Expectations
by Thomas Manton
When any divine dispensation goeth cross to our affections, yea, our prayers and expectations, yet even then can faith bring meat out of the eater, and find many occasions of praise and thanksgiving to God; for nothing falleth out so cross but we may see the hand of God in it working for good.
[1.] Though we have not the blessing we seek and pray for, yet we give thanks because God hath been sometimes entreated, he hath showed himself a God hearing prayer, and is only delaying now until a more fit time wherein he may give us that which is sought: Ps. 43:5, 'Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.' Now we are mourning, but he is our God, and we are not left without hope of a blessed issue. God, that hath been gracious, will be gracious again. He is our gracious father when we are under his sharpest corrections, a father when he striketh or frowneth; therefore we are not without hope that he will give us opportunities again of glorifying his name.
[2.] We bless God for continuing so long the mercies which he hath taken from us. Former experiences must not be forgotten: 'Ebenezer, hitherto the Lord hath helped us.' If he shall afflict us afterward, yet 'hitherto he hath helped us,' 1 Sam. 7:12. If he take away life, it is a mercy that he spared it so long for his own service and glory; if liberty, that we had such a time of rest and intermission.
[3.] God is yet worthy of praise and thanksgiving for choicer mercies yet continued, notwithstanding all the afflictions laid upon us. That we have his Spirit supporting us under our trials, and enabling us to bear them: 1 Peter 4:13, 14, 'Rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. For if ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth on you.' And that we have any peace of conscience: Rom. 5:1, 'Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.' That the hope of eternal life is not diminished but increased by our afflictions: Rom. 5:4, 5, 'We glory in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope, and hope maketh not ashamed: because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us.' That many of our natural comforts are yet left, and God will supply us by ways best known to himself.
[4.] That evils and afflictions which light upon us for the gospel's sake, or righteousness' sake, and Christ's name's sake, are to be reckoned among our privileges, and deserve praise rather than complaint: Phil. 1:29, 'To you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.' If it be a gift, it is matter of praise.
[5.] Take these evils in the worst notion, they are less than we have deserved: Ezra 9:13, 'And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, and for our great trespass, seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve.' Babylon is not hell, and still that should be acknowledged.
[6.] That no evil hath befallen us but such as God can bring good out of them: Rom. 8:28, 'All things shall work together for good to them that love God.' All things that befall a Christian are either good, or shall turn to good; either to good natural: Gen. 50:20, 'Ye thought evil, but God meant it for good;' or good spiritual: Ps. 119:75, 'I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me;' or good eternal: 2 Cor. 4:17, 'For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.'
From Exposition of Psalm 119 (v.62), by Thomas Manton