Charles Simeon Commentary - Lamentations 3:22 - 3:23

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Lamentations 3:22 - 3:23


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DISCOURSE: 1091

THE VIEWS OF A SAINT IN HIS AFFLICTIONS

Lam_3:22-23. It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

IT is in affliction chiefly that the children of God attain to any considerable eminence in religion. By trouble, they are led to realize their principles; and to seek at the fountain-head those consolations which the broken cisterns of this world are no longer able to supply. If David had never been an object of persecution to his enemies, we may well doubt whether he would ever have soared as he did in heavenly contemplations, or evinced such transcendent piety as glows throughout his Psalms. Jeremiah was a man deeply conversant with trouble; as he says: “I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath [Note: ver. 1.].” But what sublime lessons does he teach us in the words which we have just read! Truly we may see in these words,

I.       The views of a saint under affliction—

A man undisciplined in the school of affliction pores over his troubles, and thereby greatly disquiets his own soul. But a man who is taught of God will have his mind very differently occupied. He will delight rather in contemplating,

1.       The lightness of his affliction, in comparison of his deserts—

[Who, that calls to mind the multitude of his past transgressions, must not justify God in all his dispensations, however painful they may be to flesh and blood? “Shall a living man complain, (he will say,) a man for the punishment of his sins [Note: ver. 39.]?” No: he will acknowledge that hell itself is his proper portion; and that any thing short of that is far “less than his iniquities have deserved [Note: Ezr_9:13.].” Instead, therefore, of complaining, like Cain, that “his punishment is greater than he can bear [Note: Gen_4:13.],” he will say, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that I am not utterly consumed, even because his compassions fail not.”]

2.       The multitude of the mercies yet continued to him—

[An ungodly man, because lie is bereaved of some comforts, will overlook all the others which he is still privileged to possess. But a real saint will think how much worse his state might have been, and how man y blessings are still continued to him. He will say, My troubles are few; but my mercies are greatly multiplied: “they are new every morning.” His rest by night, his comforts by day, and, above all, his constant access to God in prayer, and the rich Communications of grace and peace received from him, these things, I say, will fill him with holy gratitude, and turn all his sorrows into joy.]

3.       The unchangeableness of God under all his dispensations—

[The saint will not regard God as an arbitrary Governor, that orders every thing from caprice; but as a covenant God, who has engaged to provide for his people whatever may conduce to their best interests. Hence, under the pressure of his troubles, he will call to mind that God has said, He would “correct his people in measure, and not leave them altogether unpunished [Note: Jer_30:11.].” In this view, lie acknowledges that “God in very faithfulness has afflicted him [Note: Psa_119:75.].” Indeed, the faithfulness of God is that which, in such seasons, he contemplates with peculiar delight: “Why art thou cast clown, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God [Note: Psa_42:5; Psa_42:11; Psa_43:5. thrice.].”]

In opening to you these views, I wish particularly to mark,

II.      The beauty of religion as displayed in them—

Philosophy will do much to produce a resignation to the will of God. Indeed, common sense teaches us that it is in vain to murmur and repine at our troubles, and that the more patiently we bear our trials, the more we diminish their force. But the views which we have been considering, produce far more exalted effects. Behold,

1.       How they compose the mind—

[You see in this afflicted saint a meek submission, far different from any that philosophy can produce. Behold how he kisses the rod, and blesses the hand that smites him; and sees nothing but mercy, where an ungodly man would have noticed nothing but severity and wrath. Thus “he enjoys a light in the midst of darkness [Note: Mic_7:8-9.];” and realizes the parable of Samson; “Out of the eater he brings forth meat, and out of the strong he brings forth sweet.”]

2.       How they elevate the soul—

[Behold the prophet, how he soars above self, and rises superior to all the dictates of sense! He forgets, as it were, his trials, in the contemplation of his mercies; and overlooks the chastisement, by reason of the love from whence it proceeds. This is a nobility of mind to which no philosopher ever could attain, and an elevation of sentiment which nothing but divine grace could ever inspire.]

3.       How they honour God—

[Here the darkest dispensations are acknowledged, as the fruits of a wisdom that cannot err, of a love that knows no bounds, of a fidelity that can never change. Methinks, if there were no other end for which afflictions were sent, this were sufficient to reconcile us unto all; for if they lead to such discoveries of God, and such an ascription of praise to him, they more than compensate for all the pain that they occasion during the pressure of them on our minds.]

Address—

1.       To those who know but little of affliction—

[A slight and superficial religion may satisfy you at present; but you will find it of little service when you come into trouble: nothing but deep piety will support you then. If you would be prepared for trials, you must get a sense of your own exceeding sinfulness, and of the wonderful mercies vouchsafed to you through the sufferings of the Son of God. Then the heaviest trials will appear light, yea, as nothing in comparison of your deserts, and nothing in comparison of the obligations conferred upon you.]

2.       To those who have been brought into deep waters—

[Look not on your afflictions as tokens of God’s wrath, but rather as expressions of his love. There is a need for them, else they never would have been sent; and if they operate to purify your souls from dross, you will have reason to be thankful for them to all eternity. Be not, then, so anxious for the removal of your trials, as for the sanctification of them to your souls. Make but the improvement of them which is suggested in my text, and you will have reason to adore God for them as the richest blessings that could be conferred upon you.]