It would seem, that this holy saint's covenanting season was a time of deep affliction: while his determined resolution to keep God's word of obedience, gave boldness to his pleading, that God would perform His word of promise—Quicken me, O Lord, according to Your word. And this is our high privilege, that we are permitted to pour our troubles into the ear of One, who is able perfectly to enter into, and to sympathize with us in them; "who knows our frame," who has Himself laid the affliction upon us: yes, more than all, who in "all our affliction is" Himself "afflicted;" and who "suffered being tempted, that He might be able to support them that are tempted." There are none—not even those most dear to us—to whom we can unbosom ourselves, as we do to our heavenly Friend. Our wants, griefs, burdens of every kind—we roll them all upon Him, with special relief in the hour of affliction. An affecting contrast to those who are indeed afflicted very much; whose souls, "drawing near unto death," and knowing no refuge, are ready to burst with their own sorrows, "the sorrow of the world"—unmitigated—unrelieved, "working death!"
There is a "needs-be" for the afflictions of the Lord's people. The stones of the spiritual temple cannot be polished or fitted to their place without the strokes of the hammer. The gold cannot be purified without the furnace. The vine must be pruned for greater fruitfulness. The measure of discipline varies indefinitely. But such is the inveteracy of fleshly lusts, that very much affliction may often be the needful regimen. Yet will it be tempered by one, who knows the precise measure, who can make no mistakes in our constitutions, and whose fatherly pity will chasten "not for His pleasure, but for our profit." And need we speak of the alleviations of our trials, that they are infinitely disproportioned to our deserts—that they are "light, and but for a moment," compared with eternity—that greater comfort is given in the endurance of them, than we even ventured to anticipate from their removal—that the fruit at the end more than balances the trials themselves? Need we say—how richly they ought to be prized, as conforming us to the image of our suffering Lord; how clearly we shall one day read in them our Father's commission, as messengers of love; and how certainly "the end of the Lord" will be "that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy?"
Perhaps affliction—at least very much affliction—may not be our present lot. Yet it is our duty, and wisdom, as the good soldier in the time of truce, to burnish our armor for the fight. "Let not him that girds on his harness boast himself as he who puts it off. Because the wicked have no changes, therefore they fear not God." The continual changes in Christian experience may well remind us of the necessity of "walking humbly with God," that we may not, by an unprepared spirit, lose the blessing of the sanctified cross. How many of the Lord's dear children may bear Ephraim's name, "For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction!" Sometimes they are so conscious of the present good, that they dread affliction leaving them, more, probably, than the inexperienced professor dreads its coming.
But great affliction is as hard to bear as great prosperity. Some whose Christian profession had drawn out the esteem of others—perhaps also their own complacency—have shown by "faintness in the day of adversity their strength to be small," and themselves to be almost untaught in this school of discipline—shaken, confused, broken. Special need indeed have we under the smart of the rod, of quickening grace to preserve us from stout-heartedness or dejection. We think we could bear the stroke, did we know it to be paternal, not judicial. Have we, then, "forgotten the exhortation, which speaks unto us as unto children?" Do "we despise the chastening of the Lord?" 'Quicken me, Lord, that I may be preserved in a humble, wakeful, listening posture, to hear and improve the message of Your blessing of the sanctified cross.' Do we "faint, when we are rebuked of Him?" "Quicken me, O Lord," that I sink not under the "blow of Your hand." Thus will this Divine influence save us from the horrible sin of being offended with God in our fretting spirit. We shall receive His chastisement with humility without despondency, and with reverence without distrust; hearkening to the voice that speaks, while we tremble under the rod that strikes: yet so mingling fear with confidence, that we may at the same moment adore the hand which we feel, and rest in mercy that is promised. Our best support in the depths of affliction is, prayer for quickening according to Your word! and which of the exercised children of God has ever found one jot, or one tittle of it to fail? "Patience working experience, and experience hope, and hope making not ashamed," in the sense of "the love of God shed abroad upon the heart by the Holy Spirit which is given unto us"—all this is the abundant answer to our prayer, "You who have shown me great and sore troubles, shall quicken me again, and shall bring me up again from the depths of the earth. You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side." Nothing will bear looking back to with comfort, like those trials, which though painful to the flesh, have tended to break our spirit, mold our will, and strengthen the simplicity of our walk with God.
"I am afflicted very much." According to the last verse, he had been sworn in as a soldier of the Lord, and in this next verse he is called to suffer hardness in that capacity. Our service of the Lord does not screen us from trial, but rather secures it for us. The Psalmist was a consecrated man, and yet a chastened man; nor were his chastisements light; for it seemed as if the more he was obedient the more he was afflicted. He evidently felt the rod to be bruising him very grievously, and he pleads before the Lord the greatness of his affliction as a reason why he should be sustained under it by an increase of his inner life. He speaks not by way of murmuring, but by way of pleading; from the very much affliction he argues for very much quickening.
"Quicken me, O LORD, according unto your word." This is the best remedy for tribulation; the soul is raised above the thought of present distress, and is filled with that holy joy which attends all vigorous spiritual life, and so the affliction grows light Jehovah alone can quicken: he has life in himself, and therefore can communicate it readily; he can give us life at any moment, yes, at this present instant; for it is of the nature of quickening to be quick in its operation. The Lord has promised, prepared, and provided this blessing of renewed life for all his waiting servants: it is a covenant blessing, and it is as obtainable as it is needful. Frequently the affliction is made the means of the quickening, even as the stirring of a fire promotes the heat of the flame. In their affliction some desire death; let us pray for life. Our forebodings under trial are often very gloomy; let us entreat the Lord to deal with us, not according to our fears, but according to his own word. David had but few promises to quote, and many of these had been recorded in his own psalms, yet he pleads the word of the Lord; how much more should we do so, since to us so many holy men have spoken by the Spirit of the Lord in that wonderful library which is now our Bible! Seeing we have more promises, let us offer more prayers, and let us exhibit more of the quickening power of the Word.