The support of the word is as sure as its basis—and that in the time when other supports sink—in affliction. David—like his great prototype—was a man of affliction—sometimes ready to perish—always kept up by the law of his God. How many a false professor has been tried and cast by this hour of affliction! But he who has been sifted by temptation—who has "endured the hardness" of persecution, as a "good soldier of Jesus Christ,"—and who is ready rather to be "consumed upon earth," than to shrink from his profession—this is he whom his Master "will lift up, and not make his foes to rejoice over him." It is the established rule of the kingdom, "Them that honor Me I will honor." "Because you have kept the word of My patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth."
The law of God opens to us a clear interest in every perfection of His Godhead—every engagement of His covenant. What wonder then, that it brings delights, which the world can never conceive, when bowed down with accumulated affliction? However the believer's real character may be hidden from the world, the hour of trial abundantly proves, both what the law can do for him, and what a lost creature he would have been without it. In affliction, friends mean well; but of themselves they can do nothing. They can only look on, feel, and pray. They cannot "speak to the heart." This is God's prerogative: and His law is His voice.
But for this support, Jonah probably would have perished in his affliction. In the belly of the fish, as "in the belly of hell," he appears to have recollected the experience of David under deep and awful desertion; and in taking his language out of his mouth, as descriptive of his own dark and terrific condition, a ray of light and hope darted upon his dungeon-walls. Indeed it is a mystery, how a sinner, destitute of the support and comfort of the word of God, can ever uphold himself in his trials. We marvel not, that often "his soul should choose strangling, and death, rather than his life."
But in order to derive support from the law, it must be our delights—yes—that it may be our delights it must be the matter of our faith. For what solid delight, can we have in what we do not believe? Must it not also be our joy in prosperity, if we would realize its support in affliction? For this, how ineffectual is the mere formal service! Who ever tasted its tried consolations in the bare performance of the outward duty? It must be read in reality; it will then be taken as a cordial. Let it be simply received, diligently searched, and earnestly prayed over; and it will guide the heavy-laden to Him, who is their present and eternal rest. The tempest-tossed soul will cast anchor upon it., "Remember the word unto Your servant, upon which You have caused me to hope." One promise applied by the Spirit of God is worth ten thousand worlds. And each promise is a staff—if we have but faith to lean upon it—able to bear our whole weight of sin, care, and trial.
Is then affliction our appointed lot? If "man is born"—and the child of God twice born, "to trouble, as the sparks fly upward,"—how important is it to lay in a store of supply from this inexhaustible treasury, against the time when all human support will fail! Supplied hence with heavenly strength, we shall be borne up above the weakness and weariness of the flesh. And as the riches of this storehouse are "the riches of Christ," let those parts be most familiar to us, which mark His person, His character, offices, life, sufferings, and death, resurrection and glory, together with the promises, encouragements, and prospects directly flowing from this blessed subject—and oh! what a treasure-house shall we find, richly furnished with every source of delight, and every ground of support!
That word which has preserved the heavens and the earth also preserves the people of God in their time of trial. With that word we are charmed; it is a mine of delight to us. We take a double and treble delight in it, and derive a multiplied delight from it, and this stands us in good stead when all other delights are taken from us. We should have felt ready to lie down and die of our griefs if the spiritual comforts of God's word had not uplifted us; but by their sustaining influence we have been borne above all the depressions and despairs which naturally grow out of severe affliction. Some of us can set our seal to this statement. Our affliction, if it had not been for divine grace, would have crushed us out of existence, so that we should have perished. In our darkest seasons nothing has kept us from desperation but the promise of the Lord: yes, at times nothing has stood between us and self-destruction save faith in the eternal word of God. When worn with pain until the brain has become dazed and the reason well-near extinguished, a sweet text has whispered to us its heart-cheering assurance, and our poor struggling mind has reposed upon the bosom of God. That which was our delight in prosperity has been our light in adversity; that which in the day kept us from presuming has in the night kept us from perishing. This verse contains a mournful supposition—"unless"; describes a horrible condition—"perished in my affliction" '; and implies a glorious deliverance; for he did not die, but he lived to proclaim the honors of the word of God.