John Newton “Benefit of Affliction”

“I know, O Lord, that Your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness You have afflicted me!” Psalm 119:75


“God disciplines us for our good—that we may share in His holiness.” Hebrews 12:10


In Scripture, we read much concerning the emptiness, vanity and uncertainty of the present world. When our minds are enlightened by the Holy Spirit—then we receive and acknowledge what His Word declares to be truth. Yet if we remain long without changes and trials, and when our path is very smooth—we are for the most part but faintly affected with what we profess to believe. But when some of our dearest friends die, or we ourselves are brought low with pain and sickness—then we not only say, but feel that this world must not, cannot be our rest!  We know by experience, that though afflictions in themselves are not joyous—but grievous—yet in due season they yield the peaceful fruits of righteousness. Various are the blessed fruits which afflictions produce:  By affliction, prayer is quickened—for our prayers are very apt to grow languid and formal in a time of ease.   Affliction greatly helps us to understand the Scriptures, especially the promises; most of which are made to times of trouble. We cannot so well know their fullness, sweetness and certainty—as when we have been in the situation to which they are suited, have been enabled to trust and plead them, and found them fulfilled in our own case.

We are usually indebted to affliction—as the means or occasion of the most signal discoveries we are favored with—of the wisdom, power, and faithfulness of the Lord. These are best observed by the evident proofs we have—that He is near to support us under trouble, and that He can and does deliver us out of it.  Likewise, many of our graces cannot thrive or manifest themselves, without trials—such as resignation, patience, meekness and long-suffering. Strength of grace is not ordinarily acquired by those who sit still and live at ease.  Afflictions do us good likewise, as they make us more acquainted with what is in our own hearts, and thereby promote humiliation and self-abasement. There are abominations which, like nests of vipers, lie so quietly within our hearts, that we hardly suspect they are there—until the rod of affliction rouses them! Then they hiss and spit their venom! This discovery is indeed very distressing—yet, until it is made, we are prone to think ourselves much less vile than we really are, and cannot so heartily abhor ourselves and repent in dust and ashes.

I must write a sermon rather than a letter—if I would enumerate all the good fruits which, by the power of sanctifying grace, are produced from this bitter tree of affliction!  While we have such a depraved nature, and live in such a polluted world; while the roots of pride, vanity, self-dependence and self-seeking, are so strong within us—we need a variety of sharp afflictions to keep us from cleaving to the dust!


“Before I was afflicted I went astray—but now I obey Your Word.” Psalm 119:67