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The Genius of God in Suffering

The wisdom of God is evident in the various ends which God [works though] afflictions. The attainment of various ends by one and the same means, is the fruit of the agent's prudence. By the same affliction the wise God corrects sometimes for some base affection, excites some sleepy grace, drives out some lurking corruption, refines the soul, and ruins the lust; discovers the greatness of a crime, the vanity of the creature, and the sufficiency in himself.

The Jews bind Paul, and by the judge he is sent to Rome; while his mouth is stopped in Judea, it is opened in one of the greatest cities of the world, and his enemies unwittingly contribute to the increase of the knowledge of Christ by those chains in that city that triumphed over the earth (Acts 28:31).  And his afflictive bonds added courage and resolution to others (Philippians 1:14), which could not in their own nature produce such an effect, but by the order and contrivance of divine wisdom. In their own nature they would rather make them disgust the doctrine he suffered for, and cool their zeal in the propagating of it, for fear of the same disgrace and hardship they saw him suffer. But the wisdom of God changed the nature of these fetters, and conducted them to the glory of his name, the encouragement of others, the increase of the gospel, and the comfort of the apostle himself (Philippians 1:12,18). The sufferings of Paul at Rome confirmed the Philippians, a people at a distance from thence, in the doctrine they had already received at his hands.

Thus God makes sufferings sometimes which appear like judgments to be like the viper on Paul's hand (Acts 28:6), a means to clear up innocence, and procure favour to the doctrine among those barbarians. How often has God multiplied the church by death and massacres, and increased it by those means used to annihilate it. 

STEPHEN CHARNOCK
(Source: Works of Stephen Charnock, Volume II)

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