Struck by Trial: Why God Sends Affliction and How Christians Should Respond

Editor’s Note: This article was adapted from a sermon given by the author. To get a PDF of his more expanded notes on “The Christian’s Response to Trial”—which include additional quotes by Charles Spurgeon, Matthew Henry, and other commentators—click here.

To purchase the audio lecture of this message, click here.

Death. Betrayal. Sickness. Abuse. Persecution. Rejection. Financial setback. Delay of hopes realized. All of these trials and more are the lot of most Christians during some point in their life.

Whether it is the loss of a close family member or the rebellion of a child, whether it’s the spread of vicious slander or the hope of victory dashed in some key arena, all Christians face hardships in their walk.

The question is: How should those who place their trust in Christ view suffering and respond during such seasons of trial? What is the appropriate posture one should show toward their Maker when affliction comes?

Thomas Boston: A Man Yielded to Christ amidst Sore Affliction

Of all of the Bible commentators throughout Church history, noted Scottish Presbyterian Thomas Boston (1676-1732) offers some of the most penetrating insights into this tough question in his classic work, Crook in the Lot: The Sovereignty and Wisdom of God Displayed in the Afflictions of Men.

Boston’s insights did not arise out of a vacuum, as his personal life was marked by much pain and travail. Among the most difficult trials he endured was the death of six of his ten children when they were yet small.1 Sorrow struck the Boston home early, as the first child his wife Catherine brought into the world was born a double harelip. This baby girl, who was given her mother’s name, was incapable of nursing due to her handicap and died as an infant.2

The young couple was most hard-hit in the years 1707 to 1708 when they lost two baby boys back to back. Boston chose the name “Ebenezer” for the first son, because it represented a pillar of God’s help and mercy in time of need (1 Sam. 7:12). Yet this small pillar was taken from this earth in his infancy. Lamenting the loss of little Ebenezer, Boston wrote: “his death was exceeding afflicting to me, and matter of sharp exercise. To bury his name, was indeed harder than to bury his body. . . .”3

When God blessed Boston and his wife with another little boy the following year, he wrestled with what to name their newborn son. The question, he remarked, “was no small exercise to me . . . when I considered, how that, after the death of Ebenezer, my soul had often said to the Lord, ‘How will this loss be made up?’ And my prayer had still been, that God would give me another pillar to set up.” After much deliberation, he gave the name Ebenezer to this second baby boy.4

Yet the life of this little Ebenezer would also be short-lived. Boston described the scene of his son’s funeral as follows:

When the child was laid in the coffin, his mother kissed his dust. I only lifted the cloth off his face, looked on it, and covered it again. . . . When the nails were driving, I was moved for that I had not kissed [him] . . . and I would fain have caused draw the nail again, but because of one that was present, I restrained . . . myself. . . .5

Despite his sore vexation over this fresh loss, Boston recognized God’s sovereign hand in this hardship and yielded to it submissively, relating the state of his heart with these words:

I see most plainly that sovereignty challenges a latitude, to which I must stoop, and be content to follow the Lord in an untrodden path; and this made me with more ease to bury my second Ebenezer than I could do the first.6

Thomas Boston: A Powerful Witness on Heart Submission in Adversity

Through this anvil of adversity, a great public ministry was forged. Boston’s heart-wrestlings amid affliction drove him to mine relevant texts from Scripture that spoke to his family’s struggles.7 From this careful study, Boston’s pulpit erupted with powerful and stirring messages. George Morrison, who edited his memoirs in later years, remarked:

There was a grip in [his public teaching] that no preacher wins who is a stranger to his own heart. And there was in it a scriptural fullness that nothing but passionate devotion to the Bible gives.8

Boston’s well-spring of insight also flowed freely from his pen; and his book, Human Nature in Its Fourfold State, was widely read and appreciated during his lifetime.

His other most enduring work, however, was not published until after his death. One of the last manuscripts Boston prepared for publication before his passing was The Crook in the Lot.9 The book is based on Ecclesiastes 7:13: “Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?” Building from this text, Boston offers much deep yet practical instruction on how a Christian should consider adversity and respond rightly to it when it comes.10

Boston elaborates on three main points in his book, which will be explored in part in this article:

  • Proposition 1. Whatever crook there is in one’s lot, it is of God’s making.
  • Proposition 2. What God sees fit to mar, no one shall be able to mend in his lot.
  • Proposition 3. The considering of the crook in the lot as the work of God, or of His making, is a proper means to bring us to behave right under it.

PROPOSITION 1—Whatever Crook There is in One’s Lot, It is of God’s Making

Citing numerous biblical texts as a foundation, Boston explains that every challenge we face—every “crook in our lot”—is ordained by the Lord: “God has, by an eternal decree, immovable as mountains of brass, Zechariah 6:1, appointed the whole of every one’s lot, the crooked parts thereof, as well as the straight.”11

In stating this proposition, he is careful to note that God is not the author of sin, yet that He is nonetheless sovereign over it, superintending how sin impacts all of creation—for good or ill:

He holily permits [sinful crooks], suffering men “to walk in their own ways” (Acts 14:16). Though He is not the Author of those sinful crooks, causing them to be by the efficacy of His power, yet, if He did not permit them, willing not to hinder them, they could not be at all; for “He shuts and no man openeth” (Rev. 3:7).12

Boston notes that while sin springs immediately from sinful creatures, God mediates it to accomplish His divine purpose—which includes the bringing of crooks in our lot.13

Why Does God Ordain Crooks of Affliction for the Believer?

The reasons why God sends crooks of affliction in the lives of believers are various, and Boston identifies and discusses many of them—points worthy of careful consideration.

REASON 1: God Ordains Crooks in Our Lot so that We Might Forsake Idolatry

According to Boston, one key reason God sends crooks in our lot is so that that we will be prodded to rid ourselves of idols and wholly delight in Him—for God will suffer no rivals and demands to be exclusively worshipped.

Since the crook in the lot is the special trial appointed for each one, it is altogether reasonable and becoming the wisdom of God that it falls on that which of all things rivals Him [in their thoughts].14

Scripture is clear on how serious God takes idolatry: “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another. . . .” (Isa. 42:8).15

REASON 2: God Ordains Crooks in Our Lot to Humble Our Sinful Pride

Another key reason God sends crooks in our lot is closely related to the first—to humble our sinful pride. Boston writes:

The proud man is God’s rival; he makes himself his own god, and would have those about him make him theirs too. He rages and blusters if they will not fall down before him. But God will bring him down (Isa. 40:4; Ps. 18:27).16

However man may vaunt himself, this truth is inescapable: “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5-6).17

REASON 3: God Ordains Crooks in Our Lot to Correct Us for Sin

God also sends crooks in our lot to correct us for our sins. Boston observes:

In nothing more than in the crook of the lot is that word verified from Jeremiah 2:19: “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and your backslidings shall reprove thee.” God may, for a time, wink at one’s sin, which, afterward He will set a brand of His indignation upon in crooking the sinner’s lot. . . .18

Such discipline is something the Christian should welcome as a sign of the Father’s love, as the Book of Proverbs reminds us: “My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction. For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth” (Prov. 3:11-12).19

REASON 4: God Ordains Crooks in Our Lot to Check Us from Engaging in Further Sin

In yet another purposeful move, God sends crooks in our lot to check us from engaging in further sin that we would otherwise obstinately pursue. Boston explains:

[B]y means of the crook in the lot, the paint and varnish is worn off the defiling object whereby it loses its former taking appearance. Thus, the edge of corrupt affections is blunted, temptation weakened, and much sin prevented; and we find the sinner, after “gadding about so much to change his way, returning ashamed” (Jer. 2:36-37). Thus the Lord crooks one’s lot that “He may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from men,” and so “he keepeth back his soul from the pit” (Job 33:17-18).20

Afflicting crooks have a way of halting a bad trajectory of stubborn sinfulness, jarring us to repent of our sins and change course. We see this pattern borne out in Acts 9 when God dramatically confronted Saul when he was on the road to Damascus. Saul’s decided intent was to persecute the followers of Jesus Christ, but that same Jesus stopped Saul cold in his tracks and blinded him. This dramatic crook in Saul’s lot was a turning point for him, as he forsook the sin he was dead-set on committing and became a mighty herald for the true Gospel.

The Psalmist offers these fitting words on this point: “Before I was afflicted, I went astray: but now have I kept thy word” (Ps. 119:67).

REASON 5: God Ordains Crooks in Our Lot to Discover Our Latent Sins

God also sends crooks in our lot to discover latent corruptions that we don’t realize exist deep down. Boston comments:

There are some corruptions in every man’s heart which lie, as it were, so near the surface that they are ready on every turn to rise up; but then there are others also which lie so very deep that they are scarcely observed at all. But as the fire under the pot makes the scum rise up, appear atop, and run over, so the crook in the lot rises up from the bottom and brings out such corruptions as otherwise one could hardly imagine to be within.21

Boston highlights the errors of Job, who charged God with cruelty (Job 30:21), and the Prophet Jeremiah, who cursed the day of his birth (Jer. 20:14-15), as examples of two men who were righteous on the whole, but whose latent sins were exposed when hardship struck.22

REASON 6: God Ordains Crooks in Our Lot to Confirm Our Pedigree as Believers

As a sovereign reality check, God sends crooks in our lot to demonstrate our pedigree as true believers. Boston notes:

The crook in your lot is the special trial God has chosen for you to take your measure by (1 Pet. 1:6-7). It is God’s fire, whereby He tries what metal men are made of; it is heaven’s touchstone for discovering true and counterfeit Christians.23

True Christians will face trials, and those who don’t are not of the elect. The Apostle Paul put it matter-of-factly to Timothy: “. . . all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:10-12).24

While acknowledging that trials are a given for believers, the Apostle Peter urged beleaguered saints to rejoice in their affliction as fellow sufferers with Christ:

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. (1 Pet. 4:12-13)

REASON 7: God Ordains Crooks in Our Lot to Draw Out Greater Graces in Us

Finally, God sends crooks in our lot to draw forth greater graces in us that would not otherwise emerge; to conform us more fully to Christ’s image. Boston remarks:

Believers, through the remains of indwelling corruption, are liable to fits of spiritual laziness and inactivity, in which their graces lie dormant for the time. . . . Now, the crook in the lot serves to rouse up a Christian . . . [and] gives rise to many acts of faith, hope, love, self-denial, resignation, and other graces; to many heavenly breathings, pantings, and groanings, which otherwise would not be brought forth. . . .25

In his New Testament epistle, James affirms that Christian graces are refined through travail and—just as Peter did—he calls for believers to embrace a joyful outlook through the process:

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. (James 1:2-4)

PROPOSITION 2—What God Sees Fit to Mar, No One Shall Be Able to Mend in His Lot

Boston’s second main proposition is this: What God sees fit to mar, no one shall be able to mend in his lot.

In introducing this point, he raises the main text for his study into laser focus: “Consider the work of God: for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?” (Ecclesiastes 7:13). Expounding on this verse, Boston states:

As to the crook in your lot, God has made it; and it must continue while He would have it so. Should you apply your utmost force to even it or make it straight, your attempt will be in vain; it will not alter it in spite of all that you can do. Only He who made it can mend it and make it straight. This consideration, this view of the matter, is a proper means to silence and satisfy men, and so to bring them into a dutiful submission to their Maker and Governor under the crook in their lot.26

PROPOSITION 3—The Considering of the Crook in the Lot as the Work of God, or of His Making, is a Proper Means to Bring us to Behave Right under It

Given that the crooks in our lot are of God’s making, how are we to respond? What’s the right way to behave under such circumstances?

Boston’s answers to these questions are both illuminating and practical.

DIRECTIVE 1: We Must Not Despair and Give Up Serving Others Due to Lingering Crooks in Our Lot

Adversity often results in profound discouragement for those whose eyes are not fixed on their Savior, with even the best of men losing heart. Boston notes:

Jeremiah met with such a train of discouragements and ill-usage in the exercise of His sacred function that he was very near giving up, saying, “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak any more His name” (Jer. 20:9).27

Though the clouds be ever dark, we must not despair. We must not resign ourselves in uncaring apathy and disengage, even when unresolved challenges plague us.28 We must actively minister to others in the hope of Christ, come what may. Boston offers these uplifting words:

Look for the streams as running as full from Him as ever it did or could run when the crook of the lot has dried it. This is the work of faith, confidently to dpend on God. . . .  Seek grace to bear up under the crook . . . [and] [k]eep in your eye the eternal rest and weight of glory. . . .29

DIRECTIVE 2: We Must Not Question God’s Sense of Justice in Ordaining Crooks in Our Lot

Boston’s warm tone toward the disheartened turns confrontational in response to those who would scorn God’s sense of justice in ordaining crooks in their lot:

[I]t is really madness for the potsherds of the earth, by their turbulent and refractory carriage under it, to strive with their Maker. And His beneficence to us, ill-deserving creatures may well stop our mouth from complaining of His making a crook in our lot, who would have done us no wrong had He made the whole of it crooked. “Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10)30

Boston’s point is this: We must not raise our fist at God and charge Him with inequity in our circumstance, however hard and seemingly “unfair” it may be. It’s God’s prerogative to buffet us with hardships, and when He does, we are not to find fault with Him. As Sovereign of the universe, His way is perfect. And while we may not fully understand the good of our trial in the moment, God does all things well (Mark 7:37), and we are to except His will as just.31

DIRECTIVE 3: We Must Not Strive for Our Own Selfish Way amidst Trials, but Yield to God’s Divine Purpose

Cutting to the chase, Boston calls on believers to cease striving with God for their own selfish way amidst trials and to submit to His divine purpose:

It is better to yield to Providence than to fight it out. . . . Yielding to the sovereign disposal is both our becoming duty and our greatest interest. Taking that way, we act most honorably; for what honor can there be in the creature’s disputing his ground with his Creator? And we act most wisely, for whatever may be the success of some battles in that case, we may be sure that victory will be on heaven’s side in the war. I Samuel 2:9: “For by strength shall no man prevail.”32

Put another way: We must not make an idolatry of our personal vision for the future and enthrone our expectations above God’s purpose. When He ordains crooks in our lot to check our ill designs, we must acquiesce—not brazenly attempt to bulldoze through these roadblocks to get our own way.

If we try to out-wit God, we’ll be check-mated, as Balaam was (Num. 22:21-35). Neither can we over-power Him: Jacob’s all-night wrestling match with the Almighty must not be misinterpreted (Gen. 32:22-32), for—absent God’s willing condescension—no man can best Him in a duel.

Proverbs 16:9 states the matter plainly: “A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.”33 With this in mind, Boston concludes: “What we cannot mend, let us bear Christianly, and not fight against God, and so kick against the pricks.”34

DIRECTIVE 4: We Must Humble Ourselves in the Fear of God

Boston devotes a large portion of The Crook in the Lot contrasting pride and humility and explaining where both lead—one to judgment and the other to God’s favor.

His cry is for all to bow their hearts before the all-powerful Creator in humble reverence: “Be much in the thoughts of God’s infinite greatness; consider His holiness and majesty, to awe you into the deepest humiliation (Isaiah 6:35).”35 Those who assume such a posture will recognize their weakness and finitude:

Lowliness levels the towering imaginations which pride mounts up against heaven; it draws a veil over all personal worth and excellencies before the Lord, and yields a man’s all to the Lord to be as stepping-stones to the throne of his glory (2 Sam. 15:25-26).36

Boston makes his point crystal clear: The path to please God is the path of humility, as the Prophet Isaiah declared: “. . . to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isa. 66:2).

Humility, Boston maintains, brings a man low and is the only route to heaven’s favor. Apart from it, no man should expect the crook in their lot to be straightened.

DIRECTIVE 5: We Must Persevere in Prayer, Seeking God’s Will with a Sincere Faith

Though cloaked in sobriety, Boston’s outlook is one of hope to believers, whom he exhorts to persevere in prayer to the Lord. He states that God delights to answer His people who call upon Him in their time of need:

[God] loves to be employed in evening crooks, and calls us to employ Him that way. Psalm 50:15: “Call on like in the day of trouble and I will deliver you.” He makes them for that very end, that He may bring us to Him on that errand, and may manifest His power and goodness in evening of them. The straits of the children of men afford a large field for displaying His glorious perfections. . . .37

Even in appealing for relief amidst affliction, the redeemed should seek God’s will above their own with a sincere faith: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

DIRECTIVE 6: We Must Be Content, Believing that God Will Mend Our Crooks in His Due Time

Boston counsels God’s people to be content with crooks in their lot, noting that afflictions often intensify before relief comes:

The humbling circumstances are ordinarily carried to the utmost point of hopelessness before the lifting up occurs. The knife was at Isaac’s throat before the voice was heard. . . . Things soon seem to us arrived at that point; such is the hastiness of our spirits. But things may have far to go down after we think they are at the foot of the hill.38

When we are pushed to the utter brink, we are to wait on Christ who will rescue us in His perfect time:

Wait patiently till the Hand that made it mend it (Ps. 27:14). Do not give up the matter as hopeless, because you are not so soon relieved as you would wish. . . . Leave the timing of the deliverance to the Lord. His time will at length, to conviction, appear the best, and it will not go beyond it. Isaiah 60:22: “I, the Lord, will hasten it in his time.” Waiting on Him you will not be disappointed. “For they shall not be ashamed that wait for Me” (Isa. 49:23).39

Though we see through a glass dimly in our distress, Boston notes that—in the end—we will realize that God was most wise to resolve our crooks when He did:

[W]hen all the circumstances, always foreknown to God, shall come to be opened out and laid together before us, we shall then see the lifting up is come in the time most for the honor of God and our good, and that it would not have done so well sooner.40

Boston’s Heart-Cry: “He Hath Done All Things Well”

One of the Scripture texts Thomas Boston most treasured was Mark 7:37: “. . . He hath done all things well.”

Boston quotes this verse repeatedly throughout his personal memoirs, which he began finalizing in earnest during the last years of his life.41 In writing of his experiences, this pastor, husband, and father does not hold back in sharing the painful challenges he endured, including the heartache of losing six children to early death, the struggle of contending with false doctrine in the church, and the reproach of being slandered by hateful men. Yet, through it all, he voices a hopeful belief that these trials were carefully orchestrated by God to do him good:

[God] brought me through many difficulties, tried me through various disappointments, at length carried it to the utmost point of hopelessness . . . and it made way for some things which Providence saw needful for me. . . . reflecting on my troubles, I clearly saw the need of them, with a deal of convincing prayer, and my soul was made to see God’s love in them all, and from my heart I was made to say, he had done all things well.42

It was this theme that Boston brought to his pulpit in a series entitled “The Crook in the Lot” which he began teaching on September 13, 1730.43 Six weeks after commencing this study with his flock, he penned a letter to his four surviving children, leaving them his completed memoirs. “My Dear Children”—he wrote to John, Jane, Alison, and Thomas—“I hope you will find some things in them worthy of your imitation.”44

Once his sermon series on “The Crook in the Lot” was delivered, Boston began preparing his notes from it for publication. But due to failing health, he did not complete the task, passing away on May 20, 1732. The work was typeset and published posthumously in 1737 and remains in print today.45

From a life “enriched by love and sorrow,” Boston gave the world precious gems of wisdom and comfort rarely paralleled in all of literature.46 Biographer Andrew Thomson describes how his treatise has reverberated throughout the generations, giving hope to those burdened by travail:

While written by him in decaying health . . . there is a freshness in almost every page. . . . How many a sorrowing heart, from those days onward through the ages, has drunk consolation from The Crook in the Lot, and found the bitter waters of Marah turned to sweetness.47

Conclusion

Boston’s message is one of supreme hope: Though storms rage unabated, we can take sweet consolation in Christ. When thorns in our flesh go unremoved, He will grant us the strength to bear them. Whether we are struck by death, betrayal, sickness, abuse, rejection, financial setback—or the delay of some hope realized—God’s grace is sufficient. He promises that His strength will be made perfect in our weakness—for when we are weak, He is strong (2 Cor. 12:7-10).

May we learn to praise and thank Him who does all things well. May we humbly yield, in hope, to His perfect will, though crooks remain in our lot.

Footnotes

  1. Noted in Philip Ryken’s commentary on Ecclesiastes 7:13. See: Philip Graham Ryken, Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010).
  2. See: Andrew Thomson, Thomas Boston of Ettrick: His Life and Times (London, Edinburgh, and New York: T. Nelson and Sons, 1895), pp. 72-74. Hereafter cited as “Thomson.”
  3. Thomas Boston, Memoirs of the Life, Times, and Writings, of the Rev. Thomas Boston, of Ettrick (Aberdeen: George and Robert King, 1852), p. 200. Hereafter cited as “Memoirs.”
  4. Ibid., p. 205.
  5. Ibid., p. 207.
  6. Ibid.
  7. According to biographer Andrew Thomson, Boston himself acknowledged that “afflictions not infrequently found his texts for him, and that those sermons were the most profitable to others which had taken their shape and coloring from his personal and family history, and had been suggested by the events of his own life.” Recorded in: Thomson, p. 75.
  8. George Morrison wrote this statement in the introduction to the new edition of Memoirs of the Life, Time, and Writings of Thomas Boston (published in 1899), which is included in and quoted from: Thomas Boston, Human Nature in Its Fourfold State (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1964), p. 11.
  9. Noted in Philip Ryken’s commentary on Ecclesiastes 7:13. See: Philip Graham Ryken, Ecclesiastes: Why Everything Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010).
  10. All excerpts from Boston’s classic work used in this article are quoted from the following edition: Thomas Boston, The Crook in the Lot: The Sovereignty of God Displayed in the Afflictions of Men (Morgan, PA: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2001). Hereafter cited as “Crook.
  11. Crook, p. 19. For more study on this point, see: Amos 3:6; Deuteronomy 32:39; Exodus 4:11; Daniel 4:34-35; Romans 11:34-36; and the London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 2, Section 2, “Of God and the Holy Trinity.”
  12. Crook, p. 21. Also see: 1 John 1:16 and the London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 5, Section 4, “On Divine Providence.”
  13. Boston writes that “although the crook in your lot is indeed immediately from the creature’s hand, yet it is mediately from the hand of God.” Crook, p. 38.
  14. Crook, p. 12.
  15. Also see: Luke 4:8, Deuteronomy 6:5, and I Samuel 7:3-5.
  16. Crook, pp. 82-83.
  17. Also see: 2 Samuel 2:3-4, Daniel 4:37, and Matthew 23:11-12.
  18. Crook, p. 28. Also see: Psalm 89:30-32 and Habakkuk 1:12.
  19. Also see: Hebrews 12:5-13.
  20. Crook, p. 29. Also see: Hosea 2:6, Psalm 119:71, and Proverbs 29:15.
  21. Crook, pp. 29-30.
  22. Crook, p. 30.
  23. Crook, p. 55.
  24. Also see: 1 Thessalonians 3:2-4.
  25. Crook, pp. 30-31.
  26. Crook, p. 3.
  27. Crook, p. 14.
  28. This lesson is well expressed in the life of the Prophet Elijah, who wanted to quit his ministry and die in light of the widespread idolatry, religious syncretism, fierce religious persecution, and unbridled statism that characterized Israel during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel. Yet God confronted Elijah in his despair and called on him to perform greater discipleship duties in Israel (I Kings 19). See I Kings 16:29 through Chapter 22:40 to examine the more full narrative of this period.
  29. Crook, pp. 51, 52.
  30. Crook, p. 40. Boston fires this additional salvo against those who would charge God with injustice: “. . . [E]ven good men are much prejudiced in their own behalf, and may so far forget themselves as to think God deals His favours unequally, and is mighty severe on them more than others. . . . there is readily a greater keenness to vindicate our own honor from the imputation the humbling circumstances seem to lay on it than to vindicate the honor of God in the justice and equity of the dispensation. . . . But God is a jealous God, and when He appears sufficiently to humble, He will cause the matter of our honor to give way to the vindication of His.” pp. 142-143.
  31. Also see: Isaiah 45:9 and Romans 9:12-23.
  32. Crook, p. 87.
  33. Also see: Proverbs 19:21 and Jeremiah 10:23….
  34. Crook, p. 53.
  35. Crook, p. 106.
  36. Crook, p. 74.
  37. Crook, p. 47.
  38. Crook, p. 140.
  39. Crook, p. 50.
  40. Crook, p. 139.
  41. For examples of his use of Mark 7:37, see: Memoirs, pp. 146, 344, 443, 488.
  42. Ibid., p. 17, 141.
  43. Ibid., p. 414.
  44. Ibid., p. vii, letter dated October 28,1730. There is indeed much worthy of imitation in Boston’s Memoirs. A closing editorial remark in the 1852 edition puts their value in perspective: “[The] principle upon which the narrative in these memoirs is founded, is, ‘That God hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.’ This principle the author believed with his whole heart; it was often an anchor to his soul. . . . Inured to afflictions, as well personal as domestic, he bore them with that quiet submission, an unreluctant resignation. . . . Viewing them as originating from his heavenly Father, the habitual language of his heart was, ‘Shall I receive all good at the hand of God, and shall I not receive evil?’” p. 448.
  45. Ibid., p. 443.
  46. George Morrison used this phrase in his introduction to the new edition of Memoirs of the Life, Time, and Writings of Thomas Boston (published in 1899), which is included in and quoted from: Thomas Boston, Human Nature in Its Fourfold State (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1964), p. 7.
  47. Thomson, 215.

About the Author:

Wesley Strackbein is the Director of Unbroken Faith Ministries, an outreach of the Strackbein family. He has a passion to proclaim the sufficiency of the Scripture for all of life and the great deeds of God in history. Wesley has edited numerous books, including Life is But a Vapor: The Life & Letters of Michael G. Billings and John Calvin: Man of the Millennium. He has also produced numerous films, including The League of Grateful Sons, The Mysterious Islands, as well as the new documentary recently completed by the Strackbeins, Anchored: A Grandfather’s Legacy, which brings to life a rich family heritage that stands behind Unbroken Faith Ministries—God’s faithful witness through the Holdens over five generations.

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