Afflictions, trials, and sorrows are very bitter things. And they must needs be bitter, for God never meant that they should be otherwise. When he takes the rod, it is to make it felt; and when he brings trouble on his children, it is that they may smart under it. Our text therefore does not, I believe, mean that the "bitter thing" is sweet when it is taken, for then it would cease to be bitter; but it is sweet on account of the blessed nourishment that is brought to the soul out of it.
I remember reading, many years ago, the travels of Franklin to the North Pole; and a very interesting book it is naturally. But there is one incident mentioned in it which just strikes my mind. In wandering over the snows of the circumpolar regions there was no food to be got for days and, I think, weeks, except a lichen or kind of moss that grew upon the rocks, and that was so exceedingly bitter, (something like "Iceland moss,") that it could only be taken with the greatest disgust; and yet upon that Franklin and his companions lived. They had no alternative; they must either eat that or die. But that bitter moss became sweet after it had passed their palates; for it had a nutriment in it which kept their bodies alive. And thus many of God's people, who have endured the most dreadful trials, have afterwards found nutriment to spring out of them.
What bitter things are God's reproofs and rebukes in the conscience! And yet who would be without them? I appeal to you who fear God, whether you would deliberately choose never to experience marks of divine disapprobation, and never feel the frowns of God's anger at any time when you go wrong? I believe in my conscience that you whose hearts are tender in God's fear would say, "Lord, let me have thy frowns; for if I have not thy frowns and a conscience to feel them, what sins should I not recklessly plunge into? Where would not my wicked nature carry me, if I had not thy solemn reproofs!" These very rebukes then become sweet, not in themselves, nor at the time, but because of the solid profit that comes out of them.