When Hezekiah said, “By these things men live,” he meant that by these trials and deliverances, by these sinkings and risings, strippings and clothings, emptyings and fillings, “by these things men,” that is, spiritual men, “live.” It is a mystery, but a great truth, that just in proportion as we die to the world, to self, to sense, to nature, and to false religion, the more the life of God is strengthened in our conscience. The Lord, perhaps, has taught some of you this truth through great afflictions. But when these trials came upon you at the first, it seemed as though they would entirely overwhelm you; they took away your standing, and it appeared as though they had destroyed your faith and hope.
But though these floods of temptation passed over the soul, they swept away nothing but rubbish, which until then was mistaken for the inward teachings of God the Spirit. So far then from these afflictions overwhelming your faith, you found that faith was secretly strengthened by the very flood that threatened at first to drown it. True faith is no more destroyed by sharp trials, than the oak is destroyed by cutting away the ivy, or by a storm blowing down some of its rotten branches. And thus, as the oak, the more the winds blow upon it, takes a firmer root in the soil; so the storms and tempests that blow upon the soul, only cause it to take a firmer hold of the truth, and to strike its fibers more deeply into the Person, love, work, and blood of Jesus. So that, “by these things men live,” for through them, the life of God is maintained and kept up in the soul, the Holy Spirit secretly strengthening it by the very things that seemed to threaten it with destruction.