3. Four Characteristics of a Crook
More particularly, the crook in the lot hath in it four things of the nature of that which is crooked.
a. It runs contrary to what we desire
Boston describes this as being “disagreeable” and “wayward”. A crook is something which runs “crooked”. But this crookedness is only apparent, and can only be seen from our point of view:
First, Disagreeableness. A crooked thing is wayward; and being laid to a rule answers it not, but declines from it.
But this is not the ultimate truth of the matter. From the perspective of God the matter is straight:
There is not in any body’s lot, any such thing as a crook in respect of the will and purpose of God. Take the most harsh and dismal dispensation in one’s lot, and lay it to the eternal decree, made in the depths of infinite wisdom, before the world began, and it will answer it exactly without the least deviation, all things being wrought after the counsel of his will, Eph. 1:11. Lay it to the providential will of God, in the government of the world, and there is a perfect harmony.
He then takes one of many possible examples:
If Paul is to be bound at Jerusalem, and delivered into the hands of the Gentiles, it is the will of the Lord it should be so, Acts 21:11, 14. Wherefore the greatest crook of the lot, on earth, is straight in heaven: there is no disagreeableness in it there.
Boston then repeats the point: there will something crooked in the sense that we find it disagreeable. But when this is compared to what God intends, it is not a crooked line but a perfectly placed dispensation:
But in every body’s lot there is a crook in respect of their mind and natural inclination. The adverse dispensation lies cross to that rule, and will by no means answer it, nor harmonize with it. When divine Providence lays the one to the other, there is a manifest disagreeableness: the man’s will goes one way, and the dispensation another way; the will bends upward, the cross events presseth down: so they are contrary. And there, and only there, lies the crook.
And here Boston draws out an additional: The disagreeableness of the dispensation is part of its purpose. To walk by faith, and not by sight, is to trust God and follow in what he has laid before us even when our path is so disagreeable. Do you trust that God is sovereign, good, and wise? Then the path upon which you must walk is straight even though to sight it is crooked:
It is this disagreeableness which makes the crook in the lot fit matter of exercise and trial to us, in this our state of probation: in the which, if thou wouldst approve thyself to God, walking by faith, not by sight, thou must quiet thyself in the will and purpose of God, and not insist that it should be according to thy mind, Job 34:23.
b. It is a disagreeable sight
The crook is something which is grievous to our sense:
Secondly, Unsightliness. Crooked things are unpleasant to the eye: and no crook in the lot seemeth to be joyous, but grievous, making but an unsightly appearance, Heb. 12:11.
From this, Boston draws a bit of practical counsel: Do not spend your effort brooding over the difficulty of your circumstance. I think of Psalm 3, wherein David sees his plight, turns it over to God, and then goes to sleep.
Therefore men need to beware of giving way to their thoughts to dwell on the crook in their lot, and of keeping it too much in view. David shews a hurtful experience in his, in that kind, Psal. 39:3. “While I was musing, the fire burned.”…
If we are going to take a view to our circumstance, that sight of faith must be a sight taken “in light of the holy word”:
Indeed a Christian may safely take a steady and leisurely view of the crook of his lot in the light of the holy word, which represents it as the discipline of the covenant. So faith will discover a hidden slightness in it under a very unsightly outward appearance; perceiving the suitableness thereof to the infinite goodness, love, and wisdom of God, and to the real and most valuable interest of the party; by which means one comes to take pleasure, and that a most refined pleasure in distresses, 2 Cor. 12:10. But whatever the crook in the lot be to the eye of faith, it is not at all pleasant to the eye of sense.
c. A crook can leave us emotionally uneven
This particular element is a bit difficult to follow in Boston’s explanation. As I understand it, he is speaking of the emotional moves which take place when confronted with a crook:
Thirdly, Unfitness for motion. Solomon observes the cause of the uneasy and ungraceful walking of the lame, Prov. 26:7. “The legs of the lame are not equal.” This uneasiness they find who are exercised about the crook in their lot: a high spirit and a low adverse lot, makes great difficulty in the Christian walk.
This uneven movement leaves us vulnerable to sin and temptation:
There is nothing that gives temptation more easy access, than the crook in the lot; nothing more apt to occasion out-of-the-way steps. Therefore saith the apostle, Heb. 12:13. “Make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way.”
And here he shows pastoral sympathy:
They are to be pitied then who are labouring under it, and not to be rigidly censured; though they are rare persons who learn this lesson, till taught by their own experience. It is long since Job made an observe in this case, which holds good unto this day, Job 12:5. “He that is ready to slip with his feet, is as a lamp despised in the thought of him that is at ease.”
d. The emotional entanglement of the crook:
The trouble provokes a strong emotional response, as we all know from experience:
Lastly, Aptness to catch hold and entangle, as with fish hooks, Amos 4:2. The crook in the lot doth so very readily make impression, to the ruffling and fretting of one’s spirit, irritating corruption,
And this irritation becomes an opportunity for temptation:
that Satan fails not to make diligent use of it to these dangerous purposes: the which point once gained by the tempter, the tempted, ere he is aware, finds himself intangled as in a thicket, out of which he knows not how to extricate himself. In that temptation it often proves like a crooked stick troubling a standing pool; the which not only raiseth up the mud all over, but brings up from the bottom some very ugly thing.
For proof of this point, he considers Psalm 73:
Thus it brought up a spice of blasphemy and Atheism in Asaph’s case, Psal. 73:13. “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocence.” As if he had said, There is nothing at all in religion, it is a vain and empty thing that profiteth nothing; I was a fool to have been careful about purity and holiness, whether of heart or life. Ah! is this the pious Asaph! How is he turned so quite unlike himself!
The trouble stirs up our heart. Temptation taking advantage fishes out the sin which remains in our flesh (why this is a good thing is not explained at this point);
But the crook in the lot is a handle, whereby the tempter makes surprising discoveries of latent corruption, even in the best.