He that has never known adversity is but half acquainted with others, or with himself. Constant success shows us but one side of the world. For, as it surrounds us with friends, who will tell us only our merits, so it silences those enemies from whom alone we can learn our defects.
In the struggles of ambition, in violent competitions for power or for glory, how slender the partition between the widest extremes of fortune, and how few the steps and apparently slight the circumstances which sever the throne from the prison, the palace from the tomb! So Tibni died, says the sacred historian, with inimitable simplicity, and Omri reigned.
Concerning deliverance itself from all adversity we use not to say, Men are in adversity, whensoever they feel any small hindrance of their welfare in this world; but when some notable affliction or cross, some great calamity or trouble, befalleth them.
All is well as long as the sun shines and the fair breath of heaven gently wafts us to our own purposes. But if you will try the excellency and feel the work of faith, place the man in a persecution; let him ride in a storm; let his bones be broken with sorrow, and his eyelids loosed with sickness; let his bread be dipped with tears, and all the daughters of music be brought low; let us come to sit upon the margin of our grave, and let a tyrant lean hard upon our fortunes and dwell upon our wrong; let the storm arise, and the keels toss till the cordage crack, or that all our hopes bulge under us, and descend into the hollowness of sad misfortunes.
Some kinds of adversity are chiefly of the character of TRIALS and others of DISCIPLINE. But Bacon does not advert to this difference, nor say anything at all about the distinction between discipline and trial; which are quite different in themselves, but often confounded together. By discipline is to be understood anythingwhether of the character of adversity or notthat has a direct tendency to produce improvement, or to create some qualification that did not exist before; and by trial, anything that tends to ascertain what improvement has been made, or what qualities exist. Both effects may be produced at once; but what we speak of is, the proper character of trial, as such, and of discipline, as such.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Adversity.