A Word in Season to Suffering Saints

The special presence of God with His people,
in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses,
and most deadly dangers.

By Thomas Brooks, London, 1675
 

The next use is a use of exhortation, to exhort all the people of God so to live and conduct themselves, as to keep the divine presence—as to keep the special, the singular presence of God, with them in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers. Now that this may stick in power upon your souls, consider seriously of these following motives:
 

[1.] First, to exhort all the people of God so to live and conduct themselves, so as to keep the divine presence—so as to keep the special, the singular presence of God with them in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, consider—that the special presence of God with his people, puts the greatest imaginable honor, dignity, and glory upon them. Isaiah 43:2, 4; Jer. 13:11; Ezek. 48:35. There are many titles of honor among men; but this, above all, is the truly honorable title—that we have God so near unto us. Deut. 4:7, "What nation is there so great, who has God so near unto them, as the Lord our God is to us?" While his presence was among them—how honorable, how renowned were they all the world over! But when he departed from them they became the scorn and contempt of all nations. It may be said of some men, they have large estates—but not the presence of God with them; they are highly honored and dignified in the world—but no presence of God with them; they have great trades and vast riches—but no presence of God with them; they are nobly related—but no presence of God with them; they have singular abilities and accomplishments—but no presence of God with them. The lack of the divine presence gives a stain, casts a blot upon all their grandeurs and worldly glory; and turns all their wine, be it ever so rich—into ink and blackness.

What a deal of honor and glory did the presence of God cast upon Joseph in prison, Gen. 39:19-20; and upon Daniel in the den; and upon the three Hebrew children in the fiery furnace; and upon David, when a persecuting Saul could cry out, "You are more righteous than I," 1 Sam. 24:17; and upon John, when a bloody Herod feared him and observed him, Mark 6:20; and upon Paul, when a tyrannical Felix trembled before him, Acts 24:25; as if Paul had been the judge, and Felix the prisoner at the bar.

Some write of the crystal, that whatever stone it touches, it puts a luster and loveliness upon it. The presence of God puts the greatest luster, beauty, glory, and loveliness—which can be put upon a person. Now because the witness of an adversary is a double testimony, let Balaam—who, as some write of a toad, had a pearl in his head, though his heart was vile, very vile, stark vile—give in his evidence. "How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, and your tabernacles, O Israel," Num. 24:5. He speaks both by way of interrogation and admiration: their tents are so lovely, and their tabernacles so lovely, that their grand enemy was affected and ravished with them. But whence is it that Israel is so formidable and dreadful in his eye? How does this come about—that he who came to fight against them thinks them beyond all comparison; more—that he himself admires their great glory and brave gallantry? Why, all is from the presence of their Lord-General with them: "The Lord their God is with them!" Num. 23:21.

It is the highest honor, renown, and dignity of a people to have God in the midst of them, to have God near unto them. Thus Moses sets out the honor and dignity of the Jews: "The LORD has declared this day that you are his people, his treasured possession as he promised, and that you are to keep all his commands. He has declared that he will set you in praise, fame and honor high above all the nations he has made and that you will be a people holy to the LORD your God, as he promised." Deuteronomy 26:18-19. When God reckons up the dignities of his people, this is the main, the top, of all: Psalm 87:5, "Indeed, of Zion it will be said—This one and that one were born in her, and the Most High himself will establish her." If you would keep your honor and dignity, keep the presence of God in the midst of you. When God is departed from Israel, then you may write Ichabod upon Israel; "The glory is departed from Israel," 1 Sam. 4:21-22. But,
 

[2.] Secondly, to exhort all the people of God so to live and conduct themselves, so as to keep the divine presence—so as to keep the special, the singular presence of God with them in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, consider—that nothing can make up the lack of this special presence of God. It is not the presence of friends, of relations, of ministers, of ordinances, of outward comforts—which can make up the lack of God's presence. It is neither candlelight, nor torchlight, nor starlight, nor moonlight, which can make up the light of the sun. When the sun is set behind a thick cloud, all the world cannot make it day; and when the presence of God is withdrawn, nothing can make up that dismal loss. "You hid your face—and I was troubled," Psalm 30:6-7, that is, you suspended the actual influence and communication of your grace and favor. The Chaldee has it, "You hid your Shechinah, your divine presence—and I was all—amort, dead, stunned, confused." It was not David's crown, his kingdom, his riches, his dignities, his royal attendance, etc., which could make up the loss of the face of God; neither is it the presence of an angel that can make up the lack of the presence of God.

Exod. 33:2, "I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites." God here promises Moses that he would send an angel before them—but he adds that he himself would not go up in the midst of them. Yes—but such a guide, such a guardian, such a companion, such a captain-general would not satisfy Moses.

"Moses said unto God--If Your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here!" Exod. 33:15. Nothing would satisfy Moses, below the presence of God, because he knew that it would be better that they should never move a foot farther--as to go on without God's favorable presence. God promises that His angel will drive all their enemies out of the land. "Oh, but if Your Presence does not go with us--do not send us up from here!"

"Yes, but, I will bring the necks of all your proud, stout, strong, and subtle enemies under your feet." "Oh, but if Your Presence does not go with us--do not send us up from here!"

"Yes, but, I will bring you to a land flowing with milk and honey. I will make you to ride on the high places of the earth, and I will make you to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock; and you shall drink the finest wine." "Oh, but if Your Presence does not go with us--do not send us up from here!"

"Yes, but, I will bring you to the paradise of the world, to a place of pleasure and delight, to Canaan, a type of heaven!" "Oh, but if Your Presence does not go with us--do not send us up from here! O Lord, if I might have my wish, my desire, my choice, I had infinitely rather to live in a barren, howling wilderness with Your Presence, than in Canaan without it! It is a mercy to have an angel to guard us, it is a mercy to have our enemies sprawling under our feet, it is a mercy to be brought into a pleasant land. Oh, but if Your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here! Lord, nothing will please us, nothing will profit us, nothing will secure us, nothing will satisfy us--without your presence!

I have read of the Tyrians, that they bound their gods with chains, that they might have them in their greatest need--and not be conquered by their enemies. And among the rest, they chained and nailed their god Apollo to a post--that they might be sure to keep their idol, because they thought their safety was in it.

I am sure--that our safety, our comfort, our all--lies in the special Presence of God with us! Therefore let us, by faith and prayer--chain God to ourself! If we let Him go, a thousand worlds cannot make up His absence!

You may have heard of the heathens in Troy; they imagined that so long as that idol was kept safe, they were unconquerable; all the strength and power of Greece would never be able to prevail against them. Therefore the Grecians sought by all the means they could, to get this idol from them. O my friends, so long as you keep the Presence of God with you—I am sure you are unconquerable! But if God withdraws His special presence—the weakest enemy will be too hard for you; yes, wounded men will prevail over you! Jer. 37:10, "Even if you were to destroy the entire Babylonian army, leaving only a handful of wounded survivors, they would still stagger from their tents and burn this city to the ground!"

The burning bush, which was a type of the church, was not consumed while it burned with fire—because God was in the midst of it. Oh, do but keep God's special Presence with you—and nothing shall hurt you, nothing shall burn you! But if God's special Presence departs—nothing can secure you! Nothing can make up his withdrawing from you. But,
 

[3.] Thirdly, if you do not labor to live and conduct yourselves so that you may enjoy the favorable, special, and eminent presence of God with you in your greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers—you have high reason to question whether you have ever really enjoyed this favorable, this special presence of God with you or not; for there are always four things to be found in him who has really tasted, and in good earnest experienced, the sweet, the life, the power, the virtue—which is in the favorable special presence of God—

(1.) Such a person sets the highest price and value imaginable upon it, he prizes it above all the honors, riches, dignities, delights, comforts, and contentments of this world, Psalm 4:6-7; yes, he prizes it above life itself: Psalm 63:3, "Your loving-kindness is better than life." The Hebrew is plural, lives. The loving-kindness of God, the presence of God in a wilderness, is better than lives, than many lives, than all lives with all their contentments. There is a greater excellency in the favor of God, in the presence of God—than in all lives put together. There have been many people that have been weary of their lives—but there never was any man who has been weary of the favor of God, of the presence of God, 1 Kings 19:4; Job 7:15; Jonah 4:8; Proverbs 33:14.

(2.) Such a person keeps up in his soul a humble fear of losing of it. The divine presence is a jewel more worth than all the world, and he who has experienced the sweetness of it had rather lose all he has in this world than lose the divine presence. I have read of a pious woman, that having born nine children, professed that she had rather endure all the pains of those nine travails at once, than endure the misery of the loss of God's presence.

(3.) Such a person keeps up in his soul a diligent care to maintain this presence; his head, his heart is still a-contriving how he may keep his God with him: Jer. 14:9, "Why should you be as a man astonished, as a mighty man who cannot save? yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; leave us not." This person had rather that his dearest friends should leave him, that his nearest relations should leave him, yes, that all the world should leave him—than that his God should leave him. The daily, yes, the hourly language of the soul is, Lord, "leave me not; though all the world should leave me—yet don't you leave me!"

(4.) Such a person will do all he can, that all who are under his care and charge may partake of this special presence of God; he will do his utmost that children, spouse, relatives, may taste the sweetness of the divine presence, John 1:40 to the end, and 4:28-43; Acts 10:24-36. When Samson had found honey in the carcass of the lion, he did not only eat himself—but he gave of the honey to his father and mother, and they did eat also, Judg. 14:8-9. Of all sweets, the presence of God is the greatest sweet; and whenever a poor soul comes to taste of this heavenly honey, he will do his best that all others, especially those who are near and dear to him, may taste of the same honey. But,

[4.] Fourthly, to exhort all the people of God so to live and conduct themselves, so as to keep the divine presence—so as to keep the special, the singular presence of God with them in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, consider—the excellent properties or qualities of this favorable, this special presence of God with his people. This I can but hint at, because I must hasten all I can to a close.

(1.) It is the BEST presence. Psalm 63:3. It is better than the presence of friends, of relations, of saints, of angels, etc.

(2.) It is the GREATEST presence. It is the presence of the great King, it is the presence of the King of kings and Lord of lords, it is the presence not only of a mighty but of an almighty God, 1 Kings 8:27; Rev. 17:14, and 19:16; Num. 24:4, 16; Ruth 1:20, 24.

(3.) It is the HAPPIEST presence. It is a presence that makes a man really happy, presently happy, totally happy, eminently happy, and eternally happy, Psalm 144:15; 1 Kings 10:8; Deut. 33:29; Proverbs 3:18. He can never be truly happy, who lacks this presence; he can never be truly miserable, who enjoys this presence. True happiness is too great a thing to be found in anything below this favorable, this special presence of God. He who enjoys this presence enjoys all; he who lacks this presence enjoys nothing at all; he who lacks this presence may write nothing upon his honors, riches, pleasures, dignities, offices, relations, friends, etc., Amos 6:13. All a man has, are but ciphers without a number, if he is not blessed with this divine presence. This divine presence was Jacob's "enough," yes, Jacob's "all." Gen. 33:11, "I have all." Esau had much, "I have much, my brother;" verse 9, "But Jacob had all." "He has all, who has him who is all in all." "All good is in the chief good," (Augustine.) Secure this divine presence, and you secure all, Col. 3:11.

(4.) It is the MOST DESIRABLE presence. Consult these scriptures. [Psalm 42:1-2, 63:1-2, 8, and 27:4; Gen. 8:20; Psalm 84.] Job 23:3, "Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat." Exod. 33:15, "If your presence does not go with us, carry us not up hence;" verse 16, "For wherein shall it be known here, that I and my people have found grace in your sight, is it not in that you go with us?" Cant. 3:1, "By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loves, I sought him—but I found him not." The presence of bad men is never desirable; the presence of godly men is not always desirable, for there are cases wherein their presence may be a burden to us, as Job and others have experienced, Jer. 9:1-2; Job 16:1-4, and 19:3-5. Job 16:2, "Miserable comforters are you all;" chapter 19:2, "How long will you vex my soul, and break me in pieces with words?"

But the presence of the Lord is very desirable, most desirable, and always desirable, and the more any man has of this divine presence, the more his heart will be inflamed after more and more of it. A sound sincere Christian can never have enough power against sin, nor ever enough strength against temptation, nor ever enough weanedness from this world, nor ever enough ripeness for heaven, nor ever enough of the presence of the Lord. Enough of the divine presence he may have to quiet him, and cheer him, and encourage him—but while he is out of heaven he can never have enough of the divine presence to satisfy him, so as not to cry out, "Lord, more of your presence! oh, a little more of your presence!" Proverbs 30:15-16.

(5.) It is the most JOYFUL, REFRESHING, and DELIGHTFUL presence. Psalm 16:11; Acts 5:40-41, and 16:25. This Vincentius and many thousand martyrs and suffering Christians have experienced in all the ages of the world—but of this before, Isaiah 60:1-2; Psalm 46:7.

(6.) It is a SPECIAL and DISTINGUISHING presence. Exod. 33:16. This favorable special presence of God is a choice jewel that he hangs on no breasts, a bracelet that he puts upon no arms, a crown that he sets upon no heads—but such whom he loves with a special love, with an everlasting love. The general presence of God extends and reaches to all sinners and saints, angels and devils; to all, both in that upper and this lower world; but this favorable special presence of God is peculiar to those who are the purchase of Christ s blood, and the travail of his soul, Jer. 31:3; John 13:1; Psalm 139:7-10; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Isaiah 53:11; Ruth 1:4-18.

(7.) It is an INFLAMING presence.

[1.] Oh, how does it, inflame the heart to duty! Psalm 63:1-3.

[2.] How does it inflame the heart against sin! Job 31:4-7; Gen. 39:9-10; Romans 8:10.

[3.] Oh, how does it, inflame the heart to long for the majestic and glorious presence of God in heaven, Cant. 8:14; Luke 2:28-30; 2 Cor. 5:8; Phil. 1:23; Rev. 22:20.

[4.] How does it inflame their love to the Lord, his ways, his worship, his interest, his glory! Cant. 1:3-4, 2:3-6, and 8:1-3, 5-7.

[5.] It inflames against temptations, verse 10-11. It was this divine presence, which did steel and strengthen Basil, Luther, and a world of others, against the worst of temptations, Heb. 11.

[6.] It inflames the hearts of the saints into great freeness, readiness, and willingness to suffer many things, to suffer great things, to suffer anything—for Christ, his gospel, his interest, etc. Oh, how did this divine presence make many martyrs hasten to the flames! etc.

(8.) It is a SOUL-QUIETING, a soul-silencing, and a soul-stilling presence. Psalm 3:5, 4:8; Cant. 2:3, 3:4-5. When friends can't quiet us, when relations can't quiet us, when ministers can't quiet us, when duties can't quiet us, when ordinances can't quiet us, when outward comforts can't quiet us—yet then this divine presence will quiet us. When dolls and rattles can't quiet the child—yet then the breasts can. Just so, here.

(9.) This divine presence is a SWEETENING presence.

(1.) It sweetens all duties and services, public and private, ordinary and extraordinary.

(2.) It sweetens all personal afflictions and trials.

(3.) It sweetens all our sufferings for righteousness' sake.

(4.) It sweetens all gospel ordinances, Exod. 20:24.

(5.) It sweetens all a man's outward mercies and blessings; it sweetens health, strength, riches, trade, etc.

(6.) It sweetens all changeable providences. Here providence smiles, and there it frowns; here it lifts up, and there it casts down; this providence is sweet, and that is bitter; this providence kills, and that providence makes alive. Oh—but this divine presence sweetens every providence!

(7.) It sweetens all other presences; it sweetens the presence of friends, it sweetens the presence of relations, it sweetens the presence of strangers, it sweetens all civil societies, it sweetens all pious societies.

(8.) It sweetens the thoughts of death, and the arrests of death; it turns the king of terrors into the king of desires, Job 14:5, 14, 30:23, and 17:13-14. How does Job court the worms, as if he were of a family with them, and near of kin to them! How does he look upon the grave as his bed, and makes no more to die than to go to bed! It was this divine presence that made the martyrs as willing to die as to dine. But,
 

[5.] Fifthly, to exhort all the people of God so to live and conduct themselves, so as to keep the divine presence—so as to keep the special, the singular presence of God with them in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, consider—that in great troubles, deep distresses, and most deadly dangers, you will most need the favorable special presence of God with you. We always stand in need of the divine presence—but never so much as when we are under great troubles and deep distresses. For,

(1.) In days of trouble and distress, men's affections are most apt to be greatly disordered, and their hearts discomposed, as you see in Job and Jonah, Job 3; Jonah 4.

(2.) Now their fears, doubts, and disputes are apt to rise highest. When the wind rises high, and the sea roars, men are most apt to be afraid, Jonah 2:2-7.

(3.) Now Satan commonly is busiest. Satan loves to fish in troubled waters. When the hand of God is heaviest upon us, then Satan will shoot his most deadly darts at us, Job 2:9; James 1:12. The sons of Jacob fell upon the Shechemites when they were sore, Gen. 34:25; and Amalek fell upon God's Israel and smote them, when they were weak, and feeble, and faint, and weary, Deut. 25:17-19. Just so, Satan falls foul upon Christ, when he was in the wilderness, and when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, and was a-hungry, Mat. 4:1-11. As Satan has dealt with Christ, the head—so he still deals with the members.

(4.) Now unbelief is most turbulent, strong, and mighty in operation, as you may see in the spies, Num. 13:31-33, "But the other men who had explored the land with him answered, "We can't go up against them! They are stronger than we are!" So they spread discouraging reports about the land among the Israelites: "The land we explored will swallow up any who go to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. We felt like grasshoppers next to them, and that's what we looked like to them!" Just so, 2 Kings 6:33, "This evil is of the Lord; what should I wait for the Lord any longer?" Also, 2 Kings 7:1-2, 19-20. Just so, David, in Psalm 116:11, "I said in my haste, all men are liars." The prophets have all deceived me, and Samuel has deluded me, they have told me of a kingdom, a crown—but I shall never wear the one, nor possess the other: so 1 Sam. 27:1, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul." Thus his fear is got above his faith, and his soul wherried about with unbelief—to the scandal of the weak, and the scorn of the wicked, besides his own particular disadvantage.

(5.) Now fainting-fits will be most strengthened, increased, and multiplied. Now fainting-fits, like Job's messengers, or like the rolling waves, will come thick one upon another, Proverbs 24:10; Job 4:5; Lam. 1:12-13.

(6.) Now conscience will be most startled and disquieted, Gen. 42:21, and 50:15; 1 Kings 17:18. Great troubles and deep distresses are many times like strong medicine, which stirs the humours and makes the patient sick, very sick, yes, heart-sick. Conscience commonly never reads the soul such sad and serious lectures, as when the rod lies heaviest upon the back.

By all which you see, what high cause the people of God have so to live and conduct themselves, as that they may find the gracious presence of God with them in their greatest troubles, and deepest distresses, for then they will certainly need most of the divine presence. But,
 

[6.] Sixthly, to exhort all the people of God so to live and conduct themselves, so as to keep the divine presence—so as to keep the special, the singular presence of God with them in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, consider— this divine presence will make you divinely fearless in the midst of your greatest troubles and deepest distresses. Psalm 23:4, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil—for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me." Psalm 46:2, "We will not fear though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea." verse 3, "Though the waters thereof roar," etc. Why? "God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, and that right early," verse 5; "The Lord Almighty is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge." verse 7. Num. 14:9, "Neither fear the people, for they are bread for us, their defense is departed from them, and the Lord is with us; fear them not." Deut. 7:21, "You shall not be affrighted at them, for the Lord your God is among you, a mighty God and dreadful." Heb. 13:5, "I will never leave you, nor forsake you." verse 6, "I will not fear what man shall do unto me."

There is no such way to keep down all base slavish fears of men, as to keep up the presence of God in the midst of you. You will not fear the power of men, nor the policy of men, nor the threats of men, nor the wrath of men—if you do but enjoy this gracious, this special presence of God, which is under our present consideration. Men's fears are never so rampant as when God withdraws his presence from them, 1 Sam. 28:15, 20. But,
 

[7.] Seventhly, to exhort all the people of God so to live and conduct themselves, so as to keep the divine presence—so as to keep the special, the singular presence of God with them in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, consider—that there is in God a very great unwillingness to withdraw his presence from his people when they are in great troubles and deep distresses. Ezek. 8:6, "Son of man, do you see what they are doing? Do you see the great sins the people of Israel are doing to drive me from my Temple?" Isaiah 1:2-4, 16, 18; Ezek. 18:31, and 33:11; Jer. 3:13-14. Of all sins, the sin of idolatry drives God farthest off from his sanctuary. When God goes off from a people, he goes not off rashly, he goes not off suddenly—but he goes off gradually; he removes not at once—but by degrees; now a step, and then a step, as Lot did when he lingered in Sodom, Gen. 19:16. Lot was not more reluctant to depart out of Sodom, than God is loath to leave his people. [1 Sam, 4:4; Psalm 8:20; Isaiah 37:16.] He goes first to the threshold: Ezek. 9:3, "And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub whereupon he was to the threshold of the house." Then over the threshold: 10:4, "Then the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and stood over the threshold of the house." Here is a second step. This is the second time of resting, before God departs. The Lord had his ordinary dwelling-place in the holy of holies. Now God's first remove was from the most holy place; his second remove was from the holy place; his third remove was higher towards heaven: verse 19, "And the cherubim lifted up their wings, and mounted up from the earth in my sight, then to the door of the east gate," or foremost gate, "of the Lord's house," to note God's total remove from his house. Then to the midst of the city: Ezek. 11:23, "And the glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city, and then he stood upon the mountain which is on the east side of the city." This is God's last stop in his departure, by which is signified that he was willing to make one trial more, to see if the people would, in this present danger, call him back by invitation and lively repentance.

God is greatly troubled when it comes to parting: Hosea 11:8,9 "Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? How can I destroy you like Admah and Zeboiim? My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows! No, I will not punish you as much as my burning anger tells me to. I will not completely destroy Israel, for I am God and not a mere mortal. I am the Holy One living among you, and I will not come to destroy." This is spoken anthropomorphically and not properly, because thoughts and repentance are not incident to God, "who is without all variableness, or shadow of change," James 1:17. The Lord seems here to be at a stand-still, or at strife with himself, about the destruction of this people. Howbeit God, in the affections of his mercy, yearning, and taking pity of his elect among them, spares to lay upon them the extremity of his wrath, and is ready to save them for his mercy's sake. Observe how fatherlike he melts and mourns over them, and how mercy interposes her four several "hows!" Here are four such heart-felt interrogations as the like are not to be found in the whole book of God, and not to be answered by any but God himself, as indeed he does to each particular in the following words: "My heart is torn within me;" that is the first answer. The second is, "My compassion overflows." The third is, "I will not carry out my fierce anger." The fourth is, "I will not destroy Ephraim." And why? First, "I am God and not a mere mortal;" secondly, "I am the Holy One living among you."

God is very unwilling to break up house, and to leave his people desolate. Now is God so unwilling to withdraw his presence; and shall not we do all what we can to retain him in the midst of us? When dear friends are unwilling to leave us, we are the more earnest in pressing them to stay and abide with us. God is marvelously unwilling to go, and therefore let us, with the church, cry out, "Leave us not!" Jer. 14:9. But,
 

[8.] Eighthly, to exhort all the people of God so to live and conduct themselves, so as to keep the divine presence—so as to keep the special, the singular presence of God with them in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, consider—that troubles will be no troubles, distresses will be no distresses, dangers will be no dangers—if you can but secure the presence of God with you. Mountains will be molehills, stabs at the heart will be but as scratches upon the hand—if the divine presence is with you. God's special presence will turn—storms into calms, winter nights into summer days, prisons into palaces, banishments into enlargements. The favorable presence of God will turn—sickness into health, weakness into strength, poverty into plenty, and death into life. It can never be night so long as the sun shines. No afflictions, no trials, can make it night with a Christian—so long as he enjoys the presence of God with his spirit, 2 Tim. 4:22. That courtier need not complain that this man slights him, and that the other neglects him—who enjoys the delightful presence of his prince. When Samson had the presence of God with him, he made nothing of carrying the gates of the city, with the posts and bars, to the top of a hill, Judges 16:3. Just so, while a Christian enjoys the singular presence of God with him, he will make nothing of this affliction and that affliction, of this trouble and that trouble, of this loss and that loss. This presence makes heavy afflictions light, and long afflictions short, and bitter afflictions sweet, 2 Cor. 4:16-17.

It was this presence that made the martyrs all the great and grievous things that they suffered for Christ's sake and the gospel's sake—to be but light, Heb. 11:33-39. A man in misery, without this gracious presence of God, is in a very hell on this side hell. God's gracious presence makes every condition to be a little heaven to the believing soul. There is nothing, there can be nothing—but heaven, where God is specially present. But,
 

[9.] Ninthly, to exhort all the people of God so to live and conduct themselves, so as to keep the divine presence—so as to keep the special, the singular presence of God with them in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, consider—that the worst of men cannot curse or harm you, while you keep the presence of God with you. Num. 23:21, "The Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them." There could be no enchantment against them, for the Lord their God was with them, and the shout of a king was among them, that is, God reigns as a king among them. Hereby also is meant the faith, joy, boldness, courage, and confidence of God's people in their king. As when a king comes among the armies of his people, he is received with joyful shoutings and acclamations, and when he goes forth to battle with them, he goes accompanied with the sound of trumpets and shouts of the people, signs of their joy and courage; so it fared with the Israelites, because of that special presence of God that was among them, which was evident by his protecting and defending of them: 1 Sam. 4:5, "And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again." Here is a valorous shout of a powerful people, encouraging each other to the battle, and a victorious shout as having obtained the victory in the battle.

Just so, 2 Chron. 13:12, "And behold, God himself is with us for our captain, and his priests with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you, O children of Israel." Num. 23:23, "Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel;" that is, there is none against Israel that shall be of force, or that shall take any effect to do the posterity of Jacob or Israel any hurt, any harm, any damage. But why? Because the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them. The presence of God with his Israel blasts all Balaam's enchantments, and makes null and void all his divinations.

God is with his people to counsel them in all doubtful and difficult cases, and to defend them, and secure them against all their enemies and opposers. Balaam had a mind to curse the people of God, as his unwearied endeavors to that purpose do abundantly evidence, Num. 23:1, 13, 28-29, and 24:1; but the presence of God with his people prevented all his mischievous designs. Shimei curses David—but his curses could not hurt him, for God was with him, 2 Sam. 16:7, 9, 11-12. The people generally cursed Jeremiah, chapter 15:10, and 1:17-19; but all their curses could not harm him, for God was with him. The Jews in their prayers daily curse the Christian churches—but all their curses can't prejudice them, because God is in the midst of them, Exod. 20:24. And who will say that the reformed churches are one pin the worse for all the pope's excommunications and execrations?

The special presence of God with his people is a most sovereign antidote against all the curses and cursings of cursed men, and therefore whatever you part with—be sure that you don't part with your God; let him be but in the midst of you, and then no curses shall be prevalent against you.

This age abounds with such monsters, whose mouths are full of curses; but if every curse should stick a visible blister on the curser's tongue, as it does insensible ones on the curser's soul, their tongues would quickly be too big for their mouths, and they would soon grow weary of cursing the people of God, the things of God, the ways of God, the providences of God, and the faithful dispensers of the mysteries of God. But the best of it is, when they have done their worst, and spat out all their curses, "the curse causeless will not come," Proverbs 26:2, for the ever-blessed God is in his people, and with his people, and among his people, and "a wall of fire always around his people," Zech. 2:5, and therefore they are safe and secure enough when men and devils have done their worst. But,
 

[10.] Tenthly and lastly, to exhort all the people of God so to live and conduct themselves, so as to keep the divine presence—so as to keep the special, the singular presence of God with them in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, consider—that the divine presence will make up the absence of all outward comforts. This gracious presence will supply and fill up the place of a friend, a child, a father, a husband. Some of the rabbis write that manna had all sorts of tastes and all sorts of sweets in it. Be that as it may, I am sure that the favorable presence of God has all sorts of sweets in it, Psalm 4:6-7; Proverbs 4:23. It has the sweet of all ordinances in it, it has the sweet of all duties in, it has the sweet of all church privileges in it, it has the sweet of all relations in it, it has the sweet of all your outward comforts in it; and therefore, above all keeping, keep the presence of God with you.

Many in their distresses and miseries are full of complaints. One cries out, he lacks a faithful friend; another cries out, he lacks a helpful family member; a third cries out that he lacks necessaries both for back and belly; a fourth cries out he lacks the means which others enjoy; but he who enjoys the gracious presence of God finds all these lacks made up to him—yes, he finds the divine presence to be infinitely better than the presence of all outward comforts. As Elkanah said to Hannah, "Am not I better than ten sons?" 1 Sam. 1:8, so assuredly the presence of the Lord is wonderfully better than all other things, to every soul that has tasted the sweetness of it.

You know that one sun is more glorious, delightful, useful, and comfortable than ten thousand stars; just so here. Seneca tells a courtier that had lost his son, that he had no cause to mourn, either for that or anything else, so long as his king was in safety, and he in favor with his king; he had all things in him, and he would be unthankful to his good fortune if he were not cheerful both in heart and look, so long as things stood so with him as they did.

How much more may we say to every sincere Christian who enjoys the gracious presence of God with him, let your needs and your crosses be ever so great, your afflictions ever so pressing, your necessities ever so biting—you have no just cause to be troubled or dejected, so long as you are in favor with God, and enjoy the presence of God. All mercies, all comforts, all contentments, all enjoyments—they meet and center in the gracious presence of God, as all lights meet in the sun, and as all waters meet in the sea; and therefore let not that soul mourn or complain of the lack of anything, who enjoys that gracious presence of God—which is better than every earthly thing. Thus much for the motives.