God has in all ages been pleased to let matters come to
an extremity, before he sent the deliverance; thereby teaching his people
patience, and to hope unto the end; thereby also making the deliverance more
glorious, and his care of them more conspicuous, than otherwise it would
have been. Why then, do I magnify every difficulty into a mountain which
cannot be removed, and distrust that divine power which can do all things,
and to the greatest extremity?
Now, to dispel these dark and dismal clouds that hang
over my mind, to my great uneasiness; let me glance at his divine procedure
with his people, from the days of old down through many ages.
See, then, Abraham—the father of the faithful is
old and stricken in years, and Sarah is well past the age for bearing
children. Yet that extremity is God's opportunity; for he is born, in whose
seed the nations should be blessed.
But, again, young Isaac is, by divine authority,
to be offered for a sacrifice, and that by none other than his aged,
affectionate father! Nor is the order to sacrifice his son revoked, until
the altar is reared, the wood laid in order, the boy bound and laid upon the
wood, and the hand stretching out the knife to give the fatal wound! Now,
what an extremity of extremities was this! but not too late for God to
Again, wandering Hagar sees not the well as soon
as the bottle of water is all used; but after she had laid down the parched
boy, and forced herself a good distance from him, that she might not hear
his mournful cries, nor see him struggling with the pangs of death—God opens
her eyes, scatters her fears, and removes her sorrows!
Also, just Lot makes his escape out of Sodom only
on that very day in which it was destroyed; and it was destroyed early in
the day. A narrow escape indeed! Perhaps the heavens were thundering round
about the brimstone, and fire falling behind him, while he fled. Yet he was
safe enough under his protection—to whom extremity is the noblest
Let me also look at Jacob when returning home. He
is distressed at his brother's meeting him in such a hostile manner; but
when he has arranged his little company for flight, or meeting the armed
bands, the kindly embrace removes the doubt, and cheers his very soul.
Joseph is to be exalted—but he is first sold by his
brethren, then sold again as a slave, then a prisoner. But, at the last
extremity, when he could be brought no lower, he was advanced, until he
could as it were, be raised no higher. Even so, his aged father's sorrow,
which had all this time mingled his other comforts with bitterness—is
heightened by the story of his sons, about the rough dealings of the man who
was Lord over Egypt. But from this despair and woe, Jacob is in a moment set
into a palace of delight, when he hears that that same governor is his own
son, his own beloved, his long-lamented Joseph!
Again, the promise is, that Israel shall be
delivered from Egypt, and possess the promised land; but see how subtlety
their enemies deal with them, and what murdering designs are formed against
them! Yes, when the deliverance begins to dawn, their task is doubled, and
their bondage rendered next to intolerable. Such was their extremity before
they were brought out with an mighty hand. Nay, after this, their danger
seems to be greater than ever, while, pursued by enemies, on many accounts
more enraged than ever—they had impassable seas before them, and
inaccessible hills on every side. Yet Omnipotence is at no loss to deliver,
so that seas divide, and are the defense of his people—but the destruction
of their foes.
This divine way of procedure, delivering in the greatest
extremity, shines also in the whole history of the Judges; in the
narrow escapes of fleeing David; in the case of the widow of
Zarephath, whose provisions were almost spent, before the blessing was
bestowed that multiplied them—in the case of her son afterwards, and the
Shunamite's, who appeared beyond all possibility of help, when restored
to life; in the sudden deliverance of Hezekiah and Jerusalem, from
the besieging Assyrians, whose mighty men and leaders, a mightier angel slew
in one night, to an amazing number of 186,000. Also in the astonishing story
of the three Hebrew children, who are apprehended, bound, and thrown
into the flaming furnace, now heated seven times hotter for their reception.
What can help them now? Yes, in the midst of the furnace they walk at
liberty, in the presence of a glorious person, whose form is like the Son of
Such was the remarkable deliverance of pious Daniel
from the lion's paw, when cast among their bloody jaws, and left a whole
night to the mercy of the fierce devourers. And of Jonah from the
swelling sea, and the fish's belly, which to him was as the belly of hell.
And, in fine, of the Jews from captivity, who went even to Babylon,
and there were delivered. And these being brought to an extremity, did not
perish in Babylon—but were delivered after a most glorious manner.
This was the way he dealt with his church and people
under the Old Testament dispensation, for many hundred years; and it
continued under the New Testament dispensation. Hence see how our Lord
delays his going to Lazarus, that he might not only relieve him from
his disease—but raise him from the dead, which was a more glorious display
of his divine power. Such was his way also with Jairus' daughter, and
the widow of Nain's son, who seemed to be the captives of death,
until the Lord of life commanded their release, and that at a time when, for
hinting at it, he was laughed at as proposing a thing impossible to be done.
See how also, in the utmost extremity of danger; he
rescues his apostle Peter, by an angel from heaven, who awakes the
sleeping prisoner, guides him through the guards, and leads him on, before
whom the doors and gates open of their own accord, and let him pass into
What, then, is difficult for God? What extremity is
beyond the reach and strength of his arm? Yes, since he is pleased to delay
blessings and deliverances to the last—it is my duty to wait on him until
the last, and to wait with hope—and in patience to possess my soul!