Comfort for the Church
by Thomas Watson
"God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved."
Solomon said, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of
gold in pictures of silver," Proverbs 25:11. In which regard I have made
choice of this Scripture, which may be a word in season to revive the
desponding hearts of God's people. "God is in the midst of her, she shall
not be moved."
This psalm is a triumphant exaltation wherein the church,
with joy, commemorates former deliverances and, by faith, depends on God for
"God is our refuge and strength," verse 1. The
saints, in all their dangers, have an asylum or garrison to retreat to; they
know where to put into for harbor. The name of the Lord is a strong tower,
and this is their refuge and royal fortress.
"A very present help." God is a help in a pinch.
An army may be beaten before their auxiliary forces come—but God never comes
too late. His help is at hand; His forces are in the field; He is a present
help—a help in trouble. One renders it, "in vehement trouble."
"God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved."
What is meant by "in the midst of her?" This looks back to the former verse
where there is mention made of the city of God. "There is a river, the
streams whereof shall make glad the city of God," verse 4. By this city
of God is meant Jerusalem, which is called the city of Jehovah, Isaiah
52:1. This city of Jerusalem is a figure for the church of God here upon
earth; and of this the text speaks, "God is in the midst of her."
The words consist of two parts:
1. The church's privilege—"God is in the midst of
2. The church's safety—"she shall not be moved;"
that is, so as to be removed.
DOCTRINE. When the church of God is beleaguered and
environed with enemies, "God is in the midst of her." "For the Lord your
God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you," Deuteronomy 23:14. "You
O Lord, are in the midst of us," Jeremiah 14:9. The church of God has not
only enemies without her to conflict with, but within
her—hypocrites and apostates. She complains that "her own sons vex her,"
Song of Solomon 1:6. That is, those who had been bred up in her bosom and
pretended religion, these false friends, vexed her. The church's enemies are
of her own house; but be they what they will, foreign or internal, the
church has One who will take her part. When she is most assaulted, she is
most assisted, God is in the midst of her.
QUESTION. But what privilege is this, to have God in
the midst of His church? Where is He not? He is an immense, infinite
Being—and His circumference is everywhere. "Where shall I fly from Your
presence? If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost
parts of the sea—even there shall Your hand lead me," Psalm 139:7-9. What
privilege is it to have God in the midst of His church, seeing He is in the
midst of His enemies too?
ANSWER. There is a two-fold presence of God:
1. There is His universal presence, whereby
He is in all places. "Do not I fill heaven and earth, says the Lord,"
Jeremiah 23:24. This is no privilege at all, for this universal presence is
with the damned. They have the presence of His power and justice.
2. There is a peculiar presence of God, and
that is confined to His people. The presence of God is either in heaven,
which is nothing else but His glorious presence. "The Lord's throne is in
heaven," Psalm 11:4); or on earth, and that is either:
(1) His favorable presence, whereby He manifests
the pledges of His grace and goodness towards His people. He is present in
the assemblies of His saints, breathing forth the sweet perfume of His
Spirit. "In all places where I record My name, I will come unto you, and I
will bless you," Exodus 20:24. This is that presence the saints desire in
the ordinances—God's quickening, sanctifying, comforting presence—the smiles
of His face, the kisses of His lips. Nothing is so delightful, as to behold
the king in the galleries, Song of Solomon 7:5, and have the banners of His
love sweetly displayed, Song of Solomon 2:4.
(2) His providential presence, wherein the Lord
appears admirably for His people in His providential actings, showing
Himself to be a wonder-working God. This is chiefly meant in the text, "God
is in the midst of her"—to defend, to deliver, to bless. Thus He was with
His people of Israel by the pillar of fire and a cloud, and thus will He be
present with His church to the end of the world.
The reasons why God is in the midst of His church to
defend and bless it are three:
1. The dear interest He has in it. The people of God
are called "peculiar people," 1 Peter 2:9. The world lies in common
and is as so much waste ground—but the church is God's vineyard and
enclosure. Therefore, He will hedge it with protection. "My vineyard
which is Mine, is before Me," Song of Solomon 8:1. The saints are called
God's jewels, Malachi 3:17. Therefore, He will not let them be lost.
For their sins, He may sometimes lay these jewels to pawn. The church is
Christ's mystical body, the least bone whereof He will as surely
preserve as He did every bone of His natural body. "A bone of it shall not
be broken," John 19:36.
2. God is in the midst of His church because of the
entire love which He bears to it. "The Lord has chosen Zion, He has
desired it for His habitation, this is My rest forever, here will I dwell,
for I have desired it," Psalm 132:13-15. God loves His people with the
choicest of His love; they have the quintessence of His love, and, to show
this, He calls them by those titles which denote love: "The apple of His
eye," Deuteronomy 32:10; "The dearly beloved of His soul," Jeremiah 12:7;
"His treasure," Psalm 135:4; "His dove," Psalm 74:19; "His spouse," Song of
Solomon 4:13; and "His glory," Isaiah 46:13.
God loves the world with a more common love. His
church, however, has the cream of His love. It is one love with which
a man loves his bird—and another with which he loves his child.
And God cannot but love His people, because He sees His own image shining in
them. They are adorned with the graces of His Spirit like a chain of pearls;
and they have the beauty of the unspotted holiness of Christ.
God's love to His church is vehement, like coals of
juniper, or the sunbeams contracted in a magnifying glass, which are more
intense and ardent. And, because He loves Zion, therefore He is in the midst
of it to defend and bless it. "The Lord your God in the midst of you is
mighty, He will save, He will rejoice over you, He will rest in His love,"
3. God will be in the midst of His people because they
are engaged in His cause. "Know that for Your sake, I have suffered
rebuke," Jeremiah 15:15. All the oppositions the godly meet with, are for
standing up in the defense of truth. If they would desist from religion and
throw off Christ's colors, they would have none to oppose them. But, because
they espouse Christ's cause, and fight under the banner of His gospel,
therefore and all the powers of hell unite and muster their forces against
them. The princes of Persia had no other accusation against Daniel, but the
law of His God, Daniel 6:5. Now, because the church of God appears in His
cause, and loses blood in His quarrel, therefore God is in the midst of her.
He counts Himself concerned in point of honor, to stand by His people.
QUESTION. But wherein does it appear that God is in the
midst of His church?
It appears by His preserving and delivering His church.
1. By UNTHOUGHT-OF means. When Israel
was hemmed in, the Red Sea before them, and Pharaoh and his host pursuing
behind them—God preserved them by unthought-of means. They never thought of
the parting of the waters. Who would have imagined that God would have made
a causeway in the sea? Likewise, when food failed in the wilderness, the
people of Israel could not devise how God would spread them a table there.
There was no plowing or sowing, nothing to he seen but wild beasts and
serpents. The Lord made the heavens a granary, and rained down bread upon
them; here He was in the midst of His people.
2. By CONTEMPTIBLE means. The blowing of
trumpets and the blazing of lamps made the walls of Jericho fall
down, Judges 7:20. Jeremiah was drawn out of the dungeon by rotten
rags, Jeremiah 38:12. God often saves His church by despicable instruments.
He makes use of rotten rags. God raised up Luther in Germany against
the Pope. The enemy looked upon him with a contemptible eye and one of them
said, "He was more fit to pray in a cloister than to do any great exploits
abroad." But God made him a rare instrument in his church. He so shook the
Pope's chair that never, to this day, has he sat safely in it.
3. By CONTRARY means. That Jonah should
be saved by being swallowed up—God made the fish a ship in which he sailed
safe to shore. That the raven, who is so unnatural that she will hardly feed
her young, should bring meat to the prophet Elijah—this shows God is
in the midst of His people. How often is it seen that God makes use of a
contrary wind? The enemies of His church shall do His work; He will play His
game by their hand.
Either He will make His enemies friendly to His people,
"The Israelites asked the Egyptians for articles of silver and gold and for
clothing. The Lord had made the Egyptians favorably disposed toward the
people, and they gave them what they asked for; so they plundered the
Egyptians." Exodus 12:35 (God makes wolves to suckle His lambs!)
Or He will work divisions among His enemies and turn their own weapons
against themselves. "The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from
Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering
the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another." 2 Chronicles 20:23.
Thus God makes the seed of the serpent a means to break the
serpent's head. We read in ecclesiastical history that, in the time of
the good emperor Theodosius, when the Persians shot their arrows against the
Christians, by a sudden and violent wind, their arrows were driven back and
flew in their own faces.
ANSWER 2. It is evident that God is in the midst of His
church, by His seasonable appearing for His people. When the
Church of God has been brought very low, nothing in view but desperation,
their power and their hopes gone—then God has stepped in for their relief
and gave the victory on the church's side. "The Lord will indeed vindicate
His people and have compassion on His servants when He sees that their
strength is gone," Deuteronomy 32:36. When Peter was sinking, then Christ
put forth His hand and took him into the ship. When the Church of God has
been in trouble, like Isaac on the altar, going to be sacrificed to the rage
and fury of men, then has the providence of God stepped in as the angel and
said, "Lay not your hand upon the child." God may let the enemy nibble at
the heel of His church—but still He defends the head. When
malice is boiled up to revenge, and the design of men is to destroy the
church—then the church's morning star of deliverance appears. This shows God
is in the midst of Zion, because, when things have seemed to be in the
forlorn hope and all given for lost—then God has come riding in the chariots
USE 1. Here is good news for the church of God.
God's people are apt to despond when they see things move strangely, and go
cross to their expectation. "God is in the midst of Zion." He has a special
superintendence over the affairs of His church. God has more care of His
church, than we can have. We read in Ezekiel's vision of a wheel within a
wheel, Ezekiel 1:16. God's decree is the inner wheel, which turns all the
outward wheels of providence. The church never lacks enemies to assault and
make inroads upon her—but "God is in the midst of her."
USE 2. Here is a river of consolation, whose crystal
streams may refresh the city of God. God's eye is upon His people
for good. "The eye of the Lord is upon those who fear Him;" and it is a
watchful eye, for He neither slumbers nor sleeps, Psalm 121:4.
QUESTION. But what privilege is this that God's eye is
upon His people? His eye is upon the wicked too?
ANSWER. I answer, God's eye, which is upon Zion, is not
only an eye of inspection—but an eye of benediction. Zion has
not only His eye—but His heart, "For surely, O Lord, you bless
the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield."
USE 3. If God is in the midst of Zion—then see the
church's beauty and strength.
1. The church's BEAUTY—"God is in the midst of
her." This is her glory and beauty. "I will be the glory in the midst of
her," Zechariah 2:5. This is the best jewel in the church's crown. As the
diamond to the ring, as the sun to the world, which bespangles it with its
beams, so is God's presence to His church. The ark, which was the emblem and
sign of God's presence, was called "the glory of Israel." Why is the church
called a royal diadem and a crown of beauty, Isaiah 62:3? Because God casts
His resplendent luster upon her. "I will be the glory in the midst of her."
2. See here the church's STRENGTH—God is in
the midst of her. He is with His church not only to behold her—but
uphold her. The church of God is like a castle walled in with rocks.
"His place of defense shall be the munition of rocks," Isaiah 33:16. But a
man may starve upon a rock. Therefore it follows, "bread shall be given him,
his waters shall be sure." If God is in the midst of Zion, He will be both
defensive and offensive. He is both a shield and a sword.
"Happy are you O Israel; who is like unto you, O people saved by the Lord,
the shield of your help, and who is the sword of your
excellency!" Deuteronomy 33:29.
God is a golden shield to His people and a
flaming sword to His enemies. "For I, says the Lord, will be unto her a
wall of fire round about," Zechariah 2:5. A wall, that is defensive; a wall
of fire, that is offensive. "In that day we will sing of the pleasant
vineyard. I, the Lord, will watch over it and tend its fruitful vines. Each
day I will water them; day and night I will watch to keep enemies away."
Isaiah 27:2-3. They who go to overthrow the church must do it in such a time
when it is neither night nor day, for God has promised to keep it night and
USE 4. See, then, how vain are all the attempts and plots
of wicked men, against the church of God. God is in the midst of
her. When we look upon things with a human eye, we may wonder that the
church of God is not overrun. That the sea should be higher than the earth
yet not drown it, is a wonder. In like manner, that the power and force
which seems to be so much above the church should not overflow it, is to be
wondered at. But God is in the midst of her; therefore she is impregnable.
Men must first overcome God, before they can overcome the church!
How simple is the wisdom of man when it sets it self
against God! What do men do, when they engage war against the church? They
attempt the impossible, since God is in the midst of her. What an infinite
disproportion is there between the church's enemies—and the church's God? As
much as between finite and infinite. Will weak man go to measure arms with
God? How easily can God check the pride, break the power, and confound the
councils of the wicked! He can destroy His enemies with the turning of an
hand, Psalm 82:14; with a word, Psalm 2:5; with a breath, Isaiah 30:28; with
a look, Exodus 14:24. It costs God no more to destroy all His adversaries,
than a cast of the eye. For men to contend with the great God, is as if a
child should go to fight with a giant or archangel; or as if the thorns
should set themselves in battle against the fire! Oh, how vain and silly are
all attempts against the church! God is in the midst of her. "On that day I
will make Jerusalem a heavy stone, a burden for the world." Zechariah 12:3.
The enemies are heaving at the church to remove it—but it is a heavy stone
which will fall upon them and grind them in pieces. "I will make the
governors of Judah like a torch of fire in a sheaf," Zechariah 12:6. The
grand opposers of Zion shall be as combustible matter, and the church as a
torch of fire to burn them up.
USE 5. If God is in the midst of Zion—then it follows
that all providences towards the church shall be for the best.
There is nothing which stirs in the world, but shall carry on God's designs,
like the cross wheels in a watch carry on the motion of it and serve
to make the alarm strike. That which the wicked intend for destruction,
shall turn to the deliverance of the church. As Luther wrote to the
Elector of Saxony, "Let your Highness know, that the affairs of the church
are ordered in heaven—and not by the Emperor." While the adversaries go
about to ruin the church, they shall only repair it. God is in
the midst of His people; therefore, the most violent storms of persecution
are but as the beating of the wind against the sails, which make the ship go
faster and bring it sooner to its desired haven!
USE 6. Let us labor that—as God is in the midst of His
church, so He may be in the midst of our hearts. It is little
comfort to hear that God is in the midst of his church unless we find Him in
the midst of our hearts. A drowning man seeing a rainbow said, "What am I
the better, that the world shall not be drowned—if I drown?"
So how are we the better that God is in the midst of His church by His
providential presence—if He is not in the midst of our hearts by His
sanctifying presence? It should be our care not only to have Christ with
us—but in us. "Christ in you, the hope of glory," Colossians
1:27. This will be a cordial when we are dying. It doesn't matter if death
is in our body—if Christ is in our heart! This should be our wisdom and
ambition, not only to have the presence of God with within the church—but
the Spirit of God in us. "God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your
hearts," Galatians 4:6.
If God is in the midst of His church to uphold and
preserve it, then let not God's people give way to distrust and despondency.
Let them not fear the enemies of the church. "God is our refuge and
strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth gives way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging."
Psalms 46:1-3. If we should be in new straits and difficulties, let us not
say that we shall be undone. God will set all His attributes to work for
His people! His wisdom shall be theirs—to guide them, His
power shall be theirs—to defend them, His holiness shall be
theirs—to sanctify them, His mercy shall be theirs—to save them. To
fear the creature is to undervalue God.
When Antigonus overheard his soldiers saying how
formidable their enemies were, he stepped in suddenly with these words, "And
how many do you reckon for me?" This word, God is in the midst of her,
should beat down unbelief and put to flight a whole army of fears that are
apt to arise in the heart! It is high ingratitude either to murmur or
distrust, after so many signal mercies and preservations as we have
But because the hearts of God's own people are ready to
be overpowered with a spirit of fear, I shall, therefore, prescribe these
five antidotes against fear:
1. God will have a church upon earth. "I will
build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,"
Matthew 16:18. Neither the serpent's subtlety, nor the dragon's fierceness,
shall overturn the church! The ship in the gospel was tossed because sin was
in it—but not overwhelmed because Christ was in it. Be of good
comfort—Christ is in the ship! "The angel of the Lord appeared in a flame of
fire out of the midst of the bush, and the bush burned and was not
consumed," Exodus 3:2. This is an emblem of the church on earth—this bush
burns, but is not consumed—for God is in the midst of her. The church of God
may be oppressed but not totally suppressed. Cain put the
knife to Abel's throat, and ever since the church's veins have bled—but she
is not so weak that she cannot stand upon her legs. The church cannot be
Nevertheless, the church of God may suffer in several
parts of it. For as by virtue of the covenant made with Noah, the whole
earth shall never be drowned with a deluge; yet there may, and have been
such inundations since, that several parts of the earth have been swallowed
up with water. So the church universal cannot be extinct—yet it may suffer
in some parts and branches of it, as the seven Asian churches had their
golden candlesticks removed.
2. The suffering of any particular church is for their
good. "I have sent them into captivity for their own good. I will
see that they are well treated, and I will bring them back here again. I
will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot
them." Jeremiah 24:6. God makes use of the wicked for the good of His
church. He sometimes allows His people to be cast out into the open field
and lets the wicked pour the water of affliction upon them—but He is
all this while purifying his people. "Many shall be tried and made white,"
Daniel 12:10. The wicked are flails to thrash off the husks of His
people. They are files to brighten their graces. They are leeches
to suck out their bad blood. Cicero makes mention of Phereus, whom his
enemy, piercing him with a sword, accidentally opened his abscess and so
cured him! The enemies of the church only cure the abscess of pride!
God's fire is in Zion, Isaiah 31:9. This fire is
not consuming—but refining. The church is God's house; the
enemies try to break down the walls of this house—but they shall only purge
the floor. They try to crucify—but they shall only clarify
God's church and remove her rough edges. Thus God turns all the
sufferings of His people to their good. He stretches the strings
of His violin to make the music better.
3. The more God's church is opposed—the more it
increases. It revives by opposition. "The more they afflicted
them—the more they multiplied," Exodus 1:12. Witness the effect of the
persecutions in the time of Nero, Diocletian, and Trajan.
Showers have always made the church grow more. The
more the torch is beaten, the more it flames. Julian the Apostate,
therefore, forbid to persecute the Christians, not out of pity—but envy,
because they grew so fast under persecution. Religion has always revived and
flourished in the ashes of holy men. The church of God is a palm-tree
with this motto, "The more weight is laid upon it, the higher it rises."
4. When the church of God is lowest, mercy is nearest.
The sorer the pangs, the nearer the deliverance. "The earth mourns, Lebanon
is ashamed, Sharon is like a wilderness. Now will I rise, says the Lord, now
will I lift up myself," Isaiah 33:9-10. If you go to the ocean, you will
observe that when the ebb is at the lowest—that high tide is ready to come
in. Just so, when the church of God seems to be at a dead, low water—the
tide of deliverance is nearest. When Diocletian raged and things seemed
desperate for the church, soon after was the golden time of Constantine. It
is usually darkest—a little before morning.
5. Though the church of God may seem sometimes to be in
the wain—yet, when she loses ground in one place, she gains in another.
When the fire is quenched at one end of the house, it breaks out at
the other. At Rome, there were two laurel trees; when one withered, the
other flourished. This is an emblem of the church—when it seems to wither in
one place, it shall revive and flourish in another. All this may comfort us
concerning the church of God, and may be as medicine to kill the worm of
unbelief and fear in our hearts. God is in the midst of her; therefore,
will we not fear though the earth be moved. If God is in the midst of His
church, let us do two things:
First, If God is in the midst of His church—let us take
heed of driving God from us. There are ways whereby we may drive
God from the nation. When bees are in the hive and bring their honey, you
may drive them out with smoke. So sin is a smoke which will drive God out
from a people. "A people which provokes Me to anger, these are a smoke in My
nose," Isaiah 65:3, 5. In particular, there are nine sins which drive God
out of a land—when He marches out, judgment marches in.
1. Idolatry. "For they served idols, whereof
the Lord had said unto them, you shall not do this thing, therefore the Lord
was angry with Israel, and removed them out of His sight!" 2 Kings 17:12,
18. Idolatry is a sin which breaks the marriage knot—and makes the Lord
disclaim His interest in a people. "Your people have corrupted
themselves," Exodus 32:7. Before God called Israel His people—but once they
had defiled themselves with idolatry, then God disclaimed them. He does not
say to Moses, "My people"—but "your people", as if He had
quite discarded them and cut off His mercy. Take heed of idolatry, yes, and
of superstition too, which is a bridge leading over to it.
Superstition is an intermixing of our thoughts and inventions with divine
institutions; it is an affront offered to God, as if He were not wise enough
to appoint the manner of His own worship.
2. Cruelty and oppression. "I have forsaken my
house, my heritage is to me as a speckled bird," Jeremiah 12:7-8, or as a
bird of prey. When God's dove becomes a vulture, and is given
to oppression and cruelty, staining her feathers with blood—God will then
break up house and be gone.
3. Immorality. "They are all adulterers,
burning like an oven," Hosea 7:4. They who should have been temples of the
Holy Spirit—are hot ovens burning in lust! "I will spread my net upon them,"
verse 12. That is, I will spread the net of My judgments over them, and they
shall be taken in the net!
4. Covetousness. "I will stretch out My hand
upon the inhabitants of the land, for from the least of them, even to the
greatest, everyone of them is given to covetousness," Jeremiah 6:12. When
men shall reek of the earth—when they love the theater better
than the Temple, and are more for the earthly mammon than the
heavenly manna—then God will take His leave and be gone! God is a Spirit,
and He can no more converse with an earthly people, than a prince can
converse with a swine!
5. Apostasy. "They are all hardened rebels.
They are called rejected silver, for the Lord has rejected them."
Jeremiah 6:28. This made God remove His golden candlestick from the church
of Ephesus—because she had left her first love, Revelation 2:4. And if
apostasy will make God depart from a people, then how can we expect He
should stay long with us? Where is that zeal for God and love to the truth
as before? We live in the fall of the leaf. There are many who
courted the Queen of Religion when she had a jewel hung on her ear—but when
she is in her night dress and her jewels are pulled off, now they desert
her. Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back. If
all who look back should have this judgment inflicted upon them, we would
see pillars of salt filling our streets!
Merchants tell us of shipwrecks at sea. I believe there
have been of late more shipwrecks at land—than at sea. I mean, such as have
made shipwreck of faith and a good conscience. The golden head is
degenerated into iron—a more filthy and impure metal.
6. Weariness of God's ordinances. "When will
the New Moon be over so we may sell grain, and the Sabbath, so we may market
wheat?" Amos 8:5. Verse 11, "The time is surely coming, says the
Sovereign Lord; when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of
bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord."
God has fed this nation with the finest of the wheat,
even the bread of life. We have had the cream of ordinances. God has come
down to us in a golden shower of blessings. The vintage of other nations has
not been as good as the gleanings of England—but have not we said, "what a
weariness it is!" Malachi 1:13. Is not our sin, sermon excess? Though we
have liked the dressing, we have loathed the food. We have
said, "Who is this Moses? And what is this manna?" And may not we fear that
God is now coming to punish us for this sin? When we have lost our appetite
for God's Word—God may cause the Word to be taken away; and would not that
be dismal? How sad is it for any nation when their seers are blind! In what
a condition is that people who have husks given to them, instead of
manna, and music instead of food! Weariness of the gospel, forfeits
the gospel. If God sees that sanctuary blessings are not prized, He
will remove them.
7. Perjury. "They have broken the covenant I
made with their ancestors. Therefore, says the Lord, I am going to bring
calamity upon them, and they will not escape. Though they beg for mercy, I
will not listen to their cries!" Jeremiah 11:10. When a people play fast and
loose with God, breaking their solemn vows and covenants, this is a
God-provoking sin. It will make the Lord go away from a nation and, though
they cry after Him, He will turn a deaf ear. God will pass by infirmity—but
He will punish treachery.
8. Hatred of reformation. When God calls to a
people by His Word, Spirit, and judgments—but they regard Him not, He will
pack up and be gone. "While you were doing these wicked things, says the
Lord, I spoke to you about it repeatedly, but you would not listen. I called
out to you, but you refused to answer. So just as I destroyed Shiloh,
I will now destroy this Temple that was built to honor my name, this Temple
that you trust for help, this place that I gave to you and your ancestors.
And I will send you into exile." Jeremiah 7:13-15. Why, what did God to
Shiloh? There the priests were slain, the ark was carried away captive, all
the signs of God's presence were removed, the vision ceased—and we never
read that the ark returned to Shiloh anymore. Has not God called us to be a
holy people? But are there not many found among us, who hate holiness and
cry down reformation? Oh, take heed that God does not do to us as He did to
Shiloh—unpeople us, unchurch us, and send a flying scroll of curses against
9. Unkindness to those who labor in the Word and
doctrine. God will avenge the wrongs done to His ambassadors.
"The Lord repeatedly sent his prophets to warn them, for he had compassion
on his people and his Temple. But the people mocked these messengers of God
and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord's
anger could no longer be restrained and there was no remedy!" 2 Chronicles
Let us take heed of these sins which will cause God to
depart from the nation.
Second, if God is in the midst of His church—let us do
what we can to KEEP God among us. Israel endeavored to keep the
ark among them, which was the sign of God's presence. "Woe to them—when I
depart from them!" Hosea 9:12. If God is gone—then all other blessings go
too; peace and prosperity will be gone. Oh, let us strive to keep God among
us! What is the glory of a nation—but the presence of God in His Word and
ordinances? I will be the glory in the midst of her, Zechariah 2:5. If God
is gone, England will be like a house that has its furniture removed, and is
falling to ruin. "Hyenas will howl in its fortresses, and jackals will make
their dens in its palaces!" Isaiah 13:31. If God is gone—Satan will be
the next tenant!
QUESTION. What shall we do to keep God among us?
ANSWER 1. By prayer. "We are called by Your
name, leave us not," Jeremiah 24:9. Exercise eyes of faith and
knees of prayer! Let us hang upon God by holy importunity, and not let
Him go. "They constrained Him, saying, abide with us for it is towards
evening," Luke 24:29. Is not God upon the threshold of His temple—and
ready to flee? Are not the shadows of the evening stretched out? And
may we not fear the sun-setting of the gospel? Oh, let us, by humble prayer,
lie at Christ's feet and constrain Him to stay with us! Prayer makes a sweet
sound in God's ears, and He will not go away where there is that music.
ANSWER 2. By setting upon the work of reformation.
"Amend your ways and your doings!" Jeremiah 7:3. There is a profane people
in the land who drink, roar, and declare their sin as Sodom. These
Samsons are likely to pull down the house upon our heads. Instead of
bringing the water of tears to quench God's anger—they add fuel to
the fire! The men of Lystra, seeing the miracle wrought by Paul and
Barnabas, cried out, "The god's have come down to us in the likeness
of men," Acts 14:11. But we may now say that the devils are have come
up to us in the likeness of men! Never was there such a spirit of wickedness
in the land; never were there such heaven-daring abominations committed!
But, "though Israel plays the harlot—yet let not
Judah offend," Hosea 4:15. Though others are licentious and worldly
(being carried to hell with wind and tide), yet let us keep our garments
pure and preserve the virginity of our consciences. Let us labor to reform
ourselves, and mourn for what we cannot reform in others. Let us walk holily
and uprightly, Ephesians 5:15. Let us shine forth in a kind of angelic
brightness, that we may not only profess the gospel—but beautify
it. Were we such a holy people, we might keep God still in the midst of
us; and, as a pledge of His favorable presence, He would bestow His Gospel,
that crowning blessing, both upon us and our posterity.
QUESTION. But is not the decree past? Are there any hopes
that God will be still in the midst of England?
ANSWER. There is hope in Israel concerning this. I would
encourage God's people, and speak something that might be as the cork to the
net—to keep their hearts from sinking. I confess that, when I look upon the
dark side of the cloud, it fills me with trembling and astonishment.
The sins and divisions of the nation are grey hairs upon us; it is ominous
when the joints of the same body begin to smite one another.
But though we have many symptoms of a dying patient—yet
there are six seeds of hope left, that God will
still abide in the midst of England.
1. One seed of hope, is that there is a generation of
righteous people in the nation. God would have spared Sodom if
there had been ten righteous people in it. It is to be hoped there
are many tens in England. "But I will not destroy them all," says the Lord.
For just as good grapes are found among a cluster of bad ones (and someone
will say, 'Don't throw them all away—there are some good grapes there!'), so
I will not destroy all Israel. For I still have true servants there." Isaiah
65:8. Though the vine in England is so blasted that the Lord might cut it
down—yet there are some good clusters, and for these, God may spare the vine
and say, "so I will not destroy all Israel. For I still have true servants
Were the godly gone, the Lord would make quick work of
the nation. He would destroy the weeds, were it not for the corn.
The ship of would soon be drowned—if the elect were not in it. The saints
halt God's hand, when He is going to strike. "Hurry up! Run there, for I
cannot do anything until you get there" Genesis 19:22. The saints are the
excellent of the earth, Psalm 16:3; precious and honorable, Isaiah 43:4.
And, for their sakes, God may yet he entreated to be propitious to us.
2. Another seed of hope, is that the Lord keeps up a
spirit of prayer among His people. The Spartans' wall of defense
was their spears. The wall and bulwark of a nation is prayer.
As there are crying sins in the land—so there are crying prayers. Whole
volleys of sighs and groans are daily sent up to heaven. When the Lord
intends to pour out the vial of His indignation, He stops all the sluices of
prayer. "Pray not for this people!" Jeremiah 7:16. God has not said
this yet. Prayer is a powerful orator for mercy—it comes as with orders to
heaven. "You give me orders about the work of my hands," Isaiah 45:11.
Prayer staves off wrath from a land. "Leave me alone so
that My anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them!" Exodus
32:10. Why, what did Moses do? He only prayed. Prayer overcomes the
Almighty! It finds God free—but leaves Him bound. This gives some
crevice of hope that God will not wholly leave us. There are those who cry
day and night, "Spare Your people, O Lord, and give not Your heritage to
reproach," Joel 2:17. When prayer leads the van, deliverance brings up the
rear! "You will prepare their heart, You will cause Your ear to hear," Psalm
3. Another seed of hope, is the tender respect God has to
own glory. This was Joshua's argument. "What
then will you do for your own great name?" Joshua 7:9. If the people of God
would be extinct and the cause of true religion trampled under foot—this
would reflect upon the glory of God, and His name would suffer. The wicked
seldom prevail—but they blaspheme. They say, "Where is your God?" Now God's
glory is dear to Him—it is the most orient pearl of His crown. He will stand
upon His honor. While He consults His people's safety—He promotes His own
glory. "Nevertheless He saved them for His name's sake," Psalm 106:8.
4. Another seed of hope, is the blessed intercession of
Christ. The Lord Jesus bears the names of His people upon His
breast and sets them as a golden signet upon His heart. His prayers go up to
heaven as sweet odors. "The smoke of incense ascended up before God, out of
the angel's hand," Revelation 8:4. Though our sins go up to heaven as the
smoke of a furnace—yet Christ's prayers go up as incense.
Christ's intercession is meritorious. His blood will never stop crying
out—until the blood of His enemies is shed.
5. A fifth seed of hope, is the mercy of God.
"In His love and in His pity He redeemed them," Isaiah 63:9. "God is the
Father of mercies," 2 Corinthians 1:3. Mercy naturally issues from Him. He
is rich in mercy, Ephesians 2:4. He delights in mercy, Micah
7:18. God's justice is strange work, Isaiah 28:21. Mercy is His
proper work. Why may not mercy give the casting vote? And that which may
make us hope in this mercy is:
The mercy of God is free. "I will love them
freely," Hosea 14:4. Mercy lends out its pardons to whom it will. Mercy does
not go by desert—but by grace. "I will love them freely."
The mercy of God is healing. "I will heal their
backslidings," Hosea 14:4. Mercy can heal the impurity and stubbornness of a
people; mercy can as well give repentance as deliverance. Mercy can destroy
the sins of a nation, and save the nation. It can burn up the chaff and save
the corn. "I will heal their backslidings." Mercy can stop the bloody issue
of sin. Psalm 48:20. The Roman historian Pliny said, "The aqueducts of Rome
are the world's wonder"—but, behold, here is a sacred aqueduct of God's
mercy. This is a sweet wonder! Mercy can overcome a sinful people; it can
save a nation in its critical year. We read that the fire of the Lord fell
and licked up the water, I Kings 18:38. Thus, the fire of God's mercy can
lick up and devour the water of our sins.
6. The last seed of hope for England, is that there have
been many sins committed in the nation, which are not the sins of the nation
itself. Some have perjured themselves—but all have not. A sober
and considerable party in the land (however slandered) have entered their
dissent and openly protested against the scandalous actings of others. So
that it is to be hoped the Lord will not impute the sin of some—to the
Thus I have showed you a rainbow in the cloud, and
given you some probable grounds of hope, that the Lord will still be in the
midst of England. I intend this as a preservative against despondency, not
as fuel for security.
QUESTION. But how is it possible there should be
any good towards us—that the sins in which the nation have been so steeped
and boiled, should be forgiven? That our divisions and animosities should be
healed, God's ordinances refined, and the Lord continue His gracious
presence in the midst of us?
ANSWER. I say with our blessed Savior, "The things which
are impossible with men are possible with God," Luke 18:27. God can
create—what can He not do? God can bring about those things which, in the
eye of sense, are not feasible. That iron should swim, and that a rock
should be a spring—is in nature impossible. But God has brought these
things to pass. Cannot God untie those knots which confound and puzzle us?
"All this may seem impossible to you now, a small and discouraged remnant of
God's people. But do you think this is impossible for me, the Lord
Almighty?" Zechariah 8:6.
Can difficulties oppose the Almighty? "Is anything too
hard for Me?" Jeremiah 32:27. Did not He make the dry bones live? Ezekiel
37:7-8. God can bring light out of darkness, and harmony out of confusion.
He can do more than we think—or else He would not be God.
How apt are God's own people to be discouraged with
seeming impossibilities? Moses, who was one of the brightest stars that ever
shined in the churches' orb—yet was ready to hesitate and sink at apparent
impossibilities. "But Moses said, "There are 600,000 foot soldiers here with
me, and yet you promise them meat for a whole month! Even if we butchered
all our flocks and herds, would that satisfy them? Even if we caught all the
fish in the sea, would that be enough?" Numbers 11:21-22. As Moses had said
in plain English, he did not see how such a numerous people could be fed for
a month. God gave him a kind of check for his infidelity. "Is the Lord's arm
too short?" verse 23. "Is there any limit to my power? Do I make mouths and
not meat? Cannot I make provision for My household? Is the Lord's arm too
short? That God who brought Isaac out of a dead womb, and the Messiah out of
a virgin's womb—what can He not do?"
When things act ever so irregularly, God can put them in
joint again. When His church is so low that she seems to be in the grave and
have a tomb-stone laid upon her, He can, in an instant, cause a glorious
resurrection! Therefore, let us not lose heart—but still rest on the arm of
God's power and sovereignty, remembering there are no desperate cases with
To conclude all, the Lord may let His church be awhile
under trials to punish her carnal security and awaken her slumbering fits;
yet, surely the storm will not continue long. The church shall not die in
travail—but God will manifest that He is in the midst of Zion, and after the
church has suffered awhile (as her head Christ has done) He will cause the
morning star of her salvation to appear, and she shall come out of all her
troubles, as the wings of a dove covered with silver and her feathers with