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

But some may say, "O sir,
what MEANS should we use that we may enjoy the gracious presence of the Lord with us in our greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers?" I answer,

1. First, There are some things that you must carefully SHUN and take heed of.

[1.] First, Take heed of high sinnings, take heed of scandalous sins. High sinnings do greatly dishonor God, wound conscience, reproach religion, stagger the weak, grieve the strong, open the mouths of the wicked, and provoke God to withdraw his gracious presence, Psalm 51:11-12; Exod. 32:8, and 33:3; Isaiah 63:10. Turn to these scriptures, and seriously ponder upon them. Great transgressions eclipse the favor of God as well as the honor of God. In great transgressions we turn our backs upon God, and God turns away his face from us. Gross sins will provoke God to withdraw his presence, both in respect of vigor and strength, as also in respect of peace and comfort. But,

[2.] Secondly, Take heed of impenitency. Next to our being preserved from sin, it is the greatest mercy in the world, when we have fallen by our transgressions, to make a quick and speedy return to God. When by your sins you have made work for repentance, for hell, or for the physician of souls—immediately make up the breach, take up the controversy between God and your souls, humble yourselves, judge yourselves, and speedily return to the Most High, Hosea 6:1; Exod. 32:9-15. Thus Peter did, and recovered the favorable presence of God immediately, Mat. 26:75; Mark 16:7.

But if men will commit sin and lie in it, if they will fall and have no mind to rise—God will certainly withdraw his favorable presence from them, as you see in David and Solomon, Psalm 51:11-12; 1 Kings 11:9; Josh. 7:1-5. This is further evident in that case of Achan, Josh. 7, "The Israelites they came to fight with the men of Ai, and fled before them, for the Lord was not with them." Why, what was the cause of God's withdrawing himself? See verse 11, "Israel has sinned." And verse 12, "Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies—but turned their backs." Their sins having betrayed them into the hand of divine justice, and into their enemies' hands also; mark what follows, "Neither will I be with you any more, except you destroy the accursed thing from among you." If we will not stone our Achans, our sins, by the lively exercise of faith and repentance; if we will keep up our lusts in despite of all who God does against us—we must never expect to retain the gracious presence of God with us. But,

[3.] Thirdly, Take heed either of neglecting gospel-worship, or of corrupting gospel-worship. Omissions will damn as well as commissions; and omissions will provoke God to withdraw his presence, as well as commissions. When people are careless in their attendance on gospel ordinances, no wonder if God withdraws his presence from them in their distresses, Cant. 5:2-3, 6, and 4:1-3. Cain went off from ordinances, and the Lord set a mark upon him, Gen. 4:15-16. Oh, the black and dismal marks of misery, which God has set upon many who have neglected gospel-worship; and for profit's sake, and for Diana's sake, are fallen roundly in with the worship of the world! 2 Tim. 4:10; Acts 19:24, 36.

O sirs, the great God stands upon nothing more in all the world than upon purity in his worship. There is nothing which does so provoke and exasperate God against a people, as corrupt worship. Corrupt worship sadly reflects upon the name of God, the honor of God, the truth of God, and the wisdom of God; and therefore his heart rises against such worship and worshipers, and he will certainly withdraw from them, and be a swift and terrible witness against them, as you may see by comparing these scriptures together. [Psalm 106:39-43; Psalm 78:58-64; 2 Chron. 7:19-22, and 32:16-21; Deut. 29:22-29.] Corrupt worship is contrary to the unity of God. Now deny his unity, and you deny his deity, "For the Lord is one, and his name is one," Zech. 14:9. It is contrary to the sovereignty of God, "He is the only ruler, the only potentate," 1 Tim. 6:15. It is contrary to the all-sufficiency of God. The heathen worshiped several gods, as thinking that several gods did bestow several blessings. They begged health of one God, wealth of another God, and victory of a third God, thus imagining to themselves several deities for several supplies. Their God was but a Jupiter, a partial helper, an auxiliary God—but "our God is Jehovah," who is abundantly able to supply all our needs, Eph. 3:20.

Now, if either we neglect his true instituted worship, or fall in with a false worship, with a devised worship, with a human worship, with a worldly worship—God will certainly withdraw his gracious presence from us. Will-worship accuses and charges God with weakness and folly—as if God were not careful enough, nor faithful enough, nor mindful enough, nor wise enough—to order, direct, and guide his people in the matters of his worship—but must be indebted to the wisdom, prudence, and care of man—of vain man, of sinful man, of vile and unworthy man, of weak and foolish man—to complete, perfect, and make up something that was lacking in his worship! Heb. 3:4-6; John 4:23-24. Now assuredly God will never keep house with those who give in such severe accusations and charges against him. But,

[4.] Fourthly, Take heed of a willing, willful, and presumptuous sinning against divine commands and divine warnings. The disobedient child is turned out of doors; the disobedient servant shall have none of his master's smiles, the disobedient wife has little of her husband's company. A willing, wilful, presumptuous running cross to divine commands speaks out much pride, atheism, hardness, blindness, carnal security, and contempt of the great God. It speaks out the greatest insincerity, stoutness, and stubbornness that is imaginable; and therefore no wonder if God turns his back upon such, and if he disdains to be in the midst of such.

Numbers 14:42, 43 "Do not go into the land now. You will only be crushed by your enemies because the Lord is not with you. When you face the Amalekites and Canaanites in battle, you will be slaughtered. The Lord will abandon you because you have abandoned the Lord." See Deut. 1:42-46. But they presumed to go up to the hill-top, though they had not the presence of God with them, nor the signs of his grace and favor with them, nor the company of Moses with them; but mark, they paid dearly for their presumption. Verse 45, "Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah."

When men are without God's presence, they are outside of God's precincts, and so out of his protection. To act or run cross to God's express command, though under pretense of revelation from God, is as much as a man's life is worth, as you may see in that sad story, 1 Kings 13:24. We frequently deny our presence unto disobedient people, and so does God his. Disobedience to divine commands shuts the door against the divine presence, and will not allow God to come in to support us, comfort us, or support us, under our greatest troubles and deepest distresses. But,

[5.] Fifthly, Take heed of carnal confidence, of resting upon an arm of flesh. Psalm 30:6, "And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved;" that is, when I was prosperously settled in the kingdom, I began to conclude within myself that now there was an end of all my troubles, I would now live all my days in a prosperous estate. [Adam in paradise was overcome, when Job on the ash-heap was a conqueror.] David having taken the strong fort of Zion, and having vanquished his enemies round about, and all the tribes having submitted themselves to him, and having built a beautiful palace, and being quietly settled in his throne, he began to be puffed up with carnal confidence. Oh the hazard of honor! Oh the damage of dignity! how soon are we broken upon the soft pillow of ease! Flies settle upon the sweetest perfumes when cold; and so does sin on the best hearts, when they are dissolved and dispirited by prosperity. Oh how apt are the holiest of men to be proud and secure, and promise themselves more than ever God promised them—namely, immunity from the cross.

David thought that his kingdom and all prosperity was tied unto him with adamant cords; he sitting quietly at Jerusalem, and free from fear of all his enemies, 2 Sam. 11:1; but God quickly confutes his carnal confidence by making him know that he could as easily blast the strongest oak as he could trample the smallest worm under his feet. Verse 7, "You hid your face—and I was troubled." God will quickly suspend his favor and withdraw his presence when his children begin to be proud and carnally confident. Look! as at the eclipse of the sun—the whole frame of nature droops; so when God hides his face, when he withdraws his presence—the best of saints cannot but droop and hang down their heads. Just so, Jer. 17:5, "Cursed be the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the Lord." Verse 6, "For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good comes." But,

[6.] Sixthly, Take heed of barrenness and unfruitfulness under gospel ordinances. Turn to these scriptures, Isaiah 5:1-8; Mat. 31:34-42; 2 Chron. 32:16, to the end. Of all spiritual judgments, barrenness is the greatest; and when men are given up to this judgment, God withdraws; he has no pleasure to dwell in a barren soil. What are barren grounds and barren wombs, compared to barren hearts? He who remains wholly barren under gospel ordinances, may well question his marriage-union with Christ, Ezek. 47:11; Mat. 13:19; Hosea 9:14; John 15:3; Heb. 2:6-8; Jude 12: for, Romans 7:4, We are said to be "married to Christ, that we may bring forth fruit to God." There is a double end of marriage—namely, cohabitation and propagation; and therefore there cannot be a greater and clearer evidence that you are not yet taken into a married union with Christ, than a total barrenness under gospel enjoyments. Christ's spouse is fruitful: Cant. 1:16, "Our bed is verdant."

Christ has no further delight in his people, nor will he further grace his people with his special presence, than they make conscience of weeping over their barrenness, and of bringing forth fruit to him, Cant. 7:11-13. "Now my husband will love me, now he will be joined to me, now I have born him this son also," Gen. 29:34, said Leah. Just so, may the fruit-bearing soul reason it out with Christ: Now I know dear Jesus will love me, now I know he will delight in me, now I know he will dwell with me, now I know he will honor me with his presence—for now I bring forth fruit unto him. Barrenness under the means of grace drives God from us, and the gospel from us, and communion, and peace, and spiritual prosperity from us.

Ursinus observes, that the sins and barrenness of the Protestants under the gospel in king Edward's days, brought in the persecution in queen Mary's days. He tells us, that those who fled out of England in queen Mary's days acknowledged that that calamity befell them for their great unprofitableness under the means of grace in king Edward's days. Ah, England! England! I look upon nothing to be so ominous to you as the barrenness of the professors of the day! No wonder if God leaves his house, when the trees that are planted in it are all barren. The nutmeg-tree makes barren all the ground about it; so does the spice of worldly love, make the hearts of Christians barren under the means of grace. But I must hasten.

[7.] Seventhly, Take heed of pride and haughtiness of spirit. Hosea 5:5, 6 "Israel's arrogance testifies against them; the Israelites, even Ephraim, stumble in their sin; Judah also stumbles with them. When they go with their flocks and herds to seek the Lord, they will not find him; he has withdrawn himself from them." Pride is the great master-scar of the soul; it will bud and blossom, it cannot be hidden. Pride is the leprosy of the soul, which breaks forth in the very forehead, and so testifies to his face, Ezek. 7:10; Isaiah 3:16-25. Some have called Rome, Epitomen universi, An epitome of the whole world. Just so, it may be said of pride, that it is the sum of all vileness, a sea of sin, a complicated sin, a mother sin, a breeding sin, a sin which has all sorts of sin in the womb of it. Consult these scriptures. [Hab. 1:16; Isaiah 48:9, and 26:12; Hab.2:5, etc.] "I hate pride and arrogance!" Proverbs 8:13.

Aristotle, speaking of justice, says, That in justice all virtues are couched, summarily. Just so, it may be truly said of pride—that in it all vices are as it were in a bundle wrapped up together! Therefore it is no wonder, if God withdraws his presence from proud people, "He has withdrawn himself from them"—Heb., "Has snatched away himself;" he has thrown himself out of their company, as Peter threw himself out from the crude soldiers into a by-corner to weep bitterly, Mark 14:72. God will have nothing to do with proud people, he will never dwell with them, he will never keep communion with them. He who dwells in the highest heavens will never dwell in a haughty heart. The proud he knows afar off," Isaiah 57:15; Psalm 138:6. He won't come near such loathsome lepers; he stands off from such as are odious and abominable; he cannot abide the sight of them, yes, his very heart rises against them! Proverbs 15:25. "The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished!" Proverbs 16:5. James 4:6, "God resists the proud," that is, "He sets himself in battle array against him," as the Greek emphatically signifies. Above all sorts of sinners, God sets himself against proud people, as invaders of his territories and foragers or plunderers of his chief treasures. God defies such as deify themselves. God will arm himself against them, he will never give his gracious presence to them; and therefore as ever you would enjoy the divine presence, arm yourself against pride, watch against pride, and pray hard against pride. But,

[8.] Eighthly, Take heed of a slothful, lazy, trifling spirit in the things of God. Cant. 5:2, 3 "I slept but my heart was awake. Listen! My lover is knocking: "Open to me, my sister, my darling, my dove, my flawless one. My head is drenched with dew, my hair with the dampness of the night." "I have taken off my robe—must I put it on again? I have washed my feet—must I soil them again?" Christ's head is drenched with dew; that is, Christ came to his spouse full of the dew of spiritual and heavenly blessings. Christ always brings spiritual and heavenly blessings in his hand, Eph. 1:3-4; Rev. 22:12. Christ never visits his people empty handed. He is no beggarly or niggardly guest. When he comes, he brings everything that heart can wish, or need, require. And now stand and wonder at the silly excuse that the spouse makes for herself: verse 3, "Do not trouble—for I am in bed; my clothes are off, my feet are washed, and I am composed to a settled rest!" "But are you so indeed?" might Christ have replied. "Is this your kindness to your friend? 2 Sam. 16:17. Is this the part and posture of a vigilant Christian? Would it not have been much better for you to be dressed and ready, your lamp burning, and you waiting for your Lord's return? Is it so great a trouble? Is it such a mighty business for you to rise out of your bed, to put on your clothes, and to let in such a guest, as comes not to take anything from you—but to enrich you with the best and noblest of favors?"

Now mark how severely Christ punishes his spouse's sluggishness, laziness, slothfulness, and delays to entertain him when he knocked: verse 6, "I opened for my lover, but my lover had left; he was gone. My heart sank at his departure. I looked for him but did not find him. I called him but he did not answer." Or He was gone! he was gone! a most passionate complaint for his departure; or my best-beloved was departed, he was gone away! By the iteration or doubling of this sentence, wherein the spouse complains of the departure of her bridegroom, is signified her great trouble, her hearty sorrow, her inexpressible grief—which lay as a heavy load upon her spirit; because, by her unworthy usage of him, she had foolishly caused him to withdraw his presence from her.

Spiritual desertions are of three sorts:

(1.) Cautional, for preventing of sin, as Paul's seems to be, 1 Cor. 1:2, 8-9;

(2.) Probational, for trial and exercise of grace;

(3.) Penal, for chastisement of spiritual sloth and sluggishness, as here in the spouse. Now this last is far the saddest and heaviest; and therefore as ever you would enjoy the gracious presence of the Lord, take heed of a lazy, slothful, sluggish spirit in the things of God, in the concernments of your souls. That man must needs be miserable, who is lazy and slothful—and had rather go sleeping to hell than sweating to heaven! But,

[9.] Ninthly, Take heed of a covetous worldly spirit under the smarting rod, under the severe rebukes of God. Isaiah 57:17, "I was enraged by his sinful greed; I punished him, and hid my face in anger, yet he kept on in his willful ways." Covetousness or greed, was the common sin of the Jews. This disease had infected all sorts and ranks of men; this leprosy did spread itself over princes, prophets, and people, as you may see in comparing these scriptures. [Isaiah 56:11; Jer. 6:13, and 8:10.] "But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." 1 Timothy 6:8-10

Now "covetousness being the root of all evil," as the apostle speaks, and the darling sin of our nation—God is so provoked by it that he first smites, and then hides himself, as one who in displeasure, having left one to the evil and harsh usage of some other, withdraws himself out of the way, and having shut himself up in his closet, will not be seen or spoken with. A worldly man makes the world his God. Covetousness is explicit idolatry: Col. 3:5, "Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry." Now though it is true, that whatever a man loves most and best, that is his god—be it his belly or his back—yet, in a special manner, covetousness is idolatry—as no other sin is, Phil. 3:19; Isaiah 3:16-25.

Three things especially, make a god:

First, our judgment, when we esteem it in our serious thoughts to be our chief good, and that in which we place our happiness. Now the covetous man looks upon the riches of the world as his heaven, his happiness, his great all. Pope Sylvester placed so much happiness in riches, that, to enjoy the popedom for seven years, he sold his soul to the devil. The people of Constantinople placed so much of their happiness in riches, and were so excessively covetous, that they were buying and selling in their shops, even three days after the Turks were within the walls of the city, and that was the reason that the streets run down with the blood of them, their wives, and children.

Secondly, our confidence. That is an homage which makes a god, when we place our trust in anything, make it our rock, our fortress, our all-sufficient good. This the covetous man does, "He says to the wedge of gold, you are my confidence," Job 21:34. The rich man's heart dances about his golden calf, saying to his wedge of gold, "you are my confidence!" And yet his wedge of gold shall prove but as Achan's wedge, a wedge to cleave his soul in sunder, and, as that Babylonish garment, to be his shroud, Josh. 7:21 to end. "The rich man's wealth is his strong city," Proverbs 10:15; 1 Tim. 6:27. Covetous people do really think themselves simply the better and the safer for their hoards and heaps of riches; but they may one day find themselves greatly mistaken.

Famous is that story of Croesus among the heathens. He was a rich king, who tumbled up and down in his gold and silver; and Solon, that wise man of Greece, coming into his country, he desired to speak with him, and after Solon had seen and viewed all his wealth and glory, Croesus asked him whom he thought to be the happiest man in the world, imagining that Solon would have said Croesus. But Solon answered, "I think Tellus was the most happy man." "Tellus!" says Croesus; "why Tellus?" "Because," said Solon, "though he was poor—yet he was a godly man, and content with that which he had; and having brought up his child honestly and piously, he died honorably."

"Well, then," said Croesus—"who do you think the second most happy man in the world?" "I think," said he, "those two brothers who carried their mother to the temple." Whereupon, said Croesus, "what think you of me"? "I think," says he, "you are a very rich man; but a man may be happy though he be poor, and a man may be unhappy though he be rich, for he may lose all his riches before he dies; and therefore, I think none truly happy but he who lives well and dies well." Whereupon that wise man Solon was dismissed. But afterward this Croesus, making war against Cyrus, he was conquered by Cyrus; and being taken captive, he was laid upon a pile of wood to be burned to death, then lying on the pile of wood he cried out and said, "O Solon! Solon! Solon!" Cyrus inquiring what he meant, he answered, "This Solon was a wise man of Greece, who told me that happiness did not consist in riches, for they might all be lost, and a rich man might die miserable; whose words, said he, I then neglected—but now I find true; and therefore now I cry out, O Solon, Solon, Solon!"

Let us now tell the covetous man, the worldly man, that his happiness lies not in riches, though he looks upon his riches as his strong city; he won't mind us, he won't regard. Oh but there is a time a-coming wherein the worldling will cry out, "O Solon, Solon, Solon!"

Thirdly, Our service, Mat. 6:24. That is an homage, which makes a god. When we devote all our pains, labor, and service to it—be it this or that—that makes a god. Now the covetous man, his heart is most upon the world, his thoughts are most upon the world, his affections are most upon the world, and his discourse is most about the world. He who has his mind taken up with the world, and chiefly delighted with the world's music, he has also his tongue tuned to the same key, and takes his joy and comfort in speaking of nothing else but the world and worldly things. If the world is in the heart—it will break out at the lips. A worldly-minded man speaks of nothing but worldly things. "They are of the world, therefore they speak of the world," John 4:5. The water rises not above the fountain. Out of the warehouse the shop is furnished.

The love of this world makes men forget God, neglect Christ, slight ordinances, refuse heaven, despise holiness, and oils the tongue for worldly discourses, Mat. 19:21-22. Ah the time, the thoughts, the strength, the efforts, the words—which are spent upon the world, and the things of the world, while sinners' souls lie a-bleeding, and eternity is hastening on upon them!

I have read of a greedy banker, who was always best when he was most in talking of money and the world. Being near his death, he was much pressed to make his will. Finally he dictates:

First, I bequeath my own soul to the devil—for being so greedy of the muck of this world!

Secondly, I bequeath my wife's soul to the devil—for persuading me to this worldly course of life.

Thirdly, I bequeath my pastor's soul to the devil—because he did not show me the danger I lived in, nor reprove me for it.

Oh, the danger of making the world our god, when we come to die and to make up our accounts with God! Now when men make the world their god, and set up their riches, pleasures, and profits in the place of God, no wonder if God withdraws his presence from them; and therefore, as ever you would retain the gracious presence of God with you, take heed of a covetous spirit, a worldly spirit. "People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction." 1 Timothy 6:9.

[10.] Tenthly and lastly, As ever you would enjoy the gracious presence of God with you in your greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers—take heed of a petulant, willful, and inflexible spirit under the rod. When the child is willful under the rod, the father withdraws; so here, Isaiah 57:17, "I was angry and punished these greedy people. I withdrew myself from them, but they went right on sinning." Isaiah 47:6. Though I manifested my displeasure by giving them up to their enemies, and by laying them under the tokens of my anger, they persisted in their own willful, crooked, and rebellious courses, refusing to repent and turn to the Most High; and therefore God changes his countenance, hides his face, and withdraws his presence from them: Deut. 32:20, "I will hide my face from them—for they are a perverse generation." Hebrew, A generation of perversenesses.

When the sick man is froward, friends withdraw and leave him alone: Psalm 18:26, "With the froward you will show yourself froward." God will meet with froward people in their own way, and make them reap the fruits of their own doings. God will walk cross and contrary to the froward, opposing and crossing them in all they do. God has no delight to grace froward people with his presence. When men begin to be froward under a divine hand, God commonly hides his face, and turns his back upon them. Men filled with impatience are no fit company for the God of all patience. Men who are peevish and petulant under the rod, will always see a cloud upon the face of God.

Thus you see that there are ten things that you must carefully take heed of—if you would enjoy the gracious presence of God with you in your greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, Romans 15:5; Proverbs 11:20. But,

2. Secondly, As there are many things to be avoided, just so, there are several things to be put in PRACTICE, as you would enjoy the gracious presence of God with you, in your greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers. Let me glance at a few—

[1.] First, Be sure that you are brought under the bond of the covenant. This gracious special presence of God with his people, under their greatest troubles, and deepest distresses—is peculiar to those who are in covenant with God. [Ezek. 20:37; Psalm 25:14, and 50:5; Jer. 32:40-41; Gen. 6:8, 18, 19:20-26 and 39:20-22; Jer. 1:17-19, and 37:15, seq.; Dan. 3:23-25, and 6:22-23.] Noah was in covenant with God—and God was with him, providing an ark for him, and preserving of him from drowning in the midst of drowning. Lot was in covenant with God—and God was with him, and secures him in Zoar, when he rained hell out of heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Joseph was in covenant with God—and God was with Joseph in prison. Jeremiah was in covenant with God—and God kept him company in the dungeon. The three Hebrew children, or rather champions, were in covenant with God—and God was specially present with them in the fiery furnace. Daniel was in covenant with God—and God was wonderfully with him in the lions' den. Job was in covenant with God—and God was with him in six troubles, and in seven, Job 3:18-19. David was in covenant with God—and God was with him in the valley of the shadow of death, Psalm 89:33-34, and 23:4.

Do not rest your salvation—in a name to live, nor in a form of godliness, nor in common convictions, nor in an outward reformation. Do not rest anything below a covenant-relationship with God, if you would enjoy the precious presence of the Lord with you in your greatest troubles, and deepest distresses, Deut. 26:17-19. If you choose him for your God—you shall then assuredly find him to be your God. If he is the God of our love and fear—he will be the God of our comfort and safety. If God is your God in covenant—then in distress the cities of refuge are open to you. He will stick close to you, he will never leave you nor forsake you, Heb. 13:5-7; you have a Father to go to, a God to flee to, a God who will take care of you: "Come my people, enter into your chambers, and shut your doors about you, hide yourself, as it were for a little moment, until the indignation is over and passed." Here are chambers, with drawing-rooms provided, not open chambers—but with doors, and doors shut round about, intimating that guard of protection, which the people of God shall find from him, even in a common inundation. But,

[2.] Secondly, If you would enjoy the gracious presence of God with you, in your greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers—then look to the practical part of holiness, keep up the power of godliness in your hearts and lives. 2 Chron. 15:2; John 14:21, "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." Verse 23, ""If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him." He who frames his heart and life according to Christ's rule—shall be sure of Christ's presence.

Ezekiel was a man who kept up the power of holiness and godliness in his heart and life. [This is evident throughout the whole book of the prophet Ezekiel. See 2:4, 7-12.] And oh! the glorious visions, and deep mysteries, and rare discoveries of God, and of his presence, and of the great things which would be brought about in the latter days, which were revealed to him!

Daniel kept up the power of holiness and godliness in his heart and life; and oh, what secrets and mysteries did God reveal to him! Many of those great and glorious things, which concern the destruction of the four last monarchies, and the growth, increase, exaltation, flourishing, durable, invincible and unconquerable estate of his own kingdom, was discovered to him.

Paul was a person who kept up the power of holiness and godliness in his heart and life; and oh, what a mighty presence of God had he with him—in all his doing, suffering, and witnessing work! And oh, what glorious revelations and discoveries of God had he, when he was caught up into the third heaven, into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, or wordless words, such as words were too weak to utter, such "as was not possible for man to utter," and that either because they transcended man's capacity in this life, or else because the apostle was forbid to utter them, they being revealed to him not for the public use of the church—but only for his particular encouragement, that he might be the better able to encounter with all hardships, difficulties, dangers, and deaths which did or might attend him in his ministerial work, 2 Cor. 1:7-10. Some of the ancients are of opinion that he saw God's essence, for, say they, other things in heaven might have been uttered—but the essence of God is so great and so glorious a thing that no man or angel can utter it. But here I must crave leave to enter my dissent from these learned men, for the scripture is express in this, "that no man has thus ever seen the Lord at any time, and that no man can thus see the Lord, and live," John 1:18; 1 Tim. 6:16; 1 John 4:12; Exod. 33:20-23.

And as great a favorite of Heaven as Moses was—yet he could only see the back parts of God, he could only behold some lower representations of God. Some say that he heard the heavenly singing of angels and blessed spirits, which was so sweet, so excellent and glorious, that no mortal man was able to utter it; and this of the two interpretations, is most probable. But no man is bound to make this opinion an article of his faith. This, I think, we may safely conclude, that in this rapture, besides the contemplation of celestial mysteries, he felt such unspeakable delight and pleasure, that was either like to that, or exceeded that, which Adam took in the terrestrial paradise. Doubtless the apostle did see and hear such excellent things as was impossible for the tongue of any mortal man to express or utter.

John was a man who kept up in his heart and life the power of holiness and godliness; and Christ reveals to him the general estate of his church and all that would befall his people, and that from John's time unto his second coming. Christ gives John a true representation of all the troubles, trials, changes, mercies, and glories—which in all times and in all ages and places, would attend his church—until Christ came in all his glory. About sixty years after Christ's ascension, [It is the general opinion of the learned that this Book of the Revelation was penned about the latter end of the reign of Domitian the emperor, which was about sixty years after Christ's ascension.] Christ comes to John, and opens his heart, and unbosoms his soul, and makes known to him all that care, that love, that tenderness, that kindness, and that sweetness, that he would exercise towards his church from that very time to the end of the world. Christ tells John, that though he had been absent, and seemingly silent for about sixty years, that yet he was not so taken up with the delights, contentments, and glory of heaven—that he did not care what became of his church on earth. Oh no! and therefore he opens his choicest secrets, and makes known the most hidden and glorious mysteries to John that ever were made known to any man.

As there was none who had so much of the heart of Christ as John—so there was none had so much of the ear of Christ as John. Christ singles out his servant John from all the men in the world, and makes known to him all the happy providences and all the sad occurrences which were to come upon the followers of the Lamb, so that they might know what to prepare for, and what to pray for, and what to wait for. Also he declares to John all that wrath and vengeance, all that desolation and destruction, which should come upon the false prophet and the beast, and upon all who wandered after them, and who were worshipers of them, and who had received their marks either in their foreheads or in their hands.

Thus you see that they which keep up the power of holiness in their hearts and lives—they shall be sure to enjoy the choicest presence of God, and the clearest, fullest, and sweetest discoveries of God, and of these great things that concern the spiritual and eternal good of their souls. Nothing wins upon God like holiness, nothing delights God like holiness, nothing engages the presence of God like holiness, Psalm 50:23. He shows his salvation to him who orders his life aright. He who puts every piece of his life in the right order, he shall see and know that he shall be saved. He who walks accurately and exactly, who walks as in a careful frame, treading gingerly, stepping warily—he shall have a prospect of heaven here—and a full fruition of heaven hereafter, "You meet him who rejoices, and works righteousness, those who remember you in your ways," Isaiah 64:5. He who works righteousness and walks in righteousness, shall be sure to meet with God, and to enjoy the precious presence of God in his greatest troubles and deepest distresses. But,

[3.] Thirdly, If you would enjoy the gracious presence of God with you in your greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers—then keep close to instituted worship, keep close to gospel ordinances, keep close to your gospel church. Exod. 20:24, "In all places where I record my name, I will come unto you and bless you." Isaiah 64:5; Rev. 2:1; Cant. 7:5; Ezek. 48:35. Where God fixes his solemn worship for the memorial and honor of his name, there he will vouchsafe his gracious presence: Mat. 18:20, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." The promise of God's gracious assistance, presence, and acceptance is annexed to his church, whether it be great or small, numerous or few: Mat. 28:20, "Lo, I am with you always," according to my godhead, majesty, grace, and Spirit. Lo, I am with you, to own you! Lo, I am with you, to counsel and direct you! Lo, I am with you, to cheer and comfort you! Lo, I am with you, to assist and strengthen you! Lo, I am with you, to shelter you and protect you! Lo, I am with you, to do all your works in you and for you! Lo, I am with you, to strengthen your graces and to weaken your sins! Lo, I am with you, to scatter your fears and answer your doubts! Lo, I am with you, to better your hearts and to mend your lives! Lo, I am with you, to bless you and crown you with immortality and glory! And what can the soul desire more?

Such as have low thoughts of gospel ordinances, such as slight gospel ordinances, such as neglect gospel ordinances, such as vilify gospel ordinances, such as decry gospel ordinances, such as oppose gospel ordinances—such may talk of the presence of Christ, and such may boast of the presence of Christ—but all such are outside of the way of enjoying the presence of Christ. Christ is only to be met with in his own worship, and in his own ways. Ah, how many in these days are there, who are like to old Barzillai, who had lost his taste and hearing, and so cared not for David's feasts and music! 2 Sam. 19:35. How many are there that formerly were very zealous for ordinances—but now are as zealous against them! How many formerly have made many great, hard, and dangerous ventures to enjoy gospel ordinances, who now won't venture a broken shin for an ordinance, no, nor stir out of doors to enjoy an ordinance, etc.! How many in our days, upon neglecting and despising gospel ordinances, have grown from evil to be very evil, and from very evil to be stark evil. He shall be an Apollo to me, who can show me one man in the world that ever grew better or holier by neglecting or slighting gospel ordinances.

Many come to the ordinances, too, like the Egyptian dog, which laps a little as he runs by the side of Nylus—but stays not to drink. How many in this great city run every Sabbath to hear this man and that; and here they lap a little and there a little—but never stay to drink—never fix in this congregation or that, this way or that. These people are neither wise, serious, lovely, nor lively in the ways of God. I think they are judicially blinded and hardened, who are indifferent whether they enjoy ordinances or not, or who can part with ordinances with dry eyes. Surely the infant is very sick, who cries not for the breast, Zeph. 3:18. As ever you would enjoy the gracious presence of God with you in all your troubles and distresses, make conscience of sticking close to gospel ordinances. But,

[4.] Fourthly, If you would enjoy the gracious presence of God with you in your greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, then, when you are not in troubles, distresses, dangers, etc., be sure you make much conscience of five things:

(1.) Of prizing his presence above all other things. So Moses did, Exod. 33:13-17; so Augustine would willingly go through hell to Christ; and Luther had rather be in hell with Christ than in heaven without him; and Bernard had rather have Christ in a chimney corner than be in heaven without him.

(2.) Of improving this gracious presence against sin, the world, the flesh, oppositions and temptations, etc.

(3.) Of walking suitable to this gracious presence.

(4.) Of lamenting and mourning over those who lack this gracious presence.

(5.) Of holding any secret correspondence with the professed and known enemies of Christ. Princes will never vouchsafe their favorable presence to such subjects as hold any secret correspondence with their professed and known enemies, either at home or abroad; so here. But,

[5.] Fifthly, If you would enjoy the gracious presence of God with you in your greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, then, in all your troubles and distresses, etc., maintain uprightness and integrity of spirit with God. Psalm 5:12: 2 Chron. 16:9, "For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of those whose heart is perfect towards him."

Psalm 84:11, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will be withhold from those who walk uprightly." This is the largest promise we find in the whole book of God, The creature stands in need of two things, provision and protection; for the first, the Lord is a sun, as full of goodness as the sun is of light. He is a sun, in that he does enlighten and enliven his church, whereas all the world besides lie under darkness and the shadow of death; and in that he does cheer, and warm, and comfort the hearts of his people by his presence and lightsome countenance, and is the fountain from whence all external, internal, and eternal blessings are derived to them. For the second, a shield, Psalm 18:2. Among all inanimate creatures the sun is the most excellent, and among all artificial creatures a shield is chief, and was of greatest use in those days. The sun notes all manner of excellency and prosperity, and the shield notes all manner of protection whatever, Isaiah 62:20; Psalm 3:4. Under the name of "grace," all spiritual good things are to be understood; and under the name of "glory," all eternal good things are to be understood; and under that phrase of "No good thing will he withhold," all temporal good things are to be understood, so far as they make for his glory, and his people's real good. Now this choice, this sweet, this full, this large promise, is made over only to the upright, and therefore, as you would have any share in it, maintain your uprightness!

Psalm 11:7, "His countenance does behold the upright;" Heb., His faces. Every gracious discovery of God to the upright is his face. God will, in all manner of ways, make gracious discoveries of his love and delight to upright ones. No father can so much delight to behold the countenance of his child, as God delights to behold the countenance of the upright.

Psalm 112:4, "Unto the upright there arises light in darkness." Light commonly signifies joy, comfort, peace, help, deliverance, Job 30:26; Esther 8:16; 2 Cor. 6:10. The upright man shall have joy in tribulation, plenty in poverty, liberty in bonds, life in death—as the martyrs have frequently and gloriously experienced. Sometimes God turns the upright man's adversity into prosperity, his sickness into health, his weakness into strength, his night into day, his storms into calms, his long winter nights into pleasant summer days. Sometimes God hides his upright ones in the hollow of his hand, in his pavilion, in his presence-chamber, Isaiah 26:9, 20; Mal. 3:17. When his judgments are abroad in the earth he takes special care of his jewels, and many times, when the upright are in darkness and in great distress, God cheers their hearts with the consolations of his Spirit and the light of his countenance, Psalm 94:19, and 71:20-21. By all which it is most evident that "Unto the upright there arises light in darkness."

O sirs, do but maintain your uprightness in all your troubles and distresses, and then you will be sure of the gracious presence of God with you in all your troubles and distresses. God values an upright Job upon a ash-heap before a deceitful Jehu upon his royal throne, Job 1:8, and 2:3, 7-9; he sets a higher price upon an upright Lazarus in rags than upon a rich Dives in his purple robes, Luke 16. And therefore when an upright man is in troubles and distresses, God will be sure to keep him company. The upright man is like the philosopher's dice, cast him which way you will, and into what condition you will, he is still upright; and therefore, of all people, God loves to grace the upright man with his gracious presence. But,

[6.] Sixthly, If you would enjoy the gracious presence of God with you in all your troubles, deep distresses, and most deadly dangers, then you must be very earnest and importunate with God not to leave you—but to stay with you, to abide with you, and to dwell in the midst of you, Psalm 148:18, "The Lord is near unto all who call upon him;" but, to prevent mistakes, I mean, "to all who call upon him in truth." There are many who call upon God—but not in truth; from these God stands at a distance, Proverbs 1:28; Isaiah 11-17; Deut. 4:4; 2 John 4. There are others that call upon God in truth, in plainness and singleness of heart; and to these God is near, not only in regard of his essence, which is everywhere—but also in regard of the effects of his power, and the readiness of his will in granting their requests. Abijah prays, and finds an admirable presence of God with him, giving him a mighty victory over his most powerful enemy, 2 Chron. 3,10-11,17-18. Asa prays, and finds such a singular presence of God with him as made him victorious over an enormous army, 2 Chron. 14:9 to the end. Jehoshaphat prays, and had such a special presence of God with him that those numerous forces that were combined against him fall by their own swords, 2 Chron. 20:1-11, with verse 22-25. The wrath of God wrought their ruin, unexpectedly and irresistibly. [They were carried by such a spirit of rage and fury that no man spared his neighbor—but each one destroyed him who was near him.] Others say that the Lord did suddenly and unexpectedly cut them off, as when men are cut off by enemies that lie in ambush against them, and that by sending some unexpected strife among those nations, whereupon they fell out among themselves, and slew one another, and so accomplished that which the Levite had foretold, verse 17, "You shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand you still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you."

It was the presence of God with his people that was their preservation, and their enemies' destruction. There is no power, no force, no strength, no combinations that can stand before the powerful presence of God with his people, and a spirit of prayer upon his people.

Hezekiah prays, and finds such a powerful presence of God with him as bears up his heart, and as strengthens his faith, and as cuts off his enemies, Isaiah 37:14-21, with verse 36. Oh, beg hard of the Lord that he will stay with you, do as they did when Christ made as though he would have gone from them: Luke 24:29, "But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us, for it is towards evening, and the day is far spent; and he went in to tarry with them." By prayer and importunity lay hold on Christ; say, Lord, night is near, the night of trouble, the night of distress, the night of danger, the night of death is near; stay with us, depart not from us. They over-entreated him by their importunity, they compelled him by entreaty. "Night is near, and the day is far spent." Oh, lay a hand of holy violence upon God, as Jacob did, and say, as he, "I will not let you go." Jacob, though lamed, will not let Christ go. Jacob holds fast with both hands when his joints were out of joint, being fully resolved that whatever he did let go, he would not let his Lord go, until he had blessed him, Gen. 32:25,26; Hosea 4:12. Oh, be often a-crying out with Jeremiah, "Leave us not, Lord," Jer. 14:9. Though in our great troubles and deep distresses friends should leave us, and relations leave us, and all the world leave us—yet don't you leave us! Oh, don't you leave us, Lord! Though all creatures should desert us—yet, if you will but stand by us, we shall do well enough; but woe, woe unto us if God departs from us! Oh, leave us not! But,

[7.] Seventhly, Keep humble, and walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8; Psalm 25:9. The highest heavens and the lowest hearts, are the habitation of God's glorious presence. Isaiah 57:15, "For this is what the high and lofty One says—he who lives forever, whose name is holy—I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite." He who would in good earnest enjoy the gracious presence of God with him in his great troubles, deep distresses, and most deadly dangers, he must keep humble, and walk humbly with his God. God will keep house with none but humble souls. There are none who feel so great a need of the divine presence as humble souls, there are none who so prize the divine presence as humble souls, there are none who so love the divine presence, and who are so enamored with the divine presence as humble souls, there are none who so thirst and long for much of the divine presence as humble souls, there are none who so lament and bewail the loss of the divine presence as humble souls, there are none who make such a singular and thorough improvement of the divine presence as humble souls; and therefore no wonder that of all the men in the world, God singles out the humble Christian, to make his heart the habitation where his honor delights to dwell.

Abraham is but dust and ashes in his own eyes, Gen. 18:27; and what man on earth had ever more of the divine presence of God with him than he? Gen 15:12-19, 17:1-10, and 18:17-19, etc.

Jacob knew that he was unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness God had shown him, Gen. 32:10; and he had a mighty presence of God with him, Gen. 32:24-31, etc.

David in his own eyes was but a worm and no man, Psalm 22:6. The word in the original, signifies a very little worm, which breeds in scarlet. It is so little, that no man can hardly see it or perceive it; and yet what a mighty presence of God had David with him in the many battles he fought, and in the many dangers he was in, and in the many miraculous deliverances he had See them all summed up in that 18th Psalm. It is his triumphant song after many victories won, deliverances given, and mercies obtained; and therefore worthy of frequent perusal.

Paul was the least of all saints in his own eyes; yes, he was less than the least of all saints, Eph. 3:8. This is a double diminutive, and signifies "lesser than the least," if lesser might be. Here you have the greatest apostle descending down to the lowest step of humility, 1 Cor. 15:8, 4:9; 1 Tim. 1:15. Great Paul is least of saints, least of the apostles, and greatest of sinners in his own eyes, and never had any mortal more of the gracious presence of God with him in all his services and in all his sufferings, in all his afflictions and in all his temptations, in all his trials and in all his troubles, which were many and great. See Acts 16:23-25, 23:10-11, 27:23-25; 2 Cor. 1:8-10, 4:8-11, 7:4-7, 11:21, seq., 12:7-10.

Is your condition low, then let your hearts be low. He who is little in his own account, is great in God's esteem, and shall be sure to enjoy most of his presence. God can dwell, God will dwell with none but those who are lowly in heart; and therefore as ever you would enjoy the special presence of God with you in your greatest troubles and deepest distresses, be sure you walk humbly with your God. Many may talk much of God, and many may profess much of God, and many may boast much of God; but he only enjoys much of God who makes conscience of walking humbly with God. But,

[8.] Eighthly, and lastly, If you would enjoy the special presence of God with you in your greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, then labor every day more and more after greater measures of holiness. The more holiness you reach to, the more you shall have of the presence of a holy God with you in all your straits and trials. [Ponder upon these scriptures, Isaiah 58:8-11; 2 Cor. 6:16-18, and 7:1; Deut. 23:13-14.] If the Scriptures be narrowly searched, you will find that men of the greatest measures and degrees of holiness have always enjoyed the greatest measures of the divine presence: witness Enoch, Gen. 5:24; Noah, Gen. 6:8-9, 17-18. Just so, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Job, David, Daniel, John, Paul, etc. They were all famous for holiness; and accordingly they had a famous presence of God with them, as has been showed in part, and might more fully have been discovered.

[1.] Consider, that the more holy any person is, the more excellent that person is. All corruptions are diminutions of excellency. The more mixed anything is, the more abased it is. The more you mix your wine with water, the more you abase your wine; and the more you mix your gold with tin, the more you abase your gold. But the purer your wine is, the richer and better your wine is; and the purer your gold is, the more glorious and excellent it is. Just so, the purer and holier any person is, the more excellent and glorious that person is. Now the more divinely excellent and glorious any person is, the more he is beloved of God, Dan. 9:23; and the more he is the delight of God, and the more he shall have of the presence of God.

[2.] Consider, that the more holy any person is, the more that person pleases the Lord. Fruitfulness in holiness fills heaven with joy. The farmer is not so much pleased with the fruitfulness of his fields, nor the wife with the fruitfulness of her womb—as God is pleased with the fruitfulness of his people in grace and holiness. Now certainly, the more God is pleased with any person, the more he will be present with that person. They commonly have most of our presence—who most please us.

Enoch had this testimony, before his translation, that he pleased God, or gave God contentment, as the original word imports. Enoch eyed God at all times, in all places, and in all companies; and this pleased God. Wherever Enoch was, his eye was still upon God. Enoch walked constantly with God; his whole life was but one continued day of walking with God; and this pleased God. Enoch kept himself from the corruptions and pollutions of the times, which were very great; he was not carried away with the stream of the times; he kept a constant counter-motion to the corrupt courses of the times; and this pleased God. Enoch maintained and kept up a clear, choice, and incessant communion with God; and this pleased God. Enoch made it his business, his work, his heaven, to approve his heart to God, and his ways to God; and this pleased God. Enoch was very serious and studious to avoid everything that might be a dishonor to God, or displeasing to God; and this pleased God. Enoch had great, and high, and honorable thoughts of God; and this pleased God. God was so pleased with Enoch, that he translates him from earth to heaven, from a gracious to a glorious presence. [God took him up in a whirlwind, say the Hebrew doctors, as Elijah was. He changed his place—but not his company, for he still walked with God; as on earth, so in heaven.] It was a singular mercy for God to be with Enoch on earth—but it was a far more glorious mercy for Enoch to be with God in heaven. The gracious presence of God is very desirable—but the glorious presence of God is most comfortable. Enoch pleases God, and God translates Enoch. We can never have those friends near enough to us—who take a pleasure and delight to please us; so here Enoch was a bright morning star, a rising sun, for virtue and holiness; and therefore God could not satisfy himself, (to speak after the manner of men,) that he should live at so great a distance from him—and therefore translates him from earth to heaven. Well, my friends, the greater measures of holiness you reach to, the more you will please God; and the more you please God, the more you shall be sure to enjoy of the presence of God.

[3.] Consider, that the more holy any person is, the more like to God he is; and the more like to God he is, doubtless the more he is beloved of God. It is likeness both in nature and grace, which always draws the strongest love, 1 Pet. 1:15-16; Lev. 11:44, and 19:2, and 20:7. Though every child is the father multiplied, the father of a second edition; yet the father loves him best, and delights in him most—who is most like him, and who in feature, spirit, and action does most resemble him to the life. And so does the Father of spirits also; he always loves them best who in holiness resemble him most, Heb. 12:9. There are four remarkable things in the beloved disciple above all the rest, John 13:23, and 18:16, and 19:26-27, and Mark 14:50:

(1.) That he lay nearest to Christ's bosom at the table;

(2.) That he followed Christ closest to the high-priest's palace;

(3.) That he stood close to Christ when he was on the cross, though others had basely deserted him and turned their backs upon him;

(4.) That Christ commended the care of his mother to him. Now why did Christ's desire, love, and delight run out with a stronger and a fuller tide towards John than to the rest of the disciples? doubtless it was because John did more resemble Christ than the rest, it was because John was a more exact picture and lively representation than the others were of Christ.

Now the more any man in holiness is like to Christ, the more any man in holiness resembles Christ, the more that man shall enjoy of the presence of Christ, the more that man shall lie in the bosom of Christ. The father loves to be most with that child which is most like him. Just so here, as ever you would enjoy the presence of God in your greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, be sure that you keep up holiness in your hearts and lives, be sure that you grow in holiness, and flourish in holiness—and then you shall be sure of the presence of God with you in all your troubles and deep distresses. A holy God will never leave the holy Christian. And thus much for this use of exhortation.