A Word in Season to Suffering Saints

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

By Thomas Brooks, London, 1675

The last use of all, is a use of comfort and consolation to all the people of God, in their greatest troubles and deepest distresses. Now here consider,

(1.) First of all, That God himself hands out this as a rare comfort to his people in all their troubles, distresses, and dangers—namely, That he will be graciously present with them in the midst of all their sorrows and sufferings. Gen. 26:3, "Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you, and will bless you;" 28:15, "And behold I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go, and will bring you again into this land; for I will not leave you," etc., Isaiah 43:2; Psalm 91:15; Josh. 1:5; Heb. 13:5; Exod. 3:12. Don't talk of your loss of friends, for I will be with you. Don't talk of your country, for I will give you this land, which is the paradise of the world. Don't talk of your poverty, for you shall spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south, verse 14. Don't talk of your solitariness and aloneness, "for I will not leave you."

Isaiah 41:10, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." Suppose a man was injuriously dealt with by this man or that, would it not be a comfort to him that a just and righteous judge stood by and was an eyewitness of all the violences which were done to him? Suppose a man were in exile with David, or in prison with Joseph, or in a dungeon with Jeremiah, or in the stocks with Paul and Silas, or in banishment for the testimony of Jesus, with John—yet would it not be a singular comfort to him to have the presence of a kind father, a bosom friend, a wise Counselor, an able physician with him? O Christian, be in whatever place you will, and with whatever company you will, and in whatever condition you will—yet your loving God, your kind father, your bosom friend, etc., will be still with you, he will never leave you, nor forsake you; and oh what a spring of comfort should this be to you! But,

(2.) Secondly, Know for your comfort, that there are always some special favors and blessings annexed to this special presence of God, as "I will be with you, and bless you." Gen. 26:3, "I am with you, and will keep you in all places where you go;" 28:15, "I will be with him in trouble, and honor him." Psalm 91:15, "I will be with him, and strengthen him." Isaiah 41:10, "I will be with you, and the flames shall not kindle upon you." 43:2, "I will be with you, and there shall not a man be able to stand before you." Josh. 1:5, "I will be with you, to deliver you." Jer. 1:19, "I am with you, to save you, and to deliver you out of the hand of the wicked, and out of the hand of the terrible," 15:20-21.

Hushai's presence with David was a burden: Job's wife's presence was but a vexation unto him, and Christ's presence among the Gergesenes was a terror to them, and the presence of talkative friends is many times a trouble to us, 2 Sam. 15:33; Job 2:9-10; Mat. 8:28, 34. Oh—but this special, this favorable presence of the Lord with his people, in their greatest troubles and deepest distresses, is a sweet presence, a comfortable presence, a delightful presence, a blessed presence, yes, such a presence as has many singular blessings annexed to it. But,

(3.) Thirdly, Know for your comfort, that you shall have mercy and kindness, and whatever good you need in due season, at that very instant, at that very nick of time wherein you most need mercy. God will time your mercies, and your blessings for you; he is near, and will not fail you when in dire straits, Psalm 145:18; Deut. 4:7; Gen. 22:10-13. When Abraham had bound his son, and bent his sword, and the knife was upheld—then comes a voice from heaven, "Abraham, Abraham, hold your hand." At that very nick of time, when the four hundred and thirty years were expired, Israel was delivered out of their captivity and slavery, Exod. 12:41, 51: Deut. 11:14, "I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain, and the latter rain, that you may gather in your corn, and your wine, and your oil." God gives rain to all, by a providence—but he gives rain to his Israel by virtue of a promise, Acts 14:18; Job 38:26. God engages himself not only to give rain—but to give it in due season; he will give the first rain after the sowing of the seed, that it might take rooting in the earth; and he will give the latter rain a little before harvest, that the ears might be full. O my friends! it is wonderful mercy—that God will time our mercies for us.

When Jehoshaphat was put to a hard pinch, at that very nick of time God owns him, stands by him, and gives him a great victory, 2 Chron. 20:12, 22-26. When David was in great danger, Saul being at his very heels, at that very nick of time, tidings were brought to Saul, that the Philistines had invaded the land—and so David escapes, 1 Sam. 23:26-28. When all human help failed, God came in and helped! ["Let God," says Augustine, "choose his own opportunity, who so freely grants the mercy."] So Julian was cut off by the Persian war, at that very nick of time when he had vowed at his return, to make a sacrifice of the Christians' lives. And so Charles the Fifth was diverted from persecuting of the Protestants, by the Turks breaking into Hungary, at that very nick of time when his heart was set upon a hot persecution. And so Justice Gilford, a violent papist in Queen Mary's days, going up the stairs to Mrs. Roberts chamber, to compel her to go to mass, at that very nick of time he was suddenly taken with his old disease the gout, and so grievously tormented, that he swore he would never trouble her more. When Faux was giving fire to the match, that would have given fire to the powder that would have blown up king, lords, and commons—at that very nick of time, he who never slumbers nor sleeps prevented him; and so turned our intended funeral into a festival, Psalm 121:3-5.

O Christian! are your troubles many in number, strange in nature, heavy in measure, much in burden, and long in continuance—yet remember that your God is near, whose mercies are numerous, whose wisdom is wondrous, and whose power is miraculous. The nearness or remoteness of a friend is very considerable in our troubles, distresses, needs, dangers, etc. "I have such a friend, and he would help me—but he lives so far off; and I have another friend who has a great love for me, who is able to counsel me, and to speak a word in season to me, and in my distress would stand close to me—but he is so remote. I have a special friend, that did he know how badly things go with me, would make my burdens his, and my needs his, and my sorrows his; but he is in a far country, he is at the Indies, and I may be undone before I can hear from him!"

But it is not thus with you, O Christians! who have a God so near unto you, who have the special presence of God in the midst of you, yes who have a God always standing by you, "The Lord stood by me," etc. O my friends, how can you lack comfort, who have the God of all consolation present with you? How can you lack counsel, who have the wonderful Counselor so near unto you? How can you lack grace, who have the God of all grace standing by you? How can you lack peace, who have always the presence of the Prince of peace with you? 2 Cor. 1:3; Isaiah 9:6; 1 Pet. 5:10; Isaiah 9:6. But,

(4.) Fourthly, Know for your comfort, that if God is with you, there is nothing, there can be nothing—but weakness against you. [God holds the church's enemies in chains, having his hook in their nose, and his bridle in their lips, Isaiah 37:29; he can easily rule and over-rule his proudest enemies.] Isaiah 27:4, "Who would set the briars and thorns against me in battle, I would go through them, I would burn them together." What are briars and thorns, compared to a devouring fire, to the consuming flames? no more are all the enemies of the church, compared to the presence of God with his people. God will be a burning and destroying fire to all the enemies of Zion. Wicked men are chaff. Psalm 1:4. Wicked men are stubble. Job 21:18, "They are as driven stubble to his bow." Isaiah 41:2, "They are as stubble fully dry." Nah. 1:10. "They are as stubble before the flame." Joel 2:5, "They are like dust." 2 Kings 13:7, "Yes, like small dust." Isaiah 29:5, "They are like a morning cloud, an early dew, a little smoke." Hosea 13:3. "They will disappear like the morning mist, like dew in the morning sun, like chaff blown by the wind, like smoke from a chimney."

Oh, the weakness of man! Oh, the power of God! No people on earth have such a power on their sides as the saints have. Consult these scriptures, 2 Kings 6:16; 2 Chron. 32:6-7; Isaiah 8:9-10; Num. 13:28, 30-33, and 14:9. No Christian can look upon the strong and mighty enemies of Zion in a scripture glass—but must behold them as weak and impotent people. Who could but smile to see weak children to attempt to besiege a wall of brass, or a wall of fire? Zech. 2:5; as great a folly and weakness it is for wicked men to make attempts upon the saints, who have been to this day, and will be to the end, a trembling and a burdensome stone to all who gather together against them, Zech. 12:2-3.

Sense looks upon the powers of the world as strong, mighty, and invincible; but faith looks upon them as poor, weak, contemptible, gasping, dying men. Thus heroic Luther looked upon them, "I care neither for Rome's favor nor fury; I am neither fond of the one, nor afraid of the other." It is dangerous to look upon the powers of the world in the devil's multiplying glass; it is best and safest to look upon them in a scripture glass, and then we shall never fear them, nor sinfully submit to them! But,

(5.) Fifthly, If God be specially present with his people, in their greatest troubles, deepest distresses, and most deadly dangers, then know for your comfort, that none can be against you but they must be against God himself! Acts 9:4-6. God is with you in all your troubles, as a father is with his child, a husband with his wife, a general with his army, and as a confederate with his allies, who is with them offensively and defensively. Hence they are said to rage against God, Isaiah 37:28-29; and to blaspheme God, 2 Kings 19:3, 6; and to fight against God, Acts 5:38-39, and 23:9; Proverbs 21:30. To fight against God is labor in vain. Who ever fought against God and prospered? Some think that this phrase of fighting against God is drawn from the fable of the giants, which were said to make war with the gods.

The church of Christ always flourishes most, and increases most—when the tyrants of the earth oppose it most, and persecute it most. Diocletian laid down the empire in great discontent, because he could not by any persecution suppress the true Christian religion. The more violent he was against the people of God, the more they increased and multiplied, and the more they were emboldened and encouraged; and therefore in a rage he throws up all. But,

[1.] First, You have the presence of an ALMIGHTY God. Gen. 17:1, "I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be perfect," Gen. 49:25, and Num. 24:4. The word El-Shaddai signifies sufficiency. God is an all-sufficient good, and a self-sufficient good; he is an independent good, an absolute good, an original good, a universal good. Some derive the word Shaddai from Shad, which signifies a breast, because God feeds his children with sufficiency of all good things, as the loving mother does the child with the milk of her breasts. God is the only satisfactory good, and proportionable good, and suitable good to our souls—as the breast is the most suitable good to the child's stomach. And others derive the word Shaddai from Shaddad, which signifies to spoil, conquer, or overcome, and so they say that God did here invert or overcome the order of nature, in causing the barren to bear. But most authors do translate it omnipotent. God, then, is called Shaddai, that is omnipotent and all-sufficient, for his omnipotence includes also all-sufficiency.

[2.] Secondly, You have the presence of a LOVING God with you. Isaiah 43:4, "Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honorable, and I have loved you." But that this may the better stick and work, you must remember,

First, That God loves you with a first love, see Deut. 7:7-8: 1 John 4:19, "We love him because he first loved us." Our love is but reciprocal to his. God first cast an eye of love upon us—before we cast an eye of love on him, and therefore God is no way indebted to us for our love. Mary answers not Rabboni—until Christ first said unto her Mary! John 20:16. The pure nature of love is more seen in God's first love to us—than in our reciprocal love to him. By nature we were without God, and afar off from God; we were strangers to God, and enemies to God, yes, haters of God; and therefore if God had not loved us firstly, we had been everlastingly undone! Eph. 2:12, 19; Romans 5:10, and 1:30.

Secondly, As God loves you with a first love, so he loves you with a free love: Hosea 14:4, "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely." I know they are backslidden—but I will heal their backslidings. I know they have broken their bones by their fall—but I will make those broken bones to rejoice. I know there is nothing at all in them, which is excellent or eminent, which is honorable or acceptable, which is laudable or lovely—yet "I will love them freely," of my own, free, rich, absolute, sovereign, and independent grace!

Thirdly, As he loves you with a free love, so he loves you with an everlasting love: Jer. 31:3, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving-kindness have I drawn you." Heb., "I love you with the love of perpetuity, or with the love of eternity. My love and my affections continue still the same to you, and shall continue forever!" Or, as others carry the words, "I love you with an ancient love, or with the love of antiquity; I love you still with the same affection that in former ages I bore towards you."

Fourthly, As he loves you with an everlasting love, so he loves you with an unchangeable love: Mal. 3:6, "I am the Lord, I change not; therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed." Men change, and counsels change, and occurrences change, and friends change, and relations change, and kingdoms change, and commonwealths change—but God never changes, as Balaam confesses, who was the devil's lackey, and who had a mind to dance with the devil all day, and then sup with Christ at night, Num. 23:10. God is neither false nor fickle; he cannot, like men, say and unsay; he cannot alter his mind nor eat his words. "He who is the Glory of Israel does not lie or change his mind; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind," 1 Sam. 15:29 Psalm 89:34;. Men are so mutable and changeable, that there is no hold to be taken of what they say; but God is immutable in his nature, in his essence, in his counsels, in his attributes, in his decrees, in his promises, etc. He is, as the learned say, Omnina immutabilis, "Altogether immutable".

Fifthly, As he loves you with an unchangeable love, so he loves you with a special love, with a peculiar love, with a distinguishing love, with a superlative love. "Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them—the Lord, who remains faithful forever. He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. The Lord reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations. Praise the Lord!" Psalms 146:5-10

Sixthly and lastly, As he loves his people with a special love, with a peculiar love, so he loves them with the greatest love, with a matchless love. "O Daniel greatly beloved." John 3:16, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son," etc. This signifies the greatness of God's love, the vehemency of his love, and the admirableness of his love.

Now, what an unspeakable comfort must this be to his saints, to have the presence of a loving God, to have the presence of such a loving God with them in all their troubles and deep distresses! If the presence of a loving friend, a loving relation in our troubles and distresses, is such a mercy, oh, what then is the presence of a loving God!

[3.] Thirdly, It is the presence of an ACTIVE God, who will be a defense to you, a shield to you, a sword to you, a sun to you, a strong tower to you, a salvation to you! None can withstand him, none can equal him, none can out-act him, Psalm 18:2; 2 Chron. 16:9; Proverbs 18:10; Jer. 32:40-41; Isaiah 30:18-19, and 27:3; Jer. 31:28.

[4.] Fourthly, You have the presence of a wakeful God, of a WATCHFUL God—of a God who never, no never, slumbers or sleeps! God will be so far from sleeping, that he will not so much as slumber, Psalm 121:3-5. The phrase is taken from watchmen, who stand on the walls in time of war to discover the approaches of enemies, and accordingly give warning. Now, watchmen have been treacherous and sleepy. The capitol of Rome would have been taken by the Gauls, if the geese had not been more wakeful than the watchmen of the walls. Iphicrates, the Athenian captain, visiting the guards on the walls of Corinth, found one of the watch asleep, and presently thrust him through with his sword, saying, "Dead I found him, and dead I left him!" Though watchmen slumber and sleep—yet that God who is present with his people does neither; his seven eyes are always open.

[5.] Fifthly, You have the presence of a WISE God, of an omniscient God. God fills all things, he encompasses all things, and he sustains all things—and therefore he must needs know all things, Ezek. 3:9; Psalm 33:10-11; Isaiah 46:10, and 40:28; Romans 11:33; 2 Pet. 2:9; Jonah 1:5; 2 Kings 14:6; Mat. 26:24-25. God can find Jonah in the bottom of the ship; and Jeroboam's wife in her disguises; and Judas in his treason; and Demas in his apostasy; and the scribes and Pharisees in their hypocrisy, 2 Tim. 4:10; Mat. 23; Rev. 4:6. The whole world is to him as a sea of glass—clear and transparent. There is nothing hidden from his eyes!

"All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do," Heb. 4:13. "Naked," as when the skin is pulled off, and "opened as the entrails of a sacrifice," cut down the back. The apostle, say some, uses a metaphor taken from a sheep, whose skin is taken off, and he hanged up by the neck, with his back towards the wall, and all his entrails laid bare and exposed to open view. He alludes, say others, to the anatomizing of a creature, wherein men are very cautious to find out every little vein or muscle, though they be ever so hidden. They are naked, therefore God sees their outside; and opened, dissected, quartered, and cleft asunder through the backbone, so that he sees their inside also. Opened is more than naked: naked is that which is not clothed or covered; opened is that whose inwards are discovered and made conspicuous.

Is it such a comfort to have the presence of a wise and knowing friend with us in our greatest troubles and deepest distresses? what a transcendent comfort must it be then to enjoy the presence of an all-seeing and an all-knowing God in all our troubles and distresses! The eye of heaven sees all, and knows all, and writes down all your troubles and trials, your sorrows and sufferings, your losses and crosses, Mat. 6:32; and accordingly will an all-knowing God act for his own glory and his people's good.

[6.] Sixthly and lastly, You have the presence of a God of MERCY, a God of tenderness, a God of compassion. Exod. 33:7-8; Jer. 31:18-20; Hosea 11:8-9; Lam. 3:22. "His compassions never fail!" Mercy is as essential to God—as light is to the sun, Micah 7:18-19, or as heat is to the fire. He delights in mercy, as the senses and faculties of the soul do in their several actions. Patience, and mildness, and mercy, and compassion, and peace are the fruits of his heart—the offspring which the divine nature produces. God's compassions are fatherly compassions, Psalm 103:13; they are motherly compassions, Isaiah 49:15; they are brotherly compassions, Heb. 2:12; they are friendly compassions, Cant. 5:1-2. Oh, how sweet must the presence of a God of mercy, a God of compassion, be to the saints in a day of trouble! The presence of a compassionate friend in a day of distress is very desirable and comfortable; what then is the presence of a compassionate God!

Thus you see that there is no presence, compared to the divine presence! There is no presence, compared to the special presence of God with his people in their greatest troubles and deepest distresses. But,

(7.) Seventhly and lastly, If God is specially present with his people in their greatest troubles and deepest distresses—then let them all know for their comfort, that this presence will make up the lack or loss of all outward comforts—this presence will make up the loss of a husband, a child, a friend, an estate, etc., 1 Sam. 1:8. Look! as all light meets in the sun, and as all water meets in the sea, so all our outward comforts meets in the God of all comfort, 2 Cor. 1:3. "When Alexander asked king Porus, being then his prisoner, how he would be treated. Porus answered in one word, "like a king!" Just so—all things, all comforts are to be found in this special presence of God with his people, in their greatest troubles and deepest distresses. Certainly the gracious presence of the Lord is infinitely better than the presence of all outward comforts, as you know one sun is more glorious and comfortable than ten thousand stars.

QUESTION. But how may a person who has lost this gracious presence of God, recover it again?

First, Observe HOW you lost this presence of God, and labor to recover it by a contrary course. Did you lose it by sinful omissions? then be more active in a way of duty. Did you lose the presence of God by neglecting your watch, or by not walking with God, or by an eager pursuit of the world, or by giving in to this or that temptation, or by letting fall your communion with God? take a contrary course. Now keep up your watch, walk close with God, keep up a daily converse with lively Christians, let your heart and affections be set upon things above, keep your ground in the face of all temptations, maintain a standing communion with God, Psalm 119:63; Col. 3:1-2.

After Christ had stood knocking and calling to his spouse—"Open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled one; for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night," Cant. 5:2-3, 6—but found no entrance, he retired and withdrew himself, because she would not arise and put on her coat. But when she bestirs herself, "she finds him whom her soul loved," chapter 3:1-4. Then Christ comes into his garden again, and returns to his spouse again, and forgets all former unkindness, chapter 6:1-2. But.

Secondly, Inquire WHERE, WHEN, and WHY God has withdrawn himself; as we do when dear friends absent themselves from us. "O Hope of Israel, its Savior in times of distress, why are you like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who stays only a night? Why are you like a man taken by surprise, like a warrior powerless to save? You are among us, O Lord, and we bear your name; do not forsake us!" Jeremiah 14:8-9

Thirdly, Do not part with Christ for anything—not for a right eye, or a right hand, nor for an Isaac or a Benjamin. Don't say this work is too high, and feat too hard, and the other too hot, and the other too dangerous—in order to the recovery of God's countenance and presence. You must not think anything in the world too much to do for Christ, or to suffer for Christ. You will be a happy man if you can recover Christ's lost presence; though it be upon the hardest terms imaginable! But,

Fourthly, Let your hearts lie humble and low under the loss of God's gracious presence. Psalm 51:8-12; 1 Pet. 1:5, 6. "All night long on my bed I looked for the one my heart loves; I looked for him but did not find him." Song of Songs 3:1. "Have you seen the one my heart loves?" Song of Songs 3:3. "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." Song of Songs 5:6. For,

(1.) The loss of God's gracious presence is the greatest loss.

(2.) The loss of God's gracious presence is a loss-embittering loss; it is a loss that will greatly embitter all your worldly losses. I have lost my health, I have lost a precious child, I have lost a gracious spouse, who was the delight of my eyes and the joy of my heart; I have lost a costly estate, I have lost an intimate friend, I have lost a thriving trade. Oh—but that which embitters all my losses, and puts a sting into them, is this—that I have lost the gracious presence of God that once I enjoyed!

(3.) The loss of God's gracious presence is a loss that all outward comforts can never make up. When the sun is set, nothing can make it day with us.

(4.) The loss of God's gracious presence is an soul loss; and no losses can be compared to soul losses. As there are no mercies, compared to soul mercies, so there are no losses to soul losses.

(5.) The loss of God's gracious presence is a loss that will cost a man dearly, before it will be made up again. Oh the sighs, the groans, the strong cries, the earnest prayers, the bottles of tears that the recovery of the divine presence will cost a Christian!

Upon all these accounts, how well does it befit a Christian, to lie humble at the foot of God!

Fifthly, Lift up a mighty cry to heaven. Thus the saints of old have done. Consult these scriptures, Psalm 51:6-13; Lam. 3:56-57; Psalm 4:6-7, 27:9, 38:21-22, 138:3, and 119:8, "O forsake me not utterly." Christ was forsaken for a few hours; David for a few months; and Job for a few years—for the trial and exercise of his faith and patience; but then they all sent up a mighty cry to heaven. Leave them God did, to their thinking; forsake them he did in regard of vision—but not in regard of union. The promise is, that "God will draw near to us if we draw near to him," James 4:8. Draw near to God in duty, and he will draw near to you in mercy: sanctify him, and he will satisfy you.

Prayer is the only means to supply all defects, it gets all, and makes up the loss of all; as a gracious poor woman said in her distress, "I have no friend—but I have prayer; that will get favor with my God; so long as I can find a praying heart, God will, I am sure of that, find a pitying heart and a helping hand." It is not the length—but the strength of prayer; it is not the labor of the lip—but the travail of the heart—which prevails with God, Jer. 29:12-14. It is not the arithmetic of our prayers, how many they are; nor the rhetoric of our prayers, how eloquent they be; nor the geometry of our prayers, how long they be; nor the music of our prayers, how sweet they be; nor the logic of our prayers, how methodical they are—which will prevail with God. It is only fervency, importunity in prayer, which will make a man prevalent with God. Fervent prayer hits the mark, carries the day, and pierces the walls of heaven, though like those of Gaza, made of brass and iron, James 5:16-17; Luke 18; Isaiah 45:2. The child has got many a kiss and many a hug by crying. If God has withdrawn his presence, the best, the surest, and the readiest way to recover it is to send up a mighty cry to heaven. "In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears." Psalm 18:6. "I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me." Psalm 77:1. "In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free." Psalm 118:5. But,

Sixthly, Be sure you don't take up your greatest delight in any creature, in any comfort, in any contentment, in any worldly enjoyment. Jer. 50:6. When the presence of God is withdrawn from you, say as Absalom, "What is all this to me, so long as I am banished my father's presence, so long as I can't see the king's face?" 2 Sam. 14:24, 28, 32-33. When the mother sees that the child is enthralled with the doll or the rattle—she comes not in sight. If you take up your rest in any of the dolls and rattles—in any of the poor things of this world, God will certainly keep out of sight. He will never honor them with his countenance and presence—who take up in anything below himself, below his favor, below his presence.

I have read of a devout pilgrim, who along the way to Jerusalem was very kindly and nobly entertained in several places—but still he cried out, "Oh—but this is not Jerusalem! this is not Jerusalem!" So when you cast your eye upon this creature or that, oh then cry out, "This is not the presence of God, this is not the presence of God!" And when you begin to be tickled and enthralled with this and that enjoyment, with this or that contentment, oh then remember "this is not the presence of God, this is not the presence of God!"

"Here is a gracious spouse, here are precious children, here is a pleasant home, here is a wonderful climate, here is a gainful trade, etc.—but what are all these to me, so long as my sun has set in a cloud, and God has withdrawn his presence from me? Remember this once for all—that the whole world is but a barren wilderness without the countenance and presence of God! "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you." Psalm 63:1-3. But,

Seventhly and lastly, Patiently and quietly wait upon him in the way of his ordinances for the recovery of his presence. Consult these scriptures. [Exod. 20:24; Mat. 18:20; Isaiah 64:5; Psalm 27:4, and 65:4; Rev. 2:1; Psalm 40:1-3; Isaiah 8:17; Mic. 7:7-9; Isaiah 26:8-9.] Here God dwells, here he walks, here he makes known his glory, here he gives forth his love, here he vouchsafes his presence. When God is withdrawn, your great business is to prize ordinances, and to keep close to ordinances, until God shall be pleased to lift up the light of his countenance and vouchsafe his presence to you. You will never recover the divine presence by neglecting ordinances, nor by slighting ordinances, nor by turning your back upon ordinances, nor by entertaining low thoughts of ordinances. He who thinks ordinances to be needless things, concludes—

(1.) That the taking away of the kingdom of heaven from the Jews was no great judgment, Mat. 21:43.

(2.) That the bestowing of it upon other people is no great mercy. If God is gone, it is good to lie at the pool until he returns, John 5:2-10. There are many dear Christians who have lost their God for a time—but after a time they have found him again in the way of his ordinances; and therefore let no temptation draw you off from ordinances; say, "Here I will live, here I will lie, here I will wait at the pool of ordinances, until the Lord shall return in mercy to my soul!"

I shall follow this discourse of the divine presence with my earnest prayers that it may from on high be so specially blessed, as that it may issue in the furtherance of the spiritual and eternal good, both of Writer and Reader.