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from it, and provides them a retreat in the neighbouring mountains. Thus he had decreed the destruction of Babylon; and the preceding part of the chapter contains a hymn of triumph, which should be sung by his people on that occasion. But, as there would be great danger of their being involved in the common calamity, he apprizes them of his intention, and exhorts them to hide themselves, till the danger should be overpast. It is not, however, necessary to confine the words to this sense; because there are many other occasions on which God comes forth to punish mankind; and because the advice given, is suitable to all such occasions.
In discoursing on this passage, we shall call your attention to
I. The warning here given
Heaven is the habitation of God's holiness and glory. And from thence he is said to "come forth," when he manifests himself in any signal manner upon earth. And, alas! how often do the iniquities of men necessitate him to come down and visit them with his sore judgments! But there is one period in particular, when God shall come, not to punish one particular nation only, but all who shall have lived and died in sin, from the foundation of the world.
[The day of judgment is called "the day of wrath," "the day of vengeance," "the day of the revelation of God's righteous judgments," "the day of the perdition of ungodly men." In that day the Lord Jesus Christ, "whom the heavens have received till the time of the restitution of all things,"i "shall come in power and great glory:" and the express end of his coming will be "to reveal his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men.”
Now he winks, as it were, at men's iniquities;' and endures with much patience and long-suffering the vessels of wrath that are fitting themselves for destruction: yea, to such a degree does he exercise forbearance towards them, that scoffers are ready to say, Where is the promise of his coming?" But soon the time fixed for the exercise of his grace, shall come to
d Luke xxi. 21, 22. e Isair lvii. 15. and Ixiii. 15. f Mic. i. 3. If this were the subject of a Fast Sermon, the particular judgments that are deprecated, should be specified here as the tokens of God's displeasure; and should be dwelt upon at some length. Rom. i. 18. a 2 Pet. iii. 3,4.
h Rom. ii. 5. 2 Pet. iii. 7. i Acts iii. 21. 1 Acts xvii. 30.
Rom. ix. 22.
an end, and all the dead shall be summoned to his tribunal, to receive at his hands according to their works."
Nor let any one think that gross iniquities only shall be noticed in that day; for God will "manifest even the counsels of men's hearts," and "bring every secret thing into judgment:" then a forgetfulness of God, or a rejection of his gospel shall as surely be punished with everlasting destruction, as any of those sins which are more reprobated and condemned by the world.9]
The warning being of such universal and infinite importance, let us consider
II. The advice accompanying it
[The exhortation in the text may simply import, that we should retire to our chambers to commune with our own hearts, and with our God." In this view recommends the duty, the indispensably necessary duty, of secret prayer.
But by chambers" we may understand GOD himself, whe is often spoken of in this light, and who is the sure refuge of all that flee unto him. Every perfection of his forms, as it were, an hiding-place whereto we may run for safety. His wisdom would be our guide, his power our defence, "his faithfulness and truth our shield and buckler."
To us, who are taught to view God in the person of Christ, the word "chambers" may convey a more immediate intima tion respecting Christ himself, who is our refuge, and whom this very prophet describes as "an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the storm."" His person, work, and offices are a security to his people, that "they shall never perish, but shall have eternal life."
To him therefore we should flee by faith, and hide ourselves from the impending judgments. As Noah entered into the ark, which was the appointed mean of delivering him from the deluge, and as the Israelites shut themselves up in their houses to escape the sword of the destroying angel, so are we to take refuge, as it were, in Christ, that the sword of divine justice may not slay, or the deluge of God's wrath overwhelm us.]
While we listen to the voice of God we must not overlook
III. The particular manner in which the advice is given [Almost every word of this exhortation contains an argument for our compliance with it.
• Rev. xx. 12, 13.
9 Ps. ix. 17, 2 Thess. i. 7, 8.
s Ps. xc. 1. and lvii. 1.
Isai. xxxii. 2. * Gen. vii. 7.
P 1 Cor. iv. 5.
r Ps. iv. 4. Matt. vi. 6.
t Heb. vi. 18.
y Exod. xii. 22, 28.
If we were bidden to hide ourselves in a pit or dungeon, methinks, any place should be a welcome hiding-place from the wrath of God. But it is to our own "chamber," where every thing is provided for our rest and comfort; yea, it is a pavilion surrounded by guards, and furnished with royal dainties; it is even to the tabernaclea wherein God himself dwells, and where we shall have most intimate communion with him, that we are told to flee: shall we need any inducement to yield to such advice?
If we cannot endure confinement (though surely we can have no reason to complain of that in such a retreat) we are told it is to be only for "a moment," yea, lest that should appear too long, it is said to be only for a little moment.". Did the Israelites think a single night too long, when they were to be screened from the destroying angel? and shall we think a moment, a little moment (for such in truth is the present life) too long to abide in Christ, that we may escape the wrath of an incensed God?
The certainty of success is another argument which may well induce us to follow this advice. Were there only a distant probability of obtaining deliverance from such unspeakable miseries, it were a very sufficient reason for our trying the experiment: but when success, as the text intimates, is certain to attend our efforts, shall we need any persuasion to exert ourselves?
On the other hand, the certainty that God's indignation must fall upon us, if we be not found in Christ, ought to operate powerfully on our hearts: for "who can stand before his indignation? who can abide the fierceness of his anger?b The fate of those who despised the warnings of Moses, and sought not shelter from the storms of hail, shews us what we must expect, if we seek not refuge in Christ Jesus.
Above all, the earnestness of the exhortation should overcome the reluctance of our hearts. To enter fully into its spirit, we should conceive a parent, seeing a savage beast running towards his heedless and unprotected child in order to destroy him. The affrighted father calls to him in the agony of his mind; "Come, my son, run into the house, shut the door, hide yourself till the danger be overpast." Thus, precisely thus, does God himself cry to each of us. He knows our danger; he sees our inadvertence; and, with all the anxiety of a parent, he calls to us. Must we not be more deaf than adders, more obdurate than rocks, if we will not obey his voice?
But there is one thing yet, which must on no account be overlooked. The language is intentionally changed from the
z Ps. xxvii. 5.
e Exod. ix. 19, 25.
plural to the singular; "Come, my people, enter thou," &c. One is ready to think, that he has no need to fear the indignation of God: another thinks he is too unworthy to be admitted into the chamber to which others have fled. But God addresses both the one and the other of them; "Enter thou;" for, however secure thou mayest think thyself, there is no security but in Christ; and "thou;" for unworthy as thou art, it is " thy" chamber; it was erected for such as thee; and the more unworthy thou art in thy own estimation, the more ready admittance shalt thou find there; the more certainly also shalt thou enjoy in it everlasting security.*
Thus whether we consider the chamber to which we are to flee, the time we are to abide in it, the certainty of success, the danger of delay, or the earnest manner in which God addresses every one of us in particular, we should without hesitation follow the advice, and seek deliverance in Christ our Lord. None of us should indulge security; none of us should give way to desponding fears. But, rejoicing that the chamber is not yet barred against us, we should all hide ourselves in it; nor venture out of it one single moment, till the danger be for ever past.]
*This section might not improperly form the basis of a particular application to the self-righteous Pharisee, and the self-condemning penitent.
CCCXXVII. GOD THE ONLY PROPER OBJECT OF FEAR.
Isai. viii. 12-14. Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread: and he shall be for a sanctuary.
RELIGION, though conducive to our happiness at all times, is more especially so in seasons of adversity. It points out to us a source of strength and consolation, while they who are strangers to its influence, are left to struggle without effect, or to faint in despair. In this view it appears in the words before us, in which the prophet is instructed how to act in the most arduous circumstances, and how to relieve the minds of those who were bowed down with terror on account of the confederate armies of Syria and Israel*
The direction given him by God may be considered I. In reference to our souls
We are apt to entertain desponding thoughts with respect to our salvation
[Scarcely does the desire of salvation arise in the breast before it meets with many discouraging reflections, "How can I give up the world? how can I overcome my lusts? how can I ever comply with the requisitions of the gospel?" In a more advanced state, the allurements of sense, the temptations/ of Satan, the opposition of friends, and the menaces of enemies, often appear to place insurmountable obstacles in our way. And Christians too frequently dishearten one another by the mutual relation of their doubts and difficulties.]
But we ought to have our eyes continually fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ
[Christ is the Lord of hosts, of whom the text speaks:b and St. Peter, having these very difficulties, together with the text also, in his view, exhorts us to sanctify HIM in our hearts. He has all things in heaven and earth under his control. All our enemies, whether men, or devils, or our own lusts, are as nothing in his hands. Him therefore we should fear, as alone able to do us any real injury; and him we should "sanctify," trusting in his wisdom, power, and faithfulness, to defeat our adversaries, and to make us more than conquerers over all.]
In him we should find a sure protection from every evil
[Christ is like the cities of refuge, which preserved the manslayer from the vindictive sword of the pursuer of blood. If once we obtain an interest in him, the wrath of God can never come upon us; nor can either men or devils destroy our souls. Only let us fear him, and confide in him; and we may be as sure of victory as if all our enemies were already bruised under our feet. In the midst of troubles, of whatever kind they be, we may be peaceful,f confident, triumphant."]
But the present occasion requires us to consider the text
II. In reference to our national concerns
In seasons of difficulty and danger we are but too ready to faint
[There is, it must be confessed, abundant reason at this
b Compare the words following the text with Rom. ix. 33.
c 1 Pet. iii. 14, 15.
e Rom. viii. 1.
d Matt. xxviii. 18.