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calamities; therefore, I will let that have its course, and will stay till my fit time come to do you good. Meanwhile I will lie hid, and be as sitting still; but when that time comes, I will get up and shew myself. He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you; for the Lord is a God of judgment. He is wise, and just, and good, and knows His measures of afflicting His people, His times and ways of delivering them, and of bringing destruction on His enemies, and will not slip this season; and it being so, this certainly follows, that they are blessed that wait on Him.
Observe, 1. The strong inclination of God to shew mercy. He would willingly have His people to find nothing but ease; He delights in the prosperity of His servants, would have them constantly have a sweet, peaceful, yea, cheerful life, by constant walking in His ways; but they are often the enemies of their own peace, grieve His Spirit, and turn Him to be their own enemy. But He cannot persist in that to His own; He longs to be at His way of mercy and loving kindness again. He retains not His anger for ever, because mercy pleases Him. He inflicts judgment for sin, but what He delights in
mercy. Therefore says the prophet, Lam. iii. 32, 33, Though He cause grief, yet He will have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies: For He doth not willingly afflict, nor grieve the children of men. Though He doth · grieve them, yet not willingly: they themselves procure and draw on that, by grieving His Spirit. But He willingly shews mercy, for that abounds: there is such multitude and plenty of it, that, as to full breasts, it is a pleasure to Him to let it forth. The two words, gracious and merciful, which stand first in the name of God, Exod. xxxiv. 6, the one signifies free grace, the other, tender bowels of mercy. This is no emboldment to continue in sin, yea, it is of all things the most fit encouragement and inducement to a sinner to return from his sin; and so it is used and urged throughout the Scriptures. See Isa. xxxi. 5, 6. and lv. 7. Jer. iii. 12. In public calamities, where a people are charging the cause thereof upon them
selves, searching their hearts and their ways, and turning unto God, humbly acknowledging their iniquity, and entreating pardon, Oh! this is the thing He would not despise. Yea, it is what He looks and longs for, and upon that would readily forget all past disloyalties. See Jer. iii. 1. Yea, at the sound of their repentings, His bowels would resound with compassion by a secret sympathy and harmony, as one string well tuned to another, stirs when it is touched. Thus, Jer. xxxi. 18-20.
This a sinner shall find in his returning unto God, more than we can express or promise in His name. Oh, He waits to be gracious, meets thee graciously. Yea, He hath first touched thy heart secretly, hath first drawn it towards Himself, before it stirred, or had a thought that way. Now, no more upbraidings or remembrance of all thy wanderings: an act of perfect oblivion is past. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Jer. xxxi. 34. Is thy heart any little softened, and relents it towards Him? Then, the controversy is ended, and His thoughts are now, how to comfort thee. Art thou busy indicting accusations against thyself? Then makes He it His part to wipe away and blot Comest thou home with a heart full of holy shame and grief, and thy mouth full of humble confessions of thy disobedience? Then know, it is thy tender-hearted Father meets thee, most ready to forgive thee, yea, to interrupt thy confessions in the middle with embraces and kisses of love.
But, alas! we preclude ourselves from the sweet experiences of these tender mercies, by the hardness of our hearts, and by the lightness and vanity of them. Oh that indignity, our God still waiting to be gracious, to heap up more of His love to us, but we are busied in other things, and not at leisure to wait on Him! Oh! what are they, these things that take us up? Great matters? Alas! sorry trifles, all day long. And when we are at leisure, yet we are not at leisure; for then we must take our ease, must go to sleep, and so still He is put VOL. III.
off and forced to retire, after He has stayed till His head be filled with dew, and His locks with the drops of the night. Cant. v. 2.
Observation 2. The Lord doth most exactly and wisely measure both the degree and the time of His people's afflictions. Though they have brought them upon themselves, and justly He might leave them so, this he will not do: He is a God of judgment. This is largely and sweetly expressed, in a resemblance of husbandry, Isai. xxviii. 24-9. He knows how much and how long outward or inward trouble is fit for every one, and where the less will serve, will not use the more. He knows what need some spirits have to be bruised and broken beyond others, either under disgrace or poverty, or the proper pressures of the spirit within, apprehensions of wrath, or withdrawments, at least, of comforts; and hath set His days for deliverance of His church, and of every believer under affliction. So, the style of the prophet, In that day, speaking as of a certain prefixed day, and that, no power or wit of man can disappoint. And it is so chosen, as it shall be evident to be the fittest, that it could not so well either have been sooner or later; all things concurring to make it most seasonable to His people, and honourable to His own name. Hab. ii. 3, The vision is for the appointed time: though it tarry, wait for it; it shall come, and shall not tarry. That is strange, Though it tarry, it shall not tarry. But in the original, there are two words, the one importing an undue slowness, or constrained retardment: that cannot be so, it shall not tarry, though it tarry; that is, though it stay itself, and come not till the appointed time: so the other word signifies. Thus, Psal. cii. 13, Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion; for the set time is come. Now, for this the Lord waits. It is not through want of love, but from abundance of wisdom, that He delivers not sooner. He hath chosen the fittest time, in His all-discerning wisdom; yet, there is in His love, an earnest kind of longing that the time were come. Thus here, He
waits to be gracious, and He will be exalted, will cheerfully and gladly raise up Himself, and appear to shew mercy to His people, and bring His enemies low; coming forth, as it were, to judgment, and sitting down on His throne. In which pos ture He was not seen while they prevailed and triumphed, and His Church were under their oppression; but when the time of their restoring and consolation comes, He then is to sit on His throne, and so is exalted to shew them mercy. Hence the Psalmist so often desires that the Lord would arise, and utters predictions, assuring that He will arise, and exciting his peo ple to rejoice in that. Psal. ix. 7, 8., and Psal. xcvi., xevii., and xcviii.
Thus, the Church, in her saddest condition, ought hope fully to remember and rest on it, that the day is determined, and cannot fail. Our salvation is in God. He laughs at His enemies, when they are at the top of prosperity and pride; sees that their day is coming. Now, certainly, the firm persuasion of this would much stay our minds; but either we do not believe, or we do not improve and use these truths, and draw that comfort from them which abounds in them. Our God loses no time: He is waiting till His appointed time. And if He wait, it becomes us so to do. That is our duty here, to wait on Him. This faith does, and so, makes not haste; neither goes out to any undue means, nor frets impatiently within at the deferring of deliverance, but quietly rests on God, and waits for Him. This, as it is our duty, is also our happiness; and thus it is here expressed. Upon consideration that the Lord waits to be gracious, and will be exalted to shew mercy, the Prophet is carried to this acclamation, in respect to the happiness of believers, O! blessed are they that wait for Him! Their thoughts fall in and meet with His; for He is waiting for the same day they wait for, and if he be not disappointed, they shall not. We are naturally irregular in our affections and notions, and the only right ordering of them, is, by reducing them to a conformity with the ways and thoughts of God, which keep an unalterable, fixed course, as the heavens: the
way, I say, to rectify our thoughts is, to set them by His, as clocks and watches, which so readily go wrong, too slow or too fast, are ordered by the sun, which keeps its course. Oh! that we were more careful to set and keep our hearts in attendance on God, winding them up in meditation upon Him, and conforming them in their motions and desires to His disposal in all; for all that concerns us, and for the times of all, being quiet, yea, glad in this, which the Psalmist makes his joy, My times are in Thy hand, O Lord. Psal. xxxi. 15. And surely, that is the best. Were I to choose, they should be in no other hands, neither mine own, nor any others. Alas! what silly, poor creatures are we! How little do we know what is fit for us in any kind, and still less what time is fit for any mercy to be bestowed upon us! When He withholds mercies or comforts for a season, it is but till the due season; it it but to ripen them for us, which we in childish haste would pluck green, when they would be neither so sweet nor so wholesome. Therefore it is our wisdom and our peace, to resign all things into His hands, to have no will nor desires, but only this, that we may still wait for Him. All shall be well enough, if we but get rid of the vain hopes and expectations of this world. None who indulge them are so well but they are still waiting for somewhat further. Now, amidst all that, our soul may say with David, and speak it to God as known to Him, that it is so indeed: And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in Thee. My expectation, or My expectation, or waiting, (the same word that is here,) is all placed upon Thee. Is it so, brethren? Are our hearts gathered in from other things, to this attendance, while the most about us are gaping for the wind? Have we laid all up in God, to desire and wait for Him, and pretend to nothing beside Him?
I would do so, may a soul think, but can I hope that He will look on me, and bestow Himself on such a one as I am? To that, I say nothing but, look on His word. If thou thinkest that warrant good enough, here it is for thee, that they are certainly blessed that wait for Him. This is assurance enough. Never was