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threes, but by thousands,
against thee. Oh, how little know you what the amazement is of a man's sins surrounding him, and testifying against him, that he is a rebel against God, and to be condemned! And no scarcity, such multitudes of them, one company succeeding another, as that word, Job x. 17. Thou renewest Thy witnesses against me; not by twos or armies of them. This is more affrightful than to be encompassed with drawn swords, or to see a whole. army march up upon a man, it were nothing to these bands mustered up. So, Psal. 1. 21. I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.
There is no way to escape but by prevention, taking a day before-hand to judge thyself, and call these witnesses, and hear them, and pass sentence. This would save the labour. God is desirous to have the matter thus anticipated, and turns it over to thee, to judge thyself, that He may not judge. Why defer we? Is it not worth the while and the pains? And then for that day, when it would seem so terrible to have these witnesses stand up, thy safety is, having judged and condemned thyself, to take sanctuary in Christ, and make him thy advocate to answer all for thee. He can and will do it to the full; yea, he hath already answered all that thy sins, were they many more, can say. Oh, happy the man that takes this course! Sin not upon this account: none surely will do that. These things I write unto you, saith the Apostle, that ye sin not; but then, if any man not so minded, do sin, here is that comfort, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 1 John ii. 1.
Our backslidings are many.] This is the double dye of His people's sins; they are not simple transgressions, but treacheries, revolts, breaches of promises, of covenant and vow, turnings back, goings out from God, adultery, prostituting their hearts to idols, to base lusts; a heart professed to be married to its Maker, running a gadding after strange vanities. And who of us hath not this sadly to say against himself?— How often have I vowed myself Thine, and with some kind of
hopes and purpose to have been true to it; but how soon hath all evanished! Oh! the unspeakable unfaithfulness, not only of common formal professors, but of real believers! And these provoke God highly, go most to His heart, to be slighted by His own, to whom he hath so particularly shewn Himself and imparted of His love.
And we have sinned against Thee.] This that comes last, seems to sound least; but I take it as meaning most as if they would have offered at particular confession, and then seeing such a huge multitude, and no end, were forced to retire, and shut up all in this general word, We might and would speak of many things, but they are too many, we are overwhelmed. What shall we say? We have sinned against Thee. Thus Job, I have sinned against Thee; what shall I do unto Thee? As in David's confession, Psal. li. 4. Against Thee, Thee only have I sinned; THEE, the great, the holy God, our God. This were our business, instead of much discourse and debate of things, to fall down and confess unto God; to begin at ourselves, our own breaches and backslidings, and then to add the public national guiltiness. Oh! we are a sinful people, and few lay it to heart. All ranks are highly guilty; and where are they who retire and mourn for their abominations? Those, continued and multiplied, are the continuers and multipliers of our plagues, sword, and pestilence, and threatenings of famine. If you have a mind to do any thing for the land, and for yourselves, your families and little ones, Oh! apply to this work, to confess and bewail our iniquities. It may be, yea, I dare say, it shall be, the Lord will return and have mercy on us.
O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us.] In all our approaches unto God, it is a prime thing to take Him up according to His name. This is the very ground of the access and confidence of sinners, and there is no coming near Him without it. We have heard it, that He is the Lord, merciful and gracious, &c. Not so much as confessions can be made without this, much less petitions presented. Instead of com
ing to fall down before Him, to acknowledge sin, the soul will run quite away, and, though that were in vain, would seek to hide itself, that it might not at all appear. But apprehending His goodness and readiness to forgive, this draws the heart to Him, and being drawn in, this makes it melt before Him.In this some Christians mistake much, when they hold off from the apprehensions of God's graciousness, to the end that they may be the more humble and deeply affected with their sins. No, no: this is that which warms, and softens, and makes the soul pliable, fit to receive any form from His hand. Therefore, the people of God, and the prophets in their name, still lay hold on that, and interweave it both with their confessions and their petitions, as the main ground of their confidence in presenting both.
The petition is in these two words, which begin and close— Do for us-Leave us not. The rest is argument, backing and pressing the petition with familiar and pathetic expostulations; and in them, the whole strength of the argument lies in a mutual interest, that they are His people, and He is their God. But take the words as they lie.
Do Thou for Thy name's sake.] It is not expressed what or how, and it is best so: that is referred to Him who knows what is best, which we do not. It is an act of grace in general that is sued for, but for the way and time, all is put in His hand. True it is, that sometimes prayer is, and must be, somewhat more particular, upon particular warrant, or upon account of the common liberty that God gives His children, to present freely the particular thoughts and desires of their hearts to Him. But it is good always to close thus, or that it be understood so when not expressed, that we resign that matter to Him, to make His own choice of things, and use His own way. Only, we entreat His favour, and His owning of us and our condition, that He be for us, and do for us. And this is safe and sweet, to let Him choose. We often perplex ourselves about that which lies not in our way, and is not our part to be busied in, what things shall be done. This he undertakes for,
and will be careful of. Be not afraid.
Psal. xxxvii. 5. Com
mit thy way, roll thy way upon the Lord, trust on the Lord, and He will do it; there is no more. In the Hebrew it is, Turn it over to Him, and be quiet, and let Him alone, He will do well enough. Besides that there is all reason for it, if men knew what peace of spirit there is in this resignation, they would choose it before any way that can be thought on, and it never yet repented any one who chose it.
For Thy name's sake.] This is the unfailing argument, which abides always the same, and hath always the same force. When nothing is to be said for ourselves but guiltiness, yet, this name we may plead by. Though our iniquities testify against us, though they return us harsh answers as from Thee, speaking nothing but just refusals of our suits and rejecting of ourselves; yet, Lord, remember Thy own name, and from thence we look for a better answer. Do according to that, and for Thy name's sake, in regard of strangers and enemies, who will reproach Thy name in the ruin of thy people; and for Thy name's sake, in regard of Thy people's knowledge of it, and confidence in it, who, in all their straits, do expect their help from Thee. Thy promises made to them, and Thy covenant made with them, in these is Thy name, and they do cast themselves, and rely on it. Now see whether it may be for Thy glory to cast them off. Whatsoever we are, look to Thine own interest, and do for that; Do for Thy name's sake.
In the next clause, and more particularly, a part of His name is expressed, The Hope of Israel. That is a piece of His royal style, by which He is known in the world. And in this appeareth the wonderful condescension and bounty of God to His creatures, to choose a number of persons, that He will pass His word to engage Himself to be theirs; not only to forgive us who are his debtors by our sins, but to become Himself a debtor to us by His promises. And He loves to be challenged on them, and pressed with them. It is a maxim of court-flattery, that mean persons ought not to urge a king upon
his word; but this greatest King takes nothing better from the meanest of his subjects. Lord, Thou hast undertaken the protection of us Thy people, and now it lies upon Thee, in point of honour and truth, to save us.
The Hope of Israel.] All people, and every man, have something they rely on and make their hope; and they often choose the most broken, rotten hopes, which fail while they lean upon them, and not only fail, but hurt them, as Egypt proved to Israel. Therefore it proved as a broken reed, which not only flew in pieces in their hand, but the splinter ran up into their hand and hurt them. How often have we found it thus, been disappointed, yea, wounded by our vain hopes, pierced through with many sorrows, as the Apostle speaks of those who love and trust in riches! Therefore Job disclaims this, that he never made gold his god: If I made gold my hope. Ch. xxxi. ver. 24. There is a word of one of his friends speaking, chap. xxii. ver. 25., rendered in our translation, The Almighty shall be thy defence: the word is in the original, The Almighty shall be thy gold. To those who account and make Him so, He is both; for they are rich enough in Him in the greatest scarcity, and safe enough in Him in the greatest danger.
But you who would look to it, inquire each of you well, what is thy hope, what thy heart readiest turns to, and cleaves to, to comfort itself in any distress. Yea, in the times of the greatest ease, what are thy thoughts most biassed and turned to, with oftenest and deepest delight? Canst thou say, It is to God?-that thy heart hath got that retreat, and is inured to that, is frequently there throughout the day, turns by, or passes over husband or wife, or children, or riches, or delights, or any thing that would stand in thy way, and stays not till it be at Him, and there rejoices in His love, sits down under His shadow content and happy, willing that others should rule and share the world as they please? that thou dost not envy them, yea, canst even pity them, with all their gay hopes and great projects? yea, though thou do not find at all