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times, yea, possibly, scarcely at any time, that sensible presence of God, and shining of His clear-discovered love upon thee, yet, that still He is thy hope, that thou art at a point with all the world, hast given up all to wait on Him, and hope for Him, and dost account thyself richer in thy simple hope, than the richest man on earth is in his possessions? Then art thou truly so, for the hope of God is Heaven begun, and Heaven complete is the possessing of Him.
The Saviour thereof.] Not exempting them from trouble, but saving in time of trouble. The reason for Israel's trouble lay in their own sin and security, and their abuse of ease and peace; but yet, they were not left to perish in trouble, but had a Saviour in time of trouble, who was then most eyed and considered, and found to be so. In the furnace, both the faith of His people, and the truth of His promises, are tried.
The children of God are much beholden to their troubles for clear experiences of themselves and of God. And in this, indeed, is the virtue of faith, to apprehend God as a Saviour in time of trouble, before He come forth and manifest Himself to be so.
Wicked men have their times of trouble too, even here, but have no title to this Saviour. Suæ fortunæ fabri—if themselves, or friends, or means can help them, it is well; but they can go no further. But the Church, the Israel of God, when all help fails on all hands, has one great resource that cannot fail, the strong God, her Hope and Saviour in time of trouble, or straitness. When there is no way out, He can cut out a way through the sea, can divide their enemies, or whatsoever is their greatest difficulty, and make a way through the middle of it. Well might Moses say, Happy art thou, O Israel! Who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help? Deut. xxxiii. 29. Men are under-saviours in outward deliverances; so it is said, Neh. ix. 27. Thou gavest them saviours; But He IS THE SAVIOUR. All others have their commissions from Him. All their
strength, and all their success, is from Him. Without Him, no strength, nor wit, nor courage, avail: all falls to pieces when He withdraws His hand. Give us help from trouble, for, says the Church, vain is the help of man. We have found this, if any people ever did, and have had real lectures to teach us to cease from man; for wherein is he to be accounted of? Yet, still we are ready to look to multitudes, or to the quality of men who undertake for us. But if we do so, yet shall that prove our shame and disappointment: and it shall never go well with us, till our dependence and confidence come clear off from all creatures, and we fix it entirely upon Him who is our shield and our strength.
Thus should a soul, in particular distress, especially in inward trouble, wherein the help lies most incommunicably and immediately in God's own hand, learn to trust Him. And though thou art not clear in thy interest as a believer, yet, plead thy interest as a sinner, which thou art sure of. God in our flesh hath enlarged the nation of Israel; all that will but look to him, He is their Saviour: Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth. Now, He hath styled himself the Saviour of sinners; press Him by that: Lord, I do look to thee, do for me, O Saviour! Help, I am in trouble. So, in any particular temptation, either to sin, or to distrust because of sin, say, Now, Lord, here is an opportunity for Thy power and Thy grace to glorify itself. And though thou find thyself sinking, yet, believe, and thou shalt not drown.
Why shouldest Thou be as a stranger in the land?] The main thing desired was, His constant abode with them. Some passing deliverances He had wrought; but that was not enough. He came as a stranger, to stay a night, refreshed them with a transient visit, and away again. Thus we may say, He hath still done for us. When we were in desperate
straits, He came and helped; but then we were left to such counsels as bred us new troubles. He hath not so evidently yet taken up His residence, though he hath built Him a house
amongst us, we trust, with that intention, do dwell with us. This we are to sue and entreat for.
Why art thou as one astonished?] Why art thou looking on our miseries as an amazed stranger, as not concerned in our affairs or condition, and not caring what becomes of us; as a traveller, but passing through, and having no further interest nor regard; or, as a mighty man that cannot save, as Samson after his hair was cut, either as wearied or bound, or somewhat hindered, though strong enough.
Now, Lord, look not on. Own our sufferings, and bestir Thyself. Make it appear that Thou faintest not, neither art weary, nor that any thing can stand before Thee and be Thy hinderance. Break through our sins, the greatest hinderance of all; let not these stop Thy way, nor bind Thy hands. For Thou art in the midst of us: though we see Thee not so in Thy work as we desire, yet, here we know Thou art in Thy special good-will and power, as Thou art in our profession and homage done to Thee as our king amongst us. testifies Thy presence. Thou canst not so hide Thyself, but there are still some characters of Thy presence. And we are called by Thy name, Thy people. If we perish, Thy name being upon us, what becomes then of it? Therefore leave us not. Though Thou strike us, yet, stay with us, and we shall live in hope of favour and deliverance: if Thou go not away, our cries and prayers, at least our miseries, will move Thee.
These things make up our plea. We are a most unworthy people, yet, we are called by His name, are in covenant with Him; so, His glory is interested. We must not let go this. And what advantage so great, as to have our interest wrapped up in His ? His glory and our safety are in one bottom, to sink and swim together; then, there is no hazard. Therefore, keep close to His interest and His covenant, and beg His staying with us, and arising for us, and lay hold on Him for this end. It is a pleasant violence; and were there many to use it towards Him, our deliverance were not far off.
LUKE xiii. 1-10.
There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.
And Jesus answering, said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things?
I tell you, nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?
I tell you, nay; but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig-tree, and find none; cut it down ; why cumbereth it the ground?
And he answering, said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it;
And if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shall cut it down.
It is no easy or common thing, to give God's ways a right construction. For the most part, we either let them pass unobserved, or unframe our observations, looking through those principles and passions of our own, which give things another shape or colour than what is truly theirs. This was here the This sad accident should have been observed by them who heard it, and might have been spoken of by them to very good purpose; but our Saviour knew well what they meant by reporting the story, and what thoughts they had of it and of themselves, and by his answer, it would seem, all was not right with them.
The fact here related, we have not any further account of in sacred history, nor any thing that we can clearly and certainly call it in any human writer. It is commonly conceived to have been done at Jerusalem, where Pilate abode, and that his power was exercised and done upon the followers of that Judas of Galilee spoken of, Acts v. 37, being such as denied it to be lawful to give obedience to the Roman empire, or to offer sacrifice for the interest and good of it. When they, it is likely, were coming together to offer at Jerusalem, and to maintain and to spread their opinion, Pilate comes upon them, and, while they were at the solemnity, makes a sacrifice of them to that authority they refused to sacrifice for: whether justly or not, we cannot determine; our Saviour does not; but if it was just, surely it was very tragical and severe, suitable to that character Philo gives of his disposition who acted it. L'AuɛixTov.] The straining of justice, commonly breaks it: a little of the other side, is, of the two, doubtless, the safer
However, this stroke and all others, as they come from the Supreme Hand, are righteous. Whatsoever be the temper or intent of the lower actor, and whatsoever be the nature of the action as from him, the sovereign hand of God is in them, and chief in them. Amos iii. 6. Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? And yet all evils, as He doth them, are both good and well done. Actions, whether voluntary or casual, as these two here, yet, do powerfully issue from the First Being and Worker, and, as from Him, are both unalterably certain and unquestionably just. Thus they who here report it, seem to have judged of this passage, that it was a just punishment of sin. And our Saviour contests not about that, but rather seems to agree to them so far, and draws that warning out of it: he only corrects the misconceit it seems they were in, in thrusting it too far off from themselves, and throwing it too heavy upon those who sacrificed.
that they were sinners?] Though it were an error