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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; xxxi, 24. There is a word of one of his friends, xxii, 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 sha
dow content and happy, willing that others should rule and share the world as they please ? that thou dost not envy them, yea, caust even pity them, with all their gay hopes and great projects ? yea, though thou do not find at all times, yea, possibly scarcely at any time, the 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, bast 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 possessiops ? Then art thou truly so, for the hope of God is heaven begun, and heaven com. plete is the possessing of him.
The Saviour thereof. Not exempting them from trouble, but saving in time of trouble. The reason for Is. rael'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 beso. 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. 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 band. 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
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 belp lies most incommunica. bly 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 Sa. viour ; Look unto me, and be ye 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, 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 bath: not so evidently yet taken up his residence, though he bath built bim a house amongst us, we trust, with that intention, to 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 coudition, 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 bair 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, nei. ther art weary, nor that any thing can stand before thee and be thy hindrance. Break through our sins, the greatest hindrance of all; let not these stop thy way, por 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. That 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, ihy 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 favor 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.
Calamities to be cautiously interpreted.
LUKE xiii, 1, 10. There were present at that season some that told him of
the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with
their sucrifices. 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 like
wise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell Div. No. IX.
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 like
wisé 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 shalt 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 color than what is truly theirs. This was here the case. 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 refer to concerning 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