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Thou art my hiding-place and my shield: I hope in thy word.—Ver. 114.
IN these words you have—(1.) A privilege which believers enjoy in God, and that is protection in time of danger. (2.) David’s right to that privilege, ‘I hope in thy word.’ From both the note will be this:
Doct. They that hope in God’s word for the protection which he hath promised, will find God to be a shield and a hiding-place to them.
1. I shall speak of the nature of divine protection, as it is here set forth under the notions of a shield and hiding-place.
2. Of the respect which the word hath to these benefits.
3. Of the necessity and use of faith and hope in the word.
First, For the nature of this protection; it is set forth in two notions, a hiding-place and a shield. Upon which I observe:—
1. David was a military man, and therefore often makes use of metaphors proper to his function; when he wandered in the wilderness and the forest of Ziph, and they yielded to him many a lurking-hole, and so he knew the benefit of a hiding-place; and being a man of war, he was more acquainted with the use of a shield in battle. That which I observe is this, that it is good to spiritualise the things that we often converse with, and from earthly occasions to raise heavenly thoughts. You will ever find our Lord Jesus so doing. When he sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, he discourseth of eating bread in his Father’s kingdom, Luke xvi. 14. When he was at the well of Samaria, he falls a discoursing of the well of life, of the water that springeth up to eternal life, John iv. Again, when he was at the feast of tabernacles, you will find there it was the fashion of the people at that feast to fetch water from the pool of Siloam, and to pour it out until it ran in a great stream; and then at the feast of tabernacles Christ cried out, ‘He that cometh to me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water,’ John vii. He spiritualiseth that occasion. Thus should we learn to turn brass into gold, and by a holy chemistry to extract useful thoughts from these ordinary objects that we are cast upon. Thus doth David; he had been acquainted with the use of a hiding-place and with a shield, and accordingly expresseth his confidence by these notions. The Septuagint renders it simply and without the metaphor, My help and my undertaker; but we, from the Hebrew, My hiding-place, my shield.
2. Observe, again, both the notions imply defence and protection. A shield is not a weapon offensive but defensive. Indeed elsewhere, Deut. xxxiii. 29, God said to Israel, ‘I am the shield of thy strength, and sword of thy excellency.’ God is a sword as well as a shield, a weapon offensive as well as defensive, in behalf of his people. But here both metaphors imply only defence and protection. It is not here a hiding-place and a sword, but a hiding-place and a shield. Why? The godly are subject to many dangers and perils, from adverse powers, spiritual and bodily, and therefore need much preservation and defence.
[1.] The soul is in danger of Satan and his temptations. There are spiritual enemies, that will put us upon the need of a shield and a hiding-place: Eph. vi. 12, ‘We wrestle not against flesh and blood,’ &c.; that is, not principally. We do not wrestle against bodily or human powers; outward agents are not principals but instruments. Our chief war is with devils and evil spirits, who have a mighty power over a great part of the world; they are the rulers of the darkness of this world, the ignorant and carnal part of the world; and they assault us with much cunning and strength; and invisible enemies are the worst, none like to them for craft, for strength, for malice, for number. They easily get the advantage over us by their crafty insinuations, and applying themselves to our humours, and feeding every distemper with a bait suitable; and they are always about us, unseen and unperceived; they lie in ambush for our souls, and assault us in company and alone, in business and in recreations, in the duties of religion, and in our ordinary affairs; they follow us in our retirements, and pursue us with unwearied diligence. No such enemies as these for craft and subtlety of address. And then for their power and strength, they have their fiery darts to throw upon us, ver. 16. They inject and cast in blasphemous thoughts, and enkindle and awaken in us burning lusts, or fire us with rage and despair; their power is exceeding great, because they have the management of fiery darts. And their malice is great; it is not to hurt our bodies chiefly, that is but the shell of the man, but the chiefest part, our immortal soul; and therefore we need a hiding-place and a shield when we have to do with spiritual wickednesses, that are always assaulting us in this manner upon all occasions. And for their number, there are many of them, and all engaged in this spiritual warfare against the saints: we cannot dream of ease if we would be Christ’s soldiers. In the Gospel we find one man possessed with a whole legion of them: Mark v. 9, ‘My name is legion, for we are many.’ They cease not in this manner thus continually to assault and vex us, and therefore we need a hiding-place and shield.
[2.] The bodies of God’s people and their temporal lives are exposed to a great deal of hazard and danger from evil men, who are ready to molest and trouble us, sometimes upon one pretence, and sometimes upon another. They that indeed would go to heaven, and have a serious sense of the world to come upon their hearts, they are a different party from the world, and therefore the world hates them, John xvii. 14; and Rom. xii. 2, ‘Be not conformed to this world.’ It was never yet so well with the world but they were forced to stand upon their defence; and usually, as to any visible interest, they are the weakest when their enemies are mighty and strong; and therefore they had need of a hiding-place to run to, and a shield to defend them, to run to the covert and defence of God’s providence.
3. Observe the difference between these two notions, hiding-place and shield. Sometimes God is said to be our strength and our shield, Ps. xxviii. 7. He furnisheth us within and without; he strengthens and fortifies the heart, then shields us and keeps off dangers. And sometimes again he is said to be a sun and a shield, Ps. lxxxiv. 11. We have positive and privative blessings, or a sun to give us light, and a shield to give us strength. He promiseth to be both; but usually he so attempereth his providence, that where he is more a sun there he is less a shield; that is to say, the more sparingly he vouchsafeth the knowledge of heavenly comforts, the more powerfully doth he assist his people in their weakness by his providence. As the Jews that were conversant about the shadows of the law, and lived under the darkness of that pedagogy, God was less a sun to them than he is to us; but yet they knew more of his powerful providence, of his temporal protection. Now here it is a hiding-place and a shield; what is the difference between these? God is a hiding-place to keep us out of danger, and a shield to keep us in danger. Either we shall be kept from trouble, that dangers shall not overtake us; or, if they do over take us, they shall riot hurt us; they shall only serve for this use, to make us sensible of God’s defence, and to increase our thanksgiving for our protection: for God hides us, and as a shield interposeth him self between us and the strokes of our adversaries, those fiery darts which are flung at us. Well, then, they imply, either God will keep us from seeing the evil, or fortify us that the evil shall not hurt us. One of these notions was not enough to express the fulness of God’s protection: a hiding-place, that is a fixed thing; but a shield and buckler, we may constantly carry it about with us wherever we go, and make use of God’s power and love against all conflicts whenever we are assaulted. Again, on the other side, a shield were not enough to express it, for that only respects actual assaults; but God saves us from many dangers which we are not aware of, prevents troubles which we never thought of, Ps. xxi. 3.
4. Let us view these notions apart, and see what they contain for our comfort.
First, Let us look upon God as a hiding-place. Men in great straits, when they are not able to make defence against pursuing enemies, they run to their hiding-place, as we shall see the Israelites did from the Philistines: 1 Sam. xiii. 6, ‘When the men of Israel saw that they were distressed, they hid themselves in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in high places, and in pits;’ and so God’s children, when they are too weak for their enemies, seek a safe and sure hiding-place: Prov. xxii. 3, ‘A wise man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself.’ Certainly there is a hiding-place for the saints, if we had but skill to find it out; and where is it but in God? Ps. xxxii. 7, ‘Lord, thou art my hiding-place, thou shalt preserve me from trouble.’ I do not delight to squeeze a metaphor, and to make it yield what it intends not; yet these four things are offered plainly in this notion of a hiding-place—there is secrecy, and capacity to receive, and safety, and comfort.
1. Secrecy. It is not a fortress wherein a man does profess himself to be, and to stand out assaults, but it is a hiding-place: Ps. xxvii. 5, ‘In the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me upon a rock.’ God’s protection of his people is a secret hidden mystery, as every thing is to a carnal man. The person hidden is seen abroad every day following his business, serving his generation, doing that work which God hath given him to do; yet he is hidden while he is seen, by the secret power and love of God dispensing of all things for his comfort and protection; the man is kept safe by ways which the world knows not of. So Ps. xxxi. 20, ‘Thou shalt hide him in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man.’ There is a secret power of God by which they are upheld and maintained by one means or other, which they see not and cannot find out.
2. The next thing considerable in a hiding-place is capacity to receive us; and so there is in God; we may trust him with our souls, with our bodies, with our peace, with our goods, with our good name, with our all. Our souls, all that concerns us between this and the day of judgment, as St Paul did, 2 Tim. i. 12, ‘I know whom I have believed; and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.’ He calls his soul and all the concernments of it a thing that was left, and that he durst trust, in the hands of God. Our soul is much sought after. Satan, that hath lost the favour of God himself, envies that others would enjoy it, therefore maligns the saints, pursues them with great malice and power; but put it into the hands of God, he is able to keep it. And so for outward things, this hiding-place is wide enough for all that we have, for goods, body, and good name: Ps. xxxi. 20, ‘Thou shalt keep them secretly as in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.’ As the hearts of men are in the hands of God, so are their tongues. There is the same reason why we should trust in God for all things, when we trust in him for one thing. And indeed, did we truly and upon scripture grounds trust him for one thing, we would trust him for all things. If we did trust him with our souls, we would without anxious care trust him with our bodies and secular interests and concernments also.
3. Here is safety till the trouble be over, and we may be kept as quiet in God as if there were no danger: Ps. lvii. 1, ‘Under the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge until these calamities are overpast.’ There is an allusion to a chicken under the dam’s wing, when hawks, kites, and birds of prey are abroad; that are ready to seize upon them with their sharp beaks and talons; they run to the dam’s wings, and there they are safe. So Isa. xxvi. 20, ‘Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut the doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.’ There we have an allusion to a storm that is soon over, it is a little cloud that will easily be blown over; but in the meantime here is a covert and a defence. The use of God’s protection and love is best known in a time of straits and difficulties.
4. There is not only safety but comfort; as under the dam’s wings the chickens are not only protected but cherished. Christians, it is not a dead refuge or hiding-place, but like the wings of the hen, which yield warmth and comfort to the young brood: Ps. xxxiv. 22, ‘None of them that trust in him shall be desolate.’ There is sweet support, and spiritual experience, and inward comforts; so that a believer that is hidden in the secret of God’s presence fares better than all those that have the world at will, and flow in ease and plenty, if he would judge of his condition by spiritual considerations. Thus we have seen the first notion, God is a hiding-place.
Secondly, God is a shield. He is often called his people’s shield in scripture. Now the excellency and properties of a shield lie in these things:—
1. In the largeness and breadth of it, in that it hides and covers the person that weareth it from all darts that are flung at him, so as they cannot reach him: Ps. v. 12, ‘Thou wilt bless the righteous with favour, thou wilt compass him as with a shield.’ There is the excellency of a shield, to compass a person round about that the darts flung at him may not reach him. There is a comfortable promise; it runs in other notions indeed, yet I will mention it upon this occasion, because the expressions are so notable and emphatical: Zech. ii. 5, ‘For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about.’ Mark every word, for every word hath its weight. It was spoken when the returning Jews were discouraged at their small number; they had not enough to people their country and build their towns, nor to defend themselves against their numerous and potent adversaries. Now what shall they do? God makes them this promise of a future increase, ‘I will be a wall,’ &c. And there are three promises included in this one, viz., that he will be a wall, a wall round about them, and a wall of fire round about them, which is a further degree. A wall! there is a promise of that, Isa. xxvi. 1, ‘We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.’ And a wall that doth encompass them on every side round about, there is a promise of that, Ps. cxxv. 2, ‘As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people, from henceforth even for ever;’ he will be instead of all guards and defences. So likewise a wall of fire; not of brass or of stone, but of fire, that affrights at a distance, and consumes near at hand. Here is enough for a refuge, and to stay our hearts in the Lord’s keeping. An allusion to those countries; when they travelled in the wilderness they were wont to make a fire about them, to preserve them from wild beasts. Thus doth God express his all-encompassing protection, he that is our shield.
2. The excellence of a shield lies in that it is hard and impenetrable. So this answers to the invincible power of God’s providence, by which he can break the assaults of all enemies; and such a shield is God to his people: Ps. cxiiv. 2, ‘My strength and my shield, in whom I trust.’
3. Shall I add one thing more? Stones and darts flung upon a hard shield are beaten back upon him that flings them; so God beats back the evil upon his enemies, and the enemies of his people: Ps. lix. 11, ‘Bring them down, O Lord, our shield.’ Shall I speak in a word? The favour of God is a shield: Ps. v. 12, ‘With favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.’ The truth of God is a shield: Ps. xci. 4, ‘His truth shall be thy shield and buckler.’ And the strength and power of God, that is our shield: Ps. xxviii. 7,. ‘He is my strength and my shield.’
Well, now, you see how this defence and this protection is set forth, ‘Thou art my hiding-place and my shield.’ God accommodates him self to lisp to us in our own dialect, and to speak in such notions as we can best understand, for the help of our faith. Having opened the nature of this defence, the next thing I am to do is to show—
Secondly, The respect to the word, ‘I hope in thy word.’
1. The word discovers God to be such a protection and such a defence to his people everywhere: Ps. lxxxiv. 11, ‘God will be a sun and a shield, grace and glory will he give.’ As a sun, so he will give all things that belong to our blessedness; as a shield, so he will keep off all dangers from us. The scripture shows not only what God can do herein, but what he will do for our sakes. So Gen. xv. 1, saith God to Abraham, ‘I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward.’ Abraham might be under some fear that the kings which he had lately vanquished would work him some trouble, and then God comes and appears to him and comforts him, and tells him, ‘I am thy shield.’
2. As the scripture doth discover God under these notions, so it invites us and encourageth us to put God to this use: Isa. xxvi. 20, ‘Come, my people, enter into thy chambers, shut the door about thee, and hide thyself as it were for a little moment.’ There are chambers where we may rest; where are they but in the arms of God’s protection, in the chambers of his attributes, promises, and providence? The word invites us so to make use of God, to enter into him as into a chamber of repose, while the storm is furious, and seems to blow hard upon us. So Ps. xci. 1, ‘He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.’ He that committeth himself to God for refuge shall not be thrust out, but suffered to dwell there, and enjoy the benefit of a covert and defence.
3. The scripture assureth us of the divine protection, that certainly it shall be so: Prov. xxx. 5, ‘Every word of God is pure; he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him.’ Do not think that these are careless expressions, that dropped into the scripture by chance. No; they are the sure and pure words of the Lord, that will yield a great deal of comfort, peace, and happiness. So Ps. xviii. 30, ‘As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.’ God hath passed his word, which he hath ever been tender of in all ages of the world; he invites us to depend upon it. Thus it assures us of the divine protection.
4. It directeth us as to the qualifications of the persons who shall enjoy this privilege. Who are they?
[1.] You might observe, all those that believe, and none but those that believe; he is a buckler and a shield to all those that trust in him, Prov. xxx. 5; Ps. xviii. 30. Trust and have it. If you will glorify God by faith, and depend upon him according to his word, you will find it to be so. We miss of our protection and defence by our doubts, unbelief, and distrust of God. All those that in time of danger are duly sensible of it, and make use of God as their refuge and hiding-place, shall find him to be that to them which their faith expects from him.
[2.] The qualification which the word directs us unto is this: those that sincerely obey his covenant: Ps. lxxxiv. 11, ‘God is a sun and a shield to those that walk uprightly;’ and the same is repeated Prov. ii. 7, ‘God is a buckler to them that walk uprightly;’ and Isa. xxxiii. 15, 16, where God saith they that seek him shall dwell on high; his place of defence shall be the munitions of the rocks; they shall be preserved safe that fear him, and walk with him according. to the tenor of his covenant. If you will not be faithful servants to God, how can you expect he should be a good master to you? Sincerely give up your heart to walk with God exactly and closely, and he will not be wanting to you. Others may be preserved by general providence, or rather reserved to future judgment; they may be kept until the pit be digged for the wicked, Ps. xciv. 13, as a malefactor is suffered to live till the place of execution be prepared. But to have this protection in mercy, it supposeth we are in covenant with God, and walk sincerely with him.
5. It directeth us how to expect this blessing, in what manner; only in the way and manner that it is promised, Zeph. iii. 3. Seek righteousness, seek meekness, it may be you shall be hid; not absolutely, but as referring it to God’s will. There is the keeping of the outward man, and the keeping of the inward man. As to the out ward man, all things come alike to all; the Christian is safe, whatever becomes of the man; the Lord will keep him to his heavenly kingdom, 2 Tim. iv. 17, 18. That which the Christian desires mainly to be kept is his soul, that he may not miscarry, and blemish his profession, and dishonour God, and do anything that is unseemly. I say, we cannot absolutely expect temporal safety. The righteous are liable to many troubles, therefore in temporal things God will not always keep off the temporal stroke, but leave us to many uncertainties, or at least hold us in doubt about it, that we may trust his goodness. When we trust God we must trust all his attributes, not only his power, that he is able to preserve, but his goodness, that he will do that which is best, that there may be a submission and referring of all things to his will; as David, 2 Sam. xv. 26, ‘If he say, I have no delight in thee; be hold here am I, let him do unto me as seemeth good unto him.’ God will certainly make good his promise, but this trust lies not in an absolute certainty of success. However, this should riot discourage us from making God our refuge, because better promises are sure enough, and God’s keeping us in suspense about other things is no evidence he will not afford them to us; it is his usual course, and few instances can be given to the contrary, to have a special regard to his trusting servants, and to hide them secretly. They that know his name will find it, that he never hath forsaken them that put their trust in him, Ps. ix. 10. It is the only sure way to be safe; whereas to perplex our souls with distrust, even about these outward things, that is the way to bring ruin and mischief upon ourselves, or turn aside to crooked paths. Well, then, you see what respect the word hath to this privilege, that God is a shield and a hiding-place. The word discovers God under these notions, the word invites and encourageth us to put God to this use, the word assures us of the divine protection, it directeth us to the qualification of the persons that shall enjoy this privilege, they that can trust God, and walk uprightly with him; and it directeth us to expect the blessing, not with absolute confidence, but leaving it to God.
Thirdly, The third thing I am to do is to show this word must be applied by faith, ‘I hope in thy word.’ Hope is not strictly taken here, but for faith, or a certain expectation of the blessing promised. What doth faith do here? Why, the use of faith is—
1. To quiet the heart in waiting God’s leisure: Ps. xxxiii. 20, ‘Our soul waiteth for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.’ If God be our help and shield, then faith is quietly to wait the Lord’s leisure; till he sends deliverance, the word must bear up our hearts, and we must be contented to tarry his time: Isa. xxviii. 16, ‘He that believeth shall not make haste,’ will not outrun God.
2. In fortifying the heart against present difficulties, that when all visible helps and interests are cut off, yet we may encourage ourselves in the Lord. When they were wandering in the wilderness, and had neither house nor home, then Moses, the man of God, pens that psalm, and how doth he begin it? ‘Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations,’ Ps. xc. 1. What was wanting in sense they saw was made up in the all-sufficiency of God. And so here is the use of faith, when in defiance of all difficulties we can see an all -sufficiency in God to counterbalance that which is wanting in sense. So doth David, Ps. iii. 3, ‘Lord,’ saith he, ‘thou art my shield and glory, and the lifter up of my head.’ Look to that psalm; it was penned when David was driven from his palace royal by Absalom: when he was in danger, God was his shield; when his kingdom and honour were laid in the dust, God was his glory; when he was under sorrow and shame, and enemies insulting over him, when the people rose against him, and he was in great dejection of spirit, God was the lifter up of his head. This is getting under the covert of this shield, or compass of this hiding-place.
3. The use of faith is to quicken us to go on cheerfully in our duty, and with a quiet heart, resting upon God’s love, power, and truth. So David, Ps. cxxxi. 5, ‘Into thy hands I commit my spirit, for thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.’ David was then in great danger; the net was laid for him, as he saith in the former verse; and when he was likely to perish, what doth he do? He casts all his cares upon God, and trusts him with his life, ‘Into thy hands I commit my spirit,’ that is, his life, safety, &c.
Use 1. Admire the goodness of God, who will be all things to his people. If we want a house, he will be our dwelling-place; if we want a covert, he will be our shield, our hiding-place; whatever we want, God will supply it. There is a notable expression: Ps. xci. 9, ‘Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation.’ Mark that double notion; a habitation is the place of our abode in time of peace, a refuge the place of our retreat in a time of war. Be it peace or war, God will be all in all; he will be a fountain of blessing to us in a time of peace, he will be our habitation there where we have our sweetest comforts; and then in time when dangers and difficulties are abroad, God will be a refuge and a place of retreat to our souls.
Use 2. To persuade us to contentation in a time of trouble. Though we have not a palace, yet if we have but a hiding-place; though our condition be not so commodious as we do desire, yet if God will vouch safe a little liberty in our service we must be content, if he will give us a little safety though not plenty, for here is not our full reward. And therefore it is well we can make this use of God, to be our shield and hiding-place, though we have not that ample condition which a carnal heart would fancy. God never undertook in his covenant to maintain us at such a rate, nor thus to enlarge our portion; if he will vouchsafe a little security and safety to us during the time of our pilgrimage, we must be content.
Use 3. This should more encourage us against the evil of sin, since God assures us of protection and defence against the evil of trouble. If God did leave us to shift for ourselves, and never expressed himself in his word for our comfort, then we were more excusable, though not altogether, if we did shift and turn aside to crooked paths, because we are under an obligation to obey, whatsoever it cost us. But when he hath offered himself to be our shield and our hiding-place, to stand by us, be with us, carry us through fire and water, all dangers and difficulties, shall we warp now and turn aside from God? Gen. xvii. 1, saith the Lord, ‘I am God all-sufficient; walk before me, and be thou perfect.’ There is enough in God; why should we trouble our selves, or why should we run to any practices which God will not own?
Use 4. It presseth us to depend upon God’s protection. Shall I urge arguments to you?
1. This is one. Every one must have a hiding-place. Saith Solomon, The conies are a feeble folk, yet they have their burrows and holes. All creatures must depend upon somewhat, especially the children of God, that are exposed to a thousand difficulties. You must expect to have your faith and patience tried if ever you come to inherit the promises, and during that time it is good to have a hiding-place and a shield.
2. Your hearts will not be kept in safety unless you make God your strong defence. When Phocas fortified cities to secure his ill-gotten goods, a voice was heard, Sin within will soon batter down all those walls and fortifications. Unless God be our hiding-place and shield, the strongest defences in the world are not enough to keep us from danger. All the shifts we run into will but entangle us the more, and drive us the more from God, and to greater inconvenience: 2 Chron. xxviii. 20, as the king of Assyria to Ahaz; he distressed him, but helped him not. So many run away from God’s protection, and seek out means of safety for themselves, and will not trust him, but seek to secure themselves by some shifts of their own. They do but plunge themselves into troubles so much the more, and draw greater inconveniences upon themselves. There is a great deal of sin and danger in departing from God, and he can soon blast our confidences. All those places of safety we fancy to ourselves can soon be demolished and battered down. God will blast our carnal shifts.
3. It is a thing that we owe to God by virtue of the fundamental article of the covenant. If you have chosen God for your God, then you have chosen him for your refuge. Every one in his straits runs to the God he hath chosen. Nature taught the heathens in their distress to run to their gods. You may see the pagan mariners, a sort of men usually not much haunted with religious thoughts, yet when the storm arose, the sea wrought and was tempestuous, danger grew upon them, and they were afraid: ‘They called every man upon his god,’ Jonah i. 5; they were sensible that some divine power must give them protection. It immediately results from the owning of a God, that we must trust him with our safety; and so, if we have taken the true God for our God, we have taken him for our refuge and hiding-place: Ruth ii. 12, ‘A full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust.’ When Ruth came to profess the true God, by taking the God of Israel for her God, it is expressed thus; she did commit herself to his providence and protection: and therefore covetousness, because of its trust in riches, is called idolatry; it is a breach of the fundamental article of the covenant, taking God for our God.
4. This trust ever succeeds well. It will be of great use to you to still and calm your thoughts, and free you from many anxious cares, and in due time it will bring deliverance according to his promise. How may we thus trust in God? Why! commit and submit your persons and all your conditions and affairs to his providence. This is to trust in God, to make him your hiding-place and your shield. These notions are often used in scripture, 2 Tim. i. 12; Prov. xvi. 3; Ps. xxxvii. 5. If there be a thing to be brought about for you, commit it and submit it to God; he is able, wise, loving, and faithful; he will do what shall be for the best. Commit your comforts, your health, liberty, peace, your all into God’s hands, for he is the author of all; let the Lord do what he will. This is to trust in God, when you can thus without trouble or anxious care refer yourselves to the wise disposal of his providence.
[1.] No hurt can come to you without God’s leave. No creature can move or stir, saving not only by his permission, but by his influence. Others may have a will to hurt, but not power unless given them from above, as Christ told Pilate. The devil is a raging adversary against the people of God, but he is forced to ask leave to touch either Job’s goods or his person; he could not touch his skin, or any thing that belonged to him without a commission from God, Job i.; nay, he must ask leave to enter into the herd of swine, Mat. viii. 31. And Tertullian hath a notable gloss upon that. If God hath numbered the bristles of swine, certainly he hath numbered much more the hairs of the saints; if he cannot enter into a herd of swine, he cannot worry a friend of Christ’s, without God’s leave.
[2.] Consider how much God hath expressed his singular affection, and his care and providence over his people. There are many emphatical expressions in scripture; that is one, Mat. x. 29, 30, ‘The very hairs of your head are numbered.’ Mark, he doth not speak of the heart, or hands, or feet, those that we call parts which are necessary to the conservation of life; but he speaks of the excrementitious parts, which are rather for convenience and ornament than necessity. What is more slight than the shedding a hair of the head? Thus he expresses the particular care of his people. Again, Zech. ii. 8, ‘He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.’ No part is more tender than the eye; and the apple of the eye, how hath nature guarded it, that it may receive no prejudice! So Isa. xlix. 15, ‘Can a mother forget her sucking-child?’ &c. See how his tender affection and yearning bowels are expressed; passions in females are most vehement, therefore God alludes to mothers’ affections. And mark, it is not a child that can shift for itself, but a sucking-child, that is wholly helpless, that was but newly given her to draw her love. Nature hath left tender affections on the hearts of parents to their tender infants; yet if a woman should be so unnatural, ‘Yet will I not forget thee,’ saith the Lord. Now, shall we not trust him, and make him our hiding-place? Isa. xxvii. 3, ‘I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.’ God will keep his people by day, lest by force they break in upon his heritage; and keep them by night, lest they steal in privily, and by secret machinations hurt them.
[3.] Again, consider how many arguments there are to work us to this trust. Sometimes the scripture teacheth us to argue from the less to the greater: Mat. vi. 30, ‘If God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?’ Sometimes the scripture teacheth us to argue on the contrary; from the greater to the less, Rom. viii. 32. If God hath given us his Christ, will he not with him freely give us all things? Sometimes the scripture teacheth us to argue from things past. God hath been your shield and helper, he hath delivered from the mouth of the lion and bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, 1 Sam. xvii. 37. Some times from things past and present to things to come: 2 Cor. i. 10, ‘Who hath delivered from so great a death, and doth deliver; in whom we trust that he will yet deliver.’ Sometimes from things to come to things present: Luke xii. 32, ‘Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.’ Anne dabit regnum, et non dabit viaticum? If he give a kingdom, will he not give daily bread? Will he not preserve you while he hath a mind to use you? Thus our unbelief is overpowered by divers arguments to press us to this trust. Well, then, run to your security. How so?
First, In defiance of all difficulty, own God as your hiding-place and shield. David when he was driven from his palace royal, and wandered up and down for his life, and when his enemies began to say, Now there is no help for him in God, Ps. iii. 3; all Israel were against him. Many there be which say thus: his son drives him from his palace; now there is no safety, nor defence; but saith he, ‘Lord, thou art my shield and my glory, and the lifter up of my head.’ This is the way to get under the covert of his wing, when in the face of all difficulties we will own God as our hiding-place.
Secondly, Sue out your protection by earnest prayer. God hath given us promises as so many bonds upon himself, and we must put these bonds in suit. Our necessity leads us to the promises, and the promises lead us to the throne of grace: Ps. cxli. 9, ‘I fly to thee; hide me, O Lord; keep me from the snare which they have laid for me.’ Plead with him, and say, Lord, thou hast said thou wilt be my refuge and hiding-place; whither should a child go but to its father? and whither should I go but to thee, for thou art my God? Challenge him upon his word. See how David expresseth himself: Ps. xvii. 7, 8, ‘Show thy marvellous loving-kindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee. Keep me as the apple of thine eye: hide me tinder the shadow of thy wings.’ Go challenge God upon his word: Lord, thou hast said thou wilt save those that trust in thee, those that depend upon thee. The eye is offended with the least dust, and nature hath provided a fence and covert for it. Thus may we go to God, and challenge such kind of protection: Keep me as the apple of thine eye, hide me under thy wings. As the dam is ready to flutter and spread her wings over the young brood when they fly to her, so will God.
Thirdly, Take notice whenever it is made good; give God his honour when he hath been a hiding-place and protection to you, that you may observe his providence: Ps. xviii. 30, ‘As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.’ Well, I have waited upon God according to these promises, and lo! it is come to pass as the Lord hath said. So Ps. xxviii. 7, ‘The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusteth in him, and I am helped;’ Gen. xlviii. 16, ‘The angel of the covenant, which hath fed me all my days, and redeemed me from all evil.’ He speaks of the faithfulness of God and of the mediator in all those promises of protection.
Fourthly, Constantly make use of God. You may think this discourse may be of no use to you, because you are out of fears and dangers: why, you are constantly to make use of God, be it well or ill, and to live upon God. All our comforts are from God, as well as our support in trouble. Certainly he that lives upon God in prosperity, will live upon him in adversity. Oh! when you are well at ease, and abound in all things, you take these things out of the hand of God; you will learn better to make him your refuge. But he that lives upon the creature in his prosperity, when the creature fails he will be in utter distress, and know not what to do.
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