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and an unusual one ; a prophecy and a song (as the word added imports) of Habakkuk the prophet on Neginoth. The strain of it is high, and full of sudden raptures and changes, as that word signifies: as here, having expressed much fear in the foregoing words, a shivering, trembling horror, he yet adds such a height of an invineible kind of joy,-like the needle of the compass, fixedly looking towards Him, yet, not without a trembling motion. Thus, we have the temper of the Psalmist, Psal. ii. 11. Rejoice with trembling. Which suits well to so sublime an object; joying in God, because He is good, yet, with joy still mixed with holy awe, because He is great. And this especially in a time of great judgments, or in the lively apprehensions or representations of them, whether before or after their inflicting ; whether they be on the people of God for their iniquities, or on the enemies of God for their oppressions and cruelties to His people while He made them instruments for their correction. In both, God is formidable, and greatly to be feared, even by those that are nearest to Him. This we find in the prophets when seeing judgments afar off, long before their day, which they had commission to denounce. So, this prophet here not only discovers great awe and fear at what he saw and foretold concerning God's own people, the Jews, but at the after-reckoning with the Chaldeans, His and their enemies. When God comes to do judgment on the wicked, this will make them who stand by and suffer not with them, yet to tremble; yea, such as are advantaged by it, as usually the people of God are, their enemies' ruin proving their deliverance. The majesty and greatness of God, and the terribleness of His march towards them and seizing on them, as it is here highly set forth, this works an awful fear in the hearts of His own children. They cannot see their Father angry but it makes them quake, though it be not against them, but on their behalf. And this were our right temper, when we see or hear of the hand of God against wicked men, who run their own courses against all warning; - not to entertain these things with carnal rejoicings and lightness of mind, or with boasting insults; to applaud indeed the righteousness of God, and to give Him His glory, but withal, to fear before Him, though they were strangers and no way a part of ourselves, and to have a humble sense of the Lord's dealing in it; (So, Psal. lii. 6.) and to learn to reverence God; in all our ways to acknowledge Him; to be sure to take Him along with us, and to undertake nothing without Him.
And this fear of judgments falling upon others, is the way not to feel them on ourselves. When God sees that the sound of the rod on others' backs will humble a soul or a people, He will spare the stroke of it. They who have most of this holy fear of God's anger, fall least under the dint of it. Blessed is he that feareth always; but he that hardens his heart, shall fall into mischief. Prov. xxviii. 14. He that fears it not, shall fall into it; he that fears and trembles at it, shall escape. So the Prophet here trusts for himself: ver. 16. I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble, and, upon this confidence, he rises to this high resolution, Yet I will rejoice in the Lord.
The words, to make no other division of them, are a conjuncture of a sad supposition, and a cheerful position, or purpose.
Although the fig-tree shall not blossom.] This is a thing that may come, and, possibly, which the Prophet did foresee would come, amongst other judgments; and it is of all other outward scourges the sorest, most smarting, and most sweeping; cuts off most people, and can least be suffered and shifted. It lieth amongst the rest in the store-house of Divine judgments. He who furnished the earth, and gave being by the word of His mouth to all these things, hath still the sole, absolute power of them: they obey His word of command, and, rightly looked upon, in our use of them, and the sweetness we find in them, lead us to Him as the spring of being and goodness. He is invisible in His nature; in His works, most visible and legible. Not only the spacious heavens and the glorious lights in them, but the meanest things on earth, every plant and flower in their being and growing, yea, every pile of grass, declare God to us.
And it is a supernatural delight in natural things, to see and taste Him in them. It is more pleasant than their natural relish; it is the chief inner sweetness, the kernel and marrow of all; and they that take not the pains, and have not the skill to draw it forth, lose the far better half of their enjoyments, even of the things of this earth. To think, how wise He is who devised such a frame, how powerful He who made all these things, how rich He must be who still continues to furnish the earth with these varieties of provisions, how sweet must He be, whence all these things draw their sweetness ! But, alas! we are brutish, and in our use of these things, we differ little or nothing from the beast. We are called to a higher life, but we live it not. Man is in honour, but he understands it not; he is as the beast that perishes. Psal. xlix. 20.
Now, because we acknowledge God so little in the use of these things, therefore He is put to it (so to speak) to teach us our lesson in the want and deprivement of them, which our dulness is more sensible of. We know things a great deal better by wanting them, than by having them, and take more notice of that Hand which hath power of them, when He withdrawe, than when He bestows them.
Besides all other provocations, and particular abuses of these things by intemperance and luxury, were it no more than the very neglecting of God in His goodness, this calls for a famine, to diet us into wiser thoughts, and to remind us of our own and all other creatures' dependence on that God whom we so forget, as to serve our idols and base lusts upon His bounty. This was the case of Judah and Israel. See Hos. ii. 8–13. But when more sparingly fed, and better taught, in the wilderness, those mercies were restored again, and then, all acknowledge the dowry of that blessed marriage with Himself, which is so far beyond all account.
How wretched ingratitude is it, not to regard and love Him in the use of all His mercies ! But it is horrid stupidity, not to consider and seek to Him in their withdrawment, or in the threatening of it. Few have a right sense of His hand in any. thing. They grumble and cry out, but not to Him. As in the case of oppression, it is said, Job xxxv. 9, 10., By reason of the multitude of oppressions, they make the oppressed to cry; they cry out by reason of the arm of the mighty; but none saith, Where is God my maker ?-so, of this very judgment of famine, the Prophet speaks, Hos. vii. 14. And they have not cried unto me with their hearts, when they howled upon their beds: they assemble themselves for corn and wine, and they rebel against me. They did not humbly and repentingly seek to God by prayer, but a natural, brutish sense of their wants pressed out complaints; they howled as hungry dog would do for bread. This is all the most do, in years of dearth, or harvests threatening it. No beast in the mountain or wilderness, is so untamed as the heart of man, which, when catched in God's judgments, lies and cries as a wild bull in a net. It is true, they are somewhat nearer sober thoughts in distress ; and their grief, though merely. natural, yet, is nearer spiritual grief, than their mirth and laughter ; but it must have a touch of that Spirit above, to make it spiritual, to make it change to gold, to turn it to godly sorrow. No scourge carries a power of changing the heart with it; that is a superadded work. Many people, and particular persons, have been beat as in a mortar with variety of afflictions, one coming thick upon another, and yet, are never the wiser, and yet, have not returned unto me, saith the Lord.
Therefore, if you be afflicted, join prayer with your correction, and beg by it, that God would join His Spirit with it. Seek this in earnest, else you shall be not a whit the better, but shall still endure the smart, and not reap the fruit thereof. Yea, I believe, some are the worse, even by falsely imagining they are better, partly presuming it must be so, and partly, may be, feeling some present motions and meltings in the time of afflictions, which evanish and presently cool when they are off the fire. Ay, but these two together make a happy man; Blessed is he whom thou correctest, and teachest out of Thy law. Psal. xciv. 12.
Although the fig-tree shall not blossom.] This sometimes does, and at any time may, befal a land; but however, it is very useful to put such cases. It is true, there is great odds betwixt real and imagined distresses ; yet, certainly, the frequent viewing of its picture, though it is only in thy imagination, hath so much likeness as somewhat abates the strangeness and frightfulness of its true visage when it comes.
There is a foolish pre-apprehension of possible evils, which, whether they come or not, does no good, but makes evils to come perplexingly before-hand, and antedates their misery, and adds the pain of many others that will never come. These are the fumes of a dark, distempered humour, vain fears, which vex and trouble some minds at present, and do not waste any thing of any grief to come after. But calmly and composedly to sit down and consider evil days cominy, any kind of trials that probably, yea, or possibly, may arrive, so as to be ready to entertain them without astonishment; this is a wise and useful exercise of the mind, and takes off much of the weight of such things, breaks them in falling on us, that they come not so sad down, when they light first upon the apprehension. Thus, it is true, nothing comes unawares to a wise man.
He hath supposed all, or as bad as any thing that can come, hath acquainted his mind with the horridest shapes, and therefore, when such things appear, will not so readily start at them.
This I would advise to be done, not only in things we can more easily suffer, but in those we think would prove hardest and most indigestible, to inure thy heart to them ; not to be like some, who are so tender-fancied, that they dare not so much as think of some things, the death of a dear friend, or husband, or wife, or child. That is oftener to be viewed, rather than any other event. Bring thy mind to it, as a