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We have seen this, and the turn of it on both sides, how men become a prey to any party, when the terror from God is upon them.
Therefore, learn we to fear Him, to beware of all ways wherein we may justly apprehend Him to be against us. Cleave to Him and to His truth, when it is lowest, and when no human means of help appear, then think you hear Him say ing to you, Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.
Ver. 18. Therefore will the Lord wait.] There is no lan guage of men nor of angels, fit to express the graciousness of God's punishments and the threatenings of them; as if they were violently drawn and forced from Him, but mercy, and the sweet promises thereof, naturally flowing from Him. Thus here, He is forced to give up His people to their own counsels, because they will not follow His advices. He entreats them but to be quiet, and let Him do for them; but seeing they will not sit still, and be safe at His direction, they must run their own course, and fall in it. But it cannot pass so, they must not be quite given over; the Lord hath an interest in them which He will not lose. They must, indeed, for a time eat
the fruit of their own ways, and that is not a season to shew them favour; but the Lord will wait a better hope. He is resolved to shew them mercy, and will find His own time for it: Therefore will HE wait, that He may be gracious.
And this is He moved to, according to His gracious nature, by the greatness of their distress and desolation. Though procured by themselves, by their great, their inflexible stubbornness, yet He pities to see them so left as a beacon on the top of a mountain, and as an ensign on a hill. And therefore will the Lord wait. Thus we have the proper arguings of free mercy, which otherwise, to our narrow thoughts, may seem strange and somewhat inconsequent. Such a Therefore as this, so unexpectedly changing the strain, doth genuinely and sweetly follow upon the premises, when free love is the medium: that intervening in the midst, makes the sweet turn. Your iniquities prevail to bring you low, and lengthen out your
calamities; therefore, I will let that have its course, and will stay till my fit time come to do you good. Meanwhile I will lie hid, and be as sitting still; but when that time comes, I will get up and shew myself. He will be exalted, that He may have mercy on you; for the Lord is a God of judgment. He is wise, and just, and good, and knows His measures of afflicting His people, His times and ways of delivering them, and of bringing destruction on His enemies, and will not slip this season; and it being so, this certainly follows, that they are blessed that wait on Him.
Observe, 1. The strong inclination of God to shew mercy. He would willingly have His people to find nothing but ease ; He delights in the prosperity of His servants, would have them constantly have a sweet, peaceful, yea, cheerful life, by constant walking in His ways; but they are often the enemies of their own peace, grieve His Spirit, and turn Him to be their own enemy. But He cannot persist in that to His own; He longs to be at His way of mercy and loving kindness again. He retains not His anger for ever, because mercy pleases Him. He inflicts judgment for sin, but what He delights in
mercy. Therefore says the prophet, Lam. iii. 32, 33, Though He cause grief, yet He will have compassion according to the multitude of His mercies: For He doth not willingly afflict, nor grieve the children of men. Though He doth grieve them, yet not willingly: they themselves procure and draw on that, by grieving His Spirit. But He willingly shews mercy, for that abounds: there is such multitude and plenty of it, that, as to full breasts, it is a pleasure to Him to let it forth. The two words, gracious and merciful, which stand first in the name of God, Exod. xxxiv. 6, the one signifies free grace, the other, tender bowels of mercy. This is no emboldment to continue in sin, yea, it is of all things the most fit encouragement and inducement to a sinner to return from his sin; and so it is used and urged throughout the Scriptures. See Isa. xxxi. 5, 6. and lv. 7. Jer. iii. 12. In public calamities, where a people are charging the cause thereof upon them
selves, searching their hearts and their ways, and turning unto God, humbly acknowledging their iniquity, and entreating pardon, Oh! this is the thing He would not despise. Yea, it is what He looks and longs for, and upon that would readily forget all past disloyalties. See Jer. iii. 1. Yea, at the sound of their repentings, His bowels would resound with compassion by a secret sympathy and harmony, as one string well tuned to another, stirs when it is touched. Thus, Jer. xxxi. 18-20.
This a sinner shall find in his returning unto God, more than we can express or promise in His name. Oh, He waits to be gracious, meets thee graciously. Yea, He hath first touched thy heart secretly, hath first drawn it towards Himself, before it stirred, or had a thought that way. Now, no more upbraidings or remembrance of all thy wanderings: an act of perfect oblivion is past. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. Jer. xxxi. 34. Is thy heart any little softened, and relents it towards Him? Then, the controversy is ended, and His thoughts are now, how to comfort thee. Art thou busy indicting accusations against thyself? Then makes He it His part to wipe away and blot Comest thou home with a heart full of holy shame and grief, and thy mouth full of humble confessions of thy disobedience? Then know, it is thy tender-hearted Father meets thee, most ready to forgive thee, yea, to interrupt thy confessions in the middle with embraces and kisses of love.
But, alas! we preclude ourselves from the sweet experiences of these tender mercies, by the hardness of our hearts, and by the lightness and vanity of them. Oh that indignity, our God still waiting to be gracious, to heap up more of His love to us, but we are busied in other things, and not at leisure to wait on Him! Oh! what are they, these things that take us up? Great matters? Alas! sorry trifles, all day long. And when we are at leisure, yet we are not at leisure; for then we must take our ease, must go to sleep, and so still He is put
off and forced to retire, after He has stayed till His head be filled with dew, and His locks with the drops of the night. Cant. v. 2.
Observation 2. The Lord doth most exactly and wisely measure both the degree and the time of His people's afflictions. Though they have brought them upon themselves, and justly He might leave them so, this he will not do: He is a God of judgment. This is largely and sweetly expressed, in a resemblance of husbandry, Isai. xxviii. 24-9. He knows how much and how long outward or inward trouble is fit for every one, and where the less will serve, will not use the more. He knows what need some spirits have to be bruised and broken beyond others, either under disgrace or poverty, or the proper pressures of the spirit within, apprehensions of wrath, or withdrawments, at least, of comforts; and hath set His days for deliverance of His church, and of every believer under affliction. So, the style of the prophet, In that day, speaking as of a certain prefixed day, and that, no power or wit of man can disappoint. And it is so chosen, as it shall be evident to be the fittest, that it could not so well either have been sooner or later; all things concurring to make it most seasonable to His people, and honourable to His own name. Hab. ii. 3, The vision is for the appointed time: though it tarry, wait for it; it shall come, and shall not tarry. That is strange, Though it tarry, it shall not tarry. But in the original, there are two words, the one importing an undue slowness, or constrained retardment: that cannot be so, it shall not tarry, though it tarry; that is, though it stay itself, and come not till the appointed time: so the other word signifies. Thus, Psal. cii. 13, Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion; for the set time is come. Now, for this the Lord waits. It is not through want of love, but from abundance of wisdom, that He delivers not sooner. He hath chosen the fittest time, in His all-discerning wisdom; yet, there is in His love, an earnest kind of longing that the time were come. Thus here, He
waits to be gracious, and He will be exalted, will cheerfully and gladly raise up Himself, and appear to shew mercy to His people, and bring His enemies low; coming forth, as it were, to judgment, and sitting down on His throne. In which pos ture He was not seen while they prevailed and triumphed, and His Church were under their oppression; but when the time of their restoring and consolation comes, He then is to sit on His throne, and so is exalted to shew them mercy. Hence the Psalmist so often desires that the Lord would arise, and utters predictions, assuring that He will arise, and exciting his peo ple to rejoice in that. Psal. ix. 7, 8., and Psal. xevi., xevii.,
Thus, the Church, in her saddest condition, ought hope, fully to remember and rest on it, that the day is determined, and cannot fail. Our salvation is in God. He laughs at His enemies, when they are at the top of prosperity and pride; sees that their day is coming. Now, certainly, the firm persuasion of this would much stay our minds; but either we do not be lieve, or we do not improve and use these truths, and draw that comfort from them which abounds in them. Our God loses no time: He is waiting till His appointed time. And if Hẹ wait, it becomes us so to do. That is our duty here, to wait on Him. This faith does, and so, makes not haste; neither goes out to any undue means, nor frets impatiently within at the deferring of deliverance, but quietly rests on God, and waits for Him. This, as it is our duty, is also our happiness; and thus it is here expressed. Upon consideration that the Lord waits to be gracious, and will be exalted to shew mercy, the Prophet is carried to this acclamation, in respect to the happiness of believers, O! blessed are they that wait for Him! Their thoughts fall in and meet with His; for He is waiting for the same day they wait for, and if he be not disappointed, they shall not. We are naturally irregular in our affections and notions, and the only right ordering of them, is, by reducing them to a conformity with the ways and thoughts of God, which keep an unalterable, fixed course, as the heavens; the