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way, I say, to rectify our thoughts is, to set them by His, as clocks and watches, which so readily go wrong, too slow or too fast, are ordered by the sun, which keeps its course. Oh! that we were more careful to set and keep our hearts in attendance on God, winding them up in meditation upon Him, and conforming them in their motions and desires to His disposal in all; for all that concerns us, and for the times of all, being quiet, yea, glad in this, which the Psalmist makes his joy, My times are in Thy hand, O Lord. Psal. xxxi. 15. And surely, that is the best. Were I to choose, they should be in no other hands, neither mine own, nor any others. Alas! what silly, poor creatures are we! How little do we know what is fit for us in any kind, and still less what time is fit for any mercy to be bestowed upon us! When He withholds mercies or comforts for a season, it is but till the due season; it it but to ripen them for us, which we in childish haste would pluck green, when they would be neither so sweet nor so wholeTherefore it is our wisdom and our peace, to resign all things into His hands, to have no will nor desires, but only this, that we may still wait for Him. All shall be well enough, if we but get rid of the vain hopes and expectations of this world. None who indulge them are so well but they are still waiting for somewhat further. Now, amidst all that, our soul may say with David, and speak it to God as known to Him, that it is so indeed: And now, Lord, what wait I for? My hope is in Thee. My expectation, or waiting, (the same word that is here,) is all placed upon Thee. Is it so, brethren? Are our hearts gathered in from other things, to this attendance, while the most about us are gaping for the wind? Have we laid all up in God, to desire and wait for Him, and pretend to nothing beside Him?
I would do so, may a soul think, but can I hope that He will look on me, and bestow Himself on such a one as I am? To that, I say nothing but, look on His word. If thou thinkest that warrant good enough, here it is for thee, that they are certainly blessed that wait for Him. This is assurance enough. Never was
any one who waited for Him, miserable with disappointment. Whosoever thou art that dost indeed desire Him, and desirest to wait for Him, surely thou resolvest to do it in His ways, wherein He is to be found, and wilt not willingly depart from these; that were foolishly to disappoint thyself, and not to be true to thy own end. Therefore look to that; do not keep company with any sin. It may surprise thee sometimes as an enemy, but let it not lodge with thee as a friend.
And mind this other thing, prescribe nothing to God. If thou hast begun to wait, faint not, give not up, wait on still. It were good reason, were it but upon little hope at length to find Him; but since it is upon the unfailing assurance, that in the end thou shalt obtain, what folly were it, to lose all for want of waiting a little longer! See Psal. xl. 1. In waiting I waited waited, and better waited--but all was overpaid: He did hear me. So Psal. cxxx., I wait and wait until the morning. These two joined are all, and may well go together, earnest desire, and patient attendance.
These words, as others of the prophet, which we call consolations, I conceive, look beyond the deliverances from outward troubles, to the great promise of the Messiah. Sure I am, the strain of something following is too high for that, and cannot but have an aspect to the days of the Gospel, as that ver. 26. Now, the Lord had set His time, that fulness of time for the coming of the blessed Son in the flesh; and till that time came, the Lord was waiting to be gracious, to open up His treasures more fully than ever before; which when He did, then was He exalted to shew mercy, and exalted in shewing mercy. Christ himself was lifted up on the cross, there to shew that rich mercy that is for ever to be admired; lifted up to shew his bowels, as the word is here. let us see into his heart, there to read that love otherwise be uttered? And in that, the Lord was most eminently manifested a God of judgment, wisdom, and justice, and mercy, all shining brightest in that contrivance. There he was lift up, and then, after that, lift up into glory, who is
Did he not
that can no
the Desire of the nations, the salvation and joy of all ages, both before and after. Before he came, they were from one age to another waiting; and more particularly at the time of his coming, God stirred up the expectation of believers to welcome him, being so near. See Luke ii. 25, 38. And in all times, before and after that, he is the happiness of souls, and they only are blessed that wait for Him. Whether you do, or do not, believe it now, the day is coming, when all the world shall know it to be so.
JEREMIAH xiv. 7, 8, 9.
O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, do Thou it for Thy name's sake for our backslidings are many, we have sinned against Thee.
O the Hope of Israel, the Saviour thereof in time of trouble, why shouldest Thou be as a stranger in the land, and as a way-faring man, that turneth aside to tarry for a night?
Why shouldest Thou be as a man astonished, as a mighty man that cannot save? yet Thou, O Lord, art in the midst of us, and we are called by Thy name, leave us not.
If we look backwards and forwards in this chapter, we find the three great executioners of God's anger on the world foretold, as having received commission against this people.
In all troubles, felt or feared, this is still the great resource of them who are acquainted with it, and can use it, Prayer. And their labour in it is not altogether lost, even where judgment is determined and unalterable, as here it was; for some mitigations of time and measure are desirable, and by prayer attainable; and whatsoever there is of that kind, the prayers that have been made long before, have had a concurrence and influence in it. And always, at the least, Prayer carries the personal good of them that present it: if it return unto
their bosom, as David speaks, without effect for others, it returns not thither empty, it brings peace and safety thither with it; they save their own souls. The mourners, if they turn not away the destroyers' weapons from the city, yet, they procure one sent along with them, with an ink-horn for their own marking and sparing, Ezek. ix. 3. And were there nothing in this, nor any following effect, Prayer hath within itself its own reward. Did we know it, we should think so. The very dignity and delight of so near access to God, to speak with Him so freely, this in itself is the most blessed and honourable privilege that the creature is capable of; it is a pledge of heaven, something of it beforehand, a standing in pretension to the life of angels: Angelorum candidati, as Tertullian speaks: it is to be but a little lower, as the word is, Psal. viii. 5. Many practise a form; few know the vital sweetness of it.
Oh, my brethren, be aspiring to more heavenliness, and a higher bent of the soul in it than as yet you know, and use it more that way; use it for yourselves and others, this whole land, these kingdoms, the Church of God through the whole earth. No times that we have seen, wherein it hath been more needful, and none wherein less plentiful. There is no one that stirs up himself to lay hold on God. Some, no doubt, there are in these times; yet, so few, so general a decay and negligence in the zeal and frequency of prayer, that, to speak of, there is none. And is it not so now with us? Many discourse one to another, and yet, most to little or no purpose: but little is spoken where nothing would be lost, in humble supplication to God. And this is the saddest sign of that long
lasting trouble. Oh!
learn to pray.
pity the kingdom and yourselves, and
This prayer of the Prophet is made up of the two usual ingredients, confession and petition.
O Lord, Jehovah.] A chief point of prayer is, the presenting of the soul before God, remembering to whom we speak, that it is to the great King, the holy God; which this expresses, where it is indeed, when we say, O LORD, or should
remind us of, when we forget it, to have such apprehensions as we can reach of His glorious majesty. Consider, if we find our hearts filled with Him when we are before Him. Oh! how seldom think we that He is God, even while we speak to Him, and how quickly do we forget it, and let slip that thought! When we have any thing of it, how soon are we out of it, and multiplying vain words! For such are all those we utter to Him without this. Oh! pray to be taught this point of prayer, and watch over your hearts in prayer, to set them thus when you enter to Him, and to call them in when they wander, and pluck them up when they slumber, to think where they are, and what they are doing.
Our iniquities testify against us.] Confession fitly begins. All the difference betwixt God and us lies in this, our iniquities. Now, humble confession is one great article of pacification; it is a thing judgment certainly aims at, a thing mercy is mainly moved with. See Hos. v. 15. Psal. xxxii. 5. Jer. xxxi. 18.
When we are to encounter any enemy or difficulty, it is sin weakens us. Now, confession weakens it, takes away the power of accusations, anticipates the great Accuser, leaves him nothing to say, takes off the stroke of sins testifying against us, says, You need not, I confess all, and more than you can say.
For this, a right knowledge of God's law is requisite, and then a diligent use of it; laying it to our ways, as a straight rule to shew our unevenness, which, without it, we discern not. Set that glass before you, but withal beg light from Heaven to see by; otherwise our applications to this work of searching our hearts, and comparing them with the law, is but poring in the dark, where nothing is to be seen of our spots though we set the glass before us, and open the leaves of it. The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord; Prov. xx. 27; but it is so when He lights it, and directs a man by it into himself, to see the secret corners and pollutions that lie hid within him. Sin discovered by this light, appears in its native vileness, and that makes lively resentments and confessions,