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fear the loss of it. The soul that knows the sweetness of His presence and His face shining on it, will account no place nor condition hard, providing it may be refreshed with that: as the saints have been in caves and dungeons enjoying more of that light in those times, when other comforts have been abridged. Then they have had a beam from Heaven into their souls in their darkest dungeon, far more worth than the light of the sun and all the advantages the world can afford. That Rabbin who lived twelve years in a dungeon in Francis's time, called a book he wrote, The Polar Splendour ; implying that he had then seen most intellectual light when he had seen least sensible light. And thus it is with many Christians, in the darkness of distress; if they seek after this light, they may blame themselves and their own neglect if they find not somewhat of this truth. On the other hand, to a spiritual mind, this hiding of God's face will damp and distress the pleasantest outward condition which can be allotted him. It was in the midst of David's prosperity, enough to unseason all: Thou didst hide Thy face, and I was troubled. Psal. xxx. 7.
Now, if we would have the Lord, to whom believing souls are married in truth and righteousness, to look pleasantly on us, our great ambition should be, to walk in all well pleasing unto Him, and to seek of Himself those ornaments and that spiritual beauty which may make us lovely in His eyes; as a faithful wife decketh herself only for her husband. For all these inferior things are but figures of that mysterious life of grace which the soul hath from God, and by which it lives in Him. There are some singular largesses and outlets of spiritual joy which God gives not to every Christian, nor to any at all times. These we speak not of. But if we would enjoy more abiding influences of His love, and find Him accepting of our services at our hands, and measuring His graces to us, coming to us, and giving us access to come to Him, putting a life and blessing into His ordinances, though with different degrees at divers times; then our care should be, to entertain this friendship and correspondence diligently, to watch over our hearts
and ways, that we admit of nothing that may disturb or interrupt it, and to be jealous of the least abatement; to search and find out the cause of it without delay. And if we do thus, we shall undoubtedly find the Lord willing to converse and dwell with us; and though He give us lower measures of comfort and graces than others get, they shall be so much as will enable us to go on in our journey. Above all, study humility. The High Lord loves to give Himself and His society most to the lowly heart. Trust not at all to thyself nor to any thing below Him. Lay all thy confidence upon His power and good
Ye see here, that it was the multitude of sins that eclipsed His face from His own people, the house of Jacob; as He tells them by this Prophet, chap. lix. 1. It was particularly their distrust of God, and running to other helps beside Him. Ever, the more He is in thy esteem, the more thou shalt have of Him; and the more thou believest His all-sufficiency, the more thou shalt find it and know it in thine own experience. Yea, it may be that when His face is hid from the Church, in respect of public distress and desertion, yet, it may even then shine bright upon a soul that secretly cleaveth to Him and delights in Him. So here, the Prophet says not that He hides His face from me, but, from the House of Jacob.
2dly. As for the Church, learn by the Prophet and other penmen of the Holy Scriptures, to eye and consider the estate of God's Church; to take notice how He deals with it, when He shines on it and when He hides His face, and be deeply affected with it. Let thine eye be looking out, and let thine eye affect thine heart, as it is, Lament. ii. 51. Far be it from thee, to judge it any impertinence, and think it concerns thee not. Truly, most of us have both eyes, and if we had twenty more, we should have them all, poring upon our private condition. Providing we might have ease and good days, we should feel little for the afflictions of Joseph. It were not excusable, if even our secret devotions took us up so as to forget the Church; how much less excusable, to have our hearts ingrossed wholly by our earthly concerns! And we see here
what it is we have to do on the Church's behalf; to bewail her sins, begging pardon for those evils for which God hath hid His face from her; and what to desire, only to commence her own suit anew, as troubles arise, Cause Thy face to shine, and we shall be saved ;-as the returning of the spring makes all things to flourish, and again puts a new visage upon nature. Mark the harmony and resound of the Lord's returning to Israel; the returning of their hopes, and the sweet effects of it, Hos. xiv. 1, 5. All those heavy indignations that are on, or might trouble, the Church and themselves, arise from security, impenitence, and the fruitlessness of the word amongst them, which makes the Lord hide His face from them, Our part is, therefore, to return to Him. Oh, had we hearts to put the Lord to it, He could and would do yet greater things
And this we ought earnestly to desire, and with all patience to wait for it; which is the Prophet's way, I will wait.
The two wheels of the soul are, desire and hope. Difficulty sets an edge upon desire; and the appearance of obtaining, upholds hope. And both these are in the words the prophet here uses for his waiting and expecting; for they import an earnest desire, and yet a patient attending upon the issue. Look to that of David, Psal. cxxx. 6, I wait for Thee, more than they that wait for the morningthat watch until the morning, as some render it; in the cold night that watch.-The thing the pilot waits for, is not a private good to himself, for that could not stand a counterbalance to the evil he is sensible of. The Lord's hiding His face from the house of Jacob, was that which troubled him, and his waiting was answerable, for the return of that light to the house of Jacob. Grieved that the Lord should absent Himself from His people, He looks back upon God's frequent appearings and shewing of His face to Jacob, by such visions as gave lustre and glory to the place. See Hosea xii. 9. We found Him in Bethel, there He spake with us,-even us who have interest in these gracious appearances. And there it is urged for a ground of hope and waiting and calling on God. Now, for the face of God to be hid from those who were the posterity of Jacob and God's own peculiar people, was a sad thought to the prophet, who stays himself with this, that the Lord God had made known to him His purpose of returning and restoring the house of Jacob, and upon this he resolves to believe, and to rely upon God's word for it: I will wait.
Hoping, waiting, and believing, are taken indifferently in the Scriptures, and all the difference is only in relation to time. Faith believes the present word, and hope looks out for the after-accomplishment; and the patient waiting for it, results from both. So they are but the actings of the same faith in a different notion, and they are indeed the test of faith. Our hearts are naturally of another temper than to take the Lord's word and repose upon it, and, when it is deferred, yea, and cross appearances come in betwixt, yet, still firmly to believe and patiently to wait for the accomplishment. We are of a childish humour. That which we laugh at in children, in little things, such as their minds are set on, we may
sorry for in ourselves as a greater folly, being in greater affairs. We are all in haste, and would have things come as fast as our fancying ; and upon the delay of these mercies we look for, are almost ready to give over. That which brake forth from that wicked king's mouth, the seed of it is in all our hearts, when things appear worse and worse: This evil is from the Lord; why should I wait for him any longer ? 2 Kings vi. 23. It is strange, in court suits and other business of a like nature, how long a man will wait upon another, and think all is well if he speed at last; and yet, how briskly we deal with God if He answers not at the first !
But faith teaches us (so to speak) spiritual civility, good manners towards God; it lets the soul see His greatness, and goodness, and truth, and persuades us to wait on Him, and not to weary in waiting; to wait patiently, as it is Psal. xl. 1. Faith composes the mind, cures that light, fickle hasținess which is naturally in us.
He that believeth shall not make
haste, says the same Prophet. Isa. xxviii. 16. And is it not good reason that we wait for Him? Is He not wise enough to choose the fittest times for His own purposes ? Well may we wait till He be gracious to us, for He waits to be gracious to us. Isa. xxx. 18. He is not slack, but is staying only for the due season; His love is waiting for the time that His wisdom hath appointed. And, to express His affection in our terms, He is longing for that time, as well as we are. For the same word is there used for His waiting, that both here and in that verse is used for ours, and it signifies an earnest waiting or breathing for that thing we wait for; and, therefore, since He waits and longs, our waiting is in a happy conformity to Him, And thus, with good reason it is concluded, They are blessed that wait for Him. Thus there is a word very answerable, Hab. ii. 3. The vision is for an appointed time,-we read, At the end it shall speak, but it may be rendered, It breatheth towards the end ; runs, as it were, so fast that it panteth. The same word is used, Cant. ii. for the rising of the morning.
3dly. By fretting impatience, there is nothing gained but needless desire. It advances not our business, but perplexes us to no purpose. And, on the other hand, patient waiting loses not a moment, but attains its end in the very due time determined ; and hath this advantage in the mean time, that it puts the mind into a temper of peace and contentedness, which a man may act and profess to others, but cannot truly have within himself without faith. Isa. xxvi. 3. Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee. This waiting is always answered ; never marked with disappointment, as is the ordinary custom of other hopes, Therefore, that which the Prophet hath, He that believeth shall not make haste, the Apostle Peter renders, shall not be ashamed, 1. Pet. ï. 6. Though he hasten not, but wait, and wait long, yet, his waiting shall not shame him; none shall have matter to laugh at him for it, for his waiting shall be repaid with success, his hope shall be accom