COMFORT FOR THE CHURCH
A Sermon by Thomas Watson, 1620-1686.*
‘God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved.’ Psalm 46.5
Solomon said, ‘A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver,’
Proverbs 25.11. In which regard I have made choice of this Scripture, which may be a word in season to revive the desponding hearts of God’s people. ‘God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved.’
This psalm is a triumphant exultation wherein the church, with joy, commemorates former deliverances and, by faith, depends on God for future mercies.
‘God is our refuge and strength,’ verse 1. The saints, in all their dangers, have an asylum or garrison to retreat to; they know where to put into for harbour. The name of the
Lord is a strong tower, and this is their refuge and royal fortress.
‘A very present help.’ God is a help in a pinch. An army may be worsted before their auxiliary forces come, but God never comes too late. His help is at hand; His forces are in the field; He is a present help, a help in trouble.
‘God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved.’ What is meant by ‘in the midst of her?’ This looks back to the former verse where there is mention made of the city of God.
‘There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God,’ verse 4. By this city of God is meant Jerusalem, which is called the city of Jehovah, Isaiah 52.1. This city of Jerusalem is a figure for the church of God here upon earth; and of this the text speaks,
‘God is in the midst of her.’
The words consist of two parts:
1. The church’s privilege, ‘God is in the midst of her.’
2. The church’s safety, ‘she shall not be moved;’ that is, so as to be removed.
DOCTRINE. When the church of God is beleaguered and environed with enemies, ‘God is in the midst of her.’ ‘For the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp to deliver thee,’
Deuteronomy 23.14. ‘Thou, O LORD, art in the midst of us,’ Jeremiah 14.9. The church of
God has not only enemies without her to conflict with, but within her hypocrites and apostates. She complains that ‘her own sons vex her,’ Song of Solomon 1.6. That is, those who had been bred up in her bosom and pretended religion, these false friends, vexed her.
The church’s enemies are of her own house; but be they what they will, foreign or intestine, the church has One who will take her part. When she is most assaulted, she is most assisted, God is in the midst of her.
QUESTION. But what advantage is this to have God in the midst of His church? Where is He not? He is an immense, infinite Being and His circumference is everywhere. ‘Whither shall I fly from thy presence? If
I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me,’ Psalm 139.7-9. What privilege is it to have God in the midst of His church, seeing He is in the midst of His enemies too?
ANSWER. There is a two-fold presence of God:
1. There is His universal presence, whereby He is in all places. ‘DO not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD,’ Jeremiah 23.24. This is no privilege at all, for this universal presence is with the damned. They have the presence of His power and justice.
2. There is a peculiar presence of God, and that is confined to His people. The presence of God is either in heaven, which is nothing else but His glorious presence (‘The LORD’S throne is in heaven,’ Psalm 11.4), or on earth, and that is either:
(i) His favourable presence, whereby He manifests the pledges of His grace and goodness towards His people. He is present in the assemblies of His saints, breathing forth the sweet perfume of His Spirit. ‘In all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee,’ Exodus 20.24. This is that presence the saints desire in the ordinances,
God’s quickening, sanctifying, comforting presence -the smiles of His face, the kisses of
His lips. Nothing is so delightful as to behold the King in the galleries, Song of
Solomon 7.5, and have the banners of His love sweetly displayed. Song of Solomon 2.4.
(ii) His providential presence, wherein the Lord appears admirably for His people in His providential actings, showing Himself to be a wonder-working God. This is chiefly meant in the text, ‘God is in the midst of her,’ to defend, to deliver, to bless. Thus He was with
His people of Israel by the pillar of fire and a cloud, and thus will He be present with
His church to the end of the world.
Why is God in the midst of His Church?
The reasons why God is in the midst of His church to defend and bless it are two:
1. The dear interest He has in it. The people of God are called ‘peculiar people,’ 1 Peter 2.9. The world lies in common and is as so much waste ground, but the church is God’s vineyard and enclosure. Therefore, He will hedge it with protection. ‘My vineyard, which is mine, is before me,’ Song of Solomon 8.12. The saints are called God’s jewels, Malachi 3.17.
Therefore, He will not let them be lost. The church is Christ’s mystical body, the least bone whereof He will as surely preserve as He did every bone of His natural body. ‘A bone of him shall not be broken,’John 19.36,
2. God is in the midst of His church because of the entire love which
He bears to it. ‘The LORD hath chosen Zion; he hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it,’ Psalm 132.13-14. God loves
His people with the choicest of His love and, to show this, He calls them by those titles which denote love: The apple of His eye, Deuteronomy 32.10; The dearly beloved of His soul,
Jeremiah 12.7; His treasure. Psalm 135.4; His turtle dove. Psalm 74.19;
His spouse, Song of Solomon 4.13; and His glory, Isaiah 46.13.
God loves the world with a more common love. His church, however, has the cream of His love. It is one love with which a man loves a bird and another with which he loves his child. And God cannot but love His people because He sees His own image shining in them.
They are adorned with the graces of His Spirit like a chain of pearls; and, as they have the beauty of inherent holiness, so they have an interest in the unspotted holiness of
Christ. God’s love to His church is vehement, like coal of juniper, or the sunbeams contracted in a burning glass which are more intense. And, because He loves Zion, therefore
He is in the midst of it to defend and bless it. ‘The LORD thy God in the midst of thee is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love,’
QUESTION. But wherein does it appear that God is in the midst of His church?
ANSWER 1. It appears by His preserving and delivering His church.
i. By unthought-of means. When Israel was hemmed in, the Red Sea before, Pharaoh and his host pursuing behind, God preserved them by unthought-of means. They never thought of the parting of the waters. Who would have imagined that God would have made a causeway in the sea? So, when flesh failed in the wilderness, the people of Israel could not devise how God should spread them a table there. There was no ploughing or sowing, nothing to be seen but wild beasts and serpents. The Lord made the heavens a granary and rained down bread upon them; here He was in the midst of His people.
ii. By contemptible means. The blowing of trumpets and the blazing of lamps made the walls of Jericho fall down, Judges 7.20. Jeremiah was drawn out of the dungeon by rotten rags, Jeremiah 38.12. God often saves His church by despicable instruments. He makes use of rotten rags. God raised up Luther in Germany against the Pope. The enemy looked upon him with a contemptible eye and one of them said, ‘He was more fit to pray in a cloister than to do any great exploits abroad.’ But God made him a rare instrument in His church. He so shook the Pope’s chair that never, to this day, has he sat safely in it.
iii. By contrary means. That Jonah should be saved by being swallowed up, God made the fish a ship in which he sailed safe to shore. That the raven, who is so unnatural that she will hardly feed her young, should bring meat to the prophet Elijah, this shows God is in the midst of His people. How often is it seen that God makes use of a contrary
wind? The enemies of His church shall do His work; He will play His
game by their hand.
Either He will make His enemies friendly to His people, The children of Israel… borrowed of the Egyptians jewels of silver, and jewels of gold,… and the LORD gave the people favour in the sight of the Egyptians,’ Exodus 12.35,36 (God makes wolves to suckle
His lambs) or He will work divisions among His enemies and turn their own weapons against themselves. The children of Ammon fell upon the inhabitants of Mount Seir, and after that, every one helped to destroy one another, 2 Chronicles 20.23. Thus God makes the seed of the serpent a means to break the serpent’s head. We read in ecclesiastical history that, in the time of the good emperor Theodosius, when the Persians shot their arrows against the
Christians, by a sudden and violent wind. their arrows were driven back and flew in their own faces.
ANSWER 2. It is evident that God is in the midst of His church by His seasonable appearing for His people. When the church of God has been brought very low, nothing in view but desperation, their power an’ their hopes gone, then God has stepped in for their relief and given the victory on the church’s side. ‘The LORD shall… repent himself for his servants, when he seeth that their power is gone, and there is none shut up, or left,’
Deuteronomy 32.36. When Peter was sinking, then Chris put forth His hand and took him into the ship. When the Church of God has been in trouble, like Isaac on the altar, going to be sacrificed to the rage and fury of men, then has the providence of God stepped in as the angel and said, ‘Lay not thy hand upon the child.’ God may let the enemy nibble at the heel of His church, but still He defends the head When malice is boiled up to revenge, and the design of men carry destruction in the front, then the church’s morning star of deliverance appears. This shows God is in the midst of Zion, because, when things have seemed to be in the forlorn hope and all given for lost, then God has come riding in the chariots of salvation.
USE 1. Here is good news for the church of God. God’s people are apt to despond when they see things move eccentric and go cross to their expectation. ‘God is in the midst of Zion.’
He has a special superintendency over the affairs of His church. God has more care of His church than we can have. We read in Ezekiel’s vision of a wheel within a wheel, Ezekiel 1.16. God’s decree is the inner wheel that turns all the outward wheels of providence. The church never lacks enemies to assault and make inroads upon her, but ‘God is in the midst of her.’
USE 2. Here is a river of consolation whose crystal streams may
refresh the city of God. God’s eye is upon His people for good. “The eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him,’ (Psalm 33.18), and it is a watchful eye, for He neither slumbers nor sleeps. Psalm 121.4.
QUESTION. But what privilege is this that God’s eye is upon His people? His eye is upon the wicked too.
ANSWER. I answer. God’s eye, which is upon Zion, is not only an eye of inspection, but an eye of benediction. Zion has not only His eye, but His heart, ‘For thou, LORD, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield,’ Psalm 5.12.
USE 3. If God is in the midst of Zion, then see the church’s beauty and strength.
i. The church’s beauty – ‘God is in the midst of her.’ This is her glory and beauty. ‘I will be the glory in the midst of her,’ Zechariah 2.5. This is the best jewel in the church’s crown. As the diamond to the ring, as the sun to the world, which bespangles it with its beams, so is God’s presence to His church. The ark, which was the emblem and sign of God’s presence was called ‘the glory of Israel.’ Why is the church called a royal diadem and a crown of beauty, Isaiah 62.3? Because God casts His resplendent lustre upon her. ‘I will be the glory in the midst of her.’
ii. See here the church’s strength. God is in the midst of her. He is with His church not only to behold her but uphold her. The church of God is like a castle walled in with rocks.
‘His place of defence shall be the munition of rocks,’ Isaiah 33.16. But a man may starve upon a rock. Therefore it follows, ‘bread shall be given him, his waters shall be sure.’ If
God is in the midst of Zion, He will be both defensive and offensive. He is both a shield and a sword. ‘Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the LORD, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency!’ Deuteronomy 33.29. God is a golden shield to His people and a flaming sword to His enemies. ‘For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about,’ Zechariah 2.5. A wall, that is defensive; a wall of fire, that is offensive. ‘In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the LORD do keep it; I will water it… lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day,’ Isaiah 27.2,3. They who go to overthrow the church must do it in such a time when it is neither night nor day, for God has promised to keep it night and day.
USE 4. See, then, how vain are all the attempts and combinations of wicked men against the church of God. God is in the midst of her. When we look upon things with a human eye, we may wonder that the church of God is not overrun. That the sea should be higher than the earth yet not drown it is strange. That the power and force which seems to be so much above the church should not overflow it is not a little to be wondered at, but God is in the midst of her; therefore she is impregnable. Men must first overcome God before they can overcome the church.
How simple is the wisdom of man when it sets itself against God! What do men do when they engage war against the church? Theyattempt the impossible, since God is in the midst of her.
What an infinite disproportion is there between the enemies and God? As much as
between finite and infinite. Will weak man go to fight with God? How easily can God check the pride, break the power, and confound the councils of the wicked! He can destroy His enemies with the turning of a hand. Psalm 82.14; with a word, Psalm 2.5; with a breath,
Isaiah 30.28; with a look, Exodus 14.24. For men to contend with the great God is as if a child should go to fight with a giant or archangel; or as if the thorns should set themselves in battle against the fire. Oh, how vain and silly are all attempts against the church! God is in the midst of her. ‘In that day I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people, Zechariah 12.3. The enemies are heaving at the church to remove it, but it is a burdensome stone that will fall upon them and grind them in pieces. ‘I will make the governors of Judah like… a torch of fire in a sheaf,’ Zechariah 12.6. The grand opposers of Zion shall be as
combustible matter, and the church as a torch of fire to burn them up.
USE 5. If God is in the midst of Zion, then it follows that all providences towards the church shall be for the best. There is nothing stirs in the world but shall carry on God’s designs, like the cross wheels in a watch carry on the motion of it and serve to make the alarm strike That which the wicked intend for destruction shall turn to the deliverance of the church. As Luther wrote to the Elector of Saxony ‘Let your Highness know that the affairs of the church are far otherwise ordered in heaven than by the Emperor and States at
Nuremberg.’ While the adversaries go about to ruin the church, they shall only repair it.
God is in the midst of His people; therefore, the most violent storms of persecution are but as the beating of the wind against the sails which make the ship go faster and bring it sooner to its desired haven.
USE 6. Let us labour that, as God is in the midst of His church, so He may be in the midst of our hearts. It is little comfort to hear that God is in the midst of His church unless we find Him in the midst of our hearts. A drowning man seeing a rainbow said, ‘What am I the better that the world shall not be drowned if I drown?’ So how are we the better that God is in the midst of His church by His providential presence if He is not in the midst of our hearts by His sanctifying presence? It should be our care not only to have
Christ with us but in us ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory,’ Colossians 1.27. This will be a cordial when we are dying. What if death is in our body if Christ is in our heart! This should be our wisdom and ambition, not only to have the presence of God with us but the
Spirit of God in us. ‘God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts,’
If God is in the midst of His church to uphold and preserve it, then let not God’s people give way to distrust and despondency. Let them not
fear the enemies of the church. ‘God is our refuge and strength therefore;… will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea,’ Psalm 46.1-2. If we should be in new straits and exigencies, let us not say we shall be undone. God will set all His attributes to work for His people. His wisdom shall be to guide them. His power to defend them, His holiness to sanctify them, His mercy to save them.
To fear the creature is to undervalue God.
When Antigonus overheard his soldiers saying how many their enemies were, he stepped in suddenly with these words, ‘And how many do you reckon for me?’ This word. God is in the midst of her, should beat down unbelief and put to flight a whole army of fears that are apt to arise in the heart. It is high ingratitude either to murmur or distrust, after so many signal mercies and preservations as we have received.
Four Antidotes Against Fear
But because the hearts of God’s own people are ready to be overpowered with a spirit of fear, I shall, therefore, prescribe these four antidotes against fear:
1. God will have a church upon earth. ‘The gates of hell shall not prevail against it,’
Matthew 16.18. Neither the serpent’s subtlety nor the dragon’s fierceness shall overturn the church. The ship in the gospel was tossed because sin was in it, but not overwhelmed because Christ was in it. Be of good comfort; Christ is in the ship. ‘The angel of the LORD appeared… in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and the bush burned… and was not consumed,’ Exodus 3.2. An emblem of the church militant, this bush burns but is not consumed for God is in the midst of her. The church of God may be oppressed but not suppressed.
Nevertheless, the church of God may suffer in several parts of it. For as by virtue of the covenant made with Noah, the whole earth shall never be overflown with a deluge, yet there may, and have been such inundations since that several parts of the earth have been swallowed up with water. So the church universal cannot be extinct, yet it may suffer in some parts and branches of it, as the seven Asian churches had their golden candlesticks removed.
2. The suffering of any particular church is for their good. Them that are carried away captive of Judah, I have seen in the land of the Chaldeans for their good, Jeremiah 24.5,6.
God makes use of the wicked for the good of His church. He sometimes suffers His people to be cast out into the open field and lets the wicked pour water of affliction upon them, but He is all this while purifying His people. Many shall be tried and made white, Daniel 12.10. The wicked are flails to thrash off the husks of His people, files to brighten their graces, leeches to suck out their blood. The enemies of the church only cure the abscess of pride. God’s fire is in Zion, Isaiah 31.9. This fire is not consuming but refining. The church is God’s house; the enemies think to break downthe walls of this house but they shall only purge the floor. They think to crucify but they shall only clarify God’s church and remove her rough edges. Thus God turns all the sufferings of His people to their good. He stretches the strings of His violin to make the music better.
3. The more God’s church is opposed, the more it increases. It revives its augmentation by its diminution. ‘The more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied,’ Exodus 1.12.
Witness the effect of the persecutions in the time of Nero, Diocletian, and Trajan.
Showers have always made the church grow more. The more the torch is beaten, the more it flames. Julian the Apostate, therefore forbore to persecute the Christians not out of pity but envy, because they grew so fast. Religion is that phoenix which has always revived and flourished in the ashes of holy men. The church of God is a palmtree with this motto, ‘The more weight is laid upon it, the higher it rises.’
4. When the church of God is lowest, mercy is nearest. The sorer the pangs, the nearer the deliverance. The earth mourns, Lebanon is
ashamed, Sharon is like a wilderness, now will I rise, saith the Lord now will I lift up myself, Isaiah 33.9-10. If you go to the Thames and observe the ebbing of the water when the ebb is at the lowest and high tide is ready to come in, so, when the church of God seems to be at a dead, low water, the tide of deliverance is nearest.
Nine Sins which drive God out of a Land
In particular, there are nine sins which drive God out of a land and when He marches out, judgment marches in.
1. Idolatry. ‘For they served idols, whereof the LORD had said unto them. Ye shall not do this thing. Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel, and removed them out of his sight,’ 2 Kings 17.12,18. Idolatry is
a sin which breaks the marriage knot and makes the Lord disclaim His
interest in a people. ‘Thy people… have corrupted themselves,’ Exodus
32.7. Before God called Israel His people, but once they had defiled themselves with idolatry, then God disclaimed them. He does not say to Moses, ‘My people’, but ‘thy people’, as if He had quite discarded them and cut off the entail of mercy. Take heed of idolatry, yea, and of superstition too, which is a bridge leading over to it. Superstition is an intermixing of our fancies and inventions with divine institutions; it is
an affront offered to God, as if He were not wise enough to appoint the manner of His own worship.
2. Oppression. ‘I have forsaken mine house,… my heritage is unto me as a speckled bird,’ Jeremiah 12.7-8, or as a bird of prey. Where God’s dove becomes a vulture, and is given to ravening and cruelty staining her feathers with blood, God will then break up house and be gone.
3. Uncleanness. ‘They are all adulterers, as an oven heated by the baker,’ Hosea 7.4.
They who should have been temples of the Holy
Ghost are hot ovens burning in lust. ‘I will spread my net upon them,’ verse 12. That is,
I will spread the net of My judgments over them, and they shall be taken in the net.
4. Covetousness. ‘I will stretch out my hand upon the inhabitants of the land,… for from the least of them even unto the greatest of them every one of them is given to covetousness,’ Jeremiah 6.12,13. When men shall reek of the earth – when they love the
Exchange better than the Temple, and are more for the earthly mammon than the heavenly manna – God will take His leave and be gone. God is a Spirit, and He can no more converse with an earthly people than a prince can converse with swine.
5. Apostasy. They are all grievous revolters, reprobate silver shall one call them, because the LORD hath rejected them, Jeremiah 6.28,30. This made God remove His golden candlestick from the church of Ephesus, because she had left her first love, Revelation 2.4.
6. Weariness of God’s ordinances. ‘When will the new moon be gone… and the sabbath?’
Amos 8.5. Verse 11, ‘Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the
LORD.’ Weariness of the gospel forfeits the gospel. If God sees that sanctuary blessings bear but a low price, He will remove the market.
7. Perjury. ‘The house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken my covenant… therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them,’ Jeremiah 11.10,11. When a people play fast and loose with God, breaking their solemn vows, this is a
God-provoking sin. It will make the Lord go away from a nation and, though they cry after
Him, He will turn a deaf ear. God will pass by infirmity, but He will punish treachery.
8. Hatred of reformation. When God calls to a people by His Word, Spirit, and judgments, but they regard Him not, He will pack up and be gone.
9. Incivilities offered to them who labour in the Word and doctrine. God will avenge the wrongs done to His ambassadors. ‘The LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes and sending; and on his dwelling place; but they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the
LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy,’ 2 Chronicles 36.15-16. Let us take heed of these sins which will cause God to depart from the nation.
If God is in the midst of His church, let us do what we can to keep God among us. Israel endeavoured to keep the ark among them, which was the sign of God’s presence. ‘Woe also to them when I depart from them!’ Hosea 9.12. If God is gone, then all other blessings go too; peace
and trading will be gone. Oh, let us strive to keep God among us! What is the glory of a nation but the presence of God in His Word and ordinances? ‘I will be the glory in the midst of her,’ Zechariah 2.5. I;
God is gone, England will be like a house that has furniture taken down and is falling to ruin. ‘Owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there,’ Isaiah 13.21. If God is gone,
Satan will be the next tenant.*
QUESTION. What shall we do to keep God among us?
ANSWER 1. By prayer. ‘We are called by thy name, leave us not,’ Jeremiah 24.9. Exercise eyes of faith and knees of prayer; let us hang upon God by holy importunity and not let Him go. ‘They constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is towards evening,’ Luke 24.29. Is no God upon the threshold of His temple ready to fly? Are not the shadows of the evening stretched out? And may we not fear the sun-setting of the gospel? Oh, let us, by humble prayer, lie at Christ’s feet and constrain Him to stay with us! Prayer makes a sweet sound in God’s ears, and He will not go away where there is that music.
ANSWER 2. By setting upon the work of reformation. ‘Amend your ways and your doings,’Jeremiah 7.3. There is a profane party in the lane who drink, roar, and declare their sin as Sodom. These Samsons are likely to pull down the house upon our heads. Instead of bringing the water of tears to quench God’s anger, they add oil to the flame. The men of
Lystra, seeing the miracle wrought by Paul and Barnabas, cried out ‘The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men,’ Acts 14.11. But we may now say that the devils are come up to us in the likeness of men. Never was there such a spirit of wickedness in the land; never were there such heaven-daring abominations committed. But, though Israel play the harlot, yet let not Judah offend, Hosea 4.15. Though others are licentious and exorbitant (being carried to hell with wind and tide), ye let us keep our garments pure and preserve the virginity of our consciences. Let us labour to reform ourselves, and mourn for what we cannot reform in others. Let us walk accurately and circumspectly Ephesians 5.15. Let us shine forth in a kind of angelic brightness that we may not only profess the gospel but beautify it. Were we such a reformed people, we might keep God still in the midst of us; and, as a
pledge of His favourable presence. He would entail His Gospel, that crowning blessing, both upon us and our posterity.
QUESTION. But is not the decree past? Are there any hopes that God will be still in the midst of England?
ANSWER. There is hope in Israel concerning this. I would encourage God’s people, and speak something that might be as the cork to the net to keep their hearts from sinking. I confess that, when I look upon the dark side of the cloud, it fills me with trembling and astonishment. The sins and divisions of the nations are grey hairs upon
*Sadly true today – Ed.
us; it is ominous when the joints of the same body begin to smite one another.
Six Seeds of Hope
But though we have many symptoms of a dying patient, yet there are six seeds of hope left that God will still abide in the midst of England.
1. There is a generation of righteous persons in the nation. God would have spared Sodom if there had been ten righteous persons in it. It is to be hoped there are many tens in
England. ‘As the new wine is found in the cluster, and one saith, Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it,’ Isaiah 65.8. Though the vine in England is so blasted that the Lord might cut it down, yet there are some good clusters and, for these. God may spare the vine and say, ‘Is there not a blessing in it?’ Where the godly (who are the chariots and horsemen in Israel) are removed, the Lord would make quick work of the nation. He would destroy the weeds were it not for the corn. The ship of church and state would soon be drowned if the elect were not in it. The saints stay God’s hand when He is going to strike. ‘Haste thee (to Zoar)… for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither,’ Genesis 19.22. The saints are the excellent of the earth, Psalm 16.3; precious and honourable, Isaiah 43.4. And, for their sakes, God may yet be entreated to be propitious to us.
2. Another seed of hope is that the Lord keeps up a spirit of prayer among His people.
The Spartans’ walls were their spears. The wall and bulwark of a nation is prayer. As there are crying sins in the land, so there are crying prayers.
Prayer staves off wrath from a land. This gives some crevice of hope that God will not wholly leave us. There are those who cry day and night, ‘Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach,’ Joel 2.17.
3. Another seed of hope is the tender respect God has to His own glory. This was Joshua’s argument. ‘What wilt thou do unto thy great name?’ Joshua 7.9. If the people of God should be extinct and the cause of religion trampled under foot, this would reflect upon the glory of God and His name would suffer. The wicked seldom prevail, but they blaspheme. They say,
‘Where is your God?’ Now God’s glory is dear to Him; it is the most orient pearl of His crown. He will stand upon His honour. While He consults His people’s safety, He promotes His own glory. ‘Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake,’ Psalm 106.8.
4. Another seed of hope is the blessed intercession of Christ.
5. A fifth seed of hope is the mercy of God. ‘In his love and in his pity he redeemed them,’ Isaiah 63.9. God is the ‘Father of mercies,’ 2 Corinthians 1.3. Mercy naturally issues from Him. He is rich in mercy, Ephesians 2.4. He delights in mercy, Micah 7.18. God’s justice is strange work, Isaiah 28.21. Mercy is His proper work.
The mercy of God is healing. ‘I will heal their backsliding,’ Hosea
14.4. Mercy can heal the impurity and stubbornness of a people; mercy can as well give repentance as deliverance. Mercy can destroy the sins
of a nation and save the nation. It can burn up the chaff and save corn. ‘I will heal their backslidings.’
6. The last seed of hope for England is that there have been many sins committed in the nation which are not the sins of the nation itself. Some have perjured themselves, but all have not. A sober considerable party in the land (however slandered) have entered their dissent and openly protested against the scandalous acting of others that it is to be hoped the Lord will not impute the sin of some to the whole.
That God who brought Isaac out of a dead womb, and the Messiah out of a virgin’s womb, what cannot He do? When things act even irregularly. God can put them in joint again. When
His church is so that she seems to be in the grave and have a tomb-stone laid upon her,
He can, in an instant, cause a glorious resurrect