The LORD killeth, and maketh alive: he bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up. For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth, and his hands make whole. He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death. Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.
~ 1 Samuel 2:6, Job 5:18, Psalm 68:20, Hosea 6:1
Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?
~ Isaiah 43:13
I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
~ John 8:24
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.
~ Revelation 1:17-18
And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
~ Hebrews 5:9, Hebrews 12:2
On Wednesday the 17th of June, 1556, The 188th Sermon which is the Eleventh Upon the Two and Thirtieth Chapter, by John Calvin.
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. For I lift up my hand to heaven, and say, I live for ever. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives, from the beginning of revenges upon the enemy. Rejoice, O ye nations, with his people: for he will avenge the blood of his servants, and will render vengeance to his adversaries, and will be merciful unto his land, and to his people.
~ Deuteronomy 32:39-43
We say yesterday how it is not enough to know that there is nothing but vanity and leasing in idols, and in all the superstitions that men have devised of their own heads: but that the chief point is to know God to do him homage, to walk in his fear, and to consider how dreadful his majesty is. Now herewithal we must mark also, that when we once know God to be too great a Lord to be dallied withal, if he chastise us for offending him, we must taste of his mercy to return freely unto him, being thoroughly persuaded and resolved, that we shall find mercy at his hand, though we be unworthy of it. And that is the cause why he says, That it is he which kills and quickens, and that it is he that wounds and heals again. Now we have always these two things to mark: The one is that we shall be held in awe by considering (as I said afore) how dreadful God’s majesty is, according to the Apostles treating thereof in the fore alleged tenth chapter to the Hebrews. That is the thing which makes us to live in awe. For we be not so bold to offend God, neither take we such liberty as they do which fling out at all adventure: but yet, when we have done amiss and God warns us of our faults, then have we need to resort to his infinite goodness, and to assure ourselves that howsoever the case stand, we shall obtain pardon of our offences. Truly these two things, namely, That God kills and quickens again; and that he makes a wound and afterward heals again: seem at the first blush to be contrary: For God seems not to play the Physician towards us when we be as it were deed and laid in our graves. Neither seems this to be agreeable to his nature: to put us to death, and to afflict us: but (as I said afore) he must be fain to do both the one and the other: and we on our side also must be fain to feel it. For as long as men take leave to do evil, it is meet that God should hold them in awe, and show them that he is their judge. And on the other side that wretched sinners should humble themselves, and with grief of mind turn again unto him to obtain forgiveness at his hand; and then will he be forward and ready to forget all their offences, and show them nothing but all manner of gentleness and friendship. To be short the two things which Moses notes here, are to be considered well: namely that God uses rigour towards such as take too much liberty to do evil, and also that his goodness is ready to utter itself towards those which return to him with repentance. And so you see how we have to mark also how good and pitiful God is: and again on the contrary part, we have to consider his rigour and severity. To be short, as oft as we be provoked to evil, and the wicked lusts of our flesh do tickle us and entice us to sin; let God’s judgment come before our eyes, that we may be moved with fear, and thereby be restrained from the evil whereunto we be tempted. On the other side, when we fall through infirmity, let us not be afraid to turn again to our God, neither let us think that he has quite cast us off. Although his hand before upon us, and he smite us as though he meant to use wrath and vengeance against us: yet let that not make us to shrink from him, but rather let us understand, that as he has made the wound, so he is at hand to heal it, so we seek the remedy. Now the mean how to seek it, has been declared heretofore. And so you see after what manner we ought to put this lesson in use, where Moses says that god having put to death, does make alive again. And herewithal let us also bear in mind, that God plays not with men as the heathen have imagined, as who would say he tossed and turned them like a ball: but the reason is manifest why God does first kill and lay in grave, before he restore to life again: namely because we cannot find in our hearts to submit ourselves willingly unto him until he have subdued us by force: Nay the servant heat of our boiling lusts does so carry us away, and we be so blinded with them, that we cannot conceive how terrible God’s justice is, until he have made us to feel it by experience.
Therefore it is needful for us that our Lord should put us as it were to death, to the intent to make us to taste the life which he gives to those that return unto him.
And for the same cause he adds, That no man can deliver out of his hand. For we know how men do always bear themselves in hand: that they shall escape God’s hand: insomuch that he begins no sooner to strike them, but by and by and by the seek starting holes, and they will needs have some pretty shirt or other, and thereupon they fall asleep, and that is a kind of contempt to God ward. To the end then that we may go directly unto him, whether we have offended him, or whether we have been tempted to evil: we must always understand that there is no Deliverance, there is no shift but we must make our account to him, until he of his own infinite goodness have received us, and be come to atonement with us. The thing therefore that will persuade us to come unto God, is that we be fully determined and settled in ourselves, that we shall gain nothing by our running to and fro and by our seeking here and there for starting holes, but that all is mere deceit to beguile ourselves withal. When we once know this well: then shall we be provoked to submit ourselves to God. Also it will hold us in awe of him, and make us to seek forgiveness of our sins at his hand, when we have so given over ourselves to him.
Again we ought to weigh well the words of Moses, It is I (says he) it is I myself that am the everlasting, and there is not any other God. For hereby we see how hard it is to hold men to the knowledge of the true God, because they be ever swerving after to their own foolish imaginations. For we be naturally inclined to the forging of idols, and to corrupt ourselves with superstitions, so as falsehood does always bear sway in us rather than truth. A man would wonder how so many errors should be in the world. But let him consider what a workhouse our own brain is, and what things it forges and yields forth; and surely he shall find that we never cease forging of lies and deceits to corrupt ourselves withal, and to turn us away from God’s pure truth. And so, because men are so wholly bent, yea and given over to leasing: therefore does God confirm this matter the more by saying, It is I, and there is not any other: It is here on we must wholly rest. Now seeing it is so, it behooves all of us to know what every of us had need to hold himself as it were by force in the pure singleness of God’s word, or else we shall be overcome by Satan’s illusions, and he will have carried us away here and there out of hand. And by the way, if we see the world entangled in never so many disorders, and all men possessed with false and wicked opinions: let us not be too much troubled at such a stumbling block. For why? We see there is nothing harder than to hold men in the pure knowledge of God.
Now he adds consequently, Surely I will lift up my hands to heaven and say, I am the living; and that I having sharpened the edge of our sword, and having taken justice in my hands, will excuse such vengeance that blood shall run down in streams everywhere, so as all mine enemies shall be made to come to their answers, and I will spare nothing from one side to another. Now here God confirms yet better that which he had declared heretofore, and he confirms it with another: For this speech, to lift up the hand to heaven is as much to say, as to Swear; not that God can lift up his hand after the manner of men: for besides that he has no hand, there is nothing higher than his majesty: but it is a figure taken of the custom among men, and we know it is very common in the holy scripture. Because we comprehend not God as he is indeed, but find him to be a thing far passing our reach: therefore is he fain to apply himself to our rudeness. Even so in this text he says that he will lift up his hand, that is to say that he will swear. Now, there is no need, that God should swear: For the cause why we have oaths among us, is our own naughtiness. There is so much craft and subtlety among men as is pitiful to behold. They be fleeting, they be full of lightness and inconstancy, and it is hard to bring them to upright dealing. In these respects, and for that we be so given to deceitfulness, others are fain to be ministered to us: But God’s swearing is for our infirmities fake. And truly we be greatly to blame in this behalf, in that we compel God to swear. For nothing is more peculiar to him than truth, and if he had not that, he were not God. Seeing then, that he is the infallible truth itself, if when he has once spoken, we stand doubting still, and examine whether it be so or no: can there be a more horrible blasphemy, than to call God’s truths in question after that fashion? It is not all one as if we would bereave him of his very being? And yet for all that, we see how men stand as in mammering when God speaks to them. For if he threaten us, we make no account of it: If we were thoroughly persuade that all that ever proceeds out God’s mouth is of such certainty as there ought to be no replying against it, truly we would tremble and quake out of hand for fear, as soon as he threatens us: but we know how hard hearted we be in that behalf. On the other side, if our Lord promise to be merciful to us when we have done amiss, and entreat us as his children, and call us to the hope of everlasting salvation: we be so tangled in this world, that everything of nothing holds us back and we despise the inestimable benefits which God offers us. We see then that men do not the honour to God to count him faithful. For then would they hold themselves wholly to his world, they would be touched to the quick, yea they would quake at his threats, and they would set all their joy and delight in his promises. That is the cause why God warrants, and confirms his word in an oath. Now in this case (as I said afore) we ourselves are much too blame; seeing that God is fain to yield to such condition as to abase himself as though he were a mortal creature, to the intent he may win us, and that we may no more wander away, but be fully persuaded in ourselves that his speaking to us is in good earnest. Seeing then that our Lord is fain to frame himself unto us after that fashion, thereby we see our own malice and forwardness: and yet does God bear with us in that case. But when he swears, it is as much as if we saw heaven and earth shaken, nature changed, the sun darkened, and all the stars bereft to their light. And therefore if we be not touched with the oaths which God makes after that manner: it is certain that the devil has as it were bewitched us, and that we be become stark locks, or rather that we be horrible and ugly monsters. Therefore let us benefit ourselves by the oaths which we read in the holy scripture. And when God swears that he will be avenged at his enemies; let it abash us, as though we saw his vengeance and wrath take effect out of hand, and as though we saw him ready and in a forwardness to execute the thing which he has uttered with his mouth. And when he swears that he will be friendly to us and take us for his children, confirming with another the heavenly heritage which he has promised us: ought not the doing of those things to assure us to withstand all temptations? Although Satan and the flesh tempt us to distrust, yet notwithstanding let us set this for a shield against them, and say, No, seeing that God has sworn, shall we do him such wrong and dishonour, as to call the truth of his word in question? Let that be far from us. That is the thing which we have to note in this text where God says that he will lift up his hand to heaven and say, I live.
And he swears by himself, accordingly as the Apostle touches it in the sixth to the Hebrews. When we swear, we call God to witness as our Judge if we lie. But it is not so with God; he cannot find a greater than himself to swear by. He says therefore, I am alive, as if he should say, Nay, whosoever he be that holds not himself to the sentence which I do now pronounce, he derogates my glory as much as if he meant to abolish me quite and clean, and to declare that I am no more God. But if I be God, it must needs be perceived in the execution of the things which I do now speak. I am contented that men shall hence forth take me but for an idol or a dead thing, if they find not my sayings true indeed. When God speaks after that fashion, ought it not to make the hair to stand up upon our heads, if we esteem not his word to be very certain? Yes. And so we see my former saying yet better confirmed, namely that it is not for us to reply any more when God has once spoken, but we must take the matter to be out of all cry, as though we saw the thing already done before our eyes. But let us see now whereat God aimed: for it is certain that he swears not but for our welfare. It is not for his own sake, he takes neither good nor harm by it, but he has regard of us. And in token thereof, he says, That he will whet the edge of his sword, that it shall be as a flaming sword, and that he will take judgments in his hand, that is to say, that he will hold his assizes to show himself to be the judge of the world, and that as then all his enemies must be confounded, and all adversaries be brought to nought. And whereas God speaks here of the edge of the sword, we must not imagine that he uses any material sword, for that cannot agree to him: but we know he has all sorts of punishments to chastise men withal as seems good to himself. For in very deed, all the swords in the world do serve to execute God’s ordinance. When was is to be had, well may princes assemble great armies: but it is God that must bear the stroke. Then if there be fifty thousand men in arms on the one side, and forty thousand on the other: we must not think that God is that while asleep in heaven: for all they are of his waging. And although the two armies be set one against another: yet shall not one stroke be stricken but by the disposition of God’s hand. The like is to be said of pestilences, famines, and such other like things. To be short, all the scourges of this world are God’s swords. And in that respect is it said that God will sharpen the edge of his sword, that is to say, he will execute the chastisements which he has in his hand. But if he wink at things for a time and lift to use patience: he seems to have no regard of the faults that are committed here below. Yet does it not follow that all those things are not registered before him; neither is it to be said that he has forgotten his charge, or that his power is idle: for he has all kinds of punishments, which he can well show forth whensoever it shall be expedient to execute vengeance. And so you see after what manner God is said to draw his sword.
Now the applying of this doctrine will give us yet a more easy understanding thereof. Let us consider to what end it is said: namely because it seemed to us, that when God punishes not the wicked out of hand, he lets things go at all adventure, and that is the thing which troubles us fore. When we be wrongfully afflicted on the behalf of men, and we see the Church of God to suffer many slanders and molestations: what say we? Whereon does God think now? Haws he not pity upon his children? We be tormented with extremity, and yet he makes as though he saw it not. Shall the cruelty of men have such scope for ever? Should he give head to the wicked after such sort that we should always be made a pray to them? Such complaints do men make, when God does not out of hand punish the outrages that are done to his servants. And therefore it is said, That he will sharpen his sword, and take judgments in his hand, as though that to hold us in patience, he should say, my friends, trouble not yourselves, let not your lusts be our hasty and inordinate. For I do not this as unmindful, of you. Although I suffer the wicked to do many things outrageously: it is not for that I have no regard of you for that I watch not for the welfare of my Church, or for that I pity not those which suffer adversity, and are so molested: but because I have my convenient times, which I dispose at my pleasure; and therefore tarry you my leisure. For the wicked shall be utterly amazed at the whetting of my sword to make war against them. Be not afraid: for although you see it not at the first day; yet will I not fail to show myself your protector and the defender of your life. Now then we see in effect, that all this is applied to our infirmity, —
Even thereafter as we be tossed with temptations: so that when it seems to us that God thinks not anymore upon us, but that he has turned his back and is asleep in heaven: we should not withstanding that all this fall out, take it, as though he had said: Cease not you to be patient and quiet, yea, hold yourselves still till I draw my sword, for I will surly do it.
And for the same cause he adds, that he will take judgments in his hand. We know that God’s majesty and his justice are things inseparable. Sith it is so, let us hardly conclude that he is the judge of the world, yea and although the same be hidden from us, so as we perceive not any sign or likelihood thereof, yet let us not forbear to say continually. What? Is it possible for God to renounce himself, who is unchangeable? Then must we take him for our Judge, assuring ourselves that although he hide himself away, yet notwithstanding he will show that he saw all, that all things lay open before him, and that he never changed his mind. Thus you see how we ought to practice this lesson, yea even at such times as our Lord suffers us to be as it were trodden under foot by the wicked, and all the whole church is cruelly dealt with, and all things are out of order here beneath. For even then we must not cease to hope and to put ourselves into the protection of our God, because he has sworn, and not only affirmed but also ratified with a solemn oath, that he will do justice upon his enemies, and that the execution thereof shall be so terrible, as that there shall be an utter discomfiture of them, and all shall be filled with blood. And it is not to be doubted but that in this place Moses meant to confirm the faithful still in the hope which they ought to have of God’s goodness, although they seem to be as it were sunken. And he proceeds in the matter which he had dealt with before: which is, that in the end God will bethink him of his servants. Howbeit that he begin at this point, namely that while he wicked do make great cheer, and live in pleasure, and make their triumphs: God does say that he will judge his people, and that those which are his children and household servants, must be fain to endure hardness, because he reforms them when they have done amiss. Now it would seem that their state is much worse than the state of such as are utter strangers to God and have no acquaintance with him. And therefore does Moses add, No, in the end God will mitigate his rigour towards you, and therefore let it not grieve you to see the worldlings spared, or to see them weltering in their pleasures, as though all things were lawful which they lifted. If your God afflict you in the mean season, let it not seem strange unto you. For he must needs have a special care of his own children and chastise them seeing he has adopted them. And as for your enemies, assure yourselves that their turn will come about: and there of your GOD assures you here, in that he does not simply affirm it, but also swear it. Therefore you may trust unto it. So then even in the midst of our afflictions, let us be upheld with this lesson. For it will be a good stud for us to lean unto, when we make it available as it deserves, and as God himself intends it. Now we see the state of the faithful to be too miserable both generally and particularly: for many of them endure such miseries and reproaches in this world, that to all seeming they be utter castaways, and that God disdains them no less than the world despise them. Behold they which walk purely and simply before God, which love righteousness and upright dealing, which will neither deceive not hurt any man; even they nevertheless are fain to abide hunger and thirst, and are grieved with many temptations and troubles, so as they wote not which way to turn them. Now they might be brought to despair, if God withheld them not, by doing them to understand that they have need to be chastised, and put in mind of their sins. On the other side they see the wicked and the despisers of God sporting themselves in all manner of disorder, and in the meanwhile they be neither chastised or corrected, but seem rather to be exempted and privileged from all harm, as it is said in the threescore and thirteenth psalm. Loe here a very fore temptation. We see generally that God’s church is as a sheep in the midst of a great sort of Wolves. For the power of our enemies is such, as they might swallow us up out of hand, and we see there is no mean of resistance in us, we all scattered abroad. Seeing then that we see such things, were it possible for us to hold out one minute of an hour, if we had not our refuge to this doctrine, that God scourged his own, and that he begins at them, because he must needs have a care of his own household? But the wicked shall fare never the better for his bearing with them as now, neither is it to be said that their state is therefore better than ours. Therefore we must tarry his leisure with patience, until he take the sword in hand, and keep his assizes. Let us refer all unto him, and in the meanwhile keep silence, without grudging against him. Let not the corrections which we suffer set us in such a chafe you see how profitable this doctrine is to us, if we can apply it to our instruction.
Now it is said consequently, that God will requite his enemies with the like, and pay them their hire which hate him, he will make his arrows drunk with blood, and make such a slaughter of them that they shall all be discomfited. His speaking after that manner is to make his justice the more terrible to us, because we be slow and dull headed as I have said afore, insomuch that words move us not a whit. Therefore does our Lord set down vehement kind of speech here, to the end to waken us, and to make us yield due honour to his justice, and that (as I have said afore)) it might be to us as though we saw both heaven and earth shaken. For after the same manner speaks he by his Prophet Aggeus; and the Apostle showing us the majesty of the Gospel, alleges the same text, that as oft as we Hear the voice thereof sound, it behooves us to call to mind, that God will be heard and known both above and beneath. Now it is certain that the holy Ghost would not have used such speech but for our blockishness sake. Seeing then that our Lord sets down here so many figures and so many comparisons, let us accuse ourselves, and consider that he does it for the brutishness of our nature, by reason whereof he is fain to chaw things to us beforehand, to the end we may find some taste in them and be touched with them. But yet must we always have an eye to the end, and to the intent whereat this doctrine aims. And our Lord says that it is for the slain sakes, and for the prisoners’ sakes. Whereby he does us to understand that the vengeance which he speaks of is for the welfare of his Church; howbeit not for all that have born the name of faithful, for we know there are many which make false brags of God’s name, and that is to their double condemnation. We know that the chaff is mingled with the good corn, and the wicked are intermeddled with the godly. But yet they which safely abuse God’s name after that fashion, must not look that their hypocrisy shall any whit boot them: nay rather they shall pay full dear for it. They then which pretend to be faithful and are not, shall not be allowed before GOD forever: but he will mark them out for falsifiers of his truth. But our Lord here comforts such as are not altogether past grace, but which notwithstanding that they have offended, do nevertheless turn again unto him, and being sorry for their sins do humble themselves to him and seek to be reformed by his hand and by his holy spirit. Those therefore which are so overmastered, have need to be comforted at God’s hand, accordingly also as we see how our Lord Jesus Christ speaks to that sort of men, saying; Come unto me all you that are weary and overloden, and I will refresh you, and you shall find rest unto your souls. So then, in this text our Lord has an eye to such as might be drowned in despair, if he should not give them some taste of his goodness to stay them up withal. And therefore he says that although he have showed himself rigorous to his church for a time: yet notwithstanding he has not disannulled the covenant which he had made with his servant Abraham, but he will show that the people whom he had chosen and adopted are his own, and that seeing he is their protector, he will perform this saying of his; I will be a friend to thy friends, and an enemy to your enemies. That is the thing in effect, which Moses had respect unto.
Sith it is so, let us learn to arm ourselves with this lesson, and whensoever our enemies behave themselves like wood beasts, yea and are as furious as flaming fire: let us on our side understand that our God has power enough to maintain us, and that if he do it not at the first, it is to try our patience, and to make us to overcome all temptations. Wherefore let us learn to proceed on still, yea even though he should lead us unto death, assuring ourselves that he does it to give us a better life, and therefore let us always go on still, whithersoever it shall please him to lead us. But yet howsoever we fare, let us not bear any spite to our adversaries. Although as now they execute their rage against us: yet let us be thoroughly persuaded, that in the end they must come to account, and that as then God will show how dear our welfare was unto him, and that although he seemed to have forgotten us and to have cast us quite and clean up: yet notwithstanding he did still esteem us as his flock. God then will show that he had us always in his protection. Therefore let us in the mean time abide quite, and let us not be so cast down with temptations that we should be out of hope of our salvation, and give over the promises thereof that have been made unto us. Thus do we now see the meaning of Moses, and also in how great stead his doctrine may stand us, if we can have the skill to apply it well to our use.
Now it is said for a conclusion, You people (or nations) praise you the people of God. Here Moses directs his speech to all infidels and heathen folk, to the intent that the exhortation which he has set down heretofore, may have the more force. Hitherto he had spoken to the believers, and to such as have ears to hear God withal, and to such as he calls to his school. Howbeit forasmuch as there is so much troublesomeness and scrupulousness in us as is pitiful to see; Moses meant to give us yet one mean more for our better confirmation: in respect whereof he says, Consider my friends and see how your God comforts you in the midst of the chastisements which he sends you. Although you may have offended him, and deserve to have extreme rigour used towards you without any abatement of his corrections: yet notwithstanding, to show that he would not have you to perish, nor that you should feel him but as judge only; he shows again that he will have pity upon you, and repent him of his smiting of you after that fashion, and that he will withdraw his hand. And if you believe not this; yet nevertheless, the infidels must needs believe it. Although they be destitute of reason, although there be not one spark of light in them, although they be as brutish as beasts that never heard speaking of the living God: yet shall they perceive this, and their experience shall be such that they shall be driven to say. Blessed is the people whose father and savior God shows himself to be: even they (I say) shall bless you. Now, when the dumb are able speak, the blind to see, and the deaf to hear; should not they that have been enlightened by God’s word, and to whom he has given tongues to magnify his name; should not they see not perceive a whit? What excuse then shall there be for them? Now then, we see why Moses having exhorted the faithful to repentance, and having showed them that God will have pity and mercy upon them after he has corrected them for their faults and offences: turns his talk to such as were blind. And had not any knowledge or taste of truth, namely to the heathen, of purpose to make us to erceive the better, after what sort God causes us to feel his goodness, even by experience, feeling it up in our hearts by his holy spirit, which is named the earnest penny and the scale of the hope of our salvation, and the causer of us to take hold of all the good things which we receive at God’s hand. Now then if we know nothing thereof, and that the infidels by beholding God’s wonderful working after a manner unaccustomed among men, be enforced to say, O what a thing is it to be of the number of God’s people? Ought not we to have a more lively knowledge thereof, and such as may comfort us in our afflictions, so as we may not cease to call upon our God to hold us continually under his obedience, and to have always wherewith to assuage the bitterness of our sorrows? Truly the thing that Moses rehearses here is showed us in the example of Balaam. For he was a false Prophet, he was an enemy of God, he was such a one as had his tongue to sale and his heart upon his pouch, seeking to turn the truth into falsehood, and yet for all this, as though God had held him upon the rack, he was enforced to utter his speech: Let my soul dye the death of the righteous. He speaks thereof the people of God, saying: Who art thou Israel? Who is he that can do anything against thee, seeing thou stand in t he favour of thy God? Was a deceiver and an underling of Satan to say So? Yea verily. For it is God’s will that his will which he has witnessed already to his people by his law and by his word, should be known, and further confirmed even by the mouth of his open enemy. Balaam was fain to say that the death of the Jews was more to be desired, than the life of all other men, because God held them for his people. So then, let us mark well, that whereas Moses says, You Nations or you Gentles praise you the people of God: it is as much to say, as declare you that God has wrought after such a fashion, as it is not for men to doubt anymore, but that for his adoption sake, in that he has vouchsafed to choose the linage of Abraham, he will have it known that therein he has laid forth the infinite treasures of his goodness.
And forthwith he adds, that he will revenge the blood of his servants, and require vengeance to his enemies, but be merciful to his land, and to his people. Here are three things in effect, which I will touch in few words, and it will be enough to conclude this song withal. The first is that God says, He will revenge the blood of his servants. Now under this saying he shows us that we may well be afflicted for a time, so far forth that even our very blood shall not be spared, whether it be that God punish us for the faults which we have committed against him, or that his will be to try our patience. The thing then whereof we be warned, is that if God think good to have our bloodshed, we must not think it strange nor shrink from the promise which he has made us, in avowing himself to be our God, and the defender of our life. Neither must we think that those promises are disannulled, though our God suffer us to be handled so cruelly. But let us tarry the time till he revenge our blood: for he will then show how dear and precious our life is unto him. Thus much concerning the first point.
As touching the second, he says that God will requite his enemies with the like, to the end we should know that all the facility of the wicked and of the despisers of God shall be accursed, and therefore that we must not repine at them therefore. Now then, if we see God’s enemies to be rich, to have their ease in this world, and to welter in all pleasures: let us let them alone, and not be drawn to spite them, or to intermeddle ourselves with them. For why? God’s vengeance which is yet unseen, must come before our eyes, and be considered by faith, and we must also remember how it is said, Cursed be you that laugh, for you shall weep. For as much then as the laughter of the despisers of God must be turned into mourning, weeping, and gnashing of teeth: let us choose to weep and wail as now, that God may dry up our tears, and wipe them away when the time shall be come. That is the second point.
The third is, that we must learn and take heart to rest upon the promise that God will never forsake us howsoever the world go. Insomuch that although we have offended God never so many ways; yet he will ever be merciful to us. And why is that? Because we be his people. The very foundation whereupon we must build, is that being adopted of God into the number of his children, according to his purchasing of us by our Lord Jesus Christ, into whose body he has graffed us, and we know that his pardoning of our sins is for that he has washed and scoured us in the blood of his only son: we always have recourse to this promise, that our God will be favourable to us. True it is that now and then we shall be so at our wits end, that we shall not know what to say; but yet must we hope beyond hope, that although God show us many tokens of his wrath, and we be assaulted on all sides, so as we see no way to get out, but we seem rather to be shut up in the very bottom of the dungeons: yet notwithstanding we have this stay to lean unto, that God will be favourable to his people and to his land. And therefore let us go on stoutly still, until God have showed us by the deed itself, the thing that he had promised in word, as he declares it here.
Now let us cast ourselves down before the majesty of our good God, with acknowledgement of our faults, praying him to vouchsafe to make us feel them better, so as we may bethink us of them and endeavour to forsake ourselves, that he may so reign over us, as it may appear that it is very he which governs us by his holy spirit, and we may suffer ourselves to be so ruled by his hand, as we never be disquieted and put out of patience for all the afflictions and miseries of this world, but that we may be more desirous to yield obedience unto him, than to enjoy all the prosperity, ease and pleasure that the unbelievers can have, which can serve them to no purpose but to their endless overthrow and confusion. And so let us all say, Almighty God heavenly father, &c.