He that feared the word of the LORD among the servants of Pharaoh made his servants and his cattle flee into the houses: And he that regarded not the word of the LORD left his servants and his cattle in the field.
~ Exodus 9:20-21
Because thine heart was tender, and thou didst humble thyself before God, when thou heardest his words against this place, and against the inhabitants thereof, and humbledst thyself before me, and didst rend thy clothes, and weep before me; I have even heard thee also, saith the LORD. Behold, I will gather thee to thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered to thy grave in peace, neither shall thine eyes see all the evil that I will bring upon this place, and upon the inhabitants of the same. So they brought the king word again.
~ 2 Chronicles 34:27-28
My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments.
~ Psalm 119:120
For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.
~ Isaiah 66:2
And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
~ Isaiah 6:3
And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
~ Matthew 17:2
They shall be burnt with hunger, and devoured with burning heat, and with bitter destruction: I will also send the teeth of beasts upon them, with the poison of serpents of the dust.
~ Deuteronomy 32:24
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God. He rebuketh the sea, and maketh it dry, and drieth up all the rivers: Bashan languisheth, and Carmel, and the flower of Lebanon languisheth.
~ Psalm 90:2, Nahum 1:4
The LORD hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.
~ Isaiah 52:10
A Sermon on Habakkuk 3:1-9, by John Owen. The following is an excerpt from Sermon 2 of “A Memorial of the Deliverance of Essex County”.
A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet upon Sigionoth. O Lord, I have heard thy speech and was afraid: 0 Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy. God came from Teman, and the holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. And his brightness was as the light; he had horns coming out of his hand, and there was the hiding of his power. Before him went the pestilence, and burning coals went forth at his feet. He stood and measured the earth: he beheld and drove asunder the nations, and the everlasting mountains were scattered, the perpetual hills did bow : his trays are everlasting. I saw the tents of Cushan in affliction: and the curtains of the land of Midian did tremble. Was the Lord displeased against the rivers ? was thine anger against the rivers? was thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses, and thy chariots of salvation? Thy bow was made quite naked, according to the oaths of the tribes, even thy word. Selah. Thou didst cleave the earth with rivers.
— Hab. iii. 1-9.
Of this chapter there are four parts.
First, The title and preface of it, ver. 1. Secondly, The prophet’s main request in it, ver. 2. Thirdly, Arguments to sustain his faith in that request, from ver. 3—17. Fourthly, A resignation of himself, and the whole issue of his desires unto God, from ver. 17, to the end.
We shall treat of them in order.
The prophet (a) having had visions from God, and pre-discoveries of many approaching judgments, in the first and second chapters, in this, by faithful prayer, sets himself to obtain a sure footing, and quiet abode in those nation-destroying storms.
Ver. 1. A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, that is the title of it. And an excellent prayer it is, full of arguments to strengthen faith, acknowledgment of God’s sovereignty, power, and righteous judgments, with resolutions to a contented, joyful, rolling him upon him under all dispensations.
Observation I. Prayer is the believer’s constant, sure retreat in an evil time, in a time of trouble.
It is the righteous man’s wings to the name of the Lord’ which is his strong tower;’ Prov. xviii. 10. A Christian (b) soldier’s sure reserve in the day of battle: if all other forces
a The time of this prophecy is conceived to be about the end of Josiah’s reign, not long before the first Chaldean invasion.
b Preces et lacrymæ sunt arma Eeclesiæ. Tertul.
be overthrown, here he will abide by it, no power under heaven can prevail upon him to give one step backward. Hence that title of Psal. cii. ‘A prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed.’ ‘Tis the overwhelmed man’s refuge and employment: when he swooneth with anguish’ (as in the original) this fetches him to life again. So also, Psal. Ixi. 2, 3. In our greatest distresses let neither unbelief, nor selfcontrivances, justle us out of this way to the rock of our salvation.
II. Observation. Prophets discoveries of fearful judgments must be attended with fervent prayers.
That messenger hath done but half his business who delivers his errand, but returns not an answer. He that brings God’s message of threats unto his people, must return his people’s message of entreaties unto him. Some think they have fairly discharged their duty, when they have revealed the will of God to man, without labouring to reveal the condition and desires of men unto God. He that is more frequent in the pulpit to his people, than he is in his closet for his people, is but a sorry watchman. Moses did not so; Exod. xxxii. 31. neither did Samuel so; 1 Sam. xii. 23. neither was it the guise of Jeremiah in his days; chap. xiv 17. If the beginning of the prophecy be (as it is the burden of Habakkuk,’ the close will be (as it is) the prayer of Habakkuk.’ Where there is a burden upon the people, there must be a prayer for the people. Woe to them who have denounced desolations, and not poured out supplications: such men delight in the evil, which the prophet puts far from him; Jer. xvii. 16. I have not desired the woful day [O Lord] thou knowest.’
Now this prayer is upon Sigionoth.’ That is, 1. It is turned to a song: 2. Such a song
1. That it is a song, penned in metre, and how done so: (1.) To take the deeper impression ; (2.) To be the better retained in memory; (3.) To work more upon the affections; (4.) To receive the ingredients of poetical loftiness for adorning the majesty of God with ; (5.) The use of songs in the old church; (6.) And for the present; (7.) Their times and seasons, as among the people of God, so all nations of old : of all, or any of these, being besides my present purpose, I shall not treat.
2. That it is ‘upon Sigionoth,’ a little may be spoken.
The word is once in another place (and no more) used in the title of a song, and that is Psal. vii. “Shiggaion of David :’ and it is variously rendered. It seems to be taken from the word naw ‘erravit,’ to err, or wander variously; Prov. v. 20. The word is used for delight, to stray with delight. “In her love navn thou shalt err with delight,’ we have translated it, ‘be ravished,’noting affections out of order. The word then holds out a delightful wandering and variety: and this literally, because those two songs, Psal. vii. and Hab. ij. are not tied to any one certain kind of metre, but have various verses for the more delight: which, though it be not proper to them alone, yet in them the Holy Ghost would have it especially noted.
But now surely the kernel of this shell is sweeter than so. Is not this written also for their instruction who have no skill in Hebrew songs? The true reason of their metre is lost to the most learned. Are not then God’s variable dispensations towards his held out under these variable tunes, not all fitted to one string? not all alike pleasant and easy? Are not the several tunes of mercy and judgment in these songs? Is not here affliction and deliverance, desertion and recovery, darkness and light in this variously? Doubtless it is so.
III. Observation. God often calls his people unto songs upon Sigionoth.
(c) He keeps them under various dispensations, that so drawing out all their affections, their hearts may make the sweeter melody unto him. They shall not have all honey, nor all gall : all judgment, lest they be broken, nor all mercy, lest they be proud. Thou answeredst them, O Lord our God, thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions;’ Psal. xcix. 8. Here is a song upon Sigionoth: they are heard in their prayers, and forgiven; there is the sweetest of mercies: vengeance is taken of their inventions, there’s a tune of judge ment. By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation ; Psal. Ixv. 5. is a song of the same tune. To be answered in righteousness, what sweeter mercy in the world ? Nothing more refreshes the panting soul, than an answer of its desires : but to have this
c Graviter in eum decernitur, cui etiam ipsa connectio denegatur. Prosp. Sent.
answer by terrible things, that string strikes a humbling, a mournful note. Israel hears of deliverance by Moses,(d) and at the same time have their bondage doubled by Pharaoh : there’s a song upon Sigionoth. Is it not so in our days ? precious mercies, and dreadful judgments jointly poured out upon the land. We are clothed by our Father, like Joseph by his, in a party-coloured coat; Gen. xxxvii. 3. here a piece of unexpected deliverance, and there a piece of deserved correction; at the same hour we may rejoice at the conquest of our enemies, and mourn at the close of our harvēst. Victories for his own name’s sake, and showers for our sins’ sake; both from the same hand, at the same time. The cry of every soul, is like the cry of the multitude of old and young at the laying the foundation of the second temple: many shouted aloud for joy, and many wept with a loud voice, so that it was a mixed noise, and the several noises could not be distinguished ; Ezra iii. 12, 13. A mixed cry is in our spirits, and we know not which is loudest in the day of our visitation. I could instance in sundry particulars, but that every one’s observation will save me that easy labour. And this the Lord doth,
1. To fill (e) all our sails towards himself at once; to exercise all our affections. I have heard, that a full wind behind the ship drives her not so fast forward as a side wind, that seems almost so much against her, as with her: and the reason they say is, because a full wind fills but some of her sails, which keep it from the rest that they are empty; when a side wind fills all her sails, and sets her speedily forward. Which way ever we go in this world, our affections are our sails; and according as they are spread and filled, so we pass on, swifter and slower, whether we are steering. Now if the Lord should give us a full wind, and continual gale of mercies, it would fill but some of our sails, some of our affections, joy, delight, and the like: but when he comes with a side wind, a dispensation that seems almost as much against us as for us, then he fills all our sails, takes up all our affections, making his works wide and broad enough to entertain them.every one; then are we carried freely and
d Daplicnntur lateres quando venit Moses.
e Namque bonos non blanda inflant, non aspera frangunt, Sed fidei invictæ gaudia rera juvant. Prosy. Epig. in sent. August,
fully, towards the haven where we would be. ‘A song upon Sigionoth leaves not one string of our affections untuned. It is a song that reacheth every line of our hearts, to be framed by the grace and Spirit of God. Therein hope, fear, reverence, with humility and repentance have a share; as well as joy, delight, and love, with thankfulness. Interchangeable dispensations take up all our affections, with all our graces; for they are gracious affections, exercised and seasoned with grace, of which we speak. The stirring of natural affections, as merely such, is but the moving of a dunghill to draw out a stinking steam, a thing the Lord neither aimeth at, nor delighteth in: their joys are his provocation, and (g) he laugheth in the day of their calamity, when their fear cometh ;’ Prov. i. 26, 27.
2. To keep them in continuals dependance upon himself. He hath promised his own daily bread, not goods laid up for many years. Many children have been undone by their parents giving them too large a stock to trade for themselves; it has made them spendthrifts, careless, and wanton. Should the Lord intrust his people with a continued stock of mercy, perhaps they would be full and deny him, and say, Who is the Lord ? Prov. xxx.9. Jeshurun did so; Deut. xxxii. 14, 15. Ephraim was filled according to her pasture, and forgot the Lord ;’ Hos. xiii. 6. Neither on the other side will he be always chiding. His anger shall not burn for ever’ very sore. It is our infirmity at the least, if we say, ‘God hath forgotten to be gracious, and shut up his tender mercies in displeasure ;’ Psal. lxxvii. 9. But laying one thing against another, he keeps the heart of his in an even balance, in a continual dependance upon himself, that they may neither be wanton through mercy, nor discouraged by too much oppression. Our tender father is therefore neither always feeding, nor always correcting. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear nor dark : but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day nor night; but it shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light,’ saith the prophet Zechariah, chap. xiv. 6, 7. seeking out God’s dispensations towards his, ending in joy, and light in the evening.
f Psal. cxix. 67. Hos. v. 15. Heb. xii. 10, 11. 1 Pet. i. 6.
g In cælo non in terra mercedem promisit reddendam. Quid alibi poscis, quod alibi dabitur? Ambros. Offic. lib. 1. cap. 16.
Use. Labour to have your hearts right tuned for songs on Sigionoth, sweetly to answer all God’s dispensations in their choice variety. That instrument will make no music that hath but some strings in tune. If when God strikes with mercy upon the string of joy and gladness, we answer pleasantly; but when he touches upon that of sorrow and humiliation, we suit it not; we are broken instruments, that make no melody unto God. We must know how to receive good and evil at his hand. “He hath made every thing beautiful in its time;’ Eccles. iii. 11. every thing in that whole variety which his wisdom bath produced. A well-tuned heart must have all its strings, all its affections, ready to answer every touch of God’s finger, to improve judgments and mercies both at the same time. Sweet harmony ariseth out of some discords. When a soul is in a frame to rejoice with thankful obedience for mercy received, and to be humbled with soul-searching, amending repentance for judgments inflicted at the same time, then it sings a song on Sigionoth, then it is fit for the days wherein we live. Indeed both mercies and judgments aim at the same end, and should be received with the same equal temper of mind. A flint is broken between a hammer and a pillow: an offender is humbled between a prison and a pardon : a hard heart may be mollified, and a proud spirit humbled between those two. In such a season the several rivulets of our affections flow naturally in the same stream. When hath a gracious soul the soundest joys, but when it hath the deepest sorrows ? (h) Habent et gaudia vulnus.’ When hath it the humblest meltings, but when it hath the most ravishing joys ? Our afflictions which are naturally at the widest distance, may all swim in the same spiritual channel. Rivulets rising from, several heads are carried in one stream to the ocean. As a mixture of several colours make a beautiful complexion for the body; so a mixture of divers affections under God’s various dispensations, gives a comely frame unto the soul. Labour then to answer every call, every speaking providence of God, in its right kind, according to the intention thereof; and the Lord reveal his mind unto us that so we may do.
h Cum vexamar ac premimur tum maxime gratias agimus indulgentissimo patri, quod corruptelam nostram non patitur longius procedere : hinc intelligimus nos esse Deo curæ. Lactan
Having passed the title, let us look a little on those parts of the prayer itself that follow,
Ver. 2. The beginning of it in ver. 2. hath two parts.
1. The frame of the prophet’s spirit in his address to God; O Jehovah, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid.
2. His request in this his condition ; ‘O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known, in wrath remember mercy.
1. In the first you have,
(1.) Particularly his frame; he was afraid, or trembled; which he wonderfully sets out, ver. 16. When I heard, my belly trembled, my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself.
(2.) The cause of this fear and trembling; he heard the speech of God.’ If you will ask what speech or report this was that made the prophet himself so exceedingly quake and tremble; I answer, it is particularly that which you have, chap. i. 6—12. containing a dreadful denunciation of the judgments of God against the people of Israel, to be executed by the proud, cruel, insulting Chaldeans. This voice, this report of God, makes the prophet tremble.
IV. Observation. An appearance of God in anger and threats against a people, should make his choicest secret ones among them to fear, to quake, and tremble.
Trembling of man’s heart must answer the shaking of God’s hand. At the delivery of the law with all its attending threats, so terrible was the sight, that Moses himself though a mediator then) did exceedingly fear and quake; Heb. xii. 21. God will be acknowledged in all his goings. If men will not bow before him, he will break them. They who fear not his threatenings, shall feel his inflictings; if his word be esteemed light, his hand will be found heavy. For,
In point of deserving who can say, I have purged my heart,(j) I am clean from sin? None ought to be fearless, unless they be senseless. God’s people are so far from being always clear of procuring national judgments, that sometimes, (k) judgments have come upon nations for the sins of some of God’s people amongst them; as the plague in the days of David.
j Job xiv. 4. xv. 15, 16. Prov. xvi. 2. xx. 19.
k 2 Sam. xxiv. 15. 2 Chron. xxxii. 25.
And in point of (l) suffering, who knows but they may have a deep share? The prophet’s book is written within, as well as without, with ‘lamentation, mourning, and woe;’ Ezek. ii. 10. If the lion roars, who can but fear? Amos iii. 8. Fear to the rooting out of security, not the shaking of faith; fear to the pulling down of carnal presidence, not Christian confidence; fear to draw out our souls in prayer, not to swallow them up in despair; fear to break the arm of flesh, but not to weaken the staff of the promise; fear that we may draw nigh to God with reverence, not to run from him with diffidence; in a word, to overthrow faithless presumption, and to increase gracious submission.
2. Here is the prophet’s request. And in this there are these two things:
(1.) The thing he desireth; The reviving God’s work, the remembering mercy.’
(2.) The season he desireth it in; ‘In the midst of the years.’
(1.) For the first, that which in the beginning of the verse he calls God’s work, in the close of it he termeth mercy; and the reviving his work, is interpreted to be a remembering mercy. These two expressions then are parallel. The reviving of God’s work towards his people is a re-acting of mercy, a bringing forth the fruits thereof, and that in the midst of the execution of wrath ; as a man in the midst of another, remembering a business of more importance, instantly turneth away, and applieth himself thereunto.
V. Observation. Acts of mercy are God’s proper work towards his people, which he will certainly awake, and keep alive in the saddest times.
Mercy you see is his work, his proper work, as he calleth judgment his strange act;’ Isa. xxviii. 21. ‘He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy;’ Micah vii. 18. This is his proper work : though it seem to sleep, he will awake it; though it seem to die, he will revive it. Can a woman forget her child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee: behold, I have graven
l Omnes scculi plagæ, nobis in admonitionem, vobis in castigationem à Deo veniunt. Tertul. Apol. cap. 42.
thee upon the palms of my hands, thy walls are continually before me;’ Isa. xlix. 16, 17.
(2.) For the season of this work, he prays that it may be accomplished in the midst of the years ;’ upon which you may see what weight he lays by his repetition of it in the same verse. It is something doubtful what may be the peculiar sense of these words; whether the midst of the years’ (m) do not denote the whole time of the people’s bondage under the Chaldeans (whence Junius renders the words, ‘interea temporis,’ noting this manner of expression, the midst of the years,’ for a Hebraism), during which space he intercedes for mercy for them; or whether the midst of the years’ do not denote some certain point of time, as the season of their return from captivity, about the midst of the years between their first king, and the coming of the Messiah, putting a period to their church and state. Whether of these is more probable, is not needful to insist upon; this is certain, that a certain time is pointed at; which will yield us,
VI. Observation. The church’s mercies and deliverance have their appointed season.
In the midst of the years it shall be accomplished. As there is a decree bringing forth the wicked’s destruction, Zeph. ii. 2. so there is a decree goes forth in its appointed season for the church’s deliverance, which cannot be gainsaid; Dan. ix. 23. Every vision is for its appointed’ season and time, Hab. ii. 3. then it will surely come, it will not tarry. There is a determination upon the weeks and days of the church’s sufferings and expectations; Dan. ix. 24. “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people. As there are three transgressions, and four of rebels, for which God will not turn away their punishment,’ Amos i. 3. so three afflictions, and four of the people of God, after which he will not shut out their supplications. Hence that confidence of the prophet, Psal. cii. 13, 14. Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Sion; for’ (saith he).‘the time to favour her, yea, the set time is come. There is a time, yea, a set time for favour to be shewed unto Sion : as a time to break down, so a time to build up, an acceptable time, a
m בקרב שנים in the inward of years
day of salvation. “It came to pass, at the end of four hundred and thirty years, even the self same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out of Egypt;’ Exod. xii. 41. As a woman with child goes not beyond her appointed months, but is pained to be delivered; no more can the fruitful decree cease from bringing forth the church’s deliverance in the season thereof.
1. Because there is an appointed period of the church’s humiliation, and bearing of her iniquities. Israel shall bear their iniquities in the wilderness; but this is exactly limited to the space of forty years. When their iniquity is pardoned, their warfare is accomplished; Isa. xl. 2. They say some men will give poison that shall work insensibly, and kill at seven years end. The great physician of his church knows how to give his sin-sick people potions, that shall work by degrees, and at such an appointed season take away all their iniquity: then they can no longer be detained in trouble. God will not continue his course of physic unto them one day beyond health recovered. This is all the fruit of their afflictions, to take away their iniquities;’ Isa. xxvii. 9. and when that is done, who shall keep bound what God will loose? When sin is taken away from within, trouble must depart from without.
2. Because the church’s sorrows are commensurate unto, and do contemporise with, the joys and prosperity of God’s enemies and hers. Now wicked men’s prosperity hath assured bounds: the wickedness of the wicked shall come to an end. There is a time when the iniquity of the Amorites comes to the full;’ Gen. xv. 16. it comes up to the brim in the appointed day of slaughter. When their wickedness hath filled the ephah, a talent of lead is laid upon the mouth thereof, and it is carried away on wings, Zech. v. 6–8. swiftly, certainly, irrecoverably. If then the church’s troubles contemporise, rise and fall with their prosperity, and her deliverance with their destruction; if the fall of Babylon be the rise of Sion; if they be the buckets which must go down when the church comes up; if they be the rod of the church’s chastisement, their ruin being set and appointed; so also must be the church’s mercies.
Use. In every distress learn to wait with patience for this appointed time. He that believeth will not make haste. “Though it tarry, wait for it, it will surely come. He that is infinitely good hath appointed the time, and therefore it is best. He that is infinitely wise hath determined the season, and therefore it is most suitable. He who is infinitely powerful hath set it down, and therefore it shall be accomplished. Wait for it believing, wait for it praying, wait for it contending. Waiting is not a lazy hope, a sluggish expectation. When Daniel knew the time was come, • he prayed the more earnestly;’ Dan. ix. 2, 3. You will say, perhaps, what need he pray for it, when he knew the time was accomplished? I answer, the more need. Prayer helps the promise to bring forth. Because a woman’s time is come, therefore shall she have no midwife? nay, therefore give her one. He that appointed their return, appointed that it should be a fruit of prayer. Wait (n) contending also in all ways wherein you shall be called out; and be not discouraged that you know not the direct season of deliverance. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knowest not which shall prosper, this or that, whether they shall be both alike good ;’ Eccles. xi. 6.
But proceed we with the prophet’s prayer.
From ver. 3. to 17. he layeth down several arguments taken from the majesty, power, providence, and former works of God, for the supporting of his faith, to the obtaining of those good things and works of mercy which he was now praying for. We shall look on them as they lie in our way.
Ver. 3.‘God came from Teman, the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, the earth was full of his praise.
(o) Teman was a city of the Edomites, whose land the people of Israel compassed in the wilderness, when they were stung with fiery serpents and healed with looking on a brazen serpent set up to be a type of Christ. Teman is put up for the whole land of Edom; and the prophet makes mention of it for the great deliverance and mercy granted there to the people, when they were almost consumed; that’s God’s coming from Teman. See Num. xxi. 5-9. When
n Bonum agonem subituri estis, in quo agonothetes Deus virus est : Christarchos Spiritus Sanctus, corona æternitatis brabium, epithetes Jesus Christus. Tertul. ad Mar.
o Gen. xxxvi. 15. Jer. xlix. 7. Obad. 9.
they were destroyed by fiery serpents, he heals them by a type of Christ, giving them corporeal, and raising them to a faith of spiritual salvation.
(p) Paran, the next place mentioned, was a mountain in the land of Ishmael, near which Moses repeated the law; and from thence God carried the people immediately to Canaan; another eminent act of mercy.
Unto these he addeth the word Selah ; as it is a song, a note of elevation in singing; as it respects the matter, not the form, a note of admiration and special observation. Selah, consider them weil, for they were great works indeed. Special mercies must have special observation.
Now by reason of these actions the prophet affirms that the glory of God covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise. Lofty expressions of the advancement of God’s glory, and the fulness of his praise amongst his people of the earth, which attended that merciful deliverance and gracious assistance. Nothing is higher or greater than that which covers heaven, and fills earth. God’s glory is exceedingly exalted, and his praise increased everywhere, by acts of favour and kindness to his people.
That which I shall choose from amongst many others that present themselves, a little to insist upon, is that
VII. Observation. Former mercies, with their times and places, are to be had in thankful remembrance unto them who wait for future blessings.
Faith is to this end separated by them. “Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord, awake as in the ancient days, as in the generations of old : art not thou it that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon ? Art not thou it that dried the sea, the waters of the great deep, that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?’ Isa. li. 9, 10. The breaking of Rahab, that is, Egypt, so called here, and Psal. Ixxxvii. 4. Ixxxix. 11. for her great strength, which the word signifies; and the wounding of the dragon, that great and crooked afflictor, Pharaoh, is remembered and urged, for a motive to a new needed deliverance. So Psal. Ixxiv. 13, 14. • Thou breakest the heads of Leviathan
p Deut. i. Gloria est frequens de aliquo fama cum laude. Cic. lib. 2. de inv. Consentiens laus bonorum, incorrupta vox bene judicantium de excellente virtute. Idem. Tusc. lib. 3.
in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people in the wilderness.’ Leviathan, the same dragon, oppressing, persecuting Pharaoh, thou breakest his heads, his counsels, armies, power, and gavest him for meat, that the people for forty years together might be fed, sustained, and nourished with that wonderful mercy. Out of the eater came forth meat, out of the strong came forth sweetness.’
In this reciprocation God walketh with his people. Of free grace he bestoweth mercies and blessings on them; by grace works the returns of remembrance and thankfulness unto himself for them; then showers that down again in new mercies. The countries which send up no vapours, receive down no showers. Remembrance, with thankfulness of former mercies, is the matter, as it were, which by God’s goodness is condensed into following blessings. For,
1. Mercies have their proper end, when thankfully remembered. What more powerful motive to the obtaining of new, than to hold out that the old were not abused? We are encouraged to cast seed again into that ground, whose last crop witnesseth that it was not altogether barren. That sad spot of good Hezekiah, that he rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him, is set down as the opening a door of wrath against himself, Judah, and Jerusalem, 2 Chron. xxxii. 25. On the other side, suitable returns are a door of hope for farther mercies.
2. The remembrance of them strengthens faith, and keeps our hands from hanging down in the time of waiting for blessings. When faith is supported, the promise is engaged, and a mercy at any time more than half obtained. Faith is the substance of things hoped for;’ Heb. xi. 1. God,’ saith the apostle, ‘hath delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver. Now what conclusion makes he of this experience ? in whom we trust, that he will yet deliver us;’ 2 Cor. i. 10. It was a particular mercy with its circumstances, as you may see ver. 9. which he made the bottom of his dependance. In the favours of men we cannot do so; they may be weary of helping, or be drawn dry, and grow helpless. Ponds may be exhausted, but the ocean never. The infinite fountains of the Deity cannot be sunk one hair’s breadth by everlasting flowing blessings. Now circumstances of actions, time, place, and the like, ofttimes take deep impressions; mercies should be remembered with them. So doth the apostle again, 2 Tim. iv. 17, 18. He did deliver me from the mouth of the lion :’ Nero, that lion-like tyrant. And what then? ‘he will deliver me from every evil work.’ David esteemed it very good logic, to argue from the victory God gave him over the lion and the bear, to a confidence of victory over Goliah, 1 Sam. xvii.37.