But this thing commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you. And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.
~ Jeremiah 7:23, Genesis 7:1
And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the bason, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the bason; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. For the LORD will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the LORD will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.
~ Exodus 12:22-23
For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer. To the chief Musician, Altaschith, Michtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave. Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.
~ Psalm 27:5, Isaiah 54:7-8, Psalm 57:1
Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law. Should we again break thy commandments, and join in affinity with the people of these abominations? wouldest not thou be angry with us till thou hadst consumed us, so that there should be no remnant nor escaping? (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:
~ Psalm 119:53, Ezra 9:14, Philippians 3:18
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
~ Romans 9:1-3
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
~ 2 Corinthians 4:17
The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.
~ Psalm 46:7, Psalm 46:11
The Righteous Man’s Refuge, by John Flavel.
Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
~ Isa. xxvi. 20
Opening and confirming the second proposition, viz. That God’s own people are much concerned in, and ought to be suitably affected with those judgments that befal the nation wherein they live.
Sect. I. If God’s people have no concernment in these things, why are they called upon in this text, to turn into their chambers, hide themselves, and shut their doors, till the indignation be over-past? Certainly though God hath better provided for them than others, yet they are two ways concerned in these cases as much as others: viz.
1. Upon a political account.
2. Upon a religious account
1. Upon a political account, as they are members of the community, and so are equally concerned in the good or evil that befals the nation in which they live; their cabins must follow the fate of the ship in which they sail: their lives, liberties, estates, and interest sink and swim with the Public. The good figs were carried away with the bad, Jer. 24:5. In these outward respects it often-times bears as hard upon the righteous as upon the wicked. Ezek. 21:3. ‘I will draw forth my soul out of his sheath, and will cut off from thee the righteous and the wicked.’ In these outward respects, as it is with the good, so with the sinner, Eccl. 9:2. The same fire that burns the dry tree, often-times burns the green tree too, Ezek. 20:47. Grace is above all hazards, but creature-enjoyments and comforts are not. The sins of the Sodomites involves not only their own houses and estates, but Lot’s also, in the ruin and overthrow; wicked men often fare the better for the company of the godly, and the godly often fare the worse for the company of the wicked.
And it is not to be wondered at, if we consider that even the saints themselves have an hand in the provocation of these judgments, as well as others, Deut. 32:19. ‘And when the Lord saw it, he abhorred them because of the provoking of his sons and of his daughters.’ We have contributed to the common heap of guilt, and therefore must justify God if we partake with others in the common calamity.
2. They are greatly concerned in such judgments upon a religious and Christian account, for it is usual for the flood of God’s judgments not only to sweep away our civil and natural, but our spiritual and best enjoyments and comforts. Thus the ordinances of God ceased in Babylon, and there the faithful bewailed their misery upon that account, Psal. 137. per totum; ‘we wept when we remembered thee, O Zion.’ Not only Israel flies, but the ark is taken prisoner by the enemy, 1 Sam. 4:11. And you find the people of God more deeply concerned upon this account, than for all their outward losses and other sufferings, Zeph. 3:18. ‘I will gather them of thee that are sorrowful for the solemn assemblies, to whom the reproach of it was a burthen.’ For by how much our souls are more excellent than our bodies, and the concerns of eternity over-balance those of time; by so much the more are we concerned in the loss of our spiritual, more than of our temporal mercies and enjoyments.
Grace indeed cannot be lost, but the means and instruments by which it is begotten may; the golden candlestick is one of the moveables in God’s house, Rev. 2:5.
Thus you see a two-fold concernment that the people of God have in the effects of national judgments.
Sect. 2. This being so, how should all that fear God be affected with the appearances and signs of his indignation? So was David, Psal. 119:120. ‘My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments.’ He that feared not a bear, a lion, a Goliah, yet trembleth at God’s judgment. So did Habakkuk, chap. 3 ver. 16. ‘When I heard, my belly trembled, my lips quivered at the voice, rottenness entered into my bones.’ Expressions denoting the deepest seizures of fear and greatest consternations: not that I would persuade you to such slavish fear or unchristian dejection, as it is not only sinful in itself, but the cause and inlet of many other sins; but to a due sense both of the evils of misery that will befal the nation when God’s indignation comes upon it; and the evils of sin that have incensed it; and to such a fear of both as may seasonably awaken us to the use of all preventing remedies. And, First,
1. O that all would lay to heart the national miseries that God’s indignation threatens upon us. It is said, Psal. 107:34. ‘A fruitful land is turned into barrenness for the wickedness of them that dwell therein.’ It was long since told England by one of its faithful watchmen*, ‘The nation and church in which we are, are the common ship in which we are all embarked, and if this in judgment be cast away, whether dashed against the rocks of any foreign power, or swallowed up in the quicksands of domestic divisions, it must need hazard all the passengers: Or if you were sure, that for your parts you might be safe, would it not be a bitter thing to stand upon the shore, and see such a glorious vessel as this nation is, to be cast away? To see this glorious land defaced, the blessed gospel polluted, the golden candlestick removed, it cannot but affect men that have any bowels.
Or if this move you not, yet to see a stranger to lord it in thy habitation, and thy dwelling place to cast thee out; for your delightsome dwellings, your fruitful, pleasant, and well tilled fields to be made a prey; for you to sow, and another to reap, Impius has segetes; for the delicate women upon whom the wind must not blow, to be exposed to the lust and cruelty of an enemy, and be glad to fly away naked to prolong a miserable life, which they would be glad to part with for death, were it not for fear of the exchange. For the tender mother to look upon the child of her womb, and consider, must this child in whom I have placed the hope of my age; for,
Omnis in Ascanio stat chari cura parentis;
‘He that hath been so tenderly brought up, must he fall into the rough hands of a bloody soldier, skilful to destroy? It had been well for me if God had given me dry breasts, or a miscarrying womb, rather than to bring forth children unto murderers; or if you might be safe, how could you endure to see the miseries that should come upon your people, and the destruction of your kindred.’ Thus far he. But alas! What security have any of us as to our earthly comforts from the common calamity? We may please ourselves as Baruch did, Jer. 45:4, 5. and dream of exemption, but by so much the greater will our distress be, when it shall surprise us.
2. You that are the people of God ought to be deeply affected with the spiritual miseries that threaten us in the day of God’s indignation: do you consider what the removing the candlestick out of its place is? A departing gospel, the going down of the sun upon the prophets, the loss of your sweet sabbaths and gospel feasts, and the gross darkness of popery to fill the earth: O it is hard parting with these things. It is said, 1 Sam. 7:2. when the ark was removed, ‘that all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord.’ Pity your own souls, and be deeply affected with the misery of others, the poor Christless world who are like to perish for want of vision, Prov. 29:18. In the year 1072, saith Matthew Paris, preaching was suppressed at Rome, and then letters were framed by some as coming from hell, in which the devil gives them thanks for the multitude of souls sent to him that year.
3. But especially labour to affect your hearts with the sins that have incensed God’s indignation: So did the saints in Jerusalem, Ezek. 9:4. they sighed and mourned for all the abominations committed in it. So did Lot, 2 Pet. 2:7. ‘He vexed his righteous soul from day to day.’ So did David, Psal. 119:36. ‘Rivers of water run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy law.’ O who that loves God can refrain tears, to see the God of pity, the God of tender mercies, a Father full of bowels of compassion, so incensed and provoked to indignation! Oh, it is an heart-melting consideration where there is any ingenuity. If our afflictions grieve God to the heart, as it doth, Judges 10:16. our souls should be grieved for his dishonour.
4. To conclude, get upon your hearts such a sense of God’s indignation as may quicken you to the use of preventing duties. So Amos 4:12. ‘Because I will do this, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.’ So the prophet, Zeph. 2:1, 2. ‘Gather yourselves before the decree bring forth.’ It was Moses’s honour to stand in the breach, Psal. 106:23. And Abraham’s to plead so with God, though he did not prevail.