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And in point of 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
'Omnes seculi 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' 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. and have mercy upon Sion; for' (saith he) vour 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
Thou shalt arise, the time to fa
.in the inward of years בקרב שנים m
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" 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.
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.'
• 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
a Bonum agonem subituri estis, in quo agonothetes Deus vivus est: Christarchos Spiritus Sanctus, corona æternitatis brabium, epithetes Jesus Christus. Tertul. ad Mar. • 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 well, 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. lxxxviì. 4. lxxxix. 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. lxxiv. 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.