CHAMBERS OF SAFETY IN TIMES OF DANGER.
This sermon was preached on a Fast-day at Evendale, September 19, 1739.
“Come my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: bide thyself; as it were, for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” Isaiah 26:20-21
My friends, it is a very hard matter for people to be made sensible of their sin, and danger by reason of sin, so as to flock in to Christ, before he comes and apprehends them in their sin by his judgments; and therefore before he comes this way to us, he again and again requires us to come to him, and take shelter in himself as the only hiding place. O what a mercy were it, if, when we hear of the Lord’s coming to judgment, we were fearing and flying from the wrath to come! At the voice of the Lord the birds will cry, the beasts will roar, the hinds will calve, the cedars will shake, the mountains will tremble, (Ps. 29); but behold men and women, though endued with rational souls, and hearing his threatening voice in his word, yet neither fear his voice, nor tremble at his word, nor flee from his wrath to his mercy, nor from their sin to the Saviour, to save them from sin and wrath: the most part will not hear on that side of the head. The wicked desire to be let alone in their wickedness, that they may live at peace therein; while yet “There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.” We are all, by reason of sin, under God’s anger, and yet know it not; and therefore are not seeking to go out of the way wherein God’s anger burns, nor to be friends with him; but here the merciful God is opening the door of mercy, and all the chamber-doors of the city of refuge, saying, Before the storm of wrath come on, turn in there. O may we hearken to his call?
This text is a call upon the back of a song in the former part of the chapter. After singing, the church may prepare for suffering. It is said of the disciples, after their last communion with Christ, “When they had sang an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives,” the place of suffering and trial. The songs of the temple do not exclude sufferings; but may be preparatory for them. The last part of the song here was with reference to a spiritual resurrection, pointing out also the general resurrection, (v. 19). “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise; awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs and the earth shall cast out the dead.” It seems to be a prophecy of the spiritual resurrection of sinners, and particularly of the Gentiles, which was to take place upon the back of Christ’s resurrection. “Together with my dead body shall they live;” they shall be called after Christ’s resurrection, and shall rise with him, and sit with him in heavenly places; yea, as it is in the original here, where the words together with are but a supplement. “My dead body shall they arise.” They shall become the mystical body of Christ, and rise as part of him: and this will usher in the last glorious resurrection of the saints, of whom Christ is the first fruits, (1 Cor. 15:20).
Now, how and by what means shall this spiritual resurrection be accomplished? Why, even by the call of God, and the voice of Christ in the everlasting gospel, whereof here you have one in my text, “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.”
In which words you have these four things more generally.
1. The duty to which they are called and exhorted; that is to come and enter into their chambers, and shut their doors about them, and hide themselves. These are metaphorical expressions, drawn from the practice of peoples taking shelter before a storm; and importing, that they would speedily come in to Christ for refuge, and make use of all these ways and means God hath appointed in his word; particularly, by faith and repentance, turning from sin to God, through Jesus Christ. This is the duty.
2. The extent of the duty, “For a little moment, till the indignation be overpast; importing that they are to continue in the exercise of these duties till the effects of God’s anger be over. And it is but a moment; though it be all your life-time, it is but a moment in comparison of eternity. All their afflictions here, however tedious they may seem, are but short and momentary, when compared with the happiness reserved for them. The storm may blow very hard, but it will over, and come to a period.”
3. You have the persons to whom this exhortation is given, my people; that is, not only these that are mine by profession, and common federal relation; but especially mine by special covenant-relation, by special adoption and participation of my Spirit, that know my will, and do it: for these seem here to be set in opposition to the rest of the world, that are called the inhabitants of the earth, in the next verse.
4. You have the kindly arguments and familiar way wherein this duty is pleased. The kindly way is, “Come my people.” It is not, go in thither, where I am not to be with you; but, come in here, where I am; come to me, come with me: and so, while he proposes the duty, he proposes himself to be the Leader and Helper in the duty. It is not, Go yourself alone; but, “Come; come with me from Lebanon.”
The argument and reason is, there is a storm coming; stay not without doors, lest the storm be upon you; why, “Behold the Lord cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity; the earth also shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.” Where also you may observe four things.
(1.) The certainty of the thing, it is with a Behold; “Behold, he cometh:” it shall certainly be; and you shall see God executing vengeance. It is certain, therefore behold it.
(2.) The solemnity of the thing; “The Lord cometh out of his place to punish.” It is spoken after the manner of man like one rising in fury out of his place, to reach a stroke to his enemy, as it is said, Isa. xxviii. 12, “The Lord shall rise up as in mount Pere-aim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act.” It is with a special solemnity he threatens to punish; “Behold the Lord cometh out of his place to punish.”
(3.) The justice of it: God comes to afflict and plague them that are the inhabitants of the earth, but it shall be in righteous and just punishment of their iniquity; the cry of their sins brings God out of his place, to punish them. Besides the everlasting punishment which the wicked shall undergo hereafter, there are instances of remarkable punishments of sinful nations and churches, when their sin has come to a height.
(4.) The necessity of it: “The earth shall disclose her blood, and no more cover her slain:” that is, the very earth cries for vengeance on the sinners that live upon the earth; the earth shall vomit up the blood that hath been unjustly shed, as the voice of Abel’s blood cried from the earth, (Gen. 4:10-11; See Job 20:27), “The heaven shall reveal his iniquity, and the earth shall rise up against him.” These bloody sins that seemed to have been buried in oblivion will be called to mind; and the earth itself that seemed to cover and hide them will discover and reveal them, and witness against the sinner. Omitting many doctrines take this one.
Observation: “That in shaking times, when wrath is threatened upon a sinful people, such is the care that God hath for the safety and security of his own, that he wills them to come into their chambers, and not stay without doors, to be exposed to the violence of the storm that is a-coming.”
For proof and illustration of this doctrine, we shall confirm both the branches of it.
1. That God hath a care of his own, their safety and security is plain here from his direction given to them, what they are to do, before he brings on a storm. And you may notice the respect he hath to their security, verse 1 of this chapter: “In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah. We have a strong city, salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.” See, to this purpose, in evil times he will make up his jewels, and spare them as a man spareth his son that serveth him (Mal. 3:16-17). Read also, “Behold the eyes of the Lord God are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saying that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob saith the Lord. For lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth,”(Amos 9:8-9). It is said, that “False Christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive, if it were possible, the very elect,” (Matt. 24:24): but it is not possible they can be either deceived or destroyed.
2. That God wills them to come into their chambers before the storm of wrath come on, as here and elsewhere. See Zephaniah 2:1-3; “Gather yourselves together, yea, gather together, O nation not desired, before the decree bring forth, before the day pass as the chaff, before the fierce anger of the Lord come upon you, before the day of the Lord’s anger come upon you. Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, seek righteousness, seek meekness; it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.” To this purpose you may read, “Therefore also now, saith the Lord, Turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. And rent your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God; for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil. Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him, even a meat-offering, and a drink offering unto the Lord ‘your God?” (Joel 2:12-14). See some promises also to this purpose; “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, (Ps. 27:5). Thou shalt hide me in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man; thou shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues,” (Ps. 30:20). See his name; “The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee,” (Ps. 9:9-10): and also his peoples’ practice; “I flee to thee to hide me,” (Ps. 143:9).
The method we would observe, for the farther prosecution of this subject, through divine assistance, shall be the following:—
- Enquire when may the time be said to be a threatening time so as a storm is evidently approaching?
- Why the Lord will take care of his people’s safety and security in such times?
- What chambers he wills them to come into, in order to their safety?
- Make application of the whole subject.
I. When is it evident that a storm of wrath is coming upon a land, and that the Lord is about to come out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth? To this we reply in the following particulars.
1. When all manner of sins abound, and these become national, such as these mentioned; “There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land: by swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood. Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one therein shall languish,” (Hosea 4:1-3) &c. Together with backsliding from God’s covenant, hypocrisy, and lukewarmness, (Isa. 10:5-6; 58:1-8; 29:13-14). When people are lukewarm, God will spue them out of his mouth, (Rev. 3:16). Incorrigibleness, (Deut. 28:20). When they persecute the servants of God, (2 Chron.36:16). When universal security prevails as it did over the old world, (Jer. 5:11-12). Falling from their first love, (Rev. 2:4-5). Obstinacy in sin, (Num. 14:41-44). Oppression of the poor and fatherless, (Ex. 21:22-24). Covenant-breaking, (Deut. 29:24-25). Loathing of the heavenly manna, and despising the gospel, the word of God, (Jer. 26:4-6). Scoffing at religion and good men, (Ps. 37:13-14; Jer. 18:20-21). When error abounds, (2 Thess. 2:11-12). Unbelief, the mother sin, (Ps. 78:20-33); 106:24; Pride, (2 Chron. 32:25-26). Corrupting the worship of God, (1 Kings 11:5-9). Disobedience to the call of God, upon whatever pretence, and following false light, (1 Kings 13:17-26).
2. It is evident that a storm of wrath is coming upon a land, when people’s sins are aggravated. When they are the sins of Jerusalem, of a professing people, then six angels were sent to destroy them, while only two were sent to Sodom; “And behold six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughtering weapon in his hand,” (Ezek. 9:2). When sins are committed against much light, against many checks of conscience, many beams of light, many means of grace, many calls of providence, many instances of mercy and divine goodness; and against the patience and forbearance of God, (Rom. 2:4-5).
3. When the patience of God is not only abused, but laughed at, and ridiculed by a profane age, that begin to say, as it is said, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Pet. 3:4). Where is the threatening of his coming to judgment? Then is the Lord angry, and will let men know that he is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, though he is long-suffering to us-ward; and that he is not slack concerning his threatening, but will render vengeance to his enemies, (Deut. 32:41).
4. It is an evidence that the Lord is about to punish the inhabitants of the earth, when there are few or none to stand in the gap, and keep out the wrath that is coming in; “And I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them, I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God,” (Ezek. 22:30-31). Then it is the time for the birds to fly into their nests, the storm is approaching. When good men are taken away, and there is a great scarcity of them; “The righteous perisheth, and no man layeth it to heart; and merciful men are taken away, none considering that the righteous is taken away from the evil to come,” (Isa. 58:1). It is on this account the prophet Micah cries out, “Wo is me, for the good man is perished out of the earth, and there is none upright among men,” (Micah 7:1-2). In a word sometimes the aspect of providence prophecies this to all that have eyes in their head.
II. We come now to speak a little of the respect the Lord hath to the safety and security of his own people when a storm is coming. And here we may consider, 1. The reasons why: 2. The manner how he secures them.
1st, He will do so, as appears from these reasons, following, among others.
1. Because he loves them with a peculiar love. Hence, the Psalmist, prays, that the Lord would let him see the good of his chosen, “That,” (says he) “I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, and that I may rejoice with thine inheritance,” (Ps. 106:5). The love of God is above all love; and it is a tender and a compassionate love. He loves his people, and therefore can protect them in time of danger: “As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that love and fear him,” (Ps. 103:13). “Though he visit their iniquities with rods, yet his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from them,” (Ps. 89:32).
2. He will take care of their safety, because of his relation to them; he being their God, and they his people; he their King, and they his subjects. He is indeed Lord and King of all the earth, but theirs in a special sense. He is their Shepherd, and they the sheep of his pasture: and because he is their Shepherd, they shall not want protection or provision in straits. He is their Father, and they his sons and daughters: will he not take care of his children? He is their husband; and will he not take care of his spouse? “No man hateth his own flesh, but nourisheth it, even as the Lord the Church,” (Eph. 5:29).
3. The Lord will provide for the security of his people, because of the constant intercession of Christ for them in heaven; for he is their Advocate, appearing in the presence of God for them. There are some who have been given to Christ by the Father, whom he will take care of and protect by his prayers; “I pray not for the world, but for them that thou hast given me,” (John 17:9). The preservation of the remnant is owing to Christ’s prayer and intercession. See this clear from Zechariah 1:12-13, “Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of Hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem, and on the cities of Judah, against whom thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years. And the Lord answered the angel, that talked with me, with good words, and comfortable words.”
4. The Lord will take care of his own, because of his promise engaged for their security; “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,” (Ps. 27:5); “He shall dwell on high; his place of defence shall be the munition of rocks; bread shall be given him, his water shall be sure,” (Isa. 33:16); “A man shall be a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest,” (Isa. 33:2); “And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of Hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels, and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son that serveth him,” (Mal. 3:17). He will set a mark upon them, “Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark on the foreheads of the men that sigh and cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof,” (Ezek. 9:4).
2dly. How, and in what manner will he secure them, when they seem as much exposed as the rest of the world? Do not good men fall in common calamities as well as others? True, indeed; sometimes it is so: but then it is,
1. For, their compliance with the sins of the time, and not coming into their chambers but staying without doors, when the storm comes on. When they partake of the sins of the wicked, they partake of their plagues: when they are too much conformed to the world, they suffer with the world. Good men may be careless in sanctifying the Lord, and making him their fear and dread; but when they do so, then he is for a sanctuary, (Isa. 8:13-14).
2. God sometimes suffers his own to fall in the common calamity, because there is another world, there is a rest remaining for them, a better happiness than this life.
Yet, after all, there is a vast difference betwixt the righteous falling in the common calamity and the wicked. 1. The godly man may suffer affliction, and yet have the support of divine grace, while the wicked know nothing of it. 2. The sufferings of the one purge him; the sufferings of the other poison him. 3. They are for a chastisement to the one, but for a punishment to the other. 4. Yea, death itself to the one but kills his body, but to the other it is the destruction of soul and body both.
But, as to the manner how God secures his people in common danger,
1. He sometimes secures them by death itself that they may not see the evil and farther calamity that is coming upon the earth. Thus it is said of Abijah, “He shall die: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave; because in him there is found some good thing towards the Lord God of Israel,” (1 Kings 14:13). None in Jeroboam’s family had any good thing in them but this child. Thus see what is said of good; Josiah “Behold therefore, I will gather thee unto thy fathers, and thou shalt be gathered into thy grave in peace, and thine eyes shall not see all the evil that I will bring upon this place,” (2 Kings 22:20).
2. God secures his people in the storm, by supporting and comforting them in their trouble; “Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God,” (2 Cor. 1:4). Who would not drink of that cup that is sweetened with the consolation of the Holy Ghost, sometimes making them say, This trouble is no trouble; this pain is no pain; this rack is like a bed of roses, for the sense of God’s love swallows up all?
3. In a word, he hath wonderful ways of securing them by his presence and providence. Thus Paul was secured by the merciful providence of God, when forty persons and persecutors had vowed his ruin, and that they should neither eat nor drink till they had killed him. Both scripture and ecclesiastical history are full of instances of his merciful protecting providence. Infinite Wisdom hath many ways to secure his own.
III. The third head proposed was, To show what chambers he wills them to come into, that they may escape the storm when seeming.
In general, when we speak of chambers, it supposes a house, where the chambers are. Now, as God himself, as God in Christ, is the house; “Be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me,” (Ps. 31:2): and there are as many chambers in this house as there are attributes and perfections in God, to which we are called to fly by faith: so the church of God is called a house; the church invisible a spiritual house: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house,” (1 Pet. 2:5); “a habitation of God through the Spirit,” (Eph. 2:22). And here there are chambers that belong to the house, and to which all the household of faith will betake themselves.
More particularly, I shall name four sorts of chambers we are invited to come into, that are the chambers of the house of God, as belonging to everyone that hath come into the house. “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers.”
1. There are chambers of distinction we are invited to come into, even to our own apartments, so as not to be united with or conform to the world; “Come out from among them, and be ye separate,” (2 Cor. 6:17). Come out of Babylon; “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and so partake of her plagues,” (Rev. 18:4). How are we to come out of the world? It is by not partaking with the world in their sins; “Be not ye therefore partakers with them,” (Eph. 5:7), and by being not conform to the world; “Be not conform to the world, but be ye transformed,” (Rom. 12:2). And thus we are to come out of Babylon, or out of the corrupt part of a church, by not partaking with them, or being conformed to them, but rather testifying against them in the name of Christ. This is the way how the saints in scripture have overcome their enemies; “They overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony,” (Rev. 12:11). This is the way we are to distinguish ourselves for the Lord in threatening times, by coming into the chambers of distinction, or apartment of the house, that it may appear we are on the Lord’s side. If God hath set the godly apart for himself, they ought to set themselves apart from this world.
2. There are chambers of defense we are called to come into, where we may be safe in the worst of times. The name of God is a strong tower, a strong chamber, a chamber of strength, (Prov. 18:10), into which we are to run for shelter. “They that know thy name will put their trust in thee,” (Ps. 9:10). Every perfection of God is a chamber; “Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength,” (Isa. 26:4). These are the secrets of his tabarnacle; “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most high, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty,” (Ps. 91:1). Every office of Christ is a chamber; and he invites us to come into him, and rest safely; “Come to me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” (Matt. 11:28). Every promise of the covenant is a chamber; and they are very sure, firm, and durable rooms and apartments, being all Yea and Amen in Christ. The word of the Lord endureth for ever; and we are come in there by faith in his word, and holy confidence in a promising God. By faith every believer finds a way to these chambers, and there he hides himself with pleasure, and triumphs when he finds himself brought there; “The King hath brought me into his chambers, we will rejoice and be glad in thee,” (Song 1:4).
3. There are chambers of devotion that we are called to come into; “Enter thou into thy closet, and shut thy door, and pray to thy Father which is in secret,” and seeth in secret, (Matt. 6:6). Recourse to these chambers of devotion, for seeking God in private and secret, as well as public, is always our duty, especially in times of danger, and of threatened wrath; therefore seek righteousness, seek meekness; “It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger,” (Zeph. 2:3). And thus we may hide ourselves in the evil day, when we put ourselves in God’s hand to hide us; “I flee to thee to hide me,” (Psalm 43:9). And their hearts shall live that seek him. All that call upon him in truth shall be safe, and shall be hid either under heaven, or in heaven; “The prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself,” (Prov. 22:3). O come into the chambers of devotion.
4. There are chambers of action, and business that we are called to come into. God’s house is not only a house of prayer, but a work-house, wherein we are to do something for God in our day and generation; “Why stand ye here all the day idle,” (Matt. 20:6). And in chapter 21:28, “Go work to-day in my vineyard.” God calls his people, not only to cry and pray to him, but also to action and diligence. When Israel was in great danger at the side of the Red Sea, and their enemies behind pursuing them, God says to Moses, “Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak to the people that they go forward,” (Ex. 15:15). We are not only to cry but to go forward in our work and service, in our several places and stations, as magistrates, ministers, or people, in all the duties incumbent upon us, when judgments are threatened.
IV. The fourth and last head proposed was, To make application. Is it so, That in shaking times, when wrath is threatened upon a sinful people, such is the care that God hath for the safety and security of his own, that he wills them to come into their chambers, and not stay without doors, to be exposed to the violence of the storm that is coming? Then hence see,
1. What good reason there is to apprehend that a storm of wrath is coming, and that the Lord is about to punish the inhabitants of Britain and Ireland for their iniquity. Scotland, England, and Ireland, are guilty of breaking a Solemn League and Covenant they made with God for Reformation. And our bloody sins cry from the earth for vengeance to come down from heaven: our perjury cries for vengeance; the sins of civil and ecclesiastic courts, the sins of princes, pastors, and people, cry for vengeance; our bloodshed cries for vengeance; our unbelief and despising of Christ, cry for vengeance; our long contempt of the means of grace cries for vengeance; our defection and apostasy cry for vengeance; all the catalogue of sins, formerly mentioned, cry for vengeance. Before Jerusalem was destroyed, a terrible sword hung over the temple. My friends, the sword of the Lord hangs over us in these lands. Though there want not signs in the very heavens and earth portending sad days, yet we need no other signs than what the word of God declares to us, that national sins must be punished with national desolation. Many special judgments are we under already; and the glory of the Lord is far removed from the sanctuary, and the slaughter-weapons are ready: even though France and Spain were not so ready as they seem to be, yet God, who hath many arrows in his quiver, is ready, saying, “Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe; come, get ye down, for the press is full, the fats overflow, for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision; for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision,” (Joel 2:13-14).
2. Hence see who they are that alone shall be safe and happy in the day of public calamities and common destruction, namely, the Lord’s people, who shelter themselves in the chambers of safety and protection which God calls them to come into; his poor humbled people who sigh and mourn for all the abominations done in the midst of Jerusalem.
But, leaving all other uses and inferences, I come to offer the exhortation in the text; “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.” Come, as Noah into the ark, and shut the doors about you, when God threatens a flood. Israel must keep within doors when the destroying angel is slaying the firstborn of Egypt, else the blood upon the doorposts will not secure them; so must Rehab and her family when Jericho was destroyed.
I shall offer a few directions, and then lay down some considerations out of the text.
1st, We are to tender some directions to you. Well then, Sirs, O be persuaded to come in.
1. To your chambers of distinction, and side yourselves for God. If Baal be God, then follow him; but if the Lord be God, then follow him.
2. Come into your chambers of defense. “There is no other name given under heaven, whereby to be saved, but the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. The name of the Lord is a strong tower, to which the righteous run and are safe.”
3. Come into your chambers of devotion; and, O pray, pray, pray. Let your carnal, formal, twice a day prayers, be turned into David’s seven times a day; let your hypocritical howling be turned into praying; and your praying be turned into wrestling and violence; “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.”
4. Come into your chambers of action, work, and business, in your several stations:
(1.) As magistrates, by their authority, whether supreme or subordinate. See how the king of Nineveh behaved when judgments were threatened; “For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes: and caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh, by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing; let them not feed nor think water: who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” (Jonah 3:6-9). So did Jehoshaphat; “And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast,” (2 Chron. 20:3) Magistrates should solemnly execute judgment and justice, (Jer. 5:1; 21:2); yea, they should solemnly reform themselves, and study the reformation of the land and places of their concern, so did Asa, Josiah, and Jehoshaphat.
(2.) Ministers are to do their duty; partly by preaching boldly against all manner of sin, for the convincing and humbling of sinners; “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sins,” (Isa. 58:1): partly by praying and interceding in behalf of the Lord’s people; “Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest till he establish and make Jerusalem a praise in the earth,” (Isa. 62:6-7). Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, “Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine inheritance to reproach,” (Joel 2:17); and partly by using that authority God has given them for the edification of the body of Christ.
(3.) People are to do their duty, by humbling themselves for all their own sins, and the sins of the land, sprinkling themselves by faith in the blood of the Lamb, (Ex. 12:13); ceasing to do evil, and learning to do good; and sighing and crying for all the abominations done in Jerusalem, that a mark may be set upon them. We shall now offer the following directions to all in general.
1. O! agree with thine adversary while thou art yet in the way. If God be your enemy, woe will be to you when you are in the midst of the storm, and have no friend’s house or chamber to go into. O seek to have peace made up with God, by the mediation of your friend Jesus Christ, who is the friend of sinners.
2. See that thy faith and repentance be evangelical. In summer, a house with many holes and chinks may serve a man’s turn to dwell in; but, in time of winter, men desire a house that is tenable, and will keep out the violence of the cold: so, in the days of peace, any sort of a faith serves the turn with many; but, in time of danger, distress, or affliction, saving faith will only stand instead.
3. Endeavor to get strength of judgment, and soundness in the faith of gospel truths, that in time of trial you may be able to give a reason of your faith; and that might be an antidote, if popery were coming in, against your kneeling to the mass. Poor ignorant creatures have no antidote against any error in the world.
4. Seek not only to have a strong head, but a courageous heart, to stand the trial. Your cause is good, if it be the truth; your master is great, if he be Christ. The captain hath gone before you.
5. Wean thyself from all things in the world, looking upon thy husband, thy child, thy goods and honor, as created things that must away; and set your eyes upon what is permanent: and be ready to express the love you think you have to Christ, and to express it even in the most perilous times.
6. Beware of the sins of the times, and bewail them; and seek to be affected with all the dishonors done God’s name, both in former and present times; that, being purged from the sins of the times, you may be preserved from the judgments of the times. Live a life of dependence upon Jesus: keep within your chambers: go not abroad to the world, lest the storm be upon you before you be housed again.
2dly. We shall next lay down some considerations, drawn out of the text.
Consideration 1: “That there are some, who, in a peculiar manner, are the people of God. My people, says God here, in contradistinction from the inhabitants of the earth, in the following verse.” And, indeed, when God is about to bring judgments upon the wicked, he would have his people out from amongst them. They will not hearken to his voice; but come you, who are my people. But probably you may ask, Who are his peculiar people? Why, his people are called, The sheep of his pasture. But, it may be still required, Who are the sheep of his pasture? They are described to be such who know and follow him; “My sheep hear my voice, and follow me,” (John 10:27) says Christ. They are always bleating, so to speak, after him, and crying to him, saying, “Lord, let me see thy face.” They are not content with anything in the world till they get a sight of him. They hear his voice, and regard it. But when Christ speaks to others; for example, to the drunkard, saying, will you come to me, and quit your drunkenness? No! he will not hear on this side of the head. If he say to the whoremonger, Will you come to me, and quit your whoredom? No; he rejects the proposal; he does not regard his voice; he goes on in his lusts. Such cannot be his sheep, cannot surely be his people. But when Christ speaks to his own sheep, and requires them to quit their lusts, and come to him; their answer is, “Lord, I cannot get it done; though it be long since I began to do it, yet I think I am never the nearer my purpose than I was many years ago; but, Lord, do it for me: Lord, make me come to thee; and, O make me quit all my lusts and idols.” This argues they are his people, and evidence they are his sheep. They aim at obeying his voice, in his name and strength: and the day comes wherein he will save them completely.
Consideration 2: “That his people are a false people: they have the chambers that belong to them, for their safety in days of trouble:” “Come thou into thy chambers.” Besides the protection of their God, his name and arms, where they are, as in a castle, safe and sure indeed: for, “As the mountains are about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people:” they have inward peace, and the testimony of a good conscience, which is a heartsome chamber, like a dry house in a rainy day: “And the peace of God that passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 4:7): even keep them as in a garrison, as the original word signifies.
Consideration 3: “That their safety from the storm lies in keeping within their chambers, and keeping their chamber-doors shut.” Whenever they go out of their chambers, they are exposed; for, in that case, when God strikes the wicked, they shall not be spared, any more than the rest. They must not only enter into their chambers, but abide within doors; and not only so, but shut the doors, lest the pursuer, the devil, come into them: they are to bar him out, as it were. This points out the necessity, not only of having faith, but of living by faith, and living a life of close dependence upon a God in Christ.
Consideration 4: “That the troubles and trials of the church and children of God, are but for a short time, but for a moment; yea, as it were, but a little moment, and the indignation, shall overpass: the indignation of man against them, and the indignation of God; his fatherly anger and the effects thereof: and then you shall be set at liberty.” The longest period of time here is but a moment, when compared with everlasting life. And what the worse will he be who hath suffered longer, than they who have suffered a shorter time? he that hath suffered seven years, than he that hath suffered seven days? Nay, the gold glances the finer the longer it hath been in the fire. Therefore, this should make you not at all to grudge or repine. You are not to think that it is good for you to be quit of affliction; for then you would think yourself well, and would not desire another heaven; but he orders affliction, that you may long for the place where there is no more affliction. But they who get all their pleasure here, let them not look for another heaven hereafter: for it will be told them, they have got their heaven here on earth: “Thou enjoyedst thy good things.” But happy they who bear afflictions dutifully ! It is good reason you be used as your Master was before you, yet your affliction will not last long though you get many a stormy day, yet a fair one is coming, that will make you think little of all you suffered. When once you come to the upper chambers of God’s house, it will be no grief of heart to you in heaven that you suffered so long upon earth; it will appear but a moment when the indignation is overpast.
Consideration 5: “That the fear of the Lord’s coming to punish the earth, the world, for their iniquity, is a good motive even to God’s people to fly into their chambers, and hide themselves. Do it, says the text; ‘For, behold the Lord cometh out of his place.’” Because if they fly not out of the way, they may get a part of the shower and storm. When the Lord rained down the great hailstones upon the Egyptians, all that were out of their houses were destroyed; and they that left their beasts in the field went not thither to bring them off, all was destroyed: so, if you be out of your chambers, God will not spare you; therefore this should be a motive to fly. The fear of that hell that is coming upon the wicked, both in this life and the life to come, will be a motive to his people, who, though they be secured from hell, and ought not to have the slavish fear of that, yet are to fear that God who can destroy both soul and body.
Consideration 6: “That it is a terrible thing when God comes out of his place to punish men: ‘Behold the Lord cometh out of his place.’” It is observed by one, That God’s place is the mercy-seat; there he delights to sit and dwell between the cherubims, and there he is all mercy; but, when he comes out of his place, and, as it were, leaves the mercy-seat, and betakes himself to the judgment seat, there he appears as an absolute God, a terrible God; there he takes no pleasure to be: “As I live, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked,” (Ezek. 33:11). But, when he is provoked thus to come out of his place, then he is all wrath, and nothing but a consuming fire. And, alas! what a terrible thing is it, to see God out of his place, punishing and destroying sinners, raining the first drops of hell upon them here, to presage the everlasting storm of wrath that is to blow upon them. Consider, O sinner, what case thou wilt be in, when cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone! It is a bottomless pit; and, when thou art cast into it, thou wilt constantly be falling down, and never find a bottom; and always the farther thou goest down, the more hot, and the more unable wilt thou be to endure it. And, as long as God lives, thou art to live in that case, who live and die out of Christ. Alas! “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God;” and to behold him coming out of his place!
Consideration 7: “That few, very few, will escape when the Lord arises to punish; for, he is to punish the inhabitants of the earth.” Now, who are the inhabitants of the earth? and, who are there amongst us that are not the inhabitants of the earth? What, say you! are none to escape? To this we reply: A man is said to dwell where his heart dwells, and to be, not where he is, but where he loves, and where his heart is. These are properly the inhabitants of the earth, whose hearts inhabit and dwell fixedly upon the earth; and so they only escape that have their hearts in heaven, their conversation in heaven, their burgess-ship (citizenship) in heaven, (Phil. 3:20); where these who have their conversation and burgess-ship in heaven, are set in opposition to these who mind earthly things, and whose end is destruction. They then who shall escape the punishment here threatened, are not burgesses in this world; their heart is not here below. But they who have their heart set upon earth, they will perish together with the perishing things their heart set upon: they never desire to have their hearts elsewhere than upon the world; nor are they uneasy because they want heavenly hearts. I suppose this may be a trying thing to most part here. Perhaps, when you send your heart once to heaven, you send it twenty times to the world: if you send your heart heavenward on the Sabbath-day, it may be you scarce do so till Sabbath come again; and therefore I mightily fear you be of the inhabitants of the earth here spoken of, that are to be punished. A child of God may have much of a worldly heart, but then it is a burden to him, and a sore trouble; a disease he seeks unto Jesus for healing of. However, those inhabitants of the earth here spoken of, are opposed to the people of God spoken of in the former verse: “Come, my people.”
Consideration 8: “That God hath just cause to punish when he arises out of his place to do so. He comes to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity.” Wherefore is it? For their iniquity! He will not punish without just cause, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” He will declare their faults to them, and let them see it is for iniquity; that it is for their iniquity, their own wickedness; “Thine own wickedness shall correct thee, and thy backslidings shall reprove thee,” (Jer. 2:19). Observe then, that God’s judgments are just, and sinners shall be obliged to confess it; and none shall be able to say at the day of judgment, I have got wrong, I have got injustice; for that court is not like the courts among us, whether civil or ecclesiastic, from which some will come, saying, I have got a shameful wrong done me this day. But none shall have that to say here. As there is no appeal from God’s court, so none shall have cause of complaint that injustice hath been done to them; nay, rather shall they have it to say, Ah! it was highly equitable, and a righteous sentence upon me; for how often have I been warned of this doleful day by the ministers of Christ and told of all that is now come upon me; but I thought nothing of it, and delayed and shifted the grand concern! Their conscience shall condemn them: “Every mouth shall be stopped, and all the inhabitants of the world become guilty before God,” and be forced to subscribe to the equity of their doom, and justice of the sentence. He punishes for their iniquity.
Consideration 9: “That heaven and earth will join together in condemning the wicked and ungodly, when God comes out of his place to punish them; ‘For the earth shall disclose her blood, and shall no more cover her slain.’” All the wrongs and bloody sins that have been committed on the earth, from age to age, shall be disclosed, by the earth itself bearing witness to the wickedness done in it; as it is said, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us: for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which he spake unto us; it shall be a witness to you lest ye deny your God,” (Joshua 24:17). So it may be said, the earth hath seen and heard all the wickedness done upon it: and by the recognition of conscience it shall witness and testify against the sinner. As the Lord, the omniscient God, will reveal the whole matter, even the faults that men thought were quite out of their mind, their twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years old wickedness laid as fair and fresh before them as it was the hour wherein it was committed; so the earth shall bear witness and disclose all the sins that seemed to be buried in it; for with the resurrection of the bodies of the wicked, there will be a resurrection of sins. In a manner, the earth will vomit up what it swallowed down, and behooved to bear so long in its breast. God will tell you the place where you committed your whoredom. The wall and timber of the house will bear witness against you. Take heed, drunkard, the day will come when God will make the table you sit at stand up, as it were, in your view, and bear witness against you. Take heed adulterer, God will make the bed to rise and witness against you. None but they that have a good Advocate and a good conscience shall escape. The earth will disclose the blood that hath been shed in Scotland; the bloody shambles will rise and witness against the persecutors. “The earth shall no more cover her slain, when the Lord comes out of his place.”
Consideration 10: “That the time of the Lord’s coming to judgment is not here specified; not only to show that we know not how near at hand the avenging stroke is, but also to show that the Lord is not yet away out of his place; he is not yet risen up in his wrath, but as yet upon his mercy-seat.” His judgments may be very near indeed; for much barrenness is amongst us; and he says, “Behold, the axe is laid to the root of the tree.” And there are few watery eyes for sin among us; few sighers and mourners, that have the mark of preservation when the destroying angel comes about.
But as yet the chamber-doors of mercy are open, and the Lord is saying, Come, come; “enter into your chambers;” therefore,
“Today, while it is called today, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.” O Sirs, come to Jesus for safety.
(1.) You who are without, and have never come in to these chambers, let me tell you that yet a little while, and the calamity here threatened will be upon you: sickness or sorrow may be upon you in a little; yea, death and judgment will be upon you in a little. Sword, famine, and pestilence may be hasting upon the land: many spiritual and temporal judgments are already surrounding us; and, if by these we will not be reformed, we may expect that God will punish us seven times more, and yet seven times more for our iniquities. And since Reformation amongst the generality is going back, instead of going forward, either in church or state: days of dreadful calamity, and storms, wrath, and indignation are hastening on. O then, why stay you without doors, where it is impossible you can escape the indignation of God, and the damnation of hell? O fly, fly for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before you. Christ is the city of refuge, the chamber of safety, and all the doors of the chamber are yet open to you; “Whosoever will, let him come.” Christ, as a Prophet, is an open door of hope for ignorant sinners; O come in here, and be taught. Christ, as a Priest, is an open door of hope for guilty sinners; O come in here, and get remission of sin in his blood. Christ, as a King, is an open door of hope to captive sinners, under the power and slavery of sin and Satan; O let such come in here, and share of the victory of Christ, who came in the flesh to destroy the works of the devil, and who comes in the Spirit by a preached gospel, for the same end. O come into him by faith and believing in him and, if you cannot come, pray, pray that he may draw you in; for he stands ready to take you by the hand: he says not, Go in without me; but, come in and take my help.