3. But the Israel under consideration in the text, is Israel after God, or the Spirit; hence they are called 'the Israel of God,' because they are made so of him, not by generation, nor by fancy, but by Divine power (Can 6:16). And thus was the first of this name made so, 'Thy name shall be called no more Jacob but Israel' (Gen 32:28). This then is the man concerned in the text, 'Let Israel hope in the Lord'; to wit, Israel that is so of God's making, and of God's allowance: for men are not debarred from calling themselves after this most godly name, provided they are so indeed; all that is dangerous is, when men shall think this privilege comes by carnal generation, or that their fancying of themselves to be such will bear them out in the day of judgment. Otherwise, if men become the true servants of God by Christ, they have, as I said, an allowance so to subscribe themselves. 'One shall say, I am the Lord's and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob, and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel' (Isa 44:5). But then, for the further describing of such, they must be men of circumcised and tender hearts; they must be such 'which worship God in the spirit, and that rejoice in Christ Jesus, and that have no confidence in the flesh' (Phil 3:3), for these are the Nathaniels, the Israelites indeed in whom there is no guile (John 1:47), and these are they that are intended in the exhortation, when he saith, 'Let Israel hope in the Lord.'
For these are formed for that very end, that they might hope in the Lord; yea, the word and testament are given to them for this purpose (Psa 78:5-7). These are prisoners of hope all the time they are in the state of nature, even as the whole creation is subjected under hope, all the time of its bondage, by the sin and villainy of man; and unto them it shall be said, in the dispensation of the fullness of time, 'Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope' (Zech 9:12); as certainly as that which is called the creature itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom 8:18-21). Only here, as I said before, let all men have a care in this thing: this is the pinnacle, the point; he that is right here, is right in all that is necessary to salvation; but he that misses here, can by no means be right anywhere to his soul's advantage in the other world.
[Improvement.] If I should a little improve the text where this title is first given to man, and show the posture he was in when it was said to him, 'Thy name shall be called Israel'; and should also debate upon the cause or ground of that, 'An Israelite indeed,' thou mightest not repent it who shall read it; and therefore a few words to each.
1. When Jacob received the name of Israel, he was found wrestling with the angel; yea, and so resolved a wrestler was he, that he purposed, now he had begun, not to give out without a blessing, 'I will not let thee go,' said he, 'except thou bless me' (Gen 32:26). Discouragements he had while he wrestled with him, to have left off, before he obtained his desire; for the angel bid him leave off; 'let me go,' said he. He had wrestled all night, and had not prevailed; and now the day brake upon him, and consequently his discouragement was like to be the greater, for that now the majesty and terribleness of him with whom he wrestled would be seen more apparently; but this did not discourage him: besides, he lost the use of a limb as he wrestled with him; yet all would not put this Israel out. Pray he did, and pray he would, and nothing should make him leave off prayer, until he had obtained, and therefore he was called 'Israel.' 'For as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed' (Gen 32:28,30). A wrestling spirit of prayer is a demonstration of an Israel of God; this Jacob had, this he made use of, and by this he obtained the name of 'Israel.' A wrestling spirit of prayer in straits, difficulties, and distresses; a wrestling spirit of prayer when alone in private, in the night, when none eye seeth but God's then to be at it, then to lay hold of God, then to wrestle, to hold fast, and not to give over until the blessing is obtained, is a sign of one that is an Israel of God.
2. 'Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile' (John 1:47). This was the testimony of the Lord Jesus concerning Nathaniel (v 46). Nathaniel was persuaded by Philip to come to Jesus, and as he was coming, Jesus saith to the rest of the disciples concerning him, 'Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.' Then said Nathaniel to Jesus, 'Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee' (v 15). Nathaniel, as Jacob, was at prayer, at prayer alone under the fig-tree, wrestling in prayer, for what no man can certainly tell, but probably for the Messias, or for the revelation of him: for the seeing Jews were convinced that the time of the promise was out; and all men were in expectation concerning John, whether he might not be he (Luke 3:15). But Nathaniel was under the fig-tree, alone with God, to inquire of him, and that with great earnestness and sincerity; else the Lord Jesus would not thus have excused him of hypocrisy, and justified his action as he did, concluding from what he did there that he was a true son of Jacob; and ought, as he, to have his name changed from what his parents gave him, to this given him of Christ, 'An Israelite indeed.' Wherefore, from both these places, it is apparent, that a wrestling spirit of prayer, in private, is one of the best signs that this or that man or woman is of Israel; and, consequently, such who are within the compass of the exhortation here, saying, 'Let Israel hope in the Lord.' I say, it is this wrestling spirit of prayer with God alone; for as for that of public prayer, though I will not condemn it, it gives not ground for this character, notwithstanding all the flourishes and excellencies that may therein appear. I am not insensible what pride, what hypocrisy, what pretences, what self-seekings of commendations and applause, may be countenanced by those concerned in, or that make public prayers; and how little thought or savour of God may be in all so said; but this closet, night, or alone prayer, is of another stamp, and attended, at least so I judge, with that sense, those desires, that simplicity, and those strugglings, wherewith that in public is not. Nay, I think verily a man cannot addict himself to these most solemn retirements, without some of Jacob's and Nathaniel's sense and sincerity, wrestlings and restlessness for mercy; wherefore, laying aside all other, I shall abide by this, That the man that is as I have here described, is not an Israelite of the flesh, nor one so only in his fancy or imagination, but one made so of God; one that is called a child of promise, and one to whom this exhortation doth belong: 'Let Israel hope in the Lord'; to wit, they that serve God by prayer day and night (Luke 2:37; Acts 26:5-7). These, I say, are Israel, the Israel of God, and let these hope in the Lord, from now, 'henceforth, and for ever' (Psa 131:3).
[SECOND. The manner by which the exhortation is expressed.]
Having thus briefly touched upon those three things that are contained in the matter of the exhortation, I now come to speak a word to the manner of praises by which the exhortation is presented to us, 'Let Israel hope'; he doth not say, Israel hath hoped; Israel did hope; or Israel can hope, but 'let Israel hope in the Lord.' 'Let' is a word very copious, and sometimes signifies this, and sometimes that, even according as the nature or reason of the thing under debate, or to be expressed, will with truth and advantage bear. Let him hope,
First. Sometimes 'let' is equivalent to a command; 'Let every soul be subject to the higher powers,' this is a command. 'Let all things be done decently and in order,' this also is a command. So here, 'Let Israel hope,' this also is a command; and so enjoins a duty upon Israel; for why, since they seek for mercy, should they not have it; now a command lays a very strong obligation upon a man to do this or another duty. 'He commandeth all men every where to repent'; but Israel only to hope in his mercy. Now take the exhortation and convert it into a commandment, and it showeth us, (1.) in what good earnest God offers his mercy to his Israel; he commands them to hope in him, as he is and will be so to them. (2.) It supposes an impediment in Israel, as to the faculty of receiving or hoping in God for mercy; we that would have God be merciful, we that cry and pray to him to show us mercy, have yet that weakness and impediment in our faith, which greatly hindereth us from a steadfast hoping in the Lord for mercy. (3.) It suggesteth also, that Israel SINS, if he hopeth not in God, God would not that all should attempt to hope, because they have no faith; for he is for having of them first believe, knowing that it is in vain to think of hoping, until they have believed; but Israel has believed, and therefore God has commanded them to hope, and they sin if they obey him not in this, as in all other duties. He commands thee, I say, since thou hast believed in his Son, to hope, that is, to expect to see his face in the next world with joy and comfort; this is hoping, this is thy duty, this God commands thee.
Second. As this word 'let' is sometimes equivalent to a command, so it is expressed sometimes also to show a grant, leave, or license, to do a thing: such are these that follow, 'Let us come boldly to the throne of grace' (Heb 4:6). 'Let us draw near with a true heart' (ch 10). 'Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering' (vv 22,23). Here also this manner of expressing the thing may be taken in the same sense, to wit, to show that Israel has a grant, a leave, a license, to trust in the Lord. And O! what a privilege is this, but who believes it? And yet as truly as God has granted to Jacob, to Israel, repentance unto life, and by that means has made him fly for refuge, to lay hold of Christ set before him as a justifier; so has he granted him leave and license to trust in him for ever, and to hope for his favour in the next world.
And if you take the word in this sense, to wit, for a grant, leave, or license, to hope in God; then (1.) This shows how liberal God is of himself, and things, to Israel. Let Israel hope in me, trust to me, expect good things at my hand; I give him leave and license to do it. Let him live in a full expectation of being with me, and with my Son in glory; I give him leave to do so; he has license from me to do so. (2.) Understand the word thus, and it shows us with what boldness and confidence God would have us hope in him. They that have leave and license to do a thing, may do it with confidence and boldness, without misgivings and reluctance of mind; this is our privilege; we may live in a full assurance of hope unto the end, we may hope perfectly to the end, we have leave, license, and a grant to do it. (3.) Understand the word thus, and it also shows you how muddy, how dark those of Israel are, and how little they are acquainted with the goodness of their God, who stand shrinking at his door like beggars, and dare not in a godly sort be bold, with his mercy. Wherefore standest thou thus with thy Ifs and thy O-buts, O thou poor benighted Israelite. Wherefore puttest thou thy hand in thy bosom, as being afraid to touch the hem of the garment of the Lord? Thou hast a leave, a grant, a license, to hope for good to come, thy Lord himself has given it to thee, saying, 'LET Israel hope in the Lord.'
Third. This word 'let' is also sometimes used by way of rebuke and snub; 'Let her alone, for her soul is vexed' (2 Kings 4:27). 'Let her alone, why trouble ye her?' (Mark 14:6). 'Refrain from these men, and let them alone' (Acts 5:38). And it may also so be taken here. But if so, then it implies, that God in this exhortation rebuketh those evil instruments, those fallen angels, with all others that attempt to hinder us in the exercise of this duty. As Boaz said to his servants, when Ruth was to glean in his field, 'let her glean even among the sheaves, and reproach her not' (Ruth 2:15,16). We have indeed those that continually endeavour to hinder us of living in the full assurance of hope, as to being with God and with Christ in glory: but here is a rebuke for such, 'Let Israel hope in the Lord.' And it shows us, 1. That what suggestions come from Satan to make us that are Israelites to doubt, come not for that end, by virtue of any commission that he hath from God. God has rebuked him in the text, and you may see it also elsewhere. These temptations, therefore, are rather forged of malice, and of despite to our faith and hope; and so should be accounted by us (Zech 1:1-3). 2. This shows us also that we should take heed of crediting of that which comes unto us to hinder our hope in the Lord; lest we take part with Satan, while God rebuketh him, and countenanceth that which fights against the grace of God in us. 3. It shows us also that as faith, so hope, cannot be maintained with great difficulty, and that we should endeavour to maintain it, and hope through every difficulty.
Fourth. This word 'LET' is sometimes used by way of request or intreaty. 'I pray thee, LET Tamar my sister come' (2 Sam 13:6). 'LET it be granted to the Jews to do,' &c. (Esth 9:13). And if it be so to be taken here, or if in the best sense this interpretation of it may here be admitted, the consideration thereof is amazing; for then it is all one as if God by the mouth of his servant, the penman of this psalm, did intreat us to hope in him. And why this may not be implied here, as well as expressed elsewhere, I know not. 'God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God' (2 Cor 5:20). Why should God beseech us to reconcile to him, but that we might hope in him? and if it be thus taken here, it shows, 1. The great condescension of God, in that he doth not only hold out to us the advantages of hoping in God, but desires that we should hope, that we might indeed be partakers of those advantages. 2. It teaches us also humility, and that always in the acts of faith and hope we should mix blushing, and shame, with our joy and rejoicing. Kiss the ground, sinner; put 'thy mouth in the dust, if so be there may be hope' (Lam 3:29).
Fifth. And lastly, This word is used sometimes by way of caution. 'Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall' (1 Cor 10:12). 'Let us therefore fear lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it' (Heb 4:1), and if it should be so taken here, then, 1. This shows us the evil of despair, and that we at times are incident to it; our daily weaknesses, our fresh guilt, our often decays, our aptness to forget the goodness of God, are direct tendencies unto this evil, of which we should be aware; for it robs God of his glory, and us of our comfort, and gratifies none but the devil and unbelief. 2. It showeth us that despair is a fall, a falling down from our liberty; our liberty is to hope; it is our portion from God; for he hath said that himself will be the hope of his people. To do the contrary, is therefore a falling from God, a departing from God through an evil heart of unbelief. It is the greatest folly in the world for an Israelite to despair; 'Why sayest thou, O Jacob, and speakest, O Israel. My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God? Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon,' that is, hope in, 'the Lord, shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint' (Isa 40:27-31).
[THIRD. Inferences from the exhortation.]
Now we come to those inferences that do naturally flow from this exhortation, and they are in number four.
First. That hope and the exercise of it, is as necessary in its place, as faith, and the exercise of it. All will grant that there is need of a daily exercise of faith; and we are bid to hope unto the end, because hope is the grace that relieveth the soul when dark and weary. Hope is as the bottle to the faint and sinking spirit. Hope calls upon the soul not to forget how far it is arrived in its progress towards heaven. Hope will point and show it the gate afar off; and therefore it is called the hope of salvation. Hope exerciseth itself upon God.
1. By those mistakes that the soul hath formerly been guilty of, with reference to the judgment that it hath made of God, and of his dealings with it. And this is an excellent virtue. 'I said,' once says the church, that 'my hope is perished from the Lord,' but I was deceived; 'this I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope'; that is, why, if I give way to such distrusting thoughts, may I not be wrong again? (Lam 3:18-21). Therefore will I hope! This virtue is that which belongs to this grace only; for this and this only is it that can turn unbelief and doubts to advantage. 'I said in my haste,' said David, 'I am cut off from before thine eyes'; nevertheless I was mistaken; 'thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee' (Psa 31:22). And what use doth he make of this? Why, an exhortation to all good men to hope, and to take advantage to hope from the same mistakes. I think I am cast off from God, says the soul; so thou thoughtest afore, says memory, but thou wast mistaken then, and why not the like again? and therefore will I hope. When I had concluded that God would never come near me more, yet after that he came to me again, and as I was then, so I am now; therefore will I hope.
2. True hope, in the right exercise of it upon God, makes no stick at weakness or darkness; but rather worketh up the soul to some stay, by these. Thus Abraham's hope wrought by his weakness (Rom 4). And so Paul, when I am weak, then I am strong; I will most gladly therefore rejoice in mine infirmities (2 Cor 12). But this cannot be done where there is no hope, nor but by hope: for it is hope, and the exercise of it, that can say, Now I expect that God should bring good out of all this. And as for the dark, it is its element to act in that: 'But hope that is seen is not hope' (Rom 8:24). But we must hope for that we see not. So David, 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul? hope thou in God.' Christians have no reason to mistrust the goodness of God, because of their weakness, &c. 'I had fainted unless I had believed to see' (Psa 27:13). By believing there, he means hoping to see, as the exhortation drawn from thence doth import.
3. Hope will make use of our calling, to support the soul, and to help it, by that, to exercise itself in a way of expectation of good from God. Hence the apostle prays for the Ephesians, that they may be made to see what is 'the hope of their calling'; that is, what good that is which by their calling they have ground to hope is laid up in heaven, and to be brought unto them at the appearance of Jesus Christ (Eph 1:17,18). For thus the soul by this grace of hope will reason about this matter: God has called me; surely it is to a feast. God has called me to the fellowship of his Son, surely it is that I may be with him in the next world. God has given me the spirit of faith and prayer; surely it is that I might hope for what I believe is, and wait for what I pray for. God his given me some tastes already; surely it is to encourage me to hope that he purposeth to bring me into the rich fruition of the whole.
4. Hope will exercise itself upon God by those breakings wherewith he breaketh his people for their sins. 'The valley of Achor' must be given 'for a door of hope' (Hosea 2:15). The valley of Achor; what is that? Why, the place where Achan was stoned for his wickedness, and the place where all Israel was afflicted for the same (Josh 7). I say, hope can gather by this, that God has a love to the soul; for when God hateth a man he chastiseth him not for his trespasses. 'If ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons' (Heb 12:8). Hence Moses tells Israel, that when the hand of God was upon them for their sins, they should consider in their heart, 'that as a man chasteneth his son, so the Lord thy God chasteneth thee' (Deut 8:5). And why thus consider, but that a door might be opened for hope to exercise itself upon God by this? This is that also that is intended in Paul to the Corinthians, 'When we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world' (1 Cor 11:32). Is not here a door of hope? And why a door of hope, but that by it, God's people, when afflicted, should go out by it from despair by hope?
[Second.] But it is to be inferred, secondly, That the exercise of hope upon God is very delightful to him: else he would not have commanded and granted us a liberty to hope, and have snibbed those that would hinder. 'Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him; upon them that hope in his mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine' (Psa 33:18,19). That God is much delighted in the exercise of this grace, is evident, because of the preparation that he has made for this grace, wherewith to exercise itself. 'For whatsoever things were writ aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope' (Rom 15:4). Mark, the whole history of the Bible, with the relation of the wonderful works of God with his people from the beginning of the world, are written for this very purpose, that we, by considering and comparing, by patience and comfort of them, might have hope. The Bible is the scaffold or stage that God has builded for hope to play his part upon in this world. It is therefore a thing very delightful to God to see hope rightly given its colour before him; hence he is said, 'to laugh at the trial of the innocent' (Job 9:23). Why at his trial? Because his trial puts him upon the exercise of hope: for then indeed there is work for hope, when trials are sharp upon us. But why is God so delighted in the exercise of this grace of hope?
1. Because hope is a head-grace and governing. There are several lusts in the soul that cannot be mastered, if hope be not in exercise; especially if the soul be in great and sore trials. There is peevishness and impatience, there is fear and despair, there is doubting and misconstruing of God's present hand; and all these become masters, if hope be not stirring; nor can any grace besides put a stop to their tumultuous raging in the soul. But now hope in God makes them all hush, takes away the occasion of their working, and lays the soul at the foot of God. 'Surely,' saith the Psalmist, 'I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother, my soul is even as a weaned child.' But how came he to bring his soul into so good a temper? Why, that is gathered by the exhortation following, 'Let Israel hope in the Lord from henceforth and for ever' (Psa 131:2,3). It was by hoping in the Lord that he quieted his soul, and all its unruly sinful passions.
2. As hope quasheth and quieteth sinful passions, so it putteth into order some graces that cannot be put into order without it: as patience, meekness, silence, and long-suffering, and the like. These are all in a day of trial out of place, order, and exercise, where hope forbeareth to work. I never saw a distrusting man, a patient man, a quiet man, a silent man, and a meek man, under the hand of God, except he was 'dead in sin' at the time. But we are not now talking of such. But now let a man hope in the Lord, and he presently concludes this affliction is for my good, a sign God loves me, and that which will work out for me a far more and exceeding and eternal weight of glory; and so it puts the graces of the soul into order (Luke 21:19). Wherefore patience, by which a man is bid to possess or keep his soul under the cross, is called 'the patience of hope' (1 Thess 1:3). So in another place, when he would have the church patient in tribulation, and continue instant in prayer, he bids them 'rejoice in hope,' knowing that the other could not be done without it (Rom 12:12).
3. God takes much delight in the exercise of hope, because it construeth all God's dispensations, at present, towards it, for the best: 'When he hath tried me I shall come forth like gold' (Job 23:10). This is the language of hope. God, saith the soul, is doing of me good, making of me better, refining of my inward man. Take a professor that is without hope, and either he suffereth affliction of pride and ostentation, or else he picks a quarrel with God and throws up all. For he thinks that God is about to undo him; but hope construeth all to the best, and admits no such unruly passions to carry the man away.
4. Therefore hope makes the man, be the trials what they will, to keep still close to the way and path of God. 'My foot,' said hoping Job, 'hath held his steps, his way have I kept and not declined, neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips' (Job 23:11,12). And again, 'Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way: though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death' (Psa 44:18,19). But how came they thus patiently to endure? Why, they by hope put patience and prayer into exercise. They knew that their God was as it were but asleep, and that in his time he would arise for their help; and when he did arise he would certainly deliver. Thus is this psalm applied by Paul (Rom 8).
[Third.] There is also inferred from this exhortation, that the hope of those that are not Israelites is not esteemed of God. 'Let Israel hope.' The words are exclusive, shutting out the rest. He doth not say, Let Amalek hope, let Babylon, or the Babylonians hope; but even in and by this exhortation shutteth out both the rest and their hope from his acceptance. This being concluded, it follows, that some may hope and not be the better for their hope. 'The hypocrite's hope shall perish' (Job 8:13); their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost (11:20). 'For what is the hope of the hypocrite?' (27:8). Again, 'The hope of unjust men perisheth' (Prov 11:7). There is a hope that perisheth, both it and he that hoped with it together. The reasons are,
1. Because it floweth not from faith and experience, but rather from conceit and presumption. Hope, as I have told you, if it be right, cometh of faith, and is brought forth by experience: but the hope now under consideration is alone, and has no right original, and therefore not regarded. It is not the hope of God, but the hope of man; that is, it is not the hope of God's working, but the hope that standeth in natural abilities. 'Thou washest away the things which grow out of the dust of the earth, and thou destroyest the hope of man' (Job 14:19). Whatsoever in religious matters is but of a carnal and earthly existence, must be washed away, when the overflowing scourge shall at the end pass over the world (Isa 28:17-19).
2. Because the Lord's mercy is not the object of it. The worldly man makes gold, or an arm of flesh his hope; that is, the object of it, and so he despiseth God (Job 31:24; Jer 3:23). Or if he be a religious hypocrite, his hope terminates in his own doings: he trusteth, or hopeth, in himself, that he is righteous (Luke 18:9). All these things are abhorred of God, nor can he, with honour to his name, or in a compliance with his own eternal designs, give any countenance to such a hope as this.
3. This hope has no good effect on the heart and mind of him that hath it. It purifieth not the soul, it only holds fast a lie, and keeps a man in a circuit, at an infinite distance from waiting upon God.
4. This hope busieth all the powers of the soul about things that are of the world, or about those false objects on which it is pitched; even as the spider diligently worketh in her web—unto which also this hope is compared—in vain. This hope will bring that man that has it, and exercises it, to heaven, when leviathan is pulled out of the sea with a hook; or when his jaw is bored through with a thorn: but as he that thinks to do this, hopeth in vain; so, even so, will the hope of the other be as unsuccessful; 'So are the paths of all that forget God, and the hypocrite's hope shall perish; whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web. He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand; he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure' (Job 8:13-15, 41:1-9). This is the hope that is not esteemed of God, nor the persons that have it, preferred by him a whit before their own dung (Job 20:4-8).
[Fourth.] There is also inferred from these words, That Israel himself is subject to swerve in his soul about the object of hope. For this text is to him as a command and grant, so an instruction by which he is to be informed, how and upon whom to set his hope. That Israel is apt to swerve as to the object of his hope, is evident, for that so much ado is made by the prophets to keep him upon his God; in that so many laws and statutes are made to direct him to set his hope in God: and also by his own confession (Psa 78:7; Jer 3:23-25; Lam 4:17). The fears also and the murmurings and the faintings that attend the godly in this life, do put the truth of this inference out of doubt. It is true, the apostle said, that he had the sentence of death in himself, that he might not trust or hope in himself, but in God that raiseth the dead. But this was an high pitch; Israel is not always here; there are many things that hinder. (1.) The imperfection of our graces. There is no grace perfected in the godly. Now it is incident to things defective, to be wanting in their course. Faith is not perfect; and hence the sensible Christian feels what follows: love is not perfect, and we see what follows; and so of hope and every other grace; their imperfection makes them stagger. 2. Israel is not yet beyond temptations. There is a deal to attend him with temptations, and he has a soul so disabled by sin, that at all times he cannot fix on God that made him, but is apt to be turned aside to lying vanities: the very thing that Jonah was ensnared with (2:8).
3. The promising helps that seem to be in other things, are great hindrances to a steady fixing, by hope, on God; there are good frames of heart, enlargements in duties, with other the like, that have through the darkness, and the legality of our spirits been great hindrances to Israel. Not that their natural tendency is to turn us aside; but our corrupt reason getting the upper hand, and bearing the stroke in judgment, converts our minds and consciences to the making of wrong conclusions upon them. 4. Besides, as the mind and conscience, by reason, is oft deluded to draw these wrong conclusions upon our good frames of heart, to the removing of our hope from the right object unto them; so by like reason, are we turned by unwholesome doctrines, and a carnal understanding of the Word, to the very same thing: 'cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water,' Israel, even God's people, are apt to make unto themselves to the forsaking of their God (Jer 2:11-13).
Thus have I gone through the first part of the text, which consists of an exhortation to hope in the Lord. And have showed you, 1. The matter contained therein. 2. Something of the reason of the manner of the phrase. 3. And have drawn, as you see, some inferences from it.
[SECOND. THE REASON URGED TO ENFORCE THE EXHORTATION.]
I now come to the second part of the text, which is a reason urged to enforce the exhortation, 'Let Israel hope in the Lord.' Why? 'For with the Lord there is mercy.' There is the reason, let him hope, for there is mercy; let him hope in the Lord, for with him there is mercy. The reason is full and suitable. For what is the ground of despair, but a conceit that sin has shut the soul out of all interest in happiness? and what is the reason of that, but a persuasion that there is no help for him in God? Besides, could God do all but show mercy, yet the belief of that ability would not be a reason sufficient to encourage the soul to hope in God. For the block SIN, which cannot be removed but by mercy, still lies in the way. The reason therefore is full and suitable, having naturally an enforcement in it, to the exhortation. And,
First. To touch upon the reason in a way general, and then [Second] to come to it more particularly. 'Let Israel hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy,' mercy to be bestowed, mercy designed to be bestowed.
1. Mercy to be bestowed. This must be the meaning. What if a man has never so much gold or silver, or food, or raiment: yet if he has none to communicate, what is the distressed, or those in want, the better? What if there be mercy with God, yet if he has none to bestow, what force is there in the exhortation, or what shall Israel, if he hopeth, be the better. But God has mercy to bestow, to give. 'He saith on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David' (Acts 13:34). And again, 'The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus' (2 Tim 1:16). Now then, here lies the encouragement. The Lord has mercy to give; he has not given away ALL his mercy; his mercy is not clean gone for ever (Psa 77:8). He has mercy yet to give away, yet to bestow upon his Israel. 'Let Israel hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy.'
2. As there is with God mercy to be bestowed, so there is mercy designed to be bestowed or given to Israel. Some men lay by what they mean to give away, and put that in a bag by itself, saying, This I design to give away, this I purpose to bestow upon the poor. Thus God; he designeth mercy for his people (Dan 9:4). Hence the mercy that God's Israel are said to be partakers of, is a mercy kept for them. And 'thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor,' and laid up for them (Psa 68:10). This is excellent and is true, 'Let Israel hope in the Lord, for there is with him mercy,' kept, prepared, and laid up for them! (Psa 61:7). When God designs the bestowing of mercy, we may well hope to be partakers (Psa 31:19). The poor will go merrily to weddings and funerals, and hope for an alms all the way they go, when they come to understand that there is so much kept, prepared, and laid up for them by the bridegroom, &c. But 'He keepeth mercy for thousands!' (Exo 34:7).
3. As God has mercies to bestow, and as he has designed to bestow them, so those mercies are no fragments or the leavings of others: but mercies that are full and complete to do for thee, what thou wantest, wouldst have, or canst desire. As I may so say, God has his bags that were never yet untied, never yet broken up, but laid by him through a thousand generations, for those that he commands to hope in his mercy. As Samuel kept the shoulder for Saul, and as God brake up that decreed place for the sea, so hath he set apart, and will break up his mercy for his people: mercy and grace that he gave us before we had a being, is the mercy designed for Israel (2 Tim 1:9). Whole mercies are allotted to us; however, mercy sufficient (1 Sam 9:23-24; Job 38:10). But to be a little more distinct.
[Second, particularly.] I find that the goodness of God to his people is diversely expressed in his word: sometimes by the word grace; sometimes by the word love; and sometimes by the word mercy; even as our badness against him is called iniquity, transgression, and sin. When it is expressed by that word 'grace,' then it is to show that what he doth is of his princely will, his royal bounty, and sovereign pleasure. When it is expressed by that word 'love,' then it is to show us that his affection was and is in what he doth, and that he doth what he doth for us, with complacency and delight. But when it is set forth to us under the notion of 'mercy,' then it bespeaks us to be in a state both wretched and miserable, and that his bowels and compassions yearn over us in this our fearful plight. Now, the Holy Ghost chooseth—as it should seem—in this place, to present us with that goodness that is in God's heart towards us, rather under the term of mercy; for that, as I said before, it so presenteth us with our misery, and his pity and compassion; and because it best pleaseth us when we apprehend God in Christ as one that has the love of compassion and pity for us. Hence we are often presented with God's goodness to us to cause us to hope, under the name of pity and compassion. 'In his pity he redeemed them,' and 'like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him' (Isa 63:9; Psa 103:13). 'The Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy,' he also is gracious and 'full of compassion' (James 5:11; Psa 78:38). 'Thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion,' and thy 'compassions fail not' (Psa 86:15, 111:4; Lam 3:22).
The words being thus briefly touched upon, I shall come to treat of two things. FIRST, more distinctly, I shall show you what kind of mercy is with the Lord, as a reason to encourage Israel to hope. SECONDLY, And then shall show what is to be inferred from this reason, 'Let Israel hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is mercy.'
[FIRST, The kind of mercy that Israel is to hope for.]
First, 'With him there is TENDER MERCY, and therefore let Israel hope' (Psa 25:6, 103:4, 119:156). Tender mercy is mercy in mercy, and that which Israel of old had in high estimation, cried much for, and chose that God would deal with their souls by that. 'Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me,' said David, and 'according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions' (Psa 40:11, 51:1). And again, 'Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live' (Psa 119:77). Now of this sort of mercies God has a great many, a multitude to bestow upon his people. And they are thus mentioned by the word, to cause us to hope in him. And is not this alluring, is not this enticing to the Israel of God to hope, when the object of their hope is a God 'very pitiful, and of tender mercy?' Yea, a God whose tender mercies are great and many. There are two things that this word tender mercy importeth. 1. The first is, that sin will put a believer, if he giveth way thereto, into a very miserable condition. 2. That God would have them hope, that though sin may have brought any of them into this condition, the Lord will restore them with much pity and compassion. 'Let Israel hope in the Lord,' for with the Lord there is mercy, tender mercy.
1. For the first of these, That sin will put a believer, if he gives way thereto, into a very miserable condition, and that upon a double account. (1.) For that it will bring him into fears of damnation. (2.) In that it will make his soul to be much pained under those fears.
We will wave the first, and come to the second of these. The pains that guilt will make, when it wounds the conscience, none knows but those to whom sin is applied by the Spirit of God, in the law. Yet all may read of it in the experience of the godly; where this pain is compared to a wound in the flesh, to fire in the bones, to the putting of bones out of joint, and the breaking of them asunder (Psa 38:3,5,7,8, 102:3, 22:14; Lam 1:13, 3:4). He that knows what wounds and broken bones are, knows them to be painful things. And he that knows what misery sin will bring the soul into with its guilt, will conclude the one comes no whit short of the other. But now he that hath these wounds, and also these broken bones, the very thoughts of a man that can cure, and of a bonesetter, will make him afraid, yea, quake for fear; especially if he knows that though he has skill, he has a hard heart, and fingers that are like iron. He that handleth a wound, had need have fingers like feathers or down; to be sure the patient wisheth they were! Tenderness is a thing of great worth to such; and such men are much inquired after by such; yea, their tenderness is an invitation to such to seek after them. And the thing is true in spirituals (Isa 42:3). Wherefore David cried, as I said before, 'Have mercy upon me, O God! according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions' (Psa 51:1). O handle me tenderly, Lord, handle me tenderly, cried David. O cure me, I beseech thee, and do it with thy tender mercy.
Now, answerable to this, the Lord is set forth to Israel, as one with whom is mercy, consequently tender mercy. Let Israel hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is tender mercy. God therefore would have the wounded and bruised, and those whose pains may be compared to the pains and pangs of broken bones, to hope that he will restore them with much pity and compassion, or as you have it before, in pity and tender mercy. See how he promiseth to do it by the prophet. 'A bruised reed shall he not break; and the smoking flax shall he not quench' (Isa 42:3). See how tender he is in the action. 'When he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him' (Luke 10:33-35). Every circumstance is full of tenderness and compassion. See also how angry he maketh himself with those of his servants that handle the wounded or diseased without this tenderness; and how he catcheth them out of their hand, with a purpose to deal more gently with them himself. 'The diseased,' saith he, 'have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick; neither have ye bound up that which was broken; neither have ye brought again that which was driven away; neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them; therefore, ye shepherds, hear the words of the Lord: I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick' (Eze 34:4,7,15,16). Here is encouragement to hope, even according to the reason urged: 'Let Israel hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy,' tender mercy. Second. As with him is mercy tender, so there is with him mercy that is GREAT, for with him is great mercy. 'The Lord is long-suffering, and of great mercy' (Num 14:18). When tenderness accompanies want of skill, the defect is great; but when tenderness and great skill meet together, such a surgeon is a brave accomplished man. Besides, some are more plagued with the sense of the greatness of their sins than others are; the devil having placed or fixed the great sting there. These are driven by the greatness of sin into despairing thoughts, hotter than fire: these have the greatness of their sin betwixt God and them, like a great mountain; yea, they are like a cloud that darkeneth the sun and air. This man stands under Cain's gibbet, and has the halter of Judas, to his own thinking, fastened about his neck.
And now, cries, he, 'GREAT mercy or NO mercy; for little mercy will do me no good'; such a poor creature thus expostulateth the case with God, 'Wilt thou show wonders to the dead? Shall the dead arise and praise thee?' (Psa 88:10). Lord, I have destroyed myself, can I live? My sins are more than the sands, can I live? Lord, every one of them are sins of the first rate, of the biggest size, of the blackest line, can I live? I never read that expression but once in all the whole Bible; 'For thy name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great' (Psa 25:11). Not that there was but one man in Israel that had committed great iniquities, but because men that have so done, have rather inclined to despair, than to an argument so against the wind. If he had said, Pardon, for they are little, his reason had carried reason in it; but when he saith, Pardon, for they are great, he seems to stand like a man alone. This is the common language, 'if our transgressions be upon us, and we pine away in them, How should we then live?' (Eze 33:10). Or thus, 'Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost, and we are cut off for our parts' (Eze 37:11). Wherefore to such as these, good wishes, tender fingers, and compassion, without GREAT mercy, can do nothing. But behold, O thou man of Israel, thou talkest of great sins; answerable to this, the Scripture speaks of great mercy; and thy great sins are but the sins of a man, but these great mercies are the mercies of a God; yea, and thou art exhorted, even because there is mercy with him, therefore to trust thy soul with him, 'let Israel trust in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy,' great mercy. This therefore is a truth of singular consolation, that mercy is with the Lord, that tender mercy is with him, that great mercy is with him, both TENDER and GREAT. What would man have more? But,
Third. As great mercy is with the Lord to encourage us to hope, so this mercy that is great, is RICH. 'God is rich in mercy' (Eph 2:4). There is riches of goodness and riches of grace with him (Rom 2:4; Eph 1:7). Things may be great in quantity, and little of value; but the mercy of God is not so. We use to prize small things when great worth is in them; even a diamond as little as a pea, is preferred before a pebble, though as big as a camel. Why, here is rich mercy, sinner; here is mercy that is rich and full of virtue! a drop of it will cure a kingdom. 'Ah! but how much is there of it?' says the sinner. O, abundance, abundance! for so saith the text—'Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord, for his' rich 'mercies are great' (2 Sam 24:14). Some things are so rich, and of such virtue, that if they do but touch a man, if they do but come nigh a man, if a man doth but look upon them, they have a present operation upon him; but the very mentioning of mercy, yea, a very thought of it, has sometimes had that virtue in it as to cure a sin-sick soul. Here is virtuous mercy!
Indeed mercy, the best of mercies, are little worth to a self-righteous man, or a sinner fast asleep; we must not, therefore, make our esteems of mercy according to the judgment of the secure and heedless man, but according to the verdict of the Word; nay, though the awakened sinner, he that roareth for mercy all day long, by reason of the disquietness of his heart is the likeliest among sinful flesh, or as likely as another, to set a suitable estimate upon mercy; yet his verdict is not always to pass in this matter. None can know the riches of mercy to the full, but he that perfectly knoweth the evil of sin, the justice of God, all the errors of man, the torments of hell, and the sorrows that the Lord Jesus underwent, when mercy made him a reconciler of sinners to God. But this can be known by none but the God whose mercy it is. This is the pearl of great price.
The richness of mercy is seen in several things. It can save from sin, from great sin, from all sin (Titus 3:5; Matt 15:22,28). It can save a soul from the devil, from all devils (Matt 17:15,18). It can save a soul from hell, from all hells (Psa 116:3,5,6). It can hold us up in the midst of all weaknesses (Psa 94:18). It can deliver from eternal judgment (Rom 9:23). Yea, what is it that we have, or shall need, that this virtuous mercy cannot do for us: 'Let Israel hope in the Lord: for which the Lord is RICH mercy,' mercy full of virtue, and that can do great things.
Fourth. As the mercies that are with the Lord are tender, great, and rich, so there is a MULTITUDE of them, and they are called 'manifold,' there is a multitude of these rich and virtuous mercies (Psa 69:13; Rev 9:19). By multitude, I understand mercies of every sort or kind; mercies for this, and mercies for the other malady; mercies for every sickness, a salve for every sore. Some things that are rich and very full of virtue, have yet their excellency extending itself but to one, or two, or three things for help; and this is their leanness in the midst of their excellencies. But it is not thus with the mercy of God. Some things that are rich and virtuous, are yet so only but at certain seasons; for there are times in which they can do nothing. But it is not so with this tender, great, and rich mercy of God. There are some things, though rich, that are sparingly made use of. But it is not so with this mercy of God. There is a multitude of them; so if one will not another will. There is a multitude of them; so one or other of them is always in their season. There is a multitude of them; and therefore it must not be supposed that God is niggardly as to the communicating of them.
As they are called a multitude, so they are called mercies manifold. There is no single flower in God's gospel-garden, they are all double and treble; there is a wheel within a wheel, a blessing within a blessing, in all the mercies of God. Manifold; a man cannot receive one, but he receives many, many folded up, one within another. For instance,
1. If a man receiveth Christ, who is called God's tender mercy; why, he shall find in him all the promises, pardons, justifications, righteousnesses, and redemptions, that are requisite to make him stand clear before the justice of the law, in the sight of God, from sin (Luke 1:76-79; 1 Cor 1:30; Eph 4:32; 2 Cor 1:20).
2. If a man receive the Spirit, he shall have as folded up in that, for this is the first unfolding itself, many, very many mercies (Ezra 1:4). He shall have the graces, the teachings, the sanctifications, the comforts, and the supports of the Spirit: When he saith in one place, 'He will give the Spirit,' he calleth that in another place, 'the good things' of God (Luke 11:13; Matt 7:11).
3. If a man receive the mercy of the resurrection of the body, and God's people shall assuredly receive that in its time, what a bundle of mercies will be received, as wrapt up in that? He will receive perfection, immortality, heaven, and glory; and what is folded up in these things, who can tell?
I name but these three, for many more might be added, to show you the plenteousness, as well as the virtuousness of the tender, great, and rich mercy of God. A multitude! There is converting mercy, there is preserving mercy, there is glorifying mercy: and how many mercies are folded up in every one of these mercies, none but God can tell. A multitude! There are mercies for the faithful followers of Christ, for those of his that backslide from him, and also for those that suffer for him; and what mercies will by these be found folded up in their mercies, they will better know when they come to heaven. A multitude of preventing mercies in afflictions, in disappointments, in cross providences, there are with God: and what mercies are folded up in these afflicting mercies, in these disappointing mercies, and in these merciful cross providences, must rest in the bosom of him to be revealed, who only is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working. A multitude of common mercies; of every day's mercies, of every night's mercies, of mercies in relations, of mercies in food and raiment, and of mercies in what of these things there is; and who can number them? David said, He daily was loaded with God's benefits. And I believe, if, as we are bound, we should at all times return God thanks for all particular mercies, particularly, it would be a burden intolerable, and would kill us out of hand! (Psa 68:19). And all this is written, that Israel might hope in the Lord: 'Let Israel hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy.'
Fifth. As the mercies that are with the Lord are tender, great, rich, a multitude, and manifold; so they are mercies that DIMINISH NOT in the using, but that rather increase in the exercising of them. Hence it is said, grace aboundeth, and hath abounded unto many; and that God is able to make all grace abound towards us (Rom 5:15; 2 Cor 9:8; Eph 1:7,8). The grace of forgiveness I mean, wherein he hath abounded towards us. Now, to abound, is to flow, to multiply, to increase, to greaten, to be more and more; and of this nature is the mercy that is with the Lord; mercy that will abound and increase in the using. Hence he is said to pardon abundantly, to pardon and multiply to pardon: and, again, to exercise loving-kindness; to exercise it, that is, to draw it out to the length; to make the best advantage and improvement of every grain and quality of it (Isa 55:7; Jer 9;24). 'The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth' (Exo 34:6).
Mercy to a man under guilt, and fear of hell-fire, seems as a little, shrunk-up, or shrivelled thing; there appears no quantity in it. There is mercy, said Cain, but there is not enough; and he died under that conceit (Gen 4:13). Nor is it as to judgment and thought many times much better with the Israel of God. But behold when God sets mercy to work, it is like the cloud that at first was but like a man's hand, it increaseth until it hath covered the face of heaven. Many have found it thus, yea they have found it thus in their distress (1 Kings 18:41-44). Paul has this expression, 'The grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant,' that is, increased towards me exceedingly (1 Tim 1:13-15). And this is the cause of that change of thoughts that is wrought at last in the hearts of the tempted; at first they doubt, at last they hope; at first they despair, at last they rejoice; at first they quake, while they imagine how great their sins are, and how little the grace of God is; but at last they see such a greatness, such a largeness, such an abundance of increase, in this multiplying mercy of God, that with gladness of heart, for their first thoughts, they call themselves fools, and venture their souls, the next world, and their interest in it, upon this mercy of God.
I tell you, Sirs, you must not trust your own apprehensions nor judgments with the mercy of God; you do not know how he can cause it to abound; that which seems to be short and shrunk up to you, he can draw out, and cause to abound exceedingly. There is a breadth, and length, and depth, and height therein, when God will please to open it; that for the infiniteness can swallow up not only all thy sins, but all thy thoughts and imaginations, and that can also drown thee at last. 'Now unto him that is able,' 'as to mercy,' 'to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen!' (Eph 3:20,21). This, therefore, is a wonderful thing, and shall be wondered at to all eternity; that that river of mercy, that at first did seem to be but ankle deep, should so rise, and rise, and rise, that at last it became 'waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over!' (Eze 47:3-5). Now all this is written, that Israel might hope. 'Let Israel hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy.'
Sixth. As there are with God mercies, tender, great, rich, a multitude, and mercy that abounds; so to encourage us to trust in him, there is mercy to COMPASS US ROUND ABOUT. 'Many sorrows shall be to the wicked, but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about' (Psa 32:10). This is, therefore, the lot of the Israel of God, that they shall, they trusting in their God, be compassed with mercy round about. This is mercy to do for us in this world, that we may arrive safely in that world which is to come. Another text saith, 'For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield' (Psa 5:12). As with a shield. This compassing of them, therefore, is, to the end they may be defended and guarded from them that seek their hurt. When Elisha was in danger, by reason of the army of the Syrians, 'behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire, round about him,' to deliver him (2 Kings 6:15-17). Round about on every side; or as David hath it, 'Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side' (Psa 71:21). 'I will encamp about mine house,' saith God, 'because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and him that returneth' (Zech 9:1).
This, therefore, is the reason why, notwithstanding all our weaknesses, and also the rage of Satan, we are kept and preserved in a wicked world; we are compassed round about. Hence, when God asked Satan concerning holy Job, he answered, 'Hast thou not made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?' (Job 1:10). I cannot come at him; thou compassest him, and keepest me out. By this, then, is that scripture opened, 'Thou art my hiding-place, thou shalt preserve me from trouble, thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance' (Psa 32:7). And, indeed, it would be comely, if we, instead of doubting and despairing, did sing in the ways of the Lord: have we not cause thus to do, when the Lord is round about us with sword and shield, watching for us against the enemy, that he may deliver us from their hand? (Jer 31:12).
This also is the reason why nothing can come at us, but that it may do us good. If the mercy of God is round about us, about us on every side; then no evil thing can by any means come at us, but it must come through this mercy, and so must be seasoned with it, and must have its deadly poison, by it, taken away. Hence Paul, understanding this, saith, 'And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God' (Rom 8:28). But how can that be, did they not come to us through the very sides of mercy? and how could they come to us so, since Satan pryeth to wound us deadly in every, or in some private place, if mercy did not compass us round about, round about as with a shield? He went round about Job, to see by what hog-hole he might get at him, that he might smite him under the fifth rib. But, behold, he found he was hedged out round about; wherefore he could not come at him but through the sides of mercy; and, therefore, what he did to him must be for good. Even thus also shall it be in conclusion with all the wrath of our enemies, when they have done what they can; by the mercy of God, we shall be made to stand. 'Why boasteth thou thyself in mischief,' said David, 'O mighty man? the goodness of God endureth continually' (Psa 52:1). And that will sanctify to me whatever thou doest against me! This, therefore, is another singular encouragement to Israel to hope in the Lord; for that there is with him mercy to compass us round about.
Here is, I say, room for hope, and for the exercise thereof; when we feel ourselves after the worst manner assaulted. 'Wherefore should I fear,' said David, 'in the day of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?' (Psa 49:5). Wherefore? Why now there is all the reason in the world to fear the day of evil is come upon thee, and the iniquity of thy heels doth compass thee about. The hand of God is upon thee, and thy sins, which are the cause, stand round about thee, to give in evidence against thee; and therefore thou must fear. No, saith David, that is not a sufficient reason; he that trusteth in the Lord, Mercy shall compass him about. Here is ground also to pray in faith, as David, saying, 'Keep me as the apple of the eye, hid me under the shadow of thy wings, from the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about' (Psa 17:8,9).
Seventh. As all this tender, great, rich, much abounding mercy, compasseth us about; so that we may hope in the God of our mercy, it is said this mercy IS TO FOLLOW US. 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever' (Psa 23:6). It shall follow me, go with me, and be near me, in all the way that I go (Psa 32:8). There are these six things to be gathered out of this text, for the further support of our hope.
1. It shall follow us to guide us in the way. I will guide thee with mine eye, says God, that is, in the way that thou shalt go. The way of man to the next world, is like the way from Egypt to Canaan, a way not to be wound out but by the pillar of a cloud by day, and a flame of fire by night; that is, with the Word and Spirit. 'Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory' (Psa 73:24). Thou shalt guide me from the first step to the last that I shall take in this my pilgrimage: Goodness and mercy shall follow me.
2. As God in mercy will guide, so by the same he will uphold our goings in his paths. We are weak, wherefore though the path we go in were never so plain, yet we are apt to stumble and fall. But 'when I said my foot slippeth, thy mercy, O Lord, held me up' (Psa 94:18). Wherefore we should always turn our hope into prayer, and say, Lord, 'hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not' (Psa 17:5). Be not moved; let mercy follow me.
3. As the God of our mercy has mercy to guide us, and uphold us; so by the same will he instruct us when we are at a loss, at a stand. 'I led Israel about,' says God, 'I instructed him, and kept him as the apple of mine eye' (Deut 32:10). I say we are often at a loss; David said, after all his brave sayings, in Psalm 119, 'I have gone astray like a lost sheep: seek thy servant' (v 176). Indeed a Christian is not so often out of the way, as he is at a stand therein, and knows not what to do. But here also is his mercy as to that. 'Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left' (Isa 30:21). Mercy follows for this.
4. Mercy shall follow to carry thee when thou art faint. We have many fainting and sinking fits as we go. 'He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom,' or upon eagles' wings (Isa 40:11). He made Israel to ride on the high places of the earth, and made him to suck honey out of the rock (Deut 32:13).
5. Mercy shall follow us, to take us up when we are fallen, and to heal us of those wounds that we have caught by our falls. 'The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down' (Psa 145:14). And again: 'The Lord openeth the yes of the blind; the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down; the Lord loveth the righteous' (Psa 146:8). Or, as we have it in another place, 'The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delighteth in his way. Though he fall he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholdeth him with his hand' (Psa 37:23,24). Here is mercy for a hoping Israelite; and yet this is not all.
6. Mercy shall follow us to pardon our sins as they are committed. For though by the act of justification, we are for ever secured from a state of condemnation; yet as we are children, we need forgiveness daily, and have need to pray, 'Our Father, forgive us our trespasses.' Now, that we may have daily forgiveness for our daily sins and trespasses, mercy and goodness must follow us; or as Moses has it, 'And he said, If now I have found grace in thy sight, O Lord! let my Lord, I pray thee, go amongst us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for thine inheritance' (Exo 34:9). Join to this that prayer of his, which you find in Numbers: 'Now I beseech thee let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken, saying, The Lord is long-suffering and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation. Pardon, I beseech thee, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of thy mercy, and as thou hast forgiven this people from Egypt even until now,' or hitherto (Num 14:17-19). How many times, think you, did Israel stand in need of pardon, from Egypt, until they came to Canaan? Even so many times wilt thou need pardon from the day of thy conversion to the day of death; to the which God will follow Israel, that he may dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
Eighth. As all this tender, great, rich, abounding, compassing mercy, shall follow Israel to do him good; so shall it do him EVERY GOOD TURN, in delivering of him from every judgment that by sin he hath laid himself obnoxious to, with rejoicing. For 'mercy rejoiceth against judgment' (James 2:13). That is, applying it to the mercy of God towards his, it rejoiceth in delivering us form the judgments that we have deserved; yea, it delivereth us from all our woes with rejoicing. In the margin it is 'glorieth'; it glorieth in doing this great thing for us. I have thought, considering how often I have procured judgments and destructions to myself, that God would be weary of pardoning, or else that he would pardon with grudging. But the Word said, 'He fainteth not nor is weary' (Isa 40;28). 'I will rejoice over them to do them good,—with my whole heart, and with my whole soul' (Jer 32:41). This doing of us good with rejoicing, this saving of us from deserved judgments with rejoicing, this getting the victory over our destructions for us, with rejoicing; O! it is a marvellous thing! 'O sing unto the Lord a new song, for he hath done marvellous things: his right hand, and his holy arm hath gotten him the victory'; the victory for us (Psa 98:1). And as Paul said, 'We are more than conquerors through him' (Rom 8:37); and this he did with triumph and rejoicing (Col 2:15). The heart is seen oft-times, more in the manner than in the act that is acted; more in the manner of doing than in doing of the thing. The wickedness of the heart of Moab was more seen in the manner of action than in the words that he spake against Israel. 'For since thou spakest [of] against him thou skippedst for joy' (Jer 48:27). So Edom rejoiced at the calamity of his brother; he looked on it and rejoiced: and in his rejoicing appeared the badness of his heart, and the great spite that he had against his brother Jacob (Oba 10:14).
Now, my brethren, I beseech you consider, that God hath not only showed you mercy, but hath done it with rejoicing. Mercy doth not only follow you, but it follows you with rejoicing: yea, it doth not only prevent your ruin, by our repeated transgressions procured, but it doth it with rejoicing. Here is the very heart of mercy seen, in that it rejoiceth against judgment. Like unto this is that in Zephaniah: 'The Lord thy God in the midst of thee is mighty: he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing' (Zeph 3:17,18).
There are many things that show with what an heart mercy is of God extended, as is afore described, to Israel for his salvation; but this, that it acteth with rejoicing, that it saveth with rejoicing, and gets the victory over judgment with rejoicing! is a wonderful one, and one that should be taken notice of by Israel, for his encouragement to hope. 'Let Israel hope in the Lord, for with him there is mercy,' tender, great, rich, multiplying mercy, mercy that compasseth us about, that goeth with us all the way, and mercy that rejoiceth to overcome every judgment that seeketh our destruction, as we go toward our Father's house and kingdom!
It is said in the Word, God delighteth in mercy. 'Who is a God like unto thee that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy' (Micah 7:18). Here then is a reason of the rejoicing of mercy against judgment. Why, mercy is God's delight; or, as another hath it, 'Mercy pleaseth thee.' What a man delights in, that he will set on foot, and that he will seek to manage, that he will promote, and that he will glory in the success and prosperity of. Why, the text saith, God delighteth in mercy: nor do I believe, how odious soever the comparison may seem to be, that ever man delighteth more in sin, than God hath delighted in showing mercy. Has man given himself for sin? God has given his Son for us, that he might show us mercy (John 3:16). Has man lain at wait for opportunities for sin? God has waited to be gracious, that he might have mercy upon us (Isa 30:10). Has man, that he might enjoy his sin, brought himself to a morsel of bread? Why Christ, Lord of all, that he might make room for mercy, made himself the poorest man (Luke 9:58; 2 Cor 8:9). Has man, when he has found his sin, pursued it with all his heart? Why God, when he sets a showing mercy, shows it with rejoicing, for he delighteth in mercy.
Here also you may see the reason why all God's paths are mercy and truth to his (Psa 25:10). I have observed that what a man loveth he will accustom himself unto, whether it be fishing, hunting, or the like. These are his ways, his course, the paths wherein he spends his life, and therefore he is seldom found out of one or another of them. 'Now,' saith David, 'all the paths of the Lord are mercy' (Psa 25:10). He is never out of them: for wherever he is, still he is coming towards his Israel in one or other of these paths, stepping steps of mercy. Hence again it is that you find that at the end of every judgment there is mercy; and that God in the midst of this remembers that (Habb 2:3). Yea, judgment is in mercy; and were it not for that, judgment should never overtake his people (1 Cor 11:32). Wherefore let Israel hope in the Lord, seeing with him is all this mercy.
Ninth. Besides all this, the mercy that is with God, and that is an encouragement to Israel to hope in him, IS EVERLASTING: 'The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him' (Psa 103:17). From everlasting to everlasting; that is more, more than I said. Well,
1. Then from everlasting; that is, from before the world began; so then, things that are, and are to be hereafter, are to be managed according to those measures that God in mercy took for his people then. Hence it is said, that he has blessed us according as he chose us in Christ, before the world began; that is, according to those measures and grants that were by mercy allotted to us then (Eph 1:4). According to that other saying, 'according to his mercy he saved us,' that is, according as mercy had allotted for us before the world began (Titus 3:5). 'According to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ before the world began' (2 Tim 1:9). This is mercy from everlasting, and is the ground and bottom of all dispensations that have been, are, or are to come to his people. And now, though it would be too great a step to a side, to treat of all those mercies that of necessity will be found to stand upon that which is called mercy from everlasting, yet it will be to our purpose, and agreeable to our method, to conclude that mercy to everlasting stands upon that; even as vocation, justification, preservation, and glorification, standeth upon our being chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Rom 8:29,30). Here then is the mercy that is with God and that should encourage Israel to hope. The mercy that has concerned itself with them, is mercy from everlasting. Nor may it be thought that a few quarrels of some brain-sick fellows will put God upon taking new measures for his people; what foundation has been laid for his, before he laid the foundation of the world, shall stand; for that it was laid in Christ by virtue of mercy: that is, from everlasting (Rom 9:11). The old laws, which are the Magna Charta, the sole basis of the government of a kingdom, may not be cast away for the pet that is taken by every little gentleman against them. We have indeed some professors that take a great pet against that foundation of salvation, that the mercy that is from everlasting has laid; but since the kingdom, government, and glory of Christ is wrapped up in it, and since the calling, justification, perseverance, and glorification of his elect, which are called his body and fulness, is wrapt up therein, it may not be laid aside nor despised, nor quarrelled against by any, without danger of damnation.
Here then is the mercy with which Israel is concerned, and which is with God as an encouragement to them that should hope, to hope in him. It is mercy from everlasting; it is mercy of an ancient date; it is mercy in the root of the thing. For it is from this mercy in the root of the thing. For it is from this mercy, this mercy from everlasting, that all, and all those sorts of mercies, of which we have discoursed before, do flow. It is from this that Christ the Saviour flows; this is it, from which that tender mercy, that great mercy, that rich mercy that aboundeth towards us, doth flow; and so of all the rest. Kind brings forth its kind; know the tree by his fruit; and God by his mercy in Christ; yea, and know what God was doing before he made the world, by what he has been doing ever since. And what has God been doing for and to his church from the beginning of the world, but extending to, and exercising loving-kindness and mercy for them? therefore he laid a foundation for this in mercy from everlasting.
2. But mercy from everlasting is but the beginning, and we have discoursed of those mercies that we have found in the bowels of this already, wherefore a word of that which is to everlasting also. 'From everlasting to everlasting.' Nothing can go beyond to everlasting; wherefore this, to everlasting, will see an end of all. The devil will tempt us, sin will assault us, men will persecute; but can they do it to everlasting? If not, then there is mercy to come to God's people at last; even when all evils have done to us what they can. After the prophet had spoken of the inconceivable blessedness that God hath prepared for them that wait for him, he drops to present wrath, and the sin of God's people in this life. This done, he mounts up again to the first, and saith, 'in those is continuance'; that is, the things laid up for us are everlasting, and therefore 'we shall be saved' (Isa 64:4,5). How many things since the beginning have assaulted the world to destroy it, as wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, &c., and yet to this day it abideth. But what is the reason of that? Why, God liveth, upon whose word, and by whose decree it abideth. 'He hath established the earth, and it abideth'; it standeth fast, and 'cannot be moved' (Psa 119:90, 93:1, 96:10). Why, my brethren, mercy liveth, mercy is everlasting; 'His mercy endureth for ever!' (Psa 136). And therefore the church of God liveth; and when all her enemies have done their all, this is the song that the church shall sing over them: 'They are brought down and fallen, but we are risen, and stand upright!' (Psa 20:8). Everlasting mercy, with everlasting arms, are underneath (Deut 33:27).
And as this shows the cause of the life of the church, notwithstanding her ghostly and bodily enemies, so it showeth the cause of her deliverance from her repeated sins. As God said of leviathan 'I will not conceal his parts,' &c. (Job 41:12). So it is very unbecoming of God's people to conceal their sins and miscarriages, for it diminisheth this mercy of God. Let therefore sin be acknowledged, confessed, and not be hid nor dissembled; it is to the glory of mercy that we confess to God and one another what we are; still remembering this, but mercy is everlasting!
As this shows the reason of our life, and the continuance of that, notwithstanding our repeated sins, so it shows the cause of the receiving [or renewing] of our graces, from so many decays and sickness. For this mercy will live, last, and outlast, all things that are corruptible and hurtful unto Israel. Wherefore 'let Israel hope in the Lord,' for this reason, 'for with the Lord there is mercy.' 1. Tender mercy for us. 2. Great mercy for us. 3. Rich mercy. 4. Manifold mercy. 5. Abounding mercy towards us. 6. Compassing mercy wherewith we are surrounded. 7. Mercy to follow us wherever we go. 8. Mercy that rejoiceth against judgment. And, 9. Mercy that is from everlasting to everlasting. All these mercies are with God, to allure, to encourage, and uphold Israel in hope.
[SECOND. What is to be inferred from this reason.]
I come now to the second thing, which is to show what is to be inferred from this reason. And,
First. This, to be sure, is to be inferred, That Israel, as the child of God, is a pitiful thing of himself; one that is full of weaknesses, infirmities, and defects, should we speak nothing of his transgressions. He that is to be attended with so many mercies, absolutely necessary mercies, for there is not in these mercies one that can be spared, must needs be in himself a poor indigent creature. Should you see a child attended with so many engines to make him go, as the child of God is attended with mercies to make him stand, you would say, What an infirm, decrepit, helpless thing is this! Alas! I have here counted up mercies in number nine. If I had counted up nine hundred and ninety-nine, all had been the same, for the child of God would not have one to spare. The text saith, 'The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy,' and all little enough to preserve his Israel (Psa 119:64). Indeed, those that I have presented the reader with are the chief heads of mercies; or the head-mercies from which many others flow. But, however, were they but single mercies, they show with great evidence our deficiency; but being double, they show it much more.
Should it be said there is such a lord has a son, a poor decrepit thing; he is forced to wear things to strengthen his ancles, things to strengthen his knees, things to strengthen his loins, things to keep up his bowels, things to strengthen his shoulders, his neck, his hands, fingers; yea, he cannot speak but by the help of an engine, nor chew his food but by the help of an engine. What would you say? What would you think? Would you not say such a one is not worth the keeping, and that his father cannot look for any thing from him, but that he should live upon high charge and expense, as long as he liveth; besides all the trouble such an one is like to be of to others. Why this is the case: Israel is such an one, nay, a worse. He cannot live without tender mercy, without great mercy, without rich mercy, without manifold mercy and unless mercy abounds towards him. He cannot stand if mercy doth not compass him round about, nor go unless mercy follows him. Yea, if mercy that rejoiceth against judgment doth not continually flutter over him, the very moth will eat him up, and the canker will consume him (Job 4:19). Wherefore it is necessary to the making of Israel live and flourish, that everlasting mercy should be over his head, and everlasting mercy under his feet, with all the afore-mentioned mercies, and more in the bowels of it. But I say doth not this sufficiently show, had we but eyes to see it, what a sad and deplorable creature the child of God of himself is? O! this is not believed nor considered as it should. Vain man would be wise; sinful man would be holy; and poor, lame, infirm, helpless man, would be strong, and fain persuade others that he hath a sufficiency of himself. But I say, if it be so, what need all this mercy? If thou canst go lustily, what mean thy crutches? No, no, Israel, God's Israel, when awake, stands astonished at his being surrounded with mercies, and cries out, 'I am not worthy of the least [I am less than the least] of all thy mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast showed unto thy servant' (Gen 32:10).
Second. This also showeth how sorely the enemies of Israel are bent to seek his destruction. The devil is, by way of eminency, called the enemy of God's people: 'the devil, your adversary' (1 Peter 5:8). And this, that there are so many mercies employed about us, and all to bring us to the place which God hath appointed for us, doth demonstrate it. Should you see a man that was not to go from door to door, but he must be clad in a coat of mail, must have a helmet of brass upon is head, and for his life-guard not so few as a thousand men to wait upon him; would you not say, Surely this man has store of enemies at hand, surely this man goes continually in danger of his life? Why, this is the case, enemies lie in wait for poor Israel in every hole; he can neither eat, drink, wake, sleep, work, sit still, talk, be silent; worship his God in public or in private, but he is in danger of being stabbed, or being destroyed. Hence, as was said before, he is compassed about with mercy as with a shield (Micah 7:20). And again it is said concerning these, 'God's truth,' his mercy, 'shall be thy shield and buckler' (Psa 91:4). And again, 'He is a buckler to all them that trust in him' (2 Sam 22:31). Yea, David being a man sensible of his own weakness, and of the rage and power of his enemies, cries out to his God to take hold of shield and buckler, and to stand up for his help (Psa 35:2). But what need these things be asserted, promised, or prayed for? if Israel had no enemies, or none but such, he could, as we say, make his party good with all. Alas, their cries, their tears, sighs, watchings, and outcries, at sundry times, make this, beyond all show of doubt, a truth.
If Solomon used to have about his bed no less than threescore of the valiantest of Israel, holding swords, and being expert in war, every one with his sword upon his thigh, because of fear in the night—and yet these fears were only concerning men—what guard and safe-guard doth God's poor people need, who are continually, both night and day, roared upon by the unmerciful fallen angels of hell! (Can 3:7,8). I will add, if it be but duly considered, all this guard and safeguard by mercy notwithstanding, how hardly this people do escape being destroyed for ever, yea, how with hearts broken, and loins broken, many of them with much difficulty get to the gates of heaven! it will be easily concluded, that her enemies are swifter than eagles, stronger than lions; and that they often overtake her between the straits.
To say nothing of the many thousands that dare not so much as once think of true religion, because of the power of the enemy which they behold, when alas! they see nobody but the very scarecrows which the devil hath set up for I count the persecutor of God's people but the devil's scarecrow, the old one himself lies quat—yet, I say, how are they frighted! how are they amazed! What a many of the enemies of religion have these folks seen today! yea, and they will as soon venture to run the hazard of hell-fire, as to be engaged by these enemies in this way. Why, God's people are fain to go through them all, and yet no more able than the other to do it of themselves. They therefore are girded, compassed, and defended by this mercy, which is the true cause indeed of their godly perseverance.
Third. A third thing that I infer from these words is, What a loving God has Israel! 'Truly God is good to Israel. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.' A loving God, that should take this care of him, and bestow so many mercies upon him. Mercies of all sorts, for all cases, for all manner of relief and help against all manner of perils. What is man that God should so unweariedly attend upon him, and visit him every moment? Is he a second God? Is he God's fellow? Is he of the highest order of the angels? or what is he? O! he is a flea, a worm, a dead dog, sinful dust and ashes; he comes up like a flower and is cut down, and what a thing is it that God should so much as open his eyes upon such a one! (1 Sam 26:20; Job 25:6, 45:2,3). But then, what a thing is it that God should magnify him, and that he should set his heart upon him! (Job 7:17). Yea, that he should take him into acquaintance with him, give his angels to be all ministering spirits for him! Yea, engage his mercy for him, his tender, great, manifold, and everlasting mercy for him, to compass him round withal, as with a shield, that nothing might work his ruin for ever and ever!
It may well be said, 'God is love'! (1 John 4:16). Man may well say so, 'O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy' (Psa 107:1-3). If it be love for a fellow-creature to give a bit of bread, a coat, a cup of cold water, what shall we call this? when God, the great God, the former of all things, shall not only give an alms, an alms to an enemy, but shall rise up, take shield and buckler, and be a guard, a protection, a deliverer from all evil, until we come into his heavenly kingdom? This love is such as is not found on earth, nor to be paralleled among the creatures. None hopes this but one that is good. Nor does any believe as they should, that God doth love as these things declare he does. Our heart staggereth at the greatness of the thing, and who is it that has any reason left in him, and knows anything of what a wretched thing sin hath made him, that can without starting so much as hear of all this mercy! But,
Fourth. Another thing that I infer from these words is this, What ground is here to Israel to hope in the Lord! The Lord is not that broken reed of Egypt, on which if a man lean, it will go into his hand and pierce it. God's word is steadfast for ever, even the word by which we are here exhorted to hope. Nor shall we have cause to doubt of the cause of the exhortation to such a soul-quieting duty; for mercy is with the Lord: 'Let Israel rejoice in him that made him; let the children of Zion be joyful in their king' (Psa 149:2). For with the Lord there is mercy, wherewith to beautify the meek with salvation. What sayest thou, child of God? Has sin wounded, bruised thy soul, and broken thy bones? Why, with the Lord there is tender mercy. Art thou a sinner of the first rate, of the biggest size? Why, with the Lord there is great mercy for thee? Have thy sins corrupted thy wounds, and made them putrefy and stink? Why, with the Lord there is rich, that is, virtuous mercy for thee. Art thy sins of diverse sorts? Why, here is a multitude of manifold mercies for thee. Dost thou see thyself surrounded with enemies? Why, with the Lord there is mercy to compass thee about withal. Is the way dangerous in which thou art to go? Surely goodness and mercy shall follow thee all the days of thy life. Doth iniquity prevail against thee? The mercy of this Lord aboundeth towards thee. Doth judgments for thy miscarriages overtake thee; There is with thy Lord mercy that rejoiceth to deliver thee from those judgments. What shall I say? There is mercy from everlasting to everlasting upon thee. What wouldst thou have? There is mercy underneath, mercy above, and mercy for thee on every side; therefore 'let Israel hope in the Lord!' I will add, it is the greatest unkindness thou canst return to the Lord to doubt this mercy notwithstanding. Why, what wilt thou make of God? Is there no truth nor trust to be put in him, notwithstanding all that he hath said? O the depravedness of man's nature! Because he speaketh the truth, therefore we believe him not! (John 8:45). The odiousness of unbelief is manifest by this, yea, also the unreasonableness thereof. God is true, his Word is true; and to help us to hope in him, how many times has he fulfilled it to others, and that before our eyes? Hope then; it is good that a man should hope. Hope then; it pleases God that thou shouldest hope. Hope then to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto thee will surely come, with Christ thy Saviour.
Men that have given up themselves to their sins, hope to enjoy some benefit by them, though the curse of God, and his wrath, is revealed from heaven against them for it (Rom 1:18). And yet thou that hast given thyself to God by Christ, art afraid to hope in his mercy! For shame, hope, and do not thus dishonour thy God, would thine own soul, and set so bad an example to others. I know thou hast thy objections in a readiness to cast in my way, and were they made against doctrine, reason would that some notice should be taken of them; but since they are made against duty, duty urged from, and grounded upon, a word which is stedfast for ever, thou deservest to be blamed, and to be told, that of all sins that ever thou didst commit, thou now art managing the vilest, while thou art giving way to, and fortifying of, unbelief and mistrust, against this exhortation to hope, and against the reason for encouragement to the duty.
[THIRD. THE AMPLIFICATION OF THE REASON 'TO HOPE IN THE LORD.']
But I shall pass from this to the third thing found in the text, and that is the AMPLIFICATION of the reason. I told you that there were in the text these three things, I. An exhortation to the children of God to hope in the Lord: 'Let Israel hope in the Lord.' II. A reason to enforce that exhortation, 'For with the Lord there is mercy.' III. An amplification of that reason, 'And with him is plenteous redemption.' I have gone through the two first, and shall now come to this last.
In these last words, which I call the Amplification of the reason, we have two things. FIRST. A more particular account of the nature of the mercy propounded for an encouragement to Israel to hope. SECOND. An account of the sufficiency of it. The nature of the mercy propounded, is expressed by that word 'redemption.' The sufficiency of it is expressed by that word 'plenteous.' 'Let Israel hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.'