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his ordinances, and God shall be deaf to all their blasphemies, revilings, and all their wickedness; when they shall persist in evil, and bring their wicked devices to pass, and yet God shall be as it were blind to all their dealings; then God sleepeth to the enmity of his enemies. Would you know the reasons ?
It may be the enemies are not yet great enough for God to contend with. The eagle doth not hunt after flies, and a lion doth not harness himself to battle against a poor worm.
It may be the malice of the enemy is not yet great enough, and so is not a fit object for the great indignation of the great God, and therefore God suffereth them to go on that it might be a greater and a more full object to bear his indignation.
Again. Therefore God suffereth this, and seemeth to sleep for a time, because his people are not provoked enough against their enemies. As it was with the children of Israel that went against Benjamin, and fell before them twice, if Israel had overcome them the first time, they would not have been so provoked against them to have cut them all off as they were; but being beaten by them twice, thereby they were provoked to their destruction. So God suffereth his enemies to prevail, and sleepeth to the case of his people for a time, because the hearts of his people are not stirred enough against their enemies to cut them off fully; when that is done, then God awaketh.
Again, sometimes God sleepeth because his people sleep to him, and say, Arise, to something else. They sleep to him. It was the speech of an emperor when he was in prison, Oh, said he, when I was in my palace, I hoped so much in men, that I neglected trusting in God; but now I am in prison, I may hope less in men, and trust more in God. So it may be there is a time, when God's people do fall asleep to God; hope too much in men, and not enough in God. Now, saith the prophet, “ Woe to him that saith to the stone, Arise,” Hab. xi. 19. Shall God arise to his people, when they say to the stone, Arise? Shall God arise for his people, when they sit down and arise not up themselves ? Brethren, faith is prayer in the coals, and prayer is faith in the flame; now it may be men's faith doth not burn out enough, it burneth dark; they pray, but are not hot in prayer; they live, but they do not live out of themselves in
God enough. Wherefore that God may awaken his people, he sleepeth himself.
Sometimes it is for this end; because the pit of his enemies is not yet digged. Consider that Psalm xciv. 12, 13, “ Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law; that thou mayest give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit be digged for the wicked." There is a time when the pit of the wicked is digging, and all that time God's people may be in suffering. God suffereth the wicked to run away with the bait, and doth not yet draw them, because they are not full on the hook; but when they have swallowed the hook, then he will draw them.
Hence we may see what the reason is many times, why there is so much evil in the churches, and why the enemies prevail so much, so long. God is the strength of the churches, and our strength sleepeth sometimes upon all the afflictions of the churches. We are apt to be much discouraged, like the disciples, who whilst our Saviour was in the storm asleep, they came running in all haste to him, saying, “Carest thou not that we perish ?” So it is many times when a storm ariseth upon the church, God seemeth to sleep, and we run in haste to God, and are apt to charge God, Lord, carest thou not that we perish? But, peace, peace, he sleepeth only, he will awake shortly, you shall see it, and they shall feel it. For,
The third point tells us, that though God seem to sleep, and his enemies prevail; yet there is a time when they shall be scattered, and when God ariseth they are scattered. There are two parts in this doctrine, I will handle them severally.
1. Though the enemies of the Lord do prevail, and God seemeth to sleep; yet there is a time when they shall be scattered. In that Psalm lxviii. 1, you have the same words that are here; “Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered.” In the following part of the Psalm, verse 12, it is said, “ Kings of armies did flee apace." In the Hebrew it is : They fled, they fled; fled, is twice. Why so ? That is, they did flee very hastily, and they fled most confusedly, they fled all ways; they fled, they fled, noting the greatness of the flight.
If it were not so, how should God be honoured in the world? God is resolved to recover his honour, his truth,
and his justice out of the hands of the world. Saith the Psalmist, “ He will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked: so that a man shall say, Verily, there is a reward for the righteous; verily, he is a God that judgeth in the earth,” Psalm lviii. 10. But did they not know it before, that God ruleth in the earth ? True, but men will not say all that for God always which their hearts know, and the glut of prosperity often doth quench their knowledge ; but when God's judgments are abroad, then men shall say, (he doth not say godly men, but then men shall say,) though they be but bare men, they shall say, &c. Oh, it is a sweet time when ungodly men shall own their own principles. And if you look into Psalm lxviii. 11, you shall find when the enemies of the church are destroyed, that God hath many preachers made that do teach his praises. Saith the psalmist, verse 12, “ The Lord gave the word, great was the company of those that published it: kings of armies did flee apace, and she that tarried at home divided the spoil.” The words in the original are very significant, and do note two things. First, the word which you read company, in the Hebrew it is,army:"great was the army of preachers. An army of preachers is a great matter; nay, it is a great matter to have seven or eight good preachers in a great army; but to have a whole army of preachers, that is glorious. Secondly, it doth note out the heartiness of this preaching army; for the word nephesh, soul, is to be understood as in that place of Ecclesiastes; it is said there, “The words or book of the preacher,” which being in the feminine gender, doth suppose nephesh, and as if he should say, as Vatablus hath it: The words or book of him that hath a preaching soul or heart, or the words of a preaching soul or heart. So here, where it is said, great is the
id, great is the army of preachers; the word being in the feminine gender, it is as if he should say, great is the army of preaching souls, whose very hearts within them shall preach of the Lord's works. Now, my brethren, it is much to have a preaching army; but if this army shall with heart and soul preach of God's praise, oh, that is a blessed thing. Yet thus shall it be, when the enemies of God shall be destroyed. And therefore, seeing God will not lose all those sermons of his own praises, in due time the enemies of the church shall be scattered.
Again, all the plots and projects of God's enemies lie
under a curse. Now the curse scattereth, and the blessing gathereth. When God blessed, then the people were gathered; when God curseth, then they are scattered. You know when Jacob was to bless his children, instead of blessing Levi, he seemeth to pronounce a curse upon them, that they should be scattered in Israel. Gen. xlix. 7. Surely it is a part of the curse to be scattered, and the enemies of God and his people are always under the curse; and, as a learned, holy divine of your own hath it, They are never prayed for. But look, as it is with some grass that groweth on the housetop, though it be higher than that which grows in the field, yet no man prays for it, and no man saith, The Lord bless it. But the grass and corn that grows in the field, the men that come by, say, There is a good crop of
the Lord bless it. So, though wicked men and the enemies of the church, do perk up higher than the rest, yet they are never under prayer, but always under the curse, and therefore no wonder though they be scattered.
God will lay men's ways upon their own heads : the fish shall be boiled in the water it lived in, and men destroyed by the same way they walked in. Therefore in Psalm lix., you shall see how sin is answered with the like punishment. The psalmist speaking concerning his enemies, ver. 6, 7, They return at evening, tbey make a noise like a dog, and go round about the city. Behold they belch out with their mouth, swords are in their lips.” That is, they revile, they jeer and scorn at the godly: there is their sin. Now look into the latter end of the Psalm, at ver. 14, you shall see their answerable punishment: “ And at evening they shall return, and make a noise like a dog, and go about the city ; let them wander up and down for meat, and grudge if they be not satisfied.” As they went about the city, barking and making a noise like dogs, so shall they go about the city howling like dogs : thus God will answer men in their own kind. Was not Adonibezek punished in his own kind, Judg. i. 7; Egypt in its own kind; and the Jews of old in their own kind? This is God's method still; and therefore if you compare Rev. viii. and ix. with Rev. xvi., you shall see that the trumpets and the vials are alike, and some take them to be all one; but the trumpets note out the time when the sins are committed, and the vials the time when the punishments are inflicted. But the evils
mentioned in both are much alike, because God proportioneth men's punishment to their own sins. Now the enemies of the church have scattered themselves up and down to do mischief. How are the Jesuits and the locusts of our time, scattered up and down in all places! They have scattered God's people, and they scatter their own sins wheresoever they be come. Therefore there must come a scattering time for themselves also, for that is equal.
You will say, Do we not see the contrary? Our eyes are witnesses of the contrary. We see the people of God are scattered, but we do not see the enemies are scattered.
It is true God's people are scattered, and truly it is the remainder of the curse upon them, for which we are to be humbled. Though God provides a place for us in the world, yet certainly it is some part of the curse, to have our names changed from Israel to Jezreel. This is God's way, that what evil he doth afterward bring upon his enemies, he doth many times first bring it upon his own friends, by his and their enemies. He first sleepeth to them, then he awaketh for them. But to answer: God's people are often scattered; but though they be scattered, yet there is much difference between their and the world's scattering. The scattering of God's children is turned into a blessing to them; the scattering of his enemies is a curse, and so it endeth. A plain instance for it you have in Levi: saith Jacob, “ Let them be divided in Jacob, and scattered in Israel,” Gen. xxix. 7. yet that proved a great blessing, for the tribe of Levi being scattered among all the tribes, by that means all the tribes had preachers. So now it is in the scattering of the saints, though they be scattered into divers places, yet they are made thereby a blessing to many countries; hereby they carry truths into other places; hereby they are cleansed from their own filthiness; hereby they learn to walk more humbly; hereby they learn to die daily to the world and outward comforts ; hereby they are weaned from their friends and all natural engagements; hereby they are made more conformable to Jesus Christ, who was a stranger upon earth; hereby they meet with many experiences; hereby they see many promises fulfilled ; hereby they enjoy the ordinances of God in a purer manner than before; so that all their scatterings are blessings to them.
Though the people of God be scattered, yet they are gathered
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