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THE SAFETY OF BELIEVERS IN TIMES OF JUDGMENT.
REV. J. WILCOX, A.M.
TAVISTOCK CHAPEL, BROAD COURT, APRIL 2A, 1831.
“And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in
quiet resting places; when it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place.”—ISAIAH, xxxii. 18, 19.
The circumstances of the world are now such that every Christian is, in a degree, compelled to reflect. Inconsiderateness and folly have too long characterized the people of this country, and while the nations of the Continent have been filling up the measure of their iniquity by leaving off the very semblance of religion ; by open infidelity, and endeavours to promote popery; we, also, have maintained the form, but have neglected the spirit of Christianity. John, in the Revelations, declares what shall follow the pouring out of the seventh vial: “And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great." This is not a literal earthquake, in the common acceptation of the term, but such a concussion of the states of the world as never hath been or after it shall be while the world lasts. Isaiah, ii. 20, 21, foretels a period which is evidently, as yet, to come.
“ In that day shall a man cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his Majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.” Indeed none but a blind, infatuated politician of the present day, can do otherwise than perceive the portentous signs of the times; and whether these people will hear, or whether they will forbear, a Christian, and especially a Christian minister, will examine the foundation of his hope and the state of his experience, that he may be prepared for whatever purposes God may bring to pass. In such circumstances what a blessing are the riches of divine truth, understood and applied to the heart by the powerful agency of the Holy Spirit! Men may, and will naturally, make light of religion, till they are brought into such extremities as to find nothing but religion will suffice : nothing but an interest and part in that covenant which God has made, who made heaven and earth, wil} avail ; nothing but a portion in those blessings which religion confers, will give them comfort; until they are brought into such circumstances as will make them come to this religion for support, the principles of our holy religion, its precepts and practice will continue to be derided or neglected by the great body of society. If there ever was a period in the history of the world, in which this extremity is to take place it does appear to be in this very day in which we live; wherein we see with our eyes such wondrous things. I should hold myself a traitor to you, I should account myself a rebel to my God; I should consider myself unfit for the Christian ministry, if I did not, without the smallest compromise, exert all the energies I possess in the endeavour to awaken your attention to these things, that you may be personally benefited by the Gospel you hear in this crisis ; in which period I believe God, by the spirit of his word, will support his people, and by which he will grant us sufficient consolation. It is then with reference to this crisis, I have found it my duty and my privilege to bring forth one of the multitude of passages of Scripture, giving consolation to the Christian under the foretold season of trial, that the people of God may be benefited thereby : and I pray that God may open your eyes to see the true glories contained in the text, and that you may grow in faith and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. I have selected this portion of the word of God for the subject of our discourse, since it is these relations that afford contempt for the infidel, but comfort beyond all description for the believer. It is in the truths of this holy book, the Christian reads and realizes his stability in the midst of convulsions of the earth : and while the bands of the earth are torn asunder, and the ties of nature are dissolved, he realizes in the word of this testimony a security which this alone can give.
Our text leads us to consider, first, the coming judgments of the Lord; secondly, the blessed promises made to his seeking people ; thirdly, the period when these promises shall have their fulfilment. May God the Holy Ghost enlighten all our understandings—may our eyes be opened and our hearts be prepared to apprehend those great truths.
First, contemplate THE COMING JUDGMENTS OF THE LORD. The context clearly indicates a season of suffering which no part of history has yet dwelt upon. Look from the ninth to the fourteenth verses in this chapter, and you will see language important enough to excite the attention of the most indifferent. Now, no history with which I am acquainted contains an account of the fulfilment of these predictions. “Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters ; give hear unto my speech. Many days and years shall ye be troubled, ye careless women: for the vintage shall fail, the gathering shall not come. Tremble, ye women that are at ease; be troubled, ye careless ones : strip you, and make you bare, and gird sackcloth upon your loins. They shall lament for the teats, for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine. Upon the land of my people shall come up thorns and briers; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city : because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be dens for ever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks." The desolation here spoken of, is future : and, from the signs of the times, it appears to me to be very nigh at hand. The great question, therefore, for the watchmen of Israel to bring before those to whom they are sent is, Where is there a hiding place., and to what quarter are we to look for refuge? Where is the port from the coming storm? How shall we escape the judgments that are coming upon the earth ? The text sets forth the judgments of the Lord under the figure of a hail-storm; and the divine vengeance is frequently represented by that metaphor. So it is in Isaiah, xxviii. 2: “Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, whicha
as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.' As in Isaiah, xxx. 30: “ And the Lord shall cause his glorious voice to be heard, and shall shew the lightning down of his arm, with the indignation of his anger, and with the flame of a devouring fire, with scattering, and tempest, and hailstones." Also in Rev. xvi. 21 : “And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent : and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail ; for the plague thereof was exceeding great." These all testify the extremity of the vengeance which God was about to inflict upon the earth. The subjects of vengeance in this storm are considered, I believe, by every commentator, as the domains of the eastern and western Antichrist, with all the subordinate states, countries, and individuals that have supported them. “ And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places, when it shall hail, coming down on the forest; and the city shall be low in a low place.” There is no danger of making any mistake on this point, upon which all who have written, the most able commentators, and the inost learned persons spiritually enlightened, have expressed the same opinion: they have declared it to mean mystical Babylon. The proof of this we have in Rev. xvi. 19 : “ And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nation fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath."
Also, in Rev. xix. 17, &c. you will see the tremendous judgments of God that are about to come : “ And I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God, that ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse (the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God had before spoken of him in this character), and against his army (the saints).” Now, it is not only antichrist, the eastern and western antichrist, but it is, according to my reading, and according to the knowledge God bas been pleased to communicate to me (for I am not ashamed to confess I know nothing by mere reading of the speculative opinions of men), it is not by reading the many books written on this point that I have come to an opinion; but it is from the study of the Scriptures alone this opinion is formed, so that if I err, I err not from these works, but from my own dark understanding. I feel constrained, then, to say, that all who have, directly or indirectly, contributed to this beast, and to the power of the beast, shall feel the vengeance of the Almighty. And can we expect England to escape ? I do not. I am sure the vengeance of God is now against us. Since the public voice and the hand of fellowship have been raised for and given to the Church of Rome, the hand of the Lord has been against us; so that we also shail taste of the cup of wrath, and smart beneath the rod of God. And all, whether publicly or privately, who have come forward for this enemy of the Lamb; all who have, directly or indirectly, aided the beast, shall be involved in the punishment coming upon the world. We want no miraculous announcement to convince us that the Lord has a war to make with men; for such is the present aspect of the times. There is not a man who can come forth and say, Here I am, and none shall remove me from my stand. It is in this crisis, so nearly approaching, religion will be the only comfort, the only source of pleasure, while all things around are sinking into ruin, amidst inconceivable misery.
But though we are compelled against ourselves to open our mouths and proclaim the judgments of the Lord, yet we observe, that in THE MIDST OF THIS DESOLATION HE PROMISES BOTH THE SECURITY AND QUIET OF HIS PEOPLE. The same love which is seen exercised for their salvation is seen manifested in their protection. “ And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest, as rivers of water in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." Here you will see he is made the protector of his people. “And a man (says the Prophet). What man? Your own hearts will testify, that never was, is not, and never will be any but he, even Jesus, who hath condescended to take manhood into Deity that he may make a full atonement for the sins of his people, and provide a hiding-place from every storm, and a covert from every tempest; for as the plague of hail sent upon the land of Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh went not amongst the Israelites, but passed over the land of Goshen, and fell in a grievous storm upon the Egyptians, so shall it be with all those who fear the Lord and delight to serve him. That beautiful Psalm (xci.), how does it open
with consolation to the people of God! “Him that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.” No one doctrine is better substantiated in the Holy Scriptures than that of God's care and defence of his people. My dear friends, I would not give up the conviction I have of God's particular providence for all the gold, and silver, and titles, you can confer upon me! We know there is no Providence but is working for our good. I know there is nothing can come upon my head unless he permit it : and to know that whatever I am called upon to endure I shall be made better thereby, and rendered fitter to enter into the joy of my Lord, does it not take away the sting from every punishment ? Does it not remove the bitter from the cup of affliction? Does not distress press less heavily upon me when I know that it is designed for this glorious purpose, to bring me near my heavenly Father, to make me live upon him here, and anticipate an eternal union with him in the realms of bliss hereafter? How beautiful is the simile imparted by Isaiah (xxxi. 4,5), “For this hath the Lord spoken unto me, Like as the lion, and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them; so shall the Lord of Hosts come down to fight for Mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. As birds flying, so will the Lord of Hosts defend Jerusalem; defending also he will deliver it; and passing over he will preserve it.” Scarcely less beautiful is the language of the same Prophet (xxvii. 2, 3, 4,) “ In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day. Fury is not in me.” Hear this, ye believing people of God: it is not fury, vengeance, and wrath coming upon you who have fled to the Gospel and have found refuge in the only Saviour. Your troubles, sorrows, and conflicts within, and your trials without, are all the gracious corrections of your heavenly Father, to wean you from the world and bring you to the hiding-place from the storm, the refuge from the tempest, which covenant love has provided. You will observe, in our text, the Lord promises quiet resting-places and a peaceable habitation. “ And my people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places.” Now they shall have sure peace in their own soul. That is best of all; for who can give a guilty conscience peace ? “ The spirit of man may sustain his infirmities; but a wounded spirit who can bear?" But the Christian shall have this mind; his spirit shall be healed; his sorrowing soul shall be comforted. How? By the assurance that his sins are forgiven. This is the direction of God to the Prophet Isaiah (xl. 1, 2,) “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith
your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned : for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins." Now, the Lord doth bring into the hearts of his people a sense of their forgiveness, an assurance that their sins are pardoned; a testimony that their sins are blotted out as a cloud, and as a thick cloud their transgression. Perhaps I am speaking to some who say, with Nicodemus, “ How can these things be? I have not found it so. It has not been thus with me." If so, you have been living without the invaluable blessing of the Spirit: you have not sought his assistance, and therefore you know nothing of the comforts of the Holy Ghost: you have not desired anxiously to find these; for sure I am, that those who seek faithfully shall find-certain I am that God will not falsify his promise : but if we have been careless before God-if we have been hanging our harps upon the willows, when we ought to be attuning them to the praise of God—if we have been inactive and forgetful of his mercies, how can we expect to renew our spiritual strength ? You must wait upon God, you must bow at his footstool, you must seek his face, and then shall your minds be strengthened and your souls refreshed. O, sirs, it is not going once or twice a week to the house of God that will make the soul fat and flourishing! There must be a perfect love to God, there must be a constant living to him, there must be a perfect surrender of all we have to him, there must be a living with God, and a coming to God; that people may see our religion is more than a shadow-that we are believers in the truth : and the consequence will assuredly be, we shall have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the testimony of the apostle Paul, “ There is therefore, now, no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” “Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” And we shall not only have peace in our own consciences, resulting from reconciliation with God, but we shall have peace within our souls.
When ourselves are given up to God, then that blessed prediction contained in Isaiah (xi. 13) will come to pass in our experience, “ The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off ; Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim." I am quite sure this prophecy has not as yet been fulfilled; we see the church of God in a state of lanientable apathy, arising from envyings and coldness of heart. We see Christians possessing the same common faith, dividing themselves from one