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Mine eyes fail for thy word, saying, When wilt thou comfort me.—Ver. 82.
IN this verse the man of God expresseth—(1.) His earnest expectation of the comfort of the promises; (2.) His longing desire after it; as hope is wont to vent itself by serious thoughts, intermixed with strong desires of the blessing promised. His earnest expectation is expressed in the first clause, mine eyes fail for thy word. His longing and strong desire in the following words, saying, When wilt thou comfort me?
His earnest hope and expectation is first to be considered; and here his hope is described
1. By the effect, his looking after the accomplishment of the promise; as, Judges v. 28, when Sisera’s mother expected him, ‘She looked out at a window, and cried through the lattice, Why is his chariot so long in coming? why tarry the wheels of his chariots?’ and Rom. viii. 19, ‘The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth,’ &c.—ἀποκαραδοκία τῆς κτίσεως, the lifting up or stretching out of the head, as we use to do when we look for anything, to see if we can spy it coming.
2. By the incident weakness, because of the delay of help, ‘Mine eyes fail for thy word.’ He had looked and looked long, till he was weary of looking; what he said before of the soul, here he speaketh of his eyes. There the object was salvation, here the word.
Observe, first, that hope keepeth the eye of the soul so fixed upon the promise, that it is ever looking for deliverance and salvation. Hezekiah useth almost, the same manner of speech, Isa. xxxviii. 14, ‘Mine eyes fail with looking upward,’ that is, to God for ease and relief; as when we expect anybody’s coming, we send our eyes towards the place from whence he cometh. Reasons:—
1. The children of God make more of a promise than others do, and that upon a double account—partly because they value the blessing promised, partly because they are satisfied by the assurance given by God’s word; so that whereas others pass by these things with a careless eye, their souls are lifted up to the constant and earnest expectation of the blessing promised. It is said of the hireling, that he must have his wages before the sun go down, Deut. xxiv. 15, ‘Because he is poor, and hath set his heart upon it:’ or, as it is in the Hebrew, ‘lifted up his soul to it,’ meaning thereby both his desire and hope. He esteemeth his wage for it is the solace of his labours, and the maintenance of his life; and he assuredly expecteth it, upon the promise 362and covenant of him who setteth him awork. So it is with the children of God; they esteem the blessings promised, and God’s word giveth them good assurance that they do not wait upon him in vain: 1 Tim. iv. 10, ‘Therefore we both labour, and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the saviour of all men, especially of those that believe.’ They know God is good to all, much more to his covenant servants. They value his salvation, and venture their all upon his salvation and the truth of his word; and therefore lift up their souls to him in the midst of their pressures and difficulties.
2. It is some satisfaction to enjoy the blessing in idea and contemplation, before we have it indeed. Hope causeth a kind of anticipation and pre-union of our souls with the blessedness expected: as heirs live upon their lands before they have them. And that is the reason why joy is made to be the fruit of hope, though it be proper to fruition and enjoyment: Rom. xii. 12, ‘Rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.’ It refresheth them in their pilgrimage, and affecteth them in some measure as if it were in hand. So Rom. xv. 13, ‘The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.’ While believing, waiting, hoping, while conflicting with difficulties, the; carry themselves as if they had already obtained the thing promised; for by eying the promise they are cheered and revived. Hope giveth a foretaste, especially when the comforting Spirit addeth his impression thereunto.
3. The opening of the eye of faith argueth a closing of tie eye of sense, which giveth a double benefit—(1.) That we are not withdrawn by vain objects; (2.) Not discouraged with contrary appearances.
[1.] That we are not withdrawn by vain objects. Nothing doth quench zeal and holiness and joy in the Lord, nor cast water upon that sacred fire which should be kindled and kept ever burning in our bosoms, so much as keeping the eye of sense always open to behold the lustre and beauty of worldly vanities. Alas! then hope of heaven and salvation from God is a cold heartless thing; we think of it carelessly, desire and press after it very weakly. But now, when the eye of sense is shut, and the eye of faith kept always open, then hope advanceth itself with life and vigour, and present things seem less, and things to come greater and more glorious in our eyes: 1 Peter i. 13, ‘Be sober, and hope to the end,’ &c. Sobriety is the moderation of our affections in the pursuit and use of earthly things. The delights of the present life burden the soul, glue it to the earth, and to base and inferior objects; but when our souls are kept in the fresh, lively, and serious expectation of better things, all the things of the world appear more contemptible. It is not for eagles to catch flies, nor for the heirs of promise to be captivated by the delights of sense; so that every day our hope is more certain and powerful, our pursuit more earnest. The mind is not darkened with the fumes of lust, nor diverted from those noble objects.
[2.] The eye of sense being shut, we are not discouraged with contrary appearances, nor with fears and troubles ad the trials of the present life, because hope seeth sunshine behind the back of the storm. We have a notable emblem of the eye of faith an the eye of sense in 363the prophet and the prophet’s man: 2 Kings vi. 15-17, ‘When the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city, both with horses and chariots: and his servant said to him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about.’ Elisha’s man is affrighted with the dreadful appearance of enemies encompassing them round about, and is at his wit’s end. ‘What shall we do?’ But his master Elisha had the eye of faith, and could see great preparations which God had sent for their defence, which the servant could not see; therefore encourageth him, and in a prophetical vision showeth not only more horses and chariots, but chariots of fire, which were no other than the angels of God come together in the manner of a host, to rescue the prophet of God. What was represented to him in a prophetical vision is always evident to faith and to the eyes of a believing soul; they see God and his holy angels set for their deliverance. When God openeth the eyes of the mind, they can see the glory and power of the other world; and then, ‘though troubled on every side, yet not distressed; though perplexed, yet not in despair; though persecuted, yet not forsaken; though cast down, yet not destroyed,’ 2 Cor. iv. 8, 9, though wrestling with difficulties, yea, brought to some extremities, yet this invisible assistance supporteth them; and though they have little human means, yet God carrieth them on to their expected end and issue.
Use 1. To reprove us for poring so much upon present things, and neglecting those to come, especially the great recompense of reward. Alas! men have either none, or cold thoughts of that blessed estate which is offered in the promises. Our thoughts fly up and down like dust in the wind; they may sometimes light upon good things, but they vanish, and abide not. We may have some cold ineffectual glances upon heaven and heavenly things, which fly away, and never leave the soul better. This argueth hope is very weak, if there be any at all; for hope is always longing and looking out for the blessing, sending spies into the land of promise, to bring it tidings thence; it will discover itself not by glances and wishes; for the worst men may have some of these in their good mood and sober thoughts; but by frequent, deep, and ponderous meditations: you do not eye the mark, Phil. iii. 14, nor mind your scope and great end, 2 Cor. iv. 18. Certainly that which must be intended in every righteous action, either formally or virtually—that is, by some noted explicit thought, or by the unobserved act of some potent habit—should be oftener thought of and longed for; you do not live by faith else. For what is living by faith, but with drawing the mind from present things to things to come, looking beyond and above the world to eternity? 2 Cor. v. 7; Heb. xi. 11. You are not acquainted with the influence of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, for he openeth the eyes of the mind. Why? That you may look above the mists and clouds of the lower world to those good things which we are to enjoy in heaven, Eph. i. 17, 18, and 1 Cor. ii. 12. Alas! we are taken up with trifles and childish toys, have our thoughts little exercised about these nobler objects. Therefore is it that our diligence is so little; for if they were oftener minded, they would be more diligently sought after: Phil. iii. 14, ‘I press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ Therefore is our patience so little; for the bitterness of the cross would be more sweetened if our minds and meditations were oftener set about heaven and heavenly things, Rom. viii. 18. Therefore are our conversations so worldly, Phil. iii. 19, our desires and longings so cold and weak, so little mind to get home, Phil. i. 23, πολλῷ μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον.
Use 2. To press us to eye the promised blessedness more than we do. The promise is our warrant, and the thing promised is the comfort, solace, and support of our souls. The promise must be laid up in the heart with a firm strong assent, and the thing promised ever kept in view. I shall give you the qualifications of this expectation.
1. It must be a serious and earnest expectation: Phil. i. 20, ‘According to my earnest expectation, that in nothing I shall be ashamed.’ Earnest expectation is that which exciteth the heart to be ever looking and longing for the things promised. Our eyes are always looking to heaven, which is the seat and solace of our happiness. David describeth his earnestness notably: Ps. cxxx. 5, 6, ‘I wait for the Lord; my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning; I say, more than they that watch for the morning.’ The priests, that officiated in their turns, never missed the performance of their daily offices there. So David was still awakening his desires, continuing his daily attendance on God, and renewing his longings and hopes.
2. It is a lively expectation: 1 Peter i. 3, ‘Begotten again unto a lively hope.’ It is called lively from the effect, such as will put life into us in our damps of spirit and greatest discouragements, quickeneth us to hasten home apace, being animated by some cheerful foretastes of what we expect.
3. It is a constant and unconquerable expectation, not broken with present difficulties, but sustaineth the soul, till our full and final deliverance cometh in hand: Ps. cxxiii. 2, ‘As the eyes of servants look unto the hands of their masters, and the eyes of a maiden unto the hands of her mistress; so our eyes wait on the Lord our God, until he have mercy on us.’ They never give over waiting and looking till God show mercy: 1 Peter i. 13, ‘Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end, for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;’ and Heb. vi. 11, ‘And we desire that every one of you do show the same diligence, to the full assurance of hope unto the end.’
4. It is a sure and certain hope, as being built on God’s truth and faithfulness: it is compared to ‘an anchor sure and steadfast,’ Heb. vi. 18. Why? Because of God’s word and oath. God is the supreme verity, who can neither deceive or be deceived; therefore we should rest satisfied with his promise. To a promise, that it be certain and firm, three things are required,—that it be made seriously and heartily, with a purpose to perform it; that he that promiseth continue in this 365purpose, without change of mind; that it be in the power of him that promised to perform what is promised. Now of all these things there can be no doubt, if we believe the scriptures to be the word of God.
[1.] Certainly God meaneth as he speaketh when he promiseth to give eternal life to the faithful servants and disciples of Jesus Christ. There is no question but that he is so minded, when he who is truth itself hath told the world of this; for what needed God to court the creature, or tell them of a happiness which he never meant to bestow upon them? If an honest man hath promised anything in his power, we look he should be as good as his word. Yea, we have his oath, which is πέρας ἀντιλογίας, and μεγίστη παρὰ ἀνθρώποις πίστις. He sent his Son with a commission from heaven to assure us; he is, ‘Amen, the faithful witness,’ Rev. iii. 14. He wrought miracles to confirm his message, died, rose again, and revived: 1 Peter i. 21, ‘Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God.’ This message afterwards was confirmed by all kinds of signs and wonders, wrought by them who went abroad in his name to assure the world of this. Not to believe God is serious, is to make him a liar.
[2.] That God doth continue his purpose, there can be no doubt in them who consider his unchangeable nature; he may change his dispensation, but not his purposed will: James i. 17, ‘Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning;’ Mal. iii. 6, ‘I am the Lord, I change not; therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumed.’
[3.] That he is able to perform it, since he can do what he will: Rom. iv. 21, ‘And being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was also able to perform.’ So Phil. iii. 21, ‘According to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things to himself.’ The most difficult thing in our hope is the raising of our bodies after being eaten by worms and turned to dust. It is a thing incredible, and to flesh and blood wholly impossible; but nothing is impossible to God. It is within the reach and compass of divine omnipotency. Well, then, the thing is sure in itself; let us labour and suffer reproach, wait with patience, renounce the desires and delights of the flesh, and with patience continue in well-doing, and then we may lift up our souls to it. Our reward is sure.
The second point is from the incident weakness, because of the delay of help: ‘Mine eyes fail for thy word.’ He had his eyes fixed upon the promise till they were quite wearied.
Doct. 2. Though his people wait for him, yet God may so long delay and suspend the performance of the promises till they count it a hopeless business.
First, Suspend. The reasons are these:—
1. Not because he is unwilling to give, but because he will have us better prepared to receive: Ps. x. 17, ‘Thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear.’ We understand it usually of preparing the heart for prayer, to ask the mercy; but it is also meant of preparing the heart to receive the mercy: 2 Chron. xx. 33, ‘The high places were not taken away, because the people had not yet prepared 366their heart to the God of their fathers;’ they were not fit to have a thorough reformation accomplished in their days. The baker watcheth when the oven is hot, and then puts in the bread. At another time it went on roundly, for God had prepared the people, 2 Chron. xxix. 36. When we are in a posture, mercy will not be long a-coming. Heaven, the great mercy, is not given us till prepared; as heaven is prepared for us, so we for it: Rom. ix. 23, ‘That he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory;’ and Col. i. 12, ‘Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.’ So other mercies; our unpreparedness lieth as a block in the way, and hindereth the free passage of God’s mercy to us, till he send his work before him, &c.; Isa. xl. 10, ‘Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.’
2. To awaken fervency of prayer, and that the blessing may be the more earnestly sought after and highly valued. A thing easily come by doth not stir up such a desire after it. Τὸ ἕτοιμον εἰς ἐξουσίαν ἀργὸν εἰς ἐπιθυμίαν. We despise easy-gotten favours, but that which is long and earnestly sought is dearer to us. Therefore the Lord, to commend his favours to us, and to set a price upon them, will have us pray much and long: 1 Sam. i. 27, ‘For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me the petition which I asked of him.’
3. God doth it to prove and exercise our faith. Many of his servants have gone to the grave and his promises not yet accomplished, and yet have gone to the grave in hope: Heb. xi. 13, ‘These all died in faith, not having received the promises’ (that is, things promised), ‘but having seen them afar off, were persuaded of them, and embraced them.’ Then is faith tried when we can wait for the fulfilling of the promises: when we have no present enjoyment, and know not when we shall have, yea, likely never to see it in our days. The patriarchs lived and died believers; delay and non-enjoyment did not break their hearts, nor could death itself extinguish their faith. Death might bereave them of their friends, and their temporal estate, and all their earthly comforts, but of faith it could not.
4. That patience may have its perfect work. It is marvellous patience that can yet wait for the word, when it will yield us the expected comfort, though our eyes fail in waiting. Then is the greatest discovery of its perfection, when difficulties are many, hope long delayed. It hath but a part of its work before, to still the mind under lesser or shorter evils. The perfection of a thing is never discovered till it be put to a full trial. Patience is seen in waiting as well as suffering. To bear a little while is but the imperfect work of patience, some lesser degree of it; as to know a letter or two in the book is but an imperfect kind of reading; but to bear much and long, that is the perfect work. To lift up some heavy thing from the ground, argueth some strength; but to carry it for an hour, or all day, is a more perfect thing.
5. God delayeth the accomplishment of his promises, because many times the frame of his providence requireth it. All God’s works have their appointed hour and time, and God will not disturb the order of 367causes, or work sooner or later; but as the beautiful frame of his providence doth permit: John ii. 4, ‘Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.’ Our time wherein we would have him work, and his time wherein he will work, are often very different: for he will not manifest his help when it will please us best, but when his glory in working may be best seen: John vii. 6, ‘My time is not yet come, but your time is always ready.’
Secondly, The other branch is, that God may delay so long till they be disheartened, and give it over as a hopeless business. David saith his eyes failed for the word. When a man is disappointed of the things he looketh for, then his eyes are said to fail. So the captive Jews complained, Lam. iv. 17, ‘As for us, our eyes have yet failed for our vain help: in our watching, we have waited for a nation that could not save us.’
1. God may delay so long, till his enemies wax high and proud, as if above the reach of all evil, and God had forgotten them, or approved their ways: Ps. l. 21, ‘I keep silence, and thou thoughtest I was altogether like thyself.’ So long till all their fears are over: Job xxi. 9, ‘Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them.’ And their oppressions are multiplied: Ps. x. 5, 6, ‘His ways are always grievous, for he hath said in his heart, I shall not be moved.’
2. God may delay so long, till a land be wasted by sundry successive common judgments that light upon good and bad, Jer. xii. 4. After the complaint of the prosperity of the wicked, the prophet subjoineth, ‘How long shall the land mourn, and the herbs of the field wither?’ When they relent not, the land may fare the worse for them; and the godly, among the rest, suffer in these general calamities. God may plague the nation with dearth and famine, plague and pestilence, war and sword, fire and burning; and all this while no ceasing of their iniquities or oppressions.
3. God may delay so long till his people be strangely perplexed, and know not what to make of his providence. They wonder how his justice can endure it: Jer. xii. 1, ‘Righteous art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee; yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments; where fore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?’ Hab. i. 12, 13, ‘Art thou not from ever lasting, O Lord my God, mine holy one? We shall not die. O Lord, thou hast ordained them for judgment, and O mighty God, thou hast established them for correction. Thou art of purer eyes than to behold evil, and canst not look on iniquity: wherefore lookest thou upon them that deal treacherously, and boldest thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he?’ They cannot reconcile his attributes and providences. We that are short-sighted, and short-spirited creatures, see not God’s reasons; yea, God may delay so long, till their hearts faint, and their eyes fail, as in these two verses; till their faith and patience be quite spent, and they have left looking for it: Luke xviii. 8, ‘Shall he find faith on the earth?’ God loveth to show his people their infirmity, and to weaken all their courage, before he will do anything for them.
4. God may delay so long in some cases, that there is no hope that God will do anything for them in this life; but all reasons for patience 368are only taken from the general judgment: James v. 7, 8, ‘Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord; and stablish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.’ They are put off till then, till the general harvest and restitution of all things; and in the mean time they must be content to sow in tears, that they may reap the fruit of their labours and sufferings at that time, and have their cause judged at his tribunal. He useth the similitude of an husbandman: ‘Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.’ In some cases there may be no hope of our release till then, as the husbandman hath no profit by his seed until the harvest.
Secondly, I shall speak of this failing of the eyes.
1. Certainly the failing of the eyes is a fault, because it argueth the limiting of God, which is a great sin: Ps. lxxviii. 41, ‘They limited -the holy one of Israel.’ They limit God to times, means, instruments, present likelihood, and when these fail, their hearts fail. God cannot endure that his people, who ought wholly to depend upon him, and submit to him, should prescribe to him how or when he should help, as if they had a power of God, or could set bounds to his wisdom, mercy, omnipotency: all which are, as if he could do no more than what they conceive probable, or should act when they conceive fitting; and if he doth not then, that he never will, or can do it. They prescribe to his wisdom, control his power, question his love and truth.
2. As it is a fault, so it is a punishment. Though David here saith, ‘Mine eyes fail with waiting,’ for that salvation and mercy which thou hast promised in the word, yet it is the usual judgment of the wicked, one of the curses of the law. It is said, Deut. xxviii. 32, ‘Thy sons and daughters shall be given to another people, and thine eyes shall fail, in looking and longing for them all the day long.’ They should look and long for some help, for the rescuing of their children, even till their eyes did fail in waiting, but all in vain: so Job xi. 20, ‘The eyes of the wicked shall fail them, they shall not escape, but their hope shall be as the giving up of the ghost.’ They may look for good, but never get the sight of it. Again, Deut. xxviii. 65, ‘The Lord shall give thee trembling of heart and failing of eyes.’ But though failing of eyes be a curse of the law, yet Christ became a curse for us. It is said in his name, Ps. lxix. 3 (for that psalm belongeth to Christ), ‘Mine eyes fail in waiting for my God.’ And so it is altered to us; it is a correction to humble us, and fit us for better -things.
3. Though it be a sin and punishment, yet the fault is not in God’s delay, but in the weakness and faintness of our hope. There was a fault in our first resolution for faith and patience. The children of God usually set to themselves a shorter period than the Lord doth. And so God is not slack, but we are hasty: 2 Peter iii. 9, ‘The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness, but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.’ And there is a weakness in the exercise of our faith and patience. They that look long for good, and the succour of his promises, the delay is troublesome to them. ‘Hope deferred maketh the heart sick,’ Prov. xiii. 12. Hope belongeth to 369love; and the affections of pursuit and love maketh absence tedious when afflicted in the interim; but faith and dependence upon God should keep us waiting, and patience should enable us to tarry his leisure: Jonah ii. 4, ‘I said, I am cast out of thy sight, yet I will look again toward the holy temple.’ There is our fault, that we give over hope and calling upon God, and depending on him, and holding fast on his covenant and promise, which we should not do. When God seemeth to turn his back on the saints, yet they will not forsake him.
4. The hopes of God’s children fail them long, though not for ever. He many times bringeth his children to a low ebb, and doth for a long time withhold his aid, yet he doth not altogether forsake them: Isa. liv. 7, 8, ‘For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee. In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy redeemer.’
Use. Well, then, let us not be over-troubled at the delay of the promised and expected blessings.
1. We are hasty for mercy, slow to duty: Ps. cii. 2, ‘When I call, answer me speedily.’ We cry, How long? But how justly may God cry, How long? We complain of the delay of the promise; God may more justly complain of the delay of our obedience. How long do we make God stay and wait till our leisure come? Jer. iv. 14, ‘O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?’ and Jer. xiii. 27, ‘O Jerusalem, wilt thou not be made clean? when shall it once be?’ To-day, now is the time we set God for mercy, to-morrow for duty. God must tarry our sinful leisure, and we will not tarry his holy leisure. God is our sovereign, we are debtors to him. Ours is a debt, his a free gift. If God had been as quick with you as you with him, where had you been?
2. It argueth weakness; a short walk is a long journey to the weak and sickly. It is the impatience of our flesh and the weakness of our faith. We would make short work for faith and patience, but God seeth then our graces would not be found to any praise and honour. God is the best judge of opportunities, therefore all must be left to his will and pleasure. Faith will not count it long; for to the eye of faith things future and afar off are as present: Heb. xi. 1, ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.’ It is said, Isa. xxviii. 16, ‘He that believeth shall not make haste.’ Sense and carnal confidence must have present satisfaction, but faith contents itself with promises. Love will not count it long; for seven years to Jacob seemed as a few days, Gen. xxix. 20. Sufferings for Christ would not be so tedious, where love prevaileth. Patience would not count it long. Cannot we tarry for him a little while? Heb. x. 37, ‘Yet a little while, and he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry,’ ἔτι γὰρ μίκρον ὅσον ὅσον. We love our own ease, and therefore the cross groweth irksome and tedious.
3. God is a God of judgment: Isa. xxx. 18, ‘And therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you; and therefore will he be exalted, that he may have mercy upon you: for the Lord is a God of judgment; blessed are all they that wait for him.’ Mercy will 370not come one jot too soon nor one jot too late; in the fittest time for God to give and us to receive: Heb. iv. 16, εὔκαιρον βοήθειαν, ‘In the time of need.’ We think we stay for God, but he stayeth for us. If we were ripe for mercy, God is always ready, for he is a present help: Ps. xlvi. 1, ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’
I come now to the second clause, his longing desire after it, saying, When wilt thou comfort me? that is, David was ever and anon repeating and saying, ‘Lord, when?’ The Hebrews express their wishes by way of question: Oh, that thou wouldest comfort me!
Doct. 3. When our hope and help is delayed, we may complain to God for want of comfort.
1. What is the comfort which David intendeth? In the general, consolation is opposed to grief and mourning. Sin hath woven calamities into our lives, and filled us with. griefs, troubles, and sorrows, so that we need comfort. Comfort is either eternal, spiritual, or temporal.
[1.] Eternal: 2 Thes. ii. 16, ‘Everlasting consolation and good hope through grace:’ Luke xvi. 25, ‘Remember that thou in thy life time receivedst thy good things, and Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.’
[2.] Spiritual, which is of two sorts:—
(1.) Comfort against the trouble of sin; in which respect the Holy Ghost is called the Comforter. In this respect the Holy Ghost biddeth them comfort the penitent incestuous person, 2 Cor. ii. 7.
(2.) Against affliction: so God is said to ‘comfort those that are cast down,’ 2 Cor. vii. 6; and Ps. xciv. 19, ‘In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul:’ 2 Cor. i. 3, 4, ‘Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort, who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.’
[3.] Temporal; so God is said to comfort those whom he freeth from afflictions: Ps. lxxi. 21, after deep and sore troubles, ‘Thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.’ So the Lord comforteth his people, not by word only, but also by deed; not only by speaking comfort to them, but also by relieving them, and refreshing them, and freeing them from their troubles. So Isa. lii. 9, ‘Sing, ye waste places, for the Lord hath comforted his people, he hath redeemed Jerusalem.’ Though God’s people lay low for a time, yet his blessing can exalt them beyond all expectation, and bring about such happiness as may make them forget their sorrows and miseries. This is intended here: Lord, when wilt thou give that deliverance which I pray for, and wait for at thy hands? Let it not seem strange that temporal deliverance should be owned as a comfort to God’s people. Partly because they are acts of God’s providence and dispensations of his grace, sought not77 Qu. ‘out’? or ‘for’?—ED. in a way of faith and prayer: Zech. i. 17, ‘The Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.’ Partly because by these he seemeth to own them, and 371confirm them in the privilege of his peculiar care, and that they have an interest in his favour; which by sad afflictions seemed to be an nulled and made void. But hereby God giveth proof of his favour to them: Ps. lxxxvi. 17, ‘Show me a token for good, that they which hate me may see it, and be ashamed; because thou, Lord, hast holpeu me, and comforted me:’ that in their affliction godliness may not suffer, nor wicked men be hardened in their insolency. Partly as hereby promises are made good, and so faith confirmed: Isa. lvii. 18, ‘I will heal him, and restore comforts to him, and to his mourners.’ Partly as they are helps and encouragements to love and praise God, and to live in a thankful course of holiness, when not stopped or diverted by fear of enemies: Isa. xii. 1, ‘In that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee; though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me.’ We may serve God more cheerfully then. Partly because as they have seen his wisdom and justice in their troubles, so now his power and grace and truth in their deliverance. They are more comfortable, because there is much of God discovered in them, Ps. cxv. 1. Lastly, because they are comfortable to the natural life. They are not so divested of all human respects. Yet therein the saints moderate themselves; they do not count these things their highest consolation. So it is said of the wicked, Luke vi. 24, ‘Woe unto you that are rich, for ye have received your consolation:’ and Luke xvi. 25, ‘Thou receivedst thy good things.’ Yet a sense they have, otherwise how can we be humbled under crosses, or give thanks for blessings?
2. We may complain of the delay of comfort. God’s children have done so: Ps. vi. 3, ‘But thou, O Lord, how long?’ Ps. xiii. 1, ‘How long wilt thou forget me, Lord? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?’ so ver. 2, ‘How long shall mine enemies triumph over me?’ Ps. xciv. 3, 4, ‘Lord, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked triumph? How long shall they utter, and speak hard things? and all the workers of iniquity boast themselves?’ Reasons:—
[1.] Partly because prayer giveth ease; it is a vent to strong affections.
[2.] It reviveth the work of faith, hope, and patience.
[3.] Though God knoweth when to bestow blessings, yet he will not blame the desires of his children after them.
Use. Well, then, let us seek comfort, and complain not of God, but to God. Complaints of God give a vent to murmurings; but complaints to God, to faith, hope, and patience.
1. Refer the kind of comfort to God, whether he will give temporal deliverance, a comfortable sense of his love, or hopes of glory, a clearer right and title to eternal rest.
2. Yea, refer the thing itself. Comfort is necessary, because a great part of our temptations lie in troubles as well as allurements. Sense of pain may discompose us, as well as pleasure entice us. The world is a persecuting as well as a tempting world. The flesh troubleth as well as enticeth. The devil is a disquieting as well as an ensnaring devil. But yet comfort, though necessary, is not so necessary as holiness. Therefore, though comfort is not to be despised, yet sincere love to God is to be preferred; and though it be not dispensed so 372certainly, so constantly, and in so high a degree in this world, we must be contented. The Spirit’s comforting work is oftener interrupted than the work of holiness; so much as is necessary to our employment for God in the world we shall have.
3. Comfort is raised in us by the Spirit of God: Acts ix. 31, ‘Then had the churches rest, and were edified, and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.’ For means we have his word, his promises, and also his providence. His word: Rom. xv. 4, ‘Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.’ His promises: Ps. cxix. 50, ‘This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me:’ Heb. vi. 17, 18, ‘Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.’ And also his providence, protection, and defence: Ps. xxiii. 4, ‘Thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.’ The rod and staff are spoken of as instruments of defence.
4. Consider how ready God is to comfort his people: Isa. 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.’ When time serveth, God sendeth these messages.
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