The Happy Effects of the Pouring out of the Spirit
Based on a Sermon by Samuel Davies, October 16, 1757
“Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine, (13) for the soil of my people growing up in thorns and briers, yes, for all the joyous houses in the exultant city. (14) For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks; (15) until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. (16) Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. (17) And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. (18) My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. (19) And it will hail when the forest falls down, and the city will be utterly laid low.” Isaiah 32:12-19
The world was in turmoil when this sermon was first preached in 1757. It was the time of the French and Indian War (1754-63) which involved the colonies of British America against those of New France. In 1757, in particular, the time when this sermon was first preached, the British colonial government fell in the region of modern Nova Scotia after several disastrous campaigns.
The world was in turmoil then but it is still in turmoil today. It is so in physical conflict in many places. And in our country, though seemingly physically secure for now, the conflict rages elsewhere: In the plight of the unborn, the abandonment of morals and in a sense of reasonable thought itself. There is great cause for concern and lament.
Hear what Mr Davies could say about his times: “I need not tell you how gloomy and discouraging the prospect is before us, from the growing power of the French; from their great influence with the Indian savages; from the naked and defenseless state of our country; from the dastardly, secure spirit that prevails among the generality, and from many causes that I need not name. These things are too public and notorious for me to enlarge upon them. Alas! who is ignorant of them? though but few lay them properly to heart.”
And is this not applicable today? This nation is certainly under threat from within and from without. The collapse of morality from within and the influence of anti-christian forces from without are very real and present dangers.
The great question which I would have us turn our thought to, is this: What is the best remedy in this sad case? This, I believe, we may clearly find in the verses I have read to you.
At the time to which this prophecy seems principally to refer, namely at the destruction of the Jews by the Babylonians, their iniquities had reached their height. It would have been inconsistent with the nature of God to delay their punishment any longer. Therefore the Babylonians were commissioned as the executioners of divine vengeance to ravage their land, destroy their city and temple, and carry away the inhabitants by three successive captivities, until the land was left uninhabited, barren, and desolate for seventy years.
This is when the prophecy in our text was fulfilled: "Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vine, for the soil of my people growing up in thorns and briers, yes, for all the joyous houses in the exultant city." The description exultant is added with goal of highlighting the calamity. "The houses of joy" are turned into heaps of rubbish.
"The exultant city" is made a sad wasteland, overrun with briers and thorns. The men of sensuality and luxury, who were accustomed to party in these houses of joy, and to spend their time in pleasure, are now stripped of all their possessions, and feel the opposite of their usual delights in a servile, dismal captivity; and to such, the calamities of war, poverty, and slavery, are peculiarly painful and mortifying. These effeminate souls were never accustomed to hardships and self-denial, and therefore must sink the lower under their weight.
The description “exultant” may also imply that the extravagant luxury and love of pleasure that prevailed among the Jews, was one of the causes of the destruction of their country and nation. Their houses are laid in ruins, because they have been houses of guilty joy. Their city is made desolate, because it had been unseasonably and excessively an exultant city. So the meaning can be expressed as: "Upon the land of my people shall come up briers and thorns, because of the houses of joy in the exultant city."
These joyous houses brought destruction upon the inhabitants. Their luxury and pleasure had a natural tendency to destroy them in and of themselves. They produced thoughtless security and presumption. They turned the attention of the people from the concerns of their country, to sensual gratifications and amusements. They softened and unmanned the populace, and made them oblivious to the dangers and hardships of soldiers in the field.
They tempted them to spend those things in diversions and extravagant pleasures which should have been spent for defense of their country; and luxury and pleasure provoked the God of heaven, who holds the scale of empires in his hand, and lets it rise or fall according to his pleasure.
The unseasonable joy of this people at a time when the tokens of the Almighty's anger were upon them; their taste for fun and pleasure, when he called them to repentance, brought his heavy vengeance upon them, and he determined to destroy a people that would not be corrected by chastisement.
Here also I leave you to judge, whether we and our nation are not in the same type of danger! Has not a deluge of luxury and pleasure almost overwhelmed everyone, from the highest to the lowest? To eat and drink sumptuously; to feast, and dance, and party-these are the grand affairs that engross the attention of most
On this account, I am afraid this abundance, with which a gracious God has blessed our guilty country, will prove a curse to many, who add to their guilt by ungratefully abusing the additional mercies of God towards them.
How unseasonable is this taste for pleasure and diversions, at such a time as this! At a time when, "the Lord GOD of hosts called for weeping and mourning.” He told you to shave your heads in sorrow for your sins and to wear clothes of sackcloth to show your remorse, that is, to all the solemn and public evidences of repentance. But instead of these, "behold, joy and gladness, killing oxen and slaughtering sheep, eating flesh and drinking wine," that is, all the activities of luxury and festivity, as if they acted upon the epicurean maxim, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!" And I wish the secret revealed to the prophet with regard to such, may not be equally applicable to our age and country: "The LORD of hosts has revealed himself in my ears: “Surely this iniquity will not be atoned for you until you die,” says the Lord GOD of hosts " (Isaiah 22:12-14)
The prophet goes on to describe the desolation of Judea and Jerusalem, and to assign the reason why the land should be overrun with briers and thorns during the captivity; namely, Because "the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever!" These places of strength and beauty shall be "a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks;" where they shall graze to the full, and lie down undisturbed.
When the prophet has finished describing the utter desolation of the Holy Land, he tells the Jews how long how long it would last; and that is, "until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high."
The Holy Spirit of God is described in the Scriptures as the original fountain of all the real goodness and virtue which is to be found in our degenerate world; the only author of reformation, conversion, sanctification, and every grace included in the character of a saint, or a godly man. The pouring out of the Spirit is a Scripture phrase, which describes a plentiful communication of his influence to bring about a thorough reformation. It is not a distilling, or falling in gentle drops, like the dew; but an abundant rush, or pouring out, like a mighty shower, or torrent that carries everything before it.
Now, as the communication of the Spirit is necessary to produce a reformation, so a large communication, or outpouring of the Spirit, is necessary to produce a public, general reformation; such as may save a country on the brink of ruin, or recover one already laid desolate.
Without this, all other means will be of no use; and the diseased nation will languish more and more, until it is at length dissolved. Until this outpouring of the Spirit, says the prophet, briers and thorns will come upon the land; and the houses of joy, the palaces, and towers, will be heaps of ruins, dens for wild beasts, and pastures for flocks! Until that blessed time comes, no means can effectually repair a broken state, or re-people a desolate country.
But when that blessed time does come, then what a glorious revolution, what a happy change takes place! Then says the prophet, "the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest. Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever. My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places. These are the blessed peaceful effects of the outpouring of the Spirit; and these effectually cure all the ravages of godlessness, and ensure a lasting peace, with all its blessings.
"And the work of righteousness shall be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness, and assurance forever." (v.17) When righteousness becomes the universal principle and rule of action, it will produce peace, quietness, and assurance, or security from danger. And as a result of this, "my people will abide in a peaceful habitation." (v.18) That is they will remain undisturbed in their possessions, and enjoy the blessings of peace, free from fighting at home, and invasions from abroad. In this unmolested and happy situation, they will continue, even when "it will hail when the forest falls down;" (v.19) or when storms of public calamities break upon other countries, and devastate them.
And so we may now have a full view of the progression from truth to truth in our text:
1. Desolation overspreads the country until the Spirit is poured out;
2. the Spirit poured out produces righteousness, or true religion;
3. righteousness produces peace, quietness, and assurance;
and under its influence the inhabitants live in a peace, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places, even when storms and tempest toss and devastate other nations.
And so, you see, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit is the great and only remedy for a ruined country! This is the only effective means of preventing national calamities and desolations, and the only sure cause of a lasting and well-established peace. This is the truth which we will now look into and illustrate.
And it is all the more necessary that we should dwell on this as it is generally but very little thought of. There are more and more voices that complain that our country is in real danger. That it is on a very dangerous course; that a stable peace cannot be preserved without better laws; without quick and effective measures.
There are a small few also who complain, that our country cannot be safe or prosperous without a general reformation; that it cannot be expected that the undertakings of a guilty, impenitent people, ripe for the judgments of God, can succeed, until their repentance is in some measure as striking and public as their sin. This is right and good; but, unless we look further, we do not go to the bottom of things. As all our measures are not likely to be successful without a reformation; so we may despair of ever seeing a thorough, general reformation, unless “the Spirit is poured upon us from on high.”
We have a picture of this in the piece of history to which our text refers, and in which it had its accomplishment. The Jews were a numerous and powerful people: their cities were all fortified, especially Jerusalem, their capital; and yet their impenitent sinning, without reformation, made them an easy prey to their enemies. But why did they continue impenitent? Why were they not reformed? Was it because they did not enjoy proper means? No! they had the law of Moses; they had the ministry of the prophets, who loudly called them to repentance through a succession of ages, and in the most explicit ways denounced the judgments of God against them, if they should continue impenitent; they enjoyed all the advantages of an extraordinary immediate providence; in short, they had better helps and encouragements for reformation than all mankind together, except for we, who have the happiness of living under the more complete and glorious dispensation of the gospel.
And yet they sinned on still, impenitent and unreformed: no general reformation was carried on by all these means; and even under the hardships of captivity, they still continued to be the same incorrigible sinners. Hence God complains of them, "but when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name," (Ezek 36:20) as they had done before in their own land. And what was lacking all this time for their effectual reformation? It is that: the Spirit was not yet poured upon them from on high; and while he was absent, they continued unreformed, and their country desolate.
But when the time for their restoration came, then the Spirit was poured out. And so their restoration and the effusion of the Spirit are connected in the divine promise: "I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean... and I will put my Spirit within you." (Ezek 36:24-27)
And when this promise was fulfilled, what was the result? A glorious public reformation followed, of which you see an account in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. They returned to their own land as weeping penitents, according to Jeremiah's prediction, which seems to have had its primary accomplishment in this event. "The people of Israel and the people of Judah shall come together, weeping as they come, (this is a description of the march of the captives in their return to their own country,) “and they shall seek the LORD their God. They shall ask the way to Zion,” (Zion, the place where the house of God once stood, which they are eager to rebuild) “with faces turned toward it, saying, ‘Come, let us join ourselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will never be forgotten" (Jer 50:4, 5)
And when they were brought to repentance in this way, what a happy change came about! The scattered captives were collected; they restored their ruined church and state, and again became a free and flourishing people. And what happened to them will also happen to us, and all nations of the earth in all ages, given the same circumstances.
In order to illustrate this, we will pass to a few arguments to prove the absolute necessity of a general outpouring of the Spirit, to bring about a general reformation.
From the many arguments for this truth in the holy Scriptures we will highlight only a few; and they will mainly be such as refer to nations and not to individuals, or private people; asserting the Holy Spirit to be the only author of public national reformation, as well as of the conversion of particular people.
The physical prosperity of the Jews in this world, who were under a Theocracy, (a form of government in which God is recognized as the supreme civil ruler) depended in a special way on their continued obedience. And their restoration depended on their return to obedience, or their reformation. And so, among the many promises of prosperity and restoration which Moses makes to them in the name of God, this is one:
“The LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” that is, that you may be a prosperous people. “And the LORD your God will put all these curses on your foes and enemies... The LORD your God will make you abundantly prosperous in all the work of your hand, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your cattle and in the fruit of your ground.” (Deu 30:6-9)
In Jeremiah 31 there are many promises made to the Jews, both of temporal and spiritual prosperity, upon their conversion to God: and as the center of it, this is inserted, "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts." (Jer 31:33) This is taken up again, with an direct reference to national deliverance, in the next chapter.
“Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. (38) And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (39) I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. (40) I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. (41) I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. (42) “For thus says the LORD: Just as I have brought all this great disaster upon this people, so I will bring upon them all the good that I promise them.” (Jer 32:37-42)
Zerubbabel was the great restorer of the Jewish church and state, after the Babylonish captivity: and Zechariah informs us that this was the Word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, for his encouragement, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts." (Zech 4:6) The reformation of the Jews, and their consequent restoration to a flourishing state, is not brought about by any human power or means, but by my Spirit alone.
And this will hold equally true in every age, especially under the gospel age, which is peculiarly the dispensation of the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, (Gal 5:22) are virtues which have the best influence on human society; and were they universally prevalent, they would effectively prevent all the calamities of war, and ensure all the blessings of peace. And these, Paul tells us, are the fruits, or effects, of the Spirit, in his letter to the Galatians.
And, therefore, "until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high," they will never grow and flourish. Faith, repentance, and every grace are the free gift of God, formed by the Holy Spirit. (Ephesians 2:8; Phil. I. 29; Acts 5:31, and 11:18; 2 Timothy 2:25; 2 Corinthians 5:17, 18.) In short, not one soul, much less a whole nation, can be effectually reformed without the power of God.
If even a well-disposed Lydia gave a believing attention to the things spoken by Paul, it was because the Lord opened her heart. (Acts 16:14) "No one can come to me”, these are the word of our Lord, “unless the Father who sent me draws him." (John 6:44)”
The Holy Spirit is consistently represented, through the whole Scriptures, as the source of all the goodness that is in the world; as the sacred fire, from where comes every spark of true religion that is to be found in the heart of any person.
And the doctrine of the Scriptures, in this respect, is confirmed by history, and matters of fact, in all ages. When the Spirit is withdrawn , the result is always, that those people and nations in particular who are left without him, have degenerated: vice and luxury have gained ground, and true religion has declined, and died away; and that, too, in the midst of the most proper means to promote reformation, and to strengthen the things that remain.
Then, the most solemn preaching, and the most alarming providences and signs have no effect; but men continue blind and senseless under the clearest instructions, and the loudest warnings! They grow harder and harder, instead of being refined in the furnace of affliction!
But on the other hand, when “the Spirit is poured upon us from on high”, then the cause of true religion and virtue is promoted, almost without means; then sinners are awakened by a word; then true religion catches and circulates from heart to heart, and overcomes all opposition. Peter had preached many sermons before the one we find recorded in Acts 2; and his Lord and master had preached many also but with very little success. But now by one short sermon, no fewer than three thousand are converted in a few minutes among a hostile, prejudiced multitude, some of whom had been complicit in the death of Jesus Christ only a few days before!
And how does this come to happen? Peter himself will tell you, it was because the ancient prophecy of Joel was being fulfilled, "I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh." (Acts 2:16, 17; Joel 2:28) Then, too, was fulfilled the promise of the blessed Jesus to his disciples; "I will send him”, that is the Holy Spirit, “to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment." (John 16:7, 8.) It was this which caused the progress of the gospel to be so quick and irresistible through the world, in spite of the most powerful opposition from everywhere in that age; which, in times seemingly more favorable, has weakened and lost ground!
And in our age, there have been revivals and awakenings in the 17 and 18 hundreds which you can read about and which produced wonderful results. But what is our state today?
It is lamentably evident, that there has not been in the recent past any such general outpouring of the Spirit, as is necessary to produce a public national reformation: which is the only cure for a nation so far gone as ours. We are losing ground indeed before seen and unseen enemies.
It appears that the vast majority lie in a deep sleep, presumptuous and prayerless, even in the face of increasing threats and dangers. They hardly ever think about their sins as the cause of these public calamities; nor do they humble themselves under these judgments, as indications of the righteous displeasure of God. (In his day, Davies no doubt was referring to military defeats, but in our day we have our own calamities as in the fate of the unborn, the retreat of every form of Christianity, the steady loos of freedom and the steady gain of Islam.) More than that, some have come to such a daring height of infidelity, as virtually to reject the authority of God, and to avow that they do not think the God of heaven has anything to do with such affairs at all.
Our country and nation have had the gospel for a long time; the gospel, which is the most effective instrument to reform the world, which has subdued so many obstinate sinners, and which has peopled heaven with so large a colony from our guilty globe.
We have been spared major trials in the recent past, such as devastating wars or epidemics. And it appears that infidelity, irreligion, immorality, and luxury are all gaining their ground. And a spirit of deep sleep seems to be poured out, instead of a spirit of reformation.
I wish it were evident, that we, in this assembly, have escaped this heavy judgment. And I cannot but hope, some divine influence is at work here and there among us. But I do fear, that even we have reason to lament and cry after the departed Spirit of God. I am greatly afraid we may be named "Ichabod",(1 Sam. 4:21, 22) as in first Samuel chapter 4, because the glory has departed.
For what has now become of that inquiry, "What shall I do to be saved?" Where, now, are the tears, the sighs, and groans of broken-hearted sinners? Where are their eager searches and crying out for Jesus? When do we now see attentive crowds in the house of God, hearing as for their lives, with all the natural signs of raised passions in their expressions?
These are sadly rare things today. In some, vice appears impudent and barefaced, without a veil. Others indulge themselves in a senseless carelessness about true religion, and think it enough if they observe some of its fashionable outward forms, while they know nothing of the vigorous, heart-exercises of genuine Christians. And this seems to be the state of Christianity throughout the earth and certainly in the western world.
Now this is a sufficient evidence, that the Spirit has not been poured upon us from on high in a plentiful shower. And this gives us reason to fear, that the furnace which God has kindling among us is not intended to refine, but to consume: or, in other words, that signs which we are beginning to see, or which we fear, are rather intended to destroy, than to reform.
For we must see that such dispensations, and the means of grace in general, are intended for two very different ends; sometimes to reform and save; and sometimes to harden and destroy. Even Jesus Christ the Savior came into our world for judgment, as well as for mercy; and is set for the fall, as well as rise, of many in Israel. The ministry of the gospel is a “fragrance from death to death,” as well as of “life to life.” (2 Cor 2:16)
Isaiah was sent as a prophet to the Jews, when their sins were ripening fast, and their national desolation was approaching. And what was he sent for? Not to reform them; that was hopeless; but you may read his commission. “And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.” Then I said, “How long, O Lord?” And he said: “Until cities lie waste without inhabitant, and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the LORD removes people far away, and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.” (Isaiah 6:9-12)
We must have some better hopes concerning our country: but it may well be that this dreadful passage may be fulfilled even upon it. It is to be feared that briers and thorns will grow up in our land, or, which is much the same, that it may fall to some form of repressive government or become the range of Islam and all its repression and persecution. "Until The Spirit is poured upon us from on high." And when that time will come, whether sooner or later, is among the secrets of the divine providence.
From what has been said, you may see what we principally need. We need good Government to protect the vulnerable, uphold righteousness, punish wickedness, uphold freedom and maintain and promote peace. But more than that, what we principally need above all else is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all ranks; and until this happens, nothing is likely to go on well with us.
We need a general public reformation: and we shall always need it, "until The Spirit is poured upon us from on high." Sadly, this need is little thought of; but it is by so much the more dangerous and lamentable. Never will our country and nation be safe, or any other be out of the reach of some executioner of divine vengeance, until there be a public general reformation: and never will there be such a reformation, "until The Spirit is poured upon us from on high."
Here we must not forget something even more important; unless The Spirit is poured out upon us, thousands of Canadians, thousands of our neighbors, must perish forever; perish not in their own country, but in hell!
Perish not by some outward calamity, but by the sword of divine justice, and the horrid instruments and torture in the infernal regions. This is a much sadder thought than the ruin of our country. The ruin of souls, immortal souls, forever! without any hope of deliverance! from among the means of salvation! What horrid ruin is this! Yet this will be the doom of thousands, unless the Spirit is poured out, to turn and sanctify them.
Thousands declare by their conduct where they are going; they proclaim aloud that they are bound for hell; and nothing but the Almighty Spirit can stop them in their mad career! Some of these unhappy mortals may be our friends and relatives; at least they share with us in the same human nature, and therefore should be dear to us. Are not some of ourselves, even, of that number? Even the suspicion of this should take us aback, and lead us to think the matter over carefully.
And therefore we see that the Spirit of God is the most important blessing, both to our country, and our souls, both with regard to time, and eternity; and without it, both our country and our souls will certainly be lost in the end.
And from this you may be directed in your prayers to God. Pray for the parliament, for our leaders, legislators, and all our officers, civil and military: pray for the church of God. Pray for good regulations among ourselves, for the weakening of our enemies, and for the speedy return of a well-established peace and righteousness: pray for our own reformation, and for the conversion even of our enemies: but above all, pray for an outpouring of the Spirit. This is the great, radical, all-encompassing blessing: and if this is granted, everything else will go well with us!
let me leave you with some practical advice, which you generally follow already in temporal affairs; and that is, to prepare for the worst. Perhaps our religion may not be that cheap thing to us in time to come, which it has been up until now: perhaps there may come a day when it may yet even cost us our lives.
This could well be our fate, for example, if Islam continues to grow and take hold in our country. If this seems far-fetched read about the conditions of Christians in Iran this very day. And where is the glorious company of martyrs to be found among us? Who of you is willing to embrace persecution or imprisonment for the sake of Jesus? Jesus, who died for you, will expect that some in this place will die for him, if it should ever come to that. And who of you is prepared to give this painful, this last evidence of your love and faithfulness to him? Now, you have time to think about it, and make yourselves ready: and it is prudent, as well as your duty, to use your time wisely, lest you be surprised unprepared.
What will our country be like in 50 or 100 years? There is certainly reason for concern with all the bewildering signs we are seeing swirling around: Gender confusion, the abandonment of the unborn, the embracing of an anti-christian religion to name a few.
Perhaps some of us are born to see such tragic revolutions as these: and if so, what awaits us but poverty and slavery, and the loss of all that is dear to us: and are we prepared for such trials as these? or are we so senseless, as not to be alarmed, and excited to prepare, even by the distant threat of such things coming upon us? Nothing but real vital religion will stand these types of trials.
Let us, therefore, examine whether our religion is of this kind. If it is, we may bravely defy all the powers of earth and hell, to work our final ruin, and be secure and triumphant in Him that loved us, who will make us more than conquerors.
But if not, certainly, there is no time for one hour's ease and security; but we should be anxiously working to flee from the wrath to come, whether in this world, or the next. Let us now "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near," (Isaiah 55:6) and in this way we may yet escape to safety under God’s protection, before the gloomy storm breaks upon us.
And in the midst of these sad prospects, there is a ray of hope behind these threatening clouds, which helps us to take a little courage, and mingle some cheerful expectations with our fears. Who knows but the Lord will yet turn, and repent, and leave a blessing behind him? Who knows but he may yet surprise us with an outpouring of his Spirit, to purify us, instead of pouring upon us the vials of his displeasure, which we deserve? His ways are unsearchable; the turns of his providence are often surprising and unaccountable; and his mercy is above all our thoughts.
Perhaps he may allow dark powers in our midst to rise to such a great height, and us to be broken and reduced to such a helpless state, that his hand may be the more obvious in their overthrow, and in our deliverance. Perhaps great trials may bring us to our knees, as humble penitents before our offended Sovereign, and turn us to him: and then he may appear as our deliverer, when we become aware of our dependence on him, and that all of man’s efforts are vain.
We can take encouragement to hope for deliverance amid such trials, from a remarkable passage in Deuteronomy, in the thirty-second chapter, "The LORD will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free." (Deut 32:36) We have not yet been very directly affected, there is still hope of political change, and change in direction for the better and therefore there is still room for self-confidence. But when this ungodly confidence is put to death, and we are brought to acknowledge our need of God, then he may come and deliver us.
There is need of preparation for deliverance, as well as for trials and calamities; and to deliver us before we are prepared for it, would not prove a blessing in the end. To deliver a thoughtless, presumptuous, impenitent people, while they continue in this way would be to encourage their presumption and impenitence, and to make them more daring in sin, and in the neglect of God and true religion. To this purpose Peter exhorts us: "humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you." (1 Peter 5:6)
There is a due time for exaltation or deliverance; and if we would be exalted before the time, we would only be exalted upon a precipice, where we would soon turn giddy, and fall again with greater force!
Let us therefore long and pray not only for deliverance, but that we may be prepared for it, so that it may be a real blessing to us in the end, and such a deliverance may God grant us in due time through Jesus Christ.