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They that indeed would go to Heaven, and have a serious sense of the world to come upon their hearts, they are a different party from the world, and therefore the world hates them: “Be not conformed to this world" (John xvii. 14 and Rom. xii. 2). It was never yet so well with the world, but they were forced to stand upon their defence; and usually, as to any visible interest, they are the weakest, when their enemies are mighty and strong; and therefore they had need of a hiding place to run to, and a shield to defend them, to run to the covert and defence of God's provi. dence.
3. Observe the difference between these two notions, hiding place and shield. Sometimes God is said to be our strength and our shield (Psalm xxviii. 7): he furnisheth us within and without; he strengthens and forti. fies the heart, then wields and keeps off dangers. And sometimes, again, he is said to be a sun and shield (Psalm lxxxiv. 11). We have positive and privative blessings, or a sun to give us light, and a shield to give us strength; he promiseth to be both, but usually he so attempereth his providence, that where he is more a sun, there he is less a shield; that is to say, the more sparingly he vouchsafeth the knowledge of heavenly comforts, the more powerfully doth he assist his people in their weakness by his providence. As the Jews that were conversant about the shadows of the law, and lived under the darkness of that pedagogy, God was less a sun to them than he is to us; but yet they knew more of his powerful providence, of his temporal protection. Now, here it is a hiding place and a shield; what is the difference between these? God is a hiding place to keep us out of danger, and a shield to keep us in danger. Either we shall be kept from trouble, that dangers shall not overtake us; or, if they do overtake us, they shall not hurt us ; they shall only serve for this use, to make us sensible of God's defence, and to increase our thanksgiving for our protection; for God hides us, and, as a shield, interposeth himself between us and the strokes of our adversaries, those fiery darts which are flung at us. Well then, they imply, either God will keep us from seeing the evil, or fortify us that the evil shall not hurt us. One of these notions was not enough to express the fulness of God's protection: a hiding place, that is a fixed thing; but a shield and buckler, we may constantly carry it about with us wherever we go, and make use of God's power and love against all conflicts whenever we are assaulted. Again, on the other side, a shield were not enough to express it; for that only respects actual assaults; but God saves us from many dangers which we are not aware of, prevents troubles which we never thought of (Psalm xxi. 3).
4thly, Let us view these notions apart, and see what they contain for our comfort.
1. Let us look upon God as a hiding place. Men in great straits, when they are not able to make defence against pursuing enemies, they run to their hiding place, as we shall see the Israelites did from the Philistines. When the men of Israel saw that they were distressed, they hid themselves in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in high places, and in pits (1 Sam. xii. 6); and so God's children, when they are too weak for their enemies, seek a safe and sure hiding place: “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself” (Prov. xxii. 3). Certainly there is a hiding place for the saints, if we had but skill to find it out; and where is it but in God? “ Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble” (Psalm xxxii. 7). I do not delight to squeeze a metaphor, and to make it yield what it
intends not; yet these four things are offered plainly in this notion of a hiding place; there is secrecy, and capacity to receive, and safety, and confort.
(1.) Secrecy. It is not a fortress wherein a man does profess himself to be, and to stand out assaults; but it is a hiding place: “In the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion; in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me upon a rock” (Psalm xxvii. 5). God's protection of his people is a secret, hidden mystery, as everything is to a carnal man. The person hidden is seen abroad every day following his business, serving his generation, doing that work which God hath given him to do; yet he is hidden while he is seen, by the secret power and love of God dispensing of all things for his comfort and protection; the man is kept safe by ways which the world knows not of. So, “ Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man" (Psalm xxxi. 20). There is a secret power of God by which they are upheld and maintained by one means or other, which they see not, and cannot find out.
(2.) The next thing considerable in a hiding place, is capacity to receive us; and so there is in God: we may trust him with our souls, with our bodies, with our peace, with our goods, with our good name, with our all. Our souls, all that concerns us between this and the day of judgment, as St. Paul did: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day" (2 Tim. i. 12). He calls his soul and all the concernments of it a thing that was left, and that he durst trust, in the hands of God. Our soul is much sought after. Satan that hath lost the favour of God himself, envies that others would enjoy it; therefore maligns the saints, pursues them with great malice and power; but put it into the hands of God, he is able to keep it. And so for outward things; this hiding place is wide enough for all that we have, for goods, body, and good name: “ Thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion, from the strife of tongues” (Psalm xxxi. 20). As the hearts of men are in the hands of God, so are their tongues. There is the same reason why we should trust in God for all things, when we trust in him for one thing. And indeed, did we truly and upon Scripture grounds trust him for one thing, we should trust him for all things. If we did trust him with our souls, we should without anxious care trust him with our bodies and secular interests and concernments also.
(3.) Here is safety till the trouble be over; and we may be kept as quiet in God, as if there were no danger: “In the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast” (Psalm Ivii. 1). There is an allusion to a chicken under the dam's wing, when hawks, kites, and birds of prey are abroad, that are ready to seize upon them with their sharp beaks and talons; they run to the dam's wings, and there they are safe. So, “Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast” (Isa. xxvi. 20). There we have an allusion to a storm that is soon over, it is a little cloud that will easily be blown over; but, in the mean time, here is a covert and a defence. The use of God's protection and love is best known in a time of straits and difficulties.
(4.) There is not only safety but comfort, as under the dam's wings the chickens are not only protected, but cherished. Christians! it is not a dead refuge or hiding place, but like the wings of the hen, which yield warmth and comfort to the young brood : “ None of them that trust in
him shall be desolate" (Psalm xxxiv. 22). There is sweet support, and spiritual experience, and inward comforts ; so that a believer that is bid. den in the secret of God's presence, fares better than all those that have the world at will, and flow in ease and plenty, if he would judge of his condi. tion by spiritual considerations. Thus we have seen the first notion, God is a hiding place.
2. God is a shield. He is often called his people's shield in Scripture. Now, the excellency and properties of a shield lie in these things :
(1.) In the largeness and breadth of it, in that it hides and covers the person that weareth it from all darts that are flung at him, so as they cannot reach him : “ Thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield"' (Psalm v. 12). There is the excellency of a shield, to compass a person round about, that the darts flung at him may not reach him. There is a comfortable promise; it runs in other notions indeed, yet I will mention it upon this occasion, because the expressions are so notable and emphatical : “For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about” (Zech. ii. 5). Mark every word, for every word hath its weight. It was spoken when the returning Jews were discouraged at their small number; they had not enough to people their country, and build their towns, nor to defend themselves against their numerous and potent adversaries; now, what shall they do? God makes them this promise of a future increase, “I will be a wall,” &c. And there are three promises included in this one; namely, that he will be a wall, a wall round about them, and a wall of fire round about them; which is a further degree. A wall, there is a promise of that: “We have a strong city ; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks” (Isa. xxvi. 1). And a wall that doth encompass them on every side round about, there is a promise of that: “ As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people, from henceforth even for ever” (Psalm cxxv.2): he will be instead of all guards and defences. So likewise a wall of fire; not of brass or of stone, but of fire, that affrights at a distance, and consumes near at hand. Here is enough for a refuge, and to stay our hearts in the Lord's keeping; an allusion to those countries, when they travelled in the wilderness they were wont to make a fire about them, to preserve them from wild beasts. Thus doth God express his all-encompassing protection, he that is our shield.
(2.) The excellence of a shield lies in that it is hard and impenetrable. So this answers to the invincible power of God's providence, by which he can break the assaults of all enemies; and such a shield is God to his people: “My shield, and he in whom I trust” (Psalm cxliv. 2).
(3.) Shall I add one thing more? Stone's and darts flung upon a hard shield are beaten back upon him that flings them; so God beats back the evil upon his enemies and the enemies of his people: “Bring them down, O Lord our shield” (Psalm lix. 11). Shall I speak in a word? The favour of God is a shield: "With favour wilt thou compass him, as with a shield" (Psalm v. 12). The truth of God is a shield : “ His truth shall be thy shield and buckler” (Psalm xci. 4). And the strength and power of God, that is our shield : “ The Lord is my strength and my shield” (Psalm xxviii. 7).
Well now, you see this defence and this protection is set forth, “ Thou art my hiding place and my shield;" God accommodates himself to lisp to us in our own dialect, and to speak in such notions as we can best under
stand, for the help of our faith. Having opened the nature of this defence, the next thing I am to do is to show,
Secondly, The respect to the word, “ I hope in thy word.”
Ist, The word discovers God to be such a protection and such a defence to his people everywhere: “ The Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord will give grace and glory” (Psalm lxxxiv. II). As a sun, so he will give all things that belong to our blessedness; as a shield, so he will keep off all dangers from us. The Scripture shows not only what God can do herein, but what he will do for our sakes. So saith God to Abraham, “I am thy shield and thy exceeding great reward” (Gen. xv. 1). Abraham might be under some fear that the kings which he had lately vanquished, would work him some trouble; and then God comes and appears to him and comforts him, and tells him, “I am thy shield.”
2ndly, As the Scripture doth discover God under these notions, so it invites us and encourageth us to put God to this use : “ Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee : hide thyself as it were for a little moment” (Isa. xxvi. 20). There are chambers where we may rest. Where are they but in the arms of God's protection, in the chambers of his attributes, promises, and providence? The word invites us to make use of God, to enter into him as into a chamber of repose, while the storm is furious and seems to blow hard upon us. So, i He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm sci. 1). He that committeth himself to God for refuge, shall not be thrust out, but suffered to dwell there, and enjoy the benefit of a covert and defence.
3rdly, The Scripture assureth us of the Divine protection, that certainly it shall be so: “ Every word of God is pure; he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him" (Prov. xxx. 5). Do not think that these are careless expressions, that dropped into the Scripture by chance. No; they are the sure and pure words of the Lord, that will yield a great deal of comfort, peace, and happiness. So, “ As for God, his way is perfect : the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him” (Psalm xviii. 30). God hath passed his word, which he hath ever been tender of, in all ages of the world; he invites us to depend upon it. Thus it assures us of the Divine protection.
4thly, It directeth us as to the qualifications of the persons who shall enjoy this privilege: who are they?
1. You might observe, all those that believe, and none but those that believe; he is a buckler and a shield to all those that trust in him (Prov. xxx. 5; Psalm xviii. 30). Trust, and have it. If you will glorify God by faith, and depend upon him according to his word, you will find it to be so. We miss of our protection and defence by our doubts, unbelief, and distrust of God. All those that in time of danger are duly sensible of it, and make use of God as their refuge and hiding place, shall find him to be that to them which their faith expects from him.
2. The second qualification which the word directs us unto is this, those that sincerely obey his covenant: God is a sun and a shield to those that walk uprightly (Psalm lxxxiv. 11): and the same is repeated Prov. ii. 7, “ He is a buckler to them that walk uprightly ;" and Isa. xxxiii. 15, 16, where God saith, they that seek him shall dwell on high; his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks : they shall be preserved safe that fear him, and walk with him according to the tenour of his covenant. If you will not be faithful servants to God, how can you expect he should be a good master to you? Sincerely give up your heart to walk with God exactly and closely, and he will not be wanting to you. Others may be preserved by general providence, or rather reserved to future judgment; they may be kept “ until the pit be digged for the wicked ” (Psalm xciv. 13), as a malefactor is suffered to live till the place of execution be prepared. But to have this protection in mercy, it supposeth we are in covenant with God, and walk sincerely with him.
3. It directeth us how to expect this blessing, in what manner, only in the way and manner that it is promised : “ Seek righteousness, seek meekness ; it may be ye shall be hid” (Zeph. ii. 3); not absolutely, but as referring it to God's will. There is the keeping of the outward man, and the keeping of the inward man. As to the outward man, all things come alike to all; the Christian is safe whatever becomes of the man; the Lord will keep him to his heavenly kingdom (2 Tim. iv, 17, 18). That which the Christian desires mainly to be kept is his soul, that he may not miscarry, and blemish his profession, and dishonour God, and do anything that is unseemly. I say, we cannot absolutely expect temporal safety. The righteous are liable to many troubles ; therefore, in temporal things, God will not always keep off the temporal stroke, but leave us to many uncertainties, or at least hold us in doubt about it, that we may trust his goodness. When we trust God, we must trust all his attributes; not only his power, that he is able to preserve; but his goodness, that he will do that which is best, that there may be a submission and referring of all things to his will; as David, “ If he thus say, I have no delight in thee, behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him" (2 Sam. xv. 26). God will certainly make good his promise ; but this trust lies not in an absolute certainty of success. However, this should not discourage us from making God our refuge, because better promises are sure enough, and God's keeping us in suspense about other things is no evidence he will not afford them to us: it is his usual course, and few instances can be given to the contrary, to have a special regard to his trust. ing servants, and to hide them secretly. They that know his name will find it, that he never hath forsaken them that put their trust in him (Psalm ix. 10). It is the only sure way to be safe ; whereas, to perplex our souls with distrust, even about these outward things, that is the way to bring ruin and mischief upon ourselves, or turn aside to crooked paths. Well then, you see what respect the word hath to this privilege, that God is a shield and a hiding place. The word discovers God under these notions, the word invites and encourageth us to put God to this use, the word assures us of the Divine protection; it directeth us to the qualification of the persons that shall enjoy this privilege, they that can trust God, and walk uprightly with him ; and it directeth us to expect the blessing, not with absolute confidence, but leaving it to God.
Thirdly, The third thing I am to do, is to show this word must be ap. plied by faith, “I hope in thy word.” Hope is not strictly taken here, but for faith, or a certain expectation of the blessing promised. What doth faith do here? Why the use of faith is,
Ist, To quiet the heart in waiting God's leisure: “Our soul waiteth for the Lord; he is our help and our shield” (Psalm xxxiii. 20). If God be our help and shield, then faith is quietly to wait the Lord's leisure; till he sends deliverance, the word must bear up our hearts, and we must be