Hope of the Church
To help us in the dealings of our lives we should have such a conception of God as not to limit him in our thoughts.
When we are in extremity we must not tie him to this thing or to that thing. He can make matter out of nothing. Why should we limit the unlimited God, and so hinder our comfort? God commanded light to shine out of darkness. Observe that, when we be in dark conditions, Isaiah 45:7 is true — ‘I the Lord create light out of darkness. . .’ Now light is taken for a comfortable condition. When we be in any dark condition, limit not God. He is an independent worker. Question not how this may be, or that may be. We must not bring God within the compass of our conceits and reasons. God is not as man. God’s people should never be better, the times were never worse. When we be bad, God is good. Times are bad, God is good. He can alter all. When there is no hope of escaping, no likely issue, God can make it good. In the hardships, the exigencies of the soul, God takes occasion to show the glory of his power, Isaiah 4:5.
If we want any comfort in any condition, being in covenant with such a God, if we be his children, he can create light, and can make a pillar of fire to go before his people to bring them to Canaan. ‘He is the God of all comfort’ says Paul — not of this comfort or that, but of all comfort. That if we want, he can work good out of the contrary, light out of darkness. He can draw matter of comfort out of discomfort; he can make every condition serve to his own ends; he can make all things work together for the good of his children, Romans 8:28. The greater the power of this great God is, the greater our comfort. He can give rest without sleep, and strength without meat. He cannot be limited. Therefore let us not limit him.
So again, for the state of the Church, whatsoever condition it is in, consider the creation. God commands light to shine out of darkness. The Church being in darkness, God can command the light presently to shine out of darkness, Esther 6:3 ff. What terrible darkness the Church was in, when Haman was commanded to destroy all the Jews! What a terrible case was the Church in in Egypt and Babylon! In a most darksome condition; and yet God brought light out of darkness. And so of latter times; a little before Luther’s time, was not the Church brought low, so that darkness overspread the world? And cannot God raise up the blessed light of the truth? God can fetch Cyrus from the East and from the North to help his people, Isaiah 44:28. God can fetch a man from the North, from this place or that, to help his Church. Therefore in no condition of the Church despair, for we are in covenant with God that can ‘command light to shine out of darkness’. ‘He that is in darkness and hath no light, let him trust in the name of his God’, Isaiah 50:10. We must cast anchor at midnight and trust in the midst of darkness. We see darkness is hideous, yet a little spark of light doth banish it, and overcome it. Shall we not think that that great light, the Father of Lights, God, when he shines on the soul will quickly banish away all darkness? It must needs be so.
This may help us likewise for the time to come. Great things are promised for the time to come. We must help ourselves by this former work of creation. God that ‘commanded light to shine out of darkness’ will restore the Jews his ancient people again. Paul calls it ‘life from the dead’, Romans 11:15. It shall be a raising from the dead, as it were. He that ‘commanded light to shine out of darkness’ can do it, and will do it. He that did make all things out of nothing, can cause that which is less — a resurrection. And so the fulness of the Gentiles, they be now in darkness, and in the shadow of death. What pitiful darkness the East and West Indies are in, and many of the southern countries, that serve the devil, not God! Better times are coming. The converting of the Gentiles will come, and in due time we may expect that the ‘man of sin’ shall be laid flat in the dust. Babylon shall fall. It is fallen exceedingly much, specially in the hearts of the people, which is the way to the last fall; but antichrist must fall altogether, and then the Church will be glorious, Revelation 14:8.
He that made all things out of nothing, can make great things out of nothing. He that made of nothing glorious things, can make glorious things nothing. It is the same power to annihilate that it is to create. God, that made all things out of nothing, can bring all things to nothing. God will consume, and blast, and blow upon that ‘man of sin’. Jehovah is mighty, and doth mightily. Therefore the vast world shall be consumed ere long. Comfort yourselves therefore with these things from hence, that God that made all things of nothing, can turn those things that are into nothing again.
Would you know how? ‘Strong is the Lord who judgeth her,’ Revelation 18:8. He answers an objection. Oh, but she flourishes, and hath many princes, emperors, potentates, and strong arms of flesh to support her. ‘But strong is the Lord that hath spoken it,’ and can do it. If God will consume her, who can support her? Thus we see what use to make of the foundation of Paul: he fetches it from God’s commanding light out of darkness.
It is a very sweet use to search the former works of God, to look back and consider what God has done in former times. You may see in Isaiah 27:3, and Psalm 74:16, ‘The day is thine, the night also is thine.’ Thou has made distinctions between day and night: thou canst deliver thy Church. It is a singular grace to make use of common things, even of the works of creation; for herein a child of God differs from another. Another takes God’s common mercies, and sees the works of God, and goes on brutishly. A fool considers not these things. Oh, but the intelligent Christian considers the great work of creation, of his commanding of all things out of nothing, and he can make no common use of things. And that is the excellency of a Christian; to support his faith, he can make use of sacraments, and Word, and creation. Therefore, let us know we be God’s children, by gaining glory to God by our gracious spirits, by shewing our skill by the Spirit, to let nothing pass without observing, which may support our faith and encourage our souls, as the apostle fetches comfort from the work of creation. Let us make use of this so great a God, who can do great things, and you can do great things with him.
If a company would join in an army of prayers, it were worth all the armies in the world; it would set the great God on work. He that can raise light out of darkness, what cannot he do to his poor Church, if they had a spirit of prayer to set him on work! Let us pray for the things we have promises for with much confidence: for the conversion of the Jews, and confusion of the ‘man of sin.’ We have the Word for it. God goes before it. The enemies begin to fall before the Church. Follow God wheresoever he goes. There is something for faith to lay hold upon, and encouragement, that he is mighty; and whatsoever he can do, he will do for the good of the Church; and you see how he can do it. He does but command, and it is done. God with his beck commands all. He can hiss for an enemy from the farthest part of the world, and have them come presently, Isaiah 5:26. His finger will do great matters: what will his arm do then? When our blessed Saviour was in the days of his flesh, and said, ‘Depart, Satan,’ he must be gone presently. He commanded away the devil at a word; He rebuked fevers, sicknesses, waves, tempests: He spake but the word, and all was quiet and still; the devil and all, at his command. And is not he as strong in heaven as on earth? It is but a word, out of doubt, to deliver his Church, and restore lightsome times again.
‘What aileth thee, 0 thou Jordan, that thou gatherest thyself on heaps? The sea fell back at thy rebuke, 0 Lord,’ Psalm 114:5. He has all things at command. A whale is commanded to receive Jonah, (1:17); a fish was at his command to bring tribute, Matthew 17:27; and all things in heaven and earth. Oh what a God we serve, who as he can bring out of darkness, so he can do it by his word.
More from Sibbes
or St Paul's Strait
To help us in the dealings of our lives we should have such a conception of God as not to limit him in our thoughts. When we are in extremity we must not tie him to this thing or to that thing. He can make matter out of nothing. Why should we limit the unlimited […]
Peacocks and Rutterkins: Calvin the Colloquial Communicator 1 September 2023
John Calvin is thought of, principally, as a theologian. Of course, he was that. But, as Andrew W. Blackwood once told me, in his day he was first of all considered a preacher. Too few of his sermons have been preserved.1 English translations are mainly in 16th century English!2 Nevertheless, the more I read them, […]
The Passing of Black Bartholomew (3/3) 18 August 2023
The concluding piece in Iain H. Murray’s three historical articles on the Great Ejection. EVEN though Farewell Sermons had been preached in many parishes on Sunday, August 17, there was a widespread feeling of uncertainty throughout the nation with regard to the direction and character of coming events. Something of this uncertainty can be detected […]