There is a dark cloud over the nation and over the church, and we are going down on all sides. Then what have we to go through it? Turn to the things in my text: "For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven." Those settlements are above the reach of all time things. There are settled comforts, settled mercies, settled power, and settled love; and there are settled crosses and settled providences. Nothing on earth can alter them. What a mercy if God strips us of natural things to prevent us feeding on them. What a mercy if he strips us of our wisdom and strength. If we could lose it all, what a riddance it would be! How much better to be rid of it and to have Christ's strength, to lean on his word. If we have none of this stripping, we shall lean on the creature; and when trouble comes, our strength will give way, and we shall faint. But when the Lord takes away all, O to have a hope in his name!
How we strive, I do, to have things a little more congenial to our flesh; to have health and comfort in the body and life and prosperity in the soul together. But you cannot hold them together; they soon part. Not because there is sin in outward prosperity; for we read, "Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy;" (1 Tim. 6:17) but they soon take away the heart from God.
"For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven." In this word is all we want. The church is "the pillar and ground of truth;" (1 Tim. 3:15) the truth is there. By this word she is born again. By it she is supported and sustained through the wilderness; it is her food; and in it she has all things treasured up for her to eternity. By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and by that word the church of God is formed. The teachings of the Holy Ghost in the heart are according to that word; and the written word, the word of promise, and the incarnate Word are the same in all things, settled in heaven, wherein are couched all blessings for his people.
Let us see the blessedness of those who have it in their hearts. When we have a word from him in any trouble, we have his authority to rest upon it, whatever storms come. When Paul was on his way to Rome, a great storm arose, and he stood forth in the ship, and said: "There stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am and whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul." "Lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee." (Acts 27:23,24) Paul had faith in his word, and he could say, "I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me." (ver. 25) "There shall not a hair fall from the head of any of you." (ver. 34) After that, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat last, the thing they wanted. (ver. 38) How contrary to nature that was; but they had to lose all. And the shipmen let down the boat; but Paul said, "Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved." He had no authority for taking to boats; God's word said nothing about that. Take care to keep to the things God has ordained in matters of salvation. "Surely," some may say, "Paul must be a fool this time; he has committed himself now." But Paul's faith was fixed right in God's word. "But what if the ship is to be broken up and lost?" Leave that to God. "I believe God." That is faith. Then the soldiers cut the ropes, and let the boat off. Afterwards they ran the ship aground, and it was broken up by the violence of the waves. See now, if you have the word of God, not an iota can be lost. Has he ever brought you within the compass of his word? He holds the waves in his hand. If you have a word from him, you may trust him; verily you may. Were they to swim in such a sea where the ship could not live? Yes; the waves could not carry away one of them. God honors that faith, having confidence in his power alone. "And so it came to pass that they escaped all safe to land."
There is a lot of boat-religion, things which God has not commanded; but the apostle's faith was distinct from all that; he had a single eye to God. Faith honors God in obedience to his word. If you have faith, you will not wrap yourself up in your religion and say, "God will do it, and I am safe; I need not trouble." It works by love, and brings obedience. Abraham believed God when he told him to count the stars and said, "So shall thy seed be." There was no appearance of it. He was as good as dead; but his faith had to do with the promise of God only.
Now let us come down to our own condition, and the sea of trouble we are likely to come into. We know not what form it may take, which is a mercy; and it is a mercy if we do not rest in these changing things, but in God. When he gives you little touches of his grace, you have one little harbinger every time of his watchfulness and care over you, that you may trust and hang on him to fulfill all his word. God gave Isaac to Abraham, and then called him to offer him up: "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest," (Gen. 22:2) in whom all the promises were made. But how are the promises to be fulfilled? Leave that to God; he has said, "Take thy son, and offer him up." Abraham's faith rendered obedience; he went three days' journey with his mind made up to do it, and then carried out the whole to lifting up the knife; and God said, "Now I know that thou fearest me." (ver. 12) This is faith that honors God.
Perhaps some one here is in a place where providences seem to contradict his word. You think it is too late; but at the nick of time the Lord always appears. You cannot find one in all the Bible who came there and was not delivered. As it was with Abraham, the word of the Lord stands fast. "For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven." It is called the engrafted word; (James 1:21) that is, the word the Holy Ghost speaks in the heart, which is according to the word in heaven, and brings forth the obedience of faith in us, to do the will of God; as in Abraham. Has God cut you off from all things but his word? And are you afraid of yourself more than anything else? Is it your chief cry,
"Save us from the rocks and shelves;
Save us chiefly from ourselves?"
We will look at the danger of trusting in the word of man. When Ahab went to battle, he asked counsel of his false prophets. He believed them, and their words caused him to be killed. See the folly of listening to the word of man. "Take heed what ye hear." (Mark 4:24) Again. When Moses sent the spies into the land, ten out of twelve brought back a false report, and discouraged the people. Israel leaned on their word, and not one entered into the promised land, save Caleb and Joshua, who followed the Lord fully.
Now we have a dark future to enter into, both as a nation and the church of God; and I have such a desire to find out what we have to rest upon. The ten spies said, "We are not able to enter in." Caleb and Joshua had another spirit, and said, "We are able." Are you saying, "I am not able?" Then you are not resting on God in your trouble. Are you saying, "Wilt thou, Lord, help me?" Your heart is coming to him; and he says, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." You are within the compass of his word. Not one whose heart cries to him, whose eye is single, will he cast out. Did he the publican? Did he the thief? Did he Mary Magdalene? They all came to him, and he delivered them; and he will you. This is his word:
"I, I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand."
If you have a single eye, looking to him, his help cannot fail. He spoke all things into existence; and do you not think he can speak your trouble into peace?
And "thy faithfulness is to all generations." (Ps. 119:90) How nicely the Holy Ghost brings this in here for such weak, tottering believers, who scarcely believe what they do believe. You say, "If the Lord fulfills the word upon which he has caused me to hope, I shall come out right." That is faith hanging on him, and unbelief with it. His faithfulness is to all generations, and his word goes on fulfilling. It is confirmed by two immutable things, his promise and his oath, that those who have fled for refuge might have strong consolation. (Heb. 6:18) Whatever is coming upon the church and nation, he will be a Refuge for them. O the fullness of the promise! The fullness of the covenant God is in it. It is a great mistake if you think you have come to the end of it when you have sucked out a little sweetness, and it is begun to be fulfilled. His promise is endless; and you will go on receiving what is in it to all eternity.