For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me…
To a thoughtful mind, no study can appear more important than how to be suitably prepared for the misfortunes of life; so as to contemplate them in prospect without dismay, and, if they must befall, to bear them without dejection. Power has endeavoured to remove adversity to a distance; Philosophy has studied, when it drew nigh, to conquer it by patience; and Wealth has sought out every pleasure that can compensate or alleviate pain. While the wisdom of the world is thus occupied, religion has been no less attentive to the same important object.
I. RELIGION PREPARES THE MIND FOR ENCOUNTERING, WITH FORTITUDE, THE MOST SEVERE SHOCKS OF ADVERSITY; WHEREAS VICE, BY ITS NATURAL INFLUENCE ON THE TEMPER, TENDS TO PRODUCE DEJECTION UNDER THE SLIGHTEST TRIALS. In the course of living righteously, soberly, and godly, a good man acquires a steady and well-governed spirit. He has learned firmness and self-command. He is accustomed to look up to that Supreme Providence, which disposes of human affairs, not with reverence only, but with trust and hope. The time of prosperity was to him not merely a season of barren joy, but productive of much useful improvement. He had cultivated his mind. He had stored it with useful knowledge, with good principles, and virtuous dispositions. These resources remain entire, when the days of trouble come. His chief pleasures were always of the calm, innocent, and temperate kind; and over these the changes of the world have the least power. His mind is a kingdom to him; and he can still enjoy it. The world did not bestow upon him all his enjoyments; and therefore it is not in the power of the world, by its most cruel attacks, to carry them all away.
II. THE DISTRESSES OF LIFE ARE ALLEVIATED TO GOOD MEN, BY REFLECTIONS ON THEIR PAST CONDUCT; WHILE, BY SUCH REFLECTIONS, THEY ARE HIGHLY AGGRAVATED TO THE BAD. During the gay and active periods of life, sinners elude, in some measure, the force of conscience. Carried round in the world of affairs and pleasures; intent on contrivance, or eager in pursuit; amused by hope, or elated by enjoyment; they are sheltered, by that crowd of trifles which surrounds them, from serious thought. But conscience is too great a power to remain always suppressed. There is in every man's life a period when he shall be made to stand forth as a real object to his own view: and when that period comes, woe to him who is galled by the sight! Whereas, tie who is blessed with a clear conscience, enjoys in the worst conjunctures of human life, a peace, a dignity, an elevation of mind peculiar to virtue. The testimony of a good conscience is indeed to be always distinguished from that presumptuous boast of innocence, which every good Christian totally disclaims. The better he is, he will be more humble, and sensible of his failings. But though tie acknowledge that he can claim nothing from God upon the footing of desert, yet lie can trust in His merciful acceptance through Jesus Christ, according to the terms of the Gospel. He can hope that his prayers and his alms have come up in memorial before God. Tim piety and virtue of his former life were as seeds sown in his prosperous state, of which he reaps the fruits in the season of adversity.
III. ILL MEN, IN THE TIME OF TROUBLE, CAN LOOK UP TO NO PROTECTOR, WHILE GOOD MEN COMMIT THEMSELVES, WITH TRUST AND HOPE, TO THE CARE OF HEAVEN. The human mind, naturally feeble, is made to feel all its weakness by the pressure of adversity. Now, whither should the ungodly, in this situation, turn for aid? After having contended with the storms of adverse fortune till their spirits are exhausted, gladly would they retreat at last to the sanctuary of religion. But that sanctuary is shut against them; nay, it is environed with terrors. They behold there, not a Protector to whom they can fly, but a Judge whom they dread; and in those moments when they need His friendship the most, they are reduced to deprecate His wrath. But of all the thoughts which can enter into the mind, in the season of distress, the belief of an interest in His favour who rules the world is the most soothing. Every form of religion has afforded to virtuous men some degree of this consolation. But it was reserved for the Christian revelation to carry it to its highest point. For it is the direct scope of that revelation, to accommodate itself to the circumstances of man, under two main views; as guilty in the sight of God, and as struggling with the evils of the world. Under the former, it discovered to him a Mediator and an atonement; under the latter, it promises him the Spirit of grace and consolation. The same hand which holds out forgiveness to the penitent, and assistance to the frail, dispenses comfort and hope to the afflicted.
IV. GOOD MEN ARE COMFORTED UNDER THEIR TROUBLES BY THE HOPE OF HEAVEN; WHILE BAD MEN ARE NOT ONLY DEPRIVED OF THIS HOPE, RUT DISTRESSED WITH FEARS ARISING FROM A FUTURE STATE. How miserable the man, who, under the distractions of calamity, hangs doubtful about an event which so nearly concerns him; who, in the midst of doubts and anxieties, approaching to that awful boundary which separates this world from the next, shudders at the dark prospect before him; wishing to exist after death, and yet afraid of that existence; catching at every feeble hope which superstition can afford him, and trembling, in the same moment, from reflection upon his crimes! But blessed be God who hath brought life and immortality to light; who hath not only brought them to light, but secured them to good men; and, by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, hath begotten them unto the lively hope of an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Justly is this hope styled in Scripture, the anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. For what an anchor is to a ship in a dark night, on an unknown coast, and amidst a boisterous ocean, that is this hope to the soul, when distracted by the confusions of the world. In danger, it gives security; amidst general fluctuation, it affords one fixed point of rest.
(H. Blair, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For 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 up upon a rock.