GOD WILL OT FORGET HIS PEOPLE.
THE REV. C. SIMEO, M.A.
Isai. xlix. \i — 16". But Zion said, The Lord hath Jhrsake?i me^
and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a ivoman forget her
sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son
of her uombP Yea, they may forget: yet will not I forget
thee. Behold, 1 have graven thee upon the palms of my
hands ; thy walls are continually before me.
WERE the glorious truths of Christianity allowed
their due operation on the hearts of men, this world
would be a scene of universal peace and happiness :
*' the heavens and the earth, the mountains," and the
valleys, would form one harmonious concert, all sing-
ing aloud for joy at the glad tidings of redemption
through the sufferings of our incarnate God. But
•the great mass of mankind disregard the tidings as
** a cunningly devised fable ;" whilst multitudes who
•profess to believe them, derive no comfort from them,
by reason of the corrupt state of their own minds,
and the hard thoughts which they entertain of God.
In the verse preceding our text, we see what reason
there is for joy; but in the text itself we are told,
how lamentably the proper influence of the Gospel
is counteracted by the mistakes and errors of God's
professing people, which yet he is endeavouring by
all possible means to rectify.
We here behold,
I. The Church's complaint againt God —
The complaint, in its primary sense, may be under-
stood as uttered by the Church in Babylon, where
her state was indeed most disconsolate. Moreover,
in the present dispersion of her members, which has
now continued so many hundred years, we may find
a further ground for the complaint, that she is for-
saken and forgotten of her God. St. Paul, aware
that there was in appearance some reason for such
an apprehension, states the question, " Has God cast
off his people?" and then, by an appeal to fact, he
establishes the truth which is asserted in our text, in
opposition to it*.
* Rom. xi. 1 — 5.
519,] GOD WILL OT FORGET HIS PEOPLE. 379
But it is in reference to individuals, and not to the
Church at large, that we shall consider the complaint.
It is common for persons under the Christian dis-
pensation to adopt the language of our text. We
will therefore state,
1. The occasions that most generally give birth
to it —
[Among the various causes of such a desponding appre-
hension, the first to be noticed is, A long continuance of some
temporal affliction. Little as we think of God in a state of
prosperity, and little as we are inclined to mark his hand in
the earlier stages of adversity, when we have long been
oppressed with trials, our mind almost of necessity reverts to
him as the author of them ; and that too, not in a way of meek
submission, but in a way of murmuring and discontent. Thus
did the Church in David's days : she complained that God
had cast her off''; and adduced all her trials as proofs of her
assertion ''i and then, as though God were asleep, and had
altogether forgotten her affliction, she intreats him to " awake,
and arise" for her relief*^. Thus also did Job, though on the
whole a perfect man, sink at last under his troubles, and be-
come the accuser of his God^ And perhaps, if we inquired
diligently into the first causes of despondency, we should
generally find that it has originated in temporal afflictions,
which have put the soul off its balance, and disposed it to en-
tertain hard thoughts of God.
Another occasion of such apprehensions is, a long continu-
ance of guilt upon the conscience. After we are sensible that
we have sinned, we are frequently a long time before we can
himible ourselves before God as we ought to do : and whilst
that hardness of heart continues, it is impossible but that we
must be harassed with much disquietude. Thus it was with
David, after his sin in the matter of Uriah: " When I kept
silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day
long: (for day and night thy hand was heavy upon me:) my
moisture is turned into the drought of summer'^." That
" iniquities will separate between us and our God, and cause
him to hide his face from us," is certain^: but we are not
therefore to conclude, that he has forsaken and forgotten us ;
since, however he may " speak against us," as with the voice
of an enemy, "he does earnestly remember us still; yea, his
bowels are troubled for us," till, by our humiliation and con-
trition, we open a way for him to exercise, consistently with his
" Ps xliv. Q. ¦-• ib. ver. 10—14, 22. *¦ ib. ver. 23—26.
' Job Hi. 23, 24. & vi. 2-4. ' P^. xxxn. 3, 4.
K Jsai. lix. 2.
380 ISAIAH, XLIX. 14 — 16. [510.
own honour, his tender mercy towards us ^ evertheless, till
that reconciliation takes place, the distress of a soul that
dreads his displeasure must be great indeed*.
One more occasion of such apprehensions is, A want of an-
swers to prayer. When God is following us with invitations to
accept of mercy, we think nothing of months or years: but,
if he delay an answer to our supphcations, a few days or weeks
appear an age ; and we begin to conclude that he will never
vouchsafe us any answer at all. Perhaps, of all reasons for
despondency, this is the most justifiable; because God has so
often promised to hear and answer the prayers of his people :
and from hence we may account for those sad complaints,
which David, the man after God's own heart, uttered against
his God"". Doubtless it is distressing to be constrained to say,
*' I cry in the day time, and thou hearest not; and in the night
season, and am not silent:" but the proper reflection for the
soul in such cases is, " Thou nevertheless continuest holy,
Othou that inhabitest the praises of Israel V]
2. The dispositions and principles from which it
[Whatever be the occasion of desponding apprehensions,
they always axxsefrom a morbid state of mind: for, if we were
in a right frame, we should, under all circumstances, say with
Job, " Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him™."
At the root of all despondency will be found iinpatlence.
We do not like to wait God's tune : we would " walk by sight,
rather than by faith ;" and, if we have not immediately what
we desire, we are ready to ask, " Is the Lord amongst us, or
not"?" We have a surprising exhibition of this spirit among
the more religious part of the Jews in the time of the prophet
Jeremiah: God had denounced his judgments against the
whole nation ; and had refused to hear any prayers that should
be offered for tliem*. Upon this they complain, " Hast thou
utterly rejected Judah? Hath tliy soul lothed Zion? Why
hast thou smitten us, and there is no healing for us? We
looked for peace, and there is no good; and for the time of
healing, and behold trouble. We acknowledge, O Lord, our
¦\vickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers; for we have
sinned against thee. Do not abhor us, for thy name's sake ;
do not disgrace the throne of thy glory : remember, break not
thy covenant with ns^" ow, after every allowance which
must be made for the condescension of God in permitting his
people to plead with him, we cannot but think, that the terms
'' Jer. xxxi. 20, ' Ps. xxxi. 9,10.
••Ps. Ixxxviii. ]—7,g, 13— 1(5. ' Ps. xxii. 3,4.
"' Job xiii, 15. " Exod. xvii. 7. " Jer. xiv. 10,J 1.
'' ib. ver. 19— 21.
519.] GOD WILL OT FORGET HIS PEOPLE. 381
here used, savour of impatience; and that a more respectful
and reverential language would have better comported with
their state. But strong feelings usually issue in hasty and
Another source from which these apprehensions spring, is
Unbelief. The promises of God are as clear as the powers of
language can express : but we know not how to believe them.
Sometimes they appear too good to be true : at other times
we doubt whether they are made to iis: and at other times
we are ready to think that they cannot be fulfilled; yea, the
very providence of God seems to oppose their accomplish-
ment. Hence we listen to the dictates of sense, and, because
of our present distress, conclude that God hath forsaken and
forgotten us. This was the unhappy experience of David
himself, who was brought by his trouble to ask, " Will the
Lord cast off for ever ? and will he be favourable no more ?
Is his mercy clean gone for ever ? doth his promise fail for
evermore P Hath God forgotten to be gracious P hath he in
anger shut up his tender mercies "^V Well might he add,
" This was my infirmity ^ ;" for a dreadful infirmity it was, to
entertain such distressing apprehensions for himself, and such
injurious thoughts of God. Yet thus it is, that, under the
influence of unbelief, multitudes are yet daily dishonouring
But we must not omit to mention, that these apprehensions
frequently proceed also from disease of body or mind. There
is a nervous habit of body that is very apt to produce the
feelings we are now speaking of; and, the mind partaking of
the weakness of the body, Satan takes advantage of it, to im-
press on the imagination every thing that is gloomy and me-
lancholy : " God has not elected me : I am given over to a
reprobate mind : I have sinned away my day of grace : I have
committed the unpardonable sin, the sin against the Holy
Ghost : It is in vain for me to pray ; for my doom is sealed :
God has entirely forsaken me, and, as to any purposes of his
grace, has eternally forgotten me." This is indeed a most
distressing state of mind ; and the more so, because the per-
sons so affected have not the least conception from whence all
their distresses arise. Their apprehensions about God have
the same effect on them as if they were founded in ti-uth : and
it often happens, that a man's whole life is embittered by fears,
which the restoration of bodily health would remove at once.
It seems probable that David, whose experience under all the
diversified circumstances of his life is so fully recorded in the
Psalms, had somewhat of this trial also; for, under tho united
pressure of bodily and mental disease, he doubted whether he
should ever be restored to a sense of the Divine favour*. But,
^ Pi. Ixxvii. 1 — g. ' ib. vcr. 10. ' Ps. vi. 1 — 7-
382- ISAIAH, xLix. 14 — 16. [519.
at all events, it is desirable that they who hare to deal with
troubled consciences, should be aware that this apparently
religious depression is often little more than a bodily disorder;
and that they should in many such cases recommend a physi-
cian for the body, as the most likely means of curing, what,
to an ignorant observer, would appear a disease of the soul.]
From hearing Zion's complaint against God, let us
turn our attention to,
II. The consolatory reply of God to her —
God desiring that his people should be filled with
** strong consolation," has given them such assurance
of his care and love, as shall be abundantly sufficient
to dissipate all their fears, if only they rely on his
word. That no part of his address to them may
escape our notice, let us consider,
1. The assurance that he gives them —
[Let the Church's complaint be borne in mind ; because
to that his answer is immediately directed. She had said,
" The Lord hath forsaken me ; my Lord hath forgotten me."
To this he answers, " I will not forget thee ;" or, as it is most
tenderly expressed in another part, " O Israel, thou shalt not
be forgotten of meV Assertions to the same effect occur in
numberless other passages of Scripture, and under a variety
of forms": but nowhere is it made with greater force than in
the passage before us. He appeals to us respecting the care
of earthly parents over their offspring. A father is repre-
sented as full of pity towards his suffering child', and as
sparing with affectionate regard his duteous son''. It is even
taken for granted, that a parent cannot disregard, and much
less mock, the necessities of his child, " giving him a stone
when he asks for bread, or a scorpion, when he desires an
egg^" And, if a father cannot act thus, how much less can
a mother turn her back upon her sucking infant, and forget
to administer to its necessities, when even her bodily feelings,
no less than the tender emotions of her mind, must interest
her deeply in supplying its wants. Rare as are instances of
a mother being entirely destitute of natural affection, some
have been found who, through shame, have murdered their
own offspring, and, through the pressure of famine, have
even devoured them. It Mas foretold that such instances
would occur''; and we know that they did occur at different
• Isni. xliv. 21.
' 1 Sam. xii. 22. Heb. xiii. 5, 6. Mai. ii. \6. Rom. xi. 2p.
* Ps. ciii. 1.}, > Mai. iii. 1/. ' Malt. vii. 9— 11.
" Lev. xwi. 29.
519.] GOD WILL OT FORGET HIS PEOPLE. 383'
times'*: but, says God, though there may be found, not only
one but many such unnatural mothers, no such forgetfulness
of my children shall ever be found in me; I will never forget
my Church at large, nor any individual of it in particular.
As for my Church at large, " I will keep it; I will water it
every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it day and night '=:"
and, as for the weakest individuals that are found in it, I M"ill
consider them as infants with whom I have travailed in birth;
and will carry them in my bosom, till time and age have worn
away their strength, and covered their heads with hoary locks'^.
Both collectively and individually, " Mine eye shall be upon
them from one end of the year unto the other end of the
year^;" and not only shall " their place of defence be the mu-
nitions of rocks, but bread shall be given them, and their water
shall be sure V]
2. His confirmation of it —
[To confirm his assertion the more strongly, he intro-
duces two striking and well-known illustrations. The first is
taken from a custom which prevailed among the Jews, of im-
printing on their flesh, by punctures or by staining, an image
of the Temple, in order at all times to bring it to their re-
membrance. ow, says God, I have you, and all my children,
imprinted thus upon my heart, and on my arms^. I have set
you there as a seal or signet, which shall operate at all times
to remind me of you, and to interest me in your favour: yea,
" I have graven you on the palms of my hands ;" so that / ca?i
never open my hand to dispense blessings to any of my creatures,
but I must instantly behold your name, and be stirred up to
supply your every want. What a beautiful and encouraging
representation is tliis! or is the other illustration at all less
comforting to the mincL It refers to an Architect, who, whilst
he is only just beginning to lay the foundation, has a perfect
idea of the whole building in his mind, and sees it there as
plainly as if it were already complete. Thus does God even
now behold the entire building of his Church complete in all
its parts, not a stone wanting or out of the place ordained for
it; yea, he sees also every individual stone formed and
fashioned according to his sovereign will, and fitted perfectly
for the situation which in his eternal counsels he has ap-
pointed it to fill. To a common eye all may appear at jire-
sent a scene of confusion : bvit to him who seeth all from the
beginning, all is in perfect order as far as it has advanced ;
and the whole edifice is, as it were, already prepared as a meet
liabitation for the God of heaven ^
"• 2 Kin. vi. 28, 2g. Lam. iv. 10. ' Isai. x>cvii. 3.
" Isai. xlvi.3, 4. " Deut. xi. 12. ' Isai. xxxiii. \6.
f Cant. viii. 6. " Epli. ii. 20— 22.
384 ISAIAH, xLix. 14 — 16. [519.
Say then, Whether there be any ground for the complaint
which we have been considering? Can God have forsaken
his people, when he is ever present with them ? Can he have
forgotten them, when he is incessantly carrying on his work
in their hearts ? He may, it is true, for wise and gracious pur-
poses, so veil himself, that they shall not immediately behold
Iiim; but he can no more forget his redeemed people, than
he can forget the interests of his beloved Son, or the honour
of his own perfections. This he has stated in the fullest
manner, for the comfort of his people ' and, whether
we beUeve it or not, he will accomplish every jot and tittle of
it in its season. As he has no inducement to falsify his
word, so he ivill not, " he cannot, deny himself''."]
1 . Those who have forsaken and forgotten God — ¦
[Hear ye the complaint which God utters ; " Can a maid
forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire ? yet my people
have forgotten me, days without number*." Alas! how true
is this of multitudes amongst ourselves ! Though " He is the
fountain of hving waters, yet have we forsaken him, and hewn
out to ourselves cisterns that can hold no water." We have
even laboured to blot out the remembrance of him from our
minds : and so thoroughly have we succeeded in this impious
attempt, that, as the Searcher of hearts himself testifies, " God
is not in all our thoughts"." Every vanity has been har-
boured in our minds ; but we have found there no room for
God: in short, we have lived "without God in the world"."
What astonishing wickedness is this, that, when God has been
following us with invitations and intreaties all our days,
saying to us, " Turn ye, turn ye from your evil M-ays ; for why
will ye die, O house of Israel ?" we have " refused to hearken,
and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped our ears that we
should not hear p." This however cannot always continue :
God " will not always strive with us" in this manner: the
time is coniing when he will requite us according to our deeds,
and turn a deaf ear to all our intreaties^? O that we may be
wise in time, and improve aright " this day of our salvation "^I"]
2. Those who think they are forsaken and forgot-
ten of God —
[Tliis may be the stiite even of the best of men ; for
David, and even the IIessiah lumself, in a season of derelic-
tion, cried, " My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken
me'f evertheless, for tlie most part, the hidings of God's
' Isai. liv. 7— 10, 17. '' 2Tim. ii. 13. ' Jer. ii. 32. "ib-ver. 13.
"Ps. X.4. "Eph.ii. 12. P Zech. vii, II.
"I Prov. i. 24—31 . "¦ Compare vo S. wilh 2 Cor. vi. 2.
* Ps. xxii. I,
520.] PROMISED ICREASE OF THE CHURCH. 385
face may be traced to some special cause ; some inward lust
unmortified, or some wilful neglect indulged. Search out then,
and put away, whatever is displeasing to your God. But, if
you cannot lind any particular reason for the dispensation,
then follow that advice of the prophet, " Who is among you
that feareth the Lord, and yet walketh in darkness, and hath
no hght? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay
himself upon his God'." Let him plead with God, as David
did, and sum up his petitions with that bold request, " Arise,
O God, and plead thine own cause " !" We may be sure that
" God will not contend with us for ever, because he knows
that our spirits would fail before him, and the souls which he
hath made "." Even where we have been wilfully rebellious,
he gives us reason to hope, that, for his own sake, he will
heal our wounds, and speak comfortably to our souls ^ : but,
if we humble ourselves before him, then are we sure that in
due season he will lift us up^
Let every one then, however disconsolate he may be at the
present moment, yea though heaven, earth, and hell should
seem conspiring to destroy him % check his unbelieving fears,
and say, " Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art
thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall
vet praise Him who is the health of my countenance, and my
*¦ Isai, 1. 10. " Ps, Ixxiv. ig — 22. " Isai. Ivii. l6. ]
y ib. ver. 17, 18. & Hos. ii. 14. ' Jam. iv. 10.
*Ps. xlii. 7. "ib. ver. 11.
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