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The James Begg Society

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A Sermon on
Psalm 130:5-8

by Robert Rollock,
Principal of the University of Edinburgh.

The following is a sermon by Robert Rollock (died 1599), Principal of the University of Edinburgh. He was contemporary with John Knox and Andrew Melville, and like them he was a firm believer, promoter and defender of the reformed Christian faith. The sermon is from the Select Works of Robert Rollock, Volume 1, edited by William M. Gunn; published by the Wodrow Society in 1849; pp. 457-470.

The Scripture quotations are taken from the Geneva Bible. The Scripture references I have translated to the common notation from Roman numerals.

This article was included in our Email Newsletter No.9, 4th July 2007.

5. I have waited on the Lord ; my soul hath waited, and I have trusted in his word.
6. My soul waiteth on the Lord more than the morning watch, watcheth for the morning.
7. Let Israel wait on the Lord: For with the Lord is mercy and with him is great redemption.
8. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

W ELL-BELOVED in the LORD JESUS, The last day we divided this Psalm in these three parts: First, the proposition. Whosoever he was that wrote this psalm, he maketh mention and rehearsal of that prayer that he made to his God in the time of his great danger, and this he doth to the fifth verse; then finding in experience a comfortable answer, and how good a thing it was to pray to God, and to wait on him, he professeth, that, as before, he had awaited on him, so still in time coming he would await on him, and this he doeth to the seventh verse. In the third and last part, he turneth him to Israel, to the Church, and exhorteth them to await on God, as he had done, promising them mercy and redemption from all their iniquities if they would await on him. The last day we ended the first part, so we have now to follow out the other two parts which remain.

Then as for the second; the prophet finding in experience the fruit of his prayer, he professeth that he will yet still wait on the Lord: “I have waited on the Lord: my soul hath waited, and I have trusted in his word;” as though he would say, I depend yet still on his word, for the presence of the Lord that we have in this life, is in his word, and in his Holy Spirit, that accompanieth it; so all the dependence we have on God is in his word and promise. Take that away and then we have no sight, no presence, no faith here, till we see him face to face.

Yet the words are better to be marked, he saith, “I have waited on the Lord:” Then he saith, “My soul hath waited on the Lord,” as if he would say, I have not awaited on the Lord only with my bodily eyes; but with mine heart and secret inward affections: I have depended on him from my very heart. For brethren, mark it well, it is the heart of a man or woman that draweth God down from heaven and sucketh in his presence.

Marvellous is the power that a faithful heart hath, when it sendeth up sighs and sobs to heaven for grace, to pull down God ʼ s presence and grace; if there be no more but the eye, it will not do the turn, but where the Spirit of the Lord dwelleth in the heart, it maketh it to sigh with sobs that cannot be expressed. It is not possible but God, who giveth his Spirit to no man in vain, and who knoweth the meaning of his own Spirit, will grant that, for which the Spirit maketh intercession. Paul (in the 8th chapter to the Romans,) setting down the waiting on of the godly, how they wait on the Lord, he setteth down both the forcible operation of God ʼ s Spirit in our hearts, as also the fruit of its operation, “We sigh in ourselves, waiting for the adoption, even the redemption of our bodies;” there the waiting on of the godly, is conjoyned [ conjoined ] with sighs and sobs. Then after, he letteth us see what followeth upon that: “What to seek we know not;” but when the Spirit of the Lord intercedeth for us with sighs and sobs unspeakable, then the Lord who searcheth the heart, and knoweth the meaning of his own Spirit, granteth that thing for the which the Spirit maketh intercession; for what else meaneth that unspeakable joy, which many a time the saints of God find before they have ended their prayers, but that their prayers are favourably accepted? What meaneth that unspeakable joy when he saith, “Believing we rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorious?” That joy witnesseth that the Lord giveth his presence; for there is a sure ground. There is no true joy but in the presence of God; and so the joy testifieth to thee, that thou sighest not so soon, but the Lord giveth his presence to thee. Now, when he hath said, “My soul hath waited,” then he subjoineth, “I will wait still upon his word;” I will hold up mine ear to heaven, as it were, and hear what he will speak unto me. There is no consolation nor joy in this world but in the hearing of his voice: “The friends of the bridegroom,” saith St John, “when they stand and hear the bridegroom speak they rejoice exceedingly;” so it is the joy of a Christian to hear the Lord Jesus speak. The meaning is this, I have waited on so long, and have found in experience how good a thing it is, and therefore that experience shall move me to wait on still, I am forced through the experience of mercy, to wait on still without wearying. This prophet, whosoever he was, was in a great danger, and, therefore, in the beginning he said, “Out of the deep places have I cried unto thee, O Jehovah;” so he was under great affliction: his affliction that he suffered wrought in him so, that he waiteth patiently the Lord ʼ s deliverance; awaiting with patience, in end he finds experience and proof of the mercy of God, for he was delivered; finding experience of the Lord ʼ s love through that delivery he conceits a hope that God ʼ s favour shall never leave him, and professeth that he will wait yet still, and wait on continually, because of that experience of mercy. In the fifth chapter to the Romans ye have the notable effects that affliction worketh, linked together; and if there were no more but the effects that we find to have been in this man, they testify, that it is true that the Apostle speaketh here, “Oppression,” saith he, “worketh patience,” that is, “when affliction is sanctified to him that is afflicted,” through time, it bringeth forth patience. Then after that a man hath waited patiently on the deliverance of the Lord, then saith he patience worketh experience, that is, a body that abideth patiently under the cross, in the end he findeth an experience and proof of the Lord ʼ s love, one way or other, either by delivery or by furnishing strength to bear it out, or by some spiritual grace. Then he saith, experience worketh hope, that is, when any one hath found in experience the mercy of the Lord, he conceiveth a hope that the Lord shall ever deliver him, and never forsake him; and he hopeth that he shall get greater favour than ever he got before; for if the Lord give the faithful a temporal delivery, they hope he shall give them eternal delivery. And this is sure, thou canst never hope for great enough things of the Lord, thine hope is far inferior to the things that shall be granted: for certainly they that hope in the Lord shall find greater things than ever they hoped for: thou art not able to apprehend in thine hope the greatness of them, the kingdom, the joy, and the glory, is greater than thou canst look for: when thou shalt come there, thou shalt find that all things are greater than thine hope.

Now when he hath proponed that he will hope in the Lord, he beginneth in the next verse to amplify that proposition, and declareth the earnestness of it, by a comparison taken from the watchmen, who watch all the night over without any relief, and saith, “My soul waiteth on the Lord more than the morning watch, watcheth for the morning.” It is a worthy thing to consider how that after the heart is once prevented with a tasting of the sweetness of God ʼ s favour, how that heart will hang and depend upon him, and seek and wait for grace at him more and more. Alas! from whence cometh this that men and women are so care less to seek the Lord, and to wait on him? Alas! they have not tasted of that gracious sweetness that is in God through Jesus Christ; for if they had once tasted of it, there would be a perpetual thirsting and desiring for that presence: the heart would never have rest nor ease till it got that presence. The apostle, Peter, when he desireth them to seek that sincere milk of the word whereby they might grow, he subjoineth, “If once ye have tasted how sweet and gracious the Lord is,” [1 Pet. 2:2,3] meaning, that they that never have tasted of the sweetness of the Lord ʼ s presence and his graces have not a desire of grace. We see here what is the estate of the faithful in this world, by this comparison with the watch. The estate of every one of us is this waking, and watching, from evening to morning. The watch, ye know, watcheth in the night, and there especially where greatest danger may fall out, and the watch that hath no relief in his watching, but must watch from the evening to the morning, he must be very weary, and being very weary, he will be very desirous of the morning, and the sun rising: when it cometh, he is relieved of his painful watching, and goeth to take his rest. To apply this to us: this world which we live in, till the coming again of the Lord Jesus, is but a darksome night, in respect of that glorious day that shall appear when he cometh again. Indeed, the world, since the first coming of Christ, is called a day in the Scripture; but that is in respect of them that were before Christ; but in respect of that passing light, that Jesus Christ shall then bring with him, this is but passing darkness, and we shall think so when that day shall come. Now, next the watch in this world was never more straitly bound to watch in the night than every Christian man is bound to watch till he come again; and this was the direction that Christ gave his disciples, “Wait, for ye know not what hour the goodman of the house shall come.” And in watching we find a great heaviness. What faithful man is in this world that is not wearied with watching? The world that sleepeth in this life is not wearied, but the faithful that watcheth is weary of this life; and fain would they have that morning coming when the sun of righteousness, the Lord Jesus, shall rise up, that they may be relieved; and when that morning shall come, thou that hast watched in this world, at the least hast striven to watch, and looked for that glorious coming of the Lord Jesus, thou shalt get rest, so sweet a rest as never man found in this world; but thou that hast slept here, and hast not watched for him, sleep on: when he cometh thou shalt get no rest, ̶ thy sleeping shall end in a terrible wakening. There is no rest to them that have not a desire to watch in this world; but they that have a desire to watch and to hold up their heads, they shall get rest, yea, endless rest and quietness.

Now, having spoken of the first and second parts, I shall go shortly forward to the third part of the Psalm, wherein the prophet turns himself to Israel, that is, the Church of God, and he exhorts Israel, ̶ the Church of God, ̶ to watch and wait on the Lord: “Let Israel wait on the Lord.” Finding in experience what he had got for his waiting on, to wit, mercy and deliverance, he cannot be held from glorifying him, and cannot get him glorified enough; there fore he turneth him to the whole Church, and exhorts them to wait on, that they may find such experience as he found, and that they may glorify the Lord also; so the end he looketh to is, to glorify the Lord, that he may be glorified in many believers and waiters on him. The end of the mercy of God tendeth to his own glory. There are many properties in God; he is infinite in wisdom, in power, in truth; infinite in glory and majesty. Now the Lord is glorified in all his properties, ̶ in his wisdom, power, and justice, ̶ but, above all things, the Lord seeks that the world should glorify him in that deep riches of mercy and gentleness that is in him, that we should praise him everlastingly in his mercy.

And as this is his will, and as the mercy of God serveth to his glory, so the soul of a man that hath once tasted of the Lord Jesus is carried away with such a zeal to his glory, that it will cause a man forget himself, and, with Moses and Paul, wish to be a curse and anathema to have God glorified. This man, ye see, when he hath tasted of his mercy, he turneth him to the whole Church, and willeth them to trust in him, that they might find his mercy, that so God may be glorified. So it is he only who hath tasted of the mercy of God, who, when he looketh through the miserable world, can have pity on any man. He that never tasted of that mercy of God, had never true pity upon any man; then the thing which he craveth is this, that many should taste of his mercy, that God may be glorified by many. His heart is moved with pity, and so all his endeavour is, to see if once he can get them won to God; for when he looketh abroad upon miserable sinners, he is full of ruth and compassion. But mark again, the zeal which he hath to the glory of God is the first cause that moved him to seek that all the world should taste of mercy, and glorify God; so first he beareth a love to God ʼ s glory, and then he hath pity toward men. The one is the cause, the other the effect; the one precedeth, the other followeth; the one is the root, and the other the branch. All the love we carry to man should be for the love we have to God; and where these two go together, ̶ a zeal to the glory of God, (alas! where is zeal to God ʼ s glory now-a-days? which is a true token that his glory is departing away,) and then a pity of the misery of man, a desire of the salvation of man, ̶ then that man will forget himself, that he may seek the salvation of the world, that so in it God may be glorified. And the man that hath this disposition in his heart, is fit to be a minister and preacher of grace to the world; otherwise, if he want this disposition, it is but a cold preaching that he will make.

Now, in the next words, when he hath proponed the exhortation, and desired them to wait on the Lord, to move them the more, he pointeth out to the Church the nature of God, what God is; for we must know what God is, ere ever we put our trust and confidence in him. “For, why?” saith he, “with the Lord is mercy and gentleness;” as if he would say, The Lord is full of mercy, his mercies are incomprehensible, yea, infinite, and neither man nor angel can sound out the deepness thereof. He is all mercy. And as St John saith in his first Epistle, chap. 4 ver. 8. “The Lord is love.” Therefore, await on him. For why? there is no want nor scant of mercy in him. This is well to be marked, when he exhorteth Israel to wait upon the Lord, he saith not, be cause, “He is omnipotent, and infinite in justice, only wise,” &c. But he giveth this reason,” because mercy is with him, therefore, wait upon him.” This would be well considered, what is the cause of this? Now I will ask another question. What thing in God need we most into this world? There are many things which we have much need of. What is it that we have most need of? Another question. What is the estate that every one of us is born in, in this world? Are we not born sinners? Conceived and born in sin and iniquity? And so are we not all miserable? For there is nothing for sinners but misery, death and damnation, and so all sinners are miserable. So what thing is it that a sinner wanteth most? what is it that sin and misery craveth, but mercy, and if thou be miserable, the thing in this world that thou shouldest crave first, is mercy, that God would be merciful to thee. So mercy and forgiveness of sin is the first thing whereto thou oughtest to have recourse. And if thou wilt tell a miserable body that feeleth himself to be miserable and the child of wrath, that God is omnipotent, if thou point him out in his wisdom, in his justice, he shall be so far from receiving any comfort, and consolation, of any of these things, that, by the contrary, he shall be so terrified that he dare not presume to seek God, to look to him, to come to him, &c. But he will run away from God: but tell him that God is merciful, and full of grace in Jesus Christ, that is the sweetest speech that ever he heard But alas! few of us feeleth that burthen of sin: Who is he that groaneth under sin? Who feareth the terrors of that wrath? If thou find them, then tell thee of the mercies of Jesus Christ, it would be the sweetest tale that ever thou heardest. And when a man is once sensible of the infinite mercies of God, in Jesus, then tell him of all the infinite properties of God; tell him of his power, wisdom, and providence, they will all serve to his comfort: for why? He will think that all things that are in God appertain to him and serve to his weal; he will find that all things will serve to his salvation; otherwise, without this assurance of mercy, he will never think them comfortable. So there is a sure ground, the faith of a man or woman, first of all, is ever relative to the mercy of God; and that is the first object of faith. Indeed, having gotten a grip of mercy, then it extendeth to all the rest; but, before that, there is nothing in God that it can rest upon. Ye see by experience, when the Law is preached there is little allurance of the heart; but when the Evangel and Christ Jesus is preached, the heart is drawn on and allured. What is the cause of this? The doctrine of the Law is a doctrine of extreme justice, and his justice doeth nothing but terrify the soul; but the doctrine of the Evangel is a doctrine of the mercy of God in Jesus Christ, which draweth to it the hearts of men; albeit thou hear the law preached a hundred years, and hear no more, thou shalt be so far from being the better, that thou shalt still be the worse; so this testifieth that the object of our faith is the surpassing mercy of God. Then, if thou wouldest search the nature of God, (and search him a thousand years, thou shalt never come to the ground of his deepness,) search out especially his love and mercy. A man may fail and vanish away in curiosity, searching the deepness of God; but in searching out his mercy thou shalt never err; it shall be with joy and consolation of the heart. Paul prayeth for the Ephesians (chap. 3 verse 18,) that they might attain to that infinite deepness and breadth, length and heighth in God, for God is infinitely deep in all things. But wherefore is it that he prayeth? Even that they, searching in God, should search that infinite profundity of the love of God. Surely, if we would know that profundity of God, and search into his nature, then let us search always into that love and mercy of God in Jesus Christ; and this searching hath ever a growth and increase in faith, till we get a sight of him everlastingly.

To go forward, He is not content to say, “with him is gentleness,” but he subjoins, “with him is great redemption.” The words grow in highness, and these words comprehend and set out a greater mercy in God than the former. Now, the mercy of God in Jesus Christ is not all told in a word. Alas, for want of feeling we speak slenderly and lightly of it. No, in very deed, all the words, and the greatest words in the world, of the most holy, most wise, and most eloquent men, is not able to set out and point out that infinite greatness and deepness of it, and he and she that once have tasted of mercy, scarcely can they find words to express the thousandth part of it; when they have gotten a little taste and apprehension of it, they are not able to get words to express that apprehension of the heart. Paul commonly calleth it the riches of mercy, “God who is rich in mercy, according to his infinite and great love,” &c., (Eph. 2. 4.) Paul, David, and the rest of them, cannot get words to express that apprehension of mercy that they have in their hearts. No, there is no creature that is capable of that infinite mercy. For the work that the Spirit of Jesus Christ doth work in the heart, whether it be a sense of dolour, or a sense of joy, the tongue of no creatnre can tell or express. Paul calleth it sighs inexpressible; and Peter calleth it joy unspeakable. So the heart cannot express the greatness of the work of the Spirit. Men will think them hyperbolical words, but that is a token that they have not tasted that joy and mercy in their own hearts.

Now, in the last words, he cometh near hand, and makes a particular promise of his mercy to his Church, “He will redeem Israel,” his Church, “from all her iniquity.” As he would say, I have told you, he is merciful and full of redemption, but I come nearer hand; thou shalt find in experience, that he is merciful, and full of redemption. So it is not enough to the preachers of the word, to preach God ʼ s mercy and redemption generally to the world. No, they must come nearer hand, and, in promising, they must make to the hearts of the people a particular application, and say, not only, God is merciful, but, he would be merciful unto you, and he is full of redemption, and he shall redeem you. And so say I, I have not been speaking of mercy and redemption that appertaineth not to us, but the Lord shall be merciful, and redeem you, if ye believe in Jesus Christ; for there is no grace but in him. If this particular application be not made, the conscience of sin is so great, that the sinner dare not put forth his hand to receive mercy. Now, to whom pertaineth mercy and redemption? He saith, he shall redeem Israel, that is, the Church militant. The Church is militant in this world, but redemption pertaineth to it in the end. But wherefrom shall the Lord redeem the Church? not from persecution and tribulation in this world, but from all her sins. So this presupponeth first, that the Church is full of sin so long as it is in this world.

This is but a vain dream, to imagine that there shall be a Church, or any member of the same, in this world, without spot; away with that vanity. So next, the redemption of the Church standeth not so much in freeing it in persecution or tribulation, (although she shall be redeemed from all these things also,) as in redeeming her from sin, the chief redemption shall be from sin. For why? the greatest enemy of the Church is her own sins, and it is her own sins that is the cause of all her persecution, and it is sin that the Lord mortifieth and slayeth by persecution and tribulation. For if there were no sin there would not be such a thing as a persecutor or a tyrant against her; and the greatest burthen that the godly feel is always their own sins, and they were never under so great persecution ̶ no cross, no trouble comparable to the burthen of sin. Paul saith, (Rom. 7. 24,) “Miserable man, who shall deliver me ̶ where from? not from persecution, albeit, he was subject to as great persecution as any man, but “from this body of sin?” because he could not get that obedience to God that he would have had. And wherefore died Christ; was it to redeem us from persecution, or crosses in this world? No, the Lord died that he might redeem us from sin with his precious blood; and Paul (to the Corinthians) maketh mention of that triumph that the Church shall have when the Lord Jesus shall come, “O death where is thy sting?” Then she shall glory that she is redeemed from sin, and from offending of God.

And that shall be our chief felicity in that life to come, that our hearts and thoughts shall be free of all sin we shall offend God no more, but all shall be full of obedience to Jesus Christ; and then shall we be fully sanctified and glorified, when we get that blessed presence of the Lord Jesus, which we long for. To whom be praise, honour and glory, for now and evermore.