Isaiah 41:10

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee;
yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
[preached on Sunday morning 14 April 1765]
This precious promise has been a fountain of consolation to the people of God at all times, and it is as full as ever, as necessary, as suitable, as sure to us, as it has been to others. May the Lord open it at this time, and satisfy every weary soul with his goodness. Let us enquire:
  1. To whom it is made.
  2. What it supposes.
  3. What it contains.
1. The promise is made to Jacob, or Israel, the Lord’s chosen, verse 8. [1]
  1.1 We may understand it in a literal and confined sense – to the nation of Israel. That though they were brought low, and had many enemies, yet they should not be overpowered, for the Lord would plead their cause and provide their deliverance. The great promises which chiefly respected Gospel times and spiritual things, were usually made in such a manner as to afford some comfort to hope to the people under their present distresses. But though it might have this meaning, this was far from being the whole or the chief.
  1.2 We may understand it as a Covenant promise to the Mediator, that he should be successful in the work of Redemption against all obstacles. Though he was Lord of all, for us humbled himself to the form of a servant, and as such he is in many places encouraged and strengthened by the promises of his God and Father.
  1.3 The intimate and near relation between the Lord Jesus and his people is such that many things said of him, is applicable to them likewise. He is pleased to take their name of Jacob, and to allow them a part of his, 1 Corinthians 12:12. [2] In this sense I shall consider it – as a promise to the Church of God in general, and consequently to each particular believer, to every soul that like Jacob is wrestling for the blessing of the new name.
2. It supposes:
  2.1 That the people of God are subject to fear or the admonition Fear not would be in vain. Their fears are many and often great and indeed if the Lord did not interpose with his promises would be very just likewise.
    2.1.1 For a season they are under legal fear of God: Job 23:15. [3]
    2.1.2 They are afraid of their own hearts when they look within. They are amazed – and disheartened – and ready to say, Alas, this vile nature will be too hard for me at last.
    2.1.3 They are afraid of outward enemies: The world
Sometimes its frowns make them afraid – and they no less fear its smiles – they see it has prevailed over many and they fear for themselves. They are afraid of Satan
They know he is strong, cunning, watchful. He eyes them close, assaults them often, and they escape not always without a wound.
  2.2 That they have no ability of their own, thus they feel and readily acknowledge – as Jehoshapat 2 Chronicles 20:12. [4]
  2.3 That those who have God on their side have no just cause for fear, be their discouragements or difficulties ever so many or great. Romans 8:31. [5]
3. The contents of this promise are fully answerable to all our fears, needs and distresses.
Poor fearing soul, the Lord says Fear not.
  3.1 I am with thee
When Elisha’s servant saw the chariots of fire, he thought himself safe though surrounded with an army. But here is more. Psalm 27:3. [6]
  3.2 He is not with you only in a way of common providence, but in a way of covenant mercy and special grace. I am thy God. If so, you are his people, and of such he has said – Zechariah 2:8. [7]
  3.3 Are you weak? He says, I will strengthen you – but his strength is made perfect in weakness. Say therefore with Paul, 2 Corinthians 12:9,10. [8] See the chapter before my text, verse 29. [9] Consider how weak others have been, and yet how strong the Lord has made them – Abraham, Peter.
  3.4 Are you discouraged with the great difficulties of your Christian calling? See what the Lord says – I will bless thee. Though you can do nothing, yet if he help – works in you and by you – you shall both do great things and also shall prevail.
  3.5 Are you afraid you shall not endure but give up at last? How can that be when the Lord has said, I will uphold thee? Sooner the stars shall fall to the earth, than you fall from your Christian course, if the Lord vouchsafes to uphold you.
  3.6 Farther, take notice of the manner in which the Lord strengthens, helps, upholds:
    3.6.1 With the right arm – this implies: Power – Psalm 89:13 [10] Tenderness Hosea 11:3; [11] Deuteronomy 33 [12]
    3.6.2 Of my righteousness. This shows: The sure ground whereon our hopes are built. The righteousness of Christ as Mediator is the fountain of all our strength, sufficiency and comfort – so long as he continues The Righteous One. So long as his obedience unto death, comes in remembrance, so long all these benefits shall be made over and continued to his people. That his faithfulness and truth are engaged to make these things good to waiting souls. The word is gone out of his lips and his righteousness is bound for the performance.
Are some saying, These are good things indeed, but I fear not for me. Why not? Where are you excepted? They are for you, if you truly desire them and will be content to receive them of grace – without money or price, they are freely given but cannot be bought. Do not expect that you must do a great deal yourself, and that then the Lord will make up the rest. It is his own work, and he will not suffer you to share the glory.
But remember none have a right to apply it, who do not feel themselves empty, poor, blind and naked. Take notice it is not your holding with the truth and assenting to what others say will make you a believer. There are some who will think well of themselves, and when they hear of the troubles and fears of exercised souls, are ready to say, I pity them poor things – but for my part I dare not distrust the Lord – when yet they never knew what it was to trust him. They affect to talk like the Lord’s people, but every word betrays their ignorance. To such the Lord’s word is not, Fear not, but take heed lest you are deceived. [13] Examine, there are many false pretenders – you are healed before you are wounded – lifted up before you ever was cast down – you talk of being filled when you have never been emptied. This is not the Lord’s methods.

 [1] Isaiah 41:8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
[2] 1 Corinthians 12:12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.
[3] Job 23:15 Therefore am I troubled at his presence: when I consider, I am afraid of him.
[4] 2 Chronicles 20:12 And though they profess and desire to trust the Lord, yet when it comes to a pinch they find it not easy to keep their hold.
[5] Romans 8:31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?
[6] Psalm 27:3 Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
[7] Zechariah 2:8 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.
[8] 2 Corinthians 12:9,10 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
[9] Isaiah 40:29 He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength.
[10] Psalm 89:13 Thou hast a mighty arm: strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.
[11] Hosea 11:3 I taught Ephraim also to go, taking them by their arms; but they knew not that I healed them.
[12] Deuteronomy 33; for example v27: The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them.
[13] Luke 21:8 And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived…

Cowper & Newton Museum, John Newton's notebook N17

Marylynn Rouse, 15/02/2021