“The presence of God in the pressures of His people” by Stephen Charnock

“The omnipresence of God is a comfort in sharp afflictions. Good men have a comfort in this presence in their nasty prisons, oppressing tribunals; in the overflowing waters or scorching flames, He is still with them, (Isa. 43:2).

And many times, by His presence, He keeps the bush from consuming, when it seems to be all in a flame. In afflictions, God shows Himself most present when friends are most absent: ‘When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord shall take me up,’ (Ps. 27:10).

Then God will stoop and gather me into His protection; Heb. ‘shall gather me,’ alluding to those tribes that were to bring up the rear in the Israelites’ march, to take care that none were left behind, and exposed to famine or wild beasts, by reason of some disease that disenabled them to keep pace with their brethren.

He that is the sanctuary of His people in all calamities is more present with them to support them, than their adversaries can be present with them, to afflict them: ‘A present help in the time of trouble,’ (Ps. 46:2).

He is present with all things for this end; though His presence be a necessary presence, in regard of the immensity of His nature, yet the end of this presence, in regard that it is for the good of His people, is a voluntary presence.

It is for the good of man He is present in the lower world, and principally for the good of His people, for whose sake He keeps up the world: (2 Chron. 16:9), ‘His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards Him.’

If he doth not deliver good men from afflictions, He will be so present as to manage them in them, as that His glory shall issue from them, and their grace be brightened by them.

What a man was Paul, when he was lodged in a prison, or dragged to the courts of judicature; when he was torn with rods, or laden with chains! Then did he show the greatest miracles, made the judge tremble upon the bench, and break the heart, though not the prison, of the jailor,—so powerful is the presence of God in the pressures of His people.

This presence outweighs all other comforts, and is more valuable to a Christian than barns of corn or cellars of wine can be to a covetous man, (Ps. 4:7). It was this presence was David’s cordial in the mutinying of his soldiers, (1 Sam. 30:6).

What a comfort is this in exile, or a forced desertion of our habitations! Good men may be banished from their country, but never from the presence of their Protector; ye cannot say of any corner of the earth, or of any dungeon in a prison, God is not here.

If you were cast out of your country a thousand miles off, you are not out of God’s precinct. His arm is there to cherish the good, as well as to drag out the wicked.

It is the same God, the same presence in every country, as well as the same sun, moon, and stars.”

–Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse Upon God’s Omnipresence,” in The Existence and Attributes of God, in The Works of Stephen Charnock, Vol. 1 (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1681/2010), 1: 451–452.