An examination of the promises made in repentance. Sibbes will identify two: a leaving off, and a taking on. Although mentioned here, it is the pattern also found in Ephesians 4: The thief does not merely need to leave off stealing; he also must get a job and give. Owen explains mortification as abounding in the grace contrary to the sin. Thus, the remedy for greed is thankfulness.
After this their solemn covenant and promise of yielding praise to God, that if he would forgive all their sins, and do good to them, then he should have the best they could do to him again: praise here is a promise of new obedience, which hath two branches,
1. A renunciation of the ill courses they took before.
‘Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the works of our hands, Ye are our gods.’
2. Then there is a positive duty implied in these words, ‘For in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.’
I admit, I find Sibbes’ argument that positive duty is implied in the second clause difficult to follow. He is going to provide an explanation in the paragraph below. But the explanation actually supports a different proposition: The reason why I will not trust in Assyria is that such trust is ill-founded and unneeded. I can trust you. Even the weakest, the fatherless can find trust in you.
Whereof, the one springs from the other; ‘Asshur shall not save us, we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the works of our hands, Ye are our gods.’ Whence comes all these? ‘For in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.’ Thou shalt be our rock, our trust, our confidence for ever. What will follow upon this? ‘Asshur shall not save us any longer; we will not ride upon horses,’ &c. For we have pitched and placed our confidence better; on him in whom ‘the fatherless findeth mercy.’
‘Asshur shall not save us.’ The confidence which this people had placed partly in Asshur, their friends and associates, and partly in their own strength at home, now promising repentance, they renounce all such confidence in Asshur, horses and idols. ‘Asshur shall not save us,’ &c.
He gives some consideration to the proposition that the people should not trust in Assyria. He begins by noting that the prophets note the running back and forth between Egypt and Assyria, hoping that one would save the from the other:
First, for this, ‘Asshur shall not save us,’ that is, the Assyrians, whom they had on the one side, and the Egyptians on the other: it being, as we see in the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah, ordinary with God’s people, in any distress, to have recourse to the Assyrians, or Egyptians, as if God had not been sufficient to be their rock and their shield. We see how often the Lord complains of this manner of dealing. ‘Woe unto them that go down into Egypt for help, and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many,’ &c., Isa. 30:2, and 31:1. The prophets, and so this prophet, are very full of such complaints: it being one of the chief arguments he presseth, their falseness in this, that in any fear or peril, they ran to the shelter of other nations, especially these two, Egypt and Assyria, as you have it, ‘Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind; he daily increaseth lies and desolation, and they do make a covenant with the Assyrians, and oil is carried into Egypt,’ Hosea 12:1, that is, balm, who had this privilege above all other nations, to abound in precious balms; which balm and oil they carried into Egypt, to win their favour against the Assyrians. Sometimes they relied on the one, and sometimes on the other, the story and causes whereof were too tedious to relate.
He then draws a conclusion: We will continue to trust in the untrustworthy creature until a supernatural help comes to set out trust upon the trustworthy Creator:
Wherefore I come to the useful points arising hence. ‘Asshur shall not save us.’
1. That man, naturally, is prone to put confidence in the creature.
2. That the creature is insufficient and unable to yield us this prop to uphold our confidence.
3. That God’s people, when they are endowed with light supernatural to discern and be convinced hereof, are of that mind to say, ‘Asshur shall not save us.’
Having made theses observations, he goes onto explicate these propositions in three “doctrines”: Our repentance must include prayer and praise. (2) Our repentance must be directed to the sin to which we are “addicted.” (3) It is our nature to trust present creaturely things. But, these things cannot help us.