Francis Covell Sermons

The Afflictions Of The Lord’s People

A Sermon Preached By Francis Covell On Sunday Morning, 2 June 1872, At Croydon

“And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the LORD be his land, for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath, and for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon.”—Deuteronomy 33:13,14

We read (Acts 7:9) that “the patriarchs, moved with envy, sold Joseph into Egypt; but God was with him, and delivered him out of all his afflictions.” That, although loved by his God, bought by blood, and having a kingdom prepared and a crown for him to wear, he had to tread through a tribulative path, to prove what God could do for him, to prove what God was, as He ever will be, to His people; an eye to see where they are, so as to deliver them out of all evil, troubles, and difficulties into which they may come; an ear to listen to their sighs and groans, and feet to walk with them wherever they go, so that there is not a place where His poor people may in His providence be brought, but He is there to help them out, as His wisdom sees fit. What an unspeakable mercy, that wherever God may be pleased to let you and me come, He is there too! As it was said, you know, in days gone by, when some were being driven by persecution into distant lands, as they passed along through the streets there were those who pitied them and exclaimed, “How sad that such folks as these should be driven into exile!” But others replied, “O, they cannot send them where their God is not;” and, let God go with a man or woman, He can make the dungeon a palace, as He did in the case of Paul and Silas, and make them sing while there. But the wicked are not so blessed; they have to bear the remorse of a guilty conscience, and are tormented with fear, reviling God, and are like the troubled sea.

When Jacob is blessing his children (Gen 49:22) he comes to this poor persecuted and despised youth, and he says, “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well, whose branches run over the wall. The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him. But his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob.” So, let God be with a man, and, however things may come to pass, He will make all work together for good, dark as well as light, crooked as well as straight, adverse as well as prosperous, all things, whatever we may think or say. And sometimes we are ready to say, “All men are liars, these things can never work together for good;” but God has said it, and He will do it. You look at the time of the saints of old, and you will see how all worked for their good, although the one side might appear to be very dark aud perplexing, just as it is with ladies’ wool-work. You look on the back side of those mats and other things they make, and all appears to be but knots and ends. You can make nothing of them—but turn them over, face upwards, and there you see perfect flowers, or birds, or pattern of whatever design it may be, although at the back there seems to be no form whatever. So it is often in the working of the providence of God.

“O , “you say,” it appears all so dark, there can surely nothing come out of this!” Hearken to what Joseph’s brethren said one to another (Gen 42:21): “We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.” Look at Joseph walking up and down in the prison, “the iron entering into his soul;” but, turn now and see it among the “all things” that are to work together for good; turn to the other side of the picture, aud there you see him sitting ou the second throne in Egypt, swaying his sceptre o’er all the land; while you read his testimony as witness for the providence as well as the truth and love of God (chap, 45), “Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.'” “So now it toas not you that sent me hither, but God” Therefore hold out faith aud patience!

“And of Joseph he said, Blessed of the Lord be his land.” Now this blessing was “to come upon the head of Joseph, and upon the top of the head of him that toas separated from his brethren;” and if God has blessed you aud me with a religion from Himself, it will separate us. And I am persuaded of this, the more godly a man is, the more will professors and the world oppose him, because he will stand out the more distinctly aud prominently; so a child of God is a “reprover of the world;” and it is said, “They that will live godly must suffer persecution;” and the reason why you and I suffer so little from the world, is because there is so little real religion in us; the more religion you and I have, the more the world will oppose us, and that will separate us from it: but while it does this God is with us, so, if we have God on our side, it is of little consequence who may rise up against us. The love of God felt in the soul, the testimony of God enjoyed in the conscience condemns the world, and enables us to say, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy; when I fall I shall arise,” “When I sit in darkness, tho Lord shall be a light unto me.” So this is the mercy for you and me, that, whatever God may allow us to come into, we find Him with us, but you may be ready to conclude at times, as Gideon did, “if the Lord be with us, why is all this evil befalling us?” We are apt to think, when we come into trouble, in the various trials and exercises through which God brings His people, “O, if God was ou my side it would not be so; if God loved me, surely He would not let me be so tried and perplexed and suffer such adversity! O, if God loved me it would be no difficulty for Him to give me talents as farthings, for I read that, ‘The gold and the silver are His,’ than how is it? If God loves me, why am I so as I am?” or in soul experience, “if God is with me, how is it I am so tried? He seems to take no notice of my cries; If God loves me, how is it my prayers do not go up? how is it God does not open His hand and His heart toward me? O, surely God is not with me, or else how is it all these things are come upon me?” Sinners! you find a path in which you have walked, or in which you may now be walking, and see if the Saints of God have not been there before you; then, what have you to complain of? how much better are you than they? O, when I read in the Word of God how they brought forth fruit unto God; when I look at them and then at myself, why, I sink into nothing! when I look at them I am filled with shame, blushing, and confusion! If I have any religion at all, what a little it seems to what they had! Poor Soul! What trouble or perplexity are you in that these most favoured ones have not passed through, what path are you in that they have not trodden?

“Why should I complain of want or distress,
Temptation or pain? He told me no less;
The heirs of salvation, I know from His Word,
Through much tribulation must follow their Lord.”

Joseph, this poor afflicted, persecuted, slandered, aud reproached man, was beloved of God in all aud under all; aud God was with him and brought him out of all, thus proving what He has said, “I will set mine eyes upon them for good;” “I will do them good with my whole heart, aud with my whole soul.” Yea, the word has gone out of His mouth, and He will never call it back again. Of Joseph he said, &c. “Now, has your religion cost you anything? It cost this man something. What was it stirred up the enmity and rage of his brethren? Why, his father had made him a coat of many colours, showing by this the tender regard and peculiar affection he had for him; and this it was that brought about the trouble. Now, has your religion so provoked your husband, or wife, or children, as to stir up their enmity and cause you some trouble? Has your religion discovered to you what a sinner you are, and thus brought you into trouble? has it so provoked the malice of the devil that he is constantly worrying you, saying that you are never right in all your family duties; in all your business transactions; in all your spiritual exercises; yea, in everything that is Godly—pulling everything to pieces; putting the worst face upon everything, making you miserable and unhappy? If so, you will find it will all come out right in the end, and you will have to say, “‘Goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life.’ I have spit out and said many hard and cruel things against the Lord God Almighty, to my shame bo it spoken; but I must speak well of Him at last:’ not one thing has failed of all that He has promised, all has come to pass,’ and now, when I get to heaven, how I will sing His praise!” I have no doubt in the least, if you have the same religion this poor man Joseph had, in a greater or less measure, you have felt a union of spirit with him, aud can say with him, “Do not I love them that love thee?” and can feel in your heart a sympathy with him in his sufferings. “Yes,” you say, “Bless God, I can;” then, I say, “Bless God for it;” for this proves that you aud he are of one spirit. You will not find a carnal man of one spirit with him; he never sympathizes with Joseph in his sufferings, not he; neither does ho rejoice with him when he rejoices; Joseph never comes into his heart and says, “I am Joseph, your brother.” This proves, then, that you are separated from your brethren, you are distinct from them.

“And of Joseph he said, Blessed be his land, &c.” It is the blessing of God that maketh rich, therefore God, in speaking of His people, has said that “He will bless their bread and their water;” everything comes to God’s people with His blessing, therefore it is said, “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is,” (the blessing of God) “than a stalled ox and hatred” (to God) “therewith.” Now, we find, at times, God is pleased to bless the labour of our hands, so to speak, as my text says, “Blessed be his land.” It is said (Gen 13:2), “Abram was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold;” “and it came to pass” (25:11), “after the death of Abraham,” that God blessed his son Isaac;” aud “appeared unto him” (chap, 26.), “and said, sojourn in this laud, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee.” (Verse 12), “Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him.” Now, the children of God can understand very well about God blessing His people when things multiply; when God sends an increase of business frees them from debt, and those anxieties and troubles so often connected with it, they can understand all this: but, my friends, God “blesses the kind” of His people though He may not give them an abundance of this world; for remember this, “that a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth;” so the apostle said, “Having food and raiment, I have learned therewith to be content; having nothing”—O, then he will be full of murmuring and discontent: O, no !—”having nothing, I yet possess all things.” If the man is contented, though he may have but just sufficient from day to day, he feels that he has everything he really wants; so a man may be rich with only a shilling in his pocket, while his neighbour, although very rich, may be miserably wretched, because his covetous spirit fills him with a desire to have more.

“Godliness with contentment ia great gain, it has the promise of the life that now is as well as that which is to come;” thus, the man that is contented, the man who “possesses nothing,” although he may not know how it will turn out, or how God will work things for him, yet trusts in Him who has said, “I will bless thy bread and thy water”—that however scanty your fare, however small the provision, with My blessing, you shall prove it to be enough. If you notice, the Son of God said to His disciples, “When I sent you forth without purse, or scrip, or shoes, lacked ye anything?” And they said, “Nothing.” “O, but,” say some, “perhaps He sent them amongst friends who looked after (hem, to see that they wanted for nothing.” No, no—”I sent you forth as lambs in the midst of wolves;” and yet when they returned they confessed that they had lacked nothing. So we find that God blessed Joseph. What a little he had; and yet how God in His wisdom aud providence was pleased to multiply him on every hand! And so it has been with God’s people again aud again; how little they had, and yet how God was pleased to multiply it! And although they possessed but little, He has been pleased to feed and clothe them from year to year, enabling them to bring up their families and be out of debt; and, though they may not have had anything to leave behind them, yet God blessed the labours of their hands and they had enough while living. Now, I dare say there are some, before God, who can say that He has blessed their land as He did Joseph’s; because, as I just said, it is not the abundance of the things—it consists only in what we need in eating and drinking and being clothed and paying our way; all beyond that, you know, as regards the use of it, is really useless, however much we may like to possess it, because we cannot trust in God. Why do we want to lay up a store against a rainy day, as we say? has not God promised? Yes, surely He has, but wc cannot trust Him. But God will have His people trust Him and prove the truth of His Word; “the young lions do lack and suffer hunger, but they that trust in the Lord shall not want any good thing.” You never found any complain at the last that God ever forsook them; that He ever failed of His word; deceived their hope, or put their confidence to shame. There may be some here who have proved, and may have to do so to the end of their days, that God has “blessed their land” in giving them their bread and their water sure and certain, and a contented, thankful heart for what they daily receive; who, when they come to the end, will have to say they never lacked anything; although from the time God first took them in hand until then they never had five pounds to spare; yet they never lacked anything, though they could not tell how this has been. We find the prophet Elijah, under God’s command, goes to Zarephath, and there the poor widow is gathering a few sticks; and he said to her, “Fetch me a little water, and bring me a morsel of bread in thine hand;” but she replied, “As the Lord thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in, and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. But Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said; but make me thereof a little cake first, and after make for thee and thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth;” so she went to the tub, and poured out the oil from the cruse from day to day, and it failed not, because God “blessed their land,” according to His promise, “I will bless thy bread, and thy water; “so it never failed until the Lord sent rain upon the earth. O my friends, you will prove His promise true! it must be so, “for God is not a man that he should lie, nor the son of man that he should repent;” He hath said it, and He will do it. Does not the Son of God teach us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread?” as much as to say, “You must depend upon God from day lo day to supply and bless your land;” and Paul tells us so also. No man ever put God more to tho test than the great apostle; and no man had much more to try him than Paul had: look how he was driven up and down in the land; see him, what a hunted man he was, his companions failing him in the hour of need; “all men forsook me, nevertheless the Lord stood by me; ” so we hear him say, “My God shall supply all your need out of his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Of Joseph he said, &c.; so if you have Joseph’s God, He knows how to multiply your little, and when the last shilling is gone, to send another; and when that is gone to send another yet. He can supply in thousands of ways that never entered your mind or thoughts: “Behold,” says the Son of God, “the fowls of tho air,” God feedeth them; consider the grass and the lilies of the field, God clotheth them; why, Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these; and if God so clothes the grass and feeds the ravens, shall He not much rather feed and clothe you, “O ye of little faith?” therefore be ye not of a doubtful mind, saying, “What shall we eat, or what, shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed? Seek first the kingdom of God, and bis righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” So it is the blessing of the Lord, we see, that maketh rich; and “he addeth no sorrow therewith.”

And of Joseph he said, “Blessed of the Lord be his land, for the precious things of heaven.” What an unspeakable mercy it is to receive anything from God! It is said that, “God’s eye seeth every precious tiling: “yea, He seeth every precious thing in, your heart and mine; yet, He regards it, and is pleased with it; and we are sure they must be precious things if they come from heaven, for they come from the Father’s heart, flow to us through redeeming blood, and are brought into tho heart by the Holy Spirit of God. The Scriptures make use of the term precious in three ways: there are “precious promises,” “precious blood,” and “a precious Christ:” these are what the Holy Ghost calls “precious.” But there are other things in Scripture called precious, which must all come to an end. Abraham’s servant went to fetch a wife for Isaac, and came to the house of BethueI; and it is said that Laban, Rebekah’s brother, brought him in, and the family entertained him kindly; then “the servant brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold, and raiment, and gave them to Rebekah: he gave also to her brother and to her mother precious things” so that he might win them over to his master. Now, whatever might be the worth and attractiveness of these things, they have all perished, and are gone, with all their beauty and greatness—for ever gone, for they were not precious things spoken of in my text; but they attracted the mind and heart of Rebekah, for when they said unto her, “Wilt thou go with this man? she said, I will go;” for no doubt she thought, “If his master has servants at his command entrusted with all these things to bestow them upon us so lavishly, what must Isaac be worth?” So she went willingly with the servant, and found that she was not mistaken, and she got a good husband into the bargain. Again, we find that when the Babylonish ambassadors came to Hezekiah “he showed them all the house of his precious things; and all that was found in his treasures: ” but he lost them all; they are all gone. “What,” said Isaiah the prophet, “have they seen in thy house? And Hezekiah answered, There is nothing among my treasures that I have not showed them. Then said Isaiah, hear the word of the Lord; all that is in thine house shall be carried into Babylon: there shall be nothing left, saith the Lord;” so, you find, it all flew away. Therefore these things that we cannot keep, and that perish with the using, or the abusing, are not worth much to us, are they? however precious we may think them. But here in my text we have “the precious things of heaven;” and what is one of these which God bestows, and only upon His children, His “loved ones,” His “predestinated ones,” the “election of grace,” whom He hath separated from the world by discriminating grace, whom “he hath blessed with all spiritual blessings, in heavenly places with Christ Jesus?” Why, one of these “precious things of heaven” is faith; for it is said of faith, that it is “more precious than gold which perisheth.” O what a precious thing is faith! you believe in God, that He is a righteous God, a holy God, a merciful God; yea, you believe in Jesus Christ, and your faith draws virtue from the Son of God; your soul wrestles with God in faith, and you say, by faith, “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me; and gave himself for me.” Here’s a precious thing that unites a man to the Son of God! What a precious thing that must be which brings peace into the heart and conscience, as you read, “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.”

“A faith that unites to the Lamb is more than mere notion or whim;” O, yes, it is the work of God’s Spirit—it is indeed; what a precious thing! for, while it makes a man a believer, it causes him to set to his seal that God’s Word is true, that he is a sinner. So, then, faith believes the Word of God; he believes just what God has said about him; that he is full of abominable creeping things; that “his heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked;” that, “in him, that is, in his flesh, there dwelleth no good thing;” and—shall I go lower still?—yes, it makes him believe that by nature he is an earthly, sensual, and devilish;” that “the imaginations of his heart are evil, only evil, and that continually.” There is faith! O, yes, this “precious thing of heaven” not only makes him see and confess that what God has said in His Word about him is true, but, in the long run, it will bring him to Jesus Christ. Mind this: faith comes from God; every good and perfect gift cometh from above; and no man can persuade you that you are really such a sinner. This is God’s work alone. If I were to show you, by the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, what God says about you, and back it with a hundred examples, you would not believe it to be so bad; you would turn your mind to this man or that woman, or fix the blame in this quarter or that, any way to creep out of it yourself; no man will believe, until persuaded and convinced by the Spirit of God, that he really is as bad as God’s Word declares him to be; but when God works faith in his heart in the truth of it, then no man can persuade him out of it; whatever he may hear or know of other things, he is now persuaded that God’s Word is true, that he is a sinner, whether he should be saved and get to heaven, or whether he should be lost and sent away with the wicked at last. But O, this precious faith! how, as I said, it will bring the man, in the long run, to believe that “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom he is chief;” “Who loved me,” he says, “and gave himself for me;” now, “I know in whom I have believed:” “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” There’s faith ! O, what this faith will do! it will bring the weakest saint to draw fruit from Christ: “I believe,” he will cry, “help thou mine unbelief” out of the way. Now, a man, you see, may have faith that will take him to heaven, although it be but as a grain of mustard seed, as the Son of God said (Matt 27:20), “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, “ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.” Yea, you shall overcome the devil himself, if you have only a grain of faith. Then what a precious thing this faith must be! why, it will enable the man or woman to believe in Christ, even as he did who said, “To whom else can we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe, and are sure, that thou art that Christ that should come into the world.” Now, my friends, have you that faith? “Yes,” say you, “I have. I cannot say this, ‘that He will save me,’ or that ‘I am justified freely from all things,’ or that I have that faith that unites me sensibly and feelingly to Christ, but I can say—-

”Nothing in my hands I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Black, I to the Fountain fly;
Wash me, Saviour, or I die!”

Yea, I can say that.” Then, I can tell you, it is from God; and “blessed art thou, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee;” for none can work that faith in your heart but God. And I tell you what that faith will do for you—and although you may question it over and over again, yet your questionings will never “prove me a liar, or my speech of nothing worth;” O, no, for that faith will bring salvation to your soul, as it is written, “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your soul;” then that must indeed be a precious thing that will save a man! and how, at times, it will “remove mountains;” and, scattering all his fears, it will enable the man to believe that “God is the strength of his heart, and will be his portion for ever;” and he will venture upon God in everything, and for every thing, with this faith felt and realized in his heart.

It is said of the thousands that died in the wilderness, “that they could not enter into the promised rest because of unbelief;” then what a precious thing faith must be! When Moses was drawing near to his end, and “went and spake unto all Israel ” (Deut 31.), giving his charge to Joshua, and delivering the law to the priests for them to read to the people, he makes a protestation to them and to the elders, showing them the mighty wonders aud miracles wrought on their behalf by the power of God in the overthrow of Pharaoh, and the subduing of the nations round about them; showing them how their fathers had moved God to jealousy, aud provoked Him to anger, so that He hid His face from them, saying, “I will see what their end shall be;” it is said, “for they are a very froward generation, children in whom, is no faith;” and, this being the case, they were damned for their unbelief. Then what an unspeakable mercy, what a “precious thing from heaven,” to have a grain of that faith that brings us to believe. in God, to believe in His Christ, to believe in His Word, and thus save our souls from a burning hell! You will see what it is; it honours God, and He will ever honour it: if you look, you will see how God honours it. Nebuchadnezzar makes a decree that all the people shall fall down and worship the golden image that he had set up, and they that would not should be thrown into a burning, fiery furnace; and word was brought unto him that there were certain men who would not do it—they had more faith in God than to be alarmed by all the threatenings of the king—so they are brought “before him, and he asks, “Is it true that I hear you will not, worship my image?” and they answered, “It is true, O king;” then said he, in wrath, “There is but one decree for you; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hand?” “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us.” Then was the king full of rage; but faith held them fast to their God, and all his rage was nothing to them as long as they rested in the power, faithfulness, and love of God. And now it is for God to honour that faith; into tho furnace they go; but God goes too: O, yes, they held fast to God; and so He stood fast by them. Then the king came to the mouth of the burning, fiery furnace, and said, “Ye servants of the most high God, come forth” (Dan 3:25). So God looks after His servants who believe and trust in Him. See how Paul sums up in his epistle to the Hebrews, “These all”—just you look at them; what a persecuted folk, what a tried people they were! but let us see the end—”These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but were persuaded of them;” so God was not ashamed to be called their God; they believed in Him, and God owned them; and now they sing His praise.

“O this faith is a precious grace,
“Where’er it is bestowed;
It boasts of a celestial birth,
And is the gift of God.”

And this faith Joseph had, therefore it is said in my text, “And of Joseph, &c,” and, poor man or woman, what a blessed faith this, that thus unites us to Jesus Christ, and enables us to say, “This God is my God, for ever and ever; and, living or dying, I am the Lord’s!” There’s “a precious thing from heaven;” that, although you cannot say, “This house is mine,” or, “That land is mine,” yet, you can say, at times, “I believe in God,” “my Lord, and my God!” O, that is a precious thing! and you will find that this faith will do you good when you come to die; when all other things fail and prove to be worth nothing to you, O, then to feel, “Into thine hands I commit my spirit, for thou hast redeemed me, Lord God of truth!” You will, indeed, find this faith to be a ”precious thing from heaven.”

But we must leave the subject for the present, and, if the Lord will, take it up again in the evening. The Lord add His blessing. Amen!

Francis Covell (1808-1879) was a Strict and Particular Baptist preacher. He was appointed the Pastor of Providence Chapel, Croydon, England.

Francis Covell Sermons