A Sermon Peached By Francis Covell On Sunday Evening, June 2nd, 1872, At Corydon
“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
In the morning we took a little notice of Joseph in some of his afflictions, but we found that “out of them all the Lord delivered him,” and made His promise good concerning him, that, “All things shall work together for good to them that love God, and are the called according to his purpose;” and we noticed that the same afflictions, more or less, in one way or other, attended the living people of God, and they all had to come to this conclusion at last, however they had fretted, rebelled, murmured and repined, respecting the way, that, “Not one thing had failed of all the Lord God had promised them; all had come to pass.” We then noticed “the Lord blessing his land; “how He raised him from, his low estate to the possession of riches and honour, to show what God’s “right hand and holy arm” could do, and that it was “the blessing of the Lord that made rich.” We saw that “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth;” that God might bless a man’s land, that is his bread and his water; that a man might have sufficient to the end of his days, although it might be but little in this world; that although God was pleased to prosper one man abundantly, or only to bless another from meal to meal, it was the “blessing of the Lord that made rich, aud he added no sorrow therewith;” and without God’s blessing, whether you believe it or not, all the possessions you may have will fail; for the Holy Ghost says, “Unless the Lord keep the city the watchman waketh but in vain:” and, “Unless the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.” So you read in Haggai, how the Lord complained of the Jewish Church, that they “turned not to him;” they “earned wages to put it into a bag with holes;” they “looked for much, and, lo, it came to little because the Lord “did blow upon it;” “when one came to an heap of twenty, measures, there were but ten; I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labour of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the Lord.” But as soon as they turned to the Lord and set about restoring tho Lord’s house, we find it said, “Consider now from this day and upward, even from the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider it: Is the seed yet in the barn?” &c. “from this time will I bless you.” It is the blessing of the Lord, my friends, upon which all depends; therefore, God enable you, in all the labour of your hands, in all your temporal concerns, to take them to Him: “Commit your way unto him, and he will bring it to pass.” If He does not fill your barns with abundance, He will so bless what you do have, that you will find when you come to the end of your days, you have “lacked nothing.”
We then began to take a little notice of the “precious things of heaven” that Joseph, and all those who are of one spirit with him, are blessed with; and one of these precious things we found was faith; for it is this that brings the sinner to believe in God; that enables him to lay hold of Christ; to find what it is to be justified by Him; to claim Him; and to say at times “my Lord, and my God.” What a faith that must be that enables a man to look death in the face and say, “Thanks be to God that giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ!” “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith: “and the Son of God shews us what a precious thing of heaven this faith is, for He says, “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him;” and again, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom He hath sent.” We noticed also some of the victories this faith obtains; the good things it works in the soul, and how a grain of it will bring a man or woman to heaven, who may be the favoured possessors of it.
And now to pass on. Another of the “precious things of heaven” is love. Yea, this is a precious thing! For it is said (1 John 4:7) “Love is of God, and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God;” and again, verse 16, “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.” And the Holy Ghost tells us by the great apostle, that, “Love never fails;” it will carry a man through all the difficulties, trials, and obstacles that lie in his way to the kingdom; and as the apostle says, “The love of Christ will constrain him to every good word and work;” and, enumerating some of the gifts and graces the children of God are favoured to enjoy, “the greatest of these” (says he) “is charity,” for when all other things fail, this never fails, but it carries a man right through the cold waters of death into heaven itself, where it bursts forth into a never ending flame of eternal love. Again, it is said in the Scriptures, “that if a man were to give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned;” and again, “Better is a dinner of herbs, where love is, than a stalled ox, aud hatred therewith.” Why, this love is a beam from God, a spark of divinity in the man’s soul, whereby he loves God with His own love: O what a gift! it is indeed “a precious thing of heaven.” Can you say at times—did you ever say with an approving conscience, —”Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth I desire besides thee,” and notwithstanding all your sins, infirmities, shortcomings, and the many and various things that often make you blush, and cause you to drop your head at times in humble confession before God, say, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” Ah, poor soul! “many waters of affliction cannot quench “that love; nor will all the floods of temptation and trial drown it; but it will carry you into the arms and the bosom of Him from whom it flows into your poor heart; yea, even in this life, it will lift you up above all the relations of life; above this dying, perishing world, so that you can say, “I love the Lord with all my heart.” Then, this is “a precious thing of heaven!” Whatever religion a man may think he possesses, however far he may go into many things that he may do, if he has not this gift it is all worth nothing. There came a young man to the Son of God, saying, “Good master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why callest thou me good?” said Jesus, “What is written in the law? how readest thou?” O, “all these things have I kept from my youth; what lack I yet?” “One thing thou lackest, go, sell all that thou hast, and come and follow me,”—then I shall see whether thou hast any real love to Me; but alas! “he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions,” and he loved his worldly estate rather than the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, what did Peter say, “Lo, we have left all and followed thee; what shall we have? Then said Jesus unto him; “There is no man that hath left houses, lands, or father or mother, for my sake, but he shall receive an hundredfold more in this present world:” peace in the conscience; comfort in the heart; a sweet sense of the mercy and favour of God in this world; “and in the world to come life everlasting.” Why, sinner, a grain of this love in the heart will sanctify all thy works and ways, and make them acceptable to the God of heaven. If you notice how the Son of God passes by all the doings cf the Pharisees; how He passes by all the rich folks when they cast in of their abundance into the treasury; He takes no notice of all these, while the two mites given by the poor widow won His heart, and drew out such a sweet feeling toward her that all the others, with all their treasures never obtained: you will see what love will do; O, it is a precious gift! how the Son of God speaks of it! how He commends it in the case of the poor woman who broke the alabaster box and poured the ointment upon His head! because, you know, it was the fruit of His own Spirit, and, He always “Eats his own honey with his own honey-comb; and drinks his own wine with his milk.” If you have a grain of this love in your heart it will exceed and out do all the religion of the flesh, whatever show it may make, or however far it may go; this will be far more acceptable to God. Then what a mercy to feel and know something of these “precious things of heaven,” for this makes all the difference between carnal men and mere professors, and men and women who really love God; for it is said of the latter (Deut 30:6), “The Lord thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live!“ That is the great thing, and if you are brought there, you have a religion that will take you to heaven, because it is dropped from heaven into your soul, and you can say, Lord,
“Here’s my heart, do take and seal it; seal it from thy courts above”
There are none but the men and women who are bound for heaven that can say with the poet,—
“Do not I love Thee, gracious Lord?
O search my heart and see;
And turn out every idol, Lord,
That dares to rival Thee.”
Then, sinner, you are safe for heaven; sin has been dethroned in your heart, notwithstanding all its power, craft, and ingenuity. Ah, the devil and the damned never had a grain of that love in their heart; because “love is of God,” and the carnal mind is enmity against God; it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; therefore John says; “He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him,” and he carries divinity with him wherever he goes.
Another of the “precious things of heaven” is humility. Now, this does not pass for much in the eyes and estimation of carnal men, but it is a great thing in the sight of God, for it is said that “before honour is humility,” and the Son of God says, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of heart;” and “although he were a son, yet learned he obedience;” humbling himself unto death, “even the death of the cross; wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Thus, you find this is from heaven, and how God ever lifts up and exalts these poor things; for if God has blessed you with it, however it may make you droop your head, and feel at times to be the last and least, I am glad it is so, and wish you were always in that spirit; then you would have no stones to throw at any one; you then have enough to do to look after yourself: but if you and I have not this feeling, and think ourselves better than others, we have not found (his “precious thing of heaven” depend upon it; and our feeling will be this, “Thank God we are not like other men:” but the Scriptures say that, “God will save the humble person.” Then humility is a precious thing indeed. Now, you will find what this humility is, for the Lord says, “Those mine enemies which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me” (Lk 19:27). It is said of the wicked, “Pride compasseth them about as a chain;” and pride was the accursed thing that cast the devil from heaven to hell. When Paul is writing to Timothy, speaking of those who desire the office of a bishop (or pastor), 1 Timothy 3:6, he says, such an one “Must not be a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.” O, he is a proud creature, just look at his pride—and this spirit is infused into all his seed—see him coming to the Son of God, taking Him up into a high mountain; showing Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and saying, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” There’s an infernal creature! What devilish pride to wish the blessed Son of God to bow the knee to that infernal spirit; why, it was his cursed pride that damned and cast him into the bottomless pit; so you see what a dreadful thing pride is; it was pride that caused the full of man, and pride will be the curse of man to the end of days. If you notice in the case of Abimelech (Judges 9) “A certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon his head, and all to break his scull; then he called to his armour bearer, and said unto him, “Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, a woman slew him.” Look at the pride of Abimelech, and you will find the same pride in every man destitute of this gift of humility—this “precious thing of heaven.” This humility will bring a man into this spot, as Peter says, “Be clothed with humility;” and how God approves of such, for, when speaking of Moses, He does not say what a warrior he was, or what a king, neither does He commend him for the miracles that were wrought by him as an instrument in God’s hands in bringing the children of Israel out from under the iron hand of Pharoah. O dear no, not a word of the sort; but God says, “Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth “—so his honour lay here, and the more humbled you are, man, the more meek you become, the nearer you will get to God’s heart; you may depend upon it, for it is said in His Word, “He resisteth the proud, but he givelh grace to the humble;” yea, it is said, “He giveth more grace,” and if God has blessed you with grace it will bring you, at times, into the dust of self-abasement, so that you will say with. David, “Who am I, O Lord, that thou shouldest take knowledge of me?” or with Abraham, “I, who am but dust and ashes, have taken upon me to speak with God;” or with Jacob, “I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies;” or, if you know what it is to smite upon your breast like the publican, feeling wretched under the weight of your sins; standing afar off on account of your unworthiness, your shortcomings, your misdoings, crying out, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” you will never be sent away with the ungodly; you have a “precious thing of heaven ” in your heart; God will lift you out of the dust, and from the dunghill of unworthiness, and put a crown of glory upon your head. He will crown that grace of humility with eternal glory; yea, it is a precious thing. O that we had more of it; how humbly we should walk; how, under a feeling sense of it, we should prize every blessing that came from heaven; we should indeed. If you notice the apostle Paul had more humility than many; and how this grace shone forth in him; thus, the richer God makes a man in grace, the poorer he becomes in spirit. I will tell you one thing, my friends; it is easier for you to give away all you have than to become poor in spirit; but God regards this poverty of spirit more than your making yourself poor by emptying your pockets; “blessed,” says our Lord, “are the poor in spirit (the humble, the meek, the lowly men), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” So we find, “before honour is humility;” and the man is best off when in his own feelings he sinks into nothing under a sense of his own unworthiness. But we might speak of the “precious things of heaven” to the end of our days, find then not exhaust them, so we will just pass on; and may the blessed Spirit favour you with a meditative heart, and “in the multitude of your thoughts within you, may his comforts delight your souls.”
“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,” &c. Now, when Moses was blessing Joseph he knew the worth and value of “the dew” literally as well as spiritually: in those countries they seldom have rain, therefore the grain is nourished and kept alive by the heavy dews that fall; and Moses, knowing the worth and value of the dew as it falls upon the ground, the herbs, and the fruit, desired that the dew might rest upon Joseph, and upon all his spiritual seed after him. Isaac had an eye to this in blessing Jacob, when he said (Gen 27:28), “Therefore God give thee of the dew of heaven, and the fatness of the earth, and plenty of corn and wine; “but, you see, Isaac wanted him to have the spiritual blessing. Now, there is this peculiarity as regards the dew (at least, philosophers tell us so, and I dare say they are right), that it never falls in scorching weather, or in tempestuous weather, but at night time, when all is quiet and serene and clear; then it comes upon the earth: now, how far that may be true or not we will leave; but this is what God’s Word says (Ps 11:6), “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: This shall be the portion of their cup; “while He says of His people, “I will be as the dew unto Israel.” Now, the dew, you know, is so soft, it falls so silently, so slowly, so insensibly—you can neither hear it, nor lay hold of it, yet it falls on the earth: so it is with God’s people; how often they come up to the house of God, feeling parched, dried, withered by the things of this world; sometimes tried about their religion, fearing that they are deceiving themselves; theirs cannot be of the right sort, they cannot look back upon the time when God “wrought anything in their heart, they cannot see that He has done anything for them; the cares of the world, business and family, seem to wither up everything, and they come to the house of God cold, barren, and dry. “Yes,” say you, “that is just my case very often.” Yea, I have no doubt some of you have come thus to-day, and while sitting before the Lord all the business of the week has rushed into your mind, and you have been as full of the world as you could hold; it has been, “What shall we eat, what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed?” If you read the Bible, or attempt to kneel down before the Lord, there is no more feeling in your heart than in the ground you kneel upon; as to love, you seem to have none, and feel, indeed, as though bereft of all your religion; but presently, while sitting before God, and the minister is speaking, your hardness has begun to give way, your heart has begun to melt, your spirit has begun to bend, and your soul to open, and you feel a softening, reviving, a repenting feeling come over you; faith mixes with the Word you are hearing, and you find such a different spirit come upon you from that you had when you entered the house. “O,” say you, “I know that I have felt so, but then I have been fearful, after all, it was not from God; there was nothing in the sermon I could seem to lay hold of that did it, but something did encourage and soften me, and I was melted under it, and I cannot help hoping, after all, there is a reality in my religion; there is something that does me good.” Then blessed be God for it! I know what it is; as I said just now, it is such a soft thing, it distils so imperceptibly into the soul, it comes just like dew, softening, reviving, encouraging. “Yes,” say you, “I know something of it: ” then mind; as I said, it only comes in the quiet, clear night time, to assure thee that God has “thoughts of peace toward thee, and not of evil, to give thee an expected end.” Thus, while He rains upon the wicked snares, fire, brimstone, and an horrible tempest, He comes to you in this quiet, soft stillness, opens His heart towards you, lets a little of His love distil in your soul, and under it your heart melts, and softens, you wax: strong in faith, and O, how you flourish in your soul! therefore, the Lord says by Moses, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain; my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small vain upon the tender herbs, and as the showers upon the grass” (Deut 32:3); and you will gladly say, with Moses, “Ascribe ye greatness unto our God.” Poor Job knew something of it. What a sad time he had of it when he uttered those words in the twenty-ninth chapter! fretting, kicking, and in such a strait as he was, he said, “O that I were as in months past; when the dew lay all night upon my branch; my glory was fresh in me;” he was then walking humbly and tenderly before God, and the fire of love was in his heart; no man like Job at that time; O, but “the dew lay all night upon his branch:” that was it. Now the Son of God says to the Church, “Open to me, my sister, my spouse, for my head is tilled with dew; and my locks with the drops of the night;” poor man or woman, if thy heart has been in such a dead, low place as we have been speaking of, how it has revived aud encouraged you; how your soul has sprang up under this dew; when it comes dropping silently into the heart, and resting softly upon the spirit, how it causes you to send forth a sweet savour to God: hope rises up and begins to look out; darkness disappears, and our soul is encouraged to believe that after all there is something good within you; then again when you drop upon your knees dark, cold, hard, and lifeless, to feel it come softening your spirit; unbelief gives way; faith begins to rise up, and your soul exclaims, “Whom have I in heaven but ‘Thee? and there is none upon earth I desire besides Thee!” What a change! your soul that just before was parched, and dried and withered up now revives aud appears wearing quite another face. Now as God has promised to be as the dew unto Israel, I tell you that you will never be finally scorched, now withered, nor blasted, nor burnt up by the curse of God; no, never; you will find what it is to be “revived as the corn; aud to grow as the vine; the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon.” David, in the 133rd Psalm, says, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! it is as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the Mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” So there is life in it you see, poor soul; and were there no grace in you there would be nothing to revive; let the dew fall upon the hard beaten road there is no benefit; it is when it falls upon the herbs, the flowers, the grass, and the grain or seed you see its good effects; thus when the Son of God comes and says, “Open to me my sister, my spouse,” it is that you may be revived and encouraged! therefore the Lord says by Isaiah, 45:8, “Drop down ye heavens from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together: I the Lord have created it:” and when the heavens drop down thus, and the skies pour down this rich blessing, O it makes the thirsty soul rejoice and the barren unfeeling heart, so to speak, leap for joy.
“And for the deep that coucheth beneath.” Blessed be God that it “coucheth beneath:” God’s people know what it is to have a bad heart: O the heart of man, what is it like?
“Some are afraid to tell;
But I am not, therefore I say,
It is like a little Hell.”
But notwithstanding it is “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked,” there is a deep that coucheth beneath it; yes, and that is the mercy; for there is the infinite mercy of God, the boundless love of God, and the precious, all prevailing, atoning blood of the Son of God! all couching beneath; therefore let a man, under the sweet teaching and divine influence of the blessed Spirit, be brought sensibly to see and feel what a wretch he is, he will be something like the three thousand who cried out under the preaching of Peter, “Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?” poor creatures, how they were reminded of the cry that had only lately gone out of their mouth; “His blood be upon us and on our children; release unto us Barabbas!” O, how it now recoiled in their conscience to hear Peter say “Know ye assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified both Lord and Christ;” and they may well indeed be ”pricked in their heart:” but there was a “deep that coucheth beneath,” so we find the Son of God saying, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,”and when they cried out” What shall we do?” “Repent, said Peter, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost:” O, yes, the deep was beneath them: “Come, saith the Lord, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as wool; though they be red like crimson they shall be whiter than snow:” yea, how it “coucheth beneath;” hearken again! Isaiah 43:24, “Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, and hast wearied me with thine iniquities; “yet—I, even I, am He that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” O, says God, “There is mercy with me that I may be feared,” and how it coucheth beneath; it does indeed; for the Holy Ghost saith “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting;” O yes, before even Adam was created, or sin entered and thus death by sin. Poor sin bitten man or woman! poor sin tormented soul! the mercy of God coucheth beneath; hearken! “Deep calleth unto deep;” yes, thy deep sins call loudly for God’s deep mercy, and go as low as you may it is under you, it coucheth beneath; come short of it you will not, or miss or lose it you cannot: Why,
“What’s thy sin—to His great grace
That cancels all the sum?
With Him there’s no’er too hard a case,
Past, present, or to come.”
Now, here is a deep that “coucheth beneath;” “All manner of sins shall be forgiven to men; and blasphemies wherewith they blaspheme;” because “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son cleanseth us from all sin” yes, goes beneath it all; and bless God, for it; there is hope then, in Israel, for the vilest, filthiest man or woman: you cannot get beneath God’s mercy, poor wretched sinner; poor sin stung sinner, poor mourning sinner; you cannot get beneath it; it is lower than your sins; deeper than your sins: this made David say, “I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever.”
” Sunk in the crimes of lust and blood
He lay; and O, how long!
‘Till Nathan came to him from God,
With mercy on his tongue.”
Hearken! “I have sinned, I have sinned.”—”The Lord hath put away thy sin,” how mercy picked him up, poor wretch! and took him to heaven, and now he sings of that mercy that took him there.
Again; “how the deep coucheth beneath” all the providential trials, straits and difficulties, into which God is pleased at times to bring His people: they have to say, “O the depth,” Ah, you can never get to the bottom of the riches and knowledge of God, &c. You may have been into deep places; so to speak, at the bottom of a sea of troubles, and like Jonah saying, “The earth with her barn are about me for ever.” I am in a difficult place; completely helpless; I cannot see any way out: but there is a deep that coucheth beneath; “Who hath been God’s Councellor, or who hath taught Him knowledge?” poor Jacob said, “All these things are against me!” no, no, father, said his sons; and they rose up to comfort him, but he would not have it: “me ye have bereaved,” “Joseph and Simeon are not and now ye will take Benjamin also, ye will bring down my grey hairs with sorrow to the grave;” now let us see; “Father, Joseph is yet alive, and is governor over all the land of Egypt,” but he believed them not, until he saw the waggons, then “Jacob’s heart revived,” and he goes to meet Joseph who, when he sees him, falls upon his neck and the dear old man was so rejoiced; why, said he, I had not thought to have seen thy face, and God hath showed me thy seed. Ah, there was the deep couching beneath my friends, so when he comes to die, he blesses them saying, “The Lord that hath redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads,” so you who are now in temporal trials will find a little reviving and before you die you will have to say like Joseph, it was God who sent me into this or that trouble and all for my future good. So poor backsliding man or woman, should there be any in this place, I would just drop a word for you that you may be comforted: You remember him who went from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves, who stripped him and left him; half dead; and how both Priest and Levite passed him by; poor creature, what a pitiable condition, and he may well think; “nobody cares for me:” but there is such a depth in God’s love and compassion that was never fathomed yet, and however far his children may be left to run in sin—and they have gone, some of them, as far as they could go this side hell—however depraved and wicked the heart, and however they may have to smart for their folly, the depths of this love and pity couch beneath, and the “good Samaritan” passes by, pours in oil and wine, recovers and takes care of this poor wandering one. Who can fathom the boundless fathomless love of God? “O, it is such a deep that notwithstanding all the sins and wretched devilisms into which his poor people get, it so coucheth beneath that, sooner or later, He will bring them up and out so that they shall not finally perish: it is your mercy man and mine that we are this side of hell, and this depth of love will bring you from the very gates of hell into heaven itself, and make you to inherit a crown of glory for ever and ever. David said at one time, “He brought me up out of a horrible pit,” &c, and then we hear him say, “I love the Lord because He hath heard my voice,” &c, and he could not help it; neither will you be able; you may not like the way God works, but He will do as He pleases, “He wounds that He may heal;” “He brings down that He may lift up” that men may “speak of His goodness and talk of His power.”
“This people” He says “have I formed for myself, they shall shew forth my praise.” God enable you to sing of this love and mercy, grace and goodness, that “coueheth beneath,” and you will find that “even down to hoary hairs He will carry you,” and you will realize the truth of my text; “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.” Amen.