|Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good comfort, it is I, be not afraid.| The natural man that cannot understand the power of God, would have desired some other present comfort in so great a danger; as, either to have had the heavens opened, to show unto them such light in that darkness, that Christ might have been fully known by his own face; or else, that the winds and raging waves of the seas suddenly should have ceased; or some other miracle which had been subject to all their senses, whereby they might have perfectly known that they were delivered from all danger. And truly, it had been the same to Christ Jesus to have done any of these, or any greater work, as to have said, |It is I, be not afraid:| but willing to teach us the dignity and effectual power of his most holy word, he uses no other instrument to pacify the great and horrible fear of his disciples but his comfortable word, and lively voice. And this is not done only at one time, but whensoever his church is in such a strait and perplexity, that nothing appears but extreme calamity, desolation, and ruin; then the first comfort that ever it receives, is by the means of his word and promise; as may appear in the troubles and temptations of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Paul.
To Abraham was given no other defence, after he had discomfited four kings, whose posterity and lineage, no doubt, he, being a stranger, greatly feared, but only this promise of God made to him by his holy word, |Fear not, Abraham, I am thy buckler;| that is, thy protection and defence.
The same we find of Isaac, who flying from the place of his accustomed habitation, compelled thereto by hunger, got no other comfort nor conduct but this promise only, |I will be with thee.|
In all the journeys and temptations of Jacob the same is to be espied; as when he fled from his father's house for fear of his brother Esau; when he returned from Laban; and when he feared the inhabitants of the region of the Canaanites and Perizzites for the slaughter of the Shechemites committed by his sons; he received no other defence, but only God's word and promise.
And this is most evident in Moses, and in the afflicted church under him when Moses himself was in such despair, that he was bold to chide with God, saying, |Why hast thou sent me? For since that time I have come to Pharaoh, to speak in thy name, he hath oppressed this people; neither yet hast thou delivered thy people.|
This same expostulation of Moses declares how sorely he was tempted; yea, and what opinion he had conceived of God; that is, That God was either impotent, and could not deliver his people from such a tyrant's hand; or else, That he was mutable, and unjust in his promises. And this same, and sorer temptations, assaulted the people; for in anguish of heart, they both refused God and Moses. And what means did God use to comfort them in that great extremity? Did he straightway suddenly kill Pharaoh, the great tyrant? -- No. Did he send them a legion of angels to defend and deliver them? -- No such thing: but he only recites and beats into their ears his former promises to them, which oftentimes they had before: and yet the rehearsal of the same wrought so mightily in the heart of Moses, that not only was bitterness and despair removed away, but also he was inflamed with such boldness, that without fear he went in again to the presence of the king, after he had been threatened and repulsed by him.
This I write, beloved in the Lord, since you know the word of God not only to be that whereby heaven and earth were created, but also to be the power of God to salvation to all that believe, the bright lantern to the feet of those who by nature walk in darkness, the life to those that by sin are dead, a comfort to such as are in tribulation, the tower of defence to such as are most feeble, the wisdom and great felicity of such as delight in the same. And, to be short, you know God's word to be of such efficacy and strength, that thereby sin is purged, death vanquished, tyrants suppressed; and, finally, the devil, the author of all mischief, overthrown and confounded. This, I say, I write, that you, knowing this of the holy word, and most blessed gospel and voice of God, which once you have heard, I trust to your comfort, may now, in this hour of darkness, and most raging tempest, thirst and pray, that you may hear yet once again this amiable voice of our Saviour Christ, |Be of good comfort, it is I, fear not.| And also, that you may receive some consolation from that blessed gospel which before you have professed, assuredly knowing, that God shall be no less merciful unto you, than he has been to others afflicted for his name's sake before you; and albeit God speedily removes not this horrible darkness, neither suddenly pacifies this tempest, yet shall he not suffer his tossed ship to be drowned.