網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

but that, if these things were well weighed, the law of God's mouth and thousands of gold and silver, we should find there is a great inequality belween them; but all men have not a judgment to choose that which is most worthy. Many take glass beads for jewels, and prefer toys and trifles before a solid good. Gold and silver draw the hearts of all men to them, and their affections blind their judgment; and then, though the weights be equal, if the balances be not, equal wrong will be done. We do not weigh things with an equal balance, but consider them with a prejudiced mind, and a heart biassed and prepossessed with worldly inclinations.

I. First, then, for the things themselves ; surely gold and silver which is digged out of the bowels of the earth is not worthy to be compared with the law that cometh out of the mouth of God: if you compare the nature, use, and duration of these benefits that you have by the one and the other, you will see a vast difference.

1. The nature: the notion of riches is abundance of valuable things. Now, there are true riches, and counterfeit riches which have but the resemblance and show. The true riches is spoken of Luke xvi. 11, and is opposed to that mammon and pelf which the world doteth upon. Grace giveth us the true riches and wealth. It is good to state what are the true riches and the false. The more abundance of truly valuable things a man hath, the more he hath of true riches: a child counteth himself rich, when he hath a great many pins, and points, and cherry-stones; for those suit his childish age and fancy: a worldly man counteth himself rich, when he hath gold and silver in great store by him, or lands and heritages, or bills and bonds; but a child of God counteth himself rich, when he hath God for his portion, Christ to his redeemer, and the Spirit for his guide, sanctifier, and comforter; which is as much above a carnal man's estate in the world, as a carnal man's estate is above a child's toys and trifles; yea, infinitely more. Well then, surely the word of God will make us rich, because it revealeth God to be our God, according to our necessity and capacity: “ The Lord is the portion, &c.; I have a goodly heritage" (Psalm xvi. 5, 6): and it revealeth unsearchable riches of grace in Christ (Eph. ii. 7; Eph. iii. 8), pardon of sins, and life eternal. They that have Christ want nothing, but are completely happy. So for the Spirit, what are all the riches of the world to those treasures of knowledge, comfort, and holiness which we have by the Spirit? What is in one evangelist, he will “ give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him” (Luke xi. 13), is in another, he will “ give good things to them that ask him” (Matt. vii. 11). The Spirit is instead of all good things; so that the word is able to enrich a man more than all the wealth of the world can. - It giveth us abundance, and abundance of better things; so that a man is not absolutely poor that wants gold and silver, but he that wants the benefits which the word of God offereth and conveyeth to us. Gold and silver are but one sort of riches, and but the lowest and meanest sort. You do not count a man poor if he have lands, though he hath not ready money; much less is a man poor if he hath gold, though he hath not silver: so a Christian is not poor if he hath God, and Christ, and the Spirit, though he say with the Apostle Peter, “Silver and gold have I none” (Acts iii. 6). Angels are not poor, though they have not flocks, and herds, and yearly revenues : they have an excellency suitable to their natures. So a Christian is not

poor while he possesseth him who possesseth all things. But that I may not seem only to say that the treasures of grace are the true riches, I shall prove it by two arguments.

1. That is the true riches which can buy and purchase all other things, but all other things cannot buy and purchase it : now, all the riches in the world cannot buy and purchase those benefits which the word offereth to us. They cannot purchase the favour of God: “ For what is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul ?” (Job. xxvi. 8.) Many a carnal wretch doth not make a saving bargain of it; but be it so, he looketh for worldly gain and hath it: what will this stead him when God puts the bond of the old covenant in suit, and demandeth his soul from him: he is loth to resign it, but God will have it. What can he give in exchange for his soul? Money cannot purchase the grace of the Redeemer: “ Ye were not redeemed with corruptible things" (1 Pet. i. 18); and, “ The redemption of their soul is precious" (Psalm xlix. 8). Men would, if they could, give a thousand worlds for the pardon of their sin, when they come to receive the fruit of it; but all will not do; the wrath of God must be appeased, and the justice of God satisfied, by another kind of ransom. They cannot purchase the grace of the Spirit. Simon Magus would give money for the gifts of the Holy Ghost; but Peter said to him, " Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money” (Acts viii. 20). His request was base and carnal; yet thus far it yieldeth a testimony to the truth in hand, that he thought the gift of the Holy Ghost better than money, or else he would not have offered his money for it ; yea, the lowest and far less necessary gift than his sanctifying, guiding, and comforting work: well then, all other things cannot purchase these benefits. But, on the other side, these benefits procure all other things. Grace giveth us an advantage in worldly things above others; for certainly man doth not live by bread alone (Matt. iv. 4), and his life doth not lie in worldly abundance: the natural, much more the sanctified and comfortable, use of the creatures, dependeth on the favour of God, and his fatherly care and providence, which is assured to the heirs of promise: “ Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added” (Matt. vi. 33); “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. iv. 8). Wealth is not to be compared with wisdom, because “ length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour" (Prov. ii. 15, 16). A child of God that is obedient to the word, hath more advantage from the world than a wicked man hath: he hath a promise which the other hath not, a warrant to cast his care upon God: he gets more by the want of worldly things, than a wicked man by the possession of them; for his want is sanctified, and worketh for good.

2. The world cannot recompense and supply the want of that grace we get by the word; but this can easily supply the want of the world. The worth and value of things is known by this, what we can least want. Now, there is no earthly thing but may be so supplied, as that its want should be better to us than its enjoyment. Sickness may be better to us than health, because of experiences of grace (2 Cor. xii. 10). Poverty may be better than wealth, because we may be rich in grace (James ii. 5); so, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. vi. 6). Slender provision, with a contented heart, is much better than a great deal more wealth. Godliness can supply the room of wealth, but wealth cannot supply the room of godliness. If the want of wealth helps us to an increase of grace and communion with God, it helpeth us to that which is of higher and greater value than the enjoyment of wealth could afford. But now, on the other side, the world will not give us a recompense for the want of godliness: “ What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?” (Matt. xvi. 26.) What shall be given to the party for that loss? His soul is lost, not in a natural sense, but in a legal sense, forfeited to God's justice. We may please ourselves in our carnal choice for a while, but death bloweth away all our vain conceits : At his end shall be a fool” (Jer. xvii. 11). He was a fool before, all his life-time, but now in the judgment and conviction of his own conscience. His conscience shall rave at him, • Oh! fool, madman, to hazard the love of Christ for worldly things.' These things cannot be recompensed by any other. What poor rewards can the world yield you for the loss of Christ and Heaven! Alas! then you lose your treasure, and have nothing to comfort you but rattles and baubles, which will no more comfort us than fine flowers will a man going to execution. Thus in the nature of riches.

2. Let us come to the use and end of these things, the use of the law of God's mouth, and the use of wealth. The use of wealth is to support and maintain the present life, and the bodily state, during our pilgrimage and passage through the world ; but the use of the word is to guide and direct us in the way to the blessedness of the world to come. The world supplieth our bodily necessities; but “the law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm xix. 7). It discovereth a man's soul-misery and remedy, as it directeth to Christ, and enforceth our obedience to God, and prescribeth a universal adherence to him and dependence on him. Our souls are fallen off from God by sin into a most doleful state, and have no other way of recovery than is prescribed in this blessed word of God. There are three uses of the word of God, and they do all commend and endear it to our respects.

(1.) It is the great means to sanctify and convey a Divine principle and nature in us: it is not only the rule, but the seed, of the new life: he hath begotten us, not by corruptible, but incorruptible seed, &c. (1 Peter i. 23). He hath begotten us 5 with the word of truth " (James i. 18): to us are given great and precious promises, that we might be made partakers of the Divine nature (2 Peter i. 4): “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth” (John xvii, 17). All this is said of the word : it is the means to sanctify us, the immortal seed, the beginning of the new life, the Divine nature, to make us live after a Godlike manner; therefore it is better than “ thousands of gold and silver.” A child of God findeth a greater treasure in one chapter of the Bible, than worldly men in all their lands, and honours, and large revenues. A poor Christian meeteth with more true gain in a sermon, than others can in their trades while they live. God begetteth him at first by the word of truth, and giveth him there the supply of the Spirit: therefore be swift to hear, much in reading, and meditation day and night. Oh! there is the true treasure, the pearl of price; there their souls become acquainted with God.

(2.) It directeth us and keepeth us from being carried away with every deceit of sin : “ Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm cxix. 105). Here are directions for all cases : here is a

general direction, it is a light to our path; and showeth us what to do in particular actions, it is a lamp to our feet. So, “ Order my steps in thy word, and let not any iniquity have dominion over me” (verse 133). It is the word prevents the reign of any one sin. To have a sure rule to walk by in the midst of so many snares and temptations, is a greater favour than to enjoy the greatest affluence of worldly felicity.

(3.) It supporteth us in all our affiictions and extremities. All the wealth in the world, composed and put together, cannot yield us that true contentment and satisfaction which the word of God doth to the obedient soul. Wealth cannot allay a grieved mind, nor appease a wounded conscience. The word directeth us where we may find rest for our souls : Go, ask for the good old way, “and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Jer. vi. 16). We lose ourselves in a maze of uncertainties till we come to the word of God: “Cone unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. xi. 28): here is ease for the great wound and maim of nature. The great maim of nature is sin ; now, where shall we have a plaster for this sore, but only in the word of God. So for par. ticular afflictions : “ That we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. xv. 4). Comfort is the strengthening of the mind, or the fortifying the mind when it is vexed, and weakened with doubts, fears, and sorrows. I had fainted in my affliction, unless thy word had quickened me' (Psalm cxix. 50). The comforts of the world appear and vanish in a moment, cannot firmly stay and revive the heart: every blast of temptation scattereth them. Philosophy and natural reason cannot give us true ground of comfort: that was it they aimed at, how to fortify the soul and keep it quiet, notwithstanding troubles in the flesh; but, as they never understood the true ground of misery, which is sin; so neither the true ground of comfort, which is Christ. That which man offereth, cannot come with such power and authority upon the conscience as that which God offereth; and bare reason cannot have such an efficacy as Divine testimony, and the law of God's mouth. This moonlight rotteth, before it ripeneth, fruits; but the word acquainteth us with Christ, who is the foundation of comfort; with the Spirit, who is the efficient cause of comfort; with the promise of Heaven, which is the true matter of comfort; with faith, the great instrument to receive it.

3. Let us look to the duration. There is a vanity and uncertainty in all these outward things : they soon take the wing, and leave us in sorrow. If they continue with us till death, then they have done all their work. Wealth may bring you to the grave, but it can stead you no further; then wealth is gone, but horror doth continue : “ Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things” (Luke xvi. 25): these good things are only commensurate with life. Sometimes they do not last so long; but, when we must leave the world, and launch out to those unknown regions (Job xxvii. 8), how miserable shall we be! Worldly comforts will fail us when we have most need of them, as Jonah's gourd when the sun scorched him. So in the hour of death, what will bags of gold do then ? But now, on the other side, wisdom is better than gold and silver ; because with her are “ durable riches and righteousness;" therefore “ my fruit is better than gold; yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver” (Prov. viii. 18, 19). If a man would labour for anything, labour for that which is eternal (John vi. 27). No treasure can be compared to eternal life; and this the word assureth us of.

II. Let us now come to examine why the children of God value it so:

1. Because they are enlightened by the Spirit, when others have their eyes dazzled with an external splendour, and their judgment is corrupted by their senses. It is not ignorance undoes the world so much as want of spiritual prudence: spiritual and heavenly things can only be seen in the light of the Spirit, without which we can discern neither the truth nor worth of them in order to choice : “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit” (1 Cor. ii. 14); and therefore, till we have this illuminating and sanctifying light of the Spirit, we shall not make a good choice for ourselves. The Apostle prayetb, that the Lord would “ give unto you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, &c. ; the eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance of the saints" (Eph. i. 17, 18). That saving knowledge of Divine mysteries which causeth us to prefer and choose them above other things, comes from the Spirit of wisdom and revelation: otherwise, in seeing we see not. There is a perfect contradiction many times between speculative and practical knowledge : the common wisdom and knowledge of Divine mysteries is a gift that cometh from the Spirit, much more this spiritual discerning

2. They are affected with their true necessities. .Our real necessities are the necessities of the soul : bodily wants are more urging and pressing upon us; but these are more dangerous ; therefore gold and silver, which supplieth our bodily necessities, is not so welcome to them as the law of God's mouth, which provideth a remedy for their soul-defects. How to be justified, how sanctified, is more than what shall we eat and drink, and wherewith shall we be clothed ? Usually, soul-necessities are overlooked; we regard them not, or conceit we are well already: “Thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (Rev. iii. 17); and then we have no relish for the offered remedy. The word of God is the offered remedy to repair our collapsed state. The Gospel is not only true, but worthy to be embraced (1 Tim. i. 15); but who will embrace it but the sensible sinner? for it is offered as a remedy to the sick, and deliverance to the captive: it is not enough to see the excellency of things, but we must see our necessity of them. There are two hindrances that prejudice our salvation : either the necessity and excellency of the Gospel is not considered, or the truth and reality of it is not believed.

3. They measure all things with respect not to this world, but the world to come. It is a high point of religion, to do all things, and regard all things, for eternal ends : looking not to things seen, that are temporal; but to the things which are not seen, which are eternal (2 Cor. iv. 18); making this our scope, and doing all to this end. Gold and silver are the most valuable things in the world : what cannot gold and silver buy in this world ? but there is another world, and believers look to things unseen. Within a while, it will not be a pin to choose whether we have enjoyed much or little of this world's good things; but much will lie upon this, whether we have obeyed God, and glorified God, and accepted of Christ. The use of gold and silver ceaseth in the world to come: these things are not current in Canaan, nor accounted of in our heavenly country; there. fore money should be a vile thing instead of grace: we can carry away none of these things with us when we die (Eccl. v. 15). And surely that which hath no power to free us from death, to comfort us in death, or go with us into another world after death, is no happiness or solid tranquillity.

« 上一頁繼續 »