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4. They have had trial and experience of the word, what a comfort and support it hath been to them: "As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby : if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter ï. 2, 3). There is an appetite followeth the new nature, and makes us desire spiritual food : “ And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; that we may approve things that are excellent“ (Phil. i 9, 10). When the Spirit giveth us a taste of the goodness of those things offered in the word of God, a taste of Divine truth in our souls, when we find these comforts verified in us, then we come to approve the things that are excellent above all other things : “ Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm cxix. 11). We never know the worth of the word, till we come to make trial of it by practice and experience. The pleasure of the word we find in practice, and the comfort and support of it in deep afflictions: it is not so with the world, try it, and loath it: it is more in fancy than fruition, because the imperfections which formerly lay hid, are discovered; but the more intimately acquainted with the word of God, and the more we prize it: we see there is more to be gained there, than in all the world besides.
Use I.-Is to reprove and disprove those that prefer gold and silver be. fore the word of God. This is done by four sorts:
1. This is grossly done by those that revolt from the profession of the truth for the world's sake: “ Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (2 Tim. iv. 10); that betray the cause of religon, as Judas sold his master for thirty pieces of silver: or by those who will transgress for a small hire: the Devil needeth not offer great things to them, when they will accept of less with thanks; for twopence or threepence gain, will profane the Sabbath, or wrong their neighbour. Is the law of God's mouth dearer to them than gold and silver Surely no; they may flatter themselves with love to the word; but, when they can violate it for a trifle, for a pair of shoes, it is a sign that a little gain gotten by iniquity of traffic is sweeter to them than all the comforts of the promise.
2. It is done by them that will not forsake anything for the word's sake; but, when they are put upon 'an apparent trial, Here is gold and silver, and there the law of God's mouth; what will you do, obey God, or comply with your interests? you show your love by leaving the one rather than the other. As Moses counted “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Heb. xi. 26), Christ's worst is better than the world's best. The Thessalonians showed their love when they received the word in much affliction ; but, when you decline duty, and are loth to hazard your interests, it is evident what you prefer. To some this may be a daily temptation, “If I should be conscionable in my calling, I should be poor ; keep touch and honesty in all things, it would turn to my loss. How many are discouraged from the ways of God, and discharging a good conscience, by inconveniency!
3. This is also in part done by them who turn back upon the word and ordinances of God for gain's sake, and fix their residence there where they can neither enjoy God nor bis people, nor the comfort of his ordinances : as merchants, who remove for traffic, and settle their abode there where the true religion is not professed ; it may be, suppressed with extremity of rigour: especially when they send youth thither, and novices, and persons not grounded in the faith. This is like turning a child loose among a company of contagious persons, or setting an empty pitcher to crack before the fire. Commerce and traffic with infidels, or persons of a false religion, is lawful; but to make our constant residence where there is no liberty for reading and hearing the word of God, no liberty of worship and ordinances, cannot be excused from sin : you make religion lo stoop to gain. I will not urge so high and heroical an instance as Moses, “ Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season” (Heb. xi. 25); but of a Jew since the time of their degeneration: I have once and again read of one Rabbi Joseph, who, being allured, with the hope and call to a place of great gain, to teach Hebrew where there was no synagogue, is said to have brought forth this Scripture for his answer and excuse, “ The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.” Let us Christians remember it, and consider the pertinency of it.
4. It is more refinedly done by them who by earthly things are drawn off from the pursuit of heavenly, and are night and day cumbered with much serving, and never take time to refresh their souls with the pleasure of the word : like Martha, cumbered about many things, while Mary sat at Jesus's feet, and heard his word (Luke x. 39, 40). Felix domus (saith Bernard) ubi Martha queritur de Maria : it is a happy house where Martha complaineth of Mary ; but, alas ! in most places it is otherwise : religion is encroached upon, all remembrance of God and meditation of his word is jostled out of doors by the cares of the world.
USE II.—Is to press us to make this profession seriously, heartily.
1. When we have wealth, this profession should be made to draw off the heart from it to better things. When our store is increased, our hearts are apt to be enchanted with the love of these things : “If riches increase, set not your heart upon them” (Psalm lxii. 10). Our hearts are very apt to be set upon the world; but we must remember this is not the true treasure: there are other manner of riches that we should look after, to be rich towards God, lest I be a carnal fool (Luke xii, 21). Complacency in a worldly portion is a sure sign of a worldly heart, more than greedy desire.
2. When we want wealth, we should make this profession to induce us to contentment. The good disciples had the Spirit; to Judas, as the bad one, he gave the purse: if you have spiritual wisdom and knowledge, you have that which is most excellent : God hath “chosen the poor of this world rich in faith" (James ii. 5).
3. When we lose wealth for righteousness' sake, we have that wbich is better. The knowledge of a hated truth is better than to shine with the oppressor: “Envy not the oppressor, nor choose any of his ways; for the froward is an abomination to the Lord; but his secret is with the righteous" (Prov. iii. 31, 32). You have your losses exchanged for a greater good.
Use Ill.-Is of trial. Let us examine ourselves, and see what esteem and account we have of the word of God. If any say that we are all ready to profess that we esteem the word of God more than all riches, then let us bring it off from words to deeds. Do you prefer obedience before gain? do you seek after spiritual wisdom more than gain? “ Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting get understanding" (Prov. iv. 7). Is this your main business, to be wise to salva
tion? How many afflict and torment themselves to get silver and gold, but how few to understand and embrace God's law! How little doth this esteem of the word control contrary desires and affections !
SERMON LXXXI. VERSE 73.—Thine hands have made me and fashioned me : give me
understanding, that I may learn thy commandments. In these words, we have two things :
1. The man of God's argument, “ Thine hands have made me and fashioned me."
2. His request, "give me understanding that I may learn thy commandments."
1. For his argument, he pleadeth as God's creature. Man is God's immediate workmanship, both as to his body and his soul. Some apply the words, “ Thine hands have made me," to the creation of the soul; and the other words, “and fashioned me,” to the creation of the body : but we need not be so accurate : both imply that he was wholly the work of God's hand, a mere creature of his framing, and a creature exactly made ; so made, that he was also fashioned, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm cxxxix. 14). The structure of man's body darts a reverence and awe of God into the conscience of beholders; and he saith in the 15th verse, I was “ curiously wrought :" the Vulgar reads it acupictus, painted as with a needle. Man's body is a curious piece of embroidery, that is to be seen in the bones, veins, and arteries, that spread and run throughout the body; which consideration increaseth the argument, not only as he was God's work, but framed with a great deal of artifice.
2. Here is his request, "give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments:" in which he beggeth grace, that the faculty might be well disposed, “ give me understanding ;” and rightly exercised, “ that I may learn thy commandments ;' that he might both know and keep his commandments. Surely he meaneth a saving knowledge; and therefore, when the work of grace is expressed by knowledge, a theoretical and notional knowledge is not understood, but that which is practical and operative; such a knowledge as doth work such a change both in the inward and outward man, as that mind, heart, and practice do express a conformity to God's law. As, “I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God; for they shall return unto me with their whole heart" (Jer. xxiv. 7); that is, all the blessings of the covenant he expresseth by giving them a heart to know him : they shall so know me as to acknowledge me for their God, and carry themselves accordingly in dutiful obedience to me. I will regard them as their God, and they shall regard me as my people. So when it is said, that the new man “is renewed in knowledge, after the image of him that created him" (Col. iii. 10); it is meant of a saving knowledge or acknowledgment of God, such as doth produce a perfect conformity to his law in both the tables : it is such a knowledge as is set out in righteousness: these are parallel expressions (Eph. iv. 24). Well then, this new nature David prayeth for, "give me understanding ;" not as though he were altogether a stranger to it, but as seeking further degrees of it; such a spiritual understanding of the will of God as might bring him into a more perfect and
entire submission thereunto. 'I am thy creature, let me be thy new creature; give me a faculty so clearly renewed, that I may know and keep thy commandments.'
DOCTRINE.—That, as we are creatures, we are some way encouraged to ask of God the grace of the new creature.
I shall draw forth the sense of the text and the doctrine in these propositions:
1. That man was made by God, or is God's immediate workmanship: we have the first notice of it Gen. i. 26, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” God put more respect upon him than upon the rest of the works of his hands; his creation is expressed in other terms than were used before. He said, Let there be light, and it was light; let there be dry land, &c.; but here God speaketh, as if he had called a consultation about it, “Let us make man :" not as if there were more difficulty, or as if creating power were at a nonplus; but to show what special notice he taketh of us, and to point out the excellency which he did stamp upon man in his creation beyond the rest of the creatures. There was no creature but had some impress of God upon it; for everything which hath passed his hand, carrieth God's signature and mark: it showeth that it came from a being of infinite power, and wisdom, and goodness; but man hath his image and likeness stamped upon him; there you may discern God's track and footprint, but here his very face. In his first moulding of him, be would plainly and visibly discover himself. So again, when this making of man is explained : “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen. ii. 7). Before we read that man was created, here we see in what sort: his body was framed with great art, though of base materials: a handful of dust did God enliven and formed into a beautiful frame. But, for the frame within, he had a more excellent and perfect soul than God gave to any other creature; by the union of both these, man became a living soul. Heaven and earth were married in his person : the dust of the earth, and an immortal spirit, which is called the breath of God, were sweetly linked and joined together, with a disposition and inclination to one another, the soul to the body, and the body to the soul. When he had raised the walls of the flesh, and built the house of the body with all its rooms, then he puts in a noble and Divine guest to dwell in it, and both make up one man.
2. The making of man now, is the work of God, as well as the making of the first man was. God's hands did not only make and fashion Adam, but David: he saith, " Thy hands have made me and fashioned me.” The body of man is of God's framing : “My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them” (Psalm cxxxix. 15, 16). Our bodies you see there, though the matter were propagated by our parents, yet his hands made them and fashioned them. God is more our father than our natural parents are: our parents know not whether the child will be male or female, beautiful or deformed; cannot tell the number of the bones, muscles, veins, arteries: this God appointeth and frameth with curious artifice; so that, of all visible creatures, there is none in any sort equalleth man in the curious composition of his body, whether we look upon the beauty and majesty of his person, or take notice of the variety, nature, and use of his several parts, with their composition and framing them together, with a wonderful order and correspondence one to another, as if they had been described by a model and platform set down in a book : so secretly and curiously was the matter framed in passing through all the changes in the womb till it came to a perfect formation. Then for the soul, God infuseth that: “ Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Eccl. xii. 7). God gave the body too, but especially the spirit, because there he worketh singly and immediately; therefore he is called the Father of spirits : they do not run in the channel of carnal generation or fleshly descent (Heb. xii. 9). So Zedekiah sware by the God that made his soul. So, he “ formeth the spirit of man within him" (Zech. xi. 1). The parent doth instrumentally produce man in respect of his body, yet the soul is from God, and immediately created and infused into the body by him; and, being put into that dead lump of clay, doth animate and quicken it for the most excellent employment,
3. Man that was created by God, was created to serve him. He formed us from the womb to be his servants, as well as the first man (Isa. xlix. 5). Adam, indeed, was appointed for this use: all other creatures were made to serve God, but man especially, by the design of his creation : other things ultimately and terminatively, but man immediately and nextly. God “ made all things for himself" (Prov. xvi. 4); and, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. xi. 36). Man is the mouth of the creation : surely it is but reason that God should have the use of all that he gave us; that the author of life and being should have some glory by them; that he should dwell in the house he hath set up; he that made it hath most right to use it; that we should glorify him with our bodies and souls which are his (1 Cor. vi. 20). Man is designed, engaged by greater mercies, furnished with great abilities, as at first endowed with God's image: he hath facul. ties and capacities to know and glorify his Creator. There are natural instincts given to other things, or inclinations to those things which are convenient to their own nature; but none of them are in a capacity to know what they are, and have, and where they are: they cannot frame a notion of him who gave them a being. Man is the mouth of the creation to speak for them: “All thy works shall praise thee, and thy saints shall bless thee" (Psalm cxlv. 10). He was made to love, and serve, and glorify God. The Divine image inclined him to obedience at first.
4. We are not now what God made us at first, but are strangely disabled to serve him and please him: “God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions” (Eccl. vii. 29). There is man's origi. nal and his degeneration; what he was once made, and how far now unmade and departed from his primitive estate ; his perfection by creation, and defection by sin: first made in a state of righteousness without sin, and now in a state of sin and misery without grace; was created with a holy disposition to enable and incline him to love, please, and obey God, but now hath found out many inventions, put to his shifts. Man was not contented to be at God's finding, but would take his own course, and hath miserably shifted ever since to patch up a sorry happiness. So, “ All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. iii. 23): by glory of God is not meant his glorious reward, but his glorious image. Image is