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called glory, 1 Cor. xi. 7. It is said of the man, that “he is the image and glory of God," as “the woman is the glory of the man.” So compare 2 Cor. iii. 18, “ Beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord,” &c.; so here, “come short of the glory of God;" that is, his glorious image. Hence it is that all our faculties are perverted, the mind is become blind and vain, the will stubborn and perverse, conscience stupid, the affections preoccupied and entangled, and we find a manifest disproportion in all our faculties to things carnal and spiritual, sinful and holy. In the understanding, there is a sharpness of apprehension in carnal things, but dull, slow, and blind in spiritual and heavenly things: thoughts are spent freely and unweariedly about the one, but there is a tediousness and barrenness about the other: a will backward to what is good, but a strange bent and urging to what is evil : in that which is good we need a spur, in evil a bridle: these things persevere with us, but how fickle and changeable in any holy resolution ! the memory slippery in what is good, but firm and strong in what is evil: the affections quick, easily stirred, like tinder catch fire at every spark; but, as to that which is good, they are like fire in green wood, hardly kept in with much blowing. Again, our delight is soon moved by things pleasing to sense, a carnal gust and savour is very natural to us, and rife with us (Rom. viii. 5), but averse from the chiefest good, and everything that leadeth to it. Surely, then, we have need to go to God, and complain of corruption, sometimes under the notion of a blind and dark mind, begging the illumination of the Spirit; sometimes under the notion of a dead, hard heart, or an unpersuadable will, begging his inclining as well as enlightening grace. Surely they are strangely hardened that do not see a need of a spiritual understanding. Nay, God's children, after grace received, though sanctified betimes, yet halt of the old maim; dull in spirituals, alive and active in carnal matters Carnal and worldly men act more uniformly and suitably to their principle than the children of God to theirs: “The children of this world are wiser in their generation than the children of light” (Luke xvi. 8); that is, more dexterous in the course of their affairs. Grace, for the present, worketh but a partial cure : we have the advantage in matter of motive, we have better and higher things to mind; but they have the advantage in matter of principle; their principles are unbroken. But the principles of the best are mixed : we cannot do what we would in heavenly things; there is the back-bias of corruption that turns us away; and therefore they need to be instant with God to heal their souls; sometimes a blind mind, and sometimes a distempered heart.
5. We must be new-made and born again, before we can be apt or able to know or do the will of God; as Christ inferreth the necessity of regeneration from the corruption of nature: he had been discoursing with Nicodemus, You “cannot enter into the kingdom of God;" for “that which is born of the flesh is flesh" (John iii. 5, 6). Our souls naturally accommodate themselves to the flesh, and seek the good of the flesh, and all our thoughts, and care, and life, and love, run that way. Now, what was lost in Adam can only be recovered in Christ; it is not enough that God's hands have once made us and fashioned us; but there is a necessity of being made and fashioned anew, of becoming his workmanship in Christ Jesus (Eph. ii. 10); and so the words of the text may be interpreted in this sense, “ Thou hast made me once; Lord, new-make me; thy hands made me, O Lord; give me a new heart that I may obey thee.' In the first birth, God gave us a natural understanding; in the second, a spiritual inderstanding, that we may learn his commandments. First that we may be good, and then do good. The first birth gave us the natural faculty, the second the grace, or those Divine qualities which were lost by Adam's sin : better never been born, unless born again; better be a beast than a man, if the Lord give us not the knowledge of himself in Christ. The beasts when they die, their misery and happiness die with them, death puts an end to their pain and pleasure; but we that have reason and conscience to foresee the end, and know the way, enter into perfect happiness or misery at death. Unless the Lord sanctify this reason, and give us a heart to know him in Christ, and choose that which is good, inan is but a higher kind of beast, a wiser sort of beast (Psalm xlix. 12); for his soul is only employed to cater for the body, and his reason is prostituted to sense; the beast rides the man. We are not distinguished from the brutes by our senses, but our understanding and our reason; but, in a carnal man, the soul is a kind of sense, it is wholly employed about the animal life. There is not a more brutish creature in the world than a worldly, wicked man. Well then, David had need to pray, 'Lord, thou hast given me reason; give me the knowledge of thyself and thy blessed will.'
6. When we seek this grace or any degree of it, it is a proper argument to urge, that we are God's creatures; so doth David here. I am now come to my very business, and therefore I shall a little show how far creation is pleadable, and may any way encourage us to ask spiritual understanding and renewing grace.
1. In the general, I shall lay down this: it is a good way of reasoning with God, to ask another gift because we have received one already. It is not a good way of reasoning with man, because he wastes by giving; but a good way with God, and that upon a double account: partly because, in some cases, Deus donando debet, God by giving doth in effect bind himself to give more; as by giving life, to give food; by giving a body, to give raiment (Matt. vi. 25). God, by sending such a creature into the world, chargeth his providence to maintain him, as long as he will use him for his glory. God loveth to crown his own gifts : “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire ?" (Zech. iii. 2.) The thing pleaded there is, was not this a brand plucked out of the fire one mercy is pleaded to obtain another mercy. So God bindeth himself to give perseverance (2 Cor. i. 10); but this is not the case here; for by giving common benefits he doth not bind himself to give saving graces. And partly, too, because he doth not waste by giving : “his mercy endureth for ever.” The same reason is given for all those mercies (Psalm cxxxvi.); why the Lord chose a church, maintaineth his church, giveth daily bread : “ his mercy endureth for ever." God is where he was at first; he giveth liberally, and upbraideth not (James i, 5): he doth not say, 'I have given already.' Now, a former common mercy showeth God's readiness and freeness to give: the inclination to do good still abideth with him; he is as ready and as free to give still daily bread, “his mercy endureth for ever;" spiritual wisdom, “his mercy endureth for ever.” Indeed, the giving of daily bread dotb not necessarily bind God to give spiritual wisdom : but that which is not a sure ground to expect, may be a probable encouragement to ask; and learn this, that, though nothing can satisfy unbelief, yet faith can pick arguments out of anything, and make use of the most common benefits of creation to strengthen itself.
2. God beareth much affection to man, as he is his creature and the work
of his hands; and the saints plead it when they would be spared, and when they would be saved. As, “Is it good unto thee that thou shouldst oppress, that thou shouldst despise the work of thine hands?" (Job x. 3.) So verse the 8th of that chapter, “ Thine hands have made me and fashioned me, &c.; and yet thou dost destroy me.” The sum and effect of these pleas is, it is strange that God should despise his own workmanship, especially a piece of such excellency as man is. Surely God is the readier to do good to man, because he is the work of his hands. We see artificers, when they have made an excellent work, they are very chary and tender of it, and will not deatroy it, and break it in pieces. An instinct of nature teacheth us to love that which is our own by natural production, so it is an argument moving the Lord to much compassion to tell him that we are his workmanship: “But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter, and we are all the work of thy hand. Be not wroth very sore, O Lord” (Isa. Ixiv. 8, 9); this raiseth in us some hope of speeding and prevailing with God. The words of the text are emphatical, “made" and “ fashioned:” God hath bestowed much care upon us to make and fashion us; and therefore he will pity us and spare us: “ Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee; thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands” (Job xiv. 15). All these places show there is an argument in it that may raise our faith when other arguments fail.
3. Creation implieth some hope, because God forsaketh none but those who forsake him first. He might destroy us for our original sin, as we destroy serpents of a venomous nature before they have actually done any harm: though man hath lost his goodness, God hath not. Every one of us in person doth actually break with God before he breaketh with us : “ If ye forsake bim, he will forsake you” (2 Chron. xv. 2). David telleth Solomon, “ If thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever" (1 Chron. xxviii. 9); he will not acknowledge thee. Take this rightly: that God giveth grace to any, is his goodness; that to one more than another, is his distinguishing and elective lore; that he denieth grace to any, is along of themselves,chargeable upon the creature, who abuse that common grace, which, if improved, might have made them better; yea, though all deserve to be denied the grace of the Redeemer, yet it is not denied till after many wilful refusals, and by gross impenitency we turn the back upon God, when we will not implore our Creator's bounty, but obstinately refuse it.
4. Seeing God is our creator, and the end of our creation is to serve God, we may the more confidently ask the grace which is necessary to enable us to serve him, that the same creating mercy which layeth on the obligation, may help to discharge the debt. God is no Pharaoh, to require brick, and give no straw; to appoint work, and not to provide grace: though he hath not absolutely promised to every individual person converting grace, yet he hath appointed certain means for the ungodly which they are bound to use in order to conversion; and, if we consider the goodness of God, and the nature of those means, it is a great encouragement. Surely the assistances of grace are always ready : Come to the feast, “all things are ready" (Matt. xxii. 4): none can tax him of backwardness. So our Saviour taxes the Jews: I would have gathered thee “as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wing, and ye would not” (Matt. xxiii. 37). When did God ever fail the waiting soul, or put away the creature that sought after grace to serve him? He is often beforehand with us, never behindhand; and we grossly and heinously forfeit all our means and helps before we lose them.
5. There is encouragement to faith à pari, from the resemblance and
likeness that is between his making us at first, and his new-making of us in Jesus Christ. It is called a creation (Eph. ii. 10); “ The new man, which after God is created, &c. (Eph. iv. 24); “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts” (2 Cor. iv. 6). The author is the same God to whom it belongeth to create. We hare the human nature from him, and can have it from no other; much less can we have the Divine nature from any other but him (Psalm li. 5), or else we shall not have it at all. It is not implanted in our nature, or attainable by any industry of ours: “It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth” (Rom. ix. 16), but the immediate work of God. It is the work of bis omnipotency: so dead and indisposed are we by nature to holiness and grace, that no less than creating power is required to work it in us. Besides, we were created freely without any merit of ours, so we expect from the same goodness such saving knowledge as may change our hearts : there is this double encouragement, there is God's omnipotent power, and his free giving us his image at first (Rom. iv, 17).
6. If we consider the manner of pleading, and the good frame of heart implied in the pleader, we may better understand the cogency of the ar. gument; and, though the argument itself doth not necessarily infer the help of grace, yet the manner of pleading showeth some preparative work of grace; and such meet the Lord in the stated order of commerce between him and his creatures, and shall receive his blessing. And then the argument will be strong in this petition, “Give me understanding that I may learn thy commandments." Here are many things implied, such as are wrought by God in those to whom God will vouchsafe the grace.
1. An acknowledgment of the debt, that man, being God's creature, is obliged to serve him : as he was not made by himself, so not for himself; and should no more cease from intending God as an end, than he can cease from depending on God as a principle. Now, it is long ere we are brought to this : you know how the rebels are described and set out: “ Our lips are our own, who is lord over us?” (Psalm xii. 4.) Now, God hath gained one great end with us, when we are sensible of our obligation to him, and are brought to acknowledge the debt, and that love, duty, and service we owe to him. Wherefore doth God press duty upon carnal men, who are no way competent or able to perform it ? Divines tell us, to demand his right, as a creditor doth of a prodigal debtor, and to make us sensible that we stand bound to God in the debt of obedience.
2. Here is a will to pay, or a heart set upon service and obedience; for this is a speech becoming one heartily devoted to God: “ Thy hands have made me," &c. He would willingly return to his Creator's service, and glorify him with what was made by him: “I acknowledge that I am obliged, as I am the work of thy hands, to live in a faithful obedience to thee; Lord, I give up myself to this work. Mark, this is a good spirit : he doth not beg his own comfort, but ability for service, that he might so know his Master's will as to do it. Now, this is repentance towards God, when we are heartily willing to return to our duty more than to our comfort. There is more hope of that soul that rather seeketh obedience than comfort (Acts. ii. 21), and where there is a resolved will and purpose to devote ourselves to the Lord, to please him, and serve him. This was God's end in his new-covenant grace, and Christ's end in redemption, to restore us to obedience as well as to favour, and put us into a capacity of service again : “ Purge your conscience from dead works to serve the
living God” (Heb. ix. 14); “Who is own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sin, should live unto righteousness” (1 Peter ii. 24). He died to weaken the love of sin in our hearts, and to advance the life and power of grace and righteousness.
3. There is implied in it a confession of impotency, that God cannot be glorified and served by him unless he be renewed and strengthened by grace; not by him as a creature, till he be made a new creature, or have renewed influences of grace from him. God permitted the lapse and fall of mankind, that they may come to him as needy creatures, and take all out of his hands. Man's great error which occasioned his fall was, that he would live alone, apart from God, bé sufficient to his own happiness. We greedily catched at that word, “Ye shall be as gods” (Gen. iii. 5): the meaning was not in a blessed conformity, but a cursed self-sufficiency. Man would be his own god, desired to have his stock in his own hands, and would be no more at God's finding : “ The man is become as one of us” (Gen. iii. 22), to live as an independent being. Well then, to cure this, God would reduce him to an utter necessity, that he might bring him to an entire dependence, and he might come as a beggarly, indigent creature, expecting all from God, putting no confidence in his own righteousness for his justification, nor natural power and strength for sanctification : “I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God” (Gal. ii. 19). The rigorous exaction of perfect obedience under the hazard of the curse of the law, maketh them dead to the law; the curse of the law puts them so hard to it, that they are forced to fly to Christ to be freed from condemnation; and the spiritual nature of the law, as it is a rule of obedience, driveth them to see there is nothing in themselves tending to righteousness and holiness, to the glory of God, without the power of his Spirit: “ That we should serve in newness of spirit” (Rom. vii. 6). God bringeth us at last to this: “With men, this is impossible; but, with God, all things are possible" (Matt. xix. 26). Well then, when we are brought to see our impotency, we are at a good pass, and lie obvious to his grace.
4. It implies an earnest desire after grace ; and that is a good frame of heart, when not satisfied with common benefits. David was not satisfied with his natural being, but seeketh after a spiritual being. What is that he prayeth so earnestly for, but an enlightened mind and a renewed heart; and all that he might be obedient to God. Thus we are more fitted to receive grace. A conscience of our duty is a great matter in fallen man, who is turned rebel against God, and a traitor to his Maker; who is impatient and self-willed, and all for casting off the yoke (Psalm ii. 3). Well, to have a heart set upon duty and obedience, that is the next step: the third was a sense of impotency, now this fourth a desire of grace: such the Lord hath promised to satisfy (Matt. v. 6): these open unto God, and are ready to take in his grace. Come as creatures earnestly desiring to do your Creator's will, and in the best manner; and will God refuse you? Because I am thy creature, teach me to serve thee who art my Creator.'
5. There is one thing more in this plea, a persuasion of God's goodness to his creatures. This is the very ground and reason why this plea is used : “ The Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm cxlv. 9). There is a great deal of fatherly care and mercy to his creatures, till by their impenitency, persisted in against the means of grace, they render themselves incapable of it. The first battery