« 上一頁繼續 »
USE.-The use is, information of five things :
1. It showeth us the lawfulness; yea, the conveniency; yea, in some sort, the necessity, of public thanksgiving for private mercies. It is lawful: we read of paying vows in the great congregation (Psalm xxii. 22; Psalm xl. 9). It is highly convenient and useful; partly, that the people of God may flock together, and make a crown of praise for God: he inhabiteth the praises of Israel (Psalm xxii, 3), he delighteth to be in the midst of his people when they praise him. And partly, that by the thankfulness of others we may be quickened to remember our own mercies, as one bird sets all the flock a-chirping; and partly, that we may quicken others by our help; and partly, to show a Christlike love to them, by being affected with their miseries and rejoicing in their mercies. Well then, these things should quicken us to join with others in their thanksgiving for their private mercies, so to raise a spiritual affection in us in the performance of those duties. And as it is lawful, so it is necessary: other men's mercies may be our mercies as well as theirs: you are concerned in the mercy, if you have prayed for it. We are to love God for hearing our prayers for others as well as for ourselves. Eli gave thanks and solemnly worshipped God for Hannah's sake, because he had before prayed for her, and therefore praised God for her, who had heard his prayers in her behalf: compare 1 Sam. i. 28. When Hannah told him what the Lord had done, Eli falls a-worshipping the Lord : he had prayed for her before in the 17th verse, “ The God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him.” Every answer of prayer is a new proof or fresh experience of God's love and special respect to us; it is a sign that God regardeth us and is mindful of us; nay, it is a sign of God's favour, when he will not only hear us for ourselves, but for others also. If a man come to a king, he will say, 'If you had asked for yourself, I would have granted you. It is a special honour to intercede for others, which God putteth upon his choice servants : Abraham “ shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live" (Gen. xx. 7); “My servant Job sball pray for you; for him will I accept” (Job xlii. 8): God will hear his servants for others, when he will not hear them for themselves. If our prayers had returned into our own bosoms, as David's for his enemies (Psalm xxxv. 13); if God, as an answer, had given you only the comfort of the discharge of your duty, 'If they be not worthy, your peace shall return to you again' (Luke x. 6); this were matter of praise, much more now the mercy is obtained. All this is spoken to show that there should be more life and spiritual affection in those duties which we perform in the behalf of others.
2. It informeth us of the excellency of communion of saints: there is such a fellowship and communion between all the members of Christ's mystical body, that they mourn together and rejoice together; the grace vouchsafed to one is cause of rejoicing to all the rest; they drive on a joint trade for Heaven, and rejoice in one another's comforts as if they were their own, in one another's gifts and graces as if they were their own, in one another's supports and deliverances as if they were their own. We read of joy in Heaven at the conversion of sinners; they rejoice at our welfare, praising and lauding God: so there is also joy on earth when any spiritual benefit is imparted; if any be begotten to a Godlike nature, they give thanks to God: “ They that fear thee will be glad when they see me.” "The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul"
(Acts iv. 32): there was a great multitude, many thousand souls: here was the primitive simplicity, the Christians were so united as if they had but one heart and soul among them, and it was a usual saying, Aspice ut se mutuo diligunt Christiani, see how the Christians love one another. It was otherwise afterwards; no wild beasts are so fierce to one another, as one Christian has been to another. Surely it concerneth all that fear God and hope in his word, to be of one heart and of one mind as much as may be. Lesser differences should not make void this Christlike love; the bonds of Christ's communion are the essentials of religion, if they fear God and hope in his word : though Christians may be distinguished by several denominations, yet an angry brother cannot cast us out of our father's family. We set up walls of partition between Christian and Christian; but God will not measure his fold by our inclosure. Lingua Petiliani non est ventilabrum Christi; it is well Petilian's tongue is not Christ's fan. Surely, when we meet with our everlasting companions, they should be dear to us, and for some private differences we should not omit the necessary duties of Christianity: this mutual and cordial respect we should have for one another.
3. It informs us of the mischief and evil of a private spirit, which doth not take notice of the favours of God done to others, nor is affected with others' mercies. Most men seek their own things (Phil. ii. 21): nature is sensible of nothing but natural bonds; the lines of its communication are too narrow, either their own flesh, the smart and ease of their own bodies, or their own kindred. Now, the saints have a more diffusire love: they can strive with God earnestly in prayer for those whose face they never saw in the flesh (Col. ii. 1), and can be thankful for their mercies as far as they come to their notice. All Christians are not only of the same kind, but of the same body; though they have not a private benefit by the mercy, yet they can heartily praise God for it: the angels praise God for us (Luke ii.), for his goodwill to men; they are only spectators, not the parties interested. When the Lord set afoot that blessed design, it was good will to men; yet the multitude of the heavenly host rejoiced and praised God. We had both honour and benefit by Christ's incarnation. So to praise God for the good of others argueth a good spirit like the angels; but to envy the good of another, and be grieved thereat, is devilish, like the spirit of the Devil. In Heaven, we shall not only rejoice in our own, but in one another's salvation, because there shall be no envy, no privateness of affection; why are we so selfish and senseless now? " Who is afflicted, and I mourn not?" said Paul. Now, to those that mourned for others' calamity, their deliverance is a kind of relief. Will you lose your evidence of being in the body, for want of rejoicing in their mercies, gifts, and deliverances?
4. It informeth us how much it concerneth us to preserve an interest in the hearts of God's people, and to behave ourselves so, that they that fear God may be glad of our mercies, and bless God for them. The communion of saints is a sweet thing: we must not forfeit this privilege by our inordinate walking, pride, contention, sourness and bitterness of spirit, unusefulness to the church, as having an interest divided from the church, (1.) Those whose mercies are apprehended as a public benefit, are the strictly conscientious ; those that fear God and hope in his word, who labour to keep themselves from the snares of the present world, and look for the happiness of the world to come: the one is the fruit of fearing God, the other of hoping in his word ; the tender conscience, and the heavenlyminded Christian. Partly, because they are our everlasting companions, we shall live for ever with them : they were chosen from all eternity to be heirs of the same grace together with us, therefore it is sweet to praise God for any good that befalleth them: “Come and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul” (Psalm lxvi. 16); “I will declare thy name unto my brethren” (Psalm xxii. 22); but, when a man walketh questionably, he obscureth the life of God in himself, or, like a string that is out of tune, spoileth the harmony. The saints may mourn for the wicked; but they cannot so easily bring their hearts to rejoice with them: they may give thanks for their mercies, it is true (1 Tim. ii. 1, 2); but not with that cheerfulness, with that sense. The conscience of our duty engageth us to bless God that he hath spared them, reprieved them a little longer, given them more time to repent, and correct their errors; but it is very sweet to join with them who are our brethren and companions, not only now but to all eternity. And partly, because our mercies proceed from the covenant upon which is built all our hope, and all our desire; and so we are edified by the support and help which God affordeth to them that fear him and hope in his word: thereby we see that they that wait long, wait not in vain on the word of God's promise, and so learn to wait with patience ourselves; because those who depended on his proinised assistance are then answered and supported : yea, it is a ground of hope to all that so many will be gratified by the deliverance of one, when we so work for the deliverence of one that at length both he and others will have cause to be glad.
(2.) Another thing is, it doth encourage others' prayers and praises for us, when we are useful and profitable, and bring in that supply to the body, which may be justly expected from us according to the measure of that part which we sustain in the body. Look, as, in the natural body, the blood and the life passeth to and fro, there is a giving and receiving between all the members that live in the communion of it; so mutual obligations pass between the children of God. Many are interested in their mercies that are of use in the church: “For a good man some would even dare to die” (Rom. v. 7), such as David or Paul; yet this is no discouragement to the meanest or weakest; for they have their honour and use, “When ye fail, they may receive you” (Luke xvi. 9); they have their ministry and service: the head cannot say to the foot, I have no need of thee (1 Cor. xii. 21).
(3.) The humble and the meek; for the proud procure their own just dislike and disappointment. Solomon telleth us, “Only by pride cometh contention" (Prov. xiii. 10): pride is the great impediment and lett to all Christian offices. We cannot so heartily pray for one another, nor praise God for one another, when pride and contention prevail. We should overcome this stomach and spleen: “Bless them that curse you," as David fasted for his enemies when they sought his life (Psalm xxxv. 13). You should not lay this stumbling-block in the way of their duty; it is a great discouragement.
5: It informeth us how comfortable and how pleasant the converse and conference of godly persons is, and how much it excelleth the merriest meetings of the carnal. The special love which the godly have to one another doth exceedingly sweeten their converse; for the very presence of those we most dearly love is a pleasure to us to see, but much more their holy, conference. When Christians meet together and find their own persua. sions of the love, power, mercy, and wisdom of God, backed with the experience and testimony of others, it is a mutual strength and support to us; and therefore the Apostle saith, “ That I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me” (Rom. i. 12). When we converse with them that can speak not by hearsay only, but experience, of the power of the blood of Christ in purifying their consciences, and his Spirit to sanctify their hearts, it is a mighty prop: “ That we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. i. 4). Report of a report is a cold thing not ralued; but a report of what we witness and experience ourselves, comes warmly upon our hearts. Nay, many times it may fall out that people of less knowledge, but more feeling experience, may abundantly confirm the more knowing, and excite them to a greater mind. fulness of God and heavenly things. But, alas ! the meetings of carnal persons, what is it to this? It may be, they will fill your ears with stories of hawking and hunting, the best wine and delicious meats, of honours and purchases in the world, all which tend but to increase the gust of the flesh, and the carnal savour which is baneful to us; or else with idle stories, the clatter of vanity, which are impertinent to our great end; or else about the world, thriving in the world: nothing about those high, and excellent, and necessary things of the grace of God in Christ, and the truth of the promises, and the glory of the world to come. “The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment. The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide” (Psalm xxxvii. 30, 31): and the mouth of the righteous is as choice silver; they have a sense of better things; but, alas! from others you hear nothing but unsavoury vanity, which is as different from the discourse of the children of God, as the melody of a bird from the grunting of a hog or swine.
SERMON LXXXIII. VERSE 75.— I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that
thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me. We have need all to prepare for afflictions; for we are to take up our cross daily. Now, to help you to a right carriage under them, these words, well considered, will be of some use to you: they are the confession of an humble soul, abundantly satisfied with God's dispensations. In them observe,
1. A general truth, or point of doctrine, concerning the equity of God's judgments, “thy judgments are right.”
2. A particular application or accommodation of this truth to David's case and person, “thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.”
3. His sure and firm persuasion of both, “I know.” Let us explain these branches and parts of the text as they are laid forth.
1. The general truth, the Lord's judgments are right. In which proposition there are the subject and the predicate. The subject or things spoken, are the Lord's judgments. The word is often put in this psalm and elsewhere for God's statutes, or precepts, or righteous laws; and in
this sense some take it here, and make out the sense thus: “Lord, I know that thy judgments (viz., thy precepts) are holy, just, and good ; and this persuasion is not lessened in me, though thou hast sharply afflicted me : I have as great a value and esteem for thy word as ever. But, rather, by the Lord's judgments are meant the passages of his providence, as the latter clause showeth; those judicial dispensations whereby he doth punish the wicked, or correct his children. And let it not seem strange that the troubles and afflictions of the godly should be called judgments; for, though there be no vindictive wrath in them, yet they are called so upon a double reason: partly, because they are acts of God's holy justice, correcting and humbling his people for sin, according to the sentence of his word ; thus it is said, that “ judgment must begin at the house of God" (1 Pet. iv. 17); where the trials and troubles of the godly are plainly called judgments. And partly, because the Lord judiciously measureth and directeth them as the state of his children requireth, and their strength will bear : so it is said, “ Correct me, but with judgment” (Jer. x. 24). The first notion implieth God's justice, the second his wisdom. And mark, it is said distinctly in the text, “ thy judgments:" his enemies might unjustly persecute him, but “thy judgments;" so far as the Lord hath a hand in it, all was just and right : this is the subject or thing spoken of. Secondly, here is the predicate, or what is said of it, “are right;" the Hebrew, Tsedec; the Septuagint, ötl Oukalogúvn Tà kpinarà or, are righteousness itself, thy dispensations are wholly made up of perfect justice; how smart soever they be, they are right as to the cause, right as to the mea. sure, right as to the end. The first of these respects concerneth God's justice, the two other his wisdom. First, right as to the cause : they never exceed the value of their impulsive: “He will not lay upon man more than right, that he should enter into judgment with God” (Job xxxiv. 23). God never afflicteth his people above their desert, nor gives any just occa. sion to commence a suit against his providence. Secondly, right as to the measure, not above the strength of the patient. In his own people's afflictions, it is so: “In measure, when it shooteth forth, thou wilt debate with it: he stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind” (Isa. xxvii. 8). God dealeth with his own with much moderation, meting out their sufferings in due proportion. So, “I will correct thee in measure" (Jer. xxx. 11). Thirdly, right as to their end and use. God knoweth how to strike in the right vein, and to suit his providence to the purpose for which it is appointed. The kind of the affliction is to be considered as well as the measure: the Lord chooseth that rod which is most likely to do his work. Paul had “a thorn in the flesh," that he might not be “ exalted above measure” (2 Cor. xii. 7). He was a man inured to dangers and troubles from without: these were familiar to him; therefore he could the better bear them; but God would humble him by some pain in the flesh, which would sit near and close.
2. The particular accommodation of it to David, “thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me." Pray mark; in the general case, he obserreth justice; in his own, faithfulness. The book called Midrash Tillim referreth these words to David's flight from Absalom, when he went to Mount Olivet weeping: it was an ill time then with David, he had no security then for his life. Being driven from his house and home, he went up mount Olivet, going and weeping (2 Sam. xv. 30): then when so great and sore trouble was upon him, then he saith, “I know, &c., that thou in faithfulness bast