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state of believers, answerable to the ordinary measure of faith which God giveth his children. Though they are assaulted with sorrows, doubts, and fears, yet they have that true and solid ground of comfort in the promises which begets some hope and expectation towards God; and, when the conflict groweth grievous, God of his mercy allayeth the storm by the working of his comforting Spirit. (2.) There is peace, which is another notion which implieth comfort, but withal a more full degree of it: for peace doth so settle and calm the conscience, that they are assaulted either with none or very light fears. It may be explained by external peace. External peace is that state of things which is not troubled with wars from abroad, or intestine tumults and confusions at home, for some long space of time. ' A truce is a shorter respite; but a peace is a long calm and quiet: so when we are not assaulted with doubts and troubles, but have much peace and quietness of spirit in believing : “Now, the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom. xv. 13). (3.) As peace exceedeth consolation, so doth joy exceed peace, and begets a more notable sense of itself in the soul. In peace, all things are quiet, so as we feel no anxious tossings of mind, no gripes and fears of an accusing conscience ; but in joy, true joy, more; some lively motions of heart accompanied with a more lively pleasure and delight. In peace, the soul is in such a condition as the body is when nothing paineth us; but, in joy, as when the corporeal senses are mightily moved with such things as delight and please them; as, at a feast, the soul is filled with perpetual suavities, so great, many times, as cannot be told : “ Joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter i. 8).
Well then, this is comfort, if you consider it with respect to the sense of God's love, or the hopes of glory; such a lightening and easing of the heart as showeth itself in alacrity in God's service and courage in tribulations.
(i.) These comforts, though not absolutely necessary to salvation, yet conduce much to the well-being of a Christian, and therefore not to be despised. It is as oil to the wheels. If neglected and not sought after with earnest diligence, they are despised, which cannot be without great sin.
(ii.) It follows after holiness, as heat doth fire. The oil of grace will breed the oil of gladness. There are certain spiritual pleasures which do attend a course of obedience. Holiness is our work, comfort our reward; holiness is God's due, comfort our profit and interest : “ Walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost” (Acts ix. 31). Grace carrieth us out to honour God; love to him breedeth comfort, Ít is strange if it be not so ; there is some unusual impediment
(ii.) Though our main comfort be in Heaven, yet, whilst we are here in the world, we have some foregoing consolation, as an earnest and pledge of more to ensue, and as the solace of our pilgrimage (Psalm cxix. 54). Here is not only the offer, but the sealing, of pardon and peace to the soul.
(iv.) Comfort is more needful at some times than at others, and God dispenseth it suitably to our trials, necessities, and wants. In great afflictions and temptations, there is a larger allowance, because they need greater comforts (2 Cor. i. 5): a drop of honey is not enough to sweeten a hogshead of vinegar. The Lord reserveth the comforts of his Spirit for such a time. The more humble and frequent in prayer, grace is more exercised, drawn forth into the view of conscience.
2ndly, Comfort is to be asked of God; for it is his proper gift. It is his name : “ The God of all comfort” (2 Cor. i. 3); and, “God that comforteth those that are cast down" (2 Cor. vii. 6). It is well that our comforts are in the hand of God; we should have little of it, if it were in the disposal of the creature.
1. That natural comforts are the gifts of God: “Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. vi. 17), and sets forth the bounds of our habitation, where and how much we shall have; and giveth and taketh these things at his pleasure; raising up some from the dunghill, pulling down others from the throne of glory (1 Sam. ii. 7,8). That prosperity may never be without a curb, nor adversity without a comfort, God will acquaint the world with such spectacles now and then. All things are at his dispose.
2. That moderate delight and contentment that we have in our earthly blessings, is his allowance. The creature without God is like a deaf nut: when we crack it, we find nothing (Eccl. i. 24, 25, and Eccl. iii. 13). It is the gift of God; and it is one of the chiefest earthly mercies, that, in this valley of tears, where we meet with so many causes of grief and sorrow, we take comfort in anything. Without this, a crown of gold will sit no easier than a crown of thorns, upon the head of him that weareth it; yea, a palace becomes a prison, and every place a Hell to us. It is not abundance of honour that makes a man happy, but comfort (Luke xii. 15). If God send leanness into the soul, or a spark of his wrath into the conscience, all is as the white of an egg, unsavoury: a secret curse eateth out all the contentment of it. He that liveth in a cottage, is happier than he that liveth in a palace, if he have comfort there.
3. For spiritual comfort, which ariseth either from the sense of his love, or the hope of glory; we cannot have one drop of it but from God. His Spirit is called “the Comforter." All the world cannot give it, if he doth not give it us : he hath an immediate and sovereign power over the hearts of men; if he frown, nothing can support us. When the sun is gone, all the candles in the world cannot make it day. We can procure our own sorrow quickly ; but he only can comfort us. None but Divine comforts are authentic.
Thirdly, The means of conveying and procuring this comfort. 1st, The means of conveying it on God's part, is his word. David pleadeth that, where the remedy of his misery was discovered and offered. We read often in this Psalm, how David revived his comfort by the word, and Rom. xv. 4, “Comfort of the Scriptures :" there is the matter of true spiritual comfort: “ That all may learn and all may be comforted” (1 Cor. xiv. 31). This follows from the former; God is the God of comfort. And we should not have the heart to come to him, unless he had opened the way to him by his promise. The world cannot give it to us, philosophy cannot; the word of God can. And this comfort is both strong and full for measure and matter. Matter : there the death of Christ is laid down as a foundation of comfort. If we consider God as holiness itself, and we nothing but a mass of sin and corruption, you will see there can be no reconciliation without satisfaction given. Mercy must see justice contented; one attribute must not destroy another. Justice hath no loss, it is fully satisfied in Christ, and that is the ground of our comfort (2 Cor. i. 3). There are the promises of deliverance, protection, support, the liberties and privileges of Christians, laid forth. These are the breasts of comfort (Isa. Ixvi, 11); suck of these and be satisfied. In short, our great comforts are,
God's presence with us while we are in these houses of clay.
We shall “ever be with the Lord,” and “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes, iv. 17, 18).
2ndly, The means on our part, receiving the sweet effects of God's mercy and word; and that is prayer. We cannot have it without dealing with God in an humble manner. Whatever God giveth, he will have it sought out this way: “I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them” (Ezek. xxxvi. 37). So Isa. xxix. 10, 11. Now, the reasons are these :
1. Because in prayer we act faith and spiritual desire, both which are as the opening of the soul (Psalm lxxxi. 10), to raise our confidence, or draw forth the principles of trust.
2. We ask God's leave to apply in particular what is offered in the word in general: as in the next verse, “Let thy tender mercies come unto me" (verse 77). In everything, we must ask God's leave, though we have right; though in possession, we ask leave, because we may be mistaken in our claim.
3rdly, It is a fit way of easing the heart and disburthening ourselves. When we pray most and most ardently, we are most happy and find greatest ease (Phil. iv. 6, 7).
4thly, God will be owned as the author of comfort, whoever be the instrument (Isa. lvii. 19): in prayer we apply ourselves to him. The word is a sovereign plaster; but God's hand maketh it stick : many read the Scriptures, but are as dead-hearted when done as when they began. The Spirit is the Comforter: we are very apt to look to the next hand, to the comfort; but not to the comforter, or the root of all, which is lovingkind. ness in God.
Fourthly, The subject capable, “thy servant.” Here we may ask the eunuch's question, “Of whom speaketh the Prophet this, of himself or of some other man?" Of himself questionless, under the denomination of God's servant. But then the question returneth, is it a word of promise made to himself in particular, or to God's servants in the general ? Some say the former, the promises brought to him by Nathan. I incline to the latter, and it teacheth us these three truths :- 1st, That God's servants only are capable of the sweet effects of his mercy and the comforts of his promises. Who are God's servants? 1. Such as own his right, and are sensible of his interest in them: “God, whose I am, and whom I serve" (Acts xxvii. 23). 2. Such as give up themselves to him, renouncing all other masters. Renounce we must, for we were once under another master (Rom. vi. 17; Matt. vi. 24; Rom. vi. 13; 1 Chron. xxx. 8). 3. Accordingly, frame themselves to do his work sincerely : “ Serve with my spirit” (Rom. i. 9); and, “In newness of spirit” (Rom. vii. 6), so as will become those who are renewed by the Spirit : diligently (Acts xxvi. 7), and universally (Luke i. 74, 75), and wait upon him for grace to do so (Heb. xii. 28). These are capable of comfort. The book of God speaketh no comfort to persons that live in sin, but to God's servants, such as do not live as if they were at their own dispose, but at God's beck : if he say go, they go. They give up themselves to be and do what God will have them to be and do. 2ndly, If we would have the benefit of the promise, we must thrust in ourselves under one title or other among those to whom the promise is made; if not as God's children, yet as God's servants. Then it is as sure as if our name were in the promise. 3rdly, All God's servants have common grounds of comfort: every one of God's servants may plead with God as David doth. The comforts of the word are the common portion of God's people. They that bring a larger measure of faith, carry away a larger measure of comfort.
Oh! then, let us lift up our eyes and hearts to God this day, and in as broken-hearted a manner seek his comfort as possibly we can.
SERMON LXXXV. VERSE 77.- Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live;
for thy law is my delight. The man of God had begged mercy before; now he beggeth mercy again. The doubling the request showeth that he had no light feeling of sin in the troubles that were upon him; and besides, the people of God think they can never have enough of mercy, nor beg enough of mercy : they again and again reinforce their suits, and still cry for mercy : after he had said, “ Let, I pray thee, thy merciful kindness be for my comfort," he presently addeth, “Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live."
In the words, we have two things :-
2. The influence and outgoing of that cause, or the personal application of it to David, let them " come unto me.”
3. The end,“ that I may live.”
Ist, The cause and fountain is the Lord's “tender mercies." It is remarkable that in this and the former verse, he doth not mention mercy without some additament; there it was “ merciful kindness," here “tender mercies." Mercy in men implieth a commotion of the bowels at the sight of another's misery; so, in God, there is such a readiness to pity, as if he had the same working of bowels : “My bowels are troubled for him," or sound for him (Jer. xxxi. 20). Now, some are more apt to feel this than others, according to the goodness of their nature or their special interest in the party miserable. We expect from parents that their bowels should yearn more towards their own children than to strangers ; so God hath the bowels of a father: “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him” (Psalm ciii. 13). There needeth not much ado to bring a father to pity his children in misery, if he hath anything fatherly in him.
2ndly, The outgoing of this mercy is begged, let it “come unto me : " where, by a fiction of persons, mercy is said to come, or find out its way, to him.
3rdly, The effect, “ that I may live.” Life is sometimes taken literally, and in its first sense, for life natural, spiritual, or eternal : sometimes, by a metonymy, for joy, peace, comfort. Now, which of these senses shall we apply to this place? Some take it for life natural, that he might escape the death his enemies intended to him. Certainly ; in the former verse, he speaketh as a man under deep troubles and afflictions; and, in the following words, he telleth us that the proud dealt perversely with him; and therefore he might have some apprehensions of dying in his troubles, which he beggeth God to prevent. Some think he beggeth God's mercy to preserve him in life spiritual; and Bellarmine understandeth it of life eternal. But I rather take it in the latter sense, for joy and comfort, which is the result of life, where it is vital and in its perfection. Non est vivere, sed valere, vita. “We live, if ye stand fast in the Lord” (1 Thes. iii. 8). A man that enjoyeth himself, is said to live. But, if we take it in this notion, a double sense may be started; for it may imply either a release from temporal sorrows, and so the sense will be, “Have pity upon me, that I may once more see good and comfortable days in the world;' for a life spent in sorrow is as no life, Or, he putteth life for some comfortable sense of God's mercy, or assurance of his love to him, Most interpreters, both ancient and modern, go this way, Néxpov ¿avrdv üyeitai rīs feias ¿sepnjévov kúpeveias, saith Theodoret ; he counted himself but as a dead man with. out the sense of God's favour and good will to him ; but it would be as a new life or resurrection from the dead, if God would show him mercy, and cast a favourable aspect upon him. This sense suiteth well with the context; for David was, for the present, deprived of the tokens and effects of God's tender mercy : why, else, should he so earnestly beg for that to come to him which he had already? and it suiteth well with a gracious spirit such as David had.
1. That God's tender mercy is the fountain of his people's comfort and happiness.
2. That it is not enough to hear somewhat of the mercy of God; but we should by all means seek that it may come unto us.
3. That it is life to a belierer to have a sense of God's mercy and love in Christ, and death to be without it.
4. Such as would taste or have a sense of God's mercy, must delight in his law : this was David's plea.
The two last propositions I shall insist upon, the other being handled elsewhere; and so much consideration of them as is necessary for the opening and improving of this verse, will occur in one or both of these points.
That it is life to a believer to have a sense of God's mercy and love in Christ, and death to be without it.
David was a dead man because he felt not God's mercy as formerly : he did eat, and drink, and sleep, and transact his business as others did; but he counted this as no life, because he felt not the wonted sense of God's love. Gracious spirits cafnot live without Divine comforts: they take no joy in the world, unless God favourably look upon them.
Let me illustrate this note with these observations:
First, Observe he seeketh all his comfort from mercy and tender mercy; so in the former, so in the present verse. I shall show you the necessity and utility of so doing.
Ist, The necessity of it; the best of God's children have no other claim. For a publican to come and say, “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke xviii. 13), is no such wonder; but for a David to use the same plea, that