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(3.) There may be some offence given by us. Chrysostom and Theodoret think it relateth to David's sin after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, and plotted the murder of Uriah. Theodoret thinks that he was withdrawn, or separated from the communion of the church, according to his foul fact; and therefore prayeth for a redintegration, and that they might return to intimacy with him again ; and he gathereth it from Symmachus's translation, who doth not read it, let them turn unto me; but, let them converse with me as freely as before. Thus the disciples were offended with Paul, till God hardened their hearts towards him (Acts ix. 13). Saul was ashamed to see any of those whom he had persecuted ; Ananias was afraid, as the lamb to come near the wolf, till God prepared both by an internal vision; so verses 21, 26, 27.
(4.) From difference in judgment about lesser things. We should “be thus minded; and, if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing" (Phil. iii. 15, 16). There should be a union in heart, way, and scope (Rom. xiv.); but often it doth fall out that passion, because of lesser differences, may occasion an unkindness between very brethren: “ And Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark. But Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work. And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus” (Acts xv. 37-39). That paroxysm between Paul and Barnabas!
(5.) From the providence of God permitting it for wise reasons. Job owneth God in it: “He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me” (Job. xix. 13, 14). So doth Heman : “ Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me: thou hast made me an abomination to them” (Psalm lxxxviii. 8). Partly, to humble us, and try us, for our depending too much upon man, and making us ourselves again with our party. A winnowing storm may be sent to this purpose : we think our faith and resolution strong; now God will try how we can stand alone. And partly, to drive us to God: “In thee the fatherless findeth mercy" (Hos. xiv. 3); “Give us help from trouble; for vain is the help of man” (Psalm 1x. 11); “Help, Lord; for the godly man ceaseth; for the faithful fail from among the children of men" (Psalm xü. 1). We shall not have too much comfort by any creature, to turn us to believe in God alone. We are prone to look to the creature, and to have our hearts drawn away from God. And partly, to conform us to Jesus Christ: “Behold, the hour cometh; yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone" (John xvi. 32); “ But all this was done, that the Scriptures of the Prophets might be fulfilled. Then all the disciples forsook him, and fled” (Matt. xxvi. 56). This is part of the bitter cup.
4. When this falleth out, we should use all due means to recover those that have deserted us, and draw them in to us again: the favour is worth diligence. A man would not be cast out of the hearts of God's people ; the Apostle saith, “Follow peace with all men” (Heb. xii. 14); 'Euphony DIÁKETE; not only embrace it when it is offered to us, and fairly droppeth into our mouths, but pursue it with earnestness. We must pursue it, as a
man pursueth something running from him, to take it; it is explained Psalm xxxiv. 14, “ Seek peace, and pursue it.” If the issue answer not our first attempt, we must seek it again; not giving up the cause for desperate, lest despair quench our endeavours.
5. One great means to recover a good understanding among God's people is prayer. David goeth to God about it, “Lord, let them turn to me.' The Lord governeth hearts and interests, both are in his hands, and useth this alienation or reconcilation, either for judgment or mercy. God, when he pleaseth, can divert the comfort of godly friends; and, when he pleaseth, he can bring them back again to us. The feet of God's children are di. rected by God hiinself: if they come to us, it is a blessing of God; if not, it is for a correction. He made Jacob and Laban meet peaceably (Gen. xxxi), and, in the next chapter, Jacob and Esau.
Use-Is, direction to us in these times, when there are such distances and alienation of hearts and affections between the people of God.
1. Let us not be troubled at it overmuch. Godly men were estranged from David, either being misled by delusions and false reports, or loth to come to him because of his troubles and low condition. And partly because it is no strange thing for a good man to be forsaken of his friends : so, “My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away; which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid: what time they wax warm, they vanish: when it is hot, they are consumed out of their place” (Job vi. 15–17). So David, “I was a reproach among all mine enemies, &c., and a fear to mine acquaintance" (Psalm xxxi. 11). Yea, so Christ himself. I know the temptation is very great: man is Cūov molitikov, a sociable creature. To go alone in our duty, is very hard ; but we ought not to look on ourselves to be alone while God is with us (John xvi. 32). Christ is a pattern of all dispensations, as well as trials. “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. xiii. 5): he is so far from forsaking, that he will not leave us.
2. Let us recommend the case to God: “ That they may call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent" (Zeph. iii. 9); " That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, &c.; wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God” (Rom. xv. 6, 7): non sunt ista litigandi, sed orandi, tempora. Beg a coalition of all those that fear God; that, laying aside prejudice, they may turn one to another. The spirit of concord is God's gift. Christ prayeth, " That they all may be one ; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me, I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one” (John xvii. 21, 22).
3. Let us carry it so, that the children of God may have no occasion to turn from us. Scandalous sins are roots of bitterness: “ Lest any root of bitterness, springing up, trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Heb. xii. 15). Encourage the godly to pray for you: “Pray for us; for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.' (Heb. xiii. 18): to love you ; good men are not unworthy of our prayers, and uncapable of the benetit of them; the more you excel in grace, the more they will delight in you: “But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight” (Psalm xvi. 3).
SERMON LXXXVIII. VERSE 80.—Let my heart be sound in thy statutes, that I be not
ashamed. In this verse, we have, first, a petition, “Let my heart be sound in thy statutes :" secondly, an argument from the fruit and effect of granting it, “ That I be not ashamed;" that is, then I shall not, otherwise I certainly shall, be ashamed. He would avoid that inconveniency that was so grievous to him in the eyes of wicked men.
In the petition, I shall take notice,-
DOCTRINE.—That sincerity and soundness in a holy course is a great blessing, and earnestly to be sought of God in prayer.
This will appear, if we consider the benefit asked, the nature and value of it.
First, The nature of it. What is a sound heart? It noteth reality and solidity in grace. The Septuagint hath it, Let my heart be without spot and blemish ; what is here, “Let my heart be sound.” It implieth the reality of grace, opposed to the bare form of godliness, or the fair shows of hypocrites, and the sudden and vanishing motions of temporaries.
Ist, I shall briefly show what it is not, by way of opposition.
1. It is opposed to the form of godliness : “ Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2 Tim. iii. 5). Their religion is only in show and outside, as apples that may be fair to see to in the skin, but rotten at the core: so their hearts are not sound within. When we are sound within, as well as beautiful without, this is the sound heart ; when, not only in show and appearance we are for God, but in deed and truth. Solinus telleth us, that the apples of Sodom are to sight very beautiful and fair, but the compass of the rind doth only contain a sooty matter, which fitters into dust as soon as touched : this is a fit emblem of a hypocrite, or a heart not sound with God. Or, as the priests under the law, they were to look whether the sacrifices were sound at heart, otherwise they were to be rejected (Lev. xxij. 22, 23); so David here begs a sound heart in God's statutes, lest it should be rejected of God. The world thinketh if there be a little external conformity to the law of God, it is enough. Oh! no; there must be a sound heart, no other principle of obedience pleaseth God.
2. This sound heart is opposed to the sudden pangs and hasty motions of temporaries. The graces of temporaries are for matter true, but slightly rooted, and therefore are not sound. There wanteth two things in the graces of temporaries; first, a deep and firm radication ; secondly, an habitual predominancy over all lusts.
(1.) A deep and firm radication. Temporaries are really affected with the word of God, and the offers of Christ, and life by him ; but the tincture is but slight, and soon worn off. They have the streams of grace, but not the fountain; a draught, but not the spring: “ The water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John iv. 14). A dash of rain, or a pond, may be dried up; but a fountain ever keepeth flowing. They have something to do with Christ: he giveth them a visit, but not that constant communion; he doth not dwell in their hearts by faith (Eph. iii. 17), nor take up his abode there ; it is but a slight tincture, not a deep and permanent dye of holiness, or a constant, habitual inclination to that which is holy, just, and good. There is not the remaining seed (1 John iïi. 9): there is a great deal of difference between sudden motions stirred up in us by the Spirit, and the remaining seed; that is, a constant disposition of heart to please God.
(2.) An habitual predominancy over all lusts. Temporaries still, with those kind of graces which they have, retain their interest in the world, and their inclinations to the pleasures, honours, and profits thereof, unbroken and unsubdued ; as Simon Magus cherisheth the same corruptions under his new faith, that he did under his old sorceries (Acts viii.) : still he did desire to be thought some great one among the people. You must not think that he altogether dissembled, but he had some sense upon him; for he believed, and beheld the miracles, and wondered; but the same inclinations remained with him. Evermore some temporal interest, or worldly advantage, is laid closer to the heart, and hath a deeper rooting therein, than the word of promise ; and this in time prevaileth over the interest of God. And therefore whatever good affections we have, till we get a command over our base and carnal delights, our hearts can never be sound with God.
2ndly, Positively. What the sound heart is not, or to what it is opposed, we have seen : you may from hence easily gather what it is. It is such a receiving of the word into the heart that it is rooted there, and diffuseth its influence for the seasoning of every affection, and beareth a universal sovereignty over us. Sometimes it is described by its radication, and sometimes by its sovereign, prevailing efficacy.
1. Sometimes it is described by its radication, and so it is called Xóyos ŽMOUTOS, “the ingrafted word, which is able to save your souls" (James i. 21). The root of the matter is within; it is not tied on, but ingrafted : so in that promise of God, “I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts" (Heb. viii. 10). There is something written, • I will write my law;' and there are tables, and they are the hearts and minds of men ; that is, the understanding and the will, or the rational appetite; and this with God's own finger, “I will write upon their hearts and minds.' There where is the spring and original of all moral operations, of all thoughts, affections, and inward motions, there is the law of God written; in those parts of the soul where the directive counsel and the imperial commanding power of all human actions lieth, there doth God write his laws, and engrave them in lively and legible characters. And what is the effect of this, but that a man becometh a law to himself? he carrieth his rule about with him, and as ready and as willing a mind to obey it. So, “The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide” (Psalm Xxxvii. 31). The truth is rooted in him, and his heart is suited and inclined to it. He knoweth and loveth what is commanded of God, and hateth what is forbidden of him: thus a man becometh a bible to himself. Indeed, this planting and ingrafting the law upon our hearts, it is sometimes made our work, because we use the means. God doth not write his law upon our hearts by enthusiasm, rapture, and inspiration, as he wrote in the hearts of the apostles and prophets; but maketh use of our reason and reading, hearing, meditation, conference, and prayer; it is made our work, because we work under God: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee(Psalm cxix. 11); and, “Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck” (Prov. vi. 21). When we look for the deep implanting of the word in our hearts, this is the sound heart here described.
2. The efficacy of this word so radicated, and the power and dominion it hath over the soul, to subdue it to the will of God; and that is, when the heart is transformed into the nature of God: “ Ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Rom. vi, 11). When the form of the word is delivered to him, he delivereth up himself to be moulded and assimilated to the nature of it; as that which is cast into the fire, is changed into the colour, heat, and properties of fire. Thus where the word is incorporated and rooted in us, the heart is assimilated to the object seen and discerned therein ; the image of God is stamped and impressed upon us: “Exceeding great and precious promises, that by them ye might be partakers of the Divine nature” (2 Peter i. 4); and, “ Changed into the same image (or likeness from glory to glory, eren as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor. iii. 18). Well then, you see what the sound heart is. But, yet more distinctly, if you would have me unfold what this sound heart is, there is required these four things :
(1.) An enlightened understanding; that is, the directive part of the soul; and it is sound when it is kept free from the learen and contagion of error : “A man of understanding walketh uprightly” (Prov. xv. 21). A sound mind is a good help to a sound heart. Light breedeth an awe of God, and mindeth us of our duty upon all occasions: “And thou, Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind” (1 Chron. xxviii. 6): first know him, and then serve him. He can never shoot right, that takсth his aim contrary. The understanding doth direct all the inferior powers of the soul : if that be infected with error, the affections must necessarily move out of order. A blind horse may be full of mettle, but is ever and anon apt to stumble; and therefore without knowledge the heart is not good (Prov. xix. 2).
(2.) There is required an awakened conscience, that warneth us of our duty, and riseth up in dislike of sin upon all occasions: “When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee" (Prov. vi. 22): to have a constant monitor in our bosoms to put us in mind of God, when our reins preach to us in the night season (Psalm xvi. 7): there is a secret spy in our bosoms that observes all that we do, and think, and speak; a domestical divine, that is always preaching to us; his heart is his bible. Such an awakened conscience is a bridle before sin, to keep us from doing things contrary to God; and a whip after sin : if we keep it tender, so it will do. Indeed, it is easily offended, but it is not easily pleased ; as the eye, the least dust soon offends it, but it is not so easily got out again. Till men have benumbed their consciences, and brought a brawn and deadness upon their hearts, their conscience, according to its light, will warn them of their danger, and mind them of their duty: it is a great mercy to have a speaking, stirring, conscience ; otherwise, it is stupid and senseless.
(3.) There is required a rightly disposed will, or a steadfast purpose to walk with God in all conditions, and to do what is good and acceptable in