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supplied with oil. Some, to gain credit and entrance, and to disgrace Paul, and the true evangelic ministers, whose poverty needed a supply, will take no maintenance; therefore Paul saith, " That wherein they glory, they may be found even as we” (2 Cor. xi. 12); but there is no end of raking in this puddle.
5thly, Private persons. Cain against Abel, drew him into the field, disputed with him about God, and providence, and the world to come (Gen. iv.). The princes of Darius against Daniel (Dan. vi.); the kingdom was but newly subdued by the Medes. This would try the affection of his subjects, no request to be made to God or man for thirty days. The Medes and Persians were wont to ascribe divine honours to their kings, as Brissonius proveth. The report of this reverence would be glorious; religion was at stake, therefore Daniel would venture the lions' den. Judas's treason against Christ; the Devil entered into Judas (Luke xxii. 3).
The Jews lying in wait for Paul: “ Certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse for oath of execration, that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul. And they were more than forty which had made this conspiracy” (Acts xxiii. 12-14). And this they would do with the consent of the Chief Priest, as he was coming to the Sanhedrim. A parallel in the fifth of November. So Jezebel's plot against Naboth for his vineyard, makes use of God's name and worship to bring it about (1 Kings xxi. 8–10). But I must stop, being carried beyond my first intention. Plotted mischiefs are an ancient practice.
Use of all.
How much are we obliged to God's providence, who doth not only defend us against open violence, but secret machinations! It is the Lord taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and disappointeth the counsels of wicked men against his people (Job v. 12). Many things are contrived against us in the dark, that we know not, and see not; but the eye of the Lord watcheth for us : “ Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought: speak the word, and it shall not stand; for God is with us” (Isa. viii. 10).
II. That these plots usually begin in pride. For Darid saith here, “ The proud have digged pits for me." Therefore it is pride that puts men upon designs of mischief and ruin to others. Pride showeth itself in the envy of superiors, contention with equals, or the disdain of inferiors.
Ist, Take pride as it venteth itself by envy at any excellency, or supposed excellency, in others. Search the Scriptures, and you will say this puts men upon plotting the mischief of their neighbours' religious eminency. Men cannot endure to be out-stripped in religion ; therefore men malign, and hate what they will not imitate, and then seek to destroy and undermine God's people. It was Abel's goodness that made Cain plot against him, to draw him into the field, that he might kill him (1 John ü. 12). The power of godliness is an eye-sore to those that would look no further than the form of it; or, it may be, the men of the world do envy the godly should thrive by them : this made the presidents lay a snare and gin for Daniel. When the Gospel was likely to get credit, the Jews, “ moved with envy," seek to suppress it (Acts xvii. 5). Pride is loth to stoop, or to see opposites in any honour and request. The Pharisees conspired to take Christ: “Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him” (John xii. 19). They were galled to the heart to see such flocking and resorting to Christ, after he had raised Lazarus from the dead. Some men will neither serye Christ themselves, nor endure that others should do it; therefore Christ must be taken out of the way. The plots of Sanballat and Tobiah were their envy at the Jews.
2ndly, As pride venteth itself by contention with equals. For “only by pride cometh contention.” Thus the Jews conspired to kill Paul; they looked upon him as one that had cried down the customs of their nation. This made Absalom plot the death of Amnon, because of the quarrel he had with him, and the dishonour he had done his sister; he bids him to dinner, and plieth him with cups, till he was merry, and then killeth him (2 Sam. xii. 22).
3rdly, As it venteth itself by the disdain of underlings. Haman could not endure to see Mordecai in the king's gate (Esther v. 13), and therefore contriveth how to root him out, and all his nation. Pride disdaineth the meanness of God's people, and that they should have any subsistence, and think they may oppress them freely, and root them out : “ Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud” (Psalm cxxiii. 4). They scorn the people of God, and think they may do what they please with them without control.
Well then, this informeth us how much we should look to things betimes. The wickedness of David's enemies began in pride, went on in malicious plotting, and then they stick at no iniquity. When once we are engaged in a course of sin, there is usually no stop. Pride, in some sense, is the original of all wickedness, but more especially of malicious dealing with the people of God: “ The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor” (Psalm x. 2). The godly many times are in a mean condition, when their adversaries are in power, and can easily oppress them as underlings; but men forget the great God who is their defender, and whose work and business it is to cast down the proud : ávrırdogETAI (James iv. 6), he standeth in battle-array. And proud they are certainly who use their power to oppression, and care not what terms they put upon them.
* III. That God can, when he will, and usually doth, protect his people against the plots of the proud. For therefore David bringeth the cause before God.
First, That God can, when he will, protect his people against the fraud and violence of their enemies. There are two grounds of trust, his wisdom and the vigilancy of his providence.
Ist, His wisdom. As we have God's power to trust in against their violence, so God's wisdom against their frauds and deceits : “ With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding" (Job xii. 13). Wisdom implieth his accurate knowledge of things; counsel, his advised government of them. Wisdom, his disposing and ordering things aright, with respect to their ends; he hath understanding to find out all secrets: counsel, to know fit means to bring his purposes to pass; and wisdom, to order the means for attaining these ends.
Observe there, first, how wisdom and strength are there coupled; as in that text, so elsewhere: “He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength" (Job. ix. 4). As he hath wisdom to judge, so power to execute, or effect, all his counsels. So, “Behold, God is mighty, &c., in strength and wisdom” (Job xxxvi. 5). There is no standing out against supreme wisdom and invincible power; both together make God the most dreadful enemy and the most desirable friend.
Observe again, how God's wisdom is set forth by these three words, understanding, counsel, wisdom. To assure the hearts of the faithful. that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against the church of God (Matt.
xvi. 18). In the gates, anciently, was their strength, and there their magistrates and council sat. Now, they that believe that God is wise, of whom should they be afraid ? “ There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel, against the Lord" (Prov. xxi. 30). There may be wisdom, counsel, and understanding, in the enemies of the Gospel; and in the Lord there is wisdom and strength, counsel and understanding: only, against him, there is the wisdom, counsel, and understanding of the creature; in him, of the Creator. Surely, the wisdom, counsel, and understanding of the creature can do nothing without him, nothing against him ; not without him, for it is dependent: whatever the creature hath, it cometh from him; otherwise, our understanding is but ignorance, our counsel rashness, our wisdom folly. Pharaoh thought to go wisely to work (Exod. i. 10); but that wisdom costs dear, when it tends to suppress God's interest. Ahab, when God threatened to cut off his posterity, begets seventy sons, bestowed them in fenced cities (2 Kings x. 1); but those seventy sons were slain. Herod thought to go wisely to work, to destroy him that was born king of the Jews in the cradle ; but Christ was preserved for all that. The synagogue of Satan is hatching crafty counsels to destroy the spouse of Christ, but with what effect? The man of sin is consumed more and more. We are afraid of our subtle enemies; but are we in such straits as God knoweth not how to bring us out? They cannot over-wit the Lord. Whatever is plotted in Rome or Hell against us, God knoweth it, for he hath understanding; God counterworketh it, for he hath counsel; therefore they will but play the fool, for he hath wisdom; he heareth every word they say, knoweth their secret jugglings; is at work for those that depend upon him: therefore let us rest in God's wisdom, and not be disquieted with every rumour.
2ndly, The care and vigilancy of his providence: it is emphatically expressed in two places: “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Heb. xii. 5, 6); and, “Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm cxxi. 4). In both, there is a negative gradation; his eye-lids try the children of men, the Lord waketh for us all.
Secondly, That usually he doth protect his people against the plots of the proud, and bringeth the mischief they intend to others, upon their own heads: “They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit” (Job. xv. 35). But, to keep the notion of the text: “ He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made” (Psalm vii. 15); “ The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth : the wicked is snared by the work of his own hands. The Heathen are sunk down into the pit that they made : in the net which they hid is their own foot taken” (Psalm ix. 16, with verse 15): so, “For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul. Let destruction come upon him at unawares ; and let his net that he hath hid, catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall” (Psalm xxxv. 7, 8); and,“ Let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined” (Psalm x. 2); and “ They have prepared a net for my steps, my soul is bowed down; they have digged a pit before me, in the midst whereof they are fallen themselves” (Psalm lvii. 6). All these places show how usual it is that their devices do not succeed; yea, that the wicked cannot take a nearer course to ruin themselves, than to seek the
overthrow of God's church and people. All their machinations turn to their own loss; and the mischief they design to others, falls constantly on themselves; as a stone thrown up, or an arrow shot up, against Heaven, returneth upon the head of him that throweth it. Their acts and attempts of hurting others, are converted to their own ruin ; and destruction seizeth upon them by that very means by which they thought to bring it upon other men.
This God doth partly as they are proud, as they despise God and his people: “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Psalm. x. 4). They are so confident of all they design, that they will not so much as call upon God for a blessing; this is so firmly laid, that all things shall succeed. They will not seek after God, through the pride of their countenance; or, suppose they should pray, it is but as Balaam offering sacrifice to entice God to curse his own people. The Lord tells us, “ The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination : how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind ?" (Prov. xxi. 27.)
Partly, because of God's care and respect to his people: “ The poor committeth himself unto thee, thou art the helper of the fatherless" (Psalm x. 14). He trusts his all with God, who is the patron of the innocent and oppressed.
USE.-1. To direct us to carry the cause to God, as David in the text : “For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult; and they that hate thee, have lift up the head. They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation ; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance” (Psalm lxxxiii. 2–4). You must make the Lord the party still against the wicked. So, “ The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth” (Psalm xxxvii. 12). The wicked plotteth; but do the just countermine him? No; the Lord interposeth, he laugheth at him. It is a mighty support to the soul, to oppose his justice to their wickedness, his omnipotency to their power, his wisdom to their craft, his love to their enmity. They are in God's hands, and cannot stir without him; as if one designed to poison me, but cannot do it without my Father's consent. Wicked men are full of their boasts; but their brags and threats are but as the brags of a man on the scaffold, who is ready to be executed. Their day is coming.
2. When God doth so, it must be acknowledged with thankfulness and praise ; yea, though an old mercy (Mic. ri. 5). The godly are preserved, though there be pits digged for them. Surely, such experiences ought much to engage his people's hearts to him ; for it showeth how mindful he is of their safety and welfare. Blessed be God, that yet we subsist; that their devices are disappointed, and their designs brought on them what they had projected against others.
IV. That God's law forbiddeth all ungodly, treacherous designs, attempts, and actions.
As contrary to justice. To design mischief and treachery against the life of any, is the guise of wicked men.
As contrary to sincerity, and godly simplicity: “ For our rejoicing is this, &c., that, in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you ward” (2 Cor. i. 12). Crafty and subtle dealings consent not with those that profess to direct their ways by the word of God.
As contrary to charity and mercy, which we owe to all men. How God hath guarded the life of the innocent by his precepts, and what a base, perverse spirit is it to dig pits for them!
Use.—Here is some plea for religion. It is not feralis superstitio : tuntum religio potuit suadere malorum. It is not a false, unnatural, unkind superstition, when men, under pretence of it, commit such evils, diguing pits, laying mines, and barrels of gunpowder, that religion should persuade all this. The world thinks that religion is a sour superstition, that it makes men ill-natured. No; it is the peaceablest and meekest thing that can be. A false religion, indeed, efferates the mind, begets a bloody spirit: “ Gone in the way of Cain" (Judg. xi.); in the way of blood and murder. They that have either a false religion, or are false in the true religion, indeed they are ill-natured, and possessed with a rough spirit, unfit for human society. The true religion which God hath established in his law, is the meekest thing in all the world.
V. That the innocent should not be much troubled, to be maligned and hated by them who contemn God's laws. Why?
For their wickedness, fraudulency, and cruelty, is a certain prognostic of their ruin. The more their sins are aggravated, their judgment cometh the sooner; God's law is wronged, as well as our interest endangered.
It is a great ease to the conscience of the godly, that they dig pits for us without a cause (Psalm xxxv. 7). The most godly and innocent may have pits digged for them. It encourageth us in our addresses to God, that we have no enemies, but those who are enemies to God also, and his ways; and the most wicked men are most violent against God's people. Who was it first raged against the Christians, but Nero? and what a beast was Nero! That must needs be some great good that was condemned by Nero; but it was an honour and credit to religion to have such an enemy as Nero: “Let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions ; for they have rebelled against thee” (Psalm v. 10). It is some argument of confidence that their ruin is coming.
What use shall God's people make of the whole for themselves ?
1. Never to engage in any design, but what will suit with God's word, and you may commend to God in prayer. Do not dig pits which are not after God's law: examine it according to rule; never break a law for safety; nor, for the best ends in the world, dispense with your duty to God or man. It is horrible distrust of God's promises, to venture upon the breach of his precepts for our pretended safety. Take heed of doing anything, or carrying any plot, against God's law, unless you would be like the enemies of the Gospel
2. Walk with greater simplicity, without that guile, and double-dealing, and serpentine wisdom, that is so proper to wicked men. “He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely." Protection holds good for the road, and not for by-ways (2 Cor. i. 12). The proud are those that dig pits : the character of those that shall have pardon for their sins is this, " In whose spirit there is no guile.” A guileful spirit ill suits with the Gospel and the grace of God.
3. Take heed of carnal affections. Pride, envy, contempt of others, we know not how far these lusts may transport us; to what horrid, unnatural