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or the two bonds by which we adhere to him, are faith and obedience. Faith, by which we trust ourselves in his hands; obedience, by which we submit to his will: to his commanding will, by holiness; to his disposing will, by patience. Now, the one increaseth the other; faith doth mightily befriend obedience: if we can depend upon God, we will subject ourselves and be faithful to him. The first cause of man's warping was, that he would be at his own finding; God taunted him with it: “ And the Lord said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” (Gen. iii. 22). While man contented his mind in the wisdom, goodness, and all-sufficiency of God, he kept innocent; but, when he grew distrustful of God, and desired, as the prodigal, to have the stock and portion in his own hands, he presently fell from God, and would preserve himself by his own shifts and skill. The reason why we are not faithful to God, is want of faith and trust in his fatherly care, and we will be at our own finding (Heb. iii. 12). Trust him, and you will adhere to him ; distrust him, and you will depart from him. Man would have his safety and comforts in his own hand, rather than God's: and this is a deadly blow to our obedience.
2. There is one consideration feedeth and encourageth both our depend. ence upon God, and our subjection to him; and that is a sound and thorough persuasion of God's all-sufficiency: “I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thou perfect” (Gen. xvii. 1). We will trust God in the way of our duty, and not fly to our own carnal shifts. Now, that which doth assure us of God's power and all-sufficiency to effect his promises, and do us good, is that which is here represented.
(1.) His power is implied, which made the world out of nothing. Other artificers must have matter to work upon, or else their art will fail. The mason must have timber and stones prepared to his hand, or he cannot build a house. The goldsmith must have gold and silver, or he cannot make so much as a cup or a ring; but God made the world out of things that did not appear (Heb. xi. 4); yet it standeth fast. Now, this power is engaged to us in the promises.
(2.) Here is a power which placeth and maintaineth all things in their order, both in Heaven and earth, and causeth every part of nature to do its office; and therefore why should not we live in a total dependence upon God, for life and being every moment? What God hath once settled, it doth and shall continue in the order that he hath appointed. The same power that created them, upholdeth them; the same wisdom directeth and ordereth them still; therefore, when he hath settled grace in the established order of a covenant with his people, the word of God is a foundation that cannot fail; for God needeth no other means to effect anything, but his own word and will. The word of God is as powerful in the work of grace, as in the works of nature, to renew, convince, subdue, and comfort the heart: “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow; and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Ileb. iv. 12); “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds; casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. x. 4, 5). Depend upon that word : “I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope"
(Psalm cxxx. 5). It is as unchangeable as powerful: “The word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return” (Isa. xlv. 23); I will not " alter the thing that is gone out of my lips” (Psalm lxxxix. 34).
(3.) Here is a power to which they are subject, for they are his servants; and be they never so averse and opposite to God, they cannot hinder his work ; for he performeth what he will, and who can let? Certainly, what God hath engaged himself to do, he will not fail to bring it to pass ; to give grace at present, and glory hereafter (Psalm lxxxiv. 11). Look neither upon the weakness of the means, nor the greatness of the work, but the truth and power of him that promised.
3. Here is something offered to each apart, both to feed trust and dependence, and to engage to subjection and obedience.
(1.) For trust and dependence.
(i.) We see here that God is a great God, who taketh the care and charge upon him of the sustentation and government of all things, to their proper ends and uses. How soon would the world fall into confusion and nothing, without his power and care! Now, this should recommend him to our esteem and love. Oh! what a blessed thing is it to have an interest in this powerful and Almighty God! All his strength and power is engaged for the meanest and weakest of his children: “ Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Peter i. 5); and therefore we are bidden to be “ strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might." Surely they are blessed that have such a mighty God on their side, and engaged with them against their enemies : “ Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John iv. 4). He can enable them to do their work, satisfy their desires, maintain them in the midst of opposition : “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all” (John x. 29). Such is the efficacy of his providence, that he can subject all things to himself, make them servants, to do what he would have them
Oh! how safe is a Christian in the love, and covenant, and arms, of an Almighty God, whom he hath made his refuge! Our trials are many, and grace received is small, in the best ; but our God is great; he that made all things, and sustaineth all things, and governeth all things, and possesseth all things, is our God; surely his grace is sufficient for us (2 Cor. xi. 9), and his arms can bear us up: “ The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms" (Deut. xxxii. 27). He can recover us from our falls, and lift us over all our difficulties; if we could but rest upon his word, and lean upon his power: why should we be discouraged ? Oh! let us rejoice, then, not only in the goodness, but greatness, of that God whom we have chosen for our portion.
(ii.) We see here that God is an unchangeable God in goodness : “ They continue this day according to thine ordinances.” The stability of his works showeth how stable the workman is; Heaven and earth continue by virtue of his word, that man may have the use and benefit of it from generation to generation; that the continual vicissitudes of day and night may be continued; that man may have light to his labour, and darkness drawn about him as a covering for his rest; and also that there might be a constant succession of summer and winter, to prepare and ripen the fruits of the earth. Now, if God forsake not the world, will he forsake his people? For the benefit of mankind he preserveth the courses of nature, and keepeth all things in their proper place, for their proper end and use; and will he not keep one way with his children: Shall there be a failure
in the covenant, when there is not a failure in common providence? As if he would satisfy the expectation of Heathens, that look for a constant succession of day and night, and summer and winter, and would not satisfy the expectation of his children, when they look for a blessed morning, after a dark night of trouble and conflict! and the light of his countenance, after the storms of temptation!
(2.) For subjection, which I made to be double.
(i.) Submission to his disposing will. God's appointment giveth laws to all; there is not the least thing done among us without his prescience, providence, and wise disposal, to which all things in the world are subjected. The Lord's will and pleasure is the only rule of his extending his omnipotency, and is the sovereign and absolute cause of all his working; for all is done in Heaven or in earth according to his ordinance; and no creature can resist his will; therefore let us submit to this will of God. If God take anything from us, let us bless the name of the Lord, he doth but make use of his own: “It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good” (1 Sam. iii. 18). It is none of ours, but God's, and let him do with his own as it pleaseth him. God is the disposer of man, as well as other creatures, and must choose their condition, and determine of all events wherein they are concerned. We usually dislike God's disposal of us, though it be so wise and gracious; but consider his sovereignty, you cannot deliver yourselves from the will of God, and get the reins into your own hands. And, alas! we are unfit to be disposers either of the world or ourselves, as an idiot is to be the pilot of a ship: therefore let God govern all, according to his own pleasure ; say, 'Lord, not my will, but thine be done.' We are safer by far in God's hands, than our own.
(ii.) Obedience to his commanding will. All creatures do serve God as his word hath ordained; so should we do, we have law and ordinances too. Shall man only be eccentric and exorbitant, and transgress his bounds ? Winds and sea serve him; only man, made after his image, disobeyeth him. They serve God for our benefit: the heavens continue their motion to convey light, heat, and influence to us; and the air, to give us breath and motion; and the earth, to be a sure, fixed dwelling-place. When all things are created and continued for our use, shall not we serve our bountiful Creator? We are sensible of the disturbance of the course of nature, when these confederacies are dissolved, when the floods increase, or rains fall in abundance. Oh! bemoan rather thy own irregular actions, which are a greater deformation of the beauty of the universe.
In short, no creatures are sui juris ; they are subject to God, by whose word and commandment they must rule their actions : surely none of us are too great, or too good, to submit to God Angels enjoy immunities, yet are not exempted from service. The creatures have acted contrary to iheir common nature for God's honour; let us obey God, though contrary to our own wills and inclinations.
SERMON XCVII. VERSE 92.-Unless thy law had been my delights, I should then have
perished in mine affliction. In the verses before the text, David meditateth upon the constancy of the course of nature, whereby is represented God's constant fidelity in per
forming all his promises to his people. Now he produceth his own experience, and showeth, that all this had been matter of most pleasant meditation, to support him under his afflictions; when all other comforts failed, he found sufficient consolation in the word of God: “Unless thy law had been,” &c.
In which words observe, -
2. His bitter sense of that condition, he was ready to perish in his affliction.
3. His remedy, the word of God.
Ist, For his condition. Though he was a man after God's own heart, yet he had his troubles: “Lord, remember David, and all his afflictions" (Psalm cxxxii. 1).
2ndly, For his sense and apprehension, “I should then have perished.” “Then;" that is, long ago: if you suppose him now under trouble, probably he should have sunk under the weight of it; or, if out of trouble, he remembereth from experience what did comfort him when he was ready to perish. But how perish? It may be understood,
i. Either as given over to the will of his enemies, if he had not confided in God; for all human help and comfort was cut off, and then did Divine help appear.
2. Died for sorrow; for worldly sorrow worketh death (2 Cor. rii. 10). We are apt to despond and despair in great and sore troubles. Affliction worketh heaviness (1 Peter i. 6); and heariness drieth the bones, and wasteth our strength. What kept him?
3rdly, His remedy was the word of God; for he saith, “Unless thy law had been my delights.” Some take the word “ law” strictly, for the precepts of the law, which keepeth us from sin, which doth involve us in danger; but rather it is taken for the whole word of God, and chiefly for the promises of support and deliverance: I had despaired, if I had not consulted with thy word.' He doth not here speak of direction, but of support; elsewhere he found nothing but sorrow, but in the word of God joy and comfort.
4thly, The way of application, “my delights.” The word is plural, and increaseth the sense, in what way soever it be interpreted. Now, it may be interpreted passively or actively.
1. Passively, that the word of God refreshed him, and afforded him matter of delight, and so renewed his strength. David had many sorrows, but here he found delights, as many comforts as troubles. The word of God yieldeth comfort for every state of life; if there be many sorrows, there are many delights; but with advantage, heavenly comforts for earthly afflictions; eternal comforts for temporal sorrows.
2. Actively. He delighted in the word of God; yea, counted it his delights; it increaseth the sense.
(1.) It was his chief delight. Other things might be thankfully accepted and acknowledged; but this was the solace and delight of his soul.
(2.) His continual delight and comfort, to which he retreated upon all occasions.
(3.) His whole, or only delight. When deprived of all other things, this was instead of all delights to him. All which show his high esteem of the word.
DOCTRINE.—That the afflicted man's true consolation, is in the word of God.
I will pursue the point in the method that I have laid forth in the parts of the text.
First, A man after God's own heart, such as David was, may be afflicted; why?
ist, Because God hath chosen another way of expressing his love to his people, than by outward things; for he will govern the spiritual part of the world by faith, and not by sense : therefore, “No man knoweth either love or hatred, by all that is before him" (Eccl. ix. ]); that is, by mere outward events, or things obvious to outward sense; the significations of his love are more hidden. Prov. ii. 31, 32, Solomon supposeth that the oppressor may be in a flourishing condition, yet all this while the Lord hates hini; “his secret is with the righteous." We know his fatherly love to us, not by things without us, but things within us (Rom. viii. 16): “Hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us” (1 John iii. 24); “ God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts” (Gal. iv. 6). Outward things would soon be overvalued, and we should take them as our whole felicity and portion, if, besides their suitableness to our present needs and appetites, they should come to us as special evidences of God's love.
2ndly, Afflictions are necessary to the best. Certain it is God will conduct his people to glory, not only by his internal, but external providence. Now, to humble us, to wean us from the world, there is need of afflictions : "For a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness” (1 Peter i, 6). We are wanton, vain, neglectful of God, unmindful of heavenly things; if God did not put us under the discipline of the cross, our minds and hearts would be more alienated from God and heavenly things : “Before I was afflicted, I went astray” (Psalm cxix. 67). Now, since the best need it, God will not be wanting in any part or point of necessary government to them.
3rdly, That they may know the worth and benefit of God's word, and the comfort of it may be seen and felt by experience, how able it is to support us, and to uphold a sinking heart under any trouble whatsoever (Rom. xv. 4). In full prosperity, when we seem to live upon the creature, we know not the benefit of God's promise, nor how to live by faith; as the use of bladders in swimming is not known while we are upon firm land. The word of God provideth comforts for the obedient, not only at the end of the journey, but for their support at present, while they are in the way. These comforts would be useless, if never put upon the trial; therefore none of God's children must look to be exempted : “ These same afflictions are accomplished in your brethen that are in the world ” (1 Peter v. 9). Our condition is no harder than the rest of the saints of God that have passed through the world.
Secondly, David was ready to sink under his burden; and so are other the people of God ready to perish, when they look to the bare afflictions. This may come,
Ist, From the grievousness of the affliction, which staggereth and amazeth them: “ Thou hast showed thy people hard things; thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment” (Psalm lx. 3). Their thoughts are confounded, as a man that has taken a poisonous potion. They know not to what hand to turn, are wholly dispirited, and put out of all comfort.
2ndly, It comes from the weakness of the saints. There is some weak