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veyed by the touch; the nearer the touch, the greater the power and efficacy ; bring it down to your hearts: “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Rom. viii. 31.)
3. The law of God must be your delight in prosperity, if you would have it your support in adversity : “ Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm cxix. 105). That which is our antidote against our lusts, is our best cordial against our passions : “ Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises ; that by these ye might be partakers of the Divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust" (2 Peter i. 4). When afflictions come upon you, consider what is your greatest burden, and what is your greatest comfort, for then you are best at leisure to consider both; your greatest burden, that you may avoid it; your greatest comfort, that you may apply yourselves to it.
SERMON XCVIII. VERSE 93.— I will never forget thy precepts ; for with them thou hast
quickened me. In these words observe two things, 1. David's thankful resolution, “I will never forget thy precepts.". 2. The reason of it, “ For with them thou hast quickened me.”
First, In his thankful resolution, take notice, 1. Of the object, “ Thy precepts,” 2. The duty promised, and negatively expressed, “ I will never forget."
Ist, For the object, “ Thy precepts," thereby may be meant the word in general; he had found benefit by it, and the word of God should ever be dear and precious to him, especially the Gospel part of it. Surely, that is the great means of quickening, that may be comprised in the term, * Thy precepts,” if not principally intended; or else most especially some particular truth which God had blessed to the use and comfort of his soul; I shall never forget that truth, those precepts of thine.'
2ndly, The duty promised, “I will never forget." Forgetting, or remembering, is sometimes taken in Scripture for a notional remembrance, or notional forgetting, when we retain the notions of such a truth, or the notions of it vanish out of our minds. And sometimes it is taken practically, when we are suitably affected, as the thing or truth remembered deserves. Both may be intended: “I remember, retain, feel the fruit of thy word.' That which hath done us good, the very notions of it will stick in our minds. Or else, it may be for the practical remembrance; so it signifies, ‘I will prize, I will cleave fast to it, as long as I live.' To remember, is to esteem; and to forget, is to neglect; as, “ To do good, and to communicate, forget not" (Heb. xii. 16); that is, neglect not. I may remember to communicate, yet not perform ; but “ forget not;" that is, neglect not. In this sense, we usually say, You forget me;' that is, you neglect to do that which I desired of you. So David saith, “I will never forget thy precepts." The remembrance of his promises is effectual and perpetual. It is effectual; for, ‘I will remember it, prize it, and lay it up in my heart with thankfulness;' and it is perpetual, “I will never [the Hebrew is, not to all eternity] forget thy precepts,” as we render it fitly.
Secondly, The reason: “For with them thou hast quickened me.” The reason is taken froin his experience of the benefit of this word; and there we have the benefit received, quickening; the author, “ thou hast quickened;" the means," with them;" God by this means had quickened his soul.
Ist, The benefit, “ quickened.” There is a donble quickening, when, from dead, we are made living; or when, from cold, and sad, and heavy, we are made lively. One sort of quickening the word speaks of is, when, from dead, we are made living (Eph. ii. i); another, when, from cold, sad, heavy, we are made lively; and so not only have life, but enjoy it more abundantly, according to Christ's gracious promise (John x. 10); that they may be living, lively, kept still in vigour. Now, this second quickening may be taken, either, more largely, for the vitality of grace; or, strictly, for actual comfort. Largely taken; so God quickens by increasing the life of grace; either internally, by promising the life of grace; or morally and externally, by promising the life of glory. More strictly ; his quickening may be taken for comfort and support in his affliction; so it is likely to be taken here: he had said before, immediately before the text, “ Unless thy law had been my delight, I should then have perished in mine affliction" (verse 92); and now, “I will never forget thy precepts; for with them thou hast quickened me.” It was great comfort and support to him ; and therefore he should prize the word as long as he lived. This is the benefit received, “ Thou hast quickened me.”
2ndly, Here is the author, “thou.” God put him, by the inspiration of grace, upon the meditation of his word, and then he blessed that meditation; his assistance and grace doth all. We receive all degrees of life from the fountain of life. The word wast he means; but, “ Thou hast quickened
3rdly, The means, “with them;" that is, by his precepts: the word was spirit and life to him. By the Spirit God makes his word lively in operation, and conduceth very much to quickening, comfort, and supporting of the saints.
DOCTRINE.—Those that have received comfort, life, and quickening by the word of God, find themselves, obliged to remember it for erer.
I shall illustrate this proposition by these considerations: 1. That God's children are sometimes under deadness.
2. That, in such deadness, the word of God is the only means to quicken them.
3. Though the word be quick, and lively, and powerful, yet it is God that must bless it, that must make it a support to the soul.
4. That, whenever we have received these comforts, quickenings, and supports from him, they should ever be recorded and treasured up in the registers of a thankful memory, for the great uses of Christianity.
First, God's children are under deadness sometimes; which happeneth to them for many causes.
Ist, By reason of some sin committed, and not repented of, or not fully repented of. God smites them with deadness and hardness of heart; and the spiritual life, for a while, is greatly obstructed and impaired, that it cannot discover itself, and they have not those lively influences of grace as formerly. Thus it was with David when he had strayed so greatly from God, and begs God not to cast him off : “ Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me” (Psalm li. 11). As a wound
in the body lets out the life, blood, and tlie spirits, so these grievous sins are as a wound in the soul. Sin against the conscience of a renewed man, defaceth the work of the Holy Spirit, so that, for a while, he seems to be shut out from God's favour, and his gracious abilities are lessened and impaired; he is like a wounded man, till he be cured and made whole again. The Spirit, being grieved and resisted, withdraws, and the strength of the soul is wasted ; and therefore be very tender, stand in awe, not only of greater, but smaller sins.
2ndly, By reason of some good omitted, especially neglect of the means, whereby we may be kept alive, fresh, and lively in God's service. Lazy fits of indisposition, and omissions of duty, do more frequently steal in upon believers, than positive out-breakings and commissions of sin; and they are more ready to please themselves in them, and lie still under them, and so by this means contract much deadness of heart. As a lute that is not played upon, but hangs by the wall, and not used, it soon grows out of order for want of use; so, if we do not diligently and constantly exercise ourselves in godliness, our hearts grow dead and vain. It is the complaint of the church: “There is none, &c., that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee” (Isa. lxiv. 7). If we do not stir up ourselves to keep on a constant commerce with God and respect to God, alas! deadness creeps upon the heart unawares ; and we are commanded ávawaupīv, to stir up the gift of God which is in us (2 Tim. i. 6). Surely a slothful servant will soon become an evil servant : “ Thou wicked and slothful servant" (Matt. xxv, 26). Therefore our sinful sluggishness is one cause of our deadness; for he that doth not trade with his talents, will necessarily become poor; and, if we do not continue this holy attendance upon God, the heart suffers loss: “Quench not the Spirit, despise not prophesyings” (1 Thes. v. 19, 20): the coupling of these two things together shows, that, if we despise prophecy, we quench the Spirit; as fires go out, not only by pouring on water, but by not stirring and blowing it up. To expect help from God when we are sluggish, is to tempt Christ, and put him still upon a miraculous way to heal and cure our distempers. Who will bring bread and meat to a sluggard's bed, who will not arise to labour for it, or will not rise, at least to fetch it? Therefore, if we will not attend upon God in the means of grace, he will not bring us that help, comfort, and supply, that otherwise we inight have. God worketh, but so that we work also: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God which worketh,” &c. (Phil. ii. 12, 13.) God's working is not a ground of laziness, but for more strict observance. Since all depends upon God, therefore take heed you do not offend God, and provoke him to suspend his grace. We must not lie upon a bed of ease, and cry, “Christ must do all;' for this is to abuse the power of grace to laziness. It is notable, that God bids his people do that which he promiseth to give them: “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart” (Psalm xxxi. 24; Psalm xxvii. 14). As if he had said, “ Strengthen thine heart, and he will strengthen thy heart. The courage of faith is both commanded and promised; why? God, by this, would show how we should shake ourselves out of our laziness and idleness; that, though God gives us grace and power, yet he will have us to work; as a father that lifts up his child's arm to a burden, and bids him list it up. Usually, we complain of deadness with a reflection upon God: “He quickens the dead, and therefore I am dead.' Ay; but what hast thou done to quicken thyself? for grace was never intended that we might be idle. You must complain of yourselves as the moral, faulty cause: God is the efficient cause. You do not meditate, pray, draw life out of the precious promises. When the spouse sleeps and keeps her bed, then Christ withdraws (Cant. v. 6).
3rdly, Another cause is unthankfulness for benetits received, especially spiritual benefits; for God loves to have his grace acknowledged. He stops his hand, and suspends the influences of his grace, when the creature doth not acknowledge his bounty : “ Stablished in the faith, &c., abonnding therein with thanksgiving" (Col. ï. 7). The way to grow in faith, and get by faith, is to be thankful for what we have received; that is an effectual means both to keep it and to get more. Therefore, if we be always querulous, and do not give thanks for the goodness of God to us, for what he hath already vouchsafed to us in Christ, no wonder that dead. ness and discouragement creeps upon our hearts.
4thly, Pride in gifts; for we are told, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (James iv. 6). The garland we put on our own heads, soon withers; and those gifts which we are puffed up with, are presently blasted, and have deadness upon them; for he will teach us to ascribe all to himself.
5thly, Some great and heavy troubles. We read in verse 107 of this Psalm, “I am afflicted very much ; quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.” Oh! when we are afflicted sore, there is a deadness upon the heart, the spiritual life clogged. With what alacrity did they go about good things before! but then there is a damp: worldly sorrow deadens the spirit, as godly sorrow quickens it, and is a means to keep us alive to God.
6thly, Another cause is carnal liberty, or intermeddling with worldly vanities. So much we may learn from that prayer, “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity, and quicken thou me in thy way” (Psalm cxix. 37). Oh! when the children of God let loose their minds to vanity, and take immoderate liberty in the delights of the flesh, there is a deadness comes upon them; for therefore he goes to the cause, “ Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.” Immoderate liberty in earthly things, or in gratifying the flesh, brings on a deadness upon the heart. The Spirit withdraws, when the soul is taken off from other comforts, and is more addicted to vain pleasures : “Sensual, having not the Spirit" (Jude 19). As we are enlarged to the flesh, we are straitened to the Spirit. As sensuality increaseth, so the life and vitality of grace decays.
Secondly, In such cases, the word of God is the only means to quicken us. Why the word ? For two reasons :
1st, Because the word contains the most quickening considerations, and the affections are wrought upon by serious and ponderous thoughts; for there God interposeth in the way of the highest authority, straitly charging and commanding us, under pain of his displeasure ; and there he reasons with us again in the most potent and strong way of argumentation, from the escellency of his commands, their suitableness to us, as we are reasonable creatures; from his great love to us in Christ, whom he hath given to die for us; from the danger if we refuse him, which is no less than everlasting torment; from the benefit and happiness in complying with his motions, which is no less than eternal and complete blessedness both for our bodies and souls; and all this is bound upon us by a strict day of impartial accounts. Oh! what a company of quickening considerations are there, to set us awork with life, vigour, and seriousness! when we are to answer for our neglects, or else to receive the reward of our diligence. Now, what will quicken us, if this will not? If the high and glorious authority of the supreme Lawgiver awe us not, if the reasonableness of God's commands invite us not, if the wonderful love of God in Christ constrain us not, if the joys of Heaven do not allure us, and the horrors of everlasting dark. ness do not preserve upon us a lively sense of our duty,—what will work upon us, if this do not ? and gain us to a constant, diligent care, and serious preparation for our own happiness and salvation Out of what rock was the heart of man hewn, that all this shall be brought to him in the most persuasive way (as it is in the word of God), and will not work upon him?
Again, if the deadness should arise from our negligence in our duty, the word of God how powerfully doth it quicken us! But, if the deadness should arise from sorrow and discomfort, is not the word as powerful to raise and quicken the soul to a delight in God, as to enforce our duty ? What puts a damp upon us? Is it fury of men? we have a living God to trust to, who will remain when they are gone; who will pardon our sins, help us in all our straits; who will lay upon us no more than we are able to bear; who will never leave us utterly destitute, but will sanctify all, and make all work together for the best, for our everlasting salvation; and finally bring us into his glorious presence, that we may live for ever with him. Here is comfort enough, whatever our heaviness be; such a powerful God to stand by us in all our trouble, and make all work for good, that at length we may be brought home to God. If this word did but dwell richly in our souls, it would keep us fresh and lively, and we need not fear man or Devil (Col. ii. 16). Again,“ The word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one” (1 John ü. 14). We need fear nothing; for whoever trouble us, they are something under God. Whatever is our misery, and whatever befalls us, it is something less than Hell, which we have escaped by Christ, and will all be made up in Heaven. The first sight of God, and the first glimpse of everlasting glory, will recompense all the sorrows of the present life; and, as soon as we step into Heaven, all shall be forgotten.
In short, God's particular providence, fatherly love and care, the example of Christ, the promise of the comforting Spirit, the hopes of glory, should revive us in all our languishings. So that, if deadness comes from backwardness and slowness in our duty, in the word there are most quickening considerations; or, if from troubles, we have enough in God, Christ, the covenant, the promise of eternal life, to support us. This is the first reason: the word of God is the only means to comfort us, because it contains proper quickening considerations, that may keep life and vigour in us, if either carnal distemper invade the heart, or worldly sorrow and fear, which is apt to perplex us.
2ndly, The quickening Spirit delights to work by this means. The ordinary chariot that carrieth the influences of grace, is the word of grace. The Spirit that speaks in the word, speaks his own lively comforts to us. Alas! they are but cold comforts we can find elsewhere. The Spirit of God rides most triumphantly in his own chariot. The word and the Spirit are often associated, to show they go together. The word goes with the Spirit: “My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart,” &c. (Isa. lix. 21.) When God promiseth, “Thine eyes shall see thy teachers," it is promised also, “ Thine ears shall hear a