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were, and thou gavest them me;" therefore “ keep (them) through thine own name” (John xvii. 6, 11). We may pray to God with more confidence for our safety in a time of danger, when we can plead his interest in us.
How doth his interest prove a ground of confidence and plea for prayer, in a time of danger ?
1. God's knowledge of them: “ The Lord knoweth them that are his” (2 Tim. ii. 19). He hath a particular exact knowledge of all the elect, and who they are that shall be saved; they are engraven, as it were, upon the palms of his hands; he takes notice of them, and of the condition in which they are: “ He calleth his own sheep by name” (John x. 3). Christ knows them by head and poll.
2. His care over them, and his affection to them. Interest, in general, is a very endearing thing. That which is mine, doth more affect me than that which is another man's: he that careth not, and provideth not, for his own, is worse than an infidel (1 Tim. v. 8). It is an unnatural thing for a man not to affect his own; and will God suffer that which is his own, to be snatched out of his hands, and used by evil men according to their pleasure ? A man is careful of his own children, to dispose of them in a safe place, and careful of his own jewels: the saints are not as God's lumber, but as his jewels; they are dearer to God than all things else: “I am the Lord thy God, &c., thy Saviour; I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life” (Isa. xliii. 3, 4); that is, if the sword must drink blood, let it go to Seba and Ethiopia, to Arabia and to Egypt: he strikes the king of Assyria in his wrath, and the sword shall be diverted that way, rather than they should be given up to be destroyed.
But this is not all. The way how we come to be his own, doth exceedingly endear us to him. As for instance, we come to be God's by eternal election; now, this must needs endear us to God. A woman that carries her child in her womb but nine months, what a tender affection hath she to it! “ Can a woman forget her sucking child ?" &c. (Isa. xlix. 15.) “ He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. i. 4). We lay in the womb of his decree from all eternity, and therefore we are very dear to God; namely, as we are his by election.
Again, as we are by his redemption. They were bought with a dear price; therefore they are a precious people, God hath a high esteem and value for them. That which cost dear, we will not lose it lightly. The saints are valuable, not so much in themselves, as in Christ, by whose precious blood they are purchased with God (1 Peter i. 19). Adam sold us for a trifle ; but Christ did not redeem us at a cheap rate. Then the work of the Spirit who hath drawn the image of God upon us, God will not suffer his own work to be destroyed. They came to God, and complained of the defacing of the material temple, that the carved work, the curious work which was wrought by the special direction of God's own Spirit, was de. stroyed (for the Spirit of God directed Bazaleel to work in brass, and all manner of curious works) (Psalm lxxiv. 6); certainly the temples of the Holy Ghost, which are formed for God's praise, God will not suffer them to be destroyed, and never look after them.
Again, as they are God's by dedication, so they are dear to him. Common gold and silver was not so valued as consecrated gold and silver.
Goat's hair, that was consecrated to the use of the temple, was more excellent than all other things that were for common use. We are dedicated, consecrated to God, set apart for himself : “ The Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself” (Psalm iv. 3).
3. He hath a peculiar eye to his own; why? Because he expects more work from them than from others; therefore they have more protection; God is known, glorified, and owned, among them. His revenues to the crown of Heaven from the world come to little, in regard of what he hath from his people and his church : “ All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee” (Psalm cxlv. 10). God hath most of his praise from his saints. His creatures show forth his glory, but his saints bless him. The common sort of people smother the glory of God, in their atheism, security, and unbelief; but these only are the people that keep up his praise in the world ; therefore he preserves them.
4. Because, by covenant, all that is God's is theirs for their use. His strength is theirs : “ Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might" (Eph. vi. 10). And his salvation is theirs : “He that is our God, is the God of salvation” (Psalm lxviii. 20). If God be a God of salvation, he is our God. If he hath salvation to bestow, it is ours. A believer hath full right to make use of all that God hath.
USE.-1. To press you to get this interest in times of danger. We should now be more careful, than at other times, to get and clear up our interest in God. Oh! it will be no advantage to say, “This and that is mine;' but a great advantage to say, 'God is mine.' When desolations are on the earth, there is great havoc made of great estates, and outward supplies will come to nothing; but this will be an everlasting comfort to say, God is mine.' See 1 Sam. xxx. 6, “ But David encouraged himself in the Lord his God;" “ I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. iii. 18).
2. It presseth you to make your interest more evident by fruits of obedience, as David, “I am thine.” How makes he it good ? « I have sought thy precepts.” We would have mercy, but neglect duty; therefore saith David, “ I have sought thy precepts.” It is an emphatical expression; to seek God's precepts, is more than barely to do them; to seek them; that is, with all diligence. We labour after the knowledge of them, and grace to practise them; it is to give up our minds and hearts; it notes earnest study and affection to them, will, and care, and all to the practice of God's will. Where there is an honest and earnest endeavour to obey God's command in all things, this proves a believer's interest. In times of trouble, you must expect your confidence will be assaulted; now, when Satan or conscience represent God as putting thee off thus, 'What come you to me? Thou art a grievous sinner ;' but, “Lord, I am thine;' 'How prove you that? I seek to know thy will.' " How to perform that which is good, I find not” (Rom. vii. 18). We cannot always find it; that is, serve God with exactness of care; but, if this be the bent of our hearts, if we seek it, we may come with confidence, and look God in the face, and say, 'Lord, I am thine.'
3. We may improve it with confidence in prayer, “ I am thine ; save me.” God saves man and beast (Psalm xxxvi. 6); therefore will save his own, he that is our Father and our God; “I know that my God will save me,' saith David (Psalm xx. 6–8). There are some God will not save: • They are not mine, therefore I will break down their bulwarks.' In the book of Chronicles it is said, “Why transgress you the commandment of God, that you cannot prosper?” (2 Chron. xxiv. 20.) There is an utter incapacity, when men will be sinning away their protection. Here is your great plea in time of danger, in adversity, to go to God and say, “I am thine; save me.”
SERMON C. VERSE 96.--I have seen an end of all perfection ; but thy command
ment is exceeding broad. In this verse, the Scripture, as the charter of our hopes, and the seed and principle of our spiritual being, is recommended above all things in the world, as that which doth chiefly deserve our respect and care. Consider the word by itself, and you will find it excellent; but consider it by way of comparison with the vanity and insufficiency of other things, and the excellency thereof will much more appear. As, in a pair of balances, when things come to be weighed together, you will soon see the difference, and which is heaviest; so here in the text: both scales are filled ; on the one side, there is the world and the perfections thereof; and, on the other side, the word of God, and the benefit that we have thereby; and sensibly the beam breaketh on the word's side: in the one scale, there is limited perfection, which will soon have an end; in the other, a happiness that hath length and breadth: “I have seen an end,” &c.
In the words there is a thesis, or proposition; and then an antithesis, or something said by way of opposition to that position. The thesis, “ I have seen an end of all perfection;" and the antithesis, “but thy commandment is exceeding broad.” Both together will yield us this point:
That the serious consideration of the frailty and fadingness of all natural and earthly perfections, should excite and quicken us to look after that better and eternal estate which is offered to us in the word of God.
I shall make good this proposition, by going over the circumstances of the text, as they are offered to us.
First, I begin with the thesis, or proposition, “ I have seen an end of all perfection;" and there you may take notice,
1. Of the subject or matter here spoken of, it is "perfection;" understand it in a natural and worldly sense, the most excellent of all the creatures, and the greatest glory of all natural accomplishments.
2. The extent, “all perfection," whatever it be. 3. The predicate, hath an end.
4. The confirmation from sense, “I have seen.” It is either dictum experientiæ, I have often seen it fall out before my eyes ; or dictum fidei, I could by faith easily sce to the bottom of the creature, see vanity in it, whilst in its greatest glory. Let us open these things.
Ist, Mark, it is not said in the concrete, “I have seen an end of perfect things ;' but in the abstract, “ I have seen an end of all perfection” itself. The most perfect of worldly things are but imperfect : man, in his best estate, is altogether vanity (Psalm xxxix. 11).
2ndly, And then mark the extent of it, it is “ all perfection;" not only some, but all perfection; wisdom and learning, as well as beauty and strength, wit and wealth, honour and greatness : 'I have seen an end of all of it.' Many will readily grant that some kind of perfections are slight;
but "all is vanity and vexation of spirit.” Here is a meditation fit for persons of all sorts and conditions : for great ones, that they presume not; for mean ones, that they repine not ; for the old, whose vigour and strength is gone, in whom it is verified; and for the young, or those that are in the vigour and freshness of youth, in whom, within a little while, it will be verified; for the rich, that they trust not in uncertain riches ; for the poor, that they be not over dejected; for the honoured, that they please not themselves overmuch with the blasts of popular breath and vain applause; the disgraced, that they may make a sanctified use of their afflictions. All perfection, first or last, will wither and decay.
3rdly, And then here is the predicate, hath “an end." The word also signifieth limit or bound. There is an end, in regard of length, duration, and continuance; and an end, in regard of breadth and use, that also must be taken in ; for the narrowness of worldly comforts, and the breadth of the commandments, are often opposed one to the other. I will show you, first, that all earthly perfections have their bounds and limits, as to their use and service : they are good for this and that, but not for all things; but “godliness is profitable unto all things” (1 Tim. iv. 8). They are not able to bear full contentment to the mind, nor give full satisfaction to the heart; at least, in all conditions and all sorts of afflictions. Riches will help against poverty, and health against sickness; but “ godliness is profitable unto all things." There are many difficulties and dangers, in which the limited power of the creatures cannot help us, but the word of God applied, and obeyed, and followed with his mighty Spirit, will yield us relief and comfort in all cases and conditions: all the pleasures, and profits, and honours of the world, are nothing to this. As for instance, all these perfections cannot
1. Give us any solid peace of conscience and rest to our souls. In the midst of all our fulness, there is something wanting; carnal affections must be mortified, before they can be satisfied; grace must do that for you. It is godliness that brings contentment to the heart of man: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. vi. 6). Alas! wealth can never do it. Our desires are increased the more we have ; and the way to contentment, is not to increase our substance, but to limit our desires; as, in a dropsy, the way to cure the man, is not to satisfy him with drink, but to open a vein to take away his thirst. We expect too much from the creature, and then the disappointment breedeth trouble (Eccl. i. 14); and therefore why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Outward things do not bear a thorough proportion with all the wants, and desires, and capacities of the soul, and therefore cannot give any solid peace to our souls.
2. It cannot make you acceptable to God, neither wealth, nor beauty, nor honour, nor strength; it is grace that is of great price in the sight of God: “ The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Peter iii. 4). This is a beauty that doth never fade, nor wax old : “ Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee” (Isa. xliii. 4). God loveth his people for the grace he putteth into them, not for the outward gifts he bestoweth upon them: it is grace that makes us amiable to God, and fit objects of the Divine complacency: you are not a jot the more pleasing to God when rich, than when poor; no, but the more hateful to him, if you are not rich towards God (Luke xii. 21).
3. It cannot stead you in your greatest and deepest necessities; and therefore they are but limited. There are two great necessities wherein all creature comforts will fail :
(1.) In troubles of conscience. Men do pretty well with their worldly portion and happiness, till God sets their consciences awork, and begins to rebuke man for sin, and reviveth the sense of their own guilt and liableness to the curse. In such a case, all the glory, and profit, and pleasure of the creature will do no good; it cannot allay the sense of God's wrath scorching the soul for sin : “ When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth” (Psalm xxxix. 11). Tell him of honours, friends, estates, pleasures, all is nothing; the virtue of that opium wherewith he laid his soul asleep, is now quite spent. Trouble of conscience arrests the stoutest and most jovial sinners, and layeth them under sadness and horror: Judas threw away his thirty pieces of silver, when his guilt stared him in the face; “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (Matt. xxvii. 4). When God is angry, the creatures cannot pacify him, and make you friends : as, when a man is going to execution with a drooping and heavy heart, bring him a posy of flowers, bid him smell of them, and comfort himself with them, he will think you upbraid his misery; so, in troubles of conscience, what good will it be to tell a man of riches and honours? The remedy must be according to the grief; so that, if outward things could satisfy the heart, they cannot satisfy the conscience: our sore will run; and, among all the creatures, there is no salve for it.
(2.) They will not stead us at the hour of death, when a man must launch out into eternity, and set sail for an unknown world. Can a man comfort himself then with outward things, that a man is great, rich, and honourable, beautiful or strong, or that he hath wallowed in all manner of sensualities? If men would look to the end of things, they would sooner discern their mistake: “Oh! that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end !” (Deut. xxxii. 20.) So, “ At his end shall be a fool” (Jer. xvii, 11). He was a fool before, all his life long; but now he is so in the account of his own heart. So, “ What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul ?" (Job. xxvii. 8.) The poor man would fain keep his soul a little longer; no, but God will take it now; and he doth not resign it, but God takes it by force. And, “The sting of death is sin" (1 Cor. xv. 56). The dolors and horrors of a guilty conscience are revived by death; and then the weakness of worldly things doth best appear : our wealth, and honour, and pleasure, will leave us in the dirt. When the soul is to be turned out of doors, our vain conceits are blown away, and we begin to be sensible of our ill choice: if conscience did not do its office before, death will undeceive them: “ When he dieth, he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him" (Psalm xlix. 17). He shall be eaten out by worms, as others are, when he cometh to go the way of all the earth. Then for one evidence for Heaven, one drachm of the favour of God; as Severus the Emperor cried out, I have been all things; but now it profits me nothing.'
4. It is of no use to you in the world to come. Gold and silver, the great instruments of commerce in this world, are of no value there. All civil distinctions last but to the grave: some are high, and others low ; some are rich, and others poor : these distinctions will last but a while;