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things of God. The difficulty doth not lie in the duty itself, but in the awkwardness of our hearts to the duty : you can muse upon other things, why not muse upon that which is holy?.
Use III.—To press you to show love to the word of God this way, by often meditating upon it. Meditate upon the doctrines, promises, threatenings, man's misery, deliverance by Christ, necessity of regeneration; then of a holy life, the day of judgment. Fill the mind with such kind of thoughts, and continually dwell upon them. A good man should do so, and will do so. He should do so (Josh. i. 8), and he will do so (Psalm i. 2). Oh! do not begrudge a little time spent this way! for hereby we both evidence our love to the word and increase it.
But, to quicken you hereunto,
1. The more the heart is replenished with holy meditation, the less will it be pestered with worldly and carnal thoughts. The mind of man is restless, and cannot lie idle; therefore it is good to set it awork upon holy things. It will be working upon somewhat; and, if you do not feed it with holy thoughts, what then? All the imaginations of the heart will be evil, only evil, and that continually (Gen. vi. 5). These are the natural products and births of our spirits: “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,' &c. (Matt xv. 19.) When the heart is left to run loose, then we shall go musing of vanity and sin; therefore by frequent meditation this evil is prevented, because the mind is pre-occupied, and possessed already by better things; nay, the mind is seasoned, and vain and carnal thoughts grow distasteful to us, when the heart is stored with good matter.
2. The more these thoughts abide with us, the more the heart is seasoned and fitted for all worldly comforts and affairs. It is hard to touch pitch and not be defiled, to go up and down with a serious heart in the midst of such temptations. Nothing makes you awful and serious so much, as inuring your minds with holy thoughts; so that you may go about worldly businesses in a heavenly manner. God's children are sensi. ble of this; therefore they make it their practice to begin the day with God: “When I awake, I am still with thee” (Psalm cxxxix. 18). As soon as they are awake, they are seasoning their minds with somewhat of God. And they not only begin with God, but take God along with them in all their comfort and business: they are “in the fear of the Lord all the day long" (Prov. xxii. 17). Why do vain thoughts haunt us in duty ? Because it is our use to be vainly occupied. A carnal man goes about heavenly business with an earthly mind; and a godly man goes about earthly business with a heavenly mind. A carnal man's thoughts are so used to these things, that he cannot take them off; but a godly man hath inured his mind to better thoughts.
3. Thoughts will inflame and enkindle your affections after heavenly things. It is beating the steel upon the flint makes the sparks fly out: so by serious, inculcative thoughts, we beat out affections; these are the bellows to blow up the coals: it is a very deadening thing to be always musing on vanity: “ Thy name is as ointment poured forth, therefore do the virgins love thee" (Cant. i. 3): when a box is broken, and the ointment poured out, when the name of God is taken in by serious thoughts, that stirs up affection.
4. By holy thoughts, we do most resemble the purity and simplicity of God. We do not resemble God so much by speech and course of our actions, as we do by our serious and holy thoughts; for his spiritual
nature and being is best expressed by these operations of our own spirits. You can conceive of God as a spirit, always beholding himself and loving himself; and so you come nearer as to the being of God, the more your thoughts are exercised and drawn out after holy things.
5. By these holy meditations the soul is present with God, and can solace itself with him. The Apostle saith, we are absent from him in the body, hut present with him by the spirit; present with him by the workings of our thoughts. This is the way to get into the company of the Spirit, to be with him (Psalm cxxxix. 18). How with him? By our thoughts, and by serious calling him to mind. God is not far from us ; but we are far from him. God is not far from us in the effects of his power and good. ness ; but we are far from God, because our thoughts are so seldom set awork upon him. This is the way to solace ourselves with God, to be much in these holy things.
SERMON CIII. VERSE 98.—Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser
than mine enemies ; for they are ever with me. In the former verse, you shall find the man of God had expressed his affection to the word, “Oh! how love I thy law !" Now he renders the reason of his great affection, because he got wisdom thereby; a benefit of great value, as being the perfection of the reasonable nature, and a benefit highly esteemed in the world. Those which care not for the reality of wisdom, yet affect a reputation of it : “ Vain man would be wise, though man be born like a wild ass's colt” (Job xi. 12). Though he be rude and brutish, yet he would fain be accounted wise. Knowledge was the great bait laid for our first parents; and so much of that desire is still left with us, that we had rather be accounted wicked than weak, and will sooner entitle ourselves to the guilt of a vice in morals, than own any weakness in intellectuals; no man would be accounted a fool. Well then, David's affection is justified; he might well say, “Oh! how love I thy law !” because he got wisdom thereby, and such wisdom as carried him through all his trouble; though he had to do with crafty adversaries, as Doeg, Achitophel, and others that excelled for worldly policy; yet, “Oh! how love I thy law!” for “through thy commandments," &c.
In which words you have,
4. The benefit amplified, by comparing it with the wisdom and craft of his enemies, the politicians of Saul's court, men advanced for their great wisdom and subtilty, “ Thou hast made me wiser than mine enemies."
5. The manner how he came to obtain this benefit, “For they are ever with me."
DOCTRINE.—That God, through his commands, doth make his people wiser than their enemies.
It is but David's experience resolved into a proposition. I shall,-
Ist, It is not craft or wisdom to do evil, that is to be learned in the Devil's school; but Divine wisdom, such as is gotten by study and obedience of God's laws : “ The serpent was more subtile than any beast of the field" (Gen. ii. 1); Satan's instruments are very acute in mischief, “wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge” (Jer. iv. 22), cunning enough in a way of sin, but to seek in every point of duty. Your souls must not enter into their secrets: this wisdom should rather be unlearned ; better be fools and bunglers in a way of sin, than wise to do evil: “Brethren, in malice be ye children, but in understanding be ye men" (1 Cor. xiv. 22); and, “I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil” (Rom. xvi. 19). Simplicity here is the best wisdom.
2ndly, It is not worldly policy, or a dexterous sagacity in and about the concernments of this life. There are some which have “the spirit of the world” (1 Cor. ii. 12), and a genius or disposition of soul which wholly carrieth them out to riches, honours, and pleasures, and are notable in this kind of skill, in promoting their secular ends in these things. A child of God may be a fool to them for this kind of wisdom; for it is our Saviour's observation, “ The children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Luke xvi. 8). Though David was wiser than his enemies, yet the children of this world are wiser in their generations ; that is, as to carnal fetches and devices to accomplish their worldly purposes. In their generation ; that is, about the course of their affairs. Thus, David is not wiser than his enemies.
3rdly, It is not great skill in arts and civil discipline. This is, indeed, a gift of God, but given promiscuously, sometimes to the good, and sometimes to the bad : sometimes to the good; for Solomon could unravel all the secrets of nature, and dispute of everything, from the cedar to the hyssop (1 Kings iv. 29–34); and sometimes to the bad, as the Heathen philosophers, many of whom knew all things almost within the circuit of the world; yet how little this wisdom is to be valued in regard of that wisdom which we get by God's commanments, God hath in some short showed, in that he hath suffered those books which Solomon writ concerning trees, plants, beasts, to be lost; whereas to this day the writings of the Heathens are preserved, as Aristotle's book, De Animalibus, fc. But now, those books in which Solomon taught the fear of God and true wisdom, which is godliness, are, by the singular care of God's providence, conserved for our use and benefit. God hath herein showed, that we might want those other books without the loss of true wisdom ; but those books that indeed make us wise to salvation, those are kept. Learning is a glorious endowment indeed, but God would give us that gift by the writings of Heathens; but grace, which is true wisdom, he would give us that by the Holy Scripture. A man may excel in learning ; yet, after all the profound researches and inquiries of his high-flown reason into the mysteries of nature, he may be a very fool, and be damned for ever; for Paul saith of the philosophers, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. i. 22); since they had not the true knowledge of God and the way of salvation.
4thly, It is not a bare knowledge of God's will, but wisdom. Knowledge is one thing, and wisdom another: “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence” (Prov. viii. 12). Many are knowing men, well skilled with notions; but they want prudence, or practical direction, for the governing of their hearts and ordering of their ways. In the Scripture, you shall find faith is not only opposed to ignorance, but to folly, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe" (Luke xxiv. 25). Every natural man is a fool (Titus iii. 3), though never so notionally wise, and skilled in the theory of Divine knowledge: “ The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way” (Prov xiv. 8); not to soar aloft in speculation, abstract from practice, and remote from spiritual influence, but to direct his course so as he may attain to the chiefest good; not only to know what is to be done, but to do what is to be known. Carnal men, they have great knowledge, and yet are spiritual fools for all that: they may lick the glass, and never taste the honey; or, like negroes, that dig in mines of knowledge, while others enjoy the gold, they may search out the mysteries of that religion which the godly man lives upon; dispute of Heaven, while others surprise it, and take it by force; or, like the lark, soar high, but fall into the net of the fowler. A careful, strict walking, that is the true wisdom; and thus we have stated the benefit.
Secondly, Here is the author of this benefit, which is God, “ Thou, through thy commandments;' which I note, not only to show to whom we must go for this wisdom: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (James i. 5). Nor to show to whom we must ascribe the glory of it; if we get any benefit by the word, praise belongeth to God, who is the Father of lights, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift (James i. 17). All candles are lighted at his torch, and all the stars owe their brightness to this sun; to the Father of lights we owe all the light, wisdom, and direction that we have. I say, not only for these ends do I note it, but to show the main and principal reason why a child of God is far more safe by his godly wisdom, than their enemies by all their worldly policy; why? God is of his side, counselling, directing, and instructing him what to do; whereas they are acted and influenced by Satan: “The wicked plotteth against the just, &c.; the Lord shall laugh at him; for he seeth that his day is coming” (Psalm xxxvii. 12, 13). The wicked plotteth against him, but there is a wise God that acts for him. He doth not say, the just countermineth the wicked, and strains himself to match his enemy with policy and craft; but, God watcheth for him. If it were only this policy against piety, it were not so much; but it is men's craft against God's wisdom: “ There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel, against the Lord” (Prov. xxi. 30). These three words express the sum and height of all natural abilities : wisdom notes a quick apprehension ; understanding, a wise foresight grounded upon experience; counsel, a designation of some rare artifice and device: now, neither wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel, none of these, can stand against the Lord. God's children are sometimes dismayed, when they consider the advantages of their enemies, their wisdom, learning, malice, experience; but here is their comfort, that they may set God against all these, God who is the fountain of wisdom ; for he is interested in their cause, his wisdom against their craft; and so, having the direction of the mighty counsellor, they are safe.
Thirdly, Here is the means, “ Through thy commandments," or through the directions of the word. You will say, What can we learn from the word, to match our enemies in policy? What wisdom will that teach us, for our safety and preservation against the malice of our wicked enemies? There is our rule; and the more close and punctual we are in the observance of it, the more safe we are. A double wisdom we learn from the
word of God, which is our security against the malice and craft of our enemies,
Ist, This wisdom we get by the commandment: it directs us how to keep in with God, which is our great wisdom. This is to stop danger at the fountain-head: “When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Prov. xvi. 7). The way to get peace and safety in evil times is, not to comply with enemies, but to comply with God. All our danger lies in his anger, not in their wrath and rage; for God can bridle them, or let them loose upon us, as he sees good: He hath the hearts of all men in his hands, as the rivers of water; the creature is but God's instrument, and wholly at his dispose. We have no need to fear the sword, if we do not fear him that wears the sword; nor need we fear the creature, if we do not break with God. Many are troubled with the ill will of men, or about the rage of men, and are full of fears when they meet with any opposition in their profession of godliness; and how soon men may be let loose upon them in time of danger: but look to the cause of it, which is their offending God; therefore our chief wisdom is to serve him, and study to please him. When a war is begun between two nations, the way to end it is not by a treaty with this or that private soldier, or to seek their favour ; but to treat with those that employ them: so it is not to fawn, and crouch, and court the favour of men, but to be reconciled to God, and get him made a friend; then we need not fear man's enmity. Now, this wisdom the word of God teacheth us, how to walk with all-pleasing before God; and then the creature cannot meddle with us without his leave. Another place is, “He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely ; but he that preverteth his ways, shall be known" (Prov. x. 9). There is none seems to be more exposed to danger than he that is sincere; that is, strictly severe to a godly purpose, that walks uprightly, that stands strictly and precisely upon his duty to God; and yet there is no man usually more safe. But he that turneth and windeth to avoid dangers, and runs to his shifts and studied arts to provide for his own security, usually is left in the mire, and comes off with some notable blemish; he is cast from God's protection. There are but two sorts of men in the world that usually do carry their purpose; they are either those that are perfectly honest throughout, without daubing and warping; or those that are perfectly dishonest, that wholly give up themselves to a course of fraud and sin, that are resolved to boggle at nothing; neither checks of conscience, nor rules of honesty and equity, will stop them. These, in judgment, are permitted to carry their purpose in worldly things. So the plain, downright, upright man, that will not, for fear or favour, step a jot out of God's way, but keep close to God's direction, is the truest and perfectest politician in the world. They that are thus severe to their purpose, will be found the wisest men at length, not only in the world to come, but in this world; for it is our warping, and going out of God's way, that causeth our trouble and confusion of thoughts.
2ndly, The word teacheth us how to give the enemy no advantage and needless provocation. It is not enough to do good, but we must do it well; well timed and well ordered, for every circumstance. Now, God by his word teacheth his people so to do: " Whoso keepeth the commandment, shall feel no evil thing; and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment. Because to every purpose there is time and judgment,