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of his own, and that was his undoing. Take heed of this fleshly wisdom; " In simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom” (2 Cor. i. 12). The more simple and plain a Christian walks according to the direct letter of the Scripture, the more safe he is; but, when he doth runr to those baser courses, merely out of distrust to God, all things come to ruin. Carpal policy never succeeds well with the children of God; never did a Christian thrive by carnal policy, or using carnal fetches for carnal ends; God crosseth them. A man that will walk by the light of his own fire, is sure to be led out of the way of peace and happiness. When they forsake the light of God's word and Spirit, and follow a false light, they run into sorrow and inconvenience; and therefore weaker Christians are sometimes safer than those of stronger parts, that lean to their own understandings, and trust to carnal policy.
USE II.- To prize the Scriptures, because of this wisdom that is to be gotten in them. A very poor creature, that walks in the fear of God, is wise to avoid the chiefest danger, to secure the greatest interest, to aroid Hell beneath (Prov. xv. 24). That wisdom bath escaped the greatest danger, the wrath of God; and made sure of Heaven, Christ, and salvation, his great interest. He that gives up himself to be governed by God's word, though never so plain and simple, will be found to be the wisest man in the issue. “ Thy testimonies also are my delight, and my counsellors" (Psalm cxix. 24). When God's testimonies are the men of our counsel, this is that which will give true wisdom. All things in this world are mutable and uncertain, they continue not long; we cannot foresee all changes; therefore a wise man may be mistaken sometimes, and do things he could wish were never done, if he had consulted with God: therefore now be wise; this will tell you when to act, and when to forbear; not to be over wise, nor over foolish.
USE III.-To get this wisdom from the word of God, that will make you wiser than your adversaries : “ Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom, and with all thy getting, get understanding" (Prov. iv. 7). There are some maxims (if we would have this wisdom so as to be wiser than our enemies) and some graces. First, some maxims.
1. Season the heart with this principle, that it concerns you to secure your interest in Christ, rather than the world (Matt. vi. 34; Luke xiv. 26).
2. That we should not be solicitous about events so much as duty, or about dangers so much as sin (1 Chron. xix. 13; 2 Tim. iv. 17, 18).
3. That in a way of duty it is better to depend upon Christ's care over us, without using any carnal reaches to secure ourselves (1 Peter v. 7; 1 Peter iv. 19).
4. All which befalls the people of God, is either good, or tends to good, (Rom. viii. 28).
5. That, when deliverance is more for our turn than bondage, yokes, and oppression, we shall be sure to have it: God hath engaged himself by covenant, that he will withhold no good thing (Psalm xxxiv. 10).
6. Close adherence to God, and constancy in obedience, is the surest way to present ease and future deliverance (Psalm cxxv. 3).
7. It is better to attend God's leisure, than to get out of trouble by any carnal means of our own (Isa. xxxviii. 15).
8. No man can be a loser by God, though he suffers never so much for him (Rom. viii. 18; 2 Cor. iv. 17).
9. Then is our adversary wiser than we, when his opposition draws us to sin; then and then only are we foiled by our adversary.
Secondly, There are some graces also make us wise.
1. To this wisdon faith is necessary. If we could but depend upon God in a good, plain, downright course, we should not run to shifts, nor change ourselves into all shapes and colours, cameleonlike (unless it be white); but you would support yourselves with this, that he would maintain you and bear you out.
2. Fear of God, which makes us tender of spirit, that we dare not offend God, nor break a rule, for all the world; he fears a commandment more than a thousand dangers : “He that fears the commandment, shall be safe from fear of danger” (Prov. xiii. 13). If a commandment stand in his way, he dares not go through; it is more than if all the terrors of the world stand in his way; he will endure all hazards, rather than break through a command.
SERMON CV. VERSE 99.--I have more understanding than all my teachers ; for thy
testimonies are my meditation. David had spoken of his affection to the word of God, and then mentioned one special ground thereof, which was the wisdom that he got thereby. Now, this wisdom is amplified, by comparing it with the wisdom of others. Three sorts of men he mentioneth, enemies, teachers, ancients: the enemies excel in policy, teachers in doctrine, and ancients in counsel; and yet by the word was David made wiser than all these. Malice sharpens the wit of enemies, and teacheth them the arts of opposition; teachers are furnished with learning; but ancients, they grow wise by experience: yet David, by the study of the word, excelled all these. In the text, we may observe two things :
1. David's assertion concerning his profiting by the word of God, “I have more understanding than all my teachers.”
2. The reason taken from his diligent use of the means, “For thy testimonies are my meditation.” .
For the first of these, “I have more understanding than all my teachers." To clear the words,
1. It is certain that he speaks not this of his extraordinary revelations as a Prophet, but of that wisdom which he got by ordinary means. The holy men of God in the Old Testament considered as prophets, so they had extraordinary visions and revelations. Now, David speaks of that kind of knowledge got by the ordinary means, not those special revelations made to the prophets; for he renders the reason of it, “ Thy testimonies are my meditation."
2. It is certain he speaks not this by way of boasting; for this is a psalm of instruction, not a history or narrative. Now, the children of God would not commend their failings to the imitation of others; and this which David speaks is rendered as a reason of his respect; by the word, he got wisdom above his teachers, enemies, and ancients.
Briefly, the intent and use of this assertion will be known, by considering the quality of these teachers here mentioned: you may look upon them, either (1.) As faulty or defective in their duty, or (2.) As performing their duty. In both these notions, David was wiser than they, or a man of a better understanding.
(1.) If you look upon them under a diminishing notion. So some would understand it thus, that those which instructed him in human learning and civil discipline, had not understanding as he that meditated in God's testimonies. If this were the sense, there is no boasting, but only comparing knowledge with knowledge, the knowledge of the word with the knowledge of ordinary sciences; and it gives us this lesson, that the great sages of the world that do excel in secular wisdom, are but fools to a child of God. They know the secrets of nature, and he knows the God of nature; they dispute about the chiefest good, and he enjoys it; they know the use of natural things, and he knoweth the use of spiritual. This wisdom and skill in outward things, compared with the fear of God, is but vanity; and the wisest man must become a fool, that he may be wise with this kind of wisdom (1 Cor. iii. 18).
(2.) You may look upon them as corrupt and sinful. In those days of Saul, the teachers might be corrupt as well as other ranks and orders of men; and then it only implies this, that God gives greater understanding to his people than to their corrupt guides: “Wo unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered" (Luke xi. 52). The expounders of the law were corrupt, and hindered others from entering into the kingdom of God: it is a great evil, when the church of God is given up to such kind of guides. But now, in such a case, they that make con. science of God's ordinances, use private means with diligence, have more understanding than their teachers. “The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses's seat. All therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works : for they say, and do not" (Matt. xxiii. 2, 3). Though they were nought and corrupt themselves, yet, if they bring God's message, it should not be slighted, because of the office and lawful authority with which they are invested, though not every way qualified for their station; and in this sense a child of God may be wiser than his teachers.
(3.) We may look upon them as contenting themselves with the naked theory of God's law, without making conscience of practice; that they were such kind of guides that never tasted themselves what they commended to others, or practised what they taught : then, “I have more understanding than all my teachers." He that excels in practice, he hath the best understanding. Practical knowledge is to be preferred before speculative, as much as ihe end is to be preferred before the means; the end is more noble than the means : now, speculative knowledge is the means to the end : “A good understanding have all they that do his commandments” (Psalm ii. 10): not only know what is to be done, but do what is to be known. As for others, whatever light they seem to have, they have not wisdom and understanding: “Lo, they have rejected the word of the Lord ; and what wisdom is in them ?” (Jer. viii. 9.) They were boasting of the knowledge of the law, yet there was no wisdom in them. A mean Christian, that fears God, is a man of more understanding than he that hath a great deal of head-light; and in this sense may it be well said, the children of God are wiser than their teachers. Many times those that are unlearned, rise up and take Heaven by violence; when others, by all their literal and speculative knowledge, are thrust down to Hell.
Suppose it spoken no way in diminution to these teachers, but that they did their duty.
(4.) Some comment thus, that David had more understanding than all his teachers which taught him the first rudiments of religion: that he transcended them by far, by God's blessing, in making further progress in this kind of knowledge. If this were the sense, it would teach us not always to keep to our milk, and to the first principles of religion, but to wade further and further into these mysteries (Heb. v. 12, 13). We should go on still, and grow up to a greater fulness in knowledge, according as we have more means and advantages. But this is not the sense; for he saith, “ than all my teachers.” Why, then, take it for his godly teachers, that were every way qualified; and it is no new thing for a scholar to exceed his master, and Christians of a private station, many times, to excel those that are in office. Look, as in secular things among the Heathens, Aristotle was wiser than Plato his master, and opposed him in many things; therefore is called an ass's colt, that, as soon as he was full with the dam's milk, kicks her; he forgot that he was his father (we should, if we can, exceed our teachers, but not despise them); and Daniel (i. 20) was wiser in civil arts than all his teachers; so also it is true as to holy things : Jesus Christ, at twelve years of age, puzzled the doctors; Eli brought up Samuel in the fear of God, but he proved wiser than Eli; Paul, brought up at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts xxii. 3), proved a more notable instrument of God's glory; and Austin was taught by Ambrose, but grew afterwards more eminent than he. Thus David was wiser than his teachers, and yet they might be faithful and holy. Now, he mentions this, partly, to commend the Lord's grace, ' Thou hast made me wiser than my teachers ;' and partly, to commend meditation in the word, the means by which he got it; not to boast of his own attainments, but to commend grace, and commend the means of grace, to others.
What may we observe from this assertion of David, 'I am wiser than my teachers ?
Ist, The freeness of God's grace in making a difference between men and men, as to measures and degrees of knowledge: “ Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive ?” (1 Cor. iv. 7.) Some have more, and some less, understanding; and all is as God gives out. There is not only a difference between men and men, as to the great distinction of election and reprobation; but within the sphere of election, as to measures of grace. God manifests himself to some more than others; they are admitted to this favour, to see more than others into the mind of God. Though they have the same teacher, God's Spirit; the same rule and direction, God's word; the same principles of grace; yet they have greater measures of knowledge: the reasons lie in God's bosom and grace. Now, this should be noted, that those which excel should be kept humble, as being more indebted to grace than others are ; and surely none should be proud because more in debt; and that those who are excelled might submit, and be contented to be outshined : “ He must increase, but I must decrease” (John iii. 30). It should be a rejoicing to them that God is likely to be glorified more by others; especially teachers should rejoice that God should give such a blessing to the ministry, that they which seem to be under them, should see more than they. When those two quarrelling pronouns, meum and tuum, mine and thine, have no more use, as in Heaven, then we shall fully rejoice in one another's gifts and graces; and what they enjoy, it will be our comfort. As, in a choir of voices, one sings the treble, another the bass; they are refreshed, and every one delights, not only in his own part and performance, but in the part of each other, all concurs to the harmony; so one bath this measure of grace, another another, and all concur to the glory of God.
2ndly, Not only the freeness of God's grace in giving wisdom to one more than to another, but observe also the sovereiguty of God's distribution. The treasures of grace are at his free disposing; and he will not be tied to any order. He gives to every one that measure of understanding which he sees fit. Indeed, his ordinary course is to bless the teachers of his people with an increase of knowledge: for he hath promised a more especial presence with the public gift than with the private: “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. xxviii. 20). Yet many times private believers excel their godly teachers in wisdom and piety. Wisdom is not so tied to the teachers, but that God is free to the giving as much, nay more, to those that are taught. Though the general course is in the ordinary way, that teachers should know more than the taught, yet God sometimes doth work extraordinarily, to show his prerogative and absolute sovereignty; and things revealed to babes may be hid from the wise and prudent, to show that it is at his disposing to hide and manifest as he pleaseth.
3rdly, The equity and proportion that he observes in the dispensation of his sovereignty, for David ascribes it to God; but observes, that this came to him as a blessing upon the use of means, “For thy testimonies are my meditation.” God gives knowledge to whom he pleaseth ; but those that meditate most, thrive most.
There are three sorts of meditation, 1. Of observation; 2. Of study and search ; 3. Of consideration, or inculcative application; and all these conduce to make us wise.
1. There is a meditation of observation. When a man compares the word and providence, and is still taking notice how such a promise is accomplished, such a threatening made good, this man will grow more wise and more understanding than others. “Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Psalm cvii. 43); that is, he that is comparing the prediction and event, God's proceedings either in justice or mercy according to his word, how he doth punish and reward his people, and what visible comments his works are upon his word,-he hath a clearer discerning than others; and they will see more cause to adhere to God, and yield him more faithful obedience, than others.
2. There is the meditation of study and search; they that are inquiring into the word of God, to find out his mind: “Be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Eph. v. 17). They that exercise themselves in the word to find out his mind, shall have more of his blessing than those that rest in hearing and reading: “For with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you; and unto you that hear, shall more be given” (Mark iv. 24). It is spoken of measuring to God in ordinances; as we measure to God in the use of means, so the Lord will measure out to us in his blessing, and the influence of his grace.
3. There is a meditation of consideration; when we consider that which