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the only sure heritage for my soul? Urge your heart with such questions as these.
DOCTRINE II.-The taking of God's testimonies for our heritage, breeds joy and rejoicing in the heart.
Now, this joy ariseth partly from the portion itself, partly from the disposition of the saints, and partly from the dispensation of God.
1. From the portion itself. It is a portion that deserves to be rejoiced in, it is so full; and God cannot be possessed without great joy. A man cannot think of a little pelf and worldly riches that is his own, without some comfort; and can a man think of these great things without comfort? Consider both what we have in hand and hope, and still it is matter of joy. In hand, there is a reconciliation with God. Oh! to have God in amity with us! (Rom. v. 1.) If one have but a great man to his friend, it comforts him that he hath such a prop and stay ; oh! but now to have God reconciled! And then, to have the care of Providence, to have God engaged as a father, God caring for us, to be under a promise that he will never fail us till he hath brought us to Heaven! And then, to have Heaven kept for us, those glorious things : " we rejoice in hope of the glory of God :" joy is pitched upon our hopes in many places, something in possession, and something in reversion, this must needs breed a joy in our soul: “ The rejoicing of the hope” (Heb. iii. 6); and, “ Rejoicing in hope” (Rom. xii. 2). A Christian hath cause to rejoice for what he hath in hand; God is at peace with him; he can go to him as a friend, as a God in covenant with him; he is bound to provide for him as a father; and then, at the end of all, a glorious happiness that is to be enjoyed.
2. It ariseth from the disposition of the hearts of God's people; partly from their esteem, their faith, their assurance; they take it for their heritage, they esteem it as their portion, they believe it, and reflect upon their own interest; and all this causeth joy. It comes from their esteem; that which I esteem I will delight in: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be” (Matt. vi. 21). Affection follows esteem, and, above all, the affection of delight. A man may desire a thing that is nothing worth; when he comes to enjoy it, then he slights it. We are not acquainted with the imperfection of all worldly things until we come to enjoy them; but delight, that is an argument of esteem, the choicest affection. And then, it comes from faith. Many hear of such great promises; but they hear like men in a dream ; but now, a believer that hath a piercing sight, that seeth the reality and truth of them, his heart leaps within him. It is said, " These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them" (Heb. xi. 13). When a man is persuaded of the truth, the reality and goodness of the promise, oh! his heart leaps ; they hugged the promises. Here is a promise that will yield glory, Heaven, and bappiness, and all that I stand in need of. Spiritual sight makes way for spiritual persuasion, and spiritual persuasion for holy rejoicing; that is the order. In whom believing, we were filled with joy; faith is the immediate ground; and that is the reason why carnal men do not feel such lively joy, they do not believe it. Then it comes, too, from assurance and reflection upon their own interest, when they can challenge it as theirs, when it is made over to them. The rejoicing of faith is not only good in common, but property is a ground of rejoicing, and delight is nothing but a complacency in our portion; “ David encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (1 Sam. xxx. 6).
3. It comes from the dispensation of God; for, when we esteem the pro
mises and delight in them, then the Lord fills the heart with sweetness : “ The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom. xv. 13). The Lord rewards delight with delight. Thou shalt call the Sab. bath thy delight, in one place; then, presently, Thou shalt delight thyself ; there is the promise. There is a delight and rejoicing that is our duty, and a delight and rejoicing that is God's dispensation. God loves to reward grace with grace. Look, as in a way of judgment he punisheth sin with sin, as when security is punished with sottish obstinacy and hardness of heart, so it is a sweet mercy when grace is rewarded with grace, when our delight in the promises is rewarded with a sweetness and taste of the promises.
Use I.—The portion of God's children and religion is no dark, gloomy thing. The people of God have hidden joys. As the sun shines many times when it rains, so, though they be under affliction, yet they have the shine of God's face, the comfort of God's promises. Let me show the excellency of the spiritual heritage above the carnal. A carnal heritage, alas! that is a poor thing; there is no strong consolation in it. The comforts of wicked men are poor, weak comforts; they cannot comfort us in any affliction, poor things, soon overcome; but to God's people their heritage affords strong consolation, in overcoming worldly lusts, in spoiling the relish of other pleasures, orercoming worldly care and worldly sorrow, in bearing us out in all afflictions; nay, the strength of it is seen in overcoming the terrors of the Lord, death, Hell, judgment to come, the fears and doubts of our own conscience. It will not only swallow up the sense of poverty, disgrace, and affliction, but will bear us out in life and death; they have a joy that will help them to do and suffer the will of the Lord. · When once they have tasted the comforts of God's presence, other things will go down easy. I might press you to look after this rejoicing of heart. It makes much for the glory of God, for the honour of our portion, that we do not repent us of our choice, that we bear up cheerfully. And it is of abundant profit : the joy of the Lord is a Christian's strength; it bears him out in doing for God. To this purpose, you should beware of sin; that is a clouding, darkening thing; men or angels cannot keep their hearts comfortable that sin against God: sin takes away all joy, peace, and the whole strength of men; and an angel cannot make the conscience of a sinner rejoice; therefore the children of God must take heed that they do not allow sin. In Acts ix. 31, they walked “ in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost." Usually, these two go together; and the oil of grace makes way for the oil of gladness, and usually obedience concurs to the establishing of our joy. Above all, look after communion with God; for he is the fountain of joy, and the more communion we have with him, the more we rejoice. The more communion in prayer; when Hannah prayed, she was no more sad (1 Sam. i. 6); prayer hath a paci. fying virtue in it. And then, in the use of the seals, for these are assuring ordinances: now, the more we revive the grounds of assurance, the stronger the consolation; that appears Heb. vi. 18, the Eunuch, when he was baptized, went on his way rejoicing (Acts viii. 39). When a man hath an inheritance made over to him, passed in court, all things done, the title not to be made void, then he goes and rejoiceth; so, when the promises have been confirmed by a solemn ratification, it makes joy. Then meditation and thanksgiving keep this joy alive; thanksgiving gives vent, and meditation, that maintains it.
SERMON CXXIII. VERSE 112.-I have inclined mine heart to perform thy stalules alray,
even unto the end. David did not only feast his soul with comforts, but also minded duty and service. In the former verse, he had professed his comfort and joy, resulting from an interest in the promise; now he expresses the bent of his heart to God's statutes. Ephraim is represented as an heifer that is taught, that would tread out the corn, but not break the clods. It is a fault in Christians when they only delight to hear of privileges, but entertain coldly enforcements of duty and obedience. David was of another temper; first he said, “ Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage;" and then, “ I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end."
In which words, you have all the requisites of God's service.
III. The manner of doing, 1. accurately, “ to perform;" 2. the universality and uniformity, “alway;" 3. constantly, “unto the end.”
First, that which the Psalmist bringeth in evidence for himself is, the frame of his heart: he beginneth there ; not with eyes, or hands, or feet, but “ mine heart." Secondly, this heart is spoken of as inclined, poised, and set, to show his proneness and readiness to serve God; not compelled, but inclined. The heart of man is set between two objects; corruption; inclineth it one way, and grace another; the law of sin on the one side, and the law of grace on the other. When the scales are cast on grace's side, then the heart is inclined to God's statutes : now he saith, “I have inclined.” It is the work of God's Spirit to incline and bend our hearts, as David expresseth himself (verse 36); but it is not unusual in Scripture to ascribe to us what God worketh in us, because of our subservient endeavours to grace, as we pursue the work of God. Certum est nos facere quod facimus, sed Deus facit ut faciamus, saith Augustine. It is our duty to incline our hearts to God's law, which naturally hang sin-ward; but it is God's work. God beginneth by his preventing grace, and the soul obeyeth the impression left upon it: “ Turn thou me, and I shall be turned" (Jer. xxxi. 18). Yea, he still followeth us with his subsequent and co-operating grace: we do but act under him: I inclined my heart after thou hadst filled it with thy Spirit; when I felt the motions of thy grace, my consent followed; preventing grace made me willing, and subsequent grace, that I should not will in vain. Now, what was his heart inclined to ? “ To perform thy statutes;" not to understand them only, or to talk of them, but inclined to perform them, to go through with the work : that is the notion of performing. Rom. vii. 18, “ how to perform” we render katepya sodai; by it to be complete in God's will, to do his utmost therein, this not by fits and starts, but always a continual care and conscience to walk in God's law, not suffering ourselves for any respect to be turned out of the way. Many have good motions by starts, temporize a little, their goodness is like the morning dew: it is thus not for a time, but to the end; a holy inclination while the fit lasteth, is no such great matter, this was to the last. Some stop in the middle of the journey, or faint before they come to the goal; but David held out to the last. Or this is
brought as an evidence of his sincerity: the sum is, a bent of heart carrying him out to perform whatsoever God doth command, all the days of his life. I shall speak of what is most material, and observe this point :
DOCTRINE.—They that would sincerely and thoroughly obey God, must have a heart inclined to his statutes.
Here I shall show,
First, What is this heart inclined? God expects the heart in all the service that we do him: “My son, give me thine heart” (Prov. xxiii. 26); not the ear, or the eyes, or the tongue, but the heart: the most considerable thing in man is his heart, it is terminus actionum ad intra, and fons actionum ad extra. It is the bound of those actions that look inward ; the senses report to the fancy, that to the mind, and the mind counsels the heart: “When wisdom entereth thine heart” (Prov. ii. 10). It is also the well-spring of those actions that look outward to the life (Prov. iv. 23; Matt. xv. 19). You have both these in one place, “Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments and live" (Prov. iv. 4). In taking in, we end with the heart; the statutes of God are never well lodged till they are laid up in the heart: in giving our duty and service, we begin with the heart; we must go so deep, or else all that we do is of no worth: the heart is the spring of motion, that sets all the wheels a-working : “My heart is inditing a good matter, &c., my tongue is the pen of a ready writer” (Psalm xlv. 1), ready to praise God and serve him. When the Prophet would cure the brackishness of the water, he cast salt into the spring. Our heart is blind : “Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God” (1 Chron. xxii. 19). There is a setting and fixing the heart, which is the fruit of grace and ground of obedience.
Ist, It is the fruit of grace: by nature, the heart is averse from God, desireth not to serve or enjoy him. See what the Scripture saith of man's heart : “ The heart of the wicked is little worth" (Prov. x. 20), a sty and nest of unclean birds: “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. vi. 5). The Scripture doth much set out the heart of man; it is foolish, vain, deceitful (Jer. xvii. 9), earthly, unclean, proud. There is a strange beadroll: “Out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness" (Mark vii. 21-23). It was in, or else it would never come out. If a man should vomit nothing but knives, daggers, pistols, and other instruments of destruction, of what a monstrous complexion would you judge that man to be! Oh! no such monster in the world as man's heart! If let alone to its own bent, it would grow worse every day, as putrified flesh grows more noisome every day ; but now, God by his grace giveth a new heart, that hath other dispositions and inclinations, a heart that loveth God, and delights in God, tends to God; a new heart is the great blessing of the covenant (Ezek. xxxvi. 26), a new heart is a new placing of our desires and delights; for by these the heart is known.
2ndly, It is the ground of obedience ; for the heart is the main wheel of the soul, that moveth other things : a bowl is made round, before it runneth round. “Oh! that there were such a heart in them that they would fear me !" (Deut. v. 29.) There must be somewhat to bear up our resolutions. But, more particularly, what is this bent and inclination of heart? And first negatively.
1. It is not a simple approbation of the ways of God. Many go so far as to approve what is good, to condemn themselves for not doing it, to praise others that are holy, can be content that those that are under their power should take to the ways of God, as dissolute parents would hare their children soberly brought up: Video meliora proboque. “The people magnified them” (Acts v. 13), yet durst not join themselves with the disciples of Christ. Saul said unto David, “ Thou art more righteous than I” (1 Sam. xxiv. 17); yet David was fain to go to his hold; as the woman in Luke xi. 27, 28, cried out, “ Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked;" but Christ said, “ Yea, rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it."
2. It is not a bare desire or wish. Many that lire ill, could wish to live well. Balaam had his wishes, but went on in his course (Num. xxii. 10). Some flashes they have; a spark is not enough to set the heart on fire in holy things. In carnal things, it is enough; many such languid motions carnal men have; yea, many cold prayers, that God would make them better ; but, “ The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing," for his hands refuse to labour ; they do not set themselves in good earnest to get that grace they wished for: ‘Would I were at such a place, but never stir a foot; Would I had written such a task,' and never put pen to paper.
3. It is not an hypocritical will; or, as one called it, a copulative will : we would, but with such or such a condition: ‘I would, if it did not cost me so dear; if I were not to mortify lusts, to deny friends, interests, relations.' They would come to the supper; but one had married a wife, another had a yoke of oxen to prove, another had found merchandize (Matt. xxii.). This is no full and perfect will. No doubt but the chap. man would have the wares, but he will not come to the price: a Christian should say, 'I will, whatever it cost me; I will, whatever come of it: “ One thing hare I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after” (Psalm xxvii. 4).
Secondly, positively. Then is the heart inclined,
1. When the judgment determineth for God, and comes to a full decree about obedience to him. Paul exhorteth them, “that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (Acts xi. 23); that is the fruit of conversion: not a little liking or hovering, or faint resolution ; but a full purpose, an absolute, positive decree in the will, to own God and his ways whatever it cost us, a full consent to the duty of the covenant.
2. When the will is poised and swayed with love and delight, and the heart is made suitable to obedience: “I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart” (Psalm xl. 8). Many times the law of God is written in the mind ; many have good apprehensions, but the will is not swayed, bent this way : amor meus est pondus meum, eo feror quocunque feror: when there is a natural inclination.
3. When this bent of will is seconded with constant endeavours to attain what we resolve upon, and there is a continual striving to make good the articles of our perfect resignation or first surrender of ourselves to God: “I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ'' (Phil. ii. 12). God taketh hold of us by his grace, and