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him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John i. iv). All life is of God, especially that life which is light. The reasonable soul and the natural faculty of understanding come from him; and, if it be disordered, as it is by sin, it must be by him restored and rectified : it is all God's gift. Now, man is fallen from that light of life wherein he was created : his maker must be his mender, he must go to “ the Father of lights” (James i. 17) to have his light cleared, and his understanding freed from those mistakes and errors wherewith it was obscured. All knowledge is from God, much more saving grace, or a sound knowledge of the mysteries of the Gospel. Many Scriptures speak to this : “ There is a spirit in man; and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding” (Job xxxii. 8). Though the dial be right set, yet it showeth not the time of the day, except the sun shineth; so the spirit of man will grope and fumble in the clearest cases, without a Divine irradiation. God enlighteneth the mind, directeth the judgment, giveth understanding what to do or say: so he challengeth it as his prerogative: “Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts, or who hath given understanding to the heart?” (Job xxxviii. 36.) The exercise of the outward senses is from God, who gives the seeing eye, the hearing ear, much more the right exercise of the internal faculties; an understanding heart is much more from the Lord : “ The Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding” (Prov. ii. 6); “He giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding” (Dan, ii. 21). Certainly, all true wisdom is from above: “The wisdom that is from above is first pure,”' &c. (James iii, 17): he distinguisheth there between the wisdom that is not from above, and that which is from above. Man hath so much wisdom yet left as to cater for the body and the concernments of the bodily life, (called “thine own wisdom," Prov. xxiii. 4): therefore he saith, “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish” (verse 15): but, for wisdom that concerneth the other world and our everlasting concernments, that is of God, that is “ from above," the wisdom that is exercised in pure, peaceable, fruitful, self-denying obedience. All that have any of this wisdom, should acknowledge God; and all that would have it, should depend upon him, and run to the fountain where enough is to be had. Man's wit is but borrowed, and he holdeth it of God. Vitia etiam sine magistro discuntur : he needeth no teacher in what is evil and carnal; but in what is holy and spiritual, he lieedeth it.
2. It is a singular favour to them on whom God bestoweth this heavenly wisdom, and so puts a difference between them and others. It is a greater sign of friendship and respect to them, than if God had given them all the world. “It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given” (Mark xiji. 1). This is no common benefit, but a favour which God reserveth for his peculiar people: so, " I have called you friends ; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you" (John xv. 15). That is the highest argument of friendship ; not to give you wealth, and honour, and greatness, but to give you an enlightened mind and a renewed heart. God may give honour, and greatness, and a worldly estate, in judgment, as beasts fatted for destruction, may be put into large pastures; but he doth not teach his statutes in judgment: it is a favour, though he useth a sharper discipline in teaching : “ Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, O Lord, and teachest him out of thy law” (Psalm xciv. 12). If God will teach his child not only by the word, but by the rod, and useth a sharp discipline to instruct in the lesson of Christianity, it is a greater favour than if God did let him alone, and suffer him to perish with the wicked in his wrath. The prosperity of wicked men is so far from being a felicity to them, that it is rather the greatest judgment; and to be punished and rebuked by God for all that we do amiss, and thereby to be reduced to the sense and practice of our duty, is indeed the greatest favour and mercy of God, and so the most valuable felicity, and evidence of God's tender care over us: so, “Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways, for the froward is but abomination to the Lord : his secret is with the righteous" (Prov. iii. 31, 32). You are depressed and kept bare and low; but your adversaries flourish and grow insolent: you cannot therefore say, God hateth you, or God loveth them. If the Lord hath given you the saving knowledge of himself and his Christ, and only given them worldly happiness, it is a great token of his love to you, and hatred to them, that you need not envy them, for you are dignified with the higher privilege.
3. Prayer is the appointed means to obtain it. There are other means by which God conveyeth this heavenly wisdom, as by study and search. Dig for wisdom as for silver, and for understanding as hid treasures (Prov. ii. 4): dig in the mines of knowledge. Attend upon the word which is able to make us wise unto salvation : "Take heed what ye hear : with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you; and unto you that hear, shall more be given” (Mark iv. 24). But all are sanctified by prayer: cry for knowledge, and lift up thy voice for understanding (Pror. ii. 3). Bene orasse est bene studuisse, saith Luther: so to pray well is to hear aright. God giveth understanding by the ministry of the word ; but he will be sought unto and acknowledged in the gift ; otherwise we make an idol of our own understanding : “ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Prov. iii. 5, 6). Let us not make a god of our own wisdom; do not seek it in the means without prayer to the Lord : let not us study without prayer, nor you hear without prayer, nor go about any business in your general and particular callings without prayer.
PROPOSITION II.—This benefit cannot be too often, nor too sufficiently, asked of God.
1. Because of our want: we never know so much, but we may know more, of God's mind; and know it better, and to better purpose. To know things as we ought to know them, is the great gift: “If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Cor. viii. 2): that we may be more sanctified, more prudent, and orderly in governing our hearts and lives; that we may know things seasonably, when they concern us, in any special business and temptation, “He that trusteth in his own heart, is a fool; but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered” (Prov. xxviii. 26): that is, be that followeth his own conceit, soon falleth into a snare: he that maketh his bosom his oracle, and his own wit his counsel, thinks himself wise enough ; without daily seeking to God to order his own business, never succeedeth well, but plungeth himself into manifold inconveniences.
3. From God's manner of giving, he is not weary and tired with constant suppliants: “ If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him"
(James i. 5). The throne of grace lieth always open; the oftener we frequent it, the more welcome. We frown upon one that often troubleth us with his suits; but it is not so with God: we may beg and beg again.
3. The value of the benefit itself. Saving knowledge, or the light of the Spirit, keepeth alive the work of grace in our hearts. Habitual graces will soon wither and decay, without a continual influence : the increase of sanctification cometh into the soul by the increase of saving knowledge: “ Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Pet. i. 2). The more we grow thriving in knowledge, the more we grow in grace, and the heart and life are more engaged. As we learn somewhat more of God in Christ, our awe and love to him are increased : “Ye have not so learned Christ, if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus” (Eph. iv. 20, 21); that is, if ye are taught and instructed by Christ himself in the truth. It is not every sort of hearing Christ, or knowledge, which will do us good. Many learn him, and know him, who abuse that knowledge which they have of him ; but, if he effectually teach us by his Spirit, then our knowledge is practical and operative: we shall practise what we know, be careful to please God in all things.
4. From the temper of a gracious heart. A taste of this knowledge will make us desire a further supply, that we may be taught more, and the soul may be more sanctified: therefore doth David deal with God for the increase of saving knowledge. We are contented with a little taste of heavenly doctrine; but holy men are not so: show me thy mind, let me see thy glory (Exod. xxxiii, 18); “ Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord" (Hos. vi. 3). They are for growth as well as truth : they experimentally know how good God is; and the more they know him, the more they see their ignorance, and that there is more behind to be known of him. Before, they had but a flying report of him ; now, they are acquainted with him, and have a nearer inspection into his ways; and this is but little in comparison of what they desire. We are bidden to“ grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" (2 Pet. iii. 18). Present measures do not satisfy them : they must grow in knowledge, as well as grow in grace; more love to Christ, more delight in his ways.
PROPOSITION III.-In asking any spiritual gift, we are encouraged by the bounty and mercy of God: David signifieth buth.
1. His bounty or benignity, or that free inclination which is in God to do good to his creatures.
2. His mercy respects the creature as affected with any misery. Mercy, properly, is a proneness to succour and relieve a man in misery, notwithstanding sin. Now, the larger thoughts of mercy, the more hope; partly because we have no plea of merit, and therefore mercy is the fountain of all the good which cometh to us from God. We cannot come to him as a debtor, and therefore we must come to him as a free benefactor. Wherewith can we oblige God? We have nothing to give to him but what is his own already, and was first received from him : “ All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee" (1 Chron. xxix. 14): we pay the great Governor of the world out of his own exchequer. The Apostle maketh the challenge : “ Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" (Rom. xi. 35.) The sun oweth nothing to the beam, but the beam all to the sun; the fountain oweth nothing to the VOL. II.
stream, but the stream hath all from the fountain : so we have all from God, can bring nothing to him which was not his before, and came from him. Partly because there is a contrary merit, an ill deserving upon us, for which he might deny us any further mercies: “Good and upright is the Lord : therefore will he teach sinners in the way" (Psalm xxv. 8). If the sinner be weary of his wandering, and would be directed of the Lord for the time to come, God is upright, he will not mislead us; and he is good, will readily lead us in a right path. Sin shall not obstruct our mercies, and therefore must not keep the penitent supplicant back from confidence to be heard in his prayer, when he would be directed in the ready way to happiness. You would fain be reduced to a good life after all your straying, humbly lay yourselves at God's feet: “We have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings : let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel ; peradventure, he will save thy life” (1 Kings xx. 31). If God were most tenacious, we have cause to beat his ears continually with our suits and supplications, such is our want; but he is good, and ready to guide poor creatures; nay, he is merciful; and former sins shall be no obstruction to us, if at length we are willing to return to our duty.
PROPOSITION IV.-The universal experience of the world possesseth all men's minds with this apprehension, that God is a merciful God. “The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy:" the world and everything therein set forth his goodness to us. The same is said in other places : “ The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord” (Psalm xxxiii. 5). If earth, what is Heaven? “His tender mercies are over all his works” (Psalm cxlv. 9).
1. Let us see that every creature is a monument and witness of God's mercy and goodness; things animate and inanimate: the heavens and earth, and all things contained therein, declare that there is a powerful, wise, and good God. There is no part of the world that we can set our eyes upon, but it speaketh praise to God, and the thoughts of his bounty to the creatures, especially to man; for all things were either subjected to man's dominion, or created for his use and benefit. If we look to the heavens, all serveth for the use and benefit of mankind : “ When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalm viii. 3, 4.) The lowest heaven affordeth us breath, winds, rain ; the middle, or second heaven, affordeth us heat, light, influence; and the third Heaven, an eternal habitation, if we serve God. In earth, all the things daily in our view speak to God's praise, if we had the leisure to hear them: these creatures and works of his that are daily in our view, represent him as a merciful God. This is the lesson which is most legible in them, whether we sit at home in our houses or go abroad, and consider land or water. Go to the animate creatures, the beasts of the field : “ Thou preservest man and beast” (Psalm xxxvi. 6); “But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these, that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this ?" (Job. xii. 7-9.) His providence reacheth to an innumerable mul. titude of creatures, giving them life and motion, and sustaining them, and relieving their necessities; and doth largely bestow his blessing upon them
according to their nature and condition. And this goodness of God shineth forth in all his creatures; not only in what he doth to them themselves, but in what he doth about them for man's sake. They were defiled with man's sin ; and therefore he might in justice have abolished them, or made them useless to man, or instruments of his grief; but they are continued for our comfort, that we might live in a well-furnished world. Now come to man himself, good, bad, wicked, godly : his sun shineth, his rain falleth on the evil and good, just and unjust (Matt. v. 45): great mercy is still continued to the fallen creature, even to the impenitent: “ Nevertheless, he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from Heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness" (Acts xiv. 17). What was God's witness? 'Ayatotorūv, he doth good : much patience is used; men's lives continued while they sin, and means vouchsafed for their reclaiming: food, raiment, friends, habitations, health, ease, liberty, afforded to them; and all to show that we have to do with a most merciful God, who is willing to be reconciled to the sinning creature. Go to the godly, and what is all their experience but a constant course of mercy ? David's admiration declares it: “How precious also are thy thoughts to me, O Lord! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand” (Psalm cxxxix. 17, 18): he was in a maze, when he thought of the various dispensations of God's providence: there was no getting out. The Lord filleth up his servants' lives with great and various mercies, eren in their warfare and pilgrimage here in this world; abundance of invaluable mercies, that, if we do but consider what we do receive, we must needs be confirmed in this truth by our own senses. Everything is a mercy to a vessel of mercy.
4. Wherein God expresseth his merey to them in creation and provi. dence.
(1.) In creating them : it was great mercy, that, being infinitely perfect in himself from all eternity, and so not needing anything, he took the creatures out of nothing, which therefore could merit nothing, and communicated his goodness to them: “ For thy pleasure they are, and were created” (Rev. iv, JU).
(2.) In preserving and continuing them so long as he seeth good. The heavens continue, according to his ordinance; the beasts, and fowls, and fishes, continue, according to his pleasure : all the living creatures need many things for their daily sustentation, which their Creator abundantly supplieth to them; and therefore the whole earth is full of his mercy. One creature the Scripture taketh notice of : “Consider the ravens ;' for “God feedeth them” (Luke x. 24); and again, “ Who provideth for the raven his food? when his young ones cry unto God, they wander for lack of meat" (Job xxxviii. 41); and, “ He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry" (Psalm cxlvii. 9). Why is the raven made such an instance of Providence above other fowls, or other living creatures? Some say it is animal sibi rapacissimum ; others, other things: tås veotec Šmißá lei, casts its young out of the nest as soon as they are able to fly, and put to hard shifts for themselves. All this showeth his mercy, how ready he is to supply the miserable.
PROPOSITION V.-His goodness to all the creatures should confirm his people in hoping for saving grace, or spiritual good things. Why, all