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the one and preserve the other. David prayeth, “ Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men” (Psalm xxvi. 9); that God would not lay him common with the wicked. God hath his harvest for cutting down, for cutting and binding together those that sinned. Now, David prayeth, that he, that had severed himself in his course of life, might not be gathered with them in their punishment. God will distinguish; bis judgments are for the destruction of the worser sort, and the amendment of the better. When he severeth the dross, he hath a care of . the silver. Though never so terrible to the wicked, still he will be comfortable to his own : “ The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished” (2 Peter ii. 9). His own jewel, that lieth hidden among them: when all is shaken round about them, God can hide them in the secret of his presence and preserve them, as he did Lot and Noah. His own are wonderfully preserved in common judgments : several Scriptures speak to this : “Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, &c.; but it shall not be well with the wicked” (Eccl. viii. 12, 13); and, “Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites and the Hittites” (Josh. iii. 10); “ Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him ; for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Wo unto the wicked! it shall be ill with him ; for the reward of his hands shall be given him" (Isa. iii. 10, 11). God will make a difference between good and bad.
USE II.—That a few wicked men may bring a great deal of hurt and mischief, as Achan upon Israel; two dry sticks may set a green one on fire, as the whole metal is melted that the dross may be severed.
USE III.-All judgments on the visible church are to sever the dross from the gold: God suffereth them a while to be mingled, and then come trying judgments to separate the one from the other; which is a comfort to us, the church is the purer for these judgments : " And I will turn my hand upon thee, and surely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin” (Isa. i. 25). So, “ And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver ; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Mal. ii. 3). He will send such judgments as will destroy the incorrigible wicked ones and purify the rest. It is a comfort against persecutions: we murmur under them, know not how they shall be turned away; God, who is the purger of his church, will find out some way. And it is a comfort under his judgments; they are not to destroy, but to purge; God intendeth only our purging, how hot soever the furnace be; therefore let God alone with his work.
USE IV.-Is to teach us to wait upon God in the way of his judgments. He is putting away the wicked of the earth like dross: it is not only a work that he hath done, or will hereafter do; but he is always doing of it. We should observe how God hath already done it ; and so, by faith, we should look upon him as still about it. First, he beginneth with his people, he is purging away of their wickedness : “ By this, therefore, shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged” (Isa. xxvü. 9). But many shall cleave to them by flatteries: “ And some of them of understanding shall fall, to try them and to purge, and to make them white" (Dan. xi. 35). Now, when God hath employed wicked men to fan and purge his people, then their turn cometh next : “For, lo, I begin to bring evil on the city which is
called by my name, and should ye be utterly unpunished ? Ye shall not be unpunished; for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth" (Jer. xxix. 19). If punishment “ begin at the house of God," “where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Peter iv. 17, 18.) “ Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth, much more the wicked and the sinner” (Prov. xi. 31). When the Lord hath performed his work upon Mount Zion and Jerusalem, then he will reckon with his enemies: he beginneth with his church, and maketh an end with their enemies : his enemies drink the dregs of the cup, and their end must needs be unspeakably terrible.
Use V.-Let us see we be not put away like dross, when God's judgments are abroad in the earth : “ We are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Cor. xi. 32). We shall put that out of the question, if we do two things: first, if we be faithful to God, and cleare to God's people, truth, and interest, how great soever our trials be: “ All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant” (Psalm xliv, 17). To consume in the melting, is the property of dross; but the pure metal is the more united, and cleaveth together the more closely. Secondly, if you are refined by all these trials : “ By this shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged" (Isa. xxvii. 9). A Christian loseth nothing by his afflictions, but sin; which is better parted with than kept.
We come now to the second branch of the text, and that is the effect it had upon David's heart, " Therefore I love thy testimonies.” This use he made of all God's judgments.
DOCTRINE.- A gracious heart that observeth the providence of God, and the course of his judicial dispensations, will find more cause to love the word of God, than ever before.
1. Because thereby he hath sensible experience of the truth of it. God's providence is a comment upon his word; the effect is answerable to the prediction, and the word that God hath said is fulfilled to a tittle. Now, the more confirmation the word receiveth, the more is affection increased. The Apostle telleth us, that “the word spoken by angels was steadfast" because “every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward” (Heb. ii. 2): the punishment of the transgressors of the law was a proof of God's authorising their doctrine; the same law, made formerly, is valid. We see the word doth not threaten in vain, and they that slight it smart for it. Now, I see the word of God is to be valued; for God will make it good, even to a tittle.
2. Because, if we love not the word, we may see great danger likely to ensue: even those terrible punishments by which he purgeth out the dross, should make us fall in love with God's law. If we would not perish with the wicked of the earth, we should not sin with the wicked of the earth; if we partake of their sins, we must partake of their plagues : “ Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little : blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Psalm ii. 12). When we see the danger of being enemies to God or unsound with him, we have need to learn this wisdom of showing all affection and reverence and respect to Christ and his ways, and submit to him heartily; there is no safety in any other course. If a spark of his wrath light upon us, how soon will it consume us! The stupid world regardeth not this, to love his ways the more God giveth out proofs of his
anger against those that despise them. Many are cut off in the mid-way, sooner than they did or could expect; and yet they do not grow one jot the wiser. It is dangerous to stand out against God, his cause, work, or people.
3. It doth endear the mercy of God to us; because he hath dealt otherwise with us, who in strict justice have deserved the same. God's judgments on the wicked, commend his mercies to his children. The vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, serve to show the greater love of God to the vessels of mercy (Rom. ix. 23); the torments of Hell inflicted on the wicked, do the more set forth his love to the saints, to whom he hath appointed the joys of Heaven. So the severity of God in his present judgments, doth imply the love of God to his chosen people, who can take comfort in the promises when the threatenings are accomplished upon others; this might have been our condition too, but that grace hath made the difference. Well then, as it doth endear the mercy of God to us, so it calleth upon us more highly to love and prize him and his word, because of this distinction.
4. It is not only a means to set off the love of God to us; but even his judgments upon others may be a necessary act of love to us. They are purged out as dross, that they may not infect us by their example, or molest us by their persecutions or oppressions. Now, the more we are befriended in this kind, the more we are bound to serve God cheerfully : “ That we, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life" (Luke i. 74, 75). The world is one of those enemies, or the wicked of the earth; therefore we should serve him faithfully.
5. By this means we see the world is governed by God, and we may the more safely commit ourselves to his protection upon the encouragement of his promises. If the affairs of the world were governed by blind chance, and men might do what they listed without check and control, we might think that we had cleansed our hearts in vain, and that a man doth make himself a prey by the simplicity of his innocence. But, when God punisheth the wicked in our sight, certainly this should teach us to be more holy in all our ways. A man shall say, “ Verily, there is a reward for the righteous; verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth” (Psalm lviii. 11). They that knew not what to think of providence, shall see there is a God in the heavens that doth wisely administer all things below; and so we are encouraged to love him and serve him more heartily. Say as the Psalmist, “ It is good for me to draw near to God” (Psalm lxxüi. 28).
USE.—Well then, let our love to God, and liking and approbation of his law, be accompanied with the hatred of sin. The more we observe his judgments in putting away the wicked like dross, that we may be more holy and seek after communion with God, as our only blessedness. To this end,
1. Let us bless God for giving a sure rule to walk by, and such promises of protection in the midst of the darkness and uncertainty of the present world. When others perish, you are safe : “ To the law and to the testimony," &c. (Isa. viii. 20.) Thou shalt walk in this way safely, and shalt not stumble; yea, please God, and you need not fear.
2. Let us walk exactly by this rule, since our temporal and eternal safety and happiness is concerned thereby. For the world to come, it is clear, as well as in this life: “My son, forget not my law; but let thine
heart keep my commandments; for length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add unto thee” (Prov. iii. 1, 2); and, “ As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them and mercy" (Gal. vi. 16).
3. The more God doth own his law by his judgments, the more let our love be increased. This is to wash our feet in the blood of the wicked: “ The righteous shall rejoice, when he seeth the vengeance : he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked" (Psalm xxxviii. 10).
SERMON CXXXI. Verse 120.— Uy flesh trembleth for fear of thee ; and I am afraid
of thy judgments. In this psalm, you find the man of God under divers passions ; sometimes of joy, sometimes of sorrow, sometimes of hope and courage, and sometimes of fear. As there is a time for all things in this world, there are several conditions and duties that we run through, and we have affec. tions planted in us that suit with every condition. Religion doth not nullify, but sanctify, our affections. Some have vainly thought affections to be an after-growth of noisome weeds in our nature corrupted; whereas they are wholesome herbs, implanted in us by God at our first creation, of great use to grace when rightly stirred and ordered: Anima nunquam melius agit, fc. The passion expressed in thotext is fear. For two or three verses, his meditations had been taken up in the observation of God's judgments upon evil-doers: “ Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes; for their deceit is falsehood” (verse 118). They were once high; but God hath brought them down with ignominy and contempt: they had borne themselves out in their sinful courses on the account of their prosperity ; but at length they are utterly ruined and broken. And why? For their deceit is falsehood; that is, they were unmasked, and all their pretences of piety and justice found to be fraud and imposture. In verse 119, he still insisteth upon the same argument, “ Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross; therefore I love thy testimonies." They seemed to cleare to the church and people of God as dross to gold or silver. That God who is the purger and refiner of his church, failed not to put a difference, and to consume the dross, and refine his silver. The use that David made of these judgments, was twofold:- First, To love God's ways so much the more, and to cleave to them with greater firmness, “ Therefore I love thy testimonies.” Secondly, To fear before the Lord, and tremble at the Lord's judgments, as in the text. There are two affections wherein we should always seek to profit, the love of God and the fear of God. Of this last in the text, “My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments.” In which words we have,
1. The degree of his fear, “ My flesh trembleth.” 2. The object of his fear, “For fear of thee." 3. The ground and reason of his fear, “ I am afraid of thy judgments."
Ist, The degree of his fear, “My flesh trembleth." The word samar Saint Jerome rendereth, Horrivilavit caro mea; my flesh is in horror and affrightment. Symmachus before him, Op+07pxẽ ảrò T8 có 3 m gáp Mx; my flesh maketh my hair stand on end, as the prickles of a hedgehog, which is an emblem of horror. The poet Persius expresseth such an affrightment thus, Excussit membris tremor albus aristas ; my fear
made my hair stand up like a field of corn, from the contraction of the skin. So it happeneth in cases of fear. You have the like expression Job iv. 14, 15: “Fear came upon me, and trembling, which made all my bones to shake, &c.; the hair of my flesh stood up." And elsewhere the same word is so used; the Septuagint read it imperatively, Kal“Awgevék TË póßo tas sapkás ue, áró yàp Tūv xpquátwv os èpoßh3nv, pierce through my flesh with fear, as with nails; surely it noteth some deep sense and high degree of fear, as the Prophet Habakkuk expresseth upon like occasion : “ When I heard, my belly trembled ; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself” (Hab. iii. 16): his bowels did beat and shake for fear, and his lips quivered for fear, that he could not speak. The judgments of God ought to beget a deep sense and trembling, not a slight affection, in us. The Prophet saith, “ The lion hath roared, who will not fear?" (Amos iii. 8.) We have need to stir up our hearts again and again. When the Lord roareth and cometh forth to judgment, we have need to be ashamed of our stupidity when we are not affected.
2ndly, The object of his fear, “ For fear of thee.” It was not the fear of man that put him into such an agony and consternation. We are always dissuaded from the fear of man; but we are exhorted to the fear of God: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell” (Matt. x. 28). The one is a snare: “ The fear of man bringeth a snare; but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord, shall be safe” (Prov. xxix. 25); but the other is a duty. The great preservative of the soul from spiritual dangers, is the fear of God. We are tuti, si cauti ; securi, si attoniti, saith Tertullian : the fear of God maketh us circumspect, and so bringeth safety to us; yea, the one is the cure of the other (Isa. viji. 12, 13). As one nail driveth out another, or as Moses's rod did eat up the rods of the magicians; so doth the fear of God against all contrary fears and terrors, whereby the heart may be turned from God. Man can only kill the body; but God can cast both soul and body into Hell-fire. So that we may set God against man, soul and body against the body only, and Hell-fire against temporal punishinent. As that holy man said, Da veniam, Imperator : tu carcerem comminaris, Deus autem comminatur Gehennam ; thou threatenest bonds and imprisonment, he threat. eneth everlasting damnation ; therefore it is God is to be feared : “ Thou, even thou, art to be feared ; and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?” (Psalm lxxvi. 7.) Not man, in comparison of God: man against man may stand, and wicked men in the time of his patience may stand; but, when God judgeth, who can stand ? Now, of God there is a double fear ; filial, which draweth us to him; and servile, which driveth us from him : “And Moses said unto the people, Fear not; for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not” (Exod. xx. 20). Fear not with a slavish fear, but an awful fear, composed of reverence and love.
3rdly, The ground of his fear, “I am afraid of thy judgments,"—the great severity which God did exercise in punishing the evil-doers and purging out the dross; when God doth smite the wicked and call them to an account for sin, he warneth his own people to stand in awe. As here, thou puttest away the wicked like dross; when the threatening is made good, and terrible judgments are abroad, every one needeth to look to