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the business will be to show you the force of this argument, and that it is a prop to faith.
1. We may reason from the less to the greater: our Lord hath taught us so, for food and clothing : “And why take ye thought for raiment ? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" (Matt. vi. 28-30). From fowls and lilies, they have no arts of tilling, spinning; are not of such account with God as mankind, as his people. So for protection: “ Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father ; but the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows" (Matt. x. 29-31). The reasoning is good : if he hath mercy for kites, he hath also for children; who are not only in a higher rank of creatures, but in a renewed estate, and reconciled to him by Christ; become his friends and children, whom he tendereth as the apple of his eye; much more, when they come for spiritual benefits, pleasing to the Lord : “Give, therefore, thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing” (1 Kings iii. 9, 10). Now, all these amount to a strong probability, if not a certainty. It is a mistake, to think that faith only goeth upon certainties; no, sometimes it is mightily encouraged by probabilities. These must not be left out; for, if I want any spiritual blessing, is it not a great encouragement to remember God's merciful nature shining forth in all his works? If kind to his creatures, will he not be kind to me? If he causeth his sun to shine upon the wicked, will he not lift up the light of his countenance upon my soul! If his rain falls upon their fields, will he not let the dew of his grace fall upon my barren heart? Though the argument be not absolutely and infallibly conclusive, yet here is such a concurrence of probabilities that we should go and try what he will do for our souls.
2. They in their rank bave their supplies, and we in our rank have our supplies: therefore, his kindness to all creatures should encourage nero creatures to expect their help from him : for God doth good to all his creatures according to their necessity and capacity: his giving them supplies convenient for thein, is a pawn of God's pleasure to bestow upon his servants greater gifts than these. All things that look to God have necessaries provided for them according to the condition of their nature; and therefore, if you have another nature, and besides the good things of this life do need the good things which belong to the life to come, he will give us gifts and graces as be giveth them their food; for these are as necessary for this kind of life as food for that. As they in their rank find mercy, so we in ours : his general goodness confirmeth us in expecting these more special favours; for, as there is a general benignity to all creatures, so there is a special to his children: “ Thou preservest man and beast. How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God ! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings” (Psalm xxxvi. 6, 7). His common kindness and his special love are often compared together: they agree in this, that both come from a good God. Therefore the argument holdeth strong, if good to all creatures, then good to nero creatures. Why should we think that he would not show his goodness to us also? Again, they agree in this, that, in doing good, God doth not consider the worthiness of the creature, but his own goodness and self-inclination to preserve what he hath made. As he did not disdain to give life to the meanest creatures, so he doth not disdain to preserve them; as they had their life from him at first, so they have their life still in him, the poorest worm not excepted. Not a worm, not a gnat, not a fiy, but tastes of God's bounty. God disdaineth not to look after the most abject things. So the plea of unworthiness lieth not in bar against the new creature ; for necessary supplies God giveth out of his own goodness. Now, they differ in the kinds of the mercy; one common, the other saving: and the special subjects of them; one is to all creatures, the other is to God's peculiar people: and in the manner of conveyance; the one floweth in the channel of common Providence, the other is conveyed to us by the golden pipe of the Mediator. Well then, the creatures have their mercies ; and wicked men their mercies, have that they prize and value ; and the people of God have also what they prize and esteem.
3. God doth good to every one according to their necessity and capacity. He doth not give meat to the trees, nor stones to the beasts, but provideth food and nourishment convenient for them; so to his people, according to their condition of nature and special capacity. The general capacity is the condition of their natures, the special capacity is want or earnest desire : if we extremely need or earnestly desire these blessings, then we may reason from God's general goodness to all the creatures, to that special act of goodness which we expect from him. Pray, mark how God's general goodness is expressed : “ The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing" (Psalm cxlv. 15, 16). He keepeth a constant eye of providence; and, if the desire be great, he doth not frustrate the natural expectation of hungry creatures, but giveth them that sort of food which is fit for them. Now, God expecteth the same froin new creatures ; if necessity and vehement desire meet, he proinises supply : “ Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it" (Psalm Ixxxi. 10); and, “ He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him : he also will hear their cry, and will save them” (Psalm cxlv. 19). The beasts mourn and cry in their kind, we pray and cry in our kind. Needy desires will be heard : he is in a capacity to receive spiritual blessings, who is sensible of their necessity for the happiness of his immortal soul, and doth prize and value them, and earnestly desire them. The man of God was under a necessity; for he apprehended himself miserable, and at a loss without it; for he desired no other mercy. A gracious heart cannot be satisfied with low things : be thus affected, and then this argument will be of use to you.
USE I.-Is for reproof: since God is 80 merciful, how much are they to blame,
1. Who render themselves incapable of the benefit of mercy by impe. nitence persisted in against the means of grace. They slight his common mercy, and cut off themselves from his saving mercy. Abused goodness will be destructive: “ Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness, and forbcarance, and long-suffering ; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth tree to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Rom. ii. 4, 5).
2. The stupid and senseless, which do not take notice of the mercy of God which shineth forth in all the creatures. A man can turn his eve no where, but in every place and quarter of the world he shall see plain testimonies of God's mercy: but, alas! how inuch of this is lost and passed over for want of observation! “ The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider” (Isa. i. 3). All this goodness was left in the earth to invite our minds and hearts to God; therefore, as the bee sucketh honey out of every flower, so should we still dwell on the thoughts of God's goodness represented to us in everything we see and feel.
3. Those that think of God's mercy with extenuating and diminishing thoughts, do not raise their hopes and confidence by a serious reflection upon that ample discovery which he hath made of it in all his works. If God be good to all his creatures, why should we be left out of the number? Surely God will not be backward to those that earnestly desire his grace; therefore, those that deject themselves, that say, “God will not hear me or regard my prayers,' are to be condemned.
USE II.-Information : the lively light of the Spirit is a special mercy. Our misery lieth in the ignorance of God and the transgression of his law; our happiness, in being enlightened and sanctified by the Spirit of wisdom and understanding. It is God's great gift : “ I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord ; and they shall be iny people, and I will be their God : for they shall return unto me with their whole heart” (Jer. xxiv. 7).
USE III.—To exhort you to cherish in your souls good thoughts of God, and the fulness and largeness of his bounty and mercy. The Devil seeketh to weaken our opinion of God's goodness : he thought to possess our first parents with this conceit, that God was envious, so to draw them away from God. It will be of use to you,
1. In all afflictive providences. Those who are poor and destitute, or in prison and banishment, or bereft of children, or oppressed with guilty fears, or assaulted with any other calamity : “ Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job xiii. 15); still he is a good God. Here is the glory of faith, to believe him as a gracious father, when we feel him as an enemy. Satan will be sure to put in upon these occasions, to tell you that God is an enemy, harsh, severe, implacable in his dealings, one that regardeth you not in your misery, that giveth you no rest nor respite in your troubles: if he did not hate you, how could he deal thus with you? and so striketh a terror into the minds of men, that they are afraid of nothing so much as of God, and of coming to him by Christ. No; “ God is love;" a father when he frowneth, as well as when he smileth : he verily chastiseth us - for our profit” (Heb. xii. 10); and, “We are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Cor. xi. 32). And in reason should it not be so ? Did your parents hate you, because they were careful of your breeding, and sometimes corrected you for your faults? There is more of compassion than passion in his severest strokes. He hath the bowels of a mother, but yet the wisdom of a father. His love must not be exercised to the prejudice of his other attributes. He that pulleth you out of a deep gulf, though he breaketh
your arm in pulling you out, doth not he love you? God is love, and the giver of all good things.
2. It is a great motive to repentance. As the prodigal thought of his father, so should we return : “Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever” (Jer. iii. 12). Come, lie at his feet; see what infinite love will do for you : “ We have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings” (1 Kings xx. 31). When you first begin with God, this is an argument and ground of comfort; much more, when you renew your repentance, Hard thoughts of God keep us off from him; but his loving and merciful nature inviteth us to him.
3. It sweetens the duties of holiness : “ This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous" (1 John v. 3). This makes our resistance of sin more serious : “ Seeing that thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve, and hast given us such deliverance as this, should we again break thy commandments ?” (Ezra ix. 13, 14.)
4. To quicken and enliven your prayers for grace: you have to do with a merciful God: “He will fulfil the desire of them that fear him: he also will hear their cry, and will save them” (Psalm cxlv. 19).
SERMON LXXIII. VERSE 65.—Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord, according
to thy word. The addresses that are made to God in this Psalm are mostly prayers ; while we are in the world, we are compassed about with divers necessities and wants; but yet there is an intermixture of thanksgivings: we must not always be complaining, but sometimes giving of thanks. David was often exercised with various calamities ; but, as soon as he got rid of any danger, or obtained any deliverance, he is ready with his thanks and praises. Blessed will that time be when our mournings are altogether turned into triumphs, and our complaints into thanksgivings; but now, here in the world, gratulation should not wholly be shut out, but find a room in our addresses to God, as well as acknowledgments of sin and supplications for grace. None have to do with God, but they find him bountiful; and there is no reason but present mercies should be acknowledged. In this verse you have the working of a thankful soul, sensible of the benefits already obtained in praver, and making hearty acknowledgment of them to God: “Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O Lord, according to thy word.” Observe,
1. An acknowledgment of some benefit bestowed, “Thou hast dealt well with thy servant.”
2. The way in which it was bestowed, “ according to thy word.” •First, An acknowledgment of some benefit bestowed. In it observe,1. The party giving, Thou, O Lord. 2. The act of bounty generally expressed, “ Thou hast dealt well.” 3. The party receiving, “ with thy servant."
The fountain of all that we have is the goodness and fidelity of God, the promise is the channel and pipe by which it is conveyed to us, and the
object is God's servant. When all these concur, how sweet is it! A good God is ready to show us inercy, and this mercy assured to us by promise, and God's servants capacitated to receive mercy. There is an excellent cause, which is the benignity of God; a sure conveyance, which is the promise of God; and prepared objects, who are the servants of God.
1. The party giving is God himself: all good is to be referred to God as the author of it.
2. The benefit received is generally expressed, “ Thou hast dealt well :" some translations out of the Hebrew, Bonum fecisti, thou hast done good with thy servant; the Septuagint, Xpnsórnta štoinoas jetà tē nélo oš, thou hast made goodness to or with thy servant; out of them, the Vulgar, Bonitatem fecisti. Some take this clause generally, “Whatever thou dost for thy servants, is good :' they count it so, though it be never so contrary to the interest of the flesh : sickness is good, loss of friends is good; and so are poverty and loss of goods, to an humble and thankful mind. But surely David speaketh here of some supply and deliverance wherein God had made good some promise to him. The Jewish rabbies understand it of his return to the kingdom; but most Christian writers understand it of some spiritual benefit, that good which God had done to him : if anything may be collected from the subsequent verses, it was certainly some spiritual good. The Septuagint repeat xpnsórnta twice in this and the following verse, as if he acknowledged the benefit of that good judgment and knowledge of which there he beggeth an increase. It was in part given him already, and that learned by afflictions, in the third verse of this portion : “ Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept thy word.” Now, then, go on to increase this work, this goodness which thou hast shown to thy servant.
3. The object, “thy servant:" it is an honourable, comfortable style; David delighteth in it. God is a bountiful and a gracious master, ready to do good to his servants, rewarding them with grace here, and crowning that grace with glory hereafter: “He that cometh to God, must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Heb. xi. 6).
Secondly, The manner how this is assured and brought about, "according to thy word :" that word which is the encouragement of our prayer, is the rule of God's proceedings. Some things are given by a common providence; other things are given us as servants of God, or according to the promises that are made us in the word.
DOCTRINE I.-That God doth good to his servants.
DOCTRINE II.--That the good which God hath done for us should be thankfully acknowledged.
DOCTRINE III. - That in our thankful acknowledgments we should take notice of God's truth, as well as his benignity and goodness.
DOCTRINE I.—That God doth good to his servants. David giveth us here his own experience, and every one that is a faithful servant of God, may come in with the like acknowledgments; for what proof God giveth of his goodness to any one of his servants, it is a pledge of that love, respect, and care that he beareth towards all the rest. Jacob acknowledgeth the same: “God hath dealt graciously with me" (Gen. xxxiii. 11): that was his account of Providence.
1. From the inclination of his own nature: “ Thou art good and doest good” (Psalm cxix. 68): the Psalmist concludeth this act from his nature.