« 上一頁繼續 »
truth: thy word is truth" (John xvii. 17); “ He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God" (John ii, 21). Men that have a mind to maintain an opinion, or suffer an evil practice, are prejudiced and biassed by the idol that is in their hearts; and so do not see what may be seen, and what they seem to search after. Therefore David urgeth this as an argument in the latter end of the text, “I have believed thy commandments;" that is to say,
Lord, I know this word is thine ; and I am willing to practise all that thou requirest.' The great thing that is to be aimed at about knowledge is, not only that we may know, and be able to jangle about questions, or that we may be known and esteemed for our knowledge, but that we may practise and walk circumspectly, and in evil days and times know what the will of the Lord is concerning us ; to desire knowledge as those that know the weight and consequence of these things, as I shall show more fully hereafter. Those that would have good judgment and knowledge, must be willing to understand their duty and practise all that God requireth; that they may neither do things rashly and without knowledge and deliberation, for then they are not good, how good soever they be in themselves : “ Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not good" (Prov. xix, 2); or doubtingly after deliberation, for he that doubteth is in part condemned in his own mind : " And he that doubteth, is damned if he eat” (Rom. xiv. 23). We must have a clear warrant from God, or else all is naught, and will tend to evil. Then it is the Spirit of God satisfieth these desires, when we earnestly desire of him to be informed in the true and perfect way : “ They shall be all taught of God” (John vi. 45). He hath suited promises to the pure and earnest desire of knowledge. Then it is the Lord who sendeth means and blesseth means; as he sent Peter to Cornelius (Acts x.), and Philip to the eunuch (Acts viii.). All is at his disposal, and he will not fail the waiting soul: he hath made Christ to be wisdom for this very end and purpose, that he might guide us continually : “But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (1 Cor. i. 30).
3. You must seek it in the word, that maketh us wise to salvation; and by the continual study of it we obtain wisdom and discretion. There we have the best and safest counsel: it maketh wise the simple (Psalm xix. 7). No case can be put, so far as it concerneth conscience, but there you shall have satisfaction : " Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom” (Col. iii. 16). You must not content yourselves with a cursory reading, but mark the end and scope of it, that you may be made completely wise, by frequent reading, hearing, meditation upon it, and conferring about it. There you find all things necessary to be believed and practised ; therefore, you must hear it with application, read it with meditation. (1.) Hear it with application; the Lord blesseth us in the use of instituted means; both light and flame are kept in by the breath of preaching. Where visions fail, ihe people perish, men grow brutish and wild. It is a dispute which is the sense of learning, the ear or the eye: by the eye we see things, but by reason of innate ignorance we must be taught how to judge of them : “ Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear" (James i. 19), take all occasions. And we must still apply what we hear : Nunquid ego talis? “ What shall we then say to these things ?” (Rom. viii. 31.) “Lo this, we have searched
it, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good" (Job v. ult.); “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation ?" (Ileb. ii. 3.) Return upon thine own heart. (2.) Reading Scriptures is every man's work who hath a soul to be saved. Other writings, though good in their kind, will not leave such a lively impression upon the soul. All the moral sentences of Seneca and Plutarch do not come with such force upon the conscience as one saying of God's word. God's language hath a special energy: here must be your study and your delight : “ His delight is in the law of the Lord ; and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm i. 2); “ All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. iii. 16, 17). These make you wise unto salvation : your taste is not right when you relish and savour human writings, though never so good, more than the word of God. A draught of wine from the vessel is more fresh and lively : that conviction which doth immediately rise out of the word, is more prevailing. We suspect the mixture of passion and private aims, in the writings of others; but, when conscience and the word are working together, we own it as coming from God himself. Besides, those that are studying, and reading, and meditating on the word, have this sensible advantage, that they have promises, doctrines, examples of the word, ready and familiar upon all occasions : others are weak and unsettled, because they have not Scriptures ready. In the whole work of grace, you will find no weapon so effectual as the sword of the Spirit. Scriptures, seasonably remembered and urged, are a great relief to the soul. No diligence here can be too much. If you would not be unprofitable, sapless, indiscreet with others, weak and comfortless in yourselves, read the Scriptures. We have Sic scriptum est against every temptation. Besides, you have the advantage to see with your own eyes the truth as it cometh immediately from God, before any art of man, or thoughts of their head, pass upon it; and so can the better own God in what you find.
4. Long use and exercise do much increase judgment, especially as it is sanctified by the Spirit of God. You get a habit of discerning, fixing, directing, guiding your ways : Διά τήν έξιν τα αισθητήρια γεγυμνασμένα
yóvres, “Who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. v. 14). As men of full age, by long use and exercise of the senses of seeing, smelling, tasting, have acquired a more perfect knowledge to discern what food is good and wholesome, and what is unwholesome; so, by much attention, studying, and meditation, men who have exercised the inteliectual faculty to find out the scope and meaning of the word of God, do attain a more discerning faculty, and understand better the truth of the word, and can judge what doctrine is true and what false, and more easily apprehend higher points when taught unto them : they discern and know the differences of things to be understood. God's blessing doth accompany use and frequent exercise, and make them effectual to this end; by degrees we come to a solidness.
5. Sense and experience do much increase judgment, when smarted for our folly, tasted the sweetness of conversing with God in Christ: “If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet. ii. 3). Optima demonstratio est a sensibus. Which “bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day you beard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth” (Col. i. 6). God is not taught by experience, to whose knowledge all things are present, and at all times, and before all times; but we are. God is fain to teach us by briars and thorns, as Gideon taught the men of Succoth.
6. Avoid the enemies to it, or hindrances of it. I shall name two:
(1.) A passionate or wilful addictedness to any carnal things. Most men live by sense, will, and passion, whereby they enthral that wisdom which they have, and keep it in unrighteousness. Perit omne judicium cum res transit in affectum. Truth is a prisoner to their sinful passions and affections ; rejecting all thoughts of their future happiness. A man cannot be wise to salvation, and passionately addicted to any temporal interest.
(2.) Pride, that maketh us either rash or presumptuous; either not using a due consideration, or not humble enough to subject our minds to it. Besides, we cast off God's assistance : “ The meek will he guide in judgment; and the meek will he teach his way” (Psalm xxv. 9). Men that lean on their own understandings, reject him : “ 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).
SERMON LXXV. VERSE 66.—For I have believed thy commandments. This latter clause may be considered absolutely or relatively; in itself, or as it containeth a reason of the foregoing petition.
First, Absolutely. These words deserve a little consideration, because believing is here suited with an unusual object. Had it been, 'for I have believed thy promises,' or, obeyed thy commandments,' the sense of the clause had been more obvious to every vulgar apprehension. To believe commandments, sounds as harsh to a common ear, as to see with the ear, and hear with the eye; but, for all this, the commandments are the object; and of them he saith, not, I have obeyed ;' but, “ I have believed.” To take off the seeming asperity of the phrase, some interpreters conceive that “ commandments” is put for the word in general; and so promises are included, yea, they think, principally intended, those promises which encouraged him to hope for God's help in all necessary things ; such as good judgment and knowledge are. But this intepretation would divert us from the weight and force of these significant words. Therefore,
1. Certainly there is a faith in the commandments, as well as in the promises, as I shall fully prove by-and-by..
2. The one is as necessary as the other; for, as the promises are not esteemed, embraced, and improved, unless they are believed to be of God, so neither are the precepts: they do not sway the conscience as the other do, nor incline the affections, but as they are believed to be Divine.
3. The faith of the one must be as lively as the other. As the promises are not believed with a lively faith, unless they draw off the heart from carnal vanities to seek that happiness which they offer to us; so the precepts are not believed rightly, unless we be fully resolved to acquiesce in them as the only rule to guide us in the obtaining that happiness, and to adhere to them and obey them. As the king's laws are not kept as soon as they are believed to be the king's laws, unless also, upon the consideration of his authority and power, we subject ourselves to them; so this
believing noteth a ready alacrity to hear God's voice and obey it, and to govern our hearts and actions according to his counsel and direction in the word.
DOCTRINE.--That the commandments of God must be believed as well as his promises. Or, the precepts of sanctity and holiness bind the conscience to obey God as well as the promises bind us to trust in God.
1. What we must believe concerning the commandments.
Ist, That they have God for their author, that we may take our duty immediately out of his hand, that these commands are his commands. The expressions of his commanding and legislative will whereby our duty is determined and bound upon us, that is a matter of faith, not a matter of sense. We were not present at the giving of the law, as being past; but we ought to be affected with it as if we were present, or had heard the thunderings of Mount Sinai, or had them now delivered to us by oracle or immediate voice from Heaven. God doth, once for all, give the world sensible and sufficient satisfaction; and then he requireth faith. See Heb. ü. 2–4: “For, if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will ?" The Apostle compareth the first promulgation of the law and the first publication of the Gospel : after-ages did not hear the sounding of the dreadful trumpet, nor see the flaming, smoking mountain, were not conscious to all those circumstances of terror and majesty with which the law was given; yet it was Móyos Béßatos a steadfast word. God owned it in his providence; the punishment of transgressors is proof of God's authorizing the doctrine, So we were not present when the miracles by which the Gospel-law was confirmed were wrought; yet there is a constant evidence that these things were once done; and God still owneth it in his providence. Therefore, we must receive the Gospel-law as the sovereign will and pleasure of our lawgiver, as if we had seen him in person doing these wonders, heard him with our own ears. It is not only those that were present at Mount Sinai that were bound, but all their posterity. God giveth arguments of sense once for all. This belief is the more required of us as to precepts and commandments, because they are more evident by natural light : “ For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves; which show the work of the law written in their hearts" (Rom. ii. 14, 15). There are veritas naturalis and veritas mystica : some objects of faith depend upon mere revelation; but the commands of the moral law are clearer than the doctrines of faith; they are of duties and things present, not of privileges to be enjoyed hereafter, such as the promises offer to us. Now, it is easier to be convinced of present duties, than to be assured of some future things promised.
2ndly, That these commandments be received with that reverence that becometh the sovereign will and pleasure of so great a Lord and lawgiver. It is the work of faith to acquaint us with the nature of God and his attri. butes, and work the sense of them into our hearts. The great gorernor of the world is invisible; and we do not see him that is invisible, but by faith: “ By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king : for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb. xi. 27). It is ideyxoç ý Blenouévwv, " the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. xi. 1). Temporal potentates are before our eyes; their majesty may be seen, and their terrors and rewards are matter of sense : that there is an infinite, eternal, and all-wise Spirit who made all things, and therefore hath right to command and give laws to all things, reason will in part tell us; but faith doth more assure the soul of it, and impresseth the dread and awe of God upon our souls, as if we did see him with bodily eyes. By faith we believe his being: “He that cometh to God must believe that he is" (Heb. xi. 6): his power, so as to oppose it to things visible and sensible : “Being fully persuaded that what he had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom. iv. 21); that there is no standing out against him who, with one beck of his will, can ruin us everlastingly, and throw the transgressor of his laws into eternal fire. A frown of his face is enough to undo us. He is not a God to be neglected, or dallied with, or provoked by the wilful breaking of his laws. He hath truly potestatem vitæ et necis, the power of life and death : “ There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy”: (James iv. 12). These considerations are best enforced by faith, without which our notions of these things are weak and languid. You are to charge the heart with God's authority, as you will answer it to him another day, not to neglect or despise the duty you owe to such a God. No terror comparable to his frowns; no comforts comparable to his promises, or the sense of his favour.
3rdly, That these laws are holy, just, and good : “Wherefore the law is boly, and the commandment boly, and just, and good ” (Rom. vii. 12). This is necessary, because, in believing the commandments, not only assent is required, but also consent to them, as the fittest laws we could be governed by : “If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good” (Rom. vii. 16). Consent is a mixed act of the judg. ment and will: they are not only to be known as God's laws, but owned and embraced; not only see a truth, but a worth, in them. The mandatory part of the word hath its own loveliness and invitation : as the promises of pardon and eternal life suit with the hunger and thirst of conscience, and the natural desires of happiness; so the holiness and righteousness of God's laws suit with the natural notions of good and evil that are in man's heart. These laws were written upon man's heart at his first creation; and, though somewhat blurred, we know the better how to read a defaced writing, when we get another copy or transcript to compare with it: especially, when the heart is renewed, when the Spirit hath wrought a suitableness, there must needs be a consenting and embracing: 6. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts” (Heb. viii. 10). There is a ready, willing heart to obey them and conform to them in the regenerate; therefore an assent is not enough, but a consent: this is that they would choose and prefer before liberty; they acquiesce and are satisfied in their rule, as the best rule for them to live by. But let us see the three attributes, holy, just, and good.
1. They are holy laws, fit for God to give and man to receive : when