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HUNDRED AND NINETEENTH PSALM.
REV. THOMAS MANTON, D.D.
A COMPLETE ALPHABETICAL TABLE, DIRECTING TO THE PRINCIPAL
MATTERS CONTAINED THEREIN.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
"All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and
in the Psalms, concerning me."-LUKE xxiv. 44.
TO WHICH IS PREFIXED THE LIFE OF THE AUTHOR,
BY WILLIAM HARRIS, D.D.
SERMON LXVII. VERSE 60.-I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy com
mandments. In the verse immediately preceding, the man of God speaks of repentance as the fruit of consideration and self-examining : “ I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.” But when did he turn? for, though we see the evil of our ways, we are naturally slow to get it redressed. Therefore David did not only turn to God, but he did it speedily: we have an account of that in this verse, “I made haste," &c. This readiness in the work of obedience is doubly expressed, affirmatively and negatively. Affirmatively, “I made haste;" negatively, “I delayed not.” This double expression increaseth the sense according to the manner of the Hebrews; as, “I shall not die, but live” (Psalm cxviii, 17); that is, surely live; so here, “I made haste and delayed not ; that is, I verily delayed not a moment; as soon as he had thought of his ways, and taken up resolutions of walking closely with God, he did put it into practice, The Septuagint read the words thus, I was ready, and was not troubled or diverted by fear of danger.' Indeed, besides our natural slowness to good, this is one usual ground of delays : we distract ourselves with fears; and, when God hath made known his will to us in many duties, we think of tarrying till the times are more quiet, and favour our practice, and our affairs are in a better posture. A good improvement may be made of that translation; but the words run better, as they run more generally, with us, " I made haste, and delayed not,” &c.; and from thence observe,
DOCTRINE.—That the call of God, whether to amendment and newness of life or to any particular duty, must be without delay obeyed.
To illustrate the point by reasons :
Reason 1.—Ready obedience is a good evidence of a sound impression of grace left upon our hearts. There is a slighter conviction which breedeth a sense of duty, but doth not urge us thoroughly to the performance of it; and so men stand reasoning instead of running, debating the case with God: and there is a more sound conviction, which is accompanied with a prevailing efficacy; and, when we have this upon our spirits, then all excuses and delays are laid aside, and we come off readily and kindly in the way of compliance with God's call. This is doctrinally spoken of: “ Draw me, we will run after thee” (Cant. i. 4). Running is an earnest and speedy motion, from whence comes it? From drawing : it is a fruit of
drawing, or the sweet and powerful attraction which the Spirit of God useth in the hearts of the elect. Instances I might give you in several calls and conversions spoken of in Scripture. When Christ called Andrew and Peter, they left their father, and went after him (Mark i. 20). So when Christ called Zaccheus,“ he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully” (Luke xix. 6). So Christ to Matthew, “ Follow me. And he arose and followed him” (Matt. ix. 9). Julian the apostate scoffs at these passages, as if it were irrational to conceive such a thing could be, that men should so soon leave their course of gain and their call. ing; or else, that Christ's followers were a kind of sots and fools, weak and poor-spirited creatures, that, upon a word speaking, they would come off presently all of a sudden; but impulsions of the spirit carry their own reason with them, and draw the heart without any more ado. But such as be were not acquainted with the workings of the Holy Ghost in conversion, therefore scoff at these things. So, “ Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood” (Gal. i. 16): when our call is clear, there needs no debate. When men stand reasoning instead of running, there is not a thorough work upon them.
REASON II.—The sooner we turn to the ways of God, the better we speed. How so?
1. Partly in this, that the work goes on the more kindly, as being carried forth in the strength of the present influence and impulsion of grace; whereas, if the heart grow cold again, it will be the more difficult. A blow while the iron is hot, doth more than ten at another time when it grows cold again : so, when thy heart grows cold, thou wilt not have that advantage as when thou art under a warm conviction. And indeed, that is the Devil's cheat to speak of hereafter, to elude the importunity of the present conviction that is upon you. You know, when the waters were stirred, then was the time to put in: he that stepped in first had experience of the sanative virtue of the waters (John v. 4): so, when the heart is stirred, we should not lose this advantage, but come on upon that call. There are several metaphors in Scripture that do express this : sometimes, we must open when God knocks (Cant. v.); we must enter when God opens, lest the door be shut against us (Matt. xxv.); we must come forth when he bids us, as Lot out of Sodom, lest we perish: when a thing is done speedily and in season, it is a great advantage.
2. The more welcome to God, the sooner we turn to him. We value a gift, not only by its own worth, but by the readiness of him that gives ; if we have it at first asking, we count it a greater kindness, and give the more thanks : so the less we stand hucking with God, and demurring upon his call, the more acceptable is our obedience. Pharaoh did at length let Israel go, but was forced to it, and with much ado; no thanks to him. It is true, indeed, if we turn at length seriously, heartily, we are accepted with God, but not so accepted as when we come in at first. Surely, the fewer calls we withstand, the less we provoke God, and the more ready entertainment do we find. The spouse that would not open at the first knock, but only at length when her bowels were troubled, when she thought of her unkindness, then she went out to open to her beloved; but then, her beloved was gone. You will not find God at your beck, when you dally with him. Your comforts will cost you longer waiting for, when you make God wait for entrance, and would not give way to the work of his grace.
3. You speed better, because your personal benefit is the greater, the sooner you turn to the Lord. You have more knowledge, more experience ; you get more comfort; you would be more profitable to others, more useful to God. If ever God touch your hearts, and once you come to expe. rience what an excellent thing it is to live in communion with God, you will be sorry you began no sooner. Paul complains that he was a man “ born out of due time" (1 Cor. xv. 8), and so had not the advantage of seeing Christ in the flesh, until he showed himself to him from Heaven in the vision upon his conversion. You lose many a comfortable sight of Christ, because you were so late acquainted with him. And it is said of Andronicus and Junia, they “ were in Christ before me” (Rom. xvi. 7). Certainly, he that is first in Christ, and sooner called to grace, hath the advantage of us. An early acquaintance with God gives us advantages, both in point of enjoyment and service.
(1.) In point of enjoyment; peace, comfort, joy in the Holy Ghost. A man would not want these things: they are so valuable in themselves, the want of them is an incomparable loss to us. Certainly they would have been much better than all those flesh-pleasing vanities that you dote upon and keep you from Christ. A man that hath for a long while wasted his time and strength in driving on a peddling trade, when he is acquainted with a more gainful course, Oh !' saith he, 'that I bad known this sooner !' so, none have any taste of the ways of God, but they will wish so: “Oh! that I had sooner renounced my carnal delights, and betaken myself to the service of God !
(2.) Then advantages in point of service. What honour might we have brought to God, what good done to others, if we had begun sooner! *Oh!' saith one, ‘had I but the time to spend again which I trifled away in the Devil's service! What use might I have made of the vigour and freshness of my youth, and quickness of my parts, for God, and the large tract of time which I spent in sin and vanity! Every day in a carnal state was a loss of opportunity of service, the glorifying of God, the great end for which you were made.
REASON III.—There is danger and hazard in delay and putting off a business of such concernment as conversion to God and his ways is, upon such uncertainties. For the understanding of the force of this reason,
1. Let us determine that this is a business of the greatest concernment, and that will show us the folly of our delays; for, certainly, the greatest work should first be thought of. Now, if you will believe the word of God, that will tell you the salvation of your souls should be your main care : “ Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness," &c. (Matt. vi. 33); “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after," &c. (Psalm xxvii. 4.) Whatever is neglected, this is a business that must be looked after. And, “One thing is needful" (Luke x. 42). Let us argue from these places. Certainly, that which is necessary should be preferred before that which is superfluous. A man would take care to get meat rather than sauce, and would prefer his business before his recreation ; that which is eternal, before that which is temporal. It is not necessary we should be great and rich in the world. Within a little while, it will not be a pin to choose what part we have acted here ; but it is necessary we should be gracious, holy, and acquainted with God in Christ : that is our business. Again, that which is eternal should be preferred before that which is temporal. You count him a fool that is very exact and careful