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any man will come to me, “out of his belly shall How rivers of living water" (John vii. 37). He spiritualizeth the occasion. If our hearts were as they ought to be, we would have a gracious word more ready; we would either be beginning, or carrying on good conference wherever we come. But Christians are to seek; either through barrenness, or leanness of soul, they have not that good treasure or stock of knowledge in them, or through the custom of vain speech. And the great cause of all is the prevalency of an unsanctified and worldly heart, this hindereth us from being more fruitful in our converse.
2. It should press us to holy set-conferences. There may be, and should be some set time for mutual edification. It is not the duty only of ministers, but also of private Christians, keeping within the bounds of their station, and the measures of their knowledge to teach and to instruct one another. The Scriptures are full for this, (Col. iii, 6–Col. i. 5,11,-Heb. iii. 13-Jude 5, 20). Christians should often meet together for prayer and spiritual edification. (So Heb. x. 24, 25–Rom, xv. 14). I heap up these places because of the error of the Papists who will not have the laity speak of Scripture, or things pertaining to Scripture. Whereas you see these injunctions are plain and clear, and it is a great part of that holy communion that should pass between saints, this mutual exhorting, quickening, and strengthening one another's hands in the work of the Lord. These places are not to be understood of public communion, of church-societies, but of private conferences, by way of interchangeable discourse, and mu. tual edification. It is not necessary these set-conferences should be always, and all the members of the church meet and confer together ; but a company of savoury Christians whose spirits suit best in commerce, and most likely to help one another. Though I am to love all the brotherhood, and carry a respect to all in relation to me; yet I am to single out for my advantage some of the most eminent, or the most suitable (for great regard is to be had to that). Christ made a distinction in his little flock-in his family, shall I call it; some he singleth out for more immediate converses, as Peter, James, and John, in his transfiguration (Matt. xvii. 1), and in his agonies ; these were the flower, the choice that he singled out for his special converse. I speak not of public meetings, in public societies, but set-conferences with gracious Christians with whom our spirits suit best, and are likely to be of greatest help in maintaining of the spiritual lile. These set-times the people of God have ever made conscience of. It is a great comfort and refreshing to be conscious to the exercise of each other's grace : “ That I may be comforted together with you, by the mutual faith both of you and me” (Rom. i. 12). And it is a mighty strengthening in evil times : “ Then they that feared the Lord, spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it" (Mal iii. 16). And you will find the benefit of the manifold graces of God, that what one wants, will be supplied by the help of another. God doth not so give his gifts to one, but that he needs others help. Paul calls Aquila and Priscilla, “Fellows or helpers in Christ Jesus.” And Apollo, a mighty man in the Scriptures, had a great deal of help by Aquilla and Priscilla, (Rom. xvi. 3). “The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again, the head to head to the feet, I have no need of you” (1 Cor xii. 21). The meanest have their use, quickening, and strengthening one another. This mutual edification differeth from ministerial or church-society, because the one is an act of authority, the other of charity ; the one in the face of the congregation, the other by a few Christians in private; and it may be improved to awaken each other to consider of God, of the ways of God, the word of God, the works of creation and providence, redemption, the judgments he executes in the world, mercies towards his people, the experiments and prvofs of his grace in your Christian warfare : “ Come and hear all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul” (Psalın Ixvi. 16). Ferus speaks of some old monks, Conveniebant in unum, audiebatur verbum Dei, &c., they were wont to meet together, and after they had read the word of God, every one did acquaint one another with his weaknesses, with his temptations, and mutually asked counsel, and comforted one another out of the word of God, and after this they concluded all with prayer, and so every man went to his home. These examples, did we observe them, they would be most useful to us; we might drive on a trade to Heaven, and be of very great profit in the spiritual life; if the gifts of private Christians were managed without pride, vain glory, and without despising of the weak, it would be of exceeding honour to God, use and comfort to the saints.
SERMON XV. VERSE 14.—I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonics as much as
in all riches. These words may respect the 12th verse, as another argument wherewith to back his request, “Teach me thy statutes : for I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies as much as in all riches,” “Many are for worldly wealth, but I have other desires; Lord teach me how to understand and keep thy statutes, and this will be a greater benefit than any worldly possession whatsoever.' Or, you may refer them to the 13th verse, as a reason of his practice; every man will be speaking of that wherewith he is delighted : “Lord, thy testimonies are my rejoicing,” therefore I have, and will be speaking of them upon all occasions. Or, this may be the fruit of what was mentioned before; those that are exercised about the word, the study and practice of it and conference about it, have a sweet sense of the goodness of it in their own souls, so as they delight and rejoice in it above all things; and if we have not felt this effect, it is because we are strangers to the word.
In the words there is,-
By way of explication. The testimonies of God are his word, for it testifieth of his will. Now the Psalmist saith not only, “ I have rejoiced in thy testimonies,” but “in the way of thy testimonies.” Way is one of the words by which the law is expressed. God's laws are ways that lead us to God; and so it may be taken here, the way which thy testimonies point out, and call me unto ;' or else his own practice, as a man's course is called his way; his delight was not in speculation or talk, but in obedience and practice, “in the way of thy testimonies.” The degree, " as much as in all riches :" as much, not to show the equality of these things, as if we should have the same affection for the world as for the word of God; but as much, because we have no higher comparison. This is that worldlings doat upon, and delight in; now as much as they rejoice in worldly possessions, so much do I rejoice in the way of thy testimonies. For I suppose David doth not compare his own delight in the word, with his own delight in wealth; but his own choice and delight, with the delight and choice of others. If he had spoken of himself both in the one respect and in the other, the expression was very high. David that was called to a crown, and in a capacity of enjoying much in the world, gold, silver, lands, goods, largeness of territory, and a compound of all that which all men jointly, and all men severally do possess; yet was more pleased in the holiness of God's ways, than in all the world : “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?" (Mark viji. 36.)
DOCTRINE.- A gracious heart finds more true joy in the way of God's word, than in all worldly things whatsoever.
To explain this, consider, —
Secondly, How a gracious heart finds more delight in the word of God, than in all worldly things..
Thirdly, The reasons why they do so.
1. There is a sweetness in the study of God's word, or when we give up ourselves to attain the knowledge of it. The very speculation and study produces a delightful taste for three reasons.
(1.) Truth is the good of the understanding; therefore, when the faculty is suited with a fit object, this correspondence causeth a rejoicing and delectation : “My son, eat thou honey because it is good ; and the honey-comb, because it is sweet to thy taste: so shall the knowledge of wisdom be to thy soul, when thou hast found it" (Prov. xxiv. 13, 14). Every truth, if it be but a natural or philosophical verity, when we come to consider and see it with our own eyes, and have found it out by search, and do not repeat it by rote only, breedeth a delight. Pleasure is appli. calio convenientis convenienti, so it is true in theological truths, we are the more affected with them, the more they are represented with evidence to the soul.
(2.) Scriptural truths are more sublime than other truths, and do ennoble reason with the knowledge of them: “Surely this great nation is a wise and an understanding people” (Deut. iv. 6). Such doctrines as we meet with in the word of God concerning angels and the souls of men, the creation and government of all things, the redemption of men, must needs affect the heart, and breed a joy in the view and contemplation of them.
(3.) Because these truths are suitable to our necessities. To every man that hath a conscience, it cannot but be very pleasing to hear of a way how he may come to the pardon of sins, and sound peace of conscience, solid perfection, and eternal glory. Man is naturally under fear of death, and would be glad of a pardon; weak and unable to find out or attain to moral perfection, would be glad of an exact rule, and gropeth and feeleth about for an everlasting happiness (Acts xvii. 27). So far as any thing is found to this purpose in the writings of men, they have a marvellous force and influence upon us. Any beam of this truth scattered in Plato or Socrates, of man's reconciliation with a holy and just God, there is nothing in their writings; the then world was under perplexity. But yet of moral perfection, and an eternal state of blessedness, there were some glimmerings. Now, when these are represented to the understanding with such evidence and satisfaction as they are in the Scriptures, where you have the only direction to true happiness, no wonder if they are greedily caught at. Now this delight (though good) I speak not of, because it may be in temporaries, who have a taste of the good word to invite them to seek for more (Heb. vi. 4), and is a fruit of common illumination. The stony ground received the word with joy (Luke viii. 13); and though it may affect the heart, yet if not above all riches, it doth not prevail over carnal affections.
2. There is a sweetness found in the way of God's testimonies, which ariseth from the conscience of practical obedience, not from contemplation only; and it is best to be found when we come to practise and perform what we know. It is said of wisdom, “her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace" (Prov. iii. 17). There is not only a sweetness in our privileges, but in our duties. No man knoweth the contentinent of walking closely with God, but he that hath tried. So, “Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?” (Micah ii. 7.) Not only speak good, but do good. There is a certain performance of what the word saith; when it is said, it may be accounted done; but to whom? To them that know it, and are able to talk of it? No; but to them that walk. And will every slight endeavour and the presumption of conformity to the rule serve the turn? No, “to them that walk uprightly;" that sincerely frame themselves to obey God's will with the greatest exactness and care they can use. Oh, what good, what reviving of heart and cheerfulness do they find in this work! Briefly, this delight in the way of God's testimonies, (that you may not be mistaken,) differeth from that contentment and serenity of mind which is the fruit of integrity or moral sincerity. There is some degree of comfort that accompanieth any good action, as heat doth fire; the conscience, so far as he doth good, hath some kind of peace in it. The Heathens by God's general bounty and goodness had a conscience excusing when they did good, as well as accusing when they did evil: their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another, perațù ámýdwv, “ by turns,” (Rom. ii. 15). And this excusing cannot be without some sweetness and contentment of mind. Sacer intra nos spiritus sedet, bonorum malorumque nostrorum observator et custos, hic prout a nobis tractatus est ita nos ipse tractat, saith Seneca. This may be without faith; whereas we speak of such a joy as is founded in faith, though found in the ways of obedience in Christ's service : “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. xi. 29). In short, there is delight in the duty, and in the dispensation ; for it is both promised and required. Delight in God's ways is promised as a gift of God, and as the result of our obedience “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the sabbath a delight,” &c.," then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord,” &c. (Isa. Iviii. 13, 14.) And, “I sat down under bis shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste" (Cant. ii. 3). There is sweetness God bestoweth, or sensible consolation, which must be distinguished from that delight which is a fruit of our gracious esteem. I can exclude neither; though that delight which is the fruit of our esteem of the word, is principally here intended; the one is more durable than the other. A gracious affection to the word and ways of God, should ever remain with us; but we are not always feasted with spiritual suavities : now and then we have them, and when they have done their work they return to God. As in the vision made to Peter, the sheet that was showed him was received up again into Heaven” (Acts x. 16) when he was informed of God's will; so this comfort returneth to the giver, when it hath done its work, refreshed our hearts, and engaged us to wait upon God.
Secondly, How a gracious heart rejoiceth more in the way of God's testimonies than in all riches.
1. There is a broad difference in the things themselves, and therefore there should be in our affections to them ; for our affections should be carried out according to the worth of things, otherwise, if an object of less worth have more of our hearts than an object of more value, they are like members out of joint, they are not in their proper place. There is a great distance between the things themselves, as much as there is between the enjoyment of God and the creature; and therefore there must be a considerable difference in our affections to them. If the difference be so nice that thou canst hardly distinguish which thy heart is most affected with, the enjoyment of God in the way of his testimonies, or the enjoyment of wealth and worldly accommodations; or if the disproportion be on the world's side, that hath more of thy esteem and complacency; then God is not thy chiefest good, thou lovest the creature more than God, which is inconsistent with grace : for this is the prime act of grace, to choose God for our chiefest good.
2. We must distinguish between the sensitive stirring of the affections, and the solid complacency of the soul. It is possible a child of God may be. more sensibly moved by temporal things, as they do more strike upon the senses ; but the supreme and prevailing delight of the soul is in spiritual things, in the way of God's testimonies. To exemplify this by the contrary affection, as in sorrow, a temporal loss may to sense more stir the affections, as to bodily expression of them, than a spiritual; as the drawing of a tooth or any present pain, may make us cry out more than the languishings of a consumption; whereas the other may go nearer to the heart, and causeth a more lasting trouble. So in joy, a man may be pleased with earthly conveniences, and yet his solid esteem is more in spiritual things; as a trifle may provoke laughter more than a solid benefit that accrueth to us. Therefore the case is not to be decided by the intensiveness of the sensitive expression, so much as by the appreciation of the soul. In this sense the point is to be understood, he would lose all the world rather than dispense with his obedience to God. This is selling all for the pearl of price, spoken of in Matt. xiii 46. All other things are trampled upon and renounced for this one's sake, that we may enjoy God in Christ. And truly this affection to the word is not easily to be found, for we often see tbat men for a little gain will break all the commandments of God, as things not to be stood upon, when any temporal commodity is ini chace, and in the pursuit of worldly riches, care not how they neglect Christ and heavenly things.
Thirdly, The reason why they rejoice more in the way of God's testimonies than in all riches.
1. Because of the suitableness of these things to the new nature. Everything hath a kind of joy when it enjoyeth that which is good for it: the ground doth pleasantly receive a shower of rain after drought;