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ourselves in our graves; but if God should take us at our word, we would make many pauses and exceptions. Men that in their miseries call for death, when sickness cometh, will run to the physician, and promise many things if they may be recoverved. None more unwilling to die, than those that in a passion wish for death. .
2ndly, We must carefully look to the grounds of these wishes and de. sires. Carnal wishes for death arise (1.) out of violent anger and a pet against Providence, as Jonah, “ The sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said it is better for me to die than to live" (Jonah iv. 8). The children of Israel murmured when they felt the famine of the wilderness : “ And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt," &c. (Exod. xvi. 3). When men are vexed with the world, they look upon death as a relief, to take vengeance upon God, to deprive him of a servant. (2.) In deep sorrow, as Job iii. 3; and Elijah, 1 Kings xix. 4, “ He requested for himself, that he might die ; and he said, It is enough, now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” (3.) From the peevishness of fond and doting love: “ And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son !" (2 Sam. xvii. 33); like the wives of the East Indians, that burn them. selves to follow their husbands. (4.) From distrust and despair, when the evil is too hard to be resisted or endured: “My soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life" (Job vii. 15). In all these cases it is but a shameful retreat from the conflict and burden of the present life, from carnal irksomeness under the calamity, or a distrust of God's help. There may be murder in a rash wish, if it proceed from a vexed heart. These are but froward thoughts, not a sanctified resolution. Such desires of death and dissolution as are lawful, and must be cherished, come from a good ground, from a heart crucified and deadened to the world, and set on things above: “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitleth on the right hand of God” (Col. iii. 1). From a competent assurance of grace: “Even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Rom. viii. 23). From some blessed experience of heavenly comforts; having tasted the fruits, the clusters of Canaan, they desire to be there. So Simeon : “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation” (Luke ii. 29, 30); the eyes of his faith, as well as the eyes of his body. Now, Lord, I do but wait as a merchantman richly laden desireth to be at his port. A great love to Christ, excites desires to be with him. “I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (Phil. i. 23); “ For our conversation is in Heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. iii. 20). They long to see, and be where he is ; heart and head should be together. Weariness of sin, and a great zeal for God's glory, are powerful incentives in the saints: “O wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me from the body of this death !” (Rom. vii. 24.) They would be in Heaven that they may sin no more.
3rdly, You must look to the end, not have a blind notion of Heaven, and look for a Turkish paradise full of ease and plenty ; a carnal heaven, as
the Jews look for a carnal Messiah ; but for a state of perfect union and communion with the blessed and holy God.
4thly, The manner must be regarded, it must be done with submission, (Phil. i. 24); otherwise we encroach upon God's right, and would deprive him of a servant without his leave. A Christian will die and live as the Lord willeth: if it be the Lord's pleasure, a believer is satisfied with long life: “ With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation” (Psalm sci. 16); he will “ wait till the change come,” when God shall give him a discharge by his own immediate hand, or by enemies. God knoweth how to choose the fittest time, otherwise “ we know not what we ask.”
Secondly, Now let me speak of the scope of our lives ; David simply doth not desire life, but in order to service. The point is :
That if we desire long life, we should desire it to glorify God, by obedience to his word.
Let me give you some instances, then reasons.
1. Instances. “I shall not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord” (Psalm cxviii. 17). This was David's hope in the prolongation of life, that he should have further opportunity to honour God; and this argument he urgeth to God when he prayeth for life, “For in death there is no remembrance of thee : in the grave who shall give thee thanks ?'' (Psalm vi. 5.) It would be better for bim to be with God; but then the life is worth the having, when the extolling of Christ is the main scope at which we aim. So Paul, “ According to my earnest expectation, and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also, Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death," &c. (Phil. i. 20). Paul was in some hesitation which he should choose, life or death; and he determineth of both as God might be magnified by either of them, and so was at a point of indifference; if God should give him his option or wish, he would give the case back again to God, to determine as it might be most for his service and glory. He was not swayed by any low and base motives of contentment in the world, or any low and creature-enjoyments ; these are contemptible things to come into the balance with everlasting glory; it was only his service in the Gospel, and the public good of the church, that made the case doubtful.
Reason 1.—This is the perfection of our lives, and that which maketh it to be life indeed. Communion with God is the vitality of it, without which we are rather dead than alive. Life natural we have in common with the beasts and plants ; but in keeping the word, we live the life of God. “ Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God" (Eph. iv. 18). To natural men it is a gloomy thing; but to believers this is the life of life, and that which is the joy of their hearts. To increase in stature, and to grow bulky, that is the life of plants. The greatest and biggest of the kind, are most perfect. To live and enjoy pleasures without remorse, that is the perfection and life of beasts, that have no conscience, that shall not be called to an account. To gratify present interests, and to be able to turn and wind worldly affairs, that is the life of carnal men, that have no sense of eternity. But the perfection of the life of man as a reasonable creature, is to measure our actions by God's word, and to refer them to his glory.
2. It is the end of our lives, that God may be served : “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things” (Rom. xi. 36); angels, men, beasts, inanimate creatures. He expects more from men than from beasts; and from saints, than from men; and therefore life by them is not to be desired, and loved, but for this end. “He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks : and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks ; for none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself: for whether we live, we live unto the Lord : and whether we die, we die unto the Lord. Whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's" (Rom. xiv. 6–8).
USE I.-1.-For reproof. Every man desireth life: the whole world would all and every one of them put up this request to God, “Deal bountifully with thy servant that I may live ;'' but there is not one man in a hundred that considereth why he should live. Some would live to please the flesh, and to wallow in the delights of the present world; a brutish wish! a Heathen could say, He doth not deserve the name of a man, that would spend his time in pleasure one day. These would not leave their husks and their hog-trough. This was not David's desire, but that he might keep the law, and faithfully worship God.
2. Some desire to see their children well bestowed, or to free their estate froin incumbrance; this is distrust, as if we did not leave a God behind us, who hath promised to be a father of the fatherless, and to take care of our little ones. Can we venture ourselves in God's hands, anci can we not venture our families with him, whose goodness extendeth to all his creatures? Some are loath to leave such as are dear to them, wife, and children, and friends; and is not God better, and Christ better? These must be loved in God, and after God. We set friends in the place of God and Christ, when we can be content to be absent longer from God merely upon this ground, because we are loath to be separated from our friends. “He that loveth father or mother more than me, is not worthy of me,” saith Christ. Oh, how far are these from any Christian affection! surely to a believer it is a piece of self-denial to be kept out of Heaven longer ; therefore it must be sweetened by some valuable compensation ; something there must be to calm the mind contentedly to spare the enjovment of it for awhile. Now next to the good pleasure of God, which is the reason of reasons, there is some benefit which we pitch upon ; nothing is worthy to be compared but our service; if God may have glory, if our lives may do good. A gracious heart must be satisfied with gracious reasons. Some may desire life, because they are dismayed with the terrors of death; but this is unbelief; hath not Christ delivered us not only from the hurt of death, but the fear of death ? " And deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage (Heb. ii. 15). Where is your faith? “ Death is yours” (1 Cor. ii. 22). It is a sin simply to desire life ; but look to the causes and ends of it.
USE II.-It directeth us how to dispose of our lives. For this end take a few observations.
1. This life is not to be valued but by opportunities of service to God. It is not who liveth most plentifully, but most serviceably to God's glory. “ David after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep" (Acts xiii. 36). Every one was made to serve God in his generation, and hath his office and use as an instrument of Divine Provi. dence, from the king to the peasant. We are undone, if the creatures made to serve us, should fail in their season. We are made to serve God in our season.
2. This service is determined by the course God's providence. He is the great master of the scenes, that appointeth us what part to act, and sets to every man his calling and state of life. Our Saviour saith, “I have finished the work which thou hast given me to do” (John xvii. 4). We must not be our own carvers, prescribe to God at what rate we will be maintained, nor what kind of work we will perform. Those that are free, may covenant with you, and make their bargain what kind of service they will undertake ; but we are at God's absolute dispose, to be used as vessels of honour or dishonour, as fitted and disposed.
3. In the management of this work, we must measure our actions by God's word, and refer them to his glory. By God's word : “ Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm cxix. 105). His glory: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God, and the Father by him” (Col. iii. 17).
4. Death shall not prevent us, till we have ended our appointed service. As long as God hath work for us to do, he will maintain life and strength : “ Who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace” (Gal. i. 15). The decree taketh date from the womb. God frames parts and tempers. God rocketh us in our cradles, taketh care of us in our infancy, and in all the turns of our lives.
5. If God will use us to a great age, we must be content. You may adorn your profession, and bring forth fruit in old age. The longest life is too short to honour God: “Those that be planted in the house of the Lord, shall flourish in the courts of our God” (Psalm xcii. 13). We should count it our happiness to be still used, andthat we are fully rewarded by being employed in further service.
6. Life must be willingly laid down, when we cannot keep it but with forsaking the word : “ If any come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke xiv. 26).
7. The life of eternity must be subordinate to this great end, the glory of God; our desire of it must be that we may be to the praise of God.
SERMON XIX. VERSE 18.-Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous
things out of thy law. The Heathens thought that man had not a power over his life, but a power over his actions: Quod vivamus Deorum munus est, quod bene vivamus nostrum. But the Psalmist acknowledgeth God in both : “Deal bountifully with thy servant, that I may live and keep thy word ;" that he could not live or keep the word without God's grace. This latter he amplifieth in this verse, that he was so far from keeping it, that he could not so much as know it savingly and practically, without divine grace. Lord, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law." Here is,
I. A request, “Open thou mine eyes.”
II. The reason; from the end, benefit, and fruit of it that I may’' (or then I shall) “behold wondrous things out of thy law.”
In which reason is intimated the necessity of divine illumination, and then the profit of it.
Ist, The necessity, “ That I may behold,” &c.; i. e. otherwise I cannot. 2ndly, The profit, “ Then shall I behold wondrous things out of thy law.
DOCTRINE I.-That we need that God should open our eyes, if we would have a right understanding of his word.
1. What is meant by opening the eyes.
2. The necessity of such a work in order to a right understanding of the word of God.
First, What is meant by opening the eyes. Before I come to the particular explication of the terms, let me premise two observations.
1. The saints do not complain of the obscurity of the law, but of their own blindness. The Psalmist doth not say, Lord make a plainer law, but, Lord open mine eyes : blind men might as well complain of God, that he doth not make a sun whereby they might see. The word is “ a light that shineth in a dark place” (2 Peter. i. 19). There is no want of light in the Scripture, but there is a veil of darkness upon our hearts; so that if in this clear light we cannot see, the defect is not in the word, but in ourselves.
2. The light which they beg is not anything besides the word. When God is said to enlighten us, it is not that we should expect. new revelations, but that we may see the wonders in his word, or get a clear sight of what is already revealed. Those that vent their own dreams under the name of the Spirit, and divine light, they do not give you mysteria, but monstra, portentous opinions; not show you the wondrous things of God's law, but the prodigies of their own brain; unhappy abortives, that die as soon as they come to light. “To the law, and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. viii. 20). The light which we have, is not without the word, but by the word.
Now to the phrase ; the Hebrew signifieth 'unveil mine eyes.' There is a double work, negative, positive. There is a taking away the veil, and an infusion of light. Paul's cure of his natural blindvess, is a fit emblem of our cure of spiritual blindness, “Immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales, and he received sight forthwith” (Acts ix. 18). First the scales fall from our eyes, and then we receive sight. • Ist, There is a taking away the veil before we can have a true discerning of the mysteries that are revealed in the word of God. The Apostle speaking of the Jews saith, “but their minds were blinded : for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away, in the reading of the Old Testament; which veil is done away in Christ : but even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their hearts” (2 Cor. iii. 14. 15). Now this veil is divers :
1. The veil of ignorance. Though man hath reason, and is capable of understanding the sense and importance of the words that are used about the mysteries of godliness, yea and the matter too; yet he gets not the saving knowledge of them by his natural abilities. There is a grammatical knowledge, and a spiritual knowledge; a man may know things grammatically and literally, that is ignorant of them spiritually. As a child may read the letters and words, that doth not conceive of the