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sot the heart, and make us altogether for a present good; they weaken our desires of Heaven ; it is the Apostle's argument: “As strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts." The flesh-pots of Egypt made Israel to despise Canaan; and so this is that which will take off our hearts from things to come, from “ the inheritance of the saints in light," and from that blessed estate God hath promised.
2. Grasp not at too much of the world; but what comes with a fair Providence upon honest endeavours, accept with thanks : “ They that will be rich, fall into temptation and a snare," &c. (1 Tim. vi. 9). The Devil hath you upon the hip, when you make that your business and scope; not he that is, but will be rich; that fixes that as his scope. Then the heart is filled with sins and the head with cares.
3. If an estate comes in slowly, remember, a little will serve our turns to Heaven ; more would be but a burden and share. Those that have their portion here, most of worldly things, what do they get by it? A little belly-cheer," and they leave the rest to their babes” (Psalm xvii. 14). Dainty cheer is no great matter ; and to leave our posterity great, is but to leave them in a snare. Children are under a providence, and a covenant, as well as we; and it is blasphemous to think we can provide for them better than God.
4. If God give abundance, rest not in it with a carnal complacency: “If riches increase, set not your heart upon them” (Psalm lxii. 10). Suffer not thy heart to rejoice in them, as your only portion, so as to grow proud of them, so as to count them your “ good things” (Luke xvi. 25): you that are strangers, have better things to mind.
5. Keep up a warm respect to your everlasting home. It is not enough to despise the world, but you must look after a better country. Many of a slight temper may despise worldly profits, their-corruptions do not run out that way : “ Here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come” (Heb. xii. 14). Desires, thoughts, and groans, these are the harbingers of the soul, that we send into the land of promise. By this means we tell God that we would be at home.
6. Enjoy as much of Heaven as you can in your pilgrimage; in ordi. nances, in the first-fruits of the Spirit, in communion with saints. Grace is but young glory; and joy in the Holy Ghost, is the suburbs of Heaven; and therefore you should get somewhat of your country before you come at it. As the winds do carry the odours and sweet smells of Arabia into the neighbouring provinces ; so by the breathings of the Holy Ghost upon our hearts, do we get a smell of the upper paradise; it is in some measure begun in us, before we can get thither ; and therefore enjoy as much of Heaven as possibly you can in the time of your pilgrimage. We have our taste here; it is begun in union with Christ, and in the work of grace upon the heart. And in ordinances. Prayer brings us to the throne of grace; it gives us an entrance into God's presence, the Apostle calls it “ a boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. x. 19). A Christian enters Heaven while he is here in the world. In the “ word preached” Heaven is brought down to us. The Gospel is called the kingdom of Heaven. And by reading we do as it were converse with the saints departed, that wrote what we read. Meditation, it brings us into the company of God, it puts our heads above the clouds, in the midst of the blessed spirits there, as if we saw Jesus Christ upon the throne, and his saints triumphing about him. Communion of saints, it is Heaven begun; therefore you that are strangers should much delight there. A man that is abroad, would be glad to meet with his own countrymen; we should be glad of company to go with us to Heaven; these are to be our companions for evermore, therefore we should converse with them here. and apostles to write Scripture ; so pastors and teachers to open and apply Scripture; therefore they are “ swift to hear" (James i. 19); that is, take all occasions for that end and purpose.
Secondly, I proceed to the latter clause: “ Hide not thy commandment from me." Here is his request. To make short work of it, I shall endeavour to make out the connexion and sense of these words in these propositions :
1. Every man here upon earth (especially a godly man) is but a stranger and a passenger. Every man is so in point of condition; he must go hence, and quit all his enjoyments in the world; wicked men whether they will or not, but a godly man is so in affection, and cannot be satisfied with his present state. This I have insisted upon.
2. It concerns him that is a stranger, to look after a better and a more durable state.-Every man should do so. He that lives here for a while is concerned; his greatest care should be for that place where he lives longest; therefore eternity should be his scope. A godly man will do so. Those whose hearts are not set upon earthly things, they must have Heaven. The more their affections are estranged from the one, the more they are taken up about the other (Col. iii. 2); Heaven and earth are like two scales in a balance, that which is taken from the one, is put into the other.
3. There is no sufficient direction how to obtain this durable estate, but in the word of God. Without this, we are but like poor pilgrims and wayfaring men in a strange country, not able to discern the way home. A blessed state is only sufficiently rerealed in the word : “Life and immortality is brought to light through the Gospel” (2 Tim. i. 10). The Heathens did but guess at it, and had some obscure sense of an 'estate after this life ; but it is brought to light with most clearness in the word ; so the way thither is only pointed out by the word. It is the word of God makes us wise to salvation, and which is our line and rule to heavenly Canaan ; and therefore it concerns those that look after this durable state, to consult with the word.
4. There is no understanding God's word, but by the light of the Spirit.-" There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding” (Job xxxii, 8). Though the word have light in it, yet the spirit of man cannot move till God enlightens us with that lively light that makes way for the dominion of the truth in our hearts, and conveyeth influence into our hearts. This is the light David begs, when he said, “Hide not thy commandments from me.” David was not ignorant of the Ten Commandments, of their sound; but he begs their spiritual sense and use.
5. If we would have the Spirit, we must ask it of God in prayer : for God gives the “Spirit to them that ask him” (Luke xi. 13); and therefore we must say, as David, “O send out thy light and thy truth, let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacle” (Psalm xliii. 3).
6. When we beg it of God, we must do it with submission to his sovereignty, and with subscription to his justice. Therefore doth David use this manner of speech, “Hide not thy commandments from me.” God doth hide, when he doth not open our eyes too see; now the Lord may choose whether he will do this or not; for he is Sovereign, and may
in justice forbear to do so, because we have abused the light we have; it will be hid from us, unless he reveal it. The mystery of grace is wholly at God's disposal ; and whosoever begs it, he must refer himself to the holy and sovereign good pleasure of God, who may give out and withhold his efficacious grace according to his pleasure: “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of Heaven and earth because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes; even so! Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight” (Matt. xi. 25, 26). Here is the Lord's sovereignty; he doth in these things as he pleaseth; therefore David submits to it. And then it implies, it may be just with God to leave us unto our natural blindness, and suffer Satan to blind us more. It is fully consistent with the honour of his justice; therefore it is said: “He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts,” &c. (John xii. 40); that is, judicially, suffering them to increase their own blindness by their sin; blindness, that is their sin; and the Lord may leave it as a judgment upon them.
USE.—Here is direction to you that know you are but pilgrims; the great thing you should seek after, is the straightest way to Heaven. If you have a sense of eternity, and a sense of your present frailty, you should look how to get home to your country. To this end,
Ist, Study the word. Why? This is your antidote against infection, and a cordial to cheer us in the way. It is an antidote against infection: by the promises we escape the “corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter i. 4). The world is an infectious place, therefore you had need take the promises next your heart to keep your hopes alive. And here is your cordial to keep you from fainting, that which makes you to rejoice in the midst of present afflictions (Psalm cxix. 54). It is a cordial to cheer us up, to revive us in the way, till we come to our journey's end. This will make up losses, sweeten difficulties, allay your sorrows. Then it is your direction, the way to lead you home : “ Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm cxix. 105). We shall soon pass over this life ; all our care should be to pass it over well, there are so many by-paths in the world, and in a strange place we may soon miscarry.
2ndly, Entreat the Lord of his abundant grace to pity poor strangers, who are ignorant; and desire him that he would not hide his word from you, that you may walk in the nearest, closest way wherein he would have you walk. He may hide it from you as an absolute supreme Lord; for he is bound to give his grace to none: and he may do it as a just Judge, he may leave you to your own infatuations and prejudices. Say, Lord pity a poor stranger and pilgrim.
The word may be hidden two ways, and take care of both:
1. In point of external administration, when the powerful means are wanting. Oh, it is a great mark of God's displeasure, when men are given up by their own choice, to blind guides, to those who have no skill or no will to edify, or no abilities rightly to divide the word of truth; only fill the ear with clamour and noise, but do not inform the conscience, or move the heart by solid and powerful instruction from the word of God.
2. In point of internal influence, when the comforts and quickenings of the Spirit are withholden. “Lord, withhold not thy Spirit from me.
SERMON XXI. VERSE 20.--My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy
judgments at all times. David had begged divine illumination, verse 18. The reason of his request was, because he was a stranger upon earth, and a stranger may easily be bewildered. Now here is a second reason why he would have God to open his eyes, because his heart was carried out with so strong an affection to the word. He that asketh a thing coldly, doth but bespeak his own denial. But David was in good earnest when he prayed for light; it was not a dead-hearted, prefunctory petition, but such as came from an ardent and strong affection, “ My soul breaketh,” &c.
In the words we have,
II. The quality or kind of his affection; Ist, It was vehement, “ My soul breaketh with longing." 2ndly, It was constant, “ at all times."
By Misphalim, “judgments," is meant the word, which is the infallible rule of God's proceedings with sinners.
For the affection, I shall open that, and there first speak of the vehemency, “ My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath.” It is a metaphorical expression, to set forth the earnestness of his affection. The Septuagint renders it thus: 7603ng+y = 4 xi ua rò Tiguuñưa rà soáuare T8, “My soul coveteth to desire thy judgments.” Desire is the stretching forth the soul to the thing desired. Now as things that are stretched out, do break and crack in stretching, so, saith David, “My soul breaketh for the longing." Here is no respect to brokenness of heart in this place, it is only strength of desire that is expressed ; and the expression is used the rather,
1. Because affections when strong are painful, and affect the body with impressions answerable thereunto.
2. Not only the denial, but the delay of satisfying the affection, increaseth the pain; when they have not what they do desire, they are even broken in heart : “Hope deferred, maketh the heart sick; but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life” (Prov. xiii. 12); like apples of Paradise, comforting and reviving. Now the constancy and continuance of this desire, is set forth in these words, “ at all times ;' not for a flash and pang, but it was the ordinary frame of his heart.
DOCTRINE.—God's children have a strong, constant, and earnest bent of affection towards his word.
1. To open the nature of this affection. 2. The reasons of it.
First, The nature: there consider the object, the end, the properties, and the effects.
1. The object of this affection is the word of God written or preached. As it is written in the Scriptures, so it is their constant exercise to read it, and consult with it often : “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm i. 2). And, “ This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, but thou shalt meditate therein day and night” (Joshua i. 8). As it is preached and explained : they submit to God's ordinance in that also, who hath appointed pastors and teachers, as well as prophets and apostles (Eph. iv. 11). Prophets
2. For the end of this affection, it is a sanctified subjection to the will of God, and strength and growth in the spiritual life; “ As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word; that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter ii. 2); not merely that you may know, but that you may grow thereby ; not to replenish the head with notions, but that you may increase in spirit. ual strength, and find more liberty of heart towards God.
3. For the properties of it, you have them here in the text:-1st, They must be earnest. 2ndly, A constant bent of heart.
Ist, An earnest bent of heart. Common or ordinary affection or desire after the word, will not serve the turn; not a faint and cold wish, but such as hath heat and warmth in it. It is good to see by what expressions the desires of the saints are set forth in Scripture ; by the desire of infants after the breast (1 Peter ii. 2); they cannot live without it. It is set forth also by the panting of the hart after the water-brooks (Psalm xlii. 1). To meet with God in his word, it is as a brook of water to a chased hart, it refresheth and revives it. It is set forth by the desires of a longing woman, verse 40 of this Psalm, “Behold I have longed after thy precepts.” The children of God are fond of nothing so much as of his word and ordinances. It is set forth by the appetite which a hungry man hath toward his meat after a long abstinence : “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord" (Psalm lxxxiv, 2). Or as a weary traveller and thirsty man longeth after drink: “My soul thirsteth for thee,” &c. (Psalm lxiii. 1). Or as cool air to the weary : “ I opened my mouth, and panted; for I longed for thy commandments” (Psalm cxix. 131); a metaphor taken from a man tired with running, gaping for breath, to take some cool air and refreshing. What think you of all these expressions ? are they strains and reaches of wit, or the real experiences of the children of God? The truth is, we have such languid motions this way, that we know not how to understand the force of such expressions, therefore we think them to be conceits, we that are so cold and indifferent whether we meet with God in his word, yea or nay.
2ndly, As it is not cold, so it is not fleeting, but constant. Many men have good affections for awhile, but they abide not, as I shall give you some kinds.
(1.) Some out of error in judgment think the word of God is only fit for novices (as the Stancarists) to enter us into the rudiments of religion, but too low a dispensation for our after-growth. It is “ milk for babes,” they think; but afterwards we must live immediately upon the Spirit. But we see that David's affection ever carried him to the word, not only at his first acquaintance with God, but at all times, as in the text.
(2.) Some prize the word in adversity, when they have no other comfort to live upon; then they can be content to study the word to comfort them in their distresses ; but when they are well at ease, they despise it. But David made use of it at all times; in prosperity, to humble him; in adversity, to comfort him; in the one, to keep him from pride; in the other, to keep him from despair : in affliction, the word was his cordial; in worldly increase, it was his his antidote : and so at all times his heart was carried out to the word either for one necessity or another.
(3.) Some, during a qualm of conscience, have an affection for holy things; as we desire strong waters in a pang, not for a constant diet. While