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the terrors of God are upon them, nothing will satisfy them but the word : .O send for Moses and Aaron,' then when the plague was upon them; but as their trouble wears off, so doth their affection to the word of God. It is fear that drives them to the word, and not love.
(4.) Some out of a general sense of the excellency that is in the word. They go on smoothly for awhile, as Herod, who heard gladly (Mark vi. XX.), so do many, till the word comes to cross their lusts, and touch their darling sin, then they run to earthly pleasures again, and out of a sense of difficulty and carnal despondency, they give over the pursuit.
(5.) Some are taken with the mere novelty : “Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light” (John v. 35); while the doctrine is novel, and ministers have countenance from great men, as John had from Herod, and their gifts are in the flourish, none but John in their account ; but when the conceit of novelty was gone, and John fell under the cross, then their affection was spent.
(6.) Some in case of dubious anxiety, or in doubtful debates, may desire to know the truth, and be much and earnest in the study of the word; but when they get above their scruples, and in plain truths, ordinary cases, they neglect it. Whereas David longed for the word of God at all times; to feel the power of God accompanying it, so as to find strength against his corruptions, and that he might be established in waiting upon God: this was the constant and stable desire of his soul.
Thus you see the word of God is the object, either read or preached : the end of it is, that they may grow in grace, and that their hearts may be more subjected to God, and may be strengthened in waiting upon him : and the manner of this desire is vehement and constant, not at times, but it is the usual frame and temper of their hearts.
4. The effects of this desire, what it worketh: I will mention but two:
(1.) It draws off the heart from other things : “ Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness” (Psalm cxix. 36); implying, that when the heart is drawn out after God's testimonies, it is drawn off from carnal pursuits. Desires, they are the vigorous bent of the soul, and there. fore as the stream of a river they can run but one way. Our passionate desires of earthly things certainly will be abated, if spiritual desires prevail in us ; for being acquainted with a better object, they begin to disdain and loath other things.
(2.) It maketh us diligent and painful in the use of means, that we may get knowledge and strength by the word. Where strong desires are, there will be great endeavours : “ Watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors” (Prov. viii. 34). A man that hath a desire after grace, and strength by the word of God, will daily be redeeming occasions of waiting upon God. It is but a slight wish, not a serious desire, that is not seconded with answerable endeavours.
Secondly, having opened the nature of these desires, let me show the reasons of this vehement and constant bent of heart towards the word of God,
1. Of the vehemency, 2. Of the constancy.
Ist, The reasons of the vehemency, they are these: natural instinct, experience, and necessity.
1. Natural instinct: “ As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word” (1 Peter ii. 2). Children desire the dug, not by instruction, but
instinct, without a teacher. All creatures desire to preserve that life which they have; and therefore by a natural propension they run to that thing from whence they received life. Mere instinct carrieth the brutecreatures to the teats of their dams; and every effect looks to the cause, to receive from thence its last perfection. Trees, that receive life from the earth and the sun, they send forth their branches to receive the sun, and stretch their roots into the earth which brought them forth. Fishes will not live out of the water which breeds them. Chickens are no sooner out of the shell, but they shroud themselves under the feathers of the hen. The little lamb runs to the dani's teat, though there be a thousand sheep of the same wool and colour; as if it said, 'Here I received that I have, and here I will seek that I want.' By such a native, inbred desire, do the saints run to God to seek a supply of strength and nourishment; and the desire is very strong and vehement: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after," &c. There were other things David might desire, but this one thing his heart was set upon, That he might enjoy constant communion with God in the use of public ordinances. What is the reason of this? I answer, the spiritual nature; you may as well ask, What teacheth the young lambs to suck, as who taught the regenerate to long for the word. What teacheth the chicken to run under The wing of the hen? The cause of appetite is not persuasion and discourse, but inclination; not argument, but nature. Appetite, it is an effect of life. By natural tendency the new creature is carried out to its support from the word of God, there to be comforted and nourished. It shows that all who have not such a kindly appetite to the word of God, that can relish nothing but meats, drinks, wealth, vanity, they were never acquainted with this new nature.
2. Experience is another cause of this desire. A child of God is not satisfied with a slight taste of the word, but he desires more ; when he hath felt the comfort of it, he is still longing to receive more from God: “ He begat us with the word of truth." What follows ? “Wherefore be swift to hear” (James i. 8). A man that hath had experience of the power of the word, taketh all occasions; he knows there is strength, grace, and liberty of heart to be found there : so, “ As new-born babes, &c.—If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Peter ii. 2, 3). Certainly a man that hath had any taste of communion with God, will desire a fuller measure, as by tasting of excellent meats, we get an appetite to them. Carnal men, they do not know what it is to enjoy God in an ordinance, and therefore do not long for them, they do not taste the sweetness of the word. The statutes of the Lord are “ sweeter than the honey or the honey-comb” (Psalm xix. 10). The children of God find more true pleasure in the ordinances, in the statutes of God, than all things in the world, though to carnal men they are but as dry sticks, burdensome exercises ; the reason follows, verse 11: “Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward." He commandeth the word from his own experience; he had felt the effects and good use of it in his own heart; he had been warned, and had a great deal of comfort and refreshing by it; therefore it is sweeter than the honey and the honey-comb: so, “O God, my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee:" what to do ? " to see thy power, and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary" (Psalm 1xü. 1, 2). He that hath had once a sight of God, would not be long out of his company. He compareth his desire of communion with God with hunger and thirst; his desire is greater than the hunger and thirst that men suffer in a dry wilderness where there is no water to give refreshment. He had seen God, and would now see him again. The remembrance of those forıner pleasures of the sanctuary, revived his desires : so that besides nature, there is this experience.
3. The next cause is necessity. We should take delight in the word of God for its excellency, though we stood in no need of it. But our necessity is very great, and this awakens desire. The word is not only compared to things which make for conveniency of life, as to wine and honey ; but it is compared also to things that are of absolute necessity, bread and water. It is called “ bread of life," and " water of life.” Bread of life, we cannot live without it: “I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job xxiii. 12). Food is that which keeps us in life, and enables us to action and work. And as water: “ With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation” (Isa. xii. 3). This is as water to a fainting traveller. Christians, the soul is better than the body; and eternal life is to be preferred before life natural; therefore the necessities of the soul are greater, and should be more urging than the necessities of the body. The famine of the word is threatened as a very great evil (Amos viii. 11). Now because the necessities of the saints are so great, therefore have they their hearts carried out with such longing after the statutes of God. And this necessity is not only at first when they are weak, but it continueth with them as long as the imperfection continueth with them, and till they come to Heaven. Every grace in a child of God needs increase and support. There is something that is lacking to their faith, to their love, to their knowledge. The Apostle saith, " That we might perfect that which is lacking in your faith” (1 Thes. iii. 10). They that are above ordinances, are not acquainted with their own hearts, they are not men of spiritual experience, they do not know the weaknesses and languishings a child of God is incident to, it is wholly inconsistent to the nature of grace. Wherever there is life, there must be food, because of the constant depastion of the natural heat upon the na. tural moisture.. Though the stomach be never so full at present, yet anon it will be hungry again : so because of the constant combat that is between the flesh and spirit, wherever there is spiritual life, it will be sensible of the necessity of food. Well then, it is hunger and necessity that sharpens appetite, being sensible of spiritual languishing, and need to repair strength daily, therefore are their hearts carried out. Thus you see the reasons of this vehement affection.
2ndly, The reasons of the constancy of this respect.
1. Because it is natural and kindly to the regenerate; therefore as it is vehement, so it is constant. For it is not a light motion, but such as is deeply rooted; not a good liking, but a thorough bent of heart; it is that which settleth into another nature. Now that which is as a nature to us is known by its uniformity and constancy.
2. They love the word for its own sake, as it is God's word; therefore they ever love it. Other men love it for foreign reasons, as out of novelty, which is an adulterous affection; or out of public countenance, as it is in fashion and repute, and therefore are soon weary of it. He that loves a woman for foreign reasons, as beauty and portion, when these cease, his love ceaseth.
Use I.-Is to reprove the coldness and cursed satiety and loathing of the
word of God that is abroad. There is a plenty of means, even to a surfeit : men are Gospel-glutted, Christ-glutted, and sermon-glutted, and therefore are at a very great indifferency, and under a mighty coldness as to the word of God. Usually we are more sensible of the benefit of the word in the want of it, than we are in the enjoyment of it. “The word of the Lord was precious in those days, there was an open vision” (1 Sam. iii. 1). When the public ministry of the prophets was rare and scarce, then it was precious and sweet. When the Papists denied the use of the Scripture in the vulgar tongue, O what would we give them for a little scrap and fragment of the word of God in English ! a load of hay for a chapter in James. So in times of restraint, how savoury is a godly sermon! But now visions are open, men begin to surfeit of the word. In semet ipsam semper abun. dantia contumeliosa est (saith Tertullian). Plenty lesseneth the price of things. As in Solomon's time, gold and silver were as dirt in the streets, so the word of God, though it be so precious and excellent, yet when we have plenty of it, line upon line, precept upon precept, by God's indul. gence, then we begin to be glutted. People grow wanton when they have adundance of means. This is the temper of English professors at this day, they are guilty of surfeiting of the word, and that is very dangerous either to a people or a person. Now that there is such a fulness and satiety, appears, partly,
1. By seldom attendance upon the word. We do not redeem time to hear the word; when brought home to our doors, we seldom step out to hear it. They use to say, a surfeit of bread is most dangerous; surely a surfeit of the bread of life is so. When men are full, and begin to despise the word as if not worth the hearing, God usually sends a famine to correct that surfeit of the word : “ I will send a famine-of hearing the words of the Lord, and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and they shall not find it” (Amos viii. 11, 12). Usually that is the way that God taketh for a glutted people, that scorn and neglect the word, when they might gather it like manna from Heaven every day; they may ride many miles before they hear a savoury sermon; and then those that were not for the word, or desirous to be rid of it, may long for a little comfort and reviving by it, and cannot enjoy it.
2. Men bewray this satiety and fulness of the word, by fond affectation of luscious strains; wholesome doctrines will not down with them, unless it be cooked and sauced to their wanton appetites. O Christians, the spiritual appetite desires το λογικόν άδολον γάλα', « the sincere milk of the word” (1 Pet. ii. 2); unmixed milk; give them plain, simple milk, without human mixtures and compositions. The relish of the word is spoiled by the garish strains of a frothy eloquence. A plain, solid truth is more suitable to a gracious heart. A man that hath a natural instinct to the word, delights in the simplicity of it. An infant hath a distinguishing palate, and knows the mother's milk, and pukes and casts when it sucks another's : so certainly, if we had true spiritual life, we would be delighted in the word for the word's sake, the more plain it is, provided it be sound. I am not for a loose, careless delivering of God's message ; but it is the sound, plain, and wholesome ministry, which suits with a gracious appetite. It argues a distempered heart, when we must have quails, and dainties, and loath manna. Consider, in Heaven where we have the most simple apprehension of things, we have the highest affection to them. No need
of rhetoric in Heaven. And certainly the more heavenly we are, the more perfect in grace, the more wisdom shall we see in plain, scriptural truth, infinitely exceeding all the wisdom of the Heathen. Many think the word of God too plain for their mouths to preach it; others too stale for their ears to hear it; and they must have the fancies of men : “ They hare rejected the word of the Lord: and what wisdom is in them ?" (Jer. viii. 9.). It is strange to see how many will disguise religion to please the lusts of men. They mock Christ as the soldiers did, that put a centurion's coat upon him for a robe, and then, “ Hail, King of the Jews." So they wrap up Christ in the foolish garments of their own fancy, and so expose him to mockage rather than reverence.
3. This satiety bewrays itself by our affections to novel opinions and erroneous conceits : “ The time will come that they will not endure sound doctrine, -having itching ears, and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned into fables” (2 Tim. iv. 3). Observe it when you will, that soul is nigh to spiritual blasting, that begins to have a loathing of a plain truth; and men must have new things and conceits in religion, and so grow weary of opinions as they do of fashions; and then by God's just judgment they run from one fancy to another, till they quite run themselves out of breath, and have shaken off a religion and good conscience. Therefore take heed of being given up to this vertiginous spirit, to be turned and “ tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine" (Eph. iv. 14); Tepigepóuevot, the Apostle's word signifies, to be carried round in a circle ; he alludes to a mariner's compass, that is carried by every wind; this wind takes them, and then another; such light chaff are men when they begin to loath the plain truths of God. But it is an argument of a gracious heart, when we can receive old truth with new affections, and look for the power of God, and new quickenings.
4. This levity and instability of spirit, is because they look for all the virtue of religion from their notions, and their opinicns, and not from Christ; then they think this change of opinion shall make them better; their hearts shall be changed. They try experiments so long, till the Lord hath given them up to a spirit of infatuation, and then all comes to nothing, but they as a brand are fit for the burning.
5. By our worldly projects. Men show a loathing of this word, by their eagerness to the world; their hearts, with Martha's, are cumbered with many things, while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus to hear his word, (Luke x. 39). We are very fervorous in worldly affairs ; there we can experi. ment this kind of affection which David speaks of to the word. Beware of this coldness to the word, it is an ill symptom both to nations and persons.
USE II.—To press us to get this fervent and constant affection to the word. To this end consider :
1. Whose word is it. God's word; and your best affections are due to him: “The desire of our soul is to thy name and to the remembrance of thee” (Isa. xxvi. 8). There you shall hear of God, there God hath displayed his name. Our desires are to thee, not only so, but to thy memorial, to the remembrance of thy name; that is, to his word, which is as the bellows to blow up the sparks, and to quicken our affections to him.
2. See what benefits we have by the word of God, how beneficial it is, To enlighten and direct us, to quicken and comfort us,-to supply and strengthen us.