« 上一頁繼續 »
us, and we will call upon thy name. Turn us again, O Lord God of hosts; cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved" (Psalm lxxx. 18, 19). The shining of God's face, or the sense of God's love, is the reviving of afflicted spirits.
(2.) The actuation of grace; there may be life where there is no vigour. Now when we are stirred up to be lively in God's service, we are said to be quickened, as in the 19th verse of the Psalm before quoted; and often it is thus used in this Psalm, as verse the 37th : “ Quicken thou me in thy way." The point is this :
That God's children need often go to God for quickening, because they often lie under deadness of heart; and therefore should desire God who is the fountain of grace, to emit and send forth his influence.
They need this quickening, (1.) By reason of their constant weakness. (2.) Their frequent indispositions and distempers of soul.
ist, Their constant weakness in this world.
(1.) By reason of their inclination to sin. Carnal concupiscence draw. eth us aside from God to sensual objects, James i. 14; a man is “ drawn away of his own lust." There is a strong bias of corruption drawing us from Christ to present things : “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us” (Heb. xii. 1). There is a carnal affection, or corrupt inclination, which carrieth us out inordinately to things lawful, or too often to things unlawful; this hangeth as a weight, retarding us in all our heavenly flights and motions. The love and care of the world, which is apt to press down the soul, and doth twine about us, and insinu. ate with us; the Apostle calleth it a law in his members (Rom. vii. 23); a warning to us, how, when the flesh draweth us off so strongly one way, to implore the divine grace to draw us more strongly to the other.
(2.) Because of the imperfection of their motions to that which is good, though there be a purpose, bent of heart, and inclination that way. Our gyves are still about us; we feel the old maim. Grace is like a spark in wet wood that needs continued blowing.
2ndly, Their frequent indispositions and distempers of soul. Sometimes they feel a loathness in their souls, and a shyness of God's presence; their hearts hang off; the spirit indeed is willing, but some fleshly thought or carnal excuse checketh the motion. It is God alone that can make the soul willing, he giveth both will and deed. God bendeth the unwilling will, as well as helpeth the fainting affections. Again, sometimes they find a great deadness, there is no vigour or liveliness in their affections, and they cannot follow after God with such zeal and earnestness: though there be not a formal deadness, such as usually is in the duties of hypocrites; yet there is not always the same strength and agility of grace in the children of God; their souls do not so earnestly reach after Christ. Now what can help but divine quickening ? therefore go to God for it. We should rouse and stir up ourselves. God giveth out influence accord. ing to his will or pleasure, but we must still stir up ourselves.
But to answer a case of conscience, “Whether we are to do duty in case of deadness and indisposition ?” &c.
1. The influence of grace is not the warrant of duty, but the help ; it is the efficient, assisting cause, not the ground or rule; we are to do all acts
of obedience on the account of God's command : “ Simon answering, said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing, nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net” (Luke v. 5). God is sovereign, and we are bound to obey whether disposed or indisposed. Should the husbandman never plough but when disposed to plough?
2. Our sinful indisposition cannot excuse u3. In sins of commission our weakness to resist temptation is no excuse. So also in sins of omis. sion, we cannot be allowed to say, 'It was the Lord suffered me to sin.' No more will this plea be allowed, “The Lord did not quicken me to duty.' Grace is as necessary to prevent sin, as to perform duty. God's suspen. sion was no excuse to Hezekiah : “ Howbeit, in the business of the am. bassadors of the princes of Babylon, who sent to him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land, God left him, to try him, that he might know all that was in his heart” (2 Chron. xxxii. 31). This complaint of weakness hath an ill aspect; complaining without labouring, is rather a taxing of God. But,
3. Natural men are bound to pray and perform duties, therefore renewed men. That natural men are bound, see Acts viii, 22: “ Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.” Again, “ The Lord looked down from Heaven to see if there were any that did understand and seek God” (Psalm xiv. 2). It is charged as a crime, that they did not, but much more the renewed; for to whom more is given, of them more is required. It is another talent wherewith they are entrusted. Grace is not only donum, but talentum : grace is not given as a piece of money to a child to play withal, but as we give money to factors to trade withal for us. Now a renewed man should do more, being capable of more.
4. The outward act of a duty is commanded as well as the inward, though they come not up to the nature of a perfect duty, there is some. what of the ordinance of Christ in them : “ Take with you words, and turn unto the Lord: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously : so will we render the calves of our lips” (Hos. xiv. 2). Though I cannot do all, I must do as much as I can.
5. We are to wait humbly in the use of means, for the power of his grace. When the door is shut, knocking is the only way to get it open. I will go and offer myself to God, and see what he will do for me; which is God's usual way, and to be used with the more caution and diligence, because God doth all : “ Wherefore my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence; work out your own salvation with fear and trembling: for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. ii. 12, 13). Seamen by tacking about get wind : so far as you use the means, you comply with God's end. A sad threatening there is to those that neglect the use of means, that shut the door upon themselves, or if God withdraws, are willing he should keep away.
6. Acting in spiritual duties, fits us for them: Iter ad pietatem est intra pietatem : praying fits for praying, meditating for meditating : fre. quent turning the key, maketh the lock go more easy. Good dispositions make way for good dispositions : “Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thy heart” (Psalm xxvii. 14.–Psalm xxxi, 24). Pluck up your spirits, strive to take courage, and then God will give you
courage. To shake us out of laziness, God maketh the precept to go before the promise. God biddeth us pray, though prayer be his own gift. Act as you would expect.
7. There is a supply cometh in ere we are aware : “ Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadab” (Cant. vi. 12.) in the very work. A strange difference of temper is to be observed in David before the Psalm be over: “ Arise therefore, and be doing, and the Lord be with thee" (1 Chron. xxii. 16). God will not help that man that hath legs to go, and will not.
8. We are to rouse up ourselves : “ And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee” (Psalm lxiv. 7). When we are willing to get the work over, and wrestle not for life and power in praying; we do not all we are able. The cock, by clapping the wings, addeth strength to the crowing. We should rouse up ourselves. We use not the bellows to a dead coal, &c.
Secondly, The next circumstance is the argument, “ according to thy word ;" what word doth David mean? Either the general promises in the books of Moses or Job; which intimate deliverance to the faithful observers of God's law, or help to the miserable and distressed; or some particular promise given to him by Nathan, or others. Chrysostom saith, “Quicken me to live according to thy word: but it is not a word of command, but a word of promise." Mark here,
1. He doth not say, Secundum meritum mcum, but, secundum verbum tuum ; the hope, or that help which we expect from God, is founded upon his word; there is our security, in his promises, not in our deserv. ings: Promittendo se fecit debitorem, &c.
2. When there was so little Scripture written, yet David could find out a word for his support: Alas! in our troubles and afflictions, no promise occurreth to mind. As in outward things, many that have less, live bet. ter than those that have abundance; so here, now Scripture is so large, we are less diligent, and therefore, though we have so many promises, we are apt to faint, we have not a word to bear us up.
3. This word did not help him, till he had lain long under this heavy condition, that he seemed dead. Many, when they have a promise, think presently to enjoy the comfort of it. No, there is waiting and striving first necessary. We never relish the comfort of the promises, till the creatures have spent their 'allowance, and we have been exercised. God will keep his word, and yet we must expect to be tried.
4. In this his dead condition, faith in God's word kept him alire. When we have least feeling, and there is nothing left us, the word will support us: “And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb; he staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God” (Rom. iv. 19, 20).
5. One good way to get comfort, is to plead the promise to God in prayer, Chirographa tua injiciebat tibi Domine, show him his handwriting ; God is tender of his word. These arguings in prayer, are not to work upon God, but ourselves.
Use. — Well then, let us thus deal with God, looking to him in the sense of our own weakness, praying often to God for quickening, as David doth in the text. God keepeth grace in his own hands, and dispenseth it at his pleasure, that he may often hear from us, and that we may renew our dependence upon him; it is pleasing to him when we desire him to renew
his work, and bring forth the actings of grace in their vigour and lustre. And let us acknowledge Divine grace, if there be strong actings of faith and love towards God. He is to be owned in his work.
SERMON XXVII. VERSE 26.— I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: leach
me thy statutes. In this verse you have three things :· I. David's open and free dealing with God: “I have declared my ways."
II. God's gracious dealing with David : “ and thou heardest me."
III. A petition for continuance of the like favour: “teach me thy statutes."
For the first, “I have declared my ways:" that is, distinctly, and without hypocrisy, laid open the state of my heart, and course of my affairs to thee.
DOCTRINE.—They that would speed with God, should learn this point of Christian ingenuity, unfeignedly to lay open their whole case to him.
That is, to declare what they are about, the nature of their affairs, the state of their hearts, what of good or evil they find in themselves, their conflicts, supplies, distresses, hopes; this is declaring our ways; the good and evil we are conscious to. As a sick patient will tell the physician how it is with him, so should we deal with God if we would find mercy. This declaring his ways, may be looked upon,
1. As an act of faith and dependence. 2. As an act of holy friendship.
3. As an act of spiritual contrition, and brokenness of heart : for this declaring must be explained according to the sense of the object of what David means by this expression, “ My ways.”
First, His businesses or undertakings, I have still made them known to thee, committing them to the direction of thy providence; and so it is an act of faith and dependence, consulting with God, and acquainting him with all our desires. This is necessary,
1. That we may acknowledge the sovereignty of his providence and dominion over all events : “ A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps" (Prov. xvi. 9). Man proposeth, but God disposeth, and carrieth on the event either further than we intended, or else contrary to what we intended.
2. We must declare our ways to God, that we may take God along with us in all our actions, that we may ask his leave, counsel, blessing: “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths" (Prov. iii. 6). There is a twofold direction, one of God's providence, the other of his counsel. The direction of his providence, that is understood : “A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps" (Prov. xvi. 9). But then there is the direction of his counsel, and the latter is promised here; if we acknowledge God, and declare our ways to him, God will counsel us. And David did thus declare his way upon all occasions : “ David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah ?" (2 Sam. ii. 1.) It is a piece of religious manners to begin every business with God; to go to God, Lord, shall I do so, or shall i not ? to desire him that is Lord of all, to give us leave; who is the fountain of wisdom, to give us counsel ; who is the disposer of events, to give us a blessing.
3. The declaring of our ways is necessary, that we may be sensible of God's eye that is upon us, and so act the more sincerely. Certainly, it is a great advantage to make God conscious to every business we have in hand, when we dare undertake nothing but what we would acquaint him withal. There are some to whom the Prophet pronounceth a woe : “ Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us ?'' (Isa. xxix. 15.) For the opening of this place, surely none can seriously be so vain, and grow up to such sottish atheism, as to think to hide a thing from God; but they are loath solemnly to draw it forth in the view of conscience, to revive a sense of God's omnisciency upon themselves. We are said to deny that which many times we forget, and will not think of. So that those which hide their counsels from God, are those that will not take God along with them. In short, this declaration is not necessary for God, who knows our thoughts afar off (Psalm cxxxix. 2); not only our words and works, but purposes, before we begin to lift up a thought that way. But this declaration is necessary for us, to increase the awe of God upon our heart, and that we may undertake nothing but what we will solemnly acquaint the Lord with. Well then, this declaring our ways is an act of dependence.
Secondly, By his ways may be meant, all his straits, sorrows, and dangers; and so this declaring it is an act of holy friendship, when a man comes as one friend to another, and acquaints God with his whole state, lays his condition before the Lord, in hope of pity and relief. We have liberty to do so, to tell God all our mind : “ Let us come with boldness, by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. x. 19—Heb. iv, 16). The word signifies, with liberty of speech, speaking all to God, your whole state and condition; if you have any sins to be pardoned, any miseries to be redressed ; that where you are doubtful, you may be helped by God's counsel; where you are weak, you may be confirmed by his strength; where you are sinful, you may be pitied by his mercy ; where you are miserable, you may be delivered by his power. This is holy friendship, to acquaint God with our doubts, wants, griefs and fears ; and we may đo it with more confidence, because we go to him in Christ's name: “ Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you” (John xvi. 23). It is no fiction, or strain, but a real truth. Will Christ deceive us, when he saith “Verily ?" And then“ whatsoever" you ask: you have liberty to go to God for the removal of any fear, the granting any regular desire, or for satisfying any doubt. " Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name;". our prayers by this means are Christ's request as well as ours. For instance, if you send a child or servant to a friend for anything in your name, the request is yours; and he that denies a child or servant denies you ; so saith Christ, go to the Father in my name. God cannot deny a request in Christ's name, no more than he can deny Christ himself; therefore you may use a holy boldness.
Thirdly, By ways is meant temptations and sins; and so this declaring is an act of spiritual contrition or brokenness of heart. Sins, they are properly our ways, as Ezek. xviii. 25, the Lord makes a distinction between“ my ways ” and “your ways.” God hath his ways, and we ours. Our ways are properly our sins. Now these, saith David, I will declare,