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tions of his grace and favour, how are their hearts troubled!“ Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled” (Psalm xxx. 7). A child of God that lives by his favour, cannot brook his absence; therefore, when they lose the sweet sense of his favour and reconciliation with him, Oh, what a trouble is this to their souls! Other men make no reckoning of it at all. And so for sin, common spirits value it only by the damage that it doth to their worldly interests; when it costs them dear, they may hang the head : “ Know therefore and see that it is an evil thing and bitter, that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God” (Jer. ii. 9). A worldly man may know something of the evil of sin, in the effects of it; but a child of God seeth into the nature of it; they value it by the wrong, by the offence that is done to God, and so are humbled more for the evil in sin, than for the evil after sin. So for the wrath of God, carnal men have gross thoughts of it, and may howl upon their beds when their pleasant things are taken from them; but God's children are humbled because their Father is angry; they observe more the displeasure of God in afflicting providences, than others do; and one spark of God's wrath lighting into their consciences, Ob, what sad effects doth it work! more than all other straits whatsoever. Thus they have a clearer understanding, they see more into the dreadfulness of God's wrath, into the evil of sin, and they know how to prize and value his favour more than others.
2. They have delicate and tender affections. Grace, that gives us a new heart, doth also give us a soft heart: “A new heart also will I give you” (Ezek. xxxvi. 26); what kind of heart? “a heart of flesh," as the old heart that is taken out, is a heart of “stone." A new, soft heart doth sooner receive the impression of divine terror, than another heart doth. A stamp is more easily left upon wax, or a soft thing, than upon a stone. Or thus: a slave hath a thicker skin than one nobly born, tenderly brought up; therefore he is not so sensible of stripes. A wicked man hath more cause to be troubled than a godly man; but he is not a man of sense, he hath a heart of stone, and therefore is not so affected either with God's dealings with him, or his dealings with God. Look, as the weight of the blows must not only be considered, but the delicateness of the constitution; so, because their hearts are of a softer and more tender constitution, being hearts of flesh, and receptive of a deeper impression, therefore their sorrows exceed the sorrows of other men.
3rdly, The good that they expect is exceeding great, and their exercise is accordingly: for after the rate of our comforts, so are our afflictions, Wicked men that have nothing to expect in the world to come, but horrors and pains, they wallow now in ease and plenty: “ Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things" (Luke xvi. 25). God will be behind hand with none of his creatures; those that do him common service, have common blessings in a larger measure than his own people have; they have their good things, that is, such as their hearts choose and affect. But now good men, that expect another happiness, they must be content to be harassed and exercised, that they may be fitted and prepared for the enjoyment of this happiness. As the stones that were to be set in the temple, were to be hewn and squared; so are they to be hewn, squared, and exercised with bitter and sharp things, that they may be prepared for the more glory.
Use I. –Then carnal men are not fit to judge of the saints when they report their experiences, if it be with them above the rate of other men.
When afflicted consciences speak of their wounds, or revived hearts of their comforts, their joys are supernatural, and so are their sorrows; and, there. fore, a natural man thinks all to be but fancy; all those joys of the Spirit, that they are but fanatic delusions : and he doth not understand the weight of their sorrows. When a man is well to see to, and bath health, strength, and wealth, they marvel what should make such a man heavy; all their care is to eat, drink, and be merry; and, therefore, because they are not acquainted with the exercises of a feeling conscience, they think all this trouble is but a little mopishness and melancholy. Poor, contrite sinners, who are ready to weep out their hearts at their eyes, can only understand such expressions as these: “My soul melteth away for heaviness." There is another manner of thing in trouble of conscience, than the carnal world doth imagine; and many that have all well about them, great estates, much befriended and esteemed in the world, yea, for the best things; yet when God hides his face, poor souls! how are they troubled! If he do but let a spark of his wrath into conscience, and hide his face from them, it is a greater burden to them than all the miseries of the world.
David was a man valiant, that had a heart as “ the heart of a lion” (2 Sam. xvii. 10). He was a man cheerful, called the sweet singer of Israel (2 Sam. xxiii. 1); of a ruddy, sanguine complexion, and a great master of music. He was no fool, but a man wise as the angel of God; and yet you see what a bitter sense he had of his spiritual condition. And when a inan so stout and valiant, so cheerful, so wise, complains so heavily, will you count this mopishness and foolish melancholy? But, alas! men that never knew the weight of sin, cannot otherwise conceive it; they were never acquainted with the infiniteness of God, nor power of his anger, and have not a due sense of eternity ; therefore they think so slightly of these matters of the spiritual life.
Use II.-Be not too secure of spiritual joys. We warn you often of security, or falling asleep in temporal comforts, and we must warn you of this kind of security also in spiritual. All things change. You may find David in this Psalm in a different posture of spirit; sometimes rejoicing in the word of God above all riches; and at other times his soul melteth away for very heaviness. God's own people are liable to great trouble of spirit; therefore you should not be secure as to these spiritual enjoyments, which come and go according to God's pleasure. Men that build too much upon spiritual suavities, or sensible consolations, occasion a snare to their own souls; partly as they are less watchful for the present (like mariners which have been at sea, when they get into the haven, take down their lackling, and make merry, and think never to see storm more), and so lose that which they are so confident of keeping; by their negligence and carelessness their spiritual comfort is gone. And there is another mischief, the loss is more heavy, because it was never thought of. And therefore in preparation of heart we should be ready to lose our inward comforts, as well as estates and outward conveniences. In Heaven alone we have continual day without cloudings or night ; but here there will be changes.
Use III.-Let us not judge of our condition, if this should be our case, that is, if we should lie under pressing troubles, such as do even break our spirits. This was the case of the Son of God, his soul was troubled, and he knew not what to say : “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say?" (John xii. 27.) And many of his choicest servants have been sorely exercised. Heman, an heir of Heaven, and yet compassed about with the
pains of Hell. Job, not only spoiled of all bis goods, but for a time shut out from the comforts of God's spirit. Our business in such a case is not to examine and judge but to trust. Neither to determine of our condition one side or other, but to stay our hearts upon God, and so to make use of offers and inviting promises, when we cannot make use of conditional and assuring promises. So, “ He that walketh in darkness, and seeth no light,” is directed, “ let him trust in the name of the Lord” (Isa. I. 10). That is our business in such a case of deep distress, to make a new title, rather than dispute the old one; and stay our hearts on God's mercy.
Thus much concerning David's case; which, because it often comes under consideration in this Psalm, I would pass over more briefly.
Secondly, I come from David's case to his petition or request to God; “ Strengthen thou me according to thy word.” Where you have,
1. Tbe request itself. 2. An argument to enforce it. 1st, The request itself, “Strengthen me ;" that is the benefit asked.
DOCTRINE I.–Observe this in the general. He doth but now and then drop out a request for temporal safety ; but all along his main desire is for grace, and for support, rather than deliverance.
The children of God, the main thing that their hearts run upon, is sustentation and spiritual support, rather than outward deliverance: “ In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul” (Psalm cxxxviii. 3). Mark, David judgeth that to be an audience, to be a hearing of prayer; though he had not deliverance, yet he had experience of inward comfort, that was it which supported him. The children of God value themselves by the inward man, rather than the outward. What David here prays for bimself, Paul prays for others : “ That he would grant you according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man" (Eph. iii. 16). Yea, they are contented with the decays of the outward man, so that the inward man may increase in strength : “ Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2. Cor. iv. 16). The outward man, in Paul's dialect, is the body, with the conveniences and all the appurtenances thereof, as health, beauty, strength, wealth, all this is the outward man. Now this is not a Christian's desire, to increase in the world, or to make a fair show in the flesh; no, but his heart is set upon this, to grow stronger in the spirit, that the soul, as furnished with the graces of the Spirit, may thrive; this is the inner man. To insist upon this a little.
1. It is the inward man that is esteemed with God, and therefore that is it the saints mainly look after. God doth not look upon men according to their outward condition, pomp, and appearances in the world, but accord. ing to the inward endowments of the heart, man's eye is upon the outward appearance, but God regards the heart (1 Sam. xvi. 7); and “the hidden man of the heart," that is said to be an ornament of great price with God, (1 Peter iii. 4). Intellectual beauty is that which is esteemed in Heaven, and spiritual wealth is only current in the other world. Poor creatures that are led by sense, they esteem one another by these outward things ; but God esteems men by grace, by the soul, how that is cherished and strengthened : and though we are otherwise never so well accomplished, we are hated if we have not his image stamped upon us.
2. The everlasting welfare of the whole person depends upon the fourishing of the inward man; when we come to put off the upper gar.
ment of the Aesh, the poor soul will be destitute, naked, and harbourless, if we have made no provision for it, (2 Cor. v. 3); and then both body and soul are undone for ever; when the soul is to be thrown out of doors, whither will it go, if it hath not an eternal building in Heaven to receive it ? The soul is the man : the body follows the state of the soul, but the soul doth not follow the state of the body. The life of God which he doth begin in the soul, does in time renew and perfect the body too. The Apostle saith: “ The Spirit that now dwelleth in us will raise up our mortal bodies” (Rom. vi. 11). But now those that seek to preserve the outward man with the neglect of the inner, in time ruin both body and soul. Well, then, here is their care.
3. The loss of the outward man may be recompensed and made up by the strength of grace that is put into the inner man : but the loss of the inner man cannot be made up by the perfections of the outward man. A man that is afflicted in his outward estate, God makes it up in grace; if he makes him rich in faith, in the experiences of his favour, the loss is made up and supplied more abundantly; and the children of God can comfort themselves in this, that their inward man is strengthened and renewed day by day (2 Cor. iv. 16). So that a man may be happy notwithstanding breaches made upon the outward man. But when there is a wounded spirit, and God breaks into the inward man, then what good will riches, estate, and all these things do ? they are as unsavoury things as the white of an egg.
4. The outward man may fit us for converse with men, but the inward man with God. We need bodies, and organs of speech, and reason, and present supplies which fit us to converse with men ; but we converse with God by thoughts, and by grace, and by the perfections of the inward man; this fits us for communion with him.
5. The life and strength of the inward man is a more noble thing than the strength of the outward man, or the bodily life, for it draws nearer to the life of God, as the life and strength of the body draws nearer to the life, pleasure and happiness of a beast. By the bodily life, we eat, drink, labour, sleep; and so do the beasts; yea, many of the beasts excel us in the perfection of that kind of life. Lions excel in strength; roes, in swiftness; eagles, in long age; none of their pleasures are soured with remorse of conscience. But the inward, spiritual life is called “the life of God” (Eph. iv. 18).
6. The inward life is the beginning of our life in Heaven. A glorified saint, and a saint militant upon earth, they both live the life of God; and the life of grace is the same life for kind, though not for degree ; and one that is glorified, and one here upon earth differ but as a child and a man. But now the life of sense, and the life of grace, differ as a toad and a inan, not only in degree but also in kind.
7. Yet further, this is that great thing which God hath been at such great expence about, to raise the being of the new creature : “ This is my flesh which I give for the life of the world” (John vi. 51). The supports, the strength of the inward man cost dearer than all other comforts whatsoever: it must have nobler supports, it must have the blood of Christ, daily supplies from Heaven : but the other life is called, “ the life of our hands” (Isa. lvii. 10). We patch up to ourselves some conveniences for lhe sensible life by labour and service here in the world. Well, then, this is that which the children of God do mostly look after, that the inward life may be kept free from annoyance, and fit for the purposes of grace.
USE.— The use of this, is to check our carnal and preposterous care for the outward man, to the neglect of the inward. How much are we for the outward man, that it may be well-fed and well-clothed, well at ease as for the present life! there is all our care; but not so careful to get the soul furnished with grace, and strengthened, and renewed by continued influences from Christ. Certainly if men did look after soul strength, they would be more careful to wait upon God for his blessing. You may know the disproportion of your care for outward things, and for the inward man, by these questions :
1. How much do you prize God's day, the means of grace, opportunities of worship, that are for the inward man? The Sabbath-day is a feast for souls. Now when men are weary of it, it is the most burdensome day of all the week round: “When will the Sabbath be gone that we may set forth wheat ?” (Amos. viii. 5.) It is a sign they are carnal, when men count that day the only lost day: as Seneca saith of the Jews, they lost the full seventh of their lives, speaking of the Sabbath-day; so carnal men think it is a lost day to them, they look upon the Sabbath as a melancholy interruption of their affairs and business. The Apostle James saith of those that are begotten by God, that they are “ swift to hear” (James i. 19); certainly they that have an inward man to maintain, another life than an outward and animal life, must have the supply and will look after the comforts of it.
2. Consider how differently we are concerned with bodily and soul concernments. If the body be but a little diseased, if we want an appetite to a meal, or a little sleep in the night, we complain of it presently, we inquire what is the cause, and look for a remedy: but what a wonderful disproportion is there as to the soul? It is a strange expression: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth" (3 John ii). Alas! we may say of the most, Oh, that their souls did prosper as their bodies; as they flourish in the conveniences of the outward man!
3. What care have you for the inward man, to adorn the soul, to beautify it with grace; that it may be of price and esteem with God, or to fortify it with grace? Now when all our strength and travel is laid out for that which doth not conduce to the inward life, and we lay out our money for that which is not bread (Isa. lv. 2), it is a sign we are wholly carnal. We read in Ecclesiastial story of one that wept when he saw a wanton woman decking herself with a great deal of care to please her lovers : saith he, “ Have I been so careful to deck my soul for Christ Jesus ?”.
4. Do you take in spiritual refreshments, even when afflictions abound? “ As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ" (2 Cor. i. 5); then you are affected as the children of God, whose heart and care run out mainly for the inward man. This in general.
DOCTRINE II.-Secondly, more especially observe, He goes to God for strength. Let me show,
1. What is this spiritual strength. 2. How it is given out. 3. How God is concerned in it. David goes to God, ' Lord strengthen