« 上一頁繼續 »
Secondly, Avoid the causes of straightening, if you would have this enlarged heart. What are they?
1. Ignorance and defect of gifts : for it is by knowledge all grace comes into the soul: “Let the word of God dwell in you richly” (Col. iii. 16). When the understanding is fraught with spiritual treasure, when the word of God dwells in us richly, then we have upon all occasions to help us, we have at home a truth ready, and can call it to mind, either for suppressing of temptation, or encouraging us to duty, or for allaying of such a grief, speaking comfort under such a cross ; otherwise we are lean, dry, and cannot act with that fulness of strength. But,
2. Another thing that straightens the heart is, the love of present things. So much as your hearts are enlarged to the flesh, so much they are straightened to the spirit (2 Cor. vi. 13), as what the land loseth the sea gains. By pleasures, and by the cares of the world, your hearts are straightened towards God, they are “ overcharged” (Luke xxi. 34).
3. Sorrow and uncomfortable dejection of spirit, through the fear of God's wrath, or by reason of desertion, when we have a sense of his wrath, and when we can find no effects of his grace, God withdraws, you have not your wonted influences, your wonted answers of prayer: “I am so trou. bled that I cannot speak” (Psalm lxxvii. 4). This locks up the heart, and hinders it in the service of God, that it cannot so freely come and pour out its soul.
4. Great sins work a shyness of God. The faulty child blusheth, and is loath to look his father in the face, when he hath been doing some offence. The Israelites, after they had sinned in the matter of the calf, they stood afar off, and worshipped every man in his tent-door. You lose your freedom by gross sins: “ If our hearts condemn us not, then a app noiav Exojev, have we confidence towards God” (1 John iii. 21). We may come into God's presence without a self-accusing and condemning conscience. You have not this liberty and enlargedness of heart towards God when an accusing conscience pursues you. When a man hath lost his peace and comfort, he cannot come and tell God all his mind, his temptations, straits, doubts, fears.
5. Unbelief; that is a cause of straightening, when it represents God under an ill notion, as terrible : “ He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places” (Lam, iii. 10): “I reckoned till morning, that as a lion so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me” (Isa. xxxviii. 13). It fills us with misconceits of God, as if he were terrible. When one came tremblingly with a petition to Augustus, “ What !” said he, “ art thou giving a sop, a bit to an elephant ?" We disguise the majesty of God by our unbelieving thoughts ; we come to him as to a bear and lion that is ready to tear us in pieces, and then we cannot have that cheerfulness and delight in his service.
6. Pride; we are not humbled, but puffed up, when our heart is enlarged, and abuse the quickening influences of the Lord's grace to feed our pride. “Open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise” (Psalm li, 15): he doth not say, mine own praise; “then will I discover my gifts and show what I can do:' but thy praise. Many beg quickening and enlargement, to set off themselves, and ask contributions of Heaven to supply the Devil's service; or as he that lighted his lamp at the altar, that he might go and steal with it. We would put up self as an
idol in God's stead ; and have help from God, that we might make him serve with our iniquities, that we might set off ourselves with honour and esteem in the world. Therefore God withdraws and withholds his hand. These are the causes of straightening.
USE II.-Let us then see if we have this benefit, an enlarged heart, which is so necessary for the keeping of God's commandments.
Two things will deceive us : many think they have it, when they have it not; and many think they have it not, when indeed they have it.
1. Many think they have it when they have it not. Enlargement of gifts differs from enlargement of grace. A ready tongue many have (that depends upon the temper of the body) but not an humble heart. They may take pride and complacency in their own gifts, and yet not delight in communion with God. There are many in the world that have abilities of utterance, and some fanatical joys accompanying the exercise of it, and yet they have not an unfeigned love to God. Such as are enlarged in point of gifts, it is many times seen in this, that generally in private they are more careless, and they are more in expression than in feeling. The great deceit and counterfeit of grace is parts, and common gifts, especially when exercised in holy things, in a spiritual way, and for the good and edification of others. Certainly men have not spiritual enlargement, when they still lie under the bondage and dominion of sin ; and so, though they may seem to have particular enlargement in some duties, and may be car. ried on with a great flush of gifts, yet they have not a general enlargement, the yoke is not broken, but still they are the servants of corruption.
2. On the other side, some think they have it not, when indeed they have it. Why? Because they are not carried out in the work of God, as sometimes they seem to have been, with that liveliness and comfort. Let me tell you, there are necessary aids of grace, and there are more liberal aids of grace, over and above the necessary. If you have the ne. cessary aids of grace, you are to acknowledge God hath enlarged your hearts, though you have not the larger measure, strength, and activity in God's service, which, upon the days of his magnificence and spiritual bounty, he is wont to dispense to his people. God doth not always continue these dispensations. Sometimes we find that Christians outgo themselves, and are enlarged beyond the ordinary pitch. Let me represent it by a similitude. We are not to esteem of a river by its swelling and running over the banks after a mighty, long, and continued rain, but by its constant course ; nor are we to judge of a town by the great concourse at a fair or market, the town is not every day so filled : so, neither are we to judge of God's assistance by those high tides of comfort, or strength of gracious impulses which in the days of spiritual bounty he is wont to give. If you are enabled to walk humbly with God, though you have not such heights of affection, you should be thankful.
So much for the first thing the text offers, the blessing asked, viz., an enlarged heart.
SERMON XXXV. VERSE 32.-1 will run the way of thy commandments, when thou
shalt enlarge my heart. The second thing that is offered here is the necessary precedency of this work on God's part, before there can be any serious bent and motion of
heart towards God on our part. “When thou shalt enlarge my heart," “ when” is casual, because thou shalt enlarge it. God only can enlarge the heart. We are sluggish, and loath to stir a foot in the ways of obedience, therefore God must enlarge. From first to last God doth all in the work of grace, he gives the habit and act. He plants graces in the heart, knowledge, faith, love, and delight; and then excites and quickens them to act. The habit of grace is called the “ seed" of God (1 John ïïi. 9), there it begins. Before we can fly we must get wings, we must have grace before we can run the way of God's commandments; and then quickening of the habits, the exciting of the soul to action; the deed as well as the will (Phil. ii. 13), it is from God; the first inclination, and actual accomplishment. He giveth to “ will,” that is, the first inclination : " That he may incline our hearts unto him to walk in all his ways," &c. (1 Kings viii. 58), and then the deed, the outward expression of our obedience it is still from God. The Apostle goes to God for that, “ Grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word” (Acts iv. 29). And so he begs prayers to God to opens “ a door of utterance" for them (Col. iv. 3). There is a door shut until God open it. We cannot utter and express ourselves in a way of obedience without God's concurrence.
USE.- Whenever you would undertake for God, get God first to undertake for you, as Hezekiah doth : “ O Lord I am oppressed, undertake for me" (Isa. xxxviii. 14). Let every earnest prayer be accompanied with a serious purpose; and let every serious purpose be accompanied with earnest prayer : “ Draw ine, and we will run after thee" (Cant. i. 4). So here, “ Lord, I will run the way of thy commandments." Ay, but as to the event, we must suspend it, " If thou wilt enlarge my heart.” This is the method we should use, first engage God by prayer, then engage our hearts by promise. Though we cannot lay wagers upon our own strength, yet we may resolve in God's strength, and ought to engage ourselves to duty : “ Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me, saith the Lord ?” (Jer. xxx. 21.) We must promise what is due, but not presume as if we could carry our purpose without God. As to the event, they speak conditionally : “ When thou shalt enlarge my heart." The children of God have no other confidence of their own affections, but as God will put forth his power. They know they have a deceitful and corrupt heart; and to stand to their resolutions immutably, faithfully, needs more strength than their own. They resolve as to work ; but as to event they suspend that; they know their resolution will not be brought to anything, unless God continue his grace and favour. The children of God, as they would own Christ as Lord, and commanding the work; so they promise obedience, that is their duty; and they would own him a Saviour in helping them through the work, so they promise conditionally in his strength. As they are swayed by his sovereignty in his command ; so they depend upon his all-sufficiency in his promise.
Here two cases may be handled, one is more generally.
I. Whether we are to resolve upon a course of obedience, when we are uncertain of God's assistance? The reason of doubting is, because we cannot perform it in our own strength. I answer :
1. It is your duty to engage and consent to give up yourselves to God's service whatever comes of it: “Yield yourselves unto the Lord” (2 Chron. xxx. 8). In the Hebrew it is, “ strike hands with him in his holy covenant;" “I beseech you present yourselves,” &c. (Rom. xii. 1). You ought to come and present yourselves, own yourselves solemnly in a way of a dedication to God. It was implied in our baptism, which is therefore called “ An answer of a good conscience toward God” (1 Pet. iii. 21); an answer upon God's demands in his covenant. An answer supposeth a question. God puts us to the question, Will you be my people? Will you serve me faithfully, and do my will ? Then we ratify it by baptism. Necessary duties must be done whatever comes of it, as Abraham obeyed God not knowing whither he went.
2. As this is your duty, so whether you resolve or not, you are already obliged by God's command. This actual resolution of entering into covenant with God, is only required as a means to strengthen us. Natural relations enforce duty without consent, a father is a father whether a child will own him in the quality of that relation, yea or nay. God's right is valid whether you will consent or not. Actual consent or purpose in your heart, doth not give God greater right, but makes duty more explicit and active upon your own hearts. We cannot make the bonds of duty stronger, for God's authority is greater than ours, but we have a deeper sense, when we own God's authority by our own engagement.
3. You have more cause to expect God's assistance in this way of engaging your heart to him than in standing loose from God, and neglect of his appointed means. You know the promise is made: “To him that will, let him take of the waters of life freely” (Rev. xxii. 17). When there is a fixed bent of heart, that comes from a secret impression of God's grace which causeth this will in you, when you have declared your will, you have more reason to expect God's concurrence.
4. It is a foolish course to refuse to make the covenant for fear of breaking it; as if a tradesman should neglect his calling, forbear to set up, because it is possible losses may come. Make it, then keep it in God's strength. Make it, but remember, your security lieth in God's promises not in your own. It is your duty to engage to God, but as to the event you cannot say you can go through with it, unless the Lord put in with his grace.
II. The second case is more obvious and usual, viz., whether we are to do duties in case of deadnesss, indisposition, and straits of spirit? The reason of doubting is, because David seems to suspend his running upon God's enlarging: 'If thou wilt enlarge, then I will run. Answer. He suspends the event, but not his duty. He doth not say, I will not stir unless thou enlarge my heart, but if thou enlarge, then I shall run. The plea of weakness must not be used (from the doctrine of God's concurrence to all acts of grace) as a shift, or turned into a plea for laziness. The right use of this doctrine is a constant dependence in a sense of our own weakness, and hearty thanksgiving, when we have received any command from God. Now a form of thanksgiving is abused when it is made a plea for laziness. To resolve upon a loose course, and give over all, is an absurd inference from this doctrine; it is as if a man should say, my plowing and sowing, unless God give the increase, will never make the corn grow, therefore I will hold my hand, and take the other sleep. It is God sends the wind, therefore I will not put forth the sails; that is no good inference. For further arguments see verse the 25th, where the question is handled, whether we are to do duties in case of deadness. It is a most commenda able thing to work notwithstanding indispositions. There is more faith in
it, God's love is glorified when you cast yourselves into his arms, then when he seems to shut up himself from your prayers, and to suspend the influences of his grace. Esther had great confidence to venture when no golden sceptre was held forth; so, when we have no sensible comfort; then to venture, and cast ourselves upon God. And it argues more faith in the power of God. As Abraham's faith was commended, that he could believe against hope, so when all is dead, yet you will see what God will do for the quickening and enlarging of the soul. Then there is more obedience in it. No duty so commendable as that which is recovered out of the hands of difficulty, when in the face of temptation we can venture to go to God. And there is humility in it, when we can look upon ourselves as bound though God be free. I must wait upon him in the use of means though I have a dead heart.
Thirdly, The subsequent operation of the saints, they that are acted by God act under him, “ Then will I run the way of thy commandments.”
Mark, first, he resolveth, “then I will run;" he doth not say, then I should run, but will run, as binding his soul by a resolution, and his resolution by a solemn promise, “ Then I will run the way of thy commandments.” Here I might take occasion to speak of the good of binding the heart, and being resolved in a course of godliness. It is good to engage us to come to God, to keep to God, and to be hearty in his service.
). This is that which engageth us to come to God, because of ourselves we are off and on, hanging between Heaven and Hell, and have many loose and wavering thoughts, until we come to a firm purpose and determination, and that engageth the heart : “ Who is this that engageth his heart to approach unto me, saith the Lord ?" (Jer. xxx. 21.)
Before we come to this engagement, there are several things : (1.) A simple and bare conceit of the ways of God, or of the goodness of holiness, this will not bring us to God, some general approbation of his ways. Many will say, “God is good to Israel” (Psalm lxxiii. 1), but the heart never comes off kindly to choose God, till the judgment determines : “ It is good for me to draw near to God” (verse 28). This puts an end to many anxious traverses, debates, and delays in the soul. (2.) There are weak and wavering purposes, and faint attempts in the soul, that end but in wishes, which are soon broken off'; but we are never converted and thoroughly brought to God till there be a full and fixed purpose: “He exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (Acts xi. 23). When it comes to a plenary thorough purpose of heart, then grace hath wrought upon us.
2. As it will bring us to come to God, so it causeth us to keep to God. He that is unresolved is never constant: “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James i. 8). There is in us a changeable heart, a rebelling nature, that meeting with temptations from without, unless there be a fixed purpose, alas! we shall be unstable in all our ways. All good wishes, and faint purposes come to nothing, but we shall give out at every assault. But when we are firmly and habitually resolved, Satan is discouraged. This bindeth our holy purposes, like hemming of the garment, that keepeth it from ravelling out. Whilst we are thinking and deliberating what to do, we lie open to temptations; the Devil hath some hope of us: but when the bent of our hearts is set another way, and the Devil sees we are firmly resolved, and have holy purposes, he is discouraged. This was that which made Daniel so courageous and resolutę