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ability to pursue it, now is full of crooked counsels, being darkened with ignorance in his mind, and abominable errors and mistakes, and seconded with lusts and passions.
2. We can never find it of ourselves till God reveal it to us. “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good” (Mic. vi. 8). It is well for man that he hath God for his teacher, who hath given him a stated rule by which good and evil may be determined.
(1.) Because there are many things which nature would never reveal to him; as the whole doctrine of redemption by Christ; the book of the creatures discovereth the mercy of God, but giveth not the least hint of the way how that mercy should come unto us, speaketh nothing of God incarnate ; two natures in Christ's person, the two covenants, the way of salvation by Christ's death, &c., these could never be known by natural reason, for all these things proceed from the mere motion of God's will without any other cause moving thereunto than his own love and compassion: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John iïi. 16). And how could any man divine what God purposed in his heart, unless he himself revealed it ?
(2.) Because those things that nature teaches, it teacheth but darkly, and with little satisfaction without the help of Scriptures : as that there is one God the first cause of all, omnipotent, wise, righteous, good, and that it is reasonable he should be served ; that reasonable creatures have immortal souls, and so die not as the beasts; that there is no true happiness in these things wherein men ordinarily seek it, that since virtue and vice receive not suitable recompenses here, there must be punishment and reward after this life, that men live justly, do as they would be done to, be sober and temperate, that reason be not enslaved to sensual appetite, all which nature revealeth but darkly, so that the wisest men that have lived according to this light, in one thing or other have been found fools : “ Professing themselves to be wise they became fools” (Rom. i. 22); but all these things are clearly revealed in Scripture, which discovers the nature and way of worshipping the true God, what that reward and punishment after this life is, and the right way of obtaining the one, and eschewing the other, with weighty arguments to enforce these things.
(3.) That we may have assurance that the worship which we give to God is pleasing to him, there must be a revelation of his will, otherwise when we have tired ourselves in an endless maze of superstitions, he might turn us off with “ Who hath required these things at your hands ?" (Isa. i. 12.) Therefore, for our security and assurance, it concerneth us to have a stated rule under God's own hand, and God must be both author and object of worship.
3. Besides the external revelation there must be an inward teaching, they shall all be taught of God (John vi. 45), not all the prophets that wrote Scripture, but all that come to Christ for salvation, and this is pro. phesied of that time when the canon and rule of faith should be most complete, then there will be still a need that they should be taught of God before their hearts be drawn into Christ. As the book of the Scriptures is necessary to expound the book of the creatures ; so and much more is the light of the Spirit to expound the book of the Scriptures. Others teach the ear, but God openeth the heart. The rule is one thing, and the guide is another. The means were never intended to take off our dependence upon God, but to engage it rather, that we may look up for his blessing : “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God giveth the increase” (1 Cor. iii, 6): • zimwv, “ God, that commanded light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. iv. 6). Though the Gospel hath enough in it to evidence itself to the consciences of men, yet God must make use of his creating power before this light can break in upon our hearts with any efficacy and influence: “ The law is light" (Prov. vi. 23), yet not comprehended by darkness. “The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not” (John i. 5); which rests in the hearts of all men that remain in their natural condition. It is not enough to see any object to have the light of the sun, unless we have the light of the eye, the Scripture is our external light as the sun is to the world ; the understanding is our internal light. Now the eye is become blind in all natural men, and in the best it is most imperfect, therefore the eyes of the understanding must be opened by “ the spirit of wisdom and revelation” (Eph. i. 17, 18). Though truths be plainly revealed by the Spirit of God in Scripture, yet there must be a removal of that natural darkness and blind. ness that is upon our understandings. Outward light doth not make the object conspicuous without a faculty of seeing in the eye; a blind man cannot see at noon-day, nor the sharpest sight at midnight; the work of the Spirit is to take off the scales from our eyes, that we may see clearly what the Scripture speaketh clearly. Now Scripture is perfected, that is the great work to strengthen the faculty.
4. This inward teaching must be renewed and continued from day to day, or else we shall soon miscarry by our mistakes and prejudices. David is often pressing God with this request, “ Lord teach me,” which plainly showeth that not only novices, but men of great holiness and experience, need new direction every day. The shameful miscarriages of God's wisest people are enough to show the necessity of this, and the many cautions in the word of God do abundantly confirm it: “ Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Prov. iii. 5, 6). There is nothing that keepeth up our dependence upon God, and should quicken us in our daily prayers, as the sense of this. Many times we come to God in the morning, and pray coldly and drowsily, because we go forth to the occasions of the day in the presumption of our wit, but it is a thousand to one but we smart for our folly before the evening come. Alas ! such is the inconstancy and uncertainty of man's understanding, that unless we have continual light and direction from God, and he lead us by the hand through all our affairs, passion or unbelief, or some carnal affection will make us stumble and dash against one divine precept or another. This concerneth all Christians, much more those in public station, whose good or evil is of a more universal influence, such was David. Men of place and power, and interest, had need have this often in their mouths and hearts, “Lord, teach me the way of thy statutes.” Homer has a notable saying in his Odysses :
Tοίος γάρ νόθς οσιν oπιχθονιών ανθρώπων,
"Οιον επ' ήμαρ άγηόσι Πατης ανδρώντε θεώντε. (See Causabon, Ep. 702.) A most divine sentence from a Heathen poet, that mortal man should not be proud of his wit, for he hath no more understanding of his affairs than God giveth him from day to day. A sentence so admired by the Heathens, that many of them transcribed it in their writings with admiration, as Clemens Alexandrinus speaketh of Archilochus, who, as he took other things from Homer, so his putting into his verse thus :
Τοϊον γάρ άνθρωποϊσι θυμος γλαυκι λεπτινσώπει,
θνητοίς ο ποιών Ζεύς έφ' ήμέανςαν άγει. Augustin de Civitate Dei, telleth us (lib. v. cap. 8), Cicero rendered it into Latin verse thus, though with some loss of the sense :
“ Tales sunt hominum mentes quales Pater ipse,
Jupiter auctiferas lustravit lumine terras.” I quote all this to show you how precious such a hint was to Heathens, as expressing a great deal of reason, and shall not we Christians wait upon God for the continual direction of his Spirit.
Now there is a twofold reason for this :
1. Because this actuateth our knowledge, which would otherwise lie asleep in the habit; and then, though we are wise in generals, we should be to seek for direction in particular cases, or at least not have such a lively sense of God's will as to check the present temptations we meet with in the course of our affairs, and do too often induce us to miscarry. The temptation being dexterously managed by Satan, and entertained by our present thoughts, will easily overbear a latent principle long ago received, unless it be afresh revived and set awork by God's Spirit; therefore we need that the Spirit should be our monitor, and cause truths formerly delivered to return with fresh force upon the heart. And indeed it is his main work to bring things to our remembrance (John xiv, 26), and to blow up our light and knowledge into an actual resistance of whatever is contrary to the will of God, or to furnish us with seasonable thoughts in every business and temptation.
2. We have but a glimmering light when we are blinded with passions, and are in some sort ignorant of what we know, cannot deduce those conclusions which are evidently contained in known and avowed principles. Hagar could not see the well before her eyes by reason of her passion and grief, till God opened her eyes : “ And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water” (Gen. xxi. 19). The ground was not opened to cause the fountain to bubble up, but her eyes were opened to see it. And Calvin giveth the reason why she saw it not, because, Dolore attonita quod cxpositum erat oculis non cernebat ; things at hand cannot be seen when the mind is diverted by the impression of some strong passion; and it is true of the eyes of the mind, we do not see what we see being overcome by love, or fear, or hope, or anger, or some cloud that interposeth from the passions. As David, when he fumbled about God's providence being blinded by the prospering of the wicked, calleth himself a beast for not discerning his duty in so plain a case : “ So foolish was I and ignorant, and as a beast before thee" (Psalm lxxiii. 22). In the perplexities of his mind he could not see clear principles of faith which before he had sufficiently learned, but could not then make use of for the settling and composing his heart.
Use I-is for information.
1. The difference between the way of God and the way of sin. We have need of none to teach us to do evil, Vitia etiam sine magistro dis
cuntur, we have that from nature; but in the way of God we must be taught and taught again; God must be our teacher and daily monitor.
2. It informs us that as to knowledge and direction there must be much done. Poor man, lying in the darkness and shadow of death, it was necessary for him,
(1.) That some doctrine should be revealed by God, by which he might understand how God stood affected towards him, and he ought to be affected towards God.
(2.) That this doctrine being revealed by God it should be kept safe and sound, free from oblivion and corruption, in some public and autheutic record, especially in these last times, when not only the canon is enlarged, but the church propagated far and near, and obnoxious to so many calamities, and men are short-lived, and there are not such authentic witnesses to preserve the credit of a Divine revelation.
(3.) That this writing and record be known to come from God's own hand by some infallible proof, to the end that it may be entertained with the more reverence.
(4.) To own his authority, and discern God's mind, we need a suitable faculty, or a heart disposed by the Holy Ghost to receive the proof which God offereth, namely, that we should be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and open our eyes.
(5.) It is not enough to own our rule, but we must be continually excited to study it, that we may come to a saving measure of the knowledge of God's mind in the word.
(6.) After some knowledge, our ignorance is apt to return upon us, unless the Holy Ghost do still enlighten us and warn us of our duty upon all occasions.
USE II.-In the sincerity of your hearts go to God for his teaching. God is pleased with the request, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing” (1 Kings iii. 9, 10). Oh, beg it of God.
i. The way of God's statutes is worthy to be found by all. 2. So hard to be found and kept by any
3. It is so dangerous to miss it, that this should quicken us to be earnest with God.
lat, It is so worthy to be found, it is the way to eternal life, and escape eternal death, and in matters of such a concernment no diligence can be too much, “ The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from Hell beneath” (Prov. xv. 24). It is the way that leadeth to life and true happiness.
2ndly, It is so hard to find and keep, it is a narrow way, “Enter ye in at the straight gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat. Because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. vii. 13, 14). There is defect, here excess; a gracious spirit that would keep with God in all things is sensible of the difficulty ; there are many ways that lead to Hell, but one way to Heaven.
3rdly, It is so dangerous to miss it in whole or in part; in whole, you are undone for ever; in part, in every false religion such disadvantages, so little of God's presence and the comforts of his Spirit, “ If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire” (1 Cor. iii. 15). A man should look after the most clear and safe way to Heaven.
DOCTRINE II.—That Divine teaching is earnestly desired by God's
How often doth David repeat this request ? These expressions are strange to us who as soon as we have gotten a little knowledge, think we know as much as we need to know, and are wise enough to guide our way without further direction, but they are not so to the people of God.
1. It is a hard matter to understand a thing spiritually, and as it ought to be understood; there is an understanding of things literally, and a spiritual discerning : “ The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. ii. 14). There is a knowing things at random, and by a general knowledge, and a knowing things as we ought to know: “If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Co. viii. 2): there is a knowing the truth as in Jesus: “If so be that ye have heard him, and have been been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus” (Eph. iv. 21). It is not every sort of knowledge that is saving; a man may go to Hell with speculative light, that never reacheth the heart; such as is practical and operative, the Scripture presseth knowledge, and the modus of it.
2. God's children are sensible of their own insufficiency, and so of the need of a constant dependence upon God; sound and saving knowledge is ever humble, they have clearer light than others, and so best see their own defects : “ Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man" (Prov. xxx. 2); and are too most sensible of corruptions, and see most of the excellency of the object, “If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know (1 Cor. viii. 2): they study their own hearts, and are so conscious to many weaknesses, they know how easily they are misled by the wiles of Satan, and the darkness of their own hearts, whereas a presumptuous formalist goeth on boldly, and in the confidence of his own wit runneth headlong into temptations.
3. Their strong affection to knowledge; they desire to know more, for there is more still to be learned in the word of God, though taught in part they see what a small measure of knowledge they have attained unto, till they atttain the beatifical vision they are never satisfied : “ Then shall we know if we follow on to know the Lord" (Hos. vi. 3), still increasing and bettering their notions concerning the things of God.
4. Their great care that they may not go astray, nor offend in matter, or manner, or principle, and end; they whose hearts are set upon exact walking would fain know what God would have them to do in every action, and in every circumstance, “ Lord teach me, let thy holy Spirit guide me, and direct me in performing acceptable obedience to thee." It was David's resolution, “ I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart" (verse 32). Now we have his prayer for direction in this verse, “ Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes ;" I would know it that I may keep it. It is a very troublesome condition to a child of God when he is in the dark, and knoweth not what to do, and is forced to walk every step by guess, and cannot find the ground sure under him, The conflict between duty and danger doth not trouble so much as be