« 上一頁繼續 »
teeth, if the God in whom they trusted should not send help from his holy place. You will find God's servants often mocked for their trust: “He trusted in the Lord, let him now deliver him, seeing he delighted in him" (Psalm xxii. 18). Christ himself was not free from the lash of profane tongues; he was mocked for his dependence on his Father: “He trusted in God, let him deliver him now, if he will have him” (Matt. xxvii. 43). The world counts faith but a fancy; now if God should deny the things promised to his people, it would seem to countenance the slanders of their enemies. Wherefore do the children of God expose themselves to difficulties, and all manner of hard usages, but because of their hope in God? “ Therefore we suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God" (1 Tim. iv. 10); for that reason, because they look for great things from God, therefore God hath a great respect for them that trust in hiin.
4. This trust must be pleaded in prayer.
(1.) Because prayer is one of the means by which God hath decreed to fulfil his promises; and therefore we must obtain mercies in his own appointed way. God saith, I will do thus and thus for you: “I will yet for this be inquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them” (Ezek. xxxvi. 37). God will do it, but prayer must give a lift, he will be sought to : “ I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord; thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end ;” that is, such an end as yourselves hope for and desire : "then shall ye call upon me, and go, and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you" (Jer. xxix. 11, 12), that is, you must address and set yourselves seriously to this work. When the promise is urged by the believer, it will be performed by God. So, when Daniel understood by the books and writings of the prophets, that the time was come wherein God had promised to deliver his people, then he falleth a praying in a serious manner (Dan. ix. 3). When God hath a mind to work, then he sets the spirit of prayer awork; for he will have all things accomplished in his own way.
(2.) Because he hath put this office upon his people, that they are to be his remembrancers at the throne of grace: “ Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence" (Isa. Ixii, 6): it is in the margin, “ Ye that are the Lord's remembrancers," whose office it is to be constantly mindirg God, and soliciting him in the behalf of his church. Public remembrancers are the officers of his church; but every Christian is a private remembrancer, to put God in mind of his promise: not that God is subject to forgetfulness, as man is, who hath need of such minders; but he will be sought and solicited for the performance of his gracious promises. We have an Advocate in Heaven; but there are remembrancers upon earth. We come as David here: “Remember thy word unto thy servants, on which thou hast caused us to hope."
(5.) We are the more encouraged, because God that made the promise, doth also give the faith; for he pleadeth two things,—the grant of the promise, and gift of faith. Reasons.
(i.) God would not deceive us. Would he raise a confidence to disappoint us? in such a case, we might say as the Prophet: “Thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived” (Jer. xx. 7); the words seem to entrench upon the honour of God. In the general, I answer, they were spoken by the Prophet in a passion: others soften them by another rendering and interpretation: Thou hast persuaded me, and I was persuaded ;' that is, to undertake the prophetical office, of which I was nothing VOL. I.
forward of myself, but averse thereunto, yet found it more troublesome than I expected. But put it with a supposition, 'If I be deceived, thou hast deceived me,' there is nothing inconvenient. God had told him, he would make him as a brazen wall; God had raised a faith and hope in him to be borne out in his work. Now, if God hath specially excited your faith, it is not a foolish imagination, or vain expectation, like as of them that dream; it is God's word you build upon, and it is by a faith of God's operation; he raiseth it in us.
(ii.) The prayer of faith is the voice of the Spirit; and God heareth the voice of the Spirit always, who maketh requests, katà Oxiv, according to the will of God: “He that searcheth the hearts, knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit” (Rom. viii. 27), and what is a fancy of our own; what is a confidence raised in us by the operation of his own Spirit. For there may be a mistaken faith, seemingly built upon the promises; whereas, it is indeed built upon our own conceits : now God is not bound to make that faith good. But when we can appeal to the Seareher of Hearts, that it is a faith of his own working, surely we may have confidence.
Now how shall we know that it is a faith of God's raising?
1. If the promise be not mistaken, and we do not presume of that absolutely, which God only hath promised conditionally, and with the limitations of his own glory, and our good, which are joined to all promises which concern the present life. In temporal things, God exerciseth his children with great uncertainties, because he seeth it meet to prove our submission in these things; for our happiness lieth not in them. Those things wherein our happiness doth consist, as remission of sins, and eternal life, are sure enough, and that is encouragement to a gracious heart : “I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion, and the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work” (2 Tim. iv, 17, 18). In the Old Testament, when God discovered less of Heaven, he promised more of earth; but in the New Testament, where life and immortality are brought to light, we are told of many tribulations in our passage; yea, the eminent saints of the Old Testament, that had a clearer view of things to come than others had, were more exposed to the calamities of the present life, because God thought the sight of happiness to come sufficient to countervail their troubles; and if he would give them rest in another world, they might well endure the inconveniencies of their pilgrimage: “But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city” (Heb. xi. 16). The holy patriarchs left their country, flitted up and down upon this hope; but to us Christians, the case is clear: “For I reckon, that the sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. viii. 18). “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (2 Cor. iv. 17).
2. When the qualification of the person is not clear, we must not absolutely promise ourselves the effect: “Who can tell if God will turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?” (Jonah iii. 9.) So, “ Who knoweth if he will return, and leave a blessing behind him?" (Joel ii. 14.) In this clause I put believers who have sinned away their peace and assurance : “ Who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? (2 Sam. xi. 22.) He speaketh doubtfully: “ It may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord's anger” (Zeph. ii. 3). “Hate the evil, and love the good; it may be the Lord God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph” (Amos v. 15). In such cases, the soul is divided between the expectation of mercy, and the sense of their own deservings, and can speak neither the pure language of faith, nor the pure language of unbelief; half Canaan, half Ashdod. There is a twilight in grace, as well as in nature. God in these cases raiseth no other contidence, to heighten mercy, and try how we can venture upon God, and refer ourselves to his will, when we have any business for him to do for us: “Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean” (Matt. viii. 2). “And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city ; if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation : but if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him” (2 Sam. xv. 25, 26).
3. In the promises of spiritual and eternal mercies, when God's conditions are performed by us, we may be confident, and must give glory to God in believing and being persuaded that he will fulfil them to us: “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. i. 12). “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. viii, 38, 39). I am persuaded ; there is no doubt. The stronger our confidence the better.
4. When God raiseth in our minds some particular express hope (as in some cases he may do) to these things that are of a temporal nature, and are conditionally promised, and where our qualification is clear, he will not disappoint us (2 Cor. i. 12). Though the promises of temporal things have the limitation of the cross implied in them, and are to be understood in subordination to our eternal interest, and God's glory, without which they would not be mercies, but judgments; yet his usual course is to save, deliver, and supply them here: “And they that know thy name, will put their trust in thee; for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee” (Psalm ix. 10). And when God by his Spirit, doth particularly incline his people to hope for mercy from him, he will not fail their expectations. Where the qualification is uncertain, yet the faith of general mercy wrestleth against discouragements; as in the case of the woman of Canaan. There is the plea of a dog, and the plea of a child, in grievous temptations to fasten ourselves upon God. God will make good the hope raised in them by his Spirit.
USE-Is for direction, what to do in all our distresses, bodily and spiritual. Our necessities should lead us to the promise, and the promise to God.
(i.) Be sure of your qualification; for David pleadeth here, partly as a servant of God, and partly as a believer. First, “Remember the word unto thy servant;" and then, “ upon which thou hast caused me to hope.” There is a double qualification, with respect to the precept of subjection, with respect to the promise of dependence. The precept is before the promise. They have right to the promises, and may justly lay hold upon them, who are God's servants; they who apply themselves to obey his precepts, these only can regularly apply his promises. None can lay claim to rewarding grace, but those that are partakers of his sanctifying grace. Clear that once, that you are God's servants, and then these promises, which are generally offered, are your own, no less than if your name were inserted in the promise, and written in the Bible. Let us remember our promises made to God, and then desire him to remember his promises to us. The next part of the qualification is, if you be believers, and can wait and depend upon God, though he seemeth to delay, and forget his promise: our eyes must wait upon the Lord, until he have mercy upon us (Psalm cxxiii. 2). The benefit of some promises droppeth like the first ripe fruit, into the mouth of the eater ; but others must be tarried for. It is said, “When the time of the promise drew nigh, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt” (Acts vii, 17). The promise is recorded, Gen. xv. 5, of multiplying his seed like the stars of Heaven. Abraham was seventy-five years old when the promise was made, a hundred years old when Isaac was born; when Jacob went into Egypt they were but seventy souls, but at their coming forth they were 603,550. Now, if faith wait, “ He that believeth shall not make haste" (Isa. xxviii. 16). “ It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam. ii. 26). “Keep mercy and judgment, and wait on thy God continually” (Hos. xii. 6).. God delayeth, because he would have us make use of faith. Real believers are such as hare ventured upon God's word, denied themselves for the hopes offered therein : “ Therefore we both labour, and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God” (1 Tim. iv. 10). “God is not unrighteous, to forget your work, and labour of love, which ye have showed toward his name": (Heb. vi. 10). God's servants must wait for his promises with patience, and self-denial : “ To them who, by patient continuance in well-doing, seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life” (Rom. ii. 7). Those in “ the good ground are they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke viii. 15).
2. Then let us plead promises ; let them not lie by us as a dead stock, but put them in suit, and put God in remembrance. When the accomplishment is delayed, it is a notable way of raising and increasing our confidence: “And now, O Lord God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as thou hast said” (2 Sam. vii. 25). So, “And now, O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words are true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant" (verse 28). So may we do with any promise of mercy and grace which God hath made with his people in his covenant.
SERMON LVI. VERSE 50.--This is my comfort in my affliction ; for thy nord hath
quickened me. In the former verse, the man of God had complained of the delay of the promise, and that his hope was so long suspended ; now, in this verse, he showeth what was his support, and did revive him during this delay, and the sore afflictions which befell him in the meantime : the promise com. forted him, before performance came. “This is my comfort in my afflic. tion; for thy word hath quickened me."
1. Observe here, the man of God had his afflictions; for we are not exempted from troubles, but comforted in troubles. God's promise, and
hope therein, may occasion us much trouble and persecution in the world. Yet,
2. This very promise, which occasioneth the trouble, is the ground of our support; for one great benefit which we have by the word is comfort against afflictions.
3. This comfort, which we have by the word, is the quickening and life of the soul. The life of our soul is first received by the word, and still maintained by the same word : “ Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth” (James i. 18); “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Peter i. 23).
DOCTRINE.—That all other comforts in affictions are nothing to those comforts which we have from the word of God.
David confirmeth it from experience, in his deepest pressures and afflictions, his soul was supported and enlivened by the word of God. The Apostle Paul doctrinally asserts it : “ Whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. xv. 4). The general end of Scripture is instruction; the special end is comfort and hope. Id agit tota Scriptura ut credamus in Deum (Luther). The business and design of Scripture is to bring us to believe in God, and to wait upon him for our salvation; to hope either for eternal life, which is the great benefit offered in the Scriptures, or those intervening blessings which are necessary by the way, and also adopted into the covenant. The reasons are taken,
1. From the quality of those comforts which we have from the word of God.
2. From the provision which the word hath made for our comfort. 3. From the manner whereby this comfort is received.
Ist, From the quality of those comforts which we receive from the word of God.
1. It is a divine comfort: “In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul” (Psalm xciv. 19). In all the comforts we have, it is good to consider from whence it cometh; is it God's comfort, or a fancy of our own ? A comfort that is made up of our own fancies, is like a spider's web that is weaved out of its bowels, and is gone and swept away with the turn of a besom. But God's comfort is more durable and lasting; for then it floweth from the true fountain of comfort, upon whose smiles and frowns our happiness dependeth. Now, God's comforts are such as God worketh, or God alloweth ; take them in either sense, they come in with a commanding or overpowering efficacy upon the soul. If God exciteth it by his Spirit, who is the Comforter : “ Thou hast put gladness in my heart" (Psalm iv. 7). There is little warmth in a fire of our own kindling; the Holy Ghost raiseth the heart to a higher degree of a delightful sense of the love of God, than we can do by a bare natural act of our own understanding. Or whether it be of such comforts as God alloweth; if we have God's covenant for our comfort, we have enough: no comfort like his comfort. In philosophy, man speaketh to us by the evidence of reason ; in the Scripture, God speaketh to us by way of sovereign authority. In his commands, he interposeth his power and dominion ; in his promises, he impawneth his truth ; and, therefore, scriptural comforts are God's comforts, and so more powerful and authoritative.
2. It is a strong comfort: “ That the heirs of promise might have