« 上一頁繼續 »
glory of God” (Rom. v. 2). This comforts against troubles, sicknesses, wants. Everlasting ease, everlasting joy surely will counterbalance all that we can endure and suffer for or from God. There all our fears and sorrows shall be at an end, and all tears shall be wiped from our eyes.
(3.) The general promises concerning our temporal estate. There are many particular promises concerning ihe supply of all our necessities, removing of our grievances, and burdens, or else that God will allay our troubles, and enable us to bear them, mix with them the taste of his good. ness and fatherly love. But I shall only speak of those general promises, that we may be contident that he will never utterly fail his people : “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb. xiii. 5); that he will not give us over to insupportable difficulties : “ There hath no temptation taken you, but what is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able ; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. x. 13). He will dispose of all things for the best to them that love him (Rom. viii. 28). These things are absolutely undertaken, and these things should satisfy us.
3rdly, From the manner wherein this comfort is received : they are applied by the Spirit, who is a comforter ; and received-by faith.
1. Applied by the Spirit, which is dispensed in a concomitancy with this word : “Now the God of hope fill ve with all joy, and peace in believing; that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost" (Rom. xv. 13). The Holy Ghost is purposely given to be our comforter. If we are fit to receive it, he will not be wanting to give solid joy, and delight, to the penitent and believing soul.
2. It is received by faith : the word of God cannot deceive us. Faith is contented with a promise, though it hath not possession : for, “ Faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. xi. 1). Sickness with a promise, poverty with a promise, captivity with a promise, is better than health, riches, liberty, without one ; yea, death with a promise is better than life. What you possess without a promise, you may lose when most secure: “I will say to my soul, soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, thou fool, this night shall thy soul be required of thee: then whose sball those things be, that thou hast provided ?” (Luke xi. 19, 20.) But in the eye of faith, that which we hope for, is more than that which we possess; for we have God's word, it is set before us.
USE I—Is for information.
How likely is it that the children of God will be exercised with afflictions, because God in his word hath laid in so many comforts beforehand; a full third of the Scriptures would be lost, and be as bladders given to a man that stands on dry land, and never meaneth to go into deep waters. “Man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward” (Job v. 7). Many think they come into the world not to bear crosses, but to spend their days in pleasure: but, alas ! how soon do they find themselves mistaken, and confuted by experience! If life be anything lengthened out, it is vexed with the remembrance of what is past, or trouble of what is present, or fear of what is to come. The first part of our life we know not ourselves; in the middle we are filled with cares and sorrows; our last burdened with weakness and age. But now the godly are more appointed to troubles; because God will try their faith, perfect their patience, train them up for
a better world : they are now hated by the world : “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. ii. 12). “W e must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God" (Acts xir. 22). He that would not be exempted from the hopes of Christians, he must not look to be exempted from the troubles of Christians.
2. The excellency of the word of God, and the religion it establisheth : it containeth stores of sure comforts; and when all other comforts can do us no good, than the word of God affordeth us relief and support. Bare human reason cannot find out such grounds of comfort in all their philosophy, it doth not penetrate to the inwards of a man : it will tell us it is in vain to trouble ourselves about what we cannot help : “ This is a grief and I must bear it'' (Jer. x. 19), that we are not without fellows, others suffer as much as we do, &c. But the word of God giveth us other consolations, the pardon of sin, the promises of a better life; that if we lose tein poral things, we shall have eternal; that we would not fear the threatenings of men, having the promises of God, &c., nor death which hath life at the back of it: these are comforts indeed. When David was even dead in the nest, the word that was not so clear then in these points as now, revived him: what would he have said, if he had known the Gospel so fully as we do? how should we be affected that live in so much light?
USE II—Is for reproof.
(1.) In the vanities of the world, this is too slight a plaster to cure man's sore, or heal his wound; the comforts of this world appear and vanish in a moment. Every blast of a temptation scattereth them; it must be the hope and enjoyment of some solid satisfaction that can fortify the heart, and breed any solid and lasting comfort, and this the world cannot give unto us. But in the word we have it. Alas! what is a dream of honour, or the good will and word of a mortal man? Everlasting glory is as much above all these, as the treasures of a kingdom before a child's toys. Maygames, vain pleasures are gone before we well feel that we have them.
(2.) Or in philosophy, that cannot give a true ground of comfort. That was it the wise men of the world aimed at, to fortify the soul against troubles; but as they never understood the true ground of misery, which is sin; so they never understood the true ground or way of comfort, which is Christ. That which man offereth cannot come with such authority and power, as that which God offereth. The light of reason cannot have such an efficacy as divine testimony. This is a poor moon-light that rotteth before it ripeneth anything. In short, they were never acquainted with Christ, who is the foundation of comfort; nor the promise of Heaven, which is the true matter of comfort; nor faith, which is the instrument to receive comfort; so that you leave the fountain of living water, for the dead puddle of a filthy ditch, if you think the writings of the Heathens will comfort you, and revive you, and neglect the word of God that brings rest for the soul.
2. Those are to be reproved that are under a spiritual institution, and profess to keep to it, and do so little honour it, either by their patience, or coinfort, or hope under troubles. Wherefore were the great mysteries of godliness made known to us, and the promises of the world to come, and all the directions concerning the subjection of the soul to God, and those blessed privileges we enjoy by Christ, if they all be not able to satisfy and stay your heart, and compose it to a quiet submission to God, when it is
his pleasure to take away your comforts from you? What, " Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there ?". Will not all the word of God yield you a cordial, or a cure? Oh, consider what a disparagement you put upon the provision Christ hath made for us, as if the Scripture were a weaker thing than the institutions of philosophy, or the vain delights of the world. But what may be the reasons of such an obstinacy of
(1.) Sometimes ignorance: they do not study the grounds of comfort, or do not remember them; for oblivion is an ignorance for the time : “ Have ye forgotten the exhortation, that speaketh to you as children?" (Heb. xii. 5.) They are like Hagar, had a well of comfort nigh, and yet ready to die for thirst. The Scripture hath breasts of comfort so full as a breast ready to discharge itself, and yet they are not comforted.
(2.) .They indulge and give way to the present malady, hug the distemper, and do not consider the evil of it. As Rachel, “refuse to be comforted” (Jer. xxxi. 15).
(3.) They do not chide themselves, ask the soul the reason, cite it before the tribunal of conscience, which is one way to allay passions : " Why art thou so disquieted, O my soul ?" (Psalm xlii. 5.) They look to the grievance, not to the comfort, as that which is of no use: they aggravate the grievance, and lessen the love of God: “Are the consolations of God small with thee?" (Job xv. 11.) It is spoken to them who have high thoughts of their troubles, low thoughts of God's comforts.
(4.) Uncertainty in religion. Principles must be fixed, before they can be improved, and we can feel their influence and power : but people will be making essays, and try this, and try that God's grounds of comfort are immutably fixed; God will not change his Gospel-laws for thy sake: and therefore unless we would have a mountebank's cure, we must stand to them : “ Thus saith the Lord, stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls" (Jer. vi. 16). When we have tried all, we must come home at length to these things; and our uncertainty in religion will be none of the meanest causes of our troubles.
(5.) They look to means, and their natural operation, and neglect God. And God only will be known to be the God of all comfort : “ Blessed be God, even the father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comforts, who comforteth us in all our tribulation” (2 Cor. i. 3, 4).
Use III—Is to exhort us,
1. To prize and esteem the Scriptures, and consult with them often. There you have the knowledge of God, who is best worth our knowing; and the way how we may come to enjoy him, wherein our happiness lieth. It is a petty wisdom to be able to gather riches, manage your business in the world; ordinary learning is a good ornament: but this is the excellent, deep, and profound learning, to know how to be saved. What is it I press you to know, the course of the heavens, to number the orbs and the stars in them, to measure their circumference, and reckon their motions, and not to know Him that sits in the circle of them, nor know how to inhabit and dwell there? Oh, how should this commend !he word of God to us, where eternal life is discovered, and the way how to get it! Other writings and discourses may tickle the fancy with pleasing eloquence; but that delight is vanishing, like a musician's voice. Other writings may represent some petty and momentany advantage; but time will put an end to that, so that within a little while the advantage of all the books in the world will be gone: but the Scriptures, that tell us of eternal life and death, their effects will abide for ever: “I have seen an end of all perfection, but thy commandment is exceeding broad” (Psalm cxix. 96). When Heaven and earth pass away, this will not pass ; that is, the effects will abide in Heaven and Hell. Know ye not that your souls were created for eternity, and that they will eternally survive all these present things? and shall your thoughts, projects, and designs be confined within the narrow bounds of time? Oh no, let your affections be to that book that will teach you to live well for ever, in comparison of which, all earthly felicity is lighter than vanity.
2. Be diligent in the hearing, reading, meditating on those things that are contained there. The earth is the fruitful mother of all herbs and plants; but yet it must be tilled, ploughed, harrowed, and dressed, or else it bringeth forth little fruit. The Scripture containeth all the grounds of hope, comfort, and happiness, the only remedy of sin and misery, our rule to walk by till our blessedness be perfected; but we have little benefit by it, unless it be improved by diligent meditation : “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in that law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm i. 2). This must be your chief delight, and you must be versed therein upon all occasions : “Oh, how I love thy law, it is my meditation all the day !” (Psalm cxix. 97); when we lore it, and prize it, it will be so, for our thoughts cannot be kept off from what we love and delight in.
3. Reader, hear, meditate with a spirit of application, and an aim of profit : “ Hear it, and know thou it for thy good” (Job v. 27); as the rule of your actions, and the charter of your hopes : " What shall we then say to these things?" (Rom. viii. 31.) That you may grow better, and wiser, and may have more advantages in your heavenly progress, take home your portion of the bread of life, and turn it into the seed of your life. It is not enough to seek truth in the Scriptures, but you must seek life in the Scriptures; it is not an object only to satisfy your understandings with the contemplation of truth, but your hearts with the enjoyment of life; and therefore you must not only bring your judgment to find the light of truth, but your affections to embrace the goodness of life offered. Think not ye have found all when you have found truth, and learned it; no, except you find life there, you have missed the best treasure; you must bring your understandings and affections to them, and not depart till both return full.
SERMON LVII. VERSE 51.—The proud have had me greatly in derision : yet have I
not declined from thy law. In these words are,1. David's temptation.
2. His constancy and perseverance in his duty, notwithstanding that temptation.
First, In the temptation observe,
1st, The persons from whom the temptation did arise, “the proud.” The wicked are called so for two reasons.
1. Because either they despise God, and contemn his ways, which is the greatest pride that can fall upon the heart of a reasonable creature: “haters of God, despiteful, proud” (Rom. i. 30).
2. Or else, because they are drunk with wordly felicity. In the general, scoffing cometh from pride. What is “ He scorneth the scorners, and giveth grace unto the lowly” (Prov. iii. 34); is “ He resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble” (James iv. 6).
2ndly, Observe the kind or nature of temptation ; he was “had in derision.” This may be supposed either for dependence on God's promises, or for obedience to his precepts. Atheistical men that wholly look to the pleasing of the flesh, and the interest of the present world, make a mock of both. We have instances of both in Scripture.
1. They make a mock of reliance upon God when we are in distress ; think it ridiculous to talk of relief from Heaven, when earthly power faileth : “ They laugh me to scorn; saying, He trusted on the Lord” (Psalm xxii, 7, 8). The great promise of Christ's coming is flouted at by those mockers : “There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the creation” (2 Peter iii. 3, 4). Such scoffers are in all ages, but now they overflow. These latter times are the dregs of Christianity, in which such kind of men are more rife than the serious worshippers of Christ. At the first promulgation of the Gospel while truths were new and the exercises of Christian religion lively and serious, and great concord among the professors of the Gospel, they were rare and unfrequent. Before men's senses were benumbed with the frequent experiences of God's power, and the customary use of religious duties, and the notions of God were fresh and active upon their hearts, they were not heard of: but when the profession of Christianity grew into a form, and national interest; and men fell into it by the chance of their birth, rather than their own choice and rational conviction; the church was pestered with this kind of cattle. But especially are they rife among us, when men are grown weary of the name of Christ, and the ancient severity and strictness of religion is much lost; and the memory of those miracles and wonderful effects by which our religion was once confirmed, almost worn out; or else questioned and impugned by subile wits, and men of a prostituted conscience. Therefore, now are many mockers and atheistical spirits everywhere, who ask, " Where is the promise of his coming?" question all; and think that there are none but a few credulous fools that depend upon the hopes of the Gospel.
2. Their obedience to his precepts: and so, whosoever will be true to his religion, and live according to his baptismal vow, is set up for a sign of contradiction to be spoken against. It is supposed the mocking by the Heathen of the Jews is intended in these words: “Depart ye, it is unclean, depart, depart, touch not, when they fled away, and wandered” (Lam. iv. 15). The words are somewhat obscure, but some judicious interpreters understand them of the detestation of the Jewish religion, their circumcision, their Sabbaths, &c. But, however that be, certainly the children of God are often mocked for their strict obedience, as well as their faith.
3rdly, Observe the degree, “ greatly.” The word noteth “ continually," the Septuagint translate it by opółpa, the vulgar Latin by usque raide,