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2ndly, Now I come to the reasons why God's pilgrims find matter of rejoicing in his word, during the time of their exile, and absence from God, and all the inconveniences that attend it.
1. Some on the word's part.
1. There they have the discovery and promise of eternal life. It telleth them of their country; a firm deed and conveyance is a comfort to us before we have possession: “ To us are given exceeding great and precious promises, that being made partakers of the Divine nature, we may escape the corruptions that are in the world through lust” (2 Peter i. 4). In the word there are promises neither of small things, of things of a little moment, nor of things that we have nothing to do with, but of great moment and weight, and given to us. The promises make the things promised certain to those to whom they do belong, though they be not yet actually in their possession ; and therefore the children of God are delighted in them, and so far, as that their hearts are drawn off from worldly things. They that adhere to them, and prize the comfort which they offer, have something in them above natural men, or the ordinary sort of those that live in the world.
2. There they have sure direction how they may attain this blessedness, which the promises speak of, and that is a great comfort in the midst of the darkness and uncertainty of the present life. The word of God is said to be a light that shineth to us in a dark place (2 Peter i. 19). The love of the world will mislead us, our own reason will often leave us comfortless, the examples of the best are defective, but the word of God will give comfortable direction to all that follow the direction of it, under all their crosses, confusions, and difficulties : “ Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm cxix. 105). Light is comfortable ; it is no small satisfaction that I am in God's way, and have his word for my warrant.
3. It propoundeth the examples of their countrymen, and sets forth their heroical acts, and encourageth us to imitate their fortitude and selfdenial : “ Be followers of them who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises” (Heb. vi. 12): many things are to be done and suffered before we attain the end. Now, it is a great comfort to trace the footsteps of the saints all along in the way in which we go: “Wherefore, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us“ (Heb. xii. 1). If God did call us to walk in an untrodden path, it might be cumbersome and solitary; now it is very obliging and encouraging to consider in what way they have been brought to Heaven before us.
4. It hath many seasonable cordials against fainting by the way. Alas! when we are in deep pressures, our hearts are apt to sink ; but the word assureth us, that we shall have all things necessary for us, that our heavenly Father seeth what is best for us; and that if we faithfully wait upon him, our afflictions and rubs in the way shall be a means to bring us to our journey's end : “ 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); and that for the present our trials are not inconsistent with his love.
2ndly, On the believer's part there are reasons of this comfort and rejoicing.
1. There needeth a spiritual frame of heart, for a carnal man's rejoicings and relishes are suitable to the constitution of his mind : “ They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, and they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit” (Rom. vii. 5). It is an infallible rule to the world's end, every one cannot say, “ thy statutes are my songs” no, they must have other solaces, and a man's temper is more discerned by his solaces, than by anything else; they that have not purged their tastes from the dregs of sense, the trash of the flesh-pots of Egypt, will ever be pleasing to them in the heavenly pilgrimage ; and being inveigled with the baits of the flesh, the promises are like withered flowers to them, or as dry chips ; it is the spiritual heart that is refreshed with spiritual songs.
2. This word must be received by faith, for it is faith that enliveneth our notions of things, and maketh them work with us : “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims upon the earth” (Heb. xi. 13); our affections follow persuasion: “Whom having not seen ye love, in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter i. 8). “Now the God of hope fill ye with all joy and peace in believing” (Rom. xv. 13).
3. This word must be improved by reading, hearing, but especially by meditation and singing.
(1.) Meditation, when it is sweet and lively, stirreth this joy. Delight begets meditation, and meditation begets delight. There is a kukloyévedis in moral as well as natural things: "His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night” (Psalm i. 2). And, “Oh how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day” (Psalm cxix. 97). And, “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect to thy ways: I will delight myself in thy statutes, I will not forget thy word” (verses 15, 16). These follow one another: affections are not excited but by deep and pondering thoughts.
(2.) By singing psalms we draw forth this delight: “Let the word of God dwell in you richly, in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord"? (Col. iii. 16). “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph. v. 18, 19). Drunkards, when filled with the spirit of wine, sing wanton songs, and those who are filled with the wine of the Spirit, will praise God with spiritual songs. This is a duty of importance, a delightful way of being instructed by our refeshment. God would give us strength, but this is neglected, or cursorily performed by Christians. We will complain of the want of a spirit in prayer, we should do so in singing: coldness in this holy exercise argueth a deadness of faith, and a coldness in true religion. We should express our joy this way.
4. Above all, this comfort is found in ready practice and obedience. There is a comfort I confess in speculation, but not so deep and intimate as in practice. The one is but a taste inviting to the other, which giveth us a fuller draught. The bare contemplation and view of any concerning and weighty truth is very ravishing to those that bend their minds to knowledge: “My son eat thou honey, because it is good, and the honeycomb which is sweet to thy taste : so shall the knowledge of wisdom be to thy soul” (Prov. xxiv. 13, 14). Every truth is objectum intellectus, much more Divine truth; but now in practice the impression is doubled. We get comfort and joy raised in our consciences, our lives and light do not jar; we are at full quiet in our minds, apprehending ourselves to be in God's way : “I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches” (Psalm cxix. 14).
USE I.—To show you that the people of God need not envy the wicked for their delights and pleasures; they have chaster and sweeter delights ; God's statutes are their songs. Where the heart is spiritual, they can find delight enough in the word, both as their charter, and their rule, and need not turn aside to vain mirth; a portion in the promises will yield pleasure enough : “ Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart” (verse 111)..
2. To reprove those that reckon these things a burthen, the holy talking of Heaven and godliness maketh worldly men ever heavy, and out of humour: it is not their delight; but it should not be so with the children of God. A child of God should only be heavy when he displeases God, but delight in all the means that enable him to live to God.
3. When we are saddened by the evil of the present world, let us make use of this remedy, let us meditate on God's statutes. We shall find ease and refreshing by exercising ourselves to know God in Christ.
4. To refute the vain conceit which possesseth the minds of men, that the way of godliness is a gloomy way. As soon as a man beginneth to think of salvation, or the change of his life, or the leaving of his sins, embracing the service of God, presently his mind is haunted with this thought, “Seest thou not how those that serve God are melancholy, afflicted, sorrowful, never rejoice more, and wilt thou be one of them. This is the opinion of the world, that they can never rejoice, nor be merry that serve God. But certainly it is a vain conceit; no men do more, and more truly rejoice than they which serve God. Consult the Scriptures; who have more leave shall I say, or command to rejoice? “ Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Psalm xxxvii. 4); “Rejoice in the Lord alway, and again I say rejoice” (Phil. iv. 4). Ask reason who have more cause or matter to rejoice than they that have provided against the fears or doubts of conscience by reason of sin? what is more satisfactory to a soul in doubts and fears than the knowledge of pardon, and reconciliation with God? For the satisfaction of the desires of nature which carry us after happiness; who have a more powerful exciter of joy than the Holy Ghost ? “ The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost” (Acts xiii. 52). Who more qualified with joy than those, who have a clear right to the pardon of sin, and so can see all miseries unstinged? “ Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God: and not only so, but we glory in tribulations also ” (Rom. v. 1-3.) How joyful are those that see themselves prepared for everlasting life! “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. v. 1). Yea, when a Christian knoweth his duty, his way is plain before him: it is a mighty satisfaction : “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart” (Psalm xix. 8). Look into the lives and examples of the saints, who have more true joy than they? The disciples esteem the grace of the Gospel such a great treasure, that, though they suffer persecution for it, they are filled with joy; “ And there was great joy in that city” (Acts viii. 8); “Having received the word in much affliction, with joy in the Holy Ghost ” (1 Thes. i. 6); “I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation" (2 Cor. vii. 4). Preachers, though with great hazard they perform their office, should be joyful: “ Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy” (Acts xx. 24). “Yea, and if I be offered for the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all; for the same cause also do ye joy and rejoice with me” (Phil. ii. 17, 18). The world will reply, I know not what this spiritual consolation meaneth, it seemeth hard to relinquish that which I see, that which I feel, that which I taste, for that which I see not, and it may be shall never see. Answer
1. By concession, the joy of the saints is the joy of faith. God is unseen, Christ is within the heavens, great hopes are to come: “In whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter i. 8); “ For we walk by faith, not by sight " (2 Cor. v. 7).
2. Thus you see that the world cannot always rejoice in those things which they take to be the proper objects of joy : they have alternative vicissitudes, now rejoice, now mourn; nor can it be otherwise; for they rejoice in things which cannot always last. If they rejoice when their worldly comforts increase, they are sad when they wither; if they rejoice when their children are born, they weep when they die : but a Christian hath always his songs; for he must always rejoice in the Lord, who is an eternal God: “ Rejoice in the Lord alway” (Phil. iv. 4); in Christ, who hath 6 obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. ix. 12); in the promises, which give an eternal influence : “ Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever; for they are the rejoicing of my heart” (Psalm cxix. 111). The flesh cannot afford you anything so delightful as a Christian hath; the word will hold good for ever.
3. We cannot altogether say, that a Christian doth rejoice in that which he cannot see; for all that they see is their everlasting Father's wealth : “All are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's” (1 Cor. iii, 22, 23). If they look to Heaven, they can rejoice and say, Glory be to thee, O Lord, who hast prepared this for our everlasting dwelling-place: if they look to the earth, Glory be to thee, O Lord, who dost not leave us destitute in the house of our pilgrimage : if they consider their afflictions, they rejoice that God is not unmindful of poor creatures, who are beneath his anger as well as unworthy of his love: “ What is man, that thou shouldst magnify him, and that thou shouldst set thine heart upon him, and that thou shouldst visit him every morning, and try him every moment?” (Job vii. 17, 18.) That God should trouble himself about us, that we may not perish with the ungodly world. The same love that sendeth them prosperity, sendeth adversity also, which they find by the seasonableness of it.
SERMON LXI. VERSE 55.— I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and
have kept thy law. We often read and sing David's Psalms; but we have little of David's spirit. A man's employment is as the constitution of his mind is ; for all things work according to their nature. A man addicted to God; that is to say, one who hath taken God for his happiness, his word for his rule, his Spirit for his guide, and his promises for his encouragement, his heart will always be working towards God, day and night. In the day, he will be studying God's word: in the night, if his sleep be interrupted, he will be meditating on God's name; still entertaining his soul with God. The predominant affection will certainly set the thoughts awork. The man of God had told us, in the former verse, what was his chief employment in the day-time; and now he telleth us how his heart wrought in the night: night and day he was remembering God, and his duty to him. In the day, the statutes of God were his solace, and as songs to him in the house of his pilgrimage: in the night, the name of God was his meditation: “I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law." In which words observe,
I. David's exercise, “ I have remembered thy name, O Lord, in the night.”
II. The effect and fruit of it, “and have kept thy law.” The one may be considered as the means, the other as the next and immediate end. Remembering aud thinking is but a subservient help and means to promote some higher work.
First, In the first branch you have, 1. The act of his soul, “ I have remembered." 2. The object about which it was conversant, “ thy name, O Lord.” 3. The season, " in the night."
1st, For the act of his soul, “I have remembered.” Remembrance is an act of knowledge reiterated, or a second agitation of the mind unto that point unto which it had arrived before. Or, more plainly, remembering is a setting knowledge awork, or a reviving those notions which we have of things, and exercising our thoughts and meditations about them.
2ndly, The object was God's “ name.” That is, either God himself; as, “ The name of the God of Jacob defend thee” (Psalm xx. 1); or that by which God is known, his wisdom, goodness, and power, especially those notions by which he hath manifested himself in the word.
3rdly, The season, “ in the night.” Some take the night metaphorically, for the time of trouble and affliction. It is often a dark time with the people of God, a very dark night; and then it is comfortable to them to think of his name, according to that of the Prophet: “ He that walketh in darkness and hath no light, let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God” (Isa. 1. 10). I think it is meant literally; that the man of God took such pleasure in the name of God, that what time others gave to sleep and rest, he would give to the contemplation of his glory. In the solitude and darkness of the night, he sustained and supported his spirit with the thoughts of God, and thereby took up a courage and constancy of resolution to keep his law.
Secondly, The other branch, “have kept thy law;" that is, with a