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good and sincere heart set himself to the keeping of it. This is spoken, partly to intimate his own seriousness in this work, and partly God's blessing upon his endeavours therein.
1. His seriousness and sincerity in the work. There is a twofold remembrance of things.
(1.) Notional and speculative. (2.) Practical and affective.
The notional and speculative remembrance of things is, when we barely think of them, without any further profit or benefit; but the practical, powerful, and affective remembrance is, to be affected with matters called to mind as the nature of them doth require; as when we remember God so as to love him, and fear him, and trust in him, and make him our delight, and cleave to him, and obey him. And we are said to remember his commandments, when our hearts are set upon the practice of them. Verba notitiæ connotant affectus : we must not think of God indifferently, and by-the-by; we must be answerably affected, and act accordingly. Thus did David, “ I remembered thy name,” and “kept thy law.”
2. God's blessing upon his endeavours ; for he presently addeth in the next verse, “ This I had, because I kept thy precepts." . Our heavenly Father, who seeth what is done in secret, will reward it openly (Matt. vi. 6). And the blessing of time well spent in secret, or a few serious thoughts of God in the night, will publicly appear in their carriage before men. If we be frequently and seriously with God when we are solitary, the fruit and benefit of it will be manifest by our holiness and heavenliness when we are in company. Your most private duties do not lose their reward. As a man's pains in study will appear in the accurate order, strength, and rationality of his discourse; so his converse with God in private will be seen in the fruits of it, in his holy, profitable, and serious conversation.
The points are three :-
3. Those that have spiritual affections, will take all occasions to remember his name.
I have remembered thy name in the night-season, saith holy David.
DOCTRINE I.—That remembering God is an especial help to the keeping of his law.
First, What is it to remember God?
Ist, It supposeth some knowledge of God; for what a man knoweth not he cannot remember. The memory is the cofferer and treasurer of the soul: what the understanding taketh in, the memory layeth up; and actually we are said to remember, when we set the mind awork upon such notions as we have formerly received. And, particularly, to remember God is, when we stir up in our minds clear and heart-warming apprehensions about his nature and will.
2ndly, It supposeth some faith, that we believe him to be such as the word describeth him to be; for spiritual remembrance is the actuation of faith, or, in this case, the improvement of that wisdom, power, goodness, holiness, justice, and truth, which we believe to be in God. Otherwise, without faith, those thoughts which we have of the greatest matters, affect us no more than a dream doth a sleeper.
These things are supposed in remembrance. 3rdly, It expresseth a reviving of these thoughts, or an erection of the
mind to think upon what we know and believe. Man, that hath an ingestive, hath also an egestive faculty, and can lay out as well as lay up; bring forth truths out of the mind when it is useful for us, and whet and inculcate them upon the heart: he may call to mind or ponder upon them.
4thly, Let us see the kinds of this remembrance.
1. I must repeat that distinction, it may be done notionally and speculatively, or else affectively and practically. Notionally, when men have a few barren notions, or dry, sapless opinions or speculations, about the nature of God. Always men's remembrance is as their knowledge is, and faith is. Now, there is pópowoic tñs yvúDewÇ, a “form of knowledge (Rom. ii. 20), and dead faith (James ii. 20). Affectively and practically we remember God, when there are such lively and powerful impressions of his name upon our hearts as produce reverence, love, and obedience. It is not enough to grant the doctrine, own the opinions that are sound and orthodox concerning God; but we must have a reverential and superlative esteem of him. All men confess a God with their mouth, and think they believe in him ; but “the fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm xiv. 1). What testimony do their hearts and actions give ? A man's course of life and conversation is like an eyewitness, his profession is as a testimony by report: now, one eyewitness deserves more credit than many by hearsay: Plus valet unus oculatus testis, fc. How would you walk if you believed there were no God? Could you be more neglectful of God, and careless and mindless of heavenly things, than you are ? Now, your transgressions speak louder than your professions in the eye of an understanding believer : “ The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes" (Psalm xxxvi. 1). Practice belies profession: “ They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him” (Titus i. 16). Cold and dead opinions are easily taken up, and men talk by rote one after another; yea, and study to defend them; and yet count God an idol. Denial in works is the strongest way of denial; for actions are more weighty and deliberate than speeches.
2. There is a threefold remembrance of God for practical uses.
(1.) There is a constant remembrance. We should carry the thoughts of God along with us to all our businesses and affairs, and ever walk as in his eye and presence: “Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long” (Prov. xxiii. 17); not only in prayer, but at all times, in all our other occasions. Some graces, like the lungs, are always in use; so, “I have set the Lord always before me” (Psalm xvi. 8). He that liveth always as in the sight of God, cannot be so secure and senseless as others are. A drowsy, unattentive mind is easily deceived into sin; but he that doth often remember God, his conscience is kept waking; for he is all eye, and seeth all things; all hand, and toucheth all things; all foot, and walketh everywhere; all ear, and heareth all things. Sic agamus cum hominibus tanquam Deus videat, sic loquamur cum Deo tanquam homines audiant. The latter clause was the least that a Heathen could think of; but, surely, if there be any weight in the former part of the direction, the latter is needless. Thus we should never forget God.
(2.) Occasional; when God is brought to mind either by some special occasion offered, or by some notable discovery of himself in his word or works. Occasion offered; as, when Ahasuerus could not sleep (Esther vi. 1), it was the providence of God he should read in the “ Chronicles," and so come to the knowledge of Mordecai. So it befalleth God's chil. dren: they cannot sleep sometimes; and so occasion is offered, in the silence and solitude of the night, to invite them to holy thoughts of God, which may be of great use and comfort: “He sealeth up the hand of every man, that all men may know his work” (Job xxxvii. 7). In deep snow or rain, their work is hindered, that they, sitting at home, may have time to consider of God and his providence. Sometimes it falleth out so, that we know not what to do with our thoughts ; and it will look strangely in the review, if we should prostitute them to vanity rather than give them to God, like the act of a spiteful man that will rather destroy and waste a commodity than let another have it. Or, when some notable discovery of God is in his ordinances and providences, word or works, we should always season our hearts with the thoughts of God: we should see him in every creature, and observe him in his daily providences. The name of God is upon all things that he hath made, but especially any notable providence that falleth out, which is an especial demonstration of his wisdom, justice, and power: “ He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered" (Psalm cxi. 4). So in his ordinances, when God maketh any nearer approach to us by way of conviction, counsel, or comfort: “And thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God, and report that God is in you of a truth" (1 Cor. xiv. 25). Many times our minds, in reading or hearing, are illustrated with a heavenly light, or our hearts touched with some delightful relish; and the word cometh in with more than ordinary authority and power upon the heart: these are especial occasions which we must take to consider God and the great affairs of our souls.
(3.) Set and solemn; when, from the bent, purpose, and inclination of our own hearts, without any outward impulsion, we set ourselves to remember the God that made us. From first to last, there is a great use of meditation and serious thoughts of God in the spiritual life. Our first awaking is occasioned by them: “All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord” (Psalm xxii. 27). For a great while, we live without God in the world, till we recollect ourselves, and consider where we are, and whither we are going. We are like men drunk or asleep, and do not make use of our reason and common principles that may be learned from the inspection of the creature and everything about us; and, when once we are brought into the communion of the life of God, and have grace planted in our hearts, it cannot be carried on unless we take time to remember God. Our faith, our love, our desires, our delight, they are all acted and exercised by our thoughts; so that the spiritual life is but an imagina. tion, unless we do frequently and often take time for serious meditation of him. It is not consistent with any of the three vital graces, faith, hope, and love, that a man should be a stranger to the remembrance of God : therefore God complaineth of it as a strange thing: “My people have forgotten me days without number” (Jer. ii. 22), do no more regard me than if they had never known me. Besides, the habits of grace are so weak, and our temptations so strong, and the difficulties of obedience so great, that I cannot see how we can keep afoot any interest of God in ourselves, if we seldom think of God, and do not sometimes sequester ourselves to revive this memorial upon our souls. Can a sluggish heart be quickened, or weak and inconstant resolutions be strengthened, or the sparks of love ever blown up into a flame, and fainting hopes cherished, unless we seriously set our minds awork to consider of God and our obligations
to him? Will a sleepy profession, without constant and lively thoughts, do it? It cannot be. Oh! no; if you mean to keep in the fire, you must ply the bellows, and blow hard. Whet truths upon the understanding, and agitate your minds in this holy work.
Secondly, My next work is to show that it is a notable help to godliness; and that appeareth enough, in that forgetting God is assigned as the cause of all mischief, and remembering God the engagement to all duty. We forget God, do not meditate upon his name, and so fall into sin : “ The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God" (Psalm ix. 17). Some deny God, but most forget him; they cast away the knowledge of God out of their minds. So, “ Consider this, ye that forget God” (Psalm 1. 22); that is the description of the wicked. So is the charge upon Israel as their great sin and cause of their defection : “Of the Rock that begat thee thou art unmindful, and hast forgotten God that formed thee” (Deut. xxxii. 18). Oblivion is an ignorance for the time. Truths lose their efficacy when not remembered. On the other side, remembering God is made to be the immediate and next cause of our duty: “Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth" (Eccl. xii. 1). Youth would not miscarry so shamefully, if they did oftener remember God ; nor be led away by vain and sensual delights, if the thoughts of God did more dwell in their minds. So, “Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments" (Deut. viii, 11). Our lives will declare whether we do remember God: those that do often and seriously keep God in their thoughts, will be most careful to keep his commandments.
Thirdly, The reasons of the point.
1st, It doth encourage us, and quicken us to diligence in our work. As soldiers fight best in their general's presence, and scholars ply their books when under their master's eye; so, by living always in the sight of God, we study to please him : the oftener we consider him, the more we see no service can be holy and good enough for such a God as he is ; a God, as not to be provoked and resisted, so not be neglected and slighted : “Cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing; for I am a great King, saith the Lord of Hosts, and my name is dreadful among the Heathen” (Mal. i, 14); implying that, when they came with a sickly sacrifice, they did not remember his excellency and greatness, either they had no, or mean, thoughts of God; but, if they had remembered what a one he is, they would employ the best of their strength, time, and affection in his service.
2ndly, The madness of our natures is bridled and restrained by thoughts of God: “He that doeth evil hath not seen God” (3 John 11); “ Will he force the queen also before me in the house?” (Esther vii. 8.) You will not sport with sin, nor play with the occasions of it, nor dare to ven. ture upon God's restraints. It is said of an archangel, ók ÉTÓApnoe, he “ durst not bring against him a railing accusation" (Jude 9), because they beheld the face of God. So, if we had a deep sense of God impressed upon our hearts, we should be more awful. You make very bold with God, when you dare knowingly venture upon the least sin. Will you affront God to his face ? Children that are quarrelling or falling out, when the father or mother cometh, all is hush and silent.
3dly, It comforts and reviveth us in the midst of our faintings and discouragements because of the evils of the present world : “ When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord” (Jonah ii. 7). When the burthen of affliction presseth us sore, the stoutest hearts are broken and lose all courage; but, when we come to ponder seriously what God is, or what he will be to his people, or hath at any time been to ourselves, it cheereth and reviveth the heart. So, “O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee" (Psalm xlii, 6). By this way the saints recover themselves : “ And I said, This is my infirmity; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High” (Psalm lxxvii. 10). So also, “Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up? Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?" (Matt. xvi. 9, 10.)
USE.—The use is to press us to remember God more. When we will not look upon another, we take it to be a great sign of aversation and hatred. The devils, that are most opposite to God, abhor their own thoughts of God; for they “believe and tremble.” God thinketh of us; he is not far from every one of us. Why are we so far from him? We cannot open our eyes but one object or other will represent God to us. What dost thou see, hear, and feel, but the effects of his power and goodness? He is before thee, behind thee, within thee, round about thee; and shall he not find a room in thy heart, when every trifle findeth a room there? He that filleth erery place, shall thy heart be empty of all thoughts of him? To press you to this,
1. Consider we are naturally apt to forget God, do not like to retain him in our knowledge (Rom. i. 28), backward to any remembrance of him: “ The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Psalm x. 4).
2. How much God hath done to put us in remembrance of him, by creatures, providences, ordinances, and his Spirit.
(1.) Creatures, all of them, sun, moon, stars, worms, grass, put us in mind of him : “ The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge” (Psalm xix. 1, 2). The creatures have a double use, their natural use and their spiritual use: their natural use is the special end for which they were made ; their spiritual use is to set forth God to us. We look upon them amiss, if we look upon them as separated from and independent of God. Our food is not only to nourish nature, but that we may taste the sweetness and goodness of God in it. All the creatures bring this message to our consciences, Remember God, that made us and all things else. They all read a divinity lecture, to those that hare a mind to hear it; and preach the goodness, and power, and wisdom of God, by a loud and audible voice. It is true we are deaf ; but they cease not to cry to us: “Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee” (Job xii. 8): not only the shining heavens, but the dull earth, that heaviest and grossest element; the brute creatures that have no reason, the mute fishes that can make no sound, we must ask them, parley with them by our own thoughts; and so, though they have neither voice nor ears, they will answer us, and resolve our consciences the question we put to them, Is there a God? yea, and declare his excellent attributes; that he is eternal, infinite, wise, powerful, and good. We may easily make out these collections. Christ saith, the stones would cry if these held their peace. We