網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

hearsay, Job thought himself something, and might reflect upon himself and actions with a kind of complacency and delight; but now he could not look upon himself with any patience. Self-love maketh us loath other men's sins more than our own; and self-love hindereth us from representing ourselves to ourselves in a true shape. It is the mere speculative knowledge of God, and science falsely so called, that puffeth up; but a true knowledge of God breedeth self-loathing.

(iii.) From sin it draweth off the heart. This remembrance will represent filthiness as filthiness, without a covering. Sin is a deformity to God, a contrariety to his laws, the purity and goodness of his essence, and wisdom of his laws; yea, an act of rebellion and disloyalty against his sovereignty. Sin still is greatened by the consideration of God, and a reflection upon his nature; as against his authority, purity, goodness, so there is unkindness, disobedience, and a blot in it. Well may the Apostle say, “He that doeth evil hath not seen God” (3 John 11).

2. The heart must be drawn unto God, by love, fear, and trust; for, unless we meditate upon God to this end, though we know God, we do not glorify him as God (Rom. i. 21), till your hearts be moved and inclined to love, fear him, and obey him. His being calls for it, that we should seek after communion with God, who is such a self-sufficient, all-sufficient, and eternal being. Whom would we own, or whose favour would we seek: the favour of poor creatures, who are now one thing, now another; or the favour of God, who can still say, “I Am that I Am ;" what I was I am, and I will be what I am ? Friends are changeable: their affections dry up, and they themselves die ; and their favour, and all their thoughts of doing us good, perish : there is no end of his duration or affection. His attributes call for love: his power rendereth him the most desirable friend and dreadful adversary. What more dreadful than power that cannot be resisted, wisdom that none can be hid from; and what more lovely than his love? Surely, if we did study his name, his promises and threatenings, it would have more power with us. How would we seek to him, and submit to his blessed will, and depend on him, as those that have nothing in ourselves, nor anything else in the world had being without him. We would then believe all opposite powers to be nothing, and wink out either the dreadfulness or loveliness of the creature, while the eye of our souls is wholly taken up with the sight of God. Our desires would be to him, and our delights in him; and, being deadened to the creature, would wholly cleave to him.

DOCTRINE III.—Those that have spiritual affections, will take all occasions to remember God's name. In adversity, for their comfort: “ Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee : the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. With my soul hare I desired thee in the night ; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early” (Isa. xxvi. 8, 9); “Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, 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). In prosperity, for a regulation and restraint to their affections, that they might not too freely run out on the creature to the wrong of God. It is said of the wicked, “Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God" (Psalm lv. 19); but God's children remember him in their comforts : “ When thou hast eaten and ait full, then thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he

[ocr errors]

hath given thee. Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God” (Deut.
viii. 10, 11): so, “ Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is he
that giveth thee power to get wealth” (verse 18). In company they will
be speaking of God: 'Allà uāldov súxapısia, “but rather giving of thanks"
(Eph. v. 4). Alone, they will be thinking of God; so that, when they
are alone, they are not alone : God is with them in their solitude : “ Be-
hold, the hour cometh ; yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every
man to his own, and shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because
the Father is with me” (John xvi. 32). By day, they redeem time;
God's statutes are their songs by night, when they cannot sleep : “ When
I awake, I am still with thee” (Psalm cxxxix. 18). Oh! what an ad-
vantage it is to have the heart thus thronged with thoughts of God in
the night! When others sleep, good men are awake with God.

1. Observe this, that which David speaketh of himself was a secret duty. Those duties which we perform in secret, and wherein we avoid the applause of men, are most sincere; and by them many times we obtain most blessing : “ Thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly” (Matt. vi. 6). David was the same in secret that he was in the light. Other witnesses of our respect to God we need not than God himself: it is enough that he seeth us and approveth us. Our desire and scope should be to please him ; not to appear devout to men, or be esteemed as such by thein. Therefore, besides public ordinances, we should give ourselves to spiritual exercises in secret.

2. This was a spiritual duty transacted in the heart, by his thoughts. The darkness of the night doth not hinder the delight of the soul. It is day within, though night without. When a child of God shall see God and be seen of him, though the sun shineth not upon the world, it is enough; their hearts are enlightened with God's Spirit.

3. It was a duty done åkaipwç, unseasonably to a vulgar eye. When others were buried in sleep, David would awaken sometimes to remember God. It is their solace; and spiritual affections and heroical grace must not be limited to the ordinary dull way of expressing duty to God. They have special affections and special dispensations : “My soul shall be satisfied with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips, when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches” (Psalm lxii. 5, 6).

4. It is not unseasonable. In the night, without distraction we can more freely command our thoughts; for the senses, being exercised, scatter the mind to several objects: “None saith, Where is God my maker, who giveth songs in the night?" (Job xxxv. 10;) that is, matter of rejoicing and comfort to poor oppressed creatures : so, “ The Lord will command his loving-kindness in the day-time, and in the night his song shall be with me” (Psalm xlii. 8): day and night he was filled with a sense of God's love. The reasons are,

(1.) They are fitted for it, having knowledge and a deep impression of the majesty of God upon their hearts : “My reins also instruct me in the night-seasons" (Psalm xvi. 7). Those things that make a deep impression in the day, the thoughts will return upon in the night: now God and his word are impressed upon them.

(2.) They delight in it: “My meditation of him shall be sweet: I will be glad in the Lord” (Psalm cir. 31). They delight themselves in beholding the face of God, though not by immediate vision, yet by medi

2 x 2

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

tation. They are so affected with thoughts of his excellency, goodness, kindness, that it is their solace to draw their hearts off from all things and persons in the world to that Divine object.

(3.) They profit by it. (i.) As to comfort. It easeth us of many sorrowful, troublesome, and weary thoughts. We must fetch our comforts from God : the Divine nature is the first fountain of them, therefore called “the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. i. 3). (ii.) As to duty and obedience. The reasons of our duty and subjection are most enforced from the nature of God; therefore, the more we remember the nature of God, the more we are quickened to obedience. There we see his infinite power, supreme authority, exact holiness, tender love. “Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth" (Isa. xlv. 9), our business is to keep God our friend. He hath two properties that make him most comfortable or most terrible, according as he is at peace or war with us, eternity and omnipotency.

USE.—Let us take more occasions to think of God, and that with admiration. Many take no more notice of him than if he were not at all, but let us take all occasions : “ Commune with your own heart upon your bed"? (Psalm iv. 4). All the time we can spare from our necessary, civil, and natural actions, should be employed in calling to mind what we have seen, or heard, or felt of God. A loathness and backwardness to this duty is an ill sign.

SERMON LXIII. VERSE 56.- This I had, because I kept thy prccopts. In this Psalm, the dependence of the verses is neither to be neglected nor too curiously sought after : many of the sentences have no other connection than pearls upon the same string, though some are as links in the same chain, fastened one to the other by an apt method and order. The design of the penman was to cast all his experiences into the order of the Hebrew alphabet; and, as there are in the Hebrew twenty-two letters, so twentytwo parts or octonaries, each octonary beginning with the same letter. This sentence which I have read, seemeth to be independent upon the precedent verse, and is the sudden effusion or eruption of a gracious heart, engaged in the meditation of the fruit of obedience : “ This I had, because I kept thy precepts.” In the words you have,

1. David's assertion of his integrity, “I kept thy precepts."
2. The gain of this course indefinitely proposed, “This I had.”

3. The link between both, in the casual particle “ Because,” David doth not here tell you what he had, but this and that: this hope, this comfort, this quickening, this deliverance, all this I had ; that is, whatever is good and comfortable. The feminine pronoun Zeth is put neutrally, the Hebrew wanting the neuter gender.

The points are two :

I. He that continueth faithful in a course of obedience, will find at length that it will turn to a good account.

II. That it is of great use to observe what good cometh to us by keeping close to God's ways.

DOCTRINE I. -For the first point, he that continueth faithful in a course of obedience, will find at length that it will turn to a good account. Here three things are to be explained :

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

1. What it is to keep God's precepts.
2. What is the good that accrueth to us thereby.

3. The connexion between both these, or the reasons and grounds upon which we may expect this good.

First, Let us inquire what it is to keep God's precepts. The phrase is often used in Scripture, implying a diligent observance of it and obedience thereunto. The term “keep" relateth to a charge or trust committed to us: look, as, on our part, we charge Christ with our souls : “He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him” (2 Tim. i. 12); so Christ chargeth us with his word, that we may be chary and tender of it: we charge him with our souls, that he may sanctify and save them in his own day; so he chargeth us with his precepts, that we may lay them up in our hearts, and observe them in our practice. As we would have Christ to be faithful to his trust, so should we be in ours, and that even to a tittle : “ Whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James ii. 10). Now, there is a twofold keeping of God's precepts, legal and evangelical.

Ist, The legal keeping; that is, when we keep and perform the commandments so exactly as is answerable to the rigour of the law. What is that? The law requires perfect and absolute obedience, without the least failing in any one point : “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. iii. 10). The least offence, according to that covenant, layeth us open to the curse; as for one sin, once committed, the angels were turned out of Heaven, and Adam out of Paradise. In this sense, there is no hope for us.

2ndly, There is an evangelical keeping God's precepts, and that is filial and sincere obedience; and so they are said to keep God's precepts, not they who have no sin in them, but they who study to be free from sin, and desire to please God in all things. David had many failings, and some of them of a high nature; yet he saith, “I kept thy precepts." His purpose and endeavour were to please God in all things. The apostles had many failings: they were weak in faith, passionate, full of revenge, calling for fire from Heaven; a great many failings we may find upon record against them; yet Christ returneth this general acknowledgment: “They have kept thy word” (John xvii. 6). God accepteth our endeavours: when our defects are repented of, he pardoneth them: “Ye have heard of the patience of Job" (James v. 11); and we have heard of his impatience too, his cursing the day of his birth, and his bold expostulation with God; but God putteth his finger upon the scar, and mentions that which is commendable. This sincere obedience is known by our endeavours after perfection and our repentance for defects; for, let me tell you here, that perfect obedience is required under the Gospel : the rule is as strict as ever it was ; but the covenant is not so strict. The rule is as strict as ever it was: we are still bound to perpetual, personal, and perfect obedience; otherwise, our defects were no sins: “For where no law is, there is no transgression” (Rom. iv. 15). But the covenant is not so strict : this perfect obedience is not so indispensably required under the sanction and penalty of the old covenant; for the Gospel, though it alloweth or approveth of no sin, yet it granteth a pardon of course to some sins, as they are retracted by a general repentance. As sins of infirmity ; such as are sins of ignorance, which, had we known, we would not have committed ; and sins of incogitancy and sudden surreption, which may escape without

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

observation of them; and sins of violent temptation, which, by reason of some sudden assault, sway our passions against the right rule. Such sins as do not arise out of an evil purpose of the mind, but out of human frailty; they are consistent with an interest in this covenant, which allow. eth a means of recovery by repentance, which the law doth not. The law, for one oflence once committed, doth condemn a man, without leaving him any way or means of recovery; but the Gospel saith, I came to call sinners to repentance (Matt. ix. 13): it accepteth repentance, and doth not cast men off for sins of infirmity. Where there is a general purpose to please God, and a hearty sorrow when we offend him, this is the sincerity which the Gospel accepteth. In the law, complete innocence is required; in the Gospel, repentance is allowed; and so he is said to keep God's statutes, that doth not voluntarily and impenitently go on in a course of known sin.

Secondly, Let me now show the good that cometh to us thereby. David saith indefinitely, “ This I had ;' not telling us what good or privilege it was: only in the general, it was some benefit that accrued to him in this life. He doth not say, This I hope for; but, “ This I had ;" and therefore I shall not speak of the full reward in the life to come. In Heaven, we come to receive the full reward of obedience ; but a close walker, that waiteth upon God in an humble and constant obedience, shall have suffi. cient encouragement even in this life. Not only he shall be blessed, but he is blessed; he hath something in hand as well as in hope: as David saith in this the 119th Psalm, not only he shall be blessed, but he is blessed; as they that travelled towards Zion, they met with a well by the way: “ Who, passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools” (Psalm lxxxiv. 6). In a dry and barren wilderness, through which they were to pass, they were not left wholly comfortless, but met with a well or a cistern; that is, they had some comfort vouchsafed to them before they came to enjoy God's presence in Zion, some refreshments they had by the way. As servants, that, besides their wages, have their vails; so, besides the recompense of reward hereafter, we have our present comforts and supports during our course of service, which are enough to counterbalance all worldly joys, and the greatest pleasures that men can expect in a way of sin. Let me instance, in the benefits that believers find by walking with God in a course of obedience, that every one can say, “ This I had, because I kept thy precepts."

1. Peace of conscience, a blessing not to be valued; and this we have because we keep his precepts: “ The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever” (Isa. xxxii, 17). They shall be free from those unquiet thoughts wherewith others are haunted. A wicked man's soul is in a mutiny; one affection warreth against another, and all against the conscience, and conscience against all; but, in a heart framed to the obedience of God's will, there is peace. Pax est tranquillitas ordinis ; when everything keeps its place, there is peace. When the elements keep their place, and the confederacies of nature are preserved, then there is peace; so, when a man walketh in a holy course, there is peace; when the thoughts and affections are under rule and government, there is a serenity and quiet in the soul. Now, this is never brought to pass in the soul but by obedience and holy walking, according to the rule of the new creature : “ As many as walk according to this rule, peace on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God” (Gal. vi. 16). Such an accurate and orderly life is the only way of obtaining

« 上一頁繼續 »