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contemplations. We cannot see a soul or an angel by the light of a candle ; so fleshly wisdom cannot judge of divine things. The object must be not only revealed, but we must have an answerable light; so that when you have done all, you must say, “How can I understand without an interpreter” (Acts 8. 31); and this interpreter must be the Spirit of God; Ejus est interpretari cujus est condre. To discern so as to make a right judgment and estimate of things, dependeth upon God's help.
4. When this blindness is in part cured, yet still we need that God should open our eyes to the very last. We know nothing as we ought to know. David, a regenerate man, and well instructed, prayeth to have his eyes opened ; for we need more light every day. “Then opened he their understandings, that they might understand the Scriptures” (Luke xxiv. 45). Christ first opened the Scriptures, then he opened their understandings.
Use 1.--To show us the reason why the word prevaileth so little when it is preached with power and evidence, their eyes are not opened. “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ?” (Isa. liii. 1). No teaching will prevail, till we are taught of God.
Use II.-What need have we to consult with God whenever we make use of the word, in reading, hearing, study. In reading, when thou openest the Bible to read, say, Lord open mine eyes. When thou hearest, beg a sight of the truth, and how to apply it for thy comfort. Hæc audiunt quasi somniantes. Luther saith of the most, in seeing, they see not; in hearing, they hear not. There was a fountain by Hagar, but she could not see it; “God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water, and she went and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink" (Gen. xxi. 19). So for study, it is dangerous to set upon the study of divine things in the strength of wit, and human helps. Men go forth in the strength of their own parts, or lean upon the judgment of writers, and so are left in darkness and confusion. We should sooner come to the decision of a truth, if we would go to God, and desire him to rend the veil of prejudice and interests.
USE III.-Is to press us to seek after this blessing, the opening of the eyes. Magnify the creating power of God: “God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. iv. 6). Make use of Christ, “ In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. ii. 3); beg it earnestly of him ; the Apostle prayeth, “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling," &c. (Eph. i. 17, 18). Yea, mourn for it in cases of dubious anxiety. John wept when the book of the seven seals was not opened (Rev. v. 4). Mourn over your ignorance ; refer all to practice : “ If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John vii. 17). Wait for light in the use of means, with a simple, docile, sincere, humble mind : “ The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way” (Psalm xxv. 9).
DOCTRINE II.-Those whose eyes are opened by God, they see wonderous things in his word, more than ever they thought.
Ist, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wonderous things out of thy law.” Law is not taken strictly for the covenant of works, nor for the decalogue as a rule of life; but more generally for the whole word of God, which is full of wonders, or high and heavenly mysteries. In the decalogue or moral law, there is wonderful purity, when we get a spiritual sense of it. “I have seen an end of all perfection : but thy commandment is exceeding broad” (Psalm cxix. 96): and, “ The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul : the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple : the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm xix. 7. 8). A wonderful equity, “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just and good" (Rom. vii. 12). A marvellous wisdom : “ Keep therefore, and do them; for this is your wisdom and understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people" (Deut. iv. 6). In the whole word of God, the harmony and correspondence between all the parts, how the mystery grew from a dark revelation, to clearer, is admirable. In the Gospel every article of faith is a mystery to be wondered at ;—the person of Christ : “ Great is the mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh, justified in the spirit,” &c. (1 Tim. iii. 16). A virgin conceiveth, the word is made flesh; the redemption and reconciliation of mankind, is the wonderful work of the Lord's grace. It is the hidden wisdom of God in a mystery : “ We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world to our glory” (1 Cor. ii. 7): and it is called the “ mystery hidden from ages” (Eph. iii. 9). The glory of Heaven is admirable, “ The riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Eph. i. 18); that a clod of earth should be made an heir of Heaven, deserves the highest wonder. All these are mysteries. So the wonderful effects of the word in convincing sinners : “ 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); “ The word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. iv. 12). It is a searching and discovering word : “ See a man which told me all things that ever I did” (John iv. 29). In changing sinners, “That ye should show forth the praises of him that hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter ïi. 9). Peter's getting out of prison was nothing to it. In comforting: every grace is a mystery ; to depend on what we see not; to be as a rock in the midst of a storm ; “Dying, yet we live; as poor, yet making many rich" (2 Cor. vi. 9, 10). All the operations of the Spirit are wonderful : “ Joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter i. viii); “ Peace that passeth all understanding” (Phil. iv. 7); “Groanings which cannot be uttered” (Rom. viii. 26).
2ndly, What divine illumination contributeth to the sight of these wonders.
1. It revealeth the truth of them, which otherwise is incomprehensible to the flesh : “Flesh and blood hath not rerealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in Heaven” (Matt. xvi. 17); without this, no certaiii knowledge of Christ's person and office.
2. It more intimately acquainteth us with them : “ It is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, but to them it is not given” (Matt. xiii. 11). All God's works are full of wonder, yet blind men cannot see them, though the sun shineth never so clearly. A beautiful room, into which there is but a crevice, when we lay our eye close to it, we see it.
USE I.-From hence we may learn, That it is one degree of profit to see so much in the word of God, as to admire it; either at the myste of godliness or ungodliness, which the word discovereth, ú báfoc. They that are most enlightened, have most cause to wonder; for then they find truths which exceed all common reason, such as do not come into the minds of others; or if they do, they seem incredible.
Use II.-Is to encourage us to study the word; the wonders of God's works are many, but the wonders of his word greater. Quot articuli tot miracula, the Papists say of Aquinas's sums; but more truly may it be said of the word of God, all the doctrines of the word are a continued mystery. After man was fallen, it came not into the head of any creature how to satisfy justice, to make up the breach. Oh, the folly of them that despise the word, as curious wits and worldlings do, as if it were a mean knowledge in comparison of what may be acquired from Aristotle and Plato, or the politicians of the world! If there be in it some rudiments, something common with other writings, yet there are greater things than these, “ the deep things of God” (1 Cor. ii. 10); never was such a revelation made to the world. And worldly men that despise this study of the word, they despise that which angels wonder at, and “ desire to look into" (1 Peter i. 12); and make great matters of trifles. The Sun of Righteousness, is not he worth the beholding?
USE III.-Let us cease wondering at worldly things, great places, honours, heaps of wealth, fair buildings, as the disciples : “ Master, see what manner of stones and buildings are here !” (Mark xiii. 1). It is said of Christ: “ In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. ii. 9): fulness of the Godhead! Oh, wonderful! The people wondered at that mass of money provided by David to build God a house (1 Chron. xxix. 7, 8). Oh! but the unsearchable riches of grace, the rare plot of man's redemption, uéya uvcholov, how wonderful! All in and about Christ is rare. His name is “ Wonderful," all the promises of God are Tà péyiota kj tipa êmayyéduara, “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Peter i. 4); they transcend man's capacity. It condemneth the stupid. ness of them that are nothing moved or taken with things so great and wonderful, great in themselves, and should be precious to us.
SERMON XX. VERSE 19.-I am a stranger in the earth : hide not thy command
ments from me. In the 18th verse David had begged divine illumination : “Open mine eyes,” &c.; he doth not desire God to make a plainer law, but to give him a clearer sight. That request he backs with three reasons in the following verses :
1. His condition in the world, “I am a stranger in the earth." Strangers in a foreign country need guidance and direction.
2. His earnest affection to the word, “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times” (verse 20). David had an earnest longing to be acquainted more with the will of God.
3. God's judgments upon those that contemn the word, “ Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments" (verse 21). It is dangerous to walk beside the rule, “ The wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” &c. (Rom. i. 18). God hath owned both tables ; he hath punished “ungodliness," a violation of the first table; and “unrighteousness,” a violation of the second table. Here God hath declared how he will own his name, therefore he begs illumination.
Now the text giveth you this first reason, his condition in the world.
I. A respresentation of his case with respect to his quality, what he was, " a stranger ;" and the place where, upon “ earth ;” not in Heaven, he was familiar there. And how a stranger upon earth ? In point of happiness, “I do not find here that which satisfieth my soul;' he had his home, his rest elsewhere; but not in point of service, for he had much work to do.
DOCTRINE.—God's children are strangers upon earth, and do so account themselves.
They live here as others do, but they are not at home; their hearts are above, they do not take up their rest here; they are strangers, and account themselves to be such when they have most of worldly conveniences.
First, To open it. Sometimes it may be understood in a literal sense, and sometimes in a moral.
Ist, Sometimes in a literal sense. Thus the patriarchs that had a wandering life, and were forced to flit from place to place without any certain abode ; they confessed themselves to be strangers. Jacob saith “ Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been” (Gen, xlvii. 9). 2ndly, Morally also, and more generally, it is true of the saints, they are strangers. In some sense it is true of good and bad. We are all travelling into another world, and are every day nearer to eternity. As in a ship, whether men sleep or wake, stand or sit ; whether they think of it, yea or nay, the voyage still goes onward. So, whatever we think, and whatever we do, we hasten towards death. In this sense even wicked men may be strangers and pilgrims in condition, though not in affection. All men in condition, will they, nill they, must into the other world, as they yield to the decays of nature, and every day they are a step nearer to their long home. Heathens have had a sense of this notion; saith one of them, Ex hac vita discedo tanquam ex hospitio, non tanquam ex domo: I go out of this life as out of an inn. Here we are but passengers, not inhabitants to dwell. But now to be strangers and pilgrims in affection that is proper to the children of God (Heb. xi. 13—15). It is made the fruit of their faith : because they were persuaded of the promises, therefore they confessed themselves pilgrims and strangers on earth. The voice of nature saith, It is good to be here, let God do with Heaven what he pleaseth. Natural men are contented with their present portion, and cannot endure to think of change; and therefore though they are travelling to eternity, yet they are not pilgrims in affection. But now God's children are so in
condition, and in affection too; they count Heaven their home, and the world to be a strange place. They are pilgrims in affection in a threefold regard :
1. Because they are most sensible of their frailty. The frailty of the ' present life is a common lesson, but not easily believed. None have such
a sense of it upon their hearts, as they that are taught by God : “ So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom" (Psalm xc. 12). And, “ Teach me to know how frail I am," saith David. Worldly men, though they are of this opinion, and cannot deny it, yet they do not consider it; in seeing they see not; their minds are taken up with other things, they are not sensible.
2. The term is proper to the children of God, because they are unsatisfied with their present estate ; they would not abide here for ever if God would give them leave. Wicked men are pilgrims against their will; but saints are ever looking for, longing for, groaning for a better estate: “We which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Rom. viii. 23). They desire and groan to be “ clothed upon” (2 Cor. v. 2).
3. The notion is most proper to them, because they have an interest in a better inheritance. Wicked men are sure to go out of the world, but they are not sure to go to Heaven. Now the children of God, they know there is an inheritance kept for them; here they have the right, but there they shall have the possession (1 John ii. 2). So that well might I form the point thus: That godly men are, and count themselves to be strangers and pilgrims upon earth. Others are on a journey, but they are not sensible of it, and they have no home to go to, and no desires to part with the world.
Now take some instances of this, That this is proper to God's children to count the world a strange place, and Heaven to be their home. Those that had the best right, and the greatest possessions here, they will do so. Those that had the greatest right : “ Abraham sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country” (Heb. xi. 9). What right could there be greater, than that which was demised and made over to him by God? yet in the land of promise he lived as in a strange place. So David here, and in other places, that had so ample a possession (he was king over an opulent and flourishing kingdom), yet Psalm xxxix. 12, “I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were.” Not only he that was a wandering partridge, and fitted up and down, but David that was settled in a throne, he that was so powerful and victorious a prince. But you will say, possibly David might speak this when he was chased like a flea upon the mountains, when he was hunted to and fro like a partridge ; no, but when he had peace, and was fully settled in the throne; when he could offer so many cart loads of gold and silver (1 Chron. xxix), then he doth acknowledge, “Lord, I am a stranger.” Jesus Christ, who was Lord paramount, he tells lis, “I am not of the world” (John xvii. 11); “He was a stranger to his brethren, and an alien among his mother's children" (Psalm lxix. 8). He that was Lord of all, had neither house nor home; he passed through the world to sanctify it for a place of service; but his heart and constant residence was not here, to fix it as in a place of rest. And so all that are Christ's, have the Spirit of Christ, and say, as David in the text, “ I am a stranger in the earth.” We do not dwell upon earth, but only pass through it.