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He had in the former chapter spoken against strifes, as proceeding from envy, and pressed them to a holy wisdom; he doth here speak against strifes and contentions, as proceeding from other carnal lusts, as ambition, covetousness, &c., which make them vex one another, and break out into unseemly brawlings. He proceedeth by way of question and conviction, as appealing to their consciences.
From whence come wars and fightings among you?—These words, πόλεμοι καὶ μάχαι, wars and fightings, are usually applied to their private contentions; either strifes and contentions about riches, greatness, and outward pomp, or else vexatious lawsuits, and that before unbelieving judges. And the reason alleged for this exposition is, because the Christians of those times durst not openly invade one another in a hostile way: they must of necessity then have disturbed the peace of the places where they were scattered. But how plausible soever this exposition may seem, to me it is frivolous; partly (1.) because it is harsh to render πόλεμοι καὶ μάχαι, by private strifes and contentions; partly because these wars the apostle speaketh of did go so far as bloodshed; ver. 2, `Ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain; ye fight and war, and yet ye have not., And (2.) in the epistle to the Hebrews, they went so far as slandering,290290Qu. `plundering,?—ED. the true Christians being spoiled and rifled by the counterfeit, Heb. x. 34. And (3.) Histories speak of wars and tumultuary agitations that then were between Jew and Jew; as Acts v. 37; see Josephus, lib. xviii. cap. 1, 4, 10, and lib. xx.; see Grot. in locum. And in these probably many of the pseudo-Christians were engaged. (4.) The apostle out of his special relation doth in this epistle not only write to the believers, but the whole nation of Israel, as doth appear by many passages of the epistle, and hath been once and again cleared.
Come they not hence, even from your lusts, ἀπο τῶν ἡδονῶν, `from your pleasures, as it is in the margin. Lust and pleasure are often put for each other, and sometimes they are coupled; as Titus iii. 3, `Serving divers lusts and pleasures:, both note the affection of a wicked man to sin. Lust noteth properly the earnest motion of the soul after sin; pleasure, the contentment it findeth in sin. Sin is a pleasure to wicked men; it taketh up their desires or delights: 2 Peter ii. 13, `Take pleasure to riot away the daytime , 2 Thes. ii. 12. `Had pleasure in unrighteousness, Pleasure is a sign of a perfect habit, and it is hardly left. Beware of a delight in sin, when acts of 326uncleanness, or thoughts of revenge are sweet to you, or when you please yourself in surmises of vanity, and proud reflections upon your honour and greatness in the world. Lord, if ever sin overcome, let it be my burden, and not my pleasure. It is a sad and high degree to `rejoice to do evil.,
Which war in your members.—There are several sorts of wars in the heart of man. In a wicked man's heart there may be combats—(1.) Between a man and his conscience. A heathen291291Arist. Ethic. could say, στασιάζει αὐτῶν ψύχη, their soul is in a mutiny; and elsewhere, speaking of a wicked man, οὔδε πρὸς ἑαυτὸν φιλικῶς ἔχει, he is not friends with himself. A wicked man and his conscience are at odds and difference. (2.) Between conviction and corruption. Sin stormeth at the light that discovereth it, and `the law of the members, riseth up against `the law of the mind., (3.) Between corruption and corruption. Lusts are contrary one to another, and therefore jostle for the throne, and usually take it by turns. As our ancestors sent for the Saxons to drive out the Picts, so do carnal men drive out one lust by another, and, like the lunatic in the Gospel, Mat. xvii., `fall sometimes in the water and sometimes in the fire., As diseases are contrary, not only to health, but to themselves, so are sins, not only to grace, but to one another; and we ought not seek to cure a dead palsy by a burning fever. But now in a godly man the war is between sin and grace, fleshly counsel and enlightened reason. Now these `wars, are said to be `in their members., By members are understood both inward and outward faculties, which are employed as instruments of sin; and the inward faculties are called members elsewhere: Rom. vii. 23, `The law in the members., He meaneth the strong inclination and bent of the will and affections against the knowledge of the truth. So Rom. vi. 13, `Give not up your members to be weapons of unrighteousness;, that is, your faculties, which are exercised in and by the members of the body, and because of the analogy and proportion that they carry to the outward members, as the eye to the understanding, the will to the hand, &c.
Obs. 1. Lust is the makebait in a community. Covetousness, pride, and ambition make men injurious and insolent. (1.) Covetousness maketh us to contend with those that have anything that we covet, as Ahab with Naboth; hence those injuries and vexatious suits between neighbour and neighbour; hence public contentions.292292`Ex cupiditatibus odia, dissidia, discordiae, seditiones, bella nascuntur.,—Tullius de Finibus, lib. i. Men care not how they overturn all public welfare, so they may attain those things upon which their covetous and carnal desires have fastened. The Assyrian king did `destroy and cut off nations not a few, to add to the greatness of his empire, Isa. x. 7. (2.) Pride is the cockatrice egg that discloseth the fiery flying-serpent: Prov. xiii. 10, `By pride cometh contention., Pride endureth no equals. Hainan's thirst of blood came from his haughtiness; the apostles strove who should be greatest. (3.) Ambition. Diotrephes, loving the preeminence disturbed the churches of Asia, 3 John 10. (4.) Envy. Abraham and Lot's herdsmen fell out, Gen. xiii. 7. Two great ones 327cannot endure one another near them: Gal. v. 26, `Let us not be desirous of vainglory, provoking one another, envying one another.,
Obs. 2. When evils abound in a place, it is good to look after the rise and cause of them. Men engage in a heat, and do not know wherefore: usually lust is at the bottom; the sight of the cause will shame us. Is it not because I would be greater than others, more pompous and high than they? Grammarians talk of finding out the root, and philosophers of finding out the cause; so may Christians also. It is good to sift things to the bran and bottom. From whence doth this come? 1 Cor. iii. 3, `While there is among you envying, strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal?, It is good to check the fervour of an engagement by such a pause and consideration.
Obs. 3. Lust is a tyrant that warreth in the soul, and warreth against the soul. (1.) It warreth in the soul; it abuseth your affections, to carry on the rebellion against heaven: Gal. v. 17, `The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, &c. The Spirit no sooner presenteth a good motion, but the flesh riseth up in defiance against it; there is pride, and passion, and earthly-mindedness, envy, sensuality, unbelief, self-seeking, carnal policy; as soon as you purpose to repent, believe, pray, these are ready to hinder you, to distract you, that you cannot do the things that you would; nay, the flesh sometimes lusteth against the flesh: sin is a burdensome taskmaster, it commandeth contrary things. How often is a man divided between his pomp and his sparing, his luxury and his covetousness! (2.) It warreth against the soul: 1 Peter ii. 11, `Abstain from fleshy lusts, which war against the soul., You carry an enemy in your own bosoms, which defaceth the beauty, disturbeth the order, and enthralleth the liberty of the soul. Instead of God's image there is Satan's likeness; and instead of subjection to reason there is the rebellion of appetite and vile affections; instead of freedom for righteousness there is a sad bondage, which we may discover, but cannot help.
Before I go from this verse, I must handle two questions; one is concerning outward wars, and the other concerning inward.
Quest. 1. Concerning outward wars. The apostle's speech is inde finite, and at first seemeth to condemn all wars, as if they were of a base original and descent, of the lineage of lust; therefore I shall inquire whether any wars are lawful or no. Besides the insinuation of the text, a further cause of doubting is the unsuitableness of it to a Christian spirit, it being the most dreadful way of retaliating and revenging wrongs, which is contrary to Christianity, and a course not only questioned by some modern Anabaptists, but by antiquity itself. The eleventh canon of the Nicene Council enjoineth penance to them that take up arms after their conversion to Christianity; and to this very day it is decried by the whole Socinian school, as contrary^ to evangelical meekness and patience, and that course of defence which Christ hath instituted, to wit, martyrdom, or shedding of our own blood, not spilling that of others.
I answer briefly—(1.) There is nothing in scripture expressly against it, nothing but strained consequences, as that of Mat v. 43, 44, concerning love of enemies, which is forced; for nothing is there commanded but what is commanded in the Old Testament. Now 328there wars are approved, yea, appointed by God; and that saying of Christ concerneth private persons forbidding private revenge, passions, and animosities; and so likewise Mat. v. 39, where we are forbidden to resist, must be understood of the retaliations of private revenge; and so that of Rom. xii. 19-21, `Avenge not yourselves, &c. The magistrate's vengeance is God's vengeance; he is a person authorised by the Lord: therefore is it forbidden to a private man—he is not God's minister—to avenge them that do ill, &c. (2.) If there were some thing in the letter against it, it were to be modified by some commodious interpretation, rather than commonwealths should be deprived of such a necessary support. If the avoiding of a personal inconvenience, as one argueth well, hath by all men been accounted a sufficient reason to expound literal scriptures to a spiritual sense, as those of cutting off the right arm and the right eye, then questionless the letter of such scriptures must be made receptive of other signification; lest human societies should be destroyed, and disarmed of so necessary defence, and the world be turned into one universal rout and confusion; for religion is reasonable and innocent, and would establish no such inconveniences to mankind. (3.) There seemeth to be somewhat in the letter of the scripture for it. Wars in the Old Testament are approved and commanded by God. In the Apocalypse there is a manifest ap probation, if not excitation, of the people of God in their wars against antichrist. Besides, that they are not simply unlawful, it may be pleaded that John, being asked concerning the duty of soldiers, instructeth them, but doth not deny their calling,293293 `Quibus proprium stipendium sufficere debere praecepit, militare utique non prohibuit.,—Aug. Epist. 5 ad Marcellinum. Et alibi: `Nisi justa bella suscipi possent, responderet iis, arma abjicite, militari deserite,, &c.—Aug. contra Faustum, lib. xxii. cap. 74. Luke iii. 14. And again, Peter baptizeth Cornelius without requiring him to give over his military employment, Acts x.; he continued in it when religious, ver. 2; he sent to Peter στρατιώτην εὐσεβῆ, `a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually., So Christ commendeth the centurion, without disallowing his office; so Paul used a band of soldiers against the treachery of the Jews; all which instances yield probable arguments. (4.) It may be proved lawful by such reasons and consequences as do well suit with the analogy of faith and the intent of the scripture. Christ came not to destroy communities. Now war is the solemn instrument of justice, the restraint of vice and public insolences, the support of a body politic against foreign invasions and domestic rebellions. It were against the interest of all government to deny them this power to resist and withstand the insolences of foreigners or the mutinies of subjects.294294`Hoc et ratio doctis, et necessitas barbaris, et mos gentibus, et feris natura ipsa praescripsit, ut omnem semper vim quacunque ope possent, a corpore, a capite, a vita sua propulsarent.,—Cic. Orat. pro Milone. They are higher powers, ordained for God to resist evil, Rom. xiii. 4; that is, for the punishment of vice, which cannot be done without war many times, as in the story of the book of Judges, chap, xx., and with us now: we are bidden to give all necessary supports to them that are in authority for the maintenance of justice, Mat. xxii., `Give to Caesar, &c., and Rom. xiii. 6, 7. (5.) There is so little in scripture about it, because nature of itself is prone to such cruel and violent remedies, 329it being revengeful and ambitious. You shall see in all such like cases, where man is very ready to practise, the scripture is very sparing in licensing or requiring. We all desire to sin cum privilegio, with a warrant from heaven; and to say as those in the prophet, `Thou hast deceived us, Jer. iv. 10; or this we do by divine warrant. Therefore the scripture in many matters useth great silence and reservation, lest, by frequent injunctions, it draw out our natural cruelty and revenge, which it seeketh everywhere to restrain. (6.) There are several other reasons why Christianity should be so sparing in directions and alterations concerning war. Partly to take off the scandal of being a makebait, the usual consequent of the gospel being a sword through the corruption of the world. Partly to keep people patient, and in a peaceable cohabitation, as long as equity and common safety may permit, and that there may be an exercise for faith, expecting the recompenses of God for all the wrong done to us; and of thankfulness, for giving for Christ's sake. Partly to restrain cruelty and delight in war. That is a character of profane men, how lawful soever the quarrel may be: Ps. lxviii. 30, and cxx. 7, `They are for war, &c. It is a barbarous and beastly disposition.295295`Quem discordiae, quem caedes civium, quem bellum civile delectat, eum ex numero hominum, ex finibus humanae naturae exterminandum puto.,—M. Tull. Cic. Philip. 13. Partly to show that peace must not be broken but upon urgent necessity. Every discontent with present affairs will not warrant so desperate a remedy; a thing so highly penal and afflictive should be the last refuge. Partly to prevent un lawful wars. But you will say, What wars are unlawful? I answer—To make a war lawful there must be a concurrence of several things: there must be offensio patientis, the merits of the cause—jurisdictio judicantis, the warrant of authority—intentio finis convenientis, the uprightness of intention—and aequitas prosequentis, the form of prosecution. (1.) When there is not a good cause, the assailed may cry, as David, `Lord, they hate me without a cause., Every slight pretence will not warrant it, nor every real cause, till other means are tried; for war, being the highest act of vindictive justice, must never be undertaken but upon weighty reasons. It is good to look to this circumstance; if the cause be good, and you are moved with other particular reasons, you sin. (2.) When there is no good authority to warrant it. The power of the civil sword is committed to magistracy, though for the people's good: it is not for every one that is discontented with the present government to take up arms at pleasure; that layeth a ground of all disorder and confusion. But now what authority is necessary may be gathered from the particular constitution of every kingdom: distinct societies have their distinct forms and administrations; in most, the supreme power doth not consist in one, but more persons. (3.) When there is not a right end in those that raise the wars, and in all that engage in it, which must be not only the glory of God in the general, but those particular civil and righteous ones which are proper to war, as the just defence of the community, or the punishment of such enormous offences as cannot otherwise be redressed. In short, the end of all war should be a righteous peace; not to en large territories, to revenge affronts, to weaken a growing power;296296Therefore Alexander was called Totius orbis praedo—the public robber of the world. not 330to feed a desire of gain, not to give vent to pride by a discovery of our force and puissance, not to royl the waters that we may fish the better, not to work public changes and innovations for the accomplishing of such things as our covetousness and ambition desireth; not for honour, pay, but in obedience to the higher powers, and a sense of the common good. (4.) When it is not managed in a righteous way, as with cruelty and oppression. Before engagement there should be treating, Deut. xx. 10, they were first to `proclaim peace;, so 2 Sam. xx. 18, `They shall ask at Abel, and so make an end., We should not run upon one another like beasts, not staying for any capitulations. In the battle you must shed as little blood as possibly may be; after the battle you should take nothing from the vanquished but the power of hurting. Briefly, nothing should be done but what suiteth with the just ends of the war, nothing that violateth the law of nature or nations.
Many things might be spoken to this purpose, but I would not dwell upon the discourse. One scruple I shall but touch upon, and that is, whether religion be to be defended with arms or no? I answer—Spiritual things are best defended with spiritual weapons. Christ's warfare is not carnal; but yet sometimes the outward exercises of religion and worship may be established and secured by laws; and among other privileges and rights, the liberty of pure worship may be one, which, if it be invaded by violence, may be defended with arms. So a magistrate may arm his subjects against an invading idolater. The estates of a kingdom may maintain their religion against the tyranny and malice of the prince, if, after faith given to maintain the laws and the religion established, he should go about to violate it: but if the prince be absolute, and not under former obligations, we have no other remedy left but prayers, and tears, and meek defences.
Out of all you may learn—(1.) Not to cry up a confederacy with every one that crieth up a confederacy. Wars may easily be unrighteous, and it is dangerous to come under the guilt of it. Here we walk upon the brink; it is the most solemn and severe act of vindicative justice, and therefore must not be undertaken slightly. (2.) If we may so many ways sin in war, what cause have we to be humbled, if any of us have been guilty of an undue concurrence to so great an evil, either by irregular engagement, or perverse intentions! The more universal the influence or sad consequences of a sin are, the more grievous should it be in the remembrance; besides the hurt done to our own souls, there is a wrong to others.
Quest. 2. The next question is, Whether lusts war in the heart of a godly man? The occasion of doubting is, because he writeth to Christians, and saith, `Lusts that war in your members., And Peter writing to the same saith, `Abstain from fleshly lusts, &c., 1 Peter ii. 11.
Ans. I answer—Yes. The life of a Christian is a wrestling, conflicting estate; there is a double nature in the best, `flesh and spirit, Gal. v. 17. We carry an enemy in our bosoms; the Canaanite is not wholly cast out. It was a good prayer of him that said, `Lord deliver me from one evil man, and it shall suffice, meaning himself.297297`Libera me a malo homine, a meipso., Flesh and spirit, like the twins in Rebecca's womb, they war and struggle; 331yea, lusts stir and rage more in a godly heart, to sense and feeling, than in a wicked. `When the strong man keepeth the house, the goods are in peace, Luke xi. 21. There is no stir; wind and tide goeth together. Conviction may sometimes awaken drowsy lusts, otherwise all is still and quiet; but usually there is more trouble with Bin after conversion, especially presently upon conversion. A bullock is most unruly at first yoking, Jer. xxxi. 18; and green wood, as soon as it beginneth to be fired, casteth much smoke. The devil rageth when he hath but a short time, Rev. xii. 12. And the like you must expect, though in a less degree, in all the duties of holiness. When Joshua came before the Lord, `Satan was at his right hand ready to resist him, Zech. iii. 1. Since the fall it is some evidence of grace to find this contrariety; since the admission of sin, grace is more discerned by the combat than by the absolute victory.
But you will say, How doth this war in a godly man differ from that in a wicked man? The ground of inquiry is, because condition and common illumination may make wicked men hate some sins: there is in them a war between the natural light of conscience and sensual courses, and their hearts will reproach them for gross sins or gross neglects.
I answer—(1.) There is a great deal of difference. Partly in regard of the grounds. A gracious man opposeth sin as it crosseth God's holiness, a wicked man as it crosseth God's justice; the one saith, God hateth this, the other saith, God will punish this; the one worketh out of a principle of love, the other of fear: the one hateth sin as defiling, the other as damning; the one as disabling him for good, Rom. vii. 18; Gal. v. 17, the other because of incommodity and sensible inconvenience; otherwise they can brook sin well enough; he doth not oppose sin as it interrupteth his communion with God. A wicked man careth not to be with God, so he might be securely without him. In short, in a godly man the two seeds and natures are opposite, but in the wicked there is only some foreign awe impressed upon the conscience, and his dislike is rather from a present anger than a settled hatred. (2.) Partly in regard of the manner. In the one, sin is opposed voluntarily, willingly, readily, because he hateth sin and loveth the commandment; in the other, God's restraint is more grievous than corruption: `The carnal mind is enmity to the law of God., Rom. viii. 7. They snarl at the restraint, they would be `willingly ignorant, 2 Peter iii. 5. A child of God doth the evil that he hateth, but resistance in wicked men is nothing but the rising of a carnal will against an enlightened understanding. (3.) Sometimes in regard of the help. In the one the Spirit warreth against the flesh; in the other, most commonly flesh against flesh; as our fathers drove out the Picts by the Saxons, so they extrude one lust by another. A godly man riseth against sin upon such considerations as the Spirit suggesteth: `How can I do this wickedness, and sin against God?, Gen. xxxix. 9; but a wicked man is mostly moved by carnal considerations. (4.) Partly in regard of the extent. A godly man's resistance is universal; he hateth sin as sin;298298`A quatenus ad omne valet consequentia., and true hatred is πρὸς τὰ γένη, against the whole kind:299299Arist. Rhet. Ps. cxix., `I hate every false way., A 332wicked man hateth some gross and staring sins; others, which are plausible and profitable, are reserved as a sweet morsel under their tongues. The hatred of a godly man is perpetual and irreconcilable; that of a wicked man may be pacified; he distasteth sin when conscience is roused. A man's heart riseth against a sword when it is drawn against him, but after it is laid down he will take it up; that resembleth a wicked man's resistance. A man's heart riseth against a toad, so that he will not touch it dead or alive; that resembleth the natural and constant enmity that is between a gracious heart and sin. (5.) In regard of the effects. A gracious soul is more humbled and cast down: Rom. vii., `O wretched man that I am, &c. It putteth him upon humble and pious addresses to God by prayer, and maketh him more jealous and watchful over his own heart; but a convinced man loseth ground conflicting with sin in his own strength; by his own thoughts he cometh at length to lose all awe and fear.
In the context the apostle applieth himself to the cure of carnal desires; he hath mentioned one effect in the 1st verse, inward and outward trouble, both in the world and in our own members; he now cometh to another argument, the dissatisfaction and successlessness of those endeavours which come from lust, they distract the head with cares, and engage the heart in sins, and all to no purpose.
Ye lust, ἐπιθυμεῖτε, ye desire; but usually it is taken, in an ill sense, for inordinate and passionate desires; therefore it is well rendered ye lust.
And have not.—It may be taken two ways; either you never obtained, or have now lost: male parta male dilabuntur—ill means seldom arrive to possession, or, it, they do, possession is soon lost. Grotius supposeth the apostle intimateth the great want and dearth they sustained in the days of Claudius, Acts xi. 28; all their violent practices could not secure them against the inconveniences of those times. There is somewhat a like expression with this, Prov. xiii. 4, `The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing., But there the word speaketh of empty wishes and lasy velleities, here of passionate desires; there of the soul of the sluggard, here of the soul of the covetous.
Ye kill.—Calvin, Beza, Cajetan, Erasmus, and others, read φθονεῖτε, ye envy, though most Greek copies read as we do, φονεύετε, ye kill. The other reading was the rather embraced, because the charge seemed harsh, to say, `ye kill, when, in the received exposition, the wars here mentioned were only private contentions and lawsuits. But we cleared it before, that wars is here taken properly; and therefore are not urged with this inconvenience, and need not understand it, as Œcumenius doth, of spiritual killing, as if the sense were, ye kill your own souls; or of interpretative murder, mentioned 1 John iii. 15; but may expound it in the usual and received import of the word, covetousness going as high as murder; as 1 Kings xxi. 1, 2, and Prov. i. 19, `Every one that is greedy of gain taketh away the life of 333the owners thereof., In those public tumults, occasioned by their rapine and avarice, many were slain.
And desire to have, καὶ ζηλοῦτε, ye emulate, or are given to envy. The word is sometimes taken in a good sense: 1 Cor. xiv. 2, `Forasmuch as ye are emulous of spiritual gifts;, the word is ζηλοῦτε. There is a good emulation when we strive to imitate them that excel in virtue, or to go beyond them; but there is also a carnal emulation, which chiefly respecteth outward enjoyments, and noteth a grief that any should enjoy any outward excellency equal with us or beyond us, and a strong covetous or ambitious desire of appropriating that excellency to ourselves. In the first there is malice, in the second covetousness: we take it chiefly for the latter act of emulation, and therefore render it, `ye desire to have.,
And cannot obtain, οὐ δύνασθε ἐπιτυχεῖν.—The word is emphatical, ye cannot arrive to happiness; that is, either to their happiness whom ye thus envy or emulate, or else to the happiness you fancy, carnal desires being either disappointed, or else increasing with enjoyment; it is a distemper that will not be satisfied. The language of lust is give, give; it is an appetite without bound or measure. If we had one world, yet we are not happy, we would covet another: carnal desire is a gulf that is never filled up.300300`Novis semper cupiditatibus occupati, non quid habeamus, sed quid petamus, inspicimus; non in id quod est, sed quod appetitur intenti.,—Seneca de Benif., lib. iii. cap. 3. Enjoyments seem little, because there is still so much in hope; like children, that greedily desire a thing, and when they have it despise it; or like drunkards, who are always pouring in, yet do not quench, but inflame the appetite. See Eccles. iv. 8, and v. 10. Well may it be said, then, `ye cannot obtain., Carnal men possess much, but have nothing.
Ye fight and war, and yet ye have not; that is, though their violence and carnal desires had broken out so far as public insurrections and tumults, yet still they were at a loss.
Because ye ask not; that is, you do not use the lawful means of prayer. But how can it be said, `ye ask not, since in the next verse he saith, `Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss,? I answer—(1.) Possibly here he may task one abuse, there another; here that they hoped to help themselves by their own endeavours without prayer, there that their prayers were conceived to a carnal purpose. (2.) Because prayers not conceived in a humble and holy manner are no prayers; lust's prayers are no prayers, eructations of lusts, not spiritual supplications; a howling, Hosea vii. 14, which God regardeth not.
Obs. 1. Lustings are usually disappointed: `Ye lust, and have not., God loveth to cross desires when they are inordinate; his hand is straitened when our desires are enlarged. Sometimes out of mercy. It is a blessing to meet with disappointment in the ways of sin; you cannot have a worse judgment then to have your carnal desires filled up. O unhappy men, whom God leaveth to themselves without restraint! Prov. xiv. 14, `The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways, and a good man shall be satisfied from himself., The cursed apostate shall have enough of honours, and pleasures, and 334preferments. It was a mercy to the church to be disappointed: `She shall follow after her lovers, but shall not overtake them; she shall seek them, but not find them;, then `she shall think of her former husband, &c. Hosea ii. 7. Prosperous and successful wickedness encourageth a man to go on in that way; some rubs are an advantage. What we desire with greediness we enjoy with surfeit. To disappoint and check our lust, God in mercy fenceth up our way with thorns. Sometimes in judgment, that he may torment men by their own lusts; their desires prove their just torture. The blood heated by intemperance, and the heart enlarged by desire, are both of them sins that bring with them their own punishment, especially when they meet with disappointment. Amnon and Ahab were both sick, the one with lust, the other with covetousness.
Use 1. Learn, then, that when the heart is too much set upon any thing, it is the ready way to miss it. Rachel's desires of children made her the more barren. The fool talked of bigger barns, and that night his soul was taken away. When you forget to subject your desires to God's will, you shall understand the sovereignty of it. When the heart is strongly set upon a thing, there is no reservation of God's good pleasure. We say, I will; and God saith, I will not. We will have such a thing: `I will go after my lovers, as if we were petty gods. God will have his will against your wills: `I will fence thy way with thorns:, there is an implicit and interpretative contest between us and God. Again, when desires mistake in their object, they miss of their, end. God cannot endure that the same affection should be lavished on outward things which is only proper to himself and his grace: `violence, would become `the kingdom, Mat. xi. 12. When Amnon is as sick for Tamar as the spouse is for Christ, it begetteth a jealousy. Affections should rise according to the worth of the object: `Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but the meat which endureth for ever, John vi. Your industrious desires would become a better object; your strength should be laid out for everlasting bread; that is a labour without sin, and without disappointment.
Use 2. Be not always troubled when you cannot have your will; you have cause to bless God. It is a mercy when carnal desires are disappointed: say, as David, 1 Sam. xxv. 32, `Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, that sent thee to meet me this day., Your hearts have been set on great estates, and you thought, with the fool in the Gospel, of enlarging your barns and exalting your nest, and of a sudden God came in and blasted all these carnal projects. Bless God for such providences: how secure, or sensual, or carnal would your spirit have been else! It was a mercy that `the world was crucified `to Paul, as well as Paul `crucified to the world, Gal. vi. 14. So when you have been crossed in the pursuit of some lust or uncleanness, you may afterward kneel down and adore the wisdom and seasonableness of such providences. Possidonius in the life of Austin hath a memorable history. He being to visit a place, with his guide mistook the way, fell into a bypath, and so escaped the hands of some bloody Donatists that lay in ambush to take away his life. God may lead you beside your intentions to avoid some dangerous sins that would else have 335destroyed your souls: Hosea ii. 6, `I will hedge up her way with thorns., Some cross providences may be a hedge to keep thee from further misery.
Use 3. It teacheth you what reflections to make upon yourselves in case of disappointment. When we miss any worldly thing that we have desired, say, Have not I lusted after this? Did not I covet it too earnestly? Absalom was the greater curse to David because he loved him too much. Inordinate longings make the affections miscarry. Observe it, those objects seldom prove happy that have too much of our hearts. We find it often that men of great care are successless; they turn and wind hither and thither, and are still like a door upon the hinges, in the same state and case: Ps. cxxvii. 2, `It is in vain to rise early, and go to bed late, and eat the bread of sorrows., A carking industry may be in vain and to no purpose; the success of human endeavours lieth in God's blessing and concurrence; it is the prerogative he hath reserved to himself; he keepeth it as a bridle over mankind, to keep them in obedience, duty, and dependence. Providence doth sometimes wean us from lust to grace, and showeth us that a blessing is sooner had by faith than worldly care: Ps. xxxix. 6, `Surely every man walketh in a vain show; heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them., Man goeth and cometh, and tosseth to and fro, and is gathering of riches, and increaseth the heap, and God of a sudden scattereth all. How often have you seen a covetous, carking man, like a mill-horse, still going round, and yet always in the same place?
Obs. 2. That where there is covetousness there is usually strife, envy, and emulation. Ἐπιθυμεῖτε, ye lust; φονεύετε, ye kill; ζηλοῦτε, ye emulate; these hang in a string. As there is a connection and a cognation between virtues and graces—they go hand in hand—so there is a link between sins, they seldom go alone. If a man be a drunkard he will be a wanton; if he be covetous he will be envious. Christ cast out seven devils out of one Mary Magdalene, and another man was possessed with a legion. When the heart is brought under the power of any sin, it lieth equally obnoxious to all sin. Covetousness may be known by its companions, strife, envy, and emulation: Rom. i. 29, `With covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy., Self-love is the root of all the three; it maketh us covet and desire what is good and excellent, and it maketh us envy that others should enjoy it; and then to break all bonds of duty and charity that we may wrest it from them. A covetous man is a full wicked man; he enlargeth his desires for himself, but is much straitened towards others; his eye is evil when God's hand is good. We often meet with strange compounds and prodigies of vice and sin: 2 Tim. iii. 2, `Covetous, proud, boasters, lovers of themselves, &c. It is said of Catiline that he was monstrum ex variis diversisque et inter se pugnantibus naturis conflatum, a compound and bundle of warring lusts and vices; so are many wicked men a composition of many sins, which seem to differ in their essence, but spring from the same root of corruption.
Obs. 3. From that ye lust, ye kill, ye fight and war.—It is lust and covetousness that is most apt to trouble neighbourhoods and vicinities. Solomon saith, Prov. xv. 27, `He that is greedy of gain troubleth his 336own house;, we may add, yea, and all the houses near him; he is truly `the troubler of Israel., Man is by nature a sociable creature, fit for commerce.301301`Ἄνθρωπος ἐν φύσει ζῶον πολίτικον.,—Arist. Pol., cap. 1. A covetous man is a wen of the body politic, not a member. A wen, by sucking the nourishment that is due to other parts, groweth monstrous and ugly in itself, and robbeth the body; so he being altogether for private gain, perverteth that which is the cement of all confederacies and societies—a care of the commonweal. Bodies are preserved when `the members care for one another:, 1 Cor. xii. 24. But this is not all. Covetousness is a base affection, that will put a man upon the basest and most unworthy practices; men given to it trouble their families by exacting all their labours, and trouble human societies by unjust contentions; they quarrel with those that possess that which they covet. Ahab spilt Naboth's blood for his vineyard's sake. They promote public changes and innovations, that they may feather their nests with the common spoils. Besides all this, they bring down God's judgments upon their people: Achan's covetousness troubled whole Israel, Josh. vii. Especially if high in place and honour; as when magistrates build their own houses upon others, ruins, and purchase large revenues and estates with the public purse, or detaining the hire of the poor. See Jer. xxii. 13. Well, then, no wonder that covetous men meet with public hatred and detestation; they are not only injurious to God, but human societies; they are a sort of men that are neither moved with arguments of nature or grace. It is a character of a bad spirit, Luke xviii. 2, that `he neither feared God nor regarded man., These two restraints God hath laid upon us—his own fear to preserve religion, and the shame of the world to preserve human societies. Now some men are moved with neither. It was a character of the Jews in their depravation, 1 Thes. ii. 15, `They please not God, and are contrary to all men;, they agree with none but themselves. So elsewhere it is said, 2 Thes. iii. 2, `Unreasonable men, that have not faith;, neither grace, nor good nature, nor faith, nor reason. So Lactantius saith of Lucian, Nec diis nec hominibus pepercit, he spared neither God nor man. Covetousness maketh men of such a harsh and sour disposition. Towards God it is idolatry; it robbeth him of one of the flowers of his crown, the trust of the creature; and it is the bane of human societies. Why are men's hearts besotted with that which is even the reproach and defamation of their natures?
Obs. 4. That lust will put men not only upon dishonest endeavours, but unlawful means, to accomplish their ends, killing, and warring, and fighting, &c. Bad means will suit well enough with base ends; they resolve to have it, rem, quocunque modo rem; any means will serve the turn, so they may satisfy their thirst of gain: 1 Tim. vi. 9, `They that will be rich fall into temptations and a snare;, Prov. xxviii. 20, `He that hasteth to be rich shall not be innocent., If God will not enrich them, Satan shall;302302`Flectere, si nequeo superos, &c. and what they cannot get by honest labour they make up by the deceitful bag. Learn, then, what a tyrant lust is; if God doth not bless us, it maketh us go to the 337devil. And again, know that that is rank lust which putteth you upon dishonest means.
Obs. 5. From that ye lust, and have not; and again, ye kill and emulate, and have not; and again, ye fight and war, and have not.—That do wicked men what they can, when God setteth against them, their endeavours are frustrate. Let them try all ways, yet still they are disappointed: Ps. xxxiii. 10, `He maketh the devices of the wicked to be of none effect., God will not let his creatures to be too hard for him in all strifes; he will overcome, and have the best of it, Rom. iii. 4. But when doth God set himself to frustrate the endeavours of the creature? I answer—When the creature setteth itself to frustrate his counsels and intents. That may be done several ways:—(1.) When we will do things in despite of providence. They are disappointed once or twice in an evil way, yet they will try again, as if they would have the mastery of God; as the king of Israel would adventure the other fifty after two fifties were destroyed, 2 Kings i.; Pharaoh would harden his heart after many plagues; Balaam would smite his ass three times, Num. xxii. 25, and after that he would build altar upon altar to curse Israel. (2.) When men seek by carnal policies to make void God's promises or threatenings. God had said, `I will cut off Ahab's posterity, To avoid this he falleth a-begetting of children; he had seventy children, that were all brought up in seventy strong cities, yet all beheaded by Jehu. Herod, that he might make sure work of Christ, killed all the children of Bethlehem, and some say his own son, nursed there; whereupon Augustus said, Melius est Herodis porcus esse quam filius—it is better to be Herod's swine than his son: and yet Christ was kept safe: Prov. xxi. 30, `There is no wisdom, nor understanding, nor counsel against the Lord., He useth many words to show that all the exquisiteness and choiceness of parts will not be able to manage the contest against providence. (3.) When men crossed by providence seek happiness elsewhere by unlawful acts and means, as violence, cozenage, extortion, deceit, as if Satan could make them more prosperous than God; see if these men do not go back in their estates; if their families, which they seek to raise by such means, be not ruined. The old world would build a tower, as if there were more security in a tower than a promise, Gen. xi. 4. Many devices there are in man's heart to compass their ends, but they are all blasted and marked with the curse of providence. (4.) When you say I will, without God's leave: see Exod. xv. 9; James iv. 3. Such confident purposes and presumptions as are not subjected to God's pleasure are seldom prosperous. (5.) By reiterated endeavours against the church: see Isa. viii. 9, 10. They are still `broken in pieces, though they join force to policy, combine themselves in leagues most holy, and renew their assaults with a united strength; therefore the prophet repeateth it so often, `Ye shall be broken in pieces, ye shall, &c.
Obs. 6. From that because ye ask not; that is, ask not God's leave in humble and holy prayer. The note is, that it is not good to engage in any undertaking without prayer. In prayer you ask God's leave, and show your action is not a contest with him. The families that call not upon God's name must needs be cursed: in their actions they 338do, as it were, say they will be happy without God. We learn hence—(1.) That that argument against prayer is vain: God knows our requests already; and God's decrees are immutable, and cannot be altered by our prayers. So argued of old Maximus Tyrius, a heathen philosopher, and so many Libertines in our days. I answer—Prayer is not for God's information, but the creature's submission; we pray that we may have his leave. And again, God's decrees do not exclude the duty of creatures and the work of second causes: Ezek. xxxvi. 37, `I will yet for this be inquired after by the house of Israel;, so Jer. xxix. 11, 12, `I know the thoughts of peace that I have towards you, yet ye shall call upon me, and I will hear you., (2.) That no actions must be taken in hand but such as we can commend to God in prayer; such recreations as we are ashamed to ask a blessing upon must not be used; such enterprises we must not engage in as we dare not communicate to God in our supplications: Isa. xxix. 15, `Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord;, that is, design their enterprises, and never inquire after the will of God, or communicate their purpose to him in prayer.
In this verse he anticipateth and preventeth an objection. They might say, We do ask, and go to God (suppose) by daily prayers. The apostle answereth, You ask indeed; but because of your vicious intention you cannot complain of not being heard; would you make God a servant to your lusts? For to convince them, he showeth what was the aim of their prayers the conveniences of a fleshly life: `Ye ask, that ye may consume it upon your lusts or pleasures, ταῖς ἡδοναῖς.
There are several points notable in this verse; they may be reduced to these three:—
1. That we pray amiss when our ends and aims are not right in prayer.
2. That our ends and aims are wrong when we ask blessings for the use and encouragement of our lusts.
3. That prayers so framed are usually successless; we miss when we ask amiss.
Obs. 1. I begin with the first. That we pray amiss when our ends and aims are not right in prayer. The end is a main circumstance in every action, the purest offspring of the soul. Practices and affections may be overruled; this is the genuine, immediate birth and issue of the human spirit. We may instance in all sorts of actions; we know the quality of them, not by the matter, but the end. In indifferent things the property of the action is altered by a wrong end. To eat out of necessity is a duty we owe to nature; to eat out of wantonness is an effect of lust. So in all things instituted and commanded, the end determineth the action. Jehu's slaying of Ahab's children was not obedience, but murder, because done for his own ends. God required it, 2 Kings x. 30; and yet God saith, Hosea i. 4, `I will avenge the blood of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu., God required it as a righteous satisfaction to justice. Jehu spilt it out of ambition; therefore so many persons slain, so many murders. So in these actions 339of worship, they are good or bad as their end is. Speaking to God may be prayer, if it come from zeal; it may be howling, if it come from lust, Hosea vii. 14; then it is but a brutish cry, as beasts out of the rage of appetite howl for the prey, or things they stand in need of. For worship must never have an end beneath itself. We act preposterously, and not according to reason, when the means are more noble than the end. When we make self the end of prayer, it is not worship of God, but self-seeking. All our actions are to have a reference and ordination to God, much more the acts that are proper to the spiritual life; it is called a `living to God, Gal. ii. 19. That is the main difference between the carnal life and the spiritual; the one is a living to ourselves, the other is a living to God. Now especially acts of worship are to be unto God and for God, for there the soul setteth itself to glorify him; and the addresses being directly to him, must not be prostituted to a common use. Well, then, consider your ends in prayer, not the manner only, not the object only, but the end. It is not enough to look to the vehemency of the affections; many make that all their work, to raise themselves into some quickness and smartness of spirit, but do not consider their aim. It is true, it is good to come with full sails; `fervent prayer, is like an arrow drawn with full strength, but yet it must be godly prayer. A carnal spring may send forth high tides of affection; the motions of lust are usually very earnest and rapid. It is not enough to look to the fluency and serviceableness of invention; carnal affections and imagination joined together may engage the wit, and set it a-work; invention followeth affection. It is not enough to make God the object of the prayer, but the end also. Duty is expressed sometimes by `serving God, at other times by `seeking God;, serving noteth the object, seeking noteth the end; in serving we must seek, &c.
Obs. 2. The next point is, that our ends and aims are wrong in prayer when we ask blessings for the use and encouragement of our lusts. Men sin with reference to the aim of prayer several ways: (1.) When the end is grossly carnal and sinful. Some seek God for their sins, and would engage the divine blessing upon a revengeful and carnal enterprise; as the thief kindled his torch that he might steal by at the lamps of the altar. Solomon saith, Prov. xxi. 27, the wicked offereth sacrifice `with an evil mind., Foolish creatures vainly imagine to entice heaven to their lure. Balaam buildeth altars out of a hope that God would curse his own people; and wicked men hope by fasts and prayers to draw God into their quarrel; others seek a blessing upon their theft and unjust practices. The whore had her vows and peace-offerings for the prosperity of her unclean trade, Prov. vii. 14. This was a thing which heathens condemned. Juvenal laughed at it in one of his satires. Plato forbiddeth it in his Alcibiades. Pliny detesteth it as a stupid impudence, to profane the religion of the temples by making it conscious to unclean requests. These impious stories of prayers commended to the Virgin Mary for a blessing upon thefts and adulteries, which yet they say were granted because of the devoutness of the supplicants in the psalter and rosary, are worthy all Christians, abomination.303303See Dr Kinet's Apology for the Virgin Mary, lib. ii. cap. 15, et alibi passim. (2.) When men privily seek to gratify 340their lusts, men look upon God tanquam aliquem magnum, as some great power that must serve their carnal turns; as he came to Christ, Luke xii. 13, `Master, speak to my brother to divide the inheritance., We would have somewhat from God to give to lust; health and long life, that we may live pleasantly; wealth, that we may `fare deliciously every day;, estates, that we raise up our name and family; victory and success, to excuse ourselves from glorifying God by suffering, or to wreak our malice upon the enemies; church deliverances, out of a spirit of wrath and revenge. As they were ready to `call for fire from heaven, not knowing of what spirit they were, Luke ix. 55. So some pray for the assistance and quickenings of the Spirit to set off their own praise and glory, and pervert the most holy things to common uses and secular advantages. Simon Magus would have gifts that he might be τις μέγας, a man of great repute in his place, Acts viii. 9. The divine grace, by a vile submission and diversion, is forced to serve our vainglory. (3.) When we pray for blessings with a selfish aim, and not with serious and actual designs of God's glory, as when a man prayeth for spiritual blessings with a mere respect to his own ease and comfort, as for pardon, heaven, grace, faith, repentance, only that he may escape wrath. This is but a carnal respect to our own good and welfare. God would have us mind our own comfort, but not only. God's glory is the pure spiritual aim. Then we seek these things with the same mind that God offereth them: Eph. i. 6, `He hath accepted us in the beloved, to the praise of his glorious grace., Your desires in asking are never regular but when they suit with God's ends in giving. God's glory is a better thing, and beyond our welfare and salvation. So in temporal cases. When men desire outward provisions merely that they may live the more comfortably, not serve God the more cheerfully. Agur measureth the conveniency and inconveniency of his outward estate, as it would more or less fit him for the service of God: Prov. xxx. 8, 9, `Not poverty, lest I deny thee; not riches, lest I forget thee., So in public cases of church deliverance, when we do not seek our own safety and welfare so much as God's glory: Ps. cxv. 1, `Not to us, not to us, &c.; that is, not for our merits, not for our revenge, our safety, but that mercy and truth may shine forth.304304`Effice quicquid novisti nomini tuo honorificum.,—Junius in locum.
But you will say, May we not seek our own good and benefit?
I answer—Not ultimately, not absolutely, but only with submission to God's will, and subordination to God's glory. The main end why we desire to be saved, to be sanctified, to be delivered out of any danger, must be that God may be honoured in these experiences, in comparison of which our own glory and welfare should be nothing: `Not to us, not to us, &c.
But you will say, How shall we know that God's glory is the utmost aim? A deluded heart will pretend much.
I answer—You may discern it: (1.) By the work of your own thoughts. The end is first in intention and last in execution, therefore the heart worketh upon it. Now, what runneth often in the thoughts? When you pray against enemies, do you please yourself with suppositions and surmises of revenge, or hopes of the vindication of God's name? 341So in prayers for strength and quickening, do not you entertain your spirit with whispers of vanity, dreams of applause, and the echoes and returns of your own praise? or enchant your minds with the sweet music of public acclamations? By these inward and secret thoughts the soul falleth out after carnal success and advantage. (2.) By the manner of praying—absolutely for God's glory, but in all other things with a sweet submission to God's will: John xii. 27, 28, `Save me from this hour; for this cause came I to this hour. Father, glorify thy name., Christ is absolute in that request, and so receiveth an answer. It is enough to a gracious heart if God will glorify his own name. But now carnal aims make the spirit impetuous and impatient of check and denial. They are all for being saved from this hour. Rachel must have children or die. When the heart is set upon earthly success, or pleasure, or comfort, they cannot brook a denial. (3.) By the disposition of your hearts. When prayers are accomplished, when we do not ask for God's glory, we abuse mercies to revenge, luxury, excess. Lust is an earnest craver, but when it receiveth any comfort it consumeth it in ease and pleasure. We deceive ourselves with notions. The time of having mercies is the time of trial.
But how shall I do to get my ends right in prayer?
It is a necessary question; nothing maketh a man see the necessity of the divine help and concurrence to the word of prayer so much as this. To act for a holy end requireth the presence of the Spirit of grace; supernatural acts need supernatural strength. It is true in these inward productions `that which is of the flesh is flesh;, water cannot rise higher than its fountain; bare nature aimeth at its own welfare, ease, and preservation; therefore go to God; beg uprightness—it is his gift as well as other graces. The help that we have from the Spirit is to make requests κατὰ Θέον, `according to the will of God;, or, as it is in the original, `according to God., Rom. viii. 27; that is, to put up godly requests for God's sake. Besides, there should be much mortification; that which lieth uppermost will be soonest expressed: `Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh., God's people are ready in holy requests, because their hearts are exercised in them: Ps. xlv. 1, `My heart inditeth a good matter, &c. Worldly cares, worldly sorrows, worldly desires, must have vent. Vessels give a sound according to the metal they are made of. Hypocrites will howl for carnal comforts. Beat away these carnal reflections when they rush into your minds: Abraham drove the fowls away, Gen. xv. When you feel the heart running out by a perverse aim, disclaim it the more solemnly: `Not to us, not to us, &c.
Obs. 3. That prayers framed out of a carnal intention are usually successless. Prayers that want a good aim do also want a good issue. God's glory is the end of prayer and the beginning of hope, otherwise we can look for nothing. God never undertook to satisfy fleshly desires. He will own no other voice in prayer but that of his own Spirit: Rom. viii. 27, `He that searcheth the heart knoweth the mind of the Spirit., What is a fleshly groan? and what is a spiritual groan^? A carnal aim expressed is but a supplication with a confutation; it is the next way to be denied. Spiritual sighs and breathings are sooner 342heard than carnal roarings: they that cannot ask a mercy well, seldom use it well: in the enjoyment there is more temptation. Usually our hearts are more devout when we want a blessing than when we enjoy it; and therefore when our prayers are not directed to the glory of God, there is little hope that when we receive the talent we shall employ it to the Master's use. Besides all this, prayers made with a base aim put a great affront and dishonour upon God; you would make him a servant to his enemy: Isa. xliii. 24, `Ye made me to serve with your iniquities., We would commit sin, and we would have God to bless us in it. It is much you should be servants of sin, but that you should make God administrum peccati, a fellow-servant, and yoke him with yourselves in the same servility, it is not to be endured. Well, then, it teacheth us what to do when our prayers are not granted; let us not charge God foolishly, but examine ourselves: Were not our requests carnal? suppose you prayed for quickening, and God left you to your own deadness, did not your heart fancy your own praise? If for safety, you would live in ease, in pleasure; if for an estate, you were pleasing yourself in the suppositions of greatness and esteem in the world. O brethren! as we mind success, let us not come to God with an evil mind; holy desires have a sure answer, Ps. cxlv. 19, and x. 17.
Because they were so overcome with worldly lusts that their very prayers and devotionary acts looked that way, he cometh to show the danger and heinousness of these lusts. The arguments of this verse are two—(1.) They will make you commit adultery; (2.) They will make you enemies to God.
Ye adulterers and adulteresses.—This must be understood spirit ually, as appeareth by the following words and the drift of the context, which is to inveigh against those lusts and pleasures which inveigle the soul and withdraw it from God. Now these are spiritual adulterers whom the love of the world alienateth and estrangeth from the Lord. The metaphor is elsewhere used, Mat. xii. 39, and xvi. 4, `This evil and adulterous generation.,
Know ye not.—He appealeth to their consciences; it is a rousing question. Worldly men do not sin out of ignorance so much as incogitancy; they do not consider.
That the friendship of the world.—By ἡ φιλία τοῦ κίσμου he understandeth an emancipation of our affections to the pleasures, profits, and lusts of the world. Men study to please their friends, and they are friends of the world therefore that seek to gratify worldly men or worldly lusts, and court outward vanities rather than renounce them; a practice unsuitable to religion. You may use the world, but not seek the friendship of it. Those that would be dandled upon the world's knees, lose a friend of Christ. As to instance, in pleasing the men of the world, Gal. i. 10, `If I yet please men, I were not the servant of Christ., So for gratifying of worldly lusts; we may use the comforts of the world, but may not serve the lusts and pleasures of it: that is a description of the carnal state, Titus iii. 3.343
Is enmity with God.—When you begin to please the world you wage war against heaven, and bid open defiance to the Lord of hosts; the love of God and care of obedience is abated just so much as the world prevaileth in you. There is a like expression Rom. viii. 7, `The carnal mind is enmity against God;, averse and adverse. So doth the world not only withdraw the heart from God, but oppose him. A man can hardly serve two masters, though of the same judgment; but God and the world are opposite masters, they command contrary things: 1 John ii. 15, `If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him;, Mat. vi. 24, `Ye cannot serve God and mammon., They that match covetousness with profession seek to reconcile two of the most unsuitable things in the world.
Whosoever therefore.—General truths must be enforced by applicative inferences, and so they fall directly upon the soul: Job v. 27, `So it is, hear it, and know it for thy good.,
Will be the friend of the world.—Βουληθῆ noteth the aim and serious purpose. All do not find the world to favour them; do what they can, `the world is crucified to them;, but they are not as Paul was, `crucified to the world, Gal. vi. 14. Therefore the scripture taketh notice not of what is in the event, but the aim. Besides, the serious purpose and choice discovereth the state of the soul; he is also absolutely a worldly man that will be a friend of the world. So 1 Tim. vi. 9, οἵ βουλόμενοι πλουτεῖν, `they that will be rich., In heavenly matters the deliberate choice and full purpose discovereth grace: Acts xi. 23, `That with purpose of heart they would cleave to the Lord., Therefore Christians should look to their purpose and aim. What is it? What do you give your minds to? When a man setteth himself to grow rich, to lay up treasures upon earth, he is a worldly man; as when he giveth his heart and mind and whole man to do what God requireth, whatever cometh of it, he is a true servant of the Lord. To this purpose are those speeches of Solomon: Prov. xxiii. 4, `Labour not to be rich;, that is, do not give up thy heart and endeavours to find out and follow all ways to increase thy wealth and estate: so Prov. xxviii. 20, `He that maketh haste to be rich, &c., hath set up that for his purpose. Now this purpose of the soul may be known, partly by a resolute carrying on the end without weighing the means and consequences; partly by the diligence and earnestness of the spirit. When the end is fixed, we are patient of all labour, but impatient of check and disappointment.
Is the enemy of God.—Actively and passively; it maketh a man hate God, and to be hated by God. Duty will either make us weary of the world, or the world will make us weary of duty. The children of God have experience of the one, and hypocrites of the other.
The points, besides those observed in the exposition, are these:—
Obs. 1. That worldliness in Christians is spiritual adultery. It dissolveth the spiritual marriage between God and the soul; of all sins it is most unsuitable to the marriage-covenant, the covenant of grace, wherein God propoundeth himself to be `all-sufficient, Gen. xvii. 1. We have enough in God, but we desire to make up our happiness in the creatures; this is plain whoring: Ps. lxxiii. 27, `Thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee;, that is, those 344which sought that in the world which is only to be found in God. There are degrees in this whoredom. You know there may be adultery in affection when the body is not defiled; unclean glances are a degree of lust. The children of God may have some outrunning and straggling thoughts: when the devil is at their elbows, the world may be greatened in their esteem and imagination: `Happy is the people that is in such a case, Ps. cxliv. 15; but they presently correct themselves, and return to the bosom of God; yea, rather, `happy is the people whose God is the Lord., In others there is a higher degree; they settle those affections upon the world which are only due and proper to God, as their care, delight, desire, fear, hope, which should be kept chaste and loyal to Jesus Christ; yet there is still some profession. As a woman that is not contented with one husband, and yet still retaineth the colour and pretence of the first marriage: this is in hypocrites, who divide their hearts between God and the world. There are others who plainly leave the Creator for the creature, and prefer the world before God, the profits and pleasures of it before communion with him in holy duties. To let the world share with God is an evil, but to prefer the world before God is an impiety. As a whorish wife preferreth every one before her own husband, so do the profane, who live as professed prostitutes: their love is wholly with drawn from God as a husband, and their obedience from him as a lord: they `love pleasures more than God, 2 Tim. iii. 4. Well, then, check worldly inclinations; when 3 r our hearts are too passionately drawn forth to present comforts and contentments, or when your thoughts are raised into too great admiration of them, or when worldly ease and pleasure hindereth and withdraweth you from duty, or are apt to prefer carnal satisfaction before communion with God, remember at such time this is adultery. You are not your own, but given up to God: 1 Cor. vi. 15, `Know ye not that your bodies are members of Christ? And shall I take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid., This love is Christ's; these admiring thoughts, these pains, time, care, earnestness, they are all Christ's; and shall I give that which is Christ's to the world? God hath fenced us against outward adultery by fear and shame: some countries punish it with whipping, others with death. There is baseness and danger also in spiritual adultery. There is baseness; affections are impure, so far as they are let out upon other things rather than God: shall I be an adulterer or an adulteress to God? How will this expose me to the scorn of men and angels? At the last day they will come pointing, as in Ps. lii. 7, `This is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches!, This is a Gadarene, that loved his swine more than Christ, that preferred a game at cards before communion with God, a cup, a drunken meeting, before the house of God, &c. Spiritual harlots will not be able to look good men and angels in the face. There is danger in it too; God is a jealous God. Whoring under the law was punished with death: `Every one that goeth a-whoring from thee wilt thou destroy., There is nothing provoketh the Lord so much as this, that base things should be preferred before him.
Obs. 2. From that and adulteresses. The Syriac translation hath 345not this word; the vulgar hath only adulteri, yet the Greek copies have it. It is not usual in scriptures to speak to women; the speeches of the apostles in their epistles are usually directed to men, therefore it is the more notable. The note is, that women have special need to take heed of worldly pleasures and lusts: `You adulterers and adulteresses., Whore is a name of reproach; you cannot endure it. Ah! be not whores spiritually, doting too much upon outward pleasure and pomp. You are loyal to your earthly husbands; ah! be so to Jesus Christ. Men's hearts are more usually distracted with worldly cares, but yours are apt to be besotted with worldly pleasures; we usually call it softness and effeminacy. The apostle speaks of some women that `wax wanton against Christ, 1 Tim. v. 11; that is, when they begin to renounce the inward mortification of fleshly lusts. Remember you have a heavenly husband; let not soft delicacy so corrupt your minds as to make you forget your duty to him: you have a great many snares—your tenderness, others, examples, &c.
Obs. 3. That to seek the friendship of the world is the ready way to be God's enemy. God and the world are contrary; he is all good, and the world lieth in wickedness; and they command contrary things. The world saith, Slack no opportunity of gain and pleasure; if you will be so peevish as to stand nicely upon conscience, you will do nothing but draw trouble upon yourselves. Now, God saith, Deny yourselves, take up your cross, renounce the world, &c. The world saith, `Wilt thou take thy bread, and thy water, and thy flesh, and give it unto men whom thou knowest not whence they be?, 1 Sam. xxv. 11. But God saith, `Sell that ye have, and give alms, provide bags that waste not, &c. It were easy to instance in several such contrarieties. We find by experience that so far as we mingle with the world, so far are our hearts deadened and estranged from God; and by the encroachment of worldly delights and vanities upon the spirit, the love of God decayeth. It is a vain conceit to think we can serve God and our lusts too. The world and grace are incompatible; they may be together sometimes, as a rusty dial may be right by chance. But you will be put to trial; and when God and the world come in competition, you may see whose friendship you do desire. When a worldly man must do the one or the other, you shall see where his heart is; he will rather offend God than lose riches, pleasures, or preferment: he is loath to be bound up by the curt allowance of conscience and religion; and though he would gild all with a pretence of respect to God, yet carnal reasons oversway, and he taketh the world's part against God. Well, now, you see the enmity between God and the world. (1.) Think of it seriously, when you are about to mingle with earthly comforts and delights, and can neglect God for a little carnal conveniency and satisfaction; this is to be an enemy to God; and can I make good my part against him? He is almighty, and can crush you. What are our feeble hands to the grasp of omnipotency? See Ezek. xxii. 14. And he is a terrible enemy `when he whetteth his glittering sword, Deut. xxxii. 41. Nay, if none of all this were to be feared, the very estrangement from God is punishment enough to itself. Shall I renounce the love and favour of God, and all commerce and communion between him and me, for a little 346temporal delight and pleasure? God forbid. (2.) Learn how odious worldliness is; it is direct enmity to God, because it is carried on under sly pretences; of all sins this seemeth most plausible. Usually we stroke it with a gentle censure, and say, He is a good man, but a little covetous and worldly, &c. That is enough to entitle him God's enemy. The world reckoneth sins, not by the inward contrariety to God, but by the outward excesses and acts of filthiness; and therefore, because covetous persons do not break out into acts foul and shameful, they have much of the honour and respect of the world: Ps. xlix. 13, `Their way is folly, yet their posterity approve their sayings;, that is, praise and esteem such a kind of life. Sensual persons are like beasts, and therefore the object of common scorn; but worldliness suiteth more with carnal reason, and is a sin more human and rational: Ps. x. 3, `They bless the covetous, whom the Lord abhorreth., The Lord abhorreth them, but men bless them; for they do not measure sins so much by the inward enmity, as by the outward excess. God's hatred ariseth from his own purity, but man's from the external inconveniences of disgrace and loss.
This scripture hath been much vexed with the several expositions of those that have dealt in it, because it doth not easily appear of what scripture or of what spirit the apostle speaketh. Two opinions are most worthy of regard. Some interpret it of the Spirit of God, others of the corrupt spirit of man. Those that refer it to the Spirit of God read it with a double interrogation, thus: `Doth the scripture speak in vain? doth the Spirit that dwelleth in us lust to envy?, And they interpret it thus: Do the scriptures speak in vain to this drift and purpose to which I have spoken to you? meaning the sentences last spoken, which are everywhere scattered throughout the word: `Doth the Spirit that is in us lust to envy?, that is, the Spirit of God, doth it lust in such a carnal manner? Their reasons are three:—(1.) Because the sentence supposed to be in the latter part of the text is nowhere found in scripture, and therefore some are forced to fly to the shift of some ancient book of piety now lost. (2.) The next is, because of that phrase, `The Spirit which dwelleth in us, which is most properly and most usually applied to the Spirit of God, who is given to us that he may dwell in us; but is not so proper to our corruption, which usually is not called `a spirit, or, at least, not `a spirit dwelling in us., (3.) The third is taken from the first clause of the next verse, `But he giveth more grace;, which he being a relative, must have an antecedent, and that is the Spirit of God here intended. These are the arguments.
The other opinion, that referreth it to the wicked spirit of man, expoundeth the place thus: `Doth the scripture say in vain?, that is, it is not for nothing that the scripture saith: what doth it say? That `the spirit dwelling in us;, that is, our corrupt nature. Some say Satan—more probably the former—`lusteth to envy?, that is, is mightily carried forth that way. To this opinion I do incline, and my reason is, the easiness and commodiousness of the sense. The other is more harsh and intricate: as also the suitableness of it with the scope of 347the apostle, which is to prove that carnal lusts are natural to us, and do not become him that would be a friend of God; those that are wholly carried to evil cannot be his friends. And so both text and context runneth smoothly.
But how shall we answer the contrary arguments?
I answer thus—(1.) The first is, that this saying, `The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy, is nowhere found in scripture. To which I reply, that the sense of it is found in scripture, though not the τὸ ῥῆτον, the express words; and when scripture is quoted generally, the sense is sufficient. The apostle, writing to Jews who were versed in scripture, quoteth it generally, and at large. As also doth Peter in many places, and so Paul: 1 Cor. xiv. 21, `In the law it is written, With men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people., So ver. 34, `Women are to be under obedience, as also saith the law., Now these words are nowhere in terminis, but are the drift of many scriptures. So Eph. v. 14, `Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, &c., where there is a general citation. So here it is the drift of many scriptures to speak of the corrupt nature of man, and a wicked spirit dwelling in us; though I conceive there is a special allusion to one place, as there is in all those other citations mentioned; and the place alluded to here is Gen. viii. 21, `The imagination of man's heart is evil, only evil, and that continually., And though there be no mention of envy, yet with good reason the apostle might apply a general place to his particular purpose. (2.) The second argument is taken from the property of the phrases, spirit, and κησεν, dwelleth, or hath taken up his habitation in us; but this may be very fitly applied to that natural and corrupt spirit which now we have. I have observed, that it is usual in the scripture to call the bent and strong propension of the soul, either to good or evil, spirit; as `we have not received the spirit of the world, 1 Cor. ii. 12. And the phrase of dwelling in us is used by the apostle, and applied to sin, Rom. vii. 17. Neither is there any emphasis in the word to cause it to be peculiar to the gift of the Holy Ghost; for it only noteth promiscuously any intimate abode. (3.) The third argument is taken from the beginning of the next verse. I answer—If you render it but `it giveth more grace, it is referred to the scriptures; if `he giveth more grace, it is referred to God, mentioned in ver. 4. But we shall examine that passage when we come to ver. 6.
The points are these:—
Obs. 1. Though sin be natural to us, it is not therefore the less evil. It is the apostle's argument against envy and lust, `The spirit that is in us lusteth to it., Poison by nature is more than poison by accident. We pity that which is poisoned, we hate that which is poisonous; as we pity a dog that is poisoned by chance, but hate a toad that is poisonous by nature. We use it as an excuse. We are sinners, and so are all by nature. Ah! this is the greatest aggravation. So David, Ps. li. 5, `In sin was I born, and conceived in iniquity, Lord, I have committed adultery, and I have an adulterous heart and nature! We should set against those sins with the more care, and be humbled for them with the more grief, that are natural to us.
Obs. 2. From that doth the scripture say in vain? Yet it is nowhere 348in the same terms and words. The scripture saith that which may be inferred from the scope of it and by just consequence. Immediate inferences are as valid as express words. Christ proveth the resurrection not by direct testimony, but by argument, Mat. xxii. 32. What the scripture doth import, therefore, by good consequence, should be received as if it were expressed.
Obs. 3. Carnal persons make the scriptures speak in vain as to them: 2 Cor. vi. 1, `We beseech you, receive not the grace of God in vain;, that is, the offers of the gospel. When the word of God hath not an answerable effect, it is to us a vain and dead letter. Oh! do not let the scriptures, by way of comfort, counsel, or reproof, speak in vain to you. When you meet with any moving passage, ask within yourselves, Wherefore was this spoken in the word of God? was it spoken in vain? or shall I make it so? &c.
Obs. 4. From that the spirit that dwelleth in us. Some understand it of Satan, as we hinted, `who worketh in the children of disobedience, Eph. ii. 2, but more properly of our own spirit, the bent of our carnal hearts. Naturally we have all a wicked spirit that dwelleth in us. We commit sin, as heavy bodies move downward, not from an impression without, but from our own spirit and nature. Oh! be the more earnest to partake of the divine nature, and be more watchful over yourselves. Your own spirit is the cause of sin; inward concupiscence is the worst enemy, James i. 14.
Obs. 5. From that πρὸς φθόνον ἐπιποθεῖ, lusteth to envy, or desireth towards envy. A carnal spirit is strongly carried out in the ways of sin; it desireth after it. Suspect such desires as are too vehement; pantings after earthly matters come from lust.
Obs. 6. From that to envy. Natural corruption doth most of all bewray itself by envy. We have it as soon as we come into the world, and it is a hard matter to leave it ere we go out of it again; children suck it in with their milk.305305`Vidi zelantem parvulum, &c.—August. The devil first envied us the favour of God, and ever since we have envied one another. The children of God are often surprised. So Joshua, Num. xi. 29. So Peter envied John, as excelling him in the love of Christ, John xxi. 20, 21. It is a sin that breaketh both tables at once; it beginneth in discontent with God, and endeth in injury to man; it is the root of hatred against godliness. They that are at the bottom of the hill fret at those that are at the top, and men malign what they will not imitate. Wicked men would have all upon the same level. Abel's sacrifice was better than Cain's, and therefore Cain murdered him. Man would have his own weaknesses lie hid under the common defects; or else out of self-love, like the sun, he would shine alone; and thence come outrages in the world: Prov. xxvii. 4, `Wrath is cruel, and anger outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?, The heat of anger is soon spent, but envy is a settled, crooked malice, that doth but watch advantage to destroy.
But he giveth more grace.—Some read it giveth, applying it to the scripture. It giveth grace, because it offereth it, and is a means in 349God's hand of working it. But I rather suppose it is to be applied to God, for it is spoken in opposition to `the spirit in us that lusteth to envy;, and so suiteth with the scope of the context, which is to show, that a wordly spirit is contrary to God. This clause, as thus applied, hath been severally expounded; but because the difference is mostly in the formality of expression, and the senses be all pious and subordinate one to another, it will not be amiss to improve them into so many several observations.
Obs. 1. You may refer it to the context thus: `Our spirit lusteth to envy; but he giveth more grace;, that is, we are envious, and God is bountiful. It is usual in scripture to oppose God's liberality to our envy, his good hand to our evil eye, Mat. xx. 15. Damascene calleth God ἄφθονος, one without envy, because he is most liberal. The note is, that an envious disposition is very contrary to God. God is for communication, and we are for confinement.306306`Τρία ἐστιν, ἐν οἷς διαφέρων ἐστιν ὁ Θεὸς, ἐν ἰδιότητι ζωῆς, περιουσίᾳ δυνόμεως, καὶ τῷ μὴ διαλείπειν εὐποιεῖν τοὺ ἀνθρώπους.,—Themistius. We would have all blessings within our line and pale; we malign the good of others, but God delighteth. in it. This may make envy odious to us; we all affect to be like God. Our first parents greedily swallowed that bait, `Ye shall be as gods., We would be so in a cursed self-sufficiency, why are we not so in a holy conformity? To set on this thought, consider—(1.) God hath no need to dispense his blessings; we stand in need of one another, the highest monarch of the meanest subject. God was happy enough within himself before there was any creature: Acts xvii. 25. `He needed nothing., The Trinity was not solitary; the persons solaced themselves in one another before there was hill or mountain, Prov. viii. 30. Now, for us to desire all good things inclosed, whose happiness is dependent, and consisteth in a mutual communication, it must be exceeding vile. (2.) It is not only an unlikeness to God, but an injury to him; we would have him less good, and so do not only accuse the wisdom of his dispensations, but would straiten the goodness of his nature. Certainly, then, there is little of the Spirit of God where there is such an envious spirit. Grace standeth in a conformity to God, and therefore it is expressed by a `participation of the divine nature, 2 Peter i. 4. Grace is nothing else but an introduction of the virtues of God into the soul. Now, God delighteth in `giving more grace;, and therefore such as are not communicative and diffusive of their good to others, or are all for an inclosure of blessings, or cannot rejoice in the parts, services, or excellencies of others, have nothing at all, or very little, of the nature of God in them.
Obs. 2. Another consideration of this clause is this: Our spirit is strongly carried to envy, but God giveth more grace; that is, there is enough in him to check sins that are most impetuous and raging. There is enough in God to help the creature in its sorest conflicts. See Mat. xix. 26, `It is impossible for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God; but with God all things are possible., Usually we measure infiniteness by our last, and bring down divine attributes to the rate of creatures, judging of God by our own scant ling; as if what is impossible to our endeavours were so also to the 350divine grace: Zech. viii. 6, `Because it is marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people, should it also be marvellous in my eyes? saith the Lord of hosts., There is more in God than there can be in nature, and Satan is not so able to destroy as Christ is to save. Well, then, when lusts are strong, think of a strong God, a mighty Christ, upon whom help is laid. You cannot cure your spirits of envy, pride, self-confidence, or vainglory; but God `giveth more grace., Sense of weakness should not be a discouragement, but an advantage. So it was to Paul; when he was weak in himself, he was always most strong in Christ, 2 Cor. xii. 9, 10. Usually we vex ourselves with idle complaints: `This is a hard saying, John vi. These are austerities which nature can never endure, corruptions which we shall never overcome; and so are discouraged and draw back. Oh! consider, though nature be not only envious, but doth ἐπιποθεῖν πρὸς φθόνον, `lust to envy, yet `he giveth more grace., If there were a will, you would not want power; the chiefest thing that God requireth of the creature is choice and will: Isa. i. 19, `If ye be willing and obedient, &c. All God's aim is to bring, you upon your knees, and to take power out of the hands of his mercy.
Obs. 3. Another consideration is this: Though we are wicked and sinful, God will make his grace abound the more; our spirit lusteth to envy, and he giveth the more grace. Observe, God taketh occasion many times to discover the more grace by our sinfulness. So Rom. v. 20, `Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound., What a wise God do we serve, that can make our sins abound to his glory! And what a good God, that will take occasion from our wickedness to show the more grace! It is some kind of claim, `Lord, I am a dog, Mat. xv. 27; and if Christ died for sinners, I am sure I can plead that `I am chief, of that number, 1 Tim. i. 15. If you have no other plea, offer yourselves this way to God, and take hold of the dark side of the promises.
Obs. 4. Another consideration of this place may be this: Naturally it is thus with us, but he giveth more grace; when you are renewed and converted to the faith of Christ, you have another manner of spirit; you are not carried by the old envious spirit that dwelleth in you, but by a more gracious spirit which God hath given you. Observe, the old spirit and the new spirit are quite different. You will be otherwise by grace than what you were by nature. Conversion is discovered by a change. Oh! what a sad thing it is when Christians are what they ever were! You should have more grace; your word should be, ego non sum ego—I am not I now; or nunc oblita mihi—these were my old courses; or, as the apostle, 1 Peter iv. 3, `The time past may suffice to have walked in the lusts of the flesh, &c.
Obs. 5. But `he giveth more grace;, that is, more for better, as often in the scriptures. If you would seek God in a humble manner, you would be acquainted with richer matters; you would not so envy and contend with one another about outward enjoyments. That which the world giveth is not comparable to what God giveth; his is more grace. So John xiv. 27, `Not as the world giveth give I unto you., Blessings more excellent! Here we cumber ourselves with 351much serving, but God giveth more grace. Faith will show us greater things than these. The main reason why men dote upon the world is because they are not acquainted with a higher glory. Men ate acorns till they were acquainted with the use of corn; a candle is much ere the sun ariseth. We have not a right apprehension of grace till we can see it yieldeth us more than the world can yield us. Creatures give us a temporary refreshing; the world serveth its season; but grace a full and everlasting joy.
Wherefore he saith.—How cometh in this sentence? I answer—He applieth it to his drift, which is to take them off from carnal pursuits, and to press them to humble addresses to God; and therefore they do ill who leave it out. As Erasmus, who thinketh it only noted at first in the margin, and put into the text by some scribe. But to the points.
Obs. 1. God doth not only offer grace, but discover the way how we may partake of it. Therefore `he saith, in scripture, or defineth the way how we may apply ourselves to him. God is hearty and in good earnest in the offers of grace; he not only offereth, but teacheth, nay, draweth, John vi. 44, 45. Thus Christ discovereth the riches of his grace: `All things are given me of my Father, Mat. xi. 27; then offereth them, `Come to me, &c., ver. 28, then showeth the way, `Learn of me, &c., ver. 29. Usually the soul sticketh at this. There is enough in Christ, but how shall I do to obtain it? God will teach you, draw you; he is as willing to give faith as to give salvation.
Obs. 2. Again, from that wherefore he saith. Those that would have grace must take the right way to obtain it. Not only consider what God giveth, but what be saith. God, that hath decreed the end, hath decreed the means. That is the reason why we have not only promises in scripture, but directions; it checketh those that would have the blessing, but would not use the means. Most content themselves with lazy wishes; vellent, sed nolunt, they would have grace, but lie upon the bed of ease, and expect to be rapt to heaven in a fiery chariot, or that grace should drop to them out of the clouds. God, that saith he will give grace, saith something else—that you must be humble to receive it.
Obs. 3. Again, from the apostle's wherefore. It is an excellent art to rank scriptures in their order, and to know wherefore everything is spoken in the word, that we may suit absolute promises with conditional, and put every truth in its proper place, according to that analogy and proportion that they bear one to another; as James linketh the general offers of grace with another promise, `He giveth grace to the humble., It is good to know truth in its frame. There is a compages, or sweet frame, in which all truths are joined by natural couples and connections; as the curtains of the tabernacle were looped to one another. Indistinct apprehensions do but dispose to error or looseness. Truths awe most when we are sensible of that cognation or kin by which they respect and touch one another: `Mary pondered these sayings in her heart, Luke ii. 19; the word is συλλαβοῦσα,307307So in both editions. The word is, however, τμβάλλουσα. The author's argument is not affected by the mistake.—ED. compared them one with another. A hint here and a hint there 352maketh men loose and careless; as when absolute promises are not considered in the analogy of faith. Absolute promises may be our first encouragement, but conditional promises must be our direction; they are a plank cast out to save a sinking soul, but these show us the way how to get into the ark. Well, then, be not contented with sermon hints till you have gotten a pattern of sound words, and can discern the intent of God in the several passages of scripture, that you may rank them in their order; as the apostle here showeth the reason why God saith `he giveth grace to the humble.,
He saith.—Where doth God say so? Some difference there is about referring this place to the right scripture from whence it is taken. Some conceive it was a holy proverb or known sentence among the Jews. But this cannot be. The phrase, he saith, seemeth to allude to some passage of scripture. Some refer it to Ps. xviii. 27, `Thou wilt save the afflicted people, and bring down the high looks:, but that is wide; for humility here doth not imply a low, vile, and abject condition, but a grace and disposition of the mind; and that place cited speaketh only of saving the afflicted people of God. Many refer it to other general places; but most probably it hath respect to Prov. iii. 34, where it is said, `Surely he scorneth the scorners, and giveth grace unto the lowly., The only doubt is how that `he scorneth the scorners, is here rendered `he resisteth the proud., I answer It is done upon good grounds: partly because scorning and contempt of others is an immediate effect of pride; and partly because it is so rendered by the Septuagint, ἀντιτάττεται τοῖς ὑπερηφάνοις. And the apostles in their citations usually brought the words of that translation, because it was much in use both among Jews and other nations. Some suppose James alludeth to Peter, 1 Peter v. 5-8, for this is but an epitome of that place, and written after it, and so he may assert the divine authority of that epistle. But I rather rest in the former opinion.
God resisteth the proud, ἀντιτάττεται, standeth in battle-array, or in direct defiance and opposition against them: the proud man hath his tactics, and God hath his anti-tactics. The word showeth that there is a mutual opposition between God and the proud: they bring forth their battalia against God, and God his battalia against them. And I do the rather note it because in the Proverbs it is said, `He scorneth the scorners., They slight God, and God slighteth them: `Who is the Lord that I should fear him?, and `What is this Pharaoh?, They stand aloof from others, and God from them: Ps. cxxxviii. 6, `He knoweth the proud afar off., Just as they do others;308308`Magnum miraculum! altus est Deus; erigis te, et fugit a te.,—August. they ruin others to advance themselves, and God ruineth them: God still counteracteth the proud.
The proud.—In the Proverbs it is the scorners. Scorning is a great sign of pride: disdain of others cometh from overvaluing ourselves. God hath made every man an object of respect or pity; it is pride that maketh them objects of contempt, and in them their maker, Prov. xvii. 5. It is a description of wicked men to `sit in the seat of scorners, Ps. i. 1. It is a sin so hateful to God, that he taketh notice of disdainful gestures; `Putting forth of the finger, in a scoff, Isa. lviii. 9.353
But giveth grace.—It is meant spiritually, of such help and grace whereby they may overcome their carnal desires; carnal lusts cannot be overcome but by the assistance of grace.
To the humble.—It is not taken for a vile and abject condition, but for the disposition of the soul; and yet not for a moral humility, but for a holy brokenness and contrition; as by proud, in a spiritual sense, are meant stiff-necked and unhumbled sinners.
The main observations out of this latter clause, besides those hinted in the explication, are these:—
Obs. 1. That of all sins God setteth himself to punish the sin of pride, ἀντιτάττεται. He abhorreth other sinners, but against the proud he professeth open defiance and hostility. One asked a philosopher what God was a-doing? He answered, Totam ipsius occupationem esse in elevatione humilium, et superborum dejectione—that his whole work was to lift up the humble and cast down the proud. It is the very business of providence; the Bible is full of examples. This was the sin that turned angels into devils; they would be above all, and under none, and therefore God tumbled them down to hell. Noluit Deus pati cohabitationem superbiae, as one saith, God could not endure to have pride so near him. Then it wrecked all mankind when it crept out of heaven into paradise. You may trace the story of it all down along by the ruins and falls of those that entertained it. The time would fail me to speak of all. Pharaoh, and Herod, and Haman, and Nebuchadnezzar, are sad instances, and do loudly proclaim that all the world cannot keep him up that doth not keep down his own spirit. Herod did but endure the flatteries of others; he had on a suit of cloth of silver,309309`Ἔνθα ταῖς πρώταις τῶν ἡλιακῶν ἀκτίνων ἐπιβολαῖς ὁ ἄργυρος καταυγάσθεις θαυμασίως ἐπέστιλβε, μαρμαίρων τὶ φοβερὸν καὶ τοῖς εἰς αὐτὸν ἀτενίζουσι φρικῶδεσ.,—Josephus. and the sunbeams beating upon it, then the people cried, `The voice of God, and not of man, because the angels were wont to appear in shining garments; now, because he rebuked them not, he was eaten up of lice: see Acts xii. Nay, I observe God hath punished it in his own people; there are sore instances of his displeasure against their pride. `Uzziah's heart was lifted up, 2 Chron. xxvi. 16, and then smitten of leprosy, and so died, ἀπὸ λυπῆς καὶ ἀθυμίας, out of grief and sorrow, as Josephus saith. David's numbering the people, and glorying in his own greatness, cost the lives of seventy thousand. So Hezekiah, 2 Chron. xxix. 8, `Wrath was upon him, and all Judah and Jerusalem., These judgments on pride are sure and resolved. A man's pride will surely bring him low, Prov. xxix. 23. If they do not visibly light upon the first person, they overtake the posterity: Prov. xv. 25, `The house of the proud shall be destroyed., All their aim is to advance their house and family, but within two or three ages they are utterly wasted and ruined. And I observe that judgments on pride are very shameful, that God may pour the more contempt upon them: `After pride cometh shame, Prov. xi. 2; not only ruin, but shame. Herod in his royalty eaten up with lice. Pharaoh is not assaulted with armies, but with gnats and flies. Miriam smitten with leprosy, a nasty and shameful disease. Goliath, the swelling giant, falleth by the cast of a stone out of the sling of a ruddy youth.354
What should be the reason of all this, that God should so expressly set himself against pride? I answer—Because of all sins he hateth this sin, Prov. xvi. 5. Other sins are more hateful to man, because they bring disgrace, and have more of baseness and turpitude in them; whereas pride seemeth to have a kind of bravery in it; but now the Lord hateth it because it is a sin that sets itself most against him. Other sins are against God's laws, this is against his being and sovereignty. Pride doth not only withdraw the heart from God, but lift it up against God. It is a direct contention who shall be acknowledged the author of blessing and excellency: `They set their heart up as the heart of God, Ezek. xxviii. 6. Babylon speaketh in the name and style of God, `I am, and there is none beside me., So Nineveh, Zeph. ii. 15. And as it riseth against his being, so against his providence. Pride setteth up an anti-providence; it entertaineth crosses with anger, and blessings with disdain, and citeth God before the tribunal of its own will. So also it is the greatest enemy to God's law; there is pride in every sin. Sinning is interpretative confronting of God and `despising the commandment, 2 Sam. xii. 9. The will of the creature is set up against the Creator. But the sin of pride is much more against the law of God; it is a touchy sin, and cannot endure the word that reproveth it. Other sins disturb reason, this humoureth it. Drunkenness is more patient of reproof, conscience consenting to the checks of the word; but pride first blindeth the mind, and then armeth the affections; it layeth the judgment asleep, and then awakeneth anger. Besides, pride is the cause of all other sins. Covetousness is the root of evil, and pride is the soul of it. Covetousness is but pride's purveyor. We pursue carnal enjoyments that we may puff up ourselves in the possession of them; and usually that which is pursued in lust is enjoyed in pride. It is but the complacency of the soul in an earthly excellency: Hab. ii. 5, `He is a proud man, and therefore `enlargeth his desire as hell.,
Use 1. The use of all is, first, to caution us against pride. There are two sorts of pride, one in the mind, and the other in the affections—self-conceit and an aspiring after worldly greatness; both are natural to us, especially the former. (1.) We are marvellous apt to be puffed up with a conceit of our own excellency, be it in riches, beauty, parts, or grace; the apostle, 1 John ii. 16, calleth it `pride of life, because it spreadeth throughout all the employments and comforts of life. Other lusts are limited, either by their end, as `lusts of the flesh, to content the body; or by their instrument, as `lusts of the eyes;, but pride is of a universal and unlimited influence. It is `pride of life;, the whole life is but sphere enough for pride. Those that have nothing excellent cannot excuse themselves from fearing it. We many times find that men that have nothing to be proud of are most conceited: bloaty spirits are soon puffed up, like bladders filled with wind. We see it in our natures: man was never more proud than since he was wretched and miserable. Pride came in by the fall, and that which should take down the spirit hath raised it. But much more have they that excel cause to suspect themselves; as rich men: 1 Tim. vi; 17, `Charge them that are rich in this world that they be not high-minded., It is hard to carry a full cup without spilling, and not to 355lift up ourselves when we are raised up by God. Persons that grow up into an estate out of nothing are most apt to be proud; partly be cause not able to digest a sudden change; such happiness is a strange thing to them, and therefore soon oversetteth the spirit; partly because they look upon themselves as the makers of their own fortunes: `Is not this great Babel which I have built?, Other men's estates descend upon them, but there is some concurrence of their industry, and so they are more apt to `sacrifice to their drag, for the fatness of their portion, Hab. i. 16. When you are thus apt to pride yourselves in your present greatness, and entertain your souls with such whispers of vanity, remember this is a sure prognostic of a sudden fall. And as rich men are liable to this evil, so men of parts. Parts, especially if exercised with public applause, are like a strong liquor, it maketh men giddy and drunk with pride. It is hard to go steady when a consciousness of parts within, and public acclamations without, like violent winds, fill the sail. Knowledge of itself is apt `to puff up, 1 Cor. viii. 2, especially when publicly discovered; therefore the apostle saith that young preachers are prone to `fall into the condemnation of the devil, 1 Tim. iii. 6. Oh! consider God's judgments upon pride in parts. Staupicius was proud of his memory,310310See Melchior Adamus in Vita Staupicii. and God smote it. We find nothing causeth madness so much as pride. Nebuchadnezzar lost his reason and turned beast when he grew proud. Many young men that were proud of their gifts have, by the just judgment of God, lost all the quickness and smartness of them, and quenched their vigour in fleshy and carnal delights. Remember, whatever we have was given of grace; and if we grow proud of it, it will soon be taken away by justice. Nay, not only men of parts, but of much grace and mortification, may be surprised with pride; it once crept into heaven, then into paradise; the best heart can have no security. Christians are not so much in danger of intemperance and sensual lusts as pride; it groweth by the decrease of other sins; and therefore pride is put last, 1 John ii. 16, as being Satan's last engine. They that are set upon the pinnacles of the temple are in danger to be thrown down this way. Paul was apt to grow proud of his revelations, 2 Cor. xii. 7. In heaven only we are most high and most humble. A worm may breed in manna; strong comforts, raised affections, and strange elevations, may much puff up, and by gracious enjoyments we sometimes grow proud, secure, self-sufficient, and disdainful of others, Rom. xiv. 10; but this will cost you a shrewd decay. (2.) For the other part of pride, aspiring after worldly greatness; by such fond pursuits you do but engage God to oppose you. Many men mistake ambition, and think that desire of great place is only unlawful when it is sought by unlawful means; but to affect greatness is contrary to the rules of the gospel. We should refer our advancement to the sweet invitation of providence, and stay till the master of the feast bids us sit higher. In our private choice we should be contented with a tolerable supply of necessaries: `Whosoever exalteth himself, &c., Luke xiv. 8, 9; not whosoever is exalted. In the Olympic games the wrestler did never put on his own crown and garland: Heb. v. 5, `Christ glorified not himself as high priest, but was called of God as Aaron., When we do not 356stay for the call of providence, it is but an untimely desire of promotion, which either God crosseth, or else it proveth a curse and snare to us.
Use 2. The next use is, that we should not envy a proud person, no more than we would a man upon the gallows; they are but lifted up that they may be cast down for ever. We are apt to pity the drunkard, but envy the proud:311311`Ἀσώτους ἀποκαλοῦσι δυστυχεῖς, φιλοτίμους καὶ φιλοδόξους ἐπαινοῦσιν ὡς λάμπρους, &c.—Chrysost. Orat. 65 de Gloria. it is Chrysostom's observation. You had need pity them too, for they are near a fall: Prov. xvi. 19, `Better be of a meek spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud;, that is, better be of the depressed party than to cry up a confederacy with those that grow proud upon their successes.
Use 3. Observe the instances of God's displeasure against pride upon yourselves, or those that are near you. Paul took notice of that thorn that was in his flesh, `Lest, saith he, `I should be exalted above measure, 2 Cor. xii. 7. So you may often say, This was an affliction to correct and abate my pride, a prick at the bladder of my flatuous and windy spirit. So on others related to you; near experiences do more work upon us, and leave the greater impressions of awe: See Dan. v. 22, `And thou, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this., God taketh it ill when we do not improve the marks of vengeance upon our nearest friends: we see others how their gifts are blasted for pride; children taken away for pride, estates wasted for pride, and we do not lay it to heart.
Obs. 2. God's grace is given to the humble. We lay up the richest wine in the lowest cellars; so doth God the choicest mercies in humble and lowly hearts. Christ did most for those that were most humble; as for the centurion, `I am not worthy that thou shouldst come under my roof , so for the Syrophenician woman, `I am a dog, &c. There is excellency enough in God; he requireth only sense of emptiness in us. God loveth to make all his works creations; and grace worketh most freely when it worketh upon nothing. It is not for the honour of God that the creatures should receive aught from mercy till they are brought upon their knees; the condition which he proposeth is, `only acknowledge thine iniquities, Jer. iii. 13. Lumps of unrelenting guiltiness are as vessels closed up, and cannot receive grace; humility fitteth a man to receive it. and maketh a man to esteem it. The humble are vessels of a larger bore and size, fit to receive what grace giveth out. You may learn hence why humble persons are most gracious, and gracious persons most humble. God delighteth to fill up such; they are vessels of a right bore. The valleys laugh with fatness when the hills are barren; and the laden boughs will bend their heads, &c.
The connection is illative; he applieth the former promise, and by a just inference enforceth the duty therein specified: `Submit yourselves therefore to God., But you will say, Wherein doth the force of the reason lie?
I answer—1. It may be inferred out of the latter part of the sentence 357thus: `God giveth grace to the humble, therefore do you submit yourselves;, that is, do you come humbly, and seek the grace of God. The note thence is:—
Obs. That general hints of duty must be particularly and faithfully applied, or urged upon our own souls.
Doctrine is but the drawing of the bow, application is the hitting of the mark. How many are wise in generals, but vain ἐν διαλογίσμοις, in their practical inferences! Rom. i. 22. Generals remain in notion and speculation; particular things work. We are only to give you doctrine, and the necessary uses and inferences; you are to make application. Whenever you hear, let the light of every truth be reflected upon your own souls; never leave it till you have gained the heart to a sense of duty, and a resolution for duty. (1.) A sense of duty: `Know it for thy good, Job v. 27. If God hath required humble addresses, I must submit to God; if the happiness and quiet of the creature consisteth in a nearness to God, then `it is good for me to draw nigh to God, Ps. lxxiii. 28. Thus must you take your share out of every truth; I must live by this rule. When sinners are invited to believe in Christ, say, `I am chief, 1 Tim. i. 15. (2.) A resolution for duty, that your souls may conclude, not only I must, but I will: Ps. xxvii. 8, `When thou saidst, Seek ye my face, my heart said, Thy face, Lord, will I seek., The command is plural, Seek ye; the answer is singular, I will. The heart must echo thus to divine precepts. So Jer. iii. 22, `Return, O backsliding children:, `Behold, we come, for thou art the Lord our God.,
2. It may be inferred out of the former clause thus: `He resisteth the proud, therefore submit yourselves;, that is, therefore let the Lord have a willing and spontaneous subjection from you; and then the note will be:—
Obs. The creature must be humbled either actively or passively. If you have not a humble heart, God hath a mighty hand: 1 Peter v. 6, `Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God., He will either break the heart or break the bones. You must judge yourselves, or else God will judge you, 1 Cor. xi. 32. God hath made a righteous law; sin must be judged in one court or another, that the law may not seem to be made in vain. If, at the last day, when the judgment is set and the books are opened, and sinners stand trembling before the white throne of the Lamb, and you are conscious to the whole process, Christ should then make you such an offer, `Judge yourselves, and you shall not be judged, with what thankfulness would you accept of the motion! and the next work would be to inquire into your own hearts. Oh! consider, thus it must be; we must judge or be judged, be humble or be humbled. It were better to anticipate acts of vengeance by acts of duty. Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar were humbled, Dan. iv. 34, but to their cost. Passive humiliations are sore and deadly. It were better that we should humble a proud heart than that God, in the threatening of scripture, should humble our proud looks, and we should feel that which we would not do. You will not judge yourselves; ah! but how terrible will it be when the Lord cometh to judge us for all our hard speeches and ungodly deeds! Jude 15. When justice taketh up the quarrel of despised mercy, it 358will be sad for us; and then we shall know the difference between God's inviting and God's inflicting.
Obs. But let us now go to the duty itself, submit yourselves to God. Observe, those that would seek the friendship of God must submit to him. He speaketh of getting in with God, which must be in a humble way. There is an infinite distance between God and his creatures; we must come with reverence. But we are not only creatures, but guilty creatures, and therefore we must come with a holy awe and trembling.
I shall inquire, first, what this subjection is? The word ὑποτάγητε signifieth to place ourselves under God, and so noteth the whole duty of an inferior state. (1.) There must be a subjection to God's will, the whole man to the whole law of God. To submit to God is to give up ourselves to be governed by his will and pleasure; oar thoughts, our counsels, our affections, our actions, to be guided according to the strict rules of the word. Usually here the work of conversion sticketh; we are loath to resign and give up ourselves to the will of God. Some commands of God, as those which are inward, are contrary to our affections; others, as those which enforce duties external, are contrary to our interests: but we must `take Christ's yoke, Mat. xi. 29. A main thing to be looked at in our first applications to God is this, are we willing to give up ourselves to the will of God without reservation? Can I subject all, without any hesitancy and reluctation of thoughts, to the obedience of Christ? 2 Cor. x. 5. (2.) It implieth humble addresses. Submit yourselves to God; that is, lay aside your pride and stubbornness, humbly acknowledging your sins; come as lost, undone creatures, lying at the feet of mercy. Ah! how long is it ere our mouths are put in the dust! Lam. iii. 29, ere we can come and say in truth of heart, If we be damned, it is just; if we be saved, it is of much mercy. (3.) A referring ourselves to the disposal of God's providence: Acts xxi. 14, `The will of the Lord be done., It is a true Christian speech. Discontent is plain rebellion; we would have our will done, and not God's; when we murmur, God and we contend; his will must be done upon us, as well as by us. Thus you see there is a threefold submission—of our carnal hearts to his holiness, our proud hearts to his mercy, our stormy minds to his sovereignty, that we may be obedient, humble, patient.
Secondly, I shall inquire in what manner this submission must be performed? I answer—(1.) Sincerely; we must do his will, because it is his will, intuitu voluntatis. God's will is both the rule and the reason of duty. So it is urged 1 Thes. iv. 3, `This is the will of God, even your sanctification., So see 1 Thes. v. 18, and 1 Peter ii. 13. This is enough, warrant enough, and motive enough: God will have it so. Hypocrites do the matter of the duty, but they have other motives. This is indeed to do a duty as a duty, when we do what is commanded because it is commanded. (2.) Freely; subjection is best when it is willing. If the beast came struggling and unwillingly to the altar, they never offered it to their gods, but counted it unlucky.312312`Observatum est a sacrificantibus, ut si hostia quae ad aras duceretur fuisset vehementer reluctata, ostendissetque se invitam altaribus admoveri, amoveretur, quia invito deo eam efferri putabant; quae vero stetisset oblata, hanc volenti numini dari existimabant.,—Macrobi., Saturn. lib. iii. 359Certainly the true God looketh most after the ready mind: Ps. cxix. 60, `I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments , without doubting, disputing, consulting with flesh and blood. To offer Isaac was a hard duty, and yet that morning Abraham was up early; see Gen. xxii. 1. (3.) Faithfully, to the Lord's glory, not to our own ends. The Christian life must be unto God, Gal. ii. 19, according to God's will, for God's glory. It was a testimony of Joab's homage and fealty to David, that when he had conquered Rabbath, he sent for David to take the honour. The hardest task of the creature is to subject our ends to God's ends, as well as our ways to God's will.
Thirdly, I shall inquire what considerations are necessary to urge this duty upon the soul. Man is a stout creature, and we are apt to break all cords and restraints. Our language is, `Who is lord over us?, Therefore, for answer to this last question, consider—(1.) The necessity of it: `Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, 1 Peter v. 6. It is a madness to contend with him that can command legions. What are we to God? `Are we stronger than he?, 1 Cor. x. 22. Who is so foolish as to stand out against the Almighty? Men fawn upon them that have power. God can ruin us with a breath: Job iv. 9, `By the blast of God they perish, by the breath of his nostrils they come to nought., So with a beck or frown: Ps. lxxx. 16, `They perish at the rebuke of thy countenance., This power we shall feel, if we do not stoop to it. They are broken by the power of his providence, that are not drawn by the power of his Spirit. God hath sworn: Rom. xiv. 11, `As I live, saith the Lord, all knees shall bow to me;, that is, count me not a living God if I do not make the creature stoop. Hearken to this, you that stand out against the power of the word, can you stand out against the power of Christ when he cometh in glory? Ezek. xxii. 14, `Can your hands be made strong, or your hearts endure in the day that I shall deal with you?, You whose hearts are stout against God, how will your faces gather blackness and darkness before him, when you shall be adjudged to that Tophet `whose burning is fire, and much wood, and the breath of the Lord doth kindle it like a river of brimstone,? (2.) The nobleness of it. Submission seemeth base, but to God it is noble. All other subjection is slavery and vassalage, but this is the truest freedom. Vain men think it a freedom to live at large, to gratify every carnal desire; this is the basest bondage that may be, 2 Peter ii. 18, Wicked men have as many lords as lusts. If conscience be but a little wakened, they are sensible of the tyranny; they see it is ill with them, and they cannot help it; they are drunkards, worldlings, unclean persons, of a carnal and voluptuous spirit, and know not which way to be otherwise. (3.) The utility and benefit of it. This will make almighty power to be the ground of your hope, not your fear: Isa. xxvii. 5, `Let them take hold of my strength, and be at peace with me., This submission is the high way to exaltation, 1 Peter v. 6. How do men crouch for worldly ends, and admire every base person for secular advantage! As Otho in Tacitus did, projicere oscula, adorare vulgus, et omnia serviliter pro imperio—kiss the people, even adore the basest, and all to make way for his own greatness. Ah! 360should we not rather stoop and submit to the Lord? There is no baseness in the act, and there is much glory in the reward.
Resist the devil.—What connection hath this precept with the former? I answer—It may be conceived several ways:
1. Thus: If you will humbly submit to God, you must look to resist Satan; and the note is:—
Obs. That true obedience findeth much opposition by the devil. Since the fall a godly life is not known by perfection of grace so much as by conflicts with sin. Satan is still busiest there where he hath least to do. Morality is a still way, that putteth us to little trouble. Pirates do not use to set upon empty vessels, and beggars need not fear the thief. Those that have most grace feel most trouble from Satan. He envieth they should enjoy that condition and interest in God which himself hath lost. The devil is loath to waken those that are in his own power: `When the strong man keepeth the house, all the goods are in peace, Luke xi. 42. But for the godly, he `desireth to winnow them as wheat, Luke xxii. 32. Sometimes he vexeth and buffeteth them with sad injections, at other times with carnal temptations. We cannot appear before God, but `he is at our right hand ready to resist us, Zech. iii. 1. We cannot set upon a duty, but he suggesteth lazy thoughts, carnal counsels. Well, then, you cannot judge yourselves forsaken of God because tempted by Satan: no brother in the flesh but hath had his share, 1 Peter v. 9. Such conflicts are not inconsistent with faith and piety. He adventured upon Christ himself after he had a testimony from heaven, Mat. iv. Paul was troubled with one of Satan's messengers, 2 Cor. xii. 7. And the best are exercised with the sorest conflicts, When the thief breaketh into the house, it is not to take away coals, but jewels.
2. The connection may be conceived thus: If you would submit to God, you must beware of those proud suggestions wherewith Satan would puff up your spirits. The note is:—
Obs. That one of Satan's chief temptations is pride. Therefore, when the apostle speaketh of submission, he presently addeth, `resist the devil., By this Satan fell himself; therefore it is called `the condemnation of the devil., That is the cause for which the devil was cast out of heaven. He would fain have more company, and draw us into his own snare. It is a bait soon swallowed, it is natural to us. Our parents catched at that, `Ye shall be as gods., He offered to tempt Christ himself to a vainglorious action. Certainly we all desire to be set on high pinnacles, though we run the hazard of a fall. We had need, then, to be the more watchful against such thoughts and insinuations. Places liable to assault have usually the greatest guard. And we may admire the wisdom of God, who can overcome Satan by Satan. Satan's messenger wherewith Paul was buffeted was to cure his pride, 2 Cor. xii. 7.
3. It may be the occasion of the direction in this place was only thus: He having told them what submission is required, he would also tell them what resistance is lawful. You must submit to God, but not to Satan. The scriptures, that they may speak with clearness and distinction, use thus to make exception of necessary duties. So 1 Cor. xiv. 20, `In malice be ye children, but in understanding be ye 361men;, so Rom. xvi. 19, `I would have you wise concerning that which is good, but simple in what is evil., Which are speeches much suiting with this of the apostle: You must submit, and yet resist, &c.
Obs. 1. But to the words; resist the devil. Observe, instead of carnal lusts, he mentioneth Satan. The apostle doth not say, `resist sin, but `resist Satan., Observe, that Satan hath a great hand and stroke in all sins. Survey the pedigree of sin, and you shall see it may call the devil father. Carnal desires are called `his lusts, John viii. 44. And it is said, `Whatever is more is ἐκ πονηροῦ, from the evil one, Mat. v. 37; that is, from the devil. Giving place to anger is, in the apostle's language, `giving place to Satan, Eph. iv. 26, 27. Survey the iniquities of every age, and is not Satan's hand in all this? Because our first parents brought death into the world by his suggestion, as also because of the act of Cain, he is called `a murderer from the be ginning, John viii. It is said of Judas's treason against Christ, John xiii. 2, `The devil put it into his heart., So too Ananias, Acts v. 3, `Why hath Satan put it into thy heart to lie?, So 1 Chron. xxi. 1, 1 Satan provoked David to number the people., So Mat. xvi. 23, `Get thee behind me, Satan., The heathen, who understood not the operation of the devil, thought all our conflicts were against internal passions. Now the apostle is clear that we fight not only against lusts and carnal desires, `but spiritual wickednesses in high places, and principalities, and powers, &c., which argueth the fight to be the more sore. Sometimes the devil beginneth the temptation, sometimes we. He began with Judas; he `put it into his heart, by the injection and immission of evil thoughts. At other times, our own corruption working freely, the devil may adjoin himself. As Zanard speaketh of the outward power of the devil over tempests; sometimes he may raise the matter, at other times, the matter being prepared, Satan may adjoin himself, and make the tempest more impetuous. Well, then, all sin being from the devil, as we defy him, let us `defy his works `and lusts too. We defy Satan as the pursuivant of divine justice, but we honour him as head of the carnal state. We love his lusts, and so call him father, and keep the crown upon his head. Many rail on him, and yet honour him. Though he be a proud spirit, he careth not for praise or dispraise. All his aim is at homage and obedience; so he may engross our spiritual respects, other things do not move him. As Christ loveth not a glavering respect when we violate his laws, so Satan is not exasperated with ill language. His policy is to blind the mind, and carry on his kingdom covertly in the darkness of this world. Every sinner is really the devil's drudge.
Obs. 2. Again, from the nature of the duty pressed, that it is the duty of Christians to resist Satan. The point is of great use in the Christian life, and a subject in which many men of note and eminency in the church of God have travelled. But you know under the law rich men were to leave their gleanings for the poor; therefore we may come and glean up something after the reapers. Possibly, as Boaz did for Ruth, they might let fall some handfuls, Ruth ii. 16, of purpose for others, diligence and industry. I shall endeavour to open four things:—362
1. The commerce between Satan and a sinner, and how he cometh to insinuate his temptations.
2. What it is to resist him, the purport and intent of this great duty.
3. The way and means of maintaining this war and conflict.
4. The most persuasive arguments and motives to engage us to the battle.
1. First, To begin with the first thing proposed; that the devil hath a great hand in all sins, we cleared before. Over wicked men he hath almost as great a power as the Spirit of God over holy men. The same words are used to imply the efficacy of Satan and the influence of the Spirit; God `worketh in us, and Satan `worketh in the children of disobedience, Phil. ii. 13, ἐνεργεῖν; Eph. ii. 3, ἐνεργοῦντος. The only difference is, the Spirit's works are creations; they suppose and need no matter within. The Spirit, by a sweet and yet strong power, can compel the soul to assent or consent; but not Satan;313313`Infirmus hostis est qui non potest vincere nisi volentem.,—Hieron. ad Demetriadem. his advantage lieth in our own wickedness; we do not resist him; he may solicit, but not compel.314314`Diabolus suadere et sollicitare potest, cogere omnino non potest; non enim diabolus cogendo sed suadendo nocet, nec extorquet a nobis consensum sed petit.,—Aug. lib. v. Hom. 12. The Spirit of God giveth `a new heart, Ezek. xxxvi. 26; Prov. xxi. 1; but Satan hath a strong operation upon the wills and understandings of men by their consent. He worketh indeed by way of imperious suggestion, but without any violation and enforcement of man's will: upon the godly he worketh by way of imposture and deceit, upon the wicked by way of imperious command and sovereignty. He doth not only put into the heart such fancies and conceits as may stir up sensual and worldly lusts, but also such as may blind the spirit and understanding. Satan, that stirreth up some to uncleanness, stirreth up others to error and blasphemy; therefore it is said, 2 Thes. ii. 9, that antichrist's `coming is after the working of Satan in all deceivableness., The communications of spirits are insensible and imperceptible. It is true we are most sensible of his force when tempted to bodily lusts, because they do most of all affright conscience, discompose reason, and oppress the body; and because between every temptation and sin there is an intervening explicit thought to which the soul is conscious; but insinuations of error are more silent and plausible. Satan sorteth every spirit with a proper bait; though he doth not know the heart, yet, being of a spiritual nature and essence, he can the more easily insinuate with our understanding and affections. The scriptures everywhere intimate that great height of understanding and policy which is in the evil spirits; therefore we read of their `snares, 2 Tim. ii. 26; `methods, Eph. vi. 11;, devices, νοήματα, 2 Cor. ii. 11: all which words imply a great deal of cunning and dexterity, which is much increased by experience and observation: he `considered Job, Job ii. 5. They observe and consider us, and know how to suit the bait, partly by supposition and conceit, as imagining by what corrupt aims most men live; partly by external signs; they observe our prayers, discourses, passions, the motions of the bodily spirits; can interpret the silent language of a 363blush, a smile, a frown, a look, the glance of a lustful eye, the gait and carriage of the body. Now, to work upon us, they use sometimes the ministry and subserviency of men, as our nearest friends; so he made use of Peter to Christ, Mat. xvi. 23; or of cursed deceivers, 2 Cor. xi. 15. Sometimes he maketh use of our own bodies; by the outward commotion of the humours he stirreth up to revenge, uncleanness, passion, and all sensual lusts; and therefore you had need keep the body in a good frame, that the humours of it be not armed against your souls. Sometimes by presenting the object, as he dealt with Christ, representing the world's glory to him in a map or land scape; so he stirreth up lust by the eye: 2 Peter ii. 14, `Eyes full of adultery;, in the original, μοιχαλίδος, `of the adulteress., Objects are first presented, then he causeth them to dwell upon the fancy, till the heart be ensnared. Sometimes through the immission of thoughts, through the help of fancy: this must needs be one way; how should the devil else tempt to despair, or to spiritual sins, or blind the mind by carnal imaginations and conceits, and obstinate prejudices against the truth? And these thoughts, once immitted, may be continued into a discourse or dispute, and the devil, guessing at the answer, may come on with a reply; therefore we find that he setteth on Christ with new temptations, because he had received so full an answer.
2. Secondly, The next question is to show what it is to resist him. I answer—(1.) Negatively, we must not fear him; the devil hath no enforcing power, but only a persuading sleight. Distrustful fear giveth him advantage. We are to `resist him steadfast in the faith, 1 Peter v. 10. And again, we must not `give place to him, Eph. iv. 27. Anger may make way for malice; and when the first risings of sin are not grievous, the accomplishment of it is not far off. (2.) Positively; so we must manifest our resistance, partly by refusing to commune with him. Sometimes he must be checked with a mere rebuke and abomination; as when the temptation tendeth to a direct withdrawment from obedience, it is enough to say, `Get thee behind me, Satan, and to chide the thought ere it be settled; so Ps. xi. 1, `How say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to yonder mountain?, He abominateth the motion; as if he had said, Avaunt, evil thoughts! &c. Sometimes we must oppose gracious reasons and considerations; as when the temptation hath taken any hold upon the thoughts, and corruption riseth up in the defence of the suggestion, this is called a `withstanding in the evil day, and a `quenching of his fiery darts, Eph. vi. 13-16.
3. Thirdly, The next thing is the way and means of maintaining this war and conflict; not by crossing yourselves, spitting at his name and mention, but by the graces of God's Holy Spirit. I shall mention the chiefest. There is—(1.) Faith, 1 Peter v. 10. You had need of faith, that you may overcome mystically, by taking hold of the victory of Christ; and morally, that we may reflect on the glorious^ recompenses that are appointed for them that stand out in time of trial, and the spiritual assistances that are at hand to encourage us in the fight and combat. Faith is necessary every way; it is called `the shield, Eph. vi. 13. The shield covereth the other parts of the armour; so doth faith confirm the other graces when assaulted, by borrowing 364help, by drawing them forth upon high encouragements, &c. (2.) Prayer; never cope with a temptation alone, but strive to bring God into the combat: `Making prayer and all supplication in the spirit, Eph. vi. 16. By spirit he meaneth the heart or soul; when you are assaulted, lift up the spirit in holy groans to God. (3.) Sobriety, 1 Peter v. 8. We had need be watchful, to take heed to every lust and every distemper; and we had need be sober too in the use of all comforts, creatures, businesses. For I suppose by sobriety the apostle meaneth a moderation of our affections in worldly things, which is necessary to this purpose, all temptations being insinuated under the baits of pleasure, honour, profit, &c., and therefore a heart drowned in the world is soon overcome. (4.) Watchfulness; those that carry gun powder natures about them had need take care not only of fiery darts, but of the least sparks. God is soon offended; therefore we must walk `with fear and trembling, Phil. ii. 12; and our hearts are soon overcome, and therefore we had need be watchful, looking to what cometh in, lest it prove a temptation, and to what goeth out, lest it be found a corruption. In the fight we should have an eye to victory, and in the victory to the fight again. (5.) Sincerity; the apostle speaketh of `the girdle of truth, Eph. vi. 14. A double-minded man is his own tempter, and unsettled souls do but invite Satan to take part with their own doubts and anxious traverses. The mixture of principles, like civil wars in a country, makes us a prey to the common enemy.
4. Fourthly, The most persuasive arguments to engage us in this fight and warfare: I shall but touch upon them. Consider the necessity. Either you must resist him, or be taken captive by him; there is no middle course; you can make no peace with him but to your own harm; to enter into league with Satan is to be overcome: he now tempteth, hereafter he will accuse.315315Ὁ πειράζων, Mat. iv. 1, with Rev. xi. 10, κατήγορος, `The accuser of the brethren., Satan flattereth the creature; the snares of sin will at length prove chains of darkness. We look at the trouble of resistance, the sweetness of victory will abundantly recompense it. Usually we mistake in the traverses of our minds; we reckon upon the sweetness of sin, and the trouble of resistance, and so create a snare to ourselves. The right comparison is between the fruit of sin and the fruit of victory. We have often had experience what it is to be overcome; let us now make trial how sweet victory will be. Nothing discovereth the power and comfort of Christianity so much as the spiritual conflict. Men that swallow temptations, and commit sins without trouble and remorse, no wonder that they are so cold and dead in the profession of religion, that their evidences for heaven are always so dark and litigious; they never tried the truth and power of grace, nor tasted the sweetness of it; the spiritual combat, the victories of Christ, are riddles and dreams to them. Besides all this, consider the hopes of prevailing. Satan is a foiled adversary; Christ hath overcome him already. All that is required to the victory is a strong negative, No, no; make him no more reply. To resist him, not to yield to him, is the only way to be rid of him. You have a promise, `Resist, and he shall flee from you., Christ hath foiled the enemy, and he hath put weapons into your hands 365that you may foil him. He trod upon this old serpent when `his heel was bruised, upon the cross; Gen. iii. 15; only he would have you set your feet upon his neck: Rom. xvi. 20, `And the God of peace shall tread Satan under your feet shortly., You need not doubt of help; if Satan be `a roaring lion., Christ is `the lion of the tribe of Judah, to resist him; if Satan be an `accuser., Christ is an `advocate:, there is `the Spirit of God, to strengthen us against the suggestions of `the evil spirit, and the good angels wait upon us, Heb. i. 14, as well as the bad do molest us. Consider the spectators of the combat; thou maintainest God's cause in his own sight; Christ and the good angels are looking upon thee, how thou dost acquit thyself in the battle. Ahasuerus said of Haman, `Will he force the queen before my face?, So, wilt thou commit adultery in the presence of thy Spouse? and yield to Satan when Christ and all the blessed saints and angels stand as witnesses of the conflict? Do not fear being deserted; when thou art in Satan's hands, Satan is in God's hands. Jesus Christ himself was tempted, and he knoweth what it is to be exposed to the rage of a cruel fiend; and therefore `he will succour those that are tempted, Heb. ii. 18, iv. 15. They that have been ill of the stone will pity others when racked with that pain and torture: Israel was a stranger, and therefore to be kind to strangers. Christ's heart is entendered by his own experience; ever since he grappled with Satan, he is full of bowels to all that are infested by him.
And he will flee from you.—Here is the promise annexed as an encouragement to the duty. But you will say. How is it to be understood? Doth Satan always fly when he is resisted? The children of God by sad experience find that he reneweth the battle, and prevaileth sometimes by the second or third assault. I answer—(1.) Every denial is a great discouragement to Satan; sin is a `giving place, Eph. iv. 27. He is like a dog that standeth looking and waving his tail to receive somewhat from those that sit at table; but if nothing be thrown out, he goeth his way.316316`Quemadmodurn canis assistens mensae, si viderit hominem vescentem, subinde aliquid eorum quae in mensa sunt ipsi projicientem, manet assidue: quod si semel atque iterum sic astitit ut discesserit nihil adeptus, protinus abstinet, veluti qui jam frustra et incassum assistat; itidem et diabolus jugiter nobis inhiat; si quod blasphemum verbum ipsi ceu cani projiciamus, hoc accepto rursus aggreditur; quod si perseveraveris gratias agere, jugulaveris illum fame celeriterque abegeris.,—Chrys. Hom. 3, de Lazaro. So doth Satan watch for a grant, as Benhadad's servants did for the word brother. He looketh for a passionate speech, an unclean glance, gestures of wrath and discontent; but if he findeth none of these, he is discouraged. (2.) After a denial he may continue to trouble thee. Jesus Christ was assaulted again and again after a full answer; nay, after all it is said, Luke iv. 13, `He went away from him for a season., Therefore Peter biddeth us always watch, 1 Peter v. 8. (3.) If we continue our resistance, Satan will surely be a loser. A Christian hath the best of it; though he repeat his assaults a thousand times, he can never overcome you without your consent; and though the conflict put you to some trouble, yet it bringeth you much spiritual gain, more sensible experiences of the virtue of Christ, a more earnest trust; as dangers make children clasp about the parent more closely. Besides, it is honour enough to foil him in each particular assault, though usually 366a Christian doth not only come off with victory; but triumph, and Satan doth not only not prevail, but flee from us.
He cometh again to the main thing in question, the success of humble addresses to God, showing we shall not want the divine help, if we do but make way for it. God is never wanting to us till we are first wanting to ourselves. We withdraw our hearts from God, and therefore no wonder if we do not feel the effects of his grace. All the world may judge between God and sinners, who shall bear the blame of our wants and miseries, providence or our own hearts. If `the foolishness of man pervert his ways, there is no cause why we should `fret against God, Prov. xix. 3.
Draw nigh to God.—You may look upon the words as spoken to sinners or to converts.
First, To sinners, or men uncalled; and then the sense is `draw nigh to God, that is, seek him by faith and repentance;, and he will draw nigh to you, that is, with his grace and blessing. Thence observe:—
Obs. 1. That every man by nature needeth to draw nigh to God. Drawing nigh implieth an absence and departure: we are `estranged from the womb, Ps. lviii. 3. As soon as we were able to go we went astray. In Adam we lost three things—the image of God, the favour of God, and fellowship with God. As soon as man sinned, God speaketh to Adam as lost: `Adam, where art thou?, Non es ubi prius eras, as Austin glosseth thou art not where thou wert before. So when Christ would resemble our apostate nature, he doth it by a prodigal's going `into a far country, Luke xv. 14. And the apostle giveth the reason how we came to lose the fellowship as well as the favour of God, when he thus describeth the natural estate of the Gentiles, `alienated from the life of God, Eph. iv. 18. We are strangers to God's life, and therefore no wonder if we have lost his company. Trees do not converse with beasts, nor beasts with men, because they do not live the life of each other. Sense must fit the trees to converse with beasts, and reason the beasts to converse with men, and grace must fit men to converse with God. There is a distance, you see. Now men alienate themselves more and more, partly by their affections, and partly by their practices. By their affections; they care not for God, desire not his company: Job xxi. 14, `Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways., Fallen man is grown obstinate, little worse317317Qu. `Better,?—ED. than the devil. The devils said, `Depart from us; art thou come to torment us before our time?, Mat. viii. God's presence is their torment. Men care not to hold communion with him, because of a hatred to his ways; they wish the annihilation and destruction of his being. It is a pleasing thought to carnal spirits to suppose that if there were no God they might let loose the reins to vile affections. So also by their practices. All sins divide between God and the soul:318318`Peccata elongant uos voluntate, non loco., Isa. lix. 2, `Your iniquities have separated between you and God., Sin maketh us shy of his presence; guilt cannot endure a thought of the judge; and it maketh 367God offended with us. How can a holy nature delight in an impure creature? And as sin in the general doth thus, so there are some special sins that separate between God and the soul; as pride: Ps. cxxxviii. 6, `The proud he knoweth afar off., God standeth at a distance, and will have no communion with a proud spirit. So creature-confidence and self-satisfaction, that keepeth us off from God; we stand at a distance, as if we had enough of our own: Jer. xvii. 5, `Cursed is the man that maketh flesh his arm, departing from the living God., The nearest union is wrought by faith, that maketh the soul stay in him; and the greatest separation when we go to other confidences, for then there is a plain leaving of God. Well, then, consider your condition by nature—aliens from God. That you may resent it the more, consider the cause and the effects of it. (1.) The cause. The heart is set upon sin, and therefore estranged from God: Col. i. 21, `Alienated, and enemies in your minds by evil works;, or it may be rendered, `by your minds in evil works;, mente operibus malis intenta, that is, because the mind is set upon sin. Likeness is the ground of love.319319`Φίλον καλοῦμεν ὁμοίον ὁμοίῳ κατ᾽ ἀρετὴν.,—Plato de Leg. 8. There being such a disproportion between us and God, we delight not in him. So Job xxi., `Depart from us;, why? `for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways., We do not love holiness, and therefore do not love God. What a madness is this, to part with God for sin! If you will not be saints, be men; be not devils; they cannot endure God's presence upon that ground. (2.) The effects of it. You that fly from God as a friend, you will find him an enemy; you may depart from him as a friend, you cannot escape him as an enemy. It is a sweet passage that of Austin,320320Lib. iv. Confess., cap. 9. Te non amittit nisi qui dimittit: et qui te dimittit quo fugit, nisi a te placato ad te iratum? You that cannot endure the presence of God, or a thought of him, where will you go from him? Ps. cxxxix. 6, `Whither shall I flee from thy presence? In heaven thou art there; in hell thou art there, &c. Where will you go? Jer. xxiii. 23, `Am I God at hand, and not a God afar off?, God is here, and there, and everywhere; you will find him wherever you go. Surely then it is better to draw near to him as a friend than to run from him as an enemy.
Obs. 2. A great duty that lieth upon the fallen creature is drawing nigh to God. I do not mean to handle the duty at large: I shall only open three things:—
1. How God and the creature may be said to be near one to another, or to draw nigh. God's special presence is in heaven, and we are on earth; and his general presence is with all the creatures, and so `he is not far from any one of us, Acts xvii. I answer—It is to be understood spiritually; we draw nigh unto him non vestigiis corporis, sed animo, not by the feet of the body, but the soul. Spirits may have converse with one another though at a distance. Now God's children are with him in their thoughts, in the affections and dispositions of their souls. Their πολίτευμα, `their business and negotiation is in heaven, Phil. iii. 20; `Their heart and their treasure is there, Mat. vi. 20, 21. Their desires are there; the world is but a 368larger prison. But it is more especially meant of their communion with God in duties, wherein their souls and their prayers are `lifted up, to him, Acts x. 4; and he is said to come down to meet them, Isa. lxiv. 5. And also it noteth the continual intercourse that is between God and them in all their ways. The first epistle of John was written to this purpose, `That they might have fellowship and communion with the Father and the Son, 1 John i. 4.
2. How is this effected and brought about, since we cannot endure the thought of God? The question is necessary. This was the great design of heaven, to find out a way to bring man into fellowship again with his maker; and God hath found out a `new and living way `by Christ, and therefore he is said to be `the way to the Father, John xiv. 6. And the main intent of his incarnation and death was `to bring us to God, 1 Peter iii. 18. To bring strangers and enemies together is a mighty work. But how doth Christ effect it? I answer—(1.) Partly by doing something for us—satisfying God's justice, and `bearing our sins in his body upon the tree;, otherwise guilt could have no commerce with wrath, stubble with devouring burnings: `God is a consuming fire, and we are as `stubble fully dry., Now Christ is a screen drawn between us:321321`Absque cruore Domini nemo appropinquat Deo.,—Hieron. the divine glory would swallow us up, but Christ's flesh is a veil that abateth the edge and brightness of it, Heb. x. 19, 20. (2.) Partly by doing something in us. Christ's work in bringing a soul to God is not ended upon the cross; he giveth us the graces of his Holy Spirit, which fit us for communion with God. The principal are these:—Faith, which is nothing else but a coming to God by Christ for grace, mercy, and salvation: Heb. x. 22, `Draw nigh by the assurance of faith., Unbelief is a going off from God, Heb. iii. 12, and Zeph. iii. 2; and faith a coming to him. Then love, the grace of union. By desire, it maketh us go out to God; by delight it keepeth us there: the one is the thirst, the other the satisfaction of the soul. Love runneth out upon the feet of desire, and resteth in the bosom of delight. Then holiness: `God wall be sanctified in those that draw nigh to him, Lev. x. 3. Holy hearts are fittest to deal with a holy God, otherwise we should not endure God, nor God us. Then fear, by which the soul walketh with God, and is near to him: there where the thoughts are, there we are spiritually. Of wicked men it is said, `God is not in all their thoughts;, but the godly always keep God in their eye: Acts ii. 25, `I foresaw the Lord always before me., Fear still keepeth them in his company. Then humility; because of our distance and guilt we cannot come to God unless we come humbly and upon our knees: Ps. xcv. 6, `Come let us worship and bow down, and kneel before the Lord our maker;, that is the fittest posture in approaches to God: God `will dwell with the humble, Isa. lvii. 15. Now all these graces, being exercised in the conversation, or in holy duties, where the addresses to God are more direct, make the soul near to him.
3. The last question is, What special acts doth the soul put forth when it draweth nigh to God? The answer may be given you from what was said before. There must be an act of faith in our wants; by faith we must see that in God which we stand in need of in sense. 369Fear must be acted in all our ways, keeping us in God's eye: persons loose and regardless are far from God: `Walk before me, &c., Gen. xvii. 1. Then love and humility must be acted in holy duties. Drawing nigh doth chiefly imply humble and fervorous addresses; when you come naked to God, as the rich man that will clothe you; hungry to God, as the bountiful man that will feed you; sick to God, as the physician that will cure you; as servants to your Lord, as disciples to your master, as blind to the light, as cold to the fire, &c. The creatures addresses are best when they begin in want and end in hope, when there is a rare mixture of humility and confidence; and love there must be in every duty, for God must be sought as well as served.
Well, then, let us all mind this duty. Sin is a departing from God, grace a returning. Draw nigh to him, make out after the comforts and supports of his presence: the way is by Christ, but you must resolve upon it; I must, and I will: Ps. xxvii. 8, `Thy face, Lord, will I seek;, there must be a care to bring the soul to this resolution. Mark that place, Jer. xxx. 21, `I will cause him to draw near and approach to me, saith the Lord; for who is this that engageth his heart to draw near to me?, that is, by my Spirit I will comfort them. But will you engage your hearts? Out of a conviction of the necessity and excellency of the duty, issue forth a practical decree: David doth, Ps. lxxiii. 28, `It is good for me to draw near to God.,
Object. There is one doubt in the text which must be cleared before we go further, and that ariseth from the phrase used, `draw nigh to God, as if it were in our own power. The old Pelagians abused this place; and the Rhemists in their notes say, that free-will and man's own endeavour is necessary in coming to God, and that man is a cause of making himself clean, though God's grace be the principal. Usually two things have been built upon this place:—(1.) That the beginning of conversion is in man's power; (2.) That this beginning doth merit or increase further grace from God; for, say they, God will not draw near to man ere he do first draw near to him; therefore, before special grace the beginning of conversion must be in man, and upon this beginning God will come in.
Sol. I answer—(1.) This place and the like showeth not what man will do, but what he ought to do. We left God ere he left us; therefore, we should be first in returning, as we were first in forsaking: the wronged party may in justice tarry for our submission; but yet, such is the Lord's kindness, that he loveth us first, 1 John iv. 19. (2.) Precepts to duty are not measures of strength: there is no good argument a mandato ad effectum, from what ought to be done to what can or shall be done. These things are expressed thus for another purpose: to show God's right, to convince the creature of weakness, to show us our duty, that man's endeavour is required, and that we should do our utmost, to convince us wherein we have failed, &c. (3.) These precepts are not useless; to the elect they convey grace. God fulfilleth what he commandeth: evangelical commands carry their own blessing with them; for, by the co-working of the Spirit, by this means they are stirred up and made to draw near to God. Towards others they are convincing, and show us our obstinacy and contumacy; we will not come to God, and lie at the foot of his sovereignty, saying, O Lord, 370thou hast said, Turn to me, and I will turn to you: `Turn us and. we shall be turned; draw us and we shall draw near to thee, Jer. xxxi. 18. Men pretend cannot; the truth is they will not come, hungry to the table, thirsty to the fountain; they will not lie at God's feet for grace: so that those precepts convince the reprobate, and leave them without excuse. I shall conclude all with that sweet saying of Bernard, Nemo te quaerere potest, nisi qui prius invenerit; vis igitur inveniri ut quaeraris, quaeri ut inveniaris; potes quidem inveniri, non tamen praeveniri—none can be aforehand with God; we cannot seek him till we have found him; he will be sought that he may be found, and found that he may be sought: it is grace that must bring us to grace; and the stray sheep cannot be brought home unless it be upon Christ's shoulders.
2. Secondly, The next consideration of the words is, as they respect Christians already converted and called; and so the sense is, draw more near to God every day in a holy communion, and you shall have more grace from him. The note is:—
Obs. That gracious hearts should always be renewing their accesses to God by Christ. So 1 Peter ii. 5, `Coming to Christ as a living stone;, always coming to him in every duty, in every want. This maintaineth and increaseth grace, and maketh your lives sweet and comfortable, Drawing nigh to God is not the duty of an hour, or in season only at first conversion, but the work of our whole lives.
And he will draw nigh to you; that is, he will make us find that he is near to us by his favour and blessing. You have the like promise, Zech. i. 3, `Turn unto me, and I will turn unto you., So Mal. iii. 7, `Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts.,
Obs. 1. Observe, that the way to have God to turn to us in mercy, is to turn to him in duty. This is the standing law of heaven; God will not vary from it; it is the best way for God's glory, and for the creatures, good. Mercies are most sweet and good to us when we are prepared for them by duty. Do not divide then between mercy and duty. Expectations in God's way cannot be disappointed. The prophet saith, Hosea x. 11, `Ephraim is an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn, but not to break the clods. The mouth of the beast that treadeth out the corn was not to be muzzled; in that work they had plenty of food. The meaning—Ephraim would have blessings, but could not endure the yoke of obedience. We are apt to lie upon the bed of ease, and securely look what God will do, but do not stir up ourselves to what we should do.
Obs. 2. God will be near those that are careful to hold communion with him. See Ps. cxlv. 18, `The Lord is nigh to all that call upon him, io all that call upon him in truth., Nigh to bless, to comfort, to quicken, to guide, to support them. Let it encourage us to come to God, yea, to run to him; we are sure to speed. The father ran to meet the returning prodigal, Luke xv. 18. He will prevent us with loving-kindness: `When they call I will answer, when they cry I will say, Here am I, Isa. lviii. 9. What have you to say to me? what would you have from me? Here am I to satisfy all your desires. Nay, elsewhere it is said, Isa. lxv. 24, `Before they call, I will answer, 371&c. When they do address themselves to seek God, he is nigh to counsel, to quicken, to enlighten, to defend; ready with blessing ere your imperfect desires can be formed into a request. So Ps. xxxii. 5, `I said, I will confess, and thou forgavest, &c. As soon as David had but conceived a repenting purpose, he felt the comfort of a pardon.
Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, &c.—From the connection of this precept with the former you may observe:—
Obs. That unclean persons can have no commerce with God. You must be holy ere you can draw nigh to him; conformity is the ground of communion: Mat. vi. 9, `Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God., So Josh. xxiv. 19, `You cannot serve the Lord, for he is an holy God, &c. Without holiness God cannot endure our presence; he `will not take the wicked by the hand, Job viii. 20. And we cannot endure his presence: `The sinners in Zion will be afraid, Isa. xxxiii. 14. Well, then, when you would have free converse with God, come with a holy heart; there is special purgation required before worship. The Israelites were to wash themselves when they heard the law, Exod. xix. And David saith, Ps. xxvi. 6, `I will wash mine hands in innocency: and so compass thine altar, O Lord., He hath respect to the solemn washing, which God had appointed for such as came to the altar, Exod. xl. Again, if you would have sweet converse with God in your ways, walk holily; the Spirit of God loveth to dwell cleanly. See Ps. xxiv. 3, 4, `He that hath clean hands, and an holy heart, shall stand in his holy hill., Generally it was the custom of the eastern countries to wash before worship. The very heathen gods would be served in white, the emblem of purity.
Cleanse your hands.—It noteth good works; as pureness of heart implieth faith and holy affections. Thus it is often taken in scripture, as Job xvii. 9, `The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that is of pure hands shall grow stronger and stronger., Therefore washing the hands was a sign of innocency, as Pilate did in the matter of Christ. Thus the apostle Paul biddeth us, 1 Tim. ii. 8, to `lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting., So God telleth the Israelites, Isa. i. 15, 16, `Your hands are full of blood; wash you, make you clean, &c. When we come to empty the fountain of goodness, we must not do it with impure hands. The hands in all these places are put synecdochically for the whole body, and all the external organs of the soul, because they are principally employed in the accomplishing of many sins, as in bribes, rapine, lust, fights, &c.
Obs. Observe, that the Lord hath required not only holy hearts, but holy hands. The goodness of your hearts must appear in the integrity of your conversations. When men's actions are naught, they pretend their hearts are good. Is there no evil in the hand? The heart must be pure and the way undefiled, that we may neither incur blame from within nor shame from without; and when sin is once committed, the hand must be cleansed as-well as the heart. It is in vain to pretend repentance and washing the heart, when the hand is full of bribes or ill-gotten goods, and no restitution is made.
Ye sinners.—In this first clause he speaketh to men openly vicious, 372such as were tainted with the guilt of outward and manifest sins; so the word sinners is used in this place, as elsewhere, where it is put in definitely. So John ix. 31, `The Lord heareth not sinners;, that is, men of a corrupt life. So Mary Magdalene is called `a sinner,322322The belief that the `woman which was a sinner, was Mary Magdalene seems to have been entertained by all the English writers of the seventeenth century.—ED. Luke vii. 37, that is, openly profane. So, `He eateth and drinketh with sinners, Mat. xi. 9, and Luke xv. 2. Now the chief work of open sinners is to cleanse the hands, or reform the life, that by such representations they may be beaten off from the fond presumption of a good heart whilst the life is scandalous.
Purify your hearts.—He speaketh this, partly because in this latter clause he dealeth with hypocrites, whose life is plausible enough, their main care should be about their hearts; partly because all cometh out of the heart.
Obs. Observe, if you would have a holy life, you must get a clean heart. True conversion beginneth there; spiritual life, as well as natural, is first in the heart. See 1 Peter ii. 11, 12, `Abstain from fleshly lusts . . . having your conversations honest., First mortify the lusts, then the deeds of the body of sin. If you would cure the disease, purge away the sick matter, not only stop the flux of the humours; lest sin return again, cast salt into the spring: Isa. lv. 7, `Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, &c. Mark, not only his way or course of life, but his thoughts, the frame of his heart; the heart is the womb of thoughts, and thoughts are the first issues and out-goings of corruption: Mat. xv. 19, `Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, &c. First the thoughts, then the practices. Well, then, they are foolish and vain men that are over-industrious about the outward man, washing the outside of cups and platters, Mark vii., altogether for dressing up a garb and pretence of religion. That which God looketh after and loveth is `truth in the inward parts, Ps. li. 6. God will easily find us out under our disguise, as the prophet did Jeroboam's wife. Be not careful merely of honour before the people, but of your hearts before God; and let conscience be dearer to you than credit. Many are sensible of failings in the carriage, because they betray and expose us to shame; you should be as sensible of distempers in the heart; lusts must not be digested without regret and remorse, no more than sins.
Ye double-minded, δίψυχοι.—The word signifieth `of two hearts, or `two souls., An hypocrite hath `an heart and an heart, which is odious to God; they halt between God and Baal, and deny the religion which they profess; their thoughts are divided, and their affections hover always in a doubtful suspense between God and the world. See the notes on chap. i. 8.
He now prescribeth them another remedy against their carnal affections and practices; it is proposed with the more earnestness, because of the calamity then ready to fall upon the people and nation of the Jews.
Be afflicted, ταλαιπωρήσατε. What is the meaning? Must we 373draw affliction and unnecessary troubles upon ourselves? I answer—(1.) It must be understood of some commendable afflicting ourselves; and therefore must either imply that our corporal afflictions and distresses ought to be borne patiently. `Be afflicted;, that is, if God bring it upon you, bear it, be content to be afflicted; it is our duty to be what God would have us to be; let your will be done when the Lord's is. Or else, (2.) Know your misery, be sensible of it; it is some happiness to know our misery. Man, in a proud obstinacy, choketh his grief and stifleth conviction. Or else (3.) It noteth compassion and fellow-feeling of others, sorrows. A member is sensible of pain as long as it holdeth the body: Heb. xiii. 3, `As being in the body, &c. A pinch or wound in the arm discomposeth the whole body; members will have a care of one another. Or else, (4.) And so most properly to the context, humbling and afflicting the soul for sin; sorrow seemeth to be made for that purpose and use.
Obs. Observe, if we would not be afflicted of God, we should afflict ourselves for sin. Voluntary humiliations are always best and sweetest; they please God best, and they do us most good. God is most pleased then. Christ was `wounded with one of the spouse's eyes, Cant. iv. 9. The angels rejoice at the creatures, repentance, Luke xv. 7. Some say there shall be godly sorrow in heaven, because there will be memory and remembrance of sins in heaven, and because it is rather a perfection than an oppression of nature. But that is a strain beyond elah;323323The highest note in the old musical notation.—ED. there all `tears are wiped from our eyes., But, however, it is pleasing to heaven, to God, and angels; and then these self-afflictings do us most good. Voluntary mournings prevent enforced. `Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted, Mat. v. 4, that do it freely, and of their own accord. It is one of the attributes of God, `he comforteth those that are cast down, 2 Cor. vii. 6. You see it preventeth misery; if not, it comforteth in misery. This mourning hath always a joy going along with it. Chrysostom observeth that the greatest mourner in Israel was the sweet singer in Israel. A Christian is never more truly joyful than after, yea, in godly sorrow. True conviction of sin is caused by `the Comforter, John xvi. 8. There is consolation mixed with it. Besides, it is of great profit to the soul. The rain maketh the ground flourish; and melted metals are fit to receive any stamp. `By the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better, Eccles. vii. 3. It is bitter physic, but it procureth health. Holy tears are the sponge of sin; a hard heart must be soaked, and a filthy heart must be washed in this water. We are most considerate when most pensive. Besides all this, the issue and end of it is very sweet. God will `revive the spirit of the humble, and restore comfort to the mourners, Isa. lvii. 15. Well, then, be afflicted; it is a hard duty, but of great profit. Make your sorrow to draw water for the sanctuary; affections, like the Gibeonites, must not be abolished, but kept for temple uses.
And mourn and weep.—Why so many words to one purpose? The whole verse and the next is of the same strain. I answer—(1.) It is a hard duty, and needeth much enforcement.
Obs. 1. Flesh and blood must be much urged to acts of sorrow. They 374are painful to the body, and burdensome to the mind^ Frothy spirits love their pleasure and ease: `The fool's heart is in the house of mirth, Eccles. vii. A loose, garish spirit doth not love to converse with mournful objects, or to be pressed to mourning duties. It showeth how instant and earnest we should be in pressing such duties as these. Oh! `weep, `mourn, `be afflicted., It is one of the fancies now in fashion, men would be altogether honeyed and oiled with grace; the wholesome severities of religion are distasted. Some that would be taken for Christians of the highest form are altogether prejudiced against such doctrines as this is, and think we are legal when we press humiliation. How may the poor ministers of the gospel go to God, and say as Moses did, Exod. vi. 12, `The children of Israel have not hearkened unto me, how then shall Pharaoh hear me?, Lord, the professors will not brook such doctrine as this is, how shall we hope to prevail with the poor, blind, carnal world? Certainly it is very sad that that which was wont to be a badge of profaneness men should now adopt it into their religion; I mean, scoffing at doctrines of repentance and humiliation.
Obs. 2. It is a necessary duty; those that will be Christians must look to mourn. The Spirit descended in the form of a dove, to note both meekness and mourning. Christian affections will be tender. God's glory cannot be violated, but your heart will even bleed if it be right: Ps. cxix. 136, `Rivers of tears run down mine eyes, because thy law is made void., When sins are common, your souls will `weep sore in secret places, Jer. xiii. 17. If afflictions light on God's heritage, you will have a fellow-feeling, Rom. xii. 15. Nay, there will be not only occasions offered without, but within. Your own sins, your own wants. Your sins: Lam. v. 16, `Woe is us, for we have sinned., Times shall come when you shall have occasion to mourn like the doves of the valleys. Oh! woe the time that ever I sinned against God! Your wants and needs: all gracious supplies are to be fetched out this way. The disciple is not above his Lord. `By prayers, and tears, and strong cries, &c., Heb. v. 7. His requests were uttered with deep sighs. Christ, that shed his blood, did also shed tears; and if he were `a man of sorrows, certainly we must not be men and women of pleasures. Well, then, do not call mourning melancholy. The world dealeth perversely with the children of God; they provoke their sorrow, and then upbraid them with it; your sins and injuries give them occasion to mourn, and then you blemish the holy profession, as if it were mopishness and melancholy. Those tears that you see upon the eyes of God's children are either shed for their own sins or yours. If for yours, you should not upbraid them, but bear them company; mourn with these doves of the valleys. If for their own, `a stranger doth not intermeddle with their joys., The sun shineth many times while it raineth: there may be joy in their hearts whilst there are tears in their eyes. Again, it serveth to press us to this duty: better be a `mourner in Zion, than a `sinner in Zion., The mourners were marked for preservation. Though it be a duty against the heart and hair, yet imitate those holy ones of God that `watered their couches with tears, Ps. vi. 6, that wished `their heads to be fountains of water, Jer. ix. 1. It is likely you will come short 375of them, but high aims and attempts in duty will do you no hurt. He that shooteth at the sun, though he come far short, will shoot higher than he that aimeth at a shrub; it is best to eye the highest and worthiest examples. Again, it showeth how little of a Christian is found in them that are strangers to godly sorrow, that bathe and steep their souls in fleshly delights. Christ was `a man of sorrows, and the Spirit is a `mourning dove., I confess some Christians are of a sadder temper than others; the Spirit acteth with difference and variety; in some more mournfully, in others more raisedly. Some men's lives are spent in the silence of meditation, others in the heat of service, in doing and suffering for God. The one makes use of Christ's love, like holy Niobes, to dissolve and melt away their souls in tears; the other to quicken themselves to action and more resolution for God. But certainly every Christian is of tender bowels, and they will find frequent occasions of mourning; and unless we be well humbled, we can hardly do well or suffer well.
Obs. 3. The next reason of this multiplication of words is to show that we must continue and persevere in it. We would soon turn over our hard lesson, and love not to dwell upon sad thoughts; therefore the apostle returneth the duty again and again to our care: `Be afflicted, and then `mourn, and then `weep., Sorrow doth not work till it be deep and constant, and the arrows stick fast in the soul. David saith, `My sin is ever before me, Ps. li. 3. We must be held to it; slight sorrows are soon cured. Mourning is a holy exercise, by which the soul is every day more and more weaned from sin, and drawn out to reach after God. Well, then, it checketh those that content themselves with a hasty sigh, and a little blowing upon the matter: judge you, is this being afflicted and mourning and weeping? Check such a vain heart as would presently run out into the house of mirth again. But you will say, Would you have us turn Heraclites, to be always weeping? I answer—(1.) True it is that sorrow befitteth this life rather than joy. Now we are `absent from the Lord, under the burden of a `vile body, and vicious affections; it is our pilgrimage; we have only a few `songs., God's statutes, Ps. cxix. 54. The communion that we have with God in ordinances is but little. Grace is mixed with sin, faith with doubts, knowledge with ignorance, and peace with troubles. Now `we groan., Rom. viii. 23. We are waiting and groaning for a full and final deliverance. We are as they that `pass through the valley of Baca, Ps. lxxxiv. 6; the Septuagint read δακρύων, tears. (2.) There are some special seasons and occasions of mourning, as chiefly in the time of God's absence: `When the bridegroom is gone, then shall they mourn, Mat. ix. 15; when we have lost the comforts and refreshings of God's presence, or the quickenings of his Spirit. The absence of the sun maketh the earth languish; when you have lost the shine of his countenance, you should cry after him. So in times of great guilt, public or personal: `Deep calleth on deep, and floods to floods;, the deluge of sins upon the flood of holy tears. So in times of great distempers, and the growing of carnal lusts. The persons to whom the apostle speaketh were envious, proud, covetous, ambitious, and he biddeth them `weep and mourn, &c. Salt water and bitter potions kill the worms; so doth 376bitter weeping fleshly lusts: the exercises of repentance are the best means for the mortifying of carnal desires. So in times when judgments are threatened. Thunder usually causeth rain; and threatenings should draw tears from us. So in times of calamity, when judgments are actually inflicted: Isa. xxii. 12, `Then the Lord called to sackcloth, and baldness, and ashes., So also in times of great mercies, it is a fit season to remember our unkindness; the warm sun melts: she wept much, because she was pardoned much, Luke vii. 38, with 47. When Christ had washed her soul with his blood, she washed his feet with her tears.
Let your laughter be turned into mourning.—He meaneth their carnal rejoicing in their outward comforts and possessions, they being gotten by rapine and violence, as in the context. Observe hence:—
Obs. 1. That it is a good exchange to put away carnal joy for godly sorrow; for then we put away a sin for a duty, brass for gold; yea, we have that in the duty which we expected in the sin, and in a more pure, full, and sweet way. God will give us that in sorrow which the world cannot find in pleasure; serenity, and contentment of mind. When the world repenteth of their joy, you will never repent of your sorrow, 2 Cor. vii. 10. Solomon saith, Prov. xiv. 13, `The end of that mirth is heaviness., Worldly comforts in the issue and close grow burdensome; but who ever was the sadder for the hours of repentance? Job `cursed the day of his birth, but who ever cursed the day of his new birth? In this exchange of laughter for sorrow, you give that which is good for nothing for that which is useful to your souls. Eccles. ii. 2, 3, `I have said of laughter, thou art mad;, that is, it bringeth forth no solid comfort or profit. When we turn our laughter into mourning, God will turn our mourning into laughter: John xvi. 20, `Ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy., Out of these salt waters God breweth the wine of spiritual consolation. It is the curse of wicked men that their joy will be `bitterness in the issue:, their wine proveth at length to be like `the gall of asps;, a cup of deadly drink to their conscience. Well, then, be not prejudiced against godly sorrow. Planctus lugentium are better then plausus theatrorum, the saddest duties are sweeter then the greatest triumphs, and the worst and most afflicted part of godliness is better than all the joys and comforts of the world. It is better to have your good things to come, than here: Luke xvi. 21, he lived in jollity, but his good days were past. Do not measure things by the present sweetness, but by the future profit; that which droppeth honey may prove wormwood. See Luke vi. 25, `Woe unto you that laugh now, for you shall weep, &c.
Obs. 2. That an excellent way to moderate the excess of joy is to mix it with some weeping. He speaketh to men drunk with their present happiness, and his drift is to awaken them out of their sense less stupor. The way to abate one passion is to admit the contrary: in abundance there is danger; therefore in your jollity think of some mournful objects. Nazianzen reporteth of himself that this was his practice, when his mind was likely to be corrupted with happiness, τοῖς θρένοις συγγίγνομαι, &c., to read the Lamentations of Jeremiah,324324Naz. Orat. 13. 377and to inure his soul to the consideration of matters sad and mournful. It was God's own physic to Belshazzar, in the midst of his cups to bring him to think of his ruin by a handwriting upon the wall. Well, then, when your mountain standeth strong, think of changes; evils come upon us unawares when we give up our hearts to joy. The secure carnalist would not so much as suppose a possibility of his death that night, Luke xii. 19. Better it was with Job, chap. iii. 25, `The evil which I greatly feared is come upon me., The cockatrice killeth us not if we see it first.
And your joy to heaviness.—In all the context he noteth them as carnal, and as glorying in oppressing one another; such a joy and laughter is intended by which secure sinners please themselves in their present success, putting off all thoughts of imminent judgments.
Obs. That prosperous oppression is rather matter of sorrow than joy to us. You laugh now, but God will laugh hereafter when your calamities and fears come, Prov. i. 20, Ps. xxxvii. 12, 13. Wicked men and carnal oppressors have never so much cause to be humbled as when they are prosperous; it is but a sure pledge of their speedy ruin. Now you despise others, scoff at the servants and ways of God; you puff, and the children of God sigh; see Ps. xii. 5. Oh! how will you hang the head when the scene is changed, and you are become objects of public scorn and contempt, and the children of God in a holy admiration shall say, as those in the prophet, `Where is the rage of the oppressor now?, Isa. li. 13. Oh! that men would awaken conscience, and say, I am a-laughing and triumphing; have I not more cause to howl and mourn? &c.
The apostle goeth on inculcating and pressing the same duty upon them; and lest they should rest in external exercises, he useth a word which more properly implieth the inward acts of the soul. Observe, from the context:—
Obs. It is not the outward expressions that God looketh after in mourning, but the humble heart. God, that is a spirit, doth not reckon so much of bodily exercise. Tears, and cries, and beating of the body may all be counterfeit, or else done without a principle of grace; and many times there may be inward humiliation where a dry brain doth not yield tears. Godly sorrow doth not always keep the road, and vent itself by the eyes. Papists place much in tears and afflicting the body. The spirit-work is the more difficult; old wine and old bottles may well agree together, but not new wine and old bottles. Duties that require much spirit and soul-acts are too strong for weak men. I allude to Christ's expression concerning spiritual fasting, Mat. ix. 15, 16. Old carnal hearts cannot endure the rigour of such spiritual duties. Well, then, in your first duties see that ye do not only mourn and weep, but humble your souls. When ye confess sins, it is not words and tears that God looketh after, but a deep shame and feeling of the evil of your natures, iniquities of life, and defects in obedience. When you pray, look not so much at the outward heat and vehemency: the bodily spirits being agitated, there 378will be much contention and earnestness of speech; but see that the soul do reach forth after God by the tendency of holy ardours and desires. In the confessing of public sins, it is not the exact enumeration, apt language, but zeal for God's glory, compassion for others, good, holy desires of promoting righteousness, which the Lord looketh after. Ashes and sackcloth are nothing to the work of the soul: Isa. lviii. 5, `Will you call this a fast, or an acceptable day to God?, &c.
In the sight of the Lord.—The like passage is in 1 Peter v. 6; but there it is `Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, &c. That expression implieth a motive or consideration to enforce the duty, but this in our apostle the sincerity of it. Observe hence:—
Obs. 1. That duties are then truly done when they are done as in God's sight. The dread and reverence of God maketh the heart more sincere; so James i. 27, `Pure religion and undefiled before God, &c.; so 1 Peter iii. 21, `The answer of a good conscience towards God, &c. In the presence of God would you make such an answer? So Ps. cxix. 168, `I have kept thy testimonies, for all my ways are before thee;, there was David's motive. Well, then, in all duties of worship remember that you are before God; there is a broad and pure eye of glory fixed upon you. You have to do with God, that `telleth man his thought, that discerneth your spirits better than you do yourselves. That is a right address which is described, Acts x. 33, `We are all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God., Here we come to pray, to hear, to humble ourselves before God. The soul will have a double advantage by such thoughts; the work will be more spiritual, and more pure and up right. More spiritual: I am not to be humbled before man, but before God. `Man looketh on the outward appearance, but God on the frame of the heart, 1 Sam. xvi. 7. Will this satisfy God? `Is it such a fast as he hath chosen?, Isa. lviii. 5. So also more pure and upright. Whatever a man doth to God, he will do it for God's sake: religious duties will be performed upon reasons of religion, not for custom and company, but for God, to God.
Obs. 2. The sight of God is an especial help to humiliation. The soul becometh humble by the true knowledge of God and ourselves: Job xlii. 6, `Mine eye seeth thee, therefore I abhor myself in dust and ashes., When he had a glorious apparition of God he vanished into nothing in his own thoughts. The stars vanish when the sun ariseth; and our poor candle is slighted into a disappearance when the glory of God ariseth in our thoughts. We see our wants in God's fulness; the ocean maketh us ashamed of our own drop; and we see our vileness in God's majesty. What is the balance dust to a mountain, and our wickedness in comparison of God's holiness? Elijah wrapt his face in a mantle ^when God's glory passed before him, 1 Kings xix. 13. So Isaiah crieth out, `I am undone, I am undone, a man of polluted lips, when God showed him his glory, Isa. vi. 5. Upon any apparition of God to the faithful they were filled with a fear because of their own weakness and corruption. Well, then, it directeth us how to be humble in our addresses to God; get as large and comprehensive thoughts of him as you can; see his glory, if you would know your own 379baseness. Men are slight in duties, because they have low thoughts of God. They offered the Lord `a corrupt thing, because they did not consider he was `a great king, Mal. i. 14. The elders that saw God in his glory, `fell down upon their faces, Rev. vi.
And he shall lift you up.—What doth this promise imply? I answer—It is meant of any kind of happiness and felicity; either deliverance out of trouble: `The Lord heareth the desires of the humble, Ps. x. 17; advancement in the world to honour, or any outward dignity: Prov. xxix. 23, `A man's pride shall bring him low, but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit., Though places of advancement be slippery, yet the humble shall be continued and upheld. So for advancement in grace or glory: Mat. xviii. 4, `Whosoever shall humble himself as a little child, the same shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven;, that is, have most grace and glory. Learn hence:—
Obs. That submission and humility is the true way to exaltation. It is often repeated in the gospel: `He that humbleth himself shall be exalted, and he that exalteth himself shall be abased;, see Luke xiv. 11; Mat. xxiii. 12. We are all by nature proud, and would be exalted; the way to rise is to fall. God gave us a pattern of it in Jesus Christ. First, `He emptied himself, and humbled himself to the death of the cross; wherefore God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name above all names, Phil. ii. 5-9. Well, then, would you have deliverance? humble yourselves. The lion spareth the prostrate prey. Omnipotence will not be your terror, but protection. Would you have grace? see more of God. He that is in the low pits seeth stars in the daytime. Would you have your outward station firm? the Lord will uphold the humble. Would you have the comforts of the Spirit and the preferment of grace? the Lord will `revive the spirit of the humble, Isa. lvii. 15. You are God's second heaven: `I will dwell with the contrite spirit., The world looketh upon humility as the way to make us contemptible; when we stoop, we think every one will tread upon us. You see in the vote and sentence of the promises it is the way to be exalted either in the favour of God or men. Lastly, out of all we may be encouraged to wait upon God with a holy humility and confidence in our low estate: Job xxii. 29, `When men are cast down thou shalt say, There is a lifting up; and he shall save the humble person., When all thy affairs `go to decay, thou mayest bear up on these hopes. In Peter it is, 1 Peter v. 6, `He shall lift thee up in due time., Wait God's leisure, and the promise shall surely be fulfilled; only be humble, not only morally, but graciously. Gracious humiliation is a deep sense of our misery and vileness, with a desire to be reconciled to God upon any terms.
Ver. 11. Speak not evil of one another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
Here the apostle cometh to dissuade them from another sin, of which he had impleaded them guilty before, and that is detraction and speaking evil of one another.
Speak not evil of one another, brethren, μὴ καταλαλεῖτε ἀλλήλων, speak not one against another. The word implieth any speaking 380which is to the prejudice of another, be it true or false; the scripture requiring that our words should suit with love as well as truth. Note hence:—
Obs. That speaking evil of one another doth not become brethren and Christians. A citizen of Sion is thus described: Ps. xv. 3, `He backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour., So there is an express law: Lev. xix. 16, `Thou shalt not go up and down as a tale-bearer among the people., Rokel, saith Ainsworth,325325See Ainsworth in Lev. xix. 16. signifieth a merchant or trafficker up and down with spices; thence the word rakil, there used for one that wandereth from place to place uttering slanders as wares. These pedlars will be always opening their packs, Thus I have heard of such and such a one, &c.; these were not to be suffered in Israel. There are several kinds of evil-speaking: they may be all ranked under two heads—whispering and backbiting. Whispering is a privy defamation of our brother among those that think well of him; backbiting is more public, before every one promiscuously. Now both may be done many ways, not only by false accusations, but by a divulging of their secret evils, by extenuating their graces, by increasing or aggravating their faults, and defrauding them of their necessary excuse and mitigation, by depraving their good actions through the supposition of sinister aims; by mentioning what is culpable, and enviously suppressing their worth. It were easy to run out upon this argument, but I contain myself. Well, then, if all this misbecometh brethren, do not give way to it in yourselves, nor give ear to it in others. (1.) Do not give way to it in yourselves; nature is marvellously prone to offend in this kind, therefore you must lay on the greater restraints, especially when the persons whom you would blemish profess religion: Num. xii. 8, `Were you not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?, Mark the πάθος, or emphasis of that expression: What! against my servant? against Moses? You should be afraid to speak against any one, much more against those whom God hath a mind to honour. This is the devil's proper sin; he is `the accuser of the brethren, Rev. xii. 10. He doth not commit adultery, break the Sabbath; these are not laws to him; but he can bear false witness, dishonour parents, accuse the brethren; and yet what more common amongst us? John Baptist's head in a charger is a usual dish at our meals. When men's hearts are warm with wine and good cheer, then God's children are brought in, like Samson among the Philistines, to make them sport. Oh! consider, God will surely recompense this into your bosoms; either in this life—`They that judge are judged, Mat. vii. 1; men are bold with their names, because they were not tender in meddling with others; or in the life to come, without repentance. It is said of the wicked, Ps. lxiv. 8, `Their own tongue shall fall upon them., How unsupportable is the weight of the sins of this one member! (2.) Do not give way to it in others: your ears may be as guilty as their tongues; therefore such whisperings should never be heard without some expression of dislike. Solomon commendeth a frown and the severity of the countenance: Prov. xxv. 23, `As the north wind driveth away rain, so doth an 381angry countenance a backbiting tongue., They are discouraged when they do not meet with compliance. David would not have such to dwell in his house, Ps. ci. 5. Certainly our countenancing them draweth us into a fellowship of the guilt. Now if we must not receive these whispers against an ordinary brother, much less against a minis ter; there is express provision for the safety of their repute and credit: `Against an elder receive not, &c., 1 Tim. v. 19; partly because men are apt to hate him that reproveth in the gate, and so they are liable to be traduced; partly because men in office are most observed and watched, see Jer. xx. 12, and Ezek. xxxiii. 30; and partly because their credit is of most concernment for the honour of the gospel: therefore we should not easily hear those that are `talking of them by the walls and doors of the houses, as it is in the prophet.
For he that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother.—In that word judgeth the apostle showeth what their censuring amounted to, a usurping of God's office, and a passing sentence upon their brethren; and also what kind of evil-speaking he principally intendeth; that is, for things merely indifferent, as observation of days, meats, and the like, see Rom. xiv. 3, 4. Observe hence:—
Obs. That censuring is a judging: you arrogate an act of power which doth not belong to you. When you are advanced into the chair of arrogance and censure, check yourselves by this thought, Who gave me this superiority? The question put to Moses may well be urged, in the behalf of our wronged brethren, to our souls: `Who made thee a judge over us?, Exod. ii. 14. Paul useth the same disuassion, Rom. xiv. 4, `Who art thou that judgest another man's servant?, &c.
Speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law.—How can this be? Several ways may this sentence be made good. I shall name the principal.
First, Every sin is a kind of an affront to the law that forbiddeth it; for, by doing quite contrary, we do in effect judge the law not fit or worthy to be obeyed. As, for instance, in the present case, the law forbiddeth rash judgment, and speaking evil one of another; but the detractor approveth that which the law condemneth, and so in effect judgeth the law to be not good or equal. From hence observe:—
Obs. That sin is a judging of the law. It is said to David, 2 Sam. xii. 9, `Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight?, In the rage of his lust David looked upon it as a slight law. Observe it when you will, you will find that in sinning there are some implicit evil thoughts by which the law of God is disvalued and disapproved; we think it unworthy, hard, or envious, or unequal. Those wretches speak out that which is the silent language of every sinful action: Ezek. xviii. 25, `The ways of the Lord are not equal, the ways of the Lord are not equal., The heart of man is by nature obstinately and vehemently set upon lust, revenge, censuring; therefore, in all these cases, we are most apt to think the law of God hard and injurious to the liberty of man, and that God hath dealt enviously with our natures to deny them the pleasures which we so strongly pursue. This was the devil's first insinuation against God, he seeketh to work Adam into hard thoughts of God's restraint: Gen. iii. 5, `God knoweth, that in the day ye eat thereof, your eyes shall be 382opened., And still it is Satan's great policy to represent God as a hard taskmaster, and to make us think evil of the law; therefore Paul seeketh to prevent such thoughts, when the law checked his lusts and brought him into a sense of inevitable misery: Rom. vii. 12, `The law is holy, and the commandment just and good;, but was that good which caused death to him? Yes, saith he, I look upon it still as a rule of right; it is I am carnal, my heart is wicked, &c. Well, then, you see how to make sin odious; it is a despising of the law, a speaking evil of the law; it slighteth that rule which it violateth.
Secondly, They were wont, in that age to condemn one another for things indifferent, merely upon their own will and sense, without any warrant and sentence from the word, as you may see, Rom. xiv. Now this was a kind of condemning of the law, as if it were not full and exact enough, but needed to be pieced up by man's institutions.
Obs. Observe, that to make more sins than God hath made, is to judge the law. You imply it to be an imperfect rule: men will be wise beyond God, and bind others in chains of their own making. It is true there is an `obedience of faith, by which the understanding must be captivated to God, but not to men; to the word, not to every fancy. There is a double superstition, positive and negative; the one when men count that holy which God never made holy, the other when men condemn that which God never condemned. They are both alike faulty; we are not in the place of God; it is not in our power to make sins or duties: `Touch not, taste not, handle not, were the ordinances and precepts of false teachers, Col. ii. 21. There are three things exempted from man's judicatory—God's counsels, the holy scriptures, and the hearts of men. We should not dogmatise and subject men to ordinances of our own making, press our own austerities and rigorous observances as duties. Justice and wisdom is good, but to be `just overmuch, or `wise overmuch, is stark naught, Eccles. vii. 15, 16; that is, to be just or wise beyond the rule. Man is a proud creature, and would fain make his morosity a law to others, and obtrude his own private sense for doctrine. It is usual to condemn everything that doth not please us, as if our magisterial dictates were articles of faith. We must not come in our own name, but judge as the word judgeth, or else we judge the word. The Lord grant we may consider it in this dogmatising age, wherein every one crieth up his private conceit for law, and men make sins rather than find them!
Thirdly, You may conceive it thus: They might discommend and censure others for that which the word approved and allowed, and so did not so much condemn private persons as the law itself. If you take in this consideration, the note will be:—
Obs. That to plead for sins, or to asperse graces, is to judge the word itself. Thus you set the pride of corrupted wit against the wisdom of God in the scriptures: `Woe be to them that call good evil, and evil good; that put light for darkness, and darkness for light; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter, Isa. v. 20. Usually thus it is in the world; grace meeteth with calumny and sin with flattery. Open and gross sins are the more gently stroked, because they have the hap to go away under a good name: drunkenness is good fellowship, censure is conference and good discourse, error is new light, rebellion is zeal of public welfare; but 383grace hath, the hap to suffer under some ill resemblance. As they were wont to deal with Christians in the primitive times, to put them in bearskins, and then to bait them, so graces are miscalled and misrepresented, and then hooted at. The law saith, Be zealous, be peaceable, &c., but in the world's reckoning zeal is fury, peaceableness and holy moderation is time-serving and base compliance; pressing humbling doctrine is legalism, &c. Thus do many deceive themselves with names; but do not you judge the law in all this? The law saith, Sitting at the wine all day is drunkenness, and you call this good fellowship, &c.
But if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge; that is, when thou exercisest such a rash superiority over the law, thou dost clearly exempt thyself from obedience and subjection to it. Observe hence:—
Obs. Those that judge the word, no wonder if they be given over to the disobedience of it. It is done grossly by those that either deny the divine authority of the scriptures, or accuse it, as the Papists do, as an uncertain rule, or examine all the doctrines of it by their private reason, or the writings and precepts of men, &c. And it is done more closely by those that come to judge the word, rather than to be judged by it. It is true, we have a liberty to examine, but we should not come with a mind to cavil and censure. The pulpit, which in a sense is God's tribunal, should not be our bar. The matter delivered must be examined by scripture modestly and humbly, but we must not despise and slight God's ordinance, and come hither merely to sit judges of men's parts or weaknesses. This is the ready way to beget an irreverent and fearless spirit. And then when men lose their awe and reverence, their restraint is gone, and they grow loose, or desperately erroneous. God will punish their pride with some sudden fall. Look to your ends, Christians; you will find a great deal of difference between coming to hear and coming to censure. If you come with such a vain aim, see if you get anything by a sermon but matter of carping, and see if that do not bring you to looseness, and that to atheism. Usually this is the sad progress of proud spirits. First preaching is censured, not examined, then the manners are tainted; then the word itself is questioned, and then men lose all fear of God and man.
He persisteth in the same argument. God the lawgiver is the only judge; and who art thou that thou invadest or usurpest his office?
There is one lawgiver.—But you will say, We can name many others, Lycurgus, Zaleucus, Solon, &c., many who had also potestatem vitae et necis, power of life and death, and many now that make and dispense laws. How is this sentence true? I answer Grotius supposeth the apostle intendeth Christ by this expression, in opposition to Moses, as arguing against those that would continue the use of the ceremonies, and observe difference between days and meats, &c. Now saith he, we in the Christian church have but one lawgiver, Christ, and not Moses. These must not be yoked and coupled together. But this is too argute, and offereth too much force to the context. More 384probably, then, he meaneth—(1.) That there is but one absolute and supreme lawgiver, whose will is the rule of justice. Others are directed by an external rule, and prudent considerations of equity and safety, and therein they are but as God's deputies and substitutes, either in church or commonwealth: 2 Chron. xix. 6, `Ye judge not for man, but for the Lord; the Lord is with you in the matter of judgment., (2.) In spiritual things none else can give laws to the conscience. In external policy the laws and edicts of men are to be observed. But he speaketh of the internal government of the conscience, where God alone judgeth by the word; for he speaketh against those that in indifferent things would set up their own will as a rule of sin or duty. Observe:—
Obs. That God alone can give laws to the conscience. So Isa. xxxiii. 22, `The Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us., Take them in a spiritual sense, and the words are exclusive: God, and no other, our only judge, our only law giver, &c. God only knoweth the conscience, and therefore God only must judge it, and give laws to it. God only can punish the conscience for sin, and therefore he only can make a sin. It is the privilege of his word to `convert the soul, Ps. xix.
Object. There may be an objection framed against this doctrine out of Rom. xiii. 5, where it is said, `Wherefore ye must be subject, not only for wrath, but for conscience, sake., So that men's commands seem to oblige the conscience.
Sol. I answer—They do in a sort, but not in that order and manner that God's do. (1.) Not directly and immediately, but by the intervention of God's command. As a Christian is bound to perform all civil duties upon reasons of religion, we are bound in conscience, though human laws under that quatenus do not bind conscience. So 1 Peter ii. 13, `Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake., It is God's command that bindeth my conscience to observe man's. So Eccles. viii. 2. `I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God;, that is, not only for fear of men, but chiefly for wronging thy conscience towards God. (2.) Not so universally and unlimitedly. I must obey God intuitu voluntatis, upon the bare sight of his will; but I must examine the laws of men, whether they be just, equal, suiting with charity and public safety; and in many cases active obedience must be withheld. Peter and the apostles said, Acts v. 29, `We ought to obey God rather than men., Many such cases there are; but now towards God conscience is bound, though it can see no reason for it, no good from it. (3.) Not so absolutely. Whatever God commandeth, I am bound to do it even in secret, though it be to my absolute prejudice; but now submission to man may be performed by suffering the penalty, though the obedience required be forborne; and in some cases a man may do contrary in private, where the thing is indifferent, and there is no danger of scandal and contempt of authority. Well, then, hear no voice but God's in your consciences, no doctrines in the church but Christ's. When they brought in foreign doctrines, it is said, they `did not hold the head, Col. ii. 19. No offices, institutions, and worship must be allowed but such as he hath appointed. Antiquity without 385scripture is no sure rule to walk by. We must not look what others did before us, but what Christ did before them all.326326`Non attendendum quid alii ante nos fecerint, sed quid Dominus, qui ante omnes.,—Cyprian Epist. de Eucharist. So not the authority of the church; she is `the pillar and ground of truth, 1 Tim. iii. 15, sensu forensi non architectonico; that is, to hold forth Christ's mind, as a post doth a king's proclamation. Some power the church hath in rites of decency, and expediency, and order, by virtue of that general canon, 1 Cor. xiv. 40 (though that text carrieth the face of a restraint rather than an allowance, and doth not so much enlarge as moderate church power, as I have elsewhere cleared), but in the main matters the church can only declare laws, not make them; and though in matters indifferent she can direct to what is suitable to order and decency, yet those directions should be so managed that they do not take away the nature of the thing; and though Christian liberty be restrained, it must not be infringed. It is the injury of antichrist to usurp an authority over the church of God; and this is the very spirit of antichristianism, to give laws to the conscience. Calvin327327Calvinus in locum. saith, Men would have us more modest than to call the Pope Antichrist; but as long as he doth exercise a tyranny over the conscience, we shall never give over that term; nay, we shall go further, saith he, and call those members of antichrist that take such snares upon their consciences. The setting up another lawgiver is properly antichristianism; for then there is one head set against another, and human authority against divine. It is Paul's character of antichrist: 2 Thes. ii. 4, that `he as God sitteth in the temple of God;, that is, making himself absolute lord of consciences, bringing them to his obedience, working them to his advantage.
Who is able to save and to destroy.—It noteth God's absolute power to do with man either temporally or spiritually as he pleaseth. This power is everywhere given to God: Deut. xxxii. 39, `See now, that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and heal; and there is none able to take out of my hand., So 1 Sam. ii. 6, and Isa. xliii. 13. Note hence:—
Obs. 1. That absolute supremacy becometh none but him that hath absolute power. The power of magistrates is limited by the will of God, because they depend upon him, and can do nothing but as they are enabled and authorised by him, John xix. 11.
Obs. 2. God hath an absolute and supreme power on men, and can dispose of them according to his will and pleasure. And therefore we must—(1.) Keep close to his laws with more fear and trembling; there is no escaping this judge, 1 Cor. x. 22. Eternal life and eternal death are in his disposal, Mat. x. 28. (2.) Observe them with more encouragement; live according to Christ's laws, and he is able to protect you: Ps. lxviii. 20, `Our God is the God of salvations, and to him be long the issues of death., He can save his people, and he hath many ways to bring his enemies to ruin. Your friend is the most dreadful enemy; he `hath the keys of death and hell, Rev. i. 18. (3.) Be the more humbled in case of breach of his laws. Oh! what will you do with this lawgiver, who, with the rebuke of his countenance, can turn 386you into hell? see Ezek. xxii. 14. Have you courage and strength enough to withstand God? What will you do with him that is `able to save and destroy?, Wool overcometh the strokes of iron by yielding to them. There is no way left but submission and humble ad dresses. He may be overcome by faith, but not by power: Isa. xxvii. 5, `Take hold of his strength, and you may make peace with him., By humble supplications you may `prevail with God as princes.,
Who art thou that judgest another? that is, what a distance is there between thee and God! what a sorry judge to him! You have the same question, Rom. xiv. 4.
Obs. It is good to shame pride with the consideration of God's glory, and our own baseness. He is `able to save and to destroy;, but `who art thou?, &c.
Having formerly spoken against those that contemned the law, he now speaketh against those that contemned providence, promising themselves a long time in the world, and a happy accomplishment of their carnal projects, without any sense or thought of their own frailty, or the sudden strokes of God. In this verse he doth, as it were, personate them, and give a most accurate representation of their thoughts.
Go to now, ἄγε νῦν.—The vulgar readeth Ecce, as if it were ἴδου, see now, do you do rightly? But we render it better. It is a phrase that provoketh them to consideration, as awakening the attention of conscience, or as citing them before the presence and tribunal of God.328328`Illud ἄγε est formula citationis ad tribunal Dei; sic non nemo in locum., The same adverb is used chap. v. 1. From this opening of the word observe:—
Obs. That if we would know the evil of our actions, it is good to use reviews and reflecting thoughts. We sin and go on in sin because of incogitancy. There should be wise consideration aforehand to prevent the sin, and faithful recollection to prevent the going on in sin. God complaineth, Jer. viii. .6, `No man saith, What have I done?, This recollection citeth the soul before three bars:—(1.) Conscience; (2.) God's eye; and (3.) God's throne or tribunal. It rouseth up the light of conscience by comparing the action or speech with a principle of reason, or the word, as in the present case, thus:—Am I Lord of future events, that I do so confidently determine or define them? Do those things hang on my will? Is my life or actions in mine own power? It draweth the soul into the presence of God thus: Would I have the jealous God, that disposeth of human events and successes, to take notice of such speeches? So before God's judgment seat thus: Would I defend such actions or speeches before the tribunal of God? Will these carnal deliberations endure the severe search and trial of the great day? Thus should you in all cases review your actions, and, as the prophet saith, `Behold your way in the valley, Jer. ii. 23.
Ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, &c.—By an imitation he reciteth the speeches or thoughts of the Jewish factors or merchants. Now we will go to Alexandria, or to Damascus 387or to Antioch, which were the places of their usual traffic. Observe hence:—
Obs. 1. That carnal hearts are all for carnal projects. Thoughts are the purest offspring of the soul, and do discover the temper of it. Men are according to their devices. See Isa. xxxli. 6, 7, `Liberal men devise liberal things., Carnal men are projecting how to spend their days and months in buying and selling and getting gain. The fool in the Gospel is thinking of enlarging his barns, and plucking down `his houses and building greater, Luke xii. 17, 18; this engrosseth all his thoughts. One apostle describeth .such men thus, `Minding earthly things, Phil. iii. 19. Another thus, `Having an heart exercised with covetous practices, 2 Peter ii. 14; that is, with earnest contrivances how to promote their gain and earthly aims. A gracious heart is for gracious projects, how they shall be more thankful, Ps. cxvi. 12; how more holy, more useful for God, more fruitful in every good work; `what they shall do to inherit eternal life., Oh! consider, this is the better care, that more suiteth with the end of our creation and the nature of our spirits. We were sent into the world, not to grow great and pompous, but to enrich our souls with spiritual excellences, &c.
Obs. 2. Again you may observe, that carnal men send out their thoughts to forestall and fore-enjoy their contentments ere they obtain them. It is usual with men to feed themselves with the pleasure of their hopes. Sisera's mother's ladies looked through the lattice, pleasing themselves in the thought of a triumphant return, Judges v. Thoughts are the spies and messengers of the soul; hope sendeth them out after the thing expected, and love after the thing beloved. When a thing is strongly expected, the thoughts are wont to spend themselves in creating images and suppositions of the happiness of enjoyment. If a poor man were adopted into the succession of a crown, he would please himself in the supposition of the future honour and pleasure of the kingly state. Godly men, that are called to be `co-heirs with Christ, are wont to pre-occupy the bliss of their future estate, and so do in a manner feel what they do but expect. So also do carnal men charm their souls with whispers of vanity, and feed themselves with the pleasant anticipation of that carnal delight which they look for; as young heirs spend upon their hopes, and riot away their estate ere they possess it. Well, then, look to it; it is a sure note of fleshliness when the world runneth so often in your thoughts, and you are always deflowering carnal contentments by these anticipations of lust and sin; and you have nothing to live upon, or to entertain your spirit withal, but these suppositions of gain and pomp, and the reversion of some outward enjoyment.
Obs. 3. Again, you may observe their confidence of future events: `We will go, and continue there a year, &c. Note thence, that carnal affections are usually accompanied with, certainly much encouraged by, carnal confidence. They are doubly confident: of the success of their endeavours, `We will get gain;, of the continuance of their lives, `We will continue there a year., Lust cannot be nourished without a presumption of success: when men multiply endeavours, they little think of God, or of the changes of providence: it is enough to undo 388lust to suppose a disappointment; besides, when there is such a presence of means, we ascribe little to the highest cause. First the world stealeth away our affections, and then it intercepteth our trust; there is not only adultery in it, James iv. 4, but idolatry, Eph. v. 5. It is not only our darling, but our god; and that is the reason why worldly men are always represented as men of a secure presumption; as Luke xii. 9, `Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; eat, drink, and be merry;, so Job xxix. 18, `I shall die in my nest, and multiply my days as the sand;, so in that apocryphal passage, Ecclus. xi. 19, `I have found rest, and will eat continually of my goods; and yet he knoweth not what time shall come upon him., They think now they have enough to secure them against all chances. Well, then, look to your confidence and trust; when you are getting an estate, is your expectation founded in faith or lust? When you have gotten an estate, where lieth the assurance of your contentment? in the promises, or your outward welfare?
Obs. 4. Again, from that to-day or to-morrow, and we will tarry there a year. Carnal men are not only confident of present, but future welfare, which argueth an heart stupidly secure, and utterly insensible of the changes of providence: Isa. lvi. 12, `To-morrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant;, Ps. xlix. 11, `Their inward thought is that their houses shall continue for ever., Men love to enjoy their carnal comforts without interruption, thought of death, or change. Every day is as a new life,329329`Singulos dies singulas vitas puta, et quotidie demitur aliqua pars vitae; hunc ipsum quem vivimus diem cum morte dividimus.,—Seneca. and bringeth sufficient care with it; we need not look out for so long time. But worldly men, in their cares, do not only provide for the morrow, but the next year; in their possessions do not only please themselves in their present happiness, but will not so much as suppose a change.
We will continue there, ποιήσομεν—we will factor it there. He chiefly instanceth in trading, and accommodateth his words to the merchant's profession, because too often and too sensibly are these carnal thoughts, hopes, and confidence found in merchants and men versed in worldly trading; though he intendeth to speak against all sorts of men that undertake anything in the confidence of their own wisdom and industry, without the leave and blessing of providence. Therefore observe hence:—
Obs. 1. From the letter of the place, that merchants are very liable to thoughts and discourses savouring of carnal presumption and confidence. In their bourses and exchanges they are always talking of wares, and gain, and traffic, without any thought of God: Hosea xii. 7, `He is a merchant; the balances of deceit are in his hand;, in the original, `he is a Canaanite., Canaan's posterity, upon whom the curse fell, was most happy in this course of life;330330See Samuel Bochartus his Phaleg, the second part. and being driven out of the land by the Israelites into the maritime towns, they were most famous for navigation. It is your ordinary calling to go from place to place; take God along with you wherever you go. Of all men you should be most cautelous: in your commerce be mindful of God and of yourselves; of God s providence and your own frailty, that you 389neither be too much in the world, nor too confidant of your own industry.
Obs. 2. From the scope of the whole verse, that it is a vain thing to promise ourselves great matters without the leave of providence. To say, `We will go, `we will do thus and thus, it is vain; for we are not lords of our lives, nor lords of our own actions: Ps. xxxi. 15, My times are in thy hand;, so Prov. xxvii. 1, `Boast not thyself of to-morrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth., To-day we are, and to-morrow not: we cannot tell what may be in the womb of the next morning. So for our actions: `Their works are in the hand of God, Eccles. ix. 1. The performance of them, and the success of them; we need counsel and a blessing. The prophet speaks of it as of a known case, Jer. x. 23, `O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in the sons of men to direct their steps., But when do men promise themselves great matters without the leave of providence? I answer—Many ways: the principal are these—(1.) When they undertake things without prayer. You may speak of success when you have asked God's leave: Job xxii. 28, `Acquaint thyself with God, then thou shalt decree a thing, and it shall be established., (2.) When they are too confident of future contingencies and events, without any submission and reservation of the will of God, and boast upon mere human likelihoods: see Exod. xv. 11; and Judges, v. 28 30; so 1 Kings xx. 10, 11, `The gods do so to me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria suffice for handfuls for all the people; and the king of Israel said, Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast as he that putteth it off., He would plunder Samaria so bare that he would not leave any dust there; but God disappointed him. (3.) When men's endeavours are set up in God's stead, we think all dependeth upon the course of sublunary causes, and so neglect God. (4.) When men promise themselves a time to repent hereafter.331331`Audies plerosque dicentes, a quinquagesimo in otiuin secedam, sexagesimus annus ab officiis me demittet; et quam tandem longioris vitae praedam accipis? Quis ista sicuti disponis ire patiatur?,—Seneca de Brevitate Vitae. Many think within themselves, I will follow my pleasure and profits, and then spend my old age in a devout and retired privacy; first build, and trade, and bustle in the world, and adjourn God to the aches and dull phlegm of their age. Foolish man decreeth all future events as if all were in his own hands. Well, then, in all cases remember God; it is useful for princes and men employed in counsels for public welfare. How often do they prove unhappy because they do not seek God! We should ask counsel of the oracle before we take it from one another. The heathens saw a need to begin with God.332332`A Jove principium., So for soldiers; how soon is a battle turned! It is not for you to say, `I will pursue, I will overtake, &c. Solomon saith, `The battle is not always to the strong, Eccles. ix. So for traders; you must not say, I will send out a ship and get gain: how often are carnal presumptions checked! So for Christians; do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus; you cannot believe, repent when you will, nor pray as you will. Samson was mistaken when he said, `I will go forth and shake myself as at other 390times., The natural exercise of your faculties, and the divine assistances of grace, do all hang upon God's good pleasure.
Having discovered their carnal presumption, he now disproveth it by two arguments:—(1.) The casualties of the next day; (2.) The uncertainty of their own lives. Both which give a notable check to such fond confidence.
Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.—As if he had said, You talk of a long time, and you know not what shall happen the next day. Every day bringeth new providences and events with it. But you will say, Is it simply unlawful to provide for the morrow, or for time to come? I answer—No; Solomon biddeth us learn of the ant, Prov. vi. 6-8, `Consider her ways, and be wise; she provideth her meat in summer, and gathereth her food in harvest;, so Prov. xxx. 25. It is but a wise foresight to secure ourselves against visible inconveniences. Joseph is commended for laying up food in the cities against the years of famine, Gen. xli. 35. And it was the practice of the apostles to lay up in store for the brethren at Jerusalem against the famine foretold by Agabus, Acts xi. 29. Only remember this must be done with caution; such provision must not arise from distrust, or a thought prejudicial to the care of providence, Mat. vi. 30. It must not hinder us from the great care of our lives, provision for heaven, Mat. vi. 35. It must be with submission to God. God may soon disappoint all; and after we have caught in hunting, we may not roast.
For what is your life? It is even a vapour.—Brevity of life is set forth by many comparisons in scripture: by the flower of the field, Isa. xl. 6, 7; by the wind, Job vii. 7; a leaf before the wind, Job xiii. 25; by a shadow, Job xiv. 2. There is a heap of similitudes, Job ix. 25, `Now my days are swifter than a post; they flee away, and see no good; they pass away as swift ships; as the eagle hasteth to the prey., The word useth the more similitudes, that by every fleeting and decaying object we might be remembered of our own mortality; as also to check those proud desires which are in man of an eternal abode and lasting happiness in this life. In that place of Job there is a monument of man's frailty set forth in all the elements: go to the land, and there is a post; go to the sea, and there is a swift ship; look to the air, and there is an eagle. The heathen poets are much in deciphering the frail estate of man. Æschylus saith, man's life is κάπνου σκία, the shadow of smoke; and Pindarus, σκίας ὄναρ, the dream of a shadow. The similitude used here is that of a vapour. It were to trifle to show the resemblance in other things; it is brought only to show the swift passage of it, and because man's life is but a little warm breath tunned in and out by the nostrils; a narrow passage, and soon stopped, Isa. ii. 22.
Observe out of the whole verse two points:—
Obs. 1. That we have no assurance of our lives and comforts, and the events of the next day. It is a common argument; heathens are 391much in it.333333 `Nemo tam divos habuit faventes crastinum ut possit sibi polliceri.,—Seneca. `Prudens futuri temporis exitum Caliginosa nocte premit Deus.,—Horat. Well, then, let every day's care be enough for itself, and live every day as the last day. Petrarch telleth of one who, being invited to dinner the next day, answered, Ego a multis annis crastinum non habui—I have not had a morrow for these many years. And Ludovicus Capellus telleth us of one Rabbi Eleazer, that advised men to repent but one day before their death, that is, presently; it may be the next before the last. It is a sad thing to promise ourselves many years, and to have our souls taken away that night; to measure out our time and years by our carnal projects, and of a sudden we and all our `white thoughts perish,334334So in both the first and second editions. Probably `our whole thoughts.,—ED. Ps. cxlvi. 4. Godly men wait for their change; upon others it cometh unexpected. It is observable, that of bad men it is said their souls are not resigned, but `taken away, Job xxvii. 8, `What hope hath the hypocrite, when God shall take away his soul?, So Luke xii. 20, `This night shall they take away thy soul., Wicked men would dwell longer in the body; their carnal projects are never at an end, but of a sudden God cometh and snatcheth away their souls.
Obs. 2. Man's life is very short; it is a vapour that soon appeareth and disappeareth, dispersed as soon as raised: Ps. xxxix., `Surely every man walketh in a vain show., Though they toss to and fro, yet the whole course of their lives is but as a flying shadow; a little spot of time between two eternities. Austin doubteth whether to call it a dying life or a living death.335335`Nescio an dicenda sit vita mortalis, an vitalis mors.,—Aug. Confess., lib. i. (1.) This checketh those that pass away their time rather than redeem it; prodigal of their precious time, as if they had too much of it. Our season is short, and we make it shorter. It is time for all of us to say, `The time past is more than enough to have wrought the wills of the flesh, 1 Peter iv. 3, or as it is, Rom. xiii. 11, `It is high time to awake out of sleep, &c., which was the scripture that converted Austin. (2.) If life be short, then moderate your worldly cares and projects; do not cumber yourselves with too much provision for a short voyage. The ship goes the swifter the less it is burdened; men take in too much lading for a mere passage. (3.) Be more in spiritual projects, that you may lay up a foundation for a longer life than you have to live here; do much work in a little time. Shall we lose any part of that which is so short? or in a short life make way for a long misery? The apostle saith, 2 Peter i. 13, `I will put you in remembrance, knowing that shortly I must put off this tabernacle., We are all shortly to divest ourselves of the upper garment of the flesh; let us do all the good that we can. Christ lived but thirty-two years, or thereabouts; therefore he `went about doing good, and healing every sickness, and every disease., Ministers pack their matter close when they have but a little time; so should you; you have but a short time, be the more diligent.392
Having disproved their confidence, he proceeded to rectify it by pressing them to a holy and reverent remembrance of God's providence and their own frailty.
For ye ought to say, If the Lord will.—Here a doubt ariseth. Must we always of necessity use this form of speech, or such an express exception and reservation of providence? I answer—(1.) It is good to accustom the tongue to holy forms of speech; it is a great help: the heart is best when there are such explicit and express exceptions of providence: `If the Lord please, `If the Lord will, `If it please the Lord that I live., A pure lip becometh a Christian, that they may be distinguished by their holy forms, as others are by their oaths, rotten speech, and unholy solicitations. Besides, it is useful to stir up reverence in ourselves, and for others, instruction. Such forms are confessions of divine providence and the uncertainty of human life. (2.) The children of God use them frequently: 1 Cor. iv. 19, `But I will come unto you shortly, if the Lord will;, so 1 Cor. xvi. 7, `I must tarry a while with you, if the Lord permit;, so Rom. i. 10, `Making request, if by any means I might have a prosperous journey to come unto you;, so Phil. ii. 19, `I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly., The children of God know that all their goings are ordered by the Lord; therefore they often use these reservations of his will and power. See also Gen. xxviii. 20, and Heb. vi. 3. (3.) The very heathens, by the light of nature, were wont to use these forms with some religion, and would seldom speak of any purpose of theirs without this holy parenthesis. Plato bringeth in Alcibiades asking Socrates how he should speak,336336`Ἄλλὰ πῶς χρὴ λέγειν; cui respondete: ὃτι ἐάν θεὸς ἐθέλῃ.,—Plato in Timaeo. he answereth, Before every work thou must say, If God will. The Greek σὺν θεῷ,337337See Brissonius de Formulis, lib. i. pp. 68, 69. by the leave or blessing of God, was commonly used in the beginning of every undertaking. What was the practice of the oriental nations, with the story in Bensira, you may see in Gregory's `Observations on some Passages of Scripture, cap. 20. And for the story of the great Turk's murdering one of his Bassas for mentioning a confident purpose without any reservation of God's pleasure, you may see it in Lorinus and Salmeron on this place. (4.) When we use these forms, the heart must go along with the tongue: common speeches, wherein God's name is used, if the heart be not reverent, are but profanations. It is Austin's338338`Discite habere in corde, quod habet omnis homo in lingua, quod vult Deus hoc agat: ipsa lingua popularis est plerunqne, sed doctrina salutaris.,—Aug. in Psal. xxxii. Conc. i. counsel, Do you learn to have in your hearts what every one hath in his tongue: the speeches are common, but the signification is useful. (5.) It is not always necessary to express these forms: though there must be always either implicitly or expressly a submission to the will of God, yet we cannot make it a sin. to omit such phrases. The holy men of God have often purposed things to come, and yet not formally expressed such conditions; as in the third epistle of John, ver. 10, `Wherefore when I come, I will remember his deeds;, and Rom. xv. 24, `Whensoever I take my journey to Spain, I will come to you, &c., and in other places.393
Obs. All our undertakings must be referred to the will of God; not only sacred, but civil actions. Our journeys must not be undertaken without asking his leave; as Jacob, Gen. xxviii. 20 and xxiv. 12, `O Lord God of Abraham thy servant, send me good speed this day., No wonder, if this be neglected, that you meet with so many cross accidents; they do not come from your hard luck, but your profane neglect. But what is it to submit all our actions to the will of God? I answer—(1.) To measure all our actions by his revealed will, that is the rule of duty; we can look for no blessing but upon those ways that suit with it. There must be a submission to his secret will, but first a conformity to his revealed will. Lust hath its θελήματα, its wills, Eph. ii. 2; but we are to serve the will of God till we fall asleep, Acts xiii. 36. (2.) We must the more comfortably undertake any action when we see God in it: Acts xvi. 10, he gathered that God had called him to Macedonia. So when we see God, in the sweet means and course of his providence, or by inward instinct, guiding and leading us, we may with more encouragement walk in the way that he hath opened to us. (3.) When in our desires and requests we do not bind the counsels of God: Mat. xxvi. 39, `Not my will, but thine be done., In temporal things we must submit to God's will, both for the mercy, the means, and time of attainment. Creatures, that cannot ascribe to themselves, must not prescribe to God and give laws to providence, but must be content to want or have as the Lord pleaseth: if anything succeed not well, the Lord would not; that is enough to silence all discontents. (4.) We must constantly ask his leave in prayer, as before was urged. (5.) We must still reserve the power of God's providence, `If the Lord will, `If the Lord permit., God would not have us too carnally confident; it is good to inure the soul to changes. Two things we should often consider to this purpose, and they are both in the text:—(1st.) The sovereignty and dominion of providence: the Lord can blast your enterprise, though managed with never so much wisdom and contrivance; he can nip it in the bud, or check it in the very article of execution; and I have observed that usually God is very tender of his honour in this point, and usually frustrateth proud men that boast of what they will do, and conceive unlimited purposes, without any thought of the check they may receive in providence. It is a flower of the imperial crown of heaven, and the bridle that God hath upon the reasonable creature, to dispose of the success of human affairs; therefore herein God will be acknowledged: Prov. xvi. 9, `A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps., Man designeth, but the execution dependeth wholly upon God's will and providence. In peremptory resolutions there is a contest between us and heaven about will and power; therefore in such cases the answer of providence is more express and decisive to the creature's loss, that God may be acknowledged as Lord of success, and the first mover in all means and causes, without whom they have no force and efficacy. (2d.) Consider the frailty and uncertainty of your own lives; our being is as uncertain as the events of providence. If we live and God will, are the exceptions of the text, and do imply that there must be a sensible impression of our own frailty, as well as of the sovereignty of providence, that the heart may the better submit to God. It is 394said, Ps. cxlvi. 4, `His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish., Frail men are full of thoughts and projects; this they will do, and that they will do; go to such a city, promote their interests by such an alliance, gain so much by such a purchase, and then they will raise up some stately fabric which shall continue their name and memory to succeeding generations, and all this because they do not mind the earth which they carry about them, and how soon the hand of providence is able to crumble it into dust. Certainly man will never be wise till he is able to number his days, and doth sufficiently possess his soul of the uncertainty of his abode in the world, Ps. xc. 12.
Obs. We shall live, and do this or that.—Mark! it is not enough that God suffer us to live, but he must also by the same will suffer us to do or act. The point is, that God's will concurreth not only to our lives, but actions. We may live, and yet not be able to do anything for the promotion of our designs: for if God suspend his concurrence, the creatures cannot act, at least not with any Cowardliness and success, which quite crosseth the doctrine of the heathen philosophers. Seneca said, Quod vivamus, deorum munus est; quod bene vivamus, nostrum—that we live, it is by the benefit of the gods; that we live well, it is of ourselves. So Tully: Judicium hoc omnium mortalium est, &c.—this is the judgment of all men, that prosperity is to be sought of God, but wisdom to be gotten by ourselves. But in the scriptures we are taught otherwise, not only to seek success of God, but direction; he giveth abilities to perform, and a blessing when the action is finished. Without the efficacious as well as permissive will of God, `we can do nothing; he must give us life, and all things necessary to action. We must not only look up to him as the author of the success, but the director of the action. It is by his conduct and blessing that all things come to pass. Our very counsels and wills are subject to the divine government, and he can turn them as it pleaseth him, Prov. xxi. 1; and therefore we must not only commit our ways to his providence, but commend our hearts to the tuition of his Spirit. In short, all things are done by his will, and must be ascribed to his praise.
Here the apostle cometh to charge more closely their arrogant presumption of outward success upon their consciences, especially it being aggravated by professed acknowledgment and avowing of it, against the threatenings of the word.
But now ye rejoice in your boastings.—It is not easy to define of what boastings the apostle meaneth. The persons to whom he wrote are charged, chap, ii., with glorying in their riches, and afterward for bearing up upon a mere profession of godliness, and glorying in their supposed religion; after that he chargeth them with glorying in a presumption of wisdom, manifested in their censorious insultations over the failings of others, chap. iii.; and now, last of all, for their glorying in their carnal hopes, or fond prognostications of the success of their own endeavours, as if their lives and actions were in their own power, and exempted from the dominion and government of providence. 395Probably all these may be intended, for the apostle's expression is plural, ἀλαζονείαις, `ye glory in your boastings;, though I conceive the latter is principally intended, their avowing their confidence, notwithstanding the many threatenings which were ready to be executed upon them. For, though the apostle's doctrine be of general use, and at all times we must conceive our purposes with submission to the will of God, yet his chief drift is to check the security, carelessness, and carnal confidence of their hearts, judgments now approaching, and the happiness of the Jewish affairs running low, even to the bottom and dregs. For you shall see in the beginning of the next chapter he presently ringeth them a loud peal of threatenings, and representeth the avenging judge as at the door, or at hand, to recompense their iniquities. Now, because they would justify their confidence, yea, glory in it, what sad thoughts soever others had of the times, he saith, `Ye rejoice or glory in your boastings.,
Such rejoicing is evil; that is, though you think it a brave confidence, yet certainly it is but a carnal security. He saith no more of it, but it is evil, because they defended it as good; it is evil, as coming from an evil cause, pride, and wretched security; it is evil in its own nature, as being an outbraving of the word; it is evil in its effects, as hindering you from good, and putting you upon traffic and aspiring projects, when you should more solemnly mind humbling duties, and `be afflicted, and weep, and mourn, &c., as is pressed before, ver. 9. And this I conceive is the mind of the apostle in this verse, which is usually passed over by interpreters slightly, without that necessary regard which should be had to the scope of the context and epistle. Note hence:—
Obs. 1. That such is the degeneration of human nature, that it doth not only practise sins, but glory in them. Man fallen is but man inverted and turned upside down; his love is where his hatred should be, and his hatred where his love should be; his glory where his shame should be, and his shame where his glory should be. Many count strictness a disgrace, and sin a bravery. The apostle saith, Phil. iii. 19, `They glory in their shame., It cometh to pass some times through ignorance; men mistake evil for good, and so call revenge valour or resolution, and prosperity in an evil way the blessing of providence upon their zealous endeavours, and presumptuous carelessness a well-built confidence. God charged it upon his people that they had made great feasts of rejoicing when they had more cause to mourn: Jer. xi. 15, `The holy flesh is past from thee; when thou dost evil, then thou rejoicest., Usually, by our fond mistakes, thus it is we are blessing and praising God when we have more cause to humble and afflict our souls. Sometimes it is through stupidness and sottishness of conscience; when men have worn out all honest restraints, then they rejoice in evil, and delight in their perversities, Prov. ii. 14. The drunkards think there is a bravery in their strength to pour in wine, and can boast of the number of their cups; the soaken adulterer of so many acts of uncleanness; the swearer thinketh it the grace of his speech to interlard it with oaths; and proud persons think conceited apparel is their best ornament. Good God! whither is man fallen! First we practise sin, then defend 396it, then boast of it. Sin is first our burden, then our custom, then our delight, then our excellency.
Obs. 2. That we have no cause to rejoice or glory in our carnal confidence. It seemeth to come from a generous bravery, but indeed from lowness and baseness of spirit. It is but a running away from evil, not a mastering of it. Men dare not lay it to heart, because they know not how to fortify themselves against it. Faith and true confidence always supposeth and prepareth for the worst, but hopeth the best: it meeteth the adversary in open field, and vanquisheth it. The fool in the Gospel durst not think of his death that night, Luke xii. 16, 17, &c. This is the baseness of carnal confidence, to put off trouble when it cannot put it away; and however it scorn eth the threatening, it feareth the judgment, and are so ill provided to bear it that they durst not so much as think of it.
In this verse the apostle taketh off the prejudice and cavil whereby his admonition might be slighted and evaded. They might reply, We have no need to be taught such a plain lesson; we know that life is short, and that God's providence governeth all things. Do you, saith the apostle, know all this? then you are the more obliged to subject your desires to his will and pleasure, which he proveth by this general rule. There is nothing difficult in the words but that to him it is sin, αὐτῷ ἁμαρτία ἐστιν, that is sin indeed; there is more of the nature of sin, there is more of the effects of sin, which he shall find in his own conscience, and in hell torments, and God's judiciary dispensations. Like sayings you have elsewhere: see John ix. 41, and xv. 22. But you will say then, Are those that sin out of ignorance wholly free from sin? I answer—No. For (1.) Sins of ignorance are sins, though more remissible, 1 Tim. i. 13, though not so highly punished, Luke xii. 47. God's law was once impressed upon our natures, and we are obliged to all that was written upon Adam's heart. (2.) Affected ignorance rendereth us highly culpable, 2 Peter iii. 5, when men shut the windows, and resist the light; for then they might know, but would not. Out of this verse observe:—
Obs. 1. That it is not enough to know good, but we must do it also. Gifts in the mind, without a change in the heart, will not stead you. Often we find that men of much knowledge are apt to be enslaved by their appetites, the lower and more brutish faculties; and though they be orthodox, yet are unmortified; keen against errors, but indulgent to vices. Oh! consider, you should add to knowledge temperance, 2 Peter i. 5, otherwise what will it avail you? Others are ignorant of God in their minds, and you deny him in your lives. Others question the truth of religion, and you deny the power of it. Besides, it serveth to check slighting thoughts of a plain truth. We are apt to say, I know this enough already. Ah! but do I practise it? Is not this a new hint from God to convince me of my negligence? Surely God seeth I do not live up to this knowledge, therefore the same truth, this common truth, is returned to my mind, &c.
Obs. 2. Sins of knowledge are most dangerous. They are more sins than others, as having more of malice and contempt in them. There 397is more contempt both of the law of God and of God's kindness. See Mat xi. 20. It is a sign you love sin as sin; for when you know what it is you adventure upon it. Besides, sins against knowledge have more of the marks of God's vengeance upon them. In the reprobate they are punished with great despair and horror of conscience. See Prov. v. 11-14. Or with hardness of heart. Iron oft heated and oft quenched groweth the harder. It is just with God to punish contempt of light with obduracy, or with madness against the truth. The most moral heathens were the sorest persecutors, as Severus, Antoninus, &c. This is sensibly and clearly discerned in apostates,339339`Apostatae sunt maximi osores sui ordinis., who are carried on with most wilful malice against the truths which they once professed: Hosea v. 2, `The revolters are profound to make slaughters., Forward professors turn violent persecutors. They would fain quench the light shining in their own bosoms. Alexander, once a disciple, but he `made shipwreck of the faith, 1 Tim. i. 20; and he is the man that must set on the multitude against Paul:340340See Grotius in Acts xix. 33. Acts xix. 33, `The Jews drew out Alexander, and he beckoned with the hand., The same man is intended; for he dwelt at Ephesus, as we learn by both the epistles to Timothy. Now the Jews set him up as the fittest accuser of Paul. He knew his doctrine, and he must appear to turn all the blame of the uproar upon the Christians. Once more we read of this Alexander as a desperate enemy of the truth, 2 Tim. iv. 14. Certainly the rage and malice of such men is the greater because of the abundance of their light which they have renounced. No vinegar so tart as that which is made of the sweetest wine: Prov. xxviii. 4, `They that forsake the law praise the wicked;, that is, do not only commit sin, but approve it in others. Still they are the most violent and for ward men. Sometimes God giveth them up to sottishness. See Rom. i. 21-23. It is very notable, and it doth exceedingly verify the apostle's observation, that the most refined and civil heathens (who are presumed to have most light) were given up to the most beastly errors about the nature of God,341341See Despaigne's New Observations on the Creed, about the beginning. as the Romans and Grecians worshipped fevers and human passions, deam cloacinam—every paltry thing for God; whereas the Scythians and more barbarous nations worshipped the thunder, the sun, things terrible in themselves; which plainly discovereth God's just judgment in `darkening their foolish heart, because they were not `thankful in the improvement of light received. But the greatest displeasure of God against sins of knowledge is declared hereafter in the torments of hell, where the proportions of everlasting horrors do rise higher and higher, according to the several aggravations of sin, Luke xii. 48. Thus God punisheth sins of knowledge in the reprobate; but his own children do also perceive the difference between these and other sins. Nothing breaketh the bones and scourgeth the soul with such a sad remorse as sins against light. This broke David's heart: Ps. li. 6, `Thou hadst put knowledge in my inward parts., He had committed adultery against checks of conscience, and the watchful light of his inward parts, &c. I might speak much more upon this argument, but that I only intend 398hints. Concerning the danger of sins of knowledge you may see more in Mr Thomas Goodwin's treatise called `Aggravations of Sins of Knowledge, whose judicious observations being so full and express, I shall presume to add no more.
Obs. 3. Sins of omission are aggravated by knowledge, as well as sins of commission. The apostle saith, `To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, &c. Usually in sins of commission natural light is most working, because there is an actual disturbance, by which the free contemplation of the mind is hindered; and because foul acts bring more shame and impress more horror than bare neglects; yet to omit a duty against knowledge may be as bad as to tell a lie against knowledge. The rule is positive, enforcing duty, as well as privative, forbidding sin; and according to the knowledge of it, so is the obligation. Oh! that we might be more conscientious in this matter, and be as tender of omitting prayer against light, and neglecting to meditate and examine conscience against light, as we are of committing adultery against light!
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