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Blessed are they that keep his testimonies, that seek him with the whole heart.—Ver. 2.
Use 1. To press you to seek God. The motives are:
1. It was the end of our creation. We do not live merely to live; 24but for this end were we sent into the world, to seek God. ^Nature is sensible of it in part by the dissatisfaction it finds in other things; and therefore the apostle describes the Gentiles to be groping and feeling about for God, Acts xvii. 27. God is the cause of all things, and nature cannot be satisfied without him. We were made for God, and can never enjoy satisfaction until we come to enjoy him; therefore the Psalmist saith, Ps. xiv. 2, We are ‘all gone aside, and altogether become filthy.’ Nature is out of joint; we are quite out of our way to true happiness. We are seeking that for which we were created, when we seek and inquire after God.
2. We seek other things that we want with great solicitude and care; we are cumbered with much serving to obtain the world: and shall’ any thing be sought more than God? We can least spare him. The chiefest good should be sought after with the chiefest care, and chiefest love, and chiefest delight; nothing should be so precious to us as God. It is the greatest baseness that can be, that anything should take up our time, our thoughts, and content us more than God. When we come to God we are earnest for other things: Hosea vii. 14, ‘They howl upon their beds for corn and wine.’ If anything be sought from God above God, more than God, and not for God, it is but a brutish cry.
3. It is our benefit to seek God. It is no benefit to God if we do not seek him. The Lord33 Qu. ‘it is no benefit to God. If we do not seek him, the Lord,’ &c.?—ED. hath no less, though we have less. He that hides himself from the sun, doth not impair the light. We derogate nothing from God if we do not seek him. He needed not the creature: he had happiness enough in himself; but we hide ourselves from our own happiness and our own peace. But what benefit have we by seeking God? A great deal of present benefit: Ps. xxii. 26, ‘They that seek thee shall praise thy name.’ You will have cause to bless God before the search be over. God hath passed his word, there are a great many experiences we taste. As they that continue in the pursuit of the philosopher’s stone find out many experiences which are a satisfaction to their understandings, so, one way or other, we shall have cause to bless God. The God of Jacob hath openly professed we shall not seek him in vain, Isa. xliv. 19 , that is, this is a truth God hath written as it were with a sunbeam, that something will come in seeking of God. By seeking him in prayer we carry away a great deal of comfort and strength. As we read of that emperor that sent not away any one sad out of his presence, so neither doth God; there is some comfort to be had in waiting upon him; and as it brings present comfort and satisfaction, so it brings an everlasting reward: Heb. xi. 6, ‘He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.’ If you would have the fruit of your holy calling, that which is the result of that religion you do profess, you must diligently seek him, so that in effect we never seek ourselves more than when we seek the Lord: Amos v. 6, ‘Seek the Lord, and ye shall live.’ It is the undoubted way to get eternal life, to live for ever. They that seek not his face here shall never see his face for ever. With what diligence will men court an outward preferment, which is yet very uncertain? Prov. xxix. 26, ‘All men seek the ruler’s face; but every man’s judgment is of the Lord.’ What a deal of observance and 25waiting is there for the ruler’s face and favour! and yet God disposeth of every man’s judgment. It is uncertain whether they shall obtain it^ yea or nay; but now, if you seek the face of God in heaven, you shall live for ever.
4. If you do not sensibly find God, yet comfort thyself that thou art in a seeking way, and in the pursuit of him: Ps. xxiv. 6, God’s people are described to be ‘the generation of them that seek him.’ This is the true mark of God’s chosen people; they make it their business to get the favour of God, and to wrestle through discouragements. It is better to be a seeker than a wanderer. Though we do not feel the love of God, nor have the comfort of a pardon, have no sensible communion with him; yet the choice and bent of the heart is towards him, and you have the character of God’s people upon you.
5. You have misspent a great deal of time already, and long neglected God; therefore, now you should seek him: Hosea x. 22. ‘It is time to seek the Lord, until he come and rain righteousness upon you.’ It is time, that is, it is not too late, while we are preserved and invited. And again, it is time, that is, it is high time; the business of your lives hath been too long neglected. It is such another expression as 1 Peter iv. 3, ‘The time past is enough to have wrought the will of the Gentiles,’ &c. God hath been too long kept out of his right, and we out of our happiness. The night is coming upon us, and will you not begin your day’s work?
6. This is the reason of affliction: we are so backward in this work that we need to be whipped unto it: Hosea v. 15, ‘I will go and return to my place, saith God, till they acknowledge their offence and seek my face.’ God knows that want is a spur to a lazy creature; and therefore doth God break in upon men, and scourge them as with scorpions, that they may bethink themselves, and look after God.
Use 2. For direction. If you would seek God—
1. Seek him early: Prov. viii. 32, ‘Blessed are they that seek me early.’ We cannot soon enough go about this work. Seek him when God is nigh, when the Spirit is nigh: Isa. lv.6, ‘Call upon the Lord while he is near.’ There are certain seasons which you cannot easily get again; such times when God doth deal more pressingly with you, when the word bears in upon the heart, and when God is near unto us. David like a quick echo returns upon God: Ps. xxvii. 8, ‘Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek.’ It would be a great loss not to obey present impulses and invitations, and not make use of the advantages which God puts into our hands.
2. Seek him daily; Ps. cv. 4, ‘Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his face evermore.’ That is, from day to day you must be seeking the face of God, in the strength of God. Every hour we need his direction, protection, strength; and we are in danger to lose him, if we do not continue the search.
3. Seek him unweariedly, and do not give over your seeking until you find God. Wrestle through discouragements; though former endeavours have been in vain, yet still we should continue seeking after God. We have that command to enforce us to it: Luke v. 5, ‘We have toiled all night; howbeit at thy command,’ &c. Though we do not presently find, yet we must not cast off all endeavours. In 26spiritual things many times a man hears and goes away with nothing but when he comes to meditate upon it, and work it upon the heart, then he finds the face of God, and the strength of God. Therefore, you must not give over your seeking.
4. Seek him in Christ. God will only be found in a mediator: Heb. vii. 25, Those are accepted ‘that come to God by him.’ Guilty creatures cannot enjoy God immediately; and in Christ, God is more familiar with us: Hosea iii. 5, ‘They shall seek the Lord their God, and David their king.’ None can seek him rightly but those that seek him in Christ. It is uncomfortable to think of God out of Christ. As the historian saith of Themistocles, when he sought the favour of the king, he snatched up the king’s son, and so came and mediated for his grace and favour. Let us take the Son of God in the arms of our faith, and present him to God the Father, and seek his face, his strength.
5. God can only be sought by the help of his own Spirit. As our access to God, we have it by Christ, so we have it by the Spirit: Eph. ii. 18, ‘For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.’ As Christ gives us the leave, so the Spirit gives us the help. Bernard speaks fitly to this purpose; None can be aforehand with God, we cannot seek him till we find him in some sense: he will be sought that he may be found; and he is found that he may be sought. It is his preventing grace which makes us restless in the use of means; and when we are brought home to God, when we seek after God, it is by his own grace. The spouse was listless and careless until she could take God by the scent of his own grace, when he ‘put his finger upon the handle of the lock, and dropped myrrh.’ By the sweet and powerful influences of his grace, she was carried on in seeking after God. Thus much for the first part of the duty, seek.
Secondly, Now the manner, with the whole heart.
Doct. Whoever would seek God aright, they must seek him with their whole heart.
Here I shall inquire—
1. What doth this imply?
2. Why God will be sought with the whole heart?
1. What doth this imply? It implies sincerity and integrity; for it is not to be taken in the legal sense, with respect to absolute perfection, but in opposition to deceit: Jer. iii. 10, ‘Judah has not turned to me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith the Lord.’ It is spoken of the time of Josiah’s reformation; many men whirled about with the times, and were forced by preternatural motions. The Father of spirits above all things requireth the spirit, and he that is the searcher and judge of the heart requireth the heart should be consecrated to him. Integrity opposeth partiality. There are indeed two things in this expression, the whole heart; it notes extension of parts and intension of degrees,
[1.] The extension of parts; with the understanding, will, and affections. Some seek God with a piece of their hearts, to explain it either in the work of faith or love. In the work of faith; as Acts viii. 37, ‘If thou believest with all thine heart.’ There is a believing with a piece, and a believing with all the heart. There is an inactive knowledge, 27a naked assent, which may be real, yet it is not a true faith; the devil may have this: Luke iv. 34, the devil makes an orthodox confession there, ‘Thou art Jesus, the Son of the living God.’ This is only a conviction upon the understanding, without any bent upon the heart. It is not enough to own Christ to be the true Messiah, but we must embrace him, put our whole trust in him. There may be an assent joined with some sense and conscience, and some vanishing sweetness and taste by the reasonableness of salvation by Christ, Heb. vi. 4; but this is not believing with all the heart; it is but a taste, a lighter work upon the affections, and therefore bringeth in little experience. There may be some assent, such as may engage to profession and partial reformation, but the whole heart is not subdued to God. Then do we believe with the whole heart, when the heart is warmed with the things we know and assent to; when there is a full and free consent to take Christ upon God’s terms, to all the uses and purposes for which God hath appointed him: 1 Chron. xxviii. 9, ‘Know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind;’ when there is an effective and an affective know ledge; when we can not only discourse of God and Christ, and are inclined to believe; but when these truths soak into the heart to frame it to the obedience of his will. When the Lord had spoken of practical obedience, ‘Was not this to know me, saith the Lord?’ Jer. xxii. 16. And this is to believe. So for love: Deut. vi. 5, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.’ Every faculty must express love to God. Many will be content to give God a part. God hath their consciences, but the world their affections. Their heart is divided, and the evidence of it is plainly this: In their troubles and extremities they will seek after God, but this is not their constant work and delight. We are welcome to God when we are compelled to come into his presence. God will not say, as men, You come in your necessity. But we must then be sincere in our addresses, and rest in him as our portion and all-sufficient good.
[2.] For intension of degrees. To seek God with the whole heart, is to seek him with the highest elevation of our hearts. The whole heart must be carried out to God, and to other things for God’s sake. As harbingers, when they go to take up room for a prince, they take up the whole house, none else must have place there; so God, he will have the whole heart.
Again, it may be considered as to the exaction of the law, and as a rule of the gospel.
(1.) As an exaction of the law; and so Christ urged it to the young man that was of a pharisaical institution, to abate his pride and confidence: Mat. xxii. 37, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’ Certainly these words there have a legal importance and signification; for in an other Evangelist, Luke x. 28, it is added, ‘Do and live,’ which is the tenor of the law. And Christ’s intent was to abate the Pharisees’ pride, by propounding the rigour of the first covenant. The law requireth complete love without the least defect; according to the terms of it, a grain wanting would make the whole unacceptable; as a hard land lord, when all the rent is not brought to the full, he accepteth none. 28It is good to consider it under this sense, that we may seek God in Christ to quicken us, that we may value our deliverance by him from this burden, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear; a straggling thought, a wandering glance, the least outrunning of the heart, had rendered us accursed for ever.
(2.) It may be considered as a rule of the gospel, which requireth our utmost endeavours, our bewailing infirmities and defects, but accepts of sincerity. There will be a double principle in us to the last, but there should not be a double heart. So that this expression of seeking the Lord with the whole heart is reconcilable enough with the weaknesses of the present state. For instance: 1 Kings xiv. 8, ‘My servant David, who kept my commandments, and who followed me with all his heart, and did that only which was Bright in mine eyes.’ David had many failings, and some that left an indelible brand upon him, in the matter of Uriah, yet because of his sincerity, and habitual purpose, God saith, ‘He hath kept all my commandments.’ So in Josiah: 2 Kings xxiii. 25, ‘Like to him there was no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might.’ Yet he also had his imperfections; against the warning of the Lord he goes out with a wicked king, and dies in battle. So Asa: 2 Chron. xv. 17, ‘The high places were not taken away—‘it was a failing in that holy king—yet it is said, ‘The heart of Asa was perfect all his days.’ Well, then, when the whole heart is engaged in this work, when we do not only study to know God, but make it our work to enjoy him, to rest in him as our all-sufficient portion, though there will be many defects, yet then are we said to seek him with the whole heart.
2. The reasons why God will be sought with the whole heart are—
[1.] He that gives but part to God doth indeed give nothing. The devil keeps an interest as long as one lust remains unmortified, and one corner of the soul is kept for him. As Pharaoh stood hucking,—he would fain have some pawn of their return; either leave your children behind; no, no, they must go and see the sacrifices, and be trained up in the way of the Lord; then he would have their flocks and herds left behind; he knew that would draw their hearts back again, so Satan must have either this lust or that; he knows by keeping part all will fall to his share in the end. A bird that is tied in a string seems to have more liberty than a bird in a cage; it flutters up and down, though it be held fast: so many seem to flutter up and down and do many things, as Herod; but his Herodias drew him back again into the fowler’s net. Thus because of a sinner’s danger.
[2.] Because of God’s right. By creation he made the whole, therefore^ requires the whole;’ the Father of spirits’ must have the whole spirit. We were not mangled in our creation; God, that made the whole, must have the whole. He preserves the whole. Christ hath bought the whole: 1 Cor. vi. 20, ‘Glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.’ And God promiseth to glorify the whole. Christians, it would be uncomfortable to us if God should only take a part to heaven. All that you have is to be glorified in the day of Christ; all that you are and have must be given to him—whole spirit, soul, and body. Let us not deprive him of any part.29
Use. Well, do we serve God and seek after God with the whole heart? The natural mother had rather part with the whole than see the child divided, 1 Kings iii. 26. God had rather part with the whole than take a piece. Either he will have the whole of your love, or leave the whole to Satan. The Lord complains, Hosea x. 2, ‘Their heart is divided.’ Men have some affections for God many times, but they have affections for their lusts too, the world hath a great share and portion of their heart.
Quest. But when, in a gospel sense, may we be said to seek God with the whole heart? Take it in these short propositions.
1. When the settled purpose of our souls is to cleave to God, to love and serve him with an entire obedience, both in the inward and outward man, when this is the full determination and consent of our hearts.
2. When we do what we can by all good means to maintain this purpose; for otherwise it is but a fruit of conviction, a freewill pang: Acts xxiv. 16, ‘Herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards all men.’
3. When we search out our defects, and are ever bewailing them with kindly remorse: Rom. vii. 24, ‘O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of death?’
4. When we run by faith to Christ Jesus, and sue out our pardon and peace in Christ’s name, until we come to be complete in him: Col. i. 10, ‘That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.’
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