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I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.—Ver. 16.
DAVID had spoken much of his respect to the word, both as to his former practice and future resolutions. A godly man, the more good he doth, the more he desireth, delighteth, and resolveth to do. Spiritual affections grow upon us by practice and much exercise. The graces of the Spirit and the duties of religion do every one fortify and strengthen one another; lose one, and lose all; keep one, and keep all. Meditation breedeth delight, and delight helpeth memory and practice. He had said, ‘I will meditate on thy precepts;’ and now, ‘I will delight myself in thy statutes;’ and that produceth a further benefit, ‘I will not forget thy word.’
The spiritual life is refreshed with change as well as the natural; 147but it is with change of exercise, not of affection. There is hearing, praying, conferring, meditating, and all with delight; for when one fontinel is drawn dry, we may, as the lamb doth, suck another that will yield new supply and sweetness. David had spoken of his various exercises about the word, in the use of all which he would maintain a spiritual delight.
In this verse observe again a double respect to the word of God:—
1. I will delight myself in thy statutes.
2. I will not forget thy word.
These are fitly suited. Delight preventeth forgetfulness; the mind will run upon that which the heart is delighted in; and the heart is where the treasure is, Mat. vi. 21. Worldly men, that are intent upon carnal interests, forget the word; it is not their delight. If anything displease us, we are glad if we can forget it; it is some release from an inconvenience to take off our thoughts from it; but it doubleth the contentment of a thing that we are delighted in to remember it and call it to mind. In the outward school, if a scholar by his own averseness from learning, or by the severity and imprudence of his master, by his morosity or unreasonable exactions, hath no delight in his book, all that he learneth is lost and forgotten; it goeth in at one ear, and out at the other: but this is the true art of memory, to cause them to delight in what they learn. Such instructions as we take in with a sweetness, they stick with us, and run in our minds night and day. So saith David here, ‘I will delight in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.’
Doct. 1. One great respect which the saints owe to the word of God is to delight therein.
David resolveth so to do: ‘I will delight,’ or solace or recreate my self in thy statutes; this should be his refreshment after business. David had many things to delight in;—the splendour and magnificence of his kingdom; as Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. iv. 30, ‘Is not this great Babylon that I have built, for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?’ His great victories, which Aristotle saith are delightful to all. Τὸ νικᾶν ἡδὺ, οὐ μόνον τοῖς φιλονέικοις ἀλλὰ πᾶσι· φαντασία γὰρ ὑπεροχῆς γύγνεται. It is an appearance of excellency (Arist. Rhet. i. cap. 1 Or in his instruments of music; as those, Amos vi. 5, ‘that chaunt to the sound of the viol, and invent to themselves instruments of music like David.’ No; this was not the mirth that he chose for his portion. Wicked men throng their hearts with such delights as these, lest an evil conscience flee upon them;’ but I will delight myself in thy statutes.’ He might take comfort in a subordinate way in these things; but the solace of his life, and the true sauce of all his labours, was in the word of God. As David, so Jeremiah, chap. xv. 16, ‘Thy words were found, and I did eat them; they were unto me as the joy and rejoicing of my heart.’ That was the food and the repast of his soul, and he felt more warmth and cherishing in it than any can in their bodily food. So Paul: Rom. vii. 22, ‘I delight in the law of God in the inward man.’ Not to know it only, but to feel the power of it prevailing over his lusts; that was his delight as to the better part of his soul. So it is made a general character of the blessed man: Ps. i. 2, 148that ‘he delighteth in the law of God, and in that law doth he exercise himself day and night.’ God’s people will delight in his law; it is one of the greatest enjoyments they have on this side heaven, in the time of their absence from God. It is the instrument of all the good that they receive—comfort, strength, quickening. But now, how do they delight in God’s statutes?
1. In reading the word. The eunuch, returning from public worship, was reading a portion of scripture, Acts viii. 28. It is good to see with our eyes, and to drink of the fountain ourselves; if it seem dark without the explication of men, God, that sent Philip to the eunuch, will send you an interpreter.
2. In hearing of the word. The command is, James i. 19. ‘Wherefore be swift to hear.’ The saints have had experiment of the power of it, and therefore delight in it. ‘I was glad when they said, Come, let us go up unto the house of the Lord,’ Ps. cxxii. 1. You should be glad of these occasions of hearing, not as, with the minstrel, to please the ear, but to warm the heart. Seeing is in heaven, hearing in the churches upon earth; then vision, now hearing.
3. In conferring of it often. What a man delighteth in he will be talking of; so should you at home and abroad: Deut. vi. 7, ‘Thou shalt be talking of them when thou sittest in thy house, and as thou walkest by the way,’ seasoning thy journey. He that would have God to be in his journey, as travelling and walking abroad, should be speaking of divine things.
4. In meditating and exercising his mind upon it: Ps. i. 2, ‘He delighteth in the law of God, and in that law doth he meditate day and night.’ Delight causeth a pause or consistency of mind: as the glutton rolleth the sweet morsel under his tongue, and is loath to let it go, so a godly man’s thoughts will run along with his delight. Clean beasts chew the cud; God’s children will be ruminating, going over the word again and again.
5. In practice. This delight is not a bare speculation—so hypocrites have their tastes and their flashes—but in believing, practising, obeying: Ps. cxix. 14, ‘I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies.’ Delight breedeth obedience, and is increased and doubled by it. It is not the delight which an ordinary beholder taketh in a rare piece of painting, merely to admire the art; but the delight which an artist taketh in imitating it, and copying it out. Here in the text it is ‘in thy statutes.’ A gracious heart is alike affected with the rule as the promise; not only with discoveries of grace, but discoveries of duty.
Now thus it must be ordinarily.
1. The duties of every day must be carried on with delight. This must be our divertisement, and the refreshment of our other labours, that when tired out with the incumbrances of the world, we may look upon reading, meditating, hearing, as our recreation, and the salt and solace of our lives, that other things may go down the better. The labours of the mind do relieve those of the body, and those of the body those of the mind. Ainsworth saith, the word in the text signifieth, ‘I will solace and recreate myself;’ and Ps. i. 2, ‘His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in that law doth he exercise himself day and night,’ as was before cited.149
2. Especially upon the Lord’s day: Isa. lviii. 13, ‘Thou shalt call the sabbath a delight;’ call it so, that is, account it so. When our whole time is to be parted into meditation, and prayer, and hearing, and conference, then it is our advantage to lie in the bosom of God all the day long. A bell is kept up with less difficulty when it is once raised; and when the heart is once got up, it is the better kept up in a holy delight in God.
The reasons of it are two—
1. The word of God deserveth it.
2. This delight will be of great use to them. First, The word of God deserveth it.
1. In regard to the author, they delight in it for the author’s sake, be cause it is the signification of his mind; as a letter from a beloved friend is very welcome to us. Aristotle, mentioning the causes of delight, saith (Rhet. i. cap. 11), Ὁι ἐρῶντες, καὶ διαλεγόμενοι, καὶ γράφοντες, καὶ ποιοῦντες ἀεὶ τὶ περὶ τοῦ ἐρωμένου χαίραουσιν—lovers are mightily pleased when they hear anything of the party beloved, or receive any thing from them, a letter or a token. The word is God’s epistle and love-letter to ourselves; it is the more welcome for his sake. The contrary God complaineth of: Hosea viii. 12, ‘I have written to them the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.’ God is the author, whosoever be the penman; it is a writing from him to us. Now, to be strangers to it, or little conversant about it, argueth some contempt of God; as to slight the letter of a friend showeth little esteem of the writer. But now the saints put it into their bosoms, view it with delight, it is God’s epistle.
2. In regard of its own excellency, in three respects; it is—
[1.] Their direction.
[2.] Their support.
[3.] Their charter.
[1.] It is their direction; it is ‘a light that shines in a dark place,’ 2 Peter i. 19. The world is a dark place, beset with dangers, and ever and anon we are apt to stumble into the pit of destruction, without taking heed to this light. The word discovereth to them evils, that they may see them, repent of them, forsake them; and showeth us our ready way to heaven, that we may walk therein. It discovereth the greatest dangers, and pointeth out the surest way to safety and peace. They are called true laws and good statutes, Neh. ix. 13, to show the full proportion that they bear to the soul. Verum and bonum,—truth and goodness, are proper for our most eminent faculties, the understanding and will. It doth a man’s heart good to study these statutes. A child of God, that seeth others stumble and fall, how may he stand and bless God for the direction of the word, that God hath given him counsel in his reins, that he hath a clue to lead him out of those labyrinths in which others have lost their way, and know not know to escape!
[2.] It is their support. The word is κοὶνον ἱατρεῖον, as Basil expresseth it. It is God’s shop, from whence they fetch all their cordials in a time of fainting, and so are freed from those fears and discontents and despairing thoughts under which others languish: Ps. cxix. 50, ‘This is my comfort in my affliction, thy word hath 150quickened me.’ When a believer is damped with trouble, and even dead at heart, a promise will revive him again: ver. 92, ‘Unless thy law had been my delight, I had perished in my affliction.’ And many such like experiences the saints have had. The worth of the word is best known in an evil time. One promise in the word of God doth bear up the heart more than all the arguings and discourses of men, though never so excellent. In time of temptation, in the hour of death, oh, what a reviving is one word of God’s mouth!
[3.] It is their charter, that which they have to show for their everlasting hopes. There we have promises of eternal joy and blessedness under the greatest assurance, and this makes way for strong consolation, Heb. vi. 18. A man that hath a clear evidence to show for a fair inheritance, it is not irksome to hear it read, or to look over it now and then, as a covetous man is pleased to look into his bills and bonds which he has under hand and seal.
Secondly, This delight will be of great use to them.
1. To draw us off from carnal vanities. We have another delight, and the strength of the soul runneth out in another way; there will not be such room for worldly affections. As fear is cured with fear, the fear of men with the fear of God, so is delight by delight; delight in God’s statutes is the cure of delight in worldly things. Love cannot lie idle, it must be occupied one way or another; either carried out to the contentments of the flesh, or else to holy things. Now, if you can find a more noble delight, there is a check upon that which is carnal: Ps. cxix. 37, ‘Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity, and quicken thou me in thy way.’ The enlargement of the heart straitens the flesh.
2. It will take off the tediousness of religious exercises. What we delight in is not irksome. In hunting, fowling, and fishing, though there be as much labour as in our ordinary employments, yet we count the toil nothing because of the delight in them. We are very apt to be weary of well-doing, and to tire in a holy course; but now, when it is our delight, it goeth on the more easily. In one sense we must make religion our business, in another, our recreation; our work to prevent slackness, our recreation to prevent tediousness; it is not a task, but a pleasure.
Use 1. This informeth us of the ill choice that many men make of their delights and recreations; they must have cards and dice and foolish mirth to pass away the time, or else idle stories and vain romances. A Christian is everywhere like himself; he showeth himself a Christian in his recreations as well as his business. Castae deliciae meae sunt scripturae tuae, saith Austin—Lord, my chaste delights are thy Holy Scriptures. If we were as we should be, it would be our recreation to understand our duty, to contemplate the way of reconciliation to God by Christ, and to take a view of our everlasting hopes. Were we seriously persuaded of the benefits which men have by the word, that there is a sure direction to resolve our doubts and our scruples, and the offers of a pardon and a glorious estate by Christ, what need a Christian any other recreation? Will not the sense of God’s love and the hopes of heaven make us merry enough? Indeed, because of the weariness of the flesh, we need temporal refreshments; 151but here should be our great delight, ‘I will solace or recreate myself in thy statutes.’
Use 2. Caution to us to fix our delight aright.
1. It is a considerable affection. All the affections depend upon pleasure or pain, delight or grief—the one is proper to the body, the other to the soul—which grow from the contentment or distaste which we receive from the divers objects which we meet with. If we love, it is for that we find a sweetness in the object beloved; if we hate, we apprehend a trouble in what we hate; if we hope, we promise ourselves a happiness or satisfaction in the possession of the thing hoped for: if we despair, it is because the thing cannot be obtained from which our contentment would arise. Desire is of some good which we judge pleasing. By fear and flight we shun things which we apprehend would breed us vexation. So that, in effect, delight sets all the other affections a-work.
2. It is a choice affection, more proper to fruition than use, and therefore not for the means so much as end, and so reserved for God, who is the last end. There are fruenda and utenda, God and heavenly things to be enjoyed, but earthly things to be used: for means, those that are in the nearest vicinity to the end, as the law of God and grace: earthly things are to be used with a kind of indifferency, and therefore should have little of our joy; but our solid complacency must be in God, next in the things of God, his law and grace, which are means in the nearest vicinity with our end: Ps. xxxvii. 4, ‘Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thy heart;’ Phil. iv. 4, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice.’
3. Delight, if not right set, of all the affections, is apt to degenerate. We have a liberty to delight in earthly things; the affection is allowed, the excess is forbidden. Thou mayest delight in the wife of thy youth, in thy children, estate, in the provisions heaped upon thee by the indulgence of God’s providence. Pleasure is the sauce of life, to better digest our sorrows. It is allowed us, but it must be well guarded. We are most apt to surfeit of pleasant things, and to miscarry by sweet affections. Sorrow is afflictive and painful, and will in time wear away of itself. Pleasure is ingrained in our natures, born and bred with us; and therefore, though we may delight in the moderate use of the refreshments of the present life, in estate, honour, reputation, yet we should take heed of excess, that our hearts be not overjoyed, and too much taken up about these things. Carnal joy is the drunkenness of the mind; it besotteth us, maketh us unmindful of God, weakens our esteem of his favour and blessing; it chaineth us to present things. Pleasure is the great witch and sorceress that enchants with the love of the world, maketh us unmindful of the country whence we came, and whither we are going; therefore we should be jealous of our delight, and how we bestow it.
Use 3. To exhort us to this delight in God’s statutes, or this spiritual rejoicing.
1. Here is no danger of exceeding; the greatest excesses here are most praiseworthy. In other things we must exercise it with jealousy, feed with fear, rejoice as if we rejoiced not. A man may easily go beyond his bounds when he rejoiceth in the creature; but here enlarge 152thy heart as much as is possible, and take thy fill of pleasure: Cant. v. 1, ‘Eat, friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, beloved.’ This is ebrietas quae nos castos facit—chaste flagons: Eph. v. 18, ‘Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be ye filled with the Spirit.’
2. We shall never be ashamed of these joys: 2 Cor. i. 12, ‘Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience,’ &c. All carnal joys have a turpitude affixed to them, and therefore affect to lie hid under a veil of secrecy. The world would cry shame of him that would say of his bags or his dishes, Here is my joy. As much as men affect these things, yet they desire to conceal them from the knowledge of others.
3. We shall never be weary of these joys. The delights of the senses become nauseous and troublesome; our natural dispositions become weary and importunate; a man must have shift and change, pleasures refreshed with other pleasures. But these delights add perfection to nature; therefore, when fully enjoyed, they delight most. A good conscience is a continual feast, a dish we are never weary of. The blessed spirits in heaven are never weary of beholding the face of God. God is new and fresh every moment to them. The contemplation of such excellent objects doth not overcharge and weaken the spirits, but doth raise and fortify them. It is true, the corporeal powers being weak, may be tired in such an employment, as much reading is a weariness to the flesh; but the object doth not grow distasteful, as in carnal things.
How shall we get it?
1. Get a suitableness to the word. Every man’s delights are as his principles: Rom. viii. 5, ‘They that are after the flesh, do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the spirit, the things of the spirit.’ A man is much discovered by his savour and relish of things. All creatures must have suitable food. There must be a suitableness between the faculty and the object; spiritual things are spiritually discerned.
2. Be in a condition to delight in the word. A guilty soul readeth its own doom there; it revealeth themselves to themselves, accuseth and condemneth them. As Ahab said of Micaiah, ‘He prophesieth evil against me,’ and therefore could not endure to hear him: John iii. 20, ‘Every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh he to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.’
3. Purge the heart from carnal distempers, lust, envy, covetousness r love of pleasures; these are diseases that need other diet than the word. Such persons must have other solaces; they cater for the flesh, to please the senses. An earthly heart will not delight in spiritual things.
Doct. It standeth God’s children upon to see that they do not forget the word.
1. What is it to forget the word? A man may remember or forget two ways—notionally and affectively.
[1.] Notionally, when the notions of things formerly known are either altogether or in part worn out: James i. 25, ‘He is like one that looks at his natural face in a glass, but goeth away, and straightway forgetteth what manner of person he was.’153
[2.] Affectively, when, though, he still retain the notions, yet he is not answerably affected, nor doth act according thereunto. Thus the butler did not remember Joseph; that is, did not pity him. Thus God is said not to remember the sins of them that repent, when he doth not punish them, and to forget the afflictions of his people, when he doth not deliver them; and we are said to forget God, Ps. cvi. 21, when we do not obey him, and to forget his word when we do not ‘remember his commandments to do them,’ Ps. ciii. 18. In this place both are intended, the notional and practical remembrance.
2. The reasons why we should not forget his word.
[1.] Meditation will fail else. A barren, lean soul is unfit to enlarge itself in holy thoughts, shall never grow rich in the spiritual understanding: Col. iii. 16, ‘Let the word of God dwell in you richly, in all knowledge,’ &c. Men of small substance grow rich by continual saving, and holding together what they have gotten; but if they spend it as fast as they get it, they cannot be rich: Luke ii. 19, ‘Mary kept all these sayings, and pondered them in her heart.’
[2.] Delectation will grow cold, unless the memory be rubbed up ever and anon. When they fainted under affliction, the cause is intimated: Heb. xii. 5, ‘Have ye forgotten the exhortation that speaketh unto you as unto children?’ Distrust in straits is from the same source: Mark viii. 17, ‘They remembered not the miracle of the loaves, for their hearts were hardened. Ye see and hear, and do not remember. David was under great discomfort till he ‘remembered the years of the right hand of the Most High,’ Ps. lxxvii. 10; Lam. iii. 21, ‘This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.’
[3.] Practice and conscience of obedience will grow more remiss; Nothing keepeth the heart in a holy tenderness so much as a presence of the truth; and when we can bring our knowledge to act, and have it for our use upon all occasions, it urgeth us to practice: James i. 25, being ‘not a forgetful hearer, but a doer.’ Most of our sins are sins of forgetfulness and incogitancy. Peter would never have been so bold and daring, and done what he did, if he had remembered Christ’s prediction. The text saith, Luke xxii. 61, ‘When he remembered, he wept bitterly.’ A bad memory is the occasion of much mischief to the soul, when we do not call truths to mind in their season, and when fit occasion and opportunity is offered. Memory is a handmaid to understanding and conscience, and keeps truths, and brings them forth when called for.
Use is to press us to caution. Let us not forget the word. Helps to memory are:—
1. Attention. Men remember what they heed and regard: Prov. iv. 21, ‘Attend to my sayings; keep them in the midst of thy heart.’ Where there is attention, there will be retention. Oh! lay up truths with much earnestness and care. Sensitive memory is seated in the hinder part of the head, as one would say in a chamber backward, from the noise of the street. Now, oh! lay up truth safe, and lay it out when ever you have need. But rational memory lieth near the understanding and conscience, in the midst of thine heart. Reverence in the admission of the word helps us in the keeping of it: Heb. ii. 1, ‘Let us take hoed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time they slip front 154us.’ If we did receive it with, more heed, we would retain it with more constancy; lay them up, keep them choicely.
2. Affection, that is a great friend to memory. What we esteem most we best remember. Omnia quae curant senes meminerunt—an old man will not forget where he laid his bag of gold. Delight and love will renew and revive the object upon our thoughts. Here in the text we have this truth asserted, ‘I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.’ Affection to truths cometh from the application. In a public edict a man will be sure to carry away what is proper to his case.
3. Meditation. We must be often viewing and meditating of what we have laid up in the memory. It availeth not to the health of the body to eat much, but to digest what is eaten. Tumultuary reading and hearing, without meditation, is like greedy swallowing much meat. When little is thought on, it doth not turn to profit. This concocteth and digesteth what we have heard. The more a thing is revolved in the mind, the deeper impression it maketh.
4. Beware of inuring the mind to vain thoughts; for this distracts it, and hindereth the impression of things upon it. The face is not seen in running waters; nor can things be written in the memory, unless the mind be close and fixed. Lead is capable of engraving, because it is firm and solid; but quicksilver, because it is fluid, will not admit it. An inconsistent, wandering mind reapeth little fruit from what is read or heard.
5. Order is a help to memory. Heads of doctrine are as cells wherein to bestow all things that are heard from the word. He that is well instructed in the principles of religion will most easily and firmly remember divine truths. Methodus est catena memoriae, to link truths one to another, that we may consider them in their proportion.
6. Get a lively sense of what you hear or read, and you will remember it by a good token: Ps. cxix. 93, ‘I will never forget thy precepts, for by them thou hast quickened me.’ They that are quickened by a sermon will never forget such a sermon.
7. Holy conference. The speaking often of good things keeps them in the heart; and the keeping of them there causeth us to speak to those that are about.
8. Get the memory sanctified, as well as other faculties, and pray for the Spirit; for that faculty is corrupted as well as others.
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