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Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes.—Ver. 12.
IN these words you have:—
1. A compellation, blessed art thou, O Lord.
2. A supplication, teach me thy statutes.
First, The compellation carrieth the force of an argument: Because thou art blessed, O Lord, therefore teach me. And therefore I shall open the sense of this title that is here given to God, so as I may still make good the argument.
For the sense, God may be said to be blessed objectively or subjectively.
First, Objectively, as he is the object of our blessedness. It is our blessedness to enjoy God: Ps. cxliv. 15, ‘Blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.’ That is our blessedness, to have God for our portion. As soon as we are admitted into covenant with God, we have a right to him: ‘I am thy God;’ and we have the full consummation of it when we enter into heaven; there we have the highest enjoyment of God that we are capable of. We have many fruitless and unquiet cares to enjoy the creatures, which are neither blessed in themselves, nor can make us blessed; but now God is our summum bonum, our chief good; the enjoyment of him is the chiefest good. Still we are capable of a higher happiness until we enjoy God. In other things we can neither have satisfaction nor security: the creature cannot satisfy, nor yet secure us in the enjoyment of itself. In this sense the argument will hold good: ‘Blessed art thou, O Lord;’ that is, Thou art the object of my blessedness; my blessedness lieth in the enjoyment of thee; therefore teach me thy statutes. If God be our chiefest good and our utmost end, it concerns us nearly to learn out the way how we may enjoy him: John xvii. 3, ‘This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’ It concerns believers to study that wherein their eternal happiness consisteth, and what is the way to get it: ‘Thou art blessed, and therefore teach me thy statutes.’
Secondly, Subjectively; and so again God is blessed either in an active or in a passive sense.
1. In an active sense. And here we must distinguish again; for so God is blessed either with respect to himself or with respect to us.
[1.] Blessed in himself, as he hath the fulness of perfection and contentment. Blessedness is often ascribed to God: 1 Tim. i. 11, ‘The glorious gospel of the blessed God.’ I will open that place by and by: 1 Tim. vi. 15, ‘Who is the blessed and only potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.’ Now, how is God blessed in himself? 109God’s blessedness is that attribute by which the Lord, from himself, and in his own being, is free from all misery and enjoyeth all good, and is sufficient to himself, and contented with himself, and doth neither need nor desire the creature for any good that can accrue to him by us. Or, more shortly, God’s blessedness is the fruition of himself, and his delighting in himself. Mark, it lieth not in the enjoyment of the creature, but in the enjoyment of himself. God useth us, but doth not enjoy us. As we enjoy a thing for itself, but we use it for another; so uti and frui differ: we use the means, but enjoy the end. God useth the creature in subserviency to his own glory. So it is said: Prov. xvi. 4, ‘God made all things for himself.’ His happiness lieth in knowing himself, in loving himself, in delighting in himself.
But how is this used as an argument, ‘Blessed art thou, O Lord; therefore teach me thy statutes’? Either thus: God, that is blessed, hath enough for himself; surely there is enough in him for us too: Gen. xvii. 1, ‘I am God all-sufficient; walk before me, and be thou perfect.’ I say, if God finds satisfaction enough in himself, our souls surely will find satisfaction in him. That which will fill a pottle, or greater measure, will fill a pint or a lesser measure; that which will satisfy a prince, and be enough for him in that estate, will satisfy a beggar, and supply his wants. God hath an infinite fulness of know ledge, comfort, and holiness; therefore surely enough to satisfy us, as empty as we are. Therefore we should desire to receive of this fulness in God’s way. Or, again, thus: If God be blessed, we had need to inquire after his statutes, for these teach us the way how we may be blessed in God’s blessedness, how we may be conformed to the nature of God, and live the life of God, and then surely we shall be happy enough. (1.) How we may be conformed to the nature of God: 2 Peter i. 4, ‘That we may be partakers of the divine nature,’ according to our measure, that ours may be such as his is. The promises, or the word, have an influence that way. If we see a man hath a rich trade, and secret ways of gain, every one would be acquainted with the mysteries and art of his getting, and desirous to know it. God is eternally blessed, therefore we should study to be like him. (2.) That we may live the life of God. Surely if we could learn to live such a life as God doth, we should be happy. However our prejudices darken it, yet the life of God cannot be a gloomy life. Now, ignorance of God’s statutes is a great hindrance to the life of God: Eph. iv. 18, ‘Being alienated or estranged from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.’ Well, then, the consideration of this, that God is blessed, will certainly make us prize his statutes, prize his word, for by that we are conformed to the nature of God, and to the life of God; we are engaged in the same design wherein God himself is engaged: God loves himself, and acts for himself, and pursueth his own glory. Now when the word of God breaks in upon the heart, we pursue the same design with God. Men are prejudiced against a course of holiness; it seems to look upon them with a sour and austere face. Surely God loves a pleasant life; whoever is miserable, he hath a full contentment. Doth he that made all things want true joy and contentment? 110Who should have happiness if God hath not? Now, when we learn, God’s statutes, we come to be conformed to the nature of God; we love what he loves, and hate what he hates, and then we begin to live the life of God. The happiness of God lieth in loving himself, enjoying himself, and acting for his own glory; and this is the fruit of grace, to teach us to live as God lives, to do as God doth, to love him and enjoy him as our chiefest good, and to glorify him as our utmost end. This is the first sense wherein God may be said to be actively blessed, as he hath infinite complacency in himself.
[2.] God is actively blessed with respect to us as he is the fountain of all blessedness. He is not only blessedness itself, but willing to communicate and give it out to the creature, especially his saints. He fills all created things with his blessedness: Ps. cxlv. 16, ‘Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.’ There is not a creature in the world but hath tasted of God’s bounty, but especially the saints: Eph. i. 3, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Christ.’ These are vessels into which God is still pouring more, until they be completely filled up. Now, this communicativeness that is in God, without any irking of mind, is a certain argument or encouragement to move us to seek of God grace to keep his statutes. This is often urged in this case, his communicativeness to all his creatures: ver. 64, ‘The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy; teach me thy statutes.’ Thou art bountiful to all creatures; and, O Lord, show thy bounty to me. The same again: ver. 68, ‘Thou art good, and dost good; teach me thy statutes.’ Every good, the more good it is, the more it is diffusive of itself. And it is a part of God’s blessedness that he is still of the giving hand: Acts xx. 35, ‘Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ It was a maxim which Christ commended to his disciples: ‘Remember the words of the Lord Jesus;’ that which he often inculcated, ‘That it is more blessed to give than to receive.’ The words formally indeed are not found in any evangelist; only there we may see the whole drift of Christ’s doctrine was to press men to give; it is a more blessed thing. This is the happiness of God, that he gives to all, and receives of none; that he is so ready to communicate of his own fulness upon such free terms: John i. 16, ‘Of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace;’ that is, grace for grace’s sake. Thus we have seen how God is actively blessed.
2. God is passively blessed as he is blessed by us, or as worthy of all praise from us, for his goodness, righteousness, and mercy, and the communications of his grace. There are two words by which our thanksgiving is expressed—praise and blessing. You have both in Ps. cxlv. 10, ‘All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord; and thy saints shall bless thee.’ Praise relateth to God’s excellency, and blessing to his benefits. His works declare his excellency: but his saints, which are sensible of his benefits, they bless him; they count him worthy of all honour and praise, and are ever ascribing to him, Rev. v. 13, ‘Blessing, honour, glory, and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.’ Why blessing? As for other things, so it was for opening the book which was sealed with 111seven seals, and revealing his mind to his people; as you may see, ver. 9. So David here, ‘Blessed art thou, O Lord: teach me thy statutes.’ As if he had said, Lord, thou art, and thou shalt be blessed: I bless thee that thou hast taught me; and I desire thou wouldst teach me still, that I may ever bless thee. Thus it may be taken in a passive sense, as he is the object of our blessedness.66 Qu. ‘blessing’?—ED.
Well, then, all that I have said upon this compellation may be reduced to these six propositions:—
1. That God is over all, and above all, blessed enough in himself, and needeth nothing from us to add to his happiness and perfection.
That he is blessed enough in himself: Rom. ix. 5, ‘God over all, blessed for ever.’ That he needs nothing from us to add to his happiness and perfection: Ps. xvi. 2, ‘My righteousness, my goodness, extendeth not to thee.’ He is above our benefits and injuries. If there could result any one happiness to God from the creature, surely then he would have made the world sooner; what hindered him? for why should he keep himself out of his own happiness? And therefore he made the world, not that he might be happy, but that he might be liberal. Before ever there was hill or mountain, man or angel, God was happy enough in himself. The divine persons took infinite delight and complacency in each other; as their rejoicing is expressed: Prov. viii. 30, 31, ‘I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.’ God had infinite complacency in Christ, and Christ in God, both in the Spirit, all in each, and each in all, before ever there was hill or mountain. The world is upheld, as stones are in an arch, by a mutual dependence, by a combination of interests. We need one another, but God doth not stand in need of us. ‘The head cannot say to the foot, I have no need of thee;’ the greatest stand in need of the meanest, of their labours, their service; the meanest parts have their use in the body. But now, God standeth in no need of us, for he giveth all, and he receiveth nothing back again; as the fountain hath no need of the stream, but the stream hath need of the fountain. The sun fills the lap of the earth with blessings, and the earth returns nothing but vapours, that obscure its beams rather than add anything to its brightness. God filleth every living thing, especially his saints, with blessing, and receiveth nothing from us again.
2. Though God stand in no need of us, yet he is willing to communicate his blessedness, and to make us happy in the enjoyment of himself.
There is a threefold consideration which doth advance the bounty of God—that to us, that himself to us, and that so readily and freely.
[1.] That to us, who can neither hurt him nor help him: Ps. viii. 3, 4, ‘Lord, what is man that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man that thou visitest him?’ What a poor sorry creature is man! wilt thou set thine eyes upon such a one? What would God lose if we were all damned? or what would he gain if all were saved? He would lose no more by us than a bounteous man doth by the death of a company of beggars and maimed persons, which live upon his expense and charge. Wherein can we be useful to God?
[2.] Herein lieth the bounty of God, to give us such a blessing as the enjoyment of himself. When he had no greater thing to swear 112by, saith the apostle, he sware by himself. When God hath no greater thing to give us, he gives us himself: ‘I am thy God.’ He scatters and sheds abroad some common influences upon all creatures; but to us he gives not only that which is his, but gives us himself, that when our happiness is at the highest, we may immediately enjoy him.
For the opening of this blessedness in giving us the fruition of himself, consider we enjoy God two ways—mediately and immediately; one proper to this world, the other to the next.
(1.) Mediately. We enjoy God when he communicateth himself to us by secondary means, or the interposition of the creature between him and us. Thus in common mercies, when he feeds us by his meat and drink, and enlighteneth us with his sun. Here in the world we have blessings at second or third hand: ‘I will hear the heavens, and they shall hear the earth,’ &c., Hosea ii. 21, 22. Whatever one creature affordeth to another, it hath it first from God. The creature is but an empty hollow pipe through which the blessing runs, and it passeth from pipe to pipe. God poureth out his influences to the heavens, and the heavens pour out their influences upon the earth; and the strength of the earth runneth up into corn, wine, and oil, and by corn, wine, and oil Israel hath his refreshments. So still from pipe to pipe is the blessing conveyed to the creature. So for special mercies; we have them by degrees; life, comfort, grace by the word and seals. But the Lord will not only supply us at second and third hand, but—
(2.) Immediately. When God communicates himself to us without any other thing between us and him; when we are immediately present with God, and have immediate influences from God, this is the happiness of heaven. In the heavenly state ‘God shall be all in all,’ 1 Cor. xv. 28. He shall be both the dispenser and the dispensation. There we see him face to face, ‘and in his face and presence there is fulness of joy,’ Ps. xvi. 11. That is our happiness in the next world, where immediate influences and virtue doth pass out from him. In heaven there is no temple, Rev. xxi. 22, ‘But the Lamb is the temple of it’ There is a service of God, and constant influences in that God supplieth all immediately from himself.
[3.] This is upon free terms: John i. 16, ‘Of his fulness have we all received, and grace for grace.’
3. The word of God, especially the gospel part, doth only teach us the way how we may be blessed in the enjoyment of God.
That is a notable place to this purpose: 1 Tim. i. 11, ‘The glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.’ Mark there, first, he calls it ‘the glorious gospel.’ When he speaks of the law in that place he saith, ‘We know that the law is good,’—compare it with ver. 8; but when he comes to speak of the gospel, he calls it ‘the glorious gospel.’ The law is good, but the gospel glorious, because more of the glory of God is displayed and discovered to the creature. And ‘the glorious gospel of the blessed God.’ Titles are always suited to the case in hand; therefore it is called ‘The glorious gospel of the blessed God,’ because there God is discovered as ready to bless us; there is the way how we may come to be blessed in God, how he may with respect to us be a fountain of blessedness; there we have the highest discoveries of this mystery, the most moving arguments 113to persuade us to look after it; and with this gospel there is a grace, a virtue dispensed to enable us to walk in this way. So that if we would enjoy the blessed God, we must consult with his statutes, and especially the gospel.
4. If we would profit by the word of God, we must go to God, and desire the light and strength of his grace.
If we would enjoy the blessed God, according to the direction of his word, we must not only consult with the word, but with God. Nothing else can draw us off from the world, and persuade us to look after heavenly things; nothing else will teach us the vanity of the creature, the reality of spiritual privileges. Until we see these things in a divine light, the heart hangs off from God; and therefore saith David, Ps. xvi. 7, ‘I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel.’ He had chosen God for his portion, and then ‘I will bless the Lord,’ &c. We shall still run after lying vanities until God doth open your eyes to see the mysteries of the word, and to be affected with the way. Those that are drawn to God must first be taught of God: John vi. 44, ‘No man cometh to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him;’ for Christ adds presently, ‘They shall be all taught of God.’ Our hearts can never be drawn unto God until he take us into his own hands.
5. The more we are brought to attend upon the word, and the more influence the word hath upon us, the nearer the blessing.
Christians, we are not far from the kingdom of God. There is some blessedness when we begin to look after the directions of the word, and to wait upon the teachings of God: Prov. viii. 34, ‘Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.’ Then you are in a hopeful way to true blessedness when you begin to be careful to attend upon God’s teaching, much more when you have the fruits of it, when you know him so as to love him, so as to have your hearts drawn off from sin and folly: Acts iii. 26, ‘Him hath God sent to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.’ The great business of Jesus Christ is to make us blessed in the enjoyment of God. But how is it? only by bare knowledge? No, it is by turning every one from his iniquity. So the more this teaching of God prevails upon the heart, the more blessed we are: Ps. cxix. 1, ‘Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.’ Otherwise, to have a golden head and feet of clay, that is monstrous, as in Nebuchadnezzar’s image; to have a naked knowledge of God, and not brought under the power of it. You read of the heathens, when they sacrificed to their gods, they were wont to hang a garland upon the heads of the beasts, and to crown them with roses, so they were led on to sacrifice. Many may have garlands upon their heads, ornaments of knowledge, yet are going on to destruction; therefore that light and teaching which conveyeth blessedness is such as prevaileth upon the heart, and doth effectually turn us to God.
6. It is not only an affront put upon God, but also a great wrong, to neglect the word of God, and the way he prescribes, and to seek blessedness in temporal things.
Here you have the true way to blessedness set down in God’s 114statutes; but in outward things there wants fulness, sincerity, eternity.
[1.] There wants fulness. That which makes us blessed, it must fill up the heart of man. As a vessel is never full until it have as much as it can hold, so we can never be said to have a full happiness and contentment until we have as much as we can hold. That which fills must be greater than the thing filled. Now man’s heart is such a chaos of desires, that it can never be filled up but in God: Ps. xvi. 11, ‘In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.’ Therefore, of the joy and happiness we have in God, it is said, ‘Enter into thy master’s joy,’ Mat. xxv. When we speak of a cup of water, that enters into the man, that is taken down into the man; but if we speak of a river of water, or tub of water, that is greater than the man is capable of, or can receive,—the man enters into it; so this joy and happiness, which is truly and genuinely so, it must exceed our capacity, greater than we can receive, that we may enter into it; it is the infinite God can only satisfy the heart of man. In temporal things there is no kind of fulness; you have not one worldly comfort, but you desire more of it. Ahab was a king, yet still he wants something, Naboth’s vineyard. A man is not satisfied with abundance, neither is his soul filled with increase of worldly things; yet we may desire more, Eccles. v.; and if we have one thing to the full, yet we shall need another. If a man be strong, he may need learning; it may be though he hath some kind of learning and know ledge, yet he hath not wisdom. Naaman was rich, wise, valiant, and honourable, but he was a leper. There is a but upon all worldly happiness; therefore there is no fulness in these things.
[2.] There is no sincerity in them. All that is in the world is but a semblance and an appearance, that which tickles the senses; it doth not go to the heart. You would have thought Belshazzar was merry at the heart when he was quaffing and carousing in the cups of the temple; but how soon is the edge of his bravery taken off, Dan. v. 5, 6. Haman in the midst of his honours was troubled at the heart for want of Mordecai’s knee. Those things which seem to affect us so much cannot allay one unquiet passion, certainly cannot still and pacify the least storm of the conscience; and therefore, whatever face men put upon temporal enjoyments, if they cannot see God’s special love m them, they want sincere joy. There is many a smart lash they feel when the world hears not the stroke: Prov. xiv. 13, ‘Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness.’ All the laughter and merriment which men seem to receive from the creature, it is but a little appearance, not such as will go to the conscience, that will indeed and thoroughly rejoice and comfort a man, and give him solid joy.
[3.] There wants eternity. An immortal soul must have an eternal good, ‘pleasures for evermore,’ Ps. xvi. 11. In this world we have but a poor changeable happiness: Luke xii. 20, it was said to the rich fool, ‘This night thy soul shall be required of thee.’
Thus much for the first branch, blessed art thou, O Lord.
Secondly, I come from the compellation to the supplication, teach me thy statutes. And here observe (1.) The person teaching; he speaks 115to God, ‘Do thou, O God, teach,’ (2.) We may consider the person taught, ‘Teach me;’ I, that have hid the word in my heart. David, that was a prophet, is willing to be a disciple. Those that teach others have need that God should teach them. The prophet saith, ‘Teach me, O Lord.’ David, a grown Christian, he desires more understanding of God’s will. Certainly we should still ‘follow on to know the Lord,’ Hosea vi. 3. Heathens, that only knew natural and moral things, yet they saw a need of growth; and the more they knew, the more they discovered their ignorance; and always as they grew older, they grew wiser. How much more sensible would they have been of their defects in the knowledge of spiritual things, if they had in a little measure been acquainted with the mysteries of godliness, that pass all understanding, and are so much from human sense, and above the capacities of our reason! Prov. xxx. 3, Agur said, ‘I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy.’ There is very much yet to be learned of God, and of his ways. Many think they know all that can be taught them. David, a great prophet, a man after God’s own heart, yet is earnest that God would teach him his statutes. (3.) The lesson or matter to be taught, ‘thy statutes;’ so he calls the word, because the doctrines of it have the force of a law published; they do unalterably bind, and that the soul and conscience; and therefore the precepts, counsels, and doctrines of the word are all called statutes.
The point is—
Doct. If we would know God’s statutes so as to keep them, we must be taught of God.
Here I shall inquire—
1. What it is, or how doth God teach us?
2. The necessity of this teaching.
3. The benefit and utility of it.
First, How doth God teach us?
Outwardly, by his ordinance, by the ministry of man.
Inwardly, by the inspiration and work of the Holy Ghost.
1. The outward teaching is God’s teaching, because it is an ordinance which is appointed by him. Now both these must ever go together, external and internal teaching: ‘Despise not prophecy, quench not the Spirit.’ If you would have any enlightening and quickening of the Spirit, you must not despise prophecy. We teach you here, and God blesseth. Jesus Christ, when he comes to teach his disciples, first he openeth the scripture, Luke xxiv. 37; and then, ver. 45, ‘he opened their understandings.’ Of Lydia it is said, ‘God opened her heart in attending to the things spoken by Paul,’ Acts xvi. 14. She was attending, and then God openeth her heart. When the eunuch was reading, then God sends an interpreter. The outward means are necessary; it is God’s teaching in part; but the inward grace especially. Both these must go together; for it is said, John vi. 45, ‘Every man that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.’ There must be a hearing of the word, and so there is a teaching from God. But—
2. The inward teaching, which is the work of the Spirit, that needs most to be opened. What is that? It consists in two things—(1.) When God infuseth light into the understanding, so as we come to 116 apprehend the things of God in a spiritual manner: Ps. xxxvi. 9, ‘In thy light shall we see light.’ There is no discerning spiritual things spiritually, but in God’s light. There may be a literal instruction which one man may give to another, but ‘in thy light only shall we see light;’ such a lively affective knowledge as disposeth the heart for the enjoyment of God. There is a seeing, and a seeing in seeing: Isa. vi. 10, ‘Lest in seeing they shall see.’ A man may see a truth rationally that’ doth not see it spiritually. Now, when we have the Spirit’s light, then in seeing we see. Or, as the apostle calls it, Col. i. 6, ‘A knowing of the grace of God in truth,’ since you did not only take up the report, but feel it, and had some experience of it in your hearts. Again, (2.) God’s teaching consisteth not only in enlightening the understanding, but in moving and inclining the heart and the will; for God’s teaching is always accompanied with drawing: John vi. 44, ‘No man cometh to me, except the Father draw him;’ which Christ proves, ver. 45, because ‘they shall be all taught of God.’ The Spirit’s light is not only directive, but persuasive; it is effectual to alter and to change the affections, and to carry them out to Christ and to his ways; he works powerfully where he teacheth. When the Holy Ghost was first poured out upon the apostles, there was a notable effect of it; it came in the appearance of cloven tongues, like as of fire, Acts ii. 3, to show the manner of the Spirit’s operation by the ministry; not only as light, but as fire: it is a burning and a shining light; that is, such a light as is seasoned with zeal and love, that affects the heart, that burns up our corruptions. And therefore, you know, when Christ would put forth a divine effect in his conference with his two disciples, it is said, ‘Their hearts burned within them while he talked with them,’ Luke xxiv. 32. There is a warmth and heat conveyed to the soul. Thus for the nature of this teaching.
Secondly, The necessity of this teaching will appear in several things.
1. If we consider the weakness of a natural understanding: 1 Cor. ii. 14, ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, because they are spiritually discerned.’ They must be spiritually understood. There must be a cognation and proportion between the object and the faculty. Divine things cannot be seen but by a divine light, and spiritual things by a spiritual light, else they shall have no savour and relish. Can sense, which is the light of beasts, trace the workings or the flights of reason? Can you see a soul or an angel by the light of a candle? There is no proportion between them. So, can a natural man receive the things of the Spirit? He receives them not. Why? Because spiritual things must be spiritually discerned.
2. There is not only blindness, but obstinacy and prejudice. When we come to judge by sense and reason, the whole business of Christianity seems to be a foolish thing to a carnal heart. To give up ourselves to God, and all our interests, and to wait upon the reversion of a happiness in another world, which is doubtful whether there will be any such thing or no, is a folly to him. To deny present lusts and interests, to be much in prayer, and be often in communion with God, is esteemed a like folly. When the apostle came to preach the gospel 117to the wits at Athens, they scoffed at him; they entertain his doctrine as fire is entertained in wet wood, with hissing and scorn. To do all, and suffer all, and that upon the account of a happiness to come, to a carnal heart this is but a fancy and a mere imagination.
3. As blind and obstinate, so we are apt to abuse truth. Carnal hearts turn all to a carnal purpose. As spiders assimilate and turn, all they suck into their own substance, so doth a carnal heart turn all, even the counsels and comforts of the word, to a carnal purpose. Or as the sea, whatever comes into it, the sweet rivers and droppings of the clouds, turns all into salt water: Hosea xiv. 9, ‘Who is wise, and he shall understand these things; prudent, and he shall know them; but the transgressors shall stumble therein.’ As right excellent and as notable as the doctrines of the word are, yet a carnal heart finds matter in them to stumble at; he picks that which is an occasion of ruin and eternal perdition from the scripture; therefore the apostle saith, Eph. iv. 21, ‘If ye have learned of him as the truth is in Jesus.’ We are never right, and truth never works us to regeneration, but it is only fuel for our lusts, until we have learned it as it is in Jesus. Carnal men undo themselves by their own apprehensions of the truths of God. Luther calls some promises bloody promises, because of the mistakes of carnal men by their perverse application. Therefore, that we may maintain an awe of God in our soul, we need to be taught of God.
4. We are apt to abuse our knowledge. Saving knowledge makes us more humble, but carnal knowledge more proud. Where it is in gift rather than in grace, there men are puffed up. The more we know God or ourselves by a divine light, the more humble we shall be: Jer. xxxi. 18, 19, ‘When I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed, even confounded, because I did bear the reproach of my youth.’ The more light we have from God, the more we look into a vile heart. When Adam’s eyes are opened, he runs into the bushes; he was ashamed. So when God opens the eyes, and teacheth a Christian, this makes him more humble.
5. There needs God’s teaching, because we are so apt to forsake when we have known the things of God: Ps. cxix. 21, ‘The proud do err from thy commandments.’ What is the reason David was so stead fast in the truth? He did not take it up from the teachings of man, but from the teachings of God. When a man leads us into any truth, another man may lead us out again. But now, when God hath taught us, and impressed truth upon the heart, then it is durable. What is the reason believers are not as fickle as others, and not led away by the impure Gnostics, and like those libertines now among us? 1 John ii. 20, ‘Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.’ They had an unction which came down from Jesus Christ upon their hearts; and then a man is not led away by every fancy, but begins to grow stable in spirit.
6. We cannot tell how to master our corruptions, nor restore reason to its dominion again. It is not enough to bring light into the soul, but we must have power and efficacy, or true conversion will not follow. Man’s reason was to govern his actions. Now, all literal instruction is weak, like a March sun, which draweth up the vapours, but cannot 118scatter them; it can discover sins, but cannot quell them: Rom. vii. 9, ‘When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.’ He could not tell how to bridle his lusts; he found them more outrageous: ‘The good that I would do, I do not; and the evil which I would not, that I do.’
Thirdly, The benefit and utility of God’s teaching. When God teacheth, truth cometh upon us with more conviction and demonstration, 1 Cor. ii. 6, and so hath a greater awe and sovereignty. Those that have made any trial can judge between being taught of God and men. Those that are taught of men, the charms of rhetoric may sometimes stir up some loose affection, but it doth soon vanish and wear away again; but the work of God makes deep impression upon the soul, and truths are then more affective. Man’s knowledge is sapless, dry, and unsavoury: 2 Peter i. 8, ‘For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ There may be an empty belief, and a naked and inactive apprehension of Christ, which stirs up no affection; but the light which comes from God enters upon the heart, Prov. ii. 10; it affects the whole soul. It doth not only stay in the fancy, float in the brain, but affect the heart. And then it is renewing. Man’s light may make us more learned but God’s light more holy. We are ‘changed by beholding the glory of God into the same image,’ 2 Cor. iii. 18.
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