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I have rejoiced in the way of thy commandments, as much as in all riches.—Ver. 14.
THESE words may respect the 12th verse, as another argument where with to back his request, ‘Teach me thy statutes; for I have rejoiced in the way of thy commandments as much as in all riches.’ Many are for worldly wealth, but I have other desires: Lord, teach me how to understand and keep thy statutes, and this will be a greater benefit than any worldly possession whatsoever. Or you may refer them to the 13th verse, as a reason of his practice; every man will be speaking of that wherewith he is delighted: ‘Lord, thy testimonies are my rejoicing;’ therefore, I have and will be speaking of them upon all occasions. Or this may be the fruit of what was mentioned before: those that are exercised about the word, the study, and practice of it, and conference about it, have a sweet sense of the goodness of it in their own souls, so as they delight and rejoice in it above all things; and if we have not felt this effect, it is because we are strangers to the word.
In the words there is—
1. A delight asserted.
2. The object of it, in the way of thy testimonies.
3. The degree of it, as much as in all riches.
By way of explication: The ‘testimonies’ of God are his word, for it testifieth of his will. Now the prophet saith not only, ‘I have rejoiced in thy testimonies,’ but ‘in the way of thy testimonies.’ Way is one of the words by which the law is expressed. God’s laws are ways that lead us to God; and so it may be taken here, the way which thy testimonies point out and call me unto; or else, his own practice, as a man’s course is called his way; his delight was not in speculation or talk, but in obedience and practice: ‘In the way of thy testimonies.’ The degree, ‘as much as in all riches.’ As much, not to show the equality of these things, as if we should have the same affection for the world as for the word of God; but as much, because we have no higher comparison. This is that worldlings dote upon and delight in. Now, as much as they rejoice in worldly possessions, so much do I rejoice in the way of thy testimonies. For I suppose David doth not compare his own delight in the word with his own delight in wealth; but his own choice and delight with the delight and choice of others. If he had spoken of himself both in the one respect and in the other, the expression was very high. David, that was called to a crown, and in a capacity of enjoying much in the world, gold, silver, lands, goods, largeness of territory, and a compound of all that which all men jointly, and every man severally, doth possess, yet was more pleased in the holiness of God’s ways, than in all the world.’ ‘For what shall it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ Mat. xvi. 26.
Doct. A gracious heart finds more true joy in the way of God’s word than in all worldly things whatsoever.130
To explain this, consider—
1. What this delight is.
2. How a gracious heart finds more delight in the word of God than in all worldly things.
3. The reasons why they do so,
1. What this delight is. I shall give you several distinctions.
[1.] There is a sweetness in the study of God’s word, or when we give up ourselves to attain the knowledge of it. The very speculation and study produces a delightful taste, for three reasons:—
(1.) Truth is the good of the understanding; therefore, when the faculty is suited with a fit object, this correspondence causeth a rejoicing and delectation: Prov. xxiv. 14, ‘My son, eat thou honey because it is good; and the honeycomb, because it is sweet to thy taste: so shall the knowledge of wisdom be to thy soul when thou hast found it.’ Every truth, if it be but a natural or philosophical verity, when we come to consider and see it with our own eyes, and have found it out by search, and do not repeat it by rote only, breedeth a delight. Pleasure is applicatio convenientis convenienti; so it is true in theological truths; we are the more affected with them the more they are represented with evidence to the soul.
(2.) Scriptural truths are more sublime than other truths, and do en noble reason with the knowledge of them: Deut. iv. 6, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and an understanding people.’ Such doctrines as we meet with in the word of God concerning angels and the souls of men, the creation and government of all things, the redemption of men, must needs affect the heart, and breed a joy in the view and contemplation of them.
(3.) Because these truths are suitable to our necessities. To every man that hath a conscience, it cannot but be very pleasing to hear of a way how he may come to the pardon of sins, and sound peace of conscience, solid perfection, and eternal glory. Man is naturally under fear of death, Rom. i. 32, and would be glad of pardon; weak, and unable to find out or attain to moral perfection, he would be glad of an exact rule, and gropeth and feeleth about for an everlasting happiness, Acts xvii. 27. So far as anything is found to this purpose in the writings of men, they have a marvellous force and influence upon us. Any beam of this truth scattered in Plato or Socrates, of man’s reconciliation with a just God, there is nothing in their writings; the then world was under perplexity; but yet of moral perfection, and an eternal state of blessedness, there were some glimmerings. Now, when these are represented to the understanding with such evidence and satisfaction as they are in the scriptures, where you have the only sufficient direction to true happiness, no wonder if they are greedily catched at. Now this delight, though good, I speak not of, because it may be in temporaries, who have a taste of the good word, to invite them to seek for more, Heb. vi. 4, and is a fruit of common illumination. The stony ground received the word with joy, Luke viii. 13; and though it may affect the heart, yet if not above all riches, it doth not prevail over carnal affections.
[2.] There is a sweetness found in the way of God’s testimonies which ariseth from the conscience of practical obedience, not from contemplation 131only; and it is best to be found when we come to practise and perform what we know. It is said of wisdom, Prov. iii. 17, ‘All her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.’ There is not only a sweetness in our privileges, but in our duties. No man knoweth the contentment of walking closely with God but he that hath tried. So Micah ii. 7, ‘Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?’ not only speak good, but do good. There is a certain performance of what the word saith, when it is said: it may be accounted done; but to whom? To them that know it, and are able to talk of it? No; but to them that walk. And will every slight endeavour and the presumption of conformity to the rule serve the turn? No; to them that walk uprightly, that sincerely frame themselves to obey God’s will with the greatest exactness and care they can use. Oh, what good, what reviving of heart and cheerfulness do they find in this work! Briefly, this delight in the way of God’s testimonies (that you may not be mistaken) differeth from that contentment and serenity of mind which is the fruit of integrity or moral sincerity. There is some degree of comfort that accompanieth any good action, as heat doth fire; the conscience, so far as he doth good, hath some kind of peace in it. The heathens by God’s general bounty and goodness had a conscience excusing when they did good, as well as accusing when they did evil: Rom. ii. 15, ‘Their thoughts in the meantime accusing, or else excusing one another,’ μεταξὺ ἀλλήλων—‘by turns,’ and this excusing cannot be without some sweetness and contentment of mind. Sacer intra nos spiritus sedet bonorum malorumque nostrorum observator et custos; hic prout a nobis tractatus est, ita nos ipse tractat, saith Seneca. This may be without faith; whereas we speak of such a joy as is founded in faith, though found in the ways of obedience in Christ’s service: Mat. xi. 29, ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest for your souls.’ In short, there is delight in the duty and the dispensation; for it is both promised and required. Delight in God’s ways is promised as a gift of God, and as the result of our obedience: Isa. lviii. 13, 14, ‘If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day, and call the sabbath a delight, &c., then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord,’ &c.; and Cant. ii. 3, ‘I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.’ There is sweetness God bestoweth, or sensible consolation, which must be distinguished from that delight which is a fruit of our gracious esteem. I can exclude neither, though that delight which is the fruit of our esteem of the word is principally here intended; the one is more durable than the other. A gracious affection to the word and ways of God should ever remain with us; but we are not always feasted with spiritual suavities. Now and then we have them, and when they have done their work they return to God. As in the vision made to Peter, the sheet that was showed him was received up again into heaven, Acts x. 16, when Peter was informed of God’s will; so this comfort returneth to the giver when it hath done its work, refreshed our hearts, and engaged us to wait upon God.
2. How a gracious heart rejoiceth more in the way of God’s testimonies than in all riches.132
[1.] There is a broad difference in the things themselves, and therefore there should be in our affections to them; for our affections should be carried out according to the worth of things; otherwise, if an object of less worth have more of our hearts than an object of more value, they are like members out of joint, they are not in their proper place. There is a great distance between the things themselves, as much as there is between the enjoyment of God and the creature, and therefore there must be a considerable difference in our affections to them. If the difference be so nice that thou canst hardly distinguish which thy heart is more affected with, the enjoyment of God in the way of his testimonies, or the enjoyment of wealth and worldly accommodations, or if the disproportion be on the world’s side, that hath more of thy esteem and complacency, then God is not thy chiefest good; thou lovest the creature more than God, which is inconsistent with grace: for this is the prime act of grace, to choose God for our chiefest good.
[2.] We must distinguish between the sensitive stirring of the affections and the solid complacency of the soul. It is possible a child of God may be more sensibly moved by temporal things, as they do more strike upon the senses; but the supreme and prevailing delight of the soul is in spiritual things, in the way of God’s testimonies. To exemplify this by the contrary affection, as in sorrow; a temporal loss may to sense more stir the affections, as to bodily expression of them, than a spiritual; as the drawing of a tooth or any present pain may make us cry out more than the languishings of a consumption; whereas the other may go nearer to the heart, and causeth a more lasting trouble. So in joy; a man may be pleased with earthly conveniences, and yet his solid esteem is more in spiritual things; as a trifle may provoke laughter more than a solid benefit that accrueth to us. Therefore the case is not to be decided by the intensiveness of the sensitive expression so much as by the appreciation of the soul. In this sense the point is to be understood; he would lose all the world rather than dispense with his obedience to God. This is selling all for the pearl of price spoken of, Mat. xiii. 46. All other things are trampled upon and renounced for this one’s sake, that we may enjoy God in Christ. And truly this affection to the word is not easily to be found; for we often see that men for a little gain will break all the commandments of God, as things not to be stood upon when any temporal commodity is in chase, and in the pursuit of worldly riches care not how they neglect Christ and heavenly things.
3. The reasons why they rejoice more in the way of God’s testimonies than in all riches.
[1.] Because of the suitableness of these things to the new nature. Everything hath a kind of joy when it enjoys that which is good for it. The ground doth pleasantly receive a shower of rain after drought; the natural man eateth and drinketh, and his heart is filled with gladness; so the spiritual man is affected with that which is agreeable to the divine nature. Everything is preferred according to the suitableness and proportion which it carrieth to our necessities and desires. The cock in the fable preferred a barleycorn before a jewel; the barley corn is more suitable to its natural appetite. So believers have ‘not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God,’ 1 Cor. ii. 12; 133therefore the way of God’s testimonies is more suitable and proportion able to that nature which they have. Their wealth and worldly things they indeed suit with the sensitive nature, but that is kept under, therefore the prevalent inclination is to the word more than to the world.
[2.] There is nothing in the enjoyment of worldly things, but they have it more amply in the exactest and sincerest way of enjoyment by the word, and walking in the way of its precepts. Satan’s baits whereby he leads men to sin are pleasure and profit; when bonum honestum, the good of honesty and duty, is declined, there remains nothing but bonum utile et jucundum, the good of pleasure and profit. If we be moved with these things, it is good to look there where we may have them at the highest rate and in the most sincere manner. Now, it is the word of God believed and obeyed which yieldeth us the greatest profit and the greatest pleasure. You have both in one verse: Ps. xix. 10, ‘More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than the honey and the honeycomb.’ Because of the profit it is compared to gold, and because of the sweetness and pleasure we have by it, it is compared to honey.
The word of God will truly enrich a man and make us happy. The difference between God’s people and others doth not lie in this, that the one seeketh after riches, the other not; they both seek to enrich themselves; only the one seeketh after false, and the other true riches, as they are called, Luke xvi. 11, and so differ from one another as we and the Indians do, who reckon their wealth by their wampenpeage, or shells of fishes, as we do ours by gold and silver; the one hath little worth but what their fancies put upon it; the other hath a value in nature. Or, to speak in a more home comparison, counters, glass beads, and painted toys please children more than jewels and things of greater price, yea, than land of inheritance, or whatever, when we come to man’s estate, we value and is of use to us for the supply of present necessities. So worldly men, preferring their kind of wealth before holiness and the influences of grace, do but cry up baubles before jewels. To evidence this, and that we may beat the world with their own notions, and so the better defeat the temptation, let us consider what is the true riches.
1. What is indeed true riches.
2. Why these are the true riches.
1. What is indeed riches.
[1.] Gracious experiences or testimonies of the favour of God. He is a rich man indeed that hath many of these. So it is said, Rom. x. 12, God is ‘rich to all that call upon him;’ it is meant actively, not passively; it only noteth that God doth give out plentiful experiences of his grace.
[2.] Knowledge: ‘Let the word of God dwell in you richly, in all wisdom,’ Col. iii. 16. And the apostle mentions ‘the riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ,’ Col. ii. 2. This is a treasure in deed, that cannot be valued; and he is a very poor soul that wants it.
[3.] Faith: James ii. 5, ‘Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith?’ He is a rich man that is emptied of himself that he may be filled with God.134
[4.] Good works: 1 Tim. vi. 10, ‘Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, &c., but rich in good works,’ miserable man! that hath nothing to reckon upon but his money and his bags, so much by the year, and makes it all his business to live plentifully in the world, laying up nothing for heaven, and is not rich in gracious experiences, knowledge, faith, and good works, which are a Christian s riches!
2. Why are these the true riches?
[1.] That is true riches which maketh the man more valuable, which gives an intrinsic worth to him, which wealth doth not that is without us. We would not judge of a horse by the richness of his saddle and the gaudiness of his trappings; and is man, a reasonable creature, to be esteemed by his moneys and lands, or by his graces and moral perfections?
[2.] That is riches which puts an esteem upon us in the eyes of God and the holy angels, who are best able to judge, One barbarous Indian may esteem another the more he hath of his shells and trifles; but you would count him never the richer that should bring home a whole ships lading of these things: Luke xii. 20, such a fool is he ‘that heapeth up treasure to himself, and is not rich towards God;’ that hath not of that sort of riches which God esteemeth. We are bound for a country where riches are of no value; grace only goeth current in the other world.
[3.] That is riches which steads us in our greatest extremities. When we come to die, the riches of this world prove false comforts, for they forsake a man when he hath most need of comfort. In the hour of death, when the poor shiftless naked soul is stripped of all, and we can carry away nothing in our hands, grace lieth near the heart to comfort us. It is said by a voice from heaven of those that die in the Lord, ‘Their works follow them;’ their wealth doth not. Our graces continue with us to all eternity.
[4.] That is the true riches which will supply all our necessities, and bear our expenses to heaven. Wealth doth not this, but grace: Mat. vi. 33, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and the righteousness thereof, and all these things shall be added;’ 1 Tim. iv. 8, ‘Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.’ Heaven and earth are laid at the feet of godliness.
[5.] That is true riches which will give us a title to the best inheritance. The word of God is able to enrich a man more than all the riches of the world, because it is able to bring a man to an everlasting kingdom. All this is spoken because there is an evil desire that possesseth the whole world; they are vehemently carried after riches, and as they are increased, so are they delighted. But, saith David, my delight is to increase in knowledge and grace; if I get more life, more victory over lusts, more readiness for God’s service, this comforts me to the heart. Now how do you measure your thriving? by worldly or spiritual increase?
Here is the true delight. Spiritual delight in spiritual objects far exceedeth all the joy that we can take in worldly things. The pleasures of the mind are far more pure and defecate than those of the 135body; so that if a man would have pleasures, let him look after the chiefest of the kind. He spoke like a beast rather than like a man that said, ‘Eat, drink, and be merry; thou hast goods laid up for many years,’ Luke xii. 19. That is the most that worldly things can afford us, a little bodily cheer: Ps. xvii. 14, ‘Thou hast filled their bellies with hid treasures;’ there is the poor happiness of a rich world ling. He may have a bellyful, and fare at a better rate than others do: Hab. i. 16, ‘Their portion is made fat, and their meat plenteous.’ When men have troubled themselves and the world to make themselves great, it is but for a little belly-cheer, which may be wanted as well as enjoyed; a modest temperance and mean fare yieldeth more pleasure. But what is this to the delights of the mind? A sensualist is a fool, that runneth to such dreggy and carnal delights. Noble and sublime thoughts breed a greater pleasure. What pleasure do some take in finding out a philosophical verity!—the man rejoiceth, the senses are only tickled in the other. Of all pleasures of the mind, those of the spiritual life are the highest, for then our natural faculties are quickened and heightened by the Spirit. The reasonable nature hath a greater joy than the sensitive, and the spiritual divine nature hath more than the mere rational. There is not only a higher object, the love of God, but a higher cause, the Spirit of God, who elevateth the faculty to a higher manner of sense and perception. Therefore both the good and evil of the spiritual life is greater than the good and evil of the rational. The evil of the spiritual is greatest: ‘A wounded spirit who can bear?’ And the good of the spiritual life is greatest, ‘joy unspeakable and glorious.’ The higher the life, the greater the feeling; ‘groans not uttered.’ ‘Peace passing all understanding,’ though it maketh no loud noise, yet it diffuseth a solid contentment throughout the soul. All this is spoken because the way of God’s testimonies is looked upon as a dark and gloomy course by carnal men; yet it is the life of the blessed God himself: Eph. iv. 18, ‘Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.’ And surely he wants no true joy and pleasure that lives such a life.
Use 1. Here is an invitation to men to acquaint themselves more with the way of God’s testimonies, that they may find this rejoicing above all riches. It is hard to pleasant natures to abjure accustomed delights; and carnal men picture religion with a sour austere face: We shall never see cheerful day more if we are strict in religion. Oh! consider, your delight is not abrogated, but perfected; you shall find a rejoicing more intimate than in all pleasures. Cyprian saith he could hardly get over this prejudice, in his epistle to Donatus. Austin, thirty years old, parted with his carnal delights, and found another sweetness—quam suave mihi subito factum est! It is your disease maketh you carnal; when freed from the fervours of lust, these things will have no relish with you. If it seem laborious at first, it will be more joyful than all riches. The root is bitter, but the fruit sweet. At first it is bitter to nature, which loveth carnal liberty, to render itself captive to the word; but after a little pains, and when the heart is once subdued to God, it will be sweet and comfortable. Ask of the 136spies that have been in this good land if it be not a land flowing with milk and honey. David tells you, ‘In the way of thy testimonies.’ This way would be more trodden if men would believe this; if you will not believe, make trial; if Christ’s yoke seem burdensome, it is to a galled neck.
Use 2. Trial.
1. Have we a delight in obedience to God’s precepts? Ps. cxii. 1, they that fear God, delight greatly in his commandments. It is not enough to serve God, but we must serve him delightfully; for he is a good master, and his work hath wages in the mouth of it. It is a sign you are acquainted with the word of God, when the obedience which it requireth is not a burden but a delight to you. Alas! with many it is otherwise. How tedious do their hours run in God’s service I no time seemeth long but that which is spent in divine worship. Do you count the clock at a feast? and are you so provident of time when about your sports? Are you afraid that the lean kine will devour the fat, when you are about your worldly business? What causeth your rejoicing? the increase of wealth, or grace?
2. Is this the supreme delight of the soul? It is seen not so much by the sensible expression, as by the serious constitution of the soul, and the solid effects of it.
[1.] Doth it draw you off from worldly vanities to the study of the word? What are your conceptions of it? What do you count your riches? To grow in grace, or to thrive in the world? To grow rich towards God, or to heap up treasures to yourselves? Is it your greatest care to maintain a carnal happiness?
[2.] Doth it support you in troubles and worldly losses? and bear you out in temporal adversities? You cannot be merry unless you have riches and wealth and worldly accommodations; then, soul, eat, drink, and be merry!
[3.] Doth it sweeten duties? The way of God’s commandments is your way home. A beast will go home cheerfully. You are going home to rest. Let the joy of the Lord be your strength. Certainly you will think no labour too great to get thither, whither the word directs you. As one life exceedeth another, so there is more sensibleness in it. A beast is more sensible of wrong and hurt and of pleasure than a plant; and as the life of a man exceedeth the life of a beast, so is he more capable of joy and grief; and as the life of grace exceedeth the life of a mere man, so its joys are greater, its griefs greater. There are no hardships to which we are exposed for religion, but the reward attending it will make us to overcome.
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