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I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.—Ver. 32.
IN these words there are two parts:—
1. A supposition of strength or help from God, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.
2. A resolution of duty, I will run the way of thy commandments.
Where—(1.) Observe, that he resolves, I will. (2.) The matter of the resolution, the way of thy commandments. (3.) The manner how he would carry on this purpose, intimated in the word run, with all diligence and earnestness of soul.
The text will give us occasion to speak—
1. Of the benefit of an enlarged heart.
2. The necessary precedency of this work on God’s part before there can be any serious bent or motion of heart towards God on our part.
3. The subsequent resolution of the saints to engage their hearts to live to God.
4. With what earnestness, alacrity, and vigour of spirit this work is to be carried on, ‘I will run.’
First, Let me speak of the enlarged heart, the blessing here asked of God. The point from hence is—
Doct. Enlargement of heart is a blessing necessary for them that would keep God’s laws.325
David is sensible of the want of it, and therefore goes to God for it.
1. 1 shall speak of the nature of this benefit.
2. The necessity of it.
First, As to the nature, what this enlargement of heart is. There is a general and a particular enlargement of heart.
1. The general enlargement is at regeneration or conversion to God. When we are freed from the bonds of natural slavery, and the curse of the law, and the power of sin, to serve God cheerfully, then is our heart said to be enlarged. This is spoken of in scripture: John viii. 36, ‘If the son shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.’ There are two things notable in that scripture—that this is freedom indeed, and that we have it by the Son. (1.) That this the truest liberty, then are we free indeed. How large and ample soever our condition and portion be in the world, we are but slaves without this freedom. As Austin said of Rome, that she was Domitrix gentium et captiva vitiorum—the mistress of the nations and a slave to vices; so vicious men are very slaves, how free and large soever their condition be in the world. Joseph was sold as a bondslave into Egypt; but his mistress, that was overcome by her own lust, was the true captive, and Joseph was free indeed. (2.) The other thing observable from this text is, that we have this liberty by Christ, he purchased it for us. This enlargement of heart from the captivity of sin cost dear. Look, as the Roman captain said, Acts xxii. 28, ‘With a great sum obtained I this freedom,’ they were tender of the violation of this privilege of being a citizen of Rome, a free-born Roman, because it cost so dear. And when the liberties of a nation are bought with a great deal of treasure and blood, no wonder that they are so dear and precious to them, and that they are so willing to stand for their liberty. Certainly our liberty by Christ was dearly bought. One place more I shall mention: Rom. viii. 2, ‘For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.’ The covenant of grace is there called ‘the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus;’ and the covenant of works is called ‘the law of sin and death.’ To open the place: The covenant of grace, that is accompanied with the law of the spirit; the covenant of works, that is the law of the letter—that only gives us the letter and the naked knowledge of our duty. Lex jubet, gratia juvat; it is ‘the law of the spirit;’ and not only so, but ‘the law of the spirit of life which is in Christ Jesus,’ because it works from the Spirit of Christ, and conforms us to the life of Christ as our original pattern. Well, then, this law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus, it makes us free. This freedom, though purchased by Christ, is yet ap plied, executed, and accomplished by the Spirit. The Spirit makes us free, and from what? From ‘the law of sin and death;’ that is, from the law as a covenant of works, which is therefore called a law of sin ‘and death, because it convinceth of sin, and bindeth over to death. It is the ministry of death to condemnation to the fallen creature.
Let us see what this general enlargement and freedom is from these places. It consists in two things—a freedom from the power and from the guilt of sin, or the curse and obligation to eternal damnation.
The first sort of freedom from the power of sin is spoken of Rom. vi. 18, ‘Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.’ 326 There is a freedom from sin, and a freedom for sin, or a freedom from righteousness, as it is called, ver. 20, ‘When you were the servants of sin,’ saith the apostle, ‘you were free from righteousness.’ To be under the dominion of sin is the greatest slavery, and to be under the dominion of grace is the greatest liberty and enlargement. Then is a man free from righteousness, when he hath no impulsions or inclinations of heart to that which is good, when righteousness hath no command over him, when he will not be held under the restraints of grace, when he hath no fear to offend or care to please God. But on the other side, then is a man free from sin when he can thwart his lust, always warring against it, cutting off the provisions of the flesh; when he hath no purpose and care to act his lust, but it is always the bent and inclination of his heart to please God; and this is our liberty and enlargement.
The other part of this liberty and enlargement is, when we are freed from the bondage of conscience, or fears of death and hell. Every covenant hath a suitable operation of the spirit attending upon it: the covenant of works hath an operation of the spirit of bondage; the covenant of grace hath an operation of the spirit of adoption. I say, the covenant of works, rightly thought of, produceth nothing in the fallen creature but bondage, or a dreadful sense of their misery; it is called the spirit of bondage, and every one which passeth out of that covenant hath a feeling of it: Rom. viii. 15, ‘You have not received the spirit of bondage, again to fear.’ You had it once, but not again. Then are we enlarged in this sense when the shackles are knocked off from our consciences, when we have that other spirit, the spirit of adoption, or that free spirit, as it is called: Ps. li. 12, ‘Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free spirit.’ This free spirit enlargeth us, that we may serve God cheerfully and comfortably.
According to this double captivity (the slavery of sin and bondage of conscience) so must our freedom and enlargement be interpreted; a freedom from the power of sin, and a freedom from the guilt of sin. The carnal estate is often compared to a prison; as Rom. xi. 32, ‘God hath concluded,’ or ‘shut them all up together in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all;’ Gal. iii. 22, ‘The scripture hath concluded,’ or ‘shut up all under sin;’ συνέκλεισεν, that is the word. A man in his sinful and unbelieving state is like a man shut up in a strong prison, that is made sure and fast with iron bars and bolts, so that there is no hope of breaking prison; mercy alone must open the door to him: this being in prison notes the power of sin. But take the other notion, because of the guilt of sin. Now this prison is all on fire in the apprehension of the sensible sinner; and therefore the poor trembling captive, when the prison is all on a light flame, runs hither and thither, seeking an outgate and a way of escape, and mourns and sighs through the grates of the flaming prison. This is all our condition by nature. Now, when God loosens the bolts, and shoots back the many locks that were upon us, as the angel made Peter’s chains fall off, Acts xii. 12, then are we said to be enlarged, to run the way of his commandment, or, as it is expressed Luke i. 74, to be ‘delivered out of the hands of our enemies, that we might serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness all the days of our life;’ when we are 327delivered from the powers of corruption, which are as bolts and locks upon us, and the power of sin is broken, and we let out of the stocks of conscience, that we might serve God without slavish fear. This is the first thing we should mainly look at; the general enlargement must always go before the particular. First see that you be converted to God. It is that which hardeneth many. You shall find many are praying for strengthening grace when they should ask renewing grace; and when they should bewail the misery of an unregenerate carnal state, they confess only the infirmities of the saints, and so are like little children, that attempt to run before they can stand or go. Therefore here God must enlarge you, free you from the slavery of sin and bondage, that you may serve God.
2. There is a particular enlargement, or the actual assistance of the Lord’s grace, carrying us on in the duties of our heavenly calling with more success. This is that which David begs in this place, ‘If thou wilt enlarge my heart.’ There are, after grace is received, many spiritual distempers which are apt to seize upon us. Sometimes we are slow of heart, sometimes in bonds and straits of conscience as to God’s service. A man of spiritual experience is sensible of these things, of a damp which is many times upon his life and comfort, and want of strength and largeness of heart for God’s service. Whosoever makes conscience of daily communion with God, and that in every service would do his uttermost, cannot but be sensible of straits; and therefore it is grievous to him to be under bonds and restraints, and that he cannot so freely let out his heart to God. Others that do not make communion with God their interest, that go on in a dead track and course of duty, are never sensible of enlargement or straitening.
But briefly, that we may know when the heart is enlarged, understand the nature of it, let us see when the heart in scripture is said to be enlarged.
1. You may look upon this enlargement as the effect of wisdom and knowledge; and so Solomon is said to have a large heart: 1 Kings iv. 29, ‘And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart even as the sand that is on the sea shore.’ The greater stock of sanctified wisdom and knowledge a man hath, the more is the heart enlarged; for he hath a treasure within him, and he is ready to bring out of the good treasure of his heart good things. He that hath more gold than brass farthings, when he puts his hand into his pocket, will more easily bring forth gold than farthings; so when the heart hath a good stock of holy principles within, they are ready at hand, they break out more easily in our discourse, in our praying; we are ready in all temptations to check the sin. All grace is increased to us by knowledge: 2 Peter i. 2, ‘Grace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Still this way doth God enlarge the heart of his people. When the understanding is full of pregnant truths, the greater awe there is and check upon the heart to sin, and the greater impulsion to duty. Look, as the influences of heaven pass through the air, but they produce their effects in the earth; they do not make the air fruitful, but the earth; so do the influences of grace pass through the understanding, but they produce their fruit in the will, and show 328forth their strength in the affections; and therefore when we would have our affections for God, the way is to enlarge the understanding.
2. You may look upon it as the effect of faith, which wideneth the capacities of our souls, and doth cause us more to open towards God, that we may take in his grace; it doth enlarge our desires and expectations: Ps. lxxxi. 10, ‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.’ Surely a temple for the great God, such as our hearts should be, should be fair and ample. If we would have God dwell in our hearts, and shed abroad his influences, we should make room for God in our souls by a greater largeness of faith and expectation. The rich man thought of enlarging his barns when his store was increased upon him: Luke xii.; so should we stretch out the curtains of Christ’s tent and habitation, have larger expectations of God, if we would receive more from him. The vessels failed before the oil failed. We are not straitened in God, but in ourselves, by the scantiness of our own thoughts; we do not make room for him, nor greaten God: Luke i. 46, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord.’ Faith doth greaten God. Why, can we make God greater than he is? As to his declarative being, we can have greater and larger apprehensions of his greatness, goodness, and truth*
3. We may look upon it as an effect of comfort and joy, through the assurance of God’s love; for that enlargeth the heart, but sorrow straitens it, and puts it in bonds. The word that we translate grief, Judges x. 16, ‘His soul was grieved for the misery of Israel;’ in the Hebrew it is ‘shortened ‘or ‘lessened.’ A man’s mind is lessened when he is under that passion. Griefs contract and lessen the soul, but joy enlargeth it, as Isa. lx. 5; and in this sense it is said, Ps. iv. 1, ‘Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress.’ In sorrow the spirits return to comfort and support the heart, but in joy they are dilated and scattered abroad; and so this is that affection which sends abroad strength and life into all our actions. As this is true of joy and sorrow in common, so especially of spiritual joy and spiritual sorrow, which are the greatest of the kind; no sorrow like that sorrow, no joy like that joy; therefore nothing more enlargeth the heart. When God hides his face, when pressing troubles do revive a sense of wrath, alas!’ My soul is troubled,’ saith the Psalmist, ‘I cannot speak;’ we cannot pour out our hearts to God with that largeness, that measure of strength, spirit, and life as before. But now, when we can joy in God as those that have received the atonement, when we have the comfort of a good conscience, the joy in the Holy Ghost, this causeth a forward and free obedience; and those that could hardly creep before, but languished under the burden of sorrows, when cheered and revived with the light of God’s countenance, they can run and act with vigour and alacrity in God’s service: Neh. viii. 10, ‘The joy of the Lord is their strength.’ It is as oil to the wheels, as wings by which we mount to meet with God: Ps. xxx. 11, ‘Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.’ It is an allusion to those eastern countries; when their garments were girded and tucked up, they were more expedite and ready to run. So here, when thou shalt enlarge my heart, then I will run the way of thy commandments. When our soul is filled with gladness, and comfortable 329apprehensions of the Lord’s grace, we are carried out to God with greater strength and liveliness.
4. We may look upon it as a fruit of love. For thus the apostle doth express his love to the Corinthians, 2 Cor. vi. 11, ‘O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged.’ It is love which is the great poise and weight upon the soul that sets all the wheels a-going. When love is strong, the heart is carried out with fervour and earnestness: Neh. iv. 6, ‘We built the wall.’ Why? ‘For the people had a mind to the work;’ then it went on speedily. Where we have no affection to a thing, the least service is burdensome; but when our hearts are for it, then the most difficult thing will seem easy; Jacob’s seven years’ hard service were sweetened by his love to Rachel; yea, duties against the hair, as Shechem for Dinah’s sake submitted to be circumcised. Love sets us a-work strongly.
Thus the general enlargement is when we are freed from the slavery of sin and bondage of conscience, that we may serve God cheerfully; and the particular enlargement, you may look upon it as a fruit of wisdom and knowledge, or of faith, or of joy, or of love; when we have a fruitful understanding, a large faith, a sweet delight in God, and a strong love to him.
Secondly, For the necessity of this, that the heart should be enlarged before we can run the way of God’s commandments.
1. There needs a large heart because the command is exceeding broad: Ps. cxix. 96, ‘I have seen an end of all perfection; but thy commandment is exceeding broad.’ A broad law and a narrow heart will never suit. We need love, faith, knowledge, and all to carry us through this work, which is of such a vast extent and latitude.
2. We need an enlarged heart because of the lets and hindrances within ourselves. There is lust drawing off from God to sensual objects: James i. 14, ‘Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed.’ Therefore there needs something to poise us, to incline us, to draw us on, to carry us out with strength and life another way, to urge us in the service of God. Lust sits as a clog upon us; it is a weight of corruption, Heb. xii. 1, retarding us in all our flights and motions, thwarting, opposing, breaking the force of spiritual impulsions, if not hindering them altogether, Gal. v. 17. Well, then, lust drawing so strongly one way, God needs to draw us more strongly the other way. When there is a weight to poise us to worldly and sensual objects, we need a strength to carry us on with vigorous and lively motions of soul towards God, an earnest bent upon our souls, which is this enlargement of heart.
Use 1. Let us therefore look after this benefit, and acknowledge God in it.
First, Ask it often of God. God keeps assisting grace in his own hands, and disposeth it at pleasure, that he may the oftener hear from us. The prodigal, that had his portion in his own hands, went away from his father; and therefore we have but from hand to mouth, that we may be daily kept in a dependence and constant course of communion with God. It is pleasing to God, when we desire him to renew his work, to bring forth the actings of grace out of his own seed, to blow with his wind, with the breath of his Spirit upon our 330gardens, that the spices may flow out, Cant. iv. 15. But now, when we depend upon ourselves, and neglect God, and think to find always a like largeness of heart and a like savouriness of spirit, we shall be but like Samson: Judges xvi. 20, ‘When his locks were gone, he thought to go forth and shake himself as at other times, and wist not that the Lord was departed from him.’ So when our strength is gone and God withdrawn, we shall not find a like pregnancy and consistency of thoughts, a like readiness and vigour of affections in holy duties, but all will be out of order; the understanding is lean, dry, and sapless, the heart averse and dead; and therefore God will be acknowledged in our enlargements, both as to prayer and praise. In a way of prayer we should often seek to him; and he will be acknowledged in a way of praise likewise: Ps. lxiii. 8, ‘My soul followeth hard after thee; thy right hand upholdeth me.’ If you find any strong actings of faith and love stirred up to follow hard after God, to pursue him close in holy duties, when you feel any of these vigorous and lively motions, ascribe it not to yourselves, but to God’s right hand; he is to be owned in the work.’ ‘Not I,’ saith the apostle, ‘but the grace of God wrought in me.’
Secondly, Avoid the causes of straitening, if you would have this enlarged heart. What are they?
1. Ignorance and defect of gifts; for it is by knowledge all grace comes into the soul: Col. iii. 16, ‘Let the word of God dwell in you richly.’ When the understanding is fraught with spiritual treasure, when the word of God dwells in us richly, then we have it upon all occasions to help us, we have at home a truth ready, and can call it to mind, either for suppressing of temptation, or encouraging us to duty, or for allaying of such a grief, speaking comfort under such a cross; otherwise we are lean, dry, and cannot act with that fulness of strength. But—
2. Another thing that straitens the heart is the love of present things. So much as your hearts are enlarged to the flesh, so much they are straitened to the spirit, 2 Cor. vi. 13; as what the land loseth the sea gains. By pleasures and by the cares of the world your hearts are straitened towards God, they are ‘overcharged,’ Luke xxi. 34.
3. Sorrow and uncomfortable dejection of spirit, through the fears of God’s wrath, or by reason of desertion, when we have a sense of his wrath, and when we can find no effects of his grace. God with draws, you have not your wonted influences, your wonted answers of prayer: Ps. lxxvii. 4, ‘I am so troubled that I cannot speak.’ This locks up the heart, and hinders it in the service of God, that it cannot so freely come and pour out its soul.
4. Great sins work a shyness of God. The faulty child blusheth, and is loath to look his father in the face, when he hath been doing some offence. The Israelites, after they had sinned in the matter of the calf, they stood afar off, and worshipped every man in his tent-door. You lose your freedom by gross sins: 1 John iii. 21, ‘If our hearts condemn us not, then παῤῥησίαν ἔχομεν, we have confidence towards God;’ we may come into God’s presence without a self-accusing and condemning conscience. You have not this liberty and 331enlargedness of heart towards God when an accusing conscience pursues you. When a man hath lost his peace and comfort, he cannot come and tell God all his mind, his temptations, straits, doubts, fears.
5. Unbelief. That is a cause of straitening, when it represents God under an ill notion; as terrible: Lam. iii. 10, ‘He was unto me as a bear lying in wait, and as a lion in secret places;’ Isa. xxxviii. 13, ‘I reckoned till morning, that as a lion so will he break all my bones: from day even to night wilt thou make an end of me.’ It fills us with misconceits of God, as if he were terrible. When one came tremblingly with a petition to Augustus, What! said he, art thou giving a sop, a bit to an elephant? We disguise the majesty of God by our unbelieving thoughts; we come to him as to a bear and lion that is ready to tear us in pieces, and then we cannot have that cheer fulness and delight in his service.
6. Pride. We are not humbled, but puffed up, when our heart is enlarged, and abuse the quickening influences of the Lord’s grace to feed our pride: Ps. li. 15, ‘Open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.’ He doth not say, Mine own praise; then I will discover my gifts, and show what I can do: but, Thy praise. Many beg quickening and enlargement to set off themselves, and ask contributions of heaven to supply the devil’s service; or as he that lighted his lamp at the altar that he might go and steal with-it. We would put up self as an idol in God’s stead, and have help from God that we might make him serve with our iniquities, that we might set off ourselves with honour and esteem in the world. Therefore God with draws and withholds his hand. These are the causes of straitening.
Use 2. Let us then see if we have this benefit, an enlarged heart, which is so necessary for the keeping God’s commandments.
Two things will deceive us: many think they have it when they have it not, and many think they have it not when indeed they have it.
1. Many think they have it when they have it not. Enlargement of gifts differs from enlargement of grace. A ready tongue many have—that depends upon the temper of the body—but not a humble heart. They may take pride and complacency in their own gifts, and yet not delight in communion with God. There are many in the world that have abilities of utterance, and some fanatical joys accompanying the exercise of it, and yet they have not an unfeigned love to God. Such as are enlarged in point of gifts, it is many times seen in this, that generally in private they are more careless, and they are more in expression than in feeling. The great deceit and counterfeit of grace is parts and common gifts, especially when exercised in holy things, in a spiritual way, and for the good and edification of others. Certainly men have not spiritual enlargement when they still lie under the bondage and dominion of sin; and so though they may seem to have particular enlargement in some duties, and may be carried on with a great flush of gifts, yet they have not a general enlargement, the yoke is not broken, but still they are the servants of corruption.
2. On the other side, some think they have it not when indeed they 332have it. Why? Because they are not carried out in the work of God, as sometimes they seem to have been, with that liveliness and comfort. Let me tell you, there are necessary aids of grace, and there are more liberal aids of grace, over and above the necessary. If you have the necessary aids of grace, you are to acknowledge God hath enlarged your hearts, though you have not the larger measure, strength, and activity in God’s service, which, upon the days of his magnificence and spiritual bounty, he is wont to dispense to his people. God doth not always continue these dispensations. Sometimes we find that Christians outgo themselves, and are enlarged beyond the ordinary pitch. Let me represent it by a similitude. We are not to esteem a river by its swelling and running over the banks after a mighty, long, and continued rain, but by its constant course; nor are we to judge of a town by the great concourse at a fair or market, the town is not every day so filled. So neither are we to judge of God’s assistance by those high tides of comfort or strength of gracious impulses which, in the days of spiritual bounty, he is wont to give. If you are enabled to walk humbly with God, though you have not such heights of affection, you should be thankful.
So much for the first thing the text offers, the blessing asked, viz., an enlarged heart.
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