|« Prev||Sermon XXXV. I will run the way of thy…||Next »|
I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.—Ver. 32.
THE second thing that is offered here is the necessary precedency of this work on God’s part before there can be any serious bent and motion of heart towards God on our part. ‘When thou shalt enlarge my heart.’ When is causal, because thou shalt enlarge it. God only can enlarge the heart. We are sluggish, and loath to stir a foot in the ways of obedience, therefore God must enlarge. From first to last God doth all in the work of grace; he gives the habit and act. He plants graces in the heart, knowledge, faith, love, and delight; and then excites and quickens them to act. The habit of grace is called ‘the seed of God,’ 1 John iii. 9; there it begins. Before we can fly we must get wings, we must have grace before we can run the way of God’s commandments; and then quickening of the habits, the exciting of the soul to action; the deed as well as the will, Phil. ii. 13; it is from God, the first inclination and actual accomplishment; he giveth to will, that is, the first inclination: 1 Kings viii. 58, ‘That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways,’ &c. And then the deed, the outward expression of our obedience, it is still from God: Acts iv. 29, the apostle goes to God for that, ‘Grant unto thy servants that, with all boldness, they may speak thy word;’ and so Col. iv. 3Jie begs, prays to God to open a door of utterance for them. There is a door shut until God opens it. We cannot utter and express ourselves in a. way of obedience without God’s concurrence.333
Use. Whenever you would undertake for God, get God first to undertake for you, as Hezekiah doth: Isa. xxxviii. 14, ‘O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me.’ Let every earnest prayer be accompanied with a serious purpose, and let every serious purpose be accompanied with earnest prayer: Cant. i. 4, ‘Draw me and we will run after thee.’ So here, ‘Lord, I will run the ways of thy commandments.’ Ay, but as to the event, we must suspend it: ‘If thou wilt enlarge my heart.’ This is the method we should use: first engage God by prayer, then engage our hearts by promise. Though we cannot lay wagers upon our own strength, yet we may resolve in God’s strength, and ought to engage ourselves to duty: Jer. xxx. 21, ‘Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me, saith the Lord?’ We must promise what is due, but not presume as if we could carry our purpose without God. As to the event, they speak conditionally, ‘When thou shalt enlarge my heart.’ The children of God have no other confidence of their own affections but as God will put forth his power. They know they have a deceitful and corrupt heart; and to stand to their resolutions immutably, faithfully, needs more strength than their own. They resolve as to work, but as to event, they suspend that; they know their resolution will not be brought to anything unless God continue his grace and favour. The children of God, as they would own Christ as Lord, and commanding the work, so they promise obedience; that is their duty; and as they would own him a Saviour in helping them through the work, so they promise conditionally in his strength. As they are swayed by his sovereignty in his command, so they depend upon his all-sufficiency in his promise.
Here two cases may be handled; one is more generally—
Case 1. Whether we are to resolve upon a course of obedience when we are uncertain of God’s assistance? The reason of doubting is, be cause we cannot perform it in our own strength. I answer—
1. It is your duty to engage and consent to give up yourselves to God’s service whatever comes of it: 2 Chron. xxx. 8, ‘Yield yourselves unto the Lord.’ In the Hebrew it is ‘strike hands with him ‘in his holy covenant: Rom. xii. 1, ‘I beseech you, present yourselves,’ &c. You ought to come and present yourselves, own yourselves solemnly in a way of dedication to God. ‘It was implied in our baptism, which is therefore called, 1 Peter iii. 21, ‘An answer of a good conscience to wards God;’ an answer upon God’s demands in his covenant. An answer supposeth a question. God puts us to the question, Will you be my people? will you serve me faithfully and do my will? Then we ratify it by baptism. Necessary duties must be done whatever comes of it, as Abraham ‘obeyed God, not knowing whither he went.’
2. As this is your duty, so, whether you resolve or no, you are already obliged by God’s command. This actual resolution of entering into covenant with God is only required as a means to strengthen us. Natural relations enforce duty without consent; a father is a father whether a child will own him in the quality of that relation, yea or nay. God’s right is valid whether you will consent or not. Actual consent or purpose in your heart doth not give God greater right, but makes duty more implicit and active upon your own hearts. We cannot make the 334bonds of duty stronger, for God’s authority is greater than ours, but we have a deeper sense when we own God’s authority by our own engagement.
3. You have more cause to expect God’s assistance in this way of engaging your heart to him than in standing loose from God, and neglect of his appointed means. You know the promise is made, Rev. xxii. 17, ‘To him that will, let him take of the waters of life freely.’ When there is a fixed bent of heart that comes from a secret impression of God’s grace which causeth this will in you, when you have declared your will, you have more reason to expect God’s concurrence.
4. It is a foolish course to refuse to make the covenant for fear of breaking it; as if a tradesman should neglect his calling, forbear to set up, because it is possible losses may come. Make it, then keep it in God’s strength. Make it, but remember, your security lieth in God’s promises, not in your own. It is your duty to engage to God; but as to the event, you cannot say you can go through with it, unless the Lord put in with his grace.
Case 2. The second case is more obvious and usual, viz., whether we are to do duties in case of deadness, indisposition, and straits of spirit? The reason of doubting is, because David seems to suspend his running upon God’s enlarging—If thou wilt enlarge, then I will run. Ans. He suspends the event, but not his duty. He doth not say I will not stir unless thou enlarge my heart, but, If thou enlarge then I shall run. The plea of weakness must not be used, from the doctrine of God’s concurrence to all acts of grace, as a shift, or turned into a plea for laziness. The right use of this doctrine is a constant dependence in a sense of our own weakness, and hearty thanksgiving when we have received any command from God. Now a form of thanksgiving is abused when it is made a plea for laziness. To resolve upon a loose course, and give over all, is an absurd inference from this doctrine; it is as if a man should say, my ploughing and sowing, unless God give the increase, will never make the corn grow, therefore I will hold my hand, and take the other sleep. It is God sends the wind, therefore I will not put forth the sails; that is no good inference. For further arguments, see ver. 25, where the question is handled, whether we are to do duties in case of deadness. It is a most commendable thing to work notwithstanding indispositions. There is more faith in it; God’s love is glorified when you can cast yourselves into his arms, then when he seems to shut up himself from your prayers, and to suspend the influences of his grace, Esther had great confidence to venture when no golden sceptre was held forth; so when we have no sensible comfort, then to venture and cast ourselves upon God. And it argues more faith in the power of God. As Abraham’s faith was commended, that he could believe against hope; so, when all is dead, yet you will see what God will do for the quickening and enlarging of the soul. Then there is more obedience in it. No duty so commendable as that which is recovered out of the hands of difficulty, when in the face of temptation we can venture to go to God. And there is humility in it, when we can look upon ourselves as bound though God be free. I must wait upon him in the use of means, though I have a dead heart.
Thirdly, The subsequent operation of the saints; they that are acted by God act under him: ‘Then will I run the way of thy commandments.’335
First, Mark, he resolveth, ‘Then I will run.’ He doth not say, Then I should run, but will run, as binding his soul by a resolution, and his resolution by a solemn promise, ‘Then I will run the way of thy commandments.’ Here I might take occasion to speak of the good of binding the heart, and being resolved in a course of godliness. It is good to engage us to come to God, to keep to God, and to be hearty in his service.
1. This is that which engageth us to come to God, because of ourselves we are off and on, hanging between heaven and hell, and have many loose and wavering thoughts, until we come to a firm purpose and determination, and that engageth the heart: Jer. xxx. 21, ‘Who is this that engageth his heart to approach unto me, saith the Lord?’ Before we come to this engagement, there are several things:—(1.) A simple and bare conceit of the ways of God, or of the goodness of holiness, this will not bring us to God, some general approbation of his ways. Many will say, ‘God is good to Israel,’ Ps. lxxiii. 1; but the heart never comes off kindly to choose God till the judgment determines, ‘It is good for me to draw nigh to God,’ ver. 28. This puts an end to many anxious traverses, debates, and delays in the soul. (2.) There are weak and wavering purposes, and faint attempts in the soul, that end but in wishes, which are soon broken off; but we are never converted and thoroughly brought to God till there be a full and fixed purpose: Acts xi. 23, ‘He exhorted them all, that with full purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.’ When it comes to a plenary thorough purpose of heart, then grace hath wrought upon us.
2. As it will bring us to come to God, so it causeth us to keep to God. He that is unresolved is never constant: James i. 8, ‘A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.’ There is in us a changeable heart, a rebelling nature; that meeting with temptations from without, unless there be a fixed purpose, alas! we shall be unstable in all our ways; all good wishes and faint purposes come to nothing, but we shall give out at every assault. But when we are firmly and habitually resolved, Satan is discouraged. This bindeth our holy purposes, like hemming of the garment, that keepeth it from ravelling out. Whilst we are thinking and deliberating what to do, we lie open to temptations, the devil hath some hope of us; but when the bent of our hearts is set another way, and the devil sees we are firmly resolved, and have holy purposes, he is discouraged. This was that which made Daniel so courageous and resolute in God’s service: Dan. i. 8, ‘He purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat.’
3. By resolution we are quickened to more diligence and seriousness. Good purposes are the root of good works, and without the root there is no fruit to be expected. A true and inward purpose will not let us be idle, but still urging and soliciting us to that which is good, then we make a business of religion; whereas otherwise we make but a sport and recreation, that is, mind it only by the by. But now, ‘One thing have I desired, and that will I seek after,’ Ps. xxvii. 4. When the heart is set upon a thing we follow it close, whatever we neglect. Whereas otherwise we are very lazy, careless, and do it 336as if we did it not; this makes us diligent, earnest, careful to maintain communion between God and us.
Use. Well, then, do you thus resolve and engage your hearts to walk with God. And for your direction—
1. Let it be the resolution of the heart, rather than the tongue: Jer. xxx. 21, ‘Who is this that engageth his heart?’ And Acts xi. 23, ‘He exhorted them with purpose of heart to cleave to the Lord.’ Our resolution is not to be determined and judged of so much by the course of our language as by the bent of our heart. Empty promises signify nothing unless they are the result of the heart’s determination: Deut. v. 28, 29, ‘The people hath said well,’ saith God, ‘all that the Lord hath said, we will do. Oh, that they had such a heart within them!’ Otherwise the duty hath no root, unless it be a fixed determination of the soul.
2. Let it not be a weak, broken, but full resolution. Cold wishes are easily overcome by the love of the world: Acts xxvi. 28, ‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.’ That will not do, unless we be altogether. Carnal men, though they are not converted, yet they have a kind of half turn; they have good wishes on a sudden upon a lively sermon; they would, but they will not. There needs a strong bent of heart. Bad purposes are more easily resolved and performed than good; Satan, the world, and the flesh do not hinder, but further them; so that good resolutions need to be thoroughly made: 1 Chron. xxii. 19, ‘Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God.’ When the heart is fixed by a persevering durable purpose, grace possesses it.
3. Let it not be a rash but a serious resolution, all difficulties being well weighed. In a fit or pang of devotion men will resolve for God, but it is soon gone: Josh. xxiv. 19, 20, ‘We will serve the Lord, for he is our God: and Joshua said, Ye cannot serve the Lord, for he is an holy God, he is a jealous God;’ that is, do you consider what you say? When you have weighty reasons and considerations to bear you up, you are more likely to hold. Sit down and count the charges; if you resolve for God, see what it is like to cost you, and consider where it is likely to fail, what difficulties you are most likely to meet withal, what lusts are most apt to break your purpose.
4. It must be a thorough, absolute, and peremptory resolution. Whatever it cost you, resolve to part with all for the pearl of price, Mat. xiii. 46, 47, and take Christ for better for worse. A marriage may be almost made, but there is one article they stick at, and it is broken off; so some are at the very point of giving up themselves to God, but there is one article they stick at; it is not an absolute resolution.
5. Let it be a present, and not a future resolution: Ps. xxvii. 8, ‘When thou saidst, Seek ye my face;’ like a quick echo he returns upon God, ‘Thy face, Lord, will I seek.’ As soon as you hear God’s voice, before the heart grow cold again, it is good to resolve; for after wards it is but a cheat to put off importunity of conscience for the present.
6. Let it be a resolution made in a sense of your own insufficiency, and with dependence upon Christ, not in a confidence of your own 337strength. Peter went forth in a confidence of his own resolution, ‘Though all men forsake thee, yet will not I;’ but how soon did he miscarry! Resolve in God’s strength: Ps. cxix. 8, ‘I will walk in the way of thy statutes: forsake me not utterly.’ If God forsake you, all comes to nothing; therefore in and by God’s strength resolve for God.
Secondly, The matter of the resolution, ‘The way of thy commandments.’ Which we may consider either simply and absolutely in itself, or with respect to the resolution. With respect to the resolution ob serve, the matter is good he resolves upon. Some will resolve upon a course of sin, as they, Acts xxiii. 12, that bound themselves under a curse to kill Paul. In this case a vow is a bond of iniquity. Many will bind themselves never to forgive their neighbour such an offence. Again, the matter is necessary. It is contrary to Christian liberty needlessly to bind ourselves where God hath left us free. Many will in some indifferent things bind themselves, make rash and unnecessary vows, as to play no more at such a game, drink no more in such a house or company. Alas! what doth this do to cure the heart? This is but like the stopping of one leak in a ruinous ship that is ready to fall in pieces. Resolution is for the weighty things of Christianity, or cleaving to God in a course of obedience, not for some by-matters. Resolve on the most necessary work. Again, this resolution is propounded universally, indefinitely, ‘in the way of God’s commandments,’ whatever shall appear to be the will of God. When our consent is bounded with reservations, we do not come up to the mind of God, and that will bring you but half way to heaven. He that is half holy, half religious, will be but half saved. Paul gives God a blank, and bids him write his terms: Acts ix. 6, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ So we must submit ourselves to all the ways of God without exception. Thus we may consider it as it falls under a resolution, ‘The way of thy commandments.’
But consider the expression absolutely, why are the commandments called a way?
1. There is an end for which man was appointed, and that was to seek after true happiness. All desire to be happy by an inclination of nature, for hereunto were we appointed by God. ‘Many say, Who will show us any good?’ Ps. iv. 6; but men’s practice is contrary, they live as if their end were to be miserable.
2. This true happiness lieth in the enjoyment of God; that is the great end of reasonable creatures, angels and men, actively to glorify God, and to enjoy him: other creatures were made to glorify him objectively, but not to enjoy him.
3. For the compassing this end there is a way; for every end is attained by the means. What is this way? God’s commandments: Eccles. xii. 13, ‘Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man.’ That was the result of Solomon’s critical search in and about the ways of true happiness; he found that a constant, uniform, universal obedience was the only way to true happiness.
4. The commands of God are legal and evangelical: they are both to be regarded:—(1.) The evangelical commands come first into consideration by the fallen creature; there the great command is to believe 338 in Christ, John vi. 29, 1 John iii. 23. To believe in Christ is the only way to the Father. Then (2.) The moral law, that is the rule of our duty, without which we can never be saved, Rom. x. 14.
Use. Well, then, let me press you to consideration and resolution. (1.) Consideration, that we may think of our end, and think of our way, and may not go on as beasts, without any recollection. Luke xv. 17: We never ‘come to ourselves ‘till we consider the end why we were born and why God sent us into the world. Whence am I? why do I live here? To delight myself in the creature, to wallow in pleasures, or to look after communion with God? We live but as beasts, not as men, till we return and remember our creator, in the enjoyment of whom is our only happiness. (2.) Then come to resolution; there is intentio, electio, consensus, and imperium; all these should be fixed after we have considered for what am I made? what is the way I am to walk? The first act of the soul is intentio; that belongs to the last end; surely this must be my scope, that God may be my portion. The next act is electio, or choice; that belongs to the means. Now the great means is Christ Jesus, he is the way to the Father. Oh, let me choose him that I may enjoy God for my portion! The next act is consensus, the will and understanding together; there is a consent to the terms. Notwithstanding all the conditions upon which these means are to be had, yet there is a full consent of the will to use them, so a consent to take Christ upon his own terms. After this there is imperium, a command for an industrious prosecution; this shall be my business, this I will look after. There should be a decree in our souls for God; God is my scope, Christ my way; I must take him; I will go about this work, walk in this way, that I may at length enjoy him.
Fourthly, The last circumstance is the manner, ‘I will run the way,’ &c. By running is meant cheerful, ready, and zealous observance of God’s precepts. It is not go or walk, but run. They that would come to their journey’s end must run in the way of God’s commandments. It noteth speedy or a ready obedience without delay. We must begin with God betimes. Alas! when we should be at the goal, we scarce set forth many of us. And it noteth earnestness; when a man’s heart is set upon a thing, he thinks he can never soon enough do it. And this is running, when we are vehement and earnest upon the enjoyment of God and Christ in the way of obedience. And it notes, again, when the heart freely offereth itself to God. Now this running is very necessary, as it is the fruit of effectual calling. When the Lord speaks of effectual calling, the issue of it is running; when he speaks of the conversion of the Gentiles, ‘Nations that know thee not shall run to thee;’ and ‘Draw me, and we will run after thee;’ and ‘In the day of thy power thy people shall be a willing people.’ There are no slow motions, but when God draws there is a speedy, an earnest motion of the soul. And this running, as it is the fruit of effectual calling, so it is very needful; for cold and faint motions are soon overborne with every difficulty and temptation: Heb. xii. 1, ‘Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.’ When a man hath a mind to do such a thing; though he be hindered and jostled, he takes it patiently; he goes on, and cannot stay to debate the business. A slow motion is easily 339stopped, whereas a swift one bears down that which opposeth it; so when men run and are not tired in the service of God. And then the prize calls for running: 1 Cor. ix. 24, ‘So run that ye may obtain.’ There is a prize, which is eternal life in Christ Jesus, the reward or crown which he keepeth for us in heaven. They that ran for a gar land of flowers in the Isthmic games—the apostle alludes to them—how would they diet themselves that they might be in breath and heart to win a poor garland of flowers! There is a crown of glory set before us, therefore we should so run that we may obtain, and be temperate in all things; we should keep down the body, deny fleshly lusts, and the like.
Use. To reprove faint cold motions in the things of God. Many, instead of running, lie down, or, which is worse, go back again, or at best but a very slow pace. Christ is running to you to snatch you out of the fire, and will you not run towards him? When we have abated the fervour of our motion towards God, then we lie open to temptation; therefore let us not loiter; run, it is for a crown. If heaven be worth nothing, lie still; but if it be, run. Wicked men run fast to hell, as if they did strive who should be soonest there; bewail your slowness and lameness in obedience.
|« Prev||Sermon XXXV. I will run the way of thy…||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version