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And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.—Ver. 47.
THE man of God is giving arguments to enforce his request that ‘the word of truth might not be taken utterly out of his mouth.’
1. He could not bear it, because all his hopes of felicity were built upon it, ver. 43.
2. He promiseth constancy of obedience, ver. 44.
3. Liberty of practice, ver. 45.
4. Liberty of profession, not hindered by fear or shame, but should be borne out with confidence in that profession.
5. He urgeth in the text with what delight he should carry on the work of obedience, ‘And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.’ In which observe—
1. His great pleasure and contentment is asserted and professed, I will delight myself.
2. The object of it, in thy commandments.
3. The fundamental reason or bottom cause of this delight, which I have loved.
Doct. A gracious heart doth Jove and delight in the commandments of God: the godly are described by it. Hence David makes it the character of a blessed man: Ps. i. 2, ‘His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in that law doth he meditate day and night.’ And Ps. cxii. 1, ‘Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, and delighteth greatly in his commandments.’ Paul asserts of himself, as a comfortable evidence of his sincerity in the midst of his infirmities, Rom. vii. 22, ‘For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.’ By ‘the inward man’ he means the renewed part, that is pleased with all things that please God, if we have such a delight as is above the delight of sense, &c. I will—
1. Explain the point as it lieth here in the text.
2. Show how the heart is brought to this; for corrupt nature is otherwise affected.4
First, To explain the point.
1. His pleasure and contentment is asserted, ‘I will delight myself.’ A Christian hath his joys and delights, but they are pure and chaste; they delight in the Lord, and in his word and ways: Phil. iv. 4, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice.’ He hath a liberty, ἀλλὰ μόνον ἐν κυρίῳ, ‘but only in the Lord,’ 1 Cor. vii. 39; not only may, but must. It ‘is his duty. Joy is a great part of his work; not our felicity or wages only, but our work also. Now, I shall prove that all the pleasures and delights of the earth are nothing to the pleasures and delights which the godly do find in God and in a holy life.
[1.] These delights are more substantial. It is not a superficial joy that they are delighted withal, but a substantial joy. It must needs be so, partly because these are better grounded, not built upon a mistake and fancy, but the highest warrant and surest foundation which mankind can build upon, the word of the eternal God, which can never fail; whereas the joy that is merely built upon carnal delights is built upon a fancy and mistake. Both are represented by the apostle: 1 John ii. 17, ‘The world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doth the will of God abideth for ever.’ If they considered the shortness of their pleasures, and in what a doleful case their wealth, and honour, and fleshly delights will leave them, they would have little list to be merry till they had looked after a more stable blessedness. The world will be soon gone, and the lust and gust thereof gone also; but he that goeth on with the work of holiness, building on the promise of another world, layeth a sure foundation. Partly because they do more intimately affect the soul. Sensual delights do not go so deep as the delights of holiness: Ps. iv. 7, ‘Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time when their corn and their wine increased:’ like a soaking shower that goeth to the root. The other tickleth the senses; poor, slight, and outside comforts, that do not fortify the heart against distresses, much less against the remembrance of our judge, or the fears of an offended God, or the serious thoughts of another world. For these two reasons, the joys of a Christian, stirred up in him by the conformity of his will to the will of God, are solid, substantial joys. A wicked man may be jocund and jovial, but he hath not the true delight; he may have more mirth, but the Christian hath the true joy: ‘In the midst of mirth the heart is sorrowful.’ It is easy to be merry, but it is not easy to be joyful, or to get a substantial delight.
[2.] These delights are more perfective; a man is the better for them. Other delights, that please the flesh, feed corruption, but these corroborate and strengthen graces. They are so far from disordering the mind, and leading us to sin, that they compose and purify the mind, and make sin more odious, and fortify us against the baits of sense, which are the occasion of all the sin in the world. All our joy is to be considered with respect to its use and profit: Eccles. ii. 2, ‘I said of laughter, It is mad; and of mirth, What doth it?’ The more a man delighteth in God, and in the ways of God, the more he cleaveth to him, and resolveth to go on in this course, and temptations to sensual delights do less prevail; for, ‘the joy of the Lord is our strength.’ The safety of the spiritual life lieth in the keeping up our joy and delight 5in it: Heb. iii. 6, ‘Whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end;’ Isa. lxiv. 5, ‘Thou meetest him who rejoiceth and worketh righteousness.’ But now carnal delights intoxicate the mind, and fill it with vanity and folly. The sensitive lure hath more power over us to draw into the slavery of sin: Titus iii. 3, ‘For we ourselves were also foolish, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures.’ Surely then the healing delights should be preferred before the killing, wounding pleasures that so often prove a snare to us.
2. The object is to be considered, ‘Thy commandments.’ Here observe—
[1.] David did not place his delight in folly or filthiness, as they do that glory in their shame, or delight in sin, and give contentment to the lusts of the flesh; as the apostle speaks of some that ‘sport themselves in their own deceivings,’ 2 Peter ii. 13; that do not only live in sin, but make a sport of it, beguiling their own hearts with ground less apprehensions that there is no such evil and hazard therein as the word declareth and conscience sometimes suggesteth; they are be holden to their sottish error and delusion for their mirth. Neither did he place his delight in temporal trifles, the honours, and pleasures, and profits of the world, as brutish worldlings do; but in the word of God, as the seed of the new life, the rule of his conversation, the charter of his hopes; that blessed word by which his heart might be renewed and sanctified, his conscience settled, his mind acquainted with his Creator’s will, and his affections raised to the hopes of glory. The matter which feedeth our pleasures showeth the excellency or baseness of it. If, like beetles, we delight in a dunghill rather than a garden, or the paradise of God’s word, it shows a base, mean spirit, as swine in wallowing in the mire, or dogs to eat their own vomit. Our temper and inclination is known by our complacency or displacency: Rom. vii. 5, ‘For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sin which were by the law did work in our members, to bring forth fruit unto death.’ Therefore see which your hearts carry you to to the world or the word of God. The most part of the world are carried to the pleasures of sense, and mastered by them; but a divine spirit or nature put into us makes us look after other things: 2 Peter i. 4, ‘Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises,’ even of the great blessings of the new covenant, such as pardon of sin, eternal life, &c.
[2.] Not only in the promissory, but mandatory part of the word. Commandments is the notion in the text. There is matter of great joy contained in the promises, but they must not be looked upon as exclusive of the precepts, but inclusive. Promises are spoken of Ps. cxix. 111, ‘Thy testimonies have I taken as a heritage for ever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart.’ They contain spiritual and heavenly riches, and so are matter of joy to a believing soul. But the commandments call for duty on our parts. The precepts appoint us a pleasant work, show us what is to be done and left undone. These restraints are grateful to the new nature, for the compliance of the will with the will of God, and its conformity to his law, hath a pleasure annexed to it. A renewed soul would be subject to God in all things, therefore delights in his commandments without limitation or distinction.6
[3.] It is not in the study or contemplation of the justice and equity of these commandments, but in the obedience and practice of them. There is a pleasure in the study and contemplation, for every truth breedeth a delectation in the mind: Ps. xix. 8, ‘The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the soul.’ It is a blessed and pleasant thing to have a sure rule commending itself with great evidence to our consciences, and manifesting itself to be of God. Therefore the sight of the purity and certainty of the word of God is a great pleasure to any considering mind; no other study to be compared with it. But the joy of speculation or contemplation is nothing to that of practice. Nothing maketh the heart more cheerful than a good conscience, or a constant walking in the way of God’s commandments: 2 Cor. i. 12, ‘Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that, with simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, 1 have had my conversation in the world.’ Let me give you this gradation: The pleasures of contemplation exceed those of sense, and the delights of the mind are more sincere and real than those of the body; for the more noble the faculty is, the more capable of delight. A man m his study about natural things hath a truer pleasure than he greatest epicure m the most exquisite enjoyment of sense: Prov. xxiv. 13, 14, ‘My son, eat thou honey because it is good, and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste; so shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul when thou hast found it; then there shall be a reward, and thy expectation shall not be cut off.’ But especially the contemplation of divine things is pleasant; the objects are more sublime, certain, necessary, profitable; and here we are more deeply concerned than m the study of nature. Surely this is sweeter than honey and honeycomb, to understand and contemplate the way of salvation by Christ. This is a heaven upon earth to know these things: John xvii. 3, ‘This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.’ As much as the pleasures of the natural mind do exceed these bodily pleasures, so much do these pleasures of faith and spiritual knowledge exceed those of the natural mind; these things the angels desire to pry into. Now the delights of practical obedience do far exceed those which are the mere result of speculation and contemplation. Why? Because they give us a more intimate feeling of the truth and worth of these things, and our right in them thereby is more secured, and our delight in them is heightened by the supernatural operation of the Holy Ghost. The joy of the Spirit is said to be ‘unspeakable and full of glory,’ 1 Peter i. 8. In short, it is exercised about noble objects, the favour of God, reconciliation with him, and the hope of eternal life—all these as belonging to us; and it is excited by a higher cause, the Spirit of God; and lastly, it giveth us a sense of what we had but a guess before: we ‘know the grace of God m truth,’ Col. i. 6; we know it so as to taste
3. The fundamental or bottom cause of this delight is expressed, ‘Which I have loved.’ There is a precedent love of the object before there can be any delight in it. Love is the complacency and propension of the soul toward that which is good, absolutely considered, abstracting both from presence and absence. Desire regardeth the 7absence and futurition of a good; delight the presence and fruition of it. It is impossible anything can be delighted in, but it must be first loved and desired. None can truly delight in obedience but such as desire it. By nature we were otherwise affected, counted his commands burdensome, because contrary to the desires of the flesh: Rom. viii. 7, ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ But when the heart is renewed by grace, then we have another love and another bias upon our affections: 1 John v. 3, ‘This is love, to keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.’ To others they are against the bent and the hair, and too tedious, and love maketh way for delight.
Secondly, Reasons why a gracious heart doth love and delight in the commandments of God.
1. The matter of these commandments showeth how much they deserve our love and delight. The matter respects either law or gospel. (1.) That which is strictly called the moral law is the decalogue; a fit rule for a wise God to give, or a rational creature to receive, a just and due admeasurement of our duty to God and man: the world cannot be without it. To God, that we should love him, serve him, depend upon him, delight in him, that we may be at length happy in his love. ‘The law is holy, just, and good;’ not burdensome to the reasonable nature, but perfective. Surely to know God, to love him, and fear him, and trust and repose our souls on him, and to worship him at the time, in the way, and manner appointed, is a delightful thing, and should be more delightful to us than our necessary and appointed food. To man, justice, charity: Micah vi. 8, ‘He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy;’ Hosea xii. 6, ‘Keep mercy and judgment.’ Now all kinds of justice should not be grievous. Political justice, between the magistrates and people. How should we live else? This maintaineth the order of the world. Private justice, between man and man: Mat. vii. 12, ‘Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.’ Family justice, between husband and wife, parents and children, masters and servants. How else can a man have any tolerable degree of safety and comfort? 1 Peter iii. 7, ‘Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge.’ Then for mercy, there is not a pleasanter work in the world than to do good; it is God-like. A man is as an earthly god, to comfort and supply others: Acts xx. 35, ‘It is a more blessed thing to give than to receive.’ And blessedness is not tedious; the work rewards itself. The satisfaction is so great of doing good, and being helpful to others, that certainly this is not tedious. (2.) The gospel offereth such a suitable remedy to mankind that the duties of it should be as pleasant and welcome to us as the counsel of a friend for our recovery out of a great misery into which we had plunged ourselves. In the law, God acteth more as a commander and governor; in the gospel, as a friend and counsellor. Surely to those that have any feeling of their sins, or fears of the wrath of God, what can be more welcome than the way of a pardon and reconciliation with God, whom his word and providence, and the fears of a guilty conscience, represent as an enemy to us? Surely this should be more 8pleasant than all the lust, sport, and honours, and pleasures of the world. Here is the foundation laid of everlasting joy, a sufficient answer to the terrors of the law, and the accusations of a guilty conscience, which is the greatest misery can befall mankind. In short, that the matter of God’s commands deserves our delight and esteem is evident:—
[1.] Because those that are unwilling to submit to them count them good and acceptable laws. When their particular practice and sinful customs have made them incompetent judges of what is fittest for themselves in their health and strength, yet their conscience judgeth it a more excellent and honourable thing in others if they can deny the pleasures of the flesh, and overcome the temptations of the world, and deny themselves the comforts of the present life, out of the hopes of that which is to come. Such are accounted a more excellent and better sort of men: Prov. xii. 26, ‘The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour;’ he hath more of God and of a man than others, as he hath a freer use of reason, and a greater command of his own lusts and passions. There is a reverence of such darted into the consciences of wicked men: Mark vi. 20, ‘Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just and holy man, and observed him.’
[2.] Because of the sentiments which men have of a holy, sober, godly life, when they come to die, and the disallowance of a dissolute carnal life: Job xxvii. 8, ‘What is the hope of the hypocrite, though he hath gained, when God taketh away his soul?’ Ps. xxxvii. 37, ‘Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.’ When men are entering upon the confines of eternity, they are wiser; the fumes of lust are then blown over, their joys or fears are then testimonies to God’s law: 1 Cor. xv. 56, ‘The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.’ It is not from the fancy or melancholy of the dying person, nor his distemper, that his fears are awakened, but his reason. If it did only proceed from his distemper, men would be rather troubled for leaving worldly comforts than for sin. No; it is the apprehension of God’s justice by reason of sin, who will proceed according to his law, which ‘the guilty person hath so often and so much violated and broken. They are not the ravings of a fever, nor the fruits of natural weakness and credulity. No; these troubles are justified by the law of God or the highest reason.
[3.] By supposing the contrary of all which God hath commanded concerning the embracing of virtue, shunning of vice. If God should free us from these laws, leave us to our own choice, command us the contrary, forbid us all respect to himself, commanding us to worship false gods, transform and misrepresent his glory by images, and fall down before stocks and stones, blaspheme his name continually, and despise all those glorious attributes which do so clearly shine forth in the creation; if he had commanded us to be impious to our parents, to fill the world with murders, adulteries, robberies, to pursue others with slanders and false-witnessings, to covet and take what is another man’s, wife, ox, or ass,—the heart of man cannot allow such a conceit; nay, the fiercest beasts would abhor it, if they were capable of receiving such an impression. Now, surely a law so reasonable, so evident, so conducing to the honouring of God, government of ourselves, and 9commerce with others, should be very welcome and acceptable to a gracious heart.
2. The state and frame of a renewed heart; they are fitted and suited to these commandments, and do obey them not only because enjoined, but because inclined. Nothing is pleasant to men but what is suitable to their nature; so that may be delightful to one which is loathsome to another; as the food and converse of a beast is loathsome to a man; one man’s pleasure is another’s pain. There is a great deal of difference between a carnal and a spiritual mind, the heart sanctified and unsanctified: Ezek. xxxvi. 26, 27, ‘I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh; and I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments to do them.’ When the heart is fitted and suited by principles of grace, the work is not tedious, but delightful. Things are easy and difficult according to the poise and inclination of the soul. So Heb. viii. 10, ‘I will write my laws upon their hearts, and put them into their minds.’ The law without suiteth with an inclination within; and when things meet which are suitable to one another, there is a delight: Ps. xl. 8, ‘Thy law is in my heart; I delight to do thy will, O God.’ There is an inclination, not necessary, as in natural agents; but voluntary, as in rational agents. There is an inclination in natural agents, as in light bodies to move upwards, heavy bodies to move downwards; in rational agents, when a man is bent by his love and choice. This latter David speaketh of, Ps. cxix. 36, ‘Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.’ The heart of man standeth between two objects—the laws of God and carnal vanities. In our natural estate we are wholly bent to please the flesh; in our renewed estate there is a new bent put upon the heart. Now the old bent is not wholly gone, though overmastered and over powered: the false bias of corruption will still incline us to the delights of sense; but the new bias to the way everlasting, to spiritual eternal happiness: as that prevaileth, we love and delight in the commandments of God.
3. The helps and assistances of the Spirit go further, and increase this delight in the way of God’s commandments. God doth not only renew our wills, and fit us with an inward power to do the things that are pleasing in his sight, but exciteth and actuateth that power by the renewed influences of his grace: Phil. ii. 13, ‘He giveth us to will and to do:’ not only a will, or an urging and inclination to do good; but because of the opposition of the flesh and manifold temptations, he gives also a power to perform what we are inclined unto: ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty,’ 2 Cor. iii. 17, or a readiness of mind to perform all things required of us, not only with diligence, but delight.
4. The great encouragements which attend obedience, as the rewards of godliness both in this life and the next. The rewards of godliness in this life I shall speak of in the next head; for the future, the end sweetens the means to us. We have no mean end, but the eternal enjoyment of God in a complete state of glory and happiness. Now this hath an influence upon the love and delight of the saints, to sweeten their labours, and difficulties, and temptations. The scripture 10 everywhere witnesseth: 1 Cor. xv. 58, ‘Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; forasmuch as you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord:’ Phil. iii. 14, ‘I press towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus;’ Rom. v. 2, ‘We rejoice in hope of the glory of God;’ and Rom. viii. 18, ‘For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.’
5. Present comfortable experience.
[1.] In the general, of peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost.
(1.) Peace, which is the natural result of the rectitude of our actions: ‘The fruit of righteousness is peace,’ Isa. xxxii. 17; and Ps. cxix. 165, ‘Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them.’ Pax est tranquillitas ordinis. That description fits internal peace, as well as external. When all things keep their order affections are obedient to reason, and reason is guided by the Spirit of God according to his word, there is a quiet and rest from accusations m the soul.
(2.) Joy in the Holy Ghost is distinct from the former: Horn xiv 17, ‘For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.’ These two differ in the author. Peace of conscience is the testimony of our own souls approving the good we have done; joy in the Holy Ghost is a more immediate impression of the comforting Spirit: Rom. xv. 13, ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound m hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.’ They differ in their measure: peace is a rest from trouble; joy, a sweet reflection upon our good condition or happy estate. It is in the body a freedom from a disease, and a cheerfulness after a good meal; or in the state, peace, when no mutinies and disturbances; joy, when some notable benefit or profit accrueth to the state So here they differ in their subjects. The heathen, so far as they did good, might have a kind of peace or freedom from self-accusing and tormenting fears: Rom. ii. 15, ‘Which show the work of the law written in their hearts; their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts in the meantime excusing or else accusing one another;’ but ‘a stranger intermeddleth not with these joys.’ The Spirit, where a sanctifier, there he is a comforter. They differ m the ground. The joy of the Holy Ghost is not merely from a good conscience as to a particular action, but from a good estate as being accepted with God, who is our supreme judge, and assured of our interest in eternal life. They differ in effects. Peace is an approbation for the present; joy in the Holy Ghost a pledge and beginning of that endless joy we shall have hereafter: 2 Cor. i. 22 ‘Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts;’ and Rom. viii. 23, ‘We ourselves also, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.’ Both together show that there is no such solid comfort as in the obedience of God’s commandments; certainly more than in all the pleasures of sin, yea, more than in all the enjoyments of the world: whoever have proved them both 11 find it so. Many have proved the pleasures of sin, but never yet found what comfort is in mourning for sin. Many have proved the comforts of the world, but never yet proved what is the joy of a good conscience, and the sweet pleasure of a godly conversation.
[2.] There is a particular experience, when borne out in the confession of truth in the time of trial. A man that out of love to God’s commands hath endured troubles and trials, and hath overcome temptations, will see more cause to love these commandments, and to increase his obedience to them, than ever before in ordinary temptations: Ps. xix. 11, ‘Moreover, by them is thy servant warned, and in keeping of them there is a great reward.’ When they see that divine truth is like to bear out itself, and man that doth confess it, in such cases, they feel the excellency of God’s truth, and the power of God sustaining them that confess it, therefore embrace heartily the Lord’s commands, and take pleasure in his ways. The Lord appealeth to this experience: Micah ii. 7, ‘Do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?’ Have not you found the fruit answerable? Therefore the children of God value and esteem and look upon them 4is the greatest means of their safety and comfort.
6. Because of their love to God, they have a value for everything which cometh from God and leadeth to him. Common mercies point to their author, and their main end is to draw our affections to him, and enable us in his service; but these are apt to be a snare, and are used as an occasion to the flesh. But here is a greater impression of God on his word and laws; their use is more eminent to direct us to God, therefore are valued above ordinary comforts: Job xxiii. 12, ‘I have not gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food.’ They are his commandments, therefore dear to us, who hath obliged us so much in Christ, whose love they believe and have felt. The word is wholly appointed to maintain the life of grace in us.
Use 1. Is to show us how to bring our hearts to the obedience of God’s commands.
1. Love them, if we would keep them. Nothing is hard to love. An esteem will quicken us to the obedience of them.
2. Delight in them, for then all goeth on easily. Delight sweeteneth everything, though in themselves toilsome or tedious; as fowling, hunting, fishing. Delight never mindeth difficulties. The reason why the commands are grievous is want of love and delight.
Use 2. Showeth of what kind our obedience must be—free and unconstrained; when we are not forced to our duty, but do willingly delight in it and the law which prescribeth it, and do bewail our daily failings. Many do some external works of obedience, but not with an inward delight, but out of custom or compulsion. God never hath our heart till he hath our delight, till we willingly abstain from what may displease him, and cheerfully practise what he requireth of us; when it is grateful to obey, and all pleasures to this are nothing worth.12
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