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My hands also will I lift up to thy commandments, which I have loved and I will meditate in, thy statutes. Ver. 48.
IN the morning we opened one profession of David’s respect to the word of God; now follows another. He would employ all his faculties about the commandments of God, which is his last argument: his mind, for here is meditation promised; his heart, for here is love asserted; his tongue, for that is his original request which occasioned all these professions; and here his hands, his life, ‘My hands also will I lift up,’ &c. Observe—
1. The ground or cause of his respect to the commandments of God, in that clause, which I have loved.
2. A double effect, I will lift up my hands to thy commandments, and I will meditate in thy statutes.
Lifting up the palms or hands is a phrase of various use.
1. For praying: Ps. xxviii. 2, ‘Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands towards thy holy oracle;’ Lam. ii. 19, ‘Lift up thy hands towards him, for the life of thy young children,’ &c.; Hab. iii. 10, ‘The deep uttered his voice, and lift up his hands on high.’ Thence the apostle, 1 Tim. ii. 8, ‘I will, therefore, that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.’
2. For blessing others. Aaron lift up his hands towards the people, and blessed them. Or for praising or blessing God: Ps. cxxxiv. 2, ‘Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord:’ so Ps. lxiii. 4, ‘Thus will I bless thee while I live; I will lift up my hands in thy name.’
3. For swearing or vowing: Gen. xiv. 22, ‘I have lift up my hand to the most high God,’ that is, sworn; so Rev. x. 5, the angel ‘lift up his hand and swore.’ So of God: Ps. cvi. 26, ‘Therefore he lifted up his hand against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness,’ that is, ‘swore they should not enter into his rest.’
4. For setting about any action, especially of weight: Gen. xli. 44, ‘Without thee shall no man lift up his hand,’ that is, attempt or do anything; so Ps. x. 12, ‘Arise, O Lord, lift up thine hand; forget not the poor,’ that is, set to thine active hand for their assistance; so Heb. xii. 12, ‘Lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees,’ that is, set actively and vigorously about the Christian task. To this rank may be also referred what is said Mat. vi. 3, ‘Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.’ The hand is the instrument of action.
Now all these senses might be applied to the present place.
[1.] Praying for God’s grace to perform them.
[2.] Blessing God, as we do for our daily food, giving thanks for them.
[3.] Vowing or promising under an oath a constant obedience to them. But the commandments are not the proper object to which the acts of praying, blessing, swearing are directed, but God. It is not, 13I will lift up my band to God, but ‘thy commandments.’ We ought, indeed to bless God and praise God for the blessings we receive by his word, to vow our duty; but lifting up the hand in all these senses is to God. Therefore—
[4.] Here it meaneth no more but I will apply myself to the keeping of them, or set vigorously about it, put my hands to the practising of thy law with all earnestness, endeavouring to do what therein is enjoined. Two points:—
Doct. 1. That it is not enough to approve or commend the commandments of God, but we must carefully set ourselves to the observance of them.
Doct. 2. Whosoever would do so must use great study and meditation.
Doct. 1. That it is not enough to approve or commend the commandments of God, but we must carefully set ourselves to the practice of them.
1. Hearing without doing is disapproved: Deut. iv. 5, ‘I have taught you good statutes and judgments, that ye might do so:’ Deut. v. 1, ‘Hear, Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and do them.’ Otherwise we deceive our own souls: James i. 22, ‘But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own souls.’ We put a paralogism on ourselves, build on a sandy foundation: Mat. vii. 26, ‘Every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man that built his house upon the sand.’
2. Knowledge without practice is not right: Luke xii. 47, 48, ‘He that knoweth his master’s will, and prepareth not himself to do it, shall be beaten with many stripes.’ Better never known, if not done, for then they do but aggravate our guilt and increase our punishment.
3. Our love is not right unless it endeth in practice. A Christian’s love, to whatever object it be directed, must be an unfeigned love. If God, if the brethren, if the word of God, those words must ever sound in our ears, 1 John iii. 18, ‘My little children, love not in word and tongue, but in deed and in truth.’ Do you love the word of God? Do it not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
4. Our delight is not right; the pleasure is but an airy, idle, and speculative delight, unless it set us about the practice of all holy obedience unto God, making it the design and business of our lives to exercise ourselves unto godliness. That showeth the reality of your delight, when you come under the power of the truth, and are absolutely governed by it; for then you delight in them aright as mysteries of godliness. The Lord complaineth of them that had a delight in the prophet, ‘His voice was as pleasing to them as a minstrel; they hear the words, and do them not,’ Ezek. xxxiii. 32. They may delight in sublime strains of doctrine or flourishes of wit. Demosthenes had made a plausible speech to the Athenians; Phocion told them that the cypress-tree is goodly and fair, but beareth no fruit There may be flourishes of wit, but no food for hungry consciences.
5. Our commendation is not right unless it endeth in practice. Many may discourse of the ways of God, never speak of them but with commendation, but they do not lift their hands to this blessed work: they show some love to God’s commandments, but when it 14cometh to action, their hands are remiss and faint. Christ refuseth that respect of bare naked commendation: Luke xi. 27, 28, ‘Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps that thou hast sucked. Μενοῦνγε, yea, rather, blessed is he that heareth the word of God, and keepeth it.’ We are disciples of that master that did both teach and do: Acts i. 1, ‘The former treatise have I made, Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach.’ Of the Pharisees it is said, ‘They say, and do not,’ Mat. xxiii. 2, 3. But in Christians there must be saying and doing: James ii. 12, ‘So speak, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.’ We shall be rewarded, not for speaking well, but for doing, hands lifted up.
Well, then, nothing remains but practising duties that are pressed upon you on the first opportunity. Not he that heareth, understandeth, loveth, delighteth, commendeth, but ‘he that keepeth instruction,’ it is, ‘is in the way of life,’ Prov. x. 17. He that submitteth himself to be guided by God’s word, he is going the right way to eternal life and happiness. But to set home this point more fully, I shall inquire—
1. What kind of observance we must address ourselves unto.
2. Why we must thus lift up our hands, or address ourselves to our duty.
First, How, for the manner, must we lift up our hands, or what doing is necessary?
1. It must be universal: ‘Herod did many things,’ Mark vi. 20. Partial reformation in outward things will not serve the turn. In sundry particulars men may yield to the word of God, but in others deny their obedience; as in some cheap observances, or such duties as cross not our lusts; but David would lift up his hands to the commandments, without distinction and limitation. Many, this they will do, and that they will not do; and so do not obey God’s will, but their own: Ps. cxix. 6, ‘Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments:’ Luke i. 6, ‘And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.’
2. This doing must be serious and diligent. Every Christian must bend the powers of his soul, and lay out the first of his care and labour, in his obedience unto God: Phil. ii. 12, ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling:’ this is not a work to be done by the bye; but with the greatest care and solicitude.
3. This must be our settled and our ordinary practice. To lift up our hands now and then is not enough, to do a good thing once, or rarely. No; we must make religion our business. The lifting of the hands to God’s commandments is not a thing done accidentally, occasionally, or in a fit of zeal, but our trade and course of life: Acts xxiv. 16, ‘I exercise myself in this, to have a conscience void of offence both towards God and men, ἐν τούτῳ ἀσκῶ. This was the employment of his life.
4. We must persevere or continue with patience in well-doing, not withstanding discouragements: Heb. xii. 12, ‘Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.’ There must be no fainting, whatever discouragements happen; as there was a great deal of do to hold up Moses’s hands in Israel’s conflict with Amalek: 15Exod. xvii. 11, 12, ‘As long as he held up the rod of God, Israel prevailed; but Moses’ hands were heavy;’ a sign of many infirmities, not able long to endure in spiritual exercise; for though ‘the spirit be willing, yet the flesh is weak.’ But faith should still hold up our hands.
5. This lifting up the hands, or alacrious diligence, should flow from a right principle, and that is faith and love.
[1.] Faith, or a sound persuasion of God’s love to us in Christ, that keepeth us doing: Rom. xii. 1, ‘I beseech you, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service;’ and Titus ii. 11, 12, ‘The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world.’ Thankfulness to God is the great principle of gospel obedience.
[2.] Love: ‘Thy commandments, which I have loved:’ 2 Cor. v. 14, ‘The love of Christ constraineth us.’ Nothing holdeth up the hands in a constant obedience to God and performance of his will so much as a thorough love to God and his ways. Faith begets love, and love obedience. These are the true principles of all Christian actions.
6. This lifting up of the hands imports a right end. Commanded work must be done to commanded ends, else we lift up our hands to our own work. Now, the true end is the glory of God: 1 Cor. x. 31, ‘Whether, therefore, ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God;’ and Phil. i. 11, ‘Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Christ Jesus, unto the glory and praise of God.’ God’s glory must be our main scope, not any by-respect of our own. Well, then, this is lifting up our hands to the commandments of God, not doing one good work, but all; and this with a serious diligence, in our ordinary practice, continuing therein with patience, whatever oppositions we meet with; and this out of faith, or a sincere belief of the gospel, and fervent love, and an unfeigned respect to God’s glory.
Secondly, Why such a lifting up the hands, or serious addressing ourselves to our duty, is necessary? My answer shall be given in a fourfold respect—God, ordinances, graces, and the Christian, who is to give an account of himself unto God.
1. God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: Father, as a lawgiver; Son, as a redeemer and head of the renewed estate; Holy Ghost, as our sanctifier.
[1.] God the Father, who in the mystery of redemption is represented as our lawgiver and sovereign lord, and will be not only known and worshipped, but served by a full and entire obedience: 1 Chron. xxviii. 9, ‘And thou, Solomon, my son, know the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and a willing mind.’ He hath given us a law not to be trampled upon or despised, but observed and kept; and that not by fear or force, but of a ready mind. Though there be an after provision of grace for those that break his law because of the frailty of the creature, yet if we presume upon that indulgence, and sin much that God may pardon much, we may render 16ourselves incapable of that grace; for the more presumptuously wicked we are, the less pleasing unto God. The governor of the world should not be affronted upon the pretence of a remedy which the gospel offered; for this is to sin that grace may abound, than which wicked imagination nothing is more contrary to gospel grace: Rom. vi. 1, ‘What shall we say then? shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid.’ To check this conceit, God deterreth men from greater sins, as more difficult to be pardoned than less; they shall not have so quick and easy a pardon of them as of others; nay, he deterreth men from going on far in sin, either as to the intensive increase or the continuance in time, lest he cut them off and withdraw his grace, and pardon them not at all. Therefore he biddeth them to ‘call upon him while he is near,’ Isa. lv. 6; not to ‘harden their hearts, while it is called to-day,’ Heb. iii. 7, 8. Therefore, if we should only consider God as our lord and lawgiver, we should earnestly betake ourselves to obedience.
[2.] If we consider the Son as redeemer and head of the renewed estate, he standeth upon obedience: Heb. v. 9, he is ‘the author of eternal life to them that obey him.’ As he hath taken the commandments into his own hand, he insisteth upon practice, if his people will enjoy his favour: John xv. 10, ‘If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love, as I have kept my father’s commandments, and abide in his love.’ He hath imposed a yoke upon his disciples, and hath service for them to do: he, being a pattern and mirror of obedience, expects the like from his people. He fully performed what was enjoined him to do as the surety of believers, and therefore expecteth we should be as faithful to him as he hath been to God. So John xiv. 21, ‘He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me.’ No love of Christ should encourage us to cast off duty, but continue it. He taketh himself to be honoured when his people obey: 2 Thes. i. 11, 12, ‘Wherefore also we pray always for you, that God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you.’ The work of faith is obedience, and Christ is dishonoured and reproached when they disobey: Luke vi. 46, ‘Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?’
[3.] The Spirit is given to make graces operative, to flow forth: John iv. 14, ‘Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water springing up unto everlasting life:’ and John vii. 38, ‘He that believeth on me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water: this spake he of his Spirit, which they that believe in him should receive.’ Therefore, if we have an inward approbation of the ways of God, unless we lift up our hands, we resist his work.
2. With respect to ordinances: They are all means, and means are imperfect without their end. Things πρὸς ἄλλο are of no use, unless that other thing be accomplished for which they serve: as he is a foolish workman that contents himself with having tools, and never worketh; for tools are in order to work, and all the means of grace are in order to practice. We read, hear, meditate, to understand our duty. 17Now if we never put it in practice, we use means to no end and purpose: ‘Hear and live;’ ‘Hear and do.’ The word layeth out work for us; it was not ordained for speculation only, but as a rule of duty to the creatures: therefore, if we are to hear, read, meditate, we must also lift up our hands.
3. All graces are imperfect till they end in action, for they were not given us for idle and useless habits. Knowledge, to know merely that we may know, is curiosity and idle speculation. So Ps. cxi. 10, ‘A good understanding have all they that do his commandments;’ Jer. xxii. 16, ‘He judgeth the cause of the poor and the needy. Was not this to know me? saith the Lord.’ That is true knowledge that produceth its effect. So James ii. 22, ‘By works faith is made perfect;’ faith hath produced its end. So love is perfected in keeping the commandments: 1 John ii. 5, ‘Whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected;’ as all things are perfect when they attain their end and their consummate estate. The plant is perfect when it riseth up into stalk, and flower, and seed; so these graces.
4. The person or Christian is judged not only by what is believed, but what is done; not by what is approved, but what is practised. Many profess faith and love; but if it be not verified in practice, they are not accepted with God: 1 Peter i. 17, ‘If ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work;’ and Rev. xx. 12, ‘I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.’ God will judge men according to their works, and what they have done in the flesh, whether it be good or evil: John v. 29, ‘They that have done good shall rise to the resurrection of life, and they that have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.’ The redeemed sinner shall have his trial and judgment.
Use 1. For the disproof of two sorts—preachers and professors.
1. Preachers: if they be strict in doctrine and loose in practice, do they lift their hands to God’s commandments? No; they are like the Pharisees, who ‘bind heavy burdens upon others, and do not touch them with their own little finger,’ Mat. xxiii. 4. It is not enough to lift up our voice in recommending, but we must lift up our hands in practising, lest like a mark-stone, they show others the way to heaven, but walk not in it themselves, and contribute nothing of help by their examples.
[1.] That approve the word only. There may be an idle naked approbation: Rom. ii. 18, ‘Thou knowest his will, and approvest the things that are most excellent, being instructed out of the law.’ Video meliora proboque; they esteem these things better, but their hearts incline them to what is evil, and their reason is a slave to appetite.
[2.] That commend as well as approve: Rom. ii. 20, ‘Who hast a form of knowledge, and of the truth in the law,’ but without action, and practice. Have many, good words; their voice Jacob’s but their hands Esau’s: Ps. l. 16, 17, ‘What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or to take my covenant in thy mouth, since thou hatest instruction, and castest my words behind me?’ It pertaineth not to thee 18to profess religion, since thou dost not practise it, to commend the law which thou observest not, or to profess love to what thou dost not obey.
Use 2. Is to press you to lift up your hands, and to obey and do the things which God hath prescribed in his word. Do not rest in the notional part of religion. That which will approve you to God is not a sharp wit, or a firm memory, or a nimble tongue, but a ready practice. God expecteth to be glorified by his creatures both in word and deed; and therefore heart, and tongue, and hand, and all should be employed. I will urge you with but two reasons:—
1. How easy it is to deceive ourselves with a fond love, a naked ap probation, or good words, without bringing things to this real proof, whether the truth that we approve, esteem, and commend, have a real dominion over and influence upon our practice! 1 John ii. 4, ‘He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him;’ James i. 22, ‘Be ye doers of the word, not hearers only, deceiving your own souls.’ Respect to God and his word is a true evidence of a gracious heart. Now, how shall we know this respect real, but by our constant and uniform practice?
2. That it is not so easy to deceive God: he cannot be mocked with a vain show, for he looketh to the bottom and spring of all things: 1 Chron. xxviii. 9, ‘And thou, Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart, and with a willing mind; for the Lord searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts.’ He searcheth our hearts, knoweth our inward disposition, whether firm, strong, or productive of obedience. Now, to him you are to approve yourselves, and he will not be mocked with lying pretences and excuses: Gal. vi. 7, ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked.’ The all-seeing God cannot be blinded: he knoweth our thoughts afar off, and seeth all things in their causes; much more can he judge of effects. Therefore, whatsoever illuminations we pretend unto, if we do not live in the obedience of the commands of self-denial, humility, justice, patience, faith, and love, he can soon find us out. If our actions do not correspond to our profession, it is a practical he, which the Lord can easily find out.
Doct. 2. Whosoever would lift up his hands to God’s commandments, and seriously address himself to a course of obedience, must use much study and meditation. On the one side, non-advertency to heavenly doctrine is the bane of many: Mat. xiii. 19, ‘When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not,’ μὴ συνιέντος, non advertit animum, ‘then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart.’ And so James i. 23, 24, ‘If any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like a man beholding his natural face in a glass; for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. God s great complaint of his people is that they will not consider: Isa i. 3, ‘The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.’ So Jer. viii. 6, ‘I hearkened and heard, but they spake not aright; no man repented him of his wickedness, saying, what have I done?’ The heathens have commended such recollection. On the other side, the scripture recommendeth meditation, as one great help to obedience. 19Lydia’s conversion is described by attendancy: Acts xvi. 14, ‘The Lord opened her heart, that she attended unto the things which were spoken by Paul:’ because that is the first step to it; minding, choosing, prosecuting. So the man that will benefit by the word of God is he, James i. 25, ‘That looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein;’ that is, abideth in the view of these truths; for a glance never converted or warmed the heart of any man: ‘This man being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the word, this man shall be blessed in his deed.’ Now, more particularly, why meditation is necessary:—
1. To know the mind of God and understand our duty. A superficial knowledge hath no efficacy and hold upon us; therefore, by deep meditation, search and study, we come to be more thoroughly acquainted with the mind of God revealed in his word. We are bidden, Prov. ii. 4, to ‘dig for knowledge as for silver.’ Mines do not lie on the surface, but in the bowels of the earth. Every day we should get more knowledge: Rom. xii. 2, ‘Be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God;’ and Eph. v. 17, ‘Be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.’ Now we cannot know this without a serious search and inquiry into the rule of duty: there must be an accurate search; spiritual knowledge will not drop into our mouths. There are many clouds of ignorance and folly that yet hover in the minds of men, and they are dispelled more and more by a sound study of the scriptures.
2. To keep up a fresh remembrance of our duty. Oblivion and inconsideration is a kind of ignorance for the time. Though we habitually know a thing, yet we do not actually know a thing till we consider of it: Eccles. v. 1, ‘They consider not that they do evil:’ so Hosea vii. 2, ‘They consider not in their hearts that I remember all their wickedness.’ That which we consider is always before us; but that which we consider not is forgotten, laid by, and the notions which we have about them are as it were laid asleep, they work not. But now frequent meditation keepeth these things alive.
3. Meditation is necessary to enkindle our affections. Affections are stirred by thoughts, as thoughts by objects. The truth cannot come home to our hearts till we think of it again and again. We have no other natural way to raise affection; and we must not think that grace worketh like a charm, in a way contrary to the instituted order of nature. No; the heart of man must be besieged with frequent and powerful thoughts before it will yield to God and give entertainment to his truth and ways. There is no coming at the heart but by the mind; and the mind must be serious in what it represents to gain the heart; that is, we must meditate. The devil watcheth our postures; he seeketh to catch these thoughts out of our mind as soon as he seeth that we begin to be serious, Mat. xiii. 19.
4. Meditation is necessary to show our love: ‘I will lift up my hands also to thy commandments, which I have loved, and I will meditate in thy statutes;’ Ps. i. 2, ‘His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night;’ Ps. cxix. 47, ‘And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.’ The mind will muse upon what we love. As thoughts stir affections, 20 so affections stir up thoughts; for in all moral things there is a κθκλογένησις. A pleasing object will be much revolved in our mind, and frequently thought of.
The use is for direction to us. When you have heard the word, remember what you hear, and apply it to yourselves by serious inculcative thoughts. So when you read the word, do not only understand it, but think of it again and again: Deut. xxxii. 46, ‘Set your hearts to all the words which I testify among you this day,’ saith Moses to the Israelites. So Christ: Luke ix. 44, ‘Let these sayings sink into your hearts.’ Truths never go to the quick of the affections but by serious and ponderous thoughts. You will not lift up your hands till the truth sink into the heart. You read chapters, hear sermon after sermon; they do not stir you, or it is but a little, for a fit, like a man that hath been a little warming himself by the fire, and goeth away, and is colder than he was before. O Christian! this means is not to be neglected, no more than reading and hearing, because of its great use, both for first conversion, and continual quickening.
1. For first conversion. A man cometh to himself by serious thoughts of those great and important truths which are delivered in the word of God: Luke xv. 17, ‘And when he came to himself, he said,’ &c.; Ps. xxii. 27, ‘All the ends of the world shall remember, and turn unto the Lord;’ Ps. cxix. 59, ‘I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies.’
2. For continual quickening. Musing maketh the fire burn. The greatest things will not move us if we do not think of them: Rom. viii. 31, ‘What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?’ Job v. 27, ‘Lo, this we have searched, so it is; hear it, and know thou it for thy good.’ The benefit of sound doctrine consists in the application thereof by the hearers. When men have spent their time and strength to find a good lesson for us, shall not we think of it?
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