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SERMON LV.

Remember thy word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.—Ver. 49.

IN the words observe—

1. His prayer and humble petition to God, remember thy word. God is said to remember when he doth declare by the effect that he doth remember. He sometimes seemingly forgets his promise, that is, to appearance carrieth himself as one that doth forget.

2. His argument is taken—

[1.] From his interest, thy servant.

[2.] From his trust and hope, which is expressed—

(1.) As warranted.

(2.) As caused.

(1.) As warranted by his word; that gave him ground of hope and comfort

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(2.) As caused by his influence, Upon which thou hast caused me to hope. The word his warrant, the Spirit his anchor. Would God raise up such a hope merely to defeat it? The word concurred to this hope, as it offered—

(1st.) A command to believe.

(2d.) The promise of the eternal and immutable God to build upon. The influence of his grace concurred; for he that maketh the offer in the word doth also work faith in the believer, and inclineth his heart to apply the promise and trust in it; for faith is ‘the gift of God,’ Eph. ii. 8. In short, here is a promise believed and pleaded; and both confirm our faith in the fulfilling and granting of it.

Doct. That believers may humbly challenge God upon his word, and seek the full performance of what he hath promised.

This point, that it may be managed with respect to this text, I shall give you these considerations:—

1. That God delighteth to promise mercy before he accomplish it; which showeth these things:—

[1.] His abundant love. God’s heart is so kindly affected to his people that he cannot stay till the accomplishment of things, but he must tell us aforehand what he meaneth to do for us: Isa. xlii. 9, ‘Before they spring forth, I will tell you of them;’ long before there was any sight of such things, or means that might produce them: so that his promise is an eruption and overflow of his love.

[2.] His care for our security; for by his promise he giveth his people a holdfast upon him, as he maketh himself a debtor to them by his own promise, who was otherwise free before such engagement to poor creatures: Ps. lxxxix, 34, ‘My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips’ The word is gone out of his lips, not to be recalled, nor reversed. The promises are as so many bonds, wherein he stands bound to us; and these bonds may be put in suit, and his people have liberty and confidence to ask what he hath promised to them. Austin saith of his mother, Chirographa tua injiciebat tibi Domine—Lord, she showed thy own bond and hand writing. It is a mighty argument in prayer when we can plead that we ask no more than God hath promised.

2. That there is usually some time of delay between making the promise and fulfilling the promise; for therefore God promiseth, because he meaneth to do us good, but not presently. And this delay is not for want of kindness, or out of any backwardness to our good; for so it is said, he will not tarry: Hab. ii. 3, ‘Though it tarry, wait for it, because it will surely come, it will not tarry.’ Nor out of ignorance, as not knowing the fittest time to help his people; for his waiting is guided by judgment: Isa. xxx. 18, ‘He waiteth that he may be gracious; for he is a God of judgment;’ he will take hold of the fittest season or occasion. Not from forgetfulness of his promise; for ‘he is ever mindful of his holy covenant,’ Ps. cxi. 5. Not from any mutability of nature or change of counsel; for he is Jehovah, that changeth not: Mal. iii. 6, ‘I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.’ He hath a due foresight of all possible difficulties, and needeth not to alter his counsels. Not from impotency and weakness, as if he could not execute what he had 22promised, as the sons of Zeruiah were too hard for David, 2 Sam. iii. 39; all things are at the beck and signification of his will. But (1.) Partly with respect to his own glory, he will do things in their proper season: Eccles. iii. 11, ‘Everything is beautiful in its time.’ This is the wise providence of God in the government of the world, that every thing is brought forth in its proper season, and in the time when it is most fit. God humbleth and God exalteth his people in due time: 1 Peter v. 6, ‘Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.’ So it is said of their enemies: Deut. xxxii. 35, ‘Their foot shall slide in due time.’ Summer and winter must succeed in their seasons. (2.) With respect to us, God will try our faith, whether we can stay on his word, and hug it, and embrace it, till the blessing come. As it is said of the patriarchs ἀσπασάμενοι, Heb. xi. 13, ‘They embraced the promises;’ Ps. lvi. 4, ‘In God I will praise his word; I have put my trust in the Lord; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.’ During this time we may be exercised with divers troubles and difficulties, so that to appearance God seemeth to forget his promises; and this he doth—

[1.] Partly to try our faith to the utmost, to see if we can trust and depend upon God for things which we see not, nor are likely to see. Faith, in the general, is a dependence upon God for something that lieth out of sight. Now, when the object is not only out of sight, but all that is seen and felt seemeth to contradict our hopes, and God seemeth to put us off, and we meet with many a rebuke of our confidence, instead of an answer, as the woman of Canaan that came to Christ at first meeteth not with a word, then his speech more discourageth than his silence: Mat. xv. 26, ‘It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to the dogs.’ She turneth this rebuke into an encouragement: ver. 27, ‘Truth, Lord! yet the dogs, eat of the crumbs which fall from their master’s table;’ ver. 28, ‘Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman! great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt.’ Many times we come and pray for blessings promised, and the oracle is dumb and silent. Though God love the supplicant, yet he will not seem to take notice of his desires, but will humble him to the dust. Now, to pick an answer out of God’s silence, and a gracious answer out of his rebukes, showeth great faith. Job saith, chap. xiii. 15, ‘Though he slay me, yet I will trust in him.’ Faith supports us under the greatest pressures; when God seemeth to deal like an enemy, yet even then trusts in God as a friend, and that his dispensations will never give his word the lie.

[2.] To try our patience as well as our faith. God’s dearest children are not admitted to the enjoyment of the mercies promised presently: Heb. vi. 12, ‘Be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.’ And Heb. x. 36, ‘Ye have need of patience, that after ye have done the will of God, ye may receive the promise.’ We must first do, and sometimes suffer, the will of God. The promises are to come, and at a great distance. ‘And if we hope for that we see not,’ and enjoy not, ‘then do we with patience wait for it,’ Rom. viii. 25. But especially is patience tried when we meet with oppositions, difficulties, dangers, many things done, many things suffered, before we can attain what we hope for. Now, 23quietly to wait God’s leisure is a great trial of our patience: Our times are always present with us, when God’s time is not come. A hungry stomach would have meat ere it be sodden or roasted, and a sickish appetite must have green fruit; but to wait, like the husband man, in all seasons and weathers, till the corn ripen; and to persevere in hoping and praying, that is that which God requires.

[3.] Our love, though we be not feasted with felt comforts, nor bribed with present satisfaction and benefits in hand. God will try the deportment of his children, whether they will adhere to him when he seemeth to cast them off. It is not said, ‘In the way of thy mercies,’ but, ‘In the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee,’ Isa. xxvi. 8. Love for himself, without any present benefit from him, yea, when kept under sore judgments and deep distresses.

[4.] To enlarge our desires, that we may have the greater sense of our necessities, and value for the blessings promised. A sack that is stretched out holdeth the more. Delay increaseth importunity: ‘Ask, and ye shall have; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you,’ Mat. vii. 7; Luke xi. 8, ‘Though he will not rise and give him because he is his friend, yet διὰ τὴν ἀναίδειαν, because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth.’ And things promised being asked, and at length obtained, are the more valued.

3. That if we yet continue our faith, and heartily believe God upon his word, it is a great encouragement in waiting for the thing promised; for to believe is a qualification. There are in the word of God promises that we may believe, and then promises because we do believe; promises to invite faith and hope, and then promises because we believe in God and hope in his word; promises for faith, and to faith. As for instance, God hath promised to be a defence unto his people: Zech. ii. 5, ‘I the Lord will be unto her a wall of fire round about her, and will be the glory in the midst of her.’ Now see how David pleadeth: Ps. lvii. 1, ‘Be merciful unto me, God, be merciful unto me; for my soul trusteth in thee; yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.’ When once we believe, then we have a claim: Isa. xxvi. 3, ‘Thou keepest him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.’ Trust giveth us a fresh claim or new interest: Ps. lxxxvi. 2, ‘O thou my God, save thy Servant that trusteth in thee.’ God will not disappoint a trusting soul. An ingenuous man will not fail his friend if he rely on him. We count this the strongest bond we lay upon another, to be faithful and mindful of us: I trust you, that you will do this for me. How much more will God do so,—

[1.] For his own honour, to show himself faithful, willing, and able to succour his people in their distresses. This is the reproach cast upon the worshippers of idols, that they call upon those things which cannot help them nor relieve them in their straits: Judges x. 14, ‘Go to the gods whom ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the day of tribulation.’ When you trust God, the honour of his Godhead lieth at stake. By trust you own him for a God: Jonah i. 5, ‘Then the mariners were afraid, and cried every man upon his god.’ By making 24 good your trust he showeth himself to be a God, that they do not seek to a vain help.

[2.] With a condescension to his people. Nothing goeth so near their hearts as a disappointment of their hope in God. This will mightily damp their spirits, when God spits in their faces, and seemeth to reject their prayers: Ps. xxv. 2, ‘O my God, I trust in thee, let me not be ashamed; yea, let none of them that wait on thee be ashamed; but let them be ashamed which transgress without a cause.’ To have hopes fail which were invited and drawn forth by promises is a great temptation.

[3.] With respect to their enemies, who will be sure to cast this in their teeth, if the God in whom they trusted should not send help from his holy place. You will find God’s servants often mocked for their trust: Ps. xxii. 8, ‘He trusted in the Lord; let him now deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.’ Christ himself was not free from the lash of profane tongues, he was mocked for his dependence on his Father: Mat. xxvii. 43, ‘He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him.’ The world counts faith but a fancy. Now if God should deny the things promised to his people, it would seem to countenance the slanders of their enemies. Wherefore do the children of God expose themselves to difficulties, and all manner of hard usages, but because of their hope in God? 1 Tim. iv. 10, ‘Therefore we suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God;’ for that reason, because they look for great things from God; therefore God hath a great respect for them that trust in him.

4. This trust must be pleaded in prayer.

[1.] Because prayer is one of the means by which God hath decreed to fulfil his promises; and therefore we must obtain mercies in his own appointed way. God saith, I will do thus and thus for you: Ezek. xxxvi. 37, ‘But I will be inquired after by the house of Israel for this very thing.’ God will do it, but prayer must give a lift; he will be sought to: Jer. xxix. 11, 12, ‘I know the thoughts which I think to wards you, saith the Lord; thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end,’ that is, such an end as yourselves hope for and desire; ‘then shall ye call upon me, and go, and pray to me, and I will hearken unto you,’ that is, you must address and set yourselves seriously to this work. When the promise is urged by the believer, it will be performed by God. So when Daniel understood by the books and writings of the prophets that the time was come wherein God had promised to deliver his people, then he falleth a-praying in a serious manner, Dan. ix. 3. When God hath a mind to work, then he sets the spirit of prayer awork, for he will have all things accomplished in his own way.

[2.] Because he hath put this office upon his people, that they are to be his remembrancers at the throne of grace: Isa. lxii. 6, ‘Ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence:’ it is in the margin, ‘Ye that are the Lord’s remembrancers,’ whose office it is to be constantly minding God, and soliciting him in the behalf of his church. Public remembrancers are the officers of his church; but every Christian is a private remembrancer, to put God in mind of his promise. Not that God is subject to forgetfulness, as man is, who hath need of 25 such minders; but he will be sought and solicited for the performance of his gracious promises. We have an advocate in heaven, but there are remembrancers upon earth. We come as David here, ‘Remember thy word unto thy servants, on which thou hast caused us to hope.’

5. We are the more encouraged because God, that made the promise, doth also give the faith; for he pleadeth two things the grant of the promise, and the gift of faith. Reasons:—

[1.] God would not deceive us. Would he raise a confidence to disappoint us? In such a case we might say, as the prophet Jeremiah, chap. xx. 7, ‘Thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived:’ the words seem to intrench upon the honour of God. In the general, I answer—They were spoken by the prophet in a passion. Others soften them by another rendering and interpretation, ‘Thou hast persuaded me, and I was persuaded:’ that is, to undertake the prophetical office, of which I was nothing forward of myself, but averse thereunto, yet found it more troublesome than I expected. But put it with a supposition, ‘If I be deceived, thou hast deceived me,’ there is nothing inconvenient God had told him he would make him as a brazen wall; God had raised a faith and hope in him to be borne out in his work. Now, if God hath specially excited your faith, it is not a foolish imagination or vain expectation, like as of them that dream; it is God’s word you build upon, and it is by a faith of God’s operation; he raiseth it in us.

[2.] The prayer of faith is the voice of the Spirit, and God heareth the voice of the Spirit always, ‘who maketh requests κατὰ Θεὸν, according to the will of God:’ Rom. viii. 27, ‘He that searcheth and trieth the hearts, knoweth what is a groan of the Spirit,’ what is a fancy of our own, what is a confidence raised in us by the operation of his own Spirit. For there may be a mistaken faith, seemingly built upon the promises, whereas it is indeed built upon our own conceits. Now God is not bound to make that faith good. But when we can appeal to the searcher of hearts that it is a faith of his own working, surely we may have confidence.

Now how shall we know that it is a faith of God’s raising?

1. If the promise be not mistaken, and we do not presume of that absolutely which God only hath promised conditionally, and with the limitations of his own glory and our good, which are joined to all promises which concern the present life. In temporal things, God exerciseth his children with great uncertainties, because he seeth it meet to prove our submission in these things, for our happiness lieth not in them. Those things wherein our happiness doth consist, as remission of sins and eternal life, are sure enough, and that is encouragement to a gracious heart: 2 Tim. iv. 18, ‘God hath delivered me out of the mouth of the lion, and will deliver me from every evil work.’ In the Old Testament, when God discovered less of heaven, he promised more of earth; but in the New Testament, where life and immortality are brought to light, we are told of many tribulations in our passage; yea, the eminent saints of the Old Testament, that had a clearer view of things to come than others had, were more exposed to the calamities of the present life, because God thought the sight of happiness to come sufficient to countervail their troubles; and if he 26would give them rest in another world, they might well endure the inconveniences of their pilgrimage: Heb. xi. 16, ‘But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city.’ The holy patriarchs left their country, flitted up and down upon this hope; but to us Christians the case is clear: Rom. viii. 18, ‘For I reckon that the sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us;’ 2 Cor. iv. 17, ‘For this light affliction, that is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.’

2. When the qualification of the person is not clear, we must not absolutely promise ourselves the effect: Jonah iii. 9, ‘Who can tell whether God will turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not?’ So Joel ii. 14, ‘Who knoweth if he will return, and leave a blessing behind him?’ In this clause I put believers who have sinned away their peace and assurance: 2 Sam. xii. 22, ‘Who can tell if God will be gracious unto me, that the child may live?’ He speaketh doubt fully; Zeph. ii. 3, ‘It may be that ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s fierce anger;’ Amos v. 15, ‘Hate the evil and love the good; it may be the Lord God of hosts will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.’ In such cases the soul is divided between the expectation of mercy and the sense of their own deservings, and can speak neither the pure language of faith nor the pure language of unbelief—half Canaan, half Ashdod. There is a twilight in grace as well as in nature. ‘God in these eases raiseth no other confidence, to heighten mercy, and try how we can venture upon God, and refer ourselves to his will, when we have any business for him to do for us: Mat. viii. 2, ‘Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean;’ 2 Sam. xv. 25, 26, ‘And the king said to Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city; if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation: but if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good to him.

3. In the promises of spiritual and eternal mercies, when God’s conditions are performed by us, we maybe confident, and must give glory to God in believing and being persuaded that he will fulfil them to us: 2 Tim. i. 12, ‘I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which 1 have committed unto him against that day;’ Rom. viii. 38, 39, ‘For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ I am persuaded; there is no doubt: the stronger our confidence, the better.

4. When God raiseth in our minds some particular express hope (as in some cases he may do) to these things that are of a temporal nature and are conditionally promised, and where our qualification is clear he will not disappoint us, 2 Cor. i. 12. Though the promises of temporal things have the limitation of the cross implied in them, and are to be understood in subordination to our eternal interest and God’s glory, without which they would not be mercies but judgments, yet 27his usual course is to save, deliver, and supply them here: Ps. ix. 10, ‘And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee; for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.’ And when God by his Spirit doth particularly incline his people to hope for mercy from him, he will not fail their expectations. Where the qualification is uncertain, yet the faith of general mercy wrestleth against discouragements; as in the case of the woman of Canaan: there is the plea of a dog, and the plea of a child, in grievous temptations to fasten our selves upon God. God will make good the hope raised in them by his Spirit.

Use. For direction, what to do in all our distresses, bodily and spiritual. Our necessities should lead us to the promise, and the promise to God.

1. Be sure of your qualification; for David pleadeth here partly as the servant of God, and partly as a believer: first, ‘Remember thy word unto thy servant;’ and then, ‘wherein thou hast caused me to hope.’ There is a double qualification—with respect to the precept of subjection, with respect to the promise of dependence: the precept is before the promise. They have right to the promises, and may justly lay hold upon them, who are God’s servants; they who apply themselves to obey his precepts, these only can regularly apply his promises. None can lay claim to rewarding grace but those that are partakers of his sanctifying grace. Clear that once, that you are God’s servants, and then these promises, which are generally offered, are your own, no less than if your name were inserted in the promise, and written in the Bible. Let us remember our promises made to God, and then desire him to remember his promises to us. The next part of the qualification is, if you be believers, and can wait and depend upon God, though he seemeth to delay, and forget his promise: ‘Our eyes must wait upon the Lord, until he have mercy upon us,’ Ps. cxxiii. 2. The benefit of some promises droppeth, like the first ripe fruit, into the mouth of the eater; but others must be tarried for. It is said, Acts vii. 17, ‘When the time of the promise drew night, which God had sworn to Abraham, the people grew and multiplied in Egypt.’ The promise is recorded, Gen. xv. 5, of ‘multiplying his seed like the stars of heaven.’ Abraham was seventy-five years old when the promise was made, a hundred years old when Isaac was born; when Jacob went into Egypt they were but seventy souls, but at their coming forth they were 603,550. Now, if faith wait, Isa. xxviii. 16, ‘He that believeth maketh not haste:’ Lam. iii. 26, ‘It is good that a man should both hope, and quietly wait for the salvation of God;’ Hosea xii. 6, ‘Keep mercy and judgment, and wait on the Lord continually.’ God delayeth because he would have us make use of faith. Real believers are such as have ventured upon God’s word, denied themselves for the hopes offered therein: 1 Tim. iv. 10, ‘Therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God:’ Heb. vi. 10, ‘God is not unrighteous, to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have showed towards his name.’ God’s servants must wait for his promises with patience and self-denial: Rom. ii. 7, ‘To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory, and honour, and immortality, eternal life:’ Luke viii. 15, ‘Those in the good ground are they which 28in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.’

2. Then let us plead promises; let them not lie by us as a dead stock, but put them in suit, and put God in remembrance. When the accomplishment is delayed, it is a notable way of raising and increasing our confidence: 2 Sam. vii. 25, ‘And now, Lord, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant and his house, establish it for ever, and do as thou hast said.’ So ver. 28, ‘And now, Lord, thou art that God, and thy words are true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant.’ So may we do with any promise of mercy and grace which God hath made with his people in his covenant.

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