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Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.—Ver. 54.
DAVID had in the former verse expressed his great trouble, because of the increase of the wicked, and their defection from the law of God. Now he showeth what comforted him: the children of God have a great deal of divine consolation from the word in the midst of all their sorrows and evils of the present life. David’s comfort is here expressed—
1. By the matter or object of it, thy statutes.
2. The degree of his rejoicing, intimated in the word songs. The effect is put for the cause, joy and mirth, which usually break forth into singing, or the sign and indication for the thing signified.65
3. The place where he rejoiced, in the house of his pilgrimage; ἐν τόπῳ παροικίας μοῦ, wheresoever I sojourn.
1. By God’s ‘statutes’ is meant his word in general, more especially the precepts and promises: in the one we have the offer of life; in the other, the way and means how to attain it. In the word is both our charter and our rule; in both regards it is matter of rejoicing: Ps. xix. 8, ‘The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the soul.’ Nothing is commanded there but what is equitable in itself, and profitable to us.
2. By ‘songs,’ a metonymy of the effect for the cause, or the sign for the thing signified; such pleasure, joy, and contentment as other men had in songs, David had in the word of God. Travellers use to lighten and ease the tediousness of the way by songs: Thy word doth comfort me wonderfully. Or you may take it literally, the themes and arguments of his singing. Profane spirits must have songs suit able to their mirth; as their mirth is carnal, so the songs of carnal men are obscene, filthy and fleshly: but a holy man, his songs suit his mirth and joy; he rejoiceth in the Lord, and therefore his songs are divine: ‘Thy statutes are my songs.’ Singing of psalms is a delectable way of edification, which God hath not only instituted in the scriptures, but heathens saw a use of it by the light of nature. Ælian, lib. iii. Nat. Hist. cap. 39, telleth us of the Cretans, τοὺς παῖδας τοὺς ἐλευθέρους μανθάνειν τοὺς νόμους μετά τινος μελωδίας. It is a spiritual channel wherein our mirth may run: James v. 13, ‘Is any merry? let him sing psalms,’ ἐνθυμεῖ τις;—there is the harmony, that is a natural delight; the matter, that is a spiritual comfort. I cannot exclude this, because it is one way of expressing that delight which we take in the word; but I prefer the former, for David speaketh of the comfort he took in keeping God’s precepts when they were violated by others.
3. ‘In the house of my pilgrimage.’ You may take it literally for the time of David’s exile, when banished by Saul, or driven from his palace by Absalom: when he fled from place to place, and wandered up and down in great distress, then God’s statutes, by which his life was directed, innocency vindicated, hopes confirmed both of present sup port and seasonable deliverance, were as songs to him, his real and cordial solaces. Wheresoever the believer is, or whatsoever his case and condition be, he hath still matter of rejoicing in the word of God. So had David when he was exposed to continual wanderings, without any fixed habitation. Indeed the children of God in Babylon say, Ps. cxxxvii. 4, ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’ The meaning is not to exclude their own spiritual delight and solace; but they would not gratify the carnal pleasure of their enemies with a temple song, or subject religion to their sportive fancies and humours. Rather metaphorically for the whole course of his life, whether spent in the palace, or in the wilderness; in whatsoever place he was, he was still in the house of his pilgrimage: so he accounted his best and his worst condition; compare ver. 19, ‘I am a stranger in the earth,’ and Ps. xxxix. 12, ‘I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all my fathers were;’ with 1 Chron. xxix. 15, ‘We are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers.’ Not only when hunted like a partridge upon the mountains, but also when he was at rest, and 66 able to offer so vast a quantity of treasure for the building of the house of God.
Two points are observable:—
Doct. 1. That the godly count this world, and their whole estate therein, the house of their pilgrimage.
Doct. 2. That during this estate, and the inconveniences thereof, they find matter of rejoicing in the word of God.
Doct. 1. That the godly count, this world and their whole estate therein, the house of their pilgrimage.
I shall not handle this doctrine in its full latitude, having spoken largely thereof in the 19th verse; only now a few considerations.
1. Here is no fixed abode; there where we live longest we count our home and dwelling; not an inn which we take up in our passage, but the place of our constant residence in this world. We are only in passage, and so should consider it: Heb. xiii. 14, ‘Here we have no abiding city, but we look for one to come, whose builder and maker is God.’ Here we stay but a little while, passing through to a better country. The mortality of the body and the immortality of the soul showeth that we are all strangers here; for if here we do not live for ever, and yet we have souls that will live for ever, there must be some other place to which we are tending. The body is dust in its composition and resolution: Eccles. xii. 7, ‘Then shall the body return to the earth as it was.’ Nature may teach us so much, but faith, that assureth us of the resurrection of the dead, doth more bind this consideration upon us. We are mortal, and all things about us are liable to their mortality; and therefore here we must be still passing to another place.
2. Here we have no rest: Micah ii. 10, ‘Arise, and depart hence, for this is not your rest:’ that is hereafter; Heb. iv. 9, ‘There remaineth therefore a rest for the people of God.’ Our home we count the place of our repose. Now there is no rest and content in this world, which is a place of vanity, misery, and discomfort. Yea, to the children of God there are stronger motives than crosses to drive them from the world—daily temptations, and our often falling by them. Crosses are grievous to all, but sin is more grievous to the godly; and nothing makes them more weary of the world than the constant in dwelling and frequent outbreaking of corruption and sin: Rom. vii. 24, ‘O miserable man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’ The apostle was exercised with many crosses, but this doth make him complain in the bitterness of his soul, not of his misery, but of his corruption, which he found continually rebelling against God. Many complain of their crosses that complain not of sin. To loathe the world for crosses alone, is neither the mark nor work of grace. A beast can forsake the place where he findeth neither meat nor rest; but because we are sinning here, whilst others are glorifying God, this is the trouble of the saints.
3. They believe and look for a better estate after this life is over: 2 Cor. v. 1, ‘We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ No man can be a right sojourner on earth who doth not look for an abode in heaven; for that which doth 67most effectually draw off the heart of man from this world is the expectation of a far better state in the world to come: 2 Cor. iv. 18, ‘While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.’ Heathens could call the world an inn, but they had only glimmering conceptions of another world. A Christian, that believeth it, and looketh for it on God’s assurance, he is only the joyful stranger and the pilgrim. Common sense will teach us the necessity of leaving this world, but faith can only assure us of another; they are believers and expectants of heaven.
4. They do not only look for it, but seek after it. We read of both looking and seeking: Heb. xi. 14, ‘They declare plainly that they seek a country:’ Heb. xiii. 14, ‘Here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.’ Seeking implieth diligence in the use of means. All the life of a Christian is nothing but the seeking after another country, every day advancing a step nearer to heaven; and therefore their πολίτευμα, their ‘conversation’ is said to be ‘in heaven,’ Phil. iii. 20. This is their great business upon earth, to do all to eternal ends: all other works and labours are but upon the bye, and subordinate to this. Their main care is to obtain this blessed condition; therefore they use word and sacraments, that they may grow in grace, faith, repentance, new obedience. Every degree in grace is another step towards heaven: Ps. lxxxiv. 5, ‘Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee, in whose hearts are the ways of them;’ ver. 7, ‘They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.’ Some of the saints are in patria, others in via, still bending homeward.
5. Because they are so, the children of God are dealt with as strangers. Difference of scope and drift will procure alienation of affection: 1 Peter iv. 4, ‘Wherein they think it strange that you run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you;’ and John xv. 19, ‘If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.’ Other cannot be expected but that the servants of the Lord should be ill rewarded and treated here, not only out of the world’s ignorance—they know not our birth, breeding, expectations, hope: 1 John iii. 2, ‘Beloved, now are we the sons of God; but it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is’—but enmity, as the different carriage of the one puts a disgrace upon the course of life which the other doth affect; the one fixeth their home here, the other looketh for it elsewhere; and the world is sensible this is an excellency, and therefore those that are at the bottom of the hill, envy and malign those that are at the top.
Use. Are we thus minded? There are two sorts of men in the world—the one is of the devil and the other is of God; for all men seek their rest and happiness on earth, or rest in heaven. Naturally men were all of the first number, for the rational soul without grace accommodateth itself to the interests of the body; but when sublimated and transformed by grace, the world cannot satisfy it, and it can find 68nothing there which may finally quiet its desires, for the new life infused hath other aims and tendencies. As saints are new-born from heaven, so for heaven; and therefore the new nature cannot satisfy itself in the enjoyment of the creature, with the absence of God. The apostle saith, ‘While at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord,’ 2 Cor. v. 6, 7. In this life we are not capable of the glorious presence of God; it is not consistent with our mortality; and our being present with him in the spirit is but a taste that doth provoke rather then cloy the appetite: Rom. viii. 23, ‘Ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.’ These tastes do but make us long for more; they are sent down from heaven to draw us up to that place of our rest where this glory and blessedness is in fulness. Now which sort are ye of? the city of God, or under the dominion of Satan and the power of worldly lusts?
1. There are some that take up here, and never consider whence they are, nor whither they are going; as Christ saith, ‘I know whence I am, and whither I go.’ They look altogether for the present, and if they be well for the present, they are contented. Alas! in what a miserable case are these men, though they mind it not! they seem to me to be like men that are going to execution. A man that is going to the gallows for the present is well, hath a great guard to attend him, an innumerable multitude of people to follow him: you would think that hardly could a man be such a sot and fool as to think all this should be done for his honour, and not for his punishment, and should only consider how he is accompanied, but not whither he goeth. Many such fools there are in the world, that only consider how they are attended and provided for, but never consider whither they are going. O wretch! whither goest thou? may we say to one that should pride himself in the resort of company to his execution. Dost thou not see thou art led to punishment, and after an hour or two these will leave thee hanging and perishing infamously as the just reward of thine offences? So many that shine now in the pomp and splendour of worldly accommodations, and are merry and jocund as if all would do well, alas! poor creatures, whither are they going? Job xxi. 12, 13, ‘They take the timbrel and the harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ; they spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down into hell.’ Ye still live, and are going to punishment, but mind it not; but your wealth, and honours, and servants, and friends will all leave you to your own doom; and yet you are merry and jocund as if your journey would never end, or not so dismally; as if you were hastening to a kingdom, and not to an eternal prison: one moment puts an end to all their joy for ever.
2. There are others that wean their hearts from this world, and make it their care that they may carry themselves becoming their celestial extraction. As their souls were from above by creation, so all their hopes, and desires, and endeavours are to attain to that region of spirits; much more as being renewed by grace do they aim at the perfection and accomplishment of that life which is begun in them; and so being ‘made partakers of the divine nature, do they escape the corruption that is in the world through lust,’ 2 Peter i. 4, 69they are convinced of a better estate than the world yieldeth, and believe it, and look for it, and long for it, and labour for it. Now of which number are you? or, if you cannot decide that—because more goeth to the assuring of our interest than the world usually taketh to be necessary for that end and purpose—of which number do you mean to be? Will you be at home in the world, or seek the happiness of the world to come? that is, in other terms, do you mean to be pagans under a Christian name, or Christians indeed? You have but the name if you be not strangers and pilgrims here upon earth. All Christ’s disciples indeed are called to sit loose from the world, and to have a high and deep sense of the world to come. As to the other world, they are ‘no mere strangers and foreigners, but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God,’ Eph. ii. 19. They are of a family, part of which is in heaven and part on earth: Eph. iii. 15, ‘Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.’ Some of their brethren have got the start of them, and are with God before them, but the rest are hastening after as fast as they can. They are sufficiently convinced that the earth is no place for them; they are strangers there, and the contentments thereof uncertain and perishing; but they are no strangers to heaven and the blessed society of the saints, whose privileges they have a full right to now, and hope one day to have as full a possession, and an intimate communion with their Father and all their brethren.
Now, that you may resolve upon this, and carry yourselves suitably, I shall—
1. Give you some motives.
2. A direction or two.
[1.] He that taketh up his rest in this world, or any earthly thing, is but a higher kind of beast, and unworthy of an immortal soul. The beasts have an instinct that guideth them to seek things convenient for that life which they have, and therefore a man doth not follow the light of reason that seeketh to quiet his mind with what things the world affordeth, and only relisheth the contentments of the carnal and bodily life, that is satisfied with his portion here, Ps. xvii. 14. All their business and bustle is to have their wills and pleasure for a little while, as if they had neither hopes nor fears of any greater things hereafter: Ps. xlix. 20, ‘Man, that is in honour, and void of understanding, is as the beast that perisheth,’ because he merely inclineth to present satisfactions; for reason is as a middle thing between the life of faith and the life of sense. It were no great matter whether you were men or dogs or swine, if reason be only given you for the present world and present satisfactions; all your sense of the world to come and conscience is as good as nothing.
[2.] None are of so noble and divine a spirit as those that seek the heavenly kingdom. Amongst men, the ambitious who aspire to crowns and kingdoms, that aim at perpetual fame by their virtues and rare exploits, are judged persons of greater gallantry than covetous muck-worms and brutish epicures; yet their highest thoughts and designs are very base in comparison of Christians, ‘who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for life, glory, and immortality,’ Rom. ii. 7, and whom nothing less will content than the enjoyment of God himself. Their desires are after him: Ps. lxxiii. 25, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee? and who is there on earth I desire besides thee?’ So that as man, being immortal, should provide for some place of perpetual abode, so herein the Christian excelleth other men, that nothing less will satisfy him than what God hath promised his people hereafter. The threshold will not content him—nothing but the throne.
[3.] What a sorry immortality, mock eternity, do they choose, instead of the true one, when they neglect the pursuit of this heavenly country! If they look no higher than this world, all that they can rationally imagine is perpetuating themselves, and their names, and posterity, by successive generations: Ps. xlix. 11, ‘Their inward thought is that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling-places to all generations; they call their lands by their own names.’ This is styled nodosa eternitas, when they live in their children after death. But alas! to how few men’s share can this fall! and those who may in likelihood expect it, who are lords of fair rents, fair lands, houses and heritages, how often are they disappointed! But if their hopes should succeed, and they should make themselves this way eternal, yet when the pageantry of this world is over, the great ungodly men of the world, who have names, lands, families in the general resurrection shall be poor, base, contemptible; whereas he that made it his business to look after the world to come shall be glorious for ever.
[4.] When once our qualification is clear, every step of our remove out of this world is an approach to our abiding city: Rom. xiii. 11, ‘Our salvation nearer than when we first believed;’ and 2 Cor. iv. 16, ‘Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.’
[5.] Every degree of grace makes your qualification clearer: Col. i. 12, ‘Giving thanks to the father, who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light;’ and 1 Tim. vi. 19, ‘Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold of eternal life.’ Evidences are in creased when ripening for heaven more and more.
2. Let us carry ourselves as such as count our best estate in this world as the house of our pilgrimage.
[1.] Let us with great joy and delight of heart entertain the promises of the life to come, resolving to hold and hug them, and esteem them, and make much of them till the performance come: Heb. xi. 13, ‘These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.’
[2.] Let us take heed of what may divert us and besot us, and hinder us in our heavenly journey: 1 Peter ii. 11, ‘Dearly beloved, I beseech you, as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.’ A relish of the pleasures that offer themselves in the course of our pilgrimage spoileth the sense that we have of the world to come, and weakens our care and pursuit of it.
[3.] Let us be contented with those provisions that God in his providence 71affordeth us by the way, though they be mean and scanty: 1 Tim. vi. 8, ‘Having food and raiment, let us be content, for we brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.’ We came into the world contented with a cradle, and must go out contented with a grave; therefore, if we want the pomp of the world, let it not trouble us: we have such allowance as our heavenly Father seeth necessary for us till our great inheritance cometh in hand.
[4.] If the world increase upon us, we should take the more care that we may have the comfort of it in the world to come: Rev. xiv. 13, ‘Their works follow them:’ Luke xvi. 9, ‘Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when ye fail they may receive you into everlasting habitations.’ There is no other way to show our weanedness in a full estate, nor to keep our hearts clean, or to express our deep sense of the world to come, but this.
Doct. 2. That during this estate, and the inconveniences thereof, God’s children find matter of rejoicing in his word.
1. Let us consider how this point lieth in this text.
[1.] The Psalmist had a sufficient sense of the inconveniences of the house of his pilgrimage, his absence from God, for therefore he counts it a pilgrimage; the many affronts and dishonours that are done to God in the world, which go near to a gracious heart who espouseth God’s quarrel and interest; therefore he saith, ‘Horror hath taken hold upon me, because men keep not thy law.’ Nay, and possibly his own afflictions and troubles, for many interpreters suppose him now expelled from Jerusalem, and driven to wander up and down in the forests and wildernesses; yet then could he comfort himself in God, and pass over his time in meditating on his precepts and promises. The troubles and inconveniences of our pilgrimage are easily disregarded by them that have no sense of them, or are slight-hearted, or whose time of trial is not yet come; but then is strength of grace seen when we can overcome sense of trouble by the encouragements which the bare naked word of God offereth. If David were now in exile, it was a trouble to him not to enjoy the ordinances and means of grace with the rest of God’s people; but to deceive the tediousness of it by God’s word, that is the trial. If we can depend upon the promise, when nothing but the promise is left us, there are no difficulties too great for the comfort of God’s word to allay.
[2.] The Psalmist speaketh not of what he would do, but what he had done: ‘Thy statutes have been my songs.’ Experience of the comfort of the word is more than a resolution to seek it there. In his resolution he would have been a pattern of duty, but now he is a precedent of comfort. That which hath been may be; God, that hath given u promise and comfort to his saints before, will continue it in all ages.
[3.] The Psalmist speaketh not of an ordinary joy, but such as was ready to break out into singing, which noteth the heart is full, and can hold no longer without some vent and utterance; as Paul and Silas were so full of joy that they sang at midnight in the stocks.
2. Now I come to the reasons why God’s pilgrims find matter of rejoicing in his word during the time of their exile and absence from God, and all the inconveniences that attend it.72
[1.] Some on the word’s part.
[2.] Some on the part of him that rejoiceth.
[1.] On the word’s part, God’s pilgrims can rejoice in it.
(1.) There they have the discovery and promise of eternal life. It telleth them of their country. A firm deed and conveyance is a comfort to us before we have possession: 2 Peter i. 4, ‘To us are given exceeding great and precious promises, that being made partakers of the divine nature, we may escape the corruptions that are in the world through lust.’ In the word there are promises neither of small things, of things of a little moment, nor of things that we have nothing to do with, but of great moment and weight, and given to us. The promises make the things promised certain to those to whom they do belong, though they be not yet actually in their possession; and therefore the children of God are delighted in them, and so far as that their hearts are drawn off from worldly things. They that adhere to them, and prize the comfort which they offer, have something in them above natural men, or the ordinary sort of those that live in the world.
(2.) There they have sure direction how they may attain this blessedness which the promises speak of, and that is a great comfort in the midst of the darkness and uncertainty of the present life. The word of God is said to be ‘a light that shineth to us in a dark place,’ 2 Peter i. 19. The love of the world will mislead us, our own reason will often leave us comfortless, the examples of the best are defective, but the word of God will give comfortable direction to all that follow the direction of it, under all their crosses, confusions and difficulties: Ps. cxix. 105, ‘Thy word is a light unto my feet, and a lantern to my paths.’ Light is comfortable; it is no small satisfaction that I am in God’s way, and have his word for my warrant.
(3.) It propoundeth the examples of their countrymen, and sets forth their heroical acts, and encourageth us to imitate their fortitude and self-denial: Heb. vi. 12, ‘Be followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises:’ many things are to be done and suffered before we attain the end. Now, it is a great comfort to trace the footsteps of the saints all along in the way in which we go: Heb. xii. 1, ‘Wherefore, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.’ If God did call us to walk in an untrodden path, it might be cumbersome and solitary. Now it is very obliging and encouraging to consider in what way they have been brought to heaven before us.
(4.) It hath many seasonable cordials against fainting by the way. Alas! when we are in deep pressures, our hearts are apt to sink; but the word assureth us that we shall have all things necessary for us,. that our heavenly Father seeth what is best for us, and that if we faithfully wait upon him, our afflictions and rubs in the way shall be a means to bring us to our journey’s end: 2 Cor. iv. 17, ‘Our light affliction, that is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory:’ and that for the present our trials are not inconsistent with his love.
[2.] On the believer’s part there are reasons of this comfort and rejoicing.73
(1.) There needeth a spiritual frame of heart, for a carnal man’s rejoicings and relishes are suitable to the constitution of his mind: Rom. viii. 5, ‘They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, and they that are after the spirit, the things of the spirit.’ It is an infallible rule to the world’s end. Every one cannot say, ‘Thy statutes are my songs.’ No; they must have other solaces; and a man’s temper is more discerned by his solaces than by anything else. They that have not purged their taste from the dregs of sense, the trash of the flesh-pots of Egypt will ever be pleasing to them in the heavenly pilgrimage; and being inveigled with the baits of the flesh, the promises are like withered flowers to them, or as dry chips; it is the spiritual heart that is refreshed with spiritual songs.
(2.) This word must be received by faith, for it is faith that enliveneth our notions of things, and maketh them work with us: Heb. xi. 13, ‘These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims upon the earth.’ Our affections follow persuasion: 1 Peter i. 8, ‘Whom having not seen we love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:’ Rom. xv. 13, ‘Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.’
(3.) This word must be improved by reading and hearing, but especially by meditation and singing.
(1st.) Meditation, when it is sweet and lively, stirreth this joy. Delight begets meditation, and meditation begets delight. There is a κυκλογένεσις in moral as well as natural things: Ps. i. 2, ‘His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night:’ and Ps. cxix. 97, ‘Oh, how love I thy law! it is my meditation day and night:’ and ver. 15, 16, ‘I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways: I will delight myself in thy statutes; I will not forget thy words.’ These follow one another. Affections are not excited but by deep and pondering thoughts.
(2d.) By singing psalms we draw forth this delight: Col. iii. 16, ‘Let the word of God dwell in you richly, in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord;’ Eph. v. 18, 19, ‘Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.’ Drunkards, when tilled with the spirit of wine, sing wanton songs; and those who are filled with the wine of the Spirit will praise God with spiritual songs. This is a duty of importance, a delightful way of being instructed by our refreshment. God would give us strength, but this is neglected, or cursorily performed by Christians. We will complain of the want of a spirit in prayer; we should do so in singing. Coldness in this holy exercise argueth a deadness of faith and a coldness in true religion. We should express our joy this way.
(4.) Above all, this comfort is found in ready practice and obedience. There is a comfort, I confess, in speculation, but not so deep and intimate as in practice. The one is out a taste inviting to the other, which giveth us a fuller draught. The bare contemplation and view 74of any concerning and weighty truth is very ravishing to those that bend their minds to knowledge: 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 to thy soul.’ Every truth is objectum intellectus, much more divine truth; but now in practice the impression is doubled: we get comfort and joy raised in our consciences; our lives and light do not jar; we are at full quiet in our minds, apprehending ourselves to be in God’s way: Ps. cxix. 14, ‘I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies as much as in all riches.’
Use 1. To show you that the people of God need not envy the wicked for their delights and pleasures; they have chaster and sweeter delights; God’s statutes are their songs. Where the heart is spiritual, they can find delight enough in the word, both as their charter and their rule, and need not turn aside to vain mirth; a portion in the promises will yield pleasure enough: ver. 111, ‘Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart.’
2. To reprove those that reckon these things a burthen. The holy talking of heaven and godliness maketh worldly men ever heavy and out of humour; it is not their delight. But it should not be so with the children of God. A child of God should only be heavy when he displeases God, but delight in all the means that enable him to live to God.
3. When we are saddened by the evil of the present world, let us make use of this remedy; let us meditate on God’s statutes. We shall find ease and refreshing by exercising ourselves to know God in Christ.
4. To refute the vain conceit which possesseth the minds of men, that the way of godliness is a gloomy way. As soon as a man beginneth to think of salvation, or the change of his life, or the leaving of his sins, embracing the service of God, presently his mind is haunted with this thought: Seest thou not how those that serve God are melancholy, afflicted; sorrowful, never rejoice more? and wilt thou be one of them? This is the opinion of the world, that they can never rejoice nor be merry that serve God. But certainly it is a vain conceit. No men do more and more truly rejoice than they which serve God. Consult the scriptures, who have more leave, shall I say, or command, to rejoice? Ps. xxxvii. 4, ‘Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart:’ Phil. iv. 4, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice.’ Ask reason who have more cause or matter to rejoice than they that have provided against the fears or doubts of conscience by reason of sin? What is more satisfactory to a soul in doubts and fears than the knowledge of pardon and reconciliation with God? For the satisfaction of the desires of nature which carry us after happiness, who have a more powerful exciter of ‘joy than the Holy Ghost? Acts xiii. 52, ‘The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Ghost.’ Who more qualified with joy than those who have a clear right to the pardon of sin, and so can see all miseries unstinged? Rom. v. 1-3, ‘Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein 75we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God; and not only so, but we glory in tribulation also.’ How joyful are those that see themselves prepared for everlasting life! 2 Cor. v. 1, ‘For we know that if our earthly tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.’ Yea, when a Christian knoweth his duty, his way is plain before him; it is a mighty satisfaction: Ps. xix. 8, ‘The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.’ Look into the lives and examples of the saints; who have more true joy than they? The disciples esteem the grace of the gospel such a great treasure, that though they suffer persecution for it they are filled with joy: Acts viii. 8, ‘And there was great joy in that city,’ Thes. i. 6, ‘Having received the word with much affliction and joy in the Holy Ghost:’ 2 Cor. vii. 4, ‘I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.’ Preachers, though with great hazard they perform their office, should be joyful: Acts xx. 24, ‘Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy;’ Phil. ii. 17, 18, ‘Yea, and if I be offered for the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy and rejoice with you all; for the same cause also do ye joy and rejoice with me.’ The world will reply—I know not what this spiritual consolation meaneth; it seemeth hard to relinquish that which I see, that which I feel, that which I taste, for that which I see not, and it may be shall never see.
Ans. 1. By concession, the joy of the saints is the joy of faith. God is unseen, Christ is within the heavens, great hopes are to come: 1 Peter i. 8, ‘In whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory;’ 2 Cor. v. 7, ‘For we walk by faith, not by sight.’
2. Thus you see that the world cannot alway rejoice in those things which they take to be the proper objects of joy: they have alternative vicissitudes, now rejoice, now mourn; nor can it be otherwise, for they rejoice in things which cannot always last. If they rejoice when their worldly comforts increase, they are sad when they wither; if they rejoice when their children are born, they weep when they die: but a Christian hath always his songs, for he must always rejoice in the Lord, who is an eternal God: Phil. iv. 4, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always;’ in Christ, who ‘hath obtained eternal redemption for us,’ Heb. ix. 12; in the promises, which give an eternal influence: Ps. cxix. 111, ‘Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart.’ The flesh cannot afford anything so delightful as a Christian hath; the word will hold good for ever.
3. We cannot altogether say that a Christian doth rejoice in that which he cannot see; for all that they see is their everlasting Father’s wealth: 1 Cor. iii. 21, ‘All are yours, for you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.’ If they look to heaven, they can rejoice and say, Glory be to thee, O Lord, who hast prepared this for our everlasting dwelling-place. If they look to the earth, Glory be to thee, Lord, who dost not leave us destitute in the house of our pilgrimage. If they consider their afflictions, they rejoice that God is not unmindful of poor creatures, who are beneath his anger as well as unworthy of his love: Job vii. 17, 18, ‘What is man that thou shouldst magnify him, and that thou shouldst set thine heart upon him, and that thou shouldst visit 76him every morning, and try him every moment?’ that God should trouble himself about us, that we may not perish with the ungodly world. The same love that sendeth them prosperity sendeth adversity also, which they find by the seasonableness of it.
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