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I have remembered thy name, Lord, in the night, and have kept thy law.—Ver. 55.
[3.] THESE are discovered in daily providence. To rub up and revive our thoughts, God is pleased anew to set before us the glorious effects of his wisdom, goodness and power; his wisdom in the contexture of providence, his power in the management of it, his goodness in the effects of it. His wisdom in the beauty and order of his works, in guiding the course of nature, and disposing all things about his people. He doeth all things well: Eccles. iii. 11, ‘He hath made everything beautiful in its time,’ or in the true and proper season; therefore, we that look upon providence by pieces, stumble at the seeming confusion and uncertainty of what falleth out, as if the affairs of the world were not under a wise government; but stay a little while till all the pieces of providence be put together in one frame, and then you will see a marvellous wisdom in them. In the work of creation, all things were ‘very good,’ Gen. i. 31; so for these six thousand years, as well as for the first six days. Those things which seem confused heaps when they lie asunder, when put together will appear a beautiful structure and building. So for his goodness. What part hath God been acting in the world for so long a time but that of mercy? He may be traced more by his acts of goodness than vengeance: Acts xiv. 17, ‘Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, ἀγαθοποιῶν, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with joy and gladness.’ The whole world is a theatre of mercy. If at any time we wrest punishment out of his hand, it is with an aim of mercy: as he threateneth that he may not punish, so he punisheth that he may not punish for ever. For his power, that is notably discovered to us every day. If we would draw aside the covering of the creature, you might soon see the secret almighty power of God which acteth in everything that falleth out; the same everlasting arm that made the creatures is under them to support them: Heb. i. 3, ‘He upholdeth all things by the word of his power.’ As they started out of nothing by his command, so they are kept from returning into nothing by the same powerful word, command, and decree of God: ‘Thou hidest thy face, and they are troubled; thou takest away their breath, and they die; thou sendest out thy Spirit, and they are created; 88and thou renewest the face of the earth,’ Ps. civ. 29, 30, All things hold their life of him. If God withdraweth in any measure the wonted influence of his power from them, they presently find a change in themselves. It is even with the being and faculties of the creature as. with the image of the glass, which, when the face removeth, it is seen no more. The Lord doth as it were breathe into them a being, and when he taketh in his breath they perish, and when he sendeth it out again they are renewed. Now, though God doth constantly discover his wisdom, power, and goodness, yet in some providence one of these doth more especially appear; his wisdom in some notable contrivance and chain of causes, which to a common eye seemed to have no tendency to such effects as are produced by them; as when out of the sins and perverse doings of men, or the disorders and confusions of the world, he raiseth his own glory, or by some unthought-of, unheard-of means bringeth about the deliverance of his people, taking the wise in their own craftiness. Sometimes his power, when by weak and contemptible means he bringeth great things to pass, and a straw becometh a spear in the hand of the Almighty. Sometimes in his goodness, in filling us with blessings, or doing notable acts of grace for his people’s sake.
[4.] These three attributes suit with God’s threefold relation to us. By his almighty power he becometh our creator; as most wise, our supreme governor; as most good, our gracious benefactor. We depend upon him for our present supplies, and from him we expect our future hopes. His creation gives him a right to govern us, his wisdom a fitness, and his bounty doth encourage us voluntarily to give up ourselves to his service.
[5.] These three attributes do most bind our duty on us, as they beget in us love, fear, and faith, or esteem, reverence, and trust, which are the three radical graces that result from the very being and owning of God, and are the cultus naturalis enjoined in the first commandment. His wisdom as a lawgiver begets reverence and fear; his goodness is the object of love, and his power of trust. If he be most wise, there is all the reason in the world that he should rule and govern us; for who is fitter to govern and make laws than he that is most wise? If he be most good, infinitely good, there is all the reason in the world that you should love him, and no show of reason why you should love the world and sin before him. If powerful and all-sufficient, there is all the reason you should believe in him, as one that is able to make good his word, either by promise or threatening. Faith goeth upon that: Rom. iv. 21, he was ‘strong in faith, being fully persuaded that what he had promised he was able to perform.’ He is God all-sufficient, therefore his promises are not to be distrusted, his threatenings not to be slighted. There is no resisting or standing out against him, in the twinkling of an eye he can tear you in pieces, pluck away the guilty soul from the embraces of the unwilling body. A spark of his wrath makes thee a burthen to thyself. So for promises; one word of his mouth can accomplish all the good that is contained in them. And it is observable that the respects of the creature, that are peculiarly due to one of these attributes, are sometimes in scripture directed to another. It is said, Hosea iii. 5, ‘They shall fear the Lord and his 89goodness in the latter days:’ and love him for his power and greatness, and believe in him for his wisdom. Again, they trust him for his goodness, love him for his wisdom, fear him for his power; all these changes are in scripture.
Secondly, Why God is best remembered when his name is studied? The reason is, because the study of his name doth increase those three fundamental radical graces before mentioned.
1. The studying of his name increaseth our love: ‘Thy name is as an ointment poured forth, therefore the virgins love thee,’ Cant. i. 3. Ointment kept close in the box doth not diffuse its savour, but ointment poured forth is full of fragrancy and reviving, it perfumeth the whole house: John xii. 3, ‘The house was filled with the odour of the ointment.’ So when the name of God is not considered, we are not comforted and strengthened and quickened; but pour it forth, take it abroad in your serious thoughts and believing meditations, and that doth attract and draw hearts to him. When we consider the mercy, grace, power, wisdom, truth, and justice of God, these affect all those that have any spiritual discerning. This is the way to draw esteem from carnal hearts; he hath authority to make laws, for he is the wise God; power to back this authority, for he is the almighty Creator, who can frown thee into nothing; but yet he is good and gracious, ready to receive you, and pardon, and do you good, though you have rebelled against him. To pour out this name is our duty, and then poor creatures will be prevailed with: it is our duty to do it in the discoveries of the gospel, your duty to ponder upon it in your private meditations. The wisdom of God in the word showeth your duty, his power what need you have to bind it on your hearts; and your case is not without hope, for you have to do with a good God: there is no mercy to such as fear not his powerful justice, and no justice for such as flee from it to his mercy. See how God poureth out his name: Exod. xxxiv. 5-7, ‘And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord; and the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.’
2. The studying of God’s name increaseth our faith and trust: Ps. ix. 10, ‘They that know thy name will put their trust in thee.’ God is first known, and then trusted, and then served. If God were known more he would be more trusted, and if he were more trusted we would not be so double-minded and unstable in the profession and practice of godliness. We little study God, and because we study his name so little, our faith is weak, and therefore we are so uncertain in our conversations. It is well when all our comfort and duty is immediately fetched out of the name of God, or his nature considered by us.
3. The studying of God’s name increaseth our reverence and fear: Ps. cxi. 9, ‘Holy and reverend is thy name;’ Ps. lxxxvi. 11, ‘Unite my heart to the fear of thy name.’ The more you study the nature of God, the more awe-ful, serious, humble, watchful will you grow. Thus 90you see serious and becoming thoughts of God do much increase our faith, fear, and love.
Use. The use is to exhort you more—
1. To study the name of God, and to dwell upon the meditations of the Almighty, and to possess your mind with him till no place be left for sin or vanity.
[1.] The name of his being. God is not only the best of beings, but properly that which is; because he is a self-being, that gave being to all things else, and from everlasting to everlasting. We are but as it were of yesterday, and our being is from him, and our life in his hands; we cannot live an hour without him, nor fetch a breath without him, nor think a thought, nor speak a word, nor stir a hand or foot without him. There is a continual providential influence and supportation: as the beams of the sun vanish as soon as the sun is clouded, so do we fail when God suspends his influence. A watch goeth of itself, a mill of itself when the workman taketh off his hand from them: it is not so with us and God; for, Acts xvii. 28, ‘In him we live, move, and have our being.’ What Paul said of spiritual life, Gal. ii. 20, is true also of life natural, ‘I am, yet not I, but God is all in all.’ He is in us, and liveth in us, or we could not subsist for a moment. We need not seek God without in the workmanship of heaven and earth, for we have God within ourselves, and may feel him and find him in our own life and motion; as the child in the womb liveth by the life of the mother, before it is quickened and liveth apart by a life and soul of its own; or as a pipe sounds by the blowing of the musician; if he stop his breath it is altogether silent; so we live and breathe in God, and all the tune able variety of our motions cometh from his breathing in us. Now, if God be so near us, shall we not take notice of his presence, and carry ourselves accordingly? Shall we offend him and affront him to his face, and displease him without whom we cannot live? But alas! how seldom do we reflect upon this! How is it that we move and think not with wonder of the first mover in whom we move? How is it that we live and persevere in being, and do not consider of this fountain and self-being who gave our life to us, and still continues it? Oh, the negligence of many souls professing the knowledge of God and godliness! We speak, walk, eat, and drink, and go about all our business, as if we had a self-being and independent, never thinking of that all-present and quickening Spirit that acts us, moveth in us, speaketh in us, maketh us to walk, eat, drink, and do all the functions of nature; like the barbarous people who see, hear, speak, and reason, and never once reflect upon the principle of all these—a soul within.
[2.] Let us think often of the name of God, his attributes.
(1.) Of his wisdom, that we may compose ourselves to worship, adore him, serve him according to his will and pleasure, and may admire him in the justice and equity of his laws, and the excellent contrivance of his providence, that so we may submit to the directions of the one and the determinations of the other. To the directions of his word: Can we count God to be a wise God, and refuse his counsel? Doth not our practice give our profession the lie when we rather walk after our hearts’ counsels, and the examples and fashions of the world, than observe the course God hath prescribed to us in the word? Who, then, 91is thought wise—God or men? So for submission to the determination of his providence. The flesh would fain be pleased, and therefore quarrelleth many times at God’s dispensations as harsh and severe; but in good earnest who is wiser—God or men? Do we think we are fitter to sit at the helm, and govern and steer all affairs, than the wise Creator of heaven and earth? Shall we sit as judges upon his actions, and think that might have been prevented, this might have been better ordered, either for God’s interest or our own comfort? Men will be teaching God how to govern the world; for we prescribe to him as if he did not understand what were fit for us: he pleaseth us not in his wisest dispensations, and we bear it out as if we could mend his works: Job xxi. 22, ‘Shall any teach God knowledge?’ Those that disallow of God s proceedings take upon them to be God’s teachers. It was a blasphemous speech of Alphonsus, Si Deo a consiliis adfuisset in creatione mundi, multa se consultius ordinaturum—if he had been of God’s counsel when he made the world, he would have ordered many things better. Many abhor such a gross speech, yet think almost to the same effect. If they had the governing of the world, such men should not prosper; such and such things should not be done.
(2.) The name of his power. Oh! think often of that almighty power that maketh and conserveth all things, that giveth a being to you and every creature, and will do so to his promises, though never so unlikely; for what cannot he do that bringeth all things out of nothing by his word? Therefore our confidence in him should be more strong and steadfast; for why should we have any jealousies and distrusts of him who is omnipotent? In your greatest wants he is all-sufficient, and can supply you: Gen. xvii. 1, ‘I am the almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.’ In your greatest dangers he can deliver you: Dan. iii. 17, ‘Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.’ In your lowest estate he is able to raise you up: Rom. xi. 23, ‘And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in; for God is able to graff them in again.’ Whatever difficulties oppose themselves against the thing promised, he can remove them, for nothing is too hard for the Almighty: Phil. in. 21, ‘He is able to subdue all things to himself.’ How weak and despicable soever the visible means be, God can work by them: 2 Chron. xiv. 11, ‘It is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or them that have no power.’ All is alike to omnipotency. Instruments or means may be too great for God’s honour to be used, never too small or weak for him to work by.
(3.) The name of his goodness. God is infinitely good, effectually good, independently good, and all-sufficiently good. If good be amiable in our eyes, so should God be. He hath all that is lovely in the creatures in a more eminent degree, and therefore our affections, that are scattered to them, should be united in God. He is the supreme good, and the fountain of all goodness. Oh! how should we love this God, and that above all things in the world, or else we do not love him aright. This is that which draweth in your hearts to him, and upon this should your thoughts dwell. He showed his goodness to you in creation, when he made you a little lower than the angels; but much more in redemption, when he preferred you above the angels; 92for ‘he did not take hold of angels, but took hold of the seed of Abraham.’ What should you be doing but admiring of this, and showing forth the virtue and force of this love? ‘God is love, and dwelleth in love,’ 1 John iv. 16. Oh! shall the paltry things of this world draw off your love from God, who is goodness itself? Let this prevail with you to lay down all your doating upon the creature, that you may no more follow the shadow, but cleave to the substance. We owe all that we are, all that we have, all that we hope for, to his goodness; and therefore let us consecrate and dedicate ourselves to his service and glory.
2. To study it so as some good may come of it. We should keep our thoughts on this holy subject—
[1.] Till we admire God. The degree of the saints’ knowledge here below is only to proceed to admiration: Ps. viii. 1, ‘O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!’ When we have studied God, silence will be the best eloquence, and admiration advance him more than speech. Admire the name of his being. Creatures in their highest glory may be described, an account may be given of them; but his nature is Wonderful, can be admired, but not told. Admire his wisdom: Ps. civ. 24, ‘O Lord, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all.’ Admire his love: Oh, how excellent is thy loving-kindness! Ps. xxxvi. 7; ‘Oh, how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee, which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men!’ Ps. xxxi. 19. The name of his power: Ps. cxlv. 3, ‘Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; his greatness is unsearchable.’ The object is too big for the faculty: it is a contempt of God when we think of him and do not admire him. Oh, the riches of his wisdom, height of his power, breadth of his love!
[2.] Till we make some practical improvement of him; otherwise to know God is but a vain speculation, a work of curiosity rather than of profit. By the sight of God the heart must be—
(1.) Drawn off from the creature, self, and sin.
(2.) Drawn unto God.
(1.) Drawn off—
(1st.) From the creature. That is a true sight of God which abaseth all things beside God, not only in opinion but affection; that attracteth and uniteth the soul to God, and draweth it off from all created excellences. The sight of God’s purity darkens the purity of the angels, and staineth the pride of all created glory: Job iv. 18, ‘Behold, he put no trust in his servants, and his angels he charged with folly.’ So that is a true sight of God’s excellency that draweth off the heart from the vain, changeable, and empty shadow of the creature; and God is not truly amiable to us till this effect be in some measure wrought in us: 1 John ii. 15, ‘Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world: if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.’ So that our love to God will be known by the decay of our love to earthly things.
(2d.) From self. A sight of God will best discover thyself unto thyself, that in the light of God’s glorious majesty thou mayest distinctly behold thine own vileness and misery. Esaias, when he saw God in vision: Isa. vi. 5, ‘Then said I, Woe is me. for I am undone, 93because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, and mine eyes have seen the king, the Lord of hosts.’ That is the use he made of this glorious sight: he knew, doubtless, something of this before, but now is affected as if he had never seen it. The glory of God shining on him doth not lift him up in arrogancy and conceit of the knowledge of such profound mysteries, but he is more abased in himself; this light made him see his own uncleanness. So Job xlii. 5, 6, ‘I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; therefore I abhor myself in dust and ashes.’ As long as it was hearsay, Job thought himself some thing, and might reflect upon himself and actions with a kind of complacency and delight; but now he could not look upon himself with any patience. Self-love maketh us loathe other men’s sins more than our own, and hindereth us from representing ourselves to ourselves in a true shape. It is the mere speculative knowledge of God, and science falsely so called that puffeth up; but a true knowledge of God breedeth self-loathing.
(3d.) From sin: it draweth off the heart. This remembrance will represent filthiness as filthiness without a covering. Sin is a deformity to God, as contrariety to his laws, the purity and goodness of his essence, and wisdom of his laws; yea, an act of rebellion and disloyalty against his sovereignty. Sin still is greatened by the consideration of God and a reflection upon his nature; as against his authority, purity, goodness, so there is unkindness, disobedience, and a blot in it. Well may the apostle say, 3 John 11, ‘He that doth evil hath not seen God.’
(2.) The heart must be drawn unto God by love, fear, and trust; for unless we meditate upon God to this end, ‘Though we know God, we do not glorify him as God,’ Rom. i. 21, till your hearts be moved and inclined to love, fear him, and obey him. His being calls for it, that we should seek after communion with God, who is such a self-sufficient, all-sufficient, and eternal being. Whom would we own, or whose favour would we seek? The favour of poor creatures, who are now one thing, now another? or the favour of God, who can still say, I am that I am! what I was I am, and I will be what I am? Friends are changeable, their affections dry up, and they themselves die, and their favour and all their thoughts of doing us good perish. There is no end of his duration or affection. His attributes call for love; his power rendereth him the most desirable friend and dreadful adversary. What more dreadful than power that cannot be resisted, wisdom that none can be hid from? and what more lovely than his love? Surely if we did study his name, his promises, and threatenings, it would have more power with us: how would we seek to him, and submit to his blessed will, and depend on him, as those that have nothing in our selves, nor anything else in the world had being without him! We would then believe all opposite powers to be nothing, and wink at either the dreadfulness or loveliness of the creature, while the eye of our souls is wholly taken up with the sight of God; our desires would be to him, and our delights in him, and being deadened to the creature, would wholly cleave to him.
Doct. 3. Those that have spiritual affections will take all occasions to remember God’s name. In adversity, for their comfort: Isa. xxvi. 8, 9, ‘Yea, 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: with my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early;’ Isa. l. 10, ‘Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.’ In prosperity, for a regulation and restraint to their affections, that they might not too freely run out on the creature to the wrong of God. It is said of the wicked, Ps. lv. 19, ‘Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God;’ but God’s children remember him in their comforts: Deut. viii. 10, 11, ‘When thou hast eaten and art full, thou shalt bless the Lord thy God for the good land which he hath given thee; beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God;’ so ver. 18, ‘Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God, for he it is that giveth thee power to get wealth.’ In company they will be speaking of God: Eph. v. 4, ‘ἀλλὰ εὐχαριστία, but rather giving of thanks.’ Alone they will be thinking of God; so that when they are alone, they are not alone; God is with them in their solitude: John xvi. 32, ‘Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered every one to his own, and shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.’ By day they redeem time, God’s statutes are their songs; by night when they cannot sleep: ‘When I awake I am still with thee,’ Ps. cxxxix. 18. Oh, what an advantage it is to have the heart thus thronged with thoughts of God in the night! When others sleep, good men are awake with God.
1. Observe this, that which David speaketh of himself was a secret duty. Those duties which we perform in secret, and wherein we avoid the applause of men, are most sincere, and by them many times we obtain most blessing: Mat. vi. 6, ‘Thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.’ David was the same in secret that he was in the light. Other witnesses of our respect to God we need not than God himself: it is enough that he seeth us and approveth us. Our desire and scope should be to please him, not to appear devout to men, or to be esteemed as such by them. Therefore, besides public ordinances, we should give ourselves to spiritual exercises in secret.
2. This was a spiritual duty transacted in the heart by his thoughts. The darkness of the night doth riot hinder the delight of the soul; it is day within though night without. When a child of God shall see God, and be seen of him, though the sun shineth not upon the world, it is enough, their hearts are enlightened with God’s Spirit.
3. It was a duty done ἀκαίρως, unseasonably to a vulgar eye. When others were buried in sleep, David would awaken sometimes to remember God. It is their solace; and spiritual affections and heroical grace must not be limited to the ordinary dull way of expressing duty to God. They have special affections and special dispensations: Ps. lxiii. 6, ‘My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, when I remember thee on my bed, and meditate of thee in the night-watches.’
4. It is not unseasonable. In the night, without distraction, we can more freely command our thoughts, for the senses being exercised, 95scatter the mind to several objects: Job xxxv. 10, ‘None saith, Where is God, my maker, who giveth songs in the night?’ That is matter of rejoicing and comfort to poor oppressed creatures. So Ps. xlii. 8, ‘I will sing of his loving-kindness in the day-time, and in the night his song shall be with me.’ Day and night he was filled with a sense of God’s love. The reasons are—
[1.] They are fitted for it, having knowledge and a deep impression of the majesty of God upon their hearts: ‘My reins instruct me in the night-season,’ Ps. xvi. 7. These things that make a deep impression in the day, the thoughts will return upon in the night; now God and his words are impressed upon them.
[2.] They delight in it: Ps. civ. 34, ‘My meditation of him shall be sweet; I will be glad in the Lord.’ They delight themselves in beholding the face of God, though not by immediate vision, yet by meditation. They are so affected with thoughts of his excellency, goodness, kindness, that it is their solace to draw their hearts off from all things and persons in the world to that divine object.
[3.] They profit by it. (1.) As to comfort, it easeth us of many sorrowful, troublesome, and weary thoughts. We must fetch our comforts from God; the divine nature is the first fountain of them, therefore called ‘the God of all comfort,’ 2 Cor. i. 3. (2.) As to duty and obedience. The reasons of our duty and subjection are most enforced from the nature of God; therefore the more we remember the nature of God, the more we are quickened to obedience: there we see his infinite power, supreme authority, exact holiness, tender love: ‘Let the potsherds of the earth contend with one another,’ Isa. xlv. 9. Our business is to keep God our friend. He hath two properties that make him most comfortable or most terrible, according as he is at peace or war with us eternity and omnipotency.
Use. Let us take more occasions to think of God, and that with admiration. Many take no more notice of him than if he were not at. all; but let us take all occasions: Ps. iv. 4, ‘Commune with your own hearts upon your bed.’ All the time we can spare from our necessary, civil, and natural actions should be employed in calling to mind what we have seen, or heard, or felt of God. A loathness and backwardness to this duty is an ill sign.
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