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Thou art my portion, Lord: I have said that I would keep thy words.—Ver. 57.
DAVID doth in this place make out his right and title, ‘Thou art my portion, O Lord,’ &c. Here is—
1. David’s protestation, thou art my portion, O Lord.
2. David’s resolution, I have said that I would keep thy words.
In the first of these, in David’s protestation, you may take notice of his claim, and of the sincerity of it.
1. Of his claim to God, ‘Thou art my portion.’ A part or portion, in the original use of the word, signifies a less quantity taken from a greater; a part is used in opposition to the whole. But with respect to the matter in hand, it is not used in such a sense, but for our lot and happiness; not sensu mathematico, not with reference to a whole, but politico et forensi, with respect to choice, interest, and possession; and the allusion is taken either from the distribution of the land of Canaan, where every one had his portion appointed to him by lot, and measured to him by rod and lines: therefore it is said, ‘The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places, yea, I have a goodly heritage;’ or else it is an allusion to the partage of an ordinary estate, where every child hath his portion assigned him to live upon. Thus he lays claim to God himself.
2. The sincerity of this claim may be gathered, because he speaks by way of address to God. He doth not say barely, ‘He is my portion,’ but challengeth God to his face, ‘Lord, thou art my portion.’ Elsewhere it is said, Lam. iii. 24, ‘The Lord is my portion, saith my soul.’ There he doth not speak it by way of address to God, but he adds, My soul saith. But here to God himself, who knows the secrets of the heart. To speak thus of God to God argues our sincerity, when to God’s face we avow our trust and choice; as Peter, John xxi. 17, ‘Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee;’ he appeals to God’s omnisciency; such an appeal is there to God for the truth of this assertion; as in that other place, when the believing soul lays claim to God, the integrity of that claim is also asserted, not only by the lips or mouth, but also the soul. There is oratio mentalis, vocalis, vitalis: there is the speech of the heart, in the real inclination 106of it; and the speech of the tongue, in outward profession; and the speech of the life, by answerable practice. All three must be joined together; what the tongue utters, the heart and life must consent to. All will say, God is their portion; but it is not what the tongue says, but what the heart saith; and what the heart saith will appear in the course of your actions; there is the real proof and evidence of it. Thus much for David’s protestation, ‘Thou art my portion, O Lord;’ he speaks to God himself.
Secondly, Take notice of David’s resolution, ‘I have said that I would keep thy word.’ It is good to see what kind of inference the saints draw from this principle, that God is their portion. Sometimes they infer thence dependence upon God, sometimes subjection and obedience to him; for this principle doth not only establish our comfort, but our duty. Sometimes to establish dependence: Lam. iii. 24, ‘The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.’ I will look for all from him, live upon him as a man doth upon his portion. But here David infers duty and obedience: ‘I have said that I would keep thy words.’
In this resolution we may observe—
1. The formality or manner of making, I have said: it is by way of practical decree.
2. The matter of it, I will keep thy words.
1. For the formality or manner of it, ‘I have said,’ I decreed within myself, I have fully concluded; here was not a light or inconsiderate purpose, but such as was deliberate, fixed, a practical decree upon a debate. Whoever would enter upon a strict course displeasing to flesh and blood, must seriously consider and then fixedly determine: deliberation and determination are both necessary. There must be consultation or deliberation, that he may sit down and count the charges; otherwise, if profession of godliness be lightly taken up, it will be as lightly left. Then there must be determination, or binding the heart by firm purpose; and if we join the next verse, supplication or begging God’s strength, then all is done. Now this firm purpose I have said will help against inconstancy, or against backwardness or unreadiness of heart. Against inconstancy: Many good motions we start, but they die away for want of corning to a resolution, or issuing forth a practical decree for God: James i. 8, ‘A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.’ But David, when he had considered all things, then ‘I have said that I will keep thy words;’ he was fully resolved. Then it will help against laziness, listlessness, and backwardness of heart. David, when he was grown shy of God, and his heart hung off from him, some great distemper was upon his soul, and he was loath to look God in the face, what course did he take then? He issues forth a practical decree: Ps. xxxii. 5, ‘I said, I will confess my sins unto the Lord.’ He thrusts himself forward, and charges himself to go to God: I am resolved I will break off silence, and open my case to God. Thus we must excite ourselves by renewing a decree in the soul; determine, I will do thus and thus for God, whatever comes of it.
2. For the matter, ‘I will keep thy words.’ Keeping God’s word notes an exact and tender respect, when a man keeps it as a jewel, as 107a precious treasure, that it may not be hazarded; or keeps it ‘as the apple of his eye,’ Prov. vii. 2. The eye is soon offended with the least dust; BO when we are chary of the word of God, loath to offend God in anything, then are we said to keep his word.
Two points lie clear in the text:—
1. That God alone is the godly man’s portion.
2. That those which have chosen God for their portion will manifest it by a fixed resolution and strict care of obedience.
It must needs be so; if God be his portion, his great business will be to keep in with him.
Doct. 1. That God alone is the godly man’s portion.
This will appear by scripture and by reason.
1. By scripture: Ps. xvi. 5, ‘The Lord is the portion of mine in heritance and of my cup.’ There is a double metaphor; first, an allusion to the shares of the land of Canaan, so God is the portion of mine inheritance, saith David; and an allusion to the manner of a feast, where every man had his allowance of meat set by his cup: but snares and brimstone are said to be the portion of a wicked man’s cup. As every man had his allowance set by his flagon of wine, especially in a solemn feast, so God is the portion of my cup. So Ps. lxxiii. 26, ‘The Lord is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever, when my flesh and my heart faileth,’ that is, when my body yields to the decay of nature; yea, when all our courage seems to be lost, borne down by difficulties that we endure in the flesh, God is a portion that will never fail.
2. To give some reasons of it. It will appear to be so—
[1.] By considering what is requisite to a man’s portion.
[2.] Why a godly man looks upon God under this notion.
First, If a man were left to his free choice, what he would choose to take for his portion; not what is his portion in his strait, when he can have no better, but if he were left to his free choice:—
1. He would require that it be something good, or apprehended to be so.
2. That it be something to which he hath a title and interest, to which he can lay claim, or is in possession or expectation of according to right.
3. He would choose that which is suitable to the capacities, necessities, and desires of him whose portion it is.
4. That it be sufficient to supply all his wants, so as he may live upon it.
5. That it be such a thing wherein he may find satisfaction and acquiescence, so that he needs seek no more and ask no more.
6. Such a thing wherein he may take complacency and great delight, where he may be well pleased and rejoiced.
Now, all these things are to be found in God, and with good reason the saints make this choice, and say, ‘Thou art my portion, O Lord.’
[1.] That which is to be chosen for our portion must be good: ‘There is none good but one, and that is God,’ Mat. xix. 17. It is Christ’s own proposition: he is good of himself, good in himself, yea, good itself. There is no good above him, besides him, or beyond him. But if anything else be good, it is either from him or with him. But that I may more distinctly speak to this—108
(1.) God is primitively and originally good; the creature is but derivatively good. He is good of himself, which nothing else is, the fountain-good, and therefore is called ‘the fountain of living waters,’ Jer. ii. 13. The creatures are hut dry pits or broken cisterns. Other things, what good they have it is of him. God must needs be infinitely better and greater than they, for all things which are good they have from God.
(2.) God is the chiefest good, and other things are only good in subordination. All creature goodness is but a stricture of that perfect good which is in God; and therefore, if we find any good in them, that should lead us to the greater good, even to the Creator. Who would leave the substance to follow the shadow? or desire the picture to the dishonour and neglect of the person whom it represents? Certainly so they do that run after the creature and neglect God, that seek happiness in sublunary enjoyments, to the wrong and neglect of God. That small good which the creatures have is not to hold us on to them, but to lead us to him, as the streams will direct us to the fountain, and the steps of the ladder are not to stand still upon, but to ascend higher. If your affections be detained in the creature, you set the creature in God’s stead; you pervert it from its natural use, which is to set forth the invisible things of God, his excellency, his goodness, his godhead, and his power to do you good, and to send you to him that made them. But how usually doth that which should carry us to God divert and detain us from him! If a prince should woo a virgin by a messenger, and she should leave him, and cleave to the messenger, and those he sent as spokesmen and servants, this were an extreme folly. By the beauty and sweetness of the creatures, God’s end is to draw us to himself as the chiefest good; for that which we love in other things is but a shadow and an obscure resemblance of that which is in him. There is sweetness in the creature, mixed with imperfection; the sweetness is to draw us to God, but the imperfection is to drive us from setting our hearts on them. There is some what good in them: look up to the Creator; but there is vanity and vexation of spirit, and this is to drive us off from these sublunary things.
(3.) He is infinitely good. In this portion one hath not the less because another enjoys it with him. Here is a sharing without division, a partaking without prejudice of a co-partner, for every man hath his portion whole and entire; it is no less to us because others enjoy it too. We straiten others in worldly things so much as we are enlarged ourselves; for these things are finite, and cannot be divided but they must be lessened, and therefore are not large enough. But this good is infinite, and sufficeth the whole world, and every one possesseth it entire; as the same speech may be heard of all, yet no man heareth less because another heareth it with him; or as the same sun shines upon all; I have not the less light because it shines upon another as well as me. So God is all in all. If there be any difference, the more we possess him the better; as in a choir of voices, every one is not only solaced with his own voice, but with the harmony of those that sing in concert with him. Worldly inheritance is lessened by a multitude of co-heirs. In outward estates many a fair stream is drawn 109dry or runs low by being parted and dispersed in several channels; but God, that is infinite; cannot be lessened.
(4.) He is an eternal good, and so the most durable portion: ‘He is my portion for ever,’ Ps. lxxiii. 26. The good things of this life are but like flowers; they be for a season and then they wither, they are perishing and of a short continuance; we carry away nothing of it in our hands when we go to the grave. When we leave all other portions and inheritances, then we begin, to take possession of this portion; yea, at that time when men see the vanity of making other things their portion, a child of God sees the happiness of his portion—at death. Death blows away all vain deceits; then carnal men begin to perceive their error. When their portion comes to be taken away from them, then what indignation have they upon themselves for the folly of their choice, how the world hath deceived them! A godly man hath the beginning here, then he comes to have a consummate and most perfect enjoyment of it. Death cannot separate us from our portion. Indeed it separates us from all things that withhold us from it, but it is a means to perfect our union with God, and make way for our full fruition of him. Well, then, if this be that which is required in a portion, that it be good, there is none good but God; he is originally, independently, chiefly, infinitely, and eternally good, and therefore there is reason why we should choose God for our portion.
[2.] That a thing be our portion, it is necessary that we have an interest in it and title to it; not only that it be good, but that we may claim it as ours; for that is that which sweeteneth everything to us, that it is ours to use. Now God is not only good, but he is also ours; he makes over himself to us in covenant, Gen. xvii.; therefore we may lay claim to him, as a man to his patrimony or inheritance to which he is born, and say, Lord, thou art mine: Zech. xiii. 9, ‘I will say, It is my people, and they shall say, The Lord is my God.’ As God owns an interest in them, so they own him: He is my God; ‘I will be thy God:’ so saith God in the covenant. It is more than if God had said, I will be thy friend, thy father; these are notions of a limited sense. But ‘I will be thy God,’ that hath an infinite importance, a greater weight and efficacy in that expression: ‘I will be thy God,’ that is, I will do thee good in the way of infinite and eternal power. And that is the reason why Christ proves the resurrection from thence: Mat. xxii. 32, ‘I am the God of Abraham,’ &c.; for to be a God to any is to be a benefactor to them, and a benefactor becoming an infinite and eternal power. Therefore certainly it assures us of greater things than this life affords, something becoming a God to give. If God be Abraham’s God, a God to his whole person (his soul is not Abraham), then it strongly proves the resurrection of the body; then Abraham, both body and soul, must have a happiness greater than this life can afford. Hence that expression of the apostle, Heb. xi. 16, ‘God is not ashamed to be called their God.’ These words seem as if they did express God’s condescension, as if he would be called the God of a few patriarchs. No; the meaning of the words is this, in regard of the slenderness of their present condition, God could not with honour. What! be a God to Jacob, and suffer him to have such a wandering life? He might be ashamed to be their God if he had not better 110things to bestow upon them, ‘But he hath provided for them a city,’ a heavenly kingdom. Not only given them that which they enjoyed in houses, their flocks and herds, which were multiplied; these were slender things to take up the whole significancy of that expression, I will be their God. But now God is not ashamed to be called their God; that is, God can with honour and without shame take that title upon him, for he hath everlasting happiness in the world to come to bestow upon them. Thus whatever God is, hath, or can do, it is thine. Look, as the apostle saith, Heb. vi., that ‘when God had no greater thing to swear by, he swore by himself,’ so we may say, when he had no greater thing to bestow upon his people, he gives and bestows him self, as fully and wholly makes over himself to every believing soul, so that they have as full a plea and sure right to God as any man hath to his patrimony to which he was born. I will act answerably, becoming an infinite power and goodness, for thy good. This is the significancy of that ample and glorious expression which God useth in the covenant of grace. As when a covenant was made between the king of Israel and the king of Judah, the tenor of it was, ‘My horses are as thy horses, my strength as thy strength,’ 1 Kings xxii. 4. So whatever is God’s is ours for our benefit, and what is ours is God’s for his service. Mark, God not only saith, I will be yours, but, be a God, that is, I will act like a God. In pardon of sin: Hosea xi. 9, ‘I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not man.’ He will not pardon as a man, but, as a God. Man’s patience is soon spent and soon tired. What! seven times a day forgive my brother? But he will pardon as a God. And so, when he sanctifies, he will sanctify as a God: 2 Peter i. 3, ‘By his divine power he hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness.’ And so in defence and maintenance, which is part of the covenant: I will feed, maintain, protect thee as a God; that is, not as one that is to be limited in the course of second causes. When he pleases he can give us water, not only out of the fountain, but out of the rock; when there is nothing visible to supply and maintain you, then, I will be a God; then he will glorify us like a God, like an infinite and eternal power. For as God is an infinite God, so he gives us a far more exceeding weight of glory; and as an eternal God, he gives us an eternal weight of glory, 2 Cor. iv. 17. The glory he bestows upon us suits with the infiniteness and eternity of his essence. As it is said of Araunah, that was of the royal extraction of the Jebusites, ‘He gave like a king to a king,’ worthy of his blood and descent; he had a generous mind: so God will give like a God; therefore, he not only saith, I will be thine, but, be thy God. You think it much when you view a large compass, and can look abroad and say, All this is mine; but one that hath chosen God for his portion hath much more to say: God is mine.
[3.] That which a man would make his portion if he were free to choose, it should be a proper and suitable good, our own good. The heart of man aims at not only bonum, good in common, but also bonum congruum, a suitable fitting good. Every element moveth to its own place, and every living creature desires food proper to itself. So man is not only carried to good, but good that suits to his capacity and necessity. The soul, being a spirit, must have a spiritual good. 111Indeed, as it acts in the body, and accommodates itself with the necessities of the body, and seeks the good of the body, so it may be carried out to honours, pleasures, and profits, for these are the conveniences of the bodily life: but as it is a spirit, and can live apart from the body, it must have something above these, a spiritual object; and as it is immortal, it must have an immortal good. Now, for a spiritual immortal good do we grope and feel about until we find it, and then there is a great deal of satisfaction: Acts xvii. 27, ‘That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him.’ So we are groping and feeling about, as the blind Sodomites did for Lot’s door, for some good that may suit the capacity of our souls: we were made for God, and therefore cannot have full contentment without God. But I speak not now of man as man, but suppose him to have a new nature put into him, that carries him after satisfaction: ‘We are made partakers of the divine nature,’ 2 Peter i. 4. It is called so because it comes from God and tends to him. Now, there must be something suitable to this nature. Pleasure is when those things are enjoyed that suit with us, when the object and the faculty are suited. When every appetite hath a fit diet to feed upon, then a marvellous deal of pleasure and contentment results from thence: Rom. viii. 5, ‘They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the spirit, the things of the spirit.’ All things seek a suitable good. Now, they that are after the spirit, that have a new spiritual divine nature put into them, renewed souls, they must have an object proper, and therefore must have something above the concernments of the body, and above the fleshly nature; for everything delights in that which is suitable, as a fish in the stream, and an ox to lick up the grass; and man must have a suitable good as a rational being; but as a spiritual being, must have another good. Grace restores us to the inclinations of nature when it was innocent; therefore the soul, that came from God, must centre in God, and it cannot be quiet without him.
[4.] That which a man would make his portion, it must be sufficient to supply all his wants, that he may have enough to live upon. Now, saith the Lord, ‘I am God all-sufficient,’ Gen. xvii. 1; sufficient for the necessities of this life, and that which is to come. He is the fountain of all blessings, spiritual, temporal, eternal; not only their power for ever, but their portion for ever, satisfied with him now and in the life to come: Ps. cxlii. 5, ‘Thou art my portion, O Lord, in the land of the living.’ They expect all from him; not only peace and righteousness, grace and glory, but food, maintenance, defence, to bear them out in his work. The creature is but God’s instrument, or as an empty pipe, unless God flow in by it. If God help them not, the creature cannot help them. These are streams that have water only so long as the spring fills them. Well, then, here is a portion that is every way sufficient. All other portions are accompanied with a want, but this alone sufficeth all Some things give health, wealth, but not peace; some things give peace, but not honour. But God is all to us—health, wealth, peace, honour, grace, and glory: ‘All things are yours, because you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s,’ so runs the Christian charter; there is omne bonum in summo bono—all things 112in the chiefest good. So Rev. xxi. 7, ‘He that overcometh shall inherit all things,’ How so? ‘For I will be his God.’ He that hath God hath him that hath power and command of all things, and therefore shall inherit all things, ‘For I will be his God.’ And that is the reason of the apostle’s riddle, 2 Cor. vi. 10, ‘As having nothing, yet possessing all things;’ that is, all things in God, when they have nothing in the creature. Many times they are kept bare and low, but God carries the purse for them; all things are at his dispose; and we are kept more bare and low that we may be sensible of the strange supplies of his providence. Alas! without him in the midst of our sufficiencies we may be in straits.
[5.] That a man would choose that for his portion wherein he may be contented, satisfied, and sit down as having enough. Now this is only in God. When we choose other things for our portion, still our sore runs upon us; there are some crannies and vacuities of soul that are to be filled up; if we could satisfy our affections, we cannot satisfy our consciences; nothing can content the desires of the soul but God himself; other things may busy us, and vex us, but cannot satisfy us: ‘All things are vanity and vexation of spirit.’ If a man would make a critical search, as Solomon did; he set himself to see what pleasures and honours would do to content the heart of man, and what riches and learning would do; he had a large estate and heart, and so was in a capacity to try all things, to see if he could extract satisfaction from them; yet he concludes, ‘All is vanity and vexation of spirit.’ Whosoever will follow this course will come home with disappointment. But in this portion there is contentment; we need no more but God, and there is nothing besides him worth our desire. Necessities that are not supplied by him are but fancies; it is want of grace if we want anything else when we have God for our portion: Ps. xvii. 14, ‘From the men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure.’ A carnal man’s happiness is patched up with a great many creatures; they must have dainty fare, costly apparel, this and that, and still their sore runs upon them; they have a fulness of all things, and yet they are not filled. But now, saith David, ver. 15, ‘As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.’ Though God do not make out himself in that latitude and fulness as he will hereafter, yet at present to have communion with God is enough: ‘I shall be filled.’ There are some desires that are working after God, but they will be filled hereafter. It is true we are not now perfect, but that is no fault of our portion, but the defect of our capacity. Though we have not that fulness that we shall have hereafter, yet we have it initially. Here we have the first-fruits, have it virtually, hope and look for it; there is something begun in the soul that will increase towards this satisfaction. Certainly this is a portion that can alone be possessed with content. God is satisfied with himself and sufficient to his own happiness, therefore surely there is enough in him to fill the creature. That which fills an ocean will fill a bucket; that which will fill a gallon will fill a pint; those revenues that will defray an emperor’s expenses are enough for a beggar or poor man. So, when the Lord himself is satisfied with 113himself, and it is his happiness to enjoy himself, there needs no more; there is enough in God to satisfy. If our desires run out after other things, they are desires not to be satisfied, but to be mortified. If we hunger after other contentments, they are like feverish desires, not to be satisfied, but to be abated in the soul; for he that fills all things hath enough to fill up our hearts.
[6.] Complacency and delight. That which a man would take pleasure in, there where he may have abundant matter of rejoicing and delight, this a man would choose for his portion. Now in God he hath the truest and sincerest delight. This is matter of rejoicing; as David saith, Ps. xvi. 5, 6, ‘The Lord is my portion.’ What then? ‘I have a goodly heritage.’ Here is that which will revive and refresh my heart enough. There is no rejoicing that is sincere but this. As the discomforts of the new creature are more real than all other discomforts, and pierce deeper—‘a wounded spirit who can bear?’—so the joys of the new creature, none go so deep: Ps. iv. 6, ‘Thou hast put more gladness into my heart,’ &c. Others do but tickle the senses, a little refresh the outward man, please the more brutish part, but this the heart. And this is such a joy as can be better felt than uttered: 2 Peter i. 8, it is ‘unspeakable,’ and none can know the strength and sweetness of it till it be felt: ‘a stranger’ cannot conceive it, ‘doth not intermeddle with his joy,’ Prov. xiv. 10. One drop of this is more than an ocean of carnal pleasure. When we have other things without God, we can never be serious. Take the merriest blades in the world, and dig them to the bottom; still there is something of sadness and remorse that doth sour all their content: conscience is secretly repining, and ready to embitter their joy. Though men strive to bear it down, yet it is ever returning upon them; therefore they cannot be truly cheerful. The most jolly sinners have their pangs that take off the edge of their bravery. Carnal rejoicing makes a great noise, like thorns under a pot, but it is but a blaze and gone. But this is a solid joy and comfort, wherewith a man may look death in the face with cheerfulness, and think of the world to come and not be sad. Alas! a little thing puts the merriest sinner into the stocks of conscience. He that makes it his business to add one pleasure to another, and spend his days in vanity, how soon is his mirth removed! Therefore, if a man would choose a portion to have joy at the highest rate, he should choose God for his portion.
Secondly, How comes a godly man to look upon God under this notion, that no less will content him but God himself? Why, he hath another apprehension, and another manner of heart to close with him, than carnal men; his understanding is enlightened, and his heart inclined by grace.
1. He sees more into the worth of spiritual and heavenly things. He hath faith, which is the evidence of things not seen, of things that do not lie under the judgment of sense and present reason; he can spy things under a veil, and his eyes are opened to see ‘what is the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,’ Eph. i. 17, 18; and therefore he is convinced of the fulness and sufficiency that is in God, and the emptiness and straitness that is in the creature; God hath given him counsel, his reins instruct him, Ps. xvi. 7. All by nature are 114blind, ignorant, apt to dote upon the creature; but by grace their eyes are opened, that they have another manner of discerning, that they do not see things only by discourse, but their hearts are affected. Others may discourse, but they have not this divine light and spiritual understanding, by which spiritual things may be discerned; as matters of opinion they may, but not as matters of choice. A carnal man may argue out with reason the worth and excellency of God, but he hath not a refined apprehension and persuasive counsel, which is in God’s people.
2. Their hearts are inclined to choose him for their portion. They do not only see an alluring worth in the object, but there is an attracting virtue, by which the heart is drawn unto God: John vi. 44, ‘No man can come to me, except the Father, which hath sent me, draw him.’ The great article of the covenant of grace is to take God for our God. Now all the articles of the new covenant are not only precepts but promises. The conditions of the covenant are conditions in the covenant; God gives what he requires. And therefore, as the great article of the covenant is to take God for our God, so the great blessing of the covenant is to have a new heart, or a new placing of our desires and affections. Sin lieth in a conversion from God to the creature; grace, in turning us to God again. The change is mainly seen in fixing our chiefest good and our last end. God gives his people a heart to close with him, and accept of him as their portion, to fix upon him as their chiefest good and their last end.
Use 1. To reprove them that do not take God for their portion. Godly men must have God himself; they prefer him above all, and saving grace above other benefits, Ps. iv. 6, 7. There is the dispositions of the godly and the carnal. ‘The many say, Who will show us any good?’ But, ‘Lord, lift up the light of thy countenance upon us.’ A carnal man is for good in common, any good, but not for the light of God’s countenance; nothing will satisfy the saints but the light of God’s countenance; they prefer him above his gifts, and among his gifts they prefer saving graces and renewing mercies, such as begin, and confirm them in their union with God in Christ. But carnal men go no further than the world; they choose not God, but his gifts; and among these not the best, but the common sort, such as suit with the appetite of the fleshly nature, and the more brutish part of these—riches, pleasures, and honours; and these too, not as coming from God, but as coming to them by chance. They not only say good in general, but ‘who will show me,’ &c. As they look after uncertain blessings, so they look after an uncertain author, as they fall out in the course of second causes. If they have these, they bless their hearts, and content themselves. To convince these men of the baseness of their choice, and make them bethink themselves, their choice is part of their punishment. There cannot be a greater punishment than that they should have what they choose, that they should be written in the earth, Jer. xvii. 13; they shall have this and no more; that God should say to them, Silver and gold you shall have, but ‘in this matter no lot nor portion,’ Acts viii. Their bellies shall be filled with hid treasure, they shall have gorgeous apparel, dainty fare, substance enough to leave to their babes, but be deprived of heaven. It is the greatest misery that can be, to be condemned to this kind of happiness; that we should thus 115degrade ourselves, and sit upon the threshold when they might sit upon the throne, and lick only the dust of his footstool. But wicked men will not be sensible of this now, but one day they shall, of the misery of this their foolish choice; at death usually: Jer. xvii. 11, ‘At his latter end he shall be a fool.’ Then his heart will rave against him: O fool, madman! that thou wert not as careful to get the favour of God, as to get this worldly pelf! when he must go into another world, and he is launching out into the great gulf of eternity. And in hell they will be sensible: Luke xvi. 25, ‘Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things,’ &c. The conscience of their foolish choice is a part of their torment, when their heart shall return upon them and say, This was because thou wouldst look after temporal things; when snares, and brimstone, and a horrible tempest is poured out upon them. What thoughts have they of their portion when they are cast out with the devil and damned spirits! Carnal men think the difference between them and others will ever hold out when they glitter in the world. Oh, but the time is coming when death will undeceive them! And at the day of judgment they will be sensible of it, when they shall be refused as the outcasts of the world, and when the saints shall have their portion, when the Lord shall take the godly to himself, receive them into his bosom, and welcome them to heaven, and call them to his right hand; and they shall be banished out of his presence with a ‘Go, ye cursed;’ when they shall become the loathing of God, the scorn of angels and blessed spirits; when it shall be said, as in Ps. lii. 7, ‘Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in. the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness.’ Oh, then, how will conscience return upon the wretchedness and folly of their hearts, and be exercised upon it! This will vex and gall them in hell, with anxious thoughts of it to all eternity. As by the fire that never shall be quenched is signified the wrath of God, so by the worm that never dies the violent working of conscience upon the folly of choosing perishing vanities.
Use 2. It exhorts us to this necessary duty, to choose God for our portion. It is not a slight thing, but that upon which your eternal happiness doth depend; it is the fundamental article of the covenant of grace: and the question God puts you to is, whether you will choose him for your portion? therefore he begins the commandments with this, ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me.’ God is not your God unless he be set uppermost in your souls; he cannot be your portion unless he be your chiefest good. There is no possibility of entering into covenant with God unless you subscribe to this main article. Again, as it is a very necessary work, so it is an evidence and fruit of God’s election; if a man would come to know the thoughts of God concerning him before all the world, what his destiny is. God’s election or choosing of you is manifested by your election or your choosing of God, for all God’s works leave an impression upon the creature. He chooseth us that we might choose him: ‘I will say, You are my people, and you shall say, I am your God.’ Again, you must have something for your portion. There is no man hath a sufficiency in himself. The soul is like a sponge, always thirsting, and seeking of something from without to be filled—a chaos of desires. Man was 116made to live in dependence. Now, of all portions in the world, there is none worth the having but God himself; nothing else can make you completely blessed, and satisfy all the necessities and all the capacities of soul and body. When you have outward things, what have you for your conscience? If these things could fill up your affections, they bear no proportion with conscience; your sore will run upon you, and your inward griefs will not be cured. But this is such a portion, that besides internal grace, there shall be a competent measure of outward things. God will provide for you: Ps. xxiii. 1, ‘The Lord is my shepherd.’ What then? ‘I shall not want.’ This interest will give you temporal things and the comforts of this life, so that you have the fountain of all other mercies. While others do but drink of the streams, and of streams where they are muddy, where they partake of the soil through which they run, you go to the clear fountain. Alas! others do but pluck the leaves and flowers, but you have the fruits and very root itself, the perpetual fountain and well-spring of comfort, and root of all the blessedness the heart can wish for. Again, all other comforts grow upon this interest, and when all other things are lost, this can supply you again. All worldly things, when we have them, yet they have not a root; but you have the root, so that when other things fail, this will yield you all manner of supplies. Yea, this is that which seasons and makes all other things comfortable, when we have them and the love of God with them. This man of God had a kingdom and a great deal of wealth; he was a victorious king, as we may see by his offering, 1 Chron. xxix., what cart-loads of gold and silver he offers to God: yet in the midst of all this fulness he saith, ‘Thou art my portion.’ Other portions may turn to a man’s hurt, as they are occasions of sin, as they expose to envy and danger. Many a man is undone both here and hereafter by making the creature his portion; but never any man was undone by making God his portion. It was the end of our creation. God, passing by all other creatures, set his heart upon man. He made all things for man, and man for himself. All other things were either subject to our dominion, or created for our use; but man was made immediately for God, for the enjoyment of God; made for himself, and for none else besides himself. We should have no rest in ourselves until we come to the enjoyment of God. God was not refreshed from his work, he rested not until he made man; therefore man should not rest until he comes to God. God takes us for his portion, and therefore you should take God for your portion: Deut. xxxii. 9, ‘For the Lord’s portion is his people;’ Zech. ii. 12, ‘And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.’ If God shall choose a company of men to be his portion, certainly it becomes them again to choose him. God is willing to communicate his goodness, therefore why should we be satisfied with other things? He reasons with us, is angry that we will run to other things. Why will you lay out your time and strength in that which will not satisfy you? Isa. lv. 2. He doth invite you to come and choose him. He complains, and takes it grievously when he offers himself in the gospel: Ps. lxxxi. 11, ‘Israel would none of me.’ Oh! shall the God that made us thus passionately offer himself to us, and shall he be refused? Let this persuade you to choose God for your portion.117
Use 3. For trial. Have you chosen God for your portion? This will be seen—
1. By your endeavours to get anything of God into your hearts. No man seeketh after God; there is the great complaint. If you did choose God, you would pursue all ways and means that you might gain him, and count all things but dung for Christ, as the apostle doth; then nothing would detain you from him, you would not be satisfied: Oh! I must have God; and God would be followed after: Ps. lxxiii. 25, ‘Whom have I in heaven but thee?’
2. By your prayers. What do you pray for? When you come to God, what do your hearts run upon? what do you seek for from God? Is it God himself? To seek to God and not for God is but a carnal design upon God: Hosea vii. 14, ‘They howl upon their beds for corn, and wine, and oil.’ They are but brutish desires, that terminate in other things, that are carried out more after them than God’s favour and grace; therefore his favour must be sought in the first place.
3. By your behaviour under trouble when other things fail: Lam. iii. 24, ‘The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore I will hope in him.’ When they were driven from their other portions (for that is spoken of), when all manner of calamities did befall them, and they were cast out, and their inheritance turned to strangers, then, ‘Lord, thou art our portion.’ When you have nothing left but God, can you live upon God? and can he be all in all to you? 1 Sam. xxx. 6, ‘David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.’ When the Amalekites carried away all, yet this was his comfort, God was left still. And so Hab. iii. 18, ‘When the labour of the olive shall fail,’ &c. What then? ‘Then I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.’ When you can count yourself happy enough in God, Deus meus et omnia—if I have God, I have all; then you have chosen God for your portion.
4. By your delight in God: Ps. xxxvii. 4, ‘Delight thyself in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.’ When this is the great rejoicing of your souls, that you can get but one beam of God’s love and his favour darted upon your consciences, this is that which revives more than all other temporal things whatever.
5. In mourning for his absence; if your God be gone, that is the grief of your souls. God can supply the want of the creature, but no creature can supply the want of God; therefore it is ground of trouble if he hide his face. This lamenting and mourning after a withdrawn God is frequently spoken of in scripture. But the great evidence lies in the words, ‘Thou art my portion, Lord!’ What then? ‘I have said, that I would keep thy words.’ Hence observe—
Doct. 2. Those which have chosen God for their portion will manifest it by a fixed resolution and strict care of obedience.
They are loath to break with God, rather break with anything else. It must needs be so, because—
1. Holiness is a means of maintaining communion between us and God, and keeping up an interest in him as our only happiness: 1 John i. 6, 7, ‘If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another: but if we walk in darkness, and say we have fellowship with him, we lie, and do not the truth.’ Unless there be a care to please him, certainly you do not choose him for your portion; for 118if all your comfort and happiness lies in God, all your diligence and care Will be to please God. God was the portion of the Levites, it is said, because they ministered before him, Num. xviii. 20. So it is true of the spiritual Levites, they that are careful to walk with God, minis ter before him, and keep close with him; God will be their portion. All sincere Christians are purified as the sons of Levi.
2. Because this is the only evidence. They that love God will love his word, and if they love it they will live by it, and square their actions accordingly. By careless walking you blot your evidences, and so weaken your comfort.
3. Because God is your portion, therefore it should encourage us to keep his word: Gen. xvii. 1, ‘I am God all-sufficient; walk before me and be thou perfect.’ If we have an all-sufficient portion, all our business should be to keep in with God. All warping comes from doubting of God’s all-sufficiency, as if God alone were not enough for us. Carnal fear, love, hope, doth draw us off from God to the creature, we are afraid to lose worldly enjoyments, so break with God. Therefore, if we look upon God as all-sufficient, it will necessarily follow we should encourage ourselves to serve him.
4. If we do not keep his word, our lusts will carry us forth else where. There are certain corrupt principles within you will draw you off from God to another portion: Ezek. xiv. 5, ‘They are all estranged from me through their idols.’ What kind of idols were these? Idols of wood and stone? No; the prophet explains them, ‘They have set up their idols in their heart,’ ver. 3. Christians, a man may be an, idolater in opinion, and grossly, when he worships stocks and stones; and he may be an idolater spiritually and in practice. And which is most incurable of these two, think you? Certainly the spiritual idolater. A man may easily be convinced of his false worship by reason and argument, what a brutish thing it is to worship stocks and stones, things that have no life, nor can help him; but he cannot be convinced of his spiritual idolatry, or cured of that but by grace. Covetousness is idolatry, because it draws off our love, fear, trust, from God and his service, to riches, and so proves a snare to the soul. Idolatry in our affections is more dangerous than gross idolatry in our opinions and outward worship, when our affections carry us out to another good.
5. Again, out of gratitude, when God doth all for us, can we deny him anything? Dost thou love God as the chiefest good, and wilt not thou fear to offend him? Whoever chooseth God for his portion will have David’s disposition, ‘I have said I will keep thy words;’ he will be exact and punctual to keep in with God.
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