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I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.—Ver. 63.
IN this verse two things are observable:—
1. A description of the people of God; they are described by their principle, and by the course of their lives and actions, fear and obedience.
2. David’s respect to them, I am a companion of all them.
1. In the person speaking: the disparity of the persons is to be observed. David, who was a great prophet, yea, a king, yet saith, ‘I am a companion of them that fear thee.’ Christ himself called them his ‘fellows:’ Ps. xlv. 7, ‘Thy God hath anointed thee with the oil of 172gladness above thy fellows; and therefore David might well say, ‘I am a companion.’
2. David saith of all them. The universal particle is to be observed; not only some, but all: when any lighted upon him, or he upon any of them, they were welcome to him. How well would it be for the world if the great potentates of the earth would thus think, speak, and do: ‘I am a companion of all them that fear thee.’ Self-love reigneth in most men. We love the rich and despise the poor, and so ‘have the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ in respect of persons,’ James ii. 1; therefore this universality is to be regarded. ‘Hearing of your faith and love to all the saints,’ Eph. i. 15, to the mean, as well as the greatest. Meanness doth not take away church relations, 1 Cor. xi. 20. There are many differences in worldly respects between one child of God and another, yea, in spiritual gifts, some weaker, some stronger, but we must love all, for all are children of one Father, all owned by Christ, ‘He is not ashamed to call them brethren,’ Heb. ii. 11. This, I say, is observable, the disparity of the persons—on the one side David, on the other all the people of God.
First, Let us take notice of the description of the people of God. They are such as fear him and keep his precepts, that is, obey him conscientiously, out of reverence to his majesty and goodness, and due regard to his will delivered in his word. The same description is used: Acts x. 35, ‘In every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted with him.’ Note hence—
Doct. 1. The fear of God is the grand principle of obedience: Deut. v. 29, ‘Oh, that there were such an heart within them, that they would fear me and keep my commandments always.’ Here consider—
1. What is the fear of God.
2. What influence it hath upon obedience.
1. What is the fear of God? There is a twofold fear of God—servile and filial.
[1.] Servile, by which a man feareth God and hateth him, as a slave feareth his cruel master, whom he could wish dead, and himself rid of his service, and obeyeth by mere compulsion and constraint. Thus the wicked fear God because they have drawn an ill picture of him in their minds: Mat. xxv. 24, 25, ‘I knew thou wast a hard man, and I was afraid.’ They perform only a little unwilling and unpleasing service, and as little as they can, because of their ill conceit of God. So Adam feared God after his sin when he ran away from him, Gen. iii. 10. Yea, so the devils fear God, and rebel against him: James ii. 29, ‘The devils also believe and tremble.’ This fear hath torment in it to the creature, and hatred of God, because by the fear of his curse and the flames of hell he seeketh to drive them from sin.
[2.] Filial fear, as children fear to offend their dear parents; and thus the godly do so fear God, that they do also love him, and obey him, and cleave to him, and this preserveth us in our duty: Jer. xxxii. 40, ‘I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me.’ This is a necessary frame of heart for all those that would observe and obey God. This fear is twofold:—
(1.) The fear of reverence.
(2.) The fear of caution.173
(1.) The fear of reverence, when the soul is deeply possessed with a sense of God’s majesty and goodness, that it dareth not offend him. His greatness and majesty hath an influence upon this fear. ‘Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence, who have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it?’ Jer. v. 22. His goodness and mercy: Hosea iii. 5, ‘They shall fear the Lord, and his goodness;’ Jer. x. 6, 7, ‘There is none like unto thee, O Lord; thou art great, and thy name is great in might: who would not fear thee, O king of nations?’ Both together engage us to live always as in his eye and presence, and in the obedience of his holy will, studying to please him in all things.
(2.) The fear of caution is also called the fear of God, when we carry on the business of salvation with all possible solicitude and care. For it is no easy thing to please God and save our souls: Phil. ii. 12, ‘Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.’ In the time of our sojourning here we meet with many temptations; baits without are many, and the flesh within us is importunate to be pleased, and our account at the end of the journey is very exact: 1 Peter i. 17, ‘And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear.’ A false heart is apt to betray us, and the entertainments of sense to entice and corrupt us, and we are assaulted on every side, and salvation and eternal happiness is the thing in chase and pursuit; if we come short of it we are undone for ever: Heb. iv. 1, ‘Having a promise of rest left with us, let us fear lest we come short of it.’ There is no mending errors in the other world; there we shall be convinced of our mistakes to our confusion, but not to our conversion and salvation.
2. The influence it hath upon keeping God’s precepts.
[1.] In general, this is one demonstration of it, that the most eminent servants of God have been commended for their fear of God: Job, chap. i. 1, is said to be ‘a man perfect and upright, one that feared God, and eschewed evil.’ He had a true godliness, or a filial awe of God, which kept him from sin, and the temptations whereby it might insinuate itself into his soul. So Obadiah, Ahab’s steward, is described to be a man ‘that feared God greatly,’ 1 Kings xviii. 3; and of one Hananiah it is said, Neh. vii. 2, that ‘he feared God greatly, above many others.’ Men are more holy as the fear of God doth more prevail in their hearts, their tenderness both in avoiding and repenting of sin increaseth according as they entertain the awe and fear of God in their hearts, and here is the rise and fountain of all circumspect walking. As the stream is dried up that wanteth a fountain, so godliness ceaseth as the fear of God abateth.
[2.] More particularly.
(1.) It is the great pull-back and constant preservative of the soul against ski, as the beasts are contained in their subjection and obedience to man by the fear that is upon them: Gen. vii. 2, ‘The dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, that they shall not hurt you;’ so the fear of God is upon us: Exod. xx. 20, ‘God is come to prove you, that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.’ 174Joseph is an instance: Gen. xxxix. 9, ‘How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ Abraham could promise himself little security in a place where no fear of God was: Gen. xx. 11, ‘I thought surely the fear of God is not in this place, and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.’ Therefore, Prov. xxiii. 17, ‘Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.’
(2.) It is the great excitement to obedience.
(1st.) Duties of religion will not reverently and seriously be performed unless there be a deep awe of God upon our souls: ‘God will be sanctified in all that draw nigh unto him,’ Lev. x. 3. Now, what is it to sanctify God in our hearts, but to fear his majesty and greatness and goodness? Isa. viii. 13, ‘Sanctify the Lord God of hosts in your hearts, and make him your fear.’ Therefore David desireth God to call in his straggling thoughts and scattered affections: Ps. lxxxvi. 11, ‘Unite my heart to the fear of thy name;’ so the serious worshippers are described to be those that ‘desire to fear his name,’ Neh. i. 11.
(2d.) Duties towards men will not be regarded in all times and places, unless the fear of God bear rule in our hearts; as servants, when their masters are absent, neglect their work: Col. iii. 22, ‘Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing God.’ A Christian is alike everywhere, because God is alike everywhere. He that feareth God needeth no other theatre than his own conscience, nor other spectators than God and his holy angels. So to hinder us from contriving mischief in secret, when others are not aware of it: Lev. xix. 14, ‘Thou shalt not curse the deaf man, nor lay a stumbling-block before the blind, but shalt fear the Lord thy God.’ The deaf hear not, the blind seeth not; but God seeth and heareth, and that is enough to a gracious heart to bridle us when it is in our power to hurt others; as Joseph assureth his brethren he would be just to them, ‘for I fear God,’ Gen. xlii. 18. Nehemiah did not convert the public treasures to his private use: Neh. v. 15, ‘So did not I, for I fear God.’ This grace, when it is hazardous to be faithful to men, makes us to slight the danger: Exod. i. 17, ‘The midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them;’ that kept them from obeying that cruel edict, to their own hazard. Neither hope of gain nor fear of loss can prevail where men fear God.
(3d.) It breedeth zeal and diligence in the great and general business of our salvation, and maketh us more careful to approve ourselves unto God in our whole course, that we may be accepted of him: 2 Cor. vii. 1, ‘Perfecting holiness in the fear of God.’ God is a great God, and. will not be put off with anything, or served with a little religiousness by the by, but with more than ordinary care and zeal and diligence. Now, what inclineth us to this but the fear of God, or a reverence of his majesty and goodness? So Phil. ii. 12, let us ‘work out our salvation with fear and trembling.’ Salvation is not to be looked after between sleeping and waking; no, it requireth our great est attention, as having a sense of the weightiness of the work upon our hearts.
Use. The use is to press us to two things:—175
1. To fear God.
2. To keep his precepts if we would come under the character of his people.
1. To fear God. Be not prejudiced against this grace; it is generally looked upon as a left-handed grace.
[1.] It is not contrary to our blessedness: Prov. xxviii. 14, ‘Blessed is he that feareth always.’ It doth not infringe the happiness of our lives to be always in God’s company, mindful of our duty to him. The angels in heaven always behold the face of our heavenly Father, and in that vision their supreme happiness consists. There is a fear of angels and a fear of devils. The angels ever fear and reverence God, the devils believe and tremble: the angels’ fear is reverence, the devils’ fear is torment. God doth not require that we should always perplex ourselves with terrors and scruples—that were a torture, not a blessedness; but God hath required that we should always have a deep sense of his majesty and goodness impressed upon our hearts. In heaven this fear will not cease; it is an essential respect due from the creature to the Creator; and as we shall love him, so fear him always; and if a godly man were put to his choice, he would not be without this fear of God. To live always in an admiration of his excellent majesty, a thankful sense of his goodness, and a regard to his eye and presence, this is our happiness.
[2.] It is not contrary to our comfort and joy in the Lord. Fear to offend God, and joy in his favour may well stand together: Ps. ii. 10, ‘Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.’ There is a sweet mixture in a gracious heart of holy awe and seriousness, with a delightful sense of God’s goodness: these graces may easily be combined and brought to kiss one another: Ps. cxii. 1, ‘Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, and delighteth greatly in his commandments.’ When we do most carefully abstain from what displeaseth him, we have most sense of his love, and do most cheerfully practise what he requireth of us. All other pleasures and delights are but May-games and toys to that of a strict obedience, which giveth the soul a continual feast: Acts ix. 31, ‘They walked in the fear of the Lord, and in the comforts of the Holy Ghost.’ None have such a comfortable life as they who are most careful to avoid sin. We need this mixture: we should grow slight and secure without fear, and slavish without comfort: there must be fear to weaken the security of the flesh, and joy of faith to revive the soul.
[3.] It is not contrary to courage and holy boldness, by which we should bear up under troubles and dangers. There is a spirit of fear opposite to a sound mind, 2 Tim. i. 7, when men are ashamed of the gospel, or afraid of the persecutions which accompany it: πνεῦμα δουλείας, a cowardly spirit, a worldly fear of adversities, and dangers, losses, reproaches. So we are commanded, ‘Fear not their fear, but sanctify the Lord God of hosts in your hearts, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread,’ Isa. viii. 12, 13. No; this is the fear of the world; but I press to the fear of the Lord: Luke xii. 4, 5, ‘Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; but I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say 176unto you, fear him.’ This is the hest cure of the fear of the world, as one nail driveth out another. The fear to offend God inflameth our courage, and doth not abate it.
[4.] It is not contrary to the grace of the gospel. No; it is the fruit of it: Ps. cxxx. 4, ‘There is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.’ The heart is shy of a condemning God, but closeth with and adhereth to a pardoning God; and nothing breedeth this fear to offend so much as a tender sense of the Lord’s goodness in Christ.
2. It presseth us to keep his precepts; that is the only evidence that the fear of God is rooted in our hearts. The heart must be prepared to keep all; they are all equally good, and they are all equally necessary; not one of them is in vain; and they are all joined together, like rings in a chain, and we are not sincere till we regard all: Ps. cxix. 6, ‘Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.’ The judgment must approve all: Ps. cxix. 128, ‘Therefore I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false way.’ The will must be set and fixed in a serious purpose to keep all, making conscience of the least as well as the greatest, the difficult as well as the easy: Heb. xiii. 18, ‘I trust we have a good conscience in all things, willing to live honestly.’ Earnest endeavours must be used to grow up to a more exact conformity to all: Phil. iii. 14, ‘I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.’ Some corruption may remain after all our endeavours, but none must be reserved or cherished in the heart: Ps. lxvi. 18, ‘If I regard iniquity in my heart.’ There will be a secret love to some sins more than others, but it must not be indulged, but checked and striven against, and prayed against: Ps. cxix. 133, ‘Let not any iniquity have dominion over me.’ And this praying and striving must produce some effect, that in some measure it may be said of us what was said of Zachary and Elizabeth: Luke i. 6, ‘They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.’ And we must increase and grow in this more and more: Col. i. 11, ‘Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;’ and 1 Thes. iv. 1, ‘As ye have received of us how to walk, and to please God, so do you abound more and more.’ The entertaining of some bosom sin, which we are loath to part withal, darkeneth our whole comfort.
Secondly, David’s professed respect to these sort of men, ‘I am a companion of them that fear thee,’ of them, and of all them.
Doct. 2. That we should associate ourselves and keep communion with those who are truly gracious. Consider—
1. In what sense we are to be companions of them that fear the Lord.
2. Why it must be so, or the reasons.
1. In what sense may David or any other be said to be a companion of those that fear the Lord, or what it importeth.
[1.] We must join with them, or be engaged in the profession of the same faith and obedience unto God. The faith of all Christians is a ‘common faith,’ and their salvation a ‘common salvation’ to them all: Titus i. 4, ‘Titus, my own son, after the common faith;’ Jude 3, 177‘I gave diligence to write to you of the common salvation.’ The communion with the saints which we believe in the Creed is in the first and chiefest place a communion in faith and charity, and this kind of communion all the members and parties of the catholic church have one with another. They are all quickened by the same Spirit, live by the same faith, wait for the hope of the same glory, and so they are companions in the same religion.
[2.] As many as cohabit and live in a convenient nearness must often meet together to join in the same worship; for God hath instituted the assemblies of the faithful that we may openly and with mutual consent worship God in Christ, in prayer, thanksgiving, praises, word, sacraments, &c.; and the assembling of ourselves for these ends must not be forsaken for negligence or fear: Heb. x. 25, ‘Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhort one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.’ Now in this sense we are companions of those that fear God, as we join in worship with them: Ps. xlii. 4, ‘I had gone with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with the multitude of them that kept holy-day.’ To make one in the public assemblies and societies of the godly, whereby God may be publicly honoured, and souls converted, comforted, and saved, is to be a companion of them that fear God and keep his precepts.
[3.] To love them, and prize them, and converse with them intimately upon all occasions, that by this society ye may excite one another to further proficiency in obedience. This is to be a companion with them that fear God: so the prophet kept company with those good men that he had described, that he himself might be confirmed by them, and that he might aid and confirm them. David said, Ps. xvi. 2, 3, ‘My goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints on the earth, and the excellent, in whom is all my delight,’ that is, his love and kindness was towards the godly, esteeming them more excellent and precious, how mean soever in condition, above the ungodly world, how great soever their rank and quality be, and taking pleasure in their society; them he valued, and them he esteemed above all the greatest men in the world, and in them was all his joy and delight. So Ps. xv. 4, ‘In whose eyes a vile person is contemned, but he honoureth them that fear the Lord.’ Mark these two opposite expressions, ‘the excellent of the earth,’ and ‘a vile person.’ Thus it is to look on things, not with the eye of sense, but faith and grace. So Paul longed to see the Romans, to be comforted by the mutual faith of him and them, Rom. i. 12. Well, then, to be a companion is to love tenderly, to prize and esteem one another for the grace of God which is in them, desiring one another’s good, especially spiritual: ‘Rejoicing with them that do rejoice, and mourning with them that mourn,’ Rom. xii. 15; praying for one another, giving thanks for one another, preventing the evil, endeavouring the good of one another, by counsel, help, and mutual assistance. So that, ‘I am a companion,’ is that I contract a friendship with them that fear God.
[4.] To be a companion with them is to own them in all conditions, and to take part and lot with them: Rev. i. 9, ‘I, John, who am a brother and companion in tribulation, and the kingdom and patience 178of Jesus Christ.’ We must have a fellowship with them not only in their privileges, but in their sufferings; not only companions in the kingdom, but companions in the tribulation and patience of Jesus Christ. So Heb. x. 33, ‘Partly whilst ye were made a gazing-stock by reproaches and afflictions, and partly whilst ye became companions of those that were so used:’ in the one was their passion, in the other their compassion, in that they not only suffered themselves, but owned their brethren when they suffered, and did receive them, and comfort them, and stand by them; so near is the union, and so dear and tender is the affection, of Christian brethren among themselves. So it is said of Moses, Heb. xi. 25, ‘Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.’ Alas! there are many summer friends to the gospel, painted butterflies, who are gone as soon as the sunshine of prosperity is gone. Brethren do almost forget that they are brethren, stand aloof, and are loath to own the afflicted.
2. Reasons why David was a companion of all the saints.
[1.] Our relation enforceth it: all that are in the church are of one kindred and lineage, descended from one common father, animated by one common spirit, and knit together in the profession of one common faith in Christ, and therefore must be companions one to another. As natural relation enforceth natural love, so Christian relation Christian love. To make this evident, let me tell you men may be considered in a twofold respect—as men, or as Christians and believers; and so there is a twofold love due to them, ἀγάπη, and φιλαδελφία—2 Peter i. 7, ‘Brotherly kindness and charity.’ Our common neighbour hath the same nature that we have, and is of the same stock, for all come of one blood; besides our particular relation to them, either natural by kindred, consanguinity, or affinity, or political as members of the same kingdom, or other various respects of benefit, vicinity, or familiarity. As Christians and believers; this is common to all of them that they have spiritual kindred, as they are partakers of the same divine nature, or image of God, 2 Peter i. 4, which they have from the same stock and original, Christ, the second Adam: 1 Cor. xv. 45, ‘The first Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit;’ and as they make but one family, Eph. iii. 15, ‘Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named;’ only this difference there is between Christ and Adam—we derive our original from Adam by the succession of many intervening generations; we are not his immediate children, as Cain and Abel were; but every believer doth immediately derive his life from Christ, hath it at the next hand; and besides this, there is an immediate communion by which every believer is joined to one another. There are several particular respects which do vary the degree of Christian love,—as men are public and private persons; some in remote churches, others in the same congregation; some excel in grace, others of a lower rank; some more, some less useful in advancing the kingdom of Christ. Thus you see the parallel between both these loves; Christian charity supposeth natural love as the foundation of it, for grace is built upon nature, but also it sublimateth it, and raiseth it to a higher degree of excellency than nature could reach; for the light of the gospel doth not abolish the light of 179nature, but perfecteth it, as the reasonable soul compriseth the vegetative and sensitive. We have other objects, see clearer arguments and reasons for love: Gal. vi. 10, ‘As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially them who are of the household of faith;’ 2 Peter i. 7, ‘And add to godliness brotherly-kindness, to brotherly-kindness charity.’
[2.] The new nature inclineth us to it, and this love floweth from an inward propension and cordial inclination, needing no other out ward allurement and provocation to procure it: 1 John v. 1, ‘Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.’ The same love that inclineth us to love God inclineth us to love the brethren also: 1 John iv. 9, ‘As touching brotherly love, ye need not that I should write unto you, for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another.’ God’s teaching is by effectual impression, or inclining the heart: it must needs be so, because all believers live in the communion of the same Spirit As some philosophers say there is an anima mundi which holdeth all the parts of it together, so there is a spirit of communion which uniteth all the members of Christ’s mystical body, and inclineth them one to another.
[3.] Gratitude to Christ maketh us to prize all that belong to him, and to own them, and to be companions with them in all conditions: 1 John iii. 16-18, ‘Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth:’ 1 John iv. 11, ‘Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.’ God loved us greatly, sent his own Son to die for us; now, how shall we express our thankfulness but by a dear and tender love to those who are Christ’s? As David, when Jonathan was dead, inquired, ‘Is there none of Jonathan’s posterity to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?’ and at length he found lame Mephibosheth; so, is there none upon earth to whom we may show kindness for Christ’s sake, who is now in heaven? Yes; there are the saints. Now these should be dear and precious to us, and we should be companions with them in all conditions.
[4.] Because of the profit and utility redounding. A true friend is valuable in secular matters, much more a spiritual friend: Prov. xxvii. 17, ‘As iron sharpeneth iron, so doth a man the countenance of his friend.’ When a man is dull, his friend puts an edge upon him; he is a mighty support and stay to us: Prov. xvii. 17, ‘A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity;’ Prov. xxvii. 9, ‘The perfume of an ointment rejoiceth the soul, so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel:’ and in some cases he telleth us, ‘A friend is better than a brother.’ Now, if an ordinary true friend be so valuable, what is a Christian friend? A holy, heavenly, faithful friend is one of the greatest treasures upon earth; therefore we should seek out such and associate with them.
Use. Let us see, then, whom we make our companions; let us avoid 180evil company lest we be defiled by them, and frequent good company that we may be mutually comforted and quickened: ‘I am a companion of them that fear thee.’ Interpreters suppose it was spoken in opposition to the bands of the wicked mentioned ver. 61. If they unite, so should we. This, then, is our business, the rejecting of evil company, and the choice of good companions. To enforce this, take these considerations:—
1. Friendship is necessary, because man is ζῶοω πολίτικον, a sociable creature. Man was not made to live alone, but in company with others, and for mutual society and fellowship; and they that fly all company and live to and by themselves are counted inhuman: Eccles. iv. 9-12, there the benefit of society is set forth, ‘Two are better than one; for if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; he hath not another to lift him up again: if two lie together they have heat; but how can one be warm alone? and if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him.’ Thus far Solomon. The Egyptians in their hieroglyphics expressed the unprofitableness of a solitary man by a single millstone, which alone grindeth no meal, but with its fellow is very serviceable for that purpose. The Lord ap pointed mankind to live in society, that they might be mutually helpful to one another: he never made them to live in deserts, as wild beasts love to go alone, but as the tame, in flocks and herds. The Lord hath given variety of gifts to the sons of men,—to all some, but to none all,—that one might stand in need of another, and make use of one another; and the subordination of one gift to another is the great instrument of upholding the world. Man is weak, and needeth society; for every man is insufficient to himself, and wants the help of others: and man is inclined by the bent of his nature; we have a certain desire to dwell together and live in society.
2. Though man affects society, yet in our company we may use choice, and the good must converse with the good, for these reasons:—
[1.] Because like will sort with like. Friendship is very much founded in suitableness, and maintained by it: idem velle et nolle, est amicitia. The godly will have special love to the godly, and they that fear God will be a companion of those that fear him; they are more dear and precious to them than others; as a wicked man easily smelleth out a fit companion: Ps. l. 18, ‘When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers,’ Like will to like, and therefore the godly should be dear and precious to one another. Every man’s company wherein he delighteth showeth what manner of man he is himself. The fowls of heaven flock together according to their several kinds. Ye shall not see doves flocking with the ravens, nor divers kinds intermixed. Every man is known by his company. They that delight in drinking, love swilling and drunken companions; in gaming, love such as make no conscience of their time; in hunting, love such as are addicted to such exercise; in arms, love men of a soldierly and military spirit; they that delight in books love scholars and persons of a philosophical breeding. That which every man is taken withal he loveth to do it with his friend; so certainly they that love and fear God delight in those that love him and fear him, and their company is a refreshing to one another.181
[2.] If they be not like, intimacy and converse will make them like: every man is wrought upon by his company. We imitate those whom we love, and with whom we often converse: Prov. xiii. 20, ‘He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.’ As a man that walketh in the sunshine is tanned insensibly, and as Moses’ face shined by conversing with God, ere we are aware we adopt their manners and customs, and get a tincture from them. So Prov. xxii. 24, 25, ‘Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man thou shalt not go, lest thou learn his ways and get a snare to thy soul.’ A man would think that of all sins, wrath and anger should not be propagated by company, the motions and furies of it are so uncomely to a beholder; yet secretly a liking of the person breedeth a liking of his ways, and a man getteth such a frame of spirit as those have whom he hath chosen for his companions. This should be the more regarded by us, because we are sooner made evil by evil company than good by good company: 1 Cor. xv. 33, ‘Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good manners;’ evil words or ὁμικλίαι κακαὶ, evil converses, corrupt good manners. We convey a disease to others, but not our health. Oh, how careful should we be of our friendship, that we may converse with such as may go before us as examples of piety, and provoke us by their strictness, heavenly-mindedness, mortification, and self-denial, to more love to God, zeal for his glory, and care of our salvation! Especially doth this concern the young, who, by their weakness of judgment, the vehemency of their affections, and want of experience, may be easily drawn into a snare.
[3.] Our love to God should put us upon loving his people and making them our intimates; for religion influenceth all things, our relations, common employments, friendships, and converses; it is a smart question that of the prophet, 2 Chron. xix. 2, ‘Shouldst thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord?’ Surely a gracious heart cannot take them into his bosom. He loveth all with a love of good-will, as seeking their good, but not with a love of complacency, as delighting in them. Our neighbour must be loved as ourselves; our natural neighbour as a natural self, with a love of benevolence; and our spiritual neighbour as our spiritual self, with a love of complacency. In opposition to complacency we may hate our sinful neighbour, as we must ourselves: ‘The wicked is an abomination to the righteous,’ Prov. xxix. 26. The hatred of abomination is opposite to the love of complacency, as odium inimicitiae to amor benevolentiae. So David saith, Ps. cxxxix. 21, 22, ‘Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am I not grieved with those that rise up against thee? I hate them with a perfect hatred; I count them mine enemies;’ I cannot cry up a confederacy with them. They that have a kindness for God will be thus affected.
3. There is a threefold friendship—sinful, civil, and religious.
[1.] Sinful, when men agree in evil, as drunkards with drunkards, or robbers with robbers: Prov. i. 14, ‘Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse.’ When men conspire against the truth and interest of Christ in the world, or league themselves against his people, as Gebal, and Ammon, and Amalek, Ps. lxxxiii. 3, divided in interests, but united in hatred; as Herod and Pilate against Christ. This is 182unitas contra unitatem, as Austin, or consortium factionis, a bond of iniquity, or confederacy in evil. Again—
[2.] There is a civil friendship, built on natural pleasure and profit, when men converse together for trade or other civil ends. Thus men are at liberty to choose their company as their interests and course of their employments lead them. The apostle saith, a man must go out of the world if he should, altogether abstain from the company of the wicked: 1 Cor. v. 9, 10, ‘I wrote to you in an epistle not to company with fornicators;. yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, for then must ye needs go out of the world.’ But—
[3.] There is religious friendship, which is built on virtue and grace, and is called ‘the unity of the Spirit:’ Eph. vi. 3, ‘Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ Now this is the firmest bond of all. Sinful societies are soon dissolved; drunkards and profane fellows, though they seem to unite and hold together, yet upon every cross word they fall out and break; and civil friendship, which is built on pleasure and profit, cannot be so firm as that which is built on honesty and godliness. This is among the good and holy, who are not so changeable as the bad and carnal, and the ground of it is more lasting. This is amicitia per se, the other per accidens, from constitution of soul and likeness Of spirits. The good we seek may be possessed without envy; the friends do not straiten and intrench upon one another. Self-love and envy soon breaketh our friendship, but these seek the good of another as much as their own delight in the graces of one another.
[4.] In religious friendship we owe a love to all that fear God: Acts iv. 32, ‘The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and one soul.’ Love is called σύνδεσμος τῆς τελειότητος, ‘the bond of perfectness,’ Col. iii. 14. All things are bound together by a holy society, and preserved by it.’ There is in love a desire of union and fellowship with those whom we love: 1 Sam. xviii. 1, ‘Jonathan’s soul was knit to the soul of David, and he loved him as his own soul;’ and the apostle biddeth all Christians to be ‘knit together in brotherly love,’ Col. ii. 2; without this they are as a besom unbound, they fall all to pieces.
[5.] Though there must be a friendship to all, yet some are to be chosen for our intimacy. Our Lord Christ had Peter, James, and John, Mat. xvii. 1; Mat. xxvi. 37, ‘He took with him Peter, and the two sons of Zebedee.’ When he raised Jairus’ daughter, ‘he suffered none to go in but Peter, James, and John,’ Luke viii. 51, ἐκλέκτων ἐκλεκτότεροι. This may be because of suitableness, or special inclination, or their excellency of grace, sicut se habet simpliciter ad simpliciter, ita magis ad magis.
[6.] Our converse with these must be improved to the use of edifying, to do one another good by reproof, advice, counsel: Lev. xix. 17, ‘Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart; thou shalt in anywise reprove him, and not suffer sin to be upon him.’ This is kindness to his soul: Rom. i. 11, ‘I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end you may be established.’183
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