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The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law.—Ver. 85.
THIS verse containeth a complaint against his enemies, whereas most of the other verses express his affection to the law of God. Yea, this verse strongly implieth it; for he censureth and condemneth his enemies mainly upon this ground, because they did what they pleased, without any regard to that law which he himself took to be the rule of his duty, and the charter of his hopes and happiness. Observe three things:—
1. The character of David’s enemies, the proud.
2. Their practice, or subtle and treacherous dealing with him, they have digged pits for me.
3. David’s censure of that practice, or their manifest iniquity, which are not after thy law.
Let us explain the words.
The proud.—In the scripture it signifieth—(1.) Either the wicked in general: Ps. cxix. 21, ‘Thou hast rebuked the proud which are cursed, which do err from thy commandments.’ It is a horrible arrogancy to oppose God’s laws and interests in the world. (2.) More particularly such as are puffed up with worldly happiness and success, and so either Saul’s or Absalom’s counsellors may be intended.
Have digged pits for me.—A metaphorical phrase, usual in scripture, to represent the secret plots and treacherous dealings of wicked enemies; an allusion to them who dig pits to take wild beasts. In the Greek it is, ‘They have told me tales.’ Though this rendering was occasioned by a mistake of the word, yet it agreeth well enough with the sense, for this digging of pits by false pretences and ensnaring counsels: Prov. xvi. 27, ‘An ungodly man diggeth up evil, and in his lips there is as a burning fire.’ But let us keep to the translation we have. The manner of toils among the Jews was digging pits, and covering them over, and hiding snares in them, that as the beast pressed the clod, and fell therein, he might be caught, and kept from getting out again. Therefore David saith, Ps. xxxv. 7, ‘Without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul.’
Which are not offer thy law.—Heb., ‘Not after thy law.’ It may refer to the men or the practice; who walk not according to thy law, or which fraudulent practices of theirs are not agreeable to thy law. The law of God condemned pits for tame beasts: Exod. xxi. 33, 34, ‘If a man open a pit, or dig a pit, and not cover it, and an ox or ass fall therein, the owner of the pit shall make it good, and give money to the owners of them.’ Though it was lawful for hunters to take wild beasts, yet they were to take heed that a tame beast fell not therein, at their peril. Yet not for men innocent, and holy men. But there is a litotes in the words. That is said not to be good or well done which is extremely evil, very contrary to thy law. Thus we are wont 382to speak of a tiling horrid in terms of extenuation; as when we speak of a fact, It is not very commendable, when we mean it is extremely abominable. So crafty and subtle dealing consenteth not with the truth of God’s word; that is, it is extremely opposite to it. This is produced by David as a ground of his confidence, why he hoped he should not be taken in these pits. These practices were not only injurious to himself, but contemptuous of the law of God. He layeth forth his enemies’ carriage before God. Note—
1. That secret plottings against the interests of God and his people in the world are an ancient practice.
2. That these plots usually begin in pride.
3. That God can, when he will, and usually doth, protect his people against the plots of the proud, or the fraud as well as the violence of enemies.
4. That God’s law forbiddeth all mischievous, ungodly, treacherous designs, attempts, and actions.
5. That the innocent should not be much troubled to be maligned and hated by them who contemn God’s laws, as well as oppose his people.
I shall gloss on these points, and then close all with application.
First point. That secret plottings against the interest of God and his people are an ancient practice.
David here complaineth that the proud had digged pits for him; and Ps. xxxvii. 12, ‘The wicked plotteth against the just;’ yea, ver. 7, it is a description of a wicked man, ‘The man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.’ It is so known a practice that it is gotten into their name and style. A wicked man’s brain is a forge that is always hot. So Ps. vii. 14, ‘Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood.’ Wicked men conceive, and then travail, but usually the birth proveth abortive. To represent the truth to you, I shall give you a draught of some of the designs of wicked men:—(1.) For the suppressing of God’s interest and people in the world. (2.) Private persons.
For the first, you cannot imagine that I should unravel all the secrets of the kingdom of darkness, and break open the devil’s cabinet. I shall only point at some few plots and contrivances for the ruin of God’s interest in the world.
First, Plots to foment and promote divisions, either between them and themselves, them and their rulers, or them and God himself.
1. Them and themselves. Ever since God had a people in the world, the devil and his instruments have sought to divide them, that they may first ruin one another, and then become a prey to their common adversaries. Nothing hath hindered the growth of Christianity so much as the spirit of division. Πολλοὺς χριστιανίζειν ἀπέτραπεν (Sozomen). And Chrysostom’s ἦλθεν ἔθνικος τὶς, in his homilies upon the Acts: there came a certain ethnic to him, and told him, I would fain be a Christian, but there are so many parties among you that I know not to whom I should join myself. And Christ’s prayer intimates, John xvii. 21, ‘That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me,’ &c. The world are apt to look upon Christ as an imposter, and his religion as a fond superstition, when they see his people so 383divided and scattered one from another. Divisions in the church breed atheism in the world. Now Satan and wicked men have endeavoured all they can to keep up these divisions and hatred among Christians. This was Julian the apostate’s design. When he had a mind to suppress Christianity, he did not openly persecute it, but took the worst sort of Christians and upheld them, that they might still maintain a quarrel between them and others. In Germany the Jesuits go over to the Lutherans to keep up the difference; they blow the coals, and then warm themselves by the flame. And among us the envious man hath sown tares: ‘Is not the hand of Joab in all this?’ By what spirit are the Quakers and others acted, and why are these things kept up, but to render Christianity odious? Sanballat and Tobias set up a party among the Jews to hinder the work of their restoration, Ezra iv. 4, that they might foment division among them, and so hinder the growth of the people’s prosperity, for they had now the countenance of the king of Babylon, and by this means they thought to do so.
2. To divide between them and their rulers. The devil knoweth what an advantage it is to religion to have the countenance of princes, and, on the other side, how jealous they are of their authority and prerogative; and therefore by his instruments seeketh to prejudice and prepossess them against it, and those that profess it in strictness and power. Thus ‘Amaziah the priest of Bethel sent to Jeroboam king of Israel, saying, Amos hath conspired against thee in the midst of the house of Israel: the land is not able to bear all his words,’ Amos vii. 10. He chargeth him with treason and open rebellion, that he withdrew subjects from their duty, and excited the people against his authority, and this by clancular insinuation, when Amos was not called or heard. Thus they pretend great friendship to authority, to sharpen the rage of princes against God’s servants. So Ezra iv. 12, ‘Be it known unto the king that the Jews which came up from thee to us are come unto Jerusalem, building the rebellious and the bad city,’ &c. So Saul against David, as appears by his expostulation with him about it: 1 Sam. xxiv. 9, ‘Wherefore nearest thou men’s words, saying, Behold, David seeketh thy hurt?’ So Haman against the Jews: Esther iii. 8, ‘Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad, and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom, and their laws are diverse from all people, neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them.’ So in primitive times; thus did they take the Christians, who were most innocent, though they were more numerous; yet still they were faithful to their prince: Bibamus pro salute imperatoris; they would rather endure to die than venture upon it, for they did apprehend it as a heathen sacrifice. Thus whisperers make princes conceive an ill opinion of religious men.
3. To divide between them and God. The devil turneth every stone. Would you ever think malice should rise so high as to disengage God from the protection of his people, and to disaffect him against them? How can it be? Have Satan and his instruments a plot upon God himself? What else should be the meaning of all his temptations? But see Balaam’s plot, Micah. vi. 5, ‘O my people, 384 remember what Balak the king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered from Shittim unto Gilgal,’ &c. Balak and Balaam are framing a project how to overcome the Israelites, and that can never be as long as God is with them; and how shall they do to get away God from them? Jehovah was not as a heathen god, to be called out by sacrifices and enchantments, as they had their charms and rites among the heathens to call out their tutelar gods from among the nations against whom they came to fight. Macrobius hath a chapter, De Ritu evocandi Deos. They were now to deal with the God of Israel, who would not be moved with such deceits and blandishments; therefore they will have a plot to disengage him from his people. It is insinuated, Num. xxiv. 14, ‘Come now, and I will advertise thee what thou shalt do.’ Moses doth not express the counsel given, because it was whispered secretly into Balak’s ear; therefore you see the sense is imperfect in that place, and indeed there is a pause in the Hebrew, to show that something must be supplied. But what the plot was may be known by the effect, in the 25th of Numbers, and is in brief set forth, Rev. ii. 14, where it is said of Balaam, that ‘he caused Balak to lay a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.’ This was the plot, to send some beautiful women of Midian to wander about the camp of Israel, to tempt their lusty youth and martial men first to uncleanness and then to idolatry, that so God might be provoked against them—a plot so full of refined malice, that it can hardly be paralleled. Thus the devil and his instruments play their part sufficiently, to divide God’s people, to prejudice their rulers, yea, to disaffect God himself.
Secondly, Plots to discourage and suppress religion. So there are many ways which wicked men take. Who can name them all? I shall only instance in two policies of Julian the apostate, the most refined instrument the devil used either for wit or malice; two ways especially did he seek to undermine religion.
1. One was to forbid the use of schools to the Christians, and sup press human learning. To make a people irreligious, the way is to make them ignorant; discourage learning, and piety will not be long in fashion, not able long to maintain itself: in the dark men will adore any fancy. This was like Nahash his condition to Jabesh Gilead, ‘Put out their right eye.’ God’s two famous instruments who wrote most both of the Old and New Testament, Paul and Moses, were both excellently skilled in secular learning.
2. Another was to put none to death for religion, but to oppress them with all manner of vexations and discouragements. To put them to death he apprehended to be glorious; but sometimes banished them towns. As Athanasius99 Qu. ‘Antoninus’?—ED. deprived them of all offices civil and military, wasted them with burdensome levies and exactions: Let us make them poor, saith he scoffingly, for it is a hard matter for the rich to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The devil doth his work more cleverly and handsomely when Christians are not called out to the fire and gibbet, but are wasted by lingering inconveniences and loss of privileges.385
Thirdly, Plots to introduce persecution.
1. Defamation. Infamy is the forerunner of more trouble, and the showers of slander are but presages of grievous storms of persecution. The devil is first a liar and then a murderer, John viii. 44. When the children of God are represented as criminal, they are more easily destroyed. It was a fashion in the primitive persecutions to invest Christians with a bear’s skin, and then to bait them as bears. And it is a usual practice of Satan and his instruments to blast the repute of religious persons, to clothe them with the livery of reproach, and then prosecute them as offenders: Ps. v. 9, ‘Their throat is an open sepulchre.’ The slanders of the wicked are preparatives to death, as the sepulchre when opened is prepared to receive the dead carcase. Men first slander and then molest The devil is afraid to meddle with unstained innocency. A good report is a great security against open violence.
2. To destroy the church, under the pretence of the church; as the beast in the Revelations pushed with the horns of the lamb, Rev. xiii. 11. It was a proverb, All evil began in the name of the Lord—In nomine Domini incipit omne malum. And it hath been a false pretended zeal for the church that hath of later years raised and fomented all or most of the persecutions of Christians.
3. To destroy Christians upon the pretence of civil quarrels and laws, and to disguise hatred against religion under a pretence of public peace; kill you, as well as cast you out of the synagogue. Dan. vi. 4, the Persian noblemen ‘sought to find occasion against Daniel because of the kingdom, though they found none.’
4. To make way for errors and falsehoods; so many pits do the wicked dig to beguile unwary and unstable souls, sometimes by more than ordinary pretences of love, meekness, and sweetness. ‘They come to you in sheep’s clothing,’ saith our Lord, ‘but inwardly are ravening wolves,’ Mat. vii. 15. Sheep’s clothing, that is, all for love and kindness, and so steal away the hearts of the people, as Absalom by his submission and servile flattery. And then by debasing, opposing, and crying down a faithful ministry. Demosthenes’ fable of the wolves agreeing with the sheep in lusu1010 Qu. ‘in case they’?—ED. would send away their dogs. Now thus they do by questioning their calling, as the false teachers did Paul’s; and we have been so long unministering one another, that all ministry is hated in the hearts of many an anti-ministerial spirit. Sometimes by decrying maintenance. The lamp is starved when not supplied with oil. Some, to gain credit and entrance, and to disgrace Paul and the true evangelic ministers, whose poverty needed a supply, will take no maintenance; therefore Paul saith, 2 Cor. xi. 12, ‘That wherein they glory we might be as they;’ but there is no end of raking in this puddle.
Secondly, Private persons. Cain against Abel, drew him into the field, disputed with him about God and providence and the world to come, Gen. iv. The princes of Darius against Daniel, Dan. vi. The kingdom was but newly subdued by the Medes: this would try the affection of his subjects; no request to be made to God or man for thirty days. The Medes and Persians were wont to ascribe divine honours to their kings, as Brissonius proveth. The report of this reverence would 386be glorious. Religion was at stake; therefore Daniel would venture the lions’ den. Judas’s treason against Christ: Luke xxii. 3, ‘The devil entered into Judas.’ The Jews’ laying in wait for Paul: Acts xxiii. 12-14, ‘Certam Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, or oath of execration, that they would not eat or drink till they had killed Paul: and they were more than forty that had made this conspiracy.’ And this they would do with the consent of the chief priests, as he was coming to the Sanhedrim. A parallel in the fifth of November. So Jezebel’s plot against Naboth for his vineyard; makes use of God’s name and worship to bring it about, 1 Kings xxi. 8-10. But I must stop, being carried beyond my first intention: plotted mischiefs are an ancient practice.
Use of all. How much are we obliged to God’s providence, who doth not only defend us against open violence, but secret machinations f It is the Lord taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and disappointeth the counsels of wicked men against his people, Job v. 12. Many things are contrived against us in the dark that we know not and see not, but the eye of the Lord watcheth for us: Isa. viii. 10, ‘Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought: speak the word, and it shall not stand, for God is with us.’
Second point. That these plots usually begin in pride; for David saith here, ‘The proud have digged pits for me.’ Therefore it is pride that puts men upon designs of mischief and ruin to others. Pride showeth itself in the envy of superiors, contention with equals, or the disdain of inferiors.
1. Take pride as it venteth itself by envy at any excellency, or sup posed excellency, in others. Search the scriptures, and you will say this puts men upon plotting the mischief of their neighbours’ religious eminency. Man cannot endure to be outstripped in religion; therefore men malign and hate what they will not imitate, and then seek to destroy and undermine God’s people. It was Abel’s goodness that made Cain plot against him, to draw him into the field that he might kill him, 1 John iii. 12. The power of godliness is an eyesore to those that would look no further than the form of it. Or it may be the men of the world do envy the godly should thrive by them. This made the presidents lay a snare and gin for Daniel. When the gospel is likely to get credit, ‘the Jews, moved with envy,’ seek to suppress it, Acts xvii. 5. Pride is loath to stoop, or to see opposites in any honour and request. The Pharisees conspired to take Christ: John xii. 19, ‘Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? the whole world is gone after him.’ They were galled to the heart to see such flocking and resorting to Christ after he had raised Lazarus from the dead. Some men will neither serve Christ themselves, nor endure that others should do it, therefore Christ must be taken out of the way. The plots of Sanballat and Tobias were their envy at the Jews.
2. As pride venteth itself by contention with equals; for only ‘by pride cometh contention.’ Thus the Jews conspired to kill Paul; they looked upon him as one that had cried down the customs of their nation. This made Absalom plot the death of Amnon, because of the quarrel he had with him, and the dishonour he had done his sister: he bids him to dinner, and plieth him with cups till he is merry, and then killeth him, 2 Sam. xiii. 22.387
3. As it venteth itself by the disdain of underlings. Haman could not endure to see Mordecai in the king’s gate, Esther v. 13, and therefore contriveth how to root him out and all his nation. Pride disdaineth the meanness of God’s people, and that they should have any subsistence, and think they may oppress them freely, and root them out: Ps. cxxiii. 4, ‘We are filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.’ They scorn the people of God, and think they may do what they please with them without control.
Well, then, this informeth us how much we should look to things betimes. The wickedness of David’s enemies began in pride, went on in malicious plotting, and then they stick at no iniquity. When once we are engaged in a course of sin, there is usually no stop. Pride in some sense is the original of all wickedness, but more especially of malicious dealing with the people of God: Ps. x. 2, ‘The wicked, in the pride of his heart, doth persecute the poor.’ The godly many times are in a mean condition when their adversaries are in power, and can easily oppress them as underlings; but men forget the great God, who is their defender, and whose work and business it is to cast down the proud: James iv. 6, ἀντιτάσσεται, he standeth in battle array. And proud they are certainly who use their power to oppression, and care not what terms they put upon them.
Third point. That God can, when he will, and usually doth, protect his people against the plots of the proud; for therefore David bringeth the cause before God.
First, That God can, when he will, protect his people against the fraud and violence of their enemies. There are two grounds of trust—his wisdom, and the vigilancy of his providence.
1. His wisdom. As we have God’s power to trust in against their violence, so God’s wisdom against their frauds and deceits: Job xii. 13, ‘With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.’ Wisdom implieth his accurate knowledge of things; counsel, his advised government of them; wisdom, his disposing and ordering things aright with respect to their ends. He hath understanding to find out all secrets, counsel to know fit means to bring his purposes to pass, and wisdom to order the means for attaining these ends.
Observe there, first, how wisdom and strength are there coupled; as in that text, so elsewhere: Job ix. 4, ‘He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength.’ As he hath wisdom to judge, so power to execute or effect all his counsels. So Job xxxvi. 5, ‘Behold God is mighty in strength and wisdom.’ There is no standing out against supreme wisdom and invincible power; both together make God the most dreadful enemy and the most desirable friend.
Observe, again, how God’s wisdom is set forth by these three words, understanding, counsel, wisdom, to assure the hearts of the faithful that ‘the gates of hell shall not prevail against’ the church of God, Mat. xvi. 18. In the gates anciently was their strength, and there their magistrates and council sat. Now, they that believe that God is wise, of whom should they be afraid? Prov. xxi. 30, ‘There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the Lord.’ There may be wisdom, counsel, and understanding in the enemies of the gospel; 388and in the Lord there is wisdom and strength, counsel and understanding. Only against him there is the wisdom, counsel, and understanding of the creature; in him, of the creator. Surely the wisdom, counsel, and understanding of the creature can do nothing without him, nothing against him. Not without him, for it is dependent; whatever the creature hath it cometh from him; otherwise our understanding is but ignorance, our counsel rashness, our wisdom folly. Pharaoh thought to go wisely to work, Exod. i. 10; but that wisdom costs dear when it tends to suppress God’s interest. Ahab, when God threatened to cut off his posterity, begets seventy sons, bestowed them in fenced cities, 2 Kings x. 1; but those seventy sons were slain. Herod thought to go wisely to work, to destroy him that was born king of the Jews in the cradle; but Christ was preserved for all that. The synagogue of Satan is hatching crafty counsels to destroy the spouse of Christ, but with what effect? The man of sin is consumed more and more. We are afraid of our subtle enemies, but are we in such straits as God knoweth not how to bring us out? They cannot outwit the Lord. Whatever is plotted in Rome or hell against us, God knoweth it, for he hath understanding; God counter-worketh it, for he hath counsel; therefore they will but play the fool, for he hath wisdom. He heareth every word they say, knoweth their secret juggling, is at work for those that depend upon him; therefore let us rest in God’s wisdom, and not be disquieted with every rumour.
2. The care and vigilancy of his providence. It is emphatically expressed in two places: Heb. xiii. 5, 6, ‘He hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee; so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me;’ and Ps. cxxi. 4, ‘Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.’ In both there is a negative gradation. His eyelids try the children of men; the Lord waketh for us all.
Secondly, That usually he doth protect his people against the plots of the proud, and bringeth the mischief they intend to others upon their own heads: Job xv. 35, ‘They conceive mischief and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit.’ But to keep the notion of the text: Ps. vii. 15, ‘He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made;’ Ps. ix. 15, 16, ‘The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared by the work of his own hand: they are sunk down into the pit they digged; in the net which they hid is their own feet taken.’ So Ps. xxxv. 7, 8, ‘For without cause have they hid for me their net in a pit, which without cause they have digged for my soul. Let destruction come upon him at unawares, and let his net that he hath hid catch himself: into that very destruction let him fall;’ and Ps. x. 2, ‘Let them be taken in the device they have imagined;’ and Ps. lvii. 6, ‘They have prepared a net for my step; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, in the midst whereof they are fallen themselves.’ All these places show how usual it is that their devices do not succeed; yea, that the wicked cannot take a nearer course to ruin themselves than to seek the overthrow of God’s church and people. All their machinations turn to their own loss, and the mischief they design to others falls constantly on themselves. As a stone thrown up or an arrow shot 389up against heaven returneth upon the head of him that throweth it, their acts and attempts of hurting others are converted to their own ruin, and destruction seizeth upon them by that very means by which they thought to bring it upon other men. This God doth, partly as they are proud, as they despise God and his people: Ps. x. 4, ‘The wicked through the pride of his countenance will not seek after God; God is not in all his thoughts.’ They are so confident of all they design, that they will not so much as call upon God for a blessing: this is so firmly laid, that all things shall succeed. They will not seek after God through the pride of their countenance; or suppose they should pray, it is but as Balaam offering sacrifice to entice God to curse his own people. The Lord telleth us, Prov. xxi:27, ‘The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination: how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?’ Partly because of God’s care and respect to his people: ‘The poor committeth himself unto thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless,’ Ps. x. 14. He trusts his all with God, who is the patron of the innocent and oppressed.
Use 1. To direct us to carry the cause to God, as David in the text: Ps. lxxxiii. 2-4, ‘For lo, thine enemies make a tumult, and they that hate thee have lift up the head: they have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones: they have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.’ You must make the Lord the party still against the wicked. So Ps. xxxvii. 12, ‘The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth.’ The wicked plotteth; but do the just countermine him? No; the Lord interposeth; he laugheth at him. It is a mighty support to the soul to oppose his justice to their wickedness, his omnipotency to their power, his wisdom to their craft, his love to their enmity. They are in God’s hands, and cannot stir without him: as if one designed to poison me, but cannot do it without my father’s consent. Wicked men are full of their boasts, but their brags and threats are but as the brags of a man on the scaffold, who is ready to be executed. Their day is coming.
2. When God doth so it must be acknowledged with thankfulness and praise; yea, though an old mercy, Micah vi. 5. The godly are preserved though there be pits digged for them. Surely such experiences ought much to engage his people’s hearts to him, for it showeth how mindful he is of their safety and welfare. Blessed be God that yet we subsist, that their devices are disappointed, and their designs brought on them, what they had projected against others.
Fourth point. That God’s law forbiddeth all ungodly, treacherous designs, attempts, and actions.
As contrary to justice. To design mischief and treachery against the life of any is the guise of wicked men.
As contrary to sincerity and godly simplicity: 2 Cor. i. 12, ‘For our rejoicing is this, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-wards.’ Crafty and subtle dealings consenteth not with those that profess to direct their ways by the word of God.390
As contrary to charity and mercy, which we owe to all men. How God hath guarded the life of the innocent by his precepts, and what a base perverse spirit it is to dig pits for them.
Use. Here is some plea for religion. It is not feralis superstitio. Tantum religio potuit suadere malorum? It is not a false, unnatural, unkind superstition, when men, under pretence of it, commit such evils, digging pits, laying mines and barrels of gunpowder, that religion should persuade all this. The world thinks that religion is a sour superstition, that it makes men ill-natured. No; it is the peaceablest and meekest thing that can be. A false religion indeed efferates the mind, begets a bloody spirit: Jude 11, ‘Gone in the way of Cain;’ in the way of blood and murder. They that have either a false religion, or are false in the true religion, indeed they are ill-natured and possessed with a rough spirit, unfit for human society. The true religion, which God hath established in his law, is the meekest thing in all the world.
Fifth point. That the innocent should not be much troubled to be maligned and hated by them who contemn God’s laws. Why?
For their wickedness, fraudulency, and cruelty is a certain prognostic of their ruin. The more their sins are aggravated, their judgment cometh the sooner. God’s law is wronged, as well as our interest endangered.
It is a great ease to the conscience of the godly that they dig pits for us without a cause, Ps. xxxv. 7. The most godly and innocent may have pits digged for them. It encourageth us in our addresses to God, that we have no enemies but those who are enemies to God also and his ways; and the most wicked men are most violent against God’s people. Who was it first raged against the Christians but Nero? And what a beast was Nero! That must needs be some great good that was condemned by Nero, but it was an honour and credit to religion to have such an enemy as Nero: Ps. v. 10, ‘Let them fall by their own counsels; cast them out in the multitude of their transgressions, for they have rebelled against thee.’ It is some argument of confidence that their ruin is coming.
Use. What use shall God’s people make of the whole for themselves?
1. Never to engage in any design but what will suit with God’s word, and you may commend to God in prayer. Do not dig pits which are not after God’s law. Examine it according to rule. Never break a law for safety, nor for the best ends in the world dispense with your duty to God or man. It is horrible distrust of God’s promises to venture upon the breach of his precepts for our pretended safety. Take heed of doing anything or carrying any plot against God’s law, unless you would be like the enemies of the gospel.
2. Walk with greater simplicity, without that guile and double-dealing and serpentine wisdom that is so proper to wicked men. He that walketh uprightly walketh safely. Protection holds good for the road and not for byways, 2 Cor. i. 12. The proud are those that dig pits; the character of those that shall have pardon for their sins is this, ‘In whose spirit there is no guile.’ A guileful spirit ill suits with the gospel and the grace of God.
3. Take heed of carnal affections. Pride, envy, contempt of others, we know not how far these lusts may transport us, to what horrid, 391unnatural designs. When once the devil hath a man upon the hip, when engaged in an evil design, it is hard to stop; pride then digging pits, and then casting off God’s law; and then he never cares whether to please or displease, honour or dishonour God, is not troubled with such kind of thoughts.
4. Take heed how you engage against God’s people, or dig pits for them that fear the Lord. God’s interest usually goeth along with them: Isa. viii. 9, 10, ‘Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken to pieces: take counsel together, and it shall come to nought.’ As the captain’s servant said, ‘Take heed what ye do, for this man is a Roman.’ So these men are children of God, he is their patron and protector; God is interested in their protection; they are little ones, but they have a great God, Mat. xviii. 10. Therefore take heed of having any interest opposite to the strict people of God, for this is but to ruin yourselves.
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