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SERMON LXXXII.

They that fear thee will be glad when they see me; because I have hoped in thy word.—Ver. 74.

THIS verse containeth two things:—

1. The respect of the faithful to David, they that fear thee will be glad when they see me.

2. The reason of this respect, because I have hoped in thy word.

First, The respect of God’s faithful servants to David, and there take notice of the character by which God’s servants are described, ‘They that fear thee;’ then their respect to David, they ‘will be glad when they see me;’ which may bear a double sense.

1. How comfortable it is for the heirs of promise to see one another, or meet together! Aspectus boni viri delectat—the very look of a good man is delightful; it is a pleasure to converse with those that are careful to please God, and awe-ful to offend him.

2. How much affected they are with one another’s mercies: ‘They will be glad to see me,’ who have obtained an event answerable to my hope; they shall come and look upon me as a monument and spectacle of the mercy and truth of God. This sense I prefer, though not excluding the other. But what mercy had he received? The context seemeth to carry it for grace to obey God’s commandments; that was the prayer immediately preceding, to be ‘instructed and taught in God’s law,’ ver. 73. Now they will rejoice to see my holy behaviour, how I have profited and glorified God in that behalf. The Hebrew writers render the reason, Because then I shall be able to instruct them in those statutes, when they shall see me, their king, study the law of God. It may be expounded of any other blessing or benefit God hath given according to his hope; and I rather understand it thus: they will be glad to see him sustained, supported, and borne out in his troubles and sufferings; they will be glad when they shall see in me a notable example of the fruit of hoping in thy grace, and this hope leaveth not ashamed.

Secondly, The reason is, ‘Because I hoped in thy word:’ and there compare this with the first clause. God’s children are described to be those that fear God, and David is described to be one that hopes in his word. Both together make up a good character and description of the Lord’s people; they are such as fear God and hope in his word. They are elsewhere coupled: Ps. xxxiii. 18, ‘Behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, that hope in his mercy:’ and Ps. cxlvii. 11, ‘The Lord takes pleasure in them that fear him, that hope in his mercy.’ A sincere Christian is known by both these; a fear of God, or a constant obedience to his commands, and an affiance, trust, and dependence upon his mercies. Oh, how sweetly are both these coupled; a uniform sincere obedience to him, and an unshaken constant reliance on his mercy and goodness! The whole perfection of the Christian life is comprised in these two—believing God and fearing him, trusting in his mercy and fearing his name; the one maketh us careful in avoiding sin, the other diligent to follow after righteousness; 281the one is a bridle from sin and temptations, the other a spur to our duties. Fear is our curb, and hope our motive and encouragement; the one respects our duty, the other our comfort; the one allayeth the other. God is so to be feared, as also to be trusted; so to be trusted, as also to be feared. And as we must not suffer our fear to degenerate into legal bondage, but hope in his mercy; so our trust must not degenerate into carnal sloth and wantonness, but so hope in his word as to fear his name. Well, then, such as both believe in God and fear to offend him are the only men who are acceptable to God and his people. God will take pleasure in them, and they take pleasure in one another: ‘They that fear thee will be glad when they see me.’ The first part of the character, ‘They that fear thee:’ the fear of God is an excellent grace, a strong bridle to hold the soul from sin; not that servile, but filial and child-like fear, that is afraid to sin against God or break his laws: Prov. xxviii. 14, ‘Blessed is the man that feareth always;’ this grace should always bear rule in our hearts: 1 Peter i. 17, ‘Pass the time of your sojourning in fear:’ our whole course must be carried on under the conduct of this grace. Look, as the fear of man is a bridle upon the beasts to keep them from hurting man, Gen. ix. 2, ‘The fear and dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth:’ so when the fear of God is rooted in our hearts, we are kept from disobeying and dishonouring God. Joseph is an instance of the power of this holy fear: Gen. xxxix. 9, ‘How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?’ Secondly, the other character, ‘I hope in thy word:’ a Christian liveth by faith, whereas the brutish worldling liveth by sense; the one liveth by bread only, the other by the word of God; the one is a higher sort of beast, the other is a kind of earthly angel, for he liveth with God, and dwelleth with God, and expecteth all out of God’s hands: Ps. cxxx. 5, ‘I wait for the Lord, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope:’ there is his charter and inheritance, and his solace and support; he fetcheth all from the word. Both these graces, as they are very acceptable unto God, so are they most lovely and beautiful to behold by men; to be among the company of them that fear God, and hope in his word, is the most pleasant thing to a gracious heart that car* be; for while others are taken up about toys and trifles, they are taken up about the only serious matters. If Balaam was constrained to say of God’s people, ‘How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel!’ oh, how pleasant is it much more to the people of God, to see one another, to come among them that fear God, and are loath to offend him, and also that hope in his word! They can speak of the life of faith, and blessedness to come, and take off the veil of the creature, and are mainly taken up with another world; their business is not to offend God here, and hope fully to enjoy him hereafter: Rom. i. 12, ‘Comforted by the mutual faith both of you and me.’

Doct. That God’s mercies bestowed upon some of his children should be and are an occasion of joy and comfort to all the rest. When David was a pattern of God’s gracious help and deliverance, he saith, ‘They that fear thee will be glad when they see me.’ I shall give you some scriptures: Ps. cxlii. 7, ‘The righteous shall compass me about, for thou shalt deal bountifully with me.’ When any one of 282God’s children are delivered, all the rest flock about him, to assist and join in thanksgiving, and to help one another to praise the Lord. So Ps. xxxiv. 2, ‘My soul shall make her boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear thereof and be glad:’ that God had preserved and reserved David still. So Ps. lxiv. 10, ‘The righteous shall be glad in the Lord and trust in him, and the upright in heart shall glory:’ that is, when David was delivered, when God had showed mercy to him, then all the upright would come, and make their own profit and advantage by such an experience and deliverance.

The reasons of the point.

1. They are all members of one body, they are all called into one body, and the good and evil of one member is common to the whole. This reason is rendered by the apostle: 1 Cor. xii. 25, 26, ‘But that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the rest rejoice with it;’ ver. 27, ‘Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.’ The meaning of that place is, that the church altogether is the body of Christ, and every several person a member, and every member should be as solicitous for one another as for itself; they have the same common interests and concernments, whether of suffering or rejoicing. You know in the natural body, when the toe is trode on, the tongue crieth out, You have hurt me. We are concerned in the good or ill of our fellow-members; their joy is joy to us, and their sorrow sorrow to us: to this sense some expound that place, Heb. xiii. 3, ‘Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them, and them that suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.’ Some understand it of Christ’s mystical body; when they suffer, our souls are bound with them. But I think it bears another sense there: to be ‘in the body’ is to be in the flesh, during which state we are liable to many vexations and miseries; and therefore, if God doth so order it that the whole body, or all the members of the church, should not be afflicted at one time, but whilst some are afflicted others are free, and when we are not involved by passion there may be compassion. While we are in the body we are obnoxious to the same adversities, and should pity and comfort them as ourselves, and use all means to do 4hem good; but if it be not the truth of the place, yet it is a truth, the more any partake of the spiritual life the stronger is spiritual sympathy: they ‘rejoice with them that rejoice, and mourn with them that mourn,’ Rom. xii. 15; are bound with them that are in bonds, and enlarged with them that are enlarged. One part of us is in bonds when they are in bonds, one part of us is enlarged when they are enlarged; still we should have common interests and affections with our brethren; and for those that fear God to be selfish and senseless of the condition of others, it is a kind of self-excommunication, or an implicit renouncing the body: because we are in the body, we should be affected as they are. Look, as there was the same spirit in Ezekiel’s vision in the living creatures and the wheels, 1 say the same spirit was in both; when one moved the other moved: so there is the same spirit in Christ’s mystical body. We should be affected as they are; it is a kind of depriving ourselves of the privileges of the mystical body if we are not.

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2. It is for the honour and glory of God; God hath most glory when praised by many. Therefore they flock together, 2 Cor. i. 11, ‘That for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many in our behalf.’ God loveth to have us act with joint consent both in prayer and praise, because he would interest us in one another’s mercies and comforts, and so knit our hearts together in more holy love. Prayers made by many are mighty with God—when we come to God with many supplicants, make up a great party to besiege heaven: so praises rendered by many are the more honourable to God, and acceptable with him: 2 Cor. iv. 15, ‘That the abundant grace might, through the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God.’ When many are engaged, and many are affected with it, God’s glory is the more diffused, the revenue of the crown of heaven increased. One string maketh no music; when there are many, and all in tune, there is harmony. There are three things in it—many righteous persons, and joining together with one spirit in the same work, then the Lord hath more honour than he could have in a single person. In heaven God is praised in concert; we are brought all together, that we may make one body and congregation to laud, and praise, and serve God for evermore: so here, they that fear God and hope in his mercy, they often flock together to congratulate and join in thanksgiving for the mercies which any one of them hath received. When Christ was born there was a whole concert of angels: Luke ii. 13, ‘A multitude of the heavenly host praising God, saying, Glory to God on high, on earth peace, good-will towards men.’ It is a kind of heaven upon earth when all the people of God are led by one spirit to praise and glorify God: a closet prayer or thanksgiving is not so honourable as that of the congregation.

3. It is for the profit and comfort of all; partly because by this means they come to understand one another’s experiences for their mutual support and edification. What God is to one that feareth him, he is to all that fear him sincerely, affected to them all; therefore the goodness of God to one believer bringeth joy and comfort to all the rest. They are spectacles and monuments of mercy for the saints to look upon, that they may learn thereby to depend upon God. Look, as in converting Paul, a persecutor, the apostle saith, 1 Tim. i. 16, ‘Christ did show forth all long-suffering in me, for a pattern to them that should after believe on him,’ in pardoning so great a sinner, in saving such a distressed soul, to invite others to Christ; so in all other cases, when God delivereth one, he inviteth others to the same hope; they are precedents of mercy to the rest, as David implieth here they would be encouraged by his example cheerfully to expect the same deliverance from God. In the example of one sufferer there is a pawn given to all the rest; it is for the edification and encouragement of others to be acquainted with our experiences of God’s mercy to us: Ps. lxvi. 16, ‘Come near, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what he hath done for my soul;’ all are concerned, for they have the same necessities, have interest in the same God, the same promises, the same mediator, and the same covenant; so that to be acquainted with the passages of divine providence towards others is a great help to teach us more of God, that we may learn to magnify 284his power. And partly by this means their hearts are more knit to one another in spiritual love; when they pray for one another as for their own souls, and rejoice as in their own deliverance, it maintaineth unity among us. God loveth to pleasure many of his children at once, and to interest them in the same mercy; and so we receive the mercy others intercede for, and give thanks for it. Love in the spirit is seen in praying and praising God for one another. And partly, too, because it doth oblige us to more frequent acts of worship; we can never want an errand to the throne of grace, or an opportunity of worship for ourselves or others, to pray with them, or to offer praise with them and for them.

4. Joy is communicative; mourning apart is good: Peter ‘went out and wept bitterly,’ Mat. xxvi. 75. And Jeremiah saith, when he would weep for the people, Jer. xiii. 17, ‘My soul shall weep in secret places for your pride;’ and Zech. xii. 12, 13, ‘They shall mourn every family apart, the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart,’ &c. Sorrow affecteth solitude and retiredness, where no eye seeth but God’s; but joy doth best in company and in consort, as the Woman called her neighbours to rejoice with her, Luke xv., because she bad found the lost groat. So we must stir up one another to rejoice in God. Besides, mercies may be told to many, but not our griefs; therefore the godly will be flocking together to help them in praises as well as prayers. It is not only commendable to beg their help in prayer, but we should call upon them to praise God with us: Ps. xxxiv. 3, ‘O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.’ We are bound to be witnesses of one another’s thankfulness, and to assist one another in the praises of God.

Use. Information of five things:—

1. It showeth us the lawfulness, yea, the conveniency, yea, in some sort, the necessity, of public thanksgiving for private mercies. It is lawful; we read of paying vows in the great congregation, Ps. xxii. 22, xl. 9. It is highly convenient and useful, partly that the people of God may flock together, and make a crown of praise for God: Ps. xxii. 3, ‘He inhabiteth the praises of Israel;’ he delighteth to be in the midst of his people when they praise him. And partly that by the thankfulness of others we may be quickened to remember our own mercies, as one bird sets all the flock a-chirping. And partly that we may quicken others by our help; and partly to show a Christ-like love to them, by being affected with their miseries, and rejoicing in their mercies. Well, these things should quicken us to join with others in their thanksgiving for their private mercies, so to raise a spiritual affection in us in the performance of those duties. And as it is lawful, so it is necessary; other men’s mercies may be our mercies as well as theirs; you are concerned in the mercy if you have prayed for it. We are to love God for hearing our prayers for others as well as ourselves. Eli gave thanks and solemnly worshipped God for Hannah’s sake, because he had before prayed for her, and therefore praised God for her, who had heard his prayers in her behalf: compare 1 Sam. i. 28. When Hannah told him what the Lord had done, Eli falls a worshipping the Lord; he had prayed for her before in ver. 7, ‘The Lord grant thee thy petition which thou askest of him.’ 285Every answer of prayer is a new proof or fresh experience of God’s love and special respect to us; it is a sign that God regardeth us and is mindful of us, nay, it is a sign of God’s favour, when he will not only hear us for ourselves, but for others also. If a man come to a king, he will say, If you had asked for yourself I would have granted you; it is a special honour to intercede for others, which God putteth upon his choice servants: Gen. xx. 7, ‘Abraham shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live;’ Job xlii. 8, ‘My servant Job shall pray for you, and him will I accept.’ God will hear his servants for others when he will not hear them for themselves. If our prayers had returned into our own bosoms, as David’s for his enemies, Ps. xxxv. 13; if God as an answer had given you only the comfort of the discharge of your duty: Luke x. 6, ‘If they be not worthy, your peace shall return to you again:’ this were matter of praise, much more now the mercy is obtained. All this is spoken to show that there should be more life and spiritual affection in those duties which we perform in the behalf of others.

2. It informeth us of the excellency of communion of saints; there is such a fellowship and communion between all the members of Christ’s mystical body, that they mourn together, and rejoice together; the grace vouchsafed to one is cause of rejoicing to all the rest; they drive on a joint trade for heaven, and rejoice in one another’s comforts as if they were their own, in one another’s gifts and graces as if they were their own, in one another’s supports and deliverances as if they were their own. We read of joy in heaven at the conversion of sinners; they rejoice at our welfare, praising and lauding God; so there is also joy on earth when any spiritual benefit is imparted; if any be gotten to a godlike nature, they give thanks to God: ‘They that fear thee will be glad when they see me;’ Acts iv. 32, ‘The multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul;’ there was a great multitude, many thousand souls. Here was the primitive simplicity, the Christians were so united as if they had but one heart and soul among them; and it was a usual saying, Aspice ut se mutuo diligunt Christiani—see how the Christians love one another. It was otherwise afterwards; no wild beasts are so fierce to one another as one Christian has been to another. Surely it concerneth all that fear God and hope in his word to be of one heart and of one mind as much as may be. Lesser differences should not make void this Christ-like love. The bonds of Christ’s communion are the essentials of religion, if they fear God and hope in his word. Though Christians may be distinguished by several denominations, yet an angry brother cannot cast us out of our Father’s family. We set up walls of partition between Christian and Christian, but God will not measure his fold by our enclosure: Lingua Petiliani non est ventilabrum Christi—it is well Petilian’s tongue is not Christ’s fan. Surely when we meet with our ever lasting companions they should be dear to us, and for some private differences we should not omit the necessary duties of Christianity. This mutual and cordial respect we should have for one another.

3. It informs us of the mischief and evil of a private spirit, which doth not take notice of the favours of God done to others, nor is affected with others’ mercies. Most men ‘seek their own things,’ 286Phil. ii. 21. Nature is sensible of nothing but natural bonds, the lines of its communication are too narrow, either their own flesh, the smart and ease of their own bodies, or their own kindred. Now, the saints have a more diffusive love, they can strive with God earnestly in prayer for those whose face they never saw in the flesh, Col. ii., and can be thankful for their mercies as far as they come to their notice. All Christians are not only of the same kind, but of the same body; though they have not a private benefit by the mercy, yet they can heartily praise God for it; the angels praise God for us, Luke ii., for his good-will to men, they are only spectators, not the parties interested. When the Lord set afoot that blessed design, it was good will to men, yet the multitude of the heavenly host rejoiced and praised God. We had both honour and benefit by Christ’s incarnation. So to praise God for the good of others argueth a good spirit like the angels, but to envy the good of another and be grieved thereat is devilish, like the spirit of the devil. In heaven we shall not only rejoice in our own, but in one another’s salvation, because there shall be no envy, no privateness of affection. Why are we so selfish and senseless now? ‘Who is afflicted and I mourn not?’ said Paul. Now to those that mourned for others’ calamity, their deliverance is a kind of relief. Will you lose your evidence of being in the body for want of rejoicing in their mercies, gifts, and deliverances?

4. It informeth us—(1.) How much it concerneth us to preserve an interest in the hearts of God’s people, and to behave ourselves so that they that fear God may be glad of our mercies, and bless God for them. The communion of saints is a sweet thing; we must not forfeit this privilege by our inordinate walking, pride, contention, sourness and bitterness of spirit, unusefulness to the church, as having an interest divided from the church. Those whose mercies are apprehended as a public benefit are the strictly conscientious, those that fear God and hope in his word, who labour to keep themselves from the snares of the present world, and look for the happiness of the world to come; the one is the fruit of fearing God, the other of hoping in his word—the tender conscience and the heavenly-minded Christian. Partly because they are our everlasting companions; we shall live for ever with them: they were chosen from all eternity to be heirs of the same grace together with us; therefore it is sweet to praise God for any good that befalleth them: Ps. lxvi. 16, ‘Come near, all ye that fear God, and I will tell you what he hath done for my soul;’ Ps. xxii. 22, ‘I will declare thy name unto my brethren.’ But when a man walketh questionably, he obscureth the life of God in himself, or, like a string that is out of tune, spoileth the harmony. The saints may mourn for the wicked, but they cannot so easily bring their hearts to rejoice with them; they may give thanks for their mercies, it is true, 1 Tim. ii. 1, 2, but not with that cheerfulness, with that sense. The conscience of our duty engageth us to bless God that he hath spared them, reprieved them a little longer, given them more time to repent, and correct their errors; but it is very sweet to join with them who are our brethren and companions, not only now, but to all eternity. And partly because our mercies proceed from the covenant, upon which is built all our hope and all our desire, and so 287we are edified by the support and help which God affordeth to them that fear him and hope in his word; thereby we see that they that wait long wait not in vain on the word of God’s promise, and so learn to wait with patience ourselves, because those who depended on his promised assistance are then answered and supported; yea, it is a ground of hope to all that so many will be gratified by the deliverance of one, when we so work for the deliverance of one that at length both he and others will have cause to be glad. (2.) Another thing is, it doth encourage others’ prayers and praises for us, when we are useful and profitable, and bring in that supply to the body which may be justly expected from us according to the measure of that part which we sustain in the body. Look, as in the natural body the blood and the life passeth to and fro, there is a giving and receiving between all the members that live in the communion of it, so mutual obligations pass between the children of God. Many are interested in their mercies that are of use in the church: Rom. v. 7, ‘For a good man some would even dare to die,’ such as David or Paul; yet this is no discouragement to the meanest or weakest, for they have their honour and use: ‘When ye fail they shall receive you,’ Luke xvi. 9; they have their ministry and service: ‘Now the head cannot say to the foot, I have no need of thee,’ 1 Cor. xii. 21. (3.) The humble and the meek, for the proud procure their own just dislike and disappointment. Solomon telleth us, ‘Only by pride cometh contention,’ Prov. xiii. 10. Pride is the great impediment and let to all Christian offices. We cannot so heartily pray for one another, nor praise God for one another, when pride and contention prevaileth. We should overcome this stomach and spleen: ‘Bless them that curse you;’ as David fasted for his enemies when they sought his life, Ps. xxxv. 12. You should not lay this stumbling-block in the way of their duty; it is a great discouragement.

5. It informeth us how comfortable and how pleasant the converse and conference of godly persons is, and how much it excelleth the merriest meetings of the carnal. The special love which the godly have to one another doth exceedingly sweeten their converse, for the very presence of those we most dearly love is a pleasure to us to see, but much more their holy conference. When Christians meet together and find their own persuasions of the love, power, mercy and wisdom of God backed with the experience and testimony of others, it is a mutual strength and support to us; and therefore the apostle saith, Rom i. 12, ‘That I may be comforted together with you, by the mutual faith of you and me.’ When we converse with them that can speak, not by hearsay only, but by experience, of the power of the blood of Christ in purifying their consciences, and his Spirit to sanctify their hearts, it is a mighty prop: 2 Cor. i. 4, ‘And that we may comfort others with the comforts where with we are comforted of God.’ Report of a report is a cold thing, not valued, but a report of what we witness and experience ourselves comes warmly upon our hearts. Nay, many times it may fall out that people of less knowledge, but more feeling and experience, may abundantly confirm the more knowing, and excite them to a greater mindfulness of God and heavenly things. But alas! the meetings of carnal per sons, what are they to this? It may be they will fill your ears with stories 288of hawking and hunting, the best wine and delicious meats, of honours and purchases in the world, all which tend but to increase the gust of the flesh, and the carnal savour which is baneful to us; or else with idle stories, the clatter of vanity, which are impertinent to our great end; or else about the world, thriving in the world: nothing about those high and excellent and necessary things of the grace of God in Christ, and the truth of the promises, and the glory of the world to come: Ps. xxxvii. 30, 31, ‘The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgment: the law of God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide:’ and ‘The mouth of the righteous is as choice silver;’ they have a sense of better things. But alas! from others you hear nothing but unsavoury vanity, which is as different from the discourse of the children of God as the melody of a bird from the grunting of a hog or swine.

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