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SERMON LXXXVI.

Let the proud be ashamed; for they dealt perversely with me without a cause: but I will meditate in thy precepts.—Ver. 78.

IN these words you have—(1.) David’s prayer; (2.) David’s resolution.

First, David’s prayer; and there take notice of—

1. The petition itself, let the proud be ashamed.

2. The reason, for they dealt perversely with me without a cause.

In the prayer he beggeth the repression of his enemies. There take notice of—

[1.] The notion by which they are described, the proud.

[2.] The event or effect of God’s providence desired concerning them, let them be ashamed.

The notion is considerable. The wicked, especially the persecutors of God’s people, are usually characterised by this term in this Psalm, ‘the proud,’ ver. 51, 69, 122; and will give us this note:—

Doct. That pride puts wicked men upon being troublesome and injurious to the people of God.

But why are the persecutors and the injurious called the proud?

Ans. 1. Because wicked men shake off the yoke of God, and will not be subject to their Maker, and therefore desist not from troubling his people: Exod. v. 2, ‘Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice, and let Israel go?’ What was in his tongue is in all men’s hearts; they contemn God and his laws. Every sin hath a degree of pride and depreciation of God included in it: 2 Sam. xii. 9, ‘Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight?’ There is a slighting of God’s authority, and a lifting up our will against the will of God.

Ans. 2. Because they are drunk with worldly felicity, and never think of changes: Ps. cxxiii. 4, ‘Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorning of those that are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.’ When men go on prosperously, they are apt wrongfully to trouble others, and then to shout at them in their misery, and to despise the person and cause of God’s people, which is a sure effect of great arrogancy and pride. They think they may do what they please; they have no changes; therefore they fear not God, and put forth their hands against such as be at peace with them, Ps. lv. 19, 20; whilst they go on prosperously and undisturbedly, they cannot abstain from violence and oppression. This is certainly pride, for it is a lifting up the heart above God and against God, and without God. And they do not consider his providence, who alternately lifts up and casts down, that adversity may not be without a cordial, nor prosperity without a curb and bridle. But when men sit fast, and are well at ease, they are apt to be insolent and scornful. Riches and worldly greatness make men insolent and despisers of others, and care not what burdens they impose upon them; they are intrenched within a mass of wealth and power and greatness, and so think none can call them to an account. Solomon speaketh of two sorts of people: Prov. xviii. 10, 11, ‘The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.’ Every man is as his trust is; for, as the Psalmist speaketh of idols in general, ‘They that trust in idols are like unto them,’ so it is true of spiritual idols. If a man trust in vain things, his heart groweth vain, proud, and insolent; promiseth him an uninterrupted course of felicity, from poor, perishing things, that come and go at God’s pleasure. If a man trust in God, then he is kept holy, humble, carried on with a noble and divine spirit, and findeth more safety than another that hath all the strength and power of the world to support and back him. The name of the Lord is a real refuge, but wealth and honour and worldly greatness is but an imaginary refuge. He that hath nothing but the name of the Lord to trust in, worldlings think he buildeth castles in the air; but the godly knoweth that worldlings indeed build castles in the air, while they look big, and think their greatness shall bear them out. Alas! wealth is but a wall and a strong tower in their own conceit; not really so; but this puffeth them up, and they are quite other men when they are at top than what they were when they were under.

Ans. 3. Because they affect a life of pomp and ease and carnal greatness, and so despise the affliction and meanness and simplicity of the people of God. The false church hath usually the advantage of worldly power and external glory, and the true church is known by the divine power, gifts, and graces, and the lustre of holiness: Ps. xlv. 13, ‘The king’s daughter is glorious within;’ is found out by faith, love, patience, sobriety, heavenly-mindedness, humility, purity, and the like, rather than by a splendid appearance; and holiness becomes God’s house, Ps. xciii. 5, rather than gold and silver and costly furniture. The false church vaunts itself in costly temples, officers richly endowed with temporal revenues, and a pompous attendance; and so the simplicity of the gospel is corrupted and turned into a worldly domination. As, for instance, the church of Rome boasts of her grandeur and magnificence, and upbraids the Reformed with their abject condition. Ministris eorum nihil vilius, saith Campian. They can tell of the pompous inauguration of their popes, their stately train of cardinals, lordly prelates; whereas the poor ministers of the gospel live hardly and precariously. Whereas, indeed, the glory of the true church doth not make a fair show in the flesh, is not external, corporeal, and visible, but internal, incorporeal, and invisible, Cant. i. 5; and like its head, Jesus Christ, who, to appearance, was humble, poor, and afflicted; but in him were hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; yea, the fulness of the godhead dwelt bodily. External splendour pleaseth the flesh, and is not a sign of virtue so much as pride, Luke xvi. 19. What shall become of the primitive church for the first three hundred years, if outward greatness be a mark of it? The world is with them, but the faith with us; they have pure gold, but we pure doctrine (Naz. Orat. Con. Aroc.) So Hilary against Auxentius, Unum moneo, cavete antichristum, male enim vos parietum amor cepit, male ecclesiam Dei in tectis artificiisque veneramini, male sub iis pacis nomen ingeritis: anne ambiguum est in iis antichristum cessurum? Monies mihi et sylvae et lacus et carceres, et voragines sunt tutiores; in its enim 324prophetae aut manentes, aut demersi, Dei Spiritu prophetabant. Well, because of their affectation of worldly greatness, they are called proud; and so it is taken, Mal. iii. 15, ‘Ye call the proud happy.’ And because of this they hate and molest the people of God, because theirs is a contrary spirit. They hear Christ’s voice: Mat. xi. 29, ‘Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly.’ They hate them because they contemn that felicity which they affect, and so put a scorn on their way: 1 Peter iv. 4, ‘Think it strange that you run not with them into the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.’

Ans. 4. They are called proud because of their insolent carriage towards the Lord’s people, partly in their laws and injunctions, requiring to give them more honour, respect, and obedience than in conscience can be afforded them; as Haman would have Mordecai to devote himself to him after the manner of the Persians, Esther iii. 5. The man, though a favourite, was an Amalekite, one that came of that stock whose remembrance God would have to be blotted out, Exod. xvii. 14; and possibly more worship and honour was required than was due to a man. God had forbidden to give divine honour to any but himself. Now, according to the custom of Persia, these honours did somewhat savour of divine worship—Vide Brisson, pp. 10-14, with the 18th. So Jeroboam would have his calves worshipped, 1 Kings xii. 32; and yet all that complied with him therein are charged for walking so willingly after the commandment, Hosea v. 11. We dare not offend God to please men; the good Levites are commended, 2 Chron. xi. 14. So it was pride in Nebuchadnezzar to command all men to bow before his image, Dan. iii. 15, 16. God’s prerogative must not be incroached upon; there is a superior sovereign. Partly in vexing, molesting, and oppressing them at their pleasure; the formal Christian hateth the spiritual, Gal. iv. 29. Now this cometh from their pride: Ps. x. 2, ‘The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor;’ would not have their lazy course upbraided and disgraced by the seriousness and strictness of others: they malign what they cannot imitate. And it is carried on by their pride or abuse of power. God counteth it pride: Ps. xii. 5, ‘For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy; the Lord will arise to deliver him; and set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.’ It is the pride of the oppressor which God taketh notice of, his puffing, scoffing, and mocking at the hopes of God’s despised ones; he never dreameth of any checks from any, but despiseth and contemneth all. And partly because of the insulting over their misery and low estate: Zeph. ii. 10, ‘This shall they have for their pride, because they have reproached and magnified themselves against the people of the Lord of hosts.’ But God taketh notice of it, and will call them to an account in due time: Prov. iii. 34, ‘He scorneth the scorners, but giveth grace unto the lowly;’ Ps. xiv. 6, ‘You have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord is his refuge:’ i.e., mocked at a man because he is resolved to trust in the Lord, laughed at those that made conscience of their duty, that consulted whether lawful or unlawful, not whether danger and profit, not whether safe or unsafe, but whether pleasing to God or not. They trust in the Lord that, in conscience of their duty, venture upon hazards, expecting their security from heaven; these thoughts seemed foolish 325to worldly wisdom; you shamed his counsel, scoff at it: Isa. li. 7, 8, ‘Fear ye not the reproach of men, nor their revilings: for the moth shall eat them up like a garment, and the worm shall eat them like wool.’ Those that make reckoning of the ways of God need not be discouraged with their spiteful vaunts.

Use. Let us take heed of pride. The Lord, that hated the pride of Moab, doth also hate the pride of Jacob, Amos vi. 8.

1. Take heed of wittingly and willingly opposing any command of God: Ps. cxix. 21, ‘Thou hast rebuked the proud, that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments:’ Neh. ix. 16, ‘But our fathers dealt proudly, and hardened their necks, and hearkened not to his commandments;’ so ver. 29. These proclaim a war with the Lord of hosts, especially when not reclaimed by grievous judgments: Isa. xxvi. 19, ‘I will break the pride of your power.’ And this is that we should lay to heart at this day: Jer. xiii. 17, ‘But if ye will not hear, my soul shall weep in secret places for your pride.’ When a people will not be brought to any serious consideration of God’s judgments, nor abate their haughty minds, he would bewail their foolish arrogancy, and the miseries ensuing thereupon. This standing out against God is the greatest pride.

2. Take heed of murmuring against his providence. Entertaining crosses with anger and blessings with disdain are sure notes of unmortified pride; when God’s dispensations still displease, and the heart swelleth against his sovereignty.

[1.] To entertain crosses with anger: 2 Kings vi. 33, ‘This evil is from the Lord: why should I wait any longer upon the Lord?’ Words of desperate distrust and murmuring.

[2.] Blessings with disdain: Mal. i. 2, ‘I hath loved you, saith the Lord; and they said, Wherein hast thou loved us?’ as if God owed them more than others, and were a kind of debtor to them: Hab. ii. 4, ‘Behold, his soul, which is lifted up, is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith.’ The lofty and unsound are distinguished from the just, who can tarry God’s leisure; those men’s souls are lifted up who cannot acquiesce in their lot and portion assigned by God, but censure his way of proceeding, and are loath he should have the disposing of them at his pleasure.

3. Take heed of despising any of Christ’s little ones, and scorning and mocking at those that fear the Lord: Ps. cxix. 51, ‘The proud have had me greatly in derision.’ To make a mock of others upon any account is a sign of pride, though they be meaner in gifts, though differing in judgment, though walking in a lower dispensation; but especially to scorn at them because more godly: 2 Tim. iii. 3, ἀφιλάγαθοι, ‘Despisers of those that are good.’ This is to reflect upon God himself, whose image in his saints is made a byword, and a strict obedience to his will matter of scorn and derision. If a slave should mock a child because he is like his father, would this be well taken? So the jealous God will not long endure this horrible indignity, that his image should be scorned in his children: Isa. lxiii. 9, ‘In all reproaches he is reproached.’ But they will say, It is not their holiness, but their demure hypocrisy and affected preciseness, which they reproach and scorn. But God seeth the heart: it is as if a leper did 326upbraid others with pimples. The infirmities of the godly do not justify your contempt of godliness; and because of their faults, you must not scorn at their holiness and expect indemnity.

4. Take heed of moral pride, which consists in a lofty conceit of our selves, joined with a contempt of others. This was the Pharisees’ sin: Luke xviii. 9, ‘He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.’ And it is notably personated in the Pharisee and publican who went up to pray, and is daily seen in them who are speaking of their own things, boasting of their own excellences, elevating their own, but extenuating the gifts of others. Most men are too great and too good in their own esteem. Self-love representeth ourselves to ourselves in a feigned shape and likeness, much more wise, and holy, and just, than we are; it maketh us loathe other men’s sins rather than our own, to extenuate other men’s gifts and graces and cry up our own; but this should not be: Phil. ii. 3 ‘Let each esteem another better than themselves.’ Humility is content to sit in the meanest place: Eph. iii. 8, ‘Who am the least of all the saints:’ 1 Tim. i. 15, ‘Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am chief.’ We know our own weakness better than others, and they may have secret excellences which we see not. This moral pride discovereth itself in three things:—

[1.] In disdain of inferiors, or contempt of those who are of meaner gifts or rank and place in the world. Every member hath its use in the body, the toe as well as the head, neither can one say to another, ‘I have no need of thee,’ 1 Cor. xii. 21. All Christians have their peculiar gifts, by which they are rendered acceptable and useful to the body, as every country hath its proper commodities for the maintaining of trade and commerce between all parts of the world; or as to the beauty and use of the universe, there is need of hills and valleys; so all ranks of men contribute to the beauty, use, and service of the whole. The strong should not despise the weak, nor the weak prescribe to the strong. Now, it is impossible to keep all in their due order and proportion unless every one consider their own weakness and want, and the usefulness of others; as, among Christians, some are useful to preserve order, others to keep afoot the life and power of godliness, some to revive the pristine purity, others the old peaceable spirit. God hath so counterbalanced all parties that they may be mutually helpful, but not that we despise and contemn any other, and seek to destroy and subvert another, and so make way for great mischiefs. Every one hath enough to humble him, and enough to render him useful to human society. Therefore we must not set at ‘nought our brother, Rom. xiv. 10. God hath made him something which thou art not, and given him an ability to do something thou canst not do, or wouldst not submit unto. Contempt is the fruit of pride; there are none but deserve some respect: scorn is the bane of human society.

[2.] It betrayeth itself in contention with equals: ‘Wrath and contention cometh by pride,’ Prov. xiii. 10. Every one seeks to be eminent, and would excel, not in graces and gifts—that is ἀγαθέρις, a holy emulation—but in rank and place. We set too high a price upon our selves, and when others will not come up to our price we are troubled. We ascribe too much to ourselves; and when we meet not with that respect and honour which we affect, we fall into contention, and break 327out into strifes, supposing ourselves neglected. We see often what a makebait this is in the world, if others do not accommodate themselves to our sense, if they approve not all things we say, if their opinion differeth a little, or, it may be, nothing from ours. Men pertinaciously obstinate in their preconceptions will not change opinion upon apparent evidence; but humble men are always peaceable, they can better give and take those respects which are done to one another than others can. The apostle saith, Eph. v. 21, ‘Submit yourselves to one another in the fear of God.’ There is a service of love which every one oweth to another for their mutual good and advantage, and is called submission, though it be to equals, because our proud and lofty spirits look upon it as below us. There are none living whom God alloweth to live only to themselves. Now, that there may be an equality, we are to stoop and condescend to one another; others are to live to us, and we to them: 1 Peter v. 5, ‘Be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility; for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” This mutual subjection to another in the duties of love can never be obtained till we learn to moderate our esteem of ourselves, and heighten our esteem of others; we can neither advise nor instruct, nor esteem one another, nor maintain peace in our relations, and perform all Christian offices to each other, till this spirit prevail with us.

[3.] By undutifulness to superiors, or those that are preferred in honour before ourselves. Proud men would be admired of all, well thought of and spoken of by all, and preferred above all; and if it be not so, they are discontented, and a secret enmity and malignity invadeth their spirits and settleth itself there; it is an apparent fruit of natural corruption: James iv. 5, ‘The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy.’ Men cannot endure either the real or reputed excellency of others; the proud creature would shine alone. Therefore we are secretly nibbling at the credit of others, blasting their reputation, and desire by all means to lessen them, or that they should be lessened; and where this disposition prevaileth into any degree of strength and tyranny, it groweth outrageous: Prov. xxvii. 4, ‘Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?’ For when we are grieved at the prosperity and excellency of others, we seek to undermine them by all the means we can devise; as when the brothers of Joseph sought to put him out of the way; and when Saul envied David, he was still plotting his destruction. So when the Pharisees envied Christ, ‘If we let him alone, all men will run after him.’ This brought them to crucify the Lord of glory. Anger venteth itself in sudden flashes, and wrath in some present act of violence, but envy is injurious and treacherous. Anger and wrath suppose some offence, but envy is troubled at the goodness and excellency of others. Anger and wrath are assuaged by degrees, and when the raging billows and tempest ceaseth, there is a calm; but this groweth by time, and is exasperated more and more the longer those whom we envy are in good condition. Now this affection reigned in us in our natural estate, Titus iii. 3, and remaineth in some degree in the best.

5. Another expression of pride is impatience of admonitions and reproofs; that is the cause of the wicked’s hatred of the godly, because their lives are a real reproof: John vi. 7, ‘The world hateth 328me, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil;’ Heb. xi. 7. But surely it argueth a proud spirit when men cannot endure friendly counsel, and will not have their privy sores touched, but they grow fierce and outrageous, especially when they excel others in rank and power: as when the prophet reproved Amaziah, 2 Chron. xxv. 16, ‘Art thou made of the king’s counsel? forbear, why shouldest thou be smitten?’ so 2 Chron. xviii. 23, ‘He smote him on the cheek, and said, When went the Spirit of the Lord from me to speak unto thee?’ So the Pharisees hated Christ because of his free reproofs: John ix. 40, ‘Are we blind also?’ They cannot endure to hear of their faults, especially from one in an inferior condition, and think every reproof to be a reproach, though never so wisely and compassionately managed, and that it is beneath their rank to stoop to it; though Job despised not the cause of his maid-servants, Job xxxi. 13, if they had anything to say against him; and David stopped upon Abigail’s motion, 1 Sam. xxv. 26.

6. Take heed of building too securely upon earthly enjoyments, as if your estate were so firm and secure that it could not be altered, because you are high and great in wealth, power, honour, and esteem. Confidence in our outward estate is a sure note of pride: Ps. x. 4-6, ‘The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. His ways are always grievous; thy judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffeth at them. He hath said in heart, I shall not be moved; I shall not be in adversity.’ There the Psalmist chargeth pride on the wicked, and such a pride as ariseth from confidence in outward prosperity; and mentioneth a double effect, not only slighting their adversaries, but God himself. It is no matter for any terms of peace or moderation towards their adversaries, his ways are always grievous; therefore are they violent, fierce and high, and severe towards them. Do not need the protection of God; therefore cold, flat, negligent in prayer; yea, scorn to implore God by prayer for any blessing. They are so high in place and power, that they are able to oppress their underlings, and so think they can bring to pass what they would have to be done in despite of God. Now somewhat of this may be found in the people of God: Ps. xxx. 6, ‘In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.’ They drink in some of this poison, are apt to rest and sleep on a carnal pillow. By this you may see that none of us have perfectly put off this sin. Plato saith a man doth put it off, as τελευταῖον χιτῶνα, it groweth out of the conquest of other sins. But if we would not be proud—

[1.] Let us pray often, for in prayer we profess our subjection and dependence. Where prayers are fervent, earnest, frequent, it argueth great humility; where rare, cold, unfrequent, little humility; where none, no humility. Seeking to God, who is so excellent, mindeth us of our own baseness; seeking his daily relief and succour mindeth us of the changeableness of all worldly things, and the several vicissitudes of this life, Ps. x. 4. A man serious in prayer, living in a constant dependence upon God, must needs be a humble man.

[2.] Let us be contented with a little, and not seek great things for ourselves; for interest is the great makebait. I am sure a worldly 329portion is the usual fuel of pride. A worm may grow in manna, but usually it is some worldly excellency which giveth us such great advantages here below which puffeth us up. If riches increase by the fair allowance of God’s providence, we are not to grow proud of them: 1 Tim. vi. 17, ‘Charge them that are rich in the world, that they be not high-minded.’ Moses saith, Deut viii. 12-14, ‘Take heed when thou hast eaten, and art full, and thy gold and silver is multiplied, lest thy heart be lifted up.’ Our hearts are mighty apt to be lifted up by a full estate.

[3.] If we excel in gifts and graces, double caution is necessary; this is a real excellency, 2 Cor. xii. 7. Pride maketh us not only unthankful to God, but perverse to men: Prov. xxi. 24, ‘Proud and haughty scorner is his name who dealeth in proud wrath.’ Men conceited of their gifts make their own fancy and conceit their rule; and if anything be done that pleaseth not them, they rend and tear all, and trample upon the unquestionable interest of Jesus Christ to wreak their spleen.

It is a question whether real grace may make a men proud. Gifts, to be sure, may: ‘Knowledge puffeth up;’ yea, grace, through corruption. They need caution that have the great presence of God with them as to success when eminently employed in God’s service. Credit by worldly eminency and esteem falleth in with their services, and secretly insinuates high thoughts of their own excellences.

[4.] Consider how much pride hath cost us. They that are proud and burdensome to other people, God will pull down their pride: Isa. xiii. 11, ‘And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.’ It is spoken of the Chaldeans, who in bravery and force offered violence to others. God loveth to pull down the pride and insolency of roysterers, that have been formidable and burdensome to other people. The Lord of hosts hath purposed to stain the pride of all glory, and to bring into contempt the honourable of the earth. What hath God been doing, not in former, but latter times?

[5.] Consider that Christianity was sent into the world not to set up a kingdom of power, but patience. Mat. xviii. 4, ‘Whosoever, therefore, shall be humble as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven;’ Luke i. 51-53, ‘He hath showed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their heart; he hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree; he hath filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he hath sent empty away.’

[6.] Consider who made us differ: 1 Cor. iv. 7, ‘For who made thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou hast not received? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?’ Who would be proud of a borrowed garment? he becometh the more in debt. Nothing is ours but sin, all other things are the free gift of God. Shall the wall boast itself because the sun shines upon it? or the pen arrogate the praise of fair writing? The more we have received from God the more we are obliged to acknowledge his goodness, and confess our own unworthiness.

330

Secondly, The event, or effect of God’s providence desired, together with the reason of it. That which he desired was that they might ‘be ashamed;’ the reason, because they have ‘dealt perversely without a cause.’ Let us explain both.

1. The event of God’s providence prayed for, that they may be ashamed; that is, that they may not prosper and succeed in their attempts; for men are ashamed when they are disappointed, and all their endeavours for the extirpation of God’s people are vain and fruit less, and those things which they have subtlely devised have not that effect which they propounded unto themselves: Ps. lxx. 3, ‘Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame, which say, Aha!’

2. The reason urged, ‘For they dealt perversely with me without a cause.’ The Septuagint hath it ἀδίκως, unjustly. Ainsworth readeth, With falsehood they have depraved me. It implieth two things—(1.) That they pretended a cause; (2.) David avoucheth his innocency to God; and so, without any guilt of his, they accused, defamed, condemned his actions, as is usual in like cases. Elsewhere he complaineth, Ps. lvi. 5, ‘They every day wrest my words, and their thoughts are against me for evil.’ They condemned him for wicked, perverted his sayings and doings. Men pretend causes of their oppression, heresy, schism, rebellion; but mere malice and perverseness of spirit incline them to seek the destruction of the people of God.

Doct. That when the proud are troublesome and injurious to God’s people, they may boldly commend their cause to God.

The reasons:—

1. The effects of their pride are grievous to be borne. Now, it is well when any grief findeth a spiritual vent, when it puts the godly upon praying: Phil. iv. 6, ‘In everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God;’ Jer. xx. 12, ‘O Lord of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart, let me see thy vengeance on them; for unto thee have I opened my cause.’ We may exhibit our bill of complaint at God’s tribunal, carry the fact thither.

2. The Lord may be appealed unto upon a double account. Partly as he is an enemy to the proud, and as a friend to the humble: James iv. 6, ‘God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble:’ and Ps. cxxxviii. 6, ‘Though the Lord be high, yet he hath a respect to the lowly, and the proud he knoweth afar off.’ Partly as he is the portion of the afflicted and the oppressed: Ps. cxl. 12, ‘I know the Lord will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor.’ When Satan stirreth up his instruments to hate whom the Lord loveth, the Lord will stir up his power to protect and defend them. So Ps. x. 14, ‘Thou hast seen it, for thou beholdest mischief and spite, to requite it with thy hand: the poor committeth himself to thee; thou art the helper of the fatherless.’ When they have laid forth their desires, poured forth their heart before the Lord, they quiet themselves. It is God’s office, practice, nature, to relieve poor helpless creatures that commit themselves to his custody.

3. Innocency giveth confidence in prayer, when we are molested and troubled without a cause. The testimony of conscience giveth boldness towards God and men, 2 Cor. i. 12; and Heb. xiii. 18, 331‘Pray for us; for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly.’ If God’s children would carry it more holily and meekly, they might cut off occasion from them that desire occasion, and in their addresses to God experience more humble confidence.

But is not this a revengeful prayer? Ans. No.

First, Because directly they pray for their own deliverance, that they may more freely serve God by consequence. Indeed, by God’s showing mercy to his people, the pride of wicked ones is suppressed, Ps. cxix. 134.

Secondly, As it concerneth his enemies, he expresseth it in mild terms, ‘That they may be ashamed;’ that is, disappointed, their counsels, hopes, machinations, and endeavours. And therefore it is not against the persons of his enemies, but their plots and enterprises; and shame and disappointment may do them good. They think to bring in the total suppression of God’s people; that would harden them in their sins. Therefore God’s people desire he would not let their innocency be trampled upon, but they disappointed, that the proud may be ashamed in the failing of their attempts

Thirdly, The prayers of the faithful for the overthrow of the wicked are a kind of prophecies; so that in praying, David doth in effect foretell that such as dealt perversely should be ashamed; as a good cause will not always be oppressed: Isa. lxvi. 5, ‘But he. shall appear to your joy, but they shall be ashamed;’ they met with despiteful usage at the hand of their brethren, for their loyalty and fidelity to God.

Fourthly, Saints have a liberty to imprecate vengeance, but such as must be used sparingly and with great caution: Ps. lxxi. 13, ‘Let them be confounded and consumed who are adversaries to my soul.’ Malicious enemies may be expressly prayed against.

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