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Thy word is very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.—Ver. 140.
THERE are three things in this verse:—
1. The excellency of the word, thy word is very pure.
2. David’s respect to it, thy servant loveth it.
3. The connection between both, in the illative particle, therefore.
1. The excellency of the word, ‘Thy word is very pure.’ That which we render ‘very pure,’ signifieth tried in the fire and refined; the Septuagint reads it, πεπυρωμένον λόγιόν σου σφόδρα, thy word is set on fire; and so you may see it explained, Ps. xii. 6, ‘The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth purified seven times.’ The expression may import two things—(1.) The infallible certainty of the word; (2.) The exact purity.
[1.] The infallible certainty of the word, as gold endureth in the fire when the dross is consumed. Vain conceits comfort us not in a time of trouble, but the word of God, the more it is tried, the more you will find the excellency of it. The promise is tried, as well as we are tried, in deep afflictions; but when it is so, it will be found to be most sure. In the old translation it is, Thy word is proved most pure: Ps. xviii. 30, ‘The word of the Lord is tried; he is a buckler to all them that trust in him.’ So Prov. xxx. 5, ‘The word of the Lord is pure; he is a shield to all that trust in him.’ As pure gold suffers no loss by the fire, so the promises suffer no loss when they are tried, but stand to us in our greatest troubles.
[2.] It notes the exact perfection of the word. There is no dross in silver and gold that hath been often refined, so there is no defect in the word of God.
2. Here is David’s respect to the word; speaking of himself in the third person, he saith, ‘Thy servant loveth it.’ The children of God love the word, and the duty and obedience it prescribeth, so as effectually to follow it; that is love, and none but that.
3. Here is his reason for it, ‘Therefore I love it,’ because it is pure. Wicked men hate it and slight it for this reason: the word of God is so pure that it ransacks their consciences, and therefore they cannot endure it: ‘The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be,’ Rom. viii. 7. But the saints do the rather embrace it: wicked men could wish it were less strict, that it might be calculated to their turns; but the children of God love it for this reason.
Doct. That God’s children see such purity in his word that therefore they value it and love it exceedingly.
The point will be made good by four considerations:—
1. That the word of God is pure.
2. That this pure word must be loved and esteemed by us.478
3. That we must not only love God’s word, but see why we love it.
4. Among all the grounds and reasons of our love to the word of God, this is the most noble and excellent, to love it for its purity.
For the first of these, that the word of God is pure, yea, as it is superlatively expressed in the text, it is very pure, that will appear in two respects—it is pure in itself, and it maketh us pure.
1. It is pure in itself, because it is a holy rule, fit for God to give and us to receive, exactly comprising the whole duty of man. We need not seek elsewhere for direction in order to true happiness: Ps. xix. 8, ‘The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;’ as metal refined from all dross, so here is not the least mixture of error, folly, or falsehood, not the least corruption or flaw to be found in it, as in all other books of human composure. All other writings come as short of the scripture as a coal doth of the sun. The whole art and design of this holy book is to advance the spiritual and heavenly life, and not to fashion our outward carriage a little for converse with men, but to bring us into fellowship and communion with God, and to direct us to do all things from holy principles, in a holy manner, to holy ends. There is no dead fly in this box of ointment, no blemish of weakness and imperfection; it hath the manifest impress of the author left upon it, and is the copy of that exact holiness which is in God himself.
2. The word is very pure, as it maketh us pure if we diligently attend unto it: Ps. cxix. 9, ‘By what means may a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereunto according to thy word.’ It is not said, By what means may a young man guide his way; as if he were yet to choose, or were as white paper, indifferent to any impression. But by what means shall a young man cleanse his way? Man’s heart naturally is a sink of sin, and he delighteth to wallow in this puddle, as swine do in the mire; he hath gotten a tang and smatch of the old Adam. Now, is there no way to make his heart and his way clean? Yes, if he will take God’s counsel, and direct his life according to the word. A young man that is in the heat and strength of his lusts, he may be cured and cleansed. Christ prayeth, John xvii. 17, ‘Sanctify them by thy truth; thy word is truth.’ The work is God’s, but he doth it by the truth or his will revealed in the word. He hath reserved the power of his Spirit for this dispensation and way of institution of mankind. A moral lecture may make a man change his life, but it is the word of God that changeth his heart: his Spirit goeth along with his word. So John xv. 3, ‘Now you are clean through the word that I have spoken unto you.’ The word is the instrument of purifying sinners, and to get rid of their sins. But how doth the word make us pure? As it is an appointed instrument of the Spirit, and as it is an accommodate instrument to such an end and purpose.
[1.] It is an appointed instrument by which the Spirit will work: 1 Peter i. 22, ‘Ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth, through the Spirit.’ It is the Spirit of Christ that powerfully worketh it, but yet in and by the truth: he worketh by his own means, he will not join his assistance with other things. The sum of what I would say is this, it was meet that God should give a rule to his creatures, 479or else how should they know his will? and then it was meet he should honour his rule by owning it above all other doctrines, by the concomitant operation of his Spirit, that this might be a constant authentic proof of its divine authority. The efficacy of the word is a pledge of the truth of it.
[2.] It is a commodious instrument for this end and purpose, for there is a wisdom in all God’s institutions. He that looketh upon an axe will say, This is an instrument made to cut; so he that looketh upon the scriptures must needs say, This is a means to purify. The word is more morally accommodated to work upon the heart of man then any other instrument, means, or doctrine in the world. Now the word doth so commodiously serve for this purpose because there are—(1.) Such pure precepts; (2.) Such pure examples; (3.) Such great helps to purity; (4.) Great encouragements to purity; (5.) Such great terrors to dissuade men from sin.
(1.) There are pure precepts, setting forth the nature of that purity that is pleasing to God; and so, on the one hand, they serve to humble us for our natural filthiness; for verum est index sui et obliqui—truth showeth itself, and discovereth error also, James i. 34. It is such a pure doctrine that it showeth a man his natural face, and discovers soul-spots. And, on the other side, by these precepts and doctrines we are urged and enjoined to seek after true purity and holiness of the right constitution: 1 Tim. i. 5, ‘The end of the commandment is charity, out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned.’ The word telleth us God will be served, and that he will be served with a pure heart. The right end and scope of the whole law, as it is a gospel rule, is love to God and man, flowing from a sincere and renewed heart, and a good conscience rightly informed of God’s will, and faith unfeigned, apprehending the grace of God towards us in Christ our Redeemer. So that you see there is required of us not only good actions, but good principles and ends.
The apostle telleth us ἔργον νόμου, the work of the law, was written upon man’s heart, Rom. ii. 14. Natural conscience will take notice of some gross acts, urge to some external conformity and show of duty; but the word of God taketh notice not only of acts, but the frame of the heart; not only of sins, but also of lusts. If ever there were an instrument fitted to do a thing, the word is fitted to make men pure and holy. Briefly, then, the word requireth purity of heart and life. That we should be pure in heart: Mat. v. 8, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God;’ and pure in life: ‘Blessed are the undefiled in the way,’ Ps. cxix. 1. You have both in one place: James iv. 8, ‘Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double-minded;’ both must be cleansed, both heart and hands. But we must first begin with the heart. The heart is that polluted fountain from whence floweth all the pollution of life: Mat. xv. 19, ‘Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, blasphemies,’ &c. It is in vain to cleanse the outside, unless the heart be cleansed; and therefore the scripture presseth us to wash our hearts from wickedness, Jer. iv. 14. There is the difficulty. It is more easy to heal an outward wound than to stanch an inward bleeding; and the cause is within. The purity of the outside is loathsome to God unless the 480heart be cleansed; it is more easy to prevent disorders in. our conversations than to cleanse our hearts; and therefore the scripture mainly calleth upon you to purge sin out of the heart, Mat. xxiii. 26, 27. Therefore the great design of the word of God, with which it travaileth, is to get the heart clean; as Elisha when he would cure the brackishness of the waters, cast salt into the fountain, so doth the word of God seek to cleanse the hearts of men, and all its wooings and pleadings and entreaties tend to this.
(2.) There are pure examples and patterns. We miscarry by low examples, and grow loose and careless seeing others to be so; therefore the word is still to keep us humble under our defects, unsatisfied with our present measure, always contending, and striving towards the mark: it propoundeth all manner of examples to us. It propoundeth the example of God: 1 Peter i. 15, ‘Be ye holy, as he that hath called you is holy, in all manner of conversation.’ God is holy in all his ways, and righteous in all his works; and so should we be. And the scripture presseth us to be holy as Christ is holy: 1 John iii. 3, ‘He that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, as Christ is pure.’ It is impossible there should be an exact equality, yet some answerable conformity there should be. God is essentially, immutably, infinitely holy: he loveth himself so much as he can be loved. His essence and his being is the same with his holiness. Our holiness is a superadded quality. God’s holiness is like a vessel of pure gold, where the substance is the same with the lustre; but our holiness is like a vessel of earth gilded with gold; the substance is one thing, the varnish another. But yet this God and Christ must ever be before our eyes; we must be holy as he is holy; we must always be increasing in holiness. We must come into an abiding state of holiness. There must be some kind of conformity between God and us, and Christ and us; and head and members must be all of a piece. He will shoot farther that aimeth at a star, than he that aimeth at a shrub; so he will be more holy that doth as God doth, than he that doth as sinful creatures do, like himself. Nay, the scripture propoundeth the example of the saints, Heb. vi. 12. We need all kinds of examples. As we need high and glorious examples, that we may not rest in any low degrees and beginnings of purity, so lower examples, that we may not be discouraged, and think it impossible. And therefore the saints of God are propounded to us, men and women of like affections with us, the same natural interests, and we the same grace with them; the way to heaven is a trodden path all along; you may see the footsteps of the saints before you.
(3.) The scripture offereth great helps to purity. Christ died to purchase it for us: Eph. v. 27, ‘He gave himself for us, that he might sanctify and cleanse us by the washing of water through the word.’ And God hath promised to give this clean heart to them that seek after it, and undertaketh to give what he requireth: Ezek. xxxvi. 25-27, ‘I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols will I cleanse you: a new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh: and I will put my spirit within you, and cause 481you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.’ God hath promised this to somebody, and why not to you? You are as fair for this promise as any; and if God hath not excluded you, why will you shut yourselves out from the grace offered?
(4.) There are in the scripture excellent encouragements and motives from the reward promised to the pure. Lactantius saith of the heathen, Virtutis vim non sentiunt quia ejus praemium ignorant—that they were ignorant of the force of virtue, because they were not acquainted with the reward of it. There is a great force in scripture arguments in this kind. See how the scripture speaks of these promises; they are so great, so pure, and so expressly binding in their condition and qualification annexed. They are so great, 2 Cor. vii. 1, that ‘having such great and precious promises, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of flesh and spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of God.’ And then so pure: 1 John iii. 3, ‘He that hath this hope in him purifieth himself as Christ is pure.’ It is not barely said, He hath hope in him, hut, He that hath this hope. It is not a Turkish paradise, but a sinless estate; not an estate wherein we shall be engulfed in all sensualities, but satisfied with the vision of God, and made like him. Heaven is not only to be looked upon as a place of happiness, but a state of likeness to God. Once more, so many and so expressly binding to purity, in their condition and qualification annexed. See what the word of God speaks to purity, if we would enjoy the favour of God, and have him good to us: Ps. lxxiii. 1, ‘Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.’ Who are they that God will be good to? To Israel. All are not Israel that are of Israel; but those whose consciences are cleansed by the blood of Christ, and study to be clean -and holy in heart and life, those are God’s Israel. However things fall out here, how blustering and boisterous soever the times are, yet God will be good to them that are his Israel. If we would have his favour actually exhibited, if we would have God to shine upon us, we must look after purity: Ps. xviii. 26, ‘With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure, and with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward.’ God will be to man as man is to God. No degree of purity shall go unrewarded; the holy use of the creatures is their privilege: Titus i. 15, ‘To the pure all things are pure.’ To the wicked all things are defiled, and they have a curse with their blessings; but to the pure these blessings are lawfully enjoyed, and are sanctified to them, and -they receive every temporal mercy as a blessing of the covenant. Would we be accepted in our service? Prov. xv. 26, ‘The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but the words of the pure are pleasant words.’ The thoughts and words of wicked men are an abomination to the Lord, but the thoughts and words of the saints are his delight. God hath respect to the person and then to his services; so that we must be pure in heart if we would have our ser vices accepted of the Lord. Once more, the pure are those that shall be employed with honour for God: 2 Tim. ii. 21, ‘If a man purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel of honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.’ Again, the purified and cleansed are meet to receive and retain the word: 1 Tim. iii. 9, ‘Hold fast the mysteries of faith in a pure conscience.’ None 482receive the word with such profit, and retain it with such warmth, as the pure in heart. Precious liquor is not put into musty, filthy vessels; if it be, it is corrupted and spoiled presently. Let a man be addicted to any worldly lust, and he will soon lose all the sense of good he hath received. Once more, none pray aright but the pure: Zeph. iii. 9, ‘For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon the name of the Lord;’ and 1 Tim. ii. 8, ‘Lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;’ and Heb. x. 22, ‘Let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.’ Then we draw near to God with comfort, being sure of audience. Once more, if we would be happy for ever more, who are they that shall see God? Mat. v. 8, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.’ You shall see the question propounded in Ps. xxiv. 3, 4, ‘Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? who shall stand in his holy place?’ And the question is answered in the third verse, ‘He that hath clean hands and a pure heart.’ It standeth upon us to examine how it is with us, since all the visible church are not saved; the pure and holy are they that shall see and enjoy God. Filthy dogs and impure and unclean swine are not suffered to enter into the new Jerusalem.
(5.) Here are terrible threatenings; the word is impatient of being denied; it would have holiness and purity upon any terms; there is something propounded to our fear as well as to our hope. Sometimes the word of God threatens with the loss of happiness: Heb. xii. 14, ‘Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.’ If there were no more but this, this were enough to terrify us (to be shut out from the presence of the Lord!) if it were rightly considered. But oh! how miserable will the poor creature be that the word threatens with the loss of the vision of God, supposing the soul subsists! This is enough to over whelm us, that we shall never enter into the place where God is: Rev. xxi. 17, ‘There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth or worketh abomination.’ But we hear of a worm that shall never die, a pit without a bottom, a fire that shall never be quenched, and torments that are without end and without ease. God shall say, I would have purged you, but you would not be purged. Whose heart doth not tremble at the mention of these things? Oh! then you see the word is very pure.
The second consideration, that this pure word must be valued and esteemed and loved by us. Here I shall show you what it is to love the word, and then why.
1. What it is to love the word.
(1.) It is not an outward receiving, or a loose owning of the scripture as the word of God. Many carnal men may so receive it, or rather not contradict it: they receive the word of God, not upon any divine testimony and evidence of the Spirit of God, but upon the authority and credit of men, the practice and profession of the nation where they live, and the injunctions of the civil state, or the tradition of the church. This is the just account of most men’s faith and love to the word, and therefore they never feel the power of it. It cometh with power when it is the evidence of the Spirit, 1 Cor. ii. 4; human credulity breedeth no true love to the word of God.483
(2.) This love is not a bare approbation of purity and holiness; many approve that which they never choose and follow None in the face of the church can be such a wretch as not to think that it is a good thing to be holy, that strictness is commendable Mark vi. 26, Herod reverenced John. There is an excellency in holiness and it winneth esteem, even there where it is not embraced Purity is a stricture of God’s majesty, and so it is feared. Where it is not loved it breedeth an aweful respect in wicked men. Natural conscience so far doth homage to the image of God, and doth incline men to think well of holiness, and to show some respect to it.
(3.) It is not a pang or passionate delight; as some, when the word falls upon them, they may be stirred a little; it is not a love that is controllable, or easily overcome by other loves: John v. 45, ‘How can ye believe, that seek honour one of another?’ As Herod rejoiced in John’s light for a season, and, Mark vi. 20, he loved John’s preaching but he loved his Herodias better; and therefore off goes John’s head! The love that he had, it was controllable by a higher love. Unless we be so addicted to the word that it prevaileth over all contrary inclinations, we do not love the word. Whether it be sensuality, or pride, or covetousness, it will be casting off the dominion of the word: John viii. 37, ‘My word hath no place in you;’ it doth not sink down into their hearts that it may bring forth fruit in their lives.
[2.] Positively, what is it then?
(1.) It is such a love as causeth us to wait at wisdom’s gates, to consult with the word upon all occasions, to read it, hear it, meditate on it as the great instrument of sanctification. You will take it for your counsel, Ps. cxix. 4. That we love we will be thinking on often, and exercising our minds in it: Ps. i. 2, ‘But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night.’ Oh, how few love the word thus! Few read and delight in the scriptures because of the purity and holiness that is in them. They read them for dispute’s sake, or to know the mystery, or to be able to hold up an argument; but as they serve to make us pure and heavenly, who loves them so? as they forewarn us of sin, and quicken to grace and love to God? Ps. xix. 10, 11, ‘Thy word is sweeter than honey or the honey comb,’ because by ‘them thy servant is forewarned.’ Then we love the word when we love it for this reason.
(2.) We love the word when we are chary of transgressing it, or doing anything contrary to the tenor of it. We are bidden to keep the commandment as the apple of the eye, Prov. vii. 2. The eye is a tender thing, offended with the least dust. Oh, take heed of offending the word of God! Fear of offending is a sure note and effect of love. So he that loves God, he fears the commandment: Prov. xiii. 13, ‘Whoso despiseth the word, shall be destroyed; but whoso feareth the commandment, shall be rewarded.’ A wicked man maketh no bones of a commandment, regardeth not what the word saith, but doth according to the bent of his own will. Those that will turn their back upon a commandment for the least temptation, they have no true love to the word of God. But now a godly man is one that feareth a commandment; he is afraid to do anything against the express will of God. If a commandment stands in his way, it is as much as if an angel with 484a drawn sword stood in his way, as the angel stood with a drawn sword in Balaam’s way: they had rather have all the world against them, than the word against them, Isa. lxvi. 25. This aweful regard of the word of God it is a good evidence of our love to it.
(3.) Then we are said to love the word when we cheerfully and readily delight to do what it requireth in order to the glory of God and our own salvation: that is love; for true love is not only notional, but practical: 1 John ii. 4, ‘He that saith I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.’ Our love to God is known by our obedience to him; so our love to the word is known by our obedience to it. And therefore we love the word in good earnest when we observe it readily and diligently, whatever it costs us: Rom. vi. 17, ‘Ye have obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine that was delivered to you.’ Look, as there is a cold love to a man’s brother, when we say, Be clothed, be warmed; so there is a pretended love to the word that endeth in talk, and not in action; which is as if a man should hope to pay his debts by the noise of money, and instead of opening his purse to shut it; as ridiculous it is to think to put off our duty with good words.
(4.) It is a rooted affection. A carnal man may have his affections moved, and be a little stirred with this pure doctrine, but he is soon put out of humour; he is not changed by it, he hath not a constant affection to God and holy things: Gal. iv. 18, ‘It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing;’ to hold out to the end, and still to keep up a warm respect to the word of God. This is to love it, to have the word ingrafted into the stock of corrupt nature, James i. 21. It is not something tied on, but ingrafted into the soul; it hath place in the heart.
2. Let me show you why.
[1.] The necessity of this love to the word appears because without this love we cannot be accepted of God; unwilling and constrained service is of little acceptation with him: 1 Cor. xiii. 1-3, ‘If I should give my goods to the poor, and my body to be burnt, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.’ If a man hath never so many excellencies, if he spend his goods and life and all for God, without this sincere love to God and his ways, all is nothing. God doth not value men by the pomp of their services, but by the affection of their hearts in them; he needeth not the service, and he seeth the heart. A man is pleased so his work be done willingly or unwillingly, for he needeth the labour of the slave; but he seeth not into his heart; but God hath no need of us, and he seeth whether we give him the heart or no. So that if we have not charity, all that we do is nothing.
[2.] Without this love your work will be very difficult, grievous, and irksome to you. It is love maketh all things pleasant and easy, and to go on roundly: 1 John v. 3, ‘For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous.’ A love to the commands of God will make us do them with cheerfulness. When a man loves God, it will be no grievous thing to serve him. It is said, Neh. iv. 6, ‘That the building went on because the people had a mind to the work.’ The building of the temple was a difficult task, to remove the rubbish, and carry on such a vast piece 485of work; but they had a mind to the work, and then it went on Love to anything makes it go on sweetly and cheerfully, as we use to say; so in God’s service, if we love the work, we cannot count it difficult.
[3.] You will never be constant with God without this love. An unwilling servant is ever running from his work, and he that hath not a heart fixed and set will find discouragement enough in heaven’s way. They fell off that received not the truth in the love of it, 2 Thes. ii. 10. Fear hath compulsion in it, but it will not hold when the fear is worn off; but love is a lasting affection, when your hearts love holiness, and you love the work for the work’s sake.
Third consideration. It is not enough to love the word, but we must look after the grounds and reasons of this love.
1. Because a true love to the word is not blind, but rational, and may be justified: Mat. xi. 19, ‘Wisdom is justified of her children.’ All that love God and his truth are able to plead for it. If you are not able to show your grounds and reasons for your love to the word, your love is but customary: Phil. i. 9, ‘I pray that your love may abound in all knowledge and judgment.’ Such a love and zeal is commendable as hath a proportionable measure of knowledge going along with it. When the spouse had spoken so much of her beloved, the question is propounded, Cant. v. 9, ‘What is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost thus charge us?’ Christians should be able to say what is their Christ, and what is the religion they do profess; that there is more in their religion than in all religions in the world.
2. Because many love it upon wrong reasons. There may be a natural and carnal love to spiritual things. Look, as a religious man in outward things rejoiceth spiritually, so a carnal man in spiritual things rejoiceth carnally. So Herod rejoiced in John’s preaching with a human passion, Mark vi. 20, as he was a plausible preacher, and a rare and pregnant interpreter of the law. This was but a carnal affection; that is, thus: They may be pleased with notions, and elevated strains of wisdom. I remember a moralist gives this similitude: A gallant going into a garden prizeth flowers altogether for the beauty of them; but a physician he looks after their use and virtue in medicine, but they both go to look after flowers. So a godly man delights in the word of God; it is that he may be brought under the power of it, and made more holy and heavenly-minded; but others go to hear an argument rationally traversed, or to hear cadences of speech and pleasant language. It is not enough to take a liking to things, but we must know why. Nay, let me tell you that mere foreign and external reasons may sway us to delight in the word; when religion is in request, and groweth in fashion, and becometh matter of reputation, it is no great matter to be an honourer and admirer of it. Simon Magus will be a disciple and turn Christian too, when the whole city of Samaria listened to the apostles, and embraced their doc trine, Acts viii.; when there was so great an outward affluence.
3. The more we view the grounds and reasons, the more our love is increased. It is clear the will and affections are moved by the understanding, and that ignorance is the cause of the contempt of the Lord’s grace: ‘If thou knewest the gift,’ John iv. 10. We love, and 486fear, and hate, and joy, according to the apprehensions that we have of things; and therefore the more knowledge we have, the more love: Phil. i. 9, ‘I pray that your love may abound in all knowledge.’ If thou dost not increase in knowledge, thou wilt never increase in affection: 2 Peter i. 2, ‘Grace and peace be multiplied unto you by the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Now, the more these grounds and reasons are drawn forth in the view of conscience, the more our love is stirred; as the more we beat the steel upon the flint, the more the sparks fly out.
Fourth consideration. Of all the grounds and reasons of our love to the word of God, the most noble and excellent is to love the word for its purity.
1. Because, this showeth indeed that we are made ‘partakers of the divine nature,’ 2 Peter i. 4. For I pray you mark, when we hate evil as evil, and love good as good, we have the same love and hatred that God hath. It showeth that the soul is changed into the likeness of God when we love a thing for its purity. God hath no interest to be advanced by the creature; he loves them more or less as they are nearer or further off from his glorious being. When once we come to love things because they are pure, it is a sign that we have the same love that God hath.
2. This argueth a suitableness of heart to what God requireth, for things affect us as they suit with us: ‘They that are after the flesh savour the things of the flesh,’ Rom. viii. 5. The pure will only delight in pure things, but swine delight in puddles; they that have the spirit of the world, they must have worldly pleasure and honour, but the pure will delight in the word of God: 1 Cor. ii. 14, ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of God,’ and because they are not suitable to him. First we love things as suitable to our necessity, and then we love them upon interest, and afterwards as suitable to our disposition. Now it argueth a good frame of heart, and a deep sense of God’s interest, when we love the word because it is so pure. A man first loves the word customarily, because he is born there where that religion is in fashion; and then when he beginneth to have a conscience, he loveth it for pardon and peace, as it offers a Saviour: his own happiness, self-love, puts him upon seeking after God; then afterwards his heart is suited to God’s will, and there is something of kin in his heart to the will of God revealed without, and he loveth it for its suitableness of nature unto the will of God.
3. To be sure this love is no way questionable, but is an undoubted evidence of right and sound love to the word of God. Many pretend to have a high estimation and respect to the doctrine of God when they cannot digest the directions of it, because it is contrary to their desires and carnal affections; they reserve something in their hearts that makes their love questionable. They that have not a real love to the word of God are but lightly tinctured with religion, not deeply dyed. The stony ground received the word with joy. Men may have strong affections and strange stirrings in their souls, and yet not be right with God. But here is an undoubted evidence, to love the word for its purity. A man’s love may be questionable, because he may love the word upon foreign motives, either because of novelty, or fineness of 487expression, or public countenance and credit, or external advantage, John vi. 26. Vix diligitur Jesus propter Jesum. Or they may love it for internal reasons, as it is a good word, as they that tasted of the power of the world to come; they may look upon it for pleasure and profit, but not as good and holy. Many look upon the gospel as good and profitable, as offering peace, and pardon, and comfort, and eternal life. Nature, that hath naturally a sense of religion, hath also a hunger after immortality and blessedness; and therefore the promises of the gospel may be greedily catched after, as offering everlasting life and blessedness. But now a love to that which is pure and holy leaveth a more durable impression upon the soul. And further, many have a liking to the purity of the word, and a general approbation of it, as it is a fit rule for creatures to live by; yet unless there be a strong prevailing affection, all comes to nothing; and therefore nothing but this love to the word because of its purity is unquestionable.
4. Unless we love the word as pure, we shall fail in many other parts of religion; we shall not love God as we ought, for God is lovely, not only as the fountain of blessedness, but as he is the most pure and perfect being. He was diligibilis naturae before any emanation of goodness passed from him. We are to love him in desertions, when we feel no good from him, and he seemeth to write bitter things against us, Isa. xxvi. 8. So that we cannot discharge this duty to love God as he is a pure and perfect being if we do not love the word because it is pure. And we shall not love the saints as we ought without this, Ps. xvi. 3. We are to love them for the image of God in them. ‘If you love them that love you, what thanks have you?’ Mat. v. 46. We are to love the saints as saints, and for that reason. Once more, we are to hate sin, as filthy, as it is a gross absurdity, and deordination of the human nature: Ps. xcvi. 10, ‘Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.’ Now, till we have this frame of heart, to love the law as it is pure, we can do none of these things; for there is the same reason for the one as for the other; and therefore it is not a nicety, but a necessary frame of heart.
Use 1. To inform us that they can never love God and his ways that hate purity, till their hearts be changed. There are a sort of men in the world whose hearts rise against purity; for if they see any make conscience of sin, they brand them with the name of Puritans; so those that seek to keep themselves from sin, and the more holy they are, they are an eyesore to them. Now, can they say, I love thy law because it is pure, and cannot endure to see it copied out in others? Oh, what a vile disposition is this in you, to be despisers of that which is good! 2 Tim. iii. 3. None live up to the purity of their profession but you scorn them; and let me tell you, you scorn that which is most glorious in God himself. Would a father take it well that a slave should mock his child because it is like him? So will God take it well that you should scorn those that are good, because they are like their heavenly Father? These are of the seed of the serpent, who are full of enmity; they have the old antipathy, Gen. iii. 15; Prov. xxix. 27. It is a vile scorn of the God of heaven to hate a man for his holiness. And they can never love the law, whatever they pretend, that do not love the law for its purity. A carnal distempered 488appetite hath no taste for the word of God, as it is a direction to holiness, 2 Cor. ii. 14.
Use 2. To inform us in what rank to place principles. There are several sorts of principles; there are some that are false and rotten, and some more tolerable, and some good and sound, and some rare and excellent.
1. There are some false and rotten principles, as carnal example and custom. Men will do as they have done, or as others do; they will own the religion that their fathers have done, be it what it will. By the same reason you may serve Mahomet as well as Christ. A man that standeth upon the vantage-ground is not taller than another; such are of no better constitution than the Turks, only they stand upon the vantage-ground. Another rotten principle is vainglory, to be seen of men, Mat. vi.; they pray and give alms to be seen of men. ‘Come see my zeal for the Lord of hosts,’ saith Jehu. Vainglory many times filleth the sails, and carries us on in the service of God. So secular and worldly interests and ends; as the Pharisees made long prayers that they might devour widows’ houses, Mat. xxiii.; that is, they made long prayers and show of devotion, to be trusted with the management of widows’ estates, to make a prey of them. All that I shall say to this principle is this, that it is better for the world that men would serve God anyhow, that Christ should be served out of vainglory, than not served at all; as the apostle saith some preach Christ out of envy, and others out of good- will, but I am glad so Christ be preached, Phil. i. 18; though they themselves be rotten-hearted hypocrites, yet the world fares the better for it.
2. There are some more tolerable principles, the hope of temporal mercies. When we come and pray, and do not seek the favour of God, but seek temporal mercies: Hosea vii. 14, ‘They howled upon their beds for corn and wine.’ Or the fear of temporal judgments, Isa. lviii. 5; Jer. ii. 16; when all that they do is to remove some temporal judgment: ‘In their afflictions they will seek me right early.’ And I think I may add one thing more here, the fear of eternal death, when it is alone (otherwise it is a grace); they shall be damned else; and so it is a sleepy sop to appease an accusing conscience, and so it is but a sin-offering. Though it requireth some faith to fear what is to come, yet fear of punishment alone showeth you are slaves, and only love yourselves: the devils fear and tremble, but do not love. Yon may fear a thing though you hate it. So far as the heart is affected with the fear of hell, it is good.
3. There are very good and sound principles, yet do not always argue grace, as when duties are done out of the urgings of an enlightened conscience; this may be without the bent of a renewed heart, but yet the principle is sound; for the first thing that influenceth a man is to consider himself a creature, and so to look upon himself as bound to obey his creator. I shall illustrate it by the apostle’s words in another case: I must preach the gospel, and ‘woe unto me if I preach not the gospel,’ 1 Cor. ix. 16, 17, ‘Whether I do it willingly or unwillingly, yet a dispensation is committed to me.’ So saith the soul, Whether I be fitted to do God service or no, God must be obeyed. But because God’s precept is invested with a sanction of 489threatenings and rewards, here comes in the fear of hell and the hope of heaven. The Lord hath commanded me to fly from hell; this is a good principle: so the hope of heaven, Heb. xi. 26; it is a sound principle: a man may be gracious, or he may not. Many have a liking to heaven and eternal life, as it is a state of happiness, not of likeness to God. Where it is not alone, it is a very sound principle, but as it is, it may sometimes be the sign of a renewed man, and some times not.
4. There are rare and excellent principles, when we act out of thankfulness to God, when we consider the Lord’s goodness, that might have required duty out of mere sovereignty; he hath laid the foundation of it in the blood of his own Son, 1 John iv. 29; when we love him out of the sense of his love to us in Christ, and when the grace of God that hath appeared teacheth us to deny ungodliness, Titus ii. 11; when the mercies of God melt us, Rom. xii. 1; when there are no entreaties so powerful as that of love. Again, another principle that is rare and excellent is when the glory of God doth season us in our whole course, that it may be to the praise of his glorious grace, 1 Cor. x. 31. Another is complacency in the work for the work’s sake, when we love the law because it is pure, when I see it will ennoble me and make me like God, when I love God and his ways, when nothing but so noble employment doth engage me to his service; and service to God is the sweetest life in the world.
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