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Quicken me, O Lord, according unto thy word.—Ver. 107.
USE 1. To reprove the stupidness and carelessness of them that neglect God in their troubles: Dan. ix. 13, ‘All this evil is come upon us, yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God.’ A very senseless slight spirit, that when they are under the blows of God’s 101heavy hand, they will not be much in calling upon God; this is contrary to God’s injunction, who expects now with earnestness they will seek him. God reckons upon it; he could not hear from them before, but now they will pray hard, and will make up their former negligence. When God sends a tempest after you, as on Jonah, yet will you keep off from him? It is contrary to the practice of the saints; in their chastisements, troubles, and afflictions, they are much with God, opening their hearts to him. Nay, it is worse than hypocrites, for they will have their pangs of devotion at such a time, Job xxvii. 10, 11. In short, you lose the comfort of your affliction. Seasons of affliction are happy seasons if they prove praying seasons; when they bring you nearer to God, it is a sign God is not wholly gone, but hath left somewhat behind him, when the heart is drawn into him. This is the blessing of every condition, when it brings God nearer to you, and you are more acquainted with him than before.
Use 2. Then it takes off the discouragements of poor disconsolate ones, who mis-expound his providence when they think afflictions put us from God rather than call us to him. Oh no! it is not to drive you from him, but to draw you to him. Do not think God hath no mercy for thee, because he leaves thee to such pressures, wants, and crosses. This is the way to acquaint yourselves with God, yea, though you have been hitherto strangers to him; he hath invited you to call upon him in time of trouble, he is willing to have you upon any terms. A man will say, You come to me in your necessities; God delights to hear from you, and is glad any occasion will bring you into his presence; and therefore be much with God.
Secondly, I observe, when this affliction was sore and pressing, yet then he hath a heart to pray, ‘I am afflicted very sore, O Lord, quicken me.’
Doct. We must not give over prayer, though our afflictions be never so great and heavy. Why? Because—
1. Nothing is too hard for God; he hath ways of his own to save and preserve his people when we are at a loss. This was the glory of Abraham’s faith, that he accounted God was able to raise up Isaac from the dead, Heb. xi. 19. Difficult cases are fit for God to deal in, to show his divine power. When means have spent their allowance, then is it time to try what God can do: Ps. cxlii. 4, 5, ‘I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee, O Lord; I said, Thou art my refuge, and my portion in the land of the living.’ When all things fail, God faileth not.
2. We must still pray. Faith must express something above sense, or else living by faith and living by sense cannot be distinguished. In desperate cases then is the glory of faith seen: Job xiii. 15, ‘Though he should kill me, yet I will trust in him.’ In defiance of all discouragement, we should come and profess our dependence upon God.
Use. To condemn those that despond, and give over all treaty with God, as soon as any difficulty doth arise; whereas this should sharpen prayer, rather than discourage us. This is man’s temper, when troubles are little and small, then to neglect God; when great, then to distrust God. A little headache will not send us to the physician, 102nor the scratch of a pin to the chirurgeon; so if our troubles be little, they do not move us to seek after God, but we are secure and careless; but when our troubles are smart, sore, and pressing, then we are discouraged, and give over all hopes; so hard a matter is it to bring man to God, to keep an even frame, neither to slight the hand of God, nor to faint under it, as we have direction to avoid both extremes, Heb. xii. 5, to cherish a due sense of our troubles, with a regular confidence in God.
That he prays you have seen. Now what he prays for. He doth not say deliver me, but quicken me.
Doct. Strength and support under afflictions is a great blessing, to be sought from God, and acknowledged as a favour, as well as deliverance.
1. You shall see this is promised as a favour: Isa. xl. 31, ‘They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;’ that is, shall not faint nor be weary, but mount up as it were with wings as eagles; they shall have a new supply of grace, enabling them to bear and hold out till the deliverance cometh. They that wait upon the Lord do not always see the end of their troubles, but are quickened, comforted, and strengthened in them; they shall renew their strength.
2. This is accepted by the saints with thanksgiving, and valued by them as a special answer of prayer; they value it more than temporal deliverance itself many times; as 2 Cor. xii. 9, 10, Paul prays for the removal of the thorn in the flesh thrice, when God only gives him this answer, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee;’ saith Paul then, ‘I will rejoice in mine infirmities,’ so I might have strength and support in grievous weaknesses, reproaches, and afflictions, whatever they be. So Ps. cxxxviii. 3, ‘In the day when I cried, thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.’ That is noted as a special answer of prayer. How did he hear him? With strength in my soul. Though he did not give him deliverance, he gave him -sup port, so that was acknowledged as a very great mercy.
3. There are many cases wherein we cannot expect temporal deliverance, then we must only go for quickening and support; when by a lingering disease we are drawing down to the chambers of death, and our outward strength is clean spent and gone, then have we sup port; that is a great mercy: Ps. lxxiii. 26, when strength fail and heart fail, ‘God is the strength of my heart, and portion for ever;’ that is, to have his heart quickened by God in the languishing of a mortal disease. So 2 Cor. iv. 16, ‘Though our outward man perish, yet our inward man is renewed day by day.’ There are many troubles that cannot be avoided, and therefore we are then to be earnest with God for spiritual strength.
Use. Well, then, you see upon what occasion we should go for grace rather than for temporal deliverance. We should pray from the new nature; not deliver me, but quicken me; and if the Lord should suspend deliverance, why, that will be our strength in time of trouble: Ps. xxxvii. 39, ‘The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord; he is their strength in the time of trouble.’
But more particularly, let us take notice of this request: ‘Quicken me,’ saith he.103
Doct. Quickening grace must be asked of God.
1. What is quickening?
2. Why asked of God?
First, What is this quickening? Quickening in scripture is put for two things:—
1. For regeneration, or the first infusion of the life of grace; as Eph. ii. 5, ‘And you that were dead in trespasses and sins hath he quickened;’ that is, infused life, or making to live a new life.
2. It is put for the renewed excitations of God’s grace, God’s breathing upon his own work. God, that begins life in our souls, carries on this life, and actuates it. Now this kind of quickening is twofold spoken of in this psalm; there is quickening in duties, and quickening in afflictions. Quickening in duties, that is opposite to deadness of spirit; quickening in affliction, that is opposite to faintness.
[1.] Quickening in duties, that is opposite to that deadness of spirit which creeps upon us now and then, and is occasioned either by our negligence or by our carnal liberty, that deadness of spirit that doth hinder the activity of grace.
(1.) By out negligence and slothfulness in the spiritual life, when we do not stir up ourselves: Isa. lxiv. 7, ‘There is none that stirreth up himself to take hold on thee;’ when men grow careless and neglectful in their souls. An instrument, though never so well in tune, yet if hung up and laid by, soon grows out of order; so when our hearts are neglected, when they are not under a constant exercise of grace, a deadness creeps upon us. Wells are sweeter for the draining. Our graces they are more fresh and lively the more they are kept a-work, otherwise they lose their vitality. A key rusts that is seldom turned in the lock, and therefore negligence is a cause of this deadness: 2 Tim. i. 6, ‘Stir up the gift that is in thee.’ We must blow up the ashes. There needs blowing if we would keep in the fire; we grow dead and lukewarm, and cold in the spiritual life, for want of exercise.
(2.) This deadness is occasioned by carnal liberty: Ps. cxix. 37, ‘Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity, and quicken thou me in thy way.’ When we have been too busy about the vanities of the world, or pleasures of the flesh, when we have given contentment to the flesh, and been intermeddling with worldly cares and delights, it brings a brawn and deadness upon the heart: Luke xxi. 34, ‘Take heed that your hearts be not overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and the cares of this world,’ &c. I say, by this the soul is distempered, and rendered inapt for God. Christians! this is a disease very incident to the saints, this deadness that creeps upon them. We have not such lively stirrings, nor a like influence of grace; we have not those earnest and lively motions we were wont to have in prayer. Now God he quickeneth us. How? By exciting the operative graces, as faith, love, hope, and fear, when these are kept pregnant and lively, as we read of ‘lively hope,’ 1 Peter i. 3. There is living faith and lively faith, and living fear and lively fear of God, and living hope and lively hope. All graces God makes them lively and vivacious, that they may put forth their -operations the more readily. Well, this is quickening in duties.104
[2.] There is quickening in afflictions, and so it is opposed to fainting, that fainting which is occasioned by too deep a sense of present troubles, or by unbelief, or distrust of God and his promises, and the supplies of his grace. Oh! when troubles press upon us very sore, our hearts are like a bird, dead in the nest, overcome, so that we have no spirit, life, nor aptness for God’s service: ‘My soul droopeth for very heaviness;’ we have lost our life and our courage for God.
Well, how doth God quicken us? By reviving our suffering graces, as our hope of eternal life and eternal glory, patience and faith, and so puts life into us again, that we may go on cheerfully in our service. By infusion of new comforts. He revives the spirit of his contrite ones; so the prophet saith, Isa. lvii. 15. He doth revive our spirits again when they are dead and sunk under our troubles. Oh! it is very necessary for this: Ps. lxxx. 18, ‘Quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.’ Discomfort and discouragement they weaken our hands; until the Lord cheers us again we have no life in prayer. By two things especially doth God quicken us in affliction—by reviving the sense of his love, and by reviving the hopes of glory. By reviving the sense of his love: Rom. v. 5, ‘The love of God is shed abroad,’ like a fragrant ointment that doth revive us, when we are even ready o give up the ghost; Ps. lxxxv. 6, ‘Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee?’ I say, when he restores the sense of his love after great and pressing sorrow, then he is said to quicken. So when he doth renew upon us the hopes of glory: Rom. v. 2, 3, ‘We rejoice in hope of the glory of God.’ Well, you see what this quickening is.
Secondly, This quickening must be asked of God.
1. Because it is his prerogative to govern the heart of man, especially -to quicken us. God will be owned as the fountain of all life: 1 Tim. vi. 13, ‘I charge thee in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things.’ It is God that quickeneth all things. All the life that is in the creature, all the life that is in new creatures, it comes from God; it is he that giveth us life at first, and he must keep in this life in the soul, and restore it. The meanest worm, all the life it hath, it hath from God. When John would prove the Godhead of Christ, he brings this argument, John i. 4, ‘In him is life.’ There is not a gnat but receives this benefit from Christ as God. He hath the life of all things, and this life is the light of men; much more the noble creature man hath this life from God; much more the new creature; greater operation of spiritual life, more depends upon his influence; and therefore, if we would be quickened, and carried out with any life and strength, we must go to God for it.
2. God as our judge, he must be treated with about it, for he smites us with deadness; therefore till he takes off his sentence, we cannot get rid of this distemper; it is one of God’s spiritual plagues, which must be removed before we can hope for any liveliness, and any activity of grace again. Under the law, God punished sins more sensibly; as unhallowed addresses, he punished them with death. Under the gospel, he punisheth sins with deadness of heart. When they seem careless in the worshipping of God, they have a blow and breach, as he smote Uzzah and Nadab and Abihu dead in the place; 105and now he smites with deadness, Rev. iii. 7. He ‘hath the key of David, that openeth and no man shutteth, and shutteth and no man openeth;’ without his permission we can never recover our former lively estate again, for there is a judicial sentence passed upon us.
Use. To press us to be often with God for quickening, that we may obtain this benefit. I have spoken of it at large upon another verse; if you would have this benefit, rouse up yourselves: Isa. lxiv. 7, ‘There is none that stirreth up himself;’ and 2 Tim. i. 6, ‘Stir up the gift that is in thee.’ A man hath a faculty to work upon his own heart, to commune and reason with himself; and we are bidden to ‘strengthen the things that are ready to die,’ Rev. iii. 2. When things are dying and fainting in the soul, we are to strengthen ourselves; therefore, if we would have God to quicken us, thus must we do, chide the heart for its deadness in duty; we can be lively enough in a way of sin; chide the heart for its deadness in affliction: Ps. xlii., ‘Why art thou cast down, my soul? still trust in God.’ And after you have done this, then look up, and expect this grace from God in and through Christ Jesus. It is said, John x. 10, ‘I am come that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.’ Jesus Christ, he came not only that we might have life enough to keep body and soul together, but that we might not only be living but lively, full of life, strength, and cheerfulness in the service of God. He is come into the world for this end and purpose: expect it through Christ, who hath purchased it for us. And then plead with God about it, according to his promise, Ah! Lord, according to thy word; hast thou not said, I will quicken a dead heart? When thou art broken and tossed with affliction, remember it is the high and lofty one that hath said he will ‘revive the heart of the contrite ones,’ Isa. lvii. 15; and plead thus with God, Ah! Lord, dost not thou delight in a cheerful spirit? ‘Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee?’ Ps. lxxxv. 6. And then humble yourselves for the cause of the distemper. What is the matter? how comes this deadness upon me? Isa. lxiii. 17, ‘Why hast thou caused us to err from thy ways, and hardened our heart from thy fear?’ Inquire what is the cause of this deadness that grows upon me, that you may humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God.
The argument only is behind, according to thy word. David, when he begs for quickening, he is encouraged so to do by a promise. The question is, where this promise should be? Some think it was that general promise of the law, ‘If thou do these things, thou shalt live in them,’ Lev. xviii. 5; and that from thence David drew this particular conclusion, that God would give life to his people. But rather it was some other promise, some word of God he had to bear him out in this request. We see he hath made many promises to us of sanctifying our affliction: Isa. xxvii. 9, ‘The fruit of all shall be the taking away of sin;’ of bettering and improving us by it, Heb. ii. 11; of moderating our affliction; that he will ‘stay his rough wind in the day of the east-wind,’ Isa. xxvii. 8; that he will ‘lay no more upon us than he will enable us to bear,’ 1 Cor. x. 13. He hath promised he will moderate our affliction, so that we shall not be tempted above our strength. He hath promised he will deliver us from it, that ‘the rod of the wicked shall not always rest on the back 106of the righteous?’ Ps. cxxv. 3; that he will be with us in it, and never fail us, Heb. xiii. 5. Now, I argue thus: if the people of God could stay their hearts upon God’s word when they had but such obscure hints to work upon, that we do not know where the promise lies, ah! how should our hearts be stayed upon God when we have so many promises! When the scriptures are enlarged for the comfort and enlarging of our faith, surely we should say now as Paul, when he got a word, Acts xxvii. 25, ‘I believe God;’ I may expect God will do thus for me, when his word speaks it everywhere. Then you may expostulate with God: I have thy word for it, Lord; as she, when she showed him the jewel, ring, and staff, Whose are these? So we may cast in God his promises: Whose are these according to thy word? And mark, David, that was punctual with God, ‘I have sworn, and I will perform it; and quicken me according to thy word.’ Sincere hearts may plead promises with God: Isa. xxxviii, 3, ‘Lord, remember I have walked before thee with an upright heart.’ These may look up and wait upon God for deliverance.
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