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The Power of Grace in Weaning the Heart from the World
(The Latter part of the Verse)
—My Soul is even as a Weaned Child.
Chrysostom, in his Homily of Evangelical Perfection, commending the Grace of Humility, saith, Humility is the Foundation of Christian Philosophy. Indeed, it is the Ornament of all the Graces of God’s Spirit: Grace is the Beauty of the Soul, and Humility is the Beauty of Grace.
Now the Prophet David, being about to commend this Grace to the Saints, doth propound himself as an Example of it, in this Psalm; Lord, my Heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty: neither do I exercise my self in great matters, or in things too high for me, ver. 1.82
But what was it that thus humbled David’s Heart, and took him off from doting upon the World’s Grandeur, and from delighting himself in present Enjoyments?
Why God had, by the Power of his Grace, took his Heart off from all things here Below, by shewing him the Vanity and Emptiness of them; so that he was wholly weaned from them. So he says, ver. 2, I have behaved and quieted my self, as a child that is weaned of his mother:--My soul is even as a weaned child.
Doctr. That where the Grace of God takes hold of the Soul, it makes it as a weaned Child, to all Worldly things.
I. In the Discussing this Doctrine, I shall shew you what it is to be as a Weaned Child.
II. Shew you, That there is a great Resemblance between a 83Weaned Child and a Gracious Soul.
III. Shew you how Grace weans the Heart from all Worldly things.
1st. What is it to be as a Weaned Child?
|This I shall
Negatively First, and that in Two things:
1. It is not to be without the Comforts and Contentments of the World. It is possible to have Much of the World, and yet be weaned from the World: So had David here; he had Riches in abundance, Honour in abundance, for he was advanced to the Throne, he was the greatest Man in the Kingdom, and yet his Soul was as a weaned Child. Many may have Little of the World, and yet their Hearts not weaned; and many 84many have Much of the World, and yet be weaned from the World.
2. It is not to Slight and Undervalue our Enjoyments; for they are a real Mercy; they are Gifts from above, the noble Effects of the Bounty of Providence.
This being as a weaned Child, carries three things in it:
1st. Content. To be as a weaned Child, is to be Content in every State, in every Condition of Life. Whatever you give a Child, it is content, be the Bread whiter or browner, be the Meat hot or cold, be the Cloathes finer or coarser. So that to be as a weaned Child, is to have a Contented Spirit in every Condition, under every Providence. So had David, 2 Samuel xv. 25, 26. If 85 I shall find favour in the eye of the Lord, he will bring me again: But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee: behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good to him. So had St. Paul, Phil. iv. 11, 12. I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where, and in all things I am instructed both to be full, and to be hungry, both to abound, and to suffer need. A Contented Spirit in every Condition of Life, is a great Mercy.
2dly. To be as a weaned Child, is to be Humble. None so humble as little Children, they do not aim at or aspire after great things: Therefore our Lord Christ propounds them to his own Disciples for Patterns of Humility, Matth. viii. 4. he calls a little Child, and sets him in the midst of his Disciples, and tells them, Whoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same shall be great in the kingdom of heaven.86
So that to be as a weaned Child, is to be of an humble and lowly Spirit. So was David here: Lord, my heart is not haughty; I have behaved my self as a child that is weaned of his mother.
Oh, what an excellent Spirit is this! Solomon tells us, Prov. xvi. 19. It is better to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud. And in Prov. xxix. 23. he says, A man’s pride shall bring him low, but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.
3dly, To be as a weaned Child, is to be Teachable. None so Tractable, none so Teachable, as Children. Isa. xxix. 8. Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? they that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.
To be a weaned Child, is to be Teachable: Naturally we are the most Unteachable Creatures in the World. How will you Teach one that can neither See, nor Hear, nor Understand?87
This is the very Case of every natural Man.
1. He is blind and cannot see, 2 Cor. iv. 4. The God of this World hath blinded the Minds of them which believe not, lest the Light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the Image of God, should shine into them.
3. He is sottish and foolish, and cannot Understand, Romans iii. 11. There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
And therefore, a teachable frame of Spirit is a special Mercy of God, it is one of the great Blessings of the New Covenant. They shall all be taught of God, John vi. 45. and they shall all know me from the least to the greatest, Jeremy xxxi. 34.88
An unteachable Heart is a great Judgment. This was Pharaoh’s Judgment; no Councel, no Message, no Reproof, no Warning, no Plague could soften him. When the Lord designs to bring Judgment upon a Soul, then he gives it up to an unteachable frame, Isaiah vi. 9, 10, 11, 12. v. 9. Go tell this People, hear ye indeed but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not, ver. 10. make the Hearts of this People flat, and make their Ears heavy, and shut their Eyes, lest they see with their Eyes, and hear with their Ears, and understand with their Heart, and convert, and be healed.
v. 11. Then said I, Lord, how long? and he answered, Until the City be wasted without Inhabitant, and the Houses without Man, and the Land be utterly desolate.
12. And the Lord have removed Men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the Land.
And when the Lord intends good to a Soul, he gives a tractable Teachable frame of Spirit; a seeing Eye, 89a hearing Ear, an understanding Heart.
Thus you see, what it is to be as a weaned Child.
To be content, to be humble, to be teachable.
2. I will shew you that there is a great Resemblance between a weaned Child and a gracious Soul.
You may consider a weaned Child Three Ways:
1. In regard to its Infirmities.
2. In regard to its manner of weaning.
3. In regard to its Disposition.
1st. In regard to its Infirmitys; What is weaker than a weaned Child? What Creature more helpless, more feeble?
It cannot feed it self.
It cannot defend it self.
It cannot govern it self.90
1. It cannot feed it self. If it be not suckled, it must be fed: if it hath not the Breast, it must have the Spoon: it cannot feed it self without the hand of the Mother or Nurse.
It is the same, in a spiritual sense, with the gracious Soul; if it be weaned, yet it must be fed; If it be weaned from the Earth, it must be fed from Heaven; If it be weaned from the Creature, it must be nourished from the Promises.
Every Believer depends upon God for feeding, yea, for natural Bread; and therefore we pray, Give us this day, our daily bread, Matth. vi. 11. Much more do we depend upon God for spiritual supports, for Soul refreshments: for it is he that fills the hungry with good things, Luk. i. 53.
There are three things which are the peculiar Privileges of Believers:
1. To be Born of God.
2. To be Taught of God.
3. To be Fed of God.91
They are born of God by the power of the Word.
Taught of God by the Precepts of the Word.
Fed of God by the Promises of the Word.
2dly. A weaned Child cannot defend it self. The security of an Infant lies in the Care of the Parent. Though the Breast doth feed it, yet the Arms must guard it: It is liable to many Harms: Set it down, and leave it alone, and what will become of it? It falls into the Fire, or into the Water; into one Mischief or another.
It is so with a Child of God; he cannot preserve himself, no not a moment: The greatest measure of Grace attainable will not do it. If God should set up a Believer with a stock of Grace, and then leave him to trade for himself, how quickly would he prove Bankrupt, and perish!92
Alas! Grace is a mutable thing: though it shall never perish, yet in its own nature it is perishable. I have three Witnesses to prove it.
1st. That which is subject to decay in part, is subject to decay in whole: But Grace is subject to decay in part. Revel. ii. 4, 5. I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left they first love: Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do thy first works. Did not the Church of Ephesus decay in Grace here? And in Revel. iii. 2. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die. Is not here a sad Decay of Grace?
2dly. Whatever is a Creature, may perish. Now Grace is a Creature of God, as all other things are; it is indeed the noblest and best of Creatures; yet it is but a Creature: and all Creatures have a principle of perishing in them; and therefore Grace, considered in it self, may perish.93
3dly. If ever Grace did perish, then it may perish. But there was a time when Grace did perish. Did not the Angels that fell, lose their Grace? Did not Adam, in Paradise, lose his? These had true Grace, and yet they fell from it.
By the same Reason that a Believer falls gradually when God withdraws himself, by the same Reason he would fall finally if God should leave him to himself.
It is not from anything in us that we stand and are preserved, but from without us; yea, from above us; even from the Power of God: So saith the Apostle, 1 Pet. i. 5 We are kept by the power of God, through faith, to salvation. It is, you see, Grace held to us, that causeth Grace to hold out in us. Faith lays hold on God’s Power to be kept, and we are kept by the Power of God through Faith.
A Christian hath the Stream of Grace flowing in him; but God is the Spring of Grace ever flowing for 94him, and overflowing to him: And if the Spring should be shut up, the Stream would soon fail. All my springs are in thee, Psal. lxxxvii. 7.
It is renewing Grace that changes us, or else we had never stood: It is supporting Grace that keeps us, or else we had quickly fell. This David averreth in the 66th Psalm, Verse 9. He holdeth our souls in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.
Consider but two things, and you will say, it is impossible a Believer can preserve himself:
1st. The Power of indwelling Lust and Corruption. There is not only much of the Presence of Sin in every Believer, but much of the Power of Sin also.
Though where Grace is wrought, there the Power of Sin is much abated; yet it is not utterly removed: though the reigning Power be destroyed, yet Sin hath a raging Power still; and this too too often captivates the best of Saints: a Paul 95himself will find it, notwithstanding all his Grace. See Rom. vii. 21, 23.
I find then a law, that when I would do good, evil is present with me.
I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
Now if so holy a Saint of God as Paul was, complains thus; what Complaints may we make, whose Corruptions are many and strong, and whose Grace is little and weak?
Suppose you should put a spark of Fire into the Sea, would it not quickly be quenched? Why our Grace is but like a spark of fire in the midst of a Sea of Corruption, and therefore would quickly be quenched if God did not preserve it alive.
2dly, Consider the Frequency and Strength of Temptation. The greatest degree of Grace will give us no immunity from Temptation; for the Lord Jesus Christ had no sin, 96and yet was assaulted by Satan; and therefore the Servant must not look to be above his Lord.
Satan’s great Design is to Destroy the believer’s Grace; yea, and he would do it, if the Lord should not hold him in, and hold us up.
There is a great Strength in every Temptation.
Partly as being managed by so Potent, and Subtle an Enemy.
Partly as being suited to our remaining Corruptions. Tho’ when the Devil came to Christ, he found no Sin in him, nothing for Temptation to Work upon; yet when he comes to Christians, he finds much in them. Much Pride, much Worldly Love, much Lust, much Carnal Concupiscence, much Unbelief, much Deadness of Heart, much Unprofitableness, &c. and this is the Matter he Works upon.
When Satan surrounds us without, Sin is Ready to surprize us within: When Satan besets us, Sin is ready to betray us; and therefore if the 97Lord put not underneath his everlasting Arms, we cannot stand.
So that you see the gracious Soul is unable, like the weaned Child, to defend it self. The Lord is his defense. Isa. iv. 5.
3dly. A weaned Child is not able to govern it self: it is destitute both of Strength and Wisdom.
And so it is with every Believer: he is not able to direct his own Actions; he cannot govern his own Thoughts; he hath not the least Self-sufficiency. So says Agur of himself, Prov. xxx. 2, 3. Surely I am more brutish than any Man, and have not the understanding of a Man.
And therefore David seeing this, betakes himself to the Lord for Counsel and Guidance, Psal. xxxi. 3. For thy name-sake lead me and guide me. And God promises to guide them, Isa. xlii. 16. I will bring the blind by a way they know not, I will bring the blind by a way they know not, I will lead them in paths that they have not known, I will make darkness light before 98them, and crooked things strait: These things I will do, and not forsake them.
Now there are two ways especially whereby the Lord doth direct and guide his People:
So foolish was I, and ignorant, I was as a Beast before thee, Ver. 22.
Nevertheless, I am continually with thee, thou hast holden me by my right-hand. Ver. 23.
Thou shalt guide me by thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Ver. 24.
The Word of God is the best Counsellor; and therefore David betakes himself to it for Guidance and Direction, Psal. cxix. 24, Thy Testimonies are my delight and my counsellors. In the Hebrew it is, The Men of my counsel.
David was a King; and therefore, no doubt, had the wisest Men of the Nation to be of his Council. 99We read of Hushai, and others, Men of great Parts and Prudence, that were his Council: but yet he hearkned more to the Word of God than to all his Counsel besides. Thy Statutes are my Counsellors.
We should follow the Counsels of the Word in all things, and make it the Guide of our Way: so good David did: Thy Word is a light to my feet, and a lamp to my paths, Psalm cxix. 105. For,
1st. It is the safest Counsel: We may, and too often do, err in following the Counsels of others: for Man’s Wisdom is short-sighted; the blind lead the blind, and both fall into the ditch. But we can never err or miscarry in following the Counsels of the Scripture. Solomon says, Prov. ii. 10, 11. When Wisdom entereth into thine heart, and Knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul, Discretion shall preserve thee, Understanding shall keep thee. And speaking of the Commandment in the 6th chapter, says 100he, Ver. 21, 22, 23. Bind it upon thy Heart; and when thou goest it shall lead thee, when thou sleepest it shall keep thee, and when thou awakest it shall talk with thee. For the Commandment is a lamp, and the Law is light, and Reproofs of Instruction are the way of life.
2dly. It is the most profitable Counsel. It steads the Soul in all Concerns of Life: yea, the Happiness and Salvation of the Soul is the sure issue of following the Counsels of the Word. See what an Account David gives of the Word, in Psalm xix. from the 7th to the 11th Verse. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. Ver. 7.
The Statutes of the Lord are right, rejoycing the heart: the Commandment of the Lord is pure, inlightning the eyes. Ver. 8.
The Fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever; the Judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. Ver. 9.101
More to be desired are they than Gold, yea, than much fine Gold; sweeter also than Honey, and the Honey-comb. Ver. 10.
Moreover, by them is thy Servant warned; and in keeping of them there is great reward.
O what a Mercy it is to be under the Guidance of the Word of God!
2dly. God guides his People by the Counsels of his Spirit. Joh. xvi. 13. When the spirit of Truth is come, he will guide you into all truth.
The Spirit of the Lord is called a Spirit of Counsel. Isa. xi. 2.
How happy is the Condition of God’s people, that have the Word and the Spirit to guide them! The Word without the Spirit cannot, the Spirit without the Word will not guide us. The Word is a Light without us, the Spirit is a Light within us: The Word propounds the Way to walk in, the Spirit enables the Soul to walk in that Way. 102Blessed are they whom God thus guides.
Thus I have shewed you how the state of a Believer resembles that of a weaned Child, in regard of its Infirmities.
II. There is a Resemblance also in regard to its Manner of Weaning; and that in three particular Circumstances:
1st. Many when they wean a Child from the Breast, will rub Wormwood, or some bitter and unpleasant thing, upon the Pap, to create a loathing in the Child to that it was so fond of before: and so the Bitterness of the Taste makes the Child forsake the Breast.
Now in this the Soul of a Believer is as a weaned Child. The Breast of the Creature is that which naturally Man lies at; for natural Man fetches all his Comfort from sensual things, and savours only earthly things.103
Now, when the Lord designs to work Grace in the Heart, and redeem a Soul to himself, he ever weans it first from the World. Psal. xlv. 10, 11. Hearken (O Daughter) and consider, and incline thine ear; forget also thine own People, and thy Father’s House: so shall the King greatly desire thy Beauty.
Now, the Difficulty of Conversion lies here, in taking the Heart from the Creature, and placing it upon God: for in the Fall we turned from God to the Creature, and in Conversion-work the Heart is turned from the Creature to God again.
Now because (I say) this is difficult, for the Creature is loth to leave the Breast of carnal Enjoyments where it hath sucked in such sensual Delights so long: Therefore the Lord, when he would wean the Soul from things below, he rubs Wormwood upon the Breasts of all our Comforts, and imbitters all our Enjoyments; so that though we 104seek for Satisfaction, yet we shall find none.
This was the way of God’s dealing with the Prodigal Son. The Parable of the Prodigal is to represent to us the State of every Natural Man.
God is never better to us than when the Creature is most bitter to us: He famishes all the Gods of the Earth that Men may be brought to worship him, Zeph ii. 11.
Thus God dealt with Israel, Hos. ii: 6, 7. I will hedge up thy way with thorns, that she shall not find her paths: And what then? Then shall she say, I will go and return to my first Husband, for then was it better with me than now.
God has two Hedges which the Scripture takes notice of:105
The Hedge of his Protection, that you read of Job i. 10. Hast not thou made an Hedge about him, and about his House, and about all that he hat on every side?
The Hedge of Affliction, that you read of here: I will hedge up her way with thorns.
Now the Lord make use of both these Hedges.
The Hedge of God’s Protection, that is to keep his People from Danger.
The Hedge of Affliction, that is to stop them that wander.
The Hedge of Protection is to keep them in God’s way.
The Hedge of Affliction is to keep them out of Sin’s way.
The Hedge of Protection is to keep them from Suffering.
The Hedge of Affliction is to keep them from Sinning, and to put them upon returning.
So it was with Israel here; when God had hedged up her way, that, she could not find her Paths, nor 106overtake her Lovers, then she cries out, I will return to my first Husband, for then it was better with me than now.
It is a great Mercy for God to wean a Soul from the World; for it never suffers greater Loss than when it forsakes God to live upon the Creature: This is to regard lying Vanity, and so forsake our own Mercies, as the Prophet expresseth it, Jonah ii. 8. It is going out of God’s Blessing into the warm Sun, (as our Proverb hath it) forsaking the living Fountain, to quench our Thirst from a broken Cistern, Jer. ii. 13.
By our Excesses in Creature-Enjoyments, Reason is commonly drowned in Sense, and Judgment extinguished in Appetite. The excessive letting out our selves to sensual Fruitions, is both a Sin and a Punishment; while thereby we lose both God, and the Creature, and our selves at once.107
Now, when the Lord weans a Soul from the World, he doth imbitter the World to the Creature; either by some Affliction, or by some Disappointment in the Creature, which makes the Soul look out for more pure and lasting Satisfactions in Christ.
In a time of outward Prosperities, we are all Martha’s Children, carried away too much with the World; but when God imbitters our Cup, then, with Mary, we look more after the one thing necessary, and mind the chusing the better part.
So long as we are full of the World, the Lord Christ can find no room in our Hearts: present Comforts have gotten Possession, and thrust him out.
As it was when he was born, there was no Room for him in the Inn: that was taken up with other Guests; therefore Christ must be laid in the Manger, in an Out-room.108
Truly, thus it fares with the Lord Jesus Christ in the World still: the most of us lay him in the Manger, in an Out-room to this very Day.
Pray deal plainly with God and your own Souls, and tell me, What Entertainment do you give to the Lord Jesus when he comes to your Souls in an Ordinance, and offers to make his Abode with you, for so he doth: Revel. iii. 20. Behold I stand at the door and knock; if anyone Man open to me, I will come in and sup with him, and he with me.
Now, how do you treat the blessed Jesus? Where do you lay him? in the Inn, or in the Out-room? I mean thus: Do ye receive him into your Hearts and Affections? or, Do ye take him only into the Out-room of an empty Profession?
Truly, a lifeless, graceless Profession of Christ, is only a laying him in the Out-house; but a hearty embracing of, and a holy Affection 109to Christ, this is taking him into the Inn.
Now when God, by any Providence, doth imbitter the Creature to us, then this makes us remove Christ out of the Manger into the Inn; out of a lifeless Profession into our Hearts and Affections.
2dly. When a Child is weaned, the Nurse is many times hid, or put away, or removed, that the sight of her may not make the Child to cry for the Breast.
So the Lord many times strips a Man of the World, takes from him his Enjoyments, all his Comforts, meeely to wean his Heart from the World.
3dly. When a Child is weaned, the nature and kind of its Food is changed; he is fed with stronger Meat.
Now in this also the Resemblance holds: the Soul of a Believer is as a weaned Child: He hath another 110kind of Subsistence, and lives upon other kind of Comforts than he did before.
As Christ says, I have Meat to eat which ye know not of, John iv. 32. so hath every Believer Comforts to live upon which the World knows nothing of: A stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy, Prov. xiv. 10. As,
1st. He hath the Comforts of the Promises: When God brings a Soul into a state of Grace, he brings him from living upon the Creatures, to live upon the Promises. And which is best, think ye, to live upon the Creature, or to live upon the Promise?
The Creature dies; but the Promise lives.
The Creature is Yea and Nay; the Promise is Yea and Amen.
The Creature is deceitful; but the Promise is sure and faithful.
The Creature feeds but Sense; the Promise fills the Soul.111
The Creature is but a scanty Good; the Promise travails with all Good.
He who lives upon the Promise lives by Faith; and the Life of Faith is the only Life in the World.
1st. It is the only safe and secure Life. As the weak Ivy secures it self by twisting about the great Oak; so the weak Christian secures himself by cleaving to the great God. His place of Defence shall be the munition of Rocks; Bread shall be given him, his Waters shall be sure. Isaiah xxxiii. 16
The Life of Sense is full of Disappointments, like a deceitful Brook. Job vi. 15.
Sisera runs to Jael to save him, and she destroys him: he lays his Head in her Lap, and she nails it to the ground. Judges iv. 21.
2dly. It is the only quiet Life. The Life of Sense is full of distracting Cares and Vexations: the Soul 112is never quiet till it draws off from Sense to live by Faith; till it cries out with David, Return to thy rest, O my Soul. Psal. cxvi. 7.
The Philosopher tells us, if we could live in the Upper Region, there we should enjoy a perpetual Calm: there are no Storms, no Winds, no Tempests; these are only found in this Lower Region: Nearer the Sun it is not so.
Sense is as the Lower Region, where there is nothing but Storms, and Shakings, and Vexations. Could we, by Faith, live in the Upper Region, and have the Moon under our feet; could we live above the World, by Faith in God, resting in the Lord Jesus Christ; we should enjoy a perpetual Calm there. In me ye shall have Peace. John xvi. 33.
3dly. It is the only sweet and comfortable Life. The Life of Sense, like a smoaking Chimney, causes many a wet eye: When we live by Faith, then the Fire burns clear; 113but when we live by Sense, then the Chimney smoaks.
Is it not a sweet Life, to fetch all our Waters from the Fountain? Thus Faith doth. Sense drinks out of the muddy Chanel, but Faith goes to the Well-head. All my springs are in thee. Psalm lxxxvii. 7.
Is it not a comfortable Life to be fixed amongst all the Changes and Mutations that are in the World? Why Faith fixes the Soul upon God, and in that Fixation it is safe. He shall not be afraid of evil-tidings, his heart is fixed trusting in the Lord. Psal. cxii. 7.
Is it not a comfortable Life to live free from all Burdens in the World? There are but two sorts of Burdens;
The Burden of Sin and Guilt.
The Burden of Care and Trouble.
Now Faith takes off both these, and frees the Soul from the one and the other.114
It takes off the Burden of Guilt, by resting upon Christ and his Righteousness.
And it takes off the Burden of Care and Trouble, by resting upon God and his Providence.
Ah (my beloved) there is no comfort to be compared to the comfort of believing; no Life to be compared to the Life of Faith. We may talk of Comfort, but till we come to live by Faith we shall never taste of Comfort.
4ly. It is the only Christian Life. Sense makes a Beast, Reason makes a Man, but Faith makes a Christian. We are no farther Christians, than as we can live upon Christ in all Conditions.
5ly. It is the only honourable Life. The World’s Honour is but an imaginary thing, a meer Bubble, compared with the Honour that Faith leads the Soul into.
Is it not an Honour to have the King’s Ear at pleasure, without tracing 115the tedious Climax of Court-accesses, as Strangers must?
Why, the Believer (as I may speak it with Reverence) hath the Command of God’s Ear. Concerning the work of my hands, command ye me. Isa. xlv. 11.
Is it not an Honour to be of the Blood-royal, to be born of God? We are very apt to value our selves upon the Nobleness of our Descent and Birth.
Is it not an Honour to live with God? Why Believers live with God, and walk with God, and have Fellowship with God here; and shall have an eternal Fellowship with God in Heaven hereafter. Such honour have all his Saints.
6ly. It is the only lasting Life. The Stability of all sorts of Lives, is according to their Principles and Causes. The Life which depends 116upon a failing Cause is a fading Life; and the Life which depends upon a constant Cause is an abiding Life.
Now the Life of Faith, proceeds from a living Principle; the Grounds of it are in God and Christ, and the Promise, no Change reaches to these.
Our Comforts may change, but Christ never changes; Yesterday, and to day, and the same for ever, Heb. xiii. 8.
The Creature may change, but God changes not: I am the Lord that changes not. Mal. iii. 6.
The Promises are unchangeable: They are not yea and nay, but yea and Amen in Christ, 2 Cor. 1:20.
Now Faith must needs be a lasting Life, that hath such lasting Grounds and Principles.
The Life of Sense is a fading decaying Life, it lives upon fading Objects: a Man hath Friends and delightful Relations, and these chear and refresh his Spirits; but anon they die, and drop into the Dust, 117and then his Spirits sink: they go down to the Pit, and his Heart breaks for want of Comfort.
But the Soul that lives by Faith can never be at a loss.
What can he lack who hath him who is all? And what can he lose who hath him who knows no change at all?
The Mariner, when he puts forth to Sea, quickly loses a sight of Land; but though he sails never so far, yet he never loses a sight of Heaven.
Thus the Soul of a Believer is as a weaned Child in this sense also: it lives upon other kind of Comforts than it did before, viz. the Comforts of the Promises.
2. I might add, That the Believer lives upon the Comforts of the Ordinances. I sat under his shadow with great delight, and his Fruit was sweet to my taste. Cantic. ii. 3.
3. He lives upon the Comfort of Experiences: Psalm lxxiv. 14. Thou 118breakest the heads of Leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be Meat to the People inhabiting the Wilderness.
Leviathan here, is meant of Pharaoh and all his Host: When God drowned him and all the Host of the Egyptians in the Red Sea, then he brake Leviathan’s Head: And God is said to give him to be Meat to his People in the Wilderness, in that the Experience they had had at the Red Sea, of the wonderful Care and miraculous Doings of God for them and their Deliverance, was intended to be Food for their Faith, that by this Experience they might learn to live upon God in Wilderness-straits.
4. He lives upon the Comfort of the Divine Presence. Thou shalt make me glad with the light of thy countenance.
This is the Food that the weaned Soul hath to feed on,119
The divine presence.
3dly. There is a Resemblance between a weaned Child and a Believer, in regard of its Disposition and Affection.
As for instance,
Take a weaned Child, and lay it to the fullest and fairest Breast, and it will suck no more; it turns from it, and loaths it as much as heretofore it loved and delighted in it.
Now in this the gracious Heart is as the weaned Child: The fullest Breast of Creature-comforts and sensual Delights cannot allure it: and why? Because it hath chosen God for its chiefest good, and therefore cannot be better. Whom have I in Heaven but thee? And there is none upon Earth I desire in comparison of thee. Psal. lxxiii. 25.120
The Soul sees a greater beauty in God, than in all worldly Comforts; it tastes a greater Sweetness in communion with the Lord Christ, than in all worldly Friendships and Fellowships.
So did David; and therefore he cries out, One day in thy Courts is better than a thousand elsewhere, Psalm lxxxiv. 10. So did Jacob; and therefore tells his Brother, God has dealt graciously with me, and I have enough. Gen. xxxiii. 11. In the Hebrew it is, I have all. He that hath an Interest in God, hath all; all that the Soul can want, or the Heart can wish. No man having drank this old Wine desireth new, for he saith the old is better, Luke v. 39.
III. I will shew you briefly, how Grace doth wean the Heart from all worldly things.
By a threefold Efficiency.
1st. Grace sets up a Light in the Soul, which discovers the true Nature of things: Every natural Man 121is in Darknes:. a graceless state is a state of Darkness. Now in Darkness the Vanity, Emptiness, Insufficiency, and Unsatisfactoriness of worldly things to the Soul of Man, cannot be discovered.
Grace is Light in the Understanding, as well as Holiness in the Will; and by this Light the Soul is able to pass a right Judgment of things, to distinguish between seen and unseen Good, between perishing and durable Comforts; to discern between things that differ. The spiritual Man judgeth all things, the Apostle says in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. 2. ver. 15.
2dly. Grace has a farther Efficiency upon the Heart, and that is this: It extinguisheth and removes that out of the Soul which makes the things of the World to be our chief good.
There is that in every carnal Man that propounds to the Soul somewhat 122below God as its chief Good; and that is, the sensual Mind: and by this the Will is misled, and the Affections misplaced; and the World is preferred, and God left out.
Now by a work of Grace in the Heart, the sensual Mind is extinguished, the Old-Man is put off, that which savours only the things of the Flesh is abated and removed.
3dly. Grace elevateth the Soul above sensual Objects, to live upon more real, more suitable Comforts; Grace to live upon God, to lay up Treasure in Heaven, to fetch its Refreshments from the Fountain of divine Fullness: and how easily is that Soul weaned from all earthly Enjoyments, that hath learned to fetch all its Comforts from Heaven?
Use 1. Shall we now improve this Doctrine to the use of Tryal? Shall we be serious in this matter, and call our Hearts to a strict account of what we experience of the Power of God upon our Souls in weaning them from things below?
There is the greatest Reason in the World that moves me to urge this Duty upon you. For,
1. There is no greater Duty incumbent upon a Christian, than frequent Tryals of Self and State by the measure of present Truths. When the Word of the Lord is spoken, and Truth discovered, then to bring it home to the Heart, and try our Spirits and Condition by it, this is a great Duty. This is the meaning of that in the second Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. 13. ver. 5. Examine your selves, whether ye are in the Faith; prove your own selves. And that in Galatians vi. 3, 4. If any man thinks himself to be something when he is nothing he deceives himself: But let every man prove 124his own work, and then shall he have rejoycing in himself alone, and not in another.
2dly. Herein doth the Vitality and Power of Godliness formally consist. It is not what we profess outwardly, but what we are inwardly, that God looks at. Rom. ii. 29. He is a Jew which is one inwardly.
Many profess much, pretend to great measures of Mortifiedness, and Weanedness from worldly things; but look upon them in their Conversations, follow them into the World, and none are more carnal, more vain than they.
3dly. We can never be able to adjust our Claim to a Work of Grace, unless we are able to satisfy our selves in this point. There is no greater, no surer Evidence of a Work of Grace in the Heart, than Weanedness of Soul from present things.125
4. If we be not brought into this weaned state by the Power of Grace here, we shall be shut out of Heaven hereafter. Will you hear what our Lord Christ says in the case? Then see Matth. xviii. 3, 4. Verily except ye be converted, and become as little Children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. Ver. 3.
Except ye be converted: is that all? No, but ye must become as Little Children, in Meekness, Humility, Self-denial, Weanedness. So says the next Verse; Whoever shall humble himself as this little Child, the same is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
It is one thing to be converted, it is another thing to become as little Children, to be wrought into a childlike Disposition. This is the true Qualification, the proper Fitness of the Soul for Glory: No Weanedness, no Blessedness.
Is there not then great Reason for my urging you to this Self-examination?126
Let us therefore to the Touchstone: that is not true Grace that will not endure Tryal.
Put the Question: Is my Soul as a weaned Child? Am I under the Weanings of God, or am I not?
Quest. Now you will say, How may I know whether my Soul is under the Weanings of God? whether I am weaned from the World or not?
Answ. In Answer to this, I shall lay down some Rules to try your selves by:
1st. To have heavenly Affections amidst earthly Possessions, this is a sign of a weaned Heart.
2dly. To reckon our Happiness, our Riches, rather from divine Fruition than from any worldly Accommodation, this is a sign of an Heart under the Weanings of God. 127David was a King, a great Man; but he doth not reckon this his Happiness; no, but from his Interest in God. Psalm xvi. 5, 6. The Lord is the portion of my Inheritance, and of my Cup, thou maintainest my Lot. And what then? The lines are fallen to me in pleasant Places. I have a goodly Heritage.”
3dly. What do we most desire; most hunger after? This shews whether we are weaned or not.
The sucking Child cries for the Breast: whatever you offer it, or put into the hand, nothing can quiet it till it is laid to the Breast.
Now, what is it that quiets our Minds, that satisfies our Desires soonest? If it be worldly Pleasures, worldly Comforts, worldly Honors, &c. then our Hearts are not weaned.
4. To bear worldly Evils, worldly Troubles, worldly Losses, 128with a holy Quietness and Satisfaction of Spirit; this is a sign of a weaned Heart. Heb. x. 34. Ye took joyfully the spoiling of your Goods, knowing in your selves that ye have in Heaven a better and an enduring Substance.
Ver. 24. By Faith Moses, when he was come to Years, refused to be called the Son of Pharaoh’s Daughter.
Ver. 25. Chusing rather to suffer Affliction with the People of God, than to enjoy the Pleasures of sin for a season;
Ver. 26 Esteeming Reproach for Christ greater Riches than the Treasures of Egypt; for he had respect to the Recompence of reward.129
The Whore, in Revel. xvii. 4. is said to have a golden Cup in her hand full of Abomination, and Wine of her Fornication: that is, full of abominable Doctrines and adulterated Worship, denying God’s Ordinances, and bringing into the Church Ordinance of her own.
This her Cup is full of; ay, but yet the Inhabiters of the Earth are said (Ver. 2.) to be made drunk with the Wine of her Fornication. How so? Why meerly because it comes out of a golden Cup: the Whore gives it in a Cup of Gold: it leads to Honours and Preferments in the Church, and in the World, and therefore the Inhabiters of the Earth cannot be weaned from this Cup.
6thly. To be able by Faith to overcome all the Smiles and Frowns of the World; this is another sign of a weaned Heart.130
Now can ye do this?
When the World smiles upon us with its Splendours, Honours, Riches, Pleasures, Delights and Glories; can we then look upon all these as mean and abject things in comparison of Christ? Can you look through all this to the Righteousness of Christ? as that noble Marquis (Galeacius Caracciola) did, Their Money perish with them that count all the Gold in the World worth one days Communion with Jesus Christ.
Or, when the World frowns upon us with Crosses, Losses, Sufferings, Reproaches, &c. Can we then overcome it by laying aside carnal Fear, by Patience in Tribulation, by looking upon Afflictions and Sufferings for Christ as our Honour and Happiness; by eying the invisible God in all, as Moses did? Hebr. xi. 27. He endured, as seeing him who is invisible.131
Use 2. Are your Souls under the weanings of God? Then there is a double Duty incumbent upon you from this Doctrine.
Duty 1. Bless the Lord, magnify the Riches of his Mercy, in calling and taking your Hearts off from the World.
It is said in Genesis, Chap. 21. Ver. 8. that the Child (speaking of Isaac) grew, and was weaned: and Abraham made a great Feast the same Day that Isaac was weaned.
It is not said, that the Child was born, and Abraham made a Feast: indeed that was not so proper a time, because then the Mother was in Weakness and Grief.
Nor is it said the Child was circumcised, and Abraham made a Feast: nor was that so proper a time, because then the Child was sore and in Grief; but the Child was weaned, and Abraham made a Feast. This seems the proper time, because now 132 Father, and Mother, and Child, might all rejoyce together.
There was, no doubt, a Mystery wrapt up in this Feast of Abraham: and what was that? Why the Mystery is this.
Believers, who are the Seed of Abraham, should rejoyce in the Lord when the Soul is become spiritual, and weaned from carnal Desires.
To have the World, and yet be weaned from the World; to possess it, and yet not to be possessed by it; this is a great Mercy.
It is an easie matter to profess Weanedness from the World, where but little of the World is enjoyed; it is a common thing for them that are poor to declaim against Riches and Greatness. I would not be in their Condition, says one. I would not be under their Temptations for all they enjoy, says another, I would not have that to answer for as they have, says a third; for as they are great, so they are proud, high-minded, and covetous. 133Thus it is usual for the Poor to envy the rich.
But to live above all, amidst the enjoyment of all, this is the greatest Mercy in the World.
To see no Greatness in anything but in the great God, no Beauty in anything but Holiness, no Glory in anything but Christ, no Goodness in anything but Religion; O what a Mercy is this! How few can look through worldly Greatness to this Prospect! and therefore not many mighty, not many noble, are called &c. 1 Cor. i. 26.
Duty 2. Labor to wean others from the World; as Christ said to Peter, When thou art converted strengthen thy brethren, Luke xxii. 32. So when converting Grace hath took hold of thy Heart, labour to convert others: When the Lord hath shewed thee the Vanity of things below, endeavour to lead others into this Prospect: Is thy Soul weaned? strive 134that others may be weaned. O what Honour might you bring to God upon this account!
We preach of the Vanity and Emptiness of the World; but alas! few believe our Report. They say we know nothing of the Grandure, Honour, and Glory of it in our selves: God placed us below it, and laid our Lot in a narrow compass; and therefore we envy it to those who enjoy it, because we want it.
But when such whom God hath advanced to Greatness in the World shall yet live above it, and prefer the Interest of Religion, and the honouring of God, before all worldly Grandure; this will carry a strong Conviction with it to the Consciences of others.
Therefore endeavour to be instrumental to wean others, especially Relations: Labour that they that are near to us may not be far from God; and chiefly our Children, whose Souls God will more immediately require at our hands.135
The Lord hath graciously given Your Honour a Child, a Son: you have taken great care to wean him from the Breast, and the Lord hath blessed your Care in it: And if Your Honour would be thoughtful and prayerful about weaning him from worldly Lusts, would not the Lord bless that Care too?
A second Branch of the Exhortation is to them who are not yet as a weaned Child, whose Souls are not, as yet, taken off from present things.
Is not this our Case? May we not fear it is? For if we are weaned from the World, why do we doat upon it? Why are we so fond of present things? Why do we conform so much to the World, and study the Guise and foolish Fashions of the World?
If we are weaned from the World, why is our Joy and Grief so great, and proportionated to present Comforts, or present Losses?136
Surely therefore we have cause enough to fear our Hearts are not yet under the Weanings of God.
Nay let me tell you this, that it is possible to be a true Believer, a true Christian, and yet not weaned from the World.
It is one thing to be born of God, as every Believer is; it is another thing to have a weaned Heart: this every Believer hath not.
This Child is a living Child so soon as it is born; but it is not weaned from the Breast till it has got Strength to live without it: and therefore it is said of Isaac (Genesis xxi. 8.) that the Child grew, and was weaned. Weaning follows Growth and Strength.
So a Man is a Believer so soon as he is born of God, so soon as he is wrought upon by Grace; but he is not weaned from the World, but by a superadded Strength, and growth of Grace.137
Truth of Grace proves a Man a Child of God; but it is Growth of Grace that makes the Soul as a weaned Child.
This Weanedness is begun indeed in Conversion, for that is the Seed-time of all Grace; but it is only perfected in the growth of Sanctification.
You read in Scripture of a twofold Redemption:
One is a Redemption by the Blood and Death of Christ, from Hell and Damnation: Thus every Believer is actually redeemed at his first Conversion.
The other is a Redemption by the Spirit of Christ from carnal Affections: this follows Conversion. In Revel. xiv. 3. ye read of some that were said to be redeemed from the Earth: They sang a new Song, and no Man could learn that Song, but the hundred and forty four thousand which were redeemed from the Earth.138
Many are redeemed from Hell that are not yet redeemed from the Earth; redeemed through Grace from Damnation, that yet are not redeem’d from a carnal Conversation.
Well then, are we born of God, and yet not weaned from the Breast of worldly Comforts?
Oh then go away, and beg of God for this Mercy of a weaned Soul; that you may no longer fetch in your Satisfactions and Comforts from the Creature, but from God in Christ.
And lastly, Let us do that which is our Duty in order to Weanedness of Heart.
1. Inuring our Souls to Wants and Abatements: Whilst we satiate our selves, and surfeit our Spirits in the Fullness and Excesses of present Enjoyments, we are not like to learn this Lesson. One way to put 139out the Fire, is by Subtraction of Matter: Take away the Wood, and the Fire will die, and go out of it self.
2. Be much in mortifying carnal Appetites and inordinate Desires; and let this be our daily Work; for the sooner it is done, the easier it is done: A Child is easier weaned at one Year old than at two; Affections are not yet so strong, nor Custom so prevailing.
It is in like manner with the Soul: the longer it lives upon the Comforts of the World, and fetches its Contentments from the Creature, the harder it will be to draw off the Affections, and wean the Soul from them.
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