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[He is not contented to “walk” in the ways of God: no; he would“ run;" he would“ run, and not be weary; he would march onward, and not faint.” He considers himself as engaged in a race: and he sees his course clearly marked in the commandments of his God. Hence he determines, that " when God shall enlarge his heart, he will run with all his might, and never stop till the prize shall be accorded to him. Whatever advance he may have made," he forgets what is behind, and reaches forward to that which is before, and presses on for the prize of his high calling" with increased zeal. He determines that nothing shall abate his ardour, or for a moment divert him from his path. Thus he runs the race that is set before him; and determines, through grace, “ so to run it, that he may obtain the prize."] Let me now add a few words,
1. Of congratulation, to those who can adopt this language
[I do hope that some amongst you are like-minded with David in these particulars; and that, if you have not attained his eminence in the divine life, you are yet truly and habitually following his steps. Shall I not, then, say to you, as Moses did to Israel of old, “ Happy art thou, O Israel! who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord a ?" Truly, in comparison of you, the greatest, wisest, noblest of mankind are in a poor and low condition. In you the end of your creation has been answered; yea, and the end of your redemption too. In you God delights; yea, he regards you as his peculiar treasure. On you the very angels before the throne account it an honour to wait, as your ministering servants: and for you are prepared crowns and kingdoms that shall never fade away. Was Mary commended by our Lord for having chosen the good part? and was she assured that it should never be taken away from her? The same commendation is yours, and the same assurance is yours also. I do, then, from my soul congratulate you, however pitiable in other respects your condition may be ; and, in the name of my Divine Master, I say for your encouragement, “ Be not weary in well-doing; for in due season you shall reap, if you faint not."]
2. Of reproof, to those who are yet strangers to this heavenly experience
[What have you been doing all your days, that you have never yet made this choice? Are the ways of the world equal in any respect to the way of truth? Are they as reasonable in themselves? Are they as conducive to the best interests of man? or will they prove so happy in their issue? Compare
a Deut. xxxii. 29.
the things which tempt you from the testimonies of the Lord, with the loss which they will occasion, and the evils which they will entail upon you. You may now, perhaps, justify the preference which you give to sin: but say whether you will not one day be ashamed of it? Say whether, in that hour when you shall be bidden to depart from your Saviour's presence, and to take your portion for ever in a lake of fire, you will not be ashamed of the choice which you have now so unwisely made, and of the hopes which you now so presumptuously cherish? Peradventure you now laugh at the idea of an enlargement of heart, and deride the course to which it leads : but will you do so in that day? Will you not rather lament that you followed the course of this world, instead of prosecuting the ways which lead to heaven? I would say then to you, " Seek now the Lord whilst he may be found, and call upon him whilst he is near.” There is no repentance in the grave, nor any reversing of the sentence that shall soon be passed upon you. Begin, then, the course which David ran, and prosecute it with the ardour that filled his soul. So shall you possess with him the joy that is set before you, and inherit to all eternity the rest that remaineth for the people of God.]
WISDOM OF TRUE PIETY. Ps. cxix. 34. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy
law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. A SPIRITUAL discernment essentially differs from the mere exercise of our intellectual powers. A man may have the richest stores of human knowledge, and the most discriminating faculty in various branches of science, and yet be under the dominion, the allowed dominion, of his own lusts and passions. But spiritual knowledge is always accompanied with gracious dispositions : and for the sake of its practical effects alone is it to be desired. This appears from what St. Paul says respecting the intercessions which he continually offered before God in the behalf of his Colossian converts : “ We do not cease,” says he, “to pray for you, and to desire that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye may walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasinga.” In a foregoing part of
a Col. i. 9, 10.
this psalm it might seem, as if knowledge alone had been the end for which David desired a spiritual illumination : “ Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” But we see in our text, that he had far other ends in view: he longed for knowledge, only that he might have his soul the more enlarged by it to run the way of God's commandments: “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.”
From these words we will take occasion to shew, I. How true wisdom will operate
The provisional engagement which David entered into was no other than what must necessarily result from an answer to his petition. If God give to any of us a spiritual understanding, we shall immediately begin,
1. To keep his law
[Whatever God has revealed will be a law unto us. Has he bidden us repent? We shall humble ourselves before him in dust and ashes --- Has he enjoined us to believe in his dear Son? We shall receive him into our hearts, and embrace him as all our salvation and all our desire --- Has he commanded us to obey his precepts? We shall endeavour to search out his will, and to conform ourselves to it in all things --Whatever temptations may assault us, we shall not suffer them to turn us aside from the path of duty. Whatever opposition we may have to encounter, we shall hold on our way, determined to keep God's law, yea, to“ keep it to the end." This alone is true wisdom'; yea, this is the first beginning of wisdom in the soul.] 2. To observe it with our whole hearts
[There are two things which a spiritual understanding will most assuredly teach us, namely, the beauty and excellency of God's law, and the folly of rendering to it a merely partial obedience.
To an unenlightened mind many of God's commands appear absurd : and men are ready to say of them, “ This is a hard saying ; who can hear it?” But, in the view of one who is taught of God,“ there is no commandment grievous :” the scope of every thing which God has spoken, is, to produce the present and eternal happiness of his creatures : the language of every injunction is, Be holy, be happy --- To attempt to lower any command to the standard of man's opinion, or of our
b ver. 112. c Job xxviii. 28. d Ps. cxi. 10.
own wishes, is seen to be the most horrible infatuation : for, if we can deceive man, we cannot deceive God: “ TO Him all things are naked and open.” As he knows the extent of his own commands, so he knows the precise measure of obedience which we pay to them: “ He weighs,” not our actions only, but “our spirits" also.
Hence a partial obedience is the same kind of folly as if a man should request permission to take a poisoned cup, because it was sweet; or as if he should shut his eyes, and say, that no man can see him. Convinced of this, he begs of God to “ put truth in his inward parts,” and desires to be “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile."]
As from a root which is acknowledged to be good we may anticipate a corresponding produce, so from fruit that is excellent we may infer with certainty the goodness of the root. In proof of this we will proceed to shew, II. Wherein its operation will approve itself to every
reflecting mindThe observing of God's law with our whole hearts necessarily evinces the existence of true wisdom in the soul; because,
1. It is consonant with right reason
[What is disobedience, but a preferring of the creature to God, the body to the soul, and time to eternity? And will any one say that this is reasonable, or that it has even a shadow of reason in it? Reason requires the very reverse of this : and the yielding up of our soul and body to God, as a living sacrifice, is expressly called “a reasonable service e.” If we consider ourselves only as the work of God's hands, this kind of service is reasonable: but, if we consider ourselves as redeemed by the blood of God's only dear Son, it is infinitely more reasonable: for, “having been bought with a price, we are not our own, but are bound to glorify God with our bodies and our spirits, which are God's."] 2. It is conducive to our best interests
[We will concede, for argument sake, all that the slaves of pleasure can say in its behalf; yea, we will concede ten times more than its most infatuated votary ever ventured to assert: but, having done this, we will ask, What good will it all do you in a dying hour, and at the bar of judgment ? “Godliness," we are told, “is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come." But of ungodliness no such thing can be asserted. Granting, that the
e Rom. xii. 1.
ungodliness may be of the least offensive kind: yea, that it shall be so specious, as to assume the appearance, and to gain from many the applause, of piety; still we ask, What will it avail in the day that God shall judge the world? But it is not true, that the pleasures of sin are so great or so satisfactory. On the contrary, there is no comparison between the peace that flows from piety, and the gratifications that result from any criminal indulgence. “ The work of righteousness is peace;” but “ the way of transgressors is hard." And, as to the eternal world, there can be no doubt --- Inasmuch then as piety is most consonant with right reason, and most conducive to our best interests, it approves itself, beyond a possibility of doubt, the genuine offspring of true wisdom.] ADDRESS
1. Those who live in the allowed violation of any one commandment
[The world may count you wise : yea, “ if you are doing well unto yourselves, (that is, are advancing your own temporal interests,) all men will speak well of you f.” But what does God say of you? “ They have forsaken the word of the Lord ; and what wisdom is in them?” Ah! what indeed? To the rich man, whose heart was elated with his temporal prospects, God said, “ Thou fool :" and no better character will he assign to you. Think only with what an eye the heart-searching God beholds you; or what the angels think of your conduct; or what you yourselves will think of it in a little time; and you will be at no loss to form a right estimate of it. If you would be truly wise in God's estimation, your obedience to him must be uniform and unreserved h.]
2. Those who profess to be endued with true wisdom
[If“ God have given us an understanding,” then we must evidence it by the purity of our hearts and lives. But many there are, who can talk very fluently and speciously about religion, who yet are very far from being wise in the sight of God. Hear the judgment of God himself on this subject : “ Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts (and these are no uncommon inmates with the professors of religion), glory not, and lie not against the truth." (Let proud, conceited, and contentious professors hear this; They are “ liars against the truth.") This wisdom descendeth not from above; but is earthly, sensual, devilish. “But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to
? Ps. xlix. 18. & Jer, viii. 9. h Matt. vii. 24–27. Deut. iv. 6. ; VOL. VI.