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down content and cheerful, and rejoice in that, though all the world frowns on me, and all things look dark and comfortless about me; that is a piece of heaven within the soul.
Now of this experimental, understanding knowledge of this love, there are different degrees ; there is a great latitude in this. To some are afforded sometimes little glimpses and inlets of it in a more immediate way; but these stay not. Others are upheld in the belief of it, and live on it by faith : though it shine 'not so clear, yet they have a light to walk by. Though the sun shines not brightly out to them all their life, yet they are led home, and understand so much love in their way, as brings them to the fulness of it in the end. Others, having passed most of the day, have a fair glimpse in the very evening or close of it. But they tbat walk in this way by this light, whatsoever measure they have of it, are led by it to the land of light. You see the connexion here made, They that wisely observe these things, shall understand this loving-kindness. A wise observing of God's ways, and ordering our own to his mind, is the certain way to attain much experienced knowledge of bis love.
This love is most free, and, from the begioning to the end, works of itself; but, in the method of it, God hath thus linked things together; made one portion of grace, in the use of it, draw on another. And this his children should prudently consider. There is a like speech in Psal. I, 23; Whoso offereth praise, glorifieth me; and to him that ordereth his conversation aright, will I show the salvation of God.
The contemplation of God in his works, sets the soul open to receive the influences of this love. By looking towards him, it draws his eye towards it, as one look of love draws on another. Certainly many that have some desire of the light of God's countenance, and evidences of bis love, yet, in not applying their souls to consider bim, do much injure themselves.
Heavenly thoughts do refine the soul, as fire works itself higher and to a purer fame by stirring. To be blessing God for his goodness, giving him praise in the view of his works in the world, and for his church, and particu. larly for ourselves, this both disposes the heart to a more suitable temper for receiving divive comforts, and invites him to let them flow into it. For if he have such acknowledgments for general goodness and common mercies, how much larger returns will he have upon the discoveries of special love! Is it a sight of God as reconciled, thou wouldest have ? Now praise sets a man amongst the angels, and they behold his face.
Again; action, walking in his ways humbly and carefully, and so waiting, never wants a successful return of much love. How can he who is goodness itself, hide and reserve himself from a soul that yields up itself to him, hath no delight but to please him, hates and avoids what may offend him ? This surely is the way, if there is any under heaven, to enjoy communion with him.
They that forget him, and disregard their ways, and are no way careful to order them to his liking, do but delude themselves with mistaken fancies of mercy. I beseech you, be warned.' There cannot be solid peace in the ways of sin. There is no peace to the wicked, saith my God. Outward common favors you may share for a time; but these have a curse with them, and you shall quickly be at an end of these receipts; and then you will look towards him for some persuasions of his loving-kindness, but are likely to find nothing but frowns and displeasure. O consider this, ye that forget God, lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver.
Even they who have some title to this love of God, and are desiring further evidence of it, yet do often sit exceedingly in their own light, and work against their end, still bent on that assurance they would have, and yet neglecting the way to it, which certainly is in a manner to neglect itself. Were they more busied in honoring God, doing him what service they can in their station, striving against sin, acknowledging his goodness to the world and even to themselves, that they are yet in the region of hope, not cut off in their iniquities, thus offering praise and ordering their conversation uright, submitting unto him, and giving him glory; their assurances and comforts, in the measure he thinks fit, would come in due time, and sooner in this way than in any other they could take. Div. No. IX.
Observe these things; beware of sin; and ye shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord. It is true, this love of God changes not; but know, as to the knowledge and apprehension of it, it depends much on the holy frame of thy heart and the exact regulation of thy ways. Sin obstructs and darkens all; those are the clouds and mists; and where any believer is adventurous on the ways of sin, he shall smart for it. Where sin is, there will be a storm, as Chrysostoni's saying is of Joshua. The experience of all witnesseth this. No strength of faith will keep out floods of doubting and troublous thoughts, where any new sin hath opened a gap for them to rush in by. See David, Psal. li, expressing himself as if all were to begin again, bis joy taken away, and his bones broken, and to sense all undone : nothing will serve, but a new creature. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
There is a congruity in the thing itself, and God hath so ordered it, that vexation and anguish should still attend sin, and the ways of holiness be ways of peace. Say men what they will, great falls leave wounds and smart behind them, and they must be washed with sharper liquor before balm and oil be poured into them. And not only will more notorious breaches disturb thy peace, but a tract of careless and fruitless walking. If thou abate of thy attendance on God, and thy fear cool towards him, lagging and falling downwards to something you are caring for and taken with, you will find an estrangement; it may be insensible at first and for a while, because of thy sloth, and because thou dost not observe diligently how it is with thee; but, after a time, it will be more easily known, but more hardly mended. And there are none of us but might find much more of God in this our way homewards, if the foolishness and wanderings of our hearts did not prevent us.
Be persuaded, then, you whose hearts he hath wrought for himself, to attend better on him, and the advantage shall be yours; doubt it not. And though for a time you find it not, yet wait on, and go on in that way; it shall not disappoint you. The more you let go of the false vain comforts of the world for his sake, the more richly you shall be furnished with his. O we make not room for them! that is the great hindrance. Consider him, behold his works, bless him, confess hini always. worthy of praise for his goodness, and his wonderful works to the children of men, however he deal with thee in particular; and assuredly he shall deal graciously with thee, and ere long thou shalt find it, and be forced to acknowledge it. Though, it may be, thou want these bright shinings of comforts thou wouldst have, yet, looking to him and walking before him, observing these things, thou shalt have of his light to lead thee on, and a calm within ; sweet peace, though not that height of joy thou desirest.
There are often calm fair days without storm, though it be not clear sun-sbine; and in such days a man may travel comfortably. I would have Christians called off from a perplexed over-pressing of this point of their particular assurance. If we were more studious to please him, forgetting ourselves, we should find him remember us the more; yet we should not do so for this neither, but simply for himself. In a word, this is thy wisdommind thy duty, and refer to him thy comfort.
Imperfection, and Perfection.
PSAL. cxix, 96. I have seen an end of all perfection ; but thy com
mandment is exceeding broad. Grace is a divine light in the soul, and shows the true colors of things. The apostle overshoots not when he says, The spiritual man judgeth all things. He hath undeniably the advantage. He may judge of natural things, but the natural man cannot judge of spiritual things.
Yea, the truest judgment of natural things, in respect to our chiefest end, springs particularly from spiritual wisdom : that makes the true parallel of thiugs, and gives a just account of their differences, as bere; I have seen an end of all perfection ; but thy commandment is exceeding broad.
All that have any measure of spiritual light, are of this mind; but certainly, they that are more eminently blessed with it, have a more high and clearer view of both parts. David, who is generally and with great likelihood supposed to be the author of this psalm, was singularly advantaged to make this judgment of things. He had, no doubt, a large measure of the knowledge of God and of his law, which here be declares to be so large; and being both a wise and a great man, might know more than most others, even of all other perfections ; might trace them 10 their utmost, and see their end, as he expresses it. This same verdict we have from his son Solomon, after much experience in all things; who, baving the advantage of peace and riches, did particularly set himself to this work, to a most exact inquiry after all things of this earth. He set nature on the rack, to confess its utmost strength for the delighting and satisfying of man; with much pains and art he extracted the very spirit of all, and after all, he gives the same judgment we have liere; his book writ on that subject, being a paraphrase on this sentence, dilating the sense and confirming the truth of it. It carries its own sum in those two words which begin and end it; the one, Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, and tbe other, Fear God, and keep his commandments, for that is the whole duty of man. And these here are just the equivalent of those two; the former of that beginning word, I have seen an end of all perfection ; and the latter of that concluding one, But thy commandment is exceeding broad.
When mean meu speak of this world's greatness, and poor men cry down riches, it passes but for a querulous peevish humor to discredit things they cannot reach, or else an ignorant contempt of things i bey do not understand; or, taking it a little further, but a self-pleasing shift, a willingly undervaluing of those things on purpose to allay the displeasure of the want of them; or, at the best, if something of truth and goodness be in the opinion, yet that the assent of such persons is, like the temperance of sickly bodies, rather a virtue made of necessily, than embraced