Page images
PDF
EPUB

joy, to say to God, I have sinned, yet, I am thise; or as here, I have borne chastisement; I will not offend any more. The time of affliction is peculiarly a time of speaking to God, and such speech as this is peculiarly befitting such a time. And this is one great recommendation of affliction, that it is a time of wiser and more sober thoughts; a time of the returning of the mind inwards and upwards. A high place, fulness and pleasure, draw the mind more outwards. Great light and white colors dissipate the sight of the eye and the very thoughts of the mind too; and men find that the night is a fitter season for deep thoughts. It is better, says Solomon, to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting. Those blacks made the mind more serious. It is a rare thing to find much retirement unto God, much humility and brokenness of spirit, true purity and spirituality of heart, in the affluence and great prosperities of the world. It is no easy thing to carry a very full cup even, and to digest well the fatness of a great estate and great place. They are not to be envied who have them. Even though they be of the better sort of men, it is a thousand to one but they will be losers by the gains and advancements of this world, suffering proportionably great abatements of their best advantages by their prosperity. The generality of men, while they are at ease, do securely neglect God, and little mind either to speak to him or to hear him speak to them. God complains thus of bis own people ; I spoke to them in their prosperity, and they would not hear. The noises of coach-wheels, of their pleasures, and of their great affairs, so fill their ears, that the still voice wherein God is cannot be heard. I will bring her into the wilderness, and there I will speak to her, says God of his church. There the heart is more at quiet to hear God and to speak to bim, and is disposed to speak in the style here prescribed, humbly and repentingly.

I have borne chastisement. The speaking this unto God under affliction signifies, that our afiìiction is from his hand ; and to the acknowledgment of this truth, the very natural consciences of men do incline them. Though trouble be the general lot of mankind, yet it doth not come on him by an improvidential fatality. Though man 'is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards, yet it comes not out of the dust. It is no less true and in itself no less clear, that all the good we enjoy and all the evil we suffer come from the same hand; but we are naturally more sensible of evil than of good, and therefore do more readily reflect upon the original and causes of it. Our distresses lead us to the notice of the righteous God inflicting them, and of our own unrighteous ways procuring them, and provoking him so to do; and therefore it is meet to speak in this submissive, humble tanguage to him. It is by all means necessary to speak to him. He is the party we have to deal with or to speak to, even in those afflictions whereof men are the intervenient, visible causes. They are indeed but instrumental causes, the rod and staff in his hand who smites us; therefore our business is with him, in whose supreme hand alone the mitigations and increases, the continuance and the ending of our troubles, lie! Who gave Jacob for a spoil and Israel to the robbers ? Did not the Lord, he against whom we have sinned ? Isa. xlii, 24. So, Lam. i, 14, The yoke of my transgressions is bound by his hand. Therefore it is altogether necessary in all afflictions to speak to him. · And as it is necessary to speak to him, so it is meet to speak to him, I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more. These words have in them the true composition of real repentance, bumble submission and holy resolution. I have borne chastisement, that is, I have justly borne it and do heartily submit to it; [ bear it justly, and take it well ; Lord, I acquit thee, and accuse myself. This language becomes the most innocent persons in the world in their suffering. Job knew it well, and did often acknowledge it in his preceding speeches. Though sometimes, in the beat of dispute and in opposition to the uncharitable and unjust imputations of his friends, he seems to overstrain the assertion of his own integrity, which Elihu here corrects, you

know he cries out, I have sinned against thee: what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? If I wash myself with snow-water, and make my hands never' so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.

Vain foolish persons fret and foam at the miscarriage of

a cause they apprehend to be righteous; but this is a great vanity and inconsiderate temerity in not observing the great and apparent unrighteousness in the persons managing it. But though both the cause and the persons were just to the greatest height imaginable amongst men, yet still were it meet speak thus unto God in the lowest acknowledgments and confessions, that righteousness belongeth unto him, and unto us shame and confusion of face. So says the church, Lam. iii. The Lord is righteous, for I have rebelled against his commandments. Though affliction is not always designedly intended as the chastisement of some particular sin, yet where sin is, and that is the case of all the sons of Adam, affliction coming in, may safely be considered in its natural alliance with sin, and so press forth humble confessions of sin and resolutions against it. And thus in Lev. xxvi, 41, They shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity; shall take it humbly and penitently, and kiss the rod.

O that there were such a heart in us! that instead of empty words that scatter themselves in the wind, our many vain discourses we hold one with another concerning our past and present sufferings and further fears, and disputing of many fruitless and endless questions, we were more abundantly turning our speech this way, unto God, and saying, We desire to give thee glory, and to take shame to ourselves, and to bear our chastisement, and to offend

no more ; to return each from his evil way, and to gain this by the furnace, the purging away of our dross, our many and great iniquities, our oaths, and cursings, and lying, our deceit, and oppressions, and pride, and covetousness, our base love of ourselves, and hating one another; that we may be delivered from the tyranny of our own lusts and passions ; and in other things, let the Lord do with us as seemeth good in his eyes. O that we were speaking to God in Ephraim's words, Thou hast chastised

me, and I was chastised: turn thou me, and I shall be turned ! Words like these would stir his bowels; as it is said, that one string perfectly tuned to another, being touched, the other stirs of itself. When a stubborn child leaves struggling under the rod and turns to No. VIII.

с

Div.

entreating, the father then leaves off striking ; nothing overcomes him but that. When a man says upto God, Father, I have provoked thee to this, but pardon, and through thy grace I will do so no more; then the rod is thrown aside, and the Father of Mercies and his humbled child fall to mutual tenderness and emdraces.

That which I see not, teach thou me. The great article of conversion is the disengagement of the heart from the love of sin. In that posture, as it actually forsakes whatsoever it perceives to be amiss, so it stands in an absolute readiness to return to every duty that yet lies bidden, upon the first discovery. That is here the genuine voice of a repentant sinner, That which I see not, teach thou me: if I have done iniquity, I will do no more.

This is a very necessary supplication, even for the most. discerning and clearest-sighted penitent, both in reference to the commandment and rule for discovering the general nature and several kinds of sin, and withal for the application of this general light to the examination of a man's own heart and ways, that so be may have a more exact and particular account of his own sins.

The former part of the petition is for the knowledge of the law of God, as the rule by which a man is to try and to judge himself. The most knowing are not above the need of this request; yea, I am persuaded, the most knowivg know best how much they need it, and are most humbled in themselves in the conscience of their ignorance and darkness in divine things, and are most earnest and pressing in this daily supplication for increases of light and spiritual knowledge from him who is the fountain of it ; What I see not, teach thou me. On the other -side, the least kuowing are often the most confident that they know all, and swelled with a conceited sufficiency of their model and determination of all things, both dogmatical and practical; and therefore are they the most imperious and magisterial in their conclusions, and the most impatient of contradiction or even of the most modest dissent.

The wisest and holiest persons speak always in the humblest and most depressing style of their own knowledge, and that not with an affectation of modesty, but

under the real sense of the thing as it is, and the sincere account they give of it, and that commonly when they are declaring themselves most solemnly, as in the sight of God, or speaking in supplication to him with whom they dare least of all dissemble. Whosoever he was that spake those words in the thirtieth chapter of Proverbs, surely he was a man of eminent wisdom and piety, and yet he begins thus: Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man; I have neither learned wisdom, nor have I the knowledge of the Holy. And though he was so diligent a student and so great a proficient in the law of God, yet how importunate a petitioner is he for the understanding of it, as if he knew nothing at all! Besides the like expressions in other psalms, in that one psalm, the cxix, which, although of such length, hath nothing but the breathing forth of his affection to the word and law of God, how often doth David in it reiterate that petition, Teach me thy statutes ! -so often, that a carnal mind is tempted to grow weary of it, as a nauseating tautology; but he made it still new with the freshness and vehemency of his affection ; Make me to understand the way of thy precepts;-Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law-Open thou mine eyes, that I may see the wonders of thy law; unseal mine eyes, as if they were still veiled and dark. These are the earnest and nobly ambitious desires that daily solicit holy hearts, and stir them up to solicit the Teacher of hearts to be admitted more into the secrets and recesses of divine knowledge; not to those abysses that God intends should be secret still, and from which he hath barred out our curiosity, as the forbidden tree of knowledge, those secrets that belong to himself alone and concern us not to inquire after. And to be wading in those deeps is certainly the way to be drowned in them. The searcher of majesty shall be oppressed with glory. Yet there is in man a perverse, preposterous desire to pore upon such things as are on purpose hidden that we should not inquire after them, and to seek after useless empty speculations of them, which is a luxury and intemperance of the understanding, like unto that and springing from that, which at first undid us in the root. These are times

« PreviousContinue »