Page images

We possibly think that we do sufficiently believe both the goodness and power of God, especially his power, none suspecting bimself of the least doubt of it; yet our perplexing doubts and fears, our feeble staggerings in faith and prayer, upon particular pressing difficulties,

discover evidently a defect here, though still we will not own it. And, alas ! how little faculty have we in the most needful times, to rest on his strength, and to stir up ourselves to stir him up by prayer, to do for us, holding firm to that great point of his absolute sovereignty and power over all things, and holding it up to him, entreating him by it to appear and work for us. Lord, it is in thy hand; that I know, and that is enough to me. Thy good-will I dare trust (for there is implied a secret confidence of that). This contents me, that thou hast full power of the business. That is the thing which here the prophet fixes on. O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself ; as there is in us no power to turn off the judgment determined, all our witand strength can do nothing to that, so we are sure there is po power in our enemies to do any thing either beyond or beside thy appointment in the execution of it. And upon this, 'Lord, we come to supplicate thee for mitigation. With men it often falls out, either in just punishments or unjust oppressions, that the ministers and under-officers do exceed their commission, and overdo their business; yea, sometimes add little less of their own, than all that comes to which is appointed to them. But with thee, O Lord, it is not so. As our enemies capnot stir of themselves without order from thee, and as thy commissions are always all just, so thou seest to the performance, art present at it, which often men cannot be; and so nothing is or can be done beside thy notice and allowance.

1. His position is this, The way of man is not in himself, and repeated more plainly, It is not in man that walketh, to direct his steps; thus, by a double negation, putting it altogether out of his power. And under this, the positive truth is couched, that the absolute disposal of all the ways of men, is wholly in the supreme hand of God; according to Prov. xx, 24; Man's goings are of the Lord ; how can a man then understand his own way?

Let us

He doth not certainly know any thing of his own doings. Even he who seems to know most, to advise and deliberate upon all he does, yet bath no power of his contrivements, knows not which way they will turn till the event doth clear it, and even then, on looking back, is often amazed at the strange course of things, so far different from, and possibly contrary to, all his witty projectings and models. He often does not attain his own, but he never fails to accomplish God's purpose, even when his intentions are least for it, yea, when they are most against it. build a tower, said they, lest we be scattered abroad ; and that was the very thing which caused their scattering. Joseph was sold by his brethren, that they might not bow before him, as he had dreamed ; and this brought it to pass. Pharaoli says, us deal wisely; and that way of oppressing them lest they should go away, both stirred up God to deliver them, and disposed them to depart. And not to multiply instances, generally in all the ways of men, they have their designs at most times eccentric to God's, but his design holds always, and theirs no further than they are his. Have we not ourselves seen instances of this,

Man consults and determines freely, yet even those inward actings of the mind and will are ordered and framed by the hand of God; and it canuot otherwise be. It is a most vain fancy, to imagine that any thing in this is inconsistent with the natural liberty of the will, or that any, such liberty can be in any creature, as consists not with his. But because in these inward actings, man finds bimself more at his choice, though all is secretly overruled, and in the event of things, God's sovereign disposal is more legible, therefore these two are expressed with some kivd of difference, Prov. xvi, 9; A man's heart deviseth his

way, but the Lord directeth his steps ; that is, when he hath devised, that does not carry it: he may devise and fancy things twenty ways, and ihiuk be is taking freely his own course, but he shall find in the issue another hand than his own.

It is not in man that walketh, as the word is here : he walketh, and yet the direction of his steps is in another hand. But in the devisings too, the Lord so acts upon man, that he is turned which way it pleaseth him. Even the heart, and that of the most uncontrolled,

[ocr errors]

the most impetuous torrent, the king's heart, is in his
hand, as the rivers of waters: he turneth it whithersoever
he will ; Prov. xxi, 1. When men either determine them-
selves, or follow unallowed ways for determination, (as
those, Ezek. xxi, 21) yet ate they ordered of God. This
he does infallibly and uncontrollably, yet in such a way as
there is nothing distorted or violented. Things are in
their own course, and men are in their voluntary choices ;
yet all subserving the great Lord, and his ends, and his
glory, who made them all for himself : as the lower orbs
have each their motion, but are all wheeled about with
the first. Men know not what he is doing by them, and
what in the end he will do with them. With the rod of
Assyria He scourges his children, and then throws the rod
in the fire ; Isa. X, 5, 16. The horse-leech draws the
blood to fill itself, but the physician intends the patient's
health. Men are drawn on by temporal prosperings and
successes to drive proudly and furiously, till they drive
themselves over the edge of the precipice appointed for
their ruin; and all his exalting them for a season, is in the
end to exalt himself in their greater and more remarkable
destruction : I will get me a name upon Pharaoh, and all
his host. Men are busy, consulting or acting with or
against one another, and he sits and laughs at their wisest
plots. He alone is in all affairs, doing all his own will in
heaven and in earth.
O the folly and blindness of men, who think to carry

all to their minds, and walk as masters of their own designs, and never have any serious thought of him in whose hands both they and all their business, and all the affairs of states and kingdoms of this world, are as a piece of wax, to frame them to what he pleases--be who destroys the counsels of the wise, and makes the diviners mad, who pours contempt upon princes, leads counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools--he who hath set limits to all things, to the raging of the sea, making the small sand give check to the great ocean ; when it brake out of the womb, he had a cradle provided for it, and swaddling bands, Job xxxviii; and there, though it rolls to and fro, yet it cannot get out. O it is ignorance of God makes men rush on, and not inquire whether he be with them or

[ocr errors]

no! Moses was wise and stout, and leader of a numerous people, yet he would not stir on other terms ; If thou go not with us, let us not go up hence. Well, if men will on their peril, be it so; let us reverence God. For even this is for him, and he will gain his glory out of it. The way of man is not in himself. If we see their folly, let us learn to be wiser, to keep close to him, and desire his gracious direction of our ways; for it is not in our hands, even when we intend best. And for public affairs, let us rest satisfied in his part. Amidst all disorders, he is ordering all wisely and justly, and, to them who love him, graciously; therefore we ought not to be dismayed. Let us calm our thoughts with this, remember who it is that rules all, and disposes of peace and war, and all affairs, and we cannot wish them in a better hand. I am persua. ded, that in all the commotions of the world, when a believer thinks on this, it cannot but calon and compose his spirit exceedingly, My Father rules all. Let'this so quiet our fears, as that withal it quicken our prayers, and stir us up to the work of this day, repentant humble seeking unto God ; seeing all is in his hands, our peace; our liberties, and our enemies that threaten to bereave us of both. O that the effect of all our troubles and dan. gers were to drive us more to God, to make us throng more about the throne of grace, to draw forth our King for our help! O our impenitence and unreformedness! That turns him to be our enemy, and that only. Men are nothing. And now, in so great straits, yet so little calling on him! O my brethren, what are we doing? O pray, pray! It is our God that commands all, and we may say it

upon his own warrant, it is prayer that commands him,

II. The petition ; Correct me. When the band of God is stretched out against a people or a person, certainly there is no running from him. The only wise and safe course, is to run unto him. This the prophet does in behalf of his people, and by his example teaches them so to do. As the prophet utters bis own sense and desires in this prayer, so be sets it as a copy to the people of God in time of judgment, to pray by; shows them the way, which is, not vainly to offer to flee from him, or proudly to stand out against him to their undoing, but to humble themselves under his mighty hand, supplicatin bim, yielding themselves, and begging quarter. Correct me, o Lord, with judgment, not in anger, lest thou bring me to nothing. That I should suffer for my rebellion, there is good reason; yet, Lord, do not utterly destroy me, which will be if the weight of thine anger fall upon me.

And for that, though indeed we have deserved it, yet there is another vent for it, and pardon us to say so, fitter matter for it: Pour out ihy wrath upon the heathen ; ver. 25; let it go out that way. So we see the supplication hath these two particulars in it, an aversion and a diversion ; an aversion of the anger of God from his own people un. der correction, and a diversion of it upon his and their enemies-Lord, turn from us, and pour it out there. The aversion is presented, qualified with an humble submission, declaring expressly they decline not that correction of God, but only deprecate his consuming anger. Correct me, O Lord, but with judgment, that is, with measure; such as the discretion and love of a father resolves on towards his child, Thus much will I correct him for his good and no further.

Not in thine anger. God is pleased to express his displeasure against sin, by wrath and anger, even towards his own children. But the anger which here the prophet entreats exception from for the church, is anger opposed to judgment, unbounded destroying anger, that knows no limits nor stop but the devouring of those against whom it is kindled. This is spoken in our language, but is to be understood in a way suiting the purity of God. In bim truly is no passion at all, much less any that is not ordered by wisdom and judgment. He is not carried in heat beyond his purposed measure, but knows well how far he intends to go with any, and goes no further. But as his anger means his just punish

of sin, so his unlimited anger signifies no other than his just proceeding in punishment, to the utter destruction of inflexible sinners ; and to this is opposed here, his correcting with judgment, that is, in a fatherly gracious moderation, such as does not utterly ruin and cut off, but indeed reclaims and converts sinners unto him.

This submission and yieldance to a measured correc


« PreviousContinue »