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Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.—Ver. 104.
IN the former verse, the man of God had spoken of the pleasure that was to be had by the word, now of the profit of it. There is a great deal of pleasure to spiritual sense; if we could once get our appetite, we should find a world of sweetness in it; and there is as much profit as pleasure. As the pleasure is spiritual, so also is the profit to be measured by spiritual considerations. To escape the snares of the devil, and the dangers that waylay us in our passage to heaven, is a? great advantage. Now the word doth not only warn us of our danger, but where it is received in the love of it, breedeth a hatred of all these things that may lead us into it: ‘Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.’
In which sentence, the prophet seems to invert the order set down, ver. 101. He had said, ‘I refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word,’ where the avoiding of evil is made the means of profiting by the word. Here his profiting by the word is made the cause of avoiding evil. In the one verse you have an account of his beginning with God, in the other of his progress.
In this verse there is—
1. The benefit he received by the word, and that is sound and saving knowledge.
2. The fruit and effect which this knowledge produceth in his heart, therefore I hate every false way.
Mark, first, The firmness of this effect, I hate. He doth not say I abstain, but I hate.
Secondly, The note of universality, every.
Thirdly, The object, false way. It is not said evil way, but false way; or, as it is in the original, ‘every path of lying and falsehood.’
Falsehood is either in point of opinion or practice. If you take it in the first sense, for falsehood in opinion, or error in judgment, or false doctrine, or false worship, this sentence holds good. Those that get understanding by the word are established against error; and not only established against error, or against the embracing or profession of it, but they hate it.
1. They are established. All error cometh from ignorance, or else judicial blindness.
[1.] From ignorance, or unacquaintedness with the word of God; so Christ said to the Sadducees, ‘Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures,’ Mat. xxii. 29. When men study not the word, which is the rule of truth, no wonder if they lie open to every fancy; they take up things hand over head, and by a fond credulity are led away by every suggestion presented to them. So it is said, 2 Peter iii. 16, that ‘the unstable and unlearned wrest the scriptures to their own destruction.’ By the unlearned, is meant not those that are unskilful in human literature, though that be a great help; but those that are unskilful in the word of righteousness, poor deluded souls that lie under a great uncertainty.
[2.] Judicial blindness. For men that have great parts, and a presumption of their own wit, are given up to be blinded by their own lusts; and though they know the scriptures, yet they wrest them to speak according to the sense of their carnal interest, 1 Thes. ii. 12. And so they see not what they see, being given up to the witchery and enchantment of error: Gal. iii. 1, ‘O foolish Galatians! who hath bewitched you?’ So that all false ways proceed from the want of reason and the pride of reason. The one is the cause of the simple’s erring, who believeth every word; the other of those that are knowing, and are otherwise of great parts, but they make their wit their idol, and so would be wise above the scriptures, or else are swayed by their own lusts. They do not fix themselves in the power, love, and practice of truths revealed in the scriptures, and so are given up to hellish delusions. Now, in this sense, I might speak with great profit of these words, especially now when so many errors are broached, and all the errors of Christianity come abreast to assault it at once; and such changeable times as produce several interests, whereby men are blinded, and such levity in the professors of religion. Why, then, study the word with a teachable heart; that is, renouncing your own wit, and giving up yourselves to God’s direction, and practise what is plain, without being swayed with the profits and pleasures of the world, and you may come to know what is the mind of God. Men think all is uncertain in religion, and are apt to say with Pilate, ‘What is truth?’ John xviii. 38. No; the scriptures are not obscure, but our hearts are dark and blind with worldly lusts. Otherwise the counsel is plain, and you might say with David, ‘Through thy precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way.’
(1.) Where the Spirit of God doth affect men with an earnest desire of knowledge, and so affect them as to desire to know the will of God, for no other reason but that they may avoid what is displeasing to God, and do what is pleasing in his sight; and therefore hear, pray read, meditate, and study the holy scriptures; they are sure to be right for the main.
(2.) Not only avoid the belief and profession of falsehood, but hate it: ‘I hate every false way.’ Not the persons, but pity them: Phil. iii. 19, ‘I tell you weeping.’ It should be the grief of our hearts to see them misled; but as for the error, hate it, whatever is not agree able to the rule of truth, or dissenteth from the purity of the word. There is too great a coldness and indifferency about the things of religion, as if truth were not to be stood upon. Carnal men hate the truth: Ps. l. 17, ‘They hate instruction, and cast my laws behind their backs.’ Truly we have much more reason to hate error, without which we cannot be safe, it is so catching with our natures.
2. In point of practice, and so every falsehood may be applied—
[1.] To craft, or carnal wisdom. I hate fraud and deceit; true understanding makes us hate false wisdom. A simple, honest conversation suits best with Christians: 2 Cor. i. 12, ‘In simplicity and godly sincerity we have had our conversation in the world.’
[2.] Carnal or worldly vanities, and flattering or fallacious pleasures, these entice us with a fair outside, and promise a great deal of happiness and comfort to us; but when we neglect better things, and run after them, they deceive us in the issue. They are called ‘deceitful riches,’ Mark iv. 19. And ‘beauty’ is said to be ‘deceitful,’ Prov. xxxi. 30. And those that run after these things are said to ‘run after lying vanities,’ Jonah ii. 8; those that fail when we hope to enjoy them.
3. I take it more generally for all sin. Sinful ways are false ways, and will surely deceive those that expect good from them or walk in them: Heb. iii. 13, ‘Deceitfulness of sin;’ and ‘deceitful lusts,’ Eph. iv. 22; and ‘sin hath deceived me, and slew me,’ saith Paul, Rom. vii. 11. Sin is false and deceitful many ways—
[1.] It presents itself in another dress than its own, proposing evil under the name of good, calling light darkness, and darkness light, Isa. v. 20, or shadows of good for that which is really good, gilded trash for perfect gold.
[2.] As it promiseth happiness and impunity which it never performeth or maketh good, Deut. xxix. 19, 20; and so the poor sinner is led as an ox to the slaughter, Prov. vii. 22, 23. And we do not see the danger of it till it be too late to help it, and it appeareth in its own colours in the foulness of the act and the smartness of the punishment. Esau, when he had sold the birthright, bewailed it with tears when it was too late, Heb. xii. 16, 17. The foolish virgins tarried till the door was shut, Mat. xxv. 11, 12. It is good to have our eyes in our head, to see a plague when we may prevent it, Prov. xxii. 3. The foulness of the act terrifieth, as it did Judas when he betrayed his master, Mat. xxvii. 4. Their hearts give evidence against them, Rom. ii. 15 ‘Excusing or accusing one another;’ as Cain, Gen. iv. 14, ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear.’ The unclean person shall ‘mourn at the last, when his flesh and his body shall be consumed,’ Prov. v. 11. Adam and Eve were sensible too late, when their eyes were opened.
Doct. By the word of God we get that true, sound wisdom which maketh us to hate every false way.
Four things are implied in the point and in the text:—
1. A hatred of sin.
2. The universality of this hatred, every false way.
3. That this is a part and fruit of wisdom, I get understanding, therefore I hate.
4. This wisdom and understanding is gotten by God’s precepts.
First, That it is our duty to hate sin. It is not enough to reform our practice, or to abstain from the act, or to avoid the occasions that may lead to it, but it must be hated: Ps. xcvii. 10, ‘Ye that love the Lord, hate evil.’ He doth not say forbear it, but hate it. Love to the chiefest good is fitly accompanied with hatred of the chiefest evil. God, he is our chiefest good: you love the Lord, and you must also hate evil. The one is as natural to grace as the other; for the new nature hath its slight and aversation, as well as its choice and prosecution. As it inclines us to choose God for our portion, and to pursue after things that lead to God, so it hath a disposition to make us avoid that which is evil. There are things hurtful to the new nature as well as any other being; now hatred is to arm us against it. In short, this hatred is required—
1. Because this is the true principle of resistance against sin. Until a man hate sin, he is never truly set against it; as a man is never thoroughly gained to that which is good until he loves holiness for holiness’ sake. His affections may be bribed with other considerations, but then he is rooted in holiness when he loves holiness for its own sake. So a man that is not resolved against sin, that will not hate it for its own sake, may be frighted out of sin for a fit, or by the interposings of conscience put out of humour, but his heart falls in again with his old lusts, until there be an envy and detestation of sin; but when it comes to this hatred, then temptations cannot easily overcome—examples draw not, nor difficulties compel us to that which is evil Persuasions and allurements formerly were of great force; straightway they followed; but when the bent is another way, they are not so easily drawn by force and examples, which seem to have such cogency. Before men did easily swim with the stream, but here is a counter motion when they hate that which is evil. This is the fence of the soul, and draws us to an indignation, Hosea xiv. 8.
2. Partly because this is a true distinctive evidence between those that are good and those that are evil. Many may forbear sin that yet do not hate it; they forbear it out of restraint, out of fear of punishment, shame, worldly ends, yet they ‘regard iniquity in their hearts,’ Ps. lxvi. 18; as a dog loves the bone, yet fears the blows. God judgeth not as man; man is blameless, he abstains from sin, but God hateth sin. Man judgeth according to the action, but God judgeth according to the frame of the heart, 1 Sam. xvi. 7; for he is able to look to the inward springs, and poise our spirits. So on the other side, good men may slip into an evil action, but their hearts are against it; it is the evil which they hate, Rom. vii. 15. They may be foiled, but their hearts are bent another way.
But what is this hatred of sin?
1. It implies a universal repugnancy in every part of a man against sin, not only in his reason and conscience, but will and affections. There is not a wicked man, but in many cases his conscience bids him do otherwise; ay! but a renewed man, his heart inclines him to do otherwise; his heart is set against sin, and taken up with the things of God: Rom. vii. 22, ‘I delight in the law of God according to the inner man.’ It is in the whole inward man, which consists of many parts and faculties. Briefly, then, it notes the opposition, not from enlightened conscience only, but from the bent of the renewed heart. Reason and conscience will take God’s part, and quarrel with sins, else wicked men could not be self-condemned.
2. Hatred; it is a fixed rooted enmity. Many a man may fall out with sin upon some occasion, but he hath not an irreconcilable enmity against it. The transient motions of the soul are things quite distinct from a permanent principle that abides in a renewed heart; he hath that same ‘seed of God remaining in him,’ 1 John iii. 9. A habit notes a habitual aversation. A brabble many times falls out between us and sin upon several occasions, when it hath sensibly done us wrong, destroyed our peace, blasted our names, or brought temporal inconvenience upon us. In time of judgment and fears, and present troubles and dangers, men think of bewailing their sins and returning to God. but they fall out and fall in again; this is anger, not hatred; like the rising of the heart against a drawn sword, when it is flashed in our faces, whereas afterwards we can take it up without any such commotion of spirit.
3. Hatred; it is an active enmity, warring upon sin by serious and constant endeavours, manifested by watching, striving, groaning; watching before the temptation comes, resisting in the temptation, groaning under it, and bemoaning ourselves after the temptation hath prevailed over us.
[1.] There is a constant jealousy and watchfulness before the temptation comes. They that hate sin will keep at a distance from what ever is displeasing unto God: Prov. xxviii. 14, ‘Happy is the man that feareth alway.’ A hard heart, that knows not the evil of sin, rusheth on to things according to the present inclination. Ay! but a man that hath a hatred against sin, that hath felt the evil of it in his conscience, that hath been scorched in the flames of a true conviction, will not come near the fire. A broken heart is shy and fearful, therefore he weighs his thoughts, words, and actions, and takes notice of the first appearance of any temptation; they know sin is always present, soon stirred, and therefore live in a holy jealousy. Certainly they that walk up and down heedlessly in the midst of so many snares and temptations wherewith we are waylaid in our passage to heaven, they have not this active enmity against sin, and therefore hatred is seen by watching.
[2.] It is seen by striving, or serious resistance in the temptation. A Christian is not always to be measured by the success, but by conflict; he fights it out: Rom. vii. 15, ‘The evil which I hate, that do I.’ Though they be foiled by sin, yet they hate it. An enemy may be overcome, yet he retains his spite and malice. Sin doth not freely carry it in the heart, neither is the act completely willing: Gal. v. 17, ‘Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh; for,’ saith he, ‘the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary the one to the other, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would;’ that is, you cannot sin with such proneness and full consent and bent of heart as others; they have a principle of opposition, a rooted enmity in their souls against sin.
[3.] By a bitter grief after the temptation; as Peter, when he had fallen foully, ‘he went out and wept bitterly,’ Mat. xxvi. 75. They do not lie in sin, but recover themselves by a kindly remorse; it is the grief of their souls that they have fallen into God’s displeasure, grieved his Spirit, and hazarded their communion with him. Oh! sin is grievous to a gracious heart, and this makes them groan and complain to God, ‘O wretched man!’ &c.
4. It is such an enmity against sin as aims at the utter extermination and expulsion of it, that endeavoureth to destroy it both root and branch. Hatred is all for mischief; annihilation, that is that which hatred aims at. Anger worketh trouble, but hatred mischief. It is an implacable affection, that continues to the death, that will not be appeased till the thing which we hate be abolished. So where there is this hatred of sin, it follows sin close till it hath gotten the life of it. As by the grace of justification they have obtained such favour with God, ne damnet, it shall not damn; by the grace of sanctification, ne regnet, sin shall not reign; and still they are aspiring and looking after the grace of glorification, ne sit, that sin may no longer be; therefore they are longing and groaning under the relics of corruption: Rom. vii. 24, ‘O wretched man!’ &c. Many scratch the face of sin, but they do not seek to root it up, to destroy the body of death; it is their constant grief that anything of sin is left in the heart, as enemies are not satisfied till they have the blood of each other. Where there is hatred it is not enough to stop the spreading, weaken the power of sin, but labouring to destroy the being of sin; as David said of his enemies, ‘I pursued them till they were destroyed;’ so when we set against sin with an aim not to give over till we have the life of it; or as God said concerning the Canaanites, Deut. vii. 23, ‘I will destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed;’ so doth a renewed heart war against sin, that he may leave neither root nor fruit within them.
Use. If this be to hate sin, how few can say with David, ‘I hate every false way’! how few are of David’s temper! Some love sin with all their heart, that ‘hide it as a sweet morsel under their tongue,’ Job xx. 12. The love of sin, that is the life of it; it dies when it begins to be hated; but when you have a love to it, it lives in the soul and prevails over us. And as they testify their love of sin, so they misplace their hatred. What do they hate? Not sin, but the word that discovers it. They ‘hate the light, because their deeds are evil,’ John iii. 20. They do not hate sin, but God’s messengers that plead against it: 1 Kings xxii. 8, ‘I hate him,’ saith Ahab concerning Micaiah, ‘for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.’ They hate the faithful brother that reproves them; he is hated because he will not hate his brother, to see sin upon him. They hate the magistrate that would reform, the faithful Christian that condemns them by his exact walking: John xv. 19, ‘Because I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.’ They hate God’s image in his people, and cannot endure to be condemned by the light that shines out from their conversations. Godly men are objects reviving guilt, therefore they hate them. Thus shamefully are a man’s affections transposed; we love where we should hate, and hate where we should love. And then if we come to the other sort of men, a degree above these, many are frightened out of their sins by slavish fear, but yet their hearts are in league with them still; and as they get out of the stocks of conscience they enlarge themselves in all manner of carnal liberty: these are not changed, but awed; sin is not mortified, but only lurks to watch a safe opportunity when it may discover itself with more advantage.
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