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As thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.—Ver. 132.
HERE you have—
Thirdly, The terms of the dispensation, ‘As thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.’ The word is—
1. According to the law and right.
2. According to the use and custom, according to the mercy promised, and usually bestowed upon those that love thee. Both senses not improper.
First, The first sense, according to the law and right. Prout est jus diligentium nomen tuum, so some. The vulgar, Secundum judicium. Amyraldus glosseth thus, Pro illa misericordia quam inter te et timentes nomen tuum constituisti. Others, Secundum jus, et foedus illud. Take it thus, and it beareth a good sense; for there is the obligation of justice, and the obligation of grace; a judgment of righteousness, and a judgment of mercy. This merciful judgment the saints appeal unto. I cannot exclude this; for otherwise this verse would not have one of those ten words which express the word or law of God.
Doct. That there is a gracious way of right established between God and his people, according to which they may expect mercies.
This will be best understood by comparing the two covenants, their agreement and disagreement, not in all things, but such as are pertinent.
1. Let us see how the two covenants agree.
[1.] They agree in their author. God appointed both, and man is y to accept or take hold of what is offered. Man was not thinking of any such thing when God instituted the first: Gen. ii. 17, ‘But of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die;’ or revealed the second: Gen. iii. 15, ‘It shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.’ For God to enter into a covenant with the creature, either of works or grace, was an act of condescension; and who is he that could bid the Almighty humble himself, and prescribe conditions and laws of commerce between God and us, but only God alone? Man did not give the conditions, or treat with God about the making of them, what they should be; but only was bound to submit to what God was pleased to prescribe. In the covenant of works God gave forth the conditions of life, and a law and a penalty; and in the covenant of grace, man is bound to submit to the conditions without disputing. They are not left free and indifferent for us to debate upon, and to modify, and bring them down to our own liking and humour; but to yield to them, and take hold upon them, not to appoint them: Isa. lvi. 4, ‘Thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;’ Rom. x. 3, ‘For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.’
[2.] They agree in the moving cause, which in both was the grace of God. The first covenant, it was grace for God to make it. It was the grace of God to accept of man’s perfect obedience, so as to make him sure of eternal life on the performance of it. Though the last covenant hath the honour by way of eminency to be styled the covenant of grace, yet the first was so, though the condition of it was perfect obedience, and the reward had respect to personal righteousness. It was of grace also that God would at all covenant and enter into bonds with man, who was not his equal, and give his word to any of the works of his hands. It was grace that endowed man with original righteousness, and fitted him, and enabled him to keep that covenant. His absolute sovereign owed him no more than the rest of the creatures which he had made. Grace engaged the reward, there was no more merit in Adam’s obedience than in ours: Luke xvii. 10, ‘So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.’ Nor did his work bear proportion to the eternal reward.
[3.] They agree in the parties, God and man in both covenants, not any other creatures superior or inferior to man, rational or irrational; the principal contracting parties were public persons, Adam, Jesus: Rom. v. 18, ‘Therefore as by the offence of one man judgment came upon all to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life;’ 1 Cor. xv. 47, ‘The first man is of the earth earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.’ The first and second Adam, for them and all their heirs.
[4.] That God giveth sufficiency of strength in both these covenants to the parties with whom he made them to fulfil the conditions thereof. To Adam: Eccles. vii. 29, ‘Lo this only have I found, that God hath made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.’ To Adam natural, to us supernatural strength: Ezek. xxxvi. 27, ‘And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments and do them;’ Heb. viii. 10, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.’
[5.] In both God kept up his sovereignty, and by his condescension did not part with anything of his dominion over man. In the covenant of works he ruled by a law written on men’s hearts: Rom. ii. 15, ‘Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts the meanwhile accusing or else excusing one another.’ So by grace the believer is not freed from the law of nature, which being almost obliterated and blotted out of the heart of man, and become very illegible, it pleased God to set it forth in a new edition, and to write it over again in the heart of a renewed man: Heb. viii. 10, ‘I will put my law into their minds, and write it in their hearts;’ Eph. iv. 24, ‘And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.’ Though God admitted us to new conditions of favour, yet he still requireth subjection on our part, and that we own him as Lord and sovereign, requiring obedience and service at our hands, or else he taketh a liberty to visit our transgressions with rods: Ps. lxxxix. 31, 32, ‘If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments, then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with, stripes.’
[6.] In both covenants there is a mutual obligation on both parties; this ariseth from the very nature of a covenant. Contractus est consensio ad constituendam obligationem, qua alter alteri fit obnoxius. In every covenant there is a tie on both sides, and some reason of right. There is no obligation of debt between God and us, but an obligation of grace. Deus non est debitor, saith Aquinas, quia non est ad alia ordinatus; reddit debita, nulla debet. His covenant doth infer a debt of favour, not of justice. We may challenge him upon his promise: Ps. cxix. 49, ‘Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope.’ But God doth it not with respect to our work, but his own promise. In covenants of justice between man and man, there is a proportion and correspondence between the conditions on the one part and the other. In the covenant between God and us is a deed of favour, containing large grants of privileges, and noble conditions, upon terms and re-stipulations, which had no proportion to the favours granted. As if some prince or person of honour should, out of pure love to a poor mean virgin that hath no portion, covenant to give her a rich dowry and jointure, suitable to his own degree; so doth God with us in the covenant of grace: Ezek. xvi. 8, ‘Now when I passed by thee and looked on thee, behold thy time was a time of love, and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness, yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord God, and thou becamest mine;’ Jer. xxxi. 3, ‘The Lord hath appeared of old unto thee, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee.’ Indeed, in the covenant of works, justice hath a greater predominant influence than grace; though in exact justice, God is not bound to remunerate us there neither.
[7.] The conditions in both covenants were suitable to the ends and scope appointed. In the first covenant God would show forth justice in rewarding man’s works and his own obedience. Now what more suitable condition than works, without the least indulgence in case of failing? Gal. iii. 10, ‘Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.’ And what more suitable to show forth grace than the condition of faith required by the covenant of grace? Rom. iv. 16, ‘Therefore it was of faith, that it might be of grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.’ So he would make it full of comfort to the creature, and honour to his justice.
2. The differences between these two covenants.
[1.] They differ in the ends, both as to man and God.
(1.) As to man. The end of the first covenant was to preserve and continue man in that happiness wherein it found him, and in which he was created; but the covenant of grace was for the reparation and restitution of mankind to that happiness which he had lost, and from which he had fallen. The law saith to man in his best, his pure and perfect estate, Continue in it. It speaketh to the innocent, that they may continue in their original happiness. The gospel saith, Be ye reconciled and renewed: 2 Cor. v. 20, ‘Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God;’ for it speaketh to the fallen and miserable: it is a restitution of what was lost, and redeeming us from misery and sin. The one was made with man in statu instituto, as he came out of God’s hand, in his primitive integrity, when he was a lively resemblance of God, and his abilities for obedience not yet broken. The other covenant was made with him in statu destituto, when at the worst, sinful and wretched, in his fallen estate, disabled for obedience to God: Rom. viii. 3, ‘For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh.’ In the one there was perfect amity between the confederates, God and Adam, and this covenant was made for the continuance and standing thereof; but there was enmity and distance between the parties when the new covenant was set afoot; and this was to be taken away, and the breach made up; and therefore it is called a covenant of peace: Isa. liv. 10, ‘For the mountains shall depart, and the hills shall be removed, but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy on thee.’
(2.) As to God. In the one, God is considered as a gracious and merciful redeemer, who being displeased with them for the breach of the first covenant, did enter into a new covenant to show the riches of his grace and mercy: Eph. i. 6, ‘Unto the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.’ Man fallen was not a suitable object of God’s love, as man in innocency; he was then lovely, and an alluring object, because of the beauty God had put upon him; but now he was loathsome, like an infant in his blood and filthiness: Ezek. xvi. 6-8, ‘When I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood. Live; yea, I said unto thee, when thou wast in thy blood, Live. I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxed great; and thou art come to excellent ornaments; thy breasts are fashioned, and thy hair is grown, whereas thou wert naked and bare. Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness; yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, and thou becamest mine, saith the Lord.’ Therefore God had a different end as to himself. The glory of his creating bounty was the end in the old covenant, the glory of his redeeming grace and pardoning mercy was the end in the new covenant, showed in the recovery of lost sinners. In the one, he intended the advancement of those attributes that were known to man by the law and light of nature, as wisdom, power, goodness, bounty, and justice: Ps. viii. 9, ‘O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!’ The end of the covenant of grace was to set forth redeeming mercy: Rom. v. 21, ‘That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ If the creature had never been in misery, mercy had never been known, and grace had not been so glorious, as in giving Christ. All the natural attributes of God receive a new lustre in Christ.
[2.] They differ in their nature. The covenant of works stood more by commands, and less by promises; but the covenant of grace standeth more by promises, and less by commands: therefore called the promise, Gal. iii. 18, ‘For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.’ The commands and promises were not commensurate. There was not a promise in that covenant for every command of the law of nature, but in the gospel God promiseth what he requireth. In the covenant of works, justice is the rule of God’s dealing; for though he entered into that covenant, and promised a reward out of grace; yet being entered into it, justice holdeth the balance, and weigheth the works of men, and giveth to every man according to his works, what is due to him: Rom. ii. 6-8, ‘Who will render to every man according to his deeds; to them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for life, and glory, and immortality, eternal life. But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,’ &c. But the rule of God’s dealing in the new covenant is grace. The covenant of works was more independent on God and grace without man, and more dependent on man and grace within himself. In it man was left to stand by his own strength, to be justified upon his own righteousness, God having furnished him with a stock at first, or a sufficiency of power to keep that covenant. But the covenant of grace findeth us without strength; therefore we are kept in dependence upon another: Ps. lxxxix. 19, ‘I have laid help upon one that is mighty;’ and Phil. iv. 13, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.’ Man was to keep the first covenant, but here in effect the covenant keepeth us: 1 Peter i. 5, ‘Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation;’ Jer. xxxii. 40, ‘And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away. from them to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.’
[3.] In the terms. Unsinning obedience is the condition of the covenant of works. The covenant of works is wholly made void, and the promise thereof of none effect, by any one sin, without any hope of cure or remedy. Once a sinner, and for ever miserable; as the angels for one sin were thrown down from heaven, and ‘reserved in chains of darkness unto the judgment of the great day,’ Jude 6. It admitteth of no such thing as repentance, neither doth it offer any provision for such; it speaketh much to the whole, nothing to the sick; it maketh a promise to the righteous, but none to sinners. But the covenant of grace is otherwise: Mat. ix. 13, ‘I will have mercy, and not sacrifice; for I am not come to call the righteous,’ but sinners to repentance: Acts v. 31, ‘Him hath God exalted with his right hand, to be a prince and a saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.’ Every failing doth not make void the covenant, no not every grosser fault: Ps. lxxxix. 33, 34, ‘Nevertheless my loving-kindness I will not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail: my covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.’ The first covenant is an uncomfortable covenant to a sinner, and can be only comfortable to a perfect righteous person; for in case of the least failing it speaketh nothing but wrath and the curse. But the covenant of grace is comfortable to sinners, it offereth pardon to them. As to the first covenant, it is impossible to be fulfilled by man in the state of corruption: Rom. viii. 3, ‘What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh.’ Since the day that Adam fell, never did nor could any man fulfil this covenant. Well, then, the demands of this covenant cannot be satisfied without a continuation in all things written therein, in height of exactness and perfection. But the gospel admits of a sincere, uniform obedience as perfect: 2 Cor. viii. 12, ‘But if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.’ There is a merciful lenity as to acceptance, though the rule is as strict: Mal. iii. 17, ‘And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them as a man spareth his own son, that serveth him.’
Use 1. Then enter into this covenant. You have no benefit by it till you personally enter into the bond of it. The covenant of works was made with man generally, universally considered, with Adam as a public person, representing all his posterity; but the covenant of grace is made with man particularly, and personally considered, and his consent is expressly required, or else it can convey no benefit to us. That was a law, and so did bind whether man did consent or no. This is a privilege, Christ draweth to consent to him, doth not force us against our will: John i. 12, ‘But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.’ Will you own him as the Son of God, and Redeemer of the world? Every man must consent for himself. The effects of the first covenant are uncomfortable for the present, the spirit of bondage: Heb. ii. 15, ‘And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.’ But dreadful hereafter: James ii. 13, ‘He shall have judgment without mercy.’ When none to mediate for them, they have to do with justice, strict justice. The least sin is enough to rain you, it will pass by no transgression, remit no part of your punishment, it will have satisfaction to the utmost farthing, admits of no pardon, no advocate, regardeth no tears. What justice can give you, that you may look for. If justice speak no good, promise no good, you are to look for none; for justice doth all in the covenant, under which you stand: Ps. cxxx. 3, ‘If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?’ What you may claim as a due debt, that you may look for; that covenant gives no gift. Oh! then, give the hand to the Lord: 2 Chron. xxx. 8, ‘But be ye not stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord, and enter into his sanctuary, which he hath sanctified for ever, and serve the Lord your God.’ Receive God’s condition: Acts ix. 6, ‘Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?’ You have not leave to choose and refuse.
Use 2. Let us bless God, and admire his grace in bringing about this new covenant.
1. Man irreparably had broken the first covenant, fallen from his state of life; so that all the world is lost under guilt and a curse: Rom. iii. 19, ‘That every month may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.’
2. Upon this fundamental breach, the Lord was acquitted and ab solved from the promise of life, in this way of works; for man could never stand in that court: Rom. viii. 3, ‘For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,’ &c. Then—
3. God taking occasion by this miserable estate, opened a door of hope by Christ: 2 Cor. v. 19, ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them.’ God hath set up a new court of righteousness and life, where sinners may appear, where grace taketh the throne, and the judge is Christ, and the gospel the rule, and faith and sincere obedience accepted.
4. The Lord giveth notice to fallen man, and sendeth him word, that if he will come to this court, and put himself under the laws thereof, he shall be delivered from the curse: Luke i. 77-79, ‘To give knowledge of salvation to his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercies of our God, whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide their feet into the way of peace.’
5. Because men are backward, he hunteth and pursueth them by the curse of the law, and the sense men have of it, to take sanctuary at his grace: Heb. vi. 18, ‘That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.’
6. When a poor creature cometh, he receiveth him graciously: Jer. iii. 12, 13, ‘Return thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you; for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever: only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God;’ 1 John i. 9, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’ If he had not set up another court of righteousness, no tears, no repentance could have helped us; there had been no help that way. Now he is willing to receive you, he standeth with his arms open. From first to last he dealeth with us upon terms of grace.
Secondly, Judgment is put for manner and custom or course: Gen. xl. 13, ‘Thou shalt deliver Pharaoh his cup after the former manner, כַּמִּשְׁפָּט. So Josh. vi. 15, ‘They compassed the city after the same manner.’ The same word again: 1 Sam. ii. 13, ‘The priest’s custom with the people was,’ &c.; 1 Sam. viii. 11, מִשְׁפַּט הַמֶּלֶךְ, ‘This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you;’ 1 Sam. xxvii. 11, ‘So did David, and so will be his manner.’ So in other places.
Doct. 1. That it is God’s constant method to encourage all those that serve him, by showing to them all manner of expressions of favour and mercy.
The proposition is often expressed in scripture: Ps. xxv. 10, ‘All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies;’ Ps. lxxxiv. 11, ‘For the Lord God is a sun and a shield; the Lord God will give grace and glory; no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly;’ Ps. xxxiv. 10, ‘The young lions do lack, and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.’ David presumeth it: Ps. xxiii. 6, ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.’ And many other places.
Object. But it seemeth to be contradicted by sense. They that love God most are most calamitous, and have many afflictions.
Ans. 1. These belong to God’s covenant, and are expressions of his good-will and faithfulness: Ps. cxix. 75, ‘I know, Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.’ God were not faithful nor merciful if he did not now and then take the rod in hand; our need, our good requireth it: Heb. xii. 10, ‘For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure, but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.’ Discipline is necessary for a child as food, winter as necessary as summer, rainy days as fair days, to curb the wantonness of the flesh, and to withdraw the fuel of our lusts.
2. He useth to show mercy to people in their afflictions, to cause light to rise to them in darkness: 2 Cor. i. 5, ‘For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ.’ We are not capable of taking in spiritual comforts till we are separated from the dregs of worldly affections.
3. God will sanctify afflictions: Rom. viii. 28, ‘All things shall work together for good to them that love God.’ And he will finally deliver when the season calleth for it: 1 Cor. x. 13, ‘There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.’
Object. But he dealeth more hardly with them than others; he doth not punish the gross iniquities of his adversaries, when the lesser failings of his people are severely chastised.
Ans. It is meet ‘judgment should begin at the house of God,’ 1 Peter iv. 17, that it may be known God doth not favour any in their sins: Amos iii. 2, ‘You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish you for all your iniquities.’ Their sins, though small, have more aggravations, being committed against clearest light, dearest love: Ezra ix. 13, ‘And after all that is come upon us for our evil deeds, should we again break thy commandments?’ Isa. xxvi. 10, ‘Let favour be showed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness.’ God is jealous over his people, and careful to have them reclaimed from every evil course: 1 Cor. xi. 32, ‘But when we are judged we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.’ In the bitterness of the rod God discovereth the vileness of their sin; for he will reclaim them when he suffereth others to walk in their own way.
4. His enemies shall in time taste the dregs of the cup, whereof his own people taste a little: Ps. lxxv. 8, ‘For in the hand of the Lord there is a cup; the wine is red, it is full of mixture, he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out and drink them;’ Jer. xxv. 29, ‘For lo, I begin to bring evil on this city that is called by my name, and shall ye be utterly unpunished? Ye shall not be unpunished, for I will call for a sword upon all the inhabitants of the earth, saith the Lord of hosts.’ They shall have the bottom.
5. In the meantime God’s people have his love, their sins are pardoned, they are admitted into communion with him; and God’s mercy and favour to his people must not be judged by temporal accidents: Ps. xvii. 14, 15, ‘From men which are thy hand, O Lord, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, whose bellies thou fillest with thy hid treasures; they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.’ Christ gave his purse to Judas, but his spirit to the other disciples.
Object. But God desert eth them; his people complain of it: Isa. lix. 14, ‘But Zion said, the Lord hath forsaken me, and my God hath forgotten me.’ Yea, Christ himself, Mat. xxvii. 46, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’
Ans. 1. There is a distinct consideration of Christ, for he was to bear our sorrows: Isa. liii. 4, ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows;’ to be forsaken for a while, that we might be received for ever.
2. God’s people are mistaken; the saints complain without a cause. Sense maketh lies of God: Ps. xxxi. 22, ‘For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes; nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplication when I cried unto thee;’ Ps. lxxvii. 9, 10, ‘Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? And I said, This is my infirmity; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.’ The disciples had Christ near them when they knew it not: Luke xxiv. 16, ‘Their eyes were holden, that they could not know him.’
3. Though they are forsaken for a while, yet not for ever: Isa. liv. 7, 8, ‘For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercy will I gather thee. In a little wrath I have hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.’
Use. Do not say God is a hard master. When the compute is rightly made, and you trace his providence through all the passages of your lives, there is more good than evil. Jacob giveth an account of his life: Gen. xlviii. 15, 16, ‘God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.’ So may others say.
Doct. 2. God’s accustomed goodness and gracious dispensations to his people throughout all ages should encourage us in waiting upon him and praying to him.
This emboldeneth me, that all thy servants in all ages have found thee gracious and merciful unto them.
1. From God’s unchangeableness. He will not leave his old wont; he is where he was at first: Isa. lix. 1, ‘Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that he cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear;’ Mal. iii. 6, ‘For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.’ He is the same that ever he was.
2. All his people stand upon the same terms; therefore what he will do for one, he will do for another. God’s love is the same; he is alike affected to all his children; his saints now are as dear to him as ever: Ps. cxlix. 4, ‘For the Lord taketh pleasure in his people; he will beautify the meek with salvation.’ They have the same covenant, it is a common charter: Acts ii. 39, ‘For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.’ The same Redeemer: 1 Cor. i. 2, ‘To them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours;’ Rom. iii. 22, ‘Even the righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference.’ One hath not a more worthy Christ than another; faith is as acceptable as ever: 2 Peter i. 1, ‘To them that have obtained like precious faith.’ They are interested in the same privileges, promises, gifts, and rewards.
Use 1. Examples and instances of God’s mercy should confirm us. It is not agreeable to God’s nature and practice to forsake his people, or to be deaf to their prayers: Ps. xxii. 4, 5, ‘Our fathers trusted in thee, they trusted in thee, and thou didst deliver them; they cried unto thee, and were delivered; they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.’ None of his people ever sought him in vain. From the beginning of the world to this day, God hath been gracious: Ps. ix. 10, ‘For they that know thy name will put their trust in thee; for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.’ No age can give an instance to the contrary; therefore mark the usual dealings of God with his children: What was said to them was for the establishment of our comfort and hope: Rom. iv. 23, 24, ‘Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him, but for us also to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;’ compared with Gen. xv. 6, ‘And he believed in the Lord, and lie counted it to him for righteousness.’ God’s word is a book of precedents, as a painter’s masterpiece is hung out to invite custom.
2. Let us be sure we be of this number. If there be conformity to them in affection, there will be in consolation; if in grace, then in privileges: Ps. cxlv. 18-20, ‘The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth. He shall fulfil the desire of them that fear him, he also will hear their cry, and will save them. The Lord preserveth all them that love him.’
Doct. 3. We should beg the favour of God’s people.
Common things should not satisfy a child of God. He must have what is peculiar to the saints: Ps. cvi. 4, 5, ‘Remember me, O Lord, with the favour thou bearest unto thy people; O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance.’ Nothing will satisfy the people of God but his special love; they have a new nature that must be pleased, a great, noble, and divine end to be promoted, which is to enjoy God; the creatures serve not for that. Common men are put off with common mercies; these they may have and perish.
Use. Let us be of this temper. Men commonly think that God looketh upon those whom he blesseth with a large increase of temporal things, that he is merciful to those that never see evil, nor feel pain or want. David was not of this mind; he would have God deal with him as with his friends and favourites; he leaveth it to God how to express his mercy, who only knoweth what is best for us; only he beggeth the fruits of his special love. The heart is earthly and worldly when spiritual things are not valued above all the glory and plenty of the world. Our condition is under a curse without these; in these Christ showed his love: Acts iii. 26, ‘Unto you first God having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.’ He died not to make us rich, honourable, great, but for remission of sin. This is a solid ground of rejoicing; this abideth for ever.
Doct. 4. We must not affect singularity of dispensations, but be content to be dealt with as others of God’s children have been dealt with before us.
We must not expect to go to heaven without difficulties:1 Peter v. 9, ‘Knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.’ We are not alone; our lot is no harder than others of God’s holy ones. All have gone to heaven this way. God will so manifest himself to us, that still there may be room for faith and patience.
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