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I have done judgment and justice: leave me not to mine oppressors.—Ver. 121.
1. David’s plea.
2. His prayer.
First, His plea, ‘I have done judgment and justice.’ Defensio est, non arrogantia, saith Ambrose; he doth not speak this boasting or trusting in his own righteousness, but by way of apology and just defence: it is no pleading of merit, as if God were his debtor; but an asserting of his innocency against slanderers. There is justitia personae, the righteousness of the person; and justitia causae, the righteousness of the cause wherein any one is engaged. We may propound the justice of our cause to God as the judge of the earth, and appeal to him how innocently we suffer, when we are not able to plead the righteousness of our persons as to a strict and legal qualification: Ps. cxliii. 2, ‘Enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.’ Well, then, David pleadeth the equity and justice of his cause, and his right behaviour therein. They cannot condemn him of any unrighteousness and injustice, and yet endeavour to oppress him; therefore he pleads, Lord, thou knowest where the right lieth, so far as concerneth their slanders, I appeal to thee for my integrity and sincerity; thou knowest that I have given up myself to do just and right things; though they are thus forward to mischief, I have done them no wrong; ‘hear me, O God of my righteousness,’ Ps. iv. 1. They that look to be protected by God must look that they have a good cause, and handle that cause well, other wise we make him the patron of sin. When we suffer as evil-doers, it is the devil’s cross, not Christ’s, that we take up.
But let us see how David expresseth his innocency, ‘I have done judgment and justice.’ These two words are often joined together in scripture. When God is spoken of, it is said of him, Ps. xxxiii. 5, ‘He loveth righteousness and judgment;’ and in the 2 Sam. viii. 15, it is said that ‘David executed judgment and justice over all Israel.’ Muis distinguished them thus, Judicium adversus sceleratos, justitia erga bonos—judgment in punishing the wicked, justice in rewarding the good. Besides that David speaketh not here as a king, but as a poor oppressed man, the words will hardly admit of that notion. Some think they are only put to increase the sense: I have done judgment justly, exactly. I suppose the one referreth to the law or rule itself, according to which every one is to do right—that is, judgment, a clear knowledge of what ought to be done; the other referreth to the action that followeth thereupon. So that judgment is a doing of what we know, and acting according to received light: Ezek. xviii. 5, ‘Do that which is lawful and right;’ it is in the margin, Do judgment and justice. Now when this is attributed to public persons, judgment signifieth due order in trying and finding out the state of a cause; and justice the giving out sentence on that trial and judgment, or causing justice to be executed for righting the wronged and punishing the wrong-doer. When to private men, the one implies the direction of conscience, the other the rectitude of our actions. By judgment we discern between right and wrong, and by justice doing things justly according to the rule. Thus it is said, Ps. cvi. 3, ‘Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doth righteousness at all times.’ There is another notion of these two words, which I had almost for gotten:—(1.) Judgment seemeth to be opposite to rigour and extremity, and seemeth to import equitable carriage, mixed with mercy and moderation in exacting our own from others. Certainly, so judgment is sometimes taken, Jer. x. 24, ‘O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing.’ (2.) Justice is just and faithful, dealing in and about those things which we owe to others, or are employed about, or are intrusted with by. others.
Doct. It is a comely property in God’s children, and very comfortable to them, to do judgment and justice.
1. It is an excellent property—
[1.] Because by it we are made like God. Righteousness is part of God’s image, and herein we do most resemble his perfection: Ps. cxlv. 5, ‘The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.’ There is a perfect holiness in his nature, and a condecency in all his actions. Therefore it is God-like in us when our natures are sanctified, and all our actions are righteous and holy. It is said, Eph. iv. 24, ‘That the new man is created after God in righteousness and true holiness,’ according to the pattern of God, much like to him: they that are most so, are most like him. Natural conscience doth homage to the image of God: Mark vi. 20, ‘And Herod feared John, knowing he was a just man.’
[2.] It is acceptable and pleasing to God. The just man is an object of God’s complacency: Prov. xv. 9, ‘The Lord loveth him that followeth after righteousness.’ God loveth all his creatures with a general love, but with a special love those that bear his image. He doth not love men because they are rich and mighty, fair and beautiful, valiant and strong, but as holy and just. It is said, Prov. xxi. 3, ‘To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.’ God hath required both, and we should make conscience of both; but yet the one is better than the other, though the one be a duty of the first table, the other of the second, because moral and substantial duties are better than ceremonial, internal before external, and duties evident by natural light before things of positive institution. It appeareth in this, that God doth accept of moral duties without ceremonial observances, ‘For in every nation, he that feareth God and worketh righteousness, is accepted of him,’ Acts x. 35. But ceremonial observances without moral duties are of no account in God’s sight: he still rejecteth their offerings when they neglect justice; not thousands of rams and rivers of oil, but to show mercy, and to do justly, Micah vi. 7, 8, this is good. Again, he dispenseth with the ceremonials and the externals of religion when they come in competition with moral duties, even of the second table; as David’s eating the shew-bread when he was hungry, Mat. xii. 5. Well, then, how right and punctual soever we be in other things, unless we show mercy and do justice, we are not accepted with God, though zealous for and against ceremonies of the stricter party in religion. It is true we cannot say they are better than faith and love, and the fear of God, and hope in his grace, for these are the substantial duties of the first table. And compare substantials with substantials, de ordine modus, first-table duties are more weighty. But compare internals of the second with externals of the first, moral duties of the second with the ceremonies of the first, natural and evident with the merely positive and instituted; these latter1111Qu. ‘the former’?—ED. are more weighty. Give to God what is God’s, and to men what is men’s.
[3.] Because it fitteth for communion with God. When you are just and righteous, you may call for and look for such blessings as you stand in need of; for the righteous have an easy access to him, and are sure of audience: Ps. xvii. 15, ‘But as for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness.’ I cannot behold the face of Saul, he will not see my face; but this comforts me, that I can behold thy face. Lord, thou wilt look upon me, and be gracious to me, and hear my prayers. Otherwise God will not hear the unjust, as he saith he would not accept of their peace-offerings, till ‘judgment ran down as a river, and righteousness as a mighty stream,’ Amos v. 23, 24, and rejects the Jewish fasts, Isa. lviii., because they did not loose the oppressed, &c. On the other side, he hath assured the protection of his providence to him that is just: Isa. xxxiii. 15, 16, ‘He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly, he that despiseth the gain of oppression, and shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil, he shall dwell on high, his place of defence shall be the munition of rocks; bread shall be given him, and his water shall be sure.’ God will minister to him sure comforts and sure supplies. They that walk in a continual course of righteousness and just dealing of all sorts shall be as safe as if in a fort impregnable, not to be taken by any force, and sufficiently furnished with store of provisions to hold out any siege; a high craggy place is such. Bread and water are tokens of God’s full and final deliverance: Isa. li. 1, ‘Hearken unto me, ye that follow after righteousness.’ None must look to be thus qualified but the righteous.
[4.] It is so suitable to the new nature as fruits to such a tree. What is works meet for repentance? Acts xxvi. 20, ‘That they should repent, and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance;’ and ‘bring forth fruits meet for repentance,’ Mat. iii. 8. They are the kindly products of faith in Christ and repentance towards God. It is as unsuitable to those that are gracious to be unjust, as that the egg of a crow should drop from a hen, or venomous berries should grow upon a choice vine. That grace that is put into our hearts, which maketh us submissive and dutiful to God, doth also make us kind and harmless to men. These things are required of us as the fruits of true faith and repentance: Isa. i. 16, 17, ‘Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.’ This is particularly insisted upon as the proper fruit of their change. So Dan. iv. 27, ‘Break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.’ Repentance is a breaking off the former course of sin. The king, an open oppressor, Daniel preacheth righteousness and mercy to him. They that continue their former unjust courses never yet truly repented: Zech. viii. 16, 17, ‘These are the things that ye shall do, Speak ye every man truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates, and let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord.’ He would have their repentance thus expressed.
[5.] Because it is so lovely and venerable in the eyes of the world. A Christian, if he had no other engagement upon him, yet, for the honour of God and the credit of religion, he should do those things that are lovely and comely in themselves, and so esteemed by the world, for he is to glorify God, 1 Peter ii. 12, and adorn religion, Titus ii. 10, to represent his profession with advantage to the consciences of men. God is dishonoured by nothing so much as injustice, which is so odious and hateful to men; and wicked men are hardened, the hopeful discouraged, atheism prevaileth: Neh. v. 9, ‘Also I said, It is not good that ye do; ought ye not to walk in the fear of our God, because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies?’ On the contrary, when wo give every one their due, we bring honour to God and credit to religion; you can the better hold up the profession of it against contra diction, hold up head before God and man. Now justice is so lovely, partly as it is a stricture of the image of God, as before, in which respect it is said, Prov. xii. 26, ‘The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour.’ Men are convinced that he is a more perfect man, fitter to be trusted, as being one that will deal faithfully. And partly because the welfare of human society is promoted by such things: Titus iii. 8, ‘These things are good and profitable for men.’
[6.] And indeed that is my last reason; it conduceth so much to the good of human society. A Christian is a member of a double community—of the church and of the world; the one in order to eternal life, the other in order to the present life; as a man, and as a Christian. Without justice what would the world be but a den of thieves? Remove justitiam, &c., saith St Augustine. The world cannot subsist without justice: ‘The king’s throne is established by righteousness,’ Prov. xvi. 10. The nation gets honour and reputation by it abroad: Prov. xiii. 34, ‘Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.’ Never did the people of the Jews, nor any other nation whose history is come to our ears, flourish so much as when they were careful and exact in maintaining righteousness. And as to persons, all commerce between man and man is kept up by justice. And if this be a truth, that God, and not the devil, doth govern the world, and distribute rewards and the blessings of this life, surely then justice, which is a compliance with God’s will, is the way to be exalted, and to live well in the world, and not lying, cozening, and dissembling.
2. It is very comfortable to us to be just. The comfort of righteousness is often spoken of in scripture: Prov. xxix. 6, ‘In the transgression of an evil man there is a snare; but the righteous doth sing and rejoice;’ whatever befalleth him, good or evil, much or little, in life or death. Good or evil; if good, he hath comfort in his portion, because what he hath he hath by the fair leave and allowance of God’s providence: Prov. xiii. 25, ‘The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul;’ he hath enough, because he hath what God seeth fit for him; he hath enough to supply his wants, enough to satisfy his desires; sometimes it is much, sometimes it is little. It is much some times, for they are under the blessing of the promise: Deut. xvi. 20, ‘That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.’ Justice shalt thou follow; if you will take care for that, God will take care to bless you. If it be little, that little is better than more gotten by fraud and injustice: Prov. xvi. 8, ‘Better is a little with righteousness, than great revenues without right;’ Prov. xv. 16, 17, ‘Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure, and trouble therewith;’ though it be but a dinner of herbs: Ps. xxxvii. 16, ‘A little that a righteous man hath is better than the treasures of many wicked.’ The comfort, if they will stand to the scriptures, lieth not in abundance, but in God’s blessing. There is more satisfaction in their small provisions than in the greatest plenty. Suppose their condition be evil, whatsoever evil a just man suffers, he shall get some good by it, living or dying, and so still hath ground of comfort: if scorned or neglected, he hath the comfort of his innocent dealing to bear him out. As Samuel, when he and his house was laid aside, 1 Sam. xii. 2, 3, he appeals to them, ‘Whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or from whose hands have I received a bribe to blind mine eyes therewith, and I will restore it?’ If you are opposed and maligned, you may plead against your enemies as Moses did, Num. xvi. 15, ‘Respect riot their offerings; I have not taken an ass from them, neither have I hurt one of them.’ You may plead thus when you are sure you have not wronged them. If you are oppressed, as David in the text, you may appeal to the God of your righteousness. In life, in death, they have the comfort of their righteousness; in life, Deut. xvi. 20, as before. In death; Prov. xiv. 32, ‘The righteous man hath hope in his death;’ Isa. xxxviii. 3, ‘Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, that I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight.’ When he is going the way of all the earth, this will be a comfort to him, that he hath done no wrong, but served God faithfully, and lived with men without guile and deceit. Oh, for comforts for a dying hour! Now this comfort ariseth partly from a good conscience, and partly from the many promises of God that are made to righteousness.
[1.] From peace of conscience. We are told, Prov. xv. 15, ‘That a good conscience is a continual feast.’ Ahasuerus made a magnificent feast, that lasted a hundred and eighty days; but this is a continual feast, a dish we are never weary of. Now, who have this feast? The crooked, the subtle, the deceitful? No; but those that walk with a simple and plain-hearted honesty: 2 Cor. i. 12, ‘This is our rejoicing, the testimony of our consciences, that in simplicity and godly sincerity we have had our conversation in the world.’ They have comfort in all conditions: Acts xxiv. 16, ‘Herein do I exercise myself always, to keep a conscience void of offence towards God and towards men.’ Others are like trees of the forest, every wind shaketh them; but they are the garden of God: Cant. iv. 16, ‘Awake, O north wind; blow, south wind, upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out.’ Out of what corner soever the wind bloweth, it bloweth good to them.
[2.] Partly from the many promises of God, both as to the world to come and this present life. For the world to come, the question is put, Ps. xv. 1, and it were well we would often put it to our hearts, ‘Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?’ It is answered, ‘He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth with his heart, that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour;’ a man that maketh conscience of all his words and actions. So the apostle telleth us, in the new heavens and new earth there dwelleth righteousness, 2 Peter iii. 13. Then, for this world there are many promises: take a taste; this bringeth profit, and is only profitable: Prov. x. 2, ‘Treasures of wickedness profit nothing, but righteousness delivereth from death.’ Men think to do anything with wealth, and that, naked honesty may be a-cold; they have food and physic, friends and honour; alas! how soon can God blow upon an estate and make it useless to us—make a man vomit up again his ill-gotten morsels! Job xx. 15, ‘He hath swallowed down riches, and shall vomit them up again: God shall cast them out of his belly.’ As a man that hath eaten too much, though God permit him to get, he doth not permit him to hold what he hath gotten unjustly. There is a flaw in the title will one time or other cast them out of possession. Well, then, riches profit not. But what is profit able? 1 Tim. iv. 8, ‘Godliness is profitable to all things.’ And this part of godliness, righteousness, that will prolong life, and bring a blessing upon the soul of the righteous: Prov. x. 3, ‘The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish; but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.’ Another promise; it bringeth preservation in times of difficulty and danger; he that hath carried it righteously, they know not how to lay hold upon him, and work him any mischief: Prov. xi. 3, ‘The integrity of the upright shall guide him, but the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.’ So again, Prov. xiii. 6, ‘Righteousness keepeth him that is upright in the way, but wickedness overthroweth the sinner.’ It is God keepeth us, but the qualification of the person kept is to be observed, it is he that is just and honest. We think it is the way to danger, because the eye of the flesh is more perspicuous than the eye of the spirit or mind; and we are more apt to see what is, and who is against us, than what and who is for us: Ps. xxv. 21, ‘Let integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait on thee.’ That which, in the judgment of the flesh, is the means of our ruin, is indeed the means of our preservation. So Isa. xxxiii. 15, ‘He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly,’ &c. Again, for recovery out of trouble: Prov. xxiv. 15, 16, ‘Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting-place; for the just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again; but the wicked shall fall into mischief.’ They may be ‘persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.’ There are strange changes of providence; we are up and down, but shall rise again; with the wicked it is not so. Again, for stability: Prov. x. 4, 5, ‘As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more; but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.’ Wicked men, being great in power, rend and tear all things, and bring down all things before them; but they have no foundation: the one is fleeting as the wind, the other is settled as the earth. So Prov. xii. 3, ‘A man shall not be established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous shall not be moved.’ Wicked men get up, seem high for the time, but they have no root, therefore soon wither: they have no root, as that ambassador, when he saw the treasure of St Mark, said, This hath no root. All their policies, secret friendships, shall never be able to keep them up. Ahab was told that God would root out him and all his family; he thought to avoid this threatening; gets many wives and concubines, by whom he hath seventy children, hoping that one of them would remain to succeed him; he committed their tutelage and education to the choicest of his nobility, men of Samaria, a strong town; but you see all this came to nought, 2 Kings x. So Prov. x. 36, ‘The righteous shall never be moved, but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth.’ Every man that is in good estate would fain make it as firm and lasting as he can; these settle polities, contract friendships, use all means to make their acquisitions firm and secure, but pass by the main care, which is to settle things upon a righteous foundation, and therefore they shall not flourish. So for posterity: Prov. xi. 21, ‘The seed of the righteous shall be delivered.’ So Prov. xii. 7, ‘The wicked are overthrown and are not, but the house of the righteous shall stand;’ Prov. xx. 7, ‘The just man walketh in his integrity; his children are blessed after him.’ All our care is for posterity, man multiplied, continued; in short, all manner of blessings: Prov. xxi. 21, ‘He that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness, and honour.’ He findeth life: Prov. xi. 19, ‘As righteousness tendeth to life, so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death;’ Prov. xii. 28, ‘In the way of righteousness is life, and in the pathway thereof there is no death.’ Righteousness; he shall have righteous dealing from others. Honour; he shall have a good name in the world, and be preferred when God thinks fit.
Use. To press us to do judgment and justice—
1. As to our private dealing with others; carry yourselves faithfully, and make conscience of justice and equity.
[1.] Propound to do nothing but what is agreeable to righteousness and honesty: Prov. xii. 5, ‘The thoughts of the righteous are right, but the counsels of the wicked are deceit.’ Our evil purpose spoils all. A good man erreth sometimes through ignorance, incogitancy, or violence of temptation, overtaken or overborne; but he doth not propose to do evil, that is the property of the wicked.
J2.] Be always exercising righteousness, as God giveth opportunity occasion: 1 John iii. 7, ‘He that doth righteousness is righteous;’ Ps. cvi. 3, ‘Blessed are they that keep judgment, and he that doth righteousness at all times.’ Justice must be observed in lesser things as well as in great, for where heaven and hell are concerned nothing is little, Luke xvi. 10. He that is faithful in that which is least, in minimo, ὁ πιστὸς ἐν ἐλαχίστῳ—he that is faithful in a little thing will not be unfaithful in anything. Many will be righteous in some thing, but in some others dispense with themselves.
[3.] Do not depart from your rule and resolution of just dealing upon any temptation whatsoever. Men resolve to be just, but when the temptation cometh, their resolution is shaken. Oh! remember the greatest gain will not countervail your loss: Mat. xvi. 26, ‘What is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ It will prove a poor bargain in the end; and there is no profit in what is gained unjustly; it is a certain loss, and so it will prove in the issue: Hab. ii. 9, 10, ‘Woe unto him that coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high, that he may be delivered from the power of evil: thou hast consulted shame to thy house, and hast sinned against thine own soul.’ You think to avoid all emergent evils; there needs no more to pull down the power and greatness of the oppressor than his studying to make it great; nothing destroyeth it so much.
[4.] Take special heed to thyself that thou be not unrighteous when opportunity is offered, when put in places of power and trust. Many are innocent because they have no opportunity to be otherwise. It is said, John xii. 6, ‘He was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.’ When corrupt affections and suitable temptations and objects meet, then it is dangerous to the soul.
[5.] Take heed of covetousness: 1 Tim. vi. 10, ‘The love of money is the root of all evil.’ It will make a breach on thy duty when it is indulged; therefore take away the lusts, and temptations will have less power over thee.
(1.) Righteousness is a christian’s breastplate: Eph. vi. 14, ‘And having on the breastplate of righteousness,’ to defend the heart and vital parts. It keepeth the heart whole; if the breast be covered with a firm resolution to shun whatsoever is evil and unjust, temptations will not pierce us. Unless you arm yourself with this resolution, you will lose comfort, and lose grace.
(2.) Consider how soon God breaketh in with a judgment when once men transgress righteousness: 1 Thes. iv. 6, ‘Let no man go be yond his brother, nor defraud his brother; for God is the avenger of all such.’ God, that is the patron of human society, will not suffer unrighteousness and injustice to go unpunished.
2. In your public engagements, see that you have a good cause and a good conscience, and in due time God will plead your cause. (1.) See that you have a good cause; you must not intitle God to your petty quarrels and revenges: 1 Peter ii. 19, 20, ‘For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience towards God endure grief, suffering wrongfully; for what glory is it if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God:’ 1 Peter iii. 16, 17, ‘Having a good conscience, that whereas they speak evil of you as of evil-doers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ: for it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing.’ That epistle was penned in a suffering time. When you are exposed to hardships, be sure you are in God’s way. (2.) As the cause is good, so must your carriage be. Do not step out of God’s way for the greatest good. So many, if they may drive on their designs, they care not what they do, as if a good end would warrant them. Christ need not get up on the devil’s shoulders. God is now bound to avenge this, for ‘the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.’ In this evil day the righteous shall be saved. God saved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and delivered just Lot, 2 Peter ii.
Secondly, We have David’s prayer, ‘Leave me not to mine oppressors.’ He beggeth help against the oppression of the enemy. I might observe—
1. That it is no new thing to see innocent men troubled, oppressed, persecuted. He that could say, I have done judgment and justice, yet had his oppressors. As long as Satan wants not instruments, the people of God shall not want troubles; and the two seeds will never be reconciled. Therefore we should not censure the oppressed, and those that are fallen under the displeasure of men; and the oppressed themselves should not wonder at it—wicked men do but after their kind.
2. That to be left of God under the oppression of wicked men is a grievous calamity, and earnestly to be deprecated.
[1.] When are we said outwardly and visibly to be left by God under the oppression of wicked men?
(1.) When he taketh off the restraints of his providence, and the hedge of his protection is broken down, and lets loose the enemy upon us, and we are left in the power of their hands: Dan. i. 2, ‘The Lord gave the king of Judah into his hands.’
(2.) When he doth not comfort us in such a condition, particularly when God’s assistance is not vouchsafed. Sometimes he doth so: 2 Cor. i. 4, ‘Who comforts us in all our tribulations.’ At other times all is dark: Ps. lxxiv. 9, ‘We see not our signs; there is no more any prophet, neither is there among us any that knoweth how long.’
(3.) When he doth not direct us, and show us our duty: Ps. cxliii. 10, ‘Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God, thy Spirit is good, lead me into the land of uprightness.’ It was a time when his enemies prevailed over him. Now, if God hide counsel from us, we grope at noonday.
(4.) When he doth not support us. Sometimes this, Ps. cxxxviii. 3, ‘In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul;’ and Ps. xciv. 18, ‘When I said my foot slippeth, thy mercy, O Lord, held me up;’ Ps. lxxiii. 23, ‘Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me up by my right hand.’ David prayeth, Put me not into their power, do not let loose ‘the reins; thou hast hindered them hitherto. It is thy mercy that all this while I have not been given up as a prey to their teeth; they want not malice and a will to take vengeance to the uttermost.
[2.] It is a grievous calamity.
(1.) It is a hard thing to be left to the will and lusts of men. David was in a strait; he chose rather to fall into the Lord’s hands than into the hands of men: 2 Sam. xxiv. 14, ‘I am in a great strait; let me now fall into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are great, and not into the hand of man.’ Men are revengeful, proud, insolent: wicked men will soon exceed their commission: Zech. i. 15, ‘And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease; for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction;’ Deut. xxxii. 27, ‘Were it not that I feared the wrath of the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, and the Lord hath not done all this.’ God speaketh after the manner of men.
(2.) It is a great mark of our Father’s displeasure when he withdraweth, hideth counsel from us, leaveth us without support and comfort: Mat. ix. 15, ‘And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast.’
[3.] It is earnestly to be deprecated, not only as a grievous calamity, but as hoping for relief: ‘I will riot leave you ὀρφανοὺς,’ John xiv. 18, ‘comfortless;’ and Mat. xxviii. 20, ‘Lo, I am with you to the end of the world.’
Use. Go, then, and represent your condition to God with humiliation, owning his anger, but with faith waiting for his help. Tell him what a prey you have been to Satan; desire him, if he withdraw his presence one way, he will manifest it in another, in comforting, counselling his own people; tell him your weakness, the enemies’ malice, and implore his aid and assistance.
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