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Therefore I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine god.— Ver. 127.
IN the words we have—
1. A note of inference, therefore.
2. The duty inferred, I love thy commandments.
3. The degree of that love, above gold; amplified by the repetition, with some advantage, in the expression, yea, above fine gold.
Gold, by a synecdoche, is put for all worldly things, the comforts and profits of this life, as in many other places; as Ps. xix. 10, ‘More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.’ The two bastard goods with which the world is enchanted are pleasure and profit. Old people are all for profit, young people are all for pleasure. Now both these, truly so called, are found in the word of God. So in Prov. viii. 10, 11, ‘Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that are to be desired are not to be compared to it.’ So Prov. viii. 19, ‘My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenues than choice silver.’ So Prov. iii. 14, ‘For the merchandise thereof is better than gold; and the gain thereof than fine gold.’ So Prov. xvi. 16, ‘How much better is it to get wisdom than gold? and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver?’ This comparison is used so often for two reasons:—
1. Because it is more prized in the world. All things that have a goodness in them have a certain bait suitable to the several appetites of men; but in most men’s opinions gold seemeth chiefly to be desired, partly for its beauty, but chiefly for its use, it being the great instrument of commerce that doth all things in the world. The corruption of man’s heart addeth a greater price to it, and therefore is the thirst of it so unsatisfied, Now the word, and that wisdom and godliness which it teacheth, is far above gold and fine gold,
2. Because it is the usual temptation to draw off men from the love and study and obedience of the word. Babylon’s abominations are offered to the world in a golden cup: Rev. xvii. 4, ‘And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication.’ Preferments are the baits of that black religion. True Christianity consists in sound graces; pseudo-Christianity in pomp and state and worldly advantages; and the apostle telleth us, 1 Tim. vi. 10, ‘That the love of money is the root of all evil; which while some have coveted after, they have erred from the faith.’ Therefore doth the Spirit of God so often compare spiritual things to gold; and here David preferreth his love to the word before the worldling’s love to gold, yea, fine gold. For mark, it is not, More than I love gold, but, More than any man. Some have an ardent desire of it, however it be mortified in God’s children.
First, For the note of inference, together with the duty inferred, ‘Therefore I love thy commandments.’ Some refer it to God’s taking his time to work, as the judge of the world in punishing the wicked for their disobedience and contempt of his law; as if he had said, Lord, though thou dost connive, and hold thy hands for a time, yet I know thou wilt undertake the defence of the righteous, and not let the wickedness of the wicked go unpunished; it will cost them dear in the issue, ‘therefore I love thy commandments,’ &c. This sense I cannot exclude. If I thought fit to prosecute it, it would yield this doctrine, that a little faith would help us to continue our affection to the word of God, notwithstanding the wickedness of those that oppose it. For in truth here this wickedness doth soon come to an end: Ps. lxxiii. 18, ‘Surely thou didst set them in slippery places, thou castedst them down into destruction.’ But I rather refer it to the latter clause, ‘They have made void thy law; therefore I love thy commandments.’
Doct. The more others despise the ways and laws of God, the more should a gracious heart love and esteem them.
So doth David profess that his love to God’s ways was so far from ceasing that he found it increased rather.
Reason 1. Because the ways of God are still the same they were before. If there be any difference, they only need to be more owned by us with greater zeal and cheerfulness because they are despised and forsaken by others. God is the same still, heaven the same, and the scriptures the same, whether we have company to walk with us in heaven’s way, yea or no; and therefore, why should not a Christian be the same he was before? Their contempt and hatred of God’s ways doth not make void our obligation to God and the bonds of our duty to him. If God had only required us to be good when we may be so with safety and ease, and would dispense with us at other times when religion is in disgrace, then indeed a Christian might change his course, and run with the cry as others do. But God had required in the worst times we should take God’s part, and stand for him in the worst places, and keep his name even there where Satan’s throne is, Rev. ii. 13, and be saints, though in Nero’s household, Phil. iv. 22, under the nose of a raging persecutor. And as God is the same, so his ways are the same. Their contempt and hatred of holiness doth not hinder the loveliness of it to a spiritual eye. There is a beauty in God’s despised ways: Heb. xi. 25, ‘Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season.’ He saw more excellency in the tents of Jacob than in the courts of Pharaoh. When the outward glory of his ways is darkened, and they are put under reproach and trouble, yet their inward beauty still remaineth, and may be seen by a spiritual, though not by a carnal eye; by those that will not judge according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment, John vii. 24. The external glory, which is the favour of the world, out ward prosperity and countenance, is foreign and accidental; but this is essential, and ever remaineth. And as holiness is the same, so the scriptures are the same; they do not speak one thing to-day and an other to-morrow, and leave us at a latitude to put ourselves into all changes and postures: 2 Cor. i. 19, ‘For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, was not yea and nay,’ saith the apostle, ‘but in him was yea.’ The scripture doth not allow saying and unsaying, and building again the things which we have destroyed: Gal. ii. 18, ‘For if I build again the things which I have destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.’ Truth is the same in all ages; not like an almanack, to be changed every year, or calculated peculiarly for one meridian. Nor is it always the same. Indeed, in some lesser things, that serve only for the conveniency of religion, we may upon weighty grounds change practice, and do that which is good where best may not be had. So heaven is the same still; it not only serveth us as an antidote in prosperity, but as a cordial in adversity, and is at all times to be regarded. Well, then, since God, and holiness, and scripture, and heaven are always the same, why should not we? If there be change, it should be in the degree of our love, that it be greater than it was before, to repair God in point of honour, and to testify against the defection of others, that we are not of their stamp, who do not see by their eyes, nor walk by their principles, nor allow of their warpings.
Reason 2. God expects more from gracious hearts, because of their relation to him and acquaintance with him; and therefore, if others despise the laws of God, they should esteem them the more: John vi. 66, 67, ‘From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will you also go away?’ It goeth nearer to Christ’s heart that those should forsake him that are trained up in his bosom, that the devil should steal away souls under his own arm. Whatever defection others make, yet that those who have tasted of his mercy, drunk of his cup, feasted with his loaves, have had experience of his grace, will ye also? He stood not upon the multitude’s going so much as his disciples’. Therefore they should rouse up themselves in evil times.
Reason 3. The good and the bad do exercise and keep one another in breath and vigour. When there are but two factions that stand in opposition to one another, one apparently for God, the other apparently for Satan, it addeth zeal and indignation to both sides, and they mutually inflame one another, and are as Jeremiah’s two baskets of figs, the good figs very good, and the evil figs very evil, Jer. xxiv. 3. When others are so very bad, it should not quench zeal but inflame it; we should be not only good, but very good. Corruption, the more it is opposed, the more it stormeth and groweth outrageous, as a river swelleth by opposing dams and banks against it, they rage upon restraints now the floods break loose. So on the other side, should grace be more earnestly and zealously exercised the more it is opposed, as the casting on of water sets the lime on fire. To be sure, their malice will put us to a great deal of trouble, and trouble is a time to exercise grace. To be much in prayer, and faith, and patience, and mortifying corruptions, and watchfulness, and wary walking, that we may neither take infection ourselves, nor give occasion to others to stumble at the ways of God: Col. iv. 3, ‘Walk in wisdom towards them that are without, redeeming the time.’ When they lived among unconverted heathens they should carry it wisely towards them, that they might not be occasions of stumbling or hardening. So by proportion those who profess the ways of God should carry it wisely towards such as they live amongst, who declare their non-regeneration by a profane life, and live like heathens, that they give no occasion to such adversaries of truth and holiness to speak reproachfully; but they should observe the apostle’s rules, 1 Peter ii. 12, 15. Christians should be good in bad times, that the times may not be worse for them, nor they the worse for the times. They should labour to live down the vices and errors of the age wherein they live, and labour to save themselves from this untoward generation, and should cut off occasions from them that watch for occasions against them, and, like fishes, keep their freshness in salt water. Ham will scoff to surprise a Noah in a fault; when their foot slippeth, they will magnify themselves against them. Experience of the madness and fury whereby others are carried on in the ways of sin should more confirm others in the ways of God that are opposed by them. Surely such men would not hate what is evil, and so earnestly persecute what is good. Non nisi grave bonum a Nerone damnari. A good man would not choose by their liking and loathing. If any argument may be taken from them, it is to like the things the better because they slight them, and to love them because they persecute them. For it is to be presumed they will hate what is good, and love what is evil; and though no certain argument can be concluded thence, yet their love is but an ill token; for Christ telleth us, ‘The world will love its own,’ John xv. 19. All things love what is suitable to themselves.
Reason 4. Unless our love be increased when men oppose and despise the laws of God, it will not hold out against so great a trial. Sin is very infectious at all times, and when it is common it is less odious. But the force of example is great; we think we may do as others do: a cold neutral love, or loose and general owning of the ways of Christ, will not bear us out. I confess this is a very great temptation that prevaileth with many: Mat. xxiv. 12, ‘When iniquity aboundeth, the love of many will wax cold.’ Loose professors are soon shaken off, and dead fish swim with the stream. Yea, some of notable eminency in the church may miscarry, but yet always they are such as had their worldly affections unbroken and unmortified: 1 Tim. vi. 11, 12, ‘Some through the love of money, have erred from the faith; but thou, O man of God, follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, and patience, love, meekness, fight the good fight of faith.’ There needs great diligence and fervency to increase in solid grace, or else we shall not dare to own God and his ways; yea, I confess the soundest may be sorely shaken, and therefore need warning and confirmation. The godly have seeds of the same evils which draw away others. Evil example is very forcible, especially when it is general. In a time of public infection it is hard to preserve health. And then usually sin is disguised and carried on under plausible pretexts, and evil men blinded by their interests may easily warp, Ingeniosa res est esse Christianum, as Hierom of an Arian time. It is a matter of skill to discern God’s interest, and by consequence our duty. The prophet complaineth, ‘I am a man of polluted lips, and I dwell among a people of polluted lips,’ Isa. vi. 5. We contract some contagion and taint from those among whom we live; grow careless of sabbaths by general profanation; take more liberty for the flesh when others wallow in all filthiness, and are given up to all manner of vanity. Therefore, as the force of example is great, the force of zeal should be greater, that we may stand for God, though we stand alone. As Elijah did: 1 Kings xix. 14, ‘And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets by the sword; and I, even I only am left, and they seek my life to take it away.’ We must keep up our savour in a corrupt age, as Noah did: Gen. vi. 9, ‘Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generation, and Noah walked with God.’ Lot lived more upright in Sodom, where he was besieged with temptations that made him constantly to stand upon his watch, than he did in the cave, when he neglected and grew secure. As fire burns hottest in the coldest weather, so a Christian’s zeal, by a holy antiperistasis, should flame most in a corrupted, debauched age.
Reason 5. Because it is very acceptable to God, and a note of sincerity to hold out against trials, yea, to increase in zeal when others desert him. Many will flock to Christ, and resort to him in his prosperity. When religion is befriended, painted butterflies and gaudy carnalists will prove summer friends to him; but when winter frosts and blustering storms come, they are gone; like those that go to sea, not for a voyage to ride out all weathers, but for recreation: Christ maketh little of their friendship. But now, Luke xxii. 28, 29, ‘Ye are they that have continued with me in my temptations; and I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me.’ When David was crowned king in Hebron, then those that followed him in the wilderness were not forgotten, but preferred by him. To serve God in a crowd, and with store of company, is not so praise worthy. Every one will be in the fashion, and there is a revolution of fashions in religion; but to own him in a time of defection, when others look strange upon him; then to keep our zeal and strictness i& commendable. Temporibus malis ausus esse bonus.
Use 1. Information. That the general corrupt custom and example of those with whom we live is not a sufficient excuse for our sinning. It is so in the minds of many, but it is not so indeed. It is indeed a temptation, and a strong incitement; but temptations to the contrary do not excuse from duty. This will appear to you if you consider—
1. The state of a Christian; he is not of this world: John xv. 19, ‘If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.’ He was separated for God’s use in baptism, and must make good his baptismal vow, live as one that is separated from the world and their course of life, that he may act for God: Ps. iv. 3, ‘Know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself;’ therefore it is no excuse for him to say, I do but as others do; he is to reckon his hours by the sun, not the town-clock; to take God’s direction, not the voice of the multitude, as one of their stamp, and at liberty to comply with their fashions.
2. The course of God’s dispensations, which is to exercise and try his children before he crowneth them. None go to heaven without their trials.
3. The duty of God’s children, intimated in the cautions and descriptions and injunctions of the word: Exod. xxiii. 2, ‘Not to follow a multitude to do evil; nor to walk according to the course of this world;’ Eph. ii. 2, ‘The lust of men,’ 1 Peter iv. 2; nor the corruptions of the times: Rom. xii. 2, ‘Be not conformed to this world,’ &c. Many such hints everywhere, that show it a crime, &c.
4. The opposition of the wicked should make us more courageous; for then it is put to a plain contest, who shall have the better, Christ or Satan? Therefore we should discover that he that is in us is stronger than he that is in the world, 1 John iv. 4. Wicked men have their end and purposes if they can overcome the disciples of Christ, and discourage them from owning their profession. We are to be more than conquerors, Rom. viii. 37.
Use 2. We ought to be so far from being involved in the conspiracy of others against God, that our zeal should increase by others declining, and we should love religion when it is commonly despised. That is our commendation, esse bonum facile est, &c. Till we are in termino, we have our difficulties, till we are gathered to angels, ἔξω βέλους, out of gunshot. Our business is not to give way to evils, but to resist them with the greater courage. Indeed it is hard for a man to keep himself free from the infection of the times he lives in. We all complain of the badness of the times; but let us not make them the worse for us. If we would be good in bad times, we need—
1. Much holiness and heavenly-mindedness, that we may be burning and shining lights, conducting men to Christ, as the star that shone at Christ’s birth: Phil. ii. 15, ‘That ye be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.’ Noah, by preparing an ark, condemned the world, Heb. xi. 7. This is the way to appear for God in the lustre of real grace, when we are taken off from other means.
2. Much faith or foresight of things to come: Heb. xi. 7, ‘By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark.’ To see the ruin of the wicked when prosperous, this kept David in his integrity: Ps. lxxiii. 17, ‘I went into the sanctuary, then understood I their end.’ When he was once able to look through their honours and greatness and riches by the light of the sanctuary, he overcame the temptation which did so greatly press and shake him. So here in the text, ‘It is time for thee, Lord, to work, for they have made void thy law; therefore I love thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold.’ There is a worm in the root; they are under God’s curse: Job v. 3, ‘I have seen the foolish taking root, but suddenly I cursed his habitation;’ which predicteth their ruin, though little appearance of their fall.
3. There needs much zeal and strong love to God. When profaneness is in fashion, let us give check to it in our place, either as magistrates by appearing against evil-doers, as Nehemiah contended for God: Neh. xiii. 11, ‘Then I contended with the rulers, and said, Why is the house of God forsaken?’ and ver. 17, ‘Then I contended with the nobles of Judah. and said unto them, What evil thing is this that ye do, and profane the sabbath-day?’ Not like Gallio, that cared for none of these things. As ministers, more active against sin: Isa. lviii. 1, ‘Cry aloud, spare not; lift up thy voice as a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.’ As governors of families, careful of ourselves and families: Josh. xxiv. 15, ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ As private Christians, give out more of the lustre of grace: Mat. v. 16, ‘Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven;’ 1 Peter ii. 12, ‘Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles, that whereas they speak against you as evil-doers, they may by your good works which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.’ Not only stop the mouth of iniquity, but bring about the conversion of wicked men. Thus should every one of us in our place glorify God, and strive to make the times better: Rom. xii. 11, ‘Not slothful in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.’ That is a good time; serving the Lord can make a change, if we would ply this means. Thus did David serve his generation: Acts xiii. 36, ‘For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell asleep.’ When you die, people will be able to say, We miss such a man; he was zealous against sabbath-breakers, and drunkards, and swearers; one that owned the people of God, a friend to religion.
4. Caution, that we be not carried away with the deluge of corruption: Gal. ii. 13, ‘The other Jews dissembled likewise with him, insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.’ Example hath a kind of compulsion in it; the best men can hardly stand out against it. It secretly insinuateth itself, weakeneth our love to God, abateth our care; therefore we cannot be enough watchful, that we be not secretly tainted, as a man in the sun tans unawares. As in times of common contagion, every man is careful of his diet and company, so should we watch to keep our garments clean and unspotted of the world.
5. Sincerity, not dissembling; as Josh. xiv. 8, ‘I wholly followed the Lord my God;’ not loving the ways of God on foreign respects, but their own internal reasons; otherwise a man soon miscarrieth, for these motives will be changed, and those very inducements that moved him to take up religion will move him also to cast it off. None but the solid Christian will hold out, whilst light chaff is carried about with every wind, and the carnal-minded cuts the coat of his profession to the fashion of the times. A false heart cannot long hold out: Prov. x. 9, ‘He that walketh uprightly, walketh surely; but he that perverteth his ways shall be known;’ that is, to his shame; cannot long dissemble his nature.
6. A fixed resolution, that we may not be easy, and merely do as others do. It is the resolved man that encounters temptations, and maketh them fly back, as arrows shot against a brazen wall. Though others fall, I will serve the Lord, whatever others do: Josh. xxiv. 15, ‘And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served, that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ If he meet with reproaches and scorns: 2 Sam. vi. 22, ‘And I will yet be more vile than thus, and will be base in mine own sight.’ If enticed by evil company: Ps. cxix. 115, ‘Depart from me, ye evil doers, for I will keep the commandments of my God.’ If threatened: Acts iv. 19, ‘But Peter and John answered and said unto them, Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye.’ Thus they stood by a self-denying resolution; whereas the unresolved man, James i. 8, ‘is unstable in all his ways;’ is turned like a weathercock with every wind, fitteth his religion to every interest. God biddeth us thus unmovably to fix our selves: Jer. xv. 19, ‘Thus saith the Lord, Let them return unto thee, but return not thou to them.’ A man that would live quietly must either bring himself to the times, or expect the times should come over to him. A resolved man stayeth God’s leisure, doth not serve his conscience to fit the times, but waiteth till God fit the times to his conscience.
7. A true sight of the worth of spiritual things above carnal. This in the text, ‘More than gold, yea, fine gold.’ Till a man cometh to this, his conscience will not be guided by his religion, but his interest, and give up all for the world’s sake: 2 Tim. iv. 10, ‘Demas hath forsaken us, and loved the present world;’ Phil. iii. 19, 20, ‘Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things. For our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Loath to suffer, turn themselves into all shapes. God doth not command them, but themselves.
Secondly, The degree of his affection; whence this doctrine—
Doct. We ought not only to love the word, but to love it above all worldly things whatsoever.
1. Let me explain the grounds of our love to the word.
2. Speak of the degree of it.
1. Let me explain the grounds of our love to the word. We love the word, as it is the charter of our hopes and the rule of our duty. We have both respects in this psalm. As the charter of our hopes, ver. 111, ‘Thy testimonies have I taken for an heritage for ever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart.’ As a rule of our duty, ver. 14, ‘I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches;’ and ver. 140, ‘Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it.’ So that—
[1.] To love and esteem the word as the charter of our hopes is to love and esteem spiritual privileges, such as the favour of God, pardon of sins, peace of conscience, taking away the stony heart, and eternal life. To have a deep sense and value for such things is the fruit of faith. It is true that some loose velleities and general inclinations men, as men, have to their own happiness; but being but weakly persuaded of these things, they are but slightly affected with them and the promises that reveal them. Men that have no faith, but altogether live by sense, know nothing more excellent than gold or riches, which do all in the world. If God would let them alone here, to have their portion in Paris, they would part with their share in paradise, such dunghill-souls have they. Let God keep spiritual things for whom he will, so they may live at ease in the world, they never mind communion with God, or enjoyment of God; but gracious hearts love the word, as offering and revealing these things.
[2.] To love the word as a rule of duty is in effect to love holiness, loving things as suitable to our necessities, and as suitable to our dispositions. ‘I love thy commandments,’ saith David in the text, as urging and directing us to our duty. This is also proper to gracious souls, to them all outward things are but toys and trifles for our senses to play withal. The least grain of grace seemeth better to them than a mountain of gold. They have a spiritual discerning, and love things according to the nature and worth of them. The things themselves are not to be compared together, so should not our affections to them.
2. The degree of it, more than all riches, ‘Therefore I love thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold.’ Take riches as riches, in that notion as the word implies happiness, abundance, contentment. The word of God containeth the true riches, both in the promises and precepts of it.
[1.] In the promises, to us are given, τὰ τίμια καὶ μέγιστα ἐπαγγέλματα, ‘exceeding great and precious promises,’ 2 Peter i. 4. There the great controversy is decided about the true happiness and salvation, God or the creature; there you have the ‘unsearchable riches of Christ;’ Eph. ii. 7, ‘That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness towards us, through Christ Jesus.’ The riches of the glory of the saints’ inheritance: Eph. i. 18, ‘That ye may know what is the hope of your calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.’ These are things that make us truly rich: Rev. iii. 18, ‘I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich.’ He is not rich that floweth in wealth and plenty, but he that hath Christ, and an interest in his benefits. They are possessors of all things, though they have nothing: 2 Cor. vi. 10, ‘As having nothing, yet possessing all things.’ A little serves the turn; they have the good things purchased by Christ, happiness enough if he can make them happy.
[2.] So in the precepts, they are means to work grace, the least dram of which is more worth than all things in the world. He is rich enough that is rich in faith: James ii. 5, ‘Hearken, my beloved brethren; hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of a kingdom,’ in paradise, ‘which he hath promised to them that love him?’ It is more precious than the trial of gold: 1 Peter i. 7, ‘That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.’ The smallest measure of saving faith, or love to God, or fear of God, or repentance, is of more worth than what is most precious. The word of God does more enrich a man; and true benefit is to be preferred before counterfeit.
Reasons for the degree of our love.
1. From the worth of the word, the reward, and those benefits that are gotten by studying and obeying it; they exceed worldly things, as will appear, because the one suits with our bodily necessities, the other with our spiritual. Our bodily necessities are supplied by gold, our spiritual necessities by grace. Gold will not comfort a distressed conscience, no more than nosegay flowers a condemned man. Quod si dolentem, &c., saith Horace: Prov. xi. 4, ‘Riches avail not in the day of wrath.’ The one renders us acceptable to men, the other to God. The world knoweth all things after the flesh; they measure men by splendour and pomp of living; but it is grace that God approveth most, and accepteth most. Grace is of great price in the sight of God: 1 Peter iii. 4, ‘But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.’ The one much embaseth our nature; it is something more vile than us, therefore that affection is debased. But grace always ennobleth our nature, and is something above us. A greater affection is due to things above us than to things beneath us. The one is useful to us in via, the other in patria. Surely that which is of eternal use and comfort to us is better than that which is only of a temporal use. In our passage to heaven, we need gold and silver for the supply of our bodily necessities, and the support of outward life, so far as we have to do in the world; but with respect to the world to come, gold doth nothing; there we leave our wealth behind us, but our works follow us. Our treasure we quit when we die, but our grace we carry with us. Once more; the price by which things may be purchased showeth the worth of them. Wisdom is of so great a price, that all the treasures of the world cannot purchase it: Job xxviii. 15-20, ‘It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof; it cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire; the gold and the crystal cannot equal it, and the exchange of it shall not he for jewels of fine gold: no mention shall be made of coral or of pearls; for the price of wisdom is above rubies: the topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold.’ What cannot money do in the world? yet it can do nothing as to the procuring of grace. The apostle telleth us this is a dear-bought blessing: 1 Peter i. 18, 19, ‘Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversations, received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot.’ To despise the favour of God, the image of God, is to despise the price that was paid for these things, to have lessening thoughts of the blood of Christ. To conclude; those we count lesser1515Qu. “greater”?—ED. gifts which we bestow upon friends than upon enemies. A man would give meat and drink unto enemies when they hunger and thirst; but other gifts of a greater value to friends and relations. God giveth his Christ, his Spirit, his grace to his friends, children, servants; but corn and wine and oil, these he giveth promiscuously, yea, to his enemies a larger portion. Surely, then, these are better than gold. Our love should be according to the value of things.
2. Because if the word be not preferred before earthly things, it is not received with any profit and good effect. Christ saith, ‘He that loveth anything more than me, is not worthy of me,’ Mat. x. 37. He that studieth to please his friends rather than Christ, or to gratify his interest more than his conscience, within a very little while his Christianity will be worth nothing. It is not a simple love, but a greater love that we show to worldly things: Mat. xiii. 44-46, ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field, the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant-man seeking goodly pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it.’ We must part with all, rather than miss of his grace, all that is pleasant and profitable, renounce all other things. When Christ propounds his terms, he would have us surrender all to his will and pleasure: Luke ix. 23, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.’ He must not avoid the cross by sinful shifts: we are ready to do so every day. These are the necessary terms, else we are not fit for the master’s use: 2 Tim. ii. 21, ‘If any man therefore purge himself from these, lie shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.’
3. Unless we love the word above riches, we cannot possess riches without a snare; then it will be not only hard, but impossible, to enter into the kingdom of heaven: Mark x. 23-27, ‘And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? And Jesus looking about him, said, With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.’ Riches will so prevail over us, and wholly sway us, if they be our chief good and portion, and we have not a higher end to check our love to them. If a man would have all things cleave1616Qu. “clean’?—ED. to him, he must be sure the world doth not sit nearest his heart; for if they do, such a man, as he is unfit for heaven, so he is unfit for the world too. If they be your good things, Luke xvi. 25, ‘Son, remember thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things;’ you will get and keep and use them otherwise than the word doth allow.
4. From the fruit of grace; where it is planted in the heart and prevaileth, the desire of wealth is mortified, worldly lust denied: Titus ii. 12, ‘Teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts;’ and desires of grace enlarged and increased: 1 Peter ii. 2, ‘As new-born babes desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.’ And when it prevaileth further, and to a higher degree, they come to Moses* frame, to count the worst of Christ better than the best of the world: Heb. xi. 26, ‘Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt.’ Not only the graces of Christ, or the benefits of Christ, but the reproaches of Christ. So much is the world lessened, and the desires of grace increased. The heaviest part of Christ’s cross is sweeter than the worldly plenty, where sin accompanieth it.
Use 1. To press us to get this esteem and love of the word above all earthly things: by what names soever they are called, whether gold or fine gold. Consider—
1. The word of God containeth the true riches, in comparison of which all other things are but a shadow.
2. Except God’s word be clearly esteemed above earthly things, it is highly contemned. You would think yourselves highly slighted if once it should be put to the question whether you or an ass or a swine be better. The case is as clear whether it be better to have a child’s toy or land of inheritance. You think it a disparagement of their reason. It is so to compare spiritual things with carnal: Prov. xvi. 16, ‘How much better is it to get wisdom than gold, and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!’
3. The word of God observed and obeyed bringeth all earthly things along with it; gold and fine gold, so far as they are necessary and good for us: Mat. vi. 63, ‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you;’ and 1 Tim. iv. 8, ‘Godliness is profitable unto all things; having a promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.’ It hath all kind of promises, it doth not come empty-handed; it bringeth in a portion in this life, and blessing in these outward things.
4. How constant the word is, and in one tenor: 2 Cor. i. 20, ‘All the promises of God in him are Yea, and in him Amen; unto the glory of God by us.’ But worldly things are uncertain: 2 Sam. xix. 43, ‘And the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, and said, We have ten parts in the king, and we have also more right in David than ye.’ Compare this with the next words, 2 Sam. xx. 1, ‘Sheba blew a trumpet, and said, We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse.’ The people cry Hosanna to Christ, and presently after, Crucify him. Peter once made a glorious confession of Christ, and afterwards a gross denial. Paul was received as an angel by the Galatians: Gal. iv. 14, ‘My temptation which was in my flesh, ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus;’ but afterwards accounted an enemy; ver. 16, ‘Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?’ Nebuchadnezzar flourishing in a palace of gold, Dan. iv. 30, ‘Is not this great Babylon that I have built, for the house of my kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the glory of my majesty?’ But a voice came to him from heaven, ver. 31, ‘O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken, The kingdom is departed from thee.’
Use 2. Have we such an esteem and affection to the word of God? Then—
1. We will do that which in other cases a greater love would incline us to do; otherwise it is but a compliment; we will diligently exercise ourselves in the word of God. Labour is the fruit of love: ‘Remembering your labour of love,’ 1 Thes. i. 3. He that doth not take more pains in the pursuit of heavenly things than of carnal, doth not love the one above the other; for love is industrious: John vi. 27, ‘Labour not for the meat that perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.’ What a deal of pains do men take for a little pelf, to heap up treasure, and fill their houses with the good things of this world, and spend all their time and wit, their care and strength, on outward things! The stream runneth stronger for the world when there is no proportionable care taken for the benefits which the word offereth. God maketh offer of grace and glory. Men are as those that travel by water, and see buildings ashore, and praise them as they pass by, but never enter into them, never look after them more. If you are ready and earnest in the pursuit 0f the one, careless and cold in the other; you think no time enough for the one, but grudge all time for the other: it is a sign the one hath a greater share in our hearts than the other. We are to seek worldly things in some measure, because God hath appointed every one some work to do; but when there is such a manifest disproportion between our seeking the one and the other, it showeth which way our souls bend; if a nice difference, that hardly distinguished it, give suspicion, more especially when such a manifest disproportion.
2. We will part with the one for the other’s sake, if carnal things can withdraw us from the pursuit of heavenly things: Heb. xii. 16. ‘As Esau, who for one morsel of bread sold his birthright;’ and heavenly things cannot make us to part with carnal things. Many make void the law to seek riches and wealth: 2 Tim. iv. 10, ‘Demas hath forsaken us, having loved this present world;’ break God’s commands for a small hire, and do so constantly, frequently, easily; it is a sign they do but compliment, and speak from their judgments, not from their hearts, when they say they love God better than the world, or fine gold, the chiefest excellency of it. Would a man dispense with his obedience to the word, and be thus affected? What is deliberately, habitually preferred, that hath the greater love. We can neglect our duty to God, trample upon God, Christ, heaven, scripture, conscience, duty, in the way to make speed after worldly things.
3. Wherein do we place the happiness of us and ours? To carnal men nothing is so dear as their present prosperity. Do you value yourselves to be more happy when you have a little grace and sense of God’s love than if you had all the world: Ps. iv. 6, 7, ‘There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.’ And for your children, do you rejoice to see them great or good? Many are delighted to see their children thrive in the world, do well in the world, but careless whether they have grace, yea or no. If you take the world still as a great part of your felicity, it is a sign you have low thoughts and respects for the word of God.
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