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this psalm it might seem, as if knowledge alone had been the end for which David desired a spiritual illumination : “ Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” But we see in our text, that he had far other ends in view: he longed for knowledge, only that he might have his soul the more enlarged by it to run the way of God's commandments: “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.”
From these words we will take occasion to shew, I. How true wisdom will operate
The provisional engagement which David entered into was no other than what must necessarily result from an answer to his petition. If God give to any of us a spiritual understanding, we shall immediately begin, 1. To keep his law
(Whatever God has revealed will be a law unto us. Has he bidden us repent? We shall humble ourselves before him in dust and ashes — - Has he enjoined us to believe in his dear Son? We shall receive him into our hearts, and embrace him as all our salvation and all our desire
Has he commanded us to obey his precepts? We shall endeavour to search out his will, and to conform ourselves to it in all things — Whatever temptations may assault us, we shall not suffer them to turn us aside from the path of duty. Whatever opposition we may have to encounter, we shall hold on our way, determined to keep God's law, yea, to “keep it to the end b.” This alone is true wisdom"; yea, this is the first beginning of wisdom in the soul.] 2. To observe it with our whole hearts
[There are two things which a spiritual understanding will most assuredly teach us, namely, the beauty and excellency of God's law, and the folly of rendering to it a merely partial obedience.
To an unenlightened mind many of God's commands appear absurd : and men are ready to say of them, “ This is a hard saying ; who can hear it?" But, in the view of one who is taught of God, “there is no commandment grievous :" the scope of every thing which God has spoken, is, to produce the present and eternal happiness of his creatures: the language every injunction is, Be holy, be happy ---To attempt to lower any command to the standard of man's opinion, or of our ver. 112. c Job xxviii. 28.
d Ps. cxi. 10.
own wishes, is seen to be the most horrible infatuation : for, if we can deceive man, we cannot deceive God: “ TO HIM all things are naked and open.” As he knows the extent of his own commands, so he knows the precise measure of obedience which we pay to them: “ He weighs,” not our actions only, but “our spirits" also.
Hence partial obedience is the same kind of folly as if a man should request permission to take a poisoned cup, because it was sweet; or as if he should shut his eyes, and say, that no man can see him. Convinced of this, he begs of God to “put truth in his inward parts,” and desires to be “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile."]
As from a root which is acknowledged to be good we may anticipate a corresponding produce, so from fruit that is excellent we may infer with certainty the goodness of the root. In proof of this we will proceed to shew, II. Wherein its operation will approve itself to every
reflecting mind The observing of God's law with our whole hearts necessarily evinces the existence of true wisdom in the soul; because, 1. It is consonant with right reason
[What is disobedience, but a preferring of the creature to God, the body to the soul, and time to eternity? And will any one say that this is reasonable, or that it has even a shadow of reason in it? Reason requires the very reverse of this : and the yielding up of our soul and body to God, as a living sacrifice, is expressly called "a reasonable service.” If we consider ourselves only as the work of God's hands, this kind of service is reasonable: but, if we consider ourselves as redeemed by the blood of God's only dear Son, it is infinitely more reasonable: for, “ having been bought with a price, we are not our own, but are bound to glorify God with our bodies and our spirits, which are God's."] 2. It is conducive to our best interests
[We will concede, for argument sake, all that the slaves of pleasure can say in its behalf; yea, we will concede ten times more than its most infatuated votary ever ventured to assert: but, having done this, we will ask, What good will it all do you in a dying hour, and at the bar of judgment? “Godliness," we are told, “is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” But of ungodliness no such thing can be asserted. Granting, that the ungodliness may be of the least offensive kind: yea, that it shall be so specious, as to assume the appearance, and to gain from many the applause, of piety; still we ask, What will it avail in the day that God shall judge the world? But it is not true, that the pleasures of sin are so great or so satisfactory. On the contrary, there is no comparison between the peace that flows from piety, and the gratifications that result from any criminal indulgence. “ The work of righteousness is peace;” but “the way of transgressors is hard.” And, as to the eternal world, there can be no doubt Inasmuch then as piety is most consonant with right reason, and most conducive to our best interests, it approves itself, beyond a possibility of doubt, the genuine offspring of true wisdom.] ADDRESS
e Rom. xii. 1.
1. Those who live in the allowed violation of any one commandment
[The world may count you wise : yea, “ if you are doing well unto yourselves, (that is, are advancing your own temporal interests,) all men will speak well of you?." But what does God say
of you? “ They have forsaken the word of the Lord ; and what wisdom is in them?” Ah! what indeed? To the rich man, whose heart was elated with his temporal prospects, God said, “ Thou fool:" and no better character will he assign to you. Think only with what an eye the heart-searching God beholds you ; or what the angels think of your conduct; or what you yourselves will think of it in a little time; and you will be at no loss to form a right estimate of it. If you would be truly wise in God's estimation, your obedience to him must be uniform and unreserved.]
2. Those who profess to be endued with true wisdom
[If“ God have given us an understanding," then we must evidence it by the purity of our hearts and lives. But many there are, who can talk very fluently and speciously about religion, who yet are very far from being wise in the sight of God. Hear the judgment of God himself on this subject : “ Who is a wise man, and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts (and these are no uncommon inmates with the professors of religion), glory not, and lie not against the truth.” (Let proud, conceited, and contentious professors hear this; They are “ liars against the truth.") This wisdom descendeth not from above; but is earthly, sensual, devilish. “But the wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to f Ps. xlix. 18. & Jer. viii. 9. h Matt. vii. 24–27. Deut. iv. 6. VOL. VI.
be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisyi." Here is the test of true wisdom; here is the evidence of a sound understanding. The man that is destitute of these gracious tempers, is in darkness even until now: but the man who from love to Christ is enabled to live in the habitual exercise of them, has surely an understanding heart, and is made wise unto salvation.]
i Jam. üi. 13–17.
DCCI. THE VANITIES OF THIS WORLD AN OBSTACLE TO SPIRITUAL
PROGRESS. Ps. cxix. 37. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity;
and quicken thou me in thy way. THE depths of the human heart are never more plainly disclosed, than when a man comes into the presence of his Maker. Then he opens all his wants, and supplicates relief for all his necessities. The godly man at a throne of grace knows no dissimulation, no concealment, no false humility. What he speaks, (if he be in a right state) he feels. Let us then draw nigh, and listen to the breathings of holy David. He felt the ensnaring influence of worldly things, and the lamentable tendency of fallen man to relax his efforts in the service of his God: hence he poured out his soul in this humble supplication; “ Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity ; and quicken thou me in thy way.”
That we may all be stirred up to implore similar blessings at the hands of God, we propose to shew, I. The fascinating power of earthly vanities
By the word “vanity," we understand all those things which are apt to engross the affections of carnal men. The Apostle classes them all under “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life:" and they all justly deserve the name assigned them in the text, because they are sure to disappoint the desires and expectations of all, who look to them for any solid or permanent satisfaction.
These things altogether captivate and enslave the minds of the generality
[The natural man seeks nothing above them. His mind is not occupied with any thing above them. He “is in the flesh;” he "walks according to the flesh," “ fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind." His “ affections are altogether set upon things below, and not on things above.” His thoughts, his conversation, his labours from day to day, all arise from, and terminate in, the things of time and sense: and from these things alone spring all his hopes and fears, his joys and sorrows ---]
These things also have great power over those who profess godliness
[So our Lord has told us in the parable of the Sower. The thorny-ground hearers have made, in appearance at least, a great proficiency in religion. They have far surpassed the stony-ground hearers, who yet have heard the word with joy, and given many cheering and hopeful promises of a future harvest. They have been long established, and brought forth much which both they and others have deemed estimable fruit: but yet, “ through the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lust of other things, the seed that has grown up in them is choked, and they bring forth no fruit to perfection.”
Even persons truly and deeply pious are in great danger from them; else why did our blessed
Lord caution even his own immediate disciples in those memorable words, " Take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawaresa.” There is yet an earthly and sensual spirit dwelling in the best of us, and working powerfully to counteract the better dictates of our new man b: and he knows little of his own heart, who does not see and bewail his own proneness to look back again after the flesh-pots of Egypt.]
But whilst we point out thus the danger of earthly vanities, we would point out also, II. The way to escape their baneful influenceWe should set a guard upon all our senses
[The senses are inlets to all manner of evil. Alas! alas! how often has the mind been contaminated by what it has either seen or heard! If it were no more than what we have read in books, or heard in conversation, that was calculated to encourage a worldly spirit, we should all feel abundant reason to lament, that we have not been sufficiently on our guard against the admission of bad impressions on the mind. But the vilest lusts have found an entrance into the heart by these
a Luke xxi. 34.
b Gal. v. 17.