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Divine Grace and Holy Obedience.
PSAL. cxix, 32.
I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou
shalt enlarge my heart. To desire ease and happiness, under a general representation of it, is a thing of easy and general persuasion ; there is somewhat in nature to help the argument. But to find beauty in, and be taken with, the very way of holiness that leads to it, is more rare, and depends on a higher principle. Self-love inclines a man to desire the rest of love, but to love and desire the labor of love, is love of a' higher and purer strain. To delight and be cheerful in obedience, argues much love as the spring of it. That is the thing the holy psalmist doth so plentifully express in this psalm, and he is still desiring more of that sweet and lively affection, which would make him yet more abundant in action. Thus here, I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart. He presents his desire and his purpose together- The more of this grace thou bestowest on me, the more service shall I be able to do thee.
This is the top of his ambition-while others are seeking to enlarge their barns, their lands or estates, or their titles ; and kings, to enlarge their territories or authority, to encroach on neighbouring kingdoms, or be more absolute in their own ; instead of all such enlargements, this is David's great desire, an enlarged heart to run the way of God's commandments.
And these other, how big soever they sound, are poor narrow desires. This one is larger and higher than them all, and gives evidence of a heart already large. But as it is miserable in those desires, so it is happy in this, that inůch would still have more.
Let others seek more money, or more honor; 0 the blessed choice of that soul, which is still seeking more
love to God, more affection, and more ability to do him service ; which counts all days and hours lost, that are not employed to this improvement; which hears the word in public, and reads it in private for this purpose, to kindle this love, or to blow the spark, if any there be already in the heart, to raise it to a clear flame, and from a little flame to make it burn yet hotter and purer, and rise higher : but, above all means, is often presenting this in prayer to him ou whose influence all des pends, in whose hand our hearts are, much more than in our own. It follows him with this desire, and works on bim by his own interest. Though there can be really no accession of gain to bim by our services, yet he is pleased so to account with us as if there were.
Therefore we may urge this--Lord, give more, and receive more: I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.
We have here in the words, a required disposition and a suitable resolution. The disposition relates to the resolution, as the means of fulfilling it; and the resolution relates to the disposition, both as the end of desiring it, and as the motive of obtaining it. The resolution occurs first in the words,
I will run the way of thy commandments. The way resolved on is, that of God's commandments ; not the road of tbe polluted world, not the crooked ways of his own heart, but the high-way, the royal way, the straight way of the kingdom, and that in the notion of subjection and obedience, the way of thy commandments. This, man naturally struggles against, and repines at. To be limited and bounded by a law is a restraint; and vaip man could pos. sibly find in his heart to do many of the same things that are commanded, but he would not be tied, would have his liberty, and do it of his own choice. This is the enmity of the carnal mind against God, as the apostle ex. presses it: it is not subject to the law of God, neither can it be; it breaks these bonds, and casts away the cords of his authority. This is sin, the transgression of the law; and this made the first sin so great, though in a matter one would think small, the eating of the fruit of a tree: it was rebellion against the majesty of God, casting off his law and authority, and aspiring to an imagined self-deity. And this is still the treasonable pride, or independency, and wickedness of our nature, rising up against God who formed us of nothing.
And this is the power and substance of religion, the new impress of God upon the heart, obedience and rea signment to him. To be given up to him as entirely his, to be moulded and ordered as be wills, to be subject to his laws and appointments in all things, to have every action, and every word, under a rule and law, and the penalty to be so high, eternal death-all this, to a carnal or haughty mind, is hard. Not only every action and every word, but even every thought too, must be subject; the soul is not so much as thought-free. Every thought is brought into captivity, as the apostle speaks ; and so the licentious mind accounts it, Not only the affections and desires, but the very reasonings and imaginatious are brought under this law.
Now to yield this as reasonable and due to God; to own his sovereignty, and to acknowledge the law to be holy, just, and good ; to approve, yea, to love it, even where it most contradicts and controls our own corrupt will and the law of sin in our flesh—this is true spiritual obedience—to study and inquire after the will of God in all our ways, what will please him, and, having found it, to follow that which is here called the way of his commandments; to make this our way, and our business in the world, and all other things but accessaries and byworks, even those lawful things that may be taken in and used as helps in our way: as the disciples passing through the corn, plucked the ears, and did eat in passing, as a by-work, but their business was to follow their Master. And whatsoever would hinder us in this way, must be watched and guarded against. To effect this, we must either remove and thrust it aside, or, if we cannot do that, yet we must go over it, and trample it under foot, were it the thing or the person, that is dearest to us in the world. Till the heart be brought to this state and purpose, it is either wbolly void of, or very low and weak in the truth of, religion,
We place religion much in our accustomed performances, in coming to church, hearing and repeating of sermons, and praying at home, keeping a road of such and such duties. The way of God's commandments is more in doing than in discourse. In many, religion evaporates itself too much out by the tongue, while it appears too little in their ways. O but this is the main ! One act of charity, meekness, or humility, speaks more than a day's discourse. All the means we use in religion are intended for a further end, which if they attain not, they are nothing. This end is, to mortify and purify the heart, to mould it to the way of God's commandments in the whole track of our lives ; in our private converse one with another, and our retired secret converse with ourselves, to have God still before us, and his law our rule in all we do, that he may be our meditation day and night, and that his law may be our counsellor, as this psalm bath it; to regulate all our designs and the works of our callings by it; to walk soberly, and godly, and righteously in this present world; to curb and cross our own wills where they cross God's; to deny ourselves our own humour and pride, our passions and pleasures, to have all these subdued and brought under by the power of the law of love within us—this, and nothing below this, is the end of religion. Alas! amongst multitudes who are called christians, some there may be who speak and appear like it, yet how few are there who make this their business, and aspire to this, the way of God's commandments!
His intended course in this way, the psalmist expresses by running. It is good to be in this way even in the slowest motions. Love will creep, where it cannot go. But if thou art so indeed, then thou wilt long for a swifter motion. If thou do but creep, be doing, creep on, yet desire to be enabled to go. If thou goest, but yet, halting and lamely, desire to be strengthened to walk straight; and if thou walkest, let not that satisfy thee, desire to run. So here; David did walk in this way, but he earnestly wishes to mend his pace; he would willingly run, and for that end he desires an enlarged heart.
Some dispute and descant too much whether they go
or not, and childishly tell their steps, and would know at every pace whether they advance or not, and how much they advance, and thus amuse themselves, and spend the time of doing and going, in questioning and doubting. Thus it is with many Christians. But it were a more wise and comfortable way, to be endeavouring onwards, and, if thou make little progress, at least to be desiring to make more ; to be praying and walking, and praying that thou mayest walk faster, and that in the end thou mayest run; not to be satisfied with any thing attained, but yet, by that unsatisfiedness, not to be so dejected as to sit down, or stand still, but rather excited to go on. So it was with St Paul; Forgetting the things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press forward. If any one thinks that he hath done well and run far, and will take a pause, the great apostle is of another mind; Not as if I had already attained. O no! far from that, he still sets forward, as if Bothing were done : like a runner, not still looking back to see how much he hath run, but forward to what he is to run, stretching forth to that, inflamed with frequent looks at the mark and end. Some are retarded by looke ing on what is past, as not satisfied: they have done nothing, as they think, and so stand still discontented. But even in that way, it is not good to look too much to things behind: we must forget them rather, and press onwards.
Some, if they have gone on well and possibly run for a while, yet if they fall, then they are ready to lie still and think all is lost; and in this peevish fretting at their falls, some men please themselves, and take it for repentance, whereas indeed it is not that but rather pride and bumour. Repentance is a more submissive humble thing. But this is what troubles some men at their new falls, espe. cially if after a long time of even walking or runningthey think their project is now spoiled, their thoughts are broken off: they would have had somewhat to have rejoiced in, if they liad still gone on to the end, but being disappointed of that, they think they had as good let alone, and give over. O but the. humble Christian is better taught! His falls, teach him indeed to abhor bim.