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wrath shall be added to all their other calamities, and they shall find it heavier than all the rest. God will not pour this precious oil of gladness, this persuasion of his love, into filthy vessels. Even his own children, when they grieve and sadden his Holy Spirit by unholiness, shall be sadly punished by the withdrawing of those comforting and sensible expressions of his love.
Labor then, you who as yet never tasted of this love, to know what it means; forsake and hate that which hitherto has made you strangers to it; for if you obtain this, it shall comfort you when those things cannot, but would rather prove your greatest torment. And you who have received any testimonies of it, entertain it carefully; for it is your best comfort both in your best days and in your worst days too.
You would all gladly be delivered from the many evils that threaten you; for many they be indeed, and peace is a great blessing. But suppose you were secured from all these fears, and he should command a sudden calm, which truly he can do, would you then think yourselves happy? That life of yours which you so fear to lose by fire or sword, though you had peace, would ere long fall into the hands of some ague, or fever, or consumption and perish by them; or, at the longest, a few years will end it: it is a lighted candle, which though no body blow out, will quickly burn out of itself. But this loving-kindness is not so short-lived. It will last as long as your souls, and so long as it lasts they shall be happy. Those goods that you fear shall be pillaged and spoiled in war, how many hazards are they subject to even in peace! Solomon tells you, that riches oftentimes though no body should take them away, make themselves wings and fly away. And truly many times the undue sparing of them, is but the letting of their wings grow, which makes them readier to fly away; and the contributing a part of them to do good, only clips their wings a little, and makes them stay the longer with their owner. But this by the way. Howsoever, in the day of death, and in the day of wrath, as Solomon says, they profit nothing at all. So then, though you may desire that God would command deliverance for
you, yet if you would be truly happy, your greater and more earnest suit should be, that he would command his loving-kindness to appear to your souls. And having once obtained this, you may possibly be persecuted and endure hard trials, but one thing is made sure, you cannot be miserable. Nor shall you want temporal mercies and preservation too, so far as they are good for you. The inward assurance of this love shall carry you strangely and sweetly through all outward vicissitudes; and when the day shall come, that all other comforts shall look pale upon you, then shall you find the worth and happiness of this more than ever before.
2. Observe the manuer in which the psalmist expects to enjoy the object of his confidence: The Lord will command, make it appear to me. Sometimes God is said to shut up and hide his love from his children, and that is a mournful time with them. But we read not that he shuts out his love, and ceaseth altogether to have affection to those whom once he loved. And therefore, when he shows himself again in the gracious manifestations of his mercy, he is not said to begin anew to love them, but only to command his love, which erewhile he had countermanded, to appear.
3. The time; In the day. If you have a mind to take the day and night figuratively for prosperous and adverse times, it would lead you, in that sense, to observe David's constancy in God's praises; which was such that not only in the day of deliverance, but even in the night of distress, he resolved a song for God. And truly many times God gives his children in an afflicted condition more sweetness of spirit, more aptitude, not only to pray, but to praise, and more spiritual delight in himself, than in times of outward peace and prosperity. He giveth songs in the night, saith Job; and you know the sound of music is most delightful in the night. But, to take it properly, David is confident that in the several actions and occurrences of the day he should find the goodness aud favorable assistance of the Lord; and then he resolves, which leads to the other part of the text, in the night time to meditate on
that goodness, and to frame a song of praise to the Author of it.
And indeed what is the whole thread of our life, but a checquered twist, black and white, of delights and dangers interwoven? And the happiest passing of it is constantly to enjoy and to observe the experiences of God's goodness, and to praise him for them. David was a wise king and withal a valiant soldier, and yet we see he thought not this experience inconsonant with either of these two conditions. This precious book of Psalms, a great part thereof being his, testifies clearly, that prayer and praise were his great employment. A religious disposition of mind may not only consist with fortitude and magnanimity, but is indeed the best principle and cause of both, contrary to the wicked and foolish opinion of profane persons. Whether of the two, do you think, might welcome a day of battle with most courage and resolution-he that had passed the preceding night in revelling and carousing, or he that had spent it in prayer, and obtained some assurance of a better life? Truly, if they went on with equal forwardness, there is no man, except he were an atheist, but would judge the one to be brutish fury and precipitation, and the other true valor.
His song. In the worst estate there is ever some matter of praise to be mixed with request; and truly we may justly suspect that our neglect of praises makes our prayers unacceptable.
And my prayer. In the best estate here below, praise must be accompanied with prayer. Our wants, and necessities, and straits, return daily upon us, and require new supplies of mercy; and prayer, if we know how to use it right, is the way to obtain them all.
To the God of my life, or the God that is my life. This word is added, as the reason of all that went before. If you ask David why he reposeth so much upon the loving-kindness of God? what he means, to spend so much pains in praises and prayer to God? he answers, Because he is my life. He is the author and preserver of my temporal life, and all the passages and accidents of it are in his hand alone. He hath also given me, and he maintains in me, a spiritual life; yea, he is the life of
my soul. It lives by union with him, as my body does by union with it, and he hath laid up life eternal for me. Would Christians think thus indeed, the light of this consideration would dispel their distrustful fears. Certainly there is atheism at the bottom of them; if not a denial or a misconceit of God, at least a forgetfulness of God; Isa. li, 12, 13. I, even I, am he that comforteth you. Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man, which shall be made as grass; and forgettest the Lord thy maker, that hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth? Consider then, that men have no power over our present life, but by the appointment of God. And beside that, we have another life, which is infinitely more precious than this; a life spiritual, and which is the beginning of eternal life; and this is altogether out of danger from men. Our life is hid with Christ in God. It is hid, and wicked men cannot so much as see it: how then should they take it from us, seeing it is hid? And that not meanly; it is hid with Christ in God. What then shall become of it? Read the next verse, and read it to your comfort, for there is abundance in it, if you look right upon it. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we likewise shall appear with him in glory. They that are in God, being united to him through Christ, can never by any power be separated from him. It is an indissoluble union. Death itself, that is the great dissolver of all other unions, civil and natural, is so far from untying this, that it consummates it. It conveys the soul into the nearest and fullest enjoyment of God, who is its life, where it shall not need to desire that God would command or send his loving-kindness, as it were, from a distance; it shall be then at the spring-head, and shall be satisfied with his love for ever.
WHEREFORE do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfies not? says the prophet. All men agree in this, that they would willingly meet with some satisfying good; and yet if you look aright upon the projects and labors of the greatest part, you will find them flying from it, and taking much pains to be miserable. And truly, considering the darkness that is upon the soul of man, it is no great wonder to see those miss their way and continue wandering, who hear not the voice of the gospel to recal them, and see not its light to direct them. But this is somewhat strange, that where true happiness and the true way to it are propounded and set before men, so few should follow it in good earnest. If the excellency of that good did not allure them, yet one would think that their many disappointments in all other things should drive them home to it. How often do we run ourselves out of breath after shadows! and when we think we have overtaken them, and would lay hold on them, we find nothing. And yet we still love to befool ourselves, even against our own experience, which we say, uses to make fools wiser. Still we choose rather to shift from one vanity to another, than to return to that sovereign good, that alone can fill the most vast desires of our souls; rather to run from one broken cistern to another, as the prophet calls them, yea, and to take pains to hew them out, than have recourse to that fountain of living waters. One main thing that makes men thus rove and wander is, that they do not reflect upon their own course, nor upon themselves? what is the main end they aim at, and then see whether their way be suitable to that end. If they would be happy, (as who would not?) then surely things that are empty, and uncertain, and certainly perishing, will not serve the turn. And truly, as this thought would be seasonable at any time, so especially to us in these times, wherein, besides the common uncertainty of outward