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What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ? said our Saviour, who was to lay down a ransom for it, and knew well that it would cost infinitely more than the world was worth. Yet, the most of men value their own souls at a far lower rate than the whole world, losing them for broken morsels of it; yea, many times for vain hopes that are never accomplished. And as these men make a miserable bargain, so on the contrary, they that lose the world, or any thing worldly, yea, though it were the whole, to save their souls, make a profitable loss of it. Nature teaches men to hazard and lose all for the life of the body, rather than lose it, (although it proves many times very uncomfortable by the loss of these outward things,) and yet, the most part of men pass their whole life-time without one serious thought of the excellency and importance of their souls, whose life and happiness is of a higher nature, and neither consists in, nor depends upon, ány thing here below. Hence it is, that while they use the helps of this present life, and the defences of it when it is in danger, and use them with so much diligence and attention, the means of that better life of their better part, their souls, they either use not at all, or so slightly and coldly that they never find salvation in them. You may find it some way in yourselves: the threatenings and preparations of men against you, have awakened and roused you more to think upon means of your temporal safety ; but how few are sensible and afraid of the wrath of God, who, as our Saviour tells us, can kill both body and soul, and cast them into hell! You want not frequent advertisement from the word of God, so plentifully preached, that many are perishing, one part in gross ignorance of God, another in profane and licentious living, and the greatest part in a formal and lifeless profession of religion, without the power
of it; and yet, where are they who lay it to heart, and bestir themselves to rescue their souls from destruction ? Certainly, whatsoever men profess, it is unbelief that is the cause of impenitence. Men are not convinced of the purity of God's nature, nor sensible of the impurity of their own; therefore they apply not themselves in good earnest to the work of repentance, and to reformation the liveliest part of it. Labour, then, for a more active and practical knowledge of God and Divine truths, such as may humble and renew your souls; not only that you may be delivered from outward troubles that threaten you, but much more, that you may escape the wrath to come. And because neither the word preached, nor judgments, nor mercies that are set before you, are sufficient to quicken a dead soul, or soften a hard heart, without the effectual concurrence of the Spirit of God, let us have recourse to the throne of grace, by humble and earnest prayer, in the name and meditation of Jesus Christ.
PSALM xlii. 8.
Yet the Lord will command his loving-kindness in the day-time, and in
the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of
Man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upwards, saith Eliphaz, Job v. 7. And as it is the corruption and sinfulness of his birth and nature, that has exposed him to trouble, so nature usually sets him at work, to look out for such things aš may preserve and deliver him from trouble, or, at least, mitigate and temper the bitterness of it. And because there is not any one worldly thing that hath either certainty or sufficiency enough to serve at all times, therefore, worldly and natural men are forced to make use of variety, and are but badly served with them all. The believing soul hath but one comfort whereon he relies, but it is a great one, which alone weighs down all the rest. Bread strengthens, and wine makes glad the heart of man, Psal. civ. 15. But God is the strength of
my heart, says the Psalmist, Psal. lxxxii. 26, and the gladness of it too: Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than they have when their corn and wine increaseth. Psal. iv. 7. And therefore, while the rest are seeking after some scattered crumbs of goodness in the creatures, and saying, Who will shew us any good ? He fixes his choice upon this one thing, the light of God's countenance. And it is the constant assurance of this, that upholds him. Waves beat
Waves beat upon him, yea, and go over him ; yet, the Lord will command his lovingkindness to shine upon him.
In this Psalm we may perceive the Psalmist full of perplexed thoughts, and that betwixt strong desires and griefs, and yet, in the midst of them, now and then, some advantage, and intermixing strains of hope with his sad complaints : for immediately before, we heard nothing but the impetuous noise of many waters, deep calling unto deep, in the former verse; we have here, as it were, a touch of the sweet sound of David's harp: Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the day-time, and in the night His song shall be with me.
In the words we have David's confidence, and David's purpose; the one suiting very well with the other. His confidence in God's loving-kindness : Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness. And his purpose : And in the night His song shall be with me.
It is true, the latter words, In the night His song shall be with me, may be taken as a part of the expression of his confidence, taking the song for the matter or subject of the song, the goodness of God: as if he should say, Both in the day and in the night, I shall find the sweet fruits of God's favour and loving kindness. But not excluding that, I rather take it to be intended as his resolution, that it should be his custom, in the quiet season of the night, to look back upon God's goodness manifested to him in the actions and occurrences of the day ; and thus entertaining his soul with that secret discourse, he would stir it up to the praises of his God, and withal, would join prayer for the continuance and further manifestation
of it. David (as was hinted before) intermixes strains of hope, not that faint and common hope of possibility or probability, that after stormy days it may be better with him, but a certain hope that shall never make ashamed ; such a hope as springs from faith, yea, in effect, is one with it. Faith rests upon the goodness and truth of Him who hath promised, and Hope, raising itself upon faith so established, stands up and looks out to the future accomplishment of the promise. Therefore the Apostle calls Faith, the substance of things hoped for, ÚRÓSTZOIS and the evidence of things not seen. Heb. xi. 1. Of all other hope it is true, Spes est nomen boni incerti : It is the name of uncertain good. But this can say, The Lord will command his loving kindness.
The Lord will command. What a sudden change is here ! Would
think this were the same man that was even now almost overwhelmed? Thus faith always conquers, though seldom, or never, without a hard conflict; not only assaulted by troubles without, but, which is worse, by incredulity within ; nor assaulted only, but many times brought under; yet does it not succumb and give over, knowing that even after many foils, yet, in the end it shall overcome.
His confidence you may consider, first, oppositely, and then, positively, or simply in itself. Oppositely both to his present trouble, and to his complaints, wherein this trouble is expressed ; and that is fitly implied, though it be not in the original.
Though the multitude and weight of Job's afflictions did force out of him some bitter words, and made him look back upon the day of his birth, and curse it; yet, faith recovers him from his distemper, and makes him look forward with joy, even as far as to the blessed day of his resurrection: I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth : and though after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet, in my flesh shall I see God. Job xix. 25. The former words of impatience he spake indeed, but he adheres to these, and wishes that they were written with an
iron pen, and engraven to abide for ever. Therefore we hear of him again in Scripture, as a righteous and patient mán, but of these words of his impatience, not a word. In the Isxviith Psalm, what sad expostulations are those the Psalmist uses, Will He be favourable no more ? Is His mercy clean gone for ever? Doth His promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious ? Hath He in anger shut up his tender mercies ? But see how he corrects them, ver. 10. Then I said, this is my infirmity, but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. Thus Jonah (ch. ii. ver. 8, 4.) speaks in a strain much like this ; but there it was literally true, that God had cast him into the deep. And here, deep calls unto deep, yet, in the midst of those decps, faith is not drowned ; you see it lifts up its head above water: Yet the Lord will command, &c. Yea, though it takes particular notice of God's hand in the affliction, yet, it goes not to another hand for comfort: it is Thy waves and Thy billows, yet, that same God whose waves are like to de stroy me, will ere long command His loving-kindness to shine upon me.
So Job xii. 15. Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. A wonderful expression of faith! He says not, Though He afflict me sore, but, Though He slay me; not, Though evil men or Satan should do it, but, Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him. What troubled mind can imagine any thing harder against itself, than this ?
1. Learn then, to check those excessive doubts and fears, by some such resolute word as this. Turn the promise, first upon thyself, and then upon God. Consider that He hath promised life eternal to believers, and then say, Though I saw His hand as it were lifted up to destroy me, yet, from that very hand will I expect salvation ; for I have His word engaged for it, that if I believe, I shall be saved. I do not say, that a soul under temptation can assure itself, that God is already reconciled to it; and herein possibly lies oftentimes the mistake ; for this reflex act of assurance, though it be our duty to seek after it, is itself rather a gift and reward than a