The Second Of My Pbebend Sebmons Upon My Five Psalms.
PREACHED AT ST. PAUL'S, JANUARY 29, 1C25.
Psalm Lxiii. 7.
Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will
The Psalms are the manna of the church. As manna tasted to every man like that he liked best1, so do the Psalms minister instruction, and satisfaction, to every man, in every emergency and occasion. David was not only a clear prophet of Christ himself, but a prophet of every particular Christian; he foretells what I, what any shall do, and suffer, and say. And as the whole Book of Psalms is oleum effumm, (as the spouse speaks of the name of Christ*) an ointment poured out upon all sorts of sores, a cerecloth that supples all bruises, a balm that searches all wounds; so are there some certain Psalms, that are imperial Psalms, that command over all affections, and spread themselves over all occasions, catholic, universal Psalms, that apply themselves to all necessities. This is one of those; for, of those constitutions which are called apostolical, one is, that the church should meet every day, to sing this Psalm. And accordingly, St. Chrysostom testifies, That it was decreed, and ordained by the primitive fathers, that no day should pass without the public singing of this Psalm. Under both these obligations, (those ancient constitutions, called the apostle's, and those ancient decrees made by the primitive fathers) belongs to me, who have my part in the service of God's church, the especial meditation, and recommendation of this Psalm. And under a third obligation too, that it is one of those five Psalms, the daily rehearsing whereof, is enjoined to me, by the constitutions of this church, as five other are to every other person of our body. As the whole book is
1 Wisdom xvi. 20.
2 Cant. i. 3.
manna, so these five Psalms are my gomer, which I am to fill and empty every day of this manna.
Now as the spirit and soul of the whole Book of Psalms is contracted into this Psalm, so is the spirit and soul of this whole Psalm contracted into this verse. The key of the Psalm, (as St. Hierome calls the titles of the Psalms) tells us, That David uttered this Psalm, when he was in the wilderness of Judah; there we see the present occasion that moved him; and we see what was passed between God and him before, in the first clause of our text (Because thou hast been my help) and then we see what was to come, by the rest, (Therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice). So that we have here the whole compass of time, past, present, and future; and these three parts of time, shall be at this time, the three parts of this exercise; first, what David's distress put him upon for the present; and that lies in the context; secondly, how David built his assurance upon that which was past; (Because thou hast been my help). And thirdly, what he established to himself for the future, (Therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice). First, his distress in the wilderness, his present estate carried him upon the menaory of that which God had done for him before, and the remembrance of that carried him upon that, of which he assured himself after. Fix upon God any where, and you shall find him a circle; he is with you now, when you fix upon him; he was with you before, for he brought you out to this fixation; and he will be with you hereafter, for he is yesterday, and to-day, and the same for ever*.
For David's present condition, who was now in a banishment, in a persecution in the wilderness of Judah, (which is our first part) we shall only insist upon that, (which is indeed spread over all the Psalm to the text, and ratified in the text) that in all those temporal calamities David was only sensible of his spiritual loss; it grieved him not that he was kept from Saul's court, but that he was kept from God's church. For when he says, by way of lamentation, That he was in a dry and thirsty land, where no water was, he expresses what penury, what barrenness, what drought and what thirst he meant; To see thy power, and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. For there, my
* Heb. xiii. 8.
soid shall be satisfied as with marrow, and with fatness, and there, my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips. And in some few considerations conducing to this, that spiritual losses are incomparably heavier than temporal, and that therefore, the restitution to our spiritual happiness, or the continuation of it, is rather to be made the subject of our prayers to God, in all pressures and distresses, than of temporal, we shall determine that first part. And for the particular branches of both the other parts, (the remembering of God's benefits past, and the building of an assurance for the future, upon that remembrance) if may be fitter to open them to you, anon when we come to handle them, than now. Proceed we now to our first part, the comparing of temporal and spiritual afflictions.
In the way of this comparison, falls first the consideration of the universality of afflictions in general, and the inevitableness thereof. It is a blessed metaphor, that the Holy Ghost hath put into the mouth of the apostle, Pondus gloriw, That our afflictions are but light, because there is an exceeding, and an eternal weight of glory4 attending them. If it were not for that exceeding weight of glory, no other weight in this world could turn the scale, or weigh down those infinite weights of afflictions that oppress us here. There is not only Pestis valde gravis, (Thepestilence grows heavy upon the land*) but there is Musca valde gravis*, God calls in but the fly, to vex Egypt, and even the fly is a heavy burden unto them. It is not only Job that complains, That he was a burden to himself but even Absalom's hair was a -burden to him, till it was polled8. It is not only Jeremy that complains, Aggravavit compedes3, That God had made their fetters and their chains heavy to them, but the workmen in harvest complain, That God had made a fair day heavy unto them, (We have borne the heat, and the burden of the day10). Sand is heavy, says Solomon"; and how many suffer so? under a sand-hill of crosses, daily, hourly afflictions, that are heavy by their number, if not by their single weight? And a stone is heavy; (says he in the same place) and how many suffer so? How many, without any
4 2 Cor. iv. 17. 5 Exod. ix. 3. « Exod. viii. 24.
7 Job vii. 20. • 2 Sam. xiv. 26. 3 Lament, iii. 7.
10 Matt. xx. 12. 11 Prov. xxvii. 3.
former preparatory cross, or comminatory, or commonitory cross, even in the midst of prosperity, or security, fall under some one stone, some grindstone, some millstone, some one insupportable cross that ruins them? But then, (says Solomon there) A fooVs anger is heavier than both; and how many children, and servants, and wives suffer under the anger, and morosity, and peevishness, and jealousy of foolish masters, and parents, and husbands, though they must not say so? David and Solomon have cried out, That all this world is vanity, and levity; and (God knows) all is weight, and burden, and heaviness, and oppression; and if there were not a weight of future glory to counterpoise it, we should all sink into nothing.
I ask not Mary Magdalen, whether lightness were not a burden; for sin is certainly, sensibly a burden) but I ask Susanna whether even chaste beauty were not a burden to her; and I ask Joseph whether personal comeliness were not a burden to him. I ask not Dives, who perished in the next world, the question; but I ask them who are made examples of Solomon's rule, of that sore evil, (as he calls it) Riches kept to the owners thereof for their hurt", whether riches be not a burden.
All our life is a continual burden, yet we must not groan; a continual squeezing, yet we must not pant; and as in the tenderness of our childhood, we suffer, and yet are whipped if we cry, so we are complained of, if we complain, and made delinquents if we call the times ill. And that which adds weight to weight, and multiplies the sadness of this consideration, is this, That still the best men have had most laid upon them. As soon as I hear God say, That he hath found an upright man, that fears God, and eschews evil, in the next lines I find a commission to Satan, to bring in Sabeans and Chaldeans upon his cattle, and servants, and fire and tempest upon his children, and loathsome diseases upon himself. As soon as I hear God say, That he hath found a man according to his own heart, I see his sons ravish his daughters, and then murder one another, and then rebel against the father, and put him into straits for his life. As soon as I hear God testify of Christ at his baptism, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased", I find that Son of his led by the Spirit to be tempted
"Eccles. v. 13. 1* Matt. iii. 17.
of the devil1*. And after I hear God ratify the same testimony again, at his transfiguration, (This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased") I find that beloved Son of his, deserted, abandoned, and given over to scribes, and Pharisees, and publicans, and Herodians, and priests, and soldiers, and people, and judges, and witnesses, and executioners, and he that was called the beloved Son of God, and made partaker of the glory of heaven, in this world, in his transfiguration, is made now the sewer of all the corruption, of all the sins of this world, as no Son of God, but a mere man, as no man, but a contemptible worm. As though the greatest weakness in this world, were man, and the greatest fault in man were to be good, man is more miserable than other creatures, and good men more miserable than any other men.
But then there is Pondus gloriw, An exceeding weight of eternal glory, and that turns the scale; for as it makes all worldly prosperity as dung, so it makes all worldly adversity as feathers. And so it had need; for in the scale against it, there are not only put temporal afflictions, but spiritual too; and to these two kinds, we may accommodate those words, He that falls upon this stone, (upon temporal afflictions) may be bruised, broken, But he upon whom that stone falls, (spiritual afflictions) is in danger to be ground to powder 16. And then, the great, and yet ordinary danger is, that these spiritual afflictions grow out of temporal; murmuring, and diffidence in God, and obduration, out of worldly calamities; and so against nature, the fruit is greater and heavier than the tree, spiritual heavier than temporal afflictions.
They who write of natural story, propose that plant for the greatest wonder in nature, which being no firmer than a bulrush, or a reed, produces and bears for the fruit thereof no other but an entire, and very hard stone". That temporal affliction should produce spiritual stoniness, and obduration, is unnatural, yet ordinary. Therefore doth God propose it, as one of those greatest blessings, which he multiplies upon his people, / will take away your stony hearts, and give you hearts of flesh"; and, Lord let me have a fleshly heart in any sense, rather than a stony
"Matt. iv. I. 15 Matt. xvii. S. "Matt. xxi. 44.
17 Plin. L xxvii. 11. Lithospermus. 1* Ezek. xi. 19; and xxxvi. 26.
heart. We find mention amongst the observers of rarities in nature, of hairy hearts, hearts of men, that have been overgrown with hair"; but of petrified hearts, hearts of men grown into stone, we read not; for this petrifaction of the heart, this stupefaction of a man, is the last blow of God's hand upon the heart of man in this world. Those great afflictions which are poured out of the vials of the seven angels upon the world *0, are still accompanied with that heavy effect, that that affliction hardened them. They were scorched with heats and plagues, by the fourth angel, and it follows, They blasphemed the name of God, and repented not, to give him glory. Darkness was induced upon them by the fifth angel, and it follows, They blasphemed the God of heaven, and repented not of their deedt. And from the seventh angel there fell hailstones of the weight of talents, (perchance four pound weight) upon men; and yet these men had so much life left, as to blaspheme God, out of that respect, which alone should have brought them to glorify God, Because the plague thereof was. exceeding great. And when a great plague brings them to blaspheme, how great shall that second plague be, that comes upon them for blaspheming?
Let me wither and wear out mine age in a discomfortable, in an unwholesome, in a penurious prison, and so pay my debts with my bones, and recompense the wastefulness of my youth, with the beggary of mine age; let me wither in a spital under sharp, and foul, and infamous diseases, and so recompense the wantonness of my youth, with that loathsomeness in mine age; yet, if God withdraw not his spiritual blessings, his grace, his patience, if I can call my suffering his doing, my passion his action, all this that is temporal, is but a caterpillar got into one corner of my garden, but a mildew fallen upon one acre of my corn; the body of all, the substance of all is safe, as long as the soul is safe. But when I shall trust to that, which we call a good spirit, and God shall deject, and impoverish, and evacuate that spirit, when I shall rely upon a moral constancy, and God shall shake, and enfeeble, and enervate, destroy and demolish that constancy; when I shall think to refresh myself in the serenity and sweet air of a good conscience, and God shall call up
"Pliny and Plutarch. 10 Rev. xvi.
VOL. III. M
the damps and vapours of hell itself, and spread a cloud of diffidence, and an impenetrable crust of desperation upon my conscience; when health shall fly from me, and I shall lay hold upon riches to succour me, and comfort me in my sickness, and riches shall fly from me, and I shall snatch after favour, and good opinion, to comfort me in my poverty; when even this good opinion shall leave me, and calumnies and misinformations shall prevail against me; when I shall need peace, because there is none but thou, O Lord, that should stand for me, and then shall find, that all the wounds that I have, come from thy hand, all the arrows that stick in me, from thy quiver; when I shall see, that because I have given myself to my corrupt nature, thou hast changed thine; and because I am all evil towards thee, therefore thou hast given over being good towards me; when it comes to this height, that the fever is not in the humours, but in the spirits, that mine enemy is not an imaginary enemy, fortune, nor a transitory enemy, malice in great persons, but a real, and an irresistible, and an inexorable, and an everlasting enemy, the Lord of hosts himself, the Almighty God himself, the Almighty God himself only knows the weight of this affliction, and except he put in that pondus gloriw, that exceeding weight of an eternal glory, with his own hand, into the other scale, we are weighed down, we are swallowed up, irreparably, irrevocably, irrecoverably, irremediably.
This is the fearful depth, this is spiritual misery, to be thus fallen from God. But was this David's case? Was he fallen thus far, into a diffidence in God? No. But the danger, the precipice, the slippery sliding into that bottomless depth, is, to be excluded from the means of coming to God, or staying with God; and this is that that David laments here, that by being banished, and driven into the wilderness of Judah, he had not access to the sanctuary of the Lord, to sacrifice his part in the praise, and to receive his part in the prayers of the congregation; for angels pass not to ends, but by ways and means, nor men to the glory of the triumphant church, but by participation of the communion of the militant. To this note David sets his harp, in many, many psalms: sometimes, that God had suffered his enemies to possess his tabernacle, (He forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, he delivered his strength into captivity, and his glory into the enemies' hands",) but most commonly ho complains, that God disabled him from coming to the sanctuary. In which one thing he had summed up all his desires, all his prayers, (One thing have I desired of the Lord, that I will look after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple1*) his vehement desire of this, he expresses again, My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God"? He expresses a holy jealousy, a religious envy, even to the sparrows and swallows, yea, the sparrow hath found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, and where she may lay her young, even thine altars, 0 Lord of hosts, my King and my God*4. Thou art my King, and my God, and yet excludest me from that, which thou afibrdest to sparrows, And are not we of more value than many sparrows"?
And as though David felt some false-ease, some half-tomptation, some whispering that way, that God is in the wilderness of Judah, in every place, as well as in his Sanctuary, there is in the original in that place, a pathetical, a vehement, a broken expressing expressed, 0 thine altars"; it is true, (says David) thou art here in the wilderness, and I may see thee here, and serve thee here, but, 0 thine altars, 0 Lord of hosts, my King and my God. When David could not come in person to that place, yet he bent towards the temple, (In thy fear will I worship towards thy holy temple".) Which was also Daniel's devotion; when he prayed, his chamber windows were open towards Jerusalem**; and so is Hezekiah's turning to the wall to weep, and to pray in his »ick bed", understood to be to that purpose, to conform, and compose himself towards the temple. In the place consecrated for that use, God by Moses fixes the service, and fixes the reward30; and towards that place, (when they could not come to it) doth Solomon direct their devotion in the consecration of the temple, (When they are in the wars, when they are in captivity, and
81 Psalm txxviii. 60, 61. ** Psalm xxvii. 4. 58 Psalm xLii. 2.
54 Psalm Lxxxiv. 3. "Luke xii. 7. "Psalm Lxxxiv. 3.
w Psalm v. 7. M Dan. vi 10. "Isaiah xxxviii. 2.
sl> Deut. xxxi. 11.
pray towards this house, do thou hear them*1.) For, as in private prayer, when (according to Christ's command) we are shut in our chamber, there is exercised modsstia fidei, the modesty and bashfulness of our faith, not pressing upon God in his house: so in the public prayers of the congregation, there is exercised the fervour and holy courage of our faith, for Agmine facto obsidemus Deum", It is a mustering of our forces, and a besieging of God. Therefore does David so much magnify their blessedness, that are in this house of God; (Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, for they will be still praising thee) those that look towards it, may praise thee sometimes, but those men who dwell in the church, and whose whole service lies in the church, have certainly an advantage of all other men (who are necessarily withdrawn by worldly businesses) in making themselves acceptable to Almighty God, if they do their duties, and observe their church services aright.
Man being therefore thus subject naturally to manifold calamities, and spiritual calamities being incomparably heavier than temporal, and the greatest danger of falling into such spiritual calamities being in our absence from God's church, where only the outward means of happiness are ministered unto us, certainly there is much tenderness and deliberation to be used, before the church doors be shut against any man. If I would not direct a prayer to God, to excommunicate any man from the triumphant church, (which were to damn him) I would not oil the key, I would not make the way too slippery for excommunications in the militant church; for that is to endanger him. I know how distasteful a sin to God, contumacy, and contempt, and disobedience to order and authority is; and I know, (and all men, that choose not ignorance, may know) that our excommunications (though calumniators impute them to small things, because, many times, the first complaint is of some small matter) never issue but upon contumacies, contempts, disobediences to the church. But they are real contumacies, not interpretative, apparent contumacies, not presumptive, that excommunicate a man in heaven; and much circumspection is required, and (I am far from doubting it) exercised in those cases upon earth; for, though every excommu
sl 1 Kings viii. 44. u Tertullian.
nication upon earth be not sealed in heaven, though it damn not the man, yet it dams up that man's way, by shutting him out of that church, through which he must go to tho other; which being so great a danger, let every man take heed of excommunicating himself. Tho impersuasible recusant does so; the negligent libertine does so; the fantastic separatist does so; the half-present man, he, whose body is here, and mind away, does so; and he, whose body is but half here, his limbs are hero upon a cushion, but his eyes, his ears are not here, does so: all these are self-excommunicators, and keep themselves from hence. Only he enjoys that blessing, the want whereof David deplores, that is here entirely, and is glad he is here, and glad to find this kind of service here, that he does, and wishes no other.
And so we have done with our first part, David's aspect, his present condition, and his danger of falling into spiritual miseries, because his persecution, and banishment amounted to an excommunication, to an excluding of him from the service of God, in the church. And we pass, in our order proposed at first, to the second, his retrospect, the consideration, what God had done for him before, Because thou hast been my help.
Through this second part, we shall pass by these three steps. First, that it behoves us, in all our purposes, and actions, to propose to ourselves a copy to write by, a pattern to work by, a rule, or an example to proceed by, because it hath been thus heretofore, says David, I will resolve upon this course for tho future. And secondly, that the copy, the pattern, the precedent which we are to propose to ourselves, is, the observation of God's former ways and proceedings upon us, because God hath already gone this way, this way I will await his going still. And then, thirdly, and lastly, in this second part, the way that God had formerly gone with David, which was, That ho had been his help, (Because thou hast been my help.)
First then, from the meanest artificer, through the wisest philosopher, to God himself, all that is well done, or wisely undertaken, is undertaken and done according to prc-conceptions, fore-imaginations, designs, and patterns proposed to ourselves beforehand. A carpenter builds not a house, but that ho first sets up a frame in his own mind, what kind of house he will build. The little great philosopher Epictetus, would undertake no action, but he would first propose to himself, what Socrates, or Plato, what a wise man would do in that case, and according to that, he would proceed. Of God himself, it is safely resolved in the school, that he never did anything in any part of time, of which he had not an eternal pre-conception, an eternal Idea, in himself before. Of which Ideas, that is, pre-conceptions, predeterminations in God, St. Augustine pronounces, Tanta vis in ideis constituitur, There is so much truth, and so much power in these Ideas, as that without acknowledging them, no man can acknowledge God, for he does not allow God counsel, and wisdom, and deliberation in his actions, but sets God on work, before ho have thought what he will do. And therefore he, and others of the fathers read that place83, (which we read otherwise) Quod factum est, in ipso vita erat; that is, In all their expositions, whatsoever is made, in time, was alive in God, before it was made, that is, in that eternal Idea, and pattern which was in him. So also do divers of those fathers read those words to the Hebrews", (which we read, The things that are seen, are not made of things that do appear) Ex invisibilibus visibilia facta sunt, Things formerly invisible, were made visible; that is, we see them not till now, till they are made, but they had an invisible being, in that Idea, in that pre-notion, in that purpose of God before, for ever before. Of all things in heaven, and earth, but of himself, God had an Idea, a pattern in himself, before he made it.
And therefore let him be our pattern for that, to work after patterns; to propose to ourselves rules and examples for all our actions; and the more, the more immediately, the more directly our actions concern the service of God. If I ask God, by what Idea he made me, God produces his Faciamus hominem ad imaginem nostram, That there was a concurrence of the whole Trinity, to make me in Adam, according to that imago which they were, and according to that Idea, which they had predetermined. If I pretend to serve God, and he ask me for my Idea, How I mean to serve him, shall I be able to produce none? If he ask me an Idea of my religion, and my opinions, shall I
not be able to say, It is that which thy word, and thy catholic church hath imprinted in me? If he ask me an Idea of my prayers, shall I not be able to say, It is that which my particular necessities, that which the form prescribed by thy Son, that which the care and piety of the church, in conceiving fit prayers, hath imprinted in me? If he ask me an Idea of my sermons, shall I not be able to say, It is that which the analogy of faith, the edification of the congregation, the zeal of thy work, the meditations of my heart hath imprinted in me? But if I come to pray or to preach without this kind of Idea, if I come to extemporal prayer, and extemporal preaching, I shall come to an extemporal faith, and extemporal religion; and then I must look for an extemporal heaven, a heaven to be made for me; for to that heaven which belongs to the catholic church, I shall never come, except I go by the way of the catholic church, by former Ideas, former examples, former patterns, to believe according to ancient beliefs, to pray according to ancient forms, to preach according to former meditations. God does nothing, man does nothing well, without these Ideas, these retrospects, this recourse to pre-conceptions, pre-deliberations.
Something then I must propose to myself, to be the rule, and the reason of my present and future actions; which was our first branch in this second part: and then the second is, that I can propose nothing more availably, than the contemplation of the history of God's former proceeding with me; which is David's way here, because this was God's way before, I will look for God in this way still. That language in which God spake to man, the Hebrew, hath no present tense; they form not their verbs as our Western languages do, in the present, / hear, or / see, or / read, but they begin at that which is past, / have seen, and heard, and read. God carries us in his language, in his speaking, upon that which is past, upon that which he hath done already; i cannot have better security for present, nor future, than God's former mercies exhibited to me. Quis non gaudeat, says St. Augustine, Who does not triumph with joy, when he considers what God hath done? Quit non et ea, quw nondum venerunt, ventura sperat, propter ilia, qum jam tanta impleta sunt? Who can doubt t he performance of all, that sees the greatest part of a prophesy performed? If I have found that true that God hath said, of the person of anti-Christ, why should I doubt of that which he says of the ruin of anti-Christ? Credamus modicum quod restat, says the same father, It is much that we have seen done, and it is but little that God hath reserved to our faith, to believe that it shall be done.
There is no state, no church, no man, that hath not this tie upon God, that hath not God in these bands, that God by having done much for them already, hath bound himself to do more. Men proceed in their former ways, sometimes, lest they should confess an error, and acknowledge that they had been in a wrong Avay. God is obnoxious to no error, and therefore he does still, as he did before. Every one of you can say now to God, Lord, thou broughtest me hither, therefore enable me to hear; Lord, thou doest that, therefore make me understand; and that, therefore let me believe; and that too, therefore strengthen me to the practice; and all that, therefore continue me to a perseverance. Carry it up to the first sense and apprehension that ever thou hadst of God's working upon thee, either in thyself, when thou eamest first to the use of reason, or in others in thy behalf, in thy baptism, yet when thou thinkest thou art at the first, God had done something for thee before all that; before that, he had elected thee, iu that election which St. Augustine speaks of, Habet electos, quos creaturus est eligendos, God hath elected certain men, whom he intends to create, that he may elect them; that is, that he may declare his election upon them. God had thee, before he made thee; he loved thee first, and then created thee, that thou loving him, he might continue his love to thee. The surest way, and the nearest way to lay hold upon God, is the consideration of that which ho had done already. So David does; and that which he takes knowledge of, in particular, in God's former proceedings towards him, is, because God had been his help, which is our last branch in this part, Because thou hast been my help.
From this one word, that God hath been my help, I make account that we have both these notions; first, that God hath not left me to myself, he hath come to my succour, he hath helped me; and then, that God hath not loft out myself; he bath been my help, but he hath left something for me to do with him, and by his help. My security for the future, in this consideration of that which is past, lies not only in this, that God hath delivered me, but in this also, that he hath delivered me by way of a help, and help always presumes an endeavour and cooperation in him that is helped. God did not elect me as a helper, nor create me, nor redeem me, nor convert me, by way 01 helping me; for he alone did all, and he had no use at all of me. God infuses his first grace, the first way, merely as a giver; entirely, all himself; but his subsequent graces, as a helper; therefore we call them auxiliant graces, helping graces; and wo always receive them, when we endeavour to make use of his former grace. Lord, I believe, (says the man in the Gospel to Christ) help mine unbelief". If there had not been unbelief, weakness, imperfectness, in that faith, there had needed no help; but if there had not been a belief, a faith, it had not been capable of help and assistance, but it must have been an entire act, without any concurrence on the man's part.
So that if I have truly the testimony of a rectified conscience, , that God hath helped me, it is in both respects; first, that he hath never forsaken mo, and then, that he hath never suffered me to forsake myself; he hath blessed me with that grace, that I trust in no help but his, and with his grace too, that I cannot look for his help, except I help myself also. God did not help heaven and earth to proceed out of nothing in the creation, for they had no possibility of any disposition towards it; for they had no being: but God did help the earth to produce grass, and herbs; for, for that God had infused a seminal disposition into the earth, which, for all that, it could not have perfected without his further help. As in making of woman, there is the very word of our text, gnazar, God made him a helper, one that was to do much for him, but not without him. So that then, if I will make God's former working upon me, an argument of his future gracious purposes, as I must acknowledge that God hath done much for me, so I must find, that I have done what I could, by the benefit of that grace with him; for God promises to be but a helper. Lord open thou my lips, says David*6; that is God's
*5 Mark ix. 24. Psalm Li. 15.
work entirely; and then, My mouth, my mouth shall show forth thy praise; there enters David into the work with God. And then, says God to him, Dilata os tuiim, Open thy mouth, (it is now made thy mouth, and therefore do thou open it) and I will fill it"; all inehoations and consummations, beginnings and perfectings are of God, of God alone; but in the way there is a concurrence on our part, (by a successive continuation of God's grace) in which God proceeds as a helper; and 1 put him to more than that, if I do nothing. But if I pray for his help, and apprehend and husband his graces well, when they come, then he is truly, properly my helper; and upon that seourity, that testimony of a rectified conscience, I can proceed to David's confidence for the future, Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice; which is our third, and last general part.
In this last part, which is, (after David's aspect, and consideration of his present condition, which was, in the effect, an exclusion from God's temple, and his retrospect, his consideration of God's former mercies to him, that he had been his help) his prospect, his confidence for the future, we shall stay a little upon these two steps; first, that that which he promises himself, is not an immunity from all powerful enemies, nor a sword of revenge upon those enemies; it is not that he shall have no adversary, nor that that adversary shall be able to do him no harm, but that he should have a refreshing, a respiration, in velamento alarum, under the shadow of God's wings. And then, (in the second place) that this way which God shall be pleased to take, this manner, this measure of refreshing, which God shall vouchsafe to afford, (though it amount not to a full deliverance) must produce a joy, a rejoicing in us; we must not only not decline to a murmuring, that we have no more, no nor rest upon a patience for that which remains, but we must ascend to a holy joy, as if all were done and accomplished, In the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.
First then, lest any man in his dejection of spirit, or of fortune, should stray into a jealousy or suspicion of God's power to deliver him, as God hath spangled the firmament with stars, so hath he
*1 Psalm Lxxxi. 10.
his Scriptures with names, and metaphors, and denotations of power. Sometimes he shines out in the name of a sword, and of a target, and of a wall, and of a tower, and of a rock, and of a hill; and sometimes in that glorious and manifold constellation of all together, Dominus exercituum, The Lord of hosts. God, as God, is never represented to us, with defensive arms; he needs them not. When the poets present their great heroes and their worthies, they always insist upon their arms, they spend much of their invention upon the description of their arms; both because the greatest valour and strength needs arms, (Goliah himself was armed) and because to expose one's self to danger unarmed, is not valour, but rashness. But God is invulnerable in himself, and is never represented armed; you find no shirts of mail, no helmets, no cuirasses in God's armoury. In that one place of IsaiahTM, where it may seem to be otherwise, where God is said to have put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation upon his head; in that prophecy God is Christ, and is therefore in that place, called the Redeemer. Christ needed defensive arms, God does not. God's word does; his Scriptures do; and therefore St. Hierome hath armed them, and set before every book his prologum galeatum, that prologue that arms and defends every book from calumny. But though God need not, nor receive not defensive arms for himself, yet God is to us a helmet, a breastplate, a strong tower, a rock, everything that may give us assurance and defence; and as often as he will, he can refresh that proclamation, Nolite tangere Christos meosM, Our enemies shall not so much as touch us.
But here, by occasion of his metaphor in this text, (Sub umbra alarum, In the shadow of thy wings) we do not so much consider an absolute immunity, that we shall not be touched, as a refreshing and consolation, when we are touched, though we be pinched and wounded. The names of God, which are most frequent in the Scriptures, are these three, Elohim, and Adonai, and Jehovah; and to assure us of his power to deliver us, two of these three are names of power. Elohim is Deus fortis, the mighty, the powerful God: and (which deserves a particular consideration) Elohim is a plural name; it is not Deus fortis, but JDii fortes,
** Isaiah tix. 17- ** Psalm cv. 15.
powerful Gods. God is all kind of gods; all kinds, which either idolators and Gentiles can imagine, (as riches, or justice, or wisdom, or valour, or such) and all kinds which God himself hath called gods, (as princes, and magistrates, and prelates, and all that assist and help one another) God is Elohim, all these gods, and all these in their height and best of their power; for Elohim, is Dii fortes, Gods in the plural, and those plural gods in their exaltation.
The second name of God is a name of power too, Adonai. For, Adonai is Dominus, the Lord, such a lord as is lord and proprietary of all his creatures, and all creatures are his creatures; and then, Dominium estpotestas tum utendi, tum abutendi, says the law; To be absolute lord of anything, gives that lord a power to do what he will with that thing. God, as he is Adonai, The Lord, may give and take, quicken and kill, build and throw down, where and whom he will. So then two of God's three names are names of absolute power, to imprint, and reprint an assurance in us, that he can absolutely deliver us, and fully revenge us, if he will. But then, his third name, and that name which he chooses to himself, and in the signification of which name he employs Moses for the relief of his people under Pharaoh, that name Jehovah, is not a name of power, but only of essence, of being, of substance, and yet in the virtue of that name, God relieved his people. And if, in my afflictions, God vouchsafe to visit me in that name, to preserve me in my being, in my subsistence in him, that I be not shaked out of him, disinherited in him, excommunicate from him, divested of him, annihilated towards him, let him, at his good pleasure, reserve his Elohim, and his Adonai, the exercises and declarations of his mighty power, to those great public causes, that more concern his glory, than anything that can befall me; but if he impart his Jehovah, enlarge himself so far towards me, as that I may live, and move, and have my being in him, though I be not instantly delivered, nor mine enemies absolutely destroyed, yet this is as much as I should promise myself, this is as much as the Holy Ghost intends in this metaphor, Sub umbra alarum, Under the shadow of thy wings, that is a refreshing, a respiration, a conservation, a consolation in all afflictions that are inflicted upon me.
Yet is not this metaphor of wings without a denotation of power. As no act of God's, though it seem to imply but spiritual comfort, is without a denotation of power, (for it is the power of God that comforts me; to overcome that sadness of soul, and that dejection of spirit, which the adversary by temporal afflictions, would induce upon me, is an act of his power) so this metaphor The shadow of his wings, (which in this place expresses no more, than consolation and refreshing in misery, and not a powerful deliverance out of it) is so often in the Scriptures made a denotation of power too, as that we can doubt of no act of power, if we have this shadow of his wings. For, in this metaphor of wings, doth the Holy Ghost express the maritime power, the power of some nations at sea, in navies, Woe to the land shadowing with wi?igs*0; that is, that hovers over the world, and intimidates it with her sails and ships. In this metaphor doth God remember his people of his powerful deliverance of them, You have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you to myself". In this metaphor doth God threaten his and their enemies, what he can do, The noise of the wings of his cherubim are as the noise of great waters, and of an army**. So also what he will do, He shall spread his wings over Bozrah, and at that day shall the hearts of the mighty men of Edom, be as the heart of a woman in her pangs". So that, if I have the shadow of his wings, I have the earnest of the power of them too; if I have refreshing, and respiration from them, I am able to say, as those three confessors did to Nebuchadnezzar, My God is able to deliver me**, I am sure he hath power; And my God will deliver me, when it conduces to his glory, I know he will; But, if he do not, be it known unto thee, 0 King, we will not serve thy gods; be it known unto thee, 0 Satan, how long soever God defer my deliverance, I will not seek false comforts, the miserable comforts of this world. I will not, for I need not; for I can subsist under this shadow of these wings, though I have no more.
The mercy-seat itself was covered with the cherubim's wings";
*0 Isaiah xviii. 1. *1 Exod. xix. 4. «* Ezek. i. 24.
- Jer. xi.ix. 22. *• Dan. Hi. 17. ° Exod. xxv.
and who would have more than mercy? and a mercy-seat; that is, established, resident mercy, permanent and perpetual mercy; present and familiar mercy; a mercy-seat. Our Saviour Christ intends as much as would have served their turn, if they had laid hold upon it, when he says, That he would have gathered Jerusalem, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings". And though the other prophets do (as ye have heard) mingle the signification of power, and actual deliverance, in this metaphor of wings, yet our prophet, whom we have now in especial consideration, David, never doth so; but in every place where he uses this metaphor of wings (which are in five or six several Psalms) still he rests and determines in that sense, which is his meaning here; that though God do not actually deliver us, nor actually destroy our enemies, yet if he refresh us in the shadow of his wings, if he maintain our subsistence (which is a religious constancy) in him, this should not only establish our patience, (for that is but half the work) but it should also produce a joy, and rise to an exultation, which is our last circumstance, Therefore in the shadow of thy wings I will rejoice.
I would always raise your hearts, and dilate your hearts, to a holy joy, to a joy in the Holy Ghost. There may be a just fear, that men do not grieve enough for their sins; but there may be a just jealousy, and suspicion too, that they may fall into inordinate grief, and diffidence of God's mercy; and God hath reserved us to such times, as being the later times, give us even the dregs and lees of misery to drink. For, God hath not only let loose into the world a new spiritual disease; which is, an equality, and an indifferency, which religion our children, or our servants, or our companions profess; (I would not keep company with a man that thought me a knave, or a traitor; with him that thought I loved not my prince, or were a faithless man, not to be believed, I would not associate myself; and yet I will make him my bosom companion, that thinks I do not love God, that thinks I cannot be saved) but God hath accompanied, and complicated almost all our bodily diseases of these times, with an extraordinary saduess, a predominant melancholy, a faintness of heart, a cheerlessness,
« Matt, xxiii. 37.
a joylessness of spirit, and therefore I return often to this endeavour of raising your hearts, dilating your hearts with a holy joy, joy in the Holy Ghost, for Under the shadow of his wings, you may, you should rejoice."
If you look upon this world in a map, you find two hemispheres, two half worlds. If you crush heaven into a map, you may find two hemispheres too, two half heavens; half will be joy, and half will be glory; for in these two, the joy of heaven, and the glory of heaven, is all heaven often represented unto us. And as of those two hemispheres of the world, the first hath been known long before, but the other, (that of America, which is the richer in treasure) God reserved for later discoveries; so though he reserve that hemisphere of heaven, which is the glory thereof, to the resurrection, yet the other hemisphere, the joy of heaven, God opens to our discovery, and delivers for our habitation even whilst we dwell in this world. As God hath cast upon the unrepent sinner two deaths, a temporal, and a spiritual death, so hath he breathed into us two lives; for so, as the word for death is doubled, Morte morieris, Thou shalt die the death", so is the word for life expressed in the plural, Chaim, vitarum, God breathed into his nostrils the breath of lives, of divers lives. Though our natural life were no life, but rather a continual dying, yet we have two lives besides that, an eternal life reserved for heaven, but yet a heavenly life too, a spiritual life, even in this world; and as God doth thus inflict two deaths, and infuse two lives, so doth he also pass two judgments upon man, or rather repeats the same judgment twice. For, that which Christ shall say to thy soul then at the last judgment, Enter into thy Masters joy", he says to thy conscience now, Enter into thy Masters joy. The everlastingness of the joy is the blessedness of the next life, but the entering, the inchoation is afforded here. For that which Christ shall say then to us, Venite benedicti, Come ye blessed, are words intended to persons that are coming, that are upon the way, though not at home; here in this world he bids us come, there in the next, he shall bid us welcome. The angels of heaven have joy in thy conversion", and canst thou be without that joy in thyself? If thou desire revenge upon thine enemies, as they are God's enemies,
*7 Gen. ii. 17- 1* Matt. xxr. 23. "Luke xv. 10.
that God would be pleased to remove and root out all such as oppose him, that affection appertains to glory; let that alone till thou come to the hemisphere of glory; there join with those martyrs under the altar, Usquequo Domine", How long O Lord, dost thou defer judgment? and thou shalt have thine answer there for that. Whilst thou art here, here join with iJavid, and the other saints of God, in that holy increpation of a dangerous sadness, Why art thou cast down 0 my soul? why art thou disquieted in me"? That soul that is dissected and anatomized to God, in a sincere confession, washed in the tears of true contrition, embalmed in the blood of reconciliation, the blood of Christ Jesus, can assign no reason, can give no just answer to that interrogatory, Why art thou cast down 0 my soul? why art thou disquieted in me? No man is so little, as that he can be lost under | these wings, no man so great, as that they cannot reach to him; Semper Me major est, quantumcumque creverimus", To what temporal, to what spiritual greatness soever we grow, still pray we him to shadow us under his wings; for the poor need those wings against oppression, and the rich against envy. The Holy Ghost, who is a dove, shadowed the whole world under his wings; Incubat aquis, he hovered over the waters, he sat upon the waters, and he hatched all that was produced, and all that was produced so, was good. Be thou a mother, where the Holy Ghost would be a father; conceive by him; and be content that he produce joy in thy heart here. First think, that as a man must have some land, or else he cannot be in wardship, so a man must have some of the love of God, or else he could not fall under God's correction; God would not give him his physic, God would not study his cure, if he cared not for him. And then think also, that if God afford thee the shadow of his wings, that is, consolation, respiration, refreshing, though not at present, and plenary deliverance, in thy afflictions, not to thank God, is a murmuring, and not to rejoice in God's ways, is an unthankfulness. Howling is the noise of hell, singing the voice of heaven; sadness the damp of hell, rejoicing the serenity of heaven. And he that hath not this joy here, lacks one of the best pieces of his evidence for the joys of heaven; and hath neglected or refused that earnest,
by which God uses to bind his bargain, that true joy in this world shall flow into the joy of heaven, as a river flows into the sea; this joy shall not be put out in death, and a new joy kindled in me in heaven; but as my soul, as soon as it is out of my body, is in heaven, and does not stay for the possession of heaven, nor for the fruition of the sight of God, till it be ascended through air, and fire, and moon, and sun, and planets and firmament, to that place which we conceive to be heaven, but without the thousandth part of a minute's stop, as soon as it issues, is in a glorious light, which is heaven, (for all the way to heaven is heaven; and as those angels, which camo from heaven hither, bring heaven with them, and are in heaven here, so that soul that goes to heaven, meets heaven here; and as those angels do not divest heaven by coming, so these souls invest heaven, in their going.) As my soul shall not go towards heaven, but go by heaven to heaven, to the heaven of heavens, so the true joy of a good soul in this world is the vory joy of heaven; and we go thither, not that being without joy, we might have joy infused into us, but that as Christ says, Oar joy might be full3*, perfected, sealed with an everlastingness; for, as he promises, That no man shall take our joy from us, so neither shall death itself take it away, nor so much as interrupt it, or discontinue it, but as in the face of death, when he lays hold upon me, and in the face of the devil, when he attempts mo, I shall see the face of God, (for every thing shall be a glass, to reflect God upon me) so in the agonies of death, in the anguish of that dissolution, in the sorrows of that valediction, in the irreversibleness of that transmigration, I shall have a joy, which shall no more evaporate, than my soul shall evaporate, a joy, that shall pass up, and put on a more glorious garment above, and be joy superinvested in glory. Amen.
"John xvi. 24.