The Works of
A PRACTICAL EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX.;
EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX.VERSE 1. Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD.
2. Lord, hear my voice; let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
3. If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand
4. But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.
5. I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
6. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.
7. Let Israel hope in the Lord: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
8. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.
Verses 1, 2.--O Lord, through my manifold sins and provocations, I have brought myself into great distresses. Mine iniquities are always before me, and I am ready to be overwhelmed with them, as with a flood of waters; for they have brought me into depths, wherein I am ready to be swallowed up. But yet, although my distress be great and perplexing, I do not, I dare not, utterly despond and cast away all hopes of relief or recovery. Nor do I seek unto any other remedy, way, or means of relief; but I apply myself to thee, Jehovah, to thee alone. And in this my application unto thee, the greatness and urgency of my troubles makes my soul urgent, earnest, and pressing in my supplications. Whilst I have no rest, I can give thee no rest. Oh, therefore, attend and hearken unto the voice of my crying and supplications!
Verse 3.--It is true, O Lord, thou God great and terrible, that if thou shouldst deal with me in this condition, with any man living, with the best of thy saints, according to the strict and exact tenor of the law, which first represents itself to my guilty conscience and
328 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX [Ver. 4-8.
troubled soul; if thou shouldst take notice of, observe, and keep in remembrance, mine, or their, or the iniquity of any one, to the end that thou mightst deal with them, and recompense unto them according to the sentence thereof, there would be, neither for me nor them, any the least expectation of deliverance. All flesh must fail before thee, and the spirits which thou hast made, and that to eternity; for who could stand before thee when thou shouldst so execute thy displeasure?
Verse 4.--But, O Lord, this is not absolutely and universally the state of things between thy Majesty and poor sinners; thou art in thy nature infinitely good and gracious, ready and free in the purposes of thy will to receive them. And there is such a blessed way made for the exercise of the holy inclinations and purposes of thy heart towards them, in the mediation and blood of thy dear Son, that they have assured foundations of concluding and believing that there is pardon and forgiveness with thee for them, and which, in the way of thine appointments, they may be partakers of. This way, therefore, will I, with all that fear thee, persist in. I will not give over, leave thee, or turn from thee, through my fears, discouragements, and despondencies; but will abide constantly in the observation of the worship which thou hast prescribed, and the performance of the obedience which thou dost require, having great encouragements so to do.
Verse 5.--And herein, upon the account of the forgiveness that is with thee, O Lord, do I wait with all patience, quietness, and perseverance. In this work is my whole soul engaged, even in an earnest expectation of thy approach unto me in a way of grace and mercy. And for my encouragement therein hast thou given out unto me a blessed word of grace, a faithful word of promise, whereon my hope is fixed.
Verse 6.--Yea, in the performance and discharge of this duty, my soul is intent upon thee, and in its whole frame turned towards thee, and that with such diligence and watchfulness in looking out after every way and means of thy appearance, of the manifestation of thyself, and coming unto me, that I excel therein those who, with longing desire, heedfulness, and earnest expectation, do wait and watch for the appearance of the morning; and that either that they may rest from their night watches, or have light for the duties of thy worship in the temple, which they are most delighted in.
Verses 7, 8.--Herein have I found that rest, peace, and satisfaction unto my own soul, that I cannot but invite and encourage others in the like condition to take the same course with me. Let, then, all the Israel of God, all that fear him, learn this of me, and from my experience. Be not hasty in your distresses, despond not, despair not, turn not aside unto other remedies; but hope in the
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Lord: for I can now, in an especial manner, give testimony unto this, that there is mercy with him suited unto your relief. Yea, whatever your distress be, the redemption that is with him is so bounteous, plenteous, and unsearchable, that the undoubted issue of your performance of this duty will be, that you shall be delivered from the guilt of all your sins and the perplexities of all your troubles.
GENERAL SCOPE OF THE WHOLE PSALM.
THE design of the Holy Ghost in this psalm is to express, in the experience of the psalmist and the working of his faith, the state and condition of a soul greatly in itself perplexed, relieved on the account of grace, and acting itself towards God and his saints suitably to the discovery of that grace unto him;--a great design, and full of great instruction.
And this general prospect gives us the parts and scope of the whole psalm; for we have,--
I. The state and condition of the soul therein represented, with his deportment in and under that state and condition, in verses l, 2:--
"Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice; let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications."
II. His inquiry after relief And therein are two things that present themselves unto him; the one whereof, which first offers the consideration of itself to him in his distress, he deprecates, verse 3:--
"If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?"
The other he closeth withal, and finds relief in it and supportment by it, verse 4:--
"But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest he feared."
Upon this, his discovery and fixing on relief, there is the acting of his faith and the deportment of his whole person:--
1. Towards God, verses 5, 6:--
"I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope. My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning."
2. Towards the saints, verses 7, 8:--
"Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities."
330 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX [Ver. 1, 2,
All which parts, and the various concernments of them, must be opened severally.
And this also gives an account of what is my design from and upon the words of this psalm,--namely, to declare the perplexed entanglements which may befall a gracious soul, such a one as this psalmist was, with the nature and proper workings of faith in such a condition; principally aiming at what it is that gives a soul relief and supportment in, and afterward deliverance from, such a perplexed estate.
The Lord in mercy dispose of these meditations in such a way and manner as that both he that writes and they that read may be made partakers of the benefit, relief, and consolation intended for his saints in this psalm by the Holy Ghost!
VERSES FIRST AND SECOND.
The state and condition of the soul represented in the psalm--The two first verses opened.
THE state and condition of the soul here represented as the basis on which the process of the psalm is built, with its deportment, or the general acting of its faith in that state, is expressed in the two first verses:--
"Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications."
I. The present state of the soul under consideration is included in that expression, "Out of the depths."
Some of the ancients, as Chrysostom, suppose this expression to relate unto the depths of the heart of the psalmist: [----GREEK----] not from the mouth or tongue only, [----GREEK----] [----GREEK----] ,--"but from the depth and bottom of the heart;" [----GREEK----] [----GREEK----] , "from the deepest recesses of the mind."
And, indeed, the word is used to express the depths of the hearts of men, but utterly in another sense: Pa lxiv. 6, "The heart is deep."
But the obvious sense of the place, and the constant use of the word, will not admit of this interpretation: "E profundis;" from P [--HEBREW--] , "profundus fuit," is [--HEBREW--] in the plural number, "profunditates," or "depths." It is commonly used for valleys, or any deep places whatever, but especially of waters. Valleys and deep places, because
Ver. 1, 2.] THE FIRST TWO VERSES OPENED. 331
of their darkness and solitariness, are accounted places of horror, helplessness, and trouble: Ps. xxiii. 4, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death;" that is, in the extremity of danger and trouble.
The moral use of the word, as expressing the state and condition of the souls of men, is metaphorical. These depths, then, are difficulties or pressures, attended with fear, horror, danger, and trouble. And they are of two sorts:--
1. Providential, in respect of outward distresses, calamities, and afflictions: Ps. lxix. 1, 2, "Save me, O God; for the waters axe come in unto my soul. I stick in the mire of the deep, and there is no standing. I am come, [--HEBREW--] , into the depths of waters, and the flood overflows me." It is trouble, and the extremity of it, that the psalmist complains of, and which he thus expresseth. He was brought by it into a condition like unto a man ready to be drowned, being cast into the bottom of deep and miry waters, where be had no firm foundation to stand upon, nor ability to come out; as he farther explains himself, verse 15.
2. There are internal depths,--depths of conscience upon the account of sin: Ps. lxxxviii. 6, "Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps." What he intends by this expression, the psalmist declares in the next words, verse 7, "Thy wrath lieth hard upon me." Sense of God's wrath upon his conscience upon the account of sin, was the deep he was east into. So, verse 15, speaking of the same matter, saith he, "I suffer thy terrors;" and verse 16, "Thy fierce wrath goeth over me;" which he calls water, waves, and deeps, according to the metaphor before opened.
And these are the deeps that are here principally intended. "Clamat sub molibus et fiuctibus iniquitatem suaxum," says Austin on the place;--"He cries out under the weight and waves of his sins."
This the ensuing psalm makes evident. Desiring to be delivered from these depths out of which he cried, he deals with God wholly about mercy and forgiveness; and it is sin done from which forgiveness is a deliverance. The doctrine, also, that he preacheth upon his delivery is that of mercy, grace, and redemption, as is manifest from the close of the psalm; and what we have deliverance by is most upon our hearts when we are delivered.
It is true, indeed, that these deeps do oftentimes concur; as David speaks, "Deep calleth unto deep," Ps. xlii. 7. The deeps of affliction awaken the conscience to a deep sense of sin. But sin is the disease, affliction only a symptom of it: and in attending a cure, the disease itself is principally to be heeded; the symptom will follow or depart of itself.
Many interpreters think that this was now David's condition. By
332 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 1, 2.
great trouble and distress he was greatly minded of sin; and we must not, therefore, wholly pass over that intendment of the word, though we are chiefly to respect that which he himself, in this address unto God, did principally regard.
This, in general, is the state and condition of the soul managed in this psalm, and is as the key to the ensuing discourse, or the hinge on which it turns. As to my intendment from the psalm, that which ariseth from hence may be comprised in these two propositions:--
1. Gracious souls, after much communion with God, may be brought into inextricable depths and entanglements on the account of sin; for such the psalmist here expresseth his own condition to have been, and such he was,
2. The inward root of outward distresses is principally to be attended in all pressing trials;--sin, in afflictions.
Gracious souls may be brought into depths on the account of sin--What those depths are.
BEFORE I proceed at all in the farther opening of the words, they having all of them respect unto the proposition first laid down, I shall explain and confirm the truth contained in it; that so it may be understood what we say, and whereof we do affirm, in the whole process of our discourse.
It is a sad truth that we have proposed unto consideration. He that hears it ought to tremble in himself, that he may rest in the day of trouble. It speaks out the apostle's advice, Rom. xi. 20, "Be not high-minded, but fear;" and that also, 1 Cor. x. 12, "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." When Peter had learned this truth by woful experience, after all his boldness and frowardness, he gives this counsel to all saints, "That they would pass the time of their sojourning here in fear," 1 Pet. i. 17; knowing how near, in our greatest peace and serenity, evil and danger may lie at the door.
Some few instances of the many that are left on record, wherein this truth is exemplified, may be mentioned: Gen. vi. 9, "Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God." He did so a long season, and that in an evil time, amidst all sorts of temptations, "when all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth," verse 12. This put an eminency upon his obedience, and doubtless rendered the communion which he had with God, in walking before him, most sweet and precious to him. He was a gracious soul, upon
Ver. 1, 2.] DEPTHS OF TROUBLE ON ACCOUNT OF SIN. 333
the redoubled testimony of God himself. But we know what befell this holy person. He that shall read the story that is recorded of him, Gen. ix. 20-27, will easily grant that he was brought into inextricable distress on the account of sin. His own drunkenness, verse 21, with the consequent of it, gives scandal unto and provokes the unnatural lust of his son, verse 22; and this leads him to the devoting of that son and his posterity unto destruction, verses 24, 25: all which, joined with the sense of God's just indignation, from whom he had newly received that tremendously miraculous deliverance, must needs overwhelm him with sorrow and anxiety of spirit.
The matter is more clear in David. Under the Old Testament none loved God more than he; none was loved of God more than he. The paths of faith and love wherein he walked are unto the most of us like the way of an eagle in the air,--too high and hard for us. Yet to this very day do the cries of this man after God's own heart sound in our ears. Sometimes he complains of broken bones, sometimes of drowning depths, sometimes of waves and water-spouts, sometimes of wounds and diseases, sometimes of wrath and the sorrows of hell; everywhere of his sins, the burden and trouble of them. Some of the occasions of his depths, darkness, entanglements, and distresses, we all know. As no man had more grace than he, so none is a greater instance of the power of sin, and the effects of its guilt upon the conscience, than he. But instances of this kind are obvious, and occur to the thoughts of all, so that they need not be repeated. I shall, then, show,--
First, What in particular is intended by the depths and entanglements on the account of sin, whereinto gracious souls, after much communion with God, may be cast.
Secondly, Whence it comes to pass that so they may be, and that oftentimes so they are.
For the first, some or all of these things following do concur to the depths complained of:--
1. Loss of the wonted sense of the love of God, which the soul did formerly enjoy. There is a twofold sense of the love of God, whereof believers in this world may be made partakers. There is the transient acting of the heart by the Holy Ghost with ravishing, unspeakable joys, in apprehension of God's love, and our relation unto him in Christ. This, or the immediate effect of it, is called "Joy unspeakable and full of. glory," 1 Pet. i. 8. The Holy Ghost shining into the heart, with a clear evidence of the soul's interest in all gospel mercies, causeth it to leap for joy, to exult and triumph in the Lord, as being for a season carried above all sense and thought of sin, self-temptation, or trouble. But as God gives the bread of his house unto all Iris children, so these dainties and high cordials he
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reserveth only for the seasons and persons wherein and to whom he knows them to be needful and useful Believers may be without this sense of love, and yet be in no depths. A man may be strong and healthy who hath wholesome food, though he never drinks spirits and cordials.
Again; there is an abiding, dwelling sense of God's love upon the hearts of the most of those of whom we speak, who have had long communion with God, consisting in a prevailing gospel persuasion that they are accepted with God in Christ: Rom. v. 1, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God." I call it a prevailing persuasion, denoting both the opposition that is made unto it by Satan and unbelief, and its efficacy in the conquest thereof. This is the root from whence all that peace and ordinary consolation, which believers in this world are made partakers of, do spring and grow. This is that which quickens and enlivens them unto duty, Ps. cxvi. 12, 13, and is the salt that renders their sacrifices and performances savoury to God and refreshing to themselves. This supports them under their trials, gives them peace, hope, and comfort in life and death: Ps xxiii. 4, "Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me." A sense of God's presence in love is sufficient to rebuke all anxiety and fears in the worst and most dreadful condition; and not only so, but to give in the midst of them solid consolation and joy. So the prophet expresseth it, Hab. iii. 17, 18, "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation." And this is that sense of love which the choicest believers may lose on the account of sin. This is one step into their depths. They shall not retain any such gospel apprehension of it as that it should give them rest, peace, or consolation,--that it should influence their souls with delight in duty or supportment in trial; and the nature hereof will be afterward more fully explained.
2. Perplexed thoughtfulness about their great and wretched unkindness towards God is another part of the depths of sin-entangled souls. So David complains: Pd. lxxvii 3, "I remembered God," saith he, "and was troubled." How comes the remembrance of God to be unto him a matter of trouble? In other places he professeth that it was all his relief and supportment. How comes it to be an occasion of his trouble? All had not been well between God and him; and whereas formerly, in his remembrance of God, his thoughts were chiefly exercised about his love and kindness, now they were wholly possessed with him own sin and unkindness. This causeth
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his trouble. Herein lies a share of the entanglements ocasioned by sin. Saith such a soul in itself, "Foolish creature, hast thou thus requited the Lord? Is this the return that thou hast made unto him for all his love, his kindness, his consolations, mercies? Is this thy kindness for him, thy love to him? Is this thy kindness to thy friend? Is this thy boasting of him, that thou hadst found so much goodness and excellency in him and his love, that though all men should forsake him, thou never wouldst do so? Are all thy promises, all thy engagements which thou madest unto God, in times of distress, upon prevailing obligations, and mighty impressions of his good Spirit upon thy soul, now come to this, that thou shouldst so foolishly forget, neglect, despise, cast him off? Well! now he is gone; he is withdrawn from thee; and what wilt thou do? Art thou not even ashamed to desire him to return?" They were thoughts of this nature that cut Peter to the heart upon his fall. The soul finds them cruel as death, and strong as the grave. It is bound in the chains of them, and cannot be comforted, Ps. xxxviii. 3-6. And herein consists a great part of the depths inquired after: for this consideration excites and puts an edge upon all grieving, straitening, perplexing affections, which are the only means whereby the soul of a man may be inwardly troubled, or trouble itself; such are sorrow and shame, with that self-displicency and revenge wherewith they are attended. And as their reason and object in this case do transcend all other occasions of them, so on no other account do they cause such severe and perplexing reflections on the soul as on this.
3. A revived sense of justly deserved wrath belongs also to these depths. This is as the opening of old wounds. When men have passed through a sense of wrath, and have obtained deliverance and rest through the blood of Christ, to come to their old thoughts again, to be trading afresh with hell, curse, law, and wrath, it is a depth indeed. And this often befalls gracious souls on the account of sin: Ps. lxxxvili. 7, "Thy wrath lieth hard upon me," saith Heman. It pressed and crushed him sorely. There is a self-judging as to the desert of wrath, which is consistent with a comforting persuasion of an interest in Christ. This the soul finds sweetness in, as it lies in a subserviency to the exaltation of grace. But in this case, the soul is left under it without that relief. It plungeth itself into the curse of the law and flames of hell, without any cheering supportment from the blood of Christ. This is walking in "the valley of the shadow of death." The soul converseth with death and what seems to lie in a tendency thereunto. The Lord, also, to increase his perplexities, puts new life and spirit into the law,--gives it a fresh commission, as it were, to take such a one into its custody; and the law will never in this world be wanting unto its duty.
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4. Oppressing apprehensions of temporal judgments concur herein also; for God will judge his people. And judgment often begins at the house of God." Though God," saith such a one, "should not cast me off for ever, though he should pardon my iniquities; yet he may so take vengeance of my inventions as to make me feed on gall and wormwood all my days." Ps. cxix. 120, saith David, "My flesh trembleth for fear of thee, and I am afraid of thy judgments? He knows not what the great God may bring upon him; and being full of a sense of the guilt of sin, which is the bottom of this whole condition, every judgment of God is full of terror unto him. Sometimes he thinks God may lay open the filth of his heart, and make him a scandal and a reproach in the world. Ps. xxxix. 8, "O," saith he, "make me not a reproach of the foolish." Sometimes he trembles lest God should strike him suddenly with some signal judgment, and take him out of the world in darkness and sorrow: so saith David, "Take me not away in thy wrath." Sometimes he fears lest he shall be like Jonah, and raise a storm in his family, in the church whereof he is a member, or in the whole nation: "Let them not be ashamed for my sake." These things make his heart soft, as Job speaks, and to melt within him. When any affliction or public judgment of God is fastened to a quick, living sense of sin in the conscience, it overwhelms the soul, whether it be only justly feared or be actually inflicted; as was the case of Joseph's brethren in Egypt. The soul is then rolled from one deep to another. Sense of sin casts it on the consideration of its affliction, and affliction turns it back on a sense of sin. So deep calleth unto deep, and all God's billows go over the soul. And they do each of them make the soul tender, and sharpen its sense unto the other. Affliction softens the soul, so that the sense of sin cuts the deeper, and makes the larger wounds; and the sense of sin weakens the soul, and makes affliction sit the heavier, and so increaseth its burden. In this case, that affliction which a man in his usual state of spiritual peace could have embraced as a sweet pledge of love, is as goads and thorns in his side, depriving him of all rest and quietness; God makes it as thorns and briers, wherewith he will teach stubborn souls their duty, as Gideon did the men of Succoth.
5. There maybe added hereunto prevailing fears for a season of being utterly rejected by God, of being found a reprobate at the last day. Jonah seems to conclude so, chap. ii. 4, "Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight;" --"I am lost for ever, God will own me no more." And Heman, Ps. lxxxviii. 4, 5, "I am counted with them that go down into the pit: free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand." This may reach the soul, until the sorrows of
Ver. 1, 2] WHEREIN DEPTHS OF SIN CONSIST. 337
hell encompass it and lay hold upon it; until it be deprived of comfort, peace, rest; until it be a terror to itself, and be ready to choose strangling rather than life. This may befall a gracious soul on the account of sin. But yet because this fights directly against the life of faith, God doth not, unless it be in extraordinary cases, suffer any of his to lie long in this horrible pit, where there is no water, no refreshment. But this often falls out, that even the saints themselves are left for a season to a fearful expectation of judgment and fiery indignation, as to the prevailing apprehension of their minds. And,--
6. God secretly sends his arrows into the soul, that wound and gall it, adding pain, trouble, and disquietness to its disconsolation: Ps. xxxviii. 2, "Thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore." Ever and anon in his walking, God shot a sharp piercing arrow, fixing it on his soul, that galled, wounded, and perplexed him, filling him with pain and grievous vexation. These arrows are God's rebukes: Ps. xxxix. 11, "When thou with rebukes dost correct man for iniquity." God speaks in his word, and by his Spirit in the conscience, things sharp and bitter to the soul, fastening them so as it cannot shake them out. These Job so mournfully complains of, chap. vi. 4. The Lord speaks words with that efficacy, that they pierce the heart quite through; and what the issue then is David declares, Ps. xxxviii. 3, "There is no soundness," saith he, "in my flesh because of thine anger; nor is there any rest in my bones because of my sin." The whole person is brought under the power of them, and all health and rest is taken away. And,--
7. Unspiritedness and disability unto duty, in doing or suffering, attend such a condition: Ps. xl. 12, "Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up." His spiritual strength was worn away by sin, so that he was not able to address himself unto any communion with God. The soul now cannot pray with life and power, cannot hear with joy and profit, cannot do good and communicate with cheerfulness and freedom, cannot meditate with delight and heavenly-mindedness, cannot act for God with zeal and liberty, cannot think of suffering with boldness and resolution; but is sick, weak, feeble, and bowed down.
Now, I say, a gracious soul, after much communion with God, may, on the account of sin, by a sense of the guilt of it, be brought into a state and condition wherein some, more, or all of these, with other the like perplexities, may be its portion; and these make up the depths whereof the psalmist here complains. What are the sins, or of what sorts, that ordinarily east the souls of believers into these depths, shall be afterwards declared.
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Secondly, I shall now show both whence it is that believers may fall into such a condition, as also whence it is that oftentimes they actually do so.
Whence it is that believers may be brought into depths on account of sin--Nature of the supplies of grace given in the covenant--How far they extend--Principles of the power of sin.
First, THE nature of the covenant wherein all believers now walk with God, and wherein all their whole provision for obedience is inwrapped, leaves it possible for them to fall into these depths that have been mentioned. Under the first covenant there was no mercy or forgiveness provided for any sin. It was necessary, then, that it should exhibit a sufficiency of grace to preserve them from every sin, or it could have been of no use at all. This the righteousness of God required, and so it was. To have made a covenant wherein there was no provision at all of pardon, and not a sufficiency of grace to keep the covenanters from need of pardon, was not answerable to the goodness and righteousness of God. But he made man upright, who, of his own accord, sought out many inventions.
It is not so in the covenant of grace; there is in it pardon provided in the blood of Christ: it is not, therefore, of indispensable necessity that there should be administered in it grace effectually preserving from every sin. Yet it is on all accounts to be preferred before the other; for, besides the relief by pardon, which the other knew nothing of, there is in it also much provision against sin, which was not in the other:--
1. There is provision made in it against all and every sin that would disannul the covenant, and make a final separation between God and a soul that hath been once taken into the bond thereof. This provision is absolute. God hath taken upon himself the making of this good, and the establishing this law of the covenant, that it shall not by any sin be disannulled: Jer. xxxii. 40, "I will," saith God, "make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me." The security hereof depends not on any thing in ourselves. All that is in us is to be used as a means of the accomplishment of this promise; but the event or issue depends absolutely on the faithfulness of God. And the whole certainty and stability of the covenant depends on the efficacy of the grace administered in it to preserve men from all such sins as would disannul it.
2. There is in this covenant provision made for constant peace and
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consolation, notwithstanding and against the guilt of such sins as, through their infirmities and temptations, believers are daily exposed unto. Though they fall into sins every day, yet they do not fall into depths every day. In the tenor of this covenant there is a consistency between a sense of sin unto humiliation and peace, with strong consolation. After the apostle had described the whole conflict that believers have with sin, and the frequent wounds which they receive thereby, which makes them cry out for deliverance, Rom. vii. 24, he yet concludes, chap. viii. 1, that "there is no condemnation unto them;" which is a sufficient and stable foundation of peace. So, 1 John ii 1, "These things I write unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." Our great business and care ought to be, that we sin not; but yet, when we have done our utmost, "if we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves," chap. i. 8. What, then, shall poor, sinful, guilty creatures do? Why, let them go to the Father by their advocate, and they shall not fail of pardon and peace. And, saith Paul, Heb. vi. 17, 18, "God is abundantly willing that we might have strong consolation, who fly for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us." What was his condition who fled of old to the city of refuge for safety, from whence this expression is taken? He was guilty of blood, though shed at unawares; and so as that he was to die for it, if he escaped not to the city of refuge. Though we may have the guilt of sins upon us that the law pronounceth death unto, yet, flying to Christ for refuge, God hath provided not only safety, but "strong consolation" for us also. Forgiveness in the blood of Christ doth not only take guilt from the soul, but trouble also from the conscience; and in this respect doth the apostle at large set forth the excellency of his sacrifice, Heb. x. The sacrifices of the old law, he tells us, could not make perfect the worshippers, verse 1: which he proves, verse 2, because they did never take away, thoroughly and really, conscience of sin; that is, depths or distresses of conscience about sin." But now," saith he, "Jesus Christ, in the covenant of grace, ' hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,' verse 14; providing for them such stable peace and consolation, as that they shall not need the renewing of sacrifices every day," verse 18. This is the great mystery of the gospel in the blood of Christ, that those who sin every day should have peace with God all their days, provided their sins fall within the compass of those infirmities against which this consolation is provided.
3. There is provision made of grace to prevent and preserve the soul from great and enormous sins, such as in their own nature are apt to wound conscience, and cast the person into such depths and
340 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 1, 2.
entanglements as wherein he shall have neither rest nor peace. Of what sort these sins are shall be afterward declared. There is in this covenant "grace for grace," John i. 16, and abundance of grace administered from the all-fulness of Christ. Grace reigneth in it, Rom. vi. 6, destroying and crucifying "the body of sin."
But this provision in the covenant of grace against peace-ruining, soul-perplexing sins, is not, as to the administration of it, absolute. There are covenant commands and exhortations, on the attendance whereunto the administration of much covenant grace doth depend. To watch, pray, improve faith, to stand on our guard continually, to mortify sin, to fight against temptations, with. steadfastness, diligence, constancy, are everywhere prescribed unto us; and that in order unto the insurance of the grace mentioned. These things are on our part the condition of the administration of that abundant grace which is to preserve us from soul-entangling sins. So Peter informs us, 2 Epist. i. 3, "The divine power of God hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness." We have from it an habitual furnishment and provision for obedience at all times. Also, saith he, verse 4, "He hath given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we might be partakers of the divine nature." What, then, is in this blessed estate and condition required of us, that we may make a due improvement of the provision made for us, and enjoy the comforting influence of those promises that he prescribes unto us? Verses 5-7, "Giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, and to patience godliness, and to godliness brotherly-kindness, and to brotherly-kindness charity;" that is, carefully and diligently attend to the exercise of all the graces of the Spirit, and unto a conversation in all things becoming the gospel. What, then, shall be the issue if these things are attended unto? Verse 8, "If these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." It is not enough that these things be in you, that you have the seed and root of them from and by the Holy Ghost; but you are to take care that they flourish and abound: without which, though the root of the matter may be in you, and so you be not wholly devoid of spiritual life, yet you will be poor, barren, sapless, withering creatures all your days. But now, suppose that these things do abound, and we be made fruitful thereby? Why then, saith he, verse 10, "If ye do these things, ye shall never fall." What! never fall into sin? Nay, that is not in the promise; and he that says, when he hath done all, "that he hath no sin, he is a liar." Or is it never fall totally from God? No; the preservation of the elect, of whom he speaks, from total apostasy, is not suspended on such conditions, especially not
Ver. 1, 2.] THE GRACE SUPPLIED IN THE COVENANT. 341
on any degree of them, such as their abounding imports. But it is that they shall not fall into their old sins, from which they were purged, verse 9,--such conscience-wasting and defiling sins as they lived in, in the time and state of their unregeneracy. Thus, though there be, in the covenant of grace through Jesus Christ, provision made of abundant supplies for the soul's preservation from entangling sins, yet their administration hath respect unto our diligent attendance unto the means of receiving them appointed for us to walk in.
And here lies the latitude of the new covenant, here lies the exercise of renewed free-will. This is the field of free, voluntary obedience, under the administration of gospel grace. There are extremes which, in respect of the event, it is not concerned in. To be wholly perfect, to be free from every sin, all failings, all infirmities, that is not provided for, not promised in this covenant. It is a covenant of mercy and pardon, which supposeth a continuance of sin. To fall utterly and finally from God, that is absolutely provided against. Between these two extremes of absolute perfection and total apostasy lies the large field of believers' obedience and walking with God. Many a sweet, heavenly passage there is, and many a dangerous depth, in this field. Some walk near to the one side, some to the other; yea, the same person may sometimes press hard after perfection, sometimes be cast to the very border of destruction. Now, between these two lie many a soul-plunging sin, against which no absolute provision is made, and which, for want of giving all diligence to put the means of preservation in practice, believers are oftentimes overtaken withal.
4. There is not in the covenant of grace provision made of ordinary and abiding consolation for any under the guilt of great sins, or sins greatly aggravated, which they fall into by a neglect of using and abiding in the fore-mentioned conditions of abounding actual grace. Sins there are which, either because in their own nature they wound and waste conscience, or in their effects break forth into scandal, causing the name of God and the gospel to be evil spoken of, or in some of their circumstances are full of unkindness against God, do deprive the soul of its wonted consolation. How, by what means, on what account, such sins come to terrify conscience, to break the bones, to darken the soul, and to cast it into inextricable depths, notwithstanding the relief that is provided of pardon in the blood of Christ, I shall not now declare; that they will do so, and that consolation is not of equal extent with safety, we know. Hence God assumes it to himself, as an act of mere sovereign grace, to speak peace and refreshment unto the souls of his saints in their depths of sin-entanglements, Isa, lvii. 18, 19. And, indeed, if the Lord had not thus provided that great provocation should stand in need of special reliefs, it might
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justly be feared that the negligence of believers might possibly bring forth much bitter fruit.
Only, this must be observed by the way, that what is spoken relates to the sense of sinners in their own souls, and not to the nature of the thing itself. There is in the gospel consolation provided against the greatest as well as the least sins. The difference ariseth from God's sovereign communication of it, according to the tenor of the covenant's administration, which we have laid down. Hence, because under Moses' law there was an exception made of some sins, for which there was no sacrifice appointed, so that those who were guilty of them could no way be justified from them,--that is, carnally, as to their interest in the Judaical church and polity,--Paul tells the Jews, Acts xiii. 38, 39, that "through Jesus Christ was preached unto them the forgiveness of sins: and that by him all that believe axe justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses." There is now no exception of any particular sins as to pardon and peace; but what we have spoken relates unto the manner and way wherein God is pleased to administer consolation to the souls of sinning believers.
And this is the evidence which I shall offer to prove that the souls of believers, after much gracious communion with God, may yet fall into inextricable depths on the account of sin; whence it is that actually they oftentimes do so shall be farther declared.
The principles of this assertion axe known, I shall therefore only touch upon them:--
First. The nature of indwelling sin, as it remains in the best of the saints in this life, being a little considered, will evidence unto us from whence it is that they are sometimes surprised and plunged into the depths mentioned; for,--
1. Though the strength of every sin be weakened by grace, yet the root of no sin is in this life wholly taken away. Lust is like the stubborn Canaanites, who, after the general conquest of the land, would dwell in it still, Josh. xvii. 12. Indeed, when Israel grew strong they brought them under tribute, but they could not utterly expel them. The kingdom and rule belongs to grace; and when it grows strong it brings sin much under, but it will not wholly be driven out. The body of death is not utterly to be done away, but in and by the death of the body. In the flesh of the best saints there "dwelleth no good thing," Rom. vii. 18; but the contrary is there,--that is, the root of all evil: "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit," as "the Spirit lusteth against the flesh," Gal. v. 17. As, then, there is a universality in the actings of the Spirit in its opposing all evil, so also there is a universality in the actings of the flesh for the furtherance of it.
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2. Some lusts or branches of original corruption do obtain in some persons such advantages, either from nature, custom, employment, society, or the like circumstances, that they become like the Canaanites that had iron chariots; it is a very difficult thing to subdue them. Well it is if war be maintained constantly against them, for they will almost always be in actual rebellion.
3. Indwelling sin though weakened retaineth all its properties. The properties of a thing follow its nature. Where the nature of any thing is, there are all its natural properties. What are these properties of indwelling sin I should here declare, but that I have handled the whole power and efficacy, the nature and properties of it, in a treatise to that only purpose. In brief, they are such as it is no wonder that some believers are by them cast into depths; but it is indeed that they do escape them. But thereof the reader may see at large my discourse on this particular subject. 1
Secondly. Add hereunto the power and prevalency of temptation; which, because also I have already, in a special discourse to that purpose, 2 insisted on, I shall not here farther lay open.
Thirdly. The sovereign pleasure of God in dealing with sinning saints must also be considered. Divine love and wisdom work not towards all in the same manner. God is pleased to continue peace unto some with a "non-obstante," for great provocations. Love shall humble them, and rebukes of kindness shall recover them from their wanderings. Others he is pleased to bring into the depths we have been speaking of. But yet I may say generally, signal provocations meet with one of these two events from God--First, Those in whom they are are left into some signal barrenness and fruitlessness in their generations; they shall wither, grow barren, worldly, sapless, and be much cast out of the hearts of the people of God. Or, secondly, They shall be exercised in these depths, from whence their way of deliverance is laid down in this psalm. Thus, I say, God deals with his saints in great variety; some shall have all their bones broken, when others shall have only the gentle strokes of the rod. We are in the hand of mercy, and he may deal with us as seems good unto him; but for our parts, great sins ought to be attended with expectations of great depths and perplexities.
And this is the state of the soul proposed in this psalm, and by us, unto consideration. These are the depths wherein it is entangled; these are the ways and means whereby it is brought into these depths. Its deportment in and under this state and condition lies next in our way. But before I proceed thereunto, I shall annex some few things unto what hath been delivered, tending to the farther open-
1 See previous treatise in this volume, p. 153.
2 See also this volume, p. 87.
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ing of the whole case before us. And they are,--1. What are, or of what sort those sins are, which usually cast the souls of believers into these depths; and then, 2. Insist on some aggravations of them.
What sins usually bring believers into great spiritual distresses:--
Aggravations of these sins.
First, SINS in their own nature wasting conscience are of this sort; sins that rise in opposition unto all of God that is in us; that is, the light of grace and nature also. Such are the sins that cast David into his depths; such are the sins enumerated, 1 Cor. vi. 9, 10." Be not deceived," saith the apostle: "neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." Certain it is that believers may fall into some of the sins here mentioned. Some have done so, as is left on record. The apostle says not those who have committed any of these sins, but such sinners, shall not inherit the kingdom of God; that is, who live in these sins, or any like unto them. There is no provision of mercy made for such sinners. These and the like are sins which in their own nature, without the consideration of aggravating circumstances (which yet, indeed, really in believers they can never be without), are able to plunge a soul into depths, These sins cut the locks of men's spiritual strength; and it is in vain for them to say, "We will go, and do as at other times." Bones are not broken without pain; nor great sins brought on the conscience without trouble. But I need not insist on these. Some say that they deprive even true believers of all their interest in the love of God, but unduly; all grant that they bereave them of all comforting evidence and well-grounded assurance of it. So they did David and Peter. And herein lies no small part of the depths we are searching into.
Secondly. There are sins which, though they do not rise up in the conscience with such a bloody guilt as those mentioned, yet, by reason of some circumstances and aggravations, God takes them so unkindly as to make them a root of disquietness and trouble to the soul all its days. He says of some sins of ungodly men, "As I live, this iniquity shall not be purged from you until ye die. If you are come to this height, you shall not escape. I will not spare you." And there are provocations in his own people which may be so circumstantiated as that he will not let them pass before he have cast them
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into depths, and made them cry out for deliverance. Let us consider some of them:--
1. Miscarriages under signal enjoyments of love and kindness from God are of this sort. When God hath given unto any one expressive manifestations of his love, convinced him of it, made him say in the inmost parts of his heart, "This is undeserved love and kindness;" --then for him to be negligent in his walking with God, it carrieth an unkindness with it that shall not be forgotten. It is a remark upon the miscarriages of Solomon, that he fell into them after God had "appeared unto him twice." And all sins under or after especial mercies will meet, at one time or other, especial rebukes. Nothing doth more distress the conscience of a sinner than the remembrance, in darkness, of abused light; in desertions, of neglected love. This God will make them sensible of." Though I have redeemed them," saith God, "yet they have spoken lies against me," Hos. vii. 13: so chap. xiii. 4-7. When God hath in his providence dealt graciously with a person,--it may be delivered him from straits and troubles, set him in a large place, prevented him with many fruits and effects of his goodness, blessed him in his person, relations, and employments, dealt well with his soul, in giving him a gracious sense of his love in Christ;--for such a one to fall under sinful miscarriages, it goes to the heart of God, and shall not be passed over. Under-valuations of love are great provocations." Hath Nabal thus requited my kindness.…" saith David." I cannot bear it." And the clearer the convictions of any in this kind were, the more severe will their reflections be upon themselves.
2. Sins under or after great afflictions are of this importance also. God doth not afflict willingly, or chasten us merely for his pleasure; he doth it to make us partakers of his holiness. To take so little notice of his hand herein, as under it or after it not to watch against the workings and surprisals of sin, it hath unkindness in it: "I smote him," saith God, "and he went on frowardly in the way of his own heart." These provocations of his sons and daughters he cannot bear with. Hath God brought thee into the furnace, so that thou hast melted under his hand, and in pity and compassion hath given thee enlargement?--if thou hast soon forgotten his dealings with thee, is it any wonder if he mind thee again by troubles in thy soul?
3. Breaking off from under strong convictions and dawnings of love before conversion, are oftentimes remembered upon the conscience afterward. When the Lord by his Spirit shall mightily convince the heart of sin, and make withal some discoveries of his love and the excellencies of Christ unto it, so that it begins to yield and be overpowered, being almost persuaded to be a Christian;--if, then,
346 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 1, 2.
through the strength of lust or unbelief, it goes back to the world or self-righteousness, its folly hath unkindness with it that, sometimes shall not be passed by. God can, and often doth, put forth the greatness of his power for the recovery of such a soul; but yet he will deal with him about this contempt of his love and the excellency of his Son, in the dawnings of them revealed unto him.
4. Sudden forgetfulness of endearing manifestations of special love. This God cautions his people against, as knowing their proneness thereunto: Ps. lxxxv. 8, "God the LORD will speak peace to his people, and to his saints; but let them not turn again to folly." Let them take heed of their aptness to forget endearing manifestations of special love. When God at any time draws nigh to a soul by his Spirit, in his word, with gracious words of peace and love, giving a sense of his kindness upon the heart by the Holy Ghost, so that it is filled with joy unspeakable and glorious thereon;--for this soul, upon a temptation, a diversion, or by mere carelessness and neglect, which oftentimes falls out, to suffer this sense of love to be as it were obliterated, and so to lose that influencing efficacy unto obedience which it is accompanied withal, this also is full of unkindness. An account hereof we have, Cant. v. 1-6. In the first verse the Lord Jesus draws nigh, with full provision of gospel mercies for his beloved: "I am come unto thee," saith he, "O my sister. I have brought myrrh and spice, honey and wine, with me: whatever is spiritually sweet and delightful,--mercy, grace, peace, consolation, joy, assurance,--they are all here in readiness for thee." Verse 2. The spouse, in her drowsy indisposition, takes little notice of this gracious visit; she is diverted by other matters, and knows not how to attend fully and wholly to the blessed communion offered unto her, but excuseth herself as otherwise engaged. But what is the issue? Christ withdraws, leaves her in the dark, in the midst of many disconsolations, and long it is before she obtain any recovery.
5. Great opportunities for service neglected and great gifts not improved are oftentimes the occasion of plunging the soul into great depths. Gifts are given to trade withal for God. Opportunities are the market-days for that trade. To napkin up the one and to let slip the other will end in trouble and disconsolation. Disquietments and perplexities of heart are worms that will certainly breed in the rust of unexercised gifts. God loseth a revenue of glory and honour by such slothful souls; and he will make them sensible of it. I know some at this day whom omissions of opportunities for service are ready to sink into the grave.
6. Sins after especial warnings are usually thus issued. In all that variety of special warnings which God is pleased to use towards sinning saints, I shall single out one only:--When a soul is wrest-
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ling with some lust or temptation, God by his providence causeth some special word, in the preaching of the gospel, or the administration of some ordinance thereof, peculiarly suited to the state and condition of the soul, by the ways of rebuke or persuasion, to come nigh and enter the inmost parts of the heart. The soul cannot but take notice that God is nigh to him, that he is dealing with him, and calling on him to look to him for assistance. And he seldom gives such warnings to his saints but that he is nigh them in an eminent manner to give them relief and help, if, in answer unto his call, they apply themselves unto him; but if his care and kindness herein be neglected, his following reproofs are usually more severe.
7. Sins that bring scandal seldom suffer the soul to escape depths. Even in great sins, God in chastening takes more notice ofttimes of the scandal than the sin; as 2 Sam. xii. 14. Many professors take little notice of their worldliness, their pride, their passion, their lavish tongues; but the world doth, and the gospel is disadvantaged by it: and no wonder if themselves find from the hand of the Lord the bitter fruits of them in the issue.
And many other such aggravations of sins there are, which heighten provocations in their own nature not of so dreadful an aspect as some others, into a guilt plunging a soul into depths. Those which have been named may suffice in the way of instance; which is all that we have aimed at, and therefore forbear enlargements on the several heads of them.
The consideration of some aggravations of the guilt of these sins, which bring the soul usually into the condition before laid down, shall close this discourse:--
1. The soul is furnished with a principle of grace, which is continually operative and working for its preservation from such sins. The new creature is living and active for its own growth, increase, and security, according to the tenor of the covenant of grace: Gal. v. 17, it "lusteth against the flesh." It is naturally active for its own preservation and increase, as newborn children have a natural inclination to the food that will keep them alive and cause them to grow, I Pet. ii 2. The soul, then, cannot fall into these entangling sins, but it must be with a high neglect of that very principle which is bestowed upon it for quite contrary ends and purposes. The labourings, lustings, desires, crying of it are neglected. Now, it is from God, and is the renovation of his image in us,--that which God owneth and careth for. The wounding of its vitals, the stifling its operations, the neglect of its endeavours for the soul's preservation, do always attend sins of the importance spoken unto.
2. Whereas this new creature, this principle of life and obedience, is not able of itself to preserve the soul from such sins as will bring
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it into depths, there is full provision for continual supplies made . for it and all its wants in Jesus Christ. There are treasures of relief in Christ, whereunto the soul may at any time repair and find succour against the incursions of sin. He says to the soul, as David unto Abiathar, when he fled from Doeg, "Abide thou with me, fear not: for he that seeketh my life, seeketh thy life; but with me thou shalt be in safe-guard;" --"Sin is my enemy no less than thine; it seeketh the life of thy soul, and it seeketh my life. 'Abide with me, for with me thou shalt be in safety.' This the apostle exhorts us unto, Heb. iv. 16, "Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." If ever it be a time of need with a soul, it is so when it is under the assaults of provoking sins. At such a time, there is suitable and seasonable help in Christ for succour and relief. The new creature begs, with sighs and groans, that the soul would apply itself unto him. To neglect him with all his provision of grace, whilst he stands calling unto us, "Open unto me, for my head is filled with dew, and my locks with the drops of the night;" to despise the sighing of the poor prisoner, the new creature, by sin appointed to die, cannot but be a high provocation. May not God complain and say, "See these poor creatures. They were once intrusted with a stock of grace in themselves; this they cast away, and themselves into the utmost misery thereby. That they might not utterly perish a second time, their portion and stock is now laid up in another,--a safe treasurer; in him are their lives and comforts secured. But see their wretched negligence; they venture all rather than they will attend to him for succour." And what think we is the heart of Christ when he sees his children giving way to conscience-wasting sins, without that application unto him which the life and peace of their own souls calls upon them for? These are not sins of daily infirmity, which cannot be avoided; but their guilt is always attended with a neglect more or less of the relief provided in Christ against them. The means of preservation from them is blessed, ready, nigh at hand; the concernment of Christ in our preservation great, of our souls unspeakable. To neglect and despise means, Christ, souls, peace, and life, must needs render guilt very guilty.
3. Much to the same purpose may be spoken about that signal provision that is made against such sins as these in the covenant of grace, as hath been already declared; but I shall not farther carry on this discourse.
And this may suffice as to the state and condition of the soul in this psalm represented. We have seen what the depths are wherein it is entangled, and by what ways and means any one may come to be cast into them. The next thing that offers itself unto our con-
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sideration is the deportment of a gracious soul in that state or condition, or what course it steers towards a delivery.
The duty and actings of a believer under distresses from a sense of sin--His application unto God, to God alone--Earnestness and intension of mind therein.
II. THE words of these two first verses declare also the deportment of the soul in the condition that we have described; that is, what it doth, and what course it steers for relief." I have cried unto thee, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications."
There is in the words a general application made in a tendency unto relief; wherein is first to be considered to whom the application is made; and that is Jehovah: "I have cried unto thee, Jehovah." God gave out that name to his people to confirm their faith in the stability of his promises, Exod. iii. He who is Being himself will assuredly give being and subsistence to his promises. Being to deal with God about the promises of grace, he makes his application to him under this name: I call upon thee, Jehovah.
In the application itself may be observed,--First, The anthropopathy of the expression. He prays that God would cause his ears to be attentive; after the manner of men who seriously attend to what is spoken to them, when they turn aside from that which they regard not. Secondly, The earnestness of the soul in the work it hath in hand; which is evident both from the reduplication of his request, "Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications;" and the emphaticalness of the words he maketh use of: "Let thine ears," saith he, "be [--HEBREW--] ,--diligently attentive." The word signifies the most diligent heedfulness and close attention: "Let thine ears be very attentive." And unto what? [--HEBREW--] ,--"To the voice of my supplications." "Deprecationum mearum," generally say interpreters;--"Of my deprecations," or earnest prayers for the averting of evil or punishment. But the word is from [--HEBREW--] , "Gratiosus fuit," to be gracious or merciful; so that it signifies properly supplication for grace." Be attentive," saith he, "O Lord, unto my supplications for grace and mercy, which, according to my extreme necessity, I now address myself to make unto thee." And in these words doth the psalmist set forth in general the frame and working of a gracious soul being cast into depths and darkness by sin.
The foundation of what I shall farther thence pursue lies m these two propositions:--
350 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 1, 2.
First, The only attempt of a sinful, entangled soul for relief lies in an application to God alone: "To thee, Jehovah, have I cried; Lord, hear."
Secondly, Depths of sin-entanglements will put a gracious soul on intense and earnest applications unto God: "Lord, hear; Lord, attend." Dying men do not use to cry out slothfully for relief.
What may be thought necessary in general for the direction of a soul in the state and condition described, shall briefly be spoken unto from these two propositions:--
1. Trouble, danger, disquietment, arguing not only things evil, but a sense in the mind and soul of them, will of themselves put those in whom they are upon seeking relief. Every thing would naturally be at rest. A drowning man needs no exhortation to endeavour his own deliverance and safety; and spiritual troubles will, in like manner, put men on attempts for relief. To seek for no remedy is to be senselessly obdurate, or wretchedly desperate, as Cain and Judas. We may suppose, then, that the principal business of every soul in depths is to endeavour deliverance. They cannot rest in that condition wherein they have no rest. In this endeavour, what course a gracious soul steers is laid down in the first proposition, negatively and positively. He applies himself not to any thing but God; he applies himself unto God. An eminent instance we have of it in both parts, or both to the one side and the other, Hos. xiv. 3, "Assbur," say those poor, distressed, returning sinners, "shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses: neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, Ye are our gods: for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy." Their application unto God is attended with a renunciation of every other way of relief.
Several things there are that sinners are apt to apply themselves unto for relief in their perplexities, which prove unto them as waters that fail. How many things have the Romanists invented to deceive souls withal! Saints and angels, the blessed Virgin, the wood of the cross, confessions, penances, masses, pilgrimages, dirges, purgatories, papal pardons, works of compensation, and the like, are made entrances for innumerable souls into everlasting ruin. Did they know the terror of the Lord, the nature of sin, and of the mediation of Christ, they would be ashamed and confounded in themselves for these abominations; they would not say unto these their idols, "Ye are our gods; come and save us." How short do all their contrivances come of his that would fain be offering "rivers of oil, yea, the fruit of his body, for the sin of his soul, his first-born for his transgression," Micah vi. 7, who yet gains nothing but an aggravation of his sin and misery thereby! yea, the heathens went beyond them in devotion and expense. It is no new inquiry, what course sin-perplexed souls should
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take for relief. From the foundation of the world, the minds of far the greatest part of mankind have been exercised in it. As was their light or darkness, such was the course they took. Among those who were ignorant of God, this inquiry brought forth all that diabolical superstition which spread itself over the face of the whole world. Gentilism being destroyed by the power and efficacy of the gospel, the same inquiry working in the minds of darkened men, in conjunction with other lusts, brought forth the Papacy. When men had lost a spiritual acquaintance with the covenant of grace and mystery of the gospel, the design of eternal love, and efficacy of the blood of Christ, they betook themselves, in part or in whole, for relief under their entanglements, unto the broken cisterns mentioned. They are of two sorts,--self, and other things. For those other things which belong unto their false worship, being abominated by all the saints of God, I shall not need to make any farther mention of them. That which relates unto self is not confined unto Popery, but confines itself to the limits of human nature, and is predominate over all that are under the law; that is, to seek for relief in sin-distresses by self-endeavours, self-righteousness. Hence many poor souls in straits apply themselves to themselves. They expect their cure from the same hand that wounded them. This was the life of Judaism, as the apostle informs us, Rom. x. 3. And all men under the law are still animated by the same principle. They return, but not unto the Lord. Finding themselves in depths, in distresses about sin, what course do they take? This they will do, that they will do no more; this shall be their ordinary course, and that they will do in an extraordinary manner; as they have offended, whence their trouble ariseth, so they will amend, and look that their peace should spring from thence, as if God and they stood on equal terms. In this way some spend all their days; sinning and amending, amending and sinning, without once coming to repentance and peace. This the souls of believers watch against. They look on themselves as fatherless: "In thee the fatherless findeth mercy;" that is, helpless,--without the least ground of hopes in themselves or expectation from themselves. They know their repentance, their amendment, their supplications, their humiliations, their fastings, their mortifications, will not relieve them. Repent they will, and amend they will, and pray, and fast, and humble their souls, for they know these things to be their duty; but they know that their goodness extends not to Him with whom they have to do, nor is He profited by their righteousness They will be in the performance of all duties; but they expect not deliverance by any duty." It is God," say they, "with whom we have to do: our business is to hearken what he will say unto us."
There are also other ways whereby sinful souls destroy themselves
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by false reliefs. Diversions from their perplexing thoughtfulness please them. They will fix on something or other that cannot cure their disease, but shall only make them forget that they are sick; as Cain, under the terror of his guilt, departed from the presence of the Lord, and sought inward rest in outward labour and employment. He went and built a city, Gen. iv. 17. Such courses Saul fixed on; first music, then a witch. Nothing more ordinary than for men thus to deal with their convictions. They see their sickness, feel their wound, and go to the Assyrian, Hos. v. 13. And this insensibly leads men into atheism. Frequent applications of creature-diversions unto convictions of sin are a notable means of bringing on final impenitency. Some drunkards had, it may be, never been so, had they not been first convinced of other sins. They strive to stifle the guilt of one sin with another. They fly from themselves unto themselves, from their consciences unto their lusts, and seek for relief from sin by sinning. This is so far from believers, that they will not allow lawful things to be a diversion of their distress. Use lawful things they may and will, but not to divert their thoughts from their distresses. These they know must be issued between God and them. Wear off they will not, but must be taken away. These rocks, and the like, whereof there are innumerable, I say, a gracious soul takes care to avoid. He knows it is God alone who is the Lord of his conscience, where his depths lie; God alone against whom he hath sinned; God alone who can pardon his sin. From dealing with him he will be neither enticed nor diverted." To thee, O Lord," saith he, "do I come; thy word concerning me must stand; upon thee will I wait. If thou hast no delight in me, I must perish. Other remedies I know are vain. I intend not to spend my strength for that which is not bread. Unto thee do I cry." Here a sin-entangled soul is to fix itself. Trouble excites it to look for relief. Many things without it present themselves as a diversion; many things within it offer themselves for a remedy." Forget thy sorrow," say the former; "Ease thyself of it by us," say the latter. The soul refuseth both, as physicians of no value, and to God alone makes its application. He hath wounded, and he alone can heal. And until any one that is sensible of the guilt of sin will come off from all reserves to deal immediately with God, it is in vain for him to expect relief.
2. Herein it is intense, earnest, and urgent; which was the second thing observed. It is no time now to be slothful. The soul's all, its greatest concernments are at the stake. Dull, cold, formal, customary applications to God will not serve the turn. Ordinary actings of faith, love, fervency; usual seasons, opportunities, duties, answer not this condition. To do no more than ordinary now is to do nothing at all. He that puts forth no more strength and activity for his de-
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liverance when he is in depths, ready to perish, than he doth, or hath need to do, when he is at liberty in plain and smooth paths, is scarcely like to escape. Some in such conditions are careless and negligent; they think, in ordinary course, to wear off their distempers; and that, although at present they are sensible of their danger, they shall yet have peace at last: in which frame there is much contempt of God. Some despond and languish away under their pressures. Spiritual sloth influenceth both these sorts of persons. Let us see the frame under consideration exemplified in another. We have an instance in the spouse, Cant. iii. 1-3. She had lost the presence of Christ, and so was in the very state and condition before described, verse 1. It was night with her,--a time of darkness and disconsolation; and she seeks for her beloved: "By night on my bed I sought him whom my soul loveth." Christ was absent from her, and she was left unto depths and darkness upon that account; wherefore she seeks for him. But, as the most are apt to do in the like state and condition, she mends not her pace, goes not out of or beyond her course of ordinary duties, nor the frame she was usually in at other times. But what is the issue? Saith she, "I found him not." This is not a way to recover a sense of lost love, nor to get out of her entanglements. And this puts her on another course; she begins to think that if things continue in this estate she shall be undone." I go on, indeed, with the performance of duties still; but I have not the presence of my beloved,--I meet not with Christ in them. My darkness and trouble abides still. If I take not some other course, I shall be lost." Well, saith she, "I will rise now," verse 2;--"I will shake off all that case, and sloth, and customariness, that cleave to me." Some more lively, vigorous course must be fixed on. Resolutions for new, extraordinary, vigorous, constant applications unto God, are the first general step and degree of a sin-entangled soul acting towards a recovery. "I will rise now." And what doth she do when she is thus resolved? "I will," saith she, "go about the streets, and in the broad ways; and seek him whom my soul loveth;" --"I will leave no ways or means unattempted whereby I may possibly come to a fresh enjoyment of him. If a man seek for a friend, he can look for him only in the streets, and in the broad ways,--that is, either in towns, or in the fields. So will I do," saith the spouse. "In what way, ordinance, or institution soever, in or by what duty soever, public or private, of communion with others or solitary retiredness, Christ ever was or may be found, or peace obtained, 'I will seek him,' and not give over until I come to an enjoyment of him." And this frame, this resolution, a soul in depths must come unto, if ever it expect deliverance. For the most part, men's "wounds stink, and are corrupt, because of their foolishness," as the psalmist complains, Ps. xxxviii. 5.
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They are wounded by sin, and through spiritual sloth they neglect their cure; this weakens them, and disquiets them day by day: yet they endure all, rather than they will come out of their carnal ease, to deal effectually with God in an extraordinary manner. It was otherwise with David: Ps. xxii. 1, 2, "Why," saith he, "art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime, and in the night season, and am not silent." What ails the man? Can he not be quiet night nor day? never silent, never hold his peace? And if he be somewhat disquieted, can he not contain himself, but that he must roar and cry out? Yea, must he "roar" thus "all the day long," as he speaks, Ps. xxxii. 3, and "groan all the night," as Ps. vi. 6? What is the matter, with all this roaring, sighing, tears, roaring all the day, all night long? Ah! let him alone, his soul is bitter in him; he is fallen into depths; the Lord is withdrawn from him; trouble is hard at hand; yea, he is full of anxiety on the account of sin; there is no quietness and soundness in him; and he must thus earnestly and restlessly apply himself for relief. Alas! what strangers, for the most part, are men now-a-days to this frame! How little of the workings of this spirit is found amongst us! And is not the reason of it, that we value the world more, and heaven and heavenly things less, than he did? that we can live at a better rate, without a sense of the love off God in Christ, than he could do? And is it not hence that we every day see so many withering professors, that have in a manner lost all communion with God, beyond a little lip-labour or talking; the filthy savour of whose wounds are offensive to all but themselves? And so will they go on, ready to die and perish, rather than with this holy man thus stir up themselves to meet the Lord. Heman was also like unto him, Ps. lxxxviii. 11, 12. What sense he had of his depths he declares, verse 3: "My soul," saith he, "is full of troubles; and my life draweth nigh unto the grave." And what, course doth he steer in this heavy, sorrowful, and disconsolate condition? Why, saith he, "O LORD God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee: let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry," verses 1, 2. Day and night he cries to the God of his salvation, and that with earnestness and importunity. This was his business, this was he exercised about all his days.
This is that which is aimed at--If a gracious soul be brought into the depths before mentioned and described, by reason of sin, when the Lord is pleased to lead him forth towards a recovery, he causeth him to be vigorous and restless in all the duties whereby he may make application to him for deliverance. Now, wherein this intenseness and earnestness of the soul, in its applications unto God, doth principally consist I shall briefly declare, when I have touched a little upon some considerations and grounds that stir it up thereunto:--
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(1.) The greatest of men's concernments may well put them on this earnestness. Men do not use to deal with dull and slothful spirits about their greatest concerns. David tells us that he was more concerned in the "light of God's countenance" than the men of the world could be in their "corn and wine," Ps. iv. 6, 7. Suppose a man of the world should have his house, wherein all his stock and riches are laid up, set on fire, and so the whole be in danger under his eye to be consumed, would he be calm and quiet in the consideration of it? Would he not bestir himself with all his might, and call in all the help he could obtain? and that because his portion, his all, his great concernment, lies at stake. And shall the soul be slothful, careless, dull, secure, when fire is put to its eternal concernments,--when the light of God's countenance, which is of more esteem unto him than the greatest increase of corn and wine can be to the men of the world, is removed from him? It was an argument of prodigious security in Jonah, that he was fast asleep when the ship wherein he was was ready to be cast away for his sake. And will it be thought less in any soul, who, being in a storm of wrath and displeasure from God, sent out into the deep after him, shall neglect it, and sleep, as Solomon says, "on the top of a mast in the midst of the sea?" How did that poor creature, whose heart was mad on his idols, Judges xviii. 24, cry out when he was deprived of them! "Ye have taken away my gods," saith he, "and what have I more?" And shall a gracious soul lose his God through his own folly,--the sense of his love, the consolation of his presence,--and not with all his might follow hard after him? Peace with God, joy in believing, such souls have formerly obtained. Can they live without them now in their ordinary walking? Can they choose but cry out with Job, "Oh that it were with us as in former days, when the candle of the Lord was upon our tabernacle?" chap xxix. 2-4; and with David, "O God, restore unto me the joy of thy salvation," Ps. li. 12, "for O my God, I remember former enjoyments, and my soul is cast down within me?" Ps. xlii. 6. They cannot live without it. But suppose they might make a sorry shift to pass on in their pilgrimage whilst all is smooth about them, what will they do in the time of outward trials and distresses, when deep calleth unto deep, and one trouble excites and sharpens another? Nothing then will support them, they know, but that which is wanting to them; as Hab. iii. 17, 18, Ps. xxiii. 4: so that the greatness of their concernment provokes them to the earnestness mentioned.
(2.) They have a deep sense of these their great concernments. All men are equally concerned in the love of God and pardon of sin. Every one hath a soul of the same immortal constitution, equally capable of bliss and woe. But yet we see most men are so stupidly
356 AN EXPOSITION UPON PSALM CXXX. [Ver. 1, 2.
sottish, that they take little notice of these things. Neither the guilt of sin, nor the wrath of God, nor death, nor hell, are thought on or esteemed by them; they are their concernments, but they are not sensible of them. But gracious souls have a quick, living sense of spiritual things; for,--
[1.] They have a saving spiritual fight, whereby they are able to discern the true nature of sin and the terror of the Lord: for though they are now supposed to have lost the comforting light of the Spirit, yet they never lose the sanctifying light of the Spirit, the light whereby they are enabled to discern spiritual things in a spiritual manner; this never utterly departs from them. By this they see sin to be "exceeding sinful," Rom. vii. 13. By this they know "the terror of the Lord," 2 Cor. v. 11; and that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," Heb. x. 31. By this they discover the excellency of the love of God in Christ, which passeth knowledge, the present sense whereof they have lest. By this they are enabled to look within the vail, and to take a view of the blessed consolations which the saints enjoy whose communion with God was never interrupted. This represents to them all the sweetness, pleasure, joy, peace, which in former days they had, whilst God was present with them in love. By this are they taught to value all the fruits of the blood of Jesus Christ, of the enjoyment of many whereof they are at present cut short and deprived. All which, with other things of the like nature and importance, make them very sensible of their concernments.
[2.] They remember what it cost them formerly to deal with God about sin; and hence they know it is no ordinary matter they have in hand. They must again to their old work, take the old cup into their hands again. A recovery from depths is as a new conversion.
Ofttimes in it the whole work, as to the soul's apprehension, is gone over afresh. This the soul knows to have been a work of dread, terror, and trouble, and trembles in itself at its new trials. And,--
[3.] The Holy Ghost gives unto poor souls a fresh sense of their deep concernments, on purpose that it may be a means to stir them up unto these earnest applications unto God. The whole work is his, and he carries it on by means suited to the compassing of the end he aimeth at; and by these means is a gracious soul brought into the frame mentioned. Now, there are sundry things that concur in and unto this frame:--
1st. There is a continual thoughtfulness about the sad condition wherein the soul is in its depths. Being deeply affected with their condition, they are continually ruminating upon it, and pondering it in their minds. So David declares the case to have been with him: Ps. xxxviii. 2-6, 8, "Thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand
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presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. I am feeble and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart." Restlessness, deep thoughtfulness, disquietness of heart, continual heaviness of soul, sorrow and anxiety of mind, lie at the bottom of the applications we speak of. From these principles their prayers flow out;
David adds, verse 9, "Lord, all my desire is before thee, and my groaning is not hid from thee." This way all his trouble wrought. He prayed out of the abundance of his meditation and grief. Thoughts of their state and condition lie down with such persons, and rise with them, and accompany them all the day long. As Reuben cried, "The child is not; and I, whither shall I go?" so doth such a soul;--" The love of God is not, Christ is not; and I, whither shall I cause my sorrow to go? God is provoked, death is nigh at hand, relief is far away, darkness is about me. I have lost my peace, my joy, my song in the night. What do I think of duties? Can two walk together unless they be agreed? Can I walk with God in them, whilst I have thus made him mine enemy? What do I think of ordinances? Will it do me any good to be at Jerusalem, and not see the face of the King? to live under ordinances, and not to meet in them with the King of saints? May I not justly fear that the Lord will take his Holy Spirit from me until I be left without remedy?" With such thoughts as these are sin-entangled souls exercised, and they lie rolling in their minds in all their applications unto God.
2dly. We see the application itself consists in and is made by the prayer of faith, or crying unto God. Now, this is done with intenseness of mind; which hath a twofold fruit or propriety,--(lst.) Importunity; and, (2dly.) Constancy.
It is said of our blessed Saviour, that when he was in his depths about our sins, "he offered up prayers and supplications, with strong cries and tears," Heb. v. 7." Strong cries and tears" express the utmost intension of spirit. And David expresseth it by "roaring," as we have seen before; as also by "sighing, groaning, and panting." A soul in such a condition lies down before the Lord with sighs, groans, mourning, cries, tears, and roaring, according to the various working of his heart, and its being affected with the things that it hath to do; and this produceth,--
(1st.) Importunity. The power of the importunity of faith our Saviour hath marvellously set out, Luke xi. 5-10, as also, chap.
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xviii. 1. Importunate prayer is certainly prevailing; and importunity is, as it were, made up of these two things,--frequency of interposition and variety of arguings. You shall have a man that is importunate come unto you seven times a-day about the same business; and after all, if any new thought come into his mind, though he had resolved to the contrary, he will come again. And there is nothing that can be imagined to relate unto the business he hath in hand but he will make use of it, and turn it to the furtherance of his plea. So is it in this case. Men will use both frequency of interposition and variety of arguings: Ps. lxxxvi. 3, "I cry unto thee daily," or rather, all the day. He had but that one business, and he attended it to the purpose. By this means we give God "no rest," Isa. lxii. 7; which is the very character of importunity. Such souls go to God; and they are not satisfied with what they have done, and they go again; and somewhat abideth still with them, and they go to him again; and the heart is not yet emptied, they will go again to him, that he may have no rest. What variety of arguments are pleaded with God in this case I could manifest in the same David; but it is known to all. There is not any thing almost that he makes not a plea of,--the faithfulness, righteousness, name, mercy, goodness, and kindness of God in Jesus Christ; the concernment of others in him, both the friends and foes of God; his own weakness and helplessness, yea, the greatness of sin itself: "Be merciful to my sin," saith he, "for it is great." Sometimes he begins with some arguments of this kind; and then, being a little diverted by other considerations, some new plea is suggested unto him by the Spirit, and he returns immediately to his first employment and design;--all arguing great intension of mind and spirit.
(2dly.) Constancy also flows from intenseness. Such a soul will not give over until it obtain what it aims at and looks for; as we shall see in our process in opening this psalm.
And this is in general the deportment of a gracious soul in the condition here represented unto us. As poor creatures love their peace, as they love their souls, as they tender the glory of God, they are not to be wanting in this duty. What is the reason that controversies hang so long between God and your souls, that it may be you scarce see a good day all your lives? Is it not, for the most part, from your sloth and despondency of spirit? You will not gird up the loins of your minds, in dealing with God, to put them to a speedy issue in the blood of Christ. You go on and off, begin and cease, try and give over; and, for the most part, though your case be extraordinary, content yourselves with ordinary and customary applications unto God. This makes you wither, become useless, and pine away in and under your perplexities. David did not so; but after
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many and many a breach made by sin, yet, through quick, vigorous, restless actings of faith, all was repaired, so that he lived peaceably, and died triumphantly. Up, then, and be doing; let not your "wounds corrupt because of your folly." Make thorough work of that which lies before you; be it long, or difficult, it is all one, it must be done, and is attended with safety. What you are like to meet withal in the first place shall nextly be declared.
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