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all as he pleases. Say to friends, and kindred, and neighbours, O! how great and how gracious a God have we! Oh! that we could bless him!:
2dly, To keep these things, is to walk according to the firm belief and frequent thoughts of them, to fear him, and to walk humbly and warily, because our follies draw on his rods, and to study to please him, and no matter who be displeased; and when he corrects, to fall down humbly under his hand, that hath our sickness and health, our life and death, and all that concerns us, in his absolute power. If any thing advance or advantage us before others, endeavour to be the more lowly and serviceable to him; if in a low condition, to bless and reverence him, for his presence will turn the meanest cottage, yea, the darkest dungeon, into a palace.
The chief delight of the saints is to offer praises to God, to gather them in from all his works, to send up to him: And his chief delight in all his works is to receive these praises of them from their hands; they articulate them, make a reasonable sacrifice of them". All thy works shall praise thee, and thy saints shall bless thee. We are called to this high work, yet lie behind, and most unworthily and foolishly abase ourselves in other things.
But they that are wise, if there be any, will mind this, will not let the Lord's marvellous and gracious doings pass without notice. It is a high proof of his love to us, that he loves to be seen work by us, and stoops to take our acclamations and approbation, hath such regard to them, and rewards them so richly; even thus, Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, they shall understand the loving kindness of the Lord. the Lord. Obs. They that are wise, and observe, shall understand further; to him that hath shall be given, to him that usefully hath, that is, to have, and so there meant, improves it to his advantage that gave it. The greatest difficulty
h Psalm cxlv.
is to begin, as one said of his growing rich, he came hardly by a little riches, and easily by great riches." Having once got a stock, he grew rich apace; so once taking, be it but the first lessons of this wisdom, learning these well, shall facilitate thy knowledge exceedingly: The wise increaseth learning. Wouldst thou but receive and hearken to the easiest things represented by God, these would enlighten and enlarge thy soul to receive more; especially walking by the light thou hast, be it ever so little, that invites and draws in more. Be diligent in the practice of that you know: if you would know more, believe it, that is the way to grow: Whoso observes, [keeps these things, acts according to the knowledge of them] he shall understand*, shall understand it by finding it, (shall understand it in themselves, the word is in the reciprocal mood, Hithpahel) it shall be particularly and effectually shown unto him; they shall experience it, and so understand it, and that is the only lively understanding of it. Men may hear, yea, deliver large discourses of it, and yet not understand the thing: Happy are they to whom this is given; Solus docet qui dat, & discit qui recipit. He alone teaches who gives, and learns who receives.
Loving kindness.] Heb. graciousness; all sorts of kindnesses, even outward and common mercies, in those shall he understand his goodness, (in recoveries and deliverances from dangers, and blessings, be their portion in them, less or more) though the things be common; yet they come to be his own by a particular stamp of love, that to others they have not, and the children of God know it, they can find. it out, and can read it, though the world that looks on it cannot and indeed, to them, the lowest things are disposed of, in order to the highest; their daily bread given them, by that same love that gives them Christ, all is given in him: so the curse is taken away, and all is sweetned with a blessing. A little
i Prov. i.
* Joh. vii. 17.
that a righteous man hath is better than the abundance of the wicked.
But the things they chiefly prize and desire, as indeed they deserve so to be, are of another sort; in their very being and nature, are love-tokens, effects of that peculiar free grace, that chose them to life; and this is called the light of God's countenance, his everlasting love. Now, they that are wise, and observe these things, they shall understand this loving kindness: Not that they first are thus wise, before they partake of this loving kindness: no, by it this wisdom was given them; but this promise is made to their improvement of that gift, and walking in those ways of wisdom: not only are they loved of God, but they shall understand it; he will manifest himself to them, and tell them he loves them: and the more they walk in these ways, the more clearly shall they perceive and powerfully find his love manifested to them.
This is the highest inducement that can be to such as have any interest in it; when this love hath but once touched them, though as yet they know it not certainly, yet it works that esteem and affection, that nothing can be admitted into comparison with it; while carnal men wallow in the puddle, these are. the crystal streams a renewed soul desires to bathe in, even the love of God. O! let me find that: no matter what I have, or what I want; in poverty, or any distressed forsaken condition, one good word or good look from him makes me up: I can sit down content and chearful, and rejoice in that, though all the world frown on me, and all things look dark and comfortless about me, that is a piece of heaven within the soul. Now, of this experimental understanding knowledge of this love, there are different degrees, a great latitude in this: to some, at sometimes little glimpses and inlets of it, in a more immediate way, (but these stay not, suavis hora, sed brevis mora;) others are upheld in the belief of it, and live on it by faith; though it shine not so clear
yet a light they have to walk by: though the sun shines not bright out to them all their life, yet they are led home, and understand so much love in their way, as shall bring them to the fulness of it in the end. Others, having past most of the day, have a fair glimpse in the very evening or close of it; but, whosoever, they that walk in this way by this light, whatsoever measure they have of it, are led by it to the land of light. The connexion here made you see, they that wisely observe these things, shall understand this loving kindness. A wise observing of God's ways, and ordering our own to his mind, is the certain way to attain much experienced knowledge of his love.
This love is most free, and from the beginning to the end works of itself; but, in the method of it, he hath thus linked things together, made one portion of grace, in the use of it, draw on another; and this his children would prudently consider. There is such a like speech", Whoso offereth praise, glorifieth me; and to him that ordereth his conversation aright, will I shew the salvation of God.
The contemplation of God in his works, sets the soul open to receive the influences of love; by looking towards him, it draws his eye towards it, as one look of love draws on another. Certainly, many that have some desire of the light of God's countenance, and evidences of his love; yet, in not applying their souls to consider him, do much injure themselves.
Heavenly thoughts do refine the soul, as fire works itself higher, and to a purer flame, by stirring. To be blessing God for his goodness, giving him praise in view of his works in the world, and for his church, and particularly for us; this both disposes the heart to a more suitable temper for receiving divine comforts, and invites him to let them flow into it. For if he have such acknowledgments for general goodness and common mercies, how much larger re
1 Psalm 1. 23.
turns shall he have upon the discoveries of special love? It is a sight of God as reconciled thou wouldest have; now, praise sets a man amongst the angels, and they behold his face.
Again, action, walking in his ways humbly and carefully, and so waiting, never wants a successful return of much love. How can he, who is goodness itself, hide and reserve himself from a soul that yields up itself to him, hath no delight but to please him, hates and avoids what may offend him? This, sure, is the way, if any under heaven, to enjoy communion with him.
They that forget him, and disregard their ways, and are no way careful to order them to his liking, do but delude themselves with mistaken fancies of mercy. I beseech you be warned; there cannot be solid peace in the ways of sin: no peace to the wicked, saith my God. Outward common favors you may share for a time; but these have a curse with them to you, and you shall quickly be at an end of these receipts; and then you would look towards him for some persuasions of his loving kindness, but are like to find nothing but frowns and displeasure. O! consider this, ye that forget God, (that is the greatest disease) lest he tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver you.
Even they that have some title to this love of God, and are desiring further evidence of it, yet do often sit exceedingly in their own light, and work against their end, still bent on that assurance they would have, and yet neglect the way to it, which certainly is in a manner to neglect itself. Were they more busied in honoring God, doing him what service they can in their station, striving against sin, acknowledging his goodness to the world, and even to themselves, that they are yet in the region of hope, not cut off in their iniquities. Thus offering praise, and ordering their conversation aright, submitting unto him, and giving him glory, their assurances and comforts, in the measure he thinks fit,