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SERMON XXIV.

JEREMIAH X. 23, 24.

O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh, to direct his steps.

O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in Thine anger, lest Thou bring me to nothing.

It cannot be expressed, what an advantage a heart acquainted with God hath, in all the revolutions and changes of the world, when it turns unto Him, and gives vent to its griefs and desires into His bosom, and so finds ease. This the Prophet does here after the denouncing of a heavy judgment, he turns towards him from whom he brought that message, to entreat for them to whom he brought it. After a very sad close of his sermon, he adds this short but very sweet prayer; presents himself, and speaks in that style, as representing the whole people; Correct me, O Lord: he makes their calamity, as it were, all his own; bears their person, and presents his petition for them in his own name. The prophets, though they could not but applaud and approve the justice of God who sent them, in the harshest news they brought, yet, withal could not be insensible of the miseries of His people; and so we find them mixing pathetical complaints and prayers for them, with the predictions of judgments against them.

Observe. And thus are all His faithful ministers affected towards His Church. The Lord himself is pleased to express a kind of regret, sometimes, in the punishing of them; as the tender-hearted father feels the lashes he lays on, though highly deserved by the stubbornness of His children. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I make thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings

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are kindled together. Hos. xi. 8. So it well becomes His servants to be thus affected when they deliver sad news to His people, to return praying for them; thus going, as angels, betwixt Heaven and Earth, beseeching the people to return unto God, and beseeching God to return to His people, and spare them.

his own faith, and Besides the fitness of

The Prophet, in this prayer, first premises a position suiting his purpose, and then, upon that, presents his supplication. The position he lays, to make a double benefit of it in order to his petition. It is both a sure ground for himself to stand on, and a fit argument to move God by. Thus it is, and thus he intends and uses it, at once to support to work on the goodness of God by it. the truth itself for both these ends, we find some print of both in the very way of expressing it, O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; so expressing both his own persuasion of the truth of it, I know, and representing it to God as a fit truth to urge his suit by, O Lord, I know.

Observe. A great part of the strength and art of prayer, lies in this first, to have the mind furnished with fit conceptions of God, and established in the firm persuasions of them; in that is much of the strength of prayer: then, fitly to call up and use these conceptions and persuasions for our own supporting and prevailing with God; in that lies the art of it.

We possibly think that we do sufficiently believe both the goodness and power of God, especially His power, none suspecting himself of the least doubt of it; yet our perplexing doubts and fears, our feeble staggerings in faith and prayer, upon particular pressing difficulties, discover evidently a defect here, though still we will not own it. And alas! how little faculty have we in the most needful times, to rest on His strength, and to stir up ourselves to stir Him up by prayer, to do for us, holding firm to that great point of His absolute sovereignty and power over all things, and holding it up to Him, entreating Him by it to appear and work for us. Lord, it is in Thy hand; that I know, and that is enough to me:

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Thy good-will I dare trust. (For there is implied a secret confidence of that.) This contents me, that Thou hast full power of the business. That is the thing which here the Prophet fixes on. O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself. q.d. As there is in us no power to turn off the judgment determined, all our wit and strength can do nothing to that, so, we are sure there is no power in our enemies to do any thing either beyond or beside Thy appointment, in the execution of it. And upon this, Lord, we come to supplicate Thee for mitigation. With men it often falls out, either in just punishments, or unjust oppressions, that the ministers and under-officers do exceed their commission, and overdo their business; yea, sometimes add little less of their own, than all that comes to which is appointed to them. But with Thee, O Lord, it is not so. As our enemies cannot stir of themselves without order from Thee, and as Thy commissions are always all just, so, Thou seest to the performance, art present at it, which often men cannot be; and so nothing is, or can be, done beside Thy notice and allowance.

I. His position is this, The way of man is not in himself, and repeated more plainly, It is not in man that walketh, to direct his steps; thus, by a double negation, putting it altogether out of his power. And under this, the positive truth is couched, that the absolute disposal of all the ways of men, is wholly in the supreme hand of God; according to that, Prov. xx. 24, Man's goings are of the Lord; how can a man, then, understand his own way? He doth not certainly know any thing of his own doings. Even he who seems to know most, to advise and deliberate upon all he does, yet, hath no power of his contrivements, knows not which way they will turn, till the event doth clear it, and even then, on looking back, is often amazed at the strange course of things, so far different from, and possibly contrary to, all his witty projectings and models. He often does not attain his own, but he never fails to accomplish God's purpose even when his intentions are least for it, yea, when they are most against it. Let

us build a tower, said they, lest we be scattered abroad, Gen. xi.; and that was the very thing which caused their scattering. Joseph was sold by his brethren, that they might not bow before him, as he had dreamed; and this brought it to pass. Pharaoh says, Let us deal wisely; and that way of oppressing them, lest they should go away, both stirred up God to deliver them, and disposed them to depart. And not to multiply instances, generally in all the ways of men, they have their designs at most times eccentric to God's, but His design holds always, and theirs no further than they are His. Have we not ourselves seen instances of this?

Man consults and determines freely, yet even those inward actings of the mind and will, are ordered and framed by the hand of God; and it cannot otherwise be. It is a most vain› fancy, to imagine that any thing in this, is inconsistent with the natural liberty of the will, or that any such liberty can be in any creature, as consists not with His. But because in these inward actings, man finds himself more at his choice, though all is secretly overruled, and in the event of things, God's sovereign disposal is more legible; therefore, these two are expressed with some kind of difference, Prov. xvi. 9: A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directs his steps. That is, when he hath devised, that does not carry it: he may devise and fancy things twenty ways, and think he is taking freely his own course, but he shall find in the issue Another Hand than his own. It is not in man that walks, as the word is here: he walketh, and yet, the direction of his steps is in Another Hand. But in the devisings too, the Lord so acts upon man, that he is turned which way it pleaseth him. Even the heart, and that of the most uncontrolled, the most impetuous torrent, the king's heart, is in His hand, as the rivers of waters: He turneth it whithersoever He will, Prov. xxi. 1. When men either determine themselves, or follow unallowed ways for determination, (as those, Ezek. xxi. 21,) yet are they ordered of God. This He does infallibly and uncontrollably, yet in such a way as there is nothing distorted or violented.

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Fortiter et suaviter,-all is so done. Things are in their own course, and men are în their voluntary choices; yet, all subserving the great Lord, and His ends, and His glory, who made them all for himself: as the lower orbs have each their motion, but are all wheeled about with the first. Men know not what He is doing by them, and what in the end He will do with them. With the rod of Assyria He scourges His children, and then throws the rod in the fire. Isa. x. 5, and 16. The horseleech draws the blood to fill itself, but the physician intends the patient's health. Men are drawn on by temporal prosperings and successes to drive proudly and furiously, till they drive themselves over the edge of the precipice appointed for their ruin; and all His exalting them for a season, is, in the end to exalt Himself in their greater and more remarkable destruction. I will get Me a name upon Pharaoh, and all his host. Men are busy, consulting or acting with or against one another, and He sits and laughs at their wisest plots: He alone is in all affairs, doing all His own will in Heaven and in earth.

Oh! the folly and blindness of men, who think to carry all to their minds, and walk as masters of their own designs, and never have any serious thought of Him in whose hands both they and all their business, and all the affairs of states and kingdoms of this world, are as a piece of wax, to frame them to what He pleases,-He who destroys the counsels of the wise, and makes the diviners mad, who pours contempt upon princes, leads counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools; He who hath set limits to all things, to the raging of the sea, making the small sand give check to the great ocean: when it brake out of the womb, He had a cradle provided for it, and swadling bands, Job xxxviii., and there, though it rolls to and fro, yet it cannot get out. Oh! it is ignorance of God makes men rush on, and not inquire whether He be with them or no. Moses was wise and stout, and leader of a numerous people, yet he would not stir on other terms: If Thou go not with us, let us not go up hence. Well, if men will on their peril, be it; let us reverence God. For even

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