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22 March, 2018
A GODLY MAN WALKS WITH GOD
"Noah walked with God" (Gen. 6:9). The age in which Noah lived was very corrupt: "the wickedness of man was great in the earth" (v.5). But the iniquity of the times, could not put Noah off his walk: "Noah walked with God." Noah is called a "preacher of righteousness" (2 Peter 2:5):
Noah preached by doctrine
His preaching (say some of the rabbis) was in this vein: "Turn from your evil ways, so that the waters of the flood will not come upon you and cut off the whole of Adam's race."
Noah preached by his life
He preached by his humility, patience, sanctity. "Noah walked with God."
Question: What is it, to walk with God?
Answer: Walking with God imports five things:
Walking as under God's eye. Noah reverenced God. A godly man sets himself as in God's presence, knowing that his judge is looking on: "I have set the Lord always before me" (Psalm 16:8). David's eyes were here.
The familiarity and intimacy which the soul has with God. Friends walk together and console themselves with one another. The godly make known their requests to God--and he makes known his love to them. There is a sweet fellowship between God and his people: "Our fellowship (koinonia) is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).
Walking above the earth. A godly man is elevated above all sublunary objects. The person who walks with God must ascend very high. A dwarf cannot walk among the stars, nor can a dwarfish, earthly soul walk with God.
Visible piety. Walking is a visible posture. Grace must be conspicuous to the onlookers. He who reveals something of God in his behavior, walks with God. He shines forth in biblical conduct.
Continued progress in grace. It is not only a step--but a walk. There is a going on towards maturity. A godly man does not sit down in the middle of the way--but goes on until he comes to the "end of his faith" (1 Pet. 1:9). Though a good man may be out of the path, he is not out of the way. He may through infirmity step aside (as Peter did)—but he recovers by repentance and goes on in progressive holiness: "The righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger" (Job 17:9).
Use 1: See from this how improper it is to describe as godly, those who do not walk with God. They want to have Noah's crown—but they do not love Noah's walk. Most are found in the devil's black walk! "Many walk, of whom I tell you weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ" (Phil. 3:18).
Some will commend walking with God, and say it is the rarest life in the world—but will not set one foot on the way. All who commend wine, do not pay the price. Many a father commends virtue to his child--but does not set him a pattern.
Others walk a few steps in the good old ways—but they retreat back again (Jer. 6:16). If the ways of God were not good, why did they enter them? If they were good, why did they forsake them? "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment" (2 Pet. 2:21).
Others slander walking with God as a melancholy walk. God accounts this as blasphemy: "the way of truth shall be evil spoken of" (2 Pet. 2:2). In the Greek it is "it shall be blasphemed."
Others deride walking with God as if it were a way of foolish scrupulosity. "What! Do you want to join the "holy tribe"? Do you want to be wiser than others?" There are some people who, if it were in their power, would jeer holiness out of the world. The chair of the scornful, stands at the mouth of hell (Proverbs 19:29).
Others, instead of walking with God, walk according to the flesh (2 Pet. 2:10).
(1) They walk by fleshly opinions.
(2) They walk according to fleshly lusts.
(1) They walk by fleshly OPINIONS. There are six of these:
(a) That it is best "to do what most do, to steer after the course of the world—and to be in the world's mode." They think it best--not to get a new heart—but to get into a new fashion.
(b) That reason is the highest judge and umpire in matters of piety. "We must believe no further than we can see!" For a man to become a fool that he may be wise, to be saved purely by the righteousness of another, to keep all by losing all—this the natural man will by no means put in his creed.
(c) That a little religion will serve the turn. "The lifeless form may in be kept up—but zeal is madness!" The world thinks that piety to be best which, like leaf-gold, is spread very thin.
(d) That the way which is exposed to affliction is not good. A stick, though it is straight, seems crooked under water. So piety, if it is under affliction, appears crooked to a carnal eye.
(e) That all a man's concern should be for the present world. As that profane cardinal said, he "would leave his part in paradise to keep his cardinalship in Paris."
(f) That sinning is better than suffering. It is greater concern to keep the skin whole--than the conscience pure.
These are such rules as the crooked serpent has found out—and whoever walks by them, shall neither know God, nor peace."
(2) They walk according to fleshly LUSTS. "For those who are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit." Romans 8:5. "For if you live after the flesh--you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body--you shall live." Romans 8:13. They make provision (turn caterers) for the flesh (Romans 13:14). Such a person was the Emperor Heliogabalus. He so indulged the flesh that he never sat except among sweet flowers, mixed with amber and musk. He attired himself in purple, set with precious stones. He did not burn oil in his lamps—but a costly balsam brought from Arabia, very odoriferous. He bathed himself in perfumed water; he put his body to no other use—but to be a strainer for fine food and drink to run through.
The ungodly walk according to the flesh. If a drunken or unclean lust calls--they gratify it! They brand as cowards, all who dare not sin at the same rate as they do. These, instead of walking with God, walk contrary to him. Lust is the compass they sail by! Satan is their pilot--and hell the port they are bound for.
Use 2: Let us test whether we have this characteristic of the godly: Do we walk with God? That may be known:
By the way we walk in. It is a private, secluded way, in which only some few holy ones walk. Therefore it is called a "pathway" to distinguish it from the common road: "in the pathway thereof is no death" (Proverbs 12:28). "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." Matthew 7:13-14.
By a walk in the fear of God. "Enoch walked with God" (Gen. 5:22). The Chaldean version renders it, "he walked in the fear of the Lord." The godly are fearful of that which may displease God. "How then can I do this great wickedness--and sin against God!" (Gen. 39:9). This is not a base, servile fear—but:
(1) A fear springing from affection (Hos. 3:5). A child fears to offend his father out of the tender affection he has for him. This made holy Anselm say, "If sin were on one side and hell on the other--I would rather leap into hell than willingly offend my God."
(2) A fear joined with faith. "By faith Noah, moved with fear" (Heb. 11:7). Faith and fear go hand in hand. When the soul looks at God's holiness, he fears. When he looks at God's promises, he believes. A godly man trembles—yet trusts. Fear preserves reverence, faith preserves cheerfulness. Fear keeps the soul from lightness, faith keeps it from sadness. By this we may know whether we walk with God, if we walk "in the fear of God." We are fearful of infringing his laws, and forfeiting his love. It is a brand set upon the ungodly: "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:18). The godly fear--and do not offend (Psalm 4:4). The wicked offend--and do not fear (Jer. 5:23,24). Careless and dissolute walking will soon estrange God from us--and make him weary of our company: "what communion has light with darkness?" (2 Cor. 6:14).
Use 3: Let me persuade all who wish to be accounted godly, to get into Noah's walk. When the truth of grace is in the heart--the beauty of grace is seen in the walk! "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" 2 Corinthians 5:17
Walking with God is very pleasing to God. He who walks with God declares to the world, which company he loves most: "His fellowship is with the Father" (1 John 1:3). He counts those the sweetest hours which are spent with God. This is very pleasing and acceptable to God: "Enoch walked with God" (Gen. 5:24). And see how kindly God took this at Enoch's hand: "he had this testimony, that he pleased God" (Heb. 11:5).
Close walking with God will be a good means to entice and allure others to walk with him. The apostle exhorts wives so to walk, that the husbands might be won by their conduct (1 Pet. 3:1). Justin Martyr confessed that he became a Christian by observing the holy and innocent lives of the early saints.
Close walking with God would put to silence the adversaries of the truth (1 Pet. 2:15). Careless behavior puts a sword into wicked men's hands to wound piety. What a sad thing it is when it is said of professing Christians--that they are as proud, as covetous and as unjust as others! Will this not expose the ways of God to contempt? But holy and close walking would stop the mouths of sinners, so that they should not be able to speak against God's people without giving themselves the lie. Satan came to Christ and "found nothing in him" (John 14:30). What a confounding thing it will be to the wicked when holiness is the only thing they have to fasten on the godly as a crime. "We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God" (Dan. 6:5).
Walking with God is a pleasant walk. The ways of wisdom are called pleasantness (Proverbs 3:17). Is the light not pleasant? "They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance" (Psalm 89:15). Walking with God is like walking among beds of spices, which send forth a fragrant perfume. This is what brings peace: "walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 9:31). While we walk with God, what sweet music the bird of conscience makes in our breast! "They shall sing in the ways of the Lord" (Psalm 138:5).
Walking with God is honorable. It is a credit for one of an inferior rank, to walk with a king. What greater dignity can be put upon a mortal man, than to converse with his Maker, and to walk with God every day?
Walking with God leads to rest: "There remains therefore a rest to the people of God" (Heb. 4:9). Those who walk with their sins shall never have rest: "they rest not day and night" (Rev. 4:8). But those who walk with God shall sit down in the kingdom of God (Luke 13:29); just as a weary traveler, when he comes home, sits down and rests. "To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with me in my throne" (Rev. 3:21). A throne denotes honor, and sitting denotes rest.
Walking with God is the safest walking. Walking in the ways of sin, is like walking on the banks of a river. The sinner treads on the precipice of the bottomless pit, and if death gives him a jog, he tumbles in. But it is safe going in God's way: "Then shall you walk in your way safely" (Proverbs 3:23). He who walks with a guard walks safely. He who walks with God, shall have God's Spirit to guard him from sin, and God's angels to guard him from danger (Psalm 91:11).
Walking with God will make death sweet. It was Augustus' wish that he might have a euthanasia--a quiet, easy death without much pain. If anything makes our pillow easy at death it will be this, that we have walked with God in our lives. Do we think walking with God can do us any hurt? Did we ever hear any cry out on their deathbed--that they have been too holy, that they have prayed too much, or walked with God too much? No! That which has cut them to the heart has been this--that they have not walked more closely with God! They have wrung their hands, and torn their hair--to think that they have been so bewitched with the pleasures of the world. Close walking with God will make our enemy (death) be at peace with us. When King Ahasuerus could not sleep, he called for the book of records, and read it (Esther 6:1). So when the violence of sickness causes sleep to depart from our eyes, and we can call for conscience (that book of records) and find written in it, "On such a day we humbled our souls by fasting; on such a day our hearts melted in prayer; on such a day we had sweet communion with God"—what a reviving this will be! How we may look death in the face with comfort and say, "Lord, now take us up to you in heaven. Where we have so often been by affection--let us now be by fruition."
Walking with God is the best way to know the mind of God. Friends who walk together impart their secrets one to another: "The secret of the Lord is with those who fear him" (Psalm 25:14). Noah walked with God--and the Lord revealed a great secret to him—destroying the old world and saving him in the ark. Abraham walked with God, and God made him one of his privy council (Gen. 24:40): "Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I do?" (Gen. 18:17). God sometimes sweetly unbosoms himself to the soul in prayer and in the holy supper, as Christ made himself known to the disciples in the breaking of bread (Luke 24:35).
They who walk with God shall never be wholly left by God. The Lord may withdraw for a time, to make his people cry after him the more—but he will not leave them altogether: "I hid my face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on you" (Isaiah 54:8). God will not cast off any of his old acquaintance; he will not part with one who has kept him company. "Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him" (Gen. 5:24). He took him up to heaven. As the Arabic renders it, "Enoch was lodged in the bosom of divine love."
Question: What may we do, to walk with God?
Answer 1: If you desire to walk with God--get off the old road of sin! He who would walk in a pleasant meadow--must turn off the road. The way of sin is full of travelers. There are so many travelers on this road, that hell, though it is of a great circumference, would gladly enlarge itself and make room for them (Isaiah 5:14). This way of sin seems pleasant--but the end is damnable. "I have", says the harlot, "perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon" (Proverbs 7:17). See how with one sweet (the cinnamon) there were two bitters (myrrh and aloes). For that little sweet in sin at present there will be a far greater proportion of bitterness afterwards. Therefore get out of these briars. You cannot walk with God and sin: "what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness?" (2 Cor. 6:14).
Answer 2: If you wish to walk with God--get acquainted with him. "Acquaint now yourself with him" (Job 22:21). Know God in his attributes and promises. Strangers do not walk together.
Answer 3: If you desire to walk with God--get all differences removed. "Can two walk together, except they are agreed?" (Amos 3:3). This agreement and reconciliation is made by faith: "God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood" (Romans 3:25). When once we are friends, then we shall be called up to the top of the mount like Moses, and have this dignity conferred on us--to be the favorites of heaven and to forever walk with God.
Answer 4: If you desire to walk with God--get a liking for the ways of God. They are adorned with beauty (Proverbs 4:18);
they are sweetened with pleasure (Proverbs 3:17);
they are fenced with truth (Rev. 15:3);
they are accompanied with life (Acts 2:28);
they are lengthened with eternity (Hab. 3:6).
Be enamored with the way of piety--and you will soon walk in it.
Answer 5: If you desire to walk with God--take hold of his arm. Those who walk in their own strength will soon grow weary and tire. "I will go in the strength of the Lord God" (Psalm 71:16). We cannot walk with God, without God. Let us press him with his promise: "I will cause you to walk in my statutes" (Ezek. 36:27). If God takes us by the hand, then we shall "walk, and not faint" (Isaiah 40:31).
21 March, 2018
A GODLY MAN IS THROUGHLY TRAINED IN PIETY
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He obeys every command of God: "I have found David a man after my own heart, for he will carry out all My will" (Acts 13:22). In the Greek it is "all my wills." A godly man strives to walk according to the full breadth and latitude of God's law. Every command has the same stamp of divine authority on it, and he who is godly will obey one command as well as another: "Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect to all your commandments" (Psalm 119:6). A godly man goes through all the body of piety--as the sun through all the signs of the Zodiac. Whoever is to play a ten-stringed instrument must strike every string or he will spoil all the music. The ten commandments may be compared to a ten-stringed instrument. We must obey every commandment, strike every string, or we cannot make any sweet music in piety.
True obedience is filial. It is fitting that the child should obey the parent in all just and sober commands. God's laws are like the curtains of the tabernacle which were looped together. They are like a chain of gold where all the links are coupled. A godly man will not willingly break one link of this chain. If one command is violated, the whole chain is broken: "whoever shall keep the whole law—yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (Jas. 2:10). A voluntary breach of one of God's laws involves a man in the guilt, and exposes him to the curse of the whole law. True obedience is entire and uniform. A good heart, like the needle, points the way in which the loadstone draws.
This is one great difference between a child of God and a hypocrite. The hypocrite picks and chooses in religion. He will perform some duties which are easier, and gratify his pride or interest—but other duties he takes no notice of: "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness" (Matt. 23:23). To sweat in some duties of religion, and freeze in others--is the symptom of a disordered Christian. Jehu was zealous in destroying the idolatry of Baal—but let the golden calves of Jeroboam stand (2 Kings 10:29). This shows that men are not good in truth--when they are good by halves. If your servant should do some of your work you command him, and leave the rest undone, how would you like that? The Lord says, "Walk before me, and be perfect" (Gen. 17:1). How are our hearts perfect with God--when we prevaricate with him? Some things we will do and other things we leave undone. He is godly who is godly universally. "Here I am, Father; command what you will" (Plautus).
There are ten duties that God calls for, which a godly man will conscientiously perform, and indeed these duties may serve as so many other characteristics and touchstones to test our godliness by:
A godly man will often be calling his heart to account
He takes the candle of the Word and searches his innermost being: "I commune with my own heart: and my spirit made diligent search" (Psalm 77:6). A gracious soul searches whether there is any duty omitted--or any sin cherished. He examines his evidences for heaven. As he will not take his gold on trust, so neither will he take his grace. He is a spiritual merchant; he casts up the estate of his soul to see what he is worth. He "sets his house in order." Frequent reckonings keep God and conscience friends. A carnal person cannot abide this heart-work; he is ignorant how the affairs go in his soul. He is like a man who is well acquainted with foreign countries, but a stranger in his own country.
A godly man is much in private prayer
He keeps his hours for private devotion. Jacob, when he was left alone, wrestled with God (Gen. 32:24). So when a gracious heart is alone, it wrestles in prayer and will not leave God until it has a blessing. A devout Christian exercises 'eyes of faith' and 'knees of prayer'.
Hypocrites who have nothing of religion besides the frontispiece, love to be seen. Christ has characterized them: "they love to pray in the corners of the streets--that they may be seen" (Matt. 6:5). The hypocrite is devout in the temple. There everyone will gaze at him—but he is a stranger to secret communion with God. He is a saint in the church—but an atheist in private. A good Christian holds secret communication with heaven. Private prayer keeps up the trade of godliness. When private holiness is laid aside, a stab is given to the heart of piety.
A godly man is diligent in his calling
He takes care to provide for his family. The church must not exclude the shop. Mr. Perkins said: "Though a man is endued with excellent gifts, hears the Word with reverence and receives the sacrament—yet if he does not practice the duties of his calling--all is sheer hypocrisy." Piety never did grant a patent for idleness: "We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the bread they eat." (2 Thess. 3:11,12). The bread that tastes most sweet--is obtained with most sweat. A godly man would rather fast--than eat the bread of idleness. Vain professing Christians talk of living by faith—but do not live in a calling. They are like the lilies of the field: "they toil not, neither do they spin" (Matt. 6:28). An idle person is the devil's tennis ball, which he bandies up and down with temptation until at last the ball goes out of play.
A godly man sets bounds to himself in things lawful
He is moderate in matters of recreation and diet. He takes only so much as is needed for the restoration of health, and as may the better dispose him for God's service. Jerome lived abstemiously; his diet was a few dried figs and cold water. And Augustine in his "Confessions" says: "Lord, you have taught me to go to my food--as to a medicine." If the bridle of reason checks the appetite, much more should the curbing-bit of grace do so. The life of a sinner is brutish; the glutton feeds "without fear" (Jude 12), and the drunkard drinks without reason. Too much oil chokes the lamp, whereas a smaller quantity makes it burn more brightly. A godly man holds the golden bridle of temperance, and will not allow his table to be a snare.
A godly man is careful about moral righteousness
He makes conscience of equity as well as piety. The Scripture has linked both together: "that we might serve him in holiness and righteousness" (Luke 1:74,75). Holiness: there is the first table of the law; righteousness: there is the second table of the law. Though a man may be morally righteous, and not godly—yet no one can be godly, unless he is morally righteous. This moral righteousness is seen in our dealings with men. A godly man observes that golden maxim, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matt. 7:12). There is a threefold injustice in business matters:
(1) Using false weights: "the balances of deceit are in his hand" (Hos. 12:7). Men, by making their weights lighter, make their sin heavier. "They make the ephah small" (Amos 8:5). The ephah was a measure they used in selling. They made the ephah small; they gave but scant measure. A godly man who takes the Bible in one hand, dare not use false weights in the other.
(2) Debasing a commodity: "they sell the refuse of the wheat" (Amos 8:6). They would pick out the best grains of the wheat and sell the worst at the same price as they did the best. "Your wine is mixed with water" (Isaiah 1:22). They adulterated their wine—yet made their customers believe it came from the pure grape.
(3) Taking a great deal more than the commodity is worth. "If you sell anything unto your neighbor . . . you shall not oppress one another" (Lev. 25:14). A godly man deals exactly but not exactingly. He will sell so as to help himself—but not to harm another. His motto is, "a conscience void of offence toward God, and toward men" (Acts 24:16).
The hypocrite separates these two which God has joined together—righteousness and holiness. He pretends to be pure but is not just. It brings piety into contempt, when men hang out Christ's colors—yet will use fraudulent circumvention and, under a mask of piety, neglect morality. A godly man makes conscience of the second table of the law, as well as the first.
A godly man will forgive those who have wronged him
Revenge is sweet to nature. A gracious spirit passes by affronts, forgets injuries and counts it a greater victory to conquer an enemy by patience--than by power. It is truly heroic "to overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). Though I would not trust an enemy—yet I would endeavor to love him. I would exclude him from my creed—but not from my prayer (Matt. 5:44).
Question: But does every godly man succeed in forgiving, yes, loving his enemies?
Answer: He does so in a gospel sense. That is:
(a) In so far as there is assent. He subscribes to it in his judgment as a thing which ought to be done: "with my mind I serve the law of God" (Romans 7:25).
(b) In so far as there is grief. A godly man mourns that he can love his enemies no more: "O wretched man that I am!" (Romans 7:24). "Oh, this base cankered heart of mine, that has received so much mercy and can show so little! I have had millions forgiven me—yet I can hardly forgive pence!"
(c) In so far as there is prayer. A godly man prays that God will give him a heart to love his enemies. "Lord, pluck this root of bitterness out of me, perfume my soul with love, make me a dove without gall."
(d) In so far as there is effort. A godly man resolves and strives in the strength of Christ against all rancor and virulence of spirit. This is in a gospel sense to love our enemies. A wicked man cannot do this; his malice boils up to revenge.
A godly man lays to heart the miseries of the church
"We wept, when we remembered Zion" (Psalm 137:1). I have read of certain trees whose leaves, if cut or touched, the other leaves begin to contract and shrink, and for a time hang down their heads. Such a spiritual sympathy exists among Christians. When other parts of God's church suffer, they feel it themselves, as it were. Ambrose reports that when Theodosius was terminally ill, he was more troubled about the church of God than about his own sickness.
When the Lord strikes others, a godly heart is deeply affected: "my affections shall sound like an harp" (Isaiah 16:11). Though things go well with a child of God in his own private life, and he lives in a house of cedar--he still grieves to see things go badly with the public. Queen Esther enjoyed the king's favor and all the delights of the court—yet when a warrant portending bloodshed was signed for the death of the Jews--she mourns and fasts, and ventures her own life to save theirs.
A godly man is content with his present condition
If provisions get low, his heart is tempered to his condition. A godly man puts a kind interpretation upon providence. When God brews him a bitter cup, he says, "This is my medicine cup--it is to purge me and do my soul good." Therefore he is most content (Phil. 4:11).
A godly man is fruitful in good works (Titus 2:7)
The Hebrew word for godly (chasid) signifies "merciful", implying that to be godly and charitable are of equal force--one and the same. A good man feeds the hungry, clothes the naked. "He is ever merciful" (Psalm 37:26). The more devout sort of the Jews to this day distribute the tenth part of their estate to the poor and they have a proverb among them, "Give the tenth, and you will grow rich." The hypocrite is all for faith, nothing for works; like the laurel which makes fine leaves--but bears no fruit.
A godly man will suffer persecution
He will be married to Christ, though he settles no other estate on him, than the cross. He suffers out of choice and with a spirit of gallantry (Heb. 11:35). Argerius wrote a letter to his friend, headed: "From the pleasant gardens of the Leonine prison." The blessed martyrs who put on the whole armor of God, blunted the edge of persecution by their courage. The juniper tree makes the coolest shadow--and the hottest coal. So persecution makes the coal of love hotter--and the shadow of death cooler.
Thus a godly man goes round the whole circle of pious duties and obeys God in whatever he commands.
Objection: But it is impossible for anyone to walk according to the full breadth of God's law, and to follow God fully!
Answer: There is a twofold obeying of God's law. The first is perfect, when all is done, which the law requires. This we cannot arrive at in this life. Secondly, there is an incomplete obedience which is accepted in Christ. This consists in four things:
(1) An approving of all God's commands: "the commandment is holy and just and good . . . I consent unto the law that it is good" (Romans 7:12, 16). There is both assent and consent.
(2) A sweet delight in God's commands: "I will delight myself in your commandments, which I have loved" (Psalm 119:47).
(3) A cordial desire to walk in all God's commands: "O that my ways were directed to keep your statutes" (Psalm 119:5).
(4) A real endeavor to tread in every path of the command: "I turned my feet unto your testimonies" (Psalm 119:59).
This, God esteems perfect obedience--and is pleased to take it in good part. Zacharias had his failings; he hesitated through unbelief, for which he was struck dumb. Yet it is said that he "walked in all the commands of the Lord blameless" (Luke 1:6), because he cordially endeavored to obey God in all things. Evangelical obedience is true in its essence, though not perfect in its degree; and where it comes short, Christ puts his merits into the scales--and then there is full weight.
20 March, 2018
A GODLY MAN IS DOES SPIRITUAL THINGS IN A
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"We are the true circumcision, who worship God in the spirit" (Phil. 3:3). Spiritual worship is pure worship: "You are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices" (1 Peter 2:5)—spiritual not only in the matter—but also in the quality. A wicked man either lives in the total neglect of duty--or else discharges it in a dull, careless manner. Instead of "using the world as if he used it not" (1 Cor. 7.31), he serves God as if he did not serve him. A godly man spiritualizes duty; he is not only for the doing of holy things--but for the holy doing of things.
Question: What is it to perform spiritual duties spiritually?
Answer: It consists in three things:
To do duties from a spiritual principle, namely, a renewed principle of grace. A man may have gifts which attract admiration; he may have the most melting, ravishing expressions; he may speak like an angel come down from heaven; yet his duties may not be spiritual because he lacks the grace of the Spirit. Whatever a moral, unregenerate person does--is only nature refined. Though he may do duties better than a godly man—yet not so well—better as to the matter and elegance—yet not so well, as lacking a renewed principle. A crab-tree may bear as well as an apple tree; the fruit may be big and lovelier to the eye—yet it is not such good fruit as the other, because it does not come from so good a stock. So an unregenerate person may perform as many duties as a child of God, and these may seem to be more glorious to the outward view—but they are harsh and sour, because they do not come from the sweet and pleasant root of grace. A true saint gives God that wine, which comes from the pure grape of the Spirit.
To perform duties spiritually is to do them with the utmost intention. A Christian is very serious and strives to keep his thoughts close to the work in hand: "that you may attend upon the Lord without distraction" (1 Cor. 7:35).
Question: But may not a godly man have roving thoughts in duty?
Answer: Yes, sad experience proves it. The thoughts will be dancing up and down in prayer. The saints are called stars, and many times in duty they are wandering stars. The heart is like quicksilver which will not settle. It is hard to tie two good thoughts together. We cannot lock our hearts so close but that distracting thoughts, like wind, will get in. Jerome complains about himself. "Sometimes," he says, "when I am doing God's service, I am walking in the galleries or casting up accounts."
But these wandering thoughts in the godly are not allowed: "I hate vain thoughts" (Psalm 119:113). They come like unwelcome guests who are no sooner spied, than they are turned out.
Question: From where do these wandering thoughts arise in the godly?
Answer 1: From the depravity of nature. They are the mud which the heart casts up.
Answer 2: From Satan. The devil, if he cannot hinder us from duty, will hinder us in duty. When we come before the Lord, he is at our right hand to resist us (Zech. 3:1). Like when a man is going to write, and another stands at his elbow and jogs him, so that he cannot write evenly. Satan will set vain objects before the imagination, to cause a diversion. The devil does not oppose formality, but fervency. If he sees that we are setting ourselves in good earnest to seek God, he will be whispering things in our ears, so that we can scarcely attend to what we are doing.
Answer 3: These wandering thoughts arise from the world. These vermin are bred out of the earth. Worldly business often crowds into our duties, and while our mouths are speaking to God, our hearts are thinking of the world: "They sit before me as my people—but their heart goes after their covetousness" (Ezek. 33:31). While we are hearing the Word or meditating, some worldly business or other commonly knocks at the door and we are called away from the duty while we are doing it. It is the same with us as it was with Abraham when he was going to worship—the birds came down on the sacrifice (Gen. 15:11).
Question: How may we get rid of these wandering thoughts, so that we may be more spiritual in duty?
Answer 1: Fix your eyes on God's purity. He whom we serve is a holy God, and when we are worshiping him, he cannot tolerate our conversing with vanity. While a king's subject is speaking to him, will the king like him to be playing with a feather? Will God endure light, feathery hearts? How devout and reverent the angels are! They cover their faces and cry, "Holy, holy."
Answer 2: Think of the grand importance of the duties we are engaged in. As David said, concerning his building a house for God, "the work is great" (1 Chron. 29:1). When we are hearing the Word, "the work is great." This is the Word by which we shall be judged. When we are at prayer, "the work is great." We are pleading for the life of our souls, and is this a time to trifle?
Answer 3: Come with delight to duty. The nature of love is to fix the mind upon the object. The thoughts of a man who is in love, are on the person he loves, and nothing can distract them. The thoughts of a man who loves the world are always intent on it. If our hearts were more fired with love, they would be more fixed in duty, and oh, what cause we have to love duty! Is not this the direct road to heaven? Do we not meet with God here? Can the spouse be better than in her husband's company? Where can the soul be better than in drawing near to God?
Answer 4: Consider the mischief that these vain distracting thoughts do. They blow away our duties; they hinder fervency; they show great irreverence; they tempt God to turn his ear away from us. Why do we think God should heed our prayers--when we ourselves scarcely heed them?
To do duties spiritually is to do them in faith. "By faith Abel offered unto God, a better sacrifice than Cain" (Heb. 11:4). The holy oil for the tabernacle had several spices put into it (Exod. 30:34). Faith is the sweet spice which must be put into duty. It is a wrong done to God--to doubt either his mercy or his truth. A Christian may venture his soul upon the promises of God in Scripture.
Use 1: How far from godliness, are those who are unspiritual in their worship, who do not do duties from a renewed principle and with the utmost intention of soul—but merely to stop the mouth of conscience! Many people look no further than the bare doing of duties—but never heed how they are done. God does not judge our duties by their length—but by love. When men put God off with the dreggish part of duty, may he not say, like Isaiah, "Is it such a fast that I have chosen?" (Isaiah 58:5). "Are these the duties I required? I called for the heart and spirit--and you bring nothing but the carcass of duty. Should I receive this?" "The Lord says--These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." Isaiah 29:13
Use 2: Let us show ourselves godly by being more spiritual in duty. It is not the quantity, but the quality--which God is concerned with. It is not how much we do--but how well. A musician is commended, not for playing long--but for playing well. We must not only do what God appoints--but as God appoints. Oh, how many are unspiritual in spiritual things! They bring their services but not their hearts. They give God the skin, not the fat of the offering. "God is a Spirit" (John 4:24)—and it is the spirituality of duty he is best pleased with: "Spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God" (1 Pet. 2:5). The spirits of the wine are best. So is the spiritual part of duty: "making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:19). It is the heart which makes the music; the spiritualizing of duty gives life to it. Without this--it is only dead praying, dead hearing—and dead things are not pleasing. A dead flower has no beauty, a dead breast has no sweetness.
Question: What may we do, to perform duties in a spiritual manner?
Answer 1: Let the soul be kept pure. Lust besots and dispirits a man. Beware of any tincture of uncleanness (Jas. 1:21). Wood that is full of sap will not easily burn. Just so, a heart steeped in sin is not fit to burn in holy devotion. Can he who feeds carnal lust be spiritual in worship? "Whoredom and wine and new wine take away the heart" (Hos. 4:11). Any sin lived in, takes away the heart. Such a person has no heart to pray or meditate. The more alive the heart is in sin, the more it dies to duty.
Answer 2: If we wish to be spiritual in duty, let us revolve these two things in our mind:
(1) The profit which comes from a duty performed in a spiritual manner. It enfeebles corruption; it increases grace; it defeats Satan; it strengthens our communion with God; it breeds peace of conscience; it procures answers of mercy; and it leaves the heart always in better tune.
(2) The danger of doing duties in an unspiritual manner. They are as if they had not been done. For what the heart does not do--is not done. Duties carelessly performed, turn ordinances into judgments. Therefore many, though they are often doing duty--go away worse from duty! If medicine is not well made and the ingredients rightly mixed, it is as bad as poison for the body. Just so, if duties are not well performed, they leave the heart harder and more sinful than before.
Unspiritual duties often create temporal judgments: "the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order" (1 Chron. 15:13). Therefore God makes breaches in families and relationships, because people do not worship him in that manner and due order which he requires.
Answer 3: If we want to have our duties spiritual, we must get our hearts spiritual. An earthly heart cannot be spiritual in duty. Let us beg from God, a spiritual palate to relish a sweetness in holy things. For lack of spiritual hearts, we come to duty without delight--and go away without profit! If a man wants to have the wheels of his watch move regularly, he must mend the spring. Christian, if you want to move more spiritually in duty, get the spring of your heart mended.
19 March, 2018
A GODLY MAN IS GOOD IN HIS RELATIONSHIPS
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To be good in general is not enough—but we must show piety in our relationships.
He who is good as a MAGISTRATE is godly. The magistrate is God's representative. A godly magistrate holds the balance of justice, and gives everyone his right: "You must never twist justice or show partiality. Never accept a bribe, for bribes blind the eyes of the wise and corrupt the decisions of the godly" (Deut. 16:19). A magistrate must judge the cause, not the person. He who allows himself to be corrupted by bribes, is not a judge but a party. A magistrate must do that which is "according to law" (Acts 23:3). And in order that he may do justice, he must examine the cause. The archer who wishes to shoot right, must first see the target.
He who is good as a MINISTER is godly. Ministers must be:
(1) Painstaking. "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction" (2 Tim. 4:2). The minister must not be idle. Sloth is as inexcusable in a minister, as sleeping in a sentry. John the Baptist was a "voice crying" (Matt. 3:3). A dumb minister is of no more use, than a dead physician. A man of God must work in the Lord's vineyard. It was Augustine's wish that Christ might find him at his coming either praying or preaching.
(2) Knowledgeable. "For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction--because he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty" (Mal. 2:7). It was said in honor of Gregory Nazianzene that he was an ocean of divinity. The prophets of old were called "seers" (1 Sam. 9:9). It is absurd to have blind seers. Christ said to Peter, "Feed my sheep" (John 21:16). But how sad it is when the shepherd needs to be fed! Ignorance in a minister is like blindness in an optometrist. Under the law, he who had the plague in his head, was unclean (Lev. 13:44).
(3) A plain preacher, suiting his matter and style to the capacity of his audience (1 Cor. 14:19). Some ministers, like eagles, love to soar aloft in abstruse metaphysical notions, thinking they are most admired when they are least understood. They who preach in the clouds, instead of hitting their people's conscience, shoot over their heads.
(4) Zealous in reproving sin. "Rebuke them sharply" (Titus 1:13). Epiphanius said of Elijah, that he sucked fire out of his mother's breasts. A man of God must suck the fire of zeal out of the breasts of Scripture! Zeal in a minister is as proper as fire on the altar. Some are afraid to reprove, like the swordfish which has a sword in his head, but is without a heart. So they carry the sword of the Spirit with them—but have no heart to draw it out in reproof against sin. How many have sown pillows under their people (Ezek. 13:18), making them sleep so securely, that they never awoke until they were in hell!
(5) Holy in heart and life:
(a) In heart. How sad it is for a minister to preach that to others, which he never felt in his own soul; to exhort others to holiness and himself be a stranger to it. Oh, that this were not too often so! How many blow the Lord's trumpet with foul breath!
(b) In life. Under the law, before the priests served at the altar, they washed in the laver. Such as serve in the Lord's house must first be washed from gross sin in the laver of repentance. The life of a minister should be a walking Bible. Basil said of Gregory Nazianzene that he thundered in his doctrine, and lightened in his conduct. A minister must imitate John the Baptist, who was not only "a voice crying"—but "a light shining" (John 5:35). Those who live in contradiction to what they preach, disgrace this excellent calling. And though they are angels by office—yet they are devils in their lives (Jer. 23:15).
He who is good as a HUSBAND is godly. He fills up that relationship with love: "Husbands, love your wives" (Eph. 5:25). The vine twisting its branches about the elm and embracing it may be an emblem of that entire love which should be in the marital relationship. A married condition would be sad--if it had cares to embitter it and not love to sweeten it. Love is the best diamond in the marriage ring! "Isaac loved Rebekah" (Gen. 24:67). Unkindnesses in this close relationship are very unhappy. We read in heathen authors that Clytemnestra, the wife of Agamemnon, in order to revenge an injury received from her husband, first rent the veil of her chastity and afterwards consented to his death. The husband should show his love to his wife by covering infirmities; by avoiding occasions of strife; by sweet, endearing expressions; by pious counsel; by love tokens; by encouraging what he sees amiable and virtuous in her; by mutual prayer; by being with her, unless detained by urgency of business. The pilot who leaves his ship and abandons it entirely to the merciless waves, declares that he does not value it or reckon there is any treasure in it.
The apostle gives a good reason why there should be mutual love between husband and wife: "that your prayers be not hindered" (1 Pet. 3:7). Where anger and bitterness prevail, there prayer is either intermitted or interrupted.
He who is good as a FATHER is godly
(1) A father must drop holy instructions into his children: "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). This is what Abraham did: "I know Abraham, that he will command his children and his household, and they shall keep the way of the Lord" (Gen. 18:19). Children are young plants which must be watered with good education, so that they may, with Obadiah, fear the Lord "from their youth up" (1 Kings 18:12). Plato said, "In vain does he expect a harvest, who has been negligent in sowing." Nor can a parent expect to reap any good from a child, where he has not sown the seed of wholesome instruction. And though, notwithstanding all counsel and admonition, the child should die in sin—yet it is a comfort to a godly parent to think that before his child died, he gave it spiritual medicine.
(2) A parent must pray for his children. Monica, the mother of Augustine, prayed for his conversion, and someone said "it was impossible that a son of so many prayers and tears should perish." The soul of your child is in a trap--and will you not pray that it may "escape from the Devil's trap?" (2 Tim. 2:26) Many parents are careful to lay up portions for their children—but they do not lay up prayers for them.
(3) A parent must give his children discipline: "Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death" (Proverbs 23:13-14). The rod beats out the dust and moth of sin. A child indulged and humored in wickedness, will prove a burden instead of a blessing. David pampered Adonijah: "his father had never disciplined him at any time" (1 Kings 1:6). And afterwards he was a grief of heart to his father, and wanted to put him off his throne. Discipline is a hedge of thorns--to stop children in their mad race to hell.
He who is good as a MASTER is godly
A godly man promotes true religion in his family; he sets up piety in his house, as well as in his heart: "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart" (Psalm 101:2). "I and my household will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15). I find it written in honor of Cramer, that his family was a nursery of piety. A godly man's house is a little church: "the church which is in his house" (Col. 4:15).
(1) A good man makes known the oracles of God to those who are under his roof. He reads the Word and perfumes his house with prayer. It is recorded of the Jews, that they had sacrifices in their family as well as in the tabernacle (Exod. 12:3).
(2) A godly man provides necessities. He relieves his servants in health and sickness. He is not like that Amalekite who shook off his servant when he was sick, (1 Sam. 30:13)—but rather like the good centurion, who sought Christ for the healing of his sick servant (Matt. 8:5).
(3) A godly man sets his servants a good example. He is sober and heavenly in his deportment; his virtuous life is a good mirror for the servants in the family to dress themselves by.
He who is good in the relationship of a CHILD is godly
He honors his parents. Philo the Jew, placed the fifth commandment in the first table—as if children had not performed their whole devotion to God until they had given honor to their parents. This honoring of parents consists in two things:
(1) In respecting them--which respect is shown both by humility of speech and by attitude. The opposite of this is when a child behaves himself in an unseemly and proud manner. Among the Lacedemonians, if a child had behaved rebelliously towards his parent, it was lawful for the father to appoint someone else to be his heir, and to disinherit that child.
(2) Obeying their commands: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord" (Eph. 6:1). Duty is the interest which children pay their parents, on the capital they have had from them. Christ has set all children a pattern of obedience to their parents: "He was subject unto them" (Luke 2:51). The Rechabites were eminent for this: "I set cups and jugs of wine before them and invited them to have a drink, but they refused. "No," they said. "We don't drink wine, because Jehonadab our ancestor, gave us this command: You and your descendants must never drink wine" (Jer. 35:5,6). Solon was asked why, among the many laws he made, none was against disobedient children. He answered that it was because he thought none would be so wicked.
God has punished children who have refused to pay the tribute of obedience. Absalom, a disobedient son, was hanged in an oak between heaven and earth, as being worthy of neither. Manlius, an old man, being reduced to much poverty, and having a rich son, entreated him only for charity—but could not obtain it. The son disowned him as his father, using reproachful language. The poor old man let tears fall (as witnesses of his grief) and went away. God, to revenge this disobedience of his son, soon afterwards struck him with madness. He in whose heart godliness lives, makes as much conscience of the fifth commandment as of the first.
He who is good as a SERVANT is godly
"Obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord." (Col. 3:22; Eph. 6:5). The goodness of servants lies in:
(1) Diligence. Abraham's servant quickly dispatched the business his master entrusted him with (Gen. 24:33).
(2) Cheerfulness. Servants must be cheerful workers, like the centurion's servants: "If I say to one, 'Go,' he goes" (Luke 7:8).
(3) Faithfulness, which consists in two things:
(a) In not defrauding. "Not stealing" (Titus 2:10).
(b) In keeping counsel. It proves the badness of a stomach, when it cannot retain what is put into it, and the badness of a servant when he cannot retain those secrets which his master has committed to him.
(4) Submissiveness. "Be submissive to their masters in everything, and to be well-pleasing, not talking back" (Titus 2:9). It is better to correct a fault than to minimize it. And what may stimulate a servant in his work is that encouraging scripture, "Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and the Master you are serving is Christ." (Col. 3:24). If Christ should bid you do a piece of work for him, would you not do it? While you serve your master, you serve the Lord Christ. If you ask what salary you shall have, "the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward."
Use 1: Is it the grand sign of a godly man to be holy in his relationships? Then the Lord be merciful to us. How few godly ones are to be found! Many put on the coat of profession. They will pray and discourse on points of religion—but "What means this bleating of the sheep?" (1 Sam. 15:14). They are not good in their relationships. How bad it is when Christians are defective in family piety!
Can we call a bad magistrate, godly? He perverts equity: "Justice—do you rulers know the meaning of the word? Do you judge the people fairly? No, all your dealings are crooked; you hand out violence instead of justice" (Psalm 58:1,2). Can we call a bad parent, godly? He never teaches his child the way to heaven. He is like the ostrich which is cruel to her young (Job 39:16). Can we call a bad employer, godly? Many employers leave their religion at church (as the clerk does his book). They have nothing of God at home; their houses are not Bethels—but Bethavens—not little temples but little hells. How many employers at the last day must plead guilty at the bar. Though they have fed their servants' bellies, they have starved their souls. Can we call a bad child, godly? He stops his ear to his parents' counsel. You may as well call him who is disloyal--a good subject. Can we call a bad servant, godly? He is slothful and wilful; he is more ready to spy a fault in another than to correct it in himself. To call one who is bad in his relationships godly, is a contradiction; it is to call evil good (Isaiah 5:20).
Use 2: As we desire to have God approve of us, let us show godliness in our relationships. Not to be good in our relationships spoils all our other good things. Naaman was an honorable man—but he was a leper (2 Kings 5:1). That "but" spoiled everything. So such a person is a great hearer—but he neglects relative duties. This stains the beauty of all his other actions. As in printing, though the letter is ever so well shaped—yet if it is not set in the right place, it spoils the sense. So let a man have many things commendable in him—yet if he is not good in his right place, making conscience of how he walks in his relationships, he does harm to religion. There are many to whom Christ will say at last, as to the young man, "There is still one thing you lack" (Luke 18:22). You have misbehaved in your relative capacity. As therefore we cherish our salvation and the honor of true religion, let us shine in that orb of relationships where God has placed us.
18 March, 2018
A GODLY MAN DOES NOT INDULGE IN ANY SIN
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Though sin lives in him—yet he does not live in sin. A godly man may step into sin through infirmity—but he does not keep on that road. He prays, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." (Psalm 139:23-24).
Question: What is it to indulge sin?
Answer 1: To give the breast to it and feed it. As a fond parent humors his child and lets him have what he wants, so to indulge sin is to humor sin.
Answer 2: To indulge sin is to commit it with delight. The ungodly "delight in wickedness" (2 Thes. 2:12).
In this sense, a godly man does not indulge sin. Though sin is in him, he is troubled at it and would gladly get rid of it. There is as much difference between sin in the wicked and sin in the godly—as between poison being in a serpent and poison being in a man. Poison in a serpent is in its natural place and is delightful—but poison in a man's body is harmful and he uses antidotes to expel it. So sin in a wicked man is delightful, being in its natural place—but sin in a child of God is burdensome and he uses all means to expel it. The sin is trimmed off. The will is against it. A godly man enters his protest against sin: "Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?" (Romans 7:24). A child of God, while he commits sin, hates the sin he commits (Romans 7).
In particular there are four kinds of sin, which a godly man will not allow himself:
SECRET sins. Some are more modest than to commit open gross sin. That would be a stain on their reputation. But they will sit brooding upon sin in a corner: "Saul secretly practiced mischief" (1 Sam. 23:9). All will not sin on a balcony—but perhaps they will sin behind the curtain. Rachel did not carry her father's images like a saddle cloth to be exposed to public view—but she put them under her and sat on them (Gen. 31:34). Many carry their sins secretly.
But a godly man dare not sin secretly:
(1) He knows that God sees in secret, "for he knows the secrets of every heart." (Psalm 44:21). As God cannot be deceived by our subtlety, so he cannot be excluded by our secrecy.
(2) A godly man knows that secret sins are in some sense worse than others. They reveal more guile and atheism. The curtain-sinner makes himself believe that God does not see: "Son of man, have you seen what the leaders of Israel are doing with their idols in dark rooms? They are saying—The Lord doesn't see us!" (Ezek. 8:12). Those who have bad eyes think that the sun is dim. How it provokes God, that men's atheism should give the lie to his omniscience! "He who formed the eye, shall he not see?" (Psalm 94:9).
(3) A godly man knows that secret sins shall not escape God's justice. A judge on the bench can punish no offence but what is proved by witnesses. He cannot punish the treason of the heart—but the sins of the heart are as visible to God as if they were written upon the forehead. As God will reward secret duties, so he will revenge secret sins.
GAINFUL sins. Gain is the golden bait, with which Satan fishes for souls! "The sweet smell of money." This was the last temptation he used with Christ: "All these things will I give you" (Matt. 4:9). But Christ saw the hook under the bait. Many who have escaped gross sins, are still caught in a golden net. To gain the world, they will use indirect routes.
A godly man dare not travel for riches along the devil's highway. Those are sad gains, which make a man lose peace of conscience and heaven at last. He who gets an estate by injustice stuffs his pillow with thorns, and his head will lie very uneasy when he comes to die. "What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" Matthew 16:26.
A beloved BESETTING sin. "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Hebrews 12:1. There is usually one sin that is the favorite—the sin which the heart is most fond of. A beloved sin lies in a man's bosom as the disciple whom Jesus loved, leaned on his bosom (John 13:23). A godly man will not indulge a darling sin: "I kept myself from my iniquity" (Psalm 18:23). "I will not indulge the sin of my constitution, to which the bias of my heart more naturally inclines." "Fight neither with small nor great—but only with the king" (1 Kings 22:31). A godly man fights this king sin. The oracle of Apollo answered the people of Cyrha that if they would live in peace among themselves, they must make continual war with those strangers who were on their borders. If we would have peace in our souls, we must maintain a war against our favorite sin and never leave off until it is subdued.
Question: How shall we know what our beloved sin is?
Answer 1: The sin which a man does not love to have reproved is the darling sin. Herod could not endure having his incest spoken against. If the prophet meddles with that sin—it shall cost him his head! "Do not touch my Herodias!" Men can be content to have other sins reproved—but if the minister puts his finger on the sore, and touches this sin—their hearts begin to burn in malice against him!
Answer 2: The sin on which the thoughts run most, is the darling sin. Whichever way the thoughts go, the heart goes. He who is in love with a person cannot keep his thoughts off that person. Examine what sin runs most in your mind, what sin is first in your thoughts and greets you in the morning—that is your predominant sin.
Answer 3: The sin which has most power over us, and most easily leads us captive, is the one beloved by the soul. There are some sins which a man can better resist. If they come for entertainment, he can more easily put them off. But the bosom sin comes as a suitor, and he cannot deny it—but is overcome by it. The young man in the Gospel had repulsed many sins—but there was one sin which soiled him, and that was covetousness. Christians, mark what sin you are most readily led captive by—that is the harlot in your bosom! It is a sad thing that a man should be so bewitched by lust, that if it asks him to part with not only half the kingdom (Esther 7:2) but the whole kingdom of heaven, he must part with it, to gratify that lust!
Answer 4: The sin which men use arguments to defend, is the beloved sin. He who has a jewel in his bosom, will defend it to his death. So when there is any sin in the bosom, men will defend it. The sin we advocate and dispute for, is the besetting sin. If the sin is anger, we plead for it: "I do well to be angry" (Jonah 4:9). If the sin is covetousness and we vindicate it and perhaps wrest Scripture to justify it—that is the sin which lies nearest the heart.
Answer 5: The sin which most troubles us, and flies most in the face in an hour of sickness and distress, that is the Delilah sin! When Joseph's brethren were distressed, their sin in selling their brother came to remembrance: "We are truly guilty concerning our brother . . . therefore is this distress come upon us" (Gen. 42:21). So, when a man is on a sickbed and conscience says, "You have been guilty of such a sin; you went on in it, and rolled it like honey under your tongue!" Conscience is reading him a sad lecture. That was the beloved sin for sure.
Answer 6: The sin which a man finds most difficulty in giving up, is the endeared sin. Of all his sons, Jacob found most difficulty in parting with Benjamin. So the sinner says, "This and that sin I have parted with—but must Benjamin go, must I part with this delightful sin? That pierces my heart!" As with a castle that has several forts about it, the first and second fort are taken—but when it comes to the castle, the governor will rather fight and die than yield that. So a man may allow some of his sins to be demolished—but when it comes to one sin, that is the taking of the castle; he will never agree to part with that! That is the master sin for sure.
The besetting sin is a God-provoking sin. The wise men of Troy counseled Priam to send Helena back to the Greeks, not permitting himself to be abused any longer by the charms of her beauty, because keeping her within the city would lay the foundation of a fatal war. So we should put away our Delilah sin, lest it incense the God of heaven, and make him commence a war against us.
The besetting sin is, of all others, most dangerous. As Samson's strength lay in his hair, so the strength of sin, lies in this beloved sin. This is like a poison striking the heart, which brings death. A godly man will lay the axe of repentance to this sin and hew it down! He sets this sin, like Uriah, in the forefront of the battle, so that it may be slain. He will sacrifice this Isaac, he will pluck out this right eye, so that he may see better to go to heaven.
Those sins which the world counts LESSER. There is no such thing as little sin—yet some may be deemed less comparatively. But a godly man will not indulge himself in these. Such as:
(1) Sins of omission. Some think it no great matter to omit family, or private prayer. They can go for several months and God never hears from them. A godly man will as soon live without food, as without prayer. He knows that every creature of God is sanctified by prayer (1 Tim. 4:5). The bird may shame many Christians; it never takes a drop—but the eye is lifted up towards heaven.
(2) A godly man dares not allow himself vain, frothy discourse, much less that which looks like an oath. If God will judge for idle words, will he not much more for idle oaths?
(3) A godly man dare not allow himself rash censuring. Some think this a small matter. They will not swear—but they will slander. This is very evil. This is wounding a man in that which is dearest to him. He who is godly turns all his censures upon himself! He judges himself for his own sins—but is very watchful and concerned, about the good name of another.
Use: As you would be numbered among the genealogies of the saints, do not indulge yourselves in any sin. Consider the mischief which one sin lived in, will do:
One sin lived in, gives Satan as much advantage against you as more sins. The fowler can hold a bird by one wing. Satan held Judas fast by one sin.
One sin lived in, proves that the heart is not sound. He who hides one rebel in his house is a traitor to the crown. The person who indulges one sin is a traitorous hypocrite.
One sin lived in, will make way for more, as a little thief can open the door to more. Sins are linked and chained together. One sin will draw on more. David's adultery made way for murder. One sin never goes alone! If there is only one nest egg—the devil can brood on it.
One sin lived in, is as much a breach of God's law as more sins. "Whoever keeps the entire law, yet fails in one point, is guilty of breaking it all" (Jas. 2:10). The king may make a law against felony, treason and murder. If a man is guilty of only one of these, he is a transgressor.
One sin lived in, prevents Christ from entering. One stone in the pipe keeps out the water. One sin indulged in, obstructs the soul and keeps the streams of Christ's blood from running into it.
One sin lived in, will spoil all your good duties. A drop of poison will spoil a glass of wine. Abimelech, a bastard-son, destroyed seventy of his brethren (Judges 9:5). One bastard-sin will destroy seventy prayers. One dead fly will spoil the whole box of precious ointment.
One sin lived in will be a cankerworm to eat out the peace of conscience. It takes away the manna from the ark, and leaves only a rod. "Alas! What a scorpion lies within!" (Seneca). One sin is a pirate—to rob a Christian of his comfort. One jarring string puts all the music out of tune. One sin lived in—will spoil the music of conscience.
One sin lived in, will damn as well as more sins. One disease is enough to kill. If a fence is made ever so strong, and only one gap is left open; the wild beast may enter and tread down the corn. If only one sin is allowed in the soul, you leave open a gap for the devil to enter! A soldier may have only one gap in his armor--and the bullet may enter there. He may as well be shot there--as if he had no armor on at all. So if you favor only one sin, you leave a part of your soul unprotected--and the bullet of God's wrath may enter there—and shoot you! One sin lived in, may shut you out of heaven! What difference is there, between being shut out of heaven for one sin--or for many sins? One millstone will sink a man into the sea--as well as a hundred!
One sin harbored in the soul will unfit us for suffering. How soon an hour of trial may come. A man who has hurt his shoulder cannot carry a heavy burden, and a man who has any guilt in his conscience cannot carry the cross of Christ. Will he who cannot deny his lust for Christ—deny his life for Christ? One unmortified sin in the soul—will bring forth the bitter fruit of apostasy.
If, then, you would show yourselves godly, give a certificate of divorce to every sin. Kill the Goliath sin! "Let not sin reign" (Romans 6:12). In the original it is "Let not sin king it over you." Grace and sin may be together—but grace and the love of sin cannot. Therefore parley with sin no longer—but with the spear of mortification, spill the heart-blood of every sin! "For if you live after the flesh, you shall die: but if you through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live." Romans 8:13. "So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you." Colossians 3:5.
17 March, 2018
A GODLY MAN IS A LOVER OF THE SAINTS
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The best way to discern grace in oneself—is to love grace in others: "We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren" (1 John 3:14). What is religion—but a knitting together of hearts? Faith knits us to God—and love knits us one to another. There is a twofold love to others:
A civil love. A godly man has a love of civility to all: "Abraham stood up, and bowed to the children of Heth" (Gen. 23:7). Though they were extraneous and not within the pale of the covenant—yet Abraham was affable to them. Grace sweetens and refines nature. "Be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble" (1 Pet. 3:8). We are to have a love of civility to all:
(1) Because they are of the same clay, of the same lump and mold with ourselves and are a piece of God's intricate needlework.
(2) Because our sweet deportment towards them may be a means to win them over and put them in love with the ways of God. Morose, crude behavior, often alienates the hearts of others and hardens them most against holiness, whereas loving behavior is very obliging and may be like a loadstone to draw them to true religion.
A pious and a holy love. This, a godly man has chiefly for those who are "of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10). The first was a love of courtesy, this of delight. Our love to the saints (says Augustine) should be more than to our natural relations, because the bond of the Spirit is closer than that of blood. This love to the saints which shows a man to be godly must have seven ingredients in it:
(1) Love to the saints must be SINCERE. "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue—but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:18). The honey that drops from the comb is pure; so love must be pure, without deceit. Many are like Naphtali: "He gives goodly words" (Gen. 49:21). Pretended love is like a painted fire, which has no heat in it. Some hide malice under a false veil of love. I have read of Antoninus the Emperor that where he made a show of friendship, he intended the most mischief.
(2) Love to the saints must be SPIRITUAL. We must love them because they are saints, not out of self-respect because they are affable or have been kind to us.
But we must love them from spiritual considerations, because of the good that is in them. We are to reverence their holiness, else it is a carnal love.
(3) Love to the saints must be EXTENSIVE. We must love all who bear God's image:
(a) We must love the saints, though they have many infirmities. A Christian in this life is like a good face full of freckles. You who cannot love another because of his imperfections, have never yet seen your own face in the mirror. Your brother's infirmities may make you pity him; his graces must make you love him.
(b) We must love the saints, though in some things they do not agree with us. Another Christian may differ from me in lesser matters, either because he has more light than I, or because he has less light. If he differs from me because he has more light, then I have no reason to censure him. If he differs from me because he has less light, then I ought to bear with him as the weaker vessel. In things of an indifferent nature, there ought to be Christian forbearance.
(c) We must love the saints, though their graces outvie and surpass ours. We ought to bless God for the eminence of another's grace, because hereby religion is honored. Pride is not quite slain in a believer. Saints themselves are apt to grudge and repine at each other's excellences. Is it not strange that the same person should hate one man for his sin and envy another for his virtue? Christians need to look to their hearts. Love is right and genuine, when we can rejoice in the graces of others though they seem to eclipse ours.
(4) Love to the saints must be APPRECIATING. We must esteem them above others: "He honors those who fear the Lord" (Psalm 15:4). We are to look upon the wicked as chaff—but upon the saints as jewels. These must be had in high veneration.
(5) Love to the saints must be SOCIAL. We should delight in their company: "I am a companion of all those who fear you" (Psalm 119:63). It is a kind of hell to be in the company of the wicked, where we cannot choose but hear God's name dishonored. It was a capital crime to carry the image of Tiberius, engraved on a ring or coin, into any sordid place. Those who have the image of God engraved on them should not go into any sinful, sordid company. I have only ever read of two living people who desired to keep company with the dead, and they were possessed by the devil (Matt. 8:28). What comfort can a living Christian have from conversing with the dead (Jude 12)? But the society of saints is desirable. This is not to walk "among the tombs"—but "among beds of spices." Believers are Christ's garden; their graces are the flowers; their savory discourse is the fragrant scent of these flowers.
(6) Love to the saints must be DEMONSTRATIVE. We should be ready to do all offices of love to them, vindicate their names, contribute to their necessities and, like the good Samaritan, pour oil and wine into their wounds (Luke 10:34,35). Love cannot be concealed—but is active in its sphere and will lay itself out for the good of others.
(7) Love to the saints must be CONSTANT. "He who dwells in love" (1 John 4:16). Our love must not only lodge for a night—but we must dwell in love: "Let brotherly love continue" (Heb. 13:1). As love must be sincere, without hypocrisy; so it must be constant, without deficiency. Love must be like the pulse, always beating, not like those Galatians who at one time were ready to pluck out their eyes for Paul (Gal. 4:15) and afterwards were ready to pluck out his eyes. Love should expire only with our life. And surely if our love to the saints is thus divinely qualified, we may hopefully conclude that we are enrolled among the godly. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples—if you have love one to another" (John 13:35).
What induces a godly man to love the saints is the fact that he is closely related to them. There ought to be love among relations; there is a spiritual kinship among believers. They all have one head, therefore should all have one heart. They are stones of the same building (1 Pet. 2:5), and shall not these stones be cemented together with love?
Use 1: If it is the distinguishing mark of a godly man to be a lover of the saints, then how sad it is to see this grace of love in eclipse! This characteristic of godliness is almost blotted out among Christians. England was once a fair garden where the flower of love grew—but surely now this flower is either plucked, or withered. Where is that amity and unity which there should be among Christians? I appeal to you—would there be that censuring and despising, that reproaching and undermining one another—if there were love? Instead of bitter tears, there are bitter spirits. It is a sign that iniquity abounds when the love of many grows cold. There is that distance among some professing Christians as if they had not received the same Spirit, or as if they did not hope for the same heaven. In primitive times there was so much love among the godly—that it set the heathen wondering; and now there is so little love—that it may set Christians blushing.
Use 2: As we would be written down for saints in God's calendar, let us love the brotherhood (1 Pet. 2:17). Those who shall one day live together, should love together. What is it that makes a disciple, but love (John 13:35)? The devil has knowledge—but that which makes him a devil is that he lacks love. To persuade Christians to love, consider:
(1) The saints have that in them which may make us love them. They are the intricate embroidery and workmanship of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 2:10). They have those rare lineaments of grace that none but a pencil from heaven could draw. Their eyes sparkle forth beauty, "their breasts are like clusters of grapes" (Song 7:7). This makes Christ himself delight in his spouse: "The king is held in the galleries" (Song 7:5). The church is the daughter of a prince (Song 7:1). She is waited on by angels (Heb 1:14). She has a palace of glory reserved for her (John 14:2), and may not all this draw forth our love?
(2) Consider how evil it is for saints not to love:
(a) It is UNNATURAL. The saints are Christ's lambs (John 21:15). For a dog to worry a lamb is usual—but for one lamb to worry another is unnatural. The saints are brethren (1 Peter 3:8). How barbarous it is for brethren not to love!
(b) Not to love is a FOOLISH thing. Have not God's people enemies enough, that they should fly in the faces of one another? The wicked confederate against the godly: "They have taken crafty counsel against your people" (Psalm 83:3). Though there may be a private grudge between such as are wicked—yet they will all agree and unite against the saints. If two greyhounds are snarling at a bone and you put a hare between them, they will leave the bone and chase the hare. So if wicked men have private differences among themselves, and the godly are near them, they will leave snarling at one another and chase the godly. Now, when God's people have so many enemies abroad, who watch for their halting and are glad when they can do them a mischief, shall the saints fall out and divide into parties among themselves?
(3) Not to love is very UNSEASONABLE. God's people are in a common calamity. They all suffer in the cause of the gospel, and for them to disagree is altogether unseasonable. Why does the Lord bring his people together in affliction, except to bring them together in affection? Metals will unite in a furnace. If ever Christians unite, it should be in the furnace of affliction. Chrysostom compares affliction to a shepherd's dog, which makes all the sheep run together. God's rod has this loud voice in it: "Love one another." How unworthy it is when Christians are suffering together, to be then striving together.
(4) Not to love is very SINFUL.
(a) For saints not to love, is to live in contradiction to Scripture. The apostle is continually plucking this string of love, as if it made the sweetest music in religion: "This commandment have we from him, That he who loves God love his brother also" (1 John 4:21). (See also Romans 13:8; Col. 3:14; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11). Not to love is to walk contrary to the Word. Can he who goes against the rules of medicine, be a good physician? Can he who goes against the rules of piety, be a good Christian?
(b) Lack of love among Christians greatly silences the spirit of prayer. Hot passions make cold prayers. Where animosities and contentions prevail, instead of praying for one another, Christians will be ready to pray against one another, like the disciples who prayed for fire from heaven on the Samaritans (Luke 9:54). And will God, do you think, hear such prayers as come from a wrathful heart? Will he eat our leavened bread? Will he accept those duties which are soured with bitterness of spirit? Shall that prayer which is offered with the strange fire of our sinful passions, ever go up as incense?
(c) These heart-burnings hinder the progress of piety in our own souls. The flower of grace will not grow in a wrathful heart. The body may as soon thrive, while it has the plague—as a soul can thrive, which is infected with malice. While Christians are debating, grace is abating. As the spleen grows, health decays. As hatred increases, holiness declines.
(5) Not to love is very FATAL. The differences among God's people portend ruin. All mischiefs come in at this gap of division (Matt. 12:25). Animosities among saints may make God leave his temple: "the glory of the Lord went up from the cherub, and stood upon the threshold" (Ezek. 10:4). Does not God seem to stand upon the threshold of his house, as if he were taking wings to fly? And woe to us if God departs from us (Hos. 9:12)! If the master leaves the ship, it is nearly sinking indeed. If God leaves a land, it must of necessity sink in ruin.
Question: How shall we attain this excellent grace of love?
Answer 1: Beware of the devil's couriers—I mean such as run on his errand, and make it their work to blow the coals of contention among Christians, and render one party odious to another.
Answer 2: Keep up friendly meetings. Christians should not be shy of one another, as if they had the plague.
Answer 3: Let us plead that promise: "I will give them one heart, and one way" (Jer. 32:39). Let us pray that there may be no contests among Christians, except as to who shall love most. Let us pray that God will divide Babylon—and unite Zion.
Use 3: Is it a mark of a godly man to love the saints? Then those who hate the saints must stand indicted as ungodly. The wicked have an implacable malice against God's people, and how can antipathies be reconciled? To hate the holy children of God, is a brand of the reprobate. Those who malign the godly, are the curse of creation. If all the scalding drops from God's vial will make them miserable—they shall be so! Never did any who were the haters and persecutors of saints thrive at that trade. What became of Julian, Diocletian, Maximinus, Valerian, Cardinal Crescentius and others? They are standing monuments of God's vengeance! "Calamity will surely overtake the wicked, and those who hate the righteous will be punished. " (Psalm 34:21).