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The earth, Lord, is full of thy mercy; teach me thy statutes.—Ver. 64.

IN this verse I observe—

1. David’s petition, teach me thy statutes.

2. The argument or consideration which encourageth him to ask it of God, the earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy. The sum and substance of this verse will be comprised in these five propositions:—

1. That saving knowledge is a benefit that must be asked of God.

2. That this benefit cannot be too often or sufficiently enough asked; it is his continual request.

3. In asking we are encouraged by the bounty or mercy of God.

4. That God is merciful all his creatures declare.

5. That his goodness to all creatures should confirm us in hoping for saving grace or spiritual good things.

Prop. 1. That saving knowledge is a benefit that must be asked of God, for three reasons:—

1. God is the proper author of it.

2. It is a singular favour where he bestoweth it.

3. Prayer is the appointed means to obtain it.

1. God is the proper author of it. The fountain of wisdom is not in man himself, but God giveth it to whom he pleaseth. We were at first endowed by him with a reasonable soul and faculty of understanding: John i. 4, ‘In him was life, and this life was the light of man.’ All life is of God, especially that life which is light. The reasonable soul and the natural faculty of understanding cometh from him, and if it be disordered, as it is by sin, it must be by him restored and rectified; it is all God’s gift. Now man is fallen from that light of life wherein he was created, his Maker must be his mender, he must go to ‘the Father of lights’ to have his light cleared, James i. 17, and his understanding freed from those mistakes and errors wherewith it was obscured. All knowledge is from God, much more saving grace or a sound knowledge of the mysteries of the gospel. Many scriptures speak to this: Job xxxii. 8, ‘There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth understanding.’ Though the dial be right set, yet it showeth not the time of the day except the sun shineth; so the spirit of man will grope and fumble in the clearest cases without a divine irradiation. God enlighteneth the mind, directeth the judgment, giveth understanding what to do or say. So he challengeth it as his prerogative: Job xxxviii. 26, ‘Who hath put wisdom into the inward parts, or given understanding unto the heart?’ The exercise of the outward senses is from God, who gives the seeing eye, the hearing ear, much more the right exercise of the internal faculties; an understanding heart is much more from the Lord: Prov. ii. 6, ‘The Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding;’ Dan. ii. 21, ‘He giveth wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding.’ Certainly all true wisdom is from above: James iii. 17, ‘The wisdom that is from above is first pure,’ 184&c. He distinguished there between the wisdom that is not from above and that which is from above. Man hath so much wisdom yet left as to cater for the body and the concernments of the bodily life (called ‘thine own wisdom,’ Prov. xxiii. 4); therefore he saith, ver. 15, ‘This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.’ But for wisdom that concerneth the other world and our everlasting concernments, that is of God, that is from above; the wisdom that is exercised in pure, peaceable, fruitful, self-denying obedience. All that have any of this wisdom should acknowledge God, and all that would have it should depend upon him, and run to the fountain where enough is to be had. Man’s wit is but borrowed, and he holdeth it of God. Vitia etiam sine magistro discuntur—he needeth no teacher in what is evil and carnal, but in what is holy and spiritual he needeth it.

2. It is a singular favour to them on whom God bestoweth this heavenly wisdom, and so puts a difference between them and others. It is a greater sign of friendship and respect to them than if God had given them all the world: Mark xiii. 11, ‘To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to others it is not given.’ This is no common benefit, but a favour which God reserveth for his peculiar people; so John xv. 15, ‘I have called you friends, for all things which I have heard of my Father I have made known to you.’ That is the highest argument of friendship, not to give you wealth, and honour, and greatness, but to give you an enlightened mind and a renewed heart. God may give honour and greatness and a worldly estate in judgment, as beasts fatted for destruction may be put into large pastures; but he doth not teach his statutes in judgment; it is a favour, though he useth a sharper discipline in teaching: Ps. xliv. 12, ‘Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest, and teachest him out of thy law.’ If God will teach his child not only by the word but by the rod, and useth a sharp discipline to instruct in the lesson of Christianity, it is a greater favour than if God did let him alone, and suffer him to perish with the wicked in his wrath. The prosperity of wicked men is so far from being a felicity to them, that it is rather the greatest judgment; and to be punished and rebuked by God for all that we do amiss, and thereby to be reduced to the sense and practice of our duty, is indeed the greatest favour and mercy of God, and so the most valuable felicity and evidence of God’s tender care over us. So Prov. iii. 31, 32, ‘Envy not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways; for the froward is an abomination to the Lord, and his secret is with the righteous.’ You are depressed and kept bare and low, but your adversaries flourish and grow insolent; you cannot therefore say, God hateth you, or loveth them, If the Lord hath given you the saving knowledge of himself and his Christ, and only given them worldly happiness, it is a great token of his love to you and hatred to them, that you need not envy them, for you are dignified with the higher privilege.

3. Prayer is the appointed means to obtain it. There are other means by which God conveyeth this heavenly wisdom, as by study and search. Dig for wisdom as for silver, and for understanding as hid treasures, Prov. ii. 4. Dig in the mines of knowledge: attend upon 185the word which is able to make us wise unto salvation: Mark iv. 24, ‘Take heed what or how ye hear: with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you; and unto you that hear shall more be given.’ But all are sanctified by prayer: Prov. ii. 3, ‘Cry for knowledge, and lift up thy voice for understanding.’ Bene orasse est bene studuisse, saith Luther; so to pray well is to hear aright. God giveth understanding by the ministry of the word, but he will be sought unto and acknowledged in the gift, otherwise we make an idol of our own understanding: Prov. iii. 5, ‘Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not upon thine own understanding: in all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.’ Let us not make a God of our own wisdom; do not seek it in the means without prayer to the Lord. Let us not study without prayer, nor you hear without prayer, nor go about any business in your general and particular callings without prayer.

Prop. 2. This benefit cannot be too often nor too sufficiently asked of God.

1. Because of our want We never know so much but we may know more of God’s mind, and know it better and to better purpose. To know things as we ought to know them is the great gift: 1 Cor. viii. 2, ‘If any man thinketh that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know:’ that we may be more sanctified, more prudent, and orderly in governing our hearts and lives, that we may know things seasonably when they concern us in any special business and temptation: Prov. xxviii. 26, ‘He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool; but he that walketh wisely shall be delivered:’ that is, he that followeth his own conceit soon falleth into a snare; he that maketh his bosom his oracle, and his own wit his counsel, thinks himself wise enough without daily seeking to God to order his own business, never succeedeth well, but plungeth himself into manifold inconveniences.

2. From God’s manner of giving; he is not weary and tired with constant supplicants: James i. 5, ‘If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.’ The throne of grace lieth always open; the oftener we frequent it, the more welcome. We frown upon one that often troubleth us with his suits, but it is not so with God; we may beg and beg again.

3. The value of the benefit itself. Saving knowledge, or the light of the Spirit, keepeth alive the work of grace in our hearts. Habitual graces will soon wither and decay without a continual influence. The increase of sanctification cometh into the soul by the increase of saving knowledge: 2 Peter i. 2, ‘Grace be multiplied unto you, through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus Christ our Lord.’ The more we grow thriving in knowledge, the more we grow in grace, and the heart and life is more engaged. As we learn somewhat more of God in Christ, our awe and love to him is increased: Eph. iv. 20, 21, ‘Ye have not so learned Christ, if so be that you have heard him, and been taught of him as the truth is in Jesus;’ that is, if ye are taught and instructed by Christ himself in the truth. It is not every sort of hearing Christ or knowledge which will do us good. Many learn him and know him who abuse that knowledge which they have of him; but if he effectually 186teach u by his Spirit, then our knowledge is practical and operative; we will practise what we know, be careful to please God in all things.

4. From the temper of a gracious heart: a taste of this knowledge will make us desire a further supply, that we may be taught more, and the soul may be more sanctified; therefore doth David deal with God for the increase of saving knowledge. We are contented with a little taste of heavenly doctrine, but holy men are not so. Show me thy mind, let me see thy glory: Hosea vi. 3, ‘Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the Lord.’ They are for growth as well as truth; they experimentally know how good God is, and the more they know him the more they see their ignorance, and that there is more behind to be known of him. Before they had but a flying report of him, now they are acquainted with him, and have a nearer inspection into his ways, and this is but little in comparison of what they desire. We are bidden, 2 Peter iii. 18, to ‘grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ Present measures do not satisfy them; they must grow in knowledge, as grow in grace, more love to Christ, more delight in his ways.

Prop. 3. In asking any spiritual gift we are encouraged by the bounty and mercy of God. David signifieth both.

1. His bounty or benignity, or that free inclination which is in God to do good to his creatures.

2. His mercy respects the creature as affected with any misery. Mercy properly is a proneness to succour and relieve a man in misery notwithstanding sin. Now the larger thoughts of mercy, the more hope; partly because we have no plea of merit, and therefore mercy is the fountain of all the good which cometh to us from God. We cannot come to him as a debtor, and therefore we must come to him as a free benefactor. Wherewith can we oblige God? We have nothing to give to him but what is his own already, and was first received from him: ‘All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee,’ 1 Chron. xxix. 14; we pay the great governor of the world out of his own exchequer. The apostle maketh the challenge, Rom. xi. 35, ‘Who hath given him first, and it shall be recompensed to him?’ The sun oweth nothing to the beam, but the beam all to the sun; the fountain oweth nothing to the stream, but the stream hath all from the fountain: so we have all from God, can bring nothing to him which was not his before, and came from him. Partly because there is a contrary merit, an ill-deserving upon us, for which he might deny us any further mercies: Ps. xxv. 8, ‘Good and upright is the Lord; and therefore he will teach sinners in the way:’ if the sinner be weary of his wandering, and would be directed of the Lord for the time to come, God is upright, he will not mislead us; and he is good, will readily lead us in a right path. Sin shall not obstruct our mercies, and therefore must not keep the penitent supplicant back from confidence to be heard in his prayer, when he would be directed in the ready way to happiness. If you would fain be reduced to a good life after all your straying, humbly lay yourselves at God’s feet: 1 Kings xx. 31, ‘We have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings: let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins, and 187ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; peradventure he will save thy life.’ If God were most tenacious, we have cause to beat his ears continually with our suits and supplications, such is our want; but he is good, and ready to guide poor creatures; nay, he is merciful; and former sins shall be no obstruction to us, if at length we are willing to return to our duty.

Prop. 4. The universal experience of the world possesseth all men’s minds with this apprehension, that God is a merciful God: ‘The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy:’ the world and everything therein sets forth his goodness to us. The same is said in other places: Ps. xxxiii. 5, ‘The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.’ If earth, what is heaven? Ps. cxlv. 9, ‘His tender mercy is over all his works.’

1. Let us see that every creature is a monument and witness of God’s mercy and goodness. Things animate and inanimate, the heavens and earth, and all things contained therein, declare that there is a powerful, wise, and good God. There is no part of the world that we can set our eyes upon but it speaketh praise to God, and the thoughts of his bounty to the creatures, especially to man; for all things were either subjected to man’s dominion, or created for his use and benefit. If we look to the heavens, all serveth for the use and benefit of mankind: Ps. viii. 3, 4, ‘When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, what is man that thou are mindful of him, and the son of man, that thou visitest him?’ The lowest heaven affordeth us breath, winds, rain; the middle or second heaven affordeth us heat, light, influence; and the third heaven an eternal habitation, if we serve God. In earth, all the things daily in our view speak to God’s praise, if we had the leisure to hear them: these creatures and works of his that are daily in our view represent him as a merciful God. This is the lesson which is most legible in them, whether we sit at home in our houses or go abroad, and consider land or water. Go to the animate creatures, the beasts of the field: Ps. xxxvi. 6, ‘Thou preservest man and beast:’ Job xii. 7, 8, ‘But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air shall declare unto thee: or speak to the earth and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this?’ His providence reacheth to an innumerable multitude of creatures, giving them life and motion, and sustaining them, and relieving their necessities, and doth largely bestow his blessing upon them according to their nature and condition. And this goodness of God shineth forth in all his creatures; not only in what he doth to them themselves, but in what he doth about them for man’s sake. They were defiled with man’s sin, and therefore he might in justice have abolished them, or made them useless to man, or instruments of his grief; but they are continued for our comfort, that we might live in a well-furnished world. Now, come to man himself, good, bad, wicked, godly: ‘His sun shineth, his rain falleth on the evil and good, just and unjust,’ Mat. v. 44. Great mercy is still continued to the fallen creature, even to the impenitent: Acts xiv. 17, ‘Neverthelesss he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, 188and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.’ What was God’s witness? Ἀγαθοποιῶν, he doth good; much patience is used, men’s lives continued while they sin, and means vouchsafed for their reclaiming; food, raiment, friends, habitations, health, ease, liberty afforded to them, and all to show that we have to do with a most merciful God, who is willing to be reconciled to the sinning creature. Go to the godly, and what is all their experience but a constant course of mercy? David’s admiration declares it: Ps. cxxxix. 17, 18, ‘How precious are thy thoughts to me, O Lord! how great is the sum of them! if I should count them, they are more in number than the sand.’ He was in a maze when he thought of the various dispensations of God’s providence; there was no getting out. The Lord filleth up his servants’ lives with great and various mercies, even in their warfare and pilgrimage here in this world; abundance of invaluable mercies, that if we do but consider what we do receive, we must needs be confirmed in this truth by our own senses. Everything is a mercy to a vessel of mercy.

2. Wherein God expresseth his mercy to them in creation and providence.

[1.] In creating them. It was great mercy that, being infinitely perfect in himself from all eternity, and so not needing anything, he took the creatures out of nothing, which therefore could merit nothing, and communicated his goodness to them: ‘For thy pleasure they are and were created,’ Rev. iv. 11.

[2.] In preserving and continuing them so long as he seeth good. The heavens continue according to his ordinance; the beasts, and fowls, and fishes continue according to his pleasure: all the living creatures need many things for their daily sustentation which their Creator abundantly supplieth to them, and therefore the whole earth is full of his mercy. One creature the scripture taketh notice of: Luke xii. 24, ‘Consider the ravens, for God feedeth them:’ and again, Job xxxvii. 41, ‘He feedeth the young ravens when they cry and wander for lack of meat:’ and Ps. cxlvii. 9, ‘He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.’ Why is the raven made such an instance of providence above other fowls, or other living creatures? Some say it is animal sibi rapacissimum; others, other things, τοὺς νεόττους ἐπιβάλλει, casts its young out of the nest as soon as they are able to fly, and put to hard shifts for themselves. All this showeth his mercy, how ready he is to supply the miserable.

Prop. 5. His goodness to all the creatures should confirm his people in hoping for saving grace or spiritual good things. Why, all the business will be to show you the force of this argument, and that it is a prop to faith.

1. We may reason from the less to the greater. Our Lord hath taught us so for food and clothing: Mat. vi. 28-30, ‘And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?’ For fowls and lilies, they have no arts of 189tilling, spinning, are not of such account with God as mankind, as his people. So for protection: Mat. x. 29-31, ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall to the ground without your Father: but the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not, therefore; ye are of more value than many sparrows.’ The reasoning is good; if he hath mercy for kites, he hath also for children, who are not only in a higher rank of creatures, but in a renewed state, and reconciled to him by Christ, become his friends and children, whom he tendeth as the apple of his eye; much more when they come for spiritual benefits pleasing to the Lord: 1 Kings iii. 9, 10, ‘Give, therefore, thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.’ Now all these amount to a strong probability, if not a certainty. It is a mistake to think that faith only goeth upon certainties. No; sometimes it is mightily encouraged by probabilities. These must not be left out; for if I want any spiritual blessing, is it not a great encouragement to remember God’s merciful nature shining forth in all his works? If kind to his creatures, will he not be kind to me? If he causeth his sun to shine upon the wicked, will he not lift up the light of his countenance upon my soul? If his rain fall upon their fields, will he not let the dew of his grace fall upon my barren heart? Though the argument be not absolutely and infallibly conclusive, yet here is such a concurrence of probabilities that we should go and try what he will do for our souls.

2. They in their rank have their supplies, and we in our rank have our supplies; therefore his kindness to all creatures should encourage new creatures to expect their help from him; for God doth good to all his creatures according to their necessity and capacity; his giving them sup plies convenient for them is a pawn of God’s pleasure to bestow upon his servants greater gifts than these. All things that look to God have necessaries provided for them according to the condition of their nature; and therefore, if you have another nature, and besides the good things of this life do need the good things which belong to the life to come, he will give us gifts and graces as he giveth them their food; for these are as necessary for this kind of life as food for that. As they in their rank find mercy, so we in ours; his general goodness confirmeth us in expecting these more special favours; for as there is a general benignity to all creatures, so there is a special to his children: Ps. xxxvi. 6, 7, ‘Thou preservest man and beast. How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O Lord! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.’ His common kindness and his special love are often compared together; they agree in this, that both come from a good God. Therefore the argument holdeth strong, if good to all creatures, then good to new creatures. Why should we think that he would not show his goodness to us also? Again, they agree in this, that in doing good God doth not consider the worthiness of the creature, but his own goodness and self-inclination to preserve what he hath made; as he did not disdain to give life to the meanest creatures, so he doth not disdain to preserve them. As they had their life from him at first, so they have their life still in him, the poorest 190worm not excepted: not a worm, not a gnat, not a fly but tastes of God’s bounty. God disdaineth not to look after the most abject things. So the plea of unworthiness lieth not in bar against the new creature, for necessary supplies God giveth out of his own goodness. Now, they differ in the kinds of the mercy,—one common, the other saving; and the special subjects of them,—one is to all creatures, the other is to God’s peculiar people; and in the manner of conveyance,—the one floweth in the channel of common providence, the other is conveyed to us by the golden pipe of the Mediator. Well, then, the creatures have their mercies, and wicked men their mercies, that they prize and value; and the people of God have also what they prize and esteem.

3. God doth good to every one according to their necessity and capacity. He doth not give meat to the trees, nor stones to the beasts, but provideth food and nourishment convenient for them; so to his people, according to their condition of nature and special capacity. The general capacity is the condition of their natures, the special capacity is want or earnest desire. If we extremely need or earnestly desire these blessings, then we may reason from God’s general goodness to all the creatures to that special act of goodness which we expect from him. Pray, mark how God’s general goodness is expressed, Ps. cxlv. 15, 16, ‘The eyes of all things wait upon thee, and thou givest them their meat in due season: thou openest thy hand and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.’ He keepeth a constant eye of providence, and if the desire be great, he doth not frustrate the natural expectation of hungry creatures, but giveth them that sort of food which is fit for them. Now God expecteth the same from new creatures: if necessity and vehement desire meet, he promises supply: ‘Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it,’ Ps. lxxxi. 10; and Ps. cxlv. 19, ‘The Lord will fulfil the desire of them that fear him, he also will hear their cry, and will save them.’ The beasts mourn and cry in their kind; we pray and cry in our kind: needy desires will be heard. He is in a capacity to receive spiritual blessings who is sensible of their necessity for the happiness of his immortal soul, and doth prize and value them, and earnestly desire them. The man of God was under a necessity, for he apprehended himself miserable, and at a loss without it; for he desired no other mercy. A gracious heart cannot be satisfied with low things. Be thus affected, and then this argument will be of use to you.

Use 1. For reproof. Since God is so merciful, how much are they to blame—

1. Who render themselves incapable of the benefit of mercy by impenitence persisted in against the means of grace! They slight his common mercy, and cut off themselves from his saving mercy. Abused goodness will be destructive: Rom. ii. 4, 5, ‘Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? but after thy hardness and impenitent heart, treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath, and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.’

2. The stupid and senseless, which do not take notice of the mercy of God which shineth forth in all the creatures! A man can turn his eye nowhere but in every place and quarter of the world he shall see plain testimonies of God’s mercy. But alas! how much of this is lost 191and passed over for want of observation! Isa. i. 3, ‘The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib; but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.’ All this goodness was left in the earth to invite our minds and hearts to God; therefore, as the bee sucketh honey out of every flower, so should we still dwell on the thoughts of God’s goodness, represented to us in everything we see and feel.

3. That think of God’s mercy with extenuating and diminishing thoughts, and do not raise their hopes and confidence by a serious reflection upon that ample discovery which he hath made of it in all his works! If God be good to all his creatures, why should we be left out of the number? Surely God will not be backward to those that earnestly desire his grace; therefore those that deject themselves, that say, God will not hear me, or regard my prayers, are to be condemned.

Use 2. Information, the lively light of the Spirit is a special mercy, Our misery lieth in the ignorance of God and the transgression of his law; our happiness in being enlightened and sanctified by the Spirit of wisdom and understanding. It is God’s great gift: Jer. xxiv. 7, ‘I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God; for they shall return unto me with all their heart.’

Use 3. To exhort you to cherish in your souls good thoughts of God, and the fulness and largeness of his bounty and mercy. The devil seeks to weaken our opinion of God’s goodness; he thought to possess our first parents with this conceit, that God was envious, so as to draw them away from God. It will be of use to you:—

1. In all afflictive providences. Those who are poor and destitute, or in prison and banishment, or bereft of children, or oppressed with guilty fears, or assaulted with any other calamity: Job xiii. 15, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him:’ still he is a good God. Here is the glory of faith, to believe him as a gracious father when we feel him as an enemy. Satan will be sure to put in upon these occasions—to tell you that God is an enemy, harsh, severe, implacable in his dealings, one that regardeth you not in your misery, that giveth you no rest nor respite in your troubles; if he did not hate you, how could he deal thus with you? and so striketh a terror into the minds of men, that they are afraid of nothing so much as of God, and of coming to him by Christ. No; ‘God is love,’ a father when he frowneth as well as when he smileth: Heb. xii. 10, ‘He verily chastiseth us for our profit;’ and ‘we are chastened of the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.’ And in reason should it not be so? Did your parents hate you because they were careful of your breeding, and sometimes corrected you for your faults? There is more of compassion than passion in his severest strokes. He hath the bowels of a mother, but yet the wisdom of a father. His love must not be exercised to the prejudice of his other attributes. He that pulleth you out of a deep gulf, though he breaketh your arm in pulling you out, doth not he love you? God is love, and the giver of all good things.

2. It is a great motive to repentance. As the prodigal thought of his father, so should we return: Jer. iii. 12, ‘Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, and I will not cause mine auger to fall upon you; 192for I am merciful, saith the Lord, and I will not keep anger for ever.’ Come, lie at his feet, see what mine infinite love will do for you: 1 Kings xx. 31, ‘We have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings.’ When you first begin with God, this is an argument and ground of comfort, much more when you renew your repentance. Hard thoughts of God keep us off from him, but his loving and merciful nature inviteth us to him.

3. It sweetens the duties of holiness: 1 John v. 3, ‘This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and his commandments are not grievous.’ This makes our resistance of sin more serious: Ezra ix. 13, ‘Seeing thou our God hast punished us less than our iniquities deserved, should we again break thy commandments?’

4. To quicken and enliven your prayers for grace. You have to do with a merciful God: Ps. cxlv. 19, ‘He will fulfil the desires of them that fear him; he also will hear their cry, and will save them.’

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