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Sincere Conformity to God's Will

Sincere Conformity to God's Will

Psalm 17

“A Prayer of David. Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give ear unto my prayer, that goeth not out of feigned lips. Let my sentence come forth from thy presence; let thine eyes behold the things that are equal. Thou hast proved mine heart; thou hast visited me in the night; thou hast tried me, and shalt find nothing; I am purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. Concerning the works of men, by the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer. Hold up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not. I have called upon thee, for thou wilt hear me, O God: incline thine ear unto me, and hear my speech. Shew thy marvelous lovingkindness, O thou that savest by thy right hand them which put their trust in thee from those that rise up against them. Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings, From the wicked that oppress me, from my deadly enemies, who compass me about. They are inclosed in their own fat: with their mouth they speak proudly. They have now compassed us in our steps: they have set their eyes bowing down to the earth; Like as a lion that is greedy of his prey, and as it were a young lion lurking in secret places. Arise, O LORD, disappoint him, cast him down: deliver my soul from the wicked, which is thy sword: From men which are thy hand, O LORD, from men of the world, which have their portion in this life, and whose belly thou fillest with thy hid treasure: they are full of children, and leave the rest of their substance to their babes. As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” (Psalm 17, AV)

A sufferer, in imminent danger, professes his sincere conformity to God’s will, and invokes his favor and protection, ver. 1–5. This petition is enforced by an appeal to former mercies, ver. 6, 7, and a description of the wickedness of his enemies, ver. 8–12, whose character and spirit he contrasts with his own, ver. 13–15.

The position of this psalm in the collection seems to have been determined by the resemblance of its subject, tone, and diction, to those of the sixteenth, with which it may be said to form a pair or double psalm, like the first and second, third and fourth, ninth and tenth, &c.

1. A Prayer. By David. Hear, O Jehovah, the right, hearken to my cry, give ear to my prayer not with lips of deceit. This psalm is called a prayer because petition is its burden, its characteristic feature, its essential element. By David, literally, to David, i.e. belonging to him as its author.—The right, righteousness or justice in the abstract, here put for a just cause, or perhaps for one who is in the right, who has justice on his side. The prayer that God will hear the right implies that no appeal is made to partiality or privilege, but merely to the merits of the case. The righteousness claimed is not merely that of the cause but that of the person, not inherent but derived from the imputed righteousness of faith according to the doctrine of the Old as well as the New Testament. The quality alleged is not that of sinless perfection but that of sincere conformity to the divine will. The last clause, not with lips of deceit, applies to all that goes before, and represents sincerity as necessary to acceptance. The original expression is still stronger, and conveys much more than a negative. It does not merely say, not with deceitful lips, but more positively with lips not deceitful.

2. From before thee my judgment shall come forth; thine eyes shall behold equities. This sentence really involves a prayer, but in form it is the expression of a confident hope. From before thee, from thy presence, thy tribunal. My judgment, my acquittal, vindication; or my justice, i.e. my just cause, my cause considered as a just one. Shall come forth, to the view of others, shall be seen and recognized in its true character, as being what it is. The reason is, because God’s judgments are infallible. His eyes cannot fail to see innocence or righteousness where it exists. The plural, rectitudes or equities, is an emphatic abstract. See above, on the parallel passage, Ps. 11:7.

3. Thou hast tried my heart, hast visited (me) by night, hast assayed me; thou wilt not find; my mouth shall not exceed my thought. He still appeals to God as the judge and witness of his own sincerity. The preterites represent the process as no new one, although still continued in the present. Visited for the purpose of examination or inspection, in which specific sense the English verb is often used. By night, as the time when men’s thoughts are least under restraint, and when the evil, if there be any, is most certain of detection. Purged me, as the purity of metals is tested by fire, to which process the Hebrew word is specially applied. Thou shalt not find anything at variance with the sincerity of this profession.—The future form implies that the investigation is to be continued, but without any change in the result.—The last clause is doubtful and obscure. The common version, I am purposed (that) my mouth shall not transgress, agrees well enough with the form of the words, but is forbidden by the accents. The reversed construction, my thoughts shall not exceed my mouth (or speech), is ungrammatical; nor does either of these constructions suit the context so well as the first, which makes the clause a renewed profession of sincerity.

4. (As) to the works of man, by the word of thy lips I have kept the paths of the violent (transgressor.) The works of man are the sinful courses to which man is naturally prone. The generic term man (אָדָם) is often used in reference to the sinful infirmities of human nature. See 1 Sam. 24:10 (9), Hos. 6:7, Job 31:33. The word of God’s lips is the word uttered by him, with particular reference to his precepts or commands, but including his entire revelation. By this word, by means of it as an instrument, and in reliance on it as an authority.—The verb (שָׁמַר) translated kept properly means watched, and is elsewhere applied to the observance of a rule, but in this place seems to mean watched for the purpose of avoiding, as we say in English to keep away from or keep out of danger.—From the verb (פָּרַץ) to break forth, elsewhere applied to gross iniquities (Hos. 4:2.) comes the adjective (פָּרִיץ) violent, outrageous, here used as an epithet of the flagrant sinner.

5. My steps have laid hold of thy paths, my feet have not swerved. His profession of integrity is still continued. The first verb is in the infinitive form, but determined by the preterites before and after. The English language does not furnish equivalents to the parallel terms in Hebrew, both which denote footsteps. The common version violates the context by converting the first clause into a prayer, which would here be out of place.

6. I have invoked thee because thou wilt answer me, O God! Incline thine ear to me, hear my speech. The alternation of the tenses is significant. ‘I have invoked thee heretofore, and do so still, because I know that thou wilt hear me.” It is needless to observe how much the sentence is enfeebled by the change of either to the present.—Thou wilt hear me, in the pregnant sense of hearing graciously or answering a prayer. See above, on Ps. 3:5 (4).—O (mighty) God! The divine name here used is the one denoting God’s omnipotence. See above, Ps. 5:5 (4), 7:12 (11), 10:11, 12. 16:1.—My speech, what I say, אִמְרָה from אָמַר to say.

7. Distinguish thy mercies, (O thou) saving those trusting, from those rising up, with thy right hand. The first verb is the same that occurs in Ps. 4:4 (3.) Here, as there, it means to set apart, or single out, but with particular reference to extraordinary favors, implying an unusual necessity. Such mercy is described as perfectly in keeping with the divine mode of action in such cases.—Trusting, seeking refuge, i.e. in God. See above, on Ps. 16:1. The same ellipsis may be assumed after rising up, or we may supply against them.—With thy right hand, as the instrument of deliverance. Compare Ps. 16:11. These words must be connected in construction with saving.

8. Keep me as the apple of the eye, in the shadow of thy wings thou wilt hide me. The first verb means to watch over, guard, preserve with care. See above, on ver. 4, where it occurs in a figurative application. The pupil or apple of the eye is a proverbial type of that which is most precious and most easily injured, and which therefore has a double claim to sedulous protection. The original phrase is strongly idiomatic, exhibiting what seems to be a singular confusion of the genders. Its literal meaning is, supplying the articles omitted by poetic license, the man (or the little man, or the man-like part) the daughter of the eye. The first word has reference to the image reflected in the pupil, which is then described as belonging to the eye, by an oriental idiom which uses personal relations, son, daughter, &c., to denote the mutual relations even of inanimate objects. The comparison is borrowed from Deut. 32:10, where it is followed by another with the eagle’s treatment of her young, to which there seems to be allusion in the last clause of the verse before us. The imperative form of the first verb is no reason for departing from the future form of the other, which is much more expressive. What he asks in one clause he expresses his assured hope of obtaining in the other.

9. From the face of the wicked who have wasted me; mine enemies to the soul will surround me. The preceding sentence is continued, with a more particular description of the objects of his dread. “Thou wilt hide me from the face, sight, or presence of the wicked.” Wasted, desolated, destroyed, with allusion perhaps to the siege of a town or the invasion of a country. The same term is applied to a dead man in Judges 5:27. The enemies of the last clause are identical with the wicked of the first. Enemies in soul may mean cordial haters, or enemies who seek the soul or life, called deadly enemies in the English version. Or בְּנֶפֶשׁ may be construed with the verb: surround me eagerly (with craving appetite); or surround me against my soul or life, i.e. with a view to take it.—The future form suggests that the danger which the first clause had described as past, was still present, and likely to continue. As if he had said, “from my wicked foes who have already wasted me, and will no doubt still continue to surround me.” In this description present danger is included, whereas if we substitute the present form, we lose the obvious allusion to the future and the past.

10. Their fat they have closed; (with) their mouth they have spoken in pride. The first clause, though not exactly rendered, is correctly paraphrased in the English Bible; they are enclosed in their own fat. This is no uncommon metaphor in Scripture for moral and spiritual insensibility; see Deut. 32:15, Job 15:27, Ps. 73:7, 119:70. The literal sense of the expressions derives some illustration from Judg. 3:22. Some give to fat the specific sense of heart, which is said to have in Arabic, “their heart they have closed.” But the other explanation yields the same sense in a more emphatic form, and with closer conformity to Hebrew usage.

11. In our footsteps now have they surrounded us; their eyes they will set, to go astray in the land. The meaning of the first words, in our footsteps, seems to be, wherever we go. Compare Ps. 139:3, 5. For the masoretic reading us, the text has me, which, although harsher, amounts to the same thing, as the sufferer is an ideal person respecting many real ones. The parallel clauses exhibit the usual combination of the preterite and future forms, implying that what had been done was likely to be still continued. They fix their eyes, upon this as the end at which they aim. To go astray or turn aside, i.e. from the way of God’s commandments, to which the Psalmist, in ver. 5, had declared his own adherence. The translations bowing down and casting down are less in accordance with the context and with the usage of the Hebrew verb, which is constantly employed to express departure from God and aberration from the path of duty; see 1 Kings 11:9, Job 31:7, Ps. 44:19 (18), 119:51, 157. To the earth, or in the earth, although grammatical, affords a less appropriate sense than in the land, i.e. the holy land or land of promise, the local habitation of God’s people under the old economy; see above on Ps. 16:3, and compare Isaiah 26:10.

12. His likeness (is) as a lion; he is craving to tear; and as a young lion sitting in secret places. The singular suffix refers to the enemy as an ideal person. The future (יִכְסוֹף) means that he is just about to feel or gratify the appetite for blood. To tear in pieces, as a wild beast does his prey before devouring it.—Sitting, lurking, lying in wait, with special reference to the patient promptness of the wild beast in such cases.—The comparison is the same as in Ps. 10:8–10.

13. Arise, Jehovah, go before his face, make him bow, save my soul from the wicked (with) thy sword. On the meaning of the prayer that God would arise, see above on Ps. 3:8 (7).—Go before his face: the same Hebrew phrase occurs below (Ps. 95:2), in the sense of coming into one’s presence. Here the context gives it the more emphatic sense of meeting, encountering, withstanding. Make him bend or bow, as the conquered bows beneath the conqueror.—The construction of thy sword seems to be the same with that of their mouth in ver. 10. The Septuagint puts thy sword in apposition with my soul, the Vulgate with the word immediately preceding, men (who are) thy sword, as the Assyrian is said to be the rod in God’s hand (Isa. 10:5). But such a representation of the enemy as God’s chosen instruments, instead of enforcing, would enfeeble the petition. The verb translated save is a causative strictly meaning make to escape.

14. From men (with) thy hand, from the world; their portion is in (this) life, and with thy hoard thou wilt fill their belly; they shall have enough of sons, and leave their residue to their babes. All the parts of this obscure verse have been variously explained. As in the preceding verse, some here read men (which are) thy hand, i.e. the instrument of thy wrath. The difficult expression מֵחֶלֶד is by some understood as a description of their character and spirit—men of the world—men who belong to it, and whose hearts are set upon it. Others give חֶלֶד its primary meaning of duration, and make the phrase descriptive of prosperity—men of duration or perpetuity—who not only prosper now, but have long done so, and seem likely to continue. The simplest construction is that given in the prayer-book version, which takes the proposition in the same sense before both nouns—“from the men, I say, and from the evil world.” “World is then simply a collective equivalent to the plural men. This translation of the former word is justified by the analogy of Ps. 49:2 (1).—Life is by some understood to mean a life of ease or pleasure; but this is far less natural than the obvious sense of this life, this present state as distinguished from futurity. The rest of the verse shews that their desires have not been disappointed. To the eye of sense God sometimes seems to have reserved his choicest gifts for the ungodly. Thy hidden (treasure), i.e. hoarded, carefully secreted. Fill their belly, satisfy their appetite. The future form implies that the state of things described is likely to continue.—The next clause may be also rendered: (their) sons shall be satisfied, and leave their residue to their babes. This would be a strong description of prosperity continued from generation to generation. According to the version before given, the men of the world are represented as having their largest wishes gratified, not only in the number but the prosperous condition of their children; see Ps. 127:3, 128:3, 4, Job 21:11. The whole is only a description of things as they seem to man, before God’s judgments interpose to change them.

15. I in righteousness shall see thy face; I shall be satisfied in awaking with thy appearance. The pronoun expressed at the beginning of the sentence is emphatic. I, in opposition to the men described in the preceding verse. “They may rejoice in richer providential gifts, and be satisfied with what they thus possess. But I enjoy what they do not, the sense of acceptance in thy sight, righteousness, justification, recognition as a righteous person.” The ambiguity of construction in the last clause is the same both in Hebrew and in English. The preposition with may connect what follows either with awaking or with satisfied. Thus the prayer-book version reads, “And when I awake up after thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it;” but the authorized version: “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness.” The latter construction is the one required by the accents, and preferred by most interpreters, the rather as the last word does not mean resemblance in the abstract, but form, shape, or visible appearance, Exod. 20:4, Num. 12:8, Deut. 4:16, 23, 25, Job 4:16. The idea here suggested is the sight of thee, exactly corresponding to behold thy face, in the parallel clause.—In awaking, or when I shall awake, is understood by some to mean, when I awake to-morrow, and from this expression they infer that the psalm was originally composed, and intended to be used, as an evening-song or prayer. See above on Ps. 3:6 (5), 4:9 (8), 5:4 (3). Others give the phrase the same sense but a wider application; in awaking, i.e. whenever I awake. As if he had said, while the men of the world think day and night of their possessions and their pleasures, I rejoice, whenever I awake, in the sight of God’s reconciled countenance and the consciousness of friendship with him. A third interpretation puts a still higher sense upon the phrase as referring to the act of awaking from the sleep of death. But this excludes too much from view the enjoyment of God’s favor and protection even here, which is the burden of the whole prayer. If the hope of future blessedness had been enough, the previous petitions would have been superfluous. The utmost that can be conceded to this view of the passage is that, by a natural association, what is here said of awaking out of sleep in this life may be extended to that great awaking which awaits us all hereafter. The same state of mind and heart which enables a man now to be contented with the partial views which he enjoys of God will prepare him to be satisfied hereafter with the beatific vision through eternity.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 70–74). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Of AntiChrist and His Ruin

Of AntiChrist and His Ruin

Of AntiChrist and His Ruin

And Of

The Slaying the Witnesses

Prefatory remarks by the Editor

This important treatise was prepared for the press, and left by the author, at his decease, to the care of his surviving friend for publication. It first appeared in a collection of his works in folio, 1692; and although a subject of universal interest; most admirably elucidated; no edition has been published in a separate form.

Antichrist has agitated the Christian world from the earliest ages; and his craft has been to mislead the thoughtless, by fixing upon the humble followers of the Lamb his own opprobrious proper name. The mass of professed Christians, whose creed and mode of worship have been provided by human laws, has ever been opposed to the sincere disciples of Christ. To imbibe every principle from investigation and conviction of the holy oracles—to refuse submission to any authority in the spiritual kingdom of God, except it is to Christ, the supreme head and only lawgiver in his church—to refuse obedience to human laws in the great concern of salvation and of worship; whether those laws or decrees emanate from a Darius, a Nebuchadnezzar, a Bourbon, a Tudor, or a Stuart—to be influenced by the spirit which animated Daniel, the three Hebrew youths, and the martyrs, brought down denunciations upon them, and they were called antichristian: but alas! the sincere disciples of Jesus have ever known and FELT who and what is Antichrist. They have been robbed—incarcerated in dungeons—racked and tormented—transported—drowned—hung or burned. The most frightful atrocities have been committed upon the most peaceful and valuable members of society; because they valued their soul’s peace in preference to temporal advantages. These cruelties are THY cursed deeds, O Antichrist! The hand writing against thee is exhibited in blood-stained and indelible characters. The Great God has decreed thy downfall and ruin—”That wicked—whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth,” (2 Thess 2:8). All who are found partakers in his community, must be consumed with an everlasting destruction. No “paper-winkers1 can hide this truth from the enlightened regenerated mind. “O my soul, come not thou into their secret, unto their assembly, mine honor, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel!”

In Bunyan’s time great cruelties were practiced to compel uniformity. To that absurd shrine many thousand invaluable lives were sacrificed. Blessed be God, that happier days have dawned upon us. Antichrist can no longer put the Christian to a cruel death. It very rarely sends one to prison for refusing obedience to human laws that interfere with religious worship. “My kingdom is not of this world,” said the Redeemer: and his followers dare not render unto Caesar, or temporal governments, that which belongs exclusively to God. Human coercion, in anything connected with religion, whether it imposes creeds, liturgies, or modes of worship, is Antichrist: whom to obey, is spiritual desolation, and if knowingly persevered in, leads to death.

On the contrary, the kingdom of Christ is love, meekness, forbearance, persuasion, conviction, and holy faith. The Christian who dares not obey Antichrist may still, in some countries, suffer personal violence; but the olden cruelties have given way to the spread of the gospel. Should the wicked spirit of persecution still light its unhallowed fire in any sect; may heaven forgive and convert such misguided men, before the divine wrath shall consume all that pertains to Antichrist. “Come out from among them and be ye separate, saith the Lord.”

Bunyan conceives that previous to the universal triumphs of the Savior, Antichrist will spread his influence over the whole earth; and the church be hidden from outward observation, in the hearts of believers. This idea, which was also cherished by Dr. Gill, and others, deserves careful consideration; while we keep in mind, that leaven which must spread, however invisible in its operation, until the whole earth shall be leavened.

The dread enemy may yet appear in a different shape to any that he has hitherto assumed. When mankind, by the spread of knowledge, shall throw off the absurdities and disgraceful trammels of hypocrisy, fanaticism, and tyranny, which has so long oppressed them; there may be experienced a vast overflowing of infidelity, and perverted reason assume the place of Antichrist. Through this and all other opposing systems, Christianity must make its irresistible progress: all that opposes is doomed to ruin by the Great God. Every heart will be subdued by that blessed knowledge, which has the promise of the life that now is as well as of that which is to come. Bloodless victory! The ark being exhibited, every Dagon must fall before it, then shall be realized the heavenly anthem, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will towards men.”

GEORGE OFFOR.

 

 

1Paper-winkers,’ in every edition, except the first, which was from the author’s manuscript, has been altered to ‘paper-windows.’ Bunyan’s allusion is to the winkers, called by many ‘blinkers,’ put by the side of a horse’s eyes, to keep him under the complete control of his driver—and by ‘paper-winkers’ the flimsy attempt of Antichrist to hoodwink mankind by printed legends, miracles, and absurd assumptions—it is one of the almost innumerable sparks of wit, which render all the writings of Bunyan so entertaining and strikingly instructive.—Ed.

Just Pray...Okay?

Just Pray...Okay?

Just Pray...Okay?

“Now Jesus was telling the disciples a parable to make the point that at all times they ought to pray and not give up and lose heart,” Luke 18:1 AMP Bible Gateway

Today is the start of 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting in many churches across the United States which is intentional intense focused prayer which every believer should participate in just once if not every time it rolls around. But don’t wait for an organized prayer event to pray but pray always!

Don’t wait until a crisis and cry out to God but go to Him daily several times a day and talk to Him. He can use you to reach others for the kingdom as well.

I can testify to the power of not quitting and seeing miracles and I am sure some others can as well. Your words and cries and groans don’t fall on silent ears. Your enemy the devil tries all he can to keep you from seeking God. Don’t listen to his lies and keep pressing in trusting God.

PRAYER: Lord I pray for those I know who don’t pray for whatever reason some even being raised in Christian homes. I pray for others who may have grown weary not to give up. Help me trust you each day that you work all things for your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Note: below is a link to 21 Days of Prayer

https://21days.churchofthehighlands.com/

Becky Juett Miller

God's Lemonade Stand

https://www.facebook.com/GodsLemonadeStand/

https://www.godslemonadestand.blogspot.com

Deuteronomy 23:9

Deuteronomy 23:9

When Thou Goest

Deuteronomy 23:9

When thou goest out with the host against thine enemies, keep thee then from all wickedness.

To entitle this time to this text, or to shew it pertinent to the present occasion, will ask no long preface. “When thou goest forth,” &c. This “when” is now. There be enemies, and we have an host; it is going forth. Christ’s own application which is the best may be well applied here, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.”* This our host so going forth, our heart’s desire and prayer unto God is, that they may happily go, and thrice happily come again, with joy and triumph to her sacred Majesty, honor to themselves, and general contentment to the whole land. So shall they go, and so come, if we can procure the Lord of Hosts to go forth with, and to take charge of our hosts. “It is He That giveth victory to kings,”* saith David;* it is He That is Triumphator Israel, saith Samuel. Victory and triumph never fail if He fail not.

Now then that God may not fail them, but go in and out before them and bring them back with victory and triumph, and that we all desire and pray for may so come to pass, Moses doth here out of his own experience bestow an advice upon us. And Moses could skill what belonged to war, as one that forty years together was never out of camp. Which advice is, that among our military points we would reckon the abatement of sin for one; that now this time of our going forth we would go forth against sin too, and keep us from it as we would keep us from our enemy. If we could be but persuaded to reform our former custom of sin, it would certainly do the journey good. That therefore with other courses, some remembrance, some regard be had of this; that at this time sin do not so overflow among us, be not so very fruitful as before time it hath.

And this is an use of Divinity in war. And as this an use of Divinity in war, so have we withal an use of war in Divinity. For Moses telling us, that “when our forces go forth against the enemy,”—that we then, at that time, are in any wise “to keep us from wickedness;” by sorting these thus together doth plainly intimate that when the time of war is, then is a fit time, a very good opportunity, to draw from sin and to return to God. These former years, this time of the fast, and this day, the first day of it, both ministered an occasion to call for an abstinence from sin; this day, and this time, being set out by the Church’s appointment to that end. Now besides that ordinary of other years, God this year hath sent us another, the time of war; and that a very seasonable time too, wherein to repent and retire from sin. As if He should say, If you would forsake sin now you may do it; for “behold, now is an acceptable time,”* and a fit season. This time to concur with that time, and both to cooperate to the amendment of our lives.

And what shall I say? O that one of them, the former or the latter, or both might prevail so much with us, that as the forepart this day is fulfilled in our ears, so the latter part might be fulfilled in our lives; that it might not be singly regarded that is thus doubly commended; that the fast at hand might keep us, or the war at hand might keep us, or both might keep us, that we might be kept from sin. That either Joel’s trump proclaiming a fast, or Amos’ trump proclaiming war, might serve to sound this retreat, might serve to awake us from that now more than sleep, even almost that lethargy of sin which the security of our so long peace hath cast us in.

This is the sum. These the double use, 1. of war in divinity; that our going forth might procure the giving over sin. 2 Of Divinity in war; that our giving over sin might procure good speed to our going forth, even an honorable and happy return.

The parts are two; for the verse parteth itself by “when” and “then.” These two; 1. the going forth of the host; 2. the keeping from sin. To express them in the terms of the present business; 1. the former, the commission authorizing to go. 2. The latter, the instruction directing so to go that we may prosper and prevail. In which latter will come to be considered these three points; 1. The conjunction and coherence of these two. 2. The consequence. 3. The contents of the latter, how to keep us from sin.

“When thou goest forth,” &c. In the first is the commission, which is ever the corner-stone of all proceedings. If we take the verse entire, both parts together, it riseth thus; If they which go to war must keep themselves from sin, then is war no sin but lawful, and without sin to be undertaken. Or, if we take the first part by itself, in saying “when thou goest” he implieth a time will come when they may go forth. For vain were the supposal, and far unworthy the wisdom of God’s Spirit to say “when,” if never any such time would come; if there were no time for war of God’s allowance. We cannot better pattern it than by the Gospel of this day, “when ye fast, be not like hypocrites”*—by all Divines resolved thus. Fast ye may sometimes; and then fasting, look you fall not into hypocrisy. And as in that, so in this: go ye may sometimes; only when ye go see ye “refrain from sin,” and then go and spare not. Out of which match of these two, fast and war, we may rise higher.

It is no less usual with the Prophets to say sanctificate prælium, as Joel 3. than to say, sanctificate jejunium, “sanctify a war,”* as well as “a fast.”* And in another, consecrate manus vestras hodie Domino, “consecrate your hands this day unto the Lord.”* Which sheweth war is not so secular a matter, but that it hath both his lawfulness and his holiness; and that the very hands may be sacred or hallowed by fighting some battles. And therefore,* in the Calendar of Saints we have nominated, not Abel, Enoch, and Noah alone, men of peace and devotion, who spent their time in prayer and service of God; but Gideon, Jephtha, Samson, worthies and men of war “who,”* saith the Apostle, “through faith were valiant in battle, and through faith put to flight the armies of aliens.” War therefore hath his time and commission from God.

Secondly, I add that this kind of war, not only defensive war, but offensive too, hath his “when.” And that, out of this very text; which is, if we mark well, not when they come forth against thee, but “when thou goest forth against them,” παρεμβάλλειν, say the Seventy, “to invade or annoy them.” Both these have their time; the former to maintain our right, the latter to avenge our wrong. By both these ways doth God send His people forth; both have warrant. Before Moses,* Abraham’s war to rescue Lot his ally was defensive and lawful; Jacob’s war, to win from the Amorite “by his sword and bow,”* offensive and lawful too. Under Moses, the war against Amalek who came out against them,* and the war against Midian, against whom they “went forth to wreak themselves for the sin of Peor,”* both lawful. After Moses, King David, in the battle of Ephes-dammim,* keeping the enemy from their gates; in the battle of Gath,* seeking the enemy at his own gates, and giving him battle in his own territory. And this as good law, so Egredere, et compelle eos intrare, “Go forth, and compel them to come in,”* is good Gospel too. So that war, and this kind of war, hath his commission.

Thirdly, and to strengthen the hands of our men of war yet farther. As war, and to go forth to war, against our enemies, any enemies, whether foreign foes or rebellious subjects; so of all enemies against the latter, against them to go forth, hath ever been counted most just and lawful. Many commissions are upon record in the law, of journeys in this kind. Against the tribe of Reuben,* for erecting them an altar beside that of Moses; and that have these of ours done too. Against the tribe of Benjamin, for a barbarous, and brutish outrage committed at Gibeah, and that have these too, and not one,* but many. Against Sheba, for blowing a trumpet and crying, “No part have we in David, no inheritance in the son of Jesse;”* and so far hath their madness proceeded. And the Gospel is not behind neither. Against them that send word, nolumus hunc regnare super nos, producite et occidite,* saith our Saviour Christ Himself. In effect these say as much as nolumus, and as much may be said and done to them. Nay, if once he say “no part in David;”* if he were Absalom, or Adonijah, of the blood royal, he “hath spoken that word against his own life:”* much more if but such a one as Sheba the son of Bichri. And yet even he was nothing so deep as this. For neither had King David vouchsafed him any favor any time before, neither offered him peace, or to receive him to grace after he had lift up his heel against him. But here, here have been divers princely favors vouchsafed, and most unkindly rejected; means of clemency many times most graciously offered, and most ungraciously refused; yea, faith falsified and expectation deluded; contempt upon contempt heaped up, that the measure is full. These then are the enemies “against,” and this the time “when.” When not only we may but must, and that not with God’s leave only, but with His liking and full commission, “go forth” in this cause. So that war is lawful; and this kind, “to go forth;” and against these enemies most just and most lawful. At this time against these enemies it is a war sanctified; they shall “consecrate their hands,” they shall præliari prælia Domini, that fight against them. So much for the commission.

The commission being had, we are not to depart but stay and take our instructions also with us; which is the latter part, of “keeping from wickedness.” Joshua had his commission from God to go up against Ai;* yet for leaving out this latter, and not looking to Achan better, had not so good speed. This therefore must accompany and keep time with the former, as a “then” to that “when.”

1. Wherein first, of the joining these two, 1. that they must go together, 2. and of the reason why they must go together.

2. And after of the manner, how we may and must “keep ourselves from this wickedness.”

The meeting of these two within the compass of one verse, 1. “Going forth with an army,” and 2. “forbearing of sin,” is worth the staying on.

Leading an army pertaineth to military policy, forbearing of sin is flat divinity.

For what hath the leading an army to do with forbearing of sin? Yet God hath thus sorted them as we see. Therefore policy of war whereto the former, and Divinity whereto the latter belongeth, are not such strangers one to the other, as that the one must avoid while the other is in place. But that, as loving neighbors and good friends here they meet together, they stand together, they keep time, consequence, and correspondence, the one with the other. God Himself, in Whose imperial style so oft proclaimed in the Prophets they both meet, “the Lord of Hosts,” “the Holy One of Israel;”*—God, I say, Himself in the great chapter of war, the twentieth of this book, assigneth an employment to the Priests as well as the officers of the camp, even to do that which ere-while was assayed, to animate the companies in the Lord, and the power of His might; letting them see the right of their cause, and how ready God is to receive the right under the banner and power of His protection. And from God Himself no doubt was that happy and blessed combination which in most wars of happy success we find, of a captain and a Prophet sorted together:* Joshua, with Moses a Prophet; Baruk,* with Deborah a Prophetess; Ezekias, with Esay;* Jehoshaphat, with Jahaziel; Joash, with Elisha;* and one of these doing the other no manner of hurt but good.* Joshua lifting up his hand against Amalek, Moses lifting up his hand for Joshua.* The one leading against the enemy and annoying him, the other leading against sin and annoying it; against sin, what some reckon of it it skills not, but certainly the most dangerous enemy both of private persons and of public states.

These two then, 1. “going forth with the host,” and 2. “departing from sin,” being thus linked by God, our suit is, Break not this link; God hath joined them that we should join them. And this is a needful suit. For it is one of the diseases under the sun: in war all our thoughts run upon the host, looking to the host only and nothing but the host, and letting sin run whither it will without any keeper. I know well, I both know and acknowledge that the army’s going forth is mainly to be regarded, it hath the first place in the verse, and it hath it not for nought. Joshua must choose out men first; victuals must be supplied.* And nemo militat stipendiis suis, pay must be thought of.* We must go forth with our host; they be the words of the text;* go—not sit still; and with an host, not a heap of naked or starved men. We must help, and not tempt God. To help God is a strange speech, yet said it may be seeing an Angel hath said it; “Curse ye Meroz,” saith the Angel of the Lord, “curse the inhabitants thereof.” Why? “Because they came not to help the Lord, to help the Lord against the mighty.”* This must first be done. But when this is done all is not done, we are not at a full point, we are but in the midst of the sentence yet. As that part of the host is to be regarded, so this of sin’s restraint is not to be neglected. As that hath the first place, so must this have the second, and second the former, or we shall have but a broken sentence without it. There is not, there cannot be a more prejudicial conceit than to say in our hearts, If the first be well all is well, then sin on and spare not, it skills not greatly for the latter. Si putas in robore exercitus bella consistere, faciet te Dominus cadere coram inimicis tuis, saith the Prophet to Amaziah.* If this be our conceit, so the host be well all is well, God will teach you another lesson, saith he, which I list not english. A proof whereof we have before Gibeah. Where the whole power of Israel, 400,000 strong,* trusting in their going out so strong, fell before a few Benjamites, a small handful in comparison, and shewed plainly to all ages to come that it is but a part, it is not all, to “go forth with an host” though never so well appointed.

Let us then, as advice leadeth us, make up our period with taking a course for restraint of sin. For what sin unrestrained can work the valley of Achor may teach us,* where the inhabitants of the poor town of Ai put to flight Joshua with all his forces, and all because this second point was not well looked to.

Now this second point being within the compass of our profession, and yet having so necessary an use in war as the sentence is not perfect without it, may serve to answer the question, more usually than advisedly oft cast out, What good do these Churchmen? What use is there of them now at such times as this? Yes, there is an use of them, and that in war we see. The camp hath use of this place, and they that serve there of them that serve here. Which God shewed plainly in the first field that ever His people fought; and when He had shewed it, caused it to be recorded ad perpetuam rei memoriam—they be God’s own words—that the same course might be ever after holden in all.* Where it is thus written, and “if we believe not we shall not be established,”* that Joshua’s having the better or going to the worse depended not a little on the steadiness of Moses’ hands, and that Moses staying behind and striking never a stroke did his part toward the attaining of the victory not much less than Joshua that went forth and fought manfully. Prayer then is of use; and though we be, saith St. Paul, armed at all points from hand to foot, yet must we super omnia, “over all,” draw this, and arm even our very armor with “prayer and supplications.”*

But what availeth prayer without keeping from sin? Therefore to that armor of St. Paul’s we must add St. Peter’s too, “to arm ourselves with this mind of ceasing from sin,”* that our prayers may be effectual. Therefore Moses himself joineth not to our going forth his exercise of keeping up our hands at prayer, but this rather “of keeping our feet from sin.”* The King of Moab, Balak, when he observed what prayer had wrought in the battle of Amalek, thought to take the very like course, and sent for Balaam into his camp, to match Prophet with Prophet, and to oppose prayer unto prayer. But when all his altars and rams would do no good, Balaam knowing well there is in sin a power to defeat any prayer, he cometh to the dangerous counsel of “causing Israel to sin with the daughters of Moab,” which was found too true. For it turned to their ruin, and all their prayers would then do no good. Here then is another use. For “the chariots and horses of Elisha,”* the “weapons of our warfare,”* as the Apostle termeth them, though not carnal, if God enable them to cast down such sinful thoughts and wicked desires as exalt themselves daily, and to captivate them to the obedience of Christ, have certainly their use to second the former; and we in our turns serviceable, as by crying unto God by prayer, and drawing Him to the host Who is our chiefest and best friend, so by crying also against sin and chasing it away, which is our chiefest and worst enemy. Since then these two have this mutual use either of other, let this be our petition and withal the conclusion of this part, that we single them not or lean to either alone, but suffer them as they stand together in the verse, so in our care and regard jointly to keep time and go together. So much for them.

And now to enquire into the reason of this coupling. Why now? Why at this time in war, a giving over sin? For that indeed they be not barely joined, but so joined as one is made the antecedent, the other the consequent. One the time, and as it were the reason to infer the other. Truly Moses’ word כי will bear both, either quando or quia; “When thou goest then keep;” or “Because thou goest, therefore keep thyself from sin.” With the same word speaketh the virtuous lady to King David, quia præliaris prælia Domini, ideo non inveniatur in te iniquitas, “because thou fightest the Lord’s battles, therefore let there not any iniquity be found in thee all thy days.”*

Sin certainly at all times is to be forborne. When it is war, and not only when it is war, but when it is peace too. “Take ye heed, lest at any time,” saith Christ, “your hearts be overlaid with surfeiting, with drink,”* &c. Not allowing us any time to be wicked in. But though at all times we be to refrain sin, yet not at all times alike, saith Moses here. For it is as if he should say, Be it at other times, sin may better be borne with, it is less perilous; but “when thou goest forth with an host, then”—then, with an high accent, with an emphasis, that is then especially; then above all other times, then, if ever, it importeth you to have least to do with it. Good Lord, how cross and opposite is man’s conceit to God’s, and how contrary our thoughts unto His! For even ad oppositum to this position of His, we see for the most part that even they that are the goers forth seem to persuade themselves that then they may do what they list; that at that time any sin is lawful, that war is rather a placard than an inhibition to sin. A thing so common that it made the heathen man hold that between militia and malitia there was as little difference in sense as in sound; and the Prophet David to call Saul’s companies in his days, torrentes Belial,* “the land-floods of wickedness.” Which being well considered, we may cease to murmur or to marvel, if our going forth have not been ever with such success as we wished. God Who should give the success commanding then a restraint, and man that should need it then taking most liberty. Verily if we will learn of God, if He shall teach us, sin is never so untimely as in the time of war, never so out of season as then; for that is the time of all times we should have least to do with it. To insist then a little upon this point, because it is the main point, and to shew the vigor of this consequent.

1. From the very nature of war first, which is an act of justice, and of justice corrective, whose office is to punish sin. Now then consider and judge even in reason, what a thing this is, how great, gross, and foul an incongruity it is to pour out ourselves into sin at the very time when we go forth to correct sin; to set forth to punish rebels, when we ourselves are in rebellion against God, His Word, and Spirit. Which, what is it but “to cast out devils by the power of Beelzebub?”* Sure our hearts must needs strike us in the midst of our sin, and tell us we are in a great and grievous prevarication, allowing that in ourselves that we go to condemn and to stone to death in others. Therefore, since to go to war is to go to punish sin, certainly the time of punishing sin is not a time to sin in.

2. Secondly, from war in respect of God I know not what we reckon of war; peace is His blessing we are sure, and a special favor it is from Him as the Prophets account it, for a land to spend more iron in scythes and plough-shares than in sword-blades or spear-heads.* And if peace be a blessing and a chief of His blessings, we may reduce from thence what war is. To make no otherwise of it than it is, “the rod of God’s wrath,” as Esay termeth it; His “iron flail,”* as Amos; “the hammer of the earth,”* as Jeremy, whereby He dasheth two nations together—one of them must in pieces,* both the worse for it. War is no matter of sport. Indeed I see Abner esteem of it as of a sport: “let the young men rise,” saith he to Joab, “and shew us some sport.”* But I see the same Abner before the end of the same chapter weary of his sport, and treating with Joab for an end of it; “How long shall the sword devour,”* saith he, “shall it not be bitterness in the end?” So it may be “sport” in the beginning; it will be “bitterness in the end,” if it hold long. War then being God’s rod, His fearful rod, and that so fearful that King David though a warrior too, when both were in his choice, preferred the plague before it and desired it of the twain; when God’s hand with this rod, this His fearful rod, is over us, to be so far from fear and all due regard as then not to shun sin any whit the more, but to fall to it as fast as ever; it cannot be but a high contempt, yea a kind of defiance and despite then to do it: “Do we provoke the Lord to anger, are we stronger than He?”* Then since war is God’s rod, choose some other time; under the rod sin not, then forbear it. Certainly that time is no time to sin.

3. The rather, for that sin it is and the not keeping from sin, but our keeping to it and with it, that hath made this rod and put it into His hand. For sure it is, that for the transgression of a people, God suffereth these “divisions of Reuben”* within; God stirreth up the spirit of Princes abroad to take peace from the earth, thereby to chasten men by paring the growth of their wealth with this His “hired razor;”* by wasting their strong men, the hand of the enemies eating them up; by making widows and fatherless children, by other like consequents of war. If then our sins common unto us with other nations, and that our unthankfulness peculiar to us alone have brought all this upon us; if this enemy have stirred up these enemies, if war be the sickness and sin the surfeit, should we not at least-wise now while the shivering fit of our sins is upon us, diet ourselves a little and keep some order? But1 “drink iniquity as water,” and distemper ourselves as though we were in perfect state of health?* Shall we make our disease desperate, and hasten our ruin by not containing from sin that hath cast us in it? Know we what time this is? Is this a time of sin? Certainly, we cannot devise a worse. In the time of war it is high time to “keep us from sin.”

4. But above all, which will touch us nearest, and therefore again and again must be told us over, that the safe and speedy coming again of them that now go forth, whose prosperity we are to seek with all our possible endeavors—that their good speed dependeth upon God’s going forth with them; and God’s going or staying dependeth very much upon this point. Most certain it is the event of war is most uncertain. When Benhadad went forth with an army that “the dust of Samaria was not enough to give every one in his camp a handful,” it was told him and he found it true, Ne glorietur accinctus, &c. “He that buckleth on his armor must not boast as he that puts it off.”* They that fight can hardly set down what name the place shall have that they fight in; it may be the valley of Achor, that is “sorrow,”* by reason of a foil, as that of Joshua; it may be the valley of Berachah, that is “blessing,” by means of a victory, as that of Jehoshaphat.* All is as God is, and as He will have it. Once, twice, and thrice, by David, by Solomon, by Jehoshaphat, we are told it that “it is neither sword nor bow,”* “it is neither chariot nor horse,”* “it is neither multitude nor valor of an host will serve;”* “but that the battle is God’s,” and He giveth the upper hand.* We need not be persuaded of this, we all are persuaded I hope, and we say with Moses, “If Thy Presence go not with us, carry us not hence.”* Then if we shall need God’s favor and help in prospering our journey, and to make that sure which is so uncertain, it will stand us in hand to make sure of Him in this, this needful time, and to keep Him sure if it may be. For if He keep with the host, and take their parts, Rebelles tui erunt quasi nihil, saith Esay; and “these smoking tails of firebrands”* shall quickly be quenched.* But if God either go not with them, or retire from them, if there were among them but naked or wounded men—what speak I of men? if but frogs or flies—they shall be sufficient to trouble them.

Now then we are at the point. For if we will have hold of God, make Him sure, be certain of Him, we must break with sin needs. Sin and Satan are His enemies, and no fellowship nor communion, no concord, no agreement, no part,* no portion between them. If we will draw Him into league, we must profess ourselves enemies unto His enemies, that He may do the like to ours. At one and the same time enter as an outward war with wicked rebels, so an inward hostility with our wicked rebellious lusts. For that if we keep ourselves from the one, He will keep us from the other, and these being suppressed those shall not be able to stand. Thus doing, “the sword of the Lord shall be with the sword of Gideon:”* God shall be with us, Ithiel; and we shall prevail, Ucal.* For where Ithiel is, Ucal will not be away. But if we will needs hold on our league with hell, and continue our wonted intercourse with wickedness still, and go forth unto it when it beckons or calls, and be so far from keeping from it that we keep it as the apple of our eye, and cherish it between our breasts; if we retain the mark of it in our very foreheads, and the price of it in the skirts of our garment; for not keeping from it He will keep from us, and withdraw His help from us, and put us clean out of His protection.

Therefore, without keeping from sin there is no keeping God, out of Whose keeping there is no safety.

This advice being so full of behoof, so agreeable to reason and religion both, so every way for their and for our good, it remaineth we set ourselves to think of it and keep it. “Every one returning to his own heart, to know there,” as Solomon saith, “his own plague,”* even the sins wherewith he hath grieved God, and to make a covenant with himself, from henceforth more carefully to stand upon his guard, and not to go forth to sin or entertain it as a friend, but to repute it as an enemy and to keep him from it.

First, for the term of keeping. “When thou goest forth against thy enemy,” go forth against sin. We should indeed go forth against sin, and practice those military impressions that are done in camp against the enemy; give it the assault, annoy it, pursue it, never leave it till we have driven it away. These we should do against it. But the Scripture “offereth more grace;”* and bids us, if we list not go forth against it, only not to go forth to it, but keep ourselves, that is, stand upon our defence, to keep good watch, that it surprise us not, that it “get not dominion over us:” do but this against sin,* and it shall suffice.

But this must extend to all wickedness. Wherein yet we do humanum dicere propter infirmitatem nostram, “speak after the manner of men because of our infirmity;”* retching this all no further than human infirmity, than the frailty of our nature will bear, than this corruptible flesh wherewith we are compassed, and this corrupt world in the midst whereof we live, will suffer and give us leave. In the body, we put a difference between the soil which by insensible evacuations goeth from our bodies, keep we ourselves never so carefully, and that which is drawn forth by chafing or sweat, or otherwise gotten by touching such things wherewith we may be defiled. That cannot be refrained, this falleth within restraint. And even so, there is a soil of sin that of itself vapoureth from our nature, let the best do his best. I say not, we should keep ourselves from this, but from provoking it by suffering our minds to wander in it; by not keeping our ears from such company, and our eyes from such occasions, as will procure it, as the Prophet speaketh, “by putting the stumbling-block of iniquity before our faces.” From that by the help of God we may keep ourselves well enough.* From sins lighting upon our thoughts it is impossible, it cannot be; but from making there a nest or hatching ought, that we are willed to look to, and that by God’s grace we may. And the word that Moses useth here דבר רע is not without a dixit at least in corde; not without a saying within us, This or that I will do. It must be dictum, or condictum, ‘said to,’ and ‘said yea to,’ or else it is not דבר רע. The heart not resolving or saying content, but keeping itself from going forth to any act; though wickedness be not kept from us because of the temptation, yet we are kept from it because of the repulse; and with that will Moses be content at our hands as our estate now is.

But with these provisos. We say generally, They that go forth keep from all; from all such both deeds and words as justly may be censured to be wickedly, either spoken or done. Words, I say, as well as deeds. For the word דבר bears both. And indeed, if in good words as in prayers there be force to help, I make no question but in wicked words, as blasphemies, irreligious sayings, jocis fulmine dignis, there is force also to do mischief. Therefore keep from all; all those especially, as very reason will lead us, which have been the ruin of armies in former times; a view whereof we may take when we will out of Liber bellorum Domini, “the Book of God’s battles.”*

Wicked words first. Presumptuous terms of trust in our own strength; “I will go, I will pursue and overtake, I will divide the spoil”—Pharaoh’s words,* the cause of his perishing and all his host. To keep them from that. Rabshakeh’s blackmouthed blasphemy; “Let not Hezekiah cause you to trust in God over much”*—the eminent cause of the overthrow of the host of Ashur. To keep them from that.

And if from words, from wicked works much rather. Achan’s sin, that is sacrilege; Anathema in medio tui, non poteris stare coram hostibus tuis, God’s own words to Joshua,*—the cause of the army’s miscarrying before Ai. To keep them from that wickedness. Such shameful abuses as was that at Gibeah;*—the expressed cause of the destruction of a whole tribe. To keep them from that. Profaning holy vessels or holy places with unholy usage;*—the ruin of Belshazzar, and with him of the whole Chaldean monarchy. To keep themselves from that. Corrupting our compassion, and “casting off pity quite,” and spilling blood like water;*—the sin of Edom, and the cause he took such a foil as he was never a people since. To keep them from that wickedness. From these and from the rest, you shall have a time to read them, I have not to speak them. Arming themselves with a mind to cease from sin, keeping their vessels holy; having pay wherewith they may be content, and being content with their pay; et neminem concutientes, saith St. John Baptist;* not being torrentes Belial, “land-floods of wickedness.”* Or if this will not be that private conformity will not keep them, at least that public authority do it; that kept they may be one way or other from it. If Achan will so far forget himself as “to sin in the execrable thing;” or Zimri to play the wretch,* and abuse himself in the camp; let Joshua find out Achan, and see him have his due; and Phinehas follow Zimri, and reward him for his desert. That the ravine of the one, and the villany of the other be removed as it is committed, and so kept from polluting and pulling down God’s wrath upon the whole host. For sure it is, “Phinehas’* standing up and executing judgment” hath the force of a prayer no less than Moses’ “standing in the gap” to make intercession,* and both alike forcible to turn away God’s anger and to remove evil from the midst of Israel.

This advice is to take place as in them that go, as before hath been touched, so in us likewise that stay at home; that what the one build the other destroy not. Not by Moses’ exercise of prayer and incessant prayer,* or Jehoshaphat’s exercise of fasting and abstinence; both are out of the compass of the text; but that which is in it, by turning from sin to God, and that with a serious not shallow, and an inward not hollow repentance. Not confessing our sins to-day and committing them to-morrow; but every one saying, Dixi custodiam, “I have said, I will henceforth more narrowly look to my ways,”* at least while the sound of war is in our ears. Thinking with ourselves it is now war, it is now no time to offend God, and separate between Him and us in this needful time of His help and protection, by entering into that good and virtuous consideration of Uriah’s; “The Ark of the Lord and all Israel and Judah dwell in tents,* Joab and the servants of our sovereign abide in the open fields,” and shall we permit ourselves as much as we would in the time of peace, and not conform ourselves in abridging some part of our wonted liberty, and forbearing to enjoy the “pleasures of sin for a season?”* To conclude, if we shall, or when we shall be tempted to any of our former sins, to think upon God’s own counsel, even God’s own counsel from God’s own mouth, memento belli et ne feceris,* ‘to remember the camp and not to do it;’ to think upon them in the fields and their danger, and for their sakes and for their safeties to forbear it.

Thus, if we shall endeavor ourselves and eschew our own wickedness, our hosts shall go forth in the strength of the Lord, and the Lord shall go with them and order their attempts to an happy issue.

He that made our foreign enemies “like a wheel”* to go round about us, and not to come near us, shall make these “as stubble before the wind;” causing fear and faintness of heart to fall upon them as upon Midian; sending “an evil spirit”* of dissension among them,* as upon Abimelech and the men of Shechem; causing their own woods to devour them, as rebellious Absalom;* and their own waters to sweep them away, as it did Sisera; yea, “the stars of Heaven, in their course to fight against them,”* as under Deborah’s conduct He did. Many such things are with Him, many such He hath done and can do again, if to our going forth we join a going from sin.

Even so Lord, so let it be. Those whom thou now carriest forth by Thy mercy, bring them back by Thy might in this place, the place of Thy holy habitation. That Deborah may praise Thee for the avenging of Israel,* and for the people that offer themselves so willingly;” for letting her ear hear,* and her eye see the fall of the wicked that rise up against her; that she may praise Thee, and say, “The Lord liveth,* and blessed be my strong help, and praised be the God of my salvation.”

“Even the God that seeth I be avenged, and subdueth the people unto me. It is He that delivereth me from my cruel enemies, and setteth me up above all my adversaries.”*

Great prosperity giveth He unto His hand-maid, “and sheweth still and continually His loving-kindness to His anointed.”* Praised be the Lord for evermore!

To this God, “glorious in holiness, fearful in power, doing wonders,”* the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, &c.[1]

 

 

1 shall we

* Ps. 106:30.

[1] Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 1, pp. 321–337). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)

 

Mirales of Power

Mirales of Power

Miracles of Power

Matt. 8:27

“What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?”

This is our third sermon on our Lord’s miracles as illustrating the doctrines of His sacred Person and office. And we have to notice in it another class of those wonderful works, not indeed wholly distinct from those which have already come before us, but distinct in their leading features and character. The two miracles in our Gospel to-day are emphatically instances of His Power. Not that the power shewn in turning water into wine, in cleansing the leper, in healing the centurion’s servant, was one whit less than that exerted in the stilling of the storm, and in the casting out the legion of devils at Gergesa: but that in the former miracles, Love and Mercy seem to stand out as the prominent features, whereas here, above all other things, the sense of almighty Power is carried irresistibly into our minds as we read. And such seems to have been the impression made on the beholders in each case. The men in the ship exclaimed, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” The Grergesenes besought Him to depart out of their coasts;—fearing the presence of one so mighty, and whose might had been shewn in a manner working them worldly loss.

We will then treat these miracles to-day mainly in this light—as proofs of His power: but not only so—we will also take up and turn to account such other incidental lessons from them as occur by the way while we proceed.

Our Lord had been all day speaking that great series of parables, opening with the parable of the Sower, which we find in Matt. 13, five chapters after this in which our narrative occurs. It would appear, that St. Matthew does not relate these events in their order. For we are positively told by St. Mark that this miracle took place on the evening of the day when all those parables were spoken. Our Lord was wearied out with the long day’s teaching, probably in the heat and glare of the beach of the lake. We see from the minute and beautiful touches in St. Mark’s narrative, how the multitudes had been for some days pursuing Him about, eager for His teaching and healing, till that frame which, though it bore the Divinity, was itself limited and liable to exhaustion, was well nigh crushed with toil: till his near relations, seeing His unsparing exertions, came out to lay hold on Him, thinking that He was beside himself, carried away by self-sacrificing enthusiasm. “Let us cross,” He said to his disciples, “to the other side of the lake.” They embarked in the boat, probably Simon Peter’s, which He commonly used, other small boats also accompanying them. St. Mark adds, “they took Him with them in the boat as He was,” without any preparation, perhaps even too weary to take refreshment. They spread for Him in the stern the cushions commonly used on the rowers’ benches, and, exhausted as He was, He laid him down, and slept the sleep of the weary. I have enlarged on this scene, that we may have the whole blessed truth of the matter vividly before us. Behold him in his humanity;—handle him in your thoughts, and see that it is He himself. This is indeed no pretended man; no god in disguise, as the heathens sometimes fabled of in their legends. Nay this is a veritable human frame, worn out with toil: not a form assumed for an apparition of thirty years on earth, but the form, as indissolubly united to the Person of him who bore it, as this of mine, and these of yours, are united to each of us. And observe, that in its union, it is very man: not, except at special times when He pleased, lifted up to superhuman capacity by the indwelling Godhead, not ordinarily able to endure without fatigue, to subsist without food, to renovate itself without sleep: but as was necessary for the Bearer of man’s infirmities, for the Sympathizer with man’s troubles, for the great Consoler of all who need consolation, like his brethren in all things, with one only most necessary and most teaching exception.

And so He sleeps on: and the oars plash regularly in the falling twilight, till at length one quarter of the sky gathers darker than is wont, and suddenly there bursts down on the inland sea from its bordering valleys one of those squalls of wind, well known as the chief perils of all lake navigation. The tempest quickly, in those confined spaces, lashes the water into fury: the little vessel labors among the breakers, which begin dashing over her sides, and she is soon rapidly filling. Still, the weary passenger sleeps. So, and yet not so, did Jonah sleep in the sides of the ship, when he was fleeing from the face of God: for there may be deep sleep of different kinds. One may be calm in danger from apathy or unbelief, and another from blessed faith and reliance. Shall we not say of this Sleeper, that his slumber was deep and undisturbed, because it never had been broken by the start of guilt, or the working thoughts of terror? Shall we not feel that the beautiful words of our Poet are true of Him only,—

“He feared no danger, for He knew no sin?”

Such was the manhood of the Lord in its infirmity and in its perfection: in its weakness, and in its strength.

But meanwhile the disciples are filled with terror. Their boat is beginning to sink: and He, who they knew could save them, is all unconscious of their common danger. They awake him with something of reproach: “Master, Master, carest thou not that we perish?” It is not as it was to Jonah, “Awake, thou sleeper, and call upon thy God:” they know thus much, that He has power to save them: but they wonder that that power should not have been exerted before it came to this. Their call to Him is variously given by the Evangelists; as above,—or as in the gospel for this Sunday, “Lord, save us: we perish;” or as by St. Luke, “Master, master, we perish.” “The sense is the same in all,” says St. Augustine; “in all, they wake the Lord, and beseech Him to save them; nor is it worth our while to enquire, which of these contains the actual words said to Christ rather than the others. For whether they used any one of these three expressions, or some other words which none of the Evangelists has related, but amounting to the same verity of meaning, what has it to do with the matter in hand?” It had been well, if these remarks had always been borne in mind by those who compare the gospels one with another; they would have ensured its being done more in the freedom of the spirit, and not so much in the bondage of the letter.

The Lord is not slow to answer to their cry, though He reproaches them as being of little faith. They who had seen so many of His wonderful works, and who knew the love which He had for them, should have known also that He was not one whose power could be in this manner taken at a disadvantage, or whose care for His own could be thus defeated. But none of us, my brethren, can say that their conduct was not natural. I fear we all are of little faith: for I am sure we should all have done likewise. In the account in St. Matthew’s gospel, this rebuke of His comes before the act of power: in St. Mark and St. Luke, it follows it. Whether it went before or followed, the certainty that it was given, and the lesson in it for us, are the same.

But now let us fix our attention on that which was done: for surely we are reading a narrative which stands alone in the history of our world. This man who, but a moment since, was fast asleep from weariness, rose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still.” We all know the effect of a sudden lull in the raving of the storm: the perfect peace which seems to take the place of the war of the elements: the sense of thankfulness and surprise with which we look abroad into the stillness. What then must this have been, when it was the instantaneous effect of the command of a human voice? “There was a great calm.” No ordinary calm: not as usual after the cessation of a tempest, the waves still tossing with their disquiet, but half-appeased; but the lake became as in the calm of the breathless noon,—it instantaneously put on the glassy surface of the misty morn, or the long level lines of the solemn twilight. As before, in the Lord’s first miracle, nature was silently endowed with powers not her own,—her slow processes anticipated,—her ordinary requirements superseded: so now, at His spoken word, her own powers are suspended, and their exercise forbidden. And as in that case imagination fails to trace the procedure of the creative act, so here of the repressive. We hear the wind, and cannot tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth: but He knows: the necessity that there is for the air to rush hither and thither, filling up its void places,—where this exists, and why, He has it all in his thoughts: and what He commands, He works also. It was not in sober reality, as the wondering shipmen expressed it: the winds and the sea were not animated beings, who heard and obeyed, so that He should have no part in that which was done, but to command it;—far otherwise: it was all His doing. He who spoke was present in the far-off mountain passes whence the winds issued forth: He made the gathering eddies stand still, and stanched the pouring mist. The result was seen, the workmanship was hidden. He worked as God ever works: His ways were in the vast deep, and His path in the trackless air; the great calm, the accomplishment of that which was done, was the least thing that was wrought;—was but the token, that God had passed by, and nature was silent.

And so, my brethren, we have our blessed Lord in His weakness and in His strength: in His weariness as man, and His unwearyingness as God: in His tired sleep, and in His unslumbering watchfulness. “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”

Turn we now to another aspect of His glorious Person and office. “They came to the other side, into the land of the Gergesenes.” It was a land of limestone cliffs, pierced, as not uncommonly, into hollow caves, which were used in that country for the burying-places of the dead. Dwelling in those tombs, disputing possession with the wild beasts of the wilderness, were two creatures scarcely human, though bearing the forms of men. On one of these wretched ones is our attention specially concentrated. Terrible indeed is the description of him by the Evangelists: “When He was come out of the ship, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs, and no man could tame him, no not with chains; because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. And he wore no clothes; but always night and day he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones, exceeding fierce, so that no man might pass by that way.” Was ever description more wild and fearful?

And as it is the most dreadful of its whole class, so let us take it as a type of the whole class, and ask ourselves, what was this which is here spoken of—this possession by evil spirits? And observe, that I am not now going into the general enquiry, which is a very wide one; but am asking the question with a view to our Lord Himself—His truth, His mercy, and His power. I may simply then and in a word say that whoever believes in Him at all, must also believe in the existence and agency of both good and evil spirits. For it is again and again certified to us both by His words and by His actions. There is no getting over this, or explaining it away. If such men as these, and the rest on whom his miracles wore wrought, were not possessed by devils at all, but were only madmen,—and if He, in what He said and did, was only countenancing a popular delusion, why then I say, all trust in Him and in His words, is gone: He was no true Teacher, no pure and sinless Savior: for He must have acted and spoken dangerous and blasphemous falsehoods. I speak thus strongly, to shew you how vain is the attempt to separate these cases from Himself and his teaching. Reject them, if you like: but you reject Him with them. Doubt and disbelieve, if you will, the existence of an unseen spiritual world about us and in us; but in doing so you doubt and disbelieve Him by whose holy Name you are called, and to whom you owe all you have both here and hereafter.

Well then, with this caution, we will speak as we believe, and simply assume the fact as certain, that these men were, or rather this man,—seeing that the second bears no prominent part,—was the wretched victim of possession by devils, the peculiar disease and burden of that age of the world. Evil spirits had entered into and taken possession of him. They used his voice, his thoughts, his limbs, for their unholy purposes. He was not his own master, but their slave. And this miserable state gave rise to a sort of double personality, not altogether unknown, be it observed, to those even now who study the more desperate forms of insanity. In this condition, while the man sometimes besought for deliverance, the demon broke in with his superhuman confessions that Jesus was the Son of God. We have this latter feature in the history before us. The evil spirits know the Son of God: and through the voice of their victim they pray Him not to torment them before the time. They know His lordship over them—they know that a day is coming, when He will adjudge their everlasting doom. Among the doctrines regarding His Person, notice this well. He is Lord of heaven and earth and hell:—of the evil spirits, as well as of His holy angels:—and He is their judge, and will pronounce their sentence in the end.

And now, for I deny it not, we come to matters of detail, strange, and passing our comprehension. The request on the part of the devils that they might not be sent out of the country,—or not into the deep,—but into the swine,—the permission given,—the destruction of the herd,—all this has time out of mind furnished ground of cavil to the unbeliever, and of reverent question to the enquiring Christian. But what wonder if we find ourselves out of our depth, when introduced but for a moment into the spirit world, of which we know absolutely nothing by any research or experience of our own? Rather should we receive such notices as these as each lifting some portion of the veil which hides that world from us, and teaching us by analogy how to think and judge of it. For instance, we are at least informed by this narrative, that certain evil spirits were then suffered to abide, tempting men, in certain portions of the earth; we see that the grosser animal nature, as well as that of men, is able to receive their attacks and incursions:—and we gather that it pleased our Lord, for reasons no doubt understood and sufficient at the time, to permit this to take place, and to destroy the swine in the waters. Among such reasons at once occurs to us this;—that the fact may have furnished more perfect assurance to the restored man himself, and to the neighborhood around, of his complete deliverance: and as it has well been said, what wonder that He who ordains that myriads of animals should daily be slaughtered for the sustenance of men’s bodies, should on this occasion have permitted the destruction of a few, for the better health of their souls?

But let us now turn to another and a very different spectacle, to him that had had the legion, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed, and in his right mind. O blessed result! blessed, in the fact itself; blessed, in the lesson which it echoes onwards through the ages of Time. Yes, my brethren, even thus it is that every one of us must fare at His hands, if we would be healed and live. We, thank God, have fallen in other times than those. His blessed Gospel, next to His holy Presence, has won its way on earth. He subdued the enemy for us—He saw him as lightning fall from heaven; and the softening and humanizing influences of his descended Spirit have followed. But there is a Satanic possession of which the world is not rid, and never will be, till He comes to judge it. We were all born in sin, and children of wrath; and though in Christ’s church we have become the children of grace, yet is the old Adam not thoroughly driven out; yet is the law of sin still found active in our members, and furnishing material for our spiritual enemy to work on:—yet are we in that divided state, that the good which we would do, that we cannot: and the evil which we would not, that we do: even yet is the best of us in that condition which forced from the great Apostle that exceeding bitter cry, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Who, but He that rebuked the winds and the waves, and there was a great calm,—who but He that changed the fierce demoniac into a humble disciple,—He of whom the Apostle spoke, when he replied to his “who shall deliver,” with “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord?”

O Thou Stiller of the tempest, Thou Conqueror of the enemy for us, hear us, and save! In all time of our tribulation: in all time of our wealth: in the hour of death and in the day of judgment, good Lord, deliver us.[1]

 

 

[1] Alford, H. (1862). Sermons on Christian Doctrine (pp. 108–119). London: Rivingtons. (Public Domain)

Psalm 16

Psalm 16

Psalm 16

“Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust. O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee; But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight. Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips. The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16, AV)

A sufferer in imminent danger of death, expresses his strong confidence in God, ver. 1, as the sole source and author of his happiness, ver. 2, and at the same time his attachment to God’s people, ver. 3, his abhorrence of all other gods, ver. 4, his acquiescence in God’s dealings with him, ver. 5, 6, and his assured hope of future safety and blessedness, ver. 7–11.

The psalm is appropriate to the whole class of pious sufferers, of which Christ is the most illustrious representative. It is only in him, therefore, that some parts of it can be said to have received their highest and complete fulfilment. This will be shewn more fully in the exposition of the ninth and tenth verses.

1. Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for I have trusted in thee. Some explain Michtam as a compound term; but it is most probably a simple derivative of a verb meaning to hide, and signifies a mystery or secret. The similar word Michtab in the title of Hezekiah’s psalm (Isa. 38:9) is probably an imitation of the form here used, or at least involves an allusion to it. It seems to be substituted for the usual terms song, psalm, &c., not only here but in the titles of Ps. 55–60. It probably indicates the depth of doctrinal and spiritual import in these sacred compositions. The derivation from a noun meaning gold is much less probable. This verse may be said to contain the sum and substance of the whole psalm, and is merely amplified in what follows. The prayer, Keep, save, or preserve me, implies actual suffering or imminent danger, while the last clause, I have trusted in thee, states the ground of his assured hope and confident petition. The verb used is one that seems especially appropriate to the act of seeking shelter under some overshadowing object. See Judges 9:15, Isa. 30:2, Ps. 57:2 (1), 61:5 (4). The preterite form implies that this is no new or sudden act, but one performed already. He not only trusts in God at present, but has trusted him before. Compare Ps. 7:2 (1), 11:1.

2. Thou hast said to Jehovah, The Lord (art) thou; my good (is) not besides thee (or beyond thee). The verb in the first clause has the form of a second person feminine, which some regard as an abbreviation of the first person, אָמַרְתִּ for אָמַרְתִּי and translate accordingly, I have said. But this neither agrees so well with usage, nor affords so good a sense as the old construction, which supplies as the object of address the same that is expressed in Ps. 42:6 (5), 12 (11), 43:5, Jer. 4:19, Lam. 3:24, 25. A similar ellipsis is assumed by some in 1 Sam. 24:11, and 2 Sam. 13:39. By this peculiar form of speech the Psalmist calls upon himself to remember his own solemn acknowledgment of Jehovah as the Lord or Supreme God.—The obscure clause which follows has been very variously explained. Some understand by good moral goodness, merit, and explain the whole to mean, “My goodness is not such as to entitle me to thy regard.” Most interpreters, however, give to good its usual sense of good fortune, happiness (see Ps. 106:5, Job 9:25), and make the whole clause mean, “My happiness is not obligatory or incumbent on thee, thou art not bound to provide for it;” or “My happiness is not above thee; I have no higher happiness than thee.” The true sense is probably afforded by a modification of this last: “My happiness is not beside thee, independent of, or separable from thee,” with allusion to the form of expression in the Hebrew of the first commandment (Exod. 20:3). The verse, then, contains a twofold acknowledgment of God, as the universal sovereign, and as the only source of individual enjoyment. Compare Ps. 73:25. That this recognition was not a mere momentary act, but a habitual affection of the mind, seems to be indicated by the Psalmist’s appeal to his own soul as having made the acknowledgment already, hitherto or heretofore.

3. To (or with) the saints who (are) in the land, and the nobles in whom (is) all my delight. The construction of the first clause, and its connection with the preceding verse, are very obscure. Some make to synonymous with as to. “As to the saints who are in the land, and the nobles, in them is all my delight.” Or, “as to the saints who are in the land, they are the nobles in whom is all my delight.” Others understand to the saints and to Jehovah as correlative expressions. “To Jehovah I have said thus; to the saints thus.” Or, as the English Bible has it, “My goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints,” &c. The least violent construction seems to be that which takes the preposition in its usual sense, that of belonging to, as in the phrases, to David, to the chief Musician, and in 1 Kings 15:27. The meaning then is that the Psalmist’s recognition of Jehovah as The Lord, and as the only source of happiness, is not peculiar to himself, but common to the whole body of the saints or holy ones. This epithet denotes personal character, not as its primary meaning, but as the effect of a peculiar relation to God, as the objects of his choice, set apart from the rest of men for this very purpose; see Exod. 19:6, Deut. 7:6, Ps. 34:10 (9), Dan. 7:21, 8:24, 1 Pet. 2:9. The pre-eminence of these over others, as the fruit of the divine election, is expressed by the word nobles, which, like saints, denotes moral character only in an indirect and secondary manner. The construction in this part of the verse is strongly idiomatic; the literal translation is, the nobles of all my delight in them. Under the old dispensation, the nobles or elect of God had their local habitation in the land of promise. Hence they are here described as the “saints or consecrated ones who are in the land,” not in the earth, which would be too indefinite and not so well suited to the context. As thus explained, the whole verse may be paraphrased as follows: “This profession of my trust in God I make, not merely as an individual believer, but as one belonging to the great body of the saints or consecrated ones, the nobles of the human race, not such by any original or natural pre-eminence, but by the sovereign and distinguishing favor of Jehovah, whom they trust as I do, and are therefore the rightful objects of my warmest love.”

4. Many (or multiplied) shall be their sorrowsanother they have purchasedI will not pour their drink-offering of blood, and will not take their names upon my lips. With the happiness of those who like himself trust the Lord, he contrasts the wretchedness of those who have chosen any other object of supreme affection. The relative construction in the English version, “their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten,” &c., gives the sense correctly, but with more variation from the Hebrew idiom, which conveys the same idea by means of short independent propositions. In the word translated their sorrows, (עַצּֽבוֹתָם), there seems to be an allusion to a very similar form, which would mean their idols (עְצַבֵּיהֶם), as if to suggest that false gods are mere troubles and vexations. Another means another god, in opposition to the one true God, Jehovah, as in Isa. 42:8, 48:11. The contrast which is there expressed is here to be supplied from ver. 2 and 5, and from the general antithesis, running through the context, between God and gods, not idols merely, but any created object of supreme affection. The verb מָהַר in its derived form means to hasten, and is so translated here by the English and some other versions. But in the only other place where the primitive verb occurs (Exod. 22:15), it means to endow a wife, or secure her by the payment of a dowry, according to the ancient oriental custom. The same usage of the verb exists in several of the cognate dialects. It seems here to have the general sense of purchasing, by costly sacrifice or self-denial, but with particular allusion to the conjugal relation which is constantly described in Scripture as existing between worshippers and their gods; see Hos. 3:2, and 8:9, Ezek. 16:33, 34. In the last clause he abjures all communion with such idolaters. He will not join in their impious services, nor even name the names of their divinities. Drink-offerings of blood, libations no less loathsome than if composed of human blood, perhaps with an allusion to the frequent poetical description of wine as the blood of the grape; see Gen. 49:11, Deut. 32:14, Isa. 63:3. To take the name upon the lips is to stain or pollute them by pronouncing it. Both here and in Hos. 2:19, there is an obvious allusion to the solemn prohibition of the law (Exod. 23:13): “Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” The pronoun their, in this whole clause, refers not to the worshippers but to their divinities, as comprehended under the collective term another.

5. Jehovah (is) my allotted portion and my cup; thou wilt enlarge my lot. The other side of the contrast is again exhibited. The idea is, that in the Lord the Psalmist has all that he can wish or hope for. The figures are borrowed from the regular supply of food and drink. Compare Ps. 11:6, 23:5. There may also be allusions to the language of the Pentateuch in reference to the tribe of Levi, Deut. 10:9, 18:1, 2. The common version of the last clause, thou upholdest my lot, is neither so grammatical nor yields so good a sense as that above given, where enlarge implies both honor and abundance, and the future form expresses confident assurance that the favor now experienced will be continued.

6. The lines are fallen to me in pleasant things (or pleasant places); yea, my heritage is goodly. The lines here spoken of are those used in measuring and dividing land. Fallen, i.e. assigned, with or without allusion to the lot, as the means of distribution. Compare Num. 34:2, Judges 18:1. The idea of places is suggested by the context, or the plural adjective may have the abstract sense of pleasure, pleasures, like the cognate form in Job 36:11. The particle (אַף) which introduces the last clause is more emphatic than the simple copulative and. It properly means also, and implies that this clause contains something more than that before it. The original construction of the last clause is, a heritage is goodly to me or upon me, with allusion to the natural and common image of gifts or favors as descending from above. The heritage or portion thus described is God himself, but considered as including all desirable possessions.

7. I will bless Jehovah, who hath counselled me; also by night have my reins prompted me. He praises God for having counselled or persuaded him to choose this goodly heritage in preference to every other portion. The second clause begins with yea or also, as in the preceding verse. It here implies that, under the divine control just mentioned, his own habitual dispositions tended to the same point. By night, literally nights, an idiom not unknown in vulgar English. The plural may in this case be emphatic, meaning whole nights, all night long. The night is mentioned, both as a time naturally favorable to reflection, and as shewing that the same subject occupied his thoughts by night as well as by day; see above on Ps. 1:2. The reins are figuratively put like the heart, bowels, &c., for the affections; see above on Ps. 7:10 (9). My reins have taught me, warned me, prompted me, to utter the praise mentioned in the first clause, or to make the choice described in ver. 1, 2, 5.

8. I have set Jehovah before me always: because (he is) at my right hand, I shall not be moved. I have set him before me, i.e. I recognize his presence and confide in his protection. The actual expression of this confidence is given in the other clause. The right hand is here mentioned, not as a post of honor, but as that of a guard or defender. See below, on Ps. 109:31, 110:5, 121:5.—I shall not be moved from my secure position. See above, on Ps. 10:6, 15:5. The whole verse is a varied repetition and amplification of the last clause of ver. 1, I have trusted (or sheltered myself) in thee.—The Septuagint version of this sentence is quoted in Acts 2:25, with an express recognition of David as the author of the psalm.

9. Therefore has rejoiced my heart and exulted my glory; yea, my flesh shall dwell in security (or confidence).—Therefore, because God is my ever present helper. Glory seems here to mean his nobler part, his soul, but not as wholly separate from the body, as appears from what follows. See above, on Ps. 7:6 (5).—Flesh may either mean the body, as distinguished from the soul, or the whole person as including both. Compare Ps. 63:2 (1), 84:3 (2).—The idea of dwelling in security or confidence of safety is borrowed from the Pentateuch. See Deut. 33:12, 28, and compare Judges 18:7, Jer. 23:6, 33:16. A similar allusion has been found already in Ps. 4:9 (8). The Septuagint version of the sentence, although it substitutes tongue for glory, is substantially correct, and therefore retained in Acts 2:26.—The second clause is not simply parallel and equivalent to the first, but is rather an actual performance of the duty there described. Having there said that his heart did triumph in the certainty of God’s protection, he here proves the truth of his assertion, by professing his assured hope that his whole person, not excepting his material part, shall dwell in safety under that protection. This is applicable both to preservation from death and preservation in death, and may therefore without violence be understood, in a lower sense, of David, who did die and see corruption, but whose body is to rise again, as well as in a higher sense of Christ, whose body, though it died, was raised again before it saw corruption.

10. For thou wilt not leave my soul to Hell; thou wilt not give thy Holy One to see corruption. He now assigns the ground or reason of the confidence expressed in the preceding verse. “I am sure my soul and body will be safe, because thou canst not, without ceasing to be God and my God, give me up to the destroyer.” He does not say leave in but to, i.e. abandon to, give up to the dominion or possession of another. The same Hebrew phrase occurs, with the same sense, in Lev. 19:10, Job 39:14, and in Ps. 49:11 (10) below.—Hell is here to be taken in its wide old English sense, as corresponding to the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades, the invisible world or state of the dead. See above on Ps. 6:6 (5), and 9:18 (17).—Give, i.e. permit, or more emphatically, give up, abandon, which makes the parallelism of the clauses more exact. Thy Holy One, or more exactly, thy favorite, the object of thy special favor. See above, on Ps. 4:4 (3). The textual reading is a plural form (חסידיך), the singular (חסידך) being a marginal correction or keri. The Jews contend for the former, and most Christians for the latter, which is favored by the oldest versions and retained in the New Testament. The essential difference between the two is less than it may seem at first sight, since even the singular is really collective, and includes the whole class of God’s chosen and favored ones, of whom Christ is the head and representative.—To see, i.e. to experience or undergo corruption. Compare the phrase to see death, Luke 2:26.—It has been disputed whether שַׁחַת is derived from שׁוּחַ, and means a pit, or from שָׁחַת, and means corruption. Both allegations are probably true, the antecedent improbability of such a double sense and derivation being counterbalanced by the clear analogy of נחַת, which is of a different sense and gender, as derived from נָחַת and נוּחַ. The use of this equivocal expression may have been intentional, in order to make it applicable both to David and to Christ. (See above, on the preceding verse.) To both, the words contain a promise of deliverance from death, but in the case of Christ with a specific reference to his actual escape from the corruption which is otherwise inseparable from dissolution. Believers in general are saved from the perpetual dominion of death, but Christ was saved even from the first approach of putrefaction. In this peculiar and most pregnant sense the words are applied to Christ exclusively by two apostles, and in that sense declared to be inapplicable to David. (Acts 2:29–31, 13:35–37.) Their reasoning would utterly forbid the application to any lower subject, were it not for the ambiguity or twofold meaning of the Hebrew word, which cannot therefore be explained away without embarrassing the interpretation of this signal prophecy.

11. Thou wilt teach me the way of life, fullness of joy with thy face (or presence), pleasures in thy right hand for ever. He trusts God not only for deliverance from death, but for guidance in the way to life, or blessed immortality. (Compare Prov. 2:19.) The Hebrew verb is causative, and means thou wilt make me know, point out, or shew to me. Fullness, satiety, or rather satisfaction, in its strongest sense, including the ideas of contentment and abundance. The plural, joys, denotes not only richness but variety. The next phrase may simply mean before thy face or in thy presence. But it will also bear a stronger sense, and represent God’s presence or the right of him, not merely as the place, but the source of enjoyment. See above, on Ps. 4:7 (6), and compare Ps. 17:15, 80:4 (3). So in the last clause, the idea is not merely at thy right hand as a place of honor and of safety, but in thy right hand as the depository of eternal joys, or with thy right hand, as the instrument by which they are dispensed. See below, on Ps. 17:7.—This last clause is omitted in Peter’s citation of the passage, Acts 2:27, no doubt because it is a mere poetical reiteration of the one before it, which is itself only added to complete the period, and not because it was essential to the apostle’s purpose. That purpose was accomplished by applying the two preceding verses to our Savior, not exclusively indeed, but by way of eminence and in a peculiar sense, which we learn, however, from Acts 2:30, 31, was actually present to the mind of the inspired Psalmist. The same argumentative interpretation of the prophecy is given by Paul in Acts 13:35–37.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 65–69). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for in thee do I put my trust. O my soul, thou hast said unto the LORD, Thou art my Lord: my goodness extendeth not to thee; But to the saints that are in the earth, and to the excellent, in whom is all my delight. Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god: their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into my lips. The LORD is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the LORD, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons. I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Psalm 16, AV)

A sufferer in imminent danger of death, expresses his strong confidence in God, ver. 1, as the sole source and author of his happiness, ver. 2, and at the same time his attachment to God’s people, ver. 3, his abhorrence of all other gods, ver. 4, his acquiescence in God’s dealings with him, ver. 5, 6, and his assured hope of future safety and blessedness, ver. 7–11.

The psalm is appropriate to the whole class of pious sufferers, of which Christ is the most illustrious representative. It is only in him, therefore, that some parts of it can be said to have received their highest and complete fulfilment. This will be shewn more fully in the exposition of the ninth and tenth verses.

1. Michtam of David. Preserve me, O God: for I have trusted in thee. Some explain Michtam as a compound term; but it is most probably a simple derivative of a verb meaning to hide, and signifies a mystery or secret. The similar word Michtab in the title of Hezekiah’s psalm (Isa. 38:9) is probably an imitation of the form here used, or at least involves an allusion to it. It seems to be substituted for the usual terms song, psalm, &c., not only here but in the titles of Ps. 55–60. It probably indicates the depth of doctrinal and spiritual import in these sacred compositions. The derivation from a noun meaning gold is much less probable. This verse may be said to contain the sum and substance of the whole psalm, and is merely amplified in what follows. The prayer, Keep, save, or preserve me, implies actual suffering or imminent danger, while the last clause, I have trusted in thee, states the ground of his assured hope and confident petition. The verb used is one that seems especially appropriate to the act of seeking shelter under some overshadowing object. See Judges 9:15, Isa. 30:2, Ps. 57:2 (1), 61:5 (4). The preterite form implies that this is no new or sudden act, but one performed already. He not only trusts in God at present, but has trusted him before. Compare Ps. 7:2 (1), 11:1.

2. Thou hast said to Jehovah, The Lord (art) thou; my good (is) not besides thee (or beyond thee). The verb in the first clause has the form of a second person feminine, which some regard as an abbreviation of the first person, אָמַרְתִּ for אָמַרְתִּי and translate accordingly, I have said. But this neither agrees so well with usage, nor affords so good a sense as the old construction, which supplies as the object of address the same that is expressed in Ps. 42:6 (5), 12 (11), 43:5, Jer. 4:19, Lam. 3:24, 25. A similar ellipsis is assumed by some in 1 Sam. 24:11, and 2 Sam. 13:39. By this peculiar form of speech the Psalmist calls upon himself to remember his own solemn acknowledgment of Jehovah as the Lord or Supreme God.—The obscure clause which follows has been very variously explained. Some understand by good moral goodness, merit, and explain the whole to mean, “My goodness is not such as to entitle me to thy regard.” Most interpreters, however, give to good its usual sense of good fortune, happiness (see Ps. 106:5, Job 9:25), and make the whole clause mean, “My happiness is not obligatory or incumbent on thee, thou art not bound to provide for it;” or “My happiness is not above thee; I have no higher happiness than thee.” The true sense is probably afforded by a modification of this last: “My happiness is not beside thee, independent of, or separable from thee,” with allusion to the form of expression in the Hebrew of the first commandment (Exod. 20:3). The verse, then, contains a twofold acknowledgment of God, as the universal sovereign, and as the only source of individual enjoyment. Compare Ps. 73:25. That this recognition was not a mere momentary act, but a habitual affection of the mind, seems to be indicated by the Psalmist’s appeal to his own soul as having made the acknowledgment already, hitherto or heretofore.

3. To (or with) the saints who (are) in the land, and the nobles in whom (is) all my delight. The construction of the first clause, and its connection with the preceding verse, are very obscure. Some make to synonymous with as to. “As to the saints who are in the land, and the nobles, in them is all my delight.” Or, “as to the saints who are in the land, they are the nobles in whom is all my delight.” Others understand to the saints and to Jehovah as correlative expressions. “To Jehovah I have said thus; to the saints thus.” Or, as the English Bible has it, “My goodness extendeth not to thee, but to the saints,” &c. The least violent construction seems to be that which takes the preposition in its usual sense, that of belonging to, as in the phrases, to David, to the chief Musician, and in 1 Kings 15:27. The meaning then is that the Psalmist’s recognition of Jehovah as The Lord, and as the only source of happiness, is not peculiar to himself, but common to the whole body of the saints or holy ones. This epithet denotes personal character, not as its primary meaning, but as the effect of a peculiar relation to God, as the objects of his choice, set apart from the rest of men for this very purpose; see Exod. 19:6, Deut. 7:6, Ps. 34:10 (9), Dan. 7:21, 8:24, 1 Pet. 2:9. The pre-eminence of these over others, as the fruit of the divine election, is expressed by the word nobles, which, like saints, denotes moral character only in an indirect and secondary manner. The construction in this part of the verse is strongly idiomatic; the literal translation is, the nobles of all my delight in them. Under the old dispensation, the nobles or elect of God had their local habitation in the land of promise. Hence they are here described as the “saints or consecrated ones who are in the land,” not in the earth, which would be too indefinite and not so well suited to the context. As thus explained, the whole verse may be paraphrased as follows: “This profession of my trust in God I make, not merely as an individual believer, but as one belonging to the great body of the saints or consecrated ones, the nobles of the human race, not such by any original or natural pre-eminence, but by the sovereign and distinguishing favor of Jehovah, whom they trust as I do, and are therefore the rightful objects of my warmest love.”

4. Many (or multiplied) shall be their sorrowsanother they have purchasedI will not pour their drink-offering of blood, and will not take their names upon my lips. With the happiness of those who like himself trust the Lord, he contrasts the wretchedness of those who have chosen any other object of supreme affection. The relative construction in the English version, “their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten,” &c., gives the sense correctly, but with more variation from the Hebrew idiom, which conveys the same idea by means of short independent propositions. In the word translated their sorrows, (עַצּֽבוֹתָם), there seems to be an allusion to a very similar form, which would mean their idols (עְצַבֵּיהֶם), as if to suggest that false gods are mere troubles and vexations. Another means another god, in opposition to the one true God, Jehovah, as in Isa. 42:8, 48:11. The contrast which is there expressed is here to be supplied from ver. 2 and 5, and from the general antithesis, running through the context, between God and gods, not idols merely, but any created object of supreme affection. The verb מָהַר in its derived form means to hasten, and is so translated here by the English and some other versions. But in the only other place where the primitive verb occurs (Exod. 22:15), it means to endow a wife, or secure her by the payment of a dowry, according to the ancient oriental custom. The same usage of the verb exists in several of the cognate dialects. It seems here to have the general sense of purchasing, by costly sacrifice or self-denial, but with particular allusion to the conjugal relation which is constantly described in Scripture as existing between worshippers and their gods; see Hos. 3:2, and 8:9, Ezek. 16:33, 34. In the last clause he abjures all communion with such idolaters. He will not join in their impious services, nor even name the names of their divinities. Drink-offerings of blood, libations no less loathsome than if composed of human blood, perhaps with an allusion to the frequent poetical description of wine as the blood of the grape; see Gen. 49:11, Deut. 32:14, Isa. 63:3. To take the name upon the lips is to stain or pollute them by pronouncing it. Both here and in Hos. 2:19, there is an obvious allusion to the solemn prohibition of the law (Exod. 23:13): “Make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.” The pronoun their, in this whole clause, refers not to the worshippers but to their divinities, as comprehended under the collective term another.

5. Jehovah (is) my allotted portion and my cup; thou wilt enlarge my lot. The other side of the contrast is again exhibited. The idea is, that in the Lord the Psalmist has all that he can wish or hope for. The figures are borrowed from the regular supply of food and drink. Compare Ps. 11:6, 23:5. There may also be allusions to the language of the Pentateuch in reference to the tribe of Levi, Deut. 10:9, 18:1, 2. The common version of the last clause, thou upholdest my lot, is neither so grammatical nor yields so good a sense as that above given, where enlarge implies both honor and abundance, and the future form expresses confident assurance that the favor now experienced will be continued.

6. The lines are fallen to me in pleasant things (or pleasant places); yea, my heritage is goodly. The lines here spoken of are those used in measuring and dividing land. Fallen, i.e. assigned, with or without allusion to the lot, as the means of distribution. Compare Num. 34:2, Judges 18:1. The idea of places is suggested by the context, or the plural adjective may have the abstract sense of pleasure, pleasures, like the cognate form in Job 36:11. The particle (אַף) which introduces the last clause is more emphatic than the simple copulative and. It properly means also, and implies that this clause contains something more than that before it. The original construction of the last clause is, a heritage is goodly to me or upon me, with allusion to the natural and common image of gifts or favors as descending from above. The heritage or portion thus described is God himself, but considered as including all desirable possessions.

7. I will bless Jehovah, who hath counselled me; also by night have my reins prompted me. He praises God for having counselled or persuaded him to choose this goodly heritage in preference to every other portion. The second clause begins with yea or also, as in the preceding verse. It here implies that, under the divine control just mentioned, his own habitual dispositions tended to the same point. By night, literally nights, an idiom not unknown in vulgar English. The plural may in this case be emphatic, meaning whole nights, all night long. The night is mentioned, both as a time naturally favorable to reflection, and as shewing that the same subject occupied his thoughts by night as well as by day; see above on Ps. 1:2. The reins are figuratively put like the heart, bowels, &c., for the affections; see above on Ps. 7:10 (9). My reins have taught me, warned me, prompted me, to utter the praise mentioned in the first clause, or to make the choice described in ver. 1, 2, 5.

8. I have set Jehovah before me always: because (he is) at my right hand, I shall not be moved. I have set him before me, i.e. I recognize his presence and confide in his protection. The actual expression of this confidence is given in the other clause. The right hand is here mentioned, not as a post of honor, but as that of a guard or defender. See below, on Ps. 109:31, 110:5, 121:5.—I shall not be moved from my secure position. See above, on Ps. 10:6, 15:5. The whole verse is a varied repetition and amplification of the last clause of ver. 1, I have trusted (or sheltered myself) in thee.—The Septuagint version of this sentence is quoted in Acts 2:25, with an express recognition of David as the author of the psalm.

9. Therefore has rejoiced my heart and exulted my glory; yea, my flesh shall dwell in security (or confidence).—Therefore, because God is my ever present helper. Glory seems here to mean his nobler part, his soul, but not as wholly separate from the body, as appears from what follows. See above, on Ps. 7:6 (5).—Flesh may either mean the body, as distinguished from the soul, or the whole person as including both. Compare Ps. 63:2 (1), 84:3 (2).—The idea of dwelling in security or confidence of safety is borrowed from the Pentateuch. See Deut. 33:12, 28, and compare Judges 18:7, Jer. 23:6, 33:16. A similar allusion has been found already in Ps. 4:9 (8). The Septuagint version of the sentence, although it substitutes tongue for glory, is substantially correct, and therefore retained in Acts 2:26.—The second clause is not simply parallel and equivalent to the first, but is rather an actual performance of the duty there described. Having there said that his heart did triumph in the certainty of God’s protection, he here proves the truth of his assertion, by professing his assured hope that his whole person, not excepting his material part, shall dwell in safety under that protection. This is applicable both to preservation from death and preservation in death, and may therefore without violence be understood, in a lower sense, of David, who did die and see corruption, but whose body is to rise again, as well as in a higher sense of Christ, whose body, though it died, was raised again before it saw corruption.

10. For thou wilt not leave my soul to Hell; thou wilt not give thy Holy One to see corruption. He now assigns the ground or reason of the confidence expressed in the preceding verse. “I am sure my soul and body will be safe, because thou canst not, without ceasing to be God and my God, give me up to the destroyer.” He does not say leave in but to, i.e. abandon to, give up to the dominion or possession of another. The same Hebrew phrase occurs, with the same sense, in Lev. 19:10, Job 39:14, and in Ps. 49:11 (10) below.—Hell is here to be taken in its wide old English sense, as corresponding to the Hebrew Sheol and the Greek Hades, the invisible world or state of the dead. See above on Ps. 6:6 (5), and 9:18 (17).—Give, i.e. permit, or more emphatically, give up, abandon, which makes the parallelism of the clauses more exact. Thy Holy One, or more exactly, thy favorite, the object of thy special favor. See above, on Ps. 4:4 (3). The textual reading is a plural form (חסידיך), the singular (חסידך) being a marginal correction or keri. The Jews contend for the former, and most Christians for the latter, which is favored by the oldest versions and retained in the New Testament. The essential difference between the two is less than it may seem at first sight, since even the singular is really collective, and includes the whole class of God’s chosen and favored ones, of whom Christ is the head and representative.—To see, i.e. to experience or undergo corruption. Compare the phrase to see death, Luke 2:26.—It has been disputed whether שַׁחַת is derived from שׁוּחַ, and means a pit, or from שָׁחַת, and means corruption. Both allegations are probably true, the antecedent improbability of such a double sense and derivation being counterbalanced by the clear analogy of נחַת, which is of a different sense and gender, as derived from נָחַת and נוּחַ. The use of this equivocal expression may have been intentional, in order to make it applicable both to David and to Christ. (See above, on the preceding verse.) To both, the words contain a promise of deliverance from death, but in the case of Christ with a specific reference to his actual escape from the corruption which is otherwise inseparable from dissolution. Believers in general are saved from the perpetual dominion of death, but Christ was saved even from the first approach of putrefaction. In this peculiar and most pregnant sense the words are applied to Christ exclusively by two apostles, and in that sense declared to be inapplicable to David. (Acts 2:29–31, 13:35–37.) Their reasoning would utterly forbid the application to any lower subject, were it not for the ambiguity or twofold meaning of the Hebrew word, which cannot therefore be explained away without embarrassing the interpretation of this signal prophecy.

11. Thou wilt teach me the way of life, fullness of joy with thy face (or presence), pleasures in thy right hand for ever. He trusts God not only for deliverance from death, but for guidance in the way to life, or blessed immortality. (Compare Prov. 2:19.) The Hebrew verb is causative, and means thou wilt make me know, point out, or shew to me. Fullness, satiety, or rather satisfaction, in its strongest sense, including the ideas of contentment and abundance. The plural, joys, denotes not only richness but variety. The next phrase may simply mean before thy face or in thy presence. But it will also bear a stronger sense, and represent God’s presence or the right of him, not merely as the place, but the source of enjoyment. See above, on Ps. 4:7 (6), and compare Ps. 17:15, 80:4 (3). So in the last clause, the idea is not merely at thy right hand as a place of honor and of safety, but in thy right hand as the depository of eternal joys, or with thy right hand, as the instrument by which they are dispensed. See below, on Ps. 17:7.—This last clause is omitted in Peter’s citation of the passage, Acts 2:27, no doubt because it is a mere poetical reiteration of the one before it, which is itself only added to complete the period, and not because it was essential to the apostle’s purpose. That purpose was accomplished by applying the two preceding verses to our Savior, not exclusively indeed, but by way of eminence and in a peculiar sense, which we learn, however, from Acts 2:30, 31, was actually present to the mind of the inspired Psalmist. The same argumentative interpretation of the prophecy is given by Paul in Acts 13:35–37.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 65–69). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 15

Psalm 15

Psalm 15

Moral Purity

“A Psalm of David. LORD, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbor, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the LORD. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh reward against the innocent. He that doeth these things shall never be moved.” (Psalm 15, AV)

This psalm teaches the necessity of moral purity as a condition of the divine protection. It first propounds the question who shall be admitted to God’s household, and the privileges of its inmates, ver. 1. This is answered positively, ver. 2, and negatively, ver. 3; then positively again, ver. 4, and negatively, ver. 5. The last clause of the last verse winds up by declaring, that the character just described shall experience the protection tacitly referred to in the first verse. As the contrast exhibited in this psalm and the fourteenth may account for its position in the Psalter, so its obvious resemblance to the twenty-fourth makes it not improbable that their historical occasion was identical.

1. A Psalm by David. Jehovah, who shall sojourn in thy tent? who shall dwell in thy hill of holiness? The holy hill is Zion, as in Ps. 2:6; the tent is the tabernacle which David pitched there for the ark, when he removed it from Gibeon (2 Sam. 6:17, 1 Chron. 15:1, 16:1, 39, 2 Chron. 1:3–5). Both together signify the earthly residence of God; see above on Ps. 3:5 (4). The idea is not that of frequenting Zion as a place of worship, but of dwelling there, as a guest or as an inmate of God’s family. The same figure for intimate communion with Jehovah, and participation of his favor, reappears in Ps. 23:6, 27:4, 5, 24:3, 61:5, 65:5 (4), 84:5 (4). So too, in Eph. 2:19, believers are described as members of God’s family (οἰχεῖοι τοῦ Θεοῦ).

2. Walking perfect, and doing right, and speaking truth, in his heart. The Psalmist, speaking in behalf of God, here answers his own question. The only person who can be admitted to domestic intercourse with God is one walking perfect, &c. Walking is put for the habitual course of life (see above, on Ps. 1:1). Perfect, complete, as to all essential features of the character, without necessarily implying perfection in degree. The form of expression seems to be borrowed from Gen. 17:1. A remarkably analogous expression is that used by Horace: integer vitae scelerisque purus. The next phrase, doing right, practicing rectitude, may be either a synonymous parallel to the first, or a specification under it, parallel to speaking truth. The general idea of walking perfect is then resolved into the two particular ideas of doing right and speaking truth. In his heart, i.e. sincerely, as opposed to outward show or hypocritical profession. This phrase seems to qualify not merely what precedes, speaking truth, but the whole description, as of one who sincerely and internally, as well as outwardly, leads a blameless life by doing right and speaking truth.

3. (Who) hath not slandered with his tongue, (who) hath not done his neighbor harm, and a scandal hath not taken up against his neighbor. The positive description of the foregoing verse is now followed by a negative one. (Compare Ps. 1:1, 2). The social virtues are insisted on, and their opposites excluded, because they are apt to be neglected by hypocrites, against whom this psalm is directed. The past tense of the verbs denotes a character already marked and determined by the previous course of life. The verb רגל seems strictly to denote the act of busy or officious tale-bearing. There seems to be an allusion to Lev. 19:16. With his tongue, literally on his tongue, as we say to live on, i.e. by means of anything, an idiom which occurs in Gen. 27:40. (Compare Isa. 38:16.) The next clause adds deed to word, as in the foregoing verse. Scandal, reproach, defamatory accusation. The verb נשא is by some explained as meaning to take up upon the lips (Ps. 16:4), and then to utter or pronounce. Others give it the same sense as in Gen. 31:17, where נשא על means to lift up upon, i.e. to burden. The idea then is, that he has not helped to load his neighbor with reproach. Friend and neighbor does not mean any other man, but one sustaining a peculiarly intimate relation, such as that of the members of the chosen people to each other. See above, on Ps. 12:3 (2).

4. Despised in his eyes (is) a reprobate, and the fearers of Jehovah he will honor; he hath sworn to his own hurt, and will not change. The Chaldee Paraphrase, followed by the Prayer Book version, makes the first clause descriptive of humility. He is despised in his own eyes (and) rejected. But the parallelism with the next clause shews that a contrast was designed between his estimation of two opposite classes, and as one of these is those who fear Jehovah, the other must be represented by נמאס, rejected, i.e. by Jehovah, reprobate. The future form, as usual, suggests the idea of a present act repeated or continued in the future. He honors, and will still persist in honoring, the fearers of Jehovah. The Septuagint and Vulgate explain להרע to the neighbor, and some modern versions to the bad (man). But the sense is determined by the obvious allusion to Lev. 5:4: “if a soul swear to do evil (להרע) or to do good,” i.e. whether to his own advantage or the contrary. So here the phrase must mean “he hath sworn to injure (himself)” not designedly, but so as to produce that effect. He will not change, literally, exchange, i.e. substitute something else for what he has promised.

5. His silver he hath not given for usury, and a bribe against a guiltless (person) hath not taken. Doing these (things), he shall not be moved for ever. In Hebrew as in French, silver is put for money in general. There is obvious allusion to the frequent prohibition in the Mosaic law, not of lending money upon interest for commercial purposes, a practice then unknown, but of usurious lending to the poor, and especially to poor Israelites. See Exod. 22:24, Lev. 25:37, Deut. 23:20, and compare Prov. 28:8, Ezek. 18:8. The taking of judicial bribes is also expressly forbidden in Exod. 23:8, Deut. 16:19, 27:25. The masoretic interpunction of this sentence seems to be merely rhythmical or musical, as in Ps. 11:5. The words doing these cannot be separated from what follows without destroying the sense. This last clause is an answer to the question in ver. 1, but with a change of form, implying that admission to God’s household was itself security against all danger. Compare Ps. 55:23 (22). For the sense of אֶמּוֹט, see above, on Ps. 10:6, 13:5.[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 63–64). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

Psalm 14

Psalm 14

Psalm 14

Human Depravity and Destructive Judgements

“To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD. There were they in great fear: for God is in the generation of the righteous. Ye have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the LORD is his refuge. Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.” (Psalm 14, AV)

We have first a description of human depravity as universal, ver. 1–3; then a confident anticipation of destructive judgments on the incorrigibly wicked, ver. 4–6; and an earnest wish for the speedy deliverance of God’s elect from the evils of their natural condition and from the malice of their unconverted enemies, ver. 7.

There seems to be no reference to any particular historical occasion. The psalm was, no doubt, originally written to express the feelings of God’s people, in all times and places, with respect to the original depravity of all men, and the obstinate persistency in evil of the greater number. The points of resemblance and of difference between this psalm and the fifty-third will be considered in the exposition of the latter.

1. To the Chief Musician, by David. The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They have done corruptly, they have done abominably (in) deed (or act); there is none doing good. Sin is constantly held up to view in Scripture as the height of folly, and the sinner as the fool by way of eminence. See Gen. 34:7, Josh. 7:15, Ps. 39:9 (8). The term is here collective and applied to the whole race, as appears from the plurals which follow, and the negative statement in the last clause. The preterites include the present, but suggest the additional idea, that the truth here asserted is the result of all previous experience and observations.—In his heart, to himself, if not to others, as above, in Ps. 10:11. That the error is one of the affections, and not merely of the understanding, is supposed by some to be implied in the use of the word heart, which is often used, however, to denote the mind or soul in general.—אֵין is properly a noun, and means nonentity or non-existence: “nothing of God,” or “no such thing as God.” It cannot be explained as a wish—“No God!” i.e. Oh that there were no God!—because אֵין in usage always includes the substantive verb, and denies the existence, or at least the presence, of the person or thing to which it is prefixed. This is also clear from the use of the same word in the last clause, where its sense is unambiguous.—The addition of the word act or deed shews that the atheism described is not merely theoretical but practical.—There is obvious allusion in this verse to the description of the general antediluvian corruption in Gen. 6:12. This makes it the more certain that the description here was not intended either for Jews or Gentiles, as such, but for wicked men of either class, and that Paul’s application of the words, in Rom. 3:10, 12, is perfectly legitimate, and not a mere accommodation of the Psalmist’s language to another purpose.

2. Jehovah from heaven has looked down on the sons of man, to see if there were (one) acting wisely, seeking God. While the fool denies the being of a God, Jehovah’s eye is on him and his fellow-men. Yet even that omniscient eye can discern no exception to the general depravity and folly. The earnestness of the inspection is suggested by the verb in the first clause, which originally means to lean or bend over, and is peculiarly appropriate to the act of one gazing intently down upon a lower object. The force of the preterite tense is the same as in the preceding verse. The inquiry has been made already, and proved fruitless. It is no longer a doubtful question, but one definitively settled.—Acting wisely, in contrast to the atheistical folly mentioned in ver. 1. The test of wisdom is in seeking God, whether in the general religious sense of seeking his favor and communion with him, or in the special sense of seeking proofs of his existence. As if he had said, Even those who think there is no God, if they were wise, would seek one; but these fools take pleasure in the hideous negation. The image presented in this verse may be compared with that in Gen. 6:12, 11:5, 18:21. See also Ps. 33:13, 14.

3. The whole has apostatized; together they have putrefied; there is none doing good; there is not even one. Total and universal corruption could not be more clearly expressed than by this accumulation of the strongest terms, in which, as Luther well observes, the Psalmist, not content with saying all, adds together, and then negatively, no not one. It is plain that he had no limitation or exception in his mind, but intended to describe the natural condition of all men, in the widest and most unrestricted sense. The whole, not merely all the individuals as such, but the entire race as a totality or ideal person.—The whole (race) has departed, not merely from the right way, but from God, instead of seeking him, as intimated in ver. 4. Together, not merely altogether or without exception, but in union and by one decisive act or event. The etymological import of the verb נאלחו is to turn sour, to spoil. It is applied to moral depravation not only here, but in Job 15:16. The Septuagint version of these words is quoted by Paul in Rom. 3:12, as a part of his scriptural description of human depravity, the rest of which is taken from Ps. 5:10 (9), 10:7, 36:2 (1), 140:4, Isa. 59:7, 8. Under the false impression that he meant to quote a single passage, some early Christian copyist appears to have introduced the whole into the Septuagint version of this psalm, where it is still found in the Codex Vaticanus, as well as in the Vulgate, and even in one or two Hebrew manuscripts of later date. The interpolation is also retained in the Anglican Psalter. It is evident, however, that the apostle’s argument is strengthened by the fact of his proofs being drawn, not from one, but several parts of the Old Testament.

4. Do they not know, all (these) workers of iniquity, eating my people (as) they eat bread, (and) on Jehovah call not? The question is elliptical: the object of the verb must be supplied from the context. Do they not know that they are thus corrupt and estranged from God, and therefore objects of his wrath? Is it because they do not know this or believe it, that they thus presume to oppress and persecute his people? The figure of devouring occurs often elsewhere, e.g. Prov. 30:14, Mic. 3:3, Hab. 3:14. See below, on Ps. 27:2 (1). As they eat bread may either mean for their support—living on the plunder and oppression of my people; or for pleasure—feeding on them with delight; or with indifference and as little sense of guilt as when they take their ordinary fond.—Call not on Jehovah, do not worship him, as they were before said not to seek him, nor even to acknowledge his existence, all which are periphrastical descriptions of the wicked as a class. The general description of their wickedness is here exchanged for a specific charge, that of persecuting the righteous. The mention of two classes here is not at variance with the universal terms of the preceding context, nor does it render any limitation of those terms necessary. All men are alike “children of wrath,” but some are elected to be “vessels of mercy,” and thereby become objects of hatred to the unconverted mass who still represent the race in its apostasy from God.—My people does not make it necessary to regard these as the words of God himself, who is nowhere introduced as speaking in this psalm, and is spoken of in the third person in the very next clause. The Psalmist, as a member of the body, calls it his, and the same form of expression occurs elsewhere. See 1 Sam. 5:10, Isa. 3:12, 53:8, Micah 3:3.—For the meaning of the phrase, workers of iniquity, see above, on Ps. 5:6 (5).

5. There have they feared a fear, for God (is) in the righteous generation. A later period is now present to his view. They who seemed incapable of fear have now began to be afraid at last. There, without any change of place or outward situation. Where they before denied the being of a God, even there they have began to fear. See below, on Ps. 36:13 (12). The reason is given in the next clause. God, though denied by them, exists and is present, and will manifest his presence by the protection and deliverance of his people. Feared a fear, is a common Hebrew idiom for greatly feared, were sore afraid. Generation, contemporary race, as in Ps. 12:8 (7).

6. The plan (or counsel) of the sufferer (the afflicted) ye will shame, because Jehovah is his refuge. The workers of iniquity are here addressed directly. The sufferer is the persecuted innocent. Poor is too restricted a translation. See above, on Ps. 9:13, 19 (12, 18). The plan or counsel is described in the last clause, to wit, that of trusting in Jehovah. This very trust is an object of contempt to the wicked. Until they are made to fear by the manifestation of God’s presence with his people, they will continue to despise it. The Psalmist here seems to revert to the interval which should precede the divine interposition. As if he had said, You will one day be made to fear, but in the mean time you will shame the counsel of the poor. Some, however, give תבישו its usual sense of putting to shame, disappointing, and understand the clause as an ironical concession: you may shame his counsel if you can.

7. Who will give out of Zion salvation to Israel, in Jehovah’s returning the captivity of his people? Let Jacob exult, let Israel joy! The phrase who will give is an idiomatic optative in Hebrew, equivalent to Oh that with a verb, and Oh for with a noun in English. Oh for the salvation of Israel! Or, Oh that the salvation of Israel (might come) out of Zion, as the earthly residence of God and seat of the theocracy. The same local designation is connected with the prayer or promise of divine help, in Ps. 3:5 (4), 20:3 (2), 128:5, 134:3. (Compare Ps. 28:2). This shews that the psalm does not belong to the period of the Babylonish exile, and that the captivity referred to is not literal, but a metaphorical description of distress, as in the case of Job (42:10). The same idea is elsewhere expressed by the figure of confinement and incarceration (Ps. 142:8, Isa. 42:7, 49:9). The sense remains essentially the same in this case, whether the verb return be transitive or intransitive. Most interpreters prefer the former sense, and understand the clause to mean, “in Jehovah’s bringing back the captivity of his people.” But as שׁוּב in every other combination means to come back, and, like other verbs of motion, often governs a noun of place directly (Exod. 4:19, 20, Num. 10:36), it is better to understand the words as meaning that the salvation wished for would consist in God’s revisiting his captive or afflicted people. The sense is also admissible, if not necessary, in such places as Deut. 30:3, Ps. 85:5 (4), Isa. 52:8, Hos. 6:11, Nah. 2:3 (2). Let Jacob shout (for joy)! This is both an exhortation and a wish, but the latter is the prominent idea, as the parallelism of the clauses shews. Oh that the salvation of Israel were come! corresponds exactly to, May Jacob exult, may Israel be glad! The common version is forbidden by the optative form (יָגֵל) of the Hebrew verb, and by the masoretic interpunction, which connects in the Lord’s returning, &c., not with what follows as a specification of time, but with what goes before as an explanatory clause. The whole may be paraphrased as follows: “Oh that Jehovah, from his throne in Zion, would grant salvation to his, people, by revisiting them in their captive and forsaken state, and that occasion of rejoicing might be thus afforded to the church!” Or more closely thus: “Oh may Israel’s salvation (soon) come forth from Zion, in Jehovah’s return to the captivity of his people! (In such a restoration) may Jacob (soon have reason to) exult and Israel (to) triumph!”[1]

 

 

[1] Alexander, J. A. (1864). The Psalms Translated and Explained (pp. 60–63). Edinburgh: Andrew Elliot; James Thin. (Public Domain)

A Cross and Crooked Generation

A Cross and Crooked Generation

A Cross and Crooked Generation

Psalm 78:34

When He slew them, then they sought Him; and they returned, and enquired early after God.

This Psalm is a calendar or roll of reports, how from Moses to David the Jews carried themselves to God in matter of religion. And this verse a report how in the matter of repentance, expressed here under the terms of seeking and turning to God. Wherein this they did, this was their fashion: while He spared them, they sought Him not; “When He slew them, then they sought Him.” Cum, &c. These words then are a report.

A report; but such an one as when St. Paul heard of the Corinthians, he could not commend it. “What shall I say? Shall I praise you in this? No; I praise you not.”* Neither he them for that, nor I these for this. Rather, as old father Eli said to his sons;* Non est bonus sermo hic quem audio de vobis, “this is no good report I hear,” cum occideret, &c.

Whether good or whether evil it pertaineth to us. For to us of the Gentiles hath St. Paul entailed whatsoever well or ill befell the dissolved Church of the Jews. These, “all these came unto them for examples, and are enrolled to warn us that grow nearer and nearer to the ends of the world.”*

Both pertain unto us, the Scripture hath both; and in it draweth out our duty to us in both, in good and evil reports—as it were in white work and black work. And we to have use of both; yet not of both reports alike, but diversely, as our instructions upon them are diverse. For we are not so much to regard the bare report, as the instruction of it. For which cause Asaph hath entitled this Psalm, not Asaph’s report, but Asaph’s “instruction.”

Now we have here our report. May we find what our instruction is touching it? We may. Asaph expressly hath set it down in the eighth verse before. That this and other errors of theirs are here upon the file, ne fiant sicut patres eorum,* “that we should not be like our forefathers, a cross and crooked generation.” Not like them in other indignities, and among other in this cum occideret, &c. Never to seek God but when He kills us.

In which foul indignity our age is certainly as deep as ever was that, and we need Asaph’s instruction no less than they.

For as if there were no use of religion, but only cum occideret, so spend we all our whole time in the search of other things. Not caring to ask, or seek, or confer about the state of our souls, even till occideret come. And then, peradventure, sending for Asaph, and hearing him speak a few words about it, which we would fain have called seeking of God. I can say little to it, I pray God it prove so; but sure, I fear, it will be found minus habens, “far short of it.”*

Which is so usually received that, take a survey, not one of an hundred ever think of it before. So securely practised, as if we had some supersedeas lying by us, not to do it till then. As if there were no such Scripture as this upon record; “which turned to their destruction,” and must needs lie heavy upon us, when we shall remember it. Cum occideret, &c.

Now sure, this course must needs be prejudicial to our souls, and a number perish in it daily before our eyes. Yet we sit still, and suffer this custom to grow and gather head. Neither delivering their souls, or at least our own, by telling them seriously this is not the time, and then to seek is not the seeking God will allow. That this is a ne fiant, “such a thing as should not be done in Israel.” That it is upon record πρὸς ἐντροπὴν, to their disgrace and destruction. And it cannot be to our comfort or commendation to do the like. Out of which their destruction, Asaph frameth an instruction for us; and as it is well said and fitly to this day, ex cinere Judæorum lixivium Christianorum, ‘of the Jews’ ashes maketh a lye1 for Christians,’ to cleanse us from this foul indignity. Ut videntes cadentes, videant ne cadant, ‘that heeding their fall, we take heed we fall not;’ that is, seek not as they sought, lest we perish by like example of seeking too late.

Therefore, that we set ourselves to seek before this cum come; that is, in a word, seek God, as by repentance and the fruits, so by undelayed repentance, and the timely fruits of it; and be not like the Apostle Jude’s δένδρα φθινοπωρινὰ, our seeking all summer withered and dry,* and beginning to shoot out a little about Michaelmas spring. Of which kind of shooting fruit can never come. This is the sum.

The words consist of two parts. Two parts; but these two evil matched, or as St. Paul “unequally yoked together.”* For where our chief actions, of which I take it our seeking of God is one, should have the chiefest time; here is the first and best of our actions sorted with the last and worst part of our time. Quærebant Eum with cum occideret.

And not only missorted, but misplaced. For cum occideret, “His killing” standeth before “our seeking;” whereas our seeking should be first, and His killing come after. This was never God’s fiant, they must have a ne fiant.

Of these two then. First by way of report jointly that de facto thus it is—thus they, and thus we seek.

Then if we take them in sunder, and as Jeremy saith “separate the precious from the vile,”* quærebant Eum the flower of our actions, from cum occideret, the dross, dregs, and very refuse of our time. Consider them apart, and shew, 1. That this time is not the time; 2. and that this seeking thus sorted and thus placed is no seeking, nor ever shall find. Therefore, with Asaph’s instruction, to settle our seeking upon some other time, and to resolve to begin it before.

Two powers there are in cum; 1. a privative, of all times before; 2. a positive, of that instant time then. No time before we seek, at that instant time then we do. On which two consisteth theatrum vitæ, ‘the very theatre of our life.’ Our case before that time is lively expressed in the words immediately precedent; “They spend their days in vanity, and their years in turmoil in the world.”* Our case then at that time in these words, cum occideret eos. Yea, by implication they are both in this verse; by what they do now is implied what they did before. 1. Now “they sought Him,” so that before they lost Him. 2. Again, then “they turned to;” so that before they turned away, and not once looked toward Him. 3. Now “they rose up early,” so that before they put it off till twilight. 4. Now “they remembered,” so that before they forgat Him clean—no speech, no question, nay no thought about Him.

Thus it was, saith Asaph, under Moses. While His hand was not upon them, they regarded Him not, as not worth the seeking; perdebant Eum, it was their losing time. But “when He slew them,” they fell to seek, and well was he that might find; quærebant Eum, is was their seeking time.

Before, quærebant alia, ‘they found themselves other matters more meet to seek.’ Then quærebant Eum, “they gave over all to seek Him only.”

Before He sought them; and they gave Him good leave so to do. Then all is turned out and in. As He them before, so they Him now.

And is it not thus with us that are now in theatro, ‘upon the stage?’ Yes indeed; and more, if more may be. This is but vetus fabula per novos histriones, ‘the same play again by other actors.’ For in public, when in the days of safety plenty and peace, we are in the sixth of Amos,* and are best at ease when quærebant is farthest from us; but if war, famine, or contagion come, then we run to the second of Joel, “Sanctify a fast,”* and call for the Ark, and grow all godly on a sudden. What is this but cum occideret? And in private, when while youth and strength and health doth last, while the evil day is far off, we are even at cessare fac Sanctum Israel a nobis, “cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from us;”* but when distress, danger, or death come, when Rabshakeh is before the walls, then we cry, “Now is the day of tribulation and anguish; now the children are come to the birth, and there is no strength to be delivered.”* Now send to Esay, “Now lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.” What is this but cum occideret? Surely this is our case; our seeking goeth wholly by our killing—waxeth and waneth, is out and in, as that is near at hand or farther off. I need not tell it, your ears and eyes are daily witnesses that this is a true saying, cum occideret Eos, &c. No killing, no seeking.

“This is a true saying,” but all true sayings are not by all means, nay some not by any means, “to be received.” The report indeed is, thus it was. But the instruction is ne fiant,* “that it should not be.” To the end then we may know what to receive and what to refuse, we will take it in pieces, and melt the dross from the silver metal. Quærebant Eum, by itself is good. Put occideret to it, it is base. Of these then in order.

Of quærebant Eum we shall soon agree, if it be quærebant Eum, that it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done.’ Which many other ways might be made to appear, but by none better than this here; that at last all come to it. Sooner or later all seek it, all men if not before yet cum occideret, then certainly.

All seek; and among all “they” sought, which word is not without his weight here. For what are these that Asaph here meaneth by “they?” Not saints, not generatio quærentium, “the generation of them that seek God.” But “they”* that in the verse before “wasted all their days in vanity, and their years in turmoiling in the world.” “They,”* idle, riotous persons—“they” sought.

“They” that in a verse after “flattered Him with their lips,” and gave Him all the good words that might be,* and meant no such thing. The hypocrites, “they” sought.

“They” that a little before “grievously provoked the Most High God” with speeches little better than blasphemy; “can God do this? Is there a God amongst us,”* or is there none? And so, instead of quærebant Deum, quærebant an Deus, ‘made a question, whether there were any to seek.’ That is, even the very wicked, and of all wicked the worst, the profane atheists, “they” sought—even at last “they” sought. This is the triumph of religion; the riotous person, the hypocrite, the atheist, all shall seek.

And herein is folly condemned even of her own children, and wisdom justified of her very enemies; that they that greedily seek sin, at last would be glad to be rid of it, and they that merrily scorn religion at last are glad to seek to it.

“They” shall seek; and the time is set down when they shall seek, and when you shall not fail but see them seek that never sought before. In diebus juventutis, not then. Sanus factus est, nor then neither; but cum occideret, then certainly. Cum occideret, mark this cum when it cometh, and you shall see them that stood out all their life long then come in.

The heathen man saw it with his eyes. O, saith the Persian messenger in Æschylus, when the Grecian forces hotly pursued our host, and we must needs venture over the great water Strymon, frozen then but beginning to thaw, when an hundred to one we had all died for it—that is, cum occideret, with mine eyes I saw saith he,* when Θεοὺς δέ τις, &c. Of those gallants whom I had heard before so boldly maintain there was no God to seek; τότʼ ἤυχετο λιταῖσι, ‘then every one of them on their knees, and full devoutly praying the ice might hold till they got over.’ Moses saw it with his eyes. Pharaoh,* who was at high terms, “Who is the Lord you talk of?” and answered himself, “he knew none such,” nor nothing would do for Him:—when cum occideret came, he took notice there was a Lord higher than he; “that that Lord was righteous, and he a wretched sinner”* that sought for grace at His hands. Mark but the shutting up of dixit insipiens, their own Psalm. When,* saith David, they have in heart sought to persuade themselves, non est—seek none, “none there is;”* and thereupon “corrupted themselves,” and became most loathsome in their lives, “eat up their tenants as they would do so many morsels of bread;” made a mock of such holy men as set themselves seriously to seek God: when all is done and occideret come, trepidabunt timore ubi non erat timor, “they shall begin to be afraid, where they held before no fear needed;” and here shall be the last verse of their Psalm; quis dabit e Sion salutem, “to wish for the salvation of Sion,” which they have so oft derided. “They shall seek,” and “then they shall seek.” Till then possibly you shall lose your labour, if you tell them of seeking of God, but and how good it is. They are, saith Jeremy, “like the dromedary of the wilderness,”* a beast of exceeding swiftness, the female specially; “over hill and dale she goeth,” saith the Prophet, “and snuffeth up the air at her pleasure, and who can overtake her? They that seek her will not weary themselves till her month.” And in her month when she is bagged, then they will find her, and deal with her well enough. The case is like. Age, sickness, death, are far off; youth, health, and strength, possess them; there is no coming to them then. The month, cum occideret, is not yet come; but come that once as once it will to all, you shall find quærebant will have his place—fiat. It is therefore God’s own resolution, thus He resolveth: “I will go,” saith He, “and return to My place, till they acknowledge their faults and seek Me.”* And when will that be? He addeth, in novissimo quærent me diligenter, an end will come, and when that cometh “they will seek Me diligently,” even the best of them. And even so we are fain to resolve; for our lot is God’s lot, and when He sought to them, we go to our place, and there stand till their month, expectantes aquæ motum,* waiting till the destroying Angel come and stir the water, and then quærent Eum will be worth the seeking after.

Then, according to St. Paul’s disjunctive,* we that all other times mente excedimus Dco, at that time sobrii sumus vobis. Divinity, which in our ruff1 is sophism and school-points, and at the best a kind of ecstasy about God, is and shall be then, “the words of truth and soberness.”* For God and His seeking will have their time; before if it may be, but if not before, then at the farthest. First or last, all shall confess by seeking God is to be sought. Some before He kill, and happy are they; but “when He killeth,” all;—hypocrites, heathens, atheists, and all.

And I would pray you in a word but to note, in seeking then how many things they confess. For there be I take it four potential confessions in it.

That such an One there is to be sought. A Power above us Whose being and sovereignty all, first or last, shall seek.

That somewhat there is to be found, some good to be done in seeking; as Esay saith, non frustra dixit, “He hath not in vain said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye Me.”* For were it to no purpose, they would not then do it; but as at other times they did, so let it alone then too.

That whatsoever that good is, hit upon it,* or stumble on it we shall not; it will not be had in parergo, but seek it we must. For without seeking it will not be had. If it would they might sit still, and let it drop into their laps.

That seeking at this time when He slayeth them, they that shew what that good is they seek; even that the Psalmist saith, “Seek the Lord, and your soul shall live;”* that whatsoever become of their body, at least their soul may live; that we may lose not both, that “He kill not both, and cast not both into hell fire.”* And this, even when we come within the hemisphere of the other life, the sense we then have of somewhat that should have been sought before; the misgiving of our hearts, they shall come to a reckoning for not seeking sooner; and this, that not one of us would die suddenly of our good-wills, but have a time to seek God, before we lose ourselves. This, that we desire to die seeking, howsoever we live; all shew certainly it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done,’ a good thing to seek God, even the enemies of it being judges of it.

So then; quærebant Eum is as it should be. But I add: 1. If it be quærebant, seeking indeed. 2. And if it be quærebant Eum, and not aliud in Eo, seeking, not Him, but somewhat else by Him.

If it be seeking indeed. For they to whom the Prophet Esay said, Si quæritis quærite, “if ye seek, why then do it,” sought so as it seemeth their seeking deserved not the name of seeking. So loosely, so slightly, so slenderly they did it;* as if that they sought were as good lost as found. So sought the party that said, In lectulo quæsivi Quem diligit anima,* that lay in bed and sought. So he that asked our Saviour Quid est veritas? a very good question; and when he had asked it another thing took him in the head and up he rose and went his way before Christ could tell him what it was. Such is our seeking for the most part. Some idle question cast, some table-talk moved, some Quid est veritas,* and go our way—all by the way, in transcursu; and never, as if it were about some matter of special moment, set about it and seek it out indeed.

1. They turned them, saith the text, as if before they sought without so much as turning them about.

2. They rose up, as though before they sat still and sought.

3. They did it early, and did not tarry till cum occideret, the sun were set, and no light to seek by, but their “feet stumbled in the dark mountains.”*

4. They “enquired;” so that before if you had ought to say to them you might, they had nothing to say to you. To seek then is to turn, to rise, to rise early, to enquire after it. O si quæritis, quærite, saith Esay, “the morning cometh, and so doth the night;”* that is, our days spend apace, and we say we will seek; if we will seek, let us once do it indeed.

Secondly, if it be quærebant, and if it be Eum; another point to be rectified. Non vestra sed vos, saith the Apostle, is the right seeking.* Not seek Him for somewhat we would have of Him, but to seek Himself for Himself. It is one thing, say the schools, to seek God for fruition; another to seek Him to make use of Him. One thing, saith Christ,* to seek for the miracle, another for the loaves.* One thing to “seek His face,” another to seek His fingers’ ends. One thing to consult with Him only for conscience, to know and do; another to consult with Him—if it hit our humour to make our advantage of it, if it go against us to set light by it. Such is our seeking for the most part; cum occideret, to have our turn served, to have our health restored, that we may seek Him no longer, but to our former riot again, “and to-morrow may be as yesterday and much more.”*

Seek Him indeed; seek Him for Himself. These two points being agreed of, we shall throughly agree of quærebant Eum. And so much for it, and for our fiat. Now to our ne fiat.

For when we have agreed of our seeking, we have not done. With diligence it would be, and due respect. Our seeking, as all things, the best things under the sun, must have τὴν ὥραν καὶ τὴν χώραν, ‘their due time and place.’* Wherein appeareth the abating power of circumstances,* that they are able to bring down the substances. Namely, of the time; and that mis-timing marreth not only music, but all things else. The thing is right, the cum is wrong, and so all is wrong.

To find out the time, we agree first that as every weighty thing hath, so the seeking of God is to be allowed a time too.

What time is that? Verily, we should do it absolutely, all our life long; quærite faciem Ejus semper. Not when? but when not? without limitation, continually.*

And in this sense we grant cum occideret; then, and at other times too. But not (as Asaph) then, and never till then; so, we deny it.

God indeed is so to be sought, but we cannot so seek Him; other our affairs crave allowance out of our time, and we are well content to yield it largely. Only that God have a set time left when to seek Him. That is but reason; all will yield to it. All grant a cum.

But come to know when that “when” shall be; here we vary first. We cannot be brought to set down any certainty, but love to be left at large. Do it we will, but indeed we cannot shew when; but even Felix his “when,”* ὅταν εὐκαιρήσω, ‘when we have leisure.’ I cannot now stand to seek, saith he; I hope one day to be at leisure to do it, but that day never came.

Urge them, press them “when?” No other resolution but omnis peccator dicit, aliquando Deum sequar sed non modo; ‘sometime still, but not this time.’ Never in the present, but sometime hereafter.

Follow them all along their life, they find not this cum, but put it from one cum to another, till there be none left but only cum occideret, even that very time against which God layeth His exceptions. Every time before we say, nondum tempus, ‘it is not time yet;’ every hour before, nondum venit hora, ‘the hour is not yet come.’

Not to leave God’s seeking thus at random, but to grow to some certainty. I demand, will any time serve? Is God at all times to be found? It is certain not. The very limitation of dum inveniri potest,* sheweth plainly that other times there be wherein seek Him you may, but find Him you shall not.

Then if at all times He is not to be found, we are to make choice of a certain cum, cum inveniri potest, “when He may be found,” and then seek Him.

Many returns there be in the term of our life, many cums; all are reduced to two: 1. cum servaret, and 2. cum occideret. Or if we will needs be wedded to a cum occideret, 1. Cum occideret hostes eorum, 2. not eos; ‘when He scattereth and slayeth our enemies’ and saveth us. One of these two it must needs be.

Cum occideret, it is not. Christ Himself expressly limiteth it before; Dedi ei tempus ad pænitendum, saith He, “I gave her a time to repent.”* What time is that? Lest we might mistake it to be cum occideret, He adds, if we do it not in that time so by Him given, He will “cast us down on our beds,” the beds of affliction and sickness, and there “kill us with death.” So that the time He alloweth us to repent, is before we come thither. For thither we come because we did it not in the time He gave us to do it in. Indeed our bed is not the place: in lectulo quæsivi, “I sought Him in my bed;” quæsivi sed non inveni, “I sought Him but I found Him not.”* The place of slaughter is not the place, nor the time of killing is not the time. We may take that time, but it is not dedi illis, none of “His giving.” The time He giveth us is before we come there.

Then if when He kills us is not it, when He saveth us it is? It is indeed; and a cluster of it, an hour of cum servaret then is better than a vintage, a whole day of cum occideret.

Upon these two the whole Psalm standeth, and the part before sheweth when it should have been. When “He overwhelmed the Egyptians in the sea,”* when “the pillar of the cloud was over,”* when He not only saved them but served them, “raining down manna”* for their need, and giving them quails for their lust;* then was the time with them and then is the time with us.

For sure as we seek God to save us, so He saveth us to seek Him; if when we seek Him we are saved, when we are saved we should seek Him. The time of His saving is the time of our seeking; and one hour then is better than four and twenty.

All that while what seek we? Why, as Jeremy saith,* we do then quærere grandia. Other greater matters we have in hand, matters of more weight than the seeking of God. As if His seeking were some petty business, slightly to be sought, and lightly to be found. Any time good enough for it.

Nay not that, but so evil are we affected to seek Him then, that quærebant is occideret; we indict Him of our death, it is death to do it—as lieve die as seek; it maketh us old, it killeth us before our time. We digest not them that call on us for it, but seek ourselves, as the Apostle speaketh,* Magistros secundum desideria, that may entertain us with speculations of what may be done by miracle at the hour of death; that may give us days and elbow-room enough to seek other things, and to shrink up His seeking into a narrow time at our end, and tell us time enough then. For thus then we reckon; all the time we spend in it we lose the fruit of our life, and the joy of our hearts shall be taken from us. As if the fruit of life were not to find God, or as if any true hearts’ joy God being not found. Call we this our fruit and joy not to seek God? call it not so; lætetur cor quærentium Deum, saith the Holy Ghost, “let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.”* Yea in lachrymis peccatorum, ‘in the very tears of a penitent,’* there is, saith St. Augustine, more sound joy than in risu theatrorum, ‘in all the games the theatre can afford:’ Da Christianum, et scit quid dico. But our taste is turned, and we relish not this seeking. By our flesh-pots we have lived, and by them we will die, and so we do. Lust hath been our life, and we will be buried in the graves of lust; and so we shall, and never know what that joy meaneth, Lætetur cor quærentium Deum.

Cum servaret then will not serve. Nay, cum occideret will scarce serve, it hath much ado; let Him draw His sword and come amongst us. For if, as of His goodness He doth not, He rush not on us at first, but begin with others; if it be cum occideret alios, we seek not. See ye the thirty-first verse: He took away others before their faces, and those not weak or sickly persons, but the goodliest and strongest of all Israel, and least likely to die. Here is occideret. Now did this move? No. See the thirty-second verse: for at this they “sinned yet more,” and went about their seeking never the sooner. It must be cum occideret eos, “themselves,” their own selves, or it will not do it.

Come then to themselves and smite them with the edge, not with the point; with the edge to wound, not with the point to dispatch outright; will that serve? cum cæderet eos, ‘when He wounded them with some mortal sickness the messenger of death, would they seek Him then?’ No: not then, not for all that would they frame to it. For quærebant medicum then, I say, as Asa sought medicos, et non Deum.* Not God and them, but them first; and let God stay till they be gone. And till they give us over, and tell us plainly occideret is now come indeed, no smiting or wounding will send us to seek. So that it is not either 1. cum servaret eos, or 2. cum serviret eis, His saving, or serving us; nay it is not, 3. cum occideret alios, or 4. cum cæderet, ‘His killing others, or wounding us’ with any but our deaths-wound, will do it.

Tandem then, when we are come to the very last cast, our strength is gone, our spirit clean spent, our senses appalled, and the powers of our soul as numb as our senses, when a general prostration of all our powers, and the shadow of death upon our eyes, then something we would say or do which should stand for our seeking; but, I doubt it will not serve. This is the time we allow God to seek Him in.

Is this it? Would we then seek Him when we are not in case to seek any thing else? Would we turn to Him then when we are not able to turn ourselves in our bed? Or, “rise early to seek Him” when we are not able to rise at all? Or “enquire after Him” when our breath faileth us, and we are not able to speak three words together? Neither before, nor with, but even at the end of occideret? No hour but the hour of death?* No time but when He taketh time from us and us from it, et tempus non erit amplius? What shall I say? Shall I commend this seeking, turning, rising, enquiring? No; I cannot commend it either in itself or to any. I commend it not.

That that may be said is this, and it is nothing: true; some one or two of a thousand and ten thousand that have. How then? Shall we not therefore follow our instruction and seek Him before? Nay then,* “some have found and never sought;”—let us not seek Him at all if that will hold. Thus it is: some going a journey have found a purse by the way—it were mad counsel to advise us to leave our money behind upon hope of like hap in ours. No; this is safe and good; though some one or two have found and not sought, yet let us seek for all that. Though some one or two have then sought and found, yet let us seek before. Though some have found a purse in their way, let us not trust to like hap, but carry money with us. This is a privy-door on special favour open to some few. There lieth no way by them. “This is the way,” you have heard, “walk in it and you shall find rest to your souls.”*

To speak then of safe seeking and sure finding, I say, as Asaph saith, it is a ne fiant. This time is not the time Christ giveth us; He assigneth us another. Yea we condemn ourselves in that we would seek to allow it ourselves. If we were put to it to say plainly, “not till He kill me,” it would choke us. We neither have heart nor face, we would not dare to answer so, we dare not avow it. And if it be a ne dicant it is a ne fiant. The time of God’s quærite is primum quærite.* This cum is the last of all our cums; all other before it. First and last are flat ad oppositum. This is not it.

The time of seeking God must be δεκτὸς, such as is meet to be received. This is not: therefore, I hope, we will not offer it God.* If we do, take heed He scorn not this time as He doth their price in Zachary; “A goodly time1 that I have assigned Me.”* Take heed He stand not upon His reputation, as in Malachi, and bid us “offer our service”* at this hour, “to any great man and see, whether he will be content with it,” and not reject both us and our seeking then. This is not, cannot be but a great ne fiant, to offer God that no man is so mean but would take in evil part.

This time is the time when all hypocrites, atheists, tag and rag, come in and seek Him in a sort; and shall not we be confounded to see ourselves in their number? Nay to say that must be said for true it is, It is past the Devil’s time. They be his words, cur ante tempus?* and he seeketh to make them ours, that it is ever too soon to seek God. At the hardest I trust we will not keep time with him.

And to seek Him then is not to seek Him; not quærebant Eum. No; they seek Him not, they “dissemble with Him,” saith Asaph, in the next verse. For when God to try them reprieved them never so little time, they fell to their old bias;* and when as He ceased killing, their seeking was at an end. So are all forced seekings, like to a bow-string brought to his full bent, but remit you never so little it starteth back again.

Nay it is not quærebant, no kindly seeking, but a base ignoble creeping to, without all ingenuity1, when we must either die or do it. Neither χάρις nor κλέος to do it then.

But in very deed it is no “seeking”* at all, as before we defined quærebant to “seek indeed.” There is a diameter between occideret and quærebant, and therefore between it and quærebant Eum. Men cannot then seek; if they must rise up and turn them that must do it, they are not able for their lives to turn or stir themselves to do it. Nay, nor to “enquire.” For what is our “seeking” then? Is it not to lie still on our bed, and suffer a few words to be spoken in our ears? Have a little opiate divinity ministered to our souls, and so sent away? Sure this is rather to be sought than to “seek.” There goeth more to quærebant then thus. We must then “seek” when we are in case to give sentence and to do judgment on ourselves, when we are able to take up our cross before it be laid on us. Quærebant Eum must stand before cum occideret.

Lastly, it would be known what became of this quærebant? What they found that sought thus, and then and not before? “They found not Him,”* the Prophet saith plainly. They go then “with sheep and bullocks,” and all manner of sacrifice, “to seek the Lord; but find Him not, for He hath withdrawn Himself before.”

And justly they find Him not ex lege talionis. God Himself answers them; nay their own hearts answer themselves. Go: whom you have spent your life in seeking, seek to them now. Let them save you at this, whom ye sought at all other times. As for Me, it shall come to pass, as I cried and you would not hear, so you shall cry and seek and shall not find or be heard, saith the Lord.

Yes—they found Him, but with a door shut between Him and them. But what found they? The parable of the ten virgins tells us, which is the Gospel for this Psalm, they found that which we I hope shall never find, a nescio vos.* Where, that we may see that this course is folly and therefore indeed a ne fiant sicut, that which putteth the difference of those that be wise and go in, is that they had sought “and looked to their oil ere the Bridegroom came;”* and those that were foolish and shut out when the Bridegroom was even coming, that is, cum occideret, were to seek their oil then—had not looked to it till then. Nescio vos is their answer, He knoweth them not; they took too short a time to breed acquaintance in. Nescio vos they find that so seek. Profecto ad hoc tonitru, &c. ‘At this clap he that waketh not is not asleep but dead.’

To conclude then with our instruction. If this time and this seeking have so many evil marks, the time so unseasonable, the seeking so many ways to seek; if the success to this seeking be no better but nescio vos, why then ne fiat. If these here were not well advised, if those virgins were foolish, why then ne fiant sicut, “not to be like.”

Secondly, to sever the silver from the dross: the seeking is good, keep it; the time is wrong, change it; either into antequam occideret or into cum servaret. Fiat to the action, ne fiat to the time.

Thirdly, as we confess that there is One to be sought, and that with the turning of a gin1 we cannot have Him when we list, but seek Him we must; that His seeking is worth the while, and that it is not dispatched in a minute, but must have time; so to think His seeking worthy a better, and to allow it a better time than this to do it in.

Fourthly, seeing “yet is the acceptable time,” yet “He may be found,”* yet it is cum servaret, occideret is not yet come—how near it is it is hard to say; our Saviour Christ saith it is quâ horâ nescis,* it may be nearer than we are aware; lest it come upon us before we seek, let us seek before it come upon us. So seeking we shall safely seek; safely seek and surely find God, and with God whatsoever is worth the finding. But, that which we seek, we shall after occideret is past find ourselves in His presence and at His right hand; “in Whose presence is the fulness of joy,”* not as ours here joys half empty; and at “Whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore,” not as ours here for a time and a short time, God knoweth. That which here we seek and cannot find with Him we shall, if we shall here indeed and in due time seek Him by the timely fruits of an undelayed repentance. Almighty God, lighten our minds, kindle our affections, settle our hearts so to seek, &c.[1]

 

 

1 Liter. water impregnated with alkaline salts imbibed from the ashes of wood. Webster.

* Isa. 37:3.

1 i.e. pride. The ruff of their glory. L.’Estrange.

* [ἐκ παρέργου Thucyd. vii. 27.]

* Joh. 18:38.

* Ps. 105:3.

1 [price.]

1 [i.e. ingenuousness.]

* Mat. 25:12.

Psalm 78:34

When He slew them, then they sought Him; and they returned, and enquired early after God.

This Psalm is a calendar or roll of reports, how from Moses to David the Jews carried themselves to God in matter of religion. And this verse a report how in the matter of repentance, expressed here under the terms of seeking and turning to God. Wherein this they did, this was their fashion: while He spared them, they sought Him not; “When He slew them, then they sought Him.” Cum, &c. These words then are a report.

A report; but such an one as when St. Paul heard of the Corinthians, he could not commend it. “What shall I say? Shall I praise you in this? No; I praise you not.”* Neither he them for that, nor I these for this. Rather, as old father Eli said to his sons;* Non est bonus sermo hic quem audio de vobis, “this is no good report I hear,” cum occideret, &c.

Whether good or whether evil it pertaineth to us. For to us of the Gentiles hath St. Paul entailed whatsoever well or ill befell the dissolved Church of the Jews. These, “all these came unto them for examples, and are enrolled to warn us that grow nearer and nearer to the ends of the world.”*

Both pertain unto us, the Scripture hath both; and in it draweth out our duty to us in both, in good and evil reports—as it were in white work and black work. And we to have use of both; yet not of both reports alike, but diversely, as our instructions upon them are diverse. For we are not so much to regard the bare report, as the instruction of it. For which cause Asaph hath entitled this Psalm, not Asaph’s report, but Asaph’s “instruction.”

Now we have here our report. May we find what our instruction is touching it? We may. Asaph expressly hath set it down in the eighth verse before. That this and other errors of theirs are here upon the file, ne fiant sicut patres eorum,* “that we should not be like our forefathers, a cross and crooked generation.” Not like them in other indignities, and among other in this cum occideret, &c. Never to seek God but when He kills us.

In which foul indignity our age is certainly as deep as ever was that, and we need Asaph’s instruction no less than they.

For as if there were no use of religion, but only cum occideret, so spend we all our whole time in the search of other things. Not caring to ask, or seek, or confer about the state of our souls, even till occideret come. And then, peradventure, sending for Asaph, and hearing him speak a few words about it, which we would fain have called seeking of God. I can say little to it, I pray God it prove so; but sure, I fear, it will be found minus habens, “far short of it.”*

Which is so usually received that, take a survey, not one of an hundred ever think of it before. So securely practised, as if we had some supersedeas lying by us, not to do it till then. As if there were no such Scripture as this upon record; “which turned to their destruction,” and must needs lie heavy upon us, when we shall remember it. Cum occideret, &c.

Now sure, this course must needs be prejudicial to our souls, and a number perish in it daily before our eyes. Yet we sit still, and suffer this custom to grow and gather head. Neither delivering their souls, or at least our own, by telling them seriously this is not the time, and then to seek is not the seeking God will allow. That this is a ne fiant, “such a thing as should not be done in Israel.” That it is upon record πρὸς ἐντροπὴν, to their disgrace and destruction. And it cannot be to our comfort or commendation to do the like. Out of which their destruction, Asaph frameth an instruction for us; and as it is well said and fitly to this day, ex cinere Judæorum lixivium Christianorum, ‘of the Jews’ ashes maketh a lye1 for Christians,’ to cleanse us from this foul indignity. Ut videntes cadentes, videant ne cadant, ‘that heeding their fall, we take heed we fall not;’ that is, seek not as they sought, lest we perish by like example of seeking too late.

Therefore, that we set ourselves to seek before this cum come; that is, in a word, seek God, as by repentance and the fruits, so by undelayed repentance, and the timely fruits of it; and be not like the Apostle Jude’s δένδρα φθινοπωρινὰ, our seeking all summer withered and dry,* and beginning to shoot out a little about Michaelmas spring. Of which kind of shooting fruit can never come. This is the sum.

The words consist of two parts. Two parts; but these two evil matched, or as St. Paul “unequally yoked together.”* For where our chief actions, of which I take it our seeking of God is one, should have the chiefest time; here is the first and best of our actions sorted with the last and worst part of our time. Quærebant Eum with cum occideret.

And not only missorted, but misplaced. For cum occideret, “His killing” standeth before “our seeking;” whereas our seeking should be first, and His killing come after. This was never God’s fiant, they must have a ne fiant.

Of these two then. First by way of report jointly that de facto thus it is—thus they, and thus we seek.

Then if we take them in sunder, and as Jeremy saith “separate the precious from the vile,”* quærebant Eum the flower of our actions, from cum occideret, the dross, dregs, and very refuse of our time. Consider them apart, and shew, 1. That this time is not the time; 2. and that this seeking thus sorted and thus placed is no seeking, nor ever shall find. Therefore, with Asaph’s instruction, to settle our seeking upon some other time, and to resolve to begin it before.

Two powers there are in cum; 1. a privative, of all times before; 2. a positive, of that instant time then. No time before we seek, at that instant time then we do. On which two consisteth theatrum vitæ, ‘the very theatre of our life.’ Our case before that time is lively expressed in the words immediately precedent; “They spend their days in vanity, and their years in turmoil in the world.”* Our case then at that time in these words, cum occideret eos. Yea, by implication they are both in this verse; by what they do now is implied what they did before. 1. Now “they sought Him,” so that before they lost Him. 2. Again, then “they turned to;” so that before they turned away, and not once looked toward Him. 3. Now “they rose up early,” so that before they put it off till twilight. 4. Now “they remembered,” so that before they forgat Him clean—no speech, no question, nay no thought about Him.

Thus it was, saith Asaph, under Moses. While His hand was not upon them, they regarded Him not, as not worth the seeking; perdebant Eum, it was their losing time. But “when He slew them,” they fell to seek, and well was he that might find; quærebant Eum, is was their seeking time.

Before, quærebant alia, ‘they found themselves other matters more meet to seek.’ Then quærebant Eum, “they gave over all to seek Him only.”

Before He sought them; and they gave Him good leave so to do. Then all is turned out and in. As He them before, so they Him now.

And is it not thus with us that are now in theatro, ‘upon the stage?’ Yes indeed; and more, if more may be. This is but vetus fabula per novos histriones, ‘the same play again by other actors.’ For in public, when in the days of safety plenty and peace, we are in the sixth of Amos,* and are best at ease when quærebant is farthest from us; but if war, famine, or contagion come, then we run to the second of Joel, “Sanctify a fast,”* and call for the Ark, and grow all godly on a sudden. What is this but cum occideret? And in private, when while youth and strength and health doth last, while the evil day is far off, we are even at cessare fac Sanctum Israel a nobis, “cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from us;”* but when distress, danger, or death come, when Rabshakeh is before the walls, then we cry, “Now is the day of tribulation and anguish; now the children are come to the birth, and there is no strength to be delivered.”* Now send to Esay, “Now lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.” What is this but cum occideret? Surely this is our case; our seeking goeth wholly by our killing—waxeth and waneth, is out and in, as that is near at hand or farther off. I need not tell it, your ears and eyes are daily witnesses that this is a true saying, cum occideret Eos, &c. No killing, no seeking.

“This is a true saying,” but all true sayings are not by all means, nay some not by any means, “to be received.” The report indeed is, thus it was. But the instruction is ne fiant,* “that it should not be.” To the end then we may know what to receive and what to refuse, we will take it in pieces, and melt the dross from the silver metal. Quærebant Eum, by itself is good. Put occideret to it, it is base. Of these then in order.

Of quærebant Eum we shall soon agree, if it be quærebant Eum, that it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done.’ Which many other ways might be made to appear, but by none better than this here; that at last all come to it. Sooner or later all seek it, all men if not before yet cum occideret, then certainly.

All seek; and among all “they” sought, which word is not without his weight here. For what are these that Asaph here meaneth by “they?” Not saints, not generatio quærentium, “the generation of them that seek God.” But “they”* that in the verse before “wasted all their days in vanity, and their years in turmoiling in the world.” “They,”* idle, riotous persons—“they” sought.

“They” that in a verse after “flattered Him with their lips,” and gave Him all the good words that might be,* and meant no such thing. The hypocrites, “they” sought.

“They” that a little before “grievously provoked the Most High God” with speeches little better than blasphemy; “can God do this? Is there a God amongst us,”* or is there none? And so, instead of quærebant Deum, quærebant an Deus, ‘made a question, whether there were any to seek.’ That is, even the very wicked, and of all wicked the worst, the profane atheists, “they” sought—even at last “they” sought. This is the triumph of religion; the riotous person, the hypocrite, the atheist, all shall seek.

And herein is folly condemned even of her own children, and wisdom justified of her very enemies; that they that greedily seek sin, at last would be glad to be rid of it, and they that merrily scorn religion at last are glad to seek to it.

“They” shall seek; and the time is set down when they shall seek, and when you shall not fail but see them seek that never sought before. In diebus juventutis, not then. Sanus factus est, nor then neither; but cum occideret, then certainly. Cum occideret, mark this cum when it cometh, and you shall see them that stood out all their life long then come in.

The heathen man saw it with his eyes. O, saith the Persian messenger in Æschylus, when the Grecian forces hotly pursued our host, and we must needs venture over the great water Strymon, frozen then but beginning to thaw, when an hundred to one we had all died for it—that is, cum occideret, with mine eyes I saw saith he,* when Θεοὺς δέ τις, &c. Of those gallants whom I had heard before so boldly maintain there was no God to seek; τότʼ ἤυχετο λιταῖσι, ‘then every one of them on their knees, and full devoutly praying the ice might hold till they got over.’ Moses saw it with his eyes. Pharaoh,* who was at high terms, “Who is the Lord you talk of?” and answered himself, “he knew none such,” nor nothing would do for Him:—when cum occideret came, he took notice there was a Lord higher than he; “that that Lord was righteous, and he a wretched sinner”* that sought for grace at His hands. Mark but the shutting up of dixit insipiens, their own Psalm. When,* saith David, they have in heart sought to persuade themselves, non est—seek none, “none there is;”* and thereupon “corrupted themselves,” and became most loathsome in their lives, “eat up their tenants as they would do so many morsels of bread;” made a mock of such holy men as set themselves seriously to seek God: when all is done and occideret come, trepidabunt timore ubi non erat timor, “they shall begin to be afraid, where they held before no fear needed;” and here shall be the last verse of their Psalm; quis dabit e Sion salutem, “to wish for the salvation of Sion,” which they have so oft derided. “They shall seek,” and “then they shall seek.” Till then possibly you shall lose your labour, if you tell them of seeking of God, but and how good it is. They are, saith Jeremy, “like the dromedary of the wilderness,”* a beast of exceeding swiftness, the female specially; “over hill and dale she goeth,” saith the Prophet, “and snuffeth up the air at her pleasure, and who can overtake her? They that seek her will not weary themselves till her month.” And in her month when she is bagged, then they will find her, and deal with her well enough. The case is like. Age, sickness, death, are far off; youth, health, and strength, possess them; there is no coming to them then. The month, cum occideret, is not yet come; but come that once as once it will to all, you shall find quærebant will have his place—fiat. It is therefore God’s own resolution, thus He resolveth: “I will go,” saith He, “and return to My place, till they acknowledge their faults and seek Me.”* And when will that be? He addeth, in novissimo quærent me diligenter, an end will come, and when that cometh “they will seek Me diligently,” even the best of them. And even so we are fain to resolve; for our lot is God’s lot, and when He sought to them, we go to our place, and there stand till their month, expectantes aquæ motum,* waiting till the destroying Angel come and stir the water, and then quærent Eum will be worth the seeking after.

Then, according to St. Paul’s disjunctive,* we that all other times mente excedimus Dco, at that time sobrii sumus vobis. Divinity, which in our ruff1 is sophism and school-points, and at the best a kind of ecstasy about God, is and shall be then, “the words of truth and soberness.”* For God and His seeking will have their time; before if it may be, but if not before, then at the farthest. First or last, all shall confess by seeking God is to be sought. Some before He kill, and happy are they; but “when He killeth,” all;—hypocrites, heathens, atheists, and all.

And I would pray you in a word but to note, in seeking then how many things they confess. For there be I take it four potential confessions in it.

That such an One there is to be sought. A Power above us Whose being and sovereignty all, first or last, shall seek.

That somewhat there is to be found, some good to be done in seeking; as Esay saith, non frustra dixit, “He hath not in vain said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye Me.”* For were it to no purpose, they would not then do it; but as at other times they did, so let it alone then too.

That whatsoever that good is, hit upon it,* or stumble on it we shall not; it will not be had in parergo, but seek it we must. For without seeking it will not be had. If it would they might sit still, and let it drop into their laps.

That seeking at this time when He slayeth them, they that shew what that good is they seek; even that the Psalmist saith, “Seek the Lord, and your soul shall live;”* that whatsoever become of their body, at least their soul may live; that we may lose not both, that “He kill not both, and cast not both into hell fire.”* And this, even when we come within the hemisphere of the other life, the sense we then have of somewhat that should have been sought before; the misgiving of our hearts, they shall come to a reckoning for not seeking sooner; and this, that not one of us would die suddenly of our good-wills, but have a time to seek God, before we lose ourselves. This, that we desire to die seeking, howsoever we live; all shew certainly it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done,’ a good thing to seek God, even the enemies of it being judges of it.

So then; quærebant Eum is as it should be. But I add: 1. If it be quærebant, seeking indeed. 2. And if it be quærebant Eum, and not aliud in Eo, seeking, not Him, but somewhat else by Him.

If it be seeking indeed. For they to whom the Prophet Esay said, Si quæritis quærite, “if ye seek, why then do it,” sought so as it seemeth their seeking deserved not the name of seeking. So loosely, so slightly, so slenderly they did it;* as if that they sought were as good lost as found. So sought the party that said, In lectulo quæsivi Quem diligit anima,* that lay in bed and sought. So he that asked our Saviour Quid est veritas? a very good question; and when he had asked it another thing took him in the head and up he rose and went his way before Christ could tell him what it was. Such is our seeking for the most part. Some idle question cast, some table-talk moved, some Quid est veritas,* and go our way—all by the way, in transcursu; and never, as if it were about some matter of special moment, set about it and seek it out indeed.

1. They turned them, saith the text, as if before they sought without so much as turning them about.

2. They rose up, as though before they sat still and sought.

3. They did it early, and did not tarry till cum occideret, the sun were set, and no light to seek by, but their “feet stumbled in the dark mountains.”*

4. They “enquired;” so that before if you had ought to say to them you might, they had nothing to say to you. To seek then is to turn, to rise, to rise early, to enquire after it. O si quæritis, quærite, saith Esay, “the morning cometh, and so doth the night;”* that is, our days spend apace, and we say we will seek; if we will seek, let us once do it indeed.

Secondly, if it be quærebant, and if it be Eum; another point to be rectified. Non vestra sed vos, saith the Apostle, is the right seeking.* Not seek Him for somewhat we would have of Him, but to seek Himself for Himself. It is one thing, say the schools, to seek God for fruition; another to seek Him to make use of Him. One thing, saith Christ,* to seek for the miracle, another for the loaves.* One thing to “seek His face,” another to seek His fingers’ ends. One thing to consult with Him only for conscience, to know and do; another to consult with Him—if it hit our humour to make our advantage of it, if it go against us to set light by it. Such is our seeking for the most part; cum occideret, to have our turn served, to have our health restored, that we may seek Him no longer, but to our former riot again, “and to-morrow may be as yesterday and much more.”*

Seek Him indeed; seek Him for Himself. These two points being agreed of, we shall throughly agree of quærebant Eum. And so much for it, and for our fiat. Now to our ne fiat.

For when we have agreed of our seeking, we have not done. With diligence it would be, and due respect. Our seeking, as all things, the best things under the sun, must have τὴν ὥραν καὶ τὴν χώραν, ‘their due time and place.’* Wherein appeareth the abating power of circumstances,* that they are able to bring down the substances. Namely, of the time; and that mis-timing marreth not only music, but all things else. The thing is right, the cum is wrong, and so all is wrong.

To find out the time, we agree first that as every weighty thing hath, so the seeking of God is to be allowed a time too.

What time is that? Verily, we should do it absolutely, all our life long; quærite faciem Ejus semper. Not when? but when not? without limitation, continually.*

And in this sense we grant cum occideret; then, and at other times too. But not (as Asaph) then, and never till then; so, we deny it.

God indeed is so to be sought, but we cannot so seek Him; other our affairs crave allowance out of our time, and we are well content to yield it largely. Only that God have a set time left when to seek Him. That is but reason; all will yield to it. All grant a cum.

But come to know when that “when” shall be; here we vary first. We cannot be brought to set down any certainty, but love to be left at large. Do it we will, but indeed we cannot shew when; but even Felix his “when,”* ὅταν εὐκαιρήσω, ‘when we have leisure.’ I cannot now stand to seek, saith he; I hope one day to be at leisure to do it, but that day never came.

Urge them, press them “when?” No other resolution but omnis peccator dicit, aliquando Deum sequar sed non modo; ‘sometime still, but not this time.’ Never in the present, but sometime hereafter.

Follow them all along their life, they find not this cum, but put it from one cum to another, till there be none left but only cum occideret, even that very time against which God layeth His exceptions. Every time before we say, nondum tempus, ‘it is not time yet;’ every hour before, nondum venit hora, ‘the hour is not yet come.’

Not to leave God’s seeking thus at random, but to grow to some certainty. I demand, will any time serve? Is God at all times to be found? It is certain not. The very limitation of dum inveniri potest,* sheweth plainly that other times there be wherein seek Him you may, but find Him you shall not.

Then if at all times He is not to be found, we are to make choice of a certain cum, cum inveniri potest, “when He may be found,” and then seek Him.

Many returns there be in the term of our life, many cums; all are reduced to two: 1. cum servaret, and 2. cum occideret. Or if we will needs be wedded to a cum occideret, 1. Cum occideret hostes eorum, 2. not eos; ‘when He scattereth and slayeth our enemies’ and saveth us. One of these two it must needs be.

Cum occideret, it is not. Christ Himself expressly limiteth it before; Dedi ei tempus ad pænitendum, saith He, “I gave her a time to repent.”* What time is that? Lest we might mistake it to be cum occideret, He adds, if we do it not in that time so by Him given, He will “cast us down on our beds,” the beds of affliction and sickness, and there “kill us with death.” So that the time He alloweth us to repent, is before we come thither. For thither we come because we did it not in the time He gave us to do it in. Indeed our bed is not the place: in lectulo quæsivi, “I sought Him in my bed;” quæsivi sed non inveni, “I sought Him but I found Him not.”* The place of slaughter is not the place, nor the time of killing is not the time. We may take that time, but it is not dedi illis, none of “His giving.” The time He giveth us is before we come there.

Then if when He kills us is not it, when He saveth us it is? It is indeed; and a cluster of it, an hour of cum servaret then is better than a vintage, a whole day of cum occideret.

Upon these two the whole Psalm standeth, and the part before sheweth when it should have been. When “He overwhelmed the Egyptians in the sea,”* when “the pillar of the cloud was over,”* when He not only saved them but served them, “raining down manna”* for their need, and giving them quails for their lust;* then was the time with them and then is the time with us.

For sure as we seek God to save us, so He saveth us to seek Him; if when we seek Him we are saved, when we are saved we should seek Him. The time of His saving is the time of our seeking; and one hour then is better than four and twenty.

All that while what seek we? Why, as Jeremy saith,* we do then quærere grandia. Other greater matters we have in hand, matters of more weight than the seeking of God. As if His seeking were some petty business, slightly to be sought, and lightly to be found. Any time good enough for it.

Nay not that, but so evil are we affected to seek Him then, that quærebant is occideret; we indict Him of our death, it is death to do it—as lieve die as seek; it maketh us old, it killeth us before our time. We digest not them that call on us for it, but seek ourselves, as the Apostle speaketh,* Magistros secundum desideria, that may entertain us with speculations of what may be done by miracle at the hour of death; that may give us days and elbow-room enough to seek other things, and to shrink up His seeking into a narrow time at our end, and tell us time enough then. For thus then we reckon; all the time we spend in it we lose the fruit of our life, and the joy of our hearts shall be taken from us. As if the fruit of life were not to find God, or as if any true hearts’ joy God being not found. Call we this our fruit and joy not to seek God? call it not so; lætetur cor quærentium Deum, saith the Holy Ghost, “let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.”* Yea in lachrymis peccatorum, ‘in the very tears of a penitent,’* there is, saith St. Augustine, more sound joy than in risu theatrorum, ‘in all the games the theatre can afford:’ Da Christianum, et scit quid dico. But our taste is turned, and we relish not this seeking. By our flesh-pots we have lived, and by them we will die, and so we do. Lust hath been our life, and we will be buried in the graves of lust; and so we shall, and never know what that joy meaneth, Lætetur cor quærentium Deum.

Cum servaret then will not serve. Nay, cum occideret will scarce serve, it hath much ado; let Him draw His sword and come amongst us. For if, as of His goodness He doth not, He rush not on us at first, but begin with others; if it be cum occideret alios, we seek not. See ye the thirty-first verse: He took away others before their faces, and those not weak or sickly persons, but the goodliest and strongest of all Israel, and least likely to die. Here is occideret. Now did this move? No. See the thirty-second verse: for at this they “sinned yet more,” and went about their seeking never the sooner. It must be cum occideret eos, “themselves,” their own selves, or it will not do it.

Come then to themselves and smite them with the edge, not with the point; with the edge to wound, not with the point to dispatch outright; will that serve? cum cæderet eos, ‘when He wounded them with some mortal sickness the messenger of death, would they seek Him then?’ No: not then, not for all that would they frame to it. For quærebant medicum then, I say, as Asa sought medicos, et non Deum.* Not God and them, but them first; and let God stay till they be gone. And till they give us over, and tell us plainly occideret is now come indeed, no smiting or wounding will send us to seek. So that it is not either 1. cum servaret eos, or 2. cum serviret eis, His saving, or serving us; nay it is not, 3. cum occideret alios, or 4. cum cæderet, ‘His killing others, or wounding us’ with any but our deaths-wound, will do it.

Tandem then, when we are come to the very last cast, our strength is gone, our spirit clean spent, our senses appalled, and the powers of our soul as numb as our senses, when a general prostration of all our powers, and the shadow of death upon our eyes, then something we would say or do which should stand for our seeking; but, I doubt it will not serve. This is the time we allow God to seek Him in.

Is this it? Would we then seek Him when we are not in case to seek any thing else? Would we turn to Him then when we are not able to turn ourselves in our bed? Or, “rise early to seek Him” when we are not able to rise at all? Or “enquire after Him” when our breath faileth us, and we are not able to speak three words together? Neither before, nor with, but even at the end of occideret? No hour but the hour of death?* No time but when He taketh time from us and us from it, et tempus non erit amplius? What shall I say? Shall I commend this seeking, turning, rising, enquiring? No; I cannot commend it either in itself or to any. I commend it not.

That that may be said is this, and it is nothing: true; some one or two of a thousand and ten thousand that have. How then? Shall we not therefore follow our instruction and seek Him before? Nay then,* “some have found and never sought;”—let us not seek Him at all if that will hold. Thus it is: some going a journey have found a purse by the way—it were mad counsel to advise us to leave our money behind upon hope of like hap in ours. No; this is safe and good; though some one or two have found and not sought, yet let us seek for all that. Though some one or two have then sought and found, yet let us seek before. Though some have found a purse in their way, let us not trust to like hap, but carry money with us. This is a privy-door on special favour open to some few. There lieth no way by them. “This is the way,” you have heard, “walk in it and you shall find rest to your souls.”*

To speak then of safe seeking and sure finding, I say, as Asaph saith, it is a ne fiant. This time is not the time Christ giveth us; He assigneth us another. Yea we condemn ourselves in that we would seek to allow it ourselves. If we were put to it to say plainly, “not till He kill me,” it would choke us. We neither have heart nor face, we would not dare to answer so, we dare not avow it. And if it be a ne dicant it is a ne fiant. The time of God’s quærite is primum quærite.* This cum is the last of all our cums; all other before it. First and last are flat ad oppositum. This is not it.

The time of seeking God must be δεκτὸς, such as is meet to be received. This is not: therefore, I hope, we will not offer it God.* If we do, take heed He scorn not this time as He doth their price in Zachary; “A goodly time1 that I have assigned Me.”* Take heed He stand not upon His reputation, as in Malachi, and bid us “offer our service”* at this hour, “to any great man and see, whether he will be content with it,” and not reject both us and our seeking then. This is not, cannot be but a great ne fiant, to offer God that no man is so mean but would take in evil part.

This time is the time when all hypocrites, atheists, tag and rag, come in and seek Him in a sort; and shall not we be confounded to see ourselves in their number? Nay to say that must be said for true it is, It is past the Devil’s time. They be his words, cur ante tempus?* and he seeketh to make them ours, that it is ever too soon to seek God. At the hardest I trust we will not keep time with him.

And to seek Him then is not to seek Him; not quærebant Eum. No; they seek Him not, they “dissemble with Him,” saith Asaph, in the next verse. For when God to try them reprieved them never so little time, they fell to their old bias;* and when as He ceased killing, their seeking was at an end. So are all forced seekings, like to a bow-string brought to his full bent, but remit you never so little it starteth back again.

Nay it is not quærebant, no kindly seeking, but a base ignoble creeping to, without all ingenuity1, when we must either die or do it. Neither χάρις nor κλέος to do it then.

But in very deed it is no “seeking”* at all, as before we defined quærebant to “seek indeed.” There is a diameter between occideret and quærebant, and therefore between it and quærebant Eum. Men cannot then seek; if they must rise up and turn them that must do it, they are not able for their lives to turn or stir themselves to do it. Nay, nor to “enquire.” For what is our “seeking” then? Is it not to lie still on our bed, and suffer a few words to be spoken in our ears? Have a little opiate divinity ministered to our souls, and so sent away? Sure this is rather to be sought than to “seek.” There goeth more to quærebant then thus. We must then “seek” when we are in case to give sentence and to do judgment on ourselves, when we are able to take up our cross before it be laid on us. Quærebant Eum must stand before cum occideret.

Lastly, it would be known what became of this quærebant? What they found that sought thus, and then and not before? “They found not Him,”* the Prophet saith plainly. They go then “with sheep and bullocks,” and all manner of sacrifice, “to seek the Lord; but find Him not, for He hath withdrawn Himself before.”

And justly they find Him not ex lege talionis. God Himself answers them; nay their own hearts answer themselves. Go: whom you have spent your life in seeking, seek to them now. Let them save you at this, whom ye sought at all other times. As for Me, it shall come to pass, as I cried and you would not hear, so you shall cry and seek and shall not find or be heard, saith the Lord.

Yes—they found Him, but with a door shut between Him and them. But what found they? The parable of the ten virgins tells us, which is the Gospel for this Psalm, they found that which we I hope shall never find, a nescio vos.* Where, that we may see that this course is folly and therefore indeed a ne fiant sicut, that which putteth the difference of those that be wise and go in, is that they had sought “and looked to their oil ere the Bridegroom came;”* and those that were foolish and shut out when the Bridegroom was even coming, that is, cum occideret, were to seek their oil then—had not looked to it till then. Nescio vos is their answer, He knoweth them not; they took too short a time to breed acquaintance in. Nescio vos they find that so seek. Profecto ad hoc tonitru, &c. ‘At this clap he that waketh not is not asleep but dead.’

To conclude then with our instruction. If this time and this seeking have so many evil marks, the time so unseasonable, the seeking so many ways to seek; if the success to this seeking be no better but nescio vos, why then ne fiat. If these here were not well advised, if those virgins were foolish, why then ne fiant sicut, “not to be like.”

Secondly, to sever the silver from the dross: the seeking is good, keep it; the time is wrong, change it; either into antequam occideret or into cum servaret. Fiat to the action, ne fiat to the time.

Thirdly, as we confess that there is One to be sought, and that with the turning of a gin1 we cannot have Him when we list, but seek Him we must; that His seeking is worth the while, and that it is not dispatched in a minute, but must have time; so to think His seeking worthy a better, and to allow it a better time than this to do it in.

Fourthly, seeing “yet is the acceptable time,” yet “He may be found,”* yet it is cum servaret, occideret is not yet come—how near it is it is hard to say; our Saviour Christ saith it is quâ horâ nescis,* it may be nearer than we are aware; lest it come upon us before we seek, let us seek before it come upon us. So seeking we shall safely seek; safely seek and surely find God, and with God whatsoever is worth the finding. But, that which we seek, we shall after occideret is past find ourselves in His presence and at His right hand; “in Whose presence is the fulness of joy,”* not as ours here joys half empty; and at “Whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore,” not as ours here for a time and a short time, God knoweth. That which here we seek and cannot find with Him we shall, if we shall here indeed and in due time seek Him by the timely fruits of an undelayed repentance. Almighty God, lighten our minds, kindle our affections, settle our hearts so to seek, &c.[1]

 

 

1 Liter. water impregnated with alkaline salts imbibed from the ashes of wood. Webster.

* Isa. 37:3.

1 i.e. pride. The ruff of their glory. L.’Estrange.

* [ἐκ παρέργου Thucyd. vii. 27.]

* Joh. 18:38.

* Ps. 105:3.

1 [price.]

1 [i.e. ingenuousness.]

* Mat. 25:12.

1 [Here used apparently forengine.]

[1] Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 1, pp. 305–320). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)

1 [Here used apparently forengine.]

[1] Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 1, pp. 305–320). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)

A Cross and Crooked Generation: Psalm 78:34

A Cross and Crooked Generation: Psalm 78:34

A Crooked and Perverse Generation

Psalm 78:34

When He slew them, then they sought Him; and they returned, and enquired early after God.

This Psalm is a calendar or roll of reports, how from Moses to David the Jews carried themselves to God in matter of religion. And this verse a report how in the matter of repentance, expressed here under the terms of seeking and turning to God. Wherein this they did, this was their fashion: while He spared them, they sought Him not; “When He slew them, then they sought Him.” Cum, &c. These words then are a report.

A report; but such an one as when St. Paul heard of the Corinthians, he could not commend it. “What shall I say? Shall I praise you in this? No; I praise you not.”* Neither he them for that, nor I these for this. Rather, as old father Eli said to his sons;* Non est bonus sermo hic quem audio de vobis, “this is no good report I hear,” cum occideret, &c.

Whether good or whether evil it pertaineth to us. For to us of the Gentiles hath St. Paul entailed whatsoever well or ill befell the dissolved Church of the Jews. These, “all these came unto them for examples, and are enrolled to warn us that grow nearer and nearer to the ends of the world.”*

Both pertain unto us, the Scripture hath both; and in it draweth out our duty to us in both, in good and evil reports—as it were in white work and black work. And we to have use of both; yet not of both reports alike, but diversely, as our instructions upon them are diverse. For we are not so much to regard the bare report, as the instruction of it. For which cause Asaph hath entitled this Psalm, not Asaph’s report, but Asaph’s “instruction.”

Now we have here our report. May we find what our instruction is touching it? We may. Asaph expressly hath set it down in the eighth verse before. That this and other errors of theirs are here upon the file, ne fiant sicut patres eorum,* “that we should not be like our forefathers, a cross and crooked generation.” Not like them in other indignities, and among other in this cum occideret, &c. Never to seek God but when He kills us.

In which foul indignity our age is certainly as deep as ever was that, and we need Asaph’s instruction no less than they.

For as if there were no use of religion, but only cum occideret, so spend we all our whole time in the search of other things. Not caring to ask, or seek, or confer about the state of our souls, even till occideret come. And then, peradventure, sending for Asaph, and hearing him speak a few words about it, which we would fain have called seeking of God. I can say little to it, I pray God it prove so; but sure, I fear, it will be found minus habens, “far short of it.”*

Which is so usually received that, take a survey, not one of an hundred ever think of it before. So securely practised, as if we had some supersedeas lying by us, not to do it till then. As if there were no such Scripture as this upon record; “which turned to their destruction,” and must needs lie heavy upon us, when we shall remember it. Cum occideret, &c.

Now sure, this course must needs be prejudicial to our souls, and a number perish in it daily before our eyes. Yet we sit still, and suffer this custom to grow and gather head. Neither delivering their souls, or at least our own, by telling them seriously this is not the time, and then to seek is not the seeking God will allow. That this is a ne fiant, “such a thing as should not be done in Israel.” That it is upon record πρὸς ἐντροπὴν, to their disgrace and destruction. And it cannot be to our comfort or commendation to do the like. Out of which their destruction, Asaph frameth an instruction for us; and as it is well said and fitly to this day, ex cinere Judæorum lixivium Christianorum, ‘of the Jews’ ashes maketh a lye1 for Christians,’ to cleanse us from this foul indignity. Ut videntes cadentes, videant ne cadant, ‘that heeding their fall, we take heed we fall not;’ that is, seek not as they sought, lest we perish by like example of seeking too late.

Therefore, that we set ourselves to seek before this cum come; that is, in a word, seek God, as by repentance and the fruits, so by undelayed repentance, and the timely fruits of it; and be not like the Apostle Jude’s δένδρα φθινοπωρινὰ, our seeking all summer withered and dry,* and beginning to shoot out a little about Michaelmas spring. Of which kind of shooting fruit can never come. This is the sum.

The words consist of two parts. Two parts; but these two evil matched, or as St. Paul “unequally yoked together.”* For where our chief actions, of which I take it our seeking of God is one, should have the chiefest time; here is the first and best of our actions sorted with the last and worst part of our time. Quærebant Eum with cum occideret.

And not only missorted, but misplaced. For cum occideret, “His killing” standeth before “our seeking;” whereas our seeking should be first, and His killing come after. This was never God’s fiant, they must have a ne fiant.

Of these two then. First by way of report jointly that de facto thus it is—thus they, and thus we seek.

Then if we take them in sunder, and as Jeremy saith “separate the precious from the vile,”* quærebant Eum the flower of our actions, from cum occideret, the dross, dregs, and very refuse of our time. Consider them apart, and shew, 1. That this time is not the time; 2. and that this seeking thus sorted and thus placed is no seeking, nor ever shall find. Therefore, with Asaph’s instruction, to settle our seeking upon some other time, and to resolve to begin it before.

Two powers there are in cum; 1. a privative, of all times before; 2. a positive, of that instant time then. No time before we seek, at that instant time then we do. On which two consisteth theatrum vitæ, ‘the very theatre of our life.’ Our case before that time is lively expressed in the words immediately precedent; “They spend their days in vanity, and their years in turmoil in the world.”* Our case then at that time in these words, cum occideret eos. Yea, by implication they are both in this verse; by what they do now is implied what they did before. 1. Now “they sought Him,” so that before they lost Him. 2. Again, then “they turned to;” so that before they turned away, and not once looked toward Him. 3. Now “they rose up early,” so that before they put it off till twilight. 4. Now “they remembered,” so that before they forgat Him clean—no speech, no question, nay no thought about Him.

Thus it was, saith Asaph, under Moses. While His hand was not upon them, they regarded Him not, as not worth the seeking; perdebant Eum, it was their losing time. But “when He slew them,” they fell to seek, and well was he that might find; quærebant Eum, is was their seeking time.

Before, quærebant alia, ‘they found themselves other matters more meet to seek.’ Then quærebant Eum, “they gave over all to seek Him only.”

Before He sought them; and they gave Him good leave so to do. Then all is turned out and in. As He them before, so they Him now.

And is it not thus with us that are now in theatro, ‘upon the stage?’ Yes indeed; and more, if more may be. This is but vetus fabula per novos histriones, ‘the same play again by other actors.’ For in public, when in the days of safety plenty and peace, we are in the sixth of Amos,* and are best at ease when quærebant is farthest from us; but if war, famine, or contagion come, then we run to the second of Joel, “Sanctify a fast,”* and call for the Ark, and grow all godly on a sudden. What is this but cum occideret? And in private, when while youth and strength and health doth last, while the evil day is far off, we are even at cessare fac Sanctum Israel a nobis, “cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from us;”* but when distress, danger, or death come, when Rabshakeh is before the walls, then we cry, “Now is the day of tribulation and anguish; now the children are come to the birth, and there is no strength to be delivered.”* Now send to Esay, “Now lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.” What is this but cum occideret? Surely this is our case; our seeking goeth wholly by our killing—waxeth and waneth, is out and in, as that is near at hand or farther off. I need not tell it, your ears and eyes are daily witnesses that this is a true saying, cum occideret Eos, &c. No killing, no seeking.

“This is a true saying,” but all true sayings are not by all means, nay some not by any means, “to be received.” The report indeed is, thus it was. But the instruction is ne fiant,* “that it should not be.” To the end then we may know what to receive and what to refuse, we will take it in pieces, and melt the dross from the silver metal. Quærebant Eum, by itself is good. Put occideret to it, it is base. Of these then in order.

Of quærebant Eum we shall soon agree, if it be quærebant Eum, that it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done.’ Which many other ways might be made to appear, but by none better than this here; that at last all come to it. Sooner or later all seek it, all men if not before yet cum occideret, then certainly.

All seek; and among all “they” sought, which word is not without his weight here. For what are these that Asaph here meaneth by “they?” Not saints, not generatio quærentium, “the generation of them that seek God.” But “they”* that in the verse before “wasted all their days in vanity, and their years in turmoiling in the world.” “They,”* idle, riotous persons—“they” sought.

“They” that in a verse after “flattered Him with their lips,” and gave Him all the good words that might be,* and meant no such thing. The hypocrites, “they” sought.

“They” that a little before “grievously provoked the Most High God” with speeches little better than blasphemy; “can God do this? Is there a God amongst us,”* or is there none? And so, instead of quærebant Deum, quærebant an Deus, ‘made a question, whether there were any to seek.’ That is, even the very wicked, and of all wicked the worst, the profane atheists, “they” sought—even at last “they” sought. This is the triumph of religion; the riotous person, the hypocrite, the atheist, all shall seek.

And herein is folly condemned even of her own children, and wisdom justified of her very enemies; that they that greedily seek sin, at last would be glad to be rid of it, and they that merrily scorn religion at last are glad to seek to it.

“They” shall seek; and the time is set down when they shall seek, and when you shall not fail but see them seek that never sought before. In diebus juventutis, not then. Sanus factus est, nor then neither; but cum occideret, then certainly. Cum occideret, mark this cum when it cometh, and you shall see them that stood out all their life long then come in.

The heathen man saw it with his eyes. O, saith the Persian messenger in Æschylus, when the Grecian forces hotly pursued our host, and we must needs venture over the great water Strymon, frozen then but beginning to thaw, when an hundred to one we had all died for it—that is, cum occideret, with mine eyes I saw saith he,* when Θεοὺς δέ τις, &c. Of those gallants whom I had heard before so boldly maintain there was no God to seek; τότʼ ἤυχετο λιταῖσι, ‘then every one of them on their knees, and full devoutly praying the ice might hold till they got over.’ Moses saw it with his eyes. Pharaoh,* who was at high terms, “Who is the Lord you talk of?” and answered himself, “he knew none such,” nor nothing would do for Him:—when cum occideret came, he took notice there was a Lord higher than he; “that that Lord was righteous, and he a wretched sinner”* that sought for grace at His hands. Mark but the shutting up of dixit insipiens, their own Psalm. When,* saith David, they have in heart sought to persuade themselves, non est—seek none, “none there is;”* and thereupon “corrupted themselves,” and became most loathsome in their lives, “eat up their tenants as they would do so many morsels of bread;” made a mock of such holy men as set themselves seriously to seek God: when all is done and occideret come, trepidabunt timore ubi non erat timor, “they shall begin to be afraid, where they held before no fear needed;” and here shall be the last verse of their Psalm; quis dabit e Sion salutem, “to wish for the salvation of Sion,” which they have so oft derided. “They shall seek,” and “then they shall seek.” Till then possibly you shall lose your labour, if you tell them of seeking of God, but and how good it is. They are, saith Jeremy, “like the dromedary of the wilderness,”* a beast of exceeding swiftness, the female specially; “over hill and dale she goeth,” saith the Prophet, “and snuffeth up the air at her pleasure, and who can overtake her? They that seek her will not weary themselves till her month.” And in her month when she is bagged, then they will find her, and deal with her well enough. The case is like. Age, sickness, death, are far off; youth, health, and strength, possess them; there is no coming to them then. The month, cum occideret, is not yet come; but come that once as once it will to all, you shall find quærebant will have his place—fiat. It is therefore God’s own resolution, thus He resolveth: “I will go,” saith He, “and return to My place, till they acknowledge their faults and seek Me.”* And when will that be? He addeth, in novissimo quærent me diligenter, an end will come, and when that cometh “they will seek Me diligently,” even the best of them. And even so we are fain to resolve; for our lot is God’s lot, and when He sought to them, we go to our place, and there stand till their month, expectantes aquæ motum,* waiting till the destroying Angel come and stir the water, and then quærent Eum will be worth the seeking after.

Then, according to St. Paul’s disjunctive,* we that all other times mente excedimus Dco, at that time sobrii sumus vobis. Divinity, which in our ruff1 is sophism and school-points, and at the best a kind of ecstasy about God, is and shall be then, “the words of truth and soberness.”* For God and His seeking will have their time; before if it may be, but if not before, then at the farthest. First or last, all shall confess by seeking God is to be sought. Some before He kill, and happy are they; but “when He killeth,” all;—hypocrites, heathens, atheists, and all.

And I would pray you in a word but to note, in seeking then how many things they confess. For there be I take it four potential confessions in it.

That such an One there is to be sought. A Power above us Whose being and sovereignty all, first or last, shall seek.

That somewhat there is to be found, some good to be done in seeking; as Esay saith, non frustra dixit, “He hath not in vain said to the seed of Jacob, Seek ye Me.”* For were it to no purpose, they would not then do it; but as at other times they did, so let it alone then too.

That whatsoever that good is, hit upon it,* or stumble on it we shall not; it will not be had in parergo, but seek it we must. For without seeking it will not be had. If it would they might sit still, and let it drop into their laps.

That seeking at this time when He slayeth them, they that shew what that good is they seek; even that the Psalmist saith, “Seek the Lord, and your soul shall live;”* that whatsoever become of their body, at least their soul may live; that we may lose not both, that “He kill not both, and cast not both into hell fire.”* And this, even when we come within the hemisphere of the other life, the sense we then have of somewhat that should have been sought before; the misgiving of our hearts, they shall come to a reckoning for not seeking sooner; and this, that not one of us would die suddenly of our good-wills, but have a time to seek God, before we lose ourselves. This, that we desire to die seeking, howsoever we live; all shew certainly it is a fiat, ‘a thing to be done,’ a good thing to seek God, even the enemies of it being judges of it.

So then; quærebant Eum is as it should be. But I add: 1. If it be quærebant, seeking indeed. 2. And if it be quærebant Eum, and not aliud in Eo, seeking, not Him, but somewhat else by Him.

If it be seeking indeed. For they to whom the Prophet Esay said, Si quæritis quærite, “if ye seek, why then do it,” sought so as it seemeth their seeking deserved not the name of seeking. So loosely, so slightly, so slenderly they did it;* as if that they sought were as good lost as found. So sought the party that said, In lectulo quæsivi Quem diligit anima,* that lay in bed and sought. So he that asked our Saviour Quid est veritas? a very good question; and when he had asked it another thing took him in the head and up he rose and went his way before Christ could tell him what it was. Such is our seeking for the most part. Some idle question cast, some table-talk moved, some Quid est veritas,* and go our way—all by the way, in transcursu; and never, as if it were about some matter of special moment, set about it and seek it out indeed.

1. They turned them, saith the text, as if before they sought without so much as turning them about.

2. They rose up, as though before they sat still and sought.

3. They did it early, and did not tarry till cum occideret, the sun were set, and no light to seek by, but their “feet stumbled in the dark mountains.”*

4. They “enquired;” so that before if you had ought to say to them you might, they had nothing to say to you. To seek then is to turn, to rise, to rise early, to enquire after it. O si quæritis, quærite, saith Esay, “the morning cometh, and so doth the night;”* that is, our days spend apace, and we say we will seek; if we will seek, let us once do it indeed.

Secondly, if it be quærebant, and if it be Eum; another point to be rectified. Non vestra sed vos, saith the Apostle, is the right seeking.* Not seek Him for somewhat we would have of Him, but to seek Himself for Himself. It is one thing, say the schools, to seek God for fruition; another to seek Him to make use of Him. One thing, saith Christ,* to seek for the miracle, another for the loaves.* One thing to “seek His face,” another to seek His fingers’ ends. One thing to consult with Him only for conscience, to know and do; another to consult with Him—if it hit our humour to make our advantage of it, if it go against us to set light by it. Such is our seeking for the most part; cum occideret, to have our turn served, to have our health restored, that we may seek Him no longer, but to our former riot again, “and to-morrow may be as yesterday and much more.”*

Seek Him indeed; seek Him for Himself. These two points being agreed of, we shall throughly agree of quærebant Eum. And so much for it, and for our fiat. Now to our ne fiat.

For when we have agreed of our seeking, we have not done. With diligence it would be, and due respect. Our seeking, as all things, the best things under the sun, must have τὴν ὥραν καὶ τὴν χώραν, ‘their due time and place.’* Wherein appeareth the abating power of circumstances,* that they are able to bring down the substances. Namely, of the time; and that mis-timing marreth not only music, but all things else. The thing is right, the cum is wrong, and so all is wrong.

To find out the time, we agree first that as every weighty thing hath, so the seeking of God is to be allowed a time too.

What time is that? Verily, we should do it absolutely, all our life long; quærite faciem Ejus semper. Not when? but when not? without limitation, continually.*

And in this sense we grant cum occideret; then, and at other times too. But not (as Asaph) then, and never till then; so, we deny it.

God indeed is so to be sought, but we cannot so seek Him; other our affairs crave allowance out of our time, and we are well content to yield it largely. Only that God have a set time left when to seek Him. That is but reason; all will yield to it. All grant a cum.

But come to know when that “when” shall be; here we vary first. We cannot be brought to set down any certainty, but love to be left at large. Do it we will, but indeed we cannot shew when; but even Felix his “when,”* ὅταν εὐκαιρήσω, ‘when we have leisure.’ I cannot now stand to seek, saith he; I hope one day to be at leisure to do it, but that day never came.

Urge them, press them “when?” No other resolution but omnis peccator dicit, aliquando Deum sequar sed non modo; ‘sometime still, but not this time.’ Never in the present, but sometime hereafter.

Follow them all along their life, they find not this cum, but put it from one cum to another, till there be none left but only cum occideret, even that very time against which God layeth His exceptions. Every time before we say, nondum tempus, ‘it is not time yet;’ every hour before, nondum venit hora, ‘the hour is not yet come.’

Not to leave God’s seeking thus at random, but to grow to some certainty. I demand, will any time serve? Is God at all times to be found? It is certain not. The very limitation of dum inveniri potest,* sheweth plainly that other times there be wherein seek Him you may, but find Him you shall not.

Then if at all times He is not to be found, we are to make choice of a certain cum, cum inveniri potest, “when He may be found,” and then seek Him.

Many returns there be in the term of our life, many cums; all are reduced to two: 1. cum servaret, and 2. cum occideret. Or if we will needs be wedded to a cum occideret, 1. Cum occideret hostes eorum, 2. not eos; ‘when He scattereth and slayeth our enemies’ and saveth us. One of these two it must needs be.

Cum occideret, it is not. Christ Himself expressly limiteth it before; Dedi ei tempus ad pænitendum, saith He, “I gave her a time to repent.”* What time is that? Lest we might mistake it to be cum occideret, He adds, if we do it not in that time so by Him given, He will “cast us down on our beds,” the beds of affliction and sickness, and there “kill us with death.” So that the time He alloweth us to repent, is before we come thither. For thither we come because we did it not in the time He gave us to do it in. Indeed our bed is not the place: in lectulo quæsivi, “I sought Him in my bed;” quæsivi sed non inveni, “I sought Him but I found Him not.”* The place of slaughter is not the place, nor the time of killing is not the time. We may take that time, but it is not dedi illis, none of “His giving.” The time He giveth us is before we come there.

Then if when He kills us is not it, when He saveth us it is? It is indeed; and a cluster of it, an hour of cum servaret then is better than a vintage, a whole day of cum occideret.

Upon these two the whole Psalm standeth, and the part before sheweth when it should have been. When “He overwhelmed the Egyptians in the sea,”* when “the pillar of the cloud was over,”* when He not only saved them but served them, “raining down manna”* for their need, and giving them quails for their lust;* then was the time with them and then is the time with us.

For sure as we seek God to save us, so He saveth us to seek Him; if when we seek Him we are saved, when we are saved we should seek Him. The time of His saving is the time of our seeking; and one hour then is better than four and twenty.

All that while what seek we? Why, as Jeremy saith,* we do then quærere grandia. Other greater matters we have in hand, matters of more weight than the seeking of God. As if His seeking were some petty business, slightly to be sought, and lightly to be found. Any time good enough for it.

Nay not that, but so evil are we affected to seek Him then, that quærebant is occideret; we indict Him of our death, it is death to do it—as lieve die as seek; it maketh us old, it killeth us before our time. We digest not them that call on us for it, but seek ourselves, as the Apostle speaketh,* Magistros secundum desideria, that may entertain us with speculations of what may be done by miracle at the hour of death; that may give us days and elbow-room enough to seek other things, and to shrink up His seeking into a narrow time at our end, and tell us time enough then. For thus then we reckon; all the time we spend in it we lose the fruit of our life, and the joy of our hearts shall be taken from us. As if the fruit of life were not to find God, or as if any true hearts’ joy God being not found. Call we this our fruit and joy not to seek God? call it not so; lætetur cor quærentium Deum, saith the Holy Ghost, “let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord.”* Yea in lachrymis peccatorum, ‘in the very tears of a penitent,’* there is, saith St. Augustine, more sound joy than in risu theatrorum, ‘in all the games the theatre can afford:’ Da Christianum, et scit quid dico. But our taste is turned, and we relish not this seeking. By our flesh-pots we have lived, and by them we will die, and so we do. Lust hath been our life, and we will be buried in the graves of lust; and so we shall, and never know what that joy meaneth, Lætetur cor quærentium Deum.

Cum servaret then will not serve. Nay, cum occideret will scarce serve, it hath much ado; let Him draw His sword and come amongst us. For if, as of His goodness He doth not, He rush not on us at first, but begin with others; if it be cum occideret alios, we seek not. See ye the thirty-first verse: He took away others before their faces, and those not weak or sickly persons, but the goodliest and strongest of all Israel, and least likely to die. Here is occideret. Now did this move? No. See the thirty-second verse: for at this they “sinned yet more,” and went about their seeking never the sooner. It must be cum occideret eos, “themselves,” their own selves, or it will not do it.

Come then to themselves and smite them with the edge, not with the point; with the edge to wound, not with the point to dispatch outright; will that serve? cum cæderet eos, ‘when He wounded them with some mortal sickness the messenger of death, would they seek Him then?’ No: not then, not for all that would they frame to it. For quærebant medicum then, I say, as Asa sought medicos, et non Deum.* Not God and them, but them first; and let God stay till they be gone. And till they give us over, and tell us plainly occideret is now come indeed, no smiting or wounding will send us to seek. So that it is not either 1. cum servaret eos, or 2. cum serviret eis, His saving, or serving us; nay it is not, 3. cum occideret alios, or 4. cum cæderet, ‘His killing others, or wounding us’ with any but our deaths-wound, will do it.

Tandem then, when we are come to the very last cast, our strength is gone, our spirit clean spent, our senses appalled, and the powers of our soul as numb as our senses, when a general prostration of all our powers, and the shadow of death upon our eyes, then something we would say or do which should stand for our seeking; but, I doubt it will not serve. This is the time we allow God to seek Him in.

Is this it? Would we then seek Him when we are not in case to seek any thing else? Would we turn to Him then when we are not able to turn ourselves in our bed? Or, “rise early to seek Him” when we are not able to rise at all? Or “enquire after Him” when our breath faileth us, and we are not able to speak three words together? Neither before, nor with, but even at the end of occideret? No hour but the hour of death?* No time but when He taketh time from us and us from it, et tempus non erit amplius? What shall I say? Shall I commend this seeking, turning, rising, enquiring? No; I cannot commend it either in itself or to any. I commend it not.

That that may be said is this, and it is nothing: true; some one or two of a thousand and ten thousand that have. How then? Shall we not therefore follow our instruction and seek Him before? Nay then,* “some have found and never sought;”—let us not seek Him at all if that will hold. Thus it is: some going a journey have found a purse by the way—it were mad counsel to advise us to leave our money behind upon hope of like hap in ours. No; this is safe and good; though some one or two have found and not sought, yet let us seek for all that. Though some one or two have then sought and found, yet let us seek before. Though some have found a purse in their way, let us not trust to like hap, but carry money with us. This is a privy-door on special favour open to some few. There lieth no way by them. “This is the way,” you have heard, “walk in it and you shall find rest to your souls.”*

To speak then of safe seeking and sure finding, I say, as Asaph saith, it is a ne fiant. This time is not the time Christ giveth us; He assigneth us another. Yea we condemn ourselves in that we would seek to allow it ourselves. If we were put to it to say plainly, “not till He kill me,” it would choke us. We neither have heart nor face, we would not dare to answer so, we dare not avow it. And if it be a ne dicant it is a ne fiant. The time of God’s quærite is primum quærite.* This cum is the last of all our cums; all other before it. First and last are flat ad oppositum. This is not it.

The time of seeking God must be δεκτὸς, such as is meet to be received. This is not: therefore, I hope, we will not offer it God.* If we do, take heed He scorn not this time as He doth their price in Zachary; “A goodly time1 that I have assigned Me.”* Take heed He stand not upon His reputation, as in Malachi, and bid us “offer our service”* at this hour, “to any great man and see, whether he will be content with it,” and not reject both us and our seeking then. This is not, cannot be but a great ne fiant, to offer God that no man is so mean but would take in evil part.

This time is the time when all hypocrites, atheists, tag and rag, come in and seek Him in a sort; and shall not we be confounded to see ourselves in their number? Nay to say that must be said for true it is, It is past the Devil’s time. They be his words, cur ante tempus?* and he seeketh to make them ours, that it is ever too soon to seek God. At the hardest I trust we will not keep time with him.

And to seek Him then is not to seek Him; not quærebant Eum. No; they seek Him not, they “dissemble with Him,” saith Asaph, in the next verse. For when God to try them reprieved them never so little time, they fell to their old bias;* and when as He ceased killing, their seeking was at an end. So are all forced seekings, like to a bow-string brought to his full bent, but remit you never so little it starteth back again.

Nay it is not quærebant, no kindly seeking, but a base ignoble creeping to, without all ingenuity1, when we must either die or do it. Neither χάρις nor κλέος to do it then.

But in very deed it is no “seeking”* at all, as before we defined quærebant to “seek indeed.” There is a diameter between occideret and quærebant, and therefore between it and quærebant Eum. Men cannot then seek; if they must rise up and turn them that must do it, they are not able for their lives to turn or stir themselves to do it. Nay, nor to “enquire.” For what is our “seeking” then? Is it not to lie still on our bed, and suffer a few words to be spoken in our ears? Have a little opiate divinity ministered to our souls, and so sent away? Sure this is rather to be sought than to “seek.” There goeth more to quærebant then thus. We must then “seek” when we are in case to give sentence and to do judgment on ourselves, when we are able to take up our cross before it be laid on us. Quærebant Eum must stand before cum occideret.

Lastly, it would be known what became of this quærebant? What they found that sought thus, and then and not before? “They found not Him,”* the Prophet saith plainly. They go then “with sheep and bullocks,” and all manner of sacrifice, “to seek the Lord; but find Him not, for He hath withdrawn Himself before.”

And justly they find Him not ex lege talionis. God Himself answers them; nay their own hearts answer themselves. Go: whom you have spent your life in seeking, seek to them now. Let them save you at this, whom ye sought at all other times. As for Me, it shall come to pass, as I cried and you would not hear, so you shall cry and seek and shall not find or be heard, saith the Lord.

Yes—they found Him, but with a door shut between Him and them. But what found they? The parable of the ten virgins tells us, which is the Gospel for this Psalm, they found that which we I hope shall never find, a nescio vos.* Where, that we may see that this course is folly and therefore indeed a ne fiant sicut, that which putteth the difference of those that be wise and go in, is that they had sought “and looked to their oil ere the Bridegroom came;”* and those that were foolish and shut out when the Bridegroom was even coming, that is, cum occideret, were to seek their oil then—had not looked to it till then. Nescio vos is their answer, He knoweth them not; they took too short a time to breed acquaintance in. Nescio vos they find that so seek. Profecto ad hoc tonitru, &c. ‘At this clap he that waketh not is not asleep but dead.’

To conclude then with our instruction. If this time and this seeking have so many evil marks, the time so unseasonable, the seeking so many ways to seek; if the success to this seeking be no better but nescio vos, why then ne fiat. If these here were not well advised, if those virgins were foolish, why then ne fiant sicut, “not to be like.”

Secondly, to sever the silver from the dross: the seeking is good, keep it; the time is wrong, change it; either into antequam occideret or into cum servaret. Fiat to the action, ne fiat to the time.

Thirdly, as we confess that there is One to be sought, and that with the turning of a gin1 we cannot have Him when we list, but seek Him we must; that His seeking is worth the while, and that it is not dispatched in a minute, but must have time; so to think His seeking worthy a better, and to allow it a better time than this to do it in.

Fourthly, seeing “yet is the acceptable time,” yet “He may be found,”* yet it is cum servaret, occideret is not yet come—how near it is it is hard to say; our Saviour Christ saith it is quâ horâ nescis,* it may be nearer than we are aware; lest it come upon us before we seek, let us seek before it come upon us. So seeking we shall safely seek; safely seek and surely find God, and with God whatsoever is worth the finding. But, that which we seek, we shall after occideret is past find ourselves in His presence and at His right hand; “in Whose presence is the fulness of joy,”* not as ours here joys half empty; and at “Whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore,” not as ours here for a time and a short time, God knoweth. That which here we seek and cannot find with Him we shall, if we shall here indeed and in due time seek Him by the timely fruits of an undelayed repentance. Almighty God, lighten our minds, kindle our affections, settle our hearts so to seek, &c.[1]

 

 

1 Liter. water impregnated with alkaline salts imbibed from the ashes of wood. Webster.

* Isa. 37:3.

1 i.e. pride. The ruff of their glory. L.’Estrange.

* [ἐκ παρέργου Thucyd. vii. 27.]

* Joh. 18:38.

* Ps. 105:3.

1 [price.]

1 [i.e. ingenuousness.]

* Mat. 25:12.

1 [Here used apparently forengine.]

[1] Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 1, pp. 305–320). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain)


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