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less other saints; then, I say, the far greater and more glorious skill is, to be enabled to sing this verse, “I shall not die but live!” “ He will not give me over unto death!” For Satan can render death horribly bitter, fearful, and dreadful to the godly heart. Because, when he tempts, he does not say, as man would say, Thou shalt be cast into the fire: Thou shalt be drowned in the water : Thou shalt have thy head taken off, &c. : but he exaggerates and augments all things to the greatest degree : he terrifies the godly with the sight of death: he paints it forth as being horrible, terrible, cruel, eternal, and having no end : and he exaggerates, at the same time, the wrath and indignation of God above measure: and, by horrid manœuvres, impresses it upon the heart. Thus, he butchers the man, torturing him, and overwhelming him with these cruel cogitations so horribly, bitterly, and incredibly, that such temptations cannot be overcome or endured by any human powers whatever.
Here the man must be a good interpreter, who may be able to sing this verse, and by it overcome and beat off Satan, and say, Death is not, no, it is not, a proof of an angry mind, but a discipline of mercy and a fatherly chastisement. I am surely persuaded, that my God will not give me over unto death. Nor will I ever believe, or ever allow myself to be persuaded, that he is angry with me, even if all the devils in hell should get around me together, and declare it with the loudest bawlings : nay, if even an angel from heaven should tell me so, I would
“let him be accursed : farther, if God himself should tell me so, yet would I firmly believe, that I was only tried by him in the same manner as he tried Abraham; and that he only made and appeared as though he were somewhat angry, but that, in truth and in deed, he was not angry with me.
For God never recals or alters his word, but commands me to be persuaded in myself
, and to say, “ The Lord chasteneth me, but he doth not given me over unto death.” I will not suffer this to be taken from me, nor will be persuaded, or suffer my case to be interpreted otherwise. This I will firmly be
lieve : this I will keep fixed in my mind: not one shall pluck this from me.
Thus the Psalmist, though he feels death, yet will not feel it; nor will he suffer it to be called death ; but he lays hold of the right hand of the mercy of God, and cleaves unto it. He does not however deny that death is sent upon him of God, but there is a sweet and silent understanding between God and himself. And that understanding between them is such, that death is not called death, nor is death, but that fatherly rod and discipline by which the sons are chastised. All these are truly singular and wonderful words, which are not to be found in, nor indeed can enter into, the hearts either of men or of princes. So the apostle Paul saith, 1 Cor. ii. that he is speaking of wisdom “in secret” and “in a mystery:” which none of the princes of this world knew. Thus have I spoken upon this glorious canticle and triumphal song of the saints !
THE LOST SHEEP.
Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. And the pharisees and scribes. murmured; saying, &c. Is this most sweet Gospel, is contained that doctrine which we boast of and glory in as our chief doctrine, and which deserves more especially to be called the Christian doctrine: namely, concerning grace and the remission of sins : which stands in opposition to the doctrine of the law and of works. And it is a consideration the most awful, that a sermon so blessed, and so full of consolation and joy, should be heard with indifference by the man who is hardened in sin, and despises the word of God. And still more awful is it, that this same sermon should be so learnt by all in a moment, that there should be no one who does not think himself master of it; and imagine, that there is nothing in it but what he knows perfectly well, and that therefore he needs waste no more study in learning it. Although it is no molestation to God himself, nor is he tired or wearied with dwelling upon it yearly, or rather, exercising it daily, as though he knew not how to preach any thing else, but was unacquainted with and ignorant of all other things whatever. And yet, we poor, miserable, wretched creatures, so soon arrive at the height of this knowledge, that we immediately become wearied of, and loathe the repetition : and thus, all appetite and love for the divine word die in us and are extinguished.