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means, out of weakness been made strong; and upon the tasting of the sweetness of the word of promise, been made to say as Jonathan, in another case, "See, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey." Lastly, They shall be cheered and comforted in their way. Solomon tells us, "Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun." But no such sweetness, no such comfort in any light, as in the light of the Lord's countenance lifted David witnesseth it from his experience. "There be upon a soul. many that say, who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased. None can keep the way heavenward, but they will meet with many things from within and from without, tending to their discouragement. But God has secured their comfort in the way of believing, and the faith of the gospel will carry them comfortably through under the heaviest burdens, Heb. xi.
Use I. Of information. Hence we may learn,
1. Whence it is that many communicants are nothing bettered by gospel ordinances, but even go away as they come, a prey to their lusts and an evil world. They sit down to the feast, but they rise not up to the journey. They eat, but they are not refreshed, nor strengthened to their proper work after a communion. Why? Alas! they never get into the saving knowledge of the joyful sound. They are ever learning, but they never come to the knowledge of the truth. They hear it, but they do not believe it. They believe it not with application to themselves. Hence it hath no quickening, nor sanctifying influence on them. They go away morally serious, to ply their duty, and to reform their life. But not having the faith of the promises of the gospel, the only channel of spiritual life and strength, they are like a soldier going to the battle without his weapons, who presently gives back. Take heed then, brethren, "lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God."
2. Whence it is that many of the saints are so weak, and comfortless in their way heavenward, walking so much in the dark. It is all owing to the small measure of their faith of the joyful sound. Whatever be the hard pieces of work put into the hand of any of the Lord's people, whatever be their temptations, trials, and afflictions, there is as much in the joyful sound, as if it were plentifully brought into the soul by a lively faith, would make them go through all these, like a giant refreshed with wine. And the Lord said, "If ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this syca
mine tree, be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea, and it should obey you."
3. That the faith of the gospel is the sovereign remedy in all darkness and distresses, in which a person can be. Believing is a duty that can never be out of season. This is the way to bring one out of darkness into the light. "Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God. The promises of the gospel are
full of suitable help for all diseases and distempers; and faith is the mouth of the soul, whereby applying the promise to one's self, the nourishment contained in it is brought into the soul. "The Lord is my strength and my shield, my heart trusted in him, and I am helped therefore my heart greatly rejoiceth, and with my song will I praise him." If then thou art in desertion, temptation, or affliction, go to the promise and embrace it by faith.
4. Hence learn whether you have a right to the seal of the gospel covenant or not. All Christ's sheep have this ear mark. They know the joyful sound. "My sheep," says he, "hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." They have discerned it as the voice of the living God. The gospel is the savour of life unto them. They have been let into the kernel of it, while others break their teeth upon the shell. "For our gospel," says Paul, came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost. and in much assurance." It has not been always to them a dry channel, a dead letter, but the ministration of the spirit of faith and holiness to them. "Therefore," says the apostle Peter, "As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious." The Lord has drawn aside the vail, and they have seen the hidden beauty of it; opened the cabinet, and discovered the treasure there.
Again, they savour it as the suitable nourishment for their souls. "They know it is not a vain thing for them, because it is their life." As living creatures have their proper nourishment, so one delights in what another cares not for. The new creature is nourished by the gospel, and it is natural, for the saints had their life by it. "They have been born again of incorruptible seed, by the word of God which liveth and abideth for ever." So they have a peculiar savour of it, while others regard it no more than the dogs do hay.
Once more all their hopes are in it. "It is all their salvation and all their desire. They have been beaten off from hopes in the law, in their own works, doings, sufferings and services: and have betaken themselves to the word of God's grace, as the only anchor of
their souls. And all their doings and sufferings, are to them in that point, as if they had done just nothing. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
QUESTION. The stony ground hearers received the word with joy. How then shall we distinguish betwixt that, and the true knowledge of the joyful sound, the genuine savour of the gospel of God's grace?
1. The true convert receives the joyful sound of the gospel, as the most joyful sound for him, overcoming and overpowering all others, and therefore rests his beart there. "Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever; for they are the rejoicing of my heart." It contains the one thing that is to him the main thing, and instead of all other things. The hypocrite may receive it as a joyful sound, but yet there is still some sound more joyful to him. The bleating of sheep, and lowing of oxen, is a more joyful sound to some; the sound of created comforts, is more taking with the most part, than all the comforts of the gospel. Christ may be sweet to a hypocrite, but the mischief is, still some hue lust or other is sweeter. So like Orpah, they leave him, not without some affection to him.
2. The convert gets his savour of the gospel, by finding the extreme bitterness of sin. Like those who heard Peter and the rest of the apostles, "they have been pricked in their heart, and made to say, men and brethren, what shall we do? Others come more easily by theirs. Like the stony ground hearers, they at once receive it with joy. Many savour the sweetness of the gospel, to whom sin either never was made bitter; or if it was, yet never the bitterest of all things; so their saviour of the gospel is but superficial. But God makes his own feel sin more and more bitter, till it become of all bitters the most bitter, even more bitter than death. And then they know to purpose, the sweetness of the joyful sound.
Lastly, The convert savours the whole of the joyful sound. There is always some one note or other in it, that an unsound heart savours not. They have not respect to all God's commandments. They that know the joyful sound, savour it for sanctification, as well as for justification; for the cross as well as the crown. But many are like Herod, who heard it gladly, till his beloved lust was touched. USE 2. Of exhortation. Believers, you that know the joyful sound, bless God for what your ears do hear, and for what your eyes do see. Seek for more of this blessedness. As ever ye would walk on your way heavenward, safely and comfortably, labour more and more to know the joyful sound; and to know it so as to believe it; and to believe it, so as to apply it to your own souls, according to your several exigencies. Consider,
1. It is too precious and dear bought a sound, to be neglected by poor sinners. It had never been heard in the world, had not the son of God in our nature purchased it by his sufferings and death. There was a dreadful sound of a deluge of wrath falling on him, which made him to groan out his soul on the cross. And had not that been, this had never been. Wo to them to whom it will be a fruitless sound.
2. It is a sound which has the matter of all joy in it, to be drawn forth in the way of believing. Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the holy Ghost." It comprehends the whole covenant, with all the benefits thereof, which are suited to all the necessities of a soul, for time and eternity. The gospel is the offer and exhibiting of all to you, the setting before you the whole covenant of promises, and declaring you welcome to intermeddle, take possession of, and use them for your own behoof. They will perish miserably, who perish under such a full covenant table, because they will not put out their hand to take it.
3. It is a sound that will not sound always in your ears. If death come on before ye know it, ye can never know it more. "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation." In hell it is not to be heard, therefore the light of the Lord's countenance can never rise there; but they are wrapt up there, in the blackness of darkness for ever. The Sinai trumpet
will sound for ever most dreadfully through all the corners of that dark vault; but not the least whisper of Zion's trumpet. Lastly, It is both your duty and interest to know it. no saving knowledge of God but by it, for by the gospel only we know him in the face of Jesus. The faith of it is the way of sanctification, we are sanctified by faith which is in Christ Jesus." And it is the way of solid comfort, we are filled with joy and peace in believing." And the more a person has of the faith of the gospel, he will be the more holy, and the more joyful in the Lord.
Wherefore study the gospel of Christ, and cry for the Spirit to cause you know it. Christ is a veiled Saviour, and the gospel is a veiled gospel to many. It is hid to them that are lost. If you do not believe it, it will be worse for you than if you had never heard it. Cry then for the Spirit, and for God to reveal Christ in your hearts, the hope and the earnest of glory. Amen.
Ettrick, May 4. 1707.
[First Sabbath after my Admission.]
THE LORD'S HELPING HIS PEOPLE.
1 SAMUEL Vii. 12.
Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped
If we look back to the former chapter, we find Israel brought to a very low state. By the sword of the Philistines, chap. iv. 10, thirty thousand footmen were slain; and by the sword of the Lord, chap. vi 19, "Fifty thousand and threescore and ten men were smitten." After this the ark was brought to Kirjathjearim, a city of the Levites in the tribe of Judah. There it remained till David brought it up, 2 Samuel. vi. Psal. cxxxii. Only it was twenty years there, ere the children of Israel lamented after the Lord, chap. vii. 2. Now Israel was in a great strait; the Philistines were strong and could not be resisted; God angry and would not be entreated; they lamented after him but found him not. In this sad case Samuel adviseth them to deep humiliation and a complete reformation, vers. 3-5. They fall in with his advice in some measure, vers. 4-6. They gather for humiliation and fasting in Mizpeh, a city on the borders of Benjamin and Judah, lying in the heart of the country, and so proper for such a meeting. The Philistines are alarmed at this, looking upon it as a rendezvous of rebellion, and so bring an army against Israel. It is well they were found at their duty, which was a good pledge of the Lord's help. While Samuel is sacrificing and praying, the Philistines draw near to battle, and God himself takes the cause in hand, thunders against the enemy, so that Israel had nothing more to do but to pursue, ver. 10, 11.
The text gives us an account of the setting up of a monument of this great victory and glorious deliverance. The monument itself is a stone set up. A stone is a most durable substance, and very proper to perpetuate the memory of this glorious victory. The person who set it up was Samuel, that is, it was set up by his order and direction. He was their Prophet and their Judge. By his