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now he goes on to work that deliverance by conquest, which he bought by ransom. It is going on even when we feel it not, and within a little while, it shall be perfected, and we shall see all the host of our enemies who pursued us, as Israel saw the Egyptians, lie dead upon the shore. Courage ! that day is coming
And all this is, That he that glories, may glory in the Lord. Is it not reasonable? No self-glorying: the more faith, the less will there be still of that. A believer is nothing in himself: all is Christ's, Christ is his all. That treasurer who, being called to an account, because that out of nothing he had enriched himself suddenly, many thought he would have been puzzled with it; but he, without being much moved, next morning came before the king in an old suit that he wore before he got that office, and said, “Sir, this suit on my back is mine, but all the rest is thine.” So, our old suit is ours, all the rest Christ's, and he allows it well. And in the full and pure glory that ascends to God in this work, are we to rejoice more than in the work itself as our sálvation. There is an humble kind of boasting that becomes a Christian. My soul shall glory, (or make her boast) in God, says David, all the day long. What was I before I met with Christ, thinks a believer, and now what am I? And, upon that thought, he wonders and loves. But most of the wonder is yet to come; for he conceives but little what we shall be.
JEREMIAH X. 23, 24.
O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that
walketh, to direct his steps. O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in Thine anger, lest Thou
bring me to nothing.
It cannot be expressed, what an advantage a heart acquainted with God hath, in all the revolutions and changes of the world, when it turns unto Him, and gives vent to its griefs and desires into His bosom, and so finds ease. This the Prophet does here: after the denouncing of a heavy judgment, he turns towards him from whom he brought that message, to entreat for them to whom he brought it. After a very sad close of his sermon, he adds this short but very sweet prayer; presents himself, and speaks in that style, as representing the whole people ; Correct me, O Lord : he makes their calamity, as it were, all his own ; bears their
and petition for them in his own name. The prophets, though they could not but applaud and approve the justice of God who sent them, in the harshest news they brought, yet, withal could not be insensible of the miseries of His people ; and so we find them mixing pathetical complaints and prayers for them, with the predictions of judgments against them.
Observe. And thus are all His faithful ministers affected towards His Church. The Lord himself is pleased to express a kind of regret, sometimes, in the punishing of them ; as the tender-hearted father feels the lashes he lays on, though highly deserved by the stubbornness of His children. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim ? How shall I deliver thee, Israel ? How shall I make thee as Admah ? How shall I make thee as Zeboim ? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together.' Hos. xi. 8. So it well becomes His servants to be thus affected when they deliver sad news to His people, to return praying for them ; thus going, as angels, betwixt Heaven and Earth, beseeching the people to return unto God, and beseeching God to return to His people, and
The Prophet, in this prayer, first premises a position suiting his purpose, and then, upon that, presents his supplication. The position he lays, to make a double benefit of it in order to his petition. It is both a sure ground for himself to stand on, and a fit argument to move God by. Thus it is, and thus he intends and uses it, at once to support his own faith, and to work on the goodness of God by it. Besides the fitness of the truth itself for both these ends, we find some print of both in the very way of expressing it, O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself; so expressing both his own persuasion of the truth of it, I know, and representing it to God as a fit truth to urge his suit by, O Lord, I know.
Observe. A great part of the strength and art of prayer, lies in this : first, to have the mind furnished with fit conceptions of God, and established in the firm persuasions of them ; in that is much of the strength of prayer: thén, fitly to call up and use these conceptions and persuasions for our own supporting and prevailing with God; in that lies the art of it.
We possibly think that we do sufficiently believe both the goodness and power of God, especially His power, none suspecting himself of the least doubt of it; yet our perplexing doubts and fears, our feeble staggerings in faith' and prayer, upon particular pressing difficulties, discover evidently a defect here, though still we will not own it. And alas ! how little faculty have we in the most needful times, to rest on His strength, and to stir up ourselves to stir Him up by prayer, to do for us, holding firm to that great point of His absolute sovereignty and power over all things, and holding it up to Him, entreating Him by it to appear and work for us. Lord, it is in Thy hand; that I know, and that is enough to me: Thy good-will I dare trust. (For there is implied a secret confidence of that.) This contents me, that Thou hast full power of the business. That is the thing which here the Prophet fixes on. O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself. 9, d. As there is in us no power to turn off the: judgment determined, all our wit and strength can do nothing to that, so, we are sure there is no power in our enemies to do any thing either beyond or beside Thy appointment, in the execution of it. And upon this, Lord, we come to suppli. cate Thee for mitigation. With men it often falls out, either in just punishments, or unjust oppressions, that the ministers and under-officers do exceed their commission, and overdo their business ; yea, sometimes add little less of their own, than all that comes to which is appointed to them. But with Thee, O Lord, it is not so. As our enemies cannot stir of themselves without order from Thee, and as Thy.commissions are always all just; so, Thou seest to the performance, art present at it, which often men cannot be ; and so nothing is, or can be, done beside Thy notice and allowance.
I. His position is this, The way of man is not in himself, and repeated more plainly, It is not in man that walketh, to direct his steps ; thus, by a double negation, putting it alto gether out of his power. And under this, the positive truth is couched, that the absolute disposal of all the ways of men, is wholly in the supreme hand of God ; according to that, Prov, xx. 24, Man's goings are of the Lord; how can a man, then, understand his own way? He doth not certainly know any thing of his own doings. Even he who seems to know most, to advise and deliberate upon all he does, yet, hath no power of his contrivements, knows not which way they will turn, till the event doth clear it, and even then, on looking back, is often amazed at the strange course of things, so far different from, and possibly contrary to, all his witty project-ings and models. He often does not attain his own, but he never fails to accomplish God's purpose even when his inten-. tions are least for it, yea, when they are most against it. Let!
us build a tower, said they, lest we be scattered abroad, Gen. xi. ; and that was the very thing which caused their scattering. Joseph was sold by his brethren, that they might not : bow before him, as he had dreamed; and this brought it to pass. Pharaoh says, Let us deal wisely; and that way of oppressing them, lest they should go away, both stirred up God to deliver them, and disposed them to depart. And not to. multiply instances, generally in all the ways of men, they have their designs at most times eccentric to God's, but His design holds always, and theirs no further than they are His. Have we not ourselves seen instances of this ?
Man consults and determines freely, yet even those inward actings of the mind and will, are ordered and framed by the hand of God; and it cannot otherwise be. It is a most vain fancy, to imagine that any thing in this, is inconsistent with the natural liberty of the will, or that any such liberty can be in any creature, as consists not with His. But because in these inward actings, man finds himself more at his choice, though all is secretly overruled, and in the event of things, God's sovereign disposal is more legible; therefore, these two are expressed with some kind of difference, Prov. xvi. 9: A man's heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directs his steps. That is, when he hath devised, that does not carry it: he may devise and fancy things twenty ways, and think he is taking freely his own course, but he shall find in the issue Another Hand than his own. It is not in man that walks, as the word is here: he walketh, and yet, the direction of his steps is in Another Hand. But in the devisings too, the Lord so acts, upon man, that he is turned which way it pleaseth him. Even, the heart, and that of the most uncontrolled, the most impetuous torrent, the king's heart, is in His hand, as the rivers of waters : He turneth it whithersoever He will, Prov. xxi, 1, When men either determine themselves, or follow unallowed ways for determination, (as those, Ezek. xxi. 21,) yet are they ordered of God. This He does infallibly and uncontrollably, yet in such a way as there is nothing distorted or violented. :