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Having a Thankful Heart by Thomas Watson

‘Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name’ (Psalm 29:2).

Let us prove our godliness by gratefulness:

1. ‘It is a good thing to be thankful:‘It is good to sing praises unto our God’ (Psalm 147:1).  It is bad when the tongue (that organ of praise) is out of tune and jars by murmuring and discontent.  But it is a good thing to be thankful.  It is good, because this is all the creature can do to lift up God’s name; and it is good because it tends to make us good.  The more thankful we are, the more holy.  While we pay this tribute of praise, our stock of grace increases.  In other debts, the more we pay, the less we have; but the more we pay this debt of thankfulness, the more grace we have. (more…)

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“A Godly Man Is a Thankful Man” PDF

Thomas Watson

Praise and thanksgiving is the work of heaven and he begins that work here which he will always be doing in heaven.  The Jews have a saying — the world subsists by three things: the law, the worship of God and thankfulness.  As if where thankfulness was missing, one of the pillars of the world had been taken away and it was ready to fall.  The Hebrew word for ‘praise’ comes from a root that signifies ‘to shoot up.’  The godly man sends up his praises like a volley of shots towards heaven.  David was modeled after God’s heart and how melodiously he warbled out God’s praises!  Therefore he was called ‘the sweet psalmist of Israel’ (2 Sam. 23:1). Take a Christian at his worst, yet he is thankful.  To illustrate this more clearly, I shall lay down these four particulars:

1. Praise and thanksgiving is a saint-like work.

We find in Scripture that the godly are still called upon to praise God: ‘ye that fear the Lord, bless the Lord’ (Psalm 135:20). ‘Let the saints be joyful in glory: let the high praises of God be in their mouth’ (Psalm 149:5, 6). Praise is a work proper to a saint:

(i) None but the godly can praise God aright. As all do not have the skill to play the lute, so not everyone can sound forth the harmonious praises of God.  Wicked men are required to praise God, but they are not fit to praise him.  None but a living Christian can tune God’s praise.  Wicked men are dead in sin; how can they who are dead lift up God’s praises?  ‘The grave cannot praise thee’ (Isa. 38:18). A wicked man stains and eclipses God’s praise.  If an unclean hand works in damask or flowered satin, it will slur its beauty.  God will say to the sinner, ‘What hast thou to do, to take my covenant in thy mouth?’ (Psalm 50:16).

(ii)Praise is not comely for any but the godly: ‘praise is comely for the upright’ (Psalm 33:1). A profane man stuck with God’s praises is like a dunghill stuck with flowers.  Praise in the mouth of a sinner is like an oracle in the mouth of a fool.  How uncomely it is for anyone to praise God if his whole life dishonors God!  It is as indecent for a wicked man to praise God as it is for a usurer to talk of living by faith, or for the devil to quote Scripture.  The godly alone are fit to be choristers in God’s praises.  It is called ‘the garment of praise’ (Isa. 61:3). This garment fits hand­somely only on a saint’s back.

2. Thanksgiving is a more noble part of God’s worship.

Our wants may send us to prayer but it takes a truly honest heart to bless God. The raven cries; the lark sings. In petition we act like men; in thanksgiving we act like angels.

3. Thanksgiving is a God-exalting work.

‘Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me’ (Psalm 50:23). Though nothing can add the least mite to God’s essential glory, yet praise exalts him in the eyes of others.  Praise is a setting forth of God’s honor, a lifting up of his name, a displaying of the trophy of his goodness, a proclaiming of his excellence, a spreading of his renown, a breaking open of the box of ointment, whereby the sweet savor and perfume of God’s name is sent abroad into the world.

4. Praise is a more distinguishing work.

By this a Christian excels all the infernal spirits.  Do you talk of God?  So can the devil; he brought Scripture to Christ.  Do you profess religion?  So can the devil; he transforms himself into an angel of light.  Do you fast?  He never eats.  Do you believe?  The devils have a faith of assent; they believe, and tremble (Jas. 2:19). But as Moses worked such a miracle as none of the magicians could reproduce, so here is a work Christians may be doing, which none of the devils can do, and that is the work of thanksgiving.  The devils blaspheme, but do not bless.  Satan has his fiery darts but not his harp and viol.

Use 1: See here the true genius and complexion of a godly man.  He is much in doxologies and praises. It is a saying of Lactantius that he who is unthankful to his God cannot be a good man.  A godly man is a God-exalter.  The saints are temples of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 3:16). Where should God’s praises be sounded, but in his temples?  A good heart is never weary of praising God: ‘his praise shall continually be in my mouth’ (Psalm 34:1). Some will be thankful while the memory of the mercy is fresh, but afterwards leave off. The Carth­aginians used at first to send the tenth of their yearly revenue to Hercules, but by degrees they grew weary and left off sending.  David, as long as he drew his breath, would chirp forth God’s praise: ‘I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being’ (Psalm 146:2). David would not now and then give God a snatch of music, and then hang up the instrument, but he would continually be celebrating God’s praise.  A godly man will express his thankfulness in every duty.  He mingles thanksgiving with prayer: ‘in every thing by prayer with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God’ (Phil. 4:6). Thanksgiving is the more divine part of prayer.  In our petitions we express our own necessities; in our thanksgivings we declare God’s excellences.  Prayer goes up as incense, when it is perfumed with thanksgiving.

And as a godly man expresses thankfulness in every duty, he does so in every condition.  He will be thankful in adversity as well as prosperity: ‘In every thing give thanks’ (1 Thess. 5:18). A gracious soul is thankful and rejoices that he is drawn nearer to God, though it be by the cords of affliction.  When it goes well with him, he praises God’s mercy; when it goes badly with him, he magnifies God’s justice.  When God has a rod in his hand, a godly man will have a psalm in his mouth.  The devil’s smiting of Job was like striking a musical instrument; he sounded forth praise: ‘The Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’ (Job. 1:21). When God’s spiritual plants are cut and bleed, they drop thankfulness; the saints’ tears cannot drown their praises.

If this is the sign of a godly man, then the number of the godly appears to be very small. Few are in the work of praise.  Sinners cut God short of his thank offering: ‘Where are the nine?’ (Luke 17:17). Of ten lepers healed, there was but one who returned to give praise.  Most of the world are sepulchers to bury God’s praise.  You will hear some swearing and cursing but few who bless God.  Praise is the yearly rent that men owe, but most are behind with their rent.  God gave King Hezekiah a marvelous deliver­ance, ‘but Hezekiah rendered not again according to the benefit done unto him’ (2 Chron. 32:25). That ‘but’ was a blot on his escutcheon.  Some, instead of being thankful to God, ‘render evil for good.’  They are the worse for mercy: ‘Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people and unwise?’ (Deut. 32:6). This is like the toad that turns the most wholesome herb to poison.  Where shall we find a grateful Christian?  We read of the saints ‘having harps in their hands’ (Rev 5:8) — the emblem of praise.  Many have tears in their eyes and complaints in their mouths, but few have harps in their hand and are blessing and praising the name of God.

Use 2: Let us scrutinize ourselves and examine by this characteristic whether we are godly: Are we thankful for mercy?  It is a hard thing to be thankful.

Question: How may we know whether we are rightly thankful?

Answer 1: When we are careful to register God’s mercy: ‘David appointed certain of the Levites to record, and to thank and praise the Lord God of Israel’ (1 Chron. 16:4). Physicians say that the memory is the first thing that decays.  It is true in spiritual matters: ‘They soon forgot his works’ (Psalm 106:13). A godly man enters his mercies, as a physician does his remedies, in a book, so that they may not be lost.  Mercies are jewels that should be locked up.  A child of God keeps two books always by him: one to write his sins in, so that he may be humble; the other to write his mercies in, so that he may be thankful.

Answer 2: We are rightly thankful when our hearts are the chief instrument in the music of praise: ‘I will praise the Lord with my whole heart’ (Psalm 111:1). David would tune not only his viol, but also his heart.  If the heart does not join with the tongue, there can be no comfort.  Where the heart is not engaged, the parrot is as good a chorister as the Christian.

Answer 3: We are rightly thankful when the favors which we receive endear our love to God the more.  David’s miraculous preservation from death drew forth his love to God: ‘I love the Lord’ (Psalm 116:1). It is one thing to love our mercies; it is another thing to love the Lord.  Many love their deliverance but not their deliverer.  God is to be loved more than his mercies.

Answer 4: We are rightly thankful when, in giving our praise to God, we take all worthiness from ourselves: ‘I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies thou hast showed unto thy servant’ (Gen. 32:10). As if Jacob had said, ‘Lord, the worst bit thou carvest me is better than I deserve.’  Mephibosheth bowed himself and said, ‘What is thy servant, that thou should look upon such a dead dog as I am?’ (2 Sam. 9:8). So when a thankful Christian makes a survey of his blessings and sees how much he enjoys that others better than he lack, he says, ‘Lord, what am I, a dead dog, that free grace should look upon me, and that thou shouldest crown me with such loving kindness?’

Answer 5: We are rightly thankful when we put God’s mercy to good use.  We repay God’s blessings with service.  The Lord gives us health, and we spend and are spent for Christ (2 Cor. 12:15). He gives us an estate, and we honor the Lord with our substance (Proverbs 3:9). He gives us children, and we dedicate them to God and educate them for God.  We do not bury our talents but trade them.  This is to put our mercies to good use.  A gracious heart is like a piece of good ground that, having received the seed of mercy, produces a crop of obedience.

Answer 6: We are rightly thankful when we can have our hearts more enlarged for spiritual than for temporal mercies: ‘Blessed be God, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings’ (Eph. 1:3). A godly man blesses God more for a fruitful heart than a full crop.  He is more thankful for Christ than for a kingdom.  Socrates was wont to say that he loved the king’s smile more than his gold.  A pious heart is more thankful for a smile of God’s face than he would be for the gold of the Indies.

Answer 7: We are rightly thankful when mercy is a spur to duty.  It causes a spirit of activity for God.  Mercy is not like the sun to the fire, to dull it, but like oil to the wheel, to make it run faster.  David wisely argues from mercy to duty: ‘Thou hast delivered my soul from death.  I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living’ (Psalm. 116:8, 9). It was a saying of Bernard, ‘Lord, I have two mites, a soul and a body, and I give them both to thee.’

Answer 8: We are rightly thankful when we motivate others to this angelic work of praise.  David does not only wish to bless God himself, but calls upon others to do so: ‘Praise ye the Lord’ (Psalm 111:1).  The sweetest music is that which is in unison.  When many saints join together in unison, then they make heaven ring with their praises.  As one drunkard will be calling upon another, so in a holy sense, one Christian must be stirring up another to the work of thankfulness.

Answer 9: We are rightly thankful when we not only speak God’s praise but live his praise. It is called an expression of gratitude.  We give thanks when we live thanks.  Such as are mirrors of mercy should be patterns of piety.  ‘Upon Mount Zion shall be deliverance, and there shall be holiness’ (Obad. 17). To give God oral praise and dishonor him in our lives is to commit a barbarism in religion, and is to be like those Jews who bowed the knee to Christ and then spat on him (Mark 15:19).

Answer 10: We are rightly thankful when we propagate God’s praises to posterity.  We tell our children what God has done for us: in such a want he supplied us; from such a sickness he raised us up; in such a temptation he helped us.  ‘O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old’ (Psalm 44:1).  By transmitting our experiences to our children, God’s name is eternalized, and his mercies will bring forth a plentiful crop of praise when we have gone.  Heman puts the question, ‘Shall the dead praise thee?’ (Psalm 88:10). Yes, in the sense that when we are dead, we praise God because, having left the chronicle of God’s mercies with our children, we start them on thankfulness and so make God’s praises live when we are dead.

Use 3: Let us prove our godliness by gratefulness: ‘Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name’ (Psalm 29:2).

1. ‘It is a good thing to be thankful: ‘It is good to sing praises unto our God’ (Psalm 147:1). It is bad when the tongue (that organ of praise) is out of tune and jars by murmuring and discontent.  But it is a good thing to be thankful.  It is good, because this is all the creature can do to lift up God’s name; and it is good because it tends to make us good.  The more thankful we are, the more holy.  While we pay this tribute of praise, our stock of grace increases.  In other debts, the more we pay, the less we have; but the more we pay this debt of thankfulness, the more grace we have.

2. Thankfulness is the rent we owe to God. ‘Kings of the earth and all people; let them praise the name of the Lord’ (Psalm 148:11, 13). Praise is the tribute or custom to be paid into the King of heaven’s exchequer.  Surely while God renews our lease, we must renew our rent.

3. The great cause we have to be thankful. It is a principle grafted in nature, to be thankful for benefits.  The heathen praised Jupiter for their victories.

What full clusters of mercies hang on us when we go to enumerate God’s mercies!  We must, with David, confess ourselves to be nonplussed: ‘Many, O Lord my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, they cannot be reckoned up in order’ (Psalm. 40:5). And as God’s mercies are past numbering, so they are past measuring.  David takes the longest measuring line he could get.  He measures from earth to the clouds, no, above the clouds, yet this measure would not reach the heights of God’s mercies: ‘Thy mercy is great above the heavens’ (Psalm 108:4). Oh, how God has enriched us with his silver showers!  A whole constellation of mercies has shone in our hemisphere.

(i) What temporal favors we have received!  Every day we see a new tide of mercy coming in.  The wings of mercy have covered us, the breast of mercy has fed us: ‘the God which fed me all my life long unto this day’ (Gen. 48:15). What snares laid for us have been broken!  What fears have blown over!  The Lord has made our bed, while he has made others’ graves.  He has taken such care of us, as if he had no-one else to take care of.  Never was the cloud of providence so black, but we might see a rainbow of love in the cloud.  We have been made to swim in a sea of mercy, and does not all this call for thankfulness?

(ii) That which may put another string into the instru­ment of our praise and make it sound louder is to consider what spiritual blessings God has conferred on us.  He has given us water from the upper springs; he has opened the wardrobe of heaven and fetched us out a better garment than any of the angels wear.  He has given us the best robe and put on us the ring of faith, by which we are married to him.  These are mercies of the first magnitude, which deserve to have an asterisk put on them.  And God keeps the best wine till last.  Here he gives us mercies only in small quantities; the greatest things are laid up.  Here there are some honey drops and foretastes of God’s love; the rivers of pleasure are reserved for paradise.  Well may we take the harp and viol and triumph in God’s praise!  Who can tread on these hot coals of God’s love and his heart not burn in thankfulness?

4. Thankfulness is the best policy. There is nothing lost by it.  To be thankful for one mercy is the way to have more.  It is like pouring water into a pump which fetches out more.  Musicians love to sound their trumpets where there is the best echo, and God loves to bestow his mercies where there is the best echo of thankfulness.

5. Thankfulness is a frame of heart that God delights in. If repentance is the joy of heaven, praise is the music.  Bernard calls thankfulness the sweet balm that drops from a Christian.  Four sacrifices God is very pleased with: the sacrifice of Christ’s blood; the sacrifice of a broken heart; the sacrifice of alms; and the sacrifice of thanksgiving.  Praise and thanksgiving (says Mr. Greenham) is the most excel­lent part of God’s worship, for this shall continue in the heavenly choir when all other exercises of religion have ceased.

6. What a horrid thing ingratitude is! It gives a dye and tincture to every other sin and makes it crimson.  In­gratitude is the spirit of baseness: ‘They that eat thy bread have laid a wound under thee’ (Obad. 7). Ingratitude is worse than brutish (Isa. 1:3). It is reported of Julius Caesar that he would never forgive an ungrateful person.  Though God is a sin-pardoning God, he scarcely knows how to pardon for this. ‘How shall I pardon thee for this?  Thy children have forsaken me, when I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery’ (Jer. 5:7). Draco (whose laws were written in blood) published an edict that if any man had received a benefit from another, and it could be proved against him that he had not been grateful for it, he should be put to death.  An unthankful person is a monster in nature, a paradox in Christianity.  He is the scorn of heaven and the plague of earth.  An ungrateful man never does well except in one thing — that is, when he dies.

7. Not being thankful is the cause of all the judgments which have lain on us. Our unthankfulness for health has been the cause of so much mortality.  Our gospel unthankfulness and sermon-surfeiting has been the reason why God has put so many lights under a bushel.  As Bradford said, ‘My unthankfulness was the death of King Edward VI.’  Who will spend money on a piece of ground that produces nothing but briars?  Unthankfulness stops the golden phial of God’s bounty, so that it will not drop.

Question: What shall we do to be thankful?

Answer 1: If you wish to be thankful, get a heart deeply humbled with the sense of your own vileness.  A broken heart is the best pipe to sound forth God’s praise.  He who studies his sins wonders that he has anything and that God should shine on such a dunghill: ‘Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, but I obtained mercy’ (1 Tim. 1:13). How thankful Paul was!  How he trumpeted forth free grace!  A proud man will never be thankful.  He looks on all his mercies as either of his own procuring or deserving.  If he has an estate, this he has got by his wits and industry, not considering that scripture, ‘Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God: for it is he that gives thee power to get wealth’ (Deut. 8:18). Pride stops the current of gratitude.  O Christian, think of your unworthiness; see yourself the least of saints and the chief of sinners, and then you will be thankful.

Answer 2: Strive for sound evidences of God’s love to you.  Read God’s love in the impress of holiness upon your hearts.  God’s love poured in will make the vessels of mercy run over with thankfulness: ‘Unto him that loved us, be glory and dominion forever’ (Rev. 1:5, 6). The deepest springs yield the sweetest water.  Hearts deeply aware of God’s love yield the sweetest praises.


Edited by Teaching Resources International. http://www.teachingresources.org

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To illustrate this, I shall show (1) that Jesus Christ is precious in himself; and (2) that a godly man esteems him precious.

Jesus Christ Himself is Precious

“Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious” (1 Peter 2:6).

  1. Christ is compared to “a bundle of myrrh” (Song 1:13).  Myrrh is very precious; it was one of the chief spices of which the holy anointing oil was made of (Exodus 30:25).  Myrrh is of a perfuming nature.  So Christ perfumes our persons and services, so that they are a sweet odor to God.  Why is the church, that heavenly bride, so perfumed with grace?  Because Christ, that myrrh tree, has dropped his perfume upon her (Song 3:6).  Additionally, myrrh is of an exhilarating nature.  Its smell comforts and refreshes the spirits.  So Christ comforts the souls of his people when they are fainting under their sins and suffering.
  2. Christ is compared to a pearl: “when he had found one pearl of great price.” (Matthew 13:46).  Christ, this pearl, was little with regard to his humility, but of infinite value.  Jesus Christ is a pearl that God wears in his bosom (John 1:18); a pearl whose luster drowns the world’s glory (Galatians 6:14); a pearl that enriches the soul, the angelic part of man (1 Corinthians 1:5);  a pearl that enlightens heaven (Revelation 21:23); a pearl so precious that it makes us precious to God (Ephesians 1:6); a pearl that is consoling and restorative (Luke 2:25); a pearl of more value than heaven (Colossians 1:16-17).  The preciousness of Christ is seen in three ways:
    1. He is precious in his person; he is the picture of his father’s glory (Heb. 1:3).
    2. Christ’s prophetic office is precious (Deut. 18:15).  He tie great oracle of heaven; he has preciousness above all Prophets who went before him; he teaches not only the ear, but the heart.  He who has ‘the key of David’ in his hand opened the heart of Lydia (Acts 16:14).
    3. Christ’s priestly office is precious.  This is the solid basis of our comfort.  ‘Now once hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself (Heb. 9:26).  By virtue of this sacrifice, the soul may go to God with boldness: ‘Lord, give me heaven; Christ has purchased it for me; he hung upon the cross, that I might sit upon the throne.’  Christ’s blood and incense are the two hinges on which our salvation turns.
    4. Christ’s regal office is precious: ‘He hath on his vesture, and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords’ (Rev. 19:16).  Christ has a pre-eminence above all other kings for majesty; he has the highest throne, the richest crown, the largest dominions, and the longest possession: ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever’ (Heb. 1:8).  Though Christ has many assessors — those who sit with him (Eph. 2:6) — he has no successors.  Christ sets up his scepter where no other king does; he rules the will and affections; his power binds the conscience.  The angels take the oath of allegiance to him (Heb. 1:6).
    5. Christ’s kingship is seen in ruling his people.  He rules with clemency; his regal rod has honey at the end of it.  Christ displays the ensign of mercy, which makes so many volunteers run to his standard (Psalm 110:3).  Holiness without mercy, and justice without mercy, would be dreadful, but mercy encourages poor sinners to trust in him.
    6. Christ’s kingship is seen in overruling his enemies.  He pulls down their pride, befools their policy, restrains their malice: ‘the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain’ (Psalm 76:10), or as it is in the Hebrew, ‘thou shalt girdle up.’  That stone ‘cut out of the mountain without hands, which smote the image’ (Dan. 2:34) was an emblem, says Augustine, of Christ’s monarch­ical power, conquering and triumphing over his enemies.
    7. Christ is precious in his benefits.  By Christ, all dangers are removed; through Christ all mercies are conveyed.  In his blood flows justification (Acts 13:39); purgation (Heb. 9:14); fructification (John 1:16); pacifica­tion (Rom. 5:1); adoption (Gal. 4:5); perseverance (Heb. 12:2); glorification (Heb. 9:12). This will be a matter of most sublime joy for eternity.  We read that those who had passed over the sea of glass stood with their harps and sang the song of Moses and the Lamb (Rev. 15:2, 3).  So when the ‘saints of God have passed over the glassy sea of this world, they shall sing hallelujahs to the Lamb who has redeemed them from sin and hell and has translated them into that glorious paradise where they shall see God forever and ever.

The Godly Man Esteems Christ Precious

“Therefore to you who believe He is precious” (1 Peter 2:7). In the Greek, it is ‘an honor.’  Believers have honorable esteem of Christ.  The psalmist speaks like one captivated with Christ’s amazing beauty: ‘there is none upon the earth that I desire beside thee’ (Psalm 73:25).  He did not say he had nothing: he had many comforts on earth, but he desired none but God; as if a wife should say that there is no one’s company she prizes like her husband’s.  How did David prize Christ?  ‘Thou art fairer than the children of men’ (Psalm 45:2).  The spouse in the Song of Solomon looked upon Christ as the Coryphaeus, the most incompar­able one, ‘the chief among ten thousand’ (Song 5:10).  Christ outvies all others: ‘As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons’ (Song 2:3).  Christ infinitely more excels all the beauties and glories of that visible world than the apple tree surpasses the trees of the wild forest.  Paul so prized Christ that he made him his chief study: ‘I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ’ (1 Corinthians 2:2).  He judged nothing else of value.  Consider how he slighted and despised other things in comparison with Christ: ‘I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord’ (Phil. 3:8).  Gain he esteemed loss, and gold dung for Christ.  Indeed, a godly person cannot choose but set a high valuation upon Christ; he sees a fullness of value in him:

  1. A fullness in regard to variety.  ‘In whom are hid all the treasures’ (Colossian 2:3).  No country has all commodities of its own growth, but Christ has all kinds of fullness — fullness of merit, of spirit, of love.  He has a treasure adequate for all our wants.
  2. A fullness in regard to degree.  Christ has not only a few drops or rays, but is more full of goodness than the sun is of light; he has the fullness of the Godhead (Colossians 2:9).
  3. A fullness in regard to duration.  The fullness in the creature, like the brooks of Arabia, is soon dried up, but Christ’s fullness is inexhaustible; it is a fullness overflowing and ever-flowing.

And this fullness is for believers: Christ is a common thesaurus (as Luther says), a common treasury or store for the saints: ‘of his fullness have all we received’ (John 1:16).

Use 1: Is a godly man a high prizer of Christ?  Then what is to be thought of those who do not put a value upon Christ?  Are they godly or not?

What is it to know all the motions of the orbs and influences of the stars, and in the meantime to be ignorant of Christ, the bright Morning Star (Rev. 22:16)?  What is it to understand the nature of minerals or precious stones, and not to know Christ the true Cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16)?  It is under­valuing, yes, despising Christ, when with the lodestone we draw iron and straw to us, but neglect him who has tried gold to bestow on us (Rev. 3:18).

Use 2: Let us test our godliness by this: Do we set a high estimation on Christ?

Question: How shall we know that?

Answer 1: If we are prizers of Christ, then we prefer him in our judgments before other things.  We value Christ above honor and riches; the Pearl of Price lies nearest our heart.  He who prizes Christ esteems the gleanings of Christ better than the world’s vintage.  He counts the worst things of Christ better than the best things of the world: ‘es­teeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt’ (Heb. 11:26).  And is it thus with us?  Has the price of worldly things fallen?  Gregory Nazianzene solemnly blessed God that he had anything to lose for Christ’s sake.  But alas, how few Nazianzenes are to be found!  You will hear some say they have honorable thoughts of Christ, but they prize their land and estate above him.  The young man in the Gospel preferred his bags of gold before Christ.  Judas valued thirty pieces of silver above him.  May it not be feared, if an hour of trial comes, that there are many who would rather renounce their baptism and throw off Christ’s livery than hazard the loss of their earthly possessions for him?

Answer 2: If we are the prizers of Christ, we cannot live without him; things which we value we know not how to be without.  A man may live without music, but not without food.  A child of God can lack health and friends, but he cannot lack Christ.  In the absence of Christ, he says, like Job, ‘I went mourning without the sun’ (Job 30:28).  I have the starlight of creature comforts, but I need the Sun of Righteousness.  ‘Give me children,’ said Rachel, ‘or else I die ((Gen. 30:1).  So the soul says, ‘Lord, give me Christ, or I die.’

Let us test by this — do they prize Christ who can manage well enough to be without him?  Give a child a rattle, and it will not want gold.  If men only have worldly provisions, ‘corn rid wine’, they can be content enough without Christ.  Christ is a spiritual Rock (1 Cor. 10:4).  Just let men have ‘oil in the cruse’ and they do not care about honey from this rock.  If their trade has gone, they complain, but if God takes away the gospel, which is the ark wherein Christ the manna is hidden, they are quiet and tame enough.  Do those prize Christ who can sit down content without him?

Answer 3: If we are prizers of Christ, then we shall not complain at any pains to get him.  He who prizes gold will dip for it in the mine: ‘My soul followeth hard after God’ (Psalm 63:8).  Plutarch reports of the Gauls, an ancient people in France, that after they had tasted the sweet wine of the Italian grape, they enquired after the country, and never rested till they had arrived at it.  He in whose eye Christ is precious never rests till he has gained him: ‘I sought him whom my soul loveth; I held him, and would not let him go’ (Song 3:1,4).

Test by this!  Many say they have Christ in high veneration, but they are not industrious in the use of means to obtain him.  If Christ would drop as a ripe fig into their mouth, they could be content to have him, but they will not put themselves to too much trouble to get him.  Does he who will not take medicine or exercise prize his health?

Answer 4: If we are prizers of Christ, then we take great pleasure in Christ.  What joy a man takes in that which he counts his treasure!  He who prizes Christ makes him his greatest joy.  He can delight in Christ when other delights have gone: ‘Although the fig tree shall not blossom, yet I will rejoice in the Lord’ (Hab. 3:17, 18).  Though a flower in a man’s garden dies, he can still delight in his money and jewels.  He who esteems Christ can solace himself in Christ when there is an autumn on all other comforts.

Answer 5: If we are prizers of Christ, then we will part with our dearest pleasures for him.  Paul said of the Galatians that they so esteemed him that they were ready to pull out their own eyes and give them to him (Gal. 4:15).  He who esteems Christ will pull out that lust which is his right eye.  A wise man will throw away a poison for a stimulant.  He who sets a high value on Christ will part with his pride, unjust gain, and sinful fashions (Isaiah 30:32).  He will set his feet on the neck of his sins.

Test by this!  How can they be said to prize Christ who will not leave a vanity for him?  What scorn and contempt they put on the Lord Jesus who prefer a damning pleasure before a saving Christ!

Answer 6: If we are prizers of Christ, we shall think we cannot have him at too dear a rate.  We may buy gold too dearly, but we cannot purchase Christ too dearly.  Though we part with our blood for him, it is no dear bargain.  The apostles rejoiced that they were graced so much as to be disgraced for Christ (Acts 5:41).  They esteemed their fetters more precious than bracelets of gold.  Do not let him who refuses to bear his cross say that he prizes Christ: ‘When persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended’ (Matt. 13:21).

Answer 7: If we are prizers of Christ, we will be willing to help others to get a part in him.  That which we esteem excellent, we are desirous our friend should have a share in it.  If a man has found a spring of water, he will call others that they may drink and satisfy their thirst.  Do we commend Christ to others?  Do we take them by the hand and lead them to Christ?  This shows how few prize Christ, because they do not make more effort that their relations should have a part in him.  They get land and riches for their posterity, but have no care to leave them the Pearl of Price in their portion.

Answer 8: If we are prizers of Christ, then we prize him in health as well as in sickness; when we are enlarged, as well as when we are straitened.  A friend is prized at all times; the Rose of Sharon is always sweet.  He who values his Savior right has as precious thoughts of him in a day of prosperity as in a day of adversity.  The wicked make use of Christ only when they are in straits — as the elders of Gilead went to Jepththah when they were in distress (Judges 11:7).  Themistocles complained of the Athenians that they only ran to him as they did to a tree to shelter them in a storm.  Sinners desire Christ only for shelter.  The Hebrews never chose their judges except when they were in some imminent danger.  Godless persons never look for Christ except at death when they are in danger of hell.

Use 3: As we would prove to the world that we have the impress of godliness on us, let us be prizers of Jesus Christ; he is elect, precious.  Christ is the wonder of beauty.  Pliny said of the mulberry tree that there is nothing in it but what is therapeutic and useful: the fruit, leaves and bark.  So there is nothing in Christ but what is precious.  His name is precious, his virtues precious, his blood precious — more precious than the world.

Oh, then, let us have endearing thoughts of Christ, let him be accounted our chief treasure and delight.  This is the reason why millions perish — because they do not prize Christ.  Christ is the door by which men are to enter heaven (John 10:9).  If they do not know this door or are so proud that they will not stoop to go in at it, how can they be saved?  That we may have Christ-admiring thoughts, let us con­sider:

  1. We cannot prize Christ at too high a rate.  We may prize other things above their value.  That is our sin.  We commonly overrate the creature; we think there is more in it than there is; therefore God makes our gourd wither, because we overprize it.  But we cannot raise our esteem of Christ high enough; he is beyond all value.  There is no ruby or diamond but the jeweler can set a fair price on it.  He can say it is worth so much and no more.  But Christ’s worth can never be fully known.  No seraphim can set a due value on him; his are unsearchable riches (Eph. 3:8).  Christ is more precious than the soul, than the angels, than heaven.
  2. Jesus Christ has highly prized us. He took our flesh upon him (Heb. 2:16).  He made his soul an offering for us (Isaiah 53:10).  How precious our salvation was to Christ!  Shall not we prize and adore him who has put such a value upon us?
  3. Not to prize Christ is great imprudence.  Christ is our guide to glory.  It is folly for a man to slight his guide.  He is our physician (Mal. 4:2).  It is folly to despise our physician.

What!  To set light by Christ for things of no value?  ‘Ye fools and blind’ (Matt. 23:17).  How is a fool tested but by showing him an apple and a piece of gold?  If he chooses the apple before the gold, he is judged to be a fool and his estate is beggared.  How many such idiots there are who prefer husks before manna, the gaudy, empty things of this life before the Prince of Glory!  Will not Satan beggar them at last for fools?

Some slight Christ now and say, ‘There is no beauty that we should desire him’ (Isaiah 53:2).  There is a day coming shortly when Christ will as much slight them.  He will set as light by them as they do by him.  He will say, ‘I know you not’ (Luke 13:27).  What a slighting word that will be, when men cry, ‘Lord Jesus, save us,’ and he says, ‘I was offered to you but you would have none of me (Psalm 81:11); you scorned me and now I will set light by you and your salvation.  Depart from me, I do not know you.’  This is all that sinners get by rejecting the Lord of life.  Christ will slight at the Day of Judgment those who have slighted him in he day of grace.  Only a godly man truly prizes Christ!

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‘The Holy Ghost which dwelleth in us’ (2 Tim. 1:14; Gal. 4:6). I conceive that the Spirit is in the godly in whom he flows in measure.  They have his presence and receive his sacred influences.  When the sun comes into a room, it is not the body of the sun that is there but the beams that sparkle from it.  The Spirit of God reveals himself in a gracious soul in two ways:I. By His Motions …

These are some of that sweet perfume that the Spirit breathes upon the heart, by which it is raised into a kind of angelic frame.

Question 1: But how may we distinguish the motions of the Spirit from a delusion?

Answer: The motions of the Spirit are always consonant with the Word.  The Word is the chariot in which the Spirit of God rides; whichever way the tide of the Word runs, that way the wind of the Spirit blows.

Question 2: How may the motions of the Spirit in the godly be distinguished from the impulses of a natural conscience?

Answer 1: A natural conscience may sometimes provoke to the same thing as the Spirit does, but not from the same principle.  Natural conscience is a spur to duty, but it drives a man to do his duties for fear of hell — as the galley-slave tugs at the oar for fear of being beaten — whereas the Spirit moves a child of God from a more noble principle.  It makes him serve God out of choice and esteem duty his privilege.

Answer 2: The impulses of a natural conscience drive men only to easier duties of religion, in which the heart is less exercised, like perfunctory reading or praying.  But the motions of the Spirit in the godly go further, causing them to do the most irksome duties, like self-reflection, self-humbling; yes, perilous duties, like confessing Christ’s name in times of danger.  Divine motions in the heart are like new wine which seeks vent.  When God’s Spirit possesses a man, he carries him full sail through all difficulties.

2. By his virtues …

These are various:

(i) God’s Spirit has a teaching virtue; the Spirit teaches convincingly (John 16:8). He so teaches as to persuade.

(ii) God’s Spirit has a sanctifying virtue.  The heart is naturally polluted, but when the Spirit comes into it, he works sin out and grace in.  The Spirit of God was repre­sented by the dove, an emblem of purity.  The Spirit makes the heart a temple of purity and a paradise for pleasantness.  The holy oil of consecration was nothing but a prefiguring of the Spirit (Exodus 30:25). The Spirit sanctifies a man’s fancy, causing it to mint holy meditations. He sanctifies his will, biasing it to good, so that now it shall be as delightful to serve God as before it was to sin against him.  Sweet powders perfume the linen.  So God’s Spirit in a man perfumes him with holiness and makes his heart a map of heaven.

(iii) God’s Spirit has a vivifying virtue: ‘the Spirit giveth life’ (2 Cor. 3:6). As the blowing in an organ makes it sound, so the breathing of the Spirit causes life and motion.  When the prophet Elijah stretched himself upon the dead child, it revived (I Kings 17:22); so God’s Spirit stretching himself upon the soul infuses life into it.

As our life is from the Spirit’s operations, so is our liveliness: ‘the Spirit lifted me up’ (Ezek. 3:14). When the heart is bowed down and is listless to duty, the Spirit of God lifts it up.  He puts a sharp edge upon the affections; he makes love ardent, hope lively.  The Spirit removes the weights of the soul and gives it wings: ‘Or ever I was aware, my soul made me like the chariots of Amminadib’ (Song 6:12). The wheels of the soul were pulled off before and it drove on heavily, but when the Spirit of the Almighty possesses a man, now he runs swiftly in the ways of God and his soul is like the chariots of Amminadib.

(iv) God’s Spirit has a jurisdictive virtue; he rules and governs.  God’s Spirit sits paramount in the soul; he gives check to the violence of corruption; he will not allow a man to be vain and loose like others.  The Spirit of God will not be put out of office; he exercises his authority over the heart, ‘bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ’ (2 Cor. 10:5).

(v) The Spirit has a mollifying virtue, therefore he is compared to fire which softens the wax.  The Spirit turns flint into flesh: ‘I will give you a heart of flesh’ (Ezekiel 36:26). How shall this be effected?  ‘I will put my spirit within you’ (v.27). While the heart is hard, it lies like a log, and is not wrought upon either by judgments or by mercies, but when God’s Spirit comes in, he makes a man’s heart as tender as his eye and now it is made yielding to divine impressions.

(vi) The Spirit of God has a corroborating virtue; he infuses strength and assistance for work; he is a Spirit of power (2 Tim. 1:7). God’s Spirit carries a man above himself: ‘strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man’ (Eph. 3:16). The Spirit confirms faith and animates courage.  He lifts one end of the cross, and makes it lighter to bear.  The Spirit gives not only a sufficiency of strength, but a redundance.

Question: How shall we know whether we are acting in the strength of God’s Spirit or in the strength of our own abilities?

Answer 1: When we humbly cast ourselves upon God for assistance, as David going out against Goliath cast himself upon God for help: ‘I come to thee in the name of the Lord’ (I Sam. 17:45).

Answer 2: When our duties are divinely qualified, we do them with pure aims.

Answer 3: When we have found God going along with us, we give him the glory for everything (I Cor. 15:10). This clearly evinces that the duty was carried on by the strength of God’s Spirit more than by any innate abilities of our own.

(vii) God’s Spirit has a comforting virtue.  Sadness may arise in a gracious heart (Psa. 43:5). As the heaven, though it is a bright and lucid body, still has interposed clouds, this sadness is caused usually through the malice of Satan, who, if he cannot destroy us, will disturb us.  But God’s Spirit within us sweetly cheers and revives.  He is called the parakletos, ‘the Comforter’ (John 14:16). These comforts are real and infallible.  Hence it is called ‘the seal of the Spirit’ (Eph. 1:13). When a deed is sealed, it is firm and unquestionable.  So when a Christian has the seal of the Spirit, his comforts are confirmed.  Every godly man has these revivings of the Spirit in some degree; he has the seeds and beginnings of joy, though the flower is not fully ripe and blown.

Question: How does the Spirit give comfort?

Answer 1: By showing us that we are in a state of grace.  A Christian cannot always see his riches.  The work of grace may be written in the heart, like shorthand which a Christian cannot read.  The Spirit gives him a key to open these dark characters, and spell out his adoption, where­upon he has joy and peace.  ‘We have received the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God’ (I Cor. 2:12).

Answer 2: The Spirit comforts by giving us some ravishing apprehensions of God’s love: ‘the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost’ (Rom. 5:5). God’s love is a box of precious ointment, and it is only the Spirit who can break this box open and fill us with its sweet perfume.

Answer 3: The Spirit comforts by taking us to the blood of Christ.  As when a man is weary and ready to faint, we take him to the water, and he is refreshed, so when we are fainting under the burden of sin, the Spirit takes us to the fountain of Christ’s blood: ‘In that day there shall be a fountain opened. . . ‘(Zech. 13:1). The Spirit enables us to drink the waters of justification which run out of Christ’s sides.  The Spirit applies whatever Christ has purchased; he shows us that our sins are done away in Christ, and though we are spotted in ourselves, we are undefiled in our Head.

Answer 4: The Spirit comforts by enabling conscience to comfort.  The child must be taught before it can speak.  The Spirit opens the mouth of conscience, and helps it to speak and witness to a man that his state is good, whereupon he begins to receive comfort: ‘conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost’ (Rom. 9:1). Conscience draws up a certificate for a man, then the Holy Ghost comes and signs the certificate.

Answer 5: The Spirit conveys the oil of joy through two golden pipes:

1. The Ordinances. As Christ in prayer had his counten­ance changed (Luke 9:29) and there was a glorious luster upon his face, so often in the use of holy ordinances the godly have such raptures of joy and soul transfigurations that they have been carried above the world, and despised all things below.

2. The Promises. The promises are comforting: (i) For their sureness (Rom. 4:16). God in the promises has put his truth in pawn.  (ii) For their suitableness, being calculated for every Christian’s condition.  The promises are like a herb garden.  There is no disease but some herb may be found there to cure it.  But the promises of themselves cannot comfort.  Only the Spirit enables us to suck these honeycombs.  The promises are like a still full of herbs, but this still will not drop unless the fire is put under it.  So when the Spirit of God (who is compared to lire) is put to the still of the promises, then they distil consolation into the soul.  Thus we see how the Spirit is in the godly by his virtues.

Use: As you would be listed in the number of the godly, strive for the blessed indwelling of the Spirit.  Pray with Melanchthon, ‘Lord, inflame my soul with thy Holy Spirit’; and with the spouse, ‘Awake, O north wind; and come, thou south; blow upon my garden’ (Song of Solomon 4:16). As a mariner would desire a wind to drive him to sea, so beg for the prosperous gales of the Spirit and the promise may add wings to prayer.  ‘If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?’ (Luke 11:13) God’s Spirit is a rich jewel Go to God for turn ‘Lord, give me thy Spirit Where is the jewel you promised me?  When shall my soul be like Gideon’s fleece, wet with the dew of heaven?’

Consider how necessary the Spirit is.  Without him, we can do nothing acceptable to God:

1.  We cannot pray without him He is a Spirit of supplications (Zech. 12:10). He helps both the inventiveness and the affection ‘The Spirit helps us with sighs and groans’ (Rom. 8:26).

2. We cannot resist temptation without him ‘ye shall re­ceive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you’ (Acts 1:8). He who has the tide of corrupt nature and the wind of temptation must of necessity be carried down the stream of sin if the contrary wind of the Spirit does not blow.

3. We cannot be fruitful without the Spirit. ‘The golden rain from heaven waters the thirsty hearts.’  Why is the Spirit compared to dew and rain, but to show us how unable we are to bring forth a crop of grace unless the dew of God falls upon us?

4.  Without the Spirit, no ordinance is effectual to us. Ordinances are the conduit pipes of grace, but the Spirit is the spring.  Some are content that they have a ‘Levite to their priest’ (Judges 17:13), but never look any further.  As if a merchant should be content that his ship has good tackling and is well manned though it never has a gale of wind.  The ship of ordinances will not carry us to heaven, though an angel is the pilot, unless the wind of God’s Spirit blows.  The Spirit is the soul of the Word without which it is but a dead letter.  Ministers may prescribe medicine, but it is God’s Spirit who must make it work.  Our hearts are like David’s body when it grew old: ‘they covered him with clothes, but he got no heat’ (I Kings 1:1). So though the ministers of God ply us with prayers and counsel as with hot clothes, yet we are cold and chilly till God’s Spirit comes; and then we say, like the disciples, ‘Did not our heart burn within us?’ (Luke 24:32).  Oh, therefore, what need we have of the Spirit!

Thirdly, you who have the blessed Spirit manifested by his energy and vital operations:

1. Acknowledge God’s distinguishing love.  The Spirit is an earmark of election (I John 3:24). Christ gave the bag to Judas but not his Spirit.  The Spirit is a love token.  Where God gives his Spirit as a pawn, he gives himself as a portion.  The Spirit is a comprehensive blessing; he is put for all good things (Matt. 7:11). What would you be without the Spirit but like so many carcasses?  Without this, Christ would not profit you.  The blood of God is not enough without the breath of God.  Oh then, be thankful for the Spirit.  This lodestone will never stop drawing you till it has drawn you up to heaven.

2.  If you have this Spirit, do not grieve him (Eph. 4:30). Shall we grieve our Comforter?

Question: How do we grieve the Spirit?

Answer 1: When we unkindly repel his motions.  The Spirit sometimes whispers in our ears and calls to us as God did to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel’ (Gen. 35:1). So the Spirit says, ‘Arise, go to prayer, retire to meet your God.’  Now when we stifle these motions and entertain temptations to vanity, this is grieving the Spirit.  If we check the motions of the Spirit, we shall lose the comforts of the Spirit.

Answer 2: We grieve the Spirit when we deny the work of the Spirit in our hearts.  If someone gives another person a token and he should deny it and say he never received it, this would be to abuse the love of his friend.  So, Christian, when God has given you his Spirit, witnessed by those meltings of heart and passionate desires for heaven, yet you deny that you ever had any renewing work of the Spirit in you; this is base ingratitude and grieves the good Spirit.  Renounce the sinful works of the flesh, but do not deny the gracious work of the Spirit.

From The Godly Man’s Picture

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1.  God’s attributes work for good to the godly.

(1) God’s power works for good. It is a glorious power (Colossians 1:11) and it is engaged for the good of the elect.

God’s power works for good in supporting us in trouble“Underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27). What upheld Daniel in the lion’s den?  Jonah in the whale’s belly?  The three Hebrews in the furnace?  Only the power of God!  Is it not strange to see a bruised reed grow and flourish?  How is a weak Christian able, not only to endure affliction, but to rejoice in it?  He is upheld by the arms of the Almighty.  “My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

The power of God works for us by supplying our wants. God creates comforts when means fail.  He that brought food to the prophet Elijah by ravens will bring sustenance to His people.  God can preserve the “oil in the cruse” (1 Kings 17:14).  The Lord made the sun on Ahaz’s dial go ten degrees backward: so when our outward comforts are declining, and the sun is almost setting, God often causes a revival and brings the sun many degrees backward.

The power of God subdues our corruptions. “He will subdue our iniquities” (Micah 7:19). Is your sin strong?  God is powerful; He will break the head of this leviathan.  Is your heart hard?  God will dissolve that stone in Christ’s blood.  “The Almighty maketh my heart soft” (Job 23:16). When we say as Jehoshaphat, “We have no might against this great army,” the Lord goes up with us and helps us to fight our battles.  He strikes off the heads of those goliath­ lusts which are too strong for us.

The power of God conquers our enemies. He stains the pride and breaks the confidence of adversaries.  “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron” (Psalm 2:9).  There is rage in the enemy, malice in the devil, but power in God.  How easily can He rout all the forces of the wicked!  “It is nothing for thee, Lord, to help” (2 Chronicles 14:11). God’s power is on the side of His church.  “Happy art thou, O Israel, O people saved by the Lord, who is the shield of thy help, and the sword of thy excellency” (Deut. 33:29).

(2) The wisdom of God works for good.  God’s wisdom is our oracle to instruct us.  As He is the mighty God, so also is He the Counselor (Isaiah 9:6). We are oftentimes in the dark, and in matters intricate and doubtful know not which way to take; here God comes in with light.  “I will guide thee with mine eye” (Psalm 32:8). “Eye,” there, is put for God’s wisdom.  Why is it the saints can see further than the most quick-sighted politicians?  They foresee the evil and hide themselves; they see Satan’s sophisms.  God’s wisdom is the pillar of fire to go before and guide them.

(3) The goodness of God works for good to the godly. God’s goodness is a means to make us good.  “The goodness of God leadeth to repentance” (Romans 2:4).  The goodness of God is a spiritual sunbeam to melt the heart into tears.  Oh, says the soul, has God been so good to me?  Has He reprieved me so long from hell and shall I grieve His Spirit any more?  Shall I sin against goodness?  The goodness of God works for good, as it ushers in all blessings.  The favors we receive are the silver streams which flow from the fountain of God’s goodness.  This divine attribute of goodness brings in two sorts of blessings.  Common blessings: all partake of these, the bad as well as the good.  This sweet dew falls upon the thistle as well as the rose.  Crowning blessings: these only the godly partake of.  “Who crowneth us with loving-kindness” (Psalm 103:4). Thus the blessed attributes of God work for good to the saints.

2.  The promises of God work for good to the godly.

The promises are notes of God’s hand; is it not good to have security?  The promises are the milk of the gospel; and is not the milk for the good of the infant?  They are called “precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4).  They are as cordials to a soul that is ready to faint.  The promises are full of virtue.

Are we under the guilt of sin? There is a promise, “The Lord merciful and gracious” (Exodus 24:6), where God as it were puts on His glorious embroidery and holds out the golden scepter to encourage poor trembling sinners to come to Him.  “The Lord, merciful.” God is more willing to pardon than to punish.  Mercy does more multiply in Him than sin in us.  Mercy is His nature.  The bee naturally gives honey; it stings only when it is provoked.  “But,” says the guilty sinner, “I cannot deserve mercy.”  Yet He is gracious; He shows mercy, not because we deserve mercy, but because He delights in mercy.  But what is that to me?  Perhaps my name is not in the pardon.  “He keeps mercy for thousands;” the treasurer of mercy is not exhausted.  God has treasures lying by, and why should not you come in for a child’s part?

Are we under the defilement of sin? There is a promise working for good.  “I will heal their backslidings” (Hosea 14:4). God will not only bestow mercy, but grace.  And He has made a promise of sending His Spirit (Isaiah 44:3), which for its sanctifying nature, is in Scripture compared sometimes to water, which cleanses the vessel; sometimes to the fan, which winnows corn, and purifies the air; sometimes to fire, which refines metals.  Thus will the Spirit of God cleanse and consecrate the soul, making it partake of the divine nature.

Are we in great trouble? There is a promise that works for our good, “I will be with him in trouble” (Psalm 91:15). God does not bring His people into troubles and leave them there.  He will stand by them; He will hold their heads and hearts when they are fainting.  And there is another promise, “He is their strength in the time of trouble” (Psalm 37:39).  “Oh,” says the soul, “I shall faint in the day of trial.”  But God will be the strength of our hearts; He will join His forces with us.  Either He will make His hand lighter, or our faith stronger.

Do we fear outward wants? There is a promise.  “They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing” (Psalm 34:10). If it is good for us, we shall have it; if it is not good for us, then the withholding of it is good.  “I will bless thy bread and thy water” (Exodus 23:25). This blessing falls as the honey-dew upon the leaf; it sweetens that little we possess.  Let me be without the venison, so I may have the blessing.  But I fear I shall not get a livelihood?  Peruse that Scripture, “I have been young, and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread” (Psalm 37:25).  How must we understand this?  David speaks it as his own observation; he never beheld such an eclipse, he never saw a godly man brought so low that he had not a bit of bread to put in his mouth.  David never saw the righteous and their seed lacking.  Though the Lord might try godly parents a while by want, yet not their seed too; the seed of the godly shall be provided for.  David never saw the righteous begging bread, and forsaken.  Though he might be reduced to great straits, yet not forsaken; still he is an heir of heaven, and God loves him.

Question: How do the promises work for good?

Answer: They are food for faith; and that which strengthens faith works for good.  The promises are the milk of faith; faith sucks nourishment from them, as the child from the breast.  “Jacob feared exceedingly” (Genesis 32:7). His spirits were ready to faint; now he goes to the promise, “Lord, thou hast said that thou wilt do me good” (Genesis 32:12).  This promise was his food.  He got so much strength from this promise that he was able to wrestle with the Lord all night in prayer and would not let Him go till He had blessed him.

The promises also are springs of joy. There is more in the promises to comfort than in the world to perplex.  [Many have been] comforted by that promise: “No man shall pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:29). The promises are cordials in a fainting-fit.  “Unless thy word had been my delights, I had perished in my affliction” (Psalm 119:92).  The promises are as cork to the net, to bear up the heart from sinking in the deep waters of distress.

3.  The mercies of God work for good to the godly.

The mercies of God humble us. “Then went King David, and sat before the Lord, and said, Who am I, Oh Lord God, and what is my father’s house, that thou hast brought me hitherto” (2 Sam. 7:18).  Lord, why is such honor conferred upon me, that I should be king?  That I who followed the sheep, should go in and out before Thy people?”   So says a gracious heart, “Lord, what am I, that it should be better with me than others?  That I should drink of the fruit of the vine, when others drink, not only a cup of wormwood, but a cup of blood (or suffering to death).  What am I, that I should have those mercies which others want, who are better than I?  Lord, why is it, that notwithstanding all my unworthiness, a fresh tide of mercy comes in every day?”

The mercies of God make a sinner proud, but a saint humble. The mercies of God have a melting influence upon the soul; they dissolve it in love to God.  God’s judgments make us fear Him; His mercies make us love Him.  How was Saul wrought upon by kindness!  David had him at the advantage, and might have cut off, not only the skirt of his robe, but his head; yet he spares his life.  This kindness melted Saul’s heart. “Is this thy voice, my son David? and Saul lifted up his voice, and wept” (I Sam. 24:16).  Such a melting influence has God’s mercy; it makes the eyes drop with tears of love.

The mercies of God make the heart fruitful. When you lay out more cost upon a field, it bears a better crop.  A gracious soul honors the Lord with his substance.  He does not do with his mercies, as Israel with their jewels and ear-rings, make a golden calf, but, as Solomon did with the money thrown into the treasury, build a temple for the Lord.  The golden showers of mercy cause fertility.

The mercies of God make the heart thankful. “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?  I will take the cup of salvation” (Psalm 116:12-13).  David alludes to the people of Israel, who at their peace-offerings used to take a cup in their hands, and give thanks to God for deliverances.  Every mercy is an alm of free grace; and this enlarges the soul m gratitude.  A good Christian is not a grave to bury God’s mercies, but a temple to sing His praises.  If every bird in its kind, as Ambrose says, chirps forth thankfulness to its Maker, much more will an ingenuous Christian, whose life is enriched and perfumed with mercy.

The mercies of God quicken. As they are lodestones to love, so they are whetstones to obedience.  “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 116:9).  He that takes a review of his blessings looks upon himself as a person engaged for God.  He argues from the sweetness of mercy to the swiftness of duty.  He spends and is spent for Christ; he dedicates himself to God.  Among the Romans, when one had been redeemed by another, he was afterwards to serve him.  A soul encompassed with mercy is zealously active in God’s service.

The mercies of God work compassion to others. A Christian is a temporal savior.  He feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, and visits the widow and orphan in their distress; among them he sows the golden seeds of his charity.  “A good man sheweth favor, and lendeth” (Psalm 112:5).  Charity drops from him freely, as myrrh from the tree.  Thus to the godly, the mercies of God work for good; they are wings to lift them up to heaven.

Spiritual mercies also work for good. The Word preached works for good.  It is a savor of life, it is a soul-transforming Word, it assimilates the heart into Christ”s likeness; it produces assurance.  “Our gospel came to you not in word only, but in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and m much assurance” (I Thessalonians 1:5).  It is the chariot of salvation.

Prayer works for good. Prayer is the bellows of the affections; it blows up holy desires and ardors of soul.  Prayer has power with God.  “Command ye me” (Isaiah 45:11).  It is a key that unlocks the treasury of God’s mercy.  Prayer keeps the heart open to God, and shut to sin; it assuages the intemperate heart and the swellings of lust.  It was Luther’s counsel to a friend, when he perceived a temptation begin to arise, to betake himself to prayer.  Prayer is the Christian’s gun, which he discharges against his enemies.  Prayer is the sovereign medicine of the soul.  Prayer sanctifies every mercy (I Timothy 4:5).  It is the dispeller of sorrow: by venting the grief it eases the heart.  When Hannah had prayed, “she went away, and was no more sad” (I Samuel 1:18).  And if it has these rare effects, then it works for good.

4. The graces of the Spirit work for good.

Grace is to the soul, as light to the eye, as health to the body.  Grace does to the soul, as a virtuous wife to her husband, “She will do him good all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:12).  How incomparably useful are the graces!  Faith and fear go hand in hand.  Faith keeps the heart cheerful, fear keeps the heart serious.  Faith keeps the heart from sinking in despair; fear keeps it from floating in presumption.  All the graces display themselves in their beauty: hope is “the helmet” (I Thess. 5:8), meekness “the ornament” (I Pet. 3:4), love “the bound of perfectness” (Colossians 3:14).  The saints’ graces are weapons to defend them, wings to elevate them, jewels to enrich them, spices to perfume them, stars to adorn them, cordials to refresh them.  And does not all this work for good?  The graces are our evidences for heaven.  Is it not good to have our evidences at the hour of death?

5. The Angels work for the good of the Saints.

The good angels are ready to do all offices of love to the people of God.  “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).  Some of the Fathers were of the opinion that every believer has his guardian angel.  This subject needs no hot debate.  It may suffice us to know that the whole hierarchy of angels is employed for the good of the saints.

The good angels do service to the saints in life.  An angel comforted the virgin Mary (Luke 1:28).  The angels stopped the mouths of the lions, that they could not hurt Daniel (Daniel 6:22).  A Christian has an invisible guard of angels about him.  “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways” (Psalm 91:11).   The angels are of the saints’ life-guard, yea, the chief of the angels: “Are they not all ministering spirits?” The highest angels take care of the lowest saints.

The good angels do service at death. The angels are about the saints’ sick-beds to comfort them.  As God comforts by His Spirit, so by His angels.  Christ in His agony was refreshed by an angel (Luke 22:43).  So are believers in the agony of death: and when the saints” breath expires, their souls are carried up to heaven by a convoy of angels (Luke 16:22).

The good angels also do service at the day of judgment. The angels shall open the saints’ graves, and shall conduct them into the presence of Christ, when they shall be made like His glorious body.  “He shall send his angels, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:31).

6.  The Communion of Saints works for good.

“We are helpers of your joy” (2 Corinthians. 1:24).  One Christian conversing with another is a means to confirm him.  As the stones in an arch help to strengthen one another, one Christian by imparting his experience, heats and quickens another.  “Let us provoke one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24).  How does grace flourish by such a holy conference!  A Christian by good discourse drops that oil upon another, which makes the lamp of his faith burn the brighter.

7.  Christ’s Intercession works for good.

Christ is in heaven, as Aaron with his golden plate upon his forehead, and his precious incense; and He prays for all believers as well as He did for the apostles.  “Neither pray I for these alone, but for all them that shall believe on me” (John 17:20).  When a Christian is weak, and can hardly pray for himself, Jesus Christ is praying for him; and He prays for three things.

First, that the saints may be kept from sin (John 17:15).  “I pray that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”  We live in the world as in a pest-house; Christ prays that His saints may not be infected with the contagious evil of the times.

Second, for His people’s progress in holiness. “Sanctify them” (John 17:17).  Let them have constant supplies of the Spirit, and be anointed with fresh oil.

Third, for their glorification: “Father, I will that those which thou hast given me, be with me where I am” (John 17:24).  Christ is not content till the saints are in His arms.  This prayer, which He made on earth, is the copy and pattern of His prayer in heaven.  What a comfort is this; when Satan is tempting, Christ is praying!  This works for good.

Christ’s prayer takes away the sins of our prayers.  As a child, says Ambrose, that is willing to present his father with a posy, goes into the garden, and there gathers some flowers and some weeds together, but coming to his mother, she picks out the weeds and binds the flowers, and so it is presented to the father.  Thus when we have put up our prayers, Christ comes, and picks away the weeds, the sin of our prayer, and presents nothing but flowers to His Father, which are a sweet-smelling savor.

8.  The Prayers of Saints work for good to the godly.

The saints pray for all the members of the body mystical, and their prayers prevail much.

They prevail for recovery from sickness. “The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up” (James 5:15).

They prevail for victory over enemies. “Lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left” (Isaiah 37:4).  “Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote, in the camp of the Assyrians, an hundred and fourscore and five thousand” (Isaiah 37:36).

They prevail for deliverance out of prison. “Prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And behold the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison, and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, and his chains fell off” (Acts 12:5-7).  The angel fetched Peter out of prison, but it was prayer fetched the angel.

They prevail for forgiveness of sin. “My servant Job shall pray for you, for him will I accept” (Job 42:8).  Thus the prayers of the saints work for good to the body mystical.  And this is no small privilege to a child of God that he has a constant trade of prayer driven for him.  When he comes into any place, he may say, “I have some prayer here, nay, all the world over I have a stock of prayer going for me. When I am indisposed, and out of tune, others are praying for me, who are quick and lively.”  Thus the best things work for good to the people of God.

From A Divine Cordial, first published in 1663.  It has been reprinted by Banner of Truth Press as All Things for Good (1991, 1994).

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