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against others. And thus a general reformation being made, and abominations set packing, we, with the people of Israel (depending upon the king's abolishing idolatry and setting up God's true worship and service), will also say, Blessede be the Lord God of our fathers, that hath so put into the heart of our king that he beautifieth the house of the Lord." I should now pass into the second part, viz. the success God gave to him, that he and all the people, all his life-time, were blessed. But I dare not presume upon your princely patience. Let us therefore crave a blessing upon that which hath been said, that by an holy life we may find the peace of God in Christ, possessing our souls with newness of life, for the full assurance of immortality in the life to come, and that for Christ Jesus' sake, Amen.
e Ezra, chap. 7. ver. 27.
PSALM CIII. VER. 1, 2, 3.
My soul praise thou the Lord, and all that is within me praise his holy Name.
THIS Psalm, by the inscription thereof, sheweth itself to be a Psalm of David, of which the very naming of the author must bring us in love with the sweet ditty thereof; he being a man so exercised in Christian warfare, and acquainted with all sorts of spiritual combats, even holy David, of whom it is said, "even the man who was set up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet singer of Israel saith these things," he who had experience of many sorrows, who himself hath walked in the valley of tears, having obtained a joyful victory, he it is who now calleth for thy attention, even he, who appeased by his sweet ditties the fury of possessed Saul.
Now for the Psalm itself. It is a Psalm of thanksgiving, containing in the general a recital of God's infinite mercies, both towards himself, in his own experience, and next of his goodness to the rest of the people, for performance whereof (finding the waywardness of his own soul) first, he stirreth up his own soul, and, secondly, he provoketh all creatures to go along with him in the praises of God. "Praise him (saith he) ye his angels, that excel in strength. Praise ye the Lord all ye his hosts, ye his servants who do his pleasure. Praise ye the Lord, all ye his works, in all places of his dominions." It was a small matter for himself, and in his own eyes, only to stir up himself unto thankfulness. But also when he himself is stirred up and awakened,
a 2 Sam. 23.
then he striveth to do the same unto others also. Whence our instruction ariseth, worthy of our observation, that whosoever would provoke others to the love and practice of any goodness, must first begin with themselves to practise those duties.
For indeed our exhortations lose their grace, and relish not, when we exhort others unto that which we do not ourselves. Neither indeed can we speak of any thing by discourse with half that feeling and passion, as when we speak by experience, neither can it indeed take that impression in the parties exhorted. Chiefly and above all, ministers must be sure to be an example in the practice of their lives, of that doctrine they preach unto the people. Neither must they (like unto a number in our days) lay heavy burthens upon the people, when they (as our Saviour speaketh of the Scribes and Pharisees) not so much as touch them with their little finger. The Apostle Paul presseth this point hard. “Thou (saith he) which persuadest thyself that thou art a guide to the blind, a light of them which are in darkness, an instructor of them which lack discretion, a teacher of the unlearned." A minister must also, you see, be a pattern of good doctrine, to go before the people in holiness of life. Therefore it followeth, "Thou therefore, who teachest another, teachest thou not thyself? Thou that preachest a man should not steal, dost thou steal? Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery ?" This he speaketh to convince the Jews to be greater sinners than the Gentiles, in that they, notwithstanding their knowledge, did yet walk in the like, or greater sins. Thus we see the point of doctrine is plain, that it is the grace of all graces, to begin first with our own souls. You see first David would have God to be praised, but he beginneth not first at that, to exhort others, and to awaken them; but finding his own soul dead, and senseless, full of clogs weighing him down, and that the sacrifice he intended must have fire from heaven to kindle the same, he therefore calleth upon his soul again and again, yea
b Rom. chap. 2. ver. 19, 20.
thrice together, unto this duty. "Praise the Lord, O my soul, praise the Lord," but also he summoneth his slumbering and dead spirit to awaken, and be diligent in this duty. "And all that is within me, praise his holy name." Now from hence (for our observation) we may learn if holy David, a man after God's own heart, was thus subject to deadness, and dulness of spirit, that before he is able to shake off this laziness, he is fain to call again and again to his soul, and to summon all his inward faculties also for help, it must teach us poor and wretched creatures, not to go (as they say) hand over head, to the performance of good duties, but to strive by all means to try our estates, and with David here finding ourselves lumpish, dull and heavy, to strive, to stir and awaken up our own souls, and not only so, but also to chide, stir up, and shame the other senses for help to this holy exercise. Here you see in the example of David there is a check again and again given unto the soul being sluggish, here is a spur to prick and stir up the soul, here is a treble alarm to awaken up the dead powers thereof, here is a charge given, a summons drawn out, wherein the soul and other faculties are secretly chidden for their security, and sluggish disposition. What my soul, oh! thou that art of an immortal substance, whose excellency should stir up and draw on all the rest, art thou now become dead? hast thou now so little care of thy infuser's glory? Without thee and thy help I can do nothing. Awake, awake my soul, and all that is within me, to celebrate the praises of my God.
This is questionless a wonderful help for us, in these extremities of dulness and sluggish security, thus to stir up and shame either ourselves, or others with chiding of ourselves in the vilest manner, to shake off security and procure passion. Our Saviour, we know, being to offer up his last sacrifice, before his passion, his disciples, whom he had taken with him, could not watch (as he had commanded them), whilst he was praying, and therefore at his return finding them drowsy, and asleep, he rebuketh Peter, "what,
Matthew, chap. 26. ver. 40.
could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is ready, but the flesh is weak." Therefore I say let us be sure to watch, chiefly when the flesh is weak, then watch and beware, for then this sluggishness, it is an argument unto thee (for the time) that thou hast a dead soul, when thou art not able to discern any living power thereof. Therefore let us be sure to avoid this sluggishness; for this cause the Prophet David, both in my text, and the rest of the Psalms, still stirreth up himself, with what my soul! O, my soul! rejoice my soul; why art thou so sad my soul? &c., and the Apostle Pauld putteth him in remembrance to stir up the grace and gift of God in him: that these clogs may be shaken off by degrees, which so eclipse us of heavenly things. There is a great deal of flesh in every one of us, which, if it be possible, it will bear down the spirit, and spiritual things, filling us full of discomforts and continual sorrows, and therefore no small necessity urgeth our continual watchfulness, for the flesh and the devil they are in continual readiness to set on and slay the first motions of grace, to quench (if it be possible) the least spark of that sacred fire which appeareth.
d 2 Tim. chap. 1. ver. 6.
Therefore let us endeavour by all means to stir up our dead souls, not suffering this sluggishness to prevail with us. If one thing prevail not, let us try another, and another again until we prevail. "My soul, oh! my soul, praise the Lord, and all that is within me praise his holy name." The wise man counselleth us: "Take heed to thy foot when thou enterest into the house of God, and be more near to hear than to offer the sacrifice of fools." What doth he mean here, I pray you, but that we must be sure to bring fire with us unto God's sacrifice? All who come unto God in truth must bring with them fire, life, and zeal for acceptation of their sacrifice, otherwise it hath no force to mount; if we come otherwise, it is but to give the sacrifice of fools. Would a man, think you, be content with such a servant, who were not at all times in a readiness to
Ecclesiastes, chap. 5. ver. 1.