33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.35 Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your ways.38 Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.39 Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.40 Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!
Sermon 40 (Psalm 119:36)
- IN the former verses David had asked understanding and direction to know the Lord’s will; now he asketh an inclination of heart to do the Lord’s will, The understanding needs not only to be enlightened, but the will to be moved and changed.
- We can be worldly of ourselves, but we cannot be holy and heavenly of ourselves; that must be asked of him who is the father of lights, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift.
- They that plead for the power of nature shut out the use of prayer; for if by nature we could determine ourselves to that which is good, there would be no need of grace; and if there be no need of grace, there is no use of prayer.
- Let me explain them more fully. Incline my heart;’ the word implies— 1. Our natural obstinacy and disobedience to God’s law; for if the heart of man were naturally prone, and of its own accord ready to obedience, it were in vain said to God, Incline my heart.’ Ay! but till God bend us the other way we lie averse and awkward from his commandments. As God is said here to incline us, so, John 6:44, he is said to draw us. There is a corrupt will which hangs back, and desires anything rather than that which is right. We need to be drawn and bent again like a crooked stick the other way. 2. It implies God’s gracious and powerful act upon the soul, where by the heart is fixed and set to that which is good, when there is a proneness another way; this is the fruit of effectual grace.
- When is the heart said to be inclined? I answer—When the habitual bent of our affections is more to holiness than to worldly things; for the power of sin stands in the love of it, and so doth our aptness for grace in the love of it, or in the bent of the will, the strength of desire and affections by which we are carried out after it.
- Then are we inclined, when our affections have a proneness and propension to that which is good. Now these affections must be more to holiness than to worldly things; for by the prevalency is grace determined, if the preponderating part of the soul be for God. It is not an equal poise; we are always standing between two parties. There is God and the world; a sensitive good drawing one way, and there is a spiritual good draws us another way. Now grace prevails when the scales are cast on grace’s side. I say it is the habitual bent, not for a pang; the heart must be set to seek the Lord: 1 Chron. 22:19, Now set your heart and your soul to seek the Lord your God;’ and the course of our endeavours, the strength and stream of our souls runs out this way; then is the heart said to be inclined to God’s testimonies.
- How is it brought to pass? or how doth God thus reduce and frame our hearts to the obedience of his will? There are two ways which God useth—by the word and by his Spirit, by persuasion and by power; they shall be taught of God,’ and they are drawn of God:’ John 6:44
- First he gives weighty reasons, he casts in weight after weight till the scales be turned; then he makes all effectual by his Spirit. Morally he works, because God will preserve man’s nature and the principles thereof; therefore he doth not work by violence, but by a sweet inclination, alluring and speaking comfortably unto us: Hosea 11:4, I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love.’
- Two points offer themselves from these words:— 1. That it is God alone that sets our hearts right, or inclines them from their carnal bent to his own testimonies. 2. That covetousness, or the flagrant desire of worldly things, is a great let or hindrance from complying with God’s testimonies.
- Doct. 1. That it is God alone that sets our hearts right, or inclines them from their carnal bent to his own testimonies.
- First, The heart of man must have an object unto which it is inclined or whereunto it doth cleave; for it is like a sponge, that being thirsty in itself, sucks in moisture from other things; it is a chaos of desires, seeking to be filled with something from without.
- We were made for another, to be happy in the enjoyment of a being without us; therefore man must have something to love; for the affections of the soul cannot lie idle and without an object:
- We all hunt about for a match for our affections, for some good to satisfy us.
- Secondly, The heart being destitute of grace, is wholly carried out to temporal things. Why? Because they are next at hand, and suit best with our fleshly natures.
- There are two reasons of the addictedness that is in man’s heart to temporal things—(1.) Natural inclination; and (2.) Inveterate custom.
- The love of ourselves and outward things necessarily grows inordinate, not being guided and directed by grace.
- The great work of grace is to make God our last end and our chiefest good.
- Look, as Adam and Eve, after they had eaten the forbidden fruit, forfeited the image of God, and were polluted, so we. Why? Did God infuse pollution and filthiness in them? or had the fruit any such poisonous quality? No; their last end was changed, which is the great principle that runs through all our actions; and when our end is changed, then all runs to disorder.
- 2. As man is thus corrupted and prone to worldly objects by natural inclination, so by inveterate custom. As soon as we are born we follow our sensual appetite, and the first years of man’s life are merely governed by sense; and the pleasures thereof are born and bred up with us, and deeply engraven in our natures; and by constant living in the world, conversing with corporeal objects, the taint increaseth upon us, and so we are more deeply dyed and settled in a worldly frame, and we live in the pursuit of honour, gain, and pleasure, according as the particular temper of our bodies and course of our interest do determine us:
- That which the heart is inclined to hath the throne.
- Now, when we inquire after grace, Have I grace or no? have I the work of God upon my heart? the question is not what there is of God in the heart, but whether that of God hath the throne.
- his frame of heart cannot be altered until we be changed by God’s grace. Why? For there is no principle remaining in us that can alter this frame, or make us so far unsatisfied with our present state as to look after other things, that can break the force of our natural and customary inclinations. There are three things which lie against the change of the heart towards God.
- 1. There is nature, which wholly carrieth us to please the flesh, and inordinately to seek the good of the body.
- 2. There is custom added to nature, which makes it more stiff and obstinate; so that if it may be supposed that conscience is sensible of our mistake and ill choice, and some weighty considerations should be propounded to us, as it is easy to show that eternal things are far better than temporal, and spiritual things than carnal;—if conscience, I say, should come in, and represent the ill state wherein we are, yet because the poise of our hearts doth customarily carry us another way, we are not inclined to God, or to the concernments of eternal life; for it is not argument merely will do it.
- 3. There is God’s curse, or penal hardness. For as nature groweth into custom, so by our sinful customs God is provoked, and doth with draw those common influences of grace by which our condition might be bettered, and in justice he gives up our hearts to their own sway;
- It is God’s work alone to bend the crooked stick the other way.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible