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state infinitely better, because they have God for their portion. They need desire nothing else ; he that hath God, hath all. Thus the psalmist professes the sense and apprehension which he had of things : Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon
earth that I desire besides thee. In the verse immediately preceding, the psalmist takes notice how the saints are happy in God, both when they are in this world, and also when they are taken to another. They are blessed in God in this world, in that he guides them by his counsel; and when he takes them out of it, they are still happy, in that then he receives them to glory. This probably led him in the text to declare that he desired no other portion, either in this world or in that to come, either in heaven or upon earth.Whence we learn, That it is the spirit of a truly godly man, to prefer God before all other things, either in heaven or on earth.
1. A godly man prefers God before any thing else in hea
1. He prefers God before any thing else that actually is in heaven. Every godly man hath his heart in heaven; his affections are mainly set on what is to be had there. Heaven is his chosen country and inheritance. He hath respect to heaven, as a traveller, who is in a distant land, hath to his own country. The traveller can content himself to be in a strange land for a while, but his own native land is preferred by him to all others : Heb. xi. 13, &c. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things, declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned : But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly.”—The respect which a godly person hath to heaven may be compared to the respect which a child, when he is abroad, hath to his father's house. He can be contented abroad for a little while; but the place to which he desires to return, and in which to dwell, is his own home. Heaven is the true saint's Father's house: John xiv. 2. “ In my Father's house are many mansions." John xx. 17. “ I ascend to my Father and your Father."
Now the main reason why the godly man bath his heart thus to heaven, is because God is there; that is the palace of the Most High. It is the place where God is gloriously present, where his love is gloriously manifested, where the godly may be with him, see him as he is, and love, serve, praise, and enjoy him perfectly. If God and Christ were not in heaven," he would not be so earnest in seeking it, nor would he take so much pains in a laborious travel through this wilderness, nor would the
consideration that he is going to heaven when he dies, be such a comfort to him under toils and afflictions. The martyrs would not undergo cruel sufferings from their persecutors, with a cheerful prospect of going to heaven, did they not expect to be with Christ, and to enjoy God there. They would not with that cheerfulness forsake all their earthly possessions, and all their earthly friends, as many thousands of them have done, and wander about in poverty and banishment, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, in hopes of exchanging their earthly for a heavenly inheritance, were it not that they hope to be with their glorious Redeemer and heavenly Father. The believer's heart is in heaven, because his treasure is there.
2. A godly man prefers God before any thing else that might be in heaven. Not only is there nothing actually in heaven, which is in his esteem equal with God; but neither is there any thing of which he can conceive as possible to be there, which by him is esteemed and desired equally with God. Some suppose quite different enjoyments to be in heaven, from those which the scriptures teach us. The Mahometans, for instance, suppose, that in heaven are to be enjoyed all manner of sensual delights and pleasures. Many things which Mahomet has feigned, are, to the lusts and carnal appetites of men the most agreeable that he could devise, and with them he flattered his followers. But the true saint could not contrive one more agreeable to his inclination and desires, than such as is revealed in the word of God; a heaven of enjoying the glorious God, and the Lord Jesus Christ. There he shall have all sin taken away, and shall be perfectly conformed to God, and shall spend an eternity in exalted exercises of love to him, and in the enjoyment of his love. If God were not to be enjoyed in heaven, but only vast wealth, immense treasures of silver and gold, great honour of such kind as men obtain in this world, and a fulness of the greatest sensual delights and pleasures; all these things would not make up for the want of God and Christ, and the enjoyment of them there. If it were empty of God, it would indeed be an empty melancholy place. The godly have been made sensible, as to all creature-enjoyments, that they cannot satisfy the soul; and, therefore, nothing will content them but God. Offer a saint what you will, if you deny bim God, he will esteem himself miserable. God is the centre of his desires; and, as long as you keep his soul from its proper centre, it will not be at rest.
II. It is the temper of a godly man to prefer God before all other things on the earth.
1. The saint prefers that enjoyment of God, for which he hopes hereafter, to any thing in this world. He looketh not so much at the things which are seen, and temporal, as at those which are unseen and eternal, 1 Cor. iv. 18. It is but a little of God that the saint enjoys in this world ; he hath but a little acquaintance with God, and enjoys but a little of the manifestations of the divine glory and love. But God hath promised to give him himself hereafter in a full enjoyment. And these promises are more precious to the saint, than the most precious earthly jewels. The gospel contains greater treasures, in his esteem, than the cabinets of princes, or the mines of the Indies.
2. The saints prefer what of God may be obtained in this life before all things in the world. There is a great difference in the present spiritual attainments of the saints. Some attain to much greater acquaintance and communion with God, and conformity to him, than others. But the highest attainments are very small in comparison with what is future. The saints are capable of making progress in spiritual attainments, and they earnestly desire such further attainments. Not contented with those degrees to which they have already attained, they hunger and thirst after righteousness, and, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that they may grow thereby. It is their desire to know more of God, to have more of his image, and to be enabled more to imitate God and Christ in their walk and conversation. Psalm xxvii. 4.
“ One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple." Psalm xlii. 1, 2. “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?" Psalm Ixiii. 1, 2. "O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee : my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. See, also, Psalm lxxxiv. 1, 2, 3, and Psalm cxxx. “My soul waiteth for the Lord, more than they that watch for the morning ; 1 say, more than they that watch for the morning.”
Though every saint has not this longing desire after God to the same degree that the Psalmist had, yet they are all of the same spirit; they earnestly desire to have more of his presence in their hearts. That this is the temper of the godly, in general, and not of some particular saints only, appears from Isaiah xxvi. 8, 9; where, not any particular saint, but the church, in general, speaks thus : “ Yea, in the way of thy judgments, O Lord, have we waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. With my soul have I desired thee in the night, and with my spirit within me will I seek thee early." See, also, Cant. iii. 1, 2. v. 6, 8.
The saints are not always in the lively exercise of grace but such a spirit they have, and sometimes they have the sensible exercise of it. They desire God and divine attainments,
. more than all earthly things; and seek to be rich in grace, more than they do to get earthly riches. They desire the honour which is of God, more than that which is of men, (John v. 44,) and communion with him, more than any earthly pleasures. They are of the same spirit which the apostle expresses, Phil. iji. 8. “Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord; and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ."
3. The saint prefers what he hath already of God before any thing in this world. That which was infused into his heart at his conversion, is more precious to him than any thing which the world can afford. The views which are sometimes given him of the beauty and excellency of God, are more precious to him than all the treasures of the wicked. The relation of a child in which he stands to God, the union which there is between his soul and Jesus Christ, he values more than the greatest earthly dignity. That image of God which is instamped on his soul, he values more than any earthly ornaments. It is, in his esteem, better to be adorned with the graces of God's Holy Spirit, than to be made to shine in jewels of gold, and the most costly pearls, or to be admired for the greatest external beauty. He values the robe of Christ's righteousness, which he hath on his soul, more than the robes of princes. The spiritual pleasures and delights which he sometimes has in God, he prefers far before all the pleasures of sin. Psalm lxxxiv. 10. “A day in thy courts is better than a thousand : 1 had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness."
A saint thus prefers God before all other things in this world. -1. As he prefers God before any thing else that he possesses in the world. Whatever temporal enjoyments he has, he prefers God tu them all. Psalm xvi. 5, 6. “ The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, I bave a goodly heritage.” If he be rich, he chiefly sets his heart on his heavenly riches. He prefers God before any earthly friend, and the divine favour before any respect shown him by his fellow-creatures. Although inadvertently these have room in his heart, and too much room; yet be reserves the throne of God; Luke xiv. 26." If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea,
and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.”
2. He prefers God before any earthly enjoyment of which he hath a prospect. The children of men commonly set their hearts more on some earthly happiness for which they hope, and after which they are seeking, than on what they have in present possession. But a godly man prefers God to any thing which he has in prospect in this world. He may, indeed, through the prevalence of corruption, be for a season carried away with some enjoyment; however, he will again come to himself; this is not the temper of the man; he is of another spirit.
3. It is the spirit of a godly man to prefer God to any earthly enjoyments of which he can conceive. He not only prefers him to any thing which he now possesses ; but he sees nothing possessed by any of his fellow-creatures, so estimable. Could he have as much worldly prosperity as he would; could he have earthly things just to his mind, and agreeable to his inclination; he values the portion which he has in God, incomparably more. He prefers Christ to earthly kingdoms.
1. Hence we may learn, that whatever changes a godly man passes through, he is happy; because God, who is unchangeable, is his chosen portion. Though he meet with temporal losses, and be deprived of many, yea, of all his temporal enjoy. ments ; yet God whom he prefers before all, still remains, and cannot be lost. While he stays in this changeable, troublesome world, he is happy; because his chosen portion, on which he builds as his main foundation for happiness, is above the world, and above all changes. And when he goes into another world, still he is happy, because that portion yet remains. Whatever he be deprived of, he cannot be deprived of his chief portion ; his inheritance remains sure to him.--Could worldly-minded men find out a way to secure to themselves those carthly enjoyments on which they mainly set their hearts, so that they could not be lost nor impaired while they live, how great would they account the privilege, though other things which they esteem in a less degree, were liable to the same uncertainty as they now are!
Whereas now, those earthly enjoyments, on which men chiefly set their hearts, are often most fading. But how great is the happiness of those who have chosen the Fountain of all good, who prefer him before all things in heaven or on earth ; and who can never be deprived of him to all eternity!
2. Let all by these things examine and try themselves, whether they be saints or not. As this which hath been exhibited is the spirit of the saints, so it is peculiar to them : none can use the language of the text, and say, Whom have I in heaven but thee? there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee, but the saints. A man's choice is that which determines his state. He that chooses God for his portion, and prefers him to all other things, is a godly man, for he chooses and worships him as God. To respect him as God, is to respect him above all other things; Vol. VI.