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praising him for every evil that it is free fromfor every good thing it enjoyeth. For, as it keeps a just inventory of all God's favours, so it often spreads them thankfully before him, and lays them forth (so near as it may) in the full dimensions, that so God may be no loser by him in any act of his beneficence. Here, therefore, every one of God's benefits must come into account, whether eternal or temporal, spiritual or bodily, outward or inward, public or private, positive or privative, past or present, upon ourselves or others. In all which he shall humbly acknowledge both God's free mercy and his own shameful unworthiness ; setting off the favours of his good God the more, with the foil of his own confessed wretchedness and unanswerableness to the least of his mercies.
Now, as there is infinite variety of blessings from the liberal hand of the Almighty, so there is great difference in their degrees. For whereas there are three subjects of all the good we are capable of, the estate, body, soul, and each of these do far surpass the other in value; the soul being infinitely more worth than the body, and the body far more precious than the outward estate ; so the blessings that appertain to them, in several, differ in their true estimation accordingly. If either we do not highly magnify God's mercy for the least, or shall set as high a price upon the blessings that concern our estate as those that pertain to the body, or upon bodily favours as upon those that belong to the soul, we shall show ourselves very unworthy, and unequal partakers of the Divine bounty. But it will savour too much of earth, if we be more affected with temporal blessings than with spiritual and eternal. By how much nearer relation, then, any favour hath to the Fountain of goodness, and by how much more it conduceth to the glory of God, and ours in him, so much higher place should it possess in our affection and gratitude. No marvel, therefore, if the devout heart be raised above itself, and transported with heavenly raptures, when, with Stephen's eyes, it beholds the Lord Jesus standing at the right hand of God, fixing itself upon the consideration of the infinite merits of his life, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession, and finding itself swallowed up in the depth of that Divine love, from whence all mercies flow into the soul; so as that it runs over with passionate thankfulness, and is therefore deeply affected with all other his mercies, because they are derived from that boundless ocean of Divine goodness. Unspeakable is the advantage that the soul raises to itself by this continual exercise of thanksgiving; for the grateful acknowledgment of favours is the way to more; even amongst men, whose hands are short and strait, this is the means to pull on further beneficence; how much more from the God of all consolation, whose largest bounty diminisheth nothing of his store ! And herein the devout soul enters into its heavenly task, beginning upon earth those hallelujahs which it shall perfect above in the blessed choir of saints and angels, ever praising God, and saying, “ Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might be unto our God for ever and ever. Amen.”
XXII. None of all the services of God can be acceptably, no, nor unsinfully performed, without due devotion; as, therefore, in our prayers and thanksgivings, so in the other exercises of Divine
worship, (especially in the reading and hearing of God's word, and in our receiving of the blessed sacrament,) it is so necessary, that without it we offer to God a mere carcase of religious duty, and profane that sacred name we would pretend to honour. First, then, we must come to God's book, not without a holy reverence, as duly considering both what and whose it is—even no other than the word of the ever-living God, by which we shall once be judged. Great reason have we, therefore, to make a difference betwixt it and the writings of the holiest men, even no less than betwixt the authors of both. God is true, yea, truth itself; and that which David said in his haste, St. Paul says in full deliberation, “ Every man is a liar," Psa. cxvi. 11; Rom. iii. 4. Before we put our hand to this sacred volume, it will be requisite to elevate our hearts to that God whose it is, for both his leave and his blessing. “Open mine eyes," saith the sweet singer of Israel, “ that I may behold the wondrous things of thy law,” Psa. cxix. 8. Lo, David's eyes were open before to other objects; but when he comes to God's book, he can see nothing without a new act of apertion : * letters he might see, but wonders he could not see, till God did unclose his eyes, and enlighten them. It is not, therefore, for us presumptuously to break in upon God, and to think by our natural abilities to wrest open the precious caskets of the Almighty, and to fetch out all his hidden treasure thence at pleasure ; but we must come tremblingly before him, and in all humility crave his gracious ad. mission. I confess I find some kind of envy in
* Opening of the eyes.
myself, when I read of those scrupulous obseryances of high respects given by the Jews to the book of God's law; and when I read of a Romish saint, (Carolus Borromæus,) who never read the Scripture but upon his knees, and compare it with the careless neglect whereof I can accuse myself, and perhaps some others. Not that we should rest in the formality of outward ceremonies of reverence, wherein it were more easy to be supersti. tious than devout; but that our outward deportment may testify and answer the awful disposition of our hearts : whereto we shall not need to be excited, if we be thoroughly persuaded of the Divine original and authority of that sacred word. It was motive enough to the Ephesians zealously to plead for, and religiously to adore the image of their Diana, that it was the image that fell down from Jupiter, Acts xix. 35. If we believe, and know, that the Scripture is inspired by God, then we can entertain it with no other than an awful address; and we cannot be Christians, if we do not so believe.
Every clause, therefore, of that God-inspired volume, must be as reverently received by us, so seriously weighed, and carefully laid up; as knowing, that there is no tittle there without its use. What we read, we must labour to understand ; what we cannot understand, we must admire silently, and modestly inquire of. There are plain truths, and there are deep mysteries. The bounty of God hath left this well of living water open for all : what runs over is for all comers; but every one hath not wherewith to draw. There is no Christian that may not enjoy God's book, but every Christian may not interpret it; those shallow
fords that are in it, may be waded by every passenger, but there are deeps, wherein he that cannot swim may drown. “ How can I without a guide!” said that Ethiopian eunuch: wherefore serves the tongue of the learned, but to direct the ignorant? Their modesty is of no less use than the other's skill. It is a woeful condition of a church when no man will own himself to be ignorant.
What service can our eyes do us in the ways of God, without our thoughts ? Our diligent and frequent reading, therefore, must be attended with our holy meditation; we feed on what we read, but we digest only what we meditate on. What is in our Bible is God's; but that which is in our hearts is our own. By all which our care must be, not so much to become wiser, as to become better, labouring still to reduce all things to godly practice.
Finally, as we enter into this task with the lifting up of our hearts for a blessing, so we shut it up in the ejaculations of our thanksgiving to that God, who hath blessed us with the free use of his word.
XXIII. Our eye is our best guide to God our Creator, but our ear it is that leads us to God our Redeemer. “How shall they believe except they hear?” Which that we may effectually do, our devotion suggests unto us some duties before the act, some in the act, some after the act.
It is the apostle's charge, that we should be swift to hear, but hced must be taken that we make not more haste than good speed: we may not be so forward as not to “ look to our foot”. when we go to the house of God, lest if we be