A SERMON On Psal. CXIX. V. 57. Shewing wherein the Good Man's Portion AND Dependence CONSISTS.

By JAMES DAVIES, M. A. Rector of Barton-Mills in Suffolk.

Imprimatur,

Guil. Jane.

LONDON: Printed for Henry Brome, at the Gun in St. Paul's Church-yard, near the West-end. MDCLXXIX.

A SERMON ON Psal. CXIX. 57. Thou art my portion O Lord; I have said that I would keep thy words.’

WE have an Account of David's Re­solution and Choice: His Choice is expressed in the former clause, Thou art my portion, O Lord; his Resolution in the latter, I have said (or I have promised) that I would keep thy words.

From the former we may observe, That it is a special part of Wisdom to have ones choice well and throughly fixed; and particularly to have it fixed upon God, so as to make him our portion.

First it is a matter of great importance, and a special part of wisdom, to have ones Choice well and throughly fixed; that is, to have one certain [Page 2] end propounded, to which all a man's actions may tend, and all his other ends be subordinate. For as the Moralists truly tell us, it is impossible for him to govern his Actions well, who has not in the main, directed his life to one certain end. 'Tis the Observation of a great and wise man; Saith he, Consider mankind, consule your acquain­tants, or your reading, you shall find but a very few persons, who have directed their life to one certain and assured course, which is the truest drift of Wisdom: and therefore it is, that Man­kind is generally so defective.

For the avoiding of which unsettledness and want of design in mens actions, the Advice of Se­neca is very material;Epist. 71. As often as [...] what thou shouldest do, or what thou shouldest avoid; be sure to look for direction to that which thou hast made thy chief End; for to that, what­soever thou doest, ought to agree: But then be sure that thou have first settled that. For 'tis an errour, that we pretend to advise about particu­lar Ends, when we have not resolv'd upon, nor settled the general End, without which no man can arrive at any certainty or Uniformity of Living.

That thus to have settled one's End, and the scope and design of one's Life, is a matter of great importance, may be confirmed from com­mon [Page 3] Observation and Experience. 'Tis so in all the Affairs and Undertakings of Men. He who addicts himself to the War, and resolv's up­on that kind of life, is much more likely to do great things in the Martial way, than he who only happens to be a Souldier, or is driven to it by Necessity. Or, he who intends for Merchandize, if he resolves to make it his business, and bends his Mind and Thoughts that way, is more likely to thrive and grow rich, than he who is not yet resolv'd what Profession to follow.

He who is thus loose and undetermined in his choice, is like to do but little good in any thing he sets about, till he be better resolv'd.

Even so it is in our Christian Profession; He who hopes to attain to the Ends of Religion, must make it his business: he must remember above all things whither he is design'd. There are many things that will interpose and require some of his time and thoughts, but that which is Chief in his heart must be, that he may gain that Pearl of great price, and arrive at that happiness which he has made his choice.

As Merchants in their Voyage touch at divers Ports to cleanse and victual, and perhaps trade for some small matters: But their chief care and drift is, that they may get with safety to the Port whither they are bound: So 'tis with every dili­gent [Page 4] Christian; he converses with the [...] because 'tis necessary for him in his Voyage; he touches upon the Cares and [...] of this Life, because they are in his Way, [...] he cannot well avoid them: But his heart is chiefly [...] [...] that Jerusalem which is above; and his principal Care and Endeavour is that he may get with safe­ty thither.

Now by the Consent of the Wise Men of all Ages, the great and last End of Man is Happiness. And amongst us Christians, there is no Question, but that happiness consists in the Favour and En­joyment of God: such an enjoyment of him in this life as this life is capable of, and a more per­fect and immediate fruition of him in Heaven. This therefore is our main End. This we ought to fix upon as the Principal Object of our Choice, and to look upon it as our great business in this World, That God may be our Portion.

This is the Second Branch of the Proposition, That 'tis the Wisdom of every Man and Woman to make God their Choice and Portion.

What it is to make God our Portion, is plain enough from the common notion of the Word Portion, which signifies a shame in the division of any thing; specially of Estates and Inheritances; such a share as Parents use to give their Children, which being the necessary foundation of their [Page 5] subsistence in the World, they look upon it as their main Dependence. So ought God to be the Portion of every faithful Soul, that is, He ought to be the Comfort, the Treasure, the main Dependence of every faithful person.

But how can the infinite incomprehensible God be said to be the Portion of a Creature?

We must know, that the Expression is not to be understood of God Personally or Essentially. For so, no Creature can comprehend, contain or pos­sess him. But it is spoken according to the fami­liar Style of Scripture, and may be explained by other places of the like nature. As where God calls Abraham his Friend, and tells him, I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward, Gen. 15. 1. And where David calls God his comfort and his joy, his hope, his rock, his fortress, and the like; which Expressions are not to be understood in a strict and literal, but in an Analogical sence.

So that the Particle Thou, must be understood either Exclusively, or Causally.

First, Exclusively, Thou, and none other in com­parison of thee; As if the holy Psalmist had said, I value my Interest in Thee far above all other things.

All other things, as they are infinitely below thee, so I do not think they deserve to be named in Comparison with thee. The same thing is [Page 6] most fully and affectionately exprest, Psal. [...]. where David seems at first to have admired Riches and Prosperity, to have thought them a Valuable Portion, and therefore to have envied the Prospe­rity of the wicked; but when he better consider­ed, and saw the Vanity and Uncertainty of their condition, being destitute of the fear and favour of God; he retracted his opinion, and altered his Choice. Then he preferr'd God before all, vers. 25, 26. Whom have I in Heaven but thee, and there is none upon Earth that I desire in comparison of thee. My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength if my heart, and my portion for ever.

If we thus explain the Psalmist's words, by way of Comparison, the Wisdom of his Choice is so evi­dent, that it needs not to be proved. For what is any creature in comparison of the Creator? What is outward splendor or felicity, in compa­rison of the Favour of God, which is better than life it self? What are the goods of this world, to that Immortal Kingdom which is above? What are the poor low gratifications of our Senses and vain Affections for the present, in comparison of those Purer Delights, and more Excellent Glories of the Kingdom of God? Indeed there is no com­parison betwixt these, and therefore it were very needless to insist on this sence any farther.

Secondly, Thou art my Portion, to wit, Causally; [Page 7] Thou, that is, the Emanations of thy Goodness are my Portion.

God is to be loved and chosen in regard of his In­finite Perfections: In regard of his Power, whereby he does whatsoever he pleases in all the World; In regard of his All-sufficiency, because he alone is able to make us perfectly happy; In regard of his Infi­nite Wisdom, whereby he knowes the Exigencies of our Condition, and what is fittest to be done for us: But specially, in regard of his Goodness, and the Effects and Emanations of it, whereby he is inclined to concern his Wisdom and Power and Providence, for the good of them that love him. So that to speak explicitly, it is as much as if David had said, Oh Lord! the Participations of thy Goodness are my Portion. Thy Word and thy Blessing, thy Favour and Protection, the assistance of thy Grace, and the sense of thy Love, thy Gracious and Comfortable Presence now, and the hope of enjoying thy Glo­rious Presence hereafter; these are my Choice, my Portion, and my onely Treasure.

Let us take a short view of each of these, and we shall find that they amount together to a vast Por­tion.

First, Thy Word, and the Gracious manifestations of thy Self and of thy Will therein, is to me a great Portion and Treasure. Nothing will be more plain to us, than that David esteemed it so; if we read over this Psalm, and observe, how often he [Page 8] mentions and celebrates the Word of God, and de­clares the great Love and Esteem that he had for his Statutes and Commandments. We may see it al­most in every other Verse of the Psalm throughout. What Interjections of Love and Delight does he breath out upon this Occasion! v. 97. Oh how I love thy Law! all the day long is my study in it. And in the beginning of the Psalm, vers. 14. I have rejoyced in the way of thy Testimonies, as much as in all Riches. And vers. 111. he professes that they were his Portion, and his Joy. Thy Testimonies have I claimed as my heri­tage for ever, and why? they are the very joy of my heart. Certainly, howsoever we value it, 'tis a singular Favour of God, that he vouchsafes us his Word for our guidance and direction; and that he ha's been pleased therein, to discover to us somewhat of Him­self, and of our duty and happiness.

Neither of these could be known any otherwise, with any measure of Certainty; and without the knowledg of them, how sad and uncomfortable would our condition be? To find in our selves de­sires after Happiness, and yet not to know what that Happiness is, nor where to find it; to feel our con­dition calamitous and unhappy, and not to know to whom to address our selves for help, nor upon what considerations to stay our minds; to have a stormy and troublesome Journey to go, and at the End of it, no other repose than that of the Cold Grave and the Chambers of Death; the Uncertainty it self, and much [Page 9] more such Expectations, would be sad and amazing. Yet such would our condition be, were it not for the Light of God's Holy Word; which alone ac­quaints us with the Gracious Purposes of God to­wards us, and the provision which he hath made for our everlasting Happiness after death; whereby we are armed with courage and good Hope, and inabled to bear all things cheerfully, in a joyful apprehension and assured expectation of the Glory, that shall be revealed.

Without Divine Revelation, we could be at no Certainty in matters of Religion; which would reduce us wholly to a life of Sense, and render our condition no better that of the Beasts that perish. Nay, it would be much worse than that of the Beasts. For though perhaps their Pleasures and En­joyments are not so refined as those of Voluptuous men; yet neither are they so Interrupted with the Conscience of death, which as oft as it occurs, even in the midst of Laughter, is enough to make the Heart Sorrowful. And from this, nothing can se­cure us, but that which upon possible Conditions gives us hope of the Comforts and Joyes of the fu­ture Life.

Briefly, What Light is to the World, that the Word of God is to the Soul. Take away the Light, and what do all the Works of Art and Nature signi­fie? The World it self seems to be vanish't, when the Light is gone; and if it should so continue, the [Page 10] World would be a Chaos, and a Dungeon, not worth the Inhabiting. So truly without this Divine Light, we should be lost as to our spiritual and rational; that is, to our best Capacities; which ought there­fore to indear unto us the presence, and possession of this Sacred Treasure, and ingage us to walk in the Light of it.

Secondly. As the Knowledg, so much more the Grace of God, is a great Portion.

Under this may be comprehended, both the gra­cious Acts of the Divine Providence, and also the Comforts and Assistances of the Holy Spirit.

First, in respect of the Divine Protection and Good­ness: so David esteemed God his Portion. As if he had said; Oh Lord! by thy Providence I live, and by thy Goodness I am maintain'd and preserv'd, and deliver'd out of all danger and distress; and not only so, but I have a comfortable life, and a plenti­ful subsistence, (as we know God rais'd him from the Sheepfold to the Throne,) and what more can a man have to his Portion? We might truly say the same, if we had thankful hearts as he had, to consi­der from whence our Blessings come. Our Houses, our Lands, our Wealth, our Friends, our Children, and whatsoever else we value, or account dear to us in this World, proceed all from the Bounty and gra­cious Providence of God. And therefore in reason, these later, as being the Causes of the former, ought to be esteemed our Portion, rather than the things themselves. The things themselves may be lost, or [Page 11] taken from us; but the Causes of them are a Trea­sure that cannot fail. The goodness of the Lord endures for ever, and ever, upon them that fear him, and his Righ­teousness upon Childrens Children. Psal. 103. 17.

Again, in respect of the Aids of God's grace, and the assistances of his Holy Spirit; so David accounted the Lord to be his Portion. As if he had faid; When I consider the greatness of my sins already commit­ed, and the weakness and proneness of my Nature to fall into the same or the like again, and thereby to provoke thy wrath, and expose my self to the dreadful Effects of it: when notwithstanding all this, I consider that there is forgiveness with thee, to pardon my sins, and remit my deserved punishment; and not only so, but that thou art pleased to give me grace, and strength, and tenderness of heart, where­by I am preserv'd and restrain'd from running head­long into ruine: when I consider all this, how in­finitely do I find my self bound to thy Grace, how deservedly ought I to esteem it my Portion and Treasure? I should be a miserable Creature without it, and therefore I cannot but think my self happy, in that thou art pleased to make me a partaker of it.

Lastly, Thou art my Portion, that is, thy Presence, and the hope of Enjoying thee, is my Portion. As if it had been said; This is that which I mainly aim at and long after; this is that which I esteem my great and last Happiness: That after the enjoyment of thy gracious Presence here, I shall enjoy thy Glo­rious [Page 12] Presence hereafter. This is indeed the great Portion and Inheritance of the Sons of God, the re­fuge, and hope, and expectation of every faithful person. Every thing besides this, is too little and mean, to be the Portion of an Immortal Creature.

The place we now converse in, and the things that are before us, are indeed fit accommodations for our Journey, but these we must leave behind us to the next Travellers that come after. We may not abide by these, but hasten towards another Countrey, that is an heavenly, where our Portion and Inheritance is re­served for us. On this Portion, Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the Holy Men of God, have ever depended. And we find that it was the result of David's dependence in an eminent manner, Ps. 17. 14, 15. Where David distinguisheth himself from the men of the World, who have their portion in this life; and declares what his portion was; As for me, (saith he) I will behold thy face in Righteousness, and when I awake up after thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it; which is generally interpreted of the Presence of God in that blessed Estate after the Resurrection.

This is the first Argument to prove the Wisdom of this choice, because of the Excellent things that are contained in this Portion; the Knowledg of God, the Light and Comfort of his word, the assi­stances of his grace, the protection of his providence, the sense of his favour and gracious presence here, and the hope of the Vision and fruition of him in [Page 13] glory: To these may be added, (as an inforcement to this first Argument,) the excellent properties of this portion, and the things contained in it; to wit, the sufficiency, and durableness of them; as also their su­tableness to the Nature, and necessities of our Souls.

First, One excellent property of this portion, is its sufficiency. It is able of it self alone to make us happy. This property the Philosophers required in their Supreme God. But they knew not well, where, nor in what object, to look for it: because they knew not God. They turned themselves first to one Object, and then to another; to health, and wealth, and honour, and pleasure, and wisdome, and whatsoever else they could devise. They found some worth and Convenience in many of these things; but as for that [...], or self sufficiency, which they required to the constitution of true happiness, in vain did they seek for that in any Creature. Every thing under the Sun, in this respect, is no better than Vanity and vexation of Spirit. The likeliest thing they could think on, wherein to place Happiness, was the Operation of Virtue; which indeed is a Lovely and Venerable thing: but far enough (in many cases) from making the possessor happy, were it not for that God, who is the gracious Incourager and Rewar­der of it. He alone hath that Fulness and All sufficiency in himself, which can fill all our Souls, and answer all our Wants, and satisfie our utmost. Capacities.

[Page 14] So David resolves in another place, where he seems to put this Question, concerning the happiness of Man, Ps. 4. 6. Who will shew us any good? he resolv's it thus, Lord lift thou up the light of thy Countenance upon us. And in the following Verse, he declares; Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than ever Worldly men had in the time, that their Corn and Wine and Oyt in­creased. And so again, Psal. 144. after he had reckoned up the Blessings of this life, he con­cludes thus; Happy are the people that are in such a case, yea blessed are the people, who have the Lord for their God.

A Second Property of this Portion, is, that 'tis certain, and durable. It is the great disparagement of all the things of this World, that they are all finite and transitory. The Psalmist therefore justly reproves the folly of those Worldly great men, who persuaded themselves, that their houses should continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations, and called their Lands after their own names; whereas Man being in honour abideth not, but (in respect of his pre­sent mortal condition) is like the Beasts that perish, Ps. 4. 11, 12. Honour, and Wealth are slippery things, that can hardly be ensured to any man for the little time of this life, but 'tis certain they can be kept no longer. No man can carry away any thing with him when he dies, neither shall his Pomp follow him.

Daily Observation and Experience proves the [Page 15] same in all other Examples. The best things we have of this World are here to day and gone to morrow. A few daies, or perhaps a few hours, shall change the most Vigorous health into sickness, and languishing. He who now lives delicately, and at ease, will within a short time be arrested, if not with want, yet with pains and infirmities, that will make his good things tastless and unsavoury, and bring him down to the Worms and Dust. He who is happy in his friends or relations, must expect e're long to part with them, and to have nothing left of them, but the bare remembrance. The same is equally true of all other Worldly enjoyments. We may possibly out-live all our share of them. It has happen'd so to many, the greatest men in their times; such as Croesus, Darius, Perseus, and many more; who from great and high estates, as it were from the top of Worldly felicity, were tumbled down as in a moment into bonds and poverty, and all the extremities of an unprosperous condition. But what need we examples of that, when we see no­thing in the World but Change and Uncertainty, of which every one is or shall be an Example himself, even thou who readest, as well as he who has writ­ten. The World must fail every one who depends on it, for two certain causes; because that is muta­ble, and we are mortal. God hath made every thing here mutable by the standing Laws of his Provi­dence, and he hath made our condition here as well [Page 16] by the Laws and Constitutions of our Nature, as by his positive Sentence and Appointment; so that in ei­ther respect we can have here no durable certain portion.

But what a weakness or rather madness is it, to chuse that for ones portion, which he is sure to lose? how extremely miserable must his condition be, when he comes to have his Portion taken from him? When a man who has made this World, and his own will and pleasure in it, his only end and portion, shall be strip't of these, and have nothing left to carry with him when he goes out of it, but an ac­cusing Conscience! nothing of good, not so much as good hope lest, to nourish and satisfie his Soul in its endless duration!

How much a wiser and happier course shall we take, to secure to our selves that other Portion which is certain and perpetual? God is Eternal, and his Favour is Endless, 'tis not subject (in its own Na­ture) to diminution or decay. It lasts as long as we live; and when we die, it accompanies us into the other World, and gives us comfort and confidence in his presence and the holy Angels, and puts us into the possession of never-ceasing joyes. To this Por­tion therefore does our Blessed Saviour direct his Disciples, Matth. 6. 19, 20. Lay not up for your selves treasures upon Earth, where rust and moth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for your selves Treasures in Heaven, where neither rust nor moth do cor­rupt, [Page 17] and where Thieves do not break through, nor steal.

Thirdly, This is such a Portion as provides for the necessities of the Soul. The comforts of it are spiri­tual and internal, and so more suitable to the ratio­nal and better part of Man.

The Soul is a Principle distinct from the Body, as appears by this amongst other Arguments, that 'tis not to be satisfied with bodily Objects or Enjoy­ments. In the midst of these, a man's mind may be ill at ease. It may be wounded with guilt, or over­whelmed with sorrow, or amazed with fear of the Divine Vengeance. It may be disturbed as Belshaz­zar was in the midst of his Beasting and Jollity. It often happens, that in the midst of this kind of laugh­ter, the Heart is sad, and the end of that mirth is heaviness. The Soul is so far from being satisfied with these things, that the abundance of them is rather apt to cloud and debase and darken it, and to make its condition worse than it would be in the absence of such abundance. So that these are no suitable Por­tion for the Soul. We might as well expect to satisfie a hungry stomach with good words, as to satisfie the Soul with sensual Enjoyments. These are as much too gross for the Soul, as the other are too thin and meagre for the Body.

But the Portion here mentioned is abundantly sufficient to inrich and satisfie the Soul.

The devout Contemplation of God, and of his Excel­lent Power, Glory and Goodness, do mightily raise [Page 18] and refine and delight the Soul; how much more the enjoyment of him? As he is the Author, so he is the proper Object of our spirits; which never seem to be at home, but when they are conversant with him. And therefore it was absurdly affirm'd by Epi­curus, (as Plutarch well Observes, and largely proves,) [...]. That the disbelief of a God, and of all future recompence, tends to the quiet and happiness of mens lives; whereas there is nothing more true than the contrary. The very thoughts of God are better able to stay our Minds, and calm our Passions, and ease our troubles, than any other consideration whatsoever. And the comforts of his Word, and assistances of his Grace, and other Emanations of his Goodness, (such as have been mentioned,) have that force upon our spirits; that when we can attain to some sence of these, and keep our selves in some mo­derate possession of them, we cannot but think our selves happy in this imperfect state. We joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, saith the Apostle, Rom. 5. 11. and Vers. 2. We rejoyce in hope of the glory of God. And Vers. 165. of this Psalm, Great peace have they who love thy Law. Now Peace, and Joy, and good Hope, are the proper Entertainments of the Soul. And these issue naturally from a Religious applica­tion of our selves to God, and from the sence of his favour, by which our Minds are refreshed and com­forted for the present, until they can be restored to [Page 19] that Immense Fountain of Goodness, and be made to drink of those Rivers of Pleasure for ever.

Thus much concerning the great things contained in this Portion, and the excellent Properties of it.

A Second Head of Arguments to prove the Wis­dom of this choice, may be taken from the Effects, and Benefits that are consequent to it.

Particularly, 1. The fixing of our hearts firmly upon God as our Portion, is a good help to make us steady and constant in that which is good, and to pre­vent the contrary evil of Inconstancy. We know of how great moment Constancy is in matters of Reli­gion. It is a property that cannot be separated from it, without frustrating the whole design of it. It is the great Condition our Saviour requires of his Dis­ciples, If ye continue in my Word, then shall ye be my Dis­ciples indeed, Joh. 8. 31. and Chap. 15. 4, 5, 6. Abide in me and I in you. He that abideth in me, the same bringeth forth much fruit. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch cut off from the Tree. Therefore Vers. 9. Con­tinue ye in my Love. There is scarcely any man so bad, so utterly void of all sence of Religion or Humani­ty, but that at one time or other he may do some worthy things. Nero himself, whose name is so in-famous for Cruelty and Bloodshed, is said once in his life to have wept, when the Sentence of a Male­factor was brought to him to be signed, and to wish that he could never have written.

[Page 20] It is only Order, Moderation, and Constancy, that shews a wise Man and a good Christian. All other things may be found in an indifferent and defective man. Now what likelier means can there be to establish the heart, and make a man constant, than fixed and deliberate Choice? When the Mind is en­gaged upon one Object, and so not at liberty to rove and wander after others? Whereas a double-minded man (that is, one who is undetermined in his Judg­ment and Choice) is unstable in all his waies, Jam. 1. 8.

Such a one lives, like a man that walks without any design, who is indifferent, what hast he makes, or what path he takes. Sometimes he goes forward, and sometimes he stands still, and looks about him, and by and by he turns aside to the next Object that invites his Eye: whereas he that is to run for the Goal, makes all the hast that's possible. He listeth not to loyter nor to gaze; but he bestirs himself with all his might, because the Goal is in his eye, and the honour and reward of overcoming are in his thoughts. So 'tis likewise in this case; he who hath not settled this in his heart, That Religion is his busi­ness, and that God alone is the Portion of his Soul, and that all other things are but vain, or at the best but indifferent; will be apt to turn aside to those Va­nities, which he has not yet learn'd to disesteem. But on the other hand, he who is thus persuaded, is not [Page 21] so like to go astray; but having fixed his End, and that so wisely, will be apt to proceed more Evenly and Regularly toward the attainment of it. If any thing happens to come in his way to tempt or divert him, he presently remembers that this is contrary to his measures, and to the choice he has made. And therefore he turns away from the Temptation, and his heart turns towards God, and minds him that He is his portion, which it would be a madness to deprive himself of, for any of the foolish momen­tary enjoyments of Sin. No doubt they, who have seriously made such a Choice, will find themselves to be thus engaged; and there is scarcely any Temp­tation, which such a posture of mind will not ina­ble a good man to resist and overcome.

Secondly, the benefit of making God our Choice and Portion, appears, by the Ease and Comfort of it in every Condition. First as for Ease; 'tis an uneasie thing to have ones mind unsetled, and much worse to have it setled on a wrong Object, which is the case of all vitious and ungodly men. For either such men do not prefix to themselves any certain End, but live at Large, like the irrational Creatures, that eat and drink and enjoy what's before them, with­out considering any farther end of their being; or else they addict themselves to some particular Vice or Vanity, which instead of easing and comforting the mind, afflicts and confounds it, when a man comes to reflect on the miserable Choice he has made. On the [Page 22] other hand, nothing can contribute more to a state of rest and inward satisfaction, than to have one's Choice settled, and to have it fixt so happily as upon God. This sets the whole business of a man's life at a stay, and frees him from the solicitude of his thoughts, and from the trouble of farther consultati­on. It answers his mind, as to the great Question of happiness; and so settles his spirit, and puts him in­to such a condition, that 'tis not an easie matter to disturb the repose, and happiness of his life. 'Tis likewise highly beneficial in respect of the Comfort of it in every condition. If the Lord be our portion, it cannot be imagined that we can want any thing that is good for us. For whatsoever is wanting in other kinds, is abundantly made up in him. His love and favour, and blessing, and assistance, the conside­ration of his gracious providence, and the hopes of his glorious promises, are sufficient to make us happy, whatsoever our outward condition be. There will be Concussions in the World, and Troubles in mens particular affairs. Sad casualties, sicknesses, disap­pointments, losses, calumnies, defamations, oppres­sion, and violence; these are the common Enter­tainments with which the World treats its guests at one time or other. All which, tho they be grievous to flesh and blood, yet they have not that powerful, nor malignant influence upon those who trust in God, that they have upon others who live on themselves. If they happen to be surprized at the first approaches [Page 23] of trouble, they soon recal and recover themselves. They know they have a friend, and they look up to him, and that (like our Saviour's presence with his Disciples on the Sea) calms, and stills the rage of their troubles, and furnishes them with such conside­rations as these. What tho my Friends are taken from me? yet God is with me, who took me out of my Mother's Womb, and hath susteined me ever since I was born. What tho my health be impair'd, and my body grown feeble, so that I cannot enjoy my self as formerly? Alas! this is not the thing on which I depend, this weakness may bring me nearer to that which is my main End, of which if I secure my duty, I am sure, neither pain, nor age, nor any other Accident can deprive me. What though my porti­on in the World be small? yet I have the Creator and Disposer of it. Tho I am low, he is high above all; and I am sure his Providence takes a care of me. I am rich enough, if I can but keep Patience and In­tegrity, Lord thou art my Portion, Oh! make me happy in a faithful adherence to thee, and in the communications of thy Love and Goodness to me, and I have enough.

This has alwayes been the Refuge and Comfort of the People of God, to retire to Him, and there to hide and shelter themselves from the storms of this present evil World. This bore up Iob's spirit, and helpt him to get above the miseries of his Condition; I know that my Redeemer liveth, &c. Iob. 19. 25.

[Page 24] The same was David's constant refuge, who in the midst of the greatest dangers and distresses, when he had nothing left to secure him, but God's protection; thought himself safer in that, than in the security of Castles and fenced Cities. And therefore he so often calls God his Refuge, and strong hold, his Castle, and deliverer: Not only because he trusted that He would deliver him out of his troubles, but because he found that he supported him under them; and gave him such Comfort, as made his Condition happy, when in outward appearance it seemed to be desperate.

Of this we have many Instances in the story of his Life, particularly after the sacking of Ziklag, 1 Sam. 30. 6. Where the text saith of him, that he was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him; (but 'tis added in the close of the verse) but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. The like he declareth of himself, Ps. 142. 4, 5. I looked on my right hand, and beheld; but there was no man that would know me. Refuge failed me, no man cared for my Soul. I cryed unto the O Lord; I said, thou art my Refuge and my Portion in the Land of the living. The same was the comfort of the three Children, when they had no other prospect, but that of Death, and a burning fiery Furnace. Our God whom we serve is a­ble to deliver us, Dan. 3. 17.

To these we may add the Examples of the Apo­stles, and First believers; whose lives were a continual warfare, yet they were more than Conquerors. They [Page 25] were compassed about with Evils on every side: but they were so far from being distressed or cast down at it, that they joyed in God, and rejoyced in their Tri­bulation. They had nothing, yet having him for their Portion, they were as though they had possessed all things.

Now he who has thus setled his Affairs, that he is or may be happy, in despight of the World, and the worst things he can meet with in it, cannot but be granted to have taken a very wise course, and to have made a very wise and beneficial Choice.

Thirdly, the Benefit of it is seen in this, that 'tis an infallible means to mortify us to this World; be­cause it engages us not to make any other thing our Portion. But this will fall in most fitly with the last particular, which shall be, to Enquire, by what means we may compass this great End and business of our Lives, To have God for our Portion.

The best direction in this case will be,

First, that we chuse him for our Portion. And Se­condly, that we do as David resolves in the close of the verse, I have said that I will keep thy word.

First, to chuse him for our portion, is the way to make him so. If this seem a small or easie matter, we must know that there is a great deal compre­hended in this Choice. It implyes that we prefer God in our Judgment, and Esteem, above all other things; and that we prefer his Love and Service, [Page 26] before all the delights, and present advantages of Sin. It amounts in effect to what was mentioned be­fore, That we make not any other thing our portion. Other things we may have, and esteem, and enjoy them two, in their just measure and degree: but we must not overvalue them, nor dote on them, we must not bestow our hearts on them, nor repose our trust and happiness in them. God must be upper­most in our love and esteem, (as Solomon chose Wis­dom before Riches and Honour) otherwise he will not be our Portion.

To this purpose our Saviour hath told us in ef­fect, That we cannot have our Treasure on Earth, and in Heaven, Matt. 6. 19. He hath told us, That we cannot serve two Masters, God and Mammon; if the one be our Portion, the other cannot, will not be.

But since we are allowed to love other things, how shall we know whether we make them our Portion or not? We may know it by the room and place those things have in our hearts. If they have the preheminence, they are our Portion; for two Chiefs or Principals cannot consist together in our choice. If God be our Portion, all other things will be chosen, and loved, and used in subordinati­on to him, and his love and Service.

It will not be difficult for us, if we observe the motions of our own hearts, to make a Judgment con­cerning our selves. In the Course of business and Temptation, we may sometimes observe a kind of [Page 27] Competition betwixt God and our selves; that is, be­twixt our duty, and our corrupt Inclination and In­terests. Now when 'tis come to a struggle and Com­petition in the Will, observe which side usually pre­vails, and we shall soon know how the case is with us.

If the awe and love of God, and a Religious sense of our duty, prevail; we may conclude we are right so far. But if vain and corrupt inclinations prevail; we may so far conclude, that God is not our Portion. For that is every mans Portion, which he prefers, and values, and seeks after most: Indeed it is in effect his God, and his being carried out after it with love and delight, is that Idolatry of the heart, of which the Scripture speaks. For Instance, He who sets his heart on the World, and hunts after riches unreasonably, and sticks not to violate his Duty and his Conscience for the gaining and keeping of them, and prefers them before the true Riches; such a man has his portion in this World, and is guilty of that Covetousness, which the Scripture calls Idolatry. The ambitious man likewise, who will do any thing to be great, and climbs up to it by base com­plainces and unworthy Actions, he has made choice of his Object, Vanity is his Portion: And so for those who make their Belly and their pleasure their God, meat and drink and other base sensual Liberties are their Portion. So likewise the Envious and Ma­licious, who will contrive and repay evil, and pra­ctise [Page 28] revenge (contrary to the express will and Law of God,) mischief is their darling and their Portion. The thing is as true in all other Instances, where 'tis plain that our duty lyes on one hand, and Sin on the other. If we see the sin before us, and accept of the Temptation to it, we do by just Interpreta­tion prefer it before God, and the rewards of Reli­gion, and take it for our Portion. That which sways a mans will, and bears rule within him, and disposes of him and his Actions, is in very truth his Idol; howsoever he may flatter himself to the con­trary, or persuade himself, through his partiality, that God will interpret it otherwise. Consequent to this first means of making God our Portion, is, that holy and happy temper of being Indifferent to the things of this Life. If we can be moderate, and Indifferent about these, 'tis an evidence that our hearts do not cleave to them, and that we do not look on them as our Portion. This indifferency consists in an eveness of mind towards temporal good and evil: not to value, or love, or de­sire the one, as though our Happiness depended on it; nor to dread the other, so as to think our selves miserable and undone, when any temporal evil befals us; but to look upon both with a de­ference and submission to the will of God, always esteeming him as our main refuge and dependence. For the maintaining and preserving of which good indifferency, we must take heed of eager and impor­tunate [Page 29] desires on the one hand, and of excessive fears and solicitude on the other. For people to be sick for any thing they desire, as Ahab was for Naboth's Vineyard, 1 Kings, 21. Or to be clamorous, and im­portunate, as Rachel was, saying, give me Children or else I dye, Gen. 30. 1. Or to be distressed at any cross ac­cident, as Rebecca was, only on supposition of Jacob's marrying one of the Daughters of Heth, saying, What good shall my Life do me? Gen. 27. 46. Or in­deed as David was for his ungracious Son Absalom, when God had but newly delivered him out of his hand, so as to wish, would God I had died for thee, 2 Sam. 18. 33. It is too much for good people to be thus Violently concerned for any of these things. When we fear things, or grieve for them, with so much dejecti­on and distress of mind; 'tis a sign we lov'd them too well, and that we do not depend upon God so entirely as we ought: and so on the other hand, when we long for any thing with so great Ardour, and Intensness of desire; 'tis a sign we place our happiness in it, and that we could be willing to quit all else, and to make it our Portion. It argues that we look not much unto God, nor regard what his Will and Pleasure is, if we can but accomplish our own desires on any Terms. Such eagerness and impetuousness of affection shews, that our minds are not stayed upon God, but that we look after other things besides him as Principal Ingredients of our happiness. It shews that we are not rooted and [Page 30] grounded in his Love, and that our Wills are not suf­ficiently subdued to his Holy Will and just Govern­ment. It is a matter of great consequence there­fore, to have this indifferency firmly settled in our minds, as that which will minister greatly to the ease and happiness of our lives; and without which, in some good measure, we cannot be said in any to­lerable sence to have God for our Portion.

Lastly, If we would have God for our Portion, we must do as David here resolves and promiseth, I said (or I have promised) that I would keep thy Word.

To keep God's word, is the same, as to do his Commandments; which the Psalmist subjoyns as the condition of that high priviledge of having God for his Portion.

He is not to be had on any other Terms; neither are we to expect that he will make us happy in his favour, when we provoke him with our Sins. These intercept the Influences of his Grace, and obscure the light of his Countenance. They displease, and provoke our Heavenly Father, and make us unmeet for the Portion and Inheritance of his Children. If we would have him for our God, we must be his People; and how can that be made appear, but by being governed by his Laws? This is the constant Tenour of the Covenant; and there is no pretence, nor priviledge whatsoever, that can entitle us to the blessings of it, unless we walk as the People of God. 'Tis not enough that we call our selves his People, [Page 31] neither is it enough to do as those spoken of in the Prophet Ezech. 33. 31. They sit before thee as my people, and hear thy words, but they will not do them, for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their Covetousness. God is not to be imposed upon by such Pretences, neither will he be flattered, where he is not truly loved and obeyed. The truth of which is to be tryed by that rule of the Apostle, Rom. 6. 16. Whom ye yield your selves Servants to obey, his Servants ye are to whom ye obey, whether of Sin unto death, or of obedi­ence unto Righteousness. It is not enough that we wear his Livery, or bear the badge of his Servants; but we must do him actual service, otherwise we cannot expect to receive wages from him.

God was in a peculiar manner the God of Israel, and he calls himself a Husband to Israel; but when they deserted his service, and committed abominati­on, he retracted that Relation; and commanded the Prophet to use the name Lo-ammi [...] for ye are not my people, and I will not be your God. Hos. 1. 9. and Chapter 2. 2. she is not my wife, neither am I her Hus­band. God will not be ours, unless we be His, nei­ther will it avail us to be his in Name only, but we must be so in deed and in truth.

After all this it must be acknowledged, that we are frail sinful Creatures, and that our great security and confidence lyes in the Infinite Mercies of God, and the merits of our Saviour. But 'tis a Religious care over our selves and over our ways, that quali­fies, [Page 32] and makes us fit for the mercy of God: that he may pardon that, wherein through weakness we come short of our duty. This was the Course that David took, whom we find begging of God for mer­cy, vers. 2. be merciful unto me according to thy word; but withal he resolves in this verse, to keep God's Law, and vers. 3. he is said to have performed what he promised, I turned my Feet to thy Testimonies. And so Iob, tho his great Confidence was in God, yet the sence of his own Integrity made his confidence more rational, and satisfied him that it was not only a vain pre­sumption. And therefore he thought it fit to make protestation of his Innocency and Integrity▪ Chapter 31. To this purpose our Saviour plainly tells that young man, Mat. 19. 17. if thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments. Where he makes the one of these the necessary Condition of the other, and implies, that no man can obtain Eternal life without keeping the Commandments.

One thing more may be observ'd from the form of the words, I have said, or I have promised, that I would keep thy words; the Psalmist seems here to call to mind, and renew some former resolution and pro­mise, whereby he had more solemnly devoted him­self to the Service of God.

Herein we shall do well to follow his Example. Doubtless good Resolutions (not to speak now of Vowes) are of great use to help to keep us close to our duty. For when a man finds himself, bound [Page 33] (as it were) by his own act and deed, and engag'd by a Covenant which he has made with himself, upon the best and most important Reasons; this cannot but strengthen him in the performance of his duty. David bound himself in the strictest bonds of this kind, as is more fully exprest, verse, 106. I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy Righteous Iudgements.

Besides, as this is useful to our selves, so 'tis avail­able with God, for the obtaining of his favour. For when we thus dedicate and devote our selves and our lives to his service, it will move him to com­municate himself more freely to us, and to become our Portion.

The design of all that has been said, is first to move every considerate person, to enter into Ac­count with himself, and see what Choice he has made. Let him ask himself what has been, and is his main business, and design in the World, and see what answer his Conscience will make him.

If he have yet made no settled Choice, he has done very unwisely in spending so much time with­out design. If he have made a wrong Choice, it is high time to inquire into it, to the end he may be con­vinced of his Error, and amend it.

Let him know then that every one who lives in any vice or custom of Sin, is justly interpreted to have made that his Choice; although perhaps he have not chosen it with the Circumstances of a for­mal [Page 34] Deliberation and Election. Now for the reco­very of such a one, 'tis necessary for him to make an Estimate of the quality and true Value of that which he has accepted of for his Portion. And indeed in this respect a vitious person may be said to have some advantage by his folly; because he is, or may be convinc't out of his own experience, of the Empti­ness, vexation, and dissatisfaction of the wayes of Sin. If such a one would but hearken to his own reason, and conscience, or if he would but diligent­ly consult his Memory, I believe it might be left to himself to make his own Choice without any farther direction. Let him turn back, and see of what na­ture those things are, about which he has been busi­ed all this while. Let him ask his Soul, whether he has found comfort, or satisfaction, in any of those things which he has hunted after with the neglect, or gross Violation of his duty; what good any of his Sins ever did him; and whether he has any reaso­nable hopes that they will do him good in the End? Whether he can think that any of those things which he has seen, or enjoyed, or addicted himself to in the World, are a fit Portion for an immortal Creature? whether he has met with any Object, that is able to make him substantially happy, and to secure him in that happy State? He must be more than an Ordina­ry wretch, that will pretend to affirm any such thing; and if there be no such Object here to be found, he may be sure he has been wrong all this while, and [Page 35] it concerns him now to make a wise and a better Choice.

And indeed, if we do but duly attend to them, our own minds will point and direct us to God. They naturally incline towards him, as things do towards their center and place of rest. He is the Supreme good of our Souls, and therefore he alone is to be chosen, and all other things to be neglected, and despised, in Comparison of him.

Secondly, if we are conscious to our selves, that we have made this choice, it should engage us to ex­ercise great degrees of Patience and Contentment; and help to moderate our fears and sorrows for other things. For why? if God be our Portion, is it not enough? is not he Alsufficient? cannot he make us happy, unless the World also smile upon us? Indeed we are too apt to think so, but 'tis for want of Faith, and an holy dependance upon God. If we could live up to the Effects of having God for our Por­tion, it would mightily raise and inable our Spirits, and set us much above the reach of worldly Succes­ses and Events. Too great concernment about these is a disparaging of our Choice, and discovers World­liness, Irresolution, and Folly. 'Tis to imitate the folly of that Miser, who pin'd for the loss of his smoak, when his Coffers were full, and his For­tune over-flowed.

Lastly, as we ought to chuse God for our Portion, so ought we to live continually in the View and [Page 36] sense of the choice we have made; that so we may neither forget our engagements, nor contradict what we have done, nor frustrate our selves of our main End, by any contrary intermediate Actions. Every way of Wickedness makes it appear, that our Choice in this kind is but dissembled, & that there is nothing of truth or reality in it. For how can any one say, that God is his Portion, when he prefer's other things? How can'st thou, without blushing and confusion, say to God, Thou art my Portion, when thy heart goes another way; and thou followest thy own will and ways and Inclinations, which are contrary to his will, and the rules and Laws which he has prescribed? Thou mayest not think that he will be thy Portion ever the more for such a nominal, pretended, super­ficial Choice.

What therefore must we do? We must keep close to our Choice, and see that our behaviour may be agreeable to it. We must often call it to mind, and keep it, as it were alwaies in our Eye; and by the View of that (as of our Port) we shall be directed the better to steer our Course.

We should likewise often recollect, and call to mind, our setled Religious Principles. We should thus commune with our hearts, I have determined long ago, that nothing in this World is to be depended on for happiness. I will therefore use and enjoy eve­ry thing here as tho I did it not. I believe, and by Experience find, that God alone is able to satisfie my [Page 37] Soul; my business therefore shall be to serve him, and seek his Favour. I am satisfied, that the great business and concernment of every one, is, so to or­der their lives, that they may dye well, and live with God for ever, when this Minute of life is expir­ed. And being thus convinced, and persuaded▪ I know I ought not to go against my own sentiments, but to live according to my Principles, and according to my aims and expectations. I have chosen God for my Portion, which is the highest priviledge any Creature is capable of. I am therefore bound to walk worthy of this high calling as far as I am able; and so to exercise, and accustom my self, that I may be the better fitted for the holy Presence and Enjoy­ment of God. Such principles imprinted on the Heart, and often resorted to, will be apt to infer and produce such good effects.

The good God give every one of us the Wisdom to chuse the better part, and the Grace so to apply our selves to the obtaining of it, that it may not be taken away from us. Amen.

FINIS.

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