An Ark for All God's Noahs in a Gloomy Stormy Day or,
The Best Wine Reserved Until Last or,
The Transcendent Excellency of a Believer's
Portion above All Earthly Portions
by Thomas Brooks, 1662
"The Lord is my portion, says my soul; therefore
I will hope in Him." Lamentations 3:24
I shall come now to the third thing, and that is, to make some PRACTICAL APPLICATION of this blessed and glorious truth to ourselves; and, therefore,
Is it so, that God is the saint's portion, and that he is such an excellent, and such a transcendent portion above all other portions, as has been fully evidenced? Then,
[1.] First, Let not the saints who have God for their portion fret and vex themselves, because of those earthly portions which God commonly bestows upon the worst of men. There is a great aptness in the best of men to envy those earthly portions which God often bestows upon the worst of men. The lights of the sanctuary have burnt dim, stars of no small magnitude have twinkled, men of eminent parts, famous in their generations for religion and piety, have staggered in their judgments, to see the flourishing estate of the wicked. It made Job to complain, Job 21:7-16, and Job 24:12, and Jeremiah to expostulate with God, Jer 12:1-2, and David even to faint and sink, Psalm 73.
To see the prosperity of the ungodly; to see the wicked in wealth and the saints in want; the wicked in their robes and the saints in their rags; the wicked honored and the saints despised; the wicked exalted and the saints debased; the wicked upon thrones and saints upon dunghills—is a sight that has sadly put the best of men sometimes to fretting. But this is a temper of spirit that does in no way befit those who have God for their portion. Therefore the psalmist, in Psalm 37, cautions the saints against it no less than three times, as you may see in Psalm 37:1, 7-8. There is nothing that does so ill become a saint who has God for his portion, as to be sick of the frets. And to prevent this mischief, this sickness, the precept is doubled, and redoubled, "fret not, fret not, fret not." Those who have God for their portion should never fret or fume, storm or rage, because some are greater than they, or richer than they, or higher than they, or more honorable than they—because all their prosperity is nothing but an unhappy happiness; it is nothing but a banquet, like Haman's, before execution; and what man is there, that is in his wits, who would envy a malefactor who meets with an amusement as he is going along to execution?
All a wicked man's delicate meats, his fine sweets, and his murdering morsels, are sauced; and all his pleasant and delightful drinks are spiced—with the wrath and displeasure of an angry God! Why then should you fret and vex at their prosperity? What madness and folly would it be in a man who is heir to many millions, to envy a stage player that is clothed like a king—but yet not heir to one foot of land, no, nor worth one penny in all the world, and who at night must put off his royal apparel, and the next day put on his beggarly habit? Oh, sirs! it will be but a little, little while—before the great God will disrobe the wicked of all their prosperity, felicity, and worldly glory, and clothe them with the rags of shame, scorn, and contempt forever. Therefore, oh what folly and madness would it be for those who are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ of all the glory of heaven, to envy the prosperity of the wicked, Rom 8:17.
The prosperity of the wicked lays them open to the worst and greatest SINS.
[1.] First, It lays them open to all uncleanness and filthiness, Jer 5:7-8.
[2.] Secondly, It lays them open to pride and contempt of God, Psalm 73:3-13; Deut 32:15.
[3.] Thirdly, It lays them open to vex, oppress, tyrannize, persecute, insult, and triumph over the poor people of God, as you may see in Pharaoh, Saul, Ahab, Jezebel, Haman, and the scribes and pharisees.
[4.] Fourthly, It lays them open to a neglect and slighting of the ways of God, and of the ordinances of God, Job 21:5-16; Mal 3:13-15; Jer 22:21. When the protestants in France were in their prosperity, they slighted powerful preachings, etc., and began to relish a vain frothy way of preaching and living, which ushered in the massacre upon them. Moulin hit it, when, speaking of the French protestants, he said, "when the papists hurt us and persecute us for reading the scriptures, we burn with zeal to be reading of them; but now persecution is over, our Bibles are like old almanacs."
[5.] Fifthly, It lays them open to a stupidness, unmindfulness, and forgetfulness of the afflictions of the people of God, Amos 6:1-8. Pharaoh's chief butler was no sooner set down in the seat of prosperity—but quite contrary to his promise, he easily forgets Joseph in misery.
[6.] Sixthly, It lays them open to dreadful apostasy from the ways and worship of God, Deut 32:15-18. No sooner was Israel possessed of the good land which flowed with milk and honey, etc.—but they forsook the true worship of God, and fell to the worshiping of idols, for which at last the good land spewed them out as a generation cursed and abhorred by God.
[7.] Seventhly, It lays them open to all carnal security, as you may see in the old world—their prosperity cast them into a bed of security, and their security ushered in a flood of sin, and that flood of sin ushered in a flood of wrath, Matt 24:37-39.
[8.] Eighthly, It lays them open to idolatry, which is a God-provoking and a land-destroying sin, Hos 2:6-8, and Hos 4:6-7, etc. Ah, sirs! who can seriously consider of the dreadful sins that the prosperity of the wicked lays them open to, and yet fret and vex at their prosperity?
Again, as their prosperity lays them open to the greatest sins, so their prosperity lays them open to the greatest TEMPTATIONS. Witness their tempting of themselves, and their own lusts; and witness their temptings of others to the worst of wickedness and villainies; and witness their frequent tempting and provoking of the great God to his own face; and witness their daily, yes, their hourly tempting of Satan to tempt their own souls. O sirs! as there is no condition that lays people open to such great transgressions as prosperity does, so there is no condition that lays people open to such horrid temptations as prosperity does; and why then should God's holy ones envy wicked men's prosperity, and worldly glory, etc.
Again, Their prosperity, and worldly felicity and glory, is all the portion—and all the heaven and happiness that ever they are likely to have. Psalm 17:14, "From men of the world, who have their portion in this life." Certainly, men whose hearts are worldly, whose minds are worldly, whose spirits are worldly, whose desires are worldly, whose hopes are worldly, and whose main ends are worldly—have only the world for their portion; and what a pitiful perishing portion is that! Men that choose the world as their portion, and that delight in the world as their portion, and that trust to the world as their portion, and that in straits run to the world as their portion, and that take content and satisfaction in the world as their portion; doubtless these have never known what it is to have God for their portion.
That is a very heart-cutting and soul-killing word that you have in that Matt 6:2, "Verily I say unto you, that they have their reward." The scribes and pharisees desired the eyes of men, the praise of men, and the applause of men, for a reward of their alms, etc., and Christ tells them, that they have their reward; not God's reward—but theirs; that is, that reward that they had propounded to themselves, as the prime and ultimate end of their actions. And doubtless that word was a thunderbolt to Dives, "Remember that during your life you received your good things, just as Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here, while you are in agony." Luke 16:25. Wicked men have their best here, their worst is to come. They have their comforts here, their torments are to come. They have their joys here, their sorrows are to come. They have their heaven here, their hell is to come.
Gregory being advanced to great preferment, professed that there was no scripture that struck so much terror and trembling into his heart, as that scripture did, "Here you have your reward." [Matt 6:2,5,16] Had wicked men but their eyes in their heads, and a little understanding in their hearts, and life in their consciences, they would quickly conclude that it is hell on this side hell, for a man to have all his portion in this world; and why then should you envy the prosperity of the wicked?
Again, All their prosperity is cursed unto them; as you may see by comparing these scriptures together. [Deut 28:15-68; Lev 26:14-89; Prov 3:33; Mal 2:2] All their comforts are cursed. There are snares on all their tables, and poison in all their cups, and the plague in all their fine clothes, etc. Dionysius the tyrant, to show Damocles, one of his flatterers, the felicity, or rather the infelicity, of a king, attired him as a king, and set him at the table, served as a king; and while he was in his imperial robes, be caused a naked sword, with the point downward, to be hung just over his head by a horse hair, which made Damocles to tremble, and to refrain from both food and mirth. Though the feast was a royal feast, and the attendance royal attendance, and the music royal music—yet Damocles, for his life, could not taste of any of those rich varieties that were before him, nor take any comfort or contentment in any other part of his royal entertainment, because of the sword, the sword—which hung but by a single hair over his head. O sirs! a sword, a sharp sword, a two-edged sword, a sword of displeasure, a sword of wrath, a sword of vengeance—hangs over the head of every wicked person when he is in his most prosperous and flourishing condition! And had sinners but eyes to see this sword, it would be as the handwriting upon the wall; it would cause their thoughts to be troubled, and their countenances to be changed, and their joints to be loosed, and their knees to be dashed one against another! Why, then, should Christians fret and vex at the prosperity of the wicked?
Again, When wicked men are at the highest, then are they nearest their fall; as you may see in Psalm 37, and Psalm 73, and in those great instances of Pharaoh, Adonibezek, Benhadad, Ahab, Sennacherib, Haman, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Herod, etc. [Exod 14; Judg 1:6-7; 1 Kings 20,22; 2 Kings 19; Esther 6:4; Dan 5] Look! as the ship is soonest cast away when she is full sail, so when wicked men are at the top—when they are at the height of all their pomp, bravery, and worldly glory—then God usually tumbles them down into the very gulf of misery! The great ones of the world have suddenly fallen from their highest honors and dignities, and have been sorely and sadly exercised with the greatest scorns and calamities. Let me give you this in a few remarkable instances.
Valerian, the Roman emperor, fell from being an emperor to be a footstool to Sapor, the king of Persia, as often as he took horse.
Valens the emperor, being wounded in a fight with the Goths, in his flight he betook himself to a poor cottage, wherein he was burnt by the Goths.
Aurelianus, the Roman emperor, brought king Tetricus, and the noble queen Zenobia of Palmerina, in triumph to Rome in golden chains.
Bajazet, a proud emperor of the Turks, being taken prisoner by Tamberlain, was bound in chains of gold, and used him for a footstool when he mounted his horse. And when he ate meals, he made him gather crumbs under his table and eat them for his food.
Caesar, having bathed his sword in the blood of the senate and his own countrymen, is, after a while, miserably murdered in the senate by his own friends, Cassius and Brutus, to show that they are but the scourges and rods of the Almighty, which he will cast into the fire as soon as he has done with them.
The victorious emperor, Henry the Fourth, who in sixty-two battles was victorious, fell to that poverty and misery before he died, that he was forced to beg in his old age, whereupon he broke forth into that speech of Job, "Have pity upon me, O my friends, for the hand of the Lord has touched me," Job 19:21. He died of grief and poverty.
King Guidimer, who was once a potent king of the Vandals—was brought so low as to entreat his friend to send him a sponge, a loaf of bread, and a harp—a sponge to dry up his tears, a loaf of bread to maintain his life, and an harp to solace himself in his misery.
Dionysius, king of Sicily, was such a cruel tyrant that his people banished him. After his banishment he went to Corinth, where he lived a base and contemptible life. At last he became a schoolmaster, that so, when he could no longer tyrannize over men, he might over boys.
Great Pompey, who used to boast that he could raise all Italy in arms with a stamp of his foot, had not so much as room to be buried in.
William the Conqueror's corpse lay three days unburied, his interment being hindered by one that claimed the ground to be his.
Pythias pined to death for lack of bread, who once was able to entertain and maintain Xerxes's mighty army.
Philip de Comines reports of a Duke of Exeter, who though he had married Edward the Fourth's sister—yet he saw him in the low countries begging barefoot.
And so Belisarius, a most famous general, and the only man living in his time for glorious victories, riches, and renown—yet in his old age he had his eyes put out by the empress Theodora; and being led at last in a string, he was forced to cry out, 'Give a crust to old blind Belisarius!'
By all these royal instances, you see the truth of that which once a royal slave hinted to Sesostris. The story runs thus: Sesostris having taken many of his neighbor kings prisoners, he made them to pull his chariot by turns. Now, it so happened that one of these royal slaves, as he was drawing in the chariot, had his eye almost continually fixed on the wheels, which Sesostris observing, asked him why he looked so seriously upon the wheels. He answered, that the moving of that spoke lowest which was even now highest, put him in mind of the instability of fortune. Sesostris, duly weighing the parable, would never after be drawn by his royal slaves any more.
By what has been said, it is more evident that when wicked men are highest they are nearest their fall; and that none fall so certainly and so suddenly, and under such dreadful calamities and miseries, as those who have been the most highly advanced in all worldly dignities and glories. And why, then, should any fret or vex at their outward prosperity or worldly felicity?
Again, God will bring them to an account for all those talents of power, of honor, of riches, of trust, of time, of interest that God has given them in the world; and the more they have employed the liberality and bounty of God against God or his glory, or interest, or people—the shorter shall be their felicity, and the more endless shall be their misery, Matt 25:14-31. The greatest account and the greatest damnation commonly attends the great ones of the world. I have read of Philip the Third of Spain, whose life was free from gross evils, professing that he would rather lose all his kingdoms than offend God willingly; yet being in the agony of death, and considering more thoroughly of that account he was to give to God, fear struck him, and these words broke from him, "Oh, would to God I had never reigned! Oh that those years I have spent in my kingdom, I had lived a private life in the wilderness! Oh that I had lived a solitary life with God, how much more confidently would I have gone to the throne of God! What does all my glory profit me now—but that I have so much the more torment in my death, and the greater account to give up to God!"
I have read of a soldier, who, about to die for taking a bunch of grapes contrary to his general's command, as he was going along to execution, he went eating of his grapes, whereupon one of his fellow-soldiers rebuked him, saying, What! are you eating your grapes now you are going to execution? The poor fellow replied, 'O, friend, do not envy me my grapes; for I shall pay a dear price for them, I shall lose my life for them;' and so accordingly he did.
So I say, Oh you who have God for your portion, do not envy, do not fret and vex, at the prosperity of the wicked; for what though they have more than their heart can wish, what though they live in pleasure and wallow in all carnal and sensual delights, etc.—yet they have a sad account to give up to God, and they shall pay dear at last for all their worldly enjoyments. For without sound repentance on their part, and pardoning grace on God's part, they shall not only lose their lives—but they shall also forever lose their immortal souls. Therefore never fret at their prosperity!
O sirs, remember that Lazarus did not fret nor fume because Dives had robes for his rags; and delicacies for his scraps. Lazarus very well knew that though he was without any earthly good—yet he was not without God. He had a guard of glorious angels to transport his holy, precious, heaven-born soul into Abraham's bosom. He knew that it was better to beg on earth, than to beg in hell. O sirs, what is darkness compared to light, earth compared to heaven, chaff compared to wheat, tin compared to silver, dross compared to gold, or pebbles compared to pearls? No more are all earthly portions compared to that God, who is the saints' portion; and, therefore, let not the saints, who have such a matchless portion, envy the prosperity and felicity of wicked men.
It is the justice of envy to torment the envious; and, therefore, shun it as you would poison in your food, or a serpent in the way. A man were better have a serpent tumbling up and down in his bowels, than to have envy a-gnawing in his soul. Envy is as pernicious a wickedness, as it is a foolish and a groundless wickedness. Envy is a scourge to scourge the soul; it is a serpent to sting the soul; it is a poison to swell the soul; it is a saw to saw the soul; it is a moth that corrupts the soul, and it is a canker that eats up the soul. Therefore fly from it, as you would fly from the most cruel and destroying adversary!
O sirs, to be angry, because God is bountiful to others! To frown, because God smiles upon others; to be bitter, because God is sweet in his dealings with others; and to sigh, because God multiplies favors and blessings upon others; what is this but to turn others' good into our own hurt, others' glory and mercy into our own punishment and torment? And if this be not to create a hell in our own hearts, I am much mistaken.
I shall conclude this first inference with the counsel of the prophet in that Psalm 49:16-17, "Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him." When the bodies of the wicked are rotting in their graves, and their souls are roaring in hell, none of their worldly greatness, pomp, state, glory, gallantry, riches, houses, or revenues, shall descend after them to administer one drop of comfort to them. Therefore never envy their outward prosperity or worldly glory. "This is what the wicked are like—always carefree, they increase in wealth. When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me—until I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin. How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!" Psalm 73.
(2) Secondly, If the saints have such an excellent, such a transcendent, and such a matchless portion, oh then, let them be content with their present condition, let them sit down satisfied and contented, though they have but a handful of meal in their barrel, and a little oil in a cruse, 1 Kings 17:12. O sirs, in having of God you have much, in having of God you have enough, in having of God you have all! Why then should you not sit down quiet with your present concition? Certainly, if much will not satisfy you, if enough will not satisfy you, if all will not satisfy you—then nothing will satisfy you.
Heb 13:5, "Let your lives be without covetousness (or love of silver, as the Greek word signifies); and be content with such things as you have (or as the Greek has it, be content with present things)—for he has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you." There are five negatives in the Greek, "I will not, not, not, not, not leave you nor forsake you;" fully to assure and fully to satisfy the people of God that he will never forsake them, and that he will everlastingly stick close to them. What does this unparalleled repetition—"I will never, never, never, never, never," import but this, "I will ever, ever, ever, yes and forever and ever take care of you, and look after you, and be mindful of you." Though they had changed their glory for contempt, Heb 11:36-38, their fine raiment for sheepskins and goatskins, their silver for brass, their plenty for scarcity, their fullness for emptiness, their stately houses for holes and caves, and dens of the earth—yet they are to be contented and satisfied with present things, upon this very ground—that God will always cleave to them, and that he will never turn his back upon them. The Hebrew Christians had been stripped and plundered of all their goods that were good for anything, and yet they must be contented, they must sit down satisfied, with their hands upon their mouths, though all were gone, Heb 10:34. Though men cannot bring their means to their minds—yet they must bring their minds to their means, and then they will sit down in silence, though they have but a rag on their backs, a penny in their purse, and a crust in their cupboards, etc.
O Christians! a little will satisfy nature; less will satisfy grace; though nothing will satisfy men's lusts; and why then should not Christians be contented with a little? O friends! you have but a short journey to go, you have but a little way home, and a little will serve to bear you UP, until you come to heaven. Therefore be contented with a little. To have more than will serve to bring a man to his journey's end is but a burden. One staff is helpful to a man in his journey—but a bundle is hurtful; and this, doubtless, Jacob well understood when he made that proposal in Gen 28:20-21, "If God will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, then shall the Lord be my God." Jacob does not say, If God will give me delicacies and sweets to eat—he shall be my God! Oh no! But if he will give me but bread to eat, though it be ever so coarse, and ever so black, and ever so dry—he shall be my God. He does not say, If God will give me so many hundreds, or so many thousands a year—he shall be my God! Oh no! But if he will give me bread to eat—he shall be my God. Nor he does not say, If God will give me so many thousands in my purse, a comfortable home, and a thriving trade—he shall be my God! Oh no! But if he will give me bread to eat—he shall be my God. Nor he does not say, If God will give me costly apparel, or rich and royal raiment to put on—he shall be my God! Oh no! But if God will give me raiment to put on, though it be ever so mean and poor—he shall be my God. If Jacob may but have a little bread to feed him, and a few clothes to cover him—it is as much as he looks for.
Look! as a wicked man in the fullness of his sufficiency is in straits, as Job speaks, Job 20:22, so a holy man, in the fullness of his straits, enjoys an all-sufficiency in God, as you may see in Jacob. O Christians! though you have but little—yet you have the highest and the noblest title that can be to that little that you do enjoy; for you have all in God, as the apostle shows in that large charter of a Christian, 1 Cor 3:21-23, which the wicked do not. Now, a hundred a year upon a good title is a better estate than a thousand a year upon a cracked, flawed title. Saints have the best title under heaven for all they enjoy, be it little or be it much. But all the titles that sinners have to their earthly enjoyments are but defective titles, yes, in comparison of the saints' titles, they are no titles.
Again, That little that a saint has, he has it from the special love and favor of God; he has it from a reconciled God, Prov 15:17. Now, a little from special love is better than a great deal from a general providence. A penny from a reconciled God—is better than a pound from a bountiful God; a shilling from God as a father—is a better estate than a hundred from God as a creator. The kiss that a king gave to one in the story, was a greater gift than the golden cup that he gave to another; a little, with the kisses of God's mouth, is better than all the gold of Ophir, Song 1:2. A drop of mercy from God's special love is better than a sea of mercy from God's common bounty. Look! as one draught of clear, sweet spring water is more pleasing, satisfying, and delightful to the palate—than a sea of brackish salt water; so one draught out of the fountain of special grace is more pleasing, satisfying, and delightful to a gracious soul—than a whole sea of mercy from a spring of common grace! Therefore do not wonder when you see a Christian sit down contented with a little.
Again, That little that a Christian has shall be certainly blessed and sanctified to him, 1 Tim 4:3-5; Titus 1:15; Jer 32:41, etc. Though your mercies, O Christian, are ever so few, and ever so base—yet they shall assuredly be blessed unto you. The Lord has not only promised that he will bless your blessings to you—but he has also sworn by himself that in blessing, he will bless you; and how dare you then, O Christian, to think that the great and faithful God will be guilty of a lie, or that which is worse, of perjury? Gen 22:16-17.
Now, a little blessed by God—is better than a great deal cursed by God! A little blessed—is better than a world enjoyed; a pound blessed—is better than a thousand cursed; a black crust blessed—is better than a feast cursed; the gleanings blessed—are better than the whole harvest cursed; a drop of mercy blessed—is better than a sea of mercy cursed; Lazarus's crumbs blessed—was better than Dives' delicacies cursed; Jacob's little blessed unto him—was better than Esau's great estate which was cursed unto him. It is always better to have scraps with God's blessing—than to have manna and quails with God's curse; a thin table with God's blessing—is always better than a full table with a snare, Psalm 78:18,32; a threadbare coat with God's blessing—is better than a purple robe cursed; a hole, a cave, a den, a barn, a chimney-corner, with God's blessing—is better than stately palaces with a curse; a woolen cap blessed—is better than a golden crown cursed; and it may be that emperor understood as much, that said of his crown, when he looked on it with tears, 'If you knew the cares that are under this crown, you would never stoop to take it up!'
And, therefore, why should not a Christian be contented with a little, seeing his little shall be blessed unto him? Isaac tills the ground, and sows his seed, and God blesses him with a hundred fold, Gen 26:12; and Cain tills the ground, and sows his seed—but the earth is cursed to him, and commanded not to yield its produce, Gen 4:12. Oh, therefore, never let a Christian murmur because he has but a little—but rather let him be still a-blessing of that God, who has blessed his little, and who does bless his little, and who will bless his little to him!
Again, That little estate that a righteous man has, is most commonly a more lasting, a more abiding, a more permanent, and a more enduring estate—than the great and large estates of the wicked are, Prov 15:16, and Prov 16:8. Psalm 37:16, "A little that a righteous man has—is better than the riches of many wicked." One old piece of gold—is worth more than a thousand new pennies; and one box of pearls—is more worth than many loads of pebbles; and one hundred pounds a year forever—is better than many hundreds in hand.
It is very observable the psalmist does not simply say, the estate—but the rich estate; the riches not of one, or a few—but of many wicked, are not comparable to that little that a righteous man has. The Hebrew word that is here rendered riches, signifies also a multitude, or an abundance, or store of riches. A little that a righteous man has is better than the multitude of riches, or the abundance of riches, or the store of riches that many wicked men have; and he gives you the reason of this in Psalm 37:17. "For the arms of the wicked shall be broken—but he upholds (or under-props) the righteous." By the arms of the wicked," you are to understand their strength, their valor, their power, their wit, their wealth, their abundance, which is all the arms they have to support and bear up themselves in the world with. Now, these arms shall be broken, and when they are broken, then, even then, will God uphold the righteous, that is, God will be a continual overflowing fountain of good to his righteous ones, so that they shall never lack, though all the springs of the wicked are dried up round about them.
O Sirs! there are so many moths, and so many dangers, and so many crosses, and so many losses, and so many curses—which daily attend the great estates of wicked men, that they are very rarely long-lived. Ah! how many in this great city are there who have built their nests on high, and who have thought that they had laid up riches for many years, and that have said in their hearts, that their lands, and stocks, and trades, and houses, and pompous estates should abide forever—who are now broken in pieces like a potter's vessel! Ah! how often does the pride, the oppression, the lying, the cheating, the overreaching, the swearing, the cursing, the whoring, the covetousness, the drunkenness, and the wantonness of the wicked—cut the throat of all their mercies! These are the wicked nesses, which, like a fire—burns up all their outward enjoyments; and which turns their earthly paradise into a hell. It is the wickedness of the wicked which causes their prosperity to wither, and which provokes God to turn their plenty into scarcity, their glory into contempt, and their honor into shame.
It is very observable, that in the holy Scriptures the prosperous estates of the wicked are frequently compared to things of a fleeting existence, [Job 14:2; Job 21:17-18; Isaiah 29:5; 2 Kings 19:26; Job 24:24; Job 15:33; Job 20:8] to a shadow which soon passes away; to chaff, which a puff, a blast of wind easily disperses and scatters; to grass, which quickly withers before the sun; to tops of corn, which in an instant are cut off; to the unripe grape, which suddenly drops down; yes, to a dream in the night; and what is a dream—but a quick fancy, and a momentary vanity? All the riches that the wicked gain—either by their trades, or by their friends, or by their great places, or by their high offices, or by their subtle contrivances, or by their sinful compliances; and all the honor they gain in the court, or in the camp, or in the school—is but light and fleeting; it is but like the crackling of thorns under a pot. They are fading vanities—which commonly die before those who enjoy them are laid in the dust.
Oh, therefore, let all Christians be contented with their little, seeing that their little shall outlast the large estates of wicked and ungodly men! A man who has God for his portion can truly say that which no wicked man in the world can say, namely, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever," Psalm 23:6. The psalmist does not say that goodness and mercy should follow him a day, or a few days, or many days—but that "goodness and mercy should follow him all the days of his life." The Hebrew word which is here rendered to follow, signifies to persecute; says the psalmist, "Goodness and mercy shall follow me, as the persecutor follows him he persecutes;" that is, it shall follow me frequently, it shall follow me constantly, it shall follow me swiftly, it shall follow me earnestly, it shall follow me unweariedly. The word signifies a studious, anxious, careful, diligent following; it is a metaphor that is taken from beasts and birds of prey, which follow and fly after their prey with the greatest eagerness, closeness, and unweariedness imaginable. Thus shall mercy and loving-kindness follow David all the days of his life. And if in a temptation, he should prove so weak and so foolish as to run away from goodness and mercy—yet goodness and mercy would follow him, like as the sun going down follows with his warm beams—the traveler who walks eastward.
O—but now the mercies of the wicked are short-lived! Though the wicked flourish and spread themselves like a green tree one day; yet they are cut down the next, and there is neither root nor branch to be found, tale nor tidings to be heard of them. For in a moment, they, with all their greatness, state, pomp, and glory—are utterly vanished and banished out of the world, Psalm 37:35-37. And so, Psalm 34:10, "The young lions lack and suffer hunger—but those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing." Young lions are lusty, strong, fierce, and active to seek their prey, and yet for all that, they shall lack and suffer hunger. By young lions, understand:
[1.] First, All wicked rulers; men who are in the highest places and authority, as the lion is the king of beasts, Prov 28:15; Ezek 32:2.
[2.] Secondly, By lions they understand all cruel oppressors, who are still oppressing and grinding of the faces of the poor. Prov 30:30; "rich oppressors," as the Septuagint renders it, "who live on the spoil of the poor, and are never satisfied."
[3.] Thirdly, By lions, they understand the tyrants and the mighty Nimrods of the world, who are sometimes called lions, Jer 2:15; 1 Chron 11:22; Nah 2:13.
[4.] And lastly, By lions, they understand all the crafty and subtle politicians of the earth. Ezek 38:13, "The lion lurks very craftily and secretly for his prey." The sum of all is this—That wicked men who are in the highest authority, and that great oppressors, cruel tyrants, and crafty politicians—shall be impoverished, and brought to poverty, beggary, and misery. And this we have often seen verified before our eyes.
O Christian! what though you have but a little of this world—yet the God of all mercies, and all the mercies of God; the God of all comforts, and all the comforts of God—are yours! What more would you have? In God is fullness—all fullness, infinite fullness; and if this, with a little of the world, will not satisfy you—I know not what will. If a God for your portion will not content you, all the world will never content you. Shall Diogenes, a heathen, be more content with his tub to shelter him, and with his dish to drink in, than Alexander was with all his conquests? And shall not a Christian sit down contented and satisfied in the enjoyment of God for his portion, though he has but a tub to shelter him, bread to feed him, and a dish of water to refresh him?
(3.) Thirdly, If God is the saint's portion—those sinners are much mistaken, who judge the saints to be the most unhappy men in the world. There are no men under heaven in such a blessed and happy estate as the saints are, Balaam himself being judge, Num 23:5-11. A man who has God for his portion, is honorable even in rags, Psalm 16:3. He has some beams, some rays, of the majesty and glory of God stamped upon his soul, and shining upon his face, and glittering in his life; and he who is so blind as not to behold this, is worse than Balaam the witch. Though the blind Jews could see no form, nor loveliness, nor beauty in Christ that they should desire him, Isaiah 53:2; yet the wise men who came from the east could see his divinity sparkling in the midst of the straw; they could see a heavenly majesty and glory upon him when he lay among the beasts, when he lay in a manger, Luke 2:7. Witness their tedious journey to find him, and witness their worshiping of him, and witness those rich and royal presents which they brought unto him, Matt 2:11.
So though the blind sots of the world can see no beauty, nor loveliness, nor glory, in the saints, or upon the saints—which should render them amiable and desirable in their eyes; yet God, and Christ, and angels, and those who are wise in heart and wise to salvation, can see a great deal of divine beauty, majesty, and glory upon all those who have God for their portion. There is no happiness compared to that of having God for a man's portion. Psalm 144:15, "Happy is that people who are in such a case" (but give me that word again), "yes, happy is that people whose God is the Lord." He who does not have God for his portion, can never be happy; and he who enjoys God for his portion can never be miserable.
Augustine, speaking of one who, passing by a stately house which had fair lands about it, and asking another whom he met to whom that house and lands belonged, he answered, 'to such an one.' Oh, says he, that is a happy man indeed. No, says the other, not so happy as you think; for it is no such happiness to have that house and land—but he is happy indeed, who has the Lord for his God—for that is a privilege which exceeds all things put together. For, says he, he who has honor and riches may go to hell for all them—but he who has God to be his God, is sure to be everlastingly happy.
According as a man's portion is, so is he. Now, if God is a man's portion, who is the spring, the fountain, the top of all excellency and glory—then certainly that man must needs be an excellent man who has God for his portion; and upon this score it is that the righteous man is more excellent than his neighbor. Let the righteous man's neighbor be ever so great, and ever so rich, and ever so mighty, and ever so noble—yet if he has not God for his portion, the righteous man is more excellent than he. And the reason is evident, because he has that God for his portion—which is the most eminent and excellent portion. O sirs! if God is most excellent, if God is alone excellent, then they must needs be most excellent, who have God for their portion.
It is very observable that, according to the excellency of God, the excellency of the saints is in some proportion hinted at in Scripture; as in that Deut 33:26,29, There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun;" and presently it follows, "Happy are you, O Israel; who is like unto you?" or, Oh the happinesses of you, O Israel! Oh the multiplied happiness, the heaped-up happiness—which attends Israel! The saints who have God for their portion, are the world's paragons; they are worthies "of whom this world is not worthy;" they are such great, such noble, such worthy worthies—that this world is not worthy to think on them, to look on them, to wait on them, or to enjoy their company. One saint who has God for his portion—is more worth than all the millions of sinners in the world that have not God for their portion. God delights to reflect his glory upon his saints; for as there are none like to God, so there are none like to the people of God. Look! as God is great, so his people are great; and so in that 2 Sam 7:22-23, "Therefore you are great, O Lord God; for there is none like you, neither is there any God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears; and what one nation in the earth is like your people?" Look! as the excellency of God rises—so in a proportion the excellency of the saints rises; and Look! as there are no gods in all the world which are so excellent as God is—so there are no people in all the world who are so excellent as the people of God are.
Everyone who has God for his portion resembles the child of a king, as Zebah and Zalmunna said to Gideon of his brethren, Judg 8:18. If you look upon their divine and heavenly origin, you shall find that they are born of the blood-royal, and that they are the sons of the King of kings, and Lord of lords! Yes, all the saints who have God for their portion, are kings. Rev 1:6, "And has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father." [Rev 17:14; Rev 5:10; Dan 7:27; 1 Cor 3:22-23; Psalm 34:14; Heb 1:14; Psalm 45:13; 1 Cor 1:30] They have the power, sovereignty, and authority of kings, they are privileged as kings, they are guarded as kings, they are adorned as kings, they are entertained as kings, they feed as kings—they feed high, they live upon God and Christ, and all the glory of heaven; and they are clothed as kings—they are clothed with Christ's righteousness, and with the garments of joy and gladness.
Kings have great alliance, and so have the saints who have God for their portion. Kings have a very great influence, and so have those who have God for their portion. A man in rags who has God for his portion—is a more honorable person than the greatest monarch on earth, who has only the world for his portion. I have read of Alexander the Great, and of Pompey the Great, and of Charles the Great, and of Abner the Great, and of Herod the Great; but what were all these great men but grasshoppers, compared to the saints who have God for their portion? Men who have had God for their portion have been very famous, illustrious, and glorious—when they have been friendless, and houseless, and penniless; yes, when they have been under the swords, and saws, and harrows of persecution.
When Maximian, the tyrant, had plucked out one of Paphnutius the Confessor's eyes, that good emperor Constantine saw such a luster, beauty, and glory upon Paphnutius, that he fell upon him and kissed him; and he kissed that very hole most, wherein one of the Confessor's eyes had been, as being most ravished and delighted with that hole. The name of him who has God for his portion shall live, when the name of the wicked shall rot, Prov 10:7; Psalm 112:9. His name shall be written in golden characters upon marble, when the name of the wicked shall be written in the dust.
The blind besotted world are sadly mistaken, who are ready to set the crown of honor and happiness upon any heads, rather than upon theirs who have God for their portion. Look! as Samuel, beholding the beauty and stature of Eliab, would needs have him anointed, and the crown set upon his head; when the crown was designed for David at the sheepfold, 1 Sam 16:6,12. So vain men are very apt to set the crown of happiness upon their heads who have the greatest share in this world; whereas the crown of happiness and blessedness is only to be set on the heads of those who have God for their portion. What the Queen of Sheba said of Solomon's servants, "Happy are your men, happy are these your servants—who stand continually before you, and who hear your wisdom," 1 Kings 10:8, is here very applicable to the saints—"Happy, happy, yes, thrice happy are those precious sons and daughters of Zion, who have God for their portion." A man who has God for his portion shall live happily and die happily, and after death he shall remain happy to all eternity. Therefore we may well cry out, "Oh, the happiness and blessedness of that man who has God for his portion!" But,
(4.) Fourthly, If the saints have such an excellent, such a matchless, portion, oh, then, let them never set their hearts and affections upon any earthly portions, Prov 23:5. It is true, O Christian, you may lay your hand upon an earthly portion—but you must never set your heart upon an earthly portion. Psalm 62:10, "If riches increase, set not your heart upon them." The Hebrews put the heart for the thoughts, affections, love, desire, joy, hope, confidence, etc. If riches increase, oh, set not your thoughts upon them; if riches increase, oh, set not your affections upon them; if riches increase, oh, set not your love upon them, set not your desires upon them, set not your joy and delight upon them; nor ever place your hope or confidence in them.
Oh! what a shame and dishonor would it be, to see men of great estates to rake in dunghills, and to sweep filthy streets! And is it not a greater shame, a greater dishonor, to see those who have the great God for their portion, to set their hearts and affections upon earthly trifles? It was a noble speech of that heathen, Themistocles, who, seeing something glisten like a pearl in the dark, scorned to stoop for it himself—but bid another stoop, saying, 'Stoop you, for you are not Themistocles.' Oh! it is below a holy Christian, a gracious Christian, a noble Christian—who has God for his portion, to stoop to the trifles of this world. A holy Christian will set his feet upon those very things, which the men of the world set their hearts.
Rev 12:1, "And there appeared a great wonder in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head was a crown of twelve stars." The church is compared to a woman for her weakness, for her lovingness, for her loveliness, and for her fruitfulness; and being clothed with the Sun of righteousness, she has the moon, that is, the world, under her feet. The church treads under her feet all temporary and transitory things, which are as changeable as the moon. She treads upon all worldly and carnal enjoyments and contentments, as things below her, as things not worthy of her. What vanity is it for a great man to set his heart on bird's nests, and paper kites which boys make fly in the air? And as great, yes, a greater vanity it is for the saints who have God for their portion, to set their hearts upon the poor little low things of this world.
"It is not for you to be a-fishing for minnows—but for towns, forts, and castles," said Cleopatra to Mark Antony. So say I, it is not for you who have God for your portion, to be a-fishing for the honors, riches, and preferments of the world; but for more grace, more holiness, more communion with God, more power against corruptions, more strength to withstand temptations, more abilities to bear afflictions, more sense of divine love, and more assurance of interest in Christ, and in all that glory and happiness which comes by Christ.
When Alexander heard of the riches of India, he regarded not the kingdom of Macedonia—but gave away his gold; and when he was asked, what he kept for himself? he answered, 'the hope of better and greater things.' O Christians! when you look upon those riches of grace, those riches of glory, those riches of justification, those riches of sanctification, and those riches of consolation—which are in that God who is your portion—how should you disregard, how should you despise, how should you scorn the great things, and the mirthful things of the world! It was a notable speech of one, 'I desire neither wealth nor honor—any more than a feeble horse does an heavy saddle.'
O Christians! you have many thousand excellencies in God to set your affections upon, and you have many thousand excellencies in Christ to set your affections upon, and you have many thousand excellencies in the Spirit to set your affections upon, and you have many thousand excellencies in the covenant to set your affections upon, and you have many thousand excellencies in the gospel to set your affections upon, and you have many thousand excellencies in the ordinances to set your affections upon, and you have many thousand excellencies in promises to set your affections upon, and you have many thousand excellencies in prophecies to set your affections upon, and you have many thousand excellencies in choice providences to set your affections upon, and you have many thousand excellencies in the saints to set your affections upon. Therefore, for shame—set not your affections upon things below, set not your hearts upon things which perish, Col 3:1.
A man can never come to set his heart upon any earthly portion—but that God will either embitter it, or lessen it, or cloud it, or wholly strip him of it. Therefore sit loose, I say again, sit loose in your affections to all worldly enjoyments. But,
(5.) Fifthly, If the saints have such a glorious, such an incomparable portion; then let them be cheerful and comfortable under all worldly crosses, losses, and troubles, Acts 5:17-42; Rom 5:2-4. With what a Roman spirit do many vain men of great estates bear up under great losses and crosses; and shall not grace do more than nature? Shall not the Spirit of God do more than a Roman spirit? O sirs, how can you look upon God as your portion, and not bear up bravely under any worldly loss? Heb 10:34. "You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions." They had God for their portion, and the joy of the Lord was their strength, and therefore they could rejoice in whatever damage came upon them by the hand of violence.
And so David could comfort himself in his God, and encourage himself in his God—when Ziklag was burned, his wives and children carried captive, and the people were ready to stone him, 1 Sam 30:6. Now all was gone, he looks up to God as his portion, and so he bears up bravely and cheerfully in the midst of all extremity of misery.
And so Habakkuk was a man of the same noble temper, as you may see in that Hab 3:17-18. "Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior."
"Though the fig tree does not bud—yet I will rejoice in the Lord." Ay—but that is nothing, to rejoice in the Lord as long as there is fruit on the vines; ay—but says he, "Though are no grapes on the vines—yet I will rejoice in the Lord." Ay—but that is nothing, to rejoice in the Lord so long as the labor of the olive crop does not fail; ay—but says he, "Though the olive crop fails—yet I will rejoice in the Lord." Ay—but that is nothing, to rejoice in the Lord so long as the fields yield their produce; ay—but says he, "Though the fields produce no food—yet I will rejoice in the Lord." Ay—but that is nothing, to rejoice in the Lord, so long as there are sheep in the pen; ay—but says he, "Though there are no sheep in the pen—yet I will rejoice in the Lord." Ay—but that is nothing, to rejoice in the Lord, so long as there are cattle in the stalls; yes—but says he, "Though there are no cattle in the stalls—yet will I rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of my salvation."
Habakkuk could rejoice in the Lord, and joy in that God who was his portion, not only when all delightful comforts and contentments should fail—but also when all necessary comforts and contentments should fail. Habakkuk was a man of raised spirit; he knew that he had that God for his portion—who contained in himself all comforts and contentments, and who could easily make up the lack of any comfort or contentment; and who would certainly be himself in the place of every comfort and contentment; and in the power of this faith he rejoices and triumphs in a day of thick darkness and gloominess.
1 Sam 1:5,18, "But unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion, for he loved Hannah, and her countenance was no more sad." O my brethren, it does never befit those who have God for their portion, to walk up and down the world with clouded countenances, with saddened countenances, or with dejected countenances, etc., and therefore, under all your crosses and losses—wipe your eyes, and walk up and down with pleasant countenances, with cheerful countenances, and with smiling countenances, and this will be an honor to God, and an honor to religion, and an honor to your profession, and an honor to that saintship which is too much slighted and scorned in the world.
Indeed, when wicked men are exercised with crosses and losses, it is no wonder to see them behave like madmen, and see them act bitterly, like Micah, when he cried out, "They have taken away my gods—what more do I have?" Wicked men's bags and goods are their gods; they are their portion, they are their all; and when these are gone—all is gone with them; when these are taken away—all is taken away with them. Therefore it is no wonder to hear them cry out, "Undone, undone!" and to see them sit down and weep, as if they were resolved to drown themselves in their own tears.
But you who have God for your portion—you have such a portion which shall never be taken from you. As Christ told Mary, "You have chosen the better part which shall never be taken from you," Luke 10:42. Therefore it highly concerns you to bear up bravely, as well when you have but little—as when you have much; and as well when you have nothing—as when you have everything. You shall be sure to enjoy all in God, and God in all; and what more would you have?
Seneca once told a courtier who had lost his son, that he had no cause to mourn either for that or anything else—because Caesar was his friend! O then, what little cause have the saints to mourn for this or that loss—considering that God is their friend; yes, which is more, that God is their portion! I have read of a company of poor Christians, who, being banished to some remote parts, and one seeing them pass along, said, that it was a very sad condition that those poor people were in, to be thus banished from the society of men, and to be made companions with the beasts of the field. True, said another, it would be a sad condition indeed—if they were carried to a place where they could not find their God; but let them be of good cheer, for God goes along with them, and will follow them with the comforts of his grace wherever they go.
Would it not make a man either sigh or laugh to see a man lament and carry on bitterly for the loss of his shoestrings, when his purse is safe; or for the loss of a little stick, when all his goods are safe; or for the burning of a pig-stye, when his dwelling-house is safe; or for the loss of his scabbard, when his life is safe? And why, then, should a Christian lament and take on for the loss of this or that—so long as his God is safe, and his portion is safe? But,
(6.) Sixthly, If the saints have such an excellent and such a transcendent portion, as has been shown—then away with all sinful shifts, ways, courses, and compliances to gain an earthly portion. Was it not horrid, yes, hellish baseness in Ahab, who had a whole kingdom at his command, to steal poor Naboth's vineyard, by false swearing, hypocrisy, treachery, cruelty, and murder? 1 Kings 21. But, certainly, it is a far greater baseness and wickedness in those who have God for their portion, or at least pretend to have God for their portion—to be a-swindling, and a-shifting, and a-complying with the lusts of men, and with the abominations of the times; and all to keep what they have, or else to raise themselves, and greaten themselves, and enrich themselves, by others' ruin. These men might do well to make Jer 17:11 their daily companion—"Like a bird that hatches eggs she has not laid, so are those who get their wealth by unjust means. Sooner or later they will lose their riches and, at the end of their lives, will become poor old fools."
The crafty fox in the fable congratulated himself to think how he had tricked the crow out of his breakfast; but when he had eaten it, and found himself poisoned with it—he wished that he had never meddled with it. O sirs! there is a day a-coming, wherein men shall wish that they had never labored to sin themselves into honors, riches, preferments, high offices, and high places—when God shall let some scalding drops of his wrath to fall upon their spirits—who have sold all their concernments, and their own consciences—to gain riches and high offices! How will they curse the day wherein they were born, and be ready, by the knife or the noose, to put an end to their most wretched days! Oh what a sad and lamentable thing would it be to see men worth many thousands a-year a-purloining from others! But it is a far more sad and lamentable thing to see men who pretend to have God for their portion, to act all this, and more than this—and all to lay up an earthly portion for themselves.
How many be there in these days who pretend very high towards God, and yet "sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of shoes," Amos 2:6; yes, who pollute the name of God, the worship of God; and that slay the souls of men for handfuls of barley, and pieces of bread; and who will say anything, or swear anything, or bow, or crouch to anything—for a piece of silver and a morsel of bread, or to be put into one of the priest's offices, Ezek 13:19; 1 Sam 2:36. O Christian, you have all honors and riches and preferments in that God who is your portion; and why then should you go about to sin yourself into the enjoyment of those things which you have already in your God? Have you forgot that Solomon got more hurt by his wealth, than ever he got good by his wisdom? and that David was best in a wilderness, and that our stomachs are usually worse in summer, and that the moon is furthest from the sun when it is fullest of light; and that all that a man gets by breaking with God and his conscience, he may put in his eye; and that the coal that the eagle carried from the sacrifice to her nest, set all on fire.
Have you forgotten what is said of Abraham in that Gen 13:2, namely, "That he was very rich in cattle, in silver, and in gold?" The Hebrew word which is here rendered rich, signifies heavy, to show that riches are a very heavy burden, and oftentimes a hindrance in the way to heaven. Oh! how vain, how uncertain, how vexing, and how fleeting are the great things of the world! How unfit do they make many men to live; and how unwilling do they make many men to die! Oh what is gold in the purse—when there is guilt upon the conscience! What are full bags—when sin and wrath are at the bottom of them! O Christians! you have an infinite fullness in that God who is your portion, and that fills all in all. Why then should you break the hedge—to gain the world? But,
(7.) Seventhly. If the saints have such an excellent, glorious, and incomparable portion, 1 Cor 1:31, oh then let them glory in their portion; let them rejoice and delight themselves in their portion. Man is a creature very apt and prone to glory in earthly portions, when he should be a-glorying in the Lord. Jer 9:23-24, "Thus says the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches—but let him who glories, glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the Lord." Isaiah 41:16, "You shall rejoice in the Lord, and shall glory in the Holy One of Israel." Isaiah 45:25, "In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory."
Oh how should the saints, who have God for their portion, make their boast of their God, and rejoice in their God, and glory in their God! Shall the men of the world glory in an earthly portion—and shall not a saint glory in his heavenly portion? Shall they glory in a portion that they have only in hope—and shall not a Christian glory in that portion that he has already in hand? Shall they glory in a portion that they have only in reversion—and shall not a saint glory in that portion that he has in present possession? Shall they glory in their hundreds and thousands a year—and shall not a Christian glory in that God that fills heaven and earth with his glory? In all the scriptures there is no one duty more pressed than this—of rejoicing in God; and indeed, if you consider God as a saint's portion, there is everything in God that may encourage the soul to rejoice in him, and there is nothing in God that may in the least discourage the soul from rejoicing and glorying in him.
O Christians, the "joy of the Lord is your strength," Neh 8:10; it is your doing strength, and your bearing strength, and your suffering strength, and your prevailing strength; it is your strength to work for God, and it is your strength to wait on God, and it is your strength to exalt and lift up God, and it is your strength to walk with God; it is your strength to live, and your strength to die. Therefore be sure to keep up your joy in God. It is one of the saddest sights in all the world to see a man who has God for his portion, with Cain to walk up and down this world with a dejected countenance. It was holy joy and cheerfulness that made the faces of several martyrs to shine as if they had been the faces of angels. One observes of Crispina, that she was cheerful when she was arrested, and joyful when she was led to the judge, and merry when she was sent to prison, and so she was when bound, and when lift up in a cage, and when examined, and when condemned.
O Christians! how can you number up the several souls that you deject, the foul mouths that you open, and the bad reports that you bring upon the Lord and his ways—by your sad, dejected, and anxious walking! It is very observable that the Lord takes it so very unkindly at his people's hands—when they go sighing, lamenting, and mourning up and down; whereas they should be a-rejoicing and a-delighting of themselves in him and his goodness—that he threatens to pursue them to the death with all manner of calamities and miseries upon that very score. Deut 28:47-48, "Because you have not served the Lord your God with joy and enthusiasm for the abundant benefits you have received, you will serve your enemies whom the Lord will send against you. You will be left hungry, thirsty, naked, and lacking in everything. They will oppress you harshly until you are destroyed." But,
(8.) Eighthly. If the saints have such a great, such a large, and such an all-sufficient portion as has been showed they have, then certainly they shall never lack anything that is good for them. David tells you that his cup run over, Psalm 23:5-6. The words are an allusion to the Hebrew feasts. David's table was richly and nobly spread, both in sight and spite of all his enemies. In one God—is every good; and what can he lack, who enjoys that God? God is a bundle of all goodness and sweetness. And Look! as God is the best God, so he is the greatest and the fullest good. He can as easily fill the most capacious souls up to the very brim with all inward and outward excellencies and mercies—as Christ did once fill those waterpots of Galilee up to the very brim with wine, John 2:1-11. If God has enough in himself for himself—then certainly he has enough in himself for us. That water which can fill the sea—can much more easily fill my cup or my pot. "My people shall be satisfied with goodness, says the Lord," Jer 31:14; "And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them to do them good, yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good; and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart, and with my whole soul," Jer 32:40-41; "My God shall supply all your need," Phil 4:19, or, "My God shall fill up all your need," as he did the widow's vessels in that 2 Kings 4:3-6. Godliness has the promise both of this life and that which is to come, 1 Tim 4:8.
He who has God for his portion, shall have all other things cast into his store, as paper and packing thread is cast into the bargain; or as an handful of corn is cast into the corn you buy; or as hucksters cast in an extra among the fruit you buy; or as an inch of measure is given into a yard of cloth, Matt 6:25,31-33. O sirs, how can that man be poor, how can that man lack—who has the Lord of heaven and earth for his portion? Surely he cannot lack light—who enjoys the sun; nor he cannot lack bread—who has all sorts of grain in his barns, nor can he lack water—who has the fountain at his door; no more can he lack anything—who has God for his portion—who is everything, and who will be everything to every gracious soul.
O Christians! the thought, the tongue, the desire, the wish, the conception—all fall short of God, and of that great goodness which he has laid up for those who fear him, Psalm 31:19; and why then should they be afraid of any real lack? Psalm 104:10-31. How does that pretty bird, the robin-redbreast, cheerfully sit and sing in the chamber window, and yet knows not where he shall get the next meal, and at night must take up his lodging in a bush. Oh what a shame is it that men who have God for their portion should act below this little bird.
I have read of famous Mr. Dod, who is doubtless now high in heaven, who intended to marry, was much troubled with fears and cares how he would live in that condition, his incomes being so small that they would but maintain him in a single condition; and looking out at a window, and seeing a hen scraping for food for her numerous chicks about her, thought thus with himself—'This hen did but live before it had these chickens, and now she lives with all her little ones;' upon which he added this thought also, 'I see the fowls of the air neither sow nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet my heavenly Father feeds them,' Matt 6:25; and thus he overcame his fears of lacking any necessity. O Christians! you have such a Father for your portion—as will as soon cease to be—as he will cease to supply you with all things necessary for your good. It was a good saying of one, 'I would desire neither more nor less than enough; for I may as well die of a surfeit as of hunger, and he is rich enough who lacks not bread, and high enough in dignity who is not forced to serve.
Rather than Israel should lack—did not God feed them with manna in the wilderness? and rather than Elijah and the widow should not have their needs supplied—did not God work a miracle, by causing the handful of meal in the barrel, and the little oil in the cruse, to last and hold out until he supplied them in another way? Rather than Elijah shall lack, God will feed him by a raven, and by that miraculous operation save him from a perishing condition. O Christians! all the attributes of God are so engaged for you, that you cannot lack; and all the promises of God are so engaged to you that you cannot lack; and all the affections of God are so set upon you that you cannot lack; and why then should you fear for your necessities?
O Christians! has God given you his Son, his Spirit, his grace, his glory, yes, himself—and will he deny you lesser things, "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:32. Has he given you those things which are more worth than ten thousand worlds—and will he not give you bread to eat, and clothing to put on? Has he given you those spiritual riches that infinitely exceed and excel all the riches, rubies, and pearls in the world—and will he deny you a little money in your purses to afford your necessities until you come to heaven? Has he given you a crown—and will he deny you a crust? Has he given you his royal robes—and will he deny you a few rags? Has he given you a royal palace—and will he deny you a poor cottage to shelter you from the stormy winter and from the scorching summer? Does be feed his enemies, and clothe his enemies, and protect his enemies, and provide for his enemies—who are under his wrath and curse—and will he not do as much for you, O you of little faith? Will he do so much for those who hate him—and will he not do as much for those who love him? Doubtless he will. Will he feed the ravens, and provide for the ox and the donkey, and clothe the grass of the field; and will he allow you, who are his love, his joy, his delight, to starve at his feet, for lack of necessities? Surely not!
But suppose you were under many real needs—yet certainly this very consideration, that the Lord is your portion, should quiet your hearts, and bear up your spirits bravely under them all. Jerome tells us of one Didymus, a godly preacher, who was blind; Alexander, a godly man, coming to see him, asked him whether he was not sorely troubled and afflicted for lack of his sight. Oh yes, said Dydimus, it is a very great affliction and grief to me. Whereupon Alexander chide him, saying, Has God given you the excellency of an angel, of a Christian, and are you troubled for that which rats and mice, and brute beasts enjoy? O Christians! if God has given you himself for a portion, then certainly it is a sinful thing, a shameful thing, an unworthy thing for you to be so troubled, afflicted, and grieved—because you lack this and that worldly contentment and enjoyment, which God bestows upon such whose wickedness has debased them below the ox and the donkey, I mean, men of beastly spirits, and beastly principles, and beastly practices, Isaiah 1:2-3. Look! as Benjamin's portion was five times greater than his brethren's, Gen 43:34; so those who have God for their portion have five thousand times a greater portion than the wicked of the world, whose portion only lies in perishing trifles, and in foolish vanities. Therefore there is no just reason, no Scripture reason, why they should be afraid of wants. But,
(9.) Ninthly, If the saints have such a great, such a large, such an all-sufficient, such an infinite, and such an incomparable portion, as has been made evident they have, oh then, away with all inordinate cares for the things of this life. Oh say to all vexing, wasting, distracting, and disturbing cares, as Ephraim once said to his idols, "Get you hence, for what have I any more to do with you?" Hos 14:8. Christ's counsel should lie warm upon every man's heart, who has God for his portion, "So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." Matt 6:31-32; and so should the apostle's, "Cast all your care on him; for he cares for you," 1 Pet 5:7, and so should the psalmist's also, "Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain you—he shall never allow the righteous to be moved," Psalm 55:22.
Some write that lions sleep with their eyes open and shining; but the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the keeper of Israel, never slumbers nor sleeps; his eyes are always open upon the upright; he still stands sentinel for his people's good, and therefore why should inordinate cares eat up the hearts of Christians? O Christians! of all burdens, the burden of carking cares will sit the heaviest upon your spirits. There is no burden that will bow you and break you like this. Inordinate cares and worries—vex the heart, they divide the heart, they scratch and tear the heart, they pierce and wound the heart through and through with many sorrows, 1 Tim 6:10. Inordinate cares will either crowd out duties, as in Martha, Luke 10:40, or else they will crowd into duties and spoil duties, as in that Luke 8:14, "the cares of the world choke the word."
Look! as Pharaoh's ill-favored lean cows ate up the fat cows, Gen 41:4, so all inordinate ill-favored cares will eat up all those fat and noble cares for God, for his glory, for heaven, for holiness, for grace, for glory, for power against corruptions, for strength to resist temptations, and for support and comfort under afflictions, etc., with which the soul should be filled and delighted. Oh that you would forever remember these few things, to prevent all inordinate, distrustful, and distracting cares.
[1.] First, That they are a dishonor and a reproach to the all-sufficiency of God; as if he were not able to supply all your needs, and to answer all your desires, and to support you in all your distresses, and to deliver you out of all your calamities and miseries, etc.
[2.] Secondly, Inordinate cares are a dishonor and a reproach to the omniscience of God. [Psalm 139:11; Psalm 40:5; Job 31:4; 2 Chron 16:9; etc.] As if your needs were not as well known to him as his own works, and as if he had not a fixed eye upon all the straits and trials that lies upon you, and as if he did not know every burden that makes you to groan, and did not behold every affliction that makes you to sigh, and did not observe every tear that drops from your eyes, etc.; whereas his eye is still upon you. Deut 11:11-12, "But the land, where you go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinks water of the rain of heaven; a land which the Lord your God cares for—the eyes of the Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year, unto the end of the year." And do you think that he will not have as great a care, and as tender a regard for you who are his jewels, his treasure, his joy; yes, who are the delight of his soul, and the price of his Son's blood?
[3.] Thirdly, Inordinate cares are a dishonor and a reproach to the authority of God. As if the earth were not the Lord's and the fullness thereof, and as if all creatures were not at his command and at his dispose, whereas he is the great proprietary, and all is his by primitive right, and all the creatures are at his service, and are ready at a word of command to serve where he pleases, and when he pleases, and as he pleases, and whom he pleases, Psalm 24:1; Psalm 50:10.
[4.] Fourthly, Inordinate cares are a dishonor and a reproach to the mercy, bounty, and liberality of God. They proclaim God to be a hard master, and not to be of so free, so noble, and so generous a spirit, as Scripture and the experiences of many thousands speaks him to be. I have read of a duke of Milan, that marrying his daughter to a son of England, he made a dinner of thirty courses, and at every course he gave so many gifts to every guest at the table, as there were dishes in the course. Here was a rich and royal entertainment, here was noble bounty indeed; but this bounty is not to be named in comparison with the bounty and liberality of God to his people.
Princes' treasures have been often exhausted and drawn dry—but the treasures of God's bounty and liberality were never, nor never shall be, exhausted or drawn dry. O Christians! you are as well able to count the stars of heaven, and to number the sands of the sea, as you are able to number up the mercies and favors of God which attend his people in one day, yes, which attend them in one hour of the day, or in one minute of an hour; such is his liberality and bounty towards them. God is always best, when he is most in the exercise of his bounty and liberality towards his people. His favors and mercies seldom come single. There is a series, a chain of them, and every former draws on a future. Yes, such is the bounty and liberality of God, that he never takes away one mercy—but he has another ready to give in the place of it; as Joshua began to shine before Moses' candle was put out; and before Joshua died, Othniel the son of Kenaz was risen up to judge. Eli was not gathered to his fathers, before Samuel appeared hopeful; nor Sarah was not taken away until Rebekah was ready to come in her place. The Jews have a saying, that never does there die any illustrious man—but there is another born as bright on the same day.
[5.] Fifthly, Inordinate cares are a reproach and a dishonor to the fidelity of God. As if he were not the faithful witness, the faithful God, who has bound himself by promise, by covenant, and by oath, to take care of his people, and to provide for his people, and to look after the welfare of his people. [Rev 1:5; Rev 3:14; Isaiah 49:7; 1 Cor 1:9; 1 Cor 10:13; 2 Thess 3:3; Heb 10:23; Rev 19:11; Heb 6:18-19] God is that ocean and fountain from whence all that faithfulness that is in angels and men do issue and flow; and his faithfulness is the rule and measure of all that faithfulness which is in all created beings; and his faithfulness is unchangeable and perfect. Though the angels fell from their faithfulness, and Adam fell from his—yet it is impossible that ever God should fall from his. God's faithfulness is a foundation-faithfulness; it is that foundation upon which all our faith, hope, prayers, praises, and obedience stands. Therefore, whoever is unfaithful, God will be sure to show himself a faithful God, in making good all that he has spoken concerning them that fear him.
I had rather, said Plutarch, that men should say there was never any such person in the world as Plutarch, rather than say that Plutarch is unfaithful. Men were better say that there is no God, than to say that God is an unfaithful God—and yet this is the constant language of inordinate cares. O Christians! God's goodness inclines him to make good promises, precious promises; and his faithfulness engages him to make good those promises, 2 Pet 1:4. If the word be once gone out of his mouth, heaven and earth shall sooner pass away, than one jot of that word shall fail, Matt 5:18. Men say, and then unsay, what they have said; they often eat their words as soon as they have spoke them; but so will not God. This faithfulness of God Joshua stoutly asserts to the height; he throws down the gauntlet, and does, as it were, challenge all Israel to show but that one thing that God had failed them in of all the good things that he had promised, Josh 23:14-15. If God in very faithfulness, afflicts his people—to make good his threatenings; oh, how much more in faithfulness will he preserve and provide for his people—to make good his promises! Psalm 119:75. God has never broke his word nor cracked his credit by deceiving, or by giving one penny less than what he has promised to give. God stands upon nothing more than his faithfulness, and glories in nothing more than his faithfulness; and yet all inordinate cares leaves a blot upon his faithfulness. But,
[6.] Sixthly and lastly, Inordinate cares are a reproach to the pity and compassion of God, Matt 6:32. They speak out God to be a God of no pity, of no compassion, of no tenderness; whereas God is all pities, all affections, all compassions, all tendernesses. Psalm 103:13, "Like as a father pities his children, so the Lord pities them those who fear him." There is an ocean of love and pity in a father's heart to his children, Gen 33:13-14; and there is much more in God's to his. Hence he is called the Father by way of eminency; and indeed, originally and properly, there is no Father compared to him, there is no Father like him, there is no Father besides him. He is called the Father of all mercies, because all the mercies, all the pities, all the affections, all the compassions which are in all the fathers on earth, are but a drop of his ocean, a spark of his flame, a mite out of his treasury.
That father who sees his child in need, and pities him not; or pitying, if able, relieves him not—forfeits the very name of father, and may better write himself monster than man. I have read of a young man who, being at sea in a mighty storm, was very merry when all the passengers were at their wit's end for fear, etc.; and when he was asked the reason of his mirth, he answered, that the pilot of the ship was his father, and he knew that such was his father's pity and compassion, that he would take care of him. O Christians! whatever storms the people of God may be in—yet such is his pity and compassion towards them, that he will be sure to take care of them. While God has a breast, there is no reason why his children should fear the want of milk.
That golden promise, Heb 13:5, were there no more, has enough in it to steel and arm the soul against all inordinate cares. The Greek has five negatives, and may thus be rendered—"I will not, not leave you, neither will I not, not ever forsake you." Five times, as one well observes, is this precious promise renewed, that we may suck and be satisfied with the breasts of its consolations, that we may milk out and be delighted with the abundance of its glory. O Christians! shall the word, the promise, of a king, arm us and cheer us up against all inordinate cares; and shall not the word, the promise, of the King of kings, so often repeated, much more arm us against all base, distrustful, and distracting cares?
O Christians! the remembrance of this blessed truth, that God is your portion, should make you sing care away, as that famous martyr said, "My soul is turned to her rest; I have taken a sweet nap in Christ's lap. Therefore I will now sing away care." If the sense of God's being a man's portion will not burn up all those inordinate cares which commonly fill his head, and which disturb, and distract, and rack his heart—I profess I cannot tell what will. It was a strange speech of Socrates, a heathen—Since God is so mindful for you, says he, what need you be worried for anything yourselves? But,
(10.) Tenthly, If God is the saints' portion, then all is theirs. As one said, 'Christ is mine—so all is mine!' So may a Christian say, 'God is mine—so all is mine.' If God is your portion, then heaven and earth are yours; then all the good and all the glory of both worlds are yours; then all the upper and the nether springs are yours. 1 Cor 3:21, "All things are yours! Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours!" The scope of the apostle is not to show that such as are saints, and have God for their portion, have a common interest in all men's earthly possessions; but it is to show that all things are prepared, ordered, and ordained by God to serve the interest of his people, to work for the good of his people, and to help on the happiness and blessedness of his people.
All the gifts, and all the graces, and all the experiences, and all the excellencies, and all the mercies of the ministers of the gospel—are all for the information, edification, confirmation, consolation, and salvation of the church; and all the good and all the sweet of the creatures are to be let out for the good of the people of God, and for the comfort of the people of God, and for the encouragement of the people of God; all changes, all conditions, all occurrences, shall be sure "to work together for their good," who have God for their portion. Whatever the present posture of things are, or whatever the future state of things shall be—yet they shall all issue in their good, in their profit, in their advantage, to those who who have God for their portion.
Look! as the wife shares in her husband's honor and wealth; and as the branches partake of the fatness and sweetness of the root; and as the members derive sense and motion from the head—so the saints share in all that good which is in God. God is giving—as the fig-tree, the vine, and the olive tree are giving. O Christians! if God is your portion, then every promise in the book of God is yours, and every attribute in the book of God is yours, and every privilege in the book of God is yours, and every comfort in the book of God is yours, and every blessing in the book of God is yours, and every treasure in the book of God is yours, and every mercy in the book of God is yours, and every ordinance in the book of God is yours, and every sweet in the book of God is yours. If God is yours—all is yours!
When Alexander asked king Porus, who was then his prisoner, how he would be treated; he answered—'like a king.' Alexander again replying, Do you desire nothing else? No, says he, all things are in this one word, 'like a king.' So all things are in this one word—"The Lord is my portion." He who has God for his portion, has all things, because God is all things! God is a good who contains all good in himself. All the good that is to be found in honors, in riches, in pleasures, in preferments, in husband, in wife, in children, in friends, etc., is to be found only and eminently in God. You have all—in that great God that is the saints' great all, Col 3:11. But,
(11.) Eleventhly, If God is the saint's portion, and such a portion as I have at large discovered him to be, then certainly God is no injurious portion, no mischievous portion, no hurtful portion, no harmful portion. Surely there can be no danger, no hazard, no hurt in having God for a man's portion. Oh! but oftentimes earthly portions do a great deal of hurt, a great deal of mischief; they ruin men's bodies, they blast and blot men's names, and they lay men open to such sins, and snares, and temptations, which forever undoes their immortal souls. Oh what a snare are worldly portions to most men! yes, what fuel are they to corruption! and how often do they lay people open to destruction! Eccles 5:13, "There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt." Though riches in themselves are God's blessings—yet through the corruptions that are in men's hearts, they prove weapons of wickedness and engines to evil. "There is a sore evil," the Septuagint reads it—a sore disease. Others read it—an evil disease; others read it—a sore weakness. The Hebrew word signifies such a sore evil as sticks close and is not easily removed; and may be a thousand thousand ways for their hurt.
Latimer says, that if he had an enemy to whom it was lawful to wish evil, he would chiefly wish him great store of riches, for then he should never enjoy any quiet. As I have read of one Pheraulas, a poor man, on whom king Cyrus bestowed so much that he knew not what to do with his riches. Being wearied out with care in keeping of them, he desired to live quietly, though poor, as he had done before, than to possess all those riches with discontent. Therefore he gave away all his wealth, desiring only to enjoy so much as might relieve his necessities, and give him a quiet possession of himself.
Queen Mary said, when she was dying, that if they should open her when she was dead, they should find gold lying at the bottom of her heart, implying that the loss of it broke her heart.
The historian observes that the riches of Cyprus invited the Romans to hazard many dangerous fights for the conquering of it.
When the Indians had taken some of the Spaniards, who made gold their God, they filled their mouths with it, and so choked them; they melted their gold, and poured it down their throats, resolving that they should have their fill of gold, who preferred gold before the lives and souls of men. How many millions of bodies and souls have the Spaniards destroyed, to possess the riches of the West Indies! But let me a little further show you how hurtful, how dangerous and pernicious earthly riches, earthly portions, are oftentimes to their owners; and this I shall do by a brief induction of these particulars.
[1.] First, Riches encourage and advantage people to make the strongest and the stoutest opposition against the godly. Rich people usually are the greatest opposers of Christian people. James 2:6-7, "Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?" And this you may see also in the rich citizens of Jerusalem, and in king Herod; and the very same spirit you may run and read in the scribes and pharisees, who were the rich and the great men of the times, and the very same opposing spirit lives and works strongly in the hearts of many great ones this day. But,
[2.] Secondly, Earthly portions estrange the heart from God; as you see in the prodigal, Luke 1:5, and in those wealthy monsters who say unto God, "Leave us alone! We have no desire to know your ways. Who is the Almighty, that we should serve him? What would we gain by praying to him?" Job 21:13-15. But,
[3.] Thirdly, As earthly portions estrange the soul from God; so they do often swell the soul, and puff up the soul with pride, Psalm 10:1-7, etc. Salvian counts pride the rich man's inheritance. Men's minds ebb and flow with their means, their arrogance commonly rises with their outward good. Pride, says Bernard, is the rich man's cousin, it blows him up like a balloon; it makes him grow secure, and so prepares him for sudden ruin—so that he may well sing his part with those sad souls, "What has pride profited us? or what profit has the pomp of riches brought us? All those things are passed away like as a shadow, and as a dream in the night." But,
[4.] Fourthly, Earthly riches commonly cast men into a deep sleep of carnal security. Thus they served David in that Psalm 30:6-7, and thus they served the fool in the Gospel, Luke 12:16-22, and thus they served the old world; and so they did Sodom and Gomorrah afterwards, and so they did the two kings of Midian, Zebah and Zalmunna, and their armies, Judg 8:11-12, and so did the people of Laish, in Judg 18:6-28. And so the peace, plenty, and prosperity of the Bohemians cast them into so great a security, that they began to grow very loose and base in their lives, and very cold and careless in the things of God, and in all their soul-concernments; insomuch that many of their most pious and prudent men did predict that certainly some horrible storm would suddenly arise, and that some dreadful tempest perhaps would beat upon them—as accordingly it came to pass. Alexander slew him whom he found asleep on the watch; and God finding the Bohemians in a deep sleep of sin and security, he brought the devouring sword upon them. Mercury could not kill Argus, until he had cast him into a sleep, and with an enchanted rod closed his eyes. No more can the devil or the world hurt any man, until by dandling of him on the knee of prosperity, he comes to lull him asleep in the bed of security. But,
[5.] Fifthly, Earthly riches do frequently divert the souls of men from embracing and closing with the golden seasons and opportunities of grace. Riches are the thorns which choke the word, and which make men barren and unfruitful under the word, Matt 13:22. Rich Felix had no leisure to hear poor Paul, though the hearing of a sermon might have saved his soul, and made him happy in both worlds, Acts 24:24-27. The rich fool in the Gospel was so taken up in pulling down his barns, and in building of greater ones, that he had no time to prevent the ruin of his soul, Luke 12:15-22. Dives was so taken up with his riches, pomp, state, and with his royal apparel, royal attendance, and royal fare—that he never minded heaven, nor ever dreaded hell—until he awoke with everlasting flames about his ears! Luke 16:19-31.
Sicily is so full of sweet flowers, that dogs cannot hunt there; and what do all the sweet profits, pleasures, and preferments of this world—but make men lose the scent of grace, the scent of glory, the scent of holiness, and the scent of happiness. It is true, rich men will have their eating times, and their drinking times, and their trading times, and their sporting times, and their sleeping times, and that which is worse—their sinning times, etc. But ah, how rare is it to see rich men covet after hearing times and praying times, and reading times, and meditating times, and mourning times, and repenting times, and reforming times. Rich men will have time for everything—but to honor God, exalt Christ, obey the Spirit, love the saints, attend ordinances, and save their own immortal souls. Oh the time, the thoughts, the strength, the energy--which rich men spend and consume upon their riches, while their precious souls lie a-bleeding to death, and an eternity of misery is hastening upon them. Some say, that where gold grows—no plant will thrive. Certainly, where riches thrive most—no grace will thrive. But,
[6.] Sixthly, Earthly riches commonly load the soul with a multitude of cares, fears, griefs, and vexations—which mightily disturb the soul, distract the soul; yes, often rack, torture, and torment the soul. What if such a friend should be unfaithful to his trust? what if such a ship should miscarry? what if such a one should go bankrupt—who owes me so much? what if my title to such a land should not prove good? what if flaws are found in my title for such and such lands? what if fire should consume my habitation? what if thieves should rob me of my treasure? etc., and what do all these whats tend to—but to break a man's heart in a thousand pieces? But,
[7.] Seventhly, Earthly riches are many times fuel for the greatest and the grossest sins; as pride, oppression, revenge, cruelty, tyranny, gluttony, drunkenness, wantonness, and all manner of uncleanness and filthiness. But,
[8.] Eighthly, Earthly riches are many times reserved as witnesses against the rich in the great day of their account. James 5:1-3, "Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days." The rust of the rich man's cankered gold and his moth-eaten apparel shall be brought in as dreadful witnesses against him in the great day. The poet reasoned Pluto to be the god of riches and of hell too—as if they were inseparable. By all these particulars you see how hurtful, how harmful earthly portions often prove to their owners.
Oh—but now God is a portion which will never hurt a man, which will never harm a man, which will never in the least injure a man. Among all "the spirits of just men made perfect," Heb 12:22-23, there is not one to be found, who will give in his witness against this sweet and blessed truth that I have asserted; and among all the saints on earth you shall not find one—but will with both hands readily subscribe to this glorious maxim, namely—That God is such a portion, which has never hurt them, which has never harmed them; yes, that he is such a portion which has done them good all their days, and one upon whom they have lived, and by whom they have been maintained ever since they trusted in him. Holy Polycarp hit it, when he said, "This sixty-eight years have I served the Lord, and he never did me any hurt; and shall I now forsake him? Surely not!"
But now earthly riches, for the most part, do a world of mischief and hurt to their owners. Oh the souls which earthly riches have pierced through and through with many sorrows! Oh the minds which earthly riches have blinded! Oh the hearts which earthly riches have hardened! Oh the consciences which earthly riches have benumbed! Oh the wills which earthly riches have perverted! Oh the affections which earthly riches have disordered! Oh the lives which earthly riches have corrupted! And Oh the souls which earthly riches have destroyed! But,
[9.] Ninthly and lastly, Earthly riches, for the most part, make men unwilling to die. Oh how terrible is the king of terrors to the rich and the great ones of the world, 1 Sam 28:20; Dan 5:1-7. And so Henry Beaufort, that rich and wretched cardinal, perceiving death at hand, spoke thus—'How can I die, being so rich? If the whole realm could save my life, I am able either by policy to get it, or by riches to buy it. Why will not death be hired? Will money do nothing?' It is reported that Queen Elizabeth could not endure so much as to hear death named; and Sigismund the emperor, and Louis the Eleventh, king of France, straitly charged all their servants, that when they saw them sick, they should never dare to name that bitter word death in their ears. Vitellius, an emperor of Rome—a notorious glutton, as you may easily judge, by his having at one supper two thousand fishes, and seven thousand birds—when he could not flee death, he made himself drunk that he might not be sensible of the pangs of death.
It was a very prudent and Christian speech of Charles the Fifth to the duke of Venice, who when he had showed him the glory of his princely palace and earthly paradise, instead of admiring it, or him for it—he only returned him this grave and serious memento, "these are the things which make us unwilling to die!" And by daily experience we find that of all men wealthy men are most unwilling to die. Oh—but now God is such a portion as fits and disposes the soul to die, yes, as makes the soul look and long for death, and that makes death more desirable than life itself. A man who has God for his portion, who has God in his arms—may well sing it out with old Simeon, "Lord, let your servant depart in peace, according to your word—for my eyes has seen your salvation," Luke 2:25,29-30; and with Paul, "I desire to depart—and to be with Christ," Phil 1:23; and with the church, "Make haste, my beloved, and be like a roe, or to a young deer upon the mountain of spices," Song 8:14; and, "Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly," Rev 22:20.
"Did Christ die for me that I might live with him? I will not therefore desire to live long away from him. All men go willingly to see him whom they love; and shall I be unwilling to die that I may see him whom my soul loves? Surely not!" Augustine longed to die that he might see that head which was once crowned with thorns. The dying words of my young Lord Harrington were these—"O my God, when shall I be with you?" Cyprian could receive the cruelest sentence of death with a 'thanks be to God!' Holy Andrew saluted the cross on which he was to be crucified, saying, "Take me from men, and restore me to my master!" And so Laurence Saunders, when he was come to the stake at which he was to be burnt, he kissed it, saying, "Welcome the cross of Christ, welcome everlasting life. But,
(12.) Twelfthly, If God is the saints' portion, oh then let the saints still think of God, and look upon God their best portion. A man who has God for his portion should always have very high, noble, sweet, and precious thoughts of God. It does not befit those who have God for their portion—to be always looking upon God as an angry God, or as a displeased Father, or as an incensed judge, or as an enraged enemy, or as a bitter friend. When God would make known his name, his nature, his glory to Moses, he proclaims himself to be, "The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercies for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin," Exod 34:6-7. And certainly to keep up such precious thoughts and notions as these are of God, is that work of works which lies upon every man's hand, who has God for his portion.
O Christians! there is a very great aptness and proneness, even in those who have God for their portion, to have black, dark, hard, dismal, and dreadful thoughts and apprehensions of God—as you may see in Asaph, Heman, Job, David, etc. [Psalm 77; Psalm 88; Job 3; Psalm 73:11-14] By nature we are as full of hard thoughts of God—as hell is full of sin. When the heart is not mightily overawed by the Spirit of God and overpowered by the grace of God—there all manner of dark and dismal apprehensions of God abounds. Besides, Satan knows very well that our corrupt natures are made up of sad and hard thoughts of God. Therefore he will use all his power and craft to blow up every spark, every hard thought of God, into a flame; especially when outward troubles and inward distresses are upon us.
What says Satan? "Do you think that God loves you? O Christian, when he deals thus sharply and severely with you, does be pretend kindness to you, and yet hide his face from you, and set you up as a mark to shoot at? How can he be your friend—who has cast you down at your enemies' feet, and given you up into their paws and jaws? How can you think that he has any pity and compassion towards you—who makes no better provision for you? What vanity is it to believe that he will give you a crown—who denies you a crust? And that he will give you a house not made with hands—and yet allow you to be turned out of house and home? He will do so much for you in another world—who does so little for you in this world!" And thus Satan takes his opportunities to provoke corrupt nature and to kill the soul with hard thoughts of God.
And certainly that Christian is a very great stranger to his own heart, who is not able to say from experience that it is one of the highest and hardest works—to keep up good and gracious thoughts of God, to keep up honorable and noble thoughts of God—in a suffering condition or under dark and dismal dispensations. Oh, but those who have God for their portion—they should abandon and abhor all hard thoughts of God, yes, however severe the dealings of God are towards them—yet it is their duty and their glory to keep up very sweet and precious thoughts of God, Psalm 73:1.
O Christians! the more choice and honorable thoughts you keep up of God in your own souls, the more you will love the Lord, and the more you will delight in the Lord, and the more content and satisfaction you will take in the Lord. Such Christians who take a pleasure to be representing God to themselves in the most hideous, terrible, and amazing shapes—they kill their love and their joy, and they create a hell of torments in their own souls. Well, Christians! let me put a cluster of the grapes of Canaan into your hands at once, by telling you that the more glorious and blessed thoughts you keep up in your souls of God, the more spiritual, the more frequent, the more fervent, the more abundant, the more constant, and the more unwearied you will be in the work of the Lord, and the more all your graces will be acted, exercised, strengthened, and increased; yes, and the more your evidences for heaven will be cleared, your gracious experiences multiplied, your communion with God raised, your way to glory facilitated, and all your sufferings sweetened.
Therefore never let noble and precious thoughts of God die in your souls. Though he frowns upon you, O Christian, yet say that he is your portion; and though he chides you, yet say that he is your portion; and though he corrects you, yet say that he is your portion; and though he deserts you and carries it strangely towards you, yet say that he is your portion; and though he snatches many a mercy from you, yet say that he is your portion; and though he multiplies your burdens upon you, yet say that he is your portion; and though he writes bitter things against you, yet say that he is your portion; yes, though he should pass a sentence of death upon you, yet still say that he is your portion. O Christians, this would still raise a heaven in your hearts—if under all dispensations you would still look upon God as your portion, and live upon God as your portion. But,
(13.) Thirteenthly, If God is a believer's portion, then never let a believer be afraid to die, or unwilling to die. Let those be afraid to die—who have only this world for their portion here, and hell for their portion hereafter; but let not a saint be afraid of death—who has the Lord of life for his portion. A man who has God for his portion should rather invite death than tremble at it; he should rather sweetly welcome it, than turn his back upon it; for death to such a one is but the way to paradise, the way to all heavenly delights, the way to those everlasting springs of pleasure which are at God's right hand, the way to life, immortality, and glory, and the way to a clear, full, constant, and eternal enjoyment of God, Psalm 16:11. Augustine upon those words, Exod 33:20-21, "You can not see my face and live," makes this short but sweet reply, "Then, Lord, let me die, that I may see your face." Death is the bridge which leads to the paradise of God. All the hurt that it can do is to bring a believer to a full enjoyment of God, his everlasting portion.
When Modestus, the emperor's lieutenant, threatened to kill Basil, he answered, 'If that be all, I fear not; yes, your master cannot more pleasure me than in sending me unto my heavenly Father, to whom I now live, and to whom I desire to hasten.' Old Alderman Jordan used to say that death would be the best friend he had in the world, and that he would willingly go forth to meet it; or rather say with holy Paul, "O death, where is your sting?" triumphing over it. What is a drop of vinegar put into an ocean of wine? what is it for one to have a rainy day, who is going to take possession of a kingdom? A Dutch martyr feeling the flame to come to his beard, "Ah, said he, what a small pain is this, to be compared to the glory to come!" Lactantius boasts of the braveness of that spirit which was upon the martyrs in his time. Our children and women, not to speak of men, says he, do in silence overcome their tormentors, and the fire cannot so much as fetch a sigh from them. John Noyes took up a faggot at the fire and kissed it, saying, "Blessed be the time that ever I was born, to come to this preferment." Never did a neckerchief fit me so well as this chain, said Alice Driver, when they fastened her to the stake to be burnt. Mr. Bradford rook off his cap, and thanked God, when the keeper's wife brought him word that he was to be burnt on the morrow. Mr. Rogers, the first who was burnt in Queen Mary's days, sang in the flames. 'Be of good cheer,' said the woman-martyr to her husband that was to suffer with her, 'for though we have but an ill dinner on earth, we shall sup with Christ in heaven.' And what said Justin Martyr to his murderers, in behalf of himself and his fellow-martyrs? "You may kill us—but you can never hurt us."
Ah, Christians! how can you read over these choice instances and not blush, and not be ashamed to consider what a readiness, what a forwardness, and what a noble willingness there was in these brave worthies to die and go to heaven, and to be fully possessed of their God, of their portion, while you shrug at the very thoughts of death, and frequently put that day far from you, and had rather, with Peter, fall upon "building of tabernacles," Matt 17:4, than, with Paul, "desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ," Phil 1:23. O Christians! how justly may that father be angry with his child that is unwilling to come home! and how justly may that husband be displeased with his wife who is unwilling to ride to him in a rainy day, or to cross the sea to enjoy his company! And is not this your case? is not this just your case, who have God for your portion, and yet are unwilling to die, that you may come to a full enjoyment of your portion? But,
(14.) Fourteenthly, and lastly, If God is the saint's portion, then let all the saints give all diligence to make this clearly and fully out to their own souls—that God is their portion, 2 Pet 1:5-8. Next to a man's having God for his portion, it is the greatest mercy in this world for a man to know that God is his portion, and to be able groundedly to say with the church, "The Lord is my portion!" Now this is a work that may be done. I suppose there is never a believer on earth but may attain unto this personal evidence and certainty of knowledge that God is his portion. Express promises speaks out such a thing as this is— Zech 13:9, "They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, 'They are my people,' and they will say, 'The Lord is our God.'" Ezek 34:30, "Thus shall they know that I the Lord their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, says the Lord." God will as soon put the faith of reliance and the faith of assurance to a blush, as he will put the faith of expectance to a blush: Psalm 22:26, "The poor will eat and be satisfied; they who seek the Lord will praise him—may your hearts live forever!" Sooner or later, such as seek him shall have such an answer of their prayers as shall turn their prayers into praises, and their petitions into thanksgivings.
Psalm 84:11, "The Lord will give grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly." God will be an universal, all-sufficient, and satisfactory good to those who walk uprightly. The Lord is as full of goodness as the sun is full of light, and he will as freely, and as fully, and as impartially communicate his goodness to those who walk uprightly, as the sun does her light both to the just and the unjust, Matt 5:45. As under the name of no good thing will he withhold, all temporal good things are to be understood, so under the name of grace all spiritual good things are to be understood, and under the name of glory all eternal good things are to be understood. And now, if God will give all spiritual and all eternal good things to his people, how can he then but sooner or later give a clear and satisfactory evidence into his people's bosoms that he is their portion?
And not only express promises—but also the graces of the Spirit and the testimony of the Spirit confirms the same thing. The language of every saving grace is this—'The Lord is your portion, O believing soul.' And the language and testimony of the Spirit is the same. Rom 8:15, "You have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." Rom 8:16, "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirits, that we are the children of God." Shall an instinct in nature teach young ones to know their mothers, and shall not the Spirit of God, by a divine instinct, teach the saints to know God to be their God, and to be their portion also? Surely yes! Though this or that particular Christian may go to his grave without a satisfactory evidence in his own bosom that God is his portion—yet in an ordinary course, at first or last, God does give his people some assurance that he is their portion, yes, rather than they shall always live or die without assurance of their salvation; and that he is their portion, he will work a miracle to assure them of his love.
I have both heard and read of a rare story of Mrs. Honywood, a famous professor of the gospel, and one that for many years together lay under the burden of a wounded spirit, and was much troubled in mind for lack of assurance that God was her portion, and that she would be saved from wrath to come. At length there came a godly minister to her, who endeavored to settle her faith and hope in Christ; and pressing many gospel promises upon her, she took it with a kind of indignation and anger that he should offer to present any promises to her, to whom, as she thought, they did not belong; and having a delicate Venice-glass in her hand, she held it up, and said, Speak no more to me of salvation, for I shall as surely be damned as this poor brittle glass shall be broke against the wall, throwing it with all her force to break it. But it so pleased God that, by a miraculous providence, the glass was preserved whole. The minister, beholding the miracle, took up the glass, and said unto her, "Behold, God must work a miracle before you, before you will believe." And forever after that day she had very strong assurance of her salvation, and that God was her portion; and so lived and died in a sweet and comfortable sense of the love and favor of God.
Now, to provoke you to labor with all your might to attain to a clear, personal, satisfactory evidence in your own bosoms that God is your portion, do but seriously consider and lay to heart the rare and singular advantages that will redound to your souls by this means. I shall only touch upon some, by which yourselves may guess at others.
[1.] First, By this means your hearts will come to be fixed, settled, and established. A man's soul never comes to be fixed and settled by knowing in the general that God is the saint's portion—but by a personal evidence and certainty of knowledge that he is his particular portion. While a man's particular property is unsettled, all is unsettled in his soul; but when a man's particular property is settled, when he can say, 'This God is my God, and the Lord is my portion,' then all is settled, then all is at peace in the soul, Psalm 57:7; Psalm 108:1; Psalm 112:7. A man who has God for his portion, if he does not know it, will still be like a ship at sea in the midst of a storm, tossed here and there, and now rolling on one side and then on the other, and never quiet, never lying still; but a man who has God for his portion, and knows it, he is like a ship in a good harbor, that lies quiet and still; yes, he is like mount Zion, which cannot be moved. But,
[2.] Secondly, A clear, personal evidence that God is a man's portion, will rid his soul of all sinful doubts. O Christians! now your hearts are as full of doubts as hell is full of darkness. One day you doubt whether your graces are true, and another day you doubt whether your comforts are true. Now, you doubt of your saintship, and then of your sonship, and then of your heirship. Sometimes you doubt of your communion with God, sometimes you doubt of your acquaintance with God, and sometimes you doubt of your acceptance with God. One hour you doubt of the favor of God, and the next hour you doubt of your access to God. And as it is thus with you, so it will be thus with you until you come to have some clear satisfaction in your own spirits that God is your portion.
O Christians! had you but once a personal evidence in your own bosoms that God is your portion, all those doubts which are bred and fed by ignorance and unbelief, and which rob the soul of all joy, comfort, and content, and which render men babes in Christianity, and which cast reproach upon God, Christ, and the promises, etc., and which most gratify and advantage Satan to tempt and try your souls—would vanish and disperse as the clouds do before the sun when it shines in its brightness! Until a Christian's eyes are opened to see God to be his portion, his heart will be full of doubts and perplexities. Though Mary Magdalene was very near to Christ—yet she stands sighing, mourning, and complaining, that "they had stolen away her Lord," John 20:13-16. A Christian may have God for his portion—yet until he comes to see God to be his portion, he will spend his days in sighing, mourning, and complaining.
O Christians! until you come to see God to be your portion, your doubts will lie down with you and rise with you, they will talk with you and walk with you, until they make your lives a very hell. It was an excellent speech of Luther, "The whole Scripture," says he, "does principally aim at this thing, that we should not doubt—but that we should hope, trust, and believe that God is a merciful, bountiful, and gracious God to his people." And what will bring a man's heart over to answer to this blessed aim of the Scripture? Certainly nothing below an assurance that God is his portion.
It was a noble resolution of blessed Bradford, who, in one of his epistles, says thus—"O Lord, sometimes methinks I feel it so with me, as if there were no difference between my heart and the hearts of the wicked. My mind is as blind as theirs, and my will as stout, stubborn, and rebellious as theirs; and my affections are as much disordered as theirs, and my conscience as much benumbed and stupefied as theirs, and my heart as hard and flinty as theirs, etc.; shall I therefore conclude that you are not my Father? Nay, I will reason otherwise," says he; "I do believe you are my Father; I will come unto you, that you may enlighten this blind mind of mine, and bend and bow this stout and stubborn will of mine; and that you may put order into these disordered affections of mine, and that you may put life and quickness into this stupefied and benumbed conscience of mine, and that you may put softness and tenderness into this hard and flinty heart of mine." And thus he nobly reasoned himself, and believed himself, out of all his fears and doubts. There is no such way for a man to be rid of all his fears and doubts, as to live in the sight and faith of this truth—that God is his portion.
Plutarch reports of one, who would not be resolved of his doubts, because he would not lose the pleasure in seeking for resolution, like to him who would not have his physician to quench the thirst he felt in his illness, because he would not lose the pleasure of drinking; and like those who would not be freed from their sins, because they would not lose the pleasure of sinning. But I hope better things of all those who have God for their portion, than to find them in love with their doubts, or to be unwilling to be rid of their doubts. Next to a man's going to hell, it is one of the greatest afflictions in the world for a man always to live in doubts about his going to heaven. Next to damnation, it is one of the greatest troubles that can attend a Christian, to be always exercised and perplexed with doubts about his salvation. Next to being damned, it is the hell of hells to live in continual fears of damnation. Now the only way to prevent all this, is to know that God is your portion. But,
[3.] Thirdly, A clear, personal evidence that God is a man's portion, will exceedingly sweeten all the crosses, losses, and changes that shall attend him in this world. Habakkuk knew that God was the God of his salvation; and that he was his portion. Therefore he rejoices—"Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation." Hab 3:17-18. And the same noble temper was upon those worthies in Heb 10:34, "When all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew you had better things waiting for you in eternity." They took joyfully the confiscation of their earthly portions, being well assured in their own souls that they should enjoy a heavenly portion, an everlasting portion. And so the apostles knew that they had "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens," 2 Cor 5:1; and this carried them bravely through honor and dishonor, through evil report and good report, and through all weaknesses, sicknesses, distresses, needs, dangers, and death; and this made their heavy afflictions light, and their long afflictions short, and their bitter afflictions sweet, 2 Cor 4:16-18. This was that tree which, being cast in the waters of Marah, made them sweet, Exod 15:23-25; and this was that that did unsting all their crosses, losses, and reproaches, and that made them rejoice and sing under those very burdens and trials that would have broke the necks, backs, and hearts of others, Acts 5 and Acts 16.
When a man has a clear personal evidence that God is his portion, then no outward changes will make any considerable change in him. Though Laban had changed Jacob's wages ten times—yet Jacob was Jacob still, Gen 31:7. Let times change, and men change, and powers change, and nations change—yet a man who has God for his portion, and knows it, will never change his countenance, nor change his Master, nor change his service, nor change his works, nor change his ways. Under all changes he will still be 'always the same'. Many great and dreadful changes passed upon Joseph—but yet under all Joseph's bow "abode in strength," Gen 49:23-24. When a man knows that God is his portion, whatever changes may pass upon him—yet his bow will still abide in strength.
How many are there in these days, who have changed their names, their notes, their coats, their principles, their practices—and all for worldly advantages. These changelings, who change from better to worse, and from naught to be very naught, yes, stark naught, are the worst and the naughtiest of men, and deserve to be hanged in chains; and certainly, when the wrath of God breaks forth, these changelings shall be as stubble before it, Mal 4:1; Heb 10:38. God abhors none as he does those who run from him to serve other lords, and who gad about to change their way. Jer 2:36-37, "Why do you gad about so much, changing your ways? You will be disappointed by Egypt as you were by Assyria. You will also leave that place with your hands on your head, for the Lord has rejected those you trust; you will not be helped by them." There is nothing that will keep a man from apostasy, and from making a defection from God, his ways, his worship, his glory, etc., like a blessed persuasion that God is his portion, 2 Pet 1:5-11. But,
[4.] Fourthly, A clear personal evidence that God is a man's portion, will exceedingly raise and advance the comfort and joy of a man's heart. It is not merely my having of God for my portion—but it is my seeing, it is my knowing, it is my fruition of God as my portion—which is the true spring of all delight, comfort, and consolation. When a man's interest in God is clear, then all the precious promises will be full wells of salvation, and full breasts of consolation to him—but until then they will be but as dry breasts, as barren heaths, as a desolate wilderness, and as empty wells. While a man is doubtful whether God is his God, it is certain that the spring of joy and comfort will run low in his soul; while a man lives in fear that his title and interest is not good, how can he rejoice? When a man's interest in God is clear—then his heaven of joy begins. A man who has God for his portion, and knows it, cannot but live in a paradise of joy, and walk in a paradise of joy, and work in a paradise of joy, and eat in a paradise of joy, and recreate himself in a paradise of joy, and rest in a paradise of joy. He cannot but have a heaven of joy within him, and an heaven of joy about him, and an heaven of joy over him. All his looks will speak out joy within, and all his words will speak out joy within, and all his works will speak out joy within, and all his ways will speak out joy within.
I remember a notable saying of one, 'How sweet was it to me, to be suddenly without those sweet vanities! Those things which I was afraid to lose—with joy I let go; for you, who are the true and only sweetness, did cast out those from me, and instead of them did enter in yourself, who is more delightful than all pleasure, and more clear than all light.' When a man's interest in God is clear, his joy will be full, John 16:24; when a man is happy, and knows it, he cannot but rejoice; when a man has God for his portion, and knows it, all the world cannot hinder the strong consolations of God from rising high in his soul.
Why have the saints in heaven more joy and delight than the saints on earth? Because they have a clearer and a fuller knowledge of their interest and property in God, than the others have! The knowledge of a man's property in God is the comfort of comforts. Property makes every comfort, a pleasurable comfort, a delightful comfort. When a man walks in a fair meadow, and can write mine upon it, and into a pleasant garden, and can write mine upon it, and into a fruitful field, and can write mine upon it, and into a stately habitation, and can write mine upon it, and into a rich treasury, and can write mine upon it, oh how does it please him! how does it delight him! how does it joy and rejoice him!
Of all words, this word mine is the sweetest and the most comforting word. Ah! when a man can look upon God, and write mine; when he can look upon God, and say, 'This God is my God forever and ever!' when he can look upon God, and say, 'This God is my portion!' when he can look upon God, and say with Thomas, "My Lord and my God!"—how will all the springs of joy rise in his soul! Oh who can but joy to be owner of that God who fills heaven and earth with his fullness? Who can but rejoice to have him for his portion, in having of whom he has all things, in having of whom he can lack nothing? The serious thoughts of our property in God will add much sweet to all our sweets; yes, it will make every bitter, sweet. When a man seriously thinks, 'It is my God who cheers me with his presence, it is my God who supports me with his power, it is my God who guides me by his counsel, it is my God who supplies me with his goodness, and it is my God who blesses all my blessings to me; it is my God who afflicts me in love, it is my God who has broken me in my estate and in my credit, it is my God who has sorely visited such a child, it is my God who has passed a sentence of death upon such a friend, it is my God who has thus straitened me in my liberty, and it is my God who has thus cast me down at my enemies' feet, etc.—how do these thoughts cheer up the spirit of a man, and make every bitter, sweet; and every burden, light unto him.
A beautiful face is at all times pleasing to the eye—but then especially when there is joy manifested in the countenance. Joy in the face puts a new beauty upon a person, and makes that which before was beautiful to be exceeding beautiful; it puts a luster upon beauty. And so does holy joy put a divine beauty and luster upon all the ways of God, and upon all the people of God. And therefore, it highly concerns all Christians, as they would have a heavenly beauty, luster, and glory upon them, to rejoice; and that they may rejoice, it does as highly concern them to know their interest and property in God. But,
[5.] Fifthly, A clear personal evidence that God is a man's portion will very much raise him in his communion with God, and exceedingly sweeten his fellowship with God. There are no Christians on earth that have such high, such choice, such free, such full, such sweet, and such uninterrupted communion with God—as those who have a clear sight of their interest and property in God.
The spouse, in that book of Solomon's Song, again, and again, and again—sings and sounds out her property and interest in Christ. Song 2:16, "My beloved is mine, and I am his." Song 6:3, "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine." Song 7:10, "I am my beloved's, and his desire is towards me." Now, mark—how does the sense of her property in Christ work? Why, it works very highly, very strongly, very inflamingly, very affectionately. Song 1:2-4, "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine. Pleasing is the fragrance of your perfumes; your name is like perfume poured out. No wonder the maidens love you! Take me away with you—let us hurry! Let the king bring me into his chambers!" Song 1:13, "A bundle of myrrh is my beloved unto me; he shall lie all night between my breasts." Song 2:3-6, "Like an apple tree among the trees of the forest is my lover among the young men. I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love. His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me."
The spouse had a clear sight and a deep sense of her interest and property in Christ; and oh, how high, how close, how full, how sweet, is she in her communion and fellowship with Christ! It is the sight and sense of property and interest, which heightens and sweetens that communion which is between husband and wife, father and child, brother and sister, and friend and friend. So it is the sight and sense of a man's property and interest in God—which heightens and sweetens his communion and fellowship with God. A clear sight of a man's interest and property in God will exceedingly sweeten every thought of God, and every appearance of God, and every taste of God, and every smile of God, and every communication of God, and every ordinance of God, and every work of God, and every way of God! Yes, it will sweeten every rod which is in the hand of God, and every wrinkle which is in face of God, Psalm 139:17-18. A man who sees his interest in God, will hang upon him, and trust in him—though he should write ever such bitter things against him; and though he should deal ever so severely with him; yes, though he should slay him, as you may see in Job 13:15. He hit it who said, A man whose soul is conversant with God shall find more pleasure in the desert and in death, than in the palace of a prince.
Urbanus Regius, having one day's converse with Luther, said that it was one of the sweetest days that ever he had in all his life. But if one day's communion with Luther was so sweet, oh how sweet must one day's communion with God is. And therefore, as ever you would have high, and full, and sweet communion with God—keep up a clear sight, a blessed sense of your interest and property in God. But,
[6.] Sixthly, A clear personal evidence that God is a man's portion, is a man's all in all. O Christians! this is the life of your lives, and the life of your prayers, and the life of your praises, and the life of your confidences, and the life of your mercies, and the life of your comforts, and the life of your hopes, etc. A clear sight of your property in God is the very life of promises, the life of ordinances, the life of providences, the life of experiences, and the life of your gracious evidences. It is a pearl of great price; it is your paradise; it is manna in a wilderness; it is water out of a rock; it is a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night; it is Jacob's ladder; it is a salve for every sore; it is a cure for every disease; it is a remedy against every malady; it is an anchor at sea, and a shield on shore; it is a star to guide you, a staff to support you, a sword to defend you, a pavilion to hide you, a fire to warm you, a banquet to refresh you, a city of refuge to secure you, and a cordial to cheer you! What more could you desire? But,
[7.] Seventhly, and lastly, A clear personal evidence that God is a man's portion will exceedingly sweeten the thoughts of death, and all the approaches of death, and all the warnings and forerunners of death unto him. It will make a man look upon his last day as his best day, Eccles 7:1; it will make a man look upon the king of terrors as the king of desires, Job 18:14; it will make a man laugh at the shaking of the spear, at the sounding of the trumpet, at the confused noise of the battle, at garments rolled in blood, at the sighs and groans of the wounded, and at the heaps of the slain.
It was the martyrs' clear sight of their interest and property in God, which made them welcome the lions, and dare their persecutors, and to kiss the stake, and to sing and clap their hands in the midst of the flames, and to tread upon hot burning coals as upon beds of roses, and divinely to triumph over their tormentors. It was this which made the primitive Christians fearless of martyrdom, and which made them willingly and cheerfully lay down their lives, that they might, Elijah-like, mount to heaven in fiery chariots.
A man who sees his property in God, knows that death shall be the funeral of all his sins, sorrows, afflictions, temptations, desertions, oppositions, vexations, oppressions, and persecutions. He knows that death shall be the resurrection of his hopes, joys, delights, comforts, and contentments; and that it shall bring him to a more clear, full, perfect, and constant enjoyment of God! This makes him sweetly and triumphantly to sing it out, "O death! where is your sting? O grave! where is your victory?" 1 Cor 15:35-37.
And oh that these seven considerations might prevail with all your souls to be restless, until you have in your own bosoms clear and full satisfaction that God is your portion. Now this last inference leads me by the hand to an use of trial and examination. O Christians! if God is the saint's portion, the believer's portion, how highly does it concern everyone who looks upon himself as a saint or as a believer, to search, try, and examine whether God is his portion or not!