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'continual feast' within him. (Prov. xv. 15) As σurrypnosis an habit of practical principles, so it binds us; as σuvelonois, a knowledge of duty done, so it comforts us. (1 John iii. 20) "Qui facit præceptum, comparat Paracletum."
The reasons hereof are;
1. A godly life hath pardon of failings; and this is matter of confidence, that as a husbandman looketh on his field of corn with joy, though he see many weeds amongst it, and chaff about it; so we may look with joy on a holy life, though many corruptions are mixed with it, because God doth not remember against us "the iniquity of our holy things." Pardon of sin is matter of joy; (Psalm xxxii. 1, 2. Acts xvi. 34) and therefore mixture of sin cannot deprive us of it. The passover was a feast, though eaten with bitter herbs and a good conscience is a feast, though mingled with some corruptions. Nothing spoiled the feast of a passover, but leaven; and nothing spoils the feast of conscience, but hypocrisy.
2. A godly life is God's own work: it is not we, but the spirit of God which worketh in us. (Matth. x. 20. 1 Cor. xv. 10. Phil. iv. 13) And as God reviewed his own works with special delight, so may we review God's works in us, with comfort and delight. This the prophet lays as a foundation of peace, that "God worketh our works for us." (Isai. xxvi. 12)
3. God hath commanded comfort, first or last, to wait upon a godly life, as a proper adjunct thereof. (Isai. xxxii. 17. Psalm cxix. 165, and xxxii. 12. Rom. xiv. 17) And it is a wrong to God's own appointment, when we have taken in godliness, to shut out comfort.
4. A godly life honours God, (John xv. 8) benefits men; (Tit. iii. 8) and therefore being not without fruit, it is not without a foundation of comfort. When a man can say, "I have finished my course, served my generation, adorned the gospel, these and these are the better for me: I have not lived like an empty vine, as an unprofitable burden of the earth; but God's end hath been my end, and his service my work ;"—this will cause the face to shine, and the heart to rejoice.
? Omnia mandata facta deputantur, quando quicquid non fit, ignoscitur; Aug. 1 le facit ut faciamus. Aug. Ep. 105.
Every man would willingly live and die comfortably. No way so to do, but to lay up a foundation of comfort in a holy conversation. A wicked man would gladly forget himself, and run away from himself, "Hoc se quisque modo semper fugit." He cannot look backward or inward upon himself, without guilt and horror. It was therefore good counsel of an old rabbi, "Ne sis impius coram teipso:" be not wicked in thine own sight, learn to reverence thy conscience: "cor bonum bonus socius." No such good company as good conscience. A mau may then dare to be acquainted with himself, as some men have written the history of their own lives. A leper cares not much for a looking-glass, because he shall see by it nothing but his own deformity. A bankrupt cannot abide to cast up his accounts, because he shall find himself so much worse than nothing. But he that hath led a holy life, is like a man which hath travelled over a beautiful valley, and being on the top of the hill, turneth about with delight to take a view of it again.
But may a man so look back on a godly life, as to put confidence in the good work thereof? For answer hereunto, we are to distinguish,
1. 'Inter rationem condignitatis, et rationem ordinis :' between the merit deserving a reward, which we deny; and the order and consequence which God hath put between a good work and the reward, making this mercifully, but yet certainly, to follow the other. (Psalm xix. 11. Prov. xi. 18)
2. "Inter causam essendi et cognoscendi :" between the cause of confidence à priori,' and the arguments whereby to know it à posteriori.'
Our good works are not either the merits or cause of our confidence or comfort, but only the free grace of God, and perfect righteousness of Christ bestowed upon us yet from a good conscience and a holy conversation, as from fruits and effects of divine love and grace, we may draw arguments of comfort: for "in the fear of the Lord, is strong confidence." (Prov. xiv. 26)
2. These words, as they bear a retrospect unto Nehemiah's former actions, are likewise considerable as a prayer upon me for good." And so good men that have done much ser
vice unto the church of God, shall pray to be remembered by God in favour and mercy: and this prayer is
First; For acceptation, both with God, and with his people. 1. That the Lord will be pleased to approve of our poor endeavours to serve him, and smell a savour of rest in our oblations, that he will let us know that he is well pleased with what we have done, that we may eat and drink with joy, when God "accepteth of our works," as the Wise man speaks. (Eccles. ix. 7)
2. That the Lord will make our words acceptable to his people; as it is said of David, "That whatsoever he did, pleased all the people." (2 Sam. iii. 36) And of Mordecai, "that he was accepted of the multitude of his brethren." (Esth. x. 3) And so Paul prayed, "That his service towards Jerusalem might be accepted of the saints." (Rom. xv. 31)
Secondly, For condonation; for since no good works of ours do bear proportion to the rigour and exactness of the law of God, but that "all our righteousness is as a menstruous cloth," Isai. Ixiv. 6; (“Omnis nostra humilis justitia, recta forsan, sed non pura," saith Bernard); and since the Lord appointed Aaron as a type of Christ, "to bear the iniquity of the holy things of his people;" (Exod. xxviii. 38) we must therefore confess with St. Austin that our righteousness here consisteth, "potius in remissione peccatorum quàm in perfectione virtutum." As therefore Job professeth, "If I say I am perfect, mine own mouth shall prove me perverse;" (Job ix. 20) and David, "Enter not into judgement with thy servant, for in thy sight no flesh living shall be justified; (Psalm clxiii. 2) and Paul, "Though I know nothing by myself, yet am I not thereby justified;" (1 Cor. iv. 4) so this holy man Nehemiah prays to be spared ", as well as to be remembered, as knowing that the reward is of mercy, and not of debt. It was a sweet and golden confession which Bernard made, when he thought himself to be at the
⚫ De verbis Isaiæ. Serm. 5. t. Aug. de Civit. Dei, lib. 19. cap. 27. Et contra Crescon. Gram. lib. 3. c. 80. "Chap. xiii. 22. * Affuit Satan improbis eum accusationibus pulsans.—Ille territus et turbatus ait, ' Fateor non sum dignus ego, nec propriis possum meritis regnum obtinere Cœlorum: cæterum duplici jure illud obtinens Dominus meus, hæreditate Patris, et merito Passionis, altero ipse contentus, alterum mihi donat; ex cujus dono jure illud mihi vendicans non confundor;' Guliel. Abbas in Vita Bern. lib. 1. cap. 12.
point of death: "I confess," said he, "I am not worthy, I have no merits of mine own to obtain heaven by: but my Lord had a double right thereto, an hereditary right as a son, a meritorious right as a sacrifice: he was contented with the one right himself: the other right he hath given unto me: by the virtue of which gift I do rightfully lay claim unto it, and am not confounded."
Thirdly; For vindication against the misconstruction of perverse men. Nehemiah had many and great adversaries, who raised false rumours upon him, and were likely to misrepresent all that he did, as the Psalmist complained of his enemies, that "they wrested his words." (Psalm lvi. 5) So did the enemies of Nehemiah put perverse constructions upon his worthy actions; (Neh. vi. 6, 14) and therefore he prays unto God to "remember him," and to strengthen him; to remember them, and to rebuke them. (Ver. 9, 14)
In great services, we have all reason to mind these three things; to beg of God pardon for our failings; acceptance of our services; vindication of our innocency, and rebuke of our adversaries.
Now because Nehemiah, as a governor, had work still to do; therefore we may allow this prayer a prospect forward, in relation to actions which he was to do: and they serve for special instruction unto us, upon that account. For besides that the prayer as to these actions, may take in the three former particulars, of acceptance, pardon, and vindication ;-there are three things more which may be comprised in it under that aspect: it is prayer,
1. For counsel and direction; "Remember me to teach me." I have great and weighty businesses to go through my hand and care; I am subject to errors and mistakes; one miscarriage of mine might open the mouths of many to reproach me; might sadden the hearts of many who love and honour me; might be of dangerous consequence to all thy people remember me therefore to teach me; shew me the way wherein thou wouldst have me to go; let not mine ignorance betray me to dishonour thee, or to inconvenience thy people. So David prayed; "Make thy way straight be
y Bene ac sapienter majores instituerunt, ut rerum agendarum, ita dicendi initium à precationibus capere: Plin. Panegyr.
fore my face; (Psalm v. 8) teach me to know the way wherein I should walk." (Psalm cxliii. 8) So Solomon; " "I am but a child; I know not how to go out or come in: give me therefore an understanding heart, that I may discern between good and bad for who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" (1 Kings iii. 8, 9) The greater the actions are which we undertake, the greater need we have to implore wisdom, for the direction of them. Even wisdom to plough and sow, is ascribed unto God; (Isai. xxviii. 24, 29) how much more necessary is it, in profound and abstruse actions, to implore his guidance!
2. For assistance. For when we know what to do, we have weak hearts and weak hands, apt to be discouraged, apt to flag and hang down, except he be pleased to animate and strengthen them, b And as he hath promised, that he will hold our hand, that it may not miscarry, (Isai. xlii. 6) we must all say as Nehemiah did, "Strengthen thou our hands;" (Chap. vi. 9) as Jehoshaphat did, "We have no might, we know not what to do." (2 Chron. xx. 12) therefore our eyes are upon God: He it is that girdeth with strength. (Psalm xviii. 39) It is not we that do any thing, but the grace of God which is with us. (1 Cor. xv. 10. Phil. iv. 12, 13. Isai. xxvi. 12)
3. For success. For when we are taught, and when we are strengthened, yet still we must wait upon God for his blessing. We by his help may do our works; but he reserveth it to himself as his peculiar work, to impart the blessing. We may draw the patent; but the prince only can command the seal, and make it thereby valid and effectual. (Psalm cxxvii. 1, 2) Paul and Apollos can only plant and water; but the increase is from God alone. (1 Cor. iii. 6) "The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong &c. but the power and providence of God over-ruleth all. (Eccles. ix. 11) And when he pleaseth, a handful of men shall discomfit a mighty host; as Gideon did the Midianites,
* Λέγει δ' ὅτι
* Vide Pinedam de rebus Solomonis. lib. 3. cap. 9. Βέλος ἀρίστη Βοῦσί τε καὶ μακέλῃσι· λέγει δ ̓ ὅτι δεξιαὶ ὧραι Καὶ φυτὰ ὑγρῶσαι, καὶ σπέρματα πάντα βαλέσθαι. Arat, b Certum est nos velle cum volu
mus; sed ille facit ut velimus, &c. Aug. de Grat. et Lib. Arb. c. 16. πληθός ἐστιν, οὔτε ἰσχὺς ἡ ἐν τῷ πολέμῳ τὰς νίκας ποιοῦσα, ἀλλὰ, &c. Xenophon. de Expedit. Cyri, lib. 3.