David Black.

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" have borne chastisement, I will not offend

* Psal. cxix. 75. f 1 Sam. iii. 18.

X Lam. iii. 22. Ij Jer. xxxi. 1*8, 19.


' any more. I hav^e sinned against heaven
' and before thee, and am not worthy to
' be called thine. I bless thee for that sea-
' sonable correction which reclaimed me
' from my wanderings, and taught me again
' to place my chief happiness in thy favour

* and enjoyment. Before I was ajjiicted
' I went astray. I left my guide, I lost
' my way, and I might have still been wan-
' dering in the deceitful paths of sin, had

* not thy merciful rod broken the snare.

* O that I may not offend any more ! Let
' me never forsake the way of thy com-

* mandments, nor again incur thy fatherly

* displeasure!'

Such will be the language and sentiments
of the believer, under the afflicting hand of
God. But sensible of the deceitfulness, and
desperate wickedness of his own heart, he
will likewise be disposed to add,

II. A prayer for divine teaching. That
which I see not, teach thou me.

400 Tllfi IMPROVEMENT SEK. 13.

This is a prayer very necessary for all,
and peculiarly seasonable in the time of af-
fliction, since one of the principal ends for
which affliction is sent is the discovery of
sin, and one of the cliief benefits derived
from it is the knowledge of ourselves.

This prayer may be understood as refering
both to the rule of our conduct, the law of
God, by which we are enabled to discover the
nature of sin in general ; and to the appli-
cation ot this rule to our own particular
characters and conduct.

1. It may have a reference to the rule
and measure of our conduct, the holy
law of God. Tliat which I see not^ of
the purity ond perfection of this consum-
mate stundard of duty, teach thou me. And
how much neerl there is ol divine teaching
for this purpose, will be evident, if we con-
sider what low imperfect ideas the genera-
lity of mankind entertain of the law of God ;
and what a poor measure of outward con-
formity to its pr.'^cepts appears to satisfy
even the most decent and respectable of


those who are strane;ers to the teachino; of
the divine Spirit. But the enhghtened soul
has very different views of the la * of God^
and of that degree of purity of heart, as well
as regularity of outward conduct, which it
demands ; and yet, after all, deeply sensi-
ble of his ignorance in this respect, he prays
that God would make him more fully ac-
quainted with the rule of his duty, saying
with the Psalmist, Make me to understand
the way of thy precepts. Give me under-
standing, and I shall keep thy law. I have
seen an end of all perfection, for thy com-
mandments are exceeding broad. Open
thou mine eyes, that I may behold woiidrous
things out of thy. law. But,

2. This prayer may likewise have a refer-
ence to the application of this rule to our
own characters and conduct, whereby we
become acquainted with our own sins in par-

And surely, if divine teaching is neces-
sary to make us acquainted with the rule of
our conduct, it is no less necessarv to ena^



ble us to make a right application of it to
ourselves, for the discovery of our real cha-
racters in the sight of God. Alas ! how
little of this knowledge obtains among men !
Many are so blinded by self-love, as to be
insensible, even of their gross deviations
from the law of God ; and what they readi-
ly enough condemn in others, they freely
allow in themselves. Nay, how many hid-
den, undiscerned, yea, unsuspected evils and
follies lodge in the hearts of those who are
least under the dominion of sin, and most
accustomed to examine themselves. Well
might the Psalmist ask, JVho can under-
stand his errors ? and pray, cleanse thou
7ne from secret faults — not only from
those which are hidden from the view of
men, but from those also which are con-
cealed from myself.

O what a deal of vanity and love of this
world ; how much impurity, secret pride,
and self-seeking lurk unperceived in our
hearts, till God cause us to see them, lead-
ing us, as he did the prophet Ezekiel, from
one thing to another, still saying, as he did


to him, Son of man^ hast thou seen these f
I will shew thee yet more and greater abo-
minations than these *. Thus it is with ma-
ny of us who ought to be the temples of the
living God. We have many images of jea-
lousy, one lying behind another, unperceiv-
ed and unsuspected, till God is pleased to
discover them to us. What need have we
then, most earnestly to pray, That which I
see not, teach thou me.

In both these respects then, in the know-
ledge both of the rule that God hath given
us, and of our own want of conformity to it,
we have need to apply for divine teaching,
for who teacheth like God .^ He can teach
us more in one hour, than men can do in a
whole age ; and he does w^hat no other
teacher can do, he gives to the dullest un-
derstanding a capacity to receive his in-
structions, making wise the simple and op-
ening the eyes of the blind. Happy the
man who is taught of God this most impor-
tant knowledge of which I have now been

* Ezek. viii. 15.



speaking - for however painful and humbling
the discovery of guilt and corruption, in
connection with the purity and perfection
of the law of God, may be, it is the ground-
work of all saving knowledge. From this
we derive our knowledge of sin, in its nature,
deformity, and awful consequences. From
this too arises our esteem of that spotless
righteousness which justifies the ungodly —
a righteousness every way adapted to the
circumstances of our guilty, helpless condi-
tion, and fitted to give relief under the most
alarmmg apprehensions of impending wrath.
And finally, from this painful, but salutary
teaching of God's Spirit, springs a settled
abhorrence of all iniquity, and a determin-
ed resolution, in the strength of divine
grace, to avoid it for the future. This
leads me to illustrate

III. The last particular that I mentioned
as contained in the text, namely, a pious re-
solution, founded on the foregoing confession
and prayer. If I have done iniquih/, I will
do no more.

S'EIl. 13; or AFFLICTION. 405

This implies a total renunciation of all
sin, and a full and fixed purpose of new and
better obedience. It is the natural lan-
guage of every sincere penitent, ' If there is
' any iniquity that I have not yet discover-

* ed, let me now see it, that in the strength

* of thy promised grace, I may abhor and

* abandon it for ever.' There must not be
any secret reserve in our dealings with God,
any beloved lust that we should wish to
spare, nor any partial indulgence in any
thing that is inconsistent with our duty to
our heavenly Father. No ; wherever the
grace of God is known in truth, there is an
absolute renunciation of all sin, and an en-
tire surrender of ourselves to the service of
God. Without this our religion is vain;
and, what is more to our present purpose,
without this our afflictions are vain, for hy
these the iniquity of Jacob is purged, and
this is all the fruit to take away his sin.
Whatever sufferings therefore men may en-
dure, they have gained nothing by them if
their hearts remain as self-willed, as carnal,
and as stubborn as before. But blessed is
the man whom God chasteneth, and teach-


eth out of his law. Blessed is the man
whose heart is humbled by affliction, and
whose stubborn will is brought under a
meek submission to the will of God. Bless-
ed is the man in whom the love of sin is
destroyed ; and who, by means of his hea-
venly Father's chastisement, is made, in
some happy measure, partaker of his holi-
ness. Such a one may kiss the rod that
smites him, and count his greatest sufferings
among his choicest mercies ; since every
thing that befals us ought to be estimated,
not by its outward appearance, but by the
tendency it has to advance our conformity
to the will and image of God, in which the
chief glory and happiness of our nature con-

Would to God, my Brethren, that there
were such hearts in us, and that every one
in this assembly, under the correcting hand
of God, was disposed to say, as in the text,
I have home chastisement, I will not offend
any more. That which I see not, teach
thou me ; if / have done iniquity, I will do
no more.


Thus have I endeavoured to illustrate the
passage before us, and from the particulars
it contains to delineate the temper of mind
becomino; a child of God in the season of
affliction. You Avill naturally judge that
my mind has been led to these reflections,
in consequence of the late indisposition with
which an infinitely wise and gracious God
hath been pleased to visit me. What might
be the design of this fatherly correction
with respect to myself, it concerns me only
to know. But surely it is not presumption
or vanity to suppose, that this dispensation
of providence had some respect likewise to
my beloved and affectionate Congregation,
whose souls the great Lord of the vineyard
hath given me in special charge. It deep-
ly concerns your Pastor to inquire, in what
instances he has failed in ministerial fidelitv
and watchfulness in tunes past, that through
the strength of God, he may not so offend
any more. But does it not equally concern
you, my Brethren, likewise to inquire, how
you have improved the gospel of Christ,
though delivered to you by so unworthy an
instrument, and in what instances you may


have sinned against God, either in vour
personal or social capacities ? Most cer-
tain it is, that God may visit a congre-
gation, as well as larger communities, with
marks of Jiis displeasure on account of some
particular offences ; and surely we must be
altogether deaf to the voice of God's rod, if
we do not consider the sickness that for
some time past has raged in this parish, as
an awakening call in providence to greater
M-atchfulness and diligence. Upon this oc-
casion, my dear Friends, an occasion which
ought to call forth at least jny warmest ac-
knowledgments of gratitude to Almighty
God, it would be unpardonable in me not
to take notice of the kind concern you were
pleased to shew for my recovery during the
time of my distress. This I regard, not only
as a proof of your affection, but, which is of
more consequence, as an encouraging symp-
tom that God may yet be graciously pleas-
ed more abundantly to succeed my poor l.i-
bours among you. Should this be the case,
I can truly say it would be one of the chief
comforts of my life ; as the little fruit that
has hitherto appeared, and the open scan-


dais that have broken out amongst us have
been none of the least of my trials.

Allow me to add, as I consider this ddj
as a new introduction to my ministry, that
after some little addition made to the small
stock of my experience, my views of the gos-
pel are the same now as they were formerly ;
and I am fully persuaded, that had it pleas-
ed God to have removed me out of the
world by my late indisposition, nothing but
the faith of those truths which I have endea-
voured, though in great weakness, to preach
to you, could have supported me in my last
and departing moments. The doctrine of
man's fallen, guilty, corrupted, and utterly
helpless state by nature ; the doctrine of
salvation by grace, through the blood and
Spirit of Jesus, the God who made all
things ; the necessity of a new nature, and
of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in order
to obtain that holiness of lieart and life,
without which no man shall see the Lord —
these have hitherto been the cluef subjects
of my ministry ; and whether it shall please
God to lengthen out my days, or to cut

3 F*^


them short, still I hope to abide by the a-
postle's determination, to know nothing a~
mong you, save Jesus Christ and him crU'
cified. Amen.



Philippians ii. 21.

For all seek their own, not the things which
are Jesus Christ's.

VV E can be at no loss to understand the
Apostle's meaning in the passage before us,
whether we consider its connection with the
context, or attend to the common use of
language. A proposition may sometirres
be stated in universal terms, when only a
great number, or the greater part are meant.

* Preached before the Edinburgh Missionary Socie-
ty, April 5. 1803.


Such a mode of expression is usual in the
gravest writings, as well as in ordinary and
familiar discourse.

We caimot suppose that the apostle in-
tended, by these words, to characterise all
his fellow-Christians, the whole multitude
of believers ; many of whom were conspi-
cuous for a spirit and temper, the very re-
verse of that which the apostle here con-
demns. He speaks, in the context, of Ti-
mothy, as one, who, as a son with a father,
served witlt him in the gospel *. And a
little after, of Epaphroditus, his brother and
companion in labour^ who, for the work of
Christ, was nigh unto death, not regard-
ing his life to supphj their lack of service
towards him -f. And, in the foregoing
chapter, he tells us, that 7nani/ of the brcthr-
ren, waiving confident by his bonds, were
much more bold to speak the word without
fear J.

* Phil. ii. 22. f Chap. ii. 25, 30.

-|Chap. i. 14.


Bat from this, as well as many other
parts of Paul's epistolary writings, it ap-
pears, that even at this early period of the
church, a selfish and worldly spirit had be-
gun to manifest itself among those who
bore the Christian name. And, in particu-
lar, we have reason to think, that the apos-
tle had occasion to witness the prevalence
of this spirit among many real, or pretend-
ed friends of Christianity, at the time when
he \\ rote this epistle. And if such were the
case in this purest age of the church, when
the temptations to a false and hypocritical
profession of religion were so much fewer
than they are at present, is it any wonder,
that, in these corrupt and degenerate times
in which we live, we should have still great-
er cause to complain, that all seek their
own, not the things which arc Jesus
Christ's f

Selfishness, or inordinate self-love, is the
common character of mankind. \Yiiiie men
are strangers to the regeneratino- pov, er of
divine grace, they are almost wholly guided
by it. Even their boasted benevolence,


uninfluenced by the principles and motives
which the gospel inspires, is little better
than refined selfishness. The world they
pursue as their chief good — its honours, its
riches, or its pleasures, are, in their estima-
tion, of the highest importance ; so that,
regardless of the glory of their Maker, and
of the ultimate end of their being, they on-
ly consult the means of present selfish gra-
tification. Nor is this temper, alas! whol-
ly confined to those who are living without
God, and without hope in the world. It is
too often found, in a certain degree, in men
who are, upon the whole, actuated by no-
bler principles. The cursed leaven has
spread itself through the church of Christ,
and infected the minds even of its genuine
members. I do not mean to afhrm, that a
prevailing worldly or selfish spirit is com-
patible with real religion- — No ; let God be
true, though every n)an should prove a liar.
The tree is known by its fruits ; and if any
man have not the spirit of Christ, he is
none of his. But as Christians are only
sanctified in part, there may remain a con-
siderable mixture of 'selfishness, even in


those in whose hearts the love of God is su-
preme. Hence have arisen the envies, jea-
lousy, and pa^ty-spirit which have tarnish-
ed the cliaracter, and marred the usefulness
of many wise and good men.

To trace the nature, and point out the
causes of this criminal temper, would open
up a very wide, and, perhaps, not unpro-
fitable subject of discourse ; and such a
train of reflection is naturally suggested by
the words of the text. But this is not my pur-
pose at present. My design, in the choice
of this text, is not so much to expose the
sinfulness and mischievous consequences of
a selfish and worldly spirit, in the professors
of Christianity, as to recommend a temper
opposite to it : — to shew the dignity, excel-
lence, and unspeakable advantages of public
spirit, and disinterested Christian zeal — that
I may, if possible, rouse a generous emula-
tion in the breasts of those, who, possessing
the means and opportunities of doing good,
h'dve not been so active as they might have
been, in improving the talents committed


to them. With this end in view, and look-
ing up to God for his blessing, I shall en-

I. To state and explain the principles by
■which true Christians arc led to seek the
things which are Jesus Christ's, in prefer-
ence to their own. And then,

II. Recommend the cultivation and ex-
ercise of this divine temper, by some mo-
tives and arguments.

I. I am to state and explain to you, the
principles by which true Christians are led
to seek the things which are Jesus Christ's,
in preference to their own. The things
which are Jesus Christ's, are the things per-
taining to the kingdom and glory of Jesus
Christ, with the means of promoting them.
These are opposed to our own things : that
is, to our own ease, reputation, or worldly
interest- which duty to God, and a regard
to the honour of our Lord Jesus Christ,
will often require us to sacrifice. It is not


possible indeed, to divest ourselves of a re-
gard to our own happiness : — nor does the
gospel require it. On the contrary, in the
summary which Christ hath given us of the
second table of the law. Thou shalt love thy
neighbour as thyself, it is plainly supposed,
that self-love, under due regulations, is a
natural and proper principle of action, since
it is the measure by which we are to regu-
late the love which we owe to our neigh-
bour. Pious men have sometimes uttered
rash and unscriptural sentiments upon this
subject, supposing it possible to be so far
divested of all selfish regards, as to be will-
ing to be eternally miserable, if the glory ot
God, and the good of others might be there-
by promoted ; and have, in support of this
opinion, cited Moses and Paul as examples
of this high degree of disinterested zeal and
charity. But this sentiment is as opposite
to the whole tenor of scripture doctrine, as
it is repugnant to the conmion feelings of
mankind. Nor do the examples that have
been mentioned, when properly under-
stood, give the smallest countenance to th'^-^


418 DUir OF SEEKING sHr. 14.

klea*. The glory of God is certainly the
liiirhest and noblest end at which a creature
can aim, since it is the great end for which
all thintrs were made — but this, so far from

i ' • ■ ■ » ■ . . ■

* In Exod. xxxil. 31, 32. we are told, upon occasion
of the Israelites making the golden calf, that " Mo-
*' ses returned unto the Lord, and said, O ! this people
*« have sinned a great sin, and have made them gods of
« gold : Yet now, if thou wilt forgive their sin, and if
" not, l^Iot me out of thy book ivhich tJioti hast written.^*
There is no reason to suppose, that Moses, in these
words, refers to his final state, or expresses his willing-
ness to endure everlasting misery for the sake of the
people of Israel ; but God having threatened, (ver. 10.)
the total extirpation of the people whom he had brought
out of Egypt, and offered to Moses to make of him a
great nation : — Moses cannot bear the thought of this ;
but humbly pleads with God, that he would spare the
people for his name's sake j or, if that could not be, but
they must be cut off, that he, at least, might not survive
to witness their destruction, but be cut off with them,
by a violent death •, and, consequently, have no inheri-
tance in the land of Canaan. Compare Ezekiel xiji. 9.
In short, Moses, though innocent of the crime which,
upon this occasion, had provoked the Lord's displeasure,
was willing to endure any kind or degree of suffering
short of eternal misery, for the sake of the guilty con-
gregation ; in which, as in other respects, he was an e-
minent type of our Lord Jesus Christ, who not only ex-


being incompatible, is inseparably connect-
ed with tlie happiness of all the dutiful sub-
jects of God's moral government, and it ne-
ver can be for his glory that any creature

pressed his willingness to suffer, but actually bore the.
curse due to our transgression, that he might redeem us
from everlasting destruction.

The parallel passage relating to the apostle Paul, from
which some have inferred, that he, as well as Moses, was
willing to forego his own eternal happiness for the sake
of others, is Rom. ix. 3. " For I could wish that myself
** were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kins-
*< men according to the flesh." Many different inter-
pretations have been given of this difficult passage, with-
out supposing it to refer to the apostle's final and ever-
lasting state. The most probable appears to me to be
the following, which Mr Glass in his Notes on Scrip-
ture texts, and others after him have adopted. The
Greek word ¥lvx>Y'^^f rendered in our translation " I
« could wish," properly refers to the past, and not to the
present time. It might be rendered « I did wish," which
relieves the passage of the principal difficulty attending
it. Placing a part of it in a parenthesis, the whole text,
ver. 2. and 3. runs thus : " I have great heaviness, and
" continual sorrow in my heart, (for I myself lHCx,ef^:;tl
« did wish to be accursed, or separated from Christ) on
" account of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the
" flesh." F^uYs former hatred of Christ, and a convic-



should be eternally miserable, who does not
for his own wilful rebellion and impenitence
deserve to be so. The self-denial which the
gospel requires, implies nothing of this kind.
But still it occupies a very wide and exten-
sive provmce ; and they who are possessed
of the genuine spirit of Christianity, will dis-
cover, in their general temper and conduct,
a superiority to those selfish views which ac-
tuate the rest of mankind. Let us attend,
then, to the principles upon which such a
character is formed, contrasting the selfish-
ness of a M^orldling, or mere formalist in re-
ligion, with the enlarged and disinterested
benevolence of a faithful disciple of the
Lord Jesus Christ.

1. The grand principle upon which the
Christian character is formed, and that
which gives birth to every other gracious
disposition, isjaith. Faith, as the apostle

tion of the misery to which he was then exposed, made
him flow feel in the tenderest manner for his brethren
the Jews, who still remained in the same enmity from
which he had been so miraculously delivered.


tells us, is the substance of things hoped
for^ and the evidence of things not seen *'.
It gives a kind of present subsistence to
things future and invisible ; representing
them to the mind, not as bare probabilities,
but as absolute certainties, to which we may
attach the firmest credit, and on which we
may rely with the most unsuspicious confi-
dence. Faith has respect to the testimony
of God, as the ground upon which it rests.
It embraces the whole system ot revealed
truth, and yields an implicit and unquali-
fied assent to every thing which bears the
undoubted mark of divine authority. The
faith of a Christian does not indeed require
him to believe without evidence ; for the
sacred scriptures, which contain the revela-
tion of God's will, are accompanied with
many infallible proofs of their divine origi-
nal. But when satisfied upon clear and
convincing evidence, that the scriptures are
the word of God, the Christian does not
consider himself at liberty to choose or to
refuse certain parts of the divine testimony,

=*Heb. si. 1.

422 DUTi' or SEEKiXG SE R. 14.

according as they may appear to him to be
more or less conformable to his corrupt pre-
judiceg, or sinful inclinations. He considers
himself equally bound by every word which
God hath spoken, and cordially acquiesces

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