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Gifts To Men - sermon part 5

By John Owen


      "My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. Thou art fairer than the children of men; grace is poured into thy lips: therefore God hath blessed thee for ever. Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, O most Mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty." -- Ps. xlv. 1-3. [402]

      This psalm hath three parts. The title of it is, "A Song of loves," which I have already spoken unto; the preface of it, in the 1st verse; and the song itself, from the 2d verse to the end.

      The 1st verse contains a preface to this song of loves:-- "My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the King; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer."

      I shall offer a few things from these words:--

      Observe, in general, that he that lays a good foundation makes a good beginning of what he hath to say. It is from his heart. "My heart," saith he, "is inditing." If things do not begin at the heart, whatsoever we do about spiritual things, they are of no value, of no use. We may perform duties, -- we may pray, and preach, and hear; but if these things do not spring from the heart (that is, from faith, and love, and delight working in the heart), all is lost. A sacrifice without a heart, a silly dove that has no heart, are things God abhors, Hos. vii. 11.

      The heart of the psalmist was in this matter; and if our heart be in it, it will be a duty, in our measure and proportion, good and acceptable with God, as it was with him.

      There are in the verse two things:-- I. The subject-matter treated of in this song of loves. II. The manner of expressing it.

      I. The subject treated of:-- 1. In general, that it is a good matter. It is not a song about vain, empty things; much less about wicked and sinful things, as the songs of the world are; neither is it only about things that are true, but have no goodness in them: but, saith he, "My heart is inditing a good matter."

      2. What this good matter is, is declared: "I speak of the things which I have made touching the King." "The subject," saith he, "of this song of mine is the King; it is no ordinary person." It was the name whereby they called the Messiah, "Christ the Lord," under the Old Testament, who is, indeed, "The Lord of lords, and King of kings." "I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion," Ps. ii. 6. He was principally prophesied of as "a prince, a ruler, a captain; being to deliver the people of God." He is the subject of the song. And it is limited to things touching or concerning him; as if he had said, "It is not for me, it is not for any mortal man, to conceive or express all the glories and excellencies of the great King, Jesus Christ; but," saith he, "something touching, something concerning him."

      The best we can reach or attain unto in this world, is only something touching Christ. "We cannot yet behold the King in his glory; we cannot see his uncreated excellencies or beauties, nor those unspeakable glories of his person, natures, and works, as we shall one day contemplate and behold."

      "I speak," saith he, "of the things I have made;" that is, "which I have prepared; I will mention only the things which I have composed concerning Christ."

      So that the subject of this song is, in general, "a good matter;" in particular, things touching Christ, and such things as the psalmist, through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, had composed.

      II. There is the manner of their delivery, both as to their conception and as to outward expression. Their conception, it was in his heart; as to the outward delivery, it was by his tongue. And there is a peculiarity in both. It is not an ordinary conception of the heart, -- it is not a common expression of the tongue. If you will look into the margin of your Bibles, you will find that what we have rendered here, "inditing," in the original signifies "boiling" or "bubbling up." The word refers to the bubbling up of water in a fountain or spring. The heart of the psalmist was so full of these things of Christ, things touching the King, that they did naturally overflow, as water rising out of a spring naturally flows into the stream, without any labour or difficulty. It was no hard thing to him to speak of the things of Christ; his heart was full of them. O that it was thus with us! It is promised it shall be so. In John iv. 14, Christ hath promised to give his people his Spirit, that "shall be in them as a well of water springing up into everlasting life."

      "My tongue," saith he, "shall not only express it, but in a peculiar manner; my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.' "

      "A ready writer," -- one speedy, steady, able to set down any thought or conception whatsoever. When we deal about the things of Christ, there is a peculiar manner required both in the conception of the heart and in the expression of the tongue.

      Thus I have given you the sense of the words; and I shall now name some observations from them:--

      First. That the things which concern Jesus Christ are a good matter to believers. They are not only true, -- so as the mind may assent unto them and never be deceived, -- but they have that in them which is the object of the soul's delight and valuation, and which the soul of a believer cleaves unto. The truth of it is, here lies the great difference between sincere believers and mere hypocrites:-- hypocrites assent unto the doctrine of the gospel, things touching the King, as true, but they never embrace them as good; their hearts and affections do not cleave unto them, as finding a real sweetness, excellency, and suitableness unto their wants in them: for no man esteems that to be good which is not suitable unto him.

      Jesus Christ, and the things of Christ, are a good matter unto believers; for, --

      1. They are very excellent in themselves. Col. i. 18, "He hath in all things the pre-eminence." Whatsoever is good in any kind, it centres in Christ. And what is in him is better than that which was in the state of nature; better than what was in the law; better than what is in self-righteousness; better than life itself: so that, from their own nature, they are good things. Give me leave to say they are good things, because they are God's best things. As to temporal good things, take a king or a potentate; -- his best things are peculiar treasures, gold and silver, and precious stones; but the things which concern Christ are the best things of the kingdom of heaven.

      The things which concern God's only begotten Son, and which concern all the wisdom, grace, love, and power the holy God will exercise in the greatest work he ever set his hand to; surely they are good things. When the psalmist saith it is "a good matter," his meaning is, it is the best matter in the world.

      2. They are a good matter to believers, because they have received the Spirit, whereby they are able to discern the excellency of them.

      As to others, it is said, "He shall grow up as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him," Isa. liii. 2. Can we see no goodness, no excellency in Christ, in the grace of Christ, in his ways, in his people, why he should be desired? Believers can, 1 Cor. ii. 7-10. The Spirit of God discovers to them the excellent things of Christ, whereby they find them to be good; whereas to strangers from Christ they seem absurd and foolish things, and no way to be desired. Men of carnal wisdom, that have attained to the highest pitch of reason and ability in the world, they can see neither form nor comeliness in Christ, or the things of Christ; but when God opens the things of Christ by the Spirit, then they see that there is a goodness and an excellency in them.

      By way of use. -- Seeing the things of Christ are good things in themselves, and believers discern their goodness and their excellency; we may do well, then, to inquire whether the things of Christ are good things to us. Then they are good things to us, when we desire them above all other things whatsoever. Phil. iii. 8, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." He could make use of those things he had; but in comparison, his heart did really esteem them all as loss and dung, -- when they stood in competition with Christ. And pray let us consider how the psalmist hath here stated it. Saith he, "My heart indites, and my tongue professes." It is easy to profess that the things of Christ are good things, and that we esteem all other things as loss and dung; but do our hearts so esteem them? otherwise we come short of what is here intended by the psalmist. Do our hearts really value the good things of Christ, -- things concerning the glory of his person, his love to his church, the excellency of his kingdom and his rule? The things here treated of; the glory of his person, "Fairer than the children of men;" -- the glory of his kingdom, "In thy majesty ride prosperously;" "thy throne O God, is for ever and ever;" -- and his love to his church, "Hearken, O daughter, and consider and incline thine ear, forget also thine own people and thy father's house, so shall the King greatly desire thy beauty: "-- do we value these things, I say, in our very hearts, so as to esteem all other things as loss and dung, -- that we could freely forego them? Do we find satisfaction in the things of Christ, with and without all other things? With other things? It is the will of God, while he intrusts us with other things, that we should use them to his glory; but is our satisfaction in the good things of Christ so high that we can be satisfied without other things? Truly, I hope the Lord will help us, that if we come to lose all things for the good things of Christ (and how soon we may come to such a time we know not), we may do it cheerfully and willingly. This I can say, that the nearer some have been to the losing of all things, even life itself, the better Christ hath been unto them. And I would pray for you, that if God should reserve us for such a time as to deprive us of all other things, this may grow upon our hearts, that the things of Christ are better than ever you apprehended. This will carry us through all our darkness and trouble, -- to be satisfied with them in the want of other things. And take it for your comfort, though you may tremble now at the parting with a hair of your head, as if it was the garment from your back, yet, if you are sincere believers, when you come to part with all, you will do it cheerfully. Christ will come in and enable you so to do. Examine, therefore, yourselves, whether you do not only give a naked assent to the gospel and the things of Christ, or whether you find a goodness in them, a suitableness and satisfaction in them, -- that it is "a good matter" unto you.

      Secondly. Observe from the words, that it is the duty of believers to be making things concerning Jesus Christ: "Things that I have made touching the King." Now, to be making things concerning Jesus Christ, is to meditate upon him, -- to have firm and fixed meditations upon Christ, and upon the glory of his excellencies: this is it that here is called, " The things I have made,' composed, framed in my mind." He did not make pictures of Christ, or frame such and such images of him; but he meditated upon, Christ. It is called, "Beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, in 2 Cor. iii. 18. What is the glory of the Lord? Why, it is the glory of his person, the glory of his kingdom, the glory of his love. Where are these to be seen? They are all represented in the glass. What glass? The glass of the gospel. The gospel hath a reflection upon it of all these glories of Christ, and makes a representation of them unto us. What is our work and business? Why, it is to behold this glory; that is, to contemplate upon it by faith, to meditate upon it, -- which is here called making "things touching the King." This is also called "Christ's dwelling in us," Eph. iii. 17; and, "The word of Christ dwelling richly in us," Col. iii. 16; -- which is, when the soul abounds in thoughts of Christ. I have had more advantage by private thoughts of Christ than by any thing in this world; and I think when a soul hath satisfying and exalting thoughts of Christ himself, his person and his glory, it is the way whereby Christ dwells in such a soul. If I have observed any thing by experience, it is this, -- a man may take the measure of his growth and decay in grace according to his thoughts and meditations upon the person of Christ, and the glory of Christ's kingdom, and of his love. A heart that is inclined to converse with Christ as he is represented in the gospel, is a thriving heart; and if estranged from it and backward to it, it is under deadness and decays.

      "Touching the King;" -- the psalmist hath respect unto Christ as a king. Hence, --

      Thirdly. Observe that there is a peculiar glory in the kingly office of Jesus Christ, that we should daily exercise our thoughts about. The comfort, joy, and refreshment of believers, in this world, lie in the kingly power of Christ. What a view is there taken of him in Isa. lxiii. 1, "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength? I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save;" and which refers us to but one part of his kingly office, -- namely, to the power he will put forth in destroying his enemies. It is generally thought that Edom under the Old Testament shadows forth Rome under the New. This is a glorious description of Christ going forth in the greatness of his power, when the year of his redeemed is come, and the day of vengeance is in his heart. How dreadful will it be to the world! how glorious in the eyes of believers! when we shall see him glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength, till he hath destroyed all his stubborn adversaries.

      There is a peculiar glory in the kingdom of Christ, that we ought much, for our relief, to meditate upon. If we could behold the internal and external workings of Christ; what he hath done, what he will do, -- how that certainly he will save every believer, how that certainly he will destroy every enemy, -- how infallible in his grace, and never-failing in his vengeance; we should then see a peculiar glory in his kingdom.

      Fourthly. Observe, that when a heart is full of love to Christ, it will run over; then men will be speaking of Christ, and of his glory. "We believe," saith the apostle, "and therefore speak," 2 Cor. iv. 13. If we do believe, we shall speak. And saith the apostle, Acts iv. 20, when they said, "Speak no more in this name," saith he, " We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard;' we cannot but speak them." On the contrary, there is sad evidence how little there is of love in the hearts of men towards Christ. Alas! look about to the multitudes of them that are called Christians; when do you hear a word of him? when do you meet with a heart overflowing with love to Christ? Some speak of him to blaspheme him, some to the reproach of him; but for a natural readiness to speak for him, where do we find it? Yet if the heart be filled, it will boil over. There are some that pass for professors; you shall very seldom hear a word of Christ from them. If a man would make himself a reproach in the world, he cannot better do it than by owning Christ and his Spirit before men.

      Fifthly, and lastly. That profession alone is acceptable to God, and useful in the church, which proceeds from the fulness of the heart. It is to no purpose to have our tongue "as the pen of a ready writer," if our hearts be not full. It must come from the boiling or meditation of our hearts, if our profession be good and acceptable.

      This is the preface of the song.

      NOTES:
      [402] This sermon was preached at Stadham, June 7, 1674.

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See Also:
   Gifts To Men - sermon part 1
   Gifts To Men - sermon part 2
   Gifts To Men - sermon part 3
   Gifts To Men - sermon part 4
   Gifts To Men - sermon part 5
   Gifts To Men - sermon part 6
   Gifts To Men - sermon part 7

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