Sunday, February 6

The Puritans: Sunday's Hymn and Sermon

From William Cowper:

God Moves in a Mysterious Way
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take,
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the LORD by feeble sense,
But trust him for his grace;
Behind a frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev'ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow'r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain;
GOD is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.

---Listen.



From Thomas Manton, a sermon on Isaiah 53:6. Here's what he says the statement "all we like sheep have gone astray" implies:
1. That we are brutish in our sin and defection from God: it could not be expressed but by a comparison fetched from the beasts; we were like sheep led aside in a sensual way. Man aimed at being equal with God, and he was made beneath himself: Ps. 49:12 'Nevertheless, man being in honour, abideth not; he is like the beasts that perish.' He continued not in the honour of his creation, and in that excellency and dignity wherein God had set him; but became like a beast, governed by his senses and lower appetite. It is true of all men, they do not continue in the excellency of their being, they have lost much of the dignity of their reason, and are more led by sense, as the brute creatures are. And therefore you have the saints often complaining: Ps. 73:22, 'So foolish was I and ignorant, I was as a beast before thee.' I was as behemoth, a great beast. Sometimes they have no command of their affections, but are merely led by the unruliness of appetite or passions: so Prov. 30:2, 'I was more brutish than any man;' that is, he was no more able to gain heavenly knowledge, whereby to be wise for heaven and salvation, than brute creatures are able to wield man's reason, whereby to apply themselves to the affairs of this life. Therefore man is often compared to beasts for fierceness and cruelty, as the prophet calleth the proud oppressors cows: Amos 4:3, 'And ye shall go out of the breaches, every cow at that which is before her.' So for their rude wanton simplicity, they are compared to 'a wild ass's colt,' Job 11:12. And here to a sheep in decay of knowledge and government. In the general, then, it implieth something brutish in us, and that through the fall we have slipped beneath the excellency of our rank and being.

2. Proneness to err. No creature is more prone to wander and lose his way than a sheep without a shepherd, which is easily seduced. So are we apt to transgress the bounds whereby God hath hedged up our way: Jer. 14:10, 'Thus saith the Lord unto this people, thus have they loved to wander.' They loved to try experiments in a way of sin. Man indeed would fain transmit the fault from himself, as Adam doth obliquely upon God: 'The woman which thou gavest me to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat,' Gen. 3:12. It may not be the shepherd's fault if the sheep wander, but their own nature, their aptness to wander. When we bring ourselves into inconveniences, we are apt to murmur, and secretly to accuse God in our thoughts, as if he did not sufficiently provide for us. Solomon saith, Prov. 19:3, 'The foolishness of man perverteth his way, and his heart fretteth against the Lord.' It is our own folly, and we blame our own fate, our evil destiny, and those unlucky stars that shone at our birth; and in these things we blame God himself. The saints themselves have been guilty of this evil, fretting at God for what inconvenience comes to pass through their own sin and folly. 2 Sam. 6:8, it is said, 'David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzzah.' He should have been displeased with himself and his own ignorance, to order the ark to be carried upon a cart, when it should have been carried upon the priests' shoulders. Thus, as sheep, it noteth to us self-abasement, because of our own proneness we did it as sheep, and they are apt to wander.

3. Our inability to return, or to bring ourselves into the right way again. It is like a sheep, not like a swine or a dog; these creatures will find the way home again, but a sheep is irrecoverably lost without the shepherd's diligence and care: Jer, 50:6, 'My people have been lost sheep, their shepherds have caused them to go astray; they have turned them away on the mountains, they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting-place.' The farther they go the farther they will be from the flock, and in a very sad condition. It holdeth good too here; for we do not know the way back again to God. Austin saith, I could wander by myself, and could not return by myself. And God saith as much, Hosea 13:9, 'O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself, but in me is thy help.' That is done in a moment which we cannot help to all eternity. Our destruction is from ourselves, but our reparation from God. The good shepherd bringeth home the lost sheep upon his shoulders, Luke 15:5.

4. It noteth our readiness to follow evil example. A sheep is animal sequax, they run one after another, and one straggler draweth away the whole flock: Eph. 2:2,3, 'Wherein in times past ye walked, according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we had our conversation in times past, in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature the children of wrath even as others.' There is Satan, corrupt examples, and evil inclinations, the world and the flesh, all concurring to ruin man. We easily swim with the stream and current of others' examples, and do as they do; and even so men take and do a great deal of hurt by evil examples. Thus sins are propagated, and we live by imitation; like sheep, we draw others out of the pasture together with ourselves. Sheep go by troops, and so do men follow the multitude to do evil; and what is common passeth into our practice without observance.

5. The danger of straying sheep, which when out of the pasture, are often in harm's way, and exposed to a thousand dangers: Jer. 50:6,7, 'My people have been like lost sheep; all that have found them have devoured them.' So are we in danger to be preyed upon by the roaring lion, and the dogs and wolves that are abroad. In our sinful estate we are as sheep whom no man taketh up, being out of God's protection, and so a ready prey for Satan. See how pathetically the prophet describeth the misery of Israel: Hosea 4:16, 'Now the Lord will feed them as a lamb in a large place.' Oh! consider what it is for a poor solitary lamb to wander through the mountains, where, it may be, some hungry lion and ravenous wolf looketh for such a prey. Even so it is with straying men, their judgment sleepeth not; it may be the next hour they will be delivered over to destruction Rom. 3:16, 'Destruction and misery is in their way, and the way of peace they have not known.'

From A Practical Exposition of the Fifty-Third Chapter of Isaiah, the sermon on The Sixth Verse.
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