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The word is once in another place (and no more) used in the title of a song, and that is Psal. vii. 'Shiggaion of David:' and it is variously rendered. It seems to be taken from the word na 'erravit,' to err, or wander variously; Prov. v. 20. The word is used for delight, to stray with delight. 'In her love navn thou shalt err with delight,' we have translated it, 'be ravished,' noting affections out of order. The word then holds out a delightful wandering and variety: and this literally, because those two songs, Psal. vii. and Hab. iii. are not tied to any one certain kind of metre, but have various verses for the more delight: which, though it be not proper to them alone, yet in them the Holy Ghost would have it especially noted.
But now surely the kernel of this shell is sweeter than Is not this written also for their instruction who have no skill in Hebrew songs? The true reason of their metre is lost to the most learned. Are not then God's variable dispensations towards his held out under these variable tunes, not all fitted to one string? not all alike pleasant and easy? Are not the several tunes of mercy and judgment in these songs? Is not here affliction and deliverance, desertion and recovery, darkness and light in this variously? Doubtless it is so.
III. Observation. God often calls his people unto songs upon Sigionoth.
He keeps them under various dispensations, that so drawing out all their affections, their hearts may make the sweeter melody unto him. They shall not have all honey, nor all gall: all judgment, lest they be broken, nor all mercy, lest they be proud. Thou answeredst them, O Lord our God, thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions;' Psal. xcix. 8. Here is a song upon Sigionoth: they are heard in their prayers, and forgiven; there is the sweetest of mercies: vengeance is taken of their inventions, there's a tune of judgment. By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; Psal. lxv. 5. is a song of the same tune. To be answered in righteousness, what sweeter mercy in the world? Nothing more refreshes the panting soul, than an answer of its desires: but to have this
© Graviter in eum decernitur, cui etiam ipsa connectio denegatur. Prosp. Sent.
answer by terrible things, that string strikes a humbling, a mournful note. Israel hears of deliverance by Moses," and at the same time have their bondage doubled by Pharaoh : there's a song upon Sigionoth. Is it not so in our days? precious mercies, and dreadful judgments jointly poured out upon the land. We are clothed by our Father, like Joseph by his, in a party-coloured coat; Gen. xxxvii. 3. here a piece of unexpected deliverance, and there a piece of deserved correction; at the same hour we may rejoice at the conquest of our enemies, and mourn at the close of our harvěst. Victories for his own name's sake, and showers for our sins' sake; both from the same hand, at the same time. The cry of every soul, is like the cry of the multitude of old and young at the laying the foundation of the second temple: many shouted aloud for joy, and many wept with a loud voice, so that it was a mixed noise, and the several noises could not be distinguished; Ezra iii. 12, 13. A mixed cry is in our spirits, and we know not which is loudest in the day of our visitation. I could instance in sundry particulars, but that every one's observation will save me that easy labour. And this the Lord doth,
1. To fill all our sails towards himself at once; to exercise all our affections. I have heard, that a full wind behind the ship drives her not so fast forward as a side wind, that seems almost so much against her, as with her: and the reason they say is, because a full wind fills but some of her sails, which keep it from the rest that they are empty; when a side wind fills all her sails, and sets her speedily forward. Which way ever we go in this world, our affections are our sails; and according as they are spread and filled, so we pass on, swifter and slower, whether we are steering. Now if the Lord should give us a full wind, and continual gale of mercies, it would fill but some of our sails, some of our affections, joy, delight, and the like: but when he comes with a side wind, a dispensation that seems almost as much against us as for us, then he fills all our sails, takes up all our affections, making his works wide and broad enough to entertain them every one; then are we carried freely and
d Duplicantur lateres quando venit Moses.
Namque bonos non blanda inflant, non aspera frangunt,
Sed fidei invicta gaudia vera juvant. Prosy. Epig. in sent. August.
fully, towards the haven where we would be. A song upon Sigionoth leaves not one string of our affections untuned. It is a song that reacheth every line of our hearts, to be framed by the grace and Spirit of God. Therein hope, fear, reverence, with humility and repentance have a share; as well as joy, delight, and love, with thankfulness. Interchangeable dispensations take up all our affections, with all our graces; for they are gracious affections, exercised and seasoned with grace, of which we speak. The stirring of natural affections, as merely such, is but the moving of a dunghill to draw out a stinking steam, a thing the Lord neither aimeth at, nor delighteth in: their joys are his provocation, and 'he laugheth in the day of their calamity, when their fear cometh;' Prov. i. 26, 27.
2. To keep them in continuals dependance upon himself. He hath promised his own daily bread, not goods laid up for many years. Many children have been undone by their parents giving them too large a stock to trade for themselves; it has made them spendthrifts, careless, and wanton. Should the Lord intrust his people with a continued stock of mercy, perhaps they would be full and deny him, and say, Who is the Lord?' Prov. xxx. 9. Jeshurun did so; Deut. xxxii. 14, 15. Ephraim was filled according to her pasture, and forgot the Lord;' Hos. xiii. 6. Neither on the other side will he be always chiding. His anger shall not burn for ever' very It is our infirmity at the least, if we say, 'God hath forgotten to be gracious, and shut up his tender mercies in displeasure;' Psal. lxxvii. 9. But laying one thing against another, he keeps the heart of his in an even balance, in a continual dependance upon himself, that they may neither be wanton through mercy, nor discouraged by too much oppression. Our tender father is therefore neither always feeding, nor always correcting. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear nor dark but it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day nor night; but it shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light,' saith the prophet Zechariah, chap. xiv. 6, 7. seeking out God's dispensations towards his, ending in joy, and light in the evening.
Psal. cxix. 67. Hos. v. 15. Heb. xii. 10, 11. * In cælo non in terra mercedem promisit reddendam. alibi dabitur? Ambros. Offic. lib. 1. cap. 16.
1 Pet. i. 6.
Quid alibi poscis, quod
Use. Labour to have your hearts right tuned for songs on Sigionoth, sweetly to answer all God's dispensations in their choice variety. That instrument will make no music that hath but some strings in tune. If when God strikes with mercy upon the string of joy and gladness, we answer pleasantly; but when he touches upon that of sorrow and humiliation, we suit it not; we are broken instruments, that make no melody unto God. We must know how to receive good and evil at his hand. He hath made every thing beautiful in its time;' Eccles. iii. 11. every thing in that whole variety which his wisdom bath produced. A well-tuned heart must have all its strings, all its affections, ready to answer every touch of God's finger, to improve judgments and mercies both at the same time. Sweet harmony ariseth out of some discords. When a soul is in a frame to rejoice with thankful obedience for mercy received, and to be humbled with soul-searching, amending repentance for judgments inflicted at the same time, then it sings a song on Sigionoth, then it is fit for the days wherein we live. Indeed both mercies and judgments aim at the same end, and should be received with the same equal temper of mind. A flint is broken between a hammer and a pillow: an offender is humbled between a prison and a pardon: a hard heart may be mollified, and a proud spirit humbled between those two. In such a season the several rivulets of our affections flow naturally in the same stream. When hath a gracious soul the soundest joys, but when it hath the deepest sorrows? 'Habent et gaudia vulnus.' When hath it the humblest meltings, but when it hath the most ravishing joys? Our afflictions which are naturally at the widest distance, may all swim in the same spiritual channel. Rivulets rising from several heads are carried in one stream to the ocean. As a mixture of several colours make a beautiful complexion for the body; so a mixture of divers affections under God's various dispensations, gives a comely frame unto the soul. Labour then to answer every call, every speaking providence of God, in its right kind, according to the intention thereof; and the Lord reveal his mind unto us that so we may do.
h Cum vexamur ac premimur tum maxime gratias agimus indulgentissimo patri, quod corruptelam nostram non patitur longius procedere : hinc intelligimus nos esse Deo curæ. Lactan.
Having passed the title, let us look a little on those parts of the prayer itself that follow.
Ver. 2. The beginning of it in ver. 2. hath two parts.
1. The frame of the prophet's spirit in his address to God; 'O Jehovah, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid.'
2. His request in this his condition; O Lord, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known, in wrath remember mercy.'
1. In the first you have,
(1.) Particularly his frame; he was afraid, or trembled; which he wonderfully sets out, ver. 16. When I heard, my belly trembled, my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself.'
(2.) The cause of this fear and trembling; he 'heard the speech of God.' If you will ask what speech or report this was that made the prophet himself so exceedingly quake and tremble; I answer, it is particularly that which you have, chap. i. 5-12. containing a dreadful denunciation of the judgments of God against the people of Israel, to be executed by the proud, cruel, insulting Chaldeans. voice, this report of God, makes the prophet tremble.
IV. Observation. An appearance of God in anger and threats against a people, should make his choicest secret ones among them to fear, to quake, and tremble.
Trembling of man's heart must answer the shaking of God's hand. At the delivery of the law with all its attending threats, so terrible was the sight, that Moses himself (though a mediator then) did exceedingly fear and quake; Heb. xii. 21. God will be acknowledged in all his goings. If men will not bow before him, he will break them. They who fear not his threatenings, shall feel his inflictings; if his word be esteemed light, his hand will be found heavy. For,
In point of deserving who can say, I have purged my heart, I am clean from sin? None ought to be fearless, unless they be senseless. God's people are so far from being always clear of procuring national judgments, that sometimes, judgments have come upon nations for the sins of some of God's people amongst them; as the plague in the days of David.