There be many that say, Who will show us any good? LORD, lift you up the light of your countenance on us.
No natural or unregenerate man can lift up his heart any higher than unto a worldly happiness, and content in the creature. When you have, in the most powerful and moving manner, discovered spiritual duties, and the necessity of conversion to God, yet they matter it not; they will say, "Who will show us any good?" To bring this coal of fire into your bosom, consider several propositions.
1. Herein lieth the general character of these two citizens — one builds up Babylon, the other builds up Jerusalem. The whole world consists of two sorts of men — the one who are of the world; the other, though in the world, yet not of it. Every wicked man makes some creature or other to be as a God, and so the ultimate end, to him. To clear the heinousness of this wretched temper, consider,
2. That all the good things which the creatures do afford unto us, they are but as means to carry us to a further end. They are but as the rounds of a ladder, not to stand upon, but thereby to ascend higher, even to heaven.
3. Take notice that there is a higher and grosser sort of unregenerate men than happily this expression will comprehend, and that is those who make such things as are formally and expressly evil the good things they would have showed to them. Such are all gross and profane sinners, who live in the daily practice of some loathsome sin.
4. The schoolmen do well to place in every sin a two-fold respect; there is the aversion from God, and the conversion to the creature.
5. It is acknowledged by all that there is inbred in a man an appetite or desire after felicity and happiness. There were above a hundred opinions amongst the heathen in what true felicity consists: but though some were not so gross as others, yet all come short of the true end.
6. The persuasion of what is the best good, and which is chiefly to be desired, is wonderfully diversified, according to the several inclinations, humours, and conditions of men.
7. The preferring of the creature above God, though it be the sin of all mankind, and as large as original sin itself, yet, like that, is hardly discerned and discovered. Antidotes and means against this creature-affection.
(1) You cannot address yourselves unto God in prayer while your heart is not above the world.
(2) Thy heart; it is the choicest and chiefest treasure about thee; it is too noble for any creature.
(3) Meditate on this — that all those who ever loved the creature immoderately, have at last found the vanity and unprofitableness of it.
(4) God hath mingled gall with the honey of every creature, and therefore it is that everything is obtained with difficulty, and possessed with cares, so that we might not rest in the creature.
(5) These creatures, whatever they are for comfort, they are not originally and of themselves so, but are only instruments and conduit pipes. They are defective in these particulars. They cannot give any comfort or content of themselves. They cannot fill themselves with any comfort objectively, any further than God puts into them. They are streams that have water no longer than the spring filleth them. The creature, in being but an instrument, and having all from God, doth thereby demonstrate how much blessedness is in enjoying God Himself.
(6) Lay this to heart, heaven and glory cannot be obtained without a preeminent and transcendent affection to all other things.
(7) Neglect not this meditation — what heathen and superstitious persons have done in a misguided way for some notable end.
(8) If Christ hath reproved those who were godly for their external cares, how much rather will He condemn those who are immoderately addicted to these things?
Parallel VersesKJV: There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? LORD, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.