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THE GOD OF OUR LIFE. (Sermon, by the Rev. Matthew Henry. Abridged from the original MS., never before printed.
Deut. xxx. 20.
FOR HE IS THY LIFE, AND THE LENGTH OF THY DAYS."
Moses was very solicitous for the good and welfare of that people over whom the Holy Ghost had made him overseer, and could not leave them, to go up to Mount Nebo to die there, till he had preached them a farewell sermon. He recounts the various proyidences of God to them, the righteous laws he had given them, and the manifold obligations they lay under to observe and do them. This verse concludes the sermon, summing up
their duty—to love the Lord, obey him, and cleave to him; and the mercy in that case promised them that thou mayest dwell in the land, &c.
The text comes in as a reason why they should perform this duty: because of their necessary dependence upon God for life and length of days; and because they might then with comfort and confidence expect the performance of this promise. God, who was their life, and the length of their days, would make it good: they might be assured, from that being his character, that they should " dwell in the land, and verily they should be fed.”
It is very material for us to know what God is—what he is in himself-an infinite, eternal, all-sufficient, self-sufficient Being: what he is to his people—a loving, gracious, merciful, and tender-hearted Father in Christ: what he is to all his creatures, especially man — a powerful creator, a gracious preserver, a bountiful benefactor; and, amongst other things, he is our life, and the length of our days.
God is in himself a living God-a truth so certain that it is the usual form of a scripture oath. The word “live” is thus used twenty times in the Old Testament; God himself swears
by it (Isa. xlix, 18; Rom. xiv. 11):-a thing so august and venerable that it is horrid wickedness to abuse it, as blasphemous wretches do, by profane swearing" by the living God."
Now this God is our life. Life is threefold—Temporal, consisting in the union of soul and body ;-Spiritual, consisting in the union of the soul and God;—Eternal, consisting in the immediate vision and fruition of God in endless glory.
I take the text to be principally meant of temporal life; the life of the body. I shall so understand it, and shall show from it, how God is our life, and why he is called so; and then what use we are to make of this great fact or doctrine.
UPON WHAT ACCOUNT IS GOD SAID TO BE OUR LIFE ? 1. God gives life.--He is the author, spring-head, and fountain of our being. He was so to our first parents, Adam and Eve—“He breathed into them the breath of life," Gen. ii. 7; (Hebrew,)“ of lives,” noting the many faculties and operations of life. “Into his nostrils,”—not as if the nostrils were the seat of the soul, but because the breath of the nostrils manifests the presence of the life and soul, The breath of life is in the nostrils, though not life itself. Cease
whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of?”—Isa. ii. 22. And the same God gives life to all the posterity of Adam. Elihu mentions this truth with application to himself.-Job xxxiii. 4. Parents are but the subordinate instruments of our being; God is the supreme principle. The body is the work of his hands, Ps. cxxxix. 14, &c., and the soul also, created and infused at the same instant, and life with it. Hence God is called the Father of spirits, Heb. xii. 9; and is said to give the spirit, Eccles. xii. 7. in a secret, unaccountable way, such as none knows.--Eccles. xi. 5.
All living creatures have their life from God, Acts xvii. 25; Ps. civ. 30; but especially man, Isa. xlii. 5; who is the object of his peculiar care. Man became a living soul-so the first Adam was, Gen. ii. 7; 1 Cor. 45. Other souls, of brutes and animals, are perishing and dying, and depend upon matter, from which if they are separated they cease to exist;
whereas the soul of man, being a spirit or 'spiritual substance, doth exist in a state of separation from the body; and is, therefore, called a living soul,-breathed into us by a living God. A living soul :-he doth not say a living man, for indeed the soul is the man-all souls are God's, Ezek. xviii. 4;-for with him is the fountain of life, Ps. xxxvi. 9;—he granteth us life and favour, Job. x. 12; and life is a favour.
2. God maintains life.-Life in man is like a lamp kindled, which wastes and consumes, and will be soon extinguished, without fresh supplies of oil ;-that body will quickly be rendered unfit to be a receptacle and habitation for the soul (and when it comes to that, death soon ensues), without a continual supply of somewhat apt for nourishment to maintain and keep it in its due state and temper. Life is like fire-warming but wasting, and needing fuel.
And this supply is from God, who doth not only light the lamp at first, but keeps it burning. God took care of this as soon as ever he had made our first parents, and it was an evidence of his love and tenderness; Gen, i, 29; every herb, &c. - probably they were confined to herbs and fruits, and had not leave to eat flesh till after the flood. The mentioning of particulars seems to intimate a restriction to what is there mentioned. The fruits of the earth, 'tis likely, were more sweet, wholesome, and nourishing, before the flood than since. God provided also for the worst of the creatures, Gen. i. 30, in their season. God takes care for oxen.-(1 Cor. ix. 9.) God gave to the beasts every green herb for meat. And observe, that the same provision is made for them that was made for man, 0. 29,-man being made of the same mould (as to his body), was fed withthe same meat that the beasts were ;—but that though the beasts were first made, yet man was first provided for, and afterwards the cattle; yet you feed your beasts, and your dogs while you see men and women starve, as Dives.-Luke xvi: God still provides for all the creatures.-Ps. civ. 27; cxlv. 15; cxxxvi. 25. The raven is an unclean creature, a seemingly unprofitable creature, --a voracious creature yet.-Ps. cxlvii. 9. The fowls, most out of man's care, are under his,-Matt. vi. 26. But his special care was for man, to maintain his life. There was a change in man's food. After the fall, he must eat the herb of the field, Gen. iii. 18; hitherto he had liberty to eat of the fruits of the paradisaical garden, but now he was turned to graze upon the common, and the herb of the field must serve his turn; beasts' food-he having made himself by sin like the beasts that perish : such was Nebuchadnezzar, Dan. iv. 33,After the flood: God then gave man leave to eat flesh, Gen, ix. 3;—probably the flood had taken away much of the strength and virtue of the earth, and so rendered the vegetables less nourishing; and perhaps had some influence on the bodies of men, making them to stand in need of more nourishing food than herbs, and roots, and flowers. God gives flesh to eat; "every moving thing :” (Hebrew,) "every creeping thing”—which excepts man. This liberty then given was afterwards restrained by the yoke of ceremonies, Lev. xi., but is enlarged to us by the gospel of freedom, which makes every creature good.-1 Tim. iv. 4. How liberal is God to the benefit and comfort of man ;
other creatures die 'that we may live. Think sometimes what 77 abundance of our fellow-creatures we have lived upon the ruins of.
We have not only the food from God, but the blessing upon the food, without which the food would not nourish.-Matt. iv. 4, quoted from Deut. viii. 3. God's blessing puts a nourishing virtue into our food. God's blessing upon the manna which seemed light bread, made it sufficient food to the thousands of Israel for forty years together. But his curse with the quails, which seemed much likelier food, made it destroy.-Num. xi. 33; Ps. lxxviii. 30, 31. 'Tis not abundant provision that doth satisfy, but an abundant blessing with the provision, Ps. cxxxii. 15; therefore this blessing must be sought by prayer.—1 Tim. iv. 4; I Sam. ix. 13.
3. God preserves life.-He doth not only maintain and keep it from inward wasting, by daily supplies, but doth also preserve and keep it from outward dangers in daily protections. He holdeth our soul in life.-Ps. lxvi. 9. He keeps life and soul together, which otherwise would soon fall in pieces. His daily visitation preserveth our spirits, Job x. 12, which otherwise
would soon expire. We are continually exposed to dangers by night and by day; lying down, rising up, going out, coming in : and should soon be destroyed-swallowed up—if God did not make a hedge of protection about us.—Job i. 10. Ps. xci. and Ps. cxxi. are almost wholly concerning this. 'Tis owing to the mercy of God that we are not consumed daily, Lam. üi. 22; a little thing would do it if God should but speak the word, or withdraw his care. He preserveth man and beast.-Ps. xxxvi. 6.
4. God sweetens life.-We have not only life from him, but all the comforts of life, which tend to make life pleasant and delightful; and without which it would be little better than a continuing death. The comforts of our being, as well as our being itself, are all from God. He hath granted us not only life, but favour with our life, Job x. 12; provided not only for mere necessity, but for ornament and comfort. He makes creatures to be creature-comforts; for every creature is that to us, more, than God makes it to be. He is the God of all comfort, 2 Cor. i. 3; all our springs are in him.-Ps. lxxxvii. 7. 'Tis spoken there of the church (as appears by the original); but 'tis eminently true of God, -we may dig wells in the valley of Baca, but they are dry till he fills them.-Ps. lxxxiv. 6.
5. God prolongs life.-Long life is very frequently in scripture spoken of as a special gift of God, who is himself the “Ancient of Days;" and 'tis often promised to the faithful in general, Ps. xci. 16, and in the fifth commandment; in particular, to Abram.-Gen. xv. 15. Long life is entailed upon obedience no less than eight times in the Book of Deuteronomy-God is the “ length of our days,” in the text.
6. God restores life.-He does so when it is quite gone, and, therefore, irrecoverable by the power of nature, whose principle it is—that “a privation of the habit is a departure of the gift;" yet God, in such a case, hath recovered it by a miraculous power, both under the Old Testament and under the New. Eli. jah, Elisha, Christ, and his apostles, have done it. And he will do it for all mankind at the general resurrection at the great day.-John xi. 25; 1 Cor. xv. 42; 1 Thes. iv. 16; John v. 26–28. Dry bones live.—Ezek. xxxvii. When it is just