The Power of Grace in Weaning the Heart from the WorldMatthew Mead (1629-1699)
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“Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother. My soul is even as a weaned child.” Psalm 131:1-2
Chrysostom, in commending the grace of humility, says, “Humility is the foundation of Christian virtue.” Indeed, humility is the ornament of all the graces of God’s Spirit. Grace is the beauty of the soul, and humility is the beauty of grace.
Now David, being about to commend this grace to the saints, does propound himself as an example of it in this Psalm: “My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.” Psalm 131:1.
But what was it, which thus humbled David’s heart, and took him off from doting upon the world’s grandeur, and from delighting himself in present enjoyments?
Why God had, by the power of his grace, taken his heart off from all things here below, by showing him the vanity and emptiness of them; so that he was wholly weaned from them. So he says, verse 2, “I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.”
Doctrine: “Where the grace of God takes hold of the soul—it makes it as a weaned child, to all worldly things.”
I. In the discussing this doctrine, I shall show you what it is to be “as a weaned child.”
II. I shall show you that there is a great resemblance between a weaned child and a gracious soul.
III. I shall show you how grace weans the heart from all worldly things.
I. What is it to be “as a weaned child?” This I shall show, both negatively and affirmatively.
A. Negatively first, and that in two things:
1. It is not to be without the comforts and contentments of the world. It is possible to have much of the world—and yet be weaned from the world—as David did here. He had riches in abundance, honor in abundance, for he was advanced to the throne, he was the greatest man in the kingdom—and yet his soul was as a weaned child.
Many may have little of the world—and yet their hearts are not weaned. And many may have much of the world—and yet be weaned from the world.
2. It is not to slight and undervalue our enjoyments; for they are a real mercy from God. They are gifts from above, the noble effects of the bounty of providence.
B. Affirmatively, This being as a weaned child, carries three things in it:
1st, CONTENTMENT. To be as a weaned child, is to be content in every condition of life. Whatever you give a child, it is content—be the bread whiter or browner, be the food hot or cold, be the clothes finer or coarser. So that to be as a weaned child, is to have a contented spirit in every condition, under every providence.
So had David, 2 Samuel 15:25, 26. “If the Lord sees fit—He will bring me back to see the Ark and the Tabernacle again. But if He is through with me, then let Him do what seems best to Him.”
So had Paul, Phil. 4:11, 12, “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret [of being content] —whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” A contented spirit in every condition of life, is a great mercy.
2ndly, To be as a weaned child, is to be HUMBLE. None are so humble as little children, they do not aim at or aspire after great things. Therefore our Lord Christ propounds children to his own disciples—as patterns of humility. “He called a child to Him and had him stand among them,” and tells them, “Whoever humbles himself like this child—this one is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2, 4
So that to be a weaned child, is to be “of an humble and lowly spirit.” So was David here, “Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother. My soul is even as a weaned child.” Psalm 131:1-2.
O, what an excellent spirit is this! Solomon tells us, Proverbs 16:19, “It is better to live humbly with the poor, than to share plunder with the proud.” And in Prov. 29:23, he says, “A person’s pride will humble him, but a humble spirit will gain honor.”
3rdly, To be as a weaned child, is to be TEACHABLE. None so responsive, none so teachable as children. Isaiah 28:9, “Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast.” To be as a weaned child—is to be teachable.
Naturally we are the most unteachable creatures in the world. How will you teach one that can neither see, nor hear, nor understand?
This is the very case of every natural man.
1. Every natural man is blind and cannot see spiritual truths. 2 Cor. 4:4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
2. Every natural man is deaf and cannot hear spiritual truths. Psalm 58:3, 4, “Even from birth the wicked go astray; they are like cobras that refuse to listen, ignoring the tunes of the snake charmers, no matter how skillfully they play.”
3. Every natural man is foolish, and cannot understand spiritual truths. Romans 3:11, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become useless; there is no one who does good, there is not even one.”
Therefore, a teachable frame of mind is a special mercy of God, it is one of the greatest blessings of the new covenant. “They shall all be taught of God!” John 6:45. “They shall all know Me—from the least to the greatest,” Jer. 31:34.
An unteachable heart is a great judgment from God. This was Pharaoh’s judgment; no counsel, no message, no reproof, no warning, no plague could soften him! When the Lord designs to bring judgment upon a soul, then he gives it up to an unteachable heart! “Tell my people this: ‘You will hear my Words, but you will not understand. You will see what I do, but you will not perceive its meaning. Harden the hearts of these people. Close their ears, and shut their eyes. That way, they will not see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn to me for healing!’ Then I said, ‘Lord, how long must I do this?’ And he replied, ‘Until their cities are destroyed, with no one left in them. Until their houses are deserted and the whole country is an utter wasteland!'” Isaiah 6:9-11
When the Lord intends good to a soul, he gives a pliable and teachable frame of mind—a seeing eye, a hearing ear, and an understanding heart.
This is what it is to be as a weaned child. It is to be content, to be humble, to be teachable.
II. I will show you that there is a great resemblance between a weaned child—and a gracious soul. You may consider a weaned child three ways:
1. In regard to its infirmities.
2. In regard to its manner of weaning.
3. In regard to its disposition.
A. In regard to its INFIRMITIES. What is weaker than a weaned child? what creature more helpless, more feeble?
It cannot feed itself.
It cannot defend itself.
It cannot govern itself.
1. A weaned child cannot FEED itself. If it be not nursed, it must be fed—it must have the spoon—it cannot feed itself without the hand of the mother. It is the same, in a spiritual sense, with the gracious soul—if it is weaned, yet it must be fed. If it be weaned from the earth—it must be fed from heaven. If it be weaned from the creature—it must be nourished from the promises.
Every believer depends upon God for feeding, yes, for natural bread; and therefore we pray, “Give us this day, our daily bread!” Much more do we depend upon God for spiritual supports, for soul refreshments; for it is he who “fills the hungry with good things,” Luke 1:53.
There are three things which are the peculiar privileges of believers:
1. To be born of God.
2. To be taught of God.
3. To be fed of God.
They are born of God—by the power of the Word.
They are taught of God—by the precepts of the Word.
They are fed of God—by the promises of the Word.
2. A weaned child cannot DEFEND itself. The security of an infant lies in the care of the parent. Though the breast does feed it, yet the arms must guard it. It is liable to many harms—set it down, and leave it alone, and what will become of it? it falls into the fire, or into the water; into one mischief or another.
It is so with a child of God—he cannot preserve himself, no not for a moment! The greatest measure of grace attainable, will not do it. If God should set up a believer with a stock of grace, and then leave him to trade for himself, how quickly would he prove bankrupt, and perish!
This is why a believer falls gradually away—when God withdraws himself; and he would fall finally away—if God should leave him to himself.
It is not from anything in us—that we stand and are preserved, but from above us, even from the power of God! So says the apostle, 1 Peter 1:5 “We are kept by the power of God, through faith, to salvation.” Faith lays hold on God’s power to be kept, and we are kept by the power of God through faith. It is, you see, God’s power and grace, which enables us to persevere.
A Christian has the stream of grace flowing in him, but God is the spring of grace ever flowing for him, and overflowing to him—and if the spring should be shut up, the stream would soon fail. “All my springs are in you!” Psalms 87:7.
It is renewing grace which saves us—or else we could never be saved. It is supporting grace which keeps us—or else we would quickly fall. This David avers to, in Psalm 66:9, “Our lives are in his hands—he keeps our feet from stumbling.”
Consider but two things, and you will see that it is impossible that a believer can preserve himself:
1st. Consider the power of indwelling lust and corruption. There is not only much of the presence of sin in every believer, but much of the power of sin also.
Though where grace is wrought, there the power of sin is much abated—yet it is not utterly removed. Though the reigning power of sin is destroyed, yet sin has a raging power still. This too often captivates the best of saints. Paul himself will find this out, notwithstanding all his grace. “When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Romans 7:21-24.
Now if so holy a saint as Paul was, complains thus—what complaints may we make, whose corruptions are many and strong, and whose grace is little and weak?
Suppose you should put a spark of fire into the sea, would it not quickly be quenched? Why our grace is but like a spark of fire in the midst of a sea of corruption, and therefore would quickly be quenched—if God did not preserve it alive!
2ndly, Consider the frequency and strength of temptation. The greatest degree of grace will give us no immunity from temptation. The Lord Jesus Christ had no sin, and yet was assaulted by Satan; and therefore the servant must not look to be above his Lord.
Satan’s great design is to destroy the believer’s grace—yes, and he would do it, if the Lord did not hem him in, and hold him up.
There is a great strength in every temptation. Partly as being managed by so potent and subtle an enemy; partly as being suited to our remaining corruptions. When the Devil came to Christ, he found no sin for temptation to work upon; yet when he comes to Christians, he finds much in them for temptation to work upon—much pride, much worldly love, much lust, much carnality, much unbelief, much deadness of heart, much unprofitableness, etc. All this, is the material which he works upon.
When Satan surrounds us on the outside—sin is ever ready to surprize us within! When Satan tempts us—sin is ready to betray us! Therefore if the Lord does not put his everlasting arms underneath us—we cannot stand.
So that you see the gracious soul is unable, like the weaned child, to defend itself. “The Lord is his defense.” Isaiah 4:5.
3. A weaned child is not able to GOVERN itself. It is destitute both of strength and wisdom. And so it is with every believer—he is not able to direct his own actions—he cannot govern his own thoughts—he has not the least self-sufficiency. So says Agur of himself, Proverbs 30:2-3, “Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man.”
And therefore David seeing this, betakes himself to the Lord for counsel and guidance, “In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge!” Psalm 31:1-4.
And God promises to guide them, Isaiah 42:16, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”
Now there are two ways especially, whereby the Lord directs and guides his people:
A. The Lord directs and guides his people, by the counsels of his WORD, “I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Psalm 73:22-24.
The Word of God is the best Counselor; and therefore David betakes himself to it for guidance and direction, Psalm 119:24, “Your statutes are my delight and my counselors.” In the Hebrew it is, “The men of my councils.” David was a king, and therefore no doubt had the wisest men of the nation, to be of his council. We read of Hushai, and others, men of great abilities and prudence, who were his council; but yet he hearkened more to the Word of God, than to all his council besides, “Your statutes are my counselors.”
We should follow the councils of the Word in all things, and make it the guide of our way—as holy David did: “Your Word is a light to my feet—and a lamp to my paths,” Psalm 119:105. For,
1st, The Word is the SAFEST counsel. We may, and too often do, err in following the counsels of others; for man’s wisdom is short-sighted; “the blind lead the blind—and both fall into the ditch.” But we can never err or miscarry in following the counsels of the Scripture. Solomon says, “For wisdom will enter your mind, and knowledge will delight your heart. Discretion will watch over you, and understanding will guard you, rescuing you from the way of evil.” Proverbs 2:10-12.
And speaking of the commandment in the sixth chapter, he says, “Always bind them to your heart; tie them around your neck. When you walk here and there, they will guide you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; when you wake up, they will talk to you. For a commandment is a lamp, teaching is a light, and corrective instructions are the way to life.” Proverbs
2dly, The Word is the most PROFITABLE counsel. It helps the soul in all concerns of life. Yes, the happiness and salvation of the soul is the sure outcome of following the counsels of the Word. See what an account David gives of the Word, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and altogether righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.” Psalm 19:7-11.
O what, a mercy it is—to be under the guidance of the Word of God!
B. The Lord directs and guides his people by the counsels of his SPIRIT. John 16:13, “When the Spirit of truth has come, he will guide you into all truth.” “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him–the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.” Isaiah 11:2.
How happy is the condition of God’s people—who have the Word and the Spirit to guide them! The Word without the Spirit—cannot guide us. The Spirit without the Word—will not guide us. The Word is a light without us—the Spirit is a light within us. The Word propounds the way to walk in—Spirit enables the soul to walk in that way. Blessed are those whom God thus guides!
Thus I have showed you how the state of a believer resembles that of a weaned child—in regard of its infirmities.
B. There is a resemblance also, in regard to its MANNER of weaning; and that in three particular circumstances:
1st, Many when they wean a child from the breast, will rub some bitter or unpleasant thing upon the breast which it is so fond of—to create a loathing in the child. And so the bitterness of the taste makes the child forsake the breast.
Now in this, the soul of a believer is as a weaned child. The breast of the creature is that which natural man lies at; for natural man fetches all his comfort from sensual things, and savors only earthly things.
Now, when the Lord designs to work grace in the heart, and redeem a soul to himself—he always weans it first from the world. Psalm 45:10, 11. “Listen to me, O royal daughter; take to heart what I say. Forget your people and your homeland far away—and the king will desire your beauty.”
Now, the difficulty of conversion lies here—in taking the heart from the creature, and placing it upon God! In the fall, we turned from God to the creature—and in conversion-work the heart is turned from the creature, back to God again.
Now because, I say, this is difficult, for the creature is opposed to leave the breast of carnal enjoyments where it has sucked in such sensual delights so long. Therefore the Lord, when he would wean the soul from earthly things—He rubs wormwood upon the breasts of all our comforts, and embitters all our enjoyments; so that though we seek for satisfaction, yet we shall find none.
This was the way of God’s dealing with the prodigal son. The parable of the prodigal is to represent to us the state of every natural man. Now, it is said, Luke 15:14, that “when he had spent all—there arose a famine in the land;” and this brought him home to his father’s house.
God is never better to us—than when the creature is most bitter to us! “The Lord will famish all the gods of the earth; and men shall worship him.”
Thus God dealt with Israel, Hosea 2:6-8. “She said, ‘I will go after my lovers, who give me my food and my water, my wool and my linen, my oil and my drink.’ Therefore I will hedge up her path with thorns; I will wall her in—so that she cannot find her way. She will chase after her lovers but not catch them; she will look for them but not find them. Then she will say, ‘I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now.'”
God has two hedges which the Scripture takes notice of:
1. The hedge of his protection, which you read of Job 1:10, “Haven’t You placed a hedge around him, his household, and everything he owns?”
2. The hedge of affliction, which you read of here: “I will hedge up her path with thorns!”
Now the Lord make use of both these hedges.
The hedge of God’s protection—that is to keep his people from danger.
The hedge of affliction—that is to stop them from wandering.
The hedge of protection—is to keep them in God’s way.
The hedge of affliction—is to keep them out of sin’s way.
The hedge of protection—is to keep them from suffering.
The hedge of affliction is to keep then from sinning, and to put them upon returning to God.
So it was with Israel here, when God had hedged up her way, that she could not find her paths, nor overtake her lovers, then she cries out, “I will go back to my husband as at first, for then I was better off than now!”
It is a great mercy, for God to wean a soul from the world; for it never suffers greater—than when it forsakes God to live upon the creature! “Those who cling to lying vanities–turn their backs on all God’s mercies!” Jonah 2:8. It is forsaking the living fountain–to quench our thirst from a broken cistern! Jeremiah 2:13.
By our excesses in creature-enjoyments, reason is commonly drowned in sense, and judgment extinguished in appetite. The excessive letting out ourselves to sensual fruitions—is both a sin and a punishment. Because thereby, we lose both God and the creature, and ourselves at once.
When the Lord weans a soul from the world—He embitters the world to the soul; either by some affliction, or by some disappointment in the creature, which makes the soul look out for more pure and lasting satisfactions in Christ.
In a time of outward prosperities, we are all Martha’s children, carried away too much with the world. But when God embitters our cup, then, with Mary, we look more after the one thing necessary, and mind the choosing the better part.
So long as we are full of the world—the Lord Christ can find no room in our hearts—present comforts have gotten possession, and thrust him out.
As it was when he was born—there was no room for him in the inn. That was taken up with other guests; therefore Christ, must be laid in the feeding trough in the stable.
Truly thus it fares with the Lord Jesus Christ in the world still—the most of us lay him in the feeding trough in the stable, to this very day.
Deal plainly with God and your own souls, and tell me, “What entertainment do you give to the Lord Jesus when he comes to your souls in an ordinance, and tells you he will make his abode with you, for so he does. “Behold! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me. Revelation 3:20.
Now how do you treat the blessed Jesus? where do you lay him? in the inn, or in the stable? I mean thus do you receive him into your hearts and affections—or, do you take him only into the stable of an empty profession?
Truly a lifeless, graceless profession of Christ, is only a laying him in the stable; but a hearty embracing of, and a holy affection to Christ, this is taking him into the inn!
Now when God, by any providence, embitters the creature to us, then this makes us remove Christ out of the stable into the inn; out of a lifeless profession into our hearts and affections.
2rdly, When a child is weaned, the mother is many times hidden, or put away, or removed—that the sight of her may not make the child to cry for the breast.
So the Lord many times strips a man of the world, takes from him his enjoyments, all his comforts—merely to wean his heart from the world.
3rdly, When a child is weaned, the nature and kind of its food is changed; he is fed with stronger food.
Now in this also, the resemblance holds—the soul of a believer is as a weaned child—he has another kind of nourishment, and lives upon other kind of comforts than he did before.
As Christ says, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about.” John 4:32. Just so, every believer has comforts to live upon—which the world knows nothing of. “A stranger does not share in his joy,” Proverbs 14:10. As,
1. He has the comforts of the PROMISES. When God brings a soul into a state of grace, he brings him from living upon the creature—to live upon the promises. And which is best—to live upon the creature, or to live upon the promise?
The creature diesbut the promise lives.
The creature is yes and no—but the promise is yes and amen.
The creature is deceitful—but the promise is sure and faithful.
The creature feeds but sense—but the promise fills the soul.
The creature is but a scanty good—but the promise travails with all good.
He who lives upon the promise lives by faith, and the life of faith is the best life.
1st, It is the only safe and secure life. As the weak ivy secures itself by twisting about the great oak—so the weak Christian secures himself by cleaving to the great God. “These are the ones who will dwell on high. The rocks of the mountains will be their fortress of safety. Food will be supplied to them, and they will have water in abundance.” Isaiah 33:16
The life of sense is full of disappointments, “like a deceitful brook,” Job 6:15.
Sisera runs to Jael to save him—and she destroys him! He lays his head in her lap—and she nails it to the ground! Judges 4:21.
2ndly, It is the only quiet and peaceful life. The life of sense is full of distracting cares and vexations. The soul is never quiet, until it draws off from sense to live by faith; until it cries out with David, “Return to your rest, O my soul!” Psalm 116:7.
The philosopher tells us, if we could live in the upper region, there we should enjoy a perpetual calm; there are no storms, no winds, no tempests; these are only found in this lower region—nearer the sun it is not so. Sense is as the lower region, where there is nothing but storms, and shakings, and vexations. Could we, by faith, live in the upper region, and have the moon under our feet; could we live above the world, by faith in God, resting in the Lord Jesus Christ—we would enjoy a perpetual calm there! “In Me you may have peace. In this world you will have many trials and sorrows.” John 16:33.
3rdly, It is the only sweet and comfortable life. The life of sense, like a smoking chimney, causes many a wet eye. When we live by faith, then the fire burns clear; but when we live by sense, then the chimney smokes.
Is it not a sweet life, to fetch all our sweet waters from the fountain? Thus faith does. Sense drinks out of the muddy stream—but faith goes to the fountain-head. “All my springs are in you!” Psalm 87:7.
Is it not a comfortable life to be fixed—among all the changes and fluctuations which are in the world? Faith fixes the soul upon God—and in that fixation it is safe. “He will not fear bad news; his heart is confident, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7.
Is it not a comfortable life to live free from all burdens in the world? There are but two sorts of burdens:
The burden of sin and guilt.
The burden of care and trouble.
Now faith takes off both of these, and frees the soul from the one and the other.
It takes off the burden of guilt—by resting upon Christ and his righteousness.
And it takes off the burden of care and trouble—by resting upon God and his providence.
Ah, my beloved, there is no comfort to be compared to the comfort of believing! There is no life to be compared to the life of faith. We may talk of comfort, but until we come to live by faith—we shall never taste of comfort.
4thly, It is the only truly Christian life. Sense makes a beast, reason makes a man, but faith makes a Christian. We are no farther Christians, than as we can live upon Christ in all conditions.
5thly, It is the only honorable life. The world’s honor is but an imaginary thing, a mere bubble, compared with the honor which faith leads the soul into.
Is it not an honor to have the king’s ear at our pleasure? Why, the believer, as I may speak it with reverence, has the command of God’s ear! “Concerning the work of my hands, command me,” Isaiah 45:11.
Is it not an honor to be of the blood-royal, to be born of God? We are very apt to value ourselves upon the nobleness of our descent and birth. Why, the believer is born of God! John 1:11, 12. They are of the blood-royal, the children of God!
Is it not an honor to live with God? Why, believers live with God, and walk with God, and have fellowship with God here—and shall have an eternal fellowship with God in heaven hereafter! “Such honor have all his saints.”
6thly, It is the only lasting life. The stability of all sorts of lives, is according to their principles and causes. The life which depends upon a failing cause—is a fading life. The life which depends upon a constant cause—is an abiding life. Now the life of faith, proceeds from a living principle; the grounds of it are in God and Christ, and the promise—no change reaches to these.
Our comforts may change—but Christ never changes! “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!” Heb. 13:8.
The creature may change—but God never changes! “I am the Lord—I do not change!” Mal. 3. 6.
The promises are unchangeable. They are not yes and no—but “Yes and amen in Christ,” 2 Cor. 1:20.
Now faith must needs be a lasting life, which has such lasting grounds and principles.
The life of sense is a fading decaying life—as it lives upon fading objects. A man has friends and delightful relations, and these cheer and refresh his spirits; but momentarily, they die, and drop into the dust, and then his spirits sink. They go down to the pit—and his heart breaks for lack of comfort.
But the soul that lives by faith can never be at a loss. What can he lack—who has him who is all, and has all? What can he lose—who has him who knows no change at all?
The mariner, when he puts forth to sea, quickly loses the sight of land—but though he sails ever so far—he never loses the sight of heaven.
Thus the soul of a believer is as a weaned child in this sense also—it lives upon other kind of comforts than it did before, namely—the comforts of the promises.
2. I might add, that the believer lives upon the comforts of the ordinances. “I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste.” Song of Songs 2:3.
3. He lives upon the comfort of gracious experiences: Psalm 74:14. “You crushed the head of Leviathan in pieces, and gave him to be food to the people inhabiting the wilderness.” Leviathan here, is meant of Pharaoh and all his army: when God drowned all the army of the Egyptians in the Red Sea, then he broke Leviathan’s head. And God is said to give him to be food for his people in the wilderness, in that the experience they had had at the Red Sea, of the wonderful care and miraculous doings of God for them, and their deliverance, was intended to be food for their faith, that by this experience they might learn to live upon God in wilderness-straits.
4. He lives upon the comfort of the divine presence: “You shall make me glad with the light of your countenance.” This is the food that the weaned soul has to feed on:
The divine presence.
C. There is a resemblance between a weaned child and a believer—in regard of its disposition and desires. As for instance, take a weaned child, and lay it to the fullest and fairest breast—and it will suck no more; it turns from it, and loathes it as much as heretofore it loved and delighted in it.
Now in this the gracious heart is as the weaned child—the fullest breast of creature-comforts and sensual delights, cannot allure it! And why? Because it has chosen God for its chief good, and therefore cannot be more satisfied. “Whom do I have in heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever!” Psalm 73:25-26.
The soul sees a greater beauty in God, than in all worldly comforts. The soul tastes a greater sweetness in communion with the Lord Christ—than in all worldly friendships and fellowships.
So did David; and therefore he cries out, “One day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere!” Psalm 74:10. So did Jacob; and therefore tells his brother, “God has dealt graciously with me, and I have enough!” Gen. 33. 11. In the Hebrew it is, “I have all!” He who has a saving interest in God, has all—all that the soul can want, or the heart can wish!
III. I will show you briefly—HOW grace weans the heart from all worldly things. By a threefold working.
1. Grace sets up a light in the soul, which discovers the true nature of things. Every natural man is in darkness. A graceless state is a state of darkness. Now in darkness—the vanity, emptiness, insufficiency, and unsatisfactoriness of worldly things to the soul—cannot be discovered.
Grace is light in the understanding, as well as holiness in the will; and by this light the soul is able to pass a right judgment of things—to distinguish between seen and unseen good, between perishing and durable comforts; to discern between things which differ. “The spiritual man judges all things,” says the apostle, Cor. 2:15.
2. Grace has a farther work upon the heart—it extinguishes and removes out of the soul, that which makes the things of the world to be our chief good.
There is that in every carnal man—which propounds to the soul something below God, as its chief good. And that is, the sensual mind—and by this, the will is misled, and the affections misplaced, and the world is preferred, and God left out!
Now by a work of grace in the heart, the sensual mind is extinguished, the old man is put off, and that which savors only the things of the world, is abated and removed.
3. Grace elevates the soul above sensual objects, to live upon more real, more suitable comforts. Grace elevates the soul, to live upon God, to lay up treasure in heaven, to fetch its refreshments from the fountain of divine fullness. How easily is that soul weaned from all earthly enjoyments, which has learned to fetch all its comforts from heaven!
Use 1. Of trial. We should be serious in this matter, and call our hearts to a strict account of what we experience of the power of God upon our souls—in weaning them from things below! There are great reasons which move me to urge this duty upon you. For,
First, There is no greater duty incumbent upon a Christian, than frequent trials of himself and his state, by the measure of present truths. When the Word of the Lord is spoken, and truth discovered, then to bring it home to the heart, and try our spirits and condition by it; this is a great duty. This is the meaning of Paul in 2 Cor. 13:5. “Examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith; prove your own selves.”
Galatians 6:3, 4, “For if anyone considers himself to be something when he is nothing, he is deceiving himself. But each person should examine his own work.”
Secondly, Herein does the vitality and power of godliness consist. It is not what we profess outwardly, but what we are inwardly, which God looks at. Romans 2:29. ” He is a Jew, who is one inwardly.” Many profess much, pretend to great measures of mortifiedness, and weanedness from worldly things; but look upon them in their lives, follow them into the world, and none are more carnal, more vain than they!
Thirdly, We can never be able to validate our claim to a work of grace, unless we are able to satisfy ourselves in this point. There is no greater, no surer evidence of a work of grace in the heart, than weanedness of soul from worldly things.
Fourthly, If we be not brought into this weaned state by the power of grace here, we shall be shut out of heaven hereafter. Will you hear what our Lord Christ says in the case? Then see Matt. 18:3. “Truly, unless you are converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
“Unless you are converted,” is that all? no, but you must become as little children—in meekness, humility, self-denial, weanedness. So says the next verse “Whoever shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” We must be wrought into a child-like disposition. This is the true qualification, the proper fitness of the soul for glory—no weanedness, no blessedness! Is there not then, great reason for my urging you to this self-examination?
Let us come therefore to the touchstone: that is not true grace—which will not endure trial. Put the question to yourself—Is my soul as a weaned child? am I under the weanings of God—or am I not?
Question. Now you will say, “How may I know whether my soul is under the weanings of God? How may I know whether I am weaned from the world or not?
Answer. In answer to this, I shall lay down some rules to try yourselves by:
1. To have heavenly affections amidst earthly possessions—this is a sign of a weaned heart.
2. To reckon our happiness, our riches, rather from divine comforts than from any worldly comfort; this is a sign of an heart under the weanings of God. David was a king, a great man; but he does not reckon this his happiness. No, but from his interest in God. Psalm 16:5, “Lord, you alone are my portion, and my cup of blessing.” And what then? “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”
3. What do you most desire? What do you most hunger after? this shows whether we are weaned from the world, or not. No matter what you offer it, or put into its hand, the unweaned child cries for the breast! Nothing can quiet it until it is laid to the breast. Now, what is it—which quiets our minds, which satisfies our desires best? If it is worldly pleasures, worldly comforts, worldly honors, etc. then our hearts are not weaned.
4. To bear worldly evils, worldly troubles, worldly losses—with a holy quietness and satisfaction of spirit; this is a sign of a weaned heart. Heb. 10:34. “When all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew you had better things waiting for you in eternity.”
5. To choose holiness with affliction and loss—rather than sin with pleasure and preferment; this is a sign of a weaned heart. Thus did Moses, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Hebrews 11:24-26
6. To be able by faith to overcome all the smiles and frowns of the world—this is another sign of a weaned heart. Now can you do this? When the world smiles upon us with its splendors, honors, riches, pleasures, delights and glories—can you then look upon all these as base and abject things—in comparison of Christ? Can you look through all this—to the righteousness of Christ? as that noble Marquis did; “May their money perish with them—who count all the gold in the world, worth one day’s communion with Jesus Christ.”
Or, when the world frowns upon us with crosses, losses, sufferings, reproaches, etc. Can we then overcome it by laying aside carnal fear, by patience in tribulation, by looking upon afflictions and sufferings for Christ—as our honor and happiness; by eyeing the invisible God in all, as Moses did? “He endured, as seeing him who is invisible.”
Use 2. Are your souls under the weanings of God? Then there is a double duty incumbent upon you from this doctrine.
Duty 1. Bless the Lord, and magnify the riches of his mercy—in calling and taking your hearts off from the world!
It is said in Genesis 21:8 that, “On the day that Isaac was weaned, Abraham held a great feast.” It is not said, that the child was born—and Abraham made a feast. Indeed that was not so proper a time, because then the mother was in weakness and grief. Nor is it said the child was circumcised, and Abraham made a feast; nor was that so proper a time because then the child was sore and in pain. But “On the day that Isaac was weaned, Abraham held a great feast.” This seems the proper time, because now father, and mother, and child, might all rejoice together.
There was, no doubt, a mystery enrapt up in this feast of Abraham: and what was that? Why the mystery is this—Believers, who are the seed of Abraham, should rejoice in the Lord when the soul is become spiritual, and weaned from carnal desires!
To have the world—and yet to be weaned from the world; to possess it—and yet not to be possessed by it; this is a great mercy!
It is an easy matter to profess weanedness from the world, where but little of the world is enjoyed. It is a common thing for those who are poor, to declaim against riches and wealth: “I would not be in their condition—I would not be under their temptations—for all that they enjoy!” Says another, “I would not have that to answer for, as they have! For as they are great, so they are proud, high minded, and covetous.” Thus it is usual for the poor to envy the rich.
But to live above all, amidst the enjoyment of all—this is the greatest mercy in the world! To see no greatness in anything but in the great God—to see no beauty in anything but holiness—to see no glory in anything but Christ—to see no goodness in anything but true religion; O what a mercy is this! How few can look through worldly greatness—to this prospect! “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” 1 Corinthians 1:26
Duty 2. Labor to wean others from the world; as Christ said to Peter, “When you are converted, strengthen your brethren,” Luke 22:32. So when converting grace has taken hold of your heart—labor to convert others. When the Lord has showed you the vanity of things below—-endeavor to lead others into this view. Is your soul weaned? Strive that others may be weaned. O what honor might you bring to God upon this account!
We preach of the vanity and emptiness of the world; but alas! few believe our report. They say—we know nothing of the grandeur, honor, and glory of it ourselves. God placed us below it, and laid our lot in a narrow compass; and therefore we envy it to those who enjoy it, because we lack it.
But when such whom God has advanced to greatness in the world, shall yet live above it, and prefer the interest of true religion, and the honoring of God, before all worldly grandeur—this will carry a strong conviction with it to the consciences of others.
Therefore endeavor to be instrumental to wean others, especially relatives. Labor that those who are near to us—may not be far from God. And chiefly labor for our children, whose souls God will more immediately require at our hands.
A second branch of the exhortation is to those who are not yet as a weaned child—whose souls are not as yet taken off from present things.
Is not this our case? May we not fear it is? For if we are weaned from the world—why do we doat upon it? Why are we so fond of worldly things? Why do we conform so much to the world, and study the foolish fashions of the world? If we are weaned from the world—why is our joy and grief so great, and proportioned to present comforts, or present losses? Surely therefore we have cause enough to fear—that our hearts are not yet under the weanings of God.
Also, let me tell you—that it is possible to be a true believer, a true Christian—and yet not to be weaned from the world. It is one thing to be born of God, as every believer is; it is another thing to have a weaned heart—this every believer is not.
This child is a living child—as soon as it is born. But it is not weaned from the breast until it has gotten strength to live without it. And therefore it is said of Isaac, “The child grew and was weaned.” Weaning follows growth and strength. So a man is a believer as soon as he is born of God, so soon as he is wrought upon by grace. But he is not weaned from the world, but by a superadded strength, and growth of grace.
Truth of grace proves a man a child of God; but it is growth of grace that makes the soul as a weaned child.
Indeed, this weanedness is begun in conversion, for that is the seed-time of all inherent grace; but it is only perfected in the growth of sanctification.
You read in scripture of a twofold redemption:
One is a redemption by the blood and death of Christ—from hell and damnation. The other is a redemption by the Spirit of Christ—from carnal affections. This follows conversion. In Rev. 14:3, you read of some who were said to be “Redeemed from the earth.” Many are redeemed from hell—who are not yet redeemed from the earth. They are redeemed through grace from damnation; yet they are not redeemed from a carnal life.
Well then—are we born of God, and yet not weaned from the breast of worldly comforts? O then go away, and beg of God for this mercy of a weaned soul; that you may no longer fetch in your satisfactions and comforts from the creature, but from God in Christ.
And lastly, let us do that which is our duty–in order to obtain weanedness of heart.
1. While we satiate ourselves, and surfeit our spirits in the fullness and excesses of worldly enjoyments—we are not likely to learn this lesson. One way to put out the fire, is by removing of matter—take away the wood, and the fire will die, and go out by itself.
2. Be much in mortifying carnal appetites and inordinate desires. And let this be our daily work; for the sooner it is done—the easier it is done. A child is easier weaned at one year old than at two; affections are not yet so strong, nor habit so prevailing.
It is in like manner with the soul—the longer it lives upon the comforts of the world, and fetches its contentments from the creature—the harder it will be to draw off the affection, and wean the soul from them!