When in Doubt, What Should We Do? Consult our Privy Counsellors.

Psalm 119:24

Thy testimonies also are my delight and my counsellors.

JOHN GILL (1697-1771): The commandments of God, or His law, and the precepts of it, were [David’s] privy counsellors, with whom on all occasions he consulted.

THOMAS MANTON (1620-1677): Princes do nothing without the advice of their Privy Counsel. A child of God hath also his Privy Counsel―God’s testimonies…Alphonsus, king of Aragon, being asked who were the best counsellors, answered, “The dead,” meaning books, which cannot flatter, but do without partiality declare the truth. Now of all such dead counsellors, God’s testimonies have the pre-eminence.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): God’s testimonies will be the best counsellors both to princes and private persons. They are the men of my counsel, so the word is [in the original Hebrew].

THOMAS MANTON: A poor godly man, even when he is deserted of all, and hath nobody to plead for him, he hath his senate, and his council of state about him, the prophets and apostles, and other “holy men of God, that spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”―he hath counsellors about him that tell him what is to be believed or done; and they are such counsellors as cannot err, as will not flatter him, nor applaud him in any sin, nor discourage or dissuade him from that which is good, whatever hazard it expose him to. And truly, if we be wise, we should choose such counsellors as these.

MATTHEW HENRY: There will be found more safety and satisfaction in consulting them than in the multitude of other counsellors.

C. H. MACKINTOSH (1820-1896): This is the book of books, let it not lie idle and unemployed.

THOMAS MANTON: To press us to this consulting with the Word of God, to make the testimonies of the Lord “the men of our counsel,” there are many qualifications and tempers of heart necessary.

First, the fear of God.

What man is he that feareth the Lord: him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose,” Psalm 25:12.  He that is in doubt and perplexed, and would have counsel from God’s Word; who is the man that is like to have it?  He that feareth the Lord. There is a great suitableness between the qualification and the promise: partly, he that fears God hath a greater awe of the Word than others have, and is loath to do anything contrary to God’s will: he would know what is God’s mind in every particular case: “My heart standeth in awe of thy word,” Psalm 119:161. To offend God, and to balk at the direction of God’s Word, that is the greatest terror to him, greater than all other dangers.

MARY WINSLOW (1774-1854): Let the fear of God dwell richly in you.

EBENEZER ERSKINE (1680-1754): This is not a slavish fear of hell and vindictive wrath, for that is inconsistent with [a Christian’s] freedom from condemnation: but it is a filial fear of God as a Father, flowing from an affectionate regard to His authority, interposed in the commands of the law. Though [believers] be not afraid of being cast into hell―yet they have much reason to fear Him as a father Judge, lest he “visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes,” Psalm 89:32; for, pass who will unpunished, they shall not pass: “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities,” Amos 3:2.

WILLIAM BATES (1625-1699): Therefore, fear God with a fear of reverence.

THOMAS MANTON: Such a man is less apt to miscarry by the rashness and impetuous bent of carnal affections. And he that fears God, he aims at God’s glory rather than his own interest, and so is rather swayed by reasons of conscience and religion, than of carnal concernments. Many times the doubtfulness that is upon the spirit, is because of conflicts between lust and knowledge; our light is weakened by an inordinate affection to our own interests, otherwise we would soon come to the deciding of our case by the Word of God.

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): Get the true fear of God upon your hearts: be really afraid of offending Him; God will not hide His mind from such a soul, Psalm  25:15: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant.

THOMAS MANTON: Now he that would know God’s mind in everything, this is the man whom God will direct…The second qualification is the meek: “The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way,” Psalm 25:9. By the meek is meant a man who is humble, that will submit himself to God whatever condition He shall appoint.

JOHN TRAPP (1601-1699): Such as whose hearts are supple and soluble, tractable and teachable…Such as lie at His feet, and say, “Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.

THOMAS MANTON: The third qualification mentioned in order to this, is a constant dependence upon God: “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths,” Proverbs 3:5,6. O! when a man is brought off this spiritual idolatry of making his own bosom to be his oracle, and his own heart to be his counsellor; when he doth in the poverty of his spirit humbly and entirely cast himself upon the help of God, and acknowledge Him in all his ways, then he shall see a clear direction what God would have him to do. You have another place to this purpose: “Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk: for I lift up my soul unto thee,” Psalm 143:8.

MATTHEW HENRY: All those who commit themselves to God shall be guided with His counsel, with the counsel both of His Word and of Spirit, the best counsellors―that is, those that are humble and low in their own eyes, that are distrustful of themselves, desirous to be taught, and honestly resolved to follow the divine guidance…We do not truly desire to know the mind of God if we do not fully resolve to comply with it once we do know it.

THOMAS MANTON: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God,” John 7:17. A man does not know whether this opinion, or that, be according to God’s mind, when there are plausible pretenses on every side. He that maketh conscience of known truth, and walketh up to his light, and he that doth not search to satisfy curiosity, but out of a thorough resolution to obey and submit his neck to the yoke of Christ―whatever he shall find to be the way of Christ―that man shall know what is the way in times of controversy and doubtful uncertainty.

MATTHEW HENRY: Those and those only can expect to be taught of God, who are ready and willing to do as they are taught.  If any man will do His will, and be steadfastly resolved in the strength of His grace to comply with it, He shall know what His will is.

JOHN FLAVEL: If, therefore, in doubtful cases, you would discover God’s will, govern yourselves in your search after it by these rules.


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