But what "makes us to go in the path of God's commandments?" The force of His Almighty love effectually inclines the will, as with a Divine touch. The day of His power, in which He makes us willing, is a time of love. "I drew them"—says he, "with cords of a man, and with bands of love." Every man, who is conscious of the counteracting bias within, will deeply feel the need of this prayer, "Incline my heart." The native principle of man draws him to his own self—to his own indulgence—pleasure—covetousness—assuming a thousand forms of gratifying self, at the expense of love to God. Few but are ready to condemn this principle in others, while perhaps it may be their own "easily-besetting sin." When the mind is grasping after the world, as if it were our portion, we have the greatest reason to "take heed" to our Lord's admonition, and beware of "covetousness." When we invest earthly gratifications with any inherent excellency—virtually putting them in the place of God—then will be a season for special supplication—Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness.
There is probably no principle so opposed to the Lord's testimonies. It casts out the principle of obedience, since the love of God cannot co-exist with the love of the world; and the very desire to serve Mammon is a proof of unfaithfulness to God. We mark the deadly influence in direct breaches of the law of God. Balaam, in the indulgence of this propensity, set his will in mad contradiction to God; Ahab was tempted to murder; David, to murder and adultery; Achan, to steal; Judas, both to steal from his fellows, and to betray his Master; Gehazi and Ananias to lying. And besides—what is the matter of common but painful observation—how much of the good seed of the kingdom, that was springing up with the promise of a plentiful harvest, has this weed of rank luxuriance "choked, that it has become unfruitful!" Our Lord's parables, therefore—His providence—His promises—His terms of discipleship—His counsels—His own example of poverty and renunciation of this world's comfort—all are directed against this destructive principle. The power of the love of Christ delivered Matthew and Zaccheus from its influence, and "inclined their hearts to the testimonies of God." And has not faith still the same power to turn the heart from the world, from sin, from self, to Christ? Learn, then, to rest upon the promise of His love, and to delight in His testimonies. Earthly cares will be cast upon him, and earthly prospects will lose their splendor. This life of faith—living in union with a heavenly Savior, involves the only effective principle of resistance. Those who are risen with Christ will be temperate in earthly things, "setting their affections on things above." Such—such alone—will "mortify the members that are upon the earth—evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry."
We desire to sit loose to our earthly comforts. Are we enabled to check our natural discontent with the Lord's dealings with us, and to restrain our eagerness to "seek great things for ourselves," by the recollection of His word, "Seek them not?"
Let us not forget, that the inclination—even if it is not brought into active and perceptible motion, is fatally destructive of the life of religion. "Those who will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." Awful warning to professors!, "The love of money is the root of all evil; which while some have coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." A most important exhortation to the people of God!" But you, O man of God, flee these things, and follow after righteousness." If the Lord loves you, He will not indeed lose you; but unless you "take heed, and beware of covetousness," He will not spare you. In the midst, therefore, of temptation without, and a world of sin within, go onwards, with the pilgrim's prayer indelibly fixed on your heart, "Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness."
"Incline my heart unto your testimonies." Does not this prayer appear to be superfluous, since it is evident that the Psalmist's heart was set upon obedience? We are sure that there is never a word to spare in Scripture. After asking for active virtue, it was meet that the man of God should beg that his heart might be in all that he did. What would his goings be if his heart did not go? It may be that David felt a wandering desire, an inordinate leaning of his soul to worldly gain; possibly it even intruded into his most devout meditations, and at once he cried out for more grace. The only way to cure a wrong leaning is to have the soul bent in the opposite direction. Holiness of heart is the cure for covetousness. What a blessing it is that we may ask the Lord even for an inclination! Our wills are free; and yet, without violating their liberty, grace can incline us in the right direction. This can be done by enlightening the understanding as to the excellence of obedience, by strengthening our habits of virtue, by giving us an experience of the sweetness of piety, and by many other ways. If any one duty is irksome to us, it behooves us to offer this prayer with special reference thereto: we are to love all the Lord's testimonies, and if we fail in any one point, we must pay double attention to it. The leaning of the heart is the way in which the life will lean: hence the force of the petition, "Incline my heart." Happy shall we be when we feel habitually inclined to all that is good! This is not the way in which a carnal heart ever leans; all its inclinations are in opposition to the divine testimonies.
"And not to covetousness" This is the inclination of nature, and grace must put a negative upon it. This vice is as injurious as it is common; it is as mean as it is miserable. It is idolatry, and so it dethrones God; it is selfishness, and so it is cruel to all in its power; it is sordid greed, and so it would sell the Lord himself for pieces of silver. It is a degrading, groveling, hardening, deadening sin, which withers everything around it that is lovely and Christlike. He who is covetous is of the race of Judas, and will in all probability turn out to be himself a son of perdition. The crime of covetousness is common, but very few will confess it; for when a man heaps up gold in his heart, the dust of it blows into his eyes, and he cannot see his own fault. Our hearts must have some object of desire, and the only way to keep out worldly gain is to put in its place the testimonies of the Lord. If we are inclined or bent one way, we shall be turned from the other: the negative virtue is most surely attained by making sure of the positive grace which inevitably produces it.