PSALMS

Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries

 

DISCOURSE 494

CHARACTERS OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED

Psalm 1:1-4. Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful: but his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law does he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so.

THE Psalms were chiefly, though not exclusively, written by David: some were written, one at least, many hundred years before him; and several many hundred years after him. It is supposed that Ezra reduced them to the order in which they stand. We are sure that, in the Apostle's days, the Second Psalm occupied the same place that it does now; because it is quoted by him as "the Second Psalm." They are quoted continually in the New Testament as inspired of God: and so fully do they speak of Christ, that an account of his life and death, his work and offices, might be compiled from them almost as clearly as from the Gospels themselves. The psalm before us seems properly placed, as a kind of preface to the whole; inasmuch as it contains a summary description of the righteous and the wicked, both in their character and end. We will consider,

I. The description of the godly—

We are not to expect in a composition of this kind a full and accurate delineation of men's characters, such as we might look for in a set DISCOURSE nevertheless, in the brief notices here given us, we have what is abundantly sufficient to distinguish the saints from all other people upon the face of the earth. They are here described,

1. In plain terms—

Two things we are told concerning them, namely, What company they affect, and, What employment they delight in. They have no pleasure in the society of ungodly men. They are aware that "evil communications will corrupt good manners;" and that the surest way to avoid infection, is, to come as little as possible in contact with those who are diseased. They see how fatal, and yet how common, is the progress of sin; that to walk, however occasionally, in the counsel of the ungodly (who are destitute of any religious principle), is a prelude to standing in the way of sinners (gross, open sinners), and, at last, to sitting in the seat of the scornful, who despise and deride all true piety. Hence, fearing lest, by unnecessarily associating with the wicked, they should be drawn to adopt their principles, and to imitate their conduct, they either withdraw from them altogether, or contract their fellowship with them, as much as will consist with a due discharge of their social and relative duties.

Privacy, and reading of the Holy Scriptures, are more congenial with their feelings, than the noise and vanity of the world. In the blessed word of God they see all the wonders of redeeming love: in that, they find the charter, by which they are entitled to an everlasting inheritance. There they behold thousands of exceeding great and precious promises, which are as marrow and fatness to their souls: there also they see marked out to them the way in which to please, and honor, and glorify their God: and, by meditating on these various precepts and promises, they find their souls cast, as it were, into the very mold of the Gospel, and gradually transformed into the image of their God. Hence they delight to ruminate on the word of God; yes, "day and night" they make it their meditation and their joy: like Job, they "esteem it more than their necessary food."

2. By a beautiful comparison—

In consequence of thus "eschewing evil and cleaving unto that which is good," they become like a tree planted by the canals in Eastern countries, which flourishes with incessant verdure and fruitfulness, while all that are less favorably situated, are parched and withered by drought. The godly are "trees of righteousness, of the Lord's planting:" their roots are constantly watered by that "river which makes glad the city of God:" and by the fertilizing influences of the Spirit of God they bring forth in rich abundance "the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ to the praise and glory of God." A diversity of seasons they doubtless experience: but never is their profession tarnished by openly visible decays, or by a want of such fruits as the peculiar season calls for. On the contrary, the winds and storms, and heat and cold, all tend to further their stability and fruitfulness; insomuch that "whatever they do," or whatever is done to them, "they prosper Romans 8:28." See them in the diversified seasons of prosperity and adversity, they show by their conduct "whose they are," even Christ's, "of whose fullness they continually receive," and "of whom all their fruit is found."

In perfect contrast with this is,

II. The description of the ungodly—

Exceedingly pointed is that expression, "The ungodly are not so." No, indeed: they "are not so,"

1. In their character—

The ungodly, instead of shunning the company of those who fear not God, prefer it; and would far rather associate with an avowed infidel, or a notorious libertine, than with one who was distinguished for the most exalted piety. They do not all proceed to the same extent of open profaneness; but all, without exception, "love darkness rather than light;" yes, "they hate the light, and will not come to it, lest their deeds should be reproved."

And as they prefer the society of them that know not God, so they prefer any other book, whether of science or amusement, before the sacred volume. They may study the Holy Scriptures indeed with a view to head-knowledge; but not with any desire to imbibe the spirit of them in their hearts, or to have their lives conformed to them. In this there is an extremely broad line of distinction between the two characters: to the godly the Scriptures are "sweeter than honey, or the honeycomb;" but to the ungodly they are insipid, and are either not perused at all, or studied only for the purpose of exercising a critical acumen. There is nothing in the sacred volume that is suited to their taste: the wonders of redemption do not affect their minds; nor are the precepts of the Gospel palatable to their souls.

Would we but candidly examine ourselves by these two marks, we should soon discover to which of these parties we belong.

2. In their condition Nor in the "blessedness" of the saints have they any part or lot.—

To such a tree as has been before described, the ungodly bear no resemblance: their root is fixed in the world: their fruit is no other than "grapes of Sodom and clusters of Gomorrah." But there is an appropriate comparison for them also; "they are like the chaff which the wind drives away." Truly, they are as light and worthless as chaff. No solid principle of piety is found in them; nor is there anything in their character which God approves. To a superficial observer they may appear like wheat: but the fan or sieve will soon discover how empty and unsubstantial they are: or, if they continue mixed with the wheat in this world, the separation will speedily and infallibly take place in the world to come. The Judge of quick and dead will come, even He, of whom it is said, "His fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire Matthew 3:12." Among the wheat, not an atom of chaff will then be found; nor among the chaff, one grain of wheat Amos. 9:9. This, divested of metaphor, is plainly declared in the psalm before us; "The ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous Psalm 1:5." Ah! what an immense difference is here in the conditions of the two parties! the one approved of their God, and made partakers of everlasting felicity; the other, abhorred of him, and plunged into everlasting perdition Psalm 1:6.

ADDRESS—

1. To young people—

To you it appears but a small matter whom you choose for your associates. But, if you consider how much we are influenced by the sentiments and examples of others, and what awful consequences will follow from the conduct we pursue, we shall see the necessity of selecting those only for our friends, who, we have reason to believe, are the friends of God. Let not then the rank or talents of men, and still less their gaiety and dissipation, attract your regards; but let the piety of their hearts and the holiness of their lives, be their highest recommendation to your friendship. As our blessed Lord "was not of the world, so neither must you be;" but you must "come out from among them, and be separate," and choose for your companions "the excellent of the earth, and such as excel in virtue. Proverbs 4:14-15. James 4:4. 2 Corinthians 6:14-17."

2. To those who profess godliness—

It is not by speculative notions that you are to judge of your state, but by your spirit, your temper, your whole conduct and conversation. "The tree must be known by its fruit." Now, as the ungodly form a perfect contrast with the godly, so let your spirit and conduct be a perfect contrast with theirs. Are the ungodly following the course of this world, and minding only the things of the flesh? Let it be said of you, "They are not so:" "their conversation is in Heaven;" their delight is altogether in spiritual things; and "their fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." In a word, endeavor to be as different from the ungodly world around you, as a verdant and fruitful tree is from one which is withered and dead; and know, that, if you are looking to the Lord Jesus Christ for fresh supplies of his Spirit and grace, you shall receive from him such rich communications as shall be abundantly sufficient for you Hosea 14:4-7.

 

 

Psalms 2:1-12

 

DISCOURSE 495

OPPOSITION TO CHRIST VAIN

Psalm 2:1-12. Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He who sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord has said unto me, You are my Son; this day have I begotten you. Ask of me, and I shall give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel. Be wise now therefore, O kings; be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

THIS psalm, in its primary sense, relates to David: it declares the opposition which should be made to his establishment on the throne of Israel, and the final subjugation of all his enemies: both of which events took place according to this prediction 2 Samuel 5:6-7; 2 Samuel 5:17 and 2 Samuel 8:1-15. But beyond a doubt a greater than David is here. There are several expressions in this psalm which are not at all applicable to the typical David, and which can pertain to none but the Lord Jesus Christ himself. Not even the highest angel could have that said of him, "You are my Son; this day have I begotten you Hebrews 1:5;" and, as that august title was inapplicable to David, so it could never be said of him, that he had "the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession." Moreover, when it is considered, that the expression, "Kiss the Son," imported an act of divine worship; and that to "trust in" David would have been to give to a man the honor which was due to the Most High God alone Jeremiah 17:5; it will be clear, that the psalm was intended to describe, not earthly, but heavenly things, even the reign of Messiah himself, "the Lord's Anointed." And of him the Jews, before the coming of Christ, interpreted this psalm; as the modern Jews are constrained to acknowledge. Indeed it is manifest, that the Apostles understood it in this sense; not only because immediately after the day of Pentecost they so interpret it Acts 4:25-27, but because in their controversy with the Jews they quote it in this sense, and argue upon it as accomplished in Christ's victory over death and the grave Acts 13:32-33. In reference to Christ, then, we will explain it, and show,

I. The opposition that is made to him—

Christ is still, as formerly, opposed by all ranks and orders of men—

No sooner was he born into the world than Herod sought to destroy him. During his ministry upon earth the attempts made upon his life were very numerous; and it was only by repeated miracles that he was saved. When the time for his being delivered into the hand of sinners drew near, the whole Jewish nation, as it were, rose up against him, to put him to death. His resurrection, and the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, were calculated to rectify the mistaken apprehensions of his enemies, and to disarm their malice: but no sooner was his Gospel preached by his disciples, than the same opposition raged against them also, and every possible effort was made to suppress the rising sect: not even death itself, in all its most tremendous forms, was deemed too severe a punishment for those who professed to believe in Christ. In this opposition all ranks and orders joined: the learned Scribes, the self-righteous Pharisees, the unbelieving Sadducees, all the highest orders both in Church and State, as well as the profane and licentious populace, were of one heart and mind in relation to this matter: they who agreed in no other thing under Heaven, agreed in this, a deadly hatred to Christ, and an inveterate opposition to his cause.

And is not the same phenomenon seen at this day? In this one point there is perfect unanimity, wherever we come. As Herod and Pontius Pilate, who were before at variance, united cordially with each other for the purpose of oppressing Christ, so now persons who are most remote from each other in political and moral sentiment, or even in the general habits of their lives, all unite in decrying the Gospel as visionary in itself, and as injurious to the world. Let the Gospel be brought into any place, and this universal hatred to it immediately appears: nor can the Gospel be cordially embraced by any individual, without exciting in the minds of his friends and relatives a measure of indignation against him Matthew 10:22-25; Matthew 10:34-36.

This opposition is founded on an aversion to his strict and holy laws—

Had the Apostles brought forward the Gospel as a matter of speculation only, they would never have been so bitterly persecuted in every place. The Jews were ready enough, of themselves, to follow false Apostles and false Christs: and the Gentiles would have welcomed the inventors or advocates of a new philosophy. It was the requiring of all persons to submit entirely and unreservedly to the dominion of Christ that irritated and inflamed the whole world against the preachers of Christianity. Thus, at this time, if we only brought forward the great truths of the Gospel in a speculative and argumentative way, no man would be offended with us: (multitudes of preachers do this without exciting any hatred or contempt in the minds of their hearers:) but the practical exhibition of divine truth, the showing that all men must receive it at the peril of their souls, the insisting upon an entire surrender of their souls to Christ, to be washed in his blood, to be renewed by his grace, and to be employed for his glory, this is the offence: we are then too earnest, too strict, too enthusiastic, too alarming: we then are represented as "turning the world upside down," and are deemed little better than "the filth of the world and the off-scouring of all things." Nor will anything screen us from this odium: we may be as learned, as blameless, as benevolent, as active as Paul himself, and yet, if we have any measure of his fidelity, we shall be sure enough to have some measure also of his treatment from an ungodly world.

But the experience of all ages abundantly attests,

II. The vanity of that opposition—

Notwithstanding all the exertions of his enemies, Christ was exalted—

It was "a vain thing that the people imagined," when they supposed that they could defeat the purposes of the Most High in relation to the establishment of his Son upon the throne of Israel. "He who sits in the heavens laughed at them, and had them in derision." In vain were the stone, the seal, the guard: at the appointed hour, Christ rose triumphant from the grave; and, on his ascension to the right hand of God, sent forth his Spirit to erect, in the hearts of men, that spiritual kingdom that shall never be moved: "Yet," says God, "have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." As the purpose of Jehovah respecting the typical David was fulfilled in due season, so was that "decree which Jehovah had declared" respecting "his anointed Son." "The word grew and multiplied" in every place: and "the stone that had been cut out of the mountain without hands, broke in pieces" all adverse powers, and filled the whole Roman empire Daniel 2:34-35. The opposition raised by the Jewish nation against the Lord and his Christ, terminated only in the confusion of the opponents, on whom "the wrath of God" soon fell, and who are to this hour the most awful monuments of "his displeasure."

In due time his exaltation shall be complete—

God having, in the resurrection of Christ, borne witness to him as his only-begotten Son Romans 1:4, has engaged, in answer to his requests, to "give him the utmost ends of the earth for his possession." And this he is gradually accomplishing: in every quarter of the globe is the Redeemer's kingdom extending on the right hand and on the left: and though there is very much land still unsubdued before him, yet shall he "go on conquering and to conquer," "until every enemy is put under his feet." The enmity of the human heart, indeed, will still vent itself against him; but all who will not bow to the scepter of his grace, "shall be broken in pieces like a potter's vessel." Whether we look to the world at large, or to any particular individual in the world, the final issue of the contest will be the same: he must prevail, and "all his enemies shall become his footstool Matthew 22:44."

Let us then contemplate,

III. Our duty with respect to him—

If He be "the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords,"

Our duty is, to submit to him and serve him—

A "holy reverential fear" becomes us in his presence: "He is greatly to be feared, and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him." Our fear of him should swallow up every other fear, and annihilate every desire that is contrary to his will. An external conformity to his laws will not suffice: he should reign in our hearts, and our "every thought should be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." Not that our fear should be of a slavish kind: it is our privilege, and even our duty, to rejoice in him Philippians 3:3; Philippians 4:4; yes, we should rejoice in him with most exalted joy, even "a joy that is unspeakable and glorified 1 Peter 1:8;" yet should our joy be tempered with humility, and our confidence with contrition. We should never so contemplate him as to forget ourselves, nor ever so triumph in him as to lose a jealousy over ourselves: we should "rejoice in the Lord always;" but still we should so temper this heavenly feeling as to "rejoice with trembling."

With this reverential fear we should also maintain towards him a devout affection. Idolaters were accustomed to kiss their idols, in token of their entire and affectionate devotion to them 1 Kings 19:18. Hosea 13:2; hence it is said, "Kiss the Son," that is, let us consecrate ourselves to his service affectionately and with our whole hearts. A constrained service is altogether unacceptable to him: obedience would lose all its worth, if we accounted his yoke heavy or "his commandments grievous." His law should be in our hearts, and a conformity to it should be our supreme desire and delight.

This is the duty of all, without exception—

It is a common sentiment, that religion is only for the poor, and that the rich and learned are in a good measure exempt from its restraints. But in the sight of God all men are on a level: all are equally dependent on him; all must give up an account to him; and "kings or judges of the earth" are quite as much subject to the command of Christ as the meanest of the human race. O let this awful delusion be banished! Let none imagine that a superiority of rank or station at all lessens their responsibility to God, or absolves them from the smallest measure of obedience to Christ.

This is also our truest wisdom and happiness—

If we say to any, "Serve the Lord," we say, in effect, "Be wise:" for "the fear of the Lord is the very beginning of wisdom." Those only who have never tasted of true piety, deride it as folly: and they only do it, because they do not like to confess their own folly in neglecting it: in their serious moments, and when their conscience is permitted to speak, the very despisers of godliness are constrained to say in their hearts, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!"

Moreover, it is the only true path of happiness: for, what happiness can they have who are obnoxious to the wrath of God? "If his wrath be kindled, yes, but a little," can they endure the thought of meeting his displeasure? "Are they stronger than he," that they can feel themselves at ease, when they "have provoked him to jealousy?" No: the most careless of mankind, if he reflect at all, must be sensible, that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." We say then, "Blessed are all they that put their trust in him:" they shall be protected by his power; they shall be preserved by his grace; they shall be enriched by his bounty; they shall be blessed by him with all spiritual blessings; and in the last day they shall be seated with him on his throne, and be partakers of his glory for evermore.

 

Psalms 2:12

 

DISCOURSE 496

REGARD TO CHRIST ENFORCED

Psalm 2:12. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

TO so great a degree do the Psalms abound with prophecies relating to Christ, that all the most important circumstances of his life and death, his resurrection and glory, might be narrated from them with almost as much precision as in the Gospels themselves. The psalm before us has but a partial reference to David. It may be considered indeed as a triumphant proclamation of his establishment on his throne, notwithstanding all the opposition that had been made to him by Saul and by the Jews themselves. But it principally points to the exaltation of Jesus to his throne of glory: and it concludes with an address to all the monarchs of the earth to submit themselves to his government.

In considering the words of the text, we shall call your attention to,

I. The injunction—

Who "the Son" is, we are at no loss to determine; since an inspired commentator has expressly declared him to be Christ Compare verse 7 with Hebrews 1:5. By "kissing" him, we are to understand,

1. Submission to his authority—

Samuel having anointed Saul to be king of Israel, kissed him, in token of his submission to the power that was now vested in him 1 Samuel 10:1. Now Jesus is "seated as King upon God's holy hill in Zion verse 6;" and he demands that all should acknowledge him as their supreme Lord and only Savior Compare Isaiah 45:23-24 with Romans 14:11. His yoke in every view is hateful to us by nature; but most of all are we averse to "submit to his righteousness Romans 10:3." But this we must do, renouncing every other ground of dependence Philippians 3:9, and trusting in him as "The Lord our Righteousness Jeremiah 23:6."

2. Love to his person—

When Mary desired to express her love to Jesus, she "kissed his feet Luke 7:38;" and we also must feel in our hearts, and express, in every possible way, a fervent attachment to him. The characteristic mark of his disciples is, to "love him in sincerity Ephesians 6:24." Destitute of this mark, we have nothing to expect but speedy and everlasting destruction 1 Corinthians 16:22. We must therefore account him precious to our souls 1 Peter 2:7, yes, "fairer than ten thousand, and altogether lovely." We must delight ourselves in contemplating his beauty, and maintaining fellowship with him 1 John 1:3.

3. Devotion to his service—

Idolaters used, in worshiping their gods, to kiss their images Hosea 13:2. 1 Kings 19:18, or to kiss their hands in token of their devout regard to them Job 31:20; Job 31:27. In this sense also we are to "kiss the Son," exercising the same faith in him that we do in the Most High God Acts 9:6. John 14:1, and honoring him in every respect as we honor the Father John 5:23; To kiss him, like Judas, and betray him, will fearfully aggravate our condemnation.

The vast importance of this injunction will appear, if we consider,

II. The arguments with which it is enforced—

And here we notice,

1. The danger of disobeying it—

Gracious and loving as the Savior is, he is susceptible of anger on just occasions, and feels a holy indignation against those who slight his love. And "if once his wrath be kindled, yes, but a little," it will utterly destroy us Revelation 6:15-17. It will be but little consolation for us to see others suffering under his heavier displeasure: the person who feels the smallest portion of his wrath in Hell, will be inexpressibly and eternally miserable: and therefore it becomes us to offer him the sincerest tribute of our affection without delay. Nothing but this can prevent our ruin. In whatever "way" we are walking, we shall "perish from it," if we do not embrace him with the arms of faith, and "cleave to him with full purpose of heart Acts 11:23."

2. The benefit arising from obedience to it—

What was before metaphorically represented by "kissing the Son," is here more simply expressed by "trusting in him." In fact, a cordial and entire confidence in him, as "our wisdom, righteousness, Sanctification, and redemption," comprehends all the duties which we are capable of performing towards him in this world.

Now such a trust in him renders a man inconceivably blessed. It brings peace into his soul: it obtains for him the forgiveness of all his sins; it secures "grace sufficient for him," and "strength according to his day." It makes him "blessed" in every state; in health or sickness, in wealth or poverty, in life or death. It entities him to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance in Heaven. No creature that possessed it, ever perished. Glory and honor and immortality are the portion of "all that trust in Christ." Whatever may have been their past conduct, or however they may doubt their own acceptance with God, they "are" blessed, and shall be blessed for evermore.

APPLICATION—

Here then is the direction which in God's name we give to all; "Kiss the Son." If you have any desire to escape the wrath to come, or to lay hold on eternal life, this is the sure, the only way of attaining your end. Neglect Christ; and, whatever else you either have or do, it will avail you nothing: you must "perish" everlastingly Luke 14:24 and John 3:36. Love the Lord Jesus Christ, and give yourselves up unto him; and, notwithstanding your past sins, or present infirmities, "you shall never perish, but shall have everlasting life John 3:15-16."

 

 

Psalms 4:3

 

DISCOURSE 497

THE PRIVILEGES OF THE GODLY

Psalm 4:3. Know that the Lord has set apart him that is godly for himself.

RELIGION has in all ages been an object of derision to an ungodly world. There never have been wanting those who resembled Cain and Ishmael Galatians 4:29. God however has far other thoughts of those who serve him: the recollection of this is a comfort to the godly under their persecutions; the consideration of it too might be of great advantage to the ungodly. The Psalmist seems to be reproving the wicked for their contempt of God, and their injurious treatment of his people: he therefore, in a way of triumphant exultation, suggests the thought in the text.

We shall,

I. Show who are the objects of the divine favor—

The world is divided into two descriptions of men, godly, and ungodly. The godly are to be distinguished by a great variety of marks—

They fear God—

The generality sin without any shame or remorse Ephesians 4:18-19. But the godly can no longer proceed in such an evil course 1 Peter 4:2-3. They humble themselves before God for their past offences. They guard against offending him, even in thought 2 Corinthians 10:5.

They love God—

They are not actuated by a merely slavish fear. They have the spirit of adoption given to them Galatians 4:5. They sincerely delight to do their Father's will Romans 7:22. They account the enjoyment of his favor to be their highest happiness Psalm 4:6-7.

They serve God—

Their religion does not consist in mere inefficacious feelings. They make it appear to the world that they are God's servants. They perform even their civil and social duties with a reference to him Romans 13:5-6. They do everything with a view to his glory 1 Corinthians 10:31.

They are despised indeed by the world, but approved by their God—

This will appear while we,

II. Declare the peculiar honor conferred upon them—

God has testified, in the strongest terms, his approbation of the godly. He has moreover "set them apart," as distinct from those that perish—

This he did secretly in his eternal purpose—

His regard for them did not commence after they became godly. Their godliness is the fruit and not the cause of his love Jeremiah 31:3. See also 2 Timothy 1:9 and Romans 8:29-30. He loved them, and set his heart upon them, from eternity Ephesians 1:4.

He did it also openly, when he called them by his grace—

These two periods of their separation are mentioned by Paul Galatians 1:15. In conversion, God sets apart sinners for himself. He inclines and enables them to come out from the world 2 Corinthians 6:17-18. He causes them to devote themselves entirely to his service 1 Peter 2:9.

He has set them apart too "for himself"—

He makes their souls his own habitation 2 Corinthians 6:16. He sheds abroad his love in their hearts by his Holy Spirit. He preserves them as living monuments of his power and grace. He regards them as his own peculiar treasure Psalm 135:4.

This being a point wherein all are deeply interested, we shall,

III. Commend the subject to your solemn attention—

This is not a matter of doubtful disputation—

In every period of the world, God has had a peculiar people. They have been distinguished with special tokens of his love Abel, Genesis 4:4. Enoch, Noah, etc. Hebrews 11:5; Hebrews 11:7. Paul, Acts 9:15; and though they were not set apart for their holiness, they have invariably been made holy; moreover, when they were holy, God delighted in them as holy 1 Peter 3:4.

Nor is it a matter of trifling concern—

The Psalmist evidently speaks of it as deserving deep attention; and if it related only to this present state, it were worthy of notice. But the present separation of God's people for himself is a pledge and earnest of a future separation: in the day of judgment, God will complete what he here began Matthew 25:32-33. What distinguished honor will he then confer upon the godly Malachi 3:17. Then he will be their joy, and they his glory, for over Revelation 22:3-4.

Let the ungodly therefore know this to their shame—

The Psalmist suggests the thought peculiarly in this view; and well may they be ashamed who despise what God loves. In vain do any hope to be God's hereafter, who are not his now. Let the ungodly therefore be ashamed of their false confidences. Let them set themselves apart for God, if they would have God set them apart for himself. Let them learn to live the life of the righteous, if they would die his death.

But let the godly know it, to their unspeakable consolation—

They who are beloved of God, have little reason to regard the contempt of men. God would have them assured of his superintending care. He would have them know their security, who take him for their God Romans 8:31. Let the godly then rejoice in the honor conferred upon them. Let them look forward with joy to the final completion of God's gracious purposes towards them, and let them devote themselves more than ever to his service.

 

 

Psalms 4:4-5

 

DISCOURSE 498

A PRACTICAL EXHORTATION

Psalm 4:4-5. Stand in awe, and sin not: commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness and put your trust in the Lord.

IN the Psalms of David there is a great diversity; some being expressive of his own experience, and abounding in petitions or thanksgivings, as the occasion required; others being simply historical, for the information of the Church; others prophetic of Christ and his kingdom in the world; and others again being merely instructive, for the benefit of mankind. Of this last kind is the psalm before us; in which, after declaring the comfort he had found in God, and offering a petition for the continuance of it (v. 1.), he reproves those who derided religion, and sought happiness in the world (v. 2.). He assures them, that God is the friend and portion of all who seek him (v. 3.); and recommends them to seek him in a becoming manner (v. 4, 5.); and from his own experience attests, that no increase of worldly prosperity can ever afford them so rich a recompense as His presence (v. 6, 7.), in which all who enjoy it find perfect rest (v. 8.).

As there is no certainty respecting the occasion on which it was written, we may take the text in a general view, and found upon it a general exhortation. Nor will there be any occasion for an artificial arrangement of it, because the different parts of the exhortation lie in an easy and natural order, and may be most profitably noticed as they arise in the text.

Beware, then, of sin; or, as the text expresses it, "Stand in awe, and sin not"—

The words "Stand in awe" are, in the Septuagint Translation, rendered, "Be you angry." and it seems that the Apostle Paul referred to them, when he said, "Be you angry, and sin not Ephesians 4:26." The original imports a violent commotion of the mind; and Bishop Home translates it, "tremble." Certainly sin ought to be an object of extreme fear and dread: we can never "stand in awe" of it too much. See what it has done in the world, how it has deformed the whole face of nature, and more especially the soul of man, which was originally made in the image of God himself! See what was necessary for the expiation of it! Could nothing but the blood of God's co-equal, co-eternal Son make an atonement for it, and shall it appear a light matter in our eyes? Go, take a new of the Savior in Gethsemane and on the cross; and then say, whether sin be not a formidable evil: or go down to those regions where myriads of our unhappy fellow-creatures are suffering the penalty due to it, and then announce to us your sentiments respecting it. One glimpse of it, in its true character, would be abundantly sufficient to convince you, that death, in its most terrific shapes, has no terror in comparison of sin.

How, then, should you "stand in awe of it," even when presented to you in its most flattering dress! What if men tell you that it is harmless, and will bring with it no painful consequences? Will you listen to their delusions? Will you, through fear of their derision, or from a hope of their favor, give way to sin, and subject yourselves thereby to the wrath of an offended God? O! sin not, either in a way of commission, or of omission: and if a fiery furnace, or a den of lions, be set before you as the only alternative with sin, hesitate not to choose death in its most tremendous forms, rather than accept deliverance on the condition of committing any willful transgression.

That you may not be unwittingly offending God, be careful to live in habits of daily self-examination—

"Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still." Persons, at the moment that they are acting, are not always able to form a correct estimate of their conduct: they are blinded by self-love, and deceived by a partial view of the things in which they are engaged: and often find, on reflection, that they have reason to be ashamed of actions which, at the time of doing them, they conceived to be right. Not only did Paul, in his unconverted state, err, when "he thought he ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus," but all the Apostles of our Lord erred in matters which, at the time, appeared to them to be highly commendable. Who can doubt but that Peter, when he dissuaded his Lord from submitting to his approaching sufferings, and when he cut off the ear of Malchus, took to himself credit for his zeal and love? and that afterwards, when accommodating himself to the wishes of his Jewish brethren, in requiring from the Gentiles the observance of the Law, he supposed himself to be actuated by a condescending regard to the prejudices of his less-instructed brethren? Yet, on all these occasions he acted a part most displeasing to God, and was no other than an agent of the devil himself. In like manner, when James and John would have called fire from Heaven, to consume a Samaritan village, they "little knew what spirit they were of." And all the Apostles, when they joined with Judas in condemning the extravagance of her who poured a box of ointment on their Master's feet, imagined that their regard for the poor was highly seasonable and praise-worthy. And at is probable that Thomas, too, considered his pertinacity, in requiring more substantial proofs of his Lord's resurrection, far preferable to the less cautious credulity of his fellow Apostles.

Thus it is, more or less, with all of us: we need reflection; we need instruction; we need to have the film removed from before our eyes: we need a more thorough knowledge of the motives and principles by which we are actuated. Things may be substantially right, yet wrong in the time and manner in which they are carried into effect: or they may be essentially wrong, and yet, through the blindness of our minds, appear to us highly commendable. This is particularly the case with many who spend their time in prosecuting offices which do not belong to them, while they overlook and neglect the duties which are proper to their calling. We are not to set one table of the Law against the other; or to trample upon acknowledged duties for the purpose of augmenting what we may fancy to be our religious advantages. Doubtless, where unreasonable men reduce us to the alternative of offending God or man, we must make our stand against the usurped authority, and be content to bear the consequences: but if we were more willing to exercise self-denial for the Lord's sake, we should find that the path of duty would in many instances be more clear, and that we should on many occasions have less ground for self-reproach.

Let us, then, at the close of every day, review with candor the events in which we have been engaged, and the dispositions we have exercised: and, not content with examining ourselves, let us beg of God to search and try us, and to show us whatever there has been in our conduct that was sinful, or erroneous, or defective; that so we may be humbled for the past, and be more observant of our duty for the future.

Yet must we not so lean to the side of contemplation as to become remiss in action—

We are to "offer," and that with ever-increasing diligence, "the sacrifices of righteousness." We are all "a holy priesthood, who are to offer up spiritual sacrifices, which are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." Under the Law, there was a great variety of sacrifices; some for humiliation and others for thanksgiving. But, under the Gospel, everything becomes a sacrifice, when it is done for God, and presented to him in the name of his dear Son. Doubtless the first offering which we are to present to God is our own heart 2 Corinthians 8:5. Without that, no other can come up with acceptance before him. But, when we have presented ourselves to him as "a living sacrifice Romans 12:1," there is not any service which we can offer, which will not be pleasing in his sight. Let us then abound in every good work, and seek to "be filled with all the fruits of righteousness, which are, by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." The duties of the closet demand our attention in the first place: for, if they be neglected, nothing can go well: the soul will be left to its own resources, and will of necessity fall a prey to sin and Satan. Then come the duties of our place and station, whether in social or civil life. To neglect these, is to sin grievously against God, and to bring great disgrace upon religion. Every person in the family has his proper office, which he is bound to fill, not from necessity only, but for the honor of his God. While the head of it is prosecuting his proper business, the mistress is to be superintending the concerns of her family; and, whether occupied with her children or domestics, is to be discharging her duties with care and diligence; while the servants, each in his proper place, are to be executing their part with fidelity and zeal. The time that can be spared from these more appropriate avocations may well be devoted to the service of the public, in any line that may be thought most conducive to the welfare of mankind. But it is possible for men to be so engaged in cultivating the vineyards of others as to neglect their own. And this, in the present day especially, when so much time is consecrated to the maintenance of religious or benevolent societies, is a danger to which many are exposed. Care must be taken, that none who are entitled to our services be neglected; and that, while some rejoice in what we do, none have reason to complain of what we leave undone. The public assemblies, too, must not be neglected: they are the appointed means of honoring God, and of bringing his blessing on our own souls. In a word, our duties both to God and man are to be harmoniously and diligently performed: and it must be the labor of all, according to their respective abilities, to "abound in every good word and work."

But, in whatever way our own efforts are directed, we must "put our trust in the Lord"—

It is to his grace alone that we must be indebted for strength; to his mercy must we look for acceptance before him; and on his truth and faithfulness must we rely for our ultimate reward.

Of ourselves we can do nothing. In vain will be all our efforts to escape from sin, or to fulfill our duty, if God do not "strengthen us with might by his Spirit in our inward man."

We must look to God to "work all our works in us:" "all our fresh springs must be in him." To rely simply on God is the only way of being really strong; as the Apostle says, "When I am weak, then am I strong;" and the more entire our reliance is on him, the more will his strength be perfected in our weakness.

At the same time, we must bear in mind how exceedingly defective our best services are; and must renounce all hope in "our own righteousness, as being in itself no better than filthy rags." If Paul, with all his transcendent excellencies, "desired to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, but that which is of God by faith in Christ," much more must we do so, whose righteousness falls so far short of his. Our constant and grateful acknowledgment must be, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength." Yes; "in the Lord must all the seed of Israel be justified, and in him alone must they glory."

Yet we must not imagine that our services shall go unrewarded: for, though our works shall not go before us to Heaven, to supersede the office of a Savior, "they shall follow us, to attest our love to him, and shall be acknowledged by him as worthy of a gracious recompense." Not even a cup of cold water given to one of his disciples shall lose its reward. God would even consider himself as "unrighteous, if he were to forget our works and labors of love, which we have showed towards his name." Be assured, therefore, that he will bring forth, at the last day, whatever you have done for him, and will both applaud and recompense it before the assembled universe.

Here, then, you have abundant encouragement to exercise yourselves with all diligence in the preceding duties of fear and vigilance, of piety and affiance. And know, that the more you endeavor to approve yourselves to God, the more shall you be approved by him in the day of judgment.

 

 

Psalms 4:6

 

DISCOURSE 499

GOD'S FAVOR THE ONLY SUBSTANTIAL GOOD

Psalm 4:6. There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift you up the light of your countenance upon us!

SELF-SUFFICIENCY pertains to God alone: he alone is not dependent on any other for his own happiness. The creature must of necessity be dependent, and must derive its happiness from some other source. The angels around the throne are blessed only in the fruition of their God. Man, of course, is subject to the same necessity of seeking happiness in something extraneous to himself: and unhappily, through the blindness of his understanding, the perverseness of his will, and the corruptness of his affections, he seeks it in the creature rather than in the Creator. Hence the universal inquiry spoken of in our text, "Who will show us any good?" But there are some whose minds are enlightened, and whose desires center in their proper object; and who, in answer to the proposed inquiry, reply, "Lord, lift you up the light of your countenance upon us!"

To illustrate the wisdom of their choice, we will consider more at large,

I. The world's inquiry—

A desire of good being natural, it is of necessity universal—

From infancy to youth, from youth to manhood, from manhood to old age, the inquiry is continued, Who will show us any good? who will show us anything wherein our minds may repose, and find the largest measure of satisfaction? Agreeably to this universal sentiment, all prosecute the same object, in the ways wherein they think themselves most likely to attain it. The merchant seeks it in his business, and hopes that in due time he shall find it in the acquisition of wealth. The soldier looks for it in the dangers and fatigues of war, and trusts that he shall find it in the laurels of victory, the acquisition of rank, and the applause of men. The traveler searches for it in foreign climes, in expectation that he shall possess it in an expansion of mind, and in those elegant acquirements, which shall render him the admiration of the circle in which he moves. The statesman conceives he shall find it in the possession of power, the exertion of influence, and the success of his plans. The philosopher imagines that it must surely be found in his diversified and laborious researches; while the devotee follows after it with confidence in cloistered seclusion, in religious contemplation, and in the observance of ceremonies of man's invention. Others pursue a widely different course. The voluptuary follows after his object in a way of sensual gratification, and in the unrestrained indulgence of all his appetites. The gamester affects rather the excitement of his feelings in another way; and hopes, that, in the exultation arising from successful hazard, and from sudden gain, he shall enjoy the happiness which his soul pants after. The miser, on the other hand, will neither risk, nor spend more than he can avoid; but seeks his good in an accumulation of riches, and a conceit that he possesses what shall abundantly suffice for the supply of all his future wants. We might pursue the subject through all the different departments of life; but sufficient has been said to show, that all are inquiring after good. True indeed it is, that many seek their happiness in evil, as the drunkard, the robber, and all other transgressors of God's laws. But no man seeks evil as evil; he seeks it under the idea of good, and from the expectation that, circumstanced as he is, the thing which he does will, on the whole, most contribute to his happiness.

This inquiry after good is in itself commendable, and proper to be indulged—

The brute creation are directed by instinct to things which are conducive to their welfare: but man must have his pursuits regulated by the wisdom and experience of others, to whom therefore he must look up for instruction. But it is much to be regretted that the generality inquire rather of the ignorant than of the well-instructed, and follow their passions rather than their reason. If men would but go to the Holy Scriptures, and take counsel of their God, they would soon have their views rectified, and their paths directed into the way of peace.

To such inquiries we proceed to state,

II. The believer's answer—

The believer's answer comes not from his head merely, but from his heart. There he has a fixed and rooted principle, which tells him, that happiness is to be found in God alone: so that, despising in comparison all other objects, he says, "Lord, lift you up the light of your countenance upon me!" "In your favor is life," and "your loving-kindness is better to me than life itself."

That a sense of the Divine favor is the best and greatest good, will appear from the following considerations:

1. It gives a zest to all other good—

Let a man possess all that the world can bestow, the greatest opulence, the highest honors, the kindest friends, the dearest connections, his happiness will after all be very contracted, if he have not also the light of God's countenance lifted up upon him. But let him be favored with the Divine presence, he will taste, not the comfort merely that is in the creature, but God's love in the creature. This will be like the sun shining on a beautiful prospect, every object of which receives a ten-fold beauty from his rays; while the spectator himself, revived with its cheering influence, has his enjoyment of them exceedingly enhanced. Here David, amidst all his elevation to dignity and power, found his happiness Psalm 21:1-6; and here alone, whatever else we may enjoy, can it be truly found Psalms 144; in the close of which, David corrects, as it were, what he had said in the two preceding verses.

2. It supplies the place of all other good—

Let a person be destitute, not only of the fore-mentioned comforts, but also of health, and liberty, and ease, yet will he, in the light of God's countenance, find all that his soul can desire. Behold Paul and Silas in prison, with their feet in the stocks, and their backs torn with scourges! Are they unhappy? No; they sing; they sing aloud at midnight: and what is it that thus enables them to rise above all the feelings of humanity? It is their sense of the Divine presence, and of his blessing upon their souls. And in like manner may the poorest and most destitute of all the human race exult, if only the love of God be shed abroad in his heart: he may adopt the language of Paul, and speak of himself "as having nothing, and yet possessing all things 2 Corinthians 6:10."

3. It paves the way to all other good—

Earthly blessings may come alone: but the favor of God brings along with it every other blessing that God can bestow. Even earthly things, as far as they are needful, "are added to those who seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness:" and we need scarcely say what peace, and joy, and love, and holiness in all its branches, are brought into the soul in communion with a reconciled God. We may confidently say with Paul, "All things are yours, if you are Christ's 1 Corinthians 3:21-23."

4. It will never cloy—

There is no earthly gratification which may not be enjoyed to satiety: but who was ever weary of the Divine presence? In whom did a sense of God's pardoning love ever excite disgust? A man "in a fullness of earthly sufficiency may be in straits Job 20:22. Proverbs 14:13;" and it not unfrequently happens, that the rich have less comfort in their abundance than the poor in their meaner and more scanty pittance. But "the blessing of the Lord makes rich, and adds no sorrow with it Proverbs 10:22;" the man who possesses it has not his enjoyment lessened by repetition or repletion; but, on the contrary, has his capacities enlarged, in proportion as the communications of God's favor are enlarged towards him.

5. It will never end—

Whatever we possess here, we must soon bid farewell to it: whether our enjoyment be intellectual or corporeal, it must soon come to an end. But the favor of God will last forever, and will then be enjoyed in all its inconceivable fullness, when death shall have deprived us of every other enjoyment. "In God's presence there is a fullness of joy; and at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore Psalm 16:11."

ADDRESS—

1. Those who are seeking happiness in the things of time and sense—

We ask the votaries of this world, Whether they have ever found that permanent satisfaction in earthly things which they once hoped for? Has not the creature proved itself to be "a broken cistern that can hold no water?" and is not Solomon's testimony confirmed by universal experience, that "all is vanity and vexation of spirit?" If this then be true, why will you not avail yourselves of that information, and go for all your comforts to the fountain-head? "Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfies not? Hearken diligently unto me; and eat you that which is good; and let your soul delight itself in fatness Isaiah 55:2." O let the blessing which the priests of old were authorized to pronounce, be the one object of your desires Numbers 6:24-26. and we will venture beforehand to assure you, that you shall never seek for it in vain. After other things you may inquire, and labor in vain: but the man that looks to God, as reconciled to him in Christ Jesus, and desires above all things his favor, shall never be disappointed of his hope.

2. Those who are seeking their happiness in God—

Professing, as you do, that God is a sufficient portion, the world will expect to find that you are superior to it; and that you live as citizens and expectants of a better country. Thus it was that the saints of old lived Hebrews 11:9-10; and thus must we live, even as our blessed Lord himself set us an example. If the world hear you inquiring, Who will show me any good? and see you seeking it in the vanities of time and sense, will they not say, that religion is an empty name, and that it can no more satisfy the soul than their vanities can do? O give not reason for any such sentiment as this! but let it be seen, that in having God for your portion, you have a good, which none can estimate but those who possess it, and which the whole world are unable either to diminish or augment Psalm 73:25.

 

 

Psalms 5:11-12

 

DISCOURSE 500

THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE RIGHTEOUS

Psalm 5:11-12. Let all those that put their trust in You, rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because you defend them; let them also that love your name be joyful in you. For you, Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor will you compass him, as with a shield.

DAVID, in speaking of the persecutions which he endured from Saul, represents them as accompanied with every species of malignity on the part of his oppressors: "There is no faithfulness in their mouth: their inward part is very wickedness: their throat is an open sepulcher: they flatter with their tongue." This character we should have been disposed to limit to the agents of Saul: but Paul teaches us to consider it as descriptive of human nature generally, and to apply it, without exception, to every child of man Romans 3:13. The fact is, that human nature is the same in all ages and places: and if it was so corrupt while under the immediate government of God himself, much more may it be expected to manifest similar corruption under circumstances less favorable for its control. Doubtless, to be reduced to a level with such abandoned men is very humiliating: but it is consoling to know, that if, on the one hand, we resemble them by nature, we, on the other hand, are partakers of all David's privileges, as soon as ever we are renewed by divine grace. Under his great and accumulated trials, he was often filled with a holy and unutterable joy in God: and such joy is our portion also, if, like him, we place our confidence in God. This is expressly asserted in our text, in which we behold,

I. The character of "the righteous"—

In delineating this, the generality of persons would refer to actions only, and to those chiefly which had respect to men. But this would give a very partial and inadequate view of the subject. The truth is, that man's character is to be estimated, not so much by his actions towards men, as by the habit of his mind towards God. I mean not to say, that actions are not necessary to evince the truth and excellence of the internal principle; for the principle that is unproductive of holy fruit, is of no value; it is a hypocritical pretense, a mere delusion. But actions, though good in themselves, as prayers and alms-givings, may proceed from a vicious principle, and, instead of being acceptable to God, may be perfectly odious in his sight. Hence the righteous are described by characters that admit of no doubt:

1. They trust in God—

The righteous have a view of God as ordering all things both in Heaven and earth. They know, assuredly, that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without his special permission. They see that both men and devils are but as instruments in his hands; and that, however unconscious they may be of any over-ruling power, they do, in fact, fulfill the will of Almighty God. Hence, whatever be done, they receive it as from God; and whatever be devised against them, they feel themselves secure in his hands. They know that, without him, "no weapon that is formed against them can prosper;" and that, through his gracious care, "all things shall work together for their good."

David was exposed to the most imminent dangers through the malice of Saul: but "he encouraged himself in the Lord his God," and committed all his concerns to him. So the true saint, whoever he may be, flees to God as a sure refuge, and hides himself under the shadow of his wings; assured that, when so protected, no enemy can assault him, no evil find access to him.

In the grace of God, too, they trust as well as in his providence. They are well assured, that there is no hope for them in themselves, either as it respects the obtaining of reconciliation with God, or the fulfilling of his holy will. On the mercy of God, therefore, and on the merits of their Savior, they rely for pardon and acceptance; and to the Lord Jesus they look for such supplies of grace, as their necessities require. Renouncing all confidence in themselves, they go forward, saying, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength."

2. They love God—

They behold his glorious perfections, particularly as displayed in the Son of his love, "who is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person:" and with holy admiration they prostrate themselves before him, saying, "How great is his goodness! how great is his beauty!" they also contemplate with wonder and gratitude the love which he has shown to them, in choosing them, from before the foundation of the world, to be the monuments of his grace, and in imparting to them such supplies of his Spirit as are made effectual for their salvation. It is well said, that "to them that believe, Christ is precious." Yes, "his very name is as ointment poured forth: and to hear and speak of him is the most delightful employment of their souls.

Now, I say, these are the characteristic virtues of the righteous: and these are the graces which are of supreme excellence in the sight of God. It is evident, that by the exercise of these dispositions God is more honored than in all the external acts that can ever be performed; because he himself is the object on whom they terminate, and whose glory they promote.

In immediate connection with these dispositions is,

II. Their blessedness—

1. Who so joyful as they?

"Let them rejoice," says the Psalmist, yes, "let them ever shout for joy." This is their privilege; this is their duty: the very command of God himself is, "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice." "Rejoice evermore: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." True it is, that there are seasons for humiliation, as well as for joy: but it is true also, that though, in the experience of the worldling, there is a direct opposition between the two feelings, so that they cannot exist together, they may in the saint be called forth into simultaneous exercise and harmonious operation. Indeed, there is no sublimer joy than that which arises out of penitential sorrow, and is tempered by contrition. The very posture of the glorified saints in Heaven bears testimony to this: for they fall on their faces before the throne, at the very time that they sing aloud "to Him that loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood." But you will particularly notice what is said, "They rejoice in Him:" it is not in themselves, but in Him alone, "in whom all their fresh springs are found."

2. Who has such ground for joy as they?

They are already under the care and protection of their God, "who defends them" from the assaults of all their enemies, and who has pledged himself to be their Protector even to the end: as David says, "You, Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor will you compass him, as with a shield." There is, in another psalm, a remarkable expression, which beautifully illustrates this: "You will hide them in the secret of your presence." The believer, when sensible of God's presence with his soul, has an assurance of his protection, as much as if he saw with his bodily eyes the whole heavens filled with chariots of fire, and horses of fire, for his defense. He then realizes in his mind the idea, that God is a wall of fire round about him; and that whoever shall think to scale it will not only fail, but perish in the attempt. Truly, to feel one's self thus in the very bosom of our God is "a joy with which the stranger intermeddles not," "a joy that is unspeakable and glorified."

APPLICATION—

Seek to be truly "righteous." Forget not wherein that character primarily consists. Seek to know God, to trust in him, and to love him; to know him as revealed to us in his Gospel; to trust in him as a Covenant-God and Savior; and to love him with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength. Let a sense of his presence, with you be your chief joy, and every action of your life be performed for his glory. So will you be preserved from every enemy, and your blessedness be an foretaste of Heaven.

 

 

Psalms 7:11-13

 

DISCOURSE 501

GOD'S INDIGNATION AGAINST THE WICKED

Psalm 7:11-13. God judges the righteous; and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he has bent his bow, and made it ready. He has also prepared for him the instruments of death.

IN one psalm, David begins, "The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice:" in another, "The Lord reigns; let the earth tremble Psalm 97:1; Psalm 99:1." Either exhortation is suitable, according to the persons who are more especially addressed. The godly may well rejoice, that He, whom they serve, has all things at his command: and well may the ungodly tremble, that He whom they offend is able to vindicate the honor of his insulted Majesty. To the oppressors and oppressed, this truth is of equal moment. The oppressed David, reflecting on it with delight, said, "My defense is of God, which saves the upright in heart verse 10." But the oppressor may expect this Almighty Being to espouse the cause of his people, and to execute upon their enemies the vengeance they deserve.

In the words before us we see the conduct of God,

I. In his moral government here—

The righteous are the objects of his tender care—

The Jews were governed by judges for above four hundred years Acts 13:20; and the term "judging" was used as importing government and protection. In this sense David uses it in another psalm, where he says, "O let the nations be glad, and sing for joy: for You shall judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth Psalm 67:4." Now, there is not any benefit which the most wise or powerful monarch can bestow on his subjects, which God will not impart to his obedient people. Particularly will he shield them from every oppressor, and keep them safely under the shadow of his wings. His care of Abraham and the Patriarchs, in all their pilgrimages, and in all their perils, well illustrates this; as does more especially his constant and miraculous interposition on the behalf of David, amidst the bitter persecutions of the unrelenting Saul. The deliverances given to God's saints of old are still continued to his Church and people; though, from their being less visible, they are, for the most part, overlooked. But God is still "a wall of fire round about them Zechariah 2:5;" and "whoever touches one of them touches the apple of his eye Zechariah 2:8."

The wicked, on the contrary, are the objects of his merited displeasure—

He is not indifferent about the actions of men, as too many suppose. He marks the conduct of the wicked; and "he is angry with them every day." Of course, we are not to suppose that God really feels those strong emotions which we call anger and wrath: such expressions are applied to him only in a figurative sense, in order to teach us what will be his dispensations towards us. But we do right to use the language of Scripture: and, in conformity with that, I say, that he views with indignation the impiety of those who cast off his fear, and walk after the imagination of their own hearts. Whether their actions be more or less decent in the eyes of the world, it makes but little difference in his eyes, so long as they live to themselves, instead of unto him. He looks for them to repent, and "turn to him:" and for this event he waits with much long-suffering and forbearance, "not willing that any of them should perish, but that they all should come to repentance and live." If they would turn to him, he would lay aside his anger in an instant, and receive them to the arms of mercy. But, while they continue impenitent, he meditates nothing but to display towards them his merited indignation. With a view to their excision, "he whets his sword, and bends, with an unerring hand, his bow for their destruction." Could we but see with the eye of faith, we should behold the arrow, now already on the string, pointed at their hearts; and nothing remaining, but that the string be loosed from his hand, to bring them down, and to cast them into everlasting perdition. For them, too, he is preparing the instrument of death, even of everlasting death: as it is written, "Tophet is ordained of old; for the King it is prepared: he has made it deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood: the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, does kindle it Isaiah 30:33." Happy would it be if a thoughtless world would consider this: for, whether they will reflect upon it or not, "their judgment now of a long time lingers not, and their damnation slumbers not 2 Peter 2:3."

This equitable discrimination will be rendered visible to all,

II. In his judicial proceedings at the last day—

Then will he approve and reward the righteous—

Here they are traduced, and loaded with all manner of obloquy: but there, "He, that tries the hearts and reins Psalm 7:9," will appear in their behalf, and vindicate them from the calumnies with which they have been aspersed. He will bear testimony to those secret principles of faith and love whereby they were enabled to live to his glory; and then shall "their righteousness shine forth as the noon-day." All that they did for him in this world was misinterpreted, as proceeding from pride, or vanity, or hypocrisy: but he will acknowledge them as "Israelites in whom was no deceit;" and, in the presence of their now prostrate enemies, he will exalt them to thrones and kingdoms for evermore.

But the wicked he will then consign to merited shame and punishment—

It is remarkable that the day of judgment is called, by Peter, "the day of the perdition of ungodly men 2 Peter 3:7." Yes, here, for the most part, they escaped punishment: but there they shall all, without exception, meet a just reward. Wherever they have fled to hide themselves, "his right hand shall find them out;" and to his attendant angels he will say, "Bring hither those that were my enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me." Hear how God contemplates the judgments that await them: "To me belongs vengeance and recompense: their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste …. If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to my enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh Deuteronomy 32:35; Deuteronomy 32:41-42." True it is, that these judgments have a primary reference to this world; but they show how inconceivably awful must be the vengeance which he will execute on the ungodly in the world to come. Who can think of these judgments and not tremble? for "who knows the power of his anger?" and "who can dwell with everlasting burnings?"

See, then,

1. The importance of ascertaining your real character—

If you will inquire who the wicked are, to whom this fearful doom will be assigned, you will scarcely find one: all hope that they are in a better state. But God will not judge us by the standard which we have fixed for ourselves, but by that which he has established for us in his Law and in his Gospel. To what purpose, then, will you deceive yourselves now, when you will so soon be undeceived, and reap the bitter fruits of your folly? O! turn to the Lord without delay; and never rest until you have received in your souls the favorable tokens of his acceptance.

2. The blessedness of having God for your friend—

If he be your enemy, the whole world cannot protect you from his avenging arm. But if he be your friend, who, or what, can harm you? As for man, he cannot touch a hair of your head without God's permission: and if he be suffered to assault you for a time, you shall have an ample recompense in the eternal world. Realize the idea, that God is governing the world, and will judge it in the last day; and then you need not fear what all the confederate hosts of earth and Hell can do against you.

 

 

Psalms 9:10

 

DISCOURSE 502

THE NAME OF GOD A GROUND OF TRUST

Psalm 9:10. They that know your name will put their trust in you: for you, Lord, have not forsaken them that seek you.

IN reading the Holy Scriptures, we should not be satisfied with inquiring into their sense and meaning, but should mark very particularly the character of God, as set forth in them. In the sacred volume, the portrait of Jehovah, if I may so express myself, is drawn, as it were, at full length: so that, as far as such weak creatures as we are able to comprehend his Divine Majesty, we may form correct notions respecting him. Few persons ever enjoyed better opportunities for discovering his real character than David, who was favored with such ample manifestations of God's power and grace. On what occasion he wrote this psalm, we know not. It is clear that he wrote it subsequent to his bringing up of the ark to Mount Zion, and before he had vanquished all the surrounding nations. But, from all that he had seen and known of God, he gives this testimony respecting him: "They that know your name will put their trust in you: for you, Lord, have not forsaken them that seek you."

For the elucidating of these words, I will endeavor to show,

I. What the knowledge of God's name imports—

It imports, not merely a knowledge of the different names by which he is called, but a knowledge of him,

1. In his own essential perfections—

He was pleased to reveal himself to Moses in express terms, declarative of all his glorious perfections: "The Lord descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty Exodus 34:5-7." But he had previously placed Moses in a cleft of the rock in Horeb Exodus 33:19-23; which rock was a very eminent type of Christ 1 Corinthians 10:4; and I doubt not but that this was intended to show, that in Christ alone he could be so viewed by fallen man. It is in Christ alone that all these perfections unite and harmonize; and in Christ alone can God be called "a just God and a Savior Isaiah 45:21. Romans 3:26." Now, to apprehend God aright, we must have a view of him as revealed in the person of his Son, who is "the image of the invisible God Colossians 1:15," the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person Hebrews 1:3." It is in his face alone that all the glory of the Deity shines forth 2 Corinthians 4:6.

2. In all his diversified dispensations—

A view of God's dispensations is particularly marked in my text, as necessary to a just estimate of his character: "They that know your name will put their trust in you: FOR you, Lord, have not forsaken them that seek you." In truth, it is from the history of God's dealings with his people, far more than from any abstract descriptions of him in the sacred writings, that we learn to estimate his character aright. When did he ever forsake one who sought him? "When did he ever say to any, Seek you my face in vain Isaiah 45:19." Never did he reject one mourning penitent, or abandon one who humbly and steadfastly relied upon him. His compassion to the penitent, and his fidelity to the believing soul, have never failed. From the beginning of the world has he been, in these respects, "without variableness or shadow of turning James 1:17." This we learn from the Prophet Samuel: "The Lord will not forsake his people, because it has pleased him to make you his people 1 Samuel 12:22." True, he may chastise his people for their offences; but yet he will not utterly forsake them Psalm 89:30-36. He may even "forsake them for a time; but he will surely return to them in tender mercy," at the appointed season Isaiah 54:7-8. His assertions on this head are as strong as it is possible for language to express. He has said to every believing soul, "I will never leave you; I will never, never forsake you Hebrews 13:5. See the Greek." Now, it is a view of God's character in these respects, illustrated and confirmed by his actual dispensations; it is this, I say, which properly constitutes "the knowledge of his name."

Having ascertained what this knowledge is, I proceed to show,

II. How it will evince its existence in the soul—

Beyond a doubt, it will lead the person, in whom it is,

1. To renounce all false confidences—

Man, while ignorant of God, is always leaning on an arm of flesh. See God's ancient people, how continually were even they, notwithstanding all their advantages, trusting in the creature, rather than in God. To Egypt or Assyria they looked, in their troubles, rather than to their heavenly protector Isaiah 31:1. Hosea 5:13; Hosea 7:11. Indeed, there was not anything on which they would not rely, rather than on God Isaiah 22:8-11. But, when they were made sensible of their folly, and had discovered the real character of God, they instantly renounced all these false confidences, saying, "Asshur shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, You are our gods: for in You the fatherless finds mercy Hosea 14:3." The same proneness to creature-confidence is found among ourselves. Who does not, at first, rely on his own wisdom to guide him, his own strength to support him, and his own goodness to procure for him acceptance with God? But, in conversion we learn where alone our hope is to be placed, even in "God, who works all our works in us Isaiah 26:12," and "in Christ, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption 1 Corinthians 1:30." This was the effect of conversion in Paul, who accounted all his former attainments to be but "loss for Christ, and desired to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, which was of the Law, but the righteousness which was of God by faith in Christ Philippians 3:7-9." And the same effect invariably follows from a discovery of God as reconciled to us in Christ Jesus.

2. To rely solely upon God—

Yes, indeed, "they who know his name will trust in him." See in David the confidence which such knowledge inspires. "The Lord is my shepherd: I shall not want Psalm 23:1." See him when he goes forth against Goliath: "You come to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day will the Lord deliver you into mine hand; and I will smite you, and take your head from you; and I will give the carcases of the host of the Philistines this day unto the birds of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel 1 Samuel 17:45-46." See him when all around him were reduced to despair: "In the Lord put I my trust; how say you to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain? for, lo, the wicked bend their bow; they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart: and if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" What? "The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in Heaven; his eyes behold, his eye-lids try the children of men:" and, as he knows all their machinations against me, so he knows all my necessities; and will assuredly deliver me out of their hands Psalm 11:1-4. Bishop Home's translation. His deliberate sentiment, on all occasions, was this: "Shall I lift up my eyes unto the hills? (to any earthly powers?) From whence, then, comes my help? My help comes of the Lord, who made Heaven and earth Psalm 121:1-2. The marginal translation," and, therefore, is infinitely superior to both. Of Paul's confidence I forbear to speak, because that must of necessity occur to the minds of all who read the Holy Scriptures Romans 8:31-39; but this I will say, that there is nothing more severely reproved, throughout the inspired volume, than diffidence and distrust; nor anything more highly commended than faith Jeremiah 17:5-8.

What, then, is my advice to all? To every one among you I say,

1. Study the Holy Scriptures—

From human writings you may learn something of God: but from the Scriptures alone can you acquire such a knowledge of him as it is your privilege and your duty to possess. In reading them, mark his every perfection, as displayed in his dealings with the children of men. IF you notice facts only, you will read to little purpose: it is his glory, as beaming forth throughout the whole, which you are chiefly to contemplate: and, if your mind be habituated to contemplate that, you can never want a ground of consolation or of confidence in any state to which you may, by any possibility, be reduced.

2. Follow the examples of the Scripture saints—

In comparing the character of those who profess Christianity with that of the saints recorded in holy writ, one would be tempted to think that they were of a different species, and belonging to two different worlds: for really, if we heard of persons inhabiting one of the planets, they could not differ more widely in their sentiments and habits, than the nominal Christian differs from the Scripture saints. What, for instance, were Paul's sentiments? "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord." And what were his habits? "To me, to live is Christ, ana to die is gain." Forgetting the things which are behind, ana reaching forth unto those that are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Compare this with the great mass of Christians around us, and say what resemblance there is between them. Truly, if we will serve God aright, we must be followers of the Apostle, even as he was of Christ. As for the world's judgment, whether they will approve it, or not, we are not to regard it. We must approve ourselves to God; and both put our trust in him and serve him, as those who know they shall be judged by him in the last day. If we follow the footsteps of the flock, then shall we be numbered among the sheep of Christ, and dwell in his fold forever and ever.

 

 

Psalms 9:17

 

DISCOURSE 503

THE DANGER OF FORGETTING GOD

Psalm 9:17. The wicked shall be turned into Hell, and all the nations that forget God.

THE most eminent saints are represented in scripture as weeping over an ungodly world. Nor would this exercise of compassion be so rare, if we duly considered how great occasion there is for it. The words before us are a plain and unequivocal declaration from God himself respecting the doom which awaits every impenitent sinner. May God impress our minds with a solemn awe, while we show,

I. Who they are whom God esteems wicked—

If we consult the opinions of men, we shall find that they differ widely from each other in their ideas of moral guilt, and that they include more or less in their definition of wickedness according to their own peculiar habits of life; every one being careful so to draw the line that he himself may not be comprehended within it. But God does not consult our wishes, or accommodate his word to our partial regards; he denominates all them wicked, who "forget" him. Doubtless there are degrees of guilt: but all those are wicked in his sight who are,

1. Regardless of his laws—

These ought to be written on our hearts, and to be the invariable rule of our conduct. It should be our constant inquiry, What is duty? what does God command? But if this be no part of our concern, if our inquiry be continually, "What will please myself; what will advance my interests: what will suit the taste of those around me;" are we not wicked? Do we not in all such instances rebel against God, and become, as it were, a God unto ourselves? Yet who among us has not been guilty in these respects?

2. Forgetful of his benefits—

Every day and hour of our lives we have been laden with mercies by a kind and bountiful benefactor. And should they not have excited correspondent emotions of gratitude in our hearts? Yes, should they not have filled our mouths with praises and thanksgivings? But what shall we say to that greatest of all mercies, the gift of God's dear Son to die for us? Has not that deserved our devoutest acknowledgments? What then if we have passed days and years without any affectionate remembrance of God? What if we have even abused the bounties of his providence, and poured contempt upon the riches of his grace? What if we have "trodden under foot the Son of God, and done despite to the Spirit of grace?" Are we not wicked? Do we account such ingratitude a trivial offence, when exercised by a dependent towards ourselves?

3. Unmindful of his presence—

God is everywhere present, and every object around us has this inscription upon it, "You, God, see me." Now it is our duty and privilege to walk with God as his friends, and to set him before us all the day long. But, suppose we have been unmindful of his presence, and have indulged without remorse those thoughts, which we could not have endured to carry into practice in the presence of a fellow-creature; suppose we have been careless and unconcerned even when we were assembled in God's house of prayer; suppose that, instead of having him in all our thoughts, we have lived "without him in the world;" are we not wicked? Is it necessary to have added murder or adultery to such crimes as these in order to constitute us wicked? Does God judge thus, when he declares that they who are thus without God, are at the same time "without hope Ephesians 2:12."

While we rectify our notions respecting the persons that are wicked, let us inquire,

II. What is to be their final doom—

The word "Hell" sometimes imports no more than the grave; but here it must mean somewhat far more awful; because the righteous go into the grave as well as the most abandoned—

Hell is a place of inconceivable misery—

Men in general do not wish to hear this place so much as mentioned, much less described, as the portion of the wicked: but it is better far to hear of it, than to dwell in it; and it is by hearing of it that we must be persuaded to avoid it 2 Corinthians 5:11. Our Lord represents it as a place originally formed for the reception of the fallen angels; and very frequently labors to deter men from sin by the consideration of its terrors Luke 12:5. Mark 9:43-48. And who that reflects upon that "lake of fire and brimstone," where the wicked "dwell with everlasting burnings," and "weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth," without so much as the smallest hope of deliverance from it, and where "the smoke of their torment ascends up forever and ever;" who that considers what it must be to have the devils for our companions, and to have the vials of God's wrath poured out upon us, without intermission and without end; who that considers these things, must not tremble at the thought of taking up his abode in that place?

Yet must that be the portion of all that forget God—

Now scoffers make light of eternal torments, and puff at the denunciations of God's wrath; but before long they will wish that "the rocks might fall upon them, and the hills cover them" from his impending judgments. But however reluctant they be to obey the divine mandate, they must "depart;" they will be "turned" into Hell with irresistible violence, and with fiery indignation. Their numbers will not at all secure them against the threatened vengeance: though there be whole "nations," they will not be able to withstand the arm of God; nor will they excite commiseration in his heart: neither will their misery be the less because of the multitudes who partake of it; for, instead of alleviating one another's sorrows with tender sympathy, they will accuse one another with the bitterest invectives. The power and veracity of God are pledged to execute this judgment; and sooner shall Heaven and earth be annihilated, than one jot or tittle of his word shall fail.

INFERENCES—

1. How awful is the insensibility in which the world are living!

Men seem as careless and indifferent about their eternal interests as if they had nothing to apprehend; or as if God had promised that the wicked should be received into Heaven. But can they set aside the declaration that is now before us? Or do they suppose it is intended merely to alarm us; and that it shall never be executed upon us? "Is God then a man that he should lie, or a son of man that he should repent?" O that they would awake from their infatuation, and flee from the wrath to come!

2. How just will be the condemnation of sinners in the last day!

Many think it a hard thing that so heavy a judgment should be denounced merely for forgetting God. But is this so small an offence as they imagine? Is it not rather exceeding heinous? Does it not imply the basest ingratitude, the most daring rebellion, yes, a great degree even of atheism itself? And shall not God visit for these things, and be avenged on such transgressors as these? Shall they be at liberty to abuse God's mercies, and God not be at liberty to suspend the communication of his blessings? Shall they despise and trample on God's laws, and God not be at liberty to assert their authority? Shall they say to God, "Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of your ways;" and shall God be accused of injustice if he say to them, "Depart; you shall never have one glimpse of my presence any more?" But if they will dare to open their mouths against him now, the time is shortly coming, when they will stand self-convicted, and sell-condemned.

3. How marvelous are the patience and the mercy of God!

God has seen the whole race of man departing from him, and blotting out, as much as they could, the remembrance of him from the earth. His authority, his love, his mercy, are, as it were, by common consent banished from the conversation and from the very thoughts of men. Yet, instead of burning with indignation against us, and "turning us all quick into Hell," he bears with us, he invites us to mercy, he says, "Deliver them from going down into the pit; for I have found a ransom Job 33:24." O that we might be duly sensible of his mercy! O that we might flee for refuge to the hope set before us! If once we be cast into Hell, we shall never obtain "one drop of water to cool our tongues:" but "this is the accepted time;" the Lord grant that we may find it also, "the day of salvation!"

 

 

Psalms 10:4-5

 

DISCOURSE 504

MEN'S PROUD CONTEMPT OF GOD

Psalm 10:4-5. The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts: his ways are always grievous: your judgments are far above out of his sight: as for all his enemies, he puffs at them.

PRIDE, when manifested in a flagrant manner, universally excites disgust; so hateful is it, when divested of the specious garb in which it is generally clothed. But though all hate pride, when it appears in others, few are sensible how much it reigns within their own bosoms. In our converse with man, this evil disposition is ready to show itself on every occasion: but in our conduct towards God, it is the fruitful parent of habitual neglect, and atheistical contempt. This is affirmed in the passage before us, in which we may notice,

I. The state of the wicked—

It is not easy to conceive a more humiliating description of their character than that given us by the Psalmist:

They "will not seek after God"—

God invites them to seek his face, and promises that he will be found of them; but they cannot be prevailed upon either by promises or threats: they will seek with eagerness an earthly object, that may make them happy; but they account God unworthy of any notice or regard Job 35:10.

"He is not even admitted into their thoughts"—

It is astonishing to what a degree men often banish God from their minds. They will pass days, months, and even years, without one reverential thought of him, unless when they are alarmed by some awful providence, or awakened by some faithful DISCOURSE and then, unless the grace of God prevent them, they will cast him out of their minds again as soon as possible, and drown their thoughts in business or dissipation Job 21:14-15.

They account "his ways," as far as they know them, "grievous"—

When urged to devote themselves to God in sincerity and truth, they conceive that such a state is unattainable, or, at least, incompatible with the common duties and offices of life. They call the indulgence of their lusts, liberty; and the exercise of vital godliness, an intolerable bondage. Every part of the divine life is irksome to them, and that too, not occasionally, but "always," without any change or intermission.

The "judgments of God are far above out of their sight"—

By the "judgments" of God we understand his word and works. Now these are not only out of their sight in some particulars (for in some respects they are incomprehensible even to the most enlightened saints) but they are altogether foolishness unto them 1 Corinthians 2:14. When the mysteries of redemption are opened, they are esteemed by them as "cunningly-devised fables:" and when the marvelous interpositions of Providence are insisted on, they are ready to exclaim, with Ezekiel's hearers, "Ah! Lord God, does he not speak parables Ezekiel 20:49."

"As for all their enemies, they puff at them"—

If God himself threaten them as an enemy, they disregard his menaces. The denunciations of his wrath are deemed by them unworthy of any serious attention. They even puff at them with contempt and disdain. They quiet all their fears, saying, like them of old, "Tush, God shall not see; neither will the Almighty regard it Psalm 94:7;" "I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of my heart Deuteronomy 29:19."

In order to account for this state of things, let us trace it to,

II. The real source of their wickedness—

We might trace this practical atheism to men's ignorance and unbelief: but the Psalmist suggests to us the true ground and occasion of it: it all arises from the pride of their hearts.

Men are too good, in their own apprehension, to need God's mercy—

They will confess that they are not altogether so good as they might be; but they do not think they deserve God's wrath and indignation. Why then should they trouble themselves to ask for mercy at his hands, when they are in no danger of suffering his judgments?

They are also too strong to need his aid—

They imagine, that they can repent when they please, and that, whensoever they resolve, they can easily carry their resolutions into effect. If they thought that "without God they could do nothing," and that "he must give them both to will and to do," then there were reason for imploring his assistance: but, when they acknowledge no such dependence upon God, why should they seek his aid?

Moreover, they are too wise to need the teachings of his Spirit—

They see, perhaps, their need of a revelation to discover to them the mind and will of God; but, when that is once given, they are not conscious that they need a spiritual illumination to discover the truths contained in it. They suppose their reason to be as sufficient for the investigation of spiritual, as of carnal things: and under that persuasion, they consider all application to God for the teachings of his Spirit, as enthusiastic and absurd.

Finally, they are too happy to need the divine presence—

They are occupied with carnal pleasure, and wish for nothing beyond it. If only they can have the undisturbed indulgence of their appetites, it is, to them, all the Paradise they desire. As for the light of God's countenance, and the manifestations of his love, they know not what is meant by such things; they suppose that they exist only in the pretensions of hypocrites, and the conceits of fanatics.

In short, like those of Laodicea, they possess such an imaginary sufficiency within themselves, that they have no need of God at all Revelation 3:17. And hence it is that they care not to have God in all their thoughts.

INFERENCES—

1. How astonishing is the depravity of human nature!

If all be not equally addicted to gross sins, all are equally "without God in the world Ephesians 2:12;" all have a "carnal mind that is enmity against God Romans 8:7." Alas! What a picture of human nature! Let "every mouth then be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God Romans 3:10-12; Romans 3:19."

2. How great is the change that takes place in conversion!

The state of a converted soul forms a perfect contrast with that of the wicked. "Old things pass away, and all things become new." Let all then ask themselves, Am I now devoting myself to God, as once I did to the world; and despising the world, as once I despised God? This were indeed "a new creation 2 Corinthians 5:17."

3. How necessary is conversion in order to an enjoyment of Heaven!

There must be within ourselves a fitness for Heaven before we can enjoy it Colossians 1:12. Let not those then who banish God from their thoughts, and cast off his yoke, suppose that they could be happy in Heaven, even if they were admitted there. If they would find happiness in God forever, they must attain in this world a conformity to his image, and a delight in his commandments.

 

 

Psalms 10:13

 

DISCOURSE 505

MEN'S CONTEMPT OF GOD

Psalm 10:13. Why does the wicked despise God? He has said in his heart, You will not require it.

THE thoughts of God respecting the nature and malignity of sin, are widely different from those which are entertained in the breasts of natural men. Men consider themselves as innocent if their outward conduct be not grossly reprehensible, and what they cannot justify in their actions they extenuate under lenient expressions; but God notices the very frame and dispositions of the heart: He clearly and infallibly interprets the language of men's thoughts: He declares that the wickedness of their actions proceeds from atheism in their hearts Psalm 14:1. Thus, in the psalm before us, he reveals the secret motives by which the wicked are actuated verse 2, 4, 6, 11, and puts the right construction on their thoughts verse 13.

Let us consider,

I. The ground of this expostulation—

Were all the lineaments of our contempt of God to be drawn, we should scarce ever finish the dreadful portrait—

We make light of the Father's authority, the Son's sacrifice, the Spirit's influence. Every office they sustain, every attribute they possess, every relation they bear to us, we disregard and dishonor. We overlook God's providence, we are unmindful of his word, neglect his ordinances, profane his sabbaths, despise his people.

But, waving all other points, we fix our attention on that mentioned in the text, namely, Our virtual denial of God's punitive justice—

Men evidence by their lives that they think God will not require sin at their hands:

1. Their impenitence for their past sins shows it—

They do not humble themselves for sin, or seek after a Savior; and what is the language of this, but, "God does not regard, nor will require my sin?"

2. Their unconcern about the prevention of sin in future shows it—

They indulge all their evil habits, rush carelessly into temptations, listen to no admonitions, seek not God's aid, and even stifle their convictions; and does not this say, "Sin may be indulged with impunity, God will not require it?"

Know you then that this thought, or language of their hearts, is a contempt of God himself:

Of his holiness—

Instead of regarding him as an infinitely Holy Being Isaiah 6:3. Hebrews 1:13, it supposes him to be such an one as ourselves Psalm 50:21.

Of his justice—

The Scripture speaks of God as just Deuteronomy 32:4, but this intimates that he is indifferent about the execution of his laws Zephaniah 1:12.

Of his wisdom—

The contriving of the plan of redemption was the greatest effort of divine wisdom; but this declares that the devising of it was superfluous, and that an attention to it is unnecessary.

Of his mercy—

God in infinite mercy offers us salvation through his Son Isaiah 55:1-2; but this is a determinate refusal of his gracious offers.

Such is the construction which God himself puts upon it 1 Samuel 2:30. Romans 2:4.—

II. The expostulation itself—

The question in our text is manifestly an indignant expostulation. I ask then,

1. What assurance has any man that God will not require sin?

Supposing it possible or even probable, who can be certain of it? What folly then must it be to continue in sin through hopes of impunity, when the mistake, if it be one, will be irrevocable, and the consequence of it irremediable! We are bound, in common prudence, to choose the safer side.

2. Has not God said that he will require sin?

The testimonies to this effect are most indubitable 1 Corinthians 6:9. John 3:3. Can we suppose that God will falsify his word Numbers 23:19. 2 Timothy 2:13.

3. Has not God already in many instances required sin?

Have not individuals, companies, cities, nations, the whole world, yes, man in Paradise, and angels in Heaven, been made monuments of divine vengeance Jude, verse 6 and 7. Why may he not manifest his indignation against us also?

4. Will not the account be dreadful if he should require sin?

No heart can conceive the terrors of the final judgment. Who, in his right mind, would risk the loss of Heaven, and the suffering of Hell?

5. Can any power or policy of men prevent his requiring sin?

Let us first avert death from our bodies, or provide an answer to Job's question Job 9:4; "Who has hardened himself against God and prospered?" Not earth and Hell combined can prevent the punishment of one sinner Proverbs 11:21.

APPLICATION—

Let us see how deeply we have been involved in this guilt. If our outward actions have been correct, still have we, to an incalculable amount, committed sin by our very thoughts. O let us flee for refuge to the hope set before us! Happy am I to declare that there is a way wherein a person may not only think this in his heart, but express it with his lips. If we believe in Christ, God will never require sin at our hands Acts 13:39; and to express it, so far from pouring contempt on God, will greatly honor him. God is not more honored by anything than the humble confidence of a believer Romans 4:20. Let us all therefore lay our sins on the head of the true scape-goat, so shall they never be required of us in the day of judgment Mic. 7:19.

 

 

Psalms 11:1-7

 

DISCOURSE 506

THE WORKINGS OF UNBELIEF AND OF FAITH

Psalm 11:1-7. In the Lord put I my trust: how say you to my soul, "Flee as a bird to your mountain; for, lo, the wicked bend their bow, they make ready their arrow upon the string, that they may privily shoot at the upright in heart: if the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?" The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in Heaven: his eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men. The Lord tries the righteous: but the wicked, and him that loves violence, his soul hates. Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup. For the righteous Lord loves righteousness: his countenance does behold the upright The three first verses of the psalm should be read as one continued speech, just as they are here printed: then the force and spirit of the passage is made clear.

THE Psalms are a rich repository of experimental knowledge. David, at the different periods of his life, was placed in almost every different situation in which a believer, whether rich or poor, can be placed: and in these heavenly compositions he delineates all the workings of his heart. He introduces, too, the sentiments and conduct of the various persons who were accessary either to his troubles or his joys; and thus sets before our eyes a compendium of all that is passing in the hearts of men throughout the world. When he penned this psalm, he was under persecution from Saul, who sought his life, and hunted him "as a partridge upon the mountains." His timid friends were alarmed for his safety, and recommended him to flee to some mountain where he had a hiding-place; and thus to conceal himself from the rage of Saul. But David, being strong in faith, spurned the idea of resorting to any such pusillanimous expedients, and determined confidently to repose his trust in God.

Thus in this psalm we see, in a contrasted view,

I. The counsels of unbelief—

Unbelief always views the dark side of a question; and not only keeps out of view those considerations that should animate and encourage the soul, but suggests others which are most injurious to its welfare:

1. It magnifies the difficulties we have to encounter—

Doubtless the dangers which encompassed David were great and imminent: the arrows with which his enemies sought to kill him, were already on the string, pointed at him, as it were, and needing only to be drawn, in order to pierce him to the heart: the foundations also of law and justice were so entirely subverted under the government of Saul, that there was nothing to prevent the wicked from executing their murderous plots. But still there is no sufficient ground for that desponding question, "What can the righteous do?" Methinks the question under any circumstances is not only unbelieving, but atheistical: for if there be a God, and that God be a hearer of prayer, the question would rather be, 'What cannot the righteous do?' " Let us look at an instance or two, as a specimen of what one righteous may do, even when, according to human appearance, the circumstances may be most desperate. The whole army of Israel is appalled at the sight of one gigantic warrior: yet a young stripling, with his sling and stone, destroys the giant, and puts to flight the whole army of the Philistines. Again: at a period when idolatry so prevailed in Israel, that Elijah thought himself the only worshiper of Jehovah in the whole land, one righteous man stems the torrent, destroys the priests of Baal, and demolishes all his temples and altars throughout the country. But another instance of singular importance is that of Oded 2 Chronicles 28:9-15; who, by his own unaided expostulation, liberated two hundred thousand captives, and constrained their victorious enemies not only to restore them to their homes without injury, but to treat them with a tenderness truly parental: Shall any one, after such instances as these, and many others that might be mentioned, ask, "What can the righteous do?" We should remember, that, as "with God all things are possible," so "all things are possible to him that believes;" yes, "if we have faith only as a grain of mustard-seed, we may root up trees or mountains, and cast them into the depths of the sea."

2. It prompts to the use of unfitting expedients—

However it might be proper for David to use prudential cautions, and not to put himself directly into the hands of Saul, it did not become him to "flee as a bird to his mountain," just as if he had no refuge in his God. His duty was, to repose a confidence in God, and to expect assuredly the accomplishment of all God's promises towards him, in spite of all the efforts of his most malignant enemies. But such is constantly the voice of unbelief: it bids us not wait God's time, but contrive some way for ourselves, lest perhaps God should have forgotten his engagements, or not be able to fulfill them. Thus it operated in Rebecca. She knew that God had designed the blessings of the birthright for Jacob, her younger son: but when she saw that Isaac's intention was in the space of an hour or two to give them to Esau, she conceived that the Divine purpose would be frustrated, if she did not instantly interpose for its accomplishment. To what a system of falsehood and treachery she had recourse, is too well known to need any recital: but it is a striking instance of the tendency of unbelief. And who does not feel this tendency in his own heart? Who has not at some unhappy moment sought, by dissimulation or concealment, to avoid the cross, which a more faithful confession of the Savior would have brought upon him? But to use any indirect means either to avoid an evil or to obtain a good, is a certain proof of an unbelieving heart: for, "He who believes will not make haste."

In the noble reply of David to his friends, we behold,

II. The dictates of faith—

It is the peculiar province of faith to "see Him who is invisible;" and in all situations to have respect to God,

1. As an Almighty Sovereign—

Mark the answer which David, with holy indignation, gives to his timid advisers: "How say you to my soul, Flee?" How say you with desponding apprehension, "What can the righteous do?" This is my answer to all such vain fears; "The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord's throne is in Heaven." What plots can men or devils form, which God does not see? or what can they essay to execute, which he cannot defeat? He who sits m the heavens "laughs them to scorn." "He disappoints the devices of the crafty, so that they cannot perform their enterprise;" yes, "he takes the wise in their own craftiness." It is not possible to find a more beautiful elucidation of this subject than that which is recorded in the history of Elisha. When the king of Syria was warring against Israel, behold, all his plans were made known to the king of Israel; and were thereby defeated. But how were these secrets made known? Was it by treason? No: God revealed to Elisha the things which the king of Syria spoke in his bed-chamber. The king of Syria determined therefore that he would kill Elisha, and sent an army to encompass the city wherein Elisha was. Elisha's servant, just like David's friends, cried, "Alas, my master! how shall we do?" But, when God opened his eyes, he saw the whole surrounding atmosphere filled with horses of fire and chariots of fire: and soon afterwards he saw the whole smitten with blindness, and led by the prophet into the very heart of their enemy's country 2 Kings 6:8-20. Thus are all the saints watched over by an Almighty Power; and under his protection they are safe.

2. As a righteous Judge—

It may be that God sees fit to let the enemies of his people prevail over them: but their success is only for a moment: the time is near at hand when the apparent inequality of these dispensations will be rectified; when God, as "a righteous Judge, will recompense tribulation to those who trouble us; and to us who are troubled, rest." He narrowly inspects "His eyelids try" as persons narrowly inspecting some very minute object, almost close their eyelids, to exclude every other object, not the actions only, but the dispositions also, of men, in order to render unto them according to their works: "the wicked his soul hates;" and in due time "he will rain upon them snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest," even as he did upon Sodom and Gomorrah: yes, "this shall be the portion of their cup;" and they "shall drink it to the very dregs." On the other hand, "he loves the righteous, and beholds them with delight;" and reserves for them a weight of glory proportioned to all that they have done and suffered for him. The believer is persuaded of this: whom then shall he fear? He knows that no weapon formed against him can prosper, unless Infinite Wisdom has ordained that it shall; and that no evil can be suffered to approach him which shall not be recompensed an hundred-fold even in this life; and much more in that world where God himself will be the unalienable portion of all his people. How these views compose the mind may be seen throughout all the Sacred Records See Psalm 7:10-17; Psalm 27:1; and they will always be realized in proportion to our faith.

ADDRESS—

1. Those who meet with opposition in their Christian course—

You are tempted perhaps by Satan, and by timid friends, to "put your light under a bushel," instead of causing it to "shine before men for the glory of your God." But you should say as Nehemiah, "Shall such a man as I flee?" No: my Savior shunned not the cross for me; and, God helping me, I will gladly take up my cross and follow him: Beware how you listen to flesh and blood, or attempt to reconcile the services of God and mammon: to "follow the Lord fully" is the only true way to present peace and everlasting happiness.

2. Those who are ready to faint by reason of spiritual conflicts—

It is doubtless an arduous task to "wrestle with all the principalities and powers of Hell;" but, "if God be for you, who can be against you?" Do not, because of some occasional darkness, say, "My way is hid from the Lord, and my judgment is passed over from my God;" but know, that your God is infinite both in wisdom and power; and that he is engaged to keep all who trust in him Isaiah 40:27-29. Reject then with indignation the unbelieving suggestions of your great adversary: and, if for a moment he prevail against you, chide yourselves for your cowardice, as David did; "Why are you cast down, O my soul; and why are you disquieted within me? Hope you in God Psalm 42:11." Consider the force of our Lord's reproof to Martha, "Said I not unto you, that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God John 11:40." The same then he says to us: let us therefore "never stagger at his promises through unbelief, but be strong in faith, giving glory to God." Let David's confidence be ours also Psalm 5:11-12.

 

 

Psalms 12:4

 

DISCOURSE 507

PRACTICAL ATHEISM EXPOSED

Psalm 12:4. Who is Lord over us?

THAT "the world lies in wickedness," is a truth generally acknowledged. But it is by the more heinous acts alone that men in general estimate the wickedness around them: whereas in order to form a correct judgment, they should mark the alienation of heart from God which is observable, not in gross sinners only, but in the more moral and decent part of mankind. A spirit of independence pervades all ranks and orders of men: and though all do not live in the same measure of open rebellion against God, all have a standard of their own, to which to conform their lives; and, in reference to all beyond it, they say, as those in my text, "Who is Lord over us?" To illustrate this, I will show,

I. The atheism of the heart—

Whether there be any who really believe there is no Supreme Being, I think, may well be doubted; since there is not an ignorant savage who does not imagine that there is some Being superior to himself, and some Being that takes cognizance of his deportment. But a secret atheism abounds in every place; insomuch, that all who are yet in a state of nature will ask, "Who is Lord over us?" Who,

1. To inspect our ways?

That this is the sentiment of the unregenerate heart is evident, from the declaration which is made in another Psalm, which the Apostle quotes as applicable to every child of man: "He has said in his heart, God has forgotten: he hides his face: he will never see it." And again, "He has said in his heart, You will not require it Psalm 10:11; Psalm 10:13." If persons were sensible of the divine presence, and that God marks every motion of their hearts, could they give such a latitude as they do to sin, or commit it with so little fear? No: if they are hid from the eyes of men, they are satisfied: and that which was erroneously imputed by Eliphaz to Job, is really fulfilled in them; "They say, How does God know? Can he judge through the dark cloud? Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he sees not; and he walks in the circuit of Heaven," unobservant of his creatures' ways Job 22:13-14.

2. To order our paths?

This is strongly exemplified in our text. "They say, With our tongue will we prevail: our lips are our own: Who is Lord over us?" It is painful to observe with what daring impiety men will "cast God's words behind them Nehemiah 9:26." Declare to them the commands of men, and they will have an ear to hear; but speak to them of the commands of God, and they reject it with scorn: they reply, in heart at least, if not in word also, "As for the word that you have spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto you; but we will certainly do whatever thing goes forth out of our own mouth Jeremiah 44:16-17." Pharaoh, it is true, was hardened beyond the generality of men: but his answer to Moses is still that of the generality among ourselves, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice? I know not the Lord; neither will I obey his voice Exodus 5:2."

3. To supply our wants?

Whatever be the wants of an ungodly man, he will look to himself, or to the world, to supply them. He has no idea that God is observant of them, or will humble himself so low as to regard them. Now, this is a part of that same disposition which we have before noticed; and is no other than a denial of God. Job says, "If I have made gold my hope, or said to the fine gold, You are my confidence; this were an iniquity to be punished by the Judge; for then I should have denied the God that is above Job 31:24; Job 31:28."

4. To call us to an account?

Men imagine that what is past is all forgotten, and that they shall never hear of it any more. This is what the Psalmist so justly reproves: "They say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, you brutish among the people: and you fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, shall he not hear? He who formed the eye, shall he not see? He that chastises the heathen, shall not he correct Psalm 94:7-10." Elihu, also, conceiving it to be indulged by Job, utters a similar rebuke: "Although you say you shall not see him, yet judgment is before him: therefore trust you in him Job 35:14."

Now, though in none of these particulars, perhaps, will men deny in words the interposition of Heaven; yet, in their hearts, they so far disbelieve it, that they act without any reference to it, and live, practically at least, as "atheists in the world Ephesians 2:12. The Greek."

Let me, however, proceed to show you,

II. The folly of it—

Foolish in the extreme is this disregard of God. For,

1. It will not alter the state of things—

We may deny the agency, or even the existence, of God: but he will exist, and act too, in despite of us. We cannot reverse the order of created things: how, then, can we affect the Creator himself? He will sit on his throne, notwithstanding us; and will mark our conduct, and record it in the book of his remembrance; and call us into judgment for it, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. Now, if by denying these things we could change the course of them, then there were some reason for our conduct: but when we can alter nothing, but only deceive our own souls, it is little short of madness to continue in unbelief. In truth, we should call it madness if any man were to pursue such conduct in reference to earthly things. Suppose a man were to deny the tendency of bodies to gravitate towards the center of the earth, and the power of fire to burn; and, in support of his sentiments, were to leap down a precipice, or thrust his hand into the fire; should we be at any loss how to designate that conduct? Yet would it not be a whit more infatuated than to go on in sin, on the presumption that God does not mark, or will not judge, the actions of men. In this case, precisely as in the other, we only rush on to our perdition.

2. It will not alter the issue of things—

We may declaim on the injustice of God, in consigning men to everlasting misery for the sins of time; or we may deny that there is any such place as Hell. But it shall surely be the abode of the wicked, whether we will believe it or not. To judgment we shall be called: by our works we shall be judged: God's sentence shall be according to truth; nor shall we be able to withstand it. All that we do by our present unbelief is only to insure that very doom which now we presume to question. Then shall we find, that there is a Lord over us; and that we can neither elude nor withstand his power. If now we admit the truth of these things, we may avert the misery with which we are threatened, and secure the happiness which is offered to us: but if we persevere in an atheistical denial of them, nothing remains for us, but to learn from experience what we will not learn from reason or the word of God.

Let me conclude with answering the question which is thus presumptuously proposed—

Do you ask, "Who is Lord over us?" I answer, The Lord Jesus Christ is: and "he has sworn, that unto him every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess Isaiah 45:23." O that you would now submit yourselves unto him! What would he not do for you? What judgments would he not avert? What blessings would he not communicate? Remember, I pray you, that "He is God, and none else Isaiah 45:22." Whatever you may imagine, you can never "prevail" against him. As for "your lips being your own;" nothing that you have is your own. You are the work of his hands; and he has a right to every power that you possess. Yes, more, "he has bought you with a price," even the inestimable price of his own blood: so that he has a double right over you: and you are bound, by every tie that can be conceived, to "glorify him with your bodies, and with your spirits, which are his 1 Corinthians 6:20." Take him, then, as your Lord; and yield yourselves to him as his subjects: and then you may very safely ask, "Whom have I to fear?" Beloved Brethren, reject this Lord, and none can save you: give yourselves up to him, and "none can harm you 1 Peter 3:13."

 

 

Psalms 14:1

 

DISCOURSE 508

THE COMMONNESS AND FOLLY OF ATHEISM

Psalm 14:1. The fool has said in his heart, There is no God.

MEN, who judge only by the outward appearance, are apt to entertain a good opinion of themselves: but God, who looks at the heart, describes the whole race of mankind as immersed in an unfathomable abyss of wickedness Jeremiah 17:9. In confirmation of this melancholy truth we need look no further than to the declaration in the text. It may be thought indeed that the text is spoken only in reference to a few professed infidels: but the words immediately following show that it relates to many, yes to all mankind; "all being gone aside, and none doing good, no not one." Above all, Paul, speaking expressly upon the subject of human depravity, appeals to this very passage as decisively establishing that doctrine. Romans 3:10-12. In considering the words before us we shall show,

I. The atheistical thoughts and desires of the heart—

God interprets the thoughts and desires of the heart as though they were expressed in words; and he attests its real language to be like that in the text. It may be understood,

1. As an assertion—

The name here used for God is not Jehovah, which relates to his essence, but Elohim, which characterizes him as the moral governor of the world. The words therefore must be understood, not as declaring that there is no God, but that there is no God who interferes in human affairs. It is true there are not many, who will deliberately affirm this in plain terms; but, alas! how many are there, whose actions manifest this to be the inward thought of their hearts! If we look around us, we shall see the great mass of mankind living as if there were no superior Being to whom they owed obedience, or to whom they were accountable for their conduct. They inquire constantly whether such or such a line of conduct will tend to their comfort, their honor, or their interest; but how rarely do they examine whether it will please God! How will men gratify in secret, or at least harbor in their bosoms, those lusts, which they could not endure to have exposed to the eye of a fellow-creature, while yet they feel no concern at all about the presence of their God! The language of their hearts is, "The Lord sees us not, he has forsaken the earth Ezekiel 8:12;" "How does God know? can he judge through the dark cloud? Thick clouds are a covering to him that he sees not; and he walks in the circuit of the Heaven Job 22:13-14," ignorant and indifferent about the affairs of men. And as we thus refuse to acknowledge God ourselves, so we do not choose that any others should acknowledge him. Is any one of our companions awed by the fear of God? how ready are we to laugh at his scruples; to propose to him the customs and maxims of the world as more worthy of his regard than the mind and will of God; and to encourage him in the hope, that such compliances shall never be noticed in the day of judgment! And what is this but to use the very language which God imputes to us, "The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil Zephaniah 1:12."

2. As a wish—

The words "There is" are not in the original, and may therefore be omitted: the text will then stand thus; The fool has said in his heart, No God! that is, I wish there were none. And how common a wish is this! When men are fully convinced in their minds that God notices every transaction of their lives, and records it in the book of his remembrance, they are still unwilling to give up their lusts, and determined to continue in sin at all events. But are they easy in such a state? No: they shrink back at the prospect of death and judgment, and wish that they could elude the summons that will be given them in the last day. Gladly would they sleep an eternal sleep, and barter their immortality for an exemption from appearing at the tribunal of God. What satisfaction would they feel if they could be certified on unquestionable grounds, that God did not notice their actions, or that, notwithstanding he be the Governor and Judge of all, he has decreed to bestow on them the favor of annihilation! Instantly they would exclaim, Now I may dismiss my fears; now I may take my fill of pleasure, and "drink iniquity like water," without any dread of future consequences. We may appeal to the consciences of all, whether such have not been frequently the thoughts of their hearts, or, at least, whether their dread of death and judgment do not justly admit of this construction?

Such being the thoughts and desires of the heart, we proceed to show,

II. The folly of entertaining them—

This will appear in a striking point of view, if we take into consideration the three following truths—

1. The thing wished for is absolutely impossible—

God can no more cease to inspect the ways of men with a view to a final retribution, than he can cease to exist. As his superintending care is necessary for the preservation of the universe, so the continual exercise of his moral government is necessary for the vindication of his own honor. How absurd then is it to indulge a wish, when it is not possible for that wish ever to be gratified, and when the indulging of it makes us act as though it would be gratified! How much better were it to say at once, There is a God, and I must fear him; there is a judgment, and I must prepare for it!

2. If the wish could be obtained, it would be an unspeakable injury to all, even in this world—

Men are led, even by the faintest hopes of impunity, to live in sin; and how much more would they yield themselves up to its dominion, if they could once be sure that God would never call them into judgment for it! This, as it respects individuals, would greatly embitter this present life. The gratification of their lusts would indeed afford them a transient pleasure; but who that considers how soon such enjoyments cloy; who that knows how many evils they bring in their train; who that has seen the effects of unbridled passions, of pride, envy, wrath, malice, of lewdness, covetousness, or any other inordinate affection; who that has the least knowledge of these things can doubt, but that sin and misery are indissolubly connected, and that, in proportion as we give the rein to appetite, we undermine our own happiness? And what would be the consequence to the community at large? Men, even now, "bite and devour one another" like wild beasts, the very instant that God withdraws his restraint from them! Who was it that overruled the purposes of a lewd Abimelech, of a covetous Laban, and of a revengeful Esau? It was God alone: and it is the same God that now keeps the world in any measure of peace and quiet. And if once the world were bereft of his providence, it would instantly resemble that world, where the dispositions of men are suffered to rage without control, and all incessantly to torment themselves, and all around them. Is it not then the extreme folly to entertain a wish, that would involve in it such tremendous consequences?

3. It would be productive of still greater evil as it respects the world to come.

Doubtless, if there were no moral governor of the universe, there would be no fear of Hell; and the thought of this would be a great acquisition to ungodly men. But they, on the other hand, entertain no hope of Heaven; their brightest prospect would be annihilation. Melancholy prospect indeed! How much better, even for the most ungodly, to have a God to flee unto; a God to pardon their iniquities; a God to sanctify and renew their souls; a God to bless them with immortality and glory! They need not to wish for the cessation of his agency, or the extinction of their own existence, seeing that he is rich in mercy unto all that call upon him, and ready to receive returning prodigals. And is it not for the interest of all that there should be such a God? Is not the prospect of obtaining his favor, and participating his glory better than annihilation, more especially when the terms of our acceptance with him are so easy? He requires nothing but that we should humble ourselves before him, and plead the merits of his dear Son, and renounce the ways that have been displeasing to him: the very instant we return to him in this manner, he will "cast all our sins into the depths of the sea," and embrace us with the arms of his mercy. What madness then to wish that there were no such Being!

Infer,

1. How great is the patience of God!

God sees, not one only or even many, but all the world living without God Ephesians 2:12, banishing him from their thoughts Psalm 10:4, and wishing him banished from the universe: yet he not only bears with them, but follows them with invitations and promises, and waits to be gracious unto them: Let us stand amazed at his goodness; and let that goodness lead us to repentance.

2. How glorious is the change that takes place in conversion!

Grace no sooner enters into the heart than it slays this enmity, and reconciles the sinner to God. Henceforth it becomes his one desire to walk with God, to enjoy his presence, to fulfill his will, and to live in the near prospect of participating his glory: How enviable is such a state! Compare the wisdom of such a state with the folly which we have been exposing: And let us instantly begin to live, as we shall wish we had lived, when we come to die.

 

 

Psalms 14:6

 

DISCOURSE 509

BELIEVERS VINDICATED

Psalm 14:6. You have shamed the counsel of the poor, because the Lord in his refuge.

ONE would imagine that religion, as brought into lively and habitual exercise, should commend itself to all: it is so reasonable a service, that one would suppose none could find fault with it. Yet, never has it been maintained by any one since the first introduction of sin into the world, without provoking hostility from those who were not under its dominion. As for David, he suffered for it through all the reign of Saul, and through a great part also of his own reign: for, though a king, he was an object of derision to all the scoffers in the land. Of this he complains in the psalm before us: for though it is probable that Absalom was the great instigator of the present evils, the people, too, readily sided with him, and exulted in the thought, that this despised monarch would now be destroyed.

The psalm, though primarily applicable to that occasion, was really, as Paul tells us, of a general import verse 2, 3 with Romans 3:10-12. And therefore, taking the text in that view, I will explain, and vindicate, the counsel that is here referred to.

I. Explain it—

The persons designated as "the poor," are the Lord's people, generally—

It is certain that the great mass of the Lord's people are taken from the lower walks of life. There are "not many rich, not many mighty, not many noble, called." In the days of our Lord, it was "not the Scribes and Pharisees that believed on him," but the poor—who were deemed accursed John 7:49. "The common people heard him gladly Mark 12:37."

But the name is given to the Lord's people principally because they are "poor in spirit Isaiah 14:32; Isaiah 29:19. Zephaniah 3:12," feeling their utter destitution of everything really good; just as a person in the state of Lazarus feels his want of all the comforts of life. In this sense the name is given to them in a great variety of passages: and throughout the whole world they answer to the character contained in it.

They invariably "make the Lord their refuge"—

They feel their lost and undone state: And in themselves they find no remedy: But in Christ they see a fullness and sufficiency, even for the very chief of sinners: They look into the Scriptures, and see the "counsel" given them, to "look to him," and to "flee to him:" and this counsel they both follow themselves, and give to all around them: They determine, both for themselves and for others, to "know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified."

But this conduct exposes them to much obloquy. I will therefore proceed to,

II. Vindicate it—

In "shaming this their counsel," the ungodly will pretend to reason with them—

They will deride this counsel as unnecessary; since there is no occasion for them to feel any such alarm about their souls: They reprobate it as presumptuous: for, can they suppose that God should pay such peculiar regard to them, to accept them, sanctify them, save them; when all the rest of the world are perishing in their sins?: They pour contempt upon it as ineffectual: for to think of setting aside all good works in point of dependence, can be no other than a desperate delusion: Such are the arguments with which the ungodly will endeavor to shame the poor out of their confidence in God.

But we will defend their counsel against all these unjust aspersions—

It is not un necessary: for there is not a creature in the universe that can be saved in any other way: It is not presumptuous. What presumption is there in believing God's promises, and in obeying his commands, and especially that command of coming to Christ and relying on him for salvation 1 John 3:23.: It is not ineffectual: for there never was, nor ever shall be, one soul left to perish, that sought for mercy solely and entirely by faith in Christ: The cities of refuge afforded a safe asylum to him who fled from the avenger of blood: and, whatever have been the sins of the believing penitent, "he shall not be ashamed or confounded, world without end Isaiah 45:17."

Address,

1. The despisers—

We need not go far to find persons of this character. In fact, they despise this counsel who do not follow it, even though they should never cast any particular reproach on those who adopt it: But, I beg leave to ask, what counsel will you give? Shall it be, to despise all religion?: or to rest in outward forms?: or to say, "Lord, Lord, while you do not the things which he says?": You may boldly maintain this counsel now: but will you do it in the hour of death, and in the day of judgment? Know, assuredly, that you will be ashamed of it then, whether you be now, or not. And that is the only wise counsel which will be approved of your God, and issue in your everlasting salvation. All else is but to "make lies your refuge, and to hide yourselves under falsehood Isaiah 28:15;" or, in other words, to "build on a foundation of sand, what will fall," and crush you under its ruins.

2. The despised—

What harm has it done you hitherto, that you have been despised by an ungodly world? Only seek your happiness in God, and you need not mind what man shall say concerning you. Man's judgment is but for "a day 1 Corinthians 4:3. The margin;" whereas God's judgment will be forever. The Prophets, the Apostles, and our Lord Jesus Christ, were they approved of men? On the contrary, was there anything too bad for men to say concerning them? Be content, then, to be "partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when he shall appear, you may be glad also with exceeding joy 1 Peter 4:13." In truth, to be despised for righteousness' sake is your highest honor 1 Peter 4:14. Acts 5:41, and shall surely issue in your more exalted happiness Romans 8:17.

 

 

Psalms 14:7

 

DISCOURSE 510

THE BLESSINGS OF SALVATION

Psalm 14:7. O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When the Lord brings back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad.

ON what occasion this psalm was written, we know not: but there are two things which render it pre-eminently worthy of our attention: the one is, that, with very little alteration, it is repeated in another psalm Psalms 53; and the other is, that a very considerable part of it is cited by the Apostle Paul, not for the mere purpose of illustrating any point, but for establishing that doctrine which lies at the very foundation of Christianity, the universal and total depravity of human nature Compare verse 1–3 with Romans 3:10-12; Romans 3:19. The Psalmist has evidently been reflecting on the extreme wickedness of the human heart, in that men, for the purpose of prosecuting their evil ways without fear, would banish God himself from the universe verse 1, and, by impious derision, drive out all regard for piety from the world verse 6. Being oppressed, and overwhelmed, as it were, with this painful contemplation, he breaks forth into this devout rapture: "O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When the Lord shall bring again the captivity of Israel, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad."

We may conceive him in these words looking forward, not only to the times of the Messiah, but to the Messiah himself, who is frequently designated by the name of Savior Isaiah 62:11 with Isaiah 45:21-22 and in New Testament passim, and who, under that character, comes forth out of Zion Romans 11:26, and is an object of desire to all nations Hag. 2:7." But, perhaps, it is rather "salvation" itself that is here spoken of; and which the Psalmist contemplates,

I. As an object of desire—

And truly so it is,

1. To the world at large—

View the state of the world, especially as it is described in the psalm before us: How inexpressibly awful! And how fully is this description verified in all around us! Respecting the Heathen world, we are willing enough to acknowledge the truth of the accusation: but, respecting the Christian world, we are ready to conceive of it as exaggerated and false. But Paul quotes these very expressions, to prove the wickedness of all mankind: and the smallest measure of candid observation will confirm all that he has spoken. Say, then, whether salvation be not needed; and whether the Psalmist's wish should not be the most ardent desire of our souls: "O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!" The Gospel brings precisely such a salvation as men's necessities require: and happy would it be, if its blessings were proclaimed to the utmost ends of the earth!

2. To every heavy-laden sinner—

Are any of you convinced of your sinful and undone state? Consider the remedy provided for you. O how precious should it be to your souls! How infinitely dearer to you than thousands of silver and gold! Great as your guilt undoubtedly is, it may all be washed away in the Redeemer's blood: and, fixed as your corruptions are, they may all be rooted out by the operation of his holy Spirit on your souls. Reconciliation is made for you through the blood of the cross; so that God, from being your enemy, is ready to become your Father and your friend: and, if only you embrace the salvation offered you in the Gospel, all the glory of Heaven shall be yours. Cherish, then, this holy desire: and, in reference to your own souls in particular, be constantly saying, "O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!"

Realizing in his mind the object of his desire, the Psalmist proceeds to view it,

II. As actually attained—

Salvation has been effected by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ: and,

Already has it produced great joy in the world—

To a great extent has the captivity of God's Israel been turned. Thousands and millions, both of Jews and Gentiles, have been delivered from the power of Satan, by whom they were once led captive at his will. And what joy the deliverance occasioned, we well know. On the day of Pentecost. not less than three thousand, who had been pricked to the heart with a sense of sin, were, by the glad tidings of the Gospel, enabled to eat their bread with gladness and singleness of heart, blessing and praising God. And to this hour do all who hear the joyful sound experience the same holy feeling in their souls. Tell me, you who have ever been released from the bonds of sin and Satan, have you not been constrained to say, "My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior?" Yes, in every place where the Gospel comes, and in every bosom where it is received, is "the oil of joy given in the stead of mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."

But what joy will it not excite, when it shall prevail to its full extent?

There is a period yet future, when the Gospel shall be conveyed to all nations, and "all flesh shall see the salvation of God." Then shall the dominion of Satan be altogether broken, and the whole race of mankind be brought to "serve the living God." What joy shall prevail over the face of the whole earth! Truly the descriptions given of it by the Psalmist will fall infinitely short of the reality Psalm 98:1-9; for Heaven itself will then appear to have come down upon the earth Revelation 21:2-4, and all the glorified saints to have descended to swell the chorus of the redeemed Revelation 20:4.

From hence, then, we may learn,

1. What conversion is—

Whatever mystical representations be given of it, it is simply this, "a turning of us from the captivity" of sin and Satan, and bringing us "into the glorious liberty of the children of God." This it was for which the Savior came into the world: and this it is which he effects, in all who are partakers of his salvation. Let any say whether it be not a proper object of desire, or whether a captive soul can ever desire it too much.

2. What should be our great aim in life—

The deliverance, to whoever it is given, is only gradual: "the flesh will yet lust against the Spirit, as well as the Spirit against the flesh; so that, to the latest hour of our lives, we shall not be able to do all that we could wish Galatians 5:17." Even the Apostle Paul, after having served the Lord for twenty years, yet was constrained to cry, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me Romans 7:24." To grow then in grace should be the daily object of our ambition: and to "put off the old man, and put on the new," should be the one labor of our souls: nor should we ever cease from this labor, until we have attained the full measure of the stature of Christ.

3. What should endear to us the thoughts of death—

Death will break all our chains, and set us at perfect liberty. While here, we still are complaining that "we are tied and bound with the chain of our sins." But no complaint shall ever be heard in Heaven. There we shall be "pure, as Christ is pure;" and "perfect, as our Father who is in Heaven is perfect." Let us learn, then, to look on death as a friend, and to number it among our richest treasures 1 Corinthians 3:22. That it is disarmed of its sting, is no mean part of our present joy: and that it shall translate us into the immediate presence of our God, is sufficient to make us pant for its arrival, "desiring to depart and to be with Christ, as far better" than the happiest lot that can be enjoyed on earth Philippians 1:23.

 

 

Psalms 15:1-5

 

DISCOURSE 511

CHARACTER OF THOSE THAT SHALL BE SAVED

Psalm 15:1-5. Lord, who shall abide in your tabernacle? who shall dwell in your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart. He who backbites not with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his neighbor. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned: but he honors them that fear the Lord. He who swears to his own hurt, and changes not. He who puts not out his money to usury; nor takes reward against the innocent. He that does these things shall never be moved This psalm is one of those appointed to be read on Ascension Day; not because it relates to Christ's ascension, but because it drawn the character of those who, like him, shall be admitted into Heaven.

IN the ministry of the Gospel, every subject must occupy that measure of attention which seems to have been paid to it in the Holy Scriptures. We must not be deterred from speaking of the principles of Christianity, because some despise them as evangelical; nor must we omit the practical parts of our religion, because others may discard them as legal. We should be equally ready to consider every part of God's revealed will, neither rejecting any, nor magnifying any beyond its due importance. The psalm before us is altogether of a practical nature. On what occasion it was written, we are not informed: but we think it not improbable, that it was composed after David had carried up the ark to Mount Zion, and placed it in the tabernacle. From that event, he would be naturally led to reflect on the character of those who would be approved of God in ministering before it, and, consequently, to depict the character of those who should be counted worthy to serve God in his temple above.

Agreeably to this view of the psalm, we may consider it as containing,

I. An inquiry into the character of those who shall be saved—

We must remember, that the inquiry does not respect the way of salvation, but the character of those who shall be saved. Had it related to the way of salvation, the great doctrines of "repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ" must of necessity have been set forth: however they might have been expressed in terms suited to that dispensation, they could not possibly have been omitted. But the inquiry is simply this; What is the character, and what the conduct, of those who shall be finally admitted into that true tabernacle which God himself has erected in Heaven? And can there be any inquiry more important?

observe,

1. What is implied in the inquiry itself—

Certainly it implies, that all will not be saved. And this is a truth which our blessed Lord has confirmed beyond a doubt Matthew 7:13-14. Some dream of annihilation; and some of Heaven: but what a fearful disappointment will multitudes experience! Yes: "fearfulness will surprise them;" and, instead of dwelling in the bosom of their God, they will "dwell with devouring fire, even with everlasting burnings Isaiah 33:14."

2. What is implied in it as addressed to Jehovah—

It is of Jehovah himself that David makes the inquiry: for it is Jehovah alone that can answer it aright. Man is partial in his own favor: and, even when constrained to acknowledge that there must be a difference between the righteous and the wicked, he takes care so to draw the line, as to include himself among the number that shall be saved. But God has no respect of persons: his word is fixed: and according to that word shall be the doom of every child of man.

That we may with certainty determine the point, let us see, in this psalm,

II. Their character described—

The children of God are here faithfully described: they are distinguished by,

1. A principle of integrity in their hearts—

It is the very essence of the Christian character to have righteousness and truth residing in the soul: we must be "Israelites indeed, in whom is no deceit." Where a principle of integrity is wanting, nothing can be right. Services, of whatever kind, are of no account with God, if there be not a determination of heart to do whatever he commands. A single eye is that which he approves: and the want of it vitiates all that a man can do, yes, and renders it odious in his sight Isaiah 66:3. We are aware that these assertions are strong: but they do not in the least exceed the truth. John's declarations leave us no room to doubt: "He that does righteousness, is righteous, even as he, that is, Christ himself, is righteous 1 John 2:4; 1 John 2:6; 1 John 3:6-10." The object of the Christian's desires, yes, and of his endeavors too, is universal holiness: he would in all things, as far as possible, "be conformed to Christ," "having the same mind as was in him," and "walking in all things as he walked." He would not willingly retain a right hand or a right eye that caused him to offend: his one labor and ambition is, to "stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." It is an this way that he "puts on the Lord Jesus Christ;" and it is in this way that "Christ becomes all in all See Romans 13:14 and Colossians 3:11; which passages refer, the one to the graces of Christ, and the other to the image of Christ in the soul."

2. A corresponding conduct in their lives—

The particular things enumerated by the Psalmist are for the most part overlooked, as though they were of minor importance: but, in truth, they enter deeply into the Christian character, and will serve as most decisive tests of the existence and measure of our integrity. In true Christians, then, the following marks are found:—

They abstain from uncharitable censures.—Among false professors, even as among the ungodly world, there is a lamentable want of tenderness to the characters of others: they will receive, and circulate, a false report, without ever considering how great an injury they do to him who is thus calumniated. They will suffer their minds to be prejudiced against a brother without any just occasion; and will even feel more alienation from him on account of some quality which they disapprove, than attachment to him for many qualities which render him worthy of their esteem. But the true Israelite will not deal out such measure to his neighbors: he will rather put n favorable construction on the things which admit of doubt, and cast a veil over the faults which are too plain to be denied. He will in this matter conform himself to the golden rule, of 'Doing to others as he would have them do to him.'

They observe equity in estimating the characters of men.—They will not be lenient towards offences in the rich, which they condemn with severity in the poor; nor will they suffer their regards to be influenced by the pride of life or the prejudice of party. Magistrates, indeed, they will reverence as bearing an authority vested in them by God himself; but it is the office that they will reverence; just as Paul reverenced the high priest, notwithstanding the injustice with which he executed his high office; but the despisers of God will, as such, be pitied and contemned by every true Christian; and those who fear God will on that account be loved and honored by him, whatever station they may fill, or to whatever party they may belong. He will from his inmost soul unite in the Apostle's blessing, "Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity."

They adhere strictly to all their engagements.—No Believer will think lightly of his word, and still less of his oath. If he have promised anything, he will on no account go back, even though the performance of the promise should involve him in considerable difficulty. In all financial or commercial transactions, his word will be his bond: no subterfuges will be resorted to, no equivocations, no falsehoods invented, to invalidate his engagement: if he have "sworn to his own hurt," he will submit to the consequences, and discharge his conscience with fidelity. With respect to engagements of a yet more sacred nature, he will exercise the utmost scrupulosity; and not because of any change in his own mind, think himself at liberty to repudiate a betrothed object. If a great moral or religious change have taken place in the one party so as to change the character of that person, and to render him in fact a different person from the one that was betrothed, then the other party may justify a renunciation of the alliance (a man may justly rescind his engagements with a woman who shall depart from the paths of honor and virtue); but it is in the party who remains the same, and not in the party that is changed, that this right resides. Where there are no circumstances of this kind to absolve the Christian, "his yes must be yes, and his nay, nay."

They abhor everything that is sordid and unjust.—Usury was forbidden under the Mosaic Law; and that prohibition, as to the spirit of it, obtains equally under the Gospel. There is a legal interest of money which may fitly and properly be made: but every kind of extortion is worthy of the utmost abhorrence. To take advantage of the ignorance or the necessities of our fellow-creatures, to deceive them in relation to the quality or quantity of the commodities sold to them, to lean unduly to our own interests, and thereby to injure in any respect the interests of others; all this is contrary to the law of love, the law of honesty: and the man who for filthy lucre sake will condescend to such baseness, is unworthy of the Christian name. It matters not what profession of religion he may make, nor how high he may stand in the estimation of those who are unacquainted with his character; he has "the mark of the beast upon him," and will assuredly take his "portion among the hypocrites."

We are aware that many religionists will call this statement legal: but let them remember that Paul himself has given this very description of the Christian's conduct, and has declared, that "those who are children of the light will walk in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth Ephesians 5:8-10." By these fruits must they be judged of, and "by these fruits must they be known."

In relation to persons of this character, we behold with pleasure,

III. Their salvation assured—

Our blessed Lord represents them as persons whose habitation is founded on a rock Matthew 7:24-27, and their stability is assured to them,

1. By the very graces which they exercise—

We do not mean to say, that any man, however eminent, has in himself such a measure of grace, as shall be a safeguard to him under all temptations: for even Paul himself had not in himself "a sufficiency even to think a good thought:" nor can any child of man stand one moment longer than God shall be pleased to uphold him in his everlasting arms: but still God himself has represented "righteousness as a breast-plate," which will resist the darts of our great adversary: and it must be obvious, that they, in whom there is a principle of universal holiness, and whose conduct is so strictly regulated by the commands of God, must be comparatively out of the reach of the tempter. In matters of daily occurrence, the Believer will still have within himself an evidence that he is a fallen creature: he will still be subject to mistakes, and infirmities, and falls; but he will not so fall as to return to the willful practice of iniquity 1 John 3:9, nor so be moved as to "turn back unto perdition."

2. By the express promises of God—

Were the Christian's stability to depend solely on the strength of the gracious principle within him, he would have but little hope of enduring to the end: but God has encouraged us to exert ourselves, and to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling;" in the full persuasion, that "he will give us both to will and to do of his good pleasure." In the Scriptures, both Prophets and Apostles concur in giving us this assurance. Isaiah speaks almost the very language of our text: he draws the very same character almost in the very same terms; and then declares, that this person "shall dwell on high," (even "in God's holy hill,") that "his place of defense shall be the munition of rocks: that bread shall be given him, and his waters shall be sure Isaiah 33:15-16." To the same effect Peter speaks: he bids us add to our faith the practice of all social virtues; and then he tells us that "they who do such things shall never fall, ('never be moved,') but shall have an entrance ministered unto them abundantly into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 2 Peter 1:5-11." How "exceeding great and precious are such promises" as these! How delightful is it to hear God himself engaging to "keep the feet of his saints," and that "the righteous shall hold on his way, and that he who has clean hands (the very persons described in our text) shall wax stronger and stronger Job 17:9." Let this then stir us up to walk worthy of our high calling; and let us "be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that our labor shall not be in vain in the Lord 1 Corinthians 15:58."

 

Psalms 16:4

 

DISCOURSE 512

SUPERIOR BLESSEDNESS OF TRUE CHRISTIANS

Psalm 16:4. Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another God.

THERE is not, in all the writings of the Old Testament, a portion of Scripture that more fully attests the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus than this. All depended on his resurrection from the dead. And to this psalm both Peter, at the commencement of his ministry to the Jews Acts 2:25-32, and Paul, on his first solemn mission to preach to the Gentiles, made their appeal as predicting the resurrection of the Lord Jesus on the third day Acts 13:31-37. In the beginning of the psalm, David speaks more particularly respecting himself: but even there he declares the blessedness of the Lord's people, and especially of those who were looking forward to the Messiah, beyond all the worshipers of false gods. And the contrast which he there forms will be the subject of our present meditations.

To elucidate it, I will,

I. Confirm the assertion in my text—

It is universally true that "their sorrows are multiplied that hasten after another God. It is realized among,

1. Pagans—

They worship gods of wood and stone: And "their sorrows are universally and greatly multiplied." The very instant they begin to feel a sense of guilt upon their souls, there is nothing so painful but they will do it, in order to conciliate the favor of their gods. The offering of human sacrifices, to which I apprehend the Psalmist refers See the words following our text, which refer to the cruel and idolatrous usages of the Canaanites, the very names of whose idols were forbidden to be named, sufficiently attests this: and the self-devotion of those who, at this day, cast themselves under the wheels of the temple of Juggernaut, in order to sacrifice their lives to that detestable idol, places beyond a doubt the miseries sustained by idolaters, even where civilization is in other respects very considerably advanced.

2. The votaries of this world—

Look at those who are "serving divers lusts and pleasures," and seeking happiness in the gratification of their own passions. Is the licentious fornicator, or the base adulterer, happy? No: they hate the light: they are ashamed to be seen in the pursuit of their unhallowed practices: and they contract a load of guilt, which, in hours of reflection, surely oppresses their minds, and renders them afraid to meet their God. Even in temporal matters, the follower of forbidden pleasures often suffers to a great extent: and what he suffers in the eternal world, let the Rich Man, who disregarded the suit of Lazarus, attest. Truly, whether pleasures, riches, or honors be thus idolized, they heap distress and anguish on their votaries, both in this world and in the world to come.

3. The followers of a legal and Pharisaic righteousness—

This, too, is idolatry, no less than the indulgence of covetousness, lewdness, or any other corrupt propensity. And what a load, yes, what an insupportable burden, does it entail! The Pharisees of old were far from happy: and so are the Papists now; for, while they have recourse to rites of man's device, instead of seeking acceptance through the atoning blood of Christ, they put their own good works in the place of Christ's, and accumulate to themselves sorrows without end. But what shall we say of the disappointment they will feel on entering into the presence of their God? They thought to purchase Heaven: but the inadequacy of their efforts will instantly appear, and the impiety of their conceits be visited with suitable expressions of God's merited indignation.

Connected as this assertion is with all the following context, I shall be led to,

II. Contrast it with the state of the Lord's people—

If it be true that "their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another God," it is no less true, on the other hand, that their joys shall be multiplied that hasten after the Lord "Jesus Christ, who is the true God and eternal life 1 John 5:20." Yes, truly, they shall greatly rejoice; as it is said, "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, rejoice." To them shall be given,

1. Peace of conscience—

This is unknown to any human being, except to him who believes in Christ. Others may have the insensibility of beasts, or the confidence of fanatics: but the tranquility of mind which arises from a sense of God's pardoning love upon the soul is altogether unknown to them. They possess it not. They cannot possess it, because God is not in reality reconciled towards them. There are no means of acceptance with God, but those provided in his Gospel: and, whether men are rejecting his Gospel as infidels, or substituting something else in the place of it, they are equally cut off from all hope of its benefits. But the Believer in Christ is fully accepted of his God: and, "being justified by faith, he has peace with God;" and he may say, with undoubting assurance, "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and my cup verse 5."

2. Holiness of heart and life—

Here, also, the Believer stands elevated above all the rest of mankind. Others may be fair as whited sepulchers: but the Believer is "renewed in his inward man," and transformed into the divine image in righteousness, and true holiness." And need I say what a source of happiness this is? The prophet tells us, that "the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance forever Isaiah 32:17." And to the same effect the Psalmist, speaking in his own as well as in the Messiah's name, informs us: "I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices: my flesh also shall rest in hope verse 8, 9."

3. The prospect and possession of everlasting glory—

He has a title to eternal life, and even the begun possession of it in his soul John 3:36. 1 John 5:11-12. Hence, in the language of David and the Messiah himself, he is privileged to say, "You will not leave my soul in Hell: you will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy: at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore." As to the full enjoyment of Heaven, I attempt not to describe it. No words can paint it; no imagination can conceive it. But it shall be the assured and everlasting possession of all who believe in Christ.

What, then, shall I say?

"Hasten after" this blessed Savior, determining never to relax your diligence, until you have fully "apprehended him, and been finally apprehended of him." See what exertions the Pagans make, in order to please their gods of wood and stone. See, too, with what indefatigable zeal the worldling serves his gods, accounting his whole life little enough for the attainment of the object of his pursuit, whether it be pleasure, or riches, or honor. See also the self-denying exercises of him who is laboring to establish a righteousness of his own, instead of submitting to the righteousness which is of God through faith in Christ. And shall any of these do more for their gods than you for yours? Shall not the Savior of your souls be counted worthy of all that can possibly be done or suffered for him? I say, look at the earnestness of others in the service of false gods, and stand amazed at your lukewarmness in the service of him who has redeemed you to God by his own most precious blood. There is nothing which idolaters of all the different classes will not "give to their respective gods:" and let there be nothing withheld from your Lord and Savior: yes, "give your whole selves See the marginal reading of the text." to him; and let your whole body, soul, and spirit, be sanctified to him, henceforth, and for evermore.

 

 

Psalms 16:5-7

 

DISCOURSE 513

GOD HIMSELF HIS PEOPLE'S PORTION

Psalm 16:5-7. The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: you maintain my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yes, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the Lord, who has given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.

THIS psalm is called "Michtam," that is, A golden psalm. And a golden psalm it is, whether we interpret it of David, or of Christ. To both it is applicable; to David, as a type of Christ; and to Christ, as so typified. In all the word of God there is not a passage on which greater stress is laid, as establishing beyond a doubt the Messiahship of Jesus; to whom alone the latter part of the psalm can with any truth be literally applied Acts 2:25-31; Acts 13:35-37. The former part of it, on the contrary, is much more applicable to David himself. The truth is, I apprehend, that David began to write respecting himself; but was overruled and inspired to speak things which he himself did not fully comprehend, and to declare literally respecting the Messiah, what was only in a very lax sense true in relation to himself. This we know to have been the case with the prophets generally: they were inspired to predict the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, while they themselves understood not their own prophecies 1 Peter 1:10-12. They spoke of one point which was uppermost in their own minds; and God overruled them to speak in language that was applicable rather to another point, which he had ordained them to foretell. Thus did Caiaphas the high priest, when advising that Jesus should be put to death John 11:49-52; and thus did David, in this and several other of his psalms Psalm 22. 40 and 69. We consider the words of our text, together with all that precedes it, as spoken by David respecting himself: and in them we see,

I. The blessed portion of God's people—

They have "God himself for their portion and their inheritance"—

There seems, in this expression, some reference to the custom which obtained of sending to different guests, when assembled at a feast, such a portion as the Master of the feast judged expedient Genesis 43:34. 1 Samuel 1:4-5. But the principal allusion evidently is to the division of the land of Canaan by lot, and the assigning to all the different tribes the portion prepared for them. On that occasion the tribe of Levi was distinguished from all the other tribes in this, that whereas all the rest had a distinct and separate inheritance allotted to them, they had none; the Lord himself vouchsafing to be their inheritance Numbers 18:20. Deuteronomy 18:1-2. The sacrifices which from time to time were offered to the Lord were appointed for their support. Now, in allusion to this, David says, "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup." He was not of the tribe of Levi, but of Judah: and therefore respecting him it could be true only in a spiritual and mystical sense: and in that sense it is equally true respecting every believer at this day. We are all "a kingdom of priests:" and we live altogether upon the great sacrifice, even the flesh of Christ, and the blood of Christ, which were offered for the sins of the whole world. By the very terms of the New Covenant, God, while he takes us for his people, gives himself to us as our God Jeremiah 31:31-33; so that all who believe in Jesus may claim him as their God." This, I say, is not the privilege of Prophets and Apostles only, but of every the weakest believer in the Church of God: for we are expressly told, that "to as many as received him Jesus gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on his name John 1:12." The very instant they believed in Christ, the relation between God and them was formed, and God became their Father, their Friend, their Portion, "their eternal great Reward Genesis 15:1." To us then belongs this privilege as well as to David; and with him we may say, "O my soul, you have said unto the Lord, You are my Lord verse 2."

This portion too is secured to them—

Israel in Canaan were surrounded with enemies on every side: but God, who had allotted to every tribe its portion, engaged to "maintain their lot." Even when all the males assembled thrice a year at Jerusalem, God undertook to be a Protector of their families and their possessions: and to this hour would they have enjoyed their inheritance, if they had not by their transgressions provoked God to forsake them. But us, who have him for our inheritance, he will not forsake: as he has said, "The Lord will not forsake his people; because it has pleased him to make you his people 1 Samuel 12:22;" and again, "I will never leave you; I will never, never forsake you Hebrews 13:3; Hebrews 13:6." Not but that he will punish us for our transgressions: and so punish, as to make us feel what "an evil and bitter thing it is to depart from him: but his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from us, nor suffer his truth to fail Psalm 89:30-35." It is not with us as with Israel in Canaan: they were left to forfeit and to lose their lot: but God, in his mercy, engages to preserve our inheritance for us, and us for it 1 Peter 1:5: and not only "never to depart from us, but so to put his fear in our hearts that we may not depart from him Jeremiah 32:38-40."

Such then is your portion, O believer; and such is your security that it shall be continued to you.

And is such the inheritance of all God's people? We shall not wonder then at,.

II. The feelings which they have in the contemplation of it—

Behold how David expresses,

1. His delight in it—

All the pious among the Israelites would find some reason to be pleased and delighted with the portion that was assigned them. To some their proximity to the sea would be a matter of joy; to others, their pasturage; to others, their rocks and fortresses: so that all in their respective places would say, "The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a goodly heritage." But how well may they adopt that language who have the Lord for their portion? Tell me, Believer, what else can you want? What can add anything unto you? What is there which you do not find in your God? If you possess ever so great a portion of earthly goods, are they not all as dung and dross in comparison of this? Or, if you are destitute even as Lazarus himself, is not all sense of indigence lost in the contemplation of your better wealth? What the worldling has, he holds by a very uncertain tenure, and that only for a moment: but what you have is secured to you by the promise and oath of God, and is to be enjoyed by you with ever-augmenting zest forever and ever. Say, Do you not, in this survey of your inheritance, pity those who can rest in any earthly portion? Are you not ready to weep over those as maniacs, who fancy themselves kings and emperors, while they are but little elevated above the beasts, yes, in some respects inferior to them; because they fulfill in a far less degree the true ends of their creation? Well indeed may you exult when you survey your portion! When you behold the sun and moon and stars, together with this globe whereon you stand, and call to mind, that the Maker of them all is your friend, your portion, your inheritance; methinks it is almost strange that the contemplation is not too much for frail mortality to bear. To be lost in wonder, and be swallowed up in ecstasy, is no more than what may be expected of you from day to day.

2. His thankfulness to God for it—

David clearly saw that of himself he would never have chosen such a portion as this. His earthly mind would have been as groveling as that of others, if God himself had not "counseled him," and discovered to him the vanity of all earthly good. Amidst the various trials which he had endured, God had drawn near to him; and in the night-seasons of affliction had instructed him, and had revealed himself to him in all his beauty and excellency and glory. Thus he had enabled David to make a fair estimate of the portion offered him, as compared with that which the world around him enjoyed. In this view of the mercy given unto him, David says, "I will bless the Lord, who has given me counsel; my reins also instruct me in the night-seasons." And is it not thus with every believer? Do you not know assuredly, that of yourselves you would never have chosen God for your portion? Are you not well convinced, that you would "not have chosen him if he had not chosen you," nor "loved him, if he had not first loved you?" Did you not even hold out against his counsels for a long time, until he forced conviction on your mind, and "made you willing in the day of his power?" If you have been kept awake in the night-seasons, and "your reins instructed you," until with a compunction you were "pricked to the heart;" or, if you have been visited with trials that were necessary to wean you from the things of time and sense, do you not bless him for it, and for "the instruction which he then sealed upon your mind Job 33:15-20." Yes; and with your whole hearts. You see in what a portion you would have rested, if these means had not been used to bring you to a better mind; and, if they had been a thousand times heavier than they were, you would now account them as unworthy of a thought, in comparison of the blessings, to the possession of which they have introduced you. I hear you adoring God, and saying, "I know that in very faithfulness you did afflict me:" for "before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept your law." Go on, then, blessing and praising God; and never forget that "by the grace of God you are what you are."

To those who possess not this portion, I will "give a word of counsel" in the name of the Lord—

Survey the portion of the worldling, and see how empty it is. Look back on all that you have enjoyed, and see how little solid comfort it has afforded: Then survey "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." Think what it must be to say of God, "O God, you are my God;" and of Christ, "You are my Friend, and my Beloved": Then turn to the Holy Scriptures, and see what counsel God has given you there: "Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfies not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness Isaiah 55:1-2." Nothing does God desire more than to give himself to you for a portion, if you will but receive him. He complains, "You will not come unto me that you may have life." "How often would I have gathered you, and given myself to you, but you would not!" Dear Brethren, let God choose your inheritance for you: and he will be as much delighted to enrich your souls, as ever you can be to be enriched by him. Indeed by imparting himself to you, he himself will be enriched: for he regards you as his property, and says of you, "The Lord's portion is his people, and Jacob is the lot of his inheritance Deuteronomy 32:9."

To those who already enjoy this portion, I will offer a word of congratulation—

"Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance Psalm 33:12; yes, "Happy are you, O Israel, O people saved by the Lord Deuteronomy 33:29." I ask not what you possess, or what you want: if you had empires, they could add nothing to you; and if you want bread to eat, it can take but little from you. Look at Paul and Silas when in prison, and their backs torn with scourges: their situation was to them as "the very gate of Heaven Acts 16:25." So, if only you live near to God, and in the near prospect of the eternal world, you also shall be happy under all circumstances whatever. Imitate, for once, the worldling who is just about to take possession of his inheritance: with what joy he surveys it, and anticipates the delight which he will experience in the full possession of it! Thus go you, and survey your inheritance. See the state of those who are now possessed of their entire lot. Behold how they feast in the presence of their God! Think, if you can, what God is to them Revelation 21:4-5; and know, that their bliss is yours, in all its fullness, and forever. Think how you will then "bless the Lord for giving you counsel." Live, then, now as persons sensible of their privileges; and say, as you may well do, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places, and I have a goodly heritage."

 

 

Psalms 16:8-11

 

DISCOURSE 514

CHRIST'S RESURRECTION AND GLORY

Psalm 16:8-11. I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For you will not leave my soul in Hell; neither will you suffer your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life: in your presence is fullness of joy; at your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.

IF the people of God had hope only in this life, they would be in a most pitiable condition; because they are debarred by conscience from the pleasures of sin, and are exposed to a multitude of trials on account of their religion. But their views of immortality bear them up, so that the sufferings of this present time appear to them insignificant, and unworthy of any serious concern. The Psalmist penned this psalm under some deep affliction; which, however, lost all its force as soon as ever he directed his views to the eternal world.

But the words before us can scarcely be applied at all to David in his own person: they are spoken by him rather in the person of Christ, whom he typically represented; and to whom, in the New Testament, they are expressly, repeatedly, and exclusively applied. In this view they are a most remarkable prophecy relating to Christ; and they declare,

I. His support in life—

In an assurance of his Father's continual aid, he was unmoved by any difficulties—

Various were the trials which Jesus was called to endure; but in all he preserved a perfect equanimity. When his sufferings were fast approaching, he spoke of them without any emotions of fear Matthew 20:18-19; when dissuaded from exposing himself to them, he was indignant at the proposal Matthew 16:22-23; when warned of Herod's murderous intentions, he poured contempt on his feeble, unavailing efforts Luke 13:31-33; when standing before Pilate's tribunal, he witnessed a good confession John 18:37. 1 Timothy 6:13; and, alike unmoved by hopes or fears, informed his judge, that the authority exercised by him was both given, and limited, by a superior power John 19:11. He saw God as ever present to support and support him; and was well assured, that as nothing could be done but according to his determinate counsel, so his aid should be all-sufficient for him Psalm 89:21. Isaiah 42:1. Hence in the whole of his deportment he maintained an invincible firmness, a dignified composure. At all times he acted on the principles described by the Prophet Isaiah, and fulfilled in the utmost extent his prophecy concerning him Isaiah 50:7-9.

Nor need the weakest of his members fear, if they look for support from the same quarter—

Many of God's people have experienced the very same support as was enjoyed by Christ. David's friends endeavored to create in his mind desponding fears: but his confidence in an almighty Protector kept him steadfast Psalm 11:1-4; and determined him to preserve an undaunted spirit, however great or multiplied his trials might be Psalm 27:1; Psalm 27:3. Paul also, in the view of certain and accumulated troubles, could say, "None of these things move me Acts 20:23-24." Thus may every believer triumph. The man who trusts in God is in an impregnable fortress, that has salvation for walls and bulwarks Isaiah 26:1. Psalm 125:1, Psalm 125:2. If only our eyes be opened to see clearly, we may behold ourselves, like Elisha, encompassed with chariots of fire and horses of fire; and may laugh at the impotent attempts of men or devils 2 Kings 6:16-17.

The more immediate scope of the prophecy is to declare,

II. His comfort in death—

Our blessed Lord submitted cheerfully to his death in a certain expectation of a speedy resurrection—

Greatly as he was oppressed and overwhelmed with sorrow, he yet restrained not his tongue This is meant by "my glory" rejoices. from joyful acknowledgments. His last discourses, and his intercessory prayer, abundantly testify the composure of his spirit, and the elevation of his mind. Look we for the ground of his consolation? we shall find it in those repeated expressions, "I go to my Father;" "Father, I come to you John 16:28; John 17:11." He knew that his flesh, that holy thing formed in the virgin's womb Luke 1:35, and which he gave for the life of the world John 6:51, should never become an abomination Christ's resurrection on the third day was typified by that ordinance of the law, Leviticus 7:17-18, but that, though immured in the silent tomb, it should be raised thence, before it could corrupt: and that his soul, though separate from it for a season, should soon be re-united to it, to be a joint partaker of the same kingdom and glory.

Such consolation too have all his members in a dying hour—

Christ rose, not as a private individual, but as "the first-fruits of them that slept 1 Corinthians 15:20." And every one that believes in him may consider death as a sleep, and the grave as a bed whereon he is to rest Acts 7:60. Isaiah 57:2. until the morning of the resurrection. The bodies of the saints are indeed doomed to death and corruption on account of sin Romans 8:10; but they shall be raised again, and fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body Philippians 3:21; this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality 1 Corinthians 15:53-54. In expectation of this, the martyrs of old would not accept deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection Hebrews 11:35; and, in the hope of it, we also may put off this tabernacle with joy, knowing that it shall be reared anew in a far better form 2 Corinthians 5:1-2."

Connected with this hope in his death, we behold,

III. His prospect in eternity—

The state to which Jesus was to rise was a state of inconceivable and endless glory—

No sooner were death and the grave vanquished by Jesus in the resurrection, and he was thereby "declared to be the Son of God with power," than the way to the regions of glory was opened to him; that way, which, with myriads of attendant angels, he trod soon afterwards, that he might receive all the fruits of his victorious death. Then sat he down at the right hand of his Father, not any more to taste a cup of sorrow, but to possess a fullness and perpetuity of unutterable joy. Blessed prospect! well might he be animated by it in the midst of all his trials; and, for the joy set before him, endure the cross, and despise the shame Hebrews 12:2.

Such too are the delightful prospects of all his saints—

They see, in the death and resurrection of Christ, the way to Heaven opened: and, if they look to him as the resurrection and the life John 11:25-26, a fullness and perpetuity of joy awaits them also at their departure hence. Who can conceive what happiness they will feel in the vision and fruition of their God Revelation 21:3-4; Revelation 21:21-22. Well may they long "to depart, that they may be with Christ;" and account all their afflictions light and momentary, in the view of that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, with which they will be crowned in the day of the Lord Jesus 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

Infer,

1. What rich sources of consolation does faith open to believers under all their troubles!

Faith beholds God always present, always active, to support his people: it looks forward also to the future state both of body and soul, enabling us to weigh the concerns of time and eternity in the scale together, and thereby to see the vanity of the one in comparison of the other. To be happy, therefore, we must live by faith.

2. How certain is the salvation of those who believe in Christ!

If Jesus be the Messiah, and have in himself a sufficiency for the salvation of his people, then have we nothing to do but to believe in him. But Peter, quoting the entire text, infers from it the certainty of his Messiahship Acts 2:25-28; Acts 2:36; and Paul, referring to the same, infers his sufficiency to save his people Acts 13:35-39. Let us then make him our refuge, our foundation, and our ALL.

 

 

Psalms 17:15

 

DISCOURSE 515

THE MAN OF GOD

Psalm 17:15. As for me, I will behold your face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with your likeness.

IN respect of outward appearance, there is but little difference between "the man of God," and "the men of this world": But, in their inward principle, they are as far asunder as light from darkness. The Psalmist here contrasts them,

I. In their desires—

The men of this world affect only the things of time and sense—

"They have their portion in this life." Pleasure, riches, honor, are the great objects on which their affections are set, and in the attainment of which they suppose happiness to consist. For these they labor with incessant care: and if they may but transmit this portion in rich abundance to their children, they bless themselves, as having well discharged the offices of life.

The man of God has his affection set rather upon things invisible and eternal—

There is a remarkable decision manifest in that expression, "As for me," I will do so and so. It resembles the determination of Joshua; who, if all Israel should forsake the Lord, declared this to be his fixed resolution, "As for me, and my house, we will serve the Lord."

In that other expression, too, "I will behold your face in righteousness," there is, I think, a peculiar delicacy and beauty. It is not merely "I will seek your favor," or, "I will follow after righteousness;" but I will seek your favor in the only way in which it can ever be obtained, namely, in an entire compliance with your holy will, as revealed in your blessed word. In this view it imports, "I will seek your favor in the way of penitential sorrow; for how shall an impenitent sinner ever find acceptance with you?: "I will seek it in a way of believing confidence:" for you are never more pleased than when a perfect reliance is placed on your dear Son, and in "your promises, which in him are yes, and in him Amen": "I will seek it in a way of incessant watchfulness:" for if I practice iniquity in my life, or "regard it in my heart," you can never receive me to mercy: "I will seek it also in a way of universal holiness:" for it is the obedient soul alone on which you can ever look with delight and delight.

We mean not to say that "the man of God is perfect;" for there is yet much imperfection cleaving to him: but we do say, that, in the habitual desires and purposes of his soul, he accords with the description here given.

Nor do the two characters differ less,

II. In their prospects—

"The men of this world" can hope for nothing but disappointment—

Admitting that they attain the summit of their ambition, they only grasp a shadow. Possess what they may, they feel an aching void, a secret something unpossessed: "In the midst of their sufficiency they are in straits." As for an eternal state, they do not even like to think of it: their happiness depends on banishing it from their thoughts; and if at any time it obtrude itself upon their minds, it brings a cloud over their brightest prospects, and casts a damp over their richest enjoyments.

Not so "the man of God:" his pursuits are productive of the most solid satisfaction—

Even in this life he has a portion which he accounts better than ten thousand worlds: so that in him is fulfilled what our blessed Lord has spoken, "He who comes to me, shall never hunger; and he who believes in me, shall never thirst." He has gained a superiority to earthly things, which no other man, whatever he may boast, is able to attain: But when, at the resurrection of the just, he shall "awake" to a new and heavenly state, how rich will be his satisfaction then! Then will he "behold God face to face:" then, too, will he have attained God's perfect image in his soul: and then will he possess all the glory and felicity of Heaven. Could we but follow him into the presence of his God, and behold him in the full enjoyment of all that he here desired and pursued, methinks we should every one of us adopt the Psalmist's determination, and say, "As for me, this shall be my one desire, my uniform endeavor, and the one great object of my whole life".

Observe,

1. How wise is the Christian's choice!

The world may deride it as folly, if they will: but I appeal to every man who possesses the least measure of common sense, whether he do not in his heart approve the very things which with his lips he ventures to condemn? Yes; there is not one, however averse he may be to live the Christian's life, who does not wish to "die his death;" nor one, however he may dislike the Christian's way, who does not wish, if it were possible, to resemble him in his end. Let it be a fixed principle, then, in all your minds, that "the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding"

2. How happy is the Christian's way!

Because the Christian renounces the vanities of the world, those who have no other source of happiness than the world, imagine that he is deprived of all his pleasures. But we might as well represent a philosopher as robbed of his happiness, because he has ceased to amuse himself with the trifles which pleased him in the years of childhood. The Christian has lost his taste for the vanities which he has renounced: "While he was a child, he occupied himself as a child: but when he became a man, he put away childish things." He now has other pursuits, and other pleasures, more worthy of his advanced age, and more becoming his enlarged mind. When the question is asked, "Who will show us any good?" His answer is, "Lord, lift you up the light of your countenance upon me!" Know you then, Brethren, that, however deeply the Christian may mourn over his short-comings and defects, and however ill he may be treated by an ungodly world, he is incomparably happier than any ungodly man can be. What says our blessed Lord to "the poor, the mourners, the meek, the pure, the righteous? Blessed, blessed, blessed, are you all." On the contrary, upon "the rich, the full, the mirthful, he denounces nothing but woe, woe, woe." Be assured, then, that they only are blessed who seek the Lord; and that "in keeping his commandments there is great reward"

 

 

Psalms 18:1-3

 

DISCOURSE 516

GOD THE ALL-SUFFICIENT PORTION OF HIS PEOPLE

Psalm 18:1-3. I will love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from my enemies.

FROM the persecutions of God's saints in former ages, we derive this most important benefit: we see what was the power of divine grace in them for their support, and what its efficacy was to purify and exalt their souls. Had David never been oppressed by Saul, and never been driven from his throne by Absalom, what loss should we have sustained, in those devout compositions which were written in the midst of his trials, and which have brought down to us all the workings of his mind under them! In truth, no one can understand the Psalms of David, so as to enter into the spirit of them, unless he have been called, in some considerable degree, to suffer for righteousness' sake. The psalm before us was penned by David as an acknowledgment of the deliverances that had been given to him from the hands of Saul, and of all his other enemies. And a sublimer composition can scarcely be found, in all the records of antiquity.

In the words which we have just read, we see,

I. An ebullition of his gratitude—

His mind was evidently full of his subject. He had been contemplating the wonderful goodness of God to him: and he bursts forth into this devout rapture: "I will love you, O Lord, my strength!" Commentators have observed, that the word which is here used, expresses all that is tender and affectionate, and implies in it the strongest emotion of the soul. And this was justly called forth by his view of the divine perfections, and by his sense of God's unbounded kindness towards him.

And if he, from a sense of temporal mercies, was so inflamed with love to God, what should not we feel towards our incarnate God, the Lord Jesus Christ, in a review of all the wonders of Redeeming Love?

View the Savior in his personal excellencies; and then say what should be our feelings towards him: View him in the offices which he has sustained for us, as the Prophet, Priest, and King of his church; and then think what are the ejaculations which become you: View him in the blessings you have already experienced at his hands; and, while you adopt the language of the prophet, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength," tell me with what frame of mind you should utter these words: It is said, that, "not having seen him, we nevertheless love him; and that, believing in him, we rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and glorified:" and sure I am, that the glorified saints around the throne should scarcely exceed us in the ardor of our affections, while we exclaim, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." In this, then, the Psalmist should be a pattern to us. We should be so in the habit of contemplating the Savior's love, that the involuntary ebullition of our minds should be, "I do love you, and I will love you, O Lord, my strength; yes, I will love you with all the powers of my soul" This, I say, should be the language of our souls, when our feelings, too big for utterance, can at last find vent in words.

In connection with this rapturous exclamation we have,

II. A profession of his faith—

David, from diversified trials, was forced to become a man of war; and to seek, by a mixture of courage and of skill, a deliverance from his enemies. Under the persecutions of Saul especially, he had recourse to strong holds and fortresses, where he might withstand his too powerful oppressor. But it was in God alone that he really found protection. As means, he had availed himself of local advantages, and personal courage, and armor both of a defensive and offensive kind: but it was God alone who had rendered them effectual for his preservation; and therefore he gives all the glory to God, saying, "The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler (to defend me), and the horn of my salvation (by whom I thrust down all my enemies), and my high tower."

And shall not we, who have so much stronger enemies to contend with, acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as standing in all these relations to us for our salvation?

Yes, in truth, long since had our great adversary the devil prevailed against us, if our adorable Emmanuel had not interposed for our deliverance. In him we have found refuge from all the curses of God's broken law: By him have we been strengthened in our inner man: And from him have we received the armor of heavenly temper, by which we have been enabled to maintain our conflict with all the enemies of our salvation: If we have been "strong, it has been in the Lord; and in the power of his might;" and it is he who must have all the glory of our preservation.

Behold, then, in what terms we should give glory to our great deliverer! We should acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as our "all in all." And, while we give him the glory of all that we have already received, we should trust him for all our future conflicts: and, contemplating fully all the powers that there are in him, we should learn to appropriate all of them to ourselves, and to say, "He is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; MY buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower." There should not be anything in the Lord Jesus Christ but we should make it our own by faith, and claim it as our own in all the conflicts to which we may be called: and in every time of trial we should address him in the words of Thomas, "my Lord, and my God."

To this the blessed Psalmist adds,

III. A declaration of his purpose—

He did not think that God's relation to him would justify remissness or negligence on his part. On the contrary, he regarded it as his encouragement to call upon the Lord, and as a pledge to him of certain success.

And we, too, must bear in mind, that all our mercies must be obtained by prayer; and that in no other way can we hope to be saved from our enemies.

We see how David prayed in a time of great trial: "Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight you against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for my help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am your salvation Psalm 35:1-3." It was thus that he brought down support from on high, in every time of need. And it is in the same way that we must obtain help of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Though his promises to us are so free and full, yet "he will be inquired of, to do these things for us Ezekiel 36:37;" and "if we ask not, neither shall we have." Moreover, we must acknowledge him in all that we have already received, and confess him as "worthy to be praised:" for the command is, "In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God: and the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." It is in this way alone that victory can be secured: but if we use these means, we are certain to obtain it. If we live in the habit of fervent and believing prayer, we may, in the midst of conflicts, exult as "more than conquerors;" and behold, by anticipation, our great adversary as already " bruised under our feet Romans 16:20."

From this sublime passage we may see,

1. The true nature of vital religion—

Vital religion is not wholly speculative, nor is it altogether practical; but a compound, if I may so say, of theory and of practice. We must have knowledge, even a knowledge of God in all his perfections, and of the Lord Jesus Christ in all his offices. Without this, there can be no right feeling towards the Supreme Being: no love towards him, no confidence in him, no communion with him. But, with just views of the Deity, we must also have suitable dispositions towards him. In a word, we must have an experience similar to that of David in our text, affecting from our inmost souls a life of communion with God, of dependence on him, and of devotedness to his service. Beloved Brethren, rest not in anything short of this. Let your meditations on God be sweet and frequent: and let them be renewed, until they have kindled a flame of love in your souls towards him, and until the daily language of your heart be, "Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name."

2. The folly of those who seek not after God—

Compare the Psalmist's experience with your own: What refuge have you in a time of trouble, or what comfort in reflecting upon God? Alas! instead of the blessed language of David, you must rather say, "O God, I behold nothing in you that I can appropriate to myself; nothing but what may well fill me with alarm and terror." As for love to God, you know not what it means: and for confidence in him you have not the smallest ground: no, nor have you any access to him in the hour of necessity. Hence you are a prey to your enemies, and "are led captive by the devil at his will." Unhappy creatures! You may go on your appointed time, and may hide yourselves from the danger to which you are exposed: but your state is only the more pitiable in proportion as you are lulled in fatal security. If they are right who resemble the Psalmist, you can have no clearer evidence that you yourselves are out of the way of peace and salvation. And were there no future state of existence, your loss would be great even in this world: but when we take eternity into the account, your prospect is terrible indeed: for, if you do not love God now, you cannot love him when you go hence: if you do not possess an interest in him here, you can have no interest in him hereafter: if you do not live near to him in prayer in this world, you never can unite with the heavenly hosts in their songs of praise to him in the eternal world.

 

 

Psalms 18:23

 

DISCOURSE 517

BESETTING SINS

Psalm 18:23. I kept myself from mine iniquity.

NOTHING is a richer source of comfort to any man than the testimony of his own conscience that he has acted right: for, if our own heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God. Paul enjoyed this in a pre-eminent degree: "Our rejoicing," says he, "is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world 2 Corinthians 1:12." And, in the whole of his conduct towards Saul, David could appeal to God himself, that he had demeaned himself as a loyal subject, and had rendered nothing but good for all the evil that he had received at his hands. "They," Saul and his followers, "prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me, because he delighted in me. The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands has he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me; and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity"

It is my intention to inquire,

I. What is that iniquity which we may properly call our own?

There are in every individual of our fallen race the seeds of all sin. But, as in different soils some plants will flourish more than others, so in different men are different propensities, which, growing to maturity, become prominent and characteristic features of the different individuals. There is, more or less, in every one some "sin which more easily besets him Hebrews 12:1;" and which, therefore, may be justly called his own, as having taken the fuller possession of his soul, and as serving to distinguish him from others. That may be called our own,

1. To which, from outward circumstances, we are most exposed—

This I suppose to be the precise case with David in my text. He was persecuted by Saul with most unrelenting cruelty: and was strongly tempted, both by his friends and by a regard for his own safety, to avail himself of the opportunities which were afforded him of destroying his enemy 1 Samuel 24:2-15; 1 Samuel 26:6-12. Now, by birth and education, men are exposed to widely different temptations; as Agur intimated, when he prayed, "Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches: feed me with food convenient for me; lest I be full, and deny you, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain Proverbs 30:8-9." Men also are subjected to evils incidental to their different vocations in life. those who move in a higher sphere, under the influence of proud and ambitious thoughts, are led to seek their own advancement at the expense of others. Those of the middling classes, who are engaged in mercantile transactions, are but too prone to indulge an inordinate desire of wealth: while those of the lowest rank are apt to yield to the unhallowed emotions of murmuring and discontent. When John the Baptist saw persons of different vocations coming to his baptism, he particularly adverted to their respective occupations, to guard them against the evils incident to each; warning the publicans against exaction, and the soldiers against rapacity Luke 3:12-14; and thus showing how all, in every department of life, are bound to watch against the sins to which their peculiar callings more immediately expose them. From our connections and relations in life we also are subjected to many evils which tend to form and fix our character. Are we surrounded by those who are mirthful and dissipated? we are apt to contract a taste for gaiety and folly. Are our nearest relations worldly, carnal, covetous, ambitious? we are apt to drink into their spirit, and to be greatly influenced by their example: as it is said of Joram, king of Judah, "He walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab: for the daughter of Ahab was his wife; and he did evil in the sight of the Lord 2 Kings 8:18,."

2. To which, from inward dispositions, we are most inclined—

Even in the earliest infancy there will be found widely different dispositions in children of the same parents: and as the children grow up to manhood, these form, in a very great degree, their distinctive characters through life. Doubtless these dispositions may be abated in some, and strengthened in others, according to the occasions that may arise for their nourishment or suppression: they may also vary with the different periods of their life. But, whatever be a man's leading disposition, it will expose him to temptation, and he will be likely to be betrayed into sin by means of those things which are calculated to gratify his peculiar desire. In other matters he may maintain a blameless deportment: or, if he have erred, may easily renounce his errors: but on the side of his darling lust he will be in danger of falling; even as Herod, who would obey in many respects the admonitions of John the Baptist Mark 6:18-28, but, when called to put away his beloved Herodias, would rather sacrifice the life of his Monitor than comply with his advice? Let the besetting propensity be what it may, on that side will be our danger, and the sin arising from it is that which we need to guard against as most peculiarly our own.

3. To which, from habit, we are most addicted—

Habit is, indeed, a second nature; and an Ethiopian may as easily change his skin, or a leopard his spots, as we can put away an evil to which we have been long accustomed. A man that has long yielded to fretfulness and impatience will never want occasions whereon to show the irritability of his mind. A person who has given way to impurity, will contract such a propensity to the indulgence of it, that his very "eyes will be full of adultery, and he cannot cease from sin 2 Peter 2:14.", even when there are not before him any objects to call it forth; his own polluted imagination furnishing him with plenty of fuel for his unhallowed fire. "The backslider in heart," we are told, "shall be filled with his own ways Proverbs 14:14;" from whence we see, that habit gives to our lusts a certain property in us, and to us a certain property in them; insomuch, that as there is a mutual indwelling between God and the believing soul, so is there also between a sinner and the lusts with which, from habit, he has obtained a more than ordinary familiarity: so true is that declaration of the Apostle, that, whatever be a man's outward temptations, he is, in fact, "drawn away of his own lust, and enticed James 1:14."

If, from what has been said, we have any insight into our besetting sin, let us proceed to inquire,

II. How far we are able to adopt the language of the Psalmist in relation to it?

Certainly, we are all deeply interested in this matter. Let me, then, press home upon you the following inquiries:

1. How far have you discovered your besetting sin?

It is surprising to what an extent men in general are blinded in reference to it. All around them see it easily enough, while they themselves are strangers to it. All their acquaintance will say, This is a proud man; that a passionate man; that a covetous man; that an uncharitable and censorious man; that a querulous and discontented man. But, however clear men's characteristic infirmities are to others, they are hid from themselves: and in many cases men not only veil their faults under some specious name, but actually take credit to themselves for those very peculiarities as constituting their most distinguishing virtues. The proud man, who for a slight offence will shed the blood of an acquaintance, calls himself a man of honor. The ambitious man, who slaughters thousands and tens of thousands in order to extend his empire, when he has already far more than he knows well how to govern, is called a conqueror, and values himself upon that as entitling him to the admiration of mankind. And the man who is, with insatiable avidity, amassing wealth, applauds himself as prudently providing for his family. And if a man's faults be too glaring to be turned into virtues, he will extenuate them under the name of trivial errors, or youthful indiscretions. But, Beloved, if this be your state, you are yet in darkness and the shadow of death. The very first step towards the knowledge of a Savior is the knowledge of yourselves: and if you possess not that, all your other knowledge, whatever it may be, will be in vain.

2. How far have you watched and prayed against it?

With all our self-love, our besetting sin may be so glaring and dominant that we cannot but know it. Still, however, we may not be humbled under a sense of it, but, like King Saul, may be returning to it again and again, after all our acknowledgment of its vileness. But it is not thus with an upright soul. He will say with indignation, "What have I to do any more with idols? "And if he has been foiled in one and another attempt to subdue his lusts, he will be more and more earnest in prayer to God for grace sufficient for him, that, "through the influences of the Holy Spirit, he may mortify the deeds of the body Romans 8:13," and "preserve himself unspotted," though in the midst of a polluting and ensnaring world James 1:27.

See, also, whether you watch against the occasions that may call forth your indwelling corruption: and whether you mark the first risings of it in your soul, that you may the more effectually prevent its dominance and defilement? Our Lord's direction is, "Watch and pray, that you enter not into temptation:" and he has provided armor for us, that we may fight against sin in its first assaults. And we may be sure, that, if we be not thus habitually contending with it, we can never with truth assert that we have kept ourselves from it.

3. How far have we actually overcome it?

"One that is born of God cannot commit sin 1 John 3:9," as once he did. God has said, that "sin shall not have dominion over him, because he is not under the law, but under grace Romans 6:14." "The man that obeys sin, is the servant of sin:" and consequently neither is, nor can be, the servant of God Romans 6:16. He may, it is true, still feel the workings of his besetting sin: but then it will be an intolerable burden to him: and while under a sense of its working, he will cry, "Oh, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of sin and death?" he will be enabled to add, "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord Romans 7:18-19; Romans 7:24-25." I again say, its motions may still continue: but its power is broken, and its reign destroyed; so that he is no longer the bond-slave of Satan; for "the truth has made him free: and he is free indeed John 8:32."

That I may enforce this subject on your hearts and consciences, I declare before God and this assembly,

1. That only in proportion as you keep yourselves from your besetting sin, have you any evidence that you are upright before God—

David speaks of his victory over his besetting sin as his evidence of his uprightness before God: "I have been upright before God: for I have kept myself from my iniquity." Now, I beseech you, Brethren, to try yourselves by this test. "If you are Christ's indeed, you have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts Galatians 5:24;" and if you are "Israelites indeed, you are without any known and allowed deceit John 1:47." But I must warn you, that, if you allow any one sin, you cannot be the servants of Jesus Christ: for if you were really his, you would "walk as he walked 1 John 2:6," and "purify yourselves even as he is pure 1 John 3:3."

2. That only in proportion as you keep yourselves from your besetting sin, have you any hope of happiness in the eternal world—

Our blessed Lord has told us plainly, that "a right eye or a right hand retained by us will be the means of casting us into Hell fire Mark 9:43-48." What a terrific thought is this! and how fearful should it make us of self-deception! Truly, we should not be content with searching and trying ourselves, but should beg of God, also, to "search and try us, to see if there be any wicked way in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting Psalm 139:23-24." For, if we should be saved at last, "we must be sincere, and without offence until the day of Christ Philippians 1:10."

 

 

Psalms 18:25-26

 

DISCOURSE 518

EQUITY OF THE DIVINE PROCEDURE

Psalm 18:25-26. With the merciful you will show yourself merciful; with an upright man you will show yourself upright; with the pure you will show yourself pure; and with the froward you will show yourself froward.

IN the present dispensations of Providence, we may behold a far greater measure of equality than is generally imagined: for, not only is the happiness of men less dependent upon outward circumstances than we are apt to suppose, but there is more of just retribution manifested in reference to the conduct of mankind. The ungodly are, for the most part, left to involve themselves in many calamities; while the godly are preserved in peace and quietness. There is sufficient of equality in God's dispensations to mark his superintending care; but sufficient inequality to convince us, that there shall be a day of future retribution, when the whole of the divine government shall be justified in the sight of the assembled universe.

The passage before us may be considered as relating to both periods. The Psalmist is returning thanks to God, for having interposed in his behalf to vindicate his integrity against the accusations of his enemies: "The Lord has recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eye-sight Psalm 18:24." He then goes on to speak of the general system of the divine government, as begun on earth, and as completed in the eternal world: "With the merciful you will show yourself merciful," etc. etc.

From these words, I shall take occasion to show the equity of the divine procedure,

I. In the punishment of the ungodly—

The day of judgment is called " the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God; because God will then render unto every man according to his deeds Romans 2:5-6." Whatever may have been the conduct of men, the divine conduct towards them shall be in exact accordance with it.

Consider, now, what has been your conduct,

1. Towards God—

You have felt in your hearts no esteem for him; you have preferred every vanity, and even the basest lust, before him: you have not willingly entertained the thought of him in your minds: you have, in effect, "said to him, Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of your ways." About his favor you have felt but little concern: nor has it been a matter of any importance in your eyes, whether he was pleased or displeased, honored or dishonored. In vain has he called, invited, entreated, expostulated: you have had no disposition to attend to his voice, no heart to comply with his will: and when he has threatened you with his everlasting displeasure, you have set him at nothing, and determined to go on in your own ways, whatever might be the consequence.

What now will be the result of this in the last day? God will deal with you as you have dealt with him. "You would not have any thing to do with me: I therefore will have nothing to do with you. You put me far from you: now I put you far from me. You preferred everything before my favor: expect, therefore, no favor at my hands. It was a pain to you to come into my presence: you shall never be troubled with my presence more. You chose sin, with all its consequences, rather than me and my kingdom: take now, and take forever, the portion you have chosen."

2. Towards the Lord Jesus Christ—

The Savior has died to effect a reconciliation between God and sinful men; and has offered to cleanse you in his own blood, and to clothe you in the spotless robe of his righteousness, that you may stand before God without spot or blemish. But you would not come to him for his benefits: you have not approved of the offers he has made you: they have been too humiliating for your proud hearts. You have not liked to acknowledge your need of him: you have preferred being a Savior to yourselves: and have chosen rather to stand or fall by your own righteousness than to submit to the righteousness provided for you by him. In vain has he warned you against the danger of unbelief: you would not see any danger attending it. If you have made any use of Christ at all, it has been rather to encourage a hope of salvation in a sinful and unconverted state than to obtain from him the grace of which you have stood in need.

And what will be the return made to you? "You have rejected my Son," God will say: "you shall therefore have no part in him. You would not submit to be washed by him from your sins: your sins, therefore, shall cleave unto you. You would not seek deliverance from condemnation through him: under condemnation, therefore, shall you lie. You would not take him as a Savior in any one respect: therefore he shall be no Savior to you. You made no use of him, but to warrant and justify your continuance in sin: therefore you shall be left forever in your sins, and have no part with him to all eternity. The whole tenor of your life has been to this effect, 'We will not have this man to reign over us:' and therefore from him and his kingdom you shall be separated forever."

3. Towards your own souls—

You have not cared about them, or sought their happiness. You have been mindful only of earthly things. Your ease, pleasure, interest, honor, with the approbation of men, have been more to you than any concern pertaining to the soul. Pardon, peace, holiness, glory, have all been, in your esteem, of small account, in comparison of some temporal advantage. And, when warned what must be the issue of such a life, you have determined to run the risk, and to endure the consequences of impenitence, rather than put yourselves to the pain and trouble of repenting. Heaven has had no value, in comparison of some vain indulgence; nor Hell any terror, in comparison of the pain of self-denial, and the shame of ridicule from an ungodly world.

According, therefore, as you have sowed, you shall reap: "You have sown to the flesh, and of the flesh you shall reap corruption." God will say to you, "Your soul shall be of as little value in my eyes, as it was in yours, Heaven was not worth seeking: you shall not have it. Hell was not worth avoiding: you shall take your portion in it. You were satisfied with things temporal: you shall have nothing beyond them. You did not even desire a happiness that is eternal: you shall never have it obtruded upon you, but shall be left destitute of it forever and ever. You chose to wrestle with me, and walk contrary to me: continue now your fruitless contest to all eternity, while I walk contrary to you, and 'wrestle See the marginal rendering of verse 26.' with you. You have been the authors of your own destiny: and by your own choice you must abide forever and ever."

The same mode of proceeding is observed by God,

II. In the rewarding of the godly—

Mark how he will act towards,

1. The penitent—

It is a grief to you that you have ever sinned against so good a God: you are ashamed; you blush and are confounded when you look back upon your ways: you even loath and abhor yourselves in dust and ashes; and if you could, by any means, undo what you have done amiss, you would do anything, or suffer anything, that it were possible for you to do or suffer, to effect it.

How, then, will God deal with you? Do you repent of the evil you have done against me? He will say: Then "I will repent of all the evil which I have thought to do against you Exodus 32:9-14. Jeremiah 18:7-8; Jeremiah 26:13." Are you saying, How shall I appear before my God? He will say, "How shall I give you up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver you up, Israel? How shall I make you as Admah? How shall I set you as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together: I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger Hosea 11:8-9." Does he behold you smiting on your thigh, with indignation against yourself, as a vile rebellious wretch? He will construe it as an evidence of your relation to him, and will appeal in your behalf to the whole universe, "Is he not a dear son? Is he not a pleasant child? For since I spoke against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my affections are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, says the Lord Jeremiah 31:19-20." The moment he sees you bewailing bitterly the existence of your sins, he "blots them out of the book of his remembrance," and "casts them irrecoverably into the depths of the sea."

2. The believing—

You are looking to the Lord Jesus Christ, as "set forth by God himself to be the atoning sacrifice for your sins;" and are desiring nothing under Heaven so much as an interest in him.

What, then, will God say to you? 'You shall not be disappointed of your hope. Do you renounce all dependence on yourself? I will not exact of you anything as a justifying righteousness. Do you look to what my dear Son has done and suffered for you, and plead it as the ground of your hope before me? It shall be imputed to you, and be accepted in your behalf. You wash in the fountain opened for sin: it shall cleanse you so perfectly, that you shall stand before me without spot or blemish. You trust in my word: and you shall find me a God of truth. You lay hold on my promises: not one of them shall ever fail you. You are willing to be saved in the way of mine appointment: and according to your faith it shall be unto you. You are hoping for a crown of righteousness and glory, as the purchase of my Son's blood: you shall possess all that he himself possesses, and be "a joint heir with him" of crowns and kingdoms that shall never fail. You have lived upon him: you shall live with him forever and ever.'

3. The obedient—

You have given up yourselves to God in a way of holy obedience; and have encountered much, in order to approve your fidelity to him. To you, then, God will say, "You have been faithful over a few things: be rulers over many things." You acknowledged me as your Master: I acknowledge you as my servants. You regarded me as your Father: I will regard you as my children. To please me was your one aim; and you dared to honor me above all: I will now bless you, and honor you in the sight of the whole assembled universe. You regarded nothing but my favor: you shall have it, and all the tokens of it you can possibly desire. "By patient continuance in well-doing, you sought for glory and honor and immortality; and you shall possess them all, even everlasting life."

ADDRESS—

Now choose you, Brethren, what portion you will have. I venture to assure you, that it shall be unto you according to your desire, provided only that desire operate practically on your heart and life. I know, indeed, that salvation is altogether of grace: but I know, also, that you can never perish, but by your own consent, and purpose, and will. I mean not to say that any one would choose misery for itself, or in preference to happiness: but if you choose the service of Satan, with all its consequences, in preference to the service of God and its attendant benefits, then are you the authors of your own destruction, as much as you are of the conduct leading to it. God has said, respecting the wicked, "Destruction and misery are in their ways:" and to when can you ascribe your arrival at their end, when you are willingly and deliberately walking in their ways? If you will persuade yourselves that "the broad road, which leads to destruction, will bring you to happiness as much as the narrow way that leads unto life," you can blame none but yourselves for the disappointment which you will experience. Prepare then for yourselves such an issue to this present state of things, as you will before long wish that you had secured. Hear God's own direction to you: "Say you to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. But woe to the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given to him Isaiah 3:10-11. ." To the same effect our blessed Lord speaks in his sermon on the mount, declaring that the merciful, the pure, the upright, shall have a portion accorded to them suited to their respective characters Luke 6:37-38. And remember, that if you obtain not eternal life, the fault was only in yourselves, who, when urged and entreated by your God, refused to walk in the way that would have led you to it.

 

 

Psalms 18:50

 

DISCOURSE 519

THANKSGIVING FOR ANY GREAT DELIVERANCE

Psalm 18:50. Great deliverance gives he to his King; and shows mercy to his Anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.

THE Psalm before us is also recorded in the Second Book of Samuel Chapter 22:. There it stands, as it was drawn up at first by David for his own immediate use: but here it is inserted, with some slight alterations and improvements, for the use of the Church in all ages. The title informs us on what occasion it was written, namely, on David's deliverance from the hand of all his enemies, and especially from the hand of Saul. But, as in most of his psalms, so in this, David speaks, not in his own person only, but in the person of the Messiah, whose type he was. It is a composition of very peculiar beauty: the figures are extremely bold, and the poetry is sublime. Of course the expressions are not to be so literally taken, as if they were an unadorned relation of facts: some of them are altogether figurative; and were verified, not at all in the letter, but only in the Spirit: some are more applicable to David himself, and others to Christ: but altogether it is a poem highly wrought, and exquisitely finished. It is our intention to set before you,

I. The diversified import of this psalm—

The psalm admits of a threefold interpretation;

1. Historical, as it relates to David—

David from his youth experienced many troubles.—From the moment that Saul's envy and jealousy were awakened by the fame of David's exploits, this youth became the object of his incessant persecution; insomuch, that he was forced to flee for his life, and for several years was kept in constant fear of falling a sacrifice to the rage of Saul: "The sorrows of death and Hell compassed him," as it were, continually verse 4, 5.

But his deliverances were great and manifold.—Repeatedly did he, almost by miracle, escape the stroke of the javelin that was cast at him; and frequently did God in a visible manner interpose to keep him from falling into the hands of Saul. Once he was in the midst of Said's army, and in the very same cave with Saul: and yet was preserved by God, so that neither Saul nor any of his soldiers could find it in their hearts to touch him. "David in his distress called upon the Lord; and God heard him out of his holy temple," and delivered him verse 6.

These deliverances he acknowledges with devoutest gratitude.—Here the Psalmist, borne as it were on eagle's wings, soars into the highest region of poetic imagery: he calls to mind the wonders which God had wrought for Israel of old, and represents them as renewed in his own experience. The glorious manifestations of Jehovah on Mount Sinai were not more bright in his eyes verse 7–14, nor the passage of Israel through the Red Sea more wonderful verse 15, than were the displays of almighty power and love which he had seen in his behalf verse 16–19. In these deliverances he further acknowledges the equity of God in having so vindicated his character from the undeserved calumnies by which his enemies had sought to justify their cruelty towards him verse 21–27.

From the experiences of past mercies, he expresses his confidence in God under whatever trials might yet await him.—It is delightful to see how careful he is to ascribe all the glory of his preservation to that God who had delivered him verse 28–42; and the full persuasion that his victory would in due time be complete verse 43–45. Then with profoundest gratitude he blesses and adores his heavenly Benefactor for all the mercies he has received; recapitulating as it were, and giving us the substance of the whole, in the words of our text verse 46–50.

Were we to view the psalm only as an historical record, it would be very instructive: but it has a far higher sense: it is,

2. Prophetic, as it relates to Christ—

That it is a prophecy respecting Christ and his Gospel, we are assured by one whose testimony is decisive on the point. Paul, maintaining that Christ, though himself "a minister of the circumcision," was to have his Gospel preached to the Gentiles, and to establish his kingdom over the heathen world, expressly quotes the words immediately preceding our text, as prophetic of that event Romans 15:9. Here therefore we see it proved, that David spoke as a type of Christ; and a clue is given us for a fuller understanding of the whole psalm.

Behold then in this psalm our adorable Redeemer: behold his conflicts! He was indeed "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;" "nor was ever sorrow like unto his sorrow;" "his visage was marred more than any man's, and his form more than the sons of men." How justly it might be said of him, that "the sorrows of Hell encompassed him," we learn from his history: "Now," says he, "is my soul sorrowful even unto death." In the garden he was in such an agony, that he sweat great drops of blood from every pore. And on the cross he uttered the heart-rending cry, My God, my God! why have you forsaken me?" In that hour all the powers of darkness were let loose upon him: and God himself also, even the Father, combined to "bruise him," until he fell a victim to the broken law, a sacrifice, "a curse Galatians 3:13."

But speedily we behold his deliverances. Like David, "he cried to the Lord in his distress:" "he offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears; and was heard, in that he feared verse 6 with Hebrews 5:7." In him the elevated language of the Psalmist obtained a more literal accomplishment: for at his resurrection "the earth quaked, the rocks rent;" and together with him, as monuments and witnesses of his triumph, "many of the dead came forth from their graves, and went into the city, and appeared unto many. O, what a deliverance was here! "The cords of death were loosed" (it was not possible that he should any longer be held by them): and he rose triumphant from the grave: yes, he ascended, too, to Heaven, and was there seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high, all the angels and principalities and powers of Heaven, earth, and Hell, being made subject unto him. In comparison of this display of the Divine glory, the images referred to in this psalm were faint, even as a taper before the sun.

Then commenced his victories. Then was literally fulfilled that prediction of the Psalmist, "a people whom I have not known shall serve me; as soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me verse 43, 44." No less than three thousand of his murderers were converted in the very first sermon: and soon his kingdom was established throughout the whole Roman Empire. This prediction is yet daily receiving a more enlarged accomplishment: thousands in every quarter of the globe are submitting themselves to him; and in due season, all the kingdoms of the world will acknowledge him their universal Lord. The triumphs of David over the neighboring nations, though signal, were nothing in comparison of those which Christ is gaining over the face of the whole earth: and he will "go on conquering and to conquer," "until all his enemies are put under his feet." O blessed and glorious day! May "the Lord hasten it in his time!"

But like many other passages of Scripture, the psalm admits also of an interpretation, which is,

3. Spiritual, as it relates to the people of God in all ages—

The circumstance of its having been altered, and set apart for the use of the Church. shows, that, in substance, it exhibits the dealings of God with his people in all ages. They, like David, and like their blessed Lord and Master, have their trials, their deliverances, their triumphs; in all of which God is greatly glorified, and for which he ought ever to be adored. Who among us that has ever been oppressed with a sense of guilt, and with a fear of God's wrath; who that has felt the tranquillizing influence of the Redeemer's blood sprinkled on his conscience, and speaking peace to his soul; who that has been enabled to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to serve his God in newness of heart and life; who, I say, that has experienced these things, does not find, that the language of this psalm, figuratively indeed, but justly, depicts the gracious dealings of God towards him?: Methinks, the sentiment that is uppermost in the mind of every such person is, "Who is God, save the Lord? or who is a rock, save our God verse 31."

But this part of our subject will receive fuller illustration while we notice the psalm in reference to,

II. The use we should make of it—

The practical use of Scripture is that to which we should more particularly apply ourselves; and especially should we keep this in view in reading the Psalms, which, beyond any other part of the sacred volume, are calculated to elevate our souls to Heaven, and to fill us with delight in God. From this psalm in particular we should learn,

1. To glorify God for the mercies he has given unto us—

We should never forget what we were, while dead in trespasses and sins, and what we are made by the effectual working of God's grace in our souls. The change is nothing less than "passing from death unto life," and "from the power of Satan unto God:" and when we contemplate it, we should be filled with wonder and with love on account of the stupendous mercies we have received. We should ever remember, "Who it is that has made us to differ" from those who are yet in darkness and the shadow of death: and the constant frame of our souls should be, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto your name be the praise!" We may, indeed, without impropriety on some occasions say, as the Psalmist, "I have pursued my enemies, and overtaken them; I have wounded them, that they were not able to rise;" but we must soon check ourselves, like Paul, and say, "Yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me:" "He who has wrought me to the self-same thing, is God." It is worthy of particular observation, how anxious David is to give to God all the glory of those exploits which he commemorates; "By You I have run through a troop; and by my God I have leaped over a wall verse 29. See also verse 32–36, 47–49.": Let us imitate him in this respect, and "give unto our God the glory due unto his name:" yes, "let our mouths be filled with his praise all the day long."

2. To confide in God under all future difficulties—

In what exalted terms David speaks of God at the commencement of this psalm verse 2. Truly, he had profited well from his past experience. And ought not we to profit in like manner? Ought not we to remember what God is to all his believing people? If we have God for our God, what have we to fear? Can any enemy prevail against us, when he is on our side? Remember how God reproved those of old, who, when danger threatened them, gave way to terror, instead of trusting confidently in their God: "Say you not, A confederacy, a confederacy! etc. but sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread: and he shall be to you for a sanctuary Isaiah 8:12-14." Whatever be your want, know that He is able to supply it: whatever be your difficulty, He can make you triumphant over it: "His way is perfect: his word is tried: he is a buckler to all those who trust in him verse 30."

3. To conduct ourselves so that we may reasonably expect his blessing—

Though God is found of them that sought him not, and dispenses his blessings altogether sovereignly and according to his own good pleasure towards the ungodly world, he proceeds, for the most part, in a way of equity towards his own peculiar people. The declaration that was made to king Asa is found true in every age: "The Lord is with you, while you be with him; and if you seek him, he will be found of you: but if you forsake him, he will forsake you 2 Chronicles 15:2." Precisely to the same effect are those expressions of the Psalmist, "With the upright, the merciful, the pure, you will show yourself upright, and merciful, and pure; but with the froward you will show yourself froward," or, as it is in the margin, "you will wrestle." "You will save the afflicted people (I. e. the humble); but you will bring down high looks verse 25–27." If we walk uprightly and circumspectly before him, and in a humble dependence on his grace, there is not anything which he will not do for us: but, "if we regard iniquity in our hearts, he will not hear us. Inquire, then, whether you are really "keeping the ways of the Lord," and are "keeping yourselves from your iniquity," that is, from the peculiar sin to which, by constitution, by habit, or by your situation in life, you are most exposed verse 21–23. I charge you, before God, that you all make this a matter of serious inquiry. The "besetting sin," ah! it is that which separates between God and our souls; it is that which "keeps good things from us." How many are there, who, while they make a profession of religion, are yet, by their unmortified lusts, or worldly desires, or slothful habits, or by some habitual evil, provoking God to depart from them! Beware lest it be so with you; and "grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby you are sealed unto the day of redemption." You may grieve him, until you altogether "quench" his sacred motions. We entreat you to be upon your guard against this so fatal an evil. "Keep your hearts with all diligence: "yes, "give all diligence to make your calling and election sure." Then shall God delight himself in you, and be not only your present portion, "but your everlasting great reward."

 

 

Psalms 19:7-9

 

DISCOURSE 520

EXCELLENCY OF GOD'S WORD

Psalm 19:7-9. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple: the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

GOD has not left himself without witness even among the most unenlightened heathens. His works testify of him: the heavens and the earth declare his eternal power and godhead. They speak silently indeed verse 3. The words printed in Italics are not in the original, but intelligibly, to every child of man; so that idolaters of every name are absolutely without excuse Romans 1:19-20. Wherever the light and genial influence of the sun extend, there is God proclaimed as an infinitely wise and gracious Being. But we have a richer source of instruction opened to us: we have a revelation, which, while it proclaims the existence and attributes of Jehovah, makes known to us his will, and points out the path in which we may approach him with a certainty of acceptance: and so extensively was that published by our Lord and his Apostles, that it might be said, even in that age, "Their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world Compare verse 4 with Romans 10:18." It is of this written word that David speaks in the psalm before us: in which are set forth,

I. Its parts and properties—

The various terms here used to designate the word of God, may be considered as directing our attention to all the different parts of that word; each of which has, annexed to it, an appropriate epithet of commendation—

"The law of the Lord" is in the marginal translation called, "The doctrine of the Lord;" and it may be understood as including under one general term all that is afterwards more particularly specified: and it is so "perfect," that nothing can be taken from it, or added to it, but at the peril of our souls Revelation 22:18-19; "The testimony of the Lord" is "the Gospel of the grace of God Acts 20:24," even "the witness which God has testified of his Son 1 John 5:9." It is "the record that God has given of his Son, namely, that in him is eternal life; and that he who has the Son, has life: and he who has not the Son of God, has not life 1 John 5:11-12." Now this is "sure," so sure, that it may be relied upon with the most implicit confidence: "it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners 1 Timothy 1:15."—"The statutes of the Lord" are those ordinances, which God appointed under the ceremonial law to shadow forth all the glorious mysteries of the Gospel, and which were "right for the time then present; though, since the introduction of the clearer light of the Gospel, they are abrogated as burdensome and unnecessary. Not but that there are some still in force, such as the Sabbath, and the ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. And these may well be called "right:" for who can doubt the propriety of a certain portion of our time being dedicated to the especial service of Him to whom we owe our very existence? or who can question the suitableness of those easy and instructive rites, whereby we are dedicated to the Lord Jesus Christ at first, and afterwards commemorate from time to time the wonders of his dying love? "The commandment of the Lord" is the moral law, in which we are taught, in what way we are to serve and please our God. And this is "pure," and "holy Romans 7:12;" it is given to regulate, not our words and actions only, but the inmost thoughts and desires of our hearts. It is indeed "exceeding broad Psalm 119:96," extending to every motive and principle of the mind, yes, to every inclination, affection, appetite of the soul, and requiring the whole to be in a state of constant and entire conformity to the will of God. "The fear of the Lord" we consider as another name for the Holy Scriptures, only putting, as is frequently done, the effect for the cause The author would be understood to speak this with diffidence, because he is not aware that any commentator has put this construction on the words: but he considers any other interpretation as unsuitable to the context. Something similar occurs Genesis 31:42. where God is called, "The fear of Isaac;" where not the act, but the object, of Isaac's fear is spoken of. If this sense be not approved, the reader may understand the words as signifying, The worship of God. The word at God, as inculcating and exciting the fear of the Lord, is "clean;" its one object is, to cleanse and purify the souls of men. Hence our Lord says, "Now you are clean through the word that I have spoken unto you John 15:3. Compare also Ephesians 5:26." Moreover, the word, in this view of it, "endures forever," since its operation is uniform to the end of the world; and the purifying effects produced by it, will continue through all eternity. "The judgments of the Lord" are his warnings and threatenings; which though questioned by men as false, or condemned by them as unjust, are yet "true and righteous altogether." We are very incompetent judges of the demerit of sin, or of the conduct which God, as the moral Governor of the universe, has thought proper to pursue: but we are assured, that, when he shall inflict on the impenitent the judgments he has denounced against them, all his intelligent creatures will exclaim, "True and righteous are your judgments, O Lord God Almighty!" "just and true are your ways, you King of Saints!"

As the different terms which we have considered are not so definite in their import but that they admit of different interpretations, we shall wave the further consideration of them; and, comprehending them all under one general term, 'The word of God,' we shall proceed to notice,

II. Its use and excellence—

It would occupy too much time to enter fully into this subject: let it suffice to notice those particular uses which are mentioned in our text. The word then is of use,

1. To illuminate the mind—

Previous to the application of the word to the heart by the Holy Spirit, we are in utter darkness: but "the entrance of God's word gives light." Truly it is a "marvelous light that we are brought into," when our eyes are opened to discern "the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ": Nor is it the learned only who receive instruction from it: it is intended more especially for the poor. There is something in the Gospel which tends rather to offend the proud, but is most palatable and delightful to the humble. Hence we are told, "It makes wise the simple." What astonishing views of God, of Christ, of the human heart, of the evil of sin, of the beauty of holiness, of the felicity of Heaven, have many unlettered persons attained! Yet it is in the knowledge of these things that true wisdom consists: and this knowledge is imparted to all who embrace the Gospel, in proportion to the simplicity of their minds, and the devotedness of their hearts to God. These are "the things," which, as our blessed Lord informs us, "are hid from the wise and prudent, and are revealed unto babes." Without such a special illumination of the mind, the most learned philosopher cannot comprehend them 1 Corinthians 2:14; and by such an illumination the most untutored savage shall be "made wise unto salvation."

2. To convert the soul—

Truly, "the word is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword." It is "the rod of God's strength," even that wonder-working rod, which subdues all his enemies before him. "Like fire it melts; and like a hammer, it breaks the rock in pieces." See its effects upon the three thousand on the day of Pentecost! such is its operation, wherever "it comes in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." It humbles the proudest spirit, and subdues the most obdurate heart to the obedience of faith. Nor is it to the adoption of new principles only that it brings the soul, but to the acquisition of new habits; so that it becomes set on Christ and heavenly things, as once it was set on self and earthly things: it assimilates the soul to Christ as the great exemplar, and "changes it into the divine image, from one degree of glory to another, by the Spirit of our God."

3. To rejoice the heart—

Ignorant men imagine that the application of God's word to the soul is productive only of pain and sorrow: but those who have ever "tasted of the good word of life" have found, by happy experience, that it fills them "with joy and peace in believing," yes, "with joy unspeakable and glorified." The word is to them the charter of all their privileges, and the map of their everlasting inheritance. As an heir peruses with delight a will in which great wealth is unexpectedly bequeathed to him, so the Christian finding in every page of the sacred volume his title to all the blessedness and glory of Heaven, how can he but rejoice in such records? how can he but concur with David in saying, "They are more desired by me than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb?

We may learn from hence,

1. Our privilege—

If it was the highest privilege of the Jews, that "to them were committed the oracles of God," much more are we distinguished, who have the writings of the New Testament superadded to those of the Old. Let us learn to estimate this privilege aright. Let us remember, that in this blessed volume is contained all that can be needful either for the instruction of our minds, or the salvation of our souls: and, while we enjoy this inestimable blessing ourselves, let us labor by all possible means to communicate it to others.

2. Our duty—

We should "search the Scriptures daily," "digging into them as for hid treasures," and praying earnestly to God, that he would "open our understandings to understand them." We should look to them as the ground of all our hopes, and the rule of all our conduct. To study the book of nature will be well: but to study the sacred volume with prayer will tend to our highest perfection, and will "thoroughly furnish us unto every good word and work."

 

 

Psalms 19:10-11

 

DISCOURSE 521

THE USE AND BENEFIT OF THE SCRIPTURES

Psalm 19:10-11. More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey, and the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

GOD has at no time left himself without witness in the world, seeing that he has spoken to all, in and by the visible creation, from which the most unenlightened heathens might learn his eternal power and godhead. But to us he has communicated a perfect revelation of his mind and will, which, as the Psalmist informs us in the preceding verses, is capable of producing the most beneficial effects. It was but a small portion of the Scriptures which David possessed; yet his testimony respecting them shows, that they were inestimable in his eyes, and that to all who received them aright, they would be a source of the richest blessings. In discoursing on his words we shall point out,

I. The excellency of the Scriptures—

Gold and honey are both excellent in their kind, and may fitly represent those things which are most pleasing to a carnal and a sensual appetite: but the Scriptures are infinitely preferable to both.

1. They are "more desirable than gold"—

Gold, though so ardently and universally desired, is yet very confined in its uses. It is useful only to the body; yet not to that in all circumstances, nor for any long duration. But the Scriptures are profitable to the soul, and that too in every possible condition: nor will there be any termination to the benefits they convey. What light do they bring into the mind! the weakest Christian upon earth that is instructed out of them, as far surpasses all the philosophers of Greece and Rome, as they surpassed the most ignorant of the human race. How powerful too is their operation on the soul! the suggestions of man's wisdom were utterly incapable of counteracting the vicious propensities of the heart: but these, when applied with power from on high, subdue the soul to God, and renovate it after the divine image. Can gold then, however "great" in quantity, or "fine" in quality, be compared with these?

2. They are "sweeter also than honey"—

The most delicious honey is not near so grateful to the palate, as the Scriptures are to the spiritual taste. The doctrines of the Gospel, especially that which, is the fundamental article of our faith, salvation through the blood of our incarnate God, how inexpressibly sweet are they to a weary and heavy-laden soul! What a delightful feast do the promises, "the exceeding great and precious promises," afford to those who live upon them! The precepts too are equally high in the Christian's estimation: their purity exactly suits his appetite, and instead of disgusting him, renders them tenfold more pleasing to his soul Psalm 119:140. Nor is he averse to the threatenings themselves: while he regards them as holy and just, he considers them also as good Romans 7:12. In short, the Christian feasts upon the blessed book of God; he finds it the joy and rejoicing of his heart Jeremiah 15:16; he esteems it more than his necessary food Job 23:12.

But we will proceed to mark more distinctly,

II. Their use—

A variety of uses are mentioned in the preceding context: but the text comprehends them all under two particulars:

1. They warn us against much evil—

We could have had no conception of the deceitfulness and depravity of the heart, if God had not revealed it to us. But from the insight into it which the Scriptures afford us, we learn that to trust in one's own heart is the most consummate folly Proverbs 28:26, since it is sure to mislead us, and to betray us into some evil.

From the same fountain of knowledge also we learn that there is an invisible, but mighty, agent, whose malice is most inveterate, whose devices are most subtle, and whose labors to destroy us are incessant. Against his wiles we are put upon our guard: we are taught how to distinguish his agency, and to defeat his plots.

There is yet another danger, of which we could have formed no idea, if God had not instructed us respecting it. We are told of another invisible power, even the Holy Spirit himself, who strives with us, and endeavors to establish the kingdom of God in our hearts. But we may "grieve," and "vex" that divine Agent, and may so "resist" him as to "quench" his sacred motions. Against this therefore, as the greatest of all evils, we are frequently and strongly warned.

It is no small advantage to us that every duty, and every danger, is set before us in living characters. We are enabled in the Scriptures to discern the track of the godly, and to see where all that have suffered shipwreck, have perished: so that, notwithstanding we are passing through an ocean filled with hidden rocks and shoals, yet, if we only attend to the buoys which God has placed in our sight, we cannot but navigate it in perfect safety, and reach in due season our destined port.

2. They lead us to much good—

We speak not of the recompense, which those who love the Scriptures will meet with in another world. There is a reward in keeping the commandments, as well as for it; and it is of that present recompense that we are called to speak. In receiving the doctrines, what peace do we obtain with God, and in our own consciences! In resting on the promises, what ineffable joy flows into our souls! In obeying the precepts, what heavenly dispositions do we exercise, and what conformity to God do we obtain! And lastly, in following the bright examples that are set before us, how is our ambition stimulated, and how are our steps advanced! Unanswerable in every view is that appeal of God to man, "Do not my words do good to him that walks uprightly Mic. 2:7."

Address,

1. Those who neglect the Scriptures—

How vitiated is your taste, that you can prefer a novel or a newspaper to the inspired volume! That you can be anxious about the things of time and sense, and be indifferent to that, which is more valuable than gold, more sweet than honey! Ah, think what durable riches, what heavenly delights, you lose! Did you but know what reason you have for shame and regret, you would go and search the Scriptures until you had learned their value by your own experience, and had found them to be the power of God to the salvation of your souls.

2. Those who are like-minded with the Psalmist—

What do you owe to God, who has given you a spiritual taste, a spiritual discernment! By this, as much as by anything, you may know your state towards God: you may mark, as by a scale, your progress or decline. With your advancement in the divine life, the Scriptures will rise in your estimation: with your declension, your relish for them will abate. O then "let them be your meditation all the day; let them be your delight and your counselors." Thus will your spirit and temper be cast into their mold, and you will be gradually fitted for that place, where all that is now held forth to your faith, shall be forever realized.

 

 

Psalms 19:12-13

 

DISCOURSE 522

PRAYER AGAINST SINS OF INFIRMITY AND PRESUMPTION

Psalm 19:12-13. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse you me from secret faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.

THE moral law, as revealed in the Scriptures, is a perfect transcript of the mind and will of God; and is therefore a mirror in which we may see how deformed we are through the introduction and dominance of sin. It was from a contemplation of its transcendent excellence that the Psalmist was led to bewail his want of conformity to it, and to implore mercy at the hands of God for his innumerable violations of it, and grace, to preserve him from any willful opposition to it in future. And the more we study it, the more shall we be disposed to adopt the petitions in our text, "Cleanse me" from the guilt I have already contracted: "Keep me" from falling a sacrifice to my sinful propensities.

We all need to be delivered from,

I. Sins of infirmity—

These are innumerable—

It is not of gross outward sin that we are here to speak, but of "errors" and "secret sins;" that is, such sins as escape the notice of ourselves as well as of others.

Consider the sins arising from defect. The law requires that we love God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength; and our neighbor, under whatever circumstances, as ourselves. Now, if we trace the whole extent of our duty to God, as our Creator; to the Lord Jesus Christ, as our Redeemer; and to the Holy Spirit, as our Sanctifier; if we further pursue into all the different relations of life our duty to our fellow-creatures, and reflect that the smallest short-coming in the performance of it is sin: and then, if we reflect how great our short-comings are, even when we exert ourselves to the uttermost to fulfill the will of God; we shall see that, under this head alone, our sins are more numerous than the sands upon the sea-shore; since, in fact, we have been doing nothing but what, in fact, was sin, from the very first moment that we came into the world.

But besides the guilt we have contracted through defect, consider that which has arisen from deviations from the precise line of duty which we should have followed. We may conceive of an arrow shot in the right line towards an object, though it fall short of the object itself: and so we may conceive of our attempts to serve God, as perfect in point of aim, though defective in force and energy. But there is a bias in our fallen nature which causes innumerable aberrations from the perfect line of duty. In duty, of whatever kind it be, the principle ought to be as pure as the light itself: but in us it never is so: somewhat of a corrupt mixture will be found in everything we do. There is so much blindness in our understanding, so much perverseness in our will, and so much sensuality in our affections, that we are imperceptibly drawn aside; our very judgment is deceived; yes, "our mind and conscience are defiled;" so that, when we would do good, evil is present with us;" and, when we do, as we think, act entirely as unto the Lord, the heart-searching God beholds a mixture of self in our best motives, that serves yet further to vitiate and debase our best actions.

To all this add our actual transgressions, by thought, word, and deed, against the holy commands of God. It is still of "secret sins" only that I am speaking, and of such as may justly be called sins of infirmity. But how vast the aggregate of evil which has arisen in our hearts from the secret workings of pride, or worldliness, or impurity, or unbelief, or some other corrupt feeling of our fallen nature! Yet not one of these has been unobserved by God, nor will one be kept out of sight in the final judgment.

Well then may we, even in this superficial view of our past errors and deviations, say, "Who can understand them?"

We need therefore to cry earnestly to God to "cleanse us from them"—

The guilt in which they involve the soul is exceeding great: nor can it be purged away but by the atoning blood of Christ. The circumstance of their having been unobserved by us does not lessen the guilt of them, as we imagine; but only shows how blind and ignorant we are, and how vitiated and debased that soul must be which can harbor such evils unconscious of their malignity, and almost of their very existence. God himself cautions us against regarding this as an extenuation, which, if rightly viewed, is rather an aggravation of our guilt. "Suffer not your mouth to cause your flesh to sin; neither say you before the angel, that it was an error; why should God be angry at your voice, and destroy the work of your hands Ecclesiastes 5:6." An atonement was offered by the high priests of old "for the errors of the people Hebrews 9:7. :" and in the atonement of Christ must we seek refuge from all which have been, however inadvertently, committed by us. This is strongly intimated by the offerings which were appointed for all without exception, when they erred; but which differed according to the degree of criminality which might justly attach to persons, by reason of their advantages for knowing better, and the injury that was likely to accrue from their example Leviticus 4:1-35. But none were excused: the very moment that their error was pointed out to them, they were to bring their offering: and through that alone could they obtain absolution from their sin Leviticus 5:17-19. We should therefore, all, without exception, pray with David, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." Yes, we should also pray with him, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me!" For "God requires truth in our inward parts:" and, if we are not thus "renewed in the spirit of our minds," we cannot hope for admission into that city "where no unclean thing can enter Revelation 21:27."

Yet, after all, our guilt from these is light in comparison of that which arises from our,

II. Sins of presumption—

These differ widely from the former; being committed, not from mere inadvertence or infirmity, but with the concurrence of the will in opposition to the dictates of an enlightened conscience. Yet in speaking of these we shall not confine ourselves to those grosser sins, from which more moral and decent persons are exempt; but shall turn your attention rather to that state and habit of life which conscience must condemn, as well as the more flagrant transgressions.

Consider what "presumptuous sins" are—

They are any sins whatever that are committed against light and knowledge, or on a presumption that God will not punish them in the eternal world.

Now it is perfectly well known to all of us, that we ought to have "the fear of God before our eyes:" we ought to stand in awe of God's judgments: we ought to search out and execute his commands. We ought not to live unto ourselves, but unto him: and to make his word the unvaried rule of our conduct. We know that we have duties also towards our adorable Redeemer: and that, as we should live altogether by faith in him, so we should live altogether to his glory. Now, if we are habitually neglecting these duties, and living to ourselves and to the world, what is our life but one continued course of presumptuous sin?: I wish that the more moral, decent, and conscientious part of my audience would attend to this, that they may see how great their deficiencies are, and how awful their guilt.

To these we are ever prone—

Every man by nature rushes into them, even as a horse into the battle: nor can any but God "keep us back" from them. How daring we are in the commission of them, is plain from numberless passages of Scripture, where the language of the carnal heart is depicted; "Tush! God shall not see; neither will the Almighty regard it." We have a general notion about God's mercy: and from the very hope that he will forbear to execute the award of justice, we are encouraged to proceed in our career of sin; thus "turning the very grace of God into licentiousness," and "continuing in sin with the hope that grace will abound." And what an ascendant these sins will gain over us may be daily seen, not only in the impieties of those who never knew anything of God, but in the degeneracy of many, who once gave promises of better things. The gradations of such persons' departure from God are strongly marked by the Psalmist: they first "walk (transiently) in the counsel of the ungodly, (who, from their want of real piety, are dangerous advisers;) they then learn to stand (deliberately) in the way (and habits) of the wicked; and then come to sit (habitually and at their ease) in the seat of the scornful Psalm 1:1." And this is no other than what every presumptuous sinner has reason to expect: for God is indignant against him, in proportion as his transgressions partake of this horrid aggravation. Of the heathen it is said, "They liked not to retain God in their knowledge; therefore God gave them over to a reprobate mind Romans 1:8;" and even of his own people Israel themselves, God says, "Israel would none of me: so I gave them up Psalm 81:11-12." What wonder, then, if he should say of us also, "They are joined to idols: let them alone Hosea 4:17." If instead of crying mightily to God to "keep us back" from presumptuous sins, we yield ourselves willingly to the commission of them, we can expect nothing, but that they should "have the entire dominion over us," and constrain God to "swear in his wrath, that we shall never enter into his rest." This, I say, we may well expect: for God has declared, that

If not delivered from them in time, we shall suffer the punishment of them to all eternity—

How heinous they are in the sight of God may be known from hence; that, though sacrifices were appointed for sins of infirmity, none were prescribed for any presumptuous sin whatever: the offender was to be cut off without mercy from the people of the Lord Numbers 15:27-31; The servant that knew not his lord's will, and did things contrary to it, was yet accounted worthy of some punishment: but he who knowingly violated his lord's commands, was "beaten with many stripes Luke 12:47-48." And Capernaum's doom, we are told, shall be more severe than that of Sodom and Gomorrah, because of the deeper malignity which her superior advantages infused into all her sins Matthew 11:23-24.

Let me then entreat you to adopt the prayer in our text: beg of God that he would enable you to "understand your errors;" (for who, without divine instruction, can understand them?) and that he would "cleanse you" from them; and that he would "keep you back" from every presumptuous sin: for though, every presumptuous sin is not the unpardonable transgression, yet, I must say, that presumptuous sin, continued in after warnings and exhortations to depart from it, hardens the heart, and sears the conscience, and endangers the being given up by God to final impenitence.

APPLICATION—

Be prevailed upon, Brethren,

1. To regard sin as the greatest of all evils—

Such indeed it is, whether you will believe it or not. You may be ready to think that suffering is the greatest: but suffering may tend to good: it may, like the furnace, purify us from our dross, and prepare us, under God's gracious care, as vessels of honor for our Master's use. But sin defiles, debases, and destroys the soul. "Fools may make a mock at it;" but at last it will "sting like a serpent, and bite like an adder:" it may be sweet in the mouth, but it will be gall in the stomach. See, Brethren, from what a mass of guilt and corruption you need to be delivered! See also what judgments are hanging over your devoted heads! O that I could see you in earnest in fleeing from the wrath to come, and in laying hold on eternal life! be not like that perverse and daring people, who, when remonstrated with by the prophet, replied, "As for the word that you have spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto you: but we will certainly do whatever thing goes forth out of our own mouth Jeremiah 44:16-17." Neither deceive yourselves by endeavoring to vindicate yourselves before God: for, whatever you may say to extenuate your guilt, your sins even of infirmity need forgiveness; and your sins of presumption, if not repented of and forgiven, will plunge you into remediless and endless ruin.

2. To improve the present moment in order to obtain deliverance from it—

Now you can offer the prayer of David: but how long that privilege will be continued to you, you know not. This however you know, that your views of sin will soon be changed, either in this world or in the world to come. Conceive of a presumptuous sinner, dying in his iniquity, and first having his eyes opened in the eternal world. What does he then think of all his past excuses, on which he once placed such confident reliance? What, if he were permitted to address you from his abode of misery, would be the scope of his admonitions? Can you doubt? And, if not, will you still go on in those ways, which your own consciences condemn? But, as the Rich Man was not suffered to return from Hell to warn his surviving brethren, who were walking in his steps, so neither will any be sent from the dead, to instruct you. You have Moses and the prophets; and those you must both hear and obey: and, if you will not believe them, nothing awaits you but to "eat the fruit of your own doings, and to be filled immediately with your own devices." Now, however, you are warned: now, I trust, your consciences attest the truth and importance of all that you have heard: and now I conclude with that solemn admonition of James, "To him that knows to do good and does it not, to him it is sin James 4:17."

 

Psalms 20:7

 

DISCOURSE 523

TRUST IN GOD, THE MEANS OF SUCCESS

Psalm 20:7. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

ASTONISHING is the success of united prayer: nor are any so situated as not to need the intercessions of others. David, though so great and powerful, stood in need of them: and he here records the benefit he received from them See, and quote the whole preceding context.

The Psalmist here records,

I. The different grounds of men's confidence—

The generality make the creature their confidence—

This prevailed universally among the heathen: And it too generally pervaded the Jewish nation also: We too, in all our straits and difficulties, are prone to it; leaning to our understanding: resting on our own resolutions: and undertaking everything in a dependence on self.

The only proper ground of confidence is God—

He alone is all-sufficient: With him everything is easy: David abhorred the idea of resting on any other Psalm 121:1-2; Psalm 11:1-4. Mark the spirit of these passages; Hence he adopted the resolution in the text.

II. The correspondent issues of their confidence—

Those who depend on the creature are disappointed—

This has frequently been the case 1 Kings 20:23; And it is only what may be expected Psalm 33:17; Creature-confidence arms God against us Isaiah 31:1; Isaiah 31:3; and entails his curse on all who indulge it Jeremiah 17:5-6.

But those who depend on God succeed—

So did Asa 2 Chronicles 14:11-12; So did Jehoshaphat 2 Chronicles 20:12; 2 Chronicles 20:15; 2 Chronicles 20:20; So did Hezekiah 2 Chronicles 32:7; 2 Chronicles 32:21; So did David verse 8; And so shall all, even to the end of the world Psalm 34:22; Psalm 125:1-2.

Infer,

1. What obligations do we owe to God for the mercies we have now received Here bring forward the particular circumstances for which the Thanksgiving is appointed..

2. What shall not they receive who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ?.

 

 

Psalms 21:1-7

 

DISCOURSE 524

THE KINGDOM OF DAVID AND OF CHRIST

Psalm 21:1-7. The king shall joy in your strength, O Lord; and in your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice! You have given him his heart's desire, and have not withheld the request of his lips. For you go before him with the blessings of goodness; you set a crown of pure gold on his head. He asked life of you, and you gave it him, even length of days forever and ever. His glory is great in your salvation: honor and majesty have you laid upon him. For you have made him most blessed forever: you have made him exceeding glad with your countenance. For the king trusts in the Lord; and, through the mercy of the Most High, he shall not be moved.

THIS psalm is appointed by the Church to be read on the day of our Lord's Ascension: and on a close examination, it will appear to be well suited to that occasion. We will,

I. Explain it—

In its primary and literal sense, it expresses David's gratitude on his advancement to the throne of Israel—

After acknowledging, in general terms, God's goodness towards him in this dispensation, he speaks of his elevation as an answer to his prayers, though in its origin it was altogether unsolicited and unsought for verse 1–4. Impressed with the greatness of the honor conferred upon him, he exults in it, especially as affording him an opportunity of benefitting others verse 5, 6; and declares his confidence, that his enemies, so far from ever being able to subvert his government, shall all be crushed before him verse 7–12.—

Passing over this view of the psalm, we proceed to observe, that

It is yet more applicable to Christ, as expressing his feelings on his ascension to the throne of glory—

David was a type of Christ, as David's kingdom was of Christ's kingdom: and Christ, on his ascension to Heaven, may be considered as addressing his Father in the words of this psalm.

He declares his joy and gratitude on account of the blessedness given to him, and on account of the blessedness which he was now empowered to bestow on others. With respect to his own blessedness we observe, that his conflicts were now terminated. These had been numerous and severe. From his first entrance into the world to the instant of his departure from it, he "was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." View him especially during the three years of his Ministry, what "contradiction of sinners against himself did he endure!" View more particularly the four last days of his life, what grievous and accumulated wrongs did he sustain!: Consider his conflicts also with the powers of darkness, and the terrors of his Father's wrath: O what reason had he to rejoice in the termination of such sufferings, and to magnify his Father who had brought him in safety through them! For this he had prayed; and God had given him the fullest answer to his prayers Hebrews 5:7 with verse 2, 4. Now also he was restored to glory. He had "a glory with the Father before the worlds were made John 1:1; John 1:18; John 17:5;" and of that glory he had divested himself when he assumed our nature Philippians 2:6-8. But now he was restored to it: and what a contrast did it form with that state, from which he had been delivered! A few days ago he had not where to lay his head: now he is received into his Father's house, his Father's bosom. Lately he was derided, mocked, insulted, spit upon, buffeted, and scourged by the vilest of the human race; and now he is seated on his throne of glory, and worshiped and adored by all the hosts of Heaven: Great indeed was the glory that now accrued to him, and great "the majesty that was now laid upon him verse 5." and, as it had proceeded from his Father Philippians 2:9-11, so he justly acknowledges it as his Father's gift.

But it was not to himself only that Jesus had respect: he blesses his Father also for the blessedness which he was empowered to bestow on others. The words, "You have made him most blessed forever," are translated in the margin of our Bibles, "You have set him to be blessings forever." This version opens a new and important view of the subject, a view which particularly accords with all the prophecies respecting Christ. It is said again and again concerning him, that "in him shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;" and we are well assured, that to communicate blessings to a ruined world is a source of inconceivable happiness to himself. We apprehend that to have been a very principal idea in the mind of the Apostle, when, speaking of Christ, he said, "Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God Hebrews 12:2."

With what joy must he behold the myriads who had been exalted to glory through the virtue of his sacrifice, while yet it remained to be offered! It was through "his obedience unto death" that all the antediluvian and patriarchal saints were saved. Our First Parents looked to him as "the Seed of the woman that should bruise the serpent's head." To him righteous Abel had respect, in the offering which was honored with visible tokens of God's acceptance. To him Noah looked, when he offered the burnt-offerings, from which "God smelled a sweet savor Genesis 8:20-21." In a word, it is through his righteousness that forbearance and forgiveness were exercised from the beginning, just as they will be exercised even to the end: and all who were saved before his advent are in that respect on the same level with those who have been saved since: there is but one song among all the glorified saints in Heaven; they are all harmonious in singing "to Him that loved them and washed them from their sins in his own blood, etc." What a joy must it be to Christ to see in so many myriads the travail of his soul, who "were brought forth, as it were, to God, even before he travailed!" With what joy, too, did he then take upon him to dispense his blessings to the myriads yet unborn! He is "Head over all things," not for his own sake merely, but "for the Church's sake." Knowing then how many of his most cruel enemies were given to him by the Father, with what pleasure would he look down upon them, (even while their hands were yet reeking with his blood,) and anticipate their conversion to God by the influence of his Spirit on the day of Pentecost! Every child of man that shall at any period of the world participate his grace, was at that moment before his eyes: and with what delight would he view them, as drawn by his word, as nourished by his grace, as comforted by his Spirit, as made more than conquerors over all their enemies Zephaniah 3:17; At that moment he saw, as it were, the whole company of the redeemed, the multitudes which no man can number, all enthroned around him, the monuments of his love, the heirs of his glory, the partners of his throne: He saw that the kingdom which he had now established upon earth "should never be moved;" that "the gates of Hell should never prevail against it;" and that it should stand forever and ever verse 7. Well therefore might he say, "The King shall joy in your strength, O Lord; and in your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!"

Having thus explained the psalm, we proceed to,

II. Show what improvement we should make of it—

From its literal sense we learn, how thankful we should be for any blessings given unto us—

In many respects God has "prevented us with the blessings of goodness;" and in many he has given them in answer to our prayers. We may "account even his long-suffering towards us to be salvation," and much more the gift of his grace, and the knowledge of his dear Son. Can we reflect on "the salvation to which he has called us," even "the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory," and not be thankful for it? Can we reflect on the exaltation which we ourselves have received, from death to life, from slaves to free-men, from children of the devil to sons of God, and not rejoice in it? Can we think of our having been made "kings and priests unto God," "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ," yes, partners of his throne, and partakers of his glory for evermore; can we contemplate all this, and not say, "In your salvation how greatly shall I rejoice?": Truly, if we do not rejoice and shout for joy, "the very stones will cry out against us".

From its mystical or prophetic sense we learn what should be our disposition and conduct towards the Lord Jesus—

Methinks, we should rejoice in his joy. If it were but a common friend that was released from heavy sufferings and exalted to glory, we should rejoice with him in the blessed change: how much more then should we participate in our minds the joy and glory of our adorable Redeemer!: But more particularly we should submit to his government. This is strongly and awfully suggested in all the latter part of the psalm before us. "God has highly exalted Jesus, that at his name every knee should bow:" yes, he has sworn, that every knee shall bow to him: and that all who will not bow to the scepter of his grace, shall be broken in pieces with a rod of iron. Read from the text to the end of the psalm; and endeavor to realize every expression in it: O that we may be wise before it be too late! Let us "kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and we perish:" for though now he condescends to follow us with entreaties to be reconciled towards him, the time is quickly coming, when he will say, "Bring hither those that were my enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me."

A further improvement we should make of this subject is, to confide in his care. "He is set to be blessings" to a ruined world. He has "ascended up on high that he might fill all things:" "he has received gifts, even for the rebellious;" and "has all fullness treasured up in him," on purpose that we may "receive out of his fullness grace for grace." There is nothing that we can want, but it may be found in him; nor anything which he is not willing to bestow on the very chief of sinners. Let us then look to him, and trust in him; and assure ourselves, that, as "he lost none that had been given him" in the days of his flesh, so now will he suffer "none to be plucked out of his hands." We cannot expect too much from such a King: however "wide we open our mouths, he will fill them."

To seek the enlargement of his kingdom is the last duty we shall mention as suggested by the subject before us. In the prayer that he has taught us, we say, "Your kingdom come;" and we close that prayer with ascribing to him "the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever: and it is with similar sentiments that the psalm before us concludes. Let us enter into the spirit of them, saying, "Be you exalted, Lord, in your own strength; so will we sing and praise your power." Nothing should be so dear to us as the advancement of his glory. Let us reflect, how we may best promote it; and let the extension of his kingdom be our chief joy Psalm 72:18-19.

 

 

Psalms 21:7

 

DISCOURSE 525

TRUST IN GOD RECOMMENDED

Psalm 21:7. The king trusts in the Lord, and through the mercy of the Most High he shall not be moved.

THERE is an inseparable connection between the duties and privileges of a Christian. It is his privilege to enjoy composure under all difficulties and dangers; but this he cannot possess, unless he repose his confidence in God. Nevertheless in relying upon God his mind shall be kept in perfect peace. David had known the storms of trouble as much as any man; but in the midst of all maintained a full assurance of divine protection. He records his experience in the words before us.

We shall consider them,

I. According to their original import—

This psalm, like many other parts of Scripture, has a double sense—

In an historical view it speaks of David himself—

David had long been habituated to trust in the Lord. When he was yet a youth, he withstood a lion and a bear in dependence upon God 1 Samuel 17:36-37; nor feared to encounter him, who filled all the hosts of Israel with terror 1 Samuel 17:45; 1 Samuel 17:47. During the persecutions of Saul he still held fast his confidence; and, under the most imminent danger and accumulated trouble, encouraged himself in God 1 Samuel 30:6. Sometimes, indeed, his faith for a moment began to fail him 1 Samuel 27:1; but, on the whole, he was "strong in faith, giving glory to God." Nor was he less sensible of his own insufficiency when he was a king: he still made the Most High his only and continual refuge Psalm 91:2; Psalm 56:2-4; and God approved himself faithful to his believing servant. There were indeed some occasions wherein David was greatly "moved 2 Samuel 15:30; "but these only served more fully to evince the power and faithfulness of his God 2 Samuel 23:5.

In a prophetic sense the words are applicable to Christ—

The whole psalm has an evident reference to the Messiah. Christ is that "King" who was raised to sit upon the throne of David Luke 1:32; and, as for every other good thing, so was he eminent for trust in God. He disregarded the plots of his most powerful enemies Luke 13:32; and, undaunted, renewed his visit to those who had lately sought to stone him John 11:8. He well knew that, until his hour was come, no power on earth could touch him John 19:11; nor was he ever left destitute of the divine protection. He seemed indeed to be "moved" when "he was crucified through weakness;" but he soon showed how vain were the attempts of his adversaries. In his resurrection and ascension he "led captivity itself captive:" and he will in due season "put all his enemies under his feet."

In both these views the text sets before us an instructive example—

But we may consider it further,

II. In reference to the present occasion—

The solemnities of this day prove that the former part of the text is exemplified also in our own monarch This was preached on occasion of the king going to Paul's to present the colors taken in three different engagements with the French, Spanish, and Dutch fleets.—

We may therefore hope that the latter part also shall be accomplished in him—

The religious conduct of kings is of great importance to a nation. Their piety indeed is not more meritorious than that of others; but it is often more beneficial to the community than that of a private person. In the days of old, God paid especial regard to the prayers of princes 2 Chronicles 14:11-12; 2 Chronicles 20:5-6; 2 Chronicles 20:12; 2 Chronicles 20:15; 2 Chronicles 20:17; 2 Chronicles 34:27 and Isaiah 37:21-22; Isaiah 37:33-34; even when they were of an abandoned character, he heard them 1 Kings 21:29. How much more may we hope that he will respect those offered to him this day! "The mercy of the Most High" has hitherto been signally manifested towards us, and if we trust in him it shall yet be continued to us. We say not indeed but that, as a nation, we may be greatly "moved." It is certain that we deserve the heaviest calamities that can fall upon us; but we shall not be given up to ruin if we cry unto God for help. To the end of the world shall that promise be fulfilled to repenting nations Jeremiah 18:7-8.

Sure we are that they who trust in God for spiritual blessings shall never be disappointed—

Our thoughts on this occasion are not to be confined to temporal concerns. Much as we are interested in national mercies, the welfare of our souls is yet more important: yes, our spiritual progress is the great means of obtaining God's protection to the state. Trust in God therefore, for spiritual blessings, is not foreign to the business of this day. Whatever our political sentiments may be, we are all equally concerned to seek acceptance through Christ. We all need to trust in the promises made to us in him; and, if we do, "the gates of Hell shall not be able to prevail against us." Though we have been led captive by our lusts, "we shall have redemption through his blood;" and though we have still to conflict with sin and Satan, we shall be made more than conquerors. The mercy of the Most High shall assuredly be extended to us. Sooner shall Heaven and earth pass away than that promise fail of accomplishment 2 Chronicles 20:20.

APPLICATION—

Let us habituate ourselves to view the hand of God in all our mercies, and to trust in him both for personal and national blessings; but let us not think, we trust in God, when in reality we do not. Trust in God necessarily implies a renunciation of all creature-confidence: it also supposes that we sincerely commit our cause to God, and that we plead the promises made to us in his word. If we seek not the Lord in this manner, we trust rather in chance, or in our own vain conceits, than in him. Let us then be earnest in our applications at the throne of grace. Let us be exceeding thankful to God for the mercies we have received, and in every difficulty, temporal or spiritual, confide in him. Thus shall we see an happy issue to our present troubles, and be monuments of God's truth and faithfulness to all eternity.

 

Psalms 22:1

 

DISCOURSE 526

OUR LORD'S COMPLAINT ON THE CROSS

Psalm 22:1. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?

THE prophecies relating to our Lord have not only declared what works he should do, and what sufferings he should endure, but even the very words that should be uttered both by his enemies and himself. Whatever reference the words of the text might have to David, there can be no doubt but that they principally relate to the Lord Jesus; and in him they received their accomplishment: when he had hung about six hours upon the cross, we are told, "he cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli! Eli! lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God! my God! why have you forsaken me Matthew 27:46." Perhaps he cried with a loud voice in order to show, that his natural strength was by no means exhausted; and that his dissolution, which immediately followed, was voluntary: but he discovered also by that the intenseness of his sufferings, and fulfilled in the minutest manner the prediction before us. Waving all illustration of the text as applicable to David, we shall endeavor to elucidate it as accomplished in his great antitype, and shall consider,

I. The occasion of our Lord's complaint—

Jesus, in the hour of his extremity, was forsaken of his heavenly Father—

We are not to suppose that the godhead actually separated itself from his manhood; but that the sensible manifestation of the divine presence was withheld from him. This was necessary in various points of view. A banishment from the divine presence was part of the punishment due to sin; and therefore it must be inflicted on him who had become the surety and substitute of sinners. Occasional suspensions, also, of the tokens of God's love are the means whereby God perfects the work of faith in his people's hearts: and "it behooved Jesus to be made like unto us in all things:" "though he was a son, yet he must learn" the nature and the difficulty of "obedience (yes, and be made perfect too) through sufferings Hebrews 2:10; Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 5:7-9." Nor could he properly sympathize with us, which, as our great High-Priest, he ought to do, unless he himself should endure the very temptations, which we, in our measure, are called to sustain Hebrews 4:15.

But though there was good reason for it, it was a just ground of complaint—

Never had he endured anything like this before: when he said, "Now is my soul troubled, it is exceeding sorrowful even unto death," a voice was uttered from Heaven, "You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased:" when he agonized in the garden, an angel was sent from Heaven to strengthen him: but now that he was more fiercely than ever assaulted by all the powers of darkness, his heavenly Father also seemed to conspire with them, and withdrew the only consolation that remained for his support. What a dreadful aggravation of his sufferings must this have been! To cry, and even "roar" for help, and find God "far from helping him!" to have him, in whose bosom he had lain from all eternity, hide his face from him! How could he but complain? Surely in proportion as he loved his heavenly Father, he could not but bewail the hidings of his face.

Lest however we should form a wrong conception of our Lord's conduct, let us consider,

II. The complaint itself—

Let us not suppose that there was the smallest mixture of impatience in it—

When our Lord first undertook to stand in the place of sinners, he said, "I delight to do your will, O God." When the cup of God's wrath was put into his hand, he still acquiesced; and, though his human nature shrunk back for a while from the conflict, he committed himself to God, saying, "Not my will, but your be done." Nor was the complaint uttered on the cross any other than what every good man, under the hidings of God's face, both may and ought to utter Psalm 77:1-3; Psalm 88:9-10; Psalm 88:14.

It expressed the fullest confidence in God, and exhibited the brightest pattern to all his tempted people—

Not for one moment does Jesus doubt his relation to his heavenly Father, as we alas! are too apt to do in seasons of deep affliction. His repetition of that endearing name, "My God! my God!" shows how steadfastly he maintained his faith and confidence; and teaches us, that, "when we are walking in darkness and have no light, we should trust in the Lord, and stay ourselves upon our God."

We may improve the subject by considering,

III. The lessons we may learn from it—

There is not any part of doctrine or experience which will not receive light from this subject. But we shall content ourselves with observing from it,

1. The greatness of Christ's love—

Truly the love of Christ has heights and depths that can never be explored. He knew from eternity all that he should endure, yet freely offered himself for us, nor ever drew back from his engagements: "Having loved his own, he loved them to the end." But never shall we form any just conceptions of his love, until we behold that glory which he left for our sakes, and see, in the agonies of the damned, the miseries he endured. But when the veil shall be taken from our eyes, how marvelous will his love appear! and with what acclamations will Heaven resound!

2. The duty of those who are under the hidings of his face—

Our enjoyment of Christ's presence is variable, and often intermitted: but let us not on that account be discouraged. Let us pray, and that too with strong crying and tears; yes, let us expostulate with him, and ask, like Job, "Why do you contend with me Job 10:2." But though we say, "The Lord has forsaken me," let us never add, like the Church of old, "my Lord has forgotten me." If he hide himself, "it is but for a little moment, that he may gather us with everlasting mercies Isaiah 54:7-8." Therefore let us say with Job, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."

3. The misery of those who are not interested in his atonement—

We see what bitter lamentation sin occasioned in him, who bore the iniquities of others, even though he knew that his sufferings would quickly end. What wailing then and gnashing of teeth will they experience, who shall perish under their own personal guilt, when they shall be shut up as monuments of God's wrath to all eternity Luke 23:31. Would to God that careless sinners would lay this to heart, while yet a remedy remains, and before they be finally separated from their God by an impassable gulf!

 

 

Psalms 22:11-21

 

DISCOURSE 527

THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST

Psalm 22:11-21. Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all mg bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my affections. My strength is dried up like a potsherd: and my tongue cleaves to my jaws: and you have brought me into the dust of death. For dogs have compassed me; the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not you far from me, O Lord! O my Strength, haste you to help me! Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion's mouth; for you have heard me from the horns of the unicorns.

IN many parts of the Psalms there is a strong resemblance between David's experience, and the experience of David's Lord; so that the language used, may properly be applied to both. But in some parts David speaks in terms which are wholly inapplicable to himself, and can be understood only as referring to Christ. This is particularly the case with respect to some expressions in the psalm before us. That a greater than David is here, there can be no doubt. The writers of the New Testament quote many parts of it as literally fulfilled in Christ; in whom alone indeed the words which I have read had any appearance of accomplishment. We scruple not therefore to consider from them,

I. The sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ—

These are strongly marked,

1. In his complaints—

Great was the number of his enemies, and most inveterate their rage against him. He compares them to fierce "bulls," and savage "lions," and ravenous "dogs." Under the emblem of "the fat bulls of Bashan," he represents the Jewish Governors both in church and state, while the populace, both of Jews and Gentiles, were like dogs, set on indeed by others, but actuated by their own native ferocity, and by an insatiable thirst for blood. All ranks of people combined against him; and not so much as one was found to administer comfort to him, or to assuage his anguish. Of this he complains as a great additional source of grief and sorrow; "Reproach has broken my heart; and I am roll of heaviness: and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none verse 11 with Psalm 69:20."

Exceeding deep also and various were his sufferings. In his body he endured all that the most cruel adversaries could inflict. He complains that his frame was so emaciated that they might "count all his bones;" that "his joints also were dislocated," and "his hands and feet pierced with nails:" and, to complete the scene, while he was suspended thus, a naked bloody spectacle upon the cross, some gazed upon him with a stupid unfeeling curiosity ("they look and stare upon me"); and others, with cruel indifference, amused themselves with "casting lots upon his vesture."

Now in no sense whatever were these things at any time fulfilled in David. In relating them, he evidently personates the Messiah, in whom they were fulfilled with the minutest possible precision.

In his soul his sufferings were far deeper still. Before ever his body was touched, "his soul was exceeding sorrowful even unto death Matthew 26:38." And from whence did that anguish proceed but from the hand of the Father, who visited on turn the sins of the whole world Isaiah 53:10. Yes, this it was which then so oppressed and overwhelmed him: and at the same time all the hosts of Hell assaulted him; for "that was their hour, and the power of darkness." Under the pressure of these mental agonies, "he was poured out like water," or rather, was consumed, as it were, by fire, as the burnt-offerings were, even with the fire of God's wrath; insomuch that "his heart was like melted wax in the midst of his affections."

Of his sufferings we may form a yet further judgment from,

2. His supplications—

These were offered up in every diversified form, of renovated entreaty, and of urgent pleas: "Be not you far from me; haste you to help me: deliver my soul from the sword; save me from the lion's mouth; for you have heard me from the horns of the unicorns." Now these petitions, I apprehend, related chiefly, if not exclusively, to the sufferings of his soul. It was "the Father's sword that had now awaked against him, to smite him," and it was "the roaring lion," even Satan, with all his hosts, that now sought to devour him. In the midst of these accumulated troubles, he felt above all, and deprecated most urgently, the hidings of his Father's face: "My God! my God! why have you forsaken me?" "O be not far from me, be not far from me, O Lord verse 1, 11, 19." The plea, which in this extremity he offered, must not be overlooked; "You have heard me from the horns of the unicorns." At the time of his birth had the Father interposed to deliver him from the murderous rage of Herod; and on many occasions from the Jews who sought his life: and he requested that, if possible, and consistent with the Father's purpose of saving a ruined world, the same protecting hand might be stretched out to save him now; and that the bitter cup, which he was drinking, might be removed from him. If however this could not be given to him consistently with the end for which he had come into the world, he was content to drink the cup even to the dregs.

If now the Son of God himself was so pressed with his sufferings, that he besought his Father "with strong crying and tears" either to mitigate the anguish, or to uphold him under it, we can have no doubt but the distress exceeded all that language can express, or that any finite intelligence can adequately conceive.

Now then ask yourselves, my Brethren, in reference to these sufferings, what should be,

II. The feelings which they should excite in our bosom—

If we beheld but a common man enduring excessive anguish both of body and mind, we could not but feel some measure of sympathy with him: and, if we ourselves had been the occasion of his sufferings, and he were bearing them willingly in our place and stead, we could not but take the liveliest interest in them, both in a way of grief, that we had brought them upon him, and in a way of gratitude to him for sustaining them in our behalf. But this Sufferer was none other than our incarnate God, who came down from Heaven on purpose to bear our sins in his own sacred person, that he might deliver us from the condemnation due to them, and procure for us reconciliation with our offended God. Well then may we behold our Savior,

1. With the deepest humiliation for having occasioned him such anguish—

Had we never sinned, our adorable Lord would never have assumed our nature, nor borne any of these agonies which we have been contemplating. In them, therefore, we should read our guilt and misery. Was he under the hidings of his Father's face? We deserve to be banished from the presence of our God to all eternity. Did he suffer inconceivable agonies both of body and soul, under the wrath of Almighty God? We merited the utmost extremity of that wrath forever and ever. Did he suffer even unto death? We were obnoxious to everlasting death, even that "second death in the lake that burns with file and brimstone," "where the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched." Draw near then with me, Brethren, to Gethsemane and to Golgotha, and contemplate with me the scenes which were there exhibited. Do you see in the garden that sufferer, whose agonies of soul are so intense, that the blood issues from every pore of his body? And do you behold him on the mount, stretched upon the cross, and hear his heart-rending cry, "My God! my God! why have you forsaken me?" Say then with yourselves, 'Now I behold what my sins have merited; or, rather, what they merit at this hour. There is not a moment of my life, wherein I might not justly be called upon to drink that bitter cup, without the smallest hope for any, the slightest, mitigation of my woe through eternal ages.' Dear Brethren, this is the glass in which I wish you to behold your own deserts. I would not have your eyes turned away from it for one instant to the latest hour of your lives. In viewing particular sins, you may perhaps be led to self-delight, from the thought that they have not been so enormous as what are habitually committed by others: but in viewing your iniquities as expiated by our blessed Lord, you will see that nothing can exceed your vileness: and you will be ready to take the lowest place as the very "chief of sinners." The best of you, no less than the most abandoned, have merited, and do yet daily merit, at God's hand, all that the Savior of the world endured for you: and I again say, 'Never look at yourselves in any other glass than this.'

2. With the liveliest gratitude for sustaining them in your behalf—

Truly he interposed not thus for the angels when they fell: but for you he undertook and executed this stupendous work of "redeeming you to God by his own precious blood." This, methinks, should fill you with such wonder and love, that you should never be able to think of anything else. In this mystery are contained "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;" and all other things, how beautiful soever in their place, should be swallowed up by it, even as the most brilliant stars are eclipsed by the sun. Hence, this formed the one great topic of Paul's preaching; (which he calls "the preaching of the cross;") for "he determined to know nothing among his people but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And in Heaven this forms, among all the choir of saints and angels, the one subject of their praise. Even angels, I say, unite with the saints in singing "Salvation to God who sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever." Oh! Brethren, if our minds were more occupied in exploring the height and depth and length and breadth of redeeming love, we should not be so easily turned away after vain unprofitable controversies as too many are at this day This is an important hint, and may be followed up, according as there be occasion for it at different times or places in the Christian Church; This subject will elevate and enlarge the soul, and have a transforming efficacy in proportion as we delight to dwell upon it. Let it only be duly and abidingly impressed upon your minds; and it will prove the power of God to the salvation of your souls.

 

 

Psalms 23:1-6

DISCOURSE 528

DAVID'S CONFIDENCE IN GOD

Psalm 23:1-6. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

IN reading the Psalms of David we are apt to think of him as a highly privileged person, whom we can never hope to resemble in the fervor of his piety, or the height of his enjoyments. But, while as the anointed King of Israel whom God had so particularly chosen, and as a distinguished prophet of the Lord, he was favored with communications and supports, which we are not entitled to expect, in his more private character, as a saint, he possessed no advantage above us. His views of divine truth were far inferior to ours: and his experience of its efficacy was no other than what may be enjoyed by every saint in every age. The psalm before us is a bright specimen of devout affection; and, in point both of composition and sentiment, is universally admired: yet it contains no other recollections than what every Believer's experience must afford, no other confidence than what every saint is warranted to express. Considering David then as a pattern for ourselves, we shall notice,

I. His retrospective acknowledgments—

In recording the mercies of God to him, he speaks of his heavenly Benefactor under the character of,

1. A Shepherd—

The Son of David, the Lord Jesus Christ, was David's Lord Matthew 22:42-45, and David's Shepherd Genesis 49:24. Ezekiel 34:23-24. John 10:11; and whatever pertains to the office of a good shepherd, he both executed for him, and will execute for us.

Is it the office of a shepherd to provide good pasture for his sheep? O what pasture is provided for us in the sacred records! David in his day could say, "He makes me to lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside the still waters:" and if he, with so small a portion of the inspired volume in his hands, when the great mystery of redemption was hid under a veil, and the Spirit of God was yet but sparingly bestowed upon the Church, could use such language, how much more may we, who have the meridian light of the Gospel shining around us, and the Holy Spirit poured forth in all his gracious influences, almost without measure! What views have we of the "covenant, that is ordered in all things and sure!" of the prophecies, which have been so minutely fulfilled! and of "the exceeding great and precious promises," which are so suited to all our wants! And how abundant are our consolations, when the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, seals all these truths upon our souls, and witnesses with our spirits that we are the Lord's!.

Is it the office of a shepherd to bring back to the fold his wandering sheep, and to guide them in right paths? How justly may we unite with David in saying, "He restores my soul; he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake?" Mark the words, "For his name's sake." It is his own glory that he has consulted in all his dealings towards us; and especially in that astonishing patience and forbearance which he has exercised towards us from day to day. Our backslidings have been so grievous, and our departures from him so frequent, that we might well have been left to perish in our sins. But he considers that his own honor is involved in the preservation of his sheep; and, therefore, he has never withdrawn his loving-kindness from us, or ceased to watch over us for good. It is on no other principle that we can account for our recoveries when fallen, and our preservation from ten thousand evils into which we should have fallen, if we had not been guided and upheld by him.

Is it the office of a shepherd to protect his sheep from danger? This he does, as well for the lambs of his flock, as for those that have attained a greater measure of strength. By "the valley of the shadow of death" we may understand a dying hour Job 10:21-22; but we rather understand by it a season of darkness and distress. This is more agreeable to the context, and better accords with the general import of those words in Holy Writ Psalm 107:10; Psalm 107:14. Jeremiah 13:16. Sheep, in going from mountain to mountain and hill to hill, may easily be supposed to pass occasionally through valleys where dangers affright them, and difficulties obstruct their way: and in this respect the saints resemble them; for however rich their pastures for the most part may be, they find occasional seasons of darkness and gloom. But in such seasons the Lord Jesus Christ, as the great Shepherd and Bishop (Overseer) of souls, is with them, and with his pastoral rod and staff protects them. It is with that rod he numbers them when they come into his fold Leviticus 27:32. Ezekiel 26:17, and with that he secures them from every harm. This he has promised to them in the most express terms Isaiah 43:2-3; Isaiah 43:5; and he will fulfill it even to the end Isaiah 41:10.

2. A Friend—

This is a character which God assumed in reference to Abraham Isaiah 41:8; and our blessed Lord honors all his faithful disciples with this endearing name: "Henceforth I call you not servants, but friends John 15:15." Now, as the friend of his people, he uses all hospitality towards them. As in the days of old he spread a table for his people in the wilderness, where they could not otherwise have subsisted, so "he prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies." Enemies we have on every side; and such enemies as would deprive us of every blessing, if they were not restrained by an invisible and almighty power. But our heavenly Friend protects us from their assaults, and gives us an abundant supply of all good things, even "a feast of fat things, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined." Nor does he omit anything which can possibly evince his love towards us. As a Host who delights to honor his guests, he anoints our head with oil; and as the Master of the feast, he fills "our cup" with the richest wine, so that it "runs over." These figures, though strong and clear, very inadequately represent the communications of his grace, and the consolations of his Spirit. David, in another psalm, says, "The Lord himself is the portion of my inheritance and my cup Psalm 16:5;" and when this is the case, can it be matter of surprise that "our cup runs over?" No indeed; for there is nothing on this side of Heaven that can be compared with the manifestations of his love. Truly, "in his favor is life; and his loving-kindness is better than life itself."

While acknowledging thus the goodness of God to him in past times, the Psalmist does not hesitate to proclaim,

II. His prospective consolations—

These pervade the whole psalm, and arise out of every truth contained in it. Three of his assertions in particular we shall notice:

1. "I shall not want"—

With such a Shepherd, and such a Friend, how could he want; or what can any one so privileged ever stand in need of? Does he not know all our wants? and is he not able to supply them Philippians 4:19. Has he not absolutely pledged himself to supply them? and is there not an inexhaustible fullness treasured up in him on purpose that he may supply them? Do we need a righteousness wherein we may stand before God? "The righteousness of Christ shall be unto all and upon all them that believe": Do we need grace to mortify all our corruptions, and to fulfill the whole will of God? "His grace shall be sufficient for us": Do we need peace in our troubled breasts? He has left us peace as a legacy; "Peace I leave with you: my peace give I unto you:" yes, "He himself will be our peace": Even of temporal things he has said, that "they who fear him shall want no manner of thing that is good Psalm 34:10." Whether we look to the blessings of time or the glories of eternity, it is every believer's privilege to say, I shall not want."

2. "I will not fear"—

It were presumptuous in the extreme for any one to use such an expression as this, if he looked only to an arm of flesh: for "of ourselves we have no sufficiency even to think a good thought:" but, with such a protector as the Lord Jesus, we may laugh all our enemies to scorn. We know how powerful, how subtle, how malignant is that "roaring lion that seeks to devour us;" and we know that we are as weak and impotent in ourselves as sheep: but if David, a man like ourselves, slew a lion and a bear that invaded his father's flock, what shall not Jesus effect in our defense? Who shall escape his eye, or who shall withstand his arm? Hear what our Lord himself says; "My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places; when it shall hail, coming down on the forest, and the city shall be low in a low place Isaiah 32:18-19." Let the timid then dismiss their fears, from whatever source they may arise. "I will fear no evil," said the Psalmist; and we, whether we take a general view of our enemies, or enter into a distinct enumeration of them, may adopt the same triumphant language Psalm 46:1-3. Romans 8:35-39; If "we know in whom we have believed, we may be assured that he will keep that which we have committed to him against that glorious day," when all his flock shall be gathered together, and be one fold under one shepherd.

3. Of my happiness there shall be no end—

Behold how confidently the Psalmist speaks on this subject! "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life." What! have you no doubt about this great matter? No: it shall be surely so. Are you not presumptuous in speaking thus in relation to yourself? No: it shall be thus to me. But would it not be abundantly sufficient to say, that goodness and mercy shall not turn away from you? No: they shall follow me, and that too "all the days of my life:" they shall follow me, even as my shadow does, wherever I go; "goodness," to supply my wants; and "mercy," to cover my defects. And are you bold enough to carry this confidence beyond the grave? Yes: "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever;" not only serving him in his house below, but enjoying and glorifying him in his house above.

Behold here the felicity of the Saints! All the rest of the world are following after happiness, and it eludes their grasp: but those who believe in Jesus have happiness following after them: "goodness and mercy" are their attendant angels, that never for a moment turn aside from them, or relax their attention to them.

The ignorant world have no idea of this blessed truth: they would account it almost blasphemy to utter such language as this. But the reason is, they know not what a Shepherd, and what a Friend, we have: did they but duly appreciate his love, they would know, that nothing within the sphere of our necessities to require, or of his ability to grant, is too great for us to expect at his gracious hands.

Enlarge then your expectations, all you who are of the fold of Christ: learn to estimate alight your privileges: see them yet more distinctly stated by the Holy Psalmist Psalm 91:15-16; and look forward to the full enjoyment of them in that house, where the same adorable Savior that now ministers unto you, will continue his ministrations to all eternity Revelation 7:15-17.

 

Psalms 24:7-10

 

DISCOURSE 529

THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST TYPIFIED

Psalm 24:7-10. Lift up your heads, O gates; and be lift up, you everlasting doors; and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O gates; even lift them up, you everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of Hosts, he is the King of glory.

THE various rites and ceremonies of the Mosaic law were extremely useful to the Jews, not merely as means whereby they were to serve their God, but as vehicles of instruction to their minds. It is true indeed that the instruction which would be conveyed by them was very imperfect; but still it was such as best suited their infant minds, and such as was well calculated to stir up in them a desire after a fuller comprehension of the things contained in them: they were to the nation at large what the parables of our Lord were to the Scribes and Pharisees of his clay; they were means of fixing the attention of the people, and of stimulating them to inquiry. But to us, who have the true light reflected on those things, they are of far greater value: for, seeing them in connection with the things typified by them, we behold a fitness and a beauty in them, which the people of God under the Jewish dispensation could have no idea of. Let us illustrate this from the psalm before us. This psalm was written on the occasion of carrying up the ark from the house of Obed-edom to Mount Zion. The ark was the symbol of the Divine presence: and the carrying it up in so solemn and triumphant a way conveyed to the spectators this important truth, that to have God near unto them, where he might be sought and consulted at all times, even in the very midst of them, was an inestimable privilege. But we behold in that ceremony the ascension of our blessed Lord to the heavenly Zion, where he is gone for the benefit of all his waiting people. The character by which he is described is infinitely more intelligible to us than it could be to those who lived before his advent, and the benefit to be derived from his elevation is proportionably more clear. This will appear while we consider,

I. The character here given of our ascended Lord—

His ascension, as we have already said, was here represented—

The priests, with the Levites who bare the ark, demanded, in elevated strains, admission for it within the tabernacle that had been reared for its reception. The terms used, though not strictly applicable to the tabernacle, were proper to it in a figurative sense, as representing the Heaven of heavens, the peculiar residence of the Deity. In this view it is said, "Lift up your heads, O gates; and be lift up, you everlasting doors!" The Levites within the tabernacle, on hearing this demand, are represented as inquiring in whose behalf it is made, and who this King of glory is. The reply being satisfactory to those who had the charge of the tabernacle, the ark is borne in, and deposited in the place prepared for it.

Agreeably to this representation we may conceive of Jesus at his ascension, attended by a host of ministering angels, who, on their arrival at the portals of Heaven, demand admission for their Divine Master. The angels within inquire who that man can be in whose behalf such a claim is made. Twice is the inquiry made, and twice the answer is returned; and on the entrance of the Lord into those heavenly mansions we may conceive that the whole celestial choir unite in one exulting acclamation, "The King of glory! the King of glory!"

But the character here given of him deserves more attentive consideration—

The essential dignity of our Lord is that first mentioned. As "the King of glory," and "the Lord of glory," he could claim Heaven as his own. There he had from all eternity been "in the bosom of the Father:" there he had "had a glory with the Father before the worlds were made." "From thence he had descended," for the purpose of executing the Father's will. Though he had assumed our nature, and "was found in fashion as a man," yet was he from all eternity "in the form of God, and thought it no robbery to be equal with God." He was "the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person." He was "one with God," in glory equal, in majesty co-eternal: in a word, he was "the mighty God," "the great God and our Savior," "God over all, blessed for evermore." Well therefore might his attendant angels call on the hosts of Heaven to open wide the portals of those glorious mansions for his admission; since the Heaven of heavens were from all eternity his proper, his peculiar residence.

But he is further described as "the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." The reason of his descent from Heaven had been to rescue a ruined world from the dominion of sin and Satan, death and Hell. "The God of this world" had his vassals in complete subjection: as "a strong man armed he kept his house, and all his goods were in peace." But Jesus entered into conflict with him, and "bound him and spoiled his goods;" or, in other words, delivered from his sway millions of the human race, who had not only been "led captive by him at his will," but would ultimately have been "bound with him in chains of everlasting darkness." True indeed, he himself received a wound in the engagement; ("his heel was bruised:") but he inflicted a deadly wound on "the head" of his enemy Genesis 3:15, and vanquished him forever. It may be said indeed that he himself died in the conflict: he did so, and appeared to be "crucified through weakness:" but it was not through weakness that he died, but in compliance with his own engagement to "make his soul an offering for sin." His death was to be the very means of victory: it was "through death that he overcame him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and delivered them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage." On his cross he not only "spoiled all the principalities and powers of Hell, but made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it:" and in his ascension "he led them captive," bound, as it were, to his chariot-wheels. This constituted a further claim to the mansions of Heaven. It had been covenanted on his Father's part, that after his conflicts on earth he should be raised in his manhood to the right hand of God, and that, thus enthroned, he should put every enemy under his feet Psalm 110:1. This was now to be fulfilled: the victory was gained: and nothing now remained to complete the glorious work but the installation of Messiah on his promised throne. Hence the exulting reply to the inquiry, "Who is this King of glory?" "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle; the Lord of Hosts, He is the King of glory!" and, as such, he comes to take possession of his throne, and calls on all the hosts of Heaven to celebrate and adorn his triumphs.

But to participate the joy expressed in our text, we should understand—

II. The interest we have in his ascension—

It is not as a private individual that he has ascended, for then we should have mourned as Elisha did for Elijah, and as the Apostles were disposed to do, when he advertised them of his intentions to depart from them. But we have reason rather to rejoice in his departure, yes, far more than if he had continued upon earth to the present hour John 14:28; for he is ascended,

1. As our Great High Priest—

The office of the High Priest was but half performed when he had slain the sacrifice: he must carry the blood within the veil, to sprinkle it upon the Mercy-seat; and he must burn incense also before the Mercy-seat. Now our blessed Lord was to execute every part of the priestly office; and therefore he must carry his own blood within the veil, and present also before the Mercy-seat the incense of his continual intercession. Agreeably to this we are told, "that by his own blood he is entered into the Holy Place, having obtained eternal redemption for us;" that "he is gone to appear in the presence of God for us;" and that "he ever lives to make intercession for us Hebrews 7:25; Hebrews 9:12; Hebrews 9:24." What a blessed thought is this! Have I a doubt whether my sins shall be forgiven? Behold, he is at this very moment pleading in his Father's presence the merit of his blood, which is a sufficient "atoning sacrifice not for my sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world." Have I a doubt whether God will hear my unworthy petitions? Behold, Jesus, my Great High Priest, will secure, by his own prevailing intercession, an everlasting acceptance both of my person and services at the hands of Almighty God.

2. As our living Head—

Jesus is the Head and Representative of his people; insomuch that they may not improperly be said to be even at this time "sitting in and with him in heavenly places Ephesians 2:6." But he is also our Head of vital influence, having all fullness of spiritual blessings treasured up in him, in order that we may receive out of it according to our necessities Colossians 2:9. Adam at first had, as it were, a treasure of grace committed to his own custody; and he lost it even in Paradise. How much more then should we lose it, who are corrupt creatures in a corrupt world, if it were again left in our own keeping! But God has now taken more effectual care for us. He has given us into the hands of his own Son: and our life is now placed out of the reach of our great Adversary; "it is hid with Christ in God." Do we want wisdom, or righteousness, or sanctification, or complete redemption? it is all treasured up for us in Christ, who "is made all unto us 1 Corinthians 1:30." It is out of his inexhaustible fullness that we all receive John 1:16; and, as the sun in the firmament is the one source of all the light that we, or any other of the planets, receive, so is Christ, of all the spiritual blessings that are enjoyed on earth: "He is head over all things to the Church;" and "he fills all in all Ephesians 1:22-23."

3. As the Forerunner of all his people—

By that very name is he called, in reference to his entrance within the veil Hebrews 6:19-20. Indeed previous to his departure he expressly told his disciples, that he was going to prepare a place for them, in order at a future period to come and take them to himself, that they might be with him forever John 14:2-3. He is gone up to Heaven as the first-fruits, which sanctified and assured the whole harvest 1 Corinthians 15:20. Soon is he coming again from thence, to take home his people who wait for him. Not one will he leave behind. At whatever period or place they died, they "shall hear his voice," they shall "meet him in the air, they shall be ever with the Lord John 5:28. 1 Thessalonians. 4:16-17." When he was upon the earth he appeared like other men, and died laden with the iniquities of a ruined world: but in due time he will appear again, without sin, in all the glory of his Father and of his holy angels, to the complete and everlasting salvation of all who look for him Hebrews 9:28. 1 Thessalonians. 4:18. "Why comfort one another with these words."

Improvement—

Is our blessed Lord ascended to the highest heavens? then,

1. Let our affections be where He is—

This is the improvement which Paul himself teaches us to make of this subject Colossians 3:1-2 with Philippians 3:17; Philippians 3:20; What is there worth a thought, in comparison of this adorable Savior, who has died for us, and is yet every moment occupied in the great work of our salvation, exerting all his influence with the Father in our behalf, and communicating continually to our souls all needful supplies of grace and strength?.

2. Let our dependence be upon him—

It may be said, that, having been quickened from the dead, we have now a new and spiritual life within us; but it must not be forgotten, that the life we have is not so committed to us, that we have it in, and of, ourselves: as light in our dwellings is derived from, and altogether dependent on, the sun in the firmament, so is the life that is infused into our souls entirely derived from, and dependent on, the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence Paul says, "I live: yet not I; but Christ lives in me:" and then he adds, "And the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me Galatians 3:20." Thus it must be with us: we must remember that "all our fresh springs are in him:" and from him must we derive all our vital energy, as branches from the stock, and as members from the head. A life of faith on him is equally necessary for every human being: in ourselves we are all wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; and to him must we equally be indebted for eye-salve to restore our sight, for clothing to cover us, and for gold to enrich our souls Revelation 3:17-18. To him must we go for it from day to day; and from him must we obtain it, "without money and without price Isaiah 55:1."

3. Let us be looking forward to, and preparing for, a similar entrance into his glory—

St. Paul assures us, that "when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall we also appear with him in glory Colossians 3:3-4." Yes; as soon as ever the judgment shall be past, then shall he, at the head of his redeemed people, demand admission for them all into the highest heavens: "Lift up, etc. etc and the King of glory, with all his redeemed, shall enter in." What shouts will then resound throughout all the courts of Heaven! "The King of glory! The King of glory!" No other name will then be heard but that of our Redeeming God, to whom all possible "praise and honor and glory will be ascribed, even to Him that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever." "Look then for this glorious period, and haste unto it," as the consummation of all your hopes, and the completion of all your joys 2 Peter 3:12; and by adding virtue to virtue, and grace to grace, ensure to yourselves an entrance, not like that of a mere wreck, but like a ship in full sail, even "an abundant entrance into the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ 2 Peter 1:5; 2 Peter 1:10-11."

 

Psalms 25:6-7

 

DISCOURSE 530

THE SAINT PLEADING WITH GOD

Psalm 25:6-7. Remember, O Lord, your tender mercies and your loving-kindnesses; for they have been ever of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions: according to your mercy remember you me, for your goodness' sake, O Lord.

AT what precise period this psalm was written, is not certainly known; but probably about the time of Absalom's rebellion. It is evident that David's sorrows were very great verse 16, 17; but those which appear to have pressed with the greatest weight upon his mind arose from a view of his past transgressions, and probably from that flagrant iniquity committed by him in the matter of Uriah verse 11, 18. His mode of pleading with God is that to which I propose, in a more especial manner, to draw your attention, because it affords an excellent pattern for us, in all our approaches to the throne of grace.

Let us notice,

I. What he desires—

He desires God to "remember the tender mercies and loving-kindnesses" with which he had favored him in times past. Now this is almost the last petition which we should have expected from a person mourning under a sense of sin, because the kindness of God to us forms one of the greatest aggravations of our sins. God himself made this the ground of his complaint against his people of old: "What could I have done more for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? and why, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" But David had a just view of God's tender mercies: he regarded them as pledges of yet richer blessings in reserve for him: and in this view his request deserves particular attention.

God's mercies are the fruits of his electing love—

God dispenses his blessings to whoever he will. He has a right to do so: for there is no creature in the universe that has any claim upon him. As well might the devils complain of him, for not giving to them a Savior, as any of us complain of him for not bestowing on us the grace which he imparts to others. In what he does, he consults his own glory alone: and, however rebellious man may arraign his counsels, he will be eternally glorified in all that he has done: it will all be found "to his praise and honor and glory" in "the day which he has appointed for the revelation of his righteous judgments." David was sensible of his obligations to God in this respect. He traced all his mercies to their proper source, the eternal counsels of the Deity; who had given them to him, not for any righteousness of his, either seen or foreseen, but "according to his own purpose and grace, which had been given him in Christ Jesus before the world began 2 Timothy 1:9." He saw that "God had loved him with an everlasting love," and therefore with loving-kindness had he drawn him to the actual enjoyment of his favor.

In this view they may be regarded as pledges of future blessings—

God is unchangeable, no less in his counsels than in his perfections Malachi 3:6. In no respect is there with him "any variableness, or shadow of turning James 1:17." "His gifts and calling are without repentance Romans 11:29." Hence, if he remember his former mercies, he will continue them. "He will not forsake his people for his great name's sake, because it has pleased him to make them his people 1 Samuel 12:22." He has said, "I will never, never leave you; never, never forsake you Hebrews 13:5;" so that, if we have indeed experienced his loving-kindness in our souls, we may "confidently hope that he will carry on and perfect his work within us Philippians 1:6;" for "whom he loves, he loves to the end John 13:1."

Here, then, we see what was in the mind of David when he urged this petition. He had found consolation from this thought in the midst of the deepest distresses. When tempted, on one occasion, to think that "God had cast him off, and would be favorable to him no more, but had in anger shut up his tender mercies, so that his promise would fail for evermore," he "called to mind God's wonders of old time," and thus composed his mind, and assured himself that his fears were groundless, the result only of "his own infirmity Psalm 42:6; Psalm 77:6-11." In any troubles, therefore, which we may experience, we shall do well to look back upon God's mercies of old, and to take encouragement from them to cast ourselves upon him, for the continuance of them.

Let us next observe,

II. What he deprecates—

Sin, in whoever it is found, is most offensive to God—

God "cannot look upon iniquity without the utmost abhorrence Habakkuk 1:13," both of the act itself, and of the person who has committed it. Hence, when he forgives sin, he "blots it out, even as a morning cloud, which passes away, and is no more seen Isaiah 44:22." God has put it altogether out of his own sight; he has "cast it behind his back Isaiah 38:17," "into the very depths of the sea Mic. 7:19," from whence it shall never be brought up again. If it were remembered by him, he must punish it: and therefore, to those who turn unto him, and lay hold on his covenant, he promises, that "their sins and iniquities he will remember no more Hebrews 8:12."

On this account David deprecates the remembrance of his sins—

He specifies, in particular, "the sins of his youth," which, though committed through levity and thoughtlessness, were displeasing to God, and must entail his judgments on the soul. Little do young people think what their views of their present conduct will be, when God shall open their eyes, whether it be in the present or the future life. They now imagine that they have, as it were, a licence to indulge in sin, and to neglect their God. They conceive, that serious piety at their age would be premature and preposterous; and that, if they only abstain from gross immoralities, they may well be excused for deferring to a later period the habits that are distasteful to a youthful mind. But these are vain and delusive imaginations. God views their conduct with other eyes. He admits not those frivolous excuses with which men satisfy their own minds. He sees no reason why the earlier part of life should be consecrated to Satan, and the dregs of it alone be reserved for him. He demands the first-fruits as his peculiar portion; and if the first-fruits of the field, much more the first-fruits of the immortal soul. O! my young friends, I entreat you to reflect how different God's estimate of your conduct is from that which you and your thoughtless companions form; and how bitterly you will one day deprecate his remembrance of those sins, which now you pass over as unworthy of any serious consideration.

But David adverts also to the transgressions which, through weakness or inadvertence, he yet daily committed. And who among us is not conscious of manifold transgressions in his daily walk and conversation? Who is not constrained to say, "Enter not into judgment with your servant, O Lord:" "if you should be extreme to mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand?" Thus, then, let us also implore God to blot out our sins from the book of his remembrance, that they may never appear against us in the day of judgment, and, "if sought for" with ever so much diligence, may never, "never be found Jeremiah 50:20."

Let us mark yet farther,

III. What he proposes as the rule and measure of

God's dealings with him—

On the mercy of God he founds all his hope—

Mercy is the favorite attribute of the Deity: it delights to spare the offending, and to save the penitent. It is ready to fly at the call of guilt and misery; and hastens to execute the dictates of God's sovereign grace. It demands no merit as the price of its blessings: it accounts itself richly recompensed in bringing glory to God and happiness to man. Hence David prayed, "According to your mercy, remember you me!" When speaking of God's interposition between him and his persecutors, he could say, "The Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands has he recompensed me Psalm 18:20." But he would not presume to make his own righteousness the ground of his hope towards God. For acceptance with him, he would rely on nothing but mercy, even the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. Herein he has set us an example which we shall do well to follow: in all our addresses to the Most High God, we should adopt his prayer, and say, "Deal with your servant according to your mercy Psalm 119:124." There is solid ground. Thither the most holy of the saints must come; and there the vilest sinner upon earth may find a rock whereon to stand with confidence before God. With such a ground of hope, David could approach his God, and say, "Be merciful unto my sin; for it is great!"

From "the goodness of God, too," he derives his only plea—

David well knew that God is most glorified in those exercises of mercy which most display his sovereignty and his grace. Hence he desired that God would have respect to his own honor, and show mercy to him for his goodness' sake. Thus must we, also, take our arguments from the perfections of our God; and have all our hope, and plea, and confidence in him alone.

To this I will only add,

1. Let us follow the example of David—

We all have need to come to God precisely in the manner that David did. We have no more worthiness in ourselves than he. If judged by anything of our own, we can have no hope whatever. We must stand precisely on the same ground as he, and urge the very same pleas as he. Our first, and last, and only cry must be,

"Mercy, good Lord, mercy I ask;

This is the total sum:

For mercy, Lord, is all my plea:

O let your mercy come See the Lamentation of a Sinner, at the end of the Liturgy; and compare Psalm 51:1."

2. Let us take encouragement from the acceptance which he found—

His sins, great as they were, were all forgiven. And when did God ever reject the prayer of faith? To whom did he ever say, "Seek you my face in vain?" Read the whole of the fifty-first psalm, and let it be a model for your supplications, day and night. Then shall your prayer come up with acceptance before God, and your seed-time of tears issue in a harvest of eternal joy.

 

 

Psalms 25:9

 

DISCOURSE 531

MEEK DOCILITY INCULCATED

Psalm 25:9. The meek will he guide in judgment; and the meek he will teach his way.

THE necessity of a revelation is universally acknowledged: for no man could possibly know God's will, unless God himself should be pleased to communicate information respecting it from above. But the necessity for any divine influence upon the soul, in order to a due improvement of a revelation already given, is not generally admitted. But we are expressly told, that "all God's children shall be taught of him:" and both the goodness and integrity of God are pledged for the performance of the promise verse 8. There are, however, certain qualifications which we must possess, before the offered benefits can be extended to us: and what they are, it is my intention, in this present Discourse, to set before you.

Let me then state,

I. What dispositions are necessary for a reception of divine truth—

The term "meekness" is of very extensive import. But, instead of entering into the variety of senses in which the word is used, we shall find it more profitable to confine ourselves to the precise view in which it is used in the passage before us. Men may be denominated "meek,"

1. When they are sensible of their own ignorance—

Ignorant we are, whether we be sensible of it or not. The fall of man has proved no less injurious to his intellectual powers than to his heart. "His understanding is darkened:" "the God of this world has blinded his eyes:" and "he is alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in him, and because of the blindness of his heart."

But men are unconscious of this. They feel that their powers are strong for the investigation of human sciences; and they see no reason why they should not be equally so for the comprehension of things relating to the soul. Any intimation to this effect they are ready to resent, as the Pharisees did of old: "Are we blind also? John 9:40."

Very different is their conduct, when they are become truly "meek." Then they perceive their want of spiritual discernment 2 Corinthians 2:14. They feel that no efforts of flesh and blood will suffice for the illumination of their minds Matthew 16:17; and that they need "not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that they may know the things that are freely given to them of God 1 Corinthians 2:12."

2. When they are willing and desirous to be taught of God—

As man by nature is not sensible of his own blindness, so has he no wish to obtain a spiritual insight into the things of God. He is satisfied with a speculative knowledge: and, if he possess that which may be apprehended by reason, and which may be attained by his own personal exertions, he has all that he desires. All beyond that is, in his estimation, a vain conceit.

But a person who possesses the disposition spoken of in our text, desires to be taught of God, and to be guided into all truth. He is not contented with abiding in the outer court of the temple; but longs to be introduced within the veil, even into the sanctuary of the Most High, in order that he may behold God shining forth in all his glory, and receive from him the richest possible communications of his grace and love. For this end, whenever he opens the inspired volume, he lifts up his heart to God, and prays, "Open you my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your Law!" In relation to the whole work of redemption, whether as revealed in the word, or as experienced in the soul, he desires to hear God himself, and be "taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus Ephesians 4:20-21;" and he pleads with God that most encouraging promise, "Call upon me, and I will show you great and mighty (hidden) things, which you know not Jeremiah 33:3."

Such are the dispositions which characterize the people whom God will instruct.

We are next to show,

II. Whence arises the necessity for them—

There is, in the whole scope and tenor of the Gospel,

1. A contrariety to our carnal reason—

The substitution of God's co-equal, co-eternal Son in the place of sinners, his vicarious sacrifice, his bringing in a righteousness by the imputation of which sinners may be justified before God, and his imparting all the blessings of redemption to them, through the exercise of faith, and without any respect whatever to their works; these are truths to which carnal reason is extremely averse. They are among "those things of the Spirit which the natural man neither does, nor can, receive." A man may, indeed, adopt these things as his creed, and may account an opposition to them heresy; while yet he has no spiritual acquaintance with them in his own soul: but to see the excellency of them, to love them, to delight in them, to "account all things but dung for the knowledge of them," is an attainment which the natural man has no idea of, and which, instead of desiring, he hates. They form altogether a mystery. Hence, until he is humbled before God, he cannot possibly comprehend these things: they are a stumbling-block to him; they are mere "foolishness" in his eyes.

2. An opposition to our depraved appetites—

The Gospel calls upon us to "mortify our members upon earth," yes, and to "crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts:" and to such an extent does it require the subjugation of our corrupt appetites, that, if there be a thing dear to us as a right eye, it calls upon us to pluck it out, or a thing useful as a right hand, to cut it off. Now, how can such doctrines as these be received by a proud, unmortified, and unhumbled spirit? It is not possible but that there should be the utmost repugnance to them in all who feel not the value of their own souls, and desire not above all things to obtain peace with God. In truth, the doctrines of Christianity are not a whit more offensive to the reason of the natural man, than the duties of it are to his corrupt affections; which, therefore, must be mortified, before he can acquiesce in them as good and right.

3. An inconsistency with our worldly interests—

The instant we embrace the Gospel with our whole hearts, the world will become our enemies. They hated and persecuted the Lord of glory himself: can we suppose that the disciple will be above his Lord, or that, if they called the Master of the house Beelzebub, they will not find some opprobrious names for those also of his household? We are taught by our Lord that we must be hated of all men for his name's sake; and that, if we will not take up our cross daily, and follow him, we cannot be his disciples. Nay more; if we be not willing to forsake all, and even to lay down our lives for him, we cannot be partakers of his salvation. But what will an earthly mind say to this? Will not a faithful declaration of these things draw forth that reply which was given to our Lord, "This is a hard saying; who can hear it?" Many, when our Lord proclaimed these things, turned back, and walked no more with him: and this cannot but be the result with every carnal and worldly mind, when such sacrifices are required.

Hence, then, it is evident, that, unless a very great change be wrought in the heart of an unconverted man, he neither will, nor can, be in a state to receive truths to which his whole nature is so averse. If he really desired to do God's will, the film would be removed from his eyes, and he would be able to appreciate the things which are set before him in the Gospel: but, until he becomes thus "meek" and docile, he will be inaccessible to the light, or rather, the light itself will only augment his blindness.

That all may be encouraged to seek these necessary dispositions, I proceed to notice,

III. The promise made to those who are possessed of them—

It has already appeared, that men, by the Fall, have suffered loss both in their intellectual and moral powers. And, in both respects, shall they be restored to a rich measure of their pristine dignity, if only they cultivate the dispositions which God requires.

1. God will "guide them in judgment"—

They see at present through a dense and delusive medium: and hence everything relating to God assumes, in their eyes, an odious and distorted shape. But God will rectify their views: he will enable them to discern everything in its proper colors, and to see its bearings on the welfare of the soul. The excellency of salvation through a crucified Redeemer, the blessedness of having all our corruptions mortified, and the wisdom of sacrificing all our worldly interests to the welfare of the soul; these, and all other truths connected with them, shall be brought home to the mind with an evidence which it cannot doubt, and with a power which it cannot withstand: or, to use the expressive language of the Psalmist, "In the hidden part God shall make them to know wisdom Psalm 51:6." In a word, he will bring the soul out of darkness into marvelous light; so that it shall no more call evil good, and good evil, but shall "be guided into all truth," and shall "have the very mind that was in Christ Jesus."

2. He will enable them, also, to walk in his ways—

Truth shall not float in their minds as a mere theory or speculation, but shall influence their every act, their universal habit. God will, by his word and Spirit, reduce them from their wanderings, and guide their feet into the way of peace. And, if at any time they be for a moment turned aside through error of judgment, or instability of mind, he will cause them to "hear a word behind them, saying, This is the way, walk you in it." He will go before them, as he did before the Israelites in the wilderness, causing his word to be a light to their feet and a lantern to their paths: and thus "he will guide them by his counsel, until he shall finally receive them to glory."

Here, then, we may see,

1. Whence it is that the blessings of the Gospel are so pre-eminently enjoyed by the poor—

It is a fact, that "not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble, are called;" but that "God has revealed to babes and sucklings the things which, to so great an extent, are hid from the wise and prudent." The wise and great are too generally under the influence of self-sufficiency and self-dependence. They cannot bow to the humiliating doctrines of the Gospel: they will not endure to view themselves in so destitute a condition as the Gospel represents them. Hence they, almost universally, "stumble at the word, being disobedient." But the poor are easily brought to see that they need instruction from above: their very incompetency to enter into deep researches of any kind gives them a comparative diffidence of their own powers, in relation to the things of God. Hence they see but little to stumble at even in those points which the wise and learned find most difficult to overcome: and, being more easily brought to seek instruction from God, they, in far greater numbers, are taught of God, and almost engross to themselves, as it were, the possession of his kingdom. O, you poor, never repine at your lot; but rather rejoice that you are of the happy number of those whom God has chosen chiefly, though not exclusively, "to be rich in faith, and heirs of his kingdom." And, you rich or learned, seek to "become as little children," and be willing to "become fools, that you may be truly wise."

2. Whence it is that there are so many falls and errors in the religious world—

People, when they have embraced the truth, are but too apt to lose the simplicity of their earlier days, and to become wise in their own conceits. Hence many of them fall into errors of divers kinds; and not unfrequently dishonor, by their conduct, their holy profession. Alas! alas! what a picture does the religious world present! See what controversies and animosities obtain among those who profess themselves children of one common Father! Dear Brethren, dreadful is the advantage which our great adversary gains by these means. Remember, I pray you, that your growth in grace is to be shown, not by a proud dogmatizing spirit, but by a spirit of meekness, and humility, and love. He is most acceptable to the Lord Jesus, who most resembles a little child: and he shall have the richest communications from God, who, with most lowliness of heart, implores his continual aid. In reading the Holy Scriptures therefore, and under the public ministration of the word, be careful not to lean to your own understanding, but to trust in God for the teaching of his good Spirit; that "receiving the word with meekness, as an engrafted word," you may find it effectual to sanctify and "save your souls."

 

 

Psalms 25:10

 

DISCOURSE 532

GOD'S PATHS ARE MERCY AND TRUTH

Psalm 25:10. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.

IT has often been observed, that there is in the world an indiscriminate distribution of good and evil, without any respect to men's moral characters. And this is confirmed by Solomon, who says, "All things come alike to all, neither knows any man love or hatred by all that is before him." This, however, must be understood with certain limitations and restrictions: for, as in chemical preparations one ingredient will entirely change the qualities of the thing prepared, so in the dispensations of Providence will one single ingredient wholly change their nature, while, in appearance, they remain the same. God often sends temporal blessings to his enemies in anger, as he raised up Pharaoh to a throne, for the purpose of displaying in him the power of his wrath. On the contrary, the bitterest cup that he puts into the hands of his friends is mixed with love. The eye of faith therefore will discern a most essential difference, where sense and reason can see none: it will see, that however God may load the wicked with benefits, "he is angry with them every day;" and that however he may visit the righteous with the rod, "all his paths are mercy and truth unto them." To elucidate this truth, let us consider,

I. The character of the godly—

Among the numberless marks whereby the godly are described in Scripture, there are not any more deserving of our attention than those before us:

1. They keep God's covenant—

The covenant here spoken of cannot be the covenant of works, because no man is able to keep that, seeing that it requires perfect and unsinning obedience. We understand it therefore as relating to the covenant of grace, wherein God undertakes to give us pardon, holiness, and glory, for the sake of his dear Son, who is the Mediator of it, and in whose blood it is ratified and confirmed Compare Jeremiah 31:31-34 with Hebrews 8:10-12.

Now this covenant every godly person "keeps." He embraces it gladly, being well persuaded, that if the tenor of it were not precisely what it is, he could have no hope. If the covenant required the performance of certain conditions on his part, without providing him with strength to perform those conditions, and pardon for his innumerable failures and defects, he would sit down in despair. But seeing that the covenant is ordered in all things and sure, and that Jesus, the surety of it, has guaranteed to God the accomplishment of its demands, and to us the enjoyment of its blessings, every believer rejoices in it, and cleaves to it steadfastly with his whole heart.

2. They keep God's testimonies—

While the believer is thus attached to the Gospel covenant, he does not relax his obedience to the law. On the contrary, whatever God has testified to be his will, that the believer labors to fulfill. He would not wish to live in sin, though he might do it with impunity: nor does he account one of the commandments grievous: but rather he esteems them all concerning all things to be right Psalm 119:128. His complaints are not against the law as too strict, but against his own heart, as treacherous and vile. With respect to the testimonies of God, he says, with David, "I claim them as mine heritage forever; yes, they are the rejoicing of my heart; they are sweeter to me than honey and the honey-comb."

Such, in other parts of God's word, is the description given of the godly Isaiah 56:4-5. Psalm 103:17-18. We should therefore inquire into our faith and practice, in order that we may ascertain our real character. For if we are harboring self-righteousness on the one hand, or hypocrisy on the other, we have no part in this covenant, nor any interest in its blessings. Whether we reject the covenant or dishonor it, we are equally destitute of grace, and equally obnoxious to God's displeasure. To have a good evidence of our acceptance with God, we must trust as simply in the covenant as if no works were required; and be as earnest in the performance of good works, as if works only were required.

Having delineated the character of the godly, let us next consider,

II. The dealings of God towards them—

It might be supposed that persons so pleasing to God should never suffer affliction: but the contrary is true, as appears, not only from the declarations of Scripture Zephaniah 3:12. Psalm 34:19, but from the, experience of all that have been most favored of God Job, David, Paul, and, above all, Christ himself. But all God's dealings towards them are,

1. Mercy—

There are no dispensations, however afflictive, which are not sent to them for good. They are all mercy in their source, their measure, their end. Whence do they spring, but from the love of God? for, "whom he loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives." And are they not all mercifully tempered as to their number, weight, and duration? Has there not "with every temptation been opened also a way to escape," or "strength given according to our day Hebrews 12:6. Deuteronomy 33:25." And have they not all wrought for good, to wean us from the world, to purge away sin, to exercise and increase our grace, to give to us the comfort of grace bestowed, and to God the glory of it? Is there one of us who must not confess, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted?" And shall we not say that our light and momentary afflictions have been rich mercies, when we find what a weight of glory they have wrought out for us?

2. Truth—

Truth has respect to the performance of promises. Now afflictions are expressly promised as much as salvation itself Jeremiah 30:11. When therefore they come, we should regard them as the accomplishment of God's word, wherein he has said, that he will withhold no good thing from us. It was in this light that David viewed them, when he said, I know, O Lord, that your judgments are right, and that you in faithfulness have afflicted me Psalm 119:75. And it is in consideration of this, that we are taught to consider, not merely life with all its comforts, but even death also with all its antecedent evils, as a treasure given us by God 1 Corinthians 3:22.

Infer,

1. How excellent a grace is faith!

It is faith, and faith only, that can enable us to view God's dispensations in this light. If we are weak in faith, we shall be easily drawn to fretfulness and murmuring; but if we are enabled to see the hand of God in our trials, they will all administer occasions of joy and gratitude. Faith is the philosopher's stone, that turns all to gold, and enables us to glory in that, which, to flesh and blood, is a source of sorrow and disquietude. Let us, then, cultivate this grace, and keep it in continual exercise: and, if anything occurs, the reasons of which we cannot immediately comprehend, let us content ourselves with saying, 'What I know not now, I shall know hereafter.'

2. How resigned should the believer be under all his troubles!

Nothing can come to him which is not the fruit of God's mercy and truth. Not so much as a hair can fall from his head but by divine appointment. Believer, are you sick and in pain? God knows that health and ease would have been prejudicial to your soul. Have you sustained some heavy loss? God sees, perhaps, that the thing which you have lost might have been a weight about your feet, and have retarded you in running your race. Are you persecuted by the world, or tempted by Satan? It is a discipline whereby God is preparing you for future victories, and everlasting triumphs. These may be mercies in disguise; but they are mercies notwithstanding; and therefore should be received with resignation, and improved with diligence.

3. How lamentable is the state of unbelievers!

While we disregard God's covenant, and his testimonies, we neither enjoy any mercy, nor have an interest in any promise. On the contrary, our very blessings are cursed to us, and every threatening in God's word is in full force against us. Moreover, our troubles are pledges and earnests of infinitely heavier calamities, that shall come upon us in the eternal world. Let us, then, if we be yet in unbelief, embrace the covenant of grace, and set ourselves diligently to keep the testimonies of our God. So shall the blessings of the covenant flow down upon us, and we shall know by happy experience, that "the Lord is gracious, his mercy is everlasting, and his truth endures from generation to generation."

 

 

Psalms 25:11

 

DISCOURSE 533

PROPER METHOD OF PRAYING TO GOD

Psalm 25:11. For your name's sake, O Lord, pardon mine iniquity! for it is great.

GOD is a mighty Sovereign, "who does according to his own will," "neither gives account to us of any of his matters." We may indeed mark the traces of wisdom and goodness in everything which he does; but "his ways and his thoughts are very different from ours, and far above them." In the dispensations of his providence he pays no regard to the moral characters of men, but "makes the sun to shine equally upon the evil and the good." In the dispensations of his grace too he is far from preferring those whom we should think he would select. He often inclines the hearts of "publicans and harlots to enter into his kingdom," while he leaves less abandoned Pharisees and Formalists to perish in their sins. This, if it be a humiliating truth, is also replete with comfort. If it take away all grounds of boasting, it cuts off at the same time all occasion for despondency. If he "have a right to do what he will with his own," the vilest person in the universe may approach him with a comfortable hope of acceptance and may address him in the language of the text.

In these words of the Psalmist we may notice,

I. His Confession—

David was not ashamed to confess that his sins were exceeding great—

There is no reason to think that David in this psalm adverts to his transgression with Bathsheba. It is probable that the psalm was penned many years before that event. The Royal Penitent speaks rather of his in-dwelling corruptions. He had long been accustomed to observe the workings of his own heart, and had often besought God to search and try him to the uttermost Psalm 139:23-24. In this way he had marked both the defects of his duties, and the evil propensities of his nature; and, from a review of all his actions, words, and thoughts, was led to acknowledge that his sin was exceeding great. Nor was this confession peculiar to him. Holy Job, as soon as he beheld his true character, exclaimed, "Behold, I am vile Job 40:4." And Paul no sooner became acquainted with the purity and extent of God's law, than he saw himself a condemned sinner, and confessed, that "in him dwelt no good thing Romans 7:9; Romans 7:18."

And does not a similar confession become us also?

Let us only review our past lives, and we shall find too much occasion for the deepest humiliation. Have not many of us been addicted to open, known iniquities? And do not the consciences of such persons testify against them that their sin is great? Have not many also devoted all their time and attention to secular concerns? And will they account it a light thing thus to despise God, and idolize the world? Have not others satisfied themselves with a formal round of duties, in which their souls were never earnestly engaged? And can they suppose that God is pleased with a mere lip-service, when their hearts are far from him? Have not others professed godliness indeed, but walked utterly unworthy of their profession, being as proud, and passionate, as worldly too, and covetous, as those who have made no such profession? And can they suppose their sin is not great, when sinners are hardened, and God is blasphemed through their means? But why do we speak of the profane and worldly, or the formal and hypocritical? Must not even the saints themselves blush and be confounded, when they consider how miserably they have fallen short in everything? Must they not exclaim with Paul, "O wretched man that I am!" Surely we must know little indeed of ourselves, if we do not all see how much the confession in the text is suited to our state.

When, like David, we are duly humbled under a sense of our guilt, we shall readily adopt,

II. His Petition—

David could not rest without imploring forgiveness at God's hands—

He found a sense of guilt to be an intolerable burden to his soul Psalm 38:4; and well knew that it would "eat as a canker," until he had obtained the pardon of his sin. Hence he humbled himself before his God, and cried for mercy.

Nor shall we restrain prayer before God, if we will but consider the state of an unpardoned soul—

No words can fully express the misery of one who has all the guilt of his sins upon him. He has no peace with God, seeing that "God is angry with him every day," and "the wrath of God abides on him." He has no peace in his own conscience; for though he may drown reflection for a while in business or pleasure, he is like the troubled sea which cannot rest, but casts up mire and dirt Isaiah 57:20. He is also destitute of any well-founded hope: he may buoy up himself with blind presumption; but he will feel many misgiving fears, and forebodings of evil. He has no comfort in his afflictions; for, not having God for his friend, he cannot go to him with confidence, or obtain those refreshing consolations which strengthen and uphold the godly. In a dying hour he is yet more wretched: if he be not insensible as a beast, how does he regret his mis-spent hours, and wish that God would prolong his state of probation! But in the eternal world his misery is completed: he comes to the tribunal of justice without any mediator to reconcile him to God, or any advocate to plead his cause: yes, the very voice which just before importuned him to accept of mercy, now bids him "depart accursed:" and from that moment his doom is fixed in everlasting burnings. Now can any man reflect on this, and not see the need of crying earnestly for mercy? Can our petitions be too earnest, or too constant, when they are the appointed, and the only means of escaping all this misery?

But in our application for mercy, we must be careful to use,

III. His Plea—

The Psalmist derived all his hope of mercy from God himself—

He pleaded not the smallness of his offences or the multitude of his services, the depth of his penitence, or the fervor of his petitions. He knew that name, which had long before been proclaimed to Moses, to which, as to "a strong tower, the righteous runs and is safe;" and to that he fled for refuge; from that he derived his only hope, his only plea.

Nor can we present any other plea than the name, the sacred name of Jesus—

Under the Gospel we are taught more clearly to ask in the name of Jesus, and are assured that petitions so offered shall never fail of acceptance John 14:13-14. But it is no easy matter to offer that plea in sincerity. Perhaps there is not anything in the world more difficult. We naturally prefer any other plea that can be devised: and, even when we find that we have not in ourselves any worthiness on which we can rely, we are still averse to rest on the name of Jesus. We either deem it insufficient to procure acceptance for our prayers, or make our unworthiness a reason for declining to urge it as our plea with any confidence before God. But, unless we renounce every other hope, and rest entirely on the mediation and intercession of Christ, our prayer will never enter into the ears of our heavenly Father.

Observations—

1. The vilest of sinners has no reason to despair—

The confession, petition, and plea, which David presented at the throne of Grace, are suited to the very chief of sinners: nor, as the subsequent experience of David proves, can there be any state in which they shall not prevail. Let none then despond. Be it so, our iniquities are great; but are they greater than Christ's merits, or beyond the reach of God's mercy? If not, let us exalt our adorable Savior, and determine, if we perish, to perish crying for mercy in the name of Jesus.

2. The most eminent saints have no ground to boast—

There never was a creature that had any righteousness of his own to plead. And if God has had mercy upon any, it was purely and entirely for his own name's sake Ezekiel 36:22; Ezekiel 36:32. Could we ascend to Heaven, and ask the glorified saints what had been the ground of their acceptance, they would all "cast down their crowns at the feet of Jesus," and shout, with one consent, "Salvation to God and to the Lamb Revelation 4:10; Revelation 7:10." Let the saints on earth then lie low before God, and say continually, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto your name be the praise."

3. Persons of every description must guard diligently against pride and unbelief—

Sin, of whatever kind, is both evil in itself and dangerous to us. But the consequences of pride and unbelief are peculiarly fatal. There is not any other sin which may not be forgiven, provided we seek mercy with real penitence and faith. But if we be too proud to confess our sins, and to plead the name and merits of Jesus for the forgiveness of them, we insure and seal our own condemnation. Let us then guard against all sins; but especially against sins which rivet all our other sins upon us. So shall we obtain favor with God, and "be to him for a name and for a praise for evermore Jeremiah 13:11."

 

 

Psalms 25:12-13

 

DISCOURSE 534

THE PORTION OF THOSE WHO FEAR GOD

Psalm 25:12-13. What man is he who fears the Lord? him shall he teach in the way that he shall choose: his soul shall dwell at ease.

WHERE, as in the psalm before us, different verses begin with the different letters of the Hebrew alphabet, we must not look for a very strict connection between the different parts; if there be somewhat of an harmonious sentiment pervading the whole, it is as much as we have reason to expect. The general idea that pervades this psalm seems to be, that if (whether under the pressure of guilt or of affliction of any kind) we betake ourselves to God in prayer, and cast our care on him, he will administer to us such consolation and support as our necessities may require. In conformity with this idea, he, throughout the former part of the psalm, supplicates mercy for himself, and, in the words before us, declares the blessedness of all who truly fear God.

To bring the subject more fully before you, I shall,

I. Inquire after the character that is here described—

Where shall we find him? One would suppose that, in a Christian community at least, it should be difficult to find one who did not fear God: but, strange as it may appear, the character here described is by no means common. I am anxious, however, to find one; because it is to him, and to him only, that the glorious promises in my text are addressed. Assist me, then, every one of you, in this important inquiry; and descend into your own bosoms, to explore the records of conscience, and to see whether you can, in your own persons, present before me the character I am endeavoring to find. I want to know "What man among you fears the Lord?"

1. Who is there among you that reverences God's authority?

There can be no question whether God's authority should be revered: for we all acknowledge him to be the Governor of the Universe, and confess that all his creatures owe submission to his will. Indeed it is the common sentiment of all, that "he is greatly to be feared, and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him:" and it is obvious, that any man who disregards his authority can have no true fear of him in his heart.

2. Who is there among you that dreads his displeasure?

We all are sinners, and, as sinners, are obnoxious to the displeasure of the Most High. Whether our lives have been more or less moral, we are all transgressors of God's holy law, and all have merited his wrathful indignation: all, therefore, ought, with deep humility of mind, to deprecate his impending judgments. Had we never sinned, we should never have needed this kind of fear: but to fallen creatures it is absolutely and indispensably necessary. Let me then ask, Who is there among you that mourns over his past transgressions, and implores mercy at the hands of his offended God, and seeks reconciliation with him through the Son of his love? I do not ask, Where is the person who, on some particular occasion, has wept for sin? but, Where is the person whose heart is habitually broken and contrite, so as to have no hope, no peace, but in the atoning blood of Christ; and who, notwithstanding God is reconciled towards him, still loathes himself for his iniquities and abominations? The man who had fled to a city of refuge ventured not out of the gates of the city any more (until the death of the High Priest), lest the pursuer of blood should fall upon him and destroy him. And if we, through fear of God's displeasure, have fled for refuge to Jesus, as to the hope set before us, we shall be careful to "abide in him," lest the sword of vengeance overtake us, and we perish.

3. Who is there among you that sincerely and unreservedly endeavors to fulfill his will?

A desire to please God cannot but be associated with a fear of his Divine Majesty. Say, then, where is the person who from day to clay endeavors to ascertain his will, and labors to perform it? I am not inquiring after one who never errs; for such a character as that I could have no hope to find on earth; since "in many things we all offend;" and "there is no man that lives and sins not." But one who labors conscientiously to approve himself to God, I may hope to find. Search among you, Brethren: see whether such an one be not to be found. I am not willing that the consolations in my text should be spoken in vain: I want to engage the attention of the person to whom they are addressed, and to pour them into the ear for which they are more especially designed. But do not too hastily obtrude yourselves, and say, 'I am he.' Consider once more. Are you so studious of God's will, and so determined to perform it, that no consideration of ease, or interest, or pleasure, can induce you to violate any one of his commands? And, if in anything a more perfect way can be pointed out to you, are you ready to walk in it, notwithstanding any difficulties you may have to encounter, or any trials to which you may be exposed?

If there be one whose conscience bears witness to him that his state before God is such as I have described, then I have found the person for whose comfort the Psalmist made the declarations in my text, and for whose benefit I shall,

II. Unfold the benefits that are accorded to him—

Stand forth, my Brother; for in the name of the Most High God I declare unto you, that,

1. You shall be taught and guided in the way that God approves—

It may be, that at present your views of divine truth are but obscure; and that you have but little capacity to comprehend the deep things of God, and but little opportunity to investigate them. Yet I say to you, in the name of the Lord, that you shall be guided into all truth, as far as shall be necessary for the welfare of your soul; and that God's way shall be made so plain before your face, that, notwithstanding you be "a wayfaring man, and, in respect of human sciences, a fool, you shall not err therein Isaiah 35:8." In particular, you shall have the Lord Jesus Christ revealed to you, as "the Way, the truth, and the life:" and, "having received him" into your hearts, you shall "walk in him, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving Colossians 2:6-7." This is the very first step to which the teaching of Almighty God will lead you; as our Lord has said: "It is written in the prophets, All your children shall be taught of God. Every one, therefore, that has heard and learned of the Father, comes unto me John 6:45." In the course of your pilgrimage many difficulties will arise, wherein you will need direction from above: but God engages that in all those emergencies "you shall hear a voice behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it; when you would otherwise be turning to the right hand or to the left Isaiah 30:21." As the pillar and the cloud went before the Israelites throughout all their journeyings in the wilderness for forty years, until they arrived safe in the Promised Land, so will "God guide you by his counsel, until he has safely brought you to glory Psalm 73:24."

2. "Your soul shall dwell at ease"—

It may be that your former iniquities have been great and manifold; so that, unless God interposed in a more than ordinary way to support your soul, you would sink into despair. But "where sin has abounded, his grace shall much more abound:" and he will say to you, as to the woman of old, "Your sins are forgiven you." "Being justified by faith, you shall have peace with God;" and in your own conscience, even that "peace of God which passes all understanding." It is possible, also, that you may be exposed to many trials and temptations, even such as without divine aid would utterly overwhelm you. But you shall "know in whom you have believed; and feel assured that He is able to keep that which you have committed to him 2 Timothy 1:12," and that "He will preserve you unto his heavenly kingdom." Thus, as Peter, the very night before his intended execution, though bound with chains, and doomed to a cruel death, was sleeping as serenely as if no such event had awaited him, so shall "your soul dwell at ease," yes, "it shall be kept in perfect peace Isaiah 26:3;" for, "if God gives quietness, who then can make trouble?" Job 34:29.

But, in the margin of our Bibles the sense of the original is more fully and literally expressed thus: "His soul shall lodge in goodness." What a rich and glorious idea is this! The Scriptures abound in expressions of this kind: Isaiah, commending the truths of the Gospel to us, says, "Eat you that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness:" and David says, "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, while my mouth praises you with joyful lips." So, in my text he tells us that the Believer's soul shall "lodge in goodness." Yes, truly, "God himself is the habitation" of them that fear him: his bosom is the place in which they are safely lodged, far beyond the reach of harm Psalm 91:1; Psalm 91:9-10, and fondled with more than maternal tenderness Isaiah 66:10-13; insomuch that God himself "rejoices over them to do them good, and rests in his love, and joys over them with singing Zephaniah 3:17."

Thus, my Brother (for I am speaking to that particular individual who fears God), it shall be with you in this world: and who shall describe your lodging in the world above? Oh! the joys that await you there! how passing all expression or conception! The kingdom, the glory, the felicity of God himself shall be your, even your portion, and your inheritance, forever and ever.

APPLICATION—

Now will I pause; and, from addressing you who fear God, turn,

1. To the unhappy multitude, who fear him not—

Painful it is to make this distinction: but this distinction must be made. We are commanded to "separate the precious from the vile Jeremiah 15:19;" and if we forbear to do it, God will not: He will put "a difference between them that serve him and those who serve him not Malachi 3:18." It cannot but be known to you, that the generality, even of the Christian world, have not, in truth, "the fear of God before their eyes." Say, beloved, did not your own consciences attest, that, in many of you at least, the marks of holy fear did not exist, or, not in such a degree as to identify you with the character described in my text? While we spoke of those who reverenced the authority of God, and trembled at his displeasure, and made it the one object of their lives to do his will, were not many of you constrained to say, "If this be the character of those who fear God, I am forced to confess that it does not belong to me?" Then, Brethren, by your own confession, you have no part in the promises annexed to that character. And, indeed, your own experience confirms this: for at this moment you cannot comprehend those mysteries of grace which are made clear to the believing soul. You have not that spiritual discernment, whereby alone you can understand and appreciate the things of the Spirit 1 Corinthians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 2:14. And, as for "your soul dwelling at ease," you know nothing of it: the very thought of death and judgment is so appalling to you, that you can find no rest until you dismiss it from your mind. God himself tells us, that "you are like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt; and that there is no peace to the wicked Isaiah 57:20-21."

Will you not, then, seek to fear God? Will you not entreat him to "put his fear into your hearts," before it be too late? I tremble at the thought of the lodging prepared for you. Oh! "who can dwell with everlasting burnings?" I pray you, Brethren, realize in your minds the different states of the Rich Man and Lazarus; and "labor not for the meat that perishes, but for that which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you."

2. To any one who, though really fearing God, does not yet experience the full comfort of it in his soul—

It may be that such an one is here present, even one who, because he feels not yet all the consolations of religion, is led to doubt its existence in his soul. We read of some in the primitive Church, who were "in heaviness through manifold temptations:" and, no doubt, there may be persons so circumstanced among ourselves at this time. But for such God has provided peculiar encouragement. He has stated the very case, and addressed appropriate counsel to the person under it: "Who is among you that fears the Lord, and obeys the voice of his servant, that walks in darkness, and has no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God Isaiah 50:10." Do not imagine that God has forgotten his word, or that he will not fulfill it to you: for "not one jot or tittle of it shall ever fail." "Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart." The corn that is sown in the earth does not rise up immediately: nor must you be discouraged, if you have some time to wait before the harvest that is prepared for you appear. "The vision may tarry; but it is only for the time appointed of your God; and then it shall come, and shall not tarry Habakkuk 2:3." Only wait his leisure; and you shall find, in due season, that, "in every nation under Heaven, he who fears God and works righteousness shall be accepted of him."

 

 

Psalms 25:14

 

DISCOURSE 535

THE SECRETS OF THE LORD

Psalm 25:14. The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.

OF the condescension of God, mankind in general form very inadequate conceptions. His greatness is supposed to be such as not to admit of an attention to the trifling concerns of men: and because we stand at an infinite distance from him, the idea of familiar approximation to him is contemplated only as a fanatical and wild conceit. But God represents himself to us as a Father: and our blessed Lord says, "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his Lord does: but I have called you friends John 15:15." Now the Lord Jesus Christ was from eternity "in the bosom of the Father John 1:18," and knows the Father as intimately and completely as the Father knows him John 10:15. Matthew 11:27; and all the Father's secrets he has made known to us John 15:15. before cited; so that we are treated by him, not with the reserve that is shown to strangers, but with the confidence that is due to persons who are bound to him in the ties of the most endeared friendship. Under the Mosaic dispensation this holy familiarity indeed was but little known. The whole economy was of a servile nature; none except the high priest having any immediate access to God; nor he, except on one day in the year; and then not without the blood of sacrifices. Yet, even under that dispensation, some were more highly favored with divine communications; insomuch that Solomon could say, "The secret of the Lord is with the righteous Proverbs 3:32." Under the government of the Lord Jesus Christ, the legal distinctions are removed; and all true Christians possess the same privileges as the most favored of God's servants: so that now it may be said, in reference to them all, without exception, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will show them his covenant."

In confirmation of this truth, I will endeavor to point out,

I. Some of those secrets which God reveals to his faithful people—

The whole of the divine life is a secret, from the beginning to the end; and "the joys" arising from it are such as "the stranger intermeddles not with." But, to descend to particulars,

1. God gives them an insight into the great mystery of redemption—

This was "a mystery hid from ages and generations," yes, "hid in God from the foundation of the world Romans 16:25. Ephesians 3:5;" but at last it was made known to the Church by Christ and his holy Apostles, that all God's saints might become acquainted with it Ephesians 3:9. Colossians 1:26-27. Paul, speaking of the great truths of the Gospel, says, "It is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him. But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit 1 Corinthians 2:9-10." We must not, however, imagine, that because this mystery is revealed to the Church in the written word, we need no further revelation of it to our souls: for "the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Notwithstanding, therefore, the Gospel revelation is so clear in itself, we still must "receive, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God 1 Corinthians 2:12; 1 Corinthians 2:14." A speculative knowledge of the Gospel may, indeed, be acquired by human instruction: but a spiritual and experimental acquaintance with it, as "the wisdom of God and the power of God," can be attained only through the teaching of God's Spirit: "flesh and blood cannot reveal it unto us:" it can be made known only by inspiration from the Father Matthew 16:17. And that inspiration, blessed be his name! is given to many. Through his tender mercy, it may be said of many, "You have an unction from the Holy One, and you know all things 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27." While to some, who hear the Gospel, "it is spoken, as it were, only in parables;" so that, in relation to the plainest truths of the Gospel, they are ready to exclaim, as Ezekiel's hearers did in reference to him, "Ah, Lord God! does he not speak parables Ezekiel 20:49." to others "it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven Mark 4:11;" and by the opening of their eyes "they are brought out of darkness into marvelous light."

2. He makes them to know their own personal interest in it—

We are struck with the confidence with which the inspired writers speak, in reference to their own state and the state of their brethren in the faith: "Now are we the sons of God:" "we know that we have passed from death unto life:" "we know that God abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us:" "we know that we are of God; and the whole world lies in wickedness 1 John 3:2; 1 John 3:14; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 5:19." Now this assurance is no other than what our blessed Lord promised to his believing people: "In that day you shall know that the Father is in me, and I in you, and you in me John 14:20." That the believer may, by fair and rational deduction, ascertain much of his state before God, there can be no doubt: but that internal manifestations are, in many cases, given to the soul, is also certain: for our Lord has promised, that "he will manifest himself unto us, as he does not unto the world:" and this promise he has explained, by saying, that "he and his Father will love us, and come unto us, and make their abode with us John 14:21-23." Accordingly we find, that to many is given "the Holy Spirit," as a witness, to "bear witness with their spirit that they are the children of God," and, as "a Spirit of adoption, enabling them, with holy confidence, to cry, Abba, Father Romans 8:15-16." They have prayed to him, like the Psalmist, "Say unto my soul, I am your salvation Psalm 35:3;" and God has answered them in the desire of their hearts, and enabled them to say, in reference to him, "O God, you are my God Psalm 63:1;" and, in reference to the Lord Jesus Christ, "My Beloved is mine, and I am his Son. 2:16."

3. He shows them that every occurrence, of whatever kind, is in some way or other working for the ultimate salvation of their souls—

They may not always see this at first: but, when more fully instructed, they learn to trust in God, assured, that though "clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and judgment are the basis of his throne." See a remarkable instance of this in the Apostle Paul. He was shut up for two full years in prison, and was thus deprived of exercising his apostolic office in his accustomed way. Such an event as this would be contemplated, by the Church at large, as a subject of unmixed sorrow: but Paul himself had far different views of it: he said, "I know that this shall turn to ray salvation:" nor was he less confident that good would accrue from it, also, to the Church of God: yes, he saw, even while in bonds, the beneficial results of his imprisonment; and declared, that, instead of obstructing the progress of the Gospel, it had "tended rather to the furtherance of the Gospel," since many had been emboldened by it to preach the word with greater courage and fidelity Philippians 1:12-14; Philippians 1:19. Thus does God compose the minds of all his faithful people. They may indeed, for a season, be ready to complain with Jacob, "All these things are against me;" but he whispers in their ears, that "All things are working together for their good Romans 8:28;" and that, eventually, they shall have as much reason to bless him for the darkest dispensations as for those which were more gratifying to flesh and blood.

Passing by many other secrets, I will proceed to set before you,

II. That more particular view of his covenant which is the crown and summit of them all—

From all eternity did God enter into covenant with his Son; as it is said, "The counsel of peace was between them both Zechariah 6:13." And to this covenant God leads the minds of his people,

1. As the source of all their blessings—

Certain it is, that, whatever grace has been bestowed upon us, it has been conferred, "not on account of any works of righteousness which we have done, but according to God's purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began 2 Timothy 1:9." But this is a great secret; a secret utterly unknown to the world at large: and one which not all, even of righteous persons, are able to receive. There is, in the minds of many, a prejudice against it, as though such an idea would necessarily puff up the mind with pride and conceit: whereas, there is nothing in the world that so much tends to humble and abase the soul as this: for it takes from man all ground of self-preference, and leads him to give all the honor of his salvation to God alone. Believer, how wonderful is the thought, that God, from all eternity, set his heart on you; ordained you to be born in a country where the light of Revelation shone, and where the means and opportunities of conversion should be afforded you! How wonderful, too, that this grace, which so many receive in vain, should be made effectual for you; and that, by the operation of God's mighty power on your soul, you should be "turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God!" Are you not amazed, that you should be "taken, when so many are left;" and that the Savior, who to so many millions is only "a stumbling-block and rock of offence, should be to you a sanctuary," where you have found rest to your soul? Truly, it is a great matter if God has taught you, that "you have not chosen him, but he you John 15:16;" that you have not loved him, or apprehended him, but have been loved and apprehended by him 1 John 4:10. Galatians 4:9. Philippians 3:12; that "He has loved you with an everlasting love; and therefore with loving-kindness has he drawn you Jeremiah 31:3." Does not the thought of this overwhelm your soul with gratitude? and are you not altogether lost in wonder, love, and praise?

2. As the security for the everlasting continuance of them—

This is another part of the same stupendous mystery: and blessed, indeed, are the ears that have heard this secret from the Lord, and the eyes that can discern the truth of it! Believer, when God entered into covenant with his Son, he left it not uncertain whether any benefit should accrue from his mediation, but engaged, that "when he should make his soul an offering for sin, he should see a seed who should prolong their days, and the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hand." Then he gave you to his Son, that in you "he might see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied." You were then ordained to be a jewel in his crown: and the Father engaged, when he put you into the hands of his Son, that "none should ever pluck you from them John 10:28-29." Times without number does the Lord Jesus speak of his people in this light, as "given him from eternity by the Father John 17:2; John 17:6; John 17:9; John 17:11-12; John 17:24;" and "of those who were so given him, he will lose none John 17:12." What a consolation is this to you, under all your difficulties and all your conflicts, to know that "God has made with you an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure 2 Samuel 23:5." God himself tells us, that "he confirmed his covenant with an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us Hebrews 6:17-18." Rejoice, then, in this thought. Bless God for making it known to you. See how safe you are in the hands of an unchanging God. See to what it is owing that you have not been consumed already Malachi 3:6; and what is your security, against all the wiles of Satan, and all the infirmities of flesh and blood. "Know, then, in whom you have believed; and that, as he is able to keep that which you have committed to him 2 Timothy 1:12," so "he will preserve you unto his heavenly kingdom 2 Timothy 4:18."

To improve this subject, I would further say,

1. Cultivate increasing friendship with God—

It is not to all, but to his friends only, that God imparts these heart-reviving secrets, even to them who truly "fear him." Nor is it amidst the noise and bustle of the world that he will communicate them, but in seasons of retirement, and in the stillness of the night. It is by a still small voice that he imparts them to the sold. O let your fellowship with him be sweet and frequent! Go to him on all occasions: consult him in every emergency: listen to his voice, whether he speak by the written word, or by his Holy Spirit. Say to him at all times, "Speak, Lord, for your servant hears." So "will he draw near to you, when you draw near to him:" and when you spread before him your inmost wants, "he will guide you by his counsel:" he will "lead you into all truth;" he will make known to you "the deep things of God 1 Corinthians 2:10;" and by communications of every kind will "perfect that which concerns you Psalm 138:8;" enabling you to "comprehend, in a measure, what none can fully comprehend, the height and depth and length and breadth of the love of Christ, and thereby filling you with all the fullness of God Ephesians 3:18-19."

2. Make a due improvement of the secrets he has already imparted to you—

Treasure them up in your minds, for your support and comfort under all the trials of life. They will prove a healing balm to every wound; and, like an anchor of the soul, they will keep you steadfast amidst all the storms that you may encounter in this tempestuous world Hebrews 6:19.

But, keep them not altogether in your own bosoms. God may make use of you for the imparting of them to others, and for the sustaining and strengthening of your weaker brethren. Yet, care is necessary, that you do not, by an indiscreet disclosure of them to those whose minds are not prepared to receive them, lay a stumbling-block before the very persons whom you wish to edify. Our Lord cautions us "not to cast our pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend us Matthew 7:6." We must administer "milk to babes, and strong meat to those only who are able to digest it 1 Corinthians 3:1-2. Hebrews 5:12-14." But to those who have ears to hear, it is well to speak of these things, as our Lord and his Apostles conversed of them in the way to Emmaus. Then will your hearts often burn within you; and your own souls, as well as those of your Brethren, be edified in faith and love.

 

 

Psalms 26:8

 

DISCOURSE 536

THE WORSHIP OF GOD DELIGHTFUL

Psalm 26:8. Lord, I have loved the habitation of your house, and the place where your honor dwells.

BETWEEN the people of God and the men of this world there is a much broader line of distinction than is generally imagined. In the performance of outward duties there may be but little difference: but in their motives and principles they are as far asunder as Heaven and earth, yes, I had almost said, as Heaven and Hell. They have altogether a different taste; the one affecting heavenly things as their most delightful occupation; while the other follow them rather by constraint, and feel themselves most in their element when they are engaged in worldly company and in carnal pursuits. The faithful servant of God enjoys the testimony of his own conscience, that he has no real delight in anything but in doing God's will, and in enjoying his presence. David, in this respect, may serve as a glass, wherein every real saint may discern his own image. He could appeal to God that he had found no pleasure in worldly company and worldly pursuits; but that his delight had been altogether in communion with his God, and in the ordinances of his grace verse 2–5.

In order to make a suitable improvement of the assertion before us, I will show,

I. The reasons which he had for so loving the house of God—

To give a full account of them would be impossible. It may suffice to specify a few of those which operated with greater force upon his mind.

1. It was the immediate residence of the Deity—

"I have loved," says he, "the habitation of your house, and the place where your honor dwells." When Moses made the tabernacle, it pleased God to come down and honor it with his more immediate presence, and to manifest there his glory in the sight of all Israel Exodus 40:34-38. There God promised, in a more especial manner, to meet his people; saying, "You shall put the mercy-seat above upon the ark; and in the ark you shall put the testimony that I shall give you: and there will I meet with you; and I will commune with you from above the mercy-seat, and from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give you in commandment unto the children of Israel Exodus 25:21-22." The same blessed privilege was given to all Israel, through the medium of their High Priest, as long as the tabernacle and the temple stood: and on numberless occasions had David reaped the benefit of this condescending and merciful appointment. Can we wonder, then, that he should love the house of God, where he enjoyed so vast a privilege, and where such transcendent benefits were accorded to him? But we know from himself what his feelings were in relation to it: "One thing have I desired of the Lord, which I will seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple Psalm 27:4."

2. There he was enabled to worship God in the way that God himself had appointed—

Though God might be worshiped acceptably in every place, yet it was at the tabernacle only that any sacrifice could be offered to him, or that a full access to him could be enjoyed. There alone could a sinner be sprinkled with the blood of his offering, and have the pardon of his sins thus sealed upon his soul. Hence, when David was driven from Jerusalem, and forced to take refuge in a heathen land, this was the great subject of his complaint; not, that he was separated from his friends, but that he was cut off from communion with his God in the established ordinances of his worship. Hear his sad complaint: "As the deer pants after the water-brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God! My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night; while they continually say unto me, Where is your God? When I remember these things, 1 pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy-day …. As with a sword in my bones, my enemies reproach me, while they say daily unto me, Where is your God Psalm 41:1-4; Psalm 41:10."

3. There he obtained those supplies of grace and peace which his daily necessities required—

The whole book of Psalms is little else than a record of answers to his prayers. "I waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings: and he has put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God Psalm 40:1-3." True, he might enjoy much of this in his own secret chamber; but it was chiefly in the house of God that he obtained these benefits. This he himself acknowledges: and he assigns it as the reason for his ardent attachment to that holy place: "How amiable are your tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints, for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Yes, the sparrow has found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young; even your altars, O Lord of Hosts, my King, and my God. Blessed are they that dwell in your house: they will be still praising you …. A day in your courts is better than a thousand: I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord is a sun and a shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly Psalm 84:1-4; Psalm 84:10-11."

The example before us might be amply sufficient to commend to our regard the house of God. But I must proceed to state,

II. The incomparably stronger reasons which we have for a similar attachment to it—

The dispensation which we are privileged to enjoy is of a more liberal kind than that under which he lived.

1. Our access to God is more intimate—

David, though a prophet and a king, did not dare to enter into the most holy place, where God displayed his glory. Had he presumed to intrude himself there, he would have been struck dead upon the spot. Not even the high-priest could enter there but on one day in the year, and in the manner prescribed by God himself. But we are permitted to come even to his very throne, and to behold him on his mercy seat. Yes, the veil of the temple, at the time of our Savior's death, was rent in twain from the top to the bottom: and from that very moment a way of access to him has been open for all the sinners of mankind, without exception. This is the construction put on that event by an inspired Apostle, who says, "Having, therefore, boldness to enter into the holiest, by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he has consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, and having an High-Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith Hebrews 10:19-22." "The Holy Spirit himself," I say, has taught us this Hebrews 9:7-8. And is this no ground for love to divine ordinances? Methinks, the liberty thus accorded to us should produce in us a correspondent liberty of mind in approaching God, and an exquisite delight in drawing near unto him.

2. Our views of him are more clear—

Even the high-priest himself, when admitted into the sanctuary, could behold nothing but a bright cloud abiding on the ark between the cherubim. But we have access to the true tabernacle, the Lord Jesus Christ, "in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily Colossians 2:19." "He is the image of the invisible God Colossians 1:15," "the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person Hebrews 1:3;" and "in beholding him, we behold the Father himself John 14:9;" yes, "as with an unveiled face we behold the glory" both of the Father and the Son 2 Corinthians 3:18. We see "God in Christ reconciling the world unto himself 2 Corinthians 5:19," and are enabled to call him our Father and our Friend Galatians 4:6.

Of the perfections of God, also, we have incomparably clearer views than ever were given even to David himself. True indeed, he says, that, in God, "Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other Psalm 85:10." But he had not such an insight into that mystery as we enjoy. The full discovery of God, as "a just God, and yet a justifier of ungodly men Romans 3:26," was reserved for us, under the Gospel dispensation: we see, not only mercy, but faithfulness and justice, engaged on our side, and pledged for the forgiveness of our sins 1 John 1:9.

His purposes, too, how marvelously are they unraveled, and with what distinctness are they exhibited to our admiring eyes! Things which no eye ever saw, or ear heard, or heart conceived, under the Jewish economy, are revealed unto us by the Spirit; so that, from eternity to eternity, we can behold the designs of God unfolded, first, as they were originally concerted between the Father and the Son; then as executed by Christ Jesus in his incarnate and glorified state; and, lastly, as they will be consummated at the day of judgment. Say, then, whether we should not delight in drawing near to God, and having our souls filled with these heavenly contemplations? If the shadow of these things so endeared to David the house of God, what should the substance of them effect in our hearts?

3. Our communications from him are more abundant—

Doubtless David was most highly favored of the Lord; and "God was very abundant towards him, both in faith and love 1 Timothy 1:14." But still we cannot yield to him, no, not even to him, in the privileges we enjoy. The Holy Spirit was not then "poured out so abundantly" as he has since been upon the servants of the Lord John 7:39. Titus 3:6. To us he is given as "a Spirit of adoption Romans 8:15," and as "a witness" to testify of that adoption Romans 8:16; and as "a seal," to mark us for the Lord's peculiar treasure Ephesians 1:13-14. The servile spirit of the Law is altogether banished from us, and we are "made free indeed John 8:36." With what exalted views are we sometimes favored, when we can see the Lord Jesus Christ actually bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, and pleading our cause at the right hand of God, and ordering everything, both in Heaven and earth, for our welfare, and preparing for us a mansion in Heaven, himself taking possession of it for us as our forerunner, and shortly about to come again in his own person to invest us with all the glory he has purchased for us, even a participation of his own throne, his own kingdom, and his own glory! What is all this, but "a pledge" of Heaven itself already begun in the soul? Yet all this is given to us frequently under the ministry of the word, and at the table of the Lord; insomuch that we seem caught up, as it were, into the third heavens, and scarcely know whether we are in the body or out the body, by reason of the brightness of our views, and the blessedness of our souls. I mean not to say that this is the experience of all, nor of any at all times: but I do say, that it is the privilege of all; and that it is our own fault if we do not actually possess it: and that the hope of gratifying our taste with these rich dainties cannot fail of endearing to us the house where this feast is provided for us Isaiah 25:6-8.

It will now, in conclusion, be profitable to inquire,

1. Whence it is that this experience is so rare—

It must be confessed that there are but few who thus delight in the ordinances of God. But why is this? Would they not be alike precious to all, if all desired to make a suitable improvement of them? The truth is, that the generality of persons attend them only as a mere form, without any consciousness of the ends for which they have been appointed. What if we viewed them as our mother's breast, to which we were invited for the support and nourishment of our souls? What if we came to them, "desiring the sincere and unadulterated milk of the word, that we might grow thereby 1 Peter 2:2." Truly we should then find such communications from the Lord Jesus, as would fill us with unutterable joy John 4:10; John 7:37-38. But we feel not our need of mercy: we have no real desire after the Savior: we are content with a "godliness which consists in mere form, without anything of power." No wonder, then, that the house of God has no charms for us. True, indeed, persons may affect divine ordinances, just as they would a fine concert, on account of the eloquence of the person by whom they are administered Ezekiel 33:31-32; or they may set a value on them as means of fostering a high conceit of their own goodness Isaiah 58:2; but as means of access to God, and as a medium of communion with him, they find no real delight in them. To enter into the experience of David, and obtain a conformity of mind to his, religion must be our one great and paramount concern. If once Christ become our supreme joy, whatever brings us near to him, and him near to us, will be "as marrow and fatness to our souls."

2. What are the prospects of those in whom this experience is found—

Truly, they are blessed among men. They need not envy any other people upon earth. They possess what is far superior to all the delights of sense. View a man at the footstool of the Most High: view even the poor publican, who, through a consciousness of his own extreme unworthiness, dared not so much as to lift up his eyes to Heaven. Who that knows with what delight Almighty God beheld him, and with what pleasure he listened to his sighs, and treasured up his tears in his vial, would not congratulate him on the state of his soul, and on the prospects that were before him? The truth is, that every such person has "his sins put away from him, as far as the east is from the west;" and "his name is written in the Lamb's book of life." For every such person is prepared "a crown of glory, that fades not away." He now beholds his God by faith: and soon shall he behold him face to face. He now draws near to God in a temple made with hands: and he shall soon commune with him in his temple above. He now pours forth his prayers and praises at such intervals as the infirmity of his nature will admit of; and he soon shall engage in praising God, without infirmity or interruption, to all eternity.

 

Psalms 27:4

 

DISCOURSE 537

DAVID'S LOVE TO GOD'S ORDINANCES

Psalm 27:4. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.

MOST of the saints recorded in the Holy Scriptures were eminent for some particular grace. In Abraham, faith was chiefly conspicuous; in Job, patience: in Moses, meekness; in Elijah, faithfulness and intrepidity. In respect of devotion, David seems to have surpassed all others. Of none have we such ample and minute accounts, in relation to this matter, as we have of him. His public addresses to the Deity, his private communion with him, the inmost recesses of his heart when in his closet or upon his bed, are all laid open to us. On this account the Psalms are pre-eminently useful to all who wish to cultivate a devout spirit, and to maintain a close walk with God. The expression before us may serve as a specimen of the whole.

In discoursing upon it, I will,

I. Set before you the example of David—

The one object of his desire was to enjoy the ordinances of his God—

David was not of the tribe to which the priesthood exclusively belonged: yet would he gladly have possessed the privilege of the priests, in having his stated residence as near as possible to the tabernacle of his God. But though this could not be, he determined, by the constancy of his attendance there, to make it, as it were, his residence and habitation. This indeed was "the one object of his desire:" and in comparison of it there was nothing in the world that he wished for. To this he made everything subservient: even the affairs of state were not suffered so to occupy his mind as to divert his attention from the service of the sanctuary. This one object he sought, and "determined to seek it" "to the latest hour of his life." He "sought it of the Lord" too, entreating him so to order and overrule everything, that he might not be forced away from Jerusalem, or, while there, be kept away from the ordinances of his God. If at any time he was, by the efforts of his enemies, prevented from waiting upon God, he mourned over it, and "panted after the return of those blessed seasons, even as the hunted deer pants after the water-brooks Psalm 42:1-2." On some occasions, his enemies, knowing how painful to him his absence from the tabernacle was, exulted over him, and said, "Where is now your God?" And so distressing to him were these impious taunts, that "tears were his meat night and day on account of them Psalm 42:3," and they were even "as a sword in his bones Psalm 42:10." At those seasons he envied the swallows, that were able to build their nests in the courts of God's house: he envied them, I say, their proximity to the altar of his God Psalm 84:1-4. Every day that was spent at a distance from that, seemed, as it were, to be lost to his life; so entirely was his soul wrapped up in the enjoyment of divine ordinances, and in cultivating communion with his God.

And this desire was founded on the benefit he had derived from them—

There "he beheld the beauty of the Lord;" and there "he inquired of the Lord," spreading before him, from day to day, his every want, his every wish. He looked through the various sacrifices that were offered there from day to day, and beheld in them the perfections of his God. In the death of all the victims he saw the desert of sin, and the justice of God, which had denounced death as the punishment of sin. In the acceptance of those sacrifices he saw the goodness and mercy of God, who had appointed such offerings as means of leading the people to that Great Sacrifice, which should in due time be offered for the sins of the whole world. In the sprinklings and ablutions that were practiced, he beheld the holiness of God, who would accept no sinner who should not be purged from his iniquities, and be made holy after the divine image. In the whole of the services altogether he saw "mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissing each other Psalm 85:10."

Here he felt encouragement to pour out his soul before God, and to ask whatever his returning necessities might require. This, to him whose trials were so great and manifold, was an unspeakable privilege. The extreme arduousness of his affairs also rendered it most desirable to him to spread all his difficulties before the Lord, and to ask counsel of him for his direction. True it was that in private he could carry his affairs to the Lord, and implore help from him: but, as the public ordinances were of God's special appointment, and as the high-priest was the established medium of access to him, and of communications from him, he delighted more particularly to wait upon God there; that so, while he received blessings in a more abundant measure from God, he might glorify God in the sight of all Israel.

Admiring, as I do, this bright example, I beg leave to,

II. Commend it to your imitation—

We have far greater reason to love the house of God than ever David had—

If the beauty of the Lord was visible in the Jewish worship, how much more so must it be in the ordinances of the Gospel! David beheld the perfections of his God only under types and shadows: but we behold them reflected as in a glass or mirror, with transcendent brightness, and all shining with united splendor in the face of Jesus Christ. We see, not bulls and goats, but the very Son of God himself, "Jehovah's fellow," offered in sacrifice for the sins of men. What then must the justice be that required such a sacrifice! What the love, that gave him from the Father's bosom to be a sacrifice! What the mercy, that spared not him, in order that we, enemies and rebels, might be spared! So imperfectly was this mystery known under the Jewish dispensation, that all, even the most exalted prophets, were in a state of comparative darkness: but now, "the things which from the beginning of the world eye had not seen, nor ear heard, nor had it entered into the heart of man to conceive, are revealed unto us by the Spirit 1 Corinthians 2:9-10;" so that we can truly and emphatically say, "The darkness is past, and the true light now shines 1 John 2:8." John the Baptist was greater in this respect than all the prophets; because he personally saw and bare witness to Him, whom all the other prophets spoke of obscurely, and at the distance of many hundred years: but, great as John was, "the least and lowest in the Gospel kingdom is greater than he Matthew 11:11." In our ordinances, Jesus Christ is so fully revealed, that he may be said to be "evidently set forth crucified before our eyes Galatians 3:1;" and at his holy table we "eat his flesh, and drink his blood," as truly in a spiritual sense, as we do really and substantially eat the bread and drink the wine by which they are represented. We see that through the virtue of this sacrifice God is so reconciled to us, as to "behold no iniquity in us Numbers 23:21;" for, viewing us as clothed in the righteousness of his dear Son, he beholds us "without spot or blemish Ephesians 5:27." Moreover as by faith we see the Lord Jesus carrying his own blood within the veil, so we also hear him making intercession for us at the right hand of God: yes, and "out of the fullness that is treasured up in him we receive" all the blessings that he has purchased for us. How often are we, in the experience of these things, constrained to cry out with the prophet, "How great is his goodness! how great is his beauty Zechariah 9:17." And how often, in rapturous admiration of him, do we pray with the Psalmist, "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us!" In truth, it is by thus "beholding as with unveiled face the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord 2 Corinthians 3:18."

Nor have we less the advantage of David in relation to the things which we would ask of God: for we are able to inquire more explicitly and distinctly of our God than he could. He indeed might say with Moses, "Lord, show me your glory:" and God would, as in the case of Moses, "make all his goodness to pass before him Exodus 33:18-19." But audible sounds conveyed nothing to them in comparison of what shall be disclosed to us by the still small voice of God's Holy Spirit, speaking in us through the written word. To us all the blessings of the Covenant are laid open: and, as God, when he revealed them, said, "I will be inquired of concerning these things to do them Ezekiel 36:37," we are at liberty to take that covenant, and spread it before the Lord, and to ask of him every distinct blessing that is contained in it. We may lay hold on every promise that we can find in the Inspired Volume, and plead it with God, and have it fulfilled to our souls: Besides, we can ask in the name of Jesus Christ; which none of the prophets ever could. And with what confidence can we do that, when we reflect on the relation which exists between the Father and the Son, and the express engagement which the Father has made to answer every petition which is offered in his Son's name John 16:23-24; Moreover, the particular promise of the Lord Jesus to be more immediately with his people in the public ordinances, and to grant whatever any number of his congregated people shall agree to ask Matthew 18:19-20, is a still further encouragement to us to frequent the house of God: for experience proves, that still, as formerly, "God loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob Psalm 87:2."

We should therefore desire it no less than David did—

We should make a point of attending on all stated occasions the ordinances of our God. We should not suffer any trifling matter to detain us from them: and, if we are kept from them by any means, it should fill us with grief rather than delight: and we should determine as soon as possible to remove the obstacle that deprives us of so great a blessing.

More particularly, we should keep in mind what it is that we should go thither to obtain; nor ever consider the true object of the ordinances as attained, unless we be enriched with brighter views of his beauty, and more enlarged discoveries of his excellency: We should consider too, what our more immediate necessities require; so that we may be ready to spread them all before him, and to inquire of him respecting them: Then the more enlarged our expectations of benefit from the ordinances are, the more abundant will be God's communications of blessings to us by them. If we "open our mouths ever so wide, he will fill them Psalm 81:10."

To this I would URGE you, from the consideration, that such love to God's ordinances is,

1. Most conducive to your present happiness—

Hear the testimony of David himself: "Blessed is the man whom you chose, and causes to approach unto you, that he may dwell in your courts: he shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, even of your holy temple Psalm 65:4." And with this agrees the experience of every living saint. Hence every true Believer can say, "Lord, I have loved the habitation of your house, and the place where your honor dwells Psalm 26:8;" or rather, the more appropriate language of his heart is, "O God, you are my God: early will I seek you: my soul thirsts for you; my flesh longs for you, in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see your power and your glory, so as I have seen you in the sanctuary Psalm 63:1-2." I will leave you to judge, whether a person, with such desires, and such enjoyments, be not happy. And if you are persuaded that he must be so, then seek your own happiness in this way, in which you cannot possibly be disappointed: for "he never said to any, Seek you my face in vain."

2. The best preparative for Heaven—

Heaven is a place of continued occupation; of exercises, for which we are now to be trained. We must now obtain a taste for heavenly employments; and in that taste real piety consists. We quite mistake if we imagine that religion consists in notions or in forms: it is a taste; a taste not formed by nature or education; but wrought in us by the Spirit of God: and the acquisition of this constitutes our fitness for Heaven. What happiness could a soul that feels the exercises of devotion irksome, and in Heaven; where the singing praises to God and to the Lamb forms the one employment of all around the throne, and will to all eternity? If this be not the pleasure which you chiefly affect in this world, be assured that you are not prepared to unite with saints and angels in the world to come. If this be not your state, whatever knowledge you may possess, you are yet carnal: for God himself has said, that "they who are after the flesh do mind (savor) the things of the flesh; and they who are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit Romans 8:5." I pray you then to seek your happiness in God; and never to rest, until you can say, "Whom have I in Heaven but You? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides You If this be a subject at the Opening of a Church or Chapel, the great need that there was of a place of worship may be stated, and a hope expressed, that it may be the means of preparing many for the Church above."

 

 

Psalms 27:8

 

DISCOURSE 538

THE DUTY OF PRAYER

Psalm 27:8. When you said, Seek you my face; my heart said unto you, Your face, Lord, will I seek.

PERHAPS there are few things which more strongly characterize a child of God, than a spirit of prayer. The Lord's faithful servants are particularly designated as "a people near unto him Psalm 148:14;" while of the hypocrite it is pointedly asked, "Will he always call upon God? Will he delight himself in the Almighty Job 27:10." The invitations of God are common to all: but the way in which they are received constitutes the difference between the child of this world and the child of God.

The words before us, while they describe the experience of David, will lead me to show,

I. In what light the invitations of God are, for the most part, regarded—

God is incessantly calling men to seek his face—

He does this by his word; in which he bids us to look to him, and call upon him, and turn to him, and lay hold upon him; and sends his ministers to invite and beseech us in me name. He does it, also, by his providence: all that he does for us in a way of mercy, is to stimulate us to love him; and his chastisements are to awaken us to our duty, saying, "Hear the rod, and him that has appointed it." He does it, also, by his Spirit; for conscience is his voice within us, "his still small voice," whereby he whispers to us, and moves us, and "strives with us," and "draws us to himself." The whole creation, the heavenly bodies moving in their orbits, "the elements that fulfill his will," the "birds which know their season," and the beasts which acknowledge their Benefactor; the occurrences of every day, even the most common and casual, as the going to a well for water John 4:7; John 4:10, or climbing up into a tree for the gratifying of curiosity Luke 19:4-5; all subserve the same blessed end, to introduce us to the knowledge of his love, and to the enjoyment of his favor.

But his invitations are almost universally "made light of"—

Some treat them with contempt, "mocking his messengers, and despising his words 2 Chronicles 36:16.": Others justify their refusal of them by a variety of excuses, like those in the parable, who "had bought a field, and must go and see it; and a yoke of oxen, which they must go to try; or had married a wife, and therefore could not come." Every one has his plea: one is too old to change his ways; another too young to engage in such serious concerns; and another too much occupied to be at liberty for such pursuits. Others profess a willingness to obey the call, but never realize their intentions. They say, "I go, Sir; but they never execute their Father's will Matthew 21:30;" they will, like Ezekiel's auditors, approve what they hear, but will never give themselves truly and unreservedly to God Ezekiel 33:31-32.

Let us now proceed to show, on the contrary,

II. The light in which they ought to be regarded—

David's example is precisely that which we should follow. There was in his bosom a chord in perfect unison with that which the finger of God had touched, and that vibrated to the touch. Thus, when God says to all the sinners of mankind, "Seek you my face," there should be in every one of us a responding chord, in perfect harmony with the divine command: and we should, every one of us, reply, "Your face, Lord, will I seek." This duty we should execute,

1. With a grateful sense of his condescension and grace—

How amazing is it that such a proposal should originate with God; and that Jehovah should "stand at the door of our hearts, and knock" there for admittance! If a permission only had been granted to us to seek his favor, methinks it should have been embraced with all imaginable earnestness: for sure enough, if such an imitation were sent to those who are now in Hell, it would not be treated with indifference there. But it is not a mere permission that we receive; it is a call, an invitation, an entreaty: and should we "make light of that?" No: we should turn unto our God with our whole hearts, and avail ourselves, without delay, of the opportunity that is thus afforded us.

2. With a ready acquiescence in his appointed way—

God tells us, that it is in Christ alone that he can accept us; and that we must come to him through Christ, pleading the merit of his blood, and relying altogether on his atoning sacrifice. And shall this appear to us a hard saying? Shall this be deemed too humiliating for our proud hearts to submit to? Shall we not bless God, that he has given us a Savior, who shall mediate between him and us, and, like "a days-man Job 9:33," lay his hand on both, in order to our reconciliation? Surely we should not hesitate a moment to humble ourselves before him, to acknowledge our desert of his wrathful indignation, and to implore his mercy in the name of his dear Son.

3. With a determination of heart, that nothing shall ever keep us from him—

Things there are, without number, which would keep us in bondage, and detain us from our God. But we should be on our guard against them all; and determine to break through every obstacle that the world, the flesh, and the devil, can place in our way. For, what can the world do, either by its allurements or its terrors, to counterbalance the loss of the divine favor? As for the flesh, neither its weakness nor its corruptions should discourage us in our way to God. Nor should the devil, with all his wiles and all his devices, be suffered to divert us from our purpose, or to retard us in our way. We should have our hearts bent upon executing the commands of God. Every object under Heaven should be subordinated to that. Other duties, doubtless, should be performed in their place: but to obtain God's favor should be our first concern; and life itself, in comparison of that, should be of no value in our eyes.

ADDRESS—

God calls you now, my Brethren, by my voice; and says to every one of you, "Seek you my face." O that you knew the day of your visitation! O that you now viewed this mercy as you will most unquestionably view it before long! For, whether you be in Heaven or in Hell, be assured that the divine favor will appear to you no light concern. I would that now the Psalmist's determination were adopted by every one of you. Tell me, I pray you, whether the resolution be not wise: tell me whether it be not necessary: tell me whether, if you continue to decline God's invitation until the door of Heaven is finally closed against you, you will not curse your folly with an anguish that will exceed your utmost conceptions, and bewail to all eternity the conduct you now pursue. I say, then, to every one of you, "Seek you after God: seek him instantly, without delay: seek him while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near:" for the time is quickly coming when your day of grace shall be closed, and "God will swear in his wrath that you shall never enter into his rest." On the other hand, assure yourselves, that, "if you seek him, he will be found of you," and "your hearts shall live forever." Let every one of you, therefore, now go home, and put the matter to a trial. See whether God will not be gracious unto you: see whether he will not answer your prayers, and fulfill your desires, and "do exceeding abundantly for you above all that you can ask or think. I speak with confidence; for, from the beginning of the world to this hour. "He never said to any, Seek you my face in vain!"

 

 

Psalms 28:7

 

DISCOURSE 539

ADORING GOD FOR HIS MERCIES

Psalm 28:7. The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusted in him, and I am helped: therefore my heart greatly rejoices; and with my song will I praise him.

THE man of this world delights to speak of the things of this world: the man of God delights to speak of God: each speaks out of the abundance of his own heart. It is the very character of a true believer, that "he regards the works of the Lord and the operation of his hands," and that he desires to magnify the Lord for all the benefits conferred upon him. No one can read the Psalms of David, without being penetrated with this thought. What the particular affliction was from which he had recently been delivered when he penned this psalm, we do not certainly know: but after blessing God for his condescension and grace in hearing and answering his supplications, he records, for the benefit of all future saints, his feelings in the review of the mercies given unto him.

In this record we see,

I. What God is to the believer—

To all that trust in him, he is both a protector from all evil, and a helper to all good—

This is a blessed truth, if considered only in theory—

What cannot he do, that "has the God of Jacob for his help?" To what duty may he not address himself with a full assurance that he shall be able to fulfill it? Would he overcome the most inveterate lusts? "Through the influence of God's Spirit he shall mortify the deeds of the body," and "bring the very thoughts of his heart into captivity to the obedience of Christ." Would he attain and exercise all the graces of the Spirit? he shall do so, yes, "he shall do all things through Christ strengthening him".

And whom needs he to fear? Surely neither men nor devils: for, what can man do, when he himself is crushed before the worm? As for Satan, though he have at his command all the principalities and powers of Hell, he is a vanquished enemy, and shall before long "be bruised forever under the believer's feet".

But this truth is yet more blessed, when it is practically experienced by the believer in his own soul—

What a zest does the believer's own experience give to every declaration of the Inspired Volume! When, from the communications he has actually received, he can say, God is my strength and my shield, then it is that he is prepared to enjoy these blessed truths as he ought, and to give unto God the glory due unto his name. And here we cannot but exhort every believer to trust in God with his whole heart. In this case he shall never be disappointed of his hope: yes rather, the more he expects, the more he shall receive; and according to his faith it shall be done unto him. Let him only be able to say with David, "My heart trusts in him;" and he shall sooner or later have reason to add, "I am helped:" I am protected from evils, which I could not by my own wisdom or power avoid; and I am enabled to do things, for which my own strength would have been utterly insufficient: by my own experience therefore, no less than from the divine testimony, I can say, "The Lord is my strength, and my shield."

As from David's assertions we learn what God is to us, so from his frame of mind we may see,

II. What should be the disposition of our hearts towards him—

Certainly these exalted privileges should be received by us,

1. With joy—

Who can have reason to rejoice in comparison of the believer? Look round and see how the world at large are taken in the snare of the devil, and led captive by him at his will. Have you no reason to rejoice when God has interposed with a mighty hand and a stretched-out arm to deliver you? When you see the dangers with which you are surrounded, have you no reason to rejoice in having such a shield as is sufficiently large to encompass you on every side, and so strong as to be impenetrable to all the fiery darts of the devil? When you see what lusts you have to mortify, and what duties to perform, have you not reason to rejoice in having Omnipotence for your strength? O rejoice; rejoice in the Lord always; yes, "rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and full of glory!" However "greatly your heart rejoices," you never need be afraid of excess: let it be but the joy of a dependent being, and it cannot be too great.

2. With thankfulness—

It is your privilege to "sing in the ways of the Lord." In Heaven the redeemed are singing praises to their God day and night: and so should you do on earth. As for David, he would "praise God day and night;" and that too with "all that was within him;" yes, and "as long as he should live." Not content with praising God himself, he would have the sun, moon, and stars, together with everything that had life and breath, to praise him too Psalm 145:1-7; Psalm 148:1-14. This is a state of mind worthy of a redeemed sinner; nor should we ever rest until we have attained it.

We shall conclude this subject with two inquiries:

1. Whence is it that so few possess this heavenly frame?

It must be confessed, that among the professors of religion, there are but few comparatively in whom Christianity has its perfect work. Some are retarded in their growth by "the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, or the lust of other things, and never bring forth fruit unto perfection." Others are remiss in the duties of the closet, and thereby deprive themselves of those rich communications of grace and peace, which God would otherwise bestow upon them. And others again are always poring over the evils of their own hearts, instead of contemplating the mercies of their God, and the wonders of redeeming love. It is not at all surprising that these different characters enjoy but little of that divine unction which is imparted to those only who live in close communion with their God. But let no man impute their want of joy to any defect in Christianity itself: they are not straitened in their God any more than David was: it is in themselves that they are straitened; and "they receive not, because they ask not." Let them only live near unto God in the exercise of prayer and faith, and they shall find that God is the same in every age, rich in mercy, and "abundant in goodness and truth."

2. How may we all attain it?

We have advantages far beyond any that David ever enjoyed. What he saw under a veil, we behold, as it were, with open face; a God incarnate, taking upon himself the entire care of all his people, standing between them and the curse of the broken law, and engaging to keep them by his own power unto everlasting salvation. For us there is "help laid upon One that is mighty:" for us there is all fullness treasured up in Christ, so that we are privileged to say, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength Isaiah 45:24. See especially Isaiah 25:4.": Let us then improve this privilege as we ought to do: let us "be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus," yes, "strong in the Lord and in the power of his might." Then may we be assured of final victory, and now, even in the midst of all our conflicts, exult as already victors, yes, as "more than conquerors through Him that loved us Romans 8:34-39. or Isaiah 26:3-4."

 

 

Psalms 28:8-9

 

DISCOURSE 540

GOD OUR SAVING STRENGTH

Psalm 28:8-9. The Lord is their strength, and he is the saving strength of his anointed. Save your people, and bless your inheritance; feed them also, and lift them up forever!

IN the Psalms of David we observe many rapid transitions from the depth of sorrow to very exalted joy. In the psalm before us, this is very remarkable; insomuch, that commentators are altogether at a loss to determine whether it was written under a state of deep affliction, out of which he anticipates a joyful issue, or after a deliverance from affliction, combining with his expressions of gratitude a retrospective view of his preceding trouble. Of these two explications, I much prefer the latter; though I think even that far from satisfactory. I conceive that the suddenness of God's answers to prayer, and of the changes wrought thereby upon the feelings of his people, is here marked with very peculiar force and beauty. God has said, "Before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear Isaiah 65:24;" and thus it was in this case. The Psalmist began in a state of extreme dejection; but, in a moment, "his light rose in obscurity, and his darkness became as the noon-day Isaiah 58:10." The Psalmist elsewhere says, "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing Psalm 30:11;" and thus we see it here realized; "Blessed be the Lord, because he has heard the voice of my supplications." Then, after returning thanks to his great Deliverer, he proclaims, to the honor of God, what he will be to all his believing people; and he implores from God the same blessings in their behalf. Let us now consider,

I. His testimony for God—

He himself was "God's anointed." But of himself he had spoken in the preceding verse: "The Lord is my strength." Now, therefore, he speaks of God's peculiar people, even to the end of time. These all are partakers of the Spirit of Him who was "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows Psalm 45:7." Even under the Jewish dispensation, his people were "a kingdom of priests Exodus 19:6;" but, under the Christian dispensation, all the saints are "a royal priesthood 1 Peter 2:9," and have the privilege of being "made kings and priests unto God and the Father Revelation 1:6;" and as all kings and priests under the Law were consecrated with oil, so are these "anointed of the Lord 2 Corinthians 1:21;" and they shall all find God to be "their strength, their saving strength." Now this is,

1. A true testimony—

Search the records of the Bible in every age, and see whether so much as one of the Lord's anointed was not strengthened by him to do and suffer his holy will: Or say, whether many of you, my Brethren, are not able to attest the same, from your own experience; and to declare, that "out of weakness you have been made strong Hebrews 11:34," and that God has been ever ready to "perfect his own strength in your weakness 2 Corinthians 12:9..

2. An encouraging testimony—

There is not a man upon earth that has any strength in himself; no, "not so much as even to think a good thought 2 Corinthians 3:5." Yet, "through the grace of Christ strengthening us, the weakest babe in the universe is able to do all things Philippians 4:13." Our duties are arduous, our enemies mighty, our sufferings great: yet are we eventually made "more than conquerors, through Him who loved, us Romans 8:37." There is nothing, then, that we may not readily undertake for God, since "with Him there is everlasting strength Isaiah 26:4;" and we are authorized to expect, under all possible circumstances, that "the grace of Christ shall be sufficient for us".

Persuaded of this blessed truth, let us mark,

II. His intercession, founded upon it—

Let us mark,

1. The copiousness of it—

His heart was full: and just views of God invariably produce in us a measure of the same feelings towards man. "The Lord's anointed" are "his people and his inheritance 1 Kings 8:51; 1 Kings 8:53;" and "if we love God, we cannot but love those who are begotten of him:" and in proportion as we feel our own obligations to God, will our hearts be enlarged in prayer for those who are dear unto him.

2. The order of it—

He begins with imploring their "salvation" from all guilt and danger. He then begs of God to load them with all "blessings" through this dreary wilderness. He entreats that they may be "fed," and "governed," and protected, as sheep by a careful shepherd, or as a faithful people by a wise and powerful Prince In the Te Deum the words are quoted in this sense. See also Ezekiel 34:23-24. And, lastly, he desires that they may be "exalted" to happiness and glory in a better world. Thus does he implore of God to confer on them all that they can ever need, "giving them grace and glory, and withholding from them nothing that can by any means conduce to their welfare Psalm 84:11.

3. The extent of it—

He desires these things for all, without exception. There is not one so good or great, but that he needs all these things at the hands of God; nor one so mean, but that he may expect of God a supply of all these things, in answer to the prayers thus offered for him.

Behold, then, Brethren,

1. Your duty—

God commands that we "make our intercession for all men." And, if we have any just knowledge of God, we shall improve our interest with him for the benefit of our fellow-creatures. Say not, "I know not how to pray." Well I know that this is a common complaint; but I am perfectly assured, that the straitness of which we complain, and perhaps justly complain, arises, in a very great measure, from our ignorance of God, and of the divine life. If we spread more our own wants before God, and obtained answers to our prayers, as David did, we should, like David, become intercessors for others, and find at the throne of grace a liberty of which we have at present but little conception.

2. Your privilege—

Are you to ask all these things for others; and shall you want them yourselves? No, Brethren; you may ask salvation from all the penal effects of sin: you may ask for blessings, even all that a fallen creature can by any means want: you may ask for provision and protection to the utmost extent of your necessities: yes, you may ask for all the glory and felicity of Heaven; and God will bestow it all. "Open your mouth ever so wide, he will fill it;" yes, "he will do exceeding abundantly for you above all that you can ask or think."

 

 

Psalms 29:10-11

 

DISCOURSE 541

GOD THE GIVES OF STRENGTH AND PEACE

Psalm 29:10-11. The Lord sits upon the flood; yes, the Lord sits King forever. The Lord will give strength unto fits people: the Lord will bless his people with peace.

THIS psalm is supposed to have been written on the occasion of a thunder-storm. It represents the Deity as uttering his voice in those terrific sounds, whereby the very mountains are made to shake, yes and "skip, as it were, like a calf or a young unicorn." That there is a transition to the Messiah, and his offices, is clear: for he is expressly declared to be King in Zion. And this declaration stands in immediate connection with the floods and tumults by which, in appearance, he was for a season overwhelmed: "Why do the Heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He who sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion Psalm 2:1-6." He is also called Jehovah: as it is written: "This is the name whereby he shall be called, The Lord our Righteousness Jeremiah 23:6." And I rather think, that, in order the more strongly to mark his divine character, the name Jehovah is here so often repeated. It is repeated no less than eighteen times in these eleven verses: and it is the same person who is spoken of throughout the whole. The same person of whom the Psalmist says, in the first three verses, "Give unto the Lord, O you mighty, give unto the Lord glory and strength: give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness: the voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thunders; the Lord is upon many waters." Of that same person does he say in my text, "The Lord sits upon the flood; yes, the Lord sits King forever. The Lord will give strength unto his people; the Lord will bless his people with peace." That my text refers to him, there can be no doubt: for he is "that Mighty One, upon whom the help of his people is laid;" and he is, "The Prince of Peace, from whom all their peace must flow. We may therefore proceed to consider the Lord Jesus,

I. As a God of Providence—

"He is the Creator of all things," and "by him all things consist:" nor does anything occur which is not done by him. We speak of things, indeed, as accidental; but there is nothing really casual, not even "the falling of a sparrow," or the loss of "a hair of our head." True it is, that creatures, for the most part, execute their own will, and oftentimes with an express desire to oppose the will of God. But they are all unconscious agents in his hands, accomplishing what "his counsel has determined before to be done." The envy of the priests, the treachery of Judas, the timidity of Pilate, the cruelty of the Roman soldiers, were all subservient to his designs, and all fulfilled his inscrutable purposes. "They, indeed, meant not so; neither did their heart think so:" they followed only the dictates of their own minds: but, in all their actions, "his counsel stood," and he accomplished through them his own sovereign and eternal will. Behold our blessed Lord, in every change of situation, from his apprehension to the grave: who would suppose that these were successive steps to the throne of Heaven, and the means ordained for the salvation of the world? Yet this was really the case; and by all these events were a multitude of conflicting prophecies fulfilled. He sat at the helm, and directed all the storm. And precisely thus he does at this time also. The occurrences of every successive day seem as if they arose without order, and passed away without effect. But He who sees all things from the beginning has ordained that a sleepless night, an opening of a book, a casting of a lot, shall all as certainly effect his ends, as any event, however great, or however manifestly connected with his designs Esther 3:7; Esther 6:1-2. The history of Joseph, so far as relates to the concurrence of contingent circumstances to the advancement of our welfare, is renewed at this time in many of us, whose elevation to a throne of glory is promoted by events which, to the eye of sense, would appear most calculated to counteract it. Be the storm ever so tempestuous, "He sits upon the flood;" and be our enemies ever so mighty, "he sits King forever," to control their efforts, and overrule them for our good.

But let us contemplate him,

II. As a God of grace—

The Lord Jesus Christ, on his ascension to Heaven, was constituted "head over all things to his Church;" and a fullness was treasured up in him, for the use of his believing people in all ages. From this fullness he is ever ready to impart unto them,

1. Strength—

Great, exceeding great, is the work which they have to perform, as are also the trials which they have to sustain. But, through him, the weakest of his people shall be able "to do all things Philippians 4:13," and to suffer all things Colossians 1:11-12, as circumstances may require. Whatever be their situation, "their strength shall be according to their day Deuteronomy 33:25;" and, however weak they be in themselves, "his strength shall be perfected in their weakness 2 Corinthians 12:9;" so seasonable shall be his supplies of grace to their souls, and so sufficient for all their necessities.

2. Peace—

In a storm, which menaced their destruction, the disciples were alarmed. But our blessed Lord reproved them for not having a more entire affiance in him Mark 4:37-41. Whatever confederacies of men or devils may be against us, we should dismiss all fear, and "sanctify him in our hearts," as all-sufficient for our protection Isaiah 8:12-14. It is said of all his people, "He will keep them in perfect peace, because they trust in him Isaiah 26:3." And well may they be in peace: for, being accepted of God, they may possess an assured peace with him Romans 5:1, and, being upheld in his arms, they may laugh at all the assaults of their enemies: for, "if He be for them, who can be against them Romans 8:31." And this peace is a "blessing" of the highest order: for, as it is the exclusive privilege of the Lord's people Isaiah 57:1, so is it, both in its nature and operations, more excellent than can be adequately conceived: it truly "passes all understanding Philippians 4:7."

APPLICATION—

1. Give him, then, the glory due unto his name—

We should get into the very spirit of the Psalmist, and

have our minds filled with a sense of our Savior's power and grace: Yet praise him, not by words only, but by that perfect affiance which he calls for at your hands; and which is necessary, in order that you may realize the blessings he is exalted to bestow.

2. Let his voice control every emotion of your souls—

If he speak by thunders and lightnings, he speaks also by his word: and if by them he displays his power, by this he reveals his grace. Notice particularly how, in the psalm before us, everything is ascribed to his voice. And sure I am, that, if you will listen to the still small voice of his word, there is not a blessing which you can possibly need, but it shall be imparted in the richest abundance to your souls.

 

 

Psalms 30:5

 

DISCOURSE 542

THE MERCY OF GOD

Psalm 30:5. His anger endures but a moment: in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.

IN the title affixed to this psalm, it is called "A psalm, or song, at the dedication of the house of David." If we understand this as referring to a dedication of his house on his first entrance upon it 2 Samuel 5:11, there is nothing in the psalm at all suitable to the occasion: but if we refer it to the period of his return to it after the death of Absalom, we shall find a suitableness in it to the circumstances in which he had been placed 2 Samuel 20:5. He had been driven from his throne at a time when he appeared to be most firmly fixed upon it; and had been in most imminent danger of his life, from the hands of his own favorite, but rebellious son, Absalom. God, however, had mercifully interposed for his deliverance, and had restored him once more in safety to his own house. To purify his house from the pollution it had sustained from Absalom, he dedicated it afresh; and penned this psalm, it should seem, for the occasion. But, as this is a matter of conjecture only, and not of certainty, I shall wave all further allusion to either of the occasions; and take the words of my text simply as expressing a most weighty truth, which is at all times, and under all circumstances, proper for our consideration.

Two things we shall notice from it.

I. The mercy of God—

The mercy of God will be found to be altogether of a boundless extent, whether we consider it,

1. As existing in his own bosom—

He is indeed angry both at sin itself and at those who commit it: and his anger he will surely manifest against every impenitent transgressor. "His wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men Romans 1:18;" and it will surely "break forth against all the children of disobedience Ephesians 5:6." Nevertheless, the inflicting of his judgments is "a strange act," to which he is utterly averse Isaiah 28:21. "Mercy" is the attribute in which "he most delights Mic. 7:18;" and, when he proclaimed his name, it was that by which he most desired to be known: "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin Exodus 34:6-7." The whole Scriptures represent him in this view, and declare, with one voice, that he is "rich in mercy Ephesians 2:4," and that "his mercy is from everlasting to everlasting unto those who fear him Psalm 103:17."

2. As experienced by his people—

Against the impenitent his anger must, of necessity, continue: but, towards the penitent and believing, it is of the shortest possible duration: "His anger endures but for a moment." When Nathan pressed home upon the conscience of David the guilt he had contracted in the matter of Uriah, and had brought him to this acknowledgment, "I have sinned against the Lord," the prophet was instantly directed by God to declare, that his iniquity, notwithstanding the enormity of it, was pardoned: "The Lord has put away your sin; you shall not die 2 Samuel 12:13." Had there been any bounds to his mercy, Manasseh could never have found acceptance with him. The wickedness of that monarch exceeded all that one would have supposed a human being was capable of committing: yet was even he pardoned, as soon as he humbled himself before his God 2 Chronicles 33:12-13. And how rapidly the mercy of God flies to the healing of a contrite soul, may be seen, as in numberless other instances, so in the psalm before us: "Hear, O Lord," said David, "and have mercy upon me: Lord, be my helper:" and then he immediately adds, "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing: you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness verse 10, 11. For the further elucidation of this, see Jeremiah 3:12-14; Jeremiah 3:22; Jeremiah 4:1."

The whole preceding context, while it declares God's mercy, sets also before us,

II. Our duty in the contemplation of it—

As having experienced mercy, we are called to sing, and praise our God. But, as we are not all in the holy frame of David, and as the text itself suggests views somewhat different from those of joyous exultation, I shall adhere rather to the words before us, and point out our duty, not so much in the contemplation of mercy enjoyed, as of mercy needed and desired.

Though God so delights in the exercise of mercy, yet he requires that we seek it at his hands Ezekiel 36:37. We must seek it,

1. Supremely—

"In his favor is life:" and the enjoyment of it must be our one object of pursuit. Not only must all earthly things be as nothing in our estimation, but life itself must be of no value in comparison of it. To have our interest in his favor a matter of doubt, must be as death to our souls: and we must live only to obtain reconciliation with him. What the frame of our minds, in reference to it, should be, we may see in those words of David: "I stretch forth my hands unto you: my soul thirsts after you, as a thirsty land. Hear me speedily, O Lord! my spirit fails: hide not your face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit! Cause me to hear your loving-kindness in the morning; for in you do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto you. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies: I flee unto you to hide me Psalm 143:6-8."

2. Humbly—

"Weeping may endure for a night." We should certainly weep and mourn for our sins, as our blessed Lord has told us in his sermon on the mount Matthew 5:4 with Luke 6:20-21. And who among us has not just ground to weep? Who is there that has not reason to smite upon his breast with grief and shame for his past life, and, like David, to say, "I am weary with my groaning: all the night make I my bed to swim: I water my couch with my tears Psalm 6:6." This should be the experience of us all: "we must sow in tears, if ever we would reap in joy Psalm 126:5." Shall this be thought suited to the Mosaic dispensation only? It is not a whit less necessary under the Gospel dispensation: "Be afflicted, and mourn and weep: let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into heaviness: humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord; and he shall lift you up."

3. Confidently—

We should never doubt God's readiness to accept us, when we return to him. Whether our night of weeping be more or less dark, or of a longer or shorter duration, we should feel assured that "a morning of joy shall come," when "there shall be given to us beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness Isaiah 61:3." In the contemplation of God's mercy as revealed in the Gospel, we should see, that he can be "a just God, and yet a Savior Isaiah 45:21;" yes, that because "he is faithful and just, lie will forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness 1 John 1:9." To the exercise of his mercy He has assigned no limit: and we should assign none. We should be perfectly assured that "the blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to cleanse from all sin 1 John 1:7;" that "God will cast out none who come to him in his Son's name John 6:37;" on the contrary, that "though our sins have been red like crimson," we shall, through the Redeemer's blood, "be made white as snow Isaiah 1:18."

In this view of our subject, I would call your attention to the following obvious and beneficial reflections—

1. How deeply to be pitied are the blind impenitent world!

They will not believe that God is angry with them, or that they have any need to dread his displeasure: and, if we attempt to convince them of their danger, they account us no better than gloomy enthusiasts. But, whether they will believe it or not, God's eye is upon them for evil; and if they turn not to him in penitence and faith, they shall before long feel the weight of his avenging arm. Who that should see a multitude of persons enclosed, like Baal's priests, and unconscious of their impending fate, would not pity them? Yet here are millions of immortal souls soon to be summoned into the presence of their Judge, and setting at defiance the doom that speedily awaits them: should not "rivers of tears run down our eyes for them Psalm 119:136." Yes, truly: as our Lord wept over Jerusalem in the view of the destruction that awaited it, and as the Apostle Paul had "great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart" on account of his unbelieving brethren Romans 9:2, so should we mourn bitterly for those who will not mourn and be m bitterness for themselves.

2. How richly to be congratulated is the weeping penitent!

His carnal friends perhaps pity him for his weakness, or deride him for his folly. But the angels around the throne are of a very different mind: they, even in the presence of God himself, have an augmentation of their joy from one single spectacle like this Luke 15:10; and God himself is not so intent on the heavenly hosts, but that he spies out such a poor object as this, and looks upon him with delight and delight Isaiah 66:2. Is there, then, here present one weeping penitent? I congratulate him, from my inmost sold. My Brother! crowns and kingdoms are of no value in comparison of the blessing conferred on you. Be content to go on weeping, as long as God shall see fit to keep you in that state of discipline: but know, that "joy is sown for you;" and that, in due season, it shall spring up to an abundant harvest: for thus says the Lord: "He who goes on his way and weeps, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him Psalm 126:6."

3. What praises and thanksgivings are due from the pardoned sinner!

At present you can have but little conception of the blessings conferred upon you: for you cannot see one thousandth part of your guilt, or conceive one thousandth part of the glory that awaits you: and still less can you comprehend the wonders of love and mercy that have been given to you in the gift of God's only dear Son for your redemption. What indeed you do already know, is abundantly sufficient to fill your souls with unutterable joy, and your lips with incessant praise. But what will be your feelings at the instant of the departure of your soul from this earthly tabernacle, and of its admission into the presence of your God? Then you will see somewhat of the depth of misery from which you have been redeemed, and of the height of glory to which you are exalted; and will behold your Redeemer face to face; and join in all the songs of the redeemed: and look forward to eternity as the duration of your bliss. Surely these things should be ever on your minds: they should make you to be "looking for, and hastening unto, the coming of that blessed day." But, suppose that your night of weeping were to continue to the very hour of your dissolution, how short would it appear, when once that morning burst upon your view! Are you not ashamed that you should ever grudge the seed for such a harvest? Will not one hour of that glory be an ample recompense for all the exertions you ever made for the attainment of it? Go on, then, with Heaven in your view: and live in the sweet anticipation of the glory that awaits you. Methinks the very prospect of such a morning constitutes its very dawn, and will be to your souls the commencement of Heaven upon earth.

 

 

Psalms 30:6-12

 

DISCOURSE 543

CAUSE AND CURE OF SPIRITUAL DESERTION

Psalm 30:6-12. In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved: Lord, by your favor you have made my mountain to stand strong. You did hide your face, and I was troubled. I cried to you, O Lord; and unto the Lord I made supplication: What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise you? shall it declare your truth? Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me! Lord, be my helper! Than have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; to the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent: O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto you forever.

AMONG all the friends of vital godliness it is supposed that Christian experience is well understood: but it is a lamentable truth, that those in general who think themselves best acquainted with it, are exceedingly mistaken with respect to some of its most important parts. The distinctive offices of faith and unbelief, of confidence and fear, are by no means clearly defined in the minds either of ministers or people; on the contrary, they are often so confounded as to produce very serious evils; for by the misconceptions respecting them many are instructed to shun what God approves, and to cultivate what he abhors. For instance; A persuasion that we are God's elect people, and that we are in no danger of perishing, is recommended by many as the root and summit of Christian faith; while a fear lest we should have deceived ourselves, or should ultimately perish, is characterized as an evil heart of unbelief: and thus, a godly jealousy over ourselves is discouraged as a sin, and an unfounded confidence respecting our state is encouraged as a virtue. These mistakes arise partly from a blind following of human authorities, and partly from being confined by the trammels of human systems. To have just views on these subjects is of great importance both for ministers and people; for ministers, that they may know how to discriminate between good and evil in their flocks; and to the people, that they may form such an estimate of themselves as God himself forms of them.

The psalm before us will afford us an occasion for marking the distinctions which we conceive to be so eminently useful, and yet so generally wanted. It is said in the title to have been written at the dedication of David's house; but we apprehend it was rather at the second dedication of it, after it had been shamefully denied by Absalom. To this period of time, rather than to any other, we are directed by many parts of the psalm. It should seem that about that time the prosperity of David had lulled him into a state of undue security; and that God sent him this affliction to rouse him from it. The successive frames of his mind are here clearly marked; and must successively be considered as they are here presented to our view:

I. His carnal security—

There being to all appearance perfect tranquility in his kingdom, David conceived that no evil could arise to disturb his repose: and it seems that a similar confidence was also indulged by him in reference to his spiritual enemies. This is, indeed, the common effect of long continued prosperity: but it is a state of mind highly displeasing to God. We are dependent creatures: and ought at all times to feel, that whatever we have, whether of a temporal or spiritual nature, is but lent to us from hour to hour, according to the good pleasure of Him "in whom we live, and move, and have our being." The very continuance of our lives should be regarded in this view so that we should never think of what we will do in the next year, or even on the morrow, without an express reference to God as the sovereign controller of all events James 4:13-15. Job himself erred exceedingly in this respect, when he said, "I shall die in my nest Job 29:18." The same sense of dependence on God must more especially be maintained in reference to our spiritual life. The very chief of the Apostles, no less than we, needed to preserve upon his mind a consciousness, that, without incessant vigilance and care, he might, "after having preached to others, himself become a cast-away." However confident any man may be that he stands firm, it becomes him to "take heed lest he fall 1 Corinthians 10:12." And so far is this frame of mind from being, as religious people are apt to fancy it, an effect of legality and unbelief, it is pronounced by God himself as most pleasing to him, and beneficial to us; for "blessed is the man that fears always Proverbs 28:14."

It is worthy of observation, that David ostensibly acknowledged God as the author of his security: "You by your favor have made my mountain to stand strong:" but it is evident that his confidence was not really in God, so much as in his situation and circumstances, which had to all appearance a stability on which he might rely. And thus it is with those among ourselves who have fallen into a state of carnal security: they profess to depend on God; but their want of holy fear demonstrates, that their confidence is in something which they themselves possess, and which they consider as affording a just ground for the dismissal of vigilance and jealous apprehension.

David's relaxation of this beneficial fear was followed by

II. His spiritual dereliction—

To punish this undue security, God withdrew from David in some measure the protection of his providence, and the comforts of his grace: he suffered Absalom to carry into effect his traitorous conspiracy against him; and he left David without those heavenly consolations which under former trials he had been accustomed to experience: "You did hide your face from me," says David, "and I was troubled." Now such rebukes must be expected by all who forget their dependence upon God. "Truly he is a God that hides himself;" and by the dispensations of his providence and grace he marks his indignation against the backslidings of his people. We doubt not but that his withdrawment of many temporal blessings from us is a punishment for our idolatrous attachment to them, and dependence upon them. It was for this that he sent a worm to destroy Jonah's gourd; and for this he required the soul of him who thought "he had much goods laid up for many years." We doubt not also but that the experience of every child of God will more or less attest the same in reference to the withdrawment of his presence from them. In proportion as any have become less vigilant, they lose those manifestations of the Divine presence which in the seasons of holy fear they were privileged to enjoy. Nor is it a mere privation of joy which they experience on such occasions; there is a perturbation of mind arising from a sense of the Divine displeasure, and a painful apprehension lest they should never be restored to the favor of their God. David's "trouble," as arising from this source, was of a very overwhelming nature Psalm 77:2-4; and woe be to those who wantonly provoke God to inflict it on them Deuteronomy 32:20.

In what way he sought deliverance from this trouble, we see by,

III. His fervent prayers—

"He cried unto the Lord, and (as it is in the Prayer-book translation) got him to his Lord right humbly." How he pleaded with God, may be seen in our text; and in this he affords an excellent pattern for us under similar circumstances. His plea is to this effect; 'Lord, withdraw not yourself from me forever: it is through your help alone that I can ever recover the state from which I am fallen; and without such a recovery I can never bring any glory to your name. O leave me not in the wretched state into which I am fallen.'

Now here we see the true, the only, remedy for a soul that has provoked God to depart from it. To have recourse to the doctrines of election and final perseverance under such circumstances, is the way to foster that very disease which God is seeking, by this discipline, to cure. We say not that we are to keep out of sight the promises of God; for beyond a doubt we are to make use of them at all times and on all occasions: but then we are to make use of them, not for the fostering of an unhumbled confidence in God, but for the encouraging of our humiliation before God. We are to be constantly on our guard "not to heal our wounds slightly, or to cry, Peace, peace! when there is no peace." We should bear in mind that the humbling of our souls is the very end which God aims at in withdrawing his presence from us: and the more we answer this end, the better: nay, if by the suspension of his favor towards us we be brought to a more earnest crying after him, and to an utter abhorrence of ourselves in dust and ashes, we shall have as much reason to adore him for such discipline, as for the most exalted joys he ever afforded us.

This also is a point which we conceive to be of exceeding great importance for the due regulation of our own minds, and for the right counseling of those who are under the hidings of God's face.

The excellency and efficacy of this remedy may be seen in,

IV. His speedy recovery—

Many there are who go mourning almost all their lives. And why? Is it that God arbitrarily, and without occasion, hides his face from them? No: it is owing to this very thing which we have been speaking of, namely, their restraining prayer before God, and not using the proper means of regaining his favor. Indeed many are brought into absolute despair by the very means which they use to remove their apprehensions: they go to the consideration of God's secret decrees, when they should be mourning over their miscarriages, and imploring pardon for Christ's sake. Hence they are led to argue thus: 'If an elect vessel, how could I be in such darkness and distress? But I am in this darkness, therefore God has not elected me; and there is no hope for me.' But behold the effect of humiliation and contrition! See how speedily God returned to the soul of his servant, in answer to his fervent supplications! The prayers were scarcely offered, before David was enabled to say, "You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness." And thus would it be with all of us, if we would pursue the method which this holy man adopted. "God delights in the prosperity of his servants:" and, as a parent feels relief to his own soul when he can return in love to his offending child, so does God, when he can again lift up the light of his countenance on those, from whom he has been constrained for a season to withhold it See Jeremiah 13:27 and Psalm 81:13-16. The father's reception of his prodigal son is a sure and delightful specimen of the favor which all will experience, as soon as ever they are brought to the footstool of Divine grace with cries for mercy in the all-prevailing name of Jesus Christ. The testimony of David in this very psalm shall be confirmed in you: "His anger endures but a moment: in his favor is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning verse 5."

The speedy restoration of God's favor to him immediately drew forth,

V. His grateful acknowledgments—

To bring him back to a state of holy peace and joy was the very end for which God so graciously renewed to him the expressions of his love: it was, says David, "to the end that my glory may sing praise to you, and not be silent." He calls his tongue "his glory," because that is the member by which above all he could glorify his God: and he determines instantly to employ it in his praise: "O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto you forever." Blessed resolution! O that every one of us would instantly adopt it! O that God would inspire us with grace sufficient to carry it into execution . It is in order to bring all to this, that we have been so particular in the foregoing statement. It is with a view to this that we so earnestly recommend humiliation before God under seasons of darkness, rather than an attention to abstract points which tend only to foster a delusion. Humility, and contrition, and a believing application of the blood of Christ to our souls, can never deceive us; but, on the contrary, must infallibly lead to songs of praise and thanksgiving: "if we sow in tears, we must reap in joy." Only observe the process, and see how connected are all the links of the chain: in prosperity, we have relapsed into carnal confidence, and provoked God to leave us in a state of spiritual dereliction: alarmed and humbled by his frowns, we betake ourselves to fervent prayer, imploring mercy in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and through the unbounded grace of God we experience a speedy recovery; and from thenceforth have our mouths filled with grateful acknowledgments to the God of our salvation. We only add to this, that the deeper is our humiliation on account of sin committed, the more speedy and exalted will be our joys on account of deliverance given.

ADDRESS—

1. To those who are walking with God—

What shall we say! Even if you were as eminent as ever David was, we should think it right to guard you against the conceit, that you were in no danger of being "moved." In relation to all that you possess of temporal things, we would inculcate this beneficial lesson, "Let those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who weep be as though they wept not, and those who rejoice as though they rejoiced not, and those who buy as though they possessed not, and those that use this world, as not abusing it." Everything must be held as from God, and for God, to be disposed of according to his sovereign will and pleasure. And in reference to everything of a spiritual nature, we would recommend a constant sense of our entire dependence upon God, saying, "Hold you me up, and I shall be safe." Some will confound this with unbelief: but it differs from unbelief as much as humility from pride: in truth, it is the very root of faith; for it is only in proportion as we feel our liability to fall, that we shall look truly and constantly to Christ for strength. Be weak as new-born infants in yourselves, and God will keep beneath you his everlasting arms, and perfect "his own strength in your weakness."

2. To those who have declined from him—

Many in a state of declension are ready to imagine that God has arbitrarily and without any particular cause withdrawn himself from them. But it may well be doubted whether in any case God ever dealt thus with any of his creatures. Our blessed Lord, when he cried, "My God! my God! why have you forsaken me?" was suffering the punishment due to those whose iniquities had been laid on him. And Job, whose expression, "I shall die in my nest," we have before noticed, had evidently a measure of carnal confidence which wanted to be mortified and subdued. With the exception of his case we are not aware of anything that bears even the appearance of arbitrary proceeding on the part of God: the constant tenor of his acting is that which was proclaimed to Asa, "The Lord is with you, while you be with him: if you seek him, he will be found of you; but if you forsake him, he will forsake you 2 Chronicles 15:2." Learn then to trace your sin in your punishment: and, if you cannot find the immediate cause of his withdrawment from you. pray to him, with Job, "Show me why you contend with me." The prayer which David offered under such circumstances Psalm 143:1-8, will assuredly, if offered up in faith, bring down upon you the blessings of peace and joy. This God himself has promised Isaiah 57:16-18; and you may be as fully assured of its accomplishment to your soul, as the promise and oath of God can make you Isaiah 54:7-10 with Hebrews 6:17-18.

 

 

Psalms 31:15

 

DISCOURSE 544

OUR TIMES IN GOD'S HAND

Psalm 31:15. My times are in your hand.

TO the ungodly it is a satisfaction to deny the providence of God, and to cut him off, as it were, from any connection with his creatures. But the saints find a rich consolation in the thought that God reigns. This it is which reconciles them to the evils they endure, and fortifies them against those which they have reason to apprehend. David, in the psalm before us, complains that there were many who "took counsel together against him, and devised to take away his life." But he comforted himself in the reflection, that, however man might be his enemy, God was "his God;" and that however bitterly his enemies might be enraged against him, "his times were not in their hands, but in God's;" and, consequently, that they could do nothing against him but by His permission.

From this view of the text we are led to notice,

I. Our dependence on God—

God is the Governor of the universe: he appoints the stars their courses; he makes the raging elements to fulfill his will Psalm 148:8; he imposes a restraint upon the most savage beasts, causing them to suppress 1 Kings 13:28. or forget Daniel 6:22. their instinctive ferocity, or overruling the exercise of it, for the preservation Jon. 1:17. or destruction of men 2 Kings2:24, as he sees occasion. The affairs of men he more especially controls. In his hands are,

1. The occurrences of life—

There is nothing really casual or contingent in the world. It is God that disposes of us from our earliest infancy to the latest hour of our lives. "He determines the bounds of our habitation Acts 17:26." If we are called to the possession of wealth, or deprived of it by any untoward circumstances, it is "the Lord who gives, and the Lord who takes it away Job 1:21." If we enjoy health, or pine away in sickness, it is "the Lord who both wounds and heals, who kills and makes alive 1 Samuel 2:6-7." "There is neither good nor evil in the city, but the Lord is the doer of it Amos. 3:6." Even the falling of a hair of our head, trifling as it is, takes not place but by his appointment Matthew 10:30.

2. The seasons of death—

To every man "there is an appointed time upon earth Job 7:1;" there are "bounds which he cannot pass Job 14:5." "God holds our souls in life Psalm 66:9;" and "when he takes away our breath, we die, and return to the dust Psalm 104:29." Youth and health are no security against the stroke of death: the most vigorous constitutions are soon broken, when God is pleased to afflict us Job 21:23-25; the skill of physicians, however useful when attended with his blessing, is of no avail Mark 5:26. So numerous are the occasions of death, that no caution can possibly avoid them: "a man may flee from a lion, and a bear meet him; or he may go into a house for safety, and a serpent bite him Amos. 5:19." When God "requires our souls," we must surrender them at his call Luke 12:20." Our days are protracted to an advanced age, if he be pleased to uphold us; if not, our course is finished as soon as ever it is commenced. It is "in God, and in God alone, that we live, and move, and have our being Acts 17:28."

But though these ideas are certainly comprehended in the text, its more immediate scope is to declare,

II. Our security in God—

We have already observed, that the words of the text were introduced by David as a consolatory reflection, under the cruel treatment which he had received from friends and enemies. We are therefore taught by them to assure ourselves,

1. That none can destroy us before our time—

We appear to be, yes, we really are, in the midst of many and great dangers. But however we may be encompassed with enemies, they cannot prevail against us until the Lord's time for our removal is come. David was continually exposed to the rage and jealousy of Saul, who repeatedly cast a javelin at him, and hunted him incessantly with armed hosts "like a partridge upon the mountains." Yet though he was often in the most imminent danger 1 Samuel 23:26, and certainly would have been betrayed by the men of Keilah 1 Samuel 23:11-12, yet God watched over him, and kept him in perfect safety. Many sought to apprehend our Lord; but "they could not lay hands on him until his hour was come John 7:30; John 8:20. Luke 13:33;" and even then Pilate "could have had no power against him, unless it had been given him from above John 19:11." Paul was in perils innumerable, "and in deaths oft 2 Corinthians 11:23-27;" once he was stoned, and even left for dead Acts 14:19-20; but none could take away his life, until he had finished the course marked out for him. Thus we also are immortal, until our work is done. We are surrounded with "chariots of fire, and horses of fire 2 Kings6:17;" yes, "God himself is a wall of fire round about us Zechariah 2:5." And sooner shall successive bands of enemies be struck dead upon the spot by fire from Heaven 2 Kings 1:10-12, than one of the Lord's little ones shall perish Matthew 18:14."

2. That none shall hurt us without his permission—

As we depend on God for our happiness as well as for our existence, so are both our being and our well-being secured by him. Satan could not touch the person or the property of Job, until he had obtained leave of God to do so Job 1:12; Job 2:6. "Nor can any weapon that is formed against us, prosper Isaiah 54:17," any further than our God shall see good to permit it. "His angels encamp round about us Psalm 34:7," and have an especial charge to "keep us in all our ways, that we dash not our foot against a stone Psalm 91:11-12." "Neither the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that walks in darkness, can hurt us. Thousands may fall at our side, and ten thousands at our right hand; but it shall not come near us Psalm 91:5-7."

We are not indeed at liberty to rush needlessly into danger, from an expectation that God will deliver us; (this were to "tempt the Lord our God Matthew 4:6-7;") but in the path of duty we have nothing to fear: we may "tread upon the lion, the adder, or the dragon Psalm 91:13. Acts 28:3-6;" we may drink poison itself Mark 16:18, or suffer ourselves to be committed to the flames, without experiencing the smallest injury Daniel 3:25-27; nothing in the whole universe can "harm us, if we be followers of that which is good 1 Peter 3:13;" if God see fit to keep us, we are as safe "in a den of lions" as in a house of friends.

From this subject we may LEARN,

1. To seek God without delay—

There is no period of life when we can call one day, or one hour, our own. We are altogether "in God's hands;" and, if he withdraw his support for one moment, we perish, as certainly as a stone gravitates to the earth. Shall we then, when so entirely dependent on our God, provoke him to cast us out of his hands? Shall we continue to despise his patience and forbearance, until he swear in his wrath that our "time shall be no longer Revelation 10:6." Think, how many have lost the time afforded them, and how bitterly they now bewail their folly: and beg of God, that he would "so teach you to number your days, that you may apply your hearts unto wisdom Psalm 90:12."

2. To serve him without fear—

We are too apt to keep back from serving God through fear of the persecutions we may endure from man. But, if our times be in God's hands, all our concerns must be there too; and nothing can befall us but by his appointment, "Who are you, then, that you should be afraid of a man that shall die, and forget the Lord your Maker Isaiah 51:12-13." Are we not told, that "the wrath of man shall praise him; and that the remainder of it he shall restrain Psalm 76:10." Be bold then for God; "set your face as a flint against the whole world Isaiah 49:7-9," and trust in him for protection. He will not indeed screen you from all trials; because it is on many accounts necessary that you should feel them 1 Peter 1:6; but he will suffer none to come upon you which he will not enable you to bear, none which he will not sanctify to your eternal good 1 Corinthians 10:13.

3. To trust him without carefulness—

It is foolish as well as impious to distrust God, or to murmur at any of his dispensations. In whose hands could the disposal of all events be placed so much to our advantage, as in his, who possesses infinite wisdom to devise what is best, and infinite power to effect it? Would we be made the sport of chance or fortune? Or would we have our present and everlasting concerns left wholly to our own management? If we are not fit to regulate our temporal affairs until we attain the age of manhood, how much less can we ever be competent to take the reins of God's government into our own hands, and to order the affairs of his kingdom? But our times will be in God's hands, whether we acquiesce in it or not. Let us therefore contentedly leave ourselves to his all-wise disposal, assured that "he does all things well," and will make "all things to work together for good to them that love him."

 

 

Psalms 31:19-20

 

DISCOURSE 545

THE GOODNESS OF GOD TO HIS BELIEVING PEOPLE

Psalm 31:19-20. Oh how great is your goodness, which you have laid up for them that fear you; which you have wrought for them that trust in you, before the sons of men! You shall hide them in the secret of your presence from the pride of man: you shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues.

THE salvation of the Gospel is a present salvation: the "godliness which it inspires is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life which now is, as well as that which is to come." It is needless to say that the trials of life are great; and that men in every situation of life need the supports and consolations of religion to carry them through the difficulties which they have to encounter. But of the extent to which these supports and consolations are administered to God's chosen people, very little idea can be formed by those who have never experienced a communication of them to their souls. David was highly favored in this respect. He lived in a state of near and habitual fellowship with God; spreading before him all his wants, and receiving from him such supplies of grace and peace as his daily necessities required. Hence with devout rapture he expresses his admiration of Gods goodness to his believing people.

This is the subject which we propose for our present meditation; and which, in correspondence with the words of our text, we shall consider,

I. In a general view—

The terms by which the Lord's people are characterized sufficiently distinguish them from all others, since none but they do truly "fear God," or sincerely "put their trust in him." They are the true Israel; in reference to whom it is said, "God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart Psalm 73:1."

In speaking of his goodness to them, we shall notice,

1. That which is "laid up for them"—

In the time of David the great truths of the Gospel were but indistinctly known; the fuller manifestation of them being reserved for the Apostolic age: as Paul, quoting a remarkable passage from the Prophet Isaiah, says; "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love him;" and then adds, "But God has revealed them unto us by his Spirit Isaiah 64:4 with 1 Corinthians 2:9-10." To the Jewish Church therefore these things are only "laid up," as it were, in types and prophecies: and though made known in the Gospel, they are still but imperfectly viewed by the Christian world; and may be considered as "laid up" for the Church at this time, no less than in former ages: for it is only by slow degrees that any one attains to the knowledge of them; and whatever attainments any one may have made, he sees only "as in a glass darkly, and knows only in part;" there being in it a length and breadth and depth and height utterly beyond the power of any finite intelligence to explore Ephesians 3:18-19. The "riches" that are stored up for us in Christ even in this world are altogether "unsearchable Ephesians 3:8;" what then must the glories be which are "reserved in Heaven for us!" The more we contemplate the blessings which God has treasured up for us in the Son of his love, the more shall we exclaim with David, "Oh how great is his goodness!"

2. That which God has actually "wrought for them"—

Every believer was once "dead in trespasses and sins," even as others. But he has been quickened by the mighty energy of God's Spirit, and been raised up to newness of life. He is "a new creature in Christ Jesus;" all his views, his desires, his purposes, being altogether changed: He has the heart of stone taken from him, and a heart of flesh substituted in its place. He has been "made a partaker of the divine nature," and "been renewed after God's image; and that, not in knowledge only, but in righteousness also and true holiness." He is brought altogether into a new state, having been "translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son," and been made "an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ." In a word, he is "begotten to an inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled and never-fading, reserved in Heaven for him;" and for the full possession of which he also is reserved by the power of God, through the simple exercise of faith 2 Peter 1:4; All this he has wrought for them "before the sons of men." They are evidently "a seed which the Lord has blessed:" they are "lights in a dark world," "epistles of Christ, known and read of all men".

But in the latter part of our text, we are called to consider the goodness of God towards his people,

II. With a particular reference to their fellowship

with the ungodly world—

Exceeding bitter are those pains which men inflict on each other by calumnies and reproaches—

To speak good one of another affords no particular pleasure; but to hear and circulate some evil report affords to the carnal mind the highest gratification: and in such employment all the corruptions of our fallen nature find ample scope for exercise and indulgence. Who can estimate the evils arising from "pride," and "the strife of tongues?" Some little idea may be formed from the description given of the tongue by an inspired Apostle: "Behold," says he, "how great a matter a little fire kindles! The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of Hell James 3:5-6." How exceedingly strong are these terms! Yet it is by no means an exaggerated statement of the evils proceeding from calumny in the world at large: but as representing the virulence and malignity with which men calumniate the people of God, they come yet nearer to the truth. In the very words preceding my text, David faintly portrays the conduct of the ungodly in relation to this matter: "Let the lying lips be put to silence, which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous." In another psalm he speaks in far stronger terms: "My soul," says he, "is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword Psalm 57:4." The truth is, that men can inflict, and often do inflict, far deeper wounds with their tongue than they could with the most powerful weapon. With a sword they can only wound the body: but with bitter and cruel words they wound the inmost soul. Under the former we may easily support ourselves; but "a wounded spirit who can bear?

But against these does God provide for his people an effectual antidote—

Though more exposed than others to the venomous assaults of slander, they have a refuge which the worldling knows not of. They carry their trials to the Lord, and spread them before him; and from him they receive such supports and consolations as more than counterbalance the evils they sustain. "In the secret of God's presence they are hid." When near to him in prayer, they are hid as in a pavilion, or a royal tent, protected by armed hosts, and furnished with the richest viands Psalm 27:5-6. But the full import of these terms cannot adequately be expressed. Who shall say what is implied in those words, "The secret of God's presence?" who shall declare what a fullness of joy is there possessed by the believing suppliant? How powerless are the fiery darts which are hurled at him by the most envenomed foes, while God himself is a wall of fire round about him, and the glory of God irradiates his soul, inspiring it with a foretaste of Heaven itself! Some little idea of his enjoyment may be formed from the history of Hezekiah at the time of Sennacherib's invasion. It was "a day of trouble, and of rebuke and blasphemy;" and the feelings excited in the bosom of Hezekiah were most distressing: but scarcely had he spread before the Lord the letter which the blaspheming Rabshakeh had sent him, than he was encouraged by God to return this triumphant answer; "The virgin, the daughter of Zion, has despised you, and laughed you to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head at you Isaiah 37:3; Isaiah 37:14; Isaiah 37:21-22." Thus, like one who saw "the heavens filled with horses of fire and chariots of fire" for his protection, he set at nothing the vain boasts of his enemies, and anticipated a certain triumph. Thus, how malignant soever the believer's enemies may be, he is hid from them as in an impregnable fortress, and looks down on their fruitless efforts with pity and contempt.

ADDRESS—

1. Let us seek to attain the character here drawn—

To fear God is the duty, and to trust in him the privilege, of every child of man: Learn then to tremble for fear of his judgments, and to rely on his mercy as revealed to you in his Gospel: for then only can you experience the blessings of his goodness, when you surrender up yourselves to him to be saved by his grace.

2. Let us enjoy the privileges conferred upon us—

For a fuller discovery of the believer's privileges, we may consult the declarations of David in the Psalms Psalm 91:1-4; Psalm 91:9-16; Psalm 55:21-22; Let us not rest in anything short of them. Let us get such a sense of them as shall overwhelm us with wonder, and gratitude, and praise.

 

 

Psalms 31:21-24

 

DISCOURSE 546

THE GODLY ENCOURAGED TO TRUST IN GOD

Psalm 31:21-24. Blessed be the Lord; for he has showed me his marvelous kindness in a strong city. For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before your eyes: nevertheless you heard the voice of my supplications when I cried unto you. O love the Lord, all you his saints: for the Lord preserves the faithful, and plentifully rewards the proud doer. Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all you that hope in the Lord.

THE use of biography is universally acknowledged. It leads us into the recesses of domestic life; and teaches us, either from the frailties or the excellencies of others, how to conduct ourselves in a great variety of emergencies, which we ourselves must expect to meet with in life. But sacred biography is infinitely more interesting than that which proceeds only from uninspired pens, because the circumstances which are brought to light are more minute—more diversified—more authentic, than any records which people would choose to give of themselves, or than others would be capable of giving respecting them. On this account the Psalms of David claim the highest possible regard. Perhaps there never was a man whose circumstances were more varied than his: and certainly there never was a man who committed to writing all the secret motions of his heart with more fidelity than he; or that labored more to improve them for the benefit of mankind.

This appears, as in many other psalms, so especially in that before us; as will be clearly seen, while we notice,

I. His acknowledgment of mercies conferred upon him—

To enter fully into this, we must refer to the occasion on which the psalm was penned. It was written, I apprehend, after his deliverance from Saul, when, from his being surrounded by Saul's army, he had conceived it impossible for him to escape. Indeed, his deliverance was truly "marvelous;" and it was wrought by the special intervention of Almighty God, in answer to his prayer. At the very moment that his blood-thirsty persecutor had, to all appearance, effected his purpose, tidings came that the Philistines had invaded the land of Judah; and Saul was compelled to return instantly from his pursuit of David, in order to repel the invaders 1 Samuel 23:27-28. In reference to these circumstances, David first acknowledges the mercy in general terms: "Blessed be the Lord; for he has showed his marvelous kindness in a strong city," that is, in "the strong holds" to which he had fled: and then he specifies more particularly the relief he had found in answer to prayer, when his own mind was overwhelmed with desponding fears.

In the peaceful state of the Church at this clay, we are not likely to be reduced to David's state for our religion's sake: and, therefore, as far as the literal sense of the psalm goes, it is not applicable to us. But, of deliverances equally "marvelous," we may speak. Let me then ask,

1. Whether you have not, at times, been ready to despond?

We can know but little either of our guilt or corruption, if we have not "had the sentence of death in ourselves 2 Corinthians 1:9," and felt that we had "no sufficiency in ourselves" to save ourselves 2 Corinthians 3:5. Have we never, then, under a sense of our extreme unworthiness and helplessness, been ready to doubt whether we could finally attain salvation, and "said, as it were, in our haste, I am cut off from before your eyes?" Go back to some particular seasons, when your great adversary has prevailed against you, and seemed as if, like a roaring lion, he would utterly destroy you: has it not, at such seasons, been difficult to lay hold on the divine promises, and to flee for refuge to the hope set before you?.

2. Whether God have not at such seasons interposed for you, in answer to your prayer?

There are few that have not had reason to "bless and adore their God, for showing them his marvelous kindness in such seasons as these. The experience of the Prophet Jeremiah has been realized by God's people in every age: "Waters flowed over my head. Then I said, I am cut off. I called upon your name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon. You have heard my voice, and not hid your ear at my breathing and my cry. You drew near in the day that I called upon you: you said, Fear not Lamentations 3:54-57." From you, then, the Psalmist's acknowledgment is clue: and by you it should be made to the latest hour of your lives.

Full of gratitude, he pours forth,

II. His exhortations, founded on his own experience—

He exhorts the saints,

1. To love God—

God is worthy to be loved for his own divine excellencies: but he should be loved also for the wisdom and equity of his dispensations. "The faithful he does and will preserve:" yes, both from men and devils will he preserve them: he will "hide them under the shadow of his wings," and "keep them even as the apple of his eye": But "the proud doer, whoever he may be, he will plentifully reward" with judgments proportioned to his impiety: The ungodly may indeed triumph for a time, and the godly be left to groan under the rod of the oppressor: but a day of righteous retribution is at hand, when "God will recompense tribulation to those who trouble his people; and to those who are troubled, rest 2 Thessalonians. 1:6-7." Shall not the assurance of this be a comfort to the saints, even under their deepest troubles? Surely it should: so that I may well urge upon them the exhortation before us: "O love the Lord, all you his saints."

2. To trust in God—

There are seasons when the saints can scarcely be said to believe and trust, while yet they do hope in God; saying, as it were, "If I perish, I will perish at his footstool, crying for mercy." Now then, to all such persons I say, "God will strengthen your heart," yes, and strengthen your arm too, so that "the arms of your hands shall be made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob Genesis 49:24." He will even "perfect his own strength in your weakness," so that no enemy shall be able to prevail against you. "Be of good courage," then, my Brethren. Though you cannot fully trust in God, yet, if you can hope in him, be not afraid: for God will vindicate your cause, and "bruise all your enemies, not excepting even Satan himself, under your feet shortly Romans 16:20."

Exhortation—

1. Learn to see and to acknowledge the mercies of God towards you—

What loss is sustained, both of comfort to the saints, and of honor to the Deity, by the inattention of men to the dispensations of their God! How many deliverances, both temporal and spiritual, have we all experienced; but of which, through our remissness, God has never received any tribute of praise!: Know you, that if you will be observant of God's dealings towards you, you will never want a theme for gratitude and praise.

2. Be not satisfied with your own happiness, but seek to advance also the happiness of others—

David never celebrates any mercy given to him, without improving it as an occasion for commending God to others, and exhorting them to unite with him in every possible expression of love and gratitude. Thus should it be with us also. We are not, indeed, called to make known to all the secret workings of our own hearts; but we are called to edify one another, and to take every suitable occasion of honoring our God. Let us, then, do this; and do it, too, with holy zeal. Let us "abundantly utter the memory of his great goodness, that all his works may praise him, and all his saints may bless him Psalm 145:5-10."

 

 

Psalms 32:1-6

 

DISCOURSE 547

TRUE BLESSEDNESS DECLARED

Psalm 32:1-6. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputes not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long: (for day and night your hand was heavy upon me:) my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin unto you, and mine iniquity have I not hid: I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto you in a time when you may be found.

TO have the experience of David in all the diversified conditions of life faithfully submitted to us, is an advantage for which we can never be sufficiently thankful. There was scarcely any trouble, either of a temporal or spiritual nature, which he was not called to endure, and under which he has not stated to us the workings of his mind. We are accustomed to hear of his sins and his penitence, his sorrows and his joys: but there is one particular frame of mind, in which he continued for many months, which we are apt, for the most part, to overlook, or to pass by with a mere transient observation; I mean, his state of impenitence and hardness of heart after the commission of his sin in the matter of Uriah. But this is an exceedingly profitable point of view in which to behold him, because of the general tendency of sin to harden the heart: and to see how he obtained peace at last is also of great advantage, inasmuch as it will show us, how we may obtain peace, even after the commission of the greatest transgressions. When he wrote this psalm he had regained that happy state from which he had fallen: and he here records, for the instruction of the Church in all future ages,

I. Wherein true blessedness consists—

A man who has no prospects beyond this present world, will seek happiness in the things of time and sense. But "a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things that he possesses." We are immortal beings, and are hastening to a state, where a period will arrive, at which our present existence, even though it should have been continued a thousand years, will have been only as the twinkling of an eye. In that state either happiness or misery awaits us, according as we enter upon it under the guilt of our former sins, or with our sins forgiven. We may justly say, therefore, True happiness consists, as our text informs us, in having our sins forgiven. To elucidate this topic, let us consider the blessing here spoken of,

1. As a non-imputation of sin—

Who that is in the smallest degree conscious of the number and heinousness of his transgressions, and of the awful punishment due to him on account of them, must not regard it as an unspeakable mercy to have them all blotted out from the book of God's remembrance? What in the whole universe can in his estimation be compared with this? If he could possess the whole world, yes, if he could possess ten thousand worlds, what comfort would the acquisition give him, if he had the melancholy prospect of being speedily plunged into the bottomless abyss of Hell? If there were a large company of condemned criminals, some rich and noble, others poor and ignoble, and one of the meanest of them had received the king's pardon while all the rest were left for execution; who among them would be accounted the happiest? How much more then, when the death to which unpardoned sinners are consigned is an everlasting death in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone! No one who reads the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, and sees the termination of their respective states, can for a moment hesitate to pronounce Lazarus, with all his miseries and privations, far happier in a sense of reconciliation with his God, than the rich worldling in the enjoyment of all his pomp and luxury.

2. As a positive imputation of righteousness—

In the words of David we should not have seen the doctrine of imputed righteousness, if Paul had not expressly told us that that doctrine was contained in them. He tells us Romans 4:6-8, that in these words "David describes the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputes righteousness without works, saying, "Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin." Now this idea goes much farther than mere forgiveness: forgiveness exempts from punishment; but an imputation of the Redeemer's righteousness to us insures to us an eternal great reward 2 Corinthians 5:21. O how happy must that man be who is clothed in the unspotted robe of Christ's righteousness, and can, on the footing of that righteousness, claim all the glory and felicity of Heaven! He may look forward to death and judgment, not only without fear but with holy confidence and joy, assured, that in God's sight he stands "without spot or blemish." Who, we would ask, can be happy, like the man who has been begotten to a lively hope, that in and through Christ, there is reserved for him an incorruptible, and undefiled, and never-fading inheritance in Heaven?

3. As a renovation of soul consequent on reconciliation with God—

Though sin is pardoned, and righteousness is imputed, purely through the free grace of God to the chief of sinners, without any good works already performed by them Mark the expressions, "the ungodly," "without works," Romans 4:5-6, yet no pardoned sinner is left in an unholy state: on the contrary, he is "renewed in the spirit of his mind:" "a new heart is given unto him:" and he is made "an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit." If this were not the case, pardon itself could not make him happy. A soul under the dominion of sin could not be happy, even if it were in Heaven: sin would eat his vitals, as does a canker. It is the restoration of the soul to the Divine image that constitutes a very principal part of its felicity: for when we are "holy, as God is holy," then are we happy, as God is happy. We must be careful however not to confound those different sources of happiness. Paul was so jealous on this head, that when quoting the words of our text, be omitted these at the close of it, lest any one should imagine that our sanctification were in any respect the ground of our justification before God. Sanctification is the fruit and consequence of our having received a justifying righteousness: and, though it in no respect procures our reconciliation with God in the first instance, (for that is procured solely through faith in Christ,) yet it is as inseparably connected with justifying faith, as good fruit is with a good tree: nor can the soul be happy in a sense of the Divine favor, until it has this evidence of its acceptance with him.

But David proceeds to inform us,

II. How he himself attained unto it—

For a long time he was altogether destitute of it—

Partly through stoutness of heart, and partly through unbelief, he for a long time refused to humble himself for his heinous iniquities. But was he happy during that period? Hear his own representation of his state and feelings: "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old, through my roaring all the day long; my moisture was turned into the drought of summer. The state of an impenitent sinner is fitly compared to the troubled sea, which cannot rest, but incessantly casts up mire and dirt. There is no peace, says God, to the wicked." We have a striking elucidation of this point in the history of Judas and of Peter Both of them had sinned grievously: but Peter, through the influence of faith, repented; while Judas, under the influence of unbelief, sought refuge in suicide from the accusations of his own mind. Thus it is with many who are haunted with a sense of guilt, but will not abase themselves before God: they "roar all the day long;" and "howl upon their beds, like dogs; but they cry not unto God from their inmost souls Hosea 7:14." Hence they can find no rest, or peace; and often precipitate themselves into the torments of Hell, to get rid of the torments of a guilty conscience. Ignorant people impute these acts to religion: but it is the want of religion that produces them: it is the want of true contrition that causes their guilt so to prey upon their minds. "God's hand is heavy upon them," because they will not humble themselves before him: and the longer they continue to set him at defiance, the more may they expect to feel the pressure of his righteous indignation See Psalm 38:1-8; Psalm 102:3-7.

At last through penitence he attained unto it—

"He at last acknowledged his sin, and confessed his transgressions unto the Lord:" and then God, who delights in mercy, spoke peace unto his soul. The transition was indeed surprisingly rapid: "for he only said, I will confess my transgressions, and instantly God forgave the iniquity of his sin See 2 Samuel 12:13." Doubtless God saw the sincerity of his heart: he saw not only that David mourned over his past offences, but was determined through grace to give himself up in future wholly and unreservedly to the Lord: and therefore he would not delay to restore to him the light of his countenance, and the joy of his salvation. We have a beautiful instance of this rich display of mercy in the parable of the Prodigal Son: as also in the converts on the day of Pentecost: and in the jailer Acts 16:34; And similar displays of mercy may we ourselves hope for, if only we humble ourselves before him, and seek to be clothed in the Redeemer's righteousness: for "he is rich in mercy unto all who call upon him."

Having stated thus his own experience, David proceeds to tell us,

III. What improvement we should make of it—

Unspeakably encouraging is the record here given us. We should take occasion from it,

1. To seek the Lord for ourselves—

"The godly" will make their prayer unto God; and the ungodly also should do it. If any man ever had reason to despair, David had, after having so grievously departed from his God. But he cried unto the Lord, and obtained mercy at his hands. Shall the ungodly then say, My sins are too great to be pardoned? Or shall "the godly," after the most horrible backslidings, sit down in despair, and say, "There is no hope?" No: the example of David absolutely forbids this: At the same time it shows the folly of delaying repentance: for there is no peace to the soul in an impenitent state: neither here nor hereafter can we be happy in any other way than that which God has marked out for us. If penitential sorrow be painful, it never corrodes like impenitent obduracy: there is in it a melting of soul that participates of the nature of holy joy: and, if "weeping do endure for a night, joy is sure to come in the morning." If then we would be truly happy, let us flee to Christ as the Refuge set before us: he is "the Lord our Righteousness;" and the vilest sinner upon earth shall find his "blood able to cleanse from all sin," and his righteousness sufficient to clothe our souls, so that the "shame of our nakedness shall never appear." But let us take care,

2. To seek him while he may be found—

There is "a time wherein he may be found" of every one of us; and a time wherein he may not be found. This is an awful truth; but it is attested by many passages of Holy Writ: "O that you had known, even you, at least in this your day, the things that belong unto your peace!" said our Lord to Jerusalem; "but now they are hid from your eyes." God may, and does, "give over many to a reprobate mind," and to final impenitence: "So I gave them up." But if you have the least desire of mercy, we are warranted to say, "Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation." O then improve the present hour: "Seek you the Lord while he may be found; call you upon him while he is near." "If you cover your sins, you cannot prosper; but if you confess and forsake them, you shall find mercy." "If you say that you have no sin, you deceive yourselves; but if you confess your sins, he is faithful and just to forgive you your sins, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness."

 

 

Psalms 32:11

 

DISCOURSE 548

JOY IN THE LORD INCULCATED

Psalm 32:11. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous: and shout for joy, all you that are upright in heart.

THERE is in this world, as there will also be in the eternal state, an inconceivable distance between the righteous and the wicked. The Psalmist tells us, that "many sorrows shall be to the wicked:" and so we find it to be, from universal experience. For, where is there an ungodly man, who does not feel within him an aching void, which the world can never fill?: Whose mind is not agitated with tormenting passions, which prove a source of disquiet both to himself and to those around him?: Who feels not a consciousness of unpardoned guilt; and a dread of that tribunal, before which he is shortly to appear?: On the other hand, the Psalmist assures us, that "the man who trusts in the Lord is encompassed with mercy all around:" he is happy in the favor of his God, in the subjugation of his passions, in the exercise of all holy affections, and in the prospect of everlasting felicity. Hence he adds, "Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, you righteous: and shout for joy, all you that are upright in heart!"

That we may enter into the spirit of his words, I will endeavor to set before you,

I. The character here addressed—

"The righteous" are delineated in the Scriptures, sometimes by one peculiarity, and sometimes by another. The character here assigned them is peculiarly worthy of our consideration, because it is such as the most ungodly man upon earth must, in theory at least, approve. The whole world unites in applauding integrity, as exercised towards man: but here we shall be led to view it as exercised towards God. Now, "the upright" man is one,

1. Whose desire after God is supreme—

Nothing ought to stand in competition with God: we should love him with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength. More especially should we pant after God as reconciled to us in Christ Jesus, "counting all things but loss for the knowledge of him," and saying, with the Psalmist, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside you Philippians 3:8. Psalm 73:25."

2. Whose affiance in him is entire—

No man, who has not been taught of God, can conceive how difficult it is to divest ourselves of self-righteousness and self-dependence, These evils cleave more closely to us than the flesh to our bones. When we think that we are freed from them, we shall still find the workings of them in our hearts. But the truly upright person "renounces all confidence in the flesh Philippians 3:3;" and, like the Apostle, "desires to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, which is of the Law, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ." He considers "all fullness as treasured up in Him" for the use of his Church and people; and from His fullness he desires to receive all the supplies which he stands in need of, whether of "wisdom, or righteousness, or sanctification, or redemption."

3. Whose devotion to him is unreserved—

The upright has given up himself as a living sacrifice to Christ Romans 12:1. He would not have any lust unmortified; nor would he retain anything that should stand in competition with his duty. Even life itself is regarded as of no value, in comparison of Christ, and the glory of his name.

Anything less than this is hypocrisy: but to possess this character is to be "an Israelite indeed, and without deceit."

To these persons I will now address,

II. The exhortation—

To rejoice in the Lord is your high privilege. Let me, then, exhort you to rejoice in him,

I. On account of what he has already done for you—

Here I might speak of "the sorrows" from which you are delivered, and of the mercies with which you are encompassed: but I will rather confine myself to that peculiar blessing given to you, the being made "upright before God."

Who among the children of men ever attained this character by any power of his own? No: whoever possesses it, must say, "He that has wrought me to the self-same thing, is God 2 Corinthians 5:5." Consider, then, how great a blessing this is: In comparison of it, crowns and kingdoms would be of no value. For this gift, therefore, you should bless and adore your God with your whole hearts, yes, and shout for joy with your whole souls.

2. On account of what he has engaged to do for you—

Would you have stability in life? He has promised it in his blessed word: "The righteous shall hold on his way; and he who has clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger Job 17:9. Would you have peace in death? This, also, he has engaged to give: "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace Psalm 37:37." Would you have glory in eternity? This, also, shall be your assured portion at the right hand of God Psalm 15:1-2; Psalm 24:3-6.

Is not here, then, abundant cause for joy and thanksgiving? Truly, "if you hold your peace, the very stones will cry out against you."

3. On account of his sufficiency to fulfill all his engagements—

Whom has Jesus ever suffered "to be plucked out of his hands?": There is in him no want of power: "He is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy." Nor is he changeable in will: for "he is the same yesterday, today, and forever." "Of those whom the Father has given him, he never has lost any," nor ever will.

Address,

1. To those who possess not this character, I would say, Seek to attain it—

Be not satisfied with integrity towards man, but seek to have an upright heart towards God. Let there be no hypocrisy harbored within you. See to it, that your desire after God be really supreme: that your affiance in Christ be altogether unmixed with any measure of hope or confidence in yourselves: and that your devotion to him be without reserve: Cease not, until you have in your own hearts and consciences an evidence that you are thus given up to God: and then may you claim, at his hands, the blessings which he has promised to the upright in heart Psalm 112:2; But deceive not your own souls. Rest not in false appearances of any kind: but beg of God to make you altogether what he himself will approve.

2. To those who possess this character, I would say, Live in the enjoyment of your privilege—

It is your privilege to "rejoice even with joy unspeakable and glorified." Be not satisfied with a low and drooping state of mind. Live near to God: let your fellowship with him be more intimate and more abiding. It is not his will that your graces should languish, or your joys be at a low ebb. He would rather that your soul, through a sense of his presence, should be ever "shouting" for joy. See the state of the Church as drawn by the prophet Isaiah Isaiah 12:4-6; see it as drawn by David also Psalm 98:4-9; and let your present life be, as God would have it, a pledge and a foretaste of the heavenly bliss.

 

 

Psalms 33:18-22

 

DISCOURSE 549

GOD'S CARE OF HIS PEOPLE

Psalm 33:18-22. Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy; to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in you.

IN the Psalms of David, we do not look so much for the peculiarities of the Gospel as for general views of God's providence and grace. But let them not be undervalued on that account: for the very use of evangelical truth is so to bring us into a state of reconciliation with God, that we may have a richer and more intimate enjoyment of him in all his dispensations.

The words before us declare the interest which he takes in his peculiar people: and, in unfolding them to your view, I will endeavor to show,

I. God's care for his people—

The manner in which our attention is called to this subject clearly shows the vast importance of it: "Behold!" behold the eye of the Lord is on them that fear him."

Two things in particular we are here called to notice: and,

1. The description given of his people—

Never can we sufficiently admire the goodness of God in giving to us such descriptions of his people as will enable every upright soul to discern his own character, and to number himself among them. Were they designated by such terms as would comprehend only those of higher attainments, the lower classes among them would be driven to despair. But when, as in the text, the lowest terms are used, even such as mark the very babes in Christ, every member of Gods family is encouraged, and emboldened to claim the privileges to which a relationship to God entitles him. There is not in his family "a new-born babe" who does not "fear" him. All regard him as a mighty Sovereign, whom they are bound to obey. All desire to serve him, and greatly dread his displeasure. All account his favor as their supreme felicity: and desire so to approve themselves to him, that they may be accepted of him in the last day. Yet, it is not on their good dispositions that they found their hopes, and much less on their actual attainments. They are sensible of their short-comings and defects, even in their very best duties; and are conscious, that, if God were to enter into judgment with them on the footing of strict justice, they must inevitably and eternally perish. They therefore renounce, utterly, all claims upon the justice of God, and "hope altogether in his mercy," in his mercy as revealed to them in the Gospel.

"Behold," now, you who are of a doubtful or desponding mind: Are you not ready to leap for joy, when you find that persons of these low attainments may claim relationship to God, and assure themselves that they are interested in his paternal care? Hear, then,

2. The particular interest which he takes in them—

"His eye is over them at all times." It is over the whole creation indeed, as we are told in the preceding context: "The Lord looks from Heaven; he beholds all the sons of men: from the place of his habitation he looks upon all the inhabitants of the earth verse 13, 14." But on his peculiar people his eye is fixed with a more especial interest; namely, "to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine;" or, in other words, to preserve them from all dangers, and to supply their every want. In relation both to their souls and bodies, they are exposed to continual and most imminent dangers. Disease or accident may at any moment consign them over to the grave. And Satan, that roaring lion, goes about seeking daily and hourly to devour their souls. On every side the world also assaults them with its temptations, while their own inbred corruptions are ever watching for an opportunity to betray them into the hands of their great Adversary. But God's eye is ever over them, to counteract the devices of their enemies, and to uphold them in his everlasting arms. Not one of them will he ever suffer to "be plucked out of his hands." Their wants too, whether temporal or spiritual, he will supply. He may suffer them to be reduced to great straits, even as Israel were, when they had come out of Egypt. But sooner shall manna be given them from the clouds, and water from the rock, than they be left to perish: for his express promise to them is, that provision shall accompany his protection; and that, while "their place of defense is the munition of rocks, bread shall be given them, and their water shall be sure Isaiah 33:16." "While they seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all needful things, whether of a temporal or spiritual nature, shall surely be added unto them Matthew 6:33."

But, before you take to yourselves the full comfort of these declarations, it will be proper for me yet further to show,

II. What should be your feelings towards him—

The truly upright, even of the lowest class, can say, with David, "Our soul waits for the Lord." If you are indeed of the number of his people, then are you waiting for him,

1. In a way of humble affiance—

The language of your heart is, "He is our help and our shield." But is it thus indeed? Are you going to him from day to day, as sinners who stand in need of mercy? and are you crying to him continually for "grace to help you in every time of need?" I do not ask whether you are free from assaults; but, whether they drive you to him for aid? It is supposed that you have enemies to conflict with, and trials to sustain: else you would not need to be looking out for a shield to protect, or for help to support, you. But do you so realize the watchful care of God, as to renounce all hope in the creature, and to rely on him alone? If you truly "fear him," and truly "hope in his mercy," you cannot but make him your refuge, and commit to him your every care.

2. In a way of confident expectation—

The Psalmist, having such a Protector and such a Helper, anticipates a successful issue to all his trials; and declares, that the very trust which he reposes in God is at once the ground and measure of his expectations from God: "Our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let your mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in you." And shall this be thought too bold an assertion? It is not more bold than true: for God has repeatedly pledged his word, that "none of them that trust in him shall be desolate Psalm 34:22." Nay more, on every occasion we may consider him as saying to us, "According to your faith it shall be unto you Matthew 8:13; Matthew 9:29." His conduct towards Abraham clearly shows us how he will act towards all who believe in him. Abraham is tried as never man was: he is bidden to offer up in sacrifice his only son Isaac, in and through whom all the promises of God were to be fulfilled. The holy man proceeds to execute the divine command, assured, that though Isaac were already reduced to ashes on an altar, God both could, and would, raise him up again, and fulfill in him all that he had promised. Accordingly, Isaac was given him, as it were, from the dead; and was made the instrument of raising up to Abraham that "seed, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed." So, in proportion as our expectations are enlarged, shall be God's exertions in our favor. If only we can say with David, "Truly my soul waits upon God: from him comes my salvation: He only is my rock, and my salvation, and defense;" we may, with assured confidence, add with him, "I shall not be moved Psalm 62:1-2; Psalm 62:5-6."

And now let me ask,

1. What evidence have you that you are the Lord's?

Do you answer to the character here given of his people, "fearing him" above all, and "hoping in his mercy" alone? Do you evince that that is indeed your character, by waiting upon him continually, and expecting at his hands his offered benefits? Examine well the habit of your minds from day to day: for it is of such only that it can be said, His eye is "over them for good Deuteronomy 30:9." But far different is the state of those who fear him not: for "the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth Psalm 34:15-16." I again say, and rejoice to say, that, though your attainments reach no further than holy fear and humble hope, the Lord will look upon you with tender and paternal love: but, if these graces be not rooted in your hearts, you have yet to learn what it is to receive the grace of God in truth.

2. What would be your state, if God's mercy to you should be measured by your regards for him?

St. John prayed for Gaius, that "his bodily health might prosper as his soul prospered 3 John, verse 2." And are you prepared to pray with David, "Let your mercy, O Lord, be upon me, according as my hope is in you?" Truly, were this God's rule of acting towards us all, the greater part of us would never taste of his mercy to all eternity. But, thanks he to God! he is sovereign in the exercise of his mercy, being "found often-times of them that sought him not, and made known to them that inquired not after him." Yet let us not presume on this: for, if he show mercy to any, he will assuredly bring them to the state described in our text, and both put his "fear in their hearts," and "make them to abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."

 

 

Psalms 34:2-3

 

DISCOURSE 550

DEVOTION EXEMPLIFIED

Psalm 34:2-3. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.

A SENSE of gratitude to God for his mercies will ever abide in some measure on the soul of a true believer. But there are special occasions whereon he is so impressed with the Divine goodness, that he feels as if he never could forget it, and as if he would have the whole creation join with him in his devout acknowledgments. This was the frame of David's mind, when, by feigning himself mad, he had escaped out of the hands of Achish, who would probably have put him to death, or delivered him into the hands of Saul, his blood-thirsty persecutor Compare 1 Samuel 21:10 to 1 Samuel 22:1 with the title of this psalm.

In discoursing on his words, we shall notice,

I. His determination to praise God—

Ungodly men love to boast of themselves—

There is no man who has not some imaginary excellencies whereof to boast. If we possess any natural endowment either of mind or body, we are forward to bring it into notice, and to arrogate something to ourselves on account of it. One values herself upon her beauty; another boasts of his strength or courage; another prides himself in his wit, his penetration, or his judgment. Rather than pass unnoticed, the ungodly will boast of their iniquities and excesses; yes, (strange to say!) of iniquities they have not committed, and of excesses to which they have never arrived.

The godly, on the other hand, "make their boast in the Lord"—

They know, by bitter experience, that in themselves dwells no good thing, yes, nothing but what furnishes matter for the deepest humiliation. But they see in God sufficient to excite their devoutest adoration. Whether they contemplate the perfections of his nature, or the works of his hands, the wonders of his providence, or the riches of his grace, they are filled with wonder and astonishment; and, pouring contempt on all created excellencies, they exclaim, "O God! who is like unto you Deuteronomy 32:31. Exodus 15:11. Mic. 7:18." "Thanks be to God, who always causes us to triumph in Christ 2 Corinthians 2:14."

The Psalmist was the more induced to praise God in a public manner, from a consideration of

II. The effect he hoped to produce by this means—

He did not expect any particular benefit to accrue to the proud—

The proud, alas! are disgusted with even the mention of God's name, provided it be with reverence and love: nor do they ever speak of him themselves, unless it be to profane his name in oaths and curses. Their aversion to hear of him increases according to the degree in which he is honored. They will suffer us to speak somewhat of God as he is manifested in creation; but they do not like to be told of his love in redemption. They will bear to hear a little of God (though but little) in his works of providence; but they cannot endure to hear one syllable of his gloriously rich and sovereign grace. If we utter but a word expressive of admiration and love on account of his condescension in revealing himself to our souls, we forfeit at once all title to respectability, and become in their eyes the most contemptible of beings. They would be less offended with oaths and blasphemies and the grossest obscenity, than with one such an expression of love to God.

But he hoped that to the humble his adorations would afford matter of sincere joy—

The godly are not so free from pride, but that flattery sometimes finds access to their hearts, and proves a gratification to their unwary minds. But in their better seasons, when their airy dreams have vanished, and they obtain juster views of themselves, they most sincerely loath and abhor themselves, and desire that God alone should be exalted. To be told of their own goodness is nauseous and unpalatable: but to hear the praises of their God and Savior, this is delightful to their souls. It is this that endears to them the ministers of God: he who with the clearest evidence and richest unction exhibits to their view the glory and excellency of their God, will be regarded as their best friend: and every one who in sincerity labors to fulfill this office, will be "esteemed by them very highly in love for his work's sake."

To stir up within ourselves a similar disposition, let us consider,

III. His exhortation to co-operate with him in this blessed design—

He calls on all of us to unite with him in praising and adoring God: and his exhortation may well serve as an

Application to the foregoing subject. We ask then,

1. Is it not a reasonable employment?

Let any one call to mind the excellencies of God as they are described in Scripture, and then say whether it is not reasonable that we should exalt his name. But more particularly, let the wonders of redemption be surveyed (O wonders inexpressible, and surpassing all comprehension!); let the thought of God's co-equal, co-eternal Son, becoming man, of his dying upon the cross, of his living again to make intercession for us in Heaven; let the thought of this being done to deliver our souls from death, and to restore us to the favor of our offended Father; let this, I say, dwell upon the mind, and we shall see at once the reasonableness of this duty, and the utter unreasonableness of passing one day or one hour without renewed expressions of gratitude and thanksgiving.

2. Is it not a delightful employment?

Poor indeed is the mirth of this world, when compared with the joy of praising God. This is the work of all the glorified saints and angels: "they rest not day or night, saving, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of Hosts!"

And if this be the employment of Heaven, what must such an exercise be to us, but a Heaven upon earth? It is indeed a foretaste of Heaven, as all who have ever engaged in it are constrained to acknowledge: nor, if we were always thus engaged, would any trouble or sorrow be able to molest us: our very afflictions would rather give energy to our souls, and enlarge at once our subjects of praise, and our disposition to abound in it.

3. Is it not a necessary employment?

It is grievous on such a subject as this to insinuate anything of an alarming nature: but, if men will not be "constrained by love," we must endeavor to "persuade them by the terrors of the Lord."

God declared to his people of old, that, if they would not serve him with joyfulness and gladness of heart for the abundance of all things which he had so liberally bestowed upon them, they should endure all the curses denounced in his law Deuteronomy 28:45; Deuteronomy 28:47. With how much greater force does this threatening come to us, if we neglect to praise him for the infinitely greater benefits he has conferred on us! We ourselves feel indignant if great and acknowledged virtues be despised, or eminent favors be disregarded. And shall God ever look with delight on those who are blind to his excellencies, and insensible of his mercies? Whatever we may imagine to the contrary, none shall ever join the choir above, whose hearts have not been tuned to sing God's praise below.

 

 

Psalms 34:6

 

DISCOURSE 551

GRATEFUL RECOLLECTIONS

Psalm 34:6. This poor man cried; and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.

IT is of great advantage to have transmitted to us the experience of God's saints; because in them we see exhibited, as it were, before our eyes, what we ourselves are authorized to expect. David, in this psalm, records his deliverance from the hands of Achish, king of Gath; who, there was every reason to fear, would have either put him to death or delivered him into the hands of Saul, if God had not mercifully interposed to prevent it. As for the means which David had recourse to, in order to deceive Achish, I am not prepared either to justify or condemn them 1 Samuel 21:13-15. To feign himself mad before Achish, was doubtless a very humiliating measure. But, whether it was strictly correct or not, God was pleased to make use of it for the deliverance of his faithful servant from the danger to which, by fleeing to Gath, he had exposed himself: and David, in this psalm, commemorates this gracious interposition, and records it for the benefit of the Church in all future ages.

Let us consider the text,

I. As a grateful acknowledgment—

It is not necessary to confine our attention to the immediate occasion of the words, since David uses nearly the same expression in reference to mercies received during the rebellion of Absalom Psalm 3:3-4 with the title of that Psalm.

Throughout the whole of his life, David received marvelous mercies at the hands of God—

His temporal deliverances were great on numberless occasions, from the persecutions of Saul: the assaults of enemies: and the rebellion of Absalom: but from all his troubles God had saved him; and for this salvation he did well to offer to God his most grateful acknowledgments 2 Samuel 22:1-7.

But what shall I say of the spiritual mercies given to him? These were beyond measure great, inasmuch as his terrors were sometimes of the most overwhelming nature Psalm 6:1-6; Psalm 40:12; Psalm 42:7. and his sins, of almost unparalleled enormity Psalm 25:11; But from all of these had God delivered him, in answer to his prayers; and for these merciful interpositions he most humbly and most thankfully adores his God Psalm 40:1-3.

And have not we also innumerable mercies, both temporal and spiritual, to acknowledge?

True in respect of temporal afflictions, none of us can bear any comparison with him. But still there are few of us who have not experienced some deliverances; and not one who has not reason to bless God, with all possible ardor, for his forbearance, at least, if not also for his pardoning love. Let us call to mind the various interpositions of our God in times of sickness, or trouble, or danger. But more especially, it ever we have cried to God under a sense of our sins, and an apprehension of God's wrath, and have obtained mercy at his hands, what thanks should not we also render to him for such marvelous mercies! Methinks if we do not call upon all that is within us to bless his holy name, "the very stones will cry out against us."

But David intended these words to be considered, also,

II. As an instructive record—

The whole preceding part of the psalm shows that it was written by him with this view. "I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall be continually in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me; and let us exalt his name together! I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears." Yes, "This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles verse 1–6." Behold, then, how plainly it instructs us,

1. That there are no troubles so great, but God is able to deliver us from them—

Neither our temporal nor our spiritual troubles can well exceed those of David: yet, if he was saved from his, why may not we from ours? "Is God's ear become heavy, that it cannot hear; or is his hand shortened, that he cannot save Isaiah 59:1." We must on no account limit either the power or the mercy of our God: but "be strong in faith, giving glory to his name Romans 4:20."

2. That there are no troubles so great but God will deliver us from them, in answer to our prayers—

Who ever heard of any instance wherein God said to a man, "Seek my face in vain?" Jonah was heard from the bottom of the sea; and David, as it were, from the very gates of Hell. Manasseh, too, was heard, and accepted, after all his great and aggravated crimes 2 Chronicles 33:12-13. Let none, then, despond, whatever be his trouble, or whatever his guilt: but let all be assured, that if their faith be only as a grain of mustard-seed, it shall prevail, to the casting of all the mountains, whether of difficulty, or of sin, into the very depths of the sea Matthew 17:20.

3. That answers to prayer, so far from puffing up a man with pride, will invariably humble and abase him—

Who is it that here designates himself by this humiliating appellation, "This poor man?" It is David, "the man after God's own heart." But did not God's mercies to him puff him up? Quite the reverse. He never was more humble than when most honored of his God. And so it was with Jacob in the Old Testament Genesis 32:10-11; and with the Apostle Paul in the New. If ever there was a man more highly honored than others, it was the Apostle Paul: yet he still continued to account himself "less than the least of all saints Ephesians 3:8," yes, and as "the very chief of sinners 1 Timothy 1:15." And so will divine grace operate on us also. People imagine, that if we profess to have received special answers to prayer, and to have obtained the forgiveness of our sins, we must, of necessity, be elated with pride. But the very reverse of this was the effect produced on the minds of Job, and of the prophet Isaiah, who only loathed themselves the more in proportion as they were honored of their God Job 42:5-6 and Isaiah 6:5; and thus it will be with every real saint: he will account himself "poor" even to his dying hour, and will be ever ready to "prefer others in honor before himself Romans 12:10. Philippians 2:3."

If, then, this retrospective view of God's mercies be so sweet on earth,

1. What must it be, the very instant we arrive at the gates of Heaven!

At the moment of our departure from the body, we shall have a complete view of all God's dealings with us, whether in his providence or grace. And if here our partial views of these things fill us with such joy and gratitude, what will a full discovery of them do? As to any undue elevation of mind, on account of the mercies given to us, it will produce a directly contrary effect: for all the glorified saints cast their crowns at the Savior's feet, and prostrate themselves before him, and sound no other name than his Revelation 5:8-10. And there they will have their salvation altogether complete. No further "trouble" to all eternity will they experience; for "all tears shall be wiped away from their eyes forever Revelation 7:14-17." Oh! look forward to that day with holy delight: and let the foretastes of it, which you here enjoy, stimulate your exertions to honor God, and to obtain a fitness for the blessedness that awaits you.

2. How earnest should you be in commending to others the Savior you have found!

The Psalmist sets you the example: "Come and hear, all you that fear God, and I will declare what he has done for my soul. I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue. Truly, God has heard me, and has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me Psalm 66:16-20." Thus, then, do you also. Be not content to go to Heaven alone. Tell to those around you the efficacy of prayer; and extol the Savior, as "able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him." Thus will you fulfill the design of David in transmitting his experience to future ages; while you confirm his testimony, by your acknowledgment that God is still as gracious as ever, and an unchangeable Friend to all who come to him in his Son's name.

 

 

Psalms 34:8

 

DISCOURSE 552

EXPERIMENTAL RELIGION ENFORCED

Psalm 34:8. O taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man that trusts in him.

THERE is, in the minds of many, a prejudice against experimental religion, insomuch that the very name of Christian experience is an object of reproach. But, what is repentance, but a sense of sorrow on account of sin? And what is faith, but a resting of the soul on God's promised mercy in Christ? And what is love, but a going forth of the soul in kindly affections towards God and man? The heart is the proper seat of religion: "My son," says God, "give me your heart:" and, to imagine that we can have hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, excited in the soul, and yet not possess any consciousness of such feelings, is a mere delusion. I mean not to decry those exercises of the mind which are purely intellectual; for they are necessary in their place. But it is not in them that piety consists: they may lay the foundation for piety; but there must be a superstructure of holy affections, before the edifice of religion can be complete.

This is intimated in the words before us: in which it will be proper to notice,

I. The experience recommended—

"That the Lord is good," will admit of no doubt—

This is seen throughout all the works of Creation; every one of which bears the stamp and character of wisdom and love: Nor is it less visible in the dispensations of Providence: for, though we see them very partially, and are constrained to wait the issue of events in order to form a correct judgment respecting them, yet, from what we have seen, who can but acknowledge that "God is good to all, and that his tender mercy is over all his works?": But most of all does his goodness appear in the great mystery of redemption. Who can reflect on that stupendous act of mercy, the giving of his only-begotten Son to die for us, and to bear our sins in his own body on the tree? Who can reflect on the sending of his Holy Spirit to instruct and sanctify us, and on the providing for his people an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, and never-fading, reserved for them in Heaven? Who, I say, can take ever so slight a survey of these wonders, and not say with the Psalmist, "O how great is your goodness, which you have laid up for them that fear you; which you have wrought for them that trust in you before the sons of men Psalm 31:19..

Let us, then, "taste and see how good the Lord is"—

A man who had been immured all his days in a dungeon would have no conception of the radiance of the sun, in comparison of that which he would acquire by being subjected to the action of its meridian rays: nor will a person who has merely heard, and read of God's goodness be able to form an estimate of it, in comparison of what he would after having had "the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Spirit." In the one state he might say, "I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear;" but, on his transition from it, he might add, "Now my eye sees you." This is what I would wish respecting you: I would wish all "the goodness of God to pass before you," if not in visible splendor and in audible sounds, yet in a way perceptible to the organs of faith.

But how is this to be attained? I answer, As Moses was put into the cleft of the rock, that he might be capable of sustaining the manifestations of God's glory Exodus 33:18-19, so you must "be found in Christ;" and then you shall behold all "the glory of God shining forth in his face."

That we may be stirred up to seek this experience, let us notice,

II. The blessedness resulting from it—

A just view of God's goodness will lead us to trust in him—

"They that know your name," says David, "will put their trust in you," They will go to him with all their guilt to be pardoned, and all their corruptions to be mortified, and all their wants to be supplied. Those who know him not, are ever prone to limit either his power or his willingness to save: but those who have "tasted how gracious he is 1 Peter 2:3," will commit to him their every concern, and trust him for body and for soul, for time and for eternity.

And need I ask, whether persons so doing shall be "blessed?"

Truly it is not in the power of language to declare the full extent of their blessedness. What tranquility possesses their minds! It is well said, that "their peace passes understanding," and their "joy is unspeakable and glorified." Conscious as they are of their ill desert, they nevertheless feel assured of mercy through the blood of sprinkling. Sensible as they are of a "body of sin and death," and almost sinking under its weight, they yet can say, "Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!" Knowing by bitter experience, also, the power and subtlety of Satan, they yet anticipate a final victory over him, and doubt not but that he shall soon be forever "bruised under their feet." As for death, they have learned to number it among their treasures 1 Corinthians 3:22; and they look forward to a habitation infinitely better than any that this world can afford, even to "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

In every view that can be conceived, these persons are blessed; as indeed the whole Scripture testifies: but more especially does David assure us of it, when, in a solemn appeal to God himself, he says, "O Lord God of Hosts, blessed is the man that trusts in you Psalm 84:12."

ADDRESS—

Are there any among you who doubt the blessedness of religion?

Sure I am, that you can never have had any just experience of it. And what would you yourselves say to any one who should presume, under such circumstances, to judge of earthly things? Would you not reply, you are incompetent to judge? So, then, I say to you, Go first and taste whether God be not good to them that seek him. If you can truly say, that you have sought him with deep penitential sorrow, and he has shut up his affections of compassion from you; that you have prostrated yourselves at the foot of the cross, and the Lord Jesus has spurned you from his foot-stool; and that you have truly and unreservedly given yourselves up to God, and he has denied you the assistance of his grace; if you will say, that, while you have thus turned with your whole heart to God, and retained no allowed sin within you, God has cast out your prayer, and refused to be gracious unto you; I will allow you to be judges in this matter. But where is the man that will dare to stand up and say to the Lord Jesus Christ, 'You have declared that you would "on no account cast out any who came to you;" but you have falsified your word in reference to me, and suffered me to seek your face in vain?' No: there never yet existed an occasion for such a reproach, nor ever shall, as long as the world shall stand. I say, then, that those who doubt the blessedness of true religion are in darkness even to this very hour, and "speak evil of the things which they understand not." And, if they pretend that they have endeavored to taste whether God were good, and found him not to be so, I hesitate not to say, that the fault has not been in God, but in themselves, in that their taste has been vitiated, and their souls rendered incapable of spiritual discernment.

To those who have "tasted that the Lord is gracious,"

I would say, Be not satisfied with a taste. God invites you to "eat and drink abundantly Son. 5:1," until you are even "satisfied with his goodness Jeremiah 31:14." Such is your privilege, as David has declared: "How excellent is your loving-kindness, O God! therefore shall the children of men put their trust under the shadow of your wings: they shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of your house; and you shall make them drink of the river of your pleasures Psalm 36:7-8."

And be careful that you do not become "weary of the Lord." We read of some, who, having "tasted of the heavenly gift, and been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and having tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, yet so fell away, as never to be renewed unto repentance Hebrews 6:6." Beware, lest that ever become your state. Beware, lest you so "crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." If men who have never tasted of his grace commit iniquity, they bring no particular disgrace upon religion: but if you, who profess godliness, offend, you cast a stumbling-block before the whole world; who conclude, from what they see in you, that there is not a sufficiency of love in Christ to make you happy, or of grace to make you holy. I pray you, bring not such dishonor upon him, or such guilt upon your own souls: but so "acquaint yourselves with him, that you may be at peace;" and so delight yourselves in him, that "your souls may be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, while you are praising him with joyful lips Psalm 63:5."

 

 

Psalms 34:11-16

 

DISCOURSE 553

THE FEAR OF GOD INCULCATED

Psalm 34:11-16. Come, you children, hearken unto me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord. What man is he who desires life, and loves many days, that he may see good? Keep your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit. Depart from evil, and do good: seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

TO enlighten a dark world, and to guide wanderers into the paths of peace and holiness, is the most glorious office that can be committed to a human being. So at least David thought: for though he was well qualified to teach men the science of music (in which he eminently excelled), or the are of war (in which he was a great proficient), or the principles by which states and kingdoms should be governed, he considered none of those employments comparable to that of instructing men in the principles and practice of true religion. As a prophet of the Lord, (for at the time the psalm was written he was not yet exalted to the throne of Israel,) he regarded all, to whom he had access, as his children; and was anxious, as a loving parent, to gain their attention, that he might instill into their minds those truths which he himself felt to be of supreme importance. He wished in particular to show them, what we also are desirous to point out to you,

I. Wherein the fear of the Lord consists—

The fear of the Lord is such a reverential regard to him as inclines us to walk in all things according to his revealed will, and to approve ourselves to him,

1. In our words—

"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak;" and every evil that is in the heart will betray itself by the tongue. Truly the tongue is justly called an unruly member: like a helm of a ship, it is but a small matter; but it boasts great things. It is declared by God himself to be "a world of iniquity," "a fire, setting in flames the course of nature, and itself set on fire of Hell." So untameable is it, that the man who bridles it on all occasions is pronounced to be "a perfect man:" while, on the other hand, the man who has no command over it, however religious he may fancy himself, or be thought by others, is a self-deceiver, whose religion is vain See James 3:2-8. It is therefore with great propriety that David specifies the control of the tongue as the first evidence of the fear of God; "Whoever desires life, let him keep his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit." Not only must all profane speeches and all impure communications be forborne, but everything that is false and deceitful, or corrupt in any way whatever. Every proud, angry, passionate, revengeful word must be suppressed, whatever may be the provocation to utter it: all calumny, detraction, uncharitableness, tale-bearing, must be avoided, and "the law of truth and of kindness be continually in the lips." God has said, that "of every idle word we must give account in the day of judgment," and that "by our words we shall be either justified or condemned;" and therefore the fear of the Lord must of necessity cause us to "take heed to our ways, that we sin not with our tongue."

2. In our actions—

Sin is "that abominable thing which God hates:" and it should be universally and irreconcilably hated by us: "We must depart from evil, and do good." Whatever evil we may have been most tempted, and most accustomed, to commit, that is the evil against which we must most watchfully guard, and from which we must most resolutely depart: On the other hand, we must be occupied in doing good. The doing of good should be the great business of life: first, the doing good to our own household; then to all our neighbors; then to the Church of God at large. The devising of good, and the executing of good, and the uniting with others in the good devised by them, and the stirring up all around us to do good according to their opportunities and ability; this is a life worthy of a Christian, and necessarily flowing from the fear of God. If we truly fear God, we shall "abhor that which is evil, and cleave (be glued) to that which is good," and "be fruitful in all the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God."

3. In our whole spirit and temper—

A peaceful, loving spirit will characterize every child of God. "God is love;" and all his children will resemble him in this glorious attribute. True it is, that it is not always possible to be at peace, because some are so wicked and unreasonable that they will take occasion even from our very peacefulness to injure us the more. Hence Paul says, "If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men. Whether we succeed or not, our constant aim and effort must be for peace. For the preservation of it we should account no sacrifice too great: and we should be as studious to promote it among others, as to preserve it with ourselves. If we see an unkind spirit prevailing any where, we should endeavor to extinguish the fire, and not, by countenancing it, add fuel to the flame. The evil of contention is so great that no one who possesses heavenly wisdom will engage in it Himself, or encourage it in others James 3:13-18. If we fear the Lord indeed, our constant labor will be to "keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."

While explaining thus wherein the fear of the Lord consists, the Psalmist points out,

II. The importance of cultivating it in our own hearts—

As for those who had no concern about their souls, he did not expect them to hearken to such self-denying lessons as he endeavored to inculcate: but to those who desired true happiness in this world and the next, he gave the advice which we have already considered verse 12. To enforce his advice, he assured them of,

1. God's favor to them that fear him—

"The eyes of the Lord," says he, "are upon the righteous, and his ear is open to their cry." Not a moment are they out of his sight, nor for a moment is he inattentive to their prayers. Are they in danger? He will protect them, and cause his angel to encamp around them, that no enemy may approach to hurt them verse 7; Are they in want? He will supply them with all that is needful for them. "The lions that could prey upon them shall want and suffer hunger; but they shall want no manner of thing that is good," for body or for soul, for time or for eternity verse 9, 10; Are they in trouble? He will assuredly in due time interpose to deliver them. They may have many troubles: but he will deliver them from all, the very instant they have accomplished their destined office verse 17, 19. He sends the trials to purify them from their dross: and he sits by the furnace, ready to bring them out, in the proper season, "purified as gold." Are they longing for his presence here, and his glory hereafter? He will "be near unto their souls" in this world, and will save them in the Lord Jesus Christ with an everlasting salvation in the world to come verse 18. In a word, there shall be an infinite distance between them and others: for they shall enjoy all the richest blessings of redemption, while those who cast off the fear of God shall be left inconsolably and forever desolate verse 21, 22. What inducements are here to seek that holy disposition of mind inculcated in our text!

2. His indignation against those who fear him not—

God does not merely withhold his blessings from these persons, but actually becomes their enemy: he does not only turn his face from them, but sets his face against them: "he walks contrary to them who thus walk contrary to him." Hear how indignantly he speaks to those who profess to reverence him, but in fact dishonor him by their conduct: "Why call you me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say Luke 6:46." Yes, he declares that whatever profession of religion they may make, they shall never enter into his kingdom: "Not every one that says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom or Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father which is in Heaven Matthew 7:21." He intimates, that in the day of judgment there will be many who will confidently claim Heaven, as it were, on account of their zeal and success in his service: but that, forasmuch as they were destitute of all these holy dispositions, he will not acknowledge them as his, but bid them to depart accursed into everlasting fire Matthew 7:22-23. In a word, he declares that by their fruits only shall they be known either in this world or the next Matthew 7:18-20.

It must however be remembered, that though the exercise of these holy dispositions is pleasing and acceptable to God, it is not meritorious in itself; nor can it found a claim for our justification before God. A reward, it is true, will be given us; but it is "a reward of grace, and not of debt." It is in Christ only that we can have a justifying righteousness; nevertheless our works will be regarded as the evidences of our faith: if our faith operate in the way above mentioned, we shall be acknowledged as Christ's redeemed people; but if it do not, it will be considered as dead; and we shall be cast out as hypocrites and self-deceivers.

Suffer now a word of exhortation. Two things we entreat of you;

1. To labor for practical religion—

There are many professors of religion who love to hear of the privileges of the Lord's people, but not to hear of their duties; and they call such subjects as the foregoing, legal: but they who do so, understand neither what legality is, nor what the Gospel is. Legality is a leaning, either in whole or in part, to the works of the law to justify us before God: and if we encouraged that, we might justly be regarded as abandoning and subverting the Gospel of Christ. But, when we teach persons to fear the Lord, and, from a desire of his favor m Christ, and from a dread of his displeasure, to approve themselves to God in the whole of their life and conversation, we do only what the Apostles of our Lord also did: for Peter quotes the very words of our text in the precise way in which we have insisted upon them 1 Peter 3:10-12; and therefore we are sure that an attention to them becomes us under the Gospel. We further say, that the people who set themselves up for judges in this way, are ignorant also of the Gospel. The Gospel consists of two parts, doctrine and practice, just as a house consists of a foundation and a superstructure. But who would choose a place for his habitation that has a foundation indeed, but neither walls nor roof? or who would call such a structure a house? So doctrines, however sound, will not answer the ends of the Gospel, nor can they be properly called the Gospel, unless they stand connected with good works as issuing from them and built upon them. The doctrines are the foundation; the good works are the superstructure: and then only are the doctrines available for our salvation, when they operate to the production of universal holiness. This is the account which our blessed Lord himself gives of his Gospel: and he alone is truly wise, who embraces and builds upon it in this view Matthew 7:24-27.

2. To cultivate a child-like spirit—

We have addressed you as "children:" though there may be many present who are "young men and fathers," yet must we say, that an advance towards Christian perfection will always be manifested by a proportionate growth in humility. Our blessed Lord told his Apostles, that whoever among them most fully attained the tempers and dispositions of a "little child, the same would be the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven." Let your growth then be seen in this way: then, whatever be taught you, it will be "received with meekness, as an engrafted word, able and effectual to save your souls." Indeed without this disposition of mind no man can have that "honest and good heart," which alone will nourish the seed that is sown in it, and enable it to "bring forth fruit unto perfection."

To those who are really but young in age, a teachable spirit is indispensable to their improvement. O let such listen to the voice of their teachers with humility and gratitude! let them especially also look unto the Holy Spirit of God, to apply the word unto their hearts: and let them "not be hearers only of the Gospel, but doers of it also," lest the privileges they enjoy lead only to the deceiving and ruining of their own souls.

 

 

Psalms 34:18

 

DISCOURSE 554

THE BROKEN AND CONTRITE IN HEART ENCOURAGED

Psalm 34:18. The Lord is near unto them that are of a broken heart; and saves such as be of a contrite spirit.

THE objects of God's favor are very frequently designated by the exalted title of "The righteous:" "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous:" "Many are the afflictions of the righteous:" "They that hate the righteous shall be desolate verse 34:19, 21." But, a person of a humble spirit finds it difficult to assume to himself this character, because of the innumerable imperfections of which he is conscious; and, consequently, he is backward to claim the promises assigned to it. But the terms whereby the Lord's people are characterized in our text are such as the most humble may appropriate to themselves without vanity: and whatever is promised to them under that character, they may regard as their legitimate and assured portion.

The words before us will naturally lead me to show,

I. What is that spirit which the Lord approves—

There is a brokenness of heart which God does not approve, because it proceeds altogether from worldly sorrow Proverbs 15:13; but that which is associated with contrition is truly pleasing in his sight.

Let us more distinctly see what the spirit here designated is—

It is called "a broken heart, and a contrite spirit." It is founded altogether in a sense of sin, and in a consciousness of deserving God's wrath on account of sin. It is, however, no light sense of sin, but such an one as David had, when he said, "Mine iniquities are gone over my head: as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me Psalm 38:4;" "Mine iniquities have taken such hold upon me, that I am not able to look up: they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart fails me Psalm 40:12." Nor is it merely on account of the penalty annexed to transgression that they are so oppressed, but on account of its hateful nature, as defiling and debasing their souls. Hence they "loath themselves," as vile, and base, and filthy, and abominable Ezekiel 36:31; yes, to their dying hour do they retain this humiliating sense of their own corruptions, notwithstanding they have a hope that God is pacified towards them; and even the more on account of that very mercy which they have experienced at his hands Ezekiel 16:63.

Shall it be thought that such a sense of sin can become those only who have been guilty of some flagrant enormities? I answer, It befits the most moral person upon earth, no less than the most abandoned sinner. I say not that the moral and the immoral are upon a perfect level, either in the sight of God or man; for, beyond all doubt, all are hateful in proportion to the greatness and multitude of their iniquities: but there is no person so virtuous, but that he needs to be humbled before God in dust and ashes. Let any man, however virtuous, look back upon his past life, and see how far he has been from God, and how entirely he has lived to himself. Let him consider how little sense he has had of his obligations to God, especially for all the wonders of redeeming love: and how often he has "done despite to the Holy Spirit," in resisting his sacred motions, and in deferring that great work which he knew to be necessary for the salvation of his soul. We quite mistake, if we think that guilt attaches only to flagrant immoralities: the living without God in the world is the summit and consummation of all guilt: and where is the man who must not plead guilty to that charge? I suppose that no one will be found to arrogate to himself a higher character than that of Job, who, according to the testimony of God himself, was "a perfect and upright man:" yet did even Job, when led into just views of himself, exclaim, "Behold, I am vile!" "I repent therefore, and abhor myself in dust and ashes Job 40:4; Job 42:6."

This is the spirit which God approves—

This, how unamiable soever it may appear in the eyes of men, is most pleasing in the sight of God. And well it may be so: for it honors God's Law. The man who is not thus abased before God, declares, in effect, that there is no great evil in disregarding God's Law, and that there is no occasion for those who have transgressed it to be ashamed. But the truly contrite person who loathes himself for his iniquities, acknowledges that "the Law is holy, and just, and good," and that every transgression of it is a just ground for the deepest humiliation.

Moreover, the contrition here spoken of justifies God's denunciations against sin. The unhumbled sinner says, in effect, God will not execute judgment: nor have I any cause to tremble for his displeasure: and if he were to consign me over to perdition on account of my sins, he would be unmerciful and unjust. On the contrary, the man whose heart is broken bears a very different testimony. He acknowledges that he deserves God's wrath and indignation; and that, whatever sentence the Judge shall pass upon him, he will be fully justified as not inflicting more than his iniquities have deserved Psalm 51:4.

Above all, the contrite person manifests a state of mind duly prepared for the reception of the Gospel. "What shall I do to be saved Acts 16:30." is his cry from day to day: and, when he finds that the Gospel makes known to him a Savior, O! how gladly does he embrace the offered mercy! how thankfully does he renounce all hope in himself, and put on him the unspotted robe of Christ's righteousness! The unhumbled sinner can hear the glad tidings of salvation without feeling any deep interest in them: but the truly contrite person regards the Savior, as the man who had accidentally slain a neighbor regarded the city of refuge: he knows that in Christ alone he can find safety; and he has no rest in his soul until he has fled for refuge to the hope set before him.

Thus, while the person that is "whole feels no need of the physician, the sick" and dying patient commits himself entirely to his care, and thankfully follows the regimen he prescribes. Well, therefore, may God approve of him, since he, and he alone, appreciates aright the gift of God's only dear Son to be the Savior of the world.

But it will be proper to inquire,

II. In what way he will testify his approbation of it—

A person bowed down with a sense of sin is ready to fear that God will never show mercy to one so undeserving of it. But God promises, in our text, that,

1. "He will be near unto them that are of a broken heart"—

God, being everywhere present, may be supposed to be as near to one person as another. And so he is, if we regard his essence. But there are manifestations of the Divine presence, which the world at large have no conception of, but which are experienced by all who follow after God in the exercise of prayer and faith. The Apostle spoke not in his own person only, but in the person of believers generally, when he said, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." We are taught to expect, that if we "draw near to God, he will draw near to us:" he will "lift up the light of his countenance upon us:" he will "shed abroad his love in our hearts:" he will enable us to cry with holy confidence, "Abba, Father;" and will "witness with our spirits that we are his."

Is any one disposed to ask, "How can these things be?" "How u it that God will manifest himself to his people, and not unto the world?" This is the very question which one of the Apostles put to our Lord; who, in reply, confirmed the truth he had asserted; saying, "If any man love me, ho will keep my words: and my Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him John 14:21-23."

2. "He will save those that be of a contrite spirit"—

Many are their fears in relation to their final happiness: but "God will never suffer so much as one of his little ones to perish." The contrite in particular he will save: for "he looks upon men; and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light Job 33:24; Job 33:27-28." Their temptations maybe many; but "He will not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able; but will with the temptation make also for them a way to escape, that they may be able to bear it 1 Corinthians 10:13." However numerous or potent their enemies may be, "he will deliver them out of the hands of all Luke 1:74," and "make them more than conquerors over all Romans 8:37." In a word, "He will save them with an everlasting salvation; nor shall they be ashamed or confounded world without end Isaiah 45:17."

But the text leads me rather to show you,

III. What present encouragement the very existence of it affords to those in whom it is found—

The contrition which has been before described is the fruit and effect of God's love to the soul—

"The Lord is near unto them that are of a broken heart, and saves such as be of a contrite spirit." There is no work of divine grace more difficult than this. The taking away of the stony heart, and the giving a heart of flesh, is a new creation; and discovers as clearly the operation of Omnipotence as the universe itself. It is the very beginning of salvation in the soul. A person under a deep sense of sin is apt to imagine that God will not have mercy upon him: but his very contrition is a proof and evidence that God has already imparted to him his grace. What a reviving consideration is this to the humble penitent! God is near you: he is in the very act of saving you. Why, then, are you cast down? Why are you "saying, The Lord has forsaken and forgotten me?" Does the greatness of your guilt appal you? Who showed to you your sins? Who opened your eyes? Who softened your heart? Who disposed you to condemn yourself, and to justify your God? Is this your own work, or the work of any enemy? Does not the very nature of the work itself constrain you to say, "He who has wrought me to this self-same thing, is God?"

It is also the earnest and foretaste of your eternal inheritance—

Would God have done such things for you, if he had designed ultimately to destroy you Judges. 13:23. These are only as the first-fruits, which sanctified and assured the whole harvest. He has expressly told us, that the gift of his "Spirit is a pledge of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession Ephesians 1:13-14. See the whole of these assertions confirmed, Psalm 91:14-16; Psalm 145:18-19." You are aware what a pledge is: it is not only a pledge of future blessings, but the actual commencement of them in the soul. And, if you will survey the heavenly hosts, you will find that this very abasement of their souls before God is a striking feature in their character, and a grand constituent of their bliss. They all, with lowliest self-abasement, fall on their faces before the throne of God, while, with devoutest acclamations, they ascribe salvation to God and to the Lamb Revelation 5:8-10. Learn, then, to view all your feelings in their proper light; so shall you "from the eater bring forth meat, and from the strong shall bring forth sweet."

Let me not, however, conclude without addressing a few words,

1. To those in whom this spirit is not found—

You, alas! have no part or lot in the blessedness which is prepared for the broken in heart. Look at the Pharisee and the Publican: the one was filled with self-delight, on account of his own imagined goodness; while the other dared not even to lift up his eyes to Heaven, on account of his own conscious unworthiness. But it was the latter, and not the former, who found acceptance with God: and in all similar characters shall the same event be realized, as long as the world shall stand. Humble yourselves, therefore, whoever you be; for in that way only have you any hope that God shall lift you up James 4:7-8.

2. To those who are dejected by reason of it—

Forget not, I beseech you, for what end the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world: Was it not to bind up the broken heart; and to give to those who "mourn in Zion, to give," I say, "beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness Isaiah 61:1-3 and Luke 4:18." And, if the greatness of your past sins appear an obstacle in your way, has he not told you, that "where sin has abounded, his grace shall much more abound Romans 5:20-21." Yield not, then, to desponding thoughts, nor limit the mercy of your God: but know assuredly, that he will "heal the broken in heart Psalm 147:3," and that all who come unto the Savior heavy-laden with their sins shall be partakers of his promised rest Matthew 11:28.

 

Psalms 35:3

 

DISCOURSE 555

THE SINNER'S HOPE

Psalm 35:3. Say unto my soul, I am your salvation.

SUSPENSE is extremely painful to the human mind, and the more so in proportion to the danger to which we are exposed. David experienced this in a very high degree. In the psalm before us he appears to have been greatly agitated with fear on account of the number and malignity of the enemies who sought his ruin, and were exulting in the expectation of his speedy fall. Seeing no hope for himself in the efforts of his adherents, he betook himself to prayer, and with most earnest importunity implored that help from his Creator which the creature was unable to afford. And as it was with an armed host that he was beset, he addressed the Lord under the character of a mighty warrior, to stand forth in his defense: "Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight you against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am your salvation."

This last petition I propose to consider,

I. As offered by him—

Nothing could exceed the bitterness of David's enemies—

If we mark the diversified expressions in this psalm, we shall have some idea of the danger to which he was exposed. Saul having determined if possible to destroy him, his subjects of every description leagued together to execute his will. "False witnesses rose up, and laid to David's charge things which he knew not;" and, in confirmation of their accusations, declared that they were eye-witnesses of the acts imputed to him verse 11, 21. Among the number of these were many on whom he had conferred the greatest obligations verse 12, and to whom he had given no just occasion of offence verse 19. "They devised deceitful matters against him verse 20;" "they hid a net for him, and dug a pit for his soul verse 7." To encourage one another in their odious work, "they winked with their eye verse 19;" and, when they thought they had prevailed against him, "they rejoiced in his adversity verse 15;" and "magnified themselves against him verse 26," and "said in their hearts, Ah! so would we have it: we have swallowed him up verse 26." The very abjects, encouraged by the example of their superiors, gathered themselves together against him, and tare him incessantly; while hypocritical mockers in their feasts, (pretending to more humanity,) yet "gnashed upon him with their teeth verse 15, 16." In a word, all classes of the community lay in wait for his soul verse 4, and, like lions prowling for their prey, sought to destroy and to devour him verse 17, 25.

Under these circumstances he cried to God for help—

The particular expression in our text is worthy of notice, especially as showing what thoughts the Psalmist entertained of God. He believed that God was able to deliver him, how powerful soever his enemies might be. He knew, that if God was for him, "no weapon that was formed against him could prosper." Nor did he doubt the goodness of God, as willing to hear and answer his petitions, and to afford him the protection which he so earnestly desired. But that which chiefly demands our attention is, his persuasion of the condescension of the Most High, in that he prayed, nor merely for deliverance, but for such an assurance of it to his soul, as should calm all the tumult of his mind, and fill him with perfect peace.

Now this was the sure way to succeed in prayer. Nothing so secures the interposition of God in our behalf, as the magnifying of him in our hearts: "Them that honor him, he will honor." If we limit his mercies, he will limit his gifts, If we doubt his power or willingness to help, he will withhold such displays of his mercy as he would otherwise have given Matthew 13:58. On the other hand, if we be steadfast in believing expectations of his mercy, we shall have such discoveries of his glory as an unbelieving heart has no conception of John 11:40. We should never forget, that there is nothing too great to ask of God. We never can "open our mouth, so wide, but he will fill it Psalm 81:10;" nor can we ever be more enlarged in our petitions towards him, than he will be in his communications towards us 2 Corinthians 6:11-13.

But the petition in our text is still more deserving of attention—

II. As suited to us—

Imminent as David's dangers were, they were not to be compared with those to which we are exposed—

David's enemies might be eluded, intimidated, vanquished: but those with which the soul of every sinner is encompassed can never be eluded, never be overcome.

Sin is a deadly foe, that seeks to destroy every child of man. It lies in wait for us, to allure, to deceive, to ruin us. It clothes itself in specious array: it comes with a friendly aspect: it bids us fear no harm: it tells us, "We shall have peace, though we yield to its fascinations Deuteronomy 29:19." But it is no sooner committed, than it is registered in the book of God's remembrance, and will come forth at a future period as a swift witness against all whom it has deceived. From man it may be hidden: and even by those who have committed it, it may be forgotten: but "it hunts the wicked man to overthrow him Psalm 140:11;" and though it do not immediately seize the sinner as its prey, "it will be sure to find him out Numbers 32:23," and, like a millstone about his neck, to sink him into everlasting perdition James 1:14-15.

The law of God also follows with its curses all who have transgressed its commands Galatians 3:10. It is inexorable. It is a creditor that cannot be satisfied, or appeased. It will take the sinner by the throat, saying, "Pay me that you owe:" and, when we cannot discharge our debt, "it will listen to no entreaties, but will cast us into prison, until we have paid the uttermost farthing." God himself appealed to his people of old respecting this: "My words, and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? And they returned, and said, Like as the Lord of Hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so has he dealt with us Zechariah 1:6." Of the six hundred thousand men who came out of Egypt, how many entered into Canaan? None, except Joshua and Caleb; who "had followed the Lord fully." Against all the rest a sentence of death was denounced in the very first year of their sojourning in the wilderness: and at the close of the forty years a minute inquiry was instituted; and not one was found alive Numbers 14:28; Numbers 29:35-38. So it will be found in the last day, that of all the threatenings in the book of God not one has fallen to the ground; and that, of all who mourned not over their transgressions of the law, not one escaped the vengeance of his God. God has said, "Their foot shall slide in due time Deuteronomy 32:35;" he has declared that "they shall all be turned into Hell, even all the nations that forget him Psalm 9:17;" that "he will rain upon them snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest; and that this shall be the portion of their cup Psalm 11:6;" he has declared it, I say; and, whether we will believe it or not, his law shall be thus honored, and his justice shall be thus magnified, on every impenitent transgressor: for already is he "whetting his sword for the execution of his vengeance upon them; and soon will he make his arrows drunk with their blood Deuteronomy 32:41-42." "The soul that sins, it shall die Ezekiel 18:4."

There is yet another adversary, who is lying in wait for our souls, and, like a roaring lion, going about, seeking to devour us; and that is Satan: nor can we have any conception of the wiles and devices to which he has recourse, in order to accomplish his malignant purpose. Even in Paradise he prevailed to ensnare and ruin our first parents: and the same temptations he puts in our way, assuring us, that, in following his counsel, we shall have unqualified pleasure, and happiness without alloy. He is in Scripture compared to "a fowler Psalm 91:3; and, like a fowler, he spreads his nets, and allures us by temptations suited to our appetites, and by the example of sinners whom he has already ensnared, and whom he makes use of to decoy us. We see nothing but the promised gratification; and while one or another invites us to participate his supposed joys, we flock to him, "without considering that it is for our life Proverbs 7:23." Thus it is the drunkard, the whoremonger, the adulterer is ensnared: he thinks of nothing but his pleasure: but the fowler who lays the snare, foresees and prognosticates the end. Having succeeded in "taking us alive." 2 Timothy 2:26," he "keeps us in peace Luke 11:21," and does all he can to hide from us our bondage: but he knows, that they who now yield to his solicitations as a tempter, will soon experience his power as a tormentor.

Another enemy also that is confederate against us, is death. He is waiting every moment to execute his commission against us; well knowing, that the instant he can inflict the stroke he meditates, all hope of our deliverance is at an end forever. He has his eye steadily fixed on persons of every age and station: and the instruments he has at his command are as numerous as the sands upon the sea-shore. When he comes in his more visible and gradual assaults, he contrives to hide his ultimate designs, and to divert the minds of the sufferers from the thoughts of an hereafter. As the avenger of sin he entered into the world Romans 5:12; and in the same character he is daily sweeping millions from the earth, and bearing in malignant triumph his unhappy victims to the tribunal of their God.

Hell too combines with all the rest, and is opening wide its jaws to receive its destined prey. What the prophet said respecting the king of Babylon, may be said to every impenitent sinner under Heaven: "Hell from beneath is moved for you, to meet you at your coming Isaiah 14:9." As in that instance "it stirred up the chief ones of the earth, and raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations" to exult over the fallen monarch, so those persons who were once our partners in sin, or whom by our example we hardened in their iniquities, will all come forth to meet us, that they may in the midst of all their own torments have the malignant pleasure of beholding and of aggravating ours. It is said, that in the last day "the angels will bind up sinners in bundles to burn them;" and for this end, no doubt, that they who have been associates in wickedness may, by their mutual execrations, augment each other's misery to all eternity. For this all Hell is waiting. We are told indeed respecting the Rich Man, who lifting up his eyes in torments, desired that a messenger might be sent to his five surviving brethren, to "warn them, lest they also should come into the same place of torment:" but this was not from any love to them, but from self-love; knowing as he did by bitter experience, how greatly his own sufferings would be increased by the reproaches of those whom by his influence and example he had so contributed to destroy.

Know you then, Beloved, that if David was in danger from the thousands who sought his life, so are you ten thousand times more in danger from sin, which deceives you; from the law, which denounces its curse against you; from Satan, who arms against you all the hosts of Hell; from death, that is ever waiting to cut you down: and from Hell, that is already yawning to swallow you up.

Say then whether David's petition be not altogether suited to our state?

To whom will you go for salvation, if not to the Lord Jesus Christ? Will you look to any efforts of your own? Can you ever cancel the guilt of sin? Can you ever satisfy the demands of God's law? Can you ever vanquish Satan and all the powers of darkness? Can you ever overcome death and Hell, so that they shall lose all their terrors, and have no power over you? The hope of any such thing were vain: it is impossible: and if the whole world were combined to aid you, they could effect nothing. "Though hand joined in hand" throughout the globe, "no sinner in the universe could go unpunished Proverbs 12:21." None can ever blot out one single sin, but He who made atonement for sin by the blood of his cross. None can silence the demands of God's law, but He who endured its penalties, and obeyed its precepts, in order that he might "bring in an everlasting righteousness," and "make us the righteousness of God in him." None can "bruise Satan under our feet," but He who "triumphed over him upon the cross," and in his ascension "led captivity itself captive." None can divest death and Hell of their terrors, but "He who has the keys of both, and opens so that none can shut, and shuts so that none can open."

Go then to him for it in David's words; "Lord, say unto my soul, I am your salvation." Offer this petition humbly: offer it earnestly: offer it in faith: Never, from the foundation of the world, did he cast out one who came to him in sincerity and truth. If you plead with him in faith, all these enemies shall be subdued before you; and all your sorrows be turned into joy. See, in the prophecies of Isaiah, what your state shall then be: "In that day you shall say, O Lord, I will praise you: though you were angry with me, your anger is turned away, and you comfort me. Behold, God is my salvation! I will trust and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation Isaiah 12:1-2. Here you see that he will not only give you the deliverance you desire, but the assurance of it also, saving to your soul, "I am your salvation." Beloved Brethren, think what blessedness you will then enjoy. See it in David: "My soul, wait you only upon God: for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God Psalm 62:5-7." He then encourages you to follow his example: "Trust in him at all times, you people: pour out your hearts before him: God is a refuge for us Psalm 62:8." This is the very advice which I would give also: "Pour out your hearts before him, and trust in him." For what happiness can you possess in this world, while your soul, your immortal soul, is in such imminent danger? If you were only, like David, encompassed with armed hosts that were seeking to destroy you, you would be full of alarm and terror: and can you enjoy a moment's ease, while it is doubtful whether in the space of a few days you shall not lie down in everlasting burnings? I pray you to awake from your security: and "give neither sleep to your eyes nor slumber to your eyelids," until you have a good and well-founded hope, that Jesus is your Savior, and until you are enabled to say with Paul, "He has loved me, and given himself for me."

 

 

Psalms 35:13-14

 

DISCOURSE 556

COMPASSION TO THE SICK

Psalm 35:13-14. As for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into my own bosom. I behaved myself as though he had been my friend or brother: I bowed down heavily, as one that mourns for his mother.

THE precepts of Christianity appear to be so pure and exalted, that all attempt to obey them must be vain. This is particularly the case with respect to the conduct which is to be observed towards those who injure us. To forgive them, is not sufficient. We must not only forbear to avenge ourselves upon them, but must do them good, and act towards them with most unbounded benevolence: "I say unto you," says our Lord, "Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you." But this duty is by no means impracticable: for even under the Law it was practiced to an astonishing extent by David, who labored to the uttermost, not only "not to be overcome of evil, but to overcome evil with good."

Scarcely anything could exceed the bitterness of Saul towards his servant David: yet when David had him altogether, and as it should seem by a special intervention of Providence, in his power, he would neither hurt him himself, nor suffer him to be hurt by others: nay more, when either Saul, or any of those who joined with him in his relentless persecution of an unoffending servant, were stricken with any disease by God himself, so far from rejoicing at it, or even being unconcerned about it, he laid it to heart, and set himself by fasting and prayer to obtain for them a removal, or at least a sanctified improvement of their sufferings: in a word, he felt for them as if they had been his dearest friends, or his most honored relatives.

While this conduct of David evinced the height of his attainments in relation to a forgiving spirit, it showed how justly he estimated the condition of a man oppressed with sickness, and at the same time destitute of the consolations of religion, and unprepared to meet his God. This is a subject deserving of peculiar attention: for, in truth, it is very seldom viewed as it ought to be, even by religious characters. Slighter feelings of sympathy are common enough: but such as are described in our text are rarely experienced. To excite them in all our hearts, we shall show,

I. How much the sick stand in need of our compassion—

Ungodly men, whether in health or sickness, are in a truly pitiable condition; for "they are walking in darkness, and ignorant where they are going," while they are on the very brink and precipice of the bottomless abyss of Hell. But in sickness they are peculiar objects of our compassion: for,

They are then bereft of all that they before enjoyed—

The pleasures of society, the sports of the field, the amusements of the theater or the ball, and even the researches of science, have now lost their relish: They have neither strength nor spirits for such employments. Even the light itself, which is so cheering to those in health, is almost excluded from their chamber, because of their inability to endure its splendor.

Nor have they any substitute to repair their loss—

Those who were their companions in pleasure, have no taste for those things which alone would administer comfort in this trying hour. They may make from time to time their complimentary inquiries, but they cannot sympathize with the afflicted, and, by participation, lighten their burdens. If they come to visit their friend, they have nothing to speak of but vanity, nothing that can strengthen his weak hands, or sustain his troubled mind. "Miserable comforters are they all, and physicians of no value." Nor does the sick person himself find it so easy to turn his mind to heavenly things as he once imagined. When immersed in the world, he supposed that it would be time enough to think of eternity when he should be laid aside by sickness; and he concluded that m that season he should feel no difficulty in turning his mind to heavenly contemplations: but he now finds that this is a very unfavorable season for such employment, and that pain or lassitude unfit him for them. He cannot collect his mind; he cannot fix it with any energy on things to which it has been a stranger: and the feelings of the body almost incapacitate him from attending to the concerns of the soul. Thus, however he may abound in worldly wealth and honor, he is a poor, destitute, unhappy being.

But the distress of the sick is greatly aggravated, if poverty be added to all their other trials—

A poor man in a state of health is as happy as his richer neighbors: but when he falls into sickness, his condition is very pitiable. He is unable to procure the aid which his disorders call for: yes, he cannot provide even the necessities of life. His family, deprived of his earnings, fall into the extreme want. The little comforts which they have hitherto had for clothing by day and for rest by night, now are sold one after another to supply food for the body, or are pledged never more to be redeemed. Cold, hunger, and nakedness greatly aggravate the pressure of their disorders; and the miseries of a dependent family are an overwhelming addition to the weight already insupportable. The resources which might somewhat alleviate the sorrows of one in opulence, are wholly wanting to the poor: so that, if they have not the consolations of religion to support them in their sickness, they are objects of the deepest commiseration.

Let us then consider,

II. What is that measure of compassion which we ought to exercise towards them—

If we consider only the temporal distress of the sick, our sympathy with them should be deep—

It is not sufficient to express a few words of commiseration, and to send a little relief; we should feel for them as for ourselves; and bear a part of their burdens on our spirit, no less than in our purse. It was in this way that Job exercised this amiable disposition: "Did not I weep for him that was in trouble? Was not my soul grieved for the poor Job 30:25." And it is in this way that we also must fulfill the law of Christ Galatians 6:2. Romans 12:15.

But more especially should we feel this from a regard for their souls—

Pious as David was, we can have no doubt but that in his griefs for Saul and Doeg, he had respect to their spiritual, as well as their temporal, condition. And this accounts for the strong feelings expressed in our text. He knew in what a fearful state they would be found, if they should die impenitent: and therefore, to obtain for them, if possible, a deliverance from such a heavy judgment, he fasted, and prayed, and clothed himself with sackcloth, and pleaded with God in their behalf, just as if they had been his dearest friends or relatives. He forgot all the injuries which they had done him, and were daily heaping upon him, from a persuasion that they did infinitely greater injury to their own souls, than it was possible for them to do to him. The thought of the danger in which they were of perishing forever, quite overwhelmed him, so that he was bowed down, and as it were inconsolable, on their account. Now this is precisely the state in which our minds should be towards persons on a bed of sickness, whether they be rich or poor, friends or enemies. Their souls should be precious in our eyes: and we should exercise towards them that very same love which filled the bosom of our Lord Jesus Christ, "who, though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich 2 Corinthians 8:9." Nor let it be thought that this is proper for ministers only, or for those who have nothing else to occupy their time. David was accustomed to scenes of blood, and occupied day and night with the laborious duties of a General; yet he blended the feelings of sympathy and compassion with the intrepidity and ardor of a man of war. In like manner should we, however high our station, or numerous our engagements, find time and inclination for all the offices of Christian love.

That we may be stirred up to such benevolence, let us contemplate,

III. The benefit that will accrue from it to our own souls—

Our exertions, however great, may not always prosper in the way we could wish—

We fear that Saul and Doeg were but little profited by the sympathy of David. And we also may abound in visiting the sick, and see but little fruit of our labor. Indeed, much of the fruit which we think we see, proves only like the blossom that is soon nipped by the frost, and disappoints our expectations. Not that our labor shall be altogether in vain If this be the subject of a Sermon for a Visiting Society, or Hospital, any particular good that has been done to the souls of men may here be distinctly specified. We are persuaded, that if we labor with assiduity and tenderness to benefit the souls of men, God will make some use of us. Like Isaiah, we may have occasion to say, "Who has believed our report?" yet, like him, we shall have in the last day some to present to the Lord, saying, "Here am I, and the children you have given me." "The bread that we have cast upon the waters shall, in part at least, be found after many days."

But our labor shall surely be recompensed into our own bosom—

So David found it: his fastings and prayers, if lost to others, were not lost to himself: "they returned into his own bosom." And thus it will be with us. The very exercise of love, like the incense which regales the offerer with its odors, is a rich recompense to itself. Moreover, every exercise of love strengthens the habit of love in our souls, and thereby transforms us more and more into the Divine image. And may we not say, that exercises of love will bring God himself down into the soul? We appeal to those who are in the habit of visiting the chambers of the sick, whether they have not often found God more present with them on such occasions than at any other time or place? Have they not often, when they have gone with coldness, and even with reluctance, to visit the sick, received such tokens of God's acceptance, as have filled them with shame and self-abhorrence, for not delighting more in such offices of love?

But, if even here so rich a recompense is given, what shall we receive hereafter, when every act of love will be recorded, acknowledged, recompensed; and not even a cup of cold water given for the sake of Christ, shall lose its reward? Little as we think of such actions, (and little we ought to think of them as done by ourselves) our God and Savior regards them with infinite delight, and will accept every one of them as done unto himself: "I was sick and in prison, and you visited me." Let all then know, if they thus invite the sick, the lame, the blind, to participate with them in their temporal and spiritual advantages, "they shall be recompensed at the resurrection of the just Luke 14:14. Hebrews 6:10."

ADDRESS—

1. The poor—

We have represented you as in some respects under great disadvantages in a time of sickness: but in other respects the advantage is altogether on your side. The friends of the rich are almost uniformly bent on keeping from them all those who would seek to benefit their souls: and, if one get access to them, one scarcely dares to speak, except in gentle hints and dark insinuations; while their friends in general are doing all they can to divert their minds from all serious religion. But such friends as these give themselves no trouble about you; while the benevolent Christian who visits you begins at once to instruct you in the things that belong to your everlasting peace. Thus all the treasures of redeeming love are opened to you, while they are studiously withheld from the rich; and all the consolations of the Gospel are poured into your souls, while even a taste of them is denied to thousands, either through their own contempt of Christ, or through the blindness and prejudice of ungodly friends. Know you then, that if on account of your want of temporal comforts we compassionate your state, we rather congratulate you on the advantages you enjoy for your immortal souls. God has said, that "he has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of his kingdom;" and therefore we call upon you to take this into your estimate of your condition, and to adore God for having chosen better for you than you would have chosen for yourselves.

2. Those who engage in visiting the poor—

This is a good and blessed office, in the conscientious discharge of which, religion in no small degree consists James 1:27. Abound then, as far as your situation and circumstances will admit of it, in this holy work: but take especial care that you perform it in a proper spirit. If you would have those whom you visit to weep, you yourself must be filled with compassion, and weep over them. This is a state of mind which an angel might envy. Never did Jesus himself appear more glorious, not even on Mount Tabor, than when he wept at the grave of Lazarus John 11:35. Nor does God ever delight in his people more than when he sees them abounding in acts of love to men for their Redeemer's sake Matthew 6:4. Only see to it that you "draw out not your purse only, but "your souls" also to the afflicted, and God will recompense it into your bosom an hundred-fold Isaiah 58:10-11.

3. The congregation at large—

In order to administer relief to any extent, considerable funds are necessary: and where any measure of benevolence exists, it will be a pleasure to contribute towards the carrying on a work of such incalculable importance. When Paul went up to confer with the Apostles at Jerusalem, they added nothing to his knowledge of the Gospel; "only they would that he should remember the poor: the same which I also (says he) was forward to do Galatians 1:10." To you then would we recommend the same benevolent disposition; and we pray God that there may be in you the same readiness to cultivate it to the uttermost. All may not have time or ability to do much in instructing and comforting the poor: but all, even the widow with a single mite, may testify their love to the poor, and their desire to advance the good work in which a select number are engaged. Even those who are "in deep poverty may abound unto the riches of liberality 2 Corinthians 8:1-4." Let all then "prove the sincerity of their love to Christ" by their compassion to his poor members 2 Corinthians 8:8; and let them know, that "even a cup of cold water given for his sake shall in no wise lose its reward."

 

 

Psalms 36:1

 

DISCOURSE 557

AWFUL STATE OF UNGODLY MEN

Psalm 36:1. The transgression of the wicked says within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.

WHEN we speak of the wickedness of mankind, that command of our Lord is frequently cast in our teeth, "Judge not, that you be not judged." But this command refers to an uncharitable ascribing of good actions to a bad principle; which, as we cannot see the heart, we are by no means authorized to do. But, if it do not authorize us to "call good evil," it assuredly does not require us to "call evil good." If we see sin, it is no uncharitableness to pronounce it sin: and, if the sin be habitual, it is no uncharitableness to say, that the heart from which it proceeds is bad and depraved. We are told by our Lord, that "the tree is to be judged of by its fruit; and that as a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit, so neither can a good tree habitually bring forth evil fruit Matthew 7:16-18." An error, and even a fault may be committed, without detracting from a person's general character: but a sinful course of life involves in it, of necessity, a corruption of heart, and carries with it, to any dispassionate mind, a conviction that the person who pursues that course has not within him the fear of God. This was the impression made on David's mind, when he said, "The transgression of the wicked says within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes."

In confirmation of this sentiment, I will show,

I. How God interprets sin—

God views sin not merely as contained in overt acts, but as existing in the soul: and he judges of its malignity, not according to its aspect upon social happiness, but as it bears on himself, and affects his honor. Throughout the whole Sacred Volume, God speaks of it in this view. He represents sin as striking at the relation which exists between him and his creatures:

1. As adultery—

He is the Husband of his Church Isaiah 54:5, and claims our entire and exclusive regards Hosea 3:3. When these are alienated from him, and fixed on the creature, he calls it adultery Ezekiel 16:37; and hence James, speaking of those who sought the friendship of the world, addresses them as "adulterers and adulteresses James 4:4;" because, as the Spouse of Christ, they have placed on another the affections due to him alone.

2. As rebellion—

God, as the Governor of the universe, requires us to obey his laws. But sin is an opposition to his will, and a violation of his laws: and therefore God says respecting it, "The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be Romans 8:7." Here, let it be observed, it is not the overt act, but the disposition only, that is so characterized: and, consequently, if the very disposition as existing in the soul is an equivocal proof of the wickedness of the heart, much more must the outward act, and especially the constant habit of the life, be considered as a decisive evidence that the soul itself is corrupt.

3. As idolatry—

God alone is to be worshiped: and to put anything in competition with him is to make it an idol. Hence the love of money is called idolatry Colossians 3:5; and the indulgence of a sensual appetite is to "make our belly our God Philippians 3:19." And hence John, having set forth "the Lord Jesus as the true God and eternal life," guards us against any alienation of our hearts from him, in these memorable words: "Little children, keep yourselves from idols 1 John 5:20-21." And here let me again observe, it is the disposition, and not any outward act, that has this construction put upon it.

4. As downright atheism—

It is represented as a denial of all God's attributes and perfections. It denies his omnipresence and omniscience; since men, in committing it, say, "How does God know? Can he judge through the dark cloud? Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he sees not; and he walks in the circuit of the Heaven Job 22:13-14. See also Psalm 73:11; Psalm 94:7," and is at no leisure to attend to what is done on earth. It denies his justice and his holiness: it says, "I shall have peace, though I walk after the imaginations of my heart Deuteronomy 29:19." "God will never require at my hands what I do Psalm 10:13." "He will not do good; neither will he do evil Zephaniah 1:12." So far from having anything to fear from God, "Every one that does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them Malachi 2:17." Sin denies yet further the right of God to control us: "We are Lords; we will come no more to you Jeremiah 2:31;" "Our lips are our own; who is Lord over us Psalm 12:4." "What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit is there, that we should pray unto him Job 21:14-15." It even denies the very existence of God: "The fool has said in his heart, There is no God Psalm 14:1." Hence Paul calls us "Atheists in the world Ephesians 2:12." Men will not say all this with their lips; but it is the language of their lives, and therefore of their hearts.

Having seen how God interprets sin, and what construction he puts upon it, we are prepared to see,

II. What interpretation we also should put upon it—

No inference was ever more legitimately drawn from the plainest premises, than that which forced itself upon David's mind, from a view of the ungodly world. And the same conclusion must we also arrive at, from all that we see around us: "The transgression of the wicked says within our hearts that there is no fear of God before their eyes."

1. There is no sense of God's presence—

A thief would not steal, if he knew that the eyes of the proprietor were fastened on him: yes, even the presence of a child would be sufficient to keep the adulterer from the perpetration of his intended crimes. But he regards not the presence of Almighty God. If he be out of the sight of any fellow-creature, he says in his heart, "No eye sees me Job 24:15;" never reflecting, that "the darkness is no darkness with God, but the night is as clear as the day; the darkness and light to him are both alike Psalm 139:11-12."

2. There is no regard to his authority—

Men will stand in awe of the civil magistrate, who he knows to be "an avenger of evil, and that he does not bear the sword in vain." To see to what an extent men stand in awe of earthly governors, conceive in what a state of confusion even this Christian land would be, if only for one single week the laws were suspended, and no restraint were imposed on men beyond that which they feel from a regard to the authority of God: we should not dare to venture out of our houses, or scarcely be safe in our houses, by reason of the flood of iniquity which would deluge the land. And though it is true that every one would not avail himself of the licence to commit all manner of abominations, it is equally true, that it is not God's authority that would restrain them: for the same authority that says, "Do not kill or commit adultery," says, You shall "live not unto yourself, but unto Him that died for you and rose again." And if we be not influenced by it in everything, we regard it truly in nothing James 2:10-11.

3. There is no concern about his approbation—

If we be lowered in the estimation of our fellow-creatures, how mortified are we, insomuch that we can scarcely bear to abide in the place where we are so degraded. An exile to the remotest solitude would be preferable to the presence or those whose good opinion we have forfeited, But who inquires whether God be pleased or displeased? Who lays to heart the disapprobation which he has excited in his mind, or the record that is kept concerning him in the book of his remembrance? If we preserve our outward conduct correct, so as to secure the approbation of our fellow-creatures, we are satisfied, and care little what God sees within, or what estimate he forms of our character.

4. There is no fear of his displeasure—

One would think it impossible that men should believe in a future state of retribution, and yet be altogether careless about the doom that shall be awarded to them. They think that God is merciful, too merciful to punish any one, unless it be, perhaps, some extraordinarily flagrant transgressor. Hence, though they know they are sinners, they never think of repenting, or of changing that course of life which, if the Scriptures be true, must lead them to perdition. Only see the state of the first converts, or of any who have felt their danger of God's wrath; and then tell me whether that be the experience of the world at large? Where do we see the weeping penitents smiting on their breast, and crying for mercy? Where do we see persons flying to Christ for refuge, as the manslayer fled from the sword of the avenger, that was pursuing him? In the world at large we see nothing of this; nothing, in fact, but supineness and security: so true is the judgment of the Psalmist respecting them, that "there is no fear of God before their eyes." The same testimony Paul also bears Romans 3:18; and we know that his record is true.

If, then, David's views be indeed correct, see,

1. How marvelous is the forbearance of our God!

He sees the state of every living man: he sees, not our actions only, but our very thoughts: for "he tries the heart and reins." What evils, then, does he behold in every quarter of the globe! Not a country, a town, a village, a family, no, nor a single soul, exempt from the common malady! all fallen; all "enemies in their hearts to God by wicked works!" Take but a single city, our own metropolis for instance, and what a mass of iniquity does God behold in it, even in the short space of twenty-four hours! Is it not astonishing that God's wrath does not break forth against us, even as against Sodom and Gomorrah, to consume us by fire; or that another deluge does not come, to sweep us away from the face of the earth? Dear Brethren, "account this long-suffering of our God to be salvation 2 Peter 3:15," and "let it lead every one of you to repentance Romans 2:4."

2. How unbounded is the love of God, that has provided a Savior for us!—

Behold, instead of destroying the world by one stroke of his indignation, he has sent us his co-equal and co-eternal Son to effect a reconciliation between him and us, by the sacrifice of himself! Yes, "he has so loved the world, as to have given his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life John 3:16." "He sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world," as we might rather have expected; "but that the world through him might be saved John 3:17." What, then, my beloved Brethren, "shall your transgressions say to you?" Shall they not say, "Avail yourselves of the offered mercy? Delay not an hour to seek an interest in that Savior, that so your sins may be blotted out, and your souls be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus?" Let this love of God constrain you to surrender up yourselves to him as his redeemed people; and so to walk before him in newness of heart and life, that "Christ may be magnified in you, whether by life or death Philippians 1:20."

 

 

Psalms 36:2

 

DISCOURSE 558

THE SELF-FLATTERING DELUSIONS OF SINNERS EXPOSED

Psalm 36:2. He flatters himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.

IT may well astonish us to see how careless and indifferent men are about the favor of God. But the Psalmist assigns the true reason for it. Every one cherishes in his mind some delusion, whereby he lulls his conscience asleep; and thus, notwithstanding his guilt and danger, rests satisfied with his state, until God himself interpose, in a way of mercy or of judgment, to undeceive him.

To elucidate his words, we shall,

I. Point out some of the self-flattering delusions which are commonly entertained—

We shall notice some which obtain,

1. Among the careless world—

They imagine that God does not regard the conduct of his creatures Job 22:13. Psalm 94:7. But it is a sad delusion, Proverbs 15:3. 1 Corinthians 4:5. Ecclesiastes 12:14. Deuteronomy 29:19-20; Or, that he is too merciful to consign them over to everlasting perdition Zephaniah 1:12. 2 Peter 3:4. But this is also a fatal error, Psalm 9:17 and 2 Peter 2:4-6; 2 Peter 2:9; Or that, at least, a little repentance will suffice Repentance is not so small a thing as men suppose. It is nothing less than a thorough renovation of the heart in all its powers; a putting off the old man, and a putting on the new, John 3:3. Ephesians 4:22-24; Or that, at all events, it is time enough yet to think of turning seriously to God Acts 24:25. If other delusions have proved fatal to thousands, this has destroyed tens of thousands. The folly of it appears from James 4:14. Luke 12:20 and Genesis 6:3. Proverbs 1:24-31.

2. Among those who profess some regard for religion—

They judge that a moral conduct, with a regular observance of the outward forms of religion, is all that is required Our Lord warns us against this mistake, Matthew 5:20; Or, that the embracing of the truths of the Gospel, and joining themselves to the Lord's people, is a true and scriptural conversion But what did this avail the Foolish Virgins? Matthew 25:1-12 or Judas? Matthew 26:21-24. See also, Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:40-42; Or, that the having, at some former period, had their affections strongly exercised about religious things, is a proof of their present acceptance with God Such notions are common, Matthew 13:20. but awfully delusive, Hebrews 6:4-6. 2 Peter 2:20-21; Or, that a present pleasure in religious duties with a partial mortification of sin, is a sufficient evidence of their sincerity This is the thought of many, Isaiah 58:2-3. Ezekiel 33:31-32. Psalm 78:34-35. But nothing less than an uniform and unreserved obedience to God will prove us to be God's children 1 John 3:7. Mark 9:43-48.

But the vanity of these delusions will appear, while we,

II. Show when and how they shall be removed—

The eyes of all will sooner or later be opened, and their vain conceits be dissipated—

1. Some will have their errors rectified in conversion—

When the Spirit of God enlightens the mind of man, he scatters the clouds of ignorance and error; and, as far at least as respects the foregoing delusions, guides them into the knowledge of the truth. He shows us, not only that our sins are known to God, but that we are in danger of condemnation on account of them, and that we ought to turn to God instantly, and with our whole hearts Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30; He discovers to us also, that no form of godliness, no change of sentiment, no moving of the affections, no partial reformation of the life, will suffice; but that, if we will serve the Lord in truth, we must give up ourselves wholly to him and without reserve Psalm 18:23 and Hebrews 12:1; Particularly he makes us to see "the hatefulness" of the most refined hypocrisy, and even of the remains of sin, which, in spite of our most earnest endeavors to destroy it, yet war in our members Psalm 66:18. James 1:26. Job 42:6. Romans 7:21-24.

2. Others will have their misapprehensions removed in condemnation—

Too many, alas! hold fast their delusions in spite of God's word, and all the merciful or afflictive dispensations of his providence. But, as soon as ever they come into the eternal world, they will be undeceived. The sight of a holy God, together with the hearing of that sentence which their once compassionate, but now indignant Judge will pass upon them; and, above all, the feeling of the torments of Hell, will convince them of their mistakes, and leave them no room to doubt, but that the care of the soul was "the one thing needful," and that every word of God shall be fulfilled in its season.

Advice—

1. Confer not with flesh and blood in the concerns of religion—

All unregenerate men endeavor to bring down the word of God to some standard of their own; and consequently will discourage in us everything that goes beyond the line which they have drawn for themselves. But, if they deceive us, they cannot afford us any remedy in the eternal world. The word of God is the only standard of right and wrong; and by that we shall be judged in the last day. Let us therefore regulate our sentiments and conduct, not according to the opinions of fallible men, but according to the unerring declarations of God himself. And instead of endeavoring to lower the demands of God to our wishes or attainments, let us labor to raise our practice to the strictest requisitions of God's law Philippians 3:13-14.

2. Pray for the teaching of God's Spirit—

With deceitful hearts, a subtle adversary, and a tempting world, we are continually in danger: nor can we hope to be guided aright but by the Spirit of the living God. Even the Scriptures themselves will be "a dead letter," and "a sealed book" to us, unless the Spirit of God open our understandings to understand them. He has promised to lead us into all truth; and if we be really disposed to embrace the truth, he will discover it to us. But if, through our hatred of the light, we shut our eyes against it, God will give us over to our delusions, that we may believe a lie John 3:19. 2 Thessalonians. 2:10-12, and Isaiah 66:3-4. Let us therefore guard against self-deception, and submit ourselves to the guidance of God's Spirit. Then, though our capacities be ever so small, we shall be kept from every fundamental error Isaiah 35:8 and Matthew 11:25, and be "made wise unto salvation through faith in Christ."

3. Seek above all to know the hatefulness of sin—

Nothing but a discovery of the evil of sin will effectually preserve us from self-deceit. To produce this, is the first saving work of the Spirit: and the more this is wrought in the heart, the more shall we be on our guard against all self-flattering delusions.

 

 

Psalms 36:4

 

DISCOURSE 559

SIN TO BE ABHORRED

Psalm 36:4. He abhors not evil.

THE standard of morals in the Christian world is far below that which is established in the Sacred Records: and hence arises that self-justifying spirit which prevails in every place. Gross iniquities, which affect the welfare of society, are condemned: but less flagrant offences are regarded as trivial, and justified as unavoidable in this state of human existence. The person immediately referred to in my text was Saul, who, amidst all his professions of penitence, still entertained evil designs against the life of David. But we need not limit the words to him. They are, like many similar passages cited by Paul in the third chapter of his Epistle to the Romans, Romans 3:10-19, expressive of the state of our fallen nature, and universally applicable to every child of man. To elucidate them, I will show,

I. How great an evil sin is—

There is scarcely anything which is vile and loathsome to which sin is not compared. Let us instance this in leprosy; which may be considered as the most spreading, the most defiling, the most incurable of all disorders. In reference to this does the Prophet Isaiah speak of himself and all around him as utterly undone: "Woe is me! I am undone: I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips Isaiah 6:5." But, not to lay an undue stress on figures like these, I will consider sin,

1. As a violation of God's holy Law—

The Law of God is said to be "holy, and just, and good Romans 7:12." It is holy, as being a perfect transcript of God's mind and will: it is just, as requiring nothing which does not necessarily arise out of our relation to him and to each other: and it is good, as tending, in every instance, to the happiness of the creature, and to the honor of our Creator. Now "sin is a transgression of this Law 1 John 3:4;" and that very circumstance it is which renders it "so exceeding sinful Romans 7:13." Were the Law itself less excellent, a departure from it would be less odious: but to rebel against it, is to prefer the mind of Satan to the mind of God, and the service of the devil to the service of our God. If we would see in what light God views it, let us go back to the time of Adam, on whose heart this Law was completely written, and see what one single transgression of it brought on him: and not on him only, but on the whole creation: and then we shall say indeed, that the evil of sin far exceeds all that language can express, or that any finite intelligence can conceive.

2. As a contradiction to his blessed Gospel—

To obviate the effects of sin, God sent his only dear Son into the world; that he might "put away the guilt of it by the sacrifice of himself Hebrews 9:26;" and that by the operations of his Holy Spirit he might repress its power, and "destroy the works of the devil 1 John 3:8." But sin contravenes all his merciful intentions and defeats all his gracious purposes. Now, let us suppose that the Lord Jesus Christ were now at this time to come into this assembly; and that, instead of receiving him with all that admiring and adoring gratitude that would become us, we were to rise up against him, and beat him down, and trample him under foot; and that, on his exhibiting the wounds once made for us on Calvary, and yet bleeding for us, we were to regard his blood as an accursed thing, and seize upon him, and nail him to a cross, and load him with our execrations until we saw him dead before our eyes: What would be thought of us? Yes, in a moment of reflection, what should we think of ourselves? Yet that is what sin does, and what all of us do whenever we commit sin: for so has the Apostle said, that "we tread under foot the Son of God, and count the blood of the Covenant an unholy thing, and do despite to the Spirit of his grace Hebrews 10:29;" yes, "we crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame Hebrews 6:6." V No wonder, then, that God, when dissuading us from the commission of sin, addresses us m those pungent terms, "O, do not that abominable thing which I hate Jeremiah 44:4."

But instead of our regarding it with the abhorrence it deserves, I am constrained to show you,

II. What sad indulgence it meets with at our hands—

View the generality of men—

So far from abhorring sin, they love it, they delight in it, and, to use the strong expression of Scripture, "they wallow in it, even as a sow wallows in the mire 2 Peter 2:22." In fact, it is the very element in which men live. Look all around you: I speak not of those who "run into every excess of riot;" though they, alas! are very numerous, and, for the most part, "glory in their shame:" but I speak of the great mass of the community, the rich, the poor, the old, the young: Whom among them do you find regulating themselves according to God's holy Law? Who has not a standard of his own, such as use and fashion have prescribed? and who is not satisfied with conforming to that, without ever once thinking of God's Law, or so much as desiring to approve himself to him? Truly, "the whole world lies in wickedness," and under the dominion of the Wicked one 1 John 5:19. Ephesians 2:2.

But, passing by these, behold the more decent part of the community—

Doubtless there are many who are more decorous in their conduct, and more observant of a form of godliness. But I ask, even in reference to them, How many of them do really view sin as God views it? That some enormous evils are abhorred, I readily acknowledge: but they are such only as, by a kind of common consent, are stamped with general reprobation. As for sin, as sin, and as a departure from God's holy Law, who hates it? Who loathes it? Who abhors it? Yes, I ask, Who does not hear it, without offence? and sec it, without disgust? and harbor it, without remorse? Let these questions sink down into your ears: carry them home with you, as tests of your real state: put them home to your conscience, and give an answer to them as before God. You well know, that if any one loaded our parents with deep and unmerited disgrace, he would soon excite our indignation. You know, also, that the sight and smell of a putrid carcass would create in us a loathing which we could scarce endure. Nor need you be told, what feelings of remorse would follow the commission of murder. But sin, whether heard or seen or felt, begets in us no such painful emotions. To abhor it, and "abhor ourselves" for the hidden workings of it in our souls, as holy Job did Job 40:4; Job 42:6, we know not: to "loath ourselves" as hateful and abominable on account of it Ezekiel 36:31, so as to "blush and be confounded before God," and scarcely to "dare to lift up our eyes to Heaven" on account of our conscious vileness Luke 18:13, is a state of mind to which we are utter strangers, unless on account of some great iniquity, which, if known, would expose us to indelible disgrace. To abhor evil merely on account of its intrinsic hatefulness, and its offensiveness to God, is an attainment very rare, and even in the best of men very weak and imperfect. I think, then, that every one of us may consider himself as condemned in my text, and may take shame to himself as bearing that humiliating character, "He abhors not evil."

See, then,

1. How little there is of true sanctity among us—

Of the saints of old it was said, "They could not bear those who were evil Revelation 2:2;" whereas we can "find pleasure in their society Romans 1:32," and, provided they wrap up their jests in elegant allusions and witty turns can join with them in laughing at thoughts, which, if delivered in coarser language, we should condemn: we even "set ourselves in a way that is not good," showing no aversion to "have fellowship in the works of darkness, which we ought rather with decided boldness to reprove Ephesians 5:11." How unlike are we to David, who says, "Rivers of waters run down my eyes, because men keep not your Law Psalm 119:136." Indeed, Brethren, we should see and mourn over our great defects; and, instead of indulging self-complacent thoughts on account of our not being so bad as others, should rather smite on our breasts with conscious guilt, and humble ourselves before God as "the very chief of sinners."

2. How greatly we need the provisions of the Gospel—

I have before said, that, to remedy the evils which sin has brought into the world, God has sent his only dear Son to make atonement for us, and his Holy Spirit to renew us after the divine image. And now I ask you, Whether anything less than this would have sufficed? What could you have done to expiate your own guilt? Or how could you ever, with such polluted hearts as yours, have attained a fitness for Heaven? You might as easily have built a world, as have effected either of these things. Nor is there any difference between one man and another in these respects. One may differ from another in respect of outward sin: but in respect of alienation of heart from the holy Law of God, and an utter incapacity to restore ourselves to his favor, all are on a perfect level. I entreat you, then, all of you without exception, to "wash in the Fountain opened for sin and for impurity Zechariah 13:1," and to cry mightily to God for the renewing influences of his Holy Spirit, that so you may have your past iniquities forgiven, and be "created anew after the divine image in righteousness and true holiness Ephesians 4:24." Then will you be brought to that state which every true Christian must attain, "abhorring that which is evil, and cleaving to that which is good Romans 12:9;" and then will God be glorified in you, both in this world and in the world to come 2 Thessalonians. 1:10.

 

 

Psalms 36:6

 

DISCOURSE 560

GOD'S WORD AND WORKS MYSTERIOUS

Psalm 36:6. Your judgments are a great deep.

WE little think how highly privileged the meanest Christian is above all the sages of antiquity. The greatest philosophers of Greece and Rome were un able to account for the existence of moral evil upon earth, or to see through the disorder and confusion which it has produced throughout the world. But the servant of the Lord is instructed to trace everything to an All-wise and Almighty Power, who brings light out of darkness and order from confusion, and overrules everything for the glory of his own name. To this Divine Being, the child of God has recourse in all his difficulties, and in the contemplation of Him finds comfort under the sorest trials. David, under the persecutions of Saul, was reduced to the greatest extremities: but, after complaining of the subtlety of his implacable enemy, "he encouraged himself in the Lord his God," who was able to accomplish his own gracious designs, not only in opposition to this powerful adversary, but by the very means which Saul was using to defeat them.

The word "judgments" has, in Scripture, many different significations. As used in my text, we may consider it as comprehending both the word and the works of God. In illustration, therefore, of our text, we may observe that "God's judgments are a great deep,"

I. As displayed in his word—

The whole of Revelation is a mystery. But, that we may not be led over too wide a field, we will confine our attention to two points:

1. Our fall in Adam—

This is a fact to which the whole Scripture bears witness: "In Adam all died 1 Corinthians 15:22;" and "by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation Romans 5:17-18." Now, that he should himself be drawn into sin, circumstanced as he was, perfect in his nature, and supplied with everything which his soul could desire, is wonderful. But it is a fact, that he did commit sin, and brought upon himself God's righteous indignation. That in his sin all his posterity should be involved, is a yet deeper mystery; for which it would be impossible for us to account, if God had not plainly and unequivocally revealed it. That the whole world is full of sin, is obvious to the most superficial observer. That the very nature of man is corrupt, is also evident. No one who has ever marked the dispositions of an infant can entertain a doubt of it Psalm 51:5. But was man first created in such a state? Can we conceive of a holy Being forming, in the first instance, such unholy creatures ? Human wisdom is altogether lost, and confounded, while occupied on this mysterious subject. But God has explained it to us in his word. He has told us, what, when revealed, is a self-evident truth, that "no man can bring a clean thing out of an unclean Job 14:4." He has told us, also, what we could never have imagined or conceived, that the very guilt of Adam is transmitted to us, because he was not a private and isolated individual, but the head and representative of all his descendants: so that we come into the world, not only corrupt creatures, but "children of wrath Ephesians 2:3."

Now say, whether this be not "a great deep." Who can comprehend it? Who is not lost in wonder at the contemplation of it?

2. Our recovery by Jesus Christ—

That there should be a possibility of restoring man to the divine favor, is what no finite intelligence could ever have conceived. Not one of the fallen angels ever was restored: nor could the restoration of man, it might be thought, have ever been compatible with the honor of our offended God. But God contrived a way, wherein he might be "just, and yet the justifier of sinful men Romans 3:26." For this end he gave his only-begotten Son, to stand in our place, to bear our sins, to "make reconciliation for our iniquities, and to bring m an everlasting righteousness," wherein we might stand accepted before our God.

Well might the Apostle say, "Great is the mystery of godliness 1 Timothy 3:16." Who can contemplate "God manifest in human flesh," and dying in the place of his own sinful and rebellious creatures, and not stand amazed at this stupendous effort of love and mercy? Truly, it far "surpasses all the knowledge" whether of men or angels. And, if it were not confirmed to us by testimony that is absolutely unquestionable, we could not but regard it altogether as "a cunningly-devised fable;" so unfathomable are the depths contained in it, and so incomprehensible the love Ephesians 3:18-19.

But let us contemplate God's judgments,

II. As manifested in his works—

Let us notice them in his works,

1. Of providence—

These also are as inscrutable as redemption itself. Who, that surveyed Joseph in all his different scenes of woe, could ever imagine where they were conducting him, or to what they would lead? Truly there is "a wheel within a wheel Ezekiel 1:16;" and while all appears uncertainty around us, everything is working to a fixed end, even to accomplish what God himself has predicted in his word. The smallest incidents that can be imagined are often productive of the most wonderful events: the casting of a lot, the sleepless restlessness of Ahasuerus, the casual turning to a particular record, to a common observer would appear as matters of trifling moment: yet on them depended the preservation of the whole Jewish people Esther 3:7; Esther 6:1-3. And we too, if we look back upon our past lives, may find many minute occurrences, which seemed to be of no account at the time, but which contributed in the most essential manner to influence and fix our future destinies; so that at this hour there is not one among us whose life would not serve for the illustrating of this point, and constrain him with the profoundest admiration to exclaim, "How unsearchable are God's judgments, and his ways past finding out Romans 11:33."

2. Of grace—

Who, that had seen Paul in his unconverted state, would ever have supposed that God had designs of love towards him ? Yet, when he had well near filled up the measure of his iniquities, God arrested him in his career, and made him a most distinguished monument of his mercy; insomuch that all future ages were to regard him as "a pattern," by which the extent of God's mercy might be estimated, and the hopes of penitents be encouraged 1 Timothy 1:12-16. Certainly the conduct of Onesimus towards his master Philemon must appear a very strange link in the purposes of Heaven, relative to his salvation: yet were his dishonesty and flight made use of by God as means to bring him under the ministry of Paul, and, through that, to a conversion of soul to God, and to the everlasting possession of happiness and glory Philem. verse 15. Not that God's designs of mercy towards him lessened in any degree the guilt which he contracted: nor is sin of any kind the less sinful on account of the use which God may make of it for the accomplishment of his own designs: for then the murderers of our blessed Lord must have been accounted the best, rather than the most guilty, of mankind. No: sin is a deadly evil, by whoever it is committed, and whatever it may effect: but this I say, that God both does and will accomplish his own eternal counsels, in ways which no finite wisdom could have contrived, nor any finite power have brought to a successful issue. "Truly," says the prophet, "you are a God that hide yourself Isaiah 45:15." And so, indeed, we may all say. For who can look back upon the way in which he has been brought from his youth up even to this present moment, and especially upon the way in which he has been led to the knowledge of the Savior, and not stand amazed at "the goodness and mercy that have followed him," and at the wisdom and power that have effected so great things for him? Yes: we must all fully acquiesce in that sentiment of Zophar: "Can you by searching find out God? can you find out the Almighty to perfection? It is high as Heaven; what can you do? it is deeper than Hell; what can you know? the measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea Job 11:7-9."

Let us, then, learn from hence,

1. Submission to God's will—

We may have been brought into circumstances of the most afflictive nature: but we should remember who it is that orders all things, even to the falling of a sparrow upon the ground. Men and devils may be laboring for our destruction: and God may suffer them to proceed to the very utmost extremity, until, like the murderers of our Lord, they may exult in, what appears to them, the full attainment of their purpose; but God says to all of them, "Hitherto shall you come, and no farther." True it is that "His way is in the sea, and his footsteps are not known Psalm 77:19;" but you must never forget, that though "clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and judgment are the basis of his throne Psalm 97:2." "What he does, you may not at present know: but you shall know hereafter John 13:7;" and you may be sure that at the last you shall add your testimony to that of all his saints, "He has done all things well Mark 7:37." Your way may be circuitous, and attended with great difficulties: but you will find, at last, that it was "the right way Psalm 107:7," the way most conducive to your best interests, and most calculated to advance his glory. Let us, then, wait to "see the end of the Lord James 5:11;" and, under all circumstances, say, "It is the Lord; let him do what seems him good."

2. Affiance in his word—

There is light sufficient: there we see what God will most assuredly accomplish. There may appear to be a discordance between the word and works of God; but they will be found to harmonize at last: "nor shall one jot or tittle of his word ever fail." Lay hold, then, on the promises of God: rest on them: plead them at the throne of his grace: and expect the accomplishment of them in due season. But be not impatient under any delays: "If the vision tarry, wait for it;" assured that "it will not tarry" beyond the appointed time Habakkuk 2:3. Never, under any circumstances, say, "All these things are against me;" because God has promised that "they shall all work together for your good Romans 8:28." But, conceive of a soul just liberated from the body, and from the throne of God looking back upon the way in which it has been brought thither; with what admiration will it then be filled! and what praises will it pour forth on account of the dispensations which until now it was not able to unravel! This should now be the posture of your soul. Most safely may you trust in God, to the full extent of his promises: for, whatever difficulties may lie in his way, "His counsel shall stand; and He will do all his will."

 

 

Psalms 36:7-8

 

DISCOURSE 561

THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD

Psalm 36:7-8. How excellent is your loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of your wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of your house: and you shall make them drink of the river of your pleasures.

THE more we know of man, the more shall we see the folly of trusting in an arm of flesh: but, the more we are acquainted with God, the more enlarged will be our expectations from him, and the more unreserved our confidence in his power and grace. David had found by bitter experience, that no dependence could be placed on the protestations of Saul. But he had a friend, in whose protection he could trust; and in the contemplation of whose character he could find the richest consolation, while his views of man filled him with nothing but grief and anguish. Having expatiated upon his perfections, as contrasted with the deceitfulness and depravity of man, he bursts forth into a rapturous admiration of his love.

His words furnish us with an occasion to consider the loving-kindness of God, in the precise view in which it is exhibited in our text,

I. As a subject for adoring gratitude—

Wherever we turn our eyes, we behold the most astonishing displays of God's love. Every work of creation, every dispensation of providence, every effort of Grace, exhibits him to us in the most endearing view. But most of all must we admire the wonders of redemption. This is the work whereby God commends his love to us Romans 5:8. This is the one subject of adoration to all the saints in glory Revelation 5:11-14. No sooner was it declared in the incarnation of Christ, than multitudes of the heavenly host began a new song, singing "Glory to God in the highest Luke 2:13-14." Yes, from that moment have they been occupied in exploring its mysteries 1 Peter 1:12. But so unsearchable are its heights and depths, that no finite understanding can fully comprehend, nor will eternity suffice to unfold, all the wonders contained in it Ephesians 3:18-19. "How excellent then is your loving-kindness, O God!"

II. As a ground for implicit confidence—

This is not a speculative subject, but is influential in the hearts of all that give it a due measure of their attention. It is this which encourages sinners to approach their God with confidence. In the view of this, no guilt appals, no strait depresses, no grief dejects. Whatever we want of pardon, peace, or strength, one thought suffices to support the soul; "he who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things Romans 8:32." This is the genuine and legitimate use which we are to make of the loving-kindness of God Psalm 9:10. We are to go to him as to a Father, confessing our faults Luke 15:18-19; to follow him as our Guide in all our ways Hebrews 11:8; and to commit ourselves to him without fear, knowing that he will either extricate us from all trouble Daniel 3:17, or overrule it for our good Philippians 1:19-20. 1 Peter 4:19.

III. As a pledge of all imaginable blessings at his hands—

There is nothing which can conduce to our happiness either in time or eternity, which we are not warranted to expect at God's hands, provided we contemplate, and be suitably impressed with, the excellencies of his love.

The priests of old feasted their families with the offerings which belonged to them by virtue of their office Numbers 18:11. Now to our great High-Priest belong all the glory and blessedness of Heaven: and every member of his family is privileged to partake with him. In his house he spreads his feast Isaiah 25:6, and says to his dear children, Come, out and drink abundantly, O beloved Son. 5:1, and let your souls delight themselves with fatness Isaiah 55:2. And who can declare what "abundant satisfaction" their souls feel while feeding on the promises of his word, and the communications of his love; or how enviable is the state of those who are thus highly privileged Psalm 65:4. Surely if we taste this promised blessing Jeremiah 31:14, we may well desire rather to be door-keepers in his house, than to enjoy the splendor of an earthly court Psalm 84:10.

But there are still sweeter fruits of God's love to be enjoyed in Heaven. There flows a river, which gladdens that holy city, the new Jerusalem Psalm 46:4, and fills with unspeakable delight every inhabitant of those blissful mansions. There is a fullness of joy, emanating from the fountain of the Deity, and filling with God's own blessedness every soul according to its capacity Revelation 22:1 and Psalm 16:11. Of this shall every one be "made to drink;" and, drinking of it, shall thirst no more forever Psalm 17:15.

APPLICATION—

Let the love of God in Christ Jesus be our meditation all the day: Let it lead us to trust in him both for body and soul: And let a sense of it shed abroad in our hearts, be the one object of our desire Psalm 27:4. and delight Philippians 3:8.

 

 

Psalms 36:9

 

DISCOURSE 562

CHRIST THE FOUNTAIN OF LIFE AND LIGHT

Psalm 36:9. With you is the fountain of life; in your light shall we see light.

BY a sober consideration of Scripture metaphors we obtain a more full and comprehensive knowledge of divine truth, than could easily be obtained from the most labored discussions. Besides, the ideas suggested by them strike the mind so forcibly, that they cannot fail of making a deep and lasting impression. Let us but notice the rich variety of figures whereby the Deity is set forth in the passage before us, and we shall be filled with admiring and adoring thoughts of his goodness. The Psalmist, illustrating the loving-kindness of his God, represents him first under the image of a hen gathering her chickens; then as an opulent host feasting his guests with the richest dainties; and then, in a beautiful climax, he compares him to the sun.

In our text there is no confusion of metaphor, as there would be if the former part referred to a fountain, and the latter to the sun. It is the sun alone that is spoken of: for that is the fountain both of light and life: and in discoursing upon it, we observe, that,

I. Christ is an inexhaustible source of all spiritual good—

Christ may be considered as peculiarly referred to in the metaphor before us—

It is in Christ only that the perfections mentioned in the foregoing verses are combined verse 5, 6. It is in him only that God unites justice with mercy Romans 3:26, or adheres, in faithfulness, to his covenant engagements 2 Corinthians 1:20. Besides, it is in this view that Christ is set forth throughout all the sacred oracles, by prophets Isaiah 60:1. Malachi 4:2, by Apostles John 1:4; John 1:9. Luke 2:32. 2 Peter 1:19, and more especially by himself John 8:12; John 12:46; We may well therefore apply to him the comparison before us: and we shall find it admirably descriptive of his real character.

He is to the spiritual, what the sun is to the material, world—

The sun is "the fountain of light and life" to this lower world. When that is withdrawn, the earth is left in darkness, the vegetable world decays, and myriads of animals are secluded in a state of torpor. But when it returns m its brightness, it both dispels the darkness, and restores to nature her suspended powers.

Thus, where Christ has not shined, universal darkness and death prevail. But when he arises on the soul, he enlightens it, and infuses into it a principle of life Ephesians 2:1, whereby its faculties are made capable of spiritual exertions; and it is rendered "fruitful in all the fruits of righteousness to God's praise and glory".

We have abundant encouragement to seek his influence, since,

II. They who live in communion with him shall surely participate his blessings—

As the sun shines in vain to him who secludes himself in a dungeon, so, unless we come forth to "Christ's light, we cannot possibly behold his light." But if we view him as we ought, we shall then attain the light of knowledge, the light of comfort, the light of holiness, the light of glory.

1. Our minds shall be enlightened with divine knowledge—

By the light of the sun we behold the objects around us; and by the light of Christ we discern the things belonging to our peace. In his face all the glory of the Godhead shines 2 Corinthians 4:6. Colossians 1:15, insomuch that he who has seen him, has seen the Father also John 14:9. Nor is there any one subject relating to salvation which does not receive its clearest illustration from him—

2. Our souls shall be enriched with heavenly comfort—

The consolation we derive from other sources is light and unsubstantial: and the things which promise us most happiness, often prove only a fleeting meteor, or a delusive vapor. But a sight of Christ, of his fullness, his suitableness, his all-sufficiency, affords a ground of comfort, firm as the rocks, and lasting as eternity 2 Corinthians 1:5.—

3. Our hearts shall be "renewed in righteousness and true holiness"—

Nothing produces such effects as a sight of Christ. We may hear the law proclaimed in all its terrors, and yet experience no abiding change. But a view of Christ as crucified for us, will break the most obdurate heart Zechariah 12:10.—raise the most desponding soul 1 Peter 1:3.—inspire the selfish with unbounded love 1 John 3:16.—and fill the mourner with unutterable joy 1 Peter 1:8; In a word, it will change a sinful man into the very image of his God and Savior 2 Corinthians 3:18.

4. The light of glory itself shall also be enjoyed by us—

Christ is the one source of happiness to all the hosts of Heaven Revelation 21:23. To behold his beauty, to taste his love, to celebrate his praises, this is their employment, this their supreme felicity Revelation 5:8-13. Such too is the occupation, such the happiness of every true believer: he has a pledge of Heaven in his soul; and this earnest is a pledge that, in due season, he shall receive the consummation of all his wishes in the immediate vision of his Savior's glory, and the everlasting fruition of his love Ephesians 1:13-14 and 1 John 3:2.—

Infer,

1. How great is the folly of seeking happiness in the creature !

Created things, in comparison of Christ, are no more than a broken cistern to a fountain Jeremiah 2:13, or than a star in comparison of the meridian sun. Let us then seek our happiness in Christ, and in him alone. In him, as in the sun, there is a fullness and a sufficiency for all Colossians 1:19. And to him all may have access, if they will not obstinately immure themselves in impenitence and unbelief Ephesians 5:14. Let us not then "kindle sparks for ourselves, or walk in the light of our own fires Isaiah 1:11," but "come forth to his light," and "walk in it" to the latest hour of our lives John 12:35-36.

2. How unspeakable is the blessedness of knowing Christ !

If we could conceive ourselves in a region where a winter's midnight was perpetuated; and then be transported in idea to a climate, where noontide light, and spring beauty, were uninterruptedly enjoyed, we might have some faint image of the change effected by the knowledge of Christ 1 Peter 2:9, Truly the Christian is in Goshen Exodus 9:26; Exodus 10:22-23; or if, for a little moment he be in darkness, there arises up a light unto him in the midst of it Psalm 112:4, and his darkness becomes as the noon-day Isaiah 58:10. And, in a little time "his sun shall no more go down; but his Lord shall be unto him an everlasting light, and his God his glory Isaiah 60:19-20." O that this may be the constant pursuit, and the happy attainment of us all!

 

 

Psalms 36:10

 

DISCOURSE 563

GOD'S CONTINUED CARE IMPLORED

Psalm 36:10. O continue you your loving-kindness unto them that know you, and your righteousness to the upright in heart!

DAVID, in all his troubles, "encouraged himself in the Lord his God." He was in great trouble at the time he wrote this psalm; but whether from the persecutions of Saul, or the rebellion of Absalom, is not certain. But his views of the Deity were exceeding grand: "Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and your faithfulness reaches unto the clouds. Your righteousness is like the great mountains; your judgments are a great deep: O Lord, you preserve man and beast. How excellent is your loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of your wings." To this God he commits his cause; and, in behalf of himself and all his persecuted associates, prays, "O continue you your loving-kindness unto them that know you, and your righteousness unto the upright in heart!" The same petition will every faithful minister urge in behalf of himself and his people, under a full assurance that "all their fresh springs are in God Psalm 87:7;" and that God himself, if ever they be saved at all, must "work all their works in them Isaiah 26:12." In this view, I will endeavor to show you,

I. What need we all have of the blessing here implored—

The term "righteousness," in the Old Testament, is of very extensive meaning. In my text it imports "goodness," and, as joined with "loving-kindness," must be understood to mean, a continuance of God's tender and watchful care even to the end. And

Of this, all, whatever be their attainments, stand in need—

Of the ignorant and ungodly I am not at present called to speak; but rather of "those who know God, and are upright before him." Now all of these, without any exception, "offend God in many things," and, "if God were extreme to mark what is done amiss, must perish." From gross and willful transgressions they may be free: but "who can say, His heart is clean?" How many sins are committed there, which no eye but God's beholds!: But, waving sins of commission, how greatly do we offend in a way of omission! See how "exceeding broad are the demands of God's Law." Our duties to God, our neighbor, and ourselves, who can be said perfectly to know them all; and much less to do them: But, waving these also, let us mark only our sins of defect. Be it so: We do really love God: but do we love him "with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength?" We love our neighbor, too: but do we love him with the same intenseness, and constancy, and activity "as ourselves?" We believe in Christ also: but is our habit of dependence on him, and communion with him, like that of "a branch united to the vine?" We devote ourselves to his service: but are all our faculties and powers, both of mind and body, put forth into action, as if we were running a race, or fighting for our lives? Let us look at our very best services, whether in public or in private; our prayers, for instance: Are our confessions accompanied with that brokenness of heart which we ought to feel? or our petitions urged with that importunity which God requires? or our thanksgivings presented with that ardent gratitude which God's mercies, and especially the great blessings of redemption, call for at our hands? I must say, that the grossest iniquities of the ungodly do not, in my apprehension, more strongly mark our alienation from God, than do the very prayers and praises of the godly; so exceeding cold are they, and unsuited to our state as redeemed sinners.

We need, therefore, the continuance of God's tender mercies to us yet daily, as much as ever we did in our carnal and unregenerate state.

And what should we do, if God should withdraw his loving-kindness from us?

What would our "knowledge of God" avail us, or even our own "integrity?" Satan prevailed over our first parents, even in Paradise: how, then, could we withstand his power, if God should deliver us up into his hands? In point of knowledge and integrity, David was as eminent as any of the Scripture saints: yet you all know how he felt, when once he was left to the workings of his own heart. Hezekiah was perhaps not inferior to him: yet, when "God left him, to try him, that he might see all that was in his heart," he also fell, and brought upon himself and his posterity the sorest judgments 2 Chronicles 32:31. Who then among us could hope to stand, if God should withhold his loving-kindness from us, or suspend for a moment the communications of his grace?

We need, then, all of us to entreat of God to "continue his loving-kindness to us," or, as it is translated in the margin of our Bibles, to "draw it out at length." You all know how a rope, or line, or thread, is formed, by adding fresh materials continually, until it shall have attained its destined length. In reference to this, the prophet represents the ungodly as "drawing out iniquity as cords of vanity, and sin as a cart-rope See Isaiah 5:18 with Bishop Lowth's note upon it," that is, by constant additions even to their dying hour. And precisely thus we need, that God, who has begun a good work in us, should carry it on even to the end, by drawing out, and imparting to us, such communications of his grace as our necessities require, until we have attained that measure which in his eternal counsels he has ordained, and we be fully "meet for our Master's use."

Seeing, then, that we all need this blessing, let me show you,

II. On what grounds all "who know God, and are upright before him," are authorized to expect it—

The petition in my text was offered under a full assurance that it should be granted: for he had scarcely uttered it before he saw, by faith, the answer given: "There," says he, "are the workers of iniquity fallen; they are cast down, and shall not be able to stand." And we also may expect that it shall be answered to all who offer it in faith. We may expect God's continued care, since it is assured to us,

1. By the promises of God—

Numberless are the promises which God has made to us respecting the continuance of his love towards all whom, according to his sovereign will, he has chosen to be the objects of it. David, in another psalm, says, "The Lord will not cast off his People, neither will he forsake his inheritance Psalm 94:14." And again, "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting, upon them that fear him; and his righteousness unto children's children, to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them Psalm 103:17-18." In fact, the whole Scripture testifies that God will perfect that which concerns his people Psalm 138:8; and that, having loved them, he will love them to the end John 13:1. Taking, therefore, these promises, we may spread them before the Lord, in full assurance that they shall be fulfilled; and in the language of David may say to God, "Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to my supplications: in your faithfulness answer me, and in your righteousness Psalm 143:1."

2. By the intercession of Christ—

St. John has said, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins 1 John 2:1-2." Yes, were it not that the Lord Jesus Christ lives to intercede for us in Heaven, it could not be but that God's displeasure must break forth against us on ten thousand occasions: but he prevails for us, as Aaron prevailed for Israel of old, through his unwearied intercessions. To this Peter was indebted, when he denied his Lord with oaths and curses. Had not our blessed Lord interceded for him, that his faith might not fail, he, in all probability, would have perished as Judas did Luke 22:31-32. In this view, a greater stress is laid on the intercession of Christ than even on his death: "Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died; yes, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right-hand of God, who also makes intercession for us Romans 8:34." And we are encouraged to believe that "Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for us Hebrews 7:25." Put then your cause into the Savior's hands; and beg of him to "pray the Father for you John 14:16," and you cannot but succeed: "for him the Father hears always John 11:42."

3. By the honor of God himself—

God from all eternity entered into covenant with his dear Son in our behalf, engaging, that "if he should make his soul an offering for sin, he should see a seed, and should prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hands Isaiah 53:10." This covenant our blessed Lord has fulfilled on his part, having taken our nature, and "borne our sins in his own body on the tree." And while yet he was upon earth, he made this a ground of his petitions, and a ground also of his expectations, in behalf of his people: "I pray for them," says he: "I pray not for the world, but for them which you have given me; for they are your: and all mine are your, and your are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world: but these are in the world; and I come to you. Holy Father, keep through your own name those whom you have given me, that they may be one, as we are. While I was with them in the world, I kept them in your name: those that .you gave me have I kept; and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to you; and these things speak I in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I pray not that you should take them out of the world, but that you should keep them from the evil John 17:9-15." Then he adds, what insures to us the completion of his desires, "Father, I will that they whom you have given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which you have given me John 17:24." Now I ask, Is not here abundant ground to expect God's continued care of his people? May we not from hence "be confident, that He who has begun a good work in us will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ Philippians 1:6." Yes, surely: and therefore when David, under the influence of unbelief, had entertained a fear, "Will the Lord cast off forever? will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone forever? does his promise fail for evermore? Has God forgotten to be gracious? has he in anger shut up his tender mercies?" he corrected himself, and with conscious shame exclaimed, "This is my infirmity Psalm 77:7-9." We may be sure that God's covenant shall stand. In the 89th Psalm it is declared, again, and again, and again, in terms the most express that can be imagined Psalm 89:28-37; and therefore we may be assured that for his own name and honor sake "he will keep his people by his own power through faith unto salvation 1 Peter 1:5;" as it was said by Samuel, "The Lord will not forsake his people for his great name's sake, because it has pleased him to make you his people 1 Samuel 12:22." "He is a God that changes not; and therefore we neither are, nor shall be, consumed Malachi 3:6." We shall be living witnesses for him to all eternity, that "his gifts and calling are without repentance Romans 11:29."

APPLICATION—

1. Seek to answer to the character here described—

If you "know not God," you can have no claim upon him: nor, "unless you be upright in heart," have you any reason to hope that he will ever look upon you with satisfaction. You must "have your hearts right with God," if ever you would be approved of God. Seek, then, to know God as reconciled to you in Christ Jesus: and beg of him so to "put truth in your inward parts," that he may acknowledge and commend you as "Israelites indeed, in whom is no deceit."

2. Implore of God the blessing you so greatly need—

You need it, all of you, and will need it to your dying hour. It is from God that you have received all that you possess. Never would you have known him, if he had not opened the eyes of your understanding, and revealed himself to you Compare Galatians 4:9 with Philippians 3:12. And never would your heart have been upright before him, if he, of his own sovereign grace, had not "given you a new heart, and renewed a right spirit within you." It is to Him, then, you must look to carry on the work within you. "No hands but His, who laid the foundation of his spiritual temple within you, can ever finish it Zechariah 4:9." "He alone who has been the author of your faith, can ever complete it Hebrews 12:2."

3. While you seek this blessing for yourselves, implore it earnestly for others also—

So did David, under all his trials; and so should you. It is our privilege and our duty to intercede one for another; parents for their children, and children for their parents; ministers for their people, and people for their ministers. And, O! what happiness should we enjoy in our respective families, and in the Church of God, if we were all partakers of these blessings! It is said, in the very words before my text, "With you is the fountain of life; and in Your light shall we see light:" and no doubt, in proportion as the blessings of salvation flow down into our souls, we shall be blessed in ourselves, and blessings to all around us.

 

 

Psalms 37:3-6

 

DISCOURSE 564

CONFIDENCE IN GOD RECOMMENDED

Psalm 37:3-6. Trust in the Lord, and do good: so shall you dwell in the land, and truly you shall be fed. Delight yourself also in the Lord: and he shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way unto the Lord; trust also in him, and he shall bring it to pass: and he shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noon-day.

IT might be supposed that God, the righteous Governor of the universe, would in this world distinguish his people from his enemies by his visible dispensations towards them: but he does not: he suffers "all things to come alike to all; so that none can discern either love or hatred by all that is before them Ecclesiastes 9:1-2." This is often a stumbling-block to the righteous, who are apt to be discouraged, when they see the prosperity of the wicked, and are themselves suffering all manner of adversity. David was at one time greatly dejected, or rather, I should say, offended, at this very thing; and was led to imagine that he had served God for nothing Psalm 73:1-14. To guard us against such mistaken views of providence, and against the feelings which they are accustomed to excite in the breast, he wrote this psalm. That we may not repine at the success of evil-doers, he teaches us to consider, how short their triumph is, and how awful will be their end. He then, in the words of our text, instructs us,

I. What we are to do for God—

It is here taken for granted that we have many difficulties to contend with. But instead of being discouraged by them, our duty to God is,

1. To go on steadily in his service—

"Trust you in the Lord, and do good." It should be an established principle in our hearts, that duty is ours, and events are God's; and that we should attend to our own concerns, and leave God to his. Now beyond all doubt our great concern is, to prosecute and "finish the work which God has given us to do." We should not merely attend to good works in general, but consider what is that particular "good" which God is calling us to do: perhaps it is to exercise meekness and patience; or perhaps to put forth fortitude and firmness. In the event of persecution for righteousness' sake, these graces must be cultivated with more than ordinary attention, and be called into action in a more than ordinary degree. We are not to be perplexing our minds with inquiries how we may avert the storm which is gathering around us, but be solely careful not to be shaken either in our principles or conduct, or in any respect to dishonor that God whom we profess to serve. Without this fidelity in the path of duty, all trust in God will be a delusion: but, combined with it, our trust in him is a most pleasing and acceptable service.

2. To seek our happiness in his presence—

Fidelity itself would not be acceptable, if it proceeded from a principle of slavish fear: we must regard God as a Father, and "delight ourselves in him." It is not a low measure of spirituality that we should aim at: we should aspire after such an enjoyment of God as David himself spoke of, when he said, "I will go unto God, my exceeding joy Psalm 43:4." In order to this, we should meditate upon all his glorious perfections, and especially on those perfections as displayed and magnified in the work of redemption. O! what wonders of love and mercy may we see in our incarnate, our redeeming God! In the contemplation of these we should exercise ourselves day and night, until the fire kindle in our bosoms, and we burst forth in acclamations and hosannahs to our adorable Emmanuel. Say, you who have ever been so occupied, whether such "meditations be not sweet;" and whether "your souls have not been satisfied as with marrow and fatness," when you have been so employed?

3. To commit our every concern to his disposal—

Our duty in this respect may not unfitly be illustrated by the confidence which passengers in a ship place in a skillful pilot and an able commander. They trust their persons and their property to the pilot without any anxious cares or painful apprehensions. Conscious of their own incapacity to navigate the ship, they presume not to interfere in the management of the vessel, but leave the whole concern to those whose province it is to conduct it. Whatever storms may arise, they look to him who is at the helm to steer the vessel to its destined port. Thus does the believer commit his way unto the Lord. To God he looks as ordering every thing for his good, yes, as having, if we may so speak, a community of interest with him, and as pledged to bring him in safety to the harbor where he would be. If any anxious thought arise, he checks it; and "casts all his care on Him, who cares for him." This we should do in reference to every concern whatever. In relation to temporal things, we should have no more anxiety than the birds of the air, which exist from day to day on the bounty of their Creator Matthew 6:25-34; and even in reference to the soul, the same entire confidence must be placed in God, who has engaged to carry on and perfect in his people the work he has begun Philippians 1:6. Let us not however be misunderstood to say, that we are to put away a jealous fear of ourselves: that we must retain even to the end of our lives: but an unbelieving fear of God, as either unable or unwilling to save us, we must cast it off with abhorrence, and "be strong in faith, giving glory to God."

The promises annexed to these several injunctions show,

II. What God will do for us—

Truly he will do exceeding abundantly for us above all that we can ask or think—

1. He will supply our wants—

Great and urgent they may be, even like those with which Israel was oppressed on different occasions in the land of Canaan: but God will interpose for us in the hour of need, so that "truly we shall be fed." Under the pressure of their troubles, many Jews deserted their own land, and sought for security or plenty among their heathen neighbors: thus they rather fled from trouble, than looked to God, as they should have done, to relieve them from it. We must not act thus: we must not desert our post because of difficulties which we meet with in it; but must expect from God all those supplies of grace and strength which we stand in need of. "He who believes, will not make haste:" he will not presently despond, because he sees not how his wants are to be supplied; but will remember, that, as "the earth, and the fullness thereof, is the Lord's," so there is all fullness of spiritual blessings also treasured up for him in Christ, and he will look to Christ for daily communications, according as his necessities may require. The Lord did not give to Elijah a store of provision that should suffice for months to come, but sent him bread and meat twice a day by the ministration of ravens, and afterwards a daily supply from the widow's cruse. In the same manner will he impart a sufficiency of temporal and spiritual blessings to all who trust in him; and "according to their day, so their strength shall be." "The soul that trusts in Him shall want no manner of thing that is good."

2. He will fulfill our desires—

If our desires were after the things of time and sense, we might expect to have them withheld from us: but if they be, as the believer's are, after God himself, we shall never be disappointed: on the contrary, the more earnest and enlarged our desire is, the more certain we are that God will fulfill and satisfy it. The more "wide we open our mouth," the more assured we are that "he will fill it." "He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him; he also will hear their cry, and will help them." Do we desire increasing "views of his glory? He will put us into the cleft of the rock, and make all his goodness to pass before our eyes Exodus 33:18-23." Do we desire a more intimate and abiding communion with him? He will "come and dwell in us, and walk in us, and be altogether our God 2 Corinthians 6:16." Do we desire a more entire conformity to him? He will "transform us into his image from glory to glory," by the sanctifying influence of his Holy Spirit 2 Corinthians 3:18. There shall not be a thing that we can ask, but he will give it us, if only it will be conducive to our spiritual and eternal welfare John 15:7 and 1 John 5:14-15 with Psalm 21:1-2.

3. He will give a happy issue to all our concerns—

There may be many difficulties in our way, and such as shall be to all appearance insurmountable; but He who made a path through the Red Sea, will remove them all in due time. Whatever in his wisdom he sees to be best for us, "he will bring it to pass." We may labor under many discouragements by reason of calumnies which are circulated respecting us: the world may represent us as enthusiasts that "turn the world upside down," as deceivers that are seeking some base ends of our own, as abettors of sedition, and enemies to civil government; in a word, they may speak of us as "the filth of the earth, and the off-scouring of all things;" but God will not leave us to sink under these reproaches: he will sooner or later appear for us, and "make our righteousness to shine forth as the noon-day." We shall have "good report to pass through, as well as evil report;" and our very demeanor under our persecutions shall carry conviction to the minds of many, that we are indeed the sons of God Matthew 27:54. At all events, if not before, at least at the day of judgment, our reproach shall be rolled away, and "we shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of our Father Matthew 13:43."

Reflections. See from hence,

1. What they lose who are ignorant of God—.

All that is implied either in the precepts or the promises of our text is altogether unknown to those who experience not the power of religion in their hearts. Whatever burdens they have, are borne upon their own shoulders: they know not what it is to cast them upon the Lord. Hence, when oppressed with heavy trials, they faint and sink under them; and for want of the consolations and supports of religion, they not unfrequently meditate, and sometimes also carry into execution, the awful act of suicide. O that men did but know what provision there is made for them in the Gospel of Christ! In, and with Christ, there is all that we can want, for body or for soul, for time or for eternity: Only let us seek to be washed in his blood, to be renewed by his Spirit, and to live altogether by faith on him; and we shall find such rich supplies, such heavenly consolations, such a fullness of all spiritual and eternal blessings, as shall far surpass all that the carnal eye has ever seen, and all that the carnal imagination has ever conceived 1 Corinthians 2:9.

2. What they enjoy who live near to God—

Contemplate the state of those who are now in Heaven; how free from care, and how completely happy in the fruition of their God! Such in a measure may our state be even in this present world. Those who believe in Christ are privileged to rejoice in him, yes, and many do "rejoice in him, with joy unspeakable and glorified." By committing themselves, and all their concerns, to him, "their very thoughts, which are naturally as fluctuating as the wind, are established Proverbs 16:3." O Believers, live not below your privileges: carry everything to your adorable Savior, and expect from him all that infinite love can give, and all that Omnipotence can effect. "All things are yours, if you are Christ's;" even "death itself, as well as life, is among your treasures 1 Corinthians 3:21-23;" and soon shall all the glory and felicity of Heaven be your unalienable and everlasting possession.

 

 

Psalms 37:23-24

 

DISCOURSE 565

GOD'S INTEREST IN HIS PEOPLE

Psalm 37:23-24. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord; and he delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

THAT Almighty God, the Creator of Heaven and earth, should regard one rather than another among the sinners of mankind, appears incredible; and for any one to imagine himself to be among those who are pre-eminently favored by him, would be judged a height of arrogance, to which scarcely any one of a sound mind could be supposed to have attained. But the Holy Scriptures are extremely clear, and full, and definite upon this point. God does condescend to notice with peculiar kindness those who walk uprightly before him: while he beholds with indignation and abhorrence those who, whether openly or in secret, rebel against him. To establish this is the great scope of this psalm, wherein the states of the godly and of the ungodly are contrasted with each other in this respect. From the words which I have just read, we shall necessarily be led to notice,

I. The interest which God takes in his people—

"He orders their steps"—

In the marginal translation it is said that a good man's steps are "established" by the Lord. The fact is, the Lord so orders them, that they may be established. The very first work of the Lord in his people, is, to bring them to Christ, and to "establish them in Christ John 6:44; John 6:65 and 2 Corinthians 1:21." Until this is done, they never take any step that can effectually bring them to Heaven: When that is done, then they are enabled to "walk in Christ Colossians 2:6," and, by strength derived from him, to advance in righteousness and true holiness.

"He delights in their ways"—

True, their ways are far from perfect: and, if God were to be "extreme to mark what is done amiss," no man living could stand before him. But God looks rather at the principle from whence their actions proceed, and at the end for which they are done, than at the perfection of the actions themselves; and when he sees that their actions proceed from love, and are done for the glory of his name, he cannot but feel delight, both in the persons themselves, and in the works they perform; even as a parent delights in the services of a loving and duteous child, not considering so much the excellence of the act as the disposition manifested in the performance of it. On another ground, too, Jehovah delights in the ways of his people, namely, because they are "the fruits of his Spirit" working in them Galatians 5:22-23. In this view there is not an act this they perform, which is "not pleasing and acceptable in his sight Hebrews 13:16. 1 Peter 3:4. Philippians 1:11."

"He upholds them with his hand"—

Notwithstanding the grace given unto them, they are yet weak and frail, so that "still in many things they offend James 3:2;" and, if left to themselves, they would eternally perish. "There is not a just man on earth that lives and sins not Ecclesiastes 7:20." But in this the righteous differ from the wicked, that, notwithstanding they fall, yes, and "fall seven times, they rise again; while the wicked, in their falls, are left to perish Proverbs 24:16." The Lord Jesus Christ has engaged for them that "none shall ever pluck them out of his hands John 10:28-29." And this is fulfilled to every one of them, insomuch, that "of those whom the Father in his everlasting covenant gave unto his Son, not one ever was, or shall be, lost John 17:12." They all, in their respective generations, are "kept by the power of God through faith unto everlasting salvation 1 Peter 1:5."

These truths can never be abused, if we consider, on the other hand,

II. What return he looks for at their hands—

Doubtless it is God who alone can give men "either to will or to do that which is good Philippians 2:13;" but, as the Articles of our Church express it, "He works in us, that we may will; and then works with us, when we have that good will." Though all good proceeds from him, yet he expects a reciprocity on our part.

1. We must cheerfully obey his will—

We take no step by constraint. We are free agents in all that we do. True it is that God draws us; but he draws us, not as stocks and stones, but "with the cords of a man, and with the bands of love Hosea 11:4." If we would have our ways pleasing to God, we must seek to please him; and if we would have our "steps ordered and established by him," we must consult his revealed will, and commit ourselves to the guidance of his Holy Spirit. He has promised, that, in circumstances of difficulty, "we shall hear a word behind us, saying, This is the way; walk you in it: when we should otherwise be turning to the right hand or to the left Isaiah 30:21;" and this promise we must plead in prayer, until, by some way which God shall devise, we see, as it were, the pillar and the cloud going before us, and experience that direction which our necessities require.

2. We must simply depend on his care—

"It is not in man that walks to direct his steps." A little infant does not more need to be carried in its mother's arms than we need the continual support of God. But he promises that "his everlasting arms shall be underneath us Deuteronomy 33:27," and that we shall be "carried as lambs in the bosom of our Lord Isaiah 40:11." But in order to this, we must renounce all confidence in our own powers, and say, "In the Lord have I righteousness and strength Isaiah 45:24." If, like Peter, we depend on ourselves, we shall fall: but, if we cry habitually to him, "Hold you me up, and I shall be safe Psalm 119:117," we shall be strengthened with might by his Spirit in our inward man, and be enabled to "do all things through Christ strengthening us Philippians 4:13." The weaker we are in ourselves, the stronger we shall be in him 2 Corinthians 12:10; and, though we be "sifted by Satan" with his utmost efforts Luke 22:31, "not so much as the smallest grain shall ever fall upon the earth Amos. 9:9." For "it is not the will of our Father that one of his little ones should perish Matthew 18:14."

Address,

1. The self-confident and secure—

Where do you find in the Holy Scriptures any one of these promises made to you? Where has God engaged to "order your steps," or declared himself "delighted with your ways?" Or where has he assured you that your falls shall not be unto death? Not one word is there in all the inspired volume that can serve as a foundation of hope to you, while you are leaning to your own understanding, or depending on an arm of flesh. On the contrary, there is nothing but perdition denounced against you Jeremiah 17:5-6. Beloved Brethren, do but contrast with your condition the states of God's believing and obedient people; and you will see, that they alone are blessed, whose hearts are upright, and "whose God is the Lord."

2. The fearful and disconsolate—

Many, under a sense of their great infirmities, are ready to fear, that, notwithstanding all that God has spoken for their encouragement, they shall come short at last. But, if only you really desire to please and serve God, see how full and suitable are the promises of God to you: "Fear you not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you: yes, I will help you: yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness Isaiah 41:10." Are you weak? God says, "I will strengthen you." Are you apprehensive that nothing less than Omnipotence can administer sufficient aid? God adds, "I will help you." Are you still alarmed because there is something yet left for you to do? God adds, I will take the whole matter into my own hands, and "altogether uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness." "Be strong, then, in faith, giving glory to God;" and "you shall not be ashamed or confounded, world without end."

 

 

Psalms 37:31

 

DISCOURSE 566

THE SECURITY OF THE UPRIGHT SOUL

Psalm 37:31. The law of his God is in his heart: none of his steps shall slide.

THE blessedness of the righteous is a favorite subject with the sweet singer of Israel: several of his psalms are occupied with it throughout; and often in a way of immediate contrast with the state of the ungodly. As far as respects the outward appearance indeed, the advantage is often on the side of the wicked verse 1; but on a fuller view of their respective states, there will be found the most abundant cause to congratulate the saints even in their lowest condition, so infinitely superior is their lot to that of the most prosperous of ungodly men verse 16. The ungodly, walking after the imagination of their own hearts, have "their way dark and slippery," so that, sooner or later, they are sure to "fall" and "perish Psalm 35:6-8 with verse 13–15, 20;" but the "righteous," having their minds intent upon true wisdom, "are preserved, while the seed of the wicked are cut off verse 28, 30." "The law of God is in his heart: none of his steps shall slide."

From these words we shall be led to show,

I. The character of the righteous—

"The law of God is in his heart." It was not there by nature; for though it was originally inscribed on the heart of Adam in Paradise Genesis 1:27, and traces of it are yet to be found on the hearts even of the benighted heathen Romans 2:15, yet is it so far effaced from the heart of the natural man, that he neither does nor will yield any subjection to it Romans 8:7. But,

God has engraved it on his heart—

The express promise of God to all who embrace the new covenant is, "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts Jeremiah 31:33." And this promise he fulfills, through the all-powerful operation of his Holy Spirit upon their souls. As he caused Moses to come up to him on Mount Horeb with tables of stone, on which with his own finger he wrote the law, so he causes the believing penitent to come up to him with his heart of stone; and then, exchanging it for a heart of flesh, he inscribes upon it his law, even,, as the Apostle says, upon the fleshy tables of his heart Ezekiel 36:26-27 with 2 Corinthians 3:3. We are told respecting all the Lord's people, that they are "predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ Romans 8:29;" and in this their conformity to him pre-eminently appears: that, as He could say, "I delight to do your will, O my God. yes, your law is within my heart Psalm 40:8," and as he was typically represented by the ark in which the law was deposited Deuteronomy 10:2; Deuteronomy 10:5, so these have the law treasured up in their souls; and they delight in it, as their ever-faithful monitor, and infallible directory Psalm 1:2. From the time that it is deposited there, they regard it solely, constantly, and without reserve. Formerly the opinions of men, or the dictates of flesh and blood, formed their rule of action: now no inquiry is made, but, "What says the Lord?": Nor is it on great emergencies only that this inquiry is instituted, but at all times and on all occasions: Nor are consequences any longer regarded. If a furnace or den of lions be prepared as the recompense of fidelity, he says, "None of these things move me:" I shall "hearken unto none but God" himself.

This forms his distinguishing character—

Others have the law of God in their head, and not unfrequently in their mouth also: but he alone has it in his heart. There may be among the ungodly as comprehensive a knowledge of theology as of any other science, if taken in a mere speculative view: but this is widely different from a spiritual apprehension of God's law, and a conformity of mind and will to it: this pertains to him only who has it written on his heart by the Spirit of God: for so the prophet informs us: "Hearken unto me, you that know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law Isaiah 51:7." To know, in a speculative way, how a sinner is to be made righteous before God, will consist with the grossest impiety: but the having of God's law in the heart infallibly designates, and proves, us the people of the Lord. There is in this respect the same difference between the nominal and the real Christian as there was formerly between different adherents to the Mosaic law. "All were not Israel who were of Israel Romans 9:6." The proudest Pharisees would "bind the law of God upon their hands, and wear it as frontlets between their eyes:" but the godly alone fulfilled the true intent of that ordinance, by "laying up God's words in their heart and in their soul Deuteronomy 11:18." So now "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew who is one inwardly: and circumcision is that of the heart; in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of man, but of God Romans 2:28-29." In other words, he only is truly righteous, who can say with Paul, "I delight in the law of God after my inward man;" and amidst all the temptations of the flesh, "with my mind I serve the law of God Romans 7:22; Romans 7:25."

In connection with their character, we are led to contemplate,

II. Their security—

"None of their steps shall slide." Of this they may be assured: for a stability is, and shall be, given them, that shall preserve them amidst all temptations; a stability arising,

1. Partly, from the very character which they possess—

"The law of God being in their hearts," they will not unnecessarily venture themselves in slippery places. How many fall a prey to the tempter by presuming upon their strength, when, like Joseph, they should rather have fled from the scene of temptation! It is by going fearlessly to the utmost verge of what is lawful, that thousands perish 'Licitis perimus omnes' has long been a proverb in the Church. The inquiry of a truly pious soul will be, not, "Is this thing lawful?" but, "Is it expedient also?" and, if the place, or scene, or gratification be calculated, either in itself or in its circumstances, to ensnare his soul, he will keep at a distance from it: for, while he is praying daily to God, "Lead us not into temptation," he accounts it folly and impiety to rush unnecessarily into temptation of his own accord. This cautious deportment tends greatly to the preservation of the godly, and to "keep them from defiling their garments" in this polluted world Revelation 3:4.

Moreover, they are looking to this law to direct their steps. They "have hid it within their hearts, on purpose that they may not sin against God Psalm 119:11;" but to what purpose have they deposited it there, if they do not consult it? or "with which shall they cleanse their way, but by taking heed thereto according to God's word Psalm 119:9." Whatever then they are solicited to do, they bring it to this touchstone, and try it "by the law and the testimony." If they find not the precept clear, they hesitate: and, if they find not the footsteps of Christ and his Apostles, they pause. They know, that "whatever is not of faith is sin Romans 14:23;" and, until they can see their way clear, and be "thoroughly persuaded in their own mind," they will not proceed Romans 14:5; lest they lay a stumbling-block in the way of others, and bring guilt upon their own souls 1 Corinthians 8:11-13.

I may add further, that they will pray unto God to guide them. They know their privilege: they know that God has said, that, if they call upon him for direction, "they shall hear a word behind them," saying, "This is the way; walk you in it," when without such a direction "they would have turned to the right hand or to the left Isaiah 30:21." They therefore in every difficulty betake themselves to prayer; and experience the truth of that promise, "The meek he will guide in judgment; the meek he will teach his way Psalm 25:9."

2. Principally, from the care and fidelity of God—

God has promised that "he will keep the feet of his saints 1 Samuel 2:9," and that "none of their steps shall slide:" and this promise he does, and will, fulfill. He fulfills it to them in a variety of ways. He "takes them, as a mother does her little child, by their hand, and guides them in their way Hosea 11:3;" and, when they are weak, "he strengthens them with might in their inward man Ephesians 4:16. Colossians 1:11:" and, when they would otherwise fall, he upholds them with his own almighty arms; agreeably to that express promise which he has given them; "Fear you not; for I am with you: be not dismayed; for I am your God: I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness Isaiah 41:10." Thus is fulfilled that promise which is contained within a few verses of our text, "The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,: though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds him with his hand verse 23, 24." We may wonder whence it is that the people of God in all ages have been enabled to maintain their steadfastness in such trying circumstances: but the true reason is to be found in that inviolable engagement which God has entered into, that "they shall hold on their way, and that their hands shall wax stronger and stronger Job 17:9;" and this promise he has fulfilled to them, giving them "strength according to their day Deuteronomy 33:25," and enabling them "to do all things through his strength communicated to them Philippians 4:13."

Hence then we may see,

1. Whence it is that so many professors of religion dishonor their high and holy calling—

It is a melancholy fact, that many who profess godliness are a disgrace to their profession: And by their falls they bring the very truth of God into disrepute. But whence is it that their walk is so inconsistent? Is it from any want of power or fidelity in God to keep them? No: it arises from this; that they have taken up a profession upon false and insufficient grounds: they have got the law in their heads, and in their mouths, but have never truly received it into their hearts. None will show more zeal for the tenets they have embraced than they, or talk more fluently respecting them: but they have never been "cast into the mold of the Gospel." Their sentiments have been altered; but their hearts are unchanged; or, if changed at all, it is only in that they have adopted the spiritual lusts of pride and conceit, and false confidence, in the place of the carnal lusts of worldliness and impurity; or, it may be, they have added the former to the latter, affecting only the concealment of former evils, and not the utter extirpation of them. What then is to be expected from such persons, but that they will dishonor their profession? From such roots nothing can be hoped for, but bitter fruits. But let not the blame be cast upon religion. "They have a name to live, but they are dead." If ever they had received the law of God into their hearts, it would have produced its due effect upon their lives; and not upon the outward deportment only, but on every temper and disposition of their minds. Religion is, and must be, the same in all ages: if it transformed the saints of other days into the image of their God in righteousness and true holiness, it will do so still: and, if the conduct of any who profess it be unworthy of their high calling, let the blame attach where it ought, not on religion, but on those who make a hypocritical profession of it. Only let the law be in the heart, and we have no fear of the fruits that will appear in the life.

2. How inseparable is the union between duty and privilege—

The self-depending formalist who dreads the mention of privilege, and the Antinomian professor who hates the mention of duty, are equally remote from the truth of God. Depend on God we must; for it is He who must work all our works in us. And obey his law we must: for "without holiness no man shall see the Lord." Neither can supersede the other. To the Antinomian then I say, "Let the word of God abide in you; and let it dwell in you richly in all wisdom." And to the formalist I say, Look unto God to begin, and carry on, the whole work of grace in your hearts; for without Him you can do nothing. Let both of you know, that both confidence in God, and obedience to Him, are necessary: it is only by a reliance on Him that you can obtain strength for obedience; and it is only by obedience that you can prove the sincerity of your faith and love. But while to those who would lean to either extreme I would say, "What God has joined, let no man put asunder," I would most affectionately encourage the true Christian to expect all that God has promised. Your difficulties may be great, and your conflicts severe; but "your Redeemer is mighty;" and He who bought you with his blood, regards you as his purchased possession, and will suffer "none to pluck you out of his hands." He has promised to carry on and perfect his work in your hearts; and what he has promised, he is able also to perform. Only be careful to know and do his will; and He will bear you up in his everlasting arms, and "preserve you blameless to his heavenly kingdom."

 

 

Psalms 38:1-9

 

DISCOURSE 567

DAVID'S DISTRESS AND CONSOLATION

Psalm 38:1-9. O Lord, rebuke me not in your wrath, neither chasten me in your hot displeasure: for your arrows stick fast in me, and your hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of your anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head; as an heavy burden, they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt, because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are filled with a loathsome disease; and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble, and sore broken: I have roared by reason of the disquietness of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before you; and my groaning is not hid from you.

IT will be of great use to us through life to treasure up in our minds the dealings of God with us on some particular occasions. As his care over us in our difficulties may well call for "a stone of remembrance, which shall be called our Eben-ezer," so his merciful attention to us at the first commencement of our humiliation before him may well be written in indelible characters upon our hearts. The Prophet Jeremiah, looking back to some season of peculiar distress, records his experience in terms of lively gratitude Lamentations 3:1-4; Lamentations 3:12-13; Lamentations 3:17-21; and, in like manner, David opens to us all his views and feelings when he sought the Lord after a season of darkness and distress; and he tells us that this psalm was written by him "to bring to remembrance" the troubles he then endured, and the tender mercies of God towards him.

From the part we have just read, we shall be led to consider,

I. His distress—

This was exceeding great.—Let us notice,

1. The source and cause of it—

He traces it to sin as its proper cause verse 3, 4, 5; and sin is the true and only source of all trouble: Sin is an object of God's abhorrence; and wherever it exists unlamented and dominant, he will visit it according to its desert. In whoever it be found, whether he be a king on his throne, or a beggar on a dunghill, he will make no difference, except indeed to punish it in proportion to the light that has been resisted, and the aggravations with which it has been committed. Doubtless the sins of David were of most transcendent enormity, and therefore might well be visited with peculiar severity: but we must not imagine that his are the only crimes that deserve punishment: disobedience to God, whether against the first or second table of the Law, is hateful in his sight, and will surely subject us to his "hot displeasure".

2. The extent and depth of it—

His soul was overwhelmed with a sense of God's wrath. "God's arrows" pierced his inmost soul: and his hand was heavy upon him, and "pressed him sore." His iniquities, which, when they were yet only committed in desire and purpose, appeared light, now were an insupportable burden to his soul; insomuch that "he roared by reason of the disquietness of his heart." Here then we see what sinners may expect in this life. Truly such experience as this is little else than a foretaste of Hell itself.

But his body also was afflicted with a grievous disease, which had been sent of God as an additional mark of his righteous indignation verse 3, 5, 7. And no doubt, if we could certainly discover the reasons of the Divine procedure, we should often see diseases and death inflicted as the chastisement of sin 1 Corinthians 11:30. David viewed his disorders in this light: and those, without any additional load, were heavy to be borne; but, when added to the overwhelming troubles of his soul, they almost sunk him to despair. Let those who think lightly of sin, view this monarch in the state above described, and say, whether sin, however "sweet in the mouth, be not at lust the gall of asps within us Job 20:12-14;" yes, assuredly, it will sooner or later "bite like a serpent, and sting like an adder."

But in the midst of all this trouble, he makes mention of,

II. His consolation—

While deeply bemoaning his sin, he was assured that God was privy to all the workings of his soul, beholding his desires, and hearing all his groans. Now this was a great consolation to him, because he well knew,

1. That God, in the groanings of a penitent, recognizes the voice of his own eternal Spirit—

Groans are the natural expressions of inward pain and anguish; and when they arise from a sense of sin, they are indications of a penitent heart. But no pious disposition is found in man until it is planted there by the Holy Spirit. God is "the Author of every good and perfect gift," and must "give us to will, no less than to do" whatever is acceptable in his sight. As for groanings on account of sin, they are more especially said to be the fruits of the Spirit, who thus "helps our infirmities, and enables us to express those feelings which are too big for utterance Romans 8:26." To man such inarticulate sounds would convey no distinct idea; but God understands them perfectly, because "he knows the mind of the Spirit:" and he delights in them, because it is in this way that "the Spirit makes intercession for us," and because these very intercessions are "according to the will of God Romans 8:27."

What a consolatory thought is this to one that is overwhelmed with a sense of sin! "He knows not what to pray for as he ought;" and perhaps the load upon his spirit disables him for uttering what his unembarrassed judgment would dictate: but he recollects that God needs not any one to interpret to him our desires: he understands a sigh, a tear, a look, with infallible certainty: he sees all the self-loathing and self-abhorrence that is contained in such expressions of the penitent's feelings; and in answer to them, he will "do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think."

2. That to such expressions of penitence all the promises of God are made—

It is not to the fluent tongue, but to the contrite heart, that pardon and peace are promised. "To this man will I look," says God, "even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit," "to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones Isaiah 57:15; Isaiah 66:2." "He will fulfill, not the requests only, but the desire also, of them that fear him," and "of them that hope in his mercy." If only we look unto him we shall be lightened," yes, we shall be saved with an everlasting salvation Psalm 102:17; Psalm 102:19-20. Isaiah 45:17; Isaiah 45:22." The publican who dared not so much as lift up his eyes unto Heaven, but smote on his breast, and cried, God be merciful to me a sinner! went down to his house justified, when the self-applauding Pharisee was dismissed under the guilt of all his sins.

Now this is an unspeakable consolation to the weary and heavy-laden sinner. Had he to look for grounds of worthiness, or even for any considerable attainments, in himself, he would be discouraged; but finding that the invitations of God are made to him as wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, and that the promises are suited to him in that state, he comes to the Lord Jesus Christ, and finds rest and peace unto his soul.

From this view of the Psalmist's experience we see,

1. What an evil and bitter thing sin is—

"Fools will make a mock at sin," and represent it as a light and trivial thing: but let any one look at David in the midst of all the splendor of a court, and say, what sin is, which could so rob him of all earthly pleasure, and bring such torment upon his soul. Was that a light matter? If we will not be convinced by such a sight as this, we shall learn it by sad experience in the eternal world, where the worm that will prey upon our consciences shall never die, and the fire that shall torment our bodies shall never be quenched. O that we might be instructed, before it be too late!

2. What an enviable character is the true Christian, even when viewed under the greatest disadvantages—

We cannot conceive a Christian in circumstances less enviable than those of David in the passage before us: yet compare him with an ungodly or impenitent man under the most favorable circumstances that can be imagined, and ask, Whose views are most just?: Whose feelings most rational?: Whose prospects most happy?: With the one "God is angry every day;" on the other he looks with delight and delight: the joys of the one will soon terminate in inconceivable and everlasting misery; and the sorrows of the other in endless and unspeakable felicity Luke 16:19-26 and Isaiah 35:10. The sinner in the midst of all his ravelings has an inward witness of the truth of our Lord's assertion; "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."

3. Of what importance it is to attain just views of the character of God—

If God be viewed merely as a God of all mercy, we shall never repent us of our sins: and if he be viewed as an inexorable Judge, we shall be equally kept from penitence by despair. But let him be seen as he is in Christ Jesus, a "God reconciling the world unto himself, and not imputing their trespasses unto them," let him be acknowledged as "a just God and yet a Savior," and instantly will a holy fear spring up in the place of presumption, and hope dispel the baneful influence of despondency.

Know then, Beloved, that this is the very character of God as he is revealed in his Gospel: he is "just, and yet the justifier of them that believe in Jesus:" he is to the impenitent indeed "a consuming fire:" but, "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Let the groaning penitent then look up to him with cheerful hope; yes, with assured confidence, that God will not despise even the lowest expressions of penitential sorrow: however "bruised the reed may be, the Lord Jesus will not break it; nor will he quench the smoking flax," though there be in it but one spark of grace, and a whole cloud of corruption: never did he yet "despise the day of small things;" "nor will he ever cast out the least or meanest that come unto him." Only come to him in faith, and "according to your faith it shall be done unto you."

 

 

Psalms 39:4-5

 

DISCOURSE 568

THE SHORTNESS OF HUMAN LIFE

Psalm 39:4-5. Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am. Behold, you have made my days as an hand-breadth; and mine age is as nothing before you! truly every man at his best state is altogether vanity.

THERE is nothing more painful to a pious mind than to see how generally religion is neglected and despised. A godly man delights to speak of the things which are nearest to his heart: but he is often constrained to be silent, lest he should only induce the persons whose welfare he would promote, to blaspheme God, and to increase thereby their own guilt and condemnation. Gladly would he benefit all around him: but in many cases he perceives, that the very attempt to do so would be to "cast pearls before swine." In tenderness to them therefore, as well as from a regard to his own feelings, he imposes a restraint upon himself in their presence, and "refrains even from good words," though it is a pain and a grief to him to do so. Such was David's situation when he penned this psalm. He was grieved to think that rational and immortal beings, standing on the very verge of eternity, should act so irrational a part: and not finding vent for his feelings among men, he poured them out before God in the words which we have just read; and entreated, that, however careless others were about the concerns of eternity, he might be more deeply and abidingly impressed with them.

Wishing that your minds may be suitably affected with this all-important subject, I will set before you,

I. David's estimate of man's present state—

He acknowledges that he himself could form but a very inadequate notion respecting it—

Speculatively indeed he knew well enough, that man's days are but few at all events, and quite uncertain as to their continuance: but the deep, and practical, and influential sense of it he had not in any degree equal to its importance; nor could he impress it on his own soul, without the powerful assistance of God's Holy Spirit. Hence he poured forth this earnest petition to his God, "Lord, make me to know my end! make me to know how frail I am!"

It is thus with us also. Speculatively, the most ignorant among us has as perfect a knowledge of the subject as the most learned: but, practically, no one knows it, unless he have been taught of God: and even those who have "heard and learned it of the Father," need to be taught it more deeply from day to day.

That children do not reflect upon it, we do not wonder, because of the vanity of their minds, and their almost entire want of serious consideration. But when persons are grown to maturity, we might well expect them to feel so obvious a truth. They see that multitudes are cut off at their age; and they know that with the termination of the present life all opportunities of preparing for eternity must cease: yet they not only do not lay these considerations to heart, but they will not hear of them, or endure to have them presented to their view. Nor are those who are more advanced in life at all more thoughtful on this subject. Engaged in worldly business, and occupied in providing for their families, they put the thoughts of eternity as far from them as they did amidst the more pleasurable pursuits of youth. And even when they attain to old age, they are as far from realizing the expectations of death and judgment as ever. They know, in a speculative way, that they are nearer to the grave than they were in early life, and that they may at no distant period expect a change. But still these views are no more influential on their minds than they were at any former period of their lives. A condemned criminal, who has but a few days to live, feels that every hour brings him nearer to the time appointed for his execution: but not so the man who is bowed down with years: the very habit of living puts at an indefinite distance the hour of death; and days and months pass on without ever bringing at all nearer to his apprehensions the time of his dissolution. Even the sick labor under the same mental blindness. They attend to the fluctuations of their disorder; and one single symptom of convalescence does more to remove the expectation of death from them, than many proofs of augmented debility do to bring it home to their feelings with suitable apprehensions: they are still buoyed up with hopes from the skill of their medical attendant, when all around them see that they are sinking fast into the grave. Whatever be a man's age or state, it is God, and God alone, that can "make him thoroughly to know and feel how frail he is."

Nevertheless the view here given us is truly just—

The life of man is so short, as to be really "nothing before God." The comparison of it to "an hand-breadth" is peculiarly deserving of our attention; because by that image every man has, placed as it were before his eyes, "the measure of his days:" he cannot look upon his hand without calling to mind how frail he is, and how soon his present state of existence must come to an end. Let him divide his life into the periods of youth, manhood, and old age; and let him in his own apprehension divide his measure also; and it will bring to his imagination, in a very forcible way, the truth which he is so backward to contemplate. A great variety of other images are used in Scripture to convey this truth: life is compared to a shuttle which flies quickly through the loom Job 7:6-7; to a ship, which soon passes away, and leaves no trace behind it: to an eagle, which, with the rapidity of lightning, hastens to its prey Job 9:25-26; but the image in our text is more striking than them all; because, while it is peculiarly simple, it is also practical, embodied, portable. Not that any image is sufficient to paint the shortness and uncertainty of life in its true colors; for "before God, with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day 2 Peter 3:8," it is absolutely "as nothing."

As far as words can describe the state of man, truly the Psalmist has done it in our text. "Man is vanity;" not only vain, but vanity itself. "Every man" is so: not only the poor and ignorant, but the rich and learned: as it is said, "Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity Psalm 62:8." And this they are "in their best state;" even in the vigor of youth, and in the midst of all the pleasures and honors that their hearts can wish. And they are so "altogether," both in mind and body; for their body is "crushed before the moth;" and in respect of mind, they are, as far as spiritual things are concerned, "like the wild ass's colt." This description may appear exaggerated: but it is true: yes, "truly," things are so, whether we will believe it or not: and if any deny it, our answer is, "Let God be true; but every man a liar."

Such being the real state of man, I will endeavor to show you,

II. The vast importance of being duly impressed with it—

It was the want of this knowledge that made the adversaries of David so proud and contemptuous: and it was from a conviction of these truths that David was led so deeply to bewail their infatuation. A due consideration of the shortness and uncertainty of life would be of infinite service,

1. To diminish our anxieties about the things of time—

We should think but little of our pleasures, or riches, or honors, if we considered how short a time they would continue, and that they may all vanish, together with life itself, the very next hour. Examples in abundance there are, in every age and place, to show the extreme vanity of all that the world calls good and great. It is not in the Bible only that we see those who promised themselves years wherein to enjoy their newly-acquired wealth, cut short, and called in an instant to their great account: we see it continually before our eyes: the messenger of death is sent to many, who think of their end as little as any of us can do; and the sentence, "You fool, this night shall your soul be required of you," is executed without any previous notice or expectation. If it be thought that still, if not in their own persons, yet in their heirs, they enjoy the things for which they have labored; I answer, that they are often deprived of those very heirs, on whose aggrandizement they had set their hearts; and are constrained to leave their wealth to others who are comparatively strangers to them. Moreover, supposing their destined heir to succeed to their wealth, they little know what effect it may have upon him, and whether he may not dissipate it all in a tenth part of the time that it took them to amass it. Solomon mentions this as a very great drawback upon human happiness: "I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun; because I should leave it to the man that shall be after me; and who knows whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? yet shall he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have shown myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity Ecclesiastes 2:18-19." It is probable that Solomon saw how weak his son Rehoboam was: and certainly, of all the instances that ever occurred of the vanity of human grandeur, this is the greatest: for Solomon's head was scarcely laid in the grave, before ten of the tribes out of the twelve revolted from his son, and, instead of being his subjects, became his rivals and enemies 1 Kings 12:16; 1 Kings 12:19; and in the space of fire years afterwards, all the treasures, with which Solomon had enriched both his own house and the temple of the Lord, were taken away by an invading enemy; and brazen shields were made by his son to replace the golden shields with which the temple had been adorned 1 Kings 14:25-27. How strongly does this illustrate those words of David which immediately follow my text! "Surely every man walks in a vain show: surely they are disquieted in vain: he heaps up riches, and cannot tell who shall gather them." Assuredly, all our feelings, whether of hope or fear, whether of joy or sorrow, whether for ourselves or others, would be moderated, if only the thought of the transitoriness and uncertainty of human affairs were once duly impressed upon our minds: "those who have wives, would be as though they had none; those who weep, as though they wept not; and those who rejoice, as though they rejoiced not; those who buy, as though they bought not: and those who use this world, as not abusing it:" the one thought, I say, how "transient everything in this world is," would produce in us, if not an indifference to the concerns of time, yet at least a moderation in our regard for them 1 Corinthians 7:29-31.

2. To augment our diligence in preparing for eternity—

Who that considered the uncertainty of life, would defer the concerns of his soul, which are of more importance than ten thousand worlds! It were rather to be expected that such an one would give neither sleep to his eyes nor slumber to his eyelids, until he should have secured, beyond a possibility of doubt, the favor of his God. One would think that every hour spent in any other pursuit should be grudged by him; and that, whatever efforts were made to divert his attention to any other subject, he should say with Nehemiah, "I am doing a great work, and cannot come down Nehemiah 6:3." With what care, under such impressions, would a person read the word of God! With what humility would he attend divine ordinances! With what strong crying and tears would he present his supplications at the throne of grace! How, in all that he did, would he resemble those who contended in the Olympic games, running, wrestling, fighting as for their very life! The man with the avenger of blood close at his heels would not exert himself more to reach the city of refuge, than such a one would in "fleeing from the wrath to come." It is only those who promise themselves days and months to come, that can sleep at their post, and dream of more convenient seasons, which may never arrive James 4:13-14.

In this view then I cannot too earnestly entreat you to offer, each of you for yourselves, the prayer of David, "Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am!": And I beseech you to get his estimate of human life so graven on your hearts, that you may walk under the influence of it to the latest hour of your lives. In a word, My heart's desire and prayer to God for every one of you is, that you may be so "wise as to redeem your time," and be so taught to number your days as to apply your hearts unto wisdom Psalm 90:12."

 

 

Psalms 40:1-3

 

DISCOURSE 569

DAVID'S SUCCESS IN PRAYER AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO US

Psalm 40:1-3. I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he has put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God. Many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord.

THIS psalm undoubtedly refers to Christ, being expressly applied to him by an inspired Apostle; and so applied, as to have the whole weight of the Apostle's argument depending on the truth and propriety of his citation Hebrews 10:4-9. Yet it certainly refers to David also, who, in some parts of it, speaks in his own person, and, in others, in the person of the Messiah. It is in this way that the prophetic writings generally speak: there will be found in them a primary or historical sense, and a secondary or mystical sense; the two senses being sometimes more blended, and sometimes more distinct. Here, as in several other psalms, some parts of the psalm are more applicable to David, and others to the Messiah. To David, we conceive, the words which we have just read more immediately belong: and, as spoken by him in his own name, they will lead me to set before you,

I. His conduct in a season of deep distress—

What the particular distress was, we are not informed. Sometimes the language which he here uses has respect to sufferings under persecution. Thus in the 69th Psalm he says, "I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink: let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters Psalm 69:1-2; Psalm 69:14." Again, in the 142d Psalm; "Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I: bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise your name Psalm 142:6-7." But in the psalm before us, he speaks more particularly as under the pressure of sin: "Innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up: they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart fails me verse 12." On this account I understand his distress to have arisen chiefly on account of sin, under a sense of which,

1. He "waited patiently upon the Lord"—

He betook himself to prayer. And where should a weary and heavy-laden sinner go, but unto his God; or how should he approach his God, but in a way of humble, fervent, and continual supplication? In what manner he prayed, he tells us in another psalm: "Out of the depths have I cried unto you, O Lord: Lord, hear my voice; let your ear be attentive to the voice of my supplication! If you, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared. I wait for the Lord; my soul does wait; and in his word do I hope Psalm 130:1-5. See also Psalm 38:1-6." He was not like those who "pour out a prayer only when God's chastening is upon them:" he would call upon his God day and night; and never cease to wrestle with him, until he had prevailed Genesis 32:26. Hosea 12:3-4.

2. He "waited patiently for the Lord"—

He well knew how often he had turned a deaf ear to the voice of God; and therefore, how justly God might turn a deaf ear to him. Yet he hoped in the multitude of God's tender mercies. He came not pleading any merits of his own, nor trusting in any outward services whatever: he knew that God required not the sacrifice of bulls and of goats to expiate sin, but faith in that better sacrifice which should in due time be offered for the sins of the whole world; and he came pleading the merit of that sacrifice, and trusting that through it he should ultimately find acceptance verse 6–11. However long therefore God should withhold an answer of peace, he would wait, and patiently too, without murmuring; satisfied, if, after ever so many years of continued supplication, God should at last say to him, "Fear not; your sins, which are many, are forgiven you."

The wisdom of this conduct may be seen in,

II. The benefit he derived from it—

God "inclined his ear to him, and heard his cry;" and, in answer to his supplications, given to him,

1. Liberty—

The image under which David depicts his unpardoned state is very beautiful and just. He was as one in "an horrible pit, and sunk in miry clay." Say, you who know what it is to be shut up, as it were, under a sense of guilt, and an apprehension of God's wrath, whether any words can adequately describe the darkness, the misery, and the bondage of a soul so circumstanced? The state of Jeremiah, when cast into a dungeon, and sunk in the mire, and ready to perish with hunger Jeremiah 38:6; Jeremiah 38:9-10, was distressing to flesh and blood: but what was that to a sinner shut up in hourly expectation of the wrath of an offended God? Oh! it is inexpressibly tremendous: no tongue can tell how a soul trembles, and sinks, and faints under such appalling apprehensions, as are called by the Apostle, "a certain fearful looking-for of judgment and fiery indignation to consume it": But from this state David was delivered by means of fervent and persevering prayer. Who will say that he was not well repaid for waiting, for waiting patiently upon the Lord, and for the Lord? Had his supplications been unintermitted for ten thousand years, they would have been well compensated by such an answer as this at last. And, if a promise of such an answer after such a period were given to any one that is now gone beyond redemption, we may well conceive with what ardor he would commence, and prosecute his labor through the appointed time: the very hope of deliverance at last would more than half annihilate the anguish with which despair has already overwhelmed his soul.

2. Holiness—

When God, by a sense of pardoning love, "brought David up out of an horrible pit, and out of the miry clay," he at the same time "set his feet upon a rock, and established his goings." What that rock was, we are at no loss to determine: it was no other than "the Rock of Ages," the Lord Jesus Christ, who is "a sure foundation" to all who stand upon him Isaiah 28:15, and who will impart of his own stability to all who put their trust in him. "On this Rock the whole Church is built; nor shall the gates of Hell prevail against it Matthew 16:18." It is not pardon only that we obtain by union with the Lord Jesus Christ, but strength also, to walk steadfastly in the ways of God. Separate from him, we can do nothing John 15:5; united to him by faith, we can do all things Philippians 4:13; and so established shall our hearts be by his grace, that we may defy all the powers of darkness, and already, by anticipation, enjoy our final triumph Zechariah 4:7. Isaiah 41:14-16. Romans 8:35-39." What a fruit then was here of persevering prayer! Yet so shall all who wait patiently upon their God be favored: they shall be "turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God."

3. Joy—

"A new song was now put into the mouth of David, even praise unto his God." And praise is indeed a "new" song to one who is but just brought to peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: the unconverted man knows it not: he has not a heart attuned to it. He may feel somewhat of gratitude for temporal mercies; but for the communication of spiritual blessings he cannot render any cordial thanks, because he never has received them, nor ever felt his need of them. Jeremiah might be sensible of his obligations to Ebed-melech for deliverance from the dungeon, because he had a deep consciousness of the peril and misery from which he had been rescued: but without that consciousness all professions of gratitude for such a deliverance would have been absurd. And so, until we are sensible what a horrible pit we have been taken out of, we can never have our mouth filled with praises and thanksgivings to our redeeming God. But this ardent love to God and holy delight in him invariably spring out of a manifestation of God's mercy to the soul. David would praise his God every day, and all the day long: and it should seem that the greatness and the multitude of the deliverances given to him, disposed him, beyond all other of the sons of men, to pour out his soul in acclamations and hosannahs to his God.

What then is,

III. The improvement we should make of his experience—

St. Paul tells us, that the mercy given to him was intended by God for the instruction and encouragement of others; for their instruction—that they might know how great was the long-suffering of God; and for their encouragement—that they, from so glorious an example of mercy, might learn to expect the same. Thus David, speaking of this experience of his, says, "Many shall see it, and fear, and shall put their trust in the Lord." From his experience then we may learn,

1. To use the same means—

We are not to say, David found mercy of the Lord, therefore I may expect the same at all events; but, therefore I may expect the same in a diligent use of the same means. David feared; and therefore I must "fear:" I must fear the displeasure of my God: I must fear lest I be left in the horrible pit, and sink forever in the mire of unforgiven sin. My fear also must be operative, stirring me up to earnest prayer, and stimulating me to "flee for refuge to the hope that is set before me." The use we are apt to make of any extraordinary displays of mercy, and which many make of the mercy given to the penitent thief upon the cross, is to say within ourselves, God is too merciful to punish men in the eternal world: if I in a dying hour do but ask forgiveness, I also shall obtain mercy: and therefore I will not trouble myself about turning unto God, until I find, or think I find, that death is coming upon me. But let not any of us be guilty of so perverting the mercies of our God: let us "not so despise his goodness and patience and long-suffering; but let his goodness lead us to repentance." Let us say, David found deliverance by waiting patiently. I then will wait patiently also. But it was with strong crying and tears that David sought for mercy: and in that way I will seek it also. It was in these holy exercises too that he was so constant: and in them also will I be constant, and persevere unto the end, assured, that it is only by patient continuance in well-doing I can ever hope to obtain the desired benefits.

2. To expect the same end—

We should never imagine ourselves to be in so low a state, but that God is able to deliver us from it. If, like Jonah, we were, as to our own apprehensions, "in the belly of Hell," yet from thence we should cry to him, assured that he would hear our voice, and "bring up our souls from the pit of corruption Jon. 2:2; Jon. 2:6." The state of David was as desperate as it could well be; yet from thence was he rescued, to his unutterable joy. Hezekiah also seems to have been in a similar state, and to have experienced a similar deliverance: "Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but you have in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption; for you have cast all my sins behind your back Isaiah 38:17." Thus shall it be with all who will seek God in sincerity and truth, especially when, like David, they seek him through the sacrifice and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Their feet shall then be extricated from the mire, and set upon the Rock, where "their feet shall not slide," and from whence "they shall never be moved." And though their lives hitherto may have been spent in sighing and mourning, yet shall there be given to them "the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." In a word, let them only pray in faith; and however "wide they open their mouth, it shall be filled Psalm 81:10."

 

 

Psalms 40:9-10

 

DISCOURSE 570

CHRIST A PREACHER OF RIGHTEOUSNESS

Psalm 40:9-10. I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: Lo, I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, you know. I have not hid your righteousness within my heart: I have declared your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your loving-kindness and your truth from the great congregation.

SOME of the most important prophecies are introduced in such a way as clearly to show, that the writers of them were overruled, as it were, by a divine impulse, to speak things which they themselves did not understand. This was certainly the case with Caiaphas, who, being the High Priest, was moved by God to utter words, of the true import of which he had not the slightest conception John 11:49-52. I think it highly probable, also, that David in this psalm had no just comprehension of the prophecy before us The beginning of the psalm and the end of it seem to belong to David only: but here is a passage which can have no reference to him, and can be interpreted of Christ alone. To him it is applied in the Epistle to the Hebrews; the writer of which, showing the utter inefficacy of the legal sacrifices to take away sin, refers to this psalm in confirmation of his statement; and argues from it, that God in this very passage had declared his determination to "remove" the shadowy institutions of the law, and to "establish" that which was revealed in the Gospel, even "that one offering of Christ Jesus, whereby the whole world may be sanctified and saved Hebrews 10:4-10."

The words of my text stand in immediate connection with those cited by the Apostle: and they declare what Christ should do in his prophetic office: that as, in the capacity of our great High Priest, he should offer himself a sacrifice for our sins, so, in the capacity of a Prophet to his Church, he should "preach righteousness and salvation" to the whole world.

In this view of the passage, I shall be led to consider it as fulfilled,

I. In the ministry of Christ himself—

Our blessed Lord did not, indeed, open the truths of the Gospel so fully as his Apostles did after his resurrection: for, until after his death and resurrection, the people were not prepared to receive a full Communication of all which he was commissioned to reveal. He told his hearers, that "he had many things to say unto them; but that they could not bear them then John 16:12." Yet did he so far unfold the mystery of godliness to his hearers, that all future revelations of it should evidently appear to be only a continuation and enlargement of the same divine testimony.

1. He traced salvation to its source, the love of God the Father John 3:16.

2. He referred to his own sufferings as the means whereby it was to be accomplished Matthew 20:28; Matthew 26:26-28.

3. He displayed it in all its glorious effects, the glory of God, and the salvation of man John 12:28; John 12:32. He opened it fully, under the images of the bread of life, John 6:35; John 6:47-51; John 4:13-14. as also under other images, John 11:25-26; John 14:6.

Nor could any consideration whatever induce him to conceal within his own bosom any one truth which he was commissioned to declare.

He could appeal to the heart-searching God, "I have not refrained my lips, O Lord, you know." In every part of his ministry "he witnessed a good confession 1 Timothy 6:13;" and, at the close of it, gave the most explicit directions relative to the truths that should be proclaimed by all the ministers of his word Luke 24:46-47.

This passage is fulfilled yet further,

II. In the ministry of all his faithful servants—

St. Peter unfolded this great salvation both to Jews Acts 2:36; Acts 3:16; Acts 3:19; Acts 4:10-12; Acts 5:30-31; Acts 13:38-39. and Gentiles Acts 10:43; Paul determined to know nothing among his people, "save Jesus Christ and him crucified 1 Corinthians 2:2."

And we also can appeal to God that we, according to our ability, have followed his steps, "not shunning to declare unto you all the counsel of God Acts 20:27. Here the different expressions of the text may be dwelt upon to advantage.

Let me then inquire,

1. What know you of this subject?

It is surprising how ignorant of this great salvation many are, even after it has been preached to them faithfully for many years. But the truth is, men do not meditate on what they hear, or pray to God to impress it on their minds by his Holy Spirit: and hence, the word, like seed sown by the way-side, is taken away from their hearts, and either never springs up at all, or springs only to wither immediately for want of either root or moisture. But, my dear Brethren, you must give account to God of all that you hear, as I also must of all that I preach: and I pray God, that I may so speak, and you hear, that we may "give up our account together, with joy, and not with grief".

2. What effect has it produced upon you?

The use of the Gospel is to bring us unto Christ, and to assimilate us to his divine image. If, then, we receive it aright, we shall be able to say with Christ, "I delight to do your will, O my God; yes, your Law is within my heart verse 8." And, as Christ hid not God's righteousness within his heart, but proclaimed it boldly "to the great congregation," so must you, Brethren, before the whole world be ready to confess Christ, and to follow him faithfully, even unto death. You must not only "cleave to him with full purpose of heart Acts 11:23," but must "glory in his cross, and by means of it be crucified unto the world, and have the world crucified unto you Galatians 6:14." Let me then ask, Is it thus with your souls? Oh, "let there be in you the mind that was in Christ Jesus Philippians 2:5." So shall you partake with him in all the glory and felicity which the Father has conferred upon him Philippians 2:9, and which he also is empowered to bestow on all his faithful followers Luke 22:29. Revelation 3:21.

 

 

Psalms 40:17

 

DISCOURSE 571

CONSOLATION TO THE DISTRESSED

Psalm 40:17. I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinks upon me.

THAT part of the Holy Scriptures which most fully opens the exercises of the heart is the book of Psalms. There we see a man of God unbosoming himself before his Maker, and declaring all his hopes and fears, his griefs and consolations. Sometimes he speaks in the person of the Messiah, and sometimes in his own person: sometimes his words are applicable both to the one and the other. These varieties often appear in the very same psalm; some parts of which exclusively relate to the type, or to the antitype; and other parts are common to both. It is thus in the psalm before us. That it refers to the Messiah, there can be no doubt; because it is applied to him by God himself Compare verse 6–8 with Hebrews 10:5-7. Yet there are in it some expressions, which should rather be explained in reference to David only. The twelfth verse in particular must be understood in this way: and the circumstance of all the following verses being repeated in another place, and formed into a distinct psalm by themselves Psalms 70, is a strong reason for referring them also to him principally, or perhaps to him alone. In the words of our text we notice,

I. His complaint—

David on some occasions was reduced to great straits and difficulties with respect to his temporal concerns: but he was also much tried in his spirit: and the complaint before us seems to have arisen from,

1. A sense of his guilt—

In verse 12, he speaks of "his iniquities having taken such hold upon him, that he was not able to look up; that they were more than the hairs of his head, so that his heart failed him." It is very probable that he alluded in some measure to those dreadful enormities which he had committed in the matter of Uriah. But he would not consider those actions merely as insulated and detached, but rather as indications of the extreme depravity of his heart In this light he speaks of them in Psalm 51:5; and in reference to that he might well say of himself, "I am poor and needy." Indeed, who that knows anything of the spirituality of God's law, or of his own immediate departures from it, can use any other language than that in the text? Was Adam poor when despoiled of the Divine image through the commission of one sin; and are not we, whose iniquities are more in number than the hairs of our head? Was he needy, when banished from Paradise, and doomed to eternal death; and are not we, who from our very birth have been "treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath?" Though God has forgiven us, it does not become us to forget what we are in ourselves, but to go softly before him all our days, repenting in dust and ashes.

2. A sense of his weakness—

David had other enemies than those who opposed his regal authority. He complains in another psalm, "Iniquities prevail against me Psalm 65:3;" and he found it exceeding difficult to subdue them. On this account also he used the expressions in the text. He felt himself poor and needy in reference to everything that he accounted good. He lamented especially his want of wisdom, and strength, and righteousness. Hence he cried, "Open you my eyes;" "O give me understanding in the way of godliness!" "Hold you me up!" "hold up my goings in your ways, that my footsteps slip not!" "Enter not into judgment with your servant, O Lord! for in your sight shall no man living be justified." Similar to this is the experience of all the saints. All are insufficient of themselves for anything that is good: and the man who was stripped, and wounded, and left half dead Luke 10:30, was but a faint emblem of the man who, feeling in himself innumerable corruptions, is unable to mortify so much as one of them, except as he is aided from above, and strengthened by communications of the Spirit of grace. Paul himself lamented his state in reference to this; yes, he even surpassed the Psalmist in his humiliating confessions and mournful complaints Romans 7:24.

But in the midst of all this, we view with pleasure,

II. His consolation—

He considered that God's thoughts were exercised upon him—

God is not an inattentive observer of any of his creatures: but "his eyes are more especially upon the righteous Psalm 33:18-19; Psalm 34:15." As "his eyes were upon the promised land from one end of the year even to the other Job 36:7. Deuteronomy 11:12," so are they upon his own people in every place and in every age. He says, "I know the thoughts that I think towards you, thoughts of good and not of evil, to give you an expected end Jeremiah 29:11." He thinks of his people with tender compassion—with anxious care—with joyful delight. How tenderly did he listen to the effusions of Ephraim's sorrow Jeremiah 31:18-20 and Hosea 14:8. With what anxiety does he sit, as a refiner, to watch the vessel which he is purifying in the furnace, lest it should by any means suffer injury by the process that was intended only for its good Malachi 3:3. With what exultation too does he say, "To this man will I look, even unto him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit;" as though not all the angels in Heaven could engage his attention in companion of such a sight! David was sensible, that in the midst of all his spiritual distress he was not forgotten of his God; but that he was, notwithstanding all his unworthiness, an object of his paternal care He knew it from both his past and present experience, Psalm 31:7 with verse 5.

What comfort must such a consideration afford him!

Surely greater consolation could scarcely be conceived than that which would arise from this source. What must it be to have unsearchable wisdom contriving for his good!: almighty power ready to execute whatever Divine wisdom should judge expedient!: unbounded mercy pleading, that his sins and frailties may not provoke God to withdraw his loving-kindness from him!: and, lastly, unchanging faithfulness demanding on his behalf the accomplishment of all the promises!: The consideration of these things must of necessity check every desponding fear and constrain him to exclaim, "Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope you in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God Psalm 42:11." And every one who can realize this one consideration, has within himself an antidote for every fear, and a balm for every wound.

ADDRESS—

1. Those who know little of David's experience—

The generality of those who are called Christians would be ready to despise any one who should express himself like the inspired Psalmist. They would suppose that he was under the influence of a weak deluded mind. But let them not congratulate themselves on their imagined superiority; for they only betray their own ignorance Revelation 3:17 with Mic. 4:12. Let them rather seek to know themselves, that, being made sensible of their destitute condition, they may be made rich in Christ Jesus 1 Corinthians 1:30.

2. Those whose feelings are like his—

While you are complaining of your poverty, God is saying, "But you are rich Revelation 2:9." The truth is, that the more we are sensible of our guilt and helplessness, the more ready God is to help and deliver us: "The hungry he fills with good things; but the rich he sends empty away." Indeed he paints the most destitute condition that can be imagined, on purpose that he may administer consolation to us under it Isaiah 41:17-18. If any then be cast down as though there were no hope, let them plead with him as David did Psalm 142:1-7; and they shall soon find, by happy experience, that "God's thoughts and ways as far exceed ours, as the heavens are above the earth See Psalm 72:12-13. which may be illustrated by Jon. 1:6; Jon. 1:15; Jon. 2:1-10." If this were a subject for a Charity Sermon, the Application should be altered, and another substituted, recommending the audience to imitate God by thinking of the distresses of their fellow-creatures.

 

 

Psalms 42:1-2

 

DISCOURSE 572

DAVID'S DESIRE AFTER GOD

Psalm 42:1-2. As the deer pants after the water-brooks, so pants my soul after you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?

GREAT are the vicissitudes of the Christian life: sometimes the soul basks, if we may so speak, in the full splendor of the Sun of Righteousness; and at other times it feels not in any degree the cheering influence of his rays. And these variations are sometimes of shorter duration, like successive days; and at other times of longer continuance, like the seasons of the year. In David these changes were carried almost to the utmost extremes of elevation and depression, of confidence and despondency, of exultation and grief. At the time of writing this psalm he was driven from his throne by Absalom, and con strained to flee for his life beyond Jordan. There exiled from the city and temple of his God, he stated, for the edification of the Church in all future ages, how ardently he longed for the renewed enjoyment of those ordinances, which were the delight and solace of his life. In these things he may be considered as a pattern for us: we shall therefore endeavor distinctly to mark,

I. The frame of his mind towards God—

This is described in terms peculiarly energetic "he thirsted after God; yes, he panted after him, as the deer pants after the water-brooks." We cannot conceive any image that could mark more strongly the intenseness of his desire, than that which is here used. A deer or deer, when fleeing from its pursuers, has naturally its mouth parched through fear and terror: but when, by its own exertions in the flight, its very blood almost boils within it, the thirst is altogether insupportable, and the creature pants, or brays, (as the expression is,) for some brook, where it may refresh its sinking frame, and acquire strength for further exertions. Such was David's thirst after God, the living God.

His circumstances, it is true, were peculiar—

Jerusalem was the place where God had appointed the ordinances of his worship: and David, being driven from thence, was precluded from a possibility of presenting to the Lord his accustomed offerings. This was a great distress to his soul: for though God was accessible to him in prayer, he could not hope for that measure of acceptance which he had reason to expect in an exact observance of the Mosaic ritual; nor could he hope that such manifestations would be given to his soul, as he might have enjoyed, if he had approached God in the way prescribed by the law. Hence all his ardor might well be accounted for, since by the dispensation under which he lived, his way to the Deity was obstructed, and the communications of the Deity to him were intercepted.

We acknowledge that these peculiar circumstances account for the frame of David's mind at that time.

Nevertheless, his frame is as proper for us as it was for him—

Though the observance of certain rites and ceremonies is no longer necessary, and God may be approached with equal ease from any spot upon the globe, yet it is no easy matter to come into his presence, and to behold the light of his countenance lifted up upon us. To bow the knees before him, and to address him in a form of words, is a service which we may render without any difficulty; but to draw near to the very throne of God, to open our mouths wide, and to have our hearts enlarged in prayer, to plead with God, to wrestle with him, to obtain answers of prayer from him, and to maintain sweet fellowship with him from day to day, this, I say, is of very difficult attainment: to do it indeed is our duty, and to enjoy it is our privilege; but there are few who can reach these heights, or, having reached them, prolong to any great extent the heavenly vision. Hence we all have occasion to lament seasons of comparative darkness and declension; and to pant with insatiable avidity after the renewed enjoyment of an absent God.

Let us then contemplate,

II. The evidences of this frame, wherever it exists—

Such a frame of mind must of necessity be attended with correspondent efforts to attain its object. There will be in us,

1. A diligent attendance on all the means of grace—

Where shall we look for God, but in his holy word, where he reveals to us all his majesty and his glory? That word then we shall read with care, and meditate upon it day and night, and listen to the voice of God speaking to us in it: We shall also pray over it, converting every command into a petition, and every promise into an urgent plea: The public ordinances of religion we shall highly prize, because in them more especially we honor God, and have reason to expect more abundant manifestations of his love to our souls: At the table of the Lord too we shall be found frequent guests, not only because we are required by gratitude to remember the love of Christ in dying for us, but because the Lord Jesus still, as formerly, delights to "make himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread." If we do really pant after God, I say again, we cannot but seek after him in the way of his ordinances.

2. An acquiescence in everything that may bring him nearer to us—

God is pleased oftentimes to afflict his people, in order to wean them from the love of this present world, and to quicken their souls to more diligent inquiries after him. Now "affliction is not in itself joyous, but grievous:" nevertheless, when viewed in connection with the end for which it is sent, it is welcomed even with joy and gratitude by all who are intent on the enjoyment of their God. In this view Paul "took pleasure in infirmities and distresses" of every kind, because they brought him to God, and God to him; him, in a way of fervent prayer; and God, in a way of rich and abundant communication 2 Corinthians 12:10. In this view, every saint that has ever experienced tribulation in the ways of God is ready to say, that "it is good for him that he has been afflicted," and that, if only God's presence may be more abidingly manifested to his soul, he is ready to suffer the loss of all things, and to count them but dross and dung.

3. A dread of everything that may cause him to hide his face from us—

We know that there is, in every generous heart, a dread of anything that may wound the feelings of those we love: how much more then will this exist in those who love God, and are panting after the enjoyment of him! Shall we, under such a frame of mind, go and do "the abominable thing which his soul hates?" shall we by any willful misconduct "grieve the Holy Spirit of promise, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption?" No: when tempted to evil, we shall reject it with abhorrence, and say, "How shall I do this wickedness, and sin against God?" We shall "put away every accursed thing that may trouble our camp:" we shall not only turn from open and flagrant iniquity, but shall "abstain from the very appearance of evil." We shall search for sin in the heart, as the Jews searched for leaven in their houses, in order that we may be "a new lump, altogether unleavened." We shall strive to have our every action, every word, and "every thought, brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."

4. A dissatisfaction of mind whenever we have not an actual sense of his presence—

We cannot rest in a mere routine of duties: it is God that we seek, even the living God; and therefore we can never be satisfied with a dead form, nor with any number of forms, however multiplied. We shall look back to seasons of peculiar access to God, as the happiest periods of our life; and in the absence of God shall say, "O that it were with me as in months past, when the candle of the Lord shone upon my head!" We shall deprecate the hidings of his face as the severest affliction that we can endure; and shall never feel comfort in our minds, until we have regained the light of his countenance and the joy of his salvation. The conduct of the Church, in the Song of Solomon, is that which every one who truly loves the heavenly Bridegroom will observe: he will inquire after him with all diligence, and, having found him, will labor with augmented care to retain and perpetuate the expressions of his love Chapter 3:1–4.

Let US learn then, from this example of David,

1. The proper object of our ambition—

Crowns and kingdoms should not satisfy the Christian's ambition. He should seek to enjoy "God himself, even the living God," who has life in himself, and is the one source of life to the whole creation. David, when driven from his house and family, did not pant after his lost possessions, his ruined honors, his deserted relatives: it was God alone whose presence he so ardently desired. O that every desire of our souls may thus be swallowed up in God, whose loveliness and loving-kindness exceed all the powers of language to describe, or of any created imagination to conceive!

2. The proper measure of our zeal—

In reference to earthly attainments, men in general contend, that it is scarcely possible to have our desires too ardent: but in reference to the knowledge and the enjoyment of God, they think even the smallest ardor is misplaced. But "it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing:" and, if the measure of David's desire was right, then should not ours stop short of his. When we can explore the heights and depths of the Redeemer's love, or count the unsearchable riches of his grace, then may we limit our exertions according to the scale which we may derive from them: but, if they surpass all the powers of language or of thought, then may we take the hunted deer for our pattern, and never pause until we have attained the full fruition of our God.

 

 

Psalms 43:3-4

 

DISCOURSE 573

ACCESS TO GOD IN ORDINANCES

Psalm 43:3-4. O send out your light and your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me unto your holy hill, and to your tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yes, upon the harp will I praise you, O God, my God.

IT is supposed that David wrote both this and the preceding psalm when he was driven from Jerusalem by his rebellious son, Absalom. After briefly calling on God to judge between him and his blood-thirsty enemies, he here shows, that the being separated from divine ordinances was to him the heaviest part of his affliction. True, indeed, his faithful servants, Zadok and Abiathar, had brought him the ark; but that he sent back again to its usual residence 2 Samuel 15:25; for to have the symbol of the Deity without his actual presence and favor, would afford him little consolation or benefit. To enjoy God in his ordinances, was his supreme delight. And hence he implores of God to "send forth his light and his truth," to conduct him back to them; for who but God could devise a way for his return? or what had he to depend upon in this hour of his extremity, but the promise and protection of God himself? In the event of his being restored to God's tabernacles, he determined that he would go with more delight than ever "to the altar of his God, even to God himself, who was his exceeding joy," and there pay to God the vows which he had made: yes, and the harp which now hanged upon the willows should again be tuned, to sing with more devotion than ever the praises of his God. What he here promises, we find in another psalm he actually performed, as soon as the desired deliverance had been given: "You have caused men to ride over our heads: we went through fire and through water: but you brought us out, into a wealthy place. I will go into your house with burnt-offerings: I will pay you my vows, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth has spoken, when I was in trouble. I will offer unto you burnt-offerings of failings, with the incense of rams: I will offer bullocks with goats Psalm 66:12-15."

The words of my text consist of two parts; a devout petition to God to restore him to his usual enjoyment of divine ordinances; and a joyful anticipation of augmented zeal in the service of his God. And, in correspondence with these, we see what, under all circumstances, it becomes us chiefly to affect; namely,

I. An intelligent and believing access to God—

It is not sufficient that we attend divine ordinances. Many frequent them without any benefit at all. We must be "led to them by God's light and truth," that so we may attend upon them with intelligence and faith.

Who but God can teach us how to approach him acceptably? Or what hope can we have in approaching him, except from the promises which he has given us in the Son of his love? In order to derive benefit to our souls, we must entreat God to "send forth his light and his truth, that they may lead us." It is only as reconciled to us in Christ Jesus, that we can venture to draw near to God: for in himself, though a God of love to the penitent, he is to the impenitent "a consuming fire." Nor could we presume to come to him in Christ Jesus, if he had not expressly declared that he would forgive our sins, and receive us to mercy for Jesus' sake: "This is the new and living way which God has opened to sinful man Hebrews 10:19-20;" (all access to the tree of life in any other way is barred forever Genesis 3:24;) and we should implore of God to reveal it to us, that so we may find acceptance with him, and be restored to that communion with him from which "we have been separated by our sins Isaiah 59:2."

But we should look still farther to,

II. A life of entire devotedness to his service—

David would offer on God's altar the sacrifices appointed by the Law. But we have a richer offering than all the cattle upon a thousand hills: yes, we ourselves are the sacrifices which God calls for; and, "as living sacrifices we must present ourselves to him," that every faculty and power we possess may be consecrated altogether to his service Romans 12:1.

Truly, if God was to David "his exceeding joy," much more must he be so to us. To David, the wonders of Redeeming Love were, comparatively, but little known. Even John the Baptist himself had but a faint insight into them, in comparison of us. "The height and depth and length and breadth of the love of Christ," which not even an Archangel can fully comprehend, are revealed to us; and in the contemplation of them we should "rejoice in Him with joy unspeakable and glorified 1 Peter 1:8." Never should our harp lie still. We should be singing his praises every day, and all the day long Nor need our access to God be in the least restrained by the want of public ordinances. Doubtless they are of infinite value; for "God loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob:" but in every house, and in every heart, is an altar to the Lord, from whence the sacrifices of prayer and praise may ascend up before God continually, and be regarded by him as "offerings of a sweet-smelling savor." In a word, to be devoted to God in heart and life is the great end of ordinances; which are no farther serviceable to us, or acceptable to God, than as they are productive of these effects. And, as it was for this end that David so earnestly implored of God a restoration to his ordinances, so it is this which, in attending upon ordinances, we, my Brethren, must continually bear in mind, and make the great object of our pursuit.

APPLICATION—

As for those who are strangers to spiritual religion, I forbear to address this subject to them; for to them it can appear, as the Apostle tells us, no better than "foolishness 1 Corinthians 2:14;" and their very ignorance of the subject is itself a sufficient condemnation to them. But to those who have been endued with somewhat of a spiritual discernment, I may say, this subject affords abundant matter for the deepest humiliation. For, who among us values God's ordinances as David did, and accounts the loss of them the most bitter ingredient even in the bitterest cup which he has to drink? And, in attending upon them, what coldness and formality do we too often feel! As for "our joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ," how faint is it, when compared with that which he expressed in the psalm before us, even in the midst of his heavy and accumulated afflictions! Dear Brethren, I blush for you, and for myself also: and I would propose to you to adopt, for our future imitation, that resolved purpose of the Psalmist, "O God, my heart is fixed, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. Awake up my glory, awake psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise you, O Lord, among the people; I will sing unto you among the nations: for your mercy is great unto the heavens, and your truth unto the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens: let your glory be above all the earth Psalm 57:7-11." Happy shall we be if we attain to such a frame; for it is an anticipation and foretaste of Heaven itself.

 

 

Psalms 43:5

 

DISCOURSE 574

SOURCES AND REMEDY OF DEJECTION

Psalm 43:5. Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

IT has pleased God to suffer many of his most eminent servants to be in trouble, and to record their experience for our benefit, that we, when in similar circumstances, may know, that we are not walking in an untrodden path, and that we may see how to demean ourselves aright. The Psalmist was conversant with afflictions of every kind. In the preceding psalm, which seems to have been penned during his flight from Absalom, he gives us a very melancholy picture of his state: tears were his meat day and night, while his enemies gloried over him, and said continually, Where is now your God Psalm 42:3; Psalm 42:10." "His soul was cast down within him:" for while "the waves and billows threatened to overwhelm him, the water-spouts threatened to burst upon him: so that deep called unto deep Psalm 42:6-7. Water-spouts are very formidable to mariners, because if they burst over a ship, they will sink it instantly: and here they are represented as conspiring with the tempestuous ocean for their destruction," to effect his ruin; and it seemed as if all the powers of Heaven and earth were combined against him. In complaining of these things, he sometimes expostulates with God, "Why have you forgotten me Psalm 42:9." but at other times he checks himself, and, as it were, reproves his soul for its disquietude and despondency Psalm 42:5; Psalm 42:11. The psalm before us was evidently written on the same occasion: it contains the same complaints Compare 42:9 with 43:2; and ends, like the former, with a third time condemning his own impatience, and encouraging his soul to trust in God.

His words lead us to consider,

I. The sources of dejection—

It cannot be doubted but that temporal afflictions will produce a very great dejection of mind: for though sometimes grace will enable a person to triumph over them as of small consequence, yet more frequently our frail nature is left to feel its weakness: and the effect of grace is, to reconcile us to the dispensations of Providence, and to make them work for our good: still however, though we are saints, we cease not to be men: and it often happens, that heavy and accumulated troubles will so weaken the animal frame, as ultimately to enfeeble the mind also, and to render it susceptible of fears, to which, in its unbroken state, it was an utter stranger. The disquietude of the Psalmist himself arose in a measure from this source: and therefore we must not wonder if heavy losses, and cruel treatment from our near friends, or troubles of any other kind, should weigh down the spirits of those who have made less attainments in the divine life. But we shall confine our attention principally to spiritual troubles: and among these we shall find many fruitful sources of dejection:

1. Relapses into sin—

By far the greatest part of our sorrows originates here. A close and uniform walk with God is productive of peace: but declensions from him bring guilt upon the conscience, together with many other attendant evils. And if those professors of religion who complain so much of their doubts and fears, would examine faithfully the causes of their disquietude, they might trace it up to secret neglects of duty, or to some lust harbored and indulged.

2. The temptations of Satan—

Doubtless this wicked fiend is an occasion of much trouble to the people of God; else his temptations had not been characterized as "fiery darts Ephesians 6:16," which suddenly pierce and inflame the soul. We may judge in a measure how terrible his assaults are, when we see the Apostle, who was unmoved by all that man could do against him Acts 20:24, crying out with such agony and distress under the buffetings of Satan 2 Corinthians 12:7-8. We shall have a yet more formidable idea of them, if we consider that the Lord of glory himself, when conflicting with the powers of darkness, sweat great drops of blood from every pore of his body, through the agony of his soul. Can we wonder then if the saints are sometimes dejected through the agency of that subtle enemy?

3. The hidings of God's face—

We do not think that God often hides his face from men without some immediate provocation: but we dare not to say that he never does; because he is sovereign in the disposal of his gifts; and because he withdrew the light of his countenance from Job without any flagrant transgression on the part of his servant to deserve it. It is scarcely needful to observe, how painful that must be to those who love God: our blessed Lord, who bore the cruelties of men without a complaint, was constrained to cry out bitterly under his dereliction from his heavenly Father, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And certainly this is the most distressing of all events: "the spirit of a man, when strengthened from above, may sustain any infirmity; but a wounded spirit, wounded too by such a hand, who can bear Proverbs 18:14."

Having traced out the sources of dejection, let us inquire after,

II. The remedy—

The great remedy for every temporal or spiritual affliction is faith. This, and this alone, is adequate to our necessities. The efficacy of this principle for the space of three thousand six hundred years is declared in the 11th chapter to the Hebrews; toward the close of which, we are told what it enabled them to do Hebrews 11:33-34, and what to suffer Hebrews 11:36-37. It was that which the Psalmist prescribed to himself as the cure of his disquietude:

1. "Hope in God"—

We are too apt in our troubles to flee unto the creature for help Hosea 5:13. But it is God who sends our troubles; ("they spring not out of the dust Job 5:6,") and he only can remove them. We should therefore look unto him, and put our trust in him. This is the direction which God himself gives us: he reminds us of his wisdom and power to over-rule our trials for good; and exhorts us, when weary and fainting, to wait on him as our all-sufficient Helper Isaiah 40:28-31.

2. Expect deliverance from him—

To what end has God given us such "exceeding great and precious promises," if we do not rest upon them, and expect their accomplishment? The refiner does not put his vessels into the furnace, to leave them there; but to take them out again when they are fitted for his use. And it is to purify us as "vessels of honor," that God subjects us to the fiery trial. We should say therefore with Job, "When he has tried me, I shall come forth as gold Job 23:10." It was this expectation that supported David: "I had fainted," says he, "unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living Psalm 27:13." We are told that "light is sown for the righteous Psalm 97:11." That is sufficient for us. Between seed-time and harvest there may be a long and dreary winter; but still every day brings forward the appointed time of harvest; and the gardener waits in an assured expectation of its arrival James 5:7. Thus must we wait, however long the promise may seem to tarry Habakkuk 2:3; and as those who are now in Heaven were once in great tribulation like ourselves Revelation 7:14, so shall we in due season be with them, freed from all remains of sin and sorrow. In our darkest hours we should hold fast this confidence, "I shall yet praise him Compare Psalm 118:17-18 with the text."

3. View him in his covenant relation to you—

It is observable, that our Lord, in the midst of his dereliction, addressed his Father, "My God! my God!" Now thus should we do. God is the God of all his people; yes, he dwells in them 2 Corinthians 6:16, and is, as it were, the very life of their souls Colossians 3:4. However distressed then we be, we should regard him as "the health of our countenance, and our God." What a foundation of hope did the remembrance of God's paternal relation to them afford to the Church of old Isaiah 63:15-16. And what a sweet assurance does God himself teach us also to derive from the same source Isaiah 49:14-16. If we sincerely desire to be his, we have good reason to believe that we are his: and if we be his, he will never suffer any to pluck us out of his hand John 10:27-28. Hold fast this therefore, as an anchor of the soul; and it shall keep you steadfast amidst all the storms and tempests that can possibly assail you.

ADDRESS—

1. Those who are in a drooping desponding frame—

We cannot give you better counsel than that suggested by the example of David.

Inquire, first, into the reasons of your disquietude. If it proceed from temporal afflictions, recollect, that they are rather tokens of God's love, than of his hatred; for "whom he loves he chastens Hebrews 12:6." If it arise from the temptations of Satan, take not all the blame to yourselves; but cast a good measure of it at least on him from whom they proceed. If you are troubled about the hidings of God's face, entreat him to return, and to lift up upon you once more the light of his countenance. And if, as is most probable, "your own sins have hid his face from you," humble yourself for them, and implore his grace that you may be enabled henceforth to mortify and subdue them. At all events, having once searched out the cause, you will know the better how to apply a remedy.

But, in the nest place, it will be proper to check these desponding fears. The text is not a mere inquiry, but an expostulation; and such an expostulation as you should address to your own souls. For, what benefit can accrue from such a frame? It only weakens your hands, and discourages your heart, and dishonors your God. We do not say that there are not just occasions for disquietude: but this we say, that instead of continuing in a dejected state, you should return instantly to God, who would "give you beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness Isaiah 61:3."

But, above all, "encourage yourself in God." This is what David did in the text, and on another most memorable occasion 1 Samuel 30:1-6. And while there is an all-sufficient God on whom to rely, you need not fear though earth and Hell should be combined against you Psalm 11:1; Psalm 11:4; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 27:3; Psalm 125:1.

2. Those who are entire strangers to disquietude and dejection—

We are far from congratulating you on your exemption from such feelings as these. On the contrary, we would propose to you, in reference to that exemption, the very same things as we recommended to others in reference to their distresses.

First, inquire into the reason of your never having experienced such feelings. "Why are you NOT cast down, O my soul? and why are you NOT disquieted within me?" Does it not proceed from an ignorance of your own state, and from an unconcern about that account which you must soon give of yourself at the judgment-seat of Christ?.

Next, expostulate with yourself; "O my soul, why are you thus callous and insensible? Will not your contempt of God's judgments issue in your ruin?: It must not, it shall not be: you have neglected your eternal interests long enough: you shall, God helping you, bend your attention to them from this time: for if you be summoned before your God in your present state, it had been better for me that I had never been born."

But you also, no less than the disconsolate, must found your hopes on God. All your expectation must be from Him, "with whom there is mercy and plenteous redemption." If you will but turn to him in earnest, you have nothing to fear: for his word to you is, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon."

 

 

Psalms 45:3-5

 

DISCOURSE 575

THE REIGN OF CHRIST DESIRED

Psalm 45:3-5. Gird your sword upon your thigh, O most Mighty, with your glory and your majesty. And in your majesty ride prosperously, because of truth and meekness and righteousness; and your right hand shall teach you terrible things. Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the King's enemies; whereby the people fall under you.

THIS psalm is called "a song of loves:" and it is supposed to have been written on occasion of Solomon's marriage with Pharaoh's daughter. But, beyond all doubt, a greater than Solomon is here. Solomon was altogether a man of peace: but the King here spoken of was "a man of war;" and all the address which is here made to him has reference to him under that character. It may seem strange that this view of him should be introduced on the occasion of a nuptial solemnity; but it must be remembered, that as the Jews were accustomed, by God's special permission, to connect themselves in marriage with females whom they had taken captive in war, allowing them a month to forget their former relatives, so the Messiah first takes captive those with whom he afterwards unites himself in the nuptial bonds. This is particularly marked in the address to the spouse herself: "Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear; forget also your own people, and your father's house; so shall the King greatly desire your beauty verse 10, 11." Hence, even while contemplating the Lord Jesus under the idea of an husband, we see why we should be anxious to behold his conquests extended over the face of the whole earth. That we may attain the spirit which David breathed, let us consider,

I. The frame of his mind—

In reading the Holy Scriptures, we should not be content with noticing the mere sense of any particular passage, (though that is doubtless in the first place, and with the greatest diligence, to be examined;) but we should mark the peculiar spirit of it, the spirit which the passage itself breathes, the spirit of the person who wrote it, or which it has a tendency to produce in those who read it. Now, when David penned this psalm,

His mind was full of zeal for Christ—

He had been contemplating the glory and excellency of Christ: "My heart," says he, "is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the King." And so full was his heart of this glorious subject, that "his tongue was as the pen of a ready writer," which yet was scarcely capable of keeping pace with the ardor of his mind, or of giving utterance to the vast conceptions with which his soul labored. He beheld the Lord Jesus Christ as possessing in himself an excellency far beyond that of any created being: "You are fairer than the children of men." He saw that, both in the subject and manner of his ministrations, there was a grace which nothing could equal, and which God would honor with the most wonderful success: "Grace is poured into your lips: therefore God has blessed you forever." And anxious to behold the full accomplishment of all that the Messiah had undertaken, he further calls upon him to take to him his great power, and to subdue the whole world unto himself: "Gird your sword upon your thigh, and let the people of every nation under Heaven fall under you." In all this you will perceive, that, instead of speaking of Christ, as he had intended to do, he is constrained, by the ardor of his own mind, to address himself directly to Christ; and, instead of making his thoughts a subject of communication with man, he is led by them into the exercise of immediate communion with his God. Now,

Such should be the frame of our minds also—

We should be in the constant habit of meditating upon Christ; and of so musing upon his glorious excellencies, that a fire should be kindled in our bosoms, and we should speak of him with our tongues. And what other subject is there under Heaven to be compared with this? Reflect a moment, who the Savior is! He is "the mighty God." Consider what he has done! He has assumed our nature, and become a man, in order that, by substituting himself in our place and stead, he might deliver us out of the hands of our great enemy, and bring us into an everlasting union with himself, as "our Friend and our Beloved." Consider how rich and free and full are all his invitations and promises: and what blessings will attend the progress of his arms, wherever men shall be subdued unto him. Should we not long to see his glory advance, and his kingdom established in the world? Should it not be grievous to us to behold so great a part of the world both ignorant of him, and in rebellion against him? Should we not be urgent with him in prayer, to make bare his arm, and to subdue the world unto himself? Surely these are the meditations that become us; and our hearts should be so full of them, that, wherever we go, and whatever we do, He should be present to our minds; and his praise should be, as it were, the constant effusion of our souls.

But in my text we are more particularly led to notice,

II. The object of his desire—

He desires that Christ's kingdom may be established in the world. But, that I may open this to you the more fully, I wish you to mark,

1. Wherein that kingdom consists—

It is "in the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness" that the Savior advances to the combat. The whole world is lying in darkness; and he comes to dispel error from their minds. The whole world is full of all manner of abominations: pride stalks through the earth, defying even God himself: "Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice?" and every species of wickedness is indulged, without either remorse or fear. But the Lord Jesus Christ comes to humble man in the dust before God; and to transform the children of the wicked one into the very image of their God, in righteousness and true holiness. Who must not wish for such a kingdom to be established throughout the whole world? Who must not make it his very first petition from day to day, "Your kingdom come?": Truly, wherever that kingdom is, which consists "in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit," there is Heaven itself begun in the souls of men.

2. By what means it is to be erected—

The sword of the Messiah is the word of God, which, proceeding from his mouth Revelation 1:16; Revelation 19:15, subdues the universe before him. "That sword is quick and powerful, and pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart Hebrews 4:12." Nothing can eventually stand before it: weak as it may appear, it is "mighty, through God, to the pulling down of strong holds, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ 2 Corinthians 10:4-5." Look at the primitive ages of the Church: what was it that brought down all the power and policy both of men and devils? It was not human wisdom, or worldly power: it was the simple exhibition of the cross of Christ, and the preaching of Christ crucified. "This word came to the hearts of men in demonstration of the Spirit and of power;" and, to every soul that received it, it was made "the power of God to his everlasting salvation."

3. The certainty of its establishment—

Very sharp were the arrows which were thus sent forth from the Messiah's bow. Truly "he was a polished shaft in the quiver of Jehovah Isaiah 49:2," and nothing could stand before it Isaiah 59:16-18. True, indeed, God has not yet seen fit to accomplish all the purposes of his grace: but the time is quickly coming, when Satan, that great adversary of God and man, shall be bound, and "all the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ." "Terrible things will God work," either in a way of mercy or of judgment. He has sworn, that "unto his Messiah every knee shall bow Isaiah 45:23." And every soul that bows not to the scepter of his grace shall be broken in pieces, as a potter's vessel Psalm 2:8-9."

Methinks you will now be disposed to ask—

1. How shall I know whether this kingdom be yet begun within me?

Consider only wherein this kingdom consists; and you will be at no loss to ascertain the state of your souls before God. Has the truth of the Gospel been so revealed in your hearts, as to "bring you out of darkness into marvelous light"?: Have you been so humbled by it, as to put your hand on your mouth, and your mouth in the dust, with a deep consciousness of your vileness, and of your desert of God a wrath and indignation?: And, lastly, are you so under "the constraining influence of the love of Christ, that you die daily unto sin, and live altogether, not unto yourselves, but unto Him who died for you, and rose again?" These are questions which, if put to your consciences with fidelity, and answered with truth, will show you at once whose you are, and whom you serve. Truly, by such marks we may infallibly "distinguish the children of God from the children of the devil 1 John 3:9-10;" and I entreat you to examine yourselves by them with all imaginable care; because, if you still continue to cast off the Savior's yoke, the time will quickly come when he will say, "Bring hither those that were my enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me Luke 19:27."

2. How shall I get it established in my soul?

You have seen the frame of David's mind. You have seen how he contemplated the Savior's love, until his soul was ravished with it, and he burst forth into the devout raptures which we have been contemplating. And this is the way in which the Savior will acquire an ascendant over our souls. The Apostle tells us: "We, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord 2 Corinthians 3:18." I am far from saying that we ought not to search out our own evil ways, and to mourn over them before God; for it is by such repentance that the preparatory work is usually wrought within us: but I say, that nothing but the love of Christ will ever perfect that work, or bring us into the full liberty of the children of God. It is from a view of God's "truth" that our "meekness" will be matured, and our "righteousness" be perfected: and when we are enabled to live altogether by faith in Christ, and in dependence on his promises, then shall we be enabled to "cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God 2 Corinthians 7:1."

 

 

Psalms 45:7

 

DISCOURSE 576

BENEFITS ATTENDANT ON HOLINESS

Psalm 45:7. You love righteousness, and hate wickedness: therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

THIS psalm is a nuptial song; wherein Christ, as the heavenly Bridegroom, is celebrated by his Bride, the Church; and she also is commended by him as worthy of the union proposed between them. In the former part, the glory and excellency of Jesus are set forth in a variety of views. In the verse before the text, he is addressed as the supreme "God, whose throne is forever and ever;" while, as man, he is acknowledged to have received his glory and felicity from the Father, as the reward of his unparalleled virtues. This is undoubtedly the primary sense of the words before us. But they may also be considered as containing a general truth, expressive of God's regard for holiness, and of those testimonies of his approbation which all godly people shall enjoy.

Let us then turn our attention to them,

I. As applicable to Christ—

That they refer to him there can be no doubt; because in the Epistle to the Hebrews it is expressly affirmed that they were addressed to him Hebrews 1:8-9.

To him the character transcendently belongs—

In his doctrine, he removed the false glosses with which the Jewish doctors had obscured the law, and established its authority over the motions of the heart as well as the actions of the life He shelved that the laws prohibiting murder and adultery were violated by an angry word or impure desire. Matthew 25:21-22; Matthew 25:27-28. He laid the axe at the very root of sin; and gave a system of morality more pure and perfect than the united wisdom of the whole world had been ever able to devise.

In his life, "he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." Neither his friends who were most intimate with him, nor his enemies who were most inveterate against him, could ever find the smallest flaw or blemish in his conduct. God himself repeatedly attests that "in him was no sin.

But most of all in his death did our blessed Lord approve himself a lover of righteousness and a hater of iniquity: for he died in order to expiate the guilt of sin: yes, he came down from Heaven on purpose to atone for it by his blood; and to mark in indelible characters its malignity, by the very means which he used to deliver us from its curse.

In the whole scope of the economy which he introduced, he manifested the same righteous disposition: for at the same time that he commissioned his Apostles to go forth and evangelize all nations, he bade them "teach their proselytes to observe and do whatever he had commanded." His Gospel, while it "brings salvation to men, teaches them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world:" and the ministers who are sent forth to proclaim it, are "sent to bless men, in turning away every one of them from his iniquities."

On this account God in a super-eminent degree "anointed him with the oil of gladness"—

The Father "gave not the Spirit by measure unto him," even during the time of his ministration upon earth See Isaiah 11:2; Isaiah 61:1. But though he was anointed in this world in an infinitely more abundant measure than all who were partakers of the same divine unction, yet it was rather after his death that the Spirit was given to him as "the oil of gladness." At his ascension the words before us received their full accomplishment. Then was "the joy given him, in the expectation of which he had endured the cross and despised the shame." Then was he "made full of joy by the light of his Father's countenance Compare Psalm 16:10-11; Psalm 21:6 with Acts 2:27-28," and was invested with a glory as much transcending that of the highest archangel, as the brightness of the sun exceeds the luster of a glimmering star. This was given him as the reward of his righteousness: "he loved righteousness," "therefore the Lord anointed him with this oil of gladness Philippians 2:8-9."

Though this is the primary sense of the words, we may without impropriety consider them,

II. As applicable to us— The character of the true Christian is here most fitly drawn—

There are many unbelievers whose moral characters are unexceptionable: they abstain from open iniquity, and they perform many acts of righteousness. But the distinctive mark of the believer is, that "he loves righteousness and hates, iniquity." He looks upon sin as the worst enemy of his soul. Not contented with suppressing the outward acts of it, he strives to mortify its inward motions. The existence of sin within him is his pain, his burden, his grief. He abhors it; he loathes himself on account of it: he often cries with anguish of heart, "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?" As for righteousness, he considers it as the health and felicity of his soul. It is the very element in which he desires to live. Were he possessed of it in ever so high a degree, he would not be satisfied, as long as there were any measure of it which he had not attained. He would be "holy as God is holy," and "perfect as God is perfect." We repeat it, that this is the distinctive character of a true believer. Others, whatever their conduct be, have no real hatred of secret sin, no sincere delight in the secret exercises of religion: but in the believer these dispositions radically and abidingly exist.

On this account God vouchsafes him the richest communications—

Who among the sons of pleasure can be compared with the Christian in respect to real happiness? The happiness of the carnal man is only as "the crackling of thorns under a pot;" it blazes for a little time, and then expires in smoke. L~et a true Christian be bereft of all that the world holds most dear, and be reduced to a condition the most calamitous in the eyes of carnal men, yet would he not exchange states with the happiest worldling upon earth: he would spurn at the proposal with contemptuous indignation.

But it is not merely over the ungodly world that a lively Christian has this advantage: "he is anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows," above those who in an inferior degree participate the same heavenly calling. Occasional circumstances of temptation or of darkness may indeed for a time reduce the most eminent Christian below the standard of his weaker brother: but in the general it will be found, that the more we have of the divine image, the more we shall abound in heavenly consolation: they will have most of Heaven in their souls, who have the greatest fitness for it in their hearts and lives.

And though these holy joys are not bestowed on account of the believer's merits, yet are they strictly and properly a reward for his piety: they are a reward of grace, though not a payment of a debt. God has in numberless places assured his people, that "he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him," and that "it shall be well with the righteous, who shall eat the fruit of their doings Isaiah 3:10."

Infer,

1. What a mercy is it to have such an example as Christ!

If we entertain any doubt how we ought to walk, or what shall be the issue of a godly life, we need only look to the Lord Jesus Christ: in him we see precisely "how we ought to walk and to please God," and what shall be the termination of a life spent in the service of our God. In him we shall find an answer to the cavils of the world on the one hand, and to the suggestions of Satan on the other. In those things which Christ did as a prophet, or as the Mediator, he is not an example to us; but in all other things he is: and as surely as we tread in his steps in this world, we shall be seated with him on his throne in the world to come.

2. How vain are the expectations of those who are not conformed to it!

Holiness and happiness are inseparable. It is in vain to hope for the "oil of gladness," if we be not lovers of righteousness, and haters of iniquity. We may applaud and canonize those who conform to the world's standard of perfection; but God will not ratify our sentence. The precepts of the Gospel are the infallible, the only rule of duty. They were exhibited in all their perfection by our blessed Lord, who gave us in his own life a comment on them. If we labor to imitate Him, and to walk in all things as he walked, our short-comings and defects will be forgiven us for His sake: but if we make any reserves in our obedience, we shall be regarded as despisers of his law, and take our portion with hypocrites and unbelievers. "Herein the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; he who does not righteousness is not of God."

Psalms 45:10-11

 

DISCOURSE 577

THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH AS MARRIED TO CHRIST

Psalm 45:10-11. Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear; forget also your own people, and your father's house. So shall the King greatly desire your beauty: for he is your Lord; and worship you him.

THE psalm before us is a kind of nuptial hymn; the former part of which recites the excellencies and glories of the heavenly Bridegroom; and the latter celebrates the praises of the Church, which is his bride. Into this relation to Christ every Believer is brought Isaiah 54:5.

Now, as every change of situation brings with it correspondent duties, so that of marriage in particular requires a sacrifice of all other attachments. It binds each party to renounce whatever habits or practices may be found inconsistent with their mutual happiness. Such sacrifices are more eminently necessary for those united to Christ. To this effect, God addresses the Church in the words of our text.

We may consider,

I. The direction given to the Church—

The Church is, by adoption, by regeneration, and especially by her union with the Lord Jesus Christ, become the "daughter of Almighty God 2 Corinthians 6:18." She is here addressed by him under that affectionate appellation. Nor is it possible for a father to give more beneficial advice, or to deliver it in more persuasive terms; "Hearken, consider, incline," etc.

The direction itself is of a very peculiar nature—

The Jews were permitted to marry the heathen virgins whom they had taken in war; but they were to allow them the space of a month to forget their own relations Deuteronomy 21:10-13. Thus the captives, weaned from former habits, might become loving companions, and obedient wives. In reference to this law, the Church is exhorted to forget her former friends. She has been taken captive by Christ, who makes her the first overtures of marriage; but his union with her is incompatible with carnal attachments. She can never love and obey him as she ought, until her heart is weaned from all other lovers.

It is given to every individual in the church of God—

Every wife is to forsake her parents, and cleave to her husband Genesis 2:24; much more is it needful for the soul to forsake all for Christ. To him we are espoused by our own voluntary surrender 2 Corinthians 11:2; nor will he be satisfied with a divided heart Hosea 10:2. Ungodliness and worldly lusts must be entirely renounced Titus 2:11-12 and 1 Peter 4:2-3; the companions of our unregenerate state must be forsaken 2 Corinthians 6:14-17. Our very parents, yes, even life itself, must be hated, when they stand in competition with him Luke 14:26. The change in our actions and affections must be entire 2 Corinthians 5:17; and we must subscribe from our hearts the terms proposed to us Hosea 3:3.

This injunction will not appear harsh, if we attend to,

II. The arguments with which it is enforced—

God deals with us in all things as intelligent beings, and labors to persuade us by rational considerations.

1. It is our highest interest—

Though the Church is vile in herself, she is complete in Christ Colossians 2:10; he has given orders for her thorough purification Esther 2:3. When she is presented to him, she is cleansed from all the filthiness of her former state Ephesians 5:25-27. Hence she is exceeding beautiful in his eyes Son. 4:9-11; and he feels a longing desire after communion with her Son. 2:14. No bridegroom ever so much rejoiced over his bride, as he over her Isaiah 62:5. More especially is he delighted with her when he sees that her heart is whole and entire with him Proverbs 11:20. How powerful an argument is this with an sincere soul! What can influence a wife more than to know that her conduct will conciliate the esteem of her husband? And what can delight a regenerate soul so much, as to please the Lord Jesus Christ? Let this hope then animate us to renounce all for him, and to address him in the words of holy David Psalm 73:25.

2. It is our indispensable duty—

The husband is to be considered as lord over his wife 1 Peter 3:6; to him she owes a humble obediential reverence Ephesians 5:33. Christ also is the supreme Head and "LORD" of his Church. No limits whatever are to be set to his authority. We must "worship" and serve "him" equally with God the Father John 5:23. Let us then at least show him that regard, which we ourselves expect from a fellow-creature. A husband will not endure a rival in his wife's affections; shall we then "provoke the Lord himself to jealousy" by carnal attachments? Let us not dare in such a way to violate our nuptial engagements. When anything solicits a place in our hearts, let us utterly reject it; and let us exercise that fidelity towards him, which we have ever experienced at his hands.

ADDRESS—

1. Those who are endeavoring to unite the love of the world with the love of Christ—

The interests of the world, and of Christ, are altogether opposite. Our Lord declares them to be absolutely irreconcilable Matthew 6:24. James also represents even a wish to reconcile them, as an incontestable proof of enmity against God James 4:4. As Jesus deserves, so he demands, our whole hearts Proverbs 23:26. Let us not then "mock him, and deceive ourselves." If the Lord be God, let us not serve Baal, but him 1 Kings 18:21; and let us unite in imitating the repentant Jews 2 Chronicles 15:12.

2. Those who are desirous of uniting themselves to Christ—

It is a great honor indeed which you aspire after; yet is it offered to the vilest of the human race Ezekiel 16:3-5; Ezekiel 16:8. But you must get a change of clothing, that you may not dishonor your new station Zechariah 3:3-5. Revelation 19:7-8. Labor then to "purge out all remains of the old leaven." Be on your guard, lest, after having escaped the pollutions of the world, you be again entangled with them and overcome 2 Peter 2:20. "Remember Lot's wife," that you may shun her example; so shall you enjoy the sweetest fellowship with Jesus, and live in the fruition of him to all eternity This subject, and all others of a similar nature, must be treated with extreme care and delicacy. The passages from the book of Canticles are cited rather for the reader's satisfaction, than for use in a public discourse.

 

 

Psalms 45:13-16

 

DISCOURSE 578

THE CHURCH'S BEAUTY AND HAPPINESS

Psalm 45:13-16. The King's daughter is all glorious within; her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the King in clothing of needle-work: the virgins, her companions that follow her shall be brought unto you: with gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought; they shall enter into the King's palace.

AMONG the schoolmen of former days, there were many disputes about works of condignity, and works of congruity as contributing to effect the salvation of men. That in no point of view whatever, did works render men deserving of God's favors is the avowed sentiment of our Church; yet to the full attainment of salvation, it is quite necessary that every man be holy, and possess what the Scriptures call "a fitness for the inheritance of the saints in light."

The Church is here represented under the character of a Bride that is to be joined, as in the marriage union, to her Lord. For this she must be prepared: and a preparation shall be given her suited to the occasion. In the former part of this psalm, which is penned on the occasion of her marriage, the excellencies of her Lord are set forth: in this latter part, her excellencies also. Let us consider,

I. Her transcendent qualities—

In the words which we have read, we see,

1. The internal qualities of her mind—

"The King's daughter is all glorious within." She once, in her unconverted state, was corrupt even as others: but she has been "born again," and "renewed in the spirit of her mind," and made altogether "a new creature." Once, being born only after the flesh, she had nothing but what was carnal: but now, having been born of the Spirit, she possesses a truly spiritual nature, or, as Peter expresses it, "she is a partaker of the Divine nature 2 Peter 1:4;" and is progressively "changed into the image of her Lord himself, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord 2 Corinthians 3:18." Hence "the mind that was in Christ Jesus is found in her Philippians 2:5." She has the same views, the same principles, the same desires, the same delights. There is indeed still a corrupt nature within her, "the flesh lusting against the Spirit, as well as the Spirit against the flesh:" but she longs to be holy, as her Lord is holy; and strives to be "perfect, as her Father which is in Heaven is perfect." When compared with what she was, she differs as light from darkness: but in comparison of what she will be, she is only as the dawn to the meridian sun; for "her path is as the shining light, which shines more and more unto the perfect day."

2. The external habits of her life—

"Her clothing is of wrought gold." This refers to the outward conversation, which is often in Scripture represented as a putting off of the old man, and putting on the new: "Put off, as concerning the former conversation," says the Apostle, "the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness Ephesians 4:22; Ephesians 4:24." To the same effect is that other expression of his, "Put you on the Lord Jesus Christ Romans 13:14;" that is, let your whole deportment be such as his was; so that any one who beholds you may be constrained to confess, that you "walk as he walked 1 John 2:6," and that, "as he was, so are you in this world 1 John 4:17." Such is every true Believer; nor will the heavenly Bridegroom acknowledge as his, any one, whose spirit, and temper, and conduct do not accord with his. "The clothing of needle-work" may fitly represent the assemblage of all the diversified graces which adorn her. All her dispositions being duly chastised, harmoniously tempered, and opportunely exercised, she shines in every department, and in every act; and at once approves herself faithful to her obligations, and meet for the ulterior honors that shall be conferred upon her.

Suited to these qualities is,

II. The felicity prepared for her—

In due time "she shall be brought to the King's palace," there to be united to him in indissoluble and everlasting bonds.

While she is here, she is to be employed in making herself ready—

In royal nuptials, much time was spent in preparing the bride for her husband. In the purification of the virgins from among whom King Ahasuerus was to select a wife, a whole year was occupied: "six months in purifying them with oil of myrrh, and other six months with sweet odors of different kinds Esther 2:12-13;" after which they were presented to him. In like manner we are told, that the Church also is dealt with, in order to prepare her for her heavenly Bridegroom: for it is said, that "Christ loved the Church, and gave himself for it, that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish Ephesians 5:25-27."

This process is going forward through the whole of this life. Every work of Providence, every communication of grace, every afflictive dispensation, and every joyous occurrence, is intended to advance it; that so at last the soul of the Believer may be altogether "worthy to stand before" the King of kings, and to be admitted to the closest fellowship with him forever and ever.

This work completed, she is introduced "into the palace of her Lord"—

It was customary for a number of bridesmaids to attend upon the bride, in order to welcome her to her destined home Matthew 25:1. Accordingly it is said, "The virgins her companions that follow her shall be brought with her to the King's palace." Even here, whenever any are united unto the Lord, many, both of saints and angels, are ready to congratulate them on the blissful occasion. And how much more will this be the case, when those who are espoused to him in this world shall be brought to consummate their nuptials in the realms of bliss! We read of angels waiting upon Lazarus to bear his spirit to Abraham's bosom. So at the departure of every saint we may well conceive of multitudes of angels and of their former friends coming forth to welcome their arrival. And O! what Joy will fill every soul! It is said, "With gladness and rejoicing shall they be brought:" and we may see in the book of Revelations the whole ceremony pass, as it were, before our eyes. "I heard the voice of a great multitude, saying, Hallelujah! Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to Him; for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the white linen is the righteousness of saints. And he says, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage-supper of the Lamb Revelation 19:6-9." Yes, blessed are they indeed, whether in the character of the spouse or her attendants: for though on earth they are different, in Heaven they are the same; the one being the collective body of the Church, of which the others are the individual members. This representation, it must be confessed, is figurative: but under the figure there is a reality: for, as the Scripture says, "These are the true sayings of God Revelation 19:9."

ADDRESS—

1. Those who have never yet been espoused to Christ—

Let it not be forgotten, that this is a very common figure in Scripture to represent the surrender of the soul to God. To his Church of old, God said by the prophet Hosea, "You shall abide for me many days; (referring, like our text, to the purifications preparatory to nuptials;) you shall not play the harlot; and you shall not be for another man: so will I also be for you Hosea 3:3." And again; "I will betroth you unto me forever; yes, I will betroth you unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in loving-kindness, and in mercies: I will even betroth you unto me in faithfulness, and you shall know the Lord Hosea 2:19-20." In the New Testament also every believer is spoken of in this view: "I have espoused you to one Husband," says Paul, "that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ 2 Corinthians 11:2." Know you then, that if you have never solemnly engaged yourselves to Christ, as a virgin does to the object of her affections, and so pledged yourselves, as not for a moment to admit a rival to your heart, you are not yet Christians indeed: you may bear the name; but you have no just title to the character. I call upon you therefore to do this without delay. And, if you desire to postpone this necessary act, I ask, Whom have you found so worthy of your affections as the Lord Jesus Christ? Who has done so much for you to deserve them?: and who will ever make you so rich a return?: Say not, "What is your Beloved more than another beloved, that you do so charge us Son. 5:9;" for there is none to be compared with Him, either in Heaven or on earth. "He is fairer than the children of men Psalm 45:2;" "He is the chief among ten thousand:" "He is altogether lovely Son. 5:10; Son. 5:16." O, rest not, until with holy confidence you can say, "This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend, O daughters of Jerusalem Son. 5:16." And so set yourselves from this moment to prepare yourselves for him, that he may shortly "bring you to his banqueting-house, and his banner over you be love Son. 2:4."

2. Those who profess to stand in the relation of his Spouse—

Look forward for the period when he will come and take you to himself. The precise hour of his arrival is not known: but it will not be very long, at all events. In the mean time, let your preparation for him be diligent and unintermitted. Seek to be daily more and more "glorious within," and to have your clothing of wrought gold ever ready; so that if his arrival be ever so sudden, he may not find you unprepared for his call. Be jealous over yourselves; and forgive me if I also be jealous over you, in relation to this matter. You know how "the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety" even in Paradise: and you may be sure that he will use his utmost efforts to "corrupt you from the simplicity that is in Christ 2 Corinthians 11:3." Be on your guard therefore, lest either in principle or in practice you turn aside from him. He has numberless instruments whom he employs as his agents to deceive the world; "deceitful workers, who can transform themselves into the Apostles of Christ; as he himself also is not unfrequently transformed into an angel of light 2 Corinthians 11:13-14." But entreat of God to keep you: beg of him to "hedge up your way with thorns, and even to build up a wall around you, that, if you should for a moment incline to follow after your former lovers, you may not be able to find your paths." If unhappily you have gone in pursuit of them, implore of God, that "you may never find them; or, having found, may never overtake them:" or, if you have overtaken them, separate yourselves instantly from them, and say, "I will go and return to my first husband; for then it was better with me than now Hosea 2:6-7."

 

 

Psalms 46:4

 

DISCOURSE 579

THE RIVER OF GOD

Psalm 46:4. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God.

FREQUENTLY, in the Holy Scriptures, is God compared to a fountain: in conformity with which idea, the blessings of salvation which flow from him may well be called "a river." To the Israelites in the wilderness, there was given a stream which followed them in all their journeys: and to the Church. at this day also, is "a river opened for the refreshment of all who travel Zion-ward." Innumerable are the necessities of God's people in this dreary wilderness; and the "troubles" with which they have to contend are often so great as to make it appear as if "the earth itself were removed, and the mountains were carried into the midst of the sea." But God is with his people; and the river which attends their steps supplies their every want. "The whole city of God is gladdened by it, and especially the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High:" for the nearer any one's access to God is, the more abundant are the communications made to him of grace and peace.

The exalted character given of this river will justify a minute inquiry respecting it. Let us notice then,

I. The source from whence it issues—

Whence can this be, but from God himself? But on this subject we are not left to form conjectures: for David says, "With God is the fountain of life Psalm 36:9." And John says, that "there was shown to him a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God, and of the Lamb Revelation 22:1." From God, as the primary cause of all good, and from the Lamb, who has "purchased the Church with his blood," and who is constituted "Head over all things to his Church," and has all fullness treasured up in him for his people's use; from our adorable Emmanuel, I say, all the blessings of salvation flow. The Father, of his own sovereign will, opened a way for the bestowment of them: the Son, by his atoning blood, procured them for us: and the Holy Spirit imparts them to the souls of men: so that from our Triune God does this river altogether proceed. In truth, it was typified by the waters that flowed from the rock in Horeb, and supplied the camp of Israel forty years: "They all drank the same spiritual drink," says the Apostle; "for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that rock was Christ 1 Corinthians 10:4."

We may next notice,

II. The channel in which it flows—

It is in the ordinances of the Gospel that all spiritual blessings are dispensed. For thus says the prophet: "It shall come to pass in that day, that the mountains shall drop down new wine, and the hills shall flow with milk, and all the rivers of Judah shall flow with waters; and a fountain shall come forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim Joe. 3:18 with Isaiah 2:3. latter part." To the house of God, those who are athirst come, that they may drink of its refreshing streams. "O God, you are my God," says holy David; "early will I seek you: my soul thirsts for you, my flesh longs for you in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see your power and your glory, so as I have seen you in the sanctuary Psalm 63:1-2." Yes; these are "the golden pipes, by which the golden oil is communicated from the olive-trees" to every lamp in the sanctuary Zechariah 4:11-12. See, in the days of old, what blessings attended the ministration of the word, accompanied as it was by an effusion of the Spirit from on high: nothing could withstand its power! So it still "sweeps away from men every refuge of lies, and overflows their hiding places Isaiah 28:17;" at the same time that it bears them up, as in the ark, and saves them from the deluge that will destroy the world.

We may not unprofitably direct your attention yet further to,

III. The depths of "its streams"—

The Prophet Ezekiel refers so particularly to this, that we must on no account omit the mention of it. He speaks of this river as proceeding "from under the threshold of the sanctuary, and from the side of the altar," where the sacrifices were offered. Being brought to it by the heavenly messenger who had been sent to instruct him, he was made to pass through its waters, which, in the first instance, rose only "to his ankles." On being brought to another place, he found the "waters up to his knees;" and, at another place, "up to his loins;" and then, a little further on, it was "out of the depth of any man Ezekiel 47:1-5." Now this gives a most just and beautiful representation of the Gospel; which, in our first approach to it, is so shallow, that the truest child may walk in it with perfect ease: but, as we advance in it, we find yet deeper truths; until, at last, its mysteries are unfathomable by any created intelligence; "so unsearchable are God's judgments, and his ways past finding out Romans 11:33." Nothing can be more simple than the great leading truth of salvation by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: a child that can but just "run, may read," and "a wayfaring-man, though a fool, may understand, it." But when we attempt to explore the love of Christ displayed in it, we find "a length and breadth and depth and height that infinitely surpass any finite comprehension Ephesians 3:18-19."

But of its chief excellencies we must especially mark,

IV. The salubrity of its waters—

The Prophet Zechariah, especially referring to the Gospel, says, "It shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem Zechariah 14:8." And in the passage before quoted from the Prophet Ezekiel, their efficacy is fully declared: "It shall come to pass, that everything that lives, which moves wherever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed, and everything shall live where the river comes Ezekiel 47:9." Here then we see, that they give health to the diseased, and life to the dead. Truly, there is no disease which shall not be removed by the use of them. Naaman thought that "Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, might be as serviceable as the waters of Israel 2 Kings 5:12;" and, in like manner, many vainly hope to heal themselves by the application of carnal remedies to their souls. But it is this river only that can purify us from our sins; and the man that washes in it, how leprous soever he may have been, shall instantly experience its healing efficacy. Nor shall its virtue be confined to a single patient: none shall have cause to complain, like the man at Bethesda's pool, that one less indigent or more highly-favored than himself has been beforehand with him, and exhausted all its virtue John 5:7. Not a human being shall fail of obtaining all he needs, if only he apply the remedy in faith: "The fountain is opened for sin, and for impurity Zechariah 13:1; and its powers are yet as effectual as on the day that David washed in it Psalm 51:7, or the murderers of the Lord of glory sprinkled its waters upon their souls Acts 2:41. It will even give life to the dead. When a dead man was cast into the sepulcher of Elisha, the very instant his body touched the bones of the prophet, he revived, and stood upon his feet 2 Kings 13:21. And shall not these waters, sprinkled on the soul, produce a like effect? Has not our blessed Lord himself affirmed, "I am the Resurrection, and the Life: he who believes on me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whoever lives, and believes in me, shall never die John 11:25-26." Let it not be thought that the Gospel has lost one atom of its power: for though men be in a state so desperate, that, as in Ezekiel's vision, their bones are reduced to dust, and scattered over the face of the earth, yet shall they "rise a great army," as soon as ever the Word and Spirit of God shall be applied with power to their souls Ezekiel 37:1-10.

That, however, of which our text more particularly speaks, is,

V. Its efficacy to "gladden the whole city of God"—

In two respects does it contribute to the happiness of every citizen of Zion; namely, by the defense it affords, and by the refreshment it administers. Common rivers, if they afford protection against those who have no means of crossing them, give, in many instances, a greater facility of assault, either by means of large fleets, which transport an enemy with ease to any point he may choose to attack; or by smaller vessels, whereby he may come suddenly and unperceived, and disembark upon its very banks. But this river admits not of access by any such means. Hear the account given of it by the Prophet Isaiah: "Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities; (the city spoken of in our text:) your eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken: for there the glorious Lord will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams, wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby Isaiah 33:20-21." We may conceive of a river which, by its shoals and cataracts, bids defiance to vessels of any kind; and such is that which encompasses our Zion, and keeps it from every assault. At the same time it supplies the wants of the besieged in rich abundance. From the moment that any one tastes its refreshing streams, "he thirsts no more:" he has within himself, as it were, "a well of water springing up unto everlasting life John 4:13-14; John 7:37-38." Such perfect satisfaction both to soul and body will these waters give, that all who drink of them will have a foretaste of Heaven itself: "they draw water out of this fountain with inexpressible joy Isaiah 12:3;" "and they are abundantly satisfied with the fatness of God's house; and he makes them drink of the river of his pleasures Psalm 36:8." It is doubtless a strong-expression to say that this is a foretaste of Heaven: but look into Heaven, and you will find the very same river running there, and the blessed inhabitants partaking of it: for "the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne is feeding them, and leads them to living fountains of water; and God wipes away all tears from their eyes Revelation 7:17."

Let me on this sublime subject found an address,

1. To those who are in circumstances of difficulty or danger—

It was after a deliverance from some impending calamity that this psalm was written: and from that deliverance the Psalmist inferred, that they who trust in God have nothing to fear. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea: though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof." To every inhabitant of Zion this sweet assurance belongs: "God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early verse 1–5." Know then your privilege, Brethren: and amidst all the storms and dangers to which you are exposed, see your God as an impassable river around you; or, varying the metaphor, as "a wall of fire round about you, and the glory in the midst of you Zechariah 2:5." With such a protector, "can any weapon that is formed against you prosper?" You may bid defiance to every enemy; and say, with confidence, "If God be for me, who can be against me?"

2. To those who are seeking their happiness in the things of time and sense—

Infatuated people, who are "forsaking the fountain of living waters, and hewing out cisterns for yourselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water Jeremiah 2:13." when will you see your folly? when will you suffer your continued disappointments to instruct you? If you will not believe the word of God, methinks you might learn from your own experience. Did you, from such services, ever receive one single draught that satisfied you? Have you not, even in the moments of your highest enjoyment, found that you were "laboring for that which could not profit," and that "in the midst of laughter your heart was in heaviness?" Listen, then, to the invitation of the prophet: "Ho, every one that thirsts, come you to the waters, and he who has no money; come you, buy and eat; yes, come, buy wine and milk, without money and without price! Why do you spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfies not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat you that which is good; and let your soul delight itself in fatness Isaiah 55:1-2." Truly, if you will come to the Lord Jesus Christ, and "receive out of his fullness" the blessings he has purchased for you, you shall "see the good of his chosen, and rejoice in the gladness of his nation, and shall glory with his inheritance Psalm 106:4-5."

 

 

Psalms 47:5-7

DISCOURSE 580

THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST AN OCCASION FOR JOY

Psalm 47:5-7. God is gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises: sing praises unto our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth: sing praises with understanding.

IF we read the Psalms of David without any reference to Christ, we shall have a very imperfect view of their import: but if we consider them as containing many prophetic declarations, we shall find in them a rich mine of evangelical knowledge. The psalm before us is supposed to have been written by David, when he earned up the ark from the house of Obed-edom to Mount Zion 2 Samuel 6:15; and to represent, by that typical event, the ascension of Christ to Heaven: and, as that event was celebrated with all possible demonstrations of joy, so we are here exhorted to burst forth in joyful acclamations on account of the exaltation of Christ to his throne in glory.

We shall consider,

I. The event predicted—

Observe,

1. In what exalted terms our blessed Lord is here spoken of—

Thrice is he called "God:" the incommunicable name "Jehovah" is also assigned to him: and he is declared to be the "King" of Zion, and "the King of the whole earth." Now these are the titles given to him throughout the inspired writings. "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever Psalm 45:6 with Hebrews 1:8." The name whereby he is to be called by all his believing people is, "Jehovah, our Righteousness Jeremiah 23:6." The prophet Isaiah also says, "Your Maker is your Husband; the Lord of Hosts is his name; and your Redeemer, The Holy One of Israel; the God of the whole earth shall he be called Isaiah 54:5." In the New Testament he is also designated by the same august titles, as "God manifest in the flesh 1 Timothy 3:16," even "God over all blessed for eyer Romans 9:5." And it is no little satisfaction to us to see, that the doctrine so essential to our happiness, the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, pervades the whole Scriptures, and bears that prominence in them which might reasonably be expected.

2. How exactly the representation here given of him in a figure, corresponds with the reality—

David had triumphed over all his enemies: and now, in order to honor God who had given him the victory, and that he might have the readier access to God on all occasions, he brought the ark, the symbol of the Divine presence, up to Mount Zion, that there in future it might have a fixed abode. But in this he shadowed forth the true ark, the Lord Jesus Christ, "in whom dwelt all the fullness of the Deity," as ceasing from his labors, and ascending to his throne in glory, there to complete the victories which he had begun on earth. "On his very cross he spoiled all the principalities and powers of darkness, triumphing over them openly in it Colossians 2:14-15;" and in his ascension he "led them all captive Ephesians 4:8," and left his people to contend only with a vanquished enemy John 16:11. He being now upon his throne, we can have access to him at all times, and may obtain from him all the support that we stand in need of.

But this leads me to notice, in reference to this event,

II. The interest we have in it—

If we considered it in no other view than as a recompense to Christ, we should contemplate it with joy. But it is a source of the richest possible blessings to us. Consider,

This ascended Savior is our King—

This ascension is a proof and evidence to us that he has triumphed over all his enemies. He unites these two together, the one as the effect and consequence of the other; "I overcame, and am set down with my Father upon his throne Revelation 3:21." But farther, it is a pledge that he will give us the victory also over all our enemies; He is constituted Head over all things to the Church for this very end and purpose, even "that he might fill all things Ephesians 4:10," and perfect for his believing people all which their infinitely diversified circumstances can require Ephesians 4:11-13. His being "King over all the earth" abundantly shows us, that he is able to protect us from every adversary, and to supply our every want, and to make us "more than conquerors" over all the enemies of our salvation.

Hence it is that the Psalmist so urgently renews his exhortation to us to "sing praise" unto him—

In another psalm he says, "Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King Psalm 149:2." The enemies of Christ have rather reason to tremble: for he will surely "break them all in pieces like a potter's vessel Psalm 2:9." But his people have reason to rejoice, as Solomon plainly intimates; "Arise, O Lord God, into your resting place, you and the ark of your strength: let your priests, O Lord God, be clothed with salvation, and let your saints rejoice in your goodness 2 Chronicles 6:41." In a word, "God has raised up his Son and given him glory, on purpose that our faith and hope may be in him;" 1 Peter 1:21. and therefore we shall be inexcusable if we make not this improvement of the subject that is now brought before us.

Mark then with all due attention,

III. Our duty in the contemplation of it—

Five times does David in this short passage repeat his exhortation to us to sing praises to our ascended Lord. This therefore we should do,

1. With all possible ardor—

This is not a duty to be performed in a cold and formal manner; but with all the powers and faculties of our souls. David's frame of mind should be ours: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name Psalm 103:1." And again, "I will extol you, O God, my King; and I will bless your name forever and ever. Every day will I bless you; and I will praise your name forever and ever Psalm 145:1-2." And again, "Praise the Lord, O my soul: while I live will I praise the Lord; I will sing praises unto my God, while I have my being Psalm 146:1-2." To this effect Paul exhorts us also; "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoice Philippians 4:4." "Rejoice evermore; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you 1 Thessalonians. 5:16; 1 Thessalonians. 5:18." To comply fully with the exhortation of the text, praise should be our one employment from day to day, and the very element in which we live. So far as our imperfect state will admit of it, the dispositions and habits of the heavenly hosts should be in such constant exercise with us, that earth should be the very foretaste of Heaven itself.

2. With all due intelligence—

Every duty should be performed in a wise and intelligent manner. "Whether we pray or sing, it should be with the spirit and with the understanding also 1 Corinthians 14:15." Without fervor, our sacrifice would be lame; and without understanding, blind: and God could never be pleased with such offerings as these Malachi 1:8. The heart and mind must go together, to make our offering a reasonable service. In singing praises therefore to our ascended Savior, we should distinctly view him, not as a private person, but in his public capacity as our Head and Representative. We should have respect to him also as our Advocate and Intercessor, who is "living on purpose to make intercession for us." We should moreover consider him as "our forerunner," who is "gone before, to prepare a place for us, and will shortly come again to take us to himself, that where he is we may be also." These are the truths which the occasion suggests, and these the thoughts which should infuse the utmost possible fervor into our devotions. While therefore a fire burns in our bosoms, let us be sure that it be taken from the altar of our God, and that the sacrifice we present to him be that of an intelligent, as well as of a devout, worshiper.

In the review of this subject we cannot but see,

1. The blessedness of real piety—

I put the question to any living man; Can a person be otherwise than happy, that lives in the state inculcated in my text?.

2. How little there is of true piety upon earth—

Take this frame of mind as the true test of piety, and you will find as much of piety among the very beasts, as among the world at large, yes, and more too: for "the ox does know his owner, and the very donkey his master's crib; while God's professing people neither know nor consider their heavenly Benefactor."

And how lamentably do even good men live below their privileges! Let the very best among us compare his experience with the frame that is here inculcated, and he must confess he has abundant reason to blush and be ashamed. Dear Brethren, let us awake to our duty, and never rest until we have attained such a measure of habitual and intelligent devotion, as shall be a pledge and foretaste of the felicity of Heaven.

 

 

Psalms 48:12-14

 

DISCOURSE 581

THE CHURCH'S SECURITY IN GOD

Psalm 48:12-14. Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof: mark you well her bulwarks; consider her palaces; that you may tell it to the generation following. For this God is our God forever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.

MEN read the Bible in order that they may know what they are to do; and this is well: but they should read the Bible also in order that they may know what they are to expect: for that blessed book is no less a record of their privileges, than of their duties. It is of privileges that our text speaks. The psalm evidently celebrates some triumph over confederate kings verse 4; and it was probably written on the occasion of Jehoshaphat's deliverance from the confederate armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir; who, through the special providence of God, turned their arms against each other, and left Jehoshaphat nothing to do but to collect the spoil 2 Chronicles 20:22-25. That, as might be expected, was a season of very exalted joy to all Judah: and the circumstances altogether correspond very exactly with the intimations given in this psalm. The security of Zion under Divine protection is that which is particularly specified in the text: and we are called to notice it for the benefit of future generations.

Let us consider,

I. The survey proposed—

Whatever strength might be in the fortifications of Jerusalem, the writer of this psalm evidently looked beyond them to God, who alone is the security of his people. Moreover, Zion was a type of the Church of God, which is indeed "the mountain of his holiness, beautiful for situation, and the joy of the whole earth; and in whose palaces he is well known for a refuge verse 1–3." Let us then "walk about her, and tell her towers, and mark well her bulwarks." Let us mark the bulwarks,

1. Of the Jewish Church—

This was founded on the purposes, the perfections, and the promises of God; and from them were derived her strength and her security.

In a season of great alarm and terror, the prophet being asked, "What shall we answer the messengers of the nation," who come to apprise us of the approach of the Philistine armies? His answer was, "Tell them that the Lord has founded Zion, and that the poor of his people shall trust in it Isaiah 14:32." To this Paul adds, "The foundation of the Lord stands sure, having this seal, The Lord knows them that are his 2 Timothy 2:19." God had determined from all eternity that he would have a Church and people in the world: and hence it was that neither Pharaoh in Egypt could prevent, nor all the nations of Canaan could obstruct, the establishment of Mount Zion: for "God's counsel must stand; and he will do all his will Isaiah 46:10."

For the preservation of his Church, every perfection of the Deity was pledged. While his wisdom was engaged to disconcert, and his power to defeat, all her enemies, his truth and faithfulness formed a barrier that could not be broken through: so that, until by the iniquities of his people he was constrained to depart from them, he was "a wall of fire round about them, and the glory in the midst of them Zechariah 2:5;" and every attribute of his was "a chamber in which they might lie down in perfect peace Isaiah 26:20."

Often it appeared as if his promise in relation to them would fail: but not a jot or tittle of his word ever did fail: for "he was not a man that he could lie, or the son of man that he could repent." And, after the people had been forty years established in the land of Canaan, Joshua appealed to them, that "not one good thing had failed of all that God had spoken concerning them, but that everything had come to pass according to his promise Joshua 23:14."

2. Of the Christian Church—

Our Zion also has "her towers and her bulwarks," even the finished work of Christ, and the office of the Holy Spirit, and the economy of Redemption from first to last.

The Lord Jesus undertook to purchase unto himself a peculiar people, even with the inestimable price of his own blood: and never did he cease from his work, until he could say, "It is finished John 19:30." Everything that was necessary to expiate our guilt, everything that was necessary to work out a righteousness for his redeemed people, everything that was necessary to satisfy the demands of law and justice, all he completed perfectly: and having fulfilled his covenant-engagements with the Father, it cannot be but that "he should see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied," even in the promised seed, who should prolong their days, while "the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hands Isaiah 53:10-11."

True it is, that in vain would Christ have died for his Church and people, if the Holy Spirit had not undertaken to apply to their souls the redemption which he has wrought out for them. But from the day of Pentecost to this very hour, he has not failed "to glorify Christ, by taking of the things that are his, and showing them unto men John 16:14." He finds men dead indeed; but he quickens them to a new and heavenly life: he gives them eyes, to see; and ears, to hear; and hearts to feel the truths which he has revealed to them: and "where he has begun a work of grace, he fails not to carry it on, and to perfect it until the day of Christ Philippians 1:6." And hence it is that all the powers of Hell have never been able to prevail against them.

Were the Church to be destroyed, the whole plan of Redemption, as devised by the Father, executed by the Son, and applied by the Spirit, would fail; and the Lord Jesus Christ himself would be robbed of all his recompense and all his glory. But, whoever surveys "these towers," will know assuredly, that "Mount Zion cannot be moved, but abides forever Psalm 125:1." Yes, "God's righteousness shall be forever, and his salvation from generation to generation Isaiah 51:8."

3. Of the Church of which we are members—

As against the world, the Church of England has no other security than what is common to every true Church of Christ: but as against her professed members, who would despoil her of her glory and her excellency, and would sap her very foundations by the introduction of false doctrines into her community. we have towers, and bulwarks, in which we glory, and which we desire you all attentively to survey. "Come, and let us walk round our Zion, and mark well her defences!" See there her Articles; how plain, how strong, how scriptural! there is no truth that is not there established: and though she has many false sons who would surrender them up to the enemy, there is not one which they have ever been able to impair, nor one in which her faithful people do not feel complete security.

Next, behold her Homilies, formed by men of God who knew what assaults would be made against her. There are not wanting men who complain, that these are antiquated, and need repair. But they are as firm and immovable as at the first hour they were constructed: and they defy all the assaults, whether of traitorous friends, or open foes.

Then view her Liturgy.—Next to the Bible, it stands the wonder of the world. Never was there such a composition for the use of those who would worship God in spirit and in truth: and, while piety shall continue to characterize the Children of Zion, this will be their joy, their glory, their defense. They may be derided, as too holy, and too precise: but, while they can point to her expressions both of prayer and praise, they will feel that they are vindicated against the whole world, and are in a bulwark that is absolutely impregnable.

The end of this survey is, "that we may tell it to the generation following:" which shows, that, both for their sakes and our own, we should contemplate,

II. The consolation arising from it—

What was written so many centuries ago, belongs no less to us than it did to those for whose instruction it was originally composed. It calls our attention to the God of Zion, and reminds us of,

1. Our interest in him—

"This God is our God forever and ever." He is the same in himself; and bears the same relation to us; and feels the same concern for us as he did for his Church of old.

"He changes not:" "he is the same yesterday, today, and forever." "With him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." And is he not our Father, our Friend, our Redeemer, our God? When did he cease to sustain these relations to his Church and people? Or when did he cease to be mindful of the offices which these relations imply? If it be said, He has ceased to work miracles; we grant it: but has he therefore withdrawn himself from the Church and from the world, so as to shut up his loving-kindness from us, and to be gracious to us no more? Were we indeed to believe the infidel and ungodly world, we should say with them, that "God has forsaken the earth:" but we know the contrary: we know, that if God's presence and agency be less visible than formerly, they are not a whit less real; and that he feels for his people at this hour, as much as ever he did at any period of the world. "He knows their sorrows Exodus 3:7," and "in all their afflictions is afflicted Isaiah 63:9;" nor can an enemy touch so much as one of them, without touching "the apple of his eye Zechariah 2:8."

Take this then into your consideration, in connection with the foregoing survey. The same God as watched so tenderly over his people of old, is your God; and watches over you, with the same care as he did over them. His purposes have as much respect to you as to them: his perfections are all engaged as much for you, as for them: his promises are made no less to you, than to them. For you the work of Christ, the office of the Spirit, and the whole economy of Redemption, have secured blessings, as well as for them. And the same Spirit who was poured forth in such abundant measure upon our Reformers, and endued them with such consummate wisdom and grace, is ready to "work upon your hearts," and to "fulfill in you also all the good pleasure of God's goodness, and the work of faith with power; so that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ 2 Thessalonians. 1:11-12." I say then, Know from the records of the Church of old what a God you have to go to, and that "this God is your God forever and ever."

2. Our expectations from him—

"He will be our guide even unto death." See how remarkably he guided Jehoshaphat on the occasion which we suppose to be more particularly referred to: he told Jehoshaphat where his enemies were, at what precise spot he should find them, and when he should go against them: twice was it repeated, "Tomorrow go out against them 2 Chronicles 20:16." So he knows exactly where our enemies are, and what they design against us, and how they are to be met: and though he will not vanquish them without our fighting, yet, if we go forth against them in dependence on him, "he will be with us," and will subdue them before us. Suppose our most formidable enemies now in array against us; and see in what way he will interpose in our behalf: "Like as a lion," says he, "and the young lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the Lord of Hosts come down to fight for Mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. As birds flying, so will the Lord of Hosts defend Jerusalem: defending also, he will deliver it: and passing over, he will preserve it Isaiah 31:4-5." Here are no less than three figures, rising in a climax one above the other, to illustrate the zeal and efficacy with which he will interpose for us. The first is that of a lion, who, when devouring his prey, will not be intimidated by the noise of shepherds, how numerous soever they may be: (This marks the determination with which Jehovah will prosecute our caused.) The next is that of a parent bird, who, when she sees a bird of prey hovering over her young, and ready to dart upon them, will fly with the utmost rapidity to intercept the devourer's assault, even at the peril of her own life: (This shows the tender interest which Jehovah will take in our welfare, and the efforts he will make in our behalf.) The last is that of the attendant Angel (the Angel of the Covenant), who accompanied the destroying angel through the whole land of Egypt, and stepped forward, wherever he saw a blood-besprinkled door, to prevent him from executing his commission there: and so effectually constrained him to "pass over" the houses of the Israelites, that, while in every house in Egypt the first-born of man and beast was slain, not one of either was slain in any house belonging to the Children of Israel: (This shows the efficacy with which Jehovah will espouse our cause.) Now then what have we to fear with such a Protector? Let men or devils combine against us, we need not give ourselves one moment's concern. Under all such circumstances, the Psalmist's language should be ours: "God is our refuge and strength; a very present help in trouble: therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God; the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High: God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early Psalm 46:1-5." In a word, we may "cast all our care on Him who cares for us 1 Peter 5:7;" assured, that, "if we only make God our refuge and habitation, no evil shall befall us Psalm 91:9-10."

APPLICATION—

1. Search then into your privileges, that you may have the true enjoyment of them—

Think of people in a besieged city: with what delight would they view the towers and bulwarks which they had reason to believe no enemy could destroy! And will not you, who have the Lord himself for your defense? Consider the representation which he gives of himself, as a broad river, so broad that it cannot be passed but in boats; yet so tempestuous, that no small vessel can live upon it; and so full of rocks and shoals, that no large vessel can navigate it Isaiah 33:20-22; which consequently, being impassable, secures to you, under all circumstances, the most perfect tranquility, consider this, I say, and tell me, whether you ought not to be ever rejoicing in your God? I would that all of you should be fully acquainted with your privileges; and that you should be frequently "walking about Zion, and telling her towers, and marking well her bulwarks, and considering attentively her palaces" in which you are lodged and feasted from day to day; that so you may be happy in your own souls, and "God may dwell in you, while you thus dwell in him!" For, if you thus "know in Whom you have believed, and that He is able to keep that which you have committed to him 2 Timothy 1:12," you cannot but be happy: since he has expressly said, "I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on me, because he trusts in me Isaiah 26:3."

2. Search into them, that you may make them known to the rising generation—

We should not be contented to be happy alone, but should desire as far as possible to diffuse happiness all around us. To the rising generation in particular we are bound to transmit the benefits which we have received. The knowledge of salvation is a sacred deposit committed to us for that very end Psalm 78:5-7; It is scarcely to be conceived how much more profitable to young people the preached Gospel would be, if they were well instructed at home. We teach our children what shall conduce to the advancement of their worldly interests; and shall we neglect the welfare of their souls If this were the subject of a Sermon for a Charity School, or Sunday School, this idea should be considerably enlarged.: In particular, let us endeavor to impress their minds with the knowledge of God, and his perfections; of Christ, and his offices; of the Holy Spirit, and his operations; that so they also may have God for their God, and their guide, and their portion, forever and ever.

 

 

Psalms 49:13

 

DISCOURSE 582

THE FOLLY OF WORLDLY MEN

Psalm 49:13. This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings.

IT is generally supposed that wisdom pertains chiefly, if not exclusively, to those who are proficients in arts and science: but learning and wisdom are by no means necessarily connected with each other: they may exist separately, each in a high degree: and, in fact, there is nothing more common than to behold persons of the most extensive erudition acting the part of fools in God's sight, while persons destitute of all human acquirements are "walking wisely before him in a perfect way." Wisdom, properly viewed, is a conformity of the mind and will to the mind and will of God; and it exists precisely in proportion as this conformity exists: the resemblance is wisdom, the deviation folly. Hence we see why David, at the commencement of this psalm, calls, in so solemn a manner, persons of every age and quality to attend to his instructions; and professes to teach them lessons of the profoundest wisdom, when there is not anything recondite, or anything uncommon, in the whole psalm. The truths contained in this divine ode are level with every capacity, and therefore might seem to be improperly ushered in with so pompous an introduction: but they are at the root of all practical religion; and they draw a broad line of distinction between those who are wise, and those who are unwise, in the estimation of their God.

The whole subject of the psalm will come properly before us, while we consider,

I. The way of worldly men—

It may naturally be expected, that "they who are of the world, should speak of the world," and seek it as their most desired portion: and they are described as doing so in the psalm before us.

They are altogether engrossed with earthly things—

Worldly distinction is the one object of their ambition. For this end chiefly both wealth and honor are pursued verse 18. Having attained these things in a considerable degree, they bless themselves, as possessing somewhat wherein they may trust verse 6, somewhat that will make them happy for a long time to come, and somewhat that shall transmit their names to posterity as worthy of admiration verse 11.

But "this their way is their folly"—

Wealth and honor are far from affording the satisfaction that is expected from them: they will not ward off sickness and death, either from ourselves or others verse 7–10; nor can they follow us into the eternal world verse 17. The moment we die, as very speedily we all must verse 12, 14, nothing of them remains to us but the fearful responsibility attached to the possession of them. Instead of "profiting us in the day of wrath," they will rather augment our final condemnation, if they have not been improved for God as talents committed to us. In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus we behold the bitter consequences of living only to the flesh: the man who has his good things in this life, will want in the eternal world a drop of water to cool his tongue: "he will never see light," but be consigned over to the everlasting regions of darkness and despair verse 19. We wonder not therefore, that the man, who, because he had gotten much, thought of nothing but his temporal enjoyments, "Soul, take your ease," is by God himself derided as a fool: "You fool, this night shall your soul be required of you."

Yet, such is the influence of example, that, notwithstanding the folly of such conduct is visible to all, the same is pursued by every succeeding generation—

No one who considers for a moment the issue of such conduct to those who have gone before them, can doubt the folly of it: for, whatever rank or station men held in this life, or whatever may be said of them now they are gone, what remains to them of their wealth or honor, or what enjoyment have they of their posthumous fame? If we extol them ever so high, they feel no satisfaction; and if we condemn them ever so harshly, they are unconscious of either shame or pain: they are interested in nothing but in the quality of their actions as approved or condemned by their Judge. This we all know; yet no sooner have we a prospect of wealth and honor ourselves, than our desires are as ardent, our expectations as sanguine, and our dependence as unqualified, as that of any who have gone before us. The conviction of their folly only floats in our imagination, but never descends as a, principle into our hearts. We see and blame their folly; yet approve in practice what in theory we condemn.

As contrasted with this, let us consider,

II. The way which true wisdom prescribes—

In verse 15, the Psalmist gives us that precise view of the subject which he had before characterized as replete with wisdom: "God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave; for he shall receive me;" that is, While worldly men have no prospects beyond the grave, I look forward to a happy eternity, which shall be the portion of all who truly serve God. Hence then we see what way true wisdom prescribes: it teaches us,

1. To regard this world in its connection with eternity—

View this world as the whole state of man's existence; and they speak well, who say, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." But this world is a mere passage to a better; it is an inn, at which we sojourn for a night, in our way to a better country. A person tarrying only for a few hours is not greatly elated, if his accommodations be good; nor greatly depressed, if they be bad. He considers, in either case, that it is not his home; that his comfort or discomfort is very transient; and that it will be time enough to look for unmixed enjoyments, when he shall have reached his Father's house. Moreover, this world must be considered as a state of preparation for a better; everything that is done here being an occasion of increased happiness or augmented misery to all eternity. In this view of the world, every pain and every pleasure acquires a new aspect. The things that are so highly prized by ungodly men lose their value; and everything is esteemed good or bad, according as it quickens or retards us in our Christian course. Hence true wisdom says, "Love not the world John 2:15-16," "neither be of it John 17:14; John 17:16;" but "be crucified to it, and let it be as one crucified to you Galatians 6:14."

2. To follow the footsteps of the saints of old—

There are those who have gone before us, whose ways were not folly, though they might be esteemed foolish by those who were themselves blinded by Satan. "Abraham went out from his kindred and his country, not knowing where he went Hebrews 11:8;" Moses refused all the wealth and honor that Egypt could afford, that he might participate in the lot of God's persecuted and despised people Hebrews 11:24-26; many saints "took joyfully the spoiling of their goods, knowing that they had in Heaven a better and an enduring substance Hebrews 10:34;" Matthew left his lucrative employment to follow Christ Matthew 9:9; Paul suffered the loss of all things for Christ Philippians 3:8; and after having engaged in the Christian course, attended to nothing but his progress in it, straining every nerve to win and secure the prize Philippians 3:13-14. All of these would be thought by the world to carry religion to a very culpable excess: but they acted with consummate wisdom, each in the part he took: they all "chose the good part, which could not be taken away from them." Let any one who reflects on the present state of these eminent saints, say, whether "their way was folly?" If it was not; if, on the contrary, it accorded with the dictates of true wisdom, then let all not only "approve their sayings," but imitate their doings also, and "be followers of them, as they were of Christ."

Advice—

1. Guard against the influence of bad example—

There is nothing urged with greater confidence to deter young persons from a religious course, or to draw them back again to the world, than example. They are told from time to time what such and such persons do; and can this be wrong? But whoever they are who are proposed to us for examples, we have only one question to ask; Did they regulate their conduct according to the revealed will of God? and was it the one labor of their lives to walk as Christ walked? If this was not the case, it signifies not who they were, or what they did: "their way was their folly;" and instead of taking them as examples to follow, we should rather regard them as monuments to warn us against impending ruin. If the number and respectability of the persons be urged, let us remember that to "walk according to the course of this world, is to walk according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience." "Christ died to deliver us from this present evil world:" we must therefore leave the broad road that leads to destruction, and walk in "the narrow way that leads unto life." True it is, that "if we do well unto ourselves (in advancing our own temporal interests), men will speak good of us verse 18;" but it is of little consequence what men speak or think: nothing will be of any lasting benefit to us, but the approbation of our God 1 Corinthians 4:3-4.

2. Cleave to Him who alone is able to redeem our souls—

If man cannot redeem his brother from temporal death, much less can he the soul from spiritual and eternal death: the price required for that is more than all the creatures in earth or Heaven are able to pay verse 7–9. But Christ has paid the mighty ransom: with his own "precious blood," he has redeemed us from sin and Satan, from death and Hell. Seek him then, and you are richer than ten thousand worlds could make you. In him you have "durable riches, and righteousness." Go to him, and he will give you "gold tried in the fire, that you may be rich." After him your desires cannot be too ardent; your expectations from him cannot be too enlarged; your dependence on him cannot be too entire and confident. On that side you need not fear excess. And if the world deride your way as folly, regard it not: they will soon alter their sentiments: the moment they enter into the eternal world, they will know infallibly who were wise and who were fools: and when they meet you at the judgment-seat of Christ, they will say, "We fools counted their life madness:" their reproaches then will be turned upon themselves, and their one subject of lamentation will be, that they "approved the sayings" of a blind ungodly world, instead of the infallible sayings of their God. This is the way to "walk not as fools, but as wise:" and, so walking, you shall surely before long have the plaudit of your Judge, "Well done, good and faithful servants! enter you into the joy of your Lord."

 

 

Psalms 49:20

DISCOURSE 583

THE DEGRADED STATE OF MAN

Psalm 49:20. Man that is in honor, and understands not, is like the beasts that perish.

MAN, when first he came out of the hands of his Creator, was perfect; and fit to be God's viceregent, if I may so speak, in this lower world. God put all the rest of the creation under him, and gave him dominion over all the work of his hands. But, from the time that man fell, he became degraded in all his faculties, and in many respects like unto the beasts that perish. True, possessing reason, he still held a superiority over them in those things which belong exclusively to the province of reason: but, in everything which depends on grace, he was reduced to a level with them. To man converted by the grace of God this superiority is restored: but to man in his natural and unregenerate state, even though he be exalted to the highest pinnacle of honor among his fellows, this humiliating declaration is fully applicable: "Man that is in honor, and understands not, is like the beasts that perish."

He is like them,

I. In his understanding—

In things pertaining to the body, man is far inferior to the brute creation, being excelled by one or other of them in every faculty and power. In agility and strength he is not to be compared with myriads of beasts, both tame and savage: and in all the senses he falls exceedingly below them. His sight, his smell, his taste, his hearing, his feeling, are in no respect equal to that which exists among the different orders of beasts and birds and insects; so that, in all that is corporeal, they are superior to him. In what is intellectual, doubtless he retains his superiority; though, after all, in ten thousand instances, instinct in them leaves him far behind, and enables them to discern and execute things without number which man with all his attainments can never reach. But it is in things relating to the soul that I am to speak of him: and in these he will be really found as stupid and brutish as the very beasts.

The beasts do discern, for the most part, what is conducive to their welfare, and distinguish it from that which would prove injurious. But, waving this, I will admit that the beasts discern not the comparative value and excellency of the things around them. And what, I would ask, are the views which men have of sin and holiness, of Heaven and earth, of time and eternity? I ask not what their speculative notions may be, but what their practical views? Who, in his unregenerate state, regards all earthly things as vain, empty, worthless? Who looks upon sin as hateful and abominable? Who affects holiness as the perfection of his nature, and as a source of the sublimest bliss? Who accounts everything as dung and dross in comparison of the favor of God, and the enjoyment of the divine presence? Theoretically, it is true, men know better than the beasts; but practically not a whit more than they; yes, they sink below the beasts in proportion as they act directly contrary to the plainest dictates of their judgment. Unconverted men, notwithstanding they acknowledge a supreme Being, act as much without a reference to his approbation as the very beasts: and hence David describes and addresses them in these humiliating, but most appropriate, terms: "They say, The Lord shall not see; neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, you brutish among the people: and you fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, shall he not hear? He who formed the eye, shall he not see Psalm 94:7-9." Nay, more, the pious Agur, cast down on account of the remains of these infirmities within him, exclaimed, "Surely I am more brutish than any man, and have not the understanding of a man Proverbs 30:2." I think, then, that the assertion in my text is thus far made good; and that not only are the lowest of the people in the state described by him, but the highest and most exalted upon earth. In this respect there is no difference between men; for all, without exception, are practically, and by nature, as the beasts that perish.

But man resembles the beasts also,

II. In his habits—

See what are the habits of the brute creation! All are intent on that only which will gratify their sensual appetites; and all look to present gratifications, without any regard to the future. And what is the state of man, of every man, by nature, whether he be old or young, rich or poor, learned or unlearned? Is not every one living for himself, and seeking the things of time and sense, rather than those which are apprehended only by faith, and relate altogether to eternity? I grant that some are prosecuting chiefly intellectual pursuits: but still it is for themselves, and not for God, that they do it: and if I admit that they soar with the eagle, instead of wallowing in the mire as swine, I still recur to my text, and say, that, while living for themselves, and not for God, they are only as the beasts that perish. A man that is taught of God affects higher things than these. He soars far beyond the sun and all created systems, how many or remote soever they may be: he rises to God himself. Contemplating all His glorious perfections, searching into all His eternal purposes, admiring all the wonders of redeeming love, and anticipating the fruition of God himself; this is the constant habit of his mind, and the most eager pursuit of his life, from day to day. "Eye has never seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived, the things which fill his soul." None can appreciate the engagements of his soul, until they themselves are born from above, and taught by the Holy Spirit: for "he searches the deep things of God," which none but those who are taught, of God can know, or conceive, or estimate 1 Corinthians 2:9-10. But to such habits, I say again, the unenlightened man is as great a stranger as the beasts. "He is of the earth earthy," even as the beasts themselves are. And this I say of the wise and learned. What, then, are the generality of men? Jude says of them, that, instead of seeking heavenly things, "they speak evil of the things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves Jude, verse 10." And he knows but little of the world, who does not know, that "this witness is true."

The same resemblance holds good,

III. In his end—

This perhaps is the point more immediately referred to in my text. "Men's inward thought," he observes, "is, that their houses shall continue forever, and their dwelling-places to all generations: they call their lands after their own names. Nevertheless, man being in honor abides not; he is like the beasts that perish …. For, when he dies, he shall carry nothing away with him: this glory shall not descend after him verse 11, 12, 17." To the same effect Solomon also speaks: "I said in my heart, concerning the estate of the sons of men, that they, if God manifested it to them, might see that they themselves are beasts. For that which befalls the sons of men, befalls beasts; even one thing befalls them: as the one dies, so dies the other; yes, they all have one breath: so that a man has no pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of dust, and all turn to dust again Ecclesiastes 3:18-20."

But we must not confine our attention to the mere circumstance of the mortality of each. The Psalmist had in his mind the thoughtlessness of men respecting anything beyond this life; agreeably to what he says, in another psalm; "A brutish man knows not, neither does a fool understand this; that when the wicked do spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish, it is that they shall be destroyed forever Psalm 92:6-7." Here is their folly, their stupidity, their brutishness: an eternal world is revealed to them; and they will not consider it: Heaven and Hell are opened to their view; and they will do nothing to avoid the one or obtain the other. Could they indeed die like the beasts, without any future state of retribution, it were happy for them: and such is the state of mankind at large, that there are very few, comparatively, who would not welcome annihilation as a rich and acceptable blessing. But to the bar of judgment every soul will be summoned before long: and "all must receive, at the hands of their Judge, according to what they have done in the body, whether it be good or evil." If in other things, then, they are reduced to a level with the beasts, in this they fall far below them; inasmuch as, with an intellect capable of appreciating eternity, they act as if they had no more interest in it than the beasts themselves.

See, then,

1. What a difference there is between an intelligent Christian and all others!

I will take the one from the lowest, and the other from the highest, walks in life; and say that the intelligent Christian, however mean, resembles God; while the worldling, however elevated, is Like the beasts that perish. In his understanding, the regenerate man sees things as they really are, and knows that the things which are visible and temporal are not worthy of a thought in comparison of those which are unseen and eternal. In his habits, too, he seeks not the things which are on earth, but those which are in Heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of God. And in his end, he goes to a world of blessedness and glory, where he shall abide forever in the bosom of his God. His unenlightened neighbor accounts all this as folly: but the time is coming, and very shortly too, when it will be made to appear which of the two was really wise.

2. Of what immense importance is the Gospel!

It is the Gospel only that changes the hearts of men. Doubtless God may use any means, or accomplish the conversion of a soul without means: but his appointed means are the Gospel, with which, in all ages, he has "turned men from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God." My dear Brethren, I do hope that some at least of you can bear testimony to the truth of what I say. Once you were as blind as others: but now you see. Once you had no more concern about your souls than others; and lived, like others, for this world only: but now, through the grace of God, you are brought to tread in the steps of Christ and his holy Apostles, and to value nothing in comparison of the favor of your God. And what is it that has made this difference between your present and your former selves? It is the Spirit of Christ that has quickened you, and the love of Christ that yet daily constrains you: and by this change you are assimilated to the glorified saints and angels, yes, and to the image of God himself. Bear testimony, then, to the truth and efficacy of the Gospel; and commend that to others which you have found so effectual for your own souls.

 

 

Psalms 50:7-15

 

DISCOURSE 584

SPIRITUAL OBEDIENCE PREFERRED BEFORE SACRIFICE

Psalm 50:7-15. Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, and I will testify against you; I am God, even your God. I will not reprove you for your sacrifices, or your burnt-offerings, to have been continually before me. I will take no bullock out of your house, nor he-goats out of your folds; for every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains; and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you: for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay your vows unto the Most High: and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.

IN the psalm before us we have one of those sublime addresses which Jehovah occasionally makes to the whole creation, to hear and judge between him and his offending people Isaiah 1:2-3. Mic. 6:2. The images are taken from his appearance on Mount Sinai, which was with terrible majesty, insomuch that "Moses himself said, I exceedingly fear and quake Exodus 19:16-18 with Hebrews 12:18-21." The scene is "Mount Zion, the perfection of beauty," even that Zion from whence the Gospel has proceeded, and from whence Jehovah speaks to us as our Covenant-God: and this c