PSALMS

Charles Simeon's Devotional Commentaries


The Psalms, though in many parts historical, doctrinal, and preceptive, may yet be considered as differing materially from the rest of the inspired volume, inasmuch as, while other books of Scripture inculcate religion, these exemplify the operations of genuine religion on the heart.


#494

CHARACTERS OF THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED

Psalm 1:1-6 

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish!"

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." The Psalms 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, in the brief notices here given to us, we have what is abundantly sufficient to distinguish the saints from all other people upon the face of the earth.

1. The saints are here described in plain terms.

Two things we are told concerning them, namely:
What COMPANY the saints desire.

They have no pleasure in the society of ungodly men. They are aware that "Bad company corrupts good character;" 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 pious 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.

What EMPLOYMENT the saints delight in. 

Privacy, and reading of the Holy Scriptures, are far 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 the Word, they find the charter, by which they are entitled to an everlasting glorious 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.

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 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. The saints are here described by a beautiful comparison. 

In consequence of thus "shunning 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 vicissitude of spiritual seasons they surely experience; but never is their profession tarnished by openly visible decays, or by a lack 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."

1. The ungodly are not so in their character.

The ungodly, instead of shunning the company of those who do not fear God, prefer it; and would far rather associate with an avowed infidel, or a notorious wicked man, 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 those who 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 would soon discover to which of these parties we belong.

2. The ungodly are not so in their condition.

They have no part or lot in the "blessedness" of the saints.

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 winnowing fan 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 the living and dead will come, even He, of whom it is said, "His winnowing 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 by God, 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 opinions and examples of others, and what awful consequences will follow from the conduct we pursue—then we shall see the necessity of selecting those only for our friends, who, we have reason to believe, are the friends of God. Do not let 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 mere 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—then you shall receive from him such rich communications as shall be abundantly sufficient for you! Hosea 14:4-7.

 

#495

OPPOSITION TO CHRIST VAIN

Psalm 2:1-12 

"Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. "Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters." The One enthroned in Heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill." I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will break them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery." Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him!"

This Psalm, in its primary sense, relates to David; it declares the opposition which would 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, one greater than David is here. There are several expressions in this Psalm which are not at all applicable to 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 Christ.

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; those 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 go. As Herod and Pontius Pilate, who were before at variance, united cordially with each other for the purpose of oppressing Christ—so now people 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 to Christ is founded on an aversion to his strict and holy laws.

Had the Apostles brought forward the Gospel as a matter of opinion 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 any new philosophy. But it was the gospel that required of all people to submit entirely and unreservedly to the dominion of Christ, which 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. Qe 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.

II. But the experience of all ages abundantly attests to 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 laughs at them, and has 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, "I have 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 outcome of the contest will be the same; Christ must prevail, and "all his enemies shall become his footstool! Matthew 22:44."

Let us then contemplate,

III. Our duty with respect to Christ.

If He is "the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords," then:

Our duty is to submit to Christ and serve him. 

A "holy reverential fear" befits us in his presence, "He is greatly to be feared, and to be had in reverence by all those who are round about him." Our reverential 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 full of glory! 1 Peter 1:8."

Yet our joy should 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 a devout affection towards him. 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.

Submission to Christ 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 basest 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.

Submission to Christ is also our truest wisdom.

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 alone 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, submission to Christ is the only true path of happiness.

For what happiness can they have who are liable 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 reflects at all, must be sensible that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." We say then, "How blessed are all who put their trust in Him!" Psalm 2:12

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!

 

#496

REGARD TO CHRIST ENFORCED

Psalm 2:12 

"Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge 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 this Psalm 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 command.

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" the Son, we are to understand

1. By "kissing the Son," we are to understand submission to Christ's 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. By "kissing the Son," we are to understand love to Christ.

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. By "kissing the Son," we are to understand devotion to Christ's 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 this command is enforced.

And here we notice,

1. The danger of disobeying this command.

As gracious and loving as the Savior is, he is susceptible to 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 God's heavier displeasure; the person who feels the smallest portion of his wrath in Hell, will be inexpressibly and eternally miserable; and therefore it befits 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 eternally perish 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 this command.

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.

A saving trust in Christ 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 entitles him to an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance in Heaven.

No person who ever possessed sincere trust in Christ, ever perished.

Glory and honor and immortality are the portion of "all who 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."

 

#497

THE PRIVILEGES OF THE GODLY

Psalm 4:3

"Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to him."

Christianity has in all ages been an object of derision to an ungodly world. There never have been lacking 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.

I. Who are the special objects of God's favor?

The world is divided into only two kinds of men—the godly, and the ungodly.

The godly are to be distinguished from the ungodly, by a great variety of marks:

The godly fear God. 

The generality of people 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 sinning against Him, even in thought! 2 Corinthians 10:5.

The godly 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.

The godly serve God.

Their religion does not consist in mere ineffectual feelings.

It is obvious to all that they are God's servants.

They perform even their civil and social duties with a reference to God, Romans 13:5-6.

They do everything with a view to God's glory, 1 Corinthians 10:31. 

What are the special honors which God confers upon the godly?

God has "set them apart," as distinct from those who perish.

He has set the godly apart secretly, in His eternal purpose.

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

He has also set the godly apart openly, when He effectually calls them by His grace.

In time, God effectually calls and converts all whom He chose in eternity past. He inclines and enables them to come out from the world, 2 Corinthians 6:17-18. He causes them to devote themselves to his service, 1 Peter 2:9.

He has also set the godly apart, 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 treasured possession, Psalm 135:4.

"Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself!"

"You are:
 a chosen people,
 a royal priesthood,
 a holy nation,
 a people belonging to God,
that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light." 1 Peter 2:9

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 chosen 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 chosen for their holiness (for they had no holiness in themselves, but "were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest!" Ephesians 2:3.) Each of God's chosen people have invariably been made holy when they were saved. 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 would be worthy of notice. But the present separation of God's people for himself, is a pledge of a future separation. In the day of judgment, God will complete the eternal separation which 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, forever! 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 people in Heaven, who are now the devil's people on earth. 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 the death of the righteous!

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

Those 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!

 

#498

A PRACTICAL EXHORTATION

Psalm 4:4-5 

"Stand in awe, and do not sin. Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah. Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and 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 (verse 1), he reproves those who derided religion, and sought happiness in the world (verse 2). He assures them, that God is the friend and portion of all who seek him (verse 3); and recommends them to seek him in a befitting manner (verses 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 (verses 6-7), in which all who enjoy it find perfect rest (verse 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".

Certainly sin ought to be an object of extreme fear and dread; we can never "stand in awe" of it too much.

See the devastation which sin 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 sin! 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 and take a new of the Savior in Gethsemane and on the cross; and then say, whether sin is not a formidable evil!

Or go down to the regions of Hell where myriads of our unhappy fellow-creatures are suffering the penalty due to their sin, and then announce to us your opinions respecting it.

One glimpse of sin, in its true character, would be abundantly sufficient to convince you that death, in its most terrific shapes, has no terror in comparison with 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 no painful consequences with it? 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—then do not hesitate 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.

"Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still." People, 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 praiseworthy.

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 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 doing things 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 imagine 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 would 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, honestly review 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; so that 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 sacrifice 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 husband is engaged in his proper labor, the wife is to be superintending the concerns of her family; and is to be discharging her duties with care and diligence.

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.

It is to his mercy must we look for acceptance before him.

It is 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 does 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 I am 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 from 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 I have 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 acclaim 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 trust. 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.

 

#499

GOD'S FAVOR THE ONLY SUBSTANTIAL GOOD

Psalm 4:6

"Many are asking, 'Who will show us any good?'

 Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD."

Self-sufficiency pertains to God alone—he alone is not dependent on any other person or thing or circumstance for his own happiness. The creature must of necessity be dependent, and must derive its happiness from some other source outside of himself. 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; but sadly, through:
 the blindness of his
understanding,
 the perverseness of his
will,
 and the corruptness of his
affections
—he seeks happiness 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, "Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD!"

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

I. The world's inquiry.

A desire for happiness being natural, this inquiry 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 laurels of victory, the acquisition of rank, and the applause of men.

The traveler searches for it in foreign lands, 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 politician 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.

The religious 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 gambler desires the excitement of his feelings in another way; and hopes, that, in the exultation arising from successful chance, 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 needs.

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.

It is indeed true, 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 the evil things which he does will, on the whole, most contribute to his happiness.

This inquiry after happiness 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 from 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 true happiness is to be found in God alone; so that, despising in comparison all other objects, he says, "Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD!" "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. A sense of being in God's favor, 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 family,
his happiness will after all be very contracted, if he does not also have the light of God's countenance lifted up upon him. But let him be favored with the Divine presence, and 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 beautiful scenery, 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, Psalm 144; in the close of which, David corrects, as it were, what he had said in the two preceding verses.

2. A sense of being in God's favor, 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 he will, 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.

In like manner may the poorest and most destitute of all the human race exult, if only the love of God is 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. A sense of being in God's favor, 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. A sense of being in God's favor, will never weary.

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 frequently happens that the rich have less comfort in their abundance, than the poor in their 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. A sense of being in God's favor, will never end.

Whatever we possess here, we must soon bid farewell to it; whether our enjoyment is 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?" Is not Solomon's testimony confirmed by universal experience, that "all is vanity and vexation of spirit!" If this then is 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 cannot satisfy? Hearken diligently unto me; and eat 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 desire:

"May the Lord bless you
    and protect you.
  May the Lord smile on you
    and be gracious to you.
  May the Lord show you His favor
    and give you His peace." Numbers 6:24-26.

We will thus 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 an example for us. If the world hears you inquiring: Who will show me any good? and then sees 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 no 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! "Whom have I in Heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:25-26.

 

#500

THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE RIGHTEOUS

Psalm 5:11-12 

"Let all who put their trust in You, rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor 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 man in 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—then 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".

"Let all who put their trust in You, rejoice; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield."

In delineating this, the generality of people would refer to only those actions which had respect to men. But this would give a very partial and inadequate view of the subject. The truth is that a 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 do not mean 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 wicked principles, 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 providence, 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 God's 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 is done, they receive it as from God; and whatever is 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 eternal 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. Just 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 also, 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 I have 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 those who 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 are so joyful as the godly?

"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! Again I say, Rejoice!" "Rejoice evermore; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you."

It is true 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 who 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 the godly?

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 which the stranger neither understands or possesses!" It is "a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory!"

APPLICATION. 

Seek to be truly "righteous." Do not forget 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 a foretaste of Heaven!

 

#501

GOD'S RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION AGAINST THE WICKED

Psalm 7:11-13

"God is a righteous judge; and God is angry with the wicked every day! If he does not turn back, He will sharpen His sword; He bends His bow and makes it ready. He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes His arrows into fiery shafts!"

David begins Psalm 97 with, "The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice!"

David begins Psalm 99 with, "The Lord reigns; let the earth tremble!"

Either exhortation is suitable, according to the people who are more especially addressed.

The godly may well rejoice, that He whom they serve, has all things at his command!

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 importance.

The oppressed David, reflecting on it with delight, said, "My defense is of God, who 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 which they deserve. 

I. In the words before us we see the conduct of God in his moral government here on earth.

The righteous are the objects of Gods 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 earthly 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 God's 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 responses 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 are more or less decent in the eyes of the world, it makes but little difference in God's 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 patience 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 into his arms of mercy. But, while they continue impenitent, he meditates nothing but to display towards them his merited indignation. With a view to their punishment, "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 would 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 condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping! 2 Peter 2:3."

II. God's equitable judgement will be rendered visible to all in his judicial proceedings at the last day.

Then will God approve and reward the righteous.

Here on earth they are traduced, and loaded with all manner of obloquy; but there, "He, that tries the hearts and thoughts, 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 God will then consign the wicked 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 on earth, 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 here those who were my enemies, who would not have me reign over them, and slay them before me!"

Hear how God contemplates the judgments that await them, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them! Deuteronomy 32:35." "As surely as I live forever, when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood, while my sword devours flesh: the blood of the slain and the captives, the heads of the enemy leaders!" Deuteronomy 32:40-42."

It is true 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?"

Application.

1. See the importance of ascertaining your real character before God.

If you will inquire who the wicked are, to whom this fearful doom will be assigned—you will scarcely find one who thinks that they are wicked; 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 are soundly converted.

2. See the blessedness of having God for your friend.

If God is your enemy—then the whole world cannot protect you from his avenging arm! But if God is your friend—then who, or what, can really harm you? As for man, he cannot touch a hair of your head without God's permission; and if he is allowed to assault you for a time—then 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!

 

#502

THE NAME OF GOD, A GROUND OF TRUST

Psalm 9:10

"Those who know your name will put their trust in you; for you, Lord, have not forsaken those who 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 people 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, "Those who know your name will put their trust in you; for you, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you."

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

I. What the knowledge of God's Name imports.

1. God's name imports, not merely a knowledge of the different names by which he is called, but a knowledge of him in his own essential perfections.

He was pleased to reveal himself to Moses in express terms, declarative of all his glorious perfections, "Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished! 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; and I doubt not but that this was intended to show that in Christ alone, God 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 Christ's face alone that all the glory of God shines forth! 2 Corinthians 4:6.

2. God's name imports a knowledge of him 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, "Those who know your name will put their trust in you; for you, Lord, have not forsaken those who 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 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."

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 a saving knowledge of God will manifest its existence in the soul.

1. A saving knowledge of God will lead that person 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 nothing 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, "Assyria cannot save us; we will not mount war-horses. We will never again say 'you are our gods' to what our own hands have made, for in You the fatherless find compassion! Hosea 14:3."

This 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 true 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 from 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. A saving knowledge of God will lead that person to rely solely upon God. 

Yes, indeed, "those 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 against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me, and I'll strike you down and cut off your head. Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will 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 I take refuge. How then can you say to me: "Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?" The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence his soul hates!" Psalm 11:1-4."

David's deliberate sentiment, on all occasions, was this, "I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over you—the LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore! Psalm 121:1-9."

"What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: "For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered." No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord! Romans 8:31-39."  

I sat that there is nothing more severely reproved, throughout the inspired volume, than unbelief and distrust; nor is there 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 God as it is your privilege and your duty to possess!

In reading the Scripture, mark God's every perfection as displayed in his dealings with the men. If you notice facts alone—then you will read Scripture to little purpose. It is his glory, as beaming forth throughout the whole sacred volume, which you are chiefly to contemplate. If your mind is habituated to contemplate God's glory—then you can never lack 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 people inhabiting one of the planets, they could not differ more widely in their opinions and habits, than the nominal Christian differs from the Scripture saints!

What, for instance, were Paul's opinions? "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord."

And what were Paul's habits? "To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." "Forgetting the things which are behind, and 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 professing 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, 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 we shall be numbered among the sheep of Christ, and dwell in his fold forever and ever!

 

#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 the 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 as we consider them.

I. Who does God regard as being 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:

1. God regards all those as wicked in his sight, who are heedless of his Word.

God's Word ought to be written on our hearts, and to be the invariable rule of our conduct. It should be our constant inquiry, What is my duty? What does God command me in his Word? But if this is no part of our concern, if our inquiry is continually: "What will please myself? What will advance my interests? What will suit the taste of those around me"—then 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. God regards all those as wicked in his sight, who are 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 not God's mercies to us, 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 then wicked? Do we account such ingratitude a trivial offence, when exercised by a dependent towards ourselves?

3. God regards all those as wicked in his sight, who are unmindful of his presence.

God is everywhere present, and every object around us has this inscription upon it, "You see me O God!" 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"—then 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 those who are thus without God, are at the same time "without hope? Ephesians 2:12."

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

II. What will be the final doom of the wicked?

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

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 eternal abode in that place?

Yet Hell must be the portion of all who forget God. 

Now scoffers make light of eternal torments, and sneer at the denunciations of God's wrath. But before long they will call out "to the mountains and the rocks: Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!" However reluctant they are to obey the divine mandate, "Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels!" they must be "turned into Hell" with irresistible force, and with fiery indignation!

Their numbers will not at all secure them against the threatened vengeance; though there are whole "nations," they will not be able to withstand the omnipotent 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 wicked are living!

Men seem as careless and indifferent about their eternal interests as if they had nothing to fear; or as if God had promised that the wicked would 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 delusive dream, and flee from the wrath to come!

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

Many think it a harsh 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 exceedingly 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 the wicked 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 do not desire the knowledge of your ways!" And shall God be accused of injustice if he says to them, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels! Matthew 25:41." 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 quickly 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 are 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!"

 

#504

MEN'S PROUD CONTEMPT OF GOD

Psalm 10:4-5

"In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. His ways are always prosperous; he is haughty, and your judgments are on high, out of his sight; he sneers at all his enemies."

Pride, when manifested in a flagrant manner, universally excites disgust! So hateful it is, when divested of the subtle 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:

"In his pride the wicked does not seek him."

God invites them to seek his face, and promises that he will be found by 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.

"In all his thoughts there is no room for God."

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 reproof; and then, unless the grace of God prevents them, they will cast him out of their minds again as soon as possible, and drown their thoughts in business or sin, Job 21:14-15.

They account God's ways, as far as they know them, to be 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 them, 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 the wicked, 1 Corinthians 2:14. When the mysteries of redemption are opened, they are esteemed by the wicked as "cunningly-devised fables;" and when the marvelous interpositions of Providence are insisted on, they are ready to exclaim, with Ezekiel's hearers, "Does he not speak parables? Ezekiel 20:49."

"As for all their enemies, they sneer at them."

If God himself threatens them as an enemy, they disregard his threats. 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 us; neither will the Almighty regard it, Psalm 94:7." "I am safe, even though I am following the desires of my own stubborn 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 estimation, 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, in their own estimation, to need his aid.

They imagine that they can repent when they please, and that, whenever 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," and that "God must grant them repentance"—then there would be 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, in their own estimation, 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 truly understand 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, in their own estimation, 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! "They say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked!" Revelation 3:17. And hence it is that they have no desire to have God in all their thoughts.

INFERENCES. 

1. How astonishing is the depravity of human nature!

If all are not equally addicted to gross sins—then 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 is 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. Do not let 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 somewhat attain in this world a conformity to his image, and a delight in his commandments.

 

#505

MEN'S CONTEMPT OF GOD

Psalm 10:11, 13

"He says to himself, 'God has forgotten; He covers his face and never sees!'"

"Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself: He won't call me to account?"

The thoughts of God respecting the nature and malignity of sin, are widely different from those which are entertained in the hearts of natural men. Men consider themselves as innocent if their outward conduct is not grossly reprehensible, and what they cannot justify in their actions they mitigate 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 the atheism in their hearts, Psalm 14:1.

Thus, in the Psalm before us, he reveals the secret motives by which the wicked are actuated, verses 2, 4, 6, 11, and puts the right construction on their thoughts verse 13.

Let us consider,

I. The ground of the natural man's expostulations.

Were all the lineaments of man's contempt of God to be drawn, we would scarcely ever finish the dreadful portrait!

We make light of:
 the Father's authority,
 the Son's sin-atoning sacrifice,
 the Spirit's influence in regeneration.

Every office they sustain, every attribute they possess, every relation they bear to us—we disregard and dishonor. We . . .
overlook God's providence,
are unmindful of his Word,
neglect his ordinances,
and 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 an account of their sin.

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 an account of their sin?"

2. Their unconcern about forsaking sin in the 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! Does not this say, "Sin may be indulged with impunity, God will not require an account of their sin!"

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

It is a contempt of God's holiness.

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

It is a contempt of God's 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.

It is a contempt of God's 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.

It is a contempt of God's 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 an account of their 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 is 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 clearly said that he will require an account of their 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 in many instances, already required an account of their 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 God will require an account of their 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 God's requiring an account of their 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, Micah 7:19.

 

#506

THE WORKINGS OF UNBELIEF AND OF FAITH

Psalm 11:1-7

"In the LORD I take refuge. How then can you say to me: "Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart. When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne. He observes the sons of men; his eyes examine them. The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who love violence, his soul hates. On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot. For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face."

(The three first verses of the Psalm should be read as one continued speech, and 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 opinions and conduct of the various people 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 cowardly 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. Unbelief 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 atheistic; for if there is a God, and that God is a hearer of prayer, the question would rather be, 'What can the righteous not do?'

Let us look at an instance or two, as a specimen of what a godly man 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 in 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 anyone, 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 who 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. Unbelief 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 befit 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.

Just so, 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 then can you say to me: Flee like a bird to your mountain? When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?"

This is my answer to all such vain fears, "The LORD is in his holy temple; the LORD is on his heavenly throne!" What plots can men or devils form, which God does not see? Or what can they attempt to execute, which God 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! What 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 Syrian army smitten with blindness, and led by the prophet into the very heart of their enemy's country! 2 Kings 6:8-20.

Just so, all the saints are 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 test" as people 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 a 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 all this—whom then shall he fear? He knows that no weapon formed against him can prosper, unless Infinite Wisdom has ordained that it shall. He knows that no evil can be allowed to approach him which shall not be recompensed a 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 these views 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 surely an arduous task to "wrestle with all the principalities and powers of Hell;" but, "if God is for you, then who can be against you?" Do not, because of some occasional darkness, say, "My way is hidden 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 prevails 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 in God! Psalm 42:11."

Consider the force of our Lord's reproof to Martha, "Did I not say unto you, that, if you would believe, you would 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, "But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield! Psalm 5:11-12."

 

#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 concoct 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 are 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?"

1. Who is Lord over us, 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 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 people were sensible of the divine presence, and that God marks every motion of their hearts—could they give such a license as they do to sin, or commit it with so little fear? No! If only their sins are hidden from the eyes of men, they are satisfied; and that which was erroneously imputed by Eliphaz to Job, is really fulfilled in them, "Yet you say: 'What does God know? Does he judge through such darkness? Thick clouds veil him, so he does not see us as he goes about in the vaulted heavens.' Job 22:13-14."

2. Who is Lord over us, 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 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. Who is Lord over us, to supply our needs?

Whatever be the needs 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 would be an iniquity to be punished by the Judge; for then I would have denied the God who is above, Job 31:24; Job 31:28."

4. Who is Lord over us, to call us to an account for our sins?

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 does not see; the God of Jacob pays no heed." Take heed, you senseless ones among the people; you fools, when will you become wise? Does he who implanted the ear not hear? Does he who formed the eye not see? Does he who disciplines nations not punish? Does he who teaches man lack knowledge? The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile! Psalm 94:7-11."

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! 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.

Let me, however, proceed to show you,

II. The folly of atheism.

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

1. Your atheism 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 would be 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 would 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 opinions, were to leap down a precipice, or thrust his hand into the fire—would we be at any loss how to designate that conduct? Yet it would not be a whit more foolish than to go on in sin, on the presumption that God does not mark, or will not judge, the thoughts and actions of men! In this case, precisely as in the other, we only rush on to our perdition!

2. Your atheism will not alter the outcome 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 justice;
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 deny. 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 atheistic 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 that "He is God, and there is no other! 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 God's hands; and he has a right to every power that you possess. 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, reject this Lord, and none can save you! Give yourselves up to him, and "none can harm you! 1 Peter 3:13."

 

#508

THE COMMONNESS AND FOLLY OF ATHEISM

Psalm 14:1-3 

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God!'

They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one!"

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. "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" 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 have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one!"

Above all, Paul, speaking expressly upon the subject of human depravity, appeals to this very passage as decisively establishing that doctrine. "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one!" Romans 3:10-12."

In considering the words before us we shall show,

I. The atheistic 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 the heart's real language to be like that in the text.

1. The heart's real language may be understood 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 sinful 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 does not see us! Ezekiel 8:12." "Yet you say: What does God know? Does he judge through such darkness? Thick clouds veil him, so he does not see us as he goes about in the vaulted heavens, Job 22:13-14," ignorant and indifferent about the affairs of men!

And as we thus refuse to acknowledge God ourselves, so we desire that any others should not acknowledge him. Is anyone of our companions awed by the fear of God? How ready are we to laugh at his scruples, and 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, "I will search Jerusalem with lamps and punish those who are complacent, who are like wine left on its dregs, who think, 'The LORD will do nothing, either good or bad!' Zephaniah 1:12."

2. The heart's real language may be understood 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 no God. 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 is the Governor and Judge of all—he has decreed to bestow on them the blessing 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 these thoughts and desires?

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

II. The folly of entertaining atheistic thoughts.

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 would it be 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! How much more would they yield themselves up to sin's 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 our lusts, 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. If once the world were bereft of God's providence, it would instantly resemble that world, where the dispositions of men are allowed 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—then there would be no fear of future punishment in Hell. The thought of this would be a great delight 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 who 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 in 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!

Inferences:

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 his 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 vehement enmity against God, and reconciles the sinner to Him. 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 in his glory! How enviable is such a state! Compare the wisdom of such a state with the folly which we have been exposing. Let us instantly begin to live, as we shall wish we had lived, when we come to die! 

 

#509

BELIEVERS VINDICATED

Psalm 14:6

"You evildoers frustrate the counsel of the poor, but the LORD is their refuge."

One would imagine that true 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 anyone 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. See verses 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 the text.

The people 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 lack 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 the text. 

In "frustrating the plans of the poor," the ungodly will pretend to reason with them.

They will deride their plans 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 for salvation, 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.

Their counsel is not unnecessary; for there is not a creature in the universe that can be saved in any other way.

Their counsel 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 alone for salvation, 1 John 3:23.

Their counsel 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. Just so, 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 people of this character. In fact, those who do not follow it, despise this counsel—even though they should never cast any particular reproach on those who adopt it. But, I beg permission 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.

But that is the only wise counsel which will be accepted by 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, that 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—whereas God's judgment will be forever. The Prophets, the Apostles, and our Lord Jesus Christ—were they approved by 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.

 

#510

THE BLESSINGS OF SALVATION

Psalm 14:7 

"Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!"

We know not on what occasion this Psalm was written, 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, Psalm 53.

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 verses 1-3 with Romans 3:10-19.

The Psalmist has evidently been reflecting on the extreme wickedness of the human heart, in that men, for the purpose of following 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, "Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel 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 who in New Testament, under that character, comes forth out of Zion, Romans 11:26, and is an object of desire to all nations Haggai 2:7." But, perhaps, it is rather "salvation" itself that is here spoken of, and which the Psalmist contemplates.

I. Salvation, 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 professing 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 is 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! As great as your guilt undoubtedly is, it may all be washed away in the Redeemer's blood; and as deeply-rooted as your corruptions are, they may all be rooted out by the operation of his holy Spirit on your souls. Reconciliation is made 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 to 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,

II. Salvation, as actually attained.

Salvation has been effected by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Already salvation has produced great joy in the world.

To a great extent has the captivity of God's spiritual 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 magnifies 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, "the oil of joy is given in the stead of mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness."

But what joy will it not excite, when salvation 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,

1. We learn what conversion is.

Whatever mystical representations are 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 is not a proper object of desire, or whether a captive soul can ever desire it too much.

2. We learn that salvation 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 last 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 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. We learn that salvation should endear the thoughts of death to us.

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 small 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.

 

#511

CHARACTER OF THOSE WHO SHALL BE SAVED

Psalm 15:1-5

"O LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill?

He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellow-man, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken."

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 probable 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 is the conduct—of those who shall be finally admitted into that true tabernacle which God himself has erected in Heaven? 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 the inquiry 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 to draw the line, so 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 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:

1. All true believers will have 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 lacking, nothing can be right. Religious services, of whatever kind, are of no account with God—if there is not a determination of heart to do whatever he commands. A single eye is that which he approves; and the lack 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 who practices 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 in 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 in the soul, and the other to the image of Christ in the soul."

2. All true believers will have 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:

Genuine Christians will not practice uncharitable censures. Among false professors, even as among the ungodly world, there is a lamentable lack 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 allow 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 a 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.'

Genuine Christians will practice 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 allow 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 who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity."

Genuine Christians will practice strict adherence to all their engagements. No believer will think lightly of his word, and still less of his oath. If he has 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 has "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 renege on any promise. For the true Christian, "his yes must be yes, and his nay, nay."

Genuine Christians will abhor things that are sordid and unjust. Usury was forbidden under the Mosaic Law; and that prohibition, as to the spirit of it, reigns 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 people of this character, we behold with pleasure,

III. Their salvation assured.

Our blessed Lord represents them as people whose habitation is founded on a rock, Matthew 7:24-27; and their perseverance and preservation are 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 man persevere one moment longer, than God shall be pleased to uphold him in his everlasting arms; but still God himself has represented "righteousness as a breastplate," which will resist the darts of our great adversary. 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 preservation 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 "those 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 people 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."

 

#512

SUPERIOR BLESSEDNESS OF TRUE CHRISTIANS

Psalm 16:4

"The sorrows of those who run after other gods will be multiplied."

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 chapter. 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. 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 "The sorrows of those who run after other gods will be multiplied."

1. We see this among the pagans.

They worship gods of wood and stone, hence 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. Just so, 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 is considerably advanced.

2. We see this among the votaries of this world. 

Look at those who are "enslaved by all kinds of lusts and pleasures," and seeking happiness in the gratification of their own evil 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 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 plight of Lazarus, attest. Truly, whether pleasures, riches, or honors are thus idolized, they heap distress and anguish on their votaries, both in this world and in the world to come.

3. We see this among 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 sin-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 judgement of 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 the state of idolaters, with the state of the Lord's redeemed people.

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

1. The Lord's redeemed people are blessed with 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 by his God; and, "being justified by faith, he has peace with God!" He may say, with undoubting assurance, "The Lord is the portion of my inheritance! verse 5."

2. The Lord's redeemed people are blessed with 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." 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 will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my flesh also shall rest in hope! verse 8, 9."

3. The Lord's redeemed people are blessed with the hope and assurance 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 have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand! Verse 16." As to the full enjoyment of Heaven, I cannot attempt to describe it. No words can paint it; no imagination can conceive of it. But it shall be the assured and everlasting possession of all who sincerely 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 is 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.

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." Just so, let there be nothing withheld from your Lord and Savior; yes, give your whole selves to him; and let your whole body, soul, and spirit, be sanctified to him, henceforth, and for evermore!

 

#513

GOD HIMSELF HIS PEOPLE'S PORTION

Psalm 16:5-7

"O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance. I will bless the LORD who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs 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 would 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 prevailed 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 my 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 genuine 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 men. 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 even 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 those who 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 they would have enjoyed their inheritance, if they had not by their transgressions provoked God to forsake them.

But true believers 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 allow 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!

If such is the inheritance of all God's people—then we shall not wonder then at,

II. The feelings which true believers have in the contemplation of their inheritance.

1. David expresses delight in his inheritance.

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 have fallen to me in pleasant places; yes, I have a good inheritance."

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 with 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.

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 imagine 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. David expresses thankfulness to God for his inheritance.

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 God 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 to 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 thoughts also instruct me in the night-seasons."

And is it not thus with every believer? Do you not assuredly know 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 thoughts instructed you," until with a conviction you were "cut 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 with 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 afflicted 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!"

III. To those who do not have God as their 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 the worldly pleasures which you have enjoyed, and see how little solid and lasting 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 spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare! 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 friends, 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."

IV. To those who already enjoy this portion, I will offer a word of encouragement.

"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—yet their situation was to them as "the very gate of Heaven! Acts 16:25." Just 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 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 people sensible of their privileges; and say, as you may well do, "The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places, and I have a good inheritance."

 

#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 will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

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 future eternal glory 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. Christ's support in life.

In an assurance of his Father's continual aid, Jesus 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 aid and support him; and was well assured, that as nothing could be done but according to his determinate counsel, so God's 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, and 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 Christ's redeemed people fear, if they look for support from the same quarter.

Many of God's people have experienced the very same divine 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 which has salvation for walls and bulwarks, Isaiah 26:1. Psalm 125:1, Psalm 125:2. If only our eyes are 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. Christ's comfort in death.

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

His last discourses, and his intercessory prayer, abundantly testify the composure of his spirit, and the elevation of his mind. Do we look 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 which he gave for the life of the world, John 6:51, would never become decay and corruption. 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 those who slept, 1 Corinthians 15:20." And everyone 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. "For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: Death has been swallowed up in victory." 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 raised anew in a far better form 2 Corinthians 5:1-2."

Connected with this hope in his death, we behold,

III. Christ's 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 he sat 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 believers long "to depart, that they may be with Christ;" and account all their afflictions to be 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.

Inferences:

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

Faith beholds God always present and always active to support his redeemed people. Faith also looks forward 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 with 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 is the Messiah, and has 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.

 

#515

MEN OF GOD CONTRASTED TO MEN OF THIS WORLD

Psalm 17:14-15

"With your hand, O Lord, save me from men of this world whose portion is in this life." Psalm 17:14

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

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.

I. The Psalmist here contrasts them in their desires.

1. The men of this world desire only the fleeting 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.

2. The man of God has his affection set rather upon invisible and eternal realities. 

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 resignation to 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 do not at all mean 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.

II. The Psalmist contrasts them in their prospects.

1. 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 desire to think of it; their happiness depends on banishing it from their thoughts; and if at any time it obtrudes itself upon their minds, it brings a cloud over their brightest prospects, and casts a damp over their richest enjoyments.

2. Not so with 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 he will "behold God face to face;" then, too, he will have attained God's perfect image in his soul; and then he will 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, but I appeal to every man who possesses the least measure of common sense, whether he does 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 is there 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 blessed 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 befitting his enlarged mind. When the question is asked, "Who will show us any good?" His answer is, "Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon me!"

Know then, brethren, that, however deeply the Christian may mourn over his short-comings and defects, and however badly he may be treated by an ungodly world, he is incomparably happier than any ungodly man can be!

What does our blessed Lord say to "the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted because of righteousness?"

"Blessed, blessed, blessed—are you all."

On the contrary, upon the lover of this world, 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"

 

#516

GOD THE ALL-SUFFICIENT PORTION OF HIS PEOPLE

Psalm 18:1-3

"I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am 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—then 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. 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 outpouring of David's 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 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—then what should 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 to us, as the Prophet, Priest, and King of his church; and then think what are the praises which befit 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 I have 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 full of glory!" I am sure, 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 outpouring of our souls 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 David's 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 strongholds 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, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!"

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 ago would our great adversary the devil have 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.

From him have we received our spiritual armor, 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 for 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, "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold."

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, 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, "Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to my soul, "I am your salvation!" Psalm 35:1-3."

It was thus that David 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, then neither shall we receive."

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 God, 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 is, "Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name!"

2. The folly of those who do not seek God.

Compare the Psalmist's experience with your own. What refuge do you have in a time of trouble, or what comfort do you have 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 you have not the smallest ground for confidence in him; 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 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—then you can have no clearer evidence that you yourselves are out of the way of peace and salvation.

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 after you die.

If you do not possess a saving interest in him here—then you can have no interest in him hereafter.

If you do not live near to him in prayer in this world—then you never can unite with the heavenly hosts in their songs of praise to him in the eternal world!

 

#517

BESETTING SINS

Psalm 18:23

"I have been blameless before him and I kept myself from my 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 does not condemn us—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 conduct in the world, 2 Corinthians 1:12."

Just so, 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) confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the LORD was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me. The LORD has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD; I have not done evil by turning from my God. All his laws are before me; I have not turned away from his decrees. I have been blameless before him and I kept myself from my iniquity." Psalm 18:18-23  

It is my intention to inquire,

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

There are the seeds of all sin, in every individual of our fallen race! But, as in different soils some plants will flourish more than others, so in different men are different sinful 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 sin, as having taken the fuller possession of his soul, and as serving to distinguish him from others.

1. That may be called our besetting sin, 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, "Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God." Proverbs 30:7-9."

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 middle classes, who are engaged in mercantile transactions, are but too prone to indulge an inordinate desire for wealth; while those of the lowest rank are apt to yield to the unhallowed emotions of murmuring and discontent.

When John the Baptist saw people 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 friends 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? Then we are apt to contract a taste for gaiety and folly.

Are our nearest relations worldly, carnal, covetous, ambitious? Then 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. That may be called our besetting sin, 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 is 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 desires. In other matters he may maintain a blameless deportment; or, if he has 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 John, 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. That may be called our besetting sin, to which, from the force of habit, we are most addicted.

Habit is, indeed, a second nature! 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 lack 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 furnishes 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 propensity over us, and to us a certain desire for 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 by 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 astonishing 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 acquaintances will say:
This is a
proud man;
that is a
passionate man;
that is a
covetous man;
that is a
mean-spirited and censorious man;
that is an
argumentative and discontented man.

But, however clear men's characteristic infirmities are to others, they are hidden from themselves! 

In many cases men not only veil their faults under some subtle 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.

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 is your state—then you are yet in darkness and the shadow of death. The very first step towards the knowledge of the Savior is the knowledge of yourselves; and if you do not possess not this—then all your other knowledge, whatever it may be, will be in vain!

2. How far have you watched and prayed against your besetting sin?

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 any more to do with idols?" And if he has been foiled in many attempts 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. We may be sure, that, if we are not thus habitually contending with our besetting sin—then we can never with truth assert that we have kept ourselves from it.

3. How far have we actually overcome our besetting sin?

"One that is born of God cannot practice 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 slave 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."

Sin's 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—then you have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts, Galatians 5:24;" and if you are "Israelites indeed—then you are without any known and allowed deceit, John 1:47." But I must warn you that, if you allow any one sin—then 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. 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 dreadful thought is this! 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 is 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."

 

#518

EQUITY OF THE DIVINE PROCEDURE

Psalm 18:25-26

"To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
 to the
blameless you show yourself blameless,
 to the
pure you show yourself pure, but
 to the
wicked you show yourself hostile."

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 generally 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 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,

"To the faithful you show yourself faithful,
 to the
blameless you show yourself blameless,
 to the
pure you show yourself pure, but
 to the
wicked you show yourself hostile."

From these words, I shall take occasion to show:

I. The equity of the divine procedure, 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 has been the conduct of men—the divine conduct towards them shall be in exact accordance with it.

Consider, now:

1. What has been your conduct towards God. 

You have felt no esteem for him in your hearts.

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 God called, invited, entreated, expostulated with you. 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 despised him, 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 anything 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 anguish 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—eternal damnation!"

2. What has been your conduct 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 rejected ever offer he has made to you—they have been too humiliating for your proud hearts. You have disdained 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 anyone 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. What has been your conduct 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, the approbation of men—have been more to you than any concern pertaining to the soul. Pardon, peace with God, holiness, glory—have all been, in your esteem, of small account, in comparison with some temporal advantage. When warned what must be the outcome 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 to you, in comparison with some vain lust or indulgence.

Hell has had no terror to you, in comparison with the pain of self-denial, and the shame of ridicule from the ungodly world.

According, therefore, as you have sowed—so 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 your seeking—so you shall not have it.
Hell was not worth your avoiding—so you shall take your portion in it.
You were satisfied with temporal trifles—so you shall have nothing beyond them.
You did not even desire eternal happiness—so you shall never have it obtruded upon you, but shall be left destitute of it forever and ever.
You chose to oppose me, and walk contrary to me—so continue now your fruitless contest to all eternity, while I eternally oppose you.
You have been the authors of your own destiny—so by your own choice, you must abide forever and ever!"

The same mode of proceeding is observed by God,

II. The equity of the divine procedure, in the rewarding of the godly.

1. Mark how God will act towards 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—then 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 threatened to the unrepentant, Exodus 32:9-14. Jeremiah 18:7-8; Jeremiah 26:13."

Are you saying, How shall I appear before my God?

He will say, "I will not execute the fierceness of my anger upon you."

Does he behold you smiting your heart, 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 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. Mark how God will act towards 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 a saving 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—so it shall cleanse you so perfectly, that you shall stand before me without spot or blemish.

You trust in my word—so you shall find me a God of truth.

You lay hold on my promises—so not one of them shall ever fail you.

You are willing to be saved in the way of my appointment—so 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—so 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—so you shall live with him forever and ever.'

3. Mark how God will act towards 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—so be rulers over many things.

You acknowledged me as your Master—so I acknowledge you as my servants.

You regarded me as your Father—so I will regard you as my children.

To please me was your one aim; and you dared to honor me above all—so I will now bless you, and honor you in the sight of the whole assembled universe.

You regarded nothing but my favor—so 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—so you shall possess them all, even everlasting life!"

ADDRESS.

Now choose what portion you will have. I venture to assure you, that it shall be unto you according to your desire, provided only that desire operates 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 anyone 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"—then you can blame none but yourselves for the disappointment which you will experience.

Prepare then for yourselves such an outcome to this present state of things, as you will before long wish that you had secured. Hear God's own direction to you, "Say 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. Remember, that if you do not obtain eternal life—then the fault was only in yourselves, who, when urged and entreated by God, refused to walk in the way that would have led you to it!

 

#519

THANKSGIVING FOR ANY GREAT DELIVERANCE

Psalm 18:50

"He gives his king great victories; he shows unfailing kindness to his anointed, to David and his descendants forever."

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 spiritual sense; 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. A historical interpretation, 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 Saul'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 David 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 a historical record, it would be very instructive; but it has a far higher sense as:

2. A prophetic interpretation, 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 any 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 with this display of the Divine glory, the images referred to in this Psalm were faint, even as a candle 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, verses 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 as their universal Lord.

The triumphs of David over the neighboring nations, though signal, were nothing in comparison with 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. A spiritual interpretation, 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, besides the Lord? or who is a rock, except our God verse 31."

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

II. The practical 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 not, A confederacy, a confederacy! etc., but sanctify the Lord Almighty 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 need, 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 shield to all who trust in him, verse 30."

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

Though God is found of those who 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 are with him; and if you seek him, he will be found by 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 (the humble); but you will bring down proud 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 inclined, 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!"

 

#520

EXCELLENCY OF GOD'S WORD

Psalm 19:7-10

"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.
 More to be desired are they than gold, yes, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb!"  Psalm 19:7-10

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, but intelligibly, to every man; so that idolaters of every name are absolutely without excuse, verse 3, Romans 1:19-20.

Wherever the light and warming 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. The parts and properties of God's Word.

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 "exceedingly 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 in 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 is not approved, the reader may understand the words as signifying, The worship of God. The Word of 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, O 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. The use and excellence of God's Word.

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.

1. The Word of God is of use 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 educated 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 people 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 hidden 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. The Word of God is of use to convert the soul.

Truly, "the Word is living 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. The Word of God is of use 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 full of glory!" 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 exalted 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 added 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 obvious duty.

We should "search the Scriptures daily," "digging into them as for hidden treasures," and praying earnestly to God, that he would "open our minds 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!"

 

#521

THE USE AND BENEFIT OF THE SCRIPTURES

Psalm 19:10-11 

"They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. By them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward."

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 heathen 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. The Scriptures 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 wicked 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. The Scriptures are "sweeter also than HONEY".

The most delicious honey is not nearly so pleasing 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. The use of the Scriptures

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

1. The Scriptures 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 who 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. The Scriptures lead us to much good.

We do not speak 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 greatly our ambition is stimulated, and our steps are advanced!

Unanswerable in every view is that appeal of God to man, "Do not my Words do good to him who walks uprightly? Micah 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 and a spiritual discernment! By this, as much as by anything, you may know your state towards God; and 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 in spiritual life, your relish for the Scriptures 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.

 

#522

PRAYER AGAINST SINS OF INFIRMITY AND PRESUMPTION

Psalm 19:12-13

"Who can understand his errors?
 Cleanse me from
secret faults.
 Keep back Your servant also from
presumptuous sins.
 Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of 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 lack 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.

Just so, 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.

I. We all need to be delivered from 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 the sins which have 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 is, 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 sins, 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 our secret faults".

The guilt in which they involve the soul is exceeding great; nor can it be purged away but by the sin-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. "Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the [temple] messenger, "My vow was a mistake." Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Ecclesiastes 5:6."

An atonement was offered by the high priests of old "for the sins of the people, Hebrews 9:7." Just so, in the atonement of Christ must we seek refuge from all sins 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 people, 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 pure 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 impure thing can enter! Revelation 21:27."

Yet, after all, our guilt from these sins is light, in comparison with 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 people 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 "presumptuous sins" 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 a license for sin," 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 downward gradations of such people's departure from God are strongly marked by the Psalmist:

they first "walk (transiently) in the counsel of the ungodly, (who, from their lack 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 did not like 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 "presumptuous sins" 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 master'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 sin—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 evil; 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 from what a mass of guilt and corruption you need to be delivered! See also what judgments are hanging over your cursed heads! O that I could see you in earnest in fleeing from the wrath to come, and in laying hold on eternal life! Do not be 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 sin.

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 allowed 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 who knows to do good and does it not, to him it is sin! James 4:17."

 

#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.

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. Hence he adopted the resolution in the text.

II. The correspondent outcomes 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.

Inferences:

1. What obligations do we owe to God for the mercies we have now received.

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

 

#524

THE KINGDOM OF DAVID AND OF CHRIST

Psalm 21:1-7 

"The king shall have 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. Selah. For You meet him with the blessings of goodness; You set a crown of pure gold upon his head. He asked life from You, and You gave it to him—Length of days forever and ever. His glory is great in Your salvation. Honor and majesty You have placed upon him. For You have made him most blessed forever; You have made him exceedingly glad with Your presence. 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.

I. We will explain this Psalm.

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, David 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 benefiting others, verses 5-6.

Then David declares his confidence that his enemies, so far from ever being able to subvert his government, shall all be crushed before him, verses 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 a type 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 public 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 verses 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 nowhere to lay his head—and 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 has sat 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 who 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 who 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 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 as:
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 rejoice in your strength, O Lord; and in your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice!"

Having thus explained the Psalm,

II. We will show what improvement we should make of this Psalm.

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

In many respects God has "gone before us with the blessings of goodness;" and in many respects he has given them in answer to our prayers. We may "account even his patience 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 Satan's slaves to Christ's 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 of the joy and glory of our adorable Redeemer!

But more particularly we should submit to his government. This is strongly 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 is 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 here 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 allow "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, "May 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 opinions that the Psalm before us concludes. Let us enter into the spirit of them, saying, "Be exalted, O 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.

 

#525

TRUST IN GOD RECOMMENDED

Psalm 21:7 

"For 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 reposes 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.

I. David's words in this text can be considered according to their original import.

This Psalm, like many other parts of Scripture, has a double sense.

In a historical view, David's words 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 did he fear to fight Goliath, who filled all the hosts of Israel with terror, 1 Samuel 17:45; 1 Samuel 17:47. During his persecutions by 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 of these views the text sets before us an instructive example.

But we may consider it further,

II. David's words in this text can be considered 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 sermon was preached on occasion of the king going to St. 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 some of these kings were of an abandoned character, God 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 do not say 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.

We are sure that those who trust in God for spiritual blessings shall never be disappointed.

Our thoughts on this occasion are not to be confined to temporal concerns. As 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 opinions 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 God 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 that 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 a happy outcome to our present troubles, and be monuments of God's truth and faithfulness to all eternity!

 

#526

OUR LORD'S LAMENTATION 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 revealed 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 lamentation.

Jesus, in the hour of his extremity, was forsaken by 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 gracious presence of God 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 he 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 Jesus 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.

It was a just ground of lamentation.

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 lament? 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 lament 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 full 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 may your will be done." Nor was the lamentation uttered on the cross any other than what every godly 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.

Jesus' lamentation expressed the fullest confidence in the Father, and exhibited the brightest pattern to all his tried 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 Jesus' lamentation.

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. Christ's unfathomable love for His people!

"God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!" Romans 5:8  

"Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God!" Ephesians 5:2

Truly the love of Christ has heights and depths that can never be explored. From eternity past, He knew all that He would endure as the atoning sacrifice for our sins—and yet He freely offered Himself for us!

Never shall we form any just conceptions of His unfathomable love for us, 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 for us appear—and with what acclamations will Heaven resound!

"May you have the power to understand, as all God's people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully! Ephesians 3:18-19."

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 hides 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 I will trust in him."

3. The misery of those who are not savingly 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 shortly end. What wailing and gnashing of teeth will they experience, who shall perish under their own personal sin and guilt—when they shall be shut up as monuments of God's wrath to all eternity! Luke 23:31. O that careless sinners would lay this to heart, while yet a remedy remains, and before they are finally separated from the gracious presence of God by an impassable gulf!

 

#527

THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST

Psalm 22:11-22 

"Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help. Many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint. My heart has turned to wax; it has melted away within me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth; you lay me in the dust of death. Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me. They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing. But you, O LORD, be not far off; O my Strength, come quickly to help me. Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen. I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you!"  

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.

 

1. The sufferings of our Lord Jesus are strongly manifested in his lamentations.

Great was the number of his enemies, and most inveterate was 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 laments as a great additional source of grief and sorrow, "Do not be far from me, for trouble is near and there is no one to help! Psalm 22:11." "Scorn has broken my heart and has left me helpless; I looked for sympathy, but there was none, for comforters, but I found none!" 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 laments 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"). Others, with cruel indifference, amused themselves with "casting lots upon his clothing." Now in no sense whatever were these things at any time fulfilled in David. In relating them, he evidently personifies the Messiah, in whom they were fulfilled with the minutest possible precision.

In his soul his sufferings were far deeper still. Before his body ever 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 laid on Jesus the sins of the whole elect 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."

2. The sufferings of our Lord Jesus are strongly manifested in his supplications.

These were offered up in every diversified form of entreaty and of urgent pleas, "Deliver my life from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dogs. Rescue me from the mouth of the lions; save me from the horns of the wild oxen!"

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 awakened 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, "Save me from the horns of the wild oxen." 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 of divine wrath 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 the sufferings of Christ 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.

1. We should behold our adorable Savior 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 Christ's sin-atoning sufferings, we should measure our guilt and misery.

Was He under the hidings of His Father's face?

We deserve to be banished from the gracious 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 liable to everlasting death, even that "second death in the lake that burns with file and brimstone," "where the worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched!"

Draw near then with me, brethren, to Gethsemane and to Golgotha, and contemplate with me the scenes which were there exhibited.

Behold that Sufferer in the garden, whose agonies of soul are so intense, that the blood issues from every pore of His body!

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 within yourselves, 'Now I behold what my sins have merited! Or, rather, what my sins 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 even the slightest mitigation of my woe through eternal ages.'

Dear brethren, this is the looking-glass in which I wish you to behold your own deservings. I would not have your eyes turned away from it for one instant, to the last 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 endured for you; and I again say, 'Never look at yourselves in any other looking-glass than this!'

2. We should behold our adorable Savior with the liveliest gratitude for bearing our sins in our place.

He never interposed 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 of a suffering Savior for the sins of His people, are contained "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;" and all other things, however beautiful 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 but Jesus Christ, and him crucified." And in Heaven the slain Lamb in the midst of the throne, 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 a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation! Revelation 5:9." "Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!" Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever! Revelation 5:11-13."

Oh! brethren, if our minds were more occupied in exploring the height and depth and length and breadth of redeeming love—we would not be so easily turned away from it, to the trifling vanities of this poor world. Let Christ's unfathomable love be duly and abidingly impressed upon your minds, and this subject will elevate and enlarge the soul, and have a transforming efficacy in proportion as we delight to dwell upon it.

 

#528

DAVID'S CONFIDENCE IN GOD

Psalm 23:1-6

"The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Even 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 overflows. Surely goodness and love will 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 spiritual 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. David's retrospective acknowledgments. 

In recording the mercies of God to him, David 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 hidden under a veil, and the Spirit of God was yet but sparingly bestowed upon the Church, could use such language—then 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 exalted views we have of the "covenant, that is ordered in all things and sure!"

What exalted views we have of the prophecies, which have been so minutely fulfilled!

What exalted views we have of "the exceeding great and precious promises," which are so suited to all our needs!

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 restore his wandering sheep to the fold, 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 would 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 dying 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. David's 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 be in want".

With such a Shepherd, and such a Friend—how could David be in real want; or what can anyone so privileged ever stand in need of? Does he not know all our needs? Is he not able to supply them, Philippians 4:19. Has he not absolutely pledged himself to supply them? 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 those who 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 bosoms? He has left us peace as a legacy, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you." Yes, "He himself will be our peace!" Even of temporal things he has said, that "they who fear him shall lack 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 be in want."

2. "I will not fear".

It would be presumptuous in the extreme for anyone 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—then what shall not Jesus effect in our defense? Who shall escape his omniscient eye, or who shall withstand his omnipotent arm?

Hear what our Lord himself says, "My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting-places, Isaiah 32:18."

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 needs; 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 your privileges aright; 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.

 

#529

THE ASCENSION OF CHRIST TYPIFIED

Psalm 24:7-10

"Lift up your heads, O you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, O you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? The LORD Almighty—he is the King of glory. Selah."

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 day; 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 bore 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 God. In this view it is said, "Lift up your heads, O gates; and be lifted 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 Jesus 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 he was 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 who had the power of death, that is the devil, and delivered those 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 Almighty, 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 in the joy expressed in our text, we should understand.

II. The saving 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.

1. Jesus has ascended 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 the incense of his continual intercession before the Mercy-seat. 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 has 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 our sins only, but also for the sins of the 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. Jesus has ascended as our living Head.

Jesus is the Head and Representative of his people; insomuch that they may properly 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 would 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 hidden 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 one blessing after another! 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. Jesus has ascended 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. "Therefore 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 with 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 faith in 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 in 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 sanctifying grace from day to day; and from him must we obtain grace, "without money and without price! Isaiah 55:1."

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

The apostle Paul assures us, that "when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then we shall 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 who 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."

 

#530

THE SAINT PLEADING WITH GOD

Psalm 25:6-7

"Remember, O LORD, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions. According to Your mercy remember 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, verses 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, verses 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 David 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 when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, it 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 a Savior to them—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 God; 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 to 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 God drawn him to the actual enjoyment of his favor.

In this view, God's past mercies 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 remembers 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 David 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, Micah 7:19," from whence it shall never be brought up again.

If sin 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 is 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 does not accept those frivolous excuses with which men satisfy their own minds. God 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 conduct? 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 David proposes as the rule and measure of God's dealings with him.

David founds all his hope on the mercy of God.

Mercy is the favorite attribute of God. Mercy 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. Mercy 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 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. There 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," David 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!
"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions! Psalm 51:1."

2. Let us take encouragement from the acceptance with God which David found. 

His sins, as great as they were, were all forgiven. And when did God ever reject the prayer of faith? To whom did he ever say, "Seek 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!

 

#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 from God 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 by 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.

1. Men may be denominated "meek," when they are sensible of their own ignorance.

Ignorant we are, whether we are 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;"
"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. They are ready to resent any intimation of their spiritual blindness, 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 lack 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 from God, that they may know the things that are freely given to them of God, 1 Corinthians 2:12."

2. Men may be denominated "meek," when they are willing and desirous to be taught by 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 possesses that which may be apprehended by reason, and which may be attained by his own personal exertions—then he has all that he desires. All beyond that is, in his estimation, a vain conceit.

But a person who possesses a meek disposition 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 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 meekness.

1. There is, in the whole scope and tenor of the Gospel, 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 as 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. There is, in the whole scope and tenor of the Gospel, 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 as dear to us as a right eye, it calls upon us to pluck it out, or a thing as useful as a right hand, to cut it off.

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. There is, in the whole scope and tenor of the Gospel, 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 by 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 are 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 is 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 meekly 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 the meek 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 the 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 the meek also, to walk in his ways.

Gospel truths do not float in the minds of a genuine Christian as a mere theory or speculation—but influence their affections, their speech and their acts in a most practical way. God will, by his Word and Spirit, recover them from their wanderings, and guide their feet into the way of peace. And, if at any time they are 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 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. Why 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 hidden 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 more 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 distrust of their own powers, in relation to the things of God. Hence they see but little to stumble at 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 ones, 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. Why 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 frequently dishonor, by their conduct, their holy profession.

Alas! alas! what a picture does the religious world present! See what controversies and animosities prevail 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 beg 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 fellowship with 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 Spirit; that "receiving the Word with meekness, as an engrafted word," you may find it effectual to sanctify and "save your souls!" 

 

#532

GOD'S PATHS ARE MERCY AND TRUTH

Psalm 25:10

"All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto those who keep his covenant and his testimonies."

It has often been observed that there is in the world an indiscriminate distribution by God, 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 does any man know whether love or hatred await 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, for the purpose of displaying in him the power of his wrath—as we see when he raised up Pharaoh to a throne. 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." It will see 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—then 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 my 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 liable to God's eternal 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 only works were required.

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

II. The dealings of God towards the godly.

It might be supposed that people 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 who have been most favored of God Job, David, Paul, and, above all, Christ himself. 

1. All of God's dealings towards the godly are in 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." They are 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. All of God's dealings towards the godly are in 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 to us by God, 1 Corinthians 3:22.

Inferences:

1. How excellent a grace is faith!

It is faith, and faith alone, 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 magic potion which 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 harmful 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 a saving 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 of infinitely heavier calamities that shall come upon us in the eternal world! Let us, then, if we are 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!"

 

#533

PROPER METHOD OF PRAYING TO GOD

Psalm 25:11

"For your name's sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, though it is great."

God is a almighty 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 Religionists, Pharisees and Formalists to perish in their sins. This, if it is a humiliating truth, is also replete with comfort. If it takes away all grounds of boasting, it cuts off at the same time all occasion for despondency. If he "has 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. David's Confession.

David was not ashamed to confess that his sins were exceedingly 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 indwelling 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."

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 befit us also?

Let us only review our past lives, and we shall find much occasion for the deepest humiliation.

Have not many of us been addicted to open, known iniquities? And do not the consciences of such people 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. David's 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 for Heaven; 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 is 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 divine 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. David's Plea.

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

He never pleaded 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 nothing 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 sins 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. People 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 are too proud to confess our sins, and to plead the name and merits of Jesus for the forgiveness of them—then 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."

 

#534

THE PORTION OF THOSE WHO FEAR GOD

Psalm 25:12-13 

"Who is the man that fears the LORD? He shall teach him in the way He chooses. His soul shall dwell at ease, and his descendants shall inherit the earth."

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 is somewhat of a 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—then 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, he 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 a man who fears the Lord? 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 a God-fearing man; because it is to him, and to him alone, 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 hearts, 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 by all;" 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 God's displeasure?

We all are sinners, and, as sinners, are liable 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 fear 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 sin-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 obey God's 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 day 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 never sins." But one who labors conscientiously to approve himself to God, I may hope to find.

Search among you, brethren; see whether such a 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 the one who fears God.'

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 anyone 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 is 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 are "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, who 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 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!" "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, then who 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 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."

Just so, in my text he tells us that the believer's soul shall "lodge in goodness." Yes, truly, "God himself is the habitation" of those who 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 rejoices 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 surpassing all expression or conception! The kingdom, the glory, the felicity of God himself shall be yours, 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 do not fear God.

It is painful 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 those who serve him, and those who do not serve him, 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 is too late? I tremble at the thought of the lodging prepared for you. Oh! "who can dwell with everlasting burnings?" I beg you, brethren, realize in your minds the different states of the Rich Man and Lazarus; and "labor not for the food that perishes, but for that which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man shall give unto you."

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

It may be that such a one is here present, even one who, because he feels not yet all the consolations of true 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 people 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, who 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 grain 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 appears. "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 by him!"

 

#535

THE SECRETS OF THE LORD

Psalm 25:14

"The secret of the Lord is with those who 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 do not call you 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; so that we are treated by him, not with the reserve that is shown to strangers, but with the confidence that is due to people 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 those who 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 unbeliever cannot understand. But, to descend to particulars,

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

This was "a mystery hidden from ages and generations," yes, "hidden 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 those who 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 the Spirit of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us by 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 the Father's revealing of it, Matthew 16:17. And that revealing, blessed be his name, is given to many. Through his tender mercy, it may be said of many, "You have an anointing 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 granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven, Mark 4:11;" and by the opening of their spiritual eyes "they are brought out of darkness into marvelous light."

2. He makes them to know their own personal interest in Christ's redemption.

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 whom 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! Song of Solomon 2:16."

3. He shows them that every event, 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 my 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 God's covenant which is the crown and summit of them all.

From all eternity God entered into covenant with his Son; as it is said, "The counsel of peace was between them both, Zechariah 6:13."

1. To this covenant God leads the minds of his people, 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 to 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 godly people, 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. But in truth, 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 Scripture shone, and where the means and opportunities of conversion should be afforded to 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 for your soul? Truly, it is a great matter if God has taught you, that "you have not chosen him—but he has chosen you, John 15:16;" that you have not loved him, or apprehended him—but you 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? Are you not altogether lost in wonder, love, and praise?

2. To this covenant God leads the minds of his people, as the security for the everlasting continuance of their blessings.

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 to 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 those 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 speaks by the written word, or by his Holy Spirit. Say to him at all times, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening." So "will he draw near to you, when you draw near to him;" and when you spread before him your inmost needs, "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 which God 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. 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 people 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 tear us to pieces! Matthew 7:6." We must administer "milk to babes, and strong meat to only those 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!

 

#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 and desires, they are as far asunder as Heaven and earth; yes, I had almost said, as between Heaven and Hell!

They have altogether a different taste; the one desiring 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 looking-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 David 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 God.

"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 his glory there 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 I will 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 I have desired of the Lord, that 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 David 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 alone 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 distress; 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 distress, "As the deer pants after the water-brooks, so my soul pants 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 food day and night; while they continually say unto me, Where is your God? When I remember these things, I 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 David 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 a 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 lovely are your tabernacles, O Lord Almighty! 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 a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young; even your altars, O Lord Almighty, 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 those who walk uprightly! Psalm 84:1-4; Psalm 84:10-11."

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

II. The incomparably stronger reasons which we have for a similar desire for God's ordinances.

The dispensation which we are privileged to enjoy is of a more liberal kind than that under which David 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 of grace, 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 a 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 in 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 God 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 attributes 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 David 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 in eternity past;
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 the house of God to David—then what should the substance of them effect in our hearts?

3. Our communications from God are more abundant.

Doubtless David was most highly favored by 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 behold 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 a mansion in Heaven for us, 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 do not mean 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. Why 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 people 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 bosom, to which we as babes were invited for the 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 would then find such communications from the Lord Jesus, as would fill us with unutterable joy! John 4:10; John 7:37-38.

But we do not feel our need of mercy;
we have no genuine desire after the Savior;
we are content with a religion which consists in
mere form, without any power.

No wonder, then, that the house of God has no charms for us. True, indeed, people may desire divine house, 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 pride 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 vital religion, must be our one great and paramount concern. If once Christ becomes 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 godly experience is found.

Truly, the godly are most 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 think the state of his soul, and the prospects of Heaven that were before him, to be truly blessed?

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 never fades 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 glorious 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!

 

#537

DAVID'S LOVE TO GOD'S ORDINANCES

Psalm 27:4

"One thing I have desired of the Lord, and 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 fearlessness.
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 God,
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. I will set before you the example of David. 

The one object of David's 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 with it there was nothing in the world that he wished for. To this he made everything subservient; even the affairs of state were not allowed 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 last 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 food 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.

David's 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 would in due time be offered for the sins of men.

In the sprinklings and ablutions that were practiced, he beheld the holiness of God, who would accept no sinner who would 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. It was true 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; so that 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,

II. I will commend David example to your imitation. 

We have far greater reason to love the ordinances 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 looking-glass, 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 bore witness to Him, whom all the other prophets spoke of obscurely, and at the distance of many hundred years; but as 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 an 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 do we have the less advantage of David in relation to the things which we would ask from 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 with 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 the ordinances no less than David did.

We should make a point of attending on all stated occasions the ordinances of our God. We should not allow 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 there 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."

Application.

1. Love to God's ordinances is 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 there is no water; 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, is 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 my face in vain."

2. Love to God's ordinances is the best preparative for Heaven.

Heaven is a place of continued 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 is not the pleasure which you chiefly desire in this world—then be assured that you are not prepared to unite with saints and angels in the world to come!

If this is not your state, whatever knowledge you may possess, you are yet a lost soul; for God himself has said, that "those who are after the flesh, mind (savor) the things of the flesh; and those who are after the Spirit, desire the things of the Spirit, Romans 8:5."

I beg you then to seek your happiness in God; and never to rest until you can say, "Whom have I in Heaven but You? There is none upon earth that I desire besides You!"

 

#538

THE DUTY OF PRAYER

Psalm 27:8

When You said, "Seek My face."
My heart said to You, "Your face, O LORD, I will seek."

Perhaps the thing which most strongly characterizes 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 who 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 God's 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 person has his excuse:
one is
too old to change his ways;
another is
too young to engage in such serious concerns;
another is
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 will 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 the invitations of God 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 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. We should seek God 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 to us.

2. We should seek God 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 sin-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 Mediator, 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. We should seek God 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 counter-balance the loss of God's 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 allowed to divert us from our purpose, or to retard us in our way.

We should have our hearts bent upon sincerely coming to Christ. 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 with 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 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 wind up 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 beg you, whether the resolution be not wise; tell me whether it is not necessary. Tell me whether, if you continue to decline God's invitation until the door of Heaven is finally closed against you—that 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 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 by you," and you shall live forever with God in glory!

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 my face in vain!"

 

#539

ADORING GOD FOR HIS MERCIES

Psalm 28:7

"The Lord is my strength and my shield. My heart trusts 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 David 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.

I. In the Psalms we see what God is to the believer.

To all who 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 does he need to fear? Surely neither men nor devils; for, what can a man do to the believer, when that man himself is crushed before the worm? As for Satan, though he has 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 must 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, "and 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 the disposition of our hearts towards God should be.

Certainly these exalted privileges should be received by us:

1. With joy.

Who can have reason to rejoice in comparison with the believer? Look round and see how the world at large are captured 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. Why 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 the Gospel matures to this life of faith in Christ.

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 prayer-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 lack 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 this heavenly frame?

We have advantages far beyond any that David ever enjoyed. What David saw under a veil—we behold, as it were, with open face: a God incarnate, taking upon himself the entire care of all his redeemed 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 I have righteousness and strength! Isaiah 45:24. 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 who loved us, and gave himself for us! Romans 8:34-39. Isaiah 26:3-4."

 

#540

GOD OUR SAVING STRENGTH

Psalm 28:8-9

"The LORD is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them 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 outcome; 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 is 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 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. David's testimony for God.

David 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 redeemed 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 "the strength of his people, and a fortress of salvation." 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 necessary things! Philippians 4:13."

Our duties are arduous,
our
enemies are mighty,
our
sufferings are great.

Yet we are 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. David's intercession.

Let us mark,

1. The copiousness of David's intercession.

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 David's intercession.

He begins with imploring their "salvation" from all guilt and danger.

He then begs of God to load them with all "blessings" in their journey through this dreary wilderness world.

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. See Ezekiel 34:23-24.

And, lastly, he desires that they may be "exalted" to happiness and glory in the eternal world.

Thus does he implore of God to confer on them all that they can ever need, "giving them grace and glory, and withholding nothing from those who can by any means conduce to their eternal welfare, Psalm 84:11.

3. The extent of David's intercession.

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 base, 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 pray for our fellow-creatures. Do not say, "I know not how to pray." I well 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 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 lack 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 need; 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, and he will fill it!" Yes, "he will do exceeding abundantly for you above all that you can ask or think!"

 

#541

GOD THE GIVER OF STRENGTH AND PEACE

Psalm 29:10-11

"The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever. The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace."

This Psalm is supposed to have been written on the occasion of a thunder-storm. It represents God 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 wild ox." 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 nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One. "Let us break their chains," they say, "and throw off their fetters." The One enthroned in Heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. Then he rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill." 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 five verses, "Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness. The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD thunders over the mighty waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is majestic. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon."

Of that same person does he say in my text, "The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD is enthroned as King forever. The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses 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. The Lord Jesus is the God of Providence.

The Lord Jesus "is the Creator of all things," and "by Him all things are held together;" nor does anything occur which is not decreed by him. We speak of things as accidental; but there is nothing really accidental—not even "the falling of a sparrow," or the loss of "a hair of our head."

It is true that creatures make their own plans—and often with an express desire to oppose the will of God. But they are all unconscious agents in His hands! "Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed. They did what Your power and will had decided beforehand should happen!"

The envy of the Jewish priests,
the treachery of Judas,
the timidity of Pilate,
the cruelty of the Roman soldiers,
were all subservient to God's designs, and all fulfilled His inscrutable purposes! They followed the dictates of their own minds; but in all their actions, "God's counsel stood," and He accomplished His own sovereign and eternal will through them!

Behold our blessed Lord in every change of situation, from His arrest, to the grave—who would suppose that these were successive steps to the throne of Heaven, and the means ordained for the salvation of His people? Yet this was really the case; and by all these events a multitude of conflicting prophecies were 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 randomly, and pass away without any particular 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, whose elevation to a throne was promoted by events which, to the eye of sense, would appear most calculated to counteract it. In the outcome, Joseph said to his treacherous brothers, "You planned evil against me; God planned it for good, to bring about the present result—the survival of many people!" Genesis 50:20

Be the storm ever so tempestuous, "He sits upon the flood;" and be our enemies ever so mighty, "he sits as King forever," to control their efforts, and overrule them for our good.

But let us contemplate him,

II. The Lord Jesus is the 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 their situation may be, "their strength shall be according to their day, Deuteronomy 33:25;" and, however weak they may 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 threatened their destruction, the disciples were alarmed. But our blessed Lord reproved them for not having a more entire trust 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 by 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 is for them—then 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 redeemed people, Isaiah 57:1, so is it, both in its nature and operations, more excellent than can be adequately conceived; it truly "surpasses 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; and praise him, not by words only, but by that perfect trust which he calls for at your hands; and which is necessary, in order that you may obtain the blessings he is exalted to bestow.

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

He speaks by thunders and lightnings, and he also speaks by his Word. By thunders and lightnings he displays his power, and by his Word he reveals his grace. Notice particularly how, in the Psalm before us, everything is ascribed to his voice. And I am sure 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.

 

#542

THE MERCY OF GOD

Psalm 30:5, 10

"His anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning!"
"Hear, O LORD, and be
merciful to me; O LORD, be my help."

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:

1. We shall consider the mercy of God 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! Micah 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, patient, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin! Exodus 34:6-7." The whole of the 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. We shall consider the mercy of God as experienced by his people.

Against the impenitent God's 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 even he was pardoned, as soon as he humbled himself before his God, 2 Chronicles 33:12-13.

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 be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help;" and then he immediately adds, "You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 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 God's mercy.

As having experienced mercy, all Christians 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 God's mercy enjoyed, as of God's 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.

1. We must seek God's mercy 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 with 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 spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah Answer me quickly, O LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul! Psalm 143:6-8."

2. We must seek God's mercy 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 bosom 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. We must seek God's mercy 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, he 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 as 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. 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 do not turn to him in penitence and faith, they shall before long feel the weight of his avenging arm!

Who that should see a multitude of people, like Baal's priests, unconscious of their impending fate—and would not pity them? Yet here are millions of immortal souls soon to be summoned into the presence of their Judge, and mocking the eternal 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 blessed, 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! Isaiah 66:2.

Is there, then, one weeping penitent here present? My brother! crowns and kingdoms are of no value in comparison with 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 out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy, carrying sheaves with him! Psalm 126:6."

3. What praises and thanksgivings are due to God from the pardoned sinner!

Brethren! At present you can have but little conception of the incomprehensible blessings which God has conferred upon you; for you cannot see one thousandth part of your guilt, or conceive one thousandth part of the glory that awaits you!

Still less can you comprehend the wonders of redeeming love and mercy that have been given to you in the gift of God's only dear Son for your redemption!

What indeed you 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 fully see the depth of misery from which you have been redeemed, and the height of the glory to which you are exalted!

You will then behold your Redeemer face to face; and join in the eternal praises of our adorable Savior. "And they will reign for ever and ever!" Revelation 22:5

"May you have the power to understand, as all God's people should—how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is! May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully! Ephesians 3:18-19"

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 that unimaginable 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.

 

#543

CAUSE AND CURE OF SPIRITUAL DESERTION

Psalm 30:6-12 

When I felt secure, I said, "I will never be shaken." O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed. To you, O LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy: "What gain is there in my destruction, in my going down into the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness? Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me; O LORD, be my help." You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks 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 might have deceived ourselves, or might 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 of theology. 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 needed. 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. David's 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 blessings 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 imagine 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 who 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 firm;" but it is evident that his confidence was not really in God, so much as in his prosperous situation and circumstances, which had to all appearance a stability on which he might rely.

Just so it is with those among ourselves who have fallen into a state of carnal security; they profess to depend on God; but their lack 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 carnal security, God withdrew from David in some measure the protection of his providence, and the comforts of his grace; he allowed 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 hid 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 who 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 God's 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 David sought deliverance from this trouble, we see by,

III. His fervent prayers.

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 do not say that we are to keep the promises of God out of sight; 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 are 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. David's speedy recovery.

There are many 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 sins, and imploring pardon for Christ's sake. Hence they are led to argue thus: 'If I am an elect vessel, then 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 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. David's grateful acknowledgments.

To bring David 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 point, 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—then we must reap in joy."

Only observe the process, and see how connected are all the links of the chain:

1. In a season of prosperity, we have relapsed into carnal confidence, and provoked God to leave us in a state of spiritual dereliction.

2. Alarmed and humbled by God's 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.

3. Then we 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, "From now on those who have wives should live as if they had none; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away! 1 Corinthians 7:29-31." Every blessing we have, 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 should recommend a constant sense of our entire dependence upon God, saying, "Hold 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 newborn infants in yourselves, and God will keep beneath you his everlasting arms, and perfect "his own strength in your weakness!"

2. To those in spiritual declension.

Many in a state of spiritual 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 needed 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 are with him; if you seek him—then he will be found by you; but if you forsake him—then 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, then 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 in 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.

 

#544

OUR TIMES IN GOD'S HAND

Psalm 31:15

"My times are in your hand!"

To the ungodly desire 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 fear.

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 David but by God's 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 or forget their instinctive ferocity, or overruling the exercise of it, for the preservation or destruction of men, as he sees occasion, (1 Kings 13:28 Daniel 6:22. Jonah 1:17. 2 Kings 2:24)

The affairs of men he more especially controls.

1. In God's hands are the circumstances of life.

There is not really any 'chance' or 'accident' in the world. It is God who arranges for us, from our earliest infancy, to the last 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 from our head, as trifling as it is, only takes place by Gods appointment, Matthew 10:30.

2. In God's hands are the circumstances 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, "It will be as though a man fled from a lion, only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall, only to have a snake 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, only if God is 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 divinely appointed 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 appointed time for our death has 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 bands "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 innumerable perils, "and in deaths often, 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 which God 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 effectually harm us without God's permission.

As we depend on God for our happiness as well as for our existence, so are both our being and our well-being are secured by him. Satan could not touch the person or the property of Job, until he had obtained permission from 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 do not dash our foot against a stone, Psalm 91:11-12." "You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you! Psalm 91:5-7."

We are not indeed at liberty to rush needlessly into danger, from an expectation that God will deliver us; (this would be 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 allow 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 are followers of that which is good, 1 Peter 3:13;" if God sees 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 withdraws his support for one moment, we will 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 swears 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 God 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 are in God's hands—then 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, Psalm 76:10." Be bold then for God, "set your face as a flint against the 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 for your growth in grace that you should feel them, 1 Peter 1:6; but he will allow 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 God without worry.

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