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cise and trial presses down the spirit, so that it seems to die to any hope of relief. When upon the very threshold of despair—when refuge on every hand appears to have failed—and the waves of despondency roll in rapid succession over his head, a secret hope is communicated ; peace succeeds disquietude ; calmness takes the place of confusion and dismay ; under this sweet influence the soul revives-is requickenedand exclaims with David, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted within me ? hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance and my God.” No visible deliverance had been effected- no change in David's circumstances bad taken place ; but the harbinger of relief-the herald of peace—had arrived. The psalmist knew the glad sound thereof; hence he was assured that he should yet praise a delivering God. The claim of dear covenant relationship sprang up in his heart ; and he felt, though in the midst of conflict, that all was well. “Thou shalt quicken me again, and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.”
“The depths of the earth.” This is our sixth consideration. These “ depths” are numerous and diversified. Among the multitude with which the word of God abounds, we may take, for the sake of illustration, the character of Job. The Almighty had led him out in a very wonderful way; he had indeed increased his greatness upon every hand ; and just as his servant was solacing himself in his possessions, and concluded that he should “ die in his nest,” Satan was empowered from on high to divest him of every comfort, and to afflict his agonized soul to the very utmost. The character of Job now becomes doubtful ; suspicion—that spawn of the bottomless pit-is permitted to occupy the minds of those who once entertained towards him the most unbounded confidence ; the judgments of the Almighty they concluded had alighted upon him as a recompence for a hypocritical procedure ; even the wife of his bosom - his last darling resourceturns against him, and anxious probably that a finishing stroke should be put to the afflictive scene, exclaims in the contemplation of his wretchedness and misery, “Dost thou still retain thine integrity ? Curse God and die !” Under the accumulated weight of suffering, what would have become of Job had not an unseen Almighty hand upheld him, and had he not been indulged with a conviction of the integrity of his heart ? David, too, was in a similar depth, when, contrary to his choice or expectation, the prophet of the Lord had anointed him king over Israel-he, from the quietude of a shepherd's life, was called to take his seat at court, and there innocently to endure the cruel suspicions of Saul, towards whom he felt not the slightest aversion ; but whom, on the contrary, he reverenced as the anointed of the Lord (see 1 Sam. xxvi. 11). Who can tell the “depths" of the psalmist's suffering under this exercise--his appeals to a heart-searching God as to the sincerity of his intentions—his earnest wrestlings with him for deliverance, and for the bestowment of that peace and enjoyment which he possessed as the little shepherd-boy? Does the reader happen to be thus exercised ? Does he occupy a position in which his reputation stands in doubt? Is he immersed in the cares of life? Does he stand as thousands of the Lord's family do-indebted to his fellow-men; and do his perplexities form the subject of holy fervent wrestling at a throne of grace, day and night? If so, we say to him, Cry on, poor soul! God, even your own God, hears—listens--and designs to bless and to deliver, though at present he seems to give no heed to your cry, and though you have a thousand fears that you shall be put to confusion towards both the church and the world. “Shall not God avenge his own elect which cry day and night unto him ? Yea, he shall avenge them speedily.” He is now trying you to the quick-putting principle to the test—suffering, it may be, some of your own spiritual kindred to sit in doubt of you, which you feel most painful of all ; but by and by he will go forth in such gracious acts of loving-kindness, tender mercy, and compassion, as shall cause your soul to stand with wonder and amazement, so that in the fulness of your heart you shall exclaim, “What hath God wrought ? Here is a wonder-working God! What a gracious Father, Friend, and Portion ! How dear hath he made himself by answering my requests for more life and spirituality, by these terrible things in righteousness !' Why, he hath fulfilled promise after promise in my happy experience, as if they were made purposely for me. He has espoused my cause-baffled the great adversary—thrown my enemies into confusion—and established me in the confidence of my friends, by bringing forth my righteousness * as the noon-day.' I can now stand undaunted, undismayed, before either friends or foes -the church or the world ; I fear not the frowns, nor court the smiles of either. He is mine own God, and I am his in a covenant which cannot be broken. I have no apprehension of condemnation either in this life, or in that which is to come ; all is well. He hath led me by a right way ; no other path could have been so glorifying to him, nor so blessed to my soul.”
Another “depth of the earth” may be considered severe bodily or relative affliction. Upon many of his dear family the Lord sometimes lays his afflictive hand, and brings them apparently down to the gates of the grave. These “depths” the Lord makes use of to strip off the idols of the heart—that the husband may be made willing to part with the wife, and the wife with the husband ; the parent resign the child, and the child the parent ; that refuge may be found in God, and in God only. Oh! these, dear reader, are “depths,” painful “depths” indeed; but God is all-sufficient. He can astonish us, even in these respects, with his wonder-working almighty love, grace, and power.
We have treated a little of temporal suffering, let us now view the psalmist spiritually, as having lost the sweetness of his first love, when the appetite was keen ; when the embraces of his Lord, and his sweet sensible manifestations, scattered an apathy and indifference upon everything around. Earth, with all its attractions, had lost its charms ; his thoughts, his desires, his “conversation, were in heaven, whence he looked for the Saviour.” He was dead to the world, and the things of
* There is such a thing as creature-righteousness; or, in other words, honesty, integrity, and uprightness, as connected with our fellow-men. In this sense we quote the passage.
the world ; nor did he think he should ever return to it, or again feel disposed to continue his sojourn here. His race he imagined was well nigh run ; and every day did he expect some kindly messenger to summon him to his rest. He communed with the skies; and often did his enraptured soul seem upon the tip-toe of expectation, that some fiery chariot, direct from the court of heaven, would pierce the clouds, and bear him to the bosom of his Lord. Alas ! instead of this a stoical indifference creeps over his frame ; the things of God lose somewhat of their beauty and their freshness ; earth and its concerns again captivate the affections ; a cloud comes between God and the new-born soul ; unbelief rears its cursed head ; Satan levels his shafts ; and a corrupt nature bestirs itself. Under the combined influence the soul begins to question and to doubt the reality of its former experience. But from these “ depths of the earth” the psalmist in our text had the blessed assurance he should be brought up.
Seventhly, we notice the greatness which he expected. Upon this we hesitated offering an opinion, as the Lord did not seem to lead our mind into its meaning; and as we never choose to consult any human authority, we wait upon the Lord to open up his truth to our hearts in a way of heartfelt experience. This enables us to come before our readers with confidence, fearless of being controverted; but of a mere head-knowledge of divine things a man is ever liable to be argued against by others of superior powers ; but heart-acquaintance is proof against all vain philosophy. The poor man in the Gospel whose eyes the Lord had opened, without attempting to give a definition, or bring before his sceptical inquirers the whys and the wherefores, silenced them in a moment by one weighty appeal, “ One thing I know, that whereas I was once blind, now I see.” Dear reader, be not discouraged about your inability to reply to a multiplicity of hard questions put to you by those who know nothing more than the letter of the truth; but be thankful if you know what it is to have peace and pardon proclaimed by a Saviour's blood, to your once guilty and condemned soul. Prize this distinguishing mercy ; bind it closely to your heart ; and though you may be wounded by the cutting insinuations of others, and fear that because you cannot talk as they do you know nothing of the matter ; let it lead you again to your God, to ask him to make it plain to your soul ; wrestle with him—watch and wait upon him and you shall find that the Lord does most sweetly establish and settle you upon those very points about which you were exercised with doubt and perplexity. But to return to our subject; the reader, we trust, will excuse the digression.
“Thou shalt increase my greatness.” We have no opinion that temporal greatness is primarily intended, though this is sometimes implied. We hear good old Jacob exclaiming, when he revisited Jordan, “ With this staff I passed over Jordan, and now behold I am become two bands.” Joseph, his son, who was sold as a slave into Egypt, we perceive made second ruler in the kingdom ; Mordecai, from sitting a beggar at the king's gate, is chosen as the man whom the king delighted to honour ; and David, the little shepherd-boy, who kept his father's sheep in Bethlehem, is anointed king over the hosts of Israel. In these, and a multitude of other cases, do we see that the Lord, after having exercised the objects of his choice with poverty and privation, leads them forth into a comparatively easy path, prospering the labour of their hands, and blessing them in basket and in store. But by the term "greatness,” we think may be understood the accomplishment of desire, the fulfilment of hope, or the inheritance of faith. The psalmist in another place adopts the same expression, “Thy gentleness,” says he (Psalm xviii. 35), “ hath made me great.” Faith, in its beginning, is small, comparable merely to a grain of mustard-seed (see Matt. xiii. 31); its possessor is little thought of, his opinions are expressed with considerable diffidence, and characterised by a want of firmness and decision : this renders him insignificant in the esteem of many. But as faith takes root, grows, and expands, its possessor is more firmly established in the truth, and becomes proportionably bolder and more valiant in the glorious cause he has been led to espouse, even to the confusion of his enemies. In this sense may the language of the text be adopted, “Thou shalt increase my greatness."
Finally, we offer a remark or two upon the last clause of the text, “ And comfort me on every side." This is the glorious issue of every affliction wherewith the child of God is exercised. Though he may walk in the midst of trouble, his path intricate, his mind bewildered; looking backward and forward, but unable to trace the footsteps of his God, and regretting every step that ever he took : yet let but one ray of divine light be scattered upon his path--let only one soft whisper from Jesu's lovely voice be heard, and all is well. Though circumstances remain the same, though not a single alteration has taken place; yet a consciousness of the sweet presence of Jesus dispels every fear--subdues unbelief—and puts the enemy to flight. A few moments before all was wrong everything was perverse and contrary ; the soul was in darkness—Providence frowned—a gracious God and Father had hid his face—and his child by eternal covenant engagements was afraid to claim relationship : but now he that had walked amid cross providences, and believed he was doomed to destruction, hears a gentle voice inquiring, “ Have I ever been to thee a barren wilderness, or a land of drought ?” With brokenness of feeling, he that had previously been rebellious and fretful, is compelled to reply, “Never, Lord! Thou hast never been worse, but always as good as thy word. Thou hast led me about and instructed me; but thou hast kept me as the apple of thine eye. Thou hast often made crooked things straight' for me, and 'rough places plain ;' thou hast never left me nor forsaken me; in six troubles thou hast been with me, in the seventh thou hast not forsaken me. By thy good hand I continue to this day ; and now, though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me! Dark and confused as my way is, all is well. It is right, Lord-nothing would I have different; for “Thou which hast showed me great and sore troubles, shalt quicken me again ; and shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth : thou shalt increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side.'"
A FEW THOUGHTS ON FAITH.
LOOKING up for divine teaching and divine anointing upon both writer and reader, we would pursue our theme--feebly, but we trust not unfairly, tracked in our last paper on this important subject.
Faith is a supernatural faculty, belonging to the new creature, which is born after the image of God (John, i. 13). This creation is the effect of eternal love and union (Jer. xxxi. 3), is produced in the soul by divine power (Eph. ii. 8); the faculty of faith belongs to it, and is described by various figures in the word of God-as eyes, hands, feet, ears, taste ; all employed to set forth the offices of faith to the soul, faith being a supernatural persuasion of unseen facts (Heb. xi. 1), and on acting thereupon-hence faith is called knowledge (1 John, v. 19, 20). Concerning the recipients of faith the word is express (Acts, xiii. 48), the elect of God only are partakers of it (2 Pet. i. 1); and so it becomes the privilege of the church of the living God (Phil. i. 28), not a duty as some enjoin. Faith's object is Christ Jesus. Faith's food is realizing the power and perfection of Christ's work. Faith's consequent is joy and peace. Reader! dost thou believe on the Son of God?' Salvation or damnation hangs upon this. He that believeth shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned. As a means, faith has omnipotence ascribed to it in the word, the end decreed in the divine purpose, the means designed, and both united so closely that they are indissoluble; therefore, all that are ordained to eternal life, shall and must believe, being made willing in the day of God's power. But a few words in continuation of our subject--the pleasures of faith. They shall be satisfied with my goodness.
Faith, as an eye, sees the person and work of Jesus; as an ear, it hears the sweet accents of love and mercy ; it handles substantial realities, it tastes the blessedness of the word, and thus receives divine satisfaction. The pleasure of faith consists in a quiet waiting upon the Lord; for we must discriminate between the pleasure in faith, and the triumph of faith-the latter being a higher exercise, though the former is very blessed. Take the case of the Shunamite-faith teaches her to say, It is well, though the son of her heart was dead. We discover here faith in operation, leading the soul into a sweet reposing upon the Lord, which brings a pleasure with it. See again the case of Aaronhis children are slain by the Lord in anger, but of Aaron we read, he held his peace. No reproaches, no murmurings. Faith taught acquiescence to the divine will. Again, take the case of Job—troubled on every side, we yet hear Job saying, Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him. Here was faith in operation--not reaching to triumph, not seeing deliverance, yet realizing pleasure from reliance and confidence in God; but a Scripture here to the point, Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee; because he trusteth in thee (Is. xxvi. 3). We have in this the pleasure and sweetness of faith in exer