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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 every thing? Must they not exclaim with St. Paul, “O wretched man that I Surely we must know little indeed of ourselves, if we do not all see how much the confession in the text is suited to our state.]
When, like David, we are duly humbled under a sense of our guilt, we shall readily adopt, II. His Petition
David could not rest without imploring forgiveness at God's hands
[He found a sense of guilt to be an intolerable burthen to his sould; and well knew that it would " eat as a canker," till 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 abideth 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. He is also destitute of any wellfounded hope : he may buoy up himself with blind presumption; but he will feel many misgiving fears, and forebodings of evil. He has no comfort in his afflictions ; for, not having God for his friend, he cannot go to him with confidence, or obtain those refreshing consolations which strengthen and uphold the godly. In a dying hour he is yet more wretched : if he be not insensible as a beast, how does he regret his mis-spent hours, and wish that God would prolong his state of probation! But in the eternal world his misery is completed: he comes to the tribunal of justice without any mediator to reconcile him to God, or any advocate to plead his cause : yea, the very voice d Ps. xxxviii. 4.
e Isai. lvii. 20.
which just before importuned him to accept of mercy, now bids him “ depart accursed :” and from that moment his doom is fixed in everlasting burnings. Now can any man reflect on this, and not see the need of crying earnestly for mercy? Can our petitions be too earnest, or too constant, when they are the appointed, and the only means of escaping all this misery?]
But in our application for mercy, we must be careful to use, III. His Plea
The Psalmist derived all his hope of mercy from God himself
[He pleaded not the smallness of his offences or the multitude of his services, the depth of his penitence, or the fervour of his petitions. He knew that name, which had long before been proclaimed to Moses, to which, as to " a strong tower, the righteous runneth 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. But it is no easy matter to offer that plea in sincerity. Perhaps there is not any thing 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.] OBSERVATIONS1. The vilest of sinners has no reason to despair
[The confession, petition, and plea, which David presented at the throne of Grace, are suited to the very chief of sinners: nor, as the subsequent experience of David proves, can there be any state in which they shall not prevail. Let none then despond. Be it so, our iniquities are great; but are they greater than Christ's merits, or beyond the reach of God's mercy? If not, let us exalt our adorable Saviour, and determine, if we perish, to perish crying for mercy in the name of Jesus.)
i John xiv. 13, 14. VOL. y.
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 sakes. 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 Lambh!" Let the saints on earth then lie low before God, and say continually, “ Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise."]
3. Persons of every description must guard diligently against pride and unbelief
[Sin, of whatever kind, is both evil in itself and dangerous to us. But the consequences of pride and unbelief are peculiarly fatal. There is not any other sin which may not be forgiven, provided we seek mercy with real penitence and faith. But if we be too proud to confess our sins, and to plead the name and merits of Jesus for the forgiveness of them, we insure and seal our own condemnation. Let us then guard against all sins; but especially against sins which rivet all our other sins upon us. So shall we obtain favour with God, and “be to him for a name and for a praise for evermorei.”]
8 Ezek. xxxvi. 22, 32. h Rev.iv. 10. and vii. 10. i Jer. xiii. 11.
DXXXIV. THE PORTION OF THOSE WHO FEAR GOD. Ps. xxv. 12, 13. What man is he that feareth the Lord? him
shall he teach in the way that he shall choose : his soul shall dwell at ease.
WHERE, as in the psalm before us, different verses begin with the different letters of the Hebrew alphabet, we must not look for a very strict connexion between the different parts ; if there be somewhat of an harmonious sentiment pervading the whole, it is as much as we have reason to expect. The general idea that pervades this psalm seems to be, that if (whether under the pressure of guilt or of affliction of any kind) we betake ourselves to God in prayer, and cast our care on him, he will administer to us such consolation and support as our necessities may require. In conformity with this idea, he, throughout the former part of the psalm, supplicates mercy for himself, and, in the words before us, declares the blessedness of all who truly fear God.
To bring the subject more fully before you, I shall, I. Inquire after the character that is here described
Where shall we find him? One would suppose that, in a Christian community at least, it should be difficult to find one who did not fear God: but, strange as it may appear, the character here described is by no means common. I am anxious, however, to find one; because it is to him, and to him only, that the glorious promises in my text are addressed. Assist me, then, every one of you, in this important inquiry; and descend into your own bosoms, to explore the records of conscience, and to see whether you can, in your own persons, present before me the character I am endeavouring to find. I want to know “What man amongst you feareth the Lord ?”
1. Who is there amongst you that reverences God's authority ?
[There can be no question whether God's authority should be revered: for we all acknowledge him to be the Governor of the Universe, and confess that all his creatures owe submission to his will. Indeed it is the common sentiment of all, that " he is greatly to be feared, and to be had in reverence of all them that are round about him:” and it is obvious, that any man who disregards his authority can have no true fear of him in his heart.]
2. Who is there amongst you that dreads his displeasure ?
[We all are sinners, and, as sinners, are obnoxious to the displeasure of the Most High. Whether our lives have been more or less moral, we are all transgressors of God's holy law, and all have merited his wrathful indignation : all, therefore, ought, with deep humility of mind, to deprecate his impending judgments. Had we never sinned, we should never have needed this kind of fear: but to fallen creatures it is absolutely and indispensably necessary. Let me then ask, Who is there amongst you that mourns over his past transgressions, and implores mercy at the hands of his offended God, and seeks reconciliation with him through the Son of his love? I do not ask, Where is the person who, on some particular occasion, has wept for sin? but, Where is the person whose heart is habitually broken and contrite, so as to have no hope, no peace, but in the atoning blood of Christ; and who, notwithstanding God is reconciled towards him, still lothes 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 (till 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 amongst you that unfeignedly and unreservedly endeavours to fulfil his will ?
[A desire to please God cannot but be associated with a fear of his Divine Majesty. Say, then, where is the person who from day to day endeavours to ascertain his will, and labours 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 liveth and sinneth not." But one who labours conscientiously to approve himself to God, I may hope to find. Search amongst you, Brethren: see whether such an one be not to be found. I am not willing that the consolations in my text should be spoken in vain : I want to engage the attention of the person to whom they are addressed, and to pour them into the ear for which they are more especially designed. But do not too hastily obtrude yourselves, and say, *I am he. Consider once more. Are you so studious of God's will, and so determined to perform it, that no consideration of ease, or interest, or pleasure, can induce you to violate any one of his commands? “And, if in any thing a more perfect way can be pointed out to you, are you ready to walk in it, notwithstanding any difficulties you may have to encounter, or any trials to which you may be exposed ?]
If there be one whose conscience bears witness to him that his state before God is such as I have described, then I have found the person for whose comfort the Psalmist made the declarations in my text, and for whose benefit I shall, II. Unfold the benefits that are accorded to him
Stand forth, my Brother; for in the name of the Most High God I declare unto you, that,
1. You shall be taught and guided in the way that God approves