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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.]
DXXXVII. DAVID'S LOVE TO God's ORDINANCES. Ps. xxvii. 4. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I
seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
MOST of the saints recorded in the Holy Scriptures were eminent for some particular grace. In Abraham, faith was chiefly conspicuous; in Job, patience: in Moses, meekness; in Elijah, faithfulness and intrepidity. In respect of devotion, David seems to have surpassed all others. Of none have we such ample and minute accounts, in relation to this matter, as we have of him. His public addresses to the Deity, his private communion with him, the inmost recesses of his heart when in his closet or upon his bed, are all laid open to us.
On this account the Psalms are pre-eminently useful to all who wish to cultivate a devout spirit, and to maintain a close walk with God. The expression before us may serve as a specimen of the whole. In discoursing upon it, I will, I. Set before you the example of David
The one object of his desire was to enjoy the ordinances of his God
[David was not of the tribe to which the priesthood exclusively belonged: yet would he gladly have possessed the privilege of the priests, in having his stated residence as near as possible to the tabernacle of his God. But though this could not be, he determined, by the constancy of his attendance there, to make it, as it were, his residence and habitation. This indeed was “the one object of his desire:” and in comparison of it there was nothing in the world that he wished for. To this he made every thing subservient: even the affairs of state were not suffered so to occupy his mind as to divert his attention from the service of the sanctuary. This one object he sought, and “ determined to seek it” “ to the latest hour of his life." He “ sought it of the Lord” too, entreating him so to order and overrule every thing, that he might not be forced away from Jerusalem, or, whilst 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 panteth after the water-brooksa.” On some occasions, his enemies, knowing how painful to him his absence from the tabernacle was, exulted over him, and said, “ Where is now thy God?" And so distressing to him were these impious taunts, that “tears were his meat night and day on account of them b," and they were even “ as a sword in his bones.” 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 Godd. Every day that was spent at a distance from that, seemed, as it were, to be lost to his life; so entirely was his soul wrapped up in the enjoyment of divine ordinances, and in cultivating communion with his God.]
And this desire was founded on the benefit he had derived from them,
[There "he beheld the beauty of the Lord;" and there “he inquired of the Lord,” spreading before him, from day to day, his every want, his every wish. He looked through the various sacrifices that were offered there from day to day, and beheld in them the perfections of his God. In the death of all the victims he saw the desert of sin, and the justice of God, which had denounced death as the punishment of sin. In the acceptance of those sacrifices he saw the goodness and mercy of God, who had appointed such offerings as means of leading the people to that Great Sacrifice, which should in due time be offered for the sins of the whole world. In the sprinklings and ablutions that were practised, he beheld the holiness of God, who would accept no sinner who should not be purged from his iniquities, and be made holy after the divine image. In the whole of the services altogether he saw "mercy and truth met together, and righteousness and peace kissing each othere."
Here he felt encouragement to pour out his soul before God, and to ask whatsoever 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.
a Ps. xlii. 1, 2.
c Ps. xlii, 10.
b Ps. xlii. 3.
True it was that in private he could carry his affairs to the Lord, and implore help from him: but, as the public ordinances were of God's special appointment, and as the high-priest was the established medium of access to him, and of communications from him, he delighted more particularly to wait upon God there; that so, whilst he received blessings in a more abundant measure from God, he might glorify God in the sight of all Israel.]
Admiring, as I do, this bright example, I beg leave to, II. Commend it to your imitation
We have far greater reason to love the house of God than ever David had
[If the beauty of the Lord was visible in the Jewish worship, how much more so must it be in the ordinances of the Gospel! David beheld the perfections of his God only under types and shadows : but we behold them reflected as in a glass or mirror, with transcendent brightness, and all shining with united splendour 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";" so that we can truly and emphatically say, " The darkness is past, and the true light now shinethe." John the Baptist was greater in this respect than all the prophets; because he personally saw and bare witness to Him, whom all the other prophets spoke of obscurely, and at the distance of many hundred years : but, great as John was," the least and lowest in the Gospel kingdom is greater than heh.” In our ordinances, Jesus Christ is so fully revealed that he may be said to be “evidently set forth crucified before our eyesi:” 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
f 1 Cor. ii. 9, 10.
8 1 John ii. 8.
no iniquity in usk:" for, viewing us as clothed in the righteousness of his dear Son, he beholds us
“ without spot or blemish!.” 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: yea, and “out of the fulness 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 m!" And how often, in rapturous admiration of him, do we pray with the Psalmist, “Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us !” In truth, it is by thus“ beholding as with unveiled face the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
Nor have we less the advantage of David in relation to the things which we would ask of God: for we are able to inquire more explicitly and distinctly of our God than he could. He indeed might say with Moses, “ Lord, shew me thy glory;” and God would, as in the case of Moses, “make all his goodness to pass before himo.” But audible sounds conveyed nothing to them in comparison of what shall be disclosed to us by the still small voice of God's Holy Spirit, speaking in us through the written word. To us all the blessings of the Covenant are laid open: and, as God, when he revealed them, said, “ I will be inquired of concerning these things to do them P," 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 subsists 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?! 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', is a still further encouragement to us to frequent the house of God: for experience proves, that still, as formerly, “God loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob."]
k Numb. xxiii. 21.
| Eph. v. 27. m Zech. ix. 17.
We should therefore desire it no less than David did
[We should make a point of attending on all stated occasions the ordinances of our God. We should not suffer any trifling matter to detain us from them: and, if we are kept from them by any means, it should fill us with grief rather than complacency: and we should determine as soon as possible to remove the obstacle that deprives us of so great a blessing.
More particularly, we should keep in mind what it is that we should go thither to obtain; nor ever consider the true object of the ordinances as attained, unless we be enriched with brighter views of his beauty, and more enlarged discoveries of his excellency We should consider too, what our more immediate necessities require; so that we may be ready to spread them all before him, and to inquire of him respecting them - Then the more enlarged our expectations of benefit from the ordinances are, the more abundant will be God's communications of blessings to us by them. If we
open our mouths ever so wide, he will fill them t."] To this I would URGE you, from the consideration,
that such love to God's ordinances is,
[Hear the testimony of David himself: “Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he
may dwell in thy courts: he shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy templeu." And with this agrees the experience of every living saint. Hence every true Believer can say,
Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelletha:” or rather, the more appropriate language of his heart is, “ O God, thou art my God: early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee; my flesh longeth for thee, in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary." I will leave you to judge, whether a person, with such desires, and such enjoyments, be not happy. And if you are persuaded that he must be so, then seek your own happiness in this way, in which you cannot possibly be disappointed: for “ he never said to any, Seek
ye my face in vain."] 2. The best preparative for heaven
[Heaven is a place of continued occupation; of exercises, for which we are now to be trained. We must now obtain a taste for heavenly employments; and in that taste real piety
t Ps. lxxxi. 10. * Ps. xxvi. 8.
u Ps. Ixv. 4.