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1. The description given of his people
[Never can we sufficiently admire the goodness of God in giving to us such descriptions of his people as will enable every upright soul to discern his own character, and to number himself among them. Were they designated by such terms as would comprehend only those of higher attainments, the lower classes among them would be driven to despair. But when, as in the text, the lowest terms are used, even such as mark the very babes in Christ, every member of God's family is encouraged, and emboldened to claim the privileges to which a relationship to God entitles him. There is not in his family “a new-born babe” who does not “fear” him. All regard him as a mighty Sovereign, whom they are bound to obey. All desire to serve him, and greatly dread his displeaure. All account his favour as their supreme felicity: and desire so to approve themselves to him, that they may be accepted of him in the last day. Yet, it is not on their good dispositions that they found their hopes, and much less on their actual attainments. They are sensible of their short-comings and defects, even in their very
best duties; and are conscious, that, if God were to enter into judgment with them on the footing of strict justice, they must inevitably and eternally perish. They therefore renounce, utterly, all claims upon the justice of God, and
hope altogether in his mercy," in his mercy as revealed to them in the Gospel.
“ Behold," now, ye who are of a doubtful or desponding mind: Are ye not ready to leap for joy, when you find that persons of these low attainments may claim relationship to God, and assure themselves that they are interested in his paternal care ? Hear, then,] 2. The particular interest which he takes in them
[“ His eye is over them at all times.” It is over the whole creation indeed, as we are told in the preceding context: " The Lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men: from the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth a.” But on his peculiar people his eye is fixed with a more especial interest; namely, “to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine;" or, in other words, to preserve them from all dangers, and to supply their every want. In relation both to their souls and bodies, they are exposed to continual and most imminent dangers. Disease or accident rnay at any moment consign them over to
And Satan, that roaring lion, goes about seeking daily and hourly to devour their souls. On every side the world also assaults them with its temptations, whilst their own
a ver. 13, 14.
inbred corruptions are ever watching for an opportunity to betray them into the hands of their great Adversary. But God's eye is ever over them, to counteract the devices of their enemies, and to uphold them in his everlasting arms. Not one of them will he ever suffer to “be plucked out of his hands." Their wants too, whether temporal or spiritual, he will supply. He may suffer them to be reduced to great straits, even as Israel were, when they had come out of Egypt. But sooner shall manna be given them from the clouds, and water from the rock, than they be left to perish : for his express promise to them is, that provision shall accompany his protection ; and that, whilst “ their place of defence is the munition of rocks, bread shall be given them, and their water shall be sureb.” “Whilst they seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all needful things, whether of a temporal or spiritual nature, shall surely be added unto them.”]
But, before you take to yourselves the full comfort of these declarations, it will be proper for me yet further to shew, II. What should be your feelings towards him
The truly upright, even of the lowest class, can say, with David, “Our soul waiteth for the Lord.” If you are indeed of the number of his people, then are you waiting for him, 1. In a way of humble affiance
[The language of your heart is, “ He is our help and our shield.” But is it thus indeed? Are you going to him from day to day, as sinners who stand in need of mercy? and are you crying to him continually for “grace to help you in every time of need?” I do not ask whether you are free from assaults; but, whether they drive you to him for aid? It is supposed that you have enemies to conflict with, and trials to sustain: else you would not need to be looking out for a shield to protect, or for help to succour, you. But do you so realize the watchful care of God, as to renounce all hope in the creature, and to rely on him alone? If you truly “fear him," and truly “ hope in his mercy,” you cannot but make him your refuge, and commit to him your every care.) 2. In a way of confident expectation
[The Psalmist, having such a Protector and such a Helper, anticipates a successful issue to all his trials; and declares, that the very trust which he reposes in God is at once the ground and measure of his expectations from God: “Our heart shall
b Isai. xxxiii. 16.
c Matt. vi. 33.
rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name. Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us, according as we hope in thee.” And shall this be thought too bold an assertion? It is not more bold than true: for God has repeatedly pledged his word, that “none of them that trust in him shall be desolated.” Nay more, on every occasion we may consider him as saying to us, “ According to your faith it shall be unto you." His conduct towards Abraham clearly shews us how he will act towards all who believe in him. Abraham is tried as never man was: he is bidden to offer up in sacrifice his only son Isaac, in and through whom all the promises of God were to be fulfilled. The holy man proceeds to execute the divine command, assured, that though Isaac were already reduced to ashes on an altar, God both could, and would, raise him up again, and fulfil in him all that he had promised. Accordingly, Isaac was given him, as it were, from the dead; and was made the instrument of raising up to Abraham that "seed, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed.” So, in proportion as our expectations are enlarged, shall be God's exertions in our favour. If only we can say with David, “ Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my salvation : He only is my rock, and
my salvation, and defence;" we may, with assured confidence, add with him, “I shall not be moved."] And now let me ASK,
1. What evidence have you that you are the Lord's?
[Do you answer to the character here given of his people, “ fearing him” above all, and “ hoping in his mercy " alone? Do you evince that that is indeed your character, by waiting upon him continually, and expecting at his hands his proffered benefits? Examine well the habit of your minds from day to day: for it is of such only that it can be said, His is them for good.” But far different is the state of those who fear him not: for “ the face of the Lord is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth h." I again say, and rejoice to say, that, though your attainments reach no further than holy fear and humble hope, the Lord will look upon you with tender and paternal love: but, if these graces be not rooted in your hearts, you have yet to learn what it is to receive the grace of God in truth.]
2. What would be your state, if God's mercy to you should be measured by your regards for him ?
[St. John prayed for Gaius, that “ his bodily health might prosper as his soul prosperedi.” And are you prepared to d Ps. xxxiv. 22.
e Matt. viii. 13. and ix. 29. f Ps. lxii. 1, 2, 5, 6. 8 Deut. xxx. 9. h Ps. xxxiv. 15, 16. i 3 John, ver. 2.
pray with David, “ Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon me, according as my hope is in thee?" Verily, were this God's rule of acting towards us all, the greater part of us would never taste of his mercy to all eternity. But, thanks be to God! he is sovereign in the exercise of his mercy, being “ found oftentimes of them that sought him not, and made known to them that inquired not after him." Yet let us not presume on this: for, if he shew mercy to any, he will assuredly bring them to the state described in our text, and both put his “ fear in their hearts," and "make them to abound in hope by the power of the Holy Ghost.")
DEVOTION EXEMPLIFIED. Ps. xxxiv. 2, 3. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord :
the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.
A SENSE of gratitude to God for his mercies will ever abide in some measure on the soul of a true believer. But there are special occasions whereon he is so impressed with the Divine goodness, that he feels as if he never could forget it, and as if he would have the whole creation join with him in his devout acknowledgments.
This was the frame of David's mind, when, by feigning himself mad, he had escaped out of the hands of Achish, who would probably have put him to death, or delivered him into the hands of Saul, his blood-thirsty persecutora.
In discoursing on his words, we shall notice,
[There is no man who has not some imaginary excellencies whereof to boast. If we possess any natural endowment either of mind or body, we are forward to bring it into notice, and to arrogate something to ourselves on account of it. One values herself upon her beauty; another boasts of his strength or courage; another prides himself in his wit, his penetration, or his judgment. Rather than pass unnoticed, the ungodly will boast of their iniquities and excesses; yea, (strange to say !) of iniquities they have not committed, and of excesses to which they have never arrived.]
Compare 1 Sam. xxi. 10. to xxii. 1. with the title of this psalm. The godly, on the other hand, “ make their boast in the Lord”
[They know, by bitter experience, that in themselves dwelleth no good thing, yea, nothing but what furnishes matter for the deepest humiliation. But they see in God sufficient to excite their devoutest adoration. Whether they contemplate the perfections of his nature, or the works of his hands, the wonders of his providence, or the riches of his grace, they are filled with wonder and astonishment; and, pouring contempt on all created excellencies, they exclaim, "O God! who is like unto theeb?” “ Thanks be to God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christo!"]
The Psalmist was the more induced to praise God in a public manner, from a consideration of II. The effect he hoped to produce by this means
He did not expect any particular benefit to accrue to the proud
[The proud, alas! are disgusted with even the mention of God's name, provided it be with reverence and love: nor do they ever speak of him themselves, unless it be to profane his name in oaths and curses. Their aversion to hear of him increases according to the degree in which he is honoured. They will suffer us to speak somewhat of God as he is manifested in creation ; but they do not like to be told of his love in redemption. They will bear to hear a little of God (though but little) in his works of providence; but they cannot endure to hear one syllable of his gloriously rich and sovereign grace. If we utter but a word expressive of admiration and love on account of his condescension in revealing himself to our souls, we forfeit at once all title to respectability, and become in their eyes the most contemptible of beings. They would be less offended with oaths and blasphemies and the grossest obscenity, than with one such an expression of love to God.]
But he hoped that to the humble his adorations would afford matter of unfeigned joy
[The godly are not so free from pride, but that flattery sometimes finds access to their hearts, and proves a gratification to their unwary minds. But in their better seasons, when their airy dreams have vanished, and they obtain juster views of themselves, they most unfeignedly lothe and abhor themselves, and desire that God alone should be exalted. To be told of their own goodness is nauseous and unpalatable: but to hear the praises of their God and Saviour, this is delightful to their
b Deut. xxxii. 31. Exod. xv. 11. Mic. vii. 18.
c 2 Cor. ii. 14.