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God by him.” Thus will you fulfil the design of David in transmitting his experience to future ages ; whilst you confirm his testimony, by your acknowledgment that God is still as gracious as ever, and an unchangeable Friend to all who come to him in his Son's name.]
EXPERIMENTAL RELIGION ENFORCED.
Ps. xxxiv. 8. O taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed
is the man that trusteth in him. THERE is, in the minds of many, a prejudice against experimental religion, insomuch that the very name of Christian experience is an object of reproach. But, what is repentance, but a sense of sorrow on account of sin ? And what is faith, but a resting of the soul on God's promised mercy in Christ ? And what is love, but a going forth of the soul in kindly affections towards God and man? The heart is the proper seat of religion : “My son,” says God, “ give me thine heart :” and, to imagine that we can have hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, excited in the soul, and yet not possess any consciousness of such feelings, is a mere delusion. I mean not to decry those exercises of the mind which are purely intellectual ; for they are necessary in their place. But it is not in them that piety consists : they may lay the foundation for piety; but there must be a superstructure of holy affections, before the edifice of religion can be complete.
This is intimated in the words before us: in which it will be proper to notice, I. The experience recommended“ That the Lord is good,” will admit of no doubt
[This is seen throughout all the works of Creation; every one of which bears the stamp and character of wisdom and love
Nor is it less visible in the dispensations of Providence: for, though we see them very partially, and are constrained to wait the issue of events in order to form a correct judgment respecting them, yet, from what we have seen, who can but acknowledge that “God is good to all, and that his tender
mercy is over all his works?” – But most of all
does his goodness appear in the great mystery of redemption. Who can reflect on that stupendous act of mercy, the giving of his only-begotten Son to die for us, and to bear our sins in his own body on the tree? Who can reflect on the sending of his Holy Spirit to instruct and sanctify us, and on the providing for his people an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, and never-fading, reserved for them in heaven? Who, I say, can take ever so slight a survey of these wonders, and not say with the Psalmist, “ O how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of mena!
-] Let us, then, “taste and see how good the Lord is”
[A man who had been immured all his days in a dungeon would have no conception of the radiance of the sun, in comparison of that which he would acquire by being subjected to the action of its meridian rays : nor will a person who has merely heard and read of God's goodness be able to form an estimate of it, in comparison of what he would after having had “ the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost.” In the one state he might say, “ I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear;" but, on his transition from it, he might add, “Now mine eye seeth thee." This is what I would wish respecting you: I would wish all “ the goodness of God to pass before you," if not in visible splendour and in audible sounds, yet in a way perceptible to the organs of faith.
But how is this to be attained ? I answer, As Moses was put into the clift of the rock, that he might be capable of sustaining the manifestations of God's glory, so you must “ be found in Christ;" and then you shall behold all “ the glory of God shining forth in his face.")
That we may be stirred up to seek this experience, let us notice, II. The blessedness resulting from it-
A just view of God's goodness will lead us to trust in him
[“ They that know thy name,” says David, “ will put their trust in thee.” They will go to him with all their guilt to be pardoned, and all their corruptions to be mortified, and all their wants to be supplied. Those who know him not, are ever prone to limit either his power or his willingness to save : but those who have “ tasted how gracious he is,” will commit
b Exod. xxxiii. 18, 19.
c 1 Pet. ii. 3.
a Ps. xxxi. 19. VOL. V.
to him their every concern, and trust him for body and for soul, for time and for eternity — -]
And need I ask, whether persons so doing shall be “ blessed ?”
[Verily it is not in the power of language to declare the full extent of their blessedness. What tranquillity possesses their minds! It is well said, that " their peace passeth understanding," and their “joy is unspeakable and glorified.” Conscious as they are of their ill desert, they nevertheless feel assured of mercy through the blood of sprinkling. Sensible as they are of a "body of sin and death," and almost sinking under its weight, they yet can say, " Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ !” Knowing by bitter experience, also, the power and subtlety of Satan, they yet anticipate a final victory over him, and doubt not but that he shall soon be for ever “ bruised under their feet.” As for death, they have learned to number it amongst their treasures d: and they look forward to a habitation infinitely better than any that this world can afford, even to“ a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
In every view that can be conceived, these persons are blessed; as indeed the whole Scripture testifies: but more especially does David assure us of it, when, in a solemn appeal to God himself, he says, “O Lord God of Hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in theee.”] ADDRESS-
Are there any amongst you who doubt the blessedness of religion ?
[Sure I am, that you can never have had any just experience of it. And what would you yourselves say to any one who should presume, under such circumstances, to judge of earthly things? Would you not reply, you are incompetent to judge? So, then, I say to you, Go first and taste whether God be not good to them that seek him. If you can truly say, that you have sought him with deep penitential sorrow, and he has shut up his bowels of compassion from you; that you have prostrated yourselves at the foot of the cross, and the Lord Jesus has spurned you from his foot-stool; and that you have truly and unreservedly given yourselves up to God, and he has denied you the assistance of his
grace; if you will say, that, whilst you have thus turned with your whole heart to God, and retained no allowed sin within you, God has cast out your prayer, and refused to be gracious unto you; I will allow you to be judges in this matter. But where is the man that will
d 1 Cor. iii. 22.
e Ps, lxxxiv. 12.
dare to stand up and say to the Lord Jesus Christ, • Thou hast declared that thou wouldst "
on no account cast out any who came to thee;" but thou hast falsified thy word in reference to me, and suffered me to seek thy face in vain?' No: there never yet existed an occasion for such a reproach, nor ever shall, as long as the world shall stand. I say, then, that those who doubt the blessedness of true religion are in darkness even to this very hour, and "speak evil of the things which they understand not." And, if they pretend that they have endeavoured to taste whether God were good, and found him not to be
so, I hesitate not to say, that the fault has not been in God, but in themselves, in that their taste has been vitiated, and their souls rendered incapable of spiritual discernment.]
To those who have “ tasted that the Lord is gracious,”
[I would say, Be not satisfied with a taste. God invites you to eat and drink abundantly?,” till you are even "satisfied with his goodness 8.” Such is your privilege, as David has declared : " How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore shall the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings: they shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures h.” And be careful that you do not become
weary of the Lord.” We read of some, who, having “ tasted of the heavenly gift, and been made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and having tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, yet so fell away, as never to be renewed unto repentance i.” Beware, lest that ever become your state. Beware, lest ye so
crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." If men who have never tasted of his grace commit iniquity, they bring no particular disgrace upon religion : but if you, who profess godliness, offend, you cast a stumblingblock before the whole world; who conclude, from what they see in you, that there is not a sufficiency of love in Christ to make you happy, or of grace to make you holy. I pray you, bring not such dishonour upon him, or such guilt upon your own souls: but so “acquaint yourselves with him, that you may be at peace;” and so delight yourselves in him, that
your souls may be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, whilst you are praising him with joyful lips k. "]
i Cant. v. 1. h Ps. xxxvi. 7, 8. k Ps. lxii. 5.
g Jer. xxxi. 14. i Heb. vi. 6.
DLIII. THE FEAR OF GOD INCULCATED. Ps. xxxiv. 11–16. Come, ye children, hearken unto me; I will teach
you the fear of the Lord. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good ? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile. Depart from evil, and do good : seek peace, and pursue it. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the Lord is against them that do evil,
TO enlighten a dark world, and to guide wanderers into the paths of peace and holiness, is the most glorious office that can be committed to a human being. So at least David thought : for though he was well qualified to teach men the science of music in which he eminently excelled), or the art of war (in which he was a great proficient), or the principles by which states and kingdoms should be governed, he considered none of those employments comparable to that of instructing men in the principles and practice of true religion. As a prophet of the Lord, (for at the time the psalm was written he was not yet exalted to the throne of Israel,) he regarded all, to whom he had accesss, as his children; and was anxious, as a loving parent, to gain their attention, that he might instil into their minds those truths which he himself felt to be of supreme importance. He wished in particular to shew them, what we also are desirous to point out to you, 1. Wherein the fear of the Lord consists
The fear of the Lord is such a reverential regard to him as inclines us to walk in all things according to his revealed will, and to approve ourselves to him, 1. In our words
[“ Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak;” and every evil that is in the heart will betray itself by the tongue. Truly the tongue is justly called an unruly member: like a helm of a ship, it is but a small matter; but it boasteth great things. It is declared by God himself to be “ world of iniquity;" a fire, setting in flames the course of nature, and itself set on fire of hell.” So untameable is it, that the man who bridles it on all occasions is pronounced to be " perfect man:" whilst, on the other hand, the man who has no