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command over it, however religious he may fancy himself, or be thought by others, is a self-deceiver, whose religion is vain. It is therefore with great propriety that David specifies the control of the tongue as the first evidence of the fear of God; “ Whoso desireth life, let him keep his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile.” Not only must all profane speeches and all impure communications be forborne, but every tħing that is false and deceitful, or corrupt in any way whatever. Every proud, angry, passionate, revengeful word must be suppressed, whatever may be the provocation to utter it: all calumny, detraction, uncharitableness, tale-bearing, must be avoided, and “ the law of truth and of kindness be continually in the lips.” God has said, that “ of every idle word we must give account in the day of judgment,” and that “ by our words we shall be either justified or condemned;" and therefore the fear of the Lord must of necessity cause us to “ take heed to our ways, that we sin not with our tongue."] 2. In our actions
[Sin is “ that abominable thing which God hates:" and it should be universally and irreconcileably hated by us : must depart from evil, and do good.” Whatever evil we may have been most tempted, and most accustomed, to commit, that is the evil against which we must most watchfully guard, and from which we must most resolutely depart
On the other hand, we must be occupied in doing good. The doing of good should be the great business of life: first, the doing good to our own household; then to all our neighbours ; then to the Church of God at large. The devising of good, and the executing of good, and the uniting with others in the good devised by them, and the stirring up all around us to do good according to their opportunities and ability; this is a life worthy of a Christian, and necessarily flowing from the fear of God. If we truly fear God, we shall " abhor that which is evil, and cleave (be glued) to that which is good," and " be fruitful in all the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God."] 3. In our whole spirit and temper
[A peaceful, loving spirit will characterize every child of God. « God is love;" and all his children will resemble him in this glorious attribute. True it is, that it is not always possible to be at peace, because some are so wicked and unreasonable that they will take occasion even from our very peacefulness to injure us the more. Hence St. Paul says, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” Whether we succeed or not, our constant aim and effort must be for peace. For the preservation of it we should account no sacrifice too great: and we should be as studious to promote it amongst others, as to preserve it with ourselves. If we see an unkind spirit prevailing any where, we should endeavour to extinguish the fire, and not, by countenancing it, add fuel to the flame. The evil of contention is so great, that no one who possesses heavenly wisdom will engage in it himself, or encourage it in others b. If we fear the Lord indeed, our constant labour will be to “ keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."]
a See Jam, üii. 2-8.
Whilst explaining thus wherein the fear of the Lord consists, the Psalmist points out, II. The importance of cultivating it in our own
heartsAs for those who had no concern about their souls, he did not expect them to hearken to such self-denying lessons as he endeavoured to inculcate: but to those who desired true happiness in this world and the next, he gave the advice which we have already considered To enforce his advice, he assured them of,
1. God's favour to them that fear him
[" The eyes of the Lord,” says he, “are upon the righteous, and his ear is open to their cry.' Not a moment are they out of his sight, nor for a moment is he inattentive to their prayers. Are they in danger? He will protect them, and cause his angel to encamp around them, that no enemy may approach to hurt themd- Are they in want? He will supply them with all that is needful for them. “ The lions that could prey upon them shall want and suffer hunger; but they shall want no manner of thing that is good," for body or for soul, for time or for eternity Are they in trouble? He will assuredly in due time interpose to deliver them. They may have many troubles : but he will deliver them from all, the very instant they have accomplished their destined office! He sends the trials to purify them from their dross: and he sits by the furnace, ready to bring them out, in the proper season, “purified as gold." Are they longing for his presence here, and his glory hereafter? He will “ be nigh unto their souls” in this world, and will save them in the Lord Jesus Christ with an everlasting salvation in the world to come. In a word, there shall be an infinite distance between them and others: for they shall enjoy
b Jam. iii. 13-18.
C ver, 12.
ver. 17, 19.
ver 7. 8 ver. 18.
all the richest blessings of redemption, whilst those who cast off the fear of God shall be left inconsolably and for ever desolateh. What inducements are here to seek that holy disposition of mind inculcated in our text!) 2. His indignation against those who fear him not
[God does not merely withhold his blessings from these persons, but actually becomes their enemy: he does not only turn his face from them, but sets his face against them: “he walks contrary to them who thus walk contrary to him.” Hear how indignantly he speaks to those who profess to reverence him, but in fact dishonour him by their conduct: “
Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say i?" Yea, he declares that whatever profession of religion they may make, they shall never enter into his kingdom: “ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heavenk." He intimates, that in the day of judgment there will be many who will confidently claim heaven, as it were, on account of their zeal and success in his service : but that, forasmuch as they were destitute of all these holy dispositions, he will not acknowledge them as his, but bid them to depart accursed into everlasting fire! In a word, he declares that by their fruits only shall they be known either in this world or the next".
It must however be remembered, that though the exercise of these holy dispositions is pleasing and acceptable to God, it is not meritorious in itself; nor can it found a claim for our justification before God. A reward, it is true, will be given us; but it is “ a reward of grace, and not of debt.” It is in Christ only that we can have a justifying righteousness; nevertheless our works will be regarded as the evidences of our faith: if our faith operate in the way above mentioned, we shall be acknowledged as Christ's redeemed people ; but if it do not, it will be considered as dead; and we shall be cast out as hypocrites and self-deceivers.] Suffer now a word of EXHORTATION. Two things we
entreat of you; 1. To labour for practical religion
[There are many professors of religion who love to hear of the privileges of the Lord's people, but not to hear of their duties; and they call such subjects as the foregoing, legal: but they who do so, understand neither what legality is, nor what the Gospel is. Legality is a leaning, either in whole or in part, to the works of the law to justify us before God: and if we encouraged that, we might justly be regarded as abandoning and subverting the Gospel of Christ. But, when we teach persons to fear the Lord, and, from a desire of his favour in Christ, and from a dread of his displeasure, to approve theinselves to God in the whole of their life and conversation, we do only what the Apostles of our Lord also did: for St. Peter quotes the very words of our text in the precise way in which we have insisted upon them": and therefore we are sure that an attention to them becomes us under the Gospel. We further say, that the people who set themselves up for judges in this way, are ignorant also of the Gospel. The Gospel consists of two parts, doctrine and practice, just as a house consists of a foundation and a superstructure. But who would choose a place for his habitation that has a foundation indeed, but neither walls nor roof? or who would call such a structure a house? So doctrines, however sound, will not answer the ends of the Gospel, nor can they be properly called the Gospel, unless they stand connected with good works as issuing from them and built upon them. The doctrines are the foundation; the good works are the superstructure: and then only are the doctrines available for our salvation, when they operate to the production of universal holiness. This is the account which our blessed Lord himself gives of his Gospel: and he alone is truly wise, who embraces and builds upon it in this viewo] 2. To cultivate a child-like spirit
þ ver. 21, 22.
i Luke vi. 46. k Matt. vi. 21. m Matt, vii. 18-20.
[We have addressed you as “ children:" though there may be many present who are "young men and fathers," yet must we say, that an advance towards Christian perfection will always be manifested by a proportionate growth in humility. Our blessed Lord told his Apostles, that whoever amongst them most fully attained the tempers and dispositions of a " little child, the same would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven." Let your growth then be seen in this way: then, whatever be taught you, it will be “received with meekness, as an engrafted word, able and effectual to save your souls." Indeed without this disposition of mind no man can have that “ honest and good heart,” which alone will nourish the seed that is sown in it, and enable it to “bring forth fruit unto perfection."
To those who are really but young in age, a teachable spirit is indispensable to their improvement. O let such listen to the voice of their teachers with humility and gratitude! let them especially also look unto the Holy Spirit of God, to apply the word unto their hearts: and let them “not be hearers only of the Gospel, but doers of it also,” lest the privileges they enjoy lead only to the deceiving and ruining of their own souls.]
n 1 Pet. ïïi. 10-12. o Matt. vii. 24-27.
THE BROKEN AND CONTRITE IN HEART ENCOURAGED.
Ps. xxxiv. 18. The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken
heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. THE objects of God's favour are very frequently designated by the exalted title of “ The righteous : “ The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous :"
Many are the afflictions of the righteous :" “ They that hate the righteous shall be desolatea.” But, a person of an humble spirit finds it difficult to assume to himself this character, because of the innumerable imperfections of which he is conscious; and, consequently, he is backward to claim the promises assigned to it. But the terms whereby the Lord's people are characterized in our text are such as the most humble may appropriate to themselves without vanity: and whatever is promised to them under that character, they may regard as their legitimate and assured portion.
The words before us will naturally lead me to shew, I. What is that spirit which the Lord approves
There is a brokenness of heart which God does not approve, because it proceeds altogether from worldly sorrowb: but that which is associated with contrition is truly pleasing in his sight.
Let us more distinctly see what the spirit here designated is—
[It is called "a broken heart, and a contrite spirit.” It is founded altogether in a sense of sin, and in a consciousness of deserving God's wrath on account of sin. It is, however, no light sense of sin, but such an one as David had, when he said, " Mine iniquities are gone over my head: as a heavy burthen, they are too heavy for me." “ Mine iniquities have taken such hold upon me, that I am not able to look up: they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore
heart faileth med." Nor is it merely on account of the penalty annexed to transgression that they are so oppressed, but on account of its hateful nature, as defiling and debasing their souls. Hence they “lothe themselves," as vile, and base, and filthy, and a ver. xv. 19, 21.
b Prov. xv. 13. c Ps. xxxviii. 4.
d Ps. xl. 12.