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[If we mark the diversified expressions in this psalm, we shall have some idea of the danger to which he was exposed. Saul having determined if possible to destroy him, his subjects of every description leagued together to execute his will. “False witnesses rose up, and laid to David's charge things which he knew not;" and, in confirmation of their accusations, declared that they were eye-witnesses of the acts imputed to hima. Among the number of these were many on whom he had conferred the greatest obligations, and to whom he had given no just occasion of offence. They devised deceitful matters against him ":" " they hid a net for him, and digged a pit for his soule.” To encourage one another in their odious work, “ they winked with their eyef;" and, when they thought they had prevailed against him, “ they rejoiced in his adversity 8;" and a magnified themselves against him," and "said in their hearts, Ah! so would we have it: we have swallowed him upi." The very abjects, encouraged by the example of their superiors, gathered themselves together against him, and tare him incessantly; whilst hypocritical mockers in their feasts, (pretending to more humanity,) yet "gnashed upon him with their teeth." In a word, all classes of the commmunity lay in wait for his soul', and, like lions prowling for their prey, sought to destroy and to devour himm]
Under these circumstances he cried to God for help
[The particular expression in our text is worthy of notice, especially as shewing what thoughts the Psalmist entertained of God. He believed that God was able to deliver him, how powerful soever his enemies might be. He knew, that if God was for him,
that was formed against him could prosper.” Nor did he doubt the goodness of God, as willing to hear and answer his petitions, and to afford him the protection which he so earnestly desired. But that which chiefly demands our attention is, his persuasion of the condescension of the Most High, in that he prayed, nor merely for deliverance, but for such an assurance of it to his soul, as should calm all the tumult of his mind, and fill him with perfect peace. Now this was the sure way to succeed in prayer.
Nothing so secures the interposition of God in our behalf, as the magnifying of him in our hearts: “ Them that honour him, he will honour.” If we limit his mercies, he will limit his gifts. If we doubt his power or willingness to help, he will withhold such
displays of his mercy as he would otherwise have vouchsafed". On the other hand, if we be steadfast in believing expectations of his mercy, we shall have such discoveries of his glory as an unbelieving heart has no conception of°. We should never forget, that there is nothing too great to ask of God. We never can open our mouth so wide, but he will fill itp:” nor can we ever be more enlarged in our petitions towards him, than he will be in his communications towards us9.]
But the petition in our text is still more deserving of attentionII. As suited to us
Imminent as David's dangers were, they were not to be compared with those to which we are exposed-
[David's enemies might be eluded, intimidated, vanquished: but those with which the soul of every sinner is encompassed can never be eluded, never be overcome.
Sin is a deadly foe, that seeks to destroy every child of man. It lies in wait for us, to allure, to deceive, to ruin us. It clothes itself in specious array: it comes with a friendly aspect: it bids us fear no harm: it tells us, “ We shall have peace, though we yield to its fascinations".". But it is no sooner committed, than it is registered in the book of God's remembrance, and will come forth at a future period as a swift witness against all whom it has deceived. From man it may be hidden: and even by those who have committed it, it may be forgotten: but "it hunts the wicked man to overthrow him ®;" and though it do not immediately seize the sinner as its prey, " it will be sure to find him out",” and, like a millstone about his neck, to sink him into everlasting perdition 4.
The law of God also follows with its curses all who have transgressed its commands. It is inexorable. It is a creditor that cannot be satisfied, or appeased. It will take the sinner by the throat, saying, “ Pay me that thou owest:" and, when we cannot discharge our debt, " it will listen to no entreaties, but will cast us into prison, till we have paid the uttermost farthing." God himself appealed to his people of old respecting this: “My words, and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? And they returned, and said, Like as the Lord of Hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us ." Of the
n Matt. xiii. 58.
o John xi. 40.
p Ps. lxxxi. 10.
six hundred thousand men who came out of Egypt, how many entered into Canaan? None, except Joshua and Caleb; who “ had followed the Lord fully.” Against all the rest a sentence of death was denounced in the very first year of their sojourning in the wilderness: and at the close of the forty years a minute inquiry was instituted; and not one was found alive?. So it will be found in the last day, that of all the threatenings in the book of God not one has fallen to the ground; and that, of all who mourned not over their transgressions of the law, not one escaped the vengeance of his God. God has said, s. Their foot shall slide in due timea." he has declared that " they shall all be turned into hell, even all the nations that forget him ":" that “ he will rain upon them snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest; and that this shall be the portion of their cupo:" he has declared it, I say; and, whether we will believe it or not, his law shall be thus honoured, and his justice shall be thus magnified, on every impenitent transgressor: for already is he "whetting his sword for the execution of his vengeance upon them; and soon will he make his arrows drunk with their blood.” “The soul that sinneth, it shall diee."
There is yet another adversary, who is lying in wait for our souls, and, like a roaring lion, going about, seeking to devour us; and that is Satan : nor can we have any conception of the wiles and devices to which he has recourse, in order to accomplish his malignant purpose. Even in Paradise he prevailed to ensnare and ruin our first parents: and the same temptations he puts in our way, assuring us, that, in following his counsel, we shall have unqualified pleasure, and happiness without alloy. He is in Scripture compared to "a fowler'; and, like a fowler, he spreads his nets, and allures us by temptations suited to our appetites, and by the example of sinners whom he has already ensnared, and whom he makes use of to decoy us. We see nothing but the promised gratification; and whilst one or another invites us to participate his supposed joys, we flock to him, “ without considering that it is for our life." Thus it is the drunkard, the whoremonger, the adulterer is ensnared: he thinks of nothing but his pleasure: but the fowler who lays the snare, foresees and prognosticates the end. Having succeeded in "taking us alive"," he “ keeps us in peace'," and does all he can to hide from us our bondage: but he knows, that they who now yield to his solicitations as a tempter, will soon experience his power as a tormentor.
Another enemy also that is confederate against us, is death.
He is waiting every moment to execute his commission against us; well knowing, that the instant he can inflict the stroke he meditates, all hope of our deliverance is at an end for ever. He has his eye steadily fixed on persons of every age and station : and the instruments he has at his command are as numerous as the sands upon the sea-shore. When he comes in his more visible and gradual assaults, he contrives to hide his ultimate designs, and to divert the minds of the sufferers from the thoughts of an hereafter. As the avenger of sin he entered into the worldk: and in the same character he is daily sweeping millions from the earth, and bearing in malignant triumph his unhappy victims to the tribunal of their God.
Hell too combines with all the rest, and is opening wide its jaws to receive its destined prey. What the prophet said respecting the king of Babylon, may be said to every impenitent sinner under heaven: “Hell from beneath is moved for thee, to meet thee at thy coming?” As in that instance “it stirred up the chief ones of the earth, and raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations” to exult over the fallen monarch, so those persons who were once our partners in sin, or whom by our example we hardened in their iniquities, will all come forth to meet us, that they may in the midst of all their own torments have the malignant pleasure of beholding and of aggravating ours. It is said, that in the last day “ the angels will bind up sinners in bundles to burn them ;” and for this end, no doubt, that they who have been associates in wickedness may, by their mutual execrations, augment each other's misery to all eternity. For this all hell is waiting. We are told indeed respecting the Rich Man, who lifting up his eyes in torments, desired that a messenger might be sent to his five surviving brethren, to "warn them, lest they also should come into the same place of torment;” but was not from any love to them, but from self-love; knowing as he did by bitter experience, how greatly his own sufferings would be increased by the reproaches of those whom by his influence and example he had so contributed to destroy.
Know ye then, Beloved, that if David was in danger from the thousands who sought his life, so are ye ten thousand times more in danger from sin, which deceives you; from the law, which denounces its curse against you; from Satan, who arms against you all the hosts of hell; from death, that is ever waiting to cut you down: and from hell, that is already yawning to swallow you up.]
Say then whether David's petition be not altogether suited to our state ?
k Rom. v. 12.
1 Isai. xiv. 9.
look to any
[To whom will you go for salvation, if not to the Lord Jesus Christ ? Will
your own ? Can you ever cancel the guilt of sin? Can you ever satisfy the demands of God's law? Can you ever vanquish Satan and all the powers
of darkness? Can you ever overcome death and hell, so that they shall lose all their terrors, and have no power over you? The hope of any such thing were vain : it is impossible: and if the whole world were combined to aid you, they could effect nothing. “ Though hand joined in hand" throughout the globe, “no sinner in the universe could go unpunished m.” None can ever blot out one single sin, but He who made atonement for sin by the blood of his cross. None can silence the demands of God's law, but He who endured its penalties, and obeyed its precepts, in order that he might * bring in an everlasting righteousness,” and “make us the righteousness of God in him.” None can" bruise Satan under our feet,” but He who “ triumphed over him upon the cross," and in his ascension “ led captivity itself captive.” None can divest death and hell of their terrors, but “ He who has the keys of both, and openeth so that none can shut, and shutteth so that none can open.”
Go then to him for it in David's words ; “Lord, say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” Offer this petition humbly: offer it earnestly: offer it in faith Never, from the foundation of the world, did he cast out one who came to him in sincerity and truth. If you plead with him in faith, all these enemies shall be subdued before you; and all your sorrows be turned into joy. See, in the prophecies of Isaiah, what your state shall then be: “ In that day thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation! I will trust and not be afraid : for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation". Here you see that he will not only give you the deliverance you desire, but the assurance of it also, saying to your soul, “ I am thy salvation." Beloved Brethren, think what blessedness you will then enjoy. See it in David : “My soul, wait thou only upon God: for my expectation is from him. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in Godo.” He then encourages you to follow his example: “ Trust in him at all times, ye people : pour out your hearts before him : God is a refuge for us P.” This is the very advice which I would give also : “Pour out your hearts before him, and trust in him.”
m Prov. xii. 21. o Ps. lxii. 5-7.
n Isai. xii. 1, 2. p Ps. lxii. 8.