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and in answer to them, he will “ do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we can ask or think.”]
2. That to such expressions of penitence all the promises of God are made
[It is not to the fluent tongue, but to the contrite heart, that pardon and peace are promised. “To this man will í
God, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit,"
," « to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones h." “ He will fulfil, not the requests only, but the desire also, of them that fear him," and “ of them that hope in his mercy.” If only we look unto him we shall be lightened,” yea, we shall be saved with an everlasting salvation'." The publican who dared not so much as lift up his eyes unto heaven, but smote on his breast, and cried, God be merciful to me a sinner! went down to his house justified, when the selfapplauding Pharisee was dismissed under the guilt of all his sins.
Now this is an unspeakable consolation to the weary and heavy-laden sinner. Had he to look for grounds of worthiness, or even for any considerable attainments, in himself, he would be discouraged; but finding that the invitations of God are made to him as wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, and that the promises are suited to him in that state, he comes to the Lord Jesus Christ, and finds rest and peace unto his soul.] From this view of the Psalmist's experience we see, 1. What an evil and bitter thing sin is-.
[“ Fools will make a mock at sin," and represent it as a light and venial thing: but let any one look at David in the midst of all the splendour of a court, and say, what sin is, which could so rob him of all earthly pleasure, and bring such torment upon his soul. Was that a light matter? If we will not be convinced by such a sight as this, we shall learn it by sad experience in the eternal world, where the worm that will prey upon our consciences shall never die, and the fire that shall torment our bodies shall never be quenched. O that we might be instructed, ere it be too late!)
2. What an enviable character is the true Christian, even when viewed under the greatest disadvantages
[We cannot conceive a Christian in circumstances less enviable than those of David in the passage before us: yet compare him with an ungodly or impenitent man under the most favourable circumstances that can be imagined, and ask, Whose views are most just? -- Whose feelings most h Isai. lvii. 15. and lxvi. 2. i Ps.cii. 17, 19, 20. Isai. xlv. 17, 22.
rational ? - - Whose prospects most happy?
- With the one
God is angry every day;" on the other he looks with complacency and delight: the joys of the one will soon terminate in inconceivable and everlasting misery; and the sorrows of the other in endless and unspeakable felicity. The sinner in the midst of all his revellings has an inward witness of the truth of our Lord's assertion ; « Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.”]
3. Of what importance it is to attain just views of the character of God
[If God be viewed merely as a God of all mercy, we shall never repent us of oursins: and if he be viewed as an inexorable Judge, we shall be equally kept from penitence by despair. But let him be seen as he is in Christ Jesus, a
“ God reconciling the world unto himself, and not imputing their trespasses unto them,” let him be acknowledged as “a just God and yet a Saviour,” and instantly will a holy fear spring up in the place of presumption, and hope dispel the baneful influence of despondency.
Know then, Beloved, that this is the very character of God as he is revealed in his Gospel: he is “just, and yet the justifier of them that believe in Jesus:” he is to the impenitent indeed “a consuming fire:" but, “ if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Let the groaning penitent then look up to him with cheerful hope ; yea, with assured confidence, that God will not despise even the lowest expressions of penitential sorrow : however “ bruised the reed may be, the Lord Jesus will not break it; nor will he quench the smoking flax,” though there be in it but one spark of grace, and a whole cloud of corruption: never did he yet“ despise the day of small things;" “ nor will he ever cast out the least or meanest that come unto him.” Only come to him in faith, and “according to your faith it shall be done unto you."]
k Luke xvi. 19-26. and Isai. xxxv. 10.
DLXVIII. THE SHORTNESS OF HUMAN LIFE. Ps. xxxix. 4, 5. Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I
Behold, thou hast made my days as an hand-breadth ; and mine age is as nothing before thee! verily every man at his best state is altogether vanity.
THERE is nothing more painful to a pious mind than to see how generally religion is neglected and
despised. A godly man delights to speak of the things which are nearest to his heart: but he is often constrained to be silent, lest he should only induce the persons whose welfare he would promote, to blaspheme God, and to increase thereby their own guilt and condemnation. Gladly would he benefit all around him: but in many cases he perceives, that the very attempt to do so would be to “ cast pearls before swine." In tenderness to them therefore, as well as from a regard to his own feelings, he imposes a restraint upon himself in their presence, and “ refrains even from good words,” though it is a pain and a grief to him to do so. Such was David's situation when he penned this psalm. He was grieved to think that rational and immortal beings, standing on the very verge of eternity, should act so irrational a part: and not finding vent for his feelings amongst men, he poured them out before God in the words which we have just read; and intreated, that, however careless others were about the concerns of eternity, he might be more deeply and abidingly impressed with them.
Wishing that your minds may be suitably affected with this all-important subject, I will set before you, I. David's estimate of man's present state
He acknowledges that he himself could form but a very inadequate notion respecting it
[Speculatively indeed he knew well enough, that man's days are but few at all events, and quite uncertain as to their continuance: but the deep, and practical, and influential sense of it he had not in any degree equal to its importance; nor could he impress it on his own soul, without the powerful assistance of God's Holy Spirit. Hence he poured forth this earnest petition to his God, “Lord, make me to know my end! make me to know how frail I am!"
It is thus with us also. Speculatively, the most ignorant amongst us has as perfect a knowledge of the subject as the most learned: but, practically, no one knows it, unless he have been taught of God: and even those who have “ heard and learned it of the Father," need to be taught it more deeply from day to day.
That children do not reflect upon it, we do not wonder, because of the vanity of their minds, and their almost entire
want of serious consideration. But when persons are grown to maturity, we might well expect them to feel so obvious a truth. They see that multitudes are cut off at their age; and they know that with the termination of the present life all opportunities of preparing for eternity must cease: yet they not only do not lay these considerations to heart, but they will not hear of them, or endure to have them presented to their view. Nor are those who are more advanced in life at all more thoughtful on this subject. Engaged in worldly business, and occupied in providing for their families, they put the thoughts of eternity as far from them as they did amidst the more pleasurable pursuits of youth. And even when they attain to old age, they are as far from realizing the expectations of death and judgment as ever. They know, in a speculative way, that they are nearer to the grave than they were in early life, and that they may at no distant period expect a change. But still these views are no more influential on their minds than they were at any former period of their lives. A condemned criminal, who has but a few days to live, feels that every hour brings him nearer to the time appointed for his execution: but not so the man who is bowed down with
habit of living puts at an indefinite distance the hour of death; and days and months pass on without ever bringing at all nearer to his apprehensions the time of his dissolution. Even the sick labour under the same mental blindness. They attend to the fluctuations of their disorder; and one single symptom of convalescence does more to remove the expectation of death from them, than many proofs of augmented debility do to bring it home to their feelings with suitable apprehensions: they are still buoyed up with hopes from the skill of their medical attendant, when all around them see that they are sinking fast
Whatever be a man's age or state, it is God, and God alone, that can “make him thoroughly to know and feel how frail he is.”] Nevertheless the view here given us is truly just
[The life of man is so short, as to be really nothing before God." The comparison of it to “ an hand-breadth” is peculiarly deserving of our attention; because by that image every man has, placed as it were before his eyes,
" the measure of his days:" he cannot look upon his hand without calling to mind how frail he is, and how soon his present state of existence must come to an end. Let him divide his life into the periods of youth, manhood, and old age; and let him in his own apprehension divide his measure also; and it will bring to his imagination, in a very forcible way, the truth which he is so backward to contemplate. A great variety of other images are used in Scripture to convey this truth: life is compared to
into the grave.
a shuttle which flies quickly through the looma: to a ship, which soon passes away, and leaves no trace behind it: to an eagle, which, with the rapidity of lightning, hasteth to its preyb: but the image in our text is more striking than them all; because, whilst it is peculiarly simple, it is also practical, embodied, portable. Not that any image is sufficient to paint the shortness and uncertainty of life in its true colours; for “ before God, with whom one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day," it is absolutely “as nothing."
As far as words can describe the state of man, truly the Psalmist has done it in our text. “Man is vanity;" not only vain, but vanity itself. Every man" is so: not only the poor and ignorant, but the rich and learned: as it is said, “ Surely men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: to be laid in the balance, they are altogether lighter than vanity.” And this they are " in their best state;' even in the vigour of youth, and in the midst of all the pleasures and honours that their hearts can wish. And they are so “ altogether," both in mind and body; for their body is “crushed before the moth;" and in respect of mind, they are, as far as spiritual things are concerned, “ like the wild ass's colt.” This description may appear exaggerated: but it is
verily,” things are so, whether we will believe it or not: and if any deny it, our answer is, “Let God be true; but every man a siar."]
Such being the real state of man, I will endeavour to shew you, II. The vast importance of being duly impressed
with it It was the want of this knowledge that made the adversaries of David so proud and contemptuous : and it was from a conviction of these truths that David was led so deeply to bewail their infatuation. A due consideration of the shortness and uncertainty of life would be of infinite service,
1. To diminish our anxieties about the things of time
[We should think but little of our pleasures, or riches, or honours, if we considered how short a time they would continue, and that they may all vanish, together with life itself, the very next hour. Examples in abundance there are, in every age and place, to shew the extreme vanity of all that the world calls good and great. It is not in the Bible only that
a Job vii. 6, 7.
Job ix. 25, 26.
c 2 Pet. iii. 8.
a Ps. lxii. 8.