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Let us then contemplate, II. The evidences of this frame, wherever it exists —
Such a frame of mind must of necessity be attended with correspondent efforts to attain its object. There will be in us, 1. A diligent attendance on all the means of grace
[Where shall we look for God, but in his holy word, where he reveals to us all his majesty and his glory? That word then we shall read with care, and meditate upon it day and night, and listen to the voice of God speaking to us in it
We shall also pray over it, converting every command into a petition, and every promise into an urgent plea The public ordinances of religion we shall highly prize, because in them more especially we honour God, and have reason to expect more abundant manifestations of his love to our souls
At the table of the Lord too we shall be found frequent guests, not only because we are required by gratitude to remember the love of Christ in dying for us, but because the Lord Jesus still, as formerly, delights to “ make himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread.” If we do really pant after God, I say again, we cannot but seek after him in the way of his ordinances.]
2. An acquiescence in every thing that may bring him nearer to us
[God is pleased oftentimes to afflict his people, in order to wean them from the love of this present world, and to quicken their souls to more diligent inquiries after him. Now - affliction is not in itself joyous, but grievous :" nevertheless, when viewed in connexion with the end for which it is sent, it is welcomed even with joy and gratitude by all who are intent on the enjoyment of their God. In this view St. Paul “ took pleasure in infirmities and distresses” of every kind, because they brought him to God, and God to him ;-him, in a way of fervent prayer; and God, in a way of rich and abundant communication a. In this view, every saint that has ever experienced tribulation in the ways of God is ready to say, that as it is good for him that he has been afflicted," and that, if only God's presence may be more abidingly manifested to his soul, he is ready to suffer the loss of all things, and to count them but dross and dung.]
3. A dread of every thing that may cause him to hide his face from us
[We know that there is, in every generous heart, a dread of any thing that may wound the feelings of those we love:
a 2 Cor. xii. 10.
how much more then will this exist in those who love God, and are panting after the enjoyment of him! Shall we, under such a frame of mind, go and do “the abominable thing which his soul hates ?" shall we by any wilful misconduct "grieve the Holy Spirit of promise, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption ?" No: when tempted to evil, we shall reject it with abhorrence, and say, “How shall I do this wickedness, and sin against God?" We shall “put away every accursed thing that may trouble our camp:" we shall not only turn from open and flagrant iniquity, but shall "abstain from the very appearance of evil." We shall search for sin in the heart, as the Jews searched for leaven in their houses, in order that we may be " a new lump, altogether unleavened.” We shall strive to have our every action, every word, and "every thought, brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”]
4. A dissatisfaction of mind whenever we have not an actual sense of his presence
[We cannot rest in a mere routine of duties: it is God that we seek, even the living God; and therefore we can never be satisfied with a dead form, nor with any number of forms, however multiplied. We shall look back to seasons of peculiar access to God, as the happiest periods of our life; and in the absence of God shall
say, “O that it were with me as in months past, when the candle of the Lord shone
head!” We shall deprecate the hidings of his face as the severest affliction that we can endure; and shall never feel comfort in our minds, till we have regained the light of his countenance and the joy of his salvation. The conduct of the Church, in the Song of Solomon, is that which every one who truly loves the heavenly Bridegroom will observe: he will inquire after him with all diligence, and, having found him, will labour with augmented care to retain and perpetuate the expressions of his love b.) Let us LEARN then, from this example of David, 1. The proper object of our ambition
[Crowns and kingdoms should not satisfy the Christian's ambition. He should seek to enjoy “God himself, even the living God," who has life in himself, and is the one source of life to the whole creation. David, when driven from his house and family, did not pant after his lost possessions, his ruined honours, his deserted relatives : it was God alone whose presence he so ardently desired. O that every desire of our souls may thus be swallowed up in God, whose loveliness and lovingkindness exceed all the powers of language to describe, or of any created imagination to conceive !) 2. The proper measure of our zeal
Chap. iii. 1-4.
[In reference to earthly attainments, men in general contend, that it is scarcely possible to have our desires too ardent: but in reference to the knowledge and the enjoyment of God, they think even the smallest ardour is misplaced. But “it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing:” and, if the measure of David's desire was right, then should not ours stop short of his. When we can explore the heights and depths of the Redeemer's love, or count the unsearchable riches of his grace, then may we limit our exertions according to the scale which we may derive from them: but, if they surpass all the powers of language or of thought, then may we take the hunted deer for our pattern, and never pause till we have attained the full fruition of our God.]
ACCESS TO GOD IN ORDINANCES. Ps. xliii. 3, 4. O send out thy light and thy truth! Let them
lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God, my God.
IT is supposed that David wrote both this and the preceding psalm when he was driven from Jerusalem by his rebellious son, Absalom. After briefly calling on God to judge between him and his blood-thirsty enemies, he here shews, that the being separated from divine ordinances was to him the heaviest part of his affliction. True, indeed, his faithful servants, Zadok and Abiathar, had brought him the ark; but that he sent back again to its wonted residence“; for to have the symbol of the Deity without his actual presence and favour, would afford him little consolation or benefit. To enjoy God in his ordinances, was his supreme delight. And hence he implores of God to “send forth his light and his truth, to conduct him back to them; for who but God could devise a way for his return? or what had he to depend upon in this hour of his extremity, but the promise and protection of God himself ? In the event of his being restored to God's tabernacles, he determined that he would go with more delight than ever “ to the altar of his God, even to God himself, who was his exceeding joy,” and there pay to God the vows which he had made: yes, and the harp which now hanged upon the willows should again be tuned, to sing with more devotion than ever the praises of his God. What he here promises, we find in another psalm he actually performed, as soon as the desired deliverance had been vouchsafed : “ Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads: we went through fire and through water: but thou broughtest us out, into a wealthy place. I will
a 2 Sam, xv, 25.
go into thy house with burnt-offerings : I will pay thee my vows, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth hath spoken, when I was in trouble. I will offer unto thee burnt-offerings of fatlings, with the incense of rams: I will offer bullocks with goatsb."
The words of my text consist of two parts; a devout petition to God to restore him to his wonted enjoyment of divine ordinances; and a joyful anticipation of augmented zeal in the service of his God. And, in correspondence with these, we see what, under all circumstances, it becomes us chiefly to affect; namely, 1. An intelligent and believing access to God
It is not sufficient that we attend divine ordinances. Many frequent them without any benefit at all. We must be “led to them by God's light and truth,” that so we may attend upon them with intelligence and faith.
[Who but God can teach us how to approach him acceptably? Or what hope can we have in approaching him, except from the promises which he has given us in the Son of his love? In order to derive benefit to our souls, we must entreat God to “send forth his light and his truth, that they may lead us.” It is only as reconciled to us in Christ Jesus, that we can venture to draw nigh to God: for in himself, though a God of love to the penitent, he is to the impenitent “a consuming fire.” Nor could we presume to come to him in Christ Jesus, if he had not expressly declared that he would forgive our sins, and receive us to mercy for Jesus' sake
- This is the new and living way which God has opened to sinful mano;" (all access to the tree of life in any other way is barred for everd;) and we should implore of God to reveal it to us, that so we may find acceptance with him, and be restored to that communion with him from which “ we have been separated by our sinse.”]
b Ps. lxvi, 12-15.
c Heb. x. 19, 20.
d Gen. iii. 24.
But we should look still farther to,
David would offer on God's altar the sacrifices appointed by the Law. But we have a richer offering than all the cattle upon a thousand hills : yes, we ourselves are the sacrifices which God calls for; and, “as living sacrifices we must present ourselves to him,” that every faculty and power we possess may be consecrated altogether to his service'.
[Truly, if God was to David " his exceeding joy,” much more must he be so to us. To David, the wonders of Redeeming Love were, comparatively, but little known. Even John the Baptist himself had but a faint insight into them, in comparison of us. “The height and depth and length and breadth of the love of Christ," which not even an Archangel can fully comprehend, are revealed to us; and in the contemplation of them we should “rejoice in Him with joy unspeakable and glorified.” Never should our harp lie still
. We should be singing his praises every day, and all the day long. Nor need our access to God be in the least restrained by the want of public ordinances. Doubtless they are of infinite value; for “God loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob:" but in every house, and in every heart, is an altar to the Lord, from whence the sacrifices of prayer and praise may ascend up before God continually, and be regarded by him as "offerings of a sweet-smelling savour.” In a word, to be devoted to God in heart and life is the great end of ordinances; which are no farther serviceable to us, or acceptable to God, than as they are productive of these effects. And, as it was for this end that David so earnestly implored of God a restoration to his ordinances, so it is this which, in attending upon ordinances, we, my Brethren, must continually bear in mind, and make the great object of our pursuit.] APLLICATION
[As for those who are strangers to spiritual religion, I forbear to address this subject to them; for to them it can appear, as the Apostle tells us, no better than “ foolishnessh." and their very ignorance of the subject is itself a sufficient condemnation to them. But to those who have been endued with somewhat of a spiritual discernment, I may say, this subject affords abundant matter for the deepest humiliation. For,
e Isai, lix. 2.
f Rom. xii. 1.
g 1 Pet. i. 8.
h 1 Cor. ii. 14.