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It is from a view of God's “ truth” that our “ meekness" will be matured, and our "righteousness" be perfected: and when we are enabled to live altogether by faith in Christ, and in dependence on his promises, then shall we be enabled to “ cleanse ourselves from all filthiness both of flesh and spirit, and to perfect holiness in the fear of God m."]
m 2 Cor. vii. 1.
BENEFITS ATTENDANT ON HOLINESS. Ps. xlv. 7. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness :
therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
THIS psalm is a nuptial song; wherein Christ, as the heavenly Bridegroom, is celebrated by his Bride, the Church; and she also is commended by him as worthy of the union proposed between them. In the former part, the glory and excellency of Jesus are set forth in a variety of views. In the verse before the text, he is addressed as the supreme “God, whose throne is for ever and ever ;” while, as man, he is acknowledged to have received his glory and felicity from the Father, as the reward of his unparalleled virtues. This is undoubtedly the primary sense of the words before us. But they may also be considered as containing a general truth, expressive of God's regard for holiness, and of those testimonies of his approbation which all godly people shall enjoy.
Let us then turn our attention to them, I. As applicable to Christ
That they refer to him there can be no doubt; because in the Epistle to the Hebrews it is expressly affirmed that they were addressed to him". To him the character transcendently belongs
[In his doctrine, he removed the false glosses with which the Jewish doctors had obscured the law, and established its authority over the motions of the heart as well as the actions of the life. He laid the axe at the very root of sin ; and gave a
a Heb. i. 8, 9.
• He shewed that the laws prohibiting murder and adultery were violated by an angry word or impure desire. Matt. xxv. 21, 22, 27, 28.
system of morality more pure and perfect than the united wisdom of the whole world had been ever able to devise.
In his life," he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." Neither his friends who were most intimate with him, nor his enemies who were most inveterate against him, could ever find the smallest flaw or blemish in his conduct. God himself repeatedly attests that “ in him was no sin.”
But most of all in his death did our blessed Lord approve himself a lover of righteousness and a hater of iniquity : for he died in order to expiate the guilt of sin: yea, he came down from heaven on purpose to atone for it by his blood; and to mark in indelible characters its malignity, by the very means which he used to deliver us from its curse.
In the whole scope of the economy which he introduced, he manifested the same righteous disposition: for at the same time that he commissioned his Apostles to go forth and evangelize all nations, he bade them “teach their proselytes to observe and do whatsoever he had commanded." His Gospel, while it
brings salvation to men, teaches them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live righteously, soberly, and godly in this present world :” and the ministers who are sent forth to proclaim it, are “sent to bless men, in turning away every one of them from his iniquities.”]
On this account God in a super-eminent degree “ anointed him with the oil of gladness”— [The Father
gave not the Spirit by measure unto him," even during the time of his ministration upon earth. But though he was anointed in this world in an infinitely more abundant measure than all who were partakers of the same divine unction, yet it was rather after his death that the Spirit was given to him as
“ the oil of gladness." At his ascension the words before us received their full accomplishment. Then was "the joy given him, in the expectation of which he had endured the cross and despised the shame.” Then was he “made full of joy by the light of his Father's countenanced," and was invested with a glory as much transcending that of the highest archangel, as the brightness of the sun exceeds the lustre of a glimmering star. This was given him as the reward of his righteousness : " he loved righteousness;" " therefore the Lord anointed him with this oil of gladnesse."]
Though this is the primary sense of the words, we may without impropriety consider them, II. As applicable to us
c See Isai. xi. 2. and lxi. 1. d Compare Ps. xvi. 10, 11, and xxi. 6. with Acts ii. 27, 28. e Phil. ii. 8, 9.
The character of the true Christian is here most fitly drawn
[There are many unbelievers whose moral characters are unexceptionable: they abstain from open iniquity, and they perform many acts of righteousness. But the distinctive mark of the believer is, that “he loves righteousness and hates iniquity.” He looks upon sin as the worst enemy of his soul. Not contented with suppressing the outward acts of it, he strives to mortify its inward motions. The existence of sin within him is his pain, his burthen, his grief. He abhors it; he lothes himself on account of it: he often cries with anguish of heart, “O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me?” As for righteousness, he considers it as the health and felicity his soul. It is the very element in which he desires to live. Were he possessed of it in ever so high a degree, he would not be satisfied, as long as there were any measure of it which he had not attained. He would be “ holy as God is holy," and “perfect as God is perfect.” We repeat it, that this is the distinctive character of a true believer. Others, whatever their conduct be, have no real hatred of secret sin, no unfeigned delight in the secret exercises of religion : but in the believer these dispositions radically and abidingly exist.]
On this account God vouchsafes him the richest communications
[Who amongst the sons of pleasure can be compared with the Christian in respect to real happiness? The happiness of the carnal man is only as "the crackling of thorns under a pot;" it blazes for a little time, and then expires in smoke. Let a true Christian be bereft of all that the world holds most dear, and be reduced to a condition the most calamitous in the eyes of carnal men, yet would he not exchange states with the happiest worldling upon earth: he would spurn at the proposal with contemptuous indignation.
But it is not merely over the ungodly world that a lively Christian has this advantage : "he is anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows,” above those who in an inferior degree participate the same heavenly calling. Occasional circumstances of temptation or of darkness may indeed for a time reduce the most eminent Christian below the standard of his weaker brother : but in the general it will be found, that the more we have of the divine image, the more we shall abound in heavenly consolation: they will have most of heaven in their souls, who have the greatest meetness for it in their hearts and lives.
And though these holy joys are not bestowed on account of the believer's merits, yet are they strictly and properly a reward for his piety: they are a reward of grace, though not a payment of a debt. God has in numberless places assured his people, that “he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him," and that " it shall be well with the righteous, who shall eat the fruit of their doings?.”] INFER,
1. What a mercy is it to have such an example as Christ!
[If we entertain any doubt how we ought to walk, or what shall be the issue of a godly life, we need only look to the Lord Jesus Christ: in him we see precisely “how we ought to walk and to please God," and what shall be the termination of a life spent in the service of our God. In him we shall find an answer to the cavils of the world on the one hand, and to the suggestions of Satan on the other. In those things which Christ
did as a prophet, or as the Mediator, he is not an example to us; but in all other things he is: and as surely as we tread in his steps in this world, we shall be seated with him on his throne in the world to come.]
2. How vain are the expectations of those who are not conformed to it!
[Holiness and happiness are inseparable. It is in vain to hope for the “oil of gladness,” if we be not lovers of righteousness, and haters of iniquity. Wemay applaud and canonize those who conform to the world's standard of perfection ; but God will not ratify our sentence. The precepts of the Gospel are the infallible, the only rule of duty. They were exhibited in all their perfection by our blessed Lord, who gave us in his own life a comment on them. If we labour to imitate Him, and to walk in all things as he walked, our short-comings and defects will be forgiven us for His sake: but if we make any reserves in our obedience, we shall be regarded as despisers of his law, and take our portion with hypocrites and unbelievers. “ Herein the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; he that doeth not righteousness is not of God."]
f Isai. ii. 10.
DLXXVII. THE DUTY OF THE CHURCH AS MARRIED TO CHRIST. Ps. xlv. 10, 11. Hearken, O daughter, and consider, and in
cline thine ear ; forget also thine own people, and thy father's house. So shall the King greatly desire thy beauty : for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him.
THE psalm before us is a kind of nuptial hymn; the former part of which recites the excellencies and glories of the heavenly Bridegroom; and the latter celebrates the praises of the Church, which is his bride. Into this relation to Christ every Believer is broughta.
Now, as every change of situation brings with it correspondent duties, so that of marriage in particular requires a sacrifice of all other attachments. It binds each party to renounce whatever habits or practices may be found inconsistent with their mutual happiness. Such sacrifices are more eminently necessary for those united to Christ. To this effect, God addresses the Church in the words of our text.
We may consider,
The Church is, by adoption, by regeneration; and especially by her union with the Lord Jesus Christ, become the “ daughter of Almighty Godb." She is here addressed by him under that affectionate appellation. Nor is it possible for a father to give more salutary advice, or to deliver it in more persuasive terms; “Hearken, consider, incline,” &c. The direction itself is of a very peculiar nature
[The Jews were permitted to marry the heathen virgins whom they had taken in war; but they were to allow them the space of a month to forget their own relations. Thus the captives, weaned from former habits, might become loving companions, and obedient wives. In reference to this law, the Church is exhorted to forget her former friends. She has been taken captive by Christ, who makes her the first overtures of marriage; but his union with her is incompatible with carnal attachments. She can never love and obey him as she ought, till her heart is weaned from all other lovers.]
It is given to every individual in the church of God
[Every wife is to forsake her parents, and cleave to her husband a : much more is it needful for the soul to forsake all for Christ. To him we are espoused by our own voluntary surrendere; nor will he be satisfied with a divided heart*. Ungodliness and worldly lusts must be entirely renounced :
a Isai. liv. 5. b 2 Cor. vi. 18.
c Deut. xxi. 10–13.