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THE CHURCH'S SECURITY IN GOD. Ps. xlviii. 12–14. Walk about Zion, and go round about her:
tell the towers thereof: mark ye well her bulwarks; consider her palaces ; that ye may tell it to the generation following. For this God is our God for ever and ever: He will be our guide even unto death.
MEN read the Bible in order that they may know what they are to do; and this is well: but they should read the Bible also in order that they may know what they are to expect : for that blessed book is no less a record of their privileges, than of their duties. It is of privileges that our text speaks. The psalm evidently celebrates some triumph over confederate kingsa: and it was probably written on the occasion of Jehoshaphat's deliverance from the confederate armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir; who, through the special providence of God, turned their arms against each other, and left Jehoshaphat nothing to do but to collect the spoil. That, as might be expected, was a season of very exalted joy to all Judah: and the circumstances altogether correspond very exactly with the intimations given in this psalm. The security of Zion under Divine protection is that which is particularly specified in the text: and we are called to notice it for the benefit of future generations.
Let us consider, 1. The survey proposed
Whatever strength might be in the fortifications of Jerusalem, the writer of this psalm evidently looked beyond them to God, who alone is the security of his people. Moreover, Zion was a type of the Church of God, which is indeed “ the mountain of his holiness, beautiful for situation, and the joy of the whole earth; and in whose palaces he is well known for a refuge." Let us then“ walk about her, and tell her towers, and mark well her bulwarks.” Let us mark the bulwarks,
a ver. 4.
2 Chron. xx. 22-25.
c ver. 1-3.
1. Of the Jewish Church
[This was founded on the purposes, the perfections, and the promises of God; and from them were derived her strength and her security.
In a season of great alarm and terror, the prophet being asked, “ What shall we answer the messengers of the nation, who come to apprise us of the approach of the Philistine armies? His answer was, “Tell them that the Lord hath founded Zion, and that the poor of his people shall trust in itd.” To this St. Paul adds, “ The foundation of the Lord standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are hise.” God had determined from all eternity that he would have a Church and people in the world: and hence it was that neither Pharaoh in Egypt could prevent, nor all the nations of Canaan could obstruct, the establishment of Mount Zion: for “ God's counsel must stand; and he will do all his will."
For the preservation of his Church, every perfection of the Deity was pledged. Whilst his wisdom was engaged to disconcert, and his power to defeat, all her enemies, his truth and faithfulness formed a barrier that could not be broken through: so that, till by the iniquities of his people he was constrained to depart from them, he was “a wall of fire round about them, and the glory in the midst of them 8:” and every attribute of his was “a chamber in which they might lie down in perfect peaceh."
Often it appeared as if his promise in relation to them would fail: but not a jot or tittle of his word ever did fail: for “he was not a man that he could lie, or the son of man that he could repent.” And, after the people had been forty years established in the land of Canaan, Joshua appealed to them, that “not one good thing had failed of all that God had spoken concerning them, but that every thing had come to pass according to his promise."] 2. Of the Christian Church
[Our Zion also has “ her towers and her bulwarks,” even the finished work of Christ, and the office of the Holy Spirit, and the economy of Redemption from first to last.
The Lord Jesus undertook to purchase unto himself a peculiar people, even with the inestimable price of his own blood : and never did he cease from his work, till he could say, finished k.” Every thing that was necessary to expiate our guilt, every thing that was necessary to work out a righteousness for his redeemed people, every thing that was necessary to satisfy the demands of law and justice, all he completed perfectly: and having fulfilled his covenant-engagements with the Father, it cannot be but that “ he should see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied," even in the promised seed, who should prolong their days, whilst “ the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hands?."
- It is
d Isai. xiv. 32.
e 2 Tim. ii. 19.
f Isai. xlvi. 10.
True it is, that in vain would Christ have died for his Church and people, if the Holy Spirit had not undertaken to apply to their souls the redemption which he has wrought out for them. But from the day of Pentecost to this very hour, he has not failed “ to glorify Christ, by taking of the things that are his, and shewing them unto menm." He finds men dead indeed; but he quickens them to a new and heavenly life: he gives them eyes, to see; and ears, to hear; and hearts to feel the truths which he has revealed to them: and " where he has begun a work of grace, he fails not to carry it on, and to perfect it until the day of Christ"." And hence it is that all the powers of hell have never been able to prevail against them.
Were the Church to be destroyed, the whole plan of Redemption, as devised by the Father, executed by the Son, and applied by the Spirit, would fail; and the Lord Jesus Christ himself would be robbed of all his recompence and all his glory. But, whoever surveys “ these towers," will know assuredly, that “ Mount Zion cannot be moved, but abideth for evero." Yes, “God's righteousness shall be for ever, and his salvation from generation to generation P."] 3. Of the Church of which we are members
[As against the world, the Church of England has no other security than what is common to every true Church of Christ: but as against her professed members, who would despoil her of her glory and her excellency, and would sap her very foundations by the introduction of false doctrines into her community, we have towers, and bulwarks, in which we glory, and which we desire you all attentively to survey. “Come, and let us walk round our Zion, and mark well her defences !” See there her Articles; how plain, how strong, how scriptural! there is no truth that is not there established: and though she has many false sons who would surrender them up to the enemy, there is not one which they have ever been able to impair, nor one in which her faithful people do not feel complete security. they were constructed: and they defy all the assaults, whether of traitorous friends, or open foes.
Next, behold her Homilies, formed by men of God who knew what assaults would be made against her. There are not want ing men who complain, that these are antiquated, and need repair. But they are as firm and immovable as at the first hour
n Phil. i. 6.
1 Isai. lii. 10, 11.
m John xvi, 14.
Then view her Liturgy.Next to the Bible, it stands the wonder of the world. Never was there such a composition for the use of those who would worship God in spirit and in truth: and, whilst piety shall continue to characterize the Children of Zion, this will be their joy, their glory, their defence. They may be derided, as too holy, and too precise: but, whilst they can point to her expressions both of prayer and praise, they will feel that they are vindicated against the whole world, and are in a bulwark that is absolutely impregnable.]
The end of this survey is, “that we may tell it to the generation following :” which shews, that, both for their sakes and our own, we should contemplate, II. The consolation arising from it
What was written so many centuries ago, belongs no less to us than it did to those for whose instruction it was originally composed. It calls our attention to the God of Zion, and reminds us of, 1. Our interest in him
[" This God is our God for ever and ever.” He is the same in himself; and bears the same relation to us; and feels the same concern for us as he did for his Church of old.
“He changeth not:" "he is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. “ With him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." And is he not our Father, our Friend, our Redeemer, our God? When did he cease to sustain these relations to his Church and people ? Or when did he cease to be mindful of the offices which these relations imply? If it be said, He has ceased to work miracles; we grant it: but has he therefore withdrawn himself from the Church and from the world, so as to shut up his loving-kindness from us, and to be gracious to us no more? Were we indeed to believe the infidel and ungodly world, we should say with them, that “God has forsaken the earth:” but we know the contrary: we know, that if God's presence and agency be less visible than formerly, they are not a whit less real; and that he feels for his people at this hour, as much as ever he did at any period of the world. “He knows their sorrows'," and " in all their afflictions is afflicted":" nor can an enemy touch so much as one of them, without touching “ the apple of his eyes."
Take this then into your consideration, in connexion with the foregoing survey. The same God as watched so tenderly over his people of old, is your God; and watches over you, with the same care as he did over them. His purposes have as much respect to you as to them: his perfections are all engaged as much for you, as for them: his promises are made no less to you, than to them. For you the work of Christ, the office of the Spirit, and the whole economy of Redemption, have secured blessings, as well as for them. And the same Spirit who was poured forth in such abundant measure upon our Reformers, and endued them with such consummate wisdom and grace, is ready to “work upon your hearts," and to "fulfil in you also all the good pleasure of God's goodness, and the work of faith with power; so that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ," I say then, Know from the records of the Church of old what a God you have to go to, and that “ this God is your God for ever and ever."] 2. Our expectations from him
9 Exod. iii. 7.
r Isai. Ixiii. 9.
s Zech, ii. 8.
["He will be our guide even unto death.” See how remarkably he guided Jehoshaphat on the occasion which we suppose to be more particularly referred to: he told Jehoshaphat where his enemies were, at what precise spot he should find them, and when he should go against them : twice was it repeated, “ To-morrow go out against them.” So he knows exactly where our enemies are, and what they design against us, and how they are to be met: and though he will not vanquish them without our fighting, yet, if we go forth against them in dependence on him," he will be with us," and will subdue them before us. Suppose our most formidable enemies now in array against us; and see in what way he will interpose in our behalf: “ Like as a lion,” says he," and the
lion roaring on his prey, when a multitude of shepherds is called forth against him, he will not be afraid of their voice, nor abase himself for the noise of them: so shall the Lord of Hosts come down to fight for Mount Zion, and for the hill thereof. As birds flying, so will the Lord of Hosts defend Jerusalem: defending also, he will deliver it; and passing over, he will preserve it*." Here are no less than three figures, rising in a climax one above the other, to illustrate the zeal and efficacy with which he will interpose for us. The first is that of a lion, who, when devouring his prey, will not be intimidated by the noise of shepherds, how numerous soever they may be : (This marks the determination with which Jehovah will prosecute our cause.) The next is that of a parent bird, who, when she sees a bird of prey hovering over her young, and ready to dart upon them, will fly with the utmost rapidity to intercept the devourer's
u 2 Chron. xx. 16.
x Isai. xxxi. 4, 5.
t 2 Thess. i. 11, 12. VOL. V.