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heavens and the earth depends altogether upon God, who, when he sees fit, “ makes the heavens as brass," and the earth as iron. In a climate like ours, where the rains are frequent and occasional, God's agency is but little seen: but in countries where the rains are periodical, the want of them is so severely felt, that the goodness of God in sending them is more sensibly perceived, and more readily acknowledged. But in one place as well as in another, the influences both of heaven and earth are alike dependent upon him, and must be referred to .Him as their true, and only, and continual source.]
His bounty -and goodness should be gratefully acknowledged by us at this time
[Extremely beautiful is the description here given of the progress of vegetation, in consequence of a seasonable supply of rain
To attempt an illustration of these words would weaken their force, and reduce their sublimity. But, if a poetical taste alone can qualify us to appreciate their beauty, and to enter into them with a becoming zest, a spiritual taste also is necessary, to lead us to a due improvement of them, and to enable us to realize their full import. However, whether gifted with a poetical imagination or not, let me entreat all to survey the face of the earth; to see the change that has been wrought on every thing around him: methinks, without any poetic fancy, he may see the smiles of universal nature, and hear the songs and shoutings of a grateful world. And let our hearts respond to the voice of nature, and ascend up in praises and thanksgivings to our bounteous God.)
But let us further view the text, II. As emblematically describing the yet richer bless
ings of his graceBesides the primary sense of Scripture, there is frequently a secondary and subordinate meaning, which ought not to be overlooked. In relation to this matter, the New Testament affords us the fullest information, in that it cites many passages in which we should have had no conception of any thing beyond the literal meaning, if a further sense had not been unfolded to us by Him whose wisdom cannot err, and whose authority cannot be questioned. The whole 104th Psalm, in appearance, relates to the works of creation and providence; but towards the close of it we are led, though but cursorily and obscurely, to the contemplation of God's spiritual
b Here repeat the text.
government; in which view, the psalm is appointed by our Church to be read on the day whereon the out-pouring of the Spirit is more especially commemorated. The psalm before us may with equal propriety be viewed in the same light; and the rather, because the images used in our text are frequently applied to that very subject, to represent the influence of God's Spirit on the soul; “ His doctrine dropping as the rain, and distilling as the dew; as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers
the Let us notice, then, the influence of the Gospel, 1. Upon the world at large
[Verily, the whole world is one great wilderness; some few spots only giving any just evidence of cultivation. It is not above one-sixth part of mankind that has even so much as heard of the name of Jesus: and where his Gospel is not preached, sin reigns without control : even religion itself is nothing but a blind and bloody superstition, involving its votaries in every thing that is cruel and detestable. But see where the Gospel has gained an ascendant: look at Britain, for instance, and compare its state at this time with its state previous to the introduction of Christianity: once it was a dreary desert; but now it blossoms as the rose, and is as the garden of Eden. True it is that the name of Christianity effects but little: it civilizes, indeed, and raises the standard of morals; but it produces nothing corresponding with the description before us. But when “ the word comes, not in word only, but in power and in the Holy Ghost and in much assurance,” then a great and mighty change is effected: “the Spirit being poured out from on high, the wilderness becomes a fruitful field; and the fruitful field is so abundant, that it is even counted for a forest 4.” Could we but inspect the various settlements where zealous ministers have established churches amongst the savages of different climes, and see the difference between them and their yet uninstructed countrymen, we should have a far juster notion of the power of the Gospel than we can acquire in the midst of civilized society, where little remains to be added to the external deportment, and where the change effected by the Gospel is chiefly of a spiritual and internal nature. But the whole subject will be more fully open to us, if we view the Gospel as operating-] 2. Upon the souls of individual believers¢ Deut. xxxü, 2.
d Isai. xxxii. 15.
(What were any of us in our unconverted state, but, like a barren heath, bringing forth briars and thorns, without any of those fruits of righteousness in which God delights? As for humiliation before God, and a simple life of faith in the Lord Jesus, and a delight in spiritual exercises, and an entire devotedness of soul to God, we were as much strangers to it all as the heathen themselves. But, when the word of the Gospel came with power to our souls, it wrought a change upon our whole man, and made us altogether new creatures : “Old things passed away; and, behold, all things became new.” The obdurate surface of our hearts was softened; and the unproductive soil put forth a vital energy; by means of which all the fruits of the Spirit sprang up in rich abundance, and gave a hopeful prospect of a luxuriant harvest. Would we see this realized in a way that cannot be misunderstood, let us look at the converts on the day of Pentecost. It is not possible to conceive persons more destitute of all good, or more filled with every hateful quality, than were the crucifiers and murderers of the Lord of Glory: yet in one hour how changed! so that they remain to this day the most exalted patterns of piety to the whole world. Thus it is at this day, also, amongst ourselves: the work, indeed, is not so sudden, nor so general; but, where the grace of the Gospel is received in truth, it operates precisely in the same way: “ instead of the brier, there grows up the fir-tree; and instead of the thorn, there grows up the myrtle-tree; and even the tenderest plants rise in stately magnificence into "trees of righteousness, whereby the Lord is glorified."] APPLICATION
Let me now call you,
1. To adore your God for the blessings you have already received
[I would not that you should overlook the blessings of Providence. Even in this country we have often known the sad effects of scarcity: and we may well, therefore, bless our God for the prospects of abundance. To every one of you I would say, with David, “Sing unto the Lord with thanksgiving ; sing praise upon the harp unto our God; who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains. He giveth to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cryo.”
And will you not much more adore him for the blessings of his grace? Surely, if you do not, the very stones will cry out against you
- Yet rest not in mere acknowledgments, however grateful they may be: but seek to abound in fruits of righteousness : which, whilst they are the necessary evidences of his work upon your souls, are the only effectual means of bringing honour to his name.)
e Ps. cxlvii. 7-9.
2. To look to him continually for fresh and more abundant communications
[The fertilizing showers which we have received will be of little avail, if they be not renewed from time to time : and all the grace that any of us have received, will be ineffectual for any permanent good, if we be not favoured with fresh “supplies of the Holy Spirit" from day to day. The grace which has been imparted to our souls this day, will no more suffice for our spiritual wants to-morrow, than will the light which has been communicated to our bodies. We must receive out of Christ's fulness from day to day, as the branch of the vine receives from its stem and root. Let your daily prayer, then, be like that of David : “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water isf.” In reading the word, and in the public ordinances, look up for the blessing of God upon your soul; and plead with him that gracious promise, “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring; and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the watercourses." Yes, Beloved, look unto God with increasing earnestness and confidence; and he will pour out upon you “showers of blessings;" and you shall be “ beauteous as the olive, and fruitful as the vine, and fragrant as the woods of Lebanon b."]
? Ps. lxiii. 1. & Isai. xliv, 3, 4. h Hos. xiv. 4-7.
STABILITY THE GIFT OF GOD. Ps. Ixvi. 8, 9. O bless our God, ye people, and make the voice
of his praise to be heard ; which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved.
THE blessings of Providence, when uninterruptedly continued, are scarcely noticed: it is only when the loss of them has been painfully apprehended, or actually sustained, that we consider how much we were indebted to God for them. What were the particular trials that had been endured by David or the Jewish nation, we cannot precisely determine: but it is evident, that the deliverance vouchsafed to them had made a lively impression on the Psalmist's minda. The words of our text would furnish exceedingly profitable meditations, if we confined them to their primary import; since the preservation of our life and health, amidst the many seen and unseen dangers with which we are surrounded, demands our most grateful acknowledgments. But a subsequent part of the psalm shews clearly that the writer had respect also to spiritual blessings"; and therefore we shall draw your attention more especially to them; and shew, I. What a mercy it is to be upheld in the ways of
God-We feel somewhat of the obligation conferred upon us in our first awakening and conversion ; but are by no means duly sensible how much we owe to our God for our daily preservation. But we shall learn better to appreciate this mercy if we consider,
1. To how many snares and dangers we are exposed!
[We have frequent occasion to advert to the temptations with which we are encompassed in the world; and to notice the still greater dangers we experience from the corruptions of our own hearts; and the additional conflicts which we have to sustain with all the powers of darkness. We dwell not therefore so particularly on those things at this time: but rather mention the danger to which we are exposed, even from lawful things. It is not only allowable, but highly proper, to prosecute our worldly callings with diligence; and to cultivate the tenderest regard for our wife or children: yet both the one and the other may engross too much of our hearts, and become hindrances to us in our journey towards heaven. Our food, our sleep, our studies, our recreations, may become snares, if we be not continually on our guard. It is therefore an unspeakable mercy to be upheld in the midst of such manifold temptations.]
2. How many, in like circumstances with ourselves, have fallen
[We are living in the full enjoyment of divine ordinances, and of whatever can conduce to the welfare of our souls. But are we therefore secure? Look back to the apostolic age: see
Compare ver. 1, 2. with ver. 10–12.