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der consequent calamities. Thus Abraham and Jacob, when their own particular sins had brought on them divine retributions, would sink yet lower in dust and ashes before the most Highest. Their contrition for sin would be embittered and deepened by the rebukes of their God. So the holy Psalmist, when God made him to “ possess the iniquities” he had committed with respect to Bathsheba, and the sword entered his house, and his son Absalom rose in rebel. lion, and he was banished from his throne, and from the ordinances of God, pours out the poignant voice of grief and shame, and says, “ The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."
The keenest reproach to any Church is, when the Lord is compelled to say, “ The people turneth not to him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of Hosts." A proud, unhumbled, unmortified heart murmurs under rebukes, like the children of Israel in the wilderness ; or rejects warnings, like the men in the days of Noah and of Lot; or dares God to his face, like Pharaoh.
But the contrite and humble in spirit receives the divine rebukes, justifies God in his righteous retri. butions, and condemns himself. He says, with the prophet, “What I know not, teach thou me; if I have done iniquity, I will do so no more;” and with Job, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee; wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” And with David, " I know, O Lord, that thy judgments are right, and that thou of very faithfulness hast caused me to be troubled.” “ Thy rebukes have broken my heart, I am full of heaviness.” “ Will the Lord cast off for ever, and will he be favourable no more? Is his
for ever, hath his promise failed for evermore ? Hath God forgotten to be gracious ? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies ?”
No, my dejected and disconsolate hearer, God'
mercies are not gone for ever; all this contrition and darkness, when they have wrought their due work in you, will yield to the brightest beams of comfort.
For this leads us to consider,
III. The consolation flowing in this way from the very majesty of the divine character.
“I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
The allusion is to the temple of old, where God was pleased to dwell, and of which the Jews, even after they had relapsed into idolatry, boasted with extraordinary confidence. The Lord therefore thus rebukes their pride, and declares the nature of the spiritual temple where he will abide under the universal dispensation of Messiah : “ Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool ; where is the house that ye build unto me, and where is the place of my rest ? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the Lord ; but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembleth at
word.” Accordingly, the great God dwells with the humble; he does this on purpose to console them; and he causes this consolation to flow from the view of his greatness.
1. “If any man love me,” said our gracious Savi. or, when upon earth," he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.” Thus saith the Lord, “I will dwell in them and walk in them.” “ Behold I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him and he with me.”
These passages sufficiently explain the figurative expression before us ; God will take up his especial abode, and manifest his presence, in the heart of the humble and contrite. Such a heart is prepared to entertain the divine guest; it is emptied of pride and self; it has renounced its false confidence and conceit ; it has given up its lusts and pleasures ; it has ceased to trust in its own merits, its own righteousness, its own intellectual might; it acknowledges the claims of the Almighty on the creature's obedi. ence ; it confesses its transgressions and inward depravity; it justifies God in his chastisements ; it lies trodden under foot, reduced to the very dust, as it were, and “makes itself as the ground for the Almighty to pass over.”
God, therefore, instead of despising the prayer of the poor destitute, enters into his trembling heart, chooses it as his peculiar abode, makes it his temple, manifests himself as the God of grace, the God of pardon, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, reconciled through the sacrifice of his mysterious Cross, and vouchsafing the sanctifying influence of his Holy Spirit. The heart being empty, contrite, abased before him, he enters as the King of glory, ascends the vacant throne, and fills the amplest desires of the soul.
2. Nor doth he enter in vain : he comes with the design of“ reviving the spirit of the humble, and reviving the heart of the contrite ones.”
The image is drawn from the revival of the face of Nature, by refreshing rain after a long drought; or from the raising to new life a dejected and desponding mind, by joyful and unexpected tidings. Thus where God comes to dwell, he consoles. Whilst God is absent, joy is absent. And although penitence and contrition may have done their work, yet comfort is still wanting, so long as the inhabitation of God by his Spirit is wanting. The soul drags on heavily: The daily increasing perception of innate corruption weighs down the heart. Conscience accuses ; the Law condemns. The joy of pardon sometimes
springs up, but it fades again. The hope of being a sincere penitent cheers at times; but it is difficult for the soul to discern, amidst its tears and dejection, the marks of repentance unto life. Then afflictions add to the general woe. God seems armed against the soul. “He looks to the earth, and behold trouble, darkness, dimness of anguish ; and he is driven to darkness.”
At length, however, it pleases God to "revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” He sheds light amidst the gloom, and
lifts the light of his countenance” upon him. The prophet doubles the expression, to denote the certainty and magnitude of the blessing. “The word," says Vitringa, “embraces all the work which the Holy Ghost performs in the dispensations of grace, in renewing and restoring the mind, exciting, nourishing, cheering, and causing it to rejoice in the soft comfort of remission of sins, and a sense of God's favor and presence with it.”
The exhausted, dying traveller going down from Jerusalem to Jericho and falling amongst thieves, stripped, wounded, and left for dead, was not more truly revived by the wine and oil of the good Samaritan, than the spirit of the contrite ones is revived by the presence and indwelling of the Savior in the heart.
And when in the holy mysteries of our eucharistie sacrament the very seal of pardon and peace is affixed to the promise, then indeed " we spiritually eat the flesh of Christ and drink his blood ; we dwell in Christ and Christ in us; we are one with Christ and Christ with us ;" we are then “ crucified with Christ ; nevertheless we live, yet not we, but Christ liveth in us."
And if, in addition to this, the Lord, as in the case before us in the prophet, removes our external afflictions, and says to us, “ I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wrath ;" I have seen his ways and will heal him ; I will lead him also, and restore comforts to him and to his mourners ;" then is the soul fully revived ; then doth it receive“ beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”
3. The way in which all this consolation flows from the view of the divine greatness, is too direct a part of our subject to be slightly passed over.
For the whole scope of the text is directed to this one point; and almost all the similar descriptions of the majesty of the Almighty, are given in connection with his condescension to man; with his “humbling himself to behold the things done in heaven and in earth ; his receiving man's adorations; his listening to his prayers ; his rescuing him from danger ; his despatching his “angels as ministering spirits to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation.”
Nor are the reasons difficult to discover. Consolation flowing from God's goodness, mercy, compassion, love, is great indeed; but not so overwhelming, as when it is described as springing from his greatness, and holiness, and self-existence.
For the sense of favor is thus enhanced. The condescension is more remarkable. The stooping, as it were, is from a greater height. Every trait of the divine, incomprehensible, immutable nature, and its infinite perfections, more illustrates that favor and grace which could reach down so far as to such feeble worms of the earth as we are.
Then the surprise and unexpectedness is greater. Why is the "high and lofty One, inhabiting eternity, whose name is Holy,” first set before us in such magnificence, but to magnify the subsequent condescension by its suddenness? The beginning of the text seems to prepare for just a contrary conclusion. What might not the contrite ones have dreaded from such an introduction ? Surely, some fearful sentence