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most agreeable, because they are most at ease. And such is God to the believer. “In every place, God is to him as a little sanctuary 6," where he finds himself at rest. He carries his wants to God, and “ casts all his care on him," and enjoys that peace which passeth all understanding. In this sense he says for his own encouragement, “ Return unto thy Rest, O my soul:” and attests for the glory of his God, “ Lord thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations b."]
In connexion with this experience of the believer, let us consider, II. His privilege
The expression in the text seems to exceed the bounds of truth : but the more it is examined, the more will it be found to be strictly true. The man who makes God his habitation shall have no evil befall him: 1. None here
[No casual evil shall befall him. There is no such thing as chance; every thing, even to the falling of a sparrow, is ordered of the Lord. As for the children of God, “ their heavenly Father hath given his angels charge over them, to keep them in all their waysi;” and if any thing were to happen to them, they (the angels) would contract a fearful responsibility for their neglect. We must not however imagine that Believers are at liberty to rush into needless dangers; for our Lord, when tempted by Satan to cast himself from a pinnacle of the Temple in expectation that the angels would preserve him from injury, replied, “ Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God:” but nothing can happen to them except by the Divine appointment: they are hid in the shadow of their Father's hand, and “ their very hairs are all numbered.”
But it may be thought that penal evil may come to them. This however we utterly deny. That they may be “ visited with the rod," we readily acknowledge: but there is a great difference between the vindictive arm of an incensed judge, and the gentle chastisements of an indulgent parent. The cup that may at any time be put into their hands may be bitter; but it has not in it one drop of wrath: it is altogether mixed by love; and not an ingredient can be found in it, which they themselves shall not one day confess to have been salutary and beneficial.
In short, no real evil shall befall them. That they may have troubles, is certain : that their troubles may be heavy and accumulated, is also certain. But who accounts even the amputation of a limb evil, if it be the only and infallible method of
& Ezek. xi. 16. b Ps. xc. 1. i ver. 11, 12.
ions of weariness arm. Neces hence
preserving life? Much less then are any sufferings to be accounted evil, which the Believer can ever be called to sustain: for he shall never endure any, which shall not work for good to him in this life, and be the means of increasing his weight of glory in the nextk."] 2. None hereafter
[It is in this life only that the Believer can meet with even the semblance of evil : when he goes hence, he is instantly placed beyond the reach of harm. No sin, no sorrow, no pain, no temptation, no weariness, no want, can ever be felt by him in the mansions of bliss. He will there enjoy for ever one unclouded day! and his happiness will be without alloy, without intermission, without end."] To render this subject more instructive, we shall ADD
[Christ, in reference to the sheepfold of his church, says, “I am the door; if any man enter in by me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture m.” The same figure we may apply to the subject before us: “ Christ is the door ;" he is “the way to the Father;” and “no man cometh unto the Father, but by him.” To those who come to God in any other way, he is not “a Refuge,” or “ Habitation,” but “a consuming fire "." But if we believe in Christ, then “ will he dwell in us, and we shall dwell in himo:" yea," he will be our house of defence, to save us for ever P.”]
2. Of warning
[Who, except the believer, can apply to himself the promise in the text? As for the unbelieving and disobedient, they are in danger every hour: they know not but that God's wrath may break forth against them the very next moment to their destruction. Of this they are certain, (whether they will believe it or not,) that in a little time his judgments shall overtake them, and the greatest of all evils shall befall them, unless they repent. O that they would be prevailed upon to flee for refuge to the hope that is set before them! O that they would now seek to be “found in Christ!” Then should the destroying angel pass over them, and “they should dwell safely, and be quiet from the fear of evil 9,"]
3. Of encouragement
[The weakness of men's faith often robs them of the comfort which it is their privilege to enjoy. Why should a believer * Rom. viii. 28. and 2 Cor. iv. 17.
i Rev. xxi. 4. m John X. 9.
n Heb. xi. 29. • John vi. 56. p Ps. xxxi. 2.
9 Prov. i. 33.
be afraid of thunder and lightning? Were he but sensible what a Protector he has, he would feel assured that no evil could come unto him. How varied are God's promises to him in the psalm before us! How diversified also are the assurances given him by Eliphaz in the book of Job!! Let him only commit himself to God, and he has nothing to fear. Let us then, beloved, have faith in God; and let those words of David be our song in this land of our pilgrimage; “ God is our refuge, &c.; therefore will we not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the waters be carried into the midst of the sea 8 : &c."] Job v. 19—24.
8 Ps. xlvi. 144.
DCLVI. THE CHARACTER AND PRIVILEGES OF THE GODLY. Ps. xci. 14-16. Because he hath set his love upon me, there
fore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.
THE Scriptures are the charter of the Christian's privileges. They contain the most minute and accurate description of his character, and set forth, in all the variety of expression that language can afford, the blessings he enjoys. The declarations concerning him in this Psalm may certainly be interpreted as relating to the Messiah, because when a passage out of it was applied to Christ, he did not deny its reference to himself, but shewed with what limitations the passage was to be understood. That it refers also to the church cannot admit of doubt. Throughout the whole of it the character and blessedness of God's people are delineated; but with peculiar force and beauty in the concluding verses. In discoursing upon them we shall consider, I. The character of God's people
They “know the name” of God
[The name of God as proclaimed by himself, is recorded in the Scriptures b; and the Christian has a view of him as a Compare ver. 11, 12. with Matt. iv. 6, 7. Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. possessed of those very perfections which are there ascribed to him. He particularly sees these perfections harmonizing, and glorified, in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; or, if he be not perfectly clear in his views of these things, he at least is sensible that the divine mercy flows only in one channel, and can be imparted only through the atoning blood of Christ.]
They so know him as to “set their love upon him”—
[It is not a mere speculative knowledge that Christians possess (in this the ungodly may far surpass them), but such a practical knowledge as influences their heart and life. They feel an interest in every perfection of the Deity. The justice and holiness of God are as amiable in their eyes as his love and mercy. From what they know of him they are constrained to love him, yea, to " set their love upon him," with intenseness of desire and fixedness of affection.]
They wait upon him in continual prayer
[Others may keep up an outward form of devotion, or even be exceedingly earnest in prayer on some particular occasion; but they alone can maintain a real intercourse with the Deity, who have been taught by the Holy Spirit both to know and love him. When they have been thus enlightened and renewed, they will feel the necessity, and taste the sweetness, of secret prayer, and will account it their highest honour and happiness to have access unto their God at the throne of grace; nor will they ever be satisfied with the worship they offer, if they do not“ worship him in spirit and in truth."]
In perfect correspondence with their character will be found, II. Their privileges
There is nothing good which shall be withheld from them in time or eternity. God will vouchsafe to them, 1. Answers to prayer
[They who offer their petitions only in a formal manner, never expect an answer to them. They conceive that all testimonies from God respecting the acceptance of our prayers are chimerical and enthusiastic in the extreme. But God is at no loss to impart to his people a clear and lively sense of his approbation. He most assuredly will answer them, though not by tokens that may be heard or seen, yet by sensible communications, and effectual interpositions. Are they laden with guilt? their burthen shall be removed, and they shall be filled with peace and joy. Are they bowed down under trials and temptations? they shall be strengthened by his grace, and be made more than conquerors over all. And though they cannot infallibly conclude from any feelings of their mind that God has answered their prayers, yet their feelings, in conjunction with the effects produced by them, will enable them to ascertain it, at least sufficiently for their own encouragement°.] 2. Deliverances from trouble
[The people of God are exposed to troubles no less than others. But they are supported under them by the presence of their God. As the Son of man walked with the Hebrew youths in the furnace, so will he with all his afflicted people; nor shall a hair of their head be singed. As a refiner he will carefully watch over every vessel, moderating the heat that would injure it, and bringing out the vessel as soon as his purposes in submitting it to the fire have been fully answered. This is twice declared in the text; and in due season shall it be experienced by every true believer.]
3. Present honour
[The saints are, for the most part, loaded with contempt and ignominy. Yet the very persons who persecute them most, have frequently, like Herod, an inward reverence for them in their hearts. But, however they may be treated by the ungodly, they are universally respected by the saints. The very angels account it their honour and happiness to minister unto them. They are lights in the world, and living witnesses for God to all around them: and “God himself is not ashamed to be called their God.” They are already exalted to the rank and dignity of God's children; and are made “ heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ.”] 4. Everlasting glory
[How far length of days is to be expected as the reward of piety under the Gospel dispensation, we cannot absolutely determine. But the true Christian will be “ satisfied with his life," whether it be long or short. He does not wish for the termination of it merely because he is dissatisfied with his present state, but because he longs for his inheritance. He has Pisgah views of the promised land even here: and as soon as he has finished his appointed course, God will shew him his full salvation; causing him to behold all its glory and enjoy all its blessedness. Then shall be given to him a life which will fully satisfy his most enlarged desires. God will say to him, in the presence of the whole assembled universe, Come thou servant, whom I have decreed to “set on high,” see the kingdom that was prepared for thee from eternity; take possession of it as thine own, and inherit it for evera.'] INFER
1. In how pitiable a state are the ignorant and ungodly world! c Ps. cxxxviii. 3.
d Matt. xxv. 34.