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1. To those who are indulging in undue security
[Is there any one that will dare to say, 'I cannot fall; or, if I fall, I cannot but rise again: for, if God were to leave me to perish, he would be unfaithful and unjust?' I must reply to such an one, Thou art on the very border and precipice of hell.' Who art thou, that thou shouldst not fall, when David, and Solomon, and Peter fell? Or, who art thou, that thou must be raised again, when Demas, as far as we know, fell for ever? Hast thou been up to heaven, and seen thy name written in the Book of Life? Hast thou inspected that covenant which was made between the Father and the Son, and seen that thou wast among the number of those who were given to Christ before the foundation of the world? “ The Lord knoweth them that are his;” but who besides him possesses that knowledge? What knowest thou, except as far as causes can be discerned by their effects? Thou hast experienced what appears to be a work of grace in thy soul. Be thankful: but be not over confident: thousands have deceived themselves : and thou mayest have done the same. Could it be infallibly ascertained that thou wast given to Christ before the foundation of the world, and, in consequence of God's engagement with him, wast effectually called to a state of union with him, we will acknowledge that none should ever pluck thee out of the Father's hands': for “his gifts and calling are without repentance 8.” But, as this can never be ascertained but by a special revelation from God, I must say to thee, and would say, if thou wert the most eminent Christian upon earth, “ Be not high-minded, but fearh.” It is certain that multitudes of most distinguished professors have apostatized from their faith: and such may be thine end ; yea, and will, if thy confidence be so daring and presumptuous: and, if this should be thine unhappy fate, we shall not for one moment question the fidelity of God; but shall say of you, as St. John did of the apostates in his day, “ They went out from us; but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us'."]
2. To those who have actually backslidden from God
[Are there none of this character amongst us? Would to God there were not! But look back, I pray you, and see whether it is still with you as it was in “the day of your espousals k.” Have none of you “ left your first love i?” Time was, perhaps, when the concerns of your souls were of such
f John x. 27-29. i 1 John ii. 19.
8 Rom. xi. 29. k Jer. ii. 2.
h Rom. xi. 20. | Rev. ii. 4.
importance in your eyes, that you thought you could never do enough to promote their eternal interests. The word of God and prayer were then, as it were, your daily food: you walked with God all the day long. To maintain communion with him was your highest delight: you dreaded every thing that might draw you from him : your bodies and souls were, like living sacrifices, offered to him daily upon his altar. But how is it with you now? Perhaps at this time any formal service will suffice to satisfy the conscience: the duties of the closet are become irksome to you; the world has regained an ascendant over your minds; and evil tempers, which once appeared subdued and mortified, display themselves on every occasion, to the destruction of your own peace, and to the annoyance of all around you. Ah! think what dishonour you do to God, and what cause of triumph you give to his enemies. Through your misconduct, “the way of truth is evil spoken of," and " the very name of God is blasphemed." But His word is true, whether men stumble over it or not: and, whatever a profane world may imagine, “He is a Rock; and there is no unrighteousness in him.” But delude not yourselves with notions about electing love, or God's faithfulness to his promises. The only promises in which ye have any part, are those which are made to weeping penitents: “Repent ye, then, without delay, and do your first works m:" else “you shall be filled with your own ways "," and reap for ever the bitter fruit of your own devices”] 2. To those who are holding on in the good way
[You are living witnesses for God, that he is both merciful and “upright.” You know whence it is that you have been preserved. You know that you would have fallen, even as others, if he had not upheld you in his everlasting arms. Give Him the glory, then ; and cast yourselves altogether upon him. Beg of him to water your roots, and to make you “ fruitful in every good work.” Entreat him, not only “not to turn away from you, but to put his fear in your hearts, that you may never depart from him P." So may you look forward to all the occurrences of life with a joyful hope, that you shall be preserved even to the end, and be “ more than conquerors through Him that loved you 9.” The proper medium to be observed, is that between presumptuous hope and servile fear. A filial confidence is your high privilege: and you may go forward with joy, knowing in whom you have believed, that He is both able and willing to keep that which you have committed to him "," and that he will be eternally glorified in the salvation of your souls.]
m Rev. ii. 5. Prov. xiv. 14. o Prov. i. 31. and xxii. 8. p Jer. xxxii. 40. 9 Rom. vii. 35–39. r 2 Tim, i. 12.
COMFORT IN GOD. Ps. xciv. 19. In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy
comforts delight my soub. TO judge of the efficacy of Divine grace, we should see it in actual exercise, and under circumstances calculated to display its power. The writer of this psalm, whoever he was, (for respecting the author or the occasion of it we have no certain information,) was sorely oppressed under the sanction and authority of legal enactments. But he committed his cause to God; and warned his oppressors that they should give an account of their conduct before another tribunal, where their atheistical impiety would receive its just rewarda. At the same time, he declared that he had heartfelt consolations, of which it was not in their power to deprive him : for that “in the multitude of his thoughts, which their cruelty excited within him, God's comforts delighted his soul.'
In these words we see, I. The fluctuations of mind to which the saints are
exposedWhen men become saints, they are not raised above the feelings of mortality: they still have the common sensibilities of men, and consequently are exposed to great fluctuations of mind : 1. In reference to their temporal concerns
[As members of society, they must be engaged in earthly occupations of some kind; and must depend, not on themselves only, but on others also, for their prosperity in the world. The misfortunes of others may involve them; and, without any fault of their own, they may be drawn into circumstances of most painful embarrassment. In such a predicament, it would ill become them to be careless and unconcerned. They must of necessity have many thoughts, how to extricate themselves from their trouble, and to maintain their good character before men
In a domestic relation, too, the saint cannot be insensible to the welfare of his wife and children: their health, their honour, their happiness, must of necessity occupy a deep interest
à ver. 5-10, 20–23.
in his mind, and be sources of much anxiety within him --Religion is not intended to destroy these feelings, but only to regulate them, and to render them subservient to his spiritual welfare -- -] 2. In reference to the concerns of their souls
[The very intent of piety is, to make every thing that relates to eternity interesting to the soul. Now the saint, in this present state of warfare, cannot always preserve the same state of sublime and spiritual affection: there will be seasons of comparative darkness and deadness, and seasons too of temptation, when Satan has gained some advantage over him. Now, such ought to be seasons of deeper humiliation to the soul : and, together with contrition, there will often arise doubts and fears, which will fill the soul with most distressing perplexity. David himself sometimes had his fears, lest God should have cast him off for everb: and similar apprehensions are experienced by the Lord's people, in every age and in every place ---]
But in the example before us we see, II. The consolations which God administers to them
in their troublesTruly they have comforts which the world knows not of: they have for their refreshment and delight,
1. The comforts of God's word
[The Scriptures are a “ well of salvation, from whence they draw water with joy." In them they behold the character of God, exhibited as it were at full length, in all the dispensations of his providence and grace. There they see how God has dealt with his people in every age, ordering every thing according to the counsels of his unerring wisdom, and overruling every thing for their eternal good. There they behold him as a refiner, regulating the furnace into which he puts his vessels; and watching the process, in order to bring them forth in due season, fit for the master's use. There they see the “ covenant ordered in all things and sure";" and there they find promises without number, exactly suited to their state. These are as marrow and fatness to their souls; and, nourished by these, they not only bear with patience, but glory and exult in, all their trials --- Encouraged by these promises, they are content to go into the furnace, assured that they shall come forth, at last, purified as gold.] 2. The comforts of his Spirit
[Afflictions are seasons when God for the most part manifests himself to the souls of his people. The Son of man
b Ps. lxxvii, 7—10. • 2 Sam. xxiii. 5.
then walks most visibly with them, when they are put into the furnace for his sake. In the mount of difficulty and trial he will be seen. In his people's extremity he vouchsafes to them his richest communications, imparting to them his Holy Spirit, as a Comforter, to witness their adoption into his family, and to seal them unto the day of redemption. Yea, so abundantly does he sometimes “shed abroad his love in their hearts,” that they are fearful of losing their trials, lest they should lose at the same time their consolations also. Such were the comforts administered to the Apostle Pauld; and such shall be the portion of all who take the Lord for their God.] See
1. How highly the saint is favoured above all other people upon earth!
[What source of comfort can the worldling find, in his trials? The whole creation is to him but “a broken cistern that can hold no water.” It is the saint alone that has a never-failing source of joy and bliss ---]
2. How desirable it is to acquaint ourselves with God!
[It is in God, as reconciled to us in Christ Jesus, that this blessedness is to be found. To those who seek him not in Christ Jesus, God himself is only “a consuming fire:" but to his believing people he is “a very present help,” and “ an eternal great reward."]
d 2 Cor. i. 5.
DCLX. DEVOTION TO GOD RECOMMENDED AND ENFORCED. Ps. xcv. 6-11. O come, let us worship and bow down : let us
kneel before the Lord our Maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand.
To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness; when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways; unto whom I sware in my wrath, that they should not enter into my rest.
IN the former part of this psalm, the Jewish people, for whom it was composed, mutually exhorted each other: in the latter part, God himself is the speaker: and the manner in which this latter part is