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standing heart," above all the children of men. As ministers of God's word, we need the same: for St. Paul says, in reference to the ministry, “ who is sufficient for these things ?” The same must be said by us in every station and relation of life. We all have our own peculiar duties to perform; and wisdom consists in executing them aright. Let this never be forgotten, that our chief wisdom consists in ascertaining with precision, and performing with punctuality, the duties of our own particular situation. It is not by going out of our own proper line, but by filling our own particular station well, that we shall approve ourselves truly wise. Let parents and children, masters and servants, magistrates and subjects, bear this in mind : “let none lean to their own understanding a," but all with one heart address to God this necessary petition, “ O give me understanding in the way of godliness "!"]
a Prov. iii. 5. See the text in the Prayer-book Translation.
INTEGRITY. Ps. ci. 3. I hate the work of them that turn aside : it shall
not cleave to me. TO improve our influence for God, is our bounden duty, whatever be the station to which he has been pleased to call us. Magistrates, in particular, may render most extensive service to the community, by exerting their power in the promotion of virtue. David felt his responsibility in this respect : and, either on his beginning to reign in Hebron after the death of Saul, or on his coming to the full possession of the kingdom at a subsequent period, he wrote this psalm, declarative of his determination to discountenance evil, and encourage good, to the utmost extent of his power, both amongst his courtiers, and amongst his more immediate attendants in his household.
Let us consider, 1. The work which he here so determinately repro
[A dereliction of principle has often been indulged under the idea of expediency; and the utmost subtlety of argument has been employed in vindication of it. But integrity, undeviating integrity, should possess the Christian's mind. There are many things which will consist with what is called a sense of honour, which can never be admitted into the conduct of a real saint. The laws of honour have their origin from man: and as they derive their authority from man, so they have respect only to the judgment of man in the observance of them. These therefore may bend to times and circumstances. But the Law of God is inflexible; and our adherence to it must be uniform under all circumstances. It must regulate the ends which we propose, the means we use in the prosecution of them, and the manner in which we proceed throughout the whole of our deportment. In every thing we must endeavour to approve ourselves to God, and to act as in his immediate presence. Any departure from the strict line of duty, in whatever circumstances we be placed, must be avoided : and our whole conduct towards mankind, in whatever relation to us they stand, must be such as we, in a change of circumstances, should think it right for them to observe towards us. God requires that “ truth should be in our inward parts a;" and every act, every word, every purpose and desire of our hearts, ought to be in strict accordance with it.] 2. A want of constancy in religion
[Many there are, who, having begun well, leave off to behave themselves wisely, and “ turn aside from the holy commandment delivered to them b.” Various are the sources of this declension. Sometimes it begins in a neglect of religious duties, or in the mere formal performance of them. Sometimes it originates in the secret indulgence of some hidden lust. Sometimes “ the care of this world, the deceitfulness of riches," and the desire of other things which have no direct reference to religion, choke the seed that has been sown in our hearts, and prevent it from bringing forth any fruit unto perfection. But whatever it be that turns us from God, it should be discountenanced in others, and avoided in ourselves. It may have a specious aspect: much may be said for it to extenuate, if not altogether to justify, the practice of it: but if its operation be to turn us aside from God, and from the pursuit of heavenly things, it becomes an evil work, which it behoves us to renounce.
We must, however, be careful not to impute to any line of duty the evils which arise from our own want of care in the prosecution of it There is not any thing which we may not make an occasion of sin. A person may say, 'I have intellectual pursuits, which occupy my mind with such intensity, that I cannot fix it afterwards upon heavenly things:' or, I have a manual labour, which indisposes me for heavenly contemplation.' In such cases, the duty of these persons is, not to renounce a Ps. li. 6. b 2 Pet. ii. 21. c Matt. xiii. 22.
things are against mey." In fact, the very events which he so much deplored, were the means which God had ordained for the preservation of himself and all his family. Job too, in the midst of all his trials, little thought in what they would issue. But “ you have seen the end of them?;" and if you will wait to see the Lord's end in every thing that wears a painful aspect in his dispensations towards you, I may venture to assure you that the time is coming when you shall add your testimony to that of old, “He hath done all things well.” Your way may be circuitous and painful : but you will find, at the last, that “ he has led you in the right way."] 2. The blessedness of true Believers ?
[Where is the man under heaven, except the Believer, who can adopt the language of the text, or carry it into effect? Ungodly men may sing when all goes well with them: but where is he that will sing in the midst of his afflictions, and make his afflictions themselves a ground of joy? Nowhere is that man to be found, but in the Church of Christ; for it is to his believing people only that “God giveth songs in the night.” On the other hand, there is not an individual in the Church of Christ who is not privileged to experience this joy, and who does not actually possess it in proportion as he has made a progress in the divine life. Hear the prophet of old : “ Although the figtree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will joy in the God of my salvationa." Take this for your pattern, Brethren. You may be brought into trials, which may seem to menace your very existence : but, however the storm may rage, your Saviour is embarked in the vessel with you; yea, and is also sitting at the helm. Only reflect on his conflicts, victories, and triumphs; and you will see the way that is marked out for you: and as He fought and overcame, and is set down upon his Father's throne, so shall you also overcome, and enjoy the full recompence of your trials upon your Father's throne for ever and ever. And say, whether there will be one incident for which you will not bless your God in the eternal world? If not, then view every thing now as proceeding from his love, and as leading to the full enjoyment of heaven: and sing now both of mercy and judgment, as you will sing, when they shall have come to their final termination, and all present scenes shall be consummated in eternal bliss. I conclude, then, with that direction of the Apostle which is so suited to the occasion, “ In every thing give thanks : for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you b."] y Gen. xlii. 36. 2 Jam. v. 11. a Hab. iii. 17,18. b 1 Thess. v. 18.
A WISE DEPORTMENT DELINEATED. Ps. ci. 2. I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O
when wilt thou come unto me? I will walk within my house with a perfect heart.
EXTENSIVE influence is a most invaluable talent, which entails upon us an awful responsibility, and should therefore be improved with all possible care and diligence. The higher we are in the scale of society, the more our obligations to exert ourselves for God are increased. But, if wisdom direct not our measures, our most strenuous efforts will be in vain. David was well convinced of this truth: and, having seen in his own experience a wise admixture of mercy and of judgment in the dealings of God towards him, he determined, in his limited sphere of action, to imitate the conduct of the Governor of the Universe, and so to temper mercy with justice in the whole of his administration, that iniquity might be suppressed, and virtue cultivated, not in his own palace only, but throughout all his dominions. We might not unprofitably enter into an investigation of the principles which he laid down for the regulation of his conduct, and mark the specific course of action which he determined to pursue towards his courtiers ; but we shall wave the consideration of those particulars, and notice rather the general principle which he adopted, and which is equally applicable to persons in every station of life; “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way; I will walk within my house with a perfect heart."
A noble resolution this ! We will endeavour to point out, I. The great importance of it
The value of religion, generally, is acknowledged by all; but few are aware of the vast importance of a wise, discreet, and prudent deportment : yet on that essentially depend,
1. The peace and comfort of our own souls
the labours to which, in the course of providence, they have been called, but to implore of God such a measure of spiritual strength as may enable them to combine the duties which they have been wont to separate: nor can we doubt, but that, if they be upright in heart, they shall have imparted to them grace sufficient for the conscientious discharge of all their duties. The point for them especially to attend to, is, that they guard against every inordinate desire: for it is from their inward desires, rather than their outward duties, that they are in any danger of being drawn from God.]
The conduct of the Psalmist, in relation to such “work,” shews, II. The disposition which we also should manifest
[There should be in us an attraction towards God, resembling that of the needle to the pole. A needle may, by force, be turned from its proper direction : but it will never cease from a tremulous motion, till it has returned again to its proper rest. So it may be with us. We know not what deviations a sudden impulse of temptation may cause for a moment: but the very instant we perceive that we have departed, even in thought, from the perfect line of duty, we should give neither sleep to our eyes nor slumber to our eye-lids, till we have returned with penitential sorrow to our God. The direction given to us by God is, “ Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good d.” And, whether in relation to morals or religion, this must be the constant habit of our minds. We must be “Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guilee." 2. We should avoid it in practice
[We never can be too observant of our own ways. As, at sea, the mariner is often drawn from his course by currents of which he was not aware, and only finds his deviation from his appointed course by the observations which he makes; so it is possible for a Christian to be drawn aside by a corrupt bias, till he has carefully compared his ways with the unerring standard of the word of God. Hence the need of attending to that divine counsel,“ Prove all things; and hold fast that which is good.” It is not without extreme care that we shall be able to “ keep a conscience void of offence towards both God and man.” We are passing through a polluted world; and it is very difficult to “keep our garments altogether undefiled&.” But if we come in contact with evil, we must take care that it does not cleave a Rom. xii. 9.
e John i. 47. fi Thess. v. 21.
& Rev. iii. 4.