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[See how deplorable is the present state of God's ancient people : compare it with the former periods of their history when they were so signally honoured with the presence of their God in the wilderness, and at Sinai, and in the days of David and Solomon --- Shall not the contrast fill you with pity and compassion ? Methinks you can scarcely have the feelings of men, much less of Christians, if you do not weep over their forlorn and destitute condition. See how Nehemiah felt the desolations of Zion in his day*!--- and is there not yet greater occasion for you to do so now? See how Daniel set himself to implore mercy for his brethren, encouraged by the near approach of the time destined for their deliverance y
--- And let the prospect we have of an infinitely greater deliverance for them, stimulate you to similar exertions in their behalf. Let nothing be wanting on your part that can contribute to their good. Your time, your money, your influence will be well employed in so glorious a cause: and be assured that in endeavouring to "water others, you shall be watered yourselves."]
2. Seek to experience the good work in your own souls
[We would not so draw your attention to the vineyard of others, as to divert it from your own. If it be desirable for the Jews to “ fear the name of the Lord, and to behold his glory," it is surely no less desirable for you also. Brethren, this charity must begin at home. It will be a fearful thing to “preach to others, and to become cast away ourselves.” Begin then, every one of you, to seek the favour of God to your own souls. Truly it is lamentable to see in what a state our Christian Zion is: and how many amongst us differ little from the Jews, except in name and profession. And in this we are far more guilty than they, because, whilst they are misled through the blindness that is come upon them, we sin against light and knowledge, and, Judas-like, betray the Saviour whom we profess to love. Let us hope, however, that the time for God to favour us is come; (O that it may be come, and that our eyes may see it !) and that the tabernacle of David which is fallen down, shall be speedily reared amongst us, to the glory of God, and to the salvation of many souls. Much as we desire your aid for the Jewish nation, our first desire is, that you yourselves may be saved. In this we are sanctioned by the apostle Paul, who, whilst he pitied the Gentile world, desired to be accursed from Christ if it might but be instrumental to the saving of his brethren the Jews. To you then, Brethren, we say, First give your own selves to the Lord, and afterwards to us, by the will of God? ---)
* Neh. ii. 2, 3. y Dan. ix. 2, 3. z 2 Cor. viii. 5.
DCLXXI. THE ETERNITY AND IMMUTABILITY OF CHRIST. Ps. cii. 25-28. Of old hast thou laid the foundation of the
earth ; and the heavens are the work of thy hands : they shall perish, but thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment : as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. The children of thy servants shall continue, and their seed shall be established before thee.
AMONGST all the Psalms, there is none more full of mourning and lamentation than this: but whether the Psalmist speaks in his own person, or in the person of the Church which was in the most desolate condition, is not certain. But though written at the return of the Jews from the Babylonish Captivity, and referring primarily to the restoration of the Jewish Church and polity, it evidently has respect to the Messiah and the establishment of his Church on the face of the whole earth : since it is said, that “ the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth his glorya.” Indeed the words of our text are expressly applied to Christ in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and are adduced to shew the infinite superiority of Christ above all the hosts of heaven. With this infallible guide to direct us, we proceed to point out,
I. The perfections of Christ
The description here given of our Lord Jesus Christ proves beyond all doubt his proper Deity. Observe, 1. His eternity
[He it was who made the universe : the highest angels derived their existence from his all-creating hand. “ All things were created, not only by him, but for himd:” which could not be, if he himself were a creature. Suppose him ever so high above all other creatures, if he himself was a creature, he could not have created all things, seeing he himself must have been created by another. But he was the eternal God: “ he was with God, and was God: and without him was not any thing made that was madee.” Yes, that adorable Saviour, who at the appointed season assumed our flesh at Bethlehem, was the eternal God; “ his goings forth were of old, from everlasting"."] 2. His immutability,
a ver. 15. b Heb. i. 10–12. c Col. i. 16. d Col. i. 17.
e John i. 1-3.
[The material creation is formed only as a theatre for the display of the Creator's glory: and, when it shall have answered its destined end, it will be destroyed by fire 8: the Creator will dissolve it with as much ease as a man “ folds up a garment" for which he has no farther use. But the Lord Jesus Christ will exist for ever. As he is the eternal, so is he the immutable Jehovah: “He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for everh."]
Not to dwell on a point which requires neither confirmation nor discussion : we proceed to mark more distinctly, II. The aspect of those perfections on the welfare of
the ChurchIn the verse before the text, the Psalmist may be speaking personally of himself, just as Hezekiah did when apprehensive of speedy dissolutioni: but in the close of the psalm he indisputably speaks of the Church, and, represents as depending upon Christ,
1. The stability of the Church at large
[The seed here mentioned are the Church of God, the company of the faithful in every agek. It might be supposed that these, surrounded as they are by enemies on every side, must be utterly destroyed: and, in fact, the Church has at times been reduced so low, as scarcely to have, except in name, any existence upon earth. But our Lord has founded it upon a rock; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Other things, however stable in appearance, shall vanish away: but this shall stand for ever and ever! The different individuals are successively removed by death: but children shall be born to God through the instrumentality of his Gospel, and the Church" continue" to the end of time.] 2. The final salvation of every true Believer
[It is a miracle, considering what difficulties the Believer has to encounter, and how unable he is of himself to do even the least thing that is good, that any one should finally attain the promised inheritance. But Jesus lives, and therefore all who trust in him shall live also. In his word he is as immutable as
f Mic. v. 2. The same truth is generally supposed to be declared in Prov. viii. 22–31.
8 2 Pet. iii. 10, 12. h Heb. xiii. 8. i Isai. xxxviii. 10–14. k Ps. lxix. 36.
Isai. li, 6.
in his essence: and “ of that word not one jot or tittle shall ever fail.” “Never will he leave them; never, never will he forsake them.” “ He is able to keep them from falling;" and, “ Of those whom the Father has given him will he lose none."] IMPROVEMENTIs there amongst you any tempted soul ?
[Methinks some may be in the state of the Psalmist, “ eating ashes like bread, and mingling their drink with tears"
--- But let not any one be so bowed down with afflictions, as to say, “ There is no hope." Whilst your Redeemer lives, you have a sure refuge: and, whatever trials you may have to sustain, “his grace shall be sufficient for you” ---]
To those who are maintaining their steadfastness in the Gospel
[We would say, Remember to whom you are indebted for your stability: “He that hath wrought you to this self-same thing is God." O think, what had been your state times without number, if your Almighty Saviour had not interposed to rescue you from the jaws of that roaring lion that seeketh to devour you—-— and let all your confidence be in him alone ---]
DCLXXII. DUTY OF PRAISING GOD FOR HIS MERCIES. Ps. ciii. 1-5. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is
within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases: who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies : who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.
IT is a favourite opinion of some divines, that we are bound to love God for his own perfections, without having any respect to the benefits which we receive from him. But this appears to us to be an unscriptural refinement. That God deserves all possible love from his creatures on account of his own perfections, can admit of no doubt: and we can easily conceive, that persons may be so occupied with an admiration of his perfections, as not to have in their minds any distinct reference to the benefits they have received from him : but that any creature can place himself in the situation of a being who has no obligations to God for past mercies, and no expectation of future blessings from him, we very much doubt: nor are we aware that God any where requires us so to divest ourselves of all the feelings of humanity, for the sake of engaging more entirely in the contemplation of his perfections. Nor indeed can we consent to the idea, that gratitude is so low a virtue". On the contrary, it seems to be the principle that animates all the hosts of the redeemed in heaven; who are incessantly occupied in singing praises to Him who loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood. By this also all the most eminent saints on earth have been distinguished. In proof of this, we need go no further than to the psalm before us, wherein the man after God's own heart adores and magnifies his Benefactor, for some particular mercies recently vouchsafed unto him. To instil this principle into your minds, and to lead you to a measure of that devotion with which the sweet singer of Israel was inspired, we shall, I. State the grounds we have to praise God
To enumerate all the benefits we have received from God, would be impossible. We must content ourselves with adverting to them in the peculiar view in which they are set before us in the text. We would call you then to consider, 1. The freeness and undeservedness of them— .
[It is this which gives a zest to every blessing we enjoy: in this view, the very food we eat, and the air we breathe, demand our most grateful acknowledgments. The Psalmist begins with speaking of himself as a guilty and corrupt creature, who, unless pardoned and renewed by the grace of God, must have been an everlasting monument of his righteous displeasure. The same thought also should be uppermost in our minds. We should contrast our state with that of the fallen angels, who never had a Saviour vouchsafed unto them; and with that of the unbelieving world, who, in consequence of rejecting the Saviour, have perished in their sins. What claim had we, any more than the fallen angels? and, if we had been dealt with according to our deserts, where would have been the difference between us and those who are gone beyond the reach of mercy?
a Deut. xxvii. 47.