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Let us but contemplate this, and the smallest mercy we enjoy will appear exceeding great; yea, any thing short of hell will be esteemed a mercy b.) 2. The richness and variety
[The psalm primarily relates to David's recovery from some heavy disorder: and the terms wherein he expresses his gratitude are precisely such as are used by other persons on similar occasions. On this account, in our review of God's mercies, it will be proper first to notice the blessings of his providence. How often have we been visited with some bodily disorder, which, for aught we know, has been sent as a preventive or punishment of sin! (We certainly have reason to think, that at this time, as well as in former ages, God punishes the sins of his people in this world, that they may not be condemned in the world to comed.) And how often have we been raised from a state of weakness and danger, to renewed life and vigour! At all events, we have been beset with dangers, and yet not permitted to fall a sacrifice to them; and been encompassed with wants, which have been liberally supplied. Can we view all these mercies with indifference? do they not demand from us a tribute of praise?
But the expressions in the text lead us to contemplate also the blessings of God's grace. And can we adopt the words in this view ? O how great and wonderful are they, if we appreciate them aright! To be forgiven one sin is a mercy of inconceivable magnitude; but to be forgiven all, all that we have ever committed, this is a mercy which neither the tongues of men nor of angels can ever adequately declare. Think too of the corruptions which with most inveterate malignity infect our souls: to have these healed! to have them all healed: We no longer wonder at the ardour of the Psalmist's devotion; we wonder only at our own stupidity. Contemplate moreover the efforts which Satan, that roaring lion, is ever making to destroy us; consider his wiles, his deceits, his fiery darts : what a stupendous mercy is it that we have not been given up as a prey unto his teeth! Look around at the mercies of all kinds with which we are encircled: and mark the provision of ordinances, and promises, yea, of the body and blood of God's only dear Son, with which our souls are nourished and renewed; so that our drooping spirits, like the eagle when renewed in its plumage, are enabled to soar to the highest heavens with confidence and joy. Can we find in these things no grounds of praise? Must not our hearts be harder than adamant itself, if they do not melt at the contemplation of such mercies as these?]
b See how this consideration enhanced the favours which God vouchsafed to David, Ps. viii. 1. and, St. Paul, Eph. iii. 8.
c Isai. xxxviii. 17. d Compare 1 Cor. xi. 30, 32, with Jam. v. 15
3. The constancy and continuance
[See how triumphantly the Psalmist dwells on thise; and let us compare our experience with his. Has not God made us also the objects of his providential care, by day and by night, from the earliest period of our existence to this present moment? Has he not also renewed to us every day and hour the blessings of his grace, “ watering us as his garden,” and “ encompassing us with his favour as with a shield?” Surely we may say that “goodness and mercy have followed us all our days;” there has not been one single moment when our Divine keeper has ever slumbered or slept; he has kept us, " even as the apple of his eye;" “ lest any should hurt us, he has kept us day and night.”
Say now, what are the feelings which such mercies should generate in our souls; and what are the returns which we ought to make to our heavenly Benefactor?].
Not doubting but that all of you must acknowledge your obligation to praise God, we will, as God shall enable us, II. Stir you up to the performance of this duty
It is the office of your minister to stir up your pure minds“ by way of remembrance,” yea," to put you in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.” We therefore call upon you to praise God,
[This is not the duty of ministers only, but of all, whatever be their age, situation, or condition in life: every one is unspeakably indebted to God; and therefore every one should say for himself, “ Bless the Lord, O my soul!"
If any object, that they have never yet been made partakers of the blessings of Divine grace, we answer, That you have not on this account the less reason to bless God; for the very “ long-suffering of God should be accounted by you as salvation;" and if you compare your state (as yet on mercy's ground) with that of those who have been cut off in their sins, you will see that all the thanks which you can possibly render unto God, are infinitely less than what he deserves at your hands.
Moreover, if you have received no signal deliverances from sickness or danger, you have the more reason to adore your God, who has preserved you so long in the uninterrupted enjoyment of health and peace.] 2. Fervently
e Forgiveth, healeth, redeemeth, crowneth, satisfieth.
(Praise is not a service of the lip and knee, but of the warmest affections of the soul. The “ soul, and all that is within you,” should be exercised in this blessed work. As you are to “ love God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength," so also you are to bless him with all your faculties and powers. You must not however mistake vociferation, and talkativeness, and bodily fervour, for devotion; your expressions of gratitude, even when most elevated and joyous, must resemble those which are used among the heavenly hosts; who “ veil their faces and their feet,” or “ cast their crowns at the feet” of their adorable Redeemer. Not to bless him in this manner, is constructively and really to " forget the benefits" you have received from him: yea, an utter forgetfulness of them were less criminal than such an ungrateful remembrance.] 3. Incessantly
[“ Bless, bless, bless the Lord !” says the Psalmist to his soul; shewing thereby that he would have that to be the continual exercise of his mind. Thus should we also labour to have our minds in a constant readiness for this glorious work. We need not indeed be always engaged in the act of praise ; for we have many other acts in which a great part of our time must be occupied : but the frame of our minds should always be disposed for this duty, so as to be ready for it whensoever occasion may call for the performance of it. That we shall feel backwardness to it at times, must be expected: the Psalmist intimates as much, by so repeatedly urging his reluctant soul to this duty. But let us follow his example, and urge our souls, however reluctant, to this blessed work. Let us say with him, “ Bless the Lord, O my soul; bless him, bless his holy name!” or like Deborah, “ Awake, awake, Deborah; awake, awake; utter a song!"
Thus to bless God is our privilege on earth: thus to bless him is an antepast of heaven.]
THE GOODNESS OF GOD. Ps. ciii. 8–13. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to
anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide ; neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. VOL. VI.
WE cannot form a juster conception of the Deity than from the history of the Israelites. In the mixture of mercy and judgment which is there recorded, we see every one of his perfections displayed in most lively characters. His dealings with us indeed are less discernible : but, the more they are scrutinized, the more will they appear to be regulated according to the counsels of unerring wisdom and unbounded goodness. The words before us will naturally lead us to a contemplation of this subject: and we shall have abundant evidence of their truth, while we consider his goodness, I. Generally, as it is in himself—
The “ mercy and grace” of our God are chiefly discovered by, 1. His patience in bearing with us
[Had God been such an one as ourselves, he would long since have broke forth in anger against the whole world, and consumed them in his heavy displeasure. But, notwithstanding the multitude of their provocations, he has been long-suffering towards them, and has waited to be gracious unto them. He has borne with many vessels of wrath, that have been daily fitting themselves for destruction d: and has kept mercy for thousands e, who have been continually occupied in casting it away. The description which Nehemiah gives of the divine patience as manifested in his dayf, is no less realized towards the whole world at this very hour.] 2. His mercy in pardoning us
[God, in infinite compassion, laid our iniquities upon his only dear Sons, and exacted of him our debt", in order that he might exercise mercy towards us consistently with the demands of truth and justice. And, having provided such a remedy, he delights in extending its benefits even to the vilest of the human racek. Thousands that are now glorified in heaven, and thousands too that are yet compassed with infirmities on earth, can attest, that with him is plenteous redemption', and that he is rich in mercy unto all that call upon him m.]
a ver. 7.
b 2 Pet. iii. 9.
c Isai. xxx. 18. e Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. f Neh. ix. 16–21. h Isai. liii. 7. Lowth's Translation. k Mic, vii. 18,
i Ps. cxxx. 7, 8.
use. could note that if he extreme wcasion for 1
Not to dwell on general views of his goodness, let us consider it, II. Particularly as it manifests itself towards us
It is here more minutely delineated :
[God will “ chide” his people for their sins; nor would he act worthy of himself, if he did not manifest his displeasure against the violations of his holy law". But we must all confess that he punishes neither soon—nor long-nor according to our deserts. Not soon ; for then he would be “ always chiding," seeing that we give continual occasion for his displeasure to arise. But he is not extreme to mark what is done amisso, well knowing that if he should contend with us for every fault, we could not answer him one of a thousand P. Nor will he visit us long : if he hide his face, it is but for a little momenty, and if he wound us, it is, for the most part, but a very short time before he binds us up again and heals us". He will not be always wroth, lest our spirits should faint, and fail by reason of his displeasures. Nor does he at any time “ deal with us according to our iniquities.” Where must every one of us have been if he had entered into judgment with us according to the strict tenour of his law t? Whatever trials we may have been called to endure, they have been infinitely less than our iniquities have deserved“.] 2. In reference to his mercy
[This has been boundless in its extent. Who can measure the vast expanse of heaven? Yet such is the mercy of our God, having heights that cannot be explored, and depths that cannot be fathomedy. It reaches, not only to all persons, but to the utmost extent of their necessities or desires. It is also tender in its exercise. Can any thing on earth afford us a stronger image of tenderness, than a parent striving to soothe the anguish of his agonizing infant? Yet such is the anxiety which God himself feels to heal our wounded spirits, and comfort us under all our conflicts?. It is, moreover, lasting in its effects. Let a straight line be drawn from east to west; and the further it is drawn, the further shall the ends be removed from each other. Thus it is with respect to our sins which he has pardoned: they are put away from us to the remotest distance, never to meet upon our souls again, never to be remembered against us to all eternity a.]
n Heb. xii. 6, 7. • Ps. cxxx. 3. P Job ix. 3. a Isai, liv. 7, 8. r Hos. vi. 1, 2.
Isai. lvii. 16. t Compare Gal. iii. 10. with Ps. cxliii. 2. u Job xi. 6. * Jer. xxxi. 37. y Eph. iii. 18, 19. z Hos. xi. 8. Jer. xxxi. 20.
a ver. 17. Mic. vii. 19.