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[Sin, of whatever kind, is really directed against him". And shall it appear a light matter to us to offend such a God? See this argument urged by Ezra"; and let every temptation be repelled with this indignant expression, How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against Goda ?] 2. How ought we to fear and love our God!
[It is twice observed in the text, that God's mercy is displayed “ to them that fear him:” and it is manifested on purpose that he may be feared. Let us therefore not despise the riches of his goodness', but improve them for the confirming of our fears, and the quickening of our loveh.] • Ps. li. 4.
c Ezra ix. 13, 14. Heb. viii. 12. d Gen. xxxix. 9. e Ps. cxxx. 4.
f Rom. ii. 4. & Hos. ii. 5.
h Ps. cxvi. 12. and cxlv. 8, 9, 21.
PERPETUITY or God's MERCY. Ps. ciii. 15—18. As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower
of the field, so he flourisheth: for the wind passeth over it, and it is gone ; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
THE consideration of the shortness and uncertainty of human life is at all times seasonable, and more especially on such an occasion as this; when &c. ---- If indeed we had no hope beyond the grave, such a subject would be most gloomy and appalling: but when connected, as in the passage before us, with the unbounded mercy of our God, it is full of consolation to all who are looking forward to the eternal world. But we must have a good hope that we shall be partakers of God's mercy, or else not even the glorious description which is here given of it will divest death of its sting, or reconcile us to the thought of approaching dissolution. Let us then from these words consider,
a The occasion may be stated as for a Funeral, or on New Year's Day.
I. The character of God's people—
In general terms they are represented as “ fearing God." This of itself would be sufficient to distinguish them from all other people, more especially as it marks “ the spirit of their minds.” A humble sense of his presence, a dread of doing any thing contrary to his will, and a filial desire to please him, universally distinguish his children: but still they are more clearly discerned by the characters assigned to them in our text: 1. They “ keep God's covenant” —
[This is the covenant which was made with Abraham "; and of which Christ is the surety: he has undertaken to accomplish every thing for his believing people; to expiate their sins by his blood, and to renew their souls by his grace — “ It is ordered in all things and sure." - -- This the Believer sees to be exactly suited to his necessities, in that it provides every thing for him, and only requires that he receive thankfully what is thus offered to him freely. This therefore he embraces : “ He lays hold on it” as all his hope: and he relies upon it with his whole heart ---] 2. They “ do his commandments”—
[They are not negligent of good works, though they do not rely upon them for their justification before God: “they love God's law,” which is written in their hearts : and they treasure up in their minds his precepts, no less than his promises. To do the will of God, to do it universally without exception, and constantly without intermission, is the one desire of their hearts. They would gladly, if it were possible, “ stand perfect and complete in all the will of God," being “holy, as God is holy," and “perfect, even as their Father which is in heaven is perfect."]
Such are the objects of God's love: but how shall we express, II. The extent of his mercy towards them
The mercy of God is the great subject of this psalm. In the foregoing verses it is set forth in a way of comparison; (equalling the boundless extent of heaven;) but in the words before us it is declared in a way of contrast with the transitoriness of man's existence upon earth.
Man's existence here is only as the flower of the field
b Gal. ii. 16, 17. c 2 Sam. xxiii. 5.
[It was “but yesterday” that we grew up; and to-morrow “our place will no more be found.” If suffered to continue for a while, we are only ripening for the scythe ; but a burning sun, or blasting wind, may cut short our existence in an houra. And when once the flower of the grass is withered, all remembrance of it is gone: and so it is with us: we look gay and flourish for a little moment: and then pass away, and give place to other generations.]
But “ the mercy of God towards his people is from everlasting to everlasting”—
[As to its origin, it existed from all eternity. It is not excited in the bosom of our God by any thing that he sees in man: neither the misery of our fallen state, nor any goodness which we may be supposed to manifest, move him to exercise a disposition that was not antecedently conceived in his own inind. Both his determination to exercise mercy, and the objects towards whom it should be exercised, were from all eternity fixed in his own bosome. His people are chosen by him, not because they are holy, or will be holy, but that they may be holy, and without blame before him in love." "He loved them with an everlasting love, and therefore with loving-kindness hath he drawn them."
In its duration also it is everlasting. “If he have begun a good work in them, we may be confident that he will carry it on h.” As, on the one hand, he will not depart from them, so, on the other hand," he will put his fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from him." If at any time they transgress against him, he will chastise them with the rod, till he has brought them back to himself: but“ his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from themk:” for “his gifts and callings are without repentance?" In every age will he prove faithful to his promises, even “ to all posterities for evermore."
This doctrine is thought by many to encourage a presumptuous confidence, and a consequent neglect of holiness. But, if we only bear in mind the statement before given of the character of God's people, and our unequivocal declaration, that no person who does not answer to that character can have any scriptural hope of mercy, we shall see, that there is no occasion for jealousy on that head. The holiness of man is secured by the irreversible decree of Heaven, That the end shall be combined with the means; and that every one whom God has ordained unto life, shall be “ made meet for the inheritance of the saints in light." We need not be afraid to give unto God all the glory of our salvation, and to ascribe all to the operation of his sovereign grace, since, whatever may be said of God's decrees, it is an infallible truth, that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord."] Let us LEARN from hence, · 1. In what light we should view our present state of existence,
d Jam. i. 10, 11.
e Eph. iii. 11. 2 Tim. i. 9.
h Phil. i. 6.
[We should learn from nature, and from every thing we see around us. Let all, and the young especially, look, not at the grass merely, but at the flower of the grass, and learn from that, how transient their life ism---Ănd let none, like the fool in the Gospel, promise themselves years, when, for ought they know, this very night their souls may be required of them.] 2. In what way we should improve it
[What have we to do, but to attain the character of God's people, and to secure the mercy which he will exercise towards them? --- In comparison of this, all earthly pursuits are vanity; since, transient as our life is, we may yet find the objects of our fondest regard still more transient."]
m Isai. xl. 6—8. This would be proper to insist on, if it were the funeral of a young person.
n If this were a Funeral Sermon for an eminently pious person, his views and conduct might with propriety be stated here.
THE DUTY OF PRAISING GOD. Ps. civ. 33, 34. I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live : I will sing praise to my God while I have my being. My meditation of him shall be sweet : I will be glad in the Lord.
IT is well that we have in the Holy Scriptures a record of the experience of former saints: for, on the one hand, we should be inclined to rest in low attainments, if we did not know to what heights others had attained; and, on the other hand, we should be condemned for aiming at such exalted frames as were possessed by them, if we had not the sanction of their high authority. However, whether the world be pleased or displeased, this, God helping me, shall be my resolution; and I recommend it to every one of you as your own; “ I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will praise my God while I have my being !”
From the words before us, we may learn, I. What was the frame of David's mind1. It was a frame most becoming
[Such was the frame of man when he came out of his Creator's hands: and such to this hour would it have continued, if he had not sinned. “Praise is comely for the uprighta;" and “ it becometh well the just to be thankful.” Such a state, as far as their nature will admit of it, befits every creature that God has formed. All the hosts of heaven, and all the inhabitants of the earth, every creature in the universe, rational and irrational, animate and inanimate, are distinctly called upon by the Psalmist, to present unto God, according to their capacity, their tribute of praise b--- And, if such a state becomes them as creatures, that are merely formed by God's hand, and supported by his care, what should be our state, as redeemed by the blood of his only-begotten Son? Well may it be said, “Let them give thanks, whom the Lord hath redeemed."] 2. It was a most delightful frame
[We cannot conceive of David but as exquisitely happy, when he penned these memorable words. Indeed he tells us elsewhere, how rich a source of happiness he found it to his soul: “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips.” It is, in truth, the felicity of heaven itself, where they rest not day nor night, singing salvation to God and the Lamb for ever and ever."]
3. It was a frame which it is our bounden duty also to attain
. [The commands of God to this effect are clear and positive: “ Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I say, Rejoiced." “ Rejoice evermore.” Provision was made for the exercise of this grace under the Jewish dispensation : feasts were appointed expressly for it; and every member of each family was to rejoice before the Lord, the old and the young, the master and the servant, and even the stranger that happened to be sojourning among them?. And ought not we, who live under the more liberal dispensation of the Gospel, to rejoice? Methinks there should be no end of our joy: the resolution of David in the text should be ours; and we should be carrying it into effect all the day long. Nor should untoward circumstances of any kind rob us of our joy; but we should say, with the Church of old, “ Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the
a Ps. cxlvii. 1. b Ps. cxlviii. 1–13. Cite it at full length. c Ps. lxiii. 5. d Phil. iv. 4. e 1 Thess. v. 16. f Deut. xvi. 13-15.