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more just will be our apprehension of God's nature and perfections. True indeed it is, that, as far as theory is concerned, we may learn every thing from the Scripture alone: for in the world and in the Church we can find only a repetition of those things which are recorded in the Sacred Volume: but a practical sense of God's love is greatly furthered by the constant exhibition of it which may be seen in his dealings with us; so that we may well say with the Psalmist, “Whoso is wise and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord.”
We propose to shew, I. What those things are which are here presented
to our noticeTo enter fully into them, we should distinctly consider the different representations which are here given of God's merciful interposition in behalf of bewildered travellers, incarcerated prisoners, dying invalids, and mariners reduced to the lowest ebb of despondency. But instead of minutely prosecuting those different inquiries, we will draw your attention to the two principal points which pervade the whole; namely,
1. The timely succour which he affords to the distressed
[The instances mentioned in the psalm are only a few out of the numberless interpositions which God vouchsafes to men in distress : but whatever be the trouble from which we are delivered, it is of infinite importance that we see the hand of God both in the trouble itself and in the deliverance from it. There is neither good nor evil in a city, but it must be traced to God as its author. Whether men or devils be the agents, it matters not; they can do nothing without a special licence from God himself: and hence, when men had plundered Job of all his possessions, and Satan had destroyed all his children, he equally ascribed the different events to God; “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.” Thus must we do : we
a If this subject were used as a Thanksgiving after a Storm, or after a Recovery from Sickness, the particular circumstances should here be noticed, with an especial reference to that part of the psalm that is proper to the occasion.
proceed fromts denounced a prayers in which often
must ascribe nothing to chance, and nothing to the creature, except as an instrument in the hands of God. If the folly or malignity of man injure us, or the wisdom or benevolence of man repair the injury, we must look through the second causes, and fix our eyes on God, as the first great Cause of all. If we see not God in the dispensations, of course we shall learn nothing of God from them: but if we behold his agency in them, then will our eyes be opened to see his wisdom and goodness also.] 2. His condescending attention to their prayers
[In all the instances specified in this psalm, God's interpositions are mentioned as answers to prayer: “They cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.” Many, alas! of the prayers which are offered in seasons of difficulty and distress have respect to nothing more than the particular occasion, and are accompanied with no real desire after God: yet even these prayers God often condescends to hear, just as he did the prayers in which Ahab deprecated the judgments denounced against him. But when the prayers proceed from a penitent and contrite heart, and are offered up in the prevailing name of Jesus Christ, God will hear them at all times and under all circumstances. We do not say that the precise thing which may be asked shall certainly be granted ; because God may see that, on the whole, that would not prove a blessing to the person who asks it: but no prayer that is offered up in faith shall go forth in vain: it shall surely be answered, if not in the way expected or desired, at least in a way that shall ultimately prove most conducive to the good of him that offers it.]
These things being matters of daily occurrence, we shall proceed to mark, II. The benefit arising from an attentive consideration
of themFrom these we shall be led to notice, not merely the agency of God in all the concerns of man, but especially, and above all, his “ loving-kindness” also. This will be seen, 1. In the darkest dispensations of his providence
[God's dearest children are not more exempt from trials than others : on the contrary, they are often most subjected to them. But in this the loving-kindness of God is especially manifest: for by their trials he leads them to more fervent prayer; that prayer brings to them more signal interpositions; and those interpositions fill them with joy, far overbalancing all the troubles they have endured. Let any child of God look
back to his former life, and say, whether the events which once he regarded as the heaviest calamities, have not been overruled for his greatest good? Yes: it is not David only, but every child of God, that must say, “ It is good for me that I have been afflicted.” We may indeed, like Jacob, say for a time, “All these things are against me:" but when we have seen “the end” and issue of the dispensation, we shall confess that “the Lord has been pitiful to us, and of tender mercy b." If we view an insulated and individual occurrence, we may be perplexed respecting it; but if we view it in connexion with all that has preceded and followed it, we shall be able to set our seal to the truth of that promise, “All things shall work together for good to them that love God.” Whatever then be the affliction under which we are suffering, let us never for a moment lose sight of that truth, “Whom the Lord loveth, he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."] 2. In the most painful operations of his grace
[The different circumstances adduced for the illustration of God's providence may not unfitly be regarded as images to shadow forth also the operations of his grace. Truly in them we may see the wants and miseries, the helplessness and terrors, of an awakened soul. Who that knows any thing of his own state has not seen himself a wanderer from the ways of God, and perishing for lack of knowledge? Who has not groaned, and bitterly too, under the chains of sin by which he has been tied and bound? Who has not felt his inability to help himself, as much as if he had been dying of an incurable disorder? And who has not seen himself sinking, as it were, into the bottomless abyss, and been almost “at his wit's end,” because he saw not how his soul could be saved? We do not mean to intimate, that all converted persons have felt these things in an equal degree: but all have felt them sufficiently to see the suitableness of these images to their own experience. What then shall we say? Does God, in suffering them to be so exercised, mark his displeasure against them? No: it is love, and love alone, that he manifests. Multitudes of others he leaves to follow their own evil ways without fear, and without remorse: but those whom he loves he awakens from their security: he sends his Holy Spirit to convince them of sin; he stirs them up to fervent prayer; and then, in answer to their prayers, he speaks peace to their souls. “ Those troubles were not at the time joyous, but grievous; nevertheless, afterwards they yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby."] ADVICE1. View the hand of God in every thing
b Jam. v. 11.
[Things may be called great or small by comparison; but, in fact, there is nothing small, when considered in relation to the possible events which may spring from it. The opening of the book precisely in the place where the services of Mordecai to Ahasuerus were recorded, was as much a work of God as any other that is contained in the Sacred Volume: and the circumstances connected with it were of incalculable importance to the whole Jewish nation. Let nothing then be accounted small : but receive every thing as from God, and endeavour to improve every thing for him: and then shall every thing enrich you with wisdom, and inflame your souls with gratitude and love.]
2. Take occasion from every thing to spread your wants before him in prayer
[The great, the universal remedy, to which we should have recourse, is Prayer. Prayer will turn every thing to gold. Whether our trials be of a temporal or spiritual nature, they cannot fail of proving blessings if only they drive us to a throne of grace. The direction of God himself is, that “ in every thing we should make our requests known to him:” and, on our doing so, we are assured, that “ the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus d.” “ If we call upon him in the time of trouble, he will hear us," and turn all our complaints into praise and thanksgiving.]
3. Give him the glory of all the deliverances you receive
[On all the different occasions mentioned in the psalm, it is said, “O that men would therefore praise the Lord for his goodness!” This is the tribute which all of us are called to pay; and the very end which God proposes to himself, both in our trials and deliverances, is, to make us sensible of his goodness, and to draw forth from us the tribute of a grateful heart. “ Whoso offereth him praise, glorifieth him.” See to it then that your daily mercies call forth suitable returns of love and gratitude: and thus will you be preparing gradually for that blessed day, when all the mysterious designs of God, which now you could not penetrate, shall be unravelled, and all your sorrows terminate in endless joy.] • Esth. vi. 1—3.
d Phil. iv. 6, 7.
DCLXXXIV. THE PERSON AND OFFICES of Christ. Ps. cx. 1-7. The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my
right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion : rule
thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning : thou hast the dew of thy youth. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek. The Lord at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. He shall judge among the heathen : he shall fill the places with the dead bodies; he shall wound the heads over many countries. He shall drink of the brook in the way: therefore shall he lift up the head.
IN some of the Psalms, David speaks of himself only; in others, of himself and of the Messiah too; but in this, of the Messiah exclusively: not a word is applicable to any one else. The Jews have taken great pains to explain it away : but their attempts are, and ever must be, in vain.
In the first verse, David relates the Father's address to his Son, when “the council of peace was held between them :" and the whole of the remainder is addressed by the Psalmist to the Messiah himself. It altogether elucidates in a very striking manner the character of Christ.
In it are set forth, I. His person
It is of great importance that we have just views of the Divinity of Christ,
[On that depends the sufficiency of the atonement which he has offered for the sins of men. If he be only a creature, how can we be assured that the shedding of his blood has any more virtue and efficacy than the blood of bulls and goats? What proportion is there between the transitory sufferings of one creature, and the accumulated sins of all the children of men? How can we conceive that there should be such a value in the blood of any created being, as to purchase for a ruined world a deliverance from everlasting misery, and a possession of everlasting happiness and glory? But if our Redeemer be God as well as man, then we see at once, that, inasmuch as he is an infinitely glorious Being, there is an infinite merit in his obedience unto death, sufficient to justify the demands of law and justice for the sins of all mankind. On any other supposition than that Christ is God, there would be no force at all in that question of the Apostle, “ He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also