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DCCVIII. DAVID'S BOASTING EXPLAINED AND VINDICATED. Ps. cxix. 97—100. O how love I thy Law! It is my medita
tion all the day. Thou, through thy commandments, hast made me wiser than mine enemies : for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
NOTHING is more hateful than boasting. To boast of our superiority to others, as the Pharisees did, saying, “ I thank thee, O Lord, that I am not as other men,” is to betray an entire want of Christian humility, and an utter ignorance of our own state. But of all boasting, that which arises from a conceit of our own wisdom is perhaps the most odious and the most contemptible. “Be not wise in your own conceita,” is a caution repeatedly given us in the Holy Scriptures; and an inattention to it will assuredly expose us to God's heavy displeasure. Yet there are occasions whereon we may, in appearance, transgress this duty, and yet be blameless. St. Paul was on some occasions necessitated to assert his claim to public authority, and his right to dictate to the Church of God: and though he apologised for his conduct in this respect, and called himself “ a fool” for giving way to it, he yet felt it his duty, on the whole, to maintain the truth against those who opposed it, and to demand from others that deference which his Apostolic character authorised him to expect. In the passage before us, I must confess, David had no such call to exalt himself above others. But he wrote for the benefit of the Church of God in all ages : and therefore, whilst conveying general truths, “he transferred them to himself,” in order that he might speak to better effecta. His object was to shew, that every one who took the word of God for his guide would be so elevated by it above the most exalted of merely human characters, that he might justly arrogate to himself a wisdom superior to them all; since an a Prov. ii. 7. Rom. xii. 16.
b Isai. v. 21. c 2 Cor. x. 7–11. and xi. 16—18. and xii. 11. d See 1 Cor. iv. 6.
[For what lantern tof the man
unconverted character, whoever he might be, had no higher wisdom than that which was human; whilst the man who was taught by the word and Spirit of God, possessed a wisdom that was truly divine. In this view, then, I propose to vindicate the language of my text; and to shew, that David, in obeying the word of God, was “ wiser than his enemies," with all their subtlety; and “ wiser than his teachers,” notwithstanding all their learning; and “wiser than the ancients," in despite of all their experience. Of every one who is obedient to God's word this may be said : I. In that he answers more fully the ends for which
the Holy Scripture was given
[For what was the Scripture given, but to be a light to our feet and a lantern to our paths? --- This being the case, what shall we say of the man who neglects to study the Inspired Volume ? What should we say of a mariner, who, in navigating a sea that was full of rocks and quicksands, should neglect to consult his chart and his compass, or should proceed in his voyage with the same kind of confidence, in opposition to their dictates, as he would if he were following the course which they prescribed ? Let him in other respects be ever so wise, no one would hesitate to commend the circumspect sailor as wiser than he. Then in this view, may the divinely-instructed follower of Christ account himself wiser than others, whether friends or enemies, if, when they enjoy the advantage of this infallible guide, they refuse to consult its dictates, or to follow its directions. If no one would hesitate to pronounce this judgment in a case where only the bodily life was concerned, much less would any one doubt where the interest at stake is nothing less than that of the immortal soul ---] II. In that he manifests a more becoming regard to
the wonders revealed in it
(Let any one contemplate the wonders of redemption --- and say, whether he can be wise who neglects to search into them, and to improve them for the good of his soul? But the man who receives “the testimony of Christ,"and labours to have it "confirmed in his own soul," is wise; and, when comparing himself with those who despise the Gospel, whatever superiority they may possess in other respects, may, without any undue arrogance, account himself wiser than they. “The very angels in heaven are desiring to look into these unsearchable mysteries ;" and, “ if we disregard them, what wisdom can be in use?"]
e Jer. viii. 9.
III. In that he consults supremely those interests,
which the Scriptures declare to be alone worthy of his attention
What can the whole world offer to a man, that is worthy to be put in competition with his soul? The concerns of the soul are declared by our blessed Lord to be “ the one thing needful.” Let the most learned man upon the face of the earth neglect these concerns, and the most unlettered man make them the great objects of his undivided attention; shall we hesitate to say which of the two is the wiser man? He who is wise for time only, is a fool : but he who is wise for eternity, is truly wise. “ The fear of the Lord is the very beginning of wisdom;" and he who possesses it not, has not ever yet passed the threshold of Wisdom's porch: but“ a good understanding have all they who cultivate the fear of the Lord; and the praise of their conduct shall endure for ever."] Let me, in concLUSION, give you, 1. A word of caution
[Take not occasion, from these words of David, to think lightly of self-complacency and self-applause. David was no boaster: on the contrary, no one was ever lower in his own estimation than he: and you will find humility the most prominent feature of all the Scripture saints. “Less than the least of all saints" was the character which Paul assumed ; and, “ if he gloried at any time, it was of his infirmities alone,” that his Lord and Saviour might be the more glorified in him?: so likewise I would recommend to you to “ take the lowest place," and, instead of exalting yourselves above others, to “prefer others in honour before yourselves,” and “to esteem others better than yourselves &:" “ for not he that commendeth himself shall be approved, but he whom the Lord commendeth h."]
2. A word of advice
[“ Love the word of God.” Verily, it is deserving of all your love ---- and you should “ esteem it more than your necessary food.” Next,“ meditate upon it all the day.” Many read the Scriptures without profit, because they do not ruminate upon them, and digest them in their souls. Let some short portion of God's word be selected for your meditation every day; and you cannot fail to profit by it, especially if your meditations be turned into prayer. Lastly, take it as the only rule of your life. This is essential to the Christian character. A speculative knowledge, however extensive and accurate, will avail you nothing : it is the practical and experimental knowledge alone that can benefit the soul. The very use of the
* 2 Cor. xi. 9. & Rom. xii. 10. Phil. ii. 3. h 2 Cor. x. 18.
Scriptures is, to “perfect the man of God, and thoroughly to furnish him unto all good works." This it is which will make you truly wise, or, rather, that will prove you to be so: for then will the Scripture“ have had its perfect work,” and you will be “wise unto salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus."]
DCCIX. THE TRUE TEST OF RELIGION IN THE SOUL. Ps. cxix. 128. I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things
to be right; and I hate every false way. RELIGION is the same in every age. The doctrines of it, though they have been more fully and clearly revealed under the Christian dispensation, have never varied in substance; nor has the practice of it ever changed, except in the observance of rites and ceremonies. To love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves, was the essence of true religion in the days of Abraham and of Moses; and so it is at this day. Doubtless there can be no true religion where the Gospel is set at nought and despised : but the Gospel may be highly approved as a system, whilst the heart is far from being right with God. It is not by their profession of any principles that we are to judge of men's states, but by the practical effects of those principles on their hearts and lives. Our blessed Lord has established this as the only true criterion, the only adequate test; “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
Now the genuine fruit of piety is as clearly exhibited in the words before us, as in any part of the Inspired Volume: and the passage is peculiarly worthy of notice, because in the writer of it were combined the fullest conviction of the understanding, together with the strongest affections of the heart: in his judgment, “he esteemed God's precepts to be right;" and in his heart, “he hated” every thing that was opposed to them.
May God of his infinite mercy inspire us with the same heavenly sentiments, whilst we consider these two things,—The Christian character as here delineated, and The light which it reflects upon the Gospel of Christ ! I. The Christian character as here delineated
In the text is drawn a broad line of distinction between the child of God, and every other person under heaven.
Christians are either nominal or real. Each class has gradations, from the highest to the lowest ; but between the two classes there is an immense gulph, that separates them as far as the east is from the west. To ascertain to which of the two we belong, is of infinite importance; but self-love blinds our eyes, and renders the discovery of it extremely difficult. This Scripture however holds up, as it were, a mirror before us; and, if we will look steadfastly into it, we may discern with great precision what manner of persons we are.
The difference between the two classes is this : the nominal Christian, however eminent he may in appearance be, is partial in his regard for God's precepts : but the true Christian approves and loves them all without exception b.
The nominal Christian, we say, is partial in his regard for God's precepts. He may esteem those which countenance his own particular party. The Papist, for instance, and the Protestant, will severally glory in those passages of Holy Writ which seem to justify their adherence to their respective modes of worship, and to afford them ground for believing that theirs is the more Scriptural and Apostolic Church. The various classes of Protestants also will manifest an ardent zeal for the support of their respective tenets, and be almost ready to anathematize each other, as not giving sufficient weight to those particular passages, on which they severally found their respective differences. They not only esteem their own grounds of faith “ to be right," but they “hate” the sentiments opposed to them “as erroneous and false.” a Mal. ii. 9.
b Ps. cxix. 6.