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discourage the fullest confidence in God. It is our privilege, doubtless, to trace all our mercies up to his everlasting love, and to view them all as secured to us by covenant and by oath : but then it is no less our privilege to fulfil God's will, and to resemble the holy angels, of whom it is said, that “they do his commandments, hearkening to the voice of his word.” Beware then lest ye ever be led off from this ground. Rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the propitiation for your sins, as your all-prevailing Advocate, and as your living Head: but, whilst you believe in him, and love him, and rejoice in him, let your faith, and love, and joy, stimulate you to a holy and unreserved obedience. If he has “ set your heart at liberty,” let the effect be to “make you run with more enlargement the way of his commandments.”
Lastly, we may derive from our text a direction to those who would adorn the Gospel. “Esteem all God's precepts to be right, and hate every false way.” If God has enjoined any thing, do not ask whether the world approves of it; nor, if he have forbidden any thing, inquire of the world, whether you shall abstain from it. The world are as inadequate judges of Christian morality, as they are of Christian principles : both the one and the other are “ foolishness to the natural man.” Of all the sublimer precepts, whether evangelical or moral, they are ready to say, “ This is a hard saying, who can hear it ?” But let no true Christian “consult with flesh and blood.” Let him rather say with David, “ Away from me ye wicked : I will keep the commandments of my God.” Does God call you to “ live no longer to yourselves, but unto him ?” or, Does the Lord Jesus Christ bid you“ follow him without the camp, bearing his reproach ;” and readily to “ lay down your lives for his sake ?” Let “not these commandments be grievous in your eyes ;" but rather“ rejoice if you are counted worthy to suffer for his sake.” If at any time you be urged to turn aside from the path of duty, do not let the maxims or habits of the world bias you one
k Heb. vi. 17, 18.
moment : you are “not to follow a multitude to do evil :" if a thing be right, you should love it and cleave to it, though the whole world should be against you; just as Noah, Daniel, and Elijah did : and, if a thing be evil, you must not do it, though the loss of all things, yea even of life itself, should await you for your integrity. It were better far to go into a fiery furnace for your steadfastness, than to save yourselves by an undue compliance.
Doubtless this holy walk and conversation will involve you in the charge of singularity; but whose fault is it, if this conduct makes you singular? Is it yours? Is it not rather theirs, who will not yield obedience to the precepts of their God? We mean not by this to justify any who would affect a needless singularity : far from it: it is only where the world are wrong, that we would recommend any to separate from them. But wheresoever they are wrong, there you must “ quit yourselves like men," and shew them by your example a more perfect way. In important matters, the whole universe should not shake your resolution. Where duty evidently calls, you must be firm, and “ faithful unto death.” It is confessedly “a strait and narrow way” in which you are called to walk; and, whilst walking in it, you must of necessity, like Noah, “ condemn those" who are walking in “ the broad road that leadeth to destruction," and consequently, like him, you must incur the scorn and hatred of an ungodly world. But it is better far to brave the hatred of the ungodly, than to participate in the lot that shortly awaits them. To all, then, who would “adorn the doctrine of our
Saviour," we beg leave to offer this plain and
salutary DIRECTION“Let your light shine before men;" and let it shine so bright, as to “put to silence the ignorance of foolish men," and to “make those ashamed, who falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.” Labour habitually to do this in every thing that
i Heb. xi. 7.
relates either to God or man. Let your enemies, if possible, “have no evil thing to say of you;” nothing to lay hold of; nothing that shall give occasion for that malignant triumph, “ There! there! so would we have it.” Be jealous for the honour of Christ and his Gospel. Remember that the world, who are blind enough to each other's faults, will be eagle-eyed in discerning yours : while they will make allowances enough for each other, they will make no allowances for you: and whilst they impute each other's frailties to the weakness of human nature, they will impute yours to the principles you profess. Be careful then to “cut off occasion from those who seek occasion against you.” Watch over your whole temper, and spirit, and conduct; that “ your conversation may be altogether such as becometh the Gospel of Christ :” and “ let your light be like that of the sun, shining more and more unto the perfect day.” In a word, “ be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; knowing assuredly, that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”
word: unto those th me, and be
DCCX. THE CHRISTIAN'S CHIEF DESIRES. Ps. xcix. 132, 133. Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name. Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
TO many, the Psalms are less interesting than most other parts of Scripture, as having in them a less variety of incident whereon to engraft instruction, as also a less measure of plainness in the instruction they convey. But, whatever may be wanting in them in these respects, it is more than compensated by the piety of sentiment and ardour of devotion which pervade them all. If other parts of Scripture add more to our stock of knowledge, this produces a more elevated tone of feeling, and, if deeply studied, tends in a pre-eminent degree to bring the soul into communion with its God, and to prepare it for the enjoyment of the heavenly world. Let us but get the spirit of the Psalmist in the prayer before us, and we shall have no reason to complain that we were not amused with curious speculations, or edified with matters of deep research.
Our business on the present occasion will be quite simple, namely, I. To explain the petitions here offered
Two things the Psalmist here implores of God; 1. The manifestations of his mercy
Mercy is that which every child of Adam needs : he needs it too, not merely for some particular violations of God's law, but for every action of his life: there is iniquity even in his holiest things : his very tears need to be washed, and his repentances to be repented of. Hence he must, from the very beginning to the end of life, and in reference to every moment that he has lived, implore mercy at the hands of the heartsearching God --
In this request he sets, as it were, before his eyes all the instances of mercy which God has shewn to his most favoured people from the foundation of the world. We may indeed understand his words as a general kind of plea taken from the wonted goodness of God to others : and then this petition will accord with that offered in another psalm, “Remember me with the favour which thou bearest unto thy chosen; O visit me with thy salvation a !” But there seems here a more specific reference to some particular exhibitions of God's mercy in the days of old; multitudes of which must of necessity present themselves to his mind, whenever his attention was directed towards them. What mercy had God shewn to Adam, in promising a Saviour to him, instead of inflicting on him the judgments he had so deeply merited! What mercy to Abel also, in giving him such manifest tokens of his favour! To Enoch also, in affording him such constant access to him, and in translating him to glory, without ever suffering him to taste the bitterness of death! In like manner his mercy to Noah, in delivering him from the deluge which overwhelmed the whole world beside; and to Abraham also, whom he admitted to all the familiarity of a most endeared friend. These, and many other instances, we may suppose to have been in his mind, when he proposed them to God as patterns of the mercy which he himself desired to partake of.
This is the true way in which every child of God should pray. From all that God has done for his saints in former
1 Ps, avi, 4, 5.
times he should take encouragement, and should enlarge his expectations to the utmost extent that the sacred records authorize. God is the same gracious and almighty Being in every age: and what he has done for one he may do for another: and though he may not vouchsafe to us precisely the same interpositions as he did to others, he will, as far as our particular occasions may call for them: and we are enemies to ourselves, if we do not open our mouths wide, and ask all that our situation and circumstances can require.] 2. The communications of his grace
[He desired to be delivered, not from guilt only, but from the power and dominion of sin also. This desire was without reserve: he wished not to retain “any iniquity," however pleasant or profitable, or even justifiable it might be in the eyes of an ungodly world. In this he approved himself sincere and upright: and in this, every true Christian will resemble him -
But in order to this, he begged to be guided altogether by the oracles of truth. The word of God is the only standard of right and wrong: if we follow any other directory, we shall err: if we adhere to that, we cannot but fulfil the will of God. This is the constant declaration of God himselfb; and it accords with the experience of his people in every age · Happy would it be for us, if we would study the Scriptures with this particular view. We are not disposed to undervalue speculative knowledge: but that which is practical is infinitely to be preferred. The Scriptures are given us as a “light to our paths” in general, and as "a lantern” in every particular case when we know not where to place “our feet.” Let us truly seek to be in every thing governed by them; and then, though we be mere fools, as it were, in other things, we shall never greatly err 4.]
From this general view of the petitions, we proceed, II. To shew the instruction to be derived from them
Though not written with a didactic view, they convey much instruction, in reference both, 1. To Christian principles
[The union of the two petitions may not improperly suggest to us, that a desire after pardon must invariably be joined with a desire of sanctification also. Were a desire of pardon all that is required to form the Christian character, a Christian would differ but little from those who are gone beyond redemption. Sin must be hateful to us, even as it is to God himself, who cannot look upon it without the utmost abhorrence -
Nor is the order in which they stand devoid of good and b ver. 9. c ver. 11.
d Ps. xix. 7. Isai. xxxv. 8.