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what does the most successful gain? what can he possess, more than food and raiment? Let the most favoured courtier in the universe say, whether that which he has so assiduously followed be not a delusive shadow, an unsubstantial vanity? But the humble worshipper is in no danger of disappointment; and every particle of what he gains is - durable riches.” What can be put in competition with “a new heart," " a right spirit,” “a divine nature," a transformation of soul into the very image of God, a meetness for heaven, and a title to an everlasting inheritance? Yet these are the certain portion of those who wait on God in his appointed ordinances : not one can fail, if only he seek these things in the way that God has ordained, namely, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and by an entire surrender of the soul to him. Take notice, I speak not here of those who may be supposed to occupy the highest seats in the Lord's house, as prophets and Apostles: I speak of “ the doorkeeper, the man upon the threshold," whose conscious unworthiness suffers him" not so much as to lift up his eyes” to his Redeemer's throne: it is of him I say, that he has a better portion than the whole world can bestow; and that “happy is the man that is in such a case ; yea, happy is the man who has the Lord for his God.”]
Having given what I conceive to be ample grounds for David's judgment, I now come to mark, II. The wisdom of his decision
Certainly the whole world of the ungodly are at issue with him on this point. They have no taste for spiritual exercises or spiritual enjoyments. They observe, indeed, the outward forms of religion, for the sake of setting an example to others; but of felicity to be enjoyed in the worship of God they have no idea. If they see persons much interested about the worship of God, they are ready to account them superstitious, and scrupulous, and “ righteous overmuch ;" and all the delight which they perceive to be derived from that source they impute to vanity or enthusiasm. But, however the multitude may prefer the pleasures of sense, we have no hesitation in saying that David's decision was wise,
1. On his side are ranged all the Inspired Men from the foundation of the world
[There is not a shadow of difference among them in relation to this matter. One common testimony pervades the whole Scriptures. The things of time and sense are invariably represented as of no value, in comparison of the things which are invisible and eternal; and the possession of the whole world as of no account in exchange for the soul. Now, when there are so many witnesses, all unconnected with each other, and living at times and places so distant from each other, and all inspired by an unerring God, must we not conclude that their testimony is true, and that David, in according with them, was true also ? The whole Inspired Volume must be set aside as an imposture and a delusion, if David's preference was not such as wisdom dictated, and God approved.]
2. On his side are even the ungodly, in their hours of more serious reflection
[Giddy as the world are, and ready to pour contempt on all serious religion, there is not one who does not sometimes say in his heart, “ Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.” The consciences of men will sometimes speak; and they will acknowledge that they have never found that satisfaction in earthly things which they had once hoped to find : and that religion alone can bring solid peace into the soul. And here I will venture to appeal to every individual, whether on some particular occasions, perhaps on the death of a friend or in a time of sickness, or after some faithful discourse, he have not felt the vanity of this present world, and the need of securing a portion beyond the grave? and whether, on such occasions, he have not envied the state of those, whom, in his more thoughtless seasons, he has ridiculed? Yes, Herod revered John, because he knew him to be a just and holy man: and Felix trembled, because he could not controvert the statements of Paul: and scarcely is there an ungodly man to be found, who has not, on some occasion or other, justified in his mind, if not in his words, the sentiment avowed by David in our text.]
3. On his side is every man, the very instant he enters into the eternal world
[Think you that there is a man in heaven that is not likeminded with David ? or, that there is one in hell who would not assent to it as a truth which he could no longer doubt? Here, men are blinded by their love of earthly things; but in the eternal world they view things as they really are: nor is there one to be found either in heaven or in hell that would not prefer the state of Lazarus with all his privations to that of the Rich Man with all his indulgences. Whence was it that the Rich Man was so anxious to send a messenger to his five surviving brethren? was it not to undeceive them, and to make known to them the proper mode of estimating the things belonging to their peace? So, if it were permitted, would they who are daily and hourly going into the eternal world: gladly would they send to warn their surviving relatives ; but that cannot be : and if we will not believe Moses and the prophets, we shall learn the truth when it is too late to avail ourselves of it. But all this may serve at least to shew us that the decision of David was truly wise.] LEARN, then, from hence, 1. How to form a right estimate of your state
[You must not judge of yourselves by your actions only, but by the tendencies and habits of your minds. What is your taste? is it for communion with God in holy exercises ? or is it for the vanities of this present world? God himself teaches us to judge of ourselves by this standard : “ They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; and they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit f.” If your taste accord with that of David, it is well; you have so far an evidence that you are the Lord's: but if it be the reverse of his, deceive not yourselves; “ye are yet in your sins," children of the wicked one, and heirs of wrath.] 2. How to make your profiting to appear-
[Cultivate this high and heavenly disposition. Let the things of this world sink in your estimation-sink, I had almost said, into absolute insignificance; and let communion with God be the delight of your soul. Let it be a small matter to you whether you have more or less of the honour that cometh of man; and seek the honour that cometh of God only: and “ let your conversation be more and more in heaven, from whence you look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ,” with whom you hope ere long to participate an eternity of bliss.]
Rom. viii. 5.
PROMISES TO THE UPRIGHT. Ps. lxxxiv. 11. The Lord God is a sun and a shield: the
Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will be withhold from them that walk uprightly.
THE choice which every true Christian makes, affords matter of astonishment to the ungodly world. He prefers a life of godliness with all the odium attached to it, before all the pleasures and honours which he could possibly enjoy in the ways of sin. They, who look no further than to the concerns of time and sense, are amazed that so many sacrifices should be made without any visible recompence. Doubtless the choice of Moses must have been
deemed marvellously absurd in the palace of Pharaoha; as that also, which David deliberately made, must have been among his ungodly courtiers. But the reason assigned for it was sufficient to justify him in the eyes of every rational being.
His words lead us to shew, I. The character of true Christians as here described
“ They walk uprightly" both towards God and man. Integrity in our dealings with man is an essential part of true uprightness, yet it is far from being the whole of what is comprehended in that term. Many act honestly from a mere sense of honour, while they pay no regard at all to their duties towards God. But sincere Christians act in a very different manner, they have respect to God in every thing, that they may approve themselves to him.
They search out their duty diligently
[A child of God will not conclude hastily that he knows his duty. He is aware of the deceitfulness of sin, and the wickedness of his own heart. He knows that, if he blindly follow the dictates of an unenlightened conscience, he may commit murder itself under the idea of doing God service č. He therefore desires to have his judgment informed. For this end he reads the Holy Scriptures --- and begs the Spirit of God to guide him into all truth --- He is glad of instruction and reproof from his fellow-creatures, that he may be preserved from error. And the one desire of his heart is, to be freed from every undue bias —-- and to fulfil in all things the will of God.]
They perform it uniformly
[Every true Christian labours to do unto others as he would have others do to him. But he does not rest satisfied with this. He strives to maintain the mastery over all his motives and principles of action --- He endeavours to have his tempers regulated according to the word of God, and the example of his Lord and Saviour --- He moreover watches unto secret prayer. He lives a life of communion with God ---- and of dependence on God --- He would not make any exceptions or reserves --- He longs to be free both from partiality and hypocrisy; and desires rather to descend from a throne to the place of a door-keeper in God's house for the a Heb. xi. 24–26. b ver. 10, 11.“ I had rather," &c. “ For,” &c.
© John xvi. 2. Acts xxvi. 9.
maintenance of his integrity, than to rise from the place of a door-keeper to a throne through the smallest violation of his dutyd. He says with David, I esteem all thy precepts concerning all things to be right, and I hate every false waye. And with him also he prays, “ O that my ways may be directed to keep thy statutes"!"]
What delight God has in such characters we may see, if we consider, II. The blessedness that shall be accorded to them
We are here distinctly told what God will be to them-
[There is scarcely any thing noble or useful in the sphere of nature or of art, which is not used to illustrate the goodness of God towards his people. To the upright he will be a sun.
How welcome is the sun to one who has been groping his dubious way during a long and dreary night. His path is now made clear, and he is enabled to avoid the stumbling-blocks which before obstructed his progress. Nor are its beams less refreshing to his body, than its light is useful to his feet. He now shakes off the anxieties and cares with which he was before disquieted. He feels his spirit exhilarated; and prosecutes his journey with ease and pleasure. Thus does God arise on those who have been sincerely occupied in doing his will. He causes light to arise in the darknessh. Even when they were in darkness, he was a light unto them'; but now he dispels all the clouds, and shines upon them with healing in his beamsk. How sweet the change when the light of God's countenance is thus lifted up upon them! How plain is now the way of duty, which before was dark and intricate! And how pleasant is it to “run the way of his commandments, now that their feet are set at liberty!"
He will also be to them “ a shield.” The more upright they are, the more will Satan and the world combine against them. Men will strike at them with the sword of persecution; and Satan will cast at them the fiery darts of temptation. But God will “ compass them with his favour as with a shield.” If they be wounded, he will heal them again, and overrule their momentary pain for their greater advantage. As for their head, he will surely protect it in the day of battle. He will perfectly secure them from every fatal blow. Nor shall any weapon that is formed against them be ever suffered finally to prosper!
d ver. 10.
f Ps. cxix. 5. 8 This metaphor must not be taken in its full extent, but only in reference to a traveller.
h Ps. cxii. 4. i Mic. vii. 8. k Mal. iv. 2.
i Isai. liv. 17.