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the gates of Zion, and render her more lovely in your eyes than all the palaces in the universe!) 3. As an emblem of heaven itself
[Such it really is: for all who are born in her “ are come unto Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalemi.” Though she is a spiritual edifice, she has her foundations, her walls, her gates; all of which are found also in that heavenly Zion which St. John saw, even in “ that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, and having the glory of Godk.” And both the one city and the other“ are of pure gold!." Each of them too, amongst the many distinctions which they enjoy above all earthly cities, have a light peculiar to themselves. Of our Zion it is said, “ The sun is no more her light by day, neither for brightness does the moon give light unto her; but the Lord is unto her an everlasting light, and her God her glory m" And thus it is also in the heavenly Zion : “ The city has no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God does lighten it; and the Lamb is the light thereofn.” It is but one family that is inhabiting both the one city and the other, “even the family of our Lord Jesus Christo;" and their employments are altogether the same: for whilst the one are “rejoicing in the Lord always' here belowP, the other are incessantly engaged in singing praises to him above, even “ to Him, who loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and made them kings and priests unto their God; to him, I say, do they ascribe all glory and dominion for ever and ever?,"] II. The effect which these testimonies should have
upon use Surely, when the Church is so high in the estimation of God,
1. We should inquire what place she holds in our esteem
[Never has she had, at least in a spiritual view, any visible glory. In the days of the prophets, her limits were contracted, and her members poor, despised, persecuted. In the days of Christ and his Apostles, though her limits were enlarged, she, like her Lord himself, had “no beauty nor comeliness for which she was to be desired." She has been in a wilderness state even to this present hours, an object of hatred and derision to all that were round about her. Yet to the eye of faith she is most beautful, most glorious. In all that pertains to her, she is “ the perfection of beauty.” Her foundations are of the most precious stones : "her walls are salvation, and her gates praiseu." Her laws are all holy, and just, and good: her ordinances are a very heaven upon earth : and her members more highly privileged than all other creatures in the universe. Say then, Brethren, whether such be your views of Zion; and whether to be enrolled amongst her citizens be the highest object of your ambition? Our blessed Lord told his disciples, that even to have“the devils made subject unto them” was no ground of joy in comparison of this*: for, if you really belong to Zion, "your names are written in heaven," and all the glory and felicity of heaven are yours. But if you are“ aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, you are strangers from the covenants of promise, without God, without Christ, without hope y."] 2. We should seek to advance her glory
i Heb. xii. 22. k Rev. xxi. 10, 11, 14, 21. i Rev. xxi. 18. m Isai. lx. 19.
n Rev. xxi. 23. • Eph. iii. 14, 15. p Phil. iv. 4.
9 Rev. i. 5, 6. r Isai. liii. 2.
s Rev. xii. 6.
[God has promised, that, in due season, “the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and that all nations shall flow unto her."
“ Then shall Zion be no more termed desolate, or forsaken: for God will delight in her; and all the kings of the earth shall bring their glory to her.” “ Her gates shall be open continually: they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto her the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. Then the nation and kingdom which shall not serve her shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto her, the fir-tree, the pine-tree, and the box together, (the meanest slave being as acceptable as the mightiest monarch,) to beautify the place of God's sanctuary, and to make the place of his feet glorious. The sons also of them that afflicted her, shall come bending unto her; and all that despised her shall bow down themselves at the soles of her feet; and shall call her, The city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel a.” Now then I ask, Should we not long for this glorious period ? Should we not exert ourselves to the uttermost to help it forward? Should we not search out the benighted Gentiles, and labour to bring back to their God the dispersed of Israel? Should we not endeavour to bring men from every quarter, “ their sons in our arms, and their daughters in litters upon our shoulders, to glorify the house of his glory?” Men may pretend to love the Church : but their professions must be brought to this test. If we are at all sensible of the benefit of belonging to Zion, we shall neither rest ourselves, “nor give any rest to our God,” till “ the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth."]
t Ps. 1. 2.
u Isai. lx. 18.
x Luke x. 20.
3. We should labour to participate in all her privileges
(Is God indeed revealed there in all his excellency and glory? Is it the place, the only place, where sinners are born to God? Is it an emblem even of heaven itself? We should determine then to come to her without delay, and to seek admission into her blissful community. In comparison of being numbered amongst her children, all that the world can give should be esteemed by us as dung and dross; and we should say with David, “I would rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” As for hatred, contempt, persecution, or even death itself, they should be accounted rather as an honour, and a happiness, and a privilege, than as objects of fear, if they are brought upon us for Zion's sake. It should be a sufficient recompence to us,
that our God is glorified, and that the interests of Zion are advanced. If we are children of Zion indeed, we shall be joyful under any circumstances; we shall “ be joyful, I say,
in our Kinge:” as it is written; “ They shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd; (that is, for all spiritual consolation and support;) and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all?” Whether they be priests or people, it shall be thus with them: for, “ I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness; and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the Lord.") APPLICATION
[Let us then love Zion, and “prefer her before our chief joyh." Let her ordinances be our delight'; and let us pray for her advancement, saying, “ Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within her palaces." Then shall our own souls most assuredly flourish: for “ they shall prosper that love herk.”]
b Isai. lxii. 1, 6, 7. c Ps. lxxxiv. 10. di Pet. iv. 13, 14. e Ps. cxlix. 2.
f Jer. xxxi. 12. & Jer. xxxi. 14. h Ps. cxxxvii. 5, 6. i Ps. lxxxiv. 4, 7. k Ps. cxxii. 6, 7.
DISTRESS OF SOUL CONSIDERED. Ps. lxxxviii. 14–16. Lord, why castest thou off my soul ?
why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted, and ready to die, from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.
HEMAN the Ezrahite, the author of this psalm, is thought by most to have been the grandson of Judaha; and to have been so eminent for wisdom, as almost to have equalled Solomon himself. But he seems rather to have been the grandson of Shemuel, or Samuel. Whoever he was, he was a man greatly afflicted, and, at the time that he wrote this psalm, altogether destitute of any other consolation, than what he felt in spreading his sorrows before God. In other psalms we find many and grievous complaints; but the gloom that overspreads the mind of the author at the commencement of them, is usually dispelled before they are brought to a close ; and what began with sorrow is terminated with joy. But in the composition before us there is no such pleasing change: it is nothing but one continued complaint from beginning to end.
In discoursing on it, we shall point out, I. The state to which a righteous soul may be reducedTruly the state of Heman was most afflictive
[There can be no doubt but that he was a righteous man. Had he not been so, he would not have addressed Jehovah in such expressions of holy confidence, as “ The Lord God of his salvation ;” nor could he have affirmed, that " night and day he had poured out his prayers and cries before him." Yet behold, how heavy, how exceeding heavy, was his affliction! “ His soul was so full of troubles, that they brought him nigh to the
Hear how he himself represents them, referring them all at the same time to God himself as the author of them: “ Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon ine; and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves." To the same effect he speaks also in the words of our text, complaining of the dereliction he experienced in this hour of his calamity, and of the terrors which he endured, which, whilst they were rapidly bringing down his body to the grave, had well nigh bereaved him of his senses, and reduced him to a state of utter distraction.)
And such, alas! is the state of many in every age of the Church
a 1 Chron. ii. 6.
b i Kings iv. 31. c i Chron. vi. 33. and xv. 19. compared with the title to Ps. Ixxxix. The grandson of Judah could not have written so about David. ver. 1, 2, 9, 13. e ver. 3.
f ver. 6, 7.
[Some there are of a low, nervous, hypochondriac temperament both of mind and body, and who, whether they were religious or not, would of necessity be of a melancholy disposition; that being their constitutional tendency, just as cheerfulness or confidence are the tendencies of others. Persons of this class view every thing in a dark unfavourable light: they forbode nothing but evil: and, if religion occupies their minds, they write bitter things against themselves, and conclude that they never can be saved. They love gloomy thoughts, and brood over them day and night; and greatly injure both their minds and bodies by ruminating on subjects that are too deep for them. They perplex themselves about the divine decrees, and thus give occasion to many to represent religion as distracting their minds. But the truth is, that they seek for nothing but poison: they have no appetite for wholesome food : and religion is no more answerable for their distraction, than a fertilizing stream is for the death of a maniac who drowns himself in it.
Some there are who are brought into this state by long and complicated troubles. The mind of man, unless supported in a miraculous way, cannot endure a pressure beyond certain limits. Even Job himself, notwithstanding his extraordinary patience, seemed at times to sink under the accumulated load of his afflictions, and to be transported beyond the bounds of
And the dejection of many, however it appear to originate in matters connected with religion, must in reality be traced to this source: their mind is enfeebled by a complication of bodily diseases, and of worldly sorrows, and then becomes an easy prey to any discouragements which may engross its attention.
Some are broken down by means of some great transgression, which, either before, or after, their religious course, they have committed, and which has destroyed all hope of respect from man, or comfort in their own minds. To such, life is become a burthen: they cannot bear even the sight of those whose esteem they have forfeited: they affect solitude, which yet is irksome to them; and they long for death, as a relief from the torments of a self-condemning conscience. It is no wonder if such, though truly penitent before God, yield to desponding fears, and anticipate nothing but misery in the eternal world.
Some are in a more extraordinary degree than others exposed to the assaults of Satan. That powerful adversary seems, as it were, to take possession of their minds, as formerly he possessed the bodies of men: and by his
fiery darts he inflicts the deadliest wounds upon their souls. He is well called, “ The accuser of the brethren;" for he accuses them to God, as he did Job of old; and accuses them also at the bar of their own consciences, to prove them hypocrites and self-deceivers. Is it to be wondered at, if that roaring lion prevail over a weak
sense or reason.