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the fair beauty of the Lordp.” If only we come up to his house with raised expectations, and a humble mind, he will reveal himself to us, and lift up the light of his countenance upon us, and shew us " his power and glory so as he is accustomed to display them in his sanctuary?."] 2. By an inward communication of it to our souls
[“ God originally made man after his own image":" and after the same image will he create us anew“ in righteousness and true holiness $.” It is for this very end that he so reveals himself in his ordinances ; namely, that, by communing with him there, our faces may be made to shine, as the face of Moses did“; and that " by beholding his glory we may be changed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of our Godu.” In this sense the beauty of the Lord our God shall be upon all his children, according as it is written, “He that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself even as he is purel." No inferior standard will they aim at: they know their duty; and they know their privilege : and with no attainments will they be satisfied, till they are holy, as God is holy;” and “perfect, even as their Father that is in heaven is perfect.”
This indeed will not be imparted to any one at once: it is a progressive work: persons must be babes, and young men, before they are fathers : but from the time that they are truly converted unto God, they will “grow in grace," and "make their profiting to appear,” till they have “ attained to the full measure of the stature of Christy." To all of you then I would
up with devoutest earnestness to God the petition in my text, “Let THE BEAUTY OF THE LORD our God be upon us:” and add to it that prayer of Paul for the Ephesian converts, which in import corresponds exactly with it; " Let me so comprehend the love of Christ, as to be filled by it with all THE FULNESS OF God."] From the text thus explained, we may LEARN, 1. What is the great antidote to the troubles of life?
(Certainly the Israelites, when doomed to perish in the wilderness, were in a very pitiable condition. But, if they could only attain this great object, they declared that their sorrows would all be turned into joy?. So whatever our troubles be, their sting will be altogether taken away, if they prevail to bring us to the footstool of our God, and to the enjoyment of the light of his countenance. The trials which God sends are for this very end; to purge away our dross, and P Ps. xxvii. 4. q Ps. Ixiii. 2.
r Gen. i. 26, 27. $ Eph. iv. 24. t Exod. xxxiv. 29, 30. u 2 Cor. ii. 18. * 1 John iii. 3. y Eph. iv. 13.
z Eph. iii. 18, 19,
to purify us as gold, that we may be vessels of honour, meet for our Master's use. Let us then not be so anxious to get rid of our afflictions, as to obtain from God a sanctified use of them, in brighter manifestations of him, and richer communications from him, and a more entire conformity to hima. Let us but get even a small measure of these benefits, and “our consolations shall abound far above all that our afflictions have abounded b" -] 2. What we are to aim at, in our pursuit of holiness
[It is not any one grace, or any particular set of graces, that we should seek after, but an entire conformity to the image of our God. Now his beauty, as we have seen, consists not in any one perfection, but in an union of all perfections, however opposite to each other. So must there be in us, not such graces only as are suited to the natural temperament of our minds, but an assemblage of all graces, however different from each other; every one being blended with, and tempered by, its opposite, and all together brought, as occasion may require, into united exercise. God is compared to “light;” which is an union of rays, exceedingly diverse from each other, and all in simultaneous motion. Now as some may think that the brighter coloured rays, as the red, the orange, the yellow, would make a better light if divested of those which bear a more sombre aspect, as the blue, the indigo, and the violet; so many imagine, that God would be more lovely, if justice were separated from his attributes, and mercy were to shine unalloyed by that more formidable perfection. But as neither can light part with any of its rays, nor, God with any of his perfections, so neither must the Christian dispense with any grace whatever: if he rejoice, it must be with trembling: if he walk in faith, he must be also in the fear of the Lord all the day long. If he be bold, he must also be meek and lowly of heart, and resemble him, who " was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so opened not he his mouth.” This union of opposite graces it is which constitutes the beauty of holiness: as David, after the most exalted strains of adoration, says, “O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness : fear before him all the earth
Let me earnestly entreat the professors of religion to be attentive to this matter. Nothing is more common than for persons of this description to value themselves on account of some particular grace or set of graces, when they are offensive, and, I had almost said, odious in the eyes both of God and man, for want of those graces which ought to temper, and to moderate the actings of their mind. Distortion in the human frame is not more disgusting than such distorted piety as this. Even without any particular blemish in the human frame, it is
a ver. 15. b 2 Cor. i. 5. c Ps. xcvi. 7-9.
not any one feature that constitutes beauty; but a regular and harmonious set of features: so it is not faith, or fear, or zeal, or prudence, or any other separate grace, that will assimilate us to the Deity, but every grace in its proper measure, and its combined exercise; or rather every grace borrowing from its opposite its chief lustre, and all harmoniously exercised for the glory of God.
Were this subject better understood, we should see, as in Christ, so in all his followers also, the God and the man, the lion and the lamb.]
DCLIV. THE BLESSEDNESS OF GOD'S PEOPLE. Ps. xci. 144. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most
High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress : my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler and from the noisome pestilence.
He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust : his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
TO unfold the doctrines and duties of our holy religion is a matter of indispensable necessity to every one who would discharge the ministerial office with acceptance. Yet it is not necessary that a minister should always be laying the foundation of repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ : there are times and seasons when he should “ unto perfection“,” and exhibit Christianity in its highest stages of practical efficiency. The psalm before us will afford us ample scope for this. The words which we have just read are somewhat disconnected: but a slight alteration in the translation, whilst it will not affect the sense of the
will cast a light and beauty over it, and render it doubly interesting to us all
. Two prelates of our Church agree in reading the passage thus: “ He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High, that abideth under the shadow of the Almighty; that saith of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I will trust.” Then the Psalmist, instead of proceeding regularly with his speech, breaks off, and
a Heb. vi. 1.
in an apostrophe addresses the person whom he has been describing; “Surely he shall deliver thee!,” &c. &c. According to this rendering, we have a clear exposition of the character and blessedness of every true believer. Let us consider, then, I. His character
He is not described either by his religious creed or by his moral conduct. We are led to view him rather in his secret walk with God: and in this view his character is portrayed, 1. Figuratively
(It will be remembered that God dwelt by a visible symbol of his presence in the tabernacle; and that the high-priest on the great day of annual atonement went within the veil, and abode there till he had sprinkled the blood of his sacrifices upon the mercy-seat, and covered the mercy-seat with his incense. Now, what he did corporeally once in the year, the true Christian does spiritually every day in the year; for through Christ we all are * made kings and priests unto our God." Paint to yourselves, then, the high-priest in his occasional access to God; and there you see the Christian going continually within the veil, or rather habitually dwelling there, and “ making God himself his habitation." And truly this is "
" of which an unconverted man has no conception: it is “ the secret of God's pavilion, the secret of his tabernacled.” But we must divest ourselves of the notion of locality: for this place is wherever God manifests his more immediate presence: and therefore David beautifully calls it, “the secret of his presence." There the Believer dwells: and, O! who can conceive " the fellowship which he there enjoys with God the Father and with the Lord Jesus Christ?;" whilst they, with condescending and affectionate endearment, come to him, and abidingly feast with him. In truth, the communion between God and the soul is such as no language can convey: it is nothing less than a mutual in-dwelling, resembling that which subsists between the Father and the Son; they being in God, and God in them; yea, and being one with God, and God with them
This is a mercy which the Believer alone enjoys. But some little idea of it may be formed from the favour conferred upon the camp of Israel in the wilderness. The cloudy pillar led them in all b Bishop Lowth and Bishop Horne. See Bishop Horne on the place. d Ps. xxvii. 5.
e Ps. xxxi. 20. f 1 John i. 3. & John xiv. 21, 23. Rev. iii. 20.
h Compare John vi. 56, and 1 John iv, 15, 16. with John xvii. 21–23.
C ver. 9.
their way, affording them shade by day from the heat of the burning sun, and light throughout the night season. other people under heaven was this ever vouchsafed. And so it is with the camp of the true Israelites at this day: they, and they only, behold the light of God's countenance in the nightseason of adversity; and they alone are sheltered from every thing that would oppress and overwhelm their souls; as it is written, “ The Lord will create upon every dwelling-place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence"."] 2. In plain terms—
[The workings of his mind, under all the trials and difficulties which he has to encounter, are here set forth. He is convinced that no created arm can be sufficient for him. Hence he directs his eyes towards the Creator himself, and saith of him, “ He is my refuge” from every trouble: “ He is my fortress” against every assailant: “He is my God,” all whose powers and perfections shall be employed for me. “ In Him will I trust,” in Him only and exclusively; in Him always, under all circumstances; in Him, with perfect confidence and unshaken affiance. The man is not like the ungodly world, who know not what to do, and are at their wit's end when trouble comes: he is “in the secret place of the Most High;" and, where others can see nothing, he beholds " chariots of fire and horses of fire all around him," or, rather, he beholds “God himself as a wall of fire round about him!," and has the very glory of God resting on himm. Thus is the true Believer distinguished from all others: " he beholds Him who is invisible n;" and walks as in his immediate presence, saying, “ If God be for me, who can be against me?"
Shall this be thought an exaggerated description? I do not say that the Divine presence is equally realized by all, or by any equally at all times: there are seasons when a Peter may be“ of little faith•;" and a Paul may need a special revelation for his support, saying to him, “ Be not afraid; but speak, and hold not thy peace; for I am with thee; and no man shall set on thee to hurt theep.” Nevertheless, in the general habit of their mind, their language is like that of David; “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies."]
i Isai. iv. 5.
k 2 Kings vi. 17.
i Zech. ii. 5.