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a kingdom of priests," and may take the blood of your great sacrifice, and sprinkle it with acceptance on the Mercy-seat of your God. Othat you might learn to estimate aright your high privilege, and improve it daily to the everlasting benefit of your souls !] 2. Endeavour to extend them to the whole world
(We should not be content to serve our God alone: we should wish him to be honoured and enjoyed by every child of man: and to advance his glory in the world should be an object of our most unwearied attention. Happily for us, there are Societies that have embarked in this blessed work, and through which every individual may contribute to the enlargement of the Redeemer's kingdom
And view the field, how extended it is! “ The field is the world.” Arise, my Brethren, to the work that is before you: and if you cannot effect all that you could wish, let it at least be said of you by the heartsearching God, “ They have done what they could."]
k Here the particular Society, such as the SocieTY FOR PROMOTING Christian KNOWLEDGE, the Bible Society, or the PRAYER-BOOK AND HOmily Society, may be set forth, and its objects and operations may
GOD'S WAYS DARK, BUT JUST. Ps. xcvii. 2. Clouds and darkness are round about him : righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.
THE reign of Christ is here spoken of, as a ground of joy to the whole world : “ The Lord reigneth ; let the earth rejoice : let the multitude of isles be glad thereof." That Christ is the person to whom the psalm refers, we are assured on infallible authority; for, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, we are told that the injunction, “ Worship him, all ye gods!” was given by the Father in reference to him: “When He (the Father) bringeth in the First-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship hima."
As to the particular advent of our Lord, I conceive that, in the psalm before us, the period alluded to is that in which our Lord came to conduct the Hebrew nation through the wilderness to the Promised Land. « He came down with thunderings and lightnings, and a thick cloud,” in exact
a Compare ver. 7. with Heb. i. 6.
accordance with the description given of him in this psalmo. At the precise period of his incarnation there were no such signs; though at his death and resurrection, which may properly be included in that period, there were similar demonstrations of his Divine Majesty: and at his future advent we are assured he will “come in power and great glory,” such as that with which he was attended at the time of his ascension to the right hand of God. But it is not to any one of these periods that I shall confine my attention; because the language of my text is general, and may well be considered as referring to all periods and to all events: for there is no one part of the divine government to which it may not be well applied, every act of it being involved in impenetrable obscurity, yet founded in wisdom, and goodness, and truth, and equity.
In unfolding, then, the truth contained in my text, I will endeavour to illustrate it, I. In the dispensations of God's providence
Survey the state of the whole world since the fall of man
[See the state in which every child is born into the world; how “ shapen in iniquity,” how altogether unlike to man in his original creationa! – See, too, as they grow up to maturity and put forth their powers, what wickedness they commit, and what misery they spread around them, none being a greater enemy to man than man himself!
Behold the brute creation : these, though incapable of sin, feel bitterly its penal consequences, and shew, beyond a possibility of doubt, that they inherit qualities which they did not originally possess; being hostile to each other, and in many instances the common enemies of man. The very earth itself also partakes of the curse due to sin ; and all the elements are armed against the human race, to inflict on them, as God shall appoint, the destruction they have merited.
I ask, then, Are not “ clouds and darkness round about that God by whose ordinance these things exist? Can any one give a satisfactory explanation of them all, or even of any one of them? Yet we are sure that “ righteousness and judgment are the habitation (the basis) of them all.” For whether we b Compare ver. 2–5. with Exod. xix. 11, 16.
Acts i. 11. with Luke xxi. 27. d Ps. li. 5. Eph. ii. 3.
understand his ways or not, " his work is perfect, and all his ways are judgment: a God of truth, and without iniquity; just and right is hee."]
Mark also his dealings with the individuals of mankind
[What an amazing disparity do we find amongst the children of men; some endued with great mental powers, whilst others, from their very birth, through a want of intellectual capacity, are in a state more helpless and degraded than the beasts themselves; some possessing all the comforts of health, and others protracting a miserable existence, from which, at any moment, death would be a merciful relief! some destitute of the most common necessaries of life, whilst others revel in every species of luxurious abundance! To what can we trace this vast diversity; or, if we attempt to account for it on the common principles of equity, what shall we say ? Surely “clouds and darkness are round about it" all; and faith is left to supply the deficiencies of reason. We know that God cannot err, and that “all his ways are both mercy and truth." His “ way, indeed, is in the sea, and his footsteps are not known':” but “ his righteousness is like the great mountains, though his judgments are a great deep."]
Inscrutable depths also will be found, II. In the revelation of his grace
Here the difficulties are greater still. Consider, 1. The revelation itself
[What a mystery is here! the substitution of God's coequal, co-eternal Son in the place of his own sinful and rebellious creatures; "the Holy One and the Just, in the place of the unholy and unjusth!” or rather, if I might venture to use such an expression, I should almost say, The death of an incarnate God, in the place and for the sake of incarnate devils ! You remember what our blessed Lord himself said, even to those who called themselves the Lord's people: “Ye are of your father the devil; and the lusts of your father ye will do i.” Yet for such did Jesus die, even for the chief of sinners. Tell me, Are there not “clouds and darkness" here? Yet I hesitate not to say, that “righteousness" pervades it all; and
judgment,” such as shall finally approve itself to the whole intelligent creation, is the basis of it. In fact, it is this which, above all other things in the whole universe, displays the righteousness of God, who, by exacting such a sacrifice, then most of all shews himself just, when he justifies those who believe in his dear Sonk.]
e Deut. xxxii. 4. f Ps. lxxvii. 19. & Ps. xxxvi. 6. h 1 Pet. üi. 18. i John viii. 44. k Rom. ii. 25 26.
2. The objects selected to enjoy its benefits
[The great mass of mankind, from the Deluge to the time of Abraham, were left in darkness, insomuch that the knowledge of the true God had nearly vanished from the earth. And then was God pleased to fix on Abraham, an idolater in the midst of an idolatrous family and nation, and to reveal his covenant to him. To Isaac also, in preference to Ishmael his elder child ; and to Jacob also, in preference to Esau, was it given to be comprehended in this covenant; yea, given whilst both of them were yet in the womb, and consequently before they had done either good or evil. Let any one explain this, or account for it in
way than that suggested by our Lord: “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.” The same sovereignty appears at this hour, in choosing the poor, the weak, the vile, in preference, for the most part, to the rich, the great, the moral: for it is found, in ten thousand instances, that "publicans and harlots enter into the kingdom before the specious and self-righteous Pharisees.” The man who sees no mystery here, only betrays his own ignorance and stupidity. A man with ever so contracted a view of this subject, must of necessity exclaim, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out?!"]
3. The trials to which the elect are subjected, in their way to heaven
[One would suppose that God's chosen people should be freed from the persecutions of men, the assaults of devils, the temptations of sin, and from all which might endanger their salvation : but God sees fit to give both to men and devils a kind of licence to assault his people; as it is said, “ Ye wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers and spiritual wickedness in high places m.” One would suppose that those whom he has redeemed with the blood of his only dear Son should be free from these things: but, on the contrary, he says, “If ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” One would suppose at least, that from their conversion to God they should be freed from the corruptions of their nature and the power of the evil principle within them. But far different are his dealings with them; and through much tribulation he brings almost every one of them to glory. In all these things he is “both wise and good:” and, however intricate or circuitous the way may be whereby he leads his people to glory, it will be found at last to have been “ the right wayn;" the right way for their benefit, and the right way also for the honour of his own great name.]
1 Rom. xi. 33. m Eph. vi. 12. n Ps. cvii. 7.
Let us yet further contemplate the inscrutableness
of God's ways,
III. In the final issue of all things
How tremendous will be the difference between the states of different men !
[View heaven and all its glory, and hell with all its misery; and consider that both the one and the other will be eternal: and then consider how short the period of time is in which any man is preparing for the one or the other of these states; and how small the distance between their real characters, if estimated by the common standard of the world
Above all, contemplate the youth, who thought he had fulfilled the whole Law from his earliest youth, cast out; and the dying thief, who spent his whole life, even to his latest hour, in sin, exalted to glory!] Is there nothing mysterious in this ?
[Truly, we must acknowledge that these things utterly pass all human comprehension. We are sure that "the Judge of all will do right,” and that the day of judgment is especially appointed “ for the revelation of the righteous judgment of Godo:" but we must wait till he shall be pleased to throw the true light upon his own mysterious ways, and to take the veil from our hearts, that we may be able to comprehend them.] Surely from this subject we may LEARN, 1. Submission
[Your trials, I will suppose, are great. But are they greater than your desert of punishment?
or do you know all the gracious designs which God has to accomplish by them?
“Be still, then, and know that he is God:” and, under the most grievous affliction that can come upon you, learn to say, “ It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth
-] 2. Gratitude
[Look back upon the ways of God; and, however you may have been disposed at the time to say, “ All these things are against me," say whether you have not found that he has brought good out of evil, and given you reason to acknowledge, that his judgments were mercies in disguise? Were you left to yourselves, you would choose nothing but what should be pleasing to flesh and blood: but God consults your best interests, and deals with you, not according to your wishes, but according to your necessities. Be thankful then to him, for having acted towards you as a wise and loving parent, who has withheld nothing that was good for you: and if at any time he have
o Rom. ii. 5.
him good” –