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present all consideration of the peculiarities of religion, I say, seek an honest and an upright heart. Let your minds be open to the reception of truth, and your wills be determined to embrace it. Let conscience act its part, and execute the office of a faithful monitor within you; and let your lives be regulated altogether by its dictates. Let not prejudice or passion or interest blind
you: let not the whole world cause you to swerve from the path of duty. Be bold for God; and serve him, without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all your days.” In a word, “Quit yourselves like men,” and “be faithful unto death." Like Moses, be ready to suffer affliction with the people of God; and in due season you shall, like him, receive an ample recompence of reward.] 2. Seek real happiness
[This also is an object of universal desire. But be sure to seek it in the way in which alone it can be found. If
you sow iniquity, you can reap nothing but vanity:" if you "Sow the wind, you must reap the whirlwind.” God has determined, that “whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap: he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption : but he who soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting m." It is the harvest which repays the husbandman for all his labours. Look ye to that: and know, that “the sufferings of this present life, however great or numerous they may be, are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.” As for appearances of integrity, be not satisfied with them: they cannot but issue ill at the last. “Knowest thou not,” says Zophar, "since man was placed upon the earth, that the triumphing of the wicked is short, and the joy of the hypocrite but for a moment? Though his excellency mount up to the heavens, and his head reach unto the clouds, yet he shall perish for ever, like his own dung; and they that have seen him shall
Where is he n?" “Seek, then, the honour that cometh of God," and the happiness that will endure. Then, when those who laughed now shall weep, you who wept now shall laugh and sing for joy to all eternity] m Gal. vi. 7, 8.
4–7. o Luke vi. 21, 25.
n Job xx.
DCLXV. CHRIST'S ADVENT A GROUND OF JOY. Ps. xcviii. 1-9. O sing unto the Lord a new song, for he
hath done marvellous things: his right hand and his holy arm hath gotten him the victory. The Lord hath made known his salvation: his righteousness hath he openly shewed in the sight of the heathen. He hath remembered his mercy and his truth toward the house of Israel: all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth : make a loud noise, and rejoice and sing praise. Sing unto the Lord with the harp; with the harp and the voice of a psalm. With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord the King. Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Let the floods clap their hands : let the hills be joyful together before the Lord: for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity.
THE Psalms are generally read as the effusions of a devout mind, whilst their reference to Christ is almost entirely overlooked. This, which is now under our consideration, like the 96th with which it accords, confessedly relates to Christ: the very language of verse 3, is used by Mary, Zacharias, and Simeon, in the divine hymns whereby they celebrated his advent in the flesha. It contains, I. Some grounds and matter for our joy
In the three first verses the Psalmist describes in figurative expressions, and in the last verse he expressly specifies, the proper ground of our joy.
The incarnation of Christ seems to be the subject here referred to
[Christ is “ the LORD" Jehovah, “the King” of kings, and Lord of lords, who " is come to judge the earth,” and to exercise dominion, not, like the judges of Israel, over one nation only, but over all the nations of the world. Nor under his government will any partiality be shewn either to Jews or Gentiles; on the contrary, it is administered " with perfect righteousness and equity :” his laws are equally binding on the rich and poor: his invitations are equally extended to the most abandoned sinner, and the most decent moralist: his benefits are equally conferred on all, according to their attainments in holiness; and his judgments will be inflicted with equal severity on the proudest monarch and the meanest beggar. With him is no respect of persons; and whatever difference he may put between one man and another in this life, he will manifest at last, that though clouds and darkness were round about him, righteousness and judgment were the basis of his throne.)
This is indeed a ground for the most exalted joy:
a Luke i. 54, 55, 72. and ii, 30-32..
1. It is the most “ marvellous" occurrence that ever the world beheld
[That God should be manifested in human flesh, in order to redeem his enemies from destruction, and to purchase to himself a church with his own blood! great indeed is this mystery of godliness: it has heights and depths that can never be explored.]
2. It is the one mean of “victory” over death and hell
(Satan, the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air, had usurped dominion over the whole race of man, which he would have retained for ever, if God himself had not interposed to rescue us from our sore bondage. But how should even God himself effect this great deliverance? No way was found, but for God himself to take our nature, and become our substitute. What joy then should not the execution of this plan excite in our hearts!) 3. It opens salvation to a ruined world
[By this was “made known” the way of “ righteousness and salvation” through a vicarious sacrifice: nor was it any longer set forth in types, but“ openly,” in plain explicit declarations; and that, not to the house of Israel only, but " in the sight of the heathen.” How should we benighted Gentiles rejoice in this !]
4. It is the richest display of God's “ truth”
[It was in this incomprehensible mystery that “ mercy and truth” met together, and righteousness and peace kissed each other. When the incarnation of Christ was first promised to the world, it was a most stupendous act of mercy: after that, the accomplishment of it was an exhibition of truth and faithfulness: yea, it was virtually the substance of all the types, the completion of all the prophecies, the consummation of all the promises. Who must not rejoice in it?]
After stating such grounds for joy, we may add with confidence, II. An exhortation to rejoice
The animated exhortation of the Psalmist imports that, 1. We should feel an interest in this great event
[It is by no means sufficient to acknowledge Christ in a mere speculative manner; we should consider ourselves as the subjects of his kingdom, and seek to participate the blessedness of his people. Let us then inquire, not merely whether we
believe that Christ came into the world, but whether we have been filled with wonder at his “ marvellous” condescension? Let us ask ourselves whether “ his right hand and his holy arm have gotten him the victory” over our rebellious hearts? Whether he have made known" to us the sufficiency of “ his righteousness," and the excellency of “his salvation?” and whether “ his mercy and truth” have been magnified in the forgiveness of our sins, and in our renovation after his divine image ? All our pretences to joy will be vile hypocrisy, if we have not experienced, in some measure at least, these triumphs of his love, these victories of his grace.]
2. We should express our gratitude for itWith frequency
[It is not at one particular season only that we should call these things to remembrance, but frequently, yea, continually; since we every moment reap the benefits of Christ's administration. As the fire that burnt upon the altar was never suffered to go out, so neither should the flames of love and gratitude ever be extinguished in our hearts.] With fervour
[With what energy does the Psalmist repeat and diversify his exhortations to rejoice! Shall we then be contented to offer to our Lord a few cold and languid acknowledgments? No: we should make melody in our hearts unto him; we should even shout for joy. What if the world accuse us of enthusiasm? shall we relax the tone of Christian joy for them; or bring down the injunctions of heaven to the standard of their religion? Let the angels or glorified saints be blamed for carrying their exultations to excess, would they regard it, and compliment their accusers at the expense of duty? We plead not indeed for any thing that is extravagant and foolish, but if we can obtain more of heaven in our hearts, and manifest it more in our lives, let us not be afraid or ashamed to do it.] With unanimity
[The Psalmist calls, not only upon all the human race, but even upon the whole inanimate creation, to join in songs of praise and thanksgiving. And how lamentable is it that there should be found a creature upon earth, a rational and redeemed creature, that is indisposed for this exercise! Olet us all be of one heart and mind: let us sing, rejoice, and give thanks : let our harps no longer be hung upon the willows, or struck in commendation of carnal joys; but let them be tuned in honour of our incarnate God; and let us celebrate upon them Messiah's praise. Thus shall even now our joy be unspeakable and glorified, a preparation for glory, an antepast of heaven.]
DCLXVI. GENTILES CALLED TO GLORIFY GOD. Ps. c. 1–5. Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves : we are his the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise : be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting ; and his truth endureth to ali generations.
IN discoursing upon short and insulated passages, we have scope for discussion upon whatever topic may come before us; but, in taking a whole psalm for our subject, we can do little more than mark the spirit of it, together with its general import. In truth, the psalm before us, which is entitled “ A psalm of praise,” requires no particular discussion : it is merely a call to the whole world to render unto God the honour due unto his name. It is obviously addressed to the Gentiles, as much as to the Jews; and may therefore, as St. Paul informs us, be considered, not as an exhortation only, but as a prophecy, that, in due season, the Gentiles, even to the remotest ends of the earth, shall “ see the salvation of God.a”
That we may present the contents of the psalm before you in an orderly way, we would observe that we have in it, I. A call to delight ourselves in God
[We, as Gentiles, are particularly invited to engage in this blessed work. Religion is not a source of melancholy, but of sacred and exalted joy. At the commencement of the year of Jubilee, the trumpets sounded throughout all the land of Israel; and the joy which they diffused no words are adequate to express. The man who, from whatever cause, had parted with his possessions, and sold himself for a slave, was restored to perfect liberty, and to the full enjoyment of his paternal inheritance. What a surprising change to be wrought in one moment! and with what exquisite delight would it be welcomed, by those who for days and months and years had been waiting for it! Such “ a joyful noise should we make unto the Lord,” as persons liberated from the most cruel
a Rom. xv. 9—11.