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bondage, and invested with all the blessings of an eternal inheritance
“From all other lords that have had dominion over us,” we should now turn to serve the Lord, even that adorable Saviour who has made us free; yea, we should “serve him with a willing heart "," "coming into his presence," and walking constantly before him, as his redeemed people. Our sighs and tears should all be put away; and we should “sing unto the Lord a new song, as full of joy, for the marvellous things which he has done." I mean not to say, that there should be no times for humiliation and contrition; for such seasons will be needed, even to our dying hour. But the more abiding frame of our minds should be joy; as it is said, “Rejoice evermore:” “Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice."]
We may next observe,
[The Lord whom we serve is no other than Jehovah, the only true God. Yes, though in his human nature he has died for us, in his divine nature he is the Most High over all,“ God blessed for ever.” Prophets and Apostles bear ample testimony to this a: “ Know it,” therefore; and let it be treasured up in your minds as a ground of unutterable joy --- And, whilst you contemplate his excellency, remember especially your obligations to him: "It is He who hath made us, and not we ourselves.” As crcatures merely, it is unnecessary to say we have not made ourselves. It is in reference to our new creation, as the people of God, that these words must be understood; and in this sense they contain a most important truth. We suppose that you are become the people of God, and the sheep of his pasture. But who sought you out in your derings? Who brought you home to the fold of Christ? Who feeds you yet daily in green pastures? Who protects you from all your enemies? Who is the one source of all that you enjoy? Can it in any measure be ascribed to yourselves? Have you wrought it by any power of your own? or have you merited that it should be wrought for you? No: “ He that hath wrought you to this self-same thing is God: and he has done it, not for your righteousness sake, but for the glory of his own great name.” It is “He who has made you to differ” from those who are yet far off from him; and "
have nothing, which you have not received" as a free gift from him.
Say, then, whether you have not reason to rejoice, and to serve your God with joyfulness and gladness of heart.") As we proceed in the psalm, we find, 1 Chron. xxviii. 9.
c Ps. xcviii. 1. d Isai. xlv. 21, 22. Rom. ix. 5.
e 1 Cor. iv. 7. f Deut. xxviii. 47.
III. A further statement of our duty
[Whilst we are filled with joy, our God must have the glory. We must wait upon him in his public ordinances, as well as in our private chambers; and must “enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: we must be thankful unto him, and from our inmost souls must bless his holy name." Indeed, if we duly contemplate his character, and the wonderful things which, of his sovereign goodness, he has wrought for us, we shall find our minds constantly attuned to this holy exercise: methinks, our every feeling will be gratitude, and our every word be praise. This is the return which our God looks for at our hands : “ Whoso offereth me praise, glorifieth me.” It is a better sacrifice than all the cattle upon a thousand hills8 ; and in the name of Jesus, our great Redeemer, we should be offering it continually, to the latest hour of our livesh. The inanimate and the brute creation praise their God: but we should bless him'.”]
We find also, IV, Additional grounds for the performance of it
[The perfections of our God will afford us matter for praise to all eternity. His goodness—who can contemplate it, and not be filled with the profoundest admiration and gratitude? It is seen, wherever we turn our eyes. But O! how is it seen in the gift of his only-begotten Son for a lost and perishing world! Well may we say,
What manner of love is this, wherewith the Father hath loved us !” Think of it, my Brethren: yea, dwell upon it day and night. It is not possible to have your minds too frequently or too intensely occupied with this mysterious subject.
His mercy, too-how inconceivable, both in its extent and duration! There is not a sinner in the universe to whom it will not reach, provided it be sought in God's appointed way: nor shall it be withdrawn from any to whom, for Christ's sake, it has been once imparted. Not but that God will punish sin: as he has said, “If his children forsake my Law, and walk not in my judgments; if they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; then will I visit their transgressions with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless, my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail; my covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips: for once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto Davidk."
What His mercy has vouchsafed to promise, His truth will assuredly fulfil: it shall endure, in its full extent, to all generations; nor shall “ a jot or tittle of it ever fail.”
8 Ps. 1. 8-14, 23.
h Heb. xii. 15.
And now I ask, Is there not ground for praise and thanksgiving? Is it not rather a wonder that any who profess to be his people, can find time for any other employment?] See, then, in this psalm,
1. What is the proper effect of religion upon the soul
[Religion is supposed to generate gloom. But see it in the Psalmist's own experience, and see it in all whom he here addresses. Is this gloom or melancholy? Is it not the very reverse? Doubtless, as far as we deviate from religion, we have need to weep and mourn: but, in proportion as we conform to it, and imbibe its spirit, it will fill us with unutterable joy. What is it that the glorified saints are now doing in heaven? Are they not beholding all the glory of their God and Saviour, and singing his praise for all the wondrous works which he has done? This, then, is religion in perfection: and the privilege of God's people now is, to be assimilated to them, in mind, in spirit, in employment. Be aware of this, my beloved Brethren; and learn, not only to estimate religion aright, but to have it reigning in your hearts, and exemplified in your lives.] 2. How to attain it in perfection
[It is not from ruminating on your own character, so much as from contemplating the character of your God and Saviour, that you are to attain this heavenly joy. Doubtless you must study well your own hearts; else you will be strangers to humility and contrition : but joy can flow only from the knowledge of your God, in all the perfections of his nature, and in all the wonders of his love. Behold then, with increasing earnestness, “the glory of your Lord, and you shall be changed into the same image, from glory to glory, by the Spirit of the Lord.”]
DCLXVII. MERCY AND JUDGMENT GROUNDS OF PRAISE. Ps. ci. 1. I will sing of mercy and judgment: unto thee, O
Lord, will I sing. THERE are many things in the Christian's experience, the precise quality of which he would find it difficult to determine, if they had not been recorded, as experienced by others, of whose piety we can have no doubt. To sing of mercy, and to be resigned to judgment, would appear to most Christians a suitable expression of their feelings under the different dispensations. But David, in a review of his past life, and under circumstances as they existed at the time when he wrote this psalm, declared both mercy and judgment to be equally proper grounds for praise and thanksgiving ; and the repetition of his determination to praise God for them shewed that he spake not inconsiderately, but the deliberate and determined purpose of his mind.
That we may be led to adopt the same pious determination, I will endeavour to set before you, I. The dealings of God with his people,
We should naturally expect that God would act in a way of mercy only to his friends, and of judgment only to his enemies. But towards both the one and the other he sees fit to dispense a mixed lot, reserving the unmixed portion for the eternal world. The ungodly, whilst partakers of some judgments, certainly enjoy many mercies: and the godly, whilst abounding in mercies, are exposed also to some judgments. Some they feel in common with the world at large
[In their bodies, they are liable to pain, sickness, and death, even as others. In their minds, too, they may be afflicted with the loss of friends, with ill-treatment from enemies, with distress in their families, with embarrassment in their worldly circumstances. In these respects, one lot comes to all; nor can we discern God's love towards them by any thing of this outward naturea.]
To some also they are subjected, that are peculiar to themselves,
[The ungodly are not, in general, sensible of any particular tokens of God's displeasure, as arising out of any variations of their conduct towards him: but the saints, who know what it is to have the light of his countenance lifted up upon them, are very keenly sensible of his withdrawment from them, when, by any secret neglects, they have provoked him to hide his face from them: and such frowns from their heavenly Father are inexpressibly painful to their soulb The temptations of Satan, too, to which the ungodly are, for the most part, utter strangers, are sometimes like fiery darts in the souls of the righteous. None can tell what “wrestlings” many a devout soul has “with the principalities and powers of hell:” but verily, those, whose lot it is to sustain them, find them a source of extreme pain at the time. Holy Job, and the Apostle Paulo, yea, and our blessed Lord himself
a Eccl. ix. 1. Ps. lxxvii. 7-9. and lxxxviii. 14–16.
, complained bitterly under these trials'; from which the vassals of Satan are exempt, and to which they only who are his determined enemies are exposed. Nor must I omit to mention the persecutions to which many are called to submit for righteousness sake. Those recorded in the 11th chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews are amply sufficient to shew that they are not easy to be bornes, nor altogether to be avoided, by any who will serve their God with fidelity and zealh. Of course, in respect of the measure of these trials, there will be found a great difference amongst the saints of God: but of some measure, all, in their season, are called to participate.]
But, mixed as these dispensations are, we are nevertheless prepared to contemplate, II. The wisdom and goodness of God displayed in
be sent to the ungodly in judgment; as when “ God gave the Israelites their desires, but sent leanness withal into their souls.” So, in like manner, to his own people he often sends judgment in mercy. In truth, so are we constituted in our present imperfect state, that we could not bear either mercies or judgments, if they came alone. Mercies, if unmixed, would “ exalt us above measurek;" and judgments, if unmixed, would sink us into despondency. A ship needs both sails and ballast, to carry it forward in safety: and so the Christian needs a diversity of dispensations, in order to accomplish in him the purposes of God's grace. God sends them to his people, 1. To form them to the divine image
[The divine image consists not in any one perfection, but in an assemblage of every perfection that can possibly be imagined. So the perfection of a Christian consists not in one grace, or even in one set of graces, but in a combination of all the graces which are suited to a redeemed soul, and calculated to advance the honour of our God. Now, all of these are formed
c Eph. vi. 12, 16. d Job vi. 2-4. e 2 Cor. xii. 8. f Luke xxii. 44, 53. & Heb. xi. 36, 37. h 2 Tim. iii. 12. i Ps. cvi. 15. 2 Cor. xii. 7. twice mentioned in that one verse.