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appointed season assumed our flesh at Bethlehem, was the eternal God; "his goings forth were of old, from everlasting?"]
2. His immutability
[The material creation is formed only as a theatre for the display of the Creator's glory: and, when it shall have answered its destined end, it will be destroyed by fire 8: the Creator will dissolve it with as much ease as a man folds up a garment” for which he has no farther use. But the Lord Jesus Christ will exist for ever. As he is the eternal, so is he the immutable Jehovah: “He is the same yesterday, to-day, and for everh.”]
Not to dwell on a point which requires neither confirmation nor discussion : we proceed to mark more distinctly, II. The aspect of those perfections on the welfare of
the Church In the verse before the text, the Psalmist may be speaking personally of himself, just as Hezekiah' did when apprehensive of speedy dissolution': but in the close of the psalm he indisputably speaks of the Church, and, represents as depending upon Christ, 1. The stability of the Church at large
[The seed here mentioned are the Church of God, the company of the faithful in every agek. It might be supposed that these, surrounded as they are by enemies on every side, must be utterly destroyed: and, in fact, the Church has at times been reduced so low, as scarcely to have, except in name, any existence upon earth. But our Lord has founded it upon a rock; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Other things, however stable in appearance, shall vanish away: but this shall stand for ever and ever! The different individuals are successively removed by death: but children shall be born to God through the instrumentality of his Gospel, and the Church “continue" to the end of time.] 2. The final salvation of every true Believer
[It is a miracle, considering what difficulties the Believer has to encounter, and how unable he is of himself to do even the least thing that is good, that any one should finally attain the promised inheritance. But Jesus lives, and therefore all who trust in him shall live also. In his word he is as immutable as
Mic. v. 2. The same truth is generally supposed to be declared in Prov. viii. 22–31.
8 2 Pet. iii. 10, 12. h Heb. xii. 8. i Isai. xxxviii, 10—14. * Ps. lxix. 36. 1 Isai, li, 6.
in his essence: and“ of that word not one jot or tittle shall ever fail.” “ Never will he leave them; never, never will he forsake them."
“ He is able to keep them from falling;” and, “ Of those whom the Father has given him will he lose none."] IMPROVEMENTIs there amongst you any tempted soul ?
[Methinks some may be in the state of the Psalmist, eating ashes like bread, and mingling their drink with tears
- But let not any one be so bowed down with afflictions, as to say, “ There is no hope." Whilst your Redeemer lives, you have a sure refuge: and, whatever trials you may have to sustain, “his grace shall be sufficient for you" ---]
To those who are maintaining their steadfastness in the Gospel
[We would say, Remember to whom you are indebted for your stability: “He that hath wrought you to this self-same thing is God.” O think, what had been your state times without number, if your Almighty Saviour had not interposed to rescue you from the jaws of that roaring lion that seeketh to devour you and let all your confidence be in him alone ---]
DCLXXII. DUTY OF PRAISING GOD FOR HIS MERCIES. Ps. ciï. 1–5. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is
within me bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases: who redeemeth thy life from destruction ; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies : who satisfieth thy mouth with good things, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle's.
IT is a favourite opinion of some divines, that we are bound to love God for his own perfections, without having any respect to the benefits which we receive from him. But this appears to us to be an unscriptural refinement. That God deserves all possible love from his creatures on account of his own perfections, can admit of no doubt: and we can easily conceive, that persons may be so occupied with an admiration of his perfections, as not to have in their minds any distinct reference to the benefits they have received from him: but that any creature can place himself in the situation of a being who has no obligations to God for past mercies, and no expectation of future blessings from him, we very much doubt: nor are we aware that God any where requires us so to divest ourselves of all the feelings of humanity, for the sake of engaging more entirely in the contemplation of his perfections. Nor indeed can we consent to the idea, that gratitude is so low a virtuea. On the contrary, it seems to be the principle that animates all the hosts of the redeemed in heaven; who are incessantly occupied in singing praises to Him who loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood. By this also all the most eminent saints on earth have been distinguished. In proof of this, we need go no further than to the psalm before us, wherein the man after God's own heart adores and magnifies his Benefactor, for some particular mercies recently vouchsafed unto him. To instil this principle into your minds, and to lead you to a measure of that devotion with which the sweet singer of Israel was inspired, we shall, I. State the grounds we have to praise God
To enumerate all the benefits we have received from God, would be impossible. We must content ourselves with adverting to them in the peculiar view in which they are set before us in the text. We would call you then to consider, 1. The freeness and undeservedness of them
[It is this which gives a zest to every blessing we enjoy: in this view, the very food we eat, and the air we breathe, demand our most grateful acknowledgments. The Psalmist begins with speaking of himself as a guilty and corrupt creature, who, unless pardoned and renewed by the grace of God, must have been an everlasting monument of his righteous displeasure. The same thought also should be uppermost in our minds. We should contrast our state with that of the fallen angels, who never had a Saviour vouchsafed unto them; and with that of the unbelieving world, who, in consequence of rejecting the Saviour, have perished in their sins. What claim had we, any more than the fallen angels? and, if we had been dealt with according to our deserts, where would have been the difference between us and those who are gone beyond the reach of mercy? Let us but contemplate this, and the smallest mercy we enjoy will appear exceeding great; yea, any thing short of hell will
a Deut. xxvii. 47.
a ..] 2. The richness and variety
[The psalm primarily relates to David's recovery from some heavy disorder: and the terms wherein he expresses his gratitude are precisely such as are used by other persons on similar occasions. On this account, in our review of God's mercies, it will be proper first to notice the blessings of his providence. How often have we been visited with some bodily disorder, which, for aught we know, has been sent as a preventive or punishment of sin! (We certainly have reason to think, that at this time, as well as in former ages, God punishes the sins of his people in this world, that they may not be condemned in the world to come4.) And how often have we been raised from a state of weakness and danger, to renewed life and vigour! At all events, we have been beset with dangers, and yet not permitted to fall a sacrifice to them; and been encompassed with wants, which have been liberally supplied. Can we view all these mercies with indifference? do they not demand from us a tribute of praise?
But the expressions in the text lead us to contemplate also the blessings of God's grace. And can we adopt the words in this view? O how great and wonderful are they, if we appreciate them aright! To be forgiven one sin is a mercy of inconceivable magnitude; but to be forgiven all, all that we have ever committed, this is a mercy which neither the tongues of men nor of angels can ever adequately declare. Think too of the corruptions which with most inveterate malignity infect our souls: to have these healed! to have them all healed: We no longer wonder at the ardour of the Psalmist's devotion; we wonder only at our own stupidity. Contemplate moreover the efforts which Satan, that roaring lion, is ever making to destroy us; consider his wiles, his deceits, his fiery darts : what a stupendous mercy is it that we have not been given up as a prey unto his teeth! Look around at the mercies of all kinds with which we are encircled : and mark the provision of ordinances, and promises, yea, of the body and blood of God's only dear Son, with which our souls are nourished and renewed; so that our drooping spirits, like the eagle when renewed in its plumage, are enabled to soar to the highest heavens with confidence and joy. Can we find in these things no grounds of praise? Must not our hearts be harder than adamant itself, if they do not melt at the contemplation of such mercies as these?)
b See how this consideration enhanced the favours which God vouchsafed to David, Ps. viii. 1. and St. Paul, Eph. ii. 8.
c Isai. xxxviii. 17. Compare 1 Cor. xi. 30, 32, with Jam. v. 15
3. The constancy and continuance
[See how triumphantly the Psalmist dwells on thise; and let us compare our experience with his. Has not God made us also the objects of his providential care, by day and by night, from the earliest period of our existence to this present moment? Has he not also renewed to us every day and hour the blessings of his grace, “watering us as his garden,” and
encompassing us with his favour as with a shield?" Surely we may say that “goodness and mercy have followed us all our days;” there has not been one single moment when our Divine keeper has ever slumbered or slept; he has kept us, even as the apple of his eye;" “ lest any should hurt us, he has kept us day and night.
Say now, what are the feelings which such mercies should generate in our souls; and what are the returns which we ought to make to our heavenly Benefactor ?].
Not doubting but that all of you must acknowledge your obligation to praise God, we will, as God shall
II. Stir you up to the performance of this duty
It is the office of your minister to stir up your pure minds“ by way of remembrance,” yea, “ to put you in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth.” We therefore call upon you to praise God, 1. Individually
[This is not the duty of ministers only, but of all, whatever be their age, situation, or condition in life: every one is unspeakably indebted to God; and therefore every one should say for himself, “ Bless the Lord, O my soul!”
If any object, that they have never yet been made partakers of the blessings of Divine grace, we answer, That you have not on this account the less reason to bless God; for the very
long-suffering of God should be accounted by you as salvation;" and if you compare your state (as yet on mercy's ground) with that of those who have been cut off in their sins, you will see that all the thanks which you can possibly render unto God, are infinitely less than what he deserves at your hands.
Moreover, if you have received no signal deliverances from sickness or danger, you have the more reason to adore your God, who has preserved you so long in the uninterrupted enjoyment of health and peace.] 2. Fervently
e Forgiveth, healeth, redeemeth, crowneth, satisfieth.