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[Praise is not a service of the lip and knee, but of the warmest affections of the soul. The “ soul, and all that is within you,” should be exercised in this blessed work. As you are to “ love God with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength," so also you are to bless him with all your faculties and powers. You must not however mistake vociferation, and talkativeness, and bodily fervour, for devotion; your expressions of gratitude, even when most elevated and joyous, must resemble those which are used among the heavenly hosts; who “ veil their faces and their feet," or cast their crowns at the feet” of their adorable Redeemer. Not to bless him in this manner, is constructively and really to “ forget the benefits” you have received from him: yea, an utter forgetfulness of them were less criminal than such an ungrateful remembrance.) 3. Incessantly,
[“ Bless, bless, bless the Lord !" says the Psalmist to his soul; shewing thereby that he would have that to be the continual exercise of his mind. Thus should we also labour to have our minds in a constant readiness for this glorious work. We need not indeed be always engaged in the act of praise ; for we have many other acts in which a great part of our time must be occupied: but the frame of our minds should always be disposed for this duty, so as to be ready for it whensoever occasion may call for the performance of it. That we shall feel backwardness to it at times, must be expected: the Psalmist intimates as much, by so repeatedly urging his reluctant soul to this duty. But let us follow his example, and urge our souls, however reluctant, to this blessed work. Let us say with him, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; bless him, bless his holy name!' or like Deborah, “ Awake, awake, Deborah; awake, awake; utter a song!”
Thus to bless God is our privilege on earth : thus to bless him is an antepast of heaven.]
THE GOODNESS OF GOD.
Ps. ciii. 8–13. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to
anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide ; neither will he keep his anger for ever.
He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.
WE cannot form a juster conception of the Deity than from the history of the Israelites. In the mixture of mercy and judgment which is there recorded, we see every one of his perfections displayed in most lively characters". His dealings with us indeed are less discernible: but, the more they are scrutinized, the more will they appear to be regulated according to the counsels of unerring wisdom and unbounded goodness. The words before us will naturally lead us to a contemplation of this subject: and we shall have abundant evidence of their truth, while we consider his goodness, I. Generally, as it is in himselfThe
grace” of our God are chiefly discovered by, 1. His patience in bearing with us
[Had God been such an one as ourselves, he would long since have broke forth in anger against the whole world, and consumed them in his heavy displeasure. But, notwithstanding the multitude of their provocations, he has been long-suffering towards them, and has waited to be gracious unto them. He has borne with many vessels of wrath, that have been daily fitting themselves for destruction d: and has kept mercy for thousands o, who have been continually occupied in casting it away. The description which Nehemiah gives of the divine patience as manifested in his day', is no less realized towards the whole world at this very hour.] 2. His mercy in pardoning us
[God, in infinite compassion, laid our iniquities upon his only dear Sons, and exacted of him our debt", in order that he might exercise mercy towards us consistently with the demands of truth and justice'. And, having provided such a remedy, he delights in extending its benefits even to the vilest of the human racek. Thousands that are now glorified in heaven, and thousands too that are yet compassed with infirmities on earth, can attest, that with him is plenteous redemption', and that he is rich in mercy unto all that call upon him m.]
a ver. 7. d Rom. ix. 22. g Isai. liii. 6. i Rom. iii. 25, 26. m Rom. x. 12, 13.
b 2 Pet. iii. 9.
c Isai. xxx. 18. e Exod. xxxiv. 6, 7. f Neh. ix. 16—21. h Isai. liii. 7. Lowth's Translation. k Mic. vii. 18,
1 Ps. cxxx. 7, 8.
Not to dwell on general views of his goodness, let us consider it, II. Particularly as it manifests itself towards us
It is here more minutely delineated : 1. In reference to his patience
[God will “chide” his people for their sins; nor would he act worthy of himself, if he did not manifest his displeasure against the violations of his holy law". But we must all confess that he punishes neither soon-nor long-nor according to our deserts. Not soon ; for then he would be " always chiding," seeing that we give continual occasion for his displeasure to arise. But he is not extreme to mark what is done amisso, well knowing that if he should contend with us for every fault, we could not answer him one of a thousand P. Nor will he visit us long : if he hide his face, it is but for a little moment?, and if he wound us, it is, for the most part, but a very short time before he binds us up again and heals us'. He will not be always wroth, lest our spirits should faint, and fail by reason of his displeasures. Nor does he at any time “ deal with us according to our iniquities.” Where must every one of us have been if he had entered into judgment with us according to the strict tenour of his law ? Whatever trials we may have been called to endure, they have been infinitely less than our iniquities have deserved"] 2. In reference to his mercy
[This has been boundless in its extent. Who can measure the vast expanse of heaven? Yet such is the mercy of our God, having heights that cannot be explored, and depths that cannot be fathomedy. It reaches, not only to all
but to the utmost extent of their necessities or desires. It is also tender in its exercise. Can any thing on earth afford us a stronger image of tenderness, than a parent striving to soothe the anguish of his agonizing infant? Yet such is the anxiety which God himself feels to heal our wounded spirits, and comfort us under all our conflicts?. It is, moreover, lasting in its effects. Let a straight line be drawn from east to west; and the further it is drawn, the further shall the ends be removed from each other. Thus it is with respect to our sins which he has pardoned: they are put away from us to the remotest distance, never meet upon our souls again, never to be remembered against us to all eternitya.]
n Heb. xii. 6, 7. o Ps. cxxx. 3. P Job ix. 3.
a ver. 17. Mic. vii. 19.
[Sin, of whatever kind, is really directed against him. And shall it appear a light matter to us to offend such a God? See this argument urged by Ezra“; and let every temptation be repelled with this indignant expression, How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against Goda ?] 2. How ought we to fear and love our God!
[It is twice observed in the text, that God's mercy is displayed “ to them that fear him:” and it is manifested on purpose that he may be feared. Let us therefore not despise the riches of his goodness', but improve them for the confirming of our fears, and the quickening of our love".] b Ps. li. 4.
Ezra ix. 13, 14. Heb. viii. 12. d Gen. xxxix. 9. e Ps. cxxx. 4.
f Rom. ii. 4. & Hos. iii. 5.
h Ps. cxvi. 12. and cxlv. 8, 9, 21.
PERPETUITY OF GOD'S MERCY. Ps. ciii. 15—18. As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower
of the field, so he flourisheth: for the wind passeth over it, and it is
gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them.
THE consideration of the shortness and uncertainty of human life is at all times seasonable, and more especially on such an occasion as this; when &c.a — If indeed we had no hope beyond the grave, such a subject would be most gloomy and appalling: but when connected, as in the passage before us, with the unbounded mercy of our God, it is full of consolation to all who are looking forward to the eternal world. But we must have a good hope that we shall be partakers of God's mercy, or else not even the glorious description which is here given of it will divest death of its sting, or reconcile us to the thought of approaching dissolution. Let us then from these words consider,
a The occasion may be stated as for a Funeral, or on New Year's Day.
I. The character. of God's people,
In general terms they are represented as “ fearing God.” This of itself would be sufficient to distinguish them from all other people, more especially as it marks “ the spirit of their minds." A humble sense of his presence, a dread of doing any thing contrary to his will
, and a filial desire to please him, universally distinguish his children: but still they are more clearly discerned by the characters assigned to them in our text: 1. They
keep God's covenant”[This is the covenant which was made with Abraham "; and of which Christ is the surety: he has undertaken to accomplish every thing for his believing people; to expiate their sins by his blood, and to renew their souls by his grace “ It is ordered in all things and sure" This the Believer sees to be exactly suited to his necessities, in that it provides every thing for him, and only requires that he receive thankfully what is thus offered to him freely. This therefore he embraces : “He lays hold on it” as all his hope: and he relies upon it with his whole heart – --] 2. They
“ do his commandments" [They are not negligent of good works, though they do not rely upon them for their justification before God: “they love God's law,” which is written in their hearts: and they treasure up in their minds his precepts, no less than his promises. To do the will of God, to do it universally without exception, and constantly without intermission, is the one desire of their hearts. They would gladly, if it were possible, “ stand perfect and complete in all the will of God,” being "holy, as God is holy," and “perfect, even as their Father which is in heaven is perfect.”]
Such are the objects of God's love: but how shall we express, II. The extent of his mercy towards them
The mercy of God is the great subject of this psalm. In the foregoing verses it is set forth in a way of comparison; (equalling the boundless extent of heaven;) but in the words before us it is declared in a way of contrast with the transitoriness of man's existence upon earth.
Man's existence here is only as the flower of the fieldb Gal. ii. 16, 17.
c 2 Sam. xxiii. 5.