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There is nothing that may not in some view or other be made a ground of praise and thanksgiving. In the text we are led to notice, 1. Those which are general
[The goodness of God, as manifested in the wonderful dispensations of his providence, is that which first offers itself to our consideration. How bountifully does he supply the returning wants of his creatures even while they are continuing in rebellion against him! How marvellously has he preserved us in life from our earliest infancy to this day; and kept in tune, as it were, in the midst of continual shocks and dangers, an instrument of ten thousand strings! With what kindness has he restrained the evil dispositions of men, which, if suffered to rage without control, would produce a very hell upon earth"! As for the godly, they would soon be extirpated from the face of the earth, if the sons of Belial were permitted to execute all that is in their hearts. And who amongst us would not have perpetrated many more evils than he has, if God had not imposed an invisible restraint upon him, and diverted him from ħis purpose o?
But on this occasion we must particularly call to mind the wonders God has wrought for us, in preserving us from domestic tumults and foreign invasions; and in making us victorious, when our allies have been all subdued, or have even combined against us with the common enemy for our destruction. In a more especial manner should we admire the goodness of God in so suddenly disposing the hearts of our enemies to peace, and in bringing the calamities both of war and scarcity to a happy termination.
The riches of his grace are also deserving of the deepest attention. Surely it is not possible to overlook the wonderful work of redemption which God has wrought for sinful man. What shall I say of the gift of his only begotten Son to die for
What of the gift of his Holy Spirit to instruct and sanctify us?
What of all the promises of grace and mercy and peace to the believing soul?
And what of that eternal inheritance he has prepared for us in heaven? Truly he dealt not so with the fallen angels: but to
the children of men" he has communicated richer blessings than words can declare, or that any finite imagination can conceive.
n In proof of this we need only look back to the slaughters and massacres, the rapes and ravages, and all the other horrors of the French Revolution.
o See the instances of Abimelech, Gen. xx. 6 ; of Laban, Gen. xxxi. 24 ; of David, 1 Sam. xxv. 32–34.
p The peace in October, 1801. In lieu of this, any particular mercies, which the season suggests, may be specified.
And should we not praise him for these? If we are silent on subjects like these, verily our mouths will be shut in the day that our ingratitude shall be punished by our indignant God.]
2. Those which are more particularly specified as vouchsafed to “the longing and hungry soul”—
[Under the image of a weary traveller rescued from the deepest distress, and brought beyond all expectation to the rest he had desired, the Psalmist represents a soul hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and raised from a state of despondency to the full enjoyment of its God. Thousands there are who are reduced to great perplexity in the pursuit of heaven. They feel their guilty and perishing condition; but how to extricate themselves from the wilderness of this world, and to find their way to the city of habitation, they know not. Having tried in vain those self-righteous methods of escape which their own reason has suggested, they cry at last to God, and implore his guidance. He, ever ready to hear the prayer of the poor destitute, " reveals his dear Son in their hearts :" he shews them that in Christ is their hope, in Christ is their refuge, in Christ is their security. Being thus led to Christ, their “ longing souls are satisfied, their hungry souls are filled with goodness Who can conceive what satisfaction a soul feels, when Christ is thus revealed to it as “the way, the truth, and the life?" And I wish you particularly to notice how God marks with approbation not our attainments only, but our very desires. “Longing and hunger” are the very lowest operations and effects of grace in the soul: yet does God delight in them, and magnify his mercy towards those in whom even these slight beginnings of what is good are seen.
And is not this a ground of praise? If any who have experienced such mercies “ should hold their peace," methinks Sodom and Gomorrha will rise up in judgment against them. The more we contemplate redeeming love, the more will a sacred ardour glow within our bosoms to bless and praise the Lord] ADDRESS1. Those who never praise God at all
[What enemies are such persons both to their present and future happiness! How much richer enjoyment would they now have of all God's mercies, if they could discern his hand in them, and taste his love! And how much happier would they be in the eternal world! for, can it be supposed that God will bestow heaven indiscriminately on the evil and unthankful together with the good and thankful? Can it be thought that a man who was more insensible of favours than an ox or an ass", shall instantly on his dismission from the body begin to adore q ver. 43.
r Isai. i. 3.
his God, and to join in those celestial anthems for which he had not the smallest taste? No: we must begin on earth the work we are to carry on in heaven: nor can we hope to participate the felicity of the saints, if we have not first cultivated their disposition, and found delight in their employment.] 2. Those who desire and endeavour to praise him
[While some find their hearts enlarged in praising God, we trust there are many who say, O that I could praise the Lord for his goodness! But whence is it that, with a desire to enjoy God, so many spend their days in sighing and mourning instead of in joy and rejoicing? Perhaps they pore over their own corruptions without contemplating the divine attributes : they look at themselves more than at Christ: they consider their own wants; but overlook the Lord's promises: they anticipate future difficulties, without adverting to past deliverances: in short, they cannot praise God as they would wish, because they are forgetful of those benefits which are the occasions and grounds of praise. Let all such persons then be aware of their error. Let them begin this day the important, the delightful, the long-neglected work. Let them unite in praising God for his mercies, whether public or personal, whether temporal or eternal.
To all would we say, in the energetic language of the Psalmist, “O sing praises unto the Lord, sing praises; sing praises unto the Lord, sing praises; sing ye praises with understanding “ Let young men and maidens, old men and children, praise the name of the Lord; for his name alone is excellent, his glory is above the earth and heavenst."] s Ps. xlvii. 6, 7.
t Ps. cxlviii. 12, 13.
DCLXXXIII. God's LOVE SEEN IN ALL HIS DISPENSATIONS. Ps. cvii. 43. Whoso is wise and will observe these things, even
they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord. TO know God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, is the highest privilege and perfection of man. This attainment, infinitely beyond all others, constitutes true wisdom. But to acquire this knowledge, it is necessary that we study well, not the book of Revelation only, but the records also of God's providential dealings with mankind. The Word and works of God mutually reflect light on each other; and the more extensive and accurate our observation is of those things which occur from day to day, the more just will be our apprehension of God's nature and perfections. True indeed it is, that, as far as theory is concerned, we may learn every thing from the Scripture alone: for in the world and in the Church we can find only a repetition of those things which are recorded in the Sacred Volume: but a practical sense of God's love is greatly furthered by The constant exhibition of it which may be seen in his dealings with us; so that we may well say with the Psalmist, “Whoso is wise and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord."
We propose to shew, I. What those things are which are here presented
to our noticeTo enter fully into them, we should distinctly consider the different representations which are here given of God's merciful interposition in behalf of bewildered travellers, incarcerated prisoners, dying invalids, and mariners reduced to the lowest ebb of despondency. But instead of minutely prosecuting those different inquiries, we will draw your attention to the two principal points which pervade the whole ; namely,
1. The timely succour which he affords to the distressed
[The instances mentioned in the psalm are only a few out of the numberless interpositions which God vouchsafes to men in distress : but whatever be the trouble from which we are delivered, it is of infinite importance that we see the hand of God both in the trouble itself and in the deliverance from it. There is neither good nor evil in a city, but it must be traced to God as its author. Whether men or devils be the agents, it matters not; they can do nothing without a special licence from God himself: and hence, when men had plundered Job of all his possessions, and Satan had destroyed all his children, he equally ascribed the different events to God; “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away.” Thus must we do : we
a If this subject were used as a Thanksgiving after a Storm, or after a Recovery from Sickness, the particular circumstances should here be noticed, with an especial reference to that part of the psalm that is proper to the occasion.
must ascribe nothing to chance, and nothing to the creature, except as an instrument in the hands of God. If the folly or malignity of man injure us, or the wisdom or benevolence of man repair the injury, we must look through the second causes, and fix our eyes on God, as the first great Cause of all. If we see not God in the dispensations, of course we shall learn nothing of God from them: but if we behold his agency in them, then will our eyes be opened to see his wisdom and goodness also.] 2. His condescending attention to their prayers
[In all the instances specified in this psalm, God's interpositions are mentioned as answers to prayer : “They cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.” Many, alas! of the prayers which are offered in seasons of difficulty and distress have respect to nothing more than the particular occasion, and are accompanied with no real desire after God: yet even these
God often condescends to hear, just as he did the prayers in which Ahab deprecated the judgments denounced against him. But when the prayers proceed from a penitent and contrite heart, and are offered up in the prevailing name of Jesus Christ, God will hear them at all times and under all circumstances. We do not say that the precise thing which may be asked shall certainly be granted ; because God may see that, on the whole, that would not prove a blessing to the person who asks it: but no prayer that is offered up in faith shall go forth in vain: it shall surely be answered, if not in the way expected or desired, at least in a way that shall ultimately prove most conducive to the good of him that offers it.]
These things being matters of daily occurrence, we shall proceed to mark, II. The benefit arising from an attentive consideration
of themFrom these we shall be led to notice, not merely the agency of God in all the concerns of man, but especially, and above all, his “ loving-kindness" also. This will be seen, 1. In the darkest dispensations of his providence
[God's dearest children are not more exempt from trials than others : on the contrary, they are often most subjected to them. But in this the loving-kindness of God is especially manifest: for by their trials he leads them to more fervent prayer; that prayer brings to them more signal interpositions; and those interpositions fill them with joy, far overbalancing all the troubles they have endured. Let any child of God look