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taken out of the world before they had attained our age ; and it is to God's gracious care alone we owe it, that we have yet
space given us for repentance," and time afforded us for securing the things belonging to our peace. And how different might be our condition from what it is! We might be so destitute of every comfort, and so oppressed with pain and anguish, that our very existence, instead of being a blessing, might be a burthen and a curse. We all, it is true, have trials of some kind or other; but we all have our consolations also; and those who have most afflictions, have in themselves an evidence, how greatly we are all indebted to our God for that measure of consolation which is given to mitigate our sorrows, and how infinitely short of our deserts is any trouble which is allotted us in this world.] 3. Of Redemption
[But how shall we speak of this ? Who can “comprehend the height and depth of God's love” displayed in it? That God should so pity us as to give his only-begotten Son to die for us! that he should lay our iniquities on him, as our Surety, and thus make a way for the display of all his own glorious perfections in the salvation of man! What shall we say to this? It is love that passeth knowledge." Every part of it is described as far exceeding all finite comprehension. The "riches" of grace contained in it, are “unsearchable:" the "peace” flowing from it, “passeth understanding:” the "joy” imparted by it, is “unspeakable and full of glory.” The whole mystery of redemption, as contrived, as executed, as applied, and as experienced in the souls of men, is so great, that we cannot contemplate it a moment, without exclaiming, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding outa!”]
Having thus briefly touched upon the mercies of our God, let us proceed to mark, II. The sense we should have of them
It is not any slight acknowledgment that becomes us: we should contemplate them, 1. With overwhelming gratitude
[This is implied in the Psalmist's expression, "What shall I render unto the Lord?” It is not a calm inquiry, but the language of a heart oppressed, as it were, with a load of obligation.
A man who can speak calmly on such a subject, nay, Ì had almost said, a man who can speak at all upon it, feels it
a Rom. xi. 33.
not as he ought; it is too big for utterance: as, in a mind overwhelmed with conscious unworthiness," the Spirit of God maketh intercession with groans which cannot be uttered,” so methinks, if we had a just apprehension of the benefits conferred upon us, our sense of them would be expressed rather in a way of silent adoration, than of verbal acknowledgment. We do not mean by this, that men should not sing praises to their God, and tell of all his wondrous works; for it is our bounden duty to celebrate them to the utmost of our powerb: but, in our present state of darkness and ignorance, it is rarely given to men so fully to behold all the wonders of God's love, as to have their organs of vision blinded by the overwhelming splendour of the light: we "see at present only in part:" we “behold things only, as in a mirror, darkly:" as
“ Moses put a veil upon his face” to hide from the admiring Israelites that glory which they were “unable steadfastly to behold,” so God has, in mercy, veiled even his goodness from us, because we are incapable of supporting the ineffable effulgence of his glory. Of what we do see, we must say, with Job, “ Lo, these are parts of his ways; but how little a portion is heard of him! but the thunder of his power” (we may add too, the riches of his goodness) “who can understand?"] 2. With practical self-devotion
[However overwhelmed our minds may be, there must be in us a determination of heart to render to the Lord all the service of which he has made us capable. Our gratitude to him must be, "not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” His love must have a constraining influence on our souls : it must “constrain us no longer to live unto ourselves, but unto Him who died for us, and rose again d.” Every blessing we enjoy must lead us to Him, who of his great mercy and bounty has bestowed it on us: and the consideration of redeeming love especially must animate us to a total surrender of ourselves, in body, soul, and spirit, to the service of our Gode. As, under the Law, the slaughtered victims were wholly burnt by fire upon the altar, so, under the Gospel, must we offer ourselves up wholly to the Lord“ as living sacrifices.” This is nothing more than our reasonable servicef: “We are not our own; we are bought with a price: and therefore we should glorify God in our body and in our spirit, which are hise."]
But let us somewhat more distinctly consider, III. The way in which we should requite them
The example of the pious Jews is very instructiveb Isai, xii. 14–16. c Job xxvi. 14. d 2 Cor. v. 14, 15. e 1 Thess. v. 23. f Rom. xii. 1. & 1 Cor. vi. 20.
[The Jews were encouraged under their troubles to betake themselves to God, and to make vows unto the Most High: and these vows they were required strictly to perform. On paying their vows to their heavenly Benefactor, they presented certain sacrifices, of which they and their families were permitted to partake, in remembrance of God's mercies towards them, and as an expression of their gratitude to him". On these occasions, it was common for the master of the family to close the feast by taking a cup of wine, and drinking of it, first himself, and afterwards all his family in succession; and then to close the whole with a hymn. To this custom it should seem that David refers in other psalms', as well as in the passage before us: and our blessed Lord adopted it as a suitable method of commemorating the wonders of his dying lovek. He took a cup, and blessed it, and gave it to his disciples, that they, and all his followers, to the very end of time, might drink it in remembrance of his blood shed for the remission of their sins!.]
After this example we should pay our vows, and “ receive the cup of salvation," or, as that used by the Jews was called, “ the cup of deliverances”.
[Is it asked, What sacrifice are we to offer? I answer, The sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving m. “The calves of our lips” are far more acceptable to God than all the burnt-offerings that ever were offeredn. And surely the sacramental cup, of which every Believer should frequently partake, may at once remind us of all the mercies we have ever received, and be taken by us as a memorial of God's unbounded love to us, and of our unfeigned surrender of ourselves to him. In these expressions of our love and gratitude we should have all the powers of our souls called forth: “ all that is within us should bless the name of our God:” and the entire devotion of ourselves to his service should bear witness to our sincerity before him. Never are we to be restrained by fear or shame: no; we must pay our vows “ in the presence of all his people.” If we are ashamed of Christ, what can we expect, but that he will be ashamed of us? But, “ if we confess him before men, then will he also confess us in the presence of his father and his holy angels.” Here then is the service which we are to render unto God in return for all his benefits: we are to confess him, to magnify him, to adore him, to give up ourselves to him as his redeemed people, to live altogether by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving all out of his fulness, and improving all for the honour of his name. So entirely should we be the Lord's, that " whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do, we should do all to his gloryo."] ADDRESS1. Those who have never yet instituted this inquiry-
h Lev, vii. 12. Deut. xii. 6, 7, 17, 18.
k Matt. xxvi. 27. m Heb. xiii. 15.
[Alas! how many have never made any other use of God's mercies, but to render them means of self-destruction, and instruments of dishonouring their God! Has he given them abundance ? they have employed it in riot and excess. Has he vouchsafed to them health and strength? they have turned these blessings into an occasion of more unbridled licentiousness. Has he bestowed intellectual powers upon them? they have perverted these to justify their evil ways, and to dispute the authority of God. The very Gospel itself they have abused as sanctioning their presumptuous hopes, and as affording reason for dissipating all fear of God's displeasure. Ah, Brethren! what will be the end of these things? “Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people, and unwise ?” How will ye answer it at the last day? When your Judge shall put the question, “What could I have done more for my vineyard than I did ? what excuse will ye offer for bringing forth only wild grapes P?” Do but think of these things, ere it be too late. But if ye will not lay these things to heart, then know assuredly, that, if ye will not render unto the Lord according to his works of mercy, he will render unto you according to your aggravated iniquities.]
2. Those who profess to feel their obligations to their God —
[Examine, I beseech you, the returns which you have made: do they not " fill you with shame and confusion of face?" Are ye not perfectly astonished at your own ingratitude? O! see what need there is to walk humbly before God. But yet, do not despond. Your “God is able to make all grace abound towards you:” and, if you call upon him," he will give you more grace,” even grace sufficient for you, so that you shall be able to “ render to him, in some measure at least, according to the benefits he has conferred upon you." You see how he wrought in David, and in his holy Apostles: and is his arm shortened, that it cannot reach to you? Arise, and bless your God; walk joyfully before him; “ let your hearts be lifted up in his ways:" come, and take the cup of salvation; and, as one great family, hand it round, each, as it were, to the other, that all of you may be encouraged, and all be comforted, and all be strengthened. “ Now,” even now, take the blessed cup into your hands; and drink of it " in the presence of all his people;” yea, drink, and live for ever. And inquire with yourselves, inquire of each other, yea, inquire of God himself, what you can do for him; and let your capacity for his service be the only measure of your exertion.]
01 Cor. x. 31.
P Isai. v. 1-4.
THE DEATH OF SAINTS PRECIOUS.
Ps. cxvi. 15. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of
his saints. THE meaning of these words will be best marked from the occasion on which we suppose them to have been uttered. The psalm appears to have been written after Absalom's rebellion. Most imminent were the dangers from which David had been delivered. For this mercy he renders thanks: and acknowledges, to the praise of his heavenly Protector, that, whilst his own son had sought his life, and instigated multitudes to seek his destruction, God had interposed for his deliverance, and had inflicted merited judgments on his enemies. So precious had God accounted his death, that he would make those to pay dearly who had laboured to effect it: or, as it is said in another psalm, “God had redeemed his soul from deceit and violence, and precious had his blood been in his sight."
From the words which I have read, I shall take occasion to shew, I. In what light God regards the death of the saints
We are not to understand that the death of his saints is pleasing to God, but rather, that he places a high value on them, and that he will suffer none to accomplish their death with impunity. So precious is their death, that, 1. He watches over them to prevent it
(Incessant is his care over his Church; as he has said, “ I the Lord do keep it: I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day b." He assures us that "no weapon that is formed against his people shall prosper." So that, as has been often said, “ God's servants are immortal,
a Ps. lxxii. 14.
b Isai. xxvii. 4.
c Isai. liv. 17.