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till their work is done." Not that they are at liberty to tempt the Lord by rushing needlessly into danger: but, if called by God to perform any duty, they have nothing to fear. David's deliverances were numberless, as were those also of the Apostle Paul. Our Lord himself, too, was encompassed for years by those who sought his life: but none could prevail against him, till “ his hour was come.” Weak as his people are, even lambs in the midst of wolves,” none can effect their ruin,“ none can ever pluck them out of his hands.” “ There is an appointed time" for every one of them; and, as they must wait, so must their enemies also wait, till that time is come.] 2. He will come forth to avenge it
God does suffer his people to be assaulted, and to be put to death: but he will call their enemies to a severe account for all that they do against the meanest of his saints. It is said, "He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eyed.” We well know the force of this figure, if but a mote get into our eye: and we may therefore understand from thence how God feels when any of his people are assaulted. He has told us, that “it better for
any man that a millstone were hanged round his neck, and that he were cast into the depths of the sea, than that he should offend one of God's little ones." We see, in the history of David, how Ahithophel suffered for his treachery, and Absalom for his rebellion : and sooner or later shall every man who, either in a way of direct assault or of silent contempt, offends the people of the Lord, surely "give account thereof in the day of judgmente."]
3. He will never suffer it, till he has accomplished his good work within them
[To every one of his people has God assigned his proper work: to some, as to the dying thief, little more is given than an opportunity of confessing Christ: to others, as to Paul and John, are long and arduous labours allotted: but the times of all are in God's hands; and he will enable every one of them to say, "Father, I have glorified thee on earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do f." To his bloodthirsty enemies our Saviour said, “I must walk to-day and tomorrow; and the third day I shall be perfected:” and even to the most potent amongst them we may say, “ Thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above." Men may think they have accomplished their purposes; as when Peter was kept in prison till the very night preceding his intended execution; or as when Paul had been stoned, and left for dead. But “there is no counsel or might against the Lord.” He will make “the wrath of man to praise him; and the
d Zech. ii. 8. e 1 Pet. iv. 4, 5. f John xvii. 4.
remainder of it,” which would counteract his purposes," he will restrain."]
Such being God's estimate of his people's death, we may see, II. In what light we also should regard it,
However we may congratulate souls on their removal to a better world, we cannot but regard their death, 1. As an event to be deplored
[The world little think how much they are indebted to the saints. It is for their sakes that the world itself is kept in existence. If their number were complete, and their graces arrived at the measure ordained for them, we have reason to think that an end would be put to the present state of things, as we know there will be at the day of judgment. The usefulness of some who are in very conspicuous stations is seen and acknowledged: but it is not easy to conceive how much good may be done by the meanest saint, through the prayers which he offers up from time to time. The prayer of Moses repeatedly saved the whole Jewish nation, when for their iniquities God had determined to sweep them all away. And Abraham prevailed, to the full extent of his petitions, in behalf of Sodom and all the cities of the plain. And who can tell what blessings the prayers of God's people have brought on our guilty land, or what blessings may be obtained through the most humble individual amongst them? As a public loss, therefore, I think the removal of any saint may be deplored. As it respects him personally, we may indeed, from a variety of circumstances, be led to rejoice in it; because he rests from his labours, and may therefore be accounted blessed: but as far as the work of God on earth and the benefit of mankind are concerned, his death may be regarded as a ground of general regret.] 2. As a dispensation to be carefully improved
[In the death of a saint, God himself calls upon us to inquire, whether we, if we had been taken, should have been found ready. He bids us to “ work whilst it is day, since the night is coming when no man can work.” He leads us to consider the blessedness of dying in the Lord; and bids us to "be followers of those who, through faith and patience, now inherit the promises.”—I-] ADDRESS
1. Those who make light of death
8 Here the particular experience of a departed saint may be stated as instructive, and his dying advice be specified.
[It is surprising how little effect the death of any saint produces on the minds of survivors; and how speedily any impression wears away. The conversation of mourners assembled to attend a funeral gives us a melancholy picture of the human mind, and of the extreme indifference with which the concerns of eternity are regarded by us. But, Brethren, will death appear so light a matter when we shall have entered into the eternal world? or is there one of us who will not wish that he had laboured far more to prepare for his great account? I pray you, trifle not with your souls; but know assuredly, that one soul is of more value than the whole world.]
2. Those who estimate death according to its real importance
[You well know the true value of life. Its great use is, to prepare for death. Let every hour be pressed into the service of your God. Let every thing be valued according to its bearing on eternity. Above all, let the Saviour be dear to you. It is He who has taken away the sting of death, and authorised you to number it amongst your richest treasures. Through his atoning blood you may look forward to death and judgment with far other eyes than they can be viewed by the ungodly world. You may regard death as the commencement of life, and the very gate of heaven. Only take care, therefore, that in your experience it be “ Christ to live," and then
shall assuredly and that it will " be gain to die."]
DCXCIII. THE GENTILES CALLED TO PRAISE GOD. Ps. cxvii. O praise the Lord, all ye nations : praise him, all
ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth for ever. Praise ye the Lord.
THIS is the shortest of all the Psalms : but it is by no means the least interesting : the energy with which it is expressed abundantly marks the importance of the truths contained in it, and the feelings with which it should be read by us.
The same sentiments are doubtless contained in many other psalms: but to a mind that is rightly disposed, they are ever new: they need no embellishment to adorn them, no eloquence to set them forth : if any man can hear or reflect upon them without emotion, the fault is in himself alone. Let us consider the psalm, I. In a general view
Here is a call to the whole world to praise and adore their God. Those perfections which they are more especially called to celebrate, are,
1. The greatness of his mercy
[Reflect on his sparing mercy. Consider the state of the whole world, which has so cast off their allegiance to God, that “ he is not in all their thoughts” - Consider the inconceivable mass of iniquity that has been accumulating now nearly six thousand years
- and yet we are spared! Once indeed God destroyed the world; but only once. On some few occasions God has marked his indignation against sin; but on very few: an Achan, an Uzzah, an Ananias, have been set up as witnesses for God, that he hateth iniquity: but these only serve the more strikingly to illustrate the astonishing forbearance of our God -- Let every one of us look back
his own personal transgressions, and then say, whether he himself is not an astonishing monument of God's forbearance.
But if we so admire the sparing mercy of our God, what shall we say of his redeeming mercy? What words can we ever find sufficient to express the wonders of God's love, in substituting his own Son, his co-equal, co-eternal Son, in our place, and laying the iniquities of a ruined world on him? Here we are altogether lost in wonder. The idea of redemption is so vast, that we cannot grasp it. We assent to it; we believe it; we trust in it: but it so far exceeds all our comprehension, that it appears rather like " a cunningly-devised fable,” than a reality. We see a little of the suitableness and sufficiency of this salvation; but it is only “ as in a glass darkly;" it is only enigmatically a that we view it at all; spelling it out, as it were, from a few scattered hints, and guessing at what we cannot comprehend. The freeness with which it is offered also, no less surpasses knowledge. By the way in which God himself follows us with offers, and entreaties, it should seem almost as if his happiness, rather than ours, depended on our acceptance of it.
The continuance of these offers, made as they are from year to year to people who only pour contempt upon them, and trample on that adorable Saviour who shed his blood for them,-0! what an emphasis does this give to that expression in our text, “ His merciful kindness is great towards us!”
Should not the whole universe adore our God for this?] 2. The inviolability of his truth
(Were his truth considered in reference to his threatenings, it would be an awful subject indeed: but we are called to notice it at present only in connexion with his promises. All the mercy which God was pleased to vouchsafe to man, he has made over to us by an everlasting covenant, which was confirmed with an oath, and ratified with the blood of his only dear Son. There is not any thing which fallen man can want, for body or for soul, for time or for eternity, which has not been made the subject of a distinct promise. And who ever heard of one single promise failing him who trusted in it? Who ever heard of one sinner rejected, who came to God in the way prescribed ? To the Jewish nation many specific promises were made: Did any one of them fail ? Did not Joshua, after the final settlement of the Jews in Canaan, bear testimony for God in this respect, in the presence of the whole assembled nation, and appeal to them for the truth of his assertionsb? And have not all of you, who have ever rested in, and pleaded, God's gracious promises, been constrained to bear a similar testimony in his behalf?
a See 1 Cor. xiii. 12. the Greek.
Let the whole world then adore and magnify the Lord on this ground; and never be weary of acknowledging, that “ his mercy endureth for ever."]
Let us now proceed to consider the psalm, II. With a more immediate reference to the Gentile
worldThe psalm is in reality a prophecy; and so important a prophecy, that St. Paul expressly quotes one part of it, and gives, as it were, an explanation of the remainder It declares the calling of the Gentiles,
[In this sense it has been interpreted, even by some of the Jews themselves : and we are sure that this is its true import, because an inspired Apostle has put this construction upon it. And are not we ourselves evidences of its truth? Are not we Gentiles ? and has not God's mercy reached unto us? Are not his promises also fulfilled to us? The promise to Abraham was, that " in him, and in his seed, should all the nations of the earth be blessed :” and this promise was made to him whilst he was yet uncircumcised, in order that the interest which we uncircumcised Gentiles had in it might be more fully manifest'. Behold then, we are living witnesses both of God's mercy and truth! His promises are fulfilled to us, yea, and are yet daily fulfilling before our eyes. The blessings of salvation are poured down upon us in rich abundance. The Church is daily enlarging on every side of us. Both at home and abroad is the Gospel
b Josh. xxiii. 14.
• See Ps. cxxxvi. where it is repeated twenty-six times in as many verses.
d Rom. xv. 11. e Rom. xv. 8, 9. where God's truth and mercy are both specified, as illustrated and confirmed by Christ.
i Rom. iv. 11.