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cities of the plain ; his wonders in Egypt; his judgments on all his own chosen people in the wilderness ; his extirpation of all the nations that inhabited the land of Canaan: in a word, see his dealings either with nations or individuals, and you must come speedily to this same conclusion, that he is a God very greatly to be feared.] 3. What he has taught us to expect at his hands
[He has told us plainly, that “the wicked shall be turned into hell, even all the nations that forget Goda.” He has said, that “ he will rain upon them snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest; and that this shall be their portion to drink.” And what is the feeling which such declarations should inspire ? Even in heaven itself they connect with these views the fear of God; saying, “Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints! Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name?"]
Plain and undeniable as this sentiment is, I will nevertheless proceed, II. To confirm it
Here is an appeal to every child of man; “ Who shall stand before God, when once he is angry?”
Indeed, God is angry with those who are disobedient to his laws
[Of course, we are not to conceive of God as under the influence of such a feeling as we call anger: but he will surely act, in reference to sinners, as men do against those who have excited their displeasure; and this we call a manifestation of his anger. To this effect the Psalmist speaks: “God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword: he hath bent his bow, and made it ready: he hath also prepared for him the instruments of death 4."]
And who may stand in his sight, when once his anger is excited?
[Not even the angels in heaven could abide his wrath, when once they had kindled his indignation against them: how much less, then, can man, who is crushed before the mothe! Shall it be thought that any man is so holy, as not to deserve God's anger? Vain imagination! fatal conceit! “ There is no man that liveth and sinneth not." “In many things we all offend? :” and “ if any man say he hath not sinned, he maketh God a liar.” Even Job himself says, “If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverseh." But possibly it may be thought that God will never proceed to extremities with all the human race; and that, consequently, if we are as good as the generality, we have nothing to fear. This, however, is a fatal delusion: for already is death inflicted upon all as the wages of sin; and on all who die in impenitence and unbelief will his ulterior judgments fall, even the destruction of body and soul in hell.") APPLICATION
a Ps. ix. 17.
b Ps. xi. 6. See also Rev. xiv. 9–11.
1. Let the ungodly, then, seek reconciliation with God
[Indeed, indeed, ye have angered the Most High God, all ye who have lived to yourselves and not to him. But is there no way of reconciliation with him? Yes, blessed be his name! he has given his only dear Son to bear your sins in his own body on the tree, and to effect reconciliation for you through the blood of his Cross. Yes, and he has given to us the ministry of reconciliation, and commissioned us to proclaim, that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." Happy are we, Brethren, to announce, that, however ye may have angered God in past times, ye may yet find mercy with him through the Son of his love. In the name of Christ himself, then, we address you; and in his stead we beseech you all, “Be ye reconciled to God!."] 2. Let the godly forbear to anger him any more-
[Though God will be merciful to his repentant people, he will not spare any who shall live in sin. No: he commandeth “every one that nameth the name of Christ to depart from iniquity.” And so far will he be from overlooking sin in his professing people, that he has declared, “ His judgments shall begin with themk:” “You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities!.” Presume not, then, upon your being in his favour, as though that would preserve you from his judgments : for I tell you, that of all who came out of Egypt, two only were suffered to enter into the land of Canaan : and the only evidence of real friendship with God, is the keeping of God's commandments, and the doing unreservedly whatsoever is pleasing in his sight m.”]
8 1 John i. 10.
h Job ix. 20.
i 2 Cor. v. 18-20. m John xv. 14.
DESPONDENCY DEPICTED AND REPROVED. Ps. Ixxvii. 7-10. Will the Lord cast off for ever? and will
he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore ? Hath God forgotten to be gracious ? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? And I said, this is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.
IT pleases God to deal with men in a great variety of ways: some, in their bodies, experience scarce any pain or sickness till the period of their dissolution; whilst others know little of health or ease through the greatest part of their lives. In like manner, the souls of some enjoy an almost uninterrupted course of peace and prosperity; whilst others are made to pass through deep waters, and to sustain fiery trials during a great part of their earthly pilgrimage. It is of these last that we propose at this time to speak. The afflictions of Asaph were certainly exceeding heavy: and the account, which in the preceding verses he gives of himself, shews, that he may well be considered as a mirror, wherein the Lord's people in all ages may, under their several temptations, behold the workings of their own minds. Scarcely any one can experience a sorer temptation than hisa. When he wrote this psalm, he was brought through ito: but he tells us faithfully, what were his views and feelings under it. He sought the Lord without intermission ; but found no comforto: his very recollections of God's character contributed only to augment his griefa. To such a degree was his spirit oppressed, that he was deprived of all rest by night, and of all power of friendly communication by day; and he altogether sunk under his trouble. În vain did he call to mind the consolations he had enjoyed under former trials', or examine to find the causes of this peculiar dispensations: he thought surely that
a He seems to have been that Asaph who was contemporary with David. c ver. 2. ver. 3.
3, 4, f ver. 5, 6. & ver. 6.
God himself must have changed, and have cast off that character, which, in appearance at least, he had on all former occasions exhibited: yea, his darling attributes of mercy and truth seemed to have undergone a change, and to have assumed an aspect totally different from that in which they had hitherto been viewed".
Happily, however, the snare was broken; and he saw, that these hard thoughts of God had no foundation in truth : they were the result only of his own weakness'; and would be effectually removed by a more attentive consideration of all that God had done for his people of oldk.
His temptation was at its height, when he asked the questions recorded in our text. We shall do well therefore to consider, I. What these questions import
They are not to be viewed as subjects of a merely speculative inquiry, but to be taken in connexion with all that agitation of mind that is depicted in the foregoing context.
In this view they express, 1. Disquieting apprehensions in reference to himself
[He had thought in former times, that he was a monument of God's “ mercy,” and an object of his “ favourable" regard: but now he seems as one cast out, and doomed to everlasting misery. It must be remembered, that interrogations, which in our language would imply a negation of the thing inquired about, have frequently in Scripture the force of affirmations!: and thus it is in the various questions that are before us, in which therefore there is a very strong degree of apprehension intimated. Yet is this feeling by no means uncommon at the present day. Many in a season of darkness are led to write bitter things against themselves, and to account all their past profession a continued scene of hypocrisy and self-delusion. They think that they have resisted the Spirit, till they have utterly quenched his sacred motions; yea, that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and placed themselves, as it were, out of the reach of mercy: and such an unhappy degree of positiveness frequently accompanies these apprehensions, that they read their doom as if it had
been already past, and disregard all means of grace as though it were utterly in vain to use them.] 2. Desponding fears in reference to God,
[He properly referred every thing to God as the one source of all good: but instead of deriving comfort from this, he made it an occasion of increased despondency. And thus it is with many: “ They remember God, and are troubled.” Every attribute of the Deity is brought against them, to aggravate their guilt and ensure their condemnation. Even mercy and truth are regarded by them as arrayed in hostile attitude against them, and as uniting their influence on the side of offended justice. His paternal corrections are considered by them as judicial inflictions, and as the forerunners of yet heavier judgments in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone. His delays in answering prayer are viewed as absolute refusals, and as decisive proofs of final dereliction. Hence their fears are vented in terms similar to those in the passage before us m.]
An apprehension of the true import of these questions will enable us to discover, I. Whence they proceed
Justly did Asaph say, “ This is my infirmity:” and a grievous infirmity it was. Such questions as his arise, 1. From impatience
[There is great impatience in the mind of man, yea, even of good men, and especially under any dark and mysterious dispensation. We are apt to think that God is, as it were, bound to hear us, and to interpose, either for the solution of our difficulties, or the removal of our trials, as soon as we call upon him. We cannot wait his leisure. Like Saul, we think he has forgotten us; and, that our enemies will crush us, before he can come to our relief". Thus David was exercised, as he himself tells us : “ I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes.” To such a degree was he agitated on one occasion, that he declared, it was altogether in vain that he had served God: “ Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency.” And, as for all that God's saints had spoken from the beginning of the world respecting the grace and mercy and fidelity of God, he did not hesitate to pronounce it all a downright falsehood: “I said in my haste, all men are liars." The Prophet Jeremiah, too, cast reflections even upon God himself, as having deceived him by false promises; “ Thou
m Lam. iii. 17, 18. n 1 Sam. xiii. 12, 13. o Ps. xxxi. 22. p Ps. lxxiii. 13, 21.
q Ps. cxvi. 11. VOL. VI.