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[Who more instructed than David ? yet he was not ashamed to seek from God a spiritual illumination. The saints at Ephesus were inferior to no Church whatever, in a comprehension of divine truth: yet did St. Paul pray for them, that they might yet further “be enlightened by the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, through whose gracious influences alone they could grow either in knowledge or in grace*. If we look to those of later times, we find this truth acknowledged by all, excepting those infidels who “ deny the Lord that bought them.” The Reformers of our Church have most unequivocally sanctioned the use of these means, and encouraged us to look up to God for "the inspiration of his Spirit,” " that we may both perceive and know what things we ought to do, and also have grace and power faithfully to fulfil the same." Let us not be contented with
any efforts of our own, or any instructions from man; but let us “ cry after knowledge, and lift up our voice for understanding, knowing that it is the Lord alone who giveth wisdom, and that out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding?."] ADDRESS1. To those who are studying the Holy Scriptures
[It is surprising what pains many take to acquire a critical knowledge of the Bible, whilst yet they remain contentedly ignorant of those deep things which none but God can teach. But let me entreat you to seek above all things to behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, even that glory which He only who commanded light to shine out of darkness can make known unto you ---- -]
2. To those who, though incapable of entering critically into the letter of the Scriptures, have yet, through grace, a knowledge of the spiritual truths contained in them
[Blessed be God, there are some amongst us, of whom, though unskilled in human knowledge, it may be said, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.” “ They were once blind; but now they see: “ They were once darkness; but are now light in the Lord.” Be thankful to him who has so highly favoured and distinguished you; and endeavour to walk worthy of him who has vouchsafed unto you this invaluable blessing. If ye be “ light in the Lord, then walk as children of the light” and of the day".]
* Eph. i. 17, 18. y See Collects for First Sunday after Epiphany; and for Whitsunday. z Prov. ii. 1-6. a 2 Cor. iv. 6. b 1 Cor. i. 27, 28. c1 Pet. ii. 9.
d Eph. v. 8.
DAVID'S DESIRE AFTER GOD'S WORD. Ps. cxix. 20. My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath
unto thy judgments at all times. IN general, there is no other connexion between the different verses of this psalm, than the accidental one of their beginning with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet : yet possibly the collocation of them may occasionally have been determined by their bearing upon some particular point. The whole psalm is an eulogy upon the word of God, and a declaration of the love which David bare towards it. And, whilst we apprehend that every distinct sentence was put down as it occurred to the Psalmist's mind, without any particular dependence on its context, we suppose that, in the arrangement of some parts, there may have been a design in placing some observations so as to confirm or enforce others which had preceded them. In the 18th verse, David had said, “ Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy Law:" and in the two following verses, as they stand, he may be considered as enforcing that petition; first, by the consideration of the shortness of his continuance here; and, then, by the exceeding greatness of his wish to obtain the desired blessing: “I am a stranger in the earth : hide not thy commandments from me. My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.” Now, this expression being so exceeding strong, I will take occasion from it to point out, I. The intensity of his desire after the word of God
Often does he say that he has “ longed” for God's word; but here he says, “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath.” To enter into the force of this expression, let us compare his desire after God's word with the desire felt by others in cases of extreme emergency.
a ver. 40, 131, 174.
Let us compare it with the desire of,
[Let us conceive of a deer that has for many hours been fleeing from its pursuers, till its strength is altogether exhausted, and it is ready to faint with fatigue. Let us suppose that its fears are raised to the uttermost, by the rapid advance of its enemies, ready to seize and tear it in pieces. How intense must be its thirst! How gladly would it pause a few moments at a water-brook, to revive its parched frame, and to renovate its strength for further flight! Of this we may form some conception : and it may serve in a measure to convey to us an idea of David's thirst after the judgments of his God. “O God,” says he, “thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee; my fesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is b." “ My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God." “ As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my meat day and night; while they continually say unto me, Where is thy Godd”?] 2. An endangered mariner
[Mariners for the most part are men of great intrepidity: but when ready to be overwhelmed in the tempestuous ocean, they sink like other men. “When God commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves of the sea, the mariners mount up to the heaven; they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of the trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's ende.” Such is the description given of them by God himself. But let us take an instance upon record. When Paul was "sailing by Crete, there arose a tempestuous wind, called Euroclydon;and the ship becoming unmanageable, " they let her drive;" and " fearing they should fall into the quicksands, they strake sail, and so were driven.” Being exceedingly tossed with the tempest, they lightened the ship, casting out with their own hands the very tackling” which they had stowed up for the management of the ship. In this perilous condition they continued a whole fortnight, not having taken during all that time so much as one regular meal. St. Paul, in the immediate prospect of having the ship dashed to pieces, and no hope remaining to any of them of safety unless on broken pieces of the ship, said to them, “ This is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing: wherefore I pray you to take some meat; for this is b Ps.lxiii. 1. c Ps.lxxxiv.2. d Ps. xlii. 1-3. e Ps.cvii. 25--27.
for your health;" he administered to them some bread, and then “ cast into the sea the very wheat” with which the ship was provisioned ; and soon “ the ship ran aground, and was broken in pieces by the violence of the waves?." How must all this crew have longed for safety! How must their “soul have broken for the longing which they had” to escape from their peril! Yet not even this exceeded the desire which David had for the word of God.] 3. A deserted soul
[This will come nearer to the point. The feelings of a hunted deer or an endangered mariner are merely natural : but those of a deserted soul are spiritual, and therefore more suited to illustrate those which David speaks of in our text. See the state of a deserted soul in Job: “O that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! for now it would be heavier than the sand of the sea; therefore my words are swallowed up. For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me." Or take the case recorded in the 88th Psalm : " Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction. Lord, I have called daily upon thee; I have stretched out my hands unto thee. Lord, why casteth thou off my soul? Why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted, and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me offh.” Here we see what is meant by the soul breaking for the longing that it hath after God. And there is in this psalm another verse, which, to one who has ever felt what it is to have an overwhelming desire after God, will convey the true import of my text: “I opened my mouth and panted: for I longed for thy commandmentsi.”
Nor was this a sudden emotion on some extraordinary occasion : no; it was the constant habit of David's mind : it was what he felt " at all times :” “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times."]
I am aware that this may appear extravagant. But we must remember that this expression was not
f Acts xxvii. 14–41.
8 Job vi. 2-4. h Ps. lxxxviii. 6, 7, 9, 14, 15, 16.
ver. 131. This is sadly weakened by Commentators, who interpret it as referring to a person running or oppressed with heat. The sigh of one overwhelmed with a desire after God, expresses the very thing
a poetic fiction, but an argument solemnly addressed to the heart-searching God. And that it was not stronger than the occasion called for, will appear whilst I shew you, II. The reason of his so longing for God's blessed
wordThe reasons that might be assigned are numberless. But I will confine myself to three. He so longed for God's word, because, 1. In it he found God himself
[In the works of creation somewhat of God may be discerned ; but it is in his word alone that all his perfections are displayed, and all his eternal counsels are made known. In this respect, “God has magnified his word above all his name,” and al the means whereby he has made himself known to men k. There he met Jehovah, as Adam met him, amidst the trees of the garden in Paradise. There "he walked with God, and conversed with him as a friend." There he had such “ fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ," and such" communion with the Holy Ghost," as he could never find in any other field, nor ever attain but by meditation on the word of God. Can we, then, wonder that he so longed for that word, and that his very soul brake for the longing that he had for it? The wonder rather is, that there should be a person upon earth who could have access to that sacred volume, and not so value it ---]
2. From it he obtained all that his necessities required
[Did he desire the forgiveness of all his sins? There he found “a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness," a fountain capable of washing him from all the guilt he had contracted in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah. In reference to those very transactions, and to the efficacy of the atoning blood of Christ, he cries, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean ; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow!.” Did he need direction in difficulty, support in trouble, and strength for an unreserved obedience? There he found it all, and from thence derived it in the very hour of need, to the full extent of his necessities. Such were the refreshments which he found there, that corn and wine and oil, and all the delicacies of the universe, could but faintly shadow forth: and thence he derived such treasures as were absolutely unsearchable. Can we wonder, then, that the word of God was, in his estimation, sweeter
k Ps. cxxxviii. 2. 1 Ps. li. 7.