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relates either to God or man. Let your enemies, if possible, “ have no evil thing to say of you;” nothing to lay hold of; nothing that shall give occasion for that malignant triumph, “ There! there ! so would we have it." Be jealous for the honour of Christ and his Gospel. Remember that the world, who are blind enough to each other's faults, will be eagle-eyed in discerning yours : while they will make allowances enough for each other, they will make no allowances for you: and whilst they impute each other's frailties to the weakness of human nature, they will impute yours to the principles you profess. Be careful then to “cut off occasion from those who seek occasion against you.” Watch over your whole temper, and spirit, and conduct; that your conversation may be altogether such as becometh the Gospel of Christ:” and “ let your light be like that of the sun, shining more and more unto the perfect day.” In a word, “ be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; knowing assuredly, that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.”
DCCX. THE CHRISTIAN'S CHIEF DESIRES. Ps. xcix. 132, 133. Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto
me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name. Order my steps in thy word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me.
TO many, the Psalms are less interesting than most other parts of Scripture, as having in them a less variety of incident whereon to engraft instruction, as also a less measure of plainness in the instruction they convey.
But, whatever may be wanting in them in these respects, it is more than compensated by the piety of sentiment and ardour of devotion which pervade them all. If other parts of Scripture add more to our stock of knowledge, this produces a more elevated tone of feeling, and, if deeply studied, tends in a pre-eminent degree to bring the soul into communion with its God, and to prepare it for the enjoyment of the heavenly world. Let us but get the spirit of the Psalmist in the prayer before us, and we shall have no reason to complain that we were not amused with curious speculations, or edified with matters of deep research.
Our business on the present occasion will be quite simple, namely, I. To explain the petitions here offered
Two things the Psalmist here implores of God; 1. The manifestations of his mercy
[Mercy is that which every child of Adam needs : he needs it too, not merely for some particular violations of God's law, but for every action of his life : there is iniquity even in his holiest things : his very tears need to be washed, and his repentances to be repented of. Hence he must, from the very beginning to the end of life, and in reference to every moment that he has lived, implore mercy at the hands of the heartsearching God
In this request he sets, as it were, before his eyes all the instances of mercy which God has shewn to his most favoured people from the foundation of the world. We may indeed understand his words as a general kind of plea taken from the wonted goodness of God to others: and then this petition will accord with that offered in another psalm, “Remember me with the favour which thou bearest unto thy chosen; O visit me with thy salvation a !” But there seems here a more specific reference to some particular exhibitions of God's mercy in the days of old; multitudes of which must of necessity present themselves to his mind, whenever his attention was directed towards them. What mercy had God shewn to Adam, in promising a Saviour to him, instead of inflicting on him the judgments he had so deeply merited! What mercy to Abel also, in giving him such manifest tokens of his favour! To Enoch also, in affording him such constant access to him, and in translating him to glory, without ever suffering him to taste the bitterness of death! În like manner his mercy to Noah, in delivering him from the deluge which overwhelmed the whole world beside; and to Abraham also, whom he admitted to all the familiarity of a most endeared friend. These, and many other instances, we may suppose to have been in his mind, when he proposed them to God as patterns of the mercy which he himself desired to partake of.
This is the true way in which every child of God should pray. From all that God has done for his saints in former
a Ps. avi, 4, 5.
times he should take encouragement, and should enlarge his expectations to the utmost extent that the sacred records authorize. God is the same gracious and almighty Being in every age: and what he has done for one he may do for another: and though he may not vouchsafe to us precisely the same interpositions as he did to others, he will, as far as our particular occasions may call for them: and we are enemies to ourselves, if we do not open our mouths wide, and ask all that our situation and circumstances can require.] 2. The communications of his grace
[He desired to be delivered, not from guilt only, but from the power
and dominion of sin also. This desire was without reserve: he wished not to retain "any iniquity,” however pleasant or profitable, or even justifiable it might be in the eyes of an ungodly world. In this he approved himself sincere and upright: and in this, every true Christian will resemble him
But in order to this, he begged to be guided altogether by the oracles of truth. The word of God is the only standard of right and wrong: if we follow any other directory, we shall
if adhere to that, we cannot but fulfil the will of God. This is the constant declaration of God himself; and it accords with the experience of his people in every age. Happy would it be for us, if we would study the Scriptures with this particular view. We are not disposed to undervalue speculative knowledge: but that which is practical is infinitely to be preferred. The Scriptures are given us as a “light to our paths" in general, and as "a lantern” in every particular case when we know not where to place “our feet.” Let us truly seek to be in every thing governed by them; and then, though we be mere fools, as it were, in other things, we shall never greatly erro]
From this general view of the petitions, we proceed, 11. To shew the instruction to be derived from them
Though not written with a didactic view, they convey much instruction, in reference both, 1. To Christian principles
[The union of the two petitions may not improperly suggest to us, that a desire after pardon must invariably be joined with a desire of sanctification also. Were a desire of pardon all that is required to form the Christian character, a Christian would differ but little from those who are gone beyond redemption. Sin must be hateful to us, even as it is to God himself, who cannot look upon it without the utmost abhorrence
Nor is the order in which they stand devoid of good and
C ver. 11.
d Ps. xix. 7. Isai. xxxv. 8.
useful instruction. Mercy is to be sought in the first place. To look for sanctification first, and make that a ground whereon to hope for mercy, would subvert the whole Gospel of Christ. We mean not to say, that we should build such an observation as this on the mere circumstance of the petitions occurring in that particular order; for that circumstance would by no means justify any such conclusion : but from that circumstance we may fitly take occasion to make such an observation which is sanctioned and confirmed by every part of the inspired writings. And we cannot too strongly impress it on the minds of all, that in constructing the spiritual edifice, we must ever be careful to distinguish between the foundation and the superstructure, and to assign to each its appropriate place and office — 2. To Christian practice
[Here the just improvement of the petitions is clear and obvious: they teach us to be humble Christians, practical Christians, consistent Christians.
We should be humble Christians. The manner in which the petition for mercy is expressed conveys an idea of deep humility. It is as if he had said, “Lord, I am unworthy that thou shouldst look upon so base, so vile a creature as I am: well might my sins provoke thee to hide thy face from me for ever: but 0! look upon me, according to the multitude of thy tender mercies.” Thus it is that we should ever seek for mercy. It is impossible for us ever to lie too low before our God. To the latest hour of our lives we should preserve the spirit of the publican, who, whilst he sought for mercy,“ dared not so much as to lift up his eyes to heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner!"
We should also be practical Christians. To think that we can be interested in the mercy of God whilst we are continuing in sin, is a horrible, a fatal delusion. Let not any one entertain such an idea for one moment. Christ's work is finished indeed as it respects himself; but not as it respects us : there is a work to be wrought in us, as well as that which has been wrought for us: and whatever we may imagine about the secret purposes of God, this is revealed as an immutable decree, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord”.
To crown the whole, we must be consistent Christians. To harbour any sin, of whatever kind it be, will prove us hypocrites. " If we regard iniquity in our hearts, God will never hear us," never accept us. The right hand or right eye must be sacrificed, as well as those sins which may be more easily put away
- O let us seek to be “ Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile," and to be “sincere and without offence until the day of Christ !”]
REASONS FOR WEEPING OVER SINNERS.
Ps. cxix. 136. Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because
they keep not thy law. THE generality, if exhorted to labour for the salvation of others, are ready to reply, “ Am I my brother's keeper??” But they who have truly the fear of God in their hearts will be anxious for the welfare of their fellow-creatures. This concern has at all times distinguished the saints of God": and it was eminently conspicuous in David. Repeatedly in this psalm does he declare his feelings on this subjecto; and with peculiar energy in the words before us.
We propose to shew on what account we ought to weep for sinnersI. On account of the blessings they lose
There are many present blessings which men lose by not keeping God's law
[There is a "peace that passeth understanding,” and a "joy unspeakable," that attends the believing in Christ, and the devoting of ourselves to his service. The having all one's lusts in subjection must contribute not a little to serenity of mind; but the enjoying of God's favour, and the light of his countenance, is a source of the richest happiness that mortals can possess on earth d.”
But what peace is there to the wickede? What can he know of the love of God shed abroad in his heart? What comfort can he have in the prospect of death and judgment?]
But the eternal blessings which they lose, exceed our highest conceptions
[The obedient believer has "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and never-fading." There is a crown of righteousness, and a throne of glory, reserved for him in heaven: and he shall spend eternity itself in the immediate vision and fruition of his God.
But can we say this respecting the impenitent and unbelieving? No: there is no admission for him into those bright abodes: “the unrighteous cannot inherit that kingdom ;
a Gen. iv. 9.
b Jer. ix. 1. ver. 165. Prov. ii. 17. Isai. xxxii. 17. f 1 Pet. i. 4.
& 2 Tim. iv. 8.
c ver. 158. and 53. e Isai. lvii. 20, 21. h 1 Cor. vi. 9.