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hast deceived me, and I was deceived".” Alas! what a root of bitterness is an impatient spirit! and how greatly does it aggravate the calamities under which we suffer! Surely we should leave times and seasons, whether of trial or consolation, unto God, and say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him."] 2. From unbelief
[This is the great source of all our disquietude. If we truly believe that God ordered every thing with infallible wisdom, and unbounded goodness, and an inviolable fidelity, we could never be put into such a consternation as is expressed in our text. We should rather lie as clay in his hands; and leave him to fashion us according to his will, and to put us into as many successive furnaces as he sees fit, and to accomplish his own purposes in his own way. We should have it fixed as an immutable principle in our minds, that though “ clouds and darkness may be round about him, justice and judgment are the basis of his throne:” and under the influence of this faith, we should adopt the language of the Prophet Habakkuk, and say, “ Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall; yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation *.”]
Happily the same authority that points out the source of these questions, shews us also, III. How they should be answered
Would we know what God will do, we should attentively consider what he hath done. We should mark his wonders of old, and observe all the diversified exercises of his perfections towards his people from the beginning of the world, and especially towards the Israelites whom he redeemed from the land of Egypt: 1. How mighty his power!
(When the moment for the deliverance of his people was arrived, not all the power of Egypt could detain them. Difficulties indeed were multiplied, but only for the purpose of displaying more gloriously his power in their behalf. The Red Sea obstructed their flight; but it opened at God's command, and made for his people a passage on dry ground; and then closed again to overwhelm their enemies. Their necessities in the wilderness were such as no human power or wisdom could supply: but this also only tended in the same manner to
r Jer. xx. 7. $ Job xiii. 15. t Hab, iii. 17, 18.
proclaim His might, who for the space of forty years fed them with bread from heaven, and with water out of the stony rock, and caused their garments never to decay. Be it so then, that our difficulties are great, yea, insuperable by human power : then will God magnify towards us his power so much the more, and shew, that still, as in former times, he “ makes the depths of the sea (not a place for his people to be drowned in, but) a way for the ransomed to pass over u.”] 2. How rich his mercy!
[Truly it was not for their righteousness that he brought them out; for they were a stiff-necked people” from the very beginning: and “ many a time would he have consumed them for their iniquities, but for his own name's sake, that it should not be dishonoured among the heathen.” See their murmurings, their idolatries, their innumerable provocations, and then say, whether God's grace be not sovereign, and his mercy infinite? And, if such surmises as those suggested in our text arise in our minds respecting him, let us remember, that he is the same God now as in former ages, and that now, as well as in former times, the very chief of sinners, if truly penitent, shall be accepted of him; and that “where sin has abounded, his
shall much more abound ."] 3. How mysterious his ways!
[In the space of a few months God had brought his people to the borders of Canaan; and yet for their murmuring and unbelief he turned them back into the wilderness, and caused them to wander there forty years, till all that generation, excepting two persons, were swept away. This was most mysterious: yet are we told on infallible authority, that “ He led them by the right way.” In truth, that dispensation has afforded the richest instruction to the Church from that period to the present hour, and will continue to do so to the end of time: and it will be found that his darkest dispensations towards us also are the most replete with instruction to our souls. It is usually those who are most exercised with trials, that know most of themselves, and most of God. Whenever therefore his dealings with us appear strange and inexplicable, let us compose our minds with the reflection suggested toward the close of this psalm, " Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not knowny.”] 4. How sure his promises!
[He had pledged himself to Abraham, that he would bring his posterity into the full possession of the Promised Land: and, though for their iniquities he caused all who came out of Egypt to die in the wilderness, yet he brought their children, who they supposed would fall an easy prey to their enemies, into that good land, and gave it them for their inheritance: and so perfectly did he fulfil his word to them in every respect, that Joshua after many years could appeal to the whole nation, that “not one thing had failed of all the good things which the Lord their God had spoken concerning them; all was come to pass unto them, and not one thing had failed thereofz.” Thus, if the thought arise in our hearts, “ Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore?” our answer must be, “ No:" " it is impossible for God to liea:" “ his promises in Christ are all yea, and amenb:” and “ his mercy endureth for ever"] ADDRESS, 1. Those who are walking in darkness
u Isai, li. 10.
x Rom. v. 20.
y Isai. li. 10.
[There are changes in the spiritual, as well as in the natural world. We must not any of us expect that our sun shall shine equally at all times with unclouded splendour. Notwithstanding we may truly “fear God and obey the voice of his servants, we may yet be walking in darkness and have no light.” But in that state we are directed what to do: we must trust in the Lord, and stay upon our Godd.” The longest night will have an end: and if we wait patiently upon our God," his way is prepared as the morning," which, though the night appear exceeding long and tedious, will come at last e. He may for wise reasons hide his face from us for a time; but it shall not be for everf. Hear his own answer to the complaints which we are apt to make
And know, that though “ heaviness may endure for a night, joy shall surely come to us in the morning ":" if only we wait till the appointed hour, “our light shall rise in obscurity, and our darkness shall be as the noon dayi."]
2. Those who enjoy the light of God's countenance
[O what a privilege, what an unspeakable blessing, is this ! Learn to value it aright: and take care that you do not presume upon
Do not be saying with David, “ My mountain stands strong, I shall never be moved,” lest you provoke" God to hide his face from you, and you be troubledk." A slavish fear is doubtless to be avoided on the one hand; but so is a presumptuous security on the other. The true medium is, to " rejoice with trembling'," and
2 Josh. xxiï. 14.
a Heb. vi. 18.
b 2 Cor. i. 20. d Isai. 1. 10.
e Hos. vi. 3. 8 Isai. xlix. 14–16. h Ps. xxx. 5. k Ps. xxx. 7.
1 Ps. ii. 11.
to unite “ the fear of the Lord with the comforts of the Holy Ghostm.” Be watchful then, that you do not by any unhallowed dispositions “grieve the Holy Spirit”;” but endeavour to “walk in the fear of the Lord all the day longo."]
m Acts ix. 31. n Eph. iv. 30. o Prov. xxiii. 17.
DCXXXI. JEWS AND CHRISTIANS COMPARED. Ps. lxxviii. 8. A generation that set not their heart aright, and
whose spirit was not steadfast with God. HISTORY is universally considered as a source of the most valuable instruction, since it sets before us the actions of men, under all the most important circumstances of life, and teaches us what to avoid, and what to follow. But in this point of view the inspired history is of incomparably greater value than any other, because it portrays the conduct of men under an infinitely greater variety of circumstances than any other history can do, and does it also with far greater truth and certainty. Its importance in this respect is strongly marked by the Psalmist in the preceding context. He calls on the whole Jewish nation to listen to him, whilst he sets before them the dealings of Jehovah with their ancestors, and their conduct towards him: and he charges them to impart the information to their children, in order to its being transmitted through successive generations to their latest posterity; that all might learn their obligations to God, and be instructed to avoid the evils into which their ancestors had fallen : “ that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments: and might not be, as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God.”
With a view to a similar improvement of the subject for ourselves, I will point out, I. The character of that generation
To estimate this aright, we must consider what might reasonably have been expected of them
[No nation under heaven were ever so distinguished by the Divine favour as they. The wonders that were wrought for them in Egypt—their passage through the Red Sea, in which the enemies who followed them were drowned—their being guided by, a cloud which afforded them shade by day, and light by night-their being nourished for forty years by bread from heaven, and by water, which, issuing from a rock, followed them in all their way—their having the Law written by the finger of God himself given them, together with laws and ordinances for the political and religious government of their nation—their having the river Jordan open a passage for them as the sea had formerly done—the seven nations, greater and mightier than they, all subdued before them—the promised land in due time put into their possession; and the worship of God, with all its attendant privileges and blessings, established amongst them—these were favours peculiar to that nation, and elevated them above all other people upon the face of the earth. Respecting their superior obligations to love and serve God on account of these things, Moses made an appeal to their forefathers, which appeal may still be made to their descendants at the present day
Now, I ask, what might reasonably be expected of a people so favoured? Might it not be supposed, that they would love their God supremely, and cleave to him steadfastly, and trust in him confidently, and serve him with their whole hearts? One would think it impossible that they should do otherwise, if we did not know that]
The very reverse of this characterized their whole deportment
[Their whole history from the beginning records one continued series of murmurings and rebellions. In Egypt itself, and within a few days after their passage through the Red Sea—but how shall I recite all their provocations? I must recite their whole history, if I would bring before you the full extent of their wickedness. Now and then they seemed to manifest a better spirit. When they saw all their enemies dead upon the sea-shore, they began to sing praise to their almighty Deliverer: and on some occasions, when he punished them for their rebellions, they manifested some contrition, and promised to amend
But they soon returned to their former habits, and “turned aside like a deceitful bow," which, when promising to carry the arrow to the mark, causes it to drop at your very feeto. At no time did they evince any real desire " to set their heart aright;" and, when they professed any such purpose, they soon forgat their engagements, and shewed, that * their spirit was not steadfast with their God.”] a Deut. iv. 32-35.
ver. 34-37. C ver. 57.