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faith, giving glory to your Godm." Your divine Master, who has engaged himself for you, would have you to “ be without carefulness." His command is, “ Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication let your requests be made known unto God; and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus n." Only “ cast your care thus on him," and you will soon know, by sweet experience, the force of that appeal which David made to the all-seeing God; “ O Lord God of Hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee!"]
m Rom. iv. 20. n Phil. iv. 6, 7. • Ps. lxxxiv. 12.
THE UPRIGHT AND APOSTATES CONTRASTED.
Ps. cxxv. 4, 5. Do good, O Lord, unto those that be good, and
to them that are upright in their hearts. As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity: but peace shall be upon Israel.
AT the commencement of this psalm, the inspired writer speaks of the Lord's people as secured both by the providence and grace of God. And it is further promised, in the verse before my text, that their trials shall not prevail beyond their strength. But no exemption from trouble is promised them. It is taken for granted, that “ the rod of the wicked shall fall upon them, though it shall not rest upon them.” The wrath of man, like water turned upon a mill, shall come on them with no more force than shall be sufficient for accomplishing God's gracious purposes on their souls: the rest, however menacing its power may be, shall be made to pass off by an opened sluice. Nevertheless, the trouble shall be sufficient to try every man, and to prove the truth and measure of his integrity; the man who fairly meets and stands the trial, being approved, whilst he who sinks under it, or shuns it, shall be deemed altogether unworthy of the Divine favour. Hence the Psalmist his fervent intercession in behalf of the upright, and at the same time warns every man of the danger of declension from the ways of God. The two points for our consideration are,
a Compare ver. 3. with 1 Cor. x. 13. 6 Ps. lxxvi, 10.
I. His encouragement to the upright
His prayer shews what every believing soul may expect at the hands of God
[No one, without constant supplies of grace and strength, would be able to endure the trials with which he will be visited in the path of duty. A man's uprightness may embolden him to ask for divine assistance; but it can never support him without it. The greatest and best of men are weak, even as others, if for a moment they be left to themselves. Hezekiah was in some respects as eminent for piety as any of the kings of Israel: but, when “ God left him to try him," he fella. Even Abraham and Isaac shewed themselves weak in the day of trial; each of them denying his wife, and Abraham repeatedly, through fear of the consequences which an acknowledgment of the truth might bring upon them. The Psalmist therefore prays, “Do good unto them, O Lord;" supply every one of them with that measure of strength which their necessities may require; and uphold them under all the circumstances to which they may be reduced !---]
In fact, the prayer contains nothing which God himself has not made the subject of a direct promise
[With all his believing people God has made an everlasting covenant, that “ He will not turn away from them to do them good;" yea, “ that he will rejoice over them to do them good," and assuredly interest himself in their behalf, “ with his whole heart, and with his whole soule.” God considers his own glory as engaged for his people: and sooner shall heaven and earth pass away, than one who
is truly upright in heart be ever left by him to perish'. The good he designs them may not be of the precise nature that they desire or expect; (as Paul had not to the thorn in his flesh” removed, but grace given him to sustain it:) but, that which is really best shall be vouchsafed unto them; and it shall be imparted to them in the time, and manner, and measure, that unerring wisdom sees to be best for them.]
With his tender concern for the upright, we see combined, II. His warning to the unstable
As for open apostates, no one can doubt their fate;
their last end will be worse than their beginning.” But there are many who secretly decline from God's • 2 Kings xviii. 5.
d 2 Chron. xxxii. 31. e Jer. xxxii. 40, 41.
i Ps. lxxxiv. 11. & Their extremity shall be God's opportunity. See Isai. lviii. 10, 11. h 2 Pet. ii. 20, 21.
holy ways, who yet think that, because they turn not back to open profaneness, they shall “ escape the judgment of God.” Now, These are the persons warned
[" The man who puts his hand to the plough, is not to look back," lest the furrows which he makes disgrace the field'. So “ those who turn aside unto their crooked paths” are persons who, by crooked policy and undue compliances, are labouring to avert the evils which a bold and steadfast conduct would bring upon them -- Such was the conduct of Peter, when, for the sake of pacifying the Judaizing teachers, he constrained the Gentiles to conform to the Mosaic ritual: and had not the reproof which Paul administered to him, in the presence of the whole Galatian Church, produced the desired change, this temporizing Apostle would have destroyed his own soul, and the souls of all his followers. In matters of minor importance we may yield, for the sake of peace, as Paul himself did when he became a Nazarite: but in matters which will in any degree impeach our fidelity to God, must not give place, no, not for an hour.” To benefit others, we may yield: to screen ourselves, we must not yield. Not life itself must be held dear, when an adherence to duty calls for the sacrifice of it.]
Those only who are upright” will have peace at the last
[Those who dissemble with God, and are diverted from the paths of righteousness by that “ fear of man which bringeth a snare," have no real peace in this lifek: for there can be no peace where there is not “the testimony of a good conscience." Much less can there be peace in a dying hour, and in the near prospect of giving up our account to God. But, if we suppose a man to have deceived himself so far as to have prevented any remonstrances from his own conscience, still, the very instant that he shall be summoned into the presence of his God, his delusions will be all dispelled, and he will see himself even as God sees him. Where will his
peace then be? Alas! it will be fled for ever: for in that day none but the true Israel will be approved of their God. All the rest, how specious soever may have been their conduct, be led forth with the workers of iniquity,” and take their portion with the most abandoned of the human race.
In fact, the portion of hypocrites is declared to be pre-eminently bitter', because of the light they have resisted, and the dissimulation they have practised. Let the unstable then know this, and avail themselves of the warning thus given them.]
i Luke ix. 62. k Isai. lix. 8. I Matt. xxiv. 51.
Then let every one see, and be convinced of, 1. The importance of uprightness
[None but the upright in heart can expect any “good” at the hands of God. “ As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways,
“ their own wickedness shall correct them, and their backslidings reprove them." Then only can we be approved of our God, when our heart is right with God. For “the hypocrites in heart heap up wrath ;” and will surely perish, under an accumulated weight of misery.]
2. The necessity of decision
[It should never admit of one moment's doubt, whom we shall serve. Nothing must be suffered to stand in competition with God's revealed will. Sufferings are to be only as the dust upon the balance. So, also, must gains be counted but loss by us, if we would approve ourselves to God. Let us, then, ever be ready to answer our opponents, as the Apostles did: “Whether it be right to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye:" for we cannot but obey him at all events, and execute his will, though every man on earth, and every wicked spirit in hell, should combine against us.
We will, God helping us, be faithful unto death: for then, and then only, can we have any scriptural hope of obtaining eternal life.]
m Jer. ii. 19.
DCCXIX. DELIVERANCE FROM SPIRITUAL BONDAGE ACKNOWLEDGED. Ps. cxxvi. 1—4. When the Lord turned again the captivity of
Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad. Turn again our captivity, O Lord, as the streams in the south.
THE great body of the Psalms was composed by David: but some were written many hundred years before his time, as the 90th was by Moses; and others many hundred years after him, as that before us, which was evidently written after the Babylonish captivity. It relates in the first instance to the delivery of Israel from their sore bondage, and their restoration to their long desolated country: but it is well applicable to that redemption which is
vouchsafed to the souls of men, and which was shadowed forth by that great event.
Let us consider from the passage, I. The deliverance here celebrated
Grievous beyond expression was Israel's captivity. They were treated with the utmost cruelty by their Babylonish oppressorsa: and their sufferings were greatly heightened by the derision with which their pious lamentations were regarded". But in proportion to the greatness of their afflictions was their joy at the unexpected deliverance vouchsafed to them.
1. The feelings excited by it
[Among the captives themselves the joy was so great, that they scarcely knew whether it were a reality or a dream. They were like Peter, when delivered from prison by an angel on the very night previous to his intended execution: “He went out and followed the angel ; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel ; but thought he saw a vision.” All their lamentations were instantly turned to joy: mouth was filled with laughter, and their tongue with singing." The sight of such an unprecedented event filled all the surrounding nations with astonishment, and constrained them to acknowledge that it was the work, not of man, but of God: “ Then said they among the heathen, The Lord hath done great things for them." The Israelites themselves readily concurred in this sentiment; and, on hearing the congratulations offered them, thankfully replied, “ The LORD hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad."] 2. The supplications it drew forth
[Though permission was given them to return to their own land, and every thing was provided for their sustenance by the way, and their assistance at the end of their journey, the Jews saw that there was a great and discouraging work before them: but, as nothing was impossible to Jehovah, they entreated him to perfect what he had begun, and “ to turn again their captivity as the streams in the south.” In the southern or hilly country of Judea there were, as in all mountainous countries, frequent and sudden inundations; which however as rapidly subsided, soon after the rains had ceased; so that, where, but a few hours before, the country bore the aspect of universal desolation, it speedily assumed the most lovely and flourishing
a Ps. cxxxvii. 8, 9.
b Ps. cxxxvii. 3, 4.
c Acts xü. 9.