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2. The blessedness of it
[The joy of the harvestman may be fitly used to characterize the Christian's consolations hereh: but it will convey no idea of his felicity hereafter; for all that here he sought and tasted shall there be enjoyed in its utmost fulness: and if the feast of which the prodigal was made to partake, on returning to his Father's house, was so blessed, what must the banquet be which is prepared for us above! Verily, in comparison of that, the sublimest happiness of man on earth is no more than as a twinkling star to the meridian sun. To attempt to speak of the heavenly glory, is only to “ darken counsel by words without knowledge:” for, what conception have we of the immediate vision of our God in the full effulgence of his glory? or what idea can we form of that throne and that kingdom which we
possess above? Suffice it to say, that all which the blood of Christ could purchase, and all that the love of God can bestow, is the portion reserved for us in the realms of bliss.) BEHOLD, then, 1. How desirable is true repentance
[I grant that repentance, considered without relation to its consequences, is not a pleasing exercise of mind: nor would a husbandman find any pleasure in casting his seed into the ground, if he had no prospect of a future recompence. But both the husbandman and the penitent sow in hope. Each of them knows, that without sowing he can never reap; and each of them expects, that if he “ sow in hope, he shall be partaker of his hope.” Hence the employment is that which each of them affects. But there is this difference between the two: the husbandman is confined to a few weeks for the discharge of his duty, whereas the penitent prosecutes his labours to the very end of life; seeing that there is no day or hour which does not give him fresh occasion for penitential sorrow. He is to go forth bearing " a seed-basketi;” and exactly as the sower, bearing the seed-basket, scatters the seed as universally as he can over the whole field, so does the penitent, every step he takes in the field of life. And whereas one may sow too early and too much, the other knows that he never can too soon begin the blessed work; and that the more profusely he sows, the more abundantly he shall reap: God having ordained, in reference to this as well as to every other duty, that “ he who soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he who soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifullyk." To all then I say, “ Be afflicted, and mourn and weep: let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into heaviness: humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, h Isai. ix. 3. i So it is rendered in the margin of our Bible.
k 2 Cor. ix. 6.
and he shall lift you up!” I say, To all, without exception, would I give this advice; for it is by a conformity to it, under the Gospel dispensation, that every child of God shall be known: “In those days, and in that time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going, and weeping: they shall go, and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion, with their faces thitherward; saying, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten m."] 2. How reconciled we should be to trials
[To the Christian there may be many storms and tempests, or a long-protracted season of distress, which may threaten the destruction of all his prospects: but as, in relation to the wheat, the frost is even desirable to destroy the vermin, so are diversities of seasons beneficial to the spiritual seed: as St. Peter has said; “ The trial of our faith, which is much more precious than of gold, which, though it stand the trial of fire, will perish at last, will be to praise and honour and glory at the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ"." It is remarkable that our blessed Lord, speaking of himself as the true vine, and of his people as the branches, says of "every branch that beareth fruit, the husbandman purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit'.”. It might be hoped, that, since it was already fruitful, it might escape the wounds inflicted by the pruning-knife: but that is not consistent with the will of the great Husbandman, who consults its ultimate benefit in proportion to the prospect which it affords of progressive fruitfulness. So are God's dearest people often most severely tried; and they whose sheaves shall hereafter be found most abundant, are often made to apprehend an entire failure of all their prospects. Consider, thou tempted Believer, how profitable thy trials have been to thee; how they have tended to humble thy pride, to weaken thine attachment to earthly things, to make thee feel thy need of God's continual help, and to quicken thee in thy way to the heavenly Zion: and
“ It is good for me that I have been afflicted; and it is in love and faithfulness that thou hast afflicted me."]
3. How sweet to the Christian should be the thoughts of death,
[Death is as the waggons that are about to carry home the produce of the field, or as those which were sent to bear the afflicted Jacob to his beloved Joseph. The sight of these made Jacob forget all his troubles, and become indifferent to all that he possessed in this world: “He regarded not his stuff, because all the good of the land of Egypt was hisp." So then,
1 Jam. iv, 9, 10. m Jer. 1. 4, 5. n 1 Pet. i. 7. o John xv. 2. p Gen. xlv. 19, 20.
learn to say,
Brethren, let it be with you. Behold the waggons sent to bear you home, whither you shall “go rejoicing, bearing your sheaves with you." Yes, the tears that you have shed have been treasured up by God in his vial”; and they shall be recompensed into your bosom a hundred and a thousand fold. Hear the declaration of God himself to this effect : “ Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord: even so saith the Spirit: for they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them"." Only view death aright, and you will account it amongst your most valued treasures: you will even“ be looking for, and hasting unto, the coming of the day of Christ.” If it “ be unto you Christ to live," doubt not a moment but that “ to die will be gains.” For this is the irreversible decree of God, that “ whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap: he that soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit, shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting":"]
9 Ps. lvi. 8. r Rev. xiv. 13. s Phil. i. 21. t Gal. vi. 7, 8.
DCCXXII. God's MERCY AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO PRAYER. Ps. cxxx. 1–4. Out of the depths huve I cried unto thee, O
Lord. Lord, hear my voice : let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.
IN seasons of affliction, it is a great comfort to see how others in similar circumstances, have found relief. It is in this view that biography is peculiarly interesting ; and Scripture biography more especially, because it is more authentic in itself, and a surer ground for wise and profitable observations. The Psalms are a rich repository of such instruction. David was a man of deep experience. His afflictions, both temporal and spiritual, were very abundant: and, as they are faithfully related to us, so do we see under them the workings of his mind. In the passage just read we see, 1. The means he used for deliverance from his dis
tresses His trials were greatly diversified, and very severe
[Unless it were recorded on divine authority, we should scarcely conceive it possible that a man of David's character should be an object of such inveterate and envenomed malice as he was in the eyes of Saul: and, after the returns which he made to Saul, we should scarcely think that human malignity could ever arrive at such a height, or rage with such unrelenting fury, as it did in that envious and jealous monarch. Of his troubles under persecution David speaks under the same metaphor as that which is used in our text:
- Save me, O Lord! for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing : I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried : mine eyes fail, while I wait for my God. They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head : they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully, are mighty a.”
It seems, however, that on the present occasion he refers to his spiritual troubles, because it is of his iniquities that he chiefly complains, and of forgiveness that he expresses his chief desire. It might be supposed that so holy a man as he should have no complaints of this kind to make : but the truth is, that the more holy any man is, the more enlarged will be his views of the spirituality of God's Law, and the more painful his sense of his short-comings and defects: and it should seem that David was permitted to sustain great anguish of mind on this account, that so he might be the better fitted to instruct and comfort God's tempted people to the very end of time. Hear his complaints under a sense of God's displeasure: “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 b.". Sometimes he was so overwhelmed, that he thought himself altogether an outcast from God, and doubted whether he should ever find mercy at his hands : “ 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?"]
Under all his trials he had recourse to God in prayer
[“ Out of the depths he cried unto the Lord.” He well knew that none but God could support him under all his temporal afflictions, and that there was no other comforter amidst the troubles of his soul. Hence, on all occasions, he betook himself to God in prayer. Under trials from man he says, “ I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.” And under the frowns of Almighty God he still sought refuge in the arms of him whose displeasure he feared: “The sorrows of death a Ps. lxix. 1-1.
b Ps. lxxxviii. 6, 7. c Ps. lxxvii. 7-9.
d Ps. xviii. 3-6.
compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soule !" Thus did Jeremiah also, under his extremities : “ They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me. Waters flowed over mine head; then I said, I am cut off. I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon. Thou hast heard my voice; hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry?!” Thus it is that we also, under all our troubles, should approach our God. Nor should we be discouraged because we cannot find enlargement in prayer : our feelings may be too deep for utterance; and our desires may find vent only in sighs, and groans, and tears : but, if only we be sincere, God will hear our very“ breathing and our cry."]
From the account which David gives us of his prayers, we learn, II. The views of God, from whence he derived his
chief encouragementHe dared not to plead for any thing on the footing of justice
[He was sensible that he in no respect came up to the perfect demands of God's Law; and that, if God should “mark his iniquities,” it would be impossible for him to“ stand;” since there was not an act, or word, or thought in his whole life that could endure so severe a scrutiny. Such is the view which all holy men have of their own infirmities: they know that God
charges even his angels with folly," and that “ the very heavens are not clean in his sight:" how much less can man be pure, who by nature comes from a corrupt source; and, by practice, drinks iniquity like waterb? Job was the most perfect man of his day: yet he says, “ If I should say I am perfect, my own tongue would prove me perverse'.” And every living man must deprecate the being dealt with according to the demands of strict justice, saying, “ Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord; for in thy sight shall no man living be justified k."]
His only hope was founded on the mercy of his God
[Mercy is an essential perfection of the Divine nature, and, consequently, inseparable from God. But the expression, “ There is forgiveness with thee,” intimates, that it is treasured up, as it were, in the Divine bosom, ready to be bestowed on every weeping penitent. We are told, that "it has pleased the Father that in Christ should all fulness dwell;" and that “out
e Ps, cxvi. 3, 4. f Lam. iii. 53–56. 8 Job iv. 18. h Job xv. 14–16. i Job ix. 2, 3, 20.
k Ps. cxliii. 2.