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both upon the evil and the good ;” and “ though he be high, yet will he have respect unto the lowly: but the proud he will behold afar off.”
In this declaration of the Psalmist we see, I. A truth acknowledged
(God is high, even “the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy b.". “ Heaven is his throne, and earth his footstool C.” “The heaven of heavens cannot contain him d.” “ He dwelleth in light which no man can approach unto; and him no man hath seen, or can see e." His greatness is displayed in all the works of creation, which sprang into existence at his command ?
- In all the works of Providence, also, is it manifested & ; for “ in him all things live, and move, and have their being h"
We may say, then, respecting him, that “ He is great, and greatly to be feared; and that his greatness is unsearchable i."]
This truth being unquestionable, let us consider, II. The proper bearing of it on the different classes
of mankindBecause of the greatness of the divine Majesty, both good men and wicked, though on different principles, imagine, that he will not condescend to notice them; the good, from a sense of their own unworthiness; and the wicked, from an idea that it would derogate from God's honour to concern himself about the affairs of men. But he will notice, and in a way suited to the characters of each, 1. “ The lowly”—
[As David, in reference to the temple which he desired to build, said, “Will God in very deed dwell with man on the earth ?” so persons under a sense of their own sinfulness are often ready to think that God will never listen to their prayer, or deign in any way to notice them k
But greatly are they mistaken: for “ though the Lord be high, yet will he have respect unto the lowly;" yea, if there were but one contrite soul in the universe, God would look through all the shining
a This part of the subject, though essential to a just view of the whole, should be passed over very briefly ; the bearing of it being the main point to be insisted on.
b Isai. lvii. 15. c Isai. lxvi. 1. d 1 Kings viii. 27. e 1 Tim. vi. 16.
f and 8— These are opened at great length by God himself, Job xxxviii. to xli. But the bare mention of the passage will be sufficient. h Acts xvii. 28.
i Ps. cxlv, 3. k Ps. viii. 4. VOL. VI.
ranks of angels that surround his throne, to behold that favoured object: nay, more ; he would come down from the highest heavens to visit and revive him. He would even make that man's bosom his habitation. And though the man's state on earth were so abject, that he had no better place whereon to rest his weary limbs than "a dunghill, yet would God raise him from thence, to set him among the princes in his kingdom!." Such respect would God shew him, that his every prayer should be heard, and his every desire, so far as it was for his good, be granted m. The very sighs of such an one would be as music in the ears of the Most High God; and “his every tear be treasured up in Jehovah's vials”,” as a most valued monument of his creature's love.] 2. “ The proud”
[Such are they who have no consciousness of their ill desert, no deep contrition on account of it ---These, from a mistaken view of the divine Majesty, are ready to exclude Jehovah from the concerns of this lower world, as though they were beneath his notice. Whereas, there is nothing great or small in the eyes of Jehovah ; nor is it any more degradation to him to attend to the concerns of the smallest insect that floats invisibly in the air, than to the affairs of the mightiest empire upon earth. But, in fact, these persons wish to be from under the cognizance of the Most High: they have no desire that he should inspect their hearts, or interfere in any of their concerns. But God takes notice of them and of their ways, no less than the ways of others; and records in the book of his remembrance all their proud thoughts, and their atheistical imaginations. “He knows them afar off," with holy indignation. No access have they to him; no gracious communications from him. “ The lowly” can say, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” But not so “the proud.” They may come, like the Pharisee, to the very altar of God, to tell God how good they are; but it is the selfabasing Publican alone that goes away justified, or receives any tokens of God's approval. In death, too, the proud will be left, if not a prey to terror, yet, at all events, without any sense of redeeming love, or any foretaste of that blessedness which is the exclusive portion of the contrite and believing soul. And, O! what will be his reception in the eternal world? There, indeed, will God “know him afar off,” and dismiss him from his presence with that indignant reproof, “ Depart from me : I never knew thee, thou worker of iniquity P." APPLICATION
1. Look well to your own character, as before God1 Ps. cxiii. 4-8. m Ps. cxlv. 19. n Ps. lvi. 8. Zeph. i. 12.
P Matt. vii. 23.
[It is not by your outward actions merely that you will be judged at the last day, but by the dispositions and habits of your mind. He that stands high in his own estimation will be proportionably low in God's esteem; whilst the lowly will be approved of God, in proportion as he is abased in his own eyesų. The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican sufficiently evinces this. The one had made great attainments in religion, and was free from every thing that could be a subject of selfreproach; whilst the other had shewn no attention whatever to religion, and had probably committed many great evils: yet the one, being penitent, was accepted; and the other, being unhumbled, was dismissed with utter disapprobation and abhorrence. I would, therefore, particularly entreat you to examine to which of the two, in the habit of your mind, you are assimilated. And I would have you also carefully to distinguish between the spirit of a creature and the feelings of a sinner: for there are many who have a consciousness of their insignificance as creatures, whilst they have very little sense of their guiltiness as sinners; and hence are looking for acceptance through their own works, instead of relying simply and altogether upon the Lord Jesus Christ. I say again, This will enter deeply into God's estimate of your character at the last day; and, therefore, it must form a most essential part of your inquiry into your own state at this time.]
2. Expect that God's dealings with you will be in perfect accordance with it
[To all eternity will the declaration in my text be fulfilled. There will be no bounds to “ the respect that shall be paid to the lowly” at the day of judgment. They shall be owned by that Saviour in whom they had believed; and be placed on his right hand, as distinguished monuments of his favour. To heaven itself also shall they be exalted, as heirs of the Saviour's kingdom, and as partners of his throne for ever and ever. On the other hand, most tremendous will be the aspect of the Saviour's countenance towards the proud, impenitent, and unhumbled sinners. They have despised him, and all the wonders of his love; and now, they themselves shall be banished from his presence with righteous scorn and contempt. They were too good in their own estimation to flee to him for mercy : and now they shall have no part in his salvation, nor any other doom than what their own works have merited. Would to God that the contemners of the Gospel salvation would consider this, ere it be too late! The great and glorious “God willeth not the death of any sinner, but rather that he would turn from his wickedness, and live;" nor is there a creature in the universe
q Luke xiv. 11.
whom he would not most gladly receive to mercy. But he will never depart from what he has spoken, that “ whoso covereth his sins, shall not prosper; but that he who confesseth and forsaketh them, shall have mercy."]
GOD's CARE OF HIS PEOPLE. Ps. cxxxviii. 8. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.
THE deeper doctrines of our holy religion, if made a matter of controversy and disputation, are very unprofitable ; but, as experienced in the soul, they are a source of the richest consolation. David, under the persecutions of Saul, stood in need of consolation; and he found it in the consideration of God's power and faithfulness. He was at this time in great trou. ble. But, in the full confidence that God would take care of him, he said, “ Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me."
Let us, for our own improvement of these words, consider, 1. The confidence here expressed
Let us notice it,
[In their primary sense, the words refer to David's final establishment on the throne of Israel. But the whole psalm shews that he had a further view to his spiritual and eternal interests. In reference to his temporal advancement, his confidence was well-founded. God had promised to him the throne of Israel. The only question, therefore, for him to settle in his own mind, was, whether God was able to effect his promised mercy. But here he could have no doubt. True it was, that Saul laboured with all his might for his destruction : but it was not possible for man to thwart the purposes of the Almighty; and therefore, relying on the power and faithfulness of Jehovah, he dismissed all fear, and assured himself of a happy and successful issue to his afflictions. In reference to his eternal welfare, it was equally just. God had “ made with him an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and surea." This covenant
a 2 Sam. xxiii. 5.
comprehended every thing for body and for soul, for time and for eternity. Could it be supposed that God should ever violate his own engagements, or be incapacitated through the power or subtlety of men or devils for the fulfilment of them? In spite of all the efforts of Saul, and all the devices of the wicked one, they had been accomplished hitherto; and there was no reason to fear that “one jot or tittle of his word should ever fail."] 2. In reference to ourselves
[We have the same difficulties to contend with as he. We have not indeed a human enemy, pursuing us unto death: but we have a more formidable enemy, even “ Satan, who, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking,” by every means within his power,
to devour usb." Thousands are in league with him on every side; and within our own bosoms are there enemies innumerable, who are ready to betray us. According to human appearances, our escape is impossible. But we may, notwithstanding all, possess the fullest confidence of a triumphant issue. Our grounds of confidence, also, are the same as his. The covenant of grace is made with us, and with the Lord Jesus Christ in our behalf. In that covenant, God undertakes for us, as well as for himself: he engages that “ he will not depart from us to do us good; and that he will put his fear in our hearts, that we may not depart from himo. Now we may well say, “ If God be for us, who can be against us?” That He should change, is impossible; for “ He is a God that changeth not ." And, because we are apt to doubt his veracity, he has confirmed his promise with an oath, “ that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before use.” On these grounds, therefore, we may with the holy Apostle, " be confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in us will perform it till the day of Christ'."]
But let us further mark,
It should lead us to precisely the same spirit as he manifested: with a view to which, I would say, 1. Look for progress in the Divine life
[David looked to God to “perfect all that concerned him." So should we, also, “ go on unto perfection.” We should never count ourselves to have attained, as long as any thing remains to be attained. Whatever progress we may have already made, we should“ forget the things which are behind, and reach forth
d Mal. iii. 6.
b 1 Pet. v. 8.
c Jer. xxxii. 40.