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about him:" not a wall only, that might possibly be scaled, but a wall of fire,” that will devour any who shall dare to assail
“ His very name is,” to the Christian, “ a strong tower,” to which he runneth, and is safe. He sees “chariots of fire and horses of fire all around him;" and in perfect confidence he says, “If God be for me, who can be against me?"
Say, whether such an one be not happy? Hear his triumphant strains, and judge :-“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword ? (as it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter :) nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord k”. If such an one be not happy, where shall happiness be found on earth?]
With an anticipation and foretaste of its eternal bliss
[Such views of God, and such communion with him, what are they, but the very beginnings of heaven upon earth? The believer who can say “ It is thus that I am with my God in this world,” may add, with an emphasis peculiar to himself, “When I awake in the eternal world, I shall be still with thee;" changing my place indeed, but neither my company nor my employment ---] ADDRESS
[Beloved Brethren, has God from all eternity occupied his thoughts about you, and will not you turn your thoughts to him? Delay not. I will not say, Rob not him of his glory: I will rather say, Rob not yourselves of happiness. You cannot doubt the felicity of those who thus contemplate and enjoy their God. O let not the vanities of time and sense stand in competition with him! Look at the worst that befals a Christian, and you shall find him blessed in the midst of all. See him “poor in spirit;" see him “mourning and weeping;" see him “persecuted for righteousness' sake:" in every state he is pronounced "blessed," " blessed," “ blessed." On the other hand, tell me where you will find the worldling blessed under any circumstances whatever. No: “in the fulness of his sufficiency he is in straits." Know for a certainty, that he alone is, or ever shall be, blessed, whom God, the Judge of quick and dead, shall pronounce so. He alone is truly blessed, who has God for his God, his portion, “his eternal great reward.")
k Rom. viii. 35-39.
DCCXXXVI. THE DIFFICULTY OF KNOWING OUR OWN STATE. Ps. cxxxix. 23, 24. Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts; and see if there be any
wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
THE perfections of God are all infinitely glorious; but, like the cloud of fire, they have a different aspect towards the friends, and the enemies of God. Το the ungodly they are dark and terrible; but to the godly they are full of light and comforta. His omniscience in particular is a ground both of joy and terror: in this light David speaks of it in the psalm before us. He represents this attribute in striking colours; he declares that the consideration of it was delightful to himo: but the prospect it afforded him with respect to the wicked was extremely melancholy. Returning however to his own immediate concerns, he improves this attribute to his own spiritual advantage.
From these words we may notice,
There is no man who is perfectly free from sin'; but no real Christian will knowingly harbour sin. The indulging of it could not consist with his salvation. This is strongly intimated in the texts. It is also expressly declared in other parts of Scripture.
[A regenerate person it is said cannot indulge sin". Allowed sin characterizes those who are of the devil': it entirely prevents the acceptance of our prayersk: it entails on a person everlasting destruction! Our Lord repeatedly urges this as a reason for mortifying every sin, how pleasant or profitable soever it be m.] Nor ought it to be esteemed “an hard saying”—
[The harbouring of any sin is a contempt of God's
a Exod. xv. 11.
c ver. 17, 18. ver. 19.
ver. 23, 24. f 1 Kings viii. 46. 8 He intimates that if there were any wicked way in him, he could not be walking in the way everlasting. h 1 John iï. 9.
i i John jii. 8. k Ps. lxvi. 18. 1 Matt. v. 19.
m Matt. v. 29, 30. VOL. VI.
authority": it defeats the end of Christ's incarnation and death": it argues an entire want of sincerityp: it therefore justly brings the curse of God upon us 9.]
There is one thing indeed which renders the consideration of this extremely awful ; namely, II. The difficulty of discerning whether we have
any allowed sin in us or not, The rule of our duty is clear enough; but it is by no means easy to determine how far our experience corresponds with it. This is evidently implied in the solicitude which David expresses for divine aid and direction. It may be confirmed also by many scripture examples
[What ignorance of his own heart did Hazael discover?! James and John little thought by what spirit they were actuateds, nor was Peter aware of his own instability. Paul himself could not venture positively to determine the extent of his own innocenceu. God has declared that no one can attain a perfect knowledge of his own heart] Many reasons might be assigned for this difficulty
[The very best of our actions are blended with sin. Selflove tempts us to view them in too favourable a light: we put specious names on our bosom-sins. Hence it is hard to discern the exact quality of our actions.]
To evince however that there is one way of judging aright, we shall proceed to shew, III. The means we should use for the ascertaining
of itSelf-examination is a duty inculcated in Scripture'. It is necessary for the attaining of self-knowledge. The Christian therefore can adopt the words of Asaph”.—But he does not rest satisfied with his own exertions
[He is aware of “the deceitfulness of sin,” the treachery of his own heart, and “the devices of Satan." Though he rejoices in the testimony of his own conscience, he dares not confide in it too much.
n Jam. ii. 10, 11. 9 Jer. xlviii. 10.
Matt. xxvi. 35. y 2 Cor. xiii. 5.
0 1 John iii. 8.
p John i. 47.
He cries to God to “ search and try him”
[He remembers whose prerogative it is to search the heartb: he reads the word that God may search him with ito: he regards conscience as God's vicegerenta: he looks up for the Spirit's aid and influence. In this way he prays, like David, frequently, and with fervourf.]
He commits himself to the divine guidance and direction
[He knows he shall err if God do not “ lead” him: he trusts in the promises which God has given him in his words.]
In this way he attains abiding peace and confidence". APPLICATION
[Let us all begin the work of self-examination. Let us call in the divine aid with importunate supplications. Let us inquire whether there be not some sin which we indulge, or some duty which we neglect? Let us especially take notice of our " thoughts” Let us not think that inadvertence can excuse our sins, while we neglect the means of discovering themi: Let us tremble lest, through the indulgence of one sin, our religion prove vain at lastk; let us not walk in a way which shall serve merely for a present show, but a way that shall be of “ everlasting" benefit.]
b Jer. xvii. 10. c Heb. iv. 12. d Prov. xx. 27. e Rom. viii. 26. f Mark the text. & Ps. xxv. 9. Prov. ii. 6. h Phil. iv. 6, 7.
i Lev. v. 17. k Jam. i. 26.
LIBERTY DESIRED. Ps. cxlii. 7. Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise
thy name! GREAT are the changes which, from time to time, we observe in the material world; namely, from darkness to light, from barrenness to fertility, from death to life. Such likewise take place in the spiritual world; for men, by the Gospel, are “ turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” Nor is this spiritual change less visible than the other. There are signs whereby we may “ know that we have passed from death unto life," and been “ translated from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God's dear Son." When David penned the psalm before us, he was hid in a cave, and was every moment in danger of being discovered and destroyed by his potent enemy, King Saul. But there was also a spiritual bondage to which he was reduced by means of the persecutions he endured; and hence he offers the petition in my text, “ Bring my soul out of prison!” And for what end did he desire this deliverance ? Was it merely on account of the relief which it would afford to him? No: he had higher and nobler feelings; and was actuated by a concern for God's honour far more than by any personal consideration whatever.
That I may mark this peculiarity in David's experience, I will shew, I. Under what circumstances we may well offer this
petitionIt is not needful that we should be immured in a dungeon, or shut up in a cave, from whence there seems to be no way of escape. We may offer this petition, 1. Under the pressure of unpardoned guilt
[Truly, a soul under the dread of God's everlasting wrath is in a state of sore bondage. All in an unforgiven state are said to be “concluded," or shut up, “ under sin a :" and, in fact, there are no bonds so painful as those which sin has forged for a guilty conscience. Hear David, under a sense of guilt: • When I kept silence, my bones waxed old, through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer.” Indeed, whoever has felt the burthen of sin, and how impossible it is for any but God to take it off, will pant for “ the glorious liberty of the children of God," and rejoice from his inmost soul in that promise, that “the Son, even the Lord Jesus Christ, will make us free."]
2. Under those various trials to which, as Christians, we are exposed
[All are more or less under persecution from man. And what bondage that brings, the psalm before us will abundantly declare. In truth, the embarrassment occasioned to children by their ungodly parents, to servants by their oppressive masters, and to subjects by persecuting magistrates, exceeds all that can be conceived: for, who can draw the precise line between our duty to God and to man, when their conflicting orders seem to render a resistance to the one or to the other of a Rom. xi. 32. b Ps. xxxii. 3, 4. See also Ps. xl. 11, 12.
c John viii. 32, 36.