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these governors unavoidable ? And to what sad alternatives have the children of God been often brought, through the enactment of unrighteous laws!
Under temptation from Satan, too, are multitudes reduced to sad extremities! Behold the Apostle Paul, when under the buffetings of Satan; with what repeated cries he pleads with God for deliverance!! Even our blessed Lord himself was so harassed by this wicked adversary, that he scarcely knew what to say, or what to do: “Now is my soul troubled ; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name." And who can tell what thousands have suffered through the devices of this great adversary, and from the fiery darts with which he has pierced their souls'?
Nor must I omit to mention the yet sorer bondage which is sometimes experienced through desertion from God. For wise and gracious reasons, God is sometimes pleased to hide his face from his people, and for a season to appear to them as an enemy and an avenger. Hear the complaint of Heman, in the 88th Psalm: “My soul is full of troubles; and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. 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. Lord, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me? afflicted, and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; Thy terrors have cut me off 8." But hear our blessed Lord himself, from whom all that man could inflict drew no complaint; yet, in the hour of dereliction from his heavenly Father, he poured forth this bitter cry: “My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken meh?” And so it is with many a pious soul, when “ the arrows of the Almighty are within them, the poison whereof drinketh up their spirit; and when the terrors of God do set themselves in array against them.”
In all these instances, then, the afflicted soul may well pour forth the petition in my text: “ Bring my soul out of prison!"]
Yet let me shew you, II. What, in offering it, should be the chief object of
our desireI am far from saying that deliverance is not to be desired for its own sake: for God himself condescends to acknowledge, that, whatever be the ultimate design of his chastisements, “ affliction is not at the present
d 2 Cor. xii. 7, 8. e John xii. 27, 28. Eph. vi. 11, 16. & Ps. lxxxviii. 3, 6, 7, 14–16. h Matt. xxvii. 46. i Job vi. 4.
joyous, but grievousk:” and to require man to be so divested of all personal feeling as not to desire ease and freedom for their own sake, is, in my apprehension, an unscriptural refinement. But, beyond a doubt, we should, in all our desires, have a higher object in view, even as our Lord had when praying for the removal of the bitter cup, yea, and “praying for it with strong crying and tears';” he was content to drink it, that God's will might be done, and his name be glorified". Thus David in my text prays, “ Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name!” This was uppermost in his mind, even when his life was in the utmost jeopardy: and this must always be the most influential principle in our minds. 1. The frame of mind itself is most desirable
[A man possessing a spirit of gratitude and praise cannot but be happy. Under the greatest sufferings, it will alleviate our pain, and enable us to “rejoice under the heaviest tribulations." We see Paul and Silas, when immured in a prison, with their feet fastened in the stocks, and their backs torn with scourges, singing praises to God at midnight: and who, I ask, were the happier, they, or their ungodly persecutors? We wonder not, then, that David, under all his troubles, laid the chief stress on this, as the ground on which he sought deliverance: “ Have mercy upon me, O Lord! consider the trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death; that I may shew forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation "."] 2. Itis that frame by which we most glorify our God
[This frame of mind shews the power and efficacy of divine grace. A man whose soul is thus made free, whatever be the bondage in which his body is held, is “ free indeed." This is the state of mind which is pre-eminently characteristic of the true Christian, who “neither lives to himself
, nor dies to himself; but living, lives unto the Lord; and dying, dies unto the Lord; that, whether living or dying, he may be the Lord'so." In a word, then only do we honour our profession aright, when our one great concern is, “ that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ P."]
3. It is that frame by which we are best prepared for heaven
k Heb. xii. 11.
1. Heb. v. 7.
m Matt. xxvi. 38–44.
[Heaven is a state of incessant praise. The heavenly hosts rest not day nor night from pouring forth their acclamations and hosannahs to God and the Lamb.” And here, we are tuning our harps, and beginning to learn their song. Now, the very
end for which God sends us affliction is, to purge away our dross, and to prepare us for heaven; and therefore we then best answer his design in afflicting us, when we take occasion from our troubles to abound more and more in thanksgiving to our God.
In every view, then, the desire expressed by David, in our text, was that which we ought most to cherish, as most worthy of our holy profession; as being most excellent in itself, most honourable to God, and most conducive to our eternal happiness.] APPLICATION
1. Be thankful that you are where you may offer this petition, with a certainty that it shall be answered
[We read of “ spirits in prison,” to whom deliverance can never come? But you, Beloved, are " prisoners of hope,” to whom mercy may be accorded, not only “ double” the amount of all your desert of punishment, but "double” the amount of all your most sanguine expectations?. Your blessed Saviour came on purpose to deliver you®; and if only you cry to him, “ he will save your souls with a great deliverance."]
2. If you have experienced deliverance, be sure you improve it for the honour of
God[When our Lord healed the cripple, he said to him, “ Behold, thou art made whole! sin no more.” So, if you are brought forth from bondage of any kind, take care not to
use your liberty as a cloak of licentiousness, but as the servants of God'," that ye may run with more enlargement the way of his commandments.] 91 Pet. iii. 19.
r Zech. ix. 12. 8 Isai. xlii. 7. and lxi. 1-3. t 1 Pet. ii. 16.
A STRICT AWARD OF JUSTICE DEPRECATED.
Ps. cxliii. 2. Enter not into judgment with thy serrant; for in
thy sight shall no man living be justified. TRIALS and persecutions are sometimes permitted by God, for the purpose of honouring his people, and advancing his work in their souls; and may justly be regarded by them as a gift from God, bestowed on them for Christ's sake for their eternal good“. But under some circumstances, trials may be viewed rather as judgments from God on account of some iniquity which they have committed. In this light must we consider all the troubles which arose to David in his own family, after his transgression in the matter of Uriah. The evil was unmerited as far as related to the persons who inflicted it; but it was received from God as a chastisement, under which it became him to humble himself in dust and ashes. We are not indeed certain at what time David wrote this psalm, whether when he was suffering under Saul, or when his own son Absalom had driven him from his throne. We are rather inclined to think it was at the latter period, because that affliction was so decidedly a punishment for his former sins, having been predicted by Nathan in that view. But, whatever were the circumstances under which the psalm was written, David viewed them as judgments from God which he deprecated; whilst, as to the immediate occasion, he appealed to God that he did not merit such treatment at the hands of man. In his appeal to God, he had called upon him “in faithfulness and in righteousness to hear and answer him;" but it was only in reference to the evils imputed to him by man that he dared thus to speak : before God he knew he deserved all that could be inflicted on him; and therefore he implored mercy at his hands, as one self-convicted and self-condemned: “Enter not, &c."
These words we shall consider in a two-fold point of view; 1. As containing principles for our instruction
It is obvious that in this address of David to Jehovah the following truths are declared ; 1. That all men are sinners before God[David speaks of "every living man."
every living man." And this is the universal testimony of Scripture, that "there is none righteous, no, not one:” that “ in many things we all offend;" that
every mouth must be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God.” The man who denies this, is said to be
a Phil. i. 29.
a self-deceiver,” and to “ make God himself a liar b.” Job, though not possessing the Mosaic writings, had a deep insight into this truth. He saw that it was the necessary consequence of the fall of Adam; for that our first parents being unclean, nothing but what was unclean could proceed from them. Indeed it was by no ordinary method that Job was brought to the knowledge of this truth. A vision was vouchsafed to him for this express purpose, and such a vision as made “ his very hairs to stand upright,” and “ every bone of his body to shake." And verily a discovery of the corruption of our hearts would produce the same effect on us, yea, and would drive us utterly to despair, if some view of the mercy of God in Christ Jesus were not vouchsafed to us at the same time. This then is the first principle avowed in the passage before us, " That there is no man that liveth and doth good, and sinneth note.”]
2. That all, as sinners, are obnoxious to God's heavy displeasure
[To man in Paradise it was said, “ In the day that thou eatest of the forbidden tree thou shalt surely die.” From that time to this “ the wages of sin have been death.” The whole Gospel assumes this as an acknowledged truth: for, if all were not under the displeasure of God, all did not need a Saviour, nor was Christ a propitiation for their sins.
But if all are sinners, then are all under a sentence of death: since it is written, “ Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them ;” and again, " The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Paul, when ignorant of God's law, thought himself alive: but, when instructed in it, perceived himself to be dead, even as others'.]
3. That all must look for some other way of justification than by any works of their own
[Justification necessarily implies, that a person is not considered as guilty in the sight of God. But all being guilty, they are condemned as sinners; and consequently cannot at the same time be justified as righteous. But there is a righteousness provided for sinners, in, and through, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is on that very account called, “ The Lord our righteousness.” In him the vilest of the human race “ may be justified, and may glory." But in any other way not even the Apostles themselves could be justified h Every man therefore that would find acceptance with God in the last day, must seek “ to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, but the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christi."]
b 1 John i. 8, 10. c Job xv. 14--16. and xxv. 4-6. d Job iv. 12—19. e Eccl. vii. 20.
f Rom. vii. 9. & Isai. xlv. 25, h Gal. ii. 16.
i Phil. üi. 9.