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have no way
2. The interpositions of his providence
[In arduous circumstances, our way is made exceeding difficult; so that oftentimes we know not what to do: we seem indeed to be shut up in the very hands of our enemies, and to
escape open to us. But it is never in vain to call upon God, who in the very hour of extremity will appear for us, and will rescue us, like Peter, from our prison, when, to all human appearance, there is no longer any hope of escape 9. Still is that proverb realized, “ In the mount, the mount of difficulty, shall the Lord be seen"." Only cry out, like Jonah, “ from the very belly of hell;" and from thence shalt thou be delivered®; and thine enemies, who sought thy life, shall all be turned back. The whole people of Israel, at the Red Sea, appeared to be already, as it were, swallowed up by their powerful and blood-thirsty enemies : but a way was opened through the mighty waters, which became a path to Israel, and a grave to Egypt. And to us also will God still be known, as the God who" maketh the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over 4."] 3. The influences of his grace
[To the latest hour of our lives we shall need the sanctifying and saving operations of God's Holy Spirit: and guide us he will in all our ways, till he bring us finally to the possession of his glory*. His blessed Spirit is still as good and gracious and condescending as ever. He will teach us to do God's will, as well as to know it; and will make all our tribulation a way to his kingdomy, and our sufferings the means of fitting us for the enjoyment of it?.] Let us then LEARN, from this subject,
1. How to judge of our state before God
[It is not by our occasional feelings that we are to judge, but by our abiding taste. You may be fainting, and, in your own apprehension, ready to perish; and yet be in a state of safety before God: for Heman, Asaph, David, and Job, were all under great distress of mind, and were brought, for a season, to the very brink of despair. But if you are longing for a sense of God's favour as your supreme good, and are desirous to know, in order that you may do, his will, you have nothing to fear. You may be in darkness; but “ light is sown for you;” and it shall spring up in due season. Your “weeping may endure for a night; but joy shall come in the morning a. q Acts xii. 6-9. r Gen. xxii. 14.
& Jonah ii. 2. t 2 Chron. xviii. 31. u Isai. li. 10.
x Ps. lxxiii. 24. y Acts xiv. 22. and Rev. vii. 14. 2 2 Cor. iv. 17. Rom. viii. 28.
a Ps. xxx. 5.
2. How to act under overwhelming calamities
[Go not from God, but to him: and the greater sense you have of your necessities, be only so much the more urgent in your application to him. That you may be overwhelmed for a season, the prophet acknowledges: " for even the youths may faint and be weary, and the young men may utterly fall : but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles ; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint b.
Only “ follow on to know the Lord;" and you shall as surely behold the light of his countenance, as the sun shall return after the darkest night. “The vision, it is true, may tarry: but at its appointed season it shall come," and not disappoint the expectations of any creature in the universe who waiteth for itd.)
b Isai. xl. 29–31. c Hos. vi. 3. d Hab. ii. 3.
THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
Ps. cxliv. 15. Happy is that people that is in such a case : yea,
happy is that people whose God is the Lord. TO inquiries after happiness, one answer only can be given. Every thing in the whole creation is forced to confess, “ It is not in me, It is not in me.” It can be found in God alone. The Psalmist's choice was the only one that could be made consistently with true wisdom : “ There be many that say, Who will shew us any good! Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon usa.” The same is the judgment which he gives us in the passage before us. We may, indeed, understand the text rather as expressive of the union between piety towards God, and the temporal blessings consequent upon it: for it is certain that, under that dispensation, God did confer temporal benefits on those who served him with fidelity : but, if understood as a corrective of the foregoing statement, it will more fully express the general sentiment of Scripture. The Psalmist, after describing a state of great national prosperity, says, “ Blessed is that people that is in such a case:” and then, either in a way of confirmation, or of restriction, he adds, “ Yea, blessed is that people whose God is the Lord.”
a Ps. iv, 6.
Were we disposed to deny the blessedness attendant on earthly prosperity, we should feel a jealousy over ourselves, in taking the two clauses of our text in a contrasted view: but, as it is our intention to give full weight to the former affirmation, and as the latter, if taken in somewhat of a contrasted view, contains a truth not confined to that dispensation, but common to every age and place, I shall take occasion, from the text, to shew, I. The comfort of earthly prosperity
[Too sanguine may be our expectations from earthly things, no doubt: but, on the other hand, it is possible to speak of earthly things in terms more contemptuous than either the word of God, or the experience of his people will
, justify. It is not uncommon for persons professing the Gospel, or even preaching it, to represent earthly things as altogether worthless. But who is there that finds them so ? Who is there that does not experience pain from the want, and satisfaction from the supply, of them? Nor is this feeling at all unbecoming a real Christian: for Christians are men ; and, consequently, susceptible of pain or pleasure from the want or the enjoyment of the things that are needful for the body. Let any one be honest, and he will confess that he is not so independent of earthly things as to feel no comfort from the possession of them, and no grief at the loss. As for those who affect voluntary poverty and privations, they are no more really mortified to the world than others : they prefer the gratification of their spiritual lusts to merely corporeal indulgences: and whatever they take out of the scale of earthly pleasure, they put, in full proportion, into the opposite scale of pride and self-complacency. They entertain a notion that the mortification of their bodies is meritorious, and that it will raise them in the estimation of God and man; and, under this impression, they pour contempt on earthly comforts. But they only exchange one lust for another that is equally hateful in the sight of God. Their superstition contradicts the testimony of God himself, who, both under the Old Testament and the New, promises earthly things under the notion of blessings. The whole Mosaic law was enforced with promises of temporal prosperity. Was not that an acknowledgment that temporal prosperity contributed to our comfort ? Even under the New Testament dispensation, we are told that “godliness hath the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to comeb:” and, that “God hath given us all things richly to enjoy c:" which shews, that enjoyment is connected with the possession of them. b 1 Tim. iv. 8.
c 1 Tim. vi. 18. II
“ Give me
These observations, however, are confined to that mediocrity of condition to which Agur refers, when he says, neither poverty nor riches, but food convenient for med.” For opulence does not of itself increase our comfort : it increases rather our temptations and our cares: for what has a man of extensive property, more than the mere enjoyment of "beholding it with his eyes ?" In proportion" as his goods increase, they are increased that eat them.” A man's own personal comfort is confined within very narrow bounds: "food and raiment " constitute the catalogue of his wants"; and whatever is beyond this, brings with it more the appearance, than the reality, of comfort. The peaceful and regular enjoyment of a moderate competency, however, is doubtless a rich blessing: and, with David, we may justly say, “ Happy are the people that are in such a case.”
Yet, viewing the latter clause of our text as restricting the former, we must particularly observe, that earthly things are no blessings, except as they are subordinated to God: for the very instant they are put in the place of God, they may be apparent blessings; but in reality they are curses; as every thing must be which estranges our hearts from God. As received from him, and employed for him, they are good : but, when they usurp his throne, and become a god unto us, they are as contemptible as the very dirt under our feet.]
That we may see earthly prosperity in its true light, it will be proper to view it in contrast with spiritual blessings : for which end I will proceed to mark, II. The superior comfort of true piety
Piety consists in this, the “having the Lord for our God." The broad line of distinction between the righteous and the wicked is, that, whilst the wicked have their affections supremely placed on some object of time or sense, the righteous have their hearts entirely fixed on God, as reconciled to them in the Son of his love. Now these are far happier than any worldly man: for they have, 1. A more suitable portion
[What can the world do for the soul of any man? He is oppressed with a sense of sin: What is there in the world that can remove the load from his mind ? He wants the pardon of his sin, and peace with God: What can the world do to obtain these blessings for him? He desires strength to resist temptation: Whither upon earth can he go, with a hope of acquiring d Prov. xxx, 8.
e Eccl. v. 11. f 1 Tim. vi. 8.
it? He would gladly have death disarmed of its sting : but nothing in this world can render him that invaluable service. In a word, he would secure a happy eternity: but, ah! what is there upon earth that can confer on him so great a benefit? But if “ he have the Lord Jehovah for his God,” if he have sought Him, obtained His favour, and given up himself to Him, all is well: he has nothing to fear; nothing to desire. In having God for his portion, he has secured to him the very things which he pants after; he has pardon, and peace, and holiness, and glory.] 2. A more satisfying portion
[Suppose a man to possess the whole world, there will still be in his bosom an aching void, a secret something unpossessed. But the man who can look up to the Lord Jesus Christ, and say, "This is my Friend, and my Beloved,” “My Beloved is mine, and I am his,” can never wish for any thing beyond. Our blessed Lord has said, “ He that drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but whoso drinketh of the water that I shall give, shall never thirst ; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water, springing up into everlasting life 6." Not only has earth nothing that can add to him, but not even heaven itself contains any thing that can augment his bliss. He can adopt the words of David and say, “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides theeh.” I mean not to say that there is an indifference to earthly comforts produced upon his mind: but there is a contentment; insomuch that he is “fully instructed and prepared, either to be full or to be hungry, either to abound or to suffer needi."] 3. He has a more lasting portion
[Whatever a man possess in this world, he must soon be stripped of it all, and go as naked out of the world as he came into it.” But at death, the godly man comes into the full possession of his inheritance. All that he enjoyed in this life was only like the portion of a minor, who has just a sufficiency allotted to him for his education in the world; but, when he goes hence, he comes of age, and takes possession of all the wealth provided for him by the Father. Millions of ages will not lessen his portion, or diminish his enjoyment of it.
Say, then, Is not he happy? Yes; we may say of him, as Moses does, “ Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thine excellencyk!”]
& John iv. 13, 14.
h Ps. lxxiii. 25.