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DCCXLVII. GOD'S REGARD FOR THE LEAST OF HIS SAINTS. Ps. cxlvii. 11. The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear
him, in those that hope in his mercy. IN the Psalms of David we have innumerable exhortations to praise our God. At the same time, we have innumerable grounds of praise set before us. In the psalm before us we are told how abundant he is in mercy both to the Church and to the whole creation; and that, whilst there is nothing of created excellence that merits his regard“, “ he takes pleasure” in those who manifest the very smallest symptoms of a new creation within them.
The words of my text are, in this view, worthy of peculiar attention. In them we see, I. How low God stoops to the objects of his favour
Had he spoken of himself as noticing angels, it would have been a wonderful mark of his condescension and grace: for “ he humbleth himself when he beholds the things that are in heaven",” and “chargeth even his angels with folly.” But the persons whom he speaks of here, as objects of his favour, are of the lowest possible order of saints. In point of regard for God, they rise no higher than “ fear;" and in point of confidence in God, they go not beyond a “hope in his mercy.” What can be lower than the mere “ fear” of God?
[A person destitute of this has not the smallest evidence whatever of the divine approbation. He cannot have it. A man without the fear of God is a decided enemy to God; and God is, and must be, an enemy to him. A
A person, the very instant he is born of God, must of necessity fear to offend him, and endeavour, by a holy conformity to his will, to please him. After having made a progress in the divine life, he will attain to higher exercises of grace: but in this the lowest state of conversion, God will regard him as an object of his favour.]
And what lower attainment can we conceive, than a mere “hope in his mercy ?”
[This supposes that a man feels himself a sinner, justly
a ver. 10. b Ps. cxiii. 6. c Job iv. 18.
obnoxious to God's wrathful indignation. It supposes, too, that he despairs of ever being able to do any thing that shall conciliate the divine power: he sees and feels that he must entirely cast himself on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. At the same time, he sees that there is a sufficiency for him in Christ; a sufficiency in his death to atone for all sin; and a sufficiency in his righteousness, to justify all who shall be clothed in it before God. With these views, he indulges a hope that even he may obtain mercy at God's hands; and on God's mercy he casts himself without reserve; determining, if he perish, to perish at the foot of the cross, imploring mercy of God for Christ's sake. Lower than this we cannot go: for if
person have not attained to this, he has not entered into the fold of Christ. He may be an outward-court worshipper; but on the threshold of God's sanctuary he has not so much as once set his foot.]
Yet, low as their condition is, the text informs us, II. How high he soars in his regards towards them
Had it been said that God would look with pity and compassion upon such feeble worms, it would have displayed in him a most astonishing extent of condescension and grace. But we are told, not that he will shew favour to them, and accept them, but that “he taketh pleasure” in them. Yet how can this be conceived? What can he ever see in them, that shall afford him pleasure? However little we may be able to conceive it, he does "take pleasure” in them: he takes pleasure, 1. In looking upon them
[He himself draws this very character, and says, "To this man will I look, even to him that is of a broken and contrite spirit, and that trembleth at my word d.” If it be asked, What can he find in them to engage his regards ? I answer, What can a mother behold in a new-born infant to engage her affections ? The child, though so weak and helpless, is hers, a partaker of her nature, and an heir of her inheritance : and therefore she feels an intensity of interest in the child, and finds in the sight of it an exquisite delight.] 2. In answering their prayers
[A mother understands the cry of her child, and needs no further incentive to fulfil its desires. And God, too, understands the sigh, the groan, the very look of his children, and
d Isai. lvii. 15. and lxvi. 2.
will grant to them whatsoever they can desire, provided it be really conducive to their good. “Even before they call, he will answer; and while they are yet speaking, he will heare” The very image which I have here used to illustrate his grace, is that which he himself has employed; saying, that he will give them, as it were, to “suck of the breasts of his consolations, and bear them on his side, and dandle them on his knees, and comfort them in their troubles, as a mother comforteth her helpless and afflicted child ?."] 3. In administering to all their wants
[All heaven, as it were, shall be at their commande. In the aid that he affords, God will exert himself effectually, even “ with his whole heart and his whole soulh." and in the bestowment of his blessings, will rejoice over the beloved object with such a complacency and delight as God alone can feel i.]
Are you, then, my Brethren, partakers of this character?
[Consider who it is that “has brought you to this selfsame thing k;" and endeavour to "render to him according to the benefits he has conferred on you.” Say not, ‘My attainments are so small, that they call for shame and sorrow, rather than for joy: for “God does not despise the day of small things?;" neither must ye despise it. Methinks the least that I can ask of you is this: If "God takes such pleasure" in you, take ye also pleasure in him. The more you“ delight yourselves in him," the more assuredly shall you grow in every thing that is good, till you have attained “ the full measure of the stature of Christ."]
But is there one amongst you that is not of this character ?
[What pleasure can God ever take in you? Can he look with complacency on a rebellious man that does not “fear him," or on a self-righteous man that does not " hope in his mercy?" Impossible; for you counteract all the designs of his
grace, and run, as it were, upon the thick bosses of his buckler, in your opposition to him. In such a state as this, what can you be but objects of his wrathful indignation, left for a season to fill up the measure of your iniquities, and to perish under an accumulated weight of misery? Let me, then, entreat you to seek the graces which are here specified. Beg of God, for Christ's sake, to “put his fear in your hearts;" and cast yourselves upon his mercy in Christ Jesus, " hoping even e Isai. lxv. 24.
f Isai. lxvi. 10-13. & Jer. xxxi. 20. with Ps. xxxiv. 10. h Jer. xxxii. 41. i Zeph. iii. 17. k 2 Cor. v. 5.
1 Zech. iv. 10.
against hope." Then, notwithstanding your desert, you shall not perish, but have in yourselves an experience of that truth which God has revealed for the comfort and support of all his people, “ that the blood of Jesus Christ his Son Cleanseth from all sin."]
TEMPORAL MERCIES A GROUND OF PRAISE . Ps. cxlvii. 12-14. Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem ; praise thy
God, o Zion: for he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates ; he hath blessed thy children within thee. He maketh peace in thy borders, and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat.
THE common habit of mankind is, to rest in the gift, and forget the Giver. But we should make the gifts of God a ladder, as it were, whereby to ascend to him; and take occasion from every blessing he communicates, to magnify and adore that bounty from which it proceeds. Nor should we be so engrossed with our personal mercies, as to overlook those which are national. The pious Jews thought they could never sufficiently praise their God for his mercies vouchsafed to Israel. The theme that beyond all delighted them was, to recount the wonders of love and mercy which their nation had experienced from their first coming out of Egypt even to the day wherein they lived. Who was the author of this psalm we do not know: but it seems evidently to have been written after the return of the Jews from the Babylonish Captivity, and most probably in the times of Nehemiah, who rebuilt the wall of Jerusalem, and dedicated it to God with sacrifices and songs of praise. Certainly God's interpositions for that people exceeded all that ever he did for any other nation : but next to Israel, methinks, we of this country may adopt the language at the close of this psalm, “ He hath not dealt so with any nationo.” Let us consider, I. The grounds here stated for praise to God
a Thanksgiving Sermon for Peace, written January 18, 1816. It is not to be supposed that the same circumstances will ever occur again ; and therefore the first intention of the author was to omit them altogether. But he conceives that the statement of them may serve to shew, how any other existing circumstances may be, not unprofitably, stated, when the occasion shall call for it.
b Neh. xii. 27, 43.
We forbear to enter on the Jewish history for the elucidation of our text: intending rather to confine ourselves to the mercies which we are at this time called to commemorate.
Behold then what the Lord hath done for us! Behold, 1. The protection he hath afforded us from without
Not a country in Europe, except our own, but has suffered from the
ravages of war: yet we, with our vast extent of coast, assailable from every port in Europe, and with every power in Europe at one time leagued against us, have been preserved from invasion; notwithstanding we were, far beyond any other nation, the objects of envy and hatred to our most powerful foe; and notwithstanding the immense preparations that were made by him for our destruction. But God has truly “strengthened the bars of our gates," so that they could not be forced; or rather “ he himself has been a wall of fire round about us," so that not even any serious attempt has been made to invade our land. Other nations far less accessible than ours have been made scenes of most dreadful devastation d; but with respect to us, such a restraint has been imposed on our enemies, that they could never carry into execution their cruel projects.]
2. The blessings with which he has loaded us “ within”
[He hath blessed us with increase, so that, notwithstanding the ravages of war, our population has greatly increased. With union of sentiment he hath blessed us to an extent almost unprecedented in our history. The whole nation have been fully convinced, that the war was both just and necessary, and that it was carried on, not for the gratifying of ambition, but for security and independence. With a patient endurance of all the burthens occasioned by the war, all ranks and orders amongst us have also been greatly blessed. It could never have been conceived that such contributions could have been raised without exciting the most grievous complaints: but they have been paid with liberality and cheerfulness from one end of the land even to the other. With a respect for religion also we have been blessed beyond any former period of our existence as a nation. The societies that have sprung up, in the very midst of war, for the diffusion of the Holy Scriptures throughout the ver. 20.
d Russia, in 1812. e Ps. cxxiv. 1-8,