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[Great was the distress of God's people at the time it was written: they appear to have been forsaken of their God, and delivered over into the hands of their enemies. But the writer speaks, throughout the psalm, as if their cause was God's; and calls upon God to take it up altogether as his own: "O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture? Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased of old; the rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed; this Mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelta!” “ Have respect unto the Covenantb." “ Arise, O God! plead thine own cause.” Who would imagine that this is the address of a sinner imploring mercy for himself and for his people? Yet such it is: and this clearly proves that God considers his people's cause as his own, and their interests as identified with his.]
The whole Scriptures also speak to the same effect
[When the people murmured against Moses, he warned them that their murmuring was not against him, but against God himself. When the people of Israel desired to have no longer a judge, like Samuel, but a king, like other nations around them, Samuel told them, that it was not him that they had rejected, but Godd The Prophet Zechariah confirms this, in terms peculiarly strong and energetic, when he represents God as saying to his oppressed people, “ He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of mine eyee.' Our blessed Lord and Saviour speaks to the same effect; and so identifies himself with his people, that, whether they be benefited or injured, he considers it as done to himself. Is any poor servant of his clothed or fed or visited, Christ says, “ In doing it to him, ye did it to me?” On the other hand, is any one of them oppressed, Christ feels the stroke as inflicted on himself: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou ME 8 ?"]
This being clear, I proceed to shew, II. Whence this identity arises
It arises, 1. From the relation in which they stand to God
[In the psalm before us this is strongly marked. The Jewish nation being "his sheep," “his congregation,” “his inheritance," was a reason why he should consider“ their cause as his own. The whole people of Israel were accounted by God as "his portion and inheritance," and the more religious ver. 1, 2. ver. 20.
c Exod. xvi. 8. d 1 Sam. viii. 7. e Zech. ii. 8.
f Matt. xxv. 40. 8 Acts. ix. 4.
part of them as “his peculiar treasure" and “his jewels." Yea, he accounted himself as their Father, and them as his children. Now, is there a parent in the universe who, if his child were injured, would not account the injury as done to himself? We wonder not, then, that God should regard his children's cause as identified with his own.]
2. From the union which subsists between them and the Lord Jesus Christ
[They have been “ bought with the precious blood of Christ,” who therefore considers them as “his own h.” And how near their union with him is, may be seen by the images under which it is described. He is “ the foundation" on which
ney stand', and consequently one with the superstructure built upon him. He is the Husband" of his Church, and therefore one with his spousek. But the union is far closer than this: for “ He is the vine, and they are the branches," vitally united to him, and deriving all their sap and nourishment from him! But neither does that come up to the full idea of our union with him: for “ we are members of his body, even of his flesh and of his bones m,” yea, and are also “ Spirit with him"," he being “the very life that liveth in uso." In fact, there is no union with which it can be compared, but that which exists between the Father and Christ P: and hence St. Paul calls the collective members of his body by the very name of Christ: “As the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christq;" that is, so also is the Church of Christ, which is so identified with him, that it may well bear his very name. How can it be, then, but that he should make our cause his own?]
3. From the connexion which there is between their prosperity and his glory
[When God threatened to extirpate Israel for their heinous provocations, Moses urged on God the consideration of his own glory, which would suffer, if that threat were carried into execution". On the other hand, God's honour is represented as greatly advanced by their welfare. If they flourish as “ trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lords,” and “ bring forth much fruit, God is glorified.” Hence, in the book of Psalms, this consideration is urged with earnest importunity as a plea for speedy and effectual relief: “ Help us, o God of our
h 1 Cor. vi. 20. i 1 Pet. ii. 4, 5. k Eph. v. 32.
n 1 Cor. vi. 17. o Col. ii. 4, and Gal. ii. 20.
P John xvii. 21. q 1 Cor. xii. 12. I Exod. xxxii, 11-13. Numb. xiv. 13-16. s Isai. lxi. 3.
t John xv. 8.
salvation, for the glory of thy name; and deliver us, and
This point being clear, let us consider,
addresses at the throne of grace-
[Let us suppose a person bowed down with a sense of sin, and an apprehension of God's heavy displeasure: Is that a case wherein this plea may be urged? Yes, assuredly; for so it was urged by the Church of old, in language peculiarly strong, and, I had almost said, presumptuous: “ We acknowledge, O Lord, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee. Do not abhor us, for thy name's sake; do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us?.” Precisely thus, however, may we also address the Father of mercies: "for he has covenanted to receive all who come to him humbly in his Son's name; and if he should cast out one, he would violate his covenant, and a disgrace the throne of his glory ” In like manner, if we are suffering under persecution, we may come to God in this very manner, and entreat him to plead his own cause : “ Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight thou against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help: draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation . This thou hast seen, O Lord; keep not silence: O Lord, be not thou far from me! Stir up thyself, and awake to my judgment, even unto my cause, my God, and my
Lorda." There can be no situation whatever, where this plea is not proper; nor any in which it shall not prevail, if it be offered in humility and faith ---]
u Ps. lxxix. 9, 10. z Jer. xiv. 20, 21.
* Rom. ii. 4. y 1 Pet. iv. 14. a Ps. xxxv. 1-3, 22, 23.
1. A word of caution, however, may not be unseasonable
[It may be supposed, that, whilst we thus consider God as engaged to help us, we are at liberty to sit down in sloth and inactivity. But God will help those only who endeavour, as far as they are able, to help themselves. Hence, when the Church of old cried to him, " Awake, awake, O arm of the Lord! awake as in the ancient days, in the generations of old !” he replied, “ Awake, awake, stand up, o Jerusalem!” and again, Awake, awake, put on thy strength, o Zion!" The paralytic, notwithstanding his impotence, endeavoured to put forth his arm; and in that effort he was healed. And so also shall it be with us : let us labour to the uttermost to maintain our own cause, and God will then both make it his own, and plead it for us ---]
2. A word of encouragement, at all events, must not be omitted
[If God make our cause his own, what have we to fear? for “who can be against us, if He be for us?” Let our Saviour's consolations in the depth of all his troubles be applied by you for the comfort of your own souls: “ The Lord God will help me; therefore shåll I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary ? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up." Rely on God thus, and all will be well: for of “ those who thus trust in God, not one shall ever be confounded.”]
b Isai. li. 9, 17. and lii. 1. c Matt. xü. 13. d Isai. l. 7-9.
GOD GREATLY TO BE FEARED.
Ps. lxxvi. 7. Thou, even thou, art to be feared : and who may
stand in thy sight, when once thou art angry? THERE is not only a generally prevailing notion that God is merciful, but the consideration of his mercy is with many a ground and reason for dismissing from their minds all fear of his displeasure. But it is not in this partial view that the Deity is represented in the Scriptures of truth : on the contrary, the whole sacred records bear witness to
him as a God who is greatly to be feared. On many occasions has his indignation against sin and sinners been most awfully displayed; as when, in one single night, he slew one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrian army, who had besieged Jerusalem and defied his power. It was probably on that occasion that the psalm before us was written : and in reference to it was this testimony given, “ Thou, even thou, art to be feared : and who may stand in thy sight, when thou art angry?” To establish and confirm this sentiment, is my purpose at this time. I. To establish it
But where shall I begin? or where shall I end? Of course, it is but a very partial view of this subject that can be presented in one discourse. however, notice, 1. What God is in himself
[If we contemplate his natural perfections, we shall see this truth in very striking colours. He is omnipresent, so that we can never escape from him for a single moment. He is omniscient, so that there is not so much as a thought of our hearts which can be hidden from him, He is omnipotent also, to deal with men according to their deserts. His moral perfections, too, are well calculated to impress our minds with
So holy is he, that “ he cannot behold iniquity” of any kind without the utmost abhorrence; and so just, that he cannot but enforce on men the observance of his laws, and execute his judgments upon them for every act of disobedience : and so unalterable is his truth, that sooner should heaven and earth pass away than one jot or tittle of his word should fail. Say, then, whether such a God be not greatly to be feared.]
2. What he has recorded respecting his dealings with mankind
[Behold Adam in Paradise: he violated the command which had been given him respecting the forbidden tree: and how was he dealt with? The curse of God came upon him instantly; and he was driven from Paradise, and with all his posterity subjected to misery both in this world and the world to come. See the whole race of mankind after they had multiplied and filled the earth: they had provoked God to anger by their abominations: and he swept them all, with every living creature, from the face of the earth, a remnant only in the ark excepted, by an universal deluge. Trace the Deity at subsequent periods; his judgments upon Sodom and all the