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Know that there is no other knowledge of any importance whatever in comparison of this; and that, if even the most grievous sufferings should be welcomed as accessary to the attainment of it, much more must it deserve all the time and attention that can be bestowed upon it. You never need fear that
you will hereafter have occasion to complain, that its fruits did not repay you for the cultivation of it.] 2. To those that are under any great affliction
[The rod under which you suffer, has a voice, to which you should listen with all possible attention m. It is sent to you in love and mercy. God designs to teach you, by means of it, many things which
you would not so well learn without it. It may be that you are already instructed in the Gospel of Christ; but yet there is much of which you are ignorant; and many things which you do know, need to be known by you in a very different manner. Even our blessed Lord himself, " though he was a Son, learned obedience by the things which he suffered,” yea, and" was made perfect through sufferings.” Be content to have God's work carried on and perfected in you in the same way: and be more anxious to obtain the benefit which your affliction is sent to impart, than to get rid of the affliction itself. If your tribulation work in you patience and experience and hope, learn to glory in it, and to number it amongst your richest blessings. And do not wait till the affliction is removed, to acknowledge God's goodness to you sending it; but now, whilst you are under the affliction, get it so improved and sanctified to the good of your soul, that you may be able to say, “It is good for me, O Lord, that I am afflicted; for by means of it I do learn thy statutes:" I see, “it is in very faithfulness that thou afflictest me;” and, if only thou "make me a partaker of thy holiness, send me what thou wilt, and when thou wilt: be the cup never so bitter to my taste, I will say, "Not my will, but thine be done."]
m Mic. vi. 9.
THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD.
my comfort, according to thy word unto thy servant. THE peculiar construction of this psalm forbids us to look for much connexion between its several parts. It is composed of short detached sentences, committed to writing at different times as they occurred to the mind of the Royal penman, and after
wards reduced to a certain kind of order; eight of them beginning with the same letter through all the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. If however we take the words of our text as connected with the preceding verse, we must understand it as a prayer that a sense of God's loving-kindness might be given him to comfort him under his afflictions. This sense we shall not exclude ; though we shall not entirely limit it to this: for, if we take the words by themselves, they contain some peculiarly important hints, which we are desirous to impress upon your minds.
In elucidating them, we propose to shew, I. What the. Scriptures speak respecting the loving
kindness of GodThey are full of this glorious subject: they declare,
1. That it is the one source of all the benefits we enjoy
[Survey the lustre and use of the heavenly bodies, the rich fecundity of the earth, the structure of the human body, or the faculties of the soul; Whence do they proceed? Who is their author; and by what motive was he actuated in bestowing them
Can they be traced to any other source than the kindness of our God? Behold the gift, the stupendous gift of God's only dear Son, and of salvation by him! Can this be traced to any other source a -] 2. That it is our chief support under all trials—
[We will grant something to philosophy; and acknowledge that it can fortify the mind in some degree: but it is not to be compared with religion in point of efficacy. That may silence murmurs, and produce a reluctant submission; but this will turn trials into an occasion of joy and glorying 6.]
3. That a comfortable sense of it is the privilege of all the Lord's people
[God promises “his Holy Spirit unto all them that ask him.” That Spirit shall be in them “a spirit of adoption,” a witness, an earnest, a seal, a Comforter. From the days of Abel to the present hour, God has delighted to rejoice the souls of his servants by the testimonies of his love.]
But, if the loving-kindness of God be thus manifested to his people, it may be asked,
a See John iii. 16. Tit. iii. 4, 5. Eph. ii. 7. b Rom. v. 1-3. Acts v. 41. and xvi. 25.
upon us ?
II. Why David prayed that it might be for his comfort ?
He did so,
1. Because, without a sense of it, his trials would have been insupportable
[David was exposed to many and severe trials: and, if he had not been favoured with peculiar supports, he would have sunk under them. This he often mentionsC: and St. Paul also acknowledges his obligation to God for similar supports a. When such manifestations were withdrawn, even Jesus himself almost fainted e: but when they were vouchsafed, the weakest females were made triumphant over all the malice of their persecutors.]
2. Because, though all are partakers of it, all do not find it to their comfort
[How many have the blessings of health and wealth, who taste nothing of God's loving-kindness in them, but make them the occasions of more flagrant opposition to his will! How many have been restored to health, who by their subsequent misconduct have turned that mercy into a real curse! Above all, how many have made Christ himself a stumbling-block instead of a Saviour, and "the gospel a savour of death," when it might have been to them “a savour of life!” Thus would all men do, if they were left to themselves : even Hezekiah's miraculous
and St. Paul's visit to the third heavens, would have issued only in their deeper condemnation, if God had not given grace to the one, and “ a thorn in the flesh” to the other, to counteract the propensities of their fallen nature. Well then might David make this a matter of prayer to God, when none but God could impart to him this benefit.]
3. Because, if it be not to our comfort, it will be, in a most awful manner, to our discomfort
[It is no light matter to abuse the merciful kindness of God. The day is coming, when every mercy we have received, must be accounted for; and when - it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha than for those" who have slighted a preached gospel. Every mercy therefore should be received with a holy fear and jealousy, lest it should prove only an occasion of more aggravated guilt, and heavier condemnation.] APPLICATION
[Let us more frequently reflect on the loving-kindness of God --Let us meditate on it especially in seasons of trouble h— And let us endeavour to requite it by devoting ourselves unreservedly to his service !_]
c 1 Sam. xxx. 6. and Ps. cxvi. 3-5. d 2 Cor. i. 3—5. e Matt. xxvii. 46. f Heb. xi. 35. 8 Ps. xxvi. 3. and lxiii. 3. h Ps. cxliii. 78. i Ps. cxvi. 12. and Isai. lxiii. 7.
meditation all the day. Thou, through thy commandments, hast made me wiser than mine enemies : for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts.
NOTHING is more hateful than boasting. To boast of our superiority to others, as the Pharisees did, saying, “I thank thee, O Lord, that I am not as other men,” is to betray an entire want of Christian humility, and an utter ignorance of our own state. But of all boasting, that which arises from a conceit of our own wisdom is perhaps the most odious and the most contemptible. “Be not wise in your own conceito,” is a caution repeatedly given us in the Holy Scriptures; and an inattention to it will assuredly expose us to God's heavy displeasure. Yet there are occasions whereon we may, in appearance, transgress this duty, and yet be blameless. St. Paul was on some occasions necessitated to assert his claim to public authority, and his right to dictate to the Church of God: and though he apologised for his conduct in this respect, and called himself “a fool” for giving way to it, he yet felt it his duty, on the whole, to maintain the truth against those who opposed it, and to demand from others that deference which his Apostolic character authorised him to expecto. In the passage before us, I must confess, David had no such call to exalt himself above others. But he wrote for the benefit of the Church of God in all ages : and therefore, whilst conveying general truths, “he transferred them to himself,” in order that he might speak to better effect". His object was to shew, that every one who took the word of God for his guide would be so elevated by it above the most exalted of merely human characters, that he might justly arrogate to himself a wisdom superior to them all; since an a Prov. ii. 7. Rom. xii. 16.
b Isai, v. 21. c 2 Cor. x. 7-11. and xi. 16-18. and xii. 11. d See 1 Cor. iv. 6.
unconverted character, whoever he might be, had no higher wisdom than that which was human; whilst the man who was taught by the word and Spirit of God, possessed a wisdom that was truly divine. In this view, then, I propose to vindicate the language of my text; and to shew, that David, in obeying the word of God, was “ wiser than his enemies,” with all their subtlety; and “ wiser than his teachers," notwithstanding all their learning; and “wiser than the ancients,” in despite of all their experience. Of every one who is obedient to God's word this may be said: I. In that he answers more fully the ends for which
the Holy Scripture was given
[For what was the Scripture given, but to be a light to our feet and a lantern to our paths ? This being the case, what shall we say of the man who neglects to study the Inspired Volume? What should we say of a mariner, who, in navigating a sea that was full of rocks and quicksands, should neglect to consult his chart and his compass, or should proceed in his voyage with the same kind of confidence, in opposition to their dictates, as he would if he were following the course which they prescribed? Let him in other respects be ever so wise, no one would hesitate to commend the circumspect sailor as wiser than he. Then in this view, may the divinely-instructed follower of Christ account himself wiser than others, whether friends or enemies, if, when they enjoy the advantage of this infallible guide, they refuse to consult its dictates, or to follow its directions. If no one would hesitate to pronounce this judgment in a case where only the bodily life was concerned, much less would any one doubt where the interest at stake is nothing less than that of the immortal soul ---] II. In that he manifests a more becoming regard to
the wonders revealed in it-
and say, whether he can be wise who neglects to search into them, and to improve them for the good of his soul? But the man who receives "the testimony of Christ," and labours to have it “confirmed in his own soul," is wise; and, when comparing himself with those who despise the Gospel, whatever superiority they may possess in other respects, may, without any undue arrogance, account himself wiser than they. “The very angels in heaven are desiring to look into these unsearchable mysteries ;” and, “ if we disregard them, what wisdom can be in use?"]
e Jer. viii. 9.