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never attain these blessings; and amidst all their confident hopes and expectations, they have their doubts and fears, which often prove very distressing. Such persons hover between heaven and earth; and like sailors in a storm, are sometimes mounting, at other times sinking; but at all times fluctuating and uncertain. Uncomfortable as their state is in this world, it will be more so in the next: for what can be more dreadful than to fall asleep, and dream of happiness, and by and bye to awake in agonizing torments and misery! In temporal things mistakes may be rectified without much difficulty, and an alteration in judgment may cause an alteration in practice: but if we suppose our spiritual state to be good when it is bad, and live and die under such mistaken apprehensions, it must be shocking indeed; for what is the hope of the bypocrite, when God taketh away his soul? When he die, all his hopes shall die with him. The house built upon the sand not only falls, but falls when it is too late to build another. Nothing can be more distressing than to have raised expectations end in disappointment. How great must be the confusion of those who looked for glory, honour, immortality and eternal life, and meet with indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish; who, when they expect heaven's doors to be thrown wide open to them, will hear that heart-rending sentence pronounced, Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels! There is no need for hypocrites to have a hotter place in hell than others; their former hope will be a sufficient enhancement of their punishment.
3. If God do not search us in a way of mercy, he will do it in a way of wrath, either in this world or the next. I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled upon their lees; that is, careless and self-confident sinners who are at ease in Zion, not having been emptied from vessel to ves
sel. The Lord's searching with candles implies the strict scrutiny which he would make, and the exact account to which he would call them. Even in the present life the hypocrite is often stripped of his disguise, and exposed to just contempt. But the day of judgment will certainly be a day of discovery; and there is nothing covered that shall not be revealed, nor hid that shall not be known. It shall then be known who are the children of God, and who are not.
And now, by the use or disuse of this petition we may pass some tolerable judgment with respect to our state. Hypocrites are fond of concealment: they will not come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved. There is nothing to which they are more averse than to search themselves, and nothing which they more dread than to be searched of God. But the language of the sincere soul will always be, Search me, oh God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts! I have often taken the work into my own hands, and there it does not succeed: take it into thine, and there it will prosper.'
From thy soft slumbers now awake,
What is thy state? What is thy frame!
Art thou a captive, or set free?
In prison, or at liberty?
Or clothed, or naked, rich or poor;
At heaven's bright gate, or hell's dark door?
Thine all, oh man, thine all's at stake;
PSALM CXXXix. 24.
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
THIS request naturally follows upon the former, and divides itself into two parts, which I shall consider as they lie before me.
I. See if there be any wicked way in me;-any corruption concealed, any lust harboured, any vicious appetite indulged, any sinful course persisted in. It may refer either to mental errors, or evil practices; and may be explained in the following particulars.
1. It does not imply that the Psalmist thought himself entirely free from sin. He knew there was much sin in him and committed by him and hence his pathetic lamentations in Psal. xxxviii. and li. Mine iniquities are gone over my head; as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me-I acknowledge my transgressions; and my sin is ever before me-Create in me a clean heart, oh God, and renew a right spirit within me! The man who boasts of sinless perfection, thereby betrays his imperfection; for says Job, If I say I am perfect, my own lips shall prove me perverse. Chap. ix. 20.
2. He hoped that sin was not predominant. He could say with Job, Thou knowest that I am not wick
ed; that is, wilfully and obstinately so. He was not a customary and resolute sinner. He did not delight in or give his full consent to sin: though it dwelt in his members, yet it did not reign in his heart. He might be captivated by it, as Paul was; but he was not in a state voluntary subjection to it; so that he could say as did the apostle, What I hate, that do I.
3. Though sin did not reign, yet he was afraid that more sin remained in him than he was aware of. As Job had a holy suspicion of his children, so David had a holy suspicion of himself. Evil surmisings with respect to others he did not give way to; but he exercised a godly jealousy with respect to himself, lest it should be worse with him than perhaps he thought it to be. Hence that prayer: Who can understand his errors? Cleanse thou me from secret faults. Psal.
4. What of this nature he was ignorant of, he desires to be taught. Thus Job, That which I see not, teach thou me; shew me wherein I am defective in my temper or conduct; make me more sensible of the weakness of my graces, and the strength of my corruptions. Thou, who numberest my steps, give me to see my mis-steps, that I may be more humbled for them, and more cautious for the future. Thus again, Job. xiii. 23: How many are mine iniquities and sins? Make me to know my transgression and my sin. If I am the man whom my censorious friends have represented me to be, let it appear to thy glory and to my shame! It is much better to see sin in this world, than to feel its direful effects in the next. We cannot have too clear a sight of sin, if we have but as clear a sight of the Saviour.-We now proceed to notice the following part of the petition :
II. And lead me in the way everlasting.-Here we may remark the object which David had in view, and his desires respecting it.
1. The object which David had in view; viz. the way everlasting. By this we are not to understand any way of human invention or appointment, however warmly recommended; but the way which God himself has marked out, which he graciously approves in this world, and will as graciously reward in the next. This may comprehend the following particulars.
(1.) The way of acceptance with God; and that is Christ, who hath with the greatest solemnity declared, I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me. (John xiv. 6.) This is one of the first principles of christianity, and is deeply engraven upon every renewed and sanctified heart. Through him it is that every blessing descends to us, and our prayers ascend to God. As by his doctrine and example he teaches us our duty, so by his merit and intercession he procures our happiness. By him, as the true Jacob's ladder, all intercourse is carried on between earth and heaven.
(2.) The way of instituted worship. There is a false way of worship upon which God has fixed a brand of infamy, as setting up our threshold by his threshold, and our posts by his posts, to defile his holy name. And in vain do ye worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. What David prayed for was that he might keep the worship of God pure and entire, according to the simplicity of its prescription; to be right both in the object and mode of worship, that in all things he might keep the ordinances as they were delivered. 1 Cor. xi. 2.
(3.) The way of sound doctrine, in opposition to falshood and error. All the prophecies, promises, precepts and doctrines of the divine word are founded upon the immutability of God, and are therefore absolutely free from error and mistake. They are consistent with themselves, perfectly conformable to the moral attributes of Deity, and every way worthy of God as their author. Now it is a great thing to know