Page images

God's.-God lives, blessed be my rock--The Lord is the portion of my inheritance," and in him I possess and enjoy all things.

These three particulars, respecting the matter of the godly man's choice, the object of his desire, and the source of his joy, may help us to form a just estimate of ourselves; and this is the improvement I would have you to make of this branch of the subject.

How are your hearts affected towards the precepts of God's word? an outward reluctant obedience there may be, compelled by the slavish fear of wrath: but do

you serve God from choice, with a free and liberal mind? Doth the Lord Jesus appear as amiable with the crown upon his head, and the sceptre in his hand, as when clad with his garments rolled in blood ?

Is salvation, in all its extent, the chief object of your desire ? even the present salvation of an inward growing light, and love, and purity; as well as the future salva. tion of deliverance from the fire that is not quenched, and the enjoyment of those positive pleasures which are at God's right band for evermore.

Do you know what it is to hunger and thirst after righteousness? “ They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh, but they that are after the spirit do mind the things of the spirit. If you be risen with Christ, you will seek the things that are above.” You will never think you have already attained, either are already perfect; but forgetting the things that are be. hind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, you will press towards the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Once more, From whence do you derive your comfort and joy; from tbe wells of salvation, that issue forth from beneath the throne of God and the Lamb, or from the polluted streams that spring out of this footstool upon which we tread ?

By this onerring touchstone of God's word let us examine and prove ourselves; and if the Spirit bears witness with our spirits, that these lineaments of the new creature, though too much blended and marred with the features of the old man, are nevertheless legible on the fleshy tables of our hearts, let us give glory to God, who hath thus far formed us for himself, and trust, that he who hath begun a good work in us will carry it on till it be perfected in the heavenly glory. And let the many blemishes we must unavoidably discover, while they humble us in the presence of a holy God, urge us for. ward, at the same time, to a throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy for the pardon of past offences, and find grace to help us in every future time of need.

Having thus endeavoured to illustrate, and to im. prove, for self-examination, the distinguishing character of the godly man, as it lies before us in this passage, let us now attend, for our direction, to his leading requests.

1st. He prays for strengthening and upholding grace, “Let thine hand help me.”

Dependance upon the Creator belongs to the essence of every creature. None of them subsist by themselves, neither do they possess any thing that they can claim as their property. The highest seraph that ministers before the throne, must adopt the language of the apostle Paul, and say as he did, “By the grace of God, I am what I am.” We read of “angels who kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, being reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day." Adam created after the image of God, and furnished with every advantage suited to his rank, seduced by an apostate spirit, forfeited at once both his in

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

nocence and happiness, in consequence whereof all his posterity come into the world involved in the forfeiture he incurred, equally destitute of righteousness and strength, according to that saying of the apostle Paul, (Romans v. 6.) “When we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” And though this weakness is in part removed by the renewing influences of the Spirit of God, yet there will always be need for that caution, “Be not high minded, but fear.” Who can say, “ My mountain staudeth strong, I shall never be moved?” The most eminent saints have not only failed, but failed in those very graces for which they were most eminent, and that too by means of temptations far inferior to others which they were enabled to resist. The faith of Abraham, the patience of Job, the meekness of Moses, and the courage of Peter, were all found unequal to the conflict, when left alone in the hour of trial. These examples are recorded for our admonition; and on each of them we may read the solemn warning, “ Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” Re. member who it was that said, “ Without me ye can do nothing. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” Blessed be God for the assurance we have that help is laid for os upon one that is mighty; upon him let us lean in our journey through the wilderness; to his band let us look for the help we need, and he will make his grace sufficient for us. Animated by this hope, the same Apostle who said in one place, “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing;" in an. other place, setting bis foot upon the neck of his enemies, utters the shout of victory, in those triumphant words, “I can do all things through Christ wbich

[blocks in formation]

strengtheneth me." Let us go and do likewise. To the prayer for upholding grace, David adds,

2dly, A desire for quickening grace; for this I take to be the true import of the request, “ Let my soul live." Sometimes, indeed, we find him praying for the life of the body, as when he says, “O spare me that I may recover strength, before I go hence and be no more :" But here the expression is too strong to be limited to a sense comparatively so low.

Life, or conscious exercise, though a valuable gift in itself, is a gift we possess in common with the worst of our own kind, and with the meapest and most noxious of the inferior creatures. Nay, devils partake of it in a higher degree than man. Besides, the life of man, since the apostacy, is become short and precarious; and though it holds true in general, that “skin for skio, all that a man bath will be give for his life;" yet the bitterness of affliction hath caused many to grow weary of it, insomuch that their souls bave chosen strangling and death rather than life. But in all these respects, the life of the soul is entirely the reverse. It is not a privilege common to all, but the gift of special distinguishing love. It was purchased for condemning sinners by the blood of Christ; and is produced in dead sinners by bis renewing Spirit. So far is it from being short and precarious, that its duration is eternal. It is a “ life bid with Christ in God; and because he lives, all who believe in him shall live also." The longer it is enjoyed also, the more it is esteemed. Who was ever heard to


of spiritual life, “I loath it I would not live always?" Nay, it is the life of the soul alone that gives a relish to the life of the body, and enables the believer, under the heaviest pressure of affliction, either to possess it with thankfulness, or to resign it with joy.

This was the life for which David prayed; a confirm. ed sense of pardoning mercy, larger measures of sanctifying grace, communion with his God in a present world, and the full and everlasting enjoyment of him in heaven. The life for which he prays, is no other than the salvation for which he longed. He had tasted of its sweetness, and he thirsted for more. “Let my soul live,” saith he; to which he subjoins, “and it shall praise thee.” From which words we learn, for our farther direction,

3dly, The ultimate end for which David was so ear. nest in his requests for help and life, and the improve. ment he proposed to make of both. They were no doubt blessings that would greatly contribute to bis own honour and comfort; but every private and personal inte. rest was in him subordinated to the glory of God. He prayed for upholding and quickening grace, that he might be better qualified for the service of his God, to whom he had devoted bimself and bis all. Thus he prays, (Psal. li.) “ Restore unto me the joy of thy sal. vation, and uphold me by thy free Spirit; then will I teach transgressors thy way, and sinners shall be con. verted unto thee. Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise." And the principal reason for which he was desirous to obtain divine conso. lation, appears from the use he intended to make of it, (verse 32. of this Psalm) “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart."

I shall therefore make this my concluding exhortation to you.—By your solemn profession at the table of the Lord, you have publicly acknowledged that you are not your own, but bought with a price; in consequence whereof, you are strictly obliged to live not unto yourselves, but to him that bought you; to glorify your Re,

« PreviousContinue »