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when thus afflicted, we cannot do better than look to the And what does it become us to do when thus situated ? manner in which he expressed and conducted himself on such Shall we indulge in those resentful feelings which the inflic trying occasions, that we may learn how to suffer, and how tion of such wrongs is calculated to awaken in our breasts? to apply for consolation and deliverance.
No: that were to cherish an unbecoming spirit, and to add You will observe, my friends, that at the very outset, and the demerit of sin to the evil of suffering. Shall we then all along, his views are directed to heaven. He had set his give way to emotions of sorrow, and act as if our case were heart upon God: in him he had placed his trust, and from that of inevitable and hopeless misery? No: while God him he expected all necessary aid. This was the habit-reigns, our condition never can be such as to justify despair. ual feeling and exercise of his mind. And whenever any Or shall we be contented with using every exertion to vindipeculiar exigency occurred, he had immediate recourse to that cate our character and maintain our privileges, and repel the Great Being in whom he had been taught and accustomed to aggressions that are made upon us ? No: that would both hope. It was not to himself-it was not to his friends—it prove insufficient to its purpose, and be unsuitable to what we was not to any mere created refuge that he applied; it was to know and believe concerning the operations of a superintendGod in whom there is all that is good, and mighty, and faith-ing Providence, and the necessity of divine interposition. ful, and wise; who has every object and every event under We know and believe that there is one who rules over the his supreme control; and who has promised that he will inhabitants of the earth, as well as the armies of heaven,'be with his people in all their times of trouble and of danger. that his sway is universal, perpetual, and incontrollable; that
Thus it was with the Psalmist; and thus will it be with infinite perfection adheres to every part of the dominion which all of us who are truly devout. We will cherish a constant he exercises that all those who love and serve him, are the dependance upon God. It is to his providence and grace that objects of his favour, and that his eye is ever upon them for we will look amidst all the vicissitudes of life. And, as in good—that, far from beholding with indifference the severiour seasons of prosperity we will ascribe to him the bless-ties which are practised upon them by wicked men, he then ings that we enjoy, so in our seasons of perplexity and dis- takes a more special and affectionate interest in their welltress it is upon him that we will cast ourselves for guidance being—and that he speaks in these terms to them, when they and comfort. The ordinary means of obtaining these we are in circumstances of destitution and suffering, Call upon will carefully employ, whether they are to be found in our me in the day of trouble ; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt own personal efforts, or in the assistance of our fellow-men, glorify me.'' And knowing and believing these things, we or in the circumstances by which we are surrounded. We cannot but go to the throne of grace when our foes rise up will carefully employ these means, because they are divinely against us, and while, in the spirit of love and of a sound appointed, and because we cannot succeed in procuring what mind, we employ every weapon of defence, and every means we wish for without them. But still we will confide in the of safety with which God has entrusted us, it is at once our blessing of God for rendering them effectual. We will seek duty and our privilege to commit our ways to his guidance, for our solace, and our encouragement, and our support in and our fortunes to his management, and to say to him with his promised grace and almighty power. We will lift up the voice of earnest supplication, Judge me, O God, and our souls to Him in prayer and faith. And from our know- plead my cause against an ungodly nation. O deliver me ledge of his character, our belief in his word, and our experi- from the deceitful and unjust man: for thou art the God of ence of his mercy, we will lean upon himn as our stay, and my strength.' rejoice in him as our salvation.
We apply to God as our Judge—not that he may decide One reason why we are so much borne down by our adver- upon our personal merits, and give us the award that is justly sities, is our thinking too little of the divine administration,—due to us; for this were to court and to secure the punishment giving too much attention to secondary causes,-regarding which our sins deserve. As guilty creatures we cast ourselves the arrangements of our lot too much in a state of separation upon his mercy, and though we must look to him as • setting from the unseen hand which regulates them,--and viewing his throne for judgment,' yet we look to him as appointing to every thing that befals us rather in the effects which it pro- that throne the Lord Jesus Christ in whom we have believed duces upon our present feelings than in the purposes in which as our Saviour. But when we apply to him as our Judge in it originates, and in its final and permanent results on our the sense in which the Psalmist uses that language, it is that most important interests. O, if we could only bring our- he may judge between us and those who are inflicting upon selves to see the finger of God in all that happens to us,—to us unmerited wrongs. And, therefore, in order that we may believe, that whoever persecutes us, and whatever annoys make such an application with propriety, with confidence, us, He is our never-failing friend, -to remember that he calls and with success, we must be previously satisfied that we are upon us to place unlimited confidence in his government of the injured party—that our adversaries, in vilifying or in malthe world, and in his dealings with his people,--and to build treating us, are not merely resenting the mischief which we our hopes of his unceasing protection and care upon that have done to them,—but that their cruelty is unprovoked, and strong foundation which he has laid for them in the gospel of their hatred without a cause. Were not this the case, were his Son-if we could but ng ourselves to do this, we we chargeable with the same offences on account of which we should less frequently repine and despond under the pressure complain of others, did their enmity to us proceed from our of calamity; we should assume a loftier tone, and experi- enmity to them, and had we indulged in the spirit or in the ence a more undisturbed serenity amidst the disappointments practice of a vindictive retaliation, our appeal to God in the and vexations of life; and all the hardships to which the character of Judge could only have the effect of involving ourmalice of our bitterest foes could subject us, would only selves as well as our enemies in a sentence of condemnation, make us cling closer to that arm which is mighty to save, and of increasing our guilt by exhibiting our presumption. and drink deeper into those streams of life and consolation But if we suffer from the wanton malice or unprincipled selfwhich flow from the throne of a reconciled God.
ishness of our fellow-men; if we are innocent of what they We may not, my friends, have to sustain the assaults of allege against us as the ground of their hostility ; and still such enemies as those with whom the Psalmist had to more, if that hostility has been created by our firm adherence struggle. But still we cannot expect to be exempted alto- to truth and duty, or if it appears in the form of an ungrateful gether from tribulation, and sometimes it may come upon us return for kindness that has been felt, and benefits that have in its most aggravated form. There are ungodly men who, been bestowed—then is it both safe and becoming in us to being destitute of religious principle, will not scruple to in- make our reference to God's judicial character; and in doing jure us, when they can thereby gratify their passions or so, we may rest assured, that having committed our cause to advance their worldly interests. There are deceitful men, Him who is the Judge of all the earth, and who judges who will put on the garb of friendship, and acquire our con- righteous judgment,' its determination will be such as to vinfidence and esteem, and then treacherously cheat us out of dicate our rights and secure our final welfare. our property, or our reputation, or our peace. There are We apply
to God as our Advocate. • Plead my cause,' says unjust men, who, by fraud or by violence would rob us of the Psalmist, • against an ungodly nation. Those who have our dearest rights and most valuable possessions, and not not the fear of God before their eyes, may reproach us, and only reduce our powers and opportunities of doing good, but wound us, and despoil us; and all our arguments and remoneven diminish our means of comfortable subsistence. And strances may be unavailing to the removal or the abatement there are oppressors who, taking advantage of our weakness of their malevolence; and every effort that we make to ward or dependence, and trampling alike on the maxims of equity of the injuries with which they menace us, may only add to and humanity, may exact from us unreasonable services, im- the bitterness of their malignity and to the activity of their pose upon us heavy burdens and cruel restraints, and ply us evil speaking and their evil doing. But God condescends to with insults, and harassments, and deprivations, from which take up our plea, and to urge it home upon them with an we can make no escape, and for which we can find no redress. energy which we could not employ, and which they cannot re
sist. And we render a just homage to those high and gra-late supplication, send out thy light and thy truth, let them cious attributes in which he has been pleased to reveal him-lead me. Let such be the supplication of our souls when self to us, as well as consult our own personal advantage, similarly situated. Let us ask God to lead us into correct when we beseech him so to manage and" defend our suit, as views and correct feelings, respecting his moral administrathat our enemies shall not be permitted to succeed in their tion. We are naturally ignorant of that subject; and even endeavours, or to triumph in their injustice. Thus praying though we have been made acquainted with it by means of to God, from the firm conviction that he can, we may also the written word, yet much imperfection still cleaves to all pray to him with the animating persuasion that he will, effec- the information we have acquired, and the trials with which we tually take our part against them that trouble us—that by the are frequently visited, are apt to darken and perplex our unsecret influences of his Spirit or the open demonstrations of derstandings, when endeavouring to scan the divine procedure, his providence, he will convert their hearts, or stop their and to reconcile what we experience of disappointment and of mouths, or arrest them in their career of mischief-that in his suffering with what we believe of the greatness and the goodown way, and at his own time, but certainly and completely, ness of that Being, under whose government these evils befal he will bring the controversy to such an issue as to show that us. But though our knowledge were as extensive and accuthe focs of his people, though they may harass for a scason rate on this point as we could desire it to be, still that attaincannot and shall not ultimately prosper.
ment would not be sufficient; for amidst it all, there is a We apply to God as our Deliverer. O deliver me from the natural aversion to every thing which afflicts us with pain, or deceitful and unjust man.' Those wicked men into whose which frustrates our hopes, or which subjects us to the scorn hands we have fallen, and who are attempting to make a prey and the enmity of our fellow-mortals ; and this aversion is so of us, may overmatch us in cunning or in force; and if strong and so inveterate as to make us mutiny under such caabandoned to our own resources, we may become the victims lamities, notwithstanding their constituting, in our system of of their malicious designs, or their violent assaults. But God belief, a part of God's ordinances concerning our lot. And, is made known to us as a Being on whom, in such perilous therefore, we need a two-fold communication from heaven to and helpless circumstances, we may place unsuspecting and meet our necessities, and to .guide our feet into the way of cheerful reliance, for he is our strength; he is strong in wis- peace;' and for these we must be careful to pray. We must dom, strong in power, strong in all the perfections which can pray that God would send forth his light;-that he would operate to rescue us from the grasp, and machinations of our give us such bright and realising conceptions of those attrifoes; and these perfections he is pledged by his promises to butes of his, which make him worthy to be the confidence of put forth in our behalf. Whatever be the number, and the all the ends of the earth,' as that we shall see them operating artifice, and the might of them that set themselves against us, in our seasons of adversity as well as in our seasons of prosthis is our comfort, and this is our refuge, that the Lord God perity, and shall recognise wisdom and mercy in those disomnipotent reigneth ;' that his everlasting arm is underneath pensations which to the carnal and unenlightened eye, wear and round about us continually; that we have free access to the aspect of nothing but capricious chance, or cruel and rethat throne on which he sits as the hearer of prayer; and that lentless fate. And we must pray that he would send forth if, from the midst of those perils into which unjust and de- his truth;'--that he would hold out to us such a strong and ceitful men have plunged us, we implore his merciful inter- impressive manifestation of that feature of his character position, our supplications will prevail upon him to take to which tells us that he is unchangeably true to all the promises him his great power,' to scatter all our enemies, and to eman- that he has ever made, that he would so carry home this pecipate us from all our fcars.
culiar display of himself to our conviction and our experience, And truly, my friends, what need we more than that we as that we should deem it at once irrational and undutiful to should thus be privileged to confide in God as our Judge, our distrust him in any thing, and that in the gloomiest and most Advocate, and our Deliverer ? Yet the Psalmist who seems to disheartening of his providences towards us, we may cling to have habitually looked up to God and trusted in him as sus- his faithfulness as the anchor of our soul, both sure and stedtaining these important characters, ventures, in a moment of fast, and cherish the unwavering, cheering, delightful conforgetfulness and despondency, to utter this complaint, 'Why viction that the most formidable of our adversaries shall never dost thou cast me off? Why go I mourning because of the prevail against us--that he will make their wrath to praise oppression of the enemy?' And alas ! it is to be feared that him? by making it subservient to the good of his people, the same discontent is felt, and the same impatience express- while the remainder of that wrath he will restrain ;'-that he ed, by not a few believers, in the season of severe and pro- will finally and wholly rescue us from whatever they have tracted calamity. All this is quite natural. If God is almighty inflicted, and from whatever they may threaten—and that all to destroy or to subdue our enemies, it is difficult to perceive that we are doomed to suffer from their malice will be overwhy they should be allowed to disturb our peace, or to injure ruled by him for promoting our spiritual improvement and our welfare, as if they were stronger than He who is for us; our future happiness. and if, in spite of all our importunate intreaties for deliver- But while we beseech. God so to illuminate our minds with ance, we are still exposed to their fiery assaults, our argumenta knowledge of his character, and so to impress them with a being strengthened by feeling, it is not wonderful that in our sense of his faithfulness, as that we may be led to a right haste we should be betrayed into that querulous language mode of judging, and a right tone of feeling, respecting his which fell from the lips of David, when under the pressure care of us when we endure the buffetings and persecutions of of evils which he had long endured, and to which he saw no ungodly men, we should also pray for these divine influences symptons of a speedy termination. But though all this be in reference to our engaging in the ordinances of religion. quite natural, it is both erroneous and sinful. It is erroneous Let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.' because it implies that the present is a state of nnqualified re- At all times, and in all circumstances, it is both a bounden tribution; that, because God is possessed of infinite justice duty, and a valuable privilege to wait upon God in the exerand power, he must, therefore, exercise them immediately, cises of his house. But from the nature of these exercisesand to their full extent; that when we are in danger or dis- from their tendency to instruct, and console, and encouragetress he cannot allow us to continue in it, consistently with it is more especially incumbent upon these to engage in them, his own revealed character or with our real welfare. And it who are in perplexity and distress by reason of the harsh and is sinful, inasmuch as it is setting up our imperfect wisdom slanderous and injurious usuage which they receive from a in opposition to the unerring wisdom of God, accusing him of world lying in wickedness. All who such trying condiviolating his promises and abandoning his people, and dicta- tions have betaken themselves to the house of God, and deting to him the time and the manner of bestowing upon us those voutly mingled in its sacred occupations, can bear testimony blessings of which we stand in need, and for which he has to the comfort and the advantage which these are calculated instructed us to pray. Being thus erroneous and sinful, let to impart to the afflicted, but humble and sincere worshipper. us avoid such conduct; and if, on any occasion, we are like He finds in them a support infinitely stronger, and a solacethe Psalmist, betrayed into it, let us also like him, humbly ment infinitely sweeter than any that the mere worldling has impute it to a want of knowledge in our minds, and a want ever found, when, visited by some sorrowful dispensation, he of grace in our hearts, and still let us apply to God in prayer seeks for an assuagement to his grief, or a stay to his dejectas he did, that these wants may be supplied, and that we ed mind, in the secularities of a busy life, or in the amusemay be taught to see more clearly the rectitude of all his ments of a gay one. The prayers that he offers up in faith dealings with us, and enabled more submissively to acquiesce the sympathies of his Christian brethren-his researches in all his dispensations, and more unreservedly to trust in his into the oracles of truth-his meditations on divine things-faithfulness and mercy.
and the various topics to which his attention is directed-all No sooner had David vented his unreasonable and unjusti- are fitted to give him a more thorough apprehension of the fiable complaint than he poured out his soul in this appropri- divine character and government, to reconcile him more effect
ually to the painfulness of that discipline to which he is you the victory over all its terrors? Does not the history of subjected, to awaken in him a spirit of more patient endurance the church furnish you with many illustrious examples of the and more heartfelt submission, to procure for him more abun- divine interposition in behalf of persecuted and afflicted bedant supplies of that grace which is necessary to help him in lievers? And is the arm of your heavenly king now.shorthis times of need, and to send him back to his scene of suf- ened that it cannot save, or his ear now heavy that it cannot fering, better prepared to encounter it with fortitude, and to hear?' Was Daniel safe amidst the fierce lions? Did the bear it with resignation.
three children walk unhurt through the burning furnace ? Did But, that we may thus profit by the services of the sanctu- David escape from his troubles, though all the waves and ary, we must preface them with prayer and supplication. We billows of adversity had gone over him ?' Was not God himrequire, and therefore we must ask the light and truth of God self the angel of their deliverance ? And is he not your God? to bring us unto his holy hill and to his tabernacles'—to dis- And will he not also deliver you, “O ye of little faith? Did pose us to make that solemn approach to him—to fit us for a he give up his own dear Son to crucifixion and to death, that right discharge of the duties which it implies--and to make he might pluck you out of the spoiler's hand? And after this it a good thing for us to draw near’ to the object of our rev. costly ransoming of your souls, and this marvellous exhibition erence and our love. And while we pray for such a blessing of his grace and strength, think you that he either cannot or to accompany us, and to rest upon us, and to sanctify all our will not disenthral you from the power of unjust, deceitful, service, we must take care that our service be a spiritual as ungodly, and oppressive men ? Away all such unworthy suswell as an external service--that we do not merely go unto picions ; such groundless fears! Hope in God.' Rest upon the altar of God,' but unto God' himself-that besides pass. his promises, which are all .yea and amen' in Christ Jesus. ing through all the forms of godliness,' we study to feel Take shelter in the declarations and assurances of that coveand to cherish its animating power; that while we give a nant which he has established with his church, and which in visible demonstration of our respect for every outward ob- all things is well ordered, sure, and everlasting. Do this and servance in which we are called to participate, it be our main you shall yet praise him. His goodness will yet be for a concern to hold communion with the father of our spirits ; * song in the house of your pilgrimage.' And that .sadness that we appear before him, and think of him, and address of the countenance' which has been generated by your trials ourselves to him, as the fountain of our happiness; that we and sorrows, will be found to conceal the tokens of his fathrecognise in him the giver of an exceeding joy,' a joy that|erly love, and by making your heart better,' will attune it for far exceeds in its nature, its degree, and its duration, the joy magnifying in higher and holier strains, the faithfulness and that we can derive from any created source; that while en- the salvation of him in whom you have put your trust. joying the honour and the privilege of engaging in his wor- And even though no such gladness should ever fill your ship, and experiencing the benefits with which his mercy has bosom or pour from your lips, while you travel through the thereby provided nis, we lift up our souls to him in grateful wilderness-though you should go mourning all your days' adoration; that, in conformity to the character of our New because of present and pressing hardships; though, when we Testament economy, we praise him with our voices, as David ask you to sing us one of the songs of Zion, you should repraised him with his harp; that whatever be the channel ply, with the captive Israelite of old, 'How shall we sing the through which our thanksgivings are conveyed, or whatever Lord's song in a strange land;' yet we still bid you · hope in be the mode in which they are expressed, they be the outgo-God, for you shall yet praise him. There is a world beyond ings of devout and deep-felt affection; and that they be offer- this, where all your sorrows shall be hushed into oblivious ed with all the earnestness and ardour which should accom- silence-where the voice of the oppressor shall no more be pany the sacrifices that we present to God as our God, with heard ; where you shall set up that everlasting ‘rest which whom we have reconciliation by the blood of sprinkling, who remaineth for the people of God;' where aninterrupted peace, will be our guide even unto death,' and our portion for and holiest love, and unmingled joy, shall pervade and anievermore.' And surely, if we thus pray, and if we thus go mate the countless multitude that have come through much to the sanctuary of the Lord, and if we thus engage in its tribulation,' and have entered into their glory ;' and where pious and holy offices, we may well employ the language of one theme of your unceasing gratitude shall be those pery self remonstrance and self encouragement with which David afflictions which, in this dark and distant dwelling, had alconcludes the Psalm, . Why art thou cast down, O my soul ? most overturned your faith, and almost plunged you into and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I despair. shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance and my God.'
The Psalmist had formerly, in the spirit of despondency, complained that God had cast him off, and allowed him to go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy.' But his mind now resumes a better tone; his views become en
LECTURE IX. lightened ; his soul • returns to its rest,' and he blames himself for being immoderately agitated and dejected by what he had O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: give car, O God of to suffer, and summons up all his energies to place an unlim- Jacob. Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face ited and rejoicing confidence in God, whom he had been guil- of thine anointed. For a day in thy courts is better than ty of charging foolishly' with having abandoned him to the a thousund. I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of malice of his foes. To such of you, my believing friends, as my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the have much to harass and distress you, and who in your sad Lord God is a sun and shield ; the Lord will give grace and and solitary musings on the hardships of your lot, are ready glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk to murmur or to despair; even though your path hitherto has uprightly. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteh been only ruffled and thorny, and you have at this moment a in thee-Psalm lxxxiv. 8-END. cup of bitter sorrow pressed to your lips, and in the picture of your coming life there be nothing but snares, and difficulties, It has been the characteristic of good men in every age and cruel mockings, and multiplied sufferings in the fore- that they have not restrained prayer before God'—that they ground, and nothing but darkness and desolation in the dis- have, on principle and from feeling, been given to this exertance; even then I would say to you in the words of expostu- cise—that in all their varied circumstances they have engaged lation, why are your souls .cast down, and why are they dis- in it as at once a duty and a privilege, an expression of piety, quieted within you ?? Do not you • believe in God? Are not a means of improvement, and a source of consolation. And you convinced that all things are at his disposal, and under if we be among the number of those who have received the his control? Is not his character adorned with all the ex- spirit of grace and of supplications,' we will not only, under cellencies which can assure you of present safety and eternal the influence of that spirit, “make our request known unto felicity ? Has not he promised, and is not he faithful to per-God,' but we will be anxious that they should be heard with form his promise, that he will never leave you nor forsake acceptance, and answered in peace and mercy. We are you ?? Cannot you trust that, armed as he is with irresistible guilty of mockery when we ask that which we do not need, power, and clothed as he is with unsearchable wisdom, and or when we are unconcerned abont the success of the applifull as he is of the richest and tenderest mercy, he will bring cation that we make. It becomes us to take a lively interest light to you out of the darkness by which you are surround- in every thing that is requisite for promoting our real weled, and good to you out of the manifold evils which beset fare; to depend for the communication of it upon Him. from your path? Is it not the distinct prediction of Christ that whom cometh down every good and perfect gift'—to make it in the world ye shall have tribulation ? but has he not told the subject of sincere and devout petition at the foot-stool of you that he has overcome the world,' and that he will give his throne—and to address him with all that earnestness, and with all that solicitude, which correspond with the importancefarm, therefore, is mighty to guard from evil or to deliver out of the blessings that we implore, and with the character of of it all who are interested in his favour, and need his aid. the Being who is intreated to bestow them.
He prays to him as the God of Jacob, who had graciously And as we pray for the particular benefits which are condescended to make a covenant with Jacob and his seed, suited to our particular situations, so we will appeal to who is faithful to fulfil all the promises of that covenant,those particular attributes, by the exercise of which we and one of whose richest promises is that which the Psalmist may expect to find an appropriate supply to our wants, records in another place, Call upon me in the day of trouand an appropriate refuge from our distresses. If we are in-ble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.' And he volved in difficulties which we have no skill to unravel or to prays to him as God his shield;' who was not only powerful remove, we will of course apply to God for deliverance; but to accomplish his relief, but whose power was in continual we will apply to him more peculiarly as a God of wisdom,--activity for that purpose; who said to Abraham of old, a God whose wisdom can extricate us out of all our perplexi- Fear not, Abraham, I am thy shield;' who was to be conties, and render our path plain, and our prospects clear. If sidered as holding the same language to all the spiritual dewe are in danger from the assault of enemies, whose hostili- scendents of the Patriarch; and who, in the time of their ty we have no strength to resist or subdue, we will of course trouble, would “hide them in his pavilion, and in the secret apply to God for protection and safety; but we will apply to of his tabernacle,' and even when they were at a distance him more peculiarly as a God to whom belongeth power,' from that tabernacle, as the Psalmist now was, would still power to rescue us from every peril, and to defend us against stand between them and all their foes, and secure them against every foe, and to place us in perfect security. If we arc con- every deadly assault, and every fatal catastrophe. And then, scious of guilt, and fearful of condemnation, we will of course though he addresses God as the Lord God of Hosts, as the apply to God for forgiveness; but we will apply to him more God of Jacob, and as God his shield, and though he addresses peculiarly as a God of mercy, as a God whose mercy may be him in these characters with the utmost degree of importuexercised in perfect consistency with his other attributes,-nity, he does not feel that he has done enough to effectuate whose mercy will be exercised towards all who apply for it the object at which he aims. He directs his believing regards in the appointed way,—whose merey can pardon the deepest to the Messiah, to him whom God had anointed' to be the and most aggravated guilt of the sincere penitent. And if Saviour of sinners, and on account of whose obedience unto we are in distress, whether it be of a temporal or of a spirit- death, typified by the unspotted sacrifices under the law, God ual kind, we will of course apply to God for support and became propitious to those who drew near to him; and he relief; but we will apply to him more peculiarly as the God beseeches God to hear him, and answer him, in considération of consolation,--as a God in whom compassions flow,-who of the appointed Mediator in whom he believed, and by is afflicted in all our afflictions,'—and who is both able and whom he had confidence and boldness to pray. willing to comfort us amidst the various tribulations in which Now, my friends, let us imitate the example of the Psalmwe may be involved.
ist. Let us be especially afflicted by the deprivation of And while we pray to God for the blessings that we need, spiritual benefits, and especially solicitous to have spiritand while we offer up, our supplications with sincerity and ual benefits restored to us when they happen to be taken earnestness, and while we address God in special reference away. And for this end, let us address God in prayer ; to those attributes, which correspond with the nature of our convinced that all our fortunes are in his hands, that he alone necessities, we will never forget, if we have drawn our no- can comfort and assist, and rescue us when we are so situated tions from the Gospel, and if we have been taught by the as to require interposition, and that devout and fervent appliSpirit to pray, that our petitions must depend for their suc- cations to him at his throne of mercy, are the means which cess, not upon any merit of our own, for, alas! we have he himself has ordained and sanctioned for our obtaining nothing of that kind to plead before the holy majesty of hea- from him the blessings that we stand in need of. Let us in ven,-but
the merit of him whom God has appointed to all such approaches contemplate him, and recognise him, be our Mediator, and for whose sake alone, therefore, we can and appeal to him, as possessing the peculiar excellencies expect to find acceptance when we approach the divine pres- which render him infinitely worthy of our dependance, and ence, and to get an answer in peace when we implore the which invite and encourage us to ask, and to seek, and to divine bounty.
knock for the communications of his grace. And while we of all this we have an example and a practical illustration apply to him as clothed with majesty and power, and as unin the case of the Psalmist. He was a man of God, and, changeably true to the promises of his covenant, and as contherefore, he was a man of piety and prayer. And whether tinually holding forth the protection of his providence, let us he was in joy or in sorrow, he delighted to pour out his apply to him as the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, heart to that great being to whom he was indebted for in whom alone it that we can hope to find acceptance, and the one, and from whom he expected support amidst the through whom alone it is that we can hope to receive what other. It was particularly in seasons of difficulty and dis- we supplicate ; whose merits are at once absolutely essential, tress that he had recourse to the throne of grace.' Nor and altogether sufficient to procure for us .mercy to pardon, was it merely or chiefly in the time of temporal calami- and grace to help in every time of need.' ties—it was also and chiefly in the time of spiritual depriva- The Psalmist explains the reason that he had for being tions, that he took refuge in devotional exercises. of this so urgent in praying to be restored to the privilege from which we have a remarkable instance in the passage before us. he had been unjustly and cruelly separated: it was the The Psalmist had, by the rebellion of his son, and the united ardent love that he bore to the house, and the public ordipower and malice of his enemies, been necessitated to aban-nances of God. "For a day in thy courts is better than a don the holy city. In this way he was prevented from thousand; I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my engaging in the public ordinances of religion on which he God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.' In the behad, from principle and from experience, been accustomed to ginning of the Psalm, he had proclaimed the amiableness of set the highest value. And considering it as one of the hea-God's tabernacles considered in themselves. Here he looks viest dispensations with which it was possible for him to be at the subject in the way of comparison; and he states his visited, he is naturally most anxious to be delivered from it, preference in terms the most explicit and emphatic. So much and restored to privileges in the enjoyment of which he had enjoyment had he in the services of the sanctuary, and such formerly been so happy, and through the loss of which he important advantages did he derive from them, and so closely had become so miserable and forlorn. In his extremity, he was his engaging in them connected with a principle of obecalls upon God. He fervently intreats him to hear his dience to the divine authority, and of regard for the divine prayer. He reiterates the intreaty that he would lend an honour, that if he could be permitted to devote ever so short attentive ear to the aspirations of his soul. And he pleads a time to them, that short time would be far more precious to with all the urgency and importunateness of one who deeply him than the longest period spent in places where God was feels his wretchedness, and eagerly desires to have it miti- not acknowledged, and in exercises with which the fear and gated or removed.
the love of God were not permitted to intermingle. Sin, he He appeals to those characters by which God commends saw and knew, had its honours, and its pleasures, and himself to his people when they are in circumstances of its profits ; but though he could be allowed to inhabit its destitution and affliction, and when they are crying to im most costly and Inxurious palaces, though he could command for help and for comfort. He prays to him as the Lord God for himself every desirable thing which it had to bestow, and of Hosts,' who is the supreme ruler of the universe,—who though he had the power of communicating these to all has every thing in it at his uncontrolled command and sovereign around him, he would not think for a moment of putting his disposal,-who does according to his will in the armies of situation there in competition with the meanest place that heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth,'—and whose ever a saint occupied, and with the scantiest fare that ever a
saint received, in the temple of his God. This was David's their essential principles, and all their peculiar affections. deliberate and determined choice; a choice which he often Let me therefore beseech you to examine yourselves by this expressed in the most glowing language; a choice, the deci- test; and not to think yourselves safe till you have been siveness and sincerity of which he uniformly demonstrated in brought to feel somewhat of that warm affection for the worhis conduct.
ship and service of God, which animated the breast, and acO how unlike to the Psalmist, in this respect, are many tuated the conduct of the Psalmist. Nor rest satisfied with professing Christians! We speak not of those who do not low attainments in this important grace. The more ardently acknowledge the truth and authority of revelation. Living you love the house of prayer and praise, the stronger will be visibly, if not avowedly, without God in the world,' we can- the proof of your progress in sanctification ; and then that not wonder that the institutions of the Gospel should be view-devout attendance on the ordinances of the gospel, which will ed by them with dislike, and treated by them with contempt. necessarily accompany your love for them, must have a powBut we speak of those who profess to have faith in the Bible, erful effect on the improvement of all your Christian virtues, and to hope for salvation by Christ, and who pay a certain and lead you to verify the statement in Scripture, which dedegree of respect to religious ordinances; and we say of clares, that they who wait upon the Lord shall mount up on many of them, that in their mouths the language of the Psalm- wings as eagles: they shall run and not be weary, ist would be mere pretence, because it is habitually contra- walk and not faint.' dicted by their conduct. They have evidently no liking to And you my Christian friends, who have cherished that the house of God, and to its services. Many and trivial are profound and affectionate attachment to the house and orditheir excuses for absence. When prevented from attending, nances of God, which was so deeply felt and so rapturously they feel no regret; and when they do come, it is with an ill- expressed by the Psalmist, will be ready to bear your testiconcealed reluctance. And then how cold and unconcerned mony along with his, to the strong encouragement which his in their devotions! How inattentive are they to the preach-people have to draw near to him in his sanctuary. Such is ing of the Gospel! How much more interested in their out- his character, and such are the manifestations he condescends ward appearance, and outward comfort, than in the state of to make of it, that it is impossible to know him, and believe their affections, and in the improvement of their understand- in him, and love him, without ardently desiring to dwell in ings and their hearts! And how fretful and discontented his courts, and faithfully and piously engaging in the instituwhen the service exceeds by ever so little, the very limited tions which are there observed, "The Lord God is a sun period during which they are disposed to engage in it, or to and shield ; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good be present at it, without losing their patience. But follow thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. How them into the world, and observe the contrast which they ex- comprehensive and how satisfying is this representation of hibit. To the gay pleasures, and to the grave pursuits of him whom you are called to worship and to serve! And if that world, they have no aversion. For these they so eagerly you give credit to the statement, how anxious must you be to long, that the sacredness of the Sabbath scarcely escapes vio-tread his courts, and with what fervour and delight will you lation. Into these they plunge with a devotedness of feeling mingle in those ordinances in which he thus reveals himself, which all the prayers, and the praises, and the instructions and through which he thus becomes to you all that you need, of the sanctuary, could never command. While indulging in and all that you can desire ! them, how quickly does their time pass away! How do they He is a Sun to enlighten your understandings with saving murmur when any thing occurs to interrupt or to shorten knowledge, and to guide your feet in the way of peace;' to. them! How vehemently do they strive to prolong their du- cheer your hearts amidst the perplexities and discourageration, and to heighten their relish, and to secure their per- ments of your earthly pilgrimage; and to give warmth and manency! And rather than forego them, how ready are they life and activity to all your powers, which, but for his vivifyto renounce all that is good in principle, and great in charac-ing influences, would become cold and torpid. And he is ter, if they render such a sacrifice indispensable, and to sit a Shield to defend you from the fiery darts of the wicked down contented with the paltriest advantages they can afford, one;' to ward off the arrows of malice and of scorn with and with the meanest gratifications they can give, to the most which ungodly men assail you ; to protect you not only from worthless of their slaves! In every thing worldly they en- the evils which would otherwise overwhelm you, but also gage with all their heart; but for the spiritual services of from the petty injuries by which you might be harassed and God's house, they have little or no heart at all. And it depressed ; and to interpose between you and your spiritual would be a just expression of their character, were they to enemies with such vigilance and constancy, that they cannot invert the language of the Psalmist, and say, 'A day spent overcome you, or prevent you from being finally triumphant in the occupation and indulgences of a worldly life, is better in that arduous warfare which you are doomed to wage with than a thousand in the courts of the Lord : I had rather be them. the humblest partaker of those joys which are to be found in The Lord will give Grace ; grace to pardon your offences, the tents of wickedness, than fill the most honourable station, and deliver your conscience from the burden of guilt; grace and feast upon the richest blessings, to which I could be in- to purify your souls more and more from that moral defilevited in the house of my God.'
ment which naturally cleaves to them; grace to help you in O if there be any now hearing me to whom this descrip- all your seasons of trial and of weakness; grace to comfort tion justly applies, think how completely it strips you of all you in every disconsolate hour, and to strengthen you for your pretensions to genuine Christianity: Neglecting or dis- every Christian duty; grace to keep you stedfast in the siking the ordinances of religion, what becomes of your re-faith of Jesus, and in the obedience of his law, and in the spect for the authority of God, who has appointed these ordi- hope of his gospel; grace to insure your perseverance in the nances, and commanded you to observe them? Taking no path of spiritual life, and to obtain the victory over the terserious interest in the pious and instructive exercises of the rors and the power of death. And leaving thus given you sanctuary, how is it possible to help concluding that the Grace here, he will also give you Glory hereafter. He will truths of the gospel have no value in your estimation, and receive you into that heavenly kingdom for which he was that they are the objects neither of your faith, nor of your preparing you upon earth; a state from which all that is sinlove? Taking no pleasure in holding communion with your ful, all that is degrading, and all that is unhappy, shall be God and Saviour in his house below, where is your prepara- for ever excluded, and in which you shall be privileged with tion for maintaining that more intimate intercourse with him whatever is great in intellectual attainment, and perfect in in his temple above, which is to form one of the highest hon- moral excellence,—with whatever is splendid in honour, and ours, and most delightful employments of those who are to exquisite in enjoyment,—with all the fulness of God, and all be introduced into that blessed place ? And preferring the the blessedness of immortality. service of the world to the service of him who made you and And is there any thing else of which you feel your need, has redeemed you, upon what ground can you expect that he and which you do not conceive to enter into these views of will bestow upon you any reward at last, or that he will not the divine beneficence? Then here it is in the assurance leave you to be recompensed by that master to whom you that he will withhold no good thing from you.' There is have cleaved, and whose . wages is death ?! If you know nothing which is either necessary or conducive to your welany thing of what true religion is, and reflect but for a mo- fare, which his loving kindness will not bestow upon you in ment on what you are doing, you must be sensible that so its proper measure, and in its proper season. Even the long as the ordinances of God's house are treated by you comforts of a present world will be given, so far as the wiseither with indifference or dislike, you have no lot or part in dom of your heavenly Father sees them for your real benefit, the salvation of the gospel; you are not only destitute of one and farther than that you could not safely or dutifully wish thing which has invariably distinguished the people of God, to receive them. No temporal evil will be permitted to but you are destitute of that which indicates the want of all befal you, which is not requisite for the trial of your faith'