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GOD TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED IN OUR MERCIES
Psalms 124:1-8. If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say; if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us: then they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us: then the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul; then the proud waters had gone over our soul. Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given us as a prey to their teeth. Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.
ON what occasion this psalm was written, we are not informed: but in the title it is ascribed to David: and no period in his history suits it better than the time of Absalom’s rebellion, when, but for God’s interposition, in defeating the counsel of Ahithophel, the banished monarch and his adherents must all have perished.
But as there is no period fixed, it will be needless to enter into a consideration of any circumstances as connected with the psalm, since all that we should say could rest on no better foundation than conjecture. Of course, if we apply the psalm to the circumstances of our own nation at the present time [Note: Oct. 1814.], we shall not be understood as intimating that there was any such reference intended by the Psalmist, but merely as accommodating the general expressions of it to our own particular case: and truly we must say, that if they had originally been penned for the occasion, they could not be more suited to it than they are.
Two things then we would lead you to consider:
The great deliverances which we are now met to celebrate—
During this long and bloody war, several occasions have arisen wherein we have experienced the most signal deliverance. We will call your attention to a few: we have been saved, almost by miracle, from,
The revolutionary principles—
[In our own nation, as well as on the continent, there was a general outcry about liberty and equality! and multitudes in every rank of life united their efforts to overthrow the Constitution of this country, and to establish a democracy in the land. Even pious people in vast numbers were carried away by the delusive idea of ameliorating the condition of the lower classes of society, and lent their aid to others who aimed at nothing less than the utter subversion of the Government. But through the energy of our king, and of those who administered his government, God in his infinite mercy preserved us: and we have lived to see the day when almost all who were so deluded have seen their error, and been led to regard the constitution of this country as the most perfect of any upon earth.]
The mutiny of the fleet—
[Time was, when the dissatisfaction so industriously cherished and diffused by traitors within our own bosom, and spread, by means of corresponding committees, over the whole land, had reached even that class of men who in all former ages had been the boast and glory of their country, the sailors in our fleet. Many of these broke forth into open mutiny, and threatened to carry out ships, which were the bulwark of the nation, to the ports of our enemies. Such a blow as that would have destroyed us utterly: but the same kind Providence which had watched over us on so many other occasions, interposed to rescue us from the impending calamity, and to restore amongst our fleet that union and energy which have rendered it triumphant in every quarter of the globe.]
The threatened invasion—
[What immense preparations were made by our enemies to invade us, and what little preparation there was on our part to oppose them, cannot have escaped from our remembrance. True it is, that we were powerful by sea; and that consideration it was which kept the enemy in check: but had not their forces been called off to other encounters, there can be no doubt but that they would have attempted to invade us; and, if they had succeeded in landing only two thirds of the forces which they might have brought against us, there can be no doubt but that they would have seized and plundered the metropolis, and spread desolation and misery over the whole country. We all know what destruction they threatened us with [Note: “Delenda est Carthago!” was their universal cry.]; and, could they have once overrun our country, they would have reduced us to such a state of subjection as Israel experienced, when the Philistines suffered them not even to retain a workman in their land, who should be able to fabricate arms for their defence. Not a dock, or a naval architect, would have been left in our land.]
The overthrow of the Russian empire—
[Already had the whole of Europe been combined against us, and we were constrained to array ourselves against their united force. But the insatiable ambition of our great enemy raised up opposition at last from amongst his own allies, and gave us an opportunity of engaging him in a foreign land, instead of having to contend with him on our own soil. Still however we must have fallen before him, had not his insupportable despotism goaded to resistance the Russian monarch. But at one time, even that event also appeared to have prepared for us a more complete destruction. But God suffered the proud oppressor madly to protract his stay amongst the ruins of Moscow, till a retreat became extremely difficult. Hence arose defeat: the severity of the climate, and the extraordinary energy of the Russian armies, soon dissipated the forces of our enemy; and enabled many who had been compelled to fight under his banners, to turn their arms against him, and to seek the recovery of their former independence. Yet, after all, if the last great battle had not been decided in favour of the allied armies, our enemy might still have retrieved his former losses, and again forged chains for the whole civilized world. But the time was come for God to have mercy on us; and he has had mercy beyond all that could possibly have been expected: he has trodden down the oppressor, as the mire in the streets; and has restored peace amongst all the contending nations, even such a peace as the world never saw before; a peace cemented by universal harmony and love.]
Let us then, instead of contemplating our mercies only, proceed to consider,
The duty of acknowledging God in them—
In the psalm before us, all the success is ascribed to God alone: God’s gracious agency is acknowledged to have been the sole cause of Israel’s preservation [Note: ver. 1, 2.]; for this his name is humbly and gratefully adored [Note: ver. 6.]; and he is declared to be henceforth the only hope of his people [Note: ver. 8.]. In like manner should we acknowledge him in all the mercies which we now celebrate: for,
They do all in reality proceed from him—
[We are by no means disposed to withhold our tribute of praise from those who have been the instruments of our deliverance. Those who have been at the helm of our affairs have certainly laid their plans with consummate wisdom; and our forces both by sea and land have carried them into execution with extraordinary energy. But still, without the Divine blessing their united efforts, however great, would have failed. It is God alone who inspired them either with wisdom or courage; and he alone who gave success to their endeavours. We are assured that even the ploughman and the thresher derive all their skill from him [Note: Isaiah 28:26-29.]; how much more then the governors of nations, and the conductors of fleets and armies! The victories of Cyrus were, as much as any could be, the result of human energy; because God was not known either to him or to his people: but God tells us, that he, even he alone, gave him success [Note: Isaiah 45:1-7.]. In like manner it is he, and he alone, who has conducted us in safety through all our troubles, and brought them at last to such a happy issue. That we should see and acknowledge this, is of infinite importance; because God is “a jealous God, who will not give his glory to another,” or endure that we should “sacrifice to our own drag, and burn incense to our own net.” Hear with what earnestness he cautioned the Jews against this great impiety [Note: Deuteronomy 8:11-17.]; and let us learn with all possibly care to avoid it: let us bear in mind that it is God alone “who maketh wars to cease, and breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder, and burneth the chariot in the fire [Note: Psalms 46:9-10.];” and that, as there is not evil, so neither is there good, in the city, which is not the work of his hands. [Note: Amos 3:6.]]
The acknowledging of him in them gives us the truest enjoyment of them—
[Others may indulge in carnal mirth; but their joy will expire “as the crackling of thorns under a pot;” and no solid benefit will accrue to their souls. But if we view God in our mercies, they will lead our affections heavenward; they will tend to abase us in the dust for our own unworthiness, and to magnify in our estimation the goodness of God, who has done such great things for us. Compare these feelings with those which the ungodly experience on such occasions; how pure, how elevating, how abiding! We may see the conduct of the ungodly strikingly exemplified by the Amalekites after they had invaded and plundered Ziklag: “they were spread abroad upon all the earth, eating, and drinking, and dancing, because of the great spoil that they had taken [Note: 1 Samuel 30:16.].” On the other hand, we may behold in Israel the conduct of the godly, singing praises unto God, and glorifying him for all the wonders he had wrought for them at the Red Sea; “Who is like unto thee, O Lord, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders [Note: See Exodus 15:1-11.]?” Can we doubt which of the two had the richer enjoyment of their prosperity? Let us then imitate the pious Israelites: yea, let us contemplate, like David, every occurrence whereby God has manifested his care over us; and let us, in reference to every one of them, say, “His mercy endureth for over; his mercy endureth for ever [Note: See Psalms 136:0.].”]
A view of him in these his providential mercies will encourage us to apply to him for the blessings of his grace—
[Grent as the dangers were from which Israel had been delivered by the interpositions of their God, they were not a whit greater than those to which we are exposed every day and hour. Truly we have a sea of difficulties ready to overwhelm us: we have a roaring lion seeking to devour us; and a subtle enemy ready to take us in his snares. And who, but God, can deliver us? Who can hope to escape from so great perils, if God himself be not on his side? Truly, “our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth,” and in his name alone. Where is there one of us, who, when he considers the number and power of his spiritual enemies, has not reason to say, “Blessed be the Lord, who hath not given me as a prey to their teeth?” Sure we are, that there is not a believer amongst us, who does not view himself as “a brand plucked out of the burning,” and marvel at the grace that has been magnified towards him in the redemption of his soul.
Now then let those who have not yet experienced this mercy, consider how gracious God has been to our guilty land, and what an amazing deliverance he has vouchsafed to us: and let them say within themselves, “Will God be less gracious to my soul?” Has he not assured me, that “he willeth not the death of any sinner;” that “he will cast out none who come to him in the name of Jesus;” and that, if I make my requests known to him, he will fill me with “a peace that passeth all understanding?” O let us put this matter to a trial; let us see whether or not he is “rich in mercy unto all that call upon him.” Beloved Brethren, the time is short: there are yet but a few more months or years, perhaps but a few more days or hours, before the day of salvation will be closed. We would earnestly wish, that, at the moment, of your departure hence, you should be able to look back on all the dangers you have escaped, and with triumphant exultation adopt the language of the psalm before us. Certainly, as many of us as shall be saved at last, will instantly, on their entrance into the eternal world, begin the song of the redeemed, and sing, “Salvation to God and to the Lamb for ever and ever!” Now then seek to have the Lord on your side: beg him to strengthen you against all the evils of your own hearts; to rescue you from the impending storms of a tumultuous world; and to deliver you from all the deceit and violence of your great adversary. So shall you have peace with God in your own conscience; and in due season enter into that rest, where neither sin nor sorrow shall ever assault you more. [Note: The author was not aware that he had written on this subject before. But us the former Skeleton consists of only a single page, and this goes over such different ground, particularly in shewing how to improve national mercies, he has thought it not improper to print this also.]]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 124". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany