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GOD’S WORD MAGNIFIED
Psalms 138:2. Thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.
A DEVOUT mind will never want occasions for praising God: but there are some occasions whereon it will find peculiar liberty and enlargement. If, for instance, we have been in deep affliction; if we have had recourse to God in prayer; if we have laid hold on his promises, and pleaded them before him; and, in particular, if we have had them accomplished to our souls; this process prepares the mind, quickens it, elevates it, and so fills it, that it cannot but express its feelings in gratitude and praise.
David had, under some deep affliction, used these means for relief, and found their efficacy: “In the day when I cried, thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul [Note: ver. 3.].” Constrained by a sense of this great mercy, he breaks forth into this devout acknowledgment: “I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods (that is, in the presence of all the great ones of the earth) will I sing praise unto thee. I will worship towards thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving-kindness and for thy truth (which, in this particular instance, thou hast so signally displayed:) for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name;” and hast shewn that it shall infallibly be fulfilled to all who trust in it.
From these words I will take occasion to shew,
What honour God puts upon his word—
“He magnifies it above all his name,” that is, above every thing whereby he has made himself known to mortal man. He has revealed himself in part, by his works of Creation and Providence; but far more abundantly by his word. He has sent it to us,
As a mirror, to reflect his glory—
[“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy-work [Note: Psalms 19:1.].” “From them may his eternal power and Godhead be clearly seen [Note: Romans 1:20.].” In his providential dealings, also, is much of his wisdom and goodness exhibited. But of his perfections, generally, we can form no idea from these things: of his purposes we can know nothing. The state of the heathen world clearly attests this: for they behold the wonders of creation and providence, as well as we: “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard: their line is gone out into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world [Note: Psalms 19:3-4.].” But in the sacred volume all the glory of the Godhead shines: there we are admitted, so to speak, even to the council-chamber of the Most High; to hear the covenant entered into between the Father and the Son; the Father engaging to give to him a seed, whom he should have for his inheritance, if he, on his part, would “make his soul an offering for their sins,” and, in their nature, expiate the guilt of their iniquities [Note: Isaiah 53:10. with Psalms 40:6-8.]. This mysterious transaction having taken place in the incarnation and death of the Lord Jesus Christ, we behold all the perfections of God united and harmonizing in a way that they never did, nor could, by any other means: we see justice more inexorable, than if it had executed vengeance on the whole human race; and mercy more abundant, than if it had spared the whole human race without any such atonement. There, as it is well expressed, “Mercy and truth are met together, and righteousness and peace kiss each other [Note: Psalms 85:10.].” Of this great mystery we find not a trace in the whole creation besides: but in the word it is reflected, as in a mirror [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.]; and shines so bright, that the very angels around the throne are made wiser by the revelation of it to the Church [Note: Ephesians 3:10.].]
As a standard, to which every thing may be referred—
[Of God’s will we know nothing, but from the word: “we know neither good nor evil from all that is before us.” What God requires of us, nothing in creation or providence can inform us: what he will do for us, we cannot ascertain: how he will deal with us in the eternal world, we cannot learn. But, in the sacred volume, all is written as with a sun-beam. There is nothing which God expects us to do for him, which is not there most explicitly declared: nothing which he engages to do for us, that does not form the subject of a distinct promise. The whole of his procedure in the day of judgment is there laid open: the laws by which we shall be judged; the manner in which the testimony, whether against us or in our favour, shall be produced; the grounds on which the sentence of condemnation or acquittal shall be passed; yea, the very state to which every person, either as acquitted or condemned, shall be consigned; all is so clearly made known, that every person, who will judge himself with candour now, may assuredly anticipate his fate. There is nothing left to conjecture. Every man has a standard to which he may refer, for the rectifying of his judgment in every particular: so that nothing can be added, for the instruction of our minds, or the regulation of our future expectations.]
As a fountain, from whence all his blessings emanate—
[Great blessings, beyond all doubt, flow down to us through the works of creation and providence: in fact, they are incessantly administering to our welfare; for “God opens his hands, and fills all things living with plenteousness.” Still, however, the benefits derived from them are only temporal; whereas those which the inspired volume imparts are spiritual and eternal: from thence we derive all our knowledge of divine truth, and all our hopes of everlasting salvation. Nor is it the knowledge only of truth that we obtain, but the operation and efficacy of it on our souls. There is in divine truth, when applied by the Holy Spirit, a power to wound, to heal, to sanctify, to save [Note: Psalms 19:7-11.]. When it comes to the soul with power, the stoutest heart in the universe is made to tremble: when it is poured out as balm, the most afflicted creature under heaven is made to leap for joy. Look over the face of the globe, and see how many, who were once under the unrestrained dominion of sin, are now transformed into the image of their God. And then ascend to heaven, and behold the myriads of the redeemed around the throne of God, uniting their hallelujahs to God and to the Lamb: to this state were they all brought by that blessed word, which alone could ever prevail for so great a work. Thus it is that God has magnified his word; and thus it is that he will magnify it to the end of time; yea, through eternity will it be acknowledged as the one source of all the blessings that shall ever be enjoyed.]
Does God so honour his word? Surely, then, we may see,
What honour we should put upon it—
I will here content myself with specifying only two particulars:
We should regulate ourselves altogether by it—
[We should know no other rule, either for our faith or practice. Whatever that speaks, we should receive with the most implicit confidence. Reason must judge whether there be sufficient evidence of its divine origin: but, that once admitted, the whole must be received by faith. We are not to be sitting in judgment on God’s word, and saying, I cannot understand how there should be three persons in the Godhead; or how the Son should become incarnate; or how the Holy Spirit should dwell in the heart of a believer; or how we should be ultimately saved by a righteousness not our own. I say, we are not called to sit in judgment upon these things, but to receive them on the authority of God himself, who alone knows the manner of his own subsistence, or what is that mode of imparting salvation which is most suited to his own divine character.
If it be thought, that to expect a rational being so to submit his reason to the authority of revelation, is to require a sacrifice that is unworthy of him; I answer, that this is the very way in which all human knowledge is acquired. What knows a child, for instance, respecting the elements of language? You tell him, but in terms which he cannot comprehend, what grammar is, and what its rules are for the construction of language. What your instructions mean, he has no conception: but he takes for granted, that what you tell him is true: and from first receiving it simply on your authority, he comes, in time, to see that things are so, and must be so; that there is, in fact, no other way of communicating any abstract idea; and that, by that contrivance, we may open to the mind of another person the very inmost recesses of our own. Thus, in receiving the mysterious truths of God, we first take them on the authority of our Divine Teacher; then, gradually finding that they correspond with our own experience, we see that they are precisely as they have been represented to us: then we come to find that they could not be otherwise: and, in the issue, we obtain such views of their individual importance, their general harmony, and their mutual subserviency to the glory of God in the salvation of man, that we have no more doubt of them than of our own existence.
But it is not in speculative views that we must rest: we must, if we would indeed magnify the word, take it also as the rule of our conduct. We must not take offence at any thing because it requires more than we are disposed to yield: but, instead of lowering the command to our attainments, we must endeavour to elevate our attainments to it. The very “thoughts and imaginations of our hearts must be brought into obedience to God’s blessed word;” and our whole souls be cast into it, as into a mould [Note: Romans 6:17. The Greek.], not leaving a lineament in that unimpressed upon our souls, or retaining a feature upon our souls unconformed to that.
This is the way in which we are to honour the word; and to fail in any part of this, is to refuse it that entire submission which it requires at our hands.]
We should endeavour to circulate it to the very ends of the earth—
[This must follow as a matter of course. For, do we possess a mirror that reflects all the glory of our God; and shall we not desire that every human being may behold its light? Have we a standard to which every thing that is interesting to man may be referred; and shall we not give to the whole world the advantage of it? Have we a fountain from whence all imaginable blessings flow; and shall we keep it to ourselves, and not endeavour to impart its blessings to every child of man? Surely we must rather pant for an opportunity to make it known to the whole world. We must strive to circulate it through every country under heaven, whether civilized or savage: we must be ready to engage in translating it into every language in the world, in order that all men may be able to read in their own tongue the wonderful works of God. To preach it, too, we should account our highest honour, though it be amongst the most uncivilized nations of the earth: nor let it be thought that the most transcendent talents can be applied to any better purpose than this. On the contrary, the more eminent any person’s talents are, the more would we urge him to consecrate them to the blessed work of translating this sacred volume into languages in which it has never yet appeared, and of instructing his fellow-creatures who are yet sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. Even an angel from heaven accounts it an honour to carry this book through the vast expanse of heaven, “to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people [Note: Rev 14:6].” Let it not then be thought an occupation unworthy of us; and, whilst we are earnestly praying to God that he would send forth his light and his truth to every quarter of the globe, let us, by every possible means, endeavour to promote this glorious and blessed object. Let us first seek to have “the word of Christ dwelling richly in all wisdom” in our own souls, and then labour that “it may have free course, and be glorified” throughout the earth.]
ANSWERS TO PRAYER
Psalms 138:3. In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.
THE blessed word of God abounds with promises, with promises of all that we can need, grace, mercy, peace, strength, victory. But will these promises be so performed, that a poor sinful man like ourselves shall be conscious of the performance of them to his own soul? Here is the peculiar excellency of the Book of Psalms; in which we have a record of David’s own experience. We see in this book a faithful delineation of a man’s intercourse with his Maker; and, in the words which I have read, a testimony that God had fulfilled his word, yea, and “magnified it above all his name.”
Let us consider,
David’s testimony to the compassion of his God—
David was in the habit of spreading all his wants before God—
[Exceedingly had he been tried from his youth up. With such unrelenting malignity was he persecuted by Saul, that nothing but a direct interposition of the Deity could preserve him — — — But he committed his cause to God in prayer — — — And when no hope, according to human appearances, remained to him, “he encouraged himself in the Lord his God [Note: 1 Samuel 30:6.].”]
And from God he received many signal answers to prayer—
[Of this he testifies with much joy and gratitude [Note: Psalms 18:4-6; Psalms 34:3-6.] — — — In my text, he particularly declares that God’s answers to his prayers had been both speedy and effectual. “In the very day that he cried, God had answered him,” when he was shut up in the city of Keilah. He had heard that Saul was coming to besiege him there; and he had reason to fear that the men of Keilah would deliver him up into the hands of Saul. On both these points he sought information from the Lord, who knew perfectly not only what designs actually existed in the minds of men, but what would be formed under any circumstances which might occur. Here was no time for delay: nor did God delay to give him the information he desired. Thus, through the speed with which his prayer was answered, his life, together with that of his followers, was preserved [Note: 1 Samuel 23:9-12.]. Exceeding abundant, too, had been God’s gracious communications to him in answer to his prayer. Any man who was not miraculously sustained by God would have sunk under the weight of his afflictions, or at least would have availed himself of the opportunities which were repeatedly afforded him of terminating them by the death of his inveterate enemy. But, though urged to it by his own friends, he would in no wise consent to such a method of extricating himself from his calamities [Note: 1 Samuel 24:4-7; 1 Samuel 26:7-12.]. Well might he say, as in my text, “Thou strengthenedst me with strength in my soul:” for, if not strengthened in a very extraordinary degree from on high, he never could have maintained such a conduct as this.]
When we see such a testimony as this, it becomes us to consider,
The instruction to be derived from it—
It would be impossible in one discourse, or in many, to unfold all the important lessons that are to be learned from this testimony: I will, therefore, confine myself to two:
The efficacy of prayer—
[O that this were duly considered! How urgent should we be at the throne of grace! Who amongst us should not be able to bear the same testimony with David, if, like him, we habituated ourselves to fervent and believing prayer? Never did God say to any, “Seek ye my face in vain.” No: he is “a God that heareth prayer.” “The prayer of the upright is his delight.” And such is the efficacy of it, when poured out in faith, that, when he had determined to punish Israel for their iniquities, he forbad Moses to intercede for them; saying, “Let me alone, that I may consume them;” that is, ‘If you intercede for them, you will bind my hands, so that I cannot execute the threatened vengeance: and, therefore, let me alone, that I may be free to act.’ Be assured, Brethren, that whilst you have a heart to pray, God has an ear to hear, and answer. David succeeded by “worshipping towards God’s holy Temple [Note: ver. 2.]:” and shall not you, if you direct your prayer to Him wham the Temple typified, even the Lord Jesus Christ? Shall it be in vain to supplicate your incarnate God, or to go to the Father in the name of his dear Son? Try it; and you shall soon have to say with David, “I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee: for in the day when I cried, thou answeredst me [Note: ver. 1.].” Yes, you shall understand, by sweet experience, the truth of that promise, “It shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear [Note: Isaiah 65:24.].” Nay, more, your God will do for you not only what you ask, but “exceeding abundantly above all that you can ask or think.”]
The use and intent of trials—
[We are apt to regard them as enemies that are greatly to be dreaded; (and, no doubt, “they are not for the present joyous, but grievous:”) but they are indeed blessings in disguise. They are often sent to quicken us to prayer; to make us feel our dependence on God; and to discover to us the abundance of his condescension and grace. What would David have known of God comparatively, if he had not been placed in circumstances of great difficulty, where none but God could help him, and where God, in answer to his prayers, appeared for his support? No man ever more abounded in praises than he; but they all had their foundation in the deliverances vouchsafed in answer to his prayers. When, therefore, any trial comes, say with yourselves, Now God is preparing me for richer discoveries of his own glory; and if he make me to feel my own weakness, it is only that he may “perfect his own strength in and by that weakness.” Fear not, then, to go into any depths; since from them shall your prayer come up, even us Jonah’s did, into the ears of the Most High; and God will take you from them, to set your feet upon a rock, and to fill you with praises and thanksgivings to him for the manifestations of his love [Note: Psalms 40:1-3.].]
Those who restrain prayer before God—
[The generality know not what prayer is, but content themselves with reading or reciting a form in which they feel no interest — — — And of those who have on some particular occasions called upon his name, how many relapse into a cold and formal state, as though they had ceased to need the blessings which they once solicited! Alas! what enemies are both of these characters to the real welfare of their own souls! They are enemies even to their present happiness, and much more to their happiness in the world to come. This I must say to all persons of this description: “You have not, because you ask not:” nor can you ever have pardon, or peace, or holiness, or glory, in any way but in that of humble, fervent, and believing prayer. You must “open your mouth wide,” if ever you would have it “filled” with spiritual and eternal blessings.]
Those who can unite in David’s testimony respecting the compassion of their God—
[Go on, and “pray without ceasing.” There never is a day when you cease to need a supply of spiritual good; and never shall your importunity displease your God. “Be not straitened in yourselves, and never shall you find that you are straitened in him.” Live a life of prayer, and you shall never be disappointed of your hope [Note: Isaiah 40:31.]. Be instant in prayer, and you may say with David, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me [Note: ver. 7.].” You may add, too, with equal confidence, “The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me [Note: ver. 8.].” What delightful thoughts are these! and how will you “sing in the ways of the Lord [Note: ver. 5.],” when your mind is so occupied! This is the proper walk of a Christian; and every communication received from God, in answer to your prayers, shall be an earnest and foretaste of yet richer blessings in the realms of bliss.]
THE GOSPEL A SOURCE OF HAPPINESS
Psalms 138:4-5. All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O Lord, when they hear the words of thy mouth. Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the Lord: for great is the glory of the Lord.
IN the Psalms of David, it is often not easy to find out the connexion between the different parts, so as to reduce them to the form of a regular composition. The inspired writer seems on many occasions to have recorded the feelings of his soul without any particular attention to order and method; and sometimes, unconsciously as it were, to have passed from what respected his own personal concerns, to events far distant, relating to the Church of God under the reign of the Messiah. If we suppose the psalm before us to have been written soon after his establishment on the throne of Israel, we may regard the words of my text as expressing the satisfaction which that event would afford to all the surrounding nations, when they should hear of the wonderful events by which it had been accomplished. But it is manifest, that, if that be in any degree the import of his words, it can never comprehend their full meaning. Beyond a doubt, the holy man is led, from the contemplation of the mercies vouchsafed to himself, to speak of those which shall be vouchsafed to the whole world in the millennial age; when all the kings of the earth shall become the monuments of God’s love and mercy, and shall walk joyfully before him in obedience to his will.
From the words thus explained, I will take occasion to shew,
The felicity of the latter day—
Here we see,
Of whom the Church will be composed—
[Under the Jewish dispensation, it was confined almost exclusively to the descendants of Abraham and the twelve Patriarchs, or, I should rather say, to a very small remnant of them: for “they were not all Israel who were of Israel [Note: Romans 9:6.].” And since the Gospel kingdom has been established, the true Israel have been found chiefly amongst “the poor, whom God has more especially chosen to be rich in faith, and heirs of his kingdom [Note: James 2:5.].” As in the Apostle’s days, so at this time, “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called [Note: 1 Corinthians 1:26.].” But in the millennial age, persons of every rank, and of every nation under heaven, will flock to Christ, even “as doves to their windows;” as the Psalmist says: “All the ends of the earth shall remember themselves, and turn unto the Lord, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before him [Note: Psalms 22:27; Psalms 86:9.].” Amongst these, the kings and governors shall bear a most conspicuous place; all of them, instead of being found, as formerly, amongst the persecutors of the Lord’s people, “bringing their glory into the Church [Note: Revelation 21:24.],” and “becoming themselves her nursing-fathers, and their queens her nursing-mothers [Note: Isaiah 49:22-23.].” Nor shall this obtain amongst a few only: for “the kings of Tarshish and of the Isles shall bring presents to our adorable Redeemer; the kings of Sheba and Seba shall offer gifts unto him; yea, all kings shall fall down before him; and all nations shall serve him [Note: Psalms 72:10-11.].”]
What will be the frame of their minds—
[Little as the praise of our Redeemer is now heard, it will be proclaimed then by all: the praises of our God will resound in every place, and universal joy be diffused amongst the servants of the Lord. The noise, that is now accounted mirth, will cease; and the revellings, which are now regarded as sources and scenes of joy, will be put away as unworthy of the Christian profession. There will then be nobler sources of delight opened to the whole Christian world; and all of every rank will find their chief happiness in the service of their God. This is the testimony of all the inspired writers; who uniformly concur in this, that it will be a season of universal joy; men every where “coming with singing unto Zion, and with everlasting joy upon their heads; all of them being filled with joy and gladness; and sorrow and sighing having fled away [Note: Isaiah 35:10.].”]
What discoveries they will have of God—
[No wonder their happiness will be so exalted, when God shews forth his glory in the midst of them. “Great will then be the glory of the Lord,” as displayed in the person, and work, and offices of Christ, and in the manifestations of his love to the souls of men — — — Yes, “when the Lord shall build up Zion, he shall appear in his glory [Note: Psalms 102:16.].” And great indeed will be the splendour of that day: “The moon will be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of Hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and before his ancients, gloriously [Note: Isaiah 24:23.].”]
Yet let us not imagine that these blessings are so reserved for future ages, as not to be enjoyed in our day. No: we are in reality as much interested in them as men can be at any period of the world: and therefore I call upon you to contemplate,
The felicity which we also are privileged to enjoy—
The word which they of the latter day will hear, is preached unto us—
[The Gospel was in a measure preached to Abraham [Note: Galatians 3:8.]; but how much more to us! By Christ and his holy Apostles God has made known to us his mind and will without reserve; nor have we any reason whatever to think that any addition shall ever be made to the inspired volume. Further light, indeed, will be thrown upon it, by the fulfilment of prophecy; and a more abundant effusion of the Holy Spirit will be vouchsafed to men, for the comprehension of it: but the entire Gospel is vouchsafed to us, as much as it ever will be to them; and, if we pray to God for the teaching of his Holy Spirit, we have no reason to doubt but that we shall be guided into all truth, even as they. Beloved Brethren, you hear of a Saviour, and of all the wonders of redeeming love. The salvation of Christ is set before you, in all its freeness, in all its fulness, in all its suitableness, in all its excellency and glory. The grounds of joy are made known to you, even as they were by the Apostles themselves to those to whom they ministered: so that, in this respect, it may be truly said, that “nothing that could be profitable is kept back from you,” but that “unto you is declared all the counsel of God.”]
And have not we the same interest in it as they?
[Yes, surely; and if we have been enlightened by it, we have as much reason for praise and gratitude and joy as ever they can have. Tell me, ye who have been redeemed from death and hell, and that too by the blood of your incarnate God, tell me whether every feeling of your souls should not be swallowed up in joy, and every word of your lips be only praise? It is a shame to the Christian world that religion is at so low an ebb amongst them. Truly, Brethren, the luke-warmness that obtains amongst the professors of the present day is highly discreditable to us, and reflects dishonour on the Gospel itself. Why are we not “singing in the ways of the Lord?” Why go we not on our way, rejoicing, all the day long? Is it not said of true Christians, that, “though they have never seen Christ, yet, believing in him, they rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and full of glory [Note: 1 Peter 1:8.]?”
I will further add,]
Does not the Lord manifest to you also his glory?
[Yes, verily, “the glory of God shines as truly as ever, in the face of Jesus Christ;” and shall be manifested unto you, even as it was in the Apostolic, or shall be in the Millennial, age, if only you will seek him with your whole hearts. Blessed be God! there are, even at this day, some at least “to whom Christ is precious;” some who behold him as “the brightness of his Father’s glory, and the express image of his person [Note: Hebrews 1:3.];” and who, “beholding his glory, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of Lord [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.].” And why should one amongst you remain destitute of this blessing? There is not so much as one amongst you all to whom Christ would not come in the most endearing manner, if you would but seek him [Note: John 14:23.]. If only you would, with Moses, say, “Lord, shew me thy glory,” “He would make all his goodness to pass before your eyes [Note: Exodus 33:18-19.].”]
To all of you, then, I would address the following requests:—
Seek to form a right estimate of religion—
[Religion is not, as too many imagine, a source of melancholy, but a fountain of unutterable joy [Note: Proverbs 3:17.]. If it deprive you of carnal delights, it will give you infinitely richer and purer pleasures in their stead — — —]
Endeavour to get an experimental acquaintance with it in your own souls—
[Be not satisfied with speculative views of divine truth; but get such a sense of it as shall fill your mouth with praise, and cause you to “sing in the ways of the Lord” all the day long. The command to you, as much as to any child of man, is, “Rejoice evermore: rejoice in the Lord alway; and again, I say, rejoice” — — —]
Labour to circulate the knowledge of it through the whole world—
[Blessed be God! the higher ranks are now beginning to mingle their praises with those of the other classes of the community. The circulation of the word of God, and the sending forth of missionaries to explain and enforce it, are now objects of solicitude to an extent that they have never been, since the days of the Apostles. Unite then, all of you, in this blessed work; and cease not, till “all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”]
GOD’S VIEWS OF THE LOWLY AND OF THE PROUD
Psalms 138:6. Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off.
WHATEVER we find in Scripture to have been God’s dealings with his people of old, the same may we expect to receive from him at this day, so far as our situation and circumstances require it. His interpositions, either in a way of chastisement or protection, may be less visible than formerly; but they are neither less certain, nor less real. We may imagine, that, because we are not under a Theocracy, as the Jews were, we are not authorized to believe that the great God of heaven and earth will interest himself about us: but in every age “his eyes are still both upon the evil and the good;” and “though he be high, yet will he have respect unto the lowly: but the proud he will behold afar off.”
In this declaration of the Psalmist we see,
A truth acknowledged [Note: This part of the subject, though essential to a just view of the whole, should be passed over very briefly; the bearing of it being the main point to be insisted on.]—
[God is high, even “the high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy [Note: Isaiah 57:15.].” “Heaven is his throne, and earth his footstool [Note: Isaiah 66:1.].” “The heaven of heavens cannot contain him [Note: 1 Kings 8:27.].” “He dwelleth in light which no man can approach unto; and him no man hath seen, or can see [Note: 1 Timothy 6:16.].” His greatness is displayed in all the works of creation, which sprang into existence at his command [Note: and] — — — In all the works of Providence, also, is it manifested [Note: —These are opened at great length by God himself, Job 38:-41. But the bare mention of the passage will be sufficient.]; for “in him all things live, and move, and have their being [Note: Acts 17:28.]” — — —
We may say, then, respecting him, that “He is great, and greatly to be feared; and that his greatness is unsearchable [Note: Psalms 145:3.].”]
This truth being unquestionable, let us consider,
The proper bearing of it on the different classes of mankind—
Because of the greatness of the divine Majesty, both good men and wicked, though on different principles, imagine, that he will not condescend to notice them; the good, from a sense of their own unworthiness; and the wicked, from an idea that it would derogate from God’s honour to concern himself about the affairs of men. But he will notice, and in a way suited to the characters of each,
[As David, in reference to the temple which he desired to build, said, “Will God in very deed dwell with man on the earth?” so persons under a sense of their own sinfulness are often ready to think that God will never listen to their prayer, or deign in any way to notice them [Note: Psalms 8:4.] — — — But greatly are they mistaken: for “though the Lord be high, yet will he have respect unto the lowly;” yea, if there were but one contrite soul in the universe, God would look through all the shining ranks of angels that surround his throne, to behold that favoured object: nay, more; he would come down from the highest heavens to visit and revive him. He would even make that man’s bosom his habitation. And though the man’s state on earth were so abject, that he had no better place whereon to rest his weary limbs than “a dunghill, yet would God raise him from thence, to set him among the princes in his kingdom [Note: Psalms 113:4-8.].” Such respect would God shew him, that his every prayer should be heard, and his every desire, so far as it was for his good, be granted [Note: Psalms 145:19.]. The very sighs of such an one would be as music in the ears of the Most High God; and “his every tear be treasured up in Jehovah’s vials [Note: Psalms 56:8.],” as a most valued monument of his creature’s love.]
[Such are they who have no consciousness of their ill desert, no deep contrition on account of it — — — These, from a mistaken view of the divine Majesty, are ready to exclude Jehovah from the concerns of this lower world, as though they were beneath his notice [Note: Zephaniah 1:12.]. Whereas, there is nothing great or small in the eyes of Jehovah; nor is it any more degradation to him to attend to the concerns of the smallest insect that floats invisibly in the air, than to the affairs of the mightiest empire upon earth. But, in fact, these persons wish to be from under the cognizance of the Most High: they have no desire that he should inspect their hearts, or interfere in any of their concerns. But God takes notice of them and of their ways, no less than the ways of others; and records in the book of his remembrance all their proud thoughts, and their atheistical imaginations. “He knows them afar off,” with holy indignation. No access have they to him; no gracious communications from him. “The lowly” can say, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” But not so “the proud.” They may come, like the Pharisee, to the very altar of God, to tell God how good they are; but it is the self-abasing Publican alone that goes away justified, or receives any tokens of God’s approval. In death, too, the proud will be left, if not a prey to terror, yet, at all events, without any sense of redeeming love, or any foretaste of that blessedness which is the exclusive portion of the contrite and believing soul. And, O! what will be his reception in the eternal world? There, indeed, will God “know him afar off,” and dismiss him from his presence with that indignant reproof, “Depart from me: I never knew thee, thou worker of iniquity [Note: Matthew 7:23.].”]
Look well to your own character, as before God—
[It is not by your outward actions merely that you will be judged at the last day, but by the dispositions and habits of your mind. He that stands high in his own estimation will be proportionably low in God’s esteem; whilst the lowly will be approved of God, in proportion as he is abased in his own eyes [Note: Luke 14:11.]. The parable of the Pharisee and the Publican sufficiently evinces this. The one had made great attainments in religion, and was free from every thing that could be a subject of self-reproach; whilst the other had shewn no attention whatever to religion, and had probably committed many great evils: yet the one, being penitent, was accepted; and the other, being unhumbled, was dismissed with utter disapprobation and abhorrence. I would, therefore, particularly entreat you to examine to which of the two, in the habit of your mind, you are assimilated. And I would have you also carefully to distinguish between the spirit of a creature and the feelings of a sinner: for there are many who have a consciousness of their insignificance as creatures, whilst they have very little sense of their guiltiness as sinners; and hence are looking for acceptance through their own works, instead of relying simply and altogether upon the Lord Jesus Christ. I say again, This will enter deeply into God’s estimate of your character at the last day; and, therefore, it must form a most essential part of your inquiry into your own state at this time.]
Expect that God’s dealings with you will be in perfect accordance with it—
[To all eternity will the declaration in my text be fulfilled. There will be no bounds to “the respect that shall be paid to the lowly” at the day of judgment. They shall be owned by that Saviour in whom they had believed; and be placed on his right hand, as distinguished monuments of his favour. To heaven itself also shall they be exalted, as heirs of the Saviour’s kingdom, and as partners of his throne for ever and ever. On the other hand, most tremendous will be the aspect of the Saviour’s countenance towards the proud, impenitent, and unhumbled sinners. They have despised him, and all the wonders of his love; and now, they themselves shall be banished from his presence with righteous scorn and contempt. They were too good in their own estimation to flee to him for mercy: and now they shall have no part in his salvation, nor any other doom than what their own works have merited. Would to God that the contemners of the Gospel salvation would consider this, ere it be too late! The great and glorious “God willeth not the death of any sinner, but rather that he would turn from his wickedness, and live:” nor is there a creature in the universe whom he would not most gladly receive to mercy. But he will never depart from what he has spoken, that “whose covereth his sins, shall not prosper; but that he who confesseth and forsaketh them, shall have mercy.”]
GOD’S CARE OF HIS PEOPLE
Psalms 138:8. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.
THE deeper doctrines of our holy religion, if made a matter of controversy and disputation, are very unprofitable; but, as experienced in the soul, they are a source of the richest consolation. David, under the persecutions of Saul, stood in need of consolation; and he found it in the consideration of God’s power and faithfulness. He was at this time in great trouble. But, in the full confidence that God would take care of him, he said, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerneth me.”
Let us, for our own improvement of these words, consider,
The confidence here expressed—
Let us notice it,
In reference to David—
[In their primary sense, the words refer to David’s final establishment on the throne of Israel. But the whole psalm shews that he had a further view to his spiritual and eternal interests. In reference to his temporal advancement, his confidence was well-founded. God had promised to him the throne of Israel. The only question, therefore, for him to settle in his own mind, was, whether God was able to effect his promised mercy. But here he could have no doubt. True it was, that Saul laboured with all his might for his destruction: but it was not possible for man to thwart the purposes of the Almighty; and therefore, relying on the power and faithfulness of Jehovah, he dismissed all fear, and assured himself of a happy and successful issue to his afflictions. In reference to his eternal welfare, it was equally just. God had “made with him an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure [Note: 2 Samuel 23:5.].” This covenant comprehended every thing for body and for soul, for time and for eternity. Could it be supposed that God should ever violate his own engagements, or be incapacitated through the power or subtlety of men or devils for the fulfilment of them? In spite of all the efforts of Saul, and all the devices of the wicked one, they had been accomplished hitherto; and there was no reason to fear that “one jot or tittle of his word should ever fail.”]
In reference to ourselves—
[We have the same difficulties to contend with as he. We have not indeed a human enemy, pursuing us unto death: but we have a more formidable enemy, even “Satan, who, as a roaring lion, goeth about, seeking,” by every means within his power, “to devour us [Note: 1 Peter 5:8.].” Thousands are in league with him on every side; and within our own bosoms are there enemies innumerable, who are ready to betray us. According to human appearances, our escape is impossible. But we may, notwithstanding all, possess the fullest confidence of a triumphant issue. Our grounds of confidence, also, are the same as his. The covenant of grace is made with us, and with the Lord Jesus Christ in our behalf. In that covenant, God undertakes for us, as well as for himself: he engages that “he will not depart from us to do us good; and that he will put his fear in our hearts, that we may not depart from him [Note: Jeremiah 32:40.].” Now we may well say, “If God be for us, who can be against us?” That he should change, is impossible; for “He is a God that changeth not [Note: Malachi 3:6.].” And, because we are apt to doubt his veracity, he has confirmed his promise with an oath, “that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before us [Note: Hebrews 6:18.].” On these grounds, therefore, we may with the holy Apostle, “be confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in us will perform it till the day of Christ [Note: Philippians 1:6.].”]
But let us further mark,
The conduct to which it should lead us—
It should lead us to precisely the same spirit as he manifested: with a view to which, I would say,
Look for progress in the Divine life—
[David looked to God to “perfect all that concerned him.” So should we, also, “go on unto perfection.” We should never count ourselves to have attained, as long as any thing remains to be attained. Whatever progress we may have already made, we should “forget the things which are behind, and reach forth unto that which is before, and press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus [Note: Philippians 3:12-14.].”]
Let your dependence be on God alone—
[It was to God alone that David looked for the “perfecting” of all his concerns. And to God alone must you look. No dependence whatever must be placed on your own wisdom or strength. It is “God who has wrought all your works in you” hitherto [Note: Isaiah 26:12.]: and he who has been “the Author, must also be the Finisher [Note: Hebrews 12:2.].” “The same hand as laid the foundation of the good work, must bring forth the top-stone, that Grace, grace, may be ascribed to it,” for ever and ever [Note: Zechariah 4:9.].]
Blend your confidence with fear—
[The confidence which David expressed did not supersede the necessity of holy fear. On the contrary, at the very moment that he so expressed it, he cried, “Forsake not the work of thine own hands [Note: ver. 8.]!” It was thus with the Apostle Paul. No man ever had stronger confidence in God than he: yet “he kept under his body, and brought it into subjection, lest by any means, after having preached to others, he himself should become a cast-away [Note: 1 Corinthians 9:27.].” Extremely important do I consider this suggestion. For, amongst those who express this confidence in God, many think themselves at liberty to relax their vigilance; taking for granted, that God will keep them, whether they labour to “keep themselves [Note: Jude, ver. 21.]” or not. But this is an abuse, and a very fatal abuse, of the doctrines of grace. The assistance promised us by God, is intended to encourage, not to supersede, our own endeavours: as it is said, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who worketh in you, to will and to do of his good pleasure [Note: Philippians 2:12-13.].” To every one amongst you, then, whatever his attainments be, I say, “Be not high-minded, but fear [Note: Romans 11:20.]:” for “blessed is the man that feareth alway [Note: Proverbs 28:14.].” Whilst you say with David, “The Lord will command his loving-kindness in the day-time, and in the night his song shall be with me;” be sure to add, “My prayer shall be unto the God of my life [Note: Psalms 42:8.].”]
Unite with fear, a firm unshaken confidence—
[Arduous as David’s circumstances were, he entertained no doubt respecting their final issue. He looked to “God, as performing all things for him [Note: Psalms 57:2.],” and was satisfied. Now, in like manner, I would have you “encourage yourselves in the Lord your God.” Treasure up in your minds “his exceeding great and precious promises,” and expect the accomplishment of them all to your souls. He has said, that “he will never leave you; never, never forsake you [Note: Hebrews 13:5.]:” and you may rest assured that he will fulfil his word; for “He is faithful who hath promised [Note: Hebrews 10:23.].” “Cast, then, your care altogether upon him [Note: 1 Peter 5:7.];” and “commit the keeping of your souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator [Note: 1 Peter 4:19.].”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 138". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12