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SUPERIOR BLESSEDNESS OF TRUE CHRISTIANS
Psalms 16:4. Their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god.
THERE is not, in all the writings of the Old Testament, a portion of Scripture that more fully attests the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus than this. All depended on his resurrection from the dead. And to this psalm both Peter, at the commencement of his ministry to the Jews [Note: Acts 2:25-44.2.32.], and Paul, on his first solemn mission to preach to the Gentiles, made their appeal as predicting the resurrection of the Lord Jesus on the third day [Note: Acts 13:31-44.13.37.]. In the beginning of the psalm, David speaks more particularly respecting himself: but even there he declares the blessedness of the Lord’s people, and especially of those who were looking forward to the Messiah, beyond all the worshippers of false gods. And the contrast which he there forms will be the subject of our present meditations.
To elucidate it, I will,
Confirm the assertion in my text—
It is universally true that “their sorrows are multiplied that hasten after another god. It is realized amongst,
[They worship gods of wood and stone — — — And “their sorrows are universally and greatly multiplied.” The very instant they begin to feel a sense of guilt upon their souls, there is nothing so painful but they will do it, in order to conciliate the favour of their gods. The offering of human sacrifices, to which I apprehend the Psalmist refers [Note: See the words following our text, which refer to the cruel and idolatrous usages of the Canaanites, the very names of whose idols were forbidden to be named.], sufficiently attests this: and the self-devotion of those who, at this day, cast themselves under the wheels of the temple of Juggernaut, in order to sacrifice their lives to that detestable idol, places beyond a doubt the miseries sustained by idolaters, even where civilization is in other respects very considerably advanced — — —]
The votaries of this world—
[Look at those who are “serving divers lusts and pleasures,” and seeking happiness in the gratification of their own passions. Is the licentious fornicator, or the base adulterer, happy? No: they hate the light: they are ashamed to be seen in the pursuit of their unhallowed practices: and they contract a load of guilt, which, in hours of reflection, surely oppresses their minds, and renders them afraid to meet their God. Even in temporal matters, the follower of forbidden pleasures often suffers to a great extent: and what he suffers in the eternal world, let the Rich Man, who disregarded the suit of Lazarus, attest. Truly, whether pleasures, riches, or honours be thus idolized, they heap distress and anguish on their votaries, both in this world and in the world to come.]
The followers of a legal and Pharisaic righteousness—
[This, too, is idolatry, no less than the indulgence of covetousness, lewdness, or any other corrupt propensity. And what a load, yea, what an insupportable burthen, does it entail! The Pharisees of old were far from happy: and so are the Papists now; for, whilst they have recourse to rites of man’s device, instead of seeking acceptance through the atoning blood of Christ, they put their own good works in the place of Christ’s, and accumulate to themselves sorrows without end. But what shall we say of the disappointment they will feel on entering into the presence of their God? They thought to purchase heaven: but the inadequacy of their efforts will instantly appear, and the impiety of their conceits be visited with suitable expressions of God’s merited indignation.]
Connected as this assertion is with all the following context, I shall be led to,
Contrast it with the state of the Lord’s people—
If it be true that “their sorrows shall be multiplied that hasten after another god,” it is no less true, on the other hand, that their joys shall be multiplied that hasten after the Lord “Jesus Christ, who is the true God and eternal life [Note: 1 John 5:20.].” Yes, verily, they shall greatly rejoice; as it is said, “Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, rejoice.” To them shall be vouchsafed,
Peace of conscience—
[This is unknown to any human being, except to him who believes in Christ. Others may have the insensibility of beasts, or the confidence of fanatics: but the tranquillity of mind which arises from a sense of God’s pardoning love upon the soul is altogether unknown to them. They possess it not. They cannot possess it, because God is not in reality reconciled towards them. There are no means of acceptance with God, but those provided in his Gospel: and, whether men are rejecting his Gospel as infidels, or substituting something else in the place of it, they are equally cut off from all hope of its benefits. But the Believer in Christ is fully accepted of his God: and, “being justified by faith, he has peace with God;” and he may say, with undoubting assurance, “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and my cup [Note: ver. 5.].”]
Holiness of heart and life—
[Here, also, the Believer stands elevated above all the rest of mankind. Others may be fair as whited sepulchres: but the Believer is “renewed in his inward man,” and transformed into the divine image in righteousness, and true holiness.” And need I say what a source of happiness this is? The prophet tells us, that “the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for ever [Note: Isaiah 32:17.].” And to the same effect the Psalmist, speaking in his own as well as in the Messiah’s name, informs us: “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope [Note: ver. 8, 9.].”]
The prospect and possession of everlasting glory—
[He has a title to eternal life, and even the begun possession of it in his soul [Note: John 3:36. 1 John 5:11-62.5.12.]. Hence, in the language of David and the Messiah himself, he is privileged to say, “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell: thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy: at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” As to the full enjoyment of heaven, I attempt not to describe it. No words can paint it; no imagination can conceive it. But it shall be the assured and everlasting possession of all who believe in Christ.]
What, then, shall I say?
[“Hasten after” this blessed Saviour, determining never to relax your diligence, till you have fully “apprehended him, and been finally apprehended of him.” See what exertions the Pagans make, in order to please their gods of wood and stone. See, too, with what indefatigable zeal the worldling serves his gods, accounting his whole life little enough for the attainment of the object of his pursuit, whether it be pleasure, or riches, or honour. See also the self-denying exercises of him who is labouring to establish a righteousness of his own, instead of submitting to the righteousness which is of God through faith in Christ. And shall any of these do more for their gods than you for yours? Shall not the Saviour of your souls be counted worthy of all that can possibly be done or suffered for him? I say, look at the earnestness of others in the service of false gods, and stand amazed at your lukewarmness in the service of him who has redeemed you to God by his own most precious blood. There is nothing which idolaters of all the different classes will not “give to their respective gods:” and let there be nothing withheld from your Lord and Saviour: yea, “give your whole selves [Note: See the marginal reading of the text.]” to him; and let your whole body, soul, and spirit, be sanctified to him, henceforth, and for evermore.]
GOD HIMSELF HIS PEOPLE’S PORTION
Psalms 16:5-19.16.7. The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.
THIS psalm is called “Michtam,” that is, A golden psalm. And a golden psalm it is, whether we interpret it of David, or of Christ. To both it is applicable; to David, as a type of Christ; and to Christ, as so typified. In all the word of God there is not a passage on which greater stress is laid, as establishing beyond a doubt the Messiahship of Jesus; to whom alone the latter part of the psalm can with any truth be literally applied [Note: Acts 2:25-44.2.31; Acts 13:35-44.13.37.]. The former part of it, on the contrary, is much more applicable to David himself. The truth is, I apprehend, that David began to write respecting himself; but was overruled and inspired to speak things which he himself did not fully comprehend, and to declare literally respecting the Messiah, what was only in a very lax sense true in relation to himself. This we know to have been the case with the prophets generally: they were inspired to predict the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, whilst they themselves understood not their own prophecies [Note: 1 Peter 1:10-60.1.12.]. They spoke of one point which was uppermost in their own minds; and God overruled them to speak in language that was applicable rather to another point, which he had ordained them to foretell. Thus did Caiaphas the high priest, when advising that Jesus should be put to death [Note: John 11:49-43.11.52.]: and thus did David, in this and several other of his psalms [Note: Ps. 22. 40 and 69.]. We consider the words of our text, together with all that precedes it, as spoken by David respecting himself: and in them we see,
The blessed portion of God’s people—
They have “God himself for their portion and their inheritance”—
[There seems, in this expression, some reference to the custom which obtained of sending to different guests, when assembled at a feast, such a portion as the Master of the feast judged expedient [Note: Genesis 43:34. 1 Samuel 1:4-9.1.5.]. But the principal allusion evidently is to the division of the land of Canaan by lot, and the assigning to all the different tribes the portion prepared for them. On that occasion the tribe of Levi was distinguished from all the other tribes in this, that whereas all the rest had a distinct and separate inheritance allotted to them, they had none; the Lord himself vouchsafing to be their inheritance [Note: Numbers 18:20. Deuteronomy 18:1-5.18.2.]. The sacrifices which from time to time were offered to the Lord were appointed for their support. Now, in allusion to this, David says, “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup.” He was not of the tribe of Levi, but of Judah: and therefore respecting him it could be true only in a spiritual and mystical sense: and in that sense it is equally true respecting every believer at this day. We are all “a kingdom of priests:” and we live altogether upon the great sacrifice, even the flesh of Christ, and the blood of Christ, which were offered for the sins of the whole world. By the very terms of the New Covenant, God, whilst he takes us for his people, gives himself to us as our God [Note: Jeremiah 31:31-24.31.33.]: so that all who believe in Jesus may claim him as their God.” This, I say, is not the privilege of Prophets and Apostles only, but of every the weakest believer in the Church of God: for we are expressly told, that “to as many as received him Jesus gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on his name [Note: John 1:12.].” The very instant they believed in Christ, the relation between God and them was formed, and God became their Father, their Friend, their Portion, “their eternal great Reward [Note: Genesis 15:1.].” To us then belongs this privilege as well as to David; and with him we may say, “O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord [Note: ver. 2.].”]
This portion too is secured to them—
[Israel in Canaan were surrounded with enemies on every side: but God, who had allotted to every tribe its portion, engaged to “maintain their lot.” Even when all the males assembled thrice a year at Jerusalem, God undertook to be a Protector of their families and their possessions: and to this hour would they have enjoyed their inheritance, if they had not by their transgressions provoked God to forsake them. But us, who have him for our inheritance, he will not forsake: as he has said, “The Lord will not forsake his people; because it hath pleased him to make you his people [Note: 1 Samuel 12:22.]:” and again, “I will never leave thee; I will never, never forsake thee [Note: Hebrews 13:3; Hebrews 13:6.].” Not but that he will punish us for our transgressions: and so punish, as to make us feel what “an evil and bitter thing it is to depart from him: but his loving-kindness will he not utterly take from us, nor suffer his truth to fail [Note: Psalms 89:30-19.89.35.].” It is not with us as with Israel in Canaan: they were left to forfeit and to lose their lot: but God, in his mercy, engages to preserve our inheritance for us, and us for it [Note: 1Pe 1:5]: and not only “never to depart from us, but so to put his fear in our hearts that we may not depart from him [Note: Jeremiah 32:38-24.32.40.].”
Such then is thy portion, O believer; and such is thy security that it shall be continued to thee.]
And is such the inheritance of all God’s people? We shall not wonder then at,.
The feelings which they have in the contemplation of it—
Behold how David expresses,
His delight in it—
[All the pious amongst the Israelites would find some reason to be pleased and delighted with the portion that was assigned them. To some their proximity to the sea would be a matter of joy; to others, their pasturage; to others, their rocks and fortresses: so that all in their respective places would say, “The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” But how well may they adopt that language who have the Lord for their portion? Tell me, Believer, what else canst thou want? What can add any thing unto thee? What is there which thou dost not find in thy God? If thou possessest ever so great a portion of earthly goods, are they not all as dung and dross in comparison of this? Or, if thou art destitute even as Lazarus himself, is not all sense of indigence lost in the contemplation of thy better wealth? What the worldling has, he holds by a very uncertain tenure, and that only for a moment: but what thou hast is secured to thee by the promise and oath of God, and is to be enjoyed by thee with ever-augmenting zest for ever and ever. Say, Dost thou not, in this survey of thine inheritance, pity those who can rest in any earthly portion? Art thou not ready to weep over those as maniacs, who fancy themselves kings and emperors, whilst they are but little elevated above the beasts, yea, in some respects inferior to them; because they fulfil in a far less degree the true ends of their creation? Well indeed mayest thou exult when thou surveyest thy portion! When thou beholdest the sun and moon and stars, together with this globe whereon thou standest, and callest to mind, that the Maker of them all is thy friend, thy portion, thine inheritance; methinks it is almost strange that the contemplation is not too much for frail mortality to bear. To be lost in wonder, and be swallowed up in ecstasy, is no more than what may be expected of thee from day to day.]
His thankfulness to God for it—
[David clearly saw that of himself he would never have chosen such a portion as this. His earthly mind would have been as grovelling as that of others, if God himself had not “counselled him,” and discovered to him the vanity of all earthly good. Amidst the various trials which he had endured, God had drawn nigh to him; and in the night-seasons of affliction had instructed him, and had revealed himself to him in all his beauty and excellency and glory. Thus he had enabled David to make a fair estimate of the portion offered him, as compared with that which the world around him enjoyed. In this view of the mercy vouchsafed unto him, David says, “I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel; my reins also instruct me in the night-seasons.” And is it not thus with every believer? Do you not know assuredly, that of yourselves you would never have chosen God for your portion? Are you not well convinced, that you would “not have chosen him if he had not chosen you,” nor “loved him, if he had not first loved you?” Did you not even hold out against his counsels for a long time, till he forced conviction on your mind, and “made you willing in the day of his power?” If you have been kept awake in the night-seasons, and “your reins instructed you,” till with a compunction you were “pricked to the heart;” or, if you have been visited with trials that were necessary to wean you from the things of time and sense, do you not bless him for it, and for “the instruction which he then sealed upon your mind [Note: Job 33:15-18.33.20.]?” Yes; and with your whole hearts. You see in what a portion you would have rested, if these means had not been used to bring you to a better mind; and, if they had been a thousand times heavier than they were, you would now account them as unworthy of a thought, in comparison of the blessings, to the possession of which they have introduced you. I hear you adoring God, and saying, “I know that in very faithfulness thou didst afflict me:” for “before I was afflicted I went astray; but now have I kept thy law.” Go on, then, blessing and praising God; and never forget that “by the grace of God you are what you are.”]
To those who possess not this portion, I will “give a word of counsel” in the name of the Lord—
[Survey the portion of the worldling, and see how empty it is. Look back on all that thou hast enjoyed, and see how little solid comfort it has afforded — — — Then survey “the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Think what it must be to say of God, “O God, thou art my God;” and of Christ, “Thou art my Friend, and my Beloved” — — — Then turn to the Holy Scriptures, and see what counsel God has given thee there: “Wherefore do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness [Note: Isaiah 55:1-23.55.2.].” Nothing does God desire more than to give himself to you for a portion, if you will but receive him. He complains, “Ye will not come unto me that ye may have life.” “How often would I have gathered you, and given myself to you, but you would not!” Dear Brethren, let God choose your inheritance for you: and he will be as much delighted to enrich your souls, as ever you can be to be enriched by him. Indeed by imparting himself to you, he himself will be enriched: for he regards you as his property, and says of you, “The Lord’s portion is his people, and Jacob is the lot of his inheritance [Note: Deuteronomy 32:9.].”]
To those who already enjoy this portion, I will offer a word of congratulation—
[”Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, and the people whom he has chosen for his own inheritance [Note: Psalms 33:12.]: yes, “Happy art thou, O Israel, O people saved by the Lord [Note: Deuteronomy 33:29.].” I ask not what you possess, or what you want: if you had empires, they could add nothing to you; and if you want bread to eat, it can take but little from you. Look at Paul and Silas when in prison, and their backs torn with scourges: their situation was to them as “the very gate of heaven [Note: Acts 16:25.].” So, if only you live nigh to God, and in the near prospect of the eternal world, you also shall be happy under all circumstances whatsoever. Imitate, for once, the worldling who is just about to take possession of his inheritance: with what joy he surveys it, and anticipates the delight which he will experience in the full possession of it! Thus go ye, and survey your inheritance. See the state of those who are now possessed of their entire lot. Behold how they feast in the presence of their God! Think, if you can, what God is to them [Note: Revelation 21:4-66.21.5.]: and know, that their bliss is yours, in all its fulness, and for ever. Think how you will then “bless the Lord for giving you counsel.” Live, then, now as persons sensible of their privileges; and say, as ye may well do, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places, and I have a goodly heritage.”]
CHRIST’S RESURRECTION AND GLORY
Psalms 16:8-19.16.11. I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
IF the people of God had hope only in this life, they would be in a most pitiable condition; because they are debarred by conscience from the pleasures of sin, and are exposed to a multitude of trials on account of their religion. But their views of immortality bear them up, so that the sufferings of this present time appear to them insignificant, and unworthy of any serious concern. The Psalmist penned this psalm under some deep affliction; which, however, lost all its force as soon as ever he directed his views to the eternal world.
But the words before us can scarcely be applied at all to David in his own person: they are spoken by him rather in the person of Christ, whom he typically represented; and to whom, in the New Testament, they are expressly, repeatedly, and exclusively applied. In this view they are a most remarkable prophecy relating to Christ; and they declare,
His support in life—
In an assurance of his Father’s continual aid, he was unmoved by any difficulties—
[Various were the trials which Jesus was called to endure; but in all he preserved a perfect equanimity. When his sufferings were fast approaching, he spake of them without any emotions of fear [Note: Matthew 20:18-40.20.19.]: when dissuaded from exposing himself to them, he was indignant at the proposal [Note: Matthew 16:22-40.16.23.]: when warned of Herod’s murderous intentions, he poured contempt on his feeble, unavailing efforts [Note: Luke 13:31-42.13.33.]: when standing before Pilate’s tribunal, he witnessed a good confession [Note: John 18:37. 1 Timothy 6:13.]; and, alike unmoved by hopes or fears, informed his judge, that the authority exercised by him was both given, and limited, by a superior power [Note: John 19:11.]. He saw God as ever present to succour and support him; and was well assured, that as nothing could be done but according to his determinate counsel, so his aid should be all-sufficient for him [Note: Psalms 89:21.Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 42:1.]. Hence in the whole of his deportment he maintained an invincible firmness, a dignified composure. At all times he acted on the principles described by the Prophet Isaiah, and fulfilled in the utmost extent his prophecy concerning him [Note: Isaiah 50:7-23.50.9.].]
Nor need the weakest of his members fear, if they look for support from the same quarter—
[Many of God’s people have experienced the very same support as was enjoyed by Christ. David’s friends endeavoured to create in his mind desponding fears: but his confidence in an almighty Protector kept him steadfast [Note: Psalms 11:1-19.11.4.]; and determined him to preserve an undaunted spirit, however great or multiplied his trials might be [Note: Psalms 27:1; Psalms 27:3.]. Paul also, in the view of certain and accumulated troubles, could say, “None of these things move me [Note: Acts 20:23-44.20.24.].” Thus may every believer triumph. The man who trusts in God is in an impregnable fortress, that has salvation for walls and bulwarks [Note: Isaiah 26:1.Psalms 125:1; Psalms 125:1, Psalms 125:2.]. If only our eyes be opened to see clearly, we may behold ourselves, like Elisha, encompassed with chariots of fire and horses of fire; and may laugh at the impotent attempts of men or devils [Note: 2 Kings 6:16-12.6.17.].]
The more immediate scope of the prophecy is to declare,
His comfort in death—
Our blessed Lord submitted cheerfully to his death in a certain expectation of a speedy resurrection—
[Greatly as he was oppressed and overwhelmed with sorrow, he yet restrained not his tongue [Note: This is meant by “my glory” rejoiceth.] from joyful acknowledgments. His last discourses, and his intercessory prayer, abundantly testify the composure of his spirit, and the elevation of his mind. Look we for the ground of his consolation? we shall find it in those repeated expressions, “I go to my Father;” “Father, I come to thee [Note: John 16:28; John 17:11.].” He knew that his flesh, that holy thing formed in the virgin’s womb [Note: Luke 1:35.], and which he gave for the life of the world [Note: John 6:51.], should never become an abomination [Note: Christ’s resurrection on the third day was typified by that ordinance of the law, Leviticus 7:17-3.7.18.], but that, though immured in the silent tomb, it should be raised thence, before it could corrupt: and that his soul, though separate from it for a season, should soon be re-united to it, to be a joint partaker of the same kingdom and glory.]
Such consolation too have all his members in a dying hour—
[Christ rose, not as a private individual, but as “the first-fruits of them that slept [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:20.].” And every one that believes in him may consider death as a sleep, and the grave as a bed whereon he is to rest [Note: Acts 7:60. Isaiah 57:2.] till the morning of the resurrection. The bodies of the saints are indeed doomed to death and corruption on account of sin [Note: Romans 8:10.]: but they shall be raised again, and fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body [Note: Philippians 3:21.]: this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal shall put on immortality [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:53-46.15.54.]. In expectation of this, the martyrs of old would not accept deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection [Note: Hebrews 11:35.]: and, in the hope of it, we also may put off this tabernacle with joy, knowing that it shall be reared anew in a far better form [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:1-47.5.2.].”]
Connected with this hope in his death, we behold,
His prospect in eternity—
The state to which Jesus was to rise was a state of inconceivable and endless glory—
[No sooner were death and the grave vanquished by Jesus in the resurrection, and he was thereby “declared to be the Son of God with power,” than the way to the regions of glory was opened to him; that way, which, with myriads of attendant angels, he trod soon afterwards, that he might receive all the fruits of his victorious death. Then sat he down at the right hand of his Father, not any more to taste a cup of sorrow, but to possess a fulness and perpetuity of unutterable joy. Blessed prospect! well might he be animated by it in the midst of all his trials; and, for the joy set before him, endure the cross, and despise the shame [Note: Hebrews 12:2.].]
Such too are the delightful prospects of all his saints—
[They see, in the death and resurrection of Christ, the way to heaven opened: and, if they look to him as the resurrection and the life [Note: John 11:25-43.11.26.], a fulness and perpetuity of joy awaits them also at their departure hence. Who can conceive what happiness they will feel in the vision and fruition of their God [Note: Revelation 21:3-66.21.4; Revelation 21:21-66.21.22.]? Well may they long “to depart, that they may be with Christ;” and account all their afflictions light and momentary, in the view of that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, with which they will be crowned in the day of the Lord Jesus [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:17-47.4.18.].]
What rich sources of consolation does faith open to believers under all their troubles!
[Faith beholds God always present, always active, to succour his people: it looks forward also to the future state both of body and soul, enabling us to weigh the concerns of time and eternity in the scale together, and thereby to see the vanity of the one in comparison of the other. To be happy, therefore, we must live by faith.]
How certain is the salvation of those who believe in Christ!
[If Jesus be the Messiah, and have in himself a sufficiency for the salvation of his people, then have we nothing to do but to believe in him. But St. Peter, quoting the entire text, infers from it the certainty of his Messiahship [Note: Acts 2:25-44.2.28; Acts 2:36.]; and St. Paul, referring to the same, infers his sufficiency to save his people [Note: Acts 13:35-44.13.39.]. Let us then make him our refuge, our foundation, and our ALL.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 16". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany