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AWFUL STATE OF UNGODLY MEN
Psalms 36:1. The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.
WHEN we speak of the wickedness of mankind, that command of our Lord is frequently cast in our teeth, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.” But this command refers to an uncharitable ascribing of good actions to a bad principle; which, as we cannot see the heart, we are by no means authorized to do. But, if it do not authorize us to “call good evil,” it assuredly does not require us to “call evil good.” If we see sin, it is no uncharitableness to pronounce it sin: and, if the sin be habitual, it is no uncharitableness to say, that the heart from which it proceeds is bad and depraved. We are told by our Lord, that “the tree is to be judged of by its fruit; and that as a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit, so neither can a good tree habitually bring forth evil fruit [Note: Matthew 7:16-18.].” An error, and even a fault may be committed, without detracting from a person’s general character: but a sinful course of life involves in it, of necessity, a corruption of heart, and carries with it, to any dispassionate mind, a conviction that the person who pursues that course has not within him the fear of God. This was the impression made on David’s mind, when he said, “The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart, that there is no fear of God before his eyes.”
In confirmation of this sentiment, I will shew,
How God interprets sin—
God views sin not merely as contained in overt acts, but as existing in the soul: and he judges of its malignity, not according to its aspect upon social happiness, but as it bears on himself, and affects his honour. Throughout the whole Sacred Volume, God speaks of it in this view. He represents sin as striking at the relation which subsists between him and his creatures:
[He is the Husband of his Church [Note: Isaiah 54:5.], and claims our entire and exclusive regards [Note: Hosea 3:3.]. When these are alienated from him, and fixed on the creature, he calls it adultery [Note: Ezekiel 16:37.]: and hence St. James, speaking of those who sought the friendship of the world, addresses them as “adulterers and adulteresses [Note: James 4:4.];” because, as the Spouse of Christ, they have placed on another the affections due to him alone.]
[God, as the Governor of the universe, requires us to obey his laws. But sin is an opposition to his will, and a violation of his laws: and therefore God says respecting it, “The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be [Note: Romans 8:7.].” Here, let it be observed, it is not the overt act, but the disposition only, that is so characterised: and, consequently, if the very disposition as existing in the soul is an equivocal proof of the wickedness of the heart, much more must the outward act, and especially the constant habit of the life, be considered as a decisive evidence that the soul itself is corrupt.]
[God alone is to be worshipped: and to put any thing in competition with him is to make it an idol. Hence the love of money is called idolatry [Note: Colossians 3:5.]: and the indulgence of a sensual appetite is to “make our belly our god [Note: Philippians 3:19.].” And hence St. John, having set forth “the Lord Jesus as the true God and eternal life,” guards us against any alienation of our hearts from him, in these memorable words: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols [Note: 1 John 5:20-21.].” And here let me again observe, it is the disposition, and not any outward act, that has this construction put upon it.]
As downright atheism—
[It is represented as a denial of all God’s attributes and perfections. It denies his omnipresence and omniscience; since men, in committing it, say, “How doth God know? Can he judge through the dark cloud? Thick clouds are a covering to him, that he seeth not; and he walketh in the circuit of the heaven [Note: Job 22:13-14. See also Psalms 73:11; Psalms 94:7.],” and is at no leisure to attend to what is done on earth. It denies his justice and his holiness: it says, “I shall have peace, though I walk after the imaginations of my heart [Note: Deuteronomy 29:19.].” “God will never require at my hands what I do [Note: Psalms 10:13.].” “He will not do good; neither will he do evil [Note: Zephaniah 1:12.].” So far from having any thing to fear from God, “Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them [Note: Malachi 2:17.].” Sin denies yet further the right of God to control us: “We are Lords; we will come no more to thee [Note: Jeremiah 2:31.]:” “Our lips are our own; who is Lord over us [Note: Psalms 12:4.]?” “What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit is there, that we should pray unto him [Note: Job 21:14-15.]?” It even denies the very existence of God: “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God [Note: Psalms 14:1.].” Hence St. Paul calls us “Atheists in the world [Note: Ephesians 2:12. ἄθεοι.].” Men will not say all this with their lips; but it is the language of their lives, and therefore of their hearts.]
Having seen how God interprets sin, and what construction he puts upon it, we are prepared to see,
What interpretation we also should put upon it—
No inference was ever more legitimately drawn from the plainest premises, than that which forced itself upon David’s mind, from a view of the ungodly world. And the same conclusion must we also arrive at, from all that we see around us: “The transgression of the wicked saith within our hearts that there is no fear of God before their eyes.”
There is no sense of God’s presence—
[A thief would not steal, if he knew that the eyes of the proprietor were fastened on him: yea, even the presence of a child would be sufficient to keep the adulterer from the perpetration of his intended crimes. But he regards not the presence of Almighty God. If he be out of the sight of any fellow-creature, he saith in his heart, “No eye seeth me [Note: Job 24:15.]:” never reflecting, that “the darkness is no darkness with God, but the night is as clear as the day; the darkness and light to him are both alike [Note: Psalms 139:11-12.].”]
There is no regard to his authority—
[Men will stand in awe of the civil magistrate, who he knows to be “an avenger of evil, and that he does not bear the sword in vain.” To see to what an extent men stand in awe of earthly governors, conceive in what a state of confusion even this Christian land would be, if only for one single week the laws were suspended, and no restraint were imposed on men beyond that which they feel from a regard to the authority of God: we should not dare to venture out of our houses, or scarcely be safe in our houses, by reason of the flood of iniquity which would deluge the land. And though it is true that every one would not avail himself of the licence to commit all manner of abominations, it is equally true, that it is not God’s authority that would restrain them: for the same authority that says, “Do not kill or commit adultery,” says, Thou shalt “live not unto thyself, but unto Him that died for thee and rose again.” And if we be not influenced by it in every thing, we regard it truly in nothing [Note: James 2:10-11.].]
There is no concern about his approbation—
[If we be lowered in the estimation of our fellow-creatures, how mortified are we, insomuch that we can scarcely bear to abide in the place where we are so degraded. An exile to the remotest solitude would be preferable to the presence or those whose good opinion we have forfeited, But who inquires whether God be pleased or displeased? Who lays to heart the disapprobation which he has excited in his mind, or the record that is kept concerning him in the book of his remembrance? If we preserve our outward conduct correct, so as to secure the approbation of our fellow-creatures, we are satisfied, and care little what God sees within, or what estimate he forms of our character.]
There is no fear of his displeasure—
[One would think it impossible that men should believe in a future state of retribution, and yet be altogether careless about the doom that shall be awarded to them. They think that God is merciful, too merciful to punish any one, unless it be, perhaps, some extraordinarily flagrant transgressor. Hence, though they know they are sinners, they never think of repenting, or of changing that course of life which, if the Scriptures be true, must lead them to perdition. Only see the state of the first converts, or of any who have felt their danger of God’s wrath; and then tell me whether that be the experience of the world at large? Where do we see the weeping penitents smiting on their breast, and crying for mercy? Where do we see persons flying to Christ for refuge, as the manslayer fled from the sword of the avenger, that was pursuing him? In the world at large we see nothing of this; nothing, in fact, but supineness and security: so true is the judgment of the Psalmist respecting them, that “there is no fear of God before their eyes.” The same testimony St. Paul also bears [Note: Romans 3:18.]: and we know that his record is true.]
If, then, David’s views be indeed correct, see,
How marvellous is the forbearance of our God!
[He sees the state of every living man: he sees, not our actions only, but our very thoughts: for “he trieth the heart and reins.” What evils, then, does he behold in every quarter of the globe! Not a country, a town, a village, a family, no, nor a single soul, exempt from the common malady! all fallen; all “enemies in their hearts to God by wicked works!” Take but a single city, our own metropolis for instance, and what a mass of iniquity does God behold in it, even in the short space of twenty-four hours! Is it not astonishing that God’s wrath does not break forth against us, even as against Sodom and Gomorrha, to consume us by fire; or that another deluge does not come, to sweep us away from the face of the earth? Dear Brethren, “account this long-suffering of our God to be salvation [Note: 2 Peter 3:15.],” and “let it lead every one of you to repentance [Note: Romans 2:4.].”]
How unbounded is the love of God, that has provided a Saviour for us!—
[Behold, instead of destroying the world by one stroke of his indignation, he has sent us his co-equal and co-eternal Son to effect a reconciliation between him and us, by the sacrifice of himself! Yes, “he has so loved the world, as to have given his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life [Note: John 3:16.].” “He sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world,” as we might rather have expected; “but that the world through him might be saved [Note: John 3:17.].” What, then, my beloved Brethren, “shall your transgressions say to you?” Shall they not say, “Avail yourselves of the proffered mercy? Delay not an hour to seek an interest in that Saviour, that so your sins may be blotted out, and your souls be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus?” Let this love of God constrain you to surrender up yourselves to him as his redeemed people; and so to walk before him in newness of heart and life, that “Christ may be magnified in you, whether by life or death [Note: Philippians 1:20.].”]
THE SELF-FLATTERING DELUSIONS OF SINNERS EXPOSED
Psalms 36:2. He flattereth himself in his own eyes, until his iniquity be found to be hateful.
IT may well astonish us to see how careless and indifferent men are about the favour of God. But the Psalmist assigns the true reason for it. Every one cherishes in his mind some delusion, whereby he lulls his conscience asleep; and thus, notwithstanding his guilt and danger, rests satisfied with his state, till God himself interpose, in a way of mercy or of judgment, to undeceive him.
To elucidate his words, we shall,
Point out some of the self-flattering delusions which are commonly entertained—
We shall notice some which obtain,
Among the careless world—
[They imagine that God does not regard the conduct of his creatures [Note: Job 22:13.Psalms 94:7; Psalms 94:7. But it is a sad delusion, Proverbs 15:3. 1 Corinthians 4:5.Ecclesiastes 12:14; Ecclesiastes 12:14.Deuteronomy 29:19-20; Deuteronomy 29:19-20.] — — — Or, that he is too merciful to consign them over to everlasting perdition [Note: Zep 1:12. 2 Peter 3:4. But this is also a fatal error, Psa 9:17 and 2 Peter 2:4-6; 2 Peter 2:9.] — — — Or that, at least, a little repentance will suffice [Note: Repentance is not so small a thing as men suppose. It is nothing less than a thorough renovation of the heart in all its powers; a putting off the old man, and a putting on the new, John 3:3.Ephesians 4:22-24; Ephesians 4:22-24.] — — — Or that, at all events, it is time enough yet to think of turning seriously to God [Note: Acts 24:25. If other delusions have proved fatal to thousands, this has destroyed tens of thousands. The folly of it appears from James 4:14. Luk 12:20 and Genesis 6:3.Proverbs 1:24-31; Proverbs 1:24-31.] — — —]
Among those who profess some regard for religion—
[They judge that a moral conduct, with a regular observance of the outward forms of religion, is all that is required [Note: Our Lord warns us against this mistake, Matthew 5:20.] — — — Or, that the embracing of the truths of the Gospel, and joining themselves to the Lord’s people, is a true and scriptural conversion [Note: But what did this avail the Foolish Virgins? Mat 25:1-12 or Judas? Matthew 26:21-24. See also, Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:40-42.] — — — Or, that the having, at some former period, had their affections strongly exercised about religious things, is a proof of their present acceptance with God [Note: Such notions are common, Matthew 13:20. but awfully delusive, Hebrews 6:4-6. 2 Peter 2:20-21.] — — — Or, that a present pleasure in religious duties. with a partial mortification of sin, is a sufficient evidence of their sincerity [Note: This is the thought of many, Isaiah 58:2-3.Ezekiel 33:31-32; Ezekiel 33:31-32.Psalms 78:34-35; Psalms 78:34-35. But nothing less than an uniform and unreserved obedience to God will prove us to be God’s children 1 John 3:7. Mark 9:43-48.] — — —]
But the vanity of these delusions will appear, while we,
Shew when and how they shall be removed—
The eyes of all will sooner or later be opened, and their vain conceits be dissipated—
Some will have their errors rectified in conversion—
[When the Spirit of God enlightens the mind of man, he scatters the clouds of ignorance and error; and, as far at least as respects the foregoing delusions, guides them into the knowledge of the truth. He shews us, not only that our sins are known to God, but that we are in danger of condemnation on account of them, and that we ought to turn to God instantly, and with our whole hearts [Note: Acts 2:37; Acts 16:30.] — — — He discovers to us also, that no form of godliness, no change of sentiment, no moving of the affections, no partial reformation of the life, will suffice; but that, if we will serve the Lord in truth, we must give up ourselves wholly to him and without reserve [Note: Psa 18:23 and Hebrews 12:1.] — — — Particularly he makes us to see “the hatefulness” of the most refined hypocrisy, and even of the remains of sin, which, in spite of our most earnest endeavours to destroy it, yet war in our members [Note: Psalms 66:18. James 1:26. Job 42:6. Romans 7:21-24.] — — —]
Others will have their misapprehensions removed in condemnation—
[Too many, alas! hold fast their delusions in spite of God’s word, and all the merciful or afflictive dispensations of his providence. But, as soon as ever they come into the eternal world, they will be undeceived. The sight of a holy God, together with the hearing of that sentence which their once compassionate, but now indignant Judge will pass upon them; and, above all, the feeling of the torments of hell, will convince them of their mistakes, and leave them no room to doubt, but that the care of the soul was “the one thing needful,” and that every word of God shall be fulfilled in its season — — —]
Confer not with flesh and blood in the concerns of religion—
[All unregenerate men endeavour to bring down the word of God to some standard of their own; and consequently will discourage in us every thing that goes beyond the line which they have drawn for themselves. But, if they deceive us, they cannot afford us any remedy in the eternal world. The word of God is the only standard of right and wrong; and by that we shall be judged in the last day. Let us therefore regulate our sentiments and conduct, not according to the opinions of fallible men, but according to the unerring declarations of God himself. And instead of endeavouring to lower the demands of God to our wishes or attainments, let us labour to raise our practice to the strictest requisitions of God’s law [Note: Philippians 3:13-14.].]
Pray for the teaching of God’s Spirit—
[With deceitful hearts, a subtle adversary, and a tempting world, we are continually in danger: nor can we hope to be guided aright but by the Spirit of the living God. Even the Scriptures themselves will be “a dead letter,” and “a sealed book” to us, unless the Spirit of God open our understandings to understand them. He has promised to lead us into all truth; and if we be really disposed to embrace the truth, he will discover it to us. But if, through our hatred of the light, we shut our eyes against it, God will give us over to our delusions, that we may believe a lie [Note: John 3:19. 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, and Isaiah 66:3-4.]. Let us therefore guard against self-deception, and submit ourselves to the guidance of God’s Spirit. Then, though our capacities be ever so small, we shall be kept from every fundamental error [Note: Isa 35:8 and Matthew 11:25.], and be “made wise unto salvation through faith in Christ.”]
Seek above all to know the hatefulness of sin—
[Nothing but a discovery of the evil of sin will effectually preserve us from self-deceit. To produce this, is the first saving work of the Spirit: and the more this is wrought in the heart, the more shall we be on our guard against all self-flattering delusions.]
SIN TO BE ABHORRED
Psalms 36:4. He abhorreth not evil.
THE standard of morals in the Christian world is far below that which is established in the Sacred Records: and hence arises that self-justifying spirit which prevails in every place. Gross iniquities, which affect the welfare of society, are condemned: but less flagrant offences are regarded as venial, and justified as unavoidable in this state of human existence. The person immediately referred to in my text was Saul, who, amidst all his professions of penitence, still entertained evil designs against the life of David. But we need not limit the words to him. They are, like many similar passages cited by St. Paul in the third chapter of his Epistle to the Romans [Note: Romans 3:10-19.], expressive of the state of our fallen nature, and universally applicable to every child of man. To elucidate them, I will shew,
How great an evil sin is—
There is scarcely any thing which is vile and lothesome to which sin is not compared. Let us instance this in leprosy; which may be considered as the most spreading, the most defiling, the most incurable of all disorders. In reference to this does the Prophet Isaiah speak of himself and all around him as utterly undone: “Woe is me! I am undone: I am a man of unclean lips; and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips [Note: Isaiah 6:5.].” But, not to lay an undue stress on figures like these, I will consider sin,
As a violation of God’s holy Law—
[The Law of God is said to be “holy, and just, and good [Note: Romans 7:12.].” It is holy, as being a perfect transcript of God’s mind and will: it is just, as requiring nothing which does not necessarily arise out of our relation to him and to each other: and it is good, as tending, in every instance, to the happiness of the creature, and to the honour of our Creator. Now “sin is a transgression of this Law [Note: 1 John 3:4.]:” and that very circumstance it is which renders it “so exceeding sinful [Note: Romans 7:13.].” Were the Law itself less excellent, a departure from it would be less odious: but to rebel against it, is to prefer the mind of Satan to the mind of God, and the service of the devil to the service of our God. If we would see in what light God views it, let us go back to the time of Adam, on whose heart this Law was completely written, and see what one single transgression of it brought on him: and not on him only, but on the whole creation: and then we shall say indeed, that the evil of sin far exceeds all that language can express, or that any finite intelligence can conceive.]
As a contradiction to his blessed Gospel—
[To obviate the effects of sin, God sent his only dear Son into the world; that he might “put away the guilt of it by the sacrifice of himself [Note: Hebrews 9:26.];” and that by the operations of his Holy Spirit he might repress its power, and “destroy the works of the devil [Note: 1 John 3:8.].” But sin contravenes all his merciful intentions and defeats all his gracious purposes. Now, let us suppose that the Lord Jesus Christ were now at this time to come into this assembly; and that, instead of receiving him with all that admiring and adoring gratitude that would become us, we were to rise up against him, and beat him down, and trample him under foot; and that, on his exhibiting the wounds once made for us on Calvary, and yet bleeding for us, we were to regard his blood as an accursed thing, and seize upon him, and nail him to a cross, and load him with our execrations till we saw him dead before our eyes: What would be thought of us? Yea, in a moment of reflection, what should we think of ourselves? Yet that is what sin does, and what all of us do whenever we commit sin: for so has the Apostle said, that “we tread under foot the Son of God, and count the blood of the Covenant an unholy thing, and do despite to the Spirit of his grace [Note: Heb 10:29];” yea, “we crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame [Note: Hebrews 6:6.].” V No wonder, then, that God, when dissuading us from the commission of sin, addresses us m those pungent terms, “O, do not that abominable thing which I hate [Note: Jeremiah 44:4.].”]
But instead of our regarding it with the abhorrence it deserves, I am constrained to shew you,
What sad indulgence it meets with at our hands—
View the generality of men—
[So far from abhorring sin, they love it, they delight in it, and, to use the strong expression of Scripture, “they wallow in it, even as a sow wallows in the mire [Note: 2 Peter 2:22.].” In fact, it is the very element in which men live. Look all around you: I speak not of those who “run into every excess of riot;” though they, alas! are very numerous, and, for the most part, “glory in their shame:” but I speak of the great mass of the community, the rich, the poor, the old, the young: Whom amongst them do you find regulating themselves according to God’s holy Law? Who has not a standard of his own, such as use and fashion have prescribed? and who is not satisfied with conforming to that, without ever once thinking of God’s Law, or so much as desiring to approve himself to him? Verily, “the whole world lieth in wickedness,” and under the dominion of the Wicked one [Note: 1 John 5:19. ἐν τῷ πονηρῷ. Ephesians 2:2.].]
But, passing by these, behold the more decent part of the community—
[Doubtless there are many who are more decorous in their conduct, and more observant of a form of godliness. But I ask, even in reference to them, How many of them do really view sin as God views it? That some enormous evils are abhorred, I readily acknowledge: but they are such only as, by a kind of common consent, are stamped with general reprobation. As for sin, as sin, and as a departure from God’s holy Law, who hates it? Who lothes it? Who abhors it? Yea, I ask, Who does not hear it, without offence? and sec it, without disgust? and harbour it, without remorse? Let these questions sink down into your ears: carry them home with you, as tests of your real state: put them home to your conscience, and give an answer to them as before God. You well know, that if any one loaded our parents with deep and unmerited disgrace, he would soon excite our indignation. You know, also, that the sight and smell of a putrid carcase would create in us a lothing which we could scarce endure. Nor need you be told, what feelings of remorse would follow the commission of murder. But sin, whether heard or seen or felt, begets in us no such painful emotions. To abhor it, and “abhor ourselves” for the hidden workings of it in our souls, as holy Job did [Note: Job 40:4; Job 42:6.], we know not: to “lothe ourselves” as hateful and abominable on account of it [Note: Ezekiel 36:31.], so as to “blush and be confounded before God,” and scarcely to “dare to lift up our eyes to heaven” on account of our conscious vileness [Note: Luke 18:13.], is a state of mind to which we are utter strangers, unless on account of some great iniquity, which, if known, would expose us to indelible disgrace. To abhor evil merely on account of its intrinsic hatefulness, and its offensiveness to God, is an attainment very rare, and even in the best of men very weak and imperfect. I think, then, that every one of us may consider himself as condemned in my text, and may take shame to himself as bearing that humiliating character, “He abhorreth not evil.”]
How little there is of true sanctity amongst us—
[Of the saints of old it was said, “They could not bear those who were evil [Note: Revelation 2:2.]:” whereas we can “find pleasure in their society [Note: Romans 1:32.],” and, provided they wrap up their jests in elegant allusions and witty turns [Note: Ephesians 5:4. εὐτραπελία.],” can join with them in laughing at thoughts, which, if delivered in coarser language, we should condemn: we even “set ourselves in a way that is not good,” shewing no aversion to “have fellowship in the works of darkness, which we ought rather with decided boldness to reprove [Note: Ephesians 5:11.].” How unlike are we to David, who says, “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because men keep not thy Law [Note: Psalms 119:136.]!” Indeed, Brethren, we should see and mourn over our great defects; and, instead of indulging self-complacent thoughts on account of our not being so bad as others, should rather smite on our breasts with conscious guilt, and humble ourselves before God as “the very chief of sinners.”]
How greatly we need the provisions of the Gospel—
[I have before said, that, to remedy the evils which sin has brought into the world, God has sent his only dear Son to make atonement for us, and his Holy Spirit to renew us after the divine image. And now I ask you, Whether any thing less than this would have sufficed? What could you have done to expiate your own guilt? Or how could you ever, with such polluted hearts as yours, have attained a meetness for heaven? You might as easily have built a world, as have effected either of these things. Nor is there any difference between one man and another in these respects. One may differ from another in respect of outward sin: but in respect of alienation of heart from the holy Law of God, and an utter incapacity to restore ourselves to his favour, all are on a perfect level. I entreat you, then, all of you without exception, to “wash in the Fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness [Note: Zechariah 13:1.],” and to cry mightily to God for the renewing influences of his Holy Spirit, that so you may have your past iniquities forgiven, and be “created anew after the divine image in righteousness and true holiness [Note: Ephesians 4:24.].” Then will you be brought to that state which every true Christian must attain, “abhorring that which is evil, and cleaving to that which is good [Note: Romans 12:9.];” and then will God be glorified in you, both in this world and in the world to come [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:10.].]
GOD’S WORD AND WORKS MYSTERIOUS
Psalms 36:6. Thy judgments are a great deep.
WE little think how highly privileged the meanest Christian is above all the sages of antiquity. The greatest philosophers of Greece and Rome were un able to account for the existence of moral evil upon earth, or to see through the disorder and confusion which it has produced throughout the world. But the servant of the Lord is instructed to trace every thing to an All-wise and Almighty Power, who brings light out of darkness and order from confusion, and overrules every thing for the glory of his own name. To this Divine Being, the child of God has recourse in all his difficulties, and in the contemplation of Him finds comfort under the sorest trials. David, under the persecutions of Saul, was reduced to the greatest extremities: but, after complaining of the subtlety of his implacable enemy, “he encouraged himself in the Lord his God,” who was able to accomplish his own gracious designs, not only in opposition to this powerful adversary, but by the very means which Saul was using to defeat them.
The word “judgments” has, in Scripture, many different significations. As used in my text, we may consider it as comprehending both the word and the works of God. In illustration, therefore, of our text, we may observe that “God’s judgments are a great deep,”
As displayed in his word—
The whole of Revelation is a mystery. But, that we may not be led over too wide a field, we will confine our attention to two points:
Our fall in Adam—
[This is a fact to which the whole Scripture bears witness: “In Adam all died [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:22.];” and “by the offence of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation [Note: Romans 5:17-18.].” Now, that he should himself be drawn into sin, circumstanced as he was, perfect in his nature, and supplied with every thing which his soul could desire, is wonderful. But it is a fact, that he did commit sin, and brought upon himself God’s righteous indignation. That in his sin all his posterity should be involved, is a yet deeper mystery; for which it would be impossible for us to account, if God had not plainly and unequivocally revealed it. That the whole world is full of sin, is obvious to the most superficial observer. That the very nature of man is corrupt, is also evident. No one who has ever marked the dispositions of an infant can entertain a doubt of it [Note: Psalms 51:5.]. But was man first created in such a state? Can we conceive of a holy Being forming, in the first instance, such unholy creatures ? Human wisdom is altogether lost, and confounded, whilst occupied on this mysterious subject. But God has explained it to us in his word. He has told us, what, when revealed, is a self-evident truth, that “no man can bring a clean thing out of an unclean [Note: Job 14:4.].” He has told us, also, what we could never have imagined or conceived, that the very guilt of Adam is transmitted to us, because he was not a private and isolated individual, but the head and representative of all his descendants: so that we come into the world, not only corrupt creatures, but “children of wrath [Note: Ephesians 2:3.].”
Now say, whether this be not “a great deep.” Who can comprehend it? Who is not lost in wonder at the contemplation of it?]
Our recovery by Jesus Christ—
[That there should be a possibility of restoring man to the divine favour, is what no finite intelligence could ever have conceived. Not one of the fallen angels ever was restored: nor could the restoration of man, it might be thought, have ever been compatible with the honour of our offended God. But God contrived a way, wherein he might be “just, and yet the justifier of sinful men [Note: Romans 3:26.].” For this end he gave his onlybegotten Son, to stand in our place, to bear our sins, to “make reconciliation for our iniquities, and to bring m an everlasting righteousness,” wherein we might stand accepted before our God.
Well might the Apostle say, “Great is the mystery of godliness [Note: 1 Timothy 3:16.].” Who can contemplate “God manifest in human flesh,” and dying in the place of his own sinful and rebellious creatures, and not stand amazed at this stupendous effort of love and mercy? Truly, it far “surpasses all the knowledge” whether of men or angels. And, if it were not confirmed to us by testimony that is absolutely unquestionable, we could not but regard it altogether as “a cunningly-devised fable;” so unfathomable are the depths contained in it, and so incomprehensible the love [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.].]
But let us contemplate God’s judgments,
As manifested in his works—
Let us notice them in his works,
[These also are as inscrutable as redemption itself. Who, that surveyed Joseph in all his different scenes of woe, could ever imagine whither they were conducting him, or to what they would lead? Truly there is “a wheel within a wheel [Note: Ezekiel 1:16.];” and whilst all appears uncertainty around us, every thing is working to a fixed end, even to accomplish what God himself has predicted in his word. The smallest incidents that can be imagined are often productive of the most wonderful events: the casting of a lot, the sleepless restlessness of Ahasuerus, the casual turning to a particular record, to a common observer would appear as matters of trifling moment: yet on them depended the preservation of the whole Jewish people [Note: Esther 3:7; Esther 6:1-3.]. And we too, if we look back upon our past lives, may find many minute occurrences, which seemed to be of no account at the time, but which contributed in the most essential manner to influence and fix our future destinies; so that at this hour there is not one amongst us whose life would not serve for the illustrating of this point, and constrain him with the profoundest admiration to exclaim, “How unsearchable are God’s judgments, and his ways past finding out [Note: Romans 11:33.]!”]
[Who, that had seen Paul in his unconverted state, would ever have supposed that God had designs of love towards him ? Yet, when he had well nigh filled up the measure of his iniquities, God arrested him in his career, and made him a most distinguished monument of his mercy; insomuch that all future ages were to regard him as “a pattern,” by which the extent of God’s mercy might be estimated, and the hopes of penitents be encouraged [Note: 1 Timothy 1:12-16.]. Certainly the conduct of Onesimus towards his master Philemon must appear a very strange link in the purposes of heaven, relative to his salvation: yet were his dishonesty and flight made use of by God as means to bring him under the ministry of St. Paul, and, through that, to a conversion of soul to God, and to the everlasting possession of happiness and glory [Note: Philem. ver. 15.]. Not that God’s designs of mercy towards him lessened in any degree the guilt which he contracted: nor is sin of any kind the less sinful on account of the use which God may make of it for the accomplishment of his own designs: for then the murderers of our blessed Lord must have been accounted the best, rather than the most guilty, of mankind. No: sin is a deadly evil, by whomsoever it is committed, and whatsoever it may effect: but this I say, that God both does and will accomplish his own eternal counsels, in ways which no finite wisdom could have contrived, nor any finite power have brought to a successful issue. “Verily,” says the prophet, “thou art a God that hidest thyself [Note: Isaiah 45:15.].” And so, indeed, we may all say. For who can look back upon the way in which he has been brought from his youth up even to this present moment, and especially upon the way in which he has been led to the knowledge of the Saviour, and not stand amazed at “the goodness and mercy that have followed him,” and at the wisdom and power that have effected so great things for him? Yes: we must all fully acquiesce in that sentiment of Zophar: “Canst thou by searching find out God? canst thou find out the Almighty to perfection? It is high as heaven; what canst thou do? it is deeper than hell; what canst thou know? the measure thereof is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea [Note: Job 11:7-9.].”]
Let us, then, learn from hence,
Submission to God’s will—
[We may have been brought into circumstances of the most afflictive nature: but we should remember who it is that ordereth all things, even to the falling of a sparrow upon the ground. Men and devils may be labouring for our destruction: and God may suffer them to proceed to the very utmost extremity, till, like the murderers of our Lord, they may exult in, what appears to them, the full attainment of their purpose; but God says to all of them, “Hitherto shalt thou come, and no farther.” True it is that “His way is in the sea, and his footsteps are not known [Note: Psalms 77:19.]:” but you must never forget, that though “clouds and darkness are round about him, righteousness and judgment are the basis of his throne [Note: Psalms 97:2.].” “What he does, you may not at present know: but you shall know hereafter [Note: John 13:7.]:” and you may be sure that at the last you shall add your testimony to that of all his saints, “He hath done all things well [Note: Mark 7:37.].” Your way may be circuitous, and attended with great difficulties: but you will find, at last, that it was “the right way [Note: Psalms 107:7.],” the way most conducive to your best interests, and most calculated to advance his glory. Let us, then, wait to “see the end of the Lord [Note: James 5:11.];” and, under all circumstances, say, “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.”]
Affiance in his word—
[There is light sufficient: there we see what God will most assuredly accomplish. There may appear to be a discordance between the word and works of God; but they will be found to harmonize at last: “nor shall one jot or tittle of his word ever fail.” Lay hold, then, on the promises of God: rest on them: plead them at the throne of his grace: and expect the accomplishment of them in due season. But be not impatient under any delays: “If the vision tarry, wait for it;” assured that “it will not tarry” beyond the appointed time [Note: Habakkuk 2:3.]. Never, under any circumstances, say, “All these things are against me;” because God has promised that “they shall all work together for your good [Note: Romans 8:28.].” But, conceive of a soul just liberated from the body, and from the throne of God looking back upon the way in which it has been brought thither; with what admiration will it then be filled! and what praises will it pour forth on account of the dispensations which till now it was not able to unravel! This should now be the posture of your soul. Most safely may you trust in God, to the full extent of his promises: for, whatever difficulties may lie in his way, “His counsel shall stand; and He will do all his will.”]
THE LOVING-KINDNESS OF GOD
Psalms 36:7-8. How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings. They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house: and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.
THE more we know of man, the more shall we see the folly of trusting in an arm of flesh: but, the more we are acquainted with God, the more enlarged will be our expectations from him, and the more unreserved our confidence in his power and grace. David had found by bitter experience, that no dependence could be placed on the protestations of Saul. But he had a friend, in whose protection he could trust; and in the contemplation of whose character he could find the richest consolation, while his views of man filled him with nothing but grief and anguish. Having expatiated upon his perfections, as contrasted with the deceitfulness and depravity of man, he bursts forth into a rapturous admiration of his love.
His words furnish us with an occasion to consider the loving-kindness of God, in the precise view in which it is exhibited in our text,
As a subject for adoring gratitude—
[Wherever we turn our eyes, we behold the most astonishing displays of God’s love. Every work of creation, every dispensation of providence, every effort of Grace, exhibits him to us in the most endearing view. But most of all must we admire the wonders of redemption. This is the work whereby God commends his love to us [Note: Romans 5:8.]. This is the one subject of adoration to all the saints in glory [Note: Revelation 5:11-14.]. No sooner was it declared in the incarnation of Christ, than multitudes of the heavenly host began a new song, singing “Glory to God in the highest [Note: Luke 2:13-14.].” Yea, from that moment have they been occupied in exploring its mysteries [Note: 1 Peter 1:12.]. But so unsearchable are its heights and depths, that no finite understanding can fuily comprehend, nor will eternity suffice to unfold, all the wonders contained in it [Note: Ephesians 3:18-19.]. “How excellent then is thy loving-kindness, O God!”]
As a ground for implicit confidence—
[This is not a speculative subject, but is influential in the hearts of all that give it a due measure of their attention. It is this which encourages sinners to approach their God with confidence. In the view of this, no guilt appals, no strait depresses, no grief dejects. Whatever we want of pardon, peace, or strength, one thought suffices to support the soul; “he who spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things [Note: Romans 8:32.]!” This is the genuine and legitimate use which we are to make of the loving-kindness of God [Note: Psalms 9:10.]. We are to go to him as to a Father, confessing our faults [Note: Luke 15:18-19.]; to follow him as our Guide in all our ways [Note: Hebrews 11:8.]; and to commit ourselves to him without fear, knowing that he will either extricate us from all trouble [Note: Daniel 3:17.], or overrule it for our good [Note: Philippians 1:19-20. 1 Peter 4:19.].]
As a pledge of all imaginable blessings at his hands—
[There is nothing which can conduce to our happiness either in time or eternity, which we are not warranted to expect at God’s hands, provided we contemplate, and be suitably impressed with, the excellencies of his love.
The priests of old feasted their families with the offerings which belonged to them by virtue of their office [Note: Numbers 18:11.]. Now to our great High-Priest belong all the glory and blessedness of heaven: and every member of his family is privileged to partake with him. In his house he spreads his feast [Note: Isaiah 25:6.], and says to his dear children, Come, out and drink abundantly, O beloved [Note: Song of Solomon 5:1.], and let your souls delight themselves with fatness [Note: Isaiah 55:2.]. And who can declare what “abundant satisfaction” their souls feel while feeding on the promises of his word, and the communications of his love; or how enviable is the state of those who are thus highly privileged [Note: Psalms 65:4.]? Surely if we taste this promised blessing [Note: Jeremiah 31:14.], we may well desire rather to be door-keepers in his house, than to enjoy the splendour of an earthly court [Note: Psalms 84:10.].
But there are still sweeter fruits of God’s love to be enjoyed in heaven. There flows a river, which gladdens that holy city, the new Jerusalem [Note: Psalms 46:4.], and fills with unspeakable delight every inhabitant of those blissful mansions. There is a fulness of joy, emanating from the fountain of the Deity, and filling with God’s own blessedness every soul according to its capacity [Note: Rev 22:1 and Psalms 16:11.]. Of this shall every one be “made to drink;” and, drinking of it, shall thirst no more for ever [Note: Psalms 17:15.].]
[Let the love of God in Christ Jesus be our meditation all the day — — — Let it lead us to trust in him both for body and soul — — — And let a sense of it shed abroad in our hearts, be the one object of our desire [Note: Psalms 27:4.] and delight [Note: Philippians 3:8.] — — —]
CHRIST THE FOUNTAIN OF LIFE AND LIGHT
Psalms 36:9. With thee is the fountain of life; in thy light shall we see light.
BY a sober consideration of Scripture metaphors we obtain a more full and comprehensive knowledge of divine truth, than could easily be obtained from the most laboured discussions. Besides, the ideas suggested by them strike the mind so forcibly, that they cannot fail of making a deep and lasting im pression. Let us but notice the rich variety of figures whereby the Deity is set forth in the passage before us, and we shall be filled with admiring and adoring thoughts of his goodness. The Psalmist, illustrating the loving-kindness of his God, represents him first under the image of a hen gathering her chickens; then as an opulent host feasting his guests with the richest dainties; and then, in a beautiful climax, he compares him to the sun.
In our text there is no confusion of metaphor, as there would be if the former part referred to a fountain, and the latter to the sun. It is the sun alone that is spoken of: for that is the fountain both of light and life: and in discoursing upon it, we observe, that,
Christ is an inexhaustible source of all spiritual good—
Christ may be considered as peculiarly referred to in the metaphor before us—
[It is in Christ only that the perfections mentioned in the foregoing verses are combined [Note: ver. 5, 6.]. It is in him only that God unites justice with mercy [Note: Romans 3:26.], or adheres, in faithfulness, to his covenant engagements [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:20.]. Besides, it is in this view that Christ is set forth throughout all the sacred oracles, by prophets [Note: Isaiah 60:1.Malachi 4:2; Malachi 4:2.], by Apostles [Note: John 1:4; John 1:9. Luke 2:32. 2 Peter 1:19.], and more especially by himself [Note: John 8:12; John 12:46.] — — — We may well therefore apply to him the comparison before us: and we shall find it admirably deseriptive of his real character.]
He is to the spiritual, what the sun is to the material, world—
[The sun is “the fountain of light and life” to this lower world. When that is withdrawn, the earth is left in darkness, the vegetable world decays, and myriads of animals are secluded in a state of torpor. But when it returns m its brightness, it both dispels the darkness, and restores to nature her suspended powers — — —
Thus, where Christ has not shined, universal darkness and death prevail. But when he arises on the soul, he enlightens it, and infuses into it a principle of life [Note: Ephesians 2:1.], whereby its faculties are made capable of spiritual exertions; and it is rendered “fruitful in all the fruits of righteousness to God’s praise and glory” — — —]
We have abundant encouragement to seek his influence, since,
They who live in communion with him shall surely participate his blessings—
As the sun shines in vain to him who secludes himself in a dungeon, so, unless we come forth to “Christ’s light, we cannot possibly behold his light.” But if we view him as we ought, we shall then attain the light of knowledge, the light of comfort, the light of holiness, the light of glory.
Our minds shall be enlightened with divine knowledge—
[By the light of the sun we behold the objects around us; and by the light of Christ we discern the things belonging to our peace. In his face all the glory of the Godhead shines [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:6. Colossians 1:15.], insomuch that he who has seen him, has seen the Father also [Note: John 14:9.]. Nor is there any one subject relating to salvation which does not receive its clearest illustration from him—]
Our souls shall be enriched with heavenly comfort—
[The consolation we derive from other sources is light and unsubstantial: and the things which promise us most happiness, often prove only a fleeting meteor, or a delusive vapour. But a sight of Christ, of his fulness, his suitableness, his all-sufficiency, affords a ground of comfort, firm as the rocks, and lasting as eternity [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:5.]—]
Our hearts shall be “renewed in righteousness and true holiness”—
[Nothing produces such effects as a sight of Christ. We may hear the law proclaimed in all its terrors, and yet experience no abiding change. But a view of Christ as crucified for us, will break the most obdurate heart [Note: Zechariah 12:10.]—raise the most desponding soul [Note: 1 Peter 1:3.]—inspire the selfish with unbounded love [Note: 1 John 3:16.]—and fill the mourner with unutterable joy [Note: 1 Peter 1:8.]: In a word, it will change a sinful man into the very image of his God and Saviour [Note: 2 Corinthians 3:18.].]
The light of glory itself shall also be enjoyed by us—
[Christ is the one source of happiness to all the hosts of heaven [Note: Revelation 21:23.]. To behold his beauty, to taste his love, to celebrate his praises, this is their employment, this their supreme felicity [Note: Revelation 5:8-13.]. Such too is the occupation, such the happiness of every true believer: he has an earnest of heaven in his soul; and this earnest is a pledge that, in due season, he shall receive the consummation of all his wishes in the immediate vision of his Saviour’s glory, and the everlasting fruition of his love [Note: Eph 1:13-14 and 1 John 3:2.]—]
How great is the folly of seeking happiness in the creature !
[Created things, in comparison of Christ, are no more than a broken cistern to a fountain [Note: Jeremiah 2:13.], or than a star in comparison of the meridian sun. Let us then seek our happiness in Christ, and in him alone. In him, as in the sun, there is a fulness and a sufficiency for all [Note: Colossians 1:19.]. And to him all may have access, if they will not obstinately immure themselves in impenitence and unbelief [Note: Ephesians 5:14.]. Let us not then “kindle sparks for ourselves, or walk in the light of our own fires [Note: Isaiah 1:11.],” but “come forth to his light,” and “walk in it” to the latest hour of our lives [Note: John 12:35-36.].]
How unspeakable is the blessedness of knowing Christ !
[If we could conceive ourselves in a region where a winter’s midnight was perpetuated; and then be transported in idea to a climate, where noontide light, and vernal beauty, were uninterruptedly enjoyed, we might have some faint image of the change effected by the knowledge of Christ [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.], Truly the Christian is in Goshen [Note: Exodus 9:26; Exodus 10:22-23.]: or if, for a little moment he be in darkness, there ariseth up a light unto him in the midst of it [Note: Psalms 112:4.], and his darkness becomes as the noon-day [Note: Isaiah 58:10.]. And, in a little time “his sun shall no more go down; but his Lord shall be unto him an everlasting light, and his God his glory [Note: Isaiah 60:19-20.].” O that this may be the constant pursuit, and the happy attainment of us all!]
GOD’S CONTINUED CARE IMPLORED
Psalms 36:10. O continue thou thy loving-kindness unto them that know thee, and thy righteousness to the upright in heart!
DAVID, in all his troubles, “encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” He was in great trouble at the time he wrote this psalm; but whether from the persecutions of Saul, or the rebellion of Absalom, is not certain. But his views of the Deity were exceeding grand: “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds. Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O Lord, thou preservest man and beast. How excellent is thy loving-kindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.” To this God he commits his cause; and, in behalf of himself and all his persecuted associates, prays, “O continue thou thy loving-kindness unto them that know thee, and thy righteousness unto the upright in heart!” The same petition will every faithful minister urge in behalf of himself and his people, under a full assurance that “all their fresh springs are in God [Note: Psalms 87:7.];” and that God himself, if ever they be saved at all, must “work all their works in them [Note: Isaiah 26:12.].” In this view, I will endeavour to shew you,
What need we all have of the blessing here implored—
The term “righteousness,” in the Old Testament, is of very extensive meaning. In my text it imports “goodness,” and, as joined with “loving-kindness,” must be understood to mean, a continuance of God’s tender and watchful care even to the end. And
Of this, all, whatever be their attainments, stand in need—
[Of the ignorant and ungodly I am not at present called to speak; but rather of “those who know God, and are upright before him.” Now all of these, without any exception, “offend God in many things,” and, “if God were extreme to mark what is done amiss, must perish.” From gross and wilful transgressions they may be free: but “who can say, His heart is clean?” How many sins are committed there, which no eye but God’s beholds! — — — But, waving sins of commission, how greatly do we offend in a way of omission! See how “exceeding broad are the demands of God’s Law.” Our duties to God, our neighbour, and ourselves, who can be said perfectly to know them all; and much less to do them — — — But, waving these also, let us mark only our sins of defect. Be it so: We do really love God: but do we love him “with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength?” We love our neighbour, too: but do we love him with the same intenseness, and constancy, and activity “as ourselves?” We believe in Christ also: but is our habit of dependence on him, and communion with him, like that of “a branch united to the vine?” We devote ourselves to his service: but are all our faculties and powers, both of mind and body, put forth into action, as if we were running a race, or fighting for our lives? Let us look at our very best services, whether in public or in private; our prayers, for instance: Are our confessions accompanied with that brokenness of heart which we ought to feel? or our petitions urged with that importunity which God requires? or our thanksgivings presented with that ardent gratitude which God’s mercies, and especially the great blessings of redemption, call for at our hands? I must say, that the grossest iniquities of the ungodly do not, in my apprehension, more strongly mark our alienation from God, than do the very prayers and praises of the godly; so exceeding cold are they, and unsuited to our state as redeemed sinners.
We need, therefore, the continuance of God’s tender mercies to us yet daily, as much as ever we did in our carnal and unregenerate state.]
And what should we do, if God should withdraw his loving-kindness from us?
[What would our “knowledge of God” avail us, or even our own “integrity?” Satan prevailed over our first parents, even in Paradise: how, then, could we withstand his power, if God should deliver us up into his hands? In point of knowledge and integrity, David was as eminent as any of the Scripture saints: yet you all know how he felt, when once he was left to the workings of his own heart. Hezekiah was perhaps not inferior to him: yet, when “God left him, to try him, that he might see all that was in his heart,” he also fell, and brought upon himself and his posterity the sorest judgments [Note: 2 Chronicles 32:31.]. Who then amongst us could hope to stand, if God should withhold his loving-kindness from us, or suspend for a moment the communications of his grace?
We need, then, all of us to entreat of God to “continue his loving-kindness to us,” or, as it is translated in the margin of our Bibles, to “draw it out at length.” You all know how a rope, or line, or thread, is formed, by adding fresh materials continually, till it shall have attained its destined length. In reference to this, the prophet represents the ungodly as “drawing out iniquity as cords of vanity, and sin as a cart-rope [Note: See Isaiah 5:18. with Bishop Lowth’s note upon it.],” that is, by constant additions even to their dying hour. And precisely thus we need, that God, who has begun a good work in us, should carry it on even to the end, by drawing out, and imparting to us, such communications of his grace as our necessities require, till we have attained that measure which in his eternal counsels he has ordained, and we be fully “meet for our Master’s use.”]
Seeing, then, that we all need this blessing, let me shew you,
On what grounds all “who know God, and are upright before him,” are authorized to expect it—
The petition in my text was offered under a full assurance that it should be granted: for he had scarcely uttered it before he saw, by faith, the answer given: “There,” says he, “are the workers of iniquity fallen; they are cast down, and shall not be able to stand.” And we also may expect that it shall be answered to all who offer it in faith. We may expect God’s continued care, since it is assured to us,
By the promises of God—
[Numberless are the promises which God has made to us respecting the continuance of his love towards all whom, according to his sovereign will, he has chosen to be the objects of it. David, in another psalm, says, “The Lord will not cast off his People, neither will he forsake his inheritance [Note: Psalms 94:14.].” And again, “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting, upon them that fear him; and his righteousness unto children’s children, to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them [Note: Psalms 103:17-18.].” In fact, the whole Scripture testifies that God will perfect that which concerneth his people [Note: Psalms 138:8.]; and that, having loved them, he will love them to the end [Note: John 13:1.]. Taking, therefore, these promises, we may spread them before the Lord, in full assurance that they shall be fulfilled; and in the language of David may say to God, “Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness [Note: Psalms 143:1.]!”]
By the intercession of Christ—
[St. John has said, “If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins [Note: 1 John 2:1-2.].” Yes, were it not that the Lord Jesus Christ lives to intercede for us in heaven, it could not be but that God’s displeasure must break forth against us on ten thousand occasions: but he prevails for us, as Aaron prevailed for Israel of old, through his unwearied intercessions. To this Peter was indebted, when he denied his Lord with oaths and curses. Had not our blessed Lord interceded for him, that his faith might not fail, he, in all probability, would have perished as Judas did [Note: Luke 22:31-32.]. In this view, a greater stress is laid on the intercession of Christ than even on his death: “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ who died; yea, rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right-hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us [Note: Romans 8:34.].” And we are encouraged to believe that “Christ is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for us [Note: Hebrews 7:25.].” Put then your cause into the Saviour’s hands; and beg of him to “pray the Father for you [Note: John 14:16.],” and you cannot but succeed: “for him the Father heareth always [Note: John 11:42.].”]
By the honour of God himself—
[God from all eternity entered into covenant with his dear Son in our behalf, engaging, that “if he should make his soul an offering for sin, he should see a seed, and should prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hands [Note: Isaiah 53:10.].” This covenant our blessed Lord has fulfilled on his part, having taken our nature, and “borne our sins in his own body on the tree.” And whilst yet he was upon earth, he made this a ground of his petitions, and a ground also of his expectations, in behalf of his people: “I pray for them,” says he: “I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine: and all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them. And now I am no more in the world: but these are in the world; and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are. Whilst I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that .thou gavest me have I kept; and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the Scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee; and these things speak I in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil [Note: John 17:9-15.].” Then he adds, what insures to us the completion of his desires, “Father, I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory which thou hast given me [Note: John 17:24.].” Now I ask, Is not here abundant ground to expect God’s continued care of his people? May we not from hence “be confident, that He who hath begun a good work in us will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ [Note: Philippians 1:6.]?” Yes, surely: and therefore when David, under the influence of unbelief, had entertained a fear, “Will the Lord cast off for ever? will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” he corrected himself, and with conscious shame exclaimed, “This is my infirmity [Note: Psalms 77:7-9.].” We may be sure that God’s covenant shall stand. In the 89th Psalm it is declared, again, and again, and again, in terms the most express that can be imagined [Note: Psalms 89:28-37.] — — — and therefore we may be assured that for his own name and honour sake “he will keep his people by his own power through faith unto salvation [Note: 1 Peter 1:5.]:” as it was said by Samuel, “The Lord will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake, because it hath pleased him to make you his people [Note: 1 Samuel 12:22.].” “He is a God that changeth not; and therefore we neither are, nor shall be, consumed [Note: Malachi 3:6.].” We shall be living witnesses for him to all eternity, that “his gifts and calling are without repentance [Note: Romans 11:29.].”]
Seek to answer to the character here described—
[If you “know not God,” you can have no claim upon him: nor, “unless you be upright in heart,” have you any reason to hope that he will ever look upon you with satisfaction. You must “have your hearts right with God,” if ever you would be approved of God. Seek, then, to know God as reconciled to you in Christ Jesus — — — and beg of him so to “put truth in your inward parts,” that he may acknowledge and commend you as “Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile.”]
Implore of God the blessing you so greatly need—
[You need it, all of you, and will need it to your dying hour. It is from God that you have received all that you possess. Never would you have known him, if he had not opened the eyes of your understanding, and revealed himself to you [Note: Compare Galatians 4:9. with Philippians 3:12.]. And never would your heart have been upright before him, if he, of his own sovereign grace, had not “given you a new heart, and renewed a right spirit within you.” It is to Him, then, you must look to carry on the work within you. “No hands but His, who laid the foundation of his spiritual temple within you, can ever finish it [Note: Zechariah 4:9.].” “He alone who has been the author of your faith, can ever complete it [Note: Hebrews 12:2.].”]
Whilst you seek this blessing for yourselves, implore it earnestly for others also—
[So did David, under all his trials; and so should you. It is our privilege and our duty to intercede one for another; parents for their children, and children for their parents; ministers for their people, and people for their ministers. And, O! what happiness should we enjoy in our respective families, and in the Church of God, if we were all partakers of these blessings! It is said, in the very words before my text, “With thee is the fountain of life; and in Thy light shall we see light:” and no doubt, in proportion as the blessings of salvation flow down into our souls, we shall be blessed in ourselves, and blessings to all around us.]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 36". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20