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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Psalms 106

 

 

Verse 4-5

DISCOURSE: 676

THE CHRISTIAN’S DESIRE

Psalms 106:4-5. Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen; that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation; that I may glory with thine inheritance.!

THE Psalms, though in many parts historical, doctrinal, and preceptive, may yet be considered as differing materially from the rest of the inspired volume, inasmuch as, while other books of Scripture inculcate religion, these exemplify its operations on the heart.

The words before us express the fervent desires of David’s heart; and give occasion for observing, that,

I. The lot of God’s people is truly desirable—

God “bears a peculiar favour” towards them—

[He esteems them as “his chosen,” “his people,” “his inheritance [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.];” and shews the same tender regard towards them as he did towards Israel of old; guiding, protecting, and even bearing them as on eagles’ wings [Note: Deuteronomy 32:9-13. Isaiah 63:9.]. Hence that congratulation given them by Moses, a congratulation applicable to them in every age and place [Note: Deuteronomy 33:29.].]

He gives them to enjoy the truest “good”—

[The enemies of God often possess the greatest share of this world’s goods [Note: Psalms 17:14; Psalms 73:7.]: but hit own people have that which is really good [Note: Isaiah 55:2.], and which shall endure when all sublunary things are come to an end [Note: Proverbs 8:18.]. He “visits them with salvation,” which comprehends every solid good, whether for soul or body, whether for time or eternity.]

He fills them with “gladness” and holy “glorying”—

[They are not indeed always joyful, because they have much, both within and without, which may well occasionally produce sorrow [Note: 1 Peter 1:6.]: but they have seasons of joy, and sometimes are enabled to rejoice with joy unspeakable [Note: 1 Peter 1:8.]. Even in the midst of tribulations they can often glory [Note: Romans 5:3.], and shew to all around them, that they have supports and consolations which the world can neither give nor take away [Note: Psalms 94:19.]. But what gladness and glorying will they have, when all grounds of sorrow shall be finally removed [Note: Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 60:19-20.]!]

Surely such a state is the most excellent on earth: and therefore,

II. To desire a participation of it, is a laudable ambition—

The fervent petitions in the text were, doubtless, acceptable to God—

[Every man naturally desires his own happiness: nor is this species of self-love ever wrong, except when it leads us to seek the end by improper means. When “salvation” is the object of our wishes, we cannot covet it too earnestly: God himself has taught us to pray for it, and to urge our petitions with an importunity that will take no denial [Note: Luke 18:1. Psalms 81:10. Isaiah 45:11.]. And the answers which he gave to David [Note: Psalms 34:6; Psalms 138:3.] and others in the days of old, sufficiently evince, that he is a prayer-hearing God [Note: Psalms 65:2.], and that “he delighteth in the prayer of the upright [Note: Proverbs 15:8.].”]

Nor can we please God more than by pleading with him after David’s example—

[There is nothing so great, but we may freely ask it at the hands of God. Nor is there any thing so peculiar to the saints, but we may ask it as sinners, and be certain of obtaining it, provided we ask in humility and faith. Salvation especially, with all its attendant joys and blessings, he is ready to give unto all that call upon him. Let us then beg of him to impart it to us. And let us particularly bear in mind, that we must first be “visited with his salvation,” before we can “see the good of his chosen, and glory with his inheritance.” It is through the knowledge of Him, as our Saviour and Redeemer, that we are to be made partakers of all other blessings. In vain do we hope to have fellowship with his people in their felicity, unless we first have fellowship with him in his salvation [Note: 1 John 1:3.].]

Address—

1. To those who are grasping after this world—

[All persons are apt to think that this world can make them happy: but David and Solomon, who enjoyed all that the world could give them, found all to be vanity and vexation of spirit. Let not us then follow the beaten track, but rather aspire after a good that never cloys, an inheritance that never fades [Note: 1 Peter 1:4.].]

2. To those who are sincerely, though faintly, pursuing the path assigned them—

[We need not fear a disappointment on account of any unworthiness in ourselves. Let us beg of God to “remember us,” and he will remember us. Let us seek “his favour” in Christ Jesus, and he will be ever ready to grant it. Only let us prosecute this end steadily, and without wavering: so shall we attain the object of our desires, and glory with God’s inheritance” for ever and over.]


Verses 10-12

DISCOURSE: 677

THE EFFECTS WHICH NATIONAL MERCIES SHOULD PRODUCE ON US

Psalms 106:10-12. He saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies: there teas not one of them left. Then believed they his words; they sang his praises.

GRATITUDE for mercies received is a duty universally approved. Every one sees the propriety of acknowledging personal obligations; nor is it less incumbent on us to be thankful for blessings conferred on us in our national capacity. The words before us record the conduct of the Israelites when a signal deliverance had been vouchsafed to them: may we be as devoutly, and more abidingly impressed, while we consider,

I. The mercy vouchsafed unto them—

They had been in a state of extreme danger and distress—

[After their departure from Egypt they encamped by the Red Sea; there they were hemmed in by impassable mountains and morasses. Pharaoh, greatly incensed, followed them with all his hosts, nor doubted but that he should speedily destroy them all. They, to all appearance, had no means either of escape or self-defence, and in this situation expected nothing but instant ruin.]

But God vouchsafed them a most astonishing deliverance—

[He prevented the nearer approach of Pharaoh by interposing a thick cloud between the Israelites and the Egyptians. He made a path across the sea, the waters standing as a wall on either side: he led his people through it as on dry land. Giving up Pharoah to judicial blindness and obduracy, he suffered him, at the head of his army, to follow the hosts of Israel; but, when the Israelites were passed over, he let loose the waves upon their pursuers: thus in an instant were the Egyptian armies overwhelmed, and Israel saw their enemies dead upon the sea-shore. How wonderful was this interposition of the Deity, and how great the obligation conferred by it!]

Nor were they at the time insensible of the kindness manifested to them:

II. The effects produced by it—

They had shewed themselves an ungrateful and unbelieving people—

But now, for a season, they were greatly changed:

1. They believed God’s word—

[They had had reason enough before to believe the promises made to them: Moses had confirmed his word by many stupendous miracles; but they no sooner came into difficulty than they renewed their murmurs. Now, however, they were forced to confess the power and faithfulness of God, nor did they suppose that they should ever yield to unbelief again.]

2. They sang his praise—

[The salvation afforded them was inexpressibly great, and the hand of God in it was too visible to be overlooked: however therefore they might pity the individuals who perished, they could not but rejoice in their own safety, nor could they refrain from praising him who had wrought their deliverance; the most obdurate could not but feel; the most insensible could not but admire. Happy would it have been for them if they had always continued in this mind; but though, through frailty, they soon relinquished this heavenly temper, the effect, while it lasted, was good and suitable.]

Improvement—

1. Let us endeavour to get our minds duly impressed with the temporal deliverances vouchsafed to us as a nation

[We must be blind indeed if we see not the hand of God in the repeated victories which we have lately gained: though they have not been either so miraculous or so complete as that recorded in the text, they demand our most grateful acknowledgments. Had they been as numerous and decisive in favour of our enemies as they have been on our part, we should before this time have seen this land the theatre of war. Let us then praise and adore our God for his interposition on our behalf; nor let us soon forget the wonders he has wrought for us; let us rather turn to him in an humble dependence on his mercy; Let us plead the promises he has made to all penitent and believing people; and let us, in faith and penitence, expect the accomplishment of his word.]

2. Let us take occasion also to bless him for the spiritual deliverance wrought for us as individuals

[Our danger from the broken law was far greater than from human foes: there was no possible method of escape, if God had not interposed for us; but he has opened a way for us through the death of his own Son, and utterly vanquished all the enemies of our salvation. Let every heart and every tongue unite in his praise; nor let the remembrance of his mercy be ever effaced from our minds, but let his word, whereby he encourages sinners, be our hope; then shall every fresh victory be a pledge of future triumphs, and the final destruction of our enemies be the subject of eternal praise.]


Verses 21-23

DISCOURSE: 678

THE EVIL AND DANGER OF INGRATITUDE

Psalms 106:21-23. They forgat God their Saviour, which had done great things in Egypt; wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red Sea. Therefore he said that he would destroy them, had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach, to turn away his wrath, lest he should destroy them.

THERE is scarcely any sin more strongly reprobated in the Scripture than ingratitude. In the catalogue which the Apostle gives us of the crimes committed by the heathen world, unthankfulness to God is particularly specified as one of the most heinous and inexcusable [Note: Romans 1:21.]. And the judgments denounced against one of the most eminent saints for a single instance of it, indisputably prove, how hateful it must be in the sight of God [Note: 2 Chronicles 32:25.]. In improving the instance recorded in the text, we shall,

I. Consider the history referred to—

[The history to which our text alludes is so well known, as not to need many words either to record or explain it. There were mercies vouchsafed to the Israelites in Egypt, such as never had been experienced before from the foundation of the world — — — But they presently forgat their almighty Deliverer, and worshipped a golden calf in his stead. This justly excited the indignation of God, and determined him to destroy them. But Moses, having already fasted forty days and nights, fell down before God, and, during forty more days and nights, neither ate nor drank, but interceded on behalf of this rebellious people. God in answer to his intercession averted the stroke, and forbore to punish them according to their deserts [Note: Exodus 32:8-14.].]

II. Apply it to existing circumstances—

[We need not recall to your minds what great things God has lately done for us also in Egypt [Note: This was the first fast-day after Lord Nelson’s victory near the Nile, 1800.]. Except in the history of the Jewish nation, there is scarcely any victory recorded in the annals of the world that was more glorious or complete than that vouchsafed to us. Yet how have we requited the Lord? At first, like the Jews, we were willing to give God the glory, and to sing his praise: but has not the impression worn off? and have we not shamefully “forgotten our Benefactor?” — — — Well might God’s anger wax hot against us, to consume us for such ingratitude — — — Nor can we ascribe it to any thing but the intercessions of God’s people that his wrath has not burst forth against us, as against Korah and his company, to destroy us utterly.]

III. Deduce from it some suitable observations—

Observe,

1. The duty of secret intercession—

[We are commanded to pray for all men, and especially for kings and all that are in authority. Yea, even in Babylon, were the Jews taught to pray for the peace and prosperity of their very oppressors: how much more then should we intercede for our native country, where we enjoy every liberty that we can desire! Let it not be said, that our governors do not deserve our prayers; for the injunction to pray for kings was delivered in the reign of Nero, than whom a more wicked prince could not exist. Let us then make a conscience of this duty; for if we know not to intercede for others, we have no reason to think that we have ever yet seen aright the value of our own souls.]

2. The benefit of public fasts—

[The honour God has put upon public fasts is well known to all; and his answers to united supplications have been as signal as the hand of God could make them. The victory given to Jehoshaphat [Note: 2 Chronicles 20:12; 2 Chronicles 20:15.], the respite to Nineveh [Note: Jonah 3:10.], and the deliverance to Peter the very day before his intended destruction [Note: Acts 12:5-8.], sufficiently evince, that God will hear the united prayers of his people. Indeed, if one man, Moses, so prevailed for the saving of a whole nation, what deliverance should not nations receive, if they would all unite in prayer! If a few individuals alone mourn for the land, they shall have at least some tokens of peculiar favour to themselves, though they should not succeed in averting God’s anger from the nation at large [Note: Ezekiel 9:4; Ezekiel 9:6. Zephaniah 3:18.]. But if there be not some to stand in the breach; it cannot fail but that we must be overwhelmed [Note: Ezekiel 21:31-32. Amos 6:1; Amos 6:6.].]

3. The guilt and danger of neglecting Christ—

[Great as were the mercies vouchsafed to the Jews in Egypt, they are not to be compared with the redemption which we have experienced through Christ: as our bondage was infinitely more grievous, so the means used to effect our deliverance, infinitely enhance the value of the deliverance itself; we are bought with blood, and that blood was the blood of our incarnate God — — — What destruction then must not we expect if we should forget “God our Saviour [Note: Hebrews 2:3.]?” — — — Nor is it the intercession of others that shall ever prevail to avert it from us; we must pray, every one of us for himself: not but that mutual intercession may in this respect be productive of great benefits. Let us then “bear his great goodness in remembrance,” and let it be our song in time, as it shall be through all eternity.]


Verse 30

DISCOURSE: 679

THE ZEAL OF PHINEHAS COMMENDED

Psalms 106:30. Then stood up Phinehas, and executed judgment; and so the plague was stayed [Note: Numbers 25:13. “He was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel,” would be a good text for this sermon.].

TO enter profitably into this subject, it will be necessary that I state, in few words, the history to which my text refers.

Balaam had been invited by Balak, King of Moab, to come and curse Israel, whose approach he dreaded, and whom he hoped by these means to subdue. Balaam, “coveting the wages of unrighteousness,” thought to enrich himself by executing the wishes of the king of Moab; but was overruled by God to bless the very people whom he was hired to curse. Accordingly he was dismissed without the expected reward. But, with a view of obtaining the promised recompence, he struck out another way in which Balak might ultimately gain his end. He knew, that, if Israel could be ensnared to cast off their allegiance to God, they might lose his protection, and thus fall an easy prey to their enemies. He advised therefore, that Balak should facilitate an intercourse between the Moabitish women and Israel; and thus draw the people of Israel into an illicit connexion with them. And this once established, the Israelites would, in all probability, be led to attend the Moabitish women to their sacred feasts; and thus, by conforming to their habits, they would, in a short time, be seduced to a participation with them in their idolatrous rites.

In this advice Balaam had but too well succeeded; and almost the whole of Israel were thus drawn into the sins of fornication and idolatry: to punish which, Jehovah had inflicted on them a plague, whereby no less than three and twenty thousand Israelites were slain. To avert the anger of the Most High, Moses issued an order, that the judges of Israel should “slay all those who had joined themselves to Baal-Peor, the god of Moab, and hang them up before the Lord against the sun.” In this way one thousand more were slain. Yet behold, whilst vengeance was thus executing upon the offenders, a prince of one of the tribes brought a Midianitish princess, in the very sight of Moses and of the whole congregation, to his tent, defying, as it were, the indignation both of God and man, and setting at nought all regard even to common decency: and it was on this occasion that Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron the high-priest, rose up from his place, and followed them to their tent, and with his javelin pierced both of them through their bodies in the very act of sin: and thus, making, as it were, an atonement to the Divine justice, he prevailed with the Deity to stop the plague.

Now this act of his being very highly commended in the Scriptures, and being replete with instruction proper to this occasion [Note: An Assize Sermon, at Cambridge, March 12, 1831, just after riotous combinations against agricultural machinery, together with most destructive incendiarism, which had prevailed in many parts of the country, were put down by a special commission at Winchester.], I shall point out,

I. The importance of zeal in a general view.

II. The excellence of it as displayed in the history before us.

I. Zeal in itself may be either good or bad according to the object to which it is directed. Hence the Apostle limits his commendation of it by this particular consideration; “It is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing.” If exercised in a bad cause, it only precipitates a person to the commission of greater evil: but, when put forth in the prosecution of a good object, it facilitates the attainment of the end proposed. Without zeal, nothing that is at all difficult can be accomplished. From whatever our indifference arise, it can never succeed in any arduous undertaking. If we be indolent in study, we can never make any great proficiency either in art or science. There may be, it is true, a brightness of genius which shall enable a person to shine amongst his fellows without much labour: but he will be altogether superficial in his knowledge, and will soon betray his want of diligence by the slenderness of his attainments. The same will be found true in every department of life. It is “the diligent hand alone that maketh rich.” It is not always found indeed that labour, however great, is crowned with success: but where eminence in any arduous pursuit is attained, we may be sure that great zeal has been exercised in the prosecution of it. Who ever enlightened the world with discoveries in philosophy, without having first devoted much time to study, and laboured hard for the furnishing and enriching of his own mind? Even success in attainments of a lower order is not gained without much previous exertion in that particular line in which the effort is made. In the Grecian games, for instance, a long course of self-denying labour was necessary to enable any man to rise above his competitors, and to secure the distinction at which he aimed. So in every thing, if a man would either benefit others, or distinguish himself, he must put forth zeal in the prosecution of the end which he has in view. Had Phinehas not felt more deeply than others the dishonour done to God, and stirred himself more resolutely to avenge his cause, he had neither turned away God’s wrath from Israel, nor obtained for himself the commendation given him. It was his zeal for God that put him forth beyond all others, and that has rendered him an example to mankind to the remotest ages of the world.

This zeal of his forms the chief subject of our present discourse, and therefore we shall point out,

II. The excellence of it as displayed in the history before us.

To view his conduct aright, we must consider him as performing a magisterial act of piety towards man, and a ministerial act of piety towards God; in both which points of view it is highly commended to us by God himself.

See it as a magisterial act of justice towards man.

Magistrates are appointed by Almighty God as his vicegerents in the government of the world. They are set over their fellow-creatures for the preservation of order, to give protection to the peaceable, and to punish those who, by any evil deeds, would interrupt the welfare of the community. They are to exercise authority for him; being his ministers for good to the people over whom they are placed; nor are they to bear the sword in vain, but to be “revengers in his name to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil [Note: Romans 13:1-4.].”

Now it is obvious that when iniquity abounds, and is sanctioned and upheld, not only by the multitude, but by persons of distinction and power, it is no easy matter for a magistrate to discharge his duty aright. On the one hand, he is afraid of appearing singular, and of having his interposition ascribed to unworthy motives; and, on the other hand, he is apprehensive that he shall fail in his efforts to withstand the evils which he deplores. He sees others, perhaps, as willing as himself to lament the reigning corruption, but not willing to incur the odium of standing forth as reformers, and of exerting their power for the correction of it. He knows how much more ready all will be to blame his zeal, than to commend it: and therefore he is disposed rather to wait till he can find others to co-operate with him, than by extraordinary and unaided efforts to put to shame those who draw back from their duty, and are destitute of that zeal which he feels it incumbent on him to employ.

This was the state of Phinehas. He was but a young man, and therefore might be condemned as officious, and unbecomingly obtrusive. The offenders too were persons of the highest rank in the nations to which they belonged: and the elder rulers, who, together with him, were witnesses of this horrible impiety, were all either intimidated or stupified; so that not one of them felt disposed to avenge the cause of Israel and of God on these flagrant transgressors. But he would not wait for others. He would discharge his duty at all events; and whatever others might either say or do, he would approve himself to God as an active magistrate, and a conscientious servant of the Most High. That he did not go forth as one who was not authorized to execute the laws, is evident from the commendation given to him both by God and man: and therefore he stands as a pattern for all magistrates to discharge their official duties manfully, without favour and without fear.

What a blessing such magistrates are to any land, may be seen in the benefits which, by that one act, Phinehas obtained for the whole nation of Israel. On his executing of judgment, the plague was stayed. Four and twenty thousand, in the whole, had perished in one day; and, had he delayed to discharge his duty in this matter till his brethren in office should join him, no one can tell how many thousands more would have fallen a sacrifice to the wrath of God. But by this act of his he “made atonement for the children of Israel,” and “averted God’s wrath from them.” He arrested also the progress of iniquity; and obtained for himself the highest honours, even “the covenant of an everlasting priesthood:” and “this act of his was counted to him for righteousness unto all generations for evermore [Note: ver. 31.].”

We are not to suppose that this act formed his justifying righteousness before God; for not all the obedience of the best of men could ever avail for that: but it proved to all future generations that he was a righteous man, and that no consideration under heaven could deter him from a faithful discharge of his duties, whether to God or man.

Now such a blessing are conscientious magistrates in every age and in every land: and they who boldly maintain the authority of the laws, however they may be traduced and calumniated for a season, are, indeed, the most honourable members of society, and, sooner or later, will receive the approbation of every considerate man. The obligations we owe to such are, at this moment, seen and felt through the land, in the suppression of outrage, and in the diminution of the terrors diffused through the whole country by reckless and desperate incendiaries. And I cannot but hope that the firmness manifested both by the civil and legal powers in our sister isle [Note: The agitator O’Connell checked by Lord Anglesea and Mr. Stanley, and made to plead guilty.—Jan. 1831.], will be attended with a similar blessing from the Most High. It is right, it is necessary, that law should rule: and, if it cannot be upheld, but by the exercise of severity towards those who would trample it under their feet, it is right that those who set it at nought should be made victims of their own folly and wickedness. I say again, the law must rule; and neither the many nor the great are to set it aside. And if in the suppression of evil somewhat of laxity prevailed amongst us for a season, that time is past, and shall not readily, I hope, return again. The whole people of the land, though but too easily wrought upon by factious demagogues, are yet in their cooler moments united firmly in this one sentiment, that, if not even the King himself can rule but according to law, neither factious demagogues, nor an excited populace, are to be suffered to rule contrary to law. This is acknowledged now through all the grades of society; and, I trust, will ever be maintained amongst us by those whose office it is, whether as magistrates or jurors, to administer justice, and to uphold and execute the laws.

But I observed that this action of Phinehas may also be considered as a ministerial act of piety towards God.

In this light it is placed by God himself: “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy. Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: and he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel [Note: Numbers 25:11-13.].” He was the presumptive heir to the high-priesthood: and with his own hand he here offered an atonement to his offended God, for whose honour he was deeply interested, and whose wrath he laboured to avert. In this so far as his zeal for God’s honour was concerned, he is a pattern for ministers in all future ages. As to the act itself, that was peculiar to the situation and circumstances in which he stood: nor is any man now authorized to follow his example. Not the first man on earth is at liberty to take the law into his own hand, and to execute its sentence in the summary way that he did. Every thing now must be transacted through a legal process, and by officers specially appointed to that end. But the same zeal as animated the soul of Phinehas, should glow in the bosom of every minister of Christ. The aboundings of iniquity should occasion “great heaviness and continual sorrow of heart” in all who serve in God’s sanctuary; yea, “rivers of tears should run down their eyes night and day” because of the dishonour which is done to God by a thoughtless and rebellious world.

But to exercise a becoming zeal for God is no easy matter; and any person standing forth, as Phinehas, to stem the torrent of wickedness which flows around him, will be exposed to much obloquy as a bold fanatical enthusiast. In every age such ministers have “been for signs and for wonders” in the Church of God. At the time of the deluge we hear of but one person, Noah, who dared to enter his protest against the impiety of the world around him. In Elijah’s time, though there were seven thousand who were not addicted to the reigning sin, there was but one who openly declaimed against it. And so it is now. There are doubtless many thousands of persons in the land, both of ministers and people, who withstand in secret the corruptions of the world; but yet any man, who, like Phinehas, should stand up with becoming zeal to arrest the progress of iniquity, would be accounted “a troubler of our Israel,” and be condemned for his needless, his insufferable, preciseness. But whence is this? It is owing to the lukewarmness of the generality, and not to any undue energy in those who serve the Lord. Of all people under heaven, a minister of Christ is most bound to exert himself in the cause of his Divine Master. Ministers are intended to be “lights in a dark world;” yea, they are “the salt of the earth,” which, by its influence, is destined to keep the whole world from corruption. Nor ought any consideration either of hope or of fear to sway them in the least. They should be unmoved by seductions of any kind, and should be ready to lay down their own lives for the honour of God, and the welfare of their fellow-creatures. Yes, this is the sacrifice which they should be ready to make: for so says the holy Apostle: “If I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all: do ye also joy and rejoice with me [Note: Philippians 2:17-18.].” Here the Apostle considers his converts as an offering to God: and, as libations were poured forth upon the offerings, he accounted his heart’s blood as a proper libation to be poured forth for them; and the shedding of it an occasion for most unqualified joy.

For the averting of God’s wrath, it is true, we can offer no atonement. But we can speak of an atonement which has been offered, even that once offered by our blessed Lord upon the cross; and that is a sufficient “propitiation for the sins of the whole world.” But how shall I speak of that? If we admire the zeal of Phinehas, who offered to God an atonement by the sacrifice of the offenders, what shall I say of our great High-Priest, who has made an atonement by the sacrifice of himself, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God? Here was zeal indeed, and “a love that passeth knowledge.” But by this it is that God is pacified towards us. There is, alas! a moral plague prevailing throughout our whole camp, and slaying its tens of thousands in a day. But by means of this atonement we are empowered both to arrest its progress, and to take away its guilt.

And need I say, that such ministers are a blessing in the land? Truly they are a blessing, and shall be accounted so as long as the world shall stand. What if, like Phinehas, they overstep the bounds observed by their more lukewarm fellows? They shall, like him, be honoured both by God and man; whilst the memory of less faithful ministers shall pass away into oblivion, like a morning cloud. Their zeal shall be counted to them for righteousness to the latest ages: not for their justifying righteousness, as I have before observed; for in Christ alone can that righteousness be found, and from him it must be received by faith alone: but, as an evidence of their piety, it shall be counted to them, and be a ground of praise and thanksgiving to God amongst all who shall be called to imitate their bright example.

What then do I look for on this occasion? I call for zeal, even for the zeal of Phinehas, in all the magistrates, and in all the ministers, of our land. In Phinehas these offices were united; as in some instances they are amongst ourselves; though I think, for the most part, unhappily and unwisely. A minister, instead of affecting a double occupation, should rather say, with our blessed Lord, “Who made me a ruler and a judge over you?” And sure I am, that, if a minister will give himself entirely to his own proper work, he will find enough to occupy all his time and all his thoughts. The offices of the magistracy and the ministry are perfectly distinct. Magistrates have to uphold and enforce the laws of man; ministers have to propagate the glorious gospel of the blessed God. The office of the magistrate has respect to the temporal welfare of mankind; the office of a minister is to promote, in every possible way, their spiritual and eternal interests. Still, however, there should be in both a cordial and energetic co-operation for the honour of God, and for the good of man. A minister often needs the support of magisterial authority, and should find it promptly exerted for him when occasion requires. On the other hand, the magistrate, whose office is rather for the suppression of evil than the inculcation of good, needs the aid of ministers, for the effecting of an entire change in the sentiments and habits of the community. Let each, therefore, be found in the faithful discharge of their respective duties; so may we hope that God’s wrath shall be averted from our guilty land, and that his covenant blessings shall be poured forth upon us through eternal ages.

I cannot close my subject without briefly observing, that we all have within the camp of our own hearts many corruptions, which have provoked the displeasure of the Most High, and which need to be sought out, and prosecuted, and slain. O that there were in all of us a holy zeal in reference to them, and that we would sacrifice them to God with an unsparing hand! It is said of “all that truly belong to Christ, that they have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Can we appeal to God that this is our character? Do our lives bear witness to us, that whilst the great mass of the community care for nothing beyond the pleasures, the riches, the honours, of the world, and those who should stand forth as champions for God, are lukewarm and timid in his sacred cause, we dare to be singular, and firm and zealous in the discharge of our respective duties, and, above all, in the devotion of our souls to God? Truly we should all, if I may so express myself, begin at home. God has at this moment a controversy with the whole nation. And, though magistrates and ministers may do much to correct the abuses which prevail in external matters, that will be of little avail to pacify our offended God. God looks at the heart. That must be humbled for our past iniquities, and purged from the allowed indulgence of any sin. Yea, that must be consecrated to God, with all its faculties and all its powers: it must first be cleansed in the blood of Christ, and then be sanctified by his Spirit. Then shall the chastising hand of God be removed from us, in our individual capacity at least, if not collectively as a nation: and, at all events, his eternal judgments shall be averted from us, and all the blessings of his covenant be our everlasting portion. This is the plague which, after all, we are most interested in removing, even “the plague of our own hearts;” and this once removed by faith in the Lord Jesus, and by the influences of his Spirit, we shall have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and stand accepted of our God for ever and ever.


Verse 48

DISCOURSE: 680

PRAISE TO GOD FOR HIS MERCIES

Psalms 106:48. Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting! and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the Lord!

WE find in the world almost an universal prejudice against religion, as a source of melancholy. And more especially if the wickedness of man be portrayed in very deep colours, it is supposed that we shall drive all our hearers to despair. But where shall we find the sins of Israel more awfully depicted, than in the psalm before us? Yet, how is it closed? with weepings and with wailings? No: but with as devout an ascription of praise as is to be found in all the inspired volume. The truth is, that nothing so elevates the soul as a contrasted view of God’s mercies and our own vileness: and no man will build so high a superstructure of praise, as he who digs deepest into the corruptions of his own heart, and lays his foundation broadest on God’s sovereign grace in Christ Jesus. Behold, then, I pray you,

I. The ebullition of heart here manifested!

What is it that the Psalmist has been contemplating?

[He give us, in the psalm, an epitome of the conduct of all Israel, from the time of their coming out of Egypt to the time of David [Note: See 1 Chronicles 16:35-36.]. He mentions their provoking of God at the Red Sea, their lusting after sensual gratifications, their mutinying against his vicegerents, their worshipping of the molten calf, their contempt of the Promised Land, their joining with the Moabites and Midianites in the worship of Baal-peor, their quarrelling with Moses at Kadesh; and, finally, their incorporating themselves with the Canaanites, and imitating their idolatrous and cruel customs.

But together with all this, he shews how graciously God had dealt with them: for though he had inflicted many and sore judgments upon them, he had not yet finally forsaken them; but, for his own name sake, and for the sake of the covenant which he had made with them, he still continued to them his tender mercies.]

And was not all this a ground for praise and thanksgiving?

[Methinks it was not possible for any one who duly considered the subjects here brought before him, to feel otherwise than as the Psalmist himself felt on the occasion. For, had God taken them in this manner from the midst of another nation, and multiplied his mercies to them to such an extent, and for so many hundreds of years, in the midst of all their rebellions; and shall they not “bless him?” Had he so shewn himself both “the God of Israel” and “a God to Israel;” and shall they not adore him? Shall they not desire that all should be alike impressed with a sense of these mercies, and that God should be alike glorified in all and by all? Methinks, when it was said, “Let all the people say, Amen,” there was not one dissentient or silent voice in the midst of them. Indeed, we are expressly told that “they did all say, Amen; and praised the Lord [Note: See the preceding reference.].” And, if there had been one who refused to unite in this tribute of praise, he might well have been separated from the congregation, as a curse to the Church, and as unworthy to be numbered amongst the Lord’s people.]

From hence, then, we may clearly see,

II. The corresponding feeling which it should generate in us—

We have experienced an infinitely greater redemption than they—

[Theirs was from temporal bondage, which, at all events, must have been ere long terminated by death: ours is from the chains of sin and Satan, death and hell — — — Theirs was by power only: ours is by price as well as power, even by the inestimable price of our Redeemer’s blood [Note: 1 Peter 1:18-19.] — — —]

And, notwithstanding this, we have been as rebellious as ever they were—

[Were our sins noted in a book, as theirs are, we should be found to have been as perverse and obstinate as they. In truth, their history is a mirror, wherein the countenance of the whole Christian world shines as clearly as the sun at noon-day. They are the very prototype, to which we are perfectly conformed; yes, and with incomparably greater guilt than they, inasmuch as our obligations to God are infinitely greater than theirs — — —]

Yet is God more merciful to us than ever he was to them—

[True, he has at times visited us with judgments: but he has never cast us off, or “shut up his loving-kindness in displeasure.” On the contrary, he still follows us with offers of mercy through his beloved Son, and importunes us to accept of reconciliation with him through the blood that was shed for us upon the cross — — —]

What, then, should be our sense of gratitude towards him!

[If the Israelites were called to bless him as “the God of Israel,” how much more should we bless him as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” and our God and Father in him! If they were called to bless him in a review of his conduct towards them, how much more may we, in reference to his conduct towards us! If every one of the people was to utter his “Amen” at the giving of thanks to God, what shall be said of us, if there be one amongst us who shall shew reluctance to unite in this holy exercise? Methinks “the very stones would cry out against him.” To every one of you, then, I say with confidence, bear your part with us: and when we say, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting,” let every one of you, without exception, “say, Amen, Amen, Amen!” yes, with one heart and one voice, I say to all, without exception, “Praise ye the Lord.”]

Address—

1. Those who are not yet liberated from their bondage—

[Such there were in the days of Saul and of David, who were in captivity among the heathen. And how would it be possible for them to unite with their brethren in Jerusalem in these songs of praise? “How could they sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Hence they pray, “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto thy name, and to triumph in thy praise [Note: ver. 47.]!” The same prayer I recommend to you. I know you cannot rise to this devout and holy frame whilst you are under bondage to guilt and fear and evil habits: it is impossible you should. But, if once you obtain reconciliation with God, and, “by a spirit of adoption, are enabled to call him Father,” then will your mouth be opened to sing his praise; and you will desire that every child of man should join with you in that blest employment.]

2. Those who have been brought into “the liberty of the children of God”—

[To you this song of praise is nothing more than the prevailing expression of your feelings before God, To bless and magnify your God, is the joy of your soul: and you are ready to obey the call, when God’s ministers invite you to unite in that holy exercise. Behold, then, I now say, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel! and let every one of you say, Amen.” Say it, then; say it cordially; say it devoutly. We are told, that when the Christians of the primitive Churches said Amen, so general and so earnest was the utterance given to that word, that the sound was like thunder. I will not pretend to say what their circumstances might call for; nor will I sit in judgment upon those of whom I know so little. But at this day, I confess, I should prefer a more quiet expression of our feelings and our desires. I am not fond of vociferation in prayer; nor do I like a noisy piety. I prefer what is intimated in that delicate expression of the Psalmist: “Praise is silent before thee, O Lord [Note: Psalms 65:1. The Hebrew, as mentioned in the margin.].” But let God hear “your breathing and your cry [Note: Lamentations 3:56.]:” and doubt not but that He will accept it at your hands; and, by the efforts which you make to praise him now, will he prepare you to join in everlasting “Hallelujahs” in the realms above.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 106:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/psalms-106.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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