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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Psalms 116

 

 

Verses 1-7

DISCOURSE: 689

THANKSGIVING FOR DELIVERANCE

Psalms 116:1-7. I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful! The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.

THE abruptness of this psalm shews, that it was the fruit of much previous meditation: the writer of it had been “musing in his heart, till at last the fire kindled, and he spake with his tongue.” It begins, “I love:” and, though our translators had not supplied the deficiency, there would have remained no doubt on the mind of the reader, who it was that was the object of the Psalmist’s regard. The fact is, that nothing so endears the Deity to the souls of men as answers to prayer; nor does any thing so encourage sinners to address him with unwearied importunity. The two first verses of the psalm are a kind of summary of the whole; setting forth in few words what he afterwards expatiates upon more at length: but though we shall, on this account, pass them over in our discussion, we shall not be unmindful of the resolution contained in them, but shall conclude our subject with commending it to your most serious attention.

The points which now call for our notice are,

I. The troubles he had endured—

[We know not for certain what these were; but we are sure, that the psalm was written after the ark had been brought up to mount Zion, and the worship of God had been permanently settled at Jerusalem [Note: ver. 18, 19.]: and therefore we apprehend, that is was written on occasion of David’s deliverance from some overwhelming distress both of body and mind, resembling that specified in the sixth psalm [Note: Psalms 6:2-3.]. The terms used in our text might indeed be interpreted of death only; because the word “hell” often means nothing more than the grave: but we rather think that terrors of conscience, on account of his sin committed in the matter of Uriah, had given a ten-fold poignancy to the fear of death, and that his experience was similar to that described in the 25th Psalm, where he says, “The troubles of my heart are enlarged; O bring thou me out of my distresses! Look upon mine affliction and my pain; and forgive all my sins [Note: Psalms 25:17-18.]!”

But whatever was the precise occasion of David’s sorrows, it is manifest, that, sooner or later, we must all be brought into a situation wherein his language will be exactly suitable to us. “The sorrows of death” will shortly “encompass us,” and “the pains of hell,” if we have not previously obtained a sense of reconciliation with God, will “get hold upon us;” and, in the contemplation of an approaching eternity, “we shall find trouble and sorrow,” such as in our present state of carelessness and security we have no conception of. O that we could but bring our hearers to realize that awful hour, when we shall look back upon our mis-spent hours with unavailing regret, and look forward to our great account with fear and trembling, wishing, if it were possible, that we might have a fresh term of probation allowed us, or that the hills and mountains might cover us from the face of our offended God! Let all, even though, like David, they be monarchs upon their thrones, know, that the time must shortly arrive, when the things of time and sense will appear in all their real insignificance; and nothing will be deemed of any importance but the eternal welfare of the soul.]

Whatever his troubles had been, we have no doubt respecting,

II. The means he had used for his relief from them—

David had had recourse to prayer; “Then called I on the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul!”

This is the proper remedy for all our troubles—

[“Is any afflicted? let him pray;” says an inspired apostle. And God himself says, “Call upon me in the time of trouble; and I will hear thee; and thou shalt glorify me.” Indeed, where else can we go with any hope of relief? If it be the death of the body that we dread, man can do nothing for us, any farther than it shall please God to employ him as an instrument for our good. If it be the death of the soul which we fear, who but God can help us? Who can interpose between a sinner and his Judge? If we betake ourselves to a throne of grace, and “pray unto our God with strong crying and tears,” we shall find that He “is able to save us from death:” but created powers are physicians of no value — — —]

We must however, in our prayers, resemble David—

[Behold what humility and fervour were manifested in this petition; “O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul! “Prayer does not consist in fluent or eloquent expressions, but in ardent desires of the soul: and it may as well be uttered in sighs and groans, as in the most energetic words that language can afford. “God knoweth the mind of the Spirit,” by whose inspiration all acceptable supplications are suggested. Never was there a petition more pleasing to God than that of the publican, “God be merciful to me a sinner!” nor did any prove more effectual for immediate relief than that recorded in our text. Truly this is a comfortable consideration to the broken-hearted penitent: the greatness of his sorrows perhaps prevents the enlargement of his heart in prayer: but God estimates his prayers, not by their fluency, but by their sincerity; and that which is offered in indistinct and unutterable groans, is as intelligible and as acceptable to him, as if every request were offered in the most measured terms. Prayer thus offered, shall never go forth in vain.]

This appears from,

III. The success of those means—

Most encouraging is the testimony which the Psalmist bears to the condescension and goodness of God—

[Not a word intervenes between his petition for mercy and his acknowledgment of mercy received: “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.” Here the Psalmist marks the union of justice and mercy in the dispensations of God’s grace towards him: and that union is invariable, whenever we plead before him that great sacrifice which was made for the sins of the whole world, and which has fully satisfied the justice of our God. Moreover, he represents this mercy as the common lot of all, who in simplicity and godly sincerity implore it at God’s hands; “The Lord preserveth the simple,” and will never suffer one of them to perish. But then he brings it back again to his own experience, and acknowledges with heartfelt gratitude that God had received his prayer, and made him a most distinguished monument of his mercy.]

Such is the testimony which every contrite and believing suppliant shall be able to bear—

[Yes; justice is on the Believer’s side, as well as mercy. Whoever comes to God in the name of Christ, may plead, that all his debts have been discharged by his great Surety, and that all the glory of heaven has been purchased for him by his Redeemer’s blood. Through this infinitely meritorious atonement God is reconciled to man, and “the righteousness of Jehovah, no less than his mercy, is declared in the remission of sins [Note: Romans 3:25-26.]:” so that, “if we humbly confess our sins, God will be faithful and just in forgiving our sins, and in cleansing us from all unrighteousness [Note: 1 John 1:9.].” Let “the simple”-hearted penitent rejoice in this assurance; and let every one labour from his own experience to say, “I was brought low, and he helped me.”]

In the close of our text we see,

IV. The improvement which he made of his whole experience—

He determined henceforth to make God “the rest” of his soul—

[Truly there is no rest for the soul in any other. We may renew our attempts to seek it in this lower world, but we shall find none, except in the ark of God. Indeed the great use of troubles is to bring us to a conviction of this truth: and, whatever we may have suffered from “the sorrows of death,” or “the pains of hell,” we may bless and adore our God for the dispensation, if it dispose us at last to seek all our happiness in him — — —]

To the same “Rest” must we also continually “return”—

[As the needle of a compass which has sustained some violent concussion will continue its tremulous motion till it returns to the pole again, so must our souls do, if at any time through the violence of temptation they be diverted for a season from their God. Not a moment’s rest should we even wish to have, till we find it in him alone. In all his perfections we have “chambers into which we may enter,” and in which we may enjoy security from every impending danger. His omniscience will prevent surprise: his omnipotence will defeat our most potent adversaries: his love will comfort us under our most painful circumstances: and his faithfulness will preserve us even to the end. Let our troubles then drive us to him, and our experience of past mercies determine us to “cleave unto him with full purpose of heart.”]

Address—

[We now revert to the resolution announced by the Psalmist at the very beginning of the psalm: “Because the Lord hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.” This shews how justly he appreciated the Divine goodness; that he regarded it as an inexhaustible fountain, from whence the whole creation may incessantly “draw water with joy.” The very command which God himself has given us, attests the same, and proves, that it is no less our privilege than our duty to “pray without ceasing,” to “pray, and not faint.” O Brethren, let every answer to prayer bring you back again more speedily to the throne of grace; and every communication of blessings to your souls make you more importunate for further blessings, till “your cup runneth over,” and you are “filled with all the fulness of God.”]


Verse 8-9

DISCOURSE: 690

GRATEFUL RECOLLECTIONS

Psalms 116:8-9. Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling: I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

IT is justly said by David, in another psalm, “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein [Note: Psalms 111:2.]:” and great indeed they will appear, to all who endeavour to trace them even in the narrow sphere of their own experience. David, it is true, had a greater variety of extraordinary incidents to enumerate, and of mercies to be thankful for, than almost any other person whatever; but still there is no such difference between his experience and that of other men, but that his complaints may be poured out by them, and his thanksgivings be adopted by them. In the psalm before us he seems to have been delivered from some heavy afflictions; and to have been raised from the depths of sorrow to an extraordinary elevation of peace and joy. He had been encompassed with the sorrows of death, and the pains of hell had got hold upon him; but God, in answer to his prayers, had graciously delivered him from all his troubles.

In the words which we have just read, we see,

I. His review of past mercies—

God, it seems, had delivered,

1. His “soul from death”—

[In its primary sense, we apprehend, these words refer to the death of the body. Saul had sought to the utmost of his power to destroy him: but God had on many occasions signally interposed for his protection, and had preserved him to the present hour. And have not we also reason to adore our God for the interpositions of his providence in our behalf? Though we have not been in similar circumstances with David, we have been exposed to many dangers, both seen and unseen; and have therefore just occasion to adopt before God the same expressions of reverential gratitude.

But we must doubtless include under these terms a deliverance from eternal death also [Note: Compare Psalms 86:13 and Isaiah 38:17.].” David was assured that God had “forgiven all his sins [Note: Psalms 103:3.],” not excepting those committed in the matter of Uriah [Note: 2 Samuel 12:13.]: well therefore might he magnify the grace which had been exercised towards him. And have not we also reason to magnify our God for having rescued our souls from perdition? True; many of us, it is to be feared, are yet in an unpardoned state: nevertheless, even they have cause to bless God that they have not long since been consigned over to everlasting and irremediable misery. Millions of the human race have been cut off in their sins, though they had not, it may be, attained one half of the measure of iniquity that lies upon our souls: and yet they have been taken, and we left. O let us admire and adore this inscrutable mystery, and let us give unto God the glory due unto his name!

But it may be that our souls are in a pardoned state; and that God has “taken a live coal from off the altar, and applied it to our lips, saying, Thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin is purged [Note: Isaiah 6:6-7.].” If so, what acknowledgments should we make? Verily there can be no circumstances whatever in which such persons should not bless God from their very inmost souls [Note: 1 Peter 1:3-4. N. B. This is the very commencement of an Epistle written to “Strangers who were scattered all the world over by cruel persecutions.”].]

2. His eyes from tears—

[David often found occasion to weep, either on his own account or on account of others [Note: Psalms 42:3, 2 Samuel 13:36; 2 Samuel 15:30; 2 Samuel 18:33.]. Indeed his whole life was tempestuous and full of trouble. What the particular affliction was from which he had now been delivered, we do not exactly know. If it was sickness and death, his tears must have proceeded, as Hezekiah’s did, from an apprehension of the distraction and misery that were likely to ensue to the whole state by his removal from it at that time [Note: Isaiah 38:9-14.]. But whatever it was, his mind was now at ease in relation to it.

And are we at this time free from any great affliction? Surely we have reason to be thankful for it: for, how numberless are the sources of grief from whence our whole souls may speedily be overwhelmed! In our own persons we are exposed to diseases and accidents every moment. In our relative connexions too, how many occasions of sorrow are ever ready to arise! the misconduct of one, the unkindness of another, the misfortunes of a third, the death of one that was to us as our own souls,—alas! alas! it is a vale of tears that we are passing through, moaning or bemoaned every hour. Our very pleasures not unfrequently become occasions of the bitterest pains. If then we have been kept for any time in a good measure of peaceful serenity, we may well account it a rich blessing, for which we are bound to adore and magnify our God. It is not from the dust that either our trials or our comforts spring: and, if God have dealt to us an abundance of earthly comfort, whilst so many thousands of our fellow-creatures are racked with pain, or bowed down with sorrows, we ought to acknowledge him as the author and giver of these distinguished privileges.]

3. His feet from falling—

[On more than one occasion, David’s “feet had well nigh slipped.” When urged to kill Saul, and when hastening to avenge himself on Nabal, he was on the brink of a dangerous precipice, from whence however it pleased God to deliver him. And what a miracle of mercy is it, if our feet are kept! Consider with what innumerable snares and temptations we are beset on every side, and what corruptions reign in our own hearts, ready to precipitate us into any evil: consider the deceitfulness of sin too, what pleasing and even innocent forms it will assume: consider also the malice and subtlety of our great adversary, who is going about continually as a roaring lion seeking to devour us: consider more particularly how many persons of eminence in the religious world have fallen; a David, a Solomon, a Peter; O have not we reason to adore our God, if our feet have been kept from falling; more especially when we reflect, how near we have been to many grievous falls, when nothing but God’s infinite mercy has held us up!

Let us look back then on these mercies vouchsafed unto us, and, from the review, let us follow David in,]

II. His determination arising from it—

By “the land of the living” we understand this present world [Note: Psalms 27:13. Isaiah 53:8.], where alone there is any opportunity of making suitable returns to God. “The living, the living, he shall praise thee, as I do this day,” says Hezekiah [Note: Isaiah 38:19.]. As long as he should live, David determined, with God’s help, to walk before God,

1. In a constant attendance on his ordinances—

[This is particularly intended in the words of our text: twice is the idea expressly stated in the following verses [Note: Psalms 116:12; Psalms 116:14; Psalms 116:17-19.]. And where should a person go to make his acknowledgments to God, but to His house, where the free-will offerings and thank-offerings of old were wont to be brought? A grateful heart will pant after these public opportunities of glorifying God, even “as the hart panteth after the water-brooks [Note: Psalms 42:1-2.];” and to be deprived of access to them will be a source of pain and grief [Note: Psalms 42:3-4.]. David envied the very swallows their liberty of access to the house of God, when he was kept at a distance from it [Note: Psalms 84:1-4.]. Let us shew our gratitude in the same way. And let not our attendance on his courts, after a recovery from sickness, be a mere prelude to our return to all the gaieties and follies of the world; but let our delight be in the worship of our God on earth, as an earnest and foretaste of our enjoyment of him in a better world.]

2. Under an abiding sense of his presence—

[To “set the Lord always before us” is the sure way to honour him. Whether we think of him or not, “he is always about our bed and about our paths, and spieth out all our ways.” Wherever we are, therefore, there should be that inscription, which Hagar saw, “Thou God seest me.” O how circumspect would our conduct then be! How continually would that question recur to our minds, “What will my God approve?” That this is the frame of mind which every child of God will cultivate, is beautifully represented by St. Paul in his address to servants: he tells them how the servant of God does act towards his heavenly Master, and proposes it as a pattern for them towards their earthly masters [Note: Ephesians 6:5-8.] — — — Let us “not be mere eye-servants, as men-pleasers,” but exert ourselves at all times to please our God, as servants do under the immediate eye of their master.]

3. In a cheerful obedience to his commands—

[This is to walk before God in deed and in truth [Note: 1 Kings 2:3-4.]: and to produce this, is the very end of all God’s mercies towards us. Surely, if we are in any measure sensible of our obligations to God, we shall not account any of “his commandments grievous.” We shall not wish so much as one of them to be relaxed, but shall attend to all of them without partiality and without hypocrisy. Happy would it be for us if more of this gratitude were found amongst us. Happy would it be if the love which God has shewn to us in Christ Jesus constrained us to live altogether unto God; so that we could make the same appeal to him that Hezekiah did, “Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before thee in truth, and with a perfect heart, and have done that which is good in thy sight [Note: Isaiah 38:3.].” This is the surest test of our integrity, and the most acceptable expression of our gratitude to God.]

In our reflections on this subject, we cannot but view in it abundant matter,

1. For our humiliation—

[How many mercies have we received, yet never stood amazed at the goodness of our God! Were it only this, that our souls are not consigned over to everlasting death, we should have cause to bless our God day and night. Only reflect a moment, how dreadful it would have been to be cut off in our sins, and to be cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where there is nothing but weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth! And yet who amongst us has not richly deserved it? who has not been in constant danger of it from day to day? Our sins have been more in number than the hairs of our head; yet not a thousandth part so great as they would have been, if we had been left to carry into act all the evil dispositions of our hearts. Truly if we have not run into the same enormities as others, it is God, and God alone, who has made the difference between us. What shall we say then to the insensibility which we have manifested under all these stupendous mercies? Are we not ashamed? Have we not reason to be ashamed, yea, and to abase ourselves before God in dust and ashes? O let us remember that ingratitude is a sin of the most crimson dye [Note: Romans 1:21.]: and that, if we will not notice as we ought the operations of God’s hands, his loving-kindness will ere long be shut up in everlasting displeasure [Note: Psalms 28:5.].]

2. For our encouragement—

[To the evil and to the unthankful have all these mercies been vouchsafed: What then shall not be done for us, if we will seek after God in sincerity and truth? Surely these present blessings shall be only as the drop before the shower; they shall be a prelude to that blessedness, “where there shall be no more death nor sorrow, nor sin, but where all tears shall be wiped away from our eyes for ever [Note: Revelation 21:4.].” God offers himself to every one of us, as a Covenant God: he says to each of us, as he did to Abraham of old, “I am God Almighty: walk before me, and be thou perfect [Note: Genesis 17:1.].” In Christ Jesus he is already reconciled to us; and he only requires that we come to him through Christ, embracing his proffered mercies, and yielding up ourselves to him as those that are alive from the dead. O that he may so draw us, that we may run after him; and so subdue us to the obedience of faith, that we may become a peculiar people, zealous of good works!


Verses 12-14

DISCOURSE: 691

HOW TO REQUITE THE LORD FOR HIS MERCIES

Psalms 116:12-14. What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me! I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord. I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.

THE influence of faith on our eternal salvation is obvious to all who have any just views of the Gospel: but its operation on the mind in this present life, and its efficacy to produce peace and holiness, are by no means generally understood. In this view however the psalm before us is peculiarly instructive. David, when his faith failed him, overlooked all the mercies that he had received at the Lord’s hands, and rashly concluded, that all which had been declared to him respecting the purpose of God to establish him on the throne of Israel, was false: “I said in my haste, all men are liars.” But, when his faith was strengthened, he no longer gave way to such querulous expressions and desponding fears: on the contrary, he then was full of peace and joy; and with the liveliest emotions of love and gratitude, exclaimed, “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me?” That we may be brought to this happy state of mind, and may be led to abound in praise and thanksgiving, let us contemplate,

I. The benefits which our God has conferred upon us—

On such an inexhaustible subject as this, we can do no more than suggest a few leading thoughts, which may be more largely prosecuted in our secret retirement. To contemplate them in all their fulness will be the blissful employment of eternity. Let us notice those,

1. Of creation—

[How distinguished is our condition above all other creatures upon the face of the earth! In bodily powers, it is true, we are exceeded by many; who have not only far greater strength and agility than we, but their senses also, of sight, and hearing, and taste, and smelling, and of feeling also, far more exquisite than ours. But the endowment of reason elevates us far above them all, and puts them all, in some degree at least, in subjection under our feet. In them indeed is instinct, and that too in such perfection as almost to border on the province of reason; but in us is a capacity to comprehend things of spiritual and eternal import, and an ability to know, to love, to enjoy, to glorify our God. Say whether these be not mercies which call for the devoutest gratitude at our hands?

Nor is it a small matter that we have been brought into the world at such a time, when the light of God’s truth is so clearly seen, and in such a place as Britain, where it shines forth, as it were, in meridian splendour. We might have been born of Mahometan or Heathen parents; or even in our own country have been so situated, as to hear but little of Christ and his salvation. Surely we should not overlook these great benefits, nor forget what a mercy it is to live in this present day, when there exists such an ardent zeal for the propagation of the Gospel, and such unprecedented efforts are made for its diffusion throughout the world.]

2. Of Providence—

[Innumerable are the deliverances which we have all received from dangers seen and unseen. Millions have been taken out of the world before they had attained our age; and it is to God’s gracious care alone we owe it, that we have yet “space given us for repentance,” and time afforded us for securing the things belonging to our peace. And how different might be our condition from what it is! We might be so destitute of every comfort, and so oppressed with pain and anguish, that our very existence, instead of being a blessing, might be a burthen and a curse. We all, it is true, have trials of some kind or other; but we all have our consolations also; and those who have most afflictions, have in themselves an evidence, how greatly we are all indebted to our God for that measure of consolation which is given to mitigate our sorrows, and how infinitely short of our deserts is any trouble which is allotted us in this world.]

3. Of Redemption—

[But how shall we speak of this? Who can “comprehend the height and depth of God’s love” displayed in it? That God should so pity us as to give his only-begotten Son to die for us! that he should lay our iniquities on him, as our Surety, and thus make a way for the display of all his own glorious perfections in the salvation of man! What shall we say to this? It is “a love that passeth knowledge.” Every part of it is described as far exceeding all finite comprehension. The “riches” of grace contained in it, are “unsearchable:” the “peace” flowing from it, “passeth understanding:” the “joy”imparted by it, is “unspeakable and full of glory.” The whole mystery of redemption, as contrived, as executed, as applied, and as experienced in the souls of men, is so great, that we cannot contemplate it a moment, without exclaiming, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out [Note: Romans 11:33.]!”]

Having thus briefly touched upon the mercies of our God, let us proceed to mark,

II. The sense we should have of them—

It is not any slight acknowledgment that becomes us: we should contemplate them,

1. With overwhelming gratitude—

[This is implied in the Psalmist’s expression, “What shall I render unto the Lord?” It is not a calm inquiry, but the language of a heart oppressed, as it were, with a load of obligation. A man who can speak calmly on such a subject, nay, I had almost said, a man who can speak at all upon it, feels it not as he ought; it is too big for utterance: as, in a mind overwhelmed with conscious unworthiness, “the Spirit of God maketh intercession with groans which cannot be uttered,” so methinks, if we had a just apprehension of the benefits conferred upon us, our sense of them would be expressed rather in a way of silent adoration, than of verbal acknowledgment. We do not mean by this, that men should not sing praises to their God, and tell of all his wondrous works; for it is our bounden duty to celebrate them to the utmost of our power [Note: Isaiah 12:4-6.]: — — — but, in our present state of darkness and ignorance, it is rarely given to men so fully to behold all the wonders of God’s love, as to have their organs of vision blinded by the overwhelming splendour of the light: we “see at present only in part:” we “behold things only, as in a mirror, darkly:” as “Moses put a veil upon his face” to hide from the admiring Israelites that glory which they were “unable steadfastly to behold,” so God has, in mercy, veiled even his goodness from us, because we are incapable of supporting the ineffable effulgence of his glory. Of what we do see, we must say, with Job, “Lo, these are parts of his ways; but how little a portion is heard of him! but the thunder of his power” (we may add too, the riches of his goodness) “who can understand [Note: Job 26:14.]?”]

2. With practical self-devotion—

[However overwhelmed our minds may be, there must be in us a determination of heart to render to the Lord all the service of which he has made us capable. Our gratitude to him must be, “not in word and in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” His love must have a constraining influence on our souls: it must “constrain us no longer to live unto ourselves, but unto Him who died for us, and rose again [Note: 2 Corinthians 5:14-15.].” Every blessing we enjoy must lead us to Him, who of his great mercy and bounty has bestowed it on us: and the consideration of redeeming love especially must animate us to a total surrender of ourselves, in body, soul, and spirit, to the service of our God [Note: 1 These. 5:23.]. As, under the Law, the slaughtered victims were wholly burnt by fire upon the altar, so, under the Gospel, must we offer ourselves up wholly to the Lord “as living sacrifices.” This is nothing more than our reasonable service [Note: Romans 12:1.]: “We are not our own; we are bought with a price: and therefore we should glorify God in our body and in our spirit, which are his [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:20.].”]

But let us somewhat more distinctly consider,

III. The way in which we should requite them—

The example of the pious Jews is very instructive—

[The Jews were encouraged under their troubles to betake themselves to God, and to make vows unto the Most High: and these vows they were required strictly to perform. On paying their vows to their heavenly Benefactor, they presented certain sacrifices, of which they and their families were permitted to partake, in remembrance of God’s mercies towards them, and as an expression of their gratitude to him [Note: Leviticus 7:12. Deuteronomy 12:6-7; Deuteronomy 12:17-18.]. On these occasions, it was common for the master of the family to close the feast by taking a cup of wine, and drinking of it, first himself, and afterwards all his family in succession; and then to close the whole with a hymn. To this custom it should seem that David refers in other psalms [Note: Psalms 66:13-16; Psalms 107:22.], as well as in the passage before us: and our blessed Lord adopted it as a suitable method of commemorating the wonders of his dying love [Note: Matthew 26:27.]. He took a cup, and blessed it, and gave it to his disciples, that they, and all his followers, to the very end of time, might drink it in remembrance of his blood shed for the remission of their sins [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:25.].]

After this example we should pay our vows, and “receive the cup of salvation,” or, as that used by the Jews was called, “the cup of deliverances”—

[Is it asked, What sacrifice are we to offer? I answer, The sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving [Note: Hebrews 13:15.]. “The calves of our lips” are far more acceptable to God than all the burnt-offerings that ever were offered [Note: Psalms 50:13-14. with Hosea 14:2.]. And surely the sacramental cup, of which every Believer should frequently partake, may at once remind us of all the mercies we have ever received, and be taken by us as a memorial of God’s unbounded love to us, and of our unfeigned surrender of ourselves to him. In these expressions of our love and gratitude we should have all the powers of our souls called forth: “all that is within us should bless the name of our God:” and the entire devotion of ourselves to his service should bear witness to our sincerity before him. Never are we to be restrained by fear or shame: no; we must pay our vows “in the presence of all his people.” If we are ashamed of Christ, what can we expect, but that he will be ashamed of us? But, “if we confess him before men, then will he also confess us in the presence of his Father and his holy angels.” Here then is the service which we are to render unto God in return for all his benefits: we are to confess him, to magnify him, to adore him, to give up ourselves to him as his redeemed people, to live altogether by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, receiving all out of his fulness, and improving all for the honour of his name. So entirely should we be the Lord’s, that “whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do, we should do all to his glory [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:31.].”]

Address—

1. Those who have never yet instituted this inquiry—

[Alas! how many have never made any other use of God’s mercies, but to render them means of self-destruction, and instruments of dishonouring their God! Has he given them abundance! they have employed it in riot and excess. Has he vouchsafed to them health and strength? they have turned these blessings into an occasion of more unbridled licentiousness. Has he bestowed intellectual powers upon them? they have perverted these to justify their evil ways, and to dispute the authority of God. The very Gospel itself they have abused as sanctioning their presumptuous hopes, and as affording reason for dissipating all fear of God’s displeasure. Ah, Brethren! what will be the end of these things? “Do ye thus requite the Lord, O foolish people, and unwise?” How will ye answer it at the last day? When your Judge shall put the question, “What could I have done more for my vineyard than I did? what excuse will ye offer for bringing forth only wild grapes [Note: Isaiah 5:1-4.]?” Do but think of these things, ere it be too late. But if ye will not lay these things to heart, then know assuredly, that, if ye will not render unto the Lord according to his works of mercy, he will render unto you according to your aggravated iniquities.]

2. Those who profess to feel their obligations to their God—

[Examine, I beseech you, the returns which you have made: do they not “fill you with shame and confusion of face?” Are ye not perfectly astonished at your own ingratitude? O! see what need there is to walk humbly before God. But yet, do not despond. Your “God is able to make all grace abound towards you:” and, if you call upon him, “he will give you more grace,” even grace sufficient for you, so that you shall be able to “render to him, in some measure at least, according to the benefits he has conferred upon you.” You see how he wrought in David, and in his holy Apostles: and is his arm shortened, that it cannot reach to you? Arise, and bless your God; walk joyfully before him; “let your hearts be lifted up in his ways:” come, and take the cup of salvation; and, as one great family, hand it round, each, as it were, to the other, that all of you may be encouraged, and all be comforted, and all be strengthened. “Now,” even now, take the blessed cup into your hands; and drink of it “in the presence of all his people;” yea, drink, and live for ever. And inquire with yourselves, inquire of each other, yea, inquire of God himself, what you can do for him; and let your capacity for his service be the only measure of your exertion.]


Verse 15

DISCOURSE: 692

THE DEATH OF SAINTS PRECIOUS

Psalms 116:15. Previous in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

THE meaning of these words will be best marked from the occasion on which we suppose them to have been uttered. The psalm appears to have been written after Absalom’s rebellion. Most imminent were the dangers from which David had been delivered. For this mercy he renders thanks: and acknowledges, to the praise of his heavenly Protector, that, whilst his own son had sought his life, and instigated multitudes to seek his destruction, God had interposed for his deliverance, and had inflicted merited judgments on his enemies. So precious had God accounted his death, that he would make those to pay dearly who had laboured to effect it: or, as it is said in another psalm, “God had redeemed his soul from deceit and violence, and precious had his blood been in his sight [Note: Psalms 72:14.].”

From the words which I have read, I shall take occasion to shew,

I. In what light God regards the death of the saints—

We are not to understand that the death of his saints is pleasing to God, but rather, that he places a high value on them, and that he will suffer none to accomplish their death with impunity. So precious is their death, that,

1. He watches over them to prevent it—

[Incessant is his care over his Church; as he has said, “I the Lord do keep it: I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day [Note: Isaiah 27:4.].” He assures us that “no weapon that is formed against his people shall prosper [Note: Isaiah 54:17.].” So that, as has been often said, “God’s servants are immortal, till their work is done.” Not that they are at liberty to tempt the Lord by rushing needlessly into danger: but, if called by God to perform any duty, they have nothing to fear. David’s deliverances were numberless, as were those also of the Apostle Paul. Our Lord himself, too, was encompassed for years by those who sought his life: but none could prevail against him, till “his hour was come.” Weak as his people are, even “as lambs in the midst of wolves,” none can effect their ruin, “none can ever pluck them out of his hands.” “There is an appointed time” for every one of them; and, as they must wait, so must their enemies also wait, till that time is come.]

2. He will come forth to avenge it—

[God does suffer his people to be assaulted, and to be put to death: but he will call their enemies to a severe account for all that they do against the meanest of his saints. It is said, “He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye [Note: Zechariah 2:8.].” We well know the force of this figure, if but a mote get into our eye: and we may therefore understand from thence how God feels when any of his people are assaulted. He has told us, that “it were better for any man that a millstone were hanged round his neck, and that he were cast into the depths of the sea, than that he should offend one of God’s little ones.” We see, in the history of David, how Ahithophel suffered for his treachery, and Absalom for his rebellion: and sooner or later shall every man who, either in a way of direct asaault or of silent contempt, offends the people of the Lord, surely “give account thereof in the day of judgment [Note: 1 Peter 4:4-5.].”]

3. He will never suffer it, till he has accomplished his good work within them—

[To every one of his people has God assigned his proper work: to some, as to the dying thief, little more is given than an opportunity of confessing Christ: to others, as to Paul and John, are long and arduous labours allotted: but the times of all are in God’s hands; and he will enable every one of them to say, “Father, I have glorified thee on earth; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do [Note: John 17:4.].” To his blood-thirsty enemies our Saviour said, “I must walk to-day and to-morrow; and the third day I shall be perfected:” and even to the most potent amongst them we may say, “Thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” Men may think they have accomplished their purposes; as when Peter was kept in prison till the very night preceding his intended execution; or as when Paul had been stoned, and left for dead. But “there is no counsel or might against the Lord.” He will make “the wrath of man to praise him; and the remainder of it,” which would counteract his purposes, “he will restrain.”]

Such being God’s estimate of his people’s death, we may see,

II. In what light we also should regard it—

However we may congratulate souls on their removal to a better world, we cannot but regard their death,

1. As an event to be deplored—

[The world little think how much they are indebted to the saints. It is for their sakes that the world itself is kept in existence. If their number were complete, and their graces arrived at the measure ordained for them, we have reason to think that an end would be put to the present state of things, as we know there will be at the day of judgment. The usefulness of some who are in very conspicuous stations is seen and acknowledged: but it is not easy to conceive how much good may be done by the meanest saint, through the prayers which he offers up from time to time. The prayer of Moses repeatedly saved the whole Jewish nation, when for their iniquities God had determined to sweep them all away. And Abraham prevailed, to the full extent of his petitions, in behalf of Sodom and all the cities of the plain. And who can tell what blessings the prayers of God’s people have brought on our guilty land, or what blessings may be obtained through the most humble individual amongst them? As a public loss, therefore, I think the removal of any saint may be deplored. As it respects him personally, we may indeed, from a variety of circumstances, be led to rejoice in it; because he rests from his labours, and may therefore be accounted blessed: but as far as the work of God on earth and the benefit of mankind are concerned, his death may be regarded as a ground of general regret.]

2. As a dispensation to be carefully improved—

[In the death of a saint, God himself calls upon us to inquire, whether we, if we had been taken, should have been found ready. He bids us to “work whilst it is day, since the night is coming when no man can work.” He leads us to consider the blessedness of dying in the Lord; and bids us to “be followers of those who, through faith and patience, now inherit the promises [Note: Here the particular experience of a departed saint may be stated as instructive, and his dying advice be specified.]” — — —]

Address—

1. Those who make light of death—

[It is surprising how little effect the death of any saint produces on the minds of survivors; and how speedily any impression wears away. The conversation of mourners assembled to attend a funeral gives us a melancholy picture of the human mind, and of the extreme indifference with which the concerns of eternity are regarded by us. But, Brethren, will death appear so light a matter when we shall have entered into the eternal world? or is there one of us who will not wish that he had laboured far move to prepare for his great account? I pray you, trifle not with your souls; but know assuredly, that one soul is of more value than the whole world.]

2. Those who estimate death according to its real importance—

[You well know the true value of life. Its great use is, to prepare for death. Let every hour be pressed into the service of your God, Let every thing be valued according to its bearing on eternity. Above all, let the Saviour be dear to you. It is He who has taken away the sting of death, and authorised you to number it amongst your richest treasures. Through his atoning blood you may look forward to death and judgment with far other eyes than they can be viewed by the ungodly world. You may regard death as the commencement of life, and the very gate of heaven. Only take care, therefore, that in your experience it be “Christ to live,” and then you shall assuredly and that it will “be gain to die.”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 116:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/psalms-116.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, August 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19
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