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2. That which God has actually “wrought for them”
[Every believer was once " dead in trespasses and sins," even as others. But he has been quickened by the mighty energy of God's Spirit, and been raised up to newness of life. He is - a new creature in Christ Jesus;” all his views, his desires, his purposes, being altogether changed -- He has the heart of stone taken from him, and a heart of flesh substituted in its place. He has been “ made a partaker of the divine nature,” and “ been renewed after God's image; and that, not in knowledge only, but in righteousness also and true holiness." He is brought altogether into a new state, having been “ translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son,” and been made“ an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ.” In a word, he is “ begotten to an inheritance which is incorruptible and undefiled and neverfading, reserved in heaven for him;" and for the full possession of which he also is reserved by the power of God, through the simple exercise of faithe All this he has wrought for them “before the sons of men.” They are evidently which the Lord has blessed:” they are " lights in a dark world,” “ epistles of Christ, known and read of all men”. -]
But in the latter part of our text, we are called to consider the goodness of God towards his people, II. With a particular reference to their intercourse
with the ungodly worldExceeding bitter are those pains which men inflict on each other by calumnies and reproaches
[To speak good one of another affords no particular pleasure; but to hear and circulate some evil report affords to the carnal mind the highest gratification: and in such employment all the corruptions of our fallen nature find ample scope for exercise and indulgence. Who can estimate the evils arising from “ pride,” and “ the strife of tongues?” Some little idea may be formed from the description given of the tongue by an inspired Apostle: “Behold,” says he, " how great a matter å little fire kindleth! The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue amongst our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” How exceedingly strong are these terms! Yet it is by no means an exaggerated statement of the evils proceeding from calumny in the world at large: but as representing the virulence and malignity with which men calumniate the people of God, they come yet nearer to the truth. In the e 2 Pet. i. 4.
f Jam. iü. 5, 6.
very words preceding my text, David faintly portrays the conduct of the ungodly in relation to this matter: “Let the lying lips be put to silence, which speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.” In another psalm he speaks in far stronger terms: "My soul,” says he," is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword." The truth is, that men can inflict, and often do inflict, far deeper wounds with their tongue than they could with the most powerful weapon. With a sword they can only wound the body: but with bitter and cruel words they wound the inmost soul. Under the former we may easily support ourselves; but " a wounded spirit who can bear?"]
But against these does God provide for his people an effectual antidote
[Though more exposed than others to the venomous assaults of slander, they have a refuge which the worldling knows not of. They carry their trials to the Lord, and spread them before him; and from him they receive such supports and consolations as more than counterbalance the evils they sustain. “ In the secret of God's presence they are hid.” When nigh to him in prayer, they are hid as in a pavilion, or a royal tent, protected by armed hosts, and furnished with the richest viands". But the full import of these terms cannot adequately be expressed. Who shall say what is implied in those words, “ The secret of God's presence?” who shall declare what a fulness of joy is there possessed by the believing suppliant ? How powerless are the fiery darts which are hurled at him by the most envenomed foes, whilst God himself is a wall of fire round about him, and the glory of God irradiates his soul, inspiring it with a foretaste of heaven itself! Some little idea of his enjoyment may be formed from the history of Hezekiah at the time of Sennacherib's invasion. trouble, and of rebuke and blasphemy;" and the feelings excited in the bosom of Hezekiah were most distressing: but scarcely had he spread before the Lord the letter which the blaspheming Rabshakeh had sent him, than he was encouraged by God to return this triumphant answer; “ The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at theei.” Thus, like one who saw “ the heavens filled with horses of fire and chariots of fire" for his protection, he set at nought the vain boasts of his enemies, and anticipated a certain triumph. Thus, how malignant soever the believer's enemies may be, he is hid from them as in an impregnable fortress, and looks down on their fruitless efforts with pity and contempt.] ADDRESS 1. Let us seek to attain the character here drawn
a day of
8 Ps. lvii. 4.
h Ps. xxvii. 5, 6.
i Isai. xxxvii. 3, 14, 21, 22.
[To fear God is the duty, and to trust in him the privilege, of every child of man - Learn then to tremble for fear of his judgments, and to rely on his mercy as revealed to you in his Gospel --- for then only can you experience the blessings of his goodness, when you surrender up yourselves to him to be saved by his grace ----] 2. Let us enjoy the privileges conferred upon us-
[For a fuller discovery of the believer's privileges, we may consult the declarations of David in the Psalms k.
Let us not rest in any thing short of them. Let us get such a sense of them as shall overwhelm us with wonder, and gratitude, and praise -]
k Ps. xci. 1-4, 9-16. and lv. 21, 22.
THE GODLY ENCOURAGED TO TRUST IN GOD. Ps. xxxi. 21–24. Blessed be the Lord : for he hath shewed
me his marvellous kindness in a strong city. For I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes : nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplications when I cried unto thee. O love the Lord, all ye his saints : for the Lord preserveth the faithful, and plentifully rewardeth the proud doer. Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.
THE use of biography is universally acknowledged. It leads us into the recesses of domestic life; and teaches us, either from the frailties or the excellencies of others, how to conduct ourselves in a great variety of emergencies, which we ourselves must expect to meet with in life. But sacred biography is infinitely more interesting than that which proceeds only from uninspired pens, because the circumstances which are brought to light are more minute—more diversifiedmore authentic, than any records which people would choose to give of themselves, or than others would be capable of giving respecting them. On this account the Psalms of David claim the highest possible regard. Perhaps there never was a man whose circumstances were more varied than his : and certainly there never was a man who committed to writing all the secret motions of his heart with more fidelity than he; or that laboured more to improve them for the benefit of mankind.
This appears, as in many other psalms, so especially in that before us; as will be clearly seen, whilst we notice, I. His acknowledgment of mercies conferred upon
him— To enter fully into this, we must refer to the occasion on which the psalm was penned. It was written, I apprehend, after his deliverance from Saul, when, from his being surrounded by Saul's army, he had conceived it impossible for him to escape. Indeed, his deliverance was truly “marvellous ;” and it was wrought by the special intervention of Almighty God, in answer to his prayer. At the very moment that his blood-thirsty persecutor had, to all appearance, effected his purpose, tidings came that the Philistines had invaded the land of Judah; and Saul was compelled to return instantly from his pursuit of David, in order to repel the invaders. In reference to these circumstances, David first acknowledges the mercy in general terms: “ Blessed be the Lord; for he hath shewed his marvellous kindness in a strong city,” that is, in “ the strong holds” to which he had fled : and then he specifies more particularly the relief he had found in answer to prayer, when his own mind was overwhelmed with desponding fears.
In the peaceful state of the Church at this day, we are not likely to be reduced to David's state for our religion's sake: and, therefore, as far as the literal sense of the psalm goes, it is not applicable to us. But, of deliverances equally “marvellous,” we may speak. Let me then ask,
1. Whether you have not, at times, been ready to despond?
a 1 Sam. xxii. 27, 28.
(We can know but little either of our guilt or corruption, if we have not “ had the sentence of death in ourselves b, and felt that we had “no sufficiency in ourselves” to save ourselves Have we never, then, under a sense of our extreme unworthiness and helplessness, been ready to doubt whether we could finally attain salvation, and "said, as it were, in our haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes ?" Go back to some particular seasons, when your great adversary has prevailed against you, and seemed as if, like a roaring lion, he would utterly destroy you: has it not, at such seasons, been difficult to lay hold on the divine promises, and to flee for refuge to the hope set before you? ---]
2. Whether God have not at such seasons interposed for you, in answer to your prayer ?
[There are few that have not had reason to “ bless and adore their God, for shewing them his marvellous kindness in such seasons as these. The experience of the Prophet Jeremiah has been realized by God's people in every age:
“ Waters flowed over my head. Then I said, I am cut off. I called upon thy name, O Lord, out of the low dungeon. Thou hast heard my voice, and not hid thine ear at my breathing and my cry. Thou drewest near in the day that I called upon thee : thou saidst, Fear nota." From you, then, the Psalmist's acknowledgment is due: and by you it should be made to the latest hour of your lives.]
Full of gratitude, he pours forth, II. His exhortations, founded on his own experience
He exhorts the saints, 1. To love God
[God is worthy to be loved for his own divine excellencies: but he should be loved also for the wisdom and equity of his dispensations. “ The faithful he does and will preserve:' yes, both from men and devils will he preserve them: he will “ hide them under the shadow of his wings,” and “ keep them even as the apple of his eye”. But “the proud doer, whosoever he may be, he will plentifully reward” with judgments proportioned to his impiety
The ungodly may indeed triumph for a time, and the godly be left to groan under the rod of the oppressor: but a day of righteous retribution is at hand, when “God will recompense tribulation to those who trouble his people; and to those who are troubled, reste”. Shall not the assurance of this be a comfort to the saints, even under their deepest troubles ? Surely it should
b 2 Cor. i. 9.
c 2 Cor. iii. 5.