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them the exhortation before us: O love the Lord, all ye his saints.”] 2. To trust in God
[There are seasons when the saints can scarcely be said to believe and trust, whilst yet they do hope in God; saying, as it were, “ If I perish, I will perish at his footstool, crying for mercy.” Now then, to all such persons I say, “God will strengthen your heart,” yea, and strengthen your arm too, so that “ the arms of your hands shall be made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob?.” He will even “ perfect his own strength in your weakness," so that no enemy shall be able to prevail against you.
“Be of good courage," then, my Brethren. Though you cannot fully trust in God, yet, if you can hope in him, be not afraid : for God will vindicate your cause, and “ bruise all your enemies, not excepting even Satan himself, under your feet shortly."] EXHORTATION
1. Learn to see and to acknowledge the mercies of God towards you
[What loss is sustained, both of comfort to the saints, and of honour to the Deity, by the inattention of men to the dispensations of their God! How many deliverances, both temporal and spiritual, have we all experienced; but of which, through our remissness, God has never received any tribute of praise !
will be observant of God's dealings towards you, you will never want a theme for gratitude and praise
?) 2. Be not satisfied with your own happiness, but seek to advance also the happiness of others
[David never celebrates any mercy vouchsafed to him, without improving it as an occasion for commending God to others, and exhorting them to unite with him in every possible expression of love and gratitude. Thus should it be with us also. We are not, indeed, called to make known to all the secret workings of our own hearts; but we are called to edify one another, and to take every suitable occasion of honouring our God. Let us, then, do this; and do it, too, with holy zeal. Let us abundantly utter the memory of his great goodness, that all his works may praise him, and all his saints may bless him h.”]
f Gen. xlix. 24. 8 Rom. xvi. 20. h Ps. cxlv. 5-10.
TRUE BLESSEDNESS DECLARED. Ps. xxxii. 1-6. Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long : (for day and night thy hand was heavy upon me :) my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid: I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee in a time when thou mayest be found.
TO have the experience of David in all the diversified conditions of life faithfully submitted to us, is an advantage for which we can never be sufficiently thankful. There was scarcely any trouble, either of a temporal or spiritual nature, which he was not called to endure, and under which he has not stated to us the workings of his mind. We are accustomed to hear of his sins and his penitence, his sorrows and his joys: but there is one particular frame of mind, in which he continued for many months, which we are apt, for the most part, to overlook, or to pass by with a mere transient observation; I mean, his state of impenitence and hardness of heart after the commission of his sin in the matter of Uriah. But this is an exceedingly profitable point of view in which to behold him, because of the general tendency of sin to harden the heart: and to see how he obtained peace at last is also of great advantage, inasmuch as it will shew us, how we may obtain peace, even after the commission of the greatest transgressions. When he wrote this psalm he had regained that happy state from which he had fallen : and he here records, for the instruction of the Church in all future ages, I. Wherein true blessedness consists
A man who has no prospects beyond this present world, will seek happiness in the things of time and sense.
a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth.” We
are immortal beings, and are hastening to a state, where a period will arrive, at which our present existence, even though it should have been continued a thousand years, will have been only as the twinkling of an eye. In that state either happiness or misery awaits us, according as we enter upon it under the guilt of our former sins, or with our sins forgiven. We may justly say, therefore, True happiness consists, as our text informs us, in having our sins forgiven. To elucidate this topic, let us consider the blessing here spoken of, 1. As a non-imputation of sin
[Who that is in the smallest degree conscious of the number and heinousness of his transgressions, and of the awful punishment due to him on account of them, must not regard it as an unspeakable mercy to have them all blotted out from the book of God's remembrance ? What in the whole universe can in his estimation be compared with this ? If he could possess the whole world, yea, if he could possess ten thousand worlds, what comfort would the acquisition give him, if he had the melancholy prospect of being speedily plunged into the bottomless abyss of hell ? If there were a large company of condemned criminals, some rich and noble, others poor and ignoble, and one of the meanest of them had received the king's pardon whilst all the rest were left for execution; who among them would be accounted the happiest? How much more then, when the death to which unpardoned sinners are consigned is an everlasting death in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone! No one who reads the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, and sees the termination of their respective states, can for a moment hesitate to pronounce Lazarus, with all his miseries and privations, far happier in a sense of reconciliation with his God, than the rich worldling in the enjoyment of all his pomp and luxury.] ] 2. As a positive imputation of righteousness
[In the words of David we should not have seen the doctrine of imputed righteousness, if St. Paul had not expressly told us that that doctrine was contained in them. He tells usa, that in these words “ David describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, saying, “ Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.” Now this idea goeth much farther than mere forgiveness : forgiveness exempts from punishment; but an imputation of the Redeemer's righteousness to us insures to us an eternal great rewardb. O how happy must that man be who is clothed in the unspotted robe of Christ's righteousness, and can, on the footing of that righteousness, claim all the glory and felicity of heaven! He may look forward to death and judgment, not only without fear but with holy confidence and joy, assured, that in God's sight he stands “ without spot or blemish.” Who, we would ask, can be happy, like the man who has been begotten to a lively hope, that in and through Christ, there is reserved for him an incorruptible, and undefiled, and never-fading inheritance in heaven?]
a Rom. iv. 6–8.
3. As a renovation of soul consequent on reconciliation with God
[Though sin is pardoned, and righteousness is imputed, purely through the free grace of God to the chief of sinners, without any good works already performed by them°, yet no pardoned sinner is left in an unholy state : on the contrary, he is “renewed in the spirit of his mind;" “ a new heart is given unto him ;" and he is made “an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.” If this were not the case, pardon itself could not make him happy. A soul under the dominion of sin could not be happy, even if it were in heaven : sin would eat his vitals, as doth a canker. It is the restoration of the soul to the Divine image that constitutes a very principal part of its felicity: for when we are "holy, as God is holy," then are we happy, as God is happy. We must be careful however not to confound those different sources of happiness. St. Paul was so jealous on this head, that when quoting the words of our text, he omitted these at the close of it, lest any one should imagine that our sanctification were in any respect the ground of our justification before God. Sanctification is the fruit and consequence of our having received a justifying righteousness: and, though it in no respect procures our reconciliation with God in the first instance, (for that is procured solely through faith in Christ,) yet it is as inseparably connected with justifying faith, as good fruit is with a good tree: nor can the soul be happy in a sense of the Divine favour, till it has this evidence of its acceptance with him.]
But David proceeds to inform us, II. How he himself attained unto it
For a long time he was altogether destitute of it
b 2 Cor. v.
21. c Mark the expressions, “the ungodly,” “ without works,” Rom. iv. 5, 6.
[Partly through stoutness of heart, and partly through unbelief, he for a long time refused to humble himself for his heinous iniquities. But was he happy during that period? Hear his own representation of his state and feelings: “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old, through my roaring all the day long; my moisture was turned into the drought of suinmer. The state of an impenitent sinner is fitly compared to “ the troubled sea, which cannot rest, but incessantly casts up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith God, to the wicked. We have a striking elucidation of this point in the history of Judas and of Peter. Both of them had sinned grievously: but Peter, through the influence of faith, repented; whilst Judas, under the influence of unbelief, sought refuge in suicide from the accusations of his own mind. Thus it is with many who are haunted with a sense of guilt, but will not abase themselves before God: they roar all the day long;” and “ howl upon their beds, like dogs; but they cry not unto God from their inmost souls .” Hence they can find no rest, or peace; and often precipitate themselves into the torments of hell, to get rid of the torments of a guilty conscience. Ignorant people impute these acts to religion: but it is the want of religion that produces them: it is the want of true contrition that causes their guilt so to prey upon their minds. “ God's hand is heavy upon them," because they will not humble themselves before him: and the longer they continue to set him at defiance, the more may they expect to feel the pressure of his righteous indignatione At last through penitence he attained unto it
[“ He at last acknowledged his sin, and confessed his transgressions unto the Lord:” and then God, who delighteth in mercy, spoke peace unto his soul. The transition was indeed surprisingly rapid : “ for he only said, I will confess my transgressions, and instantly God forgave the iniquity of his sin?." Doubtless God saw the sincerity of his heart: he saw not only that David mourned over his past offences, but was determined through grace to give himself up in future wholly and unreservedly to the Lord: and therefore he would not delay to restore to him the light of his countenance, and the joy of his salvation. We have a beautiful instance of this rich display of mercy in the parable of the Prodigal Son in the converts on the day of Pentecost - and in the jailer
And similar displays of mercy may we ourselves hope for, if only we humble ourselves before him, and seek to be clothed in the Redeemer's righteousness: for “he is rich in mercy unto all who call upon him."] d Hos. vii. 14.
e See Ps. xxxviii. 148. and cii. 3–7. f See 2 Sam. xii. 13. & Acts xvi. 34.