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2. The most assured safety
[Thus engaged, the soul looks down upon all its enemies with disdain: it feels itself in an impregnable fortress: it is conscious that it owes all its past preservation to the help of its Almighty Friend; and it rejoices in the thought that under the shadow of the Redeemer's wings it must still be safe; and that
none shall ever pluck it out of the Father's hands.” The state of Hezekiah, when surrounded by a vast army that was bent on his destruction, exactly shows what is the state of a believing soul in the midst of all its enemies: “ The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at thee.” Such was the language of Zion to all the Assyrian hosts: and such is the blessed anticipation of victory which every Believer is privileged to enjoy e.] IMPROVEMENT
1. How greatly do the generality of religious professors live below their privileges !
[It was not peculiar to David thus to delight in God: it was then common, and is yet common, to all the saints. Can it be thought that we, who live under so much better a dispensation than he, and have so much brighter discoveries of God's power and glory than ever he had, should yet not be priviTeged to delight in God as he did? Were this the case, we should be losers by that religion which the Son of God came down from heaven to establish. But it is not so: we may partake of all spiritual blessings in as rich abundance as he, or any other of the saints of old, did. And we have reason to be ashamed that our desires after God are so faint, our purposes respecting him so weak, and our expectations from him so contracted. Let us, each for himself, look at our experience from day to day, and compare it with his; and let us not rest, till we have attained somewhat at least of that delight in God, which so eminently distinguished that blessed man.] 2. What encouragement have all to seek after God!
[It was not only after David had so grievously transgressed, but at the very moment that God was chastening him for his transgressions, that he was thus favoured of his God! Can we then with propriety say, This mercy is not for me? it is not possible for such a sinner as I ever to be thus highly favoured ? Know ye, that there is no limit, either to the sovereign exercise of God's grace, or to its influence on the souls
e Rom. viii. 33–39.
f Absalom's incestuous commerce with David's wives was foretold by Nathan, as a part of David's punishment for his sin in taking to him the wife of his friend Uriah.
His grace often most abounds, where sin has most abounded : and the vilest of us all may yet become the richest monument of God's love and mercy, if only, like David, he will humble himself for his iniquities, and sprinkle on his conscience the blood of our great sacrifice. O beloved ! know, if you come to God by Christ, you shall never be cast out; and if you commit yourself in faith entirely to Christ, you shall rejoice in him with joy unspeakable, and receive in due time the great end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.]
FOLLOWING AFTER GOD. Ps. Ixiii. 8. My soul followeth hard after Thee : thy right
hand upholdeth me. IT has been said, that Christian progress is more evinced by desires than by actual attainments. This sentiment is either true or false, according to the explanation given of it. If it be meant that there can be any growth in Christianity without attainments in holiness, or that growth in grace is to be measured by any thing but actual attainments in every part of the divine life, it is extremely erroneous : but if it be meant, that our views of a Christian's duty, and our desires after a perfect conformity to the divine will, will increase beyond our actual attainments, it is true : for a divinely enlightened soul has no bounds to its desires : but, alas! the good that it would, it does not; and the evil that it would not, that it does : so that, after all its exertions, it is constrained to say, “ O wretched man that I am ! who shall deliver me?" With this the Psalmist's experience was in strict accordance. He speaks in the beginning of this psalm, not as one who was in actual possession of all that he desired, but as one whose appetite for heavenly things was altogether insatiable : “ O God, thou art my God: early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee; my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; to see thy power and thy glory so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.” So again, in the words of my text, he speaks, not as one who had attained, but as one pressing forward in order to attain : “My soul followeth hard after thee.” But was he discouraged as one that had failed in his endeavours ? No: he regarded the desires which he felt, and the endeavours which he put forth, as evidences that God was with him of a truth; and as grounds of hope that he should ultimately attain all that his heart could wish.
We see, then, here, 1. The experience of a heaven-born soul.
Two things are found in every child of God:
1. He has desires which nothing but God himself can satisfy
[The language of every enlightened soul is, “Whom have I in heaven but thee, O God? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides theea." He pants after peace and holiness; but how shall he obtain either the one or the other but from God himself? The world around him can contribute nothing, either to remove guilt from his conscience, or pollution from his soul. Nor can he himself do any thing for the effecting of these most desirable ends. If he look at his past or present life, he can find nothing whereon to found his hopes of acceptance with God: his very best duties are so defective, that they fill him only with shame and sorrow. Not one action of his life can he present to God as perfect, or as deserving a recompence in the eternal world : much less can he present any thing that shall, by its superabundant merit, purchase the forgiveness of former sins. Then, as it respects future obedience, he finds how frail his firmest resolutions are, and how weak his strongest efforts. It is in his Redeemer alone that he can find either righteousness or strength: and hence to him he looks, in order that he may obtain from him those blessings which his soul so greatly needs ---] 2. He seeks after God for a supply of them,
p“ He follows hard after God." He follows after God in every way that God himself has appointed. He waits upon God in secret prayer, and implores help from him in sighs and groans and tears. He “ wrestles with God,” even as Jacob of old did; and will not let him go till he has conferred the desired blessing. In public ordinances, too, he waits, as at Bethesda's pool, for the stirring of the waters, and for the communication of the benefits he so greatly needs. Nor does he yield to discouragement because he does not presently
a Ps. lxxiii. 25.
obtain all that he desires: he is content to tarry the Lord's leisure," assured that he shall not be ultimately cast out, or suffered “ to seek the Lord in vain.”
The whole of this experience may be seen in another psalm, where David places in one view the greatness of his necessities, and the urgency of his requests: “I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Hear me speedily, O Lord: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me; lest I be like them that go down to the pit. Cause me to hear thy loving-kindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee b."]
That we may not think too unfavourably of this experience, let us notice, II. The confidence which it is calculated to inspire—
The Psalmist, in the latter clause, did not merely intend to assert a fact, but to mark the connexion of that fact with the experience which he had just delineated; and which he regarded, 1. As an evidence of mercies received
[He was conscious of ardent desires after God, and of laborious exertions in seeking after him. But whence was it that such desires had ever arisen in his mind? And how came they ever to be put forth into act? And whence had he derived that firmness of character, that he could persevere in his pursuit of God, under all the discouragements which he had to contend with ? Were these the spontaneous product of his own heart? or were they infused into him by man? or did they arise out of any contingent circumstances capable of producing them? No: they sprang from God only, who had cast, as it were, the mantle of his love upon him, and drawn him to himself. It was “God who in the day of his power had made him willing” to renounce all his former pursuits, and to follow after Christ as the God of his salvation. God had “made him willing in the day of his power," and had kept him hitherto in his everlasting arms. Of all this, his experience was a decisive proof and evidence: and he could not but say, “He that hath wrought me to the self-same thing is God."] 2. As an earnest of yet further mercies in reserve
[In this light God's mercies may with great propriety be viewed ; and I doubt not but that this idea was intended to be expressed in the words before us. It is precisely what David more fully expressed in another psalm; where, having said to God, " Thou hast delivered my soul from death,” he adds, “Wilt thou not keep mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling, that I may walk before the Lord in the light of the living?” This was a legitimate inference from the premises which he had stated: and St. Paul drew the same inference with a yet stronger measure of confidence and assurance; saying to his Philippian converts, “ I am confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun a good work in you will perform it till the day of Jesus Christ d.” St. Paul, in particular saw that there was an inseparable connexion between grace and glory: for that “whom God did predestinate in eternity, them he also called in time; and whom he called, them he also justified; and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” And a sweet truth it is, that “ He will not forsake his people, because it hath pleased him to make them his people?;” and that “ whom he loveth, he loveth unto the end."] ADDRESS1. The lukewarm Christian
b Ps. cxliii. 6-8.
[Having spoken favourably of good desires, I must guard with all possible care against a misapprehension of my meaning. It is said in Scripture, “ The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour h.” This is a very awful truth : for there are many who rest satisfied with languid desires, instead of labouring for the things desired. Against such a state our blessed Lord very strongly cautions us, when he says, “ Strive to enter in at the strait gate ; for many will seek to enter in, and shall not be able '." “ The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence: and the violent must take it by forcek." And, whatever be your sentiments about the unchangeableness of God's love, you may be perfectly sure that you are not walking acceptably with him, unless you can say with truth, “My soul followeth hard after God."] 2. The earnest and zealous Christian
[Whatever attainments you make in the divine life, never forget to whom they must all be ascribed. A ball would as soon return of itself to the cannon's mouth, from whence it had been shot forth, as you of yourself would ever have returned unto God. And a new-born infant would as soon provide for all its own wants, as you would have preserved yourself
, by any power of your own, in the ways of God. It is God who in the first instance quickened you from the dead, and 'you both to will and to do” what was pleasing in his sight.
c Ps. lợi. 13.
d Phil. i. 6.
e Rom. viü. 29, 30.