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“ fail, nor was discouraged, till he had set judgement in the earth.”
Animated by the joy that was set before him, “ he endured the cross, despising the shame.”
If we look through all the scenes and passages of his life, we shall find him incessantly engaged in his father's business, with an utter contempt of the world, and a perfect absorption of mind in the great and holy objects he came to accomplish. He never for a moment lost sight of the ends of his mission, nor ever suffered his attention to be diverted from them by the love of ease, the fascination of pleasure, or the terrors of death. His disciples, who were the daily witnesses of his actions, were compelled to apply to him a remarkable expression in the prophetic part of the Psalms—“ The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up."*
III. We may consider the passage before us as highly expressive of the true manner in which the service of God must be undertaken, if we would render it acceptable to him, or useful to ourselves.
Among the heathen, it was usual to form a conjecture of the good or the ill success of application to their deities, from the state in which the entrails of the victim were found; and nothing was considered as a more fatal omen than its wanting a heart. Their worship, we are well aware, was folly and delusion; but in this instance it may serve to illustrate the subject before us, which is, the absolute necessity of the heart being engaged in religion.
* Psalm lxix. 9.
By the heart, the Scriptures generally intend the innermost and the noblest powers of the mind, in opposition to external actions of the body. It denotes deliberate choice, understanding, and feeling, as distinguished from the semblance of devotion, consisting in a compliance with its visible forms and regulations. As the heart has usually (whether justly or not it is not necessary to inquire) been looked upon as the seat of feeling,-in like manner as the brain has been supposed to be the
metaphor, employed to denote that faculty of the soul by which we perceive what appears desirable, and cleave to what affords us satisfaction, and taste the delight which certain objects are adapted to afford. This is a most essential part of religion; here is its proper seat.
1. It implies a preparation of heart for religious duties. Ezra “prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it,” to disengage his mind from vain imaginations, from worldly thoughts, from every thing, in short, foreign to the spirit of religion. By a diligent perusal of a portion of the word of God, we are prepared to approach him; by hearing him when he speaks to us, we are fitted to speak to him.
He who rushes into the presence of the Most High without solemn deliberation, without reflecting on the weighty and serious nature of such an undertaking, can with little propriety be said to have “ engaged his heart.”
2. It includes the exercise of suitable affections in the services of religion, the being susceptible of such sentiments and dispositions as are correspondent to the universal object of worship, as well as to the diversified circumstances in which we are placed.] Love, reverence, and trust, a profound sense of our own meanness and pollution, belong universally to every approach to God. While these dispositions, in truly pious souls, will receive a colour and complexion from their peculiar condition,-according as it is a condition of joy or sorrow, of sensible consolation or of desertion, is depressed with a consciousness of guilt or exhilarated with a sense of pardon,—the soul sometimes, with little reflection on its own state, will be taken up with adoring views of the divine glory, delightfully losing itself in the vivid contemplation of the great All in All. At other times it will be occupied with an affecting view of the conduct of God towards it in providence and grace. “ We thought of thy lovingkindness in the midst of thy temple. * There are seasons again, when, under burdens of guilt and distress, it will be incessantly stirring itself up to take hold upon God. “ Have mercy upon me, O Lord: my soul is bowed down within me; my wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness.” +
In such circumstances the pious soul will resemble Jacob, who wrestled with the angel, wept, and made supplication. In all these various exer
* Psalm xlviii. 9. † Psalm vi. 2. xxxviii. 5, 6.
cises, the heart will be engaged in approaching to God : the heart will be mingled with it, as the expression signifies.
3. It includes constancy and unshaken firmness, steadfastness of resolution to cleave to God. “I have sworn,” says David, “ and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgements. I have inclined my heart to perform thy statutes always, even unto the end.”
Contrast this with the conduct of the Children of Israel at the Red Sea, and with Saul.
ON FAMILY WORSHIP.
1 Chron. xvi. 43.—And all the people departed every man to
his house : and David returned to bless his house.
Public exercises of religion, when properly conducted, have a happy tendency to prepare the mind for those of a more private nature. When the soul is elevated and the heart softened by the feelings which public worship is calculated to inspire, we are prepared to address the throne of grace with peculiar advantage; we are disposed to enter with a proper relish on such a duty, and thus “go from strength to strength.” David, at the time to which this passage refers, had been assisting at a great and joyful solemnity, that of bringing the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom, where it had abode three months,
to the place which he had prepared for it. The joy which David felt on this interesting occasion was very rapturous. He conducted it to Jerusalem, and set it in the midst of the tent he had pitched for it. He offered, as a testimony of his zeal and devotion, burnt offerings and sacrifices to God, and then closed the solemnity.
We need be at no loss to ascertain the import of this expression. It undoubtedly signifies his imploring the blessing of God upon his people by prayer and supplication. Under the ancient law, God was pleased to appoint a form in which Aaron, the high-priest, was commanded to bless the people. “On this wise ye shall bless the Children of Israel, saying unto them, The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.”*
This instructs us how to understand what is meant by “ David's returning to bless his house;" it was to present them to God in prayer, and entreat his blessing upon them.
I shall take occasion from these words to urge upon you the duty of family prayer; a duty, I fear, too much neglected amongst us, though it is one of high importance and indispensable obligation. In bringing this subject before you, I shall, first, attempt to shew the solid reasons on which it is founded; and, secondly, endeavour, with the
* Numb. vi. 23—26.