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We must look to God to “ work all our works in us :" “ all our fresh springs must be in him.” To rely simply on God is the only way of being really strong; as the Apostle says, “ When I am weak, then am I strong ;” and the more entire our reliance is on him, the more will his strength be perfected in our weakness.
At the same time, we must bear in mind how exceedingly defective our best services are; and must renounce all hope in “our own righteousness, as being in itself no better than filthy rags.” If St. Paul, with all his transcendent excellencies, " desired to be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, but that which is of God by faith in Christ,” much more must we do so, whose righteousness falls so far short of his. Our constant and grateful acknowledgment must be, “ In the Lord have I righteousness and strength."
Yes; “ in the Lord must all the seed of Israel be justified, and in him alone must they glory."
Yet we must not imagine that our services shall go unrewarded : for, though our works shall not go before us to heaven, to supersede the office of a Saviour, " they shall follow us, to attest our love to him, and shall be acknowledged by him as worthy of a gracious recompence.” Not even a cup of cold water given to one of his disciples shall lose its reward. God would even consider himself as “unrighteous, if he were to forget our works and labours of love, which we have shewed towards his name." Be assured, therefore, that he will bring forth, at the last day, whatever you have done for him, and will both applaud and recompense it before the assembled universe.
Here, then, you have abundant encouragement to exercise yourselves with all diligence in the preceding duties of fear and vigilance, of piety and affiance. And know, that the more you endeavour to approve yourselves to God, the more shall you be approved by him in the day of judgment.]
CCCCXCIX. GOD'S FAVOUR THE ONLY SUBSTANTIAL GOOD. Ps. iv. 6. There be many that say, Who will shew us 'any
good ? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance
upon us !
SELF-SUFFICIENCY pertains to God alone: he alone is not dependent on any other for his own happiness. The creature must of necessity be dependent, and must derive its happiness from some other source. The angels around the throne are blessed only in the fruition of their God. Man, of course, is subject to the same necessity of seeking happiness in something extraneous to himself: and unhappily, through the blindness of his understanding, the perverseness of his will, and the corruptness of his affections, he seeks it in the creature rather than in the Creator. Hence the universal inquiry spoken of in our text, “Who will shew us any good ?” But there are some whose minds are enlightened, and whose desires centre in their proper object; and who, in answer to the proposed inquiry, reply, “ Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us !”
To illustrate the wisdom of their choice, we will consider more at large, I. The world's inquiry
A desire of good being natural, it is of necessity universal
[From infancy to youth, from youth to manhood, from manhood to old age, the inquiry is continued, Who will shetv us any good? who will shew us any thing wherein our minds may repose, and find the largest measure of satisfaction ? Agreeably to this universal sentiment, all prosecute the same object, in the ways wherein they think themselves most likely to attain it. The merchant seeks it in his business, and hopes that in due time he shall find it in the acquisition of wealth. The soldier looks for it in the dangers and fatigues of war, and trusts that he shall find it in the laurels of victory, the
acquisition of rank, and the applause of men. The traveller searches for it in foreign climes, in expectation that he shall possess it in an expansion of mind, and in those elegant acquirements, which shall render him the admiration of the circle in which he moves. The statesman conceives he shall find it in the possession of power, the exertion of influence, and the success of his plans. The philosopher imagines that it must surely be found in his diversified and laborious researches ; whilst the devotee follows after it with confidence in cloistered seclusion, in religious contemplation, and in the observance of ceremonies of man's invention. Others pursue a widely different course. The voluptuary follows after his object in a way of sensual gratification, and in the unrestrained indulgence of all his appetites. The gamester affects rather the excitement of his feelings in another way; and hopes, that, in the exultation arising from successful hazard, and from sudden gain, he shall enjoy the happiness which his soul panteth after. The miser, on the
other hand, will neither risk, nor spend more than he can avoid; but seeks his good in an accumulation of riches, and a conceit that he possesses what shall abundantly suffice for the supply of all his future wants. We might pursue the subject through all the different departments of life; but sufficient has been said to shew, that all are inquiring after good. True indeed it is, that many seek their happiness in evil, as the drunkard, the robber, and all other transgressors of God's laws. But no man seeks evil as evil; he seeks it under the idea of good, and from the expectation that, circumstanced as he is, the thing which he does will, on the whole, most contribute to his happiness.]
This inquiry after good is in itself commendable, and proper to be indulged—
[The brute creation are directed by instinct to things which are conducive to their welfare: but man must have his pursuits regulated by the wisdom and experience of others, to whom therefore he must look up for instruction. But it is much to be regretted that the generality inquire rather of the ignorant than of the well-instructed, and follow their passions rather than their reason. If men would but go to the Holy Scriptures, and take counsel of their God, they would soon have their views rectified, and their paths directed into the way of peace.]
To such inquiries we proceed to state, II. The believer's answer
The believer's answer comes not from his head merely, but from his heart. There he has a fixed and rooted principle, which tells him, that happiness is to be found in God alone: so that, despising in comparison all other objects, he says, “ Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me!” " In thy favour is life,” and “thy loving-kindness is better to me than life itself.”
That a sense of the Divine favour is the best and greatest good, will appear from the following considerations : 1. It gives a zest to all other good
(Let a man possess all that the world can bestow, the greatest opulence, the highest honours, the kindest friends, the dearest connexions, his happiness will after all be very contracted, if he have not also the light of God's countenance lifted up upon him. But let him be favoured with the Divine presence, he will taste, not the comfort merely that is in the creature, but God's love in the creature. This will be like the sun shining on a beautiful prospect, every object of which receives a ten-fold beauty from his rays; whilst the spectator himself, revived with its cheering influence, has his enjoyment of them exceedingly enhanced. Here David, amidst all his elevation to dignity and power, found his happiness a: and here alone, whatever else we may enjoy, can it be truly foundb.]
2. It supplies the place of all other good—
(Let a person be destitute, not only of the fore-mentioned comforts, but also of health, and liberty, and ease, yet will he, in the light of God's countenance, find all that his soul can desire. Behold Paul and Silas in prison, with their feet in the stocks, and their backs torn with scourges! Are they unhappy? No; they sing; they sing aloud at midnight: and what is it that thus enables them to rise above all the feelings of humanity? It is their sense of the Divine presence, and of his blessing upon their souls. And in like manner may the poorest and most destitute of all the human race exult, if only the love of God be shed abroad in his heart: he may adopt the language of St. Paul, and speak of himself “as having nothing, and yet possessing all things."] 3. It paves the way to all other good
[Earthly blessings may come alone: but the favour of God brings along with it every other blessing that God can bestów. Even earthly things, as far as they are needful, “ are added to those who seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness:" and we need scarcely say what peace, and joy, and love, and holiness in all its branches, are brought into the soul in communion with a reconciled God. We may confidently say with Paul, “ All things are yours, if ye are Christ's d."] 4. It will never cloy
[There is no earthly gratification which may not be enjoyed to satiety: but who was ever weary of the Divine presence ? In whom did a sense of God's pardoning love ever excite disgust? A man “in a fulness of earthly sufficiency may be in straitse :” and it not unfrequently happens, that the rich have less comfort in their abundance than the poor in their meaner and more scanty pittance. But “the blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and addeth no sorrow with it":" the man who
a Ps. xxi. 1-6.
o Ps. cxliv. ; in the close of which, David corrects, as it were, what he had said in the two preceding verses. c 2 Cor. vi. 10.
di Cor. iii. 21-23. e Job xx. 22. Prov. xiv. 13. f Prov. x. 22.
possesses it has not his enjoyment lessened by repetition or repletion; but, on the contrary, has his capacities enlarged, in proportion as the communications of God's favour are enlarged towards him.] 5. It will never end
(Whatever we possess here, we must soon bid farewell to it: whether our enjoyment be intellectual or corporeal, it must soon come to an end. But the favour of God will last for ever, and will then be enjoyed in all its inconceivable fulness, when death shall have deprived us of every other enjoyment. God's presence there is a fulness of joy; and at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore."] ADDRESS
1. Those who are seeking happiness in the things of time and sense
[We ask the votaries of this world, Whether they have ever found that permanent satisfaction in earthly things which they once hoped for? Has not the creature proved itself to
a broken cistern that can hold no water?" and is not Solomon's testimony confirmed by universal experience, that “all is vanity and vexation of spirit?" If this then be true, why will ye not avail yourselves of that information, and go for all your comforts to the fountain-head? “Wherefore do ye spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me; and eat ye that which is GOOD; and let your soul delight itself in fatnessh.” O let the blessing which the priests of old were authorized to pronounce, be the one object of your desiresi! and we will venture beforehand to assure you, that you shall never seek for it in vain. After other things you may inquire, and labour in vain : but the man that looks to God, as reconciled to him in Christ Jesus, and desires above all things his favour, shall never be disappointed of his hope.] 2. Those who are seeking their happiness in God
[Professing, as you do, that God is a sufficient portion, the world will expect to find that you are superior to it; and that you live as citizens and expectants of a better country. Thus it was that the saints of old livedk; and thus must we live, even as our blessed Lord himself set us an example. If the world hear you inquiring, Who will shew me any good? and see you seeking it in the vanities of time and sense, will they not say, that religion is an empty name, and that it can
& Ps. xvi. 11.
h Isai. lv. 2.
Heb. xi. 9, 1).