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God as the sovereign controller of all events. Job himself erred exceedingly in this respect, when he said, " I shall die in my nestb.". The same sense of dependence on God must more especially be maintained in reference to our spiritual life. The very chief of the Apostles, no less than we, needed to preserve upon his mind a consciousness, that, without incessant vigilance and care, he might, “ after having preached to others, himself become a cast-away." However confident any man may be that he stands firm, it becomes him to “ take heed lest he fallc." And so far is this frame of mind from being, as religious people are apt to fancy it, an effect of legality and unbelief, it is pronounced by God himself as most pleasing to him, and beneficial to us; for “ blessed is the man that feareth alwaysd."
It is worthy of observation, that David ostensibly acknowledged God as the author of his security; “ Thou by thy favour hast made my mountain to stand strong:” but it is evident that his confidence was not really in God, so much as in his situation and circumstances, which had to all appearance a stability on which he might rely. And thus it is with those amongst ourselves who have fallen into a state of carnal security: they profess to depend on God; but their want of holy fear demonstrates, that their confidence is in something which they themselves possess, and which they consider as affording a just ground for the dismission of vigilance and jealous apprehension.
David's relaxation of this salutary fear was followed by] II. His spiritual dereliction
[To punish this undue security, God withdrew from David in some measure the protection of his providence, and the comforts of his grace: he suffered Absalom to carry into effect his traitorous conspiracy against him; and he left David without those heavenly consolations which under former trials he had been wont to experience: “ Thou didst hide thy face from me,” says David, “ and I was troubled.” Now such rebukes must be expected by all who forget their dependence upon God. Verily he is a God that hideth himself;” and by the dispensations of his providence and grace he marks his indignation against the backslidings of his people. We doubt not but that his withdrawment of many temporal blessings from us is a punishment for our idolatrous attachment to them, and dependence upon
them. It was for this that he sent a worm to destroy Jonah's gourd; and for this he required the soul of him who thought "he had much goods laid up for many years. " We doubt not also but that the experience of every child of God will more or less attest the same in reference to the
a Jam. iv, 13-15.
b Job xxix. 18.
withdrawment of his presence from them. In proportion as any have become less vigilant, they lose those manifestations of the Divine presence which in the seasons of holy fear they were privileged to enjoy. Nor is it a mere privation of joy which they experience on such occasions; there is a perturbation of mind arising from a sense of the Divine displeasure, and a painful apprehension lest they should never be restored to the favour of their God. David's" trouble," as arising from this source, was of a very overwhelming naturee: and woe be to those who wantonly provoke God to inflict it on them?
In what way he sought deliverance from this trouble, we see by,] III. His fervent prayers
:["He cried unto the Lord, and (as it is in the Prayerbook translation) gat him to his Lord right humbly." How he pleaded with God, may be seen in our text; and in this he affords an excellent pattern for us under similar circumstances. His plea is to this effect; 'Lord, withdraw not thyself from me for ever: it is through thy help alone that I can ever recover the state from which I am fallen ; and without such a recovery I can never bring any glory to thy name. O leave me not in the wretched state into which I am fallen.'
Now here we see the true, the only, remedy for a soul that has provoked God to depart from it. To have recourse to the doctrines of election and final perseverance under such circumstances, is the way to foster that very disease which God is seeking, by this discipline, to cure. We say not that we are to keep out of sight the promises of God; for beyond a doubt we are to make use of them at all times and on all occasions : but then we are to make use of them, not for the fostering of an unhumbled confidence in God, but for the encouraging of our humiliation before God. We are to be constantly on our guard " not to heal our wounds slightly, or to cry, Peace, peace! when there is no peace.” We should bear in mind that the humbling of our souls is the very end which God aims at in withdrawing his presence from us: and the more we answer this end, the better: nay, if by the suspension of his favour towards us we be brought to a more earnest crying after him, and to an utter abhorrence of ourselves in dust and ashes, we shall have as much reason to adore him for such discipline, as for the most exalted joys he ever afforded us.
This also is a point which we conceive to be of exceeding great importance for the due regulation of our own minds, and for the right counselling of those who are under the hidings of God's face. The excellency and efficacy of this remedy may be seen in,] e Ps. lxxvii. 2-4.
f Deut, xxxii. 20.
IV. His speedy recovery
[Many there are who go mourning almost all their lives. And wherefore ? Is it that God arbitrarily, and without occasion, hides his face from them? No: it is owing to this very thing which we have been speaking of, namely, their restraining prayer before God, and not using the proper means of regaining his favour. Indeed many are brought into absolute despair by the very means which they use to remove their apprehensions: they go to the consideration of God's secret decrees, when they should be mourning over their miscarriages, and imploring pardon for Christ's sake. Hence they are led to argue thus: “If an elect vessel, how could I be in such darkness and distress? But I am in this darkness, therefore God has not elected me; and there is no hope for me.' But behold the effect of humiliation and contrition! See how speedily God returned to the soul of his servant, in answer to his fervent supplications! The prayers were scarcely offered, before David was enabled to say, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing ; thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness." And thus would it be with all of us, if we would pursue the method which this holy man adopted. “ God delighteth in the prosperity of his servants :" and, as a parent feels relief to his own soul when he can return in love to his offending child, so does God, when he can again lift up the light of his countenance on those, from whom he has been constrained for a season to withhold its. The father's reception of his prodigal son is a sure and delightful specimen of the favour which all will experience, as soon as ever they are brought to the footstool of Divine grace with cries for mercy in the all-prevailing name of Jesus Christ. The testimony of David in this very psalm shall be confirmed in you: “ His anger endureth but a moment: in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning"
The speedy restoration of God's favour to him immediately drew forth,] V. His grateful acknowledgments
[To bring him back to a state of holy peace and joy was the very end for which God so graciously renewed to him the expressions of his love: it was, says David, “to the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent." He calls his tongue "his glory,” because that is the member by which above
all he could glorify his God: and he determines instantly to employ it in his praise: “O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.” Blessed resolution ! O that every one of us would instantly adopt it! O that God would
8 See Jer. xii. 27. and Ps. Ixxxi. 13—16.
inspire us with grace sufficient to carry it into execution! It is in order to bring all to this, that we have been so particular in the foregoing statement. It is vith a view to this that we so earnestly recommend humiliation before God under seasons of darkness, rather than an attention to abstract points which tend only to foster a delusion. Humility, and contrition, and a believing application of the blood of Christ to our souls, can never deceive us; but, on the contrary, must infallibly lead to songs of praise and thanksgiving : "if we sow in tears, we must reap in joy." Only observe the process, and see how connected are all the links of the chain : in prosperity, we have relapsed into carnal confidence, and provoked God to leave us in a state of spiritual dereliction : alarmed and humbled by his frowns, we betake ourselves to fervent prayer, imploring mercy in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; and through the unbounded grace of God we experience a speedy recovery; and from thenceforth have our mouths filled with grateful acknowledgments to the God of our salvation. We only add to this, that the deeper is our humiliation on account of sin committed, the more speedy and exalted will be our joys on account of deliverance vouchsafed.] ADDRESS
1. To those who are walking with God
[What shall we say! Even if you were as eminent as ever David was, we should think it right to guard you against the conceit, that you were in no danger of being“ moved." In relation to all that you possess of temporal things, we would inculcate this salutary lesson, “Let those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who weep be as though they wept not, and those who rejoice as though they rejoiced not, and those who buy as though they possessed not, and those that use this world, as not abusing it.” Every thing must be held as from God, and for God, to be disposed of according to his sovereign will and pleasure. And in reference to every thing of a spiritual nature, we would recommend a constant sense of our entire dependence upon God, saying, "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe.” Some will confound this with unbelief: but it differs from unbelief as much as humility from pride : in truth, it is the very root of faith; for it is only in proportion as we feel our liability to fall, that we shall look truly and constantly to Christ for strength. Be weak as new-born infants in yourselves, and God will keep beneath you his everlasting arms, and perfect “ his own strength in your weakness."] 2. To those who have declined from him—
[Many in a state of declension are ready to imagine that God has arbitrarily and without any particular cause withdrawn himself from them. But it may well be doubted whether in any case God ever dealt thus with any of his creatures. Our blessed Lord, when he cried, "My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?" was suffering the punishment due to those whose iniquities had been laid on him. And Job, whose expression, “ I shall die in my nest,” we have before noticed, had evidently a measure of carnal confidence which wanted to be mortified and subdued. With the exception of his case we are not aware of any thing that bears even the appearance of arbitrary proceeding on the part of God: the constant tenor of his acting is that which was proclaimed to Asa, “ The Lord is with you, while ye be with him: if ye seek him, he will be found of you ; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you." Learn then to trace your sin in your punishment: and, if you cannot find the immediate cause of his withdrawment from you, pray to him, with Job,“ Shew me wherefore thou contendest with me.” The prayer which David offered under such circumstancesk, will assuredly, if offered up in faith, bring down upon you the blessings of peace and joy. This God himself has promised'-- and you may be as fully assured of its accomplishment to your soul, as the promise and oath of God can make you" - -]
i 2 Chron. xy. 2. k Ps. cxliii. 1-8. i Isai. lvii. 16-18. m Isai, liv. 7–10. with Heb. vi. 17, 18.
DXLIV. OUR TIMES IN GOD'S HAND. Ps. xxxi. 15. My times are in thy hand. TO the ungodly it is a satisfaction to deny the providence of God, and to cut him off, as it were, from any connexion with his creatures. But the saints find a rich consolation in the thought that God reigneth. This it is which reconciles them to the evils they endure, and fortifies them against those which they have reason to apprehend. David, in the psalm before us, complains that there were many who “took counsel together against him, and devised to take away his life.” But he comforted himself in the reflection, that, however man might be his enemy, God was “his God;” and that however bitterly his enemies might be enraged against him, “his times were not in their hands, but in God's ;” and,