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abominable: yea, to their dying hour do they retain this humiliating sense of their own corruptions, notwithstanding they have a hope that God is pacified towards them; and even the more on account of that very mercy which they have experienced at his hands!.
Shall it be thought that such a sense of sin can become those only who have been guilty of some flagrant enormities? I answer, It befits the most moral person upon earth, no less than the most abandoned sinner. I say not that the moral and the immoral are upon a perfect level, either in the sight of God or man; for, beyond all doubt, all are hateful in proportion to the greatness and multitude of their iniquities: but there is no person so virtuous, but that he needs to be humbled before God in dust and ashes. Let any man, however virtuous, look back upon his past life, and see how far he has been from God, and how entirely he has lived to himself. Let him consider how little sense he has had of his obligations to God, especially for all the wonders of redeeming love - and how often he has “ done despite to the Holy Spirit,” in resisting his sacred motions, and in deferring that great work which he knew to be necessary for the salvation of his soul. We quite mistake, if we think that guilt attaches only to flagrant immoralities: the living without God in the world is the summit and consummation of all guilt: and where is the man who must not plead guilty to that charge? I suppose that no one will be found to arrogate to himself a higher character than that of Job, who, according to the testimony of God himself, was “a perfect and upright man:" yet did even Job, when led into just views of himself, exclaim, " Behold, I am vile!" " I repent therefore, and abhor myself in dust and ashes &."] This is the spirit which God approves [This, how unamiable soever it may appear
of men, is most pleasing in the sight of God. And well it may be so: for it honours God's Law. The man who is not thus abased before God, declares, in effect, that there is no great evil in disregarding God's Law, and that there is no occasion for those who have transgressed it to be ashamed. But the truly contrite person who lothes himself for his iniquities, acknowledges that To the Law is holy, and just, and good," and that every transgression of it is a just ground for the deepest humiliation.
Moreover, the contrition here spoken of justifies God's denunciations against sin. The unhumbled sinner says, in effect, God will not execute judgment: nor have I any cause to tremble for his displeasure: and if he were to consign me over to perdition on account of my sins, he would be unmerciful and unjust. e Ezek. xxxvi. 31.
f Ezek. xvi. 63. 8 Job xl. 4. and xlii. 6.
On the contrary, the man whose heart is broken bears a very different testimony. He acknowledges that he deserves God's wrath and indignation; and that, whatever sentence the Judge shall pass upon him, he will be fully justified as not inflicting more than his iniquities have deserved h.
Above all, the contrite person manifests a state of mind duly prepared for the reception of the Gospel. “What shall I do to be savedi?” is his cry from day to day: and, when he finds that the Gospel makes known to him a Saviour, O! how gladly does he embrace the proffered mercy! how thankfully does he renounce all hope in himself, and put on him the unspotted robe of Christ's righteousness! The unhumbled sinner can hear the glad tidings of salvation without feeling any deep interest in them: but the truly contrite person regards the Saviour, as the man who had accidentally slain a neighbour regarded the city of refuge: he knows that in Christ alone he can find safety; and he has no rest in his soul till he has fled for refuge to the hope set before him.
Thus, whilst the person that is “whole feels no need of the physician, the sick" and dying patient commits himself entirely to his care, and thankfully follows the regimen he prescribes. Well, therefore, may God approve of him, since he, and he alone, appreciates aright the gift of God's only dear Son to be the Saviour of the world.]
But it will be proper to inquire, II. In what way he will testify his approbation of it
A person bowed down with a sense of sin is ready to fear that God will never shew mercy to one so undeserving of it. But God promises, in our text, that,
1. “ He will be nigh unto them that are of a broken heart"
[God, being everywhere present, may be supposed to be as near to one person as another. And so he is, if we regard his essence. But there are manifestations of the Divine presence, which the world at large have no conception of, but which are experienced by all who follow after God in the exercise of prayer and faith. The Apostle spoke not in his own person only, but in the person of believers generally, when he said, “ Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” We are taught to expect, that if we “ draw nigh to God, he will draw nigh to us:" he will
the light of his countenance upon us :” he will “ shed abroad his love in our hearts :” he will enable us to cry with holy confidence, “ Abba, Father;” and will “ witness with our spirits that we are his." h Ps. li. 4.
i Acts xvi. 30.
Is any one disposed to ask, “ How can these things be?” “How is it that God will manifest himself to his people, and not unto the world?” This is the very question which one of the Apostles put to our Lord; who, in reply, confirmed the truth he had asserted; saying, “ If any man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with himk."] 2. “He will save those that be of a contrite spirit”—
[Many are their fears in relation to their final happiness : but “ God will never suffer so much as one of his little ones to perish.” The contrite in particular he will save: for “ he looketh upon men; and if any say, I have sinned, and perverted that which was right, and it profited me not; he will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light?” Their temptations may be many; but “ He will not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able; but will with the temptation make also for them a way to escape, that they may be able to bear itm.” However numerous or potent their enemies may be, “ he will deliver them out of the hands of all",” and “ make them more than conquerors over allo.” In a word, “ He will save them with an everlasting salvation; nor shall they be ashamed or confounded world without endp."] But the text leads me rather to shew
you, III. What present encouragement the very existence
of it affords to those in whom it is found The contrition which has been before described is the fruit and effect of God's love to the soul
[“ The Lord is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” There is no work of divine grace more difficult than this. The taking away of the stony heart, and the giving a heart of flesh, is a new creation; and discovers as clearly the operation of Omnipotence as the universe itself. It is the very beginning of salvation in the soul. A person under a deep sense of sin is apt to imagine that God will not have mercy upon him: but his very contrition is a proof and evidence that God has already imparted to him his grace. What a reviving consideration is this to the humble penitent! God is nigh thee: he is in the very act of saving thee. Why, then, art thou cast down? Why art thou “ saying, The Lord hath forsaken and forgotten me?” Does the greatness of thy guilt appal thee? Who shewed to thee thy sins ? Who opened thine eyes? Who softened thy heart? Who disposed thee to condemn thyself, and to justify thy God? Is this thine own work, or the work of any enemy? Does not the very nature of the work itself constrain thee to say, “ He that hath wrought me to this self-same thing, is God ?"] It is also the earnest and foretaste of
k John xiv. 21–23.
1 Job xxxiii. 24, 27, 28.
[Would God have done such things for thee, if he had designed ultimately to destroy thee? These are only as the first-fruits, which sanctified and assured the whole harvest. He has expressly told us, that the gift of his “ Spirit is an earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession"." You are aware what an earnest is: it is not only a pledge of future blessings, but the actual commencement of them in the soul. And, if
the heavenly hosts, you will find that this very abasement of their souls before God is a striking feature in their character, and a grand constituent of their bliss. They all, with lowliest selfabasement, fall on their faces before the throne of God, whilst, with devoutest acclamations, they ascribe salvation to God and to the Lambs. Learn, then, to view all your feelings in their proper light; so shall you" from the eater bring forth meat, and from the strong shall bring forth sweet."]
Let me not, however, CONCLUDE without addressing a few words, 1. To those in whom this spirit is not found
[You, alas! have no part or lot in the blessedness which is prepared for the broken in heart. Look at the Pharisee and the Publican: the one was filled with self-complacency, on account of his own fancied goodness; whilst the other dared not even to lift up his eyes to heaven, on account of his own conscious unworthiness. But it was the latter, and not the former, who found acceptance with God: and in all similar characters shall the same event be realized, as long as the world shall stand. Humble yourselves, therefore, whoever ye be; for in that way only have ye any hope that God shall lift you up.] 2. To those who are dejected by reason of it
[Forget not, I beseech you, for what end the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world : Was it not to bind up the broken heart; and to give to those who “ mourn in Zion, to give," I say, " beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness u?” And, if the greatness of your past sins appear an obstacle in your way, has he not told you, that " where sin has abounded, his grace shall much more abound *?” Yield not, then, to desponding thoughts, nor limit the mercy of your God: but know assuredly, that he will heal the broken in hearty," and that all who come unto the Saviour heavy-laden with their sins shall be partakers of his promised rest?.]
4 Judges xiii, 23.
Eph. i. 13, 14. See the whole of these assertions confirmed, Ps. xci. 14–16. and cxlv. 18, 19. s Rev. v. 8-10.
i Jam. iv. 7, 8.
u Isai. lxi. 1-3. and Luke iv. 18. x Rom. v. 20, 21. y Ps. cxlvii. 3.
z Matt. xi. 28.
THE SINNER'S HOPE. Ps. xxxv. 3. Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. SUSPENSE is extremely painful to the human mind, and the more so in proportion to the danger to which we are exposed. David experienced this in a very high degree. In the psalm before us he appears to have been greatly agitated with fear on account of the number and malignity of the enemies who sought his ruin, and were exulting in the expectation of his speedy fall. Seeing no hope for himself in the efforts of his adherents, he betook himself to prayer, and with most earnest importunity implored that help from his Creator which the creature was
ble to afford. And as it was with an armed host that he was beset, he addressed the Lord under the character of a mighty warrior, to stand forth in his defence: “ Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight thou against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.”
This last petition I propose to consider, I. As offered by him—
Nothing could exceed the bitterness of David's enemies—