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no more satisfy the soul than their vanities can do? O give not reason for any such sentiment as this ! but let it be seen, that in having God for your portion, you have a good, which none can estimate but those who possess it, and which the whole world are unable either to diminish or augment?.]
1 Ps. lxxiii. 25.
THE BLESSEDNESS OF THE RIGHTEOUS.
let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them : let
DAVID, in speaking of the persecutions which he endured from Saul, represents them as accompanied with every species of malignity on the part of his oppressors:
“There is no faithfulness in their mouth: their inward part is very wickedness: their throat is an open sepulchre: they flatter with their tongue.” This character we should have been disposed to limit to the agents of Saul: but St. Paul teaches us to consider it as descriptive of human nature generally, and to apply it, without exception, to every child of mana. The fact is, that human nature is the same in all ages and places : and if it was so corrupt whilst under the immediate government of God himself, much more may it be expected to manifest similar corruption under circumstances less favourable for its control. Doubtless, to be reduced to a level with such abandoned men is very humiliating: but it is consoling to know, that if, on the one hand, we resemble them by nature, we, on the other hand, are partakers of all David's privileges, as soon as ever we are renewed by divine grace. Under his great and accumulated trials, he was often filled with a holy and unutterable joy in God: and such joy is our portion also, if, like him, we place our confidence in God. This is expressly asserted in our text, in which we behold,
a Rom. iii. 13.
I. The character of “ the righteous”
In delineating this, the generality of persons would refer to actions only, and to those chiefly which had respect to men. But this would give a very partial and inadequate view of the subject. The truth is, that man's character is to be estimated, not so much by his actions towards men, as by the habit of his mind towards God. I mean not to say, that actions are not necessary to evince the truth and excellence of the internal principle; for the principle that is unproductive of holy fruit, is of no value ; it is a hypocritical pretence, a mere delusion. But actions, though good in themselves, as prayers and almsgivings, may proceed from a vicious principle, and, instead of being acceptable to God, may be perfectly odious in his sight. Hence the righteous are described by characters that admit of no doubt : 1. They trust in God
[The righteous have a view of God as ordering all things both in heaven and earth. They know, assuredly, that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without his special permission. They see that both men and devils are but as instruments in his hands; and that, however unconscious they may be of any over-ruling power, they do, in fact, fulfil the will of Almighty God. Hence, whatever be done, they receive it as from God; and whatever be devised against them, they feel themselves secure in his hands. They know that, without him, "no weapon that is formed against them can prosper;" and that, through his gracious care, "all things shall work together for their good."
David was exposed to the most imminent dangers through the malice of Saul : but “ he encouraged himself in the Lord his God,” and committed all his concerns to him. So the true saint, whoever he may be, flees to God as a sure refuge, and hides himself under the shadow of his wings; assured that, when so protected, no enemy can assault him, no evil find access to him.
In the grace of God, too, tney trust as well as in his providence. They are well assured, that there is no hope for them in themselves, either as it respects the obtaining of reconciliation with God, or the fulfilling of his holy will. On the mercy of God, therefore, and on the merits of their Saviour, they rely for pardon and acceptance; and to the Lord Jesus they look for such supplies of grace, as their necessities require. Renouncing all confidence in themselves, they go forward, saying, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength."] 2. They love God,
[They behold his glorious perfections, particularly as displayed in the Son of his love," who is the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person;" and with holy admiration they prostrate themselves before him, saying, "How great is his goodness! how great is his beauty!” They also contemplate with wonder and gratitude the love which he has shewn to them, in choosing them, from before the foundation of the world, to be the monuments of his grace, and in imparting to them such supplies of his Spirit as are made effectual for their salvation. It is well said, that “to them that believe, Christ is precious.” Yes,“ his very name is as ointment poured forth:” and to hear and speak of him is the most delightful employment of their souls.
Now, I say, these are the characteristic virtues of the right2ous : and these are the graces which are of supreme excellence in the sight of God. It is evident, that by the exercise of these dispositions God is more honoured than in all the external acts that can ever be performed; because he himself is the object on whom they terminate, and whose glory they promote.]
In immediate connexion with these dispositions is, II. Their blessedness1. Who so joyful as they?
[“ Let them rejoice,” says the Psalmist, yea, " let them ever shout for joy." This is their privilege; this is their duty: the very command of God himself is, “ Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice.” “Rejoice evermore: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." True it is, that there are seasons for humiliation, as well as for joy: but it is true also, that though, in the experience of the worldling, there is a direct opposition between the two feelings, so that they cannot exist together, they may in the saint be called forth into simultaneous exercise and harmonious operation. Indeed, there is no sublimer joy than that which arises out of penitential sorrow, and is tempered by contrition. The very posture of the glorified saints in heaven bears testimony to this: for they fall on their faces before the throne, at the very time that they sing aloud “to Him that loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood.” But you
will particularly notice what is said, “ They rejoice in Him:" it is not in themselves, but in Him alone, " in whom all their fresh springs are found.")
2. Who has such ground for joy as they?
[They are already under the care and protection of their God," “ who defendeth them” from the assaults of all their enemies, and who has pledged himself to be their Protector even to the end: as David says, “ Thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him, as with a shield.” There is, in another psalm, a remarkable expression, which beautifully illustrates this: “ Thou wilt hide them in the secret of thy presence." The believer, when sensible of God's presence with his soul, has an assurance of his protection, as much as if he saw with his bodily eyes the whole heavens filled with chariots of fire, and horses of fire, for his defence. He then realizes in his mind the idea, that God is a wall of fire round about him; and that whoever shall think to scale it will not only fail, but perish in the attempt. Verily, to feel one's self thus in the very bosom of our God is “a joy with which the stranger intermeddleth not,” “ a joy that is unspeakable and glorified.”] APPLICATION
[Seek to be truly “righteous." Forget not wherein that character primarily consists. Seek to know God, to trust in him, and to love him; to know him as revealed to us in his Gospel; to trust in him as a Covenant-God and Saviour; and to love him with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength. Let a sense of his presence with you be your chief joy, and every action of your life be performed for his glory. So will you be preserved from every enemy, and your blessedness be an antepast of heaven.]
GOD'S INDIGNATION AGAINST THE WICKED.
Ps. vii. 11–13. God judgeth the righteous; and God is angry
with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death.
IN one psalm, David begins, “ The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice:” in another, “ The Lord reigneth; let the earth tremblea." Either exhortation is suitable, according to the persons who are more especially addressed. The godly may well rejoice, that He, whom they serve, has all things at his command: and well may the ungodly tremble, that He whom they offend is able to vindicate the honour of his insulted Majesty. To the
a Ps. xcvii. 1. and xcix. 1.
To the oppressors and oppressed, this truth is of equal moment. The oppressed David, reflecting on it with delight, said, “My defence is of God, which saveth the upright in heart." But the oppressor may expect this Almighty Being to espouse the cause of his people, and to execute upon their enemies the vengeance they deserve.
In the words before us we see the conduct of God, I. In his moral government hereThe righteous are the objects of his tender care
[The Jews were governed by judges for above four hundred years and the term “ judging was used as importing government and protection. In this sense David uses it in another psalm, where he says, “O let the nations be glad, and sing for joy: for Thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon eartha.” Now, there is not any benefit which the most wise or powerful monarch can bestow on his subjects, which God will not impart to his obedient people. Particularly will he shield them from every oppressor, and keep them safely under the shadow of his wings. His care of Abraham and the Patriarchs, in all their pilgrimages, and in all their perils, well illustrates this; as does more especially his constant and miraculous interposition on the behalf of David, amidst the bitter persecutions of the unrelenting Saul. The deliverances vouchsafed to God's saints of old are still continued to his Church and people; though, from their being less visible, they are, for the most part, overlooked. But God is still “ a wall of fire round about theme;" and " whosoever toucheth one of them toucheth the apple of his eye"."]
The wicked, on the contrary, are the objects of his merited displeasure
[He is not indifferent about the actions of men, as too many suppose. He marks the conduct of the wicked; and " he is angry with them every day.” Of course, we are not to suppose that God really feels those strong emotions which we call anger and wrath : such expressions are applied to him only in a figurative sense, in order to teach us what will be his dispensations towards us. But we do right to use the language of Scripture: and, in conformity with that, I say, that he views
a Ps. lxvii. 4.
b ver. 10.
c Acts xiii. 20.