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IN the present dispensations of Providence, we may behold a far greater measure of equality than is generally imagined: for, not only is the happiness of men less dependent upon outward circumstances than we are apt to suppose, but there is more of just retribution manifested in reference to the conduct of mankind. The ungodly are, for the most part, left to involve themselves in many calamities; whilst the godly are preserved in peace and quietness. There is sufficient of equality in God's dispensations to mark his superintending care; but sufficient inequality to convince us, that there shall be a day of future retribution, when the whole of the divine government shall be justified in the sight of the assembled uni
The passage before us may be considered as relating to both periods. The Psalmist is returning thanks to God, for having interposed in his behalf to vindicate his integrity against the accusations of his enemies : “ The Lord hath recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eye-sight.” He then goes on to speak of the general system of the divine government, as begun on earth, and as completed in the eternal world: “ With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful,” &c. &c.
From these words, I shall take occasion to shew the equity of the divine procedure, I. In the punishment of the ungodly
The day of judgment is called “ the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God; because God will then render unto every man according to his deeds.” Whatever may have been the conduct of men, the divine conduct towards them shall be in exact accordance with it.
Consider, now, what has been your conduct, 1. Towards God
[You have felt in your hearts no esteem for him; you have preferred every vanity, and even the basest lust, before him: you have not willingly entertained the thought of him in your minds: you have, in effect, " said to him, Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of thy ways." About his favour you have felt but little concern: nor has it been a matter of any importance in your eyes, whether he was pleased or displeased, honoured or dishonoured. In vain has he called, invited, entreated, expostulated : you have had no disposition to attend to his voice, no heart to comply with his will: and when he has threatened you with his everlasting displeasure, you have set him at nought, and determined to go on in your own ways, whatever might be the consequence.
a ver. 24.
b Rom. ii. 5, 6.
What now will be the result of this in the last day? God will deal with you as you have dealt with him. “You would not have any thing to do with me: I therefore will have nothing to do with you. You put me far from you: now I put you far from me. You preferred every thing before my favour : expect, therefore, no favour at my hands. It was a pain to you to come into my presence : you shall never be troubled with my presence more. You chose sin, with all its consequences, rather than me and my kingdom: take now, and take for ever, the portion you have chosen."] 2. Towards the Lord Jesus Christ
[The Saviour has died to effect a reconciliation between God and sinful men; and has offered to cleanse you in his own blood, and to clothe you in the spotless robe of his righteousness, that you may stand before God without spot or blemish. But you would not come to him for his benefits: you have not approved of the offers he has made you : they have been too humiliating for your proud hearts. You have not liked to acknowledge your need of him: you have preferred being a Saviour to yourselves: and have chosen rather to stand or fall by your own righteousness than to submit to the righteousness provided for you by him. In vain has he warned you against the danger of unbelief: you would not see any danger attending it. If you have made any use of Christ at all, it has been rather to encourage a hope of salvation in a sinful and unconverted state than to obtain from him the grace of which you have stood in need.
And what will be the return made to you? “You have rejected my Son,” God will say: "you shall therefore have no part in him. You would not submit to be washed by him from your sins: your sins, therefore, shall cleave unto you. You would not seek deliverance from condemnation through him: under condemnation, therefore, shall you lie. You would not take him as a Saviour in any one respect: therefore he shall be no Saviour to you. You made no use of him, but to warrant and justify your continuance in sin: therefore you shall
be left for ever in your sins, and have no part with him to all eternity. The whole tenor of your life has been to this effect, • We will not have this man to reign over us :' and therefore from him and his kingdom you shall be separated for ever."] 3. Towards your own souls
[You have not cared about them, or sought their happiness. You have been mindful only of earthly things. Your ease, pleasure, interest, honour, with the approbation of men, have been more to you than any concern pertaining to the soul. Pardon, peace, holiness, glory, have all been, in your esteem, of small account, in comparison of some temporal advantage. And, when warned what must be the issue of such a life, you have determined to run the risk, and to endure the consequences of impenitence, rather than put yourselves to the pain and trouble of repenting. Heaven has had no value, in comparison of some vain indulgence; nor hell any terror, in comparison of the pain of self-denial, and the shame of ridicule from an ungodly world.
According, therefore, as you have sowed, you shall reap: “You have sown to the flesh, and of the flesh
reap corruption.” God will say to you, “ Your soul shall be of as little value in my eyes, as it was in yours. Heaven was not worth seeking: you shall not have it. Hell was not worth avoiding: you shall take your portion in it. You were satisfied with things temporal: you shall have nothing beyond them. You did not even desire a happiness that is eternal: you shall never have it obtruded upon you, but shall be left destitute of it for ever and ever. You chose to wrestle with me, and walk contrary to me: continue now your fruitless contest to all eternity, whilst I walk contrary to you, and wrestlec' with you. You have been the authors of your own destiny: and by your own choice you must abide for ever and ever.”]
The same mode of proceeding is observed by God, II. In the rewarding of the godly—
Mark how he will act towards, 1. The penitent
[It is a grief to you that you have ever sinned against so good a God: you are ashamed; you blush and are confounded when you look back upon your ways: you even lothe and abhor yourselves in dust and ashes; and if you could, by any means, undo what you have done amiss, you would do any thing, or suffer any thing, that it were possible for you to do or suffer, to effect it.
• See the marginal rendering of ver. 26.
How, then, will God deal with you? Do you repent of the evil you have done against me? He will say: Then “I will repent of all the evil which I have thought to do against youd.” Are you saying, How shall I appear before my God? He will say, “ How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee up, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah ? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together: I will not execute the fierceness of mine angere.” Does he behold you smiting on your thigh, with indignation against yourself, as a vile rebellious wretch ? He will construe it as an evidence of your relation to him, and will appeal in your behalf to the whole universe, "Is he not a dear son? Is he not a pleasant child ? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord?” The moment he sees thee bewailing bitterly the existence of thy sins, he “ blots them out of the book of his remembrance," and “ casts them irrecoverably into the depths of the sea.") 2. The believing
[You are looking to the Lord Jesus Christ, as “set forth by God himself to be the propitiation for your sins;” and are desiring nothing under heaven so much as an interest in him
What, then, will God say to you? You shall not be disappointed of your hope. Dost thou renounce all dependence on thyself? I will not exact of thee any thing as a justifying righteousness. Dost thou look to what my dear Son has done and suffered for thee, and plead it as the ground of thy hope before me? It shall be imputed to thee, and be accepted in thy behalf. Thou washest in the fountain opened for sin : it shall cleanse thee so perfectly, that thou shalt stand before me without spot or blemish. Thou trustest in my word: and thou shalt find me a God of truth. Thou layest hold on my promises: not one of them shall ever fail thee. Thou art willing to be saved in the way of mine appointment: and according to thy faith it shall be unto thee. Thou art hoping for a crown of righteousness and glory, as the purchase of my Son's blood: thou shalt possess all that he himself possesses, and be " a joint heir with him" of crowns and kingdoms that shall never fail. Thou hast lived upon him: thou shalt live with him for ever and ever.']
3. The obedient
d Exod. xxxii. 9–14. Jer. xviii. 7, 8. and xxvi. 13. e Hos. xi. 8, 9.
f Jer. xxxi. 19, 20.
[You have given up yourselves to God in a way of holy obedience; and have encountered much, in order to approve your fidelity to him. To you, then, God will say, “ You have been faithful over a few things: be ye rulers over many things." You acknowledged me as your Master: I acknowledge you as my servants. You regarded me as your Father: I will regard you as my children. To please me was your one aim ; and
dared to honour me above all : I will now bless you, and honour you in the sight of the whole assembled universe. You regarded nothing but my favour: you shall have it, and all the tokens of it you can possibly desire. “By patient continuance in well-doing, you sought for glory and honour and immortality; and you shall possess them all, even everlasting life."] ADDRESS
[Now choose ye, Brethren, what portion ye will have. I venture to assure you, that it shall be unto you according to your desire, provided only that desire operate practically on your heart and life. I know, indeed, that salvation is altogether of grace: but I know, also, that you can never perish, but by your own consent, and purpose, and will. I mean not to say that any one would choose misery for itself, or in preference to happiness: but if you choose the service of Satan, with all its consequences, in preference to the service of God and its attendant benefits, then are you the authors of your own destruction, as much as you are of the conduct leading to it. God has said, respecting the wicked, “ Destruction and misery are in their ways:” and to whom can you ascribe your arrival at their end, when you are willingly and deliberately walking in their ways? If you will persuade yourselves that “ the broad road, which leadeth to destruction, will bring you to happiness as much as the narrow way that leadeth unto life,” you can blame none but yourselves for the disappointment which you will experience. Prepare then for yourselves such an issue to this present state of things, as ye will ere long wish that
had secured. Hear God's own direction to you: “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. But woe to the wicked! it shall be ill with him; for the reward of his hands shall be given to hime." To the same effect our blessed Lord speaks in his sermon on the mount, declaring that the merciful, the pure, the upright, shall have a portion accorded to them suited to their respective characters h. And remember, that if you obtain not eternal life, the fault was only in yourselves, who, when urged and entreated by your God, refused to walk in the way that would have led you to it.] 8 Isai. ii. 10, 11.
h Luke vi. 37, 38.