Изображения страниц

you will speedily discover, that, of all guests, the Benefactor of the universe, the Father of the fatherless, and the Friend of sinners, is the most unwelcome.—Behold these men when suffering under the reverse of fortune or of fame ; when placed on the bed of languishing, every sound hushed that He may be heard, and all intervening objects removed that He may be seen : and how often are we grieved to behold the ruling passion strong in death, and they rather endure than invite the consolations of religion,-" they count him as their enemy,” and keep up resistance to the very last! Such is unsanctified humanity; but such are not the feelings of a Christian sufferer,such were not the occupations of the Psalmist in the day of his adversity. There had been moments when “he remembered God and was troubled, he prayed, and his spirit was overwhelmed :" but, on this occasion, " the thoughts that wander through eternity" rested with delight on the character of Him that sits upon the throne.-" Thou,” says he,

art my rock and my fortress.” These images are full of spirit and beauty, and would naturally suggest to the mind of David ideas of strength and protection; they are significant, although feeble representations, of the blessed God as the refuge of his servants in the hour of trouble.”

Let us examine them : “ Thou art my rock.” Here is stability — rocks are firm, solid masses of stone, impenetrable to external violence, and indestructible by the ravages of time. Of these the granite is the most ancient, and therefore termed by geologists the original rock. Mountains may depart and hills be removed by the changes which occur in the operations of nature ; but rocks remain from age to age. There were many of these in Palestine ; and they made part of the strength of the country, and afforded to the inhabitants secure refuges against the sudden irruptions of their enemies. When the Benjamites were almost exterminated by the other tribes, the residue secured themselves in the rock Rimmon. Samson kept garrison against the Philistines on the rock Etam, the top of which, according to Josephus, was only accessible to one person at a time. The caves of Maon, Adullam, and Engedi, whither David fled from the fury of Saul king of Israel, were excavations made in different rocks; and during the journeyings of the Israelites we read of the rock Horeb, which yielded water to assuage

their thirst, and the rock of the waters of Meribah, where Moses provoked the Lord to anger by his impetuosity. Hence, God himself was styled the Rock of Israel, the Rock of Salvation, the Rock of Ages ;—and David very naturally thinks of Him under this character. He was in imminent peril, and required an asylum; every thing around him was receding ;-his throne, the affections of his

[blocks in formation]


people, the attachments of his family, all were estranged,—his own health was nearly gone, and the infirmities of age were rapidly increasing,—the earth trembled beneath his feet, and God alone was able to sustain him from sinking. But he was fully adequate to the task, and his infinite perfections included all that his servant could require: “ Thou art my rock," said David ; and the reflection was full of comfort. Here I can defy the length of time and the rage storms,--here I shall be placed above the wrath and oppression of my persecutors,—and this rock will abide when all things else decay; it is imperishable and eternal. And, my brethren, whether we look at the Church collectively or as composed of individual believers, – whether we consider the work of grace or the arrangements of Providence,-to whatever subject we turn our thoughts, or in whatever age of the world we make our inquiries,—this expressive image is equally and at all times applicable to the invisible and everlasting God. So deceitful and transitory are all things here on earth,-so mutable and uncertain,- that

“ He builds too low who builds beneath the skies.” And it is only as we stay our minds on the revealed character of God that we shall attain tranquillity and peace.

Hear his promise:-“I am the Lord, I change not; therefore the sons of men are not consumed." But here is elevation. A

person on the top of a rock is above the reach of his enemies : the rains may descend, the winds blow, and the tempest rage at its base; but the spray of the foaming billow is all he feels : it prevails not to his destruction, for its boundaries are determined. So the Christian dwells on high, and lives above the world. Raised by the arm of Omnipotence and love, his views, his hopes, his affections, are all above; and confidence in the character and promises of God is the principle of his exaltation. The frowns and smiles of earth are but salutary monitors of approaching danger, like snares seen but to be avoided; for “the


of life is above to the wise, to depart from hell beneath.” In all his sorrows he has a Friend who sticketh closer than a brother, and all things work together for his good. Distressed on every side, he is not in despair; persecuted, not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. To realize God in this character, is to exercise unshaken confidence in Him; and thus we shall rise superior to all the assaults of infidelity and all the ills of life, make full proof of our christian character, and exhibit to the world a most powerful argument in favour of true religion.

And here are supplies. It is not a barren rock; for the bounty of God is inseparable from his character. David was well acquainted

“ Thou art my

with the history of his nation; and he could not forget that, in their journey through the wilderness, Jehovah smote the rock once and again, so that the waters gushed out, and the streams overflowed; for he himself has recorded these facts, and must attach the idea of supplies and refreshment during his weary and toilsome exile, when he thought of God under this similitude. An apostle informs us, that the rock which followed Israel, of which they all drank the same spiritual drink, was Christ: then, if he be our Rock, he is the source of all supplies, temporal and spiritual, for time and eternity ; "He gives grace and glory, and no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” David was excluded from an earthly sanctuary; but the Rock on which he trusted supplied him with the “river of water of life, the streams whereof make glad the city of God." However the images might be varied, they amount to this truth,—that Jehovah was an all-sufficient portion to this afflicted monarch in the day of his distress : and well might he say, as on another occasion, “ This God is our God for ever and ever; and he will be our guide unto death.”

When David reflected on the Divine character in his sorrowful . hours, another figure ministered to his comfort: fortress.” This image tends to heighten and enlarge the former idea. A rock is the symbol of natural strength, but a fortress supposes the addition of something which shall render it a more secure retreat. Now the omnipotence, omnipresence, and immutability of the Deity, are his natural strength ; those attributes which, so to speak, qualify him to afford succour in the day of distress, and strength in the hours of weakness; but they do not constitute him our fortress. In order that we may find security in them, and encouragement to repose our confidence, something more is requisite ; and it is amply supplied in his moral attributes, and that solemn covenant, by which they are all engaged to interpose on our behalf, and yield us all necessary aid. As a fallen and sinful being, I dare not approach the God of nature with confidence; his omniscience tells me, that He is acquainted with every thought of my heart and

every word of my tongue; his omnipotence awakens all my

fears; and even his goodness is no guarantee for my security. Those who have kept their first estate may rest in these perfections, and derive a holy delight in the contemplation of them; but a sinner is repelled by those very attributes which minister to angelic joy. A declaration of his pleasure and purposes,-a further disclosure of his character,-an assurance that “I may trust, and not be afraid,”are all indispensable; and these are supplied by the Christian revelation : God hath spoken in his holiness, unfolded his plans of

mercy, and engaged to complete our happiness and salvation ;-he cannot deny himself, and he will not deceive or disappoint his people. Thus he becomes our fortress : and all who flee for refuge to the hope thus set before them, are authorized to put their trust in Him. He proposes himself as our Benefactor, Saviour, Guide, and Friend. All these characters he is fully qualified to sustain ; and his invitations challenge our confidence and hope.

But, my brethren, the language of David implies more even than this ; it is the language of appropriation and experience: “He is my rock and my fortress.” This venerable man had not a God to seek in the hour of distress : he had served and trusted him for many years, and now approaches him as a tried Friend. The spirit of former prayers was present now; as if he said, “Thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation.”

Appropriation is the soul of piety. To be able to say of Him “ who laid the foundations of the earth, and sustains all things by the word of his power,”—of Him “who weighs the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance, who is King of kings, and Lord of lords,"—to say of such a being as this, He is my Father, my Friend, the Rock in whom I trust, the God of my salvation, and my Refuge, is a privilege of the first order : yet such is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, who live in the spirit of their high calling. There are, however, those who would denominate all such confidence presumption, and, from professed regard to the Divine glory, would exclude him from any superintendence of individuals, as subjects too insignificant to engage His attention who sways the sceptre of universal empire: but these objectors are not only wise above, but contrary to, that which is written; and their objection has more in it of infidelity than humility. It is, surely, by no means unworthy of God, to supply the daily wants, and protect the personal interests, of those whom his power and wisdom have brought into existence; and when, in addition to this, we have his free and gracious promise thus to act, all doubt upon the subject is entirely excluded.

That such a conclusion is admirably adapted to afford strength and joy in hours of weakness or depression, must be obvious to all : the only inquiry is, Can it be realized ? is God thus manifested to his servants as he is not unto the world? The confidence of David, in this particular, was well grounded; for he had not only the promise of God to rest upon, but the testimony of his own experience. These interpositions were so interwoven with his past history, that it was impossible he should forget them; and they furnish a prominent part of his plea on the present occasion ; “for,” says he, “thou art my rock and my fortress.”

But, are we presumptuous in exercising the same confidence ? I reply,--if believers, certainly not; it is no less our duty than our privilege : to us Jehovah hath said, The

hairs of

your head are all numbered ; if God so clothe the grass of the field, how shall he not much more clothe you


O ye of little faith, wherefore do ye doubt ?" If our confidence is founded, not upon transient impressions, or lively flights of fancy,-if it be derived from the word of God directed to us, from the witness of his Spirit within us, conforming our hearts and lives to his moral image, and from the appearances of his grace and providence in our behalf,—it is the appropriate exercise of filial confidence to say, and to realize the full meaning of our claim, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom then shall I fear ? he is my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, the horn also of my salvation, and my refuge." But these words supply us,

II. With the ground of the Psalmist's confidence ;: “ Thou hast given commandment to save me.”

In his own case David had a special promise whereon to rely ; “ I have sworn once by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David.” The promise, of which this is a solemn ratification, had, in its primary application, an immediate reference to the seed or descendants of that illustrious king—" Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations.” In the darkest seasons, and when speaking as a man, he might have said, “ All these things are against me.” This was his encouragement and support, his plea in prayer, and his earnest of a gracious reply. But, my brethren, in St. Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost, this promise is explained as having a further and more important meaning, namely, that “God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise


Christ to sit on his throne;" and he affirms that David, “ being a prophet, knew this.” If so, the commandment to save him must, in his own estimation, imply far more than deliverance from temporal enemies, and yielded him every encouragement, both in reference to this life and that which is to come. But, if the throne of Christ be built up to all generations, and his seed established for ever, then it is true of

every believer, in the most extensive and absolute sense, that “God hath given commandment to save him.” And this truth ought to affect our minds as it did the mind of David. We should think of God “ as our rock and our fortress." In his dear Son are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, of power and might.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »