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who amongst us values God's ordinances as David did, and accounts the loss of them the most bitter ingredient even in the bitterest cup which he has to drink? And, in attending upon them, what coldness and formality do we too often feel! As for “our joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” how faint is it, when compared with that which he expressed in the psalm before us, even in the midst of his heavy and accumulated afflictions! Dear Brethren, I blush for you, and for myself also: and I would propose to you to adopt, for our future imitation, that resolved purpose of the Psalmist, “O God, my heart is fixed, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise. Awake up my glory, awake psaltery and harp: I myself will awake early. I will praise thee, O Lord, among the people ; I will sing unto thee among the nations: for thy mercy is great unto the heavens, and thy truth unto the clouds. Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: let thy glory be above all the earth'.” Happy shall we be if we attain to such a frame; for it is an anticipation and foretaste of heaven itself.]
i Ps. lvii. 7-11.
SOURCES AND REMEDY OF DEJECTION.
Ps. xlii. 5. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? und why
art thou disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and
IT has pleased God to suffer many of his most eminent servants to be in trouble, and to record their experience for our benefit, that we, when in similar circumstances, may know, that we are not walking in an untrodden path, and that we may see how to demean ourselves aright. The Psalmist was conversant with afflictions of every kind. In the preceding psalm, which seems to have been penned during his Aight from Absalom, he gives us a very melancholy picture of his state: tears were his meat day and night, while his enemies gloried over him, and said continually, Where is now thy Goda ?” “ His soul was cast down within him ;" for while “the waves and billows threatened to overwhelm him, the water-spouts threatened to burst upon him: so that deep called unto deep 5,” to effect his ruin ; and it seemed as if all the powers of heaven and earth were combined against him. In complaining of these things, he sometimes expostulates with God, “Why hast thou forgotten me?” but at other times he checks himself, and, as it were, reproves his soul for its disquietude and despondency". The psalm before us was evidently written on the same occasion: it contains the same complaints®; and ends, like the former, with a third time condemning his own impatience, and encouraging his soul to trust in God.
a Ps. xlii. 3, 10.
His words lead us to consider, I. The sources of dejection
It cannot be doubted but that temporal afflictions will produce a very great dejection of mind : for though sometimes grace will enable a person to triumph over them as of small consequence, yet more frequently our frail nature is left to feel 'its weakness : and the effect of grace is, to reconcile us to the dispensations of Providence, and to make them work for our good : still however, though we are saints, we cease not to be men: and it often happens, that heavy and accumulated troubles will so weaken the animal frame, as ultimately to enfeeble the mind also, and to render it susceptible of fears, to which, in its unbroken state, it was an utter stranger. The disquietude of the Psalmist himself arose in a measure from this source: and therefore we must not wonder if heavy losses, and cruel treatment from our near friends, or troubles of any other kind, should weigh down the spirits of those who have made less attainments in the divine life. But we shall confine our attention principally to spiritual troubles : and among these we shall find many fruitful sources of dejection :
b Ps. xlii. 6, 7. Water-spouts are very formidable mariners, because if they burst over a ship, they will sink it instantly : and here they are represented as conspiring with the tempestuous ocean for their destruction. c Ps. xlii. 9.
d Ps. xlii. 5, 11. Compare xlii. 9. with xliji. 2.
1. Relapses into sin
[By far the greatest part of our sorrows originates here. A close and uniform walk with God is productive of peace: but declensions from him bring guilt upon the conscience, together with many other attendant evils. And if those professors of religion who complain so much of their doubts and fears, would examine faithfully the causes of their disquietude, they might trace it
up to secret neglects of duty, or to some lust harboured and indulged 2. The temptations of Satan
[Doubtless this wicked fiend is an occasion of much trouble to the people of God; else his temptations had not been characterized as “ fiery darts,” which suddenly pierce and inflame the soul. We may judge in a measure how terrible his assaults are, when we see the Apostle, who was unmoved by all that man could do against him, crying out with such agony and distress under the buffetings of Satan”. We shall have a yet more formidable idea of them, if we consider that the Lord of glory himself, when conflicting with the powers of darkness, sweat great drops of blood from every pore of his body, through the agony of his soul.
of his soul. Can we wonder then if the saints are sometimes dejected through the agency of that subtle enemy?] 3. The hidings of God's face
[We do not think that God often hides his face from men without some immediate provocation : but we dare not to say that he never does; because he is sovereign in the disposal of his gifts; and because he withdrew the light of his countenance from Job without any flagrant transgression on the part of his servant to deserve it. It is scarcely needful to observe, how painful that must be to those who love God: our blessed Lord, who bore the cruelties of men without a complaint, was constrained to cry out bitterly under his dereliction from his heavenly Father, “ My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” And certainly this is the most distressing of all events: “ the spirit of a man, when strengthened from above, may sustain any infirmity; but a wounded spirit, wounded too by such a hand, who can beari?"]
Having traced out the sources of dejection, let us inquire after, II. The remedy
The great remedy for every temporal or spiritual affliction is faith. This, and this alone, is adequate to our necessities. The efficacy of this principle for Eph. vi. 16.
g Acts xx. 24. h 2 Cor. xii. 7, 8.
i Prov. xviii. 14. VOL. V.
the space of three thousand six hundred years is declared in the 11th chapter to the Hebrews; toward the close of which, we are told what it enabled them to dok, and what to suffer!. It was that which the Psalmist prescribed to himself as the cure of his disquietude : 1. “Hope in God”
(We are too apt in our troubles to flee unto the creature for helpm. But it is God who sends our troubles; (“ they spring not out of the dust",") and he only can remove them. We should therefore look unto him, and put our trust in him. This is the direction which God himself gives us : he reminds us of his wisdom and power to over-rule our trials for good; and exhorts us, when weary and fainting, to wait on him as our all-sufficient Helpero] 2. Expect deliverance from him-
[To what end has God given us such “exceeding great and precious promises,” if we do not rest upon them, and expect their accomplishment? The refiner does not put his vessels into the furnace, to leave them there; but to take them out again when they are fitted for his use. And it is to purify us as “vessels of honour,” that God subjects us to the fiery trial. We should say therefore with Job, “When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as goldp.” It was this expectation that supported David: “I had fainted,” says he, “ unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living?." We are told that “ light is sown for the righteous.” That is sufficient for us. Between seed-time and harvest there may be a long and dreary winter; but still every day brings forward the appointed time of harvest; and the husbandman waiteth in an assured expectation of its arrival®. Thus must we wait, however long the promise may seem to tarry; and as those who are now in heaven were once in great tribulation like ourselves 4, so shall we in due season be with them, freed from all remains of sin and sorrow. In our darkest hours we should hold fast this confidence, “I shall yet praise him?."] 3. View him in his covenant relation to you
[It is observable, that our Lord, in the midst of his dereliction, addressed his Father, “ My God! my God!” Now thus should we do. God is the God of all his people; yea, he dwells in them, and is, as it were, the very life of their soulsz. However distressed then we be, we should regard him as the health of our countenance, and our God.” What a foundation of hope did the remembrance of God's paternal relation to them afford to the Church of olda! And what a sweet assurance does God himself teach us also to derive from the same sourceb! If we unfeignedly desire to be his, we have good reason to believe that we are his: and if we be his, he will never suffer any to pluck us out of his hand. Hold fast this therefore, as an anchor of the soul; and it shall keep you steadfast amidst all the storms and tempests that can possibly assail you.] ADDRESS1. Those who are in a drooping desponding frame
k Heb. xi. 33, 34. 1 Heb. xi. 36, 37. n Job v. 6.
o Isai. xl. 28–31. 9 Ps. xxvii. 13. r Ps. xcvü, 11. 1 Hab. ii. 3.
u Rev. vii. 14.
‘m Hos, v, 13.
[We cannot give you better counsel than that- suggested by the example of David.
Inquire, first, into the reasons of your disquietude. If it proceed from temporal afflictions, recollect, that they are rather tokens of God's love, than of his hatred; for “whom he loveth he chasteneth.” If it arise from the temptations of Satan, take not all the blame to yourselves; but cast a good measure of it at least on him from whom they proceed. If you are troubled about the hidings of God's face, entreat him to return, and to lift up upon you once more the light of his countenance. And if, as is most probable, “ your own sins have hid his face from you," humble yourself for them, and implore his grace that you may be enabled henceforth to mortify and subdue them. At all events, having once searched out the cause, you will know the better how to apply a remedy.
But, in the next place, it will be proper to check these desponding fears. The text is not a mere inquiry, but an expostulation; and such an expostulation as you should address to your own souls. For, what benefit can accrue from such a frame? It only weakens your hands, and discourages your heart, and dishonours
God. We do not say that there are not just occasions for disquietude: but this we say, that instead of continuing in a dejected state, you should return instantly to God, who would give you beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”
But, above all, “ encourage yourself in God." This is what David did in the text, and on another most memorable occasion". And while there is an all-sufficient God on whom to
y 2 Cor. vi. 16.
Isai. xlix. 14–16. e Isai. Ixi. 3.
a Isai. lxiii. 15, 16.
2 Col. iii. 4.