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how many then were seduced by error-or disheartened by the fear of man or turned aside by the love of the world eor overthrown by unbridled passions? What reason then have we to adore the grace that has preserved us! ]
3. What would be the probable consequence of our falling
[Some who have fallen have been restored speedily 8 ; and some after a lapse of timeh: but thousands have fallen to rise no more.
of declension is for the most part rapid. The heart becomes averse to holy duties: from secret neglects proceeds a backwardness to social conference and public ordinances. The conscience is gradually weakened, till it ceases to perform its office, or speaks in so faint a voice, that it is scarcely heard. The besetting sin then gains an entire ascendant, and leads him captive; till at last, God, filled with indignation against the base apostate, "gives him up to a reprobate mind',” and either cuts him off by a sudden strokek, or leaves him to protract a miserable existence, merely that he may bear testimony against his own impieties, and proclaim to those around him the foretastes which he already feels of his eternal destiny?
Such examples we have seen m: what a mercy it is that we ourselves, instead of being warned by others, are not made a warning to others !]
4. What occasion we have given to God to let us fall
[Let us call to mind our own backslidings; our secret neglects; our tamperings with temptations; our indulgence of evil passions; our vain-confident presumption: is it not wonderful that God has not long since said respecting us, “ Let him alone" :" “ My Spirit shall strive with him no longero:” “ He likes not to retain God in his knowledge; so I will give him upp?”]
If we be convinced of these things, let us proceed to consider, II. The duty of those who experience this mercy,
c Tit. i. 11. 2 Tim. ii. 18. d 2 Tim. i. 15. and iv. 16. Matt. xxvi. 73, 74. e Matt. xiii. 22. 2 Tim. iv. 10. f 1 Tim. v. 11,12. 2 Sam. xi. 4. & John xxi. 15–17.
h 2 Sam. xii. 13. i Ps. Ixxxi. 11, 12.
k Prov. xxix. 1. Acts v. 5, 10. 1 Eccl. v. 17. with Prov. xiv. 32.
m This was preached on occasion of a person that had made a profession of religion, going back to drunkenness, and dying in a drunken fit. See other examples, 1 Cor. x. 6—11. n Hos, iv. 17. o Gen. vi. 3.
p Rom, i. 28.
There can be no doubt on this subject. If our souls have been upheld in life, we should, 1. Acknowledge God in our steadfastness
[" Who is it that has made us to differ" from others ? ? Have we by nature any more strength than they? or have we of ourselves a more abundant measure of goodness ? No: it is “ by the grace of God we are what we are:" we have been as much indebted to his protecting hand, as a new-born infant is to its mother's care. We should then acknowledge, that “of him our fruit is found®;" that “it is he who hath wrought us to the self-same thing t;" and that to him belongs all the glory of our stability":] 2. Bless and adore him for his great goodness
[It is not by cold acknowledgments merely that we are to requite the Lord, but by fervent and devout thanksgivings. It is not possible for language adequately to express the obligations we owe to him: and therefore we should call upon "all that is within us to bless his holy name."
Nor should we be content with doing this ourselves : we should invite the whole creation, as it were, to join us. We should labour to stimulate all to love and serve him; and to make his name known to the very ends of the earth*.
It is in this way that we should endeavour at least, as much as in us lies, to "render unto the Lord according to the benefits" he has conferred upon us.] 3. Walk humbly and carefully before him
[We must not presume upon the kindness of our God, or imagine, that, because we have been upheld hitherto, we are in no danger of falling: if we had attained the stability of St. Paul himself
, “ we must keep our body under, and bring it into subjection, lest we become cast-aways ourselvesy." To neglect this, were to tempt God. God has warned us plainly, that “ he will be with us no longer than we continue with him, but that if we forsake him, he will forsake us ?." We therefore must not be high-minded, but fear; and take heed lest we fall b; and “watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation If we would have our God to keep us, we must be careful to " keep ourselvesd.” We must look at the fearful examples that are before
9 1 Cor. iv. 7. r 1 Cor. xy. 10. s Hos. xiv. 8. Isai. xxvi, 12. t 2 Cor. v. 5.
u Ps. lxii. 8. and xxvi. 12. x Isai. xii. 4–6. or xlii. 10–12. See also the text,
1 Cor. ix. 27. z 2 Chron. xv. 2. a 1 Cor. x. 12. b Rom. xi. 20.
c Matt. xxvi. 41. d ver. 18. with Jude, ver. 20, 21.
our eyes, and tremble lest we ourselves become similar monuments of instability, and of God's deserved wrath.] 4. Commit ourselves continually to him-.
[God has engaged to “keep the feet of his saints';” and directed us to commit ourselves to him for that purpose ; and assured us, that, if we do so, “ he will establish our goingsh." We should commend ourselves therefore to his gracious care and protection. We should say with David, "Hold thou up my goings in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not i:” “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe k.” To this we are encouraged by our past experience of his mercy: we may from the kindness already shewn us, safely infer the continuance of it to our souls? If we can say, “ He hath delivered," we may properly add, " In whom we trust that he will yet deliver us m."] But here arise two important QUESTIONS, which it is
of the utmost importance to resolve1. Are our souls really alive to God?
[In vain shall we speak of having "our souls upheld in life,” if they have never yet been quickened from the dead. Let us then seriously, and as in the presence of God, inquire, Whether we have been made partakers of a new and living principle, whereby we have been enabled to die unto sin, and to live unto God? Let us not mistake a mere approbation of religion for real regeneration : we must have become new creatures, having new views, new desires, new pursuits, and new prospects, if we have been truly born again » : and if this change have not been wrought within us, we are yet in our natural and unconverted state; we may a name to live, but are really dead” before God: notwithstanding we may have been preserved from any flagrant violation of our duty, we are yet "dead in trespasses and sins."]
2. Supposing that we are on the whole alive to God, have“ our feet really been kept from falling ?”
[We must ascertain this fact, before we can cordially thank God for it. And is it indeed true of all who profess religion amongst us, that they have been kept? Have none of us acted unworthy of our high calling ? Has there been nothing in our tempers, nothing in our worldly transactions, inconsistent with our profession? Or, supposing our outward conduct to have been unimpeachable, have there been no secret sins,
e Luke xvii. 32. Heb. iv. 11.
1 Ps. lvi. 13. n 2 Cor. v. 17.
f 1 Sam. ii. 9. i Ps. xvii. 5. m 2 Cor. i. 10.
which we have reason to mourn over; nothing for which we ought to blush and be confounded before God? Perhaps, if we look inward, we shall find more occasion to bewail our falls, than to bless our God for having kept us from falling.
But, if conscience testify that we have indeed walked uprightly before God, then let us imitate the example in the text, and not only bless and magnify him ourselves, but endeavour also to “make the voice of his praise to be heard” throughout the world.]
ANSWERS TO PRAYER ACKNOWLEDGED. Ps. Ixvi. 16. Come and hear, all ye that fear God! and I will
declare what he hath done for my soul. ANY person of benevolence who should have discovered an antidote, or remedy, to a very fatal disorder, would feel happy in communicating information respecting it, wherever such knowledge was required. If indeed great gain would accrue to him by concealment, we must concede to him the right of procuring to himself the advantages to which his superior knowledge has entitled him : but where the very act of communicating information will enrich, rather than impoverish, the instructor, and he himself will be made a gainer by imparting, he would be highly criminal if he withheld from the world the blessings he was enabled to confer. This is invariably the case in things pertaining to the soul : and hence we may expect to find all who have been taught of God, ready and willing to impart to others the benefits they have received. The early Apostles, Andrew and Philip, no sooner found the Messiah, than they sought to bring their brethren, Peter and Nathanael, to an acquaintance with him. And the Samaritan woman was no sooner convinced herself of the Messiahship of Jesus, than she went to invite all the men of her city to come and see the person, , whom she believed to be the Christ. Thus it was with David: he communed much with God: he learned much from God: he was favoured with the richest communications which God himself could bestow. But he would not keep these things to himself: he hoped, by a free communication with pious characters, to bring them to a participation of all that he himself enjoyed: and therefore, filled with divine philanthropy, he sent out, as it were, this general invitation, “ Come and hear, all ye that fear God; and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.”
a This has been done in reference to vaccination by the benevolent Dr. Jenner.
b John i. 40, 45. c John iv. 28, 29.
In discoursing on these words, we will shew, I. What God had done for his soul
David, as we are told in the foregoing context, had been involved in many troubles, from which nothing but a Divine interposition could have delivered himų. But we must not confine the subject to temporal deliverances : he speaks of something which God had done for “ his soul;” and more particularly specifies, that God “ had not turned away his mercy from himo;” and makes that the peculiar ground of his praise and thanksgiving. We observe then that God had vouchsafed to him, 1. The pardon of his sins
[This would have been an exceedingly rich mercy, even if David had never fallen from his former integrity. But, if we view the great enormities committed by him in the matter of Uriah, we see good reason why he should magnify God's mercy beyond any other of the sons of men. Whether this psalm was written prior, or subsequent to his fall, we know not; and therefore we forbear to notice that as an aggravation of his guilt, or as enhancing the mercy vouchsafed to him. As a man, he was a sinner from his mother's womb: and the most perfect of men could no more stand than the vilest, if God should enter into judgment with him, and mark in him all that had been done amiss. David was sensible of this, and acknowledged it in these expressive terms; “ I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart ; and I will glorify thy name for evermore: for great is thy mercy towards me; and thou hast delivered my soul from the lowest hell?." Let us be sensible, how much we also stand in need of mercy; and let us seek it as that without which our souls must for ever perish : or, if we
e ver. 20.
f Ps. lxxxvi, 12, 13.