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the character of God's people. Those only are truly his, who come to him through Christ, and embrace the salvation offered them in the Gospel, and love that Saviour who has bought them with his blood. To them “ Christ is precious;" and their privilege is to live in the daily experience, 1. Of sacred joy
[Truly they have cause to rejoice. If it were only that they hear of a Saviour, that would be ground enough for joy: but to have a view of him in his mediatorial office, and to hope that they have obtained an interest in him, is a reason for "rejoicing in him with joy unspeakable and glorified.” Hence the Apostle enjoins it upon us as a duty: “Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice.” “Rejoice evermore.” It surely does not become a redeemed soul to be cast down with despondency; and still less to be in a state of stupid insensibility. He should be sensible of the mercies vouchsafed unto him, and should “serve his God with gladness and joyfulness of heart."] 2. Of grateful adoration
[The Christian's joy should not terminate on the benefits he has received, or on his own personal interest in them, so much as on his God and Saviour, from whom he has received them. This distinction I conceive to be of considerable importance: for joy may be excited by novelty, and may be little more than an ebullition of the animal spirits arising from a new hope kindled in the soul : whereas, when it arises rather from a contemplation of the Saviour's love, it is of a more refined quality, more humble, more tender, more modest, more reserved. “ The children of Zion should be joyful in their King;" and, instead of arrogating any thing to themselves, should say continually, “Let God be magnified.” Such was Mary's joy, when she was honoured to be the means of bringing forth the Saviour of the world: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” The two kinds of joy, as considered apart, may be compared with fruit in its earlier or its more matured state.
The unripe peach, for instance, is brilliant in its hues; but, whilst it is beauteous to the eye, it is crude and sour to the taste: whereas that which is of a more mellowed tint, obscured perhaps by the foliage under which it hangs, will approve itself by its susceptibility of impression from the slightest touch, and the richness of its flavour when submitted to the taste. Such as this latter will be found the joys of heaven. The glorified saints, yea, and the angels too, all fall upon their faces before the throne of God, whilst yet with all their powers they sing
forth the praises “ of God and of the Lamb." They are filled, indeed, with a sense of the benefits which they enjoy : but they are lost in wonder whilst beholding with unveiled face the glories of their God.
Such is the frame which the saints are privileged to enjoy on earth: they should " rejoice and be glad in the Lord;" but at the same time they should be saying continually, “ Let God be magnified."]
But, as all do not live in the enjoyment of this frame, I will, II. Give some directions to those who have not yet
been able to attain itWe see, from David's own experience, that this joy is not universal amongst the saints of God. There are times and seasons when, from a variety of causes, the mind of a pious person may be depressed : and when this occurs, I would say to the drooping soul, Follow the example of David in our text : 1. Lie low before God in the deepest humiliation
["I am poor and needy," was the confession of that holy man, the man after God's own heart. And well does the same language become us all. They who know most of themselves, will be the most ready to acknowledge that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” And never are we in a frame more pleasing and acceptable to God, than when we abase ourselves before him in dust and ashes. We are told, that “ the broken and contrite heart God will not despise;" nay more, that he will select, for his more immediate and delightful habitation, the humble and contrite soula. Then shall we be prepared to exalt our God, when we feel disposed to humble and abase ourselves.]
2. Importune him, with all earnestness, to grant you this frame
[There is a holy impatience, which God approves; not indeed an impatience connected with murmuring, but that which arises from intensity of desire. This feeling you may carry to its utmost possible extent, “ panting after God, even as the hart after the water-brooks." And under this feeling, you may cry with a boldness almost bordering on presumption, “ Řeturn to me, O Lord; make haste unto me: 0 Lord, make no tarrying.” We may go farther still; and
with David, “ Awake ; Why sleepest thou? pluck thy hand out of thy bosom. Arise, and plead thine own cause b.” Such is the
a Isai. lvii. 15. b Ps. xliv. 23. and lxxiv. 11, 22.
importunity recommended to us in the parable of the unjust judge. The widow, purely by the urgency of her petitions, prevailed over one who cared not either for God or man. * And shall not God avenge his own elect, who cry day and night unto him, though he bear long with them? I tell
you, that he will avenge them speedily." All who wrestle, like Jacob, in supplication with God, shall assuredly be partakers of his success. ]
3. Plead with him your entire dependence on his power and grace
[“ Make haste unto me, O God: Thou art my help and my deliverer : O Lord, make no tarrying." This is a plea which God, if I may so express myself, cannot withstand. If he withhold from us the light of his countenance, it is in order to make us more simple in our dependence on him: and when we renounce every other help or hope, and trust in him with our whole hearts, then are we as sure of succour as if it had already arrived : " for his goings forth are prepared as the morning; and He shall come to us as the rain, as the latter and the former rain upon the earth.” They that trust in the Lord are even as Mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for everd."] APPLICATION
1. See that the Christian's character, Brethren, be yours
[Here is an easy test whereby to try yourselves: Are you indeed seeking after God? and are you truly lovers of his salvation? Nothing is easier to ascertain than this. The lovers of pleasure, of riches, and of honour, plainly manifest their character : you may see it in the disposition of their minds, and in the daily habit of their lives. They use the means which are suited to their respective ends. I blame not them for this: for it is not the pursuit of earthly things, but the inordinate pursuit of them, that is displeasing to God. But where the world is sought only in a legitimate way, the means are used in order to the end: no man expects to reap where he has not sowed. Are you then using the means of salvation, in daily prayer to God, in an earnest application to the Saviour, and in a diligent performance of every known duty? You may easily ascertain your true character, if you will try yourselves by this test: and therefore to every one of you I
yourselves, whether ye be in the faith: try your own selves.") 2. See that ye walk worthy of that character
[Be not content to live without a real enjoyment of the divine presence. The lukewarm are in some respects more c Hos. vi. 3.
d Ps. cxxy. 1.
odious to God than those who are altogether destitute of any religion: because, in professing themselves the Lord's people, they bring nothing but disgrace upon him by their want of zeal and love. I say to you, Brethren, and I say it from God himself, “ Be either cold or hot.” If God be not worthy to be loved and served, cast off his service altogether: but if he be worthy, then love and serve him with your whole hearts. It is in this way only that you can attain any joy in the Lord. It is in this way only that you can gain such discoveries of his love, as shall constrain you to abound in grateful adoration and thanksgiving. In the want of joy, you may indeed be thankful, if you can mourn and weep: but God forbid that you should be satisfied with such low attainments as will leave you destitute of all comfort in religion. You are here to prepare for glory: you are here to anticipate the glory that awaits you: you are here, both in word and deed, to be magnifying the Lord, in some measure as he is magnified in heaven. Aspire, then, to this state, which is recommended in
text: “ Let all those that seek the Lord rejoice and be glad in him: and let all such as love his salvation, say continually, The Lord be magnified!"]
GOD A HABITATION FOR HIS PEOPLE. Ps. lxxi. 3. Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may
continually resort. NO one can enter into the spirit of David's psalms, unless he himself have been sorely persecuted and severely tried. A very great number of the Psalms were written under circumstances of deep affliction; and record either the prayers of David for protection from his enemies, or his thanksgivings for deliverance from them. This psalm was written when David, far advanced in life, was driven from his throne by his son Absalom, and was in the most imminent danger of falling by the hands of his blood-thirsty pursuers. But as in early life, when menaced by Saul, he had besought the Lord, saying, “Bow down thine ear to me; deliver me speedily: be thou my strong rock, for an house of defence to save me*;” so now, in nearly the same terms, he repeats the cry: “In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust: let me never be
a Ps. xxxi. 1, 2.
put to confusion. Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape : incline thine ear to me, and save me. Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort." Now though, through the goodness of God, we are not brought into such imminent perils as David, yet have we occasion to adopt his language, and to seek in God that protection which no created power can afford.
Let us, in discoursing on his words, consider, I. The sentiment propounded
Accustomed as we are to hear the language of the Psalms, we pass by, without any particular notice, expressions which, if duly considered, will appear truly wonderful. How extraordinary is the idea, for instance, of making Jehovah, the Creator of heaven and earth, “our habitation !” Contemplate, I pray you,
1. The condescension of God in suffering himself to be so addressed
[Consider, for a moment, what a habitation is. Whether it be greater or less in point of magnificence or strength, if it be ours, we have access to it as our own ; we gain a ready admission to it at all seasons; we expect to find in it all the accommodations which our necessities require ; we regard every chamber of it as destined for our use; we shut the door against every unwelcome intruder; and whatever storms may rage without, we lie down to rest in it, in perfect peace and safety. If we superadd the idea of a fortress, we deride the vain attempts of our enemies, and defy all the power that can be brought against us. Now, think of God as revealing himself to us under such an image; and permitting every sinner in the universe, who will but enter in by Christ as the door, to take to himself this mansion as his own. Truly, if God himself had not authorised such a representation of his character, we should have been ready to denounce it as blasphemy. That the Most High God should give even to the vilest of the human race such intimate access unto himself, seems to be perfectly incredible. Even an earthly monarch could not endure such humiliation as this: and yet the God of heaven and earth feels it to be not unworthy of him. Truly, I say again, this condescension far exceeds all that could ever have entered into the mind of man to conceive, if the voice of inspiration itself