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LIFE IN GOD'S FAVOUR. .
PSALM Xxx. 5.
-In his favour is life.
The title of this psalm is, “ A psalm and song, at the dedication of the house of David.” What this dedication means, or with what ceremonies it was performed, or what house it was that was dedicated, I shall not decide ; or to what time it refers, whether his first inhabiting of his house, or re-possession after Absalom's defiling it, I shall not here determine. The psalm itself may well be called, A divine miscellany of christian experiences; I shall enumerate a few of them.
1. David's exalting God in praises, who had elevated him in mercy, verse 1, “I will extol thee, O Lord, for thou hast lifted me up.” A good man advanced by God, will highly advance God: the higher our state is, the more elevated must be our praises : when God magnifies us, the more we should glorify God. This is a Christian's duty and practice.
2. David's cry, and God's gracious assistance, verse
2, “ I have cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me." Cheap medicine! it was but a mournful complaint, and God came with a healing hand. God is a ready and successful physician. Pardoning grace healed his soul; a merciful providence healed his body, estate, and name.
3. David's resurrection from the grave, and preservation from the pit, verse 3: he was at the grave's mouth, or in a grave of banishment, but brought back; and as to soul-terrors, near the pit of hell by despair or temptations, but prevented.* The grave of temporal afflictions, and the pit of eternal torments may be waiting for the saints, and they may be wonderfully snatched out of both. How oft is there but a step betwixt them and death really, and in their apprehension ?
4. David's warm heart in God's praises, wherein he not only employs himself, but all God's people to help him in praising God, verse 4, “ Sing unto the Lord, o ye saints of his.” A praying soul will be a praising soul; the more God's people pray, the more occasion have they for praise, and an individual believer cannot lift up God's praise high enough, a concert is fittest in this music: hence heaven is the proper place of praise, where that blessed choir of saints and angels will for ever echo forth God's glory. Holy souls are only fit to celebrate the memory of his holiness.
5. David's tasting both wrath and love in a short space, verse 5, “ His anger is but a moment," that is, endureth for a short space, but there are quick returns of favour. Wrath is wont to come before love, death precedes life, a storm before a calm ; a strong wind, earthquake, and fire go before the still small voice;t the
* Sepulchrum, fovea, vel infernum.
law before the gospel ; John the Baptist before our Saviour, that God's children may by a night of darkness be prepared for, and learn to prize a morning of light.
6. David's carnal confidence in a prosperous state, verse 6, “In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved,” that is, thus I talked with myself when I was in abundance, health, and quietness. O deceitful heart ! A healthful man thinks not of sickness.* God built him a house, he builds himself a castle, but it is in the air. A deceitful heart allures a good man into a fool's paradise. When things go well, security kills us ; when God shines in his transfiguring mount, we wi build tabernacles, but observe it, this is David's mount which stood through God's favour.
7. David's sudden reverse, verse 7, “Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.” Self-mounted, soon dismounted, when a frown came into God's brow, it soured all my pleasure. The turning away of God's face overturns the soul's hopes and joys, God's hand is at the foot of our mountain, and if his countenance frown, and he withdraw his supporting hand, our mount falls into the valley of discouragement, if not despair; we are mere dependents.
8. David's importunate expostulation, verse 8—10, “I cried to thee 0. Lord :”—How often do God's children, like our volatile children, change their note, alter their tune? Singing and sighing are near neighbours. They say the limner can with one dash of his pencil turn a laughing into a weeping face: thus doth God; David was erewhile so full of joy that he calls all the saints to help him in praise, now he musters up all his energies to complain, pray, and expostulate. Prayer is the language of grief, as praise is of joy. 9. David's comfortable transition, verse 11, his
* In abundantia tranquillitatis. VOL. III.
mourning is turned into dancing, sackcloth into gladness; a sudden and wonderful change, bitter turned into sweet, darkness into light, hell into heaven. O what can God do, and what strange effects doth heartjoy produce! The man that was grovelling upon the earth is now raised up, and exults in the sprightly movements of a cheerful dance,* as one set at liberty out of the restraint and darkness of a troublesome prison, he puts off his filthy rags, or rather, strait and coarse coat of sackcloth, and is clothed with the robe of righteousness, and garments of salvation. O what a metamorphosis !
10. David's due sense of God's chief end and design in all this, verse 12, “To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee." His glory is the best thing he hath, his tongue, say some, his soul, say others ; I say both soul and body must join to celebrate God's praises. Nor shall we repent of sounding God's praise : the more we praise God, the more occasions of praise God will minister to us “But I will hope continually, and will yet praise thee more and more.
Thus much for the context. In all this we may discern what ups and downs God's servants are subject to in this weary world, like a seaman's tossing, or a traveller's road that lies up hill and down. And what variety of affections are excited upon several occasions in the hearts of God's children, joy and sorrow, fear and boldness, desire and aversion, take their turns, and act their several parts in a Christian's breast.
But to come to the words, in which we have night and day, thunder and lightning, the dark and the bright side of a Christian's cloud, law and gospel, wrath and love set opposite to each other, and compared, wherein consider:
* In chorum, i. e. gaudium solenne intimum ac maximum.
First, How the words are introduced.
1. The words come in as a satisfying answer to a tacit objection thus formed : Alas, saith the gracious soul, how should I help in this blessed duty of praise, as is required, verse 4, for alas ! I feel God's anger upon me, I lie under tokens of displeasure, how can I sing and give thanks ?
(1.) He answers this by a concession, be it so, yet it is fit there should be an interchanging succession of joy and sorrow, as of day and night.
(2.) Sorrow like an unwelcome guest will lodge all night, but a blessed morning is coming, which will dispel the thick clouds of a sad night.
(3.) It is but a short night, his anger endureth but a moinent, it is but short, though sharp; it will not be always, nor long.
(4.) It is worth waiting for, his favour will recompense poor afflicted expectants, for in his favour is life.
2. The comparison lies, betwixt God's wrath and his favour, in reference to the nature and duration of both.
(1). In the nature, properties, and effects. God's wrath begets night, that is, sorrow, sadness; for night in scripture oft imports sorrow. How can the afflicted soul refrain from weeping sore in the night,* when the sun of righteousness is withdrawn. If the wrath of a king be as messengers of death, surely God's wrath must be death to the soul; but now in God's favour there is life; a man, a believer lives by the bright shining of God's face.
(2.) They are compared in their duration. God's wrath is but for a moment, for a night, that is, there
* Lam. i. 2.