By Charles Bridges
Verse 16. I will delight myself in Your statutes: I will not forget Your word.
As delight quickens to meditation, so does the practical habit of meditation strengthen the principle of delight. In the enjoyment of this delight, the Christian (however small his attainments may be) would rather live and die, than in the pursuit, and even in the possession, of the most satisfying pleasures of a vain and empty world. But if it be a real "delight in the Lord's statutes," it will be universal--when they probe the secret lurking-places within, and draw out to the full light the hidden indulgences of a heart that is yet carnal; when they call for the entire crucifixion of every corrupt inclination, and the unreserved surrender of all to the self-denying service of our God. This spirit is very different from the delight of the hypocrite, which is rather to "know," than to do, the "ways of his God;" and, therefore, who is satisfied with outward conformity, with little or no desire to "understand the errors" of his heart, that he might be "cleansed from secret faults." The spring of our obedience will therefore prove its sincerity; and the reality of our love will be manifested by its fruitfulness and active cheerfulness in our appointed sphere of duty.
We may also observe here an evidence of adoption. Obedience is not a burden, but a delight. The servant may perform the statutes of God; but it is only the son who "delights in them." But what--we may ask--is the spring of adoption? It is "the Spirit of the Son sent into our hearts, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." It is because we are at peace with God through Jesus Christ; because the statutes are the message of reconciliation through Him, that they become delightful to those, who are partakers of this great salvation. "The spirit of adoption," therefore, as the principle of delight, is the spring of acceptable obedience in the Lord's service.
And surely those who are serving Him in this happy filial walk, are not likely to "forget His word." As the eye is continually turned to the object of its affection, so the eye of the soul, that has been fixed with delight on the ways of God, will be habitually resting upon them. As one of the wise heathens observed--'I never yet heard of a covetous old man, who had forgotten where he had buried his treasure.' The reason is abundantly evident. His heart is in it. And this explains the forgetfulness of the ungodly or the formalist. They have no delight in the statutes. And who is not glad to forget what is distasteful? But if we "have tasted that the Lord is gracious"--if we have found a treasure "in the way of His testimonies"--we cannot forget the sweetness of the experience, or where to go to refresh ourselves with the repetition of it.
Forgetfulness of the word is, however, to the Christian, a source of continual complaint, and sometimes also of most distressing temptation. Not that there is always a real charge of guilt upon the conscience. For, as Thomas Boston somewhat quaintly observes--'Grace makes a good heart-memory, even where there is no good head-memory.' But means must be used, and helps may be suggested. Watchfulness against the influence of the world is of the first importance. How much of the good seed is choked by the springing thorns! If our hearts are ever refreshed with spiritual delight, we should be as cautious of an uncalled-for advance into the world, as of exposing an invalid's susceptible frame to a damp or an unhealthy atmosphere. Whatever warmth has been kindled in spiritual duties, may be chilled by one moment's unwary rush into an unkindly climate.
We would also recommend increasing attention to the word, as the means of its preservation--the exercise of "faith," without which it will "not profit"--the active habit of love, bringing with it a more habitual interest in the statutes--all accompanied with unceasing prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit, made the express subject of promise for this purpose. Under His heavenly teaching and recollection, what delight will be found in the statutes! what blessed remembrance of His word! And what a happy spirit is this delight and remembrance of the word--the affections glowing--the memory pondering--the presence and manifestation of truth keeping the heart in close communion with God! "O Lord God, keep this forever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of Your people, and prepare their hearts unto You."
Verse 17. Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live, and keep Your word.
This prayer appears to have been much upon David's heart, and in its substance and object it is again repeated. Nor does he fail to acknowledge the answer to it. The believer, like David, is a man of large expectations. As regards himself--his own daily provocations and backslidings--he cannot stand upon his own ground. But when he brings with him the name, the blood, the intercession of Jesus; as soon could God deny His own beloved Son, as resist the supplication of those who present this all-prevailing plea. Not only so, but--is He not His own gift to His children, as the pledge of every other gift? And what other pledge can they need, to encourage them to draw near with the largest desire, and the most heavenly expectation? We may, indeed, be too bold in our manner of approach to God; but we cannot be too bold in our expectations from Him. Standing as we do upon such high and sure ground, it is equally dishonorable to Him, and impoverishing to ourselves, to ask only a little of Him. Rather let us, according to His own command, "open our mouths wide; and He will fill them." Rather let us expect that He will deal--not only favorably--but bountifully with His servants--that, as "our God, He will supply all our need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus."
And, indeed, the most experienced believer cannot forget, that he is in himself still the same poor, weak, empty, helpless creature as at first. Nothing, therefore, short of a bountiful supply can answer his continual neediness. And such a supply is always at hand. The act of prayer increases the power to pray. The throne of grace is a well, which no power or malice of the Philistines can stop up. We need not say, "We have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep." Faith will enable us "with joy to draw out of this well of salvation." Let us bring our empty vessels, until "there is not a vessel more." Yes--believer--there is indeed a bountiful supply of grace--of every kind--suited to every need--grace to pardon--grace to quicken--grace to bless. Oh! see, then, that you come not empty away. Remember--who it is that pleads before the throne. Remember--that the grace you need is in His hand. From eternity He foreknew your case. He laid your portion by. He has kept it for the time of need; and now He only waits for an empty vessel, into which to pour His supply. He is ready to show you, how infinitely His grace exceeds all thoughts--all prayers--all desires--all praises.
And say--what has been the fruit of your pleading, waiting expectancy at "the throne of grace?" Have you not returned thence with a fresh spring of devotedness in His service, with every selfish thought forgotten in the desire, that you "may live, and keep His word?" Nothing touched or moved your reluctant heart, but the apprehension of bountiful redeeming love. This makes obedience easy--delightful--natural--in a manner unavoidable. It "constrains" to it. The man now lives--not the animal life of appetite--not the sensual life of vanity and pleasure--but the only life that deserves the name. He lives singly, supremely "to Him who died for him, and rose again." He "lives, and keeps His word." His motto and character now is, "To me to live is Christ." He values life only by his opportunities of serving his God. The first archangel knows not a higher object of existence. And how encouraging the reflection, that in this glorious object the lowest servant in the household of God is an equal participant with the most blessed inhabitant of heaven!
Verse 18. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law.
In order to keep God's word, must we not pray to understand it? What then is the prayer? Not--give me a plainer Bible--but open my eyes to know my Bible. Not--show me some new revelations beside the law--but make me behold the wonders of the law. David had acquired in the Divine school "more understanding than all his teachers;" yet he ever comes to his God under a deep sense of his blindness. Indeed those who have been best and longest taught, are always the most ready to "sit at the feet of Jesus," as if they had everything to learn. It is an unspeakable mercy to know a little, and at the same time to feel that it is only a little. We shall then be longing to know more, and yet anxious to know nothing, except as we are taught of God.
There are indeed in God's law things so wondrous, that "the angels desire to look into them." The exhibition of the scheme of redemption is in itself a world of wonders. The display of justice exercised in the way of mercy, and of mercy glorified in the exercise of justice, is a wonder, that must fill the intelligent universe of God with everlasting astonishment. And yet these "wondrous things" are hidden from multitudes, who should be most deeply interested in the knowledge of them. They are "hidden," not only from the ignorant and unconcerned, but "from the wise and prudent; and revealed" only "to babes"--to those who practically acknowledge that important truth, that a man "can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven." External knowledge is like the child spelling the letters without any apprehension of the meaning. It is like reading a large and clear print with a thick veil before our eyes. Oh! how needful then is the prayer--'Unveil;', "Open my eyes:" let the veil be taken away from the law, that I may understand it; and from my heart, that I may receive it!
But do not even Christians often find the word of God to be as a sealed book? They go through their accustomed portion, without gaining any increasing acquaintance with its light, life, and power, and without any distinct application of its contents to their hearts. And thus it must be, whenever reading has been unaccompanied with prayer for Divine influence. For we not only need to have our "eyes opened to behold" fresh wonders, but also to give a more spiritual and transforming perception of those wonders, which we have already beheld.
But are we conscious of our blindness? Then let us hear the counsel of our Lord, that we "anoint our eyes with eye-salve, that we may see." The recollection of the promises of Divine teaching is fraught with encouragement. The Spirit is freely and abundantly promised in this very character, as "the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God." If, therefore, we desire a clearer insight into these "wondrous things" of revelation--if we would behold the glorious beauty of our Immanuel--if we would comprehend something more of the immeasurable extent of that love, with which "God so loved the world, as to give His only-begotten Son," and of that equally incomprehensible love, which moved that Son so cheerfully to undertake our cause--we must make daily, hourly use of this important petition, "Open my eyes!"
Verse 19. I am a stranger in the earth: hide not Your commandments from me.
Such is the condition of the child of God--a stranger in the earth! This confession, however, from a solitary wanderer would have had little comparative meaning. But in the mouth of one, who was probably surrounded with every sort of worldly enjoyment, it shows at once the vanity of ''earth's best joys," and the heavenly tendency of the religion of the Bible. This has been ever the character, confession, and glory of the Lord's people. We "would not live always;" and gladly do we hear the warning voice, that reminds us to "arise and depart, for this is not our rest." And was not this especially the character, not of David only, but of David's Lord? Born at an inn-- "having nowhere to lay His head"--suffering hunger--subsisting upon alms--neglected by His own--He "looked for some to take pity, but there was none, and for His comforters, but He found none"--might He not justly take up the confession, "I am a stranger in the earth?"
This verse exhibits the Christian in many most interesting points of view; distant from his proper home--without a fixed residence--with no particular interest in the world--and submitting to all the inconveniences of a stranger on his journey homewards. Such is his state!
And the word of God includes all that he needs--a guide, a guard, a companion--to direct, secure, and cheer his way. "When you go, it shall lead you; when you sleep, it shall keep you; and when you awake, it shall talk with you." Most suitable then is the stranger's prayer, "hide not Your commandments from me." Acquaintance with the word of God supplies the place of friends and counselors. It furnishes light, joy, strength, food, armor, and whatever else he may need on his way homewards.
The pilgrim-spirit is the pulse of the soul. All of us are traveling to eternity. The worldling is at home in the earth--a pilgrim only by restraint. His heart would say, "It is good for me to be here. Let God dispose of heaven at His pleasure. I am content to have my "portion in this life." The child of God is a stranger in the earth. Heaven is the country of his birth. His kindred--his inheritance--his Savior--his hope--his home--all is there. He is "a citizen of no insignificant city," of "the heavenly Jerusalem." He is therefore a pilgrim in affection, no less than in character. How cheering is the thought, that "here we have no continuing city," if in heart and soul we are "seeking one to come!"
We know, indeed, that we cannot--we would not--call this world our home, and that it is far better to be without it, than to have our portion in it. But do we never feel at home in the earth, thus forgetting our proper character, and our eternal prospects? Do we always live, speak, and act as "strangers in the earth;" in the midst of earthly enjoyments, sitting loose to them, as if our treasure was in heaven? Does our conversation in the society of the world savor of the home, where we profess to be going? Is the world gaining ascendancy in our affection? Let the cross of Calvary be the object of our daily contemplation--the ground of our constant "glorying;" and the world will then be to us as a "crucified" object.
And lastly, let us not forget, that we are looking forward, and making a progress towards a world, where none are strangers--where all are children of one family, dwelling in one eternal home. "In our Father's house," said our gracious Head, "are many mansions: I go to prepare a place for you."
Verse 20. My soul breaks for the longing that it has unto Your judgments at all times.
This intense desire and affection is the Christian's answer to his prayers--Open my eyes--Hide not Your commandments from me. For who that is conversant with this blessed revelation but longs to be filled with it? In contrasting this glow with the church of Laodicea, under a brighter dispensation, "neither cold nor hot" which state, we may ask, most nearly resembles our own? Observe also, not only the fervor, but the steady uniformity, of this religion. It was not a rapture, but a habit; constant and uniform; "at all times." With us such enjoyments are too often favored seasons, happy moments; alas! only moments--why not days, and months, and years? The object of our desires is an inexhaustible spring. The longing of the soul can never over-reach its object. The cherished desire, therefore, will become the established habit--the element in which the child of God lives and thrives.
This uniformity is the most satisfactory test of our profession. Often are the judgments prized in affliction, when all other resources fail: or under a pang of conscience when the terror of the Lord is frowning upon the sinner. But the excitement wears off, and the heart returns to its hardness. Often also the impulse of novelty gives a strong but temporary impression. This is very different from the Christian, whose study is stretching out its desires at all times; finding the judgments a cordial or a discipline, a support or a preservation, as his need may require.
Not less important is this habit, as the test of the soul's prosperity. We are not satisfied with occasional fellowship with a beloved friend. His society is the life of our life. We seek him in his own ways, where he is accustomed to resort. We feel the blank of his absence. We look out for his return with joyous anticipation.
Now, is this the picture of our soul's longing for communion with Jesus? We may feel His loss, should the stated seasons of prayer fail in bringing Him near to us. But do we long for Him at all times? Do we "wait for Him in the way of His judgments," where He is usually found? And when spiritual exercises are necessarily exchanged for the occupations of the world, do we seize the leisure moment to catch a word--a glimpse--a look? Is not the heart silent with shame in the recollection of the cold habit of external or occasional duty?
But why this low ebbing of spiritual desire? Do we live near to the throne of grace? Have we not neglected prayer for the influence of the Spirit? Have we not indulged a light, vain, and worldly spirit, than which nothing more tends to wither the growth of vital religion? Or have not the workings of unbelief been too faintly resisted? This of itself will account for much of our dullness; since the rule of the kingdom of grace is, "According to your faith be it unto you." Grace is, indeed, an insatiable principle. Enjoyment, instead of satisfying, only serves to sharpen the appetite. Yet if we are content to live at a low rate, there will be no sensible interest in the consolation of the Gospel. We know, desire, and are satisfied with little; and, therefore, we enjoy but little. We live as borderers on the land, instead of bearing our testimony: "Surely it flows with milk and honey; and this is the fruit of it." This is not the thriving, the cheerfulness, the adorning of the Gospel. It is rather the obscuring of the glory of our Christian profession, and of the happiness of its attendant privileges.
Let not the fervor of desire here expressed be conceived to be out of reach; nor let it be expected in the way of some sudden manifestation or excitement. Rather let us look for it in a patient, humble, and persevering waiting upon the Lord. We may have still to complain of coldness and wanderings. Yet strength to wait will be imperceptibly given: faith will be sustained for the conflict; and thus "our souls will make their boast in the Lord," even though an excited flow of enjoyment should be withheld. One desire will, however, tread upon another, increasing in fullness, as the grand object is nearer our grasp.
At all events, let us beware of resting satisfied with the confession of our lukewarmness to our fellow-creatures, without "pouring out our heart before the Lord." There is a fullness of grace in our glorious Head to "strengthen the things which remain, which are ready to die," as well as at the beginning to "quicken" us when "dead in trespasses and sins." Abundant, also--are the promises and encouragements to poor, dry, barren souls, "I will heal their backslidings; I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon." For what purpose are promises such as these given, but that they may be "arguments," with which to "fill our mouth," when in the contrition of faith we again venture to "order our cause before God?" And "will He plead against us with His great power?" No! but "He will put His strength in us;" and we shall yet again "run the way of His commandments" with an enlarged heart.
Verse 21. You have rebuked the proud that are cursed, which err from Your commandments.
Let the histories of Cain, Pharaoh, Haman, Nebuchadnezzar, and Herod, exhibit the proud under the rebuke and curse of God. He abhors their persons, and their offerings; He "knows them afar off," "He resists them;" "He scatters them in the imaginations of their hearts." Especially hateful are they in His sight, when cloaking themselves under a spiritual garb; "They say, Stand by yourself, come not near me; for I am holier than you. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burns all the day." Most of all, is this sin an abomination in His own beloved people. David and Hezekiah are instructive beacons in the church, that they, least of all, must expect to escape His rebuke, "You were a God who forgave them; though You took vengeance on their inventions."
Now the people of the world call the proud happy. But will they be counted so, when they shall be manifestly under the curse of God; when "the day of the Lord shall be upon them to bring them low," yes, to "burn them in the oven" of "His wrath?"
Pride probably influences all, who "err from the Lord's commandments;" yet doubtless "the Righteous Judge" will make an infinite difference between errors of infirmity and obstinate wilfulness. The confession of the man of God, "I have gone astray like a lost sheep "--is widely different in character from the subjects of this awful rebuke and curse. "You have trodden down all those who err from Your statutes; for their deceit is falsehood."
We wonder not at this expression of the mind of God concerning pride. There is no sin more abhorrent to His character. It is as if we were taking the crown from His head, and placing it upon our own. It is man making a God of himself--acting from himself, and for himself. Nor is this principle less destructive to our own happiness. And yet it is not only rooted, but it often rears its head and blossoms, and bears fruit, even in hearts which "hate and abhor" its influence. It is most like its father, the Devil, in serpentine deceitfulness. It is always active--always ready imperceptibly to mix itself up with everything. When it is mortified in one shape, it rises in another. When we have thought that it was gone, in some unexpected moment we find it here still. It can convert everything into nourishment, even God's choicest gifts--yes, the graces of His Spirit. Let no saint, therefore, however near he may be living to God, however favored with the shinings of His countenance--consider himself beyond the reach of this temptation. Paul was most in danger, when he seemed to be most out of it; and nothing but an instant miracle of grace and power saved him from the "snare of the Devil."
Indeed, the whole plan of salvation is intended to humble the pride of man, by exhibiting his restoration to the Divine favor, as a free gift through the atoning blood of the cross. How hateful, therefore, is proud man's resistance to this humbling doctrine of the cross, and the humbling requisitions of the life of faith flowing from it! This makes the sure "foundation" of the believer's hope, "a stone of stumbling" to the unbeliever's ruin. As regards also the means of salvation--how can pride lift up his head in the view of the Son of God, "taking upon Him the form of a servant," that He might bear the curse of man? "Behold, the soul that is lifted up, is not upright in him."
But can a sinner--can a saint--be proud?--one who owes everything to free and sovereign grace--one who has wasted so much time--abused so much mercy--so grieved the Spirit of God--who has a heart so full of atheism--unbelief--selfishness? No, the very pride itself should be the matter of the deepest daily humiliation. Thus the remembrance of it may, under Divine grace, prove an effectual means of subduing it in our hearts. We shall overcome corruption by its own working, and meet our adversary with his own weapons. And if this cursed principle be not wholly destroyed, yet the very sight of its corruption, deepening our contrition, will be overruled for our spiritual advancement.
O blessed end intended by the Lord's dealings with us! to "humble and to prove us" "to know," and to make us know "what was in our heart, that He might do us good at the latter end!" Let us not frustrate His gracious intentions, or build again the things which He would have destroyed. May we love to lie low--lower than ever--infinitely low before Him! Lord! teach us to remember, that "that which is highly esteemed among men, is abomination in Your sight." Teach us to bless You, for even Your sharp and painful discipline which tends to subjugate this hateful pride of our hearts before our Savior's cross!
Verse 22. Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept Your testimonies.
The proud under the rebuke of God are usually distinguished by their enmity to His people. They delight to pour upon them "reproach and contempt," with no other provocation given, than that their keeping the testimonies of God condemns their own neglect. This must, however, be counted as the cost of a decided, separate, and consistent profession. Yet it is such a portion as Moses valued above all the treasures of the world; yet it is that reproach, which our Master Himself "despised," as "reckoning it not worthy to be compared with "the joy that was set before Him." For did He bear His cross only on the way to Calvary? It was laid for every step in His path; it met Him in every form of suffering, of "reproach and contempt." Look then at Him, as taking up His daily cross in breathing the atmosphere of a world of sin, and "enduring the contradiction of sinners against Himself." Mark Him consummating His course of "reproach and contempt," by suffering "outside the gate;" and can we hesitate to "go forth unto Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach?"
The trial, however--especially if cast upon us by those whom we have loved and valued, or by those whom we wish to love and value us--proves most severe; and the spreading our case, after David's example, before the Lord, is the only preservation from faintness, "Remove from me reproach and contempt."
Perhaps "contempt" is more hard to bear than "reproach." Even our enemies think of us so much better than we deserve, that it strikes with peculiar poignancy. Yet when the submissive prayer of deprecation is sent us; doubtless some answer--and that the right answer--will be given; and whether the "reproach" be removed, or "grace" given "sufficient" to endure it, the outcome will prove alike for the glory of God, and the prosperity of our own souls.
But let us beware of that "way of escape" in returning to the world, which the insincere are ever ready to pursue. They dare not act according to the full conviction of their consciences: they dare not confront their friends with the avowal of their full determination to form their conduct by the principles of the word of God. This is hard--this is impossible. They know not the "victory which overcomes the world", and, therefore, cannot bear the mark upon their foreheads, "These are those who follow the Lamb wherever He goes." Far better, however, will be the heaviest weight of "reproach and contempt," than any such endeavor to remove it from ourselves.
The desire to escape the cross convicts the heart of unfaithfulness, and makes way for tenfold difficulties in our path. Every worldly compliance against the voice of God is a step into the by-path, which deviates wider and wider from the strait and narrow way, brings discredit upon our professions, proves a stumbling-block in the way of the weak, and will cause us, if not actually to come short, at least to "seem to come short, of the promised rest."
But is the weight of the cross really "above what we are able to bear?" He who bore it for us will surely enable us to endure it for Him, and, upheld by Him, we cannot sink. It is a sweet exchange, by which the burden of sin is removed, and bound to His cross; and what remains to us is the lighter cross of "reproach and contempt,"--the badge of our discipleship. If, then, we have the testimony of our consciences, that in the midst of the persecuting world we "have kept His testimonies," here is our evidence of adoption, of our Father's special love, of the indwelling, comforting, supporting Spirit. Here, then, is our warrant of hope, that the overwhelming weight will be removed from us; and that we shall be able to testify to our Master's praise in the Churches of God, that "His yoke is easy, and His burden is light."
Verse 23. Princes also did sit and speak against me; but Your servant did meditate in Your statutes.
David might well give his testimony to "the words of the Lord," that they were "tried words," for perhaps no one had ever tried them more than himself, and certainly no one had more experience of their faithfulness, sweetness, and support. Saul and his "princes might indeed sit and speak against him;" but he had a resource, of which they could never deprive him, "Not as the world gives, give I unto you." As our blessed Master was employed in communion with His Father, and delighting in His work at the time when the "princes did sit and speak against him;" so, under similar circumstances of trial, this faithful servant of God, by meditation in the Lord's statutes, extracted spiritual food for his support; and in this strength of his God he was enabled to "suffer according to His will, and to commit the keeping of his soul to Him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator."
The children of Israel in Egypt, Daniel in Babylon, and the disciples of Christ in the early ages of the Church, have each found "this same affliction to be accomplished in themselves." that God is pleased to permit it, to show "that his kingdom is not of this world," to wean His people from earthly dependencies, and to bring out before the world a more full testimony of His name.
One other reason is suggested by this verse--to make His word more precious by the experience of its sustaining consolation in the conflict with the power of the world. Often, indeed, from a lack of a present application of the word--young Christians especially are in danger of being put to rebuke by the scorner's sneer. The habit of scriptural meditation will realize to them a present God, speaking "words of spirit and life" to their souls. The importance, therefore, of an accurate and well-digested acquaintance with this precious book cannot be too highly estimated. In the Christian's conflict it is "the sword of the Spirit," which, if it be kept bright by constant use, will never be wielded without the victory of faith. Such powerful support does it give against fainting under persecution, that the good soldier may ever be ready to thank God, and to take courage. Christ has left it, indeed, as the portion of His people, "In the world you shall have tribulation;" counterbalanced, however, most abundantly, by the portion which they enjoy in Him, "In Me you shall have peace." If, therefore, the one-half of this portion may seem hard, the whole legacy is such as no servant of Christ can refuse to accept, or indeed will receive without thankfulness.
Verse 24. Your testimonies also are my delight, and my counselors.
What could we want more in a time of difficulty than comfort and direction? David had both these blessings. As the fruit of his "meditation in the Lord's statutes," in his distress they were his "delight;" in his perplexity they were his "counselors." He would not have exchanged his delight for the best joys of earth. And so wisely did his counselors direct his course, that, though "princes sat and spoke against him," they "could find no occasion nor fault." The testimonies of God were truly his "counselors." He guided his own conduct by the rules laid before him in the book of God, as if he were having recourse to the most experienced counselors, or rather as if the prophets of his God were giving the word from His mouth. Thus the subject as well as the sovereign, had his counsel. On one side was Saul and his counselors--on the other side, David and the testimonies of his God. Which was better furnished with that "wisdom which is profitable to direct?" Subsequently as a king, David was constrained to make "the testimonies of his God his counselors"; and, probably, to his constant regard to their voice he owed much of his earthly prosperity.
In such a dark world as this, beset with temptation at every turn, we preeminently need sound and wise counsel. But all of us carry an evil counselor within us, and it is our folly to listen to his voice. God has given us His word as a sure counselor, and "he who hearkens to its counsel is wise."
Now, do we value the privilege of this heavenly counsel? Every improvement must increase our delight in it; a heartless interest shuts out this blessing. But those who make the word their delight will always find it their counselor. Yet a mere cursory reading will never realize to us its holy delight or counsel. It must be brought home to our own experience, and consulted on those trivial occasions of every day, when, unconscious of our need of Divine direction, we are too often inclined to lean to our own counsel. The Christian is a man of faith, every step of his way. And this habitual use and daily familiarity with the testimonies of God will show him the pillar and the cloud, in all the dark turns of his heavenly road. The word will be to him as the "Urim and Thummin"--an infallible counselor.
Sometimes, however, perplexity arises from the conflict, not between conscience and sinful indulgence (in which case Christian sincerity would always determine the path), but between duty and duty. When, however, acknowledged obligations seem to interfere with each other, the counsel of the word will mark their relative importance, connection, and dependence: the present path in providence: the guidance which has been given to the Lord's people in similar emergencies; and the light which the daily life of our Great Exemplar exhibits before us.
The great concern, however, is to cultivate the habit of mind, which falls in most naturally with the counsel of the word. "Walking in the fear of the Lord," in a simple spirit of dependence, and torn away from the idolatry of taking counsel from our own hearts, we cannot materially err; because there is here a suitableness between the disposition and the promise--a watchfulness against the impetuous bias of the flesh; a paramount regard to the glory of God, and a meek submission to His gracious appointment. If the counsel, however, should prove fallible, the fault is not in the word, but in the indistinctness of our own perception. We need not a clearer rule, or a surer guide, but a more single eye. And if, after all, it may not mark every precise act of duty (for to do this, even all the world "could not contain the books that should be written"), yet it determines the standard to which the most minute acting of the mind should be brought; and the disposition, which will reflect the light of the will of God upon our path.
But let it be remembered, that any lack of sincerity in the heart--any allowance of self-dependence, will always close the avenues of this Divine light and counsel. We are often unconsciously "walking in the light of our own fire, and in the sparks that we have kindled." Perhaps we sought, as we conceived, the guidance of the Lord's counsel, and supposed that we were walking in it. But, in the act of seeking, and as the preparation for seeking, did we subject our motives and inclinations to a strict, cautious, self-suspecting scrutiny? Was the heart schooled to the discipline of the cross? Was "every thought brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ?" Or was not our heart possessed with the object, before counsel was sought at the mouth of God? Oh! how careful should we be to walk warily in those uncertain marks of heavenly counsel, that fall in with the bias of our own inclination! How many false steps in the record of past experience may be traced to the counsel of our own hearts, sought and followed to the neglect and counsel of God; while no circumstance of perplexity can befall us in the spirit of humility, simplicity, and sanctity, when the counsel of the Lord will fail!
An undue dependence upon human counsel, whether of the living or the dead, greatly hinders the full influence of the counsel of the word. However valuable such counsel may be, and however closely it may agree with the word, we must not forget, that it is not the word--that it is fallible, and therefore must never be resorted to in the first place, or followed with that full reliance, which we are warranted to place on the revelation of God.
On the other hand, what is it to have God's word as our "Counselor?" Is it not to have Himself, "the only wise God?" When our Bibles, in seasons of difficulty, are searched in a humble, prayerful, teachable spirit, we are as much depending upon the Lord Himself for counsel, as if we were listening to an immediate revelation from heaven. We need not a new revelation, or a sensible voice from above, for every fresh emergency. It is enough, that our Father has given us this blessed "word as a light to our feet, and a lamp to our path."
Let me then inquire--What is the counsel of God, that speaks directly to myself? If I am an unawakened sinner, it warns me to turn from sin; it invites me to the Savior; it directs me to wait upon God. If I am a professor, slumbering in the form of godliness, it shows me my real condition; it instructs me in the all-sufficiency of Christ, and cautions me of the danger of hypocrisy. If through grace I am made a child of God, still do I need my Father's counsel to recover me from perpetual backsliding, to excite me to increased watchfulness, and to strengthen my confidence in the fullness of His grace, and the faithfulness of His love. Ever shall I have reason for the grateful acknowledgment, "I will bless the Lord, who has given me counsel." And every step of my way would I advance, glorifying my God and Father by confiding in His counsel unto the end: "You shall guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory."
Verse 25. My soul cleaves to the dust; quicken me according to Your word.
Sin is no trifle to a child of God. It is his heaviest sorrow. Thus David--thus the Great Apostle found it. And where is the believer who has not full sympathy with their complaints? To have a soul cleaving to the dust, and not to feel the trouble, is the black mark of a sinner, dead in sins--dead to God. To "know the plague of our own heart," to feel our misery, to believe and to apply the remedy, is the satisfactory evidence of a child of God. Dust is the portion of the world, and they wish for no better. But that the soul of the man of God should continually cleave to the dust, is most strange and humbling. And yet such is the influence of his evil nature--such the power of self-will and self-indulgence--such the regard to human praise, and cherishing of self-admiration, that were it not that he "abhors himself" for the very dust that cleaves to him, he would question the existence of a renewing change. He knows what he ought to be. He has tasted the blessedness of "mounting upward on eagles' wings." But every attempt to rise is hindered by the clogging weight that keeps him down.
It is, however, the cleaving of his soul that is so painful--not occasional, but constant--not like the bird of the morning that descends for a moment, and then soars his upward flight; but it seems as if, like the "serpent--dust was to be his food;" as if the spiritual, heaven-born soul was to sink and grovel below. And then, as the dust of the summer-road blinds the eye, and obscures the view--how does this earthliness of soul darken the view of the Savior, dim the eye of faith, and hide the glorious prospects which, when beheld in the clear horizon, enliven the weary pilgrim on his way!
But this complaint is the language of conflict and humiliation--not of despondency. Observe the believer carrying it to the Lord--'Here I lie in the dust, without life or power. Oh! Savior, who "came that I might have life, and that I might have it more abundantly"--Quicken me: Breathe into me Your own life, that I may rise from the dust, and cleave to You.' This cry for quickening grace is the exercise of faith. We have a covenant to plead. Faith is the hand that takes hold of the promise, "according to Your word." Can this word fail? "Sooner shall heaven and earth pass away, than one jot or one tittle pass" from the engagements of a covenant-keeping God. "He is faithful who promised." The man who takes hold of this plea, is "a Prince who has power with God, and prevails."
But how different is the character of the mere professor! ready probably to make the same confession, yet without humiliation, without prayer, without faith. Nothing is more common than to hear the complaint--"My soul cleaves to the dust." The world has such power over us--we are so cold--so dead to spiritual things:' while, perhaps, the complaint is never once brought with wrestling supplication, but rather urged in indolent self-delight, as an evidence of the good state of the heart before God.
Yet it is not the complaint of sickness, but an application to the physician, which advances the recovery of the patient. We do not usually expect to better our condition, by mourning over its badness, or merely wishing for its improvement. Nor is it the confession of sin, but the application to the Great Physician, that marks genuine contrition before God. That confession which evaporates in heartless complaints, belongs not to the tenderness of a renewed heart. But the utterance of genuine prayer is the voice of God's own "Spirit making intercession for us;" and then, indeed, how cheering the encouragement, that He "who searches the hearts, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God!"
Some are ready to give up or delay their duty, when they have been unable to bring their heart to it. Thus does "Satan get advantage of us" by our "ignorance of his devices." Quickening grace is not the ground or warrant for duty. Indisposition to duty is not our weakness, but our sin--not therefore to be indulged, but resisted. We must mourn over the dullness which hinders us, and diligently wait for the 'help we every moment need.' God keeps the grace in His own hands, and gives it at His pleasure, to exercise our daily dependence upon Him. The acting of grace strengthens the habit. Praying helps to pray. If the door is closed, "Knock, and it shall be opened." Assuredly it will not long be shut to him, who has faith and patience to wait until it be opened.
Now let me sift the character of my profession. Is it a habitual, persevering, overcoming conflict with sin? Do I not sometimes indulge in fruitless bemoanings of my state, when I had far better be exercising myself in vigorous actings of grace? If I find "my soul cleaving to the dust," am I not sometimes "lying on my face," when I ought to be "taking heaven by violence," by importunate petitions for quickening grace? Are my prayers invigorated by confidence in the word of God? Oh! let me remember that "those who wait upon the Lord" shall shake off the dust to which they have cleaved so long, and "shall mount with wings like eagles," to take possession of their heavenly home.
O Lord, make me more deeply ashamed, that "my soul should cleave to the dust." Breathe upon me fresh influence from Your quickening Spirit. Help me to plead Your word of promise; and oh! may every fresh view of my sinfulness, while it prostrates me in self-abasement before You, be overruled to make the Savior daily and hourly more precious to my soul. For defiled as I am in myself, in every service of my heart, what but the unceasing application of His blood, and the uninterrupted prevalence of His intercession, give me a moment's confidence before You, or prevent the very sins that mingle with my prayers from sealing my condemnation? Blessed Savior! it is nothing but Your everlasting merit, covering my person, and honoring my sacrifice, which satisfies the justice of an offended God, and restrains it from breaking forth as a devouring fire--to consume me upon my very knees.
Verse 26. I have declared my ways, and You heard me; teach me Your statutes.
A beautiful description of the "simplicity and godly sincerity" of the believer's "walk with God!" He spreads his whole case before his God, "declaring his ways" of sinfulness, of difficulty, and of conduct. And, indeed, it is our privilege to acquaint our Father with all our care and need, that we may be pitied by His love, and guided by His counsel, and confirmed by His strength. Who would not find relief by unbosoming himself to his Father? This showing of ourselves to God--declaring our ways of sin before Him without deceit--is the short and sure way of rest.
"You heard me." "When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long." While the voice of ingenuous confession was suppressed, cries and lamentations were disregarded. It was not the voice of the penitent child; and, therefore, "where was the sounding of his father's affections, and of his mercies towards him?" But now, on the first utterance of confession from his lips, or rather on the first purpose of contrition formed in his heart; "while he is yet speaking," the full and free pardon, which had been signed in heaven, comes down with royal parental love to his soul, "I said, I will confess my transgression to the Lord; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin."
Oh! what cannot he testify of the more than parental tenderness, with which "his transgression is forgiven, and his sin covered!" And yet, how necessary to the free declaration of our ways is an acquaintance with the way of forgiveness! Had not our great "High Priest passed into the heavens," how awful would have been the thought, that all things were "naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do!" We could only then have "covered our transgressions as Adam, by hiding our iniquity in our bosom." But now, even though "our ways" are so defiled, so crooked that we cannot but "abhor ourselves," on account of them, we are yet encouraged "boldly" to "declare" them all before God, with the assurance of finding present acceptance, and seasonable grace.
And now, having found the happy fruit of this sincere and child-like spirit, then follows the obligation of walking worthy of this mercy. Hence our need of the prayer for continual teaching. The same heavenly guidance, that brought us into the way of return, we need for every successive step to the end, "Teach me Your way, O Lord: I will walk in Your truth." "I have declared my" ignorance, my sinfulness, and my whole experience before You, looking for Your pardoning mercy, Your teaching Spirit, and assisting grace, "And You have heard me." O continue to me what You have been, and teach me more of Yourself!
The hypocrite may pray after this manner. But he never thus opens his heart, and "declares his ways" beneath his God. And are we sincere in our dealings with Him? How often do we treat our Almighty Friend as if we were weary of dealing with Him! And even when we do "declare our ways" before Him, are we not often content to leave the result as a matter of uncertainty? We do not watch for the answer to our prayer. It will come in the diligent exercise of faith, but not perhaps in our way. We may have asked for temporal blessings, and we receive spiritual. We may have "besought" deliverance from trial, and we receive "grace sufficient" to bear it. But this is the Lord's wise and gracious answer--You heard me. And how sweet are those mercies, which come to us manifestly marked with this inscription, "Received by prayer!" They are such encouragement to pray again. It is not our inevitable weakness, nor our lamented dullness, nor our abhorred wanderings, nor our opposed distractions, nor our mistaken unbelief; it is not any--no, nor all these--that can shut out prayer. If "iniquity" is not "regarded in our heart," we may always hear our Savior's voice, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatever you shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you. Hitherto have you asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full."
Verse 27. Make me to understand the way of Your precepts; so shall I talk of Your wondrous works.
Notice the reiterated cries of the man of God for heavenly light, Teach me Your statutes--make me to understand the way of Your precepts. The need and the encouragement for these cries is equally manifest. Who has ever been known to understand the way of himself? And to whom--walking in a well-ordered conversation--has the Lord ever failed to show it? A man, untaught by the Spirit of God, may be able to criticize, and even clearly to expound, much of the word of God. But such a prayer as this has never ascended from the heart; the necessity of it has never been felt. And, doubtless, from this neglect of prayer have arisen those floating fancies and false and unscriptural doctrines, which crude, unexercised minds have too hastily embraced. Instead of humbly and simply asking, "Make me to understand"--men too often "lean to their own understanding," and are "vainly puffed up" by their fleshly mind, "not holding the Head." Such men may obtain loose fragments of spiritual knowledge; but they will not be in the faith, "grounded and settled." They never know when they are upon safe ground; and being "unlearned and unstable, they wrest the Scriptures"--except the sovereign grace of God interpose, "unto their own destruction."
Never must we forget, that teaching from above is indispensable to a right knowledge of the most simple truths. Ignorance and prejudice pervert the understanding. "Spiritual things can only be spiritually discerned." Divine doctrines can only be apprehended by Divine light. But under heavenly teaching, the deeper and more mysterious truths (so far as they are needful to be understood) are manifested with the same clearness, as the more elementary doctrines: "Eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. But God has revealed them to us by His Spirit. Now we have received--not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God, that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."
Wondrous, indeed, is the spiritual revelation in the knowledge of Himself; including "the hope of His calling;--the riches of the glory of His inheritance in His saints;--the exceeding greatness of His power" manifested to, and wrought in, His people;--no other or less than that "which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead." In the understanding of the way, we would be progressing until the new man "grows up into the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ." The smallest attainment in this knowledge is (as the great day will fully declare) of infinitely greater value than the highest intelligence in the field of earthly science.
But how important is it to grow in this knowledge! Theoretical attainment is at a stand. Spiritual and practical knowledge is always advancing. Little, indeed, comparatively, is necessary for salvation. But much for comfort and steadfastness--much also for the clear discernment of that narrow way of the precepts so difficult to trace, and when traced so difficult to maintain. Not less important is it to keep the object in constant view. Why do I desire to understand that way? That I may commend it to others--that I may talk of Your wondrous works. Abhorred be the thought of indulging in a self-complacent view of my attainments! But oh! let my God be more admired by me, and glorified in me. And may I advance both myself and others in His obedience and praise!
Often do we complain of restraint in religious conversation. But the prayer--Make me to understand while I talk--will bring "a live coal to our lips" from the altar of God, "Our mouths will then speak out of the abundance of the heart," and "minister grace to the hearers." Humility, teachableness, simplicity, will bring light into the understanding, influence the heart, "open the lips," and unite every member that we have in the service and praise of God.
Verse 28. My soul melts for heaviness; strengthen me according to Your word.
Is this David, "whose heart is as the heart of a lion, here utterly melting?" But the sorrows, as the joys of the spiritual man--dealing immediately with the Infinite and Eternal God--are beyond conception. Ordinary courage may support under the trials of this life; but when "the arrows of the Almighty are within us, the poison thereof drinks up our spirit." How, then, can the Christian's lot be so enviable, when their souls thus melt for heaviness? But this, be it remembered, is only "for a season." There is a "needs-be" for it, while it remains: and in the end it "will be found unto praise, and honor, and glory." Never, perhaps, are their graces more lively, or the ground of their assurance more clear, than in these seasons of sorrow. They complain, indeed, of the diversified power of indwelling sin. But their very complaints are the evidence of the mighty working of indwelling grace. For what is it but the principle of faith, that makes unbelief their burden? What but hope, that struggles with their tears? What but love, that makes their coldness a grief? What but humility, that causes them to loathe their pride? What but the secret spring of thankfulness, that shows them their unthankfulness, and shames them for it? And, therefore, the very depth of "that heaviness which melts their souls" away, is the exhibition of the strength of God's work within, upholding them in perseverance of conflict to the end. Would not the believer then, when eyeing in his heaviest moments the most prosperous condition of the ungodly, say, "Let me not eat of their dainties?" Far better, and, we may add, far happier, is godly sorrow than worldly joy. In the midst of his misery, the Christian would not exchange his hope in the gospel--though often obscured by unbelief, and clouded by fear--for all "the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them." "If the heart knows his own bitterness, a stranger does not intermeddle with his joy." Yet the bitterness is keenly felt. Sin displeases a tender and gracious Father. It has "pierced" the heart that loves him; and shed the blood that saves him. It grieves the indwelling Comforter of his soul. God expects to see him a mourner; and he feels he has reason enough to mourn, "My soul melts for heaviness."
But this cry of distress is sometimes that of the child under his Father's needful chastisement. The world is dethroned, but not extirpated, in the heart. Much dross is yet to be removed. The sources of the too attractive earthly joy must be embittered: and now it is that the discipline of the cross forces the cry, "My soul melts for heaviness." Yet in the midst of heaviness, the child of God cannot forget that he is loved--that he is saved; and the recollection of this sovereign mercy makes his tears of godly sorrow, tears of joy.
But this melting heaviness has not wrought its work, until it has bowed us before the throne of grace with the pleading cry of faith--Strengthen me! For do we stand by the strength of our own resolutions or habits of grace? Unless the Lord renew His supply from moment to moment, all is frail and withering. But what burden or difficulty is too great for Almighty strength? "Fear not, you worm Jacob; you shall thresh the mountains, and beat them small." And especially is our success assured, when the plea is drawn, as it is repeatedly in this Psalm--according to Your word. For what does that word assure us?, "As Your days, so shall Your strength be." "Will He plead against me"--said Job, "with His great power? No! but He will put strength in me." Thus David found it in his own case: "In the day when I cried, You answered me, and strengthened me with strength in my soul." Thus also to the Apostle was the promise given and fulfilled: "My grace is sufficient for you; for My strength is made perfect in weakness." And is not "the God of Israel" still "he who gives strength and power to His people?" still the same "faithful God, who will not suffer them to be tempted above that they are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that they may be able to bear it?"
When we are most sensible of our utter helplessness, and most simple in our reliance upon Divine strength, then it is, that the "soul melting for heaviness," is most especially upheld and established. "Heaviness in the heart of man makes it stoop; but a good word makes it glad." And how reviving is that "good word" of the Gospel, which proclaims the Savior anointed to "give the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness," and gifted with "the tongue of the learned, that he might know how to speak a word in season unto him that is weary!" And no less encouraging is it to view Him "melting for heaviness" "sore amazed, and very heavy" under the accumulated weight of imputed guilt; learning by this bitter discipline, "in that He Himself suffered being tempted, to support them that are tempted." Yet was He, like His faithful servant, strengthened according to His Father's word, in the moment of his bitterest agony, by the agency of His own creation. And this faithful support, given to the Head, is the seal and pledge of what every member in every trouble will most assuredly enjoy. "As the sufferings of Christ abound in His people, so their consolation also abounds by Christ." The blessed word will supply all their need--life for their quickening, light for their direction, comfort for their enjoyment, strength for their support, "Strengthen me according to Your word."
Lord, may I ever be kept from despondency--regarding it as sinful in itself, dishonorable to Your name, and weakening to my soul; and though I must "needs be sometime in heaviness through manifold temptations," yet let the power of faith be in constant exercise, that I may be able to expostulate with my soul, "Why are you cast down, O my soul? and why are you disturbed within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God."
Verse 29. Remove from me the way of lying; and grant me Your law graciously.
Every deviation in principle and conduct from the strait and narrow path, is a way of lying. Every traveler in the way "feeds on the ashes" of his own delusion. Does it seem a marvel, that the man of God should deprecate so earnestly the influence of gross sin? "The brand plucked out of the fire" retains a susceptibility of the fire. The oldest Christian in the family of God might at any moment of unwatchfulness be captivated by the chain of his former sins. Might not the recollection of past compliances with this shameful sin naturally have suggested the prayer--Remove from me the way of lying? But even in the profession of the Gospel, should we "be removed from Him that called us into the grace of Christ unto another gospel;" should erroneous doctrines find a place in our system; and--as the natural consequence of doctrinal errors--should any inconsistency be marked in our practice; should there be any allowed principles of sinful indulgence, self-righteousness, conformity to the world, or shrinking from the daily cross--then, indeed, will the prayer naturally flow from our hearts--Remove from me the way of lying.
Most justly are ways such as these called "ways of lying." They promise what it is impossible, in the nature of things, that they can ever perform: and prove to their deluded followers, that "those who observe lying vanities, forsake their own mercy." We can be at no loss to trace these "ways," to their proper source;--to him, who, "when he speaks a lie, speaks of his own for he is a liar, and the father of it." A lie was his first--alas! too successful--instrument of temptation, by which he "beguiled Eve through his subtlety," and still does he pursue the same deadly work throughout the world lying under his sway, beguiling the blinded "children of disobedience," into the awful deception of mistaking their God, and into the blind choice of preferring "broken cisterns" to "the fountain of living waters."
The gracious knowledge of the law is the only means of the removal of this evil way. David, as a king, had it written by him. He wished it written on him--not the book only before his eyes, but stamped on the heart. The external knowledge is the common benefit of all. The gracious knowledge is the covenant-blessing of the Lord's people--the only effective principle of holiness. The law is still what it was--an enemy to the ungodly--forcing a hateful light upon their conscience; but a delight to the servant of God--framing his will, and directing his conduct. Thus truth extirpates lying. Christ reigns instead of Belial.
Thus also we are enabled to "keep our hearts"--those leading wanderers, that mislead the rest. For wherever we see wandering eyes, wandering feet, and a wandering tongue, all flow from a heart, that has taken its own liberty in wandering from God. But with the law as our rule, and the Spirit as our guide, we shall be directed and kept in a safe and happy path.
Grant me Your law graciously. Grant me a clearer perception of its holy character--a more sensitive shrinking from transgressing it--a more cordial approval of its spirit--a more entire conformity to its directions.
Verse 30. I have chosen the way of truth: Your judgments have I laid before me.
Only two ways lie before us for our choice, "the way of lying," and "the way of truth." God by the light of His word guides us into one--Satan by his temptations allures us into the other. The way of lying is the natural choice of man. The choice of the way of truth is the Lord's work in the hearts of His people--the seal of His special eternal love. His teaching shows us the way; and His grace enables us to "choose" it . And who in his subsequent course has ever found reason to alter his first determination? Does Mary regret her "choice of the good part?" One whose solid and reflecting judgment was not likely to make a rash or hasty choice, tells us, of the outset of his course, "What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ." The experience of twenty years--instead of bringing matter for repentance--only confirmed him in his choice: and he repeats his determination with increasing energy of expression; "Yes, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." In the same spirit one of the ancient fathers expresses himself: "If I have any possessions, health, credit, learning--this is all the contentment I have of them--that I may have something to despise for Christ, who comprises in His own person all and everything that is most desirable."
The connection of this verse with the preceding well illustrates the bias of the believer's heart. His experience of the deceitfulness of sin, Satan, and his own heart, stirs up the prayer, "Remove from me the way of lying." But his choice is expressed in this verse, "I have chosen the way of truth." The sincere desire to have "the way of lying removed from us," is a clear evidence, that we have already "chosen the way of truth:" that "the spirit of truth has guided us to Him," who is indeed "the way of truth"--the true and only "way to God!" And of all ways that could be set before the Christian, this is the way he would "choose"--as bringing most glory to his God, exalting the Savior, honoring the Spirit of God, and securing the salvation of his own soul. Whatever becomes of me--the Christian would feel--'I would have no other way than this. Yes, though I should perish, I would abide in it. So transcendent is the discovery of the glory of God--scarcely less clear than the glory of heaven itself!'
The practical pathway, however, is often rugged--always narrow. We may have to encounter not only the reviling of an ungodly world, but even the suspicions of our brethren, who may not always understand our motives. Yet if our heart is upright with God, "none of these things will move us. Our choice is made, and we are prepared to abide the cost."
But that our choice may be daily established, let us not forget the treasury of our life, light, and grace. Let us lay the "judgments of God before us." For we have always some new lesson to learn--some new duty to perform--some new snare to avoid. We must therefore walk by rule--as under the eye of a jealous God, who enlightens and cheers our path--under the eye of the ungodly, who "watch for our halting"--under the eye of weak Christians, who might be stumbled by our unsteady walk--under the eye of established Christians, who will be yet further established by the testimony of our consistent profession. The Gospel affords all the material for this strict and accurate walk. All is given that is needed. The obedience that is enjoined is secured. "God working in us," enables us to work for Him; and while we are humbly looking for further supplies, and diligently improving what has been already bestowed, He is pledged by promise to assist, as we are bound by duty to obey.
What then--let me inquire--is the choice which I have made? I would remember that it is for eternity. And if, through the grace that has first chosen me, "I have chosen the way of truth,"--is the effect of this choice daily visible in a life and conversation well ordered according to the word of God? If it is good to "hide that word in my heart," as a safeguard against sin; it is good also "to lay it before" my eyes, as the chart to guide my course--the model to direct my work--the support to uphold my weakness.