Verse 151. You are near, O Lord: and all Your commandments are truth.
The imminent danger in which David was living quickened his cries to his God. Often does the Lord permit this pressing trial!, Seldom, but in extremity, are our graces brought to their full exercise. Confidence is then shaken from man, and established in God. For now it is that we enjoy our God as "a very present help in trouble," and that our dependence on His commandment is a true and solid foundation of comfort to our soul. A dreadful character is indeed drawn of the ungodly--They are far from God's law--and that not from ignorance, but from willful enmity. This is God's witness against them; and they are not ashamed to consent, that this "witness is true." No wonder, therefore, that those, that are far from God's law, should draw near to follow after mischief. But if they draw near, the Lord is nearer still. "I am your shield"--says He to His distressed child--who echoes back the promise in the cheerfulness of faith, "You are my hiding place, and my shield: I hope in Your word." Elisha knew the power of this shield, when he quelled the alarm of his terrified servant. He beheld them draw near that follow after mischief. But the eye of faith assured his heart; and when "the Lord opened the eyes of the young man," he too was enabled to testify--You are near, O Lord!
But near as the Lord is to His people as their outward shield, is He not yet nearer still, as dwelling in their hearts? Here is "His temple," His desired habitation--like Zion of old, of which He said, "This is my rest forever; here will I dwell, for I have desired it." This is the dwelling, which, once possessed of its Divine Inhabitant, will never be left desolate.
Our spiritual enemies, like David's persecutors, are ever present and active. The devouring "lion," or the insinuating "serpent," is near to follow after mischief; and so much the more dangerous, as his approaches are invisible. Near also is a tempting, ensnaring world: and nearer still a lurking world within, separating us from communion with our God. But in turning habitually and immediately to our stronghold, we can enjoy the confidence--You are near, O Lord. Though "the High and Lofty One, whose name is Holy;" though the just and terrible God, yet are You made near to Your people, and they to You, "by the blood of the cross." And You manifest Your presence to them in "the Son of Your love."
Indeed to the Son Himself, the nearness of His Father's presence was a source of consolation and support, when they drew near, that followed after mischief. "He is near"--said he, "which justifies Me: who will contend with Me? let us stand together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to Me. Behold! the Lord God will help Me: who is he who shall condemn Me? Lo they all shall wax old as does a garment: the moth shall eat them up." "Behold," said He to His affrighted disciples, as His hour drew near, "the hour comes, yes is now come, that you shall be scattered everyone to his own, and shall leave Me alone: and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me." And thus His people in earthly desolation flee to the promises of their God; and in the recollection of His faithful, ever-present help, "set to their seal," that all His commandments are truth. The mischief intended for them only proves, that "You, Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor will You compass him as with a shield."
But may the Lord not only be brought near in our interest in Him, but may we be kept near in communion with Him! Let our hearts be sacred to Him. Let us be most careful to watch against any strangeness with this beloved Friend, and to cultivate a growing cordiality and closeness in our walk with Him. If our character is formed by the society in which we live, what "treasures of wisdom and knowledge" should we find, what a spirit of unbounded love should we imbibe--by a nearer and more constant communion with Him; willing as He is to impart Himself freely, inexhaustibly unto us! In a backsliding state, we must expect to lose this heavenly nearness. In a state of darkness, it is the exercise of faith, to believe that unseen He is near; and the practical influence of faith will lead us to speak, and pray, and think, and praise, "as seeing Him who is invisible." In a state of enjoyment, let us anticipate the time when He will be ever near to us.
"And I heard a great voice out of heaven, saying, Behold! the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God."
Verse 152. Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old, that You have founded them forever.
The "truth of the commandments," which the Psalmist had just asserted, was an everlasting foundation. He stated it not upon slight conviction. But he knew it--and that not recently--but as the result of early consideration--he had known it of old. It is most important to have a full certainty of the ground of our faith. How else can we have that "good thing--a heart established with grace?"--how "continue in the faith grounded and settled?"--how be kept from being "moved away from the hope of the gospel?" Praised be God! We feel our ground to be firm. As God is the same, so must His testimonies be. We cannot conceive of His promising without performance, or threatening without effect. They are therefore expressly revealed as a firm foundation, in express contrast with this world's fairest promise.
But let us mark this eternal basis of the testimonies. The whole plan of redemption was emphatically founded forever. The Savior "was foreordained before the foundation of the world." The people of God are "chosen in Christ before the world began!" The great Author "declares the end from the beginning," and thus clears His dispensations from any charge of mutability or contingency. Every event in the church is fixed, permitted, and provided for--not in the passing moment of time, but in the counsels of eternity. All God's faithful engagements with His people of old are founded forever upon the oath and promise of God--the two "immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie." May we not then "have strong consolation" in venturing every hope for eternity upon this rock? nor need we be dismayed to see all our earthly stays, "the world, and the lust, and the fashion of it--passing away" before us. Yet we are most of us strangely attached to this fleeting scene, even when experience and Divine teaching have instructed us in its vanity and it is not until repeated proofs of this truth have touched us very closely in the destruction of our dearest consolations, that we take the full comfort of the enduring foundation of God's testimonies, and of the imperishable character of their treasure.
Now let me realize the special support of this view in a dying hour: 'I am on the borders of an unknown world; but "my hope makes not ashamed" at the moment of peril it is as "an anchor of the soul, sure and steadfast;" and in the strength of it I do not fear to plunge into eternity. "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day." I know--not His sufficiency merely, but His All-sufficiency. I know His conquering power over the great enemies of my soul. I know that He has "spoiled the principalities and powers" of hell, of the strength to triumph over His ransomed people. I know also, that He is "the Lord; He changes not;" His word changes not; His testimonies abide the same: I have known of old, that He has founded them forever.' Thus we look for the removing of those "things which are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain." The scoffer may say, "If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?"--Let God Himself give the answer, "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and those who dwell therein shall die in like manner; but my salvation shall be forever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished."
Verse 153. Consider my affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget Your law.
Another note of the child of sorrow! Hated by the world--vexed by his restless enemy--chastened by his God--burdened with his "body of death"--what else can he do but cry--Consider my affliction! How manifestly is this world, not our rest, but our exercise for rest! Well is it that our "days are few," when they are so "evil." But how could we hold on as we do, had we not our Savior's pitying heart and Almighty help? The want of this sympathy was the overwhelming sorrow, that well-near "broke His" sorrowing "heart" "I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none." This depth of trial combined with every other part of His unknown sufferings to make Him "such an High Priest as became us," "touched with the feeling of our infirmities"; considering our afflictions: and, "in that He Himself has suffered being tempted, able to support them that are tempted." With what sympathy did He consider the affliction of His people in Egypt!, "I have surely seen the affliction of My people which are; in Egypt, and I know their sorrows." At a subsequent period, "his soul was grieved for the misery of Israel"--a cheering example of that compassionate interest, with which "in all His people's afflictions He is afflicted." Well may His people take encouragement to pray, Consider my affliction. "Now, therefore, let not all the trouble seem little before You, that has come upon us."
Yet is He not only sympathizing to consider, but mighty to deliver. "Who is this glorious" conqueror with His "dyed garments" of victory, "traveling in the greatness of His strength? I that speak in righteousness--mighty to save." Such did the noble confessors in Babylon--such did Daniel in the den of lions--find Him, fully justifying their unwavering confidence in His love and power. And what age of the Church has been wanting in testimony, that "the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations," and that "He who has delivered, does deliver, and will even to the end deliver?" The consciousness that we do not forget His law, is our plea, that He would consider our affliction, and deliver us; and is of itself an evidence, that the affliction has performed its appointed work. Let me then expect in my affliction the fulfillment of His gracious promise, "Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore will I deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name. He shall call upon Me, and "I will deliver him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him." In the midst of my trials I would prepare my hymn of praise for His kind consideration and faithful deliverance, "I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy: for You have considered my trouble; You have known my soul in adversities, and have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy; You have set my feet in a large room!" Let me then remember my affliction, only as it may be the means of increasing my acquaintance with my tender and Almighty friend. Poor and afflicted as I may be, let me be more poor and afflicted still, if I may but have fresh evidence that He "thinks upon me"--that He considers my affliction, and in His own gracious time and way will deliver me.
Verse 154. Plead my cause, and deliver me; quicken me according to Your word.
Oppressed as the Psalmist appeared to be by the weight of his affliction, he is at no loss where to apply for help. He carries his righteous cause to Him, who "stills the enemy and the avenger" "Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and shield, and stand up for my help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me; say unto my soul, I am Your salvation." Thus must we throughout our warfare maintain "the patience of hope," waiting for the Lord, "until He plead our cause, and execute judgment for us." If there is an accuser to resist, "we have an advocate" to plead, who could testify of His prevailing acceptance in the court of heaven, "Father, I thank You, that You have heard Me. And I knew that You hear Me always." Our Redeemer does indeed plead our cause successfully for our deliverance; when but for His powerful advocacy we must have stood speechless in the judgment--helpless, without any prospect of acceptance. Awful indeed was the cause which He had to manage. Our adversary had the law on his side. We could not deny the charge, or offer satisfaction. We could neither "stand in the judgment," nor flee from the impending wrath. But at that moment of infinite peril, our cause was pleaded by a "Counselor," who never was nonsuited in court, who brought irresistible pleas, and produced satisfaction that could not be denied. The voice of deliverance was heard in heaven, "Deliver them from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom." This ransom is no less than the price of His own "precious blood," "shed for many for the remission of sins," a ransom, which has merited and obtained eternal deliverance for His people, and which still pleads for the expiation of the guilt, which attaches to their holiest services, and defiles their happiest approaches to their God. When therefore Satan accuses me: yes, when my own heart condemns me, I may look upward to my heavenly Advocate--Plead my cause, and deliver me. "O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me. You will answer, O Lord, my God."
Poor trembling sinner! take courage. "Your Redeemer is strong--He will thoroughly plead your cause," and leave no charge unanswered. But you say 'How know I that He speaks for me?' Yet if not for you, for whom does He speak? Who needs an advocate more than you? He pleads indeed nothing favorable of you; but much, very much for you. For He pleads the merit of His own blood, "that takes away the sin of the world"--even that great sin of "unbelief," of which His Spirit is now "convincing" you; and which you are now made to feel, lament, and resist, as the bitterest foe to your peace. And does He not "ever live to make intercession for you?" Why then hesitate to apply the certain and consoling inference, that "he is able to save to the uttermost?" Why discouraged by the sight of sin, temptation; backsliding, difficulty, and fear, arising before you on every side; when after you have taken the most extended view of the prospect o f sorrow, this one word "uttermost" goes beyond it? If you feel it hard to believe, send up your cry, "Help my unbelief." Only do not dishonor Him by willful despondency; and do not add the sin of disobedience, in delaying this moment to come to Him.
After all, however, even while exercising faith in our heavenly Advocate, we must mourn over our sluggishness in His service. Well, therefore, do we accompany our pleading for deliverance with the supplication--Quicken me! Every moment's perseverance depends upon this Divine supply. Blessed be God for the sure warrant of expectation--According to Your word! Here we shall receive not only the living principle, but its lively operation; not only the fire to kindle the lamp, but the oil to feed the flame. For He who is our Advocate to plead for us, and our Savior to deliver us, is also our quickening Head, filled with "the residue of the Spirit" to "revive His work." "You have ascended on high, and have received gifts for men: yes, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them." Do we therefore want a heart to pray, to praise, to believe, to love? Let us only look to an ascended Savior, sending down the life-giving influence from above, as the purchase of His blood, and the fruit of His intercession. Thus will our hope be enlivened, our faith established, and the graces of the Spirit will abound to the glory of our God.
Verse 155. Salvation is far from the wicked; for they seek not Your statutes.
How striking the contrast!--how awfully destitute the condition! They have no one to consider their affliction--no one to deliver them--no one to plead their cause. Indeed, all the misery that an immortal soul is capable of enduring throughout eternity is included in this sentence--Salvation is far from the wicked. The full picture of it is drawn by our Lord Himself, "The rich man died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and sees Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom." The present enjoyment of salvation is far from the wicked. "There is no peace, says my God, to the wicked." Their common employments are "sin." Their "sacrifice is an abomination." Their life is "without Christ, having no hope, and without God in the world." But who can tell the curse of eternity, with this salvation far from them? To be eternally shut out from God--from heaven! To be eternally shut in with the enemies of God, and the heirs of hell! Fellow-Christians--look from what you have escaped--what you were, when "you were sometimes afar off,"--what you would have been now and forever, had you not "in Christ Jesus been made near by the blood of Christ:" and then "if you hold your peace, the stones will immediately cry out" against you.
But whence this inexpressibly awful condition of the wicked? Is not salvation offered to them? Are they shut out from hope, and sternly refused an interest in the covenant? Oh! no! it is their own doing, or rather their own undoing. Would they but seek the ways of God, they might plead for deliverance; yes, they might have a prevailing Advocate to plead their cause, and deliver them. But now salvation is far from them, because "they are far from God's law." It does not fly from them; but they fly from it. Every act is a stride of mind, more or less vigorous in departure from God. No--such is their pride, that "they will not even seek His statutes." They "desire not the knowledge of His ways." They say to God, "Depart from us;" God, therefore, will say to them, "Depart from me." They say to Christ, "We will not have this man to reign over us;" He will say of them, "Those My enemies, that would not I should reign over them, bring here, and slay them before me." It is not then so much God that punishes them, as those who punish themselves. Their own sin--the necessity of the case--punishes them. They "will not come to Christ, that they might have life:" "so that they are without excuse"--die they must.
But who are the wicked? Alas! this is a melancholy question, as involving within its sphere so much that passes for amiable, virtuous, and lovely, in the estimation of the world. Not to speak of those, whose name is broadly written upon their foreheads; it includes "all that forget God," however blameless their moral character, or their external Christian profession. It is determined upon immutable authority--it is the decree of our eternal Judge, "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His;" and if none of His, then it follows in unavoidable consequence, that salvation is far from him.
Oh! could we but persuade such of their awful state. Oh! could we awake them from their death-like, deadly sleep--slumbering on the brink of ruin! on the borders of hell! But they are closed up in their own self-esteem, or in the favorable comparison drawn between themselves and many around them; forgetting that the rule, by which they will be judged, is not the world's standard of moral rectitude, but the statutes of a holy, heart-searching God; forgetting too, that all may be decency without, while all is corruption within. Let them test their hearts by an honest and prayerful scrutiny of the statutes; and while they must confess themselves guilty before God, a sense of danger would awaken the hearty cry for salvation which would not then be far from them. For "the Lord is near unto all them that call upon Him, to all that call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him; He also will hear their cry, and--will save them."
O You Almighty Spirit, whose power is alone able to "turn the hearts of the disobedient to the wisdom of the just," "raise up Your power, and come among us;" "rend the heavens, and come down;" rend the hearts of sinners, of the ungodly, the moral, the naturally amiable, the self-righteous. "Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek Your name, O Lord."
Verse 156. Great are Your tender mercies, O Lord; quicken me according to Your judgments.
It is most cheering to pass from judgment to mercy--from the awful state of the wicked, to adore the mercies of God to His own people. We were naturally no better than they. The most eminent saved sinner looks on himself with wonder, "Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" Never will he lose the remembrance, "Who makes you to differ?" To mercy--rich mercy alone--we trace the distinction between those that are "quickened," and those that remain "dead in trespasses and sins."
But let us mark the features of this mercy. How great in extent! Estimate its greatness by the infinite debt which it blots out--the eternal ruin from which it saves--the heavenly crown to which it raises. Trace it to the mind of God--that first eternal purpose of mercy, which set us apart for His glory. Mark it in that "time of love," when His mercy rescued us from Satan, sin, death, and hell, and drew us to Himself. As soon might we span the arch of heaven, as fully grasp the greatness of His mercy. And then how tender is it in its exercise! Such was the first beam of mercy that "visited us." Such has been the continued display. So natural, as from a Father. So yearning, "as one whom his mother comforts!" Such a multitude of those tender mercies! The overflowing stream follows us through every step of our wilderness journey. The blessing "compasses us about," abounds towards us, keeps us steadfast, or restores us when wandering, and will preserve us to the end. Happy are we--not in the general perception--not in the hearsay report--but in the experimental enjoyment of it. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name." But what poor returns have we made for this infinite love! Surely the petition for quickening grace suits us well. This was the constant burden of David's prayer. For he was not like many professors, who can maintain their assurance in a lower and careless walk. No, he was a believer of a very high standard; desirous not only of proving his title to the blessing, but of living in its habitual and active enjoyment.
Often as this petition has been brought before us, in the course of this Psalm, it is too important ever to be passed over. Let us at this time use it for the purpose of individual self-inquiry. In what respects do I need quickening grace? Are my views of sin, and especially of the sin of my own heart, slight and superficial? Do they fail in producing humility, abasement, tenderness of conscience, circumspection of conduct? If it be so--Quicken me, O my God! Does my apprehension of a Savior's love serve to embitter sin to me? to crucify sin in me, to warm and enliven my heart with love to Him, and zeal in His service? If I am convicted of coldness to such a Savior, and sluggishness in such a service, I need to pray--O Lord, quicken me! And how do I find it with regard to prayer itself? Are not my prayers general--unfrequent--wandering? Is not my service too often constrained, a forced duty, rather than a privilege and delight? O Lord, quicken me!
Yet many Christians, through a mistaken perception, know not when they have received the blessing. They have looked for it in strong and sensible excitement; and in defect of this they sink into despondency. Whereas the solid influence is independent of sensations, and consists in a tender sensibility of sin, a spiritual appetite for the gospel, active energy in Christian duties, and continual progress in heavenly exercises. But under no circumstances must the evil of a dead and drooping state be lightly thought of; obscuring as it does the difference between the believer and the worldling, or rather between the believer and the formalist. O believer, you have great need to carry your complaint again and again unto the Lord! 'Quicken me--quicken me--according to Your judgments--according to those gracious promises, which are the method of Your proceedings, and the rule of Your dispensations of grace.' You cannot be too earnest to welcome the breathings of the Spirit, or too cautious, that your indolence resists not His Divine impression. When He quickens you with His influence, do you quicken Him with your supplications, "Awake, O north wind; and come, you south: blow upon my garden, that the spices thereof may flow out." Persuade--entreat--constrain His stay. Enlivened by His energy, how happy, and in your own sphere how useful, a member of the Church of Christ you may be found! Your soul will be invigorated--your graces strengthened--and your affections elevated--in humble, cheerful, steady dependence upon the Savior, and in daily renewed devotedness to His service. The more the spiritual life is thus "exercised unto godliness, the more delightfully will you realize the active service and everlasting praise, which will constitute the perfection of heavenly enjoyment."
Verse 157. Many are my persecutors and my enemies; yet do I not decline from Your testimonies.
David's experience is common to us all. Many, indeed, are our persecutors and enemies. This is a solemn cost. Let those who are setting out in the Christian course count it well. From neglect of our Lord's rule of Scriptural calculation, many seem to begin well; but they have been "hindered"--they turn back; they are zealous but inconsiderate; warmhearted, but ignorant of themselves, their work, and their resources. They were allured at first, perhaps, by an interest in the Gospel--some delusive excitement of love to the Savior--the picture of the paths of "pleasantness and peace," or the joys of heaven. The cross was out of sight, and out of mind. But this promise of ease and happiness was no less foolish and unwarrantable, than that of a soldier, utterly forgetful of his profession, and who should promise himself peace at the very time that he was called out to the wars. Surely, if like God's ancient people, we begin our road in sunshine, it is well to be provided against the storms, which will soon overtake us. We would say therefore to all--specially to sanguine beginners--Let your course be commenced with serious consideration, and zealous self-scrutiny. Beware of hasty determinations. See to it, that your resources are drawn, not from your own resolutions, or from the sincerity and ardor of your love; but from the fullness that is treasured up in Jesus for your present distress. Feel every step of your way by the light of the sacred word. If you expect Christian consistency to command the esteem of an ungodly world, you have forgotten both your Master's word and example; and you will soon be ready to exclaim--Many are my persecutors, and my enemies. For if their hostility is not always active, the enmity "is not dead, but sleeps." If, however, their unexpected surprisals and inveteracy should daunt you in the conflict, you are again forgetting the word of cheering support in the most awful crisis, "My grace is sufficient for you; for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Thus the word of God will be "the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left." Presumption is cast down, self-confidence is humbled, and the trembling simplicity of dependence upon an Almighty arm is upheld and honored.
Count then upon the difficulties that beset the heavenly path. You will never pluck the Rose of Sharon, if you are afraid of being pierced by the thorns which surround it. You will never reach the crown, if you flinch from the cross in the way to it. Oh! think of the honor of bearing this cross. It is conformity to the Son of God. Let the mind be deeply imbued with the remembrance of his daily cross of suffering and reproach; and we shall gladly "go forth without the camp, bearing His reproach," yes--even "rejoicing, if we are counted worthy to suffer shame" with Him and for Him. Indeed, what is our love, if we will not take up a cross for Him? How can we be His followers, without His cross? How can we be Christians, if we are not confessors of Christ before a world that despises His Gospel?
But a steady, consistent profession is no matter of course. The crown is not easily won. Many are our persecutors, and our enemies. Persecution, to the false professor, is an occasion of apostasy; to the faithful servant of Christ, it is the trial of his faith, the source of his richest consolations, the guard of his profession, and the strength of his perseverance. It drives him to his God. He casts himself upon his Savior for immediate refuge and support; and the quickening influence, which he had just been seeking, enables him to say--Yet do I not decline from Your testimonies. Thus did the great Apostle, at the time, when his persecutors were many, and human help even from his friends had failed him, maintain an unshaken confidence in the service of his God, "At my first answer"--he tells us, "no man stood with me, but all men forsook me. Notwithstanding, the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me." David himself often acknowledged the same principle of perseverance under similar trials, "Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are those who rise up against me. Many there be, which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. But You, O Lord, are a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter-up of my head. O God the Lord, the strength of my salvation, You have covered my head in the day of battle."
But have we never taken a devious path in declining from the Lord's testimonies, to escape the appointed cross? Do we never shrink from "the voice of him that reproaches" and blasphemes, by reason of the enemy and the avenger? Can we always in the integrity of our heart appeal to an Omniscient God, "All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten You, neither have we dealt falsely in Your covenant; our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from Your way: though You have sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death?" This profession is not the foolish confidence of boasting; but the fulfillment of the covenant promise, "I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from Me." So beautifully does the promise of perseverance connect itself with the duty of persevering! And so clearly in this, as in every other way, does the "wrath of man" ("howbeit he means not so, neither does his heart think so") "praise God." How glorious is the display of the power of His grace in the constancy of His people! like the rocks in the ocean, immoveable amid the fury of the waves; like the trees of the forest, "rooted and established" by every shaking of the tempest! Must not the world, in witnessing the total defeat of their enmity against the Lord's people (or rather its eventual results in their increased prosperity), be constrained to confess to the honor of God, "Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel--What has God wrought!"
Verse 158. I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not Your word.
We shall not tire in listening to this repeated expression of the Psalmist's tenderness for the honor of God. No trouble from his many persecutors and enemies came so near to his heart, as the sight of the dishonor and contempt of God's word. The glory of God was dearer to him than life. O that every recollection of this tried servant of God might deepen the special mark of acceptance upon our too cold and indifferent hearts! Our joys and sorrows are the pulse of the soul. A fellowship with the joys of angels over repenting sinners will be accompanied with bitterness of godly sorrow over the hardness and impenitency of those, who keep not the word of God.
But even here we need much and earnest prayer, in order to obtain a clear perception of our real principles. Sin is so subtle in its nature and workings that it insinuates itself into our holiest desires, and often so far interweaves itself into the graces of the Spirit, as greatly to mar their beauty, and obstruct their operations. How often is zeal for the honor of God mingled with the unhallowed fire of our own spirit! True zeal is indeed a precious fruit of the Spirit. Its other name is love--active, self-denying, compassionate love for sinners. 'Let me never fancy I have zeal'--said a Christian of a very high order--'until my heart overflows with love to every man living.' If then we are really under its holy influence, we shall lose no opportunity of active exertions on behalf of wretched transgressors: and the limits of our zeal will be only the limits of a fallen world. Especially within our own sphere shall we employ all our labors and pains to stem the tide of unrighteousness, "saying unto the fools--deal not foolishly--How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? Turn, turn, why will you die?"
But the fervency of zeal will express itself in something more difficult than personal service. We can often warn and plead with transgressors, when we are sinfully backward in sending up sighs and cries on their behalf; and in presenting these poor lepers by faith to that great and good Physician, whose "power present to heal" has been so abundantly manifested. This is indeed zeal of rare attainment through our own unbelief. But it brings its own rich blessing to the soul; because it is the zeal of the compassionate Jesus; who, though He looked round on sinners with anger, "being grieved for the hardness of their hearts," did not forget to plead on their behalf, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." It was the zeal and love of Him, who so identified His Father's interest with His own, that He endured the reproaches cast upon Him in His bosom. And should not the members feel, when the Head is wounded? Should not we consider every dishonor done to Jesus as a shaft piercing our own bosom? Can we bear to behold all around us united in a conspiracy against the honor, and--if it were possible--against the life, of our dearest friend and benefactor, and not be painfully grieved? Yet genuine grief must begin with our own heart, "all of us mourning, everyone for his iniquity." The wickedness of others will stir up the conviction within our own conscience, "I do remember my faults this day." And when once we begin the enumeration, where shall we end? Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Enter not into judgment with Your servant."
Verse 159. Consider how I love Your precepts; quicken me, O Lord, according to Your loving-kindness.
Love for the precepts, such as this Psalm describes, is a distinguishing characteristic of a child of God. The transgressors neither love the precepts, nor desire quickening grace to keep them. For though "not grievous" in themselves, they are too strict, too humbling for the unrenewed, proud, worldly heart. Love therefore to them--not being the growth of the natural man--must be "a plant which our heavenly Father has planted," a witness of the Spirit of adoption, and the principle of Christian devotedness. And how encouraging is the recollection of the Lord's readiness to consider how we love His precepts! "I know Abraham, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which He has spoken of him." Thus also did He challenge "the accuser of the brethren," to "consider His servant Job that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that fears God, and eschews evil."
But while love of the precepts realizes the full confidence of the Lord's consideration, the consciousness of its imperfection and scanty measure will always prevent us from urging it as the ground of acceptance. Christian! you know not--or at least you allow not--the proud boast, "God, I thank You, that I am not as other men are." No, rather--your constant cry to the end is--Quicken me. Your plea is not merit, but mercy. Not that you deserve to be helped--because you love the precepts: but you desire and trust to be helped--according to Your loving-kindness. And what must be the loving-kindness of a God of infinite love! Only do not sit still, and wait for the breezes of His love. Rather call to the "north wind to awake, and to the south wind to blow," to fill your sails, and urge you on. God--His word, His works, His perfections, His holiness; Jesus--His pity, His love, His grace--is your delight, your chief delight; yet how infinitely is it below the scriptural standard of privilege, attainment, and expectation!
Under the painful influence of straitened desires and heartless affections, how refreshing is it to mark the springs of life flowing from the loving-kindness of the Lord! Yes, indeed--He is the overflowing spring of His church. Every mercy is His grace. Every holy suggestion is His influence. Even the passing thought that our Christian progress proceeds from our own resources, opens the door of fearful departure from God. And yet such is the self-deceitfulness of the heart, that, in the very act of professing to "rejoice in Christ Jesus," the Omniscient eye traces a "confidence in the flesh." The real dependence is on the "mountain that stands strong," not on "the favor that makes" it so. Even our first father, in his original unimpaired strength, could "not quicken his own soul." Can we wonder that the fallen nature, even though partially upheld by Divine power, is changeable and unstable? The most advanced Christian needs the supply to the end, as much as he did in his first stage of infantile weakness. And will he not continue to need it throughout eternity, in every exercise of adoring service, as well as for his active existence?
But when we ask for this quickening, are we expecting, as we ought to be, a large answer to our prayer? Or are we "limiting" our God, by the scanty apprehensions of our poor faith? Remember He is glorified--not in possessing, but in dispensing His gifts. If we really expect His blessing, can we be satisfied without it? It is not our unworthiness, but our unbelief, that stops the current. Would that we gave Him full credit for His exuberant flow of free, rich, ceaseless mercy!
Blessed Jesus! we plead Your promise to be filled. We have life from You; but give it us "more abundantly"--as much as these houses of clay--as much as these earthen vessels--can contain. Our taste of Your love, and our knowledge of its unbounded fullness, encourage our plea to ask You still for more--Quicken us according to Your loving-kindness. Often as the Psalmist had repeated this prayer for quickening grace, it was not a "vain repetition." Each time was it enlivened with faith, feeling of necessity, and ardent affection: and should we, in the consciousness of our weakness and coldness, offer it a hundred times a-day, it would never fail of acceptance.
Verse 160. Your word is true from the beginning: and everyone of Your righteous judgments endures forever.
The "loving-kindness and the truth of God" were two heavenly notes, on which "the sweet Psalmist of Israel" loved to dwell--His "loving-kindness" in giving, and His "truth" in fulfilling--His gracious promises. Indeed the displays of His truth--whether to His Church collectively, or to His people individually--have always been every way worthy of Himself. Often has His word seemed on the eve of being falsified, clearly with the design of a brighter and more striking display of its faithfulness. The very night previous to the close of the four hundred and thirty years, Israel was, to all human appearances, as far from deliverance as at any former period. But "the vision was for an appointed time:" nothing could hasten, nothing could delay it; for "it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the self-same day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt." At a subsequent period, the family of David appeared upon the point of extinction; and it seemed as if the promise of God would fall to the ground. But to exhibit the word of God, as true from the beginning, a providential, and almost a miraculous, interference was manifested. When Athaliah destroyed all the seed-royal of the house of Judah, Joash was stolen away, put under a nurse, hid in the house of the Lord six years, and in God's appointed time brought forth to the people as the fulfillment of the express promise of God, "Behold! the king's son shall reign, as the Lord had said of the sons of David." "Whoever is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord."
And thus have many of His own people been tempted in seasons of despondency to "charge God foolishly." But who of them has not afterwards, in some unexpected deliverance, "set to his seal"--Your word is true from the beginning? "The Lord shall judge His people, and repent Himself for His servants, when He sees that their power is gone, and there is none shut up or left." And how do these recollections put to shame the suggestions of unbelief, and strengthen our confidence in the prospect, or even in the present endurance, of "manifold temptations!"
The full acknowledgment of the truths of God's word is the ground of all our peace and comfort. The believing reception of the testimony opens to us a free access to God. We stand before Him self-condemned, and yet we believe that "there is no condemnation." "The Spirit bears witness" to and "with our spirits," that "this God is our God forever and ever" "unto death," in death, and through eternity. In this simplicity of rest upon the testimony, we go to our God, like Abraham, in sensible helplessness, but in assured confidence, "strong in faith, giving glory to God."
Many, however, have been so used to indulge the pride of their own reasonings, that they scarcely know how to read the Book of God without caviling. If they believe while it is in their hands, they are not prepared to give a reason of their faith. They have ventured into conflict with the enemy with unproved armor, and so have been shaken and troubled. Or perhaps their faith does not reach the whole testimony: and therefore, being partial only it is not genuine. For if we do not give full credence to all, we do not give true credence to any. We do not receive it on the authority of God, but only so far as our reasoning can explain it, or our will may approve it. What need then have we to pray for a teachable simplicity of faith--not asking--'What think you?' but, "How read you?" In this spirit we shall hold our anchor on solid ground; and should we again be "tossed with the tempest," we shall look to Him, who stills the storm, and there shall be "a great calm." Confidence simply built upon the word of God, will endure the storms of earth and hell.
Yet we may loosely believe all, while we practically believe none. The generalities of truth have no influence without an individual application. The summary look of acquiescence will miss all the solid blessings of a reverential and experimental faith. But to find--as the woman of Samaria found--that 'it is all true,'--because it answers to our convictions, our wants, and our feelings to know that the promises are true, because they have been fulfilled in us--this is tasting, feeling, handling--this is indeed blessedness--this makes the word unspeakably precious to us, "a treasure to be desired." To have the witness in ourselves that "we have not followed cunningly devised fables," but that it is "a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"--this is indeed "life from the dead." Oh! how should we seek thus to receive the word "with much assurance!" The Israelites were not satisfied with inquiring respecting the manna, "What is this?" or with discovering that it had descended from heaven; but they gathered it each for himself, and fed upon it as their daily bread. Nor will it be of any avail to us to prove beyond contradiction, and to acknowledge with the fullest assurance, the truth of God's word, unless we thus embrace it, and live upon it as our heavenly portion. Faith alone can give this spiritual apprehension, "He who believes, has the witness in himself." But if the word be the truth of God from the beginning, it must be eternal truth in its character and its results; like its Great Author in every particular--enduring forever. "Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven; Your faithfulness is unto all generations." Here is the rock of my confidence. How could I rest my hope on any salvation, that did not proceed from the primary, unchangeable, eternal mind? What assurance could I have elsewhere, that the grand plan might not be defeated by some unexpected combination? Whereas every act of reliance in His faithfulness establishes more firmly His title to my confidence, and strengthens the soul into a habit of intelligent, vigorous faith.
Lord! give unto us that "precious faith," which makes the acknowledgment of the truth of Your word from the beginning, and its endurance forever, the spring of continual life and consolation to our souls.
Verse 161. Princes have persecuted me without a cause: but my heart stands in awe of Your word.
So contrary are the principles of God and the world! God chastens His people for their sin; the world persecutes them for their godliness. So it has been from the beginning, and will continue to the end. David had before mentioned his persecutors as many. Now he tells us, that they were, like those of David's Lord, the princes of the earth. In both cases, however, was it confessedly without cause. Had it been with cause, it would have been his shame. Now it was his glory. In the former case it would have been his own--here it was his Master's--cross.
His awe of God's word was the gracious restraint to his own spirit. And this godly fear has always marked the people of God. Witness Joseph, Moses, Nehemiah, and the Jews, and the three Babylonish captives. Josiah also obtained a special mark of acceptance. For the man "that trembles at God's word," whether he be found on the throne or on the ash-heap, is the man, "to whom the Lord will look." And certainly where, as with David, the wrath of princes and the wrath of God are weighed against each other; who can doubt, but that it is better to incur the persecution of men by a decided adherence to the word of God, than the wrath of God by declining from it?
Our Savior, "knowing what was in man," had clearly fore-warned and fore-armed His disciples against these difficulties. The trial at the first onset proved too hard for them; Peter's heart stood in awe of the persecuting princes, and in a moment of temptation he disowned his Master: but when "the Spirit of power" was poured from on high, such was the holy awe, in which himself and his brethren stood of God's word, that they declared, in the face of the whole council, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge you. We ought to obey God rather than men." 'I fear God,'--Colonel Gardiner used to say--'and I have nothing else to fear.'
Indeed the spirit of adoption--the Christian's distinguishing character and privilege--produces an awe of God; a dread of sinning against the tenderest Father, of grieving the dearest Friend. And this awe of God will naturally extend to His word; so that we shall be more tenderly afraid of disregarding its dictates, than the most faithful subject of breaking the law of his beloved Sovereign. There is nothing slavish or legal in this fear. It is the freedom and the holiness of the Gospel, the very soul of religion; the best preservative of our joys and privileges; and the best evidence of their scriptural character. We shall find, with David, this principle a valuable safeguard against the richest allurements, or the more powerful reproach of men, to go "beyond the word of the Lord to do less or more."
But what must be the state of that heart, where the word of the great God--the Creator and Judge of the earth--commands no reverence! Could the sinner hear a voice from heaven, addressed distinctly to himself, would he dare to reject it? Yet "we have a more sure word, whereunto we do well that we take heed;" that we receive it with silent awe, bow before it with the most unlimited subjection, and yield ourselves entirely to its holy influence. But if it does not stand infinitely higher in our estimation than all--even the best--books of man, we have no just perception of its value, nor can we expect any communication of its treasures to our hearts. The holiness of God is stamped upon its every sentence. Let us then cherish an awe of His word, "receiving it"--not as a common book, "not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God", in the true spirit of Cornelius and his company, "Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded you of God."
Verse 162. I rejoice at Your word, as one that finds great spoil.
The awe in which we should stand of God's word, so far from hindering our delight in it, is, as we have just hinted, the most suitable preparation for its most happy enjoyment. In receiving every word of it as the condescending message from Him, before whom angels veil their faces, we shall rejoice at it, as one that finds great spoil. Often had David found great spoil in his many wars; but never had his greatest victories brought him such rich spoil, as he had now discovered in the word of God. The joy in this treasure (like that of the church at the advent of Christ [Isaiah 9:3], described by this figure) evidently implied no common delight. If then the saints of old could so largely enrich their souls from their scanty portion of the word; must not we, who are favored with the entire revelation of God, acknowledge, "The lines are fallen unto us in pleasant places; yes, we have a goodly heritage?"
This expressive image may remind us, that the spoils of this precious word are not to be gained without conflict: Here "the kingdom of heaven suffers violence." Our natural taste and temper revolt from the word. Our indolence indisposes for the necessary habitual effort of prayer, self-denial, and faith. But still "the violent do take the kingdom by force." No pains are lost--no struggle is ineffectual. What great spoil is divided as the fruit of the conflict! What abundant recompense is in reserve for the "good soldier of Jesus Christ," who is determined, in Divine strength, to "endure hardness," until he overcomes the reluctance of his heart for the spiritual duty? It is not a sudden flash, or impression upon the imagination; but the conqueror's joy in spoiling the field of conflict--solid and enriching. Sometimes indeed (as in the Syrian camp, 2 Kings 7:8), we find the spoil unexpectedly. Sometimes we see the treasure long before we can make it our own. And when we gird ourselves to the conflict, paralyzed by the weakness of our spiritual perceptions and the power of unbelief; many a prayer, and many a sigh, is sent up for Divine aid, before we are crowned with victory, and as the fruit of our conquest, joyfully appropriate the word to our present distress.
But from a cursory, superficial reading of the word of God, no such fruit can be anticipated. When therefore the flesh or the world have deadened our delight, and taken from us this great spoil, should we not arm ourselves for repossession of it? Should we be unaffected by our loss? Oh, then, since there are such treasures found and enjoyed in this field of conflict, let us not lose our interest in them by the indulgence of presumption, heartlessness, or despondency. Before we attempt to read, let us cry to the Lord, under the sense of utter helplessness to perform one spiritual act, for His powerful help and Almighty teaching. Then we shall persevere with unconquerable and unwearied vigor, and not fail to share in the blessed spoil of victory, views of a Savior's dying love--an interest in the precious blessings of the cross--great spoil, "unsearchable riches."
Verse 163. I hate and abhor lying: but Your law do I love.
We can neither stand in awe of God's word, nor rejoice at it, unless we abhor all contrary ways. And here lies the spiritual conflict. For so opposed are our natural affections to the character and will of God, that we love what God hates, and we hate what God loves. Our new principle and bias, however, as directly falls in with the dictates of God's law, as before we have revolted from it. Lying is now hated and abhorred as contrary to "a God of truth;" and the law is now loved, as the reflection of His image, and the manifestation of His will. David had before prayed to have "lying ways removed from him," and a love for the law of God imparted. His utter detestation shows, that these ways had been removed, and a renewed inclination to the law granted to him.
To have avoided lying, and to have practiced the law, might have been sufficient for the regulation of his outward conduct. But his was the religion of the heart--not meant only to control his actions; but to renew his habits, motions, tempers, and taste. He would not therefore only refrain from lying, or manifest a disinclination to it--he must hate and abhor it as hell itself. Nor was external conformity, or approval of the law, his standard: he must love it. If sin was counted common, fashionable, venial, profitable, or pleasant; if contempt was cast upon the law of God--this stopped him not. Every sin, though only a hair's breadth deviation from the rule, was in his eyes hateful, defiling, damning. He would "resist unto blood, striving against it." Every act, desire, and habit of conformity, with whatever shame it might be attended, was his delight. Such, Christian, should be our standard. Lord! humble us in the daily sense of deviation and defect. Give to us larger desires, growing conformity to Your perfect rule.
Well had it been for Eve and for her children, had she turned from the tempter's lie with this strong determination. But, "You shall not surely die"--has from that fatal moment been a most effectual instrument in captivating unwary souls. So plausible is it in itself, so agreeable to our natural inclinations, that it is readily cherished, even where the first contact with temptation assures the wretched victims, that its "deceit is falsehood." But they do not hate and abhor it: they do not flee from it, as a concern for the honor of God and their own safety would lead them; and therefore justly are they "given up to believe it" as the fruit of their delusion, and the punishment of their unfaithfulness. Oh! if we are ever tempted by the flattery and allurements of the world, let us only mark the opposition of their standard, taste, maxims, and pursuits to the truth of God, and we shall turn away with hatred and abhorrence.
The "overseers of the purchased flock" of Christ--yes, all "who earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" will anxiously watch any deterioration of doctrine or principle--any deviation from the simplicity of the Gospel, and brand it as a lie. "I have not written unto you"--said the venerable Apostle, "because you know not the truth; but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar, but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?" How does the great Apostle teach us to look at the adulteration of the doctrine of grace before referred to--a system not of faith, but of fear--not of joy, but of slavish awe--not of confidence, but of doubt--palsying the springs of life: withering, blighting, chilling the glow of love; "entangling again the free-born children of God in a yoke of bondage!" The champion of the faith would not tolerate it for a moment. And he bids his people hate and abhor it, even though from an angel's mouth, as the beguiling lie of the great "corrupter" of the church. Equally would he have us abhor the licentious abuse of the gospel flowing from the same source, "Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid!"
After all, however, this verse must include an abhorrence of the literal sin of lying in all its forms. A lie is so gross a sin, that we might be disposed to spiritualize this expression, rather than to analyze some of the plausible shapes, in which the sin may be detected in our own profession. Exaggeration, a false gloss, a slight deviation (hardly perceptible) from the straight line, excuses made to one another, which we dare not make to God, want of accuracy in relating what we hear--all these are forms of lying to be shunned, hated and abhorred by the man, who is really "walking in the light, and having fellowship with God," as much as the more palpable falsehoods, with which the world abounds, which it excuses, and even boasts of.
Believer! would you have your hatred and abhorrence of every kind of lying yet further deepened? Would you summon every passion of the soul, "indignation, vehement desire, zeal, revenge"--against it? Then learn to abhor it, not only as your enemy, but as God's. Pray that the arrow of conviction may be dipped in the blood of Christ; and then, however deep and painful be the wound, it cannot be mortal. Mortal indeed it will be to the sin, but healing to the soul. Pray that your hatred of sin may flow from a sense of reconciliation; for never will it be so perfect, as when you feel yourself sheltered from its everlasting curse. To lie before your Savior as His redeemed sinner, and to wash His feet with your tears of contrition, will be your highest and happiest privilege on this side heaven. In this spirit and daily posture you will most clearly manifest the inseparable connection of hatred of lying ways with a love for the law of God.
Verse 164. Seven times a day do I praise You, because of Your righteous judgments.
David had just spoken of his fear, joy, hatred, and love. He now expresses his love in praise. And indeed it is the mixture of praise with prayer, that makes this Psalm so complete an exhibition of Christian experience. Early and late, and habitually throughout the day, have we seen this man of God "give himself to prayer." But his "spirit of supplication," in strict conformity with the Apostolic rule, was ever mingled "with thanksgiving." Indeed, self-love--the sense of want--may prompt us to pray. But love to God is the spirit of praise. The neglect, therefore, of this service is robbing God, no less than ourselves. Not that He needs it, but that He deserves and desires it. Not that it brings any merit to us, but that it strengthens our dependence, and elevates our love. If then we feel it to be "good, lovely, and pleasant," it will be as needless to define its frequency, as to prescribe the limit of our service to a beloved friend, to whom our obligations were daily increasing. The casuistry of love would answer all the entangling scruples of a bondage system. We should aim at living in praise, as the element of our souls, the atmosphere of our enjoyment, our reward more than our duty--that which identifies our interest with heaven, and forms our fitness for it.
Young Christians indeed sometimes unwarily bring themselves into "bondage," in forcing their consciences to a frequency of set times for duty, interfering with present obligations, or pressing unduly upon the weakness of the flesh. Our rule of service, though not measured by our indolence, yet should be accommodated to those legitimate daily engagements, which, when "done as to the Lord," form as real and necessary a part of our religion, as the more spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise. To observe any particular time (beyond the Sabbath, and the "morning and evening sacrifice") because it is the time--however wearied our spirits may be, or however immediate obligations may interfere--is to forget the weighty instruction of one well qualified to speak, "Bodily exercise profits little." Rather let us "go, and learn what that means--I will have mercy, and not sacrifice." Growth in grace will, however, gradually mold our profession into habitual communion with God. As our views become more solid and settled, each duty of the day will find its proper place, our services will become more free, and our obedience more evangelical.
But the formalist considers seven times a-day--to be an infringement of the sacred canon, "Be not righteous overmuch." He pays his customary service twice a-day; he says his prayers and his praises too; and his conscience slumbers again. And alas! there are times of slumber, when we little differ from him. Oh! let us be alarmed at every symptom of such a state, and "find no rest to our spirit," until we have regained, some measure of this frame of hearty and overflowing praise. If there be a heavenly nature, there must be a heavenly work. Tongue and heart should be set on fire by love. Thus we will go to our work, whatever it may be, and sing at it.
But the Christian sometimes feels, that he has no heart, and--he almost fears--no right to praise. Having no sensible token of love to call him forth, his harp "hangs upon the willows;" nor does he care to take it down, even to "sing one of the Lord's songs in this strange land." But how many have found with Bunyan--'When I believe and sing, my doubting ceases!' "Meat comes out of the eater,"--cheering rays out of the darkest cloud. Endeavor therefore to bring to mind some spiritual, or even temporal, mercies. Or, if recollection fails you, open your Bible; turn to some subject of praise, such as the song of the Angels at the birth of our Savior, or the song of the Redeemed to the honor of the Lamb. Have you no part or interest in it? Do you not need the Savior? Can you be happy without Him? Then inquire, and feel, and try, whether you cannot give "thanks unto God for His unspeakable gift." Perhaps, your notes may rise into praise, and in the excitement of praise, prayer will again mingle itself with its customary enjoyment. It is your sinful folly to yield to that continual depression, which unfits you for the exercise of your duties and your privileges. How fully do our Liturgical services elevate and sustain the ascent of the soul heavenward! Language better adapted for strengthening its feeble aspiration will not readily be found; consecrated as it is in the remembrance of its acceptable use by a throng of the Lord's favored people during successive generations, now united to the general assembly above, and worshiping with everlasting acceptance "before the throne of God and the Lamb."
The Lord's righteous judgments in His word are a constant matter for praise. Such light, food, and comfort! Such a stronghold of God! Such a firm hope to anchor on! Such a clear rule to walk by! Truly the distinguishing favor of this gracious gift stirs up the song, "Praise the Lord." Add to which--the righteous judgments--His decrees and declarations respecting His Church--occupied the Psalmist's "midnight," as well as his daily, song. "O Lord, You are my God"--said the enraptured prophet in the name of the Church, "I will exalt You, I will praise Your name; for You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth." Inscrutable indeed they may sometimes appear; and opposed to our best prospects of happiness; yet the language of faith in the darkest hour will be, "We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose." But neither seven times a-day, nor "seventy times seven," will satisfy us in heaven. Then our song--even "the song of Moses and the Lamb"--will still be "the Lord's righteous judgments;" and for this ever "new song" the harps of God will never be unstrung, and never out of tune, throughout an eternity of praise. But a moment, and we shall be engaged in this heavenly employ--no reluctancy of the spirit--no weariness of the flesh. Every moment is hastening on this near, this cheering, this overwhelming glorious--prospect. Blessed be God!
Verse 165. Great peace have they which love Your law, and nothing shall offend them.
Here is the happiness of a child of God summed up in one word--peace. Looked at with an eye of sense, slighted by the world, and often chastened with "the rod of affliction," he is an object of pity. But look at him with the eye of faith--he loves the law of his God, and his heritage is peace. Every feature of the covenant bears some resemblance to its nature; full of grace, peace, and love. Two of the agents are fitly represented by the lamb and the dove--emblems of peace. The tendency of its principles "is first pure," "then peaceable." Its present enjoyment and privilege is peace--great peace. Its end will be universal, eternal peace.
Christian! have you not discovered the connection of peace with love for the law--the whole revealed will of God? Looking at it as the law of truth--was not its disturbance of your peace of self-satisfaction and self-delusion the first step to the attainment of solid peace? You learned to see yourself as God sees you. Every fresh view humbled you more deeply. Your dissatisfaction exercised you in an anxious and diligent search for true peace. And then, looking at it again as the "law of faith"--here is your ground of peace laid open. Your way to God is clear--your acceptance free--your confidence assured--your communion heavenly. "Being justified by faith, you have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ;" yes--you are "filled with peace, all peace in believing." And have you not equal reason to love this law, as a law of obedience? Here is your question answered, "Lord! what will You have me to do?" Let "this word dwell in you richly in all wisdom;" and it will be your daily directory of life and conduct. You will "delight in it after the inner man." Walking in the light of it, you will go on to the full enjoyment of peace. "Taking" cheerfully your Savior's "yoke upon you, and learning of Him, you will" ever "find rest unto your soul." "All His paths are peace."
Professor! what do you lose by your indulged indifference to the law of God? Conscience tells you, that you are a stranger to this peace--this great peace. A secret root of idolatry cankers the principles of peace. Notions will not bring it. Nothing but vital godliness--the love for God's law, "the truth received in the love of it"--will realize the blessing.
Young Christian! be not disheartened, though your love to the law be so weak, interrupted, clouded, that sometimes you fear that you have no love at all. Do you not mourn over its coldness? Do you not desire to love? Seek to know more of the constraining influence of the love of Christ. If your chariot-wheels now, like those of the Egyptians, drive heavily, you will then move, like the chariots in the prophet's vision, "upon wheels and upon wings." At least you are on the way to peace. Stir up the habit of diligent faith; be active--be more earnest in dependence on the Lord. Soon will He visit you with His cheering sunshine, and bless you with His heavenly peace. "The Lord is your shepherd:" and dwelling near the shepherd's tent, "you shall not want." Nothing comes to you without His appointment; and whatever He takes away was only what He had first given, and leaves you nothing but to say, "Blessed be the name of the Lord!" Whatever He lays upon you is infinitely less than you deserve, and with the fatherly design "to do you good at the latter end." Whatever He gives you is peace, great peace, "perfect peace:" and though at best, as to its actual enjoyment, it is only a chequered gift, linked with "this world's tribulation;" yet, as the earnest of that "peace into which the righteous shall enter, when taken away from the evil to come," it is an incalculable blessing.
The steadfastness of our profession is a most important fruit of this blessing--Nothing shall offend them. The daily cross, the humbling doctrine, the fiery trial--which, by offending the professor, detect the unsoundness of his heart--these are the principles of strength and consolation to the faithful lover of God's law. Those "had no root in themselves," who were stumbled by "tribulation or persecution." Hence there was no love in their hearts; consequently no peace in their experience, and no stability in their course. The frequency of such cases in a day of profession is a most painful subject of observation. A course of religion, commenced under the impulse of momentary excitement, is like a "reed shaken by the wind." The first breath of the storm beats down all resolutions, that were not formed upon the conviction of utter helplessness, and in entire dependence upon Divine grace. Light without love ends in fearful ruin. Genuine love to the law alone keeps the soul--a love of no common character--a devoted, persevering attachment. The claim of the law is above every other. Everything--even life itself--if need be--must be sacrificed for it. And when it has been thus embraced on a fair calculation of its cost, from a deep sense of its value, and with a spiritual perception of its character and application to our necessities--there will be no stumbling-block.
Indeed genuine love will prove our safeguard against all grounds of offence. The doctrine of the total depravity of man is objected to: but love to the law of God, molding our minds into its heavenly impression--will remove all ground of offence. The pride of man's wisdom revolts from the doctrine of the cross, and the freeness of the grace of God. But we love it as a part of the law of faith. It suits our case. It answers our need, and therefore here also nothing offends us. Thus, whatever be the hindrance--whether from Satan or himself--whether from the enmity of the world, or the inconsistencies of the church--the believer, while he mourns over these things, is not offended at them, or at the Gospel through them. He has learned a more Scriptural standard, and to exercise a more discriminating judgment. Love to the law of God enables him, instead of being "tossed to and fro" in doubtful perplexity, to "make straight paths for his feet." If his cross be grievous, he seeks from the Lord a quiet spirit; and thus, "in patience possessing his soul," he finds "the yoke easy, and the burden light." His difficulties exercise and strengthen his faith, and add fresh testimony to the faithfulness of the promise. Whether therefore his way be dark or light, his soul is at peace. In the enjoyment of his Savior's love, he has the witness in his own heart, that "the work of righteousness"--of love to the law of his God, "shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever."