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GOD THE ALL-SUFFICIENT PORTION OF HIS PEOPLE
Psalms 18:1-3. I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
FROM the persecutions of God’s saints in former ages, we derive this most important benefit: we see what was the power of divine grace in them for their support, and what its efficacy was to purify and exalt their souls. Had David never been oppressed by Saul, and never been driven from his throne by Absalom, what loss should we have sustained, in those devout compositions which were written in the midst of his trials, and which have brought down to us all the workings of his mind under them! In truth, no one can understand the Psalms of David, so as to enter into the spirit of them, unless he have been called, in some considerable degree, to suffer for righteousness’ sake. The psalm before us was penned by David as an acknowledgment of the deliverances that had been vouchsafed to him from the hands of Saul, and of all his other enemies. And a sublimer composition can scarcely be found, in all the records of antiquity.
In the words which we have just read, we see,
An ebullition of his gratitude—
His mind was evidently full of his subject. He had been contemplating the wonderful goodness of God to him: and he bursts forth into this devout rapture: “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength!” Commentators have observed, that the word which is here used, expresses all that is tender and affectionate, and implies in it the strongest emotion of the soul. And this was justly called forth by his view of the divine perfections, and by his sense of God’s unbounded kindness towards him.
And if he, from a sense of temporal mercies, was so inflamed with love to God, what should not we feel towards our incarnate God, the Lord Jesus Christ, in a review of all the wonders of Redeeming Love?
[View the Saviour in his personal excellencies; and then say what should be our feelings towards him — — — View him in the offices which he has sustained for us, as the Prophet, Priest, and King of his church; and then think what are the ejaculations which become you — — — View him in the blessings you have already experienced at his hands; and, whilst you adopt the language of the prophet, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength,” tell me with what frame of mind you should utter these words — — — It is said, that, “not having seen him, we nevertheless love him; and that, believing in him, we rejoice in him with joy unspeakable and glorified:” and sure I am, that the glorified saints around the throne should scarcely exceed us in the ardour of our affections, whilst we exclaim, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” In this, then, the Psalmist should be a pattern to us. We should be so in the habit of contemplating the Saviour’s love, that the involuntary ebullition of our minds should be, “I do love thee, and I will love thee, O Lord, my strength; yea, I will love thee with all the powers of my soul” This, I say, should be the language of our souls, when our feelings, too big for utterance, can at last find vent in words.]
In connexion with this rapturous exclamation we have,
A profession of his faith—
David, from diversified trials, was forced to become a man of war; and to seek, by a mixture of courage and of skill, a deliverance from his enemies. Under the persecutions of Saul especially, he had recourse to strong holds and fortresses, where he might withstand his too powerful oppressor. But it was in God alone that he really found protection. As means, he had availed himself of local advantages, and personal courage, and armour both of a defensive and offensive kind: but it was God alone who had rendered them effectual for his preservation; and therefore he gives all the glory to God, saying, “The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler (to defend me), and the horn of my salvation (by whom I thrust down all my enemies), and my high tower.”
And shall not we, who have so much stronger enemies to contend with, acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as standing in all these relations to us for our salvation?
[Yes, in truth, long since had our great adversary the devil prevailed against us, if our adorable Emmanuel had not interposed for our deliverance. In him we have found refuge from all the curses of God’s broken law — — — By him have we been strengthened in our inner man — — — And from him have we received the armour of heavenly temper, by which we have been enabled to maintain our conflict with all the enemies of our salvation — — — If we have been “strong, it has been in the Lord; and in the power of his might;” and it is he that must have all the glory of our preservation.
Behold, then, in what terms we should give glory to our great deliverer! We should acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ as our “all in all.” And, whilst we give him the glory of all that we have already received, we should trust him for all our future conflicts: and, contemplating fully all the powers that there are in him, we should learn to appropriate all of them to ourselves, and to say, “He is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; MY buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” There should not be any thing in the Lord Jesus Christ but we should make it our own by faith, and claim it as our own in all the conflicts to which we may be called: and in every time of trial we should address him in the words of Thomas, “my Lord, and my God.”]
To this the blessed Psalmist adds,
A declaration of his purpose—
He did not think that God’s relation to him would justify remissness or negligence on his part. On the contrary, he regarded it as his encouragement to call upon the Lord, and as a pledge to him of certain success.
And we, too, must bear in mind, that all our mercies must be obtained by prayer; and that in no other way can we hope to be saved from our enemies.
[We see how David prayed in a time of great trial: “Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight thou against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, 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 thy salvation [Note: Psalms 35:1-3.].” It was thus that he brought down succour from on high, in every time of need. And it is in the same way that we must obtain help of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Though his promises to us are so free and full, yet “he will be inquired of, to do these things for us [Note: Ezekiel 36:37.]:” and “if we ask not, neither shall we have.” Moreover, we must acknowledge him in all that we have already received, and confess him as “worthy to be praised:” for the command is, “In every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God: and the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” It is in this way alone that victory can be secured: but if we use these means, we are certain to obtain it. If we live in the habit of fervent and believing prayer, we may, in the midst of conflicts, exult as “more than conquerors;” and behold, by anticipation, our great adversary as already “ bruised under our feet [Note: Romans 16:20.].”]
From this sublime passage we may see,
The true nature of vital religion—
[Vital religion is not wholly speculative, nor is it altogether practical; but a compound, if I may so say, of theory and of practice. We must have knowledge, even a knowledge of God in all his perfections, and of the Lord Jesus Christ in all his offices. Without this, there can be no right feeling towards the Supreme Being: no love towards him, no confidence in him, no communion with him. But, with just views of the Deity, we must also have suitable dispositions towards him. In a word, we must have an experience similar to that of David in our text, affecting from our inmost souls a life of communion with God, of dependence on him, and of devotedness to his service. Beloved Brethren, rest not in any thing short of this. Let your meditations on God be sweet and frequent: and let them be renewed, till they have kindled a flame of love in your souls towards him, and till the daily language of your heart be, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.”]
The folly of those who seek not after God—
[Compare the Psalmist’s experience with your own: What refuge have you in a time of trouble, or what comfort in reflecting upon God? Alas! instead of the blessed language of David, you must rather say, “O God, I behold nothing in thee that I can appropriate to myself; nothing but what may well fill me with alarm and terror.” As for love to God, you know not what it means: and for confidence in him you have not the smallest ground: no, nor have you any access to him in the hour of necessity. Hence you are a prey to your enemies, and “are led captive by the devil at his will.” Unhappy creatures! You may go on your appointed time, and may hide yourselves from the danger to which you are exposed: but your state is only the more pitiable in proportion as you are lulled in fatal security. If they are right who resemble the Psalmist, you can have no clearer evidence that you yourselves are out of the way of peace and salvation. And were there no future state of existence, your loss would be great even in this world: but when we take eternity into the account, your prospect is terrible indeed: for, if you do not love God now, you cannot love him when you go hence: if you do not possess an interest in him here, you can have no interest in him hereafter: if you do not live nigh to him in prayer in this world, you never can unite with the heavenly hosts in their songs of praise to him in the eternal world.]
Psalms 18:23. I kept myself from mine iniquity.
NOTHING is a richer source of comfort to any man than the testimony of his own conscience that he has acted right: for, if our own heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God. St. Paul enjoyed this in a pre-eminent degree: “Our rejoicing,” says he, “is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:12.].” And, in the whole of his conduct towards Saul, David could appeal to God himself, that he had demeaned himself as a loyal subject, and had rendered nothing but good for all the evil that he had received at his hands. “They,” Saul and his followers, “prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the Lord was my stay. He brought me forth also into a large place: he delivered me, because he delighted in me. The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the Lord; and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me; and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity”
It is my intention to inquire,
What is that iniquity which we may properly call our own?
There are in every individual of our fallen race the seeds of all sin. But, as in different soils some plants will flourish more than others, so in different men are different propensities, which, growing to maturity, become prominent and characteristic features of the different individuals. There is, more or less, in every one some “sin which more easily besets him [Note: Hebrews 12:1.];” and which, therefore, may be justly called his own, as having taken the fuller possession of his soul, and as serving to distinguish him from others. That may be called our own,
To which, from outward circumstances, we are most exposed—
[This I suppose to be the precise case with David in my text. He was persecuted by Saul with most unrelenting cruelty: and was strongly tempted, both by his friends and by a regard for his own safety, to avail himself of the opportunities which were afforded him of destroying his enemy [Note: 1Sa 24:2-15; 1 Samuel 26:6-12.]. Now, by birth and education, men are exposed to widely different temptations; as Agur intimated, when he prayed, “Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches: feed me with food convenient for me; lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor and steal, and take the name of my God in vain [Note: Proverbs 30:8-9.].” Men also are subjected to evils incidental to their different vocations in life. those who move in a higher sphere, under the influence of proud and ambitious thoughts, are led to seek their own advancement at the expense of others. Those of the middling classes, who are engaged in mercantile transactions, are but too prone to indulge an inordinate desire of wealth: whilst those of the lowest rank are apt to yield to the unhallowed emotions of murmuring and discontent. When John the Baptist saw persons of different vocations coming to his baptism, he particularly adverted to their respective occupations, to guard them against the evils incident to each; warning the publicans against exaction, and the soldiers against rapacity [Note: Luke 3:12-14.]; and thus shewing how all, in every department of life, are bound to watch against the sins to which their peculiar callings more immediately expose them. From our connexions and relations in life we also are subjected to many evils which tend to form and fix our character. Are we surrounded by those who are gay and dissipated? we are apt to contract a taste for gaiety and folly. Are our nearest relations worldly, carnal, covetous, ambitious? we are apt to drink into their spirit, and to be greatly influenced by their example: as it is said of Joram, king of Judah, “He walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as did the house of Ahab: for the daughter of Ahab was his wife; and he did evil in the sight of the Lord [Note: 2 Kings 8:18,].”]
To which, from inward dispositions, we are most inclined—
[Even in the earliest infancy there will be found widely different dispositions in children of the same parents: and as the children grow up to manhood, these form, in a very great degree, their distinctive characters through life. Doubtless these dispositions may be abated in some, and strengthened in others, according to the occasions that may arise for their nourishment or suppression: they may also vary with the different periods of their life. But, whatever be a man’s leading disposition, it will expose him to temptation, and he will be likely to be betrayed into sin by means of those things which are calculated to gratify his peculiar desire. In other matters he may maintain a blameless deportment: or, if he have erred, may easily renounce his errors: but on the side of his darling lust he will be in danger of falling; even as Herod, who would obey in many respects the admonitions of John the Baptist [Note: Mark 6:18-28.], but, when called to put away his beloved Herodias, would rather sacrifice the life of his Monitor than comply with his advice? Let the besetting propensity be what it may, on that side will be our danger, and the sin arising from it is that which we need to guard against as most peculiarly our own.]
To which, from habit, we are most addicted—
[Habit is, indeed, a second nature; and an Ethiopian may as easily change his skin, or a leopard his spots, as we can put away an evil to which we have been long accustomed. A man that has long yielded to fretfulness and impatience will never want occasions whereon to shew the irritability of his mind. A person who has given way to impurity, will contract such a propensity to the indulgence of it, that his very “eyes will be full of adultery, and he cannot cease from sin [Note: 2 Peter 2:14.]”, even when there are not before him any objects to call it forth; his own polluted imagination furnishing him with plenty of fuel for his unhallowed fire. “The backslider in heart,” we are told, “shall be filled with his own ways [Note: Proverbs 14:14.]:” from whence we see, that habit gives to our lusts a certain property in us, and to us a certain property in them; insomuch, that as there is a mutual indwelling between God and the believing soul, so is there also between a sinner and the lusts with which, from habit, he has obtained a more than ordinary familiarity: so true is that declaration of the Apostle, that, whatever be a man’s outward temptations, he is, in fact, “drawn away of his own lust, and enticed [Note: James 1:14.].”]
If, from what has been said, we have any insight into our besetting sin, let us proceed to inquire,
How far we are able to adopt the language of the Psalmist in relation to it?
Certainly, we are all deeply interested in this matter. Let me, then, press home upon you the following inquiries:
How far have you discovered your besetting sin?
[It is surprising to what an extent men in general are blinded in reference to it. All around them see it easily enough, whilst they themselves are strangers to it. All their acquaintance will say, This is a proud man; that a passionate man; that a covetous man; that an uncharitable and censorious man; that a querulous and discontented man. But, however clear men’s characteristic infirmities are to others, they are hid from themselves: and in many cases men not only veil their faults under some specious name, but actually take credit to themselves for those very peculiarities as constituting their most distinguishing virtues. The proud man, who for a slight offence will shed the blood of an acquaintance, calls himself a man of honour. The ambitious man, who slaughters thousands and tens of thousands in order to extend his empire, when he has already far more than he knows well how to govern, is called a conqueror, and values himself upon that as entitling him to the admiration of mankind. And the man who is, with insatiable avidity, amassing wealth, applauds himself as prudently providing for his family. And if a man’s faults be too glaring to be turned into virtues, he will extenuate them under the name of venial errors, or youthful indiscretions. But, Beloved, if this be your state, you are yet in darkness and the shadow of death. The very first step towards the knowledge of a Saviour is the knowledge of yourselves: and if you possess not that, all your other knowledge, whatever it may be, will be in vain.]
How far have you watched and prayed against it?
[With all our self-love, our besetting sin may be so glaring and dominant that we cannot but know it. Still, however, we may not be humbled under a sense of it, but, like King Saul, may be returning to it again and again, after all our acknowledgment of its vileness. But it is not thus with an upright soul. He will say with indignation, “What have I to do any more with idols? ”And if he has been foiled in one and another attempt to subdue his lusts, he will be more and more earnest in prayer to God for grace sufficient for him, that, “through the influences of the Holy Spirit, he may mortify the deeds of the body [Note: Romans 8:13.],” and “preserve himself unspotted,” though in the midst of a polluting and ensnaring world [Note: James 1:27.].
See, also, whether you watch against the occasions that may call forth your indwelling corruption — — — and whether you mark the first risings of it in your soul, that you may the more effectually prevent its dominance and defilement? Our Lord’s direction is, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation:” and he has provided armour for us, that we may fight against sin in its first assaults. And we may be sure, that, if we be not thus habitually contending with it, we can never with truth assert that we have kept ourselves from it.]
How far have we actually overcome it?
[“One that is born of God cannot commit sin [Note: 1 John 3:9.],” as once he did. God has said, that “sin shall not have dominion over him, because he is not under the law, but under grace [Note: Romans 6:14.].” “The man that obeys sin, is the servant of sin:” and consequently neither is, nor can be, the servant of God [Note: Romans 6:16.]. He may, it is true, still feel the workings of his besetting sin: but then it will be an intolerable burthen to him: and whilst under a sense of its working, he will cry, “Oh, wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from this body of sin and death?” he will be enabled to add, “I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord [Note: Romans 7:18-19; Romans 7:24-25.].” I again say, its motions may still continue: but its power is broken, and its reign destroyed; so that he is no longer the bond-slave of Satan; for “the truth has made him free: and he is free indeed [Note: John 8:32.].”]
That I may enforce this subject on your hearts and consciences, I declare before God and this assembly,
That only in proportion as you keep yourselves from your besetting sin, have you any evidence that you are upright before God—
[David speaks of his victory over his besetting sin as his evidence of his uprightness before God: “I have been upright before God: for I have kept myself from my iniquity.” Now, I beseech you, Brethren, to try yourselves by this test. “If you are Christ’s indeed, you have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts [Note: Galatians 5:24.];” and if you are “Israelites indeed, you are without any known and allowed guile [Note: John 1:47.].” But I must warn you, that, if you allow any one sin, you cannot be the servants of Jesus Christ: for if you were really his, you would “walk as he walked [Note: 1 John 2:6.],” and “purify yourselves even as he is pure [Note: 1 John 3:3.].”]
That only in proportion as you keep yourselves from your besetting sin, have you any hope of happiness in the eternal world—
[Our blessed Lord has told us plainly, that “a right eye or a right hand retained by us will be the means of casting us into hell fire [Note: Mark 9:43-48.].” What a terrific thought is this! and how fearful should it make us of self-deception! Truly, we should not be content with searching and trying ourselves, but should beg of God, also, to “search and try us, to see if there be any wicked way in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting [Note: Psalms 139:23-24.].” For, if we should be saved at last, “we must be sincere, and without offence till the day of Christ [Note: Philippians 1:10.].”]
EQUITY OF THE DIVINE PROCEDURE
Psalms 18:25-26. With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; with the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
IN the present dispensations of Providence, we may behold a far greater measure of equality than is generally imagined: for, not only is the happiness of men less dependent upon outward circumstances than we are apt to suppose, but there is more of just retribution manifested in reference to the conduct of mankind. The ungodly are, for the most part, left to involve themselves in many calamities; whilst the godly are preserved in peace and quietness. There is sufficient of equality in God’s dispensations to mark his superintending care; but sufficient inequality to convince us, that there shall be a day of future retribution, when the whole of the divine government shall be justified in the sight of the assembled universe.
The passage before us may be considered as relating to both periods. The Psalmist is returning thanks to God, for having interposed in his behalf to vindicate his integrity against the accusations of his enemies: “The Lord hath recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eye-sight [Note: Psalms 18:24.].” He then goes on to speak of the general system of the divine government, as begun on earth, and as completed in the eternal world: “With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful,” &c. &c.
From these words, I shall take occasion to shew the equity of the divine procedure,
In the punishment of the ungodly—
The day of judgment is called “ the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God; because God will then render unto every man according to his deeds [Note: Romans 2:5-6.].” Whatever may have been the conduct of men, the divine conduct towards them shall be in exact accordance with it.
Consider, now, what has been your conduct,
[You have felt in your hearts no esteem for him; you have preferred every vanity, and even the basest lust, before him: you have not willingly entertained the thought of him in your minds: you have, in effect, “said to him, Depart from me; I desire not the knowledge of thy ways.” About his favour you have felt but little concern: nor has it been a matter of any importance in your eyes, whether he was pleased or displeased, honoured or dishonoured. In vain has he called, invited, entreated, expostulated: you have had no disposition to attend to his voice, no heart to comply with his will: and when he has threatened you with his everlasting displeasure, you have set him at nought, and determined to go on in your own ways, whatever might be the consequence.
What now will be the result of this in the last day? God will deal with you as you have dealt with him. “You would not have any thing to do with me: I therefore will have nothing to do with you. You put me far from you: now I put you far from me. You preferred every thing before my favour: expect, therefore, no favour at my hands. It was a pain to you to come into my presence: you shall never be troubled with my presence more. You chose sin, with all its consequences, rather than me and my kingdom: take now, and take for ever, the portion you have chosen.”]
Towards the Lord Jesus Christ—
[The Saviour has died to effect a reconciliation between God and sinful men; and has offered to cleanse you in his own blood, and to clothe you in the spotless robe of his righteousness, that you may stand before God without spot or blemish. But you would not come to him for his benefits: you have not approved of the offers he has made you: they have been too humiliating for your proud hearts. You have not liked to acknowledge your need of him: you have preferred being a Saviour to yourselves: and have chosen rather to stand or fall by your own righteousness than to submit to the righteousness provided for you by him. In vain has he warned you against the danger of unbelief: you would not see any danger attending it. If you have made any use of Christ at all, it has been rather to encourage a hope of salvation in a sinful and unconverted state than to obtain from him the grace of which you have stood in need.
And what will be the return made to you? “You have rejected my Son,” God will say: “you shall therefore have no part in him. You would not submit to be washed by him from your sins: your sins, therefore, shall cleave unto you. You would not seek deliverance from condemnation through him: under condemnation, therefore, shall you lie. You would not take him as a Saviour in any one respect: therefore he shall be no Saviour to you. You made no use of him, but to warrant and justify your continuance in sin: therefore you shall be left for ever in your sins, and have no part with him to all eternity. The whole tenor of your life has been to this effect, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us:’ and therefore from him and his kingdom you shall be separated for ever.”]
Towards your own souls—
[You have not cared about them, or sought their happiness. You have been mindful only of earthly things. Your ease, pleasure, interest, honour, with the approbation of men, have been more to you than any concern pertaining to the soul. Pardon, peace, holiness, glory, have all been, in your esteem, of small account, in comparison of some temporal advantage. And, when warned what must be the issue of such a life, you have determined to run the risk, and to endure the consequences of impenitence, rather than put yourselves to the pain and trouble of repenting. Heaven has had no value, in comparison of some vain indulgence; nor hell any terror, in comparison of the pain of self-denial, and the shame of ridicule from an ungodly world.
According, therefore, as you have sowed, you shall reap: “You have sown to the flesh, and of the flesh you shall reap corruption.” God will say to you, “Your soul shall be of as little value in my eyes, as it was in yours, Heaven was not worth seeking: you shall not have it. Hell was not worth avoiding: you shall take your portion in it. You were satisfied with things temporal: you shall have nothing beyond them. You did not even desire a happiness that is eternal: you shall never have it obtruded upon you, but shall be left destitute of it for ever and ever. You chose to wrestle with me, and walk contrary to me: continue now your fruitless contest to all eternity, whilst I walk contrary to you, and ‘wrestle [Note: See the marginal rendering of ver. 26.]’ with you. You have been the authors of your own destiny: and by your own choice you must abide for ever and ever.”]
The same mode of proceeding is observed by God,
In the rewarding of the godly—
Mark how he will act towards,
[It is a grief to you that you have ever sinned against so good a God: you are ashamed; you blush and are confounded when you look back upon your ways: you even lothe and abhor yourselves in dust and ashes; and if you could, by any means, undo what you have done amiss, you would do any thing, or suffer any thing, that it were possible for you to do or suffer, to effect it.
How, then, will God deal with you? Do you repent of the evil you have done against me? He will say: Then “I will repent of all the evil which I have thought to do against you [Note: Exodus 32:9-14.Jeremiah 18:7-8; Jeremiah 18:7-8; Jeremiah 26:13.].” Are you saying, How shall I appear before my God? He will say, “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee up, Israel? How shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together: I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger [Note: Hosea 11:8-9.].” Does he behold you smiting on your thigh, with indignation against yourself, as a vile rebellious wretch? He will construe it as an evidence of your relation to him, and will appeal in your behalf to the whole universe, “Is he not a dear son? Is he not a pleasant child? For since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still: therefore my bowels are troubled for him; I will surely have mercy upon him, saith the Lord [Note: Jeremiah 31:19-20.].” The moment he sees thee bewailing bitterly the existence of thy sins, he “blots them out of the book of his remembrance,” and “casts them irrecoverably into the depths of the sea.”]
[You are looking to the Lord Jesus Christ, as “set forth by God himself to be the propitiation for your sins;” and are desiring nothing under heaven so much as an interest in him — — —
What, then, will God say to you? ‘You shall not be disappointed of your hope. Dost thou renounce all dependence on thyself? I will not exact of thee any thing as a justifying righteousness. Dost thou look to what my dear Son has done and suffered for thee, and plead it as the ground of thy hope before me? It shall be imputed to thee, and be accepted in thy behalf. Thou washest in the fountain opened for sin: it shall cleanse thee so perfectly, that thou shalt stand before me without spot or blemish. Thou trustest in my word: and thou shalt find me a God of truth. Thou layest hold on my promises: not one of them shall ever fail thee. Thou art willing to be saved in the way of mine appointment: and according to thy faith it shall be unto thee. Thou art hoping for a crown of righteousness and glory, as the purchase of my Son’s blood: thou shalt possess all that he himself possesses, and be “a joint heir with him” of crowns and kingdoms that shall never fail. Thou hast lived upon him: thou shalt live with him for ever and ever.’]
[You have given up yourselves to God in a way of holy obedience; and have encountered much, in order to approve your fidelity to him. To you, then, God will say, “You have been faithful over a few things: be ye rulers over many things.” You acknowledged me as your Master: I acknowledge you as my servants. You regarded me as your Father: I will regard you as my children. To please me was your one aim; and you dared to honour me above all: I will now bless you, and honour you in the sight of the whole assembled universe. You regarded nothing but my favour: you shall have it, and all the tokens of it you can possibly desire. “By patient continuance in well-doing, you sought for glory and honour and immortality; and you shall possess them all, even everlasting life.”]
[Now choose ye, Brethren, what portion ye will have. I venture to assure you, that it shall be unto you according to your desire, provided only that desire operate practically on your heart and life. I know, indeed, that salvation is altogether of grace: but I know, also, that you can never perish, but by your own consent, and purpose, and will. I mean not to say that any one would choose misery for itself, or in preference to happiness: but if you choose the service of Satan, with all its consequences, in preference to the service of God and its attendant benefits, then are you the authors of your own destruction, as much as you are of the conduct leading to it. God has said, respecting the wicked, “Destruction and misery are in their ways:” and to when can you ascribe your arrival at their end, when you are willingly and deliberately walking in their ways? If you will persuade yourselves that “the broad road, which leadeth to destruction, will bring you to happiness as much as the narrow way that leadeth unto life,” you can blame none but yourselves for the disappointment which you will experience. Prepare then for yourselves such an issue to this present state of things, as ye will ere long wish that ye had secured. Hear God’s own direction to you: “Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. But woe to the wicked! it shall be ill with him: for the reward of his hands shall be given to him [Note: Isaiah 3:10-11.] .” To the same effect our blessed Lord speaks in his sermon on the mount, declaring that the merciful, the pure, the upright, shall have a portion accorded to them suited to their respective characters [Note: Luke 6:37-38.]. And remember, that if you obtain not eternal life, the fault was only in yourselves, who, when urged and entreated by your God, refused to walk in the way that would have led you to it.]
THANKSGIVING FOR ANY GREAT DELIVERANCE
Psalms 18:50. Great deliverance giveth he to his King; and sheweth mercy to his Anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.
THE Psalm before us is also recorded in the Second Book of Samuel [Note: Chap. 22:.]. There it stands, as it was drawn up at first by David for his own immediate use: but here it is inserted, with some slight alterations and improvements, for the use of the Church in all ages. The title informs us on what occasion it was written, namely, on David’s deliverance from the hand of all his enemies, and especially from the hand of Saul. But, as in most of his psalms, so in this, David speaks, not in his own person only, but in the person of the Messiah, whose type he was. It is a composition of very peculiar beauty: the figures are extremely bold, and the poetry is sublime. Of course the expressions are not to be so literally taken, as if they were an unadorned relation of facts: some of them are altogether figurative; and were verified, not at all in the letter, but only in the Spirit: some are more applicable to David himself, and others to Christ: but altogether it is a poem highly wrought, and exquisitely finished. It is our intention to set before you,
The diversified import of this psalm—
The psalm admits of a threefold interpretation;
Historical, as it relates to David—
[David from his youth experienced many troubles.—From the moment that Saul’s envy and jealousy were awakened by the fame of David’s exploits, this youth became the object of his incessant persecution; insomuch, that he was forced to flee for his life, and for several years was kept in constant fear of falling a sacrifice to the rage of Saul — — — “The sorrows of death and hell compassed him,” as it were, continually [Note: ver. 4, 5.].
But his deliverances were great and manifold.—Repeatedly did he, almost by miracle, escape the stroke of the javelin that was cast at him; and frequently did God in a visible manner interpose to keep him from falling into the hands of Saul. Once he was in the midst of Said’s army, and in the very same cave with Saul: and yet was preserved by God, so that neither Saul nor any of his soldiers could find it in their hearts to touch him. “David in his distress called upon the Lord; and God heard him out of his holy temple,” and delivered him [Note: ver. 6.].
These deliverances he acknowledges with devoutest gratitude.—Here the Psalmist, borne as it were on eagle’s wings, soars into the highest region of poetic imagery: he calls to mind the wonders which God had wrought for Israel of old, and represents them as renewed in his own experience. The glorious manifestations of Jehovah on Mount Sinai were not more bright in his eyes [Note: ver. 7–14.], nor the passage of Israel through the Red Sea more wonderful [Note: ver. 15.], than were the displays of almighty power and love which he had seen in his behalf [Note: ver. 16–19.]. In these deliverances he further acknowledges the equity of God in having so vindicated his character from the undeserved calumnies by which his enemies had sought to justify their cruelty towards him [Note: ver. 21–27.].
From the experiences of past mercies, he expresses his confidence in God under whatever trials might yet await him.—It is delightful to see how careful he is to ascribe all the glory of his preservation to that God who had delivered him [Note: ver. 28–42.]; — — — and the full persuasion that his victory would in due time be complete [Note: ver. 43–45.]. Then with profoundest gratitude he blesses and adores his heavenly Benefactor for all the mercies he has received; recapitulating as it were, and giving us the substance of the whole, in the words of our text [Note: ver. 46–50.].
Were we to view the psalm only as an historical record, it would be very instructive: but it has a far higher sense: it is,]
Prophetical, as it relates to Christ—
[That it is a prophecy respecting Christ and his Gospel, we are assured by one whose testimony is decisive on the point. St. Paul, maintaining that Christ, though himself “a minister of the circumcision,” was to have his Gospel preached to the Gentiles, and to establish his kingdom over the heathen world, expressly quotes the words immediately preceding our text, as prophetic of that event [Note: Romans 15:9.]. Here therefore we see it proved, that David spake as a type of Christ; and a clew is given us for a fuller understanding of the whole psalm.
Behold then in this psalm our adorable Redeemer: behold his conflicts! He was indeed “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;” “nor was ever sorrow like unto his sorrow;” “his visage was marred more than any man’s, and his form more than the sons of men.” How justly it might be said of him, that “the sorrows of hell encompassed him,” we learn from his history: “Now,” says he, “is my soul sorrowful even unto death.” In the garden he was in such an agony, that he sweat great drops of blood from every pore. And on the cross he uttered the heart-rending cry, My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” In that hour all the powers of darkness were let loose upon him: and God himself also, even the Father, combined to “bruise him,” till he fell a victim to the broken law, a sacrifice, “a curse [Note: Galatians 3:13.].”
But speedily we behold his deliverances. Like David, “he cried to the Lord in his distress:” “he offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears; and was heard, in that he feared [Note: ver. 6. with Hebrews 5:7.].” In him the elevated language of the Psalmist obtained a more literal accomplishment: for at his resurrection “the earth quaked, the rocks rent;” and together with him, as monuments and witnesses of his triumph, “many of the dead came forth from their graves, and went into the city, and appeared unto many. O, what a deliverance was here! “The cords of death were loosed” (it was not possible that he should any longer be held by them): and he rose triumphant from the grave: yea, he ascended, too, to heaven, and was there seated on the right hand of the Majesty on high, all the angels and principalities and powers of heaven, earth, and hell, being made subject unto him. In comparison of this display of the Divine glory, the images referred to in this psalm were faint, even as a taper before the sun.
Then commenced his victories. Then was literally fulfilled that prediction of the Psalmist, “a people whom I have not known shall serve me; as soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me [Note: ver. 43, 44.].” No less than three thousand of his murderers were converted in the very first sermon: and soon his kingdom was established throughout the whole Roman Empire. This prediction is yet daily receiving a more enlarged accomplishment: thousands in every quarter of the globe are submitting themselves to him; and in due season, all the kingdoms of the world will acknowledge him their universal Lord. The triumphs of David over the neighbouring nations, though signal, were nothing in comparison of those which Christ is gaining over the face of the whole earth: and he will “go on conquering and to conquer,” “till all his enemies are put under his feet.” O blessed and glorious day! May “the Lord hasten it in his time!”
But like many other passages of Scripture, the psalm admits also of an interpretation, which is,]
Spiritual, as it relates to the people of God in all ages—
[The circumstance of its having been altered, and set apart for the use of the Church. shews, that, in substance, it exhibits the dealings of God with his people in all ages. They, like David, and like their blessed Lord and Master, have their trials, their deliverances, their triumphs; in all of which God is greatly glorified, and for which he ought ever to be adored. Who amongst us that has ever been oppressed with a sense of guilt, and with a fear of God’s wrath; who that has felt the tranquillizing influence of the Redeemer’s blood sprinkled on his conscience, and speaking peace to his soul; who that has been enabled to overcome the world, the flesh, and the devil, and to serve his God in newness of heart and life; who, I say, that has experienced these things, does not find, that the language of this psalm, figuratively indeed, but justly, depiets the gracious dealings of God towards him? — — — Methinks, the sentiment that is uppermost in the mind of every such person is, “Who is God, save the Lord? or who is a rock, save our God [Note: ver. 31.]?”]
But this part of our subject will receive fuller illustration whilst we notice the psalm in reference to,
The use we should make of it—
The practical use of Scripture is that to which we should more particularly apply ourselves; and especially should we keep this in view in reading the Psalnis, which, beyond any other part of the sacred volume, are calculated to elevate our souls to heaven, and to fill us with delight in God. From this psalm in particular we should learn,
To glorify God for the mercies he has vouchsafed unto us—
[We should never forget what we were, whilst dead in trespasses and sins, and what we are made by the effectual working of God’s grace in our souls. The change is nothing less than “passing from death unto life,” and “from the power of Satan unto God:” and when we contemplate it, we should be filled with wonder and with love on account of the stupendous mercies we have received. We should ever remember, “Who it is that has made us to differ” from those who are yet in darkness and the shadow of death: and the constant frame of our souls should be, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name be the praise!” We may, indeed, without impropriety on some occasions say, as the Psalmist, “I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them; I have wounded them, that they were not able to rise;” but we must soon check ourselves, like St. Paul, and say, “Yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me:” “He that hath wrought me to the self-same thing, is God.” It is worthy of particular observation, how anxious David is to give to God all the glory of those exploits which he commemorates; “By Thee I have run through a troop; and by my God I have leaped over a wall [Note: ver. 29. See also ver. 32–36, 47–49.]” — — — Let us imitate him in this respect, and “give unto our God the glory due unto his name:” yea, “let our mouths be filled with his praise all the day long.”]
To confide in God under all future difficulties—
[In what exalted terms David speaks of God at the commencement of this psalm [Note: ver. 2.]!. — — — Verily, he had profited well from his past experience. And ought not we to profit in like manner? Ought not we to remember what God is to all his believing people? If we have God for our God, what have we to fear? Can any enemy prevail against us, when he is on our side? Remember how God reproved those of old, who, when danger threatened them, gave way to terror, instead of trusting confidently in their God: “Say ye not, A confederacy, a confederacy! &c. but sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread: and he shall be to you for a sanctuary [Note: Isaiah 8:12-14.].” Whatever be your want, know that He is able to supply it — — — whatever be your difficulty, He can make you triumphant over it — — — “His way is perfect: his word is tried: he is a buckler to all those who trust in him [Note: ver. 30.].”]
To conduct ourselves so that we may reasonably expect his blessing—
[Though God is found of them that sought him not, and dispenses his blessings altogether sovereignly and according to his own good pleasure towards the ungodly world, he proceeds, for the most part, in a way of equity towards his own peculiar people. The declaration that was made to king Asa is found true in every age: “The Lord is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you: but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you [Note: 2 Chronicles 15:2.].” Precisely to the same effect are those expressions of the Psalmist, “With the upright, the merciful, the pure, thou wilt shew thyself upright, and merciful, and pure; but with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward,” or, as it is in the margin, “thou wilt wrestle.” “Thou wilt save the afflicted people (i. e. the humble); but thou wilt bring down high looks [Note: ver. 25–27.].” If we walk uprightly and circumspectly before him, and in a humble dependence on his grace, there is not any thing which he will not do for us: but, “if we regard iniquity in our hearts, he will not hear us. Inquire, then, whether you are really “keeping the ways of the Lord,” and are “keeping yourselves from your iniquity,” that is, from the peculiar sin to which, by constitution, by habit, or by your situation in life, you are most exposed [Note: ver. 21–23.]. I charge you, before God, that you all make this a matter of serious inquiry. The “besetting sin,” ah! it is that which separates between God and our souls; it is that which “keeps good things from us.” How many are there, who, whilst they make a profession of religion, are yet, by their unmortified lusts, or worldly desires, or slothful habits, or by some habitual evil, provoking God to depart from them! Beware lest it be so with you; and “grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” You may grieve him, till you altogether “quench” his sacred motions. We entreat you to be upon your guard against this so fatal an evil. “Keep your hearts with all diligence: “yea, “give all diligence to make your calling and election sure.” Then shall God delight himself in you, and be not only your present portion, “but your everlasting great reward.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 18". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14