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THE DUTY OF MAKING CHRIST KNOWN TO THE HEATHEN
Psalms 96:1-3. O sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord all the earth. Sing unto the Lord; bless his name: shew forth his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people.
TO any one who looks even in the most superficial manner into the Holy Scriptures, there must appear a very wide difference between the experience of the saints recorded there, and that which is found amongst persons reputed saints in the present day. The Saviour himself is not so much the object of holy glorying, as he was amongst some, who looked forward to him at the distance of a thousand years; nor are the same elevated affections towards him brought into exercise, as were displayed by them. A man who should now exclaim, as David did, “O sing unto the Lord a new song; sing unto the Lord, all the earth: sing unto the Lord; bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day!” he, I say, would be accounted an enthusiast at least; and it would be well if he were not characterized by a yet harsher term. But religion is, or ought to be, the same in all ages; except indeed that our views of Christ should be more elevated, and our delight in him be more ardent, in proportion as our means of knowing him are more ample, and our motives to love him more enlarged. The psalm before us undoubtedly refers to him; for it speaks expressly of the publication of his Gospel to the Gentile world. It is indeed only a part of a psalm written originally by David at the time of his bringing up the ark to Mount Zion from the house of Obed-edom [Note: 1 Chronicles 16:7-36.]: and this part was selected afterwards for the constant use of the Church, as being calculated to keep up in the minds of men an expectation of the Messiah, and to prepare their hearts for the reception of him.
In discoursing on that portion of it which we have read, we shall,
Point out your duty to the Lord Jesus Christ—
In speaking to persons who profess to derive all their hopes of salvation from the Lord Jesus, methinks it is scarcely necessary to say, that,
We should praise him ourselves—
[We should not be content to acknowledge him in words; we should feel towards him in deed, as our “All in all [Note: 1 John 3:18.].” These feelings we should express in songs of praise: or if we be silent as to our voice, we should at least “make melody to him in ourhearts;” “blessing” and adoring him from our inmost souls.
We should sing to him “a new song.” It was so called by David, because it was a song that was to be sung especially at the introduction of the Christian dispensation, the events predicted and shadowed forth being then fulfilled. But it is still a new song to all who sing it; because in their unconverted state they have no disposition, no ability to sing it: “they cannot, in that sense, say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost [Note: 1 Corinthians 12:3.].” Moreover, it will to all eternity continue new; fresh discoveries of his glory being ever manifested to the soul, and fresh energies supplied for the celebration of his praise. Hence in heaven itself the songs of all the glorified saints are thus designated: “they sing unto the Lord a new song [Note: Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3.].” Thus “from day to day” our harps should be tuned afresh, and our praises ascend to heaven with every breath we draw.]
We should make him known to others—
[Who that had ever tasted of the blessings of salvation would “eat his morsel alone?” who would not wish all the world to partake with him? Yes surely, we should declare his glory among the heathen, and his wonders among all people.” O what “wonders” of love and mercy have we to proclaim! Who can reflect on the person of our “Emmanuel, who is God with us,” leaving the bosom of his Father, taking our nature, bearing our sins, and effecting by his obedience unto death our reconciliation with God; who, I say, can reflect on this, and not desire to make it known to all the sinners of mankind? In a word, who can have beheld “the glory of God shining in the face of Jesus Christ,” and not desire to reflect the light of it on all who are sitting in darkness and the shadow of death? This ##undoubtedly our duty: we are not to put our light under a ##ushel, but to set it on a candlestick, that all the world, if ##ossible, may see the light.]
This then being our duty to the Lord Jesus Christ, we will proceed to,
Call you to the performance of it—
Your obligations to the Lord Jesus Christ—
[How inconceivably great are these! If we attempt to estimate them, where shall we begin? or, having begun, where shall we end? If you have not yet experienced his converting grace, the very provision of a salvation for you, a salvation so dearly bought, and so freely offered, demands from you every tribute of love and gratitude that you can ever pay. But if you have reason to think yourselves partakers of this salvation, and are enabled with appropriating faith to say, “He has loved me, and given himself for me,” there should be no bounds to your zeal and diligence in his service. Time, talents, property, yea life itself, should be esteemed by you as of no value, any farther than they may enable you to glorify his name. Enter then minutely into the consideration of this subject, and say, Whether, “if you hold your peace, the very stones will not cry out against you?”]
The necessities of the heathen world—
[The whole Scriptures speak of the heathen world as perishing for lack of knowledge: and though we will not presume to say, that none of them shall be made partakers of God’s mercy for Christ’s sake; yet we are sure, that, as a body, they are under a sentence of guilt and condemnation. Can we then know the remedy which God has provided for them, and not feel ourselves bound to reveal it to them, and to labour, as far as possible, to extend to them its saving benefits? Can we reflect on the unhappy state of the Jews, and not pity them; blinded as they are by prejudice, and bent as they are on their own destruction? Can we look on all the different classes of the Gentile world, and see what penances they endure to pacify the supposed wrath of their senseless idols, and not feel a desire to proclaim to them the glad tidings of the Gospel? If it would be our duty to stretch out our hand to one sinking in the waters, and to rescue him from destruction, much more is it our duty to exert ourselves to the utmost of our power for the preservation of a ruined world.]
Those who are lukewarm in the cause of Christ—
[Many are so afraid of enthusiasm, that they banish from their minds all that may subject them to such an imputation. Hence, whilst they are correct and accurate in their principles, they are grievously defective in the sublimer parts of practical religion: they have a form of godliness, but no experience of its power. But let such persons know that the Lord Jesus Christ is more displeased with the lukewarmness of those who profess themselves his friends, than he is with the neglect of his avowed enemies [Note: Revelation 3:15-16.]. If from our inmost souls we love him not, he denounces a solemn curse against us [Note: 1 Corinthians 16:22.]: and if we serve him not with the talents entrusted to our care, he will require them at our hands, and punish us severely for our abuse of them. [Note: Matthew 26:20.]]
Those who are active in his service—
[God forbid that we should ever speak a word to discourage activity in the service of our Lord. But it is certain that many are diligent in doing what they suppose to be his will, who yet are far from cultivating that spirit which he will approve. Pride, ostentation, and a variety of other corrupt motives, may stimulate men to exertion; whilst humility and modesty, and all the lovelier graces of the Spirit, are wanting in them. Look to it then, that your love and zeal be duly tempered with reverence and godly fear. At the same time, take care that you do not become weary in well-doing. Be on your guard that your love to the Saviour languish not, and that your endeavours to convert others to the knowledge of him be not relaxed. Try amongst your friends and neighbours to interest them in his salvation. Then extend your efforts to all, whether Jews or Gentiles: and “count not even life itself dear to you,” if that you may but glorify him, and save the souls of your perishing fellow-creatures.]
WORSHIP IN THE BEAUTY OF HOLINESS
Psalms 96:9. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
THE calling of the Gentiles was a very favourite subject with the sweet singer of Israel. It is almost always blended with his sweetest strains. If at any time his soul be inflamed with more than ordinary devotion, it expands itself immediately to the remotest corners of the earth, and anticipates the period when the whole world shall enjoy the privileges which were then confined within the narrow limits of the Jewish nation; yea rather, when the richer blessings of Messiah’s reign should be diffused with equal liberality over the face of the whole earth. The psalm before us had a special reference to the Messiah. It speaks of “a new song” that was to be sung; a song unknown to Moses, who celebrated only a temporal deliverance: and it was to be sung by “the whole earth,” because it was to be commemorative of a spiritual and eternal redemption, wrought out by the Messiah for the whole family of man. Let us read a part of this sublime composition: “O sing unto the Lord a new song! sing unto the Lord all the whole earth. Sing unto the Lord; bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day. Declare his glory among the Heathen, his wonders among all people. Give unto the Lord, O ye kindreds of the people, give unto the Lord glory and strength. O worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness! fear before him, all the earth. Say among the Heathen that the Lord reigneth [Note: ver. 1–3, 7, 9, 10.].” That it is of the Messiah’s advent and reign that he here speaks, is evident; because he refers, not to any thing past, but to events yet future: “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof: let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice before the Lord: for He cometh; for he cometh to judge (to rule) the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth [Note: ver. 11–13,].”
This psalm, together with a part of the 105th, was used by David, when he carried up the ark to Mount Zion, to place it in the Tabernacle [Note: 1 Chronicles 16:7-33.]: and well was it adapted to that occasion; because the ark was a very eminent type of that adorable “word, who in due time became flesh, and dwelt amongst us [Note: John 1:14. ἐσκήνωσεν.].” Then, even at the hour when we might have supposed that the interests of his own subjects would have an exclusive possession of his mind, did David contemplate the welfare of the Gentiles, and call on them to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness [Note: 1 Chronicles 16:29.].”
We shall consider these words as containing,
An invitation to the whole Gentile world—
By “the beauty of holiness,” I understand the Sanctuary of the Lord—
[As the tabernacle and all its furniture were of the most costly materials and the most exquisite workmanship, so was the temple and all that it contained; and especially every thing connected with the holy of holies. But though in this respect it exceeded every thing upon earth in “beauty,” there was a far higher reason for its being called by this peculiar name: it was the immediate residence of the Deity, who dwelt there in a bright cloud, the Shechinah, the visible symbol of his presence. The heaven of heavens was not more holy than that sacred chamber, nor more beauteous: and therefore it might well be called, not beautiful, but “beauty;” not holy, but “holiness” in the abstract, or more forcibly still, “The beauty of holiness,” in comparison of which there was nothing beautiful or holy upon the face of the whole earth.]
Thither David invites the whole Gentile world to come, and “worship the Lord,” the Creator, the Governor, the Saviour of the world—
[By the Law of Moses it was forbidden them to enter into any part of the sanctuary. For them an outer court was provided, beyond which they were forbidden, on pain of death, to proceed. But, through the coming of the Messiah, “the partition-wall was to be broken down:” and all, both Jews and Gentiles, were to be incorporated into one body, and to be made partakers of the same privileges [Note: Ephesians 2:14-16.]. Even the vail of the temple itself was to be rent in twain [Note: Matthew 27:51.], and “a new and living way be opened” for every child of man [Note: Hebrews 10:19-22.], to approach for himself the very mercy-seat of the Most High, and to offer there his sacrifices of prayer and praise, and his incense too of fervent intercession. To this does David here invite the Gentile world. Not David himself would have dared to enter into the sanctuary which was then standing; into “the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High” it would have been at the peril of his life to enter: but he foresaw, that that servile dispensation was in due time to pass away; and that God would then hold out to every man, whether Jew or Gentile, whether bond or free, the golden sceptre of his grace, with free permission to make known to him his every request, even to the half, or to the whole, of his kingdom. To the Gentiles therefore he calls, to “turn from their idols to serve the living God,” and to “glorify God with their bodies and their spirits, which are his.”]
Let us next consider the words as,
A special call to us—
“The beauty of holiness” is yet standing—
[The tabernacle and the temple are indeed long since swept away; nor is there in existence a vessel that belonged to either. But, if the symbol of God’s presence is removed, is God himself therefore gone? No: he is here, in this very place, as truly as ever he was in his sanctuary of old. He has said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” And have we not also a sacrifice wherewith we may approach him? Yes, we have a sacrifice of infinitely greater value than all the cattle on a thousand hills. “The sacrifice of his dear Son is to him of a sweet-smelling savour:” and the merit of that every one of us may plead, and plead too with an infallible certainty of acceptance. What was there in the temple of old which we do not possess? Not any thing; not any thing which we do not possess to infinitely greater advantage. The Jews had the shadow; we have the substance: and what we enjoy as far excels in beauty and in holiness all that they possessed, as a living body excels a reflection of it in a glass.]
And may I not add, that “the beauty of holiness” is more especially visible in the ordinances of the Established Church?
[I mean not to speak disrespectfully of any other body of Christians whatever, or to detract from their ordinances, however administered: but I must say, and I say it from my inmost soul, that, in my judgment, there is in the worship of the Church of England a beauty and a holiness superior to what is found in any other Church upon earth.
But, not to enter into invidious comparisons, or to diminish the respect which others have for their own peculiar modes of worship, let us confine our attention to the worship of that Church whereof we are members. If the principles on which our worship is founded are any tests of excellence, verily our Church stands most conspicuous for all that is beautiful and holy. The Scriptures themselves are the one standard which she follows. Disdaining the trammels of human systems, she comprehends in her views all that the Scripture utters, without attempting to wrest or pervert any truth which may bear an aspect uncongenial with the dictates of unenlightened reason. It is not possible for the creature to be more deeply humbled, than her worshippers are when confessing their sins before God. And so fervent are her petitions, that nothing can exceed them. Nor is there a petition offered, which is not presented in the name of Jesus Christ, so entire is the dependence which all her children place in the merits and mediation of that adorable Saviour. Her praises and thanksgivings are as ardent as any that words can express. So that, if a whole congregation in one of our churches entered fully into the spirit of our Liturgy, it would be a brighter resemblance of heaven than was ever yet seen upon the face of the globe.]
Let me, then, call you, as David does, to “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness”—
[“Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name: bring an offering: come into his courts [Note: ver. 8.];” and take care that your worship be such as becomes his sanctuary. Let a holy reverential awe fill your souls, whenever you draw nigh to God. Let your confessions be humble; your supplications, fervent; your thanksgivings, devout. Have a special view to the Lord Jesus Christ throughout the whole of the service; and think not to offer any thing to God, or to receive any thing from God, but through him, as your all-prevailing Friend and Mediator. Whether you approach God in your closet, or in the public assembly, watch over your spirit in relation to these things, and presume not to offer unto God the sacrifice of fools. Let not the consideration of your natural distance from God discourage you. Remember, that the invitation is given to the remotest Gentiles, who are bowing down to the works of their own hands, which can never profit or deliver. To you, therefore, whatever be your state, is the invitation sent: and we are authorised, by God himself, to declare, that of those who come to him in his Son’s name, “not so much as one shall ever be cast out.”]
Make adue improvement of your own privileges—
[You cannot but see how highly David and his people were privileged above the benighted Heathen: yet were their blessings but a faint shadow of yours; so much more distinct is your knowledge of, God, and so much nearer is your access to him. Not any but the High Priest could enter into the Holy of Holies; and he only on one day in the year: but of you, every individual may go to the very throne of the Divine Majesty, and that too every day and every hour of your lives. You are “a kingdom of priests,” and may take the blood of your great sacrifice, and sprinkle it with acceptance on the Mercy-seat of your God. O that you might learn to estimate aright your high privilege, and improve it daily to the everlasting benefit of your souls!]
Endeavour to extend them to the whole world—
[We should not be content to serve our God alone: we should wish him to be honoured and enjoyed by every child of man: and to advance his glory in the world should be an object of our most unwearied attention. Happily for us, there are Societies that have embarked in this blessed work, and through which every individual may contribute to the enlargement of the Redeemer’s kingdom [Note: Here the particular Society, such us the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge, the Bible Society, or the Prayer-book and Homily Society, may be set forth, and its objects and operations may be detailed.] — — — And view the field, how extended it is! “The field is the world.” Arise, my Brethren, to the work that is before you: and if you cannot effect all that you could wish, let it at least be said of you by the heart-searching God, “They have done what they could.”]
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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 96". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20