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GOD'S PEOPLE UNDER Vows.
PSALM CXIX. 106.
I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep
thy righteous judgments.
In the Psalms, particularly in this, and in the nineteenth Psalm, we find the inspired writer speaking much of the law, judgments, statutes, testimonies, and commandments of the Lord. All these, as used by the Psalmist, are generally to be understood, nearly in the same sense, as referring to the divine rules and precepts of the scripture, relative to the conduct of mankind, and God's dealings with them.
These, considered as the solemnly enacted regulations of God's kingdom, are called the statutes of the Lord. Considered as a witness between God and his creatures, of what God requires of men, and what he will do for them, upon the performance of the condition, they are called the testimonies of the Lord. When considered as the declaration of God's righteous will, by which men are required to govern themselves, and according to which they are to receive their final judicial sentence, they are calla ed the judgments of the Lord.
A covenant and oath, therefore, to keep. God's righteous judgments, are a covenant and oath to be the Lord's, to be devoted to his service, and to be governed by his word. These were the covenant and oath of the Psalmist, of which he speaks in the text. He had solemnly chosen the Lord for his portion, and the word of the Lord for his rule. In the 57th verse of the context, he says, “ Thou art my portion O Lord, I have said that I would keep thy words.” He had said this under the solemnity of an oath. The vows of God were upon him. Nor did he regret, that he had thus sworn to the Lord, nor hesitate to acknowledge the strictness, extent, and binding nature of his oath. He looked
the choice, which he had made, and the dedication of himself, his time, his talents, and all that he possessed, to the service of God, with entire approbation. The only things, he had to regret and bewail, were his own great imperfections, and numerous shortcomings in duty. The judgments of the Lord were not grievous to him. He delighted in the word, the people, the house, and the ordinances of God; and he desired that his heart might be more and more enlarged, that he might run in the way of God's commandments. He was, therefore, ready and cheerful, with a sense of dependence, and in the strength of divine grace, to approve and renew his vows, as in the text : “ I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments."
These words suggest the following practical observations, for our application and improvement.
I. All the judgments, or commandments of God are righteous ; and are thus viewed by his people.
II. God's people are under solemn covenant vows and obligations, to keep his commandments.
III. They repent not of their vows, nor desire to be released from them; but rather to renew them.
I. All the judgments, or commandments of God are righteous; and are thus viewed by his people.
This observation naturally arises from the text, and is confirmed by numerous parallel passages, in which the people of God have expressed their feelings on this subject. That David, and the ancient saints, viewed God's statutes, judgments, and commandments as righteous, none will deny, who read and credit the scriptures. But, as in water, face answereth to face, so the heart of man to man. Thus do the views of the people of God, upon this subject, answer to each other, in every age of the world. Being changed into the same image, by the spirit of the Lord, they are agreed in this, as in all things essential, that the statutes and judgments of the Lord are righteous; that his ways are equal ; and that all the injunctions and prohibitions of his word are just and reasonable. They consider it fit, and a righteous thing in God, to require perfect obedience of intelligent creatures, upon pain of endless wrath.
To give their hearts to God; to devote themselves, and all that they have and are, to his service, as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable, walking in all the commands of the Lord blameless, they consider as a most reasonable service. They are convinced that they have nothing, which they have not received ; and are sensible, that God may, in perfect righteousness, require any thing of them, and enjoin any thing upon them, which shall be for his glory, and the ultimate good of his kingdom.
By the wicked, indeed, the requirements and injunctions of God's word are not thus viewed. Although they recommend themselves to the consciences of all, and are acknowledged to be righteous by many, who, in practice, disregard them; yet it is certain that all natural men do practically, and some of them, expressly say, that the commandments of the Lord are hard and unrighteous, and his equal.
When they hear the threatenings of the law, and the doctrines and duties of the gospel inculcated, they exclaim, " These are hard sayings, who can hear them?” They account it hard, that God should require the heart, while he rejects, as abomination, all impenitent doings; that he should require sinners to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Christ'; making the interest of his kingdom their ultimate aim in all things. They also consider the particular cluties of the Christian life, as too numerous, and too strict; especially, that they should be required to attend the public worship of Gode every Lord's day, and both parts of the day, and observe all gospel ordinances, living in the practice of secret prayer, and of daily family prayer, with the daily reading of the scriptures. These, and various other things, they consider unreasonable. There needs no other proof of this, than their own pleas and excuses for justifying themselves. If their excuses, for a general neglect of these and other duties, be reasonable, then the statutes and commandments of God, respecting them, are unreasonable.
But whatever may be the language or views of the children of this world, yet “ Wisdom is justified of her children.” To them, the words of her mouth are right words. All the people of God consider his ways and commandments, as reasonable and righteous, and they can cheerfully adopt the language of the Psalmist; “ The statutes of the Lord are right: the judgments of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether.” “ I esteem all thy precepts, concerning all things, to be right.”
II. Gad's people are under solemn covenant vous and obligations, to keep his commandments.
They not only consider them as righteous, and binding in themselves, but they have submitted to them, and laid themselves under a voluntary obligation, to obey them. They have sworn to the
Lord, that they will keep his righteous judgments. This David did; and this does every real, and every professing Christian.
This is done, virtually, by every Christian, when the soul first embraces the Saviour; because there is then a virtual self-dedication, and an entire consecration of soul and body to be the Lord's, in the way of the new covenant. At this time also, God becomes engaged, by promise, to be to the soul a God and portion for ever.
But this is done most expressly, when persons come forward, and publicly profess religion, avouching the Lord Jehovah, Father, Son and Holy Ghost to be their God, and themselves to be his people ; cngaging to observe all things whatsoever he has commanded them. Especially, is it done, when they attend upon the ordinances of the gospel, particularly, the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.
The original meaning of the word sacrament, is an oath.
Whenever, therefore, we attend upon the sacra. ment of Baptism, to dedicate ourselves, and our children to God, we do then, solemnly and renewedly, Tow that we will be the Lord's. When we receive the sacrament of the Lord's supper, partaking of the emblems of his body and blood, we not only profess to be united to Christ, in one body, and by one spirit, but to receive him, as our Prophet, Priest, and King.
The ancient custom of ratifying covenants, was by eating together. And when professing Christians partake of the sacrament of the Lord's supper, and commune with Christ at his table, they solemnly perform an oath. They confirm and seal their covenant, to be the Lord's, and their engagements to keep his righteous judgments.
How solemn and interesting, therefore, is the situation of professing Christians ! They are not their own, They possess nothing, which they do not owe