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his desire to save, is not lessened or set aside by | to meet the state and the wishes of men—or they this decree. The great Lord who claims propriety must lay aside the old man, and be renewed in in and authority over all, whom no one can resist, the likeness of God. Unison and harmony in or may gainsay, might make the conditions of character and desire there must be, ere a cheerful life what he chose, might have attached the pen- obedience can be yielded to God's will, pleasure alty of death to the most unimportant command. taken in his service, or delight in his rewards. But surely he who sent his own Son to die for us, has not laid any needless barrier in our way to glory; on the contrary, he has removed every obstacle, and has smoothed the path that leads to life. This decree of destruction against those who regard not his works, does not belie his willingness to save. It is based upon unalterable truth, would have been borne out though these words had not been recorded, and betrays no unconcern about the welfare of man. By this declared purpose of heaven, God makes known the character of those, with whom alone he can associate in eternity, who alone can find delight in the exercises and enjoyments of heaven: Two cannot walk together except they be agreed.' There can be no concord betwixt Christ and Belial'-none betwixt the angels of light, and those who love the unfruitful works of darkness. The throne of iniquity can have no fellowship with God.
And are we then so utterly degraded-has the God of this world so completely blinded us, that we are at a loss in determining on whom the change must pass, or do we for a moment hesitate which state to choose? The principles of the divine government are well and wisely planned; they are like God himself, unchangeable; and he will not, he cannot alter them to suit the views and please the tastes of corrupt, and depraved, and rebellious men. And let it never be forgotten, that if in eternity our hearts harmonize not with this unalterable decree of Jehovah, if the seeds of discontent and rebellion are not uprooted, what can the issue be, but that we shall be crushed before the sceptre of the Lord God omnipotent, that we shall be destroyed, and not built up?' In mercy has our God proclaimed this dread truth in the ears of wayward men, that through the atoning blood of Christ they may seek by the Holy Spirit to be born again, and restored to the likeness and image of God. This is the accepted time. Tomorrow who can answer for it? The hour of death, how uncertain! The awful truth, 'as the tree falls, so shall it lie,' how plain! May the truth here declared sink deep into our hearts, thou shalt destroy them, and not build them up.'
will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy loving-kindness, and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name,' Psal. cxxxviii. 2.
If then the character of God is manifest in his works-if in them he declares his will-if that will is unalterably the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever—if in eternity the same principles will guide his counsels, and direct all his proceedings; and if by disregarding his workings now, we betray a heart at enmity with God, a heart whose desires are at variance with his desires, how obviously true and consistent is the statement that no pitying tenderness-no relentings of compassion, no extent of love, can prevail on an un-I changeable and holy God to build up the way of such. If he is the Lord;' if his will is paramount, they must be destroyed. As our Father, our Lord, our God, who will demand beyond the grave (as he does now) our love, our reverence, our THE psalmist was a most devout worshipper. service, whose presence will constitute the felicity Everywhere, and in all circumstances, he recogof eternity, how obvious is it, that for God to nized the presence, and celebrated the perfections delight in us, and we to delight in God, our desires of Jehovah. He saw God's power in the starry must breathe in unison. One of two changes must firmament, he beheld his goodness in the beauty take place, ere those, who regard not the works of lower creation. He heard God's voice in the of the Lord, can enter the heavenly Zion, or rolling thunder, he heard him also in the whisbecome citizens of the New Jerusalem. Either pering breeze. Every thing, and every place, God must alter his temple, to suit the tastes of was full of God. But in no place did he take those who are to be admitted, his service and such delight, as in the place of God's assemblies. rewards to harmonize with the desires of those And why? Because there his ordinances were who are to participate in them—or their desires dispensed, his presence and blessing promised— must be renewed, their hearts changed. Either and no where else did he find himself brought God must compromise his will, lower his charac-into such close contact with God. He went to ter, and reduce the principles of his government, the temple to worship and praise God's name.
But there were two features of the Deity that he here speaks of as specially rising to his view, viz., the loving-kindness, and the truth of God, the mercy that was hid in God, and the mercy that was revealed by God-goodness in possession, and goodness in reserve. He had present experience of God's loving-kindness, and the faithfulness of God was a sufficient guarantee that what regarded futurity, and was the subject of the divine promise, would all be made good in God's appointed time. This personal experience, and his trust in God's truth, led him thus to express himself in the 23d psalm: Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies, thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over;' and then with assured confidence he adds, 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.' Jehovah had made with David an everlasting covenant, and nothing that had gone out of his lips had altered or failed. Every word had been accomplished, every promise had been made good, in spite of all the difficulties that lay in the way, and which appeared to men insuperable. Meditating, in the sanctuary, on the loving-kindness and the truth of the Almighty, he is filled with holy admiration, and he exclaims, thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name,' thou hast magnified thy faithfulness in the fulfilment of thy promises to me, more than any other of the glorious perfections by which thou art known.
And yet reason's light and nature's discoveries are unable to lead us into the mysteries of the Godhead, and not till God himself speaks, and not till he draws aside the curtain, and discloses himself to view, have we clear, and full, and certain, and just notices of the Deity. That God is, that he is great, and wise, and just, and good, we may perchance know from nature's light, but how great, how wise, how just, and how good he is, we cannot know till we consult the oracles of the living God. But there is one feature of the divine character that to all eternity must have remained hidden, but for divine revelation, and that is the mercy of God to perishing sinners, the way of deliverance from death and hell by the mediation of the Son of God. It is only in the word of truth that the intimation of a Saviour is given, or could be given, that the method of salvation is unfolded. You may just as hopefully look for light without the luminaries of heaven, for life without creative energy, as the knowledge of a Redeemer without the immediate inspiration of God. The light of nature may discover the disease, but it cannot disclose the remedy; it may show the danger, but it cannot point out the way of escape. But how clearly, and fully, and satisfactorily is this unfolded in the word! It seems to be the grand object of God, from the beginning to the close of the sacred volume, to show how an offended God could be reconciled, a fallen creature restored, a lost sinner saved, a guilty rebel pardoned, and a polluted outcast sanctified. And surely of all intimations to man, this is the most important, and of all the works of God this is the chief; and this being revealed in the word of life, that word acquires a peculiar excellence and glory, and it may justly be said to be magnified by God above all his name. Yes, the wonders of grace far exceed those of nature, and what is discovered of God by revelation is greater far than what is discovered by reason.
But this declaration of the psalmist affords room for meditating on the peculiar excellency of the word, for showing that it gives us discoveries of God's nature, and character, and dealings, which we in vain search for any where else. It is peculiarly glorious in his sight, and we may affirm that it is the chief and the leading witness for God. The Almighty has, indeed, never left himself without a witness in this lower world. He has written his name on every created object, and he speaks to us of himself in every passing But it is not only in its discoveries that God's event: "The heavens declare the glory of God, word excels in glory; but God has employed it the invisible things of God are clearly seen, being as the chief instrument of his power in bringing understood by the things that are made, even his salvation near to sinners' hearts. He has magnieternal power and Godhead. And we are evi-fied it above every other means for the subverdences to ourselves of God's wisdom, and power, and goodness. So that even when there is no vision, no written record, men are left without excuse for with such faculties and endowments as they possess, with the law of God written in their hearts, and with such a volume of evidence spread out before the eye, and with reason's finger pointing heavenward, every rational being is inexcusable in not giving God the glory.
sion of Satan's authority, and for the extension of Christ's kingdom, for the convincing and converting of sinners, for the edifying and building up of saints.' 'The gospel is the power of God unto salvation.' Divine wisdom has not merely employed the word, as the means of promoting the salvation of individual sinners, but of extending the triumphs of the cross everywhere. It has been mainly by the word read and preached, that
was comforted, and the other tormented. The poverty, that is here spoken of, is spiritual poverty, which is not in the least degree influenced or regulated by outward condition. It arises from a sense of our own weakness, our own dependence,
souls have been aroused, enlightened, sanctified, confirmed, comforted, and ripened for glory; it is by it that grace has commenced, been advanced, and perfected. And it is just by the same instrument, wielded by the Spirit of God, that the wilderness has been gladdened, and by which our own insignificance, our own ignorance, our we hope for the universal triumphs of Christianity. Yet, awful to think, this pearl of great price is despised, this most precious gift of God to man is neglected, disbelieved, contemned, ridiculed, and held up to sport. Awful profanity! Contemner of God, beware! The time is drawing near when by that word thou shalt be tried, and by that word thou shalt be condemned.'
To this man will I look, even to him that is poor, and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word, Isa. lxvi. 2.
own guilt, our own sinfulness. It implies a feeling sense of our constant need of God's aid both for soul and body, time and eternity, mercy to pardon, and grace to help and sustain. It is such a spirit as the publican manifested, as the apostle Paul discovered, both feeling their own nothingness and sinfulness in the sight of God.
2. He is contrite in spirit. Contrition flows from humility. The person, that is lowly in his own estimation, will be grieved on account of his transgressions; and no other can be so affected. A proud, a self-righteous man, can have no sorrow for sin, because he does not feel that he is a sinner, and can see nothing in himself that ought to awaken distress of mind. Light
and darkness are not further removed in nature THE Jews in Isaiahs time boasted of the mag- from each other, than self-righteousness and nificence of their temple, and their temple ser-humility, than pride and contrition. There must vice. Jehovah here shows them its perfect be a complete revolution in the views, and sentinothingness in his sight, levels all their lofty ments, and feelings of a self-righteous person, ideas, and humbles their vain imaginations. And before he can mourn for transgression. But he this he does by reminding them of the glories of who has obtained the grace of humility, whose his own nature, the splendour of his own abode, eyes have been opened to see the holiness of God, ver. 1. and then he points out the character of that the purity of God's law, the state of his own worshipper that should find acceptance with him, heart, and the course of his own life, cannot but thus letting them see that his ideas of things lie low before God, confess his guilt, and bewail were very different from theirs-that while they his many, his aggravated offences. aimed at ostentatious show, he demanded inward purity that while they chose as the objects of their regard, the rich and the gay, and the exalted in rank, he chose the man who was poor, and of a contrite spirit, and who trembled at his word. There are three features in this character which is the object of the divine complacency.
1. He is poor. This does not mean poverty of state or condition. There are of those who are covered with rags, that have a worldly, an unsanctified, a proud, an unsubdued heart, notwithstanding their many earthly privations. And there are of the most elevated in this world who feel their nothingness in the sight of God, and are like weaned children. It was not because Lazarus was covered with sores, and clothed in rags, that he is now in Abraham's bosom-nor because Dives was clothed in purple, and fine linen, and fared luxuriously, that he lifts up his eyes in hell. God forbid It was because the poverty of the one chastened his heart, and brought him nearer to God, and the prosperity of the other lifted up his soul, and alienated his affections from God, that the one
Godly contrition, let it be remembered, is not excited by the opinion of the world, or by any thing that is created. The truly contrite soul sees God, and God alone, in all its offences and transgressions. Against Thee only have I sinned, does it exclaim. It is not a sense of danger, or a fear of punishment, that awakens it, or keeps it alive, but it arises from the fear of offending a Friend, a Benefactor, a Father, a Saviour. It is not the consequences of sin, but sin itself, that a broken heart bewails, not merely outward transgression, but inward corruption-not mere omission, but short-coming in duty, not positive rebellion, but want of heavenly graces, yea, the weakness of grace in the soul— not mere indifference, but the languor of his love, that awakens the grief of his heart. It is because he has broken God's laws, misspent precious time, abused divine mercies, perverted the grace of the gospel, not been duly affected by a Saviour's love, and not lived as a ransomed sinner, as an heir of glory, that a contrite soul mourns.
3. The acceptable worshipper trembles at
God's word. In everything that bears the stamp | of divinity, there is something so exalted and full of majesty, that it cannot be regarded by a mind that is rightly constituted without a degree of reverence and holy awe. The stupendous works and the wonderful doings of Jehovah fill us with veneration, and the same will hold true respecting God's word wherever the heart is properly enlightened and suitably impressed. There is such a sublimity, and grandeur, and importance in the revelation of God, that that man who can read or listen to its declarations, without solemnity of feeling, has no genuine conviction of its truth and importance. Were God to speak to us, face to face, and address us in all the splendours of divine majesty, we must be overwhelmed; and yet in his written word God is speaking to us individually, and the only difference betwixt the one mode of communication and the other, is in the manner, not in the matter. In the one he condescends to the infirmity of our nature, and addresses us in a still small voice; while in the other we must be addressed as with the voice of thunder. Now if we had a believing impression that God, in his written word, is addressing us, surely our perusal of the word, our listening to the word, would be with reverence and humility, with anxiety and godly fear. And such will be our feelings of mind if we are suitably impressed. Never will a Christian take the word of life into his hand, without reflecting that it is heaven's legacy to him; never will he peruse its sacred page without bearing in mind that Jehovah therein addresses him; and he will never attend the ministry of the word and the divine ordinances without saying, Speak, Lord, for thy servant hears. He reads the word, and he hears the word, with solemnity of mind, because it is not the word of man, but the word of the living God.
And what a rich reward has every such worshipper. To him God looks. Much is included in this declaration and promise-God approves and accepts his sacrifice, God watches and defends him, God delights in him to do him good, and God will abundantly reward and bless him. O! may we ever seek, in all our approaches to God, to be under the influence of his Spirit, that his favour may come to us, in peace and comfort in life, and in those blessings that are to be found at his right hand through eternity.
If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart,' Mal. ii. 2.
THE first verse of this chapter shows that this solemn warning and threatening is specially addressed to the priests, the sons of Levi. They were an order of men set apart, and consecrated to the Lord's service. Holiness to the Lord was engraven on their character, their office, their very garments. They were the interpreters of the law, the ambassadors of the Lord of hosts, the instituted medium, through whom, God and the people were to hold intercourse. The most exalted, even kings and princes, had no right in virtue of their rank or authority to intermeddle with their sacred duties, touch the vessels of the sanctuary, or interfere in the administration of divine ordinances. Much therefore depended on the priest hood, for instructing the people, extending and keeping alive the knowledge of God, and things divine. Their sacred office called on them to maintain the purity of God's worship, to promote vital godliness, and to advance the interests of pure and undefiled religion. If they became corrupt, if they declined in their duty, the consequences were most ruinous. And thus it has happened in every age, that, whenever those who are vested with the sacred office, have lost sight of the awful responsibility of their situation, have become corrupt in principle and practice, it has told most fearfully and fatally on mankind. Society through all its grades have been affected thereby-the interests of religion have declined, and morality has sunk to the lowest ebb. And how can it be otherwise? When the fountain-head, or even the channel, is poisoned, death must be the consequence to many. Now it would appear that the priests, in Malachi's days, not merely neglected to give right instruction in God's covenant, but, like Eli's sons, despised God and caused others to do so too; spake contemptuously of what was most sacred, disregarded the Most High, and thus degraded themselves, and ruined multitudes. We have this account of them in the foregoing chapter. And because they neglected to glorify God's name, they defeated the great end of their institution, made men abhor the offering of the Lord, brought religion into discredit, and thus subjected themselves to the righteous displeasure of God. If they did not hear, and repent and turn unto the Lord, he would send his curse upon
them, curse their every blessing, and visit them | ruinous. What I have just read I believe to be with his most dread judgments; yea, says he, I have cursed them already,' the sentence has gone forth, and the indignation of the Almighty is kindled against them.
Now what is written here is written as a solemn warning to the ministers of religion in every age. Though the dispensation of the gospel is different from that of the law, yet the work of the ministry now, is similar to that of the priesthood in former times; their charge is the same, their character is the same, their responsibility is the same; and whatever is recorded, whether in the way of warning or encouragement, ministers now-a-days may take it home to themselves. They are the anointed priests of the Lord, the heralds of salvation-the accredited ambassadors of the King of Zion. 'Tis theirs to speak to men in the name of the Lord, to seek the glory of God, and to advance the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom. 'Tis theirs to preach the gospel, to watch for souls as those that must give account, to warn every man, and to teach every man and by word and doctrine, by life and conversation, to win souls to Christ. The 'priest's lips should keep knowledge, and the people should seek the law at his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.' As it is by a preached gospel, by proclaiming a full and a free salvation to perishing sinners, by being examples to the believers in word and conversation, that the end of a gospel ministry is gained; should the Christian minister prove, in any way, unfaithful to God, or to men's consciences, the injury that is done to the cause of truth, and to precious souls, is incalculable. Should he by any means corrupt the seed of the word, and poison the water of life, should he give false or garbled views of divine truth, should he withhold or keep out of sight any doctrine or precept that is essential to salvation-should he cover the wound, or cure it slightly, should he preach, for the doctrines of God, the commandments of men, or should he entertain perishing sinners with dry philosophical discussions, or glowing descriptions of the beauties of virtue, instead of the spirit-stirring, the heart-affecting lessons drawn, from mount Sinai, or Calvary's hill, he would prove himself to be an unfaithful steward. Or should the trumpet give an uncertain sound, or nothing but a cold, barren, lifeless orthodoxy issue from the pulpit, or should the messenger of the Lord be characterized, by carnality and crime, by carelessness and indifference, his life being inconsistent with his office, and giving the lie to the doctrine which he proclaims, then the effect on men's souls is
perfectly true, 'that the inconsistencies of the popish priesthood, has made Italy a land of infidels-the myriads of souls which they have murdered cannot be reckoned.' O! let the protestant ministry tremble at falling into similar condemnation. "Woe to the shepherds that feed themselves, but feed not the flock.' Read the denunciations contained in Ezek. chap. iii. 18; xxxiv. 1, &c. 'What guilt so awful as that of a faithless pastor, what character so despicable, what fate so fearful! His conduct tells upon thousands, and upon generations yet unborn. O! it is not limited to time, it extends to an endless unbounded eternity.
But though priests may suffer, people shall not escape-though carelessness, and faithlessness, and profligacy may be the reproach of shepherds, and the calamity of the flock, yet it will not save or excuse the flock. People need not perish, though their teachers do. In this land particularly, men have the word; it is not buried, it is not locked up; and they have reason, and understanding, and the power of judging; therefore whatever guilt may be contracted by pastors, and whatever delusion may have been practised by them, or whatever bad effects may have been induced by ministerial faithlessness and inconsistency, still this will not excuse the hearers of the word. Pastors may perish, but the flock shall suffer along with them. When the curse has got its commission from God it shall seize upon both, and consume both.
For I have told him that I will judge his house for ever, for the iniquity which he knoweth; because his sons made themselves vile, and he restrained them not,' 1 Sam. iii. 13.
THE sin of which the sons of Eli, who belonged to the priesthood, were guilty, was one of a peculiarly daring, self-willed, and carnal nature. It was a profanation of those sacrifices of blood that were presented unto the Lord, and was aggravated by the consideration that those sacrifices were emblems and typical representations of a coming Saviour, and of his one sacrifice for sin. It is the same sin as that spoken of in Heb. x. 29. They 'trode under foot the Son of God, and counted the blood of the covenant an unholy thing.' Eli regarded it in this light when he said, 'If a man sin against the Lord, who shall entreat for him; plainly intimating that he