« AnteriorContinuar »
trinsic excellencies, and the expe- ration and sanctifying energy, when rience of its saving power. So far is employed in the Spirit's hand as an it from being a matter of surprise to instrument to fulfil the purposes of us, that carnal men are drawn to the God. study of the word, and are ofttimes No man, with any pretension to found delightedly perusing and elo- taste for that which is exquisite in quently praising its varied contents ; composition, can read the twenty-third that it is a matter of surprise, and only Psalm without delight and gratificato be accounted for by its holiness, tion : but if that is all, David wrote which repels, and its truths which and you read in vain. It is to conalarm, why they are not more at vince us of the blessedness of being tracted to a book, which for poetical among the number of Christ's sheep, beauties of every description, for histo- and that by faith, which cometh rical facts, touching all nations and all through hearing his word, we may ages, for helps to philosophy in all its become part of the little flock, and branches, stands unrivalled, -excelling value our privileges in living under the all other books in the graces of composi- guidance, protection, and pastoral care tion, the quantity, variety, and useful of the Good Shepherd, that David reness of the subordinate information it corded his own experience : and, oh, conveys, almost as it does in the high may God impart to us alike precious matters of its origin, its character, its ef- faith, and a like good hope through ficacy, and its end. Thevery mould into grace, enabling us with him to conwhich sacred truth is cast, the form it template things present and things to assumes, encreases the peril, lest the come, life and death, time and etermessage of God should come in word nity, as ours; to rejoice in the fruition only and not in power also; lest the ex- of a substantial good already realized, cellency of speech, through our cor- and in the sure persuasion of obtaining ruptions, should so engross the atten- at the last, what eye hath not seen nor tion and captivate the mind, as that ear heard, neither hath entered the the subject be forgotten or subor- heart of man. Let us read the Psalm, dinated ; and, while the fancy is de- and then confine ourselves within the lighted and the mind informed, the limits which the text prescribes. heart remains, as to any radical and “ The Lord is my shepherd, I shall saving change, unaltered and uncon- not want. He maketh me to lie down verted. The more beautiful, then, and in green pastures : he leadeth me beinteresting and attractive, by reason of side the still waters. He restoreth my its suitableness to our peculiar taste soul: he leadeth me in the paths of and habits of thought and research, righteousness for his name sake. Yea, any portion of the sacred page is though I walk through the valley of found, the greater care should be the shadow of death, I will fear no observed, that we rest not in word evil : for thou art with me, thy rod only, that we recall to mind the great and thy staff they comfort me. Thou end for which all Scripture is given by preparest a table before me in the preinspiration of God, which is not to gra- sence of mine enemies: thou anointest tify the taste, nor to amuse the imagina- my head with oil, my cup runneth tion, nor improve and elevate the mind, over. Surely goodness and mercy nor to store the memory with images shall follow me all the days of my life: and truths, however gratifying and and I will dwell in the house of the even useful, but to convert the heart | Lord for ever." and save the soul by its powerful ope- The tenth chapter of St. John's Gos.
pel furnishes a sweet and expressive or an entrance into the grave, that commentary upon these words of universal dormitory, the house apDavid-identifies the Psalmist's shep- pointed for all living, and repeatedly herd—establishes the justice of his distinguished by the Holy Ghost in reasonings and expectations, as to the words similar to those employed in certainty of present grace and perse the text. We believe that David prinverance unto the end, and describes cipally intended this last object, alwith accuracy the character of those though we do not deny that it may inwho can take up the Psalmist's lan- clude those terrors of the Lord which guage, and confidently look for the his people ofttimes suffer with a troubled realization of the Psalmist's hope. mind, and which, in other parts of his You observe, that while the general inspired strain, the sweet Psalmist of tenor of the Psalm respects the present Israel describes under this most signicondition of those who, “though once ficant and awful figure. as sheep going astray, have now re- First, Aflictive dispensations are turned unto the Shepherd and Bishop described by this figure. Thus the of their souls,” the particular verse Jewish church describing her desoupon which it is our intention to dis- lateness, says, “ Thou hast sore broken course principally, contemplates a us in the place of dragons, and co. something beyond its boundaries, and vered us with the shadow of death ;" that is calculated in the prospect to and again describing their condition of awaken the most alarming and fearful misery and God's mercy to them, apprehension, but for considerations speaks of their being " such as sit in which divest the object contemplated darkness, and in the shadow of death, of all its terrors, and depicts a state of being bound in affliction and iron. quiet and peaceful rest under the sha- He brought them out of darkness and dow of his protecting care, who is the shadow of death, and brake their described as guiding them unto green bands in sunder.” So again the Lord, pastures and beside the still waters, by Jeremiah, thus threatens affliction providing for every want and securing for their sin, "give glory to the LORD against all dangers incident to us in your God, before he cause darkness, our passage through a world of sin and before your feet stumble upon the and sorrow.
dark mountains; and while ye look Let us First examine what the for light, he turn it into the shadow object is—and consider SECONDLY of death, and make it gross darkness." the disposition of mind—the feel. The object, then, which the Psalmist ings and spirit with which he con- contemplates would include, upon the templates it: and THIRDLY, the grounds supposition that the term is thus comof that confidence here displayed. prehensive, the heaviest affliction he
First. The OBJECT WHICH THE could be called to endure—the darkest PSALMIST HERE CONTEMPLATES is, and most inexplicably mysterious dis“the valley of the shadow of death.” pensation under which he could be This highly figurative but most signi- brought-the deepest waters through ficant expression is found not unfre- which he was to pass-the most fiery quently in Scripture, and when found, trial which could await any of God's intends either the most severe and terri- dear children, sent in order to purge ble affliction which God in his inscruta- out the dross, and make them meet ble wisdom might ordain for his people, for glory. It would doubtless include the most dark and painful dispensation and comprehend all the possible variety under which they should ever come, of sufferings belonging unto this pre
sent time, the tribulations which, for | It is the public manifestation of the horror, and bitterness, and acuteness, tempter's original victory over man, of for the fears they are calculated to his right over flesh and blood, which awaken, and the distress and anguish by sin became his property, so that he they are liable to cause, are aptly re- has the power of death, and claims as presented by“ the valley of the shadow his own the earthly house of this of death ;" tribulations ordained of tabernacle in which he causes the God as a means of purification, and worms to riot; and, oh, if the former such as his people must not think it a tenant has not, through faith in Him strange thing if they are called to who has abolished death, obtained life suffer, since in enduring them they are and immortality, he only waits until conformed to his example who was the resurrection to grasp him in his made perfect through suffering. fell embrace, and together with his
But SECONDLY, the figure evidently prey sink into an unfathomable abyss intends us to contemplate that final and of eternal woe. Death is in itself a determinate change which is to pass on dreadful object of contemplation. It is all but the quick at Christ's appearing called an enemy, and a variety of conwhich the letter predicates ; that termi- siderations invest it with awful features. nation of this brief existence which is First, It is the dissolution of soul brought about by the dissolution of and body, and involves the breach of soul and body, when that spirit which those ties which natural affection holds is of God returns unto its Original to the dearest. In contemplating that be disposed of in another age of eter- period when we enter the valley, we nal endurance either in hell or heaven, necessarily contemplate a terminaand the body to the dust whence it tion of the present, and the com
Job asks, “ Are not my days mencement of a new species of existfew? cease, then, and let me alone, ence. Satan claims the body-God that I may take comfort a little. Be- requires the soul. The one becomes fore I go whence I shall not return, the prey of reptiles, the other enters even to the land of darkness, and the upon a condition of being, of which shadow of death ; a land of darkness little is revealed; enough, however, to as darkness itself, and of the shadow of inspire terror into the impenitent, and death, without any order, and where to impart everlasting consolation the light is as darkness.” Again he through grace to the hearts of God's asks, “ Have the gates of death been dear children. Death is the dissoluopened unto thee, or hast thou seen tion of soul and body; and when we the doors of the shadow of death?” enter this dark valley, we leave behind And when he would describe the us everything that has accompanied us guilty fears of those whose works are through life's journey, and the soul, darkness and who dread the light, he naked and alone, traverses it, either says,
“ For the morning is to them saved or lost, bent towards heaven or even as the shadow of death : if one hel). know them, they are in the terrors of Secondly, It is a valley from which the shadow of death."
there is no return, and in which there Death is an awful and a terrible is no repentance. thing in itself; and David may well him," said David, speaking of his prefix that significant word yea, to im- child which God had in righteous ply, the extraordinariness that he could severity removed, “ but he shall not contemplate thus an entrance into the return to me.”
It is a journey dark valley without fear and trembling. into a far country, and when taken no
“ I shall go to
step can be retraced : and there is no ye, therefore, also ready: for the Son place for repentance, even were it pos- of Man cometh at an hour when ye sible for conviction to be wrought in think not.” the deluded victim, who has entered Now these and such-like considerathe valley of the shadow of death, tions invest death with features justiwithout a saving interest in the blood fying the figure under which David reof Jesus. When man giveth up the presents it as a valley overhung with ghost, the die is cast, the door is shut. clouds. Oh, ye unregenerate children, Does he die in Jesus ? then shall he pause ere ye die and enter upon this sleep secure and full of peace in the last journey, which shall conduct to, arms of a present Saviour, until waked and terminate in, either heaven or hell! by the archangel's trump upon the Oh, ye inconsistent Christians, ye resurrection morn. Does he depart double-minded, ye livers for both without having been washed in His worlds, bethink you what your lot blood and sanctified by His spirit? He would be, if summoned to enter the passes the interval under a full con- valley of the shadow of death unpresciousness of his agonizing condition, pared for the dismal journey! Ye endures as much suffering as an imma- children of God who trust in Jesus terial spirit can endure, and receives and walk not after the flesh, but after at the same hand which crowns the the Spirit, ye too must tread the valrighteous with endless glory, and ley of the shadow of death; but you blesses them with inconceivable hap- are chosen in Him, and safe wrapped piness, his fearful portion, which only up and enfolded in His arms, who has resembles that of God's elect, in abolished death, and was a partaker of that it is uninterrupted and eternal. the children's flesh and blood, that he There is no return from that valley, no might destroy him that had the power repentance in it. Hence the import- of death, even the devil, and deliver ance of attending to the wise man's them who, through fear of death, were word,
• Whatsoever thy hand findeth all their life-time subject to bondto do, do it with thy might; for there age. Invested as death is with terrors, is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, arising out of its character and consenor wisdom in the grave whither thou quences, you need not fear. Yours is goest." The entrance of this valley is eternal life: and the disruption of all the commencement of a state un- earthly ties, and the cessation of all changeable, excepting so far as the sublunary hopes open to you a door of expectations and foretastes of felicity entrance into the house not made with or woe are realized at the resurrec- hands, and bring you into the pretion. Once more,
sence of your Saviour and your God. Thirdly, It is a valley through And thus we are brought to the conwhich all men must pass : so much as sideration of our Second topic, namethis is certain; but it is utterly out of ly, THE DISPOSITION OF MIND WITH our power to ascertain when we shall WHICH THE PSALMIST CONTEMPLATED be called to take the journey. But THIS OBJECT. “I will fear no evil,” woe, woe to the man upon whom this Christ's language to his little fock is, lastenemy comes unawares. The admo- " Fear not:" the reply of faith, in connition of Jesus, in respect of his second sequence of his encouraging address is, coming, may be well applied to us in all “ I will not fear.” “I will fear no ages, and, doubtless, the ground of evil.” However dark and gloomy the the admonition bears in a subordinate clouds which overhang my path, or degree upon the point before us. "Be deep as the waters may prove through
which I have to pass, in the contem- | evil can ever reach those around whom plation of the severest possible trials Jesus throws his everlasting arms, and to flesh and blood, and of that last for whom he sanctifies every dispenhour when all human sources of en-sation and causes all things to work joyment and of comfort are dried up, together for good. and every human prop snaps asunder, And is not his, then, a happy lot who I will fear no evil :--no, not the evil can, who ought to say, I will fear no one, who then shall put forth all his evil, into whose mouth, he who cannot malice and his more dangerous arti- | lie, puts, as it were, these very words fices, nor evil men who, though they and ordereth him to utter them? Yes, kill the body, cannot harm the soul, blessed are the people who are in such nor any evil thing; since all things a case, defended, guided, fed by the work together for my good, and no- Good Shepherd, who, having bought thing can separate me from the love them by his blood, thus gives himself of Christ. This fearlessness of evil as up to the perfect accomplishment of to the future, this power of contem- their preservation and felicity. And plating without alarm the passage oh, it is joy, our privilege, as under through the deep waters of trouble, and shepherds, to gather out of this naughty through the valley of the shadow of world the perishing victims of sin and death, is the privilege of faith and the Satan, and to invite all the sons of men blessedness which belongeth unto the to hear our Master's voice, and to foladoption : and were we duly sensible low him; and in his name to promise of the magnitude and the fulness and that all “who believe in him shall not the freedom of the unspeakable gift perish but have everlasting life.” which God has given to his Church in And now let us examine for our in. giving Christ Jesus, and all things in struction, THIRDLY, THE GROUNDS OP
and in giving the Holy Spirit THAT CONFIDENCE MANIFESTED BY THE to make all these things ours, and did we BELIEVING PSALMIST. “Yea, though I seek unto the Lord with holy confi- walk through the valley of the shadow dence and bold requests for the very of death, I will fear no evil: for thou largest, chiefest, yea, for all the bless- art with me, thy rod and thy staff they ings which his precious blood has pur-comfort me.” The grounds of David's chased, we, too, should say with fearlessness are precise and definite, David, “I will fear no evil.” Where utterly differing from the loose and our fears do not arise from our world- vague and general grounds upon which ly dispositions and worldly compli- men, who have not faith, rest their ances, from our inconsistent lives and fallacious hopes of impunity hereafter, unsanctified tempers, from our griev- and of a safe passage into a better ing the Holy Spirit by an unholy walk, world. The grounds of his confidence they spring, and therefore, in the bro- are—the assured presence of the Good ken-hearted and sorrowful contrite ones Shepherd; and the certainty of being do arise, from legal fears and a want of supported by his rod and staff. Let realizing the exceeding great and pre- us briefly notice the structure of Dacious promises which are their right- vid's foundation-what is it composed ful portion, and not from any will or of? purpose in Jehovah that they should First,“ thou art with me." It was be thus fearful. Oh, God would have God's promise of old to a faithful one, us stand fast in the liberty wherewith and it is a promise fulfilled to every Christ has made his adopted free. He child of God. “My presence shall go would have us fear no evil, since no with thee.” Chosen in Christ, buried