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ren of good and filled with wickedness; to look back upon time wasted, opportunities misimproved, faculties perverted, mercies abused, character destroyed; to look back and find nothing from which the mind can derive a future hope, or acknowledge a past satisfaction!
But it is pleasing and edifying to look back —I will not say upon a well-spent life—but upon those years in which we have known God, or rather have been known of him; in which we have loved and endeavoured to serve him; in which we have enjoyed something of his presence and his smiles. It is delightful to call to remembrance places and seasons made sacred by communion with him; and to think over the advantages and pleasures we have derived from his ordinances, and from his blessed word.
David does this. "Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage."
Henee we observe three things. I. A
GOOD MAN VIEWS HIS RESIDENCE IN THIS WORLD AS ONLY THE HOUSE OF HIS PILGRIMAGE. II . The
SITUATION, HOWEVER DISADVANTAGEOUS, ADMITS OF CHEERFULNESS.
III. The Sources Of His Joy Are Derived From The Scripture.
L When David speaks of The House Of His Pilgrimage, he may literally design to express his exile and wanderings when banished by the persecution of Saul, or the rebellion of Absalom. But he intends it more generally, as significant of the whole course of his life on earth. For being a partaker of divine grace, he would say this in a palace as well as in a prison; he would say it when surrounded with all the ensigns of majesty, as well as when stripped of all his possessions. If a Christian had the dominion of Alexander, and all the treasures of the Indies, yet in all this abundance, and with all this greatness, he would feel himself poor, feel himself from home, feel himself a stranger and a sojourner—and seek a better country, that is an heavenly.
At first indeed the world is far from appearing to us in this reduced and insignificant point of light Its maxims and pursuits fall in with our depraved dispositions. And unacquainted with its vanity and vexation, we rush forth filled with high and eager expectations. We think to find it a paradise— but thorns and briers, sand and drought, tell us it is a wilderness. We dream that we are eating, but awake and feel that we are hungry—and looking around us, we see that there is nothing to feed us.
Various are the disappointments and the calamities that imbitter life; and "many are the afflictions of the righteous." Yet we are mistaken if we suppose that it is wholly or principally owing to these that he views himself now m a house of pilgrimage. The spirit
of the world no longer reigns m him. He renounces the world, not only because it is unfriendly, but because it is unsuitable: not because he cannot carry every thing before him, but because he no longer loves it He forsakes the world when it smiles, as well as when it frowns. He is not violently torn from it, but resigns it in consequence of the discovery and apprehension of something infinitely better. The eyes of his understanding are enlightened, and he sees what is the hope of his calling, and what is the glory of the riches of his inheritance in the saints: and this henceforth becomes his prize. Having discerned by faith another world, he makes a true estimate of this—he sees that the present is not a state to fix in, but only a region to pass through ; and therefore finds that he is not at home, but journeying.
He is born from above, and therefore natnrally aspires after his native land. Does not every thing tend to the place of its original I His portion is above. The inheritance incorruptible, and undented, and thatfadeth not away, is reserved in heaven for him. There his nope is laid up; there is his treasure— and what wonder if there his heart be also? There he is to gain deliverance from all his errors; perfection of holiness; a glorious body ; the possession of all the promises. Can he be satisfied to live at a distance from all this?
His kindred dwell above—there are to be found his father, his elder brother, the younger branches of the household of faith. Thither many of his once dear connexions on earth are gone, and thither all the wise and good are going; and he can now only get a glance of them upon the road, or exchange a few words as they pause for refreshment at the inn. There they shall all unite and be for ever with each other, and for ever with the Lord. Here he is in motion, then he will be at rest; he is now-traveling, he shall then reach home, and "sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God." Inferior, however, as his present situation is, compared with the future—we are reminded,
II. That It Will Admit Of CheerfulNess: he can sine—" thy statutes have been my songs in the#nousc of my pilgrimage."
Genuine religion excites and interests the feelings. It is equally absurd and dangerous to place it in cold ceremonies, or external performances in which the affections have no share. The same may be said of reducing it merely to an intellectual system. The principles of revelation are addressed, not only to the understanding, but to the heart Ought I to believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and that two and two make four, with the same indifference and insensibility? Impossible. That Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners is not only "a faithful saying," but a saying " worthy of all acceptation :" it contams all that is great and good and suitable and necessary—and can never be properly received, if it meets only with a frigid speculative assent
We do not indeed plead for ignorant and unaccountable feelings: but we contend that the light of Christianity is like that of the sun, which, while it illuminates, also enlivens and fructifies. We do not admire the zeal which burns up the brain; but we plead for the fervour that warms the heart: and we say, and saith not the Scripture the same? that "it is good to be always zealously affected in a good thing." And wherefore is every thing like warmth in religion branded with the name of enthusiasm? Warmth is expected in the poet, in the musician, in the scholar, in the lover—and even in the tradesman it is allowed, if not commended—why then is it condemned in the concerns of the soul—a subject which, infinitely above all others, demands and deserves all the energy of the mind? Would a prisoner exult at the proclamation of deliverance—and is the redeemed sinner to walk forth from his bondage, unmoved, unaffected, without gratitude or joy? No. "Ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall ciap their hands!" Shall the condemned criminal feel I know not what emotions, when instead of the execution of the sentence he receives a pardon; and is the absolved transgressor to be senseless and silent?—No. "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also. And not only so, but we also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we - have now received the atonement"
Other travellers are accustomed to relieve the tediousness of their journey with a song. The Israelites, when they repaired from the extremities of the country three times a year to Jerusalem to worship, had songs appointed for the purpose, and traveled singing as they went And of the righteous it is said, "They shall sing in the ways of the Lord. The redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads." Religion therefore is productive of many pleasing feelings. And we make use of this fact two ways.
First, we say that those whoaro habitually strangers to pleasure in divine things have reason to suspect their condition. Persons may want the joy of confidence, and yet have the joy of hope: and they may have very little, if any, of the pleasures of hope, while yet -hey find pleasures in religious exercises and
dispositions. They may love the place where God's honour dwelleth, and be glad when it is said to them, " Let us go into the house of the Lord;" they may "call the Sabbath a delight;" and say, " It is good for me to draw nigh to God." But it is awful if you find the Sabbath a weariness, the house of God a prison, and the presence of God irksome—it is awful if you find religious duties a task instead of a privilege. It is one of the characters of the true circumcision—that "they rejoice in Christ Jesus."
Secondly, those are mistaken who shun religion under the apprehension that it is unfriendly to their happiness, and prescribes a joyless course, engaged in which they must bid adieu to pleasure. Man needs present gratification, and religion provides for it The Master he serves does not require him to live only in expectation: he has much in possession, though he has more in hope. There the clusters grow, but hither some of them are sent
The hill of Zion yield*
A thousand sacre.l aweeta
Surely you will allow that happiness depends upon God, and that he is able to make a man happy at present—and is it likely that he will suffer an enemy in rebellion against him to be happier than a servant who is endeavouring to serve him! If such be your conclusion—what a monstrous notion of God do you entertain! Besides, has he not assured you in his word that his "yoke is easy, and his burden light"—that his "ways are ways of pleasantness, and that all his paths are peace?" And does not the experience of all those who have made the trial confirm the truth of the representation? Have not his followers found that "to the upright there ariseth light in darkness!" have they not sung in seasons and circumstances which would have filled others with misery and dismay! Behold Paul and Silas. At midnight in the inner prison, their feet made fast in the stocks, their backs bleeding with the recent scourge—they not only prayed—but "sang praises unto God!" Behold the Church. She views every earthly resource as dried up—but can say, "Although the figtree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." Behold David. He bids fare well to life; his heart and his flesh fail him —but he exclaims, "Yea, though I waljj through the valley ofthe shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me."
III. Whence Did David, And Whence Does Evert Christian Derive This Joy! I Answer, From The Scriptures. "Thy statutes have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage." The discoveries and the promises of this blessed book are adapted to rejoice the pilgrim's heart
What are these discoveries! They tell him of the end of his faith, even the salvation of his soul—they remind him continually of his country; they place it before him in every engaging form, and prove how far it surpasses every thing here—while it will infinitely indemnify him for all his losses, and reward him for all his difficulties.
They show him clearly and unerringly the way. Thus they give hun the peace and satisfaction of certainty: he knows that he is not journeying at random—not a step is taken in vain—each brings him nearer home.
They assure him that he is not alone in his trials and exercises. They call upon him to observe way-marks thrown up by former pil
frims, where he began to think no pious foot ad ever trod. "' The same things,' say they, 'happened to your brethren who were before you in the world.' 'Be ye followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.' 'Take the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. Behold, we count thenr happy which ?ndure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord: that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.'" How suitable, how animating, how blessed are such discoveries as these!
But promises are something more than discoveries; and with these the Scripture abounds. They are "exceeding great and precious." And what can the pilgrim want or desire that is not insured by them?—A freedom of motion? This is insured. "Thou Shalt walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble." An ability to hold on ?— This is insured. The "righteous shall hold on his way; and he that hath clean hands shall wax stronger and stronger." Victory over enemies!—This is insured. "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under foot" All needful supplies?—These are insured. "O fear the Lord, ye his saints; for there is no want to them that fear him. The young lions do lack and suffer hunger; but they that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing." Is not all this sufficient to induce him to go on his way rejofcing?
We have been speaking of the experience of David, and of the experience of all the Lord's people. Are you like-minded with them? There are only two sorts of people in the world. All are citizens of earth or of heaven. And naturally all are of the first class—but some are by divine grace
obeying the command; "Arise ye and depart hence: for this is not your rest"
Are you men of the world—do you feel yourselves at home—would you be satisfied to live here always—provided you could succeed according to your wishes? Are you looking only to those things that are seen and temporal? The man who takes up with this world as his portion is worse than a brute. He is unworthy of the soul he carries within him. He starves his mind. He makes no provision for the evil day. It matters not what he has—he is in a miserable condition —he has nothing that can either satisfy or save. A man going to execution is for the present very well off: he has a carriage to ride in; a guard to attend him; officers to accompany him, and a number of followers. But what would you think of the man if he deemed all this the token of his honour, rather than the forerunner of his punishment; and should only consider how he is accommodated, but never ask whither am I going i Alas! how many such fools are there! They only think how it is with them at present, but never inquire what will become of them, hereafter. But "the end of these things is death."
There are others who are delivered from the present evil world, and are heirs of the kingdom which God has promised to them that love him. As strangers and pilgrims, let me give you three admonitions, founded on the several 'parts of the discourse which you have heard.
First Always regard your present condition as a state of pilgrimage—and never view it as any thing more. This will regulate your desires, and moderate your wishes after earthly things. This will keep you from being too much elated when you meet with prosperous scenes. Not that you will disparage the bounties of Providence—you will even bo thankful for them, as conveniences by the way—but you will consider them only as accommodations; and not mistake them for the advantages and glories of home—you will not therefore sit down, but still press forward. This will enable you to endure with fortitude and resignation the hardships you may encounter. You will say, "As a traveller, I expect such things; they are only the inconveniences of a journey—it will soon be over —' and I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.'"
Second. Cherish a humble and a holy joy. Consider this not only as your privilege—but duty. Enforce it upon your minds by the authority of God, who commands you to rejoice always, and by a consideration of the importance of it to others. Nothing will honour and recommend your religion more than this. It will show those around you, that you have found what they are seeking after. Surely you do not, you cannot wish to travel to heaven alone—but habitually cheerful—singing as you go—you will be constantly inviting and alluring your relations, friends, neighbours, to join you. You will address them, as Moses addressed Hobab, the son of Raguel—" We are journeying unto the place of which the Lord said, I will give it you: come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel."
Third. Love and study the Scriptures. He that avoids reading a portion of them daily forsakes his own mercy; and is so far regardless of his safety, welfare, and comfort Therefore "bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp: and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life."
Precious Bible? like thy blessed Author, our sun and our shield, thou giver of grace and glory, thou conductor through all this gloomy vale to our everlasting home, how many advantages have we already derived from thee? Thou hast often solved our doubts, and wiped away our tears. Thou hast been sweeter to our taste than honey and the honeycomb. Thou hast been better to us, in our distresses, than thousands of gold and silver. Unless thou hadst been our delight, we should have perished in our affliction.
No wonder Job "esteemed thee more than his necessary food." No wonder David chose thee as his heritage for ever, and found thee to be the rejoicing of his heart No wonder the noble army of martyrs parted with their estates and with their blood, rather than with thee. May we value thee as our richest jewel, may we love thee as our dearest good, may we consult thee as our surest counsellor, may we follow thee as our safest rule!
And oh! thou eternal Jehovah, "send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me: let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God, my exceeding joy;
runted, both ye and your king.—1 Sam. ni,
Such was the language of Samuel to the Jews. The words have a peculiar force in them. It arises from the wisdom of the address. How could he have given them a better representation of their duty! And how could he have more powerfully recommended it?
He requires of them nothing superstitious; nothing merely ritual and ceremonious; nothing only external and temporary—but tie exercise of piety flowing from the fear of God, and accompanied with a sincerity and fervour in serving him. This is all. "Only fear the Lord, and serve him in truth with all your heart" This he enforces by two motives; the one drawn from gratitude, and the other from interest He has been your friend; he can be your enemy. He has done great things for you; and he will do great things against you. Consider this— "Consider how great things he hath done for you. But if ye shall still do wickedly, ye shall be consumed, both ye and your king.
Already I hope you have dropped Judea, and fixed your attention on your own country. The words could never have been more applicable to the Jews than they are to us. And hence we have been led to choose them on this solemn occasion, when we are called to assemble together to acknowledge our sim and to implore the Divine mercy.
To render the Scripture useful, we must consider persons in former ages as specimens of human nature in general; and the dispensations of Providence towards them as holding forth the unchangeable perfections of Jehovah. Thus individuals, families, churches, nations, become exemplary, and by their welfare or ruin, encourage our hope, or awaken our fear.
Among all the nations of the earth there is no one to which we can so properly refer as the Jews—not only because their history is true, and events are traced up to their proper causes—but because there is a greater correspondence between them and us than between us and any other people. They only of all the nations of antiquity worshipped the same God with us. They only, like us, were under the reign of grace as well ai
yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, 0 God, I providence, and enjoyed religious and spirit
DISCOURSE LI I.
SIN RUINS A KINGDOM.
(FOR A FA8TD4Y.)
Only fear the Lord, and terve him in truth -with all your heart: for cowider ho-a great thing* he hath done for you. But if ye thall itili do wickedly, ye thall be con
ual privileges blended with civil and natural. Let us attend to this.
Samuel tells them that "the Lord bad done great things for them." David could not review their history without admiration. M What one nation in the earth a like thy people, even like Israel, whom Coo went to redeem for a people to himself, an* to make him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for thy land, before thy people, which thou redeemest to thee from Egypt, from the nations and their gods1
Mopes, at a much earlier period, gave them a pre-eminent blessedness. "Happy art thou, 0 Israel! who is like unto thee, O people, saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency ! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee, and thou shalt tread upon their high places."
Abraham lived in Ur of the Chaldeans. God, in his sovereign grace, "called him to his foot," and commanded him to depart from his own country and his father's house, in search of a place which he should afterwards receive for an inheritance. He told him he should be the ancestor of a nation, numerous as the stars of heaven, and that one of his posterity should finally bless all the families of the earth. He multiplied and increased him. With Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise, he was a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth. "When they were but a few men in number; yea, very few, and strangers in it; when they went from one nation to another, from one kingdom to another people: he suflered no man to do them wrong; yea, he reproved kings for their sakes; saying, Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm."
Their deliverance from the land of Egypt and the house of bondage is well known. He brought them forth with a strong hand and an outstretched arm. Creatures of every rank espoused their cause, and punished their enemies. When in jeopardy from their pursuers, the sea opened, and they passed through, as on dry ground, which the Egyptians assaying to do, were drowned. Then they sang his praise. And the deliverance was the food of their faith, and hope, long afterwards. "Thou didst divide the sea by thy strength; thou breakedst the heads of the dragons in the waters. Thou breakedst the head of Leviathan in pieces, and gavest him to be meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness."
Forty years wandered they in the desert They knew not their way—he was their guide. They were exposed to dangers—he was their defence. They had no supplies— he rained down manna; the rocks poured out water; and their clothes waxed not old upon them. Had they unwholesome damps by night! The pillar of cloud became a fire and absorbed them. Were they open by day to the heat of a burning sky? The pillar of fire became a cloud and diffused an immense shade over them. Thus "the sun did not smite them by day, nor the moon by night"
By-and-by Jordan rolled back its streams, and they took possession of a land, where were wells which they digged not, houses which they builded not, vineyards which they
Cited not: a land flowing with milk and ey; wherein there was no scarceness; and upon which the Lord's eye was from the beginning even to the end of the year. 2 A 16*
But they had unspeakably greater advantages than all these. What says David? "He showeth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them." What says Paul ?" Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever."
And has he not done great things for us i —It is not foolish partiality, but truth that compels us to say, "The lines are fallen to us in pleasant places; yea, we have a goodly heritage." O England!" blessed of the Lord be thy land, for the precious things of heaven, tor the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath. And lor the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon. And for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills. And fbr the precious things of the earth, and fulness thereof; and for the good will of Him that dwelt in the bush." Have we not a land of woods and rivers, of fields and of meadows, " of wheat and of barley?" Are not "our oxen strong to labour;" and do not "our sheep bring forth thousands, and ten thousands in our streets?" Are we not placed in a climate whose temperature equally secures us from scorching heat and intolerable cold i What advantages do we possess as an island! In consequence of this, we have been preserved from invasion; and our country has not been made a field of slaughter. What do we know of war? We have only witnessed its remote preparations and effects. We have not heard the "confused noise of warriors," nor seen "garments rolled in blood." Nor have our nurses, terrified at the sound of battle, fled with our infants and lamed our Mephibosheths for life. Commerce has filled our rivers with ships, and poured the produce of the four quarters of the globe upon our tables. We have a constitution which displays the sober, improved, tried wisdom of ages. We have laws, distinguished by their justice, their mildness, their impartiality. The poor are equally protected with the rich; and character and talents can rise to eminence from the cottage, as well as from the mansion. Humanity and benevolence have distinguished the national character; and around us rise institutions of charity to embrace the sons and daughters of every kind of wretchedness.
Capernaum, though a little mean fishing town, was said to be "exalted unto heaven"' —and the reason was—because our Lord and Saviour had honoured it with his presence, and had preached in it the kingdom of God.