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[God chose Zion of old for his habitation, and delighted to make that above all other cities in the universe "the place of his rest." There he abode in that bright symbol of his presence, the Shechinah, "dwelling between the cherubimsd.". There his people assembled by his appointment to worship him: thence he dispensed his blessings: and thence in due time he sent forth his everlasting Gospel.
Thus under the Christian dispensation he has honoured his Church, dwelling in it; as he has said, "I am with you alway, even to the end of the world." There he reveals his glory, even "all the glory of the godhead, in the face of Jesus Christ" There he makes known all the riches of his grace and love There he communes with his people who present their supplications before him, "drawing nigh to them, whilst they draw nigh to him;" and giving them answers of peace; not indeed visibly, as by the Urim and Thummim of old, but really, and satisfactorily to their souls - In a word, though unknown in every other place under heaven, "He is known in her palaces as a refuge."]
2. As the birth-place of the saints—
[This is particularly noticed in the psalm before us: "Of Zion it shall be said, This and that man is born in hers." Under the Jewish dispensation conversions were comparatively few; but under the Christian dispensation they are very numerous; though at present they are only as the drop before the shower. On the day of Pentecost the Spirit was poured out in richer abundance, and thousands were converted in a day: and still, wherever the Gospel is preached in sincerity and truth, there the power of God accompanies the word, and "subdues the souls of men to the obedience of faith." Amongst the heathen, Satan maintains an universal sway: and amongst those Christians who are not blessed with a faithful ministry, very few are ever rescued from his dominion: but where the cross of Christ is exalted, there will be found "a stir among the dry bones," and multitudes will be born to God. And may we not ask, Whether this is not confirmed by the experience of many here present? Once you were dead in trespasses and sins, and as destitute of all desire after God, as any people in the world: but, through the preaching of a crucified Saviour in this place, your souls have been "turned from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God." Here also, when you have been mourning on account of your indwelling corruptions, God has "given you the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness";" so that you can confidently say, "I was born there." Blessed testimony, that may well endear to you
c Ps. cxxxii. 13, 14. f Ps. xlviii. 3.
d Ps. lxxx. 1. g ver. 5, 6.
e Isai. ii. 3.
h Isai. 1xi. 3.
the gates of Zion, and render her more lovely in your eyes than all the palaces in the universe!]
3. As an emblem of heaven itself—
[Such it really is: for all who are born in her " are come unto Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem." Though she is a spiritual edifice, she has her foundations, her walls, her gates; all of which are found also in that heavenly Zion which St. John saw, even in "that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, and having the glory of God." And both the one city and the other" are of pure gold!." Each of them too, amongst the many distinctions which they enjoy above all earthly cities, have a light peculiar to themselves. Of our Zion it is said, "The sun is no more her light by day, neither for brightness does the moon give light unto her; but the Lord is unto her an everlasting light, and her God her glory m." And thus it is also in the heavenly Zion: "The city has no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it for the glory of God does lighten it; and the Lamb is the light thereof"." It is but one family that is inhabiting both the one city and the other, " even the family of our Lord Jesus Christ°;" and their employments are altogether the same for whilst the one are " rejoicing in the Lord always" here below, the other are incessantly engaged in singing praises to him above, even " to Him, who loved them, and washed them. from their sins in his own blood, and made them kings and priests unto their God; to him, I say, do they ascribe all glory and dominion for ever and ever 9."]
II. The effect which these testimonies should have upon us
Surely, when the Church is so high in the estimation of God,
1. We should inquire what place she holds in our
[Never has she had, at least in a spiritual view, any visible glory. In the days of the prophets, her limits were contracted, and her members poor, despised, persecuted. In the days of Christ and his Apostles, though her limits were enlarged, she, like her Lord himself, had "no beauty nor comeliness for which she was to be desired'." She has been in a wilderness state even to this present hours, an object of hatred and derision to all that were round about her. Yet to the eye of faith she is most
beautful, most glorious. In all that pertains to her, she is " the perfection of beauty." Her foundations are of the most precious stones: "her walls are salvation, and her gates praise"." Her laws are all holy, and just, and good: her ordinances are a very heaven upon earth and her members more highly privileged than all other creatures in the universe. Say then, Brethren, whether such be your views of Zion; and whether to be enrolled amongst her citizens be the highest object of your ambition? Our blessed Lord told his disciples, that even to have "the devils made subject unto them" was no ground of joy in comparison of this: for, if you really belong to Zion, "your names are written in heaven," and all the glory and felicity of heaven are yours. But if you are " aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, you are strangers from the covenants of promise, without God, without Christ, without hope."]
2. We should seek to advance her glory
[God has promised, that, in due season, "the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and that all nations shall flow unto her"." "Then shall Zion be no more termed desolate, or forsaken: for God will delight in her; and all the kings of the earth shall bring their glory to her." "Her gates shall be open continually: they shall not be shut day nor night; that men may bring unto her the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. Then the nation and kingdom which shall not serve her shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted. The glory of Lebanon shall come unto her, the fir-tree, the pine-tree, and the box together, (the meanest slave being as acceptable as the mightiest monarch,) to beautify the place of God's sanctuary, and to make the place of his feet glorious. The sons also of them that afflicted her, shall come bending unto her; and all that despised her shall bow down themselves at the soles of her feet; and shall call her, The city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israela." Now then I ask, Should we not long for this glorious period? Should we not exert ourselves to the uttermost to help it forward? Should we not search out the benighted Gentiles, and labour to bring back to their God the dispersed of Israel? Should we not endeavour to bring men from every quarter, "their sons in our arms, and their daughters in litters upon our shoulders, to glorify the house of his glory?" Men may pretend to love the Church: but their professions must be brought to this test. If we are at all sensible of the benefit of belonging to Zion, we shall neither rest ourselves, "nor give any rest to our God," till
t Ps. l. 2.
u Isai. lx. 18.
z Isai. ii. 2.
* Luke x. 20.
a Isai. lx. 11–14.
"the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth"."]
3. We should labour to participate in all her privileges
[Is God indeed revealed there in all his excellency and glory? Is it the place, the only place, where sinners are born to God? Is it an emblem even of heaven itself? We should determine then to come to her without delay, and to seek admission into her blissful community. In comparison of being numbered amongst her children, all that the world can give should be esteemed by us as dung and dross; and we should say with David, "I would rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." As for hatred, contempt, persecution, or even death itself, they should be accounted rather as an honour, and a happiness, and a privilege, than as objects of fear, if they are brought upon us for Zion's sake. It should be a sufficient recompence to us, that our God is glorified, and that the interests of Zion are advanced. If we are children of Zion indeed, we shall be joyful under any circumstances; we shall "be joyful, I say, in our King" as it is written; "They shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the Lord, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd; (that is, for all spiritual consolation and support;) and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all." Whether they be priests or people, it shall be thus with them: for, " I will satiate the soul of the priests with fatness; and my people shall be satisfied with my goodness, saith the Lords."]
[Let us then love Zion, and "prefer her before our chief joy h Let her ordinances be our delight; and let us pray for her advancement, saying, "Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within her palaces." Then shall our own souls most assuredly flourish: for "they shall prosper that love her."]
b Isai. lxii. 1, 6, 7. e Ps. cxlix. 2.
h Ps. cxxxvii. 5, 6.
c Ps. lxxxiv. 10.
d 1 Pet. iv. 13, 14.
DISTRESS OF SOUL CONSIDERED.
Ps. lxxxviii. 14-16. Lord, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me? I am afflicted, and ready to die, from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted. Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off.
HEMAN the Ezrahite, the author of this psalm, is thought by most to have been the grandson of Judah; and to have been so eminent for wisdom, as almost to have equalled Solomon himself. But he seems rather to have been the grandson of Shemuel, or Samuel. Whoever he was, he was a man greatly afflicted, and, at the time that he wrote this psalm, altogether destitute of any other consolation, than what he felt in spreading his sorrows before God. In other psalms we find many and grievous complaints; but the gloom that overspreads the mind of the author at the commencement of them, is usually dispelled before they are brought to a close; and what began with sorrow is terminated with joy. But in the composition before us there is no such pleasing change: it is nothing but one continued complaint from beginning to end. In discoursing on it, we shall point out,
I. The state to which a righteous soul may be reducedTruly the state of Heman was most afflictive
[There can be no doubt but that he was a righteous man. Had he not been so, he would not have addressed Jehovah in such expressions of holy confidence, as "The Lord God of his salvation;" nor could he have affirmed, that "night and day he had poured out his prayers and cries before him"." Yet behold, how heavy, how exceeding heavy, was his affliction! "His soul was so full of troubles, that they brought him nigh to the grave." Hear how he himself represents them, referring them all at the same time to God himself as the author of them: "Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. Thy wrath lieth hard upon me; and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves." To the same effect he speaks also in the words of our text, complaining of the dereliction he experienced in this hour of his calamity, and of the terrors which he endured, which, whilst they were rapidly bringing down his body to the grave, had well nigh bereaved him of his senses, and reduced him to a state of utter distraction.]
And such, alas! is the state of many in every age of the Church—
c 1 Chron. vi. 33. and xv. 19. compared with the title to Ps. ixxxix. The grandson of Judah could not have written so about David.
d ver. 1, 2, 9, 13.
e ver. 3.
f ver. 6, 7.