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of heaven. Blessed are they who hanger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."—This is what we mean by being poor and needy, experimentally.
As all believers feel this to be their condition, so we may observe no diflerence is made in their sense of it by their worldly circumstances. David was a king; yet this did not alter the view he had of himself, as a fallen, sinful, perishing creature before God. His palace was not a substitute for heaven, nor even caused him to forget it He had fame, and armies, and riches; yet these could not supply the place of all spiritual blessings: he therefore prays, "Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance." "I am poo r and needy," says the believer, "unless as I obtain the true riches, the unsearchable riches of Christ: and I often fear I have none of them. But if I am a possessor—O how small a portion do I possess! How little, compared with what I want and wish! How little, compared with the infinite fulness there is in the Redeemer! How little, compared with the acquisitions of others! They have received from him fulness, and grace for grace. But I have not attained: I am not already perfect How weak is my faith; how wavering my hope; how flameless my zeal. How far—O how far am 1 from being filled with all the fulness of God!—I am less than the least of all saints! I am nothing!"—This is what we mean by being poor and needy, comparatively.
But David was liable to affliction; and there had been periods when he was low in his outward estate. He was originally a shepherd, and often acknowledged, with equal humility and gratitude, his elevation in life. Even after he had the throne of Israel promised him, and the holy oil had been poured upon his head, he was driven out from his inheritance, and was an exile in other lands; pursued from place to place, "like a partridge upon the mountains;" reduced to the necessity of imploring of a foreign prince an asylum for his father and mother; and compelled to beg a sword and even bread for himself at Nob. Years after he was enthroned he was betrayed and opposed, and forced by a rebellion the most unnatural to leave his palace and his capital! Some believers, through life, have had very little of this world's goods. They have found it hard to provide things honest in the sight of all men. We sometimes censure and condemn; as if men were the absolute masters of their secular condition: but they are not It does not depend upon every man to rise and prosper: "I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is nut to the swut, nor the
battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all." There aro those who have met with losses which no talent could have prevented. Every time they have attempted to row, the wind and waves have been contrary. Is this the case with any of you? Are you set back in life? Are your visions fled? Are your purposes broken off? Remember, this has been the case with multitudes of your brethren who were before you in the world. Your elder brother had not where to lay his head; was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Your condition is not the result of chance, but appointment Your safety and welfare required it In more easy and flattering circumstances, you would have had less love to the Scriptures; less business at a throne of grace; less longings after a better country; less proof of the tender care of Providence and the all-sufliciency of Divine grace. This is what we mean by being poor and needy, in a temporal sense. Let us,
II. Examine Tub Oloriovs Amsukance— "I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thiTilteth upon me." This is,
First, the language of confidence. David speaks without hesitation, and so may every Christian; for there is nothing of which they can be more certain than this—That God thinks upon them.
It is proved by his relations. He calls himself their deliverer; their friend; their husband; their father; and as a divmity is attached to these relations, they must all therefore be perfectly exemplified. Hig benificiaries, his bride, his children therefore, can never be forgotten.
It is proved by his promises. "Remember these, 0 Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me."—" I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." These are words found in a book we know to be divine. They are the words, not of a man, that may lie, or the son of man, that may repent, but of the God of truth. Talking and doing may be two things with creatures, but they are the same with him. He is often better than his word; but who ever found him worse!
It is proved by his works. What has he not done, O Christian, to justify your hope! He remembered you in your low estate.— Without your desert and without your desire, he raised up for you a Saviour; and seemed to love your souls better than his own Son. "He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for you all; and shall he not with him freely give you all things?"—He found you wandering the downward road, and turned your feet into the path of peace. He has admitted you into his service, and adopted you into his family. Had he a mind to kill you, he would not have shown you such things as these. You have had your fears, but he has shown you their folly. You have said, "I am cast out of his sight;" but you have been enabled to look again towards his holy temple, and the shadow of death has been turned into the morning. You have not advanced as you ought to have done, and you mourn it; but you can say, to the praise of the glory of his grace, "Our heart is not turned back, neither have our stops declined from thy way: though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death."
How many things are there worthy of particular review in your history. Though they have been less marvellous, they have not been less merciful than his dispensations towards his people of old. Have you not been delivered "from the land of Egypt and the house of bondage, by a strong hand and an outstretched arm ?"—I mean have you not been "delivered from the power of darkness, and translated into the kmgdom of God's dear Son?" Have you not had the bitter waters of Marah healed by castmg a tree into them? —I mean, have not your sufferings been sweetened by the cross of Christ i Have you not been fed by ravens t—I mean, have not the most unlikely instruments befriended you? Have not the oil and the wine multiplied ?—I mean, have not inconsiderable resources been rendered sufficient for your exigences; so that, while you had nothing to depend upon, you have lacked nothing!— "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord;" and be able to say, " I am poor and needy—yet the Lord thinketh upon me."
Secondly. It is the language of wonder. It is said by the apostle Peter, that God calls his people out of darkness into his marvellous light; and one of the things which fill them with surprise, and continue to fill them with surprise through life is, that God fails not to regard such creatures as we are.
It is rendered truly wonderful by the "conduct of men." This we continually witness; and we are prone to judge from what falls under our own observation. How many, alas! of those with whom you have to do, prove either frail or treacherous! How many have abandoned you, after the warmest expressions of friendship and kindness! How often have you heard the voice saying, "Cease from man! Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm!" In this way you have been peculiarly tried when reduced; for people reverse the maxim of Solomon, and suppose a friend born tor prosperity. The flower that, while fresh and green, is put into the bosom, is thrown away when shriveled and dry. But it is otherwise here.
"I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me."
It is rendered wonderful by the greatness of God. What a trifling elevation leads one man to overlook another! How generally are the lower ranks disregarded by those who have a few acres of land, a little shining dust, or an empty title to distinguish them—while they are only worms themselves, and are crushed before the moth. "But behold, God is great, and we know him not All nations are before him as nothing.' WeU, therefore, did David, when he surveyed the universe, exclaim, "Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him, or the son of man, that thou visitest him!" This is nothing less than Infinite Power and Majesty stooping to weakness and meanness.
It is rendered wonderful by our untcorthiness. The more holy any being is, the more must he be offended with sin. How then must God be provoked by it, who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity !" And yet how much has he seen in me," says the Christian, "to try him, not only before I knew him, but since I have been called by his name. I cannot take the most superficial review of myself without seeing that it is of the Lord's mercies I am not consumed. Where is there any other benefactor that would have continued his regards, or have given me another thought, after such instances of perverseness and vileness as I have been chargeable with from year to year towards God?"
Thirdly. It is the language of consolation. "I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me." This is enough: this will more than counterbalance every thing that is defective or distressing in my condition. There are three things in God's thinking upon us that are solacing and delightful.
Observe tlm frequency of his thoughts. Indeed they are incessant You have a friend whom you esteem and love. You wish to live in his mind. You say, when you part and when you write, "Think of me." Yon give him, perhaps, a token to revive his remembrance. How naturally is Selkirk, in his solitary island, made to say;
"My friends,—do they now and then send
Though a friend I am never to see!
'* Ye winds, that have made me your sport
But the dearest connexion in the world cannot be always thinking upon you. Half his time he is in a state of unconsciousness; and how much, during the other half, is he engrossed! But there is no remission in the Lord's thoughts. He never slumbers: and though he manages worlds, and calls th« stars by their names, he numbers the hairs
Jhead, and regards thee as much as if thou wert his only care.
Observe, in the next place, the wisdom of his thoughts. You have a dear child absent from you, and you follow him in your mind. But you know not his present circumstances. You left him in such a place—but where is he now? You left him in such a condition— but what is he now? Perhaps, while you are thinking of his health, he is groaning under a bruised limb, or a painful disorder. Perhaps, while you are thinking of his safety, some enemy is taking advantage of his innocency. Perhaps, while you are rejoicing in his prudence, he is going to* take a step that will involve him for life. But when God thinketh upon you, he is perfectly acquainted with your situation, your dangers, your wants. "He knows all your walking through this great wilderness"—and can afford you the seasonable succour you need.—For again,
Observe the efficiency of his thoughts. You think upon another; and you are anxious to guide, or defend, or relieve him. But in how many cases can you think only! Solicitude cannot control the disease of the body; cannot dissipate the melancholy of the mind. But with God all things are possible. He who thinks upon you is a God at hand, and not afar off; he has all events under his control; he is the God of all grace. If, therefore, he does not immediately deliver, it is not because he is unable to redress, but because he is waiting to be gracious. "The Lord is a God of judgment, and blessed are all they that wait for him." Let us conclude.
Here we see how it is that the believer stands while others sink. He has supports peculiar to himself; and when creatures frown or fail, he encourages himself in the Lord his God. "Although my house be not so with God, yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow. Although the fig tree 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. I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me."
Is this your portion? How anxious are men to gain the notice of their fellow-creatures, especially if they are a little raised above themselves in condition !" Many will entreat the favour of the prince, and every one is a friend to him that giveth gifts." But in this case you are never sure you shall succeed; and you have gained nothing if you do. Whereas here—the success is sure, and the success is—every thing. Pray therefore, with Nehemiah, "Think upon me, O my 2 Y 30*
God, for good. Seek the Lord, and ye shall live."
O believer! If God thinks upon you, ought you not to think upon him? David did. "How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God i how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake I am still with thee." If he minds your affairs—Be not you forgetful of his. Ever ask, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Ever cry, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth."
THE FOUNTAIN OF LIFE.
In that day there shall be a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness.—Zech. xiii. 1.
There are many curious things in nature; and there are things useful and necessary. But we have things, shall I say, of the same kind, in the world of grace, far superior; and superior, because they regard the soul and eternity. How is the rising of the orb of day surpassed by "the Sun of righteousness, who arises with healing under his wings!" How are the meekness of the lily, and the fragrance of the rose, excelled by "the rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley!" It is pleasing to behold a number of trees adorned with blossoms, or bending with fruit—but we have in the Church "trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified." It is delightful to view a river refreshing and fertilizing the meadows through which it murmurs—but we read of " the river of the water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." There are fountains. We hear of remarkable ones abroad. We have some very valuable ones in our own country. One of these bubbles up in the place of our residence; and to which multitudes repair for relief. But I have to invite your attention this evening to a fountain infinitely more wonderful and efficacious, and of which Zechariah speaks, in the words which I have read: "In that day there shall be a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness."
For, my brethren, to what can he refer, but the exclamation of John, the forerunner of the Messiah—" Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world!" Nothing less will be found suflicient to justify, or imbody the language. Even allowing that Zechariah had not the same distinct and explicit .views of the Saviour that we have who possess the explanations of the New Testament writers; it does not follow that this was not his object; for we know that the prophets often delivered predictions which they did not completely understand; and therefore studied them after they had announced them: "searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the suflerings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us, they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the Gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into."
I am not unmindful of the day* which has assembled us together; but my choice of a subject shows that I consider it of little importance, to dwell upon the crucifixion of Christ, as a wonderful, or a tragical scene. I am aware that such a pathetical representation might be given of the history as would draw tears from every eye—while the mind remained uninformed of, and the heart unaffected with, the nature and design of the event The grand thing is, to know why the dispensation was necessary; and, realizing its accomplishment in ourselves, to be able to say, "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."
I have two things in view.—I. To ExPlain THE PROMISE. II. To IMPROVE THE
TRUTH IT CONTAINS.
I. Ill THE l:XI'LANATKiN OH THE PROMISE,
three things are observable. The fountain— the opening—and the end.
First The fountain. This image holds forth the Redeemer. In distinction from creatures, which "are cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water," he may well call himself the fountain of living waters." The Jews were accustomed, on the last, which was called the great day of the feast, to fetch water from the pool of Siloam, singing the words of Isaiah, "Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation." On that very occasion, we find our Saviour preaching; and lie takes advantage of the ceremony to proclaim himself to the multitude as the true source of blessedness: "In the last day, that great dav of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, It any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his bully shall tlow rivers of living water." To the woman of Samaria he had said before, "The water that I shall give him, shall be m him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."—Tie shall possess a plenitude himself: but the fulness of the Christian is limited; is derived; is the fulness of a vessel. This vessel is supplied from the fulness of a fountain—and this fountain is the Lord Jesus. His fulness is original and boundless. It is the fulness of a spring; always flowing,
• Good Friday
and yet undiminished. He is in himself an infinite and everlasting source of all the influences and blessings we need: "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily: and of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace."
Secondly. This fountain was to be opened. If a fountain was shut up, and sealed, though the contents would be equally precious in themselves, they would be useless to us; yea, they would only provoke our desire, to torment us. And what would the Saviour's excellences and benefits be to us, if unattainable and inaccessible? But they are placed within our view, and within our reach. This fountam was actually opened in his suflerings. His blood flowed in the garden, and upon the cross. His back was wounded by the scourge; his temples with the crown of thorns; h» hands and his feet with the nads; his side with the spear. Then was the fountain opened; and one, hard by, beheld it—
"The dying thief rejoiced to aee
And oh! that each of us, with humility and confidence, may be able to add;
"And there have I, as vile aa he,
The apostles laid it open doctrinally, in their preaching. Panl could appeal to the Corinthians, and say; "I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified." And referring both to the subject of his preaching, and the plain and lively manner in which he had delivered it, he could say to the Galatians, "Before your eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified among you."
It was, unquestionably, open, when the apostles wrote their epistles; for thousands were rejoicing in the efficacy of this fountain, and could say, "We are come to the blood of sprinkling—We are redeemed with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin!"—And is it closed since? No: it stands open now—open, in the means of grace —open, in the invitations of the Word— open, in the nearness, the power, and the grace of the Saviour—how open while he says, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out!"
Thirdly. This fountain is "opened for sin and for uncleanness." There had bees provisions for ceremonial pollution, under the Mosaical economy. There was the brazen sea, fifty feet in circumference, and ten in depth; in which the priests were to wash their hands and feet There were also ten lavers, in which the things offered in sacrifice were washed, and whence the water was taken to sprinkle the offerers. There were also fountains for bodily diseases—the pool of Siloam to which our Saviour sent the n.an bom blind; and the pool of Bethesda, where lay a great number of sufferers, waiting for the troubling of the waters. These probably had a preternatural quality imparted to them, about this period, to rouse the mind to expectr ation, and to prepare it to contemplate the approaching Recoverer of the human race. He differed from all these, as a fountain for moral and spiritual defilement—" for sin and for uncleanness."
And sin is uncleanness. Its very nature is contamination. The moment it touched a number of angels in heaven, it turned them into devils, and expelled them from their first estate. It is so contagious, that it infects every thing in contact with it, so that, as the house of the leper was to be taken down because of the inhabitant, "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also, and all the works that are therein, shall be burned up"—not because they are guilty; but because they have been the witnesses, the instruments, the abodes of sin.
Sin is a pollution the most deep and diffusive: it stops not at the surface, but penetrates the inner man of the heart; it spreads through every power, from the highest intellectual faculty, down to the lowest animal appetite. If any part were left uninjured, it would seem to be the conscience—but no; the very conscience itself is defiled: and nothing has been too vile to be perpetrated nnder its permission, and in obedience to its dictates. It is a pollution the most horrible and dangerous, as it disfigures us before God; and renders us odious in his sight And nothing else does this. Poverty does not; meanness does not; disease does not—Lazarus full of sores, begging at the rich man's gate, and Job, covered with biles, among the ashes, were dear to God, and lay in his bosom. But sin is the abominable thing which his soul hates. Men often roll it, as a sweet morsel, under their tongue; but it is more poisonous than the gall of asps. They think lightly of it; but can that be a trifling thing which causes God to hate the very work of his own hands—"my soul loathed them!"—and induce the very " Father of mercies" to say at last, "Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."
Have you, my hearers, such views of sin? Does it appear to you, as it does to the Judge of all, exceeding sinful?
Such is certainly the sentiment of every man who is "convmced of sin." The Holy Spirit leads him to see, not only its guilt, but its defilement; and while the one excites his fear, the other calls forth his aversion. Selfcomplacency is then ruined for ever. He no longer wonders that he stands excluded, in his present state, from the presence of a holy God. He feels that he deserves to perish— and cries with the leper, "Unclean, unclean."
And as things strike us most forcibly by contrast, the more he is enlightened to see the purity and glory of God; and especially his grace and love m the person, work, and sufferings of his dear Son; mstead of being reconciled to himself, the more will he feel of the temper of Job, who exclaimed, "Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer Thee? wherefore, I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes."
But there is a fountain that washes out even the stains of the soul—and of sin! And it was opened for this very purpose: "In that day there shall be a fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness." And I proceed,
II. To IMPROVE THE TRUTH CONTAINED IK
The Promise. And should I dwell longer on this part of our subject than on the former, it will not appear wonderful to those who reflect, how much more ready people are to hear than to apply; and how seldom practice keeps pace with speculation. In order to commend myself to every man's conscience in the sight of God, I arrange the assembly in five classes; each of which has a relation to the truth before us. The first are ignorant The second presumptuous. The third selfrighteous. The fourth the fearful. The fifth the believing.
First The ignorant The Apostle speakg of some who cried, Peace, peace, while sudden destruction was coming upon them—such a difference is there between confidence and security. Our Lord tells us of some who are "whole, and need not the physician"—so necessary is a conviction of our spiritual state to excite a proper regard to the Saviour. And, to vary the metaphor, some are not defiled, and need not this fountain opened for sin and uncleanness. We do not mean that there are any really in this condition, and the reason is involved in the inquiry, "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean V It is a Taw pervading all nature, that "like begets like." A viper brings forth a poisonous brood. Swine produce something that loves the mire. The skin of an Ethiopian will be black. What but depraved oflspring can descend from sinful parents? Therefore, says Job, "What is man, that he should be clean, or he that is born of a woman, that he should be righteous!" The Scripture assures us Hint "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." It teaches us, that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." It assures us that it is not the life which defiles the heart; but the heart the life: "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: all these evil things come from within, and defile the man." It requires no less than a change of nature, to show that our nature is depraved; and it re