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the things of the flesh, but they that are after the spirit do mind the things of the spirit. If you be risen with Christ, you will seek the things that are above." You will never think you have already attained, either are already perfect; but forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before, you will press towards the mark for the prize of the high ealling of God in Christ Jesus.
Once more, From whence do you derive your comfort and joy ; from the wells of salvation, that issue forth from beneath the throne of God and the Lamb, or from the polluted streams that spring out of this footstool upon which we tread ?
By this unerring touchstone of God's word, let us ex. amine and prove ourselves; and if the Spirit bears witness with our spirits, that these lineaments of the new creature, though too much blended and marred with the features of the old man, are nevertheless legible on the fleshly tables of our hearts, let us give glory to God, who hath thus far formed us for himself, and trust that he who hath begun a good work in us, will carry it on till it be perfected in the heavenly glory. And let the many blemishes we must unavoidably discover, while they humble us in the presence of a holy God, urge us forward, at the same time, to a throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy for the pardon of past offences, and find grace to help us in every future time of need.
Having thus endeavoured to illustrate, and to improve for self-examination, the distinguishing character of the godly man, as it lies before us in this passage, let us now attend, for our direction, to his leading requests. Ist, He prays for strengthening and upholding grace,
, “Let thine hand help me."
Dependence upon the Creator belongs to the essence of every creature. None of them subsist by themselves, neither do they possess any thing that they can claim as their property. The highest seraph that ministers before the throne, must adopt the language of the Apostle Paul, and say as he did, “ By the grace of God, I am what I am.” We read of “ angels who kept not their first'estate; but left their own habitation, being reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day.” Adam, created after the image of God, and furnished with every advantage suited to his rank, seduced by an apostate spirit, forfeited at once both his innocence and happiness, in consequence whereof all his posterity come into the world involved in the forfeiture he incurred, equally destitute of righteousness and strength, according to that saying of the Apostle Paul, Románs v.6. “When we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly." And though this weakness is in part removed by the renewing influences of the Spirit of God, yet there will always be need for that caution, “Be not high minded, but fear.” Who can say, “ My mountain standeth strong, I shall never be moved ?” The most eminent saints have not only failed, but failed in those very graces for which they were most eminent, and that too by means of temptations far inferior to others which they were enabled to resist. The faith of Abraham, the patience of Job, the meekness of Moses, and the courage of Peter, were all found unequal to the conflict, when left alone in the hour of trial. These examples are recorded for our admonition; and on each of them we may read the solemn warning, “ Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." Remember who it was that said, “ Without me ye can do nothing. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” Blessed be God for the assurance we have that help is laid for us upon one that is mighty ; upon him let us lean in our journey through the wilderness ; to his hand let us look for the help we need, and he will make his grace sufficient for us. Animated by this hope, the same Apostle who said in one place, “ I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing;” in another place, setting his foot upon the neck of his enemies, utters the shout of victory, in those triumphant words, “ I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Let us go and do likewise. To the prayer for upholding grace, David adds,
2dly, A desire for quickening grace; for this I take to be the true import of the request, “ Let my soul live." Sometimes, indeed, we find him praying for the life of the body, as when he says, “spare me that I may recover strength, before I go hence and be no more :” But here the expression is too strong to be limited to a sense comparatively so low.
Life, or conscious existence, though a valuable gift in itself, is a gift we possess in common with the worst of our own kind, and with the meanest and most noxious of the inferior creatures. Nay, devils partake of it in a higher degree than man. Besides, the life of man, since the apostasy, is become short and precarious ; and though it holds true in general, that “ skin for skin, all that a man hath will he give for his life;" yet the bitterness of affliction hath caused many to grow weary of it, insomuch that their souls have chosen strangling and death rather than life. But in all these respects, the life of the soul is entirely the reverse. It is not a privilege common to all, but the gift of special distinguishing love.
It was purchased for condemned sinners by the blood of Christ ; and is produced in dead sinners by his renewing Spirit. So far is it from being short and precarious, that its duration is eternal. It is a “ life bid with Christ, in God; and because he lives, all who believe in him shall live also." The longer it is enjoyed; also, the more it is esteemed. Who was ever heard to say of spiritual life, “ I lothe it -I would not live always ?” Nay, it is the life of the soul alone, that gives a relish to the life of the body, and enables the believer, under the heaviest pressure of affliction,
either to possess it with thankfulness, or to resign it with joy.
This was the life for which David prayed: a confirmed sense of pardoning mercy, larger measures of sanctifying grace, communion with his God in a present world, and the ful and everlasting enjoyment of him in heaven. The life for which he prays, is no other than the salvation or which he longed. He had tasted of its sweetness, and he thirsted for more. “Let my soul live," saith he; to which he subjoins, “and it shall praise thee.” From which words we learn, for our farther direction,
3dly, The ultimate end for which David was so earnest in his requests for help and life, and the improvement he proposed to make of both. They were no doubt blessings that would greatly contribute to his own honour and comfort; but every private and personal interest was in him subordinated to the glory of God. He prayed for upholding and quickening grace, that he might be better qualified for the service of his God, to whom he had de voted himself and his all. Thus he prays, Psal. li. “ Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me by thy free Spirit : then will I teach transgressors thy way, and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” And the principal reason for which he was desirous to obtain divine consolation, appears from the use he intended to make of it, (ver. 32. of this psalm), “ I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enJarge my heart.”
I shall therefore make this my concluding exhortation to you.—by your solemn profession at the table of the Lord, you have publicly acknowledged that you are not your own, but bought with a price, in consequence whereof, you are strictly obliged to live not unto yourselves, but to him that bought you; to glorify your Redeemer, both with your bodies and spirits, which are his. He
says concerning you, “ This people have I formed for myself, to show forth my praise.” He calls the world to take knowledge of you, as the persons by whom he expects to be honoured. “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light. I beseech you therefore by the mercies of God, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love. --Adding to your faith, virtue ; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godiness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness ; and to brotherly kindness, charity :"-abounding in all those fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God; shining as lights in the midst of a perverse and a crooked generation ; holding forth the word of life. After this manner improve the help and life you have received, in your attendance upon this precious means of grace.
“ Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are horest, whatsoever things are just, what, soever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be sny virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." —And “ let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Amen.