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he studied these works in God. The heavens, we know, were the frequent object of his contemplation ; equally, we doubt not, when he was a simple shepherd, as when he was a mighty king. The cool of the evening, perhaps, might find him reclining on a verdant bank, while his flock was browsing around him. His favorite harp is in his hand. No human listener is near, while he sings to himself, and to his God, in untutored strains of grateful melody. Emotion kindles with his lays, and soon rises above them. The notes of his harp become gradually faint and silent. His outstretched fingers cease to sweep its strings, for his eyes and his thoughts have become fixed on the heavens, as if he were gazing through them upon its happy inhabitants : and, while his wrapt soul is thus listening to the spiritual music of its own emotions, he fancies for the moment that he hears the strains of the angelic choir. David, when a king, delighted in the frequent contemplation of this great work of the Almighty, and in the grandeur of the view, all lofty thoughts of his own grandeur as a monarch were lowered to the ground. “When I consider Thy heavens," he says, “ the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him ?" Psa. viii. 3, 4.
Well, indeed may the survey of the magnificent canopy of the heavens abase man in his own estimation. For the same reason, however, it should exalt, unspeakably exalt, the Great God, in the apprehension of every intelligeni being. We, who cannot pierce its height, nor scan its breadth, though spread out before us, how insignifican... small! He, who made that heaven out of nothing, how immeasurably great! Night tells us of His matchless power. Day showeth forth His surpassing splendor. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handy-work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, , where their voice is not heard. Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun.
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It is this “ voice” of the heavens, which David has here caught in his inmost soul. The lesson which he learned from it, and which he here transcribes for our instruction, is this, “ For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him."
The “ fear” here spoken of, is not a slavish dread, but a child-like reverence. The more we love an earthly parent, the more respect do we entertain towards him. greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him." Psa. lxxxix. 7. Such is the sentiment which the Scriptures denote by the term “ fear.” The love of an inferior to a superior, of a subject to a king, must always be thus accompanied. Those who acknowledge not the greatness and the authority of the Lord, are described as having no fear of God before their eyes.” Rom. iii. 18. But of the righteous it is said, “ Happy is the man that feareth alway." Prov. xxviii. 14. True, indeed, the Scripture declares that
no fear in love." 1 John iv. 18. We are not
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afraid of those whom we regard with affection,—we are not apprehensive that they will do us injury-nor alarmed at approaching into their presence. Such would not be the feeling of a child toward a parent, but of a slave toward a tyrant. It is filial and spiritual fear that is here spoken of. Natural fear will cast out love from the heart; but the Apostle declares that perfect love casteth out fear, because fear hath torment:" and he who gives way to such tormenting apprehensions, will be afraid to draw near unto God as a Father reconciled in Christ Jesus, and" is not made perfect in love." But, on the contrary, that “fear” which characterizes the children of God, is filial,—is based on love towards Him, and cannot exist without it. The holy sentiments of fear and love are mutually productive and mutually strengthening--they act and re-act, with increasing benefit upon each other. The consciousness of having sinned against God, increases the apprehension of His mercy--and the apprehension of His mercy re-acts upon the heart with a double sense of its unworthiness, the more we feel this unworthiness, the more thankful we are to hear of forgiveness ; and the more we believe in the pardoning mercy of God, the more we hate ourselves for ever having sinned against Him.
The “ fear” of the Lord is absolutely necessary to our due appreciation of His immeasurable mercy. Indeed, without this, we dare not trust ourselves to enlarge upon the delightful theme. There are many men now living in their sins, who speak constantly of God's mercy. They say without hesitation, “ We all know that He is a most merciful God !" But what is the effect of this knowledge upon those, in
whose hearts this holy “ fear” does not dwell? Is it to make them love God the more ? Nay, on the contrary, Is it not to make them love sin the more? Their doctrine is, “God is very merciful :” and their conclusion is, “ therefore He will not be strict against us, and why should we be strict against ourselves ?” On the other hand, what is the effect of a knowledge of God's mercy upon the man that fears Him ??? Is it not to make him say,
“God is merciful, therefore I will never willingly offend Him any more ?" "The fear of the Lord," therefore, is truly called " the beginning of wisdom." Psa. cxi. 10.
Man, by nature, has no sense of the immeasurable guilt of his sin, and therefore he can have no appreciation of the immeasurable mercy of his God. We neither see, nor feel, sin, as we ought, till we are born again of God's Holy Spirit. The natural “ heart is deceitful above all things. Jer. xvii. 9. We are ever ready to take as favorable a view of our own case as we possibly can. We do not wish to believe that we are so very bad, as some passages of the sacred Scriptures appear to declare. Indulging this low view of sin, and not conceiving ourselves to be very great sinners, we must necessarily entertain a very low view of that mercy which forbears with us: and hence, also, we shall be led to argue that God may easily forgive, seeing that we have not committed any great wrong.
This is the inward feeling of unregenerate man. He says, “Surely it is easy for God to forgive me?" It is evident, therefore, that he can never be truly sensible of the Lord's kindness, nor really thankful to Him, as he ought to be, so long as he
Let us suppose
thinks and speaks in this self-righteous manner. Our hearts must be possessed by a deep view of sin, and there is but one only way to obtain it--that is, to learn it at the cross of Christ. Go thither in thought, and behold how much He suffered for your transgressions, and thence learn their magnitude and their malignity.
For the sake of illustration, take a man who entertains a low view of sin, but who nevertheless admits, that he has some sin; for the Scripture saith, “if we say that we have no sin, we make God a liar.” Begin, then, the argument at the very
lowest point, after this manner. that you have committed only one sin, and that you can look back upon your past life, and see it to be free from guilt, save in a single instance. I do not ask what that instance may have been. It is sufficient that you yourself have a conscious remembrance of it. Perhaps you have asked your fellow men; perhaps you have gone to the standard of the world, and their judgment has agreed with that of your own mind, that it was a small sin, and did no great harm to
Now come with me to another standard, and ascertain whether it will give a similar judgment. Behold your Saviour on the cross ! The Son of the Most High God expires in agony upon the tree. For what? For your sin ! And unless he had died, that one sin never can be pardoned. Is it, then, a small sin ? Is it a trifle ? Has your one sin done no great harm, when it has broken the law of the Most High God, and also crucified His only Son? Learn here, then, at the cross of Christ, that, however small, in your own sight, and in that of your fellow men, every sin is hein