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all your iniquities” (Amos iii. 2). So that we are no longer safe from
sin and punishment, than God puts under his hand. . Secondly, Positively : by God's sustaining grace we are kept safe, both as the power and faithfulness of God are engaged for our defence.
1. The power of God is engaged: “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation” (1 Peter i. 5). The Apostle first speaks of Heaven, that that is kept for us, and then presently you are kept for it by the power of God. An earthly inheritance may be sure enough for the heir; but who can secure the heir from death and all other accidents ? But here God provides for our comfort; not only our inheritance is sure, but we are kept; and how doth God keep us? By his power. Oh! what greater safety can there be! He can mitigate the temptation, or else give a supply of strength; he can keep off trials, or support us under them (1 Cor. x. 13).
2. The faithfulness of God is engaged: “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son” (1 Cor. i. 9); and, “ The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil” (2 Thes. üi. 3). Certainly, God is able; but how shall we know that he will do it? His truth is laid in pawn for what he hath promised, and therefore we may hold up our heads with confidence; and this should comfort us against all fears and doubtful and uncertain thoughts.
USE.-Instruction; to show us how constantly God must be sought to in prayer, and relied upon in the use of means, for our preservation both from sin and danger.
1. Sought to in prayer. Our strength lies not in ourselves ; but in God: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think anything of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God” (2 Cor. iii. 5). It is not only of God, but in God; there is our treasure kept : "Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. i. 1); and, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Eph. vi. 10). If the stock were in our own hands, besides the danger of embezzling it, we should neglect God; as, when the prodigal son had his portion, he went away from his father. Therefore God keeps grace in his own hand, to keep us humble, depending, observing, and to have a constant converse with him, that our eyes may be to him; as, “ As the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us” (Psalm cxxiii. 2); that is, as maid and men servants look for their dole and portion, their allowance given to them from their master and mistress, so God will still keep us to him. Dependence begets observance, to keep up our allegiance to the crown of Heaven.
2. As he might be sought to in prayer, so relied upon in the use of means for our preservation. God keeps us, but not witbout our care and diligence. A Christian is said to keep himself (1 Tim. v. 22); and this is pure religion, to keep ourselves unspotted (James i. 27); and, “He that is begotten of God, keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not” (1 John v. 18); and, “ Keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21). What! doth not this detract from all that was spoken before? No; we act with subordination and dependence upon him. Our keeping is from him, by him, and under him; so we keep ourselves through his blessing upon the use of means which he hath appointed for us to use.
The third note is taken from the promise of obedience upon the supposition of this help from God, “Uphold me:" what then? “And I will have respect unto thy statutes." Observe,
DOCTRINE III.—The more experience we have of God's grace in the preserving us from sin and danger, the more we should be encouraged in his ways. Why so?
First, Because of the obligation. It is his mercy which requires thankfulness; now, gratitude and thankfulness is the true principle which should urge us to perform our duty to God. Observe, there are several principles which put men upon God's service, some false and rotten, some more tolerable, some lawful, some excellent. Some false and rotten, as carnal custom: 'Shall we serve God (say they) as we have done ?' (Zech. vii. 3.) When men only do as they hare done, it is the manner of the place, they learn it of their fathers, and so customarily worship and serve God. Then vain-glory, to be seen of men, that is a rotten thing (Matt. vi.). "Come and see my zeal for the Lord,' saith Jehu; this may put us upon great seeming zeal and activity. So for profit, to make a market of religion; as the Pharisees got themselves credit to be trusted with widows' estates by their long prayers; these are rotten principles. Then some are more tolerable, not so bad principles as the former; as when we serve God out of hope of temporal mercy, as when they howl upon their beds for corn, wine, and oil (Hos. vii. 14), or for fear of temporal judgments; when men hang down their heads like a bull-rush for a while, or else for mere fear of eternal death, they shall else be damned; when men's duties are a sin-offering, a sleepy sop to appease an accusing conscience. But then, there are some that are lawful, good, and sound, as when duties are done out of the impulsion of an enlightened conscience, that uryeth them to that which is good ; or upon the bare command of God, his authority swaying the conscience; or when they walk in the ways of God out of the consideration of the reward to come, a respect to Hearen; this is very good in its place. Again, there are some excellent principles of grace, and which do most of all discover a Gospel spirit, a well-tempered frame of soul to God; and these are, love to God because of his benefits and love to us, gratitude and thankfulness: “ We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John iv. 19); and, “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God” (Rom. xii. 1); when we serve him out of love. Again, when we serve him out of delight, out of love to the duty, find such a complacency in the work that we love the work for the work's sake; as David, “I love thy law, because it is pure,' when we love the law for the purity of it. Or when the glory of God prevails above all our own interests. Or when the promises and covenant of God enabling us, that is our principle (Heb. x. 16). I observe this, men usually are brought on from one sort of principle to another; from sinful principles they are brought to tolerable and lawful, and from lawful to those that are rare and excellent.
Secondly, This is such a mercy as gives us hope of more mercy in that kind. If God hath held us up, and we have been safe hitherto, then we may say, 'Thou hast held me up;' we may look for more. New temptation will bring new strength, every day's work will bring its own refreshment. God, by giving, binds himself more to give; for he loves to crown his own work ; when he hath done good, he will do good again : “ Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" (Zech. ii. 2.) He hath
saved us, and he will save us. And it holds good somctimes in temporal mercies : “ Who hath delivered us from so great a death, and doth de. liver” (2 Cor. i. 10). But especially it holds good in spiritual mercies : “ I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion; and the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom" (2 Tim. iv. 17). One act of mercy gives us more. God that hath begun, will make an end: he that hath kept me, will keep me.
USE.-It serves to reprove two sorts of people.
1. Those that are unthankfnl after their deliverance. We forget his care of us, and never think how much we owe to him. When the mariners have gotten to the haven and harbour, they forget the tempest; so these forget how God stood by them in the temptation and conflict, they do not abound more in the work of the Lord. These are like those that would have deliverance, that thorns might be taken out of the way, that they might run more readily to that which is evil.
2. It reproveth those that faint and despond in God's ways, after much experience of his help and presence with them. The Israelites in the wilderness, upon every new difficulty their faith is at a loss, and then back again to Egypt they would go; though they had so often experience of God, they would not believe him because of his wonders, but “ forgat his works, and his wonders that he had showed them” (Psalm lxxvij. 11). God had given them wonderful mercy in destroying Pharaoh, that it might be meat to their faith; yet they believed not. Good David was ready to say, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul” (1 Sam. xxvii. 1), though he had experience upon experience. We should rather encourage ourselves, and go on in our work, notwithstanding all diffculties.
The last point, from the accuracy and constancy of his obedience, “I will have respect unto thy statutes continually.” This phrase is diversely rendered; the Septuagint render it, I will exercise myself in them, or apply my heart to them. David's regard to God's law is diversely expressed in this psalm.
DOCTRINE IV.-God's precepts must be respected and consulted with, as the constant measure and direction of our lives.
Not only respect, but continual respect : “ As many as walk according to this rule” (Gal. vi. 16); it notes as many as shall walk in rank and order: there needeth great accurateness and intention, that we may keep within the bounds of commanded duty. So,“ Walk circumspectly.” Some men are so crafty through their self-deceiving hearts, through their lusts and interests; so doubtful, that there needs a great exactness; and so apt to be turned out of the way, that we need a great deal of care to look to the fountain and principle of our actions, to look to the matter, manner, end, and weigh all circumstances, that we may serve God exactly.
VERSE 118.-Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy
statutes ; for their deceit is falsehood. - In the former verse, the man of God had begged establishment in the ways of God; and now, as a help to what he had prayed for, he observes VOL. II.
God's judgments on those that err from them. It is a special means to preserve us from sin, to observe how mischievous it hath been to those that close with it. So the Prophet here, “I will have respect to thy statutes ;” why? " Thou hast trodden down them that err from thy statutes." By this means we learn to be wise at other men's costs, and are whipped upon others' backs: “I have cut off the nations: their towers are desolate, &c., their cities are destroyed, &c., there is none inhabitant; I said, Surely thou wilt fear me,” &c. (Zeph. iii. 6, 7. God is very much disappointed, if we be not bettered and improved by his judgments. Exemplo qui peccat, bis peccat ; he that would plunge himself into a quagmire where others have miscarried before, sins double; because he neither fears threatenings, nor would take warning by their example. God looks to be the more reverenced for every warning he gives us in his providence; because then what was before matter of faith, is made matter of sense, and needs only a little application. Thus it will be with me if I should straggle from God, and go contrary to his direction : “ When thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isa. xxvi. 9). We need not doubt any more, whether God will punish the disobedient, when we see his threatenings made good; only we should reflect upon our hearts, “And will not God visit my transgression if I should go on breaking his laws?' And what should hinder making such application ? Are not all sinners alike to God? Christ tells us, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke xii. 5): they contented them. selves to censure those on whom the tower of Siloam fell. The desert of sin is the same, and God's justice as exact as ever; therefore, if others are punished, why not we? We are strangely stupid, if we do not walk more exactly with God. This use David maketh of it. Whether it were a judgment passed, or a judgment expected in faith, this deterred him from doing as they did, “ Thou hast trodden down them that err from thy statutes.” In the words observe,
I. An account of God's judgments upon wicked men, “ Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes."
II. The reason given of that dispensation, “For their deceit is falsehood.”
I. In the first place observe,-1. The notion by which the judgment is expressed, “ Thou hast trodden down." 2. The persons described upon whom this judgment hath lighted, or shall light, “ Them that err from thy statutes.” 3. The note of universality, “ All,” of what estate or condition soever they be. From the first of these observe,
DOCTRINE.—Those that proudly err from God's statutes, God can, hath, and will soon pull them down with ignominy and contempt.
This point will be made good, if we consider, -
1st, The persons described, “ Them that err from thy statutes.” Some err out of weakness, and some out of pride and obstinacy. First, to err out of weakness, to wander in by-paths of our own, is not safe : “As for such as turn aside unto their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them forth with the workers of iniquity” (Psalm cxxv. 5). Men that do not sin out of malice, but are discouraged by the rod of the wicked resting upon the lot of the righteous (verse 3), therefore think to shift for themselves by
their own compliances, counsels, and crooked courses; God will deal with them as with his open enemies. Secondly, proudly to exalt ourselves against God, and trample his interest under foot, will bring sure judgment : “Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments” (Psalm cxix. 21). Of such the text speaks, those that oppose themselves against God, and bear themselves high in sinful courses, upon the account of their prosperity.
2ndly, The notion by which the judgment is expressed, “ Thou hast trodden down." The Septuagint, tipoévwoas, ad nihil deduxisti, thou hast brought to nothing ; Aquila, confixisti, thou hast stricken through ; Symmachus, årýdeyžas, reprobasti, thou hast disproved ; the Vulgar, sprevisti, thou has contemned; Apollinarius, à l'épičac, parvi pcpendisti, thou hast little esteemed : all to the same purpose. The phrase of treading under foot, used by us, implies, 1. A full punishment; 2. A disgraceful one.
1. A full punishment. God will pull them down from their altitudes, even to the dust, though never so high and proudly exalting themselves against God. A full conquest of enemies is thus often expressed in Scripture. The Assyrian is said “to take the prey, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets” (Isa. x. 6). So Mic. vii. 10, the same expression, when an adversary is laid even with the ground, that he may be crushed and trampled upon, as Jehu trod Jezebel under foot (2 Kings ix. 33); and, “ The feet of the poor [shall tread it down and the steps of the needy” (Isa. xxvi. 6). So the utter and final overthrow of Satan is expressed, “ And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet ” (Rom. xvi. 20).
2. It implies a disgraceful punishment: “Until I make thine enemies thy footstool ” (Psalm cx. 1); an expression used to show the ignominy and contempt God will put upon them. Christ keeps his sheep in his hands (John x. 28), his lambs in his bosom (Isa. xl. 11), and his enemies under his feet (Josh. x. 24). When he vanquished the Canaanitish kings, “Come near," saith he to his captains, “put your feet upon the necks of these kings.” Thus Sapores, the king of Persia, trampled upon Valentinian the emperor, and Tamerlane made Bajazet his footstool. The meaning is, God will not only bring them under, but reduce them to an abject and contemptible condition. So Chrysostom on the text expoundeth this phrase, that God will make them ÉTOVEL I585 R Karayalásos, ignominious and contemptible. They shall not go off honourably, but with scorn and confusion of face, miserably broken.
3rdly, The certainty of this judgment, that he can, hath, and will do so.
1. He can do so, though they be fortified with never so many advantages; for what is too hard for God, who made all things? It is easier, we know, to destroy than to build up things. Things long a-building may be destroyed in a moment; and therefore God that made them can destroy them: “Who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together" (Isa. xxvii. 4). Briers and thorns are matter to feed the fire, not to quench it. We want faith in the power of God, and therefore we are dismayed when we see wicked men great and high.
2. He hath done so, notwithstanding their greatness and proud attempts. That is the Psalmist's expression here; God hath already trodden down many such persons, and hath decreed to tread down all. Of that sort the