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blies ;* for even his own appointments can afford them neither profit nor pleasure, unless they are animated by his glory. Their graces languish, their harmony is interrupted, strifes and dissensions take place, evil roots of bitterness spring up to trouble and defile them ;t men arise from among themselves, speaking perverse things, and fierce wolves break in, not sparing the flock,'I if the good Shepherd suspends his influence and presence.
I trust he dwells and walks in the midst of us. He is here as an observer, and as a gracious benefactor. He sees who draw near him with their lips, while their hearts are far from him ;' and he likewise takes notice of them that fear and love him, and who esteem the light of his countenance to be better than life. • The high and lofty One who inhabiteth eternity, who dwelleth likewise with those that are of a contrite and humble spirit,'s to revive and bless them.
The Lord gave the word, great was the company of those that published it,
for, of the preachers.)
Perhaps no one Psalm has given greater exercise to the skill and the patience of commentators and critics, than the sixtyeighth. I suppose the difficulties do not properly belong to the Psalm, but arise from our ignorance of various circumstances to which the Psalmist alludes ; which probably were, at that time, generally known and understood. The first verse is the same with the stated form of benediction which was used whenever the ark of the Lord set forward while Israel sojourned in the wilderness ;|| which confirms the prevailing opinion, that the Psalm was primarily designed as an act of thanksgiving, to accompany the removal of the ark to Zion by David. The seventh and eighth verses are repeated, with little variation, from the song of Deborah. I The leading scope of the whole appears to be, first, a recapitulation of God's gracious dealing with Israel, and of the great things he had done for them, from the time be delivered them from their bondage in Egypt; and then, a transition, in the spirit of prophecy, to the far greater things he would do for his people, under and by the Gospel dispensation, in consequence of Messiah's exaltation to receive gifts for rebellious men. This verse, though the particular occasion is not specified, probably refers to some season of deliverance or victory, when the women, according to the custom of the nation, assembled to praise the Lord, with tinbrels, songs, and dances.* The songs and responses of Miriam and her companions, and of the women who welcomed Saul and David after the defeat of the Philistine, t I have formerly mentioned as instances. The word which is rendered, ' Those who published or preached,' being expressed with a feminine termination, leads the mind to this sepse. But we are not necessarily confined to it ; for the word rendered. preacher' in the book of Ecclesiastes, is likewise in the seminine form, though we are sure the person intended by it was Solomon.
* i Sam. iv. 21. || Numb. x. 35.
Isa. lvii. 15.
+ Heb. xii. 15. 1 Judges, v. 4,5.
| Acts, xx. 29, 30.
However, this passage is properly introduced in the Messiah, and in its proper place, immediately after the view given of our Saviour's triumphant ascension, as it leads us to consider the first visible effect of that great event : for soon afterwards, ' when the day of Pentecost was fully come,' the Lord gave the word. The Holy Spirit, the precious gift, which Jesus had received for rebellious men, descended with visible emblems and a powerful energy, and inspired and qualified his disciples for the great work of establishing and spreading his spiritual kingdom. From that hour, great was the number of the preachers, and great was the success and efficacy of their mission. So that in a few years the the Gospel spread like the light, from Jerusalem through all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. And he who said, 'Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,'|| has, by the same Spirit, perpetuated his word, and a succession of preachers, to our time; and has promised to perpetuate and work by the same means, till time shall be no
My text, therefore, if not a direct prophecy of the publication of the Gospel, is at least a fit molto to a discourse on this very important subject. We may consider it in two senses, which, though something different, are equally agreeable to the words before us, and to the general tenour of the Scripture.
I. That the message is the Lord's. He gave the word, and prescribed to his servants the subject matter of their preaching.
1 Sam, xviii. 6, 7. Ser, VI. p. 69. 0 Acts, ii, 1-4 || Matth. xxviii. 20.
* Exod. xv.
II. That the messengers employed are called and sent forth by him. The Lord gave the word or command ; in consequence of which word, the number of preachers was great, as when in the beginning he said, “Let there be light, and there was light.'
I. The Lord gave the word which the multitude of preachers went forth to publish. His merciful design was great, to deliver sinners from bondage, misery, and death; and to bless them with liberty, life, and peace. But they are by nature rebellious and
. obstinate, and must be made willing. He only can subdue their prejudices, and soften their spirits ; and he has promised to display his power in their favour, by a certain mean of his own appointment, and we cannot expect that he will do it in any other way. This mean is the Gospel, which, for its admirable suitableness and efficacy, is commended to us as his wisdom and his
He has given it for this purpose, and his blessing makes it successful. He has said concerning it, “As the rain cometh down and the snow from heaven, and watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall my word be, that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.'t It has been confirmed by the experience of ages, that no mean but this can produce the desirable effect. It is confirmed, by observation, in the present day. If the wisdom of man, if learning, if oratory, if animated descriptions of the beauty of virtue, and pathetic persuasions to the practice of it, could reform, we should be a reformed people. But, alas ! this is only to oppose a mound of sand to the violence of a flood. Notwithstanding many ingenious sermons and treatises upon this plan are admired and praised, wickedness prevails and triumphs. They have little influence upon the conduct of civil life ; and, I may boldly say, no influence to inspire the heart with the love and peace of God, and to bring it into a habit of subjection to his will and command. Nothing will do this but the Gospel, the word which the Lord has given. This alone shows the evil of sin in its true light, affords a solid ground for the hope of mercy, and furnishes those motives which alone are sufficient to break the force of temptations and difficulties with which we have to conflict. When this word is simply and cordially received, an immediate and wonderful change take place. The sinner abandons his false bopes and vain pursuits, is freed from his former slavery to the love of the world and the fear of
† Isa. Iv. 10, 11.
* 1 Cor. i. 23, 24. Vol. III.
man, and becomes the willing servant of him who redemed him with his own blood.
But we are sometimes asked, what we understand by the Gospel? The use of the term, in a restrained sense, so as to imply there are but few comparatively who preach it, is deemed invidious and assuming ; and it is supposed by many, that a sermon, if delivered from a pulpit, and if the text be taken from the Bible, must of course be the Gospel. It is undeniable, however, that there are a variety of different and opposite sentiments delivered from the pulpits; and surely the Gospel cannot be opposite, contrary, yea, contradictory, to itself! It is a mournful consideration, that multitudes of people are not qualified to judge of this poiut. Not properly for want of ability, for many of them are persons of good sense and discernment, and can judge and talk well upon other subjects ; but for want of attention. Their application is engrossed by the demands of business or pleasure, and they bave neither leisure nor taste for a careful perusal of the Scriptures, nor for the examination of religious sentiments. If the language and elocution of the preacher be good, and if there be no close and painful address to the conscience, they are satisfied. The apostle Paul undoubtedly preached the Gospel ; and he tells us himself that he preached Christ crucified ; he preach
; ed Christ as appointed of God, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption.'* He preached the cross of Christ, † he gloried in it, and he determined to glory in nothing else. The Gospel treats all mankind as already in a state of condemnation ; it declares their utter inability to save or help themselves ; and it gives assurance of pardon and salvation to all who believe in the Son of God. That they may be encouraged and enabled to believe, it describes the dignity of his person, the necessity and greatness of his sufferings, the completeness of his atonement, the prevalence of his intercession_his love, authority, power, and faithfulness. These truths, revealed and applied to a guilty conscience, by the power of the Holy Spirit, produce faith. The sipner perceives the sufficiency and excellency of such a Saviour, commits himself to his compassion and care, and renounces every other hope and service. He looks to the Saviour by the eye of his mind, with desire and admiration, and derives life from bis death, healing from his wounds, as the Israelites, when wounded, were healed by looking upon the brazen serpent. And not only is the conscience relieved, by this knowledge of Christ crucified the understanding is likewise enlightened, the judgment is formed. the affections regulated and directed by it. The old things pass away, all becomes new. The love of sin departs, and the future life is devoted to him, who therefore • died and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and the living.'*
* 1 Cor. į, 30.
f Gal. v. 14.
There is likewise a certain energy or power which accompanies the Gospel when it is truly preached, which sufficiently characterizes and distinguishes it from all other religious schemes and systems. Our Lord, during his personal ministry, frequently gave proofs that he knew the heart of inan. When Zaccheus thought himself unknown and unseen, he called him by his name. He reminded Nathaniel of what had passed in secret under the fig-tree ;f and by a few words, brought to the remembrance of the woman of Samaria all that she had done in her life.Ş. A similar effect accompanies the preaching of his Gospel to this day. The Gospel is preached, when they who are present find the secrets of their hearts are made manifest ; when the preacher, who perhaps never saw them before, reminds them of what they have done, or said, or thought, possibly of things transacted long ago, and almost forgotten by themselves; and likewise describes the very feelings of their hearts while he is speaking to them. It is usually in this way that conviction of sin first takes place; and in this way, that a convinced, burdened singer meets with seasonable support and direction, so exactly suited to bis case, that he almost thinks the preacher is speaking to none but himself. No preachers but those who speak in conformity to the word which the Lord gave, have this power over the heart and conscience.
II. It is owing to the word, the appointment, and power of God, that any persons are induced or enabled to preach this Gospel. Men may, indeed, assume the office of a preacher upon other grounds; there are too many who do. But though they speak in the name of the Lord, and as his ministers, if he has not sent them, they cannot declare his message in such a manner as to make full proof of their ministry. They may profit themselves, according to their low views, and may obtain such honours and emoluments as the world can give ; but they have not the honour which cometh from God only. They are not wise to win souls. T They have no testimony in the conscience of their hearers. They may deliver truths occasionally, which are valuable and useful in their proper places ; but for want of knowing how to connect them with what the apostle styles · The truth as it is in Jesus,'** they are unable either to break the hard heart, or to heal the
* Rom. xiv. 9. | 2 Tim. iv. 5.
John, iv. 29.
† Luke, xix. 5. | John, i. 48. I Prov. xi. 30. ** Eph. iv. 21.