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it is by the continuance of it that patience is put to the test. It is not under the sharpest, but the longest trials, that we are most is danger of fainting. In the first case, the soul collects all its strength, and feels in earnest to call in help from above ; but, in the last, the mind relaxes, and sinks into despondency. When Job was accosted with evil tidings, in quick succession, he bore it with becoming fortitude: but, when he could see no end to his troubles, he supk under them.
These were some of the particulars which made up the load of David ; and under which he is said to have taken counsel in his soul. The phrase seems to be expressive of great restlessness of spirit, a pouring over his misery, a casting in his mind what he should do, and what would be the end of these things. Perhaps, if we had been secreted near him, we should have seen him walking by himself, now looking upwards, then downwards, weeping as he went, or sigbing under a load that would not suffer him to weep; sometimes sipking into torpid silence, and sometimes interrogating himself on his future conduct : • What shall I do? Which way shall I take? Shall I go backward, or forward ; or shall I stand still ? Shall I try any other means ; or shall I despair ?
From this tumult of the mind, we are certain he obtained relief; for, towards the close of the psalm, he deals in the language of triamph: I will sing unto the Lord because he hath dealt bountifully with me.
Nor are we left to guess in what manner his soul was delivered from this state of dejection: I have trusted, says he, in thy mercy; my heart shall rejoice in thy salvation. From hence, we may gather, that the way in which he obtained relief, was by CEASING TO TAKE COUNSEL IN HIS SOUL, AND BY LOOKING OUT or HIMSELF, AND TRUSTING IN THE MERCY OF GGD.
This remedy was competent to the removal of all his complaints. What is it that mercy, divine mercy, mercy through a Mediator, mercy connected with omnipotence and veracity, cannot effect? Was he persecuted? By trusting in this, he would cease to fear what man could do unto himn. Was the hand of Providence apparently against him ? That might be, and yet all, in the end, work together for good. Did his friends forsake him?
The compassion of his best Friend would more than make up this loss. But did he also hide his face from him ? Still he could do no better than apply to the mercy-seat, and supplicate his return. Finally, Was all this complicated load of trials of long continuance ? After waiting patiently for the Lord, he would hear him, would bring him out of the horrible pit, set his feet upon a rock, establish his goings, and put a new song into his mouth. Such, indeed, was the issue of bis present trials, which is recorded for the encouragement of others, who shall be in like circumstances.
II. Let us inquire, TO WHAT CASES THE SUBJECT IS APPLICABLE AMOMG US ; ANI), WHETHER THE SAME REMEDY BE NOT EQUALLY ADAPTED TO OUR RELIEF, AS TO THAT OF David? The Holy Spirit has drawn the likeness of man in all situations, that we might find our case, and learn instruction. If we barely read them as a description of the concerns of persons who lived a long time ago, and make no application of it to ourselves, we shall miss the great end for which the scriptures were given us. The case of the Psalmist appears, to me, to be applicable to three descriptions of people.
1. To persons who sink into despondency under the adverse providences of God. God has poured a portion of sorrow into the cup of human life. Property, connexions, friends, children, and every other avenue of natural enjoyment, become, at one time or other, inlets to grief : and if, in these seasons of adversity, the attention be turned inward, rather than directed to the Father of mercies, we shall be in danger of sinking under them.
We have seen men who, under the smiles of providence, bave been cheerful and amiable, when disappointments and losses bave overtaken them, sink into sullen dejection, and never more lift up their head. In some instances, it has issued in suicide. It is a dangerous thing to take counsel in our souls, to the neglect of the counsel of God.
We have seen others, wretched beyond expression, owing to unhappy connexions. In the formation of them, religion has been overlooked, and even genuine affection, for the sake of advantages of a worldly nature. The consequence has been, on the one side, neglect, dislike, strife, cruelty, and infidelity; on the other disappointment, jealousy, unavailing reflection, a broken spirit, a fixed melancholy, and every thing but absolute des pair. Oh, with what desire could I draw off the attention of such broken hearts from things below to things above; from taking counsel in their souls, to trusting in the mercy of God, in Christ Jesas ! Many a wounded spirit has, by this means, been healed, and rendered bappy for life ; besides being prevented from plunging, in the agony of desperation, into the gulf of eternal roin.
We have seen even religious characters inordinately depressed with troubles. The loss of some darling object, the confounding of some favourite scheme, or the rising of some apparently insurmountable difficulty, has overwhelmed the heart. In such circumstances, the mind is apt to nurse its melancholy, trying to live, as it were, on dying elements : but it is not thus that we shall either glorify God, or gain relief. Jesus hath said, Let not your heart be troubled ; ye believe in God, believe also in me. From troubles of some kind there is no exemption; in the present state : but it does not become the followers of Christ to indulge in heart-troubles for little things; and such are all our worldly sorrows; light afflictions which are but for a moment. The true Christian life is, to be inordinately careful for nothing ; but is every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let our requests be made known unto God. It is thus that the peace of God, which passeth all uxderstanding, shall keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. It is by ceasing to take counsel, in our souls, and trusting in God's mercy, that our sorrow, like that of David, will be turned into joy and triumph. Our way may be covered with darkness, so much so, that we cannot see where the next step will place us : but we have a Leader, who sees through all, and who has promised to guide us with his eye. Things may so work, as to confound our calculations : but, if all work together for good, this is sufficient. What are our afflictions, too, in comparison of the glory that awaits us ? Paul had his afflictions, as well as we, far greater indeed than ours have been ; and he also took counsel under them ; but
r not with himself: he took into his account the hope that was set before him : I reckon says he, that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be re
vealed in us. It is while we thus look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, that our aflictions appear light and momentary, and work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
2. The case of the Psalmist is applicable to persons who, at the outset of their religious concern, are encompassed with darkness and long continued dejection. There are some, who are no sooner brought to entertain a just sense of the nature and demerits of sin, than they are led to embrace the gospel-way of salvation, and find rest to their souls : but it is not so with all. Some are known to continue, for a long time, in a state of dark suspense. They have too deep a sense of sin to be able to enjoy the pleasures of this world ; and are too much in the dark concerning its forgiveness, to be able to imbibe the joys of another. Hence, their days are spent in solitude and dejection : they search for peace, but it is far from them : they take counsel in their soul, and have sorrow in their heart daily.
Various things contribute to promote this state of mind. In some, it may be owing to circumstances without them. Perhaps, like David, they had no friend to whom they could open their minds ; or if they had, it might have been to persons who were either total strangers to these things, or who were unskilful in the word of right
Such also may have been the kind of preaching they have heard, that nothing suitable to their case bas been ordinarily, if ever, delivered. If the preacher be of such a description as to content himself with moral barangues ; if, instead of exhibiting the Saviour of sinners, he have nothing to say to a wounded spirit, unless it be to advise bim to forsake his vices, and be better ; or if his object be rather to improve the manners of men, and render them decent members of society, than to renew their hearts ; the tendency of his preaching will be, either to establish the hearer in pharisaical presumption, or sink him into despondency.
Or, should the preacher be of another description; should be hold forth a kind of Mahometan predestination ; be averse from the free invitations of the gospel to sinners, as sinners; and employ bimself in persuading his hearers that no one has any warrant to come to Jesus for eternal life, but the regenerate ; the effects will Vol. VII,
be much tbe same. The awakened sinner will either take up with some enthusiastic impression, imagine himself a favourite of heaven, trusting that he is righteous, and despising others; or, having no consciousness that he is regenerate, be deterred from approaching the Saviour, and so sink into despondency.
Could I gain access to such a character, I would proclaim in his ear the mercy of God to sinners ; the all-sufficiency and willing
; ness of Jesus to save all that are willing to be saved by him ; and the free invitations of the gospel ; as a sufficient warrant for bim, or any other sinner, to trust his inntortal interests in his hands. O ye that labour and are heavy laden, come to Jesus, and ye
shall find rest unto your souls ! Do not dream of first ascertaining your election, or regeneration, and of approaching the Saviour as a favourite of heaven; it is only by believing in him, as a perishing sinner, that you can obtain an evidence of these things. It is by the gospel coming to us, not in word only, but in power, that our election of God is known, and our regeneration ascertained.
In others, such dejection may be owing to something within them. It may arise from a kind of propensity to think on things which are against them, rather than on those which are in their favour ; viewing only the dark side of the cloud ; dwelling on the magnitude of their guilt, their unworthiness of mercy, and the little guccess they have bad in praying and striving to enter in. This propensity is often fed by an idea that it would be presumption, in such sinners as they are, to admit the consolation of the gospel ; and that it is abundantly more becoming them to stand aloof, in darkness and misery. But this is not Christian huinility. It is a spurious kind of modesty, the principle of which is nearly akin to that voluntary humility and self-denial, that induces men to abstain from that which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving. Notwithstanding the modest and humble appearance which these objections assume, they will be found to be no better than a species of self-righteous pride, opposed to the bumiliating gospel of Christ. When you object, for instance, that you are unworthy of such great and anspeakable blessings as the gospel reveals, and, therefore, that it would be presumption in you to accept of them ; what is this but saying, that, before you can have any warrant to receive