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PSALM CXVI. 16.
Oh Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds
HERE is fomething fo fervent and affectionate in the language of the man after God's own heart, that it is extremely proper to be adopted by us in acts of adotation, truft, or fupplication to God. I am at a lofs to determine, whether we ought to confider the Chriftian's accefs to God, at his holy table, chiefly under one or other of these views. I am inclined to think that it is a fort of compound or union of the whole-Veneration and worfhip of the eternal God, and the incarnate Redeemer, ex hibited to us, and as it were brought near to us by the help of the infiituted figns: Reliance and confidence in God, from the opportunity given us of laying hold of his cove. nant: and thankful fupplication to God for his fupport and countenance, in the furrender of ourfelves to his fer vice. I cannot help looking upon the words of the Pfalm. ift in this paffage, as carrying in them a mixture of all thefe holy affections. "Oh Lord, truly I am thy ferVOL. II. L1
"vant; I am thy fervant, and the fon of thine handmaid. "Thou haft loofed my bonds: I will offer to thee the fa"crifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of "the Lord."
This Plain, of which David is universally admitted to be the author, feems plainly to have been compofed after fome fignal deliverance, of which the remembrance was fresh upon his mind. It was fuch as had brought his life itself into the most imminent danger. He acknowledges in the verse preceding the text, the peculiar and gracious eare which God takes of the life of his people: "Precious "in the fight of the Lord is the death of his faints;" and then makes the profeffion of relation, gratitude, and duty, contained in the words of the text.As they seem to me to be very comprehenfive, and with great propriety to exprefs what ought to be the habitual temper of a Chrif tian, and the frame of fpirit with which a communicant ought to draw near to God at his table; I fhall endeavor, in dependance on divine grace,
I. To open the import of the Pfalmift's declaration and purpose.
II. To apply it to you as hearers of the Gofpel in general, as well as with a view to the facred employment immediately before you
First, then, I propofe to open the import of the Pfalmift's declaration and purpose in the text. This I think may be included in the following particulars, to which I intreat your ferious attention.
1. This expreffion of the king of Ifrael, implies a very humble fenfe of his diftance from, and dependance upon God, as his creature. This is the firft view which a penitent hath of himself when he returns to God. It is the first view which a good man hath of himself in his ap proaches to or communion with God. And indeed it is what ought to be infeparable from the exercife of every other pious affection. To have as it were high and ho norable thoughts of the majesty and greatnefs of the living God, and a deep and awful impreffion of the immediate and continual prefence of the heart-fearching Gad-this
naturally produces the greateft felf-abafement, and the moft unfeigned fubjection of fpirit, before our Maker. It leads to a confeffion of him as Lord over all, and having the most abfolute right not only to the obedience, but to the difpofal of all his creatures. I cannot help thinking this is conveyed to us in the language of the Pfalmift, when he fays, " O Lord, truly I am thy fervant." He was a prince among his fubjects, and had many other ho norable diftinctions, both natural and acquired, among men; but he was fenfible of his being a fervant and fub ject of the King of kings; and the force of his expreffion, "truly I am thy fervant," not only fignifies the certainty of the thing, but how deeply and ftrongly he then felt a conviction of its truth.
Suffer me to say, my brethren, that there is much more in this, than many apprehend. The fcripture speaks often of the knowledge of God, of a difcovery of the glory of God, as a thing peculiar to his people, which is very different from merely fpeculative opinions as to his nature and perfections. It implies an awful impreffion of his power and greatnefs, a deep fenfe how little the creature is
efore him, and how entirely it is in his hand. I love that expreffion used by several pious writers of the last age, of bowing before the fovereignty of God. When a believer or a worshipper hath a proper view of this; when it is brought home upon his fpirit; it as it were banishes all other things, all other relations, all other perfons; and he is, to his apprehenfion, alone in the prefence of the invifible God. And then what abafement of foul is of necef fity produced! then no language can be found fufficient to exprefs his vileness and nothingness in his own fight. He may be a rich man among his poor neighbors, or a great man among his numerous attendants, or a learned man among the ignorant vulgar; but alas, he is no more than finful duft and afhes before the omnipotent Jehovah: There is something very magnificent in the defcription given by the prophet Ifaiah of the majefty of God, and the correfpondent fentiments of those who see and feel it, in the 2d chapter of his prophecies, verfe 10, 11. " Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the duft, for fear of
"the Lord, and for the glory of his Majefty. The lofty "looks of man fhall be humbled, and the haughtiness of "men fhall be bowed down, and the Lord alone fhall be
exalted in that day." And again, verfes 19, 20, 21, 22. "And they fhall go into the holes of the rocks, and into "the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the "glory of his majefty, when he arifeth to shake terribly "the earth. In that day a man fhall caft his idols of fil"ver, and his idols of gold, which they made, each one " for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats: to
go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the "ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of "his majefty, when he arifeth to fhake terribly the earth. "Ceafe ye from man, whofe breath is in his noftrils:
for wherein is he to be accounted of?"
2. This declaration of the Pfalmift implies a confeffion of his being bound by particular covenant and confent unto God, and a repetition of the fame by a new adherence. This, as it was certainly true with regard to him, having often dedicated himself to God, fo I take it to be concluded on the reiteration of the expreffion here," Oh "Lord, truly I am thy fervant, I am thy fervant." As if he had faid, Oh Lord, it is undeniable; it is impoffible to recede from it. I am thine by many ties. I am by nature thy fubject and thy creature; and I have many times confeffed thy right, and promifed my own duty. I need not mention to you, either the examples in the Pfalmift's writings, or the occafions in his hiftory, on which he folemnly furrendered himfelf to God. It is fufficient to fay, that it was very proper that he fhould frequently call this to mind, and confefs it before God, as what, though it could not make his Creator's right any ftronger, would certainly make the guilt of his own violation of it, fo much the greater. It was certainly also a repetition of thofe engagements, and a folemn promife of continued adherence to them. There is no appearance in his language, that he either regrets or repents his fubjection to God; on the contrary, he manifefts his deliberate approbation of it, as his intereft as well as duty. What he fays here to God, has fomething of the fame
meaning with what he fays elsewhere to his own foul. Pfa. xvi. 2. "O my soul, thou haft faid unto the Lord, thou art "my Lord." And he afterwards expreffes the greatest complacency in this choice, verfes 5, 6, of the above Pfalm, "The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, and my cup; thou maintaineft my lot. The lines are "fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly "heritage."
I take it to be very natural for pious perfons to look back upon their former engagements to God. It is a part of the worship they owe to him, not only to glorify him as God, but to adhere to him as their God. It comes in with propriety as a part of confeffion, of praife, and of holy refolution, It humbles the fpirit under a fense of fin, as a breach of promife, as well as duty. It is matter of praise that we have been inclined and enabled to give ourfelves to God, according to the beautiful fentiment of David, who gives thanks to God, that he and his people had been enabled to make fuch free and liberal contributions to the building of the Temple, 1 Chron. xxix. 13, 14. "Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy "glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, "that we fhould be able to offer fo willingly after this "fort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have "we given thee." It is alfo plainly a part of our new engagement, which is no more than a ratification of what we have often and willingly done before.
3. This declaration of the Pfalmift is an expreffion of his peculiar and special relation to God, "I am thy fer"vant and the fon of thine handmaid." There is another paffage of his writings, where the fame expreffion occurs, Pfal. lxxxvi. 16. "O turn anto me, and have mer
cy upon me, give thy ftrength unto thy fervant, and fave "the fon of thine handmaid." There is fome variation indeed among interpreters in the way of illuftrating this phrafe. Some take it for a figurative way of affirming that he was bound in the ftrongest manner to God, as those children who were born, of a maid-servant, and born in his own houfe, are in the most abfolute manner his property. Others take it to fignify his being not only