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God be, through his blessing, of any use to engage your hearts thereunto, and to provoke you unto any of those. expedients, which you were in this Sermon minded of, I shall have abundant cause of glorifying God, for so great a fruit of so small a service, and for your professed subjection unto the Gospel of Christ. Which is the earnest desire of Your Honours' most humble servant
In the work of the Gospel,
PSALM CXLVII. 12, 13, 14, 15.
Praise ye the Lord, O Jerusalem: praise thy God, O Zion. For he hath strengthened the bars of thy gates: he hath blessed thy children within thee. He maketh peace in thy borders and filleth thee with the finest of the wheat. He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth: his word runneth very swiftly.
GOD is all-sufficient unto himself, and standeth not in need of any of his creatures to add any excellence unto him, any more than the sun doth of the light of a candle. That which is wholly of him, can contribute nothing at all unto him. He hath all perfection infinitely, all the perfections of the creatures (without the finite bounds and limits wherein they enjoy them) eminently in himself. Our goodness* extendeth not unto him. If he be hungry, he will not tell us; for the world is his, and the fulness thereof. Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise, is profitable unto himself? Who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again?
Though the Lord be thus wholly self-sufficient, and do not receive any thing from the creatures; yet he is pleased graciously to communicate himself unto them in several prints
Psalmu xvi. 2.
b Psalm 1. 12.
e Job xxii. 2.
d Rom. xi. 35.
and degrees of goodness; as the sun sheddeth light upon those bodies, from whence it receiveth no retribution at all.
But, of all creatures, he hath chosen his church to be nearest unto him, and to participate most of him; that is, a society of men which he hath f formed for himself, to be a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people. As the sun manifesteth its light unto us in the moon, more than in any other of the stars; so the Lord, his goodness and wisdom in the church, more than in any other creatures.
And now, as the moon, receiving light from the sun, doth not swallow it up and bury it, but reflecteth it, and (as it were) reporteth and publisheth it abroad unto the world; so the Lord, having shewed mercies unto the church, requireth that they be not buried in oblivion, but that the glory and praise of them be acknowledged unto him. Great luminaries have certain beams, as pipes and channels, through which their light is derived and diffused upon others. Thanksgiving is the beam of an enlightened soul, whereby it maketh report of those mercies, which, from the Father of light, hath been shed abroad upon it. Every thing naturally returns to its original. "All rivers run into the sea; unto the place from whence they come, thither they return to go." (Eccles. i. 7) A straight line drawn into length, the further it goes, is still the weaker; but in a circle, returning to its first point and original, it recovers strength: so the creature, the further it goes from God, is still the weaker, till it return back unto him again. And the best way of returning unto him, is by praising of him: for praises are the language of heaven, where it is that men are perfectly taken home to God.
Yet, as we said, nothing is hereby added unto him, but only his own glory acknowledged and adored by the church; as when the sun shines on a diamond, the lustre thereof is not increased, but reported. And as we esteem those stones most precious, which do most exquisitely admit and reflect the splendor of that light which shines upon them; so they are the Lord's best jewel' (as he calleth them, Mal. iii. 17)
• Deut. iv. 7.
f Isai. xliii. 21.
g 1 Pet. ii. 9.
which can most notably set forth the glory of his name. he who can, with greatest eloquence, commend the virtues. of an excellent person, is the best orator, though his oration doth not put excellency into the person, but only represent and set it forth unto others.
Not therefore for any advantage or accession unto himself (who cannot be a gainer by his creatures) but only for our benefit and comfort, is the Lord pleased to require praises for his people as the window admitteth the light of the sun, not for the benefit of the sun, but of the house into which it shineth.
And as God requires this duty at all times of his people, so most then, when he doth greatest things for them. And this was the condition of the church at this time, which interpreters refer to the state thereof after its return out of Babylon and therefore, in the Syriac and Greek versions, we find the names of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah prefixed, as leading to the times whereunto the mercies, here mentioned, did relate.
The whole psalm is an invitation unto praising of God. Arguments thereunto are drawn,
First, From God's general goodness to the world, ver. 4, 8, 9, 16, 17, 18.
Secondly, From his special mercy to his church. 1. In restoring it out of a sad and broken condition, ver. 2, 3. 2. In confirming it in a happy and prosperous estate, both temporal, in regard of strength, peace, and plenty, ver. 12, 13, 14, and spiritual, in regard of his word, statutes, and judgements made known unto them, ver. 19, 20. Lastly, These mercies are all commended by the manner of bestowing them, powerfully and swiftly.' He doth it by a word of command, and by a word of speed: "He sendeth forth his commandment upon earth; his word runneth very swiftly."
The former part of this happy estate, together with the manner of bestowing it, is in these words, from which we must, by no means, exclude the consideration of the latter. And what can be wanting to a nation which is strengthened with walls, blessed with multitudes, hath peace in the border, plenty in the field, and (which is all in all) God in the sanctuary, God in the bar of the gate, the father of the
children, the crown of the peace, the staff of the plenty, a gate restored, a city blessed, a border quieted, a field crowned, a sanctuary beautified with the oracles of God; what can be wanting to such a people but a mouth filled, a heart enlarged, a spirit exalted in the praises of the Lord? "Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem; praise thy God, O Zion," &c.
In the words we have three general parts.
1. A duty required, and that with an ingemination, Praise, praise.
2. The subject of whom required, Jerusalem, Zion.
3. Arguments enforcing it, drawn from consideration, 1. Of God's relation unto them, as the Lord, that had authority over them, as Thy God, that, was in covenant with them. 2. Of the benefits wrought for them, wherein is considerable,-1. The substance of them; ver. 13, 14. 2. The manner how performed, by a powerful and a speedy efficacy; ver. 15.
In the substance of the benefits, we have a great climax and gradation of mercy.
First, Jerusalem and Zion, which erewhile lay ruinous and desolate, have now walls; and those walls, gates; and those gates, bars; and those bars, strengthened and made fast by the hand of God. By all which we understand both the material walls and gates newly built by Nehemiah, maugre the opposition of Sanballat and Tobiah; (Nehem. ii. 8, 9, and vi. 1, and vii. 1) and also the policy and government, which is said to be administered in the gates. (Deut. xxi. 19. Amos v. 15) For the strength, the walls, the gates of a kingdom stand in the righteous administration of judgement, whereby "the throne is established." (Prov. xvi. 12)
Secondly, Not only strength in the walls, but blessing in the city within them, namely, multitudes of inhabitants, according to that promise, "I will sow the house of Israel and of Judah with the seed of man, and with the seed of beast." (Jer. xxxi. 27) There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls, playing in the streets thereof.' (Zech. viii. 4, 5) The safety, tranquillity, and peace, should
be so great, as that it should extend to all sorts of men ; even those who were most subject to fear and danger, old men, old women, boys and girls.
Thirdly, Because potent enemies might break the strongest gates, though they were of brass and iron, as the Lord promiseth Cyrus; (Isai. xlv. 1, 2) and being broken in, might easily diminish the multitudes there, till they be left as a tree bereft of branches on the top of a mountain, till a man be more precious than the golden wedge of Ophir; (Isai. xiii. 12, and xxiv. 6, and xxx. 17) there is further added, "Peace in thy borders;" violence shall no more be heard in thy land. (Isai. lx. 18)
Fourthly, Because famine may do as much harm within, as an enemy in the borders; the sword without may make them eat their children within, (Deut. xxviii. 53-55) therefore plenty is joined unto peace; he "filleth thee with the finest of the wheat; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heaven shall give her dew, and the remnant of this people shall possess all these things." (Zech. viii. 12)
Fifthly, Because these inferior blessings without God, can neither defend nor comfort a people; therefore he is pleased to give himself unto them, to be their portion: He is "Thy God, O Sion:" he is pleased to own it as his name, "The portion of Jacob." (Jer. x. 16)
Lastly, Lest they should be discouraged by any present difficulties, which might seem to render these mercies very improbable unto them, he strengtheneth their faith by this assurance that he can, with a word of his mouth, give being to every one of these promises, and can "send forth his commandment" as a winged executioner of his will. “He sendeth forth his commandment on earth; his word runneth very swiftly."
The main doctrine of the text, and work of the day, is the tribute of praise which we owe unto God for these great mercies. It is the glory due unto his name;' (Psalm xcvi. 8) for, according to his name, so is his praise.' (Psalm xlviii. 10)
And it is due to him in the text upon a double title:
1. As he is the Lord; for his absolute greatness in himself.