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Though they can truly say that they would not for ten thousand worlds give up the hope which their faith, feeble as it is, inspires; yet, when they reflect on the awful magnitude of those subjects on which it is employed, the dangers on the one side, and the glorious hopes on the other, they cannot but wonder at their want of feeling and earnestness; they cannot but be ashamed and confounded as well as alarmed. If God were to say to them, "Be it unto you according to your" faith, they would almost look upon it as a sentence of judgment rather than of mercy, with so much less earnestness do they seem to ask for spiritual good from Christ, than, when he was on earth, men shewed in seeking temporal relief from him. But how cheering the thought, that he who gives other good to those who believe, will give faith to those who seek it. This endears the throne of grace to the true Christian; he may "come with boldness to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need;" he shall be heard and answered when he cries "Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief." Let us not then, with such encouragement, rest satisfied in this low and debased state, let us urge our plea that the Lord would increase our faith. If our soul cleave unto the dust, let us pray, "quicken thou me according to thy word;" and in proportion as we do this will our joy in God abound, and we shall rejoice in hope by the power of Christ.
But though, as I have remarked, every Christian
present will enter into the subject, and feel it one in which he is deeply interested; may I not fear that there are some with whom this is far from being the case? The grand, the all-important subject of faith is one to which they have given no attention. They have never seriously asked themselves whether they believed or not, nay perhaps they have even ridiculed and scoffed at the idea. You, my unhappy friends, (for most unhappy you will at last be found,) know nothing of those anxious feelings, those deep lamentations over weakness of faith, of which I have been speaking. And believe me, you are on that account objects of my unfeigned pity. Ere long, that distinction between the believer and the unbeliever, at which you scoff, will be the very distinction which will separate the inhabitants of heaven and of hell, a great gulf which none can pass. Are you prepared for this? Are you willing to abide by it? O then, let me call upon you to be wise, to remember these things, to consider your latter end. Now is the accepted time, pray earnestly while the opportunity is afforded you, to Him who is the author and finisher of our faith, for this all-important Christian grace-pray that you may believe to the saving of your soul; and remember for your encouragement, that he is always more ready to hear than we are to pray, and that he has graciously declared, "He that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out."
PSALM xvi. 11.
IN THY PRESENCE IS FULNESS OF JOY, AT THY RIGHT HAND THERE ARE PLEASURES FOR EVERMORE.
THIS Psalm presents to our view one of those instances, in which the ancient prophets and servants of God were led to make use of language, of which they did not themselves fully comprehend the meaning. The writer evidently considered himself as describing his own case, and the happy experience he had of the Lord's goodness toward him; and the cheering and delightful prospects which lay before him in that state on which he should enter, when after his flesh had slumbered awhile in the grave, it should be aroused to life and immortality by the voice of the Archangel and the trump of God. But though the Psalmist thus described his own state and cheering prospects, he was unconsciously using language, brought by a divine impulse to his mind, which represented the glorious termination of our Saviour's woes and
Psalm xvi. 5-11.
sufferings on earth. We are not here proceeding on mere conjecture,—for what the Holy Ghost once spake by David, he a thousand years afterwards explained by St. Peter.1
But in speaking on the verse I have read, there is no occasion to advert to this distinction; the text, if it relate to David, is an expression of the full satisfaction with which he contemplated the prospects faith presented to his view beyond the grave. If we rather consider it as used by the divine Redeemer, then is it an exhibition of that joy which awaited him as the Captain of our salvation; and for the sake of which he endured the cross and despised the shame. But in this the true believer has a deep concern; the delight of Christ, as the Head, belongs to each member of his mystical body; and he has assured us that he will at last say to those who have done his will and sought his glory, "well done good and faithful servants, enter ye into the joy of your Lord." "To him that overcometh," he says in another place," will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne."
Our minds are therefore led by the words before us, to a contemplation of the joys and pleasures which are possessed by Christ himself, and which in virtue of their connection with him, shall be possessed by all true believers in the presence, and
1 Acts ii. 23-31.
at the right hand of God. It is unnecessary to inquire whether these terms are ever employed in a lower sense; here the " presence" of God evidently means Heaven, and his right hand is the place of favour, where He vouchsafes to receive the disciples of the Lord Jesus for the sake and through the merits of their divine Redeemer.
That heaven is a place of happiness, no one doubts. That the presence of God, when he smiles upon his people, imparts delight, we cannot hesitate to believe. But when we venture to speak upon that happiness, we soon find ourselves in danger of darkening counsel by words without knowledge. Heavenly things can only be adequately spoken of in heavenly language, and of that we understand nothing. We must, therefore, be contented with a little information conveyed in terms descriptive of what here creates pleasure and gives satisfaction; and wait with patience till that day, when faith shall be lost in sight, and hope in full enjoyment of those things which "eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man" to conceive, but " "which God
hath prepared for them that love him."
The text does not at all aim to remove the clouds that rest upon a subject which to us at present must be mysterious and incomprehensible; it tells us of joys in the presence of God, and pleasures at his right hand, but it does not tell us what their exact nature is or how they will be imparted;