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they will serve only to condemn you. If you have read the scriptures, or gone to a place of worship, merely from custom, and not from any love you had to these things; if you have relieved the poor out of pride, rather than pure compassion; and if that which has preserved you from the grossest vices, has been rather a regard to your interest, health, or character, than any concern for the ho nour of God; can such things be acceptable in his sight?
But, if your motives were ever so pure, and your good deeds ever so many; yet, having broken the holy, just, and good law of God, you cannot be justified by any thing which you can do. If you commune with your heart to any good purpose, you will never think of being saved by the works of your own hands; but feel the necessity of a Saviour, and of a great one. The doctrine of salvation by the death of Jesus will be glad tidings to your soul. Finally: you will, as you are exhorted in the verse following the text, offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord. In other words, with a broken and contrite spirit, you will approach the God against whom you have sinned; mourn over your unprovoked offences, as one mourneth for an only son; and be in bitterness as one that is in bitterness for his first-born and this, without thinking of either your prayers or tears as being any thing, or of any account; but, placing all your hope and help in him, who, when we were without strength, in due time died for the ungodly. To him be glory for ever! Amen.
ADVICE TO THE DEJECTED: OR, THE SOUL DIRECTED TO LOOK OUT OF ITSELF FOR CONSOLATION.
PSALM Xiii. 2.
How long shall I take counsel in my soul, having sorrow in my heart daily?
We have, in a former discourse, considered the importance of looking into our own hearts; but that counsel is not applicable in all cases. There is such a thing as to pore on our guilt and wretchedness, to the overlooking of our highest mercies. Though it be proper to know our own hearts, for the purpose of conviction, yet, if we expect consolation from this quarter, we shall find ourselves sadly disappointed.
Such, for a time, appears to have been the case of David. He seems to have been in great distress; and, as is common in such cases, his thoughts turned inward, casting in his mind what he should do, and what would be the end of things. While thus exercised, he had sorrow in his heart daily: but, betaking himself to God for relief, he succeeded; trusting in his mercy, his heart rejoiced in his salvation.
There are many persons, who, when in trouble, imitate David in the former part of this experience: I wish we may imitate him In the latter. In discoursing on the subject, I shall first notice the disconsolate situation of the Psalmist, with the remedy to which he repaired under it; and then inquire, to what cases it is applicable among us, and whether the same remedy be not equally adapted to our relief, as to his.
I. Let us notice THE DISCONSOLATE SITUATION OF THE PSALMIST, WITH THE REMEDY TO WHICH HE REPAIRED UNDER IT.
The psalm is probably one of those mournful songs which he composed during his persecution by Saul: but, like most others, though it begins with complaint, it ends in triumph. We may be certain he was pressed with great difficulties: for we do not take counsel with ourselves or others, but in such cases. The particulars of his situation may be collected from the different parts of the psalm.
1. He was sorely persecuted. This was a mysterious providence. God had anointed him to the throne, and brought him into public life; it might have been expected, therefore, that he would have made his way plain before him: yet, in following what must, to him, manifestly appear the leadings of his Divine Guide, he brings upon himself a flood of evils. Though nothing was further from his intention than to use any means to dethrone his sovereign ; yet Saul is jealous, and his dependants are stirred up, by envy and malice to compass the ruin of the innocent. Let not those who are candidates for an immortal crown be surprised, if their path to glory be covered with snares and pits: it is through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom.
2. The Lord seemed to prosper his persecutors, and not him : his enemy was exalted over him. This seems more mysterious still. Is the God of Israel, then, a man that he should lie; or the son of man, that he should repent? Does he use lightness? Or the things which he purposes, does he purpose according to the flesh; that with him there should be yea, yea, and nay, nay? Far be it rom him. Yet, if we were to judge by appearances, we might, at times, be tempted to draw such conclusions.
3. His most intimate acquaintance seem to have forsaken him. In cases of difficulty we usually advise with our friends, if we have any. If we are driven to take counsel with ourselves, therefore, it may be presumed that we are bereft of that consolation. A sympathizing, wise, and faithful friend, in a time of difficulty, is a great blessing. In times of prosperity, many will profess a regard to us; but, if persecution for Christ's sake should overtake us, we may expect some to stand aloof, who now court our acquaintance. This has been the lot of men of whom the world was not worthy; and it was no small part of their affliction, that they had to suffer by themselves. Let us not complain of such things, however. Our Lord himself was forsaken by lover and friend. He took three of his most beloved disciples to accompany him in the hour of his sufferings; but they fell asleep, and left him to agonize alone.
4. To these temporal distresses were added others of a spiritual nature: the Lord hid his face from him; and, to him, it appeared, as though he had forgotten him. If, under his outward troubles, he could have enjoyed inward peace; if he could have poured out his heart with freedom in secret; if, though banished from the sanctuary, yet, looking towards that house, and calling upon the Lord, he had heard him from heaven his dwelling-place, his load had been supportable but to have to say, with Job, Behold; I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him on the left hand where he doth work, but I cannot be· hold him he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him! This gives a double weight to the affliction. But, here also, we have no reason to complain. David has been before us; and what is more, David's Lord. Jesus was persecuted; his enemies were exalted over him; his friends were scattered from him; and, to fill up the bitter cup, his God forsook him. This was the sorrow of sorrows. He speaks as one that could have borne any thing else: My God, my God, ... why hast THOU for
5. All this was not for a few days only; but for a long time. HOW LONG wilt thou forget me? How LONG wilt thou hide thy face from me? How LONG shall I take counsel in my soul? The intenseness of the affliction renders it trying to our fortitude; but