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THOUGHTS ON THE FIRST PSALM.
This is a psalm of instruction concerning good and evil, setting before us life and death, the blessing and the curse, that we may take the right way of life, and avoid that way of everlasting death. The different character and condition of good people and wicked people-those that serve God and those that serve him not, is here plainly stated in a few words; so that every man, if he will be faithful to himself, may here see his own character, and then read what may be his own end. That division of the children of men into saints and sinners, as it is ancient, ever since the struggle began between the children of God and the children of the devil, so it is lasting, and will survive all other divisions and subdivisions of men into high and low, rich and poor, bond and free; for, by this, the everlasting state of man will be determined, and the distinction will last to eternity.
"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." JANUARY, 1844.
Here is a description given of the spirit and way of the religious man, by which we are to try ourselves. We should study to answer this character, which is indeed both the command of the law, that we are bound in duty to obey, and the condition of the promise, that we are bound in interest to fulfil. The character of a good man is here given by the rules he chooses to walk by, and to take his measures from. It is of great consequence to us what we take at our setting out, and at every turn, for the guide of our conversation-whether the course of this world, or the word of God. An error in the choice of our standard and leader, may prove of most fatal consequence; but if we be right here, we are in a fair way to do well.
But you, whose hearts the Lord hath deeply humbled in the sense of sin, come to Jesus Christ for consolation, and believe in him that you may have experience of the sweetness and riches of his mercy. Consider the bearing of sin by the Lord Jesus for you, for it is published and made known to you for this purpose. This is the genuine and true use of it, as it was of the brazen serpent, not emptily to gaze on the fabric of it, but to receive the cure from looking to it. When all that can be said is said against you, it is true, may you say—but it is satisfied for; He, on whom I rest, made it his and did bear it for me. The person of Christ was of more worth than all men, yea, than all the creatures, and therefore his life was a full ransom for the greatest offender.
A religious man, that he may avoid the evil, utterly renounces the conduct of evil-doers, and will not be led by them, " he walks not in the counsel of the ungodly." Those that will keep the commandments of their God, must say, "Depart from me ye evil-doers." He sees evildoers round about him, the world is full of them, they walk on every side; they are here described by three characters, ungodly, sinners, and scornful. See by what steps men arrive to the height of impiety; they are un
godly first, casting off the fear of God, and living in the neglect of their duty to him: but they rest not there; when the services of religion are laid aside, they come to be sinners, that is they break out into open rebellion against God, and engage in the service of sin and Satan; omissions of sin make way for commissions of sin, and by these the heart is hardened, so that at length they come to be scorners, they openly defy all that is sacred, scoff at religion, and make a jest of sin. Thus is the way of iniquity down hill; the bad grow worse, and the worse grow worst; sinners themselves become tempters to others, and advocates for Satan. These the good man sees with grief, they are a constant vexation to his righteous soul, but he shuns them wherever he sees them. He does not do as they do; and that he may not, he does not converse familiarly with them. He is not present at their counsels, nor does he advise with them; though they are never so witty, and subtle, and learned, if they are ungodly they shall not be the men of his counsel, he does not consent "to the counsel and deed of them," (Luke xxiii. 51) does not take his measures from their principles, nor act according to the advice which they use to give and take.
Again, he stands not in the way of sinners; that is, he avoids doing as they do-their way shall not be his wayhe will not come into it, much less will he continue in it, as the sinner does, who "setteth himself in a way that is not good." He avoids as much as may be, being where they are that he may not imitate them, he will not associate with them, nor choose them for his companions. He keeps as far from them as from a place or person infected with the plague, for fear of the contagion. We should know that he that would be kept from harm, must keep out of harm's way. He sits not in the seat of the scornful; he does not repose himself with those that sit down secure in their wickedness, and please themselves with the sacredness of their own consciences: he does not asso
ciate with those that sit to find out means for the support and advancement of the devil's kingdom; or that sit in judgment to condemn the righteous.
Again, a religious man, that he may do that which is good and cleave to it, submits to the ordering of the word of God, and makes that familiar to him. This is that which keeps him out of the way of the ungodly, and fortifies him against their temptations; "By the word of thy lips I have kept me from the paths of the destroyer." (Psalm xvii. 4.) We need not court the fellowship of sinners, either for pleasure or improvement, while we have the word of God with us, and have fellowship with God himself in and by his word; "When thou awakest, it shall talk with thee." (Prov. vi. 22.) We may judge of our spiritual state by this, what is the law of God to us? what account do we make of it? what hold has it of us? See here, the entire affection which a good man has for the law of God. His delight is in it. He delights in it, though it be a law, a yoke, because it is the law of God, which is holy, just, and good, which he freely consents to, and so delights in it "after the inner man." (Rom. vii. 16, 22.) All who are well pleased that there is a God, cannot but be well pleased that there is a Bible, a revelation of God, of his will, and of the only way to happiness in Him.
Observe again, the intimate acquaintance which a good man keeps up with the word of God, "In his law doth he meditate day and night;" and by this it appears his delight is in it, for what we love, we love to think of. David said, "O how I love thy law! it is my meditation all the day." To meditate in God's word, is to discourse with ourselves concerning the great things contained in it, with a close application of mind, a fixedness of thought, till we be suitably affected with those things, and experience the favour and power of them in our hearts. This we must do day and night; that is, we must have a con
stant habitual regard to the word of God, as the rule of our actions and the spring of our comforts, and we must have it in our thoughts, accordingly, upon every occasion that occurs, whether night or day. No time is amiss for meditating on the word of God, nor any time unseasonable for those visits. We must not only set ourselves to meditate on God's word morning and evening, at the entrance of the day and the night; but these thoughts should be interwoven with the business of the day, and with the slumbers of the night: "When I awake I am still with thee."
God blesses the righteous man, and the blessing will make him happy. Blessednesses are to him. Blessings of all kinds, of the upper and nether springs, enough to make him completely happy; none of the ingredients of happiness shall be wanting to him. After all, those only are happy, truly happy, that are holy, truly holy; and we are more concerned to know the way to blessedness, than to know wherein the blessedness will consist. Nay, goodness and holiness are not only the way to happiness, but they constitute happiness itself.
And this righteous man shall in holiness of life adorn the Gospel, bring forth fruit to the glory of God. He will do good to all around him, because he knows that his Saviour did thus, and that he is called to follow his example. And, in order to be able to do the more good, he will deny himself, and find a pleasure in stinting himself, in order to have the more to give to the poor and needy.
The blessedness of the righteous is here illustrated by a similitude, "He shall be like a tree," fruitful and flourishing: this is the effect of his pious practice. The more we converse with the word of God, the better furnished we are for every good word and work. The Divine blessing produces real effects. It is the happiness of righteous men, that they are planted by the grace of God: these trees were by nature wild olives, and would