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from what has been said we learn, r. How unspeakably gracious the Lord oar God is, arid what abundant encouragement he hath--given us to walk in his way. Had he called us te go through fire and water, or through seas of bleod, without any degree of peace or happiness in this present world, in order to get safe to heaven, we should nevertheless have had infinite cause to praise his name to all eternity. But how much mor-e abundantly ought we to praise the Lord, when we see that he calls us to enjoy a present as well as a future heaven, a heaven of grace, and a heaven of eternal glory. O how inexcusable are those, and what enemies to their own souls, who will not hearken to the warning voice of God, who slight his otfered mercy, and who despise his richest grace! Who can sufficiently lament the folly and desperate madness of such people! These despise the counsels of the infinitely wise and blessed God;- they set at nought the awful reproofs of the eternal Jehovah; they dare to affront him to his face, as if they were a match for Omnipotence; they expose themselves every moment to the wrath and curse of that God, in whose hand their fife is, and who therefore can cast them into hell the next moment, and they have not the least degree of power to withstand him, or to say, What doest thou? While at the same time, they are robbing their own souls of present peace and happiness; for " there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked." O that these unhappy men would be prevailed upon to know the day of their visitation, and to turn to the Lord by true repentance, before it be too late. There is mercy for them still, would they but humble themselves before the Lord: He kindly and graciously spares them, so that they may at last pity their own souls, and return unto him, and live: He otfers them pardon,peace,and everlasting salvation, after all they have done. Let them delay no longer, but return to the Lord, and seek him while he may be found, lest that awful word should be fulfilled in them, " I have called but ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, but no man regarded; I will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh."
2. Let those who are convinced of their want of divine grace, and who are made willing to return to the Lord, take all the encouragement which he gives them in his holy word. He hath set before them an open door, which no one can shut; he kindly and affectionately intreats them to come unto him, nnd strongly assures them of his love towards them, and of his willingness to receive them into his favour and family. The vvovd of the Lord to them is? " All things are now ready:" Pardon and peace, life and salvation, mercy and grace, are all ready. Let these lay hold upon the promise of an infinitely gracious God, in which he offers them a free and full pardon for all their past offences, and grace to renew their souls in righteousness and true holiness. Let them know and feel that weak and helpless, poor, blind, and naked, yea, wretched and miserable as they are, yet the God of peace and love is still saying unto them, " Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou slialt fee saved." Embrace the offers of mercy and grace, which God himself hath made to you, and you shall find, to your unspeakable comfort, that he will bring you into the marvellous light and glorious liberty of the sons of God, and bless you with every spiritual blessing purchased for you fay the Hood of Christ, and promised to you in his holy wordt 3. Let those happy and highly-favoured souls, who are brought into the favour and family of God and who experience the riches of his grace, learn to set a very high value upon this heavenly treasure, and let them learn to- improve it to the glory of God. Grace is freely given, that we may use'it in chearfully doing, and patiently suffering the holy^ and acceptable, and perfect will of God: And in a particular manner,. let them take care, that the grace of God continually rule in their minds, over every evil temper, desire, and affection; and if at any time they are overcome by any inward evil whatsoever, let them take care that they humble themselves before the Lord, nor ever rest till they are again 'assur* ed of his love towards them in Christ Jesus. But above all, let these seek for grace to save them from every root of bitterness, from all filthiness of flesh and spirit; and in order 19 this, let them be fully satisfied that this is the will of God ia Christ Jesus, concerning them; and that h« is infinitely wilt ing to accomplish this one thing in them, by the power of his Spirit: And that they may be encouraged to expect this salvation, let them remember that word of God, " The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord;" it is his free gift, and there* fore, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," yea, and saved too according to the measure or degree of your faith; "for according to your faith so shall it be done unto you." Nay, more than this, " All tilings arc possible to him that believeth." Let these therefore lay hold upon the promise which offers full salvation to them, and the Lord will fulfil his own blessed word, and they shall be fully sanctified by grace.
THE LORD HIMSELF THE STRENGTH OF THE CHRISTIAN.
Psalm Lxxi. 16.
I will go in the strength of the Lord God: I will make mention of tbl - . righteousness, even of thine onllr..' "". i.
AT may properly enough be said of David, that although he was a man" after Gbd's own heart, yet he was also a man of war from his youth; that from the time when he engaged with Goliah of Gath, when he was but a ruddy youth, (yet the God in whom he trusted gave him a complete victory over his formidable enemy), till near the time that he finished his course upon earth, he had to encounter with very powerful and numerous enemies: But as he had learned to put his . trust and confidence in the Lord his God, so he found, by happy experience, the truth of that word, "They that trust in the Lord, shall never be confounded." He did not depend upon his sword, his spear, or his bow; no, nor on the multitude of his forces: He did not rely upon an arm of flesh, but upon the omnipotent Jehovah, so that his enemies were not able to stand before him.
He begins this beautiful Psalm in the following remarkable manner; "Inthee, O Lord, do I put my trust, let me never be put to confusion." It is worthy our observation, that he no sooner had declared that his whole trust and confidence was in the Lord, but he gives us a convincing proof, that this was not in vain, inasmuch as he immediately joins thereto, serious, solemn prayer, to the God in whom he trusted^ *' Let me never be put to confusion, deliver me in thy righteousness, and 'cause me to escape; incline thine ear unto me, and save me." Thus did he plead with the Lord his God in prayer, and this was his constant practice; for we seldom read over any one of his Psalms, but we find him, in one part or another, devoutly calling upon the name of the Lord, in fervent prayer and supplication: When he wrote the Psalm before us, his mind seems to have been, in a very particular manner, drawn towards God; and accordingly he enlarges in prayer, in the following words: "Be thou my strong habitation, unto which I may continually resort; for thou hast given commandment to save me: for thou art my rock and my fortress." It is very remarkable, that he had no sooner made his request known to God, but he gives us to understand that his prayer was graciously answered. He had prayed for divine protection, u Be thou my strong habitation;" and he immediately adds, " Thou hast given commandment to save me:" As if he had said, " I shall be safe under the shadow of thy wings."
In this edifying manner does David write, through the whole of this Psalm, till we come to the words of our text, where he declares that his determination was to go in the strength of the Lord God: Which is as if he had said, "I will go out against my enemies in the Name of the Lord, in obedience to his word, and in an humble dependance upon him, for protection and victory; "for he it is who girdeth me with strength unto the battle; and I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only." That is, I will depend upon thy truth and faithfulness; and as thou hast given commandment to save me, I will patiently wait the accomplishment of thy word."
This may be the meaning of the words, as they relate to David himself; but no doubt they may be spiritually improved, without any force put upon them; and from them we may take notice of the following particulars:
First, What may we understand by the strength of the Lord God?
Secondly, How does the Lord, in the general, communicate this strength to thejnind?
Thirdly, What may we understand by the righteousness of God, and when may a person be said to make mention of this, and of this only?
i. What may we understand by the strength of the Lord God? By the strength of the Lord, we may understand, all that spiritual strength, all that divine power, which the Lord mercifully conveys to our minds, from the time we first thinki upon our ways, and begin to turn our feet to the testimonies. ef the Lord, till we are brought to .the full enjoyment of £Jod in his everlasting kingdom. Of the whole work of grace upon the mind, it may be said, with the greatest propriety, "Not by might, nor by f ower, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord:" The Apostle Paul speaks to the same purpose, when he says, " We are not sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God:" And our gracious Lord hath taught us the same truth, in these well" known words, u Without me ye can do nothing," so that U is evident enough, that we all stand in need of divine assistr ance, or of the strength of the Lord, and without this w« can' do nothing to any good piwpose, in religion, or in that great work, the salvation of our souls.;
To be a little mere particular : By the strength of the Lord, 'we may understand, all th#t spiritual assistance which a kind and gracious God conveys to us, whereby we are enabled, by true repentance, to return to him, so. as to obtain raercy a$ his hand; whereby a truly penitent sinner is enabled to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and to experience redemption in his blood; and whereby the believer is prepared to fight the good fight of faith, until he lays hold on eternal life.
i. By the strength of the Lord we are enabled, by true repentance, to return to the great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, that we may obtain mercy at his hand. We learn from the holy scriptures, that repentance is both the gift ami the work of God; and from hence we see that many are exceedingly mistaken, who suppose that it is in their own power, and that they may repent and turn to God whensoever they please: But these persons suppose, that repentance is no more than an outward reformation of life and manners; whereas it is evident that it is an internal, rather than an external work; a change of heart, rather than a change of outward behaviour.
That a person may greatly reform his life and conversation, if he is fully resolved so to do, and as some speak, becoming a new man, may be allowed: but this falls far short of true repentance: And even with respect to this, many there are who notwithstanding the best resolutions they could make, and all the care and pains they could take^ have been so frequently overcome by their besetting sin, in particular, that they have been led to think, it was altogether in vain for them to attempt to serve God, or to walk in his ways: And it is to be feared some of those, for want of seeing where help might be found, have given up all thought of being either wiser or better, and so live as the general part of mankind do.
"God," saith the Apostle, "ha$ exalted his Son Jesus, with