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Jehovah, in whom there is everlasting strength. When good men lose sight of God, they have no confidence in themselves; but in the exercise of a true and lively faith, they are strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Hence Paul could say, “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” When a certain prophet told him, that if he went to Jerusalem, the Jews would bind his hands and his feet, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles; and when his friends with tears urged him not to go, he boldly replied: “What mean ye to weep, and to break mine heart 2 for I am ready, not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem, for the name of the Lord Jesus.” In the exercise of the same strong and lively faith, the primitive christians endured their fiery trials, and gained the victory over the world. It is a reproach to religion for its friends to falter and faint in the day of adversity. Let them only cordially and confidently believe that they may always find rest in Christ, and then when they are weak, they will be strong enough to endure all present, and to meet all future trials and sufferings. 8. Since weak and weary saints may always find rest in Christ, they have a much brighter prospect before them than sinners. They live by faith and not by sight; and their faith is founded on a rock, which the winds, and rains, and floods may beat upon in vain. Their faith in the immutable promises of God gives them strong consolation, through hope that is an anchor to their souls, both sure and steadfast, and entereth into that within the veil. They have light in darkness, joy in sorrow, and a consoling expectation that all their light afflictions, which are but for a moment, will work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. But those who are without God are without Christ and without hope in the world. They have no source of permanent peace in this world, or the next. Their joy and laughter is momentary and vain, like the crackling of thorns under a pot. They are always like the troubled sea which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked. They have no promise of rest in this life, or in the life to come. God places the bright prospects of the righteous and the dark prospects of the wicked in a very lively and striking contrast. “Thus saith the Lord God, Behold my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty: behold my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed: behold my servants shall sing for joy of heart, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart, and shall howl for vexation of spirit.” Thus the righteous shall have hope, while the wicked are driven away in darkness and despair.
Now let me ask, have you ever found rest while passing through the various scenes of this wearisome world? You will not deny that you have found it to be true, that you were born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. Though you have at some times and in some respects enjoyed prosperity, yet you have often suffered losses, disappointments and bereavements, which have been grievous to bear; but can you say that any or all of your weighty cares and burdens and sorrows have driven you to seek refuge and rest in Christ, the shadow of a great rock in a weary land? If your troubles and trials have produced this effect, you have reason to rejoice that you have been made weary of the world, and are in some measure prepared to enjoy future uninterrupted and eternal rest, where sin and sorrow shall never come. But if any of you have never been weary of the world, and fled to Christ for refuge and rest in the times of darkness and distress, you have to remember, that all the troubles, afflictions and sorrows you have ever experienced, have been lost, and worse than lost upon you. They have not softened, but hardened your hearts; they have not prepared, but unprepared you for future and greater evils and sorrows; they have not brightened, but darkened your future prospects; they have not fitted you for the enjoyments of heaven, but for miseries without mixture and without end. Whether you look back, or look forward, there is nothing but darkness before you. You are in danger from prosperity as well as from adversity. The world which you love is armed against you, and will infallibly destroy you, unless you withdraw your supreme attention, affection and dependence from it. This is your immediate and imperious duty. You have delayed this duty too long, and future delay will only serve to strengthen the cords of iniquity, and bind you over to a state of everlasting alienation and separation from God and all good. The way of transgressors is hard. Why will you choose to struggle through all the storms and tempests of this present evil world, rather than return to God, and walk with him in the strait and narrow way to everlasting peace and rest? If you are wise, you will be wise for yourselves; but if you reject God as your portion, you must have your part with the miseries of the damned.
FREcroUs in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. – PsALM czvi. 15.
It appears from several expressions in this psalm, that David composed it as a tribute of gratitude to God, for hearing his prayers and granting him support in a time of sickness, or some other heavy affliction. Among other things of a similar nature, he says, “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee deliver my soul. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.” This train of thoughts naturally led him to say in the text, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” These words suggest for our present consideration this precious truth: That God takes peculiar care of the death of his saints, whom he claims as his own. I shall, I. Consider why God claims saints as his own ; and, II. Show that he takes peculiar care of their death. I. Let us consider why God claims saints as his own. God has an original and absolute right to all his creatures, because they are the workmanship of his own hands. He is the Former of the bodies and Father of the spirits of all mankind, and has made them all for himself. As the Creator of all men, he has a claim to sinners as well as to saints; but he has a higher and more peculiar claim to saints, whom he calls his own in distinction from sinners. This is plainly suggested in the text: “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” We never find this mode of expression in application to sinners. They are represented as belonging to the god of this world, rather than to the God of heaven. It is proper, therefore, to inquire, why the only living and true God claims saints as his own. There will appear just ground for . this claim, if we consider, 1. That he has set them apart for himself, in his original purpose of redemption. When he formed the great and gracious design of raising up monuments of his mercy in this guilty world, he selected from the mass of mankind a certain number of the fallen race, as the subjects of his special, sovereign grace. He determined how many to save, and how many to destroy. He meant that his Son should not die in vain, but should eventually bring home many sons to glory. This was an act of wisdom as well as of grace. It became the only wise God to fix the precise number that should be actually formed vessels of mercy, and prepared for his peculiar service through their eternal existence. Now, all real saints belong to this chosen number. David said, “The Lord hath set apart the godly for himself.” Christ just before his death prayed for those whom his Father had given him, in distinction from the rest of the world. Paul taught that real christians were chosen to eternal life. He said to the Ephesians that God had chosen them in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before him in love. He assured the Thessalonians that God had not appointed them to wrath, but to obtain salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ; and that he was bound to give thanks to God, because he had chosen them from the beginning unto salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth. This eternal choice of the godly gives God a peculiar right to claim them as his peculiar people. As he had a right to make the choice, so he has a right to claim the chosen; and they are under peculiar obligation of gratitude to acknowledge his property in them and sovereignty over them. 2. God claims saints as his own, because he has enstamped his moral image upon them. Though they were by nature children of wrath even as others, yet, God having chosen them to salvation through the sanctification of the Spirit, has actually renewed them in the temper of their minds, and made them holy as he is holy. They have the spirit of Christ, and bear the moral image of God. They have put off the old man and put on the new, which after God is created in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. This renovation of the heart
flows from their original election to eternal life. God enstamps his moral image upon none but those whom he has chosen to salvation. “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son. Moreover, whom he did predestinate them he also called, and whom he called them he also justified, and whom he justified them he also glorified.” And on this ground christians have a right to say, “God hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” God enstamps his moral image upon saints, as a seal, by which they may be known to him and to the world to be his. Accordingly, the apostle tells the Corinthians, “God has sealed them, by giving them the earnest of the Spirit in their hearts.” And for this reason he warns them not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, whereby they are sealed unto the day of redemption. Hence “the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.” By creating saints anew in Christ Jesus, according to his eternal purpose, God has a new claim to them, and may properly call them his, in distinction from the rest of the world, that lieth in wickedness and under the dominion of the prince of darkness. 3. God has a peculiar claim to saints, because they have freely and sincerely given themselves away to him. As soon as he sheds abroad his love in their hearts, they make choice of him as their God, and devote themselves to his service. Like Paul after he was converted, they are ready to ask, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” They desire to live to God, and not to themselves; and sincerely resolve, whether they make a public profession or not, that they will serve the Lord. They comply with the covenant of grace, and actually enter into covenant with God. All true converts do what the apostle says the Corinthians did: “first give themselves unto the Lord.” This dedication of themselves unto God was required under the Old Testament, and is still required under the new. Those who give their hearts to God are required to give their names to him, and profess their supreme love to him before the world. After he has sealed them with his Spirit, and enstamped his moral image upon them, they ought to subscribe with their own hands unto the Lord, and surname themselves by the name of Israel. They ought to give themselves away to God in an everlasting covenant never to be forgotten. But whether they have time, or opportunity, or resolution, to do this or not, yet they never fail to give up themselves sincerely and unreservedly to God, to be his friends, his subjects and his servants as long as they exist. An undedicated saint cannot be found.