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was in us no goodness to mark us out as the vessels of mercy. And shall not God now receive all our services? Shall we not devote to him all we have and all we are? Shall we not cast our influence, our wealth and all that we have into the scale with him? Shall we not come forward to labor and suffer, and if it be necessary to die in the service of him who died for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify us unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works? Can we otherwise than by a complete surrender testify an adequate gratitude and affection for our election and adoption?
3. The subject reads an awful alarm to all the impenitent. As yet they exhibit no promise of their election in Christ. And the same Egyptian cloud will hang over their future prospects till their character is changed. When they are seen at the foot of the cross, then will dawn upon them the first hope that their names were written in the book of life of the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Till they have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ they have reason to fear, for they have no evidence of the contrary, that they are not of the number given to Christ in the covenant of redemption. If they are going into old age in unbelief, their apprehension on this subject ought to strengthen with every year and day and hour of their impiety. I have not the smallest fear that the condition of a stupid sinner would be made worse, by having strong apprehensions that he was not of the number who were eternally given to Christ. The contrary impression would doubtless be calculated to keep him stupid. Let him finally believe that he shall live, that heaven is made sure to him by the eternal purpose of God, and that without the possibility of failure he shall at last be made a subject of grace, and we cannot conceive of an impression more calculated to suppress all alarm. His cry will then be a little more sleep, a little more slumber, a little more folding of the hands to sleep: so shall his poverty come as one that travaileth, and their want as an armed man. On the other hand, let them fear that they shall be lost, let them have strong apprehensions of the wrath to come, and those very alarms may bring them to think of their ways, and turn their feet to God's testimonies. Let them fear, that God has not chosen them to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth, and these very fears may lead them to attend to the truth, and bring them within the reach of that Divine influence which was sent to convince the world of sin, of righteousness and of judgment.
THE DESIRES OF THE WICKED INADMISSIBLE.
PSALM CXL. 8.
Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked.
In our unhappy world there are two grand interests. God has a kingdom, and intends to exert his power to make it prosper. Leagued with him are all holy beings. They are workers together with God. In this kingdom he governs with unlimited sway. All his dispensations are calculated to make his friends happy. Within this kingdom there is set up a distinct and opposite interest. It is managed by wicked men and devils. In their sad enterprise they spare no exertions. Many who belong to this kingdom seem not to know their own characters. They would fain believe themselves the children of God, and engaged in promoting the welfare of his kingdom. The subjects of each of these kingdoms may be considered as praying for their own prosperity. Of course their prayers must clash. If one kingdom flourish the other suffers. Hence the subjects of the one must pray that the prayers of their opponents may not be granted. In this surprising contest, one thing must not be forgotten-there are no intelligent beings that stand neuter. It is a universal doctrine, "He that is not for me is against me." Those who are engaged with God in promoting the good of his kingdom, are denominated righteous; all others are called wicked. David, in the text, entreats the Lord to favor his own cause, and reject the prayer of those who have set themselves against him. "Grant not, O Lord, the desires of the wicked."
In pursuing the subject, I shall bring into view some of the desires of the wicked, and show as I pass on, that it must be the wish and the prayer of the pious that their desires should not be granted. And while we pursue the subject, may the eternal God grant us his gracious presence and smiles.
1. One desire of the wicked is, That there is no God. This we learn from the Scriptures, and may easily learn the same from observation. "Wherefore dost the wicked contemn God? he hath
said in his heart, Thou wilt not require it." "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." The genuine meaning of this text is, That the fool, which is the Old Testament term for sinner, wishes in his heart that there were no God. The pride of their hearts renders them unwilling that any being should be above them. "Who is the Lord that I should serve him?" They manifest their wish that there were no God, by leaving him out of mind, by refusing to obey him, by finding fault with his dealings, and by quarrelling with his plans. They dare not submit their conduct to Divine inspiration, and would be glad if there were no being to inspect. We learn from all this that they desire earnestly that there were no God.
But against this desire the godly oppose their prayers. It ever has been and must be their wish, that the wicked may not be gratified in their desires. And there are good reasons why they thus feel. If there were no God, every thing must immediately be thrown into a state of confusion. Chaos would return; universal disorder would prevail, and the issue would be that every thing would immediately verge toward destruction. War, and in its train, death, tears, and despair would fill every corner of creation.
Indeed, were there no God, no being would wish to live. Anarchy, complete, would desolate every world where there were found intelligences. The very men who had desired a creation without a God, would immediately recall their wish, and if possible, have again an omnipotent Creator on the throne of the world.
But why do we speak of a nation without a God? Let God cease to be, and nothing can exist. He constantly gives to all beings life, and breath, and all things. He is the great fountain of existence. He constantly animates anew his own creation. Well then may the godly pray, that the desires of the wicked who wish that there were no God, may not be granted. They consider their being a blessing. They are not willing to see creation ruined. They will constantly elect anew, as their supreme Lord and master, the Jehovah of the universe. They are pleased with his government, and are willing to leave him to manage their concerns. They wish that there may be a universal empire, and in all their prayers extol him who rideth upon the heavens by his name, Jehovah, and rejoice before him. Thus do Christians oppose the prayers of the wicked.
2. If a God do and must exist, sinners wish him to be a mere spectator of the affairs of the world. The grand objection they have to his existence is, that if he exist he must have the reins
of government. If he will allow men to do as they please, and call them to no account, they can then be willing that he should live. Like idle children they can be pleased with a father who will not concern himself in their affairs, but cannot love him if he restrain them. Our tongues are our own, and who shall be Lord over us? "Who is the Lord that we should obey his voice?" Wicked men have made it manifest that they desire God to be a mere spectator in his own world, by the exertions they have made to have this doctrine believed and received among men. If they have allowed that he governs the larger affairs of his kingdoms, they have still refused to acknowledge that a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, and that the very hairs of our head are all numbered. If he may dethrone a king, and aid in the councils of state, here his government must cease; he must not regard the prayer of the peasant, nor hear the cry of the dying slave. These things are too small for the notice of the infinite God. Thus have men taken pains to save God from the care of governing the world; and in all this have made it manifest that they earnestly desire God not to concern himself in the affairs of men. But their request cannot be granted. It is the earnest prayer of all the saints that God would not grant them the thing they wish. They not only desire God to reign, but they wish him to manage all the affairs of creation. They cannot be willing that a breeze blow without permission, or that an atom fly without direction.
They wish God to be thus minute in his government, because they consider their own safety and the safety of others to depend on this special care of God. If a mote may wander undirected, it may put a period to their lives before their sanctification be complete. If the meanest prayer of the humble may not be heard, all their hopes are destroyed. They dare not live in a world where one event is regulated by chance, or there is one creature without control. Instead of wishing to save God the care of managing the lesser affairs of creation, they delight to give him the honor of having a universal kingdom. They think it an honor to the eternal Jehovah, that while he furnishes the sun with light and heat, and martials the stars, he can, without burdening his infinite mind, direct the course of every floating atom. Thus the honor of God, as well as the safety of his creatures, invite him to universal empire, and form two grand motives why the children of God pray that the wicked may not have their desires granted. They delight to sing with David, "The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice."
3. If God must exist, and must be an active agent in governing the world, the wicked are desirous that he should work without any plan. They are afraid of Divine decrees. They fear that these decrees do not favor them. They know that infinite purity must hate sin and sinners, and if it decree any thing respecting them, must decree their ruin. Knowing this, they are afraid that God should have any plan by which to work in future. In this case they can have some comfort. They intend to reform their lives, and they hope that God will then show them favor, unless some dreadful decree prevent. They have so mean an opinion of God as to suppose that his views may alter, and that in some old decree he may have resolved to do what he now would not wish to do.
Be the cause what it may, we learn, from every day's observation, that sinners hate to hear of God's decrees. They quarrel with this doctrine as soon as they begin to think, and the quarrel never ceases till they become Christians, or imbibe some false hope that the decrees will favor them. In their own little concerns they have their plans, and bend all their efforts to carry them into effect; but they are unwilling that God should exhibit the same wisdom.
In this matter the prayer of the godly must be that their desires may not be granted. The friends of God wish him to have his plan. They suppose infinite goodness can act with more energy if it set up an object and then pursue that object. If all the operations of Deity may be without design, they may also be without effort. No benevolent purpose may be accomplished; misery and sin may counterbalance happiness and goodness. The righteous found all their hopes of salvation, both as it regards themselves and others, on the purposes of God. Remove God's electing love, and you destroy all their hopes. This being the fact, they must pray that God would have his plan, and would pursue it in his eternal operations. They must, of course, pray that God would not grant the desires of the wicked.
4. Sinners desire happiness and heaven without holiness. Between these two God has established an indissoluble connection. He has decreed that holiness shall be the only path to happiness. But this connection sinners wish to destroy. They hate holiness wherever it appears, and yet they intend to be happy. That they hate holiness, is manifest by their opposition to the fruits of holiness. We are assured, and every day's experience teaches us, that they do not choose the fear of the Lord, They do not delight in his ordinances, nor love his word, nor offer to him any humble