« AnteriorContinuar »
III. To show what will enable and entitle us, to appropriate and apply to ourselves, the consolatory language of the text.
After this, a short improvement shall conclude the discourse.
Frst, then, we are to consider where, and in what it was, that the psalmist confidently expected to find the relief which he so much needed and desired.
It scarcely seems necessary to observe, that the author of the text must have intended something more by it, than merely that he would attempt to quiet and compose his mind, by the ordinary means and endeavours which are used for that purpose. The manner of his expression, as well as the whole connexion of the words, plainly demonstrates, that he had in view some distinct and peculiar object, toward which he might turn the current of his thoughts, and by centring them on which, they would naturally and certainly obtain composure and quiet. He speaks of this rest as a fixed and unfailing resource, to which he might return as to a home, whenever he wanted refreshment and enjoyment for his mind.—My brethren, this object, this resource, this home, this resting place for the soul, is God himself. The psalmist clearly intimates this in the latter part of the text.—" Return unto thy rest, О my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee"— That is—" Let thy meditations fix themselves on thy God, who hath bountifully supplied all thy necessities, whenever thou hast fled from the broken cisterns of creature reliefs to him alone." The same sentiments are expressed and repeated, immediately before and immediately after the text. "Gracious is the Lord and righteous, yea our God is merciful. The Lord preserveth the simple, I was brought low and he helped me—Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits towards me. I will take the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." The whole of these expressions point us to God as the rest of the psalmist's soul. In contemplating the infinite excellence of the divine nature; in surveying the glory of the divine attributes; in calling to mind that a God of boundless wisdom, power and goodness, would infallibly order every thing for the best; in recollecting and believing that this God was in covenant with his soul,—reconciled to him through the blood of the covenant, and engaged to be to him, and to do for him, infinitely more and better than he could conceive,—to be his protector now and his portion to all eternity;—in the indulgence of these meditations; in the cultivation of these exercises; in the consciousness of such possessions, and the cherishing of such expectations, he expected his mind to be fully tranquillized and satisfied. However great his troubles, however imminent his dangers, however involved his perplexities, however keen his anguish, here was one remedy for all; here he would be at rest—Here was a peaceful region, where the storms of distress could never gather, to which the blasts of discontentment could never reach. Here he would feel himself secure from the world,—secure from all possible accidents, and would experience all those desirable sensations which arise from a mind serene and satisfied. Very properly, therefore, might he call this a resting place for his soul, and resolve to flee to it for refuge, against the calamities which had been pressing him so heavily and painfully. This I am to show more fully, by endeavouring—
II. To evince that the psalmist's resource possesses all the propertics that he ascribes to it, when he calls it, with emphasis, his Bisst.
Let us here consider a few of the circumstances essential to rest, and see if they are not always the concomitants of the resource we contemplate—
1. In order to be at rest we ought to be in safety. Without safety there can be no rational or durable quiet. The thoughtless and stupid may, indeed, be free from alarm in the midst of danger. But this is insensibility or infatuation, rather than rest. Dreadful, surely, and not desirable, must be that composure which wholly depends on ignorance, or the want of consideration—on not knowing, or not considering, what one's true situation is. It is not only bad while it lasts, but it is continually liable to detection. He who reposes on forgetfulness or falsehood, may, at any moment, be awakened to misery; and if never awakened, his protracted slumbers can only end in perdition. Of that, therefore, which deserves the name of rest, safety is an essential attribute. Now this attribute of safety was not peculiar to the condition of the prince and prophet who uttered the text. It equally belongs to the state and situation of every child of God. The closest examination, and the imagination even of the most numerous and singular circumstances, will but tend to demonstrate the extent of his security.
Say that there is a dark aspect spread over human affairs in general, or over those in which the saint is more immediately concerned. Sensible of his interest in the divine favour, and having his own will swallowed up in the will of God, he may and ought to indulge in such meditations as these—" My heavenly Father is the absolute Sovereign and director of all events: and will not the Judge of all the earth do right? Do I not desire that his counsel should stand, and that he should do all his pleasure? Mournful, indeed, is the contemplation of human misery, and it is my duty to use my utmost efforts to prevent or to diminish it; but still, I am warranted to take comfort in the thought, that come to pass what may, God will eventually overrule it for good. He, especially, who controls all things, and without whose superintending care à sparrow falleth not to the ground, He, assuredly, will take care of a child who looks to and depends upon him. Yes, he hath promised to do it, and he cannot deceive. He hath promised 'to withhold no good thing from them that walk uprightly.' He hath declared 'that all things work together for good to them that love God;—that all things are theirs, things present and things to come, life or death, all are theirs.' What is best for me or for others, I know not: But my heavenly Father knoweth, and with him it is ray privilege to leave it. It may, indeed, be the loss of something that I value, or the refusal of something that I wish. But if the loss or the refusal will terminate in my ultimate advantage, let me welcome a merciful disappointment. Confident, therefore, that he who directs all events will not permit me to be afflicted unless it be for my good, and desirous of affliction if it will, I will be at rest; for I have trusted all rny concerns into his hands, and there they must be safe." Brethren—Here is no exaggeration— Here is nothing but practical truth, and unquestionable Christian experience. The triumphant language of the prophet Habakkuk is in strict and full accordance with the representation I have given. "Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat, the-flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."
Say, again, that the man who has made God his refuge, is beset with enemies; which seems to have been in some measure the cause of distress to the author of the text—Still he will realize that he is safe, under the divine protection. He will recollect the declaration which saith—" Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee; the remainder of wrath shall thou restrain," and the gracious assurance—" He will keep ihee as the apple of his eye." His trust, therefore, is in God, and here, being safe, he is at rest.
Or say that even the life of him who has the psalmist's resource is threatened—Still he has the consolation to reflect that he is safe. Death to him can bring no danger. I assert not, that it will not sometimes bring a degree of alarm. The consciousness of remaining corruption, a deep sense of ill desert, the weakness of faith, the importance of the unchangeable state on which he is entering, the natural dread of dissolution, may, by their separate or combined influence, excite some perturbation. But still you will observe, he is safe—safe in fact, although he cannot take all the comforts to which he is entitled. His case is the very reverse of that of the impious man, who is in danger while he is unalarmed. One dark step will terminate all the
floom of the child of God, and usher him into the regions of eternal ay. But this, you will recollect, is putting the case at the very worst. Frequently—very frequently—the saint is able to repose, in unshaken confidence, on the faithfulness of Him in whose eyes "the deaih of his saints is precious." Supported by this confidence, the bed of death is to him a bed of the sweetest rest, as well as safety. He can say, and the speaker has heard it from expiring lips—
"Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel null as downy pillows are;
And breathe my life out sweetly there."
Yes, the believer can say—casting the eye of faith on the mansions •which his Saviour has promised and gone to prepare—" Return unto thy rest—thy eternal rest, О my soul." I now see it near; it is full in view; the rest that remaineth for the people of God. "Come, Lord Jesus—even so—come quickly."
Thus it appears, that the attribute of safety, which is so essential to rest, will, in every possible situation, be found by the man of undissembled piety. Unbelievers themselves must allow, that his state is the safest of all. If they think that his religion is false, they must still admit that it is safe—that it cannot injure him beyond the grave. He is, therefore, like a merchant whose goods are all gratuitously insured. He can lose nothing; and whatever is to be gained, he is sure to gain it. He is on the safe side of the momentous question, and is, consequently, entitled to be at rest.
2. Freedom from pain and anxiety, is a circumstance necessary to rest.
My brethren—The present stale was intended to be a state of trial. No individual, therefore, of whatever condition or character, will be wholly exempted from affliction. The Deity hath never promised that his own children shall escape it. On the conu-ary, he hath promised that, when necessary, they shall endure it—"For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he recciveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the Father chasteneth not." It is, however, the happy lot of the people of God to be perfectly assured that they shall be preserved from all unnecessary distress, and that what they suffer shall not only be sanctified to them in the end, but that they shall find solace or support during its continuance. This is to speak within the bounds of the strictest verity. The word of life declares, and experience witnesses to its truth,—" That the Lord is a strong hold in the day of trouble:" And to possess the soul in peace, to have internal quiet and satisfaction, is to pluck from affliction its most envenomed sting. When the mind can lean with confidence on some stable support, adversity, pain and suffering, are half annihilated.
These, then, are the favourable circumstances in which those who have confidence in the divine favour will encounter the pains of the body, or the anxieties of the mind. While the satisfying sense of the love of God abides on their hearts, they will be able to say with the apostle—" We rejoice even in tribulation"—and—" Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day—For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. While we look, not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: For the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal." The representation of the apostle here is, that the attention of a suffering saint, even while he is immediately under the rod, may be so taken up with the contemplation and assurance of better things to come, that he will but lightly feel, and little regard, the pain of the stroke which is inflicted. This certainly is a matter of Christian experience. The pious mind may be, and often is, so engaged, in the hour of affliction, with holy meditations and consolations, that pain, or other afflictive circumstances, lose largely the effect which they are wont to produce—Nay, the Christian is sometimes ready to give thanks for all that he endures, finding it accompanied with a divine support, not ordinarily experienced. And when, for a little, his mind is drawn off, and his attention becomes engaged with the circumstances which afflict him, which certainly is often the case, still this unfailing and consolatory resource is ever at hand. Recollection comes speedily to his aid, and pointing to heaven, admonishes the soul—" Return unto thy rest. Let thy thoughts fix again upon thy God. Flee away from all thy cares and thy griefs, and solace thyself with divine consolations." But this is anticipating what I propose to state distinctly—
3. That a circumstance essentially necessary to mental rest is, that there be some subject to dwell upon, which is pleasing, soothing, satisfying, and delightful—This seems to have been most directly in the view of the sacred penman of the words before us. He had been greatly perplexed and agitated \viih distressing, anxious, and painful emotions. Worn out with them, at last, he resolves to banish them from his mind, by turning his thoughts on God, his exceeding joy. This it is which gives force to the word return. He had wandered from the place of his rest, to which he now determines again to resort. My brethren—discontent, uneasiness, anxiety, grief, and perturbation, may steal into the hearts of the best of men, and grievously corrode them for a time. But it is their peculiar privilege to escape al length from these disquieting intruders, by recurring to that source of plenary satisfaction, which a consciousness of thé divine favour opens for them. I am aware that I have already called your attention to this consideration. But I must enlarge upon it a little; it is worthy of a mnre distinct notice. Judge, then, I say, if that man has not a subject for meditation calculated to speak peace to his troubled spirit, who can contemplate infinite wisdom, power, and goodness, with the pleasing confidence that they are engaged for his protection and happiness? May not he with good reason be at rest, who can reflect that God Almighty is his friend, by solemn covenant and oath? That he who sits at the helm of the universe will govern and direct all his concerns, in such a manner as shall issue in his safety and advantage? Are not these reflections adapted to slill the agitation, soothe the anguish, or dispel the darkness of the mind? May not he who is entitled to indulge them, say with great propriety—" Return unto thy rest, О my soul—Leave these perplexing concerns, about which thou art so anxious. Thou hast disquieted thyself too much already; turn thy thoughts upon thy God; there thou wilt not fail to find peace and repose; there thou wilt see thy present safety and thy future glory; there thou wilt see how little and unworthy are the things which give thee so much uneasiness; there thou wilt see their short duration; there thou wilt see thyself raised above them; there thy God will hide thee in his pavilion, and shelter thee from every annoyance. Return, therefore, return unto thy rest, О my soulj 'for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.'"
Let us now, very briefly, consider—
III. What will entitle and enable us to appropriate and apply to ourselves the language of the text. In addresses from the sacred desk, my brethren, it is often quite as important to inculcate truth, as to teach or explain it; to endeavour to bring home to the hearts and consciences of our hearers the doctrine which, in abstract speculation, they will readily admit. So I think it is with the subject before us. There is ¡iltle need of argument to show, that if we would be partakers of the psalmist's privilege, it is indispensable that we possess a portion of the psalmist's temper. It is manifest at once, that there can be no rest, where there is enmity against the party in whose favour and loving kindness rest must be found. Now the oracles of infallible truth assure us, that " the carnal mind is enmity against God," and of course God cannot be the rest of the carnal mind, while its enmity remains. The thing, you perceive, is a natural impossibility. It is so, because the sinner never will, in fact, seek rest in God; and if he did, he would find nothing but what was hostile, as well as hateful to him. It behooves each of us, therefore, to let the truth sink deep into his heart, that, before it be possible for him to appropriate and apply to himself the language of the text, he must possess such a temper as that his desires may be gratified, and the highest pleasure of his mind be furnished, by the contemplation of all the divine attributes and dispensations. Yes, beloved hearers, you must be transformed by the renewing of your mind; you must be born again—and born of the Spirit; you must be made to love what God loves, and to hate what he hates; you must, in a word, be truly reconciled to God through Jesus Christ, before the soul of any one of you can rest in God. Without this, no one can be entitled to use the language of the text, for the obvious reason that he cannot use it with truth or propriety. Hear the oracle of God—" The wicked are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt."
But, my brethren, if we would be able, at all times, to find our rest in God, we must not only be truly reconciled to him, but we must be much engaged in holy intercourse and communion with him. This is the only method by which we can be enabled to take up our rest in him in the time of need. Alas! it is because we make so little use of our rest, that we are so often brought into doubt whether we have a title to