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faith. You may think it hard to have a elear conscience with respect to every commandment, or so much as sircerely to purpose universal obedience; but it is full as hard, first to see yourselves condemned sinners, and then to think you can be justified only by believing. Whenever you are awakened, you will be all for doing; and this thought will abide with you a long time, that you must cleanse and heal yourselves as well as you can. Faith and practice are both hard, and I know not which most: and yet both in Scripture are declared necessary to salvation. We must not, however, be discouraged, and sit down in despair; but do as we would in the case of a dangerous distemper, or broken limb, look out for help; especially as it is promised, and we know infallibly where it is to be had. The consequence is, Pray. Go with your sin and weakness to the God of mercy, and the Giver of every good and perfect gift, sure of relief suited to all your wants; and always remembering that “it is he who worketh in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” to the end we may be helped effectually, feel our hearts warmed with gratitude, and praise him for his gifts in time and eternity.
For the kingdom is the Lord's: and he is the Governor among
the people. Psalm xxii. 28.
This Psalm contains, in brief, an account of our Lord's suffering state upon earth, of his death and resurrection, and of the happy effects which were to follow, in the conversion of mankind from a state of gross darkness and wickedness in idolatry, to the acknowledgment and worship of the true God, willing subjection to Christ, faith in and faithful dependence on him for all his benefits.
My seed,” says David, speaking in the spirit of prophecy, and in the person of Christ, above a thousand years before his birth, “my seed shall serve him, and shall be counted unto the Lord for a generation,” ver. 31. They shall be restored to a new capacity of serving God, and, as members of his family and kingdom, entitled to all the promises he has made, and all the blessings he has to bestow upon his well-beloved children. “ All the ends of the world,” says he, "shall remember themselves, and be turned unto the Lord,” ver. 27. The great salvation here spoken of shall not be confined only to the Jews, who, at the time when David penned this Psalm, were the only covenanted people of God, but published throughout the world, and offered to men of all nations; many of whom would remember themselves, awake as out of a dead sleep, acknowledge their past ignorance and forgetfulness of God, see their unhappy condition in sin, turn to him in repentance, seek his favour, gladly embrace his covenant of peace, and live to his service. “ For,” at the time of this general conversion and restoration of the world, “ the kingdom is the Lord's; and he is the Governor among the people.” He who, in right and power, is the sole Lord and Governor of the universe, and whose kingdom ruleth over all, shall reign in the hearts of his people, and be honoured as God by their dutiful submission and willing obedience to him.
In order to secure so great a blessing to us, and us to this state of faithful subjection to God, on which our happiness depends, Christ, “ when he had by himself purged our sins, and was set down on the right hand of the majesty on high,” sent the Holy Ghost to dwell in us, and make all he had done and suffered effectual to our salvation; to instruct and quicken us; to enlighten our understandings and renew our wills; to convince us of our great sin in being turned from God, and bring our straying hearts back again to him in love. As, on the one hand, it is our misery, curse, and death, that we are naturally alienated from God, live to ourselves, and to our own wills; so, on the other, here is a prospect of restoration and happiness opened to us, in our returning to the duty of creatures, and to a state of professed subjection and obedience to the God and Father of our spirits. And we are hereby plainly given to understand, that as it was one great end of Christ's coming into the world thus to recover the hearts and wills of men to God, so it is a matter of the utmost necessity to every soul of man; and, likewise, that whenever it is done it can only be done by him, and in the way of his appointing. For though we should see the necessity of living in perfect subjection to God, and endeavour in sincerity, and with all our strength, to bring ourselves to it, yet our labour will be in vain if we are not first grounded in Christ. This, therefore, is what I am now to open and explain; and I beseech God to assist me in it, and bless what is said to your instruction. Lord, grant that the Spirit, which on this day was given to the world, may breathe upon us, that we may live and praise thee for our renewal to thy image in righteousness and true holiness!
I. I shall give you a brief description of the state mentioned in the text. And,
II. Show how it is to be attained.
I. The state mentioned in the text is that in which the soul, knowing itself to be the creature of God, and subject to his universal dominion and sovereignty, consents to receive a law from him, and submit to his government; in the belief and acknowledgment, that as he has
an absolute right to govern us, so he cannot but do it in the best manner for his glory and our own good. And when this becomes the ruling habit and temper of our minds, and the settled purpose of our hearts, our obedience will likewise be full and unreserved; and for the same reason that we obey God at one time, or in one instance, we shall think ourselves bound to obey him at all times, and in every thing he has commanded, or we know is agreeable to his will. There must be no exceptions to it, and the obedient man makes none. Whatever God is pleased to order for him in the course of his providence, whether it be prosperity or adversity, sickness or health, life or death ; whatever he enjoins in his word, and however contrary it may be to his inclinations, sense, or opinions, he is set down in this belief once for all, that God's will must take place, and therefore frames himself to a quiet, cheerful submission to it. For if we should object to any thing he does to us, or command us to do, and plead difficulties when we should be resigned and obedient; what would this be but prescribing a law to him instead of receiving one at his hands, choosing for ourselves, and, upon the whole, withdrawing ourselves from his government? Not but that, in most cases, our duty is so plain and evident to ourselves, that we cannot act against it without being knowingly false to our own interest, and doing violence to our own reason and conscience. But let this be as it may, whenever the will of God is made known to us, our road is before us with a clear light shining upon it from heaven; our duty is bound upon us, our obedience is demanded, the kingdom is the Lord's, the heart of man must submit.
This is that happy state of subjection to God we were made in, and made for, the health and well-being of the soul, our glory and perfection. Departing from it was the sin of the first man; and the great quarrel which God
has against us, is, that we are continually acting it over again, by setting up our own wills in opposition to his, and refusing to be governed by him. He calls aloud to us to consider our ways, has contrived the means of our recovery, and is always ready to bless us in our endeavours of returning to him in obedience; but if we finally slight his instructions, harden ourselves against his warnings, and will not see the extreme danger of the way we are in, we must perish in our sins.
Now, therefore, be sincere with God, and faithful to your own souls, and confess the truth. It is a blessed thing to have the Lord for our God, to be with him as a dutiful child is with its father, to set him upon his throne in our hearts, to have our wills bowed to his service, and our souls wholly turned to him in resignation and obedience; but then this is not your state. You either live in known sin of some kind or other, and have altogether broken the yoke, and burst the bonds of his authority, or else you flatter yourselves that you are governed by him, when you are not. You mistake a decent life, and outward civility of manners, which has no better foundation than natural goodness of temper, sense of reputation, or regard to worldly convenience; I say, you mistake this for conversion to God, and a full determination and steady purpose to live to his will, and be at his disposal in all things, as he shall enable you. You seldom sit down on the evening of a Sabbath, perhaps you never set apart one hour in your whole lives to consider what your duty is in its full extent, what obligation you are under to perform it, and how very much depends upon the right frame and temper of your hearts in this respect. You do some things for the ease of your minds, and to keep your consciences quiet; but there are many others which you leave undone. You do nothing as unto the Lord, under his eye,
in pure obedience to him, and with a view to his