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but that he may be assimilated and conformed to the law. thy salvation; but thy law is my delight."
In proceeding to meditate on these words, we shall endeavour, first, to describe the state of mind of which David was the subject; and, secondly, shall distinctly point out to you, the grand test by which you may judge of the integrity, as well as the ardour, of your religious desires.
"I have longed for
First, we shall endeavour to describe, THAT STATE OF MIND OF WHICH DAVID WAS THE SUBJECT. "I have longed for thy salvation."
Now here is first presented to you the object of this desire. It is the salvation of God: a term which, you very well know, is taken in the sacred Scriptures in two senses. Sometimes it refers to mere temporal deliverance. Hence David frequently prays, in different parts of his Psalms, that God would deliver him from his enemies; that God would deliver him from his persecutors; out of the trouble and anguish that had taken hold upon him; together with several others that are found in various parts of this beautiful and devout composition. When David says, in this sense, "I have longed for thy salvation," he intimates, that all events, painful as well as pleasurable-all secondary causes, instruments, and agents, are under the immediate and direct control of God; that they are no other than his servants; that he can say to one, "Go," and he goeth; and to another, "Come," and he cometh; and that he is able to deliver the godly, who put their trust in him, out of every temptation and trial to which they are subject.
It also intimates something more, namely, that prayer is the grand means of obtaining relief under, and emancipation from, our trouble. For if we could deliver ourselves, there would then be no necessity under which we should be placed, of seeking deliverance from a higher power. Besides this, too, it acknowledges, that all deliverance comes from God. Salvation is alone from the Lord. Though he may employ this or the other agent, yet the blessing is the blessing which He bestows.
And then David, when he employs this word in this sense, suggests to us another very important consideration; it is this-that even an entire submission to the will of God, is compatible with fervent desires for the removal of our afflictions of which we have many striking examples and illustrations in the Word of Truth; but none more fully to the purpose, than that which is exhibited to us in the person and in the procedure of Christ himself; who when he was called to drink the bitter cup, said, “If it be possible let this cup pass from me;" there was desire for deliverance; but here was perfect resignation -"Nevertheless, Father, not my will, but thine be done."
But I wish particularly to direct your thoughts to the term "salvation," in its higher, its supreme sense-the deliverance of the soul from everlasting ruin, and its participation in the blessings of that salvation, which has been wrought out by the Redeemer for a lost and ruined world. "I have longed for thy salvation:" a phraseology which at once implies the idea of loss, and of destruction. And we have lost the favour of God; we have lost the likeness of God; we have lost the well-founded hope of dwelling in his immediate presence for ever more. Hence, as we have just now read, Christ is said to have come "to seek and to save them that were lost."
This phraseology implies, that of all other benefits, none are of such great value as the salvation of the soul. It also shews, or is intended to shew, that we cannot save ourselves, neither is salvation to be hoped for from the hills or the mountains, or from the creature in any form which it can wear. “None can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him.” It is “ the grace of God" alone that “ brings salvation."
Then in what does this salvation consist ? It consists in emancipation from the curse of the law, deliverance from the anger of God. It is a salvation with the possession of the blessings of forgiveness, of renewal, of progressive sanctification, of preparation for the joys in the immediate presence of God and of the Lamb. It is a salvation to which no other deliverance can possibly be compared. For, my dear hearers, of what avail if we are sick, and are restored to health; of what avail if we are in poverty, and are raised to riches; of what avail if we are in degradation, and are elevated to honour; of what avail if we are placed in the possession of every thing that this world calls good or great, crowns and sceptres, and estates, the delights of the sons of men of all sorts -if our souls are not saved for eternity? The words of our Saviour thrill on our ears, in connexion with this part of our subject : “ What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul ?”
When the Scripture speaks to us, in the language before us, of longing for the salvation of God, it intimates, too, a conviction, that the individual who desires it cannot secure it for himself. No equivalent that we can offer to God can make him amends for the dishonour we have shewn to his perfections, on can repair the breaches that we have made in his law. If it were possible that you and I could present on the altar of God, hecatombs of oxen and sheep, the blood of which should be acknowledged as a sacrifice for sin ; if we could pour out, as a libation, rivers of oil; if it were possible that we were sanctioned in offering the fruit of our body for the sin of our soul; all would be of no avail : for even were it a fact that it might atone for our sins which we still continue to commit, what is to repair those previous breaches which we made in the law which is holy, just, and good, in the antecedent period of our lives!
This leads me, then, next, to look at the subject of this desire. Who says, “I have longed for thy salvation.” Who was it employell these words? It was David. And who was David ? He was a man who was raised from an obscure station, to become king in Israel. He was a man so renowned in his exploits, covering himself, in a worldly sense, with glory, that the populace shouted as he went along, “ Saul has slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands." He was a man who had cultivated his mind; he became one of the first literary characters in Israel. He became a poet ; his poems were set to music; they were chaunted in the temple worship. He was a man who had so enriched himself with the spoils of surrounding countries, into which he had pushed his conquests, that he had it in his power to indulge in the highest luxuries which a man can have; and that is, to be able to a very wide extent to dispense of his superfluities to relieve the poor, and to mitigate or remove the borrows of the afflicted. And yet you will observe, this was the man who shews, that above and beyond all these things, there was something indispensably necessary to make him happy. Though he sat on the throne, and swayed the
sceptre over millions of persons whom he called his subjects; though he had armies at command; though he attained to the highest honour and opulence, yet said he,“ Say unto my soul, O God thou art my salvation.”
For this he “ longed.” Longing is a term which expresses intenseness of desire in the prayer which the individual prefers for the blessings he wishes to possess and enjoy. The watchman is said to long, when he is beaten by the fury of the night tempest, for the dawn of the morning. The mariner in the storm-tossed vessel, is said to long for the hushing of the winds, and the calming of the waves, and for the safe arrival of his vessel at the haven of rest. The husbandman, amidst the toil and the labour of the field, is said to long for the arrival of the appointed weeks of the abundant harvest. The prisoner is said to long for that moment when he shall have his fetters struck off, and he shall be let out from his dungeon to light, and the enjoyment of perfect liberty. And none but a convinced sinner, my dear hearers, none but a man who has felt sin to be his burden, and is the subject of an anxiety to be delivered from it-none but a penitent can tell what are the fervent and what are the intense desires, which often exist in the bosom for this salvation of God. It is discovered, sometimes, by the impassioned appeal: “What must I do to be saved ?" It is discovered sometimes by the complete absorption of the mind in the object of desire; counting all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, that the soul may win him, and be found in him. It is discovered in the abstraction of the mind from almost every thing else, and its concentration upon this as the object of the supreme wish of the heart—“ This is all my salvation, it is all my desire.'
And more than this, he who longs for the salvation of God, will frequently make it the theme of his most earnest and importunate reflection. Day by day he will plead with God saying,
• Heal me and I shall be healed; save me and I shall be saved : for thou art my praise.” And he feels himself the subject of a willingness to sacrifice any thing, if he can but obtain this salvation ; by a process, however mortifying to his reason and to his pride; by a process, however subjecting to his self-righteousness and high opinions of his own virtue; by a process which brings him into contact with the merits of another, and hy which alone he is to be saved ; and not by works of any righteousness which he can possibly perform; if, by any means, he may but attain to the resurrection of the dead, to the enjoyment of the hope that is full of immortality.
My dear hearers, the fact is, that there is every thing in this salvation which meets the case of the anxious sinner; and nothing else does. It is the adaptation of this salvation to his circumstances and his condition, which renders it so infinitely desirable; for it points him to One who is able to save, and willing to save, even to the uttermost, all that come to God by him. It points him to a righteousness which can cover all his deformities and sins, and render him acceptable before God. It points him to an atonement which can expiate his transgression and his guilt, however aggravated. It points him to a sacred stream that flows om the wounds of the Redeemer, when he hung upon the cross to bear the sins of mankind, which purifies and cleanses from all unrighteousness. It points him to a fulness of grace adequate to every possible exigency of the divine life which may arise.
Did you mark the language which was employed by our Saviour in the larrative which I read in the opening of our service, in two distinct addresses which were made to Zaccheus? He did not congratulate the individual who got up into the tree to look at him as he passed along, and whom he bid to come dowa to his house; he did not congratulate him because he was a man in authority, though he was in power; he did not congratulate him because he was a man of opulence, though it is said he was very rich; but he said “ This day hath salvation come to thy house."
Once more on this part of our subject, we must also notice the extent of this desire. Perhaps it may have already struck you, that it is not here expressed by one who is just in the noviciate of his religious course; on whose mind the light of truth had only begun to open; and with whose piety it was but as the day of small things. We cannot indeed ascertain what was the precise age which David bore when he penned this psalın: but it is evident he had been some time in the.sacred school, and that he had acquired proficiency there ; fo: he tells us, he had become “wiser than all his teachers," through the knowledge of the testimonies of God which he had acquired ; and he speaks of the practice of it, as one experienced in vital godliness. And yet, this was the man, whora you will observe, is anxious still after the salvation of God: intimating tu vou and ine this much, my dear hearers, that when we have begun to taste and enjoy this salvation, we become the subjects of more earnest desires to enter more fully into the paths of submission, and the fruition of its invaluable blessings and results. We want to know more of truth, that it may dwell richly in our understandings, in all wisdom and knowledge. We want to feel more of its power; we want to taste more of its goodness; we want to live more under its influence. Moses was not a novice, far from it, when he said, “I beseech thee, shew me. thy glory:" he had seen a glimpse of it before, and that made him anxious to behold more of its brighter displays. Paul was not a novicefar from it—when he said, “ That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death." The Christians to whom he wrote were not novices, whom he charged to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Nor was David when he said, “Give me understanding that I may live : I am a stranger in the earth; hide not thy commandment from me." And here again, “ My eyes fail for thy salvation, and for the words of thy righteousness : I am thy servant ; give me understanding, that I may know thy testimonies."
In fact, he who possesses this salvation, who has known something of its emphasis, and who has enjoyed something of its privileges, is desirous that his entire character may be brought under its influence. He wishes practically, as well as speculatively (that is, doctrinally and experimentally) to know it, that he may press towards the mark, for the prize of the high calling which is in Christ Jesus; that he may be steadily advancing towards the perfection of this salvation described by the Apostle, “the end of our faith, even the salvation of our souls:” because it is one which not only relates to the present, but it also respects the future : it is a salvation which relates to another world, a world of eternal glory: a salvation which respects this body, which is to be raised up from the darkness and ignominy of the grave, and fashioned like to the glorious body of Christ; completely delivered from all those sources of evil which now exist-its weakness, its tendency to decay and mortality. It is a salvation which
respects the will in all its faculties-their expansion, their perfect exercise; the emancipation of all our powers from darkness, from pollution, from disorder, from disquietude, and despair.
So that we come to this conclusion, as we pass on to the next part of our theme; that is one strong evidence of our having become partakers of this sa.vation, when the longer we live, as years roll on, and the nearer we get to our grave, the more intense becomes our longings after the enjoyment of this salvation; when we can feel as he who said, "I have a desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better;" when as the outward man perisheth, the inward man is renewed day by day. Said the expiring patriarch, "I wait for thy salvation, O Lord:" and happy he who knows that frame of mind, that when the Saviour says, "Behold I come quickly," is able to reply, "Amen, even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus."
Pass we, then, secondly, to notice THE GRAND TEST, BY WHICH WE MAY
JUDGE OF THE INTEGRITY OF THIS ARDENT DESIRE WHICH IS HERE
It is found in these words-" Thy law is my delight."
My dear hearers, there is not a greater libel upon the Bible, or upon the Gospel, or Christianity, than this, that it tends to licentiousness. We do not mean to say that there are not those who have abused the privileges of the Gospel, as well as its doctrines, and who have "held the truth in unrighteousness." And we may just remark in passing, that, in proportion to the excellence of things, so they are liable to the greatest dishonour. But as you would not say it was the design of God in giving you your daily provision and repast, that you were to be gluttonous and drunken; so you will not imagine, that if God abounds towards you in all the riches of his grace, it is that you may say, "Let us sin, that grace may abound."
There is no one view, in fact, which you can take of this salvation, in which it does not appear favourable to sanctity. Take it in connexion with the everlasting purpose of God: he has chosen us, "that we should be holy and without blame before him in love." Look at it in connexion with the mediation of the Saviour: he "gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." Or view it in association with the influence of the Divine Spirit. What is the office of that Spirit? To enlighten, and to free the understanding from error. What is the office of that Spirit? To convince of sin; and the individual becomes penitent for it; and penitence is the alienation of the soul from sin, the turning from it unto God, with full purpose of heart, with endeavours after new obedience. What, I say, is the office of the Spirit? It is to renew; in other words, to impress upon the soul the moral image of God: it is to sanctify; to carry on the work till it shall be perfected in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. Or, if you analyze the effects of his operation, and say, that he is the Author of all the graces which form the character of the Christian, mark the influence of his distinct graces. Faith, if it is not dead, purifies the heart, works by love, and is productive of holiness. Precisely the same with love: "If ye love me keep my commandments." Exactly the same with hope: "He that hath this hope in him purifies himself as Christ the Lord is pure." So that looking at this salvation in what aspect you please, you come to this conclusion-"The