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Except ye receive the kingdom of God as little children, ye shall not enter therein.
Ver. 5—6. Bearing in mind that all which is said in this Psalm applies to the true Church of God collectively, we here come to the consolation offered to those who can so far lift their minds above the grovelling pursuits of this world, as to take an interest in the well-being of the Christian community. The poor in spirit are the blessed of our Heavenly Redeemer, and these are they of whom the Psalmist speaks as the needy: and for their deep sighing, and for their comfortless troubles' sake, he assures us that the Lord will arise, and will help them in their necessities, and against their fears. I have no very strong hope, my brethren, that among those who now hear me, there is any prevailing sense of the value of an established Church in our land. I fear that for want of the knowledge that this is the foundation, and the source, and the security of all our national blessings, there exists a cold indifference in the hearts of the majority, not only to her welfare and supremacy, but to her very existence. But what is the Church? It is the visible representative on earth of the crucified and risen Redeemer. It is his mystical body, and we are all members thereof, whether healthful or diseased, whether sound or lame, whether useful or cumbrous, whether graceful or unsightly-for such are the true distinctions between the faithful and the unfaithful professors of the religion of the Gospel. But here, in this Psalm, the faithful are assured of the divine support and protection—I will up, saith the Lord; and will help every one from him that swelleth against him, and will set him at rest. Let him who can derive consolation from the reflection that he is a true member of Christ's Holy Catholic Church upon earth—let him assure himself, that this instrument of his eternal salvation will not be removed from his path, will not be cast aside to gratify the rebellious spirit of our enemies. For this is the promise of its Founder and Protector. Lo, I am with you to the end of the world!
Ver. 7–9. Well may the Church confide and rejoice in the divine promises. They have been tried through a period of 1800 years of continual warfare with her open foes and her treacherous professors of friendship. And more obviously here in this favoured land, where the idolatry of Popery, the scoffs of the infidel, and the hypocrisy of the Puritan, have in turns and together assailed the bulwarks of our Zion. But her foundations are upon the holy bills, and the promises of God are yea and amen in Christ Jesus. These pure words are unchangeable; and the Lord will keep them, and by them he will preserve his faithful followers from every evil generation. It must needs be that offences come; for the ungodly portion of the human race will ever be seen to walk on every side: they will have their short turns of exaltation and triumph, and will occasionally, under the permitted power of Satan, put to rebuke the children of men. But these shall be finally delivered, and shall go forth, like the martyrs and confessors of old, purified in the furnace of affliction, pure as the silver which is tried and purified seven times in the fire; and bearing their testimony to the truth of the divine promises before men and angels, through the vast circle of eternity. For the righteous live for evermore: their reward also is with the Lord, and the care of them with the Most High. They shall receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown from the Lord's hand: for with his right hand shall he cover them, and with his arm shall he protect them. Then shall the righteous man stand in great boldness before the face of such as have afflicted him, and made no account of his labours. Thus the righteous which is dead shall condemn the ungodly which are living.
Here again is an outpouring of complaint, and prayer, and faith in the protecting
shield of God's Providence : and a suitable act of praise for mercies relied upon, though yet afar off: an anticipation of desired blessing by the thanksgiving that it shall inspire.
Ver. 1-2. In this complaint there is something so natural, so congenial to our common feelings, under the sense of ill treatment, that every believer in an all-ruling Providence must have experienced it at some time or other in his life. It is true that men are too apt to cherish resentment, and to seek revenge for injuries, and to trust in their own opportunity and strength to punish the offender against their peace. But this practice is not in accordance with the precepts of Christianity; nor is it an evidence of a religious faith and trust in the care of our Heavenly Father. The sound advice of the Psalmist elsewhere is, Commit thy way unto the Lord, and put thy trust in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall make thy righteousness as clear as the light, and thy just dealings as the noonday. But we will pass on to the prayer of the afflicted servant of God.
Ver. 3—4. There is no small danger, while we are suffering under the malicious persecution of an enemy, that we may be wearied out and overcome by his perseverance, and for the sake of a hollow peace, let go our own integrity. And this, to the wicked, is a greater triumph than even the crushing of his victim. David therefore prays that the eyes of his understanding may be enlightened, lest his uprightness should be shaken, his consciousness of integrity overcome, and lest he should fall into that moral and spiritual death, which is indicated by the yielding up of principle to a seeming necessity. For then would his enemies boast that they had indeed prevailed against him, and cast him down from that proud eminence, from which the righteous only can look upward in faith to their God, and downward with contempt upon their foes; under the sure and certain hope of deliverance and triumph.
Ver. 5—6. And the Psalmist does not long dwell upon complaint or prayer, before that joyful hope animates him to break forth into the song of praise; as though he were already assured of the hearing of his complaint, the answering of his prayer, the attainment of his desire. His trust is strong, and
therefore his heart is joyful before the Lord. He can sing and give praise with the best member that he has : for, having already experienced that the Lord had in time past dealt lovingly with his soul, he could rely upon the divine mercies through the seasons of trial yet for to come. Such, brethren, is the power of faith—that faith which, though it is the gift of God, must yet be cultivated and cherished by an habitual rendering to God the honour due unto his Name, as the source and fountain of all the blessings of this life, and of all our hope of that which is to come. For at his disposal alone are all the issues of life and of death. If this be borne constantly in mind, so as to produce a practical effect on your lives, happy are ye!
PSALM 14. This Psalm consists principally of a general and energetic condemnation of the
folly of the infidel; a character which it may be presumed was more common in the days of the Jewish dispensation, than since the Messiah came upon earth, a Light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of his people Israel. But the general corruption of mankind, and the perverse enmity of the wicked against the true worshippers of God, are also subjects of this Psalm.
Ver. 1-2. The very existence of an infidel where the Gospel has been made known for a thousand years, would seem an impossibility, if the fact were not before our eyes: the folly of the thing is too manifest for many to have the boldness to avow it: but let us only remember the distinction made by the Psalmist, and we shall not be driven to look far around us for some samples of these lost sheep. The fool denies in his heart the existence of a God, while he is too much of a coward to proclaim it with his lips. Yet does his life and conduct betray him to an observing world. By their fruits ye shall know them, is a mark set upon them by the two-edged sword of the Divine Word : and by this test will they be tried by their fellow men. There is first, the absence of all practical good from their lives and conversation. They are neither friendly with their neighbours, nor just in their dealings, nor honest
with their lips: they are liars and slanderers of their equals and superiors, whether in virtue or in station. In short, they are selfish; and in this one vice are swallowed up all the best feelings and dispositions of our common nature: for he who owns not a duty to God will admit of no obligations towards his fellowman. I speak not of the avowed infidel, for that is a very rare character: but how shall we judge of the practical infidel from his carriage towards God ? He constantly pollutes the Sabbath; he despises the ministration and the ordinances of religion; the Sacraments are in his sight only the forms of priestcraft; and altogether he denies God in his heart and life. Of such it is, that the Psalmist avers that they are corrupt and abominable in their doings: and the Apostle Paul has plainly and truly accounted for their depravity; for even, says he, as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, He gave them over to a reprobate mind: to change the Truth of God into a lie: to worship and serve the creature more than the Creator. Now, brethren, I ask, is it possible for you to think and reflect, and meditate for a moment, and not call to mind some whom you know, and to whom all these terms of condemnation fully apply? And what are they other than practical infidels, those who say in their heart there is no God ? The Psalmist, however, describes them in one word—they are fools.
Ver. 3—10. These verses form together such an unbroken continuation of description, that it would be injudicious and unjust to separate them: but they bear me out fully in my appeal to your own knowledge of the existence of such a class of men as the practical infidel. The gainsaying of all spiritual religion must have been a wide spreading contagion in the days of David: for he tells us poetically and figuratively, that the Lord looked down upon the children of men, to see if there were any that would understand and seek after God: and he repeats the declaration of the second verse, that there is none that doeth good, no not one. And what a horrid catalogue of hate