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kingdom; that, as the city was well fortified against the assault of enemies, so it might be fortified also in spirit against the power of the devil and all spiritual snares: seeing that, destroyers would not be wanting, who would drive men to do good according to the Decalogue, and teach nothing concerning a trust in mercy; and that thus it would come to pass, that they would be drawn away into a trusting in their own righteousness. Against these (saith he) do thou build, that they may truly know and understand thee; that is, that they may know, that they are righteous by thy grace and mercy only.
This is building the walls that they may be strong, when men learn in this way to trust in the mercy of God, and to receive grace. For those who have once begun, increase daily more and more. For in this knowledge, it is not enough to have begun; because, as Satan, after the receiving of grace, rages against the godly with all his ministers both angelic and human, therefore, it is necessary to stand fast in the field of battle, and it is necessary that minds should be fortified and confirmed more and more; that, as Satan does not cease from assaulting, so, he that keepeth Israel may not cease from defending and fortifying. This verse, therefore, contains a petition for the bestowing and preserving of grace. And here again, he ascribes all things to the goodness of God, and not to his own merits or endeavours: -- that God would preserve this knowledge of grace according to his own good-will. And then, that he would also build the walls; that is, that minds may be strong and well fortified with this knowledge, that in the time of battle, they may stand against the devil.-And, when the people are thus instructed, justified, preserved, and defended against all the errors and snares of Satan,
Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt-offering and whole burnt-offering; then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
That is, then shall we praise those sacrifices which
we have before condemned, and they shall please thee. For you may rightly understand sacrifices in general, whether they be those which were offered according to the law, or spiritual sacrifices; for both are the sacrifices of righteousness, because they each rest wholly on the divine goodness and mercy. For when men thus trust in mercy, then, if a calf be offered, it is acceptable unto God, and is a sacrifice of righteousness; and if there be no calf, then the “calf of the lips" (as Hosea calls it) is acceptable; therefore, I understand sacrifices in general. They are called, moreover, "sacrifices of righteousness," not because they justify, (for the person is already righteous by faith or mercy,) but because they are offered by justified or righteous persons, or by righteousness itself. For when the people are righteous, and know that it is by grace alone that they please God, and not by any worthiness or merit of their own, then, whatever they do according to the word of God, is rightly called a sacrifice or a work of righteousness, even those works which are corporal. If a man drink wine, he drinks the wine of righteousness; if he put on his coat, he puts on the coat of righteousness; when he governs his family, he governs the family of righteousness; if he wage war, if he govern the state, if he live, if he die, all those works are works of righteousness; because, the person is righteous.-In the same way understand the term "altar;" whether it be that which was at that time in the temple at Jerusalem, or the allegorical temple which exists at this day throughout the whole world.
The prophet therefore sets before us a twofold sacritice. The first is, that which he called "a contrite heart;" that is, when a broken spirit is felt, and a humbled heart, which is struggling under thoughts upon the wrath and judgment of God. Here, see that thou add not desperation; but trust, and believe by hoping against hope; for Christ is the physician of the contrite, who desires to raise up the fallen, and not to quench the smoking flax, but to feed its fire. If therefore thou be smoking flax, do not extinguish thyself; that is, do not add desperation. If thou be a bruised reed, do not bruise
thyself more, or give thyself up to be bruised by Satan; but give thyself up to Christ, who hath goodwill towards men, and loveth bruised and contrite spirits. This is the first and chiefest sacrifice.
And then, when thou knowest that God is the justifier of sinners, if thou give to the one God thanks, thou then addest another sacrifice; that is, the sacrifice of return, or of gratitude for a gift received; which sacrifice, is not merit, but confession, and a testification of grace, which thy God has given thee of mere mercy. Therefore, the whole burnt offerings under the law, which were offered by the saints and by the righteous, were offered, not to the end that they might by them be justified, but that they might testify, that they had received mercy and consolation. Thus a sacrificed bullock is a testifying of grace; or, so to speak, a work-voice of gratitude, or a manual gratitude; wherein, the hand utters gratitude as with vocal expressions.
This is another kind of sacrifice. The first sacrifice is a sacrifice of mortification, that we be neither puffed up in prosperity, nor sink into desperation in adversity; but that we regulate security in the fear of God, and, under a sense of the wrath and judgment of God, hold fast our hope in mercy; so that we neither dash our head against the heavens, nor our feet against the earth. The other kind of sacrifice is the exercise of our graces. This consists, not in our tongue only, in confessing our faith, or in preaching the name of the Lord, but in all the actions of life. And it is called the "sacrifice of righteousness," because it therefore pleases God, because the person is righteous, and because that sacrifice of humiliation has preceded which holds the middle way betweenpresumption and desperation.
This, however, is not a mathematical, but a physical, medium. For although it is impossible, under this our infirmity, so to live that we never should run aside either to the right hand or to the left; yet, the endeavour is required, that, when we feel either security or desperation, we do not indulge, but resist them. For as when the mark is set before archers, some allowance is made
for them who do not altogether miss the mark, although they do not hit the very mathematical point or middle; so, it is enough with God, that we fight against security and pride of spirit, and also against desperation. And though there be something deficient in their joy under adversity, and in their fear under prosperity, yet that is not imputed unto the saints, for they have Christ as a mediator; through whom, it comes to pass, that they are considered as perfect saints, though they have scarcely the first-fruits of sanctification; for the tenths are in Christ, though they have hardly the first-fruits in
The sum therefore of the whole doctrine is this.That the afflicted raise themselves up through the merit of Christ, or through the mercy of God; and that those who are without afflictions, walk in the fear of God, and cast away all security. Unto this doctrine, the prayer which this Psalm contains is necessary-that the Lord would build up his church: and then will follow the sacrifices which are well-pleasing and acceptable unto God. Which may our God and Redeemer Jesus Christ bestow upon us abundantly. Amen.