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more.” To be sure, David here spoke by the spirit of prophecy, and very likely was far from knowing himself the full meaning of all that he said. Still he could not mean less than this : that he had a fair and reasonable hope of being somehow delivered from the power of death, and made partaker of heavenly joys in the more immediate presence of God.
Such was the hope of holy David and of the other old fathers of the Jewish nation, whether they were patriarchs, prophets, or kings. It supported them in affiction, sometimes in martyrdom : it made their heart glad, and their glory, that is, their tongue, the best member that they had, ready and earnest in praising God: it caused them, even dying, to rest in hope. And yet they, even the greatest of them, only saw through a glass darkly the things which Christians see face to face. How will they rise up in judgment against us, and condemn us for our exceeding inexcusable carelessness, about those infinite blessings, which they so earnestly desire to see, whereas we who have lived among them from our birth act as if we had never seen them!
On the other hand, such as desire and endeavor to offer to God thanksgivings worthy of his gospel, will find it no small help, to know that their unworthy thanksgivings are very far from being single and alone. It is a comfort to know that God's servants of all times, David and Abraham-the saints before Christ, as well as they who have believed since his coming-partake of our devout joy, and hope of immortality. It makes us the bolder to abide to the end by the only good cause, when we know that no age has passed, in which there were not some who looked up to God in like manner.
These, among other good and consoling thoughts, we naturally have, on merely considering what this our Psalm teaches of the eternal hope of the pious Jews of old. When we go on to repeat the same Psalm more expressly in our own persons, then, indeed, there is no end to the instruction and comfort we may gain from it.
First, we see what kind of persons may reasonably hope to persevere in well-doing, and in God's favor:
namely, those who make it a rule to live always as in God's especial presence. “I have set God always before
me, for he is on my right hand, therefore I shall not fall.” If you want to have a cheerful and rational dependance on your own continuance in well-doing, this one thing you must do; you must set God always before you. You must never act as if you were alone in the world, as if you were out of his sight, by whom only you are in the world at all.
Especially being as you are a baptized Christian, you must never act as if you were far away from that blessed and Holy Spirit, whom God gives to every child in the sacrament of his new birth. The Holy Spirit is dwelling in you ; surely it is no hard thing, to call on you for some serious regard to such a noble august pres
Practise this regard : let the memory of it restrain you from sin : let it encourage you, for
ist's sake, in prayer and in every good work. By degrees God will make it the settled habit of your mind and heart; and then you will be, so far, drawing nearer the nature of angels, whose happiness it is to be guarded from sin of every kind by the clear sight they enjoy of the Holy One.
This is the only “assurance” of salvation that can reasonably be depended on by any man in his own case : viz. the sober yet cheerful hope which arises from a pure conscience, from long continual habits of real piety and goodness. All assurance beside this is more or less fanciful and dangerons. It too often leads men to praise or value themselves overmuch; to be negligent of many duties, such as preparing for the communion; to grow tired of quiet orderly improvement, as though it could give them no more than they have already.
But if a man were really endeavoring to keep on that safe ground of assurance, which was just now pointed out-reasonable hope, grounded on habitual obediencethen he might without presumption look for the other comforts mentioned in the Psalm. He might indulge in a calm and reverential joy of heart : such as David's, when he sang, “Wherefore my heart was glad :" such as
that of the holy women, when on Easter morning they saw the angels, and “ departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy."
And although such true joy, gladness arising from a tranquil and reasonable hope of God's favor now and for ever, is anything but talkative, boastful, and familiar, yet it will and must make a great difference, in the conversation also of a man, and in the words which he speaks. It is not to be supposed, that the faithful disciples of our Savior, and the women who followed him from Galilee, had the same looks, tones, and ways of speaking, during the melancholy hours of his departure, while they were in much doubt and perplexity, as they had after they were assured of his resurrection. In the first case, we know, they “walked and were sad," so sad, that a considerate stranger passing by naturally took notice of it: in the other case, whether he were in sight or out of sight, they "worshipped him with great joy ;" they “did eat their daily meals with gladness and frankness of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people.” Now this is what David expresses in the psalm when he says: “Not only my heart was glad, but also my glory rejoiced."
For what is here called “my glory” means tongue" as we learn by the apostle's explanation of it: “ Therefore my heart did rejoice, and my tongue was glad.” The tongue is called the glory' of a man, because it is in one sense the best member that we have ; being that with which we do most immediately and directly praise God. The thought, then, of our Lord's glorious resurrection, and of the interest which he by his mercy has given us, as Christians, in his glory and happiness: this thought when it has hold of the mind, will naturally move the tongue also, in church and in all solemn offices, openly and aloud to confess his unspeakable goodness; out of church, and everywhere, to speak evenly and cheerfully of all things; not rashly to discourse of God, where discourse will only cause his name to be profaned, yet gladly to watch for good opportunities of meditating as it were aloud on his
gracious providences, in company with those who are likely to do us good, or to receive good from us. As it is expressed by one of the prophets, “they that feared the Lord spake often one to another;" and he intimates that such conversation among them was especially approved by the all-seeing judge." The Lord hearkened and heard it; and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that called on his name.”
Next, the Psalmist notices, as another, the greatest of all fruits of holy trust in the Almighty, that it causes our very “flesh,” that is, our mortal body, to “rest in hope :" it makes sleep quiet and secure, and it takes out the sting of death. What can be more utterly helpless than a sleeping body (except, indeed, it be a dead body), considered in itself? What more entirely safe, more thoroughly in a condition of hope and tranquil confidence, than the same body, considered as under the protection of him, who cannot slumber nor sleep?
But undoubtedly, the chiefest of all privileges is to have hope in thở grave; hope that through him, to whom alone these sacred promises belong of right, our souls shall not be left in hell-in that dark unknown condition, to which, before the coming of Christ, the name of hell was usually given. Through him I say, through his only merit, we hope that when we lie down in the grave, our souls will be safely kept in paradise with the souls of all the faithful departed : and though our bodies must see corruption, sinful as they are, and condemned to return to the dust, yet if they have in them the seed of Christ's glorious body, they cannot perish, though they decay; their parting with the soul will be only in order to a happy meeting.
There needs not now to be anything forlorn or desolate, in our meditations on our departed friends, or on the condition to which we are ourselves approaching. The unseen region, where the soul is to lodge, is the place where once the spirit of our Savior abode, and is therefore under his especial protection, even more than any church, or place that is most sacred on earth. The graves where Christians lie are also so many sacred abodes, where those who have received worthily the holy communion of his body, and blood seem to take their quiet rest; the virtue of that blessed communion sealing them for a yet more blessed resurrection. Thus we know how to think of the graves of our friends, and of those which are to be our own. We need not waste ourselves in ignorant and childish bewailings, but calmly and firmly trust them to his care, Whose they are, and whom they faithfully served.
Of course I do not speak of inconsiderate, irreligious persons. Living and dying, the thought of such must be full of pain and doubt. But where Christ's faith has been considerately embraced, Christ's law seriously kept, and his sacraments humbly sought and received, the graves of such persons are surely resting-places, not only for their own wearied bodies, but also for our wearied and restless thoughts, over-busy and over-anxious with the cares and amusements of this present world.
Thus the view of the grave and of paradise will come tempered and sweetened to those, why by faith set God in Christ always before them; and what is more, they will look beyond paradise and the grave to the very highest heaven itself. Their faith by degrees, will be steadied, to look upward into the depth of those things, which "eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into man's heart” to conceive. God's ly spirit will be with them, to help them in the firm and deliberate contemplation of eternal bliss. They will see more and more of the path of life, will long more and more for the fulness of joy, will practise themselves more and more in learning to love those pleasures, which are for evermore at the right hand of God.
But all depends on two things : our setting God always before us, and our carefully abiding by his friends,
, and avoiding his enemies ; according to what is written in the beginning of this psalm: “All my delight is upon the saints that are in the earth, and upon such as excel in virtue. But they that run after another god shall have great trouble."