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confidence and self-satisfaction of high spirits and a light heart, but seeing to it, that he take no praise to himself, that his duty being done in any difficult instance, he joyfully retire not only from other men's praise, but also from praising himself for it: retire, I say, to the contemplation of ALMIGHTY GOD as He is in Himself, in His Church, and His Scriptures: as David retired from his exultation on Goliah's fall to the thought of his CREATOR'S glory and mercy in making man after His own image, and preparing to set HIM at His own right hand.
Again, it will be a good sign of a Christian's zeal being simple and sincere, if he be not anxious to invent ways of his own, but rather do all by the ways which God has appointed in His Church, and when these seem to fail, leave Him to do the rest; as David, knowing what high things the LORD had prepared for him, abstained entirely from seeking out any means of bringing about his own exaltation. He did his duty, indeed, in destroying Goliah, but was in no hurry for his reward: he was best pleased to stand still, and let God take His own time.
If your Christian zeal be thus submissive and patient, you need not be afraid to cherish it, as David did, by the remembrance of past mercies, and special providences shewn even to yourself: you may venture to take every such thing as a pledge of our great GoD and SAVIOUR's gracious approbation. David looked back to the slaughter of the lion and the bear; and may not every Christian look back on his own Baptism as a special Providence? when he was delivered from the Kingdom of darkness, from the roaring Lion, who walketh about seeking whom he may devour, and translated into the Kingdom of Gop's dear SoN? And may he not, in virtue of that Baptism, thank God, and take courage to overcome the mightiest spiritual enemy, to go on from strength to strength in all holy desires, good counsels, and just works?
And still, as we grow and go on in well-doing, as God's mercies continue increasing, so should our remembrance of them: and every fresh resistance of temptation, every new rule and act of silent self-denial, high charity, and strict obedience to GoD and His Church, will be a fresh ground for us to fall back on, and take courage for the next temptation that comes: and so on till the end of our lives, taking our spring and start from our
Baptism, we may, by God's merciful help, grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our LORD and SAVIOUR.
Can this be too much to ask of a Christian, of one who has been born of GOD, and has the HOLY SPIRIT abiding in him, to transform him into the likeness of JESUS CHRIST? No, surely it is not too much; we may have lost great opportunities, but deep, painful, continued penitence will restore us at least to some low station in the number of those who are thus endeavouring to become men after GoD's own heart." And some there must be, at least among the younger, in this and in every congregation, whose baptismal blessing, by God's mercy, is yet entire, who have not yet sunk into habits of wilful irreligion, nor stained their holy robe by any gross sin. To such I would say, Know and understand your own blessing. You are the persons to do great things for GOD: you have especial helps and encouragements to zeal and self-denial, and entire devotion of yourselves. But here lies your trial. You cannot but be aware of some one point of duty which is harder to you than the rest, some one evil thought or work into which you are most apt to fall. This is your Goliah, this is the foe you must defy in the strength of the living God. Set about that good work without loss of time, in the spirit of David, with courage and modesty; not in your own arms, but in the armour of GoD and His Church: set about it and persevere subdue in secret your secret faults, whatever such a struggle may cost you, and you may hope for a great reward. You may have help to slay not thousands only, but tens of thousands of spiritual enemies. Only hold that which you have from your baptism to your grave; let no man take your crown, and who knows but our bountiful Gop may turn that one crown into many, like the crowns of David, or of our LORD and SAVIOUR Himself?
ACKNOWLEDgment of SIN, THE ONLY SAFE WAY.
PSALM li. 3.
"I acknowledge my faults, and my sin is ever before me."
ONE of the first things which strikes a person on reading over this verse is the great difference between David and the generality of mankind. For they are continually in the way of setting some one thing which they think they do rightly against a whole life of sin and disobedience; but David, after a life generally spent in such true and holy courses as became the title which God Himself gave him, The Man after God's own heart, David, having unhappily fallen into one great and wilful sin, could not at all forgive himself, could not find any comfort in the remembrance of deeds well done before. All his refuge is in God's great goodness, and in the multitude of His mercies; in the comfort of His help, and the support of His free Spirit. Whereas, if David had been like the ordinary sort of persons calling themselves Christians, it is very plain what the course of his thoughts would have been. He would have said, "To be sure this sin which I have fallen into is very great, inexcusable, and dangerous; but I cannot persuade myself that the merciful God will deal very hardly with me, considering how faithfully I have served HIM for so many years of my life, how carefully I have kept myself from idolatry, and how gently I have treated even mine enemies, when I might have
taken sharp revenge upon them. Surely, GOD will set these my good deeds against my present backsliding and impurity; and I may reckon myself, on the whole, in no such very dangerous spiritual condition."
Something of this sort, I apprehend, would have been David's way of judging himself, had he been no more sincere in his religion than many among us Christians are. But we see that on the contrary he felt as if he could not humble himself enough. It may be, that at first, before Nathan came to reprove him, he had quieted his conscience for the time with some such poor excuses as these but when GOD had called to him by His Prophet, all that was quite over; his former piety and obedience was no comfort to him. How should it, when he considered that the HOLY SPIRIT, by whose gracious help only he ever could do any good thing, was now departed from his soul; that is, that a separation was made betwixt him and his GOD? The very light and life of his soul was gone: what consolation could it be to recollect that in former days it had been present?
Now this deep and humiliating sense of the sad and bitter effects of sin, and of the loss of the comfort of God's Spirit, was not merely the feeling of a moment, which passed quite away as time went on. It is plain from the remainder of King David's history, that the remembrance of his sin in the matter of Uriah hung heavy on his mind all the days of his life. To use a common way of speaking, he "never was the same man again." Thus when, according to CoD's threatenings, the judgment began to come upon him, and his own son was raised up against him; instead of bearing boldly up, as he had formerly against the persecutions of Saul, he went out of Jerusalem with his clothes rent and ashes upon his head, and all that he said and did showed the very deepest dejection of mind. As when Shimei furiously cursed him, and others wanted to punish the affront, David would hear of no such thing, but said, "Let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David." And the whole of his behaviour when his son Absalom was slain would seem to shew that his heart was yet full of remorse, and that he considered the whole his own doing, in that he had provoked GoD by his sins to bring the sword upon his house. In short, he made the right use of the grievous remembrance of his great sin. His conscience
was the tenderer, as it seems, ever after, and his heart the more humble before his GOD.
Which now of these two, do you think, is the wisest and most comfortable way? To comfort ourselves, as the world does, after our backslidings, by remembering our former good deeds? or to acknowledge our faults, as David did, and to have our sins ever before us; to make God's mercy through CHRIST our only refuge when our conscience tells us we have sinned, and to be the tenderer, the more delicate, the more humble in heart and in all our conduct ever after?
This is just asking, in other words, Which is more important, Time or Eternity? Does it concern us more to be tolerably comfortable, easy and quiet in heart and mind, for the short time we are to live here on earth; or to have a good chance, by Gop's mercy through CHRIST, of eternal happiness when we come to die? If you only want to quiet your conscience for the present, perhaps you are not so very unreasonable in thinking much of your past good conduct, and setting it against your sins, whatever they are; but if you really wish to avoid everlasting torments, and to be happy with CHRIST for ever, and if the only way to be so is to renounce yourself entirely and put your whole trust for salvation in His Cross, then surely you do most foolishly in not keeping your sins before you.
If there be, indeed, such places as Heaven and Hell, if we are, in real earnest, our very selves, to be happy or miserable, both soul and body, for ever, then certainly a light way of regarding our sins must be very dangerous. There is not, indeed, any part of the Gospel with which such a temper can possibly be made to agree. Fallen creatures, conceived and born in sin, nourished up in a world which is condemned to be burned, some day, for its incorrigible wickedness; bearing about them the sentence of death, the wages of their own and their fathers' transgressions; and knowing that in them, as they are by nature, dwelleth no good thing;-how can it be suitable for such as these to be light-hearted, easy, and as it were playful, in their judgment of their own faults? as if the mind and conduct which made our father Adam unfit to stay with God in Paradise, the mind which is accursed of GOD from the birth, the conduct which makes it necessary for the ALMIGHTY to withdraw the breath of life which