« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
storms of their own turbulent passions, and their end is destruction.
Let not the scoffers encourage themselves in their wickedness, saying-"Where is the promise of God's "coming to discriminate between the righteous and "the ungodly? all things continue as they were from "the foundation of the world; all things come alike to "all." Hear, in the next verse, the awful declaration of the Psalmist-"Therefore the ungodly shall not "stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congrega"tion of the righteous." However fair and flattering present appearances may be; a day is fast approaching, when the divine husbandman will appear, with his fan in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor. The wheat that shall endure the winnowing of that day will be gathered into the heavenly garners; but the chaff will be driven out of the floor by a mighty whirlwind, and carried to the place prepared for it, where it will be burned with unquenchable fire. Then, there will be a congregation of the righteous, in which sinners will not be permitted to stand. Wheat and tares now grow in the same field. Wheat and chaff lie on the same floor. Good and bad men are promiscuously comprehended within the visible Church. But, ere long, a tremendous separation will take place a separation final and unalterable. The wicked shall go away into everlasting misery, and the righteous into life eternal.
Who shall be able to abide the coming of this dreadful day of the Lord! Were the judgment to be conducted by ignorant, fallible, or prejudiced men, the sinner might entertain some hopes of escaping
with impunity. But since God is the judge, a Being of infinite wisdom and irresistible power, his determinations will be according to truth and equity, and nothing will be able to prevent their being carried into complete effect. For this is the concluding declaration of this instructive psalm-"The Lord knoweth "the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly "shall perish." From the limited nature of the human understanding, in the present confused state of things, we are often deceived in the judgment which we form of men. But an all-wise God can, in no instance, be imposed upon by false appearances. He is about the bed of the righteous, and about their path, and spieth out all their ways. However low and obscure their temporal condition may be, their pious dispositions, f their virtuous actions are not unnoticed. God is with them under every trial; he protects them, even when they pass through the valley of the shadow of death. In the silence of the grave, they will not be forgotten. His eye seeth them in secret, and his hand will reward ģ them openly. They shall rise triumphant over the sting of death, and the momentary victory of the grave & -they shall be crowned with glory, and honour, and immortality. And, on the other hand, nothing will defeat the purposes of the Almighty, with respect to the final punishment of the ungodly. No art will be sufficient to elude the vigilance of his all-searching eye; no force will be able to withstand that resistless arm, which holdeth the mountains as the dust of the balance, and shooteth the planets so swiftly in their rounds. Everlasting confusion and torment will be the portion of the wicked; "the way of the ungodly “shall perish.”
Upon reviewing what has been now said, the following practical observations naturally occur.
1st. If we wish to be ranked among the number of those who may justly be denominated blessed, we must take delight in the law of the Lord our God. By the prevalence of sin and wickedness, the rational nature of man is thrown into disorder and confusion. As well might the body be at ease under the anguish of a fractured limb or a scorching fever, as the soul enjoy any real peace, when agitated by the violent and discordant pursuits of wickedness. That vice is the fruitful source of human misery, and that virtue is the spring of all pure and permanent joy, the universal experience of mankind, and our own constant observation, abundantly testify. While the drunkard destroys his health and strength; while the idle spendthrift falls into all the distresses of abject poverty; while the unjust man exposes himself to shame, to painful corrections, and perhaps to an untimely death; while all impenitent sinners remain in continual hazard of being overwhelmed by the eternal condemnation of divine justice; they who walk innocently, walk securely; even death itself, the most terrible of all temporal calamities, will be only a friendly introduction to a joy unspeakable and full of glory.
2dly. We here learn the necessity of resisting the first beginnings of evil; of abstaining from all appearance of transgression. The progress of vice is gradual and extremely treacherous. We begin with listening to the counsel of the ungodly; we proceed to stand in the way of sinners as friends and companions; and, at last, we confidently sit down in the seat of the scornful. Many have been the unhappy victims of this fatal
delusion. Some, from treating the name of the Deity with disrespect in common conversation, have proceeded from one stage of irreverence to another, till they have fallen into direct blasphemy and perjury. Some, from slight, and not frequent instances of intoxication, have persisted so long, that a confirmed habit of intemperance has been contracted. And some, in their dealings with their neighbour, from what appeared at first trifling instances of deception and dishonesty, have so far lost a quick sense of right and wrong, that they are now ready to defraud without much compunction, whenever a fair opportunity presents itself. Let us keep the enemy at a distance, if we would be entirely secure: let us defend the outworks, and we know that the citadel is safe.
3dly. It is not sufficient barely to abstain from what is wrong; but, if we wish to grow in grace, we must be occupied in the things that belong to our everlasting salvation. The Psalmist has taught us to consider that man alone is blessed, "whose delight is in the "law of the Lord, and who meditates therein day and "night." By constant and devout attention to the sacred Scriptures, the mind is not only diverted from sinful thoughts, and guarded against the first inroads of temptation; but it is strengthened and confirmed in all goodness; it is filled with more exalted ideas of the nature and perfections of God; it is touched with a stronger abhorrence of sin, and animated with a more ardent love of virtue; all its exertions are quickened, to run with patience and perseverance the race that is set before us. The best mean of improving the stock which we already possess, is to employ it with diligence and discretion. The Christian must never sit
down in stupid indolence; the more he exercises himself in performing the duties which are due to God, his neighbour, and himself; the more will he increase in knowledge and in all goodness.
Lastly; let us seriously and frequently meditate upon the last dreadful day of just judgment, when the chaff will be for ever separated from the wheat, when sinners will be banished from the congregation of the righteous. By all the tender ties of relation which connect you together in this life; by your love of happiness and dread of misery; by the mercies, and by the terrors of the Lord; let me entreat you to be so unanimous in your love of God and religion, that you all may be collected, at last, in that place of perfect blessedness, where there will be no more separation