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[If Satan were less active, we should still be in continual danger, from the deceitfulness and depravity of our own hearts. We are ever ready to "put evil for good, and darkness for lighto.” Self-love is so predominant in the best of us, that we rarely can discern, and never without the most careful observation, the true motives by which we are actuated. We give ourselves credit for a purity, which we but rarely attain : and hence, in ten thousand instances, we deceive our own souls P. But we cannot deceive God. When he searches our heart and tries our reins, we cannot impose on him. The least obliquity of mind or principle is as obvious to him, as the greatest and most open enormity. We should therefore carefully examine ourselves as to the motives and principles from which we act; yea, and should beg of God, also, to "search and try us, and to see if there be any wicked way in us, and to lead us in the way everlasting?."] 5. Constant in prayer for more abundant grace
[It is by the grace of Christ alone that we can do any thing that is good". Without that, we should be “carried captive by the devil at his will." But it is not by grace once received, that we are to stand : we must have daily supplies of grace: and in seasons of temptation we must have a greater measure of grace imparted to us, according to the augmented measure of our necessities. But this can only be brought in by prayer. St. Paul, under the buffetings of Satan, cried earnestly to the Lord Jesus Christ for succour and support. Yet he did not at first succeed. Therefore he renewed his supplications again and again; till at last the Lord Jesus Christ answered him, “
is sufficient for thee;" and assured him, that " Jehovah's strength should be made perfect in his weakness &.” This enabled the Apostle to “ glory in his infirmities;" and to acquiesce cheerfully in the trial, from a confidence that “ the power of Christ should rest upon him.” So should we also, under a sense of our constant liability to fall, commit ourselves entirely to God; crying with eager and constant importunity, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safet."]
6. Careful in our endeavours to approve ourselves to God
[To God we should act, and not to man. Through a sweet consciousness that he was doing this, David could rejoice in his own uprightness: as Paul also did, when he said, “Our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in sim
o Isai, v. 20.
p Jam. i. 26.
9 Ps. cxxxix. 23, 24.
Ps. cxix. 117.
plicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world u.” Our wisdom is, to “set the Lord alway before us?," and to walk as in his immediate presence. We know what an influence the eye of a fellow-creature has over us, in things which are cognizable to him: and if we could realize the idea of God's presence, and see inscribed on every place, " Thou, God, seest us,” we should walk far more circumspectly than we do, particularly in our private intercourse with God. Endeavour, then, to“ stand perfect and complete in all the will of Godz:" rest in no attainment short of that. " Let all guile be put away from you." Determine, through grace, that God himself shall discern no allowed evil within you: so shall you " walk holily and unblamably before God," and be kept “ sincere and without offence until the day of Christa."]
y Gen. xvi. 13.
u 2 Cor. i. 12. 2 Col. iv. 12.
x Ps. xvi. 8.
LIBERALITY IN GOD'S SERVICE COMMENDED. 1 Chron. xxix. 17, 18. Now have I seen with joy thy people, which are present here, to offer willingly unto thee. O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, our fathers, keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of thy people, and prepare their heart unto thee.
RELIGION, in whomsoever it is seen, is exceeding beautiful; and all its exercises and operations deserve our most attentive regard. But when it shines forth in persons of high station, or is exhibited in the united efforts of a multitude, it excites our highest admiration. Who can behold the three thousand converts on the day of Pentecost, “ all of one heart and one soul,” all living together in the devoutest fellowship with God and each other, and dividing with each other their possessions, that, being supported out of one common stock", they might be entirely freed from all care about the things of this world; who can behold this, I say, and not admire “ the exceeding grace of God in them?” In the chapter before us we have a
b Acts iv, 32-34.
a Acts ü. 41-47. VOL. IV.
powerful monarch at the head of all the chief men in his kingdom, devoting their property to God, for the purpose of erecting a stately edifice to his honour. The prayer which David offered on the occasion, in the hearing of them all, expressed, doubtless, their sentiments as well as his own, and shews that they were actuated, not by warm affections only, but by a just and heavenly principle: for, while they were performing a most exalted act of piety towards God, they were not elated with pride, but filled with gratitude to him for enabling and inclining them to render him this service.
In discoursing on the words which we have just read, we shall consider them, I. In reference to the history before us
· David had purposed to build a house unto the Lord: but his intention, though approved and applauded by his God, was not suffered to be carried into execution, “because he had been a man of war, and had shed much blood.” Nevertheless he made great preparations for it, in order that he might at least testify the sincerity of his wishes, and facilitate the accomplishment of them in God's appointed time. The princes and people heartily concurred with him in this good work; and thereby filled his soul with joy and gratitude. We may notice in the text, , 1. The grounds of his joy
[His subjects manifested on this occasion an extraordinary zeal for God's honour, and liberality in his service. Had they been disposed to excuse themselves from engaging in this expensive work, they might have urged many specious reasons for declining it. They might have said, 'God has not required this at our hands; why then should we do it? His “ark has abode within curtains” for five hundred years; why then should it not continue to do so ? Must not any building which we can raise, be altogether unworthy of his notice? Have we not other, and more imperious, calls for our money? Have we not many poor, whom we might relieve; and many ignorant, for whom we might provide instruction? Besides, have not our families a claim upon us, that we should not so prodigally lavish the wealth by which we are enabled to provide for
them?' But no such objections were made. A desire to glorify God swallowed up every selfish and worldly consideration; and the people vied with each other in contributing to the utmost of their power, insomuch that above thirty millions in gold and silver were dedicated by them to this service.
And was not this a proper ground of joy to the pious monarch? It was at least a presumptive proof that their souls were penetrated with true religion. Some indeed might have been influenced by baser motives; but the greater part were doubtless animated by love to God: for they had been long amassing riches for this particular end: and, if their principle had not been good, it would scarcely have operated so uniformly and to such an extent. What then could afford a more just occasion of joy than such a sight, whether to a prince among his subjects, or a minister among his people, or a parent among his children? Every one in whom true piety exists, must of necessity rejoice in beholding such a testimony of piety in others. But the people's conduct was also a pledge that the grand design should in due time be completed. David had set his heart on having the work accomplished, though it was not to be performed by him, or even during his life. Large as his own donations had been, they would not have been sufficient without the aid of others: and if his own example had not been followed while he was present to exert his influence, he could have but little hope that any attention would be paid to it after his death. But no room for such fears was left. The people's zeal and liberality ensured success: and nothing remained, but that the plan which God himself had given him for every part of the work, should be executed by Solomon his son. Well might he rejoice in such a prospect. Well might he exult in the thought, that in this amazing undertaking he had not laboured in vain or run in vain.) 2. The expressions of his love
[Good impressions, especially when our temporal interests are likely to be affected by them, are very apt to languish and decay. As the gratitude of the Israelites, promising as it appeared at the first moment when their enemies were overwhelmed in the sea, vanished within the space of a few days, so the zeal and liberality which are called forth on some particular occasions are too often found to yield after a time to the suggestions of prudence and economy. None but God can
put a good desire into the heart"; nor can any but God preserve it there. Under a full conviction of this truth, David entreated God to “keep these good dispositions in the hearts
c 2 Cor. viii, 16.
of his people," and to “prepare more fully and entirely their hearts unto him.” The accumulation of words which he uses on this occasion suggests, that, if there be not a living principle of piety in the heart, the actings of it will be of short continuance; if there be no spring or fountain, the channel will soon cease to flow.
Now this devout application to God on their behalf was the strongest possible expression of his love towards them: for what other thing could tend so much either to their present or eternal felicity as a continuance of these liberal and devout affections? It conduced exceedingly to their present happiness. From the joy which they manifested on the occasion, it might be supposed rather that they had unexpectedly acquired some large property.
This would have been a more common and natural source of joy. But they felt happiness in parting with their wealth: they found it “more blessed to give than to receive:” they experienced a more refined and elevated pleasure than the largest acquisitions could possibly have conveyedd. And, instead of thinking that they conferred any obligation upon God by these sacrifices, they felt themselves indebted to him, in exact proportion to the cheerfulness and liberality with which they were enabled to offer to him. Moreover it tended also to their eternal happiness. Their gifts could not purchase heaven, it is true; nor could their liberality merit any thing at God's hands: but God has been graciously pleased to say,
of cold water, if given to him, or for his sake, in a becoming manner, shall in no wise lose its reward:” nay, he would consider himself as “unrighteous, if he were to forget our works and labours of love which we have shewn towards his name?.” Without arrogating any merit to ourselves therefore, we may say, that “the fruits of generosity shall abound to our account?;" that “what we lay out for the Lord shall be repaid us again ";" and that in being ready to distribute our wealth in his service, we “ lay up in store for ourselves a good foundation against the time to come, that we may lay hold on eternal lifei.
On these accounts David prayed that these holy dispositions might be kept alive in their hearts; and in this prayer he expressed in the most effectual manner his love towards them. If he had flattered them, he might have gratified their pride; but in praying for them he consulted their best interests.]
Having noticed the words in reference to the history before us, we shall consider them,
d 2 Cor. viii. 9.
e ver. 14.