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3. From the power and prevalence of sin
[Notwithstanding “ the law of sin in their members,” God's promise to all his people is, that “sin shail not have dominion over them." As by the operation of fire on the hearth we may see what it would effect, if suffered to extend itself over the whole house, so by the working of sin in our hearts we may clearly see, to what a state we should quickly be reduced, if God should suffer it to rage with all its force. But he fulfils his word: and though thousands of times we have been, as it were, on the very brink of falling, God has interposed by his providence or grace to preserve our souls: and we remain to this day living monuments of his almighty power, and unchanging faithfulness.] ExH ORTATION 1. Let us seek to become “the beloved of the Lord”
[We account it no small happiness to be beloved of our fellow-creatures; but how much more to be beloved of the Lord! Whose favour is comparable to his? whose so honourable, so permanent, so beneficial?m Let us then go to him in the name of Jesus; for whose sake we shall be admitted to his favour," and be “blessed by him with all spiritual blessings.”]
2. Let us endeavour to live more and more near to God.
[It is our privilege to dwell in God, and to have God dwelling in us. We might " walk with God," as Enoch did, and though not visibly, yet really, converse with him as our friend. And what greater encouragement can we desire, than that which the text affords? Others may fall; but we shall be covered, and kept in safety:"p others may apostatize to their perdition; but we shall be preserved through faith unto salvation.9]
I Rom. vi. 14. rol John i. 3.
m Ps. Ixiii. 3.
o John xiv. 21. 91 Pet. i. 5.
DXXVII. THE JOY OF THE LORD IS OUR STRENGTH.
Neh. viii. 10. The joy of the Lord is your strength. THE preaching of God's word is a very ancient ordinance * In the context we have a description of the manner in which Nehemiah conducted it
These means of instruction were useful in that day-
People need, not only reproof for what is wrong, but direction in what is right
The Jews wept bitterly at the hearing of the law-
And exhorted them to rejoice in God, who had done so great things for themI. What reason we have to rejoice in the Lord
God is often said to rejoice over his people
But the joy here spoken of must be understood rather of that which we feel in the recollection of God's good. ness towards us
The Jews at that season had special cause for joy in God
[They had been miraculously delivered from Babylon This temple had been rebuilt in twenty years, and the worship of God restored
And now, after seventy years more, the wall of the city was finished
They had been enabled to surmount innumerable difficulties
They had prospered, even to a miracle, in their endeavours
These were tokens of the divine favour, and pledges of its continuance
They were therefore called upon to rejoice with gratitude and confidence
Nor was their sorrow, however just, to exclude this joy-]
Such reason also have all the Lord's people to rejoice in the Lord
[They have experienced a redemption from sorer captivity
And been delivered by more stupendous means
Yet the work of their souls is carried on in spite of enemies
Yea, is expedited through the means used to defeat it
Moreover, these mercies are pledges and earnests of yet richer blessings
They may well confide in so good and gracious a God
• Zeph. iii. 17.
b Ch. iv, 17.
They have indeed still great cause for sorrow-
To promote and encourage this, we proceed to shew II. In what respects this joy is our strength
We are as dependent on the frame of our minds as on the state of our bodies
Joy in God produces very important effects 1. It disposes for action
[Fear and sorrow depress and overwhelm the soulf They enervate and benumb all our faculties
They keep us from attending to any encouraging considerations
They disable us from extending relief to othersh-
[When the spirit is oppressed, the smallest trial is a bur. then
In those seasons we are apt to fret and murmur both against God and man'
We consider our trials as the effects of divine wrath
Or, overlooking God, we vent our indignation against the instruments he uses
But when the soul is joyous, afflictions appear light"-
How willing was Paul to lay down his very life for Christ!P
This accords with the experience of every true Christian9—] APPLICATION 1. Let us not be always brooding over our corruptions
[Seasonable sorrows ought not to be discouragedBut we should never lose sight of all that God has done for US
It is our privilege to walk joyfully before the Lord"
e Phil. iv. 4. f Isai. 'lvii. 16.
& Exod. vi 9. Job ii. 13. i Luke xxii. 45. k Prov. xvii. 22. I Ps. li. 12, 13. m Ps. cxix, 32.
o Heb. x. 34. & xii. 2. o Acts xvi. 25. p Acts xx: 24.
9. Rom. v. 2, 3. and r Ps. cxxxviii. 5 & cxlix. 5. & lxxxix, 15, 16. 2 Cor. vi. 10, VOL.V.
If we abounded more in praise, we should more frequently be crowned with victory]. 2. Let us carefully guard against the incursions of sin
[It is sin that hides the Lord from our eyes Joy will not consist with indulged sin
Let us then “mortify our earthly members” and our besetting sins
Let us be girt with our armour while we work with our hands
Nor ever grieve the Spirit, lest we provoke him to depart from usm)
3. Let us be daily going to God through Christ
[If ever we rejoice in God at all, it must be through the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is through Christ alone that our past violations of the law can be forgiven?
It is through Christ alone that the good work can be perfected in our hearts
And, since “all things are through him, and from him, let them be to him also”b-]
s 2 Chron. xx. 21, 22.
t Isai. lix. 2.
u Ps. lxvi. 18.
DXXVIII. GOD'S PATHS ARE MERCY AND TRUTH.
Ps. xxv. 10. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth
unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies. IT has often been observed, that there is in the world an indiscriminate distribution of good and evil, without any respect to men's moral characters. And this is confirmed by Solomon, who says, All things come alike to all, neither knoweth any man love or hatred by all that is before him. This, however, must be understood with certain limitations and restrictions: for, as in chymical preparations one ingredient will entirely change the qualities of the thing prepared, so in the dispensations of Providence will one single ingredient wholly change their rature, while, in appearance, they remain the same.
God often sends temporal blessings to his enemies in anger, as he raised up Pharaoh to a throne, for the purpose of displaying in him the power of his wrath. On the contrary, the bitterest cup that he puts into the hands of his friends is mixed with love. The eye of faith therefore will discern a most essential difference, where sense and reason can see none: it will see, that however God may load the wicked with benefits, he is angry with them every day; and that however he may visit the righteous with the rod, “all his paths are mercy and truth unto them.” To elucidate this truth, let us consider 1. The character of the godly
Among the numberless marks whereby the godly are described in scripture, there is not any more deserving of our attention than those before us 1. They keep God's covenant
[The covenant here spoken of cannot be the covenant of works, because no man is able to keep that, seeing that it requires perfect and unsinning obedience. We understand ittherefore as relating to the covenant of grace, wherein God undertakes to give us pardon, holiness, and glory, for the sake of his dear Son, who is the Mediator of it, and in whose blood it is ratified and confirmed.a
Now this covenant every godly person “ keeps.” He embraces it gladly, being well persuaded, that if the tenor of it were not precisely what it is, he could have no hope. If the covenant required the performance of certain conditions on his part, without providing him with strength to perform those conditions, and pardon for his innumerable failures and defects, he would sit down in despair. But seeing that “the covenant is ordered in all things and sure," and that Jesus, the surety of it, has guaranteed to God the accomplishment of its demands, and to us the enjoyment of its blessings, every believer rejoices in it, and cleaves to it stedfastly with his whole heart.] 2. They keep God's testimonies
[While the believer is thus attached to the gospel covenant, he does not relax his obedience to the law. On the contrary, whatever God has testified to be his will, that the believer labours to fulfil. He would not wish to live in sin, though he might do it with impunity: nor does he account
Compare Jer. xxxi. 31–34. with Heb. viii. 10--12.