« AnteriorContinuar »
and majesty of God, and of the immeasurable distance which separates us from him whom we address. He that cometh unto God must believe that he is, and that belief implies a just idea of his nature, as the creator and governor of the universe, in which the globe that we inhabit occupies but a point, and each individual man is but one of millions of reasonable creatures, equally the work of his hand, and alike entitled, as far as we can discover, to be the objects of his
any one of the innumerable beings, who people his creation, should be permitted to approach him, with the certainty of attracting his notice, and obtaining his gracious regard, is a mercy, which must be felt before we can pray at all; and which, when it is indeed felt, cannot fail to excite our deepest admiration and gratitude. O Lord, who hast set thy glory above the heavens ;—when I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained ; What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him 23
Our sense of the divine goodness is enhanced, by a consideration of the grounds upon which we are permitted to claim it. Bow down thine ear, O Lord, and hear me : Why? Because I deserve that stretch of condescension ? because I have done the Lord good service, and am of right entitled to his consideration ? No: but because I am poor and needy ; for the very reason, which might be thought to render me undeserving of his notice, and to place me out of the sphere of his regard. But this is a striking and characteristic feature of true religion, and one which shows its adaptation to the actual condition of man, and the requirements of his nature, that it represents the Deity, as most regardful of those, who stand most in need of his consideration; and brings the lowest, and the poorest, and the most afflicted of mankind the nearest to the throne of his mercy: far different, in this respect, from Natural Religion, as it is called, the religion of the philosophers, which makes the self-sufficiency of wisdom a ground of confidence in approaching God; far different from the religion of the heathen world, which gave to the rich and noble the almost exclusive privilege of an intercourse with their deities. But true religion, regardless of all secular distinctions, all intellectual differences, makes humility the basis of true confidence; represents the universal Father and Ruler of the world as looking down upon the
1 Heb. xi. 6.
3 Psalm viii.
children of sorrow with the eye of tender pity ; and describes those, who stand most in need of his assistance, as the most likely to obtain it; those dispositions of the heart being the passports to his favour, which affliction is calculated to cherish and promote.
To have a title then to the merciful consideration of God, we have only to be sensible that we need it. The mere want of it will not insure our obtaining it, nor the bare acknowledgment of wanting it; but a genuine, heart-felt conviction of our own helplessness, and God's all-sufficient power; of our own absolute want of desert, and of God's free and unbounded mercy. But let me not be mistaken. When I speak of our having a title to his merciful regards, I mean not a title intrinsically our own, arising out of any quality inherent in ourselves; but that which God is pleased, of his mere mercy and goodness, to constitute and consider as a title : and in this sense, to be miserable, and to feel that we are miserable, in the largest signification of the words, is to be entitled to a favourable hearing from God. Bow down thine ear, o Lord; hear me ; for I am poor and needy : poor and needy, not merely as the children of this generation understand the terms: but poor
in merit, poor in righteousness, poor in spirit: needy, not simply as standing in need of worldly goods or comforts, but as being in extreme and urgent need of his helping mercy; sinking under the weight of our sinfulness, and the fear of his wrath ; Lord, save us; we perish !
Thus then it appears, that an awful sense of the supreme excellency and greatness of God must be accompanied by, or rather, I should say, that it will be coexistent and coordinate with a deep conviction of our own necessity. The apprehension of our own danger, combined with the knowledge of God's power and inclination to deliver us, will make us importunate and eloquent in our supplications. The deeper our humility, the more easily will our hearts be lifted on the wings of hope towards the mercy-seat. The clearer our view into the depths of our natural misery, the brighter will be our prospects of the goodness and providence of God. Though the Lord be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly : but the proud he knoweth afar off:
The second plea, which David urges for a favourable hearing, at first sight appears to be inconsistent with that spirit of self-abasement, which has been described as an indispensable qualification for him who so prays as to be heard. Preserve my soul; for I am holy: or, as it is otherwise rendered in the margin of our Bibles, one whom thou favourest. Taken in this sense, the expression has nothing presumptuous in it: and even if we follow the common version, for I am holy, we are not to understand that David lays claim to any holiness of his own, or pleads it as a title to the divine favour ; but only as declaratory of the diligence and sincerity with which he had endeavoured to keep the commandments of God, and to walk in his ordinances. How truly sensible he was of his own want of righteousness, appears from the fifty-first Psalm: According unto the multitude of thy tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did
4 Psalm cxxxviii. 6.
my mother conceive me. Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts : and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Truth in the inward parts, then, that is to say, intrinsic spiritual holiness, David altogether disclaims; and adds to his disclaimer a confession full of hope, that whatever inward holiness he might