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is of his character ; so much the more fearful symptom of his state. But when the Lord hath loosened his bonds, lifted up his countenance upon him, and given him peace, is it not proper and natural for him to say, Return unto tby rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. When he hath seen the marks of distinguishing love in his mercies; when he hath tasted consolation under suffering, or communion with God, in public or in secret, will not this dispose him to rest in God, to improve the happy season, and desire its continuance ? All things else are vain, and have proved their vanity, but complete fatisfaction is here.
I have no doubt, my brethren, that this is, if not the only, yet one of the chief senses, in which we ought to understand these words. Rest, you know, supposes labor, and even weariness before. Rest also seems to imply that which is the end of labor, or the desire of the weary. It also signifies that which is to continue, or that we wish to continue without further change. In this sense it is used, Psal. cxxxii. 8, and 14, “Arise, O Lord, into thy rest, " thou and the ark of thy strength. This is my rest for “ ever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it :” which refers to the ark of the testimony taking a fixed abode, and being no more carried about from place to place. The fame sense is conveyed to us by Heb. iv. 9, “ There re“ maineth therefore a rest to the people of God.” When, therefore, the Pfalmist says, Return unto thy rest, O my soul, it means that God, and his favor, was his supreme and ultimate desire, the very centre of his hope. Is it not fo with every real servant of God? All true religion points to, and ends in this. All religion, without this, is * an empty form. And when we return to this, after any interruption, is it not like the distressed mariner, after having been driven about in a tempestuous ocean, and threatened every moment with destruction by the rising billows, at last obtaining sight, and entering with heartfelt joy into a haven of security and peace ?
3. In the last place, this expression implies a confidence and reliance on God for protection and security against future dangers. This seems necessary to the complete.
ness and perfection of any deliverance. The danger may be warded off for a season ; if there is ground to fear its immediate or speedy return, the state is very precarious, and the comfort very imperfect ; but those who are delivered from fear of evil, and think they can depend upon their defence and guard, have received a deliverance indeed.
Now, this is the view which a believer is particularly led to take of God, as his sure and all-fufficient help. He considers the greatness of his power, the operation of his providence, and the faithfulness of his promise. How often does the Pfalmist express, in the most triumphant manner, his dependance upon God? Psal. xviii. 1, 2, 3. “ I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is
my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer ; my God, “ my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the «horn of my salvation, and my high tower. I will call “ upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; fo fhall I « be saved from mine enemies.” Pfal. Ixii. 5,6,7. “My “ foul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is “ from him. He only is my rock and my falvation; he “ is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my ~ salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and
my refuge is in God.” Psal. cxlvi. 5, 6. “ Happy is he “ that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is “ in the Lord his God; which made heaven and earth, " the sea, and all that therein is, which keepeth truth for 46 ever."
My brethren, this trust and dependance on God is a very considerable part of the rest and comfort of the believer's foul. He is, on all hands, surrounded with enemies, liable to suffering, exposed to temptations. The more he knoweth of himself, the more he feels his own inherent weakness and insufficiency. But, in God, he sees full and adequate provision for all his wants, Plalm xxxiv. 22. “ The Lord redeemeth the foul of his servants; and “none of them that trust in him shall be defolate."
This trust is also, in a particular manner, generated, by remembring the past goodness, or by a sense of the recent mercy of God. We have daily experience of our own weakness and unsteadiness in this respect. When our hopes are in any measure disappointed; when calamities threaten; when afflictions visit us, we are ready to yield to the dark suggestions of fear and despondence ; but when we contemplate the great goodness of God on for. mer occasions, or when we have met with any singular manifestation of his grace and favor, it serves to strengthen our confidence, and often, indeed, to cover us with shame for our unbelief and distrust. On the whole, then, a believer who imitates the Psalmist in this expreslion, Return unto thy rest, O my soul, may be fupposed to say, “ Thou hast talted, O my soul, of the loving kindness of “God! he hath brought thee out of deep waters; he hath “ calmed thy fears; he hath set thy feet upon a rock; he “ hath established thy goings; Blush, blush! when thou “ considereft how easily thy confidence was shaken; how
prone thou wast to sink under affliction; and, upon every “ new trial, to doubt his power, and disrust his promise. “ But, now, return unto thy reft ; lay aside thy fears, “ which have so unhappy an influence both on thy pro“ gress and comfort. Commit thy ways to him, and he “ will bring thy desires to pass.”
I come now, in the last place, to make some practical improvement of what hath been said: And, ift, From what hath been said, you may observe one great branch of the finfulness of the world in general; forgetfulness of God; and unthankfulness for his mercies. How little sense of the divine goodness is in the hearts of men ? how formal, cold, and frozen their language in praise ? how languid their endeavors to serve him, from whose indulgent hand every blesling they enjoy flows? One would think that here might be fome hold even of worldly men, who have not wholly extinguished the light of natural conscience. The greatest part of this discourse has been directed to those of another character. Suffer me, now, to speak a little immediately to them. You are not insensible to worldly comforts; on the contrary, you love them too ardently; you seek them too eagerly ; you indulge them too liberally. Consider, I beseech you, who it is that bestowed them; who it is, that, when he pleaseth, can blaft them to you, or withdraw them from you. O the blindness and infatuation of mortal men! How paffing and transitory are all created comforts ! How certain and speedy the approach of death and judgment! Think what return you have made for all the goodness of God toward you from the womb even till now.
And let me beg every hearer to recollect how far he stands indebted to God for continued health, for plentiful provision, for remarkable deliverances, for early instruction, for providential warnings. And if God, by his Spirit, has raised convictions in your minds, or earnestly pleaded with you in his gospel, in what a terrifying light will all this despised goodness appear, when you come to the brink of that gulf which separates you from an eternal world, but, above all, wlien you appear before God in an unembodied state? It is my duty to set this before you with plainness and fidelity ; it is your present privilege, that you hear the things that be. long to your everlasting peace. May God himself write them upon your hearts, and constrain you to flee, by faith, to the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than the blood of Abel.
2dly. Let me also beseech every serious person, who now hears me, to consider how far he hath finned against God and his own comfort, by forgetting the goodness of God, both in common and special mercies. It is surprising to think how little we make conscience of this duty, and even when it is remembered in some measure, in what a lifeless, heartless manner it is performed. How little proportion is there between the prayers of distress, and the fongs of deliverance ? how little sense upon our minds of the many gracious interpositions of divine Provi. dence in our favor ? If he hath invited us to communion with himself; if he hath brought us into the secret chambers, and made his banner over us to be love, how foon is it forgotten ? how little desire of its continuance? what faint endeavors to recover it? how little concern to improve it? Strange, indeed, that some, after tasting of the heavenly manna, should feel so unseemly a longing after the flesh-pois of Egypt.
But do you not fin as much against interest and comfort, as your duty? To forget a mercy, is to lose it; to give thanks for it, is to preserve and increase it. It is a very common mistake for serious persons to fit brooding over their forrows, and, by that means, at once, to in. crease their sufferings, and to prevent their deliverance. I do not know a more useful direction to melancholy or dejected Christians, than by a deliberate effort of mind, from a sense of duty, to recollect, and give praise to God for the many mercies which he hath bestowed on them. This may be a happy mean of silencing their complaints, of turning the tide of their affections, and giving them " beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the
garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.” Is not thankfulness the improvement of mercies ? and hath not God said, to him that “ hath shall be given, and he shall "have more abundantly; and from him that hath not " shall be taken away even that which he seemeth to " have."
3dly, I shall conclude, with offering the three following directions to those who are truly sensible of the goodness of God.
1. Be circumspect and watchful; though a thankful frame of spirit is of great advantage, both for your sancti- . fication and peace, yet it is not out of the reach of temptation ; let it not produce pride, fecurity or self-sufficiency. It is an excellent direction given by the Psalmist to men in high station and prosperity, Plalm ii. II, “Serve the " Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling,” Take heed also, left it degenerate into carnal and sensual joy, making you rest with complacency in the creature, instead of being led by it to place your delight and happiness in the unchangeable Creator.
2. Be public-spirited and useful; if the Lord hath dealt bountifully with you, commend his service, and speak to his praise. This was often the resolution and practice of the Psalmist David, Plalm lxvi. 16. “ Come " and hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what " he hath done for my soul.” Psal. cxlv, 5, 6, 7. “ I will speak of the glorious honor of thy majesty, and of thy VOL. II.