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CALLING OF THE GENTILES PRAYED FOR. Ps. Ixvii. 147. God be merciful unto us, and bless us; and
cause his face to shine upon us : that thy way may be known upon earth, thy saving health among all nations. Let the people praise thee, O God; let all the people praise thee. o let the nations be glad, and sing for joy; for thou shalt judge the people righteously, and govern the nations upon earth. Let the people praise thee, O God, let all the people praise thee. Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us : God shall bless us ; and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.
HOW much importance the compilers of our Liturgy attached to this psalm may be judged from the appointment of it to be read in the daily services of our Church. The general import of the psalm is plain enough: but, in order to get a just view of the different expressions contained in it, we must place ourselves in the situation of David at the time he composed it. The Jewish Church and nation were a peculiar people, instructed in the knowledge of salvation, and living under the government of Jehovah. The righteous among them enjoyed the light of God's countenance, and looked forward to the possession of yet richer blessings under the reign of their Messiah. But the Gentile world were altogether ignorant of a Saviour, and living without God in the world, under the tyranny of the prince of darkness, by whom they were led captive at his will. These two things then the Psalmist desired, namely, the advent of the Messiah to his own nation, and the manifestation of him to all the world. The former of these events was prayed for in the beginning of the psalm; “ God be merciful unto us, and bless us” with the accomplishment of that promise, to which all thy people are looking forward, the advent of the Messiah : and “cause thy face to shine upon us,” in the person of Him, who is “ the brightness of thy glory, and the express image of thy person !” The latter event however seems on this occasion to have chiefly occupied his mind : and
the immediate exhibition of Christ to the Jews was desired, in order to his ulterior manifestation to the Gentile world, whom he longed to see partakers of all the privileges which he either enjoyed, or hoped for. He longed to see them brought into “ the way” of truth and “salvation,” and subjected to the “righteous government” of the Messiah, and growing up before God in multitudes, " like the piles of grass upon the earth.”
This being the general subject of the psalm, we shall proceed to notice some important instruction that is to be gathered from it. It shews us, 1. That there are rich blessings yet in store for the
[The whole psalm might with great propriety be read in the future tense, as a prophecy. In the two concluding verses of the psalm it is so read in our translation: and it might have been so read throughout. And in that view how singularly striking is it! how strong and numerous the assertions, that such an event shall take place! At present indeed there seems to be but little prospect of so glorious an event: but we are well assured it shall come, and that too at no distant period. Indeed in part it is already come: for who are we but Gentiles ? By the preaching of the Apostles, myriads were converted to the faith of Christ: and myriads are yet monuments of his power and
grace. But this is only the first-fruits: we expect a harvest, when “ a little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation.” We believe that the day is coming when all the ends of the earth shall remember themselves, and turn unto the Lord their God:” “ they shall fear the Lord their God, and David their king b." “ The way" of salvation through a crucified Redeemer “ shall then be known among them,” and “the saving health” of the Gospel be then imparted to those who are now dying in their sins. The bondslaves of sin and Satan shall then cast off the yoke of their oppressor, and yield themselves willing subjects to the Prince of Peace. In a word, they who have hitherto known no pleasure but in the indulgence of their lusts, shall “ be glad in the Lord, and sing praise to his name," and "rejoice in him” as their God for ever and ever. Glorious period! May “God hasten it in his time !"]
a ver. 6. with Ps. lxxii. 16. Compare Isai. xxxv. 1, 2. and lv. 12, 13.
b Hos. iji. 5.
It further shews us, II. What an union there is between piety and phi
[The Jews were represented by their enemies as haters of mankind. But this was in no respect applicable to the godly among them. What could exceed the love of David towards the Gentile world? We cannot conceive greater earnestness than is expressed for their welfare in this psalm. David seems scarcely to think that he himself is blessed, whilst the Gentile world remain destitute of any share in his blessings. This philanthropy was the fruit of his piety: and wherever true piety exists, it will shew itself in a concern for those who are afar off from God, and perishing in their sins. All piety that is devoid of charity, is a mere name, a phantom, a delusion. "If,” says an inspired Apostle, “we see our brother have need, and shut up our bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in us?" And if this be true in relation to his temporal wants, how much more is it respecting the wants of his soul! We wish all then to judge of their piety by this touchstone: see what measure of compassion you have to your perishing fellow-creatures : see what pleasure you have in contemplating the future accession of the Gentiles to the faith of Christ; what efforts you make to promote it; and what earnestness you have when praying for it at a throne of grace. These things will lead you into a considerable degree of selfknowledge: for be assured you know but little of the saving efficacy of Christ's blood, or the sanctifying efficacy of his grace, if you are not longing and labouring to bring others to a participation of your blessings.] We may further LEARN, , III. What encouragement we have for missionary
[If nothing had been spoken in the Scriptures respecting the conversion of the heathen, we might well sit down in despair and say, It is in vain to attempt so hopeless a work. But when we look into the Scriptures and see how continually this subject is brought forward, and with what confidence it is declared, we should make no account of difficulties, since “ with God all things are possible.” Ezekiel might have objected to the commission given to him to preach to dry bones: but he knew that dry bones could live, if God should be pleased to breathe life into them. Thus may we engage in missionary labours, assured that God will fulfi his own word, and crown our endeavours with success. Indeed the time for the full accomplishment of his promise seems fast approaching; and “the fields appear already, as it were, white unto the harvest.” Methinks the heathen in divers countries are saying to us, not by their necessities only, but by their express desires,
c Ezek. xxxvii. 14-14.
“Come over to us, and help us!" And shall we be backward to impart the knowledge with which we are so highly favoured, and the salvation which we profess to glory in? It is obvious enough, that they cannot learn unless they be taught; “nor can they hear, without a preacher." Let not difficulties then dismay us: but let us go forth in the strength of the Lord God, and look to him to accompany his word with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven: then may we hope that Satan's empire shall be destroyed, and that the promised kingdom of our Redeemer shall be established on its ruins.]
DCIX. THE END OF CHRIST'S ASCENSION. Ps. lxviii. 18. Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led cap
tivity captive : thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them.
WHILE some give an unbounded scope to their fancy, and view Christ in almost every passage of the Scriptures, others run into a contrary extreme, and scarcely behold him even in the most express prophecies. But there certainly are many parts of the prophetic writings, and particularly of the Psalms, which, to whomsoever they relate in a literal sense, have a spiritual or mystical reference to Christ: nor can we err in interpreting them of him, while we take the inspired Apostles for our guides.
David, having vanquished all his enemies, determined to provide a fixed residence for the ark of God, that God might dwell in the midst of his people at Jerusalem. And he penned this psalm to be used on that occasiona. But St. Paul informs us, that there was a further reference in it to the ascension of Christ; who, being the true ark whereon the glory rested, went, after having triumphed over all his enemies, to his fixed abode in heaven; and, having received gifts as the fruits of his victories, gave them unto men, and provided that God should have a stated residence in his Church.
a It is thought that ver. 146. was sung when the ark was taken up by the Levites ; ver. 7--14, while they were on their way to the hill, till they came in sight of it; ver. 15–17. while they were ascending it; and ver. 18—23. when the ark was deposited.
With this inspired comment, we may proceed with confidence to consider, 1. The manner of Christ's ascension
Christ, having submitted to the deepest humiliation, was now to receive a proportionable advancement, which, having already been begun in his resurrection, was now perfected in his ascension. This was, 1. Glorious
[In verse 17, the glory of it is described, and it is compared with the descent of Jehovah on Mount Sinai. While he was in the very act of blessing his disciples, he was taken up by a cloud, as Elijah was in his fiery chariot, to heaven. Instantly myriads of the heavenly host surrounded him with their acclamations and hosannas. They had surveyed him with astonishment from the first moment that he came into the world. When he yet lay in the manger, they sang, "Glory to God in the highest!" But, when they beheld him agonizing in the garden, and expiring on the cross, we may almost conceive their songs of joy to have been turned into weeping and lamentation. We doubt not, however, but at this time their joy exceeded all that they had ever felt from their first creation. They now saw their Creator and their God, who had so long veiled himself in human flesh, ascending to his bright abodes, to display his glory in a light infinitely surpassing all that they had ever seen before. What must his redeemed people also have felt the very instant that he entered the portals of heaven! with what rapture and ecstasies must they have been filled ! But our imagination cannot grasp the thought. We must be in heaven ourselves before we can form the smallest idea of their felicity. Suffice it then to say with the angelic messengers, that, as he ascended up into heaven, so will he speedily come again from heaven; and that in the meantime, instead of gazing with unprofitable curiosity, we must look for his blessings, and devote ourselves to his service 4]
b Eph. iv. 8. The Apostle, in citing the Psalmist's words, makes a slight alteration in them : instead of "received gifts for," he puts
gave gifts to." But the truth contained in them is the same : for Christ received gifts for men in order that he might give them to men. c Luke xxiv. 51.
d Acts i. 10, 11,