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importance of the subject, and to convey an idea, that even the inanimate creation will rise up in judgment against the children of men, if they should disregard the voice of their Creator.
After requesting their attention, he declares, that the whole tendency of his discourse, and especially of that part which exhibits the character of the Deity, is to comfort and enrich the souls of men. As the dew and rain descend gently and silently upon the earth, softening the parched ground, refreshing and invigorating the drooping plants, and administering nourishment to the whole vegetable creation, so was his word intended to administer blessings to mankind, quickening the most dead, softening the most obdurate, comforting the most disconsolate, and fertilizing the most barren, among them all.
We are aware that a directly opposite effect is in general ascribed to a faithful ministration of the word : it is in general supposed, that a scriptural representation of the divine character must of necessity alarm and terrify mankind: but, whatever effect it may produce on them that are determined to hold fast their sins, it cannot fail to comfort all whose minds are duly prepared to receive it, and to operate on their souls as rain upon the new-mown grass. This will appear, whilst we, I. Illustrate the representation here given of the
DeityThe description which Moses gives of Jehovah is short, but comprehensive : it sets forth, 1. His personal majesty
[The term “ Rock” is often used in reference to the Deity; and intimates to us both what he is in himself, and what he is to us. In himself he is the great unchangeable Jehovah; and to his people a safe and everlasting Refuge. Whether it be from the storms of temptation or the heat of persecution, he affords protection to all who flee unto him
and, to those who build upon him, he is an immovable foundation: nothing shall ever shake them; nothing shall ever disappoint them of their hopese ----]
b Isai. xxxii. 2.
c Isai. xlv, 17.
2. His providential government
[Deep-and mysterious are his ways, yet are they all ordered in perfect wisdom and goodness. In the world, in the Church, and in our own individual cases, there are many things which we cannot account for; yet if we imagine that any one of them could have been more wisely appointed, we only betray our own ignorance and presumption. We cannot tell why God confined the revelation of his will to one single family for so many ages, or why it is still known to so small a part of the world: but in due time God will make it evident that such a mode of dispensing mercy was most
conducive to his own glory. When a persecution arose in the Church about Stephen, and the saints, driven from Jerusalem, were scattered over the face of the earth, it probably appeared to them an inexplicable dispensation : but the benefit of it soon appeared, because the banished Christians propagated the Gospel wherever they camed. And when Paul was confined in prison two years, it might be thought a most calamitous event: yet does he himself tell us, that it tended “ rather unto the furtherance of the Gospele." Thus, in innumerable instances, we are ready to say, like Jacob, “ All these things are against us,” when in fact they are “all working together for our good;" and we are constrained after a season to acknowledge, that our greatest crosses were only blessings in disguise".] 3. His moral perfections
[Justice, holiness, and truth, are inseparable from the Deity; “ He is a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” The present state of things indeed does not afford us a just criterion whereby to judge of these perfections; because eternity is not open to our view: but the brightest display of them that can be exhibited to mortal eyes, is seen in the great work of redemption: for God has determined not to pardon any of the human race (at least, not any to whom the light of revelation comes,) except in a way that shall magnify these perfections ; nor will he condemn any, without making them witnesses for him, that he is holy, and just, and true. It is for this very end that he sent his only-begotten Son into the world: for, by bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, Jesus has made a complete satisfaction for the sins of the whole world, and opened a way for the exercise of mercy in perfect consistency with all the other attributes of the Deity. The true believer makes an open confession of this, and acknowledges, that all his hopes are founded on the sacrifice of Christ: the unbeliever experiences in his own person the weight of that justice, which he would not honour in the person of his surety: so that all in heaven, and all in hell too, are constrained to say, “ Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of Saints 8."]
d Acts viïi. 1, 4. e Phil. i. 12-14. f Ps. xcvii. 2.
That we may make a practical use of the Divine character we shall, II. Shew how to make it a source of comfort to the
soul If the Deity is an object of terror to any, it must arise either from an erroneous idea of his character, or from an opposition of mind to it. In order then to derive comfort from it, we must,
1. Get a just and comprehensive view of the Divine perfections
[If, as is too often the case, we paint to ourselves a God all mercy, who will never vindicate the honour of his law, nor ever fulfil his threatenings against sin or sinners, we may allay our fears for the present, but we can never bring peace or comfort into the soul: for, as we have no foundation for such an idea of the Deity, we never can divest ourselves of the apprehension that we may be mistaken, and that we may find him at last such a Being as the Scriptures represent him. On the other hand, if we view nothing but his justice, he must of necessity appear terrible in our eyes, because we cannot but know that we are transgressors of his law. But if we regard him as he is set forth in his word, and particularly as he appears in the person of Christ, then do we find in him all that is great and good, yea all that our souls can wish for, or our necessities require -] 2. Get our own hearts suitably affected with them
[Whilst the majesty of God should fill us with holy awe, and his power make us fearful of incurring his displeasure, these exalted perfections should encourage an affiance in him, as an almighty Helper, and an all-sufficient Protector. His very sovereignty should lead us to apply to him for mercy, because he will be most glorified in shewing mercy to the chief of sinners. Of course, a view of his love, his mercy, and his truth, must inspire us with holy confidence, and dispel all the fears which conscious unworthiness must create: we should therefore contemplate them with unceasing care, as the grounds of our hope, and the sources of our eternal welfare. Nor is it of small moment to have our minds impressed with a sense of his wisdom and goodness in all his providential dealings. It
8 Rev. xv. 3.
is by that that we shall have our minds composed under all the most afflictive dispensations, and encouraged to expect a happy issue out of the most calamitous events In a word, the representations which God has given of himself will then be most delightful to us, when our hearts are most filled with humility and love.] APPLICATION
[“ Hear now, O ye heavens! and give ear, O earth!" say whether these views of the Deity do not tend to the happiness of man? O that God would " shine into all our hearts, to give us the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ!” then should our “meditation of him be sweet,” and our fruits abound to the praise and glory of his grace.]
GOD'S REGARD FOR HIS PEOPLE. Deut. xxxii. 9—12. The Lord's portion is his people ; Jacob
is the lot of his inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings : so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.
THE declarations of God in his word are the principal source from whence we derive our knowledge of the Deity. But much may be learned also from the dispensations of his providence, both from those which are recorded in the inspired volume, and those which pass daily before our eyes : nor can we more profitably employ our thoughts than in meditating on his dealings towards the Church in general, and ourselves in particular. This Moses recommended to the Israelites just before his final departure from them. He assured them that God, as far back as the Deluge, had appointed the boundaries of the different kingdoms, with an express reference to the children of Israel ; and that he had assigned to Canaan, that accursed son of Noah, and to his posterity, the land which he had marked out for his chosen people, and which they, in pursuance of his will, were now about to possess“. And, with respect to themselves in particular, he had conducted them with astonishing kindness and condescension from their first entrance into the wilderness to that present moment.
His words on that occasion will naturally lead us to consider, I. God's interest in his people
God regarded his ancient people as his portion and inheritance
[When he brought his people into Canaan, he divided the land amongst the twelve tribes, assigning to each by lot their destined inheritance. Thus amongst all the people upon the face of the earth he chose, as it were by lot, (“ the whole disposal whereof is of the Lord,") the descendants of Abraham as his portion. Even amongst these he selected only a part, adopting Isaac, and not Ishmael, and still further limiting his choice to Jacob and his posterity, whilst he withheld this privilege from Esau. These he chose, not because they were either more numerous or more holy than other people; for “they were the fewest of all people," and " a stiff-necked generation from first to last.” “He loved them purely because he would love them b," and, having “set them apart for himself,” he ordained them to be his own portion and his own inheritance.]
In precisely the same view he regards his chosen people at this day
[He has a people still, whom "he chose from before the foundation of the world," and “predestinated to the adoption of children to himselfd," and accounts as “his peculiar treasure above all people upon the face of the earth.” Respecting all who truly believe in Christ it is said, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people f:" and from these, as from an inheritance, does God expect revenue of praise” and glory, such as he receives not from the whole world besides . It is “ of his own purpose
grace alone that he has called them to this honour," without being influenced by any goodness in them": his choice of them was wholly irrespective of their works, past, present, or future': “ he loved them, and not they him." “ he chose them, and not they him?:” for his own sake, and not theirs, he has vouchsafed to them his grace, that to all eternity they may be monuments of his sovereign love and mercy m.]
a ver. 7, 8. b Deut. vii. 6-8. c Jer. xxxi. 3. Eph. i. 4. d Rom. viii. 29. e Exod. xix. 5. (1 Pet. ii. 9.
1 Pet. ii. 9. h 2 Tim. i. 9. i Tit. üi. 5. k 1 John iv. 10. i John xv. 16.
m Isai. xliii. 21.