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the way to the holy hill of God, whose external conduct is not free from the impurity, baseness, meanness, and selfishness of the world which lieth in sin. The habitual transgressor of human and divine laws, when he pretends to pray, lifts up to God his hands filled with bribes, with the fruits of oppression, and stained with blood.
Lest, however, the man of mere morality, who is externally honest, from no praiseworthy motives, should think himself a child of the skies, it is added, he must have a pure heart. He must be washed from the filthiness of the flesh and spirit; must be changed in his thoughts and feelings; must be a meek, humble, thankful, prayerful, and benevolent man; he must desire to glorify and enjoy God; he must love and resolve to perform his duty, or he has none of that holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
That men may not profess to have clean hands and pure hearts, while they are destitute of piety, the psalm teaches also that all who would enter heaven must abstain from idolatry; must not worship vanity; and consequently must conform to the ordinances of Jehovah. Those who would worship God, must do it in spirit and in truth, according to the revealed will of Heaven. His heart is not right with God, who knows that Jehovah has instituted any mode of expressing reverence and love for himself, to which the will and affections are not disposed to yield a strict and cheerful conformity.
Some, nevertheless, profess to be pure in moral conduct, in heart, and worship, who are ready to say, “Our tongues are our own; and it cannot be criminal to talk for amusement." But remember, all ye who think that you have a perfect right to use the gift of speech without restraint, that if any person bridle not his tongue, and make use of such conversation as tends to edification; if any man utter oaths or vows lightly, without an intention to fulfil them; if any man promises but to deceive, he is not washed from his sins, nor has he any portion in Jacob. Yet, if any one prove himself to be pure in conduct, holy in heart, scriptural in worship, and faithful in speech, he is still incapable of satisfying the demands of the law; and how shall he stand before God?
Fourthly, the psalm teaches us, that Jehovah will bless every renewed man, by conferring on him a justifying righteousness. “ He shall receive the blessing from the Lord, even righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Every person whose character answers to that of him who seeks the face of Jacob, is a justified person; for so soon as the Holy Spirit renews the sinner, the Judge of all the earth gives him a covenant title to the active and passive obedience of the Son of God for his justification and pardon. Jesus, then, is the God of our salvation. The
benefits which he confers on his people are inestimable! By faith we receive of him a righteousness which the law cannot reject; so that he becomes the Lord our righteousness.
Fired with the thought, the Psalmist exclaims, this Saviour is worthy of being received into the church on earth, into every human heart, and into the highest heavens.
The fourth and last part of the psalm, therefore, is a demand for the reception of this God of our salvation. The dialogical form is adopted to give life and spirit to the demand, while it exhibits the dignity of the person who is to be ushered through the unfolding gates. A repetition is used on account of the importance of the subject, that the mind may dwell upon it: and possibly to denote that the Son of man should be received both into Jerusalem on earth, and into the place of his rest and mediatorial triumphs above. “Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the king of glory shall come in.” The natural doors which were to open for the ark of the covenant were probably suspended horizontally, instead of perpendicularly, so that it was most natural to speak of their being lifted up. A demand is here made for the church to prepare the way of the Lord, and receive her Saviour, who at the time of writing this psalm, was to come. The gates of cities were the seats of kings and judges, and hence were used to denote the men of authority: so that the rulers in the church, the elders and princes of Israel, were called upon to receive the King of glory. To such as might demand, “Who is this king of glory?” the Spirit of the Lord has said, though he should appear in the form of a servant, meek, and sitting on an ass, yet he is “ Jehovah, strong and mighty; Jehovah, mighty in battle.” The Saviour whom the church is called upon to receive, is declared to be God as well as man; to be strong to rule and defend; to be mighty to save, and mighty to overcome rebel legions of men and angels in battle. Receive him, who shall conquer sin, death, and hell, O ye sons of men, for your Saviour.
It is no less the duty of the visible church to receive Jesus now as Jehovah, who comes in spirit, the Conqueror and Redeemer, than it was her duty to receive him when he came in the flesh.
Behold, he stands at the door of the human heart, and knocks for admittance. He calls to the sons of men. Open your
hearts to receive the brightness of the Father's glory. Do you ask after his character who demands admission to your thoughts, your affections, and all the secret springs of your action? It is the Lord Jesus, who has a strong arm, to save, or to destroy.
The second demand is probably addressed to the thrones, dominions, and powers, which are the gates of heaven, that Je. Vol. I.
sus in his human nature, returning from his labours, his sufferings, and the silence of the tomb, should be admitted into the immediate presence of the Father. Having finished the work which was given him to perform, having made an end of sin, having brought in a perfect righteousness, and having triumphed over death, he ascended to a company of angels who were waiting for him in the lower skies. These heavenly hosts surrounded him as he went up, and when they approached the holy of holies in the third heavens, demanded in his name, as a conqueror, reception, saying, “ Lift up your heads,” &c. A glad choir within demanded, to make their returning companions proclaim the God of salvation again, and again, “ Who is this king of glory?” The cloud of convoying angels say, “The Lord of hosts, he is the king of glory.” In this light, the close of the psalm appears to have been a prediction of the exaltation of Messiah. The heavens have lifted up their everlasting doors, and received our brother, in the character of our representative and precursor. Let us fix our thoughts and affections on him where he is; let us live and die in his service; and then with songs of praise and victory we shall be escorted to his presence, to be like him, and to be ever with the Lord. Amen.
JESUS, THE CHIEF AMONG TEN THOUSAND. Splendid and imposing crimes have often been applauded by the indiscriminating multitude; and whilst a religious sense of moral obligation, so necessary to true dignity of character, is frequently thrust into obscurity, and esteemed of little worth; culogy is engaged in trumpetting the celebrity of political intriguers; in decking the brow of literary pedants, or in fabricating an apotheosis for valorous knights, whose fame is the blood and the tears of the slaughtered and bereaved.
In the estimation of the world, character is dignified by a proficiency in science unconsecrated to the service of God; political art and maneuvring in the cabinet; or intrepidity in the field of rout and carnage.
Man is not a fit subject for high-wrought encomium; his heart the Pandora-casket of every pestilent passion, ready to burst forth into open and brutal violence.
But there is one, whose name was known to Abraham, and whose fame has reached us; whose memorial shines in the grandest movements of nature and soothes in the most beneficent dispensations of Providence; to whose underived dignity the heavens could give no accession, and from whose glory the manger could subtract no lustre; who in his external appearance was man in the humblest sphere of life, yet in his irre
sistible operations was God: “ without controversy great was the mystery of his person; God manifested in the flesh; justified in the Spirit; seen of angels; preached unto the Gentiles; believed on in the world ; received up into glory;”—and this is Jesus, the “chiefest among ten thousands,” at whose shrine homage may tender her offerings and eulogy chant forth her praises.
His name is the charm of the believer's pilgrimage, none other is so loved by the heir of glory, furnishing a theme, to which heaven's fullest and most thrilling quire could not do justice.
To describe him, I would portray under the first representation a lovely youth, in all the glowing bloom of vigorous health; his heart throbbing with ardour, his bosom swelling at the prospect of the stupendous work he was to perform; docile and obedient, under the guidance and control of earthly guardians he remains, until all lesser considerations are absorbed in the mighty one, that he is to be engaged in his Father's business. Then at an humble distance I would follow his footsteps through the spacious courts of Jerusalem's pride and glory, the Temple of God, until I see him amidst the literary pride of his country. The impertinence of youth has no place in his character, yet I behold him, with a resolution disproportioned to his years, his gesture striking, his countenance beaming with expression, beckoning attention. He speaks—every eye is fixed -there is no arrogance, yet he presumes to teach, whilst hoary wisdom and reverend experience regard with mingled veneration and awe the youthful and mysterious stranger.
In this youth, I recognise the visitant, whose introduction into our world was announced by the enrapturing tones of angel music; whose birth-place was lit by the brightest star in “ night's diadem.”
Presented now to the public, he exhibited a person eminently prepossessing, and a mind which in itself afforded the conclusive evidence of an intimate alliance to Divinity. Here, however, were but the buddings of a glory which, in future years, was to be more fully developed—but the faint delineations of a character, which afterwards shone so conspicuously.
When the period of his seclusion had expired, he was manifested to the world as a moral phenomenon. In whatever point of view we contemplate him, whether as a public or private character, we observe every thing to rivet the attention and to excite the loftiest admiration. In him every moral virtue shone brilliantly; he was tender, merciful, sympathising, intrepid; he possessed none of that sickly sensibility, which could weep over the tale of imaginary distress and recoil from the exhibition of real misery; for to the leprous he was a healer, to the distress
ed a consoler, to the mourner a friend, to the endangered a deliverer.
Of every possible variety of amiableness of character, in him might be found a lively specimen. Now elevated in sentiment above the reach of finite minds-again condescending to become the intelligible instructer of the most illiterate; now surpassing the sagest of ancient philosophers, in his profound elucidation of ethical science again familiarly explaining to his disciples the instructive parable. At one time we see him withstanding the doctors of Jewish law, and confounding by his superior wisdom the effrontery of impertinent literati; at another, receiving into his embrace little children to bless them.
Under every varying circumstance of life he exhibited something novel and instructive; evidencing a mind unparalleled in its resources, and nobly directed in its pursuits. He could assume the dignity of a public instructer, and in a moment conciliate the affections, by divesting himself of his awe-inspiring mien, and unbending his mind in the tenderest and most unreserved familiarity of social converse.
He could be terrible, and yet sympathizing; now sweeping the Temple of the profane and sacrilegious, and again bending his tearful eye over the grave of departed friends. With the glance of intuition he could grasp a subject in its full development, his judgment was formed, his stand taken; and when that stand was taken, like the adamantine rock, amidst the lashing of the billows, he was immovable. Threatenings could not deter him, persecutions could not affect him; like the globe we inhabit, though racked with convulsions and earthquakes, his course was uniform and steady.
With a godlike disposition “ he loved his enemies, blessed them that cursed him, and prayed for them who despitefully used and persecuted him;" ever inculcating that a spirit of retaliation should be renounced and execrated by the honest heart.
In his noble movements he exhibited a character, in which for ages the piercing scrutiny of friends and enemies has not been able to discover one reprehensible trait. None have been more frequently cited to the tribunal of rigid investigationnone have stood the test so honourably; as a just man, and holy and merciful and good, he has been adjudged and applauded.
In systems of ancient philosophy, which have received such unbounded applause, and which the temerity of impiety has frequently dared to bring into comparison with the gospel; we invariably discover sufficient imperfection in precept and principle to determine the fallibility and limited knowledge of their authors. The most noted of these luminaries, even when glowing in their meridian splendour, have exhibited a dark spot on