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the threshing-floor: as the light and worthless chaff is scattered away from before the driving tempest, so shall the wicked perish at the presence of the Lord: when God comes to judgment, they shall not be able to stand before him; they shall be for ever separated from the assembly of the righteous.
The Holy Scriptures were given by inspiration of God, and are good for instruction in all righteousness. But of the Psalms, more particularly, it may be asserted, there is scarcely any thing necessary for man to know in the progress of a life of piety, which they are not able to teach. Like the garden of Eden, this little volume affords us in perfection, every thing that groweth elsewhere; every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food. Here we find unfeigned repentance, unwearied patience, ardent devotion, the terrors of divine wrath, the comforts of grace, the operations of Providence in the government of this world, and the promised joys of the world that is to come. For every spiritual grief and disease that is incident to the soul of man, here a present and comfortable remedy may at all times be found.
In the language of this divine book, the prayers and praises of the Church have, in all ages, been offered up to the throne of grace. The Son of God, in the days of his flesh, appears to have been well acquainted with it. At the conclusion of his last supper, he sang a hymn which is commonly supposed to have been taken from it. On the cross, he pronounced the beginning of the twenty-second psalm-" My God, my God, "why hast thou forsaken me?" And his expiring words were a part of the thirty-first-"Into thy hands "I commend my Spirit." Thus our glorious Re
deemer himself, who possessed all the treasures of knowledge and wisdom, thought proper to soothe his last and most bitter agony, and to yield up the ghost with the words of the Psalmist on his lips. A higher commendation of any book, it is not possible for the tongue of men or angels to give. It well deserves, therefore, the devout attention of every pious person, who is desirous of imitating the good example of those, who, through faith and patience, inherit the promises. Let us, then, proceed to consider what instruction, or what consolation is to be drawn from this first psalm, which begins with these encouraging words-"Blessed is the man that walketh not in the "counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of "sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”
In order to excite our attention, and to animate our desires to begin and to persevere in the ways of virtue and piety, the book of Psalms is introduced, like the sermon on the mount, with a divine beatitude, directing us immediately to that happiness which all mankind, in various ways, are solicitous to obtain. All would secure themselves from the assaults of misery, all would be entirely happy; but how few consider, that wretchedness is the natural consequence of sin, and that we must cease to walk in the counsel of the ungodly, if we would be completely blessed.
The Psalmist here apprizes us, that there is a gradation in wickedness, and that he who wilfully deviates from the right way, cannot say how far he may wander. We begin, by conversing familiarly with wicked men; we listen to their fallacious arguments; we are pleased with their winning persuasions. After walking, for a season, thus in the counsel of the ungodly, we proceed
to take a part in their crimes; we associate with them in all their iniquitous proceedings; as the Psalmist expresses it—We stand in the way of sinners. From this stage of transgression, the transition is short and easy to the last point of depravity. We soon begin to glory in our crimes, to justify what we have hitherto done, and in hardened impiety, to sit down in the seat of the scornful. They alone are blessed, who flee from sin; and they alone are secure, who abstain from all appearance of evil, so far as human infirmity will permit. Our Lord and Master attained a sinless perfection; and we must apply to his merits and grace; so that by becoming righteous, we may be rendered blessed.
To the man who is brought to this happy condition, the next words of the Psalmist are properly applied"His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law "doth he meditate day and night." When the mind is filled with a sincere detestation of sin; and when we are heartily inclined to become acquainted with the will of God, in order that we may yield a ready obedience to it; the Holy Scriptures will be deemed of more value than fine gold; they will be sweeter than honey, or the honey-comb; they will afford a satisfaction and delight infinitely superior to all the sensual pleasures of this world. In all circumstances, the word of God is the pious man's companion and guide. To this he applies for direction in the dangerous allurements of prosperity; from this he derives comfort in the gloomy seasons of affliction; to this he flies for succour under every temptation.
The Psalmist proceeds to describe the happy effects of this constant and devout attention to the study and VOL. II.
practice of the law of the Lord: the man who is thus piously engaged" shall be like a tree planted by the "rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his "season: his leaf also shall not wither; and whatso"ever he doeth shall prosper." By continual meditation in the sacred writings, and by practising what we know, we as naturally improve and advance in holiness, as the tree thrives and flourishes in the most fertile soil. A more striking and beautiful image could not be employed to express the happy condition of the godly. Behold the fair-spreading tree, so beautiful, and at the same time so advantageous! It is refreshed from above with the dews of heaven; it is invigorated at the root by never-failing streams of water; its fruit affords nourishment, its shade yields refreshment, the birds of the air take refuge and sing among its branches. Such is the blessed condition of that man, who standeth not in the way of sinners, but delights in the law of the Lord his God. He is sustained and improved by ever-flowing streams of divine grace; he abounds in all the fruits of the Spirit; in their proper season he displays the virtues of justice, and temperance, and meekness, and charity; the graces which adorn him are not affected by the revolutions of time; they never fade; and whatsoever he doeth, in all his ways, the blessing of heaven attends him: so that whatsoever the event may be, whether life or death, things present or things to come, all will work together for his good.
One would suppose, that a bare representation of this blessed state, would be a sufficient inducement to every reasonable mind, to seek it as the one thing needful. But if we are not to be properly influenced
by the expectation of good; let us follow the Psalmist in the dreadful contrast which he draws, and be alarmed "The unand deterred by the apprehension of evil.
"godly," says he, "are not so, but are like the chaff "which the wind driveth away." In the preceding description of the righteous, every thing appeared =fresh and flourishing, beautiful and permanent. But here, we are presented with nothing but objects that are fading and worthless, unsettled and transitory, driven about by the breath of God's displeasure, dispersed at last from the face of the earth, and consigned to the fire that is never quenched.
The threshing-floors of the Jews were commonly on an eminence, in the field; and by the action of a strong current of air, it was the custom to separate the chaff from the wheat. We find frequent allusions to this practice in the writings of the prophets.. Thus Isaiah, speaking of the heathen nations, says "That at the "rebuke of God, they shall be chased as the chaff of "the mountains before the wind;" and Daniel, in his explanation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, declares "That the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the
gold, of which the image was composed, were bro"ken to pieces together; and became like the chaff of "the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried "them away, that no place was found for them." Hence we may perceive the strength and beauty of this allusion of the Psalmist, when he compares the ungodly to chaff, which the wind driveth away. They are light and worthless; they are unsteady in their conduct, and wavering in their opinions; they are driven about by the temptations of the devil, and the