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deed, here is the main exercise of the Christian: he groans under remaining darkness of mind, and is ever striving to have more of the knowledge of God, and of his mind and will; he breathes after the "excellency of the knowledge of Christ," and is always "following on to know the Lord," &c.; he groans under the rebellion that is in his will, and remaining enmity, and strives to have his will in every thing brought up to the will of God, both of precept, providence, and grace: he groans under the carnality of his affections, and is ever striving to have them brought off from the vanities of 'this world, and "set upon things above, where Christ is at the right hand of God." Thus the man is never at rest while he finds any thing of the hue of hell about him; his constant care and concern is, to be "changed from glory to glory."
3dly, You will be clear for pulling down the wisdom of the flesh, and for setting up the wisdom of God above it. I remember, Gal. i. 16, the apostle Paul tells us, that “ as it pleased God to reveal his Son in him, he consulted not with flesh and blood;" that is, he would no more make carnal wisdom and policy the rule and measure of his actions, but he studied in simplicity and godly sincerity, and hot in fleshly wisdom, to have his conversation in the world." Sirs, carnal wisdom and policy is the very thing that is ruining the church of Scotland at this day. What but carnal wisdom and policy has brought us to make acts and laws in the church of Christ that are quite ruining and destructive of the true church of Christ, and which have no manner of foundation in the word of God? I mean particularly the late act of assembly, by which the "precious sons of Zion, comparable unto fine gold," are cast out from the privilege of electing ministers; and the "men of this world, whose portion is in this life, and have their belly filled with the hid treasures" thereof, are mostly taken into their room. The precious pearls of Christian privileges are by acts of assembly cast before the swine of this world, who will turn about, and persecute and rend the church whenever an opportunity is put into their hand in providence. This, I am very sure, is one of the devil's works established in the church of Scotland; and, if ever the Son of God was savingly manifested in thy soul, it will be a grief of heart to you to hear it told in Gath and Ashkelon, and that the daughters of the uncircumcised are triumphing to hear tell of it; I say, it will be matter of sorrow and mourning to you.
2. If ever the Son of God was manifested savingly to thy soul, the union of the two natures in the person of Christ will be the wonder of thy soul. Hence Paul," Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh." And it will be matter of praise when you think
that God, in the person of the Son, is wearing the nature of man, and that in thy nature he has done every thing necessary for our redemption.
3. It will be your great design, in attending ordinances, to have new manifestations of his glory, as David, Psal. xxvii. 4; Psal. lxxxiv.; Psal. lxiii. &c.
4. You will be concerned to manifest his glory to others, according to your sphere and station; as the spouse to the daughters of Jerusalem; and as Paul, his great intention was, to "make known the savour of his name in the world," &c.
The last inference is this, Is it so, that the Son of God was manifested? See hence noble encouragement to all honest ministers and Christians to make a stand against the defections of the day we live in ; particularly against these violent ways that are taken to settle Christian congregations with a set of lax, little-worth ministers; and that act of assembly, by which the rights of the Lord's people are violently wrested from them, and given into the hands of men disaffected to the vernment both of church and state. Why, this method is a plain work of the devil, to defeat the great designs of the gospel; and therefore we may run all hazards in opposing them. Though men may discountenance and cast us out, yet the Son of God will own us in opposition to them; for, for this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.—PSAL. XXIII. 4.
THE words which I have read are large and copious; and therefore, to gain time, I shall entirely wave any preamble, drawn either from the connexion, or from the penman, oc
* Preached after the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord's supper at South Queensferry, on Monday, August 13, 1733.
casion, or principal parts of the psalm, and come close to the words themselves.
In general, we may take them up as the language of a victorious and triumphant faith, viewing the countenance of a reconciled God in Christ, trampling upon all the imaginary evils of a present world, yea, death itself, as things "not worthy to be compared with the glory to be revealed." Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, &c. Where we may notice the particulars following:
1. The present condition of the believer while in this world; he is considered under the notion of a traveller, for > he is walking towards his journey's end. 2. We have the supposed danger that may cast up in his way or walk; he may come to the valley of the shadow of death; that is, he v may meet with troubles in his way, that carry the show or appearance of the greatest dangers, yea, even of death in them. 3. We have the courage with which faith inspires the believer, upon this supposed event of being obliged to walk through the valley of the shadow of death; I will fear no evil, says faith. 4. We have the ground of this courage and confidence, which is expressed two ways. (1.) More generally, Thou art with me. (2.) More particularly, Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. And thus we have the words resolved into their several parts. I shall not stay at present upon any critical explication; what is needful will occur. From them I notice the following doctrines:
OBSERVE, 1. "That believers are not resident in this world, but travelling through it to their own home." Hence David here speaks of his present condition under the notion of a traveller walking through a valley.
OBS. 2. "That believers in their journey must lay their account with melancholy, yea, death-like dispensations, trials that portend death and ruin." Hence David supposes that he may walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
OBS. 3. "That true faith inspires the soul with an undaunted courage to encounter all imaginable dangers in the way." See with what a heroic spirit David here expresses himself, under the influence of the Spirit of faith; I will fear
OBS. 4. "That which gives so much courage to the believer is, that by faith he takes up a reconciled God as present with him in the midst of his greatest troubles." I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.
OBS. 5. "The consideration of God's pastoral care and providence toward his people is very comfortable in the midst
of trouble." For in this sense some understand the words, being, they think, an allusion to a shepherd, who with his rod and staff protects and defends his flock against wolves and such ravenous beasts.
OBS. 6. "The faithfulness of a promising God is a comfortable rod or staff in the hand of faith, to bear up the believer in his travels through the wilderness." In this sense others take the words; for by the rod and staff they understand the divine promises, and the faithfulness of the Promiser, to which faith leans with confidence, in opposition to all staggerings through unbelief. Thus, you see, the words cast up a large field of matter, which it is not possible for me to overtake at present.
The doctrine I insist upon at present is the third in order, namely:
DocT. "That true faith is a courageous grace; it inspires the soul with a holy and undaunted boldness amidst the greatest of dangers." Or, you may take it thus: "That true faith is a noble antidote against intimidating fears in a time of trouble." This you see plain in the words. David, here, being under the influence of the spirit of faith, cries out with a holy fortitude of spirit, Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.
The method I propose is,
I. To notice some of these evils that are ready to intimidate the spirits of the Lord's people, when they look on them with the eye of sense and reason.
II. Give some account of faith, and prove that it inspires the soul with courage and boldness amidst all these evils. III. Give some account of that Christian fortitude and boldness that is the fruit of faith.
IV. Inquire into the influence of faith upon this boldness and fortitude of spirit, and how it prevents intimidating fears amidst these evils.
V. Make some improvement of the whole by way of application.
1. The first thing in the method is, to notice some of these evils that are ready to intimidate and discourage the hearts of the Lord's people in a time of danger.
1. Then, Sometimes their spirits are ready to be stricken with fear of their own weakness and insufficiency for the work in which the Lord is calling them to engage, whether it be working out their salvation, or doing the work of their station and generation. Jer. i.-there the Lord tells the prophet, (ver. 5,)" Before I formed thee in the belly, I knew thee;
and before thou camest forth out of the womb, I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." By this hint, Jeremiah is made to understand that the Lord was about to send him a very dangerous errand. Well, the prophet, through a sense of his inability in himself to manage such a hard work, cries out, ver. 6, "Ah, Lord God, behold, I cannot speak, for I am a child." His heart fails him in such an undertaking, and he is afraid to meddle with it. The same we see in Moses, when the Lord called him to go to Pharaoh king of Egypt, and require him to let the children of Israel go out of his dominion: Exod. iv. 10, what an impertinent apology makes he for himself, through the prevalency of unbelief? "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant; but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue." "Yea, after the Lord had chastised him for his unbelief, and given him a special promise of assistance, yet he adds, ver. 13, "O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send." 1 From all which it is plain, that sense and reason foster unbelieving discouragements in the work of the Lord; and no wonder, for they look only to the fund of created grace within, but not to the strength and grace that is in Jesus Christ, secured by a well-ordered covenant.
2. The spirits of the Lord's people are ready to be frightened with the might and multitude of the enemies they have to grapple with in their way through the wilderness. This world is a den of lions, and mountains of leopards, where the believer must engage with principalities and powers. He is many times like a besieged city, surrounded with dangers from all quarters; and in this case he is ready to cry with Jehoshaphat, 2. Chron. xx. 12: "We have no might against this great company that cometh up against us:" or, like the house of David, moved like "the trees of the wood," because of great and dangerous enemies that pursued them. Sense and reason look only to the power of the enemy, but overlook the power of God; and therefore cries, One day or other I shall fall by the hand of my enemies.
3. The spirits of believers are sometimes intimidated with a sense of guilt, and the awful terrors of vindictive anger and wrath pursuing them on the account of sin. Hence David cries out, Psal. xl. 12: "Innumerable evils compass me about," &c. So, Psal. xxxviii. 5; Job vi. 4: "The arrows of the Almighty are within me," &c. Heman, Psal. lxxxviii. 15: "While I suffer thy terrors, I am distracted." When sin presents itself to the soul's view, and the Saviour is out of sight, it remembers God, and is troubled;" and no wonder though