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Oh Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the
son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.
HERE is something fo fervent and affectionate in
the language of the man after God's own heart, that it is extremely proper to be adopted by us in acts of adotation, trust, or fupplication to God. I am at a loss to determine, whether we ought to consider the Christian's access to God, at his holy table, chiefly under one or other of these views, I am inclined to think that it is a sort of compound or union of the wholem Veneration and worship of the eternal God, and the incarnate Redeemer, ex: hibited to us, and as it were brought near to us by the help of the instituted signs: Reliance and confidence in God, from the opportunity given us of laying hold of his cove. nant: and thankful fupplication to God for his support and countenance, in the surrender of ourselves to his fervice. I cannot help looking upon the words of the Psalm: ist in this passage, as carrying in them a mixture of all these holy affections. “ Oh Lord, truly I am thy ser. Vou'II.
“ vant; I am thy fervant, and the fon of thine handmaid. « Thou hast loosed my bonds: I will offer to thee the fa. “ crifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of * the Lord.”
This Pfalnı, of which David is universally admitted to be the author, feems plainly to have been composed after fome signal deliverance, of which the remembrance was fresh upon his mind. It was such as had brought his life itself into the most imminent danger. He acknowledges in the verse preceding the text, the peculiar and gracious eare which God takes
of the life of his people : « Precious “ in the fight of the Lord is the death of his faints;" and then makes the profellion of relation, gratitude, and duty, contained in the words of the text.-As they seem to me to be very comprehenfive, and with great propriety to express what ought to be the habitual temper of a Chrif tian, and the frame of spirit with which a communicant ought to draw near to God at his table ; I shall endeavor, in dependance on divine grace,
I. To open the import of the Psalmist's declaration and purpose.
II. To apply it to you as hearers of the Gofpel in geHeral, as well as with a view to the sacred employment immediately before you.
First, then, I propose to open the import of the Pfalmist's declaration and purpose in the text. This I think may be included in the following particulars, to which I intreat your serious attention.
1. This expression of the king of Ifrael, implies a very humble sense of his distance from, and dependance upon God, as his creature. This is the firft view which a penitent hath of himself when he returns to God. It is the first view which a good man hạth of himself in his approaches to or communion with God. And indeed it is what ought to be inseparable from the exercise of every other pious affection. To have as it were high and how norable thoughts of the majesty and greatness of the living God, and a deep and awful impression of the inmediate ad continual presence of the heart-searching Gadchis naturally produces the greatest self-abasement, and the most unfeigned subjection of spirit, before our Maker. It leads to a confession of him as Lord over all, and having the most absolute right not only to the obedience, but to the disposal of all his creatures. I cannot help thinking this is conveyed to us in the language of the Pfalmift, when he says, “ O Lord, truly I am thy fervant.” He was a prince among his subjects, and had many other ho. norable distinctions, both natural and acquired, among men; but he was sensible of his being a servant and fub. ject of the King of kings; and the force of his expression,
truly I am thy servant,” not only signifies the certainty of the thing, but how deeply and strongly he then felt a conviction of its truth.
Suffer me to say, my brethren, that there is much more in this, than many apprehend. The scripture speaks often of the knowledge of God, of a discovery of the glory of God, as a thing peculiar to his people, which is very different from merely speculative opinions as to his nature and perfections. It implies an awful impression of his power and greatness, a deep sense how little the creature is before him, and how entirely it is in his hand. I love that expresfion used by several pious writers of the last age, of bowing before the sovereignty of God. When a be liever or a worshipper hath a proper view of this; when it is brought home upon his fpirit; it as it were banishes all other things, all other relations, all other persons; and he is, to his apprehension, alone in the presence of the invifible God. And then what abasenient of soul is of necelfity produced ! then no language can be found sufficient to express his vileness and nothingness in his own sight. He may be a rich man among his poor neighbors, or a great man among hiş numerous attendants, or a learned man among the ignorant vulgar; but alas, he is no more than sinful dust and ashes before the omnipotent Jehovah: There is something very magnificent in the description given by the prophet Isaiah of the majesty of God, and the correspondent sentiments of those who see and feel it, in the ad chapter of his prophecies, verse 10, 11. “En* ter into the rock, and hide thee in the duft, for fear of
“ the Lord, and for the glory of his Majesty. The lofty " looks of man fhall be humbled, and the haughtiness of " men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone fhall be
. exalted in that day.” And again, verses 19, 20, 21, 22. “ And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into " the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the “ glory of his majesty, when he ariseih to shake terribly " the earth. In that day a man shall cast his idols of fil. “ ver, and his idols of gold, which they made, each one ç for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats : to f
go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the “ ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of As his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth. “ Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils : " for wherein is he to be accounted of?"
2. This declaration of the Psalmist implies a confeffion of his being bound by particular covenant and consent unto God, and a repetition of the same by a new adherence. This, as it was certainly true with regard to him, having often dedicated himself to God, fo I take it to be concluded on the reiteration of the expresfion here, “ Oh " Lord, truly I am thy servant, I am thy servant." As if he had faid, Oh Lord, it is undeniable; it is impof• fible to recede from it. "I am thine by many ties. I am ! by nature thy subject and thy creature ; and I have many 4 times confessed thy right, and promised my own duty.? I need not mention to you, either the examples in the Psalmist's writings, or the occasions in his history, on which he folemnly surrendered himself to God. It is fufficient to say, that it was very proper that he fiould frequently call this to mind, and confess it before God, as what, though it could not make his Creator's right any stronger, would certainly make the guilt of his own vio. lation of it, fo much the greater. It was certainly also a repetition of those engagements, and a folemn promise of continued adherence to them. There is no appearance in his language, that he either regrets or repents his subjection to God; on the contrary, he manifelts his delibe. rate approbation of it, as his interest as well as duty. What he says here to God, has something of the famę meaning with what he says elsewhere to his own foul. Psa. xvi. 2. “O my soul, thou hast said unto the Lord, thou art
my Lord.” And he afterwards expresses the greatest complacency in this choice, verses 5, 6, of the above Pfalm, “ The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance, ** and my cup; thou maintainelt my lot. The lines are “ fallen unto me in pleasant places ; yea, I have a goodly “ heritage.”
I take it to be very natural for pious persons to look back upon their former engagements to God. It is a part of the worship they owe to him, not only to glorify him as God, but to adhere to him as their God. It comes in with propriety as a part of confession, of praise, and of holy resolution, It humbles the spirit under a sense of fin, as a breach of promise, as well as duty. It is matter of praise that we have been inclined and enabled to give our. felves to God, according to the beautiful sentiment of David, who gives thanks to God, that he and his people had been enabled to make such free and liberal contributions to the building of the Temple, i Chron. xxix. 13, 14. “ Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy
glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, “ that we should be able to offer fo willingly after this " sort ? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have
we given thee.” It is also plainly a part of our new engagement, which is no more than a ratification of what we have often and willingly done before.
3. This declaration of the Psalmist is an expression of
peculiar and special relation to God, “I am thy ser"vant and the son of thine handmaid." There is another passage of his writings, where the same expression occurs, Pfal. lxxxvi. 16. “O turn anto me, and have mer
cy upon me, give thy strength unto thy servant, and save “the son of thine handmaid." There is some variation indeed among interpreters in the way of illustrating this phrafe. Some take it for a figurative way of affirming that he was bound in the strongest manner to God, as those children who were born, of a maid-fervant, and born in his own house, are in the most absolute manner his Property. Others take it to fignify his being not only