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DISCOURSE VI.

Psalm xxii. 3._" He restoreth my soul : he leadeth me in the paths

of righteousness for his name's sake."

In entering on the illustration of this beautiful psalm, I pointed out to you its general structure, as expressing the Psalmist's confidence in the protection and the favour of Jehovah, under two distinct images,—the first derived from the care which a kind and watchful shepherd takes of a beloved flock, and the other from the hospitable welcome which some magnificent and generous entertainer gives to a dear and valued friend, whose arrival he hails with festal banquetings, and to whom he assigns in his house a prepared mansion of permanent abode. We began the exposition of the former of these two rich and expressive images in our last discourse,-in which, having reminded you of what was implied in the general statement, “ Jehovah is my shepherd,” I called your attention, first, to the inference which the Psalmist draws from the truth of this statement for the

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VOL. II.

future, “ I shall not want;" that is, I shall not want any thing essential to my real and permanent felicity,-I“shall not lack any good thing;" and then to the description which he gives of his experience in the present, as having found in the favour of the Lord a portion for his soul, exhilarating and nourishing as fresh springs and wholesome pasture are to the fleecy flock,—a portion of overflowing, yet tranquil blessedness, in the enjoyment of which he was made as it were “to lie down in green pastures," and was led - beside the still waters. The Psalmist now proceeds to describe some other advantages which he derived from the care of his Almighty and Immortal Shepherd, and of these he particularizes two,-revival amidst spiritual languors and decays, and protection amidst mortal perils and alarms.

Let us observe how he expresses the revival which, in the periods of spiritual languor and decline, he derived from the watchful care of Jehovah his Shepherd-God :-“He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake."

The literal rendering of the first clause of the verse is, “He maketh my soul to return." It is precisely the same expression which is employed in the 19th psalm concerning the effects of Jehovah's law,-" The law of Jehovah is perfect, converting the soul.” Now the phrase of bringing back, restoring, converting the soul, may be explained in two

different ways.

In the first place, you may consider it as descriptive of the care which the Great Shepherd takes to reclaim his people from the erroneous and sinful courses into which, even after their first conversion to himself, even after they have been numbered among his ransomed flock, they do but too often allow themselves to be betrayed. You are aware that, during their pilgrimage towards the pastures of eternity, the flock of God are not gathered, as they will be when they have reached that blissful destination, into an enclosure and a fold from which “they shall go no more out.” In plain words, even the renewed man is not in this world so thoroughly established in holiness as to be beyond the possibility of sinning,—beyond the reach of temptation, beyond the assaults of spiritual danger. Of this the Psalmist had himself had bitter experience, and had become a memorable though sad example to all succeeding generations. Nor is there any Christian man, who is not profoundly and bitterly aware, from his own experience, how often the enemies of his salvation have, through his own negligence, and weakness, and still-remaining depravity, prevailed against his faith and holiness,—how often he who “goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour," has found him wandering on forbidden ground, where, except for the interposition of Almighty Grace, his soul must have been given as a prey to the destroyer,--how often the enchantress world, by the display of her specious but pernicious lures, has persuaded him to venture beyond the pale of safety, and betrayed him into the snares and gins that lie thick-planted round. Now, such, my brethren, is the Celestial Shepherd's patient benignity in dealing with his chosen and blood-bought flock, that even in circumstances such as these, when their own unpardonable negligence, their own inexcusable presumption, has withdrawn them for a season from the paths of righteousness,-no sooner do they bethink themselves, and seek his aiding and recovering grace, than he is graciously at hand to restore their souls, and lead them “in the paths of righteousness.” It may be that, in order to teach them greater vigilance and self-distrust for the time to come, he may suffer them to be sore entangled and sore wounded; -ere again they come to themselves, they may have wandered far astray, and stumbled with grievous falls,-and, in the exercise of that mysterious discipline by which he trains his human flock, he may have permitted them for long without interruption thus to demonstrate the weakness of unaided nature, and the necessity of an ever-watchful dependence on superior strength. But still, even when his people have erred and strayed most widely from the sacred ground, the paths of purity and peace,—when they have most grievously rebelled and vexed his Holy Spirit, he will not utterly forsake them, nor suffer his faithfulness to fail,-he will, in the selected

season of his wisdom and his love, seek them out in the wilderness, and heal their backslidings, and love them freely. There is no passage in which the blessed doctrine of the perseverance of the saints is with greater amplitude and emphasis declared than that in which, adopting the image of the text, Jesus has declared of those who have once returned to him as the Shepherd and Bishop of their souls, “that he giveth to them eternal life, that they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of his hand,”—a promise, the certainty of which, in order that they “might have strong consolation who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before them” in the Gospel, he rests on the foundation of God's own omnipotence; so that, not till the almighty power of God can be vanquished can the eternal safety of the Christian be subverted :-“My Father, who gave them me, is greater than all ; neither can any pluck them out of my Father's hand." Now, in order to the fulfilment of this exceeding great and precious promise, it is obviously requisite that when the believer has in any instance, under the united influences of the force of temptation and the weakness of nature, declined into a state in which it were unsafe for him to die, the saving power of the Omnipotent should interpose for his rescue and his restoration. I have, on other occasions, endeavoured to obviate, at some length, the objections which have been brought against this

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