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11. For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.
Jesus Christ is our “ Lord,” and our “God;" he is a “sun” to enlighten and direct us in the way, and a “shield” to protect us against the enemies of our salvation ; he will give "grace" to carry us on from strength to strength,” and “glory" to crown us when we “appear before him in Zion;" he will “ withhold” nothing that is “good” and profitable for us in the course of our journey, and will himself be our reward when we come to the end of it.
12. O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee. While, therefore, we are strangers and sojourners here below, far from that heavenly country where we would be, in whom should we trust to bring us to the holy city, new Jerusalem, of which the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple, but in thee, O Saviour and Redeemer, who art the head of every creature, the Captain of the armies of heaven and earth, the Lord of hosts, and the King of glory? “Blessed,” thrice “ blessed, is the man that trusteth in thee."
ARGUMENT.—This Psalm, appointed by the church to be used on Christmas-day,
1-3. celebrateth the redemption of the Israel of God from their spiritual captivity under sin and death; 4-7. teacheth us to pray for the full accomplishment of that redemption in ourselves; 8-11. describeth the incarnation of Christ, with the joyful meeting of mercy and truth, righteousness and peace at his birth, and, 12, 13. the blessed effects of his advent.
1. Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land : thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob. 2. Thou hast forgiven the iniquity of thy people, thou hast corered all their sin. 3. Thou hast taken away all thy wrath : thou hast turned thyself from the fierceness of thine anger.
These three verses speak of the deliverance from captivity, as already brought about ; whereas, in the subsequent parts of the Psalm, it is prayed for and predicted as a thing future. To account for this, some suppose that the Psalmist first returns thanks for a temporal redemption, and then prophesies of the spiritual salvation by Messiah. Others are of opinion, that the same eternal redemption is spoken of throughout, but represented, in the beginning of the Psalm, as already accomplished in the divine decree, though the eventual completion was yet to come.
The difficulty, perhaps, may be removed, by rendering these first three verses in the present time: “Lord, thou art favourable to thy land, thou bringest back the captivity of thy people," &c.; that is, Thou art the God whose property it is to do this, and to show such mercy to thy people, whớ therefore call upon thee for the same. But, indeed, to us Christians, who now use the Psalm, the difference is not material ; since a part of our redemption is past, and a part of it is yet to come, for the hastening of which latter we daily pray. God hath already been exceedingly
gracious and "favourable" to the whole " earth,” in “bringing back," by the resurrection of Jesus, the spiritual“ captivity of” his people; he hath himself, in Christ, “ borne" and so taken away, " the iniquity of his people;" he hath “covered all their sins," that they should no more appear in judgment against them : propitiated by the Son of his love, he hath removed his "wrath," and "turned himself from the fierceness of his anger.” So exactly and literally do these words describe the means and method of gospel salvation, that a Christian can hardly affix any other ideas to them. 4. Turn us, O God of our salvation, and cause thine anger towards us to
5. Will thou be angry with us for ever? Will thou draw out thine anger to all generations ? 6. Wilt thou not revive us again, that thy people may rejoice in thee? 7. Show us thy mercy, () Lord, and grant us thy salvation.
The ancient church is here introduced as petitioning for the continuation and completion of those blessings which had been mentioned in the foregoing verses, namely, that God would "turn” his people from their captivity, and “cause his anger towards them to cease;" that he would “revive" them from sin and sorrow, and give them occasion to “rejoice in him," their mighty deliverer; that he would“ show them " openly that " mercy” of which they had so often heard, and "grant them that salvation, or that “Saviour," that Jesus, who had been so long promised to mankind. And although it be true that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, and bath virtually procured all these blessings for the church, yet do "we" still continue to pray, in the same words, for the actual application of them all to ourselves, by the conversion of our hearts, the justification of our persons, the sanctification of our souls, and the glorification of our bodies. For this last blessing of redemption, "the whole creation waiteth, groaning and travailing in pain together, until now." Rom. viii. 22.
8. I will hear what God the Lord will speak : for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints; but let them not turn again to folly: or, that they may not turn again to folly.
The prophet having prayed, in the name of the church, that Jehovah would “show them his mercy, and grant them his salvation," declares himself resolved, concerning this " salvation, to enquire and search diligently, what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in him did signify, when it testified beforehand the coming of Christ, and the glory that should follow," see 1 Pet. i. 10; he would attend to “what God the Lord should say," and report it to the world. Now, what was the message which the prophets had commission to deliver from God, but that he would "speak peace," or reconciliation through a Saviour, “to his people and to his saints ?" The gospel is accordingly styled by St. Peter " the word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ.” Acts, x. 36. And what was the end of this reconciliation between God and men, but that men should become and continue the servants of God; that, being washed from their sins by the blood of
Christ, and renewed in their minds by the grace of Christ, they should walk in the paths of wisdom and holiness, and “turn not again to the folly” they had renounced ?
9. Surely his salvation is nigh them that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
God, who "calleth things that be not as though they were," teacheth his prophets to do likewise. The Psalmist therefore speaks with assurance of the “Saviour,” as if he then saw him before his eyes, healing, by the word of his power, the bodies and the souls of men upon earth, and manifesting forth his “glory,” in human nature, to all such as, with a holy “fear,” and filial reverence, believed on him. St. John himself hardly useth plainer language when he saith, “ The Word was made flesh, and dwelt, or tabernacled, among us; and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John, i. 14. The body of Christ was the true "tabernacle,” or temple; bis Divinity was the glory which resided there, and filled that holy place. The church is his mystical “body;" by his Spirit he now and ever « dwelleth in our land; and his salvation is always nigh them that fear him;" as saith the holy Virgin in her song. “ His mercy is on them that fear him, throughout all generations."
10. Mercy and truth are met together: righteousness and peace have kissed each other. 11. Truth shall spring out of the earth ; and righteouness shall look down from hearen.
These four divine attributes parted at the fall of Adam, and met again at the birth of Christ. Mercy was ever inclined to save man, and Peace could not be his enemy; but Truth exacted the performance of God's threat, “The soul that sinneth, it shall die;" and Righteousness could not but give to every one his due. Jehovah must be true in all his ways, and righteous in all his works. Now there is no religion upon earth, except the Christian, which can satisfy the demands of all these claimants, and restore an union between them; which can show how God's word can be true, and his work just, and the sinner, notwithstanding, find mercy, and obtain peace. Mahomet's prayer, were it the prayer of a righteous man and a prophet, could not satisfy divine justice ; the blood of bulls and goals were always insufficient for that purpose, being a figure only for the time then present, which ceased of course when the reality appeared. “Sacrifice and burnt-offering thou wouldest not; then said I, Lo, I come." A God incarnate reconciled all things in heaven and earth. When Christ appeared in our nature, the promise was fulfilled, and “Truth sprang out of the earth.” And now Righteousness, “looking down from heaven,” beheld in him every thing that she required; an undefiled birth, a holy life, an in pocent death; a spirit and a mouth without guile, a soul and a body without sin. She saw, and was satisfied and returned to earth. Thus all the four parties met again in perfect harmony: Truth ran to Mercy, and embraced her; Righteousness to Peace, and kissed her. And this
could happen only at the birth of Jesus, in whom “the tender mercy of our God visited us, and who is the truth ; who is made unto us righteousness, and who is our peace.” See Luke, i. 78; John, xiv. 6; 1 Cor. i. 30; Ephes. ii. 14. Those that are thus joined, as attributes, in Christ, ought not, as virtues, to be separated in a Christian, who may learn how to resemble his blessed Lord and Master, by observing that short but complete rule of life comprehended in the few following words:Show mercy, and speak truth : do righteousness, and follow peace. See St. Bernard, in his sermon on the Annunciation; and, from him, Bishop Andrews on these two verses of our Psalm.*
12. Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good ; and our land shall yield her increase.
Unless God vouchsafe a gracious rain from above, the earth cannot "yield her increase." The effects of the incarnation of Christ, the descent of the Spirit, and the publication of the gospel among men, are frequently set forth in Scripture under images borrowed from that fruitfulness caused in the earth by the rain of heaven. Thus Isaiah : “ Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness : let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together," xlv. 8. “I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring. And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the watercourses," xliv. 3. “As the rain cometh down from heaven, and watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud ; so shall my word be,” &c. lv. 10. Give us evermore, O Lord, " that which is good, that our land may yield her increase;" give us that good gift
, the gift of thy Spirit, that we be “neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Pet. i. 8.
13. Righteousness shall go before him, and shall set us in the way of his steps ; or, and shall set his sleps in the way. · Upon the appearance of the Redeemner, “ Righteousness” is represented “as going before him," like his harbinger the Baptist, to prepare and make ready his way. In that way, the way of righteousness, "he set his steps," and walketh therein, without the least deviation, until he had finished his appointed course. blessed Jesu, and we will run after thee, in the path of life; let thy mercy pardon us, thy truth enlighten us, thy righteousness direct us, to follow thee, O Lamb of God, whithersoever thou goest, through poverty, affliction, persecution, and death itself; that our portion may be for ever in thy kingdom of peace and love.
* Soluta captivitate, felicem populi statum designat, omni bonorum copià et virtutibus florentis ; quæ maximè impleta sunt, postquam Christus, ipsa veritas, idemque par Aostra, terrâ ortus est.-Bossuet
SEVENTEENTH DAY.—MORNING PRAYER.
ARGUMENT.-This Psalm is entitied, " A prayer of David,” and supposed to have
been written in some of his great distresses. Like others of the same kind, it is calculated for the use of the church during her sufferings here below, by which she is conformed to the image of the true David, that man of sorrows. It contains, l. an earnest supplication, grounded on the poverty, 2. the holiness, faith, 3. importunity, and, 4. the devotion, of the suppliant ; and on, 5—7. the goodness, and, 8. power of God, 9, 10. to be one day acknowledged by all nations, at their conversion. After this, follows, 11. a petition for wisdorn, strength, and singleness of heart ; 12, 13. a thanksgiving for redemption ; 14. a complaint of persecution from the wicked ; 15. an act of faith; 16, 17. a prayer for help and salvation. 1. Bow down thine ear, O Lord, and hear me: for I am poor and needy.
All prayer is founded on a sense of our own wants, and God's ability to supply them. In the sight of his Maker, every sinner is “poor and needy ;” and he must become so in his own, that his petitions may be regarded ; he must pray with the humility and importunity of a starving beggar, at the gate of heaven, if he expect the great King “to bow down his ear and hear bim.” “ The prayer of the humble,” saith the wise son of Sirach, pierceth the clouds; and till it come nigh, he will not be comforted ; and will not depart till the Most High shall behold.” Ecclus. xxxv. 17. The blessed Jesus, " though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, and had not where to lay his head ;" nor is it to be doubted, but that, in his state of humiliation, he oftentimes made his prayer to the Father in these very words : " Bow down thine ear, O Lord, and hear me ; for I am poor and needy.” If he sued in such a form of words for us, shall we think of suing in any other form for ourselves ?
2. Preserve thou my soul, for I am holy: 0 thou my God, save thy servant, that trusteth in thee.
The word here translated “ holy,” is, cr, the same which is used in the 16th Psalm : “ Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption." And indeed, if we understand "holiness' in its strict sense, no one but "he whom the Father sanctified, and sent into the world,” to redeem lost man, could say to him, “ Preserve my soul, for I am holy." But the word properly signifies, "good, mercisul, pious, devoted to the service of God," &c. The Christian, therefore, only pleads, in this expression, his relation to Christ, as being a member of Christ's body, the church, and a partaker of the gifts, which, by virtue of that membership, he has received through the Spirit of holiness. So that this first part of the verse, “ Preserve my soul, for I am holy,” when repeated by us, is equivalent to another passage in the Psalms, “I am thine, O save me," cxix. 94. The latter member of the verse under consideration teaches us to pray for help and salvation, as the “servants" of God, whose eyes therefore look naturally to him, “as the eyes of servants,” in afiliction, “ look unto the hand of their masters." Psal. cxxiii. 2. And