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“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." Isa. xxvii. 11, “It is a people of no understanding : therefore he that made them, will not have mercy on them, and he that formed them, will show them no favour.” To live to the praising of God requires,
1st, The knowledge of who he is, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one God, 1 John v. 7. In the name of the three persons, we are baptized by divine appointment: if we know him not so, we know not the God to whom we are engaged in baptism; and so cannot praise him.
2dly, The knowledge of what he is : the discerning of his glorious perfections, which are the matter of his praise. We must know him to be the greatest and best of beings, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth; more excellent than any creatures, or all of them together, as being the fountain of all excellency in then.
3dly, The knowledge of what he has done. His works are glorious—creation, providence, and redemption. By them he shews what he is, (Psalm xix. 1, " The heavens declare the glory of God : and the firmament sheweth his handiwork),” and affords us matter of praise : and we are to think on them for that end, that we may from thence praise him, Psalm cxi. 2, “ The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein." And it is highly offensive not to regard them : Psalm xxvii. 5, “Because they regard not the works of the Lord, nor the operation of his hands, he shall destroy them, and not build them up.” That is to deny him his praise.
3. The love of God. Love is the mother of praise, and natively brings it forth, they that do not love God, can never kindly or acceptably praise him. 1 John iv. 16, "God is love," not only subjectively, infinitely loving; but objectively, wholly lovely. And so he is in the eyes of all who live to his praise. To them the Father is lovely, the Sou lovely, the Holy Spirit lovely. Every attribute of God is lovely. The holiness and purity of his nature, the great eye-sore of carnal men, is most lovely to them : Exod. xv. 11, " Who is like unto thee, O Lord, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders ?" Psalm xxx. 4,“ Sing unto the Lord, O yo saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness." His works are lovely. The creation of the world is a lovely work; the guiding of it by providence a lovely work; but the most lovely is the redemption of the world by the blood of Christ.
4. The admiration of God; which is, love and esteem raised to a high pitch. This is the nearest cause of praise ; for it is the heart swelling with admiration of the object, that bursts forth in praises,
Exod. xv. 11, above cited. They that live to God's praise, are admirers of him : they see all excellencies in him to be transcendantnothing comparable to them in the whole creation, and believe there are infinite treasures of excellency in him, which they cannot comprehend. So their heart saith, with the Psalmist,“ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee," Psalm lxxiii. 25. Launching into the ocean of the glories of his nature and works, they see it is shoreless; Psalm cvi. 2, “ Who can atter the mighty acts of the Lord ? who can shew forth all his praise ?"
5. Lastly, The expressing that love to, and admiration of him: Exod. xv. 11, forecited. Micah vii. 18,“ Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage ? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.” This is it in which the essence of praising God consists, and is the great end for which man was made : and it is the native becoming return the creature is to make to its Creator, from whom it has received all, and to whom it can give nothing, but only commend him, and set forth his glory. And this not being confined to words, is twofold. 1st, Vocal, by words. It is called “the calves of our lips," Hos.
, xiv. 2; and the “the fruit of our lips,” Heb. xiii. 15. Man's tongue is called his glory, Psalm xvi. 9, as being a prime instrument wherewith he is furnished for praising and glorifying God. And thus we are to praise him, solemuly and statedly, in the duties of worship, singing his praises ; and occasionally, in speaking to his praise, as we bave occasion offered.
2dly, Real, by deed or actions, though it be not accompanied with words: for as there is a practical atheism, Tit. i. ult. ; so there is a practical praising or glorifying God. And this is the main thing in that praise which is the end of life, without which vocal praise avails not. It is twofold.
(1.) In heart: 1 Cor. vi. 20,“ Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God-in your spirit, which is God's." Men's praise of men from the teeth outward may pass, but God knows the heart; and if the heart harmonize not rith the tongue, it cannot be accepted of him, Isa. xxix. 13. He must be praised in our understanding, thinking and esteeming him above all, Psalm Ixxiii. 25 ; in our will, choosing him above all, for our portion, Psalm cxlii. 5: and in our affections, loving, rejoicing, and delighting in him above all, Psalm Xxxvii. 4.
(2.) In life and conversation : Matth. v. 16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify VOL. VII.
your Father which is in heaven.” A holy life is a shining light, to let a blind world see the glory of God; for as God has expressed his nature in his word, so his word is expressed again in a holy life, Phil. ii. 15, 16. The study of holiness says, God is holy; mourning for every sin proclaims him spotless; and horror of secret, as well as of open sins, is a testimony of his omnipresence and omniscience.
Secondly, What are the peculiarities of the praises of the living? The praises of living saints have these peculiarities, which the dead have no access to.
1. They are the praises of the whole man, in soul and body too: 1 Cor. vi. 20, “Ye are bought with a price : therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.” Those of the dead are of their souls only; but the living have access to praise God, soul and body in concert. Even the clay body hath, for the time of life, access to join in this honourable work : but death breaks it in pieces, that it can no more bear a part in God's praise.
2. They are praises which may spread among the living, as in their land, from whence the dead are cut off : Col. iii. 16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” The voice of the praises of living saints, may be heard under this vault of the heavens; but the praises above, as high a strain as they are in, reach not hither, to this our native earth.
3. They are praises raised by the way to the heavenly kingdom, which the dead have no more access to join in. The living are upon the road, the dead are at their journey's end. There is a song of praise raised in the house of our pilgrimage, Psalm cxix. 54; bat there is a deep silence in the grave. The wilderness-song is peculiar to the living
4. They are praises of faith, not of sight: 2 Cor. v. 7,“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” The saints in glory raise a song
. of praise to God, upon their seeing and enjoying ; the living saints, apon their believing what their eye hath not seen, 1 Pet. i. 8. Praising God on what one sees of him, is more comfortable to the party himself: but praising him, upon what one believes of him, if other circumstances be alike, is more to the honour of God: John XX. 29, “ Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed : blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Rom. iv. 20, 21, “ Abraham staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God : and being fully persuaded, that what he had promised, he was able also to perform."
5. Lastly, They are praises to God amidst a deal of dishonours done to him. David takes notice of God's covering a table to him in the midst of his enemies, Psalm xxiii. 5; and God will take notice of praises given him in the midst of those that dishonour him : Rev. ii. 13, " I know thy works,"[writing to the angel of the church in Pergamos), and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is : and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth.” The saints in glory praise him, there being none to open a mouth to his dishonour: but living saints praise him, in the face of contradiction by a wicked world : Prov. xxviii. 4,—“Such as keep the law, contend with the wicked.”
II. The second general head is, to shew how it is a valuable mercy and privilege of the living, that they have access to praise God in the world. The living should value this as their privilege.
1. In regard that they might justly ere now have been put beyond all possibility of praising God at all; but might have been blaspheming in hell, through extreme anguish and despair : Lam. iii. 22, “ It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” The rich man in hell, tormented in the flame, had no access to praise God: the burden of wrath lying on the damned there, will hold down for ever their praises, and change them to howlings.
2. In regard of the honour thereby to be brought to God in the world; which in itself is most valuable, and therefore is man's chief end: 1 Cor. x. 31, " Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Compared with Psalm 1. 23, “ Whoso offereth praise, glorifieth me.” He lives to good purpose, that lives to the honour of God; and he that doth not so live, doth at best but trifle away a life, never reaching the main end of it. Nothing should be so dear to us as God's honour ; and therefore our all must be laid out on it as he calls for it, Luke xiv. 26. Aud it is the mercy of life, that we have access to honour him in the world.
3. In regard of the good to be thereby done to others. The view of this made Paul content to abide out of heaven for some time; as you may see, Phil. i. 23, 24, “ I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better : nevertheless, to abide in the flesh, is more needful for you.” 0 what a satisfying thought must it be, to be instrumental towards the saying of a soul from hell, and bringing it to acquaintance with Christ! Nobody knows what a good word, or a good example, at a time may do: and to this the living have access only; but once
dead, men can be no more serviceable to the world of mankind Eccl. ix. 10.-"For there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave whither thon goest."
4. It is an honour to serve and honour God in the world. This makes a man truly worthy and honourable. The dignity of the master, and the work, reflects an honour on the servant that does it. Therefore says the Psalunist, Psalm lxxxiv. 10, "A day in thy courts is better than a thousand; I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." And since no master is so honourable as God is, it must be then a peculiar honour to be serviceable to him, Heb. xi.
5. This is the only true balance of that meanness, misery, and trouble, that attends this life. Considering the spiritual original, make, and vast capacity, of the soul of man; it will appear but a very mean thing to be taken up in eating, drinking, decking; yea, in building, planting, working, &c. on this cursed earth. From the seat of the blessed could we take our prospect, men so employed here would appear but as a company of emmets busy in a hillock. The troubles that attend this life are innumerable, and they ily about us as the midges do on a hot summer day. All which, viewed by the soul, are apt to make a noble mind sick of this life, in its best appearances; as a bird would be of the cage. The only balance for all this is, that in it there is access to praise God in the world. Hereby the meanest things are ennobled, and the hardest things softened, that God is to be honoured in these.
6. As men have access to praise God in this world, they have access to raise their reward in another world. Men think it a great matter to have access to raise an estate for themselves and theirs : but we have access, by our honcuring of God in this world, to raise our reward in the other. For though the Lord doth not give eternal glory for our works, he gives it according to them: 2 Cor. ix. 6, “He which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly: and he which soweth bountifully, shall reap also bountifully.” And they that have shined here in usefulness most, will shine there in glory most: Dan. xii. 3, “ They that be wise, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.” Compared with 1 Cor. xv. 41, “ There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars ; for one star differeth from another star in glory.”
7. Lastly, The praising of God carrijs a reward in its bosom, to be enjoyed in time: Psalm xix. 11,-“In keeping of them (the judgments of the Lord] there is great reward.” It is good, pleasant,