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had promised it. But here again we survey his mercy in far brighter colours : we see indeed that it endureth for ever: we have seen the mercy promised to our fathers long since performed: we have seen the Son of God, the Saviour of the world; we have seen him living, dying, rising, and resuming his throne of glory: we have seen him making an end of sin, and bringing in an everlasting righteousness; and now we behold him pouring out all the blessings of redemption on his Church and people. At this moment is his mercy as full and free as at the time he died upon the cross : at this instant do his bowels yearn over sinners : he invites them all, and importunes them to accept his proffered salvation : and to those who have tasted of his mercy he still continues to be gracious: he keepeth mercy for thousands, when they would cast it utterly away: he does not in anger shut
his tender mercies: he will chastise, but not cast off: he will “ hide his face for a little moment; but with everlasting kindness will he have mercy upon us.”
Such was the subject-matter of their praise : and shall our tongues be silent ? Have we not incomparably greater cause for thanksgiving than the Jews were even able to conceive? Let the praises of God then be in our lips; and let us unite our hearts and voices in declaring the goodness and mercy of our God.
Were this more the frame of our hearts, surely we should find God more frequently present in our worshipping assemblies; for he would certainly never leave us without “ witness that we pleased him.”
This brings us to consider, III. The testimony which God gave them of his
approbationGod had often vouchsafed to appear in a visible manner to his people : he went before them in a cloud through the wilderness, and conducted them in all their journeys: and, when Moses had finished the tabernacle according to the direction given him
by God, it pleased God to give him a signal token of his presence and approbation. In Exod. xl. 34, 35, it is said, “ Then (when Moses had finished the work) a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle : and Moses was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” Exactly similar to this was the testimony which God now gave of his approbation, both to Solomon and all the assembly : “he came down in a cloud, and filled the house with his glory, so that the priests could not stand to minister there any longer.”
This cloud was the Shechinah, or symbol of the divine presence: and its coming down, and filling the place at that time, was a signal manifestation of the divine favour. This shadowy representation of the Deity was suited to that dispensation, wherein every thing was wrapped up in obscure types and shadows: it was calculated to strike their senses, and impress them with reverence for God; while, at the same time, the effect which it produced upon the priests served to intimate, that, when Christ should come, and the Deity truly appear in the temple of Christ's body, the priests should cease to minister in their former manner, and the whole of that dispensation should be done away.
It is particularly proper on this occasion to notice the exact time when God was pleased to vouchsafe this remarkable testimony of his approbation. If we look to the text, we shall see that it was not when the sacrifices were offered, nor even when the ark was deposited in its place; but it was when the singers and the players on the musical instruments joined in one grand chorus of praise and thanksgiving : “ It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord, and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the Lord, saying, For he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever; that then the house was filled with a cloud." We cannot doubt but that God approved of every part of this grand ceremony: but that which crowned the whole was, the tribute of praise offered by the chorus of vocal and instrumental music. We have before observed, that this, without the heart, would be a vain offering indeed: but, with the heart, no doubt it is pleasing and acceptable to God in the highest degree: it comes as near as possible to the worship of heaven, where, in one grand concert, they strike their golden harps, and sing, “ Salvation to God and to the Lamb for ever!" In Rev. xiv. 1-3, St. John beheld in a vision the glorious company of heaven; and he says, “ I looked, and, lo! a Lamb stood on the Mount Sion, and with him an hundred forty and four thousand, having his Father's name written in their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of a great thunder: and I heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps; and they sung as it were a new song before the throne.” Shall not we therefore endeavour to anticipate that blessed employment ? shall not we strive to bring down heaven upon earth ? shall not we from henceforth lift up our voices unto God, and every one be ambitious to join as in one general chorus ? Yes, my Brethren, let me hope that many of you will unite your endeavours : call to mind the goodness of your God; think of his manifold and never-ending mercies; think of Jesus the fountain and foundation of all your blessings; stir up your hearts to gratitude ; let not one be silent;—and while we are united in singing the high praises of our God, may God himself come down in the midst of us, and fill the house with his glory! Amen, and Amen!
CCCXCVI. GOD'S ACCEPTANCE OF David's GOOD DESIRES. 2 Chron. vi. 7,8. Now it was in the heart of David my father
to build an house for the name of the Lord God of Israel. VOL. IV.
But the Lord said to David my father, Forasmuch as it was in thine heart to build an house for my name, thou didst well, in that it was in thine heart.
FROM our general notions of the Deity, we should be ready to imagine, that he would not only permit, but encourage, the execution of every good thought that could come into our minds. But “his ways are not as our ways, nor his thoughts as our thoughts :” he appoints unto men their work according to his sovereign will, and uses what instruments he pleases for the accomplishment of his own designs. Moses, who had brought the people of Israel out of Egypt and led them through the wilderness, was not permitted to conduct them into Canaan ; he must devolve that office on Joshua, and die without seeing the completion of the work he had begun. Thus David had conceived a noble idea of building a temple unto the Lord, and had made preparations for it to a most astonishing extent: yet God suffered him not to execute the work, but ordered him to leave it to Solomon his son. At the dedication of the temple, Solomon brought this fact to the remembrance of the people, partly perhaps with a view to honour the memory of David his father, but principally to display the sovereignty of God who had appointed him to that office, and the faithfulness of God in having enabled him to complete the work. But at the same time that he mentions the prohibition given to David his father respecting the execution of his design, he declares God's gracious acceptance of the intention just as much as if it had been carried into effect, since it argued and evinced that state of mind which alone could have rendered the act itself acceptable in the sight of God.
In this incident, as related in our text, we notice, I. The characteristic marks of true piety
From the example before us, we see that, 1. Its aims are high
[David sought to honour and exalt Jehovah's name: and wherever real piety exists, it will inspire us with similar views and sentiments. To act merely with a view to this world, or for the promoting of our own interests, will appear unworthy of a rational and immortal being. We shall “ look (that is, aim) not at the things which are visible and temporal, but at the things which are invisible and eternal.” We shall carry this spirit into all the common acts and offices of life: “ whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we shall endeavour to do it all to the glory of God.” In speaking on this subject, St. Paul uses an expression of peculiar force: he says, that " as Christ had been, so he should continue to be, magnified in his body, whether by life or deatha.” Perhaps it may be thought, that such an aim was proper in an Apostle, but would be presumptuous in us: but it is equally proper for all; and indeed is necessary for all: for, “ being not our own, but bought with a price, we should glorify God with our bodies and our spirits, which are his b."] 2. Its efforts earnest
(David not only desired to build the temple, but collected materials for it, and contributed towards it to an incredible amount. Thus is piety always operative, and regards all earthly possessions as talents to be improved for God. The more those talents are multiplied to us, the greater obligation we shall feel to honour God with them: and every service which we are enabled to render him, we shall consider only as a step to further services. If we had attained the eminence even of Paul himself, and, like him, had laboured more than all the other Apostles, we should not be satisfied with any thing we had done, whilst any thing yet remained for us to do: we should “ forget all that was behind, of the course we had already run, and reach forth unto that which was before, and press toward the mark for the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus." Yes; "as many of us as are perfect and upright in the sight of God, will certainly be thus mindeda."] 3. Its desires are unbounded
[Had David's means been augmented an hundred-fold, his desire to use them for God would have proportionably increased: his ability would still have been the measure of his exertions. True piety regards, not the opinion of the world, but the will of God: it looks at the precepts, the promises, the examples, set before us in the Scriptures; and makes them the standard of its aims and efforts. The precepts require us to “ love and serve God with all our heart, and all our mind, and all our soul, and all our strength:” the promises give us reason to hope
a Phil. i. 20.
b 1 Cor. vi. 19, 20.