Sidor som bilder
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PSALM S.

DCXXIII.

THE GOODNESS OF GOD TO ISRAEL.

Ps. lxxiii. 1. Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart.

THE aversion which men usually feel to a vindication of God's absolute sovereignty, proceeds from an idea, that the exercise of it would be repugnant to his other perfections of goodness and mercy. But there is no just foundation for this conceit: nor is there any reason why we should doubt the sovereignty of God, any more than any other of his attributes. That God does dispense his favours according to his own will is an undeniable truth: how else can we account for his taking one nation from the midst of another nation, and forming them for his peculiar people, and giving them his righteous laws, and expelling seven nations from the land of Canaan in order to give it to his chosen people for their inheritance? But however freely he exercises his own prerogative in this respect, he will take care that his final appointment of men's states shall accord with perfect equity: he even calls the day in which that decision shall pass, "The day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God." The truth is, that though God has no respect to men's moral characters in the first communications of his mercy, he invariably transforms the objects of that mercy in such a manner, as to make it suitable and proper that he should confer upon them the ultimate and everlasting tokens of his love. The Israel of old, and those to whom that name at this time belongs, were, and are, a chosen people: but all the true Israel are renewed in the spirit of their minds; they are "such

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as are of a clean heart;" and therefore they are such as may reasonably hope to experience the transcendent goodness of their God.

The words before us will naturally lead us to consider,

I. The character of Israel

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"All are not Israel, who are of Israel." The true Israel are widely different from those who are only "Israelites after the flesh." They cannot however be known from others by their outward appearance. Others may be as modest in their apparel, and as humble in their looks, as they; and yet have no part with them in their more distinctive characters. They cannot be distinguished from others by their language. There certainly is a mode of speaking which religious people will adopt: they will be sincere, modest, inoffensive; and will accustom themselves to such speech as, "being seasoned with salt," is calculated to "administer grace to the hearers." But hypocrites may vie with them in this particular also. Nor can they be altogether known from others by their actions: for though their actions will doubtless be holy, and just, and good, and extremely different from those of the ungodly world, yet Pharisees and formalists may "cleanse the outside of the cup and platter," and be as punctual and correct in all external duties as any persons whatever.

The true Israelite is known by no external badge, but by "the circumcision of the heart" only. He is of a clean heart: he is clean,

1. From idolatrous regards

[The very best of ungodly men has some idol in his heart which usurps the throne of God. Pleasure, riches, and honour are the common objects of men's regards: but some, who seem indifferent to these things, are no less in subjection to a carnal love of ease, wherein their happiness principally consists. But the true Christian has taken the Lord for his God; and has determined, through grace, that no rival shall ever be harboured in his bosom. He makes his adorable Saviour the one object of all his trust, his love, and his obedience.]

2. From allowed lusts

a Rom. ix. 6.

b Rom. ii. 28, 29.

c Ps. lxxiii. 25.

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