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template the perfections of a Being worthy of their profoundest praise, Amen, blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God, for ever and ever, Amen, Rev. vii. 12. We give thee thanks, O Lord God almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come ; because thou hast taken to thee thy great power, and hast reigned, chap. xi. 17. Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou king of saints ! chap. xv. 3. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unlo God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, Amen, chap. i. 5, 6. This is the employment of the blessed in heaven: this is what we are doing to-day on earth.
But what a contradiction, what a contrast appears, when, lifting up the exterior habit of piety, that covers some of us, we examine the inward dispositions of the heart. The psalms, which are uttered with the voice, are contradicted by the tempers of the heart. The mouths, that were just now opened to bless the Creator, will presently be opened again to blaspheme and to curse him. The praises, which seemed so proper to please him in whose honor they were offered, will incur this reproof, Thou wicked man! What hast thou to da to take my covenant in thy mouth ? Psal. I. 16.
My brethren, if we would join our voices with those of angels, we must have the sentiments of angels. We must, (at least, as far as the duty is imitable by such frail creatures.) we must, in order to worship God, as those happy spirits praise him, love him as they do, serve him as they do, devote ourselves to him as they devote themselves to him ; and this is the manner of praising God, to which I exhort, and in which I would endeavor to instruct you to day, agreeably to the prophet's exalted notion of it in the words of the text. What day can be more proper to inspire such a noble design? What day can be more proper to engage you to mix your worship with that of glorified intelligences, than this, on which we are come unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, and to the first-born which are written in heaven? Heb. xii. 22. 23.
But, who are we, to be admitted into a society so holy? Great God! Thou dost appear to us today, as thou didst formerly to thy prophet, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and thy train filling the temple, Isa. vi. 1. Around thee stand the Seraphims, covering themselves with their wings in thy majestic presence, and crying one to another, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of losts, the whole earth is full of his glory, ver. 3.
We are stricken, as thy prophet was, with such a tremendous vision, and each of us cries with him, WO is me! I am undone! I am a man of unclean lips ! and yet, mine eyes have seen the King, the lord of hosts, ver. 5. O great God! command one of thy Seraphims to flyto us, as he flew to him; bid him touch our mouths, as he touched his, with a live coal taken from off the altar, ver. 6. and, in this day of grace and mercy, let him say to each of uś, Lo, this hath touched thy lips, and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged ! Amen, ver. 7.
Praise is comely for the upright. The praising of God is a duty, of which we may form two different notions: a general, and a particular notion. By a general notion of praise, I mean, the exercise of a man, who, being capable of examining sublime objects, and of comprehending grand subjects, fixeth his attention on the attributes of God, feels the force of those proofs which establish the truth of them, is delighted with them, to a certain degree, and is happy in publishing their praise. I mean, by a particular notion of praising God, the exercise of a man, who, having received some signal favor of God, loves to express his gratitude for it.
Each of these exercises of praise supposeth reflections, and sentiments. To praise God in the first sense, to reflect on his attributes, to converse, and to write about them, without having the heart affected, and without loving a Being, who is described as supremely amiable, is a lifeless praise, more fit for a worldly philosopher than for a rational christian. To praise God in the second sense, to be affected with the favors of God, without having any distinct notions of God, without knowing whether the descriptions of the perfections, that are attributed to him, be flights of fancy or real truths, is an exercise more fit for a bigot, who believes without knowing why, than for a spiritual man, zeho judgeth all things, 1 Cor. ii. 15. If we distinguish the part, which these two faculties, reflection, and sentiment, take in these two exercises of praise, we may observe that the first, I mean, the praise of God taken in a general sense, is the fruit of reflection, and the second of sentiment. The first is, if I may be allowed to speak so, the praise of the mind : the second is the praise of the heart.
It is difficult to determine which of these two notions prevails in the text, whether the psalmist use the word praise in the first, or in the second
If we judge by the whole subject of the psalm both are included. The praise of the heart is easily discovered. Whether the author of the psalm were Hezekiah, as many of the fathers
thought, who say, this prince composed it after the miraculous defeat of Sennacherib: or whether, which is most likely, David were the composer of it, after one of those preternatural deliverances, with which his life was so often signalized : what I call the praise of the heart, that is, a lively, sense of some inestimable blessing, is clearly to be seen. On the other hand, it is still clearer, that the sacred author doth not celebrate only one particular object in the psalm. He gives a greater scope to his meditation, and compriseth in it all the works, and all the perfections of God.
Although the solemnity of this day calls us less to the praise of the mind, than to that of the heart; although we intend to make the latter the principal subject of this discourse; yet it is necessary to attend a little to the former.
I. The praise of the Lord, taking the word praise in the vague sense, that we have affixed to the term, is comely for the upright : and it is comely for none but for them.
Praise is comely for the upright. Nothing is more worthy of the attention of an intelligent being, particularly, nothing is more worthy of the imitation of a superior genius, than the wonderful perfections of the Creator. A man of superior genius is required, indeed, to use his talents to cultivate the sciences and the liberal arts: but after all, the mind of man, especially of that man to whom God hath given superior talents, which assimilate him to celestial intelligences, was not created to unravel a point in chronology, to learn the various sounds by which different nations signify their ideas, to measure a line, or to lose itself in an algebraic calculation ; the mind of such a man was not created to study the stars, to count their number, to measure their magnitude, to discover more
than have yet been observed. Nobler objects ought to occupy him. It becomes such a man to contemplate God, to guide the rest of mankind, to lead them to God, who dwelleth in the light, which no man can approach unto, i Tim. vi. 16. and to teach us to attenuate the clouds, that hide him from our feeble eyes. It becomes such a man to use that superiority, which his knowledge gives him over us, to elevate our hearts above the low region of terrestrial things, where they grovel with the brute beasts, and to help us to place them on the bright abode of the immortal God. The praise of the Lord is comely for upright men.
But praise is comely only for upright men. I believe it is needless now to explain the word uprightness. The term is taken in the text in the noblest sense: this is a sufficient explication, and this is sufficient also to convince us that the praising of God is comely for none but upright men. not see, without indignation, a philosopher trifle with the important questions that relate to the attributes of God, and make them simple exercises of genius, in which the heart hath no concern, examining whether there be a God with the same indifference with which he inquires whether there be a vacuum in nature, or whether matter be infinitely divisible. On determining the questions which relate to the divine attributes, depend our hopes and fears, the plans we must form, and the course of life we ought to pursue: and with these views we should examine the perfections of God: these are consequences that should follow our enquiries. With such dispositions the psalmist celebrated the praises of God, in the psalm out of which we have taken the text.
How comely are the praises of God in the mouth of such a man!
Let us follow the holy man a moment in his me