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Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
1. The tribute of his faith. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
That this is an exercise of faith, and not an expression of mere feeling, is plain from the confidence with which it anticipates futurity : thus answering to the apostle's forecited definition. Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not scen. Let us, then, consider what this exercise of faith contains, and upon what it is founded.
(1.) It contains a testimony to the propriety of the Lord's dispensations.
The psalmist had visited the “green pastures” and “still waters :" he next surveyed the “valley of the shadow of death,” under the impression that he might shortly "walk through it." he afterwards turns his eye from the “ten thousands that set themselves against him round about,” to the “table prepared before him in their presence;” and gives his judgment. “It is all right,” saith he. “It is just as it ought to be. I have nothing to diminish, to add, nor to alter. My soul owns it as goodness and mercy, throughout."
(2.) It contains an act of implicit trust, that whatever might be his own unworthiness, this
goodness and mercy” should never be withdrawn. “It shall follow me," saith he, “ in all my wanderings: it shall tread in my very steps, and not leave me a moment till my warfare be over: it shall follow me all the days of my life.” This is strong persuasion, but it rests on a strong foundation. Our God and Savior, who keepeth the covenant and mercy to them that love him, will neither disown his people nor break his word. Admit the possibility of his casting them off; that his gifts and" his calling are not without repentance, and you cut the sinews of their rejoicing. No more must words of confidence be heard from their lips. I will walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and fear no evil ! is a vain boast, because I have no assurance that my Lord will be with me. Nor is it
relief to tell me that I shall have his presence, provided I be faithful in my obedience. Without his presence to secure my fidelity, I am put upon the performance of an impossible condition. A very little acquaintance with myself, will teach me that if it in the least depended on my own strength, my claim to the continuance of the Lord's goodness and mercy, though ever so valid the present hour, would be forfeited the next. But this is not, and never can be, the case. My Redeemer is Jehovah, who changes not, and therefore, I am neither consumed, nor forsaken. All
this is practical truth, which the psalmist has recorded as his own experience; and which is substantially the experience of other believers. “ The Lord,” saith he, “who is my Shepherd, actually makes me to lie down in green pastures; he actually restores my soul, and leadeth me in the paths of righteousness; he actually is with me in the valley of the shadow of death, and has prepared a table before me in the presence of my enemies."
Here is no room for cold and wavering speculation : for here is nothing but plain fact as the fulfillment of covenant-promise. The psalmist declares what he had seen, and heard, and felt. He had, therefore, in his own bosom, a comment upon his Lord's veracity, and a pledge of future bounty, more solid and satisfying than a thousand arguments, though from the mouth of an angel. He placed his foot upon the rock of eternal truth; and as he believed, so he spake. “Surely!” exclaims he, “it is not vague opinion, nor fluctuating hope: it is sweet reality, it is blessed certainty. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life!" O that our souls knew more of the precious exercise! how would it silence our murmurs, and hush our tumults, and swell our joy! Happy psalmist ! may I learn, with thee, to weigh all things in the balance of the sanctuary; and to sing, with thee, of goodness and mercy which have followed, and shall follow me, all the days of my life!
2. As none who have ventured their souls upon the Lord's promise, make an evil report of his ways; and as their only return for his benefits is devotion to his fear, the psalmist, who speaks their mind, has added the tribute of his gratitude to that of his faith. I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. The same resolution, with a slight variety of phrase, occurs in Psalm lxi. verse 4. I will abide in thy tabernacle forever : and they both express the most unreserved and hearty dedication to the service of God. Particularly,
(1.) A deliberate choice on the part of Christians, of the interests of God's glory, and of God's church, as their own most valuable interests.
Nothing less can be signified by the house of the Lord, as the object of their affections. They approach him not with the dry compliment of occasional visitors; but with the dispositions of those who mean to be constantly under his eye, and obedient to his will. They “cast in their lot” with his people; they join themselves unto his family; they live in his house, and every thing belonging to it is dear to their hearts.
(2.) Waiting upon God in all the ordinances of instituted worship. VOL. II.
To know him and not to worship him, is a contradiction. To pretend to worship him, and not wait upon him in his ordinances, is to stand selfconvicted of slandering his wisdom, and slighting his grace. In Christians, such conduct is impossible. They love the habitation of his house, and the place where his honor dwelleth : thither they repair, that they may behold his beauty and inquire in his temple ; may hear from his own lips, and find in his own appointments, solutions of difficulties which would otherwise dishearten and distract them; may be satisfied with the goodness of his house, and with the communion of that loving-kindness which is better than life.
(3.) An open confession of his name.
There is nothing in the service of God to crce ate a blush ; and a heart renewed by his grace is too honest to play the hypocrite. Worldlings often show a fair face to religion, while their souls overflow with enmity against it, and they secretly plot its ruin. But to pretend affection for the world, while the “hidden man of the heart” cleaves unto God, is repugnant to every principle of the Christian calling. And such a deception would be not less impracticable than absurd. A living Christian can no more refrain from giving indications of his life, than light can refrain from shining in the dark. Carnal men quickly discern and avoid those who run not