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AN EXPOSITION OF THE SEVENTYSEVENTH PSALM.
WHEN this Prophet Asaph (being a man appointed to the service and teaching of Gods word unto the people) perceived that such as were under his cure and charge were many times troubled and brought into great heaviness, for the fear and dread they had conceived of God's most just ire and strait punishment for sin, and transgression of his holy laws, and in himself felt, especially the burden of God's displeasure against sin intolerable, he received from the Holy Ghost (the Spirit of consolation) what was the best remedy and help for every troubled conscience, to appease and quiet the poor spirit of man, that knoweth and feeleth not only that God is justly angry for sin, but also will straitly punish the iniquity and abomination of the same. And when he had learned himself by God, how a troubled and desperate conscience might be quieted, he spake it to such as were alive and with him, and wrote it to all such as should come after him until the world's end, that troubled sinners might see their sins forgiven in the mercy of God, and they themselves accepted, as God's most dear children, into eternal friendship and endless joys of salvation.
THE PARTS OF THE PSALM.
I. In whom a Man should put his Trust, and to whom he should resort in the Days of Sickness, Troubles, and Adversity.
II. How a Man should use himself towards Him, in whom he putteth his Trust in the Time of Trouble. III. What great and perilous Dangers the Man that is troubled shall suffer for the Time of his Trouble.
IV. How a Man taketh Consolation in the Time of his Trouble.
THE TWO FIRST VERSES OF THE PSALM, CONTAINING THE TWO FIRST PARTS.
1. I will cry unto God with my voice, even unto God will I cry with my voice, and he shall hearken unto
2. In the time of my trouble 1 sought the Lord: my hand I held up all night, and it was not weary : my soul refused comfort.
THE FIRST PART.
IN WHOM A MAN SHALL PUT HIS TRUST, AND TO WHOM HE SHOULD RESORT IN THE DAYS OF SICKNESS, TROUBLES, AND ADVERSITY.
Ver. 1. I will cry unto God with my voice: even unto God will I cry with my voice, and he shall hearken
First out of this text it is to be noted, that God only is to be trusted unto in the days of trouble, as our Saviour Christ exhorted, in heaviness and anguish of body and soul, all people to resort unto him, saying: "Come unto me all ye that be laden and burdened, and I will refresh you." (Matt. xi.) And the same is spoken of God by Isaiah the Prophet: "Ye that be athirst, come unto the waters; and ye that have no money, come and take it freely.' (Isaiah, lv.) St. John likewise, in the midst among troubled and afflicted persons, reciteth the words of Christ, saying, "If any be dry, let him come to me, and drink." (John, vii.) "He that believeth on me (as the Scripture saith), floods of water of life shall flow out of his belly." (Isaiah, xii.)
Of this knowledge and surety in the soul of man, that God is, can, and will be an ease and remedy for the troubled conscience, come justice, peace, and joy of the conscience. (Rom. v. xiv.) Not that any
man shall be by and by without all fear, trembling, and dread of his sins, and of God's just judgment against sin, but that this fear and trembling shall not come to desperation; neither shall he be more afraid of his sins, than comforted by God's mercy and grace in Christ. Therefore saith our Saviour Christ," Blessed be they that weep, for they shall be comforted. Blessed be they that hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be replenished." (Matt. v.) In this that he saith, "Blessed be they that weep," he noteth such as do know and feel with sorrow and heaviness of conscience that they be sinners, and the filthiness of their sins maketh them sorrowful and heavy-hearted; yet shall they in Christ be comforted. Again, the poor, sensible, feeling, and troubled sinner doth wish his sins away, and would gladly have virtue and justice to rule and do altogether in him God's holy will and pleasure. This hunger and thirst (saith Christ) shall be quenched for the merits of his own death and passion; as it shall not miss, if men in their thirst, hunger, persecution, and trouble, do know and use only God for their help and consolation, as this Prophet did, and teacheth us to do the same in this Psalm.
In this first part be two sorts of people condemned. The one is such as plainly despair, and in their troubles neither look for consolation, nor yet believe that there is any consolation to be hoped for in Christ the other is such as seek consolation, but not only at God's hand and power, but at the saints departed, as witches, conjurors, hypocrites, and the works devised and done by man.
The first sort be left comfortless, because they seek no consolation; and the second sort find no comfort, because they seek it where it is not, contrary unto God and his holy word. Happy therefore is the troubled, that seeketh consolation at God's hands,
and no where else. "For he is (as it is written by the Prophet Isaiah) the God alone that doth save, and none but he." (Isaiah, xlv.) But there be two manner of impediments that keep the Almighty God from the helping and comforting of people that be in trouble. The one is ignorance of God's nature and property towards the afflicted; and the other is fear and dread, since God is most justly angry for sin, lest that in his anger and just punishment he will not be merciful.
Of the first impediment, which is ignorance, is sprung into the world horrible blasphemy, that neither seeketh help at God's hand, nor yet is thankful unto God for any thing that God giveth; but rendereth all things to such gods and saints as he hath devised out of his own imagination, or else learned (as St. Peter saith) out of the traditions of his elders (1 Pet. i.) so that ignorance taketh away the honour of God, and also the salvation of them that be ignorant. The remedy against this great impediment is only the reading, meditating, hearing, and learning of God's holy word (2 Pet. i.), which is as a candle-light in a dark place, to keep and preserve a man from danger and peril. And so saith King David, that it is a candle unto his feet, and a light unto his steps. (Psalm cxix.) And in another place of his Psalms he saith, The law of God is so perfect, that it turneth souls unto the Lord. Wherefore (saith he) it is the part of every man that will be virtuous and godly, to have his desire and cogitations in the law of God both day and night. (Psalm i.) And to preserve the people from this horrible impediment of ignorance, God spake by his Prophet Isaiah these words: " My Spirit, which is in thee, and iny words, which I put in thy mouth, shall not depart from thy mouth, and from the mouth of thy seed (saith the Lord), from henceforth for evermore." (Isaiah, lix.) And in the same
prophecy Christ prayeth the heavenly Father to seal his word in his disciples, whereby the dangerous impediment of man's salvation, which is ignorance, might be eschewed and avoided. (Isaiah, viii.) The same remedy against ignorance, commandeth Almighty God also by Moses in Deut. (chap. vi.), and by St. Paul to the Ephesians (chap. vi.); whereas the fathers and the mothers be not bound themselves alone to know the law of God, but also bound to teach it to their children, that by ignorance they offend not God.
Of the second impediment, which is fear and dread of God's justice, cometh trembling and terror of the conscience, and many times also the extremest evil of all evils, very desperation, that never looketh who can help, neither yet trusteth to find any help. But of these fruits of terror and fear, and also of their remedies how they may be cured and holpen, it shall be shewed hereafter in the Psalm, as it followeth, where both terror of conscience and tranquillity of the same be marvellously and divinely set forth. Only until I come to those points I do note, that this fear and terror of conscience in the faithful be the very hunger and thirst that Christ saith shall be quenched (Matt. v.), and they that feel them shall be replenished with grace and consolation, as the blessed Virgin, the mother of Christ, saith; and they that feel them not, shall depart empty without grace. (Luke, i.) And the cause of this terror and fear is the spirit of God that worketh the knowledge of our sin by preaching, reading, or thinking of God's law, that openeth and detecteth how wretched and sinful we be by nature in the sight of God. (Rom. iii. v. vi. vii. viii.) But of this matter is better occasion ministered afterwards in the Psalm, than in this place.