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PSALM lxxviii. 1-8.
“ Give ear, O my people, to my law: Incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
“ I will open my mouth in a parable : I will utter dark sayings of old; " Which we have heard, and known, and our fathers have told us.
“We will not hide them from their children, showing to the generation to come, the praises of the Lord: And his strength, and his wonderful works that he hath done.
" For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel: which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children;
“ That the generations to come might know them, even the children which should be born: Who should arise and declare them to their children ;
“ That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandinents.
"And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation: A generation that set not their beart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God."
We are now, through the sparing, upholding, and supplying mercy of our God, arrived to the expiration of our first century, since our glorious Head of the church has had a church in this place.
And seeing that our anniversary thanksgiving happens near upon the conclusion of such a period, I hope that it may prove both acceptable and profitable to essay some religious improvement of both, in a discourse from the words now read.
You may not expect a large and particular account of our foundation, rise, and growth; for to do this, would be to give you a history, more proper for your entertainment at other times, than such as are consecrated to God's. solemn worship, and for other places than from the pulpit.
Neither will my acquaintance either by private records, or particular traditional accounts, with the special circumstances of the original and progress of this town and church, furnish me with matter for such an undertaking.
Nothing further therefore than some brief hints shall be attempted ; by all which I desire and hope, that God may have the glory of his wisdom, power, goodness and faithfulness, in what he has done for us ; in raising from small beginnings such enlargements as at this day; in appearing for us in our mounts of difficulty ; in supplying us so bountifully all along froin the rich treasures of his goodness; and in bestowing so many valuable and munificent favors upon us, as we and our fathers have experienced in so long a course.
And more especially for his renewed mercies in the last year; upon which account, to celebrate God's praises, we are in a more particular manner, called together this day.
I would also have this special view in the whole, to inform and instruct our children, the generation of our hopes; and to raise in their minds, suitable dispositions of piety, and resolutions of godliness, to honor the God of their fathers, and to cleave to him with full purpose of heart, who did such great things for our forefathers, and therein also, for us and them ; that with souls full of love and zeal and gratitude, they may say and resolve, he is our God, and we will praise him; he was our fathers' God, and we will exalt him: This God shall be our God for ever and ever; we will set our hope in him, and not forget his works, but keep his commandments.
The foundation of our discourse in the several verses, now read, is so large and copious that the time will little more than allow me to divide the text into its several obvious branches; to collect the plain and evident doctrines therein contained, and to draw the natural and necessary uses to be made therefrom ; which I shall attempt (by divine help) in as familiar and concise a method, as I
And therefore in the words we inay observe,
I. A general and pathetical call given to the people of God, to hearken to his law, his will and his word. And,
II. The reasons given to urge the people's duty upon them, in attending to the instructions, that were to be given to them in God's
We are to observe,
I. A general and pathetical call given to the people of God, to hearken to his law, his will and his word. “ Give ear, O my people, to my law, incline your ears to the words of my mouth."
This Psalm, of which our text is a part, is historical,* it is a narrative of the great mercies which God bad bestowed upon Israel ; the great sins with wbich they had provoked him, and the many tokens of divine displeasure which they had been under therefor.
* Mr. Henry.
In the foregoing Psalm, the holy prophet had been relating God's wonders of old, for his own encouragement in a difficult time. In this he resumes the subject for the edification of the church, and enlargeth much upon it, showing not only how good God had been to them, which was an earnest of further finishing mercy ; but bow basely they had carried themselves to God, which justified him in correcting them, as he did at this time, and forbad all their complaints.
Our text is a preface to this piece of church history, commanding the attention of the then present age, and recommending it to the study of the generations to come.
And in the front of this preface, the holy Psalmist demands attention to what he was about to deliver. The people of God are called upon to hearken to God's law, his will and word : “Give ear, O my people, to my law.” Some make these the Psalmist's words : David as a king, or Asaph in his name, as his secretary of state, or scribe to the sweet singer of Israel, bere calls upon the people as his people, coinmitted to his charge, “to give ear to his law :" He calls his instructions his law or edict. Such was their commanding force in themselves; every good truth received in the light and love of it, will have the power of a law upon the conscience.
From this example of the royal Psalmist we may note, that those that are in civil authority, would do well, as far as is consistent with that liberty in which Christ hath made us free, to interpose their power for the edification of the people of God. Or the Psalmist being a prophet speaks as God's mouth, and so calls them his people, and demands subjection to what was said, as to a law. “Let him that hath an ear, thus hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches."
Hence we may observe this note of doctrine, viz.
That the ministers of Christ ought in his name to call upon the people of God, committed to their charge, to hearken to his law, bis will and his word.
God's law is his will, revealed in his word; to this God's people ought to hearken ; that is, to submit to the power and authority of it, and to yield a cheerful obedience to it. And to this exercise of godliness, the ministers of Christ ought to quicken and stir up the people of God under their care and watch : To this we are directed by the example in our text; for what was written asoretime was written for our instruction and admonition : The writings of the Old and New Testament were given by inspiration of God, and that for our learning : “ For they are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.” And agreeably says the apostle, James v. 10. " Take, my brethren, the prophets who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example :" And this we should do, not only in their sufferings, and in their patience, but also in their boly living, their exemplary conversation, and imitable services to the people of God, in the ful6lment of their commission. We should be followers of them, wherein they have been examples of the things which are virtuous and praiseworthy and of good report; of holiness of life, of purity of doctrine, zeal for God, and faithfulness in fulólling the ministry committed to them, and in discharge of their office as watchmen upon the wall.
And as the minister's duty is herein declared with respect to those under his watch ; viz. To admonish and quicken them to receive the instructions of wisdom, and to hearken diligently to the words of God's mouth ; so is the people's duty also herein, very plainly and fully intimated to them, namely their subjection and obedience. If we are in Christ's name to call upon God's people to hearken to the words of his mouth, the obligation is as strong on you to attend,“ to give earnest heed to those things that are spoken, lest at any time you let them slip ;” and to submit to the force and power of that authority, who enjoins our observation of his will, for he is our God, our maker, our preserver, our lawgiver, and our judge ; he has an undoubted propriety in us, and an indisputable right to dispose of us, and his will ought to be our rule.
Hence then by way of application.
1. We see the necessary and incumbent duty both of ministers and people. Ministers are to call upon those under their care and charge, “ to give ear to God's law, and to incline their ears to the words of his mouth ;” to know and to do that which is right, and that which the Lord their God requires of them. And the people are not at their liberty whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear : There is absolute duty lying upon them to receive instruction, and to hearken to the counsels of God. Hence,
2. Those ministers are chargeable with unfaithfulness who neglect thus to address their people ; and those under their care who refuse to hearken when thus addressed, are guilty of a shameful disregard of God, his will and law. Ministers are to do more than entertain their people with speculations, and preach to them the doctrinal articles of faith ; there is the rule of duty, the precepts of holiness, which they are to urge and press with all seriousness and cogency, and they cannot be faithful without so doing; they are to reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all long-suffering, and doctrine. And if their people refuse to hear and obey the word of God thus delivered to them in his name, and according to his direction, they disregard God himself, his authority, and will; for they that receive Christ's messengers, receive him, and they that receive their messages which are agreeable to the analogy of faith, and the doctrines of godliness, receive his; and they that reject them, reject him ; they despise not men, but God; and if they reject Christ, and receive not his words, they have one that will judge them, the word that he hath spoken, the same shall judge them in the last day.
3. Let us now, in God's name and fear, apply ourselves to that which the Lord our God requires of us, in our respective characters. And now, may the glorious Head of the church abundantly furnish me with his word, from time to time, agreeable to your more special circumstances, a word of instruction, reproof, exhortation, and counsel ; and having God's word, may I be enabled to speak his word in the demonstration of the Spirit and with power, agreeable to the lively oracles, with seriousness, gravity, and solemnity; and with special and pertinent application to the state and condition of your souls, seeking your good, your spiritual profit and advantage, your edification and salvation, and not any vain glory or applause of men ; you also being my helpers, by your fervent addresses to God for me, that I may obtain grace to be faithful, and find mercy of the Lord to be successful. Thus to serve you and yours (by the help of God) is my earnest desire, in what may be attempted in the following articles of discourse, upon this occasion, that God's name may be glorified, and our souls nourished by the sincere milk of the word.
Wherefore to proceedlet me observe,
II. The reasons given by the holy prophet in our text, to urge the people's duty upon them, in attending to the instructions and adınonitions he was about to deliver to them in God's name.
And these were three, viz.
3. That they were things in which posterity were concerned. All which render them worthy of regard and attention.
1. The first reason given in our text, by the inspired messenger of God, to urge the people's duty upon them, in attending to the instructions and admonitions which he was about to give them in God's name, is, that the things to be discoursed of were weighty, and therefore deserve consideration. I will open my mouth in a parable, in that which is sublime and uncommon,* but very excel
* Mr. Henry.