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by the comparison of our moral feelings and conduct with this infallible standard, arrive at some knowledge of our character and condition in the view of heaven. Thus it is the object of David, in the psalm before us, to exhibit some of the most prominent of these attributes which designate the friend and servant of the Most High. He accordingly begins by proposing the query, “Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill?”
It cannot be necessary to attempt a critical exposition of this metaphorical pbraseology. To the ancient Jews, the tabernacle was an expressive figure of the good man's earthly pilgrimage, as the hill of Zion was a significant emblem of that condition which awaits him after death. The import of the first verse, then, must be sufficiently obvious. It is as if the Psalmist had written-Who shall enjoy the present comforts, and the future blessings which religion bestows ? Who shall possess the favour of God in this world, and dwell with him for ever in the world to come ?—This question, we observe, is addressed to the LORD, or, as it is in the original, JEHOVAH. And why is it addressed to him? Because it relates to a matter which is known, with the highest and most unerring certainty to the divine omniscience; and also because
; it is the province of our Father in heaven, to render us acquainted with our standing and prospects as religious beings. His all-piercing eye can penetrate the deepest recesses of the human heart, and detect its most secret thoughts and desires. And he, too, has promised to de
. vout men, his holy spirit, to bear witness with their spirits, that they are his children; to sooth and animate them with the hope that their sins are forgiven, and that the felicities of paradise shall be their eternal reward.
The first trait which the Psalmist assigns as indicative
of the good man, is more general and less definite than those wbich follow. “He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness.” This is one among numberless passages of the inspired record, which insist upon moral rectitude as an indispensable passport to the divine fa
It has been a common objection to the Christian system, with the ignorant and the uncandid, that it tends to lessen the obligation and importance of those virtues which are in the highest esteem among men, and are most essential to social order and happiness; that it confers an updue value upon a certain set of devotional feelings, such as faith, and hope, and love, with regard to the existence and the degree of which, there must always be great danger of deception on the part of the individual himself, and still greater danger on the part of others. We freely admit, and deeply lament, that some systematic expositors of Christianity have presented views of its doctrines, calculated in some measure, to countenance the objection of which we speak. We refer not now to the writers called Antinomian. We know that there may be found paragraphs even in our orthodox divines, especially those of a less recent date, so incautiously expressed as to give point, if not justness, to that sarcasm of the wittiest of poets, when he describes morality as that
Which both the saints,
And wicked too, cry out against." But we are bold to affirm, that the Bible, while it teaches the entire insufficiency of mere moral virtues, to save the individual who is a stranger to penitence and faith, declares, in terms the most perspicuous and peremptory, that, where these virtues are wanting, there can be neither penitence nor faith. In fact, the ethical precepts contained in the sacred volume, display a purity and a rigour altogether singular and distinctive. There is no other
code of morals, belonging either to ancient or to modern times, which tasks so sternly and severely all the principles and powers of man.
Let it, then, be distinctly understood, that no one is entitled to the name and rewards of piety, who does not walk uprightly and work righteousness. The strictest and most scrupulous probity must mark all his intercourse with his fellow-men. Every transaction in which he engages, whether great or small, whether public or private, must be in accordance with the highest demands of justice. In him must be realized the sublime conception of the poet, when he speaks of the man whose 6 eye even turned on empty space, beams keen with honour." In a word, he must endeavour rigidly to conform his conduct to that golden rule which our Lord laid down, when he instructed his disciples to do to others, in all circumstances, precisely as they would have others to do to them.
And here we may remark, that the root of the Hebrew term rendered uprightly, in the passage before us, literally signifies to be perfect. It is the same word, for example, that occurs in the seventeenth chapter of Genesis, and first verse, where God says to Abraham, “Walk before me, and be thou perfect.” Another instance of its occurrence we have in the description of Job, which represents him as “ a perfect and upright man."
Yet we must not hence infer, that absolute perfection is attainable in the present life. In the Psalm immediately preceding the one on wich we are now commenting, the inspired writer expressly declares, that “there is none righteous, no not one.” Although Job is said to have been a perfect man, yet in speaking of himself he exclaims, “If I justify myself, my own mouth shall condemo me; if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me
perverse." The original word for perfect, is the same in both cases.
It is, then, a Scriptural truth, that so long as we continue in this world, a measure of imperfection mingles itself with our holiest exercises and performances. In the language of theologians, we are released from all the guilt, but not from all the power, of sin. The apostle Paul, even after he had made high attainments in piety, frankly acknowledged, that in him, that is, in his flesh, dwelt no good thing; for to will was present with him, but how to perform that which was good, he found not ; the good that he would, he did not, and the evil that he would not, that he did. With his experience we are sure that the experience of all true Christians, whatever may be their doctrinal views on this article, must coincide. Their progress in pure and undefiled religion, instead of encouraging them to cherish the hope of sinless perfection, can have no other effect than to render them more deeply sensible of their remaining faults and infirmities; they will still discern in themselves an unsubdued propensity to offend, in some particulars, against the perfect law of their God. Just in proportion to the advances which they are enabled by the grace of heaven to make in the conquest of their own hearts, will be their discovery, that “ there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.” Every step that they travel along the path to glory, so far from appearing to bring them nearer the termination of their journey, will disclose new and loftier obstacles to be surmounted-more steep, and craggy, and perilous eminences to be scaled:
“ Hills peep o'er hills, and Alps on Alps arise.” But there is virtue in aiming at an end which we cannot attain-in aspiring to an elevation which we cannot reach. Our actual performances, too, will always be
proportioned to the extent of our endeavours. If Alexander had not commenced bis career of conquest with the resolution to subjugate the whole world, he would not have carried his victorious arms from Macedonia to the country of the Ganges. If Paul had not made a strenuous and persevering effort to possess the same mind that was in Cbrist, be would not have advanced so far as he did, in real conformity to the moral likeness of his Lord and Master. Besides, the law of God, which is an expression of his own immaculate purity, cannot require less than perfect obedience. Jehovah may, indeed, condescend to accept, for the sake of his Son, imperfect obedi
But such obedience it would not comport with his character and dignity, as the governor of the universe, to demand. The language of the Saviour to his disciples was, “ Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
The Psalmist, having described in general terms the character of a good man, goes on to state a few particulars for the better elucidation of his subject. He tells us, that the individual who shall abide in the tabernacle, and dwell in the holy hill of the Lord, must speak the truth in, or from, the heart.
Some writers on the science of moral philosophy, have treated the obligation of truth, as a kind of tacit contract, which, for the common interests of society, subsists among men. But surely an obligation so solemn must rest upon a basis more real and stable than this. It is one of the elementary principles of our moral nature, and conscience, that faithful representative of the supreme Judge in the human soul, lifts her disapproving voice as often as it is violated. The individual who utters a falsehood, feels, not that he has broken an implied promise to speak only the truth to those with whom he converses, but that he