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“Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Josus Christ bimself being the
THE APPROPRIATION AND DISCERNMENT OF DIVINE
GOODNESS. . .
"O taste and see that the Lord is good.”—Ps. xxxiv. 8. A BELIEF in God's goodness is the beginning—the foundation of religion. Without this, there may be seriousness, and there may be superstition : but none of that childlike confidence in God, and love to God, which are the essence of religion-none of those love-prompted services in which religion is expressed. It is not until we believe in his goodness that'we bow submissively to his will, and acknowledge, though we cannot by sense perceive, the wisdom and propriety of his arrangements. Deny or question this, and the universe is an insoluble problem, and man's a wretched condition, and a more miserable destiny. Believe this, and you have the key which unlocks the riddle of the universe, unfolds the mystery of God's dealings, throws light on his darkest dispensations; thereby enabling us, under the worst afflictions which we witness or endure, to bow, to acquiesce, to hope, to rejoice, to love, and adore. Believing this, the soul returns to God as its home; and reposing in him, it looks out on his works in the light which his character sheds over and around them; and surveying them in that light, fears nothing, but is confident that he must and will do all things well.
And as this faith is the beginning of religion, so is it the gauge, of its pros. perity. Religion grows with its growth, and strengthens with its strength. He confides most in God who believes most firmly in his goodness. : We love him most when we have the clearest perception of his love to us. . It is then we pray with the greatest fervour and acceptance, ask the greatest blessings with the surest confidence that our request will not be denied, pay the profoundest adoration, and most efficiently perform the various duties of the Christian life. It is a truth which yields to none in its practical importance; nor can we promote more effectually, than by its frequent illustration, the welfare of saints and sinners.
The Psalmist, in the text, presents this truth in a very modest, but a very im. pressive manner. The earnestness and the diffidence of his language are both alike remarkable. How desirous he is that men should appropriate and discern the Divine goodness—“O taste and see!”. And yet what reserve he manifests in speaking of it. There is no declamation about its qualities; no eulogy on its excellence; no attempt to describe it. As if it surpassed description, and could only be comprehended where experienced, he is content to let men judge for themselves : --" O taste and see that the Lord is good!”
It need not be said that the man who speaks in this fashion evinces great confidence in his subject. When a man, who desires to press some article on your acceptance, réfrains from saying anything in its favour, and simply asks you to try that you may judge for yourself, there is one thing of which you are tolerably certain that he at least believes in the good qualities of that which he
recommends, and does not fear the result of investigation. He may be mistaken, but at any rate he is convinced of its goodness, and feels sure that on trial it will not fail to be approved. So is it with the Psalmist in the text. He is so convinced of God's goodness, that he asks men to taste and see that he is good. He has no fear that trial will lead to disappointment. He is confident that the experience of others will accord with his own. Nor is he mistaken. He has tried it too frequently and too long, under circumstances too varied, to admit of the possibility of mistake. The result of every trial had been, as this psalm testifies, to strengthen his faith in the Divine goodness, and to increase the earnestness and the confidence with which he commends it to others. "I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked uuto him, and were lightened; and their faces were not ashamed. This poor (afflicted) man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them. O taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man that trusteth in him."
I. THE DIVINE GOODNESS.
It is not of goodness in general that the Psalmist speaks of the goodness of God in himselt, or in his dealings with his creatures, but of his goodness as erperienced by believers, or more properly of God himself as enjoyed by the religious soul.
1. As a Helper and Saviour he is good-good to trust in. Other grounds of trust are rotten and worthless ; they fail in the time of need. But " they that trust in the Lord shall never be ashamed nor confounded.” “Our hearts shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name,”
2. As a Master he is good-good to serve. The work he requires of us is 801 much in harmony with our nature, that the more devoted we are to it the happier we are. His service is perfect freedom. Imposing no unnatural restraint on any of our powers, but bringing them all into harmonious exercici it makes them all minister to our enjoyment; so that “in,'' not for, but "in the keeping of his commandments there is great reward.” It reduces us to Do servile coudition. It is in keeping with our truest dignity. His meanest work is our highest honour. It is not tyrannous in its exactions, though most liberal in its wages. The smallest service, if sincere, is acceptable; and even where the power is not equal to the purpose, he accepts the will for the deed. He despiseta not the day of small things. He kindly notes and makes record of our feeblest attempts to serve him. And in the great day of reckoning, the gift of a cup of cold water shall in no wise lose its reward.
3. As an Object of Worship he is good good to love and adore. No_man is more to be pitied than he who loves or worships an unworthy object. Lore reverence, for the worthless and the bad, is a sad spectacle. It indicates a per version of naturea voluntary degradation which is man's misery and disgrace He who worships that which is inferior to himself voluntarily lowers himself, and either bis higher nature will render him wretched by its protests against the in dignity, or that nature is already destroyed. Even the worship of an equal is 9 unnatural perversion, tending to injurious results. The object of man's worship must be higher than himself, that it may lift him up; better than himself, that by influencing his character and kindling his aspirations, it may make him better He can only give his supreme affection, with propriety and profit, to an objec which after his utmost improvement will continue his superior. And such object can be found only in God. The more we know of him, the more is on soul satisfied with him. The more closely we resemble him, and the better Te are, the more does he appear worthy of our love and adoration. And we have the prospect of it being so for ever. Never can we equal God. Never can weexhau his nature, or fathom his perfections. “Who by searching can find out Godt
:. 4. As a Friend God is good. It is good to realise and enjoy his friendship. Very precious is friendship to the human soul. The love of a true heart, albeit it is coupled with a weak arm and a head not overwise, is a priceless treasure. The poorest man, if he has the love of a lisping child, is richer than the richest for whom no one cares. It is a very intangible thing; it counts for nothing in the ledger; it cannot be reckoned by figures ; it produces no material results ; and yet such is the yearning of the human heart for friendship, that we deem no price too costly for its purchase, nor do we ever fully realise its value until we are driven to apprehend or to mourn its loss. But oh, the friendship of the Most High ! Who can estimate its worth? It is disinterested and inexhaustible, not repelled by our manifold offences, not disgusted by all that is loathsome in our character, never weary because drawn upon too much. It is ever accessible
and ever active, with ear ever open to our request, and hand ever ready to help cus; tenderly solicitous for our welfare, thinking for us with infinite wisdom, and
working for us with almighty power ; enhancing the joys of prosperity, soothing and sanctifying the sorrows of adversity, making "all things work together for our good." Other friends, with the best intentions, may fail us in the hour of our need, their wisdom prove useless to direct, and their power insufficient for, our protection ; God's friendship is equal to our utmost necessities. Other friends may-grow weary of and forsake us ; God changes not:
« His love no end or measure knows,
No change can turn its course,
Immutably the same it flows ;..". . . dü ... From an eternal source.”
Other sources of enjoyment may become exhausted and insipid; if not severed from, we may lose our relish for them: God's friendship sweetens in proportion
as it is enjoyed. Is not such friendship good ? Witness ye who have ex:perienced it ye who have tasted and seen! Did it disappoint you? Has -- it ever failed you? Does it now pall upon the taste ? Was it not good
- your prosperity, when ye' enjoyed your home comforts and were surrounded with your family treasures, and partook of the manifold enjoyments
hich ministered to the happiness of life-was it not good to look round on them Il with the conseiousness by which they were all enhanced-These are gifts from the bountiful hand and exhaustless store of my Almighty friend? Was it 20 good when trouble befel you, and you were well-nigh crushed beneath the
elming wave of sorrow, when amid the darkness his form appeared treading billows' crest, and his voice said, " It is I, be not afraid” was it not good cake refuge in the everlasting arms, and to lean upon the eternal breast ? uye aged ones, whose failing faculties incapacitate you for the pleasures of whose eyes are dim to the perception of beauty, whose èars are deaf to the
of melody, whose' taste can no more discern sweetness, whose limbs refuse pleasures of exercise--18 not He good-be in whom you trusted in youth--to
, anticipating the day which has now come, ye prayed, “Cast me not off
dow of death comes stealing over you—when nature sinks and the heart
encouraging words,"Fear not, for I am with thee; I will strengthen ea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness" — brightens
with the light of its countenance, bears you in safety over the perils of conducts you to your Father's house! And when the river has been
in old age, leave me
filling his gracio the closing strug dark shadow of death o is overwhelmed-how p on whose arm you ca you with encouraging, thee; yea, I will uphold your path with the light the way, conducts you to
crossed, and yüz stand on the further shore--when you open your eyes on the realities of the invisible world-how blessed to see on the throne the form and countenance of your Friend greeting you with smiles of welcome, saying, “ Come home, enter, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." How blessed that will be, who shall attempt to describe! Our voice falters ; our heart fails. Words may not utter it. It cannot be pictured to thought. All that we can say is, Taste now; and then and thus will you see that the Lord is good!
“O make but trial of his love, .
Experience will decide,
Who in his name confide !"
Believing that the metaphors of Scripture are wisely chosen, and that one is preferred to another because of its fitness to convey the precise idea which is present to the mind of the writer, we are not content to give to the word "taste" the general meaning of participation. Many other words would have conveyed that meaning equally well; and we think it would be depriving the language of Scripture of its significance, and ourselves of the instruction it is meant to impart, did we not inquire into the particular shades of meaning of the several words employed.
Now in tasting, there is the twofold operation of appropriation and discernment. The object itself is appropriated, received into the system so as to form a part of it, and by the separation of its ingredients its qualities are discerned. Metaphorically applied, the word denotes the same twofold operation. The spiritual taste appropriates the object, receives it into the soul, and discovers its various qualities.
To taste that the Lord is good, is first of all to appropriate the revelation of his goodness. There are Scriptures which tell you that he is good—there is the great announcement of his goodness in the Gospel of his Son-there are invitations to confide in his goodness—there are promises that if you thus confide his goodness will befriend you in every time of need, and ultimately save you! Thus his goodness is proffered to you and awaits your acceptance. And when you taste it, you take God at his word-you receive this revelation of his good. ness into your soul--and make it the basis of your character. You regard it as ! veritable truth, and act upon it, trusting where it requires you to trust, and obeying where it requires you to obey, implicitly following its directions, and confidently looking for the fulfilment of its promises.
Then, along with, and as the consequence of, this appropriation, there is, as in the natural taste, a discernment of its qualities. You not only appropriate, but in the very act of appropriation you perceive how precious it is. `For while the Gospel brings no joy to the man who hesitates to commit himself to it, he who applies it to himself, and receives it, and meditates and acts upon it as the true saying of God, never fails to realise its value. Treat the honey as poison-refuse to taste it-you will never discern its sweetness. Eat of it-and in the very act of eating you will know how sweet it is. Even so you see no excellence in the Gospel, derive no advantage from it, while you fear to receive it. But make application of it to yourself, receive it as the truth of God, commit yourself to it, act upon it, let it influence your feelings and your conduct, make it the basis of your character, make trial of the goodness of God which it reveals, put it promises to the test,- and you will know and acknowledge, as others have done that, much as you have heard of the Lord's goodness, the half has not been told. For the love which it kindles, and the light which it sheds abroad, and the conso lation which it ministers, and the hopes which it inspires, and the peace and jos with which it fills the soul, it will be sweeter to you than honey--the honey that
droppeth from the comb; more precious than gold, yea, than much fine gold. In tasting you will see that the Lord is good.
There are some who imagine that the word “taste" is used here and elsewhere, because the appropriation and discernment of God's goodness here, is but as a taste compared with the larger enjoyment which is to come. Whether or not the word was meant to convey this idea, we are not prepared to say. But there is truth in the thought, nevertheless. The highest spiritual enjoyment which believers experience here, is but a taste compared with the feast to which they will be welcomed hereafter. The streams of which we drink in the desert, are but drops compared with the river which gladdens the city of God. We have the bunch of grapes from Eshcol, and a view from the distant Pisgah; but not yet the luxuriance of the promised land. The taste is sweet, but what will the feast be? The drops are refreshing, but what will it be to drink of the river! Precious is the bunch from Eshcol, cheering the view from Pisgah's top ; but what will it be to enter the pleasant land, the goodly heritage of the host of nations ? What that will be doth not yet appear-cannot yet appear. God's goodness, like his peace, passeth all understanding. The banquet of love yonder will never close ; its provision will always satisfy but never satiate the guests. From the unfathomable recesses of the Divine goodness new provision will be brought forth, suited to the expanding capacities and refining aspirations of the redeemed. Never will the store be exhausted. In the Divine love there are heights which rise above the range of created vision, and depths never to be penetrated by created eye, and lengths and breadths which created wing cannot explore. What the Apostle says of the provision of the Gospel, is no less applicable to the joy of that better world, “ Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, heart hath not conceived, what God hath prepared for them that love him.”
NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
Mark xi. 34. “Thou art not far from the kingdom of | straight, but ever-open gate; some are ap. God." These are words of encourage- | proaching, some roceding, some standing ment to those who are pressing into it, of still ; some are pressing on, others lingeralarm to those who vainly imagine them- | ing, but looking ; some hoping, yet fearselves within it, and of rebuke to those who 1 ing; and a few despairing ; yet all “not shrink from the struggle to enter it. What far.” To encourage those whose faces are ever was understood by this expression thitherward, and warn those who are by him to whom it was first addressed, making no further advance, let me first it implies that there are degrees of near consider the import of this expression, and noss to that kingdom; that some are afar then apply the subject. and others nigh, but both without. That Salvation is here represented as a king. kingdom is a region well defined, a city dom, whose privileges are an object of with walls and gates, a society whose fel pursuit, a prize to be won. To be in that lowship is clearly marked. All mankind kingdom is to be in a state of reconciliaare divided into two classes, those that are tion with God, and in possession of the within, and those that are without ; children good hope of eternal life, through our of God, and children of the wicked one; | Lord Jesus Christ. This kingdom is “nos: heirs of the kingdom, and heirs of wrath. meat or drink, but righteousness, and peace, But while this kingdom, in the world and joy in the Holy Ghost.” though not of it, is making accessions out! By the love and practice of sin, we are of it, men stand in every degree of distance polluted and depraved, and need a justifyfrom it, and many are not far from its | ing righteousness, perfect and eternal. Be