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PSALM xxxix. 12.
For I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner, as all
my fathers were.
HAD these words been spoken by one of the Rechabites, who were commanded by their father Jonadab, “ That they should drink no wine, neither build houses, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyards, nor have any, but that they should dwell in tents all their days," we might perhaps have considered them as pointing merely at the peculiarities of that sequestered tribe, by which they were distinguished from the rest of mankind; but as they are the words of David, who bimself was a king, one of the lords of this earth, who had every inducement to magnify his office, and to make his importance appear in its utmost extent, they can lie under no suspicion of partiality; and therefore challenge the greatest regard.
It must indeed be acknowledged, that David wrote this Psalm under the heavy pressure of affliction ; which may induce some to think, that what he saith in my text is no other than the natural language of a dispirited man, whose mind was unbinged and broken by adversity; but if we attend to what is written, (Chron. xxix. 15.) we shall find him using the same language in the height of his prosperity: “ We are strangers," said he, “ before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fa. thers; our days on earth are as a shadow, and there is
none abiding.” Never did the Jewish nation appear to be more at home than at that time: As for David, bis happiness was so complete, that, instead of asking any additional favours, he could hardly find words to express his gratitude for those he had already received. Yet, amidst all his affluence, wben he possessed every outward comfort bis heart could wish, still he called himself a stranger and a sojourner before God.
We must therefore consider the words of my text, as expressing the fixt and habitual sentiments of David's heart. In his most prosperous condition, he did not look upon this earth as bis home; but extended his views to the heavenly world, that glorious and permanent inheritance of the saints, which is "incorruptible and undefiled, and which fadeth not away."
Among the various subjects of inquiry that might readily occur to us upon reading this passage, the two following appear to me the most interesting and profitable.
First. Whence is it that holy men consider themselves as strangers and sojourners upon earth? And,
Secondly. W bat manner of life is most expressive of this character, and best suited to the condition of strangers and sojourners? To these, therefore, I shall confine myself in the following discourse.
I begin with inquiring, Whence it is that holy men, while they live upon earth, consider themselves as strangers and sojourners with God? And to account for this, one might declaim at great length upon the unsatisfying nature, and precarious duration, of every thing below the sun. I might remind you, that as we came but lately into this world, so we must shortly go out of it, and leave all our possessions to be enjoyed by others; who, in their turn, likewise shall die, and part with them. I might descend to the various calamities that embitter human life, from which none of mankind are altogether exempted; and to these I might add the peculiar sufferings of the righteous, those sharp and pain. ful trials to which the best of men are most frequently exposed in this state of discipline: But I am unwilling to enlarge upon topics of this nature; because I would not have it thought, that the godly consider themselves as strangers and sojourners, solely, or even principally, for such reasons as these. They renounce the world, not because it is unfriendly to them, but because it is unsuitable: they would despise its smiles no less than its frowns; they are not violently thrust out of it, but voluntarily resign it, and leave it to those who have nothing else for their portion. Accordingly, you may observe that David styles himself not only a stranger but a sojourner. Every man is a stranger, who is not a native of the place where he resides: but a sojourner is one who maketh only a passing visit to a place, with a resolution to leave it again, and to proceed on his journey. Now, this last is the distinguishing character of the saints. Wicked men must leave this earth, they know they must, and wish it were otherwise with all their heart; and as they have no prospect of going to a better world, they do all they can to banish the thoughts of their removal from this, that they may relish their present enjoyments with as little alloy as possible. Whereas the godly, who are made citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, can look forward without dismay to the time of their departure from this “ strange land, knowing, that when the earthly house of this tabernacle shall be dissolved, they have a building of God, an house not inade with hands, eternal in the heavens." They would not choose to live here always: they are strangers in affection, as well as in condition; their hearts are elsewhere; they desire, they even long, to be at home with God.
The saints justly account themselves strangers upon earth, because they are regenerated by the Spirit of God; they are “born from above," and therefore can find no place of rest while they live at a distance from their native country. Every thing tends naturally to the place of its original; and grace, which came down from heaven, leads the soul upward to heaven from whence it came. “Whatsoever is born of God," saith the apostle John, “overcometh the world. The dry and empty husks of earthly enjoyments cannot satisfy the desires of a heaven-born spirit: upon these the renewed man looks down with a holy disdain, and then lifts his longing eyes to that celestial country, where “ is fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore.” There he knows his inheritance lies; there dwell his kindred, to whom he stands in the dearest and most intimate relation; “ God the Judge of all, Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect.” And there also he is to make his everlasting abode. Here he sojourns for a while, till he is rendered meet for entering into the purchased possession;" and when the appointed season comes, he gladly removes to his Father's house, to dwell with his God for ever and ever.
Upon these accounts, my brethren, the children of God, while they live upon earth, consider themselves as sojourners in a strange land. Their sentiments in this matter are not the effects of disappointment and vexation, but the conclusions of an enlightened and renewed mind: they are willing to leave this world, because they have a home to go to, where their natures shall be perfected,
and all their desires satisfied to the full.-Let us now inquire, in the
Second place, What manner of behaviour is most expressive of this temper, and best suited to the condition of strangers and sojourners?-_This branch of the subject opens a wide field of practical instruction, and will lead me to recommend to you some of the most important and difficult duties of the Christian life.
1st. If we look upon this earth as a strange country, through which we are only passing to our native home, it ought certainly to be our care, that we receive as little hurt in our passage as possible. This is a maxim of common prudence that nobody will dispute. Now the greatest hurt the world can do us, is to make us forget the place of our destination, or loiter too much by the way: and therefore its smiles are more to be dreaded than its frowns. " The prosperity of fools," saith Solomon, “destroyeth them.” It is difficult to possess much, and not to overlove it: Hence that caution of the Psalmist, “ If riches increase, sct not your heart upon them.” When our situation is so agreeable, that we find ourselves disposed to say, “ Soul, take thine ease;" then indeed it is high time to look warily around us; the hook is pot so curiously baited for no end. I do not mean to disparage the bounty of Providence; if it hath pleased God to distinguish any of you by riches or honours; or to crown your honest industry with uncommon affluence; it is certainly your duty to be thankful to that kind Benefactor, who " hath covered your table, and made your cup to run over." I only mean to execute that order which was given to Timothy, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy." I would only exhort