Ps. xlii. 1,2. As the hart panteth after the water-lrooks, so
panteth my soul after thee, God. My soul thirsteth for
God, for the living God : when shall I come and appear
before GodP
GREAT are the vicissitudes of the Christian life:
sometimes the soul basks, if we may so speak, in
the full splendor of the Sun of Righteousness ; and
at other times it feels not in any degree the cheering
influence of his rays. And these variations are some-
times of shorter duration, like successive days; and
at other times of longer continuance, like the seasons
of the year. In David these changes were carried
almost to the utmost extremes of elevation and de-
pression, of confidence and despondency, of exul-
tation and grief. At the time of writing this psalm he
was driven from his throne by Absalom, and con-
strained to flee for his life beyond Jordan. There,
exiled from the city and temple of his God, he stated,
for the edification of the Church in all future ages,
how ardently he longed for the renewed enjoyment
of those ordinances, which Were the delight and
solace of his life. In these things he may be con-
sidered as a pattern for us : we shall therefore
endeavour distinctly to mark,
I. The frame of his mind towards God —
This is described in terms peculiarly energetic :
** he thirsted after God; yea, he panted after him,
as the hart panteth after the water-brooks." We
cannot conceive any image that could mark more
strongly the intenseness of his desire, than that
which is here used. A hart or deer, when fleeing
from its pursuers, has naturally its mouth parched
through fear and terror : but when, by its own exer-
tions in the flight, its very blood almost boils within
it, the thirst is altogether insupportable, and the
creature pants, or brays, (as the expression is,) for
some brook, where it may refresh its sinking frame,
VOL. IV. E and
146 PSALMS, XLII. ], 2. [363.
and acquire strength for further exertions. Such
was David's thirst after God, the Hving God.
His circumstances, it is true, were pecuUar —
[Jerusalem was the place where God had appointed the
ordinances of his worship : and David, being driven from thence,
was precluded from a possibility of presenting to the Lord his
accustomed offerings. This was a great distress to his soul :
for though God was accessible to him in prayer, he could not
Hope for that measure of acceptance which he had reason to ex-
pect in an exact observance of the Mosaic ritual ; nor could he
hope that such manifestations would be vouchsafed to>his soul,
as he might have enjoyed, if he had approached God in the way
prescribed by the law. Hence all his ardour might well be ac-
counted for, since by the dispensation under which he lived his
way to the Deity was obstructed, and the communications of the
Deity to him were intercepted.
We acknowledge that these peculiar circumstances account
for the frame of David's mind at that time.]
evertheless, his frame is as proper for us as it
was for him —
[Though the observance of certain rites and ceremonies
is no longer necessary, and God may be approached with equal
ease from any spot upon the globe, yet it is no easy matter
to come into his presence, and to behold the light of his coun-
tenance lifted up upon us. To bow the knees before him, and
to address him in a form of words, is a service which we may
render without any difficulty; but to draw nigh to the very
throne of God, to open our mouths wide, and to have our
hearts enlarged in prayer, to plead with God, to wrestle with
him, to obtain answers of prayer from him, and to maintain
sweet rellowship with him from day to day, this, I say, is of
very difficult attainment: to do it indeed is our duty, and to
enjoy it is our privilege; but there are few who can reach
these heights, or, having reached them, prolong to any great
extent the heavenly vision. Hence we all have occasion to
lament seasons of comparative darkness and declension ; and to
pant with insatiable avidity after the renewed enjoyment of an
absent God.]
Let US then contemplate,
II. The evidences of this frame, wherever it exists — ¦
Such a frame of mind must of necessity be
attended with correspondent efforts to attain its
object. There will be in us,
1. A
363.] David's desire after god. 147
1. A diligent attendance on all the means of
grace —
[Where shall we look for God, but in his holy word, where
he reveals to us all his majesty and his glory ? That word then
we shall read with care, and meditate upon it day and night,
and listen to the voice of God speaking to us in it
We shall also pray over it, converting every command into a
petition, and every promise into an urgent plea The
public ordinances of religion we sliail highly prize, because in
them more especially we honour God, and have reason to expect
more abundant manifestations of his love to our souls ¦ At
the table of the Lord too we shall be found frequent guests, not
only because we are recjuired by gratitude to remember the love
of Christ in dying for us, but because the Lord Jesus still, as
formerly, delights to " make himself known to his disciples in
the breaking of bread." If we do really pant after God, 1 say
again, we cannot but seek after him in the way of his ordinances.]
2. An acquiescence in every thing that may bring
him nearer to us —
[God is pleased oftentimes to afflict his people, in order to
Avean them from the love of this present world, and to quicken
their souls to more diligent inquiries after him. ow " affliction
is not in itself joyous, but grievous :" nevertheless, when viewed
in connexion with the end for which it is sent, it is welcomed
even with joy and gratitude by all who are intent on the enjoy-
ment of their God. In this view St. Paul " took pleasure in
infirmities and distresses" of every kind, because they brought
him to God, and God to him ; — him, in a way of fervent prayer ;
and God, in a way of rich and abundant communication'*. In
this view, every saint that has ever experienced tribulation in the
ways of God is ready to say, that " it is good for him that he
has been afflicted," and that, if only God's presence may be
more abidingly manifested to his soul, he is ready to suffer the
loss of all things, and to count them but dross and dung.]
3. A dread of every thing that may cause him to
hide his face from us —
[We know that there is in every generous heart a dread of
any thing that may wound the feelings of those we love : how
much more then will this exist in those who love God, and are
panting after the enjoyment of him ! Shall we under such a
frame of mind go and do " the abominable thing which his soul
hates ?" shall we by any wilful misconduct " grieve the Holy
Spirit of promise, whereby we are sealed unto the day of re-
demption ?" o : when tempted to evil, we shall reject it with
abhorrence, and say, " How shall I do this wickedness, and sin
* 2 Cor. xii. 10,
148 PSALMS, XLII. 1, 2. [363.
against God ?" We shall "put away every accursed thing that
may trouble our camp :" we shall not only turn from open and
flagrant iniquity, but shall " abstain from the very appearance of
evil/' We shall search for sin in the heart, as the Jews searched
for leaven in their houses, in order that we may be " a new
lump, altogether unleavened." We shall strive to have our every
action, every word, and " every thought, brought into captivity
to the obedience of Christ."]
4. A dissatisfaction of mind whenever we have not
an actual sense of his presence —
[We cannot rest in a mere routine of duties : it is God that
we seek, even the living God ; and therefore we can never be
satisfied with a dead form, nor with any number of forms, how-
ever multiplied. We shall look back to seasons of peculiar
access to God, as the happiest periods of our life ; and in the ab-
sence of God shall say, " O that it were with me as in months
past, when the candle of the Lord shone upon my head !" We
shall deprecate the hidings of his face as the severest affliction
that we can endure ; and shall never feel comfort in our minds
till we have regained the light of his countenance and the joy of
his salvation. The conduct of the Church, in the Song of So-
lomon, is that which every one who truly loves the heavenly
Bridegroom will observe : he will inquire after him with all dili-
gence, and, having found him, will labour with augmented care
to retain and perpetuate the expressions of his love''.]
Let us LEAR then, from this example of David,
1. The proper object of our ambition —
[Crowns and kingdoms should not satisfy the Christian's
ambition. He should seek to enjoy " God himself, even the
living God," who has life in himself, and is the one source of
life to the whole creation. David, when driven from his house
and family, did not pant after his lost possessions, his ruined
honours, his deserted relatives : it was God alone whose presence
he so ardently desired. O that every desire of our souls may thus
be swallowed up in God, whose loveliness and loving-kindness
exceed all the powers of language to describe, or of any created
imagination to conceive !]
2. The proper measure of our zeal —
[In reference to earthly attainments, men in general contend^
that it is scarcely possible to have our desires too ardent : but in
reference to the knowledge and the enjoyment of God, they
think even the smallest ardour is misplaced. But " it is good to
be zealously affected always in a good thing :" and, if the mea-
sure of David's desire was right, then should not ours stop short
"^ Ch. iii. 1— 4.
of his. When we can explore the heights and depths of the
Redeemer's love, or count the unsearchable riches of his grace,
then may we limit our exertions according to the scale which we
may derive from them : but, if they surpass all the powers of
language or of thought, then may we take the hunted deer for
our pattern, and never pause till we have attained the full fruition
of our God.]

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful