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Look thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as thou usest to do unto those that love thy name.—Ver. 132.
THE prophet having praised the word, and expressed his affection to it, presents his petition to God for a favourable look from him, upon the account of his grace and mercy, according to the manner and law of his dispensations towards others of his people. They that love the word may with the like confidence expect the grace of God. Observe in the words—
1. The petition or favour asked, look thou upon me.
2. The ground of asking, or the cause of that favour, and be merciful unto me.
3. The terms according to which it is dispensed, as thou usest to do, secundum judicium, according to the law, or according to thy custom towards those that love thy name.
4. The description of God’s people; they love his name.
These are the especial objects of grace and favour. I shall explain the words as I go over the several branches.
First, I begin with the petition, ‘Look thou upon me.’ The Septuagint reads it, ἐπίβλεπε ἐπὶ ε7̓μέ. Other translations, aspice me, or respice me. Ainsworth, Turn thy face unto me: Ps. xxvi. 16, ‘Turn thou unto me, and have mercy upon me; for I am desolate and afflicted.’ God seemeth now and then to turn away from his people in their distresses, to turn the back upon them, and not the face; as it is, Jer. xviii. 17, ‘I will scatter them as with an east-wind before the enemy; I will show them the back, and not the face, in the day of their calamity.’ They had dealt so first with God: Jer. ii. 17, ‘Hast thou not procured this unto thyself, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God when he led thee by the way?’ So David, God might have seemed to have turned the back upon him. Our translation cometh to the same effect, ‘Look upon me.’ God’s looking implieth two things, viz., his favour and his providence.
1. His favour; as Isa. lxvi. 2, ‘To this man will I look, that is of a contrite heart;’ that is, I will be gracious unto him, smile upon him, give him evidences of my love.
2. His providence. The providence of God is usually set forth by his eye: Prov. xii. 3, ‘The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.’ Now God hath a double eye—an avenging eye and a gracious eye. The avenging eye: Amos ix. 4, ‘I will set mine eyes upon them for evil, and not for good.’ The other: 2 Chron. xvi. 9, ‘The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards him.’ Accordingly this act of looking is either—
[1.] With a revengeful eye. So upon their enemies: 1 Chron. xii. 17, ‘The God of our fathers look thereon, and rebuke it;’ 2 Chron. xxiv. 22, ‘The Lord look thereon, and requite it,’ said Zachary the son of Jehoiadah the priest. This is the look of anger. But—
[2.] There is the look of love and benign aspect, as astrologers speak. So Exod. iii. 7, ‘I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows;’ and Lam. iii. 50, ‘Till the Lord look down and behold from heaven.’ So doth he beg here that God would look upon him with a gracious eye. In this gracious aspect two things are notable, viz., his observation and his compassion.
(1.) His observation. He taketh notice of their condition and oppressed innocency: Neh. i. 6, ‘Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now day and night.’ What have eyes to do with hearing? To behold their pitiful and desolate condition. So 2 Sam. xvi. 12, ‘It may be that the Lord will look upon mine affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.’
(2.) His compassion. God doth take to heart the distresses of his people, and hath a tender pity and compassion over them: Ps. xxv. 18, ‘Look upon mine affliction, and my pain.’ He doth not only take notice of, but take to heart their sorrows, as appeareth by some gracious effect and deliverance wrought for them. So looking implieth both his affection and actual providence for them.
Doct. The children of God apprehend it as a great favour if he will but look upon them.
So saith David, ‘Look thou upon me.’ Which request expresseth his modesty; one short glimpse of God’s favour, a look of kindness, would be a great matter to him in this vale of tears. A look is welcome to a broken and contrite heart; they are thankfully affected with the least discoveries and manifestations of God’s love to the soul. If they could have but the least glimpse of his love, it would be very reviving: Ps. lxxxvi. 17, ‘Show me a token for good.’ The returning prodigal could go no higher than, ‘Make me as one of thy hired servants,’ Luke xv. 19, any place in the family, so he might be no more absent from his father. God’s people would have a nail in his holy place. This shows—
1. His necessity. God seemed to look from him, no sign of his favour appeared. Thus it is often with God’s children here in the world; the sense of his love is gone and lost, we sometimes have not so much as a look from him: Isa. lix. 2, ‘Your sins have hid his face from you.’ In heaven our communion is more full, and it is uninterrupted: 1 Cor. xiii. 12, ‘For now we see through a glass darkly, then face to face.’ Here God often hideth his face, and we ‘walk in darkness, and see no light;’ Ps. civ. 29, ‘Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled; thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust.’
2. His value and esteem of God’s, favour: Ps. iv. 6, 7, ‘There be many that say, Who will show us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.’ Esteem of spiritual privileges is a great means to continue them to us. We feel no more of God’s love, because we are not thankful for the enjoyment of it. It must be a practical esteem, such as moveth us to seek it earnestly, as David professeth here it would satisfy him if God would look upon him. We count ourselves most miserable in the want of it; but if we have it, it allayeth all worldly discontents, abateth our desires of worldly comforts.
3. His confidence. One look from God is enough, it is all he beggeth; as the saints in like cases, if their God would but look upon them: Deut. xxvi. 15, ‘Look down from thy holy habitation, from heaven, and bless thy people Israel.’ So Isa. lxiii. 15, ‘Look down from heaven, and behold from the habitation of thy holiness and of thy glory.’ Without any labour, only by this look thou canst help all our evils; and will not God cast a look upon us, especially when we call him by his name?
Reason 1. Because in our distresses the main thing we should look on is not so much, the removal of God’s anger, and the removal of the evil, as the renewed sense of his love, to be reconciled to them: 2 Chron. vii. 14, ‘If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wickedness, then will I hear from heaven, and forgive their sins, and will heal their land.’ It is a part of the prescribed remedy to seek the face of God, or a favourable look from him; that is put in among the conditions, otherwise we are not affected with our true misery, and the cause of all our trouble, though we may seriously enough desire to be rid of the trouble, or the effects and the strokes of God’s anger. The brute creatures can feel pain as well as we, and howl when they find anything inconvenient to that nature which they have, as well as we cry to God: Hosea vii. 14, ‘And they have not cried unto me with their hearts, when they howled upon their beds.’ God accounts it as howling when we do not seek God’s favour and grace, as well as the supply of our outward necessities. It is an easy matter to be sensible of the evil of trouble; nature will teach us that.
2. Because that bringeth other things along with it. If God look upon us he will help us; his love and power are set a-work for us, for his eye affecteth his heart. When his heart is affected, he will ‘stir up his strength, and come and save us.’ So that, go to the fountainhead of all mercies, when you beg a favour, look for it from God, for God’s favour is the fountain of all blessings, and without it all your other comforts will do you no good: Ps. lxxx. 19, ‘Turn us again, O Lord of hosts; cause thy face to shine, and we shall be saved.’ When God once showeth the evidences of his favour and reconciliation to them, other mercies come of their own accord. Oh! then, be assured of the favour of God.
3. If we continue in our misery, a look from God will sweeten all: ‘We glory in tribulation also, because of the love of God shed abroad in our hearts, by his Spirit given to us,’ Rom. v. 3-5. To be in favour with God is enough, and sweetens the bitterest of all our troubles. The comfort of the creature may be supplied with this greater comfort, that if affliction be not removed, it is made light to us.
Use 1. Beg earnestly for God’s look. It is an ill sign to be careless and regardless of it. Surely the heart is too much carried to earthly comforts, if you care not how God standeth affected to you. God deliver us from such a sottish spirit, that we should neither care for God’s frowns nor smiles, nor be sensible of his coming and going. David said, ‘Mine eyes are ever towards the Lord,’ Ps. xxv. 15, to observe him and his postures; but most men, their eyes are ever towards temporal accidents, how the times smile or frown upon them; or if they think of God, they judge of his respect to them by outward things, but have not any regard to his favour, whether God be reconciled to them or angry with them.
2. Improve it to hope: Ps. lxxx. 14, ‘Return, we beseech thee, O God of hosts, look down from heaven, and behold and visit this vine.’ Will God love his people, and take notice of their sorrows, and not help them? God will manifest his respects and kindness to his people by some visible deliverance, when it shall be good for them.
3. Be such as God will regard, and have an eye unto. Such are—
[1.] The broken-hearted, that have a tender conscience, affected deeply with what the word speaketh concerning their everlasting condition: Isa. lxvi. 2, ‘To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.’ The word of God passeth sentence upon men; most regard it not. Now whilst they look not after God, they have no promise God will look after them. Indeed by his preventing grace he is found of them that look not for him; but then before they have any smiles from God’s countenance, they are first humbled and brought to trouble: Isa. lvii. 15-18, ‘For thus saith the high and lofty one that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy, I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirits of the humble, and to -revive the heart of the contrite ones. For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth; for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made. For the iniquity of his covetousness I was wroth, and smote him, I hid me and was wroth; he went on frowardly in the way of his heart. I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will lead him also, and restore comforts unto him.’ When the spirit is softened by a deep and serious remorse for sin, and a tender sense of their condition, with these will God dwell, to comfort, relieve, restore them.
[2.] The believer: Ps. xxxiii. 18, ‘Behold the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy.’ They that look for God shall find him.
[3.] The sincere: Ps. xi. 7, ‘His countenance doth behold the upright.’ He hath a singular care of them, to manifest his love to them, both inwardly and outwardly. A good conscience presents itself to God; none but such will say. Look upon me. Adam hid himself upon his transgression. Hypocrites cannot trust him.
[4.J Such as love his name. It is the description and mark of God’s people in the text, they love God, and all that by which God is especially made known. To these God will look, that he may bless them, and comfort them with his love: Eph. vi. 24, ‘Grace be with them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.’ God’s grace and free favour is to them: they love the name of God that rejoice to see God honoured, known, and had in request in the world, to be owned to be such as he is by themselves and others: Isa. xxvi. 8, ‘The desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee.’ Their great desire is, that God may be exalted in their own hearts, and in the hearts of others. To these God will look, who take care to honour God, love Christ, and keep his commandments: John xiv. 21, ‘He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me, shall be loved of the Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.’
Secondly, The ground and cause of that favour he expects, ‘Be merciful unto me.’ David begs what he begs upon terms of grace.
Doct. God’s mercy is the cause of all his favour to us, or gracious dealing with us.
All that we have or would have cometh only and wholly from his mercy, and mere mercy. If God cast but a look upon us, or visit us with one glimpse of kindness, we can ascribe it to no other cause. Only mercy, and never a word of merit should be in the mouth of a believer.
1. Because there was nothing in us to move him to be thus gracious to us: Gen. xxxii. 10, ‘I am not worthy of the least of all thy mercies, and of all the truth which thou hast showed unto thy servant.’ Let us ask the reason, and debate the cause with ourselves. Why doth or should God do this for me? What moveth him? Is he necessitated? Then he could do no otherwise, and should be kind to all. Would he be unjust if he did not? Whereby have I obliged him? ‘Who hath given to God first, and it shall be recompensed to him again?’ Rom, xi. 35. Could you enter your action and plea against him? Before what bar and tribunal? And with what arguments will you manage your cause? How will the beam plead against the sun, the stream against the fountain? Is it a debt to your kind and rank of being? How many of the same flesh and blood are equal in nature, but unequal in condition? nay, in the same vicinity and neighbourhood, not only Americans, but of your own nation and country? What did God see more in you than in them of the same calling and profession? ‘Two grinding at a mill, one shall be taken and the other left,’ Luke xvii. 35. Of the same parentage? ‘Was not Jacob Esau’s brother?’ Indeed, what did God see to move him to give you the first grace? Rom. ix. 16, ‘So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.’
2. There is much to the contrary, a manifest unworthiness and contrary desert to what God bestoweth on us.
[1.] A general unworthiness in all the sons of Adam. Man was left as a condemned malefactor in the hands of the law, without all hope and possibility of recovery, under sin: Rom. vii. 14, ‘I am carnal, sold under sin.’ Under a curse: Eph. ii. 3, ‘We were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.’ And that God should regard such!
[2.] A particular unworthiness, before conversion and after.
(1.) Before conversion: Titus iii. 3, ‘For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures,’ &c. We deserve to be abhorred and cast out of God’s presence, and might justly expect his vengeance rather than his bounty and goodness, his anger and frowns rather than the light of his countenance.
(2.) Since conversion: James iii. 2, ‘In many things we offend all;’ Eccles. vii. 20, ‘There is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.’ There are mixtures of evil, imperfections of holy things. Well, then—
1. Let mercy be all your plea when you have any favour to seek from God. We cannot claim any good upon any other right and title. Justice will except against you, and conscience will take its part. What have you to say but on that: Dan. ix. 18, ‘We do not present our supplications before thee for our righteousnesses, but for thy great mercies.’ We have no other motive that will become God, nor bear weight in our own consciences, but only God hath set up a court where grace taketh the throne, and giveth out pardons and blessings to sinners.
2. When you have once tasted one pledge of God’s love vouchsafed to you, let this kindle coals in your bosoms, and warm your hearts with love to God. It is not only his condescension to take notice of you, but his mercy to show any favour and kindness to you: 2 Sam. vii. 19, ‘Is this the manner of men, O Lord God?’ Is this the manner of men, to requite good for evil? Who am I?
3. Be contented with your measures. Where nothing is deserved, anything should be kindly taken. Grace communicateth itself to whom and in what measure it will: Mat. xx. 15, ‘Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own?’ If we are kept under, and in great extremities, he might have dealt worse with us: Lam. iii. 22, ‘It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.’ If we had a price in our hands to procure better, we might complain. Now all is free and undeserved, we should admire and submit.
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