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Chapter XLIII.

To Praise God Is The Highest And Most Honorable Employment Of Men.

It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord—upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound. For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work; I will triumph in the works of thy hands. O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.Ps. 92:1-6.

There are six Psalms which have been distinguished by the name of Golden Songs, namely, 16, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, to show us that the praise of God and prayer are the spiritual and heavenly treasure of a believing 316 heart. And that this is the greatest honor man is capable of, appears hence. (1.) That a cheerful confidence in God is that which procures the soul the greatest liberty of access to him. Hence it is said, “Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.” Ps. 96:6. And that this freedom of access is the highest honor of man, the very angels themselves confess, who glory in that exalted privilege. “I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God.” Luke 1:19.

2. The giving praise to God is a great honor and treasure of man, because (2) thereby we become like the angels in heaven. Therefore our blessed Saviour, pointing out the future glory of men, says, “They shall be as the angels of God.” Matt. 22:30; Luke 20:36. This, though it is ultimately to be understood of the purity and other perfections of their glorified bodies in another life; in which respect we shall not only be like the angels, but also be conformed to the glorified body of our Lord Jesus Christ (according to Phil. 3:21, and 1 John 3:2, “It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is”)—yet even as no man can be like him in the other world, that has not been conformed to him in this; that is to say, that has not believed in him, imitated his holy life, followed him in his meekness and humility, and, in a word, perfectly clothed himself with the image of the patient, humble, afflicted and crucified Jesus, that he may be like him in his glorious, exalted, and perfect state in the other world; so also shall no man be like the angels in heaven, that has not endeavored to conform himself to their examples on earth. There is then no instance in which we can better imitate them here, than by offering up devout and incessant prayers and praises to God; for this is the employment of the holy angels. Isa. 6:3; Ps. 103:20. Whosoever then does this, imitates those blessed spirits, and maintains fellowship with them. Hence it follows, that to be continually celebrating the praises of God is the noblest and most honorable employment that man is capable of. And this may be done at any time, and in any place by a devout soul, praising from the ground of the heart. It is thence that the true praises of God proceed, according to that expression, “singing with grace in your hearts unto the Lord.” Col. 3:16.

3. That singing praises to God is the greatest glory and highest honor that a man can receive, appears (3) hence; that by this a man becomes, as it were, the harp or instrument on which the Holy Spirit is perpetually sounding forth the praises of God. Of this we have a very beautiful representation, where the Evangelist saw a great multitude clothed in white, and following the Lamb of God; and “he heard the voice of harpers harping with their harps.” Rev. 14:2. This was also indicated under the Old Testament by that admirable variety of musical instruments mentioned by David in Ps. 150. All these instruments express nothing else but the various gifts of the Holy Spirit, by which the name, the praise, the honor, the wisdom, the mercies, and wonderful works of God were to be published to the world; which instruments are now laid aside to make room for the divine harmony of spiritual music, even that of praise and thanksgiving to God. For what the musical instrument is to man, that 317 the soul of man is to the Spirit of God, being attuned and rendered harmonious by the hand that holds it. Thus it is said, “Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast ordained strength.” Ps. 8:2. But what greater glory can the heart, mouth, or soul of man desire and enjoy, than to be as so many organs or musical instruments of the Spirit of God? This is what David means, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2); and the apostle, “Be ye filled with the Spirit: speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” Eph. 5:18, 19.

4. That the praising of God is a man's greatest privilege, and most valuable treasure, appears (4) hence: because in that exercise is contained the greatest spiritual joy. Hence it is said, “Thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work; I will triumph in the works of thy hands.” Ps. 92:4. And as in this divine joy consists the greatest part of the happiness of eternal life, and the kingdom of God within us, which we are told, “is peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17); so whoever desires a foretaste of the happiness of that blessed state, may obtain it by the daily exercise of praise and thanksgiving. This, when it proceeds from a sincere heart, gives life and divine joy both to the soul and body; as we are told in Ps. 63, and Ps. 84. What is Paradise itself, but pure joy and unmixed pleasures; where “we taste and see that the Lord is good”? Ps. 34:8. And what is eternal life, but the abundance of this joy, “and pleasures at God's right hand for evermore”? Ps. 16:11.

5. The greatness and excellency of this duty appears (5) hence: that by it we are led to the contemplation of all the wonderful works of God, whence such rays of divine light and wisdom dart upon the soul, as scatter and dissipate the clouds of error and darkness in which men are naturally involved. Thus saith the Psalmist, “O Lord, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep. A brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand this.” Ps. 92:5, 6. And St. Paul, “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” 1 Cor. 2:10. Therefore, the more a man knows of God, the more he praises him; and the more he praises him, the more he increases in the knowledge of him. For the higher any one rises in the praises of God, so much the more deeply he descends into the contemplation of his nature and providence. I do not mean the presumptuous inquiries of some curious searchers into forbidden mysteries, but those riches of the divine wisdom which God often discovers to the soul that loves and praises him, and which strike her dumb by the excess of glory and sublime manifestations of Himself. If the queen of Sheba was so astonished at the riches and magnificence of Solomon's court, as to break out in these words, “Thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom” (1 Kings 10:7, 8), how much more should the devout soul be swallowed up in rapture and astonishment, at those revelations of divine light and glory which God frequently vouchsafes to them that love and praise him, causing them to cry out with David, “O, Lord, how great are thy works! and 318 thy thoughts are very deep”! Ps. 92:5. And again, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant.” Ps. 25:14. And again, “Thou shalt make me to know wisdom in the hidden part.” Ps. 51:6. Therefore, as the queen of Sheba says, “Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and hear thy wisdom;” so those that continually praise God, are the servants of God, standing continually about his table, believing in spirit the divine wisdom, and hearkening to the word of God. This is the never-failing fountain of true wisdom, which one of the ancient fathers treats of, calling it “the deep ocean of divine wisdom.” But sublime and glorious as it is, “a brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.” In a word, the more closely a man approaches God by praise and thanksgiving, the clearer manifestations has he of the riches and treasures of the divine wisdom; which at the same time are hidden, and as it were locked up from those that are without understanding in the ways of God.

6. We may conclude that praising God is the highest honor, the most exalted privilege, and greatest benefit to man; because (6) by this man gains the victory over all his enemies, both Satan and men. See Psalm 8:2; 18:3, etc.; 118:5-15. We have a plain instance of this in the case of Jehoshaphat, who, with one divine hymn, routed a vast army of his enemies without loss of blood; as we find, 2 Chron. 20:21, 22. Such songs of victory are frequently to be met with in the Psalms: as Psalms, 18; 46; 47; 76, etc.

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