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do. This was a grievous mortification to him, as it deprived him of his wonted pleasures, and seemed an evident mark of the divine displeasure. His servants indeed at first attempted to carry the ark after him in his flight, in order that he might have the satisfaction of worshipping God before it, and of consulting him upon emergencies. But he directed Zadok the priest to carry it back to it's place, saying,
Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it and his habi. tation."
In this situation, considering himself as having incurred this mark of displeasure by his offences, it was natural for him to inquire, what excellencies of character were requisite to secure a constant residence near the ark, and the enjoyments of an ho. nour, of which he had lately been deprived; and it seems to be with this view, that the fifteenth Psalm, whence the text is taken, was composed.
It begins with proposing this question ; " Lord, who shall abide (not " in thy tabernacle," as in our translation ; for no one had his residence within the tabernacle, but) near thy tabernacle? " Who shall dwell near thy holy hill?” To this question an answer is made in the following verses by a description of the character, which would be worthy of this honour : “ He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart;" which description is continued to the end of the
Psalm, and concludes with these words, which
prove, in my apprehension, the interpretation now given to be the true one, “ He that doeth these things, shall never be moved," that is, he shall enjoy an undisturbed residence near the tabernacle, he shall never be driven thence as long as he lives. This is language, which could not with any propriety be applied to a residence within the tabernacle ; for no excellence of character would qualify a man for living constantly there.
Many persons indeed suppose, that by the tabernacle of God and the hill of God, David intends, not the visible residence of the divine Being among the children of Israel in this world, but Heaven the seat of his glory, and the place destined for good men after death, and that the object of the Psalm is to describe the qualifications which are necessary to fit them for this blessed mansion. But I recollect no place in the Old Testament, in which Heaven, is called by the name of the tabernacle or hill of God; and it is not likely that the Psalmist, without any previous notice, would introduce a new language. That language first occurs in the epistle to the Hebrews, in which almost every term belonging to the mosaic institution is applied to whatever bore any resemblance to it under the Christian dispensation, without asserting, however, that they had originally this double meaning.
My intention at this time is to insist upon one part only of the description here given of the man, who
is qualified for enjoying the honour above referred to: “In his eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord.” And with this design I observe first, that good men esteem or honour those of mankind, who are of a like disposition with themselves, on accountoftheir goodness, andindependently of any other consideration. Secondly, I shall endeavour to show, how this esteem is acquired; and, in the third place, make some inferences for the practical improvement of the subject.
First, then, good men are esteemed and honoured by those of a like character. You see I apply the observation to the whole of the religious character ; for although it is confined in the text to fearing God, which is only one branch of goodness, yet that expression, as in other passages of Scripture, is to be understood of the whole of religion; which is so denominated, because it has it's foundation in the fear of the divine Being. For the justness of the observation we must appeal to the experience of mankind. On this ground I have no scruple in saying, that, if we be really good ourselves, in whomsoever we see piety, humility, resignation, submission, gratitude toward God; benevolence, charity, generosity, compassion, humility, gratitude toward men ; and temperance, patience, contentment, with respect to our own private enjoyments and sufferings; if we possess these virtues ourselves, we shall behold them with satisfaction and pleasure in others, love and esteem those by whom they are possessed,
be glad to enjoy their company, and show them every mark of respect and honour in our power, in preference to other men.
That persons of the character I have been describing feel this esteem and affection for one another, few will pretend to doubt; but that there are many who will attribute it to a different cause, and say that it arises, not from the virtues they possess, as here supposed, but from early intercourse, from interest, from talents, wealth, or similarity of religious opinions, or from some other cause, and that goodness has no share in producing them. If therefore, I can show, that it subsists independently of these motives, and even in opposition to them, I shall establish the truth of what the Psalmist asserts.
It must be acknowledged, that mutual intercourse produces mutual affection. To persons, who have been trained with us in the same place of education, who have been engaged in the same pursuits, or partaken of the same pleasures, we feel ourselves strongly attached. The society of such old acquaintance, the companions of our youth and of our riper years, is pleasant to us independently of other causes; and the pleasure is felt afresh every time the intercourse is renewed. But the satisfaction, which arises from the contemplation of virtuous characters, is received from persons, to whom we are entire strangers, and whom we have never seen ; from those who have been long since laid in the grave, or who never had a real exist:
ence; the worthies of past ages, whom we read of only in history; or characters which have been described by the pen of fiction. In producing respect for such characters former intercourse could have no influence; for there has been no opportunity for cultivating it. A like reason may be given for saying, that it cannot arise from benefits conferred; for although we may receive favours from the dead, and be greatly benefitted by the good effects of the wise instructions and good conduct of our forefathers, which may produce a strong feeling of gratitude in our minds, there must be something else to excite feelings of esteem, where the character is ideal, or where we have no connection with the object of our regard.
If the esteem, of which I have been speaking, do not arise from the causes just mentioned, it may
be supposed to proceed from the accidental distinctions of wealth and power, which have great influence over some minds. The man of large possessions, the occupier and proprietor of a splendid mansion, adorned with the elegancies of dress, accomplished in polished manners, and surrounded with numerous attendants ready to obey the slightest intimation of his will, this man is an object of high respect to many, they approach his person with awe, and treat with deference every thing he says or does. This respect is still farther increased, if to the splendour of wealth be also added the dignity of high station: to their united authority there are many, who bow