365 days with Newton

29 JUNE (PREACHED ON THANKSGIVING DAY, 29 JULY 1784)

Reverent joy: his greatness, our unworthiness

‘Rejoice with trembling.’ Psalm 2:11
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Psalm 2:1–12

This psalm is a prophecy of the establishment of the Redeemer’s kingdom in defiance of all the opposition raised against it. God had declared the decree and therefore the heathens and people, the Jews and Gentiles, kings and rulers, raged against it—as without just cause, so without effect. The Redeemer is seated in heaven and has his enemies in derision. Their resistance is to no purpose and, if persisted in, can only issue in their own ruin. They are therefore in mercy exhorted to submit and humble themselves before him. This, if they rightly know the nature of his kingdom, is their interest and would be their happiness. His subjects have good ground for joy—but a joy tempered with reverence. They may well rejoice, for he is able and engaged to bless those who put their trust in him. At the same time his greatness and their unworthiness, the dangers and snares they are exposed to, the evil within them and the enemies around them, are suited to inspire an awe and a jealousy. They are exhorted to rejoice, but with trembling. I think these words may be accommodated to enforce that temper of mind which becomes us all on the present occasion, when we professedly meet to offer our thanks to him who has the supreme government of all things, for putting an end to the late calamitous war. We have reason to rejoice and we have still reason to tremble.

FOR MEDITATION: Oh that our great men and statesmen rightly considered that the Lord reigneth—that they would seek wisdom from him to plan their enterprises and depend upon his blessing for their success. The finest spun schemes of men on earth may be compared to a spider’s web. One unforeseen contingence is sufficient to derange and sweep them away. Many proofs we have had in the course of this unhappy war that no human counsels or prospects can stand against the Lord. It is not Britannia, as our boasting song pretends, but the Lord who rules the waves, and them who sail upon them.169
John Newton to William Wilberforce, 30 March 1796

SERMON: PSALM 2:11 [1/3] [END OF AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE]

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