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is a season of God's frowning and scourging, which at longest can only endure, with respect to God's people, the term of their natural life; whilst his favour continues not only as long as natural life, but runs parallel with the life of the soul and line of eternity.
This former part of the verse appears intricate, because brief and concise, the latter part seems an illustration thereof by an excellent rhetorical allusion. His anger, his rod or whip; for when God is angry he inflicts punishment; anger is short, indignation more severe, yet both do not reach hatred. God's anger is manifested by its effects; when he scourgeth, as men do when angry, it is the fruit of vindictive or punitive justice, for he is not angry as men are.
But the words lie thus, a moment in his anger,* it is only momentary; in his favour life, his love is lasting, yea, everlasting : so life is opposed to a moment. The sense of the words is this : although for our sins God may sometimes be angry with us, yet in due time he manifests his good pleasure, which calls us back from death to life, wherein otherwise we should die with horror and despair here, and eternal shame and confusion hereafter.
Some indeed read the words thus,f making life refer to the former sentence, and his favour to the latter, life or lives, that is, the longest, sweetest life of men is a moment in his anger, or is momentary ; in his good will, that is, when his favour sweetly breathes on us, weeping may lodge with us in the night, but joy comes in the morning. The former part is parallel to that complaint in Psal. xxxix. 5, “Behold, thou hast made my days as a hand-breadth.”. And that expression is like it, Psal. xc. 5, “For all our days are passed away in thy wrath.” But the reading which we have in our Bibles is generally preferred for several good reasons. I shall wave further explication, and also raising observations, and propose this as the doctrine to be treated of in the words of the text, which is an entire proposition, that, “In God's favour is life.”
* Momentum in irâ suâ. + Vid. Mr. Pool's Syn, Critic. in loc.
There is life in God's love, or God's love is a Christian's life.
It is a scripture truth asserted by David here, being inspired by the Holy Ghost; and Moses saith the same, Deut. xxx. 20, “For he is thy life, and the length of thy days,” that is, not formally, but effectively, by mentioning the effect, he is the cause of thy life, or herein consisteth thy life to obey and enjoy him..
In prosecution of this doctrine I shall confine myself to the following inquiries :
1. What this favour of God is, and what this life? 2. In what respect God's favour is life? 3. To whom, and in what seasons it is life? 4. Why God's people account his favour life? And so come to an application.
ON THE FAVOUR OF GOD AND THE LIFE WHICH
IT COMPRISES OR PRODUCES.
I. We are to inquire, what is God's favour? and what is life? I shall put both these together, and so explain the terms briefly.
The word in the first language signifies, will, good
will, good pleasure ;* Deut. xxxiii. 23, “O Naphtali, satisfied with favour, full with the blessing of the Lord.” The latter sentence explains the former; when God is pleased to bless persons, they have his favour, and it is that which will satisfy them. It also signifies acceptance, Isa. lx. 7, “They shall come up with acceptance,” or favour, or good will,t “ on mine altar.” It is the same word as here. Once more, sometimes our English version renders it desire, Psal. cxlv. 19, “ He will fulfil the desire,” good will, "of them that fear him.” But as applied here to God, it imports God's great regard for his creatures, and it is fourfold.
1. God's favour is his goodness in the ordinary course of his providence towards all, even to the worst of men, Isa. xxvi. 10, “Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness.” And this is our natural life, both as to the origin and maintaining of it, good and bad have their dependence upon God's providence ; for he holdeth our soul in life, Psal. lxvi. 9. God doth not do as workmen that make an artificial engine, and set it a-going, and so leave it to itself, but his favour preserves our being and wellbeing; Job x. 12, “ Thou hast granted me life and favour, and thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.” By favour is meant either that life is a favour, or that beneficence whereby we are supplied with all needful accommodations. The heathens knew this, f and their poets sung it, as Paul quotes Aratus and others, Acts xvii. 28, “For we are also his offspring.” So that the stoutest champion and proudest emperor on earth depend upon God's favour and courtesy, whether they shall live another moment; so Daniel informs a
* Voluntas, benevolentia, beneplacitum. + Ad beneplacitum. # Vid. Pool's Syn. Critic. in loc.
mighty monarch, chap. v. 23, “God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways.” O that all men did but live under a sense of this great truth, that in God's favour is their life.
2. By God's favour are meant some signal acts of discriminating Providence. Thus God shewed favour to Israel his peculiar people, Psal. xliv. 2, 3, God drove out the heathen, that is, the seven nations of Canaan, and planted his people in their room. Why did he so? The Psalmist answers, “not by their sword or arms, but” positively, “ by thy right hand and thine arm, because thou hadst a favour unto them.” God's favour was their armour and artillery, this produced weapons for them, both offensive and defensive: hence Psal. v. 12, “For thou Lord wilt bless the righteous, with favour wilt thou compass* him as with a shield.” This produceth our comfortable, safe, happy life, which is emphatically called life: so 1 Sam. xxv. 6, “ Thus shall ye say to him that liveth,” that is, that lives prosperously, joyfully, comfortably. And i Thess. iii. 8, “Now we live, if ye stand fast in the Lord,” that is, we live a life of joy; for as Rebecca said of her sad and sorrowful life, Gen. xxvii. 46, “I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth, if Jacob take such an one, what good shall my life do me?” For a life of sorrows is a dying life, scarce worth the name of life in the account of one bitter in soul. But now God's favour produceth deliverances, comfortable provisions, resurrection from death to life, and all accommodations. Thus God raised Hezekiah from a mortal disease, thus he lighted David's candle, and thus he prevents a thousand dangers, and loads us with multitudes of blessings, whereby our lives are rendered comfortable. And what is the ground of all this? why, God's favour. * Coronabo eum.
+ Isa. xxxviii. Psal. xviii. 28.
Consult Psal. xci. 4, 14–16. Psal. lxxxv. 1-3. O consider this, it is by God's favour that our life is not a hell, but so near akin to paradise.
3. By God's favour, the scripture often means the special fruits of God's distinguishing grace, vouchsafed to his own children, and to none else. Psalm cvi. 4, “ Remember me, O Lord, with the favour of thy people;” that is, the favour thou bearest to thy people, as our translation explains it: then it follows, “ O visit me with thy salvation.” This is peculiar grace flowing from the spring of everlasting love, producing all the streams that feed spiritual life in the soul. From the fountain of God's favour flows converting grace, which puts a seed of spiritual life into the heart, whereby we live unto God, 2 Cor. v. 14, 15. It is the favour of benevolence, whereby God first makes us his people, 1 Sam. xii. 22. It is the favour of complacency, whereby God takes delight in his people, Zeph. iii. 17, and here originate all the precious fruits of gospel grace, the giving of his Son,* the preaching of the gospel, the sanctification of souls, their justification, their communion with God, and eternal salvation. All the privileges that saints enjoy on this side heaven, and in heaven, proceed from the favour of God, and so God's favour is our life spiritual and eternal, yea, a living faith, and the life of faith is God's gift, and a fruit of this favour. † This is life eternal begun, this indeed is a life worthy of being called life, without which we are but dead men morally, and must die eternally. But the good will or favour of God gives such water to his saints, as shall be in them a well of water springing up to everlasting life, John iv. 14. No wonder then if David so earnestly desires this favour of God, without which he was not a saint, nor accepted : Psal. * John iii. 16.
+ Eph. ii. 8. John xvii. 3.