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From the Sea to the City
To return to London in this forge of human work and passion when one has been living with great nature, almost in solitude, is always a curious experience. The things which are considered of vast importance in London seem small; the battles waged ere with amazing ardour, needless and apart from the greater issues of life. Man, we think, is walking in a vain show, and disquieting himself in vain. The great things of nature, the mighty powers we have felt at work, have dwarfed the business and battles in which men are so impetuously concerned. Yet while we live in the movement of mankind, with a silent love and with faith in its salvation, knowing that in its errors there is truth, and in its wrong victorious good we ought, when we have been for a time near to the life of nature, to be able to bring back from it some thoughts which may support, dignify, and add beauty to our life with humanity.
I. I have been staying in Cornwall on the very verge of the Atlantic; all day long, around the Lizard Point, the multitudinous ships passed by. I thought of all this energy of man, of all this sorrow of the world, as I watched the ships sail by, and wondered at that unconquerable force and hopefulness of mankind which failure only urged into greater activities and wondering, I said, 'Almighty God is at the root of man, else long ago he had despaired'.
II. Secondly, could we but realize the Infinite, set free our thought from the limiting notions of space and time, imagine even in a little way the infinite scale in which things are done, all that I have tried to say would become clearer to us. We live and die, we think, in a finite world. In reality we are sailing in the infinite, and our little life here is like the momentary opening and closing of an eyelid in comparison with the endless being which even now belongs to us, and in which we live. The conception of the Infinite has been made a thousandfold easier to us by science. But its clearest revelation is in the soul itself. The soul knows, as it knows immediately what love is, that the Infinite is the fact which underlies the universe; knows that it is consciously at one with infinity and belongs to it for ever. To realize the infinite love, to feel our childhood to it, to live in it, to die for it, and to pass, after death, into closer union with it that is to be a Christian and to have the Christian faith. And no words contain its fullness so completely as those which Jesus used, when he called the infinite Creator our Father, and us, who share in his infinity, His children.
III. This world in which we live, this limited world of time and space, this present in which we clash incessantly with transient and dying things, with interests of a day this is only our momentary home. We are to do our duty in it, to share in its higher life, to love our comrades in its fleeting scene but our true resting-place is not in the passing and the finite. We are sailing over the infinite which for the moment seems the finite, to a further infinite, on which, in a doubling and redoubling life, we shall sail forever.
S. A. Brooke, The Kingship of Love, p. 1.
Reference. CVII. 23, 24. C. Kingsley, Discipline and Other Sermons, p. 23.
'Jesus, Lover of My Soul'
To the Oriental mind in olden times the sea appealed chiefly as an object of terror. Its masterfulness was the one thing about it which affected the imagination. I. Notwithstanding all the study that has been given to it the sea remains the most masterful thing with which man has got to do. Only He who made the sea can get it to do His bidding. He sits above the storm and is King over it.
II. The sacred writers never conceive of the universe as a great machine with a great unknown behind it, to whom any individual man or thing is of no moment whatever. When they speak, as so often they do, of the operations of nature, it is by referring not to what are called the laws of nature, but to the authors of these laws.
III. However appalling and inscrutable the phenomena of nature may be, they are included in all the things mentioned by St. Paul as working together for good. The various parts of our lives, and the manifold events which go to make up history, cannot be rightly understood, if they can be understood at all, when they are taken by themselves; each has its place in the whole, and where that place is, He who has all eternity to work in will let us know some day.
IV. I wonder whether Charles Wesley was thinking of the scene associated with our text when he wrote 'Jesus, Lover of my Soul'. This hymn has been the salvation of many a voyager on life's troubled sea. For in truth human life may be likened to a voyage.
W. Taylor, Twelve Favourite Hymns, p. 97.
References. CVII. 30. E. A. Askew, Sermons Preached in Greystoke Church, p. 51. Spurgeon, Down by the Sea, p. 170. J. M. Neale, Sermon Passages of the Psalms, p. 226. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, A Year's Plain Sermons, p. 254. CVII. 40, 41. J. M. Neale, Sermons on Passages of the Psalms, p. 238.
Dark Days and Their Compensations
Astronomy would be impossible if it were always daylight. Only in the dark do we grow aware of these companies of constellations to which the sunshine had blinded our eyes. The chief discoveries of the moral firmament only become possible to us under similar conditions. There are strange outlooks and splendours of the human spirit which never begin to reveal themselves until after the sun of prosperity and happiness has gone out of the sky.
I. This Psalm celebrates the blessed experience of those whom God takes down into the darkness that they may learn there the mysteries of His love. They are described as fainting travellers in the desert, as forlorn captives in the dungeon, as sick men about to die, as sailors ready to founder in a tempest. But in each case the result is the same. In their blackest extremity they find underneath them the Everlasting Arms, and they are brought back to praise the Everlasting Mercy. Do we not often meet with shallow Christians who are curiously uneducated in spiritual things, because their experience hitherto has included so little except sunshine?
II. How little of the Bible you can understand so long as you only read it in sunshiny weather. But in black midnight sorrows its pages begin to shine and burn like the stars. Scripture remains more or less a sealed volume to those who have never suffered. But our extremity becomes its opportunity, and we realize then that it carries the one prescription for the pain of the whole world.
III. The lovingkindness of the Lord is represented here as a great induction from the experience of His people. When we consider the manifold applications and consolations of the righteous, and learn how the saints are distressed and succoured and emptied and satisfied, there is borne in upon us a sweet and solemn sense of the everlasting faithfulness and patience of their Redeemer. The final value of a spiritual biography lies in the record of how God brought His servant through deep waters and dark nights, and how, having suffered the loss of all things, that man found his infinite compensation in the holy and acceptable and perfect will of God.
T. H. Darlow, The Upward Galling, p. 27.
References. CVII. 43. C. Bradley, The Christian Life, p. 98. E. Thring, Uppingham Sermons, vol. i. p. 392. CVII. International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 357.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 107". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany