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The Lord in His Temple
I. To the question 'what can the righteous do?' the old reply must be given: 'The Lord is in His holy temple'. This is the great creed. It involves much that does not appear. The first thing that it involves is the personality of our God and Father; and that personality of our God and Father takes up into itself all the attributes that in Revelation are ascribed to Him. There is His omniscience, and therefore, there is nothing that man can discover that is unknown to God. There is His omnipotence; there is nothing that man can do that is outside the power of God. And there is His omnipresence. Wherever man goes the Lord is in His holy temple. He is with His believing child; He is with His struggling society; He is with the Catholicity of His Church; so that when dangers threaten, the cry of His people will be the cry of the Psalmist and the cry of one who knew how to expect deliverance from the mercy of His heavenly Father.
II. Anti-religious Philosophy. I regard the greatest danger which religion has to face in our century as a non-religious philosophy. Call it naturalism, call it monism, call it agnosticism. Those who give us these ideas are in our own land and in other lands. They make short work of all that we hold vital and precious in the Christian faith. They give us instead grim negations of even the strongest and deepest instincts of every human soul. One says everything is by natural means. Another says nature is all-sufficient. A third says there can be no intervening influence from without or beyond nature.
III. The Denial of Personality. But whether God be openly denied, or whether He be regarded as a stream or tendency or as an eternal energy, or whether His existence and sympathy are to be dismissed in the blank ignorance of the agnostic, 'I do not know,' this is clear; all agree in one thing, and that is, they banish from the world, and they would banish if they dared from the Church, the personality of God. The denial of the personality of God is the overthrow of the responsibility of man; and if you were to ask me, 'what is the danger of England today,' I answer, we are in great danger of being affected by an epidemic of irresponsibility. We are making for ourselves the character of a nation that cannot be serious, and this is because of the utter frivolity which is entering into and corroding our moral fibre and, in its best sense, our national virility.
IV. Athirst for God. The prevailing irresponsibility is to me the outcome of the general apathy to, if not a denial of, the cardinal doctrine of the personality of God. The personality of God corresponds to the personality of the instinct for God. And not all the heaving waves of scepticism or of infidelity can ever hush the cry of the soul, 'My soul is athirst for God. Yea, for the living God.'
References. XI. 1. J. Vaughan, Sermons (10th Series), p. 109. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xii. No. 691. XI. 5. Spurgeon; Evening by Evening, p. 249. G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 395. XI. 7. R. Allen, The Words of Christ, p. 110.
Dr. Ker tells us that when John Welsh and his fellow-captives were summoned from their prison in Blackness, on the Firth of Forth, to appear before the court at Linlithgow, they sang this Psalm as they walked by night under guard to their trial. While they were lying in their dungeon, deep and dark, below the level of the sea, they received a letter from Lady Melville of Culross, bidding them be thankful that they were only 'in the darkness of Blackness, and not in the blackness of darkness'.
They were at length banished 'forth the kingdom,' under the arbitrary government of James VI., who was bent upon the establishment of Episcopacy.
Calderwood says: 'Upon the 6th of Nov. 1606, about the evening, when they were ready to embark, Mr. John Welsh conceived a fervent prayer, on the shore of Leith, and they took good-night of their friends, wives, and acquaintances, and entered in the boat; and after they had waited a good space upon the skipper, because he was not ready, they returned by two hours in the morning, at which time many were present. After prayer, they entered in the boat, with singing the 23rd Psalm. The people were much moved, and prayed heartily for them.'
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 11". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany