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The Sorrows of the Night
Few have gone far along life's way without understanding what it is to watch for the morning. The invalid, helpless, sleepless, every nerve strained, with a great weight of confused woe heavy on his breast, welcomes the chill light, though it brings but little respite though he can only say, 'Risest thou thus, dim dawn, again?' Even in full strength, when we lie awake at night, there may come to us all the cruel possibilities of the future, as well as the real anxieties of the present, till there is no more spirit left in us. But when the morning dawns, when we put on the armour of light, we are stronger to meet our foes.
Perhaps the sorrows of the night were never felt so little as now, when people fly to narcotics on the slightest provocation. In other times they were well understood. Whether the pain was of the body or the soul it ached on unallayed. Rousseau has a striking phrase, les frayeurs nocturnes , and the Middle Ages in particular knew those terrors in all their forms. It is this which gives their tenderness to the Provencal songs of the morning.
I. There is another coming desired more eagerly by the Christian heart, and promised by Jesus Christ Himself when He spoke the word, Hereafter ye shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven. This phrase cannot be reduced and tamed into anything short of lunacy if Christ was not Divine. This second advent is continually insisted on by Himself and His Apostles; its solemn note resounds through exhortation, comfort, and warning. Yet in our day it is largely ignored in Christian teaching, and is left as the heritage of comparatively small and obscure companies, who encumber it with false and doubtful interpretations. But the truth itself is independent of all these entanglements. It is simply that Christ is to appear suddenly, and the time may be close upon us; we are to be ready, for in such an hour as we think not the Son of Man may come.
II. What is the significance of this expectation to us? How is it to alter and colour our lives? We do not look for the Appearing in our own life here. As we have parted with the dear ones who, like ourselves, have been partakers of the power of His resurrection, we have felt that we, too, must die, and the clods of the valley have been sweet. We have looked to join our own among the shaded glories under the Altar-Throne, there to wait and pray for the adoption. But we should think of the advent as near, even at the doors, all the days we go out and in. Christ is with us according to His promise, but He stands by us unseen, and in spite of all His gifts there is still a hiding of His power. The meaning of the promise is that the fight will not go on for ever, that the flux and reflux of the tide of battle will at last cease, that a decisive interposition will end the war, and that the Son of Man will purge His kingdom of all things that offend, and them that do iniquity. Since Christ came, all have owned that a new force is astir, but we see not yet all things put under Him.
III. The day and hour we know not Even the angels in heaven know not More wonderful and touching still, this secret was kept from the Son in His humiliation. He consented to be ignorant of the time when His work should reach its term. We may reverently conjecture that this was one drop in His cup, that the tumult and anguish of His soul were not complete without it, that to sympathize with us perfectly He must know the turmoil of our spirits in expecting the end. Perhaps He meant to teach us that the best help for present duty and suffering is always to be expecting the second advent, always to be ignorant of the time. We are to fight as if no new succours were to come, we are to fight knowing that they are coming, it may be in our day, it may be after we have died on the field, but that with them the victory is sure. But the belief that even now the Lord is at hand will ever help to keep us in the earnest purity of the girded loins and the burning lamp, and deliver us from any hope that falls short of God.
W. Robertson Nicoll, Ten Minute Sermons, p. 103.
It was the 130th Psalm, sung in St. Paul's, May, 1738, and heard by John Wesley with deep emotion, that prepared him for the truth of justification by faith, which he embraced shortly afterwards, through reading Luther on the Galatians. His conversations with Peter Bohlen, of the Moravian Brethren, also aided him greatly, and helped to preserve him from the mystic legalism of Law's Serious Gall, to which he was at one time inclined. But for this decision, the mighty movement which has sprung from Wesley would have failed in the birth.
References. CXXX. J. W. Bardsley, Many Mansions, p. 315. CXXX. 4. J. Keble, Miscellaneous Sermons, p. 441. M. Biggs, Practical Sermons on the Old Testament Subjects, p. 220. CXXX. 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 351. G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 367. CXXX. H. Woodcock, Sermon Outlines, p. 170. International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 464. A. Maclaren, A Year's Ministry (2nd Series), p. 31. C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 262. CXXXI. 2. J. Keble, Sermons for the Sunday After Trinity, p. 163. J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (10th Series), p. 234. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1210. CXXXI. F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 135. International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 466. C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 280.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 130". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13