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The True Conception of God
It is needful to the understanding of this Psalm and its lesson that we should realize that the religion of separation has no place whatever in the spirit of it. The conception of God here is not a being whom men can obey while they separate themselves from all human interest. It is a conception of a God who brings man back again into human interests and uplifts and dignifies all that they have to do day by day. I. This Psalmist sees God where some of us even today do not see Him, in nature. God speaks through all physical life. Have some of us guessed the most elementary thought in religion, that if there be a God of faith He must be the same as the God of all knowledge, of all attainment in science, that the truth in all revelation must be the truth concerning Him whom you see in sky and sea, in all the wonders of life about you? And yet men today will speak with something like a sneaking contempt of all endeavour to understand what God does in this part of His world. I know good people yet who think the decoration of a church to be one of the greatest sins of the world. I will not for a moment quarrel with any man in his conviction, but may I ask this one question: Have we any right to rob the Creator of this part of His praise? Have we a right to make that dull which God had made eloquent with the acknowledgment of His power? You shut out great possible thoughts of God when you consign this part of the revelation of Him to a lower place and will let it have no part in your worship.
II. Teach men that God is the first word and the last word in everything that is beautiful and orderly. The sublimest picture that you ever saw upon canvas was in God's mind before it was in the artist's. The most beautiful music that ever thrilled you through and through was a thought in God before it entered into the mind of him who, you say, created it Everything that is best in our life is of Him. Nature is a shrine of His worship, a side chapel in the great cathedral of service that we may render Him. Our generation demands this side of our utterance of what God is. Men are being taught that knowledge in its very nature is anti-religious. We need to teach men that nothing is so religious as the reverent humble growth into a better understanding of what God is, and of what God is doing. Bring into your conception of life your conception of God. Start with a belief of a God who is in humanity and seeks to work in humanity; come to the aspirations and desires of men with this vision, and you are bound to be a helper of men.
W. H. Harwood, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. III. p. 497.
Reference. CXLV. 6, 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi. No. 1828.
Ruskin says: 'To declare that we have such a loving Father, whose mercy is over all his works, and whose will and law is so lovely and lovable that it is sweeter than honey, and more precious than gold, to those who can "taste and see" that the Lord is Good this, surely, is a most pleasant and glorious good message and spell to bring to men'.
References. CXLV. 9. E. A. Bray, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 219. E. Johnson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii. p. 250. CXLV. 10. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxx. No. 1796.
The Communion of Saints
This is the special glory of the Christian Church, that its members do not depend merely on what is visible, they are not mere stones of a building, piled one on another, and bound together from without, but they are one and all the births and manifestations of one and the same unseen spiritual principle or power, 'living stones,' internally connected, as branches from a tree, not as the parts of a heap. They are members of the Body of Christ. That Divine and adorable Form, which the Apostles saw and handled, after ascending into heaven became a principle of life, a secret origin of existence to all who believe, through the gracious ministration of the Holy Ghost. This is the fruitful Vine, and the rich Olive-tree upon and out of which all saints, though wild and barren by nature, grow, that they may bring forth fruit unto God.
The Invisible Church
Fifty times as many saints are in the invisible world sealed for immortality as are now struggling on upon earth towards it; unless indeed the later generations have a greater measure of saints than the former ones. Well then may the Church be called invisible, not only as regards her vital principle, but in respect to her members. 'That which is born of the Spirit is spirit;' and since God the Holy Ghost is invisible, so is His work. The Church is invisible, because the great number of her true children have been perfected and removed, and because those who are still on earth cannot be ascertained by mortal eye; and had God so willed, she might have had no visible tokens at all of her existence, and been as entirely and absolutely hidden from us as the Holy Ghost is, her Lord and Governor.
As landmarks or buoys inform the steersman, as the shadow on the dial is an index of the sun's course; so, if we would cross the path of Christ, if we would arrest His eye and engage His attention, if we would interest ourselves in the special virtue and fullness of His grace, we must join ourselves to that ministry which, when He ascended up on high, He gave us as a relic, and let drop from Him as the mantle of Elijah, the pledge and token of his never-failing grace from age to age. 'Tell me, O Thou whom my soul loveth, where Thou feedest, where Thou makest Thy flock to rest at noon; for why should I be as one that turneth aside by the flocks of Thy companions?' Such is the petition, as it were, of the soul that seeks for Christ. His answer is as precise as the question. 'If thou know not, O thou fairest among women, go thy way forth by the footsteps of the flock, and feed thy kids beside the shepherds' tents.' Out of the Church is no salvation I mean to say out of that great invisible company, who are one and all incorporate in the one mystical body of Christ, and quickened by one Spirit: now, by adhering to the visible ministry which the Apostles left behind them, we approach unto what we see not, to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the spirits of the just, to the first-born elected to salvation, to angels innumerable, to Jesus the One Mediator, and to God. This heavenly Jerusalem is the true Spouse of Christ and Virgin Mother of saints; and the visible ministry on earth, the bishops and pastors, together with Christians depending on them, at this or that day is called the Church, though really but a fragment of it, as being that part of it which is seen and can be pointed out, and as resembling it in type, and witnessing it, and leading towards it.
J. H. Newman.
References. CXLV. 13. Archbishop Alexander, Bampton Lectures, 1876, p. 159. J. G. Greenbough, The Cross in Modern Life, p. 96. CXLV. 16. G. L. Richardson, Sermons for Harvest, p. 27. J. J. West, Penny Pulpit, No. 1823. CXLV. 21. M. G. Glazebrook, Prospice, p. 115. CXLV. International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 525. CXLVI. 1. Canon Beeching, The Grace of Episcopacy, p. 201. CXLVI. 4. T. Binney, King's Weigh-House Chapel Sermons (2nd Series), p. 97. CXLVI. 5. C. Bradley, The Christian Life, p. 289. CXLVI. 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii. No. 484. CXLVI. International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 530.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 145". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany