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Pico della Mirandola quotes this text in a letter to his nephew in which he advises him with regard to daily prayer. 'When I stir thee up to prayer,' he wrote, 'I stir thee not to the prayer that standeth in many words, but to that prayer which in the secret chamber of the mind, in the privy-closet of the soul, with very affect speaketh unto God, and in the most lightsome darkness of contemplation, not only presenteth the mind to the Father, but also uniteth it with Him by unspeakable ways, which only they know that have assayed. Nor I care not how long nor how short thy prayer be, but how effectual, how ardent.... Let no day pass, then, but thou once at the least-wise present thyself to God by prayer, and falling down before Him flat to the ground, with an humble affect of devout mind, not from the extremity of thy lips but out of the inwardness of Thine heart, cry these words of the prophet, "The offences of my youth and mine ignorances, remember not, good Lord, but after Thy goodness remember me".'
References. XXV. 7. T. G. Selby, Comradeship and Character, p. 269. M. R. Vincent, Gates Into the Psalm, Country, p. 75. XXV. 8, 9. A. Maclaren, After the Resurrection, p. 203. XXV. 9. E. Bersier, Sermons, vol. i. p. 237. Homiletic Magazine, vol. lx. p. 257.
Mercy and Truth
So it lies for all time, the elementary law of theology. What does it mean?
I. It means of course, first of all that God's nature is mercy, and to this nature He is consistent, true to Himself; but it means also, and more especially, that in His merciful dealings with us He has respect to the truth of our nature. What this truth is we learn on the first page of Genesis: God said, 'Let us make man in our image'. There is at once something more than mercy: there is an ideal set up, a standard, a type for the race. And if you will ponder the history of man since, as the great Hebrews have written it for us in the Bible, you will see that the whole history of its course is but, on the one hand the persistency with which the God of Truth has kept before men's eyes His original creative purpose, has refused to abate one jot of His lofty ideal for mankind.
( a ) Look at the ideal Christ proposed to mankind. Is it not the old creative promise that man should be conformed to God's image? Christ is Himself the express image of God, and nothing short of that image will satisfy Him in us.
( b ) Contemplate the miracles of mercy. Merciful indeed He is, but there is a note about Him that seems more than mere compassion. What is this faith He requires? How often were the miracles of healing at the same time miracles of conversion. Here, too, then in the miracles we see that the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is plainly Divine grace, is mercy and truth, is that love of God which is bent upon creating His own image in us.
( c ) But again you will recollect that it was this very forgiveness of sins which to the righteous of the time seemed to argue insensibility, as though our Lord were being falsely merciful ministering mercy at the expense of morality. And the charge is sometimes repeated still. How can we test Christ's mercy to men's souls to see it it be true mercy which considers the next? We must try it by its effect on character. The story of Zaccheus will suffice.
( d ) Similarly we might make our appeal to Christ's teaching, to His simple parable, or His paradoxical epigrams, and show how their glorious web is woven of the same two strands. For the occasion let that one word suffice in which more than any other He summed up for us His revelation of the Creator I mean the word Father. No word will so well bring home to us the essential nature of the Divine mercy and truth.
II. It is of supreme importance to the reality of our Christian life that we should refuse to separate between these Divine attributes of Mercy and Truth, that we should not say simply 'God loves us,' without drawing out the implicit truth 'and wishes us to be like Himself. The true test of our theology is worship.
III. Not only have we to acknowledge God's mercy and truth, we have to display it in relation to our fellows.
( a ) Consider, for example, those great typical Christian actions of forgiveness and judgment. If we forgive anything, or if we condemn anything, it can only be 'in the person of Christ,' by sharing both His hatred of sin and His love for the sinner.
( b ) Consider the question of veracity and compliment which, slight as it may appear, fills our social lines. If we are apt to give our criticisms without mercy let us take to heart St. Paul's maxim 'Speaking the truth in love'. If on the other hand we find it only too easy to be gracious, let us remember that other great word of his: 'Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt'.
( c ) If our mercy to the poor is the true mercy it must never be separated from a consideration of their high welfare.
( d ) We must bring under the same Divine law our conduct to ourselves.
H. C. Beeching, Inns of Court Sermons, p. 22.
References. XXV. 11. Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii. p. 145. XXV. 13. J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year, p. 343. Ibid. Sermons for Ascension Day to Trinity Sunday, p. 343.
The Secret of the Lord
I. The secret of the Lord, that is, His fellowship or friendship, His secret operations on the soul, which waken, comfort and support the believer, are hidden from all others, and are understood only by those who depend upon the influence of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord Himself said, when His disciples asked Him for an explanation of a parable, 'Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to them that are without all these things are done in parables, that seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand'.
II. These ways of God are not hidden from any of His true people.
( a ) When a soul is agitated with deep convictions, these convictions being the fruit of the spirit, God will eventually show to such an one His covenant whereby pardon and grace, through Christ, are secured to the self-convicted sinner.
( b ) Or see that same man in a more advanced state of religious impression, see him softened with godly sorrow and saving repentance. The secret of the Lord is with him.
( c ) Or if we view the soul of such an one as he advances in grace, and is enabled to estimate with something of a proper value the efficacy of Christ's redeeming sacrifice, he can say to any former companions in sin and folly, as Jesus said to His disciples, 'I have meat to eat that ye know not of.
III. The secret of the Lord is not only with His people individually but among them that fear Him. This is the ground of that communion of saints, that mutual fellowship of sorrows and joys which binds all true believers together in one, that is in Christ Jesus. And the secret of the Lord is among them collectively, they experience the same feelings, the same trials, the same victories. This communion has never been interrupted, never can be destroyed, but is maintained amidst all the jarring elements of the world, a world which comprehends it not, and whose enmity can neither destroy nor weaken it.
E. J. Brewster, The Shield of Faith, p. 56.
Touching words in themselves, and surely never more so than when they began the dying-song of Margaret Wilson, while the sea was rising round her at the mouth of the water of Blednoch, by Wigtown. She was twenty years of age, blameless and gentle, but had been in the habit of attending field and house conventicles, and refused to take the test. For these things she was condemned to be drowned along with an elderly woman, named Margaret Lachlan, accused of the same offences. They were tied to stakes within the tide-mark, where the waters of the Solway come up swift and strong into the channel of the Blednoch. The older woman was placed farther from the bank that the sight of her struggles might terrify the younger, and cause her to give way. But she was faithful to the death.
References. XXV. 14. G. W. Brameld, Practical Sermons (2nd Series), p. 122. C. J. Vaughan, Memorials of Harrow Sundays, p. 263. J. J. West, Penny Pulpit, No. 1678, p. 463. W. A. Essery, Christian World Pulpit, vol. i. p. 182. XXV. 18. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii. No. 741. Ibid. Evening by Evening, p. 102. XXV. International Critical Commentary, vol. i. p. 219. XXVI. 2. H. Bushnell, Sermons on Living Subjects, p. 224. XXVI. 3. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi. No. 956. XXVI. 6. C. G. Finney, Penny Pulpit, No. 1668, p. 383. XXVI. 6, 7. G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 253. XXVI. 8. A. C. Tait, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv. p. 33. J. Baldwin Brown, The Sunday Afternoon, pp. 133, 141, 150. XXVI. 9. C. Perren, Revival Sermons, p. 299. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix. No. 524. W. T. Hamilton, American Pulpit, p. 193. XXVI. International Critical Commentary, vol. i. p. 229. XXVII. 1. E. B. Pusey, Sermons Preached Before the University of Oxford, p. 52. H. P. Liddon, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii. p. 24. J. Baldwin Brown, The Higher Life, p. 114. Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 168.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 25". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany