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'As it is the special work of a shoemaker to make shoes,' said Luther, 'and of a tailor to make coats, so it is the special work of a Christian to pray.' The true artist is an artist everywhere. His work in his studio is only a part of his artist life. So must the pious soul be devoted to prayer; his prayers will be only a part of his praying life. The servants of Madame de Chantal used to say of their mistress: 'Madame's first Director made her pray three times a day, and everybody was upset. The new Director makes her pray all day, and nobody suffers for it.'
Reference. XXXIV. 3-8. A. Mursell, Lights and Landmarks, p. 165.
I. The meaning of the Look. There is many a metaphor which is more instructive than a treatise, and this one is worth cart-loads of metaphysical analysis. What is meant by it? No man hath seen God at any time, and yet there is an action of the spirit which is fitly paralleled as sight. We are accustomed to say seeing is believing; the converse is quite as true. Believing is seeing. The Spirit has its eye as the body that inward eye which is the bliss and the glory of man. In briefest words the look that enlightens is the look of faith. The main elements are plain enough. ( a ) There is what I may call the intellectual, the occupation of the understanding with the thought of God. ( b ) There is desire in the look, wistful, longing. ( c ) There is sense of need. ( d ) There is confident expectancy.
II. The power of the Look. Note how the enlightenment is set forth as immediate and certain. There will be no appreciable interval of time, but at once when a man turns his face to God his face will blaze. In this highest region of life to ask is to receive, to wish is to possess, to turn to the light is to be flooded, bathed, in the light, and that at once and without a doubt.
III. The Look has, properly speaking, no power at all, i.e., it is the blaze of the sunlight which makes the face glow. It is the objective faith, God's own face which makes the brightness and so the true limits of the worth of faith. Not the act of belief but the thing believed not the faith but the Gospel not very faith as a more refined form of work but my faith as the mere inlet through which His grace enters.
( a ) Put in its fullest power and it is this the look is the medium of healing or Salvation. This is the true enlightening the real deliverance from the power of darkness. To entertain the belief and this great love in Christ is to pass into the light.
( b ) The look works joy. The outward deliverance is implied, but even where that does not come we may have the joy of His face, and plain evermore is that the look, i.e. occupation of mind and heart with the thought of God, is sure to make a man glad.
Go and stand in the sunshine. That is what we all need to have said to us over and over again. That is the secret of all light, of knowledge, purity, and blessedness.
References. XXXIV. 5. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv. No. 195. XXXIV. 6. G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 225.
The Ministry of Angels
I. There is something, I think, very touching in the first recorded message of an Angel of God, and to our ears it may sound strangely. When Hagar fled from the face of Sarai, the Angel of the Lord found her in the wilderness and said 'Return to thy mistress, and subdue thyself under her hands': Patience and self-control, such are the earliest precepts which the messenger of heaven brings to a suffering woman; but with them is combined a blessing, for He said, 'I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude'. From this beginning the record of Divine providence flows on with even current through the age of patriarchs. At Sodom, at Moriah, at Hebron, at Mahanaim, at Bethel, and in Egypt, the patriarchs acknowledged the personal care of their God in the service of His messengers.
II. The history of the family was a prelude to the history of the nation. In times of rebellion and division, in times of despair and oppression, in times of sinful confidence and of trustful self-abasement, the Angel of the Lord wrought among Israel the issues of repentance and faith, of chastisement and victory, in the field of Bochim, and by the brook Kishon, appearing to Gideon as he threshed wheat by stealth, and to the wife of Manoah in her loneliness, stretching the destroying sword over the city of David and sweeping with a pestilence through the camp of the Assyrians. Meanwhile the prophets were unfolding wider views of the ancient faith. The God of Israel appeared under the more glorious title of the Lord of Hosts. The scene of His Majesty was transferred, as it were, from earth to heaven. The angels were seen ministering to His glory or declaring His perfections. The way was prepared for a spiritual kingdom; and Daniel was allowed to record the ministry of spiritual power in Persia and Greece that all the nations of the world might work together for the final establishment of the reign of Christ.
III. The age of prophets passed away, and with it the outward miracles of the first dispensation. A people tried by prosperity and purified by suffering was left to trace in the chequered course of life the Divine Presence which was before sensibly revealed to them. In part they were strengthened to deeds of heroic valour by the remembrance of past deliverance; in part they defaced the simplicity of the Scriptural teaching by the admixture of Eastern superstition; but the belief still lived, and in the fullness of time an angel announced to men the advent of the Saviour. Angels foretold the birth of his forerunner. Angels proclaimed the nativity to the shepherds. Angels were sent to minister to the Infant Jesus. And when the work of Christ began angels still attended Him. At His Temptation, at His Agony, at His Resurrection, at His Ascension, angels ministered to Him.
IV. I have said enough to show that the doctrine of a secondary spiritual agency is inwrought into the whole fabric of our faith; that it is not only consistent with the Omnipresence of God, but in some degree explanatory of it; that it was active when the creation was first completed; that it shall be active when Christ comes again to judgment: that it extends to the great mysteries of the Gospel and the passing needs of the least of Christ's little ones.
B. F. Westcott, Village Sermons, p. 240.
References. XXXIV. 7. A. Maclaren, Weekday Evening Addresses, p. 29. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2901. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, The Children's Bread, p. 126. J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes (4th Series), p. 94. XXXIV. 8. J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. vii. p. 192. J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 1875, p. 67. S. Cox, Expositor (2nd Series), vol. iv. p. 411. G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 115. XXXIV. 8, 9. T. Arnold, Christian Life: Its Hopes, p. 163. XXXIV. 10. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ii. No. 65. XXXIV. 11-15. J. Pulsford, Our Deathless Hope, p. 50. XXXIV. 15, 16. G. Moberley, Sermons in Winchester College (2nd Series), p. 1. XXXIV. 16. J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix. p. 200.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 34". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
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