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The Security of Insecurity
Did you ever know so remarkable a reason assigned for irreligion? Here is the peril of a settled life. Here is the security of insecurity.
The idea of the word 'changes' is, as Poole the Puritan indicates, 'destructive changes'. They have no unpleasant, painful, changes. They live securely. All is always well with them. And this smooth, unruffled life is the ruin of their souls: 'They fear not God'. The Revised Version simply renders it as a fact without asserting the reason: 'The men who have no changes, and who fear not God'. The idea is evidently the same. Their settled life is the secret of their practical atheism. Earthly tranquillity is infinite spiritual impoverishment.
'Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.'
I. The Fact that 'they have no Changes'.
1. They have no regenerative changes.
2. They have no changes of circumstance.
3. Some have no intellectual changes.
4. It is possible to have no emotional changes.
5. I have known Christians who hoped to have no experimental changes. It is a vain, delusive hope. The right use of changes is a wonderful instrument of sanctification. Tribulations give permanence to the fear of God. In the lack of a continuing city here we seek a city out of sight.
II. The Consequent Fact that 'they fear not God'.
1. 'Because they have no changes, therefore they fear not God.' It all but inevitably follows. There is an influence in changes which tends to the fear of God. Changes cast us upon God.
2. Changes make us pray.
3. Changes evoke praises.
4. Changes make us sympathetic.
5. Changes inspire hope in God.
Dinsdale T. Young, The Gospel of the Left Hand, p. 123.
The Discipline of Change
It is strange that this discipline of change should be such an important factor, for we almost feel it to be unnatural.
I. There is no real rest in the world for body or mind or heart or soul. We must admit also, if we are honest with ourselves, that we need the stimulus of constant change if life is to attain its best results. Changelessness would only lull the senses and the faculties to sleep. In the stress and strain of life character is formed. If all went smoothly and softly, if life knew no dread menace, if every wind were tempered for us, and an easy path ever prepared for the feet, would we be better men and women? If there were no changes would we fear God?
II. As a matter of fact, degeneracy has always set in with both nations and men when prosperity has been unalloyed. Science is the daughter of wonder, and wonder is the fruit of all the changes and movements of the world. Religion even has her secure empire in the hearts of men through the needs of men's hearts, the need for which they crave of a changeless centre in the midst of change. Moral degeneracy creeps upon the man or the nation that sits at ease, as the stagnant pool breeds malaria. The cloudless sky is a mockery if it speak not to us of God.
III. The discipline of change is meant to drive us out beyond the changing hour to the thought of eternity, out from the restless things of sense to find rest in God. What failure is like that of those who have been chastened and yet never softened, who have gone through the fire without learning the lesson, who have tasted the sorrow without the sympathy, who have borne the cross without the love? If it be failure to have missed the fear of God, even though fortune has smiled its fairest, what failure is that which has been broken by chains, and come through all its discipline and yet is deaf to the lesson? Blessed are they who learn the Divine meaning of life's limitations.
Hugh Black, Homiletic Review, 1904, vol. XLVIII. p. 211.
References. Leviticus 19:0 . J. Martineau, Hours of Thought, vol. i. p. 127. Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv. p. 249.
The Religious Ground of Lightheartedness
I. There has always been in the world a great admiration for carelessness. A young man has a great pride in saying 'I don't care'. When a command is imposed on him by a higher authority, he often resists it; but his main motive in the resistance is to show the absence of care. When the advice of a friend arrests him in a downward path, he frequently brushes it aside; but he is not so much actuated by love of the downward path as by the wish to appear reckless and free. Recklessness is to him the synonym of manliness. Now, what is it that in our young days makes this spirit to us so attractive? It is its apparent resemblance to something which is really its contrary the religious life.
II. There is such a thing as Christian absence of care a freedom from weight, anxiety, depression. But it is an absence of care, not an annulling of it. The social epicurean tells his comrade to cast away his burden; the Christian tells his comrade, not to cast it away, but to lay it somewhere else: 'Cast thy burden on the Lord'. There is a very great difference between the two commands. It is the difference between throwing your money into the sea, and putting it in a bank beyond the possible risk of failure. A Christian's care is always to him his money his treasure. He does not want to lose it; he would place it nowhere except in hands where it had no chance of being neglected. Let us say, for example, that you are anxious about the future of your child. The social epicurean will tell you: 'Live for the day; do not look forward; enjoy the present hour and let tomorrow shift for itself'. But the Christian will say: 'You will best live for the present by making tomorrow sure. If you want to enjoy the hour you need not become cold to your child's future you need not even think less about it. You have only to put tomorrow in other hands in safer hands in God's hands.'
III. It is not forgetfulness you need; it is mind fulness without mourning. It is not the trampling of care under your feet, but the transference of care to another bosom. Destroy it not, ignore it not, bury it not, escape it not; but take it up tenderly, fold it up cautiously, and lay it on the heart of the Lord.
G. Matheson, Messages of Hope, p. 145.
References. Leviticus 22:0 . J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons (8th Series), p. 147. Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii. p. 30. LV. International Critical Commentary, vol. ii. p. 19. LVI. 3,4. A. Maclaren, Weekday Evening Addresses, p. 103.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Psalms 55". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany