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1. Another of the Hallelujah Psalms 2:0. Date and authorship unknown.
3. The first of six Psalms in the Jewish liturgy (113–118) termed Hallel, or the Egyptian Hallel, as distinguished from the great Hallel. “This Psalm continued to be received while the temple stood, and is still recited in Palestine eighteen times a year, apart from its customary, though not legal use, at the new moon. Outside of Palestine it is now yearly recited twenty-one times.… At the family celebration of the Passover Psalms 113, 114. were sung before the meal, and indeed before the emptying of the second cup, and the others after the meal, and after the filling of the fourth cup.”—Moll.
A NOBLE PEOPLE AND A NOBLE SERVICE
Nobility consists in those endowments which render the possessors worthy of honour. Nobility of service consists in the consecration of those endowments to the best being, for the best ends. This is nowhere fully the case except in the service of God.
I. The servants of God are a noble people. All God’s servants are noblemen. Abraham, Moses, Caleb, Job, Isaiah, Zerubbabel, and the promised Messiah, God speaks of as “My servants.” Christ’s designation of Himself is, “I am among you as one that serveth.” Nebuchadnezzar and Darius saw that Daniel and the three Hebrew youths were “servants of God.” Paul, Peter, Timothy, James, and Jude called themselves servants of God. All Israel was such ideally; all Christians are so actually.
1. God’s servant realises the noblest and most perfect ideal of life.
(1.) Some men live for pleasure.
(2.) Some for intellectual effort.
(3.) Some for moral excellence.
(4.) But God’s servants live for Him. And here they have what they can never otherwise have, a powerful motive for virtue, full mental culture, and all legitimate enjoyment, for the education and completion of their whole being, hence God’s service is the noblest ideal of life.
2. God’s servants have the noblest master. It ennobles the proudest peer in the land to be in the service of his sovereign.
3. God’s servants yield to the noblest claims. “I have made thee for Myself.” This was not based upon any merit in us, but upon His free love and mercy. And therefore God’s claims rest—
(1.) Upon the right of property. We have rights over the products of our hand and brain. So has God.
(2.) Upon the right of sustenance and preservation. The basest ingratitude is that which ignores the right of those to whose generosity we owe our all.
(3.) Upon the right of redemption. Note the price by which it was effected, the curse from which it rescues, the dignities to which it elevates.
4. God’s servants have the noblest warrant for their service.
(1.) The warrant of reason. Their service is a “reasonable service.”
(2.) The warrant of conscience.
(3.) The warrant of love.
5. God’s servants are promised and enjoy the noblest rewards. God Himself. “I will be their God.” There are many subordinate rewards, but this comprehends and crowns them all.
II. God’s service is a noble service. “Praise the name of the Lord.” This injunction no doubt refers to acts of religious worship as such. But it suggests much more, for all the acts of religious life are worship. “That ye should show forth the praises of Him,” &c. “Glorify God in your bodies and spirits which are His.”
1. It is noble in the dignity of its sphere. It links man with God Himself. Man becomes a “worker together with God,” with Christ, who accomplishes His mighty undertakings by human agency; with the Holy Ghost, who uses man as His mouthpiece for conviction of sin, &c.
2. It is noble in the motive from which it springs. All life is noble or ignoble according as it is actuated by noble or ignoble aims. God’s servants aim at “pleasing God.” This motive animated our Lord, John 8:29; Enoch, Hebrews 11:5; Solomon, 2 Samuel 7:29.
3. It is noble in the instruments by which it is accomplished. All that is morally worthy is pressed into this service; the mind purged from error; the will freed from prejudice; the heart emancipated from irregular passion and sin; the body a temple of the Holy Ghost.
4. It is noble in the freedom of its consecration. It is not pressed service, it is purely voluntary under the “royal law of liberty.”
5. It is noble in the uses which it serves. Doing the “will of God on earth as it is done in heaven.”
Our text suggests—
I. That there are grounds for gratitude. We bless God for blessing us. These grounds are universal. “What hast thou that thou didst not receive?” From Him descends “every good and perfect gift.”
1. Physical. The body with its organs, senses, members, susceptibilities of pleasure, provision for clothing, shelter, food, &c.
2. Mental. Literature, science, art, authors, poets, artists, are gifts from God.
3. Spiritual. The Bible, Gospel, means of grace, &c.
4. Political. Government, liberty.
II. That these grounds are often ignored.
1. Men lose sight of their benefactor. This may be
(1) Deliberate. Men dislike to be under an obligation. The Emperor Basil was saved when hunting by a courtier, and all Constantinople was speculating about the reward, when, to the astonishment of all, the preserver of his sovereign was ordered out to execution on the ground that the debt could never adequately be repaid. So men owe so much to God that the sense of obligation becomes burdensome, and they therefore endeavour to banish Him from their minds.
(2) Careless. Like the conduct of many children towards their parents. The blessings are so very regular that we forget their source.
2. Men make light of their blessings.
(1.) Of their physical gifts. Sin prostitutes them, and the attendant misery is charged upon God.
(2.) Of their mental gifts. The mind has wandered into unprofitable speculations, and is forthwith made responsible for the doubts and errors into which men fall. And men wish themselves dogs, without the power of thought.
(3.) Spiritual gifts, from their fancied sufficiency.
(4.) Political gifts, from love of lawlessness.
3. Men deny the utility of thankfulness. “If man serves us we repay him, in kind if he needs it; or by gratitude which gratifies his spirit. But what kind of repayment or gratification can God receive?” True, the divine benefactor is not dependent on man’s gratitude or gifts; but this overlooks the duty of acknowledging a gift whether it advantages its giver or not.
III. That these grounds should be acknowledged by present thankfulness. The obligation commences the moment the gift is conferred, and should therefore be acknowledged forthwith.
1. Circumstances should not be allowed to interfere. Those circumstances are God’s gifts, and should not be turned into instruments for robbing Him of His rights.
2. Persons should not be allowed to interfere. The dearest human relative ought not to be so close as God. Debts incurred to man are not to be compared with those we owe to God.
3. Inclination should not be allowed to interfere. They do not interfere with our service to man, nor should they with our duty to God.
IV. That these grounds should be acknowledged by perpetual thankfulness. “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” “His mercy endureth for ever,” therefore, &c. Learn—
(i.) The evils of ingratitude. It narrows the intellect, contracts the heart, restricts the sphere of service, and engenders a cold, hard, barren selfishness.
(ii.) The advantages of thankfulness. It secures further blessings from God, enlarges the volume of manhood, and prepares for the service of heaven.
I. God’s name ought to be praised everywhere, because—
1. Everywhere He is worthy of praise.
(1.) God’s government is everywhere founded and administered on principles of righteousness.
(2.) His beneficent provision for His creatures’ want—His sun, His showers, His fruits, &c.—is made everywhere.
(3.) His almighty protection, upholding the universe and protecting His creatures, is afforded everywhere.
(4.) His offers of mercy extend, without distinction of race or order, everywhere. His Son died for all, His Spirit strives with all, His Church welcomes all, and His heaven was made for all.
2. Everywhere He is acknowledged to exist. Sometimes this belief has been adulterated with error, but the substratum of the truth everywhere remains, and nothing can eradicate it. In all the great civilisations it has universally obtained. It has been said recently that a few savage tribes are without it, which, if true, is very unfortunate for atheism; for that would prove that unbelief in God is only possible to the most degraded and brutal barbarism. In all ages God has been the trust of mankind.
3. Everywhere, that is the end of God’s providential plan. “All shall know the Lord from the least even unto the greatest.” “All nations shall do Him service.” That is the grand destiny of the human race (Malachi 1:11; Revelation 5:8-14).
4. Everywhere, that is the law of man’s true dignity. The history of the world shows that men are elevated and civilised in proportion to their recognition of the Most High. Everywhere it ennobles and sanctifies.
II. God’s name ought to be praised under all circumstances. Under all the various conditions revealed by the progress of the sun, should man render grateful homage.
1. In the business of the day, for He makes it possible.
2. In the family affairs of the day, for He controls them.
3. In the vicissitudes of the day. In prosperity or adversity, for He is the author of both.
4. In the transactions of government, for He is King of kings and Lord of lords.
5. And, since “He giveth His beloved sleep,” in the repose which follows the setting sun.
III. God’s name ought to be praised at all times.
1. In the beneficent march of the seasons, for they are led by Him.
2. In the gracious division of day and night, for it was fixed by Him.
3. “Early in the morning,” at noon (Daniel), at night (our Lord on Olivet); for all departments of the day are ordained by Him.
THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT OF NATIONS
(Psalms 113:4, clause 1)
The figure is that of God seated on His throne as King of kings and Lord of lords.
I. The divine government is personal. “The Lord is high.” Human governments are institutional. But, while God usually works through natural laws, &c., He can work without them, and is always superior to them. “He maketh His sun to shine.” “He doeth according to His will,” &c.
II. The divine government is exalted “above all nations.” Superior in its basis, aims, methods, to the best human government. It is superior in wisdom, comprehensiveness, sympathy, goodness, and resources, because directly administered by supreme wisdom, goodness, and power.
III. The divine government, from its exaltation, is suitable to the circumstances of all nations.
1. It is absolute perfection. Human legislation is made up of caprices, mistakes, changes. The great task of human governors is to alter, modify, or improve on the legislation of their predecessors, and thus it cannot be suited to all the circumstances of mankind. On the contrary, God’s laws are unalterable, because incapable of improvement, and because promulgated by the all-perfect mind.
2. It is founded on the reason of things, and, therefore, is not arbitrary. It does not contemplate classes, &c.; it is perfect equity, and all nations may expect even-handed justice from the hands of God.
IV. God’s government is benevolent towards all nations. Many societies are founded on the supposition that men were made for governments, and not governments for men. God rules for the express benefit of nations. They require, and so they receive, His control and care. But is this borne out by facts! Look at the miseries of nations. Answer—
1. Much of this misery is self-inflicted. If men will break God’s laws they must take the consequences. All nations who are faithful to God are blessed.
2. These miseries are insignificant compared with their blessings. Our years of tyranny or depression must be balanced by the years of prosperity and freedom.
3. These miseries subserve benevolent and righteous ends. How often have famines been sent to drive a nation to its God. How often has God used a destructive war to expel a tyrant from his throne. Famine brought free trade. The Marian persecution inaugurated the Elizabethan reformation. The American war abolished slavery.
V. The divine government is administered by Christ. “The Father hath committed all judgment into His hands.” (Daniel 7:13-14; Philippians 2:9.) Christ is qualified for this office.
1. By a personal acquaintance with His subjects.
(2.) By a personal relation with His subjects. He is a true King, not only the “able” but the “kinsman” of the race, born out of the bosom of humanity.
(3.) By an intense sympathy with His subjects.
(4.) By His accessibility to His subjects.
IN CONCLUSION. Let men and nations beware how they rebel against this government. Can they produce a better? They rebel against omnipotent goodness when they throw off their allegiance to God.
THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT OF HEAVEN
(Psalms 113:4, clause 2)
God rules in heaven; and the difference between His government there and His government here is, that here men break its laws and thwart its beneficent designs; yonder all is harmony and obedience. “The Lord is high above all nations,” but His glory is above the heavens. Here that glory is but faintly illustrated amidst the partial obedience of the best of His creatures and the rebellion of the rest; there fully. This government is based on the same principles, conducted by the same methods, and contemplates the same ends among glorified spirits as among men, and is acknowledged and obeyed;—
I. Universally. Revelation 5:0.
II. Reverentially. Isaiah 6:2. “With twain he covered his face.”
III. Swiftly. Isaiah 6:2. “With twain he did fly.”
IV. Comprehensively. The ends of the divine government are the sole object of their service; they have no personal aims to secure, because in doing God’s will they secure all.
V. Continually. “They rest not day nor night.”
VI. Willingly. Their wills are in complete harmony with the will of God. Sin does not warp their inclination, and they are under no powerful restraint towards wrong.
VII. Perfectly. No sin blears their vision or blights their faculties. They see what is the perfect will of God, and do it with all the completeness of their being.
Let all Christians pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is done in heaven.”
Verses5 and 6 in the original present a parallelism which is not preserved in the English version. As Hebrew poetry they would stand thus:—
Who is like unto Jehovah, our God,
Who sits throned on high,
Who casts looks so low,
In the heavens and in the earth?
The italics of A. V. are of course supplied by the translators to make what appeared to be the best sense. We propose to treat the second and third lines (with Bunsen, Delitzsch, Hengstenberg, &c.) as a parenthesis. Our subject, therefore, is The Absolute; the incomprehensibleness of Deity. “Who is like unto Jehovah, our God, in the heavens and in the earth?” Notice—
I. That the incomprehensibleness of God is generally acknowledged. Observe—
1. How it is presented in the Bible. (Exodus 3:14; Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 4:0; 1 Samuel 2:2; 1 Kings 8:12-27; Job 5:9; Job 11:7-9; Job 37:5; Job 37:23; Psalms 89:6; Psalms 145:3; Eccl. 16:21; Isaiah 40, 43; Romans 11:33-34.)
2. How it is presented by philosophy. Socrates maintained that “he only knew this, that he knew nothing.” Plato: “The Maker and Father of the worlds, it is difficult to discover, and when found impossible to make him known to all” The Eleatic school held that “we ought not to assert anything concerning the gods, for we have no knowledge of them.” So the Stoics. Modern schools assert the same. Schelling says, “God is that which is in itself and only from itself can be conceived.” So indeed Hamilton, Mansel, Spenser, and Matthew Arnold. “A God all known and comprehended is no God. That which I fully know and understand, is below, not above me, for I have mastered it. I have not to worship it, it must bow down to me. That which towers immeasurably above me, which I cannot scale and cannot fathom, before which I am as nothing, that and that alone, I fall down to and adore—not ignorance, but knowledge is the mother of devotion. Nevertheless, the sense of ignorance in the created mind, of immeasurable ignorance and infirmity, is preliminary and essential to all true adoration.”—Dr. J. Young.
3. How it is presented by heathen, religions. “Seek fellowship with Zeus and Epictetus.” Alas! it was the Zeus that was wanting.… There was a yearning for God, for personal fellowship with God, for personal likeness to God.… ‘But who is the Zeus, the god of whom you talk, that I may believe on Him,’ was the cry which grew more hopeless and agonising generation by generation … to which religion had no answer.”—Baldwin Brown.
II. That men have universally striven to solve the mystery, by taking up the challenge of our text. Sir W. Hamilton says, “From Xenophanes to Leibnitz the infinite, the absolute, th unconditioned formed the highest principle of speculation.” And, as the only way in which man can define anything is by a process of more or less adequate comparison and illustration, he has endeavoured to figure God, and thus much of theology in all ages has been but the projected shadow of human thought.
1. Much of natural theology has been constructed in this way. It assumes that God is, and then undertakes to show what God is like. Man is capable of fashioning and combining existing materials, and directing them to the accomplishment of new results. So he thinks of a God like himself, a creator. He is capable of directing his materials to serve a definite and intelligent end. So he ascribes skill and design to the creator, and by his observation of the adaptation of means to ends in the world, that belief is confirmed. He is a father or king ruling by laws which he enforces by rewards and punishments. So his maker is argued to be his governor, who will bless his obedience and punish his sin.
2. Much of both so-called orthodoxy and heterodoxy has been constructed in this way. Arianism arose out of the transfer of human paternity to the divine nature. Calvinism starts with a sovereignty of God built upon the idea of remorseless human despotism. Many other theories, particularly some prevalent in the present day, proceed upon the assumption that God’s thoughts are as our thoughts, and His ways as our ways.
3. The various heathen mythologies have been built up in this way. Very few are disposed to deny that the spiritual unity of God was the primitive belief of mankind. St. Paul shows the process from this to the most debasing forms of idolatry (Romans 1:18-32). Sin darkened man’s understanding and led his reason astray. It is easy to see how the divine attributes might have become dissociated, then made to represent independent divine forces, and then separate divine persons. It is also easy to see how these independent persons could be symbolised by natural powers and objects supposed to be most like them; and it is only a step further to manufacture a permanent symbol; and hence idol worship. Thus the progress of symbolism was first downwards from God, then upwards to Him. Nature worship was the earliest form of idolatry. Then human. The gods of nature were endowed with human attributes and forms, and heroes and ancestors were deified. The process went on till not a natural object, beautiful or monstrous, good or malign, and not a single human quality, good or bad, wise or ridiculous, but had its temple, peculiar, and in many cases consistent, worship, and its symbolical form. The difficulty became to distinguish what was not divine. What an exposition of “Thou thoughtest I was altogether such an one as thyself”!
4. “The fundamental position of rationalism is, that man by his own reason can attain to a right conception of God.” “Fools, to dream that man can escape from himself, that human reason can draw aught but a human portrait of God! They do but substitute a marred and mutilated humanity for one exalted and entire; they add nothing to their conception of God as He is, but only take away a part of their conception of man.”—Mansel.
III. That the Bible gives us a revelation of all that may be known of God in a manner suited to our faculties and saving to our soul. “The infinite cannot be grasped within our thoughts, nor within any limits, for on all sides it has no limits. To know God in His infinity is impossible, but to know much respecting the God who is infinite is quite another thing, and may be grandly possible.”—Dr. J. Young. The Biblical representations of God are very bold, but they are carefully guarded; and the difference between the symbolism which is the result of human speculation and that of divine revelation is, that the former degrades the Deity, the latter guides the human mind to transcend itself and lifts it up to the idea of infinite perfection. We may see notably in the mystery of the Incarnation, “the light which was manifested, that He the Eternal Son might reveal to men the Father whom no man hath seen or can see.… Parable after parable led men from earthly relations to those of the kingdom of heaven … the sower, the householder, the bridegroom, the father, the king.… But it was much more in Himself.… It was through His human nature as the Son of Man that men were to approach to a knowledge of the divine mind.… We who believe that the Word was in the beginning with God and was God, became flesh and tabernacled amongst us, … can enter into the meaning of the words, ‘The only begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father He hath declared Him,’ and listen with awe and adoration to that which, if it were not true, would have been a blasphemy to make us shudder: ‘Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.’ ”—Plumptre.
IV. These considerations lead us to the following conclusions.
1. That the question of our text must remain unanswered. God, like every other great truth, is incapable of full definition, whether by words or illustrations.
The most perfect painting conveys no adequate idea of the sun. The most perfect model only faintly resembles a flower. The ablest disquisition leaves the mystery of life unsolved.
2. That God has given us similitudes of what is best and holiest within the grasp of man’s feeble intelligence, that every one may be able to form some conception of His character and will. The hem of the garment was enough for the poor woman in the gospels; so our notions of power, wisdom, love, &c., are permitted faintly to illustrate the infinite perfections of God.
3. That God has given us these illustrations to lead us up to Himself. He tells man what He is like, that man may know by spiritual apprehension and indwelling what He is.
“One day Martin Luther was catechising some peasants. ‘Say thy creed,’ he said. ‘I believe in God, the Father Almighty.’ ‘What is it to be almighty?’ asked Martin. ‘Indeed, I cannot tell,’ and Luther, with rugged beautiful honesty, said, ‘Neither indeed, friend, can I; and if I were to tell you truly there is not a doctor in all Europe who could tell you what it is to be almighty; but if you will always remember that He is your Father Almighty, high enough to rule you, wise enough to teach you, strong enough to help you, kind enough to love you, it will be well and enough.’ ”—Coley.
THE MAJESTY AND CONDESCENSION OF GOD
The two extremes of God’s infinite perfections are exhibited in our text: “Who sits throned on high, who casts looks so low.” He is infinite in majesty, and demands our adoration; yet He is infinite in condescension, thus making our worship possible. The first attribute alone would appal us by its awful grandeur. The second alone would lead us to presume.
I. The majesty of God. “Who sits throned on high.”
1. Above the realm of space. There is nothing more sublime than the idea of infinite space. Of this we can understand little amid the contracted landscapes of our own country. We must stand where the mighty hills rear their cloud-capped pinnacles to heaven. But what is the grandest mountain range compared with the world of which it is but an excrescence! And what is the world itself but a speck in the system to which it belongs. And what is that system in comparison with those eighty millions of systems in the vast universe. And “these are part of His ways; but how small a portion is heard of Him.” Draw the line where we will, the immeasurable lies yet beyond, and above that immeasurable God sits throned.
2. Above all duration. Equally with the conception of space is that of time sublime. We cannot fix the mind on a continuous succession of periods without a corresponding elevation.
(1.) Look at the history of our own nation. We can trace it back till it is lost in hoar antiquity. But compare it with the history of the neighbouring continent. When Britain emerged from obscurity, Rome after a long and splendid history was approaching its fall. When Rome arose, the fortunes of Assyria were beginning to decline, and the monuments of Egypt were worn by the elemental battles of centuries; and before that comes patriarchal history and the years before the flood. Yet what is all this compared with scientifically recorded time! Millions upon millions of years may have elapsed between the creation of the first man and the beginning in which God created the heavens and the earth. And beyond that, “before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth or the worlds—from everlasting to everlasting Thou art God.”
(2.) But this is only half the conception. How much there is of life remaining to us we know not. But beyond the limits of the longest life possible to us there is a vast ocean of time measurable only by the infinite mind; and beyond that is boundless eternity. “Time reaches not to the steps of the eternal throne. No law of succession narrows in His doings. All things are ever before Him. He is the Everlasting now—past, present, future; time and space, these creatures of His hand, are not, in relation to His infinite perfection.”—Bishop Wilberforce.
3. In the sense of exalted spirituality.
II. The condescension of God, “who casts looks so low.” God does not dwell in solitary and indifferent grandeur in the high and lofty place. He is the Governor of the universe; its Father and its Friend.
1. God condescends to loot on physical laws and employs them.
2. God condescends to look upon man and visits him. Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, David, the Jewish nation, and at last through His Incarnate Son.
3. God condescends to look upon human governments and employs them. “He doeth according to His will,” &c. “By Him kings reign,” &c.—
“He sees with equal eye, as God of all,
A hero perish, or a sparrow fall;
Atoms and systems into ruin hurled:
There a bubble burst, and here a world.”
Learn (i.) The danger of antagonism to God; (ii) The blessedness of the Divine condescension.
1.Psalms 113:7-9; Psalms 113:7-9 are almost word for word from the song of Hannah. (Cf. Song of Mary, Luke 1:46-48.)
2. Human exaltation is the result of the Divine benignity. Had God never noticed our lost race it had remained for ever in misery and degradation. But God’s notice was God’s redemption. The sentiment of our text may be illustrated—
I. In the various spheres of daily life, the poor have been lifted out of the dust, and have sat with princes.
1. In the scientific sphere,—Sir Wm. Arkwright, the inventor of the spinning jenny, was once a barber’s apprentice. Brindley, the engineer; Hugh Miller, the geologist; John Hunter, the physician, were day labourers. Thos. Edwards, the naturalist, was a shoemaker; Bewick, the engraver, a coalminer; Herschell, a bandsman; Faraday, the son of a poor blacksmith; Sir Isaac Newton, the son of a farmer; Davy, a country apothecary’s assistant
2. In the artistic sphere,—Turner, the painter, was a barber; Chantrey, a journeyman carver; Etty, a journeyman printer; Sir Thomas Lawrence, the son of a tavern-keeper; Inigo Jones, John Gibson, Romney, and Opie were labourers.
3. In the literary sphere,—Shakespeare was the son of a butcher; John Foster, a weaver; Ben Jonson and Allan Cunningham, day labourers; Drew, a shoemaker; Adam Clarke, the son of a poor schoolmaster; Elihu Burritt, a blacksmith; Dr. Lee, the great Hebrew scholar, a carpenter.
4. In the judicial sphere,—Lord Tenterden was once a barber’s boy; Talfourd, the son of a brewer; Baron Pollock, son of a saddler; Lord Eldon, the son of a coal-fitter.
5. In the army and navy,—Bonaparte rose from the ranks; Sir Cloudesley Shovel was a shoemaker, and Warren Hastings was an East India clerk.
6. In the Church,—Adrian IV. was a swineherd; Wolsey, the son of a butcher; Thomas a’ Beckett, of obscure origin, Bunyan a tinker; Whitfield, the son of an innkeeper; Martyn, the son of a miner; and Carey and Morrison were shoemakers.
7. In the field of discovery,—Cook was a day labourer; Baffin, a man before the mast; Livingstone, a weaver; and Layard, a solicitor’s clerk. Many more might be adduced in the political, social, and commercial spheres, but these are sufficient to show that God blesses the diligent use of the powers He has given. Would that they all had been employed for Him.
II. In God’s method of Redemption. All men are by sin sunk in moral degradation. They are lost to self, lost to destiny, lost to God. When God looks upon them He raises them from their fall, and by the regenerating power of His Spirit they become God’s heirs, joint heirs with Jesus Christ, and are anointed kings and priests unto God, and look forward to a crown, a sceptre, and a throne.
III. In the history of the Christian Church. Its beginnings were of the humblest possible character. Its Founder was the reputed son of a carpenter; its first officers peasants or fishermen. For the first century, the “wise and noble” were conspicuous by their absence. Its beginnings everywhere are the same. It aims to seek and to save the lost, and it is the lost and degraded that it welcomes. Its beginnings are humble, but its progress is ever mighty. Philosophers and statesmen are proud to partake of its privileges on a level with the peasant and the slave, and kings receive their crowns from its hands.
IV. In the resurrection of the body. (1 Corinthians 15:0.)
IN CONCLUSION.—(i.) All true greatness is the gift of God. (ii.) All true greatness commences with the recognition of God. (iii.) All greatness fails if it does not secure the consecration of God.
MOTHERHOOD: ITS BLESSINGS AND RESPONSIBILITIES
There is no sweeter name to a child than mother, and no sweeter name to a mother than her child’s. The two greatest curses of mankind are bad mothers and thankless children. Our text suggests—
I. That children are the subject of fond and prayerful desire.
1. This desirableness is in certain quarters denied.
(1.) By a false political economy. Children beyond a certain number are said to be the fruitful cause of misery and pauperism. So thought the Hindoos, and till recently the waters of the Ganges and the jaws of the alligator were the all-sufficient “check.” So thought the Spartans, and the “check” with them was wholesale infanticide. Not more unnatural and not less vile are the artificial checks of modern civilisation (?). But that civilisation forgets that the miseries of the world proceed not from large families, but from the parental vices which it permits and sanctions.
(2.) By a false sentiment. Children are said to be a trouble and expense, and men blasphemously treat the advent of children with humorous resignation, if not with positive chagrin, and feel that society requires that demeanour. What makes children a trouble and expense but the indolence, hardheartedness, or extravagance of parents?
2. This desirableness is recognised by
(1) The nature of things. “There is nothing addressing itself to nature to which the response is so quick, so universal, and so joyful as the coming of the young into the world.… There is almost nothing possessing a spark of intelligence which has not this inward preparation for rejoicing at the birth of offspring.… It is a bright day, or should be, in every household, in every neighbourhood, when a child is born, and a member added to society.”—H. W. Beecher.
(2) By the barren mother (see 1 Samuel 1:2). Vain are all well-meant consolations. Tell her that they are but “careful comforts,” that she has her husband, and immunity from family cares, and she will tell you that she is willing to bear every anxiety, if she can only be the joyful mother of children.
(3) By a just moral sentiment, and a sound political economy. The object of existence can be but imperfectly attained without children. A family is a great incentive to industry. How many a wife has saved her husband from drunkenness and crime by the light and joy which children bring!
(4) By the word of God. Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, Manoah’s wife, &c.
3. This desirableness is ennobling. Because it is
(1) in harmony with the will of God (Genesis 1:28).
(2) A desire to live for another.
(3) An evidence of the paternity of God, and in conformity with it.
II. That children are a mother’s joy. This is now happily, thanks to the Bible, passed into a proverb, and children in all healthy circles are now regarded as a necessary element in the happiness of life. There is—
1. The joy of expectation.
2. The joy of new maternity (John 16:21).
3. The joy of giving birth to citizens of the kingdom of heaven. They are the Lord’s heritage under both testaments (Psalms 127:3).
4. The joy of training.
5. The joy of a nature ennobled and enlarged by maternity.
6. The joy of a HOME.
III. That children are a mother’s care. “He maketh a barren woman to keep house.” He “not only builds up the family, but thereby finds something for the heads to do.”—M. Henry. That being the case—
1. Value them. “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones.” Their value does not lie altogether in their charms, &c., but in the fact that they are rational immortal beings, lent that you may enable them to realise the fact that they are “sons and daughters of the Lord Almighty.”
2. Study them. Constant watchfulness, careful discrimination. It is not a virtue, but a vice that you are not guilty of to horses or dogs, to treat them all alike.
3. Provide for them (1 Timothy 5:8)
(1) Sufficient maintenance.
(2) A good education.
(3) A bright prospect.
4. Consecrate them to, and train them up in the nurture and admonition of, the Lord.
IV. That children are divine gifts. “He maketh.” Thus are they uniformly regarded in the Bible.
IN CONCLUSION.—“God is on the side of little children, and He is on the side of parents who wish to bring up their children right … and with some degree of teaching, and some degree of trust in God, you are adequate to lift your children from the plane of animalism, to the plane of social beings, and from that again to the plane of moral and spiritual beings; and when that is accomplished, the next change is to drop the animal altogether, and rise to the realm above, and be as the angels of God”—H. W. Beecher.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 113". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany