Greatness, if you look at it as something separate from you, and away, still more if you have a consciousness that it may be against you, is a matter of awe and terror. If you mingle it with yourself, as a part of yourself, and yourself a part of it, greatness, becoming a possession, is a grand thought and a pleasant one. So we unite the two clauses of the text. David could not have said the second with gladness unless he could have said the first with confidence: "O Lord my God, Thou art very great."
I. If it is great to be at one and the same time infinitely comprehensive and exquisitely minute, to fill the widest and yet to be occupied by the narrowest, then what a God is ours! The unspeakably large and the invisibly small are alike to Him; and we stand, and we marvel not at the one or at the other, but at the combination of the telescopic glance and the microscopic care; and we confess, "O Lord my God, Thou art very great."
II. It is a great thing to stoop. He inhabiteth equally, at this very moment, eternity and that little heart of yours. The whole Gospel is only a tale of immense stooping—how the purest demeaned Himself to the vilest, and how, "though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be rich."
III. Some one has said that continuity is the secret of the sublime; the eye goes on and on, and finds no break, and calls it sublimity. Then what a sublimity there is in Him who century after century, year by year, without the shadow of a turning, has continued the same, "yesterday, today, and for ever"!
IV. Look at the wonderful greatness of His plan of redemption. The length, and the breadth, and the depth, and the height are all passing knowledge; and we have nothing to do but to humble ourselves in the dust and say, "O Lord my God, Thou art very great."
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 9th series, p. 257.
Nature has two great revelations: that of use and that of beauty; and the first thing we observe about these two characteristics of hers is that they are bound together and tied to each other. The beauty of nature is not, as it were, a fortunate accident, which can be separated from her use; there is no difference in the tenure upon which these two characteristics stand: the beauty is just as much a part of nature as the use; they are only different aspects of the selfsame facts. (2) But if the first thing we observe respecting use and beauty is that they are united in their source, the next thing we observe is that in themselves they are totally separate. We have not the slightest conception of the common root in which these enormous diversities unite, the unity to which they mount up, the ultimate heading out of which both branch, the secret of their identity. It is worth observing, in the history of the mind of this country, the formation of a kind of passion for scenery and natural beauty. This fact cannot well be without some consequences bearing on religion.
I. First, with respect to the place which the beauty of nature has in the argument of design from nature. When the materialist has exhausted himself in efforts to explain utility in nature, it would appear to be the peculiar office of beauty to rise up suddenly as a confounding and baffling extra, which was not even formally provided for in his scheme. There is this remarkable difference between useful contrivance and beauty as evidence of an intelligent cause, that contrivance has a complete end and account of itself, without any reference to the understanding of man; but it is essential to the very sense and meaning of beauty that it should be seen: and inasmuch as it is visible to reason alone, we have thus in the very structure of nature a recognition of reason and a distinct address to reason, wholly unaccountable unless there is a higher reason or mind to which to make it.
II. The beauty of nature is necessary for the perfection of praise; the praise of the Creator must be essentially weakened without it: it must be roused and excited by sight. (1) Beauty stands upon the threshold of the mystical world, and excites a curiosity about God. This curiosity is a strong part of worship and of praise. So long as a man is probing nature, and in the thick of its causes and operations, he is too busy about his own inquiries to receive this impress from her; but place the picture before him, and he becomes conscious of a veil and curtain which has the secrets of a moral existence behind it: interest is inspired, curiosity is awakened, and worship is raised. (2) Nature is partly a curtain and partly a disclosure, partly a veil and partly a revelation; and here we come to her faculty of symbolism, which is so strong an aid to, and has so immensely affected, the principles of worship. The Great Spirit, speaking by dumb representation to other spirits, intimates and signifies to them something about Himself, for if nature is symbolical, what it is symbolical about must be its Author. The Deity over and above our inward conscience wants His external world to tell us He is moral; He therefore creates in nature a universal language about Himself: its features convey signals from a distant country, and man is placed in communication with a great correspondent whose tablet He interprets. And thus is formed that which is akin to worship in the poetical view of nature. While we do not worship the material created sign—for that would be idolatry—we still repose on it as the true language of the Deity.
III. In this peculiar view of nature, the mind fastening upon it as a spectacle or a picture, it is to be observed that there are two points in striking concurrence with the vision language of Scripture. (1) Scripture has specially consecrated the faculty of sight, and has partly put forth, and has promised in a still more complete form, a manifestation of the Deity to mankind, through the medium of a great sight. (2) It must be remarked, as another principle in the Scriptural representation, that the act of seeing a perfectly glorious sight or object is what constitutes the spectator's and beholder's own glory.
IV. But though the outward face of nature is a religious communication to those who come to it with the religious element already in them, no man can get a religion out of the beauty of nature. There must be for the base of a religion the internal view, the inner sense, the look into ourselves, and recognition of an inward state: sin, helplessness, misery. If there is not this, outward nature cannot of itself enlighten man's conscience and give him a knowledge of God. It will be a picture to him, and nothing more.
J. B. Mozley, University Sermons, p. 122.
I. There are two kinds of mystery: a mystery of darkness and a mystery of light. With the mystery of darkness we are familiar. Of the mystery of light we have not thought, perhaps, so much. With all deep things the deeper light brings new mysteriousness. The mystery of light is the privilege and prerogative of the profoundest things. The shallow things are capable only of the mystery of darkness. Of that all things are capable. Nothing is so thin, so light, so small, that if you cover it with clouds or hide it in half-lights, it will not seem mysterious. But the most genuine and profound things you may bring forth into the fullest light and let the sunshine bathe them through and through, and in them there will open ever-new wonders of mysteriousness. Surely of God it must be supremely true that the more we know of Him, the more He shows Himself to us, the more mysterious He must for ever be. The mystery of light must be complete in Him. Revelation is not the unveiling of God, but a changing of the veil that covers Him, not the dissipation of mystery, but the transformation of the mystery of darkness into the mystery of light. To the pagan God is mysterious because He is hidden in clouds, mysterious like the storm. To the Christian God is mysterious because He is radiant with infinite truth, mysterious like the sun.
II. The doctrine of the Trinity is not an easy, ready-made, satisfactory explanation of God, in which the inmost chambers of His life are unlocked and thrown wide open, that whoso will may walk there and understand Him through and through. There is a mystery concerning God to him who sees the richness of the Divine life in the threefold unity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost which no man feels to whom God does not seem to stand forth from the pages of his Testament in that completeness. Not as the answer to a riddle which leaves all things clear, but as the deeper sight of God, prolific with a thousand novel questions which were never known before, clothed in a wonder which only in that larger light displayed itself, offering new worlds for faith and reverence to wander in, so must the New Testament revelation, the truth of Father, Son, and Spirit, one perfect God, offer itself to man.
Phillips Brooks, The Candle of the Lord, p. 305.
Reference: Psalms 104:3.—J. Irons, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 8.
Consider what is implied in the text.
I. What a number of beautiful and wonderful objects does nature present on every side of us, and how little we know concerning them! Why do rivers flow? Why does rain fall? Why does the sun warm us? And the wind—why does it blow? Here our natural reason is at fault; we know that it is the spirit in man and in beast that makes man and beast move, but reason tells us of no spirit abiding in what is called the natural world, to make it perform its ordinary duties. Now here Scripture interposes, and seems to tell us that all this wonderful harmony is the work of angels. Those events which we ascribe to chance, as the weather, or to nature, as the seasons, are duties done to that God who maketh His angels to be winds, and His ministers a flame of fire. Nature is not inanimate; its daily toil is intelligent; its works are duties. Every breath of air and ray of light and heat, every beautiful prospect, is, as it were, the skirts of their garments, the waving of the robes of those whose faces see God in heaven.
II. While this doctrine raises the mind and gives it a matter of thought, it is also profitable as a humbling doctrine. Theories of science are useful, as classifying, and so assisting us to recollect, the works and ways of God and of His ministering angels. And again, they are ever most useful in enabling us to apply the course of His providence and the ordinances of His will to the benefit of man. Thus we are enabled to enjoy God's gifts; and let us thank Him for the knowledge which enables us to do so, and honour those who are His instruments in communicating it. But if such a one proceeds to imagine that, because he knows something of this world's wonderful order, he therefore knows how things really go on; if he treats the miracles of nature as mere mechanical processes, continuing their course by themselves; if in consequence he is what may be called irreverent in his conduct towards nature, thinking (if I may so speak) that it does not hear him, and see how he is bearing himself towards it; and if, moreover, he conceives that the order of nature, which he partially discerns, will stand in the place of the God who made it, and that all things continue and move on not by His will and power and the agency of the thousands and ten thousands of His unseen servants, but by fixed laws, self-caused and self-sustained, what a poor weak worm and miserable sinner he becomes! When we converse on subjects of nature scientifically, repeating the names of plants and earths and describing their properties, we should do so religiously, as in the hearing of the great servants of God, with the sort of diffidence which we always feel when speaking before the learned and wise of our own mortal race, as poor beginners in intellectual knowledge as well as in moral attainments.
J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. ii., p. 358.
In the present day a large number of scientific men maintain that the appearance of design in nature is an appearance only, not a reality. This view is supposed to be established in two ways: first, by the general doctrine of the universal reign of law; and secondly, by the particular theory of evolution.
I. Look, first, at the argument drawn from the universality of law. Law is a very misleading word. Law only means invariable sequence. You will sometimes hear it said, the universe is governed by laws. The universe is not governed by laws. It is governed according to laws, but no one can suppose that the laws make themselves; no one can imagine, for example, that water determines of its own accord always to freeze at one temperature and to boil at another, that snowflakes make up their minds to assume certain definite and regular shapes, or that fire burns of malice aforethought. The sequences of nature do not explain themselves. The regularity of nature, then, needs to be explained. It cannot explain itself, nor can it disprove the existence of a controlling will. The only reign of law incompatible with volition would be the reign of the law of chaos.
II. Look at the bearing of the theory of evolution upon theology. We will suppose, for argument's sake, that even in its most comprehensive shape the doctrine has been proved true; what is the effect upon our theology? Why, simply that a certain mode of statement of a certain argument of Paley's is seen to be unsound. And this unsoundness has been already recognised on other grounds. Paley maintained that every definite organ and portion of an organ throughout the world is specially, by a particular creative fiat, adapted to a certain end, just as every portion of a watch implies a special contrivance on the part of the watchmaker. But this, as every one now knows, is completely disproved by the existence in most animals of rudimentary and abortive organs, which are evidently not adapted to any end, as, for example, the rudiments of fingers in a horse's hoof, the teeth in a whale's mouth, or the eyes in an unborn mole. But though we no longer profess to trace Divine design in every minute fraction of an organism, this does not hinder us from seeing it in organisms regarded in their entirety and in nature considered as a whole.
The doctrine of the survival of the fittest does not account for the fact that there are fittest to survive. Evolution does not disprove a Designer; it only proves that He works in a different way from what had been supposed. There is no reason why things may not be made for their circumstances, though they are partly made by them. The fact that natural forces work together regularly and methodically does not prove that they have no master; it suggests rather His absolute control. The eternal evolution of the more desirable from the less cannot be logically accounted for except on the ground that it is effected by infinite power, and wisdom, and skill.
A. W. Momerie, The Origin of Evil, and Other Sermons, p. 271.
References: Psalms 104:4.—J. J. S. Perowne, Expositor, 1st series, vol. viii., p. 461.
I. The incessant murmur of the mountain spring in the solitude speaks to the ear of the thoughtful of the wonderful rhythm of the universe. That spring seems the wayward child of uncertain parents; and yet it wells up with every beat of the pulse of nature, as it has welled up for thousands of years. As the blood circulates in the body continually, so does the water circulate on the earth. Not more certainly would life terminate in the body if the pulse ceased to beat than would the world be locked in everlasting sleep if the mountain spring ceased to throb. Calm and grand as when the morning stars sang together in the morning of creation, nature moves in her appointed orbit; and her blades of grass, and grains of sand, and drops of water tell us that we must be brought into concord with the beneficent law which they all obey so steadfastly and harmoniously or else perish. What nature does unconsciously and will-lessly let us do consciously and willingly; and learning a lesson even from the humble voice of the mountain spring, let us make the statutes of the Lord our song in the house of our pilgrimage.
II. Very mysterious seems the origin of a spring as it sparkles up from the bosom of the mountain, from the heart of the rock, into the sunshine. It stimulates our imagination. It seems like a new creation in the place. Through what dark fissures, through what fine veins and pores of the earth, have its waters trickled up to the central reservoir whose overflowing comes up to view, crystal-clear and crowned with light! The Hebrew name of a prophet was derived from the bubbling forth of the waters of a spring, implying that his utterances were the irresistible overflowings of the Divine fountain of inspiration in his soul. Beside the well of Sychar, incarnate in human form, in visible manifestation to the eyes of men, was the great Reality to whom all myths and symbols pointed, who thirsted Himself that He might give us to drink. And if our eyes be purged with spiritual eyesalve, we too shall see beside every spring the true Oracle, the great Prophet, the Divinity of the waters, who "sendeth the springs into the valleys which run among the hills." As the natural spring stands between the living and the dead, between the sterility of desert plains and the bright verdure which it creates along its course, so He stands between our souls and spiritual death, between the desolation of sin and the peaceable fruits of righteousness which He enables us to produce.
H. Macmillan, Two Worlds are Ours, p. 117.
The Bible tells us not to be religious, but to be godly. Because we think that people ought to be religious, we talk a great deal about religion; because we hardly think at all that a man ought to be godly, we talk very little about God: and that good old Bible word "godliness" does not pass our lips once a month. A man may be very religious and yet very ungodly.
I. What is the difference between religion and godliness? Just the difference that there is between always thinking of self and always forgetting self, between the terror of a slave and the affection of a child, between the fear of hell and the love of God. Men are religious for fear of hell; but they are not godly, for they do not love God or see God's hand in everything. They forget that they have a Father in heaven; that He sends rain, and sunshine, and fruitful seasons; that He gives them all things richly to enjoy in spite of all their sins. They talk of the visitation of God as if it was something that was very extraordinary, and happened very seldom, and when it came, only brought evil, harm, and sorrow. Every blade of grass grows by the "visitation of God." Every healthy breath you draw, every cheerful hour you ever spent, every good crop you ever housed safely, came to you by the visitation of God.
II. The text teaches us to look at God as He who gives to all freely and upbraideth not. If we would but believe that God knows our necessities before we ask, that He gives us daily more than we ever get by working for it, if we would but seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, all other things would be added to us; and we should find that he who loses his life should save it.
C. Kingsley, Village Sermons, p. 10.
References: Psalms 104:14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiii., No. 757. Psalms 104:15.—F. Delitzsch, Expositor, 3rd series, p. 64. Psalms 104:16.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., No. 529; C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 179; H. Macmillan, Bible Teachings in Nature, p. 65; Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, pp. 226, 298.
I. Nature, in all her departments, is a system of mutual accommodation. Every object affords hospitality to every other object. Nature places before us, in the kind shelter which the larger and more richly endowed objects afford to the smaller and poorer, a silent picture of what should be our own conduct in the intercourse of human life; and in the added beauty and charm which the exercise of this grace of hospitality imparts to the objects that bestow it, she teaches us that by receiving strangers we too may be entertaining angels unawares. As nature is ever defeating the plans of selfishness by making all her objects mutually dependent, none being allowed to live entirely for itself, so God, by the arrangements of His providence, is breaking down all human monopolies and enforcing a wide hospitality, allowing no man to live for himself alone.
II. In the plan of religion His intention is still more manifest. The growth of His kingdom on earth is like that of a mustard tree, which, springing from the smallest seed, develops into the grandest form, covering the earth with its shadow and lodging the birds of the air among its boughs, protecting the poorest and feeblest things which men may despise.
III. From every lonely, hungry soul Jesus seeks hospitality, standing at the door without, patiently waiting for the opening of it; and when He is welcomed in, there is a mutual feeling of love, and the Guest becomes a generous Host. And what His thoughts of hospitality to the race whom He has come to seek and redeem are is strikingly seen in that beautiful parable where the feast is spread, and the servants are sent first to individuals favoured by fortune and then to the poor and the outcast, to bid them all come, for all things are ready.
H. Macmillan, The Olive Leaf, p. 39.
Reference: Psalms 104:17, Psalms 104:18.— Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvii., No. 1005.
I. Consider, with respect and admiration, the manful, cheerful view of pain and death, and indeed of the whole creation, which the psalmist has, because he has faith. There is in him no sentimentalism, no complaining of God, no impious, or at least weak and peevish, cry of "Why hast Thou made all things thus?" He sees the mystery of pain and death. He does not attempt to explain it, but he faces it—faces it cheerfully and manfully, in the strength of his faith, saying, This, too, mysterious, painful, terrible, as it may seem, is as it should be, for it is of the law and will of God, from whom come all good things, of the God in whom is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. Therefore to the psalmist the earth is a noble sight, filled to his eyes with the fruit of God's works. What impresses his mind is just what would impress the mind of a modern poet, a modern man of science; namely, the wonderful variety, richness, and strangeness of its living things. He perceives, with the instinct of a true poet and a true philosopher, "These all wait upon Thee, O God, that Thou mayest give them meat in due season."
II. Then he goes further still. He has looked into the face of life innumerable. Now he looks into the face of innumerable death, and sees there too the spirit and the work of God. "Thou hidest Thy face; they are troubled. Thou takest away their breath; they die, and are turned again to their dust." The psalmist's God was not merely a strong God or a wise God, but a good God, and a gracious God, and a just God, likewise a God who not only made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that therein is, but who keepeth His promise for ever, who helpeth them to right who suffer wrong, and feedeth the hungry. It is this magnificent conception of God's living and actual goodness and justice which the psalmist had which made him trust God about all the strange and painful things which he saw in the world.
C. Kingsley, Westminster Sermons, p. 205.
I. "Thou makest darkness." Darkness is a part of Divine order; at least, in the physical universe it is so: and I suppose in this respect, as in all other respects, the material universe represents the spiritual. Universal darkness is a house for light. Darkness is that upon which or through which the light shines. It is an essential part of God's work.
II. "It is night, wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth." (1) Darkness, as well as light, serves its own purposes. Light is good for flowers, but it is not so good for their roots. There would be no flowers long if the roots did not abide in darkness. (2) The beasts of the forest "creep" forth. For about the creatures whose element is darkness there is always something subtle and stealthy, as though they had no absolute authority for their existence. By slinking away before the light, they seem to confess, "We belong only to the strife and twilight of the universe. When the great day comes, we shall be no more."
III. "The young lions roar after their prey, and seek their meat from God." The young lions know not God; but God knows them, and understands the roar of their desire. God expects no meeker prayers from His wild beasts.
IV. "The sun ariseth," etc. There are children of the day, and there are children of darkness. While the beasts had their sport man slept. Now the beasts sleep, and man rises and "goeth forth unto his work."
V. Nature is a great darkness, in which the kingdom of God appears not. The true Light is not to be seen in nature's skies. Nature is a huge organisation of night.
VI. The violent eagerness of our sensual instincts and passions may well be called "lions." There is ever something ravenous about the desires of the natural man.
VII. So long as the appetites and passions are permitted to rule, it is night with the human spirit. "The sun ariseth." Christ is man's Sun.
VIII. "Man goeth forth," etc. He is wakened out of sleep; he is risen from the dead. Christ has given him life. Man's work is to work his way back out of fallen life, to work in unity with Christ his Saviour "until evening," that he may then go home to the dear interior life and eternity.
J. Pulsford, Quiet Hours, p. 12.
It has been pretended by some teachers that works were only required under the Law, and grace comes instead under the Gospel; but the true account of the matter is this, that the Law enjoined works, and the grace of the Gospel fulfils them. The Law commanded, but gave no power; the Gospel bestows the power. Thus the Gospel is the counterpart of the Law. The Gospel does not abrogate works, but provides for them. "Man goeth forth unto his work and to his labour" from the morning of the world to its evening.
I. But here an objection may be drawn from the parable of the labourers, which requires notice. It may be said that the labourers, who represent the Jews, complain that those who were called in the evening—that is, Christians—had worked but a short time, and in the cool of the day. Hence it may be argued that Christians have no irksome or continued toil, but are saved, without their trouble, by grace. What is meant by the "burden and heat of the day "? It means that religion pressed heavily on the Jews as a burden, because they were unequal to it; and it was as the midday heat, overpowering them with its intensity, because they had no protection against it. But for us, Christ hath redeemed us from the burden and heat, and the curse of the Law, by being made a curse for us.
II. Nor, secondly, can we argue that our work is shorter from the labourer's complaint, "These have wrought but one hour." For we are called in the world's evening, not in our own. By the eleventh hour is not meant that Christians have little to do, but that the time is short. Earth and sky are ever failing, Christ is ever coming, Christians are ever lifting up their heads and looking out; and therefore it is the evening.
III. "Until the evening." Not in the daytime only, lest we begin to run well, but fall away before our course is ended. The end is the proof of the matter. When the sun shines, this earth pleases; but let us look towards that eventide and the cool of the day when the Lord of the vineyard will walk amid the trees of the garden, and say unto His steward, "Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first." That evening will be the trial, when the heat, and fever, and noise of the noontide are over, and the light fades, and the prospect saddens, and the shades lengthen, and the busy world is still. May that day and that hour ever be in our thoughts.
J. H. Newman, Sermons on Subjects of the Day, p. 1.
I. Man goeth forth. Without any doubt, we wake up in a world of work. Work is a Divine sacrament. It is a sacrament of life, or it should be. (1) We are cultivated by work. Very plainly has God put us into such a universe that He can only shape us by work. All that reduces us to experience, all that stirs within us the sense of knowledge, partakes of the nature of work. (2) Work never ends with the act; it has a great beyond. (3) In the kingdom of grace there is still the kingdom of labour. Go forth; watch for Christ; work, labour, for Him: and when He comes, you may win His smile.
II. I turn from the thought of the work as a fact to the spirit in which it should be engaged in. (1) A nobleness of soul looks out from the words, Go forth. Man goeth forth; it means that he calls to patience, courage, perseverance, and good-temper to wait upon him. Toil, pain, doubt, terror, difficulty—these retreat before the recognition of a great life purpose. (2) Life may be purposeful; and there are comfortable views, most comfortable perspectives. Thou art a thought of God; thou art a man; thou art a soul with Divine intuitions and intentions—Divine forces working in thee: from them we gather the spirit which overlooks failure, for "what is failure here but a triumph's evidence for the fulness of the days? "Hasten on, then, to the evening; to the sharpest pain there comes a close, to the roughest voyage an end.
E. Paxton Hood, Dark Sayings on a Harp, p. 69.
References: Psalms 104:23.—H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, 1st series, p. 19.
I. Surely the man who wrote this Psalm must have thought very differently about this world, with its fields and woods, its beasts and birds, from what we think. David looked on the earth as God's earth. We look on it as man's earth, or nobody's earth. To David the earth spoke of God, who made it; by seeing what this earth is like, he saw what God, who made it, is like. We see no such thing. David knew that this earth was his lesson-book; this earth was his work-field: and yet those same thoughts which showed him how he was made for the land round him, and the land round him was made for him, showed him also that he belonged to another world—a spirit-world; showed him that though his home and business were here on earth, yet that, for that very reason, his home and business were in heaven, with God, who made the earth.
II. "All things are God's garment," says the wise man—outward and visible signs of His unseen and unapproachable glory; and when they are worn out, He changes them, as a garment: and they shall be changed. But He is the same. He is there all the time. All things are His work. In all things we may see Him, if our souls have eyes. The man who is no scholar in letters may read of God as he follows the plough, for the earth he ploughs is his Father's; there is God's mark and seal on it, His name, which, though it be written in the dust, yet neither man nor fiend can wipe out. It would keep us from many a sin, and stir us up to many a holy thought and deed, if we could learn to find in everything around us, however small or mean, the work of God's hand, the likeness of God's countenance, the shadow of God's glory.
C. Kingsley, Village Sermons, p. 1.
References: Psalms 104:24.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 47; A. Jessopp, Norwich School Sermons, p. 64. Psalms 104:24, Psalms 104:28-30.—C. Kingsley, Village Sermons, p. 18, and Westminster Sermons, p. 193. Psalms 104:25.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. v., p. 325. Psalms 104:26.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1259. Psalms 104:28.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 282.
I. The first voice we hear speaks directly for God—for the Divine existence and presence with us in His works. "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God." Nature says in her heart, and in every colour and feature of her flushing face, "There is a God, and He is here!"
II. The spring sings a clear song of the Divine faithfulness. Every spring is with God the keeping of covenant. He is, as it were, conducting an argument as to His own fidelity. The argument began when Noah came out of the ark, and it will end only at the judgment day.
III. Spring tells us of God's great goodness. It is not merely that He made a certain promise four thousand years ago, and must keep it. It is that He made the promise and loves to keep it. The chief joy of God's existence is goodness. The Divine occupation for ever is to give.
IV. The season tells us softly and melodiously of Divine tenderness. God takes this season of the year to tell us especially what tenderness, what delicacy, what colourings of exquisite beauty, there are in His nature. In Him are all the archetypes of beauty and all the fountains of tenderness; we may therefore commit ourselves and all we have to His keeping.
V. Spring has a voice of good cheer to all who are serving God faithfully and seeking good ends for themselves or for others, although as yet with little apparent result. For when does it come? Immediately after the winter. This tells us never to despair, never to despond. God needs the winter for souls to prepare for the spring; but He never forgets to bring the spring when the time has come.
VI. The spring has another voice—a voice which sounds away into the far future, and foretells "the time of the restitution of all things." God, in renewing the face of the earth, seems to give us a visible picture and bright image of that blessed moral renovation which is coming in the fulness of the time.
VII. Spring gives announcement of the general resurrection from the dead.
VIII. Spring tells us that all our earthly time is the spring season of our existence.
A. Raleigh, Quiet Resting-places, p. 347.
I. Spring is an awakening. We say, The year awakes from its winter sleep; nature opens its eyes. So is the turning of the soul to God. It was a soul asleep; it is a soul awake. It has heard a voice from heaven, saying, "Awake, thou that sleepest;" and it is opening its eyes on a new world, a new time, new thoughts, new possibilities, a blessed new life. Christ is the Prince whose touch awakens the soul from its winter sleep. The joy of the awakening soul is a new creation, by the word of Him who went near to lost souls to bring them to God.
II. Spring is the manifestation of life. It is life which sings among the branches. It is life which prattles in the brook. It is life which clothes the trees with verdure, and the furrows with the tender shoots of corn. It is life which stirs in the converted soul. Conversion itself is but a manifestation of life. The soul has been born again, has been revived, quickened, raised from the dead to newness of life. The life we are invited to live is nothing other, is nothing lower, than God's own life. And this life has been given to us in Jesus Christ. In Him is the fountain of life.
III. Spring is also a gateway. It is the gateway to the harvest—seedtime first, then harvest. At the gateway of the year, a promise; at the end, fulfilment. In conversion the gateway is opened for the soul to go in and seek its fruit from God. The harvest of a single soul—can the worth of that be summed up?
A. Macleod, Days of Heaven upon Earth, p. 45.
I. The vast importance to us that this season should regularly and infallibly return in its time is obvious the instant it is mentioned. But it is not so instantly recollected how entirely we are at the mercy of the God of nature for its return.
II. Consider, next, this beautiful vernal season. What a gloomy and unpromising scene and season it rises out of! Might we not take instruction from this to correct the judgments we are prone to form of the Divine government?
III. How welcome are the early signs and precursory appearances of the spring! The operation of the Divine Spirit in renovating the human soul, effecting its conversion from the natural state, is sometimes displayed in this gentle and gradual manner, especially in youth.
IV. The next observation on the spring season is, How reluctantly the worse gives place to the better. It is too obvious to need pointing out how much resembling this there is in the moral state of things.
V. We may contemplate the lavish, boundless diffusion, riches, and variety of beauty in the spring. Reflect what a display is here of the boundless resources of the great Author. Such unlimited profusion may well assure us that He who can afford thus to lavish treasures so far beyond what is simply necessary can never fail of resources for all that is, or ever shall be, necessary.
VI. This pleasant season has always been regarded as obviously presenting an image of youthful life. The newness, liveliness, fair appearance, exuberance, of the vital principle, rapid growth—such are the fair points of likeness. But there are also less pleasing circumstances of resemblance: the frailty and susceptibility, so peculiarly liable to fatal injury from inauspicious influences, blights, and diseases.
VII. To a person in the latter stages of life, if destitute of the sentiments and expectations of religion, this world of beauty must lose its captivations; it must even take a melancholy aspect, for what should strike him so directly and forcibly as the thought that he is soon to leave it? On the contrary, and by the same rule, this fair display of the Creator's works and resources will be gratifying the most and the latest to the soul animated with the love of God and the confidence of soon entering on a nobler scene.
J. Foster, Lectures, 1st series, p. 128.
The breath of the Most High, mentioned in the text, is the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son, the Third Person in the Trinity, proceeding from the Father and the Son to give life, and order, and harmony to His creatures, especially to make His reasonable creatures, angels and men, partakers of His unspeakable holiness.
I. If this parable of breath be well considered, it may seem to account for other like parables, so to call them, by which Holy Scripture teaches us to think of this our most holy Comforter. For instance, the Holy Spirit is sometimes compared to the wind, as in the discourse of our Saviour to Nicodemus. Thus the wind, when we hear or feel it, may remind us of the breath of Almighty God; and the effects of the wind—the clouds which it brings over the earth, the moisture which the air takes up, the dews which descend, the rains which pour down, the springs which gush out, the waters which flow over the earth—all these are in Scripture tokens of the same Spirit, showing Himself in gifts and sanctifying graces and communicating spiritual life to His people.
II. We are hereby taught to think of our own spiritual and hidden life, the life which we have concealed and laid up for us with Christ in God, the life which is altogether of faith, not at all of sight. Whatever puts us in mind of the Holy Spirit puts us in mind of that life, for He is "the Lord and Giver of life." The natural life of the first Adam was a gift of the Spirit, a token of His Divine presence, but much more so the spiritual life which Christians have by union with the second Adam.
III. Whatever else we do, then, or refrain from doing, let us at least endeavour to open our eyes and contemplate our real condition. The outward world indeed is to us the same as if we were no Christians; the breath of heaven is around us, the dew falls, the winds blow, the rain descends, the waters gush out, and all the other works of nature go on as if we had never been taken out of this wicked world and placed in the kingdom of God: but in reality we know that there is a meaning and power in all these common things which they can have to none but Christians. The good Spirit is around us on every side; He is within us; we are His temples: only let us so live, that we force Him not to depart from us at last.
Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vii., p. 144.
References: Psalms 104:30.—J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 4th series, p. 52; J. Keble, Sermons from Ascension Day to Trinity Sunday, p. 164; A. J. Griffith, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xii., p. 8; H. Wonnacott, Ibid., vol. xvii., p. 314; G. Avery, Ibid., vol. xxvii., p. 269; R. D. B. Rawnsley, Ibid., vol. xxx., p. 172; J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. i., p. 382.
I. In God, in the ever-blessed Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—we and every living thing live, and move, and have our being. He is the Infinite, whom nothing, however huge, and vast, and strong, can comprehend; that is, take in and limit. He takes in and limits all things, giving to each thing form according to its own kind, and life and growth according to its own law. Therefore everything which we see is a thought of God's, an action of God's, a message to us from God. We can look neither at the sun in the sky nor at the grass beneath our feet without being brought face to face with God, the ever-blessed Trinity.
II. If God be so awful in the material world, of which our five senses tell us, how much more awful is He in that spiritual and moral world of which our senses tell us nought! How awful is God in that eternal world of right and wrong, wherein cherubim, seraphim, angel, and archangel cry to Him for ever, not merely "Mighty! mighty! mighty!" but "Holy! holy! holy!" so awful that we might well be overwhelmed with dread and horror at the sight of God's righteousness and our sinfulness were it not for the gracious message of revelation that tells us that God the Father of heaven is our Father likewise, who so loved us that He gave for us His only-begotten, God the Son, that for His sake our sins might be freely forgiven us; that God the Son is our Atonement, our Redeemer, our King, our Intercessor, our Example, our Saviour in life and death, and God the Holy Ghost our Comforter, our Guide, our Inspirer, who will give to our souls the eternal life which will never perish, even as He gives to our bodies the mortal life which must perish.
C. Kingsley, All Saints' Day, and Other Sermons, p. 142.
References: Psalms 104:33.—Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 273. Psalms 104:33-35.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xxi., p. 338.
Meditation is the calm and quiet dwelling of the mind upon a great fact till that fact has time to get into the mind and pervade it with its influence. Meditation is the quiet thinking on single truths, the steady setting of attentive thought drawn away from other things and concentrated on this alone.
I. The words of the text imply a personal relationship; that is, the relation of the human person who thinks towards a Divine Person on whom he meditates. All through it is the personal, living God whom the psalmist saw, the God who thought, and felt, and schemed, and ruled, and loved, and with whom the psalmist himself was brought into relation. Not an abstract or distant Deity is He who calls out the adoration of His human creatures, but One in whom we live, and move, and have our being, round about our path and about our bed, and searching out all our ways.
II. Consider whence comes the sweetness of this exercise of the head and heart. (1) It is sweet to think of the love of Christ, and especially to realise that we, with all our conscious unworthiness, are the objects of it. (2) It is sweet to dwell on the love-tokens of our absent Saviour. (3) It is sweet to anticipate the time when we shall meet Him, "whom, having not seen, we love; in whom, though now we see Him not, yet believing, we rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
E. Garbett, Experiences of the Inner Life, p. 191.
References: Psalm 104—P. Thomson, Expositor, 2nd series, vol. i., p. 174; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iv., p. 60.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 104". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany