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1 Chronicles 29:1-10
Furthermore David the king said unto all the congregation.
Christian experience and Christian influence
I. The nearer a good man approaches his end, the more spiritually-minded he becomes.
II. The more spiritually-minded a good man becomes, the greater his influence upon others.
III. The greater influence a good man has upon others, the more certainly will God’s work be accomplished. (J. Wolfendale.)
The principles of Christian work
1. Personal consecration and example.
2. Willing co-operation by all.
3. Appropriateness of service and gifts.
4. Animated by a true spirit of enthusiasm and joy. (J. Wolfendale.)
A good example and the power of it
God is calling His people everywhere to undertake a work for His glory, which in importance and magnitude and grandeur infinitely transcends the work He laid upon Solomon--the evangelisation of the entire world--the building of that great spiritual temple which is to fill the earth and into which all nations and peoples are to be gathered.
I. The Divine call to this work is direct, imperative, and loud.
II. It is attested by signs and wonders as marvellous and impressive to the spiritually discerning as the miracles of apostolic times.
III. The call in this instance is to the entire Church of Christ, individually and collectively. The command, the obligation is universal and cannot be evaded. If you have not gold and silver to bestow, give yourself--heart, soul, mind, prayers, influence. If you cannot go to the heathen, send a substitute, give of your means, etc.
IV. The times demand large gifts, princely offerings.
V. Never had the power of example such potency as now. (J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)
Interest in God’s work
It is always well for us to take a loving and deep interest in the work of God. We may have at heart some end which we desire to achieve for God’s glory, and because we know that it springs from such a motive may proceed to carry it out without questioning whether we are to be the agents through which it is to be accomplished. But there may be others better fitted for the work than we are, whom God has in reserve. And what matters it whether we or others do the work, so long as it is done by men chosen of God? “The work goes on, though the workmen die,” are the words which Dean Stanley most appropriately had inscribed on Wesley’s memorial in Westminster Abbey. Other men labour, and we enter into their labours. The work they sought to accomplish God denied to them, but lays upon us. (Dr. Egbert.)
Power of example
Before us was a narrow bridge, and between us and the bridge were several thousand sheep. They would have taken a long time going over, and would effectually have checked our entrance into the town, but for a clever plan for getting the sheep quickly over. A few sheep are trained as a sort of decoy. They are at first pet lambs, and then in time become pet sheep. They are kept by the authorities who have control of the bridge, and are let to the sheep-drovers for so much, in order to effect a speedy passage of the bridge. The keepers of the pets go first, then follow the three or four pets, and then away after them the three or four thousand of the mob, as they are called here. (H. T. Robjohns.)
The house of the Lord
I. The building is for the Lord God, because it is for the presentation of God’s worship. God claims to be worshipped. He deserves to be worshipped for--
(1) What he is in Himself.
(2) What He is to us. Worship takes the forms of adoration, thanksgiving, confession, petition, supplication, and intercession. By a very significant expression the Jews used to say when they went up to Jerusalem, that they were going “to appear before the Lord.” The chief attraction of every place of worship ought to be that you ere coming to meet with God.
II. The building is for the Lord because it is built for the proclamation of God’s truth.
III. The building is for the Lord because it is for the promotion of God’s purposes. God’s purposes are that men should be saved, sanctified, enlightened, comforted, strengthened, stimulated, and helped on to glory. (John Corbin.)
The palace for God
These words are not to be pressed unduly, nor their spirit sacrificed to the letter, in forgetfulness of the idiom of the language in which they are recorded. The patriotic king no more forgot his nation’s welfare in the sense of the sacredness of the work, than the prophet who first uttered the immortal words, “I love mercy and not sacrifice,” dreamed of extinguishing the altar fires and abolishing the office of the priesthood seven centuries before the “fulness of time.” Their principal meaning is obvious. An edifice was formed, a pattern was already, it is written, present to his mind’s eye. It was to be no regal palace, however stately, no home for oriental splendour and magnificence; it was to be consecrated for ever to the Jehovah to whom he and his people were bound by everlasting covenant. Yet the truth that no house made with hands could in any literal sense hold Him whom the heaven of heavens could not contain, was already deep in the conscience, and finding expression in the words of God’s truest servant. He who was revealed to the Psalmist, the Psalmist-king well knew, no roof of cedar, no walls of stone, no building however sacred, however sumptuous, could be His real home. It could be only so far His dwelling-place, when His unseen presence could be found and realised by those who sought Him--found best by those who could rise in spirit above that imageless temple, above that altar smoke, and all the machinery of ritual, to the Father of their spirits and the God of their salvation. There is a sense, therefore, in which we may, without irreverence, almost invert the words, and yet gain, rather than lose, their true significance. The palace is not for God, we might even say, as a literal dwelling-place. To Him, the marble, and the cedar, and the palm-tree, and the olive, and the brass, and the gold are as nothing. The palace in this sense is not for God, but it is for man--not for man as merely the foremost of creatures to draw the breath of life on the earth, but for man as the worshipper, as the servant, as the conscious and devout adorer of Him who has created him in His own image; for man as the place for worship which may reclaim, and purify, and uplift his fallen nature; which may bring him into communion with his Father and his God; a place where all that appeals to his highest earthly sense may enable him to forget the things of sense, and reach out to what eye hath not seen or ear heard. And for so bold an apparent inversion of the letter, in order to bring home to our minds the inner spirit of the words, I may surely plead the example of Him who taught His people that the seventh day, which was proclaimed at Sinai to be the Sabbath of the Lord our God, was, for all that, made for man, and that the Son of Man was Lord also of the Sabbath. (Dean Bradley.)
The importance of Church extension
To realise the importance of the work of Church extension, consider--
I. That religion is essential to the welfare of a nation (Psalms 33:12; Isaiah 60:12).
II. It is a work that shall reach forward through many generations (1 Chronicles 28:8).
III. It is your appointed privilege (1 Chronicles 28:10).
IV. What is implied in the word sanctuary? (1 Chronicles 28:10). A sanctuary is a place of refuge from impending evils. If a man erect a lighthouse, he is honoured for preventing a great loss of life. If he build a hospital he is revered as the benefactor of his race for the mitigation of pain. But he who builds a church, or assists in the work, does more. Under the Divine blessing he is instrumental in enlightening dark minds, comforting troubled consciences, and in saving immortal souls.
V. The temple was a type of the Christian Church.
VI. If David and Solomon were so zealous in providing means for having the type only, how much more anxious should we Be to put ourselves and others in possession of the substance?
VII. It is seldom that a great work can be accomplished by an individual. (1 Chronicles 29:1).
VIII. It is for the glory of God (1 Chronicles 29:1).
IX. David’s example (1 Chronicles 29:2).
X. The affection we ought to bear to God’s house (1 Chronicles 29:3). (H. Clissold, M. A.)
David’s desire to build a house for God
I. The God whom David worshipped. He worshipped God--
1. As the Supreme Being (1 Chronicles 29:11).
2. As the God of his fathers (1 Chronicles 29:10).
3. As personally appropriated: “My God”
II. Some of the reasons which led David to desire to build a house for his God.
1. Jealousy for the honour of God.
2. Love and gratitude to God.
3. The thought that others besides himself should worship therein. (J. Shillito.)
Attachment to the sanctuary
It is of one of the noble qualities of the religious life of the Jews I would speak--their love for the house of God.
I. The house of God. The house of worship is the house of God.
II. Because the ancient Jews loved the Lord’s house they made it beautiful. This was natural, lawful, and Divinely sanctioned. This impulse was recognised, called out, and approved by God.
III. It was a general affection exercised and expressed by all the people. (Henry J. VanDyke.)
I. The object. “The work is great; for the palace is not for man, but for the Lord God.”
1. In respect of the greatness of Him for whose use the palace is made.
2. The value of what is wrought there to all mankind.
3. The consequent expenditure.
II. The giving. Circumstances of David’s great collection and of ours are very different, but the principles are the same.
1. Definitely to the Lord. The money went into the hands of treasurers, but it was given to God.
2. Voluntary, “Who is willing?” “They offered willingly.”
3. Hearty and gladsome. “Because I have set my affection to the house of my God,” is David’s reason for giving (1 Chronicles 29:3). And of all the givers it is said, “The people rejoiced for that they offered willingly, because with perfect heart they offered willingly to the Lord” (1 Chronicles 29:9).
4. With preparation. Mistake to give on sudden impulse only or to imagine that forethought, and method, and consideration are opposed to heartiness; intelligent, Christian love will lead to these in proportion as it is fervent. “I have prepared with all my might” (1 Chronicles 29:2).
5. With devout acknowledgement. “Both riches and honour come of Thee.” “All this store cometh of Thine hand, and is all Thine own” (1 Chronicles 29:11-16).
6. With fervent prayer (1 Chronicles 29:18-19). (Homiletic Magazine.)
1 Chronicles 29:5
And who then is willing to consecrate his service this day unto the Lord.
I. Service. This demands--
1. A settled purpose.
2. An active resolve.
II. A welling service.
1. A willing service is the only efficient service.
2. The willingness of our service is the only part that is absolutely required.
III. An immediate service.
1. Seasons for service are never absent.
2. Efficiency and pleasure ensue when service is performed in its own time.
IV. The highest service. The service of the Lord implies--
1. That the mind is perpetually under the influence of Divine truth.
2. That holy thoughts are actuated by the presence of the Spirit in them.
3. Entire consecration. (Thos. Davies, D. D.)
It does the heart good to read over those closing chapters of this book and to note the spirit which animated the generation for which the first temple was built. As regards the cost and beauty of our churches there is this to be borne in mind, that whatever our present shortcomings may be, there is one great difference between ourselves and the ancient people of God--that whereas all their gifts were offered for a single building, we have to maintain all the churches in the kingdom, which in number must be fast approaching twenty thousand. But large as are the sums which have been spent, and are daily being spent on church building and church restoration, there is one offering which God values more than any other gift, and which each of us, from highest to lowest, may offer if we will--a perfect heart. (F. E. Paget.)
Consecration to God’s service
I. The nature of the service required. The service of God is a phrase which amounts to much the same thing as the worship of God.
1. Servitude sometimes arises from--
(1) Subjugation or conquest.
(2) Hereditary succession. Some men are born servants or slaves. The servitude which God requires is a servitude which makes the servant free.
2. The service which God requires involves--
(1) Divine illumination.
(2) Pure and ardent love.
(3) Continued and unceasing obedience.
II. What are the obligations under which we are all placed to render such service to the Almighty?
1. It is the duty of man to obey and serve Him.
2. Such service is very profitable and beneficial to man.
3. It is a refuge to its subject in the day of trouble.
4. It is an antidote to the fear of death.
III. That the service of God is indispensable.
1. Because it is the commandment of God.
2. The grand design of human life is the service of God.
3. The service of God is the only means of salvation.
IV. I come now to propose the inquiry, “Who then is willing? “ etc.
1. The service of God is a willing service.
2. I address myself
(1) To the aged.
(2) To those in the prime and activity of life.
(3) More especially to the young. Lock--
(a) At the magnitude of the work.
(b) The difficulty with which it may afterwards be accomplished.
(c) The shortness and uncertainty of life.
(d) The consequences that will follow from this early devotement of yourselves unto God. Objections:
1. Time enough yet.
2. I shall lose my friends if I embrace in my youth the religion of Jesus Christ. It was once said by an ancient philosopher, “Caesar is my friend--I have nothing to fear”; and a greater than Caesar is here. Jesus is “a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”
3. To embrace religion in youth will expose to obloquy and shame. Was it not said by one of the ancients that where God is there can be no exile--no banishment from His presence?
4. God is merciful, and we may get religion when we please. You may reckon on mercy until you are taken out of the world without it; and there is no mercy beyond the gates of death. (W. Tease.)
Who is willing to serve God
I. The nature of the service which God demands.
1. It is spiritual. It is the homage and devotion of the heart. All the intellectual powers, the understanding, will, affections, conscience, memory are to be dedicated to the worship of God. Without this no service can be acceptable to God (Isaiah 1:11; Isaiah 1:13; Matthew 15:8-9).
2. It is to be constant and unremitting (1 Corinthians 10:31).
3. It must be affectionate. It is impossible for us to offer any acceptable service to God which does not spring from this love in our heart (1 John 5:3). How is this to be obtained? The answer is Very plain (Ephesians 4:22-24). Thus God will “create a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within you.”
4. It must be practical (Matthew 5:16; 1 Corinthians 9:27; 2 Corinthians 10:5).
II. The service which God requires of us should be performed without delay.
1. It is enjoined upon us by the Scriptures (Hebrews 3:15; Joshua 24:15; 2 Corinthians 6:2). You have no certainty that any further opportunities will be afforded in which you may serve God (Proverbs 27:1; Luke 13:25-27).
3. The longer you defer entering into the service of God the more difficulties and obstacles will be thrown in your way. How absurd the notion that futurity will present more favourable opportunities for serving God than any with which we have yet been blessed. Suppose a sick man were to say, “As long as this disorder remains upon me, and the more deeply my constitution is affected by it, the more certainly shall I receive a speedy cure.” Would you consider this person to be perfectly sane? Or should one of your debtors assure you that by your increasing his obligations to you some three or four fold he would be immediately able to cancel the whole, would you believe him? The longer you live in sin the more grievously do you provoke God. You “crucify to yourselves the Son of God afresh.” It is awfully possible for men to outlive the day of grace (Psalms 95:11).
4. Our services will be more acceptable now than they can possibly be at any future period.
III. Let us now consider the import of the question, “Who then is willing? “ etc.
1. It carries with it the assumption that God is waiting to accept your service.
2. It implies also that every one possesses the ability to consecrate his service unto God.
3. We are taught by the text that there is a disinclination in the heart of man to submit himself to the will of God.
1. This is the most honourable service in which you can engage
2. It is pleasant (Proverbs 3:17; Isaiah 32:17; Psalms 16:3; Isaiah 2:5).
3. It is reasonable (Acts 17:28).
4. It is the only service which secures a vast reward (1 Corinthians 2:9). (R. Treffry.)
The New Version reads, “Who then offereth willingly to consecrate himself this day unto the Lord.” This preferable reading suggests the theme of self consecration to God.
I. What this consecration involves. A man may consecrate many things to God and yet not consecrate himself. God does not value s man’s money, time, talents, if he withholds himself. Consecration of self involves--
1. The heart. This is the seat of our affections, the love of our nature, end the fountain from which flows everything that constitutes the character. “Give me thine heart.”
2. The body. The body as well as the soul is the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:15; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 5:30). Self-consecration covers our whole being--body, soul, and spirit. It will also embrace our time, talents, wealth.
II. The claim which God has to this self-consecration. His claim results--
1. From His love. God loves us. The love of a father constitutes a claim to the love of a dutiful son, how much more to the love of a prodigal son.
2. From the way in which God has consecrated or sanctified Himself for us. “He gave Himself for me.”
3. He asks our self-consecration to His service because it is the best thing we can do for ourselves.
III. This self-consecration is immediate duty.
1. It is a great mistake for any to withhold self-consecration because they are too young. It is easier to be pure, and truthful, and loving, and diligent in the service of God when young than it will be to practise those virtues when old, if you have neglected them when young. The habits formed by a life of sin and neglect of God are like iron chains that you cannot easily break. Many who once said they were too young are now saying they are too old.
2. The sooner you commence to serve God the more you will be able to accomplish.
3. The present may be your only opportunity. We have been speaking specially to the young; but this is also a word for the aged. It is a delightful thing to see the young decide for Christ, but it is a sad thing to see the parents left behind. I was deeply impressed with this one day. I was on a visit close to the east coast where so many wrecks had recently taken place; among them was a vessel at the mouth of the Tyne. It was Christmas day, and on the pier among the crowd of spectators stood the son of the captain, watching and waiting for his father; for he was expected to be at home on that festive day. Probably as they gazed at each other a violent sea struck the vessel, and it sunk with all hands--wrecked within sight of port and within sight of friends. Parents, are there none of your children who have decided for Christ, and are standing on the Rock and looking out and expecting you home? Shall they see you wrecked within sight of port? (Absalom Clarke.)
Service for God
Men make a great deal of to-morrow. God always and everywhere lays stress on to-day. Day by day God supplies, and day by day He asks us to serve. In reference to this service we want to try and answer three questions.
I. Who is it asks for it?
II. Why does he want it? God wishes to use men, because by this means He can bestow richer blessing upon them than He could in any other way.
III. How may we render it?
1. By yielding your heart to Him.
2. By living an upright, consistent, unselfish life.
3. By earnest loving effort.
4. By helping and encouraging His people. (J. D. Kilburn.)
I. Christian consecration is a personal thing: “Who?”
II. Christian consecration is a voluntary thing: “Who is willing?”
III. Christian consecration is an active thing: His service.”
IV. Christian consecration is a reasonable thing: “Unto the Lord.”
V. Christian consecration is a prompt thing: “This day.”
VI. Christian consecration is a sympathetic thing: it prompts the consecrated to commend the grace of God to others and press the question, “Who is willing?” etc. (Thos. Kelly, D. D.)
A great disappointment in life is often a terrible experience. A picturesque writer compares the setting of a secret hope to the setting of the sun. The brightness of life seems gone. And such might well to some extent have been the experience of David. He had set his heart on erecting the temple on Mount Zion. We may judge, then, what a collapse fell on his intensest interest and expectation when the decree issued that the work was not to be done by him. Instead of sinking into sullen apathy, or the inertness of despair, he devoted himself with renewed and consecrated energy to gather the materials necessary for the work, and in the text he appeals to and seeks to stimulate the people. The consecration here required--
I. Must have in it the element of spontaneity. We must know what love to God really is, and we must feel the spell of its sweet strength. As to the form in which our love is to manifest itself, that is a question of inferior importance. We know that our love to our fellow creatures is not conformed to any common or uniform law; it is sometimes radiant in a smile, flippant on the tongue; its speech bewrayeth itself; it asserts itself irrepressibly in a thousand ways. In other cases it is reticent, it is reserved, it is like the image of moon or star in a mountain tam, it abideth alone; few ever see it; and yet in both cases it is deep and sincere, strong even as death. The great question is not as to how our love is to express itself, but as to whether it really exists at all, the supreme power of the soul, a living and present reality within us. One of our poets represents a wretched slave, in reply to the query of her master in respect to her affection for himself, as replying with a gladness-glamoured, “Yes,” with her lips, when her heart, burned to say, “No.” The sad, pathetic picture of the poet is the precise converse of what we are now insisting upon, namely, that the professed devotion of ourselves to God must be the gift of love, or can He do else than spurn the sacrifice altogether?
II. Must be a whole-hearted, undivided thing--body as well as soul. The later representatives of the Gnostics held that the body was so wholly bad as to be beyond redemption; that it did not matter what became of it; that it might be plunged into the blackest depths of vicious excess and that the spirit within would contract no defilement and suffer no detriment. Accordingly the primitive Christians were in imminent peril of being seduced into the immoralities which abounded around them. Hence the warnings which abound in apostolic Epistles against lasciviousness, revelling, banquetings, and such like. Why should we not feel respecting the body that it is as truly consecrated to God in the case of a Christian as the soul can be?
III. This consecration is no cheap or easy thing. We must not offer unto God that which costs us nothing.
1. There is the cost of self-discipline.
2. The diligent and laborious use of the means of grace. (Dean Forrest.)
I do not know a question in the sacred volume more full of import, or more adapted to press upon the heart.
I. We shall explain what we regard as the consecration of service to God.
1. There must be correct views of the Divine character and claims, as they are revealed in the record of His word. You must receive Him as He there appears.
(1) The God of creation.
(2) The God of providence.
(3) The God of redemption.
2. A practical obedience to the will of God, whether expressly declared, or whether to be inferred from His revealed attributes.
3. The use of active exertion to promote the Divine glory in the world. Religion does not only direct our attention to duties which pertain exclusively to our own personal characters and interests; it also prompts a concern for the improvement and welfare of our fellow-men. It is not equivocal testimony that your own hearts are given to God in faith and true holiness when you desire to be instrumental in restoring the authority of His law over the minds and lives of others.
II. We shall present the considerations which ought to urge to as engagement in the service of God.
1. We are placed under universal and imperative obligation to do so.
2. The influence His service has in preventing the degradation and promoting the dignity of our nature. The habits of men must always according to their moral nature tend to degrade or dignify. He who is truly devoted to God, whatever be his deficiencies and disadvantages in other respects, is placed on a far higher eminence than can ever be attained by the most arduous aspirations of the carnal mind. Must not that bestow transcendent dignity which writes the law of Jehovah on the heart, renders the body a living temple and an habitation of God, places the thoughts and employments of men in a sphere where they become associated with prophets and apostles and martyrs of the Redeemer and the Redeemer Himself, and where they are blended with the sublime realities of the invisible and eternal world? The service of God ennobles all that it comprehends; it is as the rose which gave its fragrance to the very clay; it is as the sunbeam which tints with a fresh hue of beauty and splendour the forms of earth, and causes them to reflect its own glory.
3. The true and solid pleasure His service communicates to the soul. Here is--
(1) Peace with God.
(2) Freedom from the dominion of sin.
(3) Redemption from the terror of the curse.
(4) The confidence of rectitude and pardon.
(5) The inspiration which springs from a participation in the triumphs of pure benevolence and love.
(6) The possession of privileges which, from the consolations of time, shall rise to the happiness of eternity.
4. The glorious recompence by which the engagements of His service are consummated.
III. We shall impress the question by which, to an engagement in the service of God, you are emphatically challenged. “Who is willing?” What excuses can you propose to justify a negative. You are too young. “Suffer little children to come unto Me.” You are too poor. The Saviour came to “preach the gospel to the poor.” You are too guilty. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.” You are prevented by worldly attachments. “He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me,” etc. You are deterred by threatening of persecution. “Whosoever will save his life shall lose it,” etc. (James Parsons.)
The true idea of the Christian life
I. This is God’s appeal for service.
II. Service is the true idea of the Christian life. For religion is not a mere viaticum to carry the soul to glory;but a power and support required during life, and not in death only.
III. Service implies obedience, self-denial, and activity. Such a work requires generosity and earnestness, resembling the zeal of the Jews in building their temple.
IV. The service of God requires a voluntary and distinct consecration.
V. The service of God is of the most pressing urgency. It should be “this day.” (L. H. Byrnes, B. A.)
The act of the will
In making our choice there is a determined act of our own will. To be willing is one thing; to will is another thing. We may be entirely willing, for instance, to go to some other country--say America--and such willingness may continue for years; but unless you will to go, you will never reach there. Our choice involves a definite act of the will; we may think about religion; we may talk about religion; we may be kindly affected towards religion; but we are called to do more. We are called to make a determined act of our will and to make our choice. You have seen a grand vessel about to be launched. Everything was ready for her departure from dry land. Every impediment had been removed but one, and that was the one which prevented her from entering the element on which she was to sail. One single block hound her to earth. It was in itself a mere trifle. A blow of the hammer wielded by a vigorous arm would set her free; but let that block remain untouched, and no onward movement would be made by the gallant ship. The hammer swings in the air; the blow is struck; she rushes into the great deep, where she floats with ease and grace as one born to it as her own possession. That stroke of the hammer corresponds to the act of the will--the deliberate resolution taken and made to consecrate oneself to Christ and to God. It must be taken, or the journey will never be traversed. (Cameron Lees, D. D.)
“I give Thee all--I keep back nothing for myself.” Such was the motto engraved upon the ring and seals of the great Reformer Calvin. The words were deeply cut in what was solid, whether of metal or stone. They were ever carried about him, ever present with him. He meant them to be unchangeable by engraving them where he did. Offered willingly:--Rich men’s presents are gold and silver, or other costly things. Mine must be recommended by the affectionate pleasure with which I give them. (The Ven. Bede when dying.)
1 Chronicles 29:10-20
Wherefore David blessed the Lord before all the congregation.
The last thanksgiving
Every sentence weighed and measured for the occasion.
I. The infinite perfections of God.
1. God in His unspeakable grandeur.
2. God in His universal dominion.
3. God in His absolute ownership.
4. God in His covenant relation.
5. God in His goodness to men.
II. The peculiar relations of man to the infinite God.
1. Man is a dependent creature. “Who am I?”
(1) Dependent for substance to give.
(2) Dependent for the disposition to give it.
(3) Therefore indebted to God for all things.
2. Man is a short-lived creature.
3. Man’s conduct is observed by God. (J. Wolfendale.)
1. Its adoration of God.
2. Its acknowledgment of dependence upon Him.
3. Its recognition of the influence of His grace.
4. Its solemn appeal to conscious integrity.
5. Its earnest prayer for king and people. (J. Wolfendale.)
The reciprocal influence of mind upon mind in worship
In this address of the venerable King of Israel to the Omnipotent Sovereign of the world, the natural influence of one mind upon another, the secret but powerful sympathy of similar affections in the “devout congregation” combine with his own grateful dispositions to enlarge his conceptions and to bring forth the most affecting description of the excellences of the great object of their common homage. You cannot but have observed and felt an influence of this kind, and been moved by the affections of others, especially when they corresponded with the condition of your own hearts. You have felt auger, joy, or grief insinuate themselves into your minds from the expression of them in others; and you have seen these affections increased in them by the mutual sympathy of your feelings. How often has the rage of an individual, expressed by the fiery glance of his eye, the fierceness of his countenance, and the shrillness of his tones, with the force and quickness of lightning inflamed a multitude, and exasperated their headstrong passions. With what glowing delight has an assembly been filled by the joyful countenance, the cheerful glance, the eloquent tones of a happy friend. How often has the melancholy, downcast look, or the tender tear of an interesting mourner, covered the face of the beholder with like pensive sadness, and infused into your bosom sorrows not your own. This reciprocal impression of the affections of the heart must hold equally true in the worship of the Supreme, as in the intercourse of common life. (Anon.)
Thine, O Lord, is the greatness and the power.--
God’s supreme dominion and universal authority
I. The supreme authority and dominion of the ever-blessed God. God, under every possible consideration, must be supreme. As, therefore, He must be supreme, so must He reign over all (Romans 9:5). God has an absolute right, not only to claim allegiance from all, but to dispose of all according to His own will and pleasure. Every part of God’s Word teems with His glorious sovereign authority.
1. Witness a few confessions. Text. Solomon (1 Kings 8:22-23; 2 Chronicles 6:14); Hezekiah (2 Kings 19:14-19); Jehoshaphat (2 Chronicles 20:3-12); the Levites (Nehemiah 9:4-6); the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:13); Paul (Ephesians 1:3-6; 1 Timothy 1:11-17); Jude (verses 20-25).
2. How the Lord asserts and claims this glorious prerogative as peculiar to Himself (Deuteronomy 32:39-43; Isaiah 40:25-26; Isaiah 41:14-16; Isaiah 42:5-8; Isaiah 43:15-17; Jeremiah 5:20-25; Daniel 7:13-14).
II. The nature of this supreme dominion and sovereign authority. Observe--
1. Negatively. It is not--
(1) A deputed and delegated authority.
(2) An assumed or usurped authority.
(3) An arbitrary authority.
(1) It is universal.
III. The aspect in which it is to be viewed by us.
1. As a most glorious doctrine.
2. As a most humiliating doctrine.
3. As a most alarming doctrine.
4. As a most encouraging doctrine.
5. As a most invigorating and establishing doctrine. (R. Shittler.)
The Divine greatness and beneficence
We have in these words a confession--
I. Of the Divine sovereignty.
II. Of the Divine power.
III. Of the Divine beneficence. (J. Johnson Cort, M. A.)
I. The occasion. David, in a general assembly of his people, moves them to contribute towards the building of the temple, and encourages them by his own example. They contribute willingly and liberally. Reckoning a talent of silver at £375, and a talent of gold at £4,500, what they offered amounted to above twenty-six millions of pounds sterling (besides the ten thousand drams of gold, the other metals, and precious stones), which, with what David gave himself out of his private treasury, being above sixteen millions more, makes a vast sum. For this he and the people rejoice. He blesses and praises God, not because they had so much, but because they had hearts to lay out so much for God and His worship. To have much may be a curse and a snare, but to have a heart to employ it for God is a far more blessed thing than to keep it, or gain it, or any way to receive it (Acts 20:25).
II. The mode or form of his praising God. It is an ascribing all excellences to Him. True praising or blessing of God consists in acknowledging that to be God’s which is His. When Christ taught His disciples how to pray and how to praise God, this is the mode of praising Him (Matthew 7:18): “Thine is,” etc. After the same manner does David here praise Him. (D. Clarkson.)
For all that is in the heaven and in the earth is Thine.--
The Lord is the owner of all things
I. What evidence there is in scripture for the Lord’s title to all things.
1. Those things are His which we have in common with others.
(1) The world in general (Psalms 50:1 or Psalms 24:1? Misprint in original text.);
(2) heaven (Psalms 89:11);
(3) the sea (Psalms 95:5);
(4) the earth (Exodus 19:5);
(5) everything in the earth (Deuteronomy 10:14).
2. Those things are His which we think to be properly ours. We may be proprietors in respect of men, so far as none of them may be able to produce any good title or lay any just claim to what we have; but we are no proprietors in reference to God.
(1) Lands (Leviticus 25:28);
(2) the fruits of the land (Hosea 2:9); and cattle (Psalms 50:10-11);
(3) money and clothes (Haggai 2:8; 1 Chronicles 29:14; 1 Chronicles 29:16);
(4) our children (Ezekiel 16:20-21);
(5) ourselves (1 Corinthians 6:19; Psalms 100:3);
(6) our bodies (1 Corinthians 6:20);
(7) our souls (Ezekiel 18:4; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
II. What is the foundation of the Lord’s title to a propriety in all things? He that gave to all their being is clearly the owner of all (Psalms 89:11-12).
1. He made all for Himself, not for the pleasure of another, as the Israelites wrought for Pharaoh.
2. He made all things of nothing.
3. He made all without the help or concurrence of any other.
4. He upholds all things in the same manner as He created.
III. The nature and quality of this propriety.
1. He is the primary and original owner of all. His title and propriety is underived.
2. He is the absolute owner of all, without any condition or limitation.
3. He is the principal owner. All others that have right to anything have it under Him, and in subordination to Him, and are tied to acknowledge it by doing Him service for whatever they have.
4. He is total owner of all. When David gave the possession mentioned (2 Samuel 19:29) between Ziba and Mephibosheth, they had a joint interest therein, so Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah would have had in the navy and adventure if they had joined their ships according to the proposal (1 Kings 22:49). But none has a joint interest with God.
5. He is the perpetual owner of all.
6. He is transcendently the owner of all. He has the greatest right to them. He has more right to all than we have to anything.
7. He is the sole owner of all things.
Use 1. Of information.
(1) Herein we may discern the greatness of the Lord whom we serve and whose we are.
(2) This may inform us that the Lord hath a right to deal with us or any creature as He will.
Use 2. For exhortation. This truth suggests many duties of greatest moment and consequence.
(1) Thankfulness. Whatsoever we have that is good is from Him, and not only the substance, but every degree of it.
(3) Improving all we have for God.
If God be the owner of all things, He is the owner of us; if He be the owner of us, we are not to own ourselves, and not to own ourselves is to deny ourselves.
We must deny ourselves--
(a) As to our judgments, We must give up ourselves to the conduct of that judgment which is laid down in Scripture, that which is called the mind of the Lord.
(b) As to our wills. The will of the Lord must be our will.
(c) As to our ends. The pleasing, and honouring, and enjoying God is the only end we should propose to ourselves, either in holy duties or worldly business.
(d) As to our interests. If God be our owner, we ought to own and mind His interest and none else.
(e) As to our business and employments. The example of Christ (Luke 2:19; John 4:34; John 9:4).
As to our possessions. We ought to look upon all we possess as the Lord’s and not ours.
Use 3. For encouragement.
I. This truth affords encouragement in those special cases which are most apt to trouble and deject you. He can supply all your need.
(1) Want you wealth, or what you judge to be a competency? (1 Chronicles 29:12). All the riches of the world are in His hands, and He can dispose thereof to whom and in what proportion He sees good (2 Corinthians 9:8; Philippians 4:19).
(2) Want you authority to countenance and secure you? (1 Chronicles 29:11). He has the disposing of it all.
(3) Want you victory over enemies, those that afflict and oppress your souls? The Lord can give it you; it is His own.
(4) Want you strength, outward or inward, to do, or to suffer, or to resist? This He can also give you, for it is all His own (1 Chronicles 29:12).
(5) Want you wisdom? (James 1:5).
(6) Want you gifts or other graces, or a greater measure of them? (James 1:17).
(7) Want you comfort? (2 Corinthians 1:3).
(8) Want you friends? All the friends in the world are but cyphers to Him.
2. There is encouragement to undergo or undertake anything for God which He calls you to. He is the owner of all things, and so has enough to requite you, to reward you, if all that is in heaven and in earth be enough to do it. (D. Clarkson.)
God’s ownership is--
3. Eternal. From this ownership we infer--
I. The absolute supremacy of God. He who owns all has a right--
1. To bestow on any creature whatever He pleases.
2. To withdraw from any creature in any way or at any time whatever He thinks best. “The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away.”
II. The moral obligation of man. What is that?
1. To obey His will in everything.
2. To be animated by supreme gratitude. (Homilist.)
Thine is the kingdom, O Lord.--
The kingdom of God
I. Thine, O Lord, is the kingdom. What kingdom?
1. The kingdom of nature, with all its productions and materials.
2. The kingdom of providence. As He made all, so His care extends to all.
3. The kingdom of grace. This is a kingdom within the kingdom of nature and providence. It is a mediatorial, a spiritual empire, which is designed to establish the peculiar reign of God, not only over men, but in them.
II. The glory of this kingdom. This is seen--
1. In its Sovereign--the Lord Jesus.
2. In its universality.
3. In its prospect (Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:13-14).
4. In its subjects: “The excellent of the earth.”
5. its privileges: “Eye hath not seen,” etc.
(2) Liberty: “The glorious liberty of the sons of God.”
(3) Plentitude: “The Lord of hosts makes unto all people a feast of fat things,” etc. “My God shall supply all your need,” etc. (W. Jay, M. A.)
And in Thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all.
The nature of true greatness
I. What is the nature of true greatness? The scriptural idea of greatness is essentially different from that which is formed by the world.
1. To a few names the world has by general consent appended the title of “the Great”--Alexander, Constantine, Napoleon. These were great men with little aims. Self was the beginning and end of all their plans and labours. Their greatness was like a tree of ample trunk and wide-extended foliage, not spreading a beneficent shade, but distilling a deadly poison on all beneath, and thus killing its own roots and insuring its own decay.
2. A higher order of worldly greatness is that which consists purely in exalted genius and great intellectual power, whatever be the form of its manifestation. This form of greatness has been generally beneficent in its influence. Still it is in itself incomplete and unfinished.
3. The greatness of the Bible is a holy greatness. The fear of God is the source of its wisdom; the love of God is the spring of its activity; the glory of God is the end of its enterprises and labours.
II. This greatness is a proper object of aspiration and pursuit.
1. Man was made for this greatness. He is born great. Great powers, great duties, great expectancies, a great sphere of action, great hopes and promises, are his. If he becomes little, it is by his own fault and sin.
2. The Word of God exhorts us to it, “calls” us to “glory” as well as to “virtue.”
3. We are taught that there will be a distinction in the rewards of eternity, graduated to the different degrees of merit and earnestness in the service of God in the present life.
4. The examples of Scripture are justifications of the highest aim. All history besides contains no such list of heroes as Hebrews 11:1-40.
III. The source of this greatness. All things are of God. Even the world’s heroes have felt and acknowledged this. If it is in God’s hands to make great--
1. Then He is to be acknowledged and adored as the author of all the endowments of men.
2. What must be the guilt of those who have perverted and abused their talents to spread disorder, pollution, and misery among His moral subjects!
3. Their greatness is to be solicited and expected from Him.
4. From Him we must derive our idea of greatness. This He has revealed to us--
(1) In His Word.
(2) In the life of Christ. (John Proudfit, D. D.)
The agency of God in human greatness
I. God makes men great by bestowing upon them distinguished genius and talents. Some of the courtiers of the Emperor Sigismund, who had no taste for learning, inquired why he so honoured and respected men of low birth on account of their science. The emperor replied, “In one day I can confer knighthood or nobility on many; in many years I cannot bestow genius on one. Wise and learned men are created by God only.”
II. God makes men great by an education, and by events in life suited to discover, to excite, to encourage, to improve, and to direct their talents. The most luxuriant soil, when uncultivated, often becomes wild and barren, while a soil less favourable richly recompenses the seed sown, and the labours of the husbandman.
1. Early instruction and discipline correct the blemishes, brighten the polish, and increase the excellences of genius.
2. The friends and companions of our early youth contribute not a little to the strengthening and improving our natural talents.
3. Favourable providences expand the faculties, call forth exertions, and discover the extent of talents, which otherwise might have lain dormant, or shone with less lustre. Erpinius the critic, was first stimulated to a proper improvement of his time and talents by looking into Fortius Ringelbergius’s treatise on study Franklin was similarly affected by an essay of Dr. Cotton Mathers, on doing good. Great occasions produce great talents. A Frederic and a Washington might have lived obscure, and died forgotten, had the time, place, and circumstances which called forth their abilities been different.
III. It is God who implants dispositions, and excites to conduct, which enable men to improve their natural abilities, and providential opportunities and advantages for becoming great. Exercise and activity marvellously improve and increase talents, comparatively small. God makes men great by influencing their tempers and enabling them to govern their spirits and conduct their lives by the rules of reason and religion.
IV. God makes men great by bringing them into difficult and trying situations, which exercise and manifest the greatness of their disposition and talents.
V. God makes men great by rendering the exercise of their talents acceptable and useful.
VI. It is God who assigns to the great the sphere of their greatness.
VII. In the hand of God it is to limit the duration of human greatness.
1. Those whom the hand of God hath made great. God made you great for the general good, and not merely for your own pleasure or profit. Distinguished talents were bestowed that, with success, you might guide others to wisdom, to religion, and happiness.
2. Those whom a scanty measure of natural talents or acquired accomplishments confines to a lower and more ignoble and laborious line of life. Beware of envy and discontent. (J. Erskine, D. D.)
All strength is from God
All Christians, in themselves, are but vessels, poor fragile things, just like earthen pitchers. We should be worthless, only God puts His life into our hearts. And this becomes part of the good news of Christ. It brings the happy assurance to every heart who hears it that even a child may be a vessel to carry the power of God. Weak people, little people, fragile people, God uses them all. God can fill the weakest and most fragile with strength for His work. He asks also that the heart may receive His life. The outside may be no better than earthenware, but inside there will be an excellent light and power of God. (D. Macleod.)
1 Chronicles 29:14
But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly?
The impossibility of creature-merit
No point in theology requires to be oftener stated, or more carefully established, than the impossibility that a creature should merit at the hands of the Creator. Each one of us, if he have ever probed his own heart, will confess himself prone to the persuasion, that the creature can lay the Creator under obligation. If one being merit of another, it must perform some action which it was not obliged to perform, and by which that other is advantaged. If either of these conditions fail, merit must vanish.
I. We are, in the first place, to speak on the stated fact that all things come of God.
II. The inference is--that we can give to God nothing which is not already His. If one creature give a thing to another, he ceases to have property in the gift, and cannot again claim it as his own. If a man make me a present he virtually cedes all title to the thing given; and if i were after;yards to restore him the whole, or a part, it would be of mine own that I gave him. But if I were reduced to utter poverty, with no means whatsoever of earning a livelihood, and if a generous individual came forward and gave me capital, and set me up in trade, and if, in mine after prosperity, I should bring my benefactor some offering expressive of gratitude, it is clear that I might, with the strictest truth say, “ Of thine own do I give thee.” I should be indebted to my benefactor for what I was able to give; and, of course, that for which I stood indebted to him might be declared to be his. But even this comes far short of the Creator and the creature. This will show that there is no merit in the commonly-presumed instances of human desert.
3. Works. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
One of his gifts to his native town consisted of twenty-four beautiful and commodious almshouses, which were built and endowed by Sir Francis, “as a testimony of his gratitude to Almighty God, and with a view of benefiting those of his fellow-townsmen who may be in need of assistance.” Over the second-floor window of the central almshouse, along with the arms of Sir Francis, is the text, from 1 Chronicles 29:14, “Of Thine own have we given Thee.” Each of the inmates receives from the endowment of the founder a weekly allowance sufficient to keep him from want. (Memoirs of Sir Francis Crossley.)
All belongs to God
There is no portion of time that is our time, and the rest God’s; there is no portion of money that is our money, and the rest God’s money. It is all His; He owns it all, gives it all, and He has simply trusted it to us for His service. A servant has two purses, the master’s and his own; but we have only one. (A. Monod.)
Our obligations to God
A merchant in America, whom the Lord had greatly prospered, was a member of a Church where the congregation was mainly composed of very poor people, and therefore he had the privilege of contributing very largely to the upkeep of the Church, and toward the minister’s salary. One of the members of the Church was travelling, and in conversation with a clergyman whom he met, he mentioned the case of Mr. D , and extolled his great liberality. The minister, without denying the praiseworthiness of the action, said, “Now, you are a merchant?” “Yes.” “Well, I suppose you employ a clerk to serve your goods, and a schoolmaster to educate your children. Now, suppose the fees due to the schoolmaster had become due, and you give your clerk instructions to pay these, what would you think if that clerk were to receive great praise for having disbursed the money according to your instructions?” “I should think it very absurd.” “Well, do you not see that the case of your liberal-hearted friend and that hypothetical case of mine are almost analagous? God employs him as His steward or clerk to trade for Him; and out of the money which God has given him he is commanded to pay the schoolmaster of God’s children. The merchant is quite as much under obligation to trade for God as is the preacher to preach for God.” We should remember that all things should be done to the glory of God. (J. King.)
Christ, the author of blessings ministered through His servants
Florence Nightingale, having gone like an angel of mercy among the hospitals in the Crimea, until her name was enshrined in every soldier’s heart, asked to be excused from having her picture taken, as thousands begged, that she might drop out and be forgotten, and that Christ alone might be remembered as the author of the blessings her hands had ministered. That is the true Christian spirit. (J. R. Miller, D. D.)
No room for God
It is said of Hadrian VI. that, having built a stately college at Louvain, he set this inscription on the front in golden letters: “Trajectum plantavie, Lovanium rigavit, sed Caesar dedit incrementum “ (“Utrecht planted me, Louvain watered me, but Caesar gave the increase”). A passenger, reproving his folly, underwrote: “Hic Deus nihil fecit” (“Here was no room for God to do anything.”) (Patens.)
The building of the temple
I call your attention--
I. To the hallowed work in which we are engaged; to build the temple, the Church of God, the house of prayer for all the people.
1. The temple was to be a house for the holy name of God.
2. The temple was the place of authorised and accepted sacrifice.
3. The temple was the place of united worship and of united blessing.
4. It was the place of actual communion between God and man.
II. The sentiments of deep abasement with which the circumstance of being permitted to take a part in it impressed the mind of David. The honour of being employed in a work of God ought to be deeply abasing to man. “Who am I, and what is my people?” These questions suggest three views.
1. What are we with reference to our former selves? We are, at best, but pardoned criminals; and have a long and sad retrospect of ingratitude and disobedience.
2. What are we in reference to our associates in this work?
3. What are we in reference to our actual contributions to this work?
III. To a consideration calculated powerfully to quicken our exertions in every department of the work of God, which may by His mercy be assigned to us. “We are strangers before Thee,” etc. This reminds us--
1. That what we do we must do quickly.
2. That what we do for others we must do quickly.
3. That short and uncertain as life is, within its narrow space works of infinite importance may nevertheless be done. Apply this--
(1) To your own personal conduct.
(2) To the great work of building the temple of God in distant lands.
IV. In all works undertaken for God, we are taught by the text to be mindful of the principle from which they flow. “In the uprightness of my heart I have willingly offered all these things.” To be upright in a moral sense signifies to be conformable to the will or law of God. That law, with reference to, the exercises of religious charity, has various parts, and taken together, they constitute uprightness. There is--
1. The law of sincere intention.
2. The law of grateful return.
3. The law of faithfulness.
4. The law of liberality.
5. The law of cheerful distribution.
6. The law of perseverance.
V. The joyous and benevolent feelings of the aged monarch when he saw the people assembled so willingly to offer in so blessed a work. It is a joyful night.
1. As a declaration of faith.
2. As a declaration of lofty and truly Christian benevolence.
3. As it opens the gate of the most splendid and delightful hopes. (R. Watson.)
Christian liberality in God’s cause
I. Liberality in the cause of God is worthy of all men.
1. Our infinite obligations demand it.
(1) How royally He gives to us
(a) The protecting care of His providence;
(b) the blessings of life.
(2) The earth and all things in it are His. How He opens His hand and satisfies the wants of every living thing!
(3) The gifts of His grace.
(a) The unspeakable gift of His Son;
(b) the promise of eternal glory.
2. Liberality in His cause is only the return to Him of part of that which He has given to us (1 Chronicles 29:12).
(1) His gifts are trusts.
(2) We are stewards, not absolute owners.
(3) We are to occupy till He comes.
3. To withhold from Him is to lose His blessing on what we retain. To give to Him ever brings richer gifts, if only in the spiritual graces it calls forth.
4. Liberality in the cause of God is urged by our interest in the best welfare of our fellow-men.
II. Liberality is not only a duty, but a privilege.
1. It is a grateful recognition of being so blessed as to be able to give.
2. The willingness to, give is a ground of thankfulness.
III. The liberality of David and his people a lesson.
1. We should cherish liberality for God, for the good it does our own souls. The gratitude, love, zeal, of which it is the expression, and which it directly fosters.
2. For the good it does our fellow-men.
3. We should measure our gifts by what we retain.
(1) How much do we give to God in comparison with what we give to ourselves?
(2) Have we ever made any real sacrifice for Him? Matthew and the other apostles have. Have we only given of our superfluity? (Cunninghan Geikie, D. D.)
God the bestower of all good gifts
I. The ability and the disposition to give to God come alike from Himself.
II. We ought to be more profoundly thankful for the possession of the disposition than of the ability to give.
III. The ability and the disposition to give are never more nobly employed than in erecting temples for the worship of God. (H. Stowell, A. M.)
A voluntary gift under the law
I. The nature of the gift. I do not dwell on the extent. I refer rather to its essential nature. It was a gift distinctly for the public good. What is called public spirit is surely one of the divinest things extant among men. God keeps alive this will to serve and sacrifice for the public as the great antidote to the innate selfishness of mankind. Public spirit rises in importance and dignity as man rises in intelligence, and is able to take wise counsel about the welfare of his fellows. If he is able to take heavenly counsel, to know what God is seeking for man and to supply it, there you have in the highest form the servant of his generation according to the will of God. This glory is theirs who take counsel and work for the religious culture sad elevation of men. They are the men who key the arch of progress and make it firm and sure.
II. The source of David’s and the people’s joy.
1. Living under the constraint of love is the most joyful exercise of the human powers. Man’s selfishness is not native. It is the dent’s poison in his blood. Divine charity expels it. The sculls conscious of health again, sad breaks out into praise.
2. The joy man takes in the accomplishment of a noble public object is the purest and loftiest of all human joys.
3. I suppose a vision passed before David’s sight of what that work would be to man, and would do for man, through ages.
4. Concord in good works realises perhaps more than anything in our experience the angelic benediction, “Peace on earth and goodwill to men.”
III. The reason of the praise.
1. It is God’s inspiration. Of Thine own, of the strength and joy which Thine own hand has inspired, have we given Thee.
2. Praise and bless the Lord who inspires this spirit, for it commands an abounding blessing. (Baldwin Brown, B. A.)
1 Chronicles 29:15-16
For we are strangers before Thee.
Human frailty and its lessons
Every solemn moment of human life discovers more or less its vanity. It is not only when we stand beside the grave and mourn the wreck of hopes sad aspirations buried out of eight. The marriage festival also awakens a sense of insecurity, and the shadow of parting is thrown over the commencing union. The meetings of friends recall the thought of their separation, sad the inauguration of great works of public ceremonial brings up the image of those changes which all end in dissolution. Thus was it with David, when on the last public ceremony of his kingly life he presented with his people the offerings for the temple to the God of Israel It was a turn of thought poetical and yet natural to break away from that splendid throng, laden with gold and silver and other offerings for the house of God, and resonant with the sounds of music and the acclamations of joy, to dwell upon the shadows of vanished generations, and to anticipate the day when the living race should be one shadow more added to the crowd that had passed away.
I. First, then, what are some of the lessons of humiliation taught by the shadowy and vanishing character of human existence?
1. The insufficiency of man, for his own happiness. If he is but a “stranger and sojourner upon the earth,” if he is only one of a succession of vanishing ciphers, if his days be only as a “shadow that declineth,” and which soon passes into darkness, is it possible for such a creature, if he have no higher resources, to be happy? At best we must say that happiness is only possible on one of two conditions. Either the nature of man must be capable of being satisfied with this transient existence, when it is prolonged to its greatest duration, or his nature must be capable of averting its view from all the risks and hazards which tend at any moment to bring it to a close. Could the longest life satisfy, man might have here some measure of true good; or could he forget the perils which threaten at any moment to shorten it, he might not be altogether miserable. But neither of these alternatives is possible. Take the longest and the most untroubled life, the most filled with worldly advantage and prosperity--can it satisfy the human soul upon the supposition that this is the whole of existence? No. The soul shrinks from annihiilation. But it it be impossible to be happy even with an untroubled life that vanishes into nothing, how much less when the shadow of death is constantly invading us and refusing to be put away! To forget the rapid flight of time and the certain descent to the grave is for us impossible. Our life is strewn with mementos of its speedy end. We have seen the summer flowers and the winter snows alike swept aside to prepare a grave. The insufficiency of man to be his own portion is thus only too visible. He cannot, because life does not contain sufficient scope for him, and because the little that it contains is checkered with the thread of death in all its texture. Man must learn that he is at best a frail and dying creature, and that if in this life only he have hope he is of all God’s creatures most miserable.
2. The blindness of human nature to its own mortality. We cannot make ourselves happy either by resting in life as a whole, or by shutting out the shadows of death which cloud it; but we are perpetually attempting to do so, and thus are fighting against the nature of things and against God. What is the whole struggle of the ungodly man but an attempt to build his all upon a mortal foundation; to make a pilgrimage a home, a shadow a reality, the surface of a river a solid and lasting pavement?
3. The third and last lesson of humiliation which I notice is the evil of sin. Sin is the parent of death, the grand destroyer of life’s joys, and the creator of its gloom, its shadow, and its insufficiency. Sin mows down all the generations of mankind with relentless sternness. The plague of sin has been in our bones, and therefore their strength has perished, and the beauty of man has consumed like a moth, and he has been altogether vanity.
II. Having thus spoken of lessons of humiliation, let me now mention some lessons of consolation that may be set over against the brevity and uncertainty of earthly existence. I confine myself to two drawn from the text.
1. We have for our consolation the knowledge of God’s eternity. “We are,” says the King of Israel, “strangers before Thee.” This is the first ray of comfort. It is like a rock in the midst of the tossing ocean. Take away an everlasting God, and what an awful sadness covers all! If there be no living personal Being before whom our little life is led, by whom its moments are measured out and its destinies fixed; if all be under the dominion of a dark, stern fate that knows and feels nothing, or of a blind chance that orders nothing; if we are tossed and driven upon a waste and melancholy ocean, which at last engulfs our frail bark in its dull, unconscious surge, with no sun or star or eternal eye looking down upon our struggles and our extinction--then, oh how dreary, how unrelieved the picture of utter hopelessness and emptiness, making it good for us that we had never been born! The eternity of a living God was David’s consolation, and that of all the fathers of Israel. It is not less ours; and from this high tower we look down with composure on all the waves of trouble, and feel that so long as we are not “without God” we can never be “without hope in the world.”
2. But we have also, for our consolation, the knowledge of God’s covenant love. David prays. The mutable and perishable addresses the Immutable and the Imperishable. He rests on the basis of a covenant. He is dealing with a God who has come near, who has His tabernacle with men, who is pacified towards them for their sins, who has compassion upon their sorrows and their death, and has delivered them from going down to the pit, having found a ransom. This is the inspiration of David’s prayer. His confession is not the melancholy utterance of nature’s despondency, which gives up all for lost. It is only the voice of pious humility, which renounces all creature trust, that it may recover all in God. We see more clearly than did David how God, the eternal Justice, is become the dying sinner’s friend and portion; how the greatness of His attributes harmonised in Christ, becomes the measure of the greatness of our deliverance; how, united to Him, our life is no more the shadow, but our death, and that which marks our true nature is not the evanescent, but the abiding and the eternal. “Because I live, ye shall live also.” Oh! be it ours to lay hold of this covenant of which Jesus is the Mediator; and then, in unison with the eternal God, we may defy death to leave on us the print of its corrupting finger, and to involve our existence in one permanent shadow, for He whose life is the light of men shall swallow up our death in victory, and neither things present nor things to come shall part us from His covenant love.
III. I now come, in the third and last place, to mention some lessons of exhortation arising out of our mortality and decay.
1. The first lesson of exhortation is to diligence in God’s work. David does not reason, as some do, “What can shadows like us accomplish in building up the temple of God?” This is an unworthy and an un-Christian despondency. As David served his generation, in spite of his keen perception of the evaneseance of human life in general, so should we. The Church of God has been brought to its present state of advancement by such shadows. Each generation has helped it forward, though by small degrees; and as the coral insects build the islands of the Pacific Ocean, so have these small and insignificant labourers of the human family, whose “foundation is in the dust and who are crushed before the moth,” reared up the walls of Jerusalem, and given it its present strength and beauty in the eyes of all nations. Let us repel the idea that our life is of little worth and value in relation to the advancement of the kingdom of God. The treasure may be in earthen vessels, but the excellency of the power is all the more seen to be Divine. Life is ours as death is theirs; and so long as we are in the world let us labour like our blessed and Divine Lord to be the light of the world.
2. Our second lesson of exhortation is to acquiesce in God’s appointments. David at this time felt himself on the edge of the grave, and was willing to hand over to Solomon the prosecution of the work on which his heart had so long been set. He felt that it belonged to God to choose His own instruments, and from a rapidly vanishing race to select such individuals for His work as to Him seemed best. We may apply this lesson in the way of teaching us to be willing to depart and leave the work of God to others, whenever He shall so ordain. But we may also apply it in another way, so as to teach us to be willing to remain, and do the work of God which has fallen into our hands, though others are withdrawn.
3. Our third lesson of exhortation is to prepare for our own departure. We must be strangely constituted if the removal of others awakens in us no foreboding of our own end. Are we, then, prepared? Preparation is of two kinds. The saint is prepared when he is doing with his might whatsoever his hand findeth to do; when he is steadfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; when his eye is constantly directed towards the Cross that so he may wash away the stains of daily sin, and not less towards the throne that he may receive his daily instructions from his unseen Lord, and run in the way of His commandments with enlarged heart. But there is also, the preparation of the sinner, and this must begin at an earlier starting-point. Years have not repealed the law, “Ye must be born again”; nor has the multitude of feet smoothed an entrance into the Zion of God. (John Cairns.)
The grandeur of human opportunity
I. The shortness of life.
II. The grandeur of human opportunity.
1. There is no sign of sadness in the scene before us. David’s mind and heart are filled with the thought of God, and with the things of God.
2. This preparation for the building of the temple was an act of thanksgiving.
3. The splendour of the preparation is an evidence of David’s zeal for the house of the Lord. Giving was regarded by David, not as a duty, but a privilege--a grand opportunity of turning the “mammon of unrighteousness” to eternal account. Thin zeal for the house of God is one of the marked features of the Psalter (Psalms 26:1-12; Psalms 27:1-14; Psalms 84:1-12; Psalms 92:1-15; etc.).
1. The remembrance of the shortness of life (Psalms 39:4), for the purpose of using time aright.
2. To take the measure of earthly things as we shall do when we look back over the day of life (Deuteronomy 32:29).
3. All that is done for the kingdom of God remains. Another generation may have to carry out what we only begin. (The Thinker.)
The transitoriness of life
I. To illustrate the assertion, “No abiding.” This may apply to--
1. Human honours.
2. The pleasures of sense.
3. Worldly profits.
4. Particularly to man’s life.
To impress this truth, reflect--
(1) That we have sinful souls, and that therefore we must die. “The wages of sin is death.”
(2) On the frailty of our bodies and their liability to disease,
II. To direct to a proper improvement of the truth.
1. Immediately close with Christ the Saviour.
2. Diligently apply to your proper work.
(1) In relation to God. “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.”
(2) In relation to yourselves. Salvation is a matter of the last importance.
(3) In relation to your neighbours. “As ye have opportunity do good unto all men.”
3. Cleave not to earthly things.
4. Murmur not under crosses.
5. Labour for the conversion of sinners.
1. The aged.
2. The young. (E. Brown.)
Strangers and sojourners
1. How short our stay is! The average life is less than thirty-five years. Multitudes die in infancy. No man can say that this is his home. He knows not how long he will remain. He is not even sure that he will be here to-morrow. He is a “sojourner.”
2. He is a “stranger.” He does not have time to become acquainted. “The proper study of mankind” may be “man,” but life is too short to make much proficiency in it. The average man has no real knowledge of his fellow-men. Of their inner lives he knows nothing.
3. Nor have we a better knowledge of the world. Who knows the secrets of rocks and hills, or the laws of vegetable life? Who understands the mighty forces of nature, or the mysteries of the visible universe? Who can interpret for me the message of the pebble beneath my feet? One of the wisest of mankind likened himself to a child playing on the shores of an unknown ocean. Sensible men no longer attempt to learn everything. Realising the shortness of the time, they select some particular branch of learning and count themselves fortunate if they succeed in mastering that ere death comes.
4. The brevity and uncertainty of man’s sojourn make sad havoc with cherished plans and stamp his whole career with incompleteness. Man’s tenure is feeble and precarious.
5. This solemn undertone of life’s song is often referred to in the Bible.
6. Out of the ashes of despair hope springs. The very words “strangers and sojourners” are suggestive of a place where man will be at home. The very brevity and incompleteness of earthly life raise the question whether there is not some complemental life. Since the powers are not developed, the character not matured, the plans not executed here, the mind instinctively believes that there is a place where they will be. “What a waste,” exclaims Burr, “if death ends all! What a host of abortive and abandoned undertakings! Whole cities of houses in the first stages of building, and lo, all work finally suspended; whole navies in the dockyards with great keels fairly laid, and then left to rot! Who does such things? Here and there a fickle, foolish, or impoverished man, but certainly not the all-wise and all-mighty and steadfast God.” A dead man is “merely an evicted tenant.” He has gone out of sight but not out of mind.
7. The Word of God sets this truth in the white light of revelation. Christ comforts His sorrowing disciples by reminding them of “the mansions” prepared for them.
8. This thought lends inspiration to endeavour and affords comfort under the troubles of life.
1. Take the right road. That road begins and ends in Christ.
2. Make spiritual use of temporal things. True riches are spiritual, and temporal riches are of value only as they are used for spiritual ends. God will require an account of our stewardship.
3. “Live by the faith of the Son of God.” (Arthur J. Brown, D. D.)
The real nature of human life
I. As strangers here we ought to guard against an excessive and unrestrained indulgence of our appetites and passions. This objection will appear by reflecting--
1. Upon the nature of our present situation, and what our proper employment ought to be while we sojourn here. We are placed here in order to prepare for the perfection of the heavenly state. Our course ought to be a continued and gradual progress from lesser to higher degrees of piety and virtue. Like a river enlarging as it runs, these ought to increase, and flow in a stream continually augmented. It is a sign of a base and ignoble spirit to linger on the road, or set up his rest in a strange country, fond of its foreign entertainments, and neglecting to move towards his home, where alone his chief occupation and his chief happiness are to be found. As a man cannot easily travel who is heavily burdened, neither can any one make any progress in a virtuous course when fettered by the pleasures and interests of this world.
2. Upon the nature of those things which excite our desires and solicit our indulgence. These are: wealth, outward honours, fame, pleasure, everything included in the term prosperity. These are--
(3) Beyond our control.
3. That death will put a final period to them all.
II. As strangers here we ought with firmness to encounter and with patience to endure its difficulties and distresses. This is suggested--
1. By the nature of our journey through this life.
2. By reflecting on the origin of our afflictions and for what end they are intended. They are appointed by God, and are intended to improve man in virtue and happiness.
3. By the fleeting and shortlived character of our troubles and misfortunes. To the present state they are confined, and with our bodies they shall die. (J. Drysdale, D. D.)
Mankind considered as strangers and sojourners on earth
This proposition is liable to many mistakes. It does not mean--
1. That we are here in a place unsuited to us, for which we were not designed, or to which our Creator had either exiled us as a punishment or only placed us in for a certain period without having any particular view in so doing, till He could assign to us at some other time a different place in the territory of His dominion.
2. That we must be as indifferent to all the objects around us and take as little interest in them as travellers and strangers are wont to do in the several places of their short sojourn.
3. That we here are only obnoxious to toils, troubles, and sorrows, and incapable of real happiness, as though all that is so called existed nowhere but in the imagination, or as though we could here enjoy happiness merely in hope, in agreeable prospects of futurity. How, then, and in what sense are we strangers and sojourners on earth?
I. Since we have here no inheritance in the strictest import of the expression, since we possess nothing on the possession whereof we can rely.
II. In that we cannot here attain the whole of our destination, we cannot be and become all that our Creator designs. We here only begin to unfold our faculties.
III. We cannot here find all that we wish for and require, and what in itself may be good and desirable, but that alone which is proper for this station and for our present constitution. In the exercise of our faculties we frequently meet with insurmountable obstacles. Seldom can we do as much good and for so long a time as we could wish. We cannot here find happiness that fully satisfies, that is uninterrupted in its duration, and its enjoyment not subject to casualty or change.
IV. We are not appointed in perpetuity to this terrestrial life.
V. We have a country to which we are hastening, and in which alone we shall reach our destination. Improvement:
1. Seek nothing here that is not here to be found.
2. Be not surprised nor troubled at anything which is a natural consequence of your present condition, which is inseparable from the pilgrim life which you lead.
3. Beware of rendering your pilgrimage still more laborious by avoidable deviations and mistakes.
4. Reckon your present state always for that which it really is, and use it always to the purposes for which it is designed. It is not the term, but the way to the term. It is not the most perfect mode of existence and of life whereof you are capable, but only the first, the lowest stage of it.
5. Never be unmindful of your better, celestial country. (Anon.)
Strangers and sojourners
This expression is remarkable, they are strangers “before the Lord.” He knows them to be such, and it is by His wise and gracious appointment that they are so.
I. All true believers are strangers and sojourners upon earth, in respect to their actual state and condition. The saints in this world are like travellers in a foreign land, or like a merchant ship in a strange port; the day of return is set, and it only waits till the freight is ready.
II. With respect to their temper and disposition.
1. They manifest the disposition of strangers and sojourners by their comparative indifference to the things of the present world.
2. As strangers they intermeddle not with things that do not immediately concern them, and are not busybodies in other people’s matters.
3. Strangers long to be at home, are often sending home, and will be grieved if they do not hear from thence.
III. Real Christians are often treated like strangers by the men of the world. The principles by which they are actuated, the inward conflicts, joys, and consolations which they experience, the hopes and prospects which they entertain, are all unknown to the unbelieving world, who regard them only as so many misguided enthusiasts. Men wonder at their zeal and fervency, their mortification and self-denial, their courage and resolution. They also wonder that they do not run with them to the same excess of riot (1 Peter 4:4).
IV. Christians are only sojourners. A sojourner is one who dwells in a strange country, in which he has no possession, but takes up a temporary residence (Leviticus 25:23; 1 Peter 1:17).
V. Our being strangers and sojourners upon the earth is sufficiently illustrated and confirmed by our actual condition, or the shortness of time, and the mutability of our state. Inferences:
1. Let us learn to be more indifferent about things present.
2. The brevity of our state should teach us to improve time while we have it.
3. Adore the mercy and forbearance which did not cut us off in our sins.
4. Learn to live in the constant expectation of death and judgment, as if every day were to be the last.
5. If true believers in every age have been strangers and sojourners upon the earth, let us carefully examine how far this character belongs to us.
6. If we really bear the character of a pilgrim in a strange land, let us be careful to act upon it.
7. Let us bear with meekness and patience the troubles we may meet with by the way.
8. Let us endeavour to lead others into the way we are going (Numbers 10:29; Jeremiah 6:16; John 14:6).
9. Learn to be kind-hearted to all who are travelling Zionward, to love as brethren and strengthen each other’s hands in the Lord. 10. Consider what a hearty welcome awaits you when you reach your destination. (B. Beddome, M. A.)
Strangers and sojourners
This is the testimony of an old man, a wise man, a great man.
I. We have here a description of human life--a pilgrimage. Other Scriptural figures--an arrow flying through the air; a race; a flower. No figure more aptly describes human life than that of a journey, as it represents the whole world in all its distinctions, rich and poor, wise and foolish, young and old, all journeying to their everlasting home.
II. An inference of Christian duty. (R. C. Dillon.)
Earth not a place of rest
I have read in classic literature of men pursued by the avenging furies; and in American story of certain Indians who, driven out of their hunting-grounds by the pursuing flames, ran on and on until, half-dead, they came to a noble river, and swiftly fording it sat round their chief as he struck his tent-pole into the ground and threw himself on the cool turf, crying, “Alabama! Alabama! here we may rest.” But no, before sleep had refreshed their weary bodies their new home was claimed by hostile tribes. Earth has no resting-place for souls. (J. Clifford, D. D.)
Folly of presuming on life
The late Mayor of Chicago uttered the following boast: “I believe that I will live to see the day when Chicago will be the biggest city in America. I don’t count the past. I have taken a new lease of life, and I intend to live more than half a century; and at the end of that half-century London will be trembling lest Chicago should surpass her.” Within eight hours the bullet of the assassin had in ten brief minutes finished the earthly career of the author of the words I have quoted. (The Christian.)
All must be quitted
A fatal malady seized on Cardinal Mazarin, whilst engaged in affairs of State. He consulted Guenaud, the physician, who told him he had two months to live. Some days after, the Cardinal was seen in his nightcap and dressing-gown creeping along his picture-gallery and exclaiming, “Must I quit all these?” He saw a friend and held him: “Look at that Correggio! this Venus of Titian! that incomparable Deluge of Caracci! Ah! my friend, I must quit all these. Farewell, dear pictures, that I love so dearly, and that cost me so much!”
1 Chronicles 29:18
Keep this for ever in the imagination of the thoughts of the heart of Thy people.
What must Christians do, that the influences of the ordinances may abide upon them
The course to be taken for this purpose lies--
I. In the practice of some things.
1. Get new hearts, and get them daily more and more renewed. A heart thoroughly sanctified is to the ordinances like tinder, which soon takes fire and is apt to keep it till it be forced out; whereas a carnal, unmortified heart is like green wood, which is not soon kindled and will soon go out, if it be not well looked to. Holiness makes the soul both receptive and retentive of holy impressions.
2. Labour to be much affected with the ordinances while you are employed in them. If the ordinances pierce no further than the surface of the soul, the efficacy of them is not likely to continue. Prepare your hearts before you draw near to God. The heart is prepared when it is made--
(a) Tender (Jeremiah 4:3; Hosea 10:12). That which can make no impression at all upon a flint will sink deeply into softened wax.
(b) Sensible; apprehensive of your spiritual wants and necessities.
(c) Open. A quick sense of your spiritual condition will open your hearts. Desire opens the heart (Matthew 5:6; Psalms 107:9). We come to the ordinances too like the Egyptian dog, which laps a little as he runs by the side of Nilus, but stays not to drink. Christ invites us to eat and drink abundantly (Song of Solomon 5:1).
3. Mind the ordinances after you use them. Be much in meditation. Much of heaven and holiness is engraved on these ordinances; and the seal is, as it were, set upon the heart, while you are under them; but after-consideration lays more weight on it and impresseth it deeper. The heart takes fire at the mind (Psalms 39:3).
4. Let the efficacy of the ordinances be pursued presently into act (Psalms 119:60). When the blossoms of a fruit-tree are once knit, though the flourish thereof be gone, and you see nothing but the bare rudiment of the expected fruit, yet you think it more secured from the injury of frosts and winds than if it were still in the flower. Good motions, when they are once reduced into act, are thereby, as it were, knit, and brought to more consistency.
5. You must take much pains with your hearts if you would have them retain the virtue and efficacy of the ordinances. “The slothful man roasteth not that which he took in hunting” (Proverbs 12:27). He loseth all his former labour because he will not take a little more pains.
6. Comply with the Spirit of God.
7. Be frequent in the use of ordinances. Good impressions do most usually wear off in the intervals of holy duties. It is observed that places under the line are not so hot as some climates at a further distance from it; and this reason is given for it: Those under the equinoctial, though they have the sun more vertical, and the beams, falling more perpendicularly, cause a more intense heat; yet the nights being of equal length with the days, the coolness of those long nights doth more allay the heat than where the nights are shorter. Long intermissions of holy duties are like long nights: you may find them by experience to be great coolers. Elijah in the wilderness had to eat more than once to be strengthened for his journey (1 Kings 19:6-8).
8. Look up to God for the continuance of this influence.
II. In the avoidance of other things.
1. Take heed that you perform not your duties negligently (Jeremiah 48:10; Malachi 1:8; Malachi 1:14; Jeremiah 30:21; Deuteronomy 32:46-47).
2. Beware of the world. Meddle not with it more than needs must. Carry yourself amongst worldly objects and employments as though you were amongst cheats and thieves: they have the art to pick your hearts slily. When your hearts are warmed with holy duties, you should be as cautious and wary how you venture into the world as you are of going into the frosty air when you are all in a sweat. What is kindled by the Word or prayer requires as much care to keep it in as to keep a candle in when you would carry it through the open air in a rainy, blustering night. The further you are above the world, the longer may you retain any spiritual impressions. Geographers write of some mountains whose tops are above the middle region of the air; and there lines and figures being drawn in the dust have been found, say they, in the same form and order, untouched, undefaced, a long time after; and the reason is because they are above those winds and showers and storms, which soon wear out and efface any such draughts in this lower region. The lower your minds and hearts and conversations are, the less will anything that is heavenly and spiritual abide upon them.
3. Take heed of any inordinacy in affection, inclination, or design. The ministry of John the Baptist had some influence on Herod (Mark 6:20); but sensuality being predominant, those better inclinations were quite overpowered.
4. Rest not in the best performance of any duty, nor in any assistances you find therein, though they be special and more than ordinary. It is observed that some professors have had the foulest falls, after they have been most elevated in holy employments. We are apt to take the most dangerous colds when we are in the greatest heats.
5. Make not the ordinances your end, but use them as the means to attain it. Application: If the efficacy of thy ordinances abide not in you, you cannot be fruitful under them; at least you cannot “bring forth fruit to perfection.” (David Clarkson, B. D.)
1 Chronicles 29:20
Now bless the Lord your God.
National and individual thanksgiving
I. The abundant encouragement to praise God afforded us in the scriptures.
II. The most appropriate themes of thanksgiving.
III. The Best means of showing God’s praise. (Richard Jones, B. A.)
The duty of praise
I. Why we should praise God.
1. It is acceptable to God Himself.
2. It confers a blessing on him who renders it.
3. It is the joyous occupation of the saints before the throne.
II. What should be the subjects of our praise? His mercies.
4. The means of grace.
5. The hope of glory.
III. In what way God’s people are to praise and bless Him.
1. With our lips.
2. In the life and conversation. (A. Roberts, M. A.)
1 Chronicles 29:23
A prosperous kingdom
I. For a king and a people to be happy, the king must have a right to his kingdom.
II. The management of the sceptre should be as wise as the tenure is just and royal.
III. The people must be obedient.
IV. National fear of the Lord is essential to national blessing. (Bishop Francis Turner.)
1 Chronicles 29:29-30
Now the acts of David the king, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of Samuel the seer.
A pastoral retrospect
We are reminded--
I. Of the supreme providence of God ordering all things after the counsel of His own will. Time passes over us like a mighty current, but as Andrew Fuller observed, we are like little fishes playing in the stream; we are borne along with the current, but we cannot control its direction nor alter its course. This illustrates the language of Scripture (Acts 16:26).
II. How insignificant, in one point of view, and how important in another, is a life of ordinary duration.
III. That though times pass over us without being subject to our control, though we have but little influence upon them, they hate a great influence upon us. By the character of the times that pass over us our moral condition is greatly affected.
IV. That in proportion to the importance and the stirring character of the times that have passed over us must be our personal responsibility. (Thomas Toller.)
I. They are numerous.
1. There are personal vicissitudes.
2. There are common vicissitudes. The earth is a theatre of perpetual change.
II. They are memorable. The vicissitudes of life deserve a record; they are things to be remembered by man. Why?
1. Because they serve to unfold the preparatory character of our state.
2. Because they develop the agency of God.
3. Because they show the importance of confiding in the Immutable.
4. Because they tend to direct us to the true scene of rest. The vicissitudes of our history are hands on the face of life’s chronometer; they measure the hours in our short days that are gone, and intimate the few that may yet remain. (Homilist.)
And the times that went over him.
The waves of time
The principle which dictated the selection by the chronicler of this somewhat strange phrase is true about the life of every man.
I. Note “times” which make up each life. By “the times” the writer does not merely mean the succession of moments. Each life is made up of a series, not merely of successive moments, but of well-marked epochs, each of which has its own character, its own responsibilities, its own opportunities, in each of which there is some special work to be done, some grace to be cultivated, some lesson to be learned, some sacrifice to be made; and if it is let slip it never comes back any more. The old alchemists used to believe that there was what they called the “moment of projection” when, into the heaving molten mass in their crucible, if they dropped the magic powder, the whole would turn into gold; an instant later and there would be explosion and death; an instant earlier and there would be no effect. And so God’s moments come to us, every one of them--a crisis.
II. The power that moves the times. How dreary a thing it is if all that we have to say about life is, “The times pass over us,” like the blind rush of the stream, or the movement of the sea around our coasts, eating away here, and depositing its spoils there, sometimes taking and sometimes giving, but all the work of mere aimless and purposeless chance or of natural causes. There is nothing more dismal or paralysing than the contemplation of the flow of the times over our heads, unless we see in their flow something far more than that. The passage of our epochs over us is not merely the aimless low of a stream but the movement of a current which God directs. “My times are in Thy hand.”
III. How eloquently the text suggests the transiency of all the “times.” They “passed over him” as the wind through an archway, that whistles and cometh not again. How blessed it is to cherish that wholesome sense of the transieney of things here below! The times roll over us, like the seas that break upon some isolated rock, and when the tide has fallen and the vain flood has subsided the rock is them. If the world helps us to God, we need not mind though it passes and the fashion thereof.
IV. The transitory “times that went over” Israel’s king are all recorded imperishably on the pages here. The record, though condensed, lives for ever. It takes a thousand rose-trees to make a vial full of essence of roses. The record and issues of life will be condensed into small compass, but the essence of it is eternal. We shall find it again, and have to drink as we have brewed, when we get yonder. (A. M Maclaren, D. D.)
The times of individuals and nations
The word “times” does not convey here the ides of duration merely; the word in the plural includes also the events and circumstances which marked that period of duration, and in all their variety of complexion gave to it its distinguishing character. The expression reminds us that seasons of eventful importance are often occurring to individuals and peoples, and of the manner in which these succeed each other in frequent alternations, both in personal and national life.
I. In individual life. Each one has his own times--his own part in the events which transpire as the great wheel of providence revolves. How varied a scene does life for the most part present. We are like travellers who pass now through smiling vales, and now are shut in by mountains, and look up on steep cliffs and overhanging crags. We am mariners around whom the winds are ever shifting, and often dying into calm--now they spread their salts to the breeze, now again not a breath is astir and they can scarcely feel that they advance--now yet again they have to make way against head-wind, and to tack hither and thither to make way at all--variable are the scenes of our journey or of our life’s navigation. Look at David; at Paul. See the great Tasso, at one time frequenting a palace, and wooing, as was thought, princesses with his song, but ere long immured in a prison. Think of Napoleon at Erfurt when on his way to Russia, with attendant kings waiting in his ante-chamber, and of the same man a few years afterwards at St. Helena--his visions of glory all gone--thrown back wholly on the memories of the past, the caged conqueror of the nations! These are marked cases illustrative of “the times” of human life. All these things constitute an important moral exercise. This discipline of life is in wise and beneficent co-operation with the voice of conscience and the calls of the Bible. It varies the tones of the appeal by which men are summoned to duty and to God.
II. The national. Life. Here we find the same variety in the complexion of events, the same aspect of vicissitude, as in the caps of individuals. Look, for example, at Israel, Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Venice, and our own country. In nature the wild play of the winds, and the drifting of the snow, and the seething of the lightning is all but part of a system. We might think that these agencies were running riot, controlled by no law, and tending to no issue but confusion and chaos. But it is not so. And in the times that go over the earth year by year, as summer pasture into autumn, and the temperature declines, and the days are shortened, and the trees are stripped of their foliage, and the discoloured leaves are seen falling to the ground, and rotting there, till there comes the rigour and the frost of winter--all, nevertheless, is not going to desolation. The failing leaves nourish the soil on which they are left to decay. Wild winds and storms, shortened days and lengthened nights, are just the discipline the earth needs, and winter becomes thus the necessary prelude to and preparation for the opening buds of spring and the fertility of summer. So it is in nature, and so it often is in the providence of God over nations and the world. (E. T. Prust.)
Life’s changing current
I. Times make a deep mark upon the body.
II. Equally marked is their effect u they pass over us upon our intellectual nature.
III. Not less striking or important is the stamp of time upon the history of our sensibilities.
IV. The most important change is the one that refers to our moral and spiritual state.
V. Our social and relative condition is subject to the constant variations of time. (S. T. Spear.)
Amongst rational beings that life is longest, whether brief or protracted its outward turn, into which the largest amount of mind, of mental and moral activity, is condensed. It is possible for the longest life to be really briefer than the shortest, and the child or youth may die older, with more of life crowded into its brief existence, than he whom dull mad stagnant being drags on to an inglorious old age. (J. Caird.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "1 Chronicles 29". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26