Tuesday, June 6th, 2023
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
The Biblical Illustrator The Biblical Illustrator
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 107". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tbi/ psalms-107.html. 1905-1909. New York.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 107". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
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O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good; for His mercy en-dureth for ever.
Men and mercy
I. Men consciously needing the mercy of Heaven. Morally, we are all distressed travellers, captives, invalids, mariners. The worst feature of this moral distress is that the subjects are not conscious of it.
II. Men effectually delivered by the mercy of Heaven.
1. Just in time. Each had reached the extremity. The lamp of hope was all but extinct, and black despair was settling on the soul, when mercy came to the rescue.
2. After the prayer, God listens to the cries of His distressed children.
III. Men urged to acknowledge the mercy of Heaven.
1. The mercy of Heaven is generally unacknowledged.
2. The acknowledgment of this mercy is an urgent obligation.
(1) Because a proper recognition of God’s mercy is essential to the extinction of the evil in man.
(2) Because a proper recognition of God’s mercy is essential to the generating of good in man. (Homilist.)
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.
An overture, an antiphon, a doxology is this psalm, and in my text the psalmist calls for an outspoken religion, and requests all who have been rescued and blessed no longer to hide the glorious facts, but to publish them, and, as far as possible, let all the world know about it. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” If you have in your heart the pearl of great price, why not let others see it? If you got off the wreck in the breakers, why not tell of the crew and the stout lifeboat that safely landed you? If from the fourth storey you are rescued in time of conflagration, why not tell of the fireman and the ladder down which be carried you? If you have a mansion in heaven awaiting you, why not show the deed to those who may by the same process get a home on the same boulevard? By the last two words of my text the psalmist calls upon all of us who have received any mercy at the hand of God to stop impersonating the asylums for the dumb, and, in the presence of men, women, angels, devils, and all worlds, say so. What a thrill went through the meeting in Portland, Oregon, when an ex-Attorney-General of the United States arose and said: “Last night I got up and asked the prayers of God’s people. I feel now perfectly satisfied. The burden is rolled off and all gone, and I feel that I could run or fly into the arms of Jesus Christ!” What a confirmation would come if all who had answers to prayers would speak out! If all merchants in tight places because of hard times would tell how, in response to supplication, they got the money to pay the note! If all parents who prayed for a wandering son to come home would tell how, not long after, they heard the boy’s hand on the latch of the front door! This psalm from which I take my text mentions several classes of persons who ought to be outspoken; among them all those who go on a journey. What an opportunity you have, you who spend so much of your time on rail-trains or on shipboard, whether on lake or river or seal Spread the story of God’s goodness and your own redemption wherever you go. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
The duty of confessing indebtedness
A heart without gratitude is like a grate filled with fuel unlighted, and the room all the colder because of the unfulfilled promise of glow and warmth. A grateful heart is one in which the fire of holy love is kindled. Let those who have received favours and feel their obligation either to God or man, give some expression of it. The world is filled with illustrations of the propriety of such acknowledgments. You must have observed how in great campaigns it is customary for commanders to make honourable mention of those who have distinguished themselves by successful valour--not for the purpose of ministering to the soldier’s pride or flattering his vanity, but for awarding him a tribute founded in justice and truth. It is right that the soldier who has stood upon the bloody front of battle and vindicated his valour and patriotism should receive the grateful acknowledgment of the country he has served. The leader of brave men is not content with thinking well of the prowess of those who have done nobly; he proclaims it as something due to those who have struggled and triumphed. In kind words from such a source there is both inspiration and reward. There was something pathetic in the appeal which a little boy made to his father, when he cried, “I often do wrong, I know, and then you scold me and I deserve it; but, father, sometimes I do my best to do right! Won’t you let me know when I do please you?” Let the discriminating parent, pleased with the child’s progress in any right direction--“say so.” So, too, there are parents who have to wait long for the recognition of their devotion to their children--a devotion which gathers into itself the prayers, the anguish, the sacrifices of body, soul, and spirit. An old Virginia minister said lately, “Men of my profession see much of the tragic side of life. I have seen men die in battle, have seen children die, but no death ever seemed so pathetic to me as the death of an aged mother in my church. The children gathered around her bedside. The oldest son took her in his arms. He said, ‘You have been a good mother to us.’ That was not much to say, was it? It was much to her, who had never heard anything like it. A flush came ever her pallid face, and with husky voice she whispered, ‘My son, you never said so before!’” The text directs our thought and affection to what we owe to the very Father of mercies. “His mercy endureth for ever.” How illimitably broad is the field which is thus opened before us--the field of the Divine mercy! It is like the field of creation. In that field the telescope cannot pierce to depths of space where shining worlds do not declare the glory of God--nor can the microscope search out a point which is not still bright with evidences of His handiwork. The eye of sense looks out and everywhere goodness and mercy rise before it, until the horizon shuts down and bounds the vision. And then the eye of faith opens, and new fields, measureless and glorious, meet its gaze, until, in its turn, its powers fail. Yes, its powers fail, but the field has not failed; onward it stretches, illimitably, and over it the redeemed shall range with every new delight to all eternity. God’s mercy is from everlasting, and so the treasures of memory will ever be increasing; it is to everlasting, and so the anticipations of hope can never be diminished. (M. D. Hoge, D.D.)
Acknowledge the goodness of God
We need appreciation and the expression of it in our religious life. “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!” Redemption and all implied in it is surely a gift that demands acknowledgment! If you were struggling in the grip of some mysterious or deadly disease, and after many disappointments at last you found a doctor who understood your case, conquered the disease, and set you in perfect health again, what would you do? You would blazon that doctor’s name abroad, you would tell everybody of his skill, you would speak of yourself as a living illustration of his healing power.
At the Isthmian Games, A.D. 197, Flaminius caused a trumpet to command silence and a crier to proclaim that the Roman Senate restored to the Grecians their lands, laws, and liberties. So astonished were the people that they asked the crier to repeat it. Then a shout arose that was heard from Corinth to the sea. (H. O. Mackey.)
They wandered in the wilderness.
The sinner homeless
The old legend of the Wandering Jew tells us how he who had struck and insulted Jesus as He left the Judgment Hall was condemned to wander homeless through many lands, a stranger, unwelcomed and uncared for, who found no city to dwell in. The legend is not without its teaching. Those who wilfully sin against Jesus and the Truth wander through the wilderness of the world out of the right way. They are in a barren and dry land where no water is--no water of life, no water of grace, no water of penitent tears. They are homeless, they find no city to dwell in. Like the Prodigal, they have left their Father’s House, their true home; they have wandered from the true Food, and they are hungry; they have deserted the true Fountain, and they are athirst--“Hungry and, thirsty, their soul fainted in them.” They have shut themselves out of God’s House, and it is no longer home to them. (H. J. Wilmot Buxton, M.A.)
And He delivered them out of their distresses.
The way out
This psalm is an Old Testament lovefeast. In the first three verses the redeemed are exhorted to speak out their experience of the goodness of God. In response, four representative testimonies are given. Travellers who had lost their way tell how they were found and led to a city of habitation. Captives who had been brought out of dungeons repeat the story of their deliverance. Sick ones who had been restored from the gates of death speak to the praise of their Healer; and others who had been in peril on the sea declare the wonders of the Lord upon the great deep. Each recital is followed with an exhortation to praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men. There are many ways into trouble. All the people in this psalm came to distress by various ways, and the different ways led to different sorts of trouble. The travellers got lost. They strayed in the wilderness, not wilfully, but from lack of knowledge. They could find no place of habitation. Their food and water were exhausted, and they sank, in faintness and despair, a helpless prey to all the perils of the desert. Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble, and He came to their help. He led them by a straight way, that they might go to a city of habitation. They ought not to have started without a guide, but inexperience is often self-confident and apt to despise the counsels of the wise. The second class came into trouble through disobedience. They rebelled against the word of God. They held God in contempt, despised His authority, and ignored His law. It is in man’s power to defy God. He rules in each life by each man’s consent, and when men say they will not have Him to rule over them, He leaves them free to follow their own course. No man can break the least of His commandments without penalty and loss. To throw off the yoke of righteousness is the surest way to bondage. The third class is spoken of as fools. In the Scriptures this term is used not of mental deficiency so much as of moral perversity. According to the Old Testament method, sickness is attributed to moral delinquency; a doctrine that is considerably modified in the New. There is a close connection between iniquity and affliction. A life of sin is ruinous to health. If we would be sound in body we must be pure in heart. They that sow to the flesh, of the flesh reap corruption. The fourth class come into trouble in the course of duty. “For He commandeth and raiseth the stormy wind.” Most of our trouble is of our own making. It is often due to our ignorance and vanity, sometimes to our downright badness, and not infrequently to our folly. But trouble comes to the best as well as the worst. It meets us not only in the ways of sin, but in the path of duty. There are forces in life over which we have no control, and for which we have neither wisdom nor strength. Winds and storms, hurricanes, and disaster make no moral distinctions, and adversity and tribulation come to the upright as well as to the disobedient. Inexperience leads to wandering and hunger. Rebellion is the way to the dungeon, with its darkness and chains. Wrong-heartedness brings the soul to the gates of death. Even duty leads us into conditions which soon find the end of our wits. How helpless we are in trouble! Lost! Captive! Sick! Storm-tossed! What can we do? We must cry to another for deliverance. There are many ways into trouble, but there is only one way out. The lost could not find themselves, the bound had no way of escape, the dying had no healing power, and men at their wits’ end could never save the ship. In their extremity they all cried unto the Lord. If they had consulted Him sooner most of them would never have needed to cry. It is good to cry when lost, but it is better to be sure of the way before the start is made. Herein is the mercy of God made manifest, that He bids us call on Him in the day of trouble. He makes no exceptions, and imposes no conditions. Need, not merit, is our passport to God. He does not stop to inquire how we got into trouble, nor ask for a certificate of character before He helps us out. Peril is a great, leveller. Distinctions of rank and worth disappear in the presence of danger. He makes haste to help. If you are in trouble, cry! No matter how you got in, cry! It is your only chance, cry aloud! If you are lost, cry! He seeks the lost. If you are in bondage, cry! He came to open the prison doors to them that are bound. If you are sick unto death, cry! In Him is the life of men. If you are in peril, cry! Even the winds and the waves obey Him. It shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. The Lord our Deliverer. When there is none to help, the Lord is our Helper. In Him is deliverance for all. (F. Wiseman.)
He led them forth by the right way.
The way and guide to heaven
I. The end for which the people of God were led forth from Egypt was that “they might come to a city of habitation”; in other words, “to a city, or cities, which they might inhabit.” Are you by faith in Christ Jesus the sons of God? He, who has given you the adoption of sons here, will not withhold the inheritance of sons hereafter.
II. The way by which the believer is led to that city of habitation.
1. It is not the nearest. His heavenly Father knows t.hat it is expedient for him, as for Israel, to be led about and instructed.
2. It is not the pleasantest. Like a wilderness, it is a dry and thirsty land. The soil is barren--its waters are bitter and often fail. The road is “the narrow way,” intricate to discover, difficult, to pursue, and having “but few that find it.”
3. To all appearance, it is not the safest. An enemy’s country. A snare at every step.
4. Yet it is the only sure road to those pleasures which are for evermore.
III. The guide.
1. He is experienced.
2. He is fitted to sympathize with those who are toiling along the difficult road, in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted.
3. He is a watchful, careful Guide.
4. He is also a supporting and upholding Guide; not merely leading His people through every difficulty, but either removing every impediment, or enabling the pilgrim to overcome it.
1. See the necessity of a guide in the journey of life.
2. Is the wilderness the right way to the city of habitation? Then how easy should it make us under all the discouragements, weariness, temptations, dangers of the journey!
3. Remember that none reach that city but “the redeemed of the Lord.” Is this your character? (R. Davies, M.A.)
The way of the redeemed
I. The way of the redeemed.
4. A desert way.
II. The rectitude of the way. It is “the right way.”
1. It is the Divine way.
2. To what it leads: “the city of habitation.”
1. Take an enlarged view of the Divine conduct. Remember the end of it all.
2. Ever seek the Divine guidance. God goes before; follow, trust Him. (Preacher’s Analyst.)
The right way
The psalm is a series of pictures; and they are not pictures of light and joy. They are scenes of distress and uttermost extremity. The lost traveller, ready to die in the silence of the wilderness! the reeling sailor, dashed with spray, and watching every coming billow in the fear that it may be his grave! the fettered prisoner, weeping his life away in the darkness of the dungeon! the sick and dying man, clinging still to this life, but looking fearfully or to another!--such scenes of extremity the psalmist paints; and while we are thinking that no deliverance is possible, lo! the deliverance is wrought;--the traveller is on his way; the sailor is in his haven; the prisoner is looking down to the dungeon where he lay; the sick and dying soul is filled again with life! Such are the wonders wrought by Divine goodness!
I. The company. Any considerable company of men is imposing. Nothing more quickly raises our interest than a large assemblage of human beings. The march of an army, the movement of a procession, the gathering of some great multitude for deliberation or for worship, even the rush of a common city crowd, will make the heart throb with unusual emotion. But here is a company more illustrious than any other upon earth, a company overwhelming in its vastness, and yet ever growing in numbers--calm in aspect, and yet irresistible in power--aiming at the noblest objects, manifesting the purest character, adorned with supernatural symbols of distinction, and pursuing her sublime and silent march from time into eternity under the direction of a guide invisible to all but her!
II. The leader. The leader of this ransomed company is the Lord himself. The Bible abounds with intimations of the nearness of God, and particularly with assurances of His actual and perpetual presence with His people as their guide, and guard, and everlasting friend (Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 28:20.)
III. The way. Happily to some it is covered with the clouds of disappointment; to others it is bleak and cold with the gales of adversity; to others it is drenched with the rains of sorrow. It has places of heart-wringing separation from fellow-pilgrims, and even deep, dark gulfs of sin; but netwithstanding all its mystery, and all the wrongness put into it by ourselves and others, as God’s way, it is always right--right in shade as well as in sunshine,--right in winter as well as in summer,--right to all alike who are in the way,--and right on to the end.
IV. The end. The idea chiefly brought before us is that of heaven as a fixed and settled home, “a peaceable habitation,” “a sure dwelling,” “a quiet resting-place “ for ever. The way is narrow, but it leads on to the “large and wealthy place.” It is rugged; but it opens at last into “green pastures,” and winds beside “still waters,” over which no blight or blast can come. It is a way of ceaseless toil and watchfulness; but they will be repaid by the rest that cannot be broken, by the joy that cannot end. It is long--at least in our days of suffering and dreariness we think so; but seen in retrospect, and when it has been all trodden, it will look but like the journey of a day. (A. Raleigh, D.D.)
The right way
This old Hebrew history is turned into a parable of our Christian life. There is a prophecy at the heart of it, and this prophecy says, “Judge not by the feeble glimmering light of human judgment. God’s ways are higher than your ways; they take in higher issues, and immortal results. The Father will lead you by the right way. Press forward, for, as Quarles says, ‘he goeth back that continueth not.’”
I. The moral side of life is higher than the material. To please self is the aim of most men, yet most patent is the fact, that to deny self-indulgence to ourselves is beneficial. The very physical frame, its laws of health and vigour, declare that! It requires, however, little self-denial to give up what is simply pleasant to the taste or to the eye. These are mere outward things. The more thoughtful student of life will see that God places human life under a higher and more searching discipline. A man is placed where his pride must be denied, his mental prepossessions laid aside, his will subordinated, his inmost purpose chastened.
II. The pilgrim side of life is always prospective. It is no mere maze. We never return. Ours may be a long way, a winding way, but it is forward. A Christian man will feel with modesty, and yet with certainty, that his path is progress, that he does know more of the love of Christ, that his affections are more set on heaven, that salvation is nearer than when he believed, that the pilgrimage is one of temptation conquered, grace bestowed, and glory nearer to the soul. Spiritual pilgrimage is not a deceit in the moral sense. God is not allowing us to experience all these emotions merely that the circle of our little life may complete itself in the grave. We are nearing home, we shall soon be with Christ, which is far better.
III. The leadership of life is in the hands of Christ. Tell me who is leader, and I can also tell you much. Men admire sacrifice of ease and wealth, absence of bribe and advantage; and in Greece they glorified Socrates and Aristides, and in Rome, Quintus Curtius and Regulus. Men crave leaders, and can appreciate courage and self-control; only too often, alas, men do not ponder on the sacredness of the cause, the end of the ambition, the spirit of the campaign or pilgrimage. What we have to teach and to live in this age is that the Christ-led way is the right way.
IV. The pilgrimage ends in the fellowship of home. The discontinuance of things here below is the saddest of all experiences. Vessels keep coming and going out of this little bay of life. Along the roads new pilgrims appear where others rested; they loose their sandals, refresh themselves at the wells, and rise betimes for their onward way. We are quiet spectators of such pictures, and note the effects of change and time on others. For us, too, there is change and discontinuance. What we want is permanence! It is the beauty of the Christian Revelation that it uses all the symbols of a home to give our hearts rest in the thought of departure; that is what we want, that has been dearest after all to judge and soldier, merchant and statesman, monarch and peasant--the home! Yes, no image of court or temple is so inspiring as this--my Father’s house. (W. M. Statham.)
The right road
I. The right road. Christianity is much more than sentiment; it is right living. The road that leads to the Cross of Christ.
II. The leader. We need these elements in a leader:
1. Strength. “Who is stronger than this mighty King of kings?” etc.
2. Wisdom. “He knoweth all things,” etc.
3. Tenderness. Christ taketh in His arms the little helpless child.
III. The end of this road.
1. There is no entrance to the Eternal City except by this right way.
2. The Bible is the only guide-book for the pilgrim in this way.
3. The Christian who is helped by his Leader should also freely help all weak and overloaded brethren in this way.
4. Always bear in mind the end of your journey--heaven. (T. L. Cuyler, D.D.)
The right in life
God is the leader of humanity. The way He leads is always the right way. There are many wrong ways; there is only one right.
I. “The right way “ is always God’s way.
1. His existence is the foundation of right.
2. His will is the law of right.
3. His Son is the revelation of His will to fallen man.
II. “The right way” is always a trying way. That is, always trying to fallen man. It involves great struggles, and often much anguish. It involves the abandonment of the old and the adoption of the new.
III. “The right way” is ever the prosperous way. Right is always expedient. The path of duty is at once the path of safety and success.
IV. “The right way” is always supernatural. (Homilist.)
Present dispensations the right way to glory
I. The happy place to which every true believer is taking his journey. How great a satisfaction does it afford, to the weary pilgrim that has borne the burden in the heat of the day, to hear of a rest to which he shall soon arrive? a city of habitation, where he shall for ever dwell? a crown of glory which he shall ever wear? And this is the lot not only of some, but of all God’s children; they shall not always be tossed with tempests.
II. The intermediate space through which the believer is to pass, in his way to this city of habitation.
1. This present world is a state of distance, and in this respect it may be fitly compared to a wilderness.
2. This present world through which we were passing may be justly styled a wilderness, as it is a solitary and barren way.
3. This present world through which we are passing is also properly compared to a wilderness, as it is likewise a dangerous way.
III. God leads his people by the right way to the city of habitation. Let us only take a view of three particular seasons, wherein we are most apt to question the lovingkindness of our God, and we may by them determine the happy issue of all the rest.
1. Let us begin with the melancholy state and condition of those from whom God hides the light of His countenance. Were He never to hide His face, we should live upon the streams rather than the fountain; we should be too ready to say with the three disciples, “Lord, it is good for us to be here”; without pressing after any further manifestations in a better world.
2. Concerning the various outward afflictions with which the believer is exercised. They are all of them, let them arise from what quarter soever, useful to us, and necessary for us.
3. The temptations of Satan every one of them answer the same general end. The powers of darkness are suffered to dwell amongst us, for the same reason that some of the Canaanites were left among the people of Israel; that is, to try us, and show us how weak we are without Christ; and how strong we are when we depend upon that grace which is treasured up in Him.
IV. Practical remarks.
1. Has God prepared for His people a city of habitation? how great then is that grace, how free and sovereign is that love, to which this was originally owing.
2. Are we to pass through the wilderness to this city of habitation? How much need have we of a guide to show us the way, and how thankful should we be to Him who has undertaken to perform this kind office for us.
3. Is the way of the wilderness the right way to a city of habitation? How easy should this make us under all the temptations, trials, and afflictions with which we are now exercised.
4. Can none get admission into this city of habitation but the redeemed of the Lord? (verse 2). Let this lead us to Christ Jesus, the only person who is of God made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). (John Hill.)
The Leader and the way to heaven
I. The leader. Every true man is proud of his leader. If we had asked those brave men who lately sailed to the far north whom they followed, they would have uttered, with flashing eye, the name of their captain; if we could have asked those who fought at Waterloo who was their general, they would have answered, with eager pride, “Wellington!” So we, if the world asks us of our leader, can answer Jesus, Name which is above every Name, Name of victory, Name of power, Name of love, Name of sweetness.
II. The right way. There is but one way to heaven, that which God chooses for us, and where Jesus leads. That way may take us through various scenes and circumstances. Some amongst us are destined to be rich, others poor; for some the way of life lies in active scenes, for others in quiet retirement; some are frequently exposed to the fierce sun of trouble, others are more sheltered from the storms of life. Still, through whatever scenes our way of life may tend, we must strive to make it the right way. What, then, is this right way? It is the King’s highway, the way of holiness. (Anon.)
The Leader and the way in providence
The way by which God led them was--
I. A long way. For example, the answer to prayer is sometimes long delayed; but if the blessing tarry, wait for it,--it is worth waiting for, and will come at last.
II. A desolate way. Your way to heaven lies through the wilderness--the wilderness of His world. There is no other way, and there could be no better way. There might be a smoother, easier, more flowery, less thorny path; but such a path might lead you to lose sight of your journey’s end, and of your own character as pilgrims.
III. A difficult way. All our powers are improved by exercise; the very muscles of our bodies require labour to form and bring them to their full strength. So it is with our powers of mind; their education consists in meeting and overcoming difficulties. So it is in regard to the higher powers of the soul; they are matured and perfected by the labours and difficulties that meet us in the way to heaven In all our labours we have a direct object in view, which may often seem very ignoble and temporary. Much of our time and effort are engaged in securing the bread that perisheth, gold that perisheth, and other things that perish in the using. But in this very labour, God has another object in view--our preparation for the active duties of heaven, and the forming in us of qualities that may fit us to act our part there.
IV. A dangerous way. Our pilgrimage, like theirs, is a warfare. We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities and powers of darkness. Therefore we must not only be strong in the Lord, but take to ourselves the whole armour of God.
V. An unknown way. (C. G. Scott.)
A trustworthy guide
A famous Swiss guide recently interviewed by a magazine writer is reported as saying: “There are guides and guides. One takes you up and trusts to luck. He is ready for anything, but does not know what is coming, he guesses where he is, when you ask: ‘How far off is the peak?’ I never do that. Before I start on a new track, or one I have not made before, I study it fully. I make a map of it. I watch it through the glass until I know it. When I say ‘Go,’ then I can see what is before me. On the mountain I must always know where I am. I’m not scientific, but I must carry my map with me and point: ‘We are here.’ I never start without my compass, thermometer, and aneroid, so that when you come to me at any moment and ask: ‘Where are we?’ I can say: ‘Here, and it is so many feet from the top.’ “So is it with the soul’s great Guide. Jesus knows every inch of the way, has never failed a single traveller, and can say: “None lost, or ever shall be.” (H. O. Mackey.)
Oh that men would praise the Lord for His goodness.
Thanksgiving for a good harvest
The importance of the harvest season is universally known. The labour and produce of the whole year depend finally on it. A good harvest is not a particular, but a general benefit. Bread is the staff of life; and as all mankind are maintained by the fruits of the ground, so they are all interested, either directly or indirectly, in the season of harvest. Now, the benefits we enjoy in common with our fellow-creatures are the most proper grounds of gratitude and praise to the universal Benefactor; and it is incumbent on us all on this occasion to unite in thanksgiving to Him who gives us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with joy and gladness. To awaken a still more lively sense of our obligation to God, let us consider the time at which it was bestowed. If we turn our attention from God to ourselves, from the Author to the object of this blessing, we shall see still fresh ground for religious gratitude, in estimating the kindness of a benefactor, the character of the beneficiary is a circumstance which is always to be taken into account. The unworthiness of those who receive a favour, enhances the kindness of him who bestows it, and should more strongly recommend him to their affection. If this consideration recommends the goodness of men, how much more does it enhance the Divine beneficence! Let our souls rise, then, in gratitude to that gracious Being, who is ever mindful of us, though we be forgetful of Him; who daily loads us with His benefits, though we perversely abuse them. To complete a sense of our obligation to God, let us consider our security for the enjoyment of this blessing which providence has bestowed upon us. He has not only blessed us with plenty; he has also given us peace to enjoy it. (A. Donnan.)
The Divine goodness illustrated
I. Some illustrations of the Divine goodness.
1. The Divine goodness is self-evident in the creation of the world. How beautiful, how glorious, are all the works of His hand!
2. The high dominion to which man was appointed by the Divine fiat further proves the goodness of his beneficent Creator. He was not to be a vassal, not to be placed on terms of equality, but was to have “dominion over the fish of the sea,” etc.
3. The Divine goodness is further evident in the provision of the Gospel. How comprehensive is the scheme of wisdom; bow glorious the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God!
II. God’s legitimate claim. “Forget not all His benefits.” The Divine goodness claims the praise of our tongues.
III. The earnest desire of the psalmist. He would not only give praise himself, but he would be the means of leading others to see and feel that it is an important duty. (G. Hall.)
The wonderful works of God’s goodness
The earnestness with which the psalmist repeats again and again this benevolent wish--as devout as it is benevolent, and expressive of the gratitude that it invokes--implies that men are remiss in paying their thanks to the Supreme Benefactor, and that they have need to be urged to the performance of that cheering duty. Not that the human heart is naturally disinclined to acknowledge God in His benefits, but because it is so easily led to forget Him altogether in the multitude of its cares and pleasures; and because it knows that it can never estimate fully the number and extent of His mercies; and because it is so apt to misunderstand the truest occasions of thankfulness, and so not pay its tribute aright. The sacred poet describes under four distinct figures the lovingkindness, of which He would impress the memory upon the minds of His people. They are fitted to represent all those examples of deliverance which are often vouchsafed, and which challenge in a peculiar manner the admiring gratitude of those who are permitted to witness them. But we perceive that they are all of one class. They all look to some extraordinary exhibition of the saving might of the Most High. If we await such as these, we shall soon be capable of appreciating none. Cases of visible and imminent peril are always rare. A long life will often stand in no need of rescue from such. But few have found themselves in the situation of the fainting traveller in search of his way. Few have been compelled or have chosen to expose themselves to such a risk. As for the second example, the preacher might address many a crowded assembly without finding one person who had felt chains upon his wrists, and sat in undeserved captivity, abandoned of all companionship, and trembling for his life. Sickness, on the other hand, we must admit, is a common visitant, and sickness of the most alarming and fatal character no unfrequent one. And yet it is almost a singularity, compared with comfortable health, and the answer, “I am well,” to friendly inquiries. Then, as to the last succour named--that amidst the horrors of shipwreck--what a small proportion of people have ever undergone any personal hazard of this kind ,--have ever been likely to be swallowed up in that treacherous highway, whose dust is the salt spray and its pavement thousands of fathoms down! We should have to make similar abatements and allowances as to any other of those uncommon demands on our thanksgiving, which are the most striking to the most common minds. And when we have made all these, there is another set of exceptions that claims equal consideration. They remind us, and how truly, that such occasions as have been alluded to are not only seldom experienced, but are in the highest degree doubtful as to their result; the issue being for the most part deadly, and not gracious. The bones of the poor traveller are found in some unknown spot, or never found. The loaded captive is left to his fate. The diseased man sinks away from a bad state to a worse, till the grave is friendly enough to open its last refuge from weariness and distress. The shattered vessel goes down in the gale, and the sailor’s cry of entreaty or despair is drowned in the hollow gust, as if none regarded it. What, then, is the inference? It is, that we should not found our praises of the Lord on things that are precarious in their event, and far apart in their occurrence. It is, that we should look for His “wonderful works” in those that are most constant. We should think more of our continual preservation than of a fortunate escape,--more of the benefits that millions partake of with us, than of those by which we may be for a moment distinguished,--more of the merciful laws of our being, than of its transient incidents,--more of the great truth that a parental Providence reigns, than of any fact that may seem to illustrate its singular interferences. The spirit, then, of the contemplative man should be filled with the love of the Being that fills all in all. The succession of our years should be one thanksgiving day. (N. L. Frothingham.)
For He satisfieth the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness.
The longing soul satisfied
I. The source of true satisfaction is God.
1. The soul being made in His image has infinite yearnings which nothing finite can satisfy, and powers which can only find their due exercise in Divine worship and service.
2. The soul is fallen and therefore has need of restoration which nothing finite can accomplish.
II. The recipients of true satisfaction. Longing souls--men and women who realize their celestial origin. In time past, they may have turned to the world for satisfaction, they may have hewn them out cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water, but now they seek to slake their thirst from the fountain of living waters (Jeremiah 2:13). They may in the past have been among the dissatisfied, saying, “Who will show us any good?” (Psalms 4:6). Now they know that blessedness consists in having the light of the Divine countenance shining upon them.
III. The condition of true satisfaction. Obedience. The obedience which springs from filial trust and submission to the will of God. To those who hearkened to the Divine commandments the promise is (Isaiah 48:18). They shall be God’s people, and He shall be their God. God for them, and with them, and in them shall be a source of perfect and eternal satisfaction. (H. P. Wright, B. A.)
A longing soul satisfied
I. What is implied in a longing or hungry soul.
1. That it wants something which it has not got. Pardon, peace, purity, God.
2. That it wants something which it cannot provide for itself.
3. That the want of this something unsettles and makes it discontented.
II. What is the satisfaction which God gives to the longing or hungry soul. The gifts of God to the soul, of pardon, health, and life, are its coronation; its honour and glory; its satisfaction. Beyond this it cannot go on earth. This is being filled and satisfied with goodness. (Anon.)
The soul’s thirst and satisfaction
(with Psalms 143:6):--Man has a threefold nature--physical, mental, and spiritual. The soul is the nobler part of man, and needs a nobler satisfaction than the body.
I. The soul’s thirst.
1. The soul comes from God, and its happiness is inseparably connected with obedience to the Divine will.
2. It is immortal.
3. It was made for God, in whom alone can it find true satisfaction.
4. It needs God, His smile, favour, and companionship.
5. How do men try to gratify this desire of the soul?
(1) Some force the body to do double work to make up for the lack of spiritual food. But the body resists excess. Man was made to be something nobler than a mere eating and drinking apparatus.
(2) Some with money--business. But the man who thought fifty pounds would give him complete satisfaction was unsatisfied with five hundred. Man should be better than a money-making machine, a slave to business.
(3) Some with worldly pleasure, drinking constantly at the wells of worldly bliss, which only increases their thirst. You may as well strive to catch the east wind as try to satisfy immortal hunger with sensual pleasures.
II. The soul’s satisfaction.
1. The world can stimulate and excite, but cannot give rest.
2. How may the soul be satisfied?
(1) In being at peace with God (Romans 5:11).
(2) In mutual sympathy, reciprocal affection.
(3) In regeneration, sanctification, moral likeness to God.
(4) In doing God’s will. “To do the will of Jesus: this is rest.”
(5) In constant communion with God. Through Christ we have access by the Spirit unto the Father. (C. Cross.)
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death.
Song for the free, and hope for the bound
The deliverance here intended is one which is brought to us by redemption, and comes by the way of the great sacrifice upon Calvary.
I. Who are these favoured men?
1. Guilty men (verse 11). Hear this, ye sinful ones, and take heart! God has wrought great wonders for a people whom it seemed impossible for Him to notice. If they came into prison through rebellion, you would expect Him to leave them there. Yet rebels are set free by an act of immeasurable grace. The Redeemer has received gifts for men, “yea, for the rebellious also.”
2. Doomed men (verse 10). It is your condemned condition which needs free mercy; and, behold, the Lord meets your need in His boundless grace!
3. Bound men (verse 10). You long to be delivered, but you are unable to cut the cords which hold you. Jesus Christ has come on purpose that He might proclaim the opening of the prisons to them that are bound.
4. Weary men (verse 12). “Come unto Me,” etc.
5. Downcast men (verse 12). The Lord Jesus delights to lift up those that lie at His feet.
6. Helpless men. What a word that is--“None to help”! The proverb says, “God helps those that help themselves.” There is a sort of truth in it; but I venture to cover it with a far greater truth: “God helps those that cannot help themselves.” When there is none to help thee, then God will help thee.
7. They did at last take to praying (verse 13). There is that about prayer which makes it a token for good, a pledge of blessings on the road, a door of hope in dark hours. Where is the man that cries? Where is the man that prays? That is the man of whom it shall be said, and of others like him, “The Lord brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,” etc.
II. How has this deliverance been wrought?
1. By the Lord Himself. There is no salvation worth the having which has not the hand of the Godhead in it. None but the Trinity can deliver a captive soul from the chains of sin, and death, and hell.
2. Next, the Lord did it alone “He hath broken the gates of brass.” Nobody else was there to aid in liberating the prisoner. When our Lord Jesus trod the winepress, He was alone. When the Spirit of God came to work in us eternal life, He wrought alone.
3. By the Lord’s own goodness. He gives the alms of His grace only to the undeserving.
4. Most completely--light, life, and liberty.
5. Everlastingly. O child of God, you were once shut up as with gates of brass, and bars of iron, and the devil thinks that one of these days he will get you behind those gates again! But he never will, for the Lord “hath broken the gates of brass.” The means of our captivity are no longer available.
III. What is to be done about this?
1. If the Lord has set any of you free--record it. Say, “The Lord hath done great things for us.”
2. When you have recorded it, then praise God with all your heart, every one of you, every day. When you have praised God yourselves, then entreat others to join with you. The oratorio of God’s praise needs a full choir. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Fools, because of their transgression and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.
The history of sundry fools
Here are four pictures, and you may find your likeness in one of the four; but, be not so unwise as to condemn yourself if you are not seen in the other three. “I never went to sea,” says one, “this cannot picture me.” “I never traversed a Sahara,” says another, “this cannot picture me.” “I never was in prison in the dark,” says a third, “this cannot picture me.” But it is possible that you have been a fool, and therefore the sick fool may picture you. When you find yourself in one of the pictures, you may conclude that, as the four are but variations of the same subject, all the four in some degree belong to you.
I. The miserable people.
1. They were fools. We call those fools who have a great want of knowledge of things which it is necessary to know. Where other men find their way, they are lost. Where other men know what to do upon very simple matters, they are quite bewildered and cannot tell how to act. He, too, is a fool who, when he does know, does not make right use of his knowledge. He is a greater fool than the former one. He understands that the only way to be saved is to believe in Christ; but he does not believe. He knows that men must repent of sin if they would find mercy; but he does not repent of sin. He knows that life is uncertain, and yet he is risking his soul upon the chances of his continuing to live. We call him a fool who hurts himself without any profit--without any justifying cause. We count the ox foolish that goes willingly to the shambles; but there are multitudes of men and women who take delight in sin; and, though every cup around them be poisoned, yet they drink of it as though it were nectar. Verily, sinners are fools! We are great fools when we think that we can find pleasure in sin, or profit in rebellion. We are great fools when we displease our God,--when our best Friend, on whom our eternal future depends, is despised, neglected, and even rejected and hated by us.
2. They were not only fools, but sinners. The text says that “fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.” They began with one transgression; they went on to multiplied iniquities. There was first in their heart a transgression against God; afterwards, there were found in their lives many iniquities, both towards God and towards man. Sin multiplies itself very rapidly. It grows from one to a countless multitude. What form has your sin taken? Think of it in your own heart. But, whatever form it has taken, God is able to forgive you. “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”
3. These people had a third mischief about them: they were afflicted. Their affliction was the result of their folly and their transgression.
4. They had fallen into a soul-sickness (verse 18).
5. They were almost dead.
II. The merciful Lord.
1. He sent the affliction. Your sicknesses, your poverty, and your misery--oh, I bless God for them! The heavenly Father has sent this rumbling wagger to bring you home to Himself. Oh that you would but come to yourself! Oh that you would but come to Him!
2. They began to pray; and here we see the Lord again; for no one seeks after God till God has put the prayer into his heart, and breathed a new lifo into his spirit.
3. Then, as soon as ever he did pray, the Lord heard the prayer. “He sent His word, and healed them,” etc. So all that God has to do, in order to save us, is to send us His Word. He has done that by sending His dear Son, who is the incarnate Word. He sends us the Word in the shape of the Holy Scriptures; He sends us the Word in the preaching of His servants; but what we want most of all is to have that Word sent home by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Lord does not operate upon the symptoms, but upon the person; He does not deliver us from this sin, and that sin, and the other sin; but He takes away the old heart, out of which the sin comes, and gives a new heart, out of which there come repentance, and faith, and a change of life. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
A rescue from death, with a return of praise
In these words you have--
1. The cause of this visitation, and of all the grievance he speaks of: “transgression and iniquity.”
2. The kind of this visitation: “sickness.”
3. The extremity, in two branches: “Their soul abhorreth, all manner of meat”; and secondly, “They draw near to the gates of death.”
4. The carriage of the affected and sick parties: “They cry unto the Lord in their distress.”
5. The remedy of the universal and great Physician: “He saves them out of their distress.”
6. The manner of this remedy: “He sent his word and healed them”; His operative and commanding word, so as it works with His command.
7. The fee that this high Commander asks for; all the tribute or reward that He expects is praise and thanksgiving. “Oh that men would therefore praise the Lord for His goodness,” etc.
I. The quality of the persons here described. Why are wicked men fools? and God’s children, so far as they yield to their lusts?
1. For lack of discerning in all the carriage and passages of their lives.
2. A fool is led with his humour and his lust, even as the beast.
3. He is a fool that will play with edged tools, that makes a sport of sin.
4. He is a fool that knows not or forgets his end.
5. He is a fool that hurts and wounds himself.
II. The cause. “Because of their transgressions, and because of their iniquities.” “Transgression” especially hath reference to rebellion against God and His ordinances in the first table. “Iniquity” hath reference to the breach of the second table, against men; and both these have their rise from folly. For want of wisdom causeth rebellion against God, and iniquity against men. All breaches of God’s will come from spiritual folly. Why doth He begin with transgressions against the first table, and then iniquities, the breach of the second? Because all breaches of the second table issue from the breach of the first.
III. The extremity.
1. “Fools for their transgressions are afflicted.” We by our sins put a rod into God’s hand--“a rod for the fool’s back” (Proverbs 26:8); and when we will be fools, we must needs endure the scourge and rod in one kind or other. Those that will sin must look for a rod.
2. “Their soul abhors all manner of meat.” This the great Physician of heaven and earth sets down as a symptom of a sick state, when one cannot relish and digest meat. Experience seals this truth, and proves it to be true.
3. “They draw near the gates of death.” Death is a great commander, a great tyrant; and hath gates to sit in, as judges and magistrates used to “sit in the gates.”
(1) “They draw near to the gates of death”; that is, they were “near to death”; as he that draws near the gates of a city is near the city, because the gates enter into the city.
(2) Gates are applied to death for authority. They were almost in death’s jurisdiction. Death is a great tyrant. He rules over all the men in the world, over kings and potentates, and over mean men; and the greatest men fear death most.
(3) The power of death. It is the executioner of God’s justice.
IV. Their carriage in their extremity. “They cried to God in their trouble.” This is the carriage of man in extreme ills, if he have any fear of God in him, to pray; and then prayers are cries. They are darted out of the heart, as it were, to heaven. Extremity of afflictions doth force prayers: “In their affliction they will seek Me early.” When all second causes fail, then we go to God. Nature therefore is against atheism.
V. The remedy.
1. “He saved them out of their distress.” God is a physician, good at all manner of sicknesses. Other physicians can cure, but they must have means. Other physicians cannot cure all manner of diseases, nor in all places, but God can cure all. “He saved them out of their distress.” Other physicians cannot be always present, but God is so to every one of His patients. He is a compassionate, tender, present Physician.
2. “He sent His word and healed them.” What word? His secret command, His will.
VI. The duty.
1. The persons who must praise God: “Oh that men would praise the Lord.”
2. The duty they are to perform: “to praise God,” to “sacrifice to God,” to “declare His works”--one main duty expressed by three terms.
3. For what they should praise Him: “for His goodness.” It is the spring of all, for all particular actions do come from His nature. Why is He gracious, and merciful, and longsuffering? Because He is good. This is the primitive attribute. And then another thing for which we must praise Him: “for His wondrous works for the children of men.”
4. The manner how this should be done: “with rejoicing and singing,” as the word signifies, “declare His works with rejoicing.” “God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7), much more a cheerful thanksgiver, for cheerfulness is the very nature of thanksgiving.
VII. Helps and means to perform this duty the better.
1. Consider our own unworthiness.
2. Dwell not on second causes.
3. Consider the necessity and use of the favour we pray for.
4. Again, if we would praise God, let us every day keep a diary of His favours and blessings: what good He doth us privately, what positive blessings He bestows upon us, and what dangers He frees us from, and continues and renews His mercy every day; and publicly what benefit we have by the state we live in. (R. Sibbes.)
He sent Him word, and healed them.
The healing influence of God’s Word
Those who do not enjoy Divine revelation are in a very miserable state: they sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Their habitations are full of darkness; their lives are full of sin and misery, and they have no hope in their death; for, where there is no vision the people perish. “He sends his word and heals them, and delivers them from their destructions.”
I. Some observations concerning the written word of god.
1. It was Divinely inspired.
2. It is necessary to discover unto us most important truths.
3. It is most profitable unto men, for the doctrines which it teaches, for the precious effects which it produces on the hearts of men, and for the reformation which it is calculated to accomplish in the world.
4. The written Word of God may be considered as a sacred trust committed to Christians, to be improved by themselves, and conveyed unto others.
II. The manner in which the Word of God, written and preached, has been sent to man, and how it ought to be sent by us to the heathen, that they may be healed, and delivered from their destructions.
1. The Word of God, written and preached, was sent to man by God Himself.
2. The Lord sends His written and preached Word by the ministers of the Gospel.
3. The Lord sends His Word accompanied with the Divine Spirit, who renders it effectual to salvation.
4. The Word of God should be sent unto the heathen, accompanied with much fervent prayer for its success.
III. Obstructions which the Word of God is calculated to remove. The Word of God is excellently adapted to--
1. Remove out of the world, and from the hearts of men, darkness, ignorance, and superstition.
2. Heal division, and to promote the peace and happiness of civil and religious society.
3. Heal the soul of those injuries which, by sin, it sustains.
4. Produce hope in the soul. (W. Gould.)
Delivered them from their destructions.--
Delivered from destructions
What! Are there many destructions to a man? Oh yes, a great many! I have known one man destroyed by his shop, another by his wife, another by his children. Many a woman is destroyed by her clothes; many a man is destroyed by his eating; millions are destroyed by their drinking. Everything about us will destroy us unless God saves us. There are a thousand gates to hell, though there is only one road to heaven One man may perish by debauchery; another may perish by respectability. One man may be lost in the ale-house; another man may be lost through his teetotalism, if he makes a god of it. One man may go down to hell by his want of common decency, and another by his pride, and prudery, and self-righteousness. Do not deceive yourself--the way to ruin is easy, and many crowd it. A little matter of neglect will land you in hell. But it is not a little matter of thought that will bring you to heaven; there must be a stirring up of the entire soul--an awakening of the whole man to seek after God in Christ Jesus; or else you shall perish. Surrounded, then, with destructions--snares about your bed, snares about your table, snares in your solitude, snares in the street, snares in your shop, snares at dawn of day, and snares at set of sun--you are in awful, terrible danger; and yet persons surrounded with destructions have been saved, and why should not you? They have cried to God in their trouble, and He has delivered them out of their destructions; will He not do the same at your cry? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters.
Distressed seamen and the Sovereign of the sea
I. God’s sovereignty over the sea. Behind the laws there is the Lawgiver. Behind the force of the winds and waves there is the Force of all forces--the great God. To regard God as the Ruler of the sea is--
3. Assuring. We know His will is good. We bow reverently before the mystery, and wait for more light.
II. Man’s impotency when the sea rebels against him. But even when impotent, and defeated by the warring elements, man is greater than they; for he is conscious of his impotence and defeat, while they know not of their triumph.
III. Man’s resource when the sea rebels against him. When all else fails, prayer to God is left. But is it only when you are at your wit’s end that you cry unto God? What right have you to expect that He whom you seek only when you are in trouble wilt answer your selfish cry?
IV. God’s answer to man’s cry. God does not always literally allay the storm, and save from it those who cry unto Him. He, however, calms the inward tempest, so that the waves of anxiety and terror are still.
V. Man’s obligation for God’s interposition.
1. God’s gracious doings for man are wonderful.
2. Men are prone to overlook God’s gracious doings for them.
3. Men are under the most sacred obligations to celebrate the gracious doings of God for them. (Homiletic Magazine.)
On the stormy sea
I. The ship sails forth. Life is a voyage. We all go down to the sea in ships, to a life of mystery and danger, of glorious privilege and responsibility. Our hearts are full of happiness as of new wine. Rejoice, O young man, but remember, be mindful of the sublime things.
II. The wind rises. Has it come to you already? Has there been a turn in your prosperity? Are things going wrong? Is it sickness, bereavement, financial stringency? Are the winds whistling through the cordage? Fear not! God holds the trident; the winds are in His fist. There are some anchors that will hold in the fiercest stress OF Euroclydon. One is the Wisdom of God. There is nothing that happens without His cognizance. No storm comes haphazard. God understands the end from the beginning; and He makes no mistakes. Another is God’s Goodness. He doth not afflict willingly. Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. But never too much.
III. The sailors are at their wit’s end. In the margin it is, “All their wisdom is swallowed up.” Then there is hope! For when I am weak, then am I strong. My strength is made perfect in weakness.
IV. They are on their knees. Our Lord said that men ought always to pray and riot to faint. But alas, men do not always pray. They will not. But they pray when the storm breaks. And, strange to tell, God is willing to hear even the cry of desperation. He is of great lovingkindness and forbearance. For some men prayer is their vital breath, their native air. To others it is like the bell in the coal-mine, used only in time of danger.
V. The storm is assuaged. The rule, after all, is fair weather. The storm, rage it never so fiercely, will soon be spent. Our “light afflictions” are “but for a moment.” Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. There is no night without a dawn.
VI. The ship sails in. In that day the sorest troubles of the earthly life will seem insignificant as we look back upon them. We shall understand then what the apostle meant when he called our afflictions “light,” and spoke of them as “enduring but for a moment.” It will be in our hearts to bless God for all the storms and the trials. (D. J. Burrell, D.D.)
The voyage of life
I. The voyage of life is fraught with many dangers.
1. Our vessel is weak. Many have been shattered by striking on comparatively small rocks, and many have been wrecked by only just changing the tack from prosperity to adversity, or sometimes from scarcity to abundance. Others have been wrecked through too much joy, too weak to bear it; whilst the sorrows of this world have worked death to a vast multitude so weak that they are “crushed before the moth.”
2. The sea is rough. Where are those that set out from the same port--nursed on the same hearth with us? Many have been crushed by the storms, but very few, comparatively, are still afloat.
3. Our course lies among rocks. Many have been stranded, but, obtaining timely help, have been prevented from becoming a wreck. It is but seldom we find any one who has not undergone some repairs at the hands of a physician. Some have been in dock a long time, and, being wonderfully restored, have been launched again into the deep. But others are seen being dashed to pieces by some disease or other; and it is a sad sight to see any one striking upon those rocks, and every blow carrying away part of the vessel, as it were, until at last the sides of the ship are laid bare.
4. The weather is foggy and dark. We know not on leaving our homes what will befall us before we return. And our safety so long is not to be attributed to our own care and foresight, but “having obtained help of God we continue unto this day.”
II. Divine grace has made every provision necessary to enable us to make the voyage of life in safety.
1. An abundant supply of stores. They that seek the Lord shall not want any good thing.
2. Ballast in the ship to keep her from capsizing. Many have made shipwreck for the want of it. “In time of temptation they fall away.” But if the fear of God be in the heart they will withstand every squall, as Joseph did in Egypt.
3. A chart to sail by. The Word of God is the rule which tells us where every danger lurks, and also how to avoid it.
4. A compass to steer by. Although the believer’s vessel is tossed by the waves quite as much as any other vessel, her prow now in this direction, now in that, yet there is a principle of rectitude which governs him; he knows what point to sail for and what direction to take in the midst of all weathers.
5. A quadrant to take observations. “Faith is the evidence of things not seen.”
6. A light fixed wherever there is moral danger.
7. Means of constant communication with the shore. (D. Roberts, D.D.)
The Christian mariner
I. His voyage.
1. The Christian voyager, like the mariner, looks daily for guidance to his great Teacher in the heavens. The lights and landmarks along the coasts of Christian attainment; his frames and feelings, comparing himself with others, etc., which are the main guides of the religions coaster, are all discarded, and the Sun of Righteousness becomes his great Teacher and Guide.
2. He is a close student of his chart--the Bible. How it inspires courage and strengthens hope!
II. His compass.
1. The Christian’s conscience, like the mariner’s compass, is his indispensable and most constantly trusted guide, to be obeyed in darkness and storm, as well as in sunshine and calm.
2. The Christian’s conscience, like the mariner’s compass, is easily deranged, and if not frequently tested may lead him astray. The question is not, therefore, have you been faithful in following your conscience, but have you been faithful in testing your conscience by the Sun of Righteousness?
3. The Christian’s conscience, like the mariner’s compass, is more or less influenced by early associations. We can never permanently settle ourselves from the effects of the moral direction in which our prow was set, or the spiritual atmosphere that surrounded the laying and shaping of our keel. Because of these great channels and laws of influence no two Christians look out upon the sphere of duty from exactly the same standpoint; and we need nothing so much as charity to enable us to patiently meet and rightly construe the opinions and conduct of others, who, though perhaps equally conscientious, may not be able to see eye to eye with us in many things pertaining to Christian character and conduct.
4. The Christian’s conscience, like the mariner’s compass, is frequently deranged by something taken on board. Especially is that Christian in danger who is greatly prospered in temporal matters, and wields a sort of sovereignty over all manner of wares. It indicates great strength and purity of character when such persons remain humble, conscientious, and loyal to God.
5. The Christian voyager, like the mariner, sails by his compass, though he cannot explain the mystery that surrounds it. There are mysteries about the compass which the ordinary sailor never attempts to explain or understand. He becomes possessed of its benefits, not by solving its mysteries, but by following its guidance. So the Christian’s safety is secured not by understanding everything, but by obedience to Divine teaching. Hence, although surrounded by mystery, he sails by faith.
6. The Christian who, like the mariner, tests and sails by his compass, is daily nearing his desired haven. “Land ahead.” “Its fruits are waving o’er the hills of fadeless green.” (T. Kelly, D. D.)
I. Its weather is fouler to some than to others. This difference is partly necessary and partly moral. A man’s condition in life depends greatly both upon his temperament and upon the external circumstances under which he has been brought up. Some have temperaments that are impulsive and tempestuous; others gentle and pacific. Some are surrounded by circumstances suited to soothe and to please, others by those tending ever to agitate and distress. This difference in the temperaments and circumstances of men, whilst it reveals the sovereignty of that God who arranges human affairs after the counsel of His own will, should at the same time dispose us to act with tender consideration in all our intercourse with our fellow-men. But there is a morality in this difference that should not be overlooked. Men have power to rule in a great measure their own temperaments, and control their own circumstances. The man to whom God has given the most fiery passions He has given corresponding intellect for control.
II. It exposes to terrible disasters. How many souls are shipwrecked every day! They go down into the abysses of passion, worldliness, impiety.
III. There need be no shipwrecks. In all cases man is responsible for them.
1. He has an infallible chart--a chart which reveals life true to eternal fact. There is not a danger it does nob expose. It draws the very line over which you should sail if you would sail safely and meet a prosperous end. It tells you how to avoid all the perils lying beneath the wave, how to escape the fierce hurricanes, how to sail through peaceful seas and into sunny climes.
2. He might have a safe anchorage (Hebrews 6:19).
3. He might have an all-sufficient captain--Christ. (Homilist.)
Lessons from the ocean in a storm
The sight of the ocean in a storm serves--
I. To impress us with the majesty of god. Perhaps there is no spectacle in nature so overwhelmingly grand as that of the ocean when lashed into fury with the tempest. How great is God!
II. To awe us with our utter helplessness. How powerless we feel in the presence of such wild majesty! Such a sight may well take the egotism out of man, and bury it in the abysses of forgetfulness for ever. “What is man?” etc.
III. To inspire us with sympathy for mariners. How many brave men, who fight our battles, who enrich our markets, who diffuse our civilization and religion, will go down in that storm! (Homilist.)
A plea for sailors
The Roman poet has celebrated in familiar verse the courage of the heroic pioneer of civilization--the man who first trusted his fragile barque to the treacherous sea. In what striking contrast to this solitary man--brooding over the unknown possibilities of that wide and unexplored world of waters, at once inviting and alarming him, until at length his final resolve was taken and his daring venture made are the vast multitudes who to-day do business in the great waters! They include men of all nationalities who find a point of common interest in their love for the free and daring life of the sailor. They have habits, tastes, tendencies peculiar to themselves. If we would realize how much we owe to them, let us try to imagine the island deprived of their services. That all the luxuries which are drawn to our markets from all the provinces of the world would at once be withdrawn would be a comparatively small matter, and yet that loss would be felt as seriously even by classes who are not generally regarded as consumers of luxuries. For under that term must be included many things to which even those of very moderate means have become so accustomed that they esteem them necessaries of life. But the mischief would not end here. The supplies even of the staff of life would be curtailed and before very long would cease altogether. Nor would this exhaust our calamities. We export as well as import. Our little island is the centre of a vast trade which has the world for its circumference, and at every point of importance we have our representatives. The peculiar treasures of all countries are attracted to us, and our prosperity, in truth, our very existence, depends on the maintenance of that complicated network of communications which unites us with all peoples, making us at once their debtors and creditors. Needless to insist on the passionate feeling with which England regards her empire of the sea. The sentiment has been cultivated so long, and has sunk so deep into the national heart, that it seems now to be a rooted and invincible instinct. The most popular among our national songs are songs of the sea. The most stirring incidents in our national struggles are stories of the sea. The most popular of our heroes are those whose laurels have been won on the sea. The heart of the Englishman glows with pride and gratitude as he remembers the great deliverances wrought for the nation by the gallant men who won for us the supremacy of the seas. But their services are equally great in the works of peace. There are few classes who contribute more to the fabric of national wealth and greatness than those who go down to the sea in ships. These men see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep. They have a great commission with nature, and with nature in some of her most impressive and majestic scenes of which dwellers in the crowded streets of great cities know nothing. It has been said that an undevout astronomer is mad. The same might be said with much more truth of the undevout sailor. He may be said to live in the presence of the Infinite. Grandeur, majesty, mystery, are around him continually. He is away from those displays of human arrogance and conceit which hide from so many the presence and the work of God. Under few, if any, conditions is there so much to make him feel how little and how feeble man is; how great and unsearchable is God. Did we not know so much of the deceitfulness of the human heart and understand how soon familiarity with the most impressive spectacles will weaken, and step by step, by little and little, ultimately destroy their power, we might think that the effect of such scenes must be to induce faith and reverence. But where the sight of these wonders does not soften it will certainly harden; when the sailor is not devout, the danger is lest he become profane. He does not remain merely negative; he grows reckless, daring, unbelieving. Let it not be forgotten, further, that the peculiar conditions of his life withdraw him from a multitude of influences which tell in favour of godliness. It is true that the temptations which beset the path of others are during a large part of his time absent from him; but then, on the other hand, when they do assail him, they come with peculiar severity. A period of liberty, apt to degenerate into licence, has succeeded the severe restraint under which he is confined. He is thrown into the companionship of those who desire to lead him astray, without any experience of their wiles, or probably without any friend to supply the necessary word of warning. He feels as though some measure of indulgence were due to him in compensation for the perils and privations of months. Thus even his comparative exemption from the common seductions of life only becomes a source of graver spiritual danger in the time of recreation he spends ashore. When to this is added the loss of the advantages resulting from the influences and associations of home, it will be seen that he is in a position calling for special sympathy and help. For us who rejoice in the blessings of the Gospel and would fain give them to all, what remains but that we give our special thought and care to our brethren who go down to the sea in ships. (J. G. Rogers, D.D.)
At their wit’s end. Then they cry unto the Lord.
“At their wit’s end”
Nothing is more certain, or calls for more grateful acknowledgment, than the ready and merciful interpositions of God in our seasons of exceptional weakness and need. Nothing, perhaps, of a romantic kind attached to the circumstances in which we were placed; it was in the routine of trade rather than amid the excitements of travel; in the safe places of life, and not among gloomy cells or staggering ships, when, face to face with a yet very authentic extremity, we “cried unto the Lord, and He delivered us out of our distresses:” It is human to “cry aloud” to God when we feel ourselves in the hands of forces we cannot control, when resource of power or of knowledge is exhausted. But when men practically only “cry unto the Lord” in moments such as these; when they only claim the friendship and help of God when all else has failed; when these words set forth an habitual state, “At their wit’s end, then--!” well, I will put the matter mildly, and say, this is serious. This is to reduce the Divine friendship to the low level of a mere selfish convenience, and, on the whole, to be rather more dishonourable before God than we would like to be before our fellow-man. The great mistake lies in supposing--and, indeed, sometimes in actually teaching--that our need of God is greatest in the critical moment of our lives. We are supposed to be fairly equal to the ordinary strain, or that the ordinary strain is in some way provided for. It is in the great trials we think, as their merciless grasp fastens round us, that we stand in direst need of Divine assistance. Thus we say to men, “How will you do when sickness overtakes you? If your child should die, or you yourself be called upon to step down into the valley, how will you do without God then?” Badly enough, I should say. But can there be any question that it is not at such times we are tempted to forget God? In a passionate crisis the problem solves itself. It is in the common uneventful days, in the regular routine of daily life, amid faces, and scenes, and duties familiar to us as the light of the morning, it is here that the real difficulty lies. There is no question about crying to God “out of the depths.” It is not in the “depths,” it is in the long level flats that most men’s danger lies. (J. Thew.)
Through stress of weather
I. How slow men are to pray in prosperity. It may be written down as an axiom, that “prosperity prevents prayer.” Thank God it is an equally true axiom that “adversity prompts prayer.”
1. We are apt to become careless of Divine things when prosperity smiles upon us.
2. There is also a danger of becoming absorbed in the business that is thus blessing you. The more we have, the more, as a rule, we want.
3. Prosperity, too, is prone to make us lose our sense of dependence upon God. The ballast of adversity is not to be despised.
II. How ready men are to pray in adversity. “Then” is a very commonplace adverb of time, but it is wonderfully expressive. Not till they were obliged to in any of these cases, not till pressed by utmost need did they cry. Not till they got to the end of the creature did they appeal to the Creator.
1. This truth, sad as it is, is noticeable in the case of temporal troubles. Those who have been thoughtless till the trouble came upon them, and prayerless too, begin to think and to pray as soon as the grief afflicts them. Thank God for the griefs that make us pray, for the troubles that drive us to the mercy-seat. Thank God that He sometimes takes the Aeolian harp and puts it where the rough winds blow, for it would remain mute did not the breezes sweep through its strings.
2. Sometimes it is in spiritual matters that this experience comes to us. Do not despair; cry loudly to God, plead the merit and death of Christ, and He will save you out of your troubles.
III. How willingly the Lord hears the prayer. True, it was belated; true, it was a small compliment to God to pray only when one was driven to it, but it does not seem to me as if God minded even that, so gracious and generous is He. He seems to say, “You are late in coming, but it is better late than never. I will heal you, I will deliver you.” He does not reproach, He does not refuse, He does not even delay. They have been long in asking, but He is quick in saving. (T. Spurgeon.)
When at wit’s end
“Most that are acquainted with God are taken in the briars. Jesus Christ in the days of His flesh had never heard of many, if their necessities had not brought them to Him.”
Sending up a signal of distress
Wearied and worn, suffering from “brain-fag,” from the strain of incessant service through the winter season, Brother C--and I set sail from Old England on the 22nd of May, bent on availing ourselves of the advantages of enforced rest en voyage, and change of scenery and associations on the Continent. Five days later, we were nearing the north coast of Germany. A wild wind and a “choppy sea kept us later than usual on deck. Driven by sheer weariness, I retired to my berth at two o’clock in the morning; but not for long. At five I was ruthlessly roused by my friend, “What meanest thou, O sleeper? Arise, call upon thy God.” “What’s the matter?” I inquired. “We have run aground, and can’t move.” Hurrying up to the captain’s bridge, we found him the picture of anxiety. We were (in the wrong sense) “steadfast, unmovable”--of this there was little doubt. For three hours had the captain been trying to “go ahead,” then “astern,” but not an inch could he move the good ship; and with one thousand two hundred tons of cargo aboard, we were evidently getting more and more deeply embedded in the sandbank. We wanted sixteen feet of draught to float us, and had but nine. As well might we try to float a “heavy-laden” sinner into the kingdom of grace on the shallow doctrines so common to-day, as to steer our ship over this sandbank. At length the captain bade “Jack” run up the signal for help. Friend C--caught at the idea, and seizing me by the arm, said, “I think we will get to our cabin, and fake the hint.” There we retired, and “sent up the signal for help.” Presently, addressing the steward, C--asked, “Did you feel the vessel move?” “Not likely,” he replied, “after sticking here three hours.” Turning to the mate, C--put the same question, with a similar result, “Not likely! What do you land-lubbers know about it?” Just then the vessel fairly lurched. “Did she move, mate?” “Yes,” said he, with an astonished air; “but I can’t understand it.” By this time a tug from the coast was bearing down upon us, but reversed her course as our captain lowered his signal. When we again mounted his bridge, he was almost beside himself with joy to think we had slidden bodily off the bank, and were once more steaming into the Channel. “I am thankful we’re off; but I can’t understand it a little; it completely puzzles me.” Said friend C--, “Shall we explain it, captain? We are firm believers in the efficacy of prayer; and seeing your trouble, we just now took your unintentional hint, and sent up a signal for help. Do you never resort to prayer in the midst of trouble, captain? God has said, ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.’” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Then are they glad because they are quiet.
The quiet of the Sabbath
I. Why on this day of rest ought we to be glad?
1. Because the week is the scene of perpetual activity.
2. Because the week is the season for impairing rather than increasing our spiritual vigour.
3. Because the week is the time in which we ale exposed to the most spiritual danger.
II. What the quiet of the Sabbath signifies and symbolizes.
1. It does not mean mental inaction. It does not signify having nothing to think about, and nothing to do on this day of rest; but having other things to think about, and other things to do, than those which occupy and all but absorb us during the week. And not only other, but better things, things connected with the life that lies beyond the grave.
2. The quietness of the Sabbath is intended to prepare us for the toil and tumult of the week. Let a Christian man enter the house of God with this idea, and he will never find the Sabbath tedious, or its hours of public worship a weariness; he has laboured to enjoy this rest, and now he rests to be fitted for ensuing labour.
3. The quiet of the Sabbath is a happy quiet, because it is an emblem of the heavenly Sabbath. Learn--
(1) The fitness of Divine ordinances to our human constitution. We must have rest and quiet: nature demands; God graciously supplies them; and he that believes enters into rest.
(2) Let us remember the danger we are exposed to of forgetting the claims of the Sabbath amidst the perpetually recurring anxieties of the week.
(3) Let us rejoice if in our intelligent appreciation of this day we can truly say, “This is the day the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it”; and let memory ever say, “Then were we glad because we were quiet.” (W. G. Barrett.)
Memories of dangers passed
Thinking of the past, there may be a sense of not unwelcome lightening from a load of responsibility when we have got all the stress and strain of the conflict behind us, and have, at any rate, not, been altogether beaten. We may feel like a captain who has brought his ship safe across the Atlantic, through foul weather and past many an iceberg, and gives a great sigh of relief as he hands over the charge to the pilot, who will take her across the harbour bar and bring her to her anchorage in the land-locked bay, where no tempests rave any more for ever. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)
He bringeth them unto their desired haven.--
The desired haven
I. Thy Port. “Their desired haven.” Comforting view of heaven this! ‘Tis a haven; not an “undiscovered country,” not a desolate coast chafed by storms, and strewn with wrecks and lifeless bodies. Entrance ample, water deep, anchorage secure, may be taken in all weathers; no blinding haze, no dreary night, no want, no sin. ‘Tis a desired haven (Hebrews 11:13; Hebrews 11:16).
II. The pilot. “He bringeth them;” not He driveth, as if behind; nor draweth, as from far-off spot, as the pole draws the needle of the compass by a cold and mighty attraction; but He bringeth, as the reaper bringeth his sheaves. Jesus bringeth! Not ahead to draw, not astern to drive, but on board to bring! Oh! is He not a Pilot? He sounded the channel, took the bearings, mastered the details, made the chart, and now goes in company with the believer to perform the voyage. You ask who erected the beacon, placed the lightship, anchored the buoy? Christ, all Christ. He unites the pilot and commander in one: never leaves nor forsakes. Oh, come to Him; “He bringeth,” He only; He bringeth unto. None founder under His command.
III. The providence. “So.” “His way is perfect.” ‘Tis not so short as you would like it, nor so easy, nor so pleasant, but it is “ so.” Sometimes He brings to wit’s end, makes men to stagger, and the great billows, which they think will bury them, only lift them higher up into safety and peace. (H. T. Miller.)
The port of glory
Whether we will or not, it is ours to sail across the sea of life. As the ship on the sea is subject to calms, and storms, and fair weather, and is exposed to dangers untold, and driven here and there by the force of winds and tides; so is every man’s experience; and it behoves each to ask himself whither he is bound, and whether he has a good hope of reaching his “desired haven.”
I. It is suggestive of rest. It is a “haven.” Fellow-voyagers, are you looking for rest? Beyond all this toil of the ocean, are you expecting the repose of the haven?
II. It is suggestive of safety. As the sailor cannot be endangered until the very harbour is destroyed; so, as long as Jehovah is, the Christian soul is safe. And this is true not only of his future, but also of his present state. Yes, God Himself is their protection.
III. It is suggestive of happiness. Do not blame us if we sometimes turn a longing gaze towards the “fulness of joy” which is in His “presence,” and to the “pleasures for evermore” which are “at His right hand.”
IV. It is suggestive of possession. He knows that when once the “desired haven” has been reached, all life’s dangers will be for ever over; all life’s mysteries will be for ever solved; all life’s labours will be for ever crowned, and he will “enter into the joy” of his Lord. “And so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (W. H. Burton.)
1. The port, or harbour--“Their desired haven.” The spirits of the righteous, who have vanished out of their sight, are not flung upon the coast of some dreary country, desolate and unknown, whose shores are chafed with angry storms and strewn with wrecks. They reach “their desired haven” “when all the ship’s company meet who sailed with their Saviour beneath.”
2. The Pilot. “He bringeth them.” Adequate knowledge of the voyage is an important qualification in a pilot, and also a quick discernment or apprehension of dangers, and skill to avoid them. Every feature of perfect qualification is found in Christ, as the Pilot of humanity across the sea of life.
3. How He bringeth them is implied in this little demonstrative “so.” As professing Christians, it might be well for us to single out all the trials, sorrows, and calamities which are the result of our own folly, indolence, or presumption, and distinguish them from those over which we have no control and in the production of which we have shared no part. I believe that many of our trials in secular and spiritual matters are not God’s creations, but our own. (T. Kelly, D.D.)
Christ, the pilot’s Pilot
An old pilot of the Hudson River Line lay dying. A minister came in and talked with him, and he was respectful but unmoved. The preacher felt he must say something that would appeal to him. Just then the Spirit of God seemed to say to him: “Present Jesus as the pilot’s Pilot.” And so he said: “Now, you have many times piloted your steamer away from the rocks; the current is running against you now, and the fog is on, and you need a pilot. Jesus is the pilot’s Pilot; won’t you take Him on board?” The man’s attention had been caught and his heart won, and with tear-wet eyes he said, “I will,” and with the Saviour’s joy in his heart and a happy light in his eyes, Christ piloted him home. Will you take Jesus as your pilot to-day? (Sunday Circle.)
He turneth rivers into a wilderness.
God’s management of man upon the earth
I. It involves great revolutions.
1. In the secular department (Psalms 107:33-38). Sodom’s fertile soil was smitten with barrenness. Canaan, at one time one of the most fruitful spots under heaven, is now one of the most worthless. How does God do this generally?
(1) He does it by man. To man He has given the power to change the character of the soil, to make orchards out of wildernesses, and gardens out of deserts, and thus cause the “wilderness to blossom as the rose.”
(2) He does it by man, with a due regard to man’s character. By the moral, the wise, the industrious man, He makes the barren places fruitful; and by the corrupt, the indolent, the foolish man, He turns a fruitful land into barrenness.
2. In the social department.
(1) In families. Providence has been compared to a wheel; as the wheel goes round, those who are up to-day will be down to-morrow, and the reverse.
(2) In nations.
II. It repays the study of the wisest men. There is no subject for human study of such transcendent interest and importance as that of God’s management of mankind. The study of this subject will serve three purposes.
1. To rejoice the good. “The righteous shall see it and rejoice.” The righteous will see in the subject how wisely, how beneficently, how universally all things are managed, how “all things work together for good to them that love God,” how even evil is overruled to answer benevolent ends.
2. To confound the wicked. “All iniquity shall stop her mouth.” “It shall be,” says an old author, “a full conviction of the folly of atheists, of those that deny the Divine providence, and forasmuch as practical atheism is at the bottom of all sin, it shall in effect stop the mouth of all iniquity. When sinners see how this punishment answers to their sin, and how justly God deals with them in taking away from them those gifts of His which they had abused, they shall not have one word to say for themselves. God will be justified, He will be clear.”
3. To reveal God’s infinite lovingkindness to all.
(1) Human suffering, however great., is never equal in amount to that of human enjoyment. This is obvious from the circumstance that men, even in the greatest affliction and trial, earnestly desire the perpetuation of their life and struggle for it.
(2) Human suffering is generally, if not always, ascribable to human conduct. Either their ancestors or themselves have broken those organic, moral, and social laws, the observance of which is the condition of happiness.
(3) Human suffering may, and should, contribute to lasting enjoyment. Sufferings are disciplinary, they are only storms to purify the moral atmosphere of the world, medicated ingredients in the cup of life which, though bitter, are designed and suited to heal the diseases of the soul, and to make it happy and hale. (Homilist.)
Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.
The benefit of a wise observance of providences
I. The wisdom of a devout attention to the ways of Providence.
1. They who are wise will observe those things--take notice of the hand of God in the various turns and methods of His providence.
2. A religious observation of providence is the way to improve in true wisdom. “Who is wise? Even he will observe those things,” and by observing those things he will become still wiser.
3. It requires much wisdom and prudence to make right observations on the ways of Providence, and to put a proper construction upon them.
(1) Let us fix in our minds a full and lively persuasion of the doctrine of providence: or be firmly assured of the reality and certainty of an overruling and governing power that reaches to all events.
(2) We must attend to Divine providences with diligence; observe them with a steady and accurate eye, and deposit them faithfully in our memories to be reviewed and applied hereafter.
(3) We must be cautious in our application of providences, and in our determinations concerning their immediate design.
(4) Let us patiently wait the events of providence before we judge.
(5) We should carefully compare one providence with another.
(6) We should carefully compare the book of providence with the Book of Scripture.
(7) If we would understand the providences of God let us obey the calls of them.
(8) Frequently pray for direction in this matter, and for that wisdom which is profitable to direct.
II. The great benefit and advantage of such a prudent and devout attention to the providences of God; particularly as it will open to us new discoveries of the Divine goodness. “Even they shall understand,” etc.
1. This may refer either to public and general, or to particular and private providences.
(1) It may refer to public and general providences. And then the meaning is, that by such a wise, discreet and careful attention to the ways of Providence in general, we shall soon come to be convinced that the whole earth is full of the goodness of the Lord; that His tender mercies are over all His works, etc.
(2) The words have a more immediate reference to private and particular providences.
2. It may be objected that there are a thousand things in the present state, both of the natural and moral world, which we can by no means reconcile with our ideas of infinite mercy and goodness. Now, to this I answer--
(1) The psalmist does not say, nor can any man presume to think, that there are inexplicable mysteries in the ways of Providence; or that there are not many things in the course of the Divine dispensations which we are not able at present to reconcile either with the goodness or wisdom of God.
(2) All that the text affirms is, that they who make the wisest and justest observations on providence, will make the plainest and largest discoveries of the lovingkindness of the Lord; and may discern traces of love in those events which to others appear tokens of anger. (J. Mason, M.A.)
The wise observation of providences urged
I. What it is to observe providences wisely.
1. It presupposes--
(1)That there is a providence. Is it unworthy of God to govern what He has created? As for the wisdom in the management of the world, they are fools who judge it folly before they see the end.
(2) The faith of this providence. We must believe the doctrine of providence, if we would be wise observers thereof.
(3) Providence has a language t.o the children of men.
(4) A disposition to understand the language and design of providence.
2. It imports--
(1) A watching for them till they come (Habakkuk 2:1; Isaiah 26:8; Psalms 130:1; Psalms 130:5-6).
(2) A taking heed to them, and marking them when they come (Isaiah 25:9; Luke 19:44).
(3) A serious review of them, pondering and narrowly considering them. It is a mystery many times, looking at which our weak eyes will begin to dazzle. And that we may unravel the clue by a sanctified judgment (Psalms 77:6), it will be needful to call in the help of prayer, with much humility, faith, and self-denial (Job 10:2), and of the Scripture (Psalms 73:16).
(4) Laying them up, and keeping them in record (Luke 1:66). We should keep them as one would do a treasure, for the time to come. Then are they experiences, which will be notable provision for after-times.
(5) A practical observation of them (Micah 6:9).
II. The things about which we are wisely to make our observations.
1. Providences may be considered with respect to their objects, which are all the creatures and all their actions.
(1) Look into the invisible world, and trace providence there.
(2) Look to the visible world, and trace providence there (John 5:17).
2. We may consider providences with respect to their kinds (Psalms 40:5). The wisdom of God is manifold wisdom, and produces works accordingly (Psalms 104:24). And each of them is to be observed.
(1) Providences are either cross, or smiling and favourable. Both ought to be observed, and may be so profitably.
(2) There are great lines and small lines of providence..
(3) There are common and uncommon providences.
3. We may consider providences with respect to the time of their falling out.
(1) We should observe the past dispensations of providence (Psalms 77:5). Towards others. Towards ourselves. Observe how God gave thee such and such education, ordered thy log in such and such a place in His earth, and in such sort as He has done, how He brought thee into such and such company, saved thee from such and such dangers, etc.
(2) We should observe the present dispensations of providence towards ourselves and others (Zechariah 6:1-2). It is a stream that still runs by us, like those rivers that bring down the golden ore (Psalms 65:11). By day nor night it ceaseth not (Psalms 19:2).
III. What we are to observe in providences.
1. The timing of providences, the great weight of a dispensation sometimes lies ill this very circumstance, that then it came, and neither sooner nor later. And O the admirable wisdom that appears in thus jointing of them! (Genesis 24:45; Judges 7:13).
2. The beginnings and dawnings of providences (Psalms 130:6).
3. The progress of providence, endeavouring always to notice the several steps of it (Luke 2:19; Luke 2:51), and to follow the thread. For God ordinarily brings great works to pass by degrees, that so men that are weak may have the greater advantage for observation (Hosea 6:3).
4. The turns of providence. The wheel of providence is a wheel within a wheel, and sometimes it runs upon the one side, and sometimes on the other. Observe the change of the sides. For providence to our view has many turnings and windings, and yet really it is going straight forward (Zechariah 14:7).
5. The end of providence (James 5:11; Job 42:10; Job 42:12).
6. The mixture of providence. There is never a mercy we get, but there is a cross in it; and never a cross, but there is a mercy in it. Observe the mixture of your mercies, to make you humble and heavenly; for the fairest rose that grows here has a prickle with it, and there is a tartness in our sweetest enjoyments. Observe the mixture of your crosses, to make you patient and thankful; for the bitterest pill God gives you to swallow has a vehicle of mercy (Lamentations 3:22).
7. The concurrence of providences.
8. The design and language of providences (Micah 6:9).
9. The harmony of providences.
(1) With the Word.
(2) Among themselves.
(3) With their design and end.
(4) With the prayers of the people of God.
IV. Why Christians should wisely observe providences.
1. Because they are God’s works (Psalms 135:6).
2. Because they are great works (Psalms 111:2).
3. Because they are often very mysterious works, and therefore they need observation (Psalms 92:5).
4. Because they are always perfect works. They will abide the strictest search and the most narrow inquiry (Deuteronomy 32:4).
5. Because they are speaking works. They speak Heaven’s language to the earth, and therefore should be observed. (T. Boston, D.D.)
The operations of the Divine lovingkindness
Human love, we may say as a general rule, is easily understood by human creatures. Not so the Divine love, the lovingkindness of the Lord. Guided by a wisdom to which our minds cannot reach, that often operates towards us in a way that much perplexes us.
I. Whenever He loves, He afflicts us. Either He finds us in trouble, or He ere long brings us into it--that is one of the rules He has laid down for the exercise of His lovingkindness. Are you, then, prepared to receive affliction from Him when, though conscious of a whole mass of evil dwelling in you, you can discover no indulged, no specific sins which have called down that affliction on you? Are you prepared for the storm, and the storm of God’s raising, when honestly engaged in your worldly callings? Are you prepared for hunger, and thirst, and faintness of soul in God’s own ways, while walking with God, following prayerfully and closely as you can the Lord’s own guidance?
II. He generally brings His people to an extremity of danger or of trouble, before He succours them. We are often made to see and to see with wonder that our extremity is, indeed, God’s opportunity; that His helping work begins just when we are beginning to fear there is no help for us; that He does all that is needful for us when we are brought with a sorrowful and perhaps half despairing heart to say, nothing can be done. Deliverance we may depend on, but we must not depend on it till the extremity comes.
III. He draws forth from His people earnest prayer for relief before He sends it them. He has it in store for them, but He says, “I will be inquired of them for it before they shall have it.” And this is one of His main designs in allowing our troubles to come to an extremity before He helps us--He wants to strip us of all creature-confidence; that we may be compelled to turn to Him for help, be constrained to come to Him with our difficulties and sorrows. Our prayers do Him no good, but they do us good--they bring us into closer union with Himself, the fountain of all good.
IV. When the Lord delivers His praying people in their extremities, He generally delivers them signally and most effectually.
1. Signally. He lays bare His arm as He delivers them; makes it visible; compels them to see, and to see with grateful wonder and a thrilling delight, that their deliverance is His work and His alone.
2. Effectually. He makes the help He gives them adequate to their extremity and more than adequate to it, surpassing their necessity. He often blesses and enriches them while He delivers them. (C. Bradley; M.A.)
I. In what manner we should observe the-Divine providence.
1. There should be a prevailing recollection that there is a providence; so that we live not like heathens who know not God.
2. We ought to take particular notice of special events or remarkable occurrences.
3. We should gratefully acknowledge the Divine goodness; observe particular mercies.
4. Humbly submit to the Divine chastisements. These are often heavy and severe, though wisely ordered and mixed with mercy.
5. Observe, as far as may be, the design of God in the events of His providence, and particularly what benefit you may derive from them.
II. The wisdom and advantage of a due observance of the ways of Providence.
1. If you observe these things you shall see God’s lovingkindness prevailing in all His dealings with the children of men.
2. We may extend the application of the promise. For, according to the whole tenor of the Word of God, all the truly pious, such as they are who devoutly observe the ways of God, are really interested in His gracious regards. The Lord loveth the righteous. He receives them into His favour through the grace and righteousness of Jesus Christ. He will save them with an everlasting salvation. They shall, therefore, understand what a glorious thing it is to have an interest in God as their portion. (Essex Remembrancer.)
The lovingkindness of the Lord
If we wish to “understand” the lovingkindness of the Lord, we need not speculate, we have only to “observe”; and we have nor anxiously to east about for examples, as they are gathered and classified for us in the induction which distinguishes this inspired song.
I. It is effectual. Gives complete relief. No mockery of favour, no semblance of love. Deals not in half-measures, but secures complete deliverance.
II. It is seasonable. God interferes in the crisis, and waits till it come, ere He show His power and love.
III. It is undeserved. We forget Him, but He does not forget us; and when our sins expose us to imminent peril--and that peril is a righteous and appropriate punishment, even then does He “make no tarrying,” but He swiftly comes to save us.
IV. It is habitual. God has special pleasure in such acts of beneficent intervention. He has often vouchsafed relief to others, and will He not to thee? “The Lord’s hand is not shortened.” “He daily loadeth us with benefits.”
V. If we take pains and still “observe these things,” we shall find “these things” all to be acts of simultaneous lovingkindness. God is not so occupied with one case of misery as to overlook the others. All those deeds of lovingkindness may happen, and very often do happen, at one and the same time.
VI. It is manifested in answer to prayer. The spirit, in the hour of its weakness, looks up to God, and He blesses and saves. O, then, ask and wait; wrestle and triumph.
VII. It is often startling in its nature and results. The good it does is amazing, and the penalty it sends is confounding. These sudden and terrible reverses are meant to teach and humble--for they show the justice of God, exhibit the evil of sin, and induce man to forsake it. (John Eadie, D.D.)
What are we called upon to do? To “observe.” But that is a scientific word. Certainly. There is no book more scientific than the Bible Is not science called sometimes the art of observation? Here is a religious teacher who says, Be scientific--observe. Sometimes we want a microscope, sometimes a telescope; everything depends upon the object on which we are fixing our observation; if it be minute, there is the microscope; if it be distant, there is the telescope; what we have to do is to observe,--which few men can do. There are few born surveyors. We are not to observe a little here and a little there, but we are to observe minutely, we are to observe in detail, to observe the little spectral shapes no larger than the band of a man, and we are to observe them growing until the accumulation fills the firmament with promise of rain. It is delightful to find a word which binds us to a scientific policy. Isaac Newton said he was not aware that he excelled any one except it might be in the faculty of paying attention--shall we call it the faculty of observation? Darwin never slept; he was observing whilst he was dreaming; he left the object for a moment or two and came back to it to follow it on. And one would imagine from some of Sir John Lubbock’s most useful books, packed as they are with information, that he had spent the most of his life in an ant-heap. He knows about ants--their policy, their economy, their method, their conflicts, their conquests--all their wondrous system of society. When a man observes God in that way, there will be no atheists. Atheism comes from want of observation,--not observation of a broad vulgar kind, as for example the eyes that take in a whole sky at a time without taking in one solitary gleam of light for careful and reverent analysis, but an observation as minute and detailed, and patient and long-continued, as a man has bestowed upon the habits of an ant. Who would go to a man who had never seen an ant, in order to learn from him the habits of the busy little creature? We smile at the suggestion. Yet there are men who go to professed atheists to know what they think of theology! That which would be ridiculous in science is supposed to be rather philosophical and somewhat broad-minded in the Church. We go to experts. We are right in doing so. We ought to go to experts in the study of history,--not the broad vulgar history of kings, and rival policies, and sanguinary battles; but the inner history of thought, motive, purpose, spiritual growth, and those mysterious inventions which seem to have no beginning and no ending, circumferences without visible centre, centres without measurable circumferences,--the mystery of social movement. What shall be the result of this observation: shall man see the power of God, the grandeur of God, the majesty of God? No: or through them he will see the further quality, the beauteous reality:--“Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.” The exiles shall say, He was good to us in Babylon, though we knew it not at the time. The prisoners shall say, There was not one bar too many of iron or brass in the cage that held us: we see it now. Sick men shall say, In the sick-chamber where we mourned and pined in weakness God was love. And men who have been tossed to and fro on great waters shall say, The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof, and His also is the fulness of the sea. They come out of all this tumult of experience, not saying, God is great, God is majestic, God is overwhelming: hear them; they come out of all this tragedy, agony, loss, saying, “God is love.” (J. Parker, D.D.)