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O give thanks unto the Lord; for He is good: because His mercy endureth for ever.
The perpetuity of Divine mercy
This is a subject for--
I. Joyous gratitude. “O give thanks,” etc. Why should the perpetuity of Divine mercy inspire such fervent gratitude?
1. Because all men that now live require mercy. All men are so guilty and depraved as to render them more or less unhappy here, and miserable hereafter. Mercy creates men anew in Christ Jesus in good works.
2. Because all men that will hereafter live require mercy. Thank God, then, that mercy is to run on to the crash of doom.
II. The celebration of all men. The perpetuity of mercy is a subject in which men of all characters, of all lands, of all times may triumphantly rejoice. Here we can all meet, both the rich and the poor. (Homilist.)
O this mercy of God! I am told it is an ocean. Then I place on it four swift-sailing craft, with compass, and charts, and choice rigging, and skilful navigators, and I tell them to launch away, and discover for me the extent of this ocean. That craft puts out in one direction, and sails to the north; this to the south; this to the east; this to the west. They crowd on all their canvas, and sail ten thousand years, and one day come up the harbour of heaven; and I shout to them from the beach, “Have you found the shore?” and they answer: “No shore to God’s mercy.” Swift angels, despatched from the throne, attempt to go across it. For a million years they fly and fly; but then come back and fold their wings at the foot of the throne, and cry: “No shore; no shore to God’s mercy!” (T. De Witt Talmage.)
The Lord . . . set me in a large place.
God the Deliverer and Defender of His people
I. The deliverer (verse 5).
1. The deliverance seems to have consisted in raising him from a circumscribed to an expansive position.
2. The Almighty is constantly delivering men in this way, lifting them from the narrow to the broad.
(1) Secularly. Often by His providence He takes men from the narrowness of poverty out into the broad places of worldly prosperity.
(2) Intellectually. He takes men from the narrowness of ignorance and prejudice, and habit, out into the broad places of knowledge and freedom.
(3) Spiritually. From the narrowness of guilt and corruption He takes men by the Gospel of His Son, into the broad realms of forgiveness and virtue.
II. The defender (verse 6). “The Lord is for me.”
1. Because of this we need not fear. If He is for us, who can be against us? “God is our refuge and strength.” If He is for us, we have not only the whole universe for us, but even our very enemies shall be made to subserve our interest.
2. Because of this we shall conquer (verse 7). The word “desire” is not in the Hebrew. The words should be, “and I shall look upon my haters,” look with calm defiance, look with expectant triumph. (Homilist.)
An urtrammelled life
The Christian is absolutely the freest and most untrammelled man in the world. I am a freer man, a richer man, a blither man, a stronger man, a hopefuller man, because I am a Christian. He has “set me in a large place.”
I. I have a grand, broad creed.
1. First, a God whose love is universal; who is pledged to every soul to whom He has given being; to whom every soul is as dear as every other, and who works to realize the meet perfect blessedness of all.
2. A creed which makes its best possible for everybody. You can be a hero anywhere; you can be a saint anywhere; you may win your place in God’s “legion of honour” anywhere. “Cribb’d, cabined, confined?” Nay! God has “set me in a large place.”
3. A creed which invites me to examine and explore it, which courts criticism, which positively invites men to do what many imagine it forbids. One of its proudest mottoes is, “I speak as unto wise men; judge ye what I say.” The Gospel invites you to explore all its territories, to dig for its hidden treasures; indeed, will only give itself to him who will question, think, search.
II. A broad, rounded, healthful life. A life that includes every sweet and noble thing.
1. Every bright and healthful pleasure. All natural pleasures are mine. Mirth which is medicine and food is mine. All intellectual feasts are mine. Oh magic books which I love, in which I delight to dig!
2. A life that is to attain its blessedness, the ideal aimed at, not by prohibitions, but by growth. The way to kill the bad life in you--“the old man,” as Paul calls it--is by filling yourself with the rich graces of life as seen in Christ Jesus. Courage and sweet help for those who need it, the brave love that can bear any cross--the life of Jesus,--there is room in that; it is “a large place.” Live it, and you will grow in God’s own bliss.
III. The noblest enterprises, the most royal work, the grandest aims, for the betterment of the world. Broaden the soul! Nothing broadens the soul like work for the wants and woes of men, and nothing inspires men to work like the dreams, the hopes, and promises of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have caught a vision of the world as He saw it, yearned for it, died for it. We also carry this world in our heart; the African, the Hindoo, the South Sea Islander, are also children of God, and we will toil for their redemption.
IV. I have noble and inspiring hopes. Rich indeed are the hopes which the Gospel gives me; immortality is a grand word. I find “a large place” for myself under the broad skies of “eternal life.” Man, according to the Gospel, has room to grow and time to grow. Over-hurry spoils the best work. Few of us have the courage of Browning’s grammarian, who refused to hurry; who never dreamt that he could finish his studies here, but was sure that he should be allowed to finish them yonder. Let us also be a little wiser; we will not get scared and spoil cur work by over-hurry. Eternity is ours. Give me room; plant me with the noble sky of immortality over me; I will grow into my full stature then. Set me where God set me--in “a large place.” (J. Morlais Jones.)
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
Confidence in. God
I. As justified by experience. “It is better,” says Matthew Henry, “more wise, more comfortable, and more safe, there is more reason for it, and it will speed better, to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man, yea, though it be in princes. He that devotes himself to God’s guidance and government, with an entire dependence upon God’s wisdom, power, and goodness, has a better security to make him safe, than if all the kings and potentates of the earth should undertake to protect him.”
II. As the inspiration of courage. What courage breathes in these words, “All nations compass me about,” etc. True confidence in God will always make a man invincible and fearless. The courage of Moses, Daniel, and the three Hebrew youths, and Paul, who said, “None of these things move me,” all grew out of confidence in God. (Homilist.)
The duty of trust in God
It is readily acknowledged that God governs the world, and interposes in all the affairs of it; yet this principle has not those pious and generous effects that might be expected; how often do we promise ourselves success from human means and visible preparations, without taking a Divine Providence into the account, or without attributing so much to it, as to our own prudence, address, or experience
I. Wherein the religious trust here recommended does consist.
1. This duty implies a humble belief that all things, by God’s blessing, will succeed well with us. I do not mean that everything should exactly correspond to our desires, or the probability of second causes; but that upon the whole matter God will appear for us, and interest Himself in our favour.
2. In order to a well-grounded trust in God, human means and endeavours must not be wanting.
3. In the use of human means, we must take care not to have recourse to such as are unlawful. How can we reconcile it, either with a common sense of piety or prudence, to acknowledge that all things come to pass by the will of Heaven, and at the same time knowingly and deliberately to act in opposition to it?
4. The main foundation of our religious trust, upon which all the fore-mentioned qualifications of it are supported, is a due regard to the laws of God and religion in general.
II. Motives and arguments to enforce it.
1. Because there is nothing but God wherein we can place an entire trust and confidence. The good state of our fleets, the conduct of our generals, the integrity and abilities of our ministers, the number and importance of our alliances, are usually the first things that come into consideration; but yet if we leave God out of the account, they all signify nothing.
2. A motive to this duty shall be taken from the nature of it; as it is the highest and noblest act of religious honour, the most sensible acknowledgment of the Eternal power and Godhead. And for this reason so many particular promises are everywhere in Scripture annexed to it; and God has as remarkably on all occasions made them good. (R. Fiddes.)
Trust in princes perilous
Voltaire for a time was the friend and familiar of Frederick the Great. He was honoured with a seat at the King’s table, and appeared almost essential to the King’s happiness. But the attachment was soon over. Royal smiles turned to frowns, and Voltaire was put under arrest at Frankfort, and there the comedy ended. Many efforts have been made to exempt Frederick from all blame in this matter and throw it upon his servants, but there the ugly fact remains, and the man who was receiving the royal flatteries was shortly afterwards detained as a prisoner. The late Prince Bismarck of Germany experienced a reverse about as great when his royal master, the young Kaiser William II, dismissed him from his office. Shortly after that event, he had an interview with the Tsar, Alexander III., and with great freedom and certainty propounded his political convictions and intentions, as if futurity belonged to him. When the Tsar suddenly interrupted him and said, “Yes, I agree with you, and I place the utmost confidence in you, but areyou quite sure that you will remain in office?” Prince Bismarck replied, “Certainly, Majesty; I am absolutely sure that while I live I shall remain Minister.” However, only five months after, he was unceremoniously dismissed from office. (H. Livesey.)
They compassed me about like bees.
I know the bees can compass one about right well; but, as a rule, they compass about those who threaten to attack their home and to take away their little treasure. Let us think about a few things connected with the bee’s life.
1. Bees build their own house, and a beautiful house it is. The skill of the bees in building is wonderful. Every little room built by them has six sides; but all the rooms are not of the same size. They are made according to their requirements; but they are all so beautifully planned and partitioned that every room is just big enough for its purpose. There are no end of little nurseries, store-rooms, and ordinary living-rooms in a beehive. The bees’ house is a wonderful house; we could not build anything like it. Then, having built the house--
2. They are very busy in filling their larders. I know there are some drones. You never found a community anywhere without drones, and the poor bees are not perfect; but the bulk of them are very busy workers. There are, for instance, many wax-makers--those who produce wax and thus make up cells and construct walls. They also store the honey. Then there are the nurse-bees: such tender little creatures! They seem to tread softer and move about more quietly than the other bees. They see to all the sick, and to all the little children that are in the house, and feed, nurse, and watch over them.
3. They also reserve food for the winter. They fill a cell with honey and then seal it up, very much as your mother does with the preserve, when having filled a galley pot she puts a sheet of white paper on the top and seals it. Some of you boys wish it were not so well sealed. I have no doubt some little bees occasionally wish some of the cells were open; but they must not open them. They are not opened until the winter comes, and there is urgent need of food. Then older bees open those little cells just as your mother does the preserve pot, then they take just what is needed. Thus, there is such careful preparation for winter, that the bees can live right through until the spring comes back again, when they are able to begin to work and provide once more. Well now, could not we imitate the bees, could not we be active, and be ever doing our part? And even if we are put on the defence, can we not show strong characters, and let people learn that because we deal in honey we are not necessarily helpless? (D. Davies.)
Lessons from the bees
I. Loyalty. They all love their queen. She is their ruler and their mother, and they are her subjects and her children. Without her, home would be nothing. She is queen, and must be obeyed.
II. Loving the home. Bees are very much attached to their hive. No mother of a family loves her home more than a queen bee; and all the true worker bees take after their mother in this respect. Some people have a genius for helping; there are others who seem to have a genius for hindering.
III. Cleanliness. The care with which they remove dirt of all kinds is something remarkable. Every boy and girl may well follow the example of these wise little philosophers, the bees, and keep everything clean in their homes.
IV. Sympathy. I have seen a wounded bee carried at length, and laid on the bee-board in the warm sunshine. One bee would lick the sufferer from head to foot with his tongue, another would roll him over and over in the sunshine. After they had succeeded in doing this, they would carry him to his sick-bed. This shows us the sympathy of the bee, and sympathy is the most divine thing in the world.
V. Being happy in one’s work. “Place yourselves,” says one who has written on this subject, “before a hive, and see the indefatigable industry of its busy toilers. Let the bee’s hum inspire you with the honourable resolution to do all things cheerfully in the active duties of life. We ought to be happy and cheerful in our work.” (R. Newton, D. D.)
Thou hast thrust sore at me, that I might fall: but the Lord helped me.
Christian experience is the richest product of grace, and it ought to be laid at the feet of the Well-beloved from whom it comes, and to whom it belongs. What God hath done for one of His people is an indication of what He will do for others of His chosen. The Lord’s providences are promises, and His benedictions are predictions. To be silent concerning the lovingkindness of the Lord is a robbery of the worst kind; it is taking from our God the glory due unto His holy name.
I. Tribulation and patience. “Thou hast thrust sore at me,” etc. Truth most always strive against error, and holiness must battle against sin. It is an uphill journey to glory, and that man had need be a hardy mountaineer who resolves to ascend into the hill of the Lord, and to dwell in His holy place. He who is born for the crown is bound for the cross. A thousand snares are laid in your path; and only be who made you a Christian can cover your head, and carry you safely through the bombardment which awaits you.
II. Patience and experience “The Lord helped me”--
1. To believe.
2. To pray.
3. To stand.
4. To fight.
III. Experience and a hope that maketh not ashamed.
1. Our God has become our strength. He is the Lord all-sufficient when we are most insufficient. With Him for our strength, we cannot faint, or fail; but, on the contrary, we shall renew our force, and rise continually to something higher and better than before.
2. Our God has also become our song. It may mean, “The Lord is my strength while I am waging the war, and my song when I have won the victory.” This is an excellent sense, but another seems to me more clearly in the words, “The Lord is my strength and song”; both are in the present, we sing while we fight. Your great Lord and mine, when He went to His last tremendous conflict, where the powers of darkness marshalled all their strength against Him, and He strove until He sweat as it were great drops of blood,--how did He go? Here is the answer, “After supper, they sang a hymn.”Let us claim the victory, anticipate it, and shout it, while yet we are contending. On our beds let us sing God’s high praises, and magnify Him in the midst of the fires. Set your whole lives to music. Make your entire career a psalm. But what shall we sing about? Well, “The Lord is my song.” Sing the Father and His love eternal. Sing the Son of God, whose delights were with the sons of men before He came here to dwell. Tell how He took our flesh to take away our guilt. Tell how He died, and rose again, and led captivity captive, and ascended up on high. Make that your song, but do not forget to sing the Holy Spirit’s love. Magnify the Holy Ghost, the Illuminator, Comforter, Guide, abiding Advocate, and Paraclete. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.
God and man
I. How God should be realized by every man. What should He be to every many
1. He should be his strength. All the strength we have, physical, intellectual, and moral is from God; nay, more, is God’s. Conscious dependence upon His strength is the foundation of piety. “Hold thou me up, and I shall be saved.”
2. He should be his “song”; that is, his joy. The source of all his joy and spring of his delights. We should rejoice in God as our Father.
3. He should be his salvation. He saves from misery by saving from sin.
II. How God is enjoyed by the righteous. Who is the righteous man? The man who is right in himself and right in relation to God and the universe.
1. Such a man has rejoicing. “Being justified,” or made right by faith; he has “peace that passeth all understanding.” Religion is happiness wherever it exists.
2. Such a man has salvation. A righteous man is saved--saved from sin, and to be saved from sin, is to be saved from all evils of all kinds.
III. How God appears in His procedure.
1. Courageous (verse 16). He moves on in the execution of His eternal purposes with absolute fearlessness. Of what can He be afraid, whose will can at any moment create or destroy universes?
2. Glorious. “The right hand of the Lord is exalted.” That is, praised, hououred, adored. Who that studies His works, whether the minute or the vast can fail to exalt and adore the right hand of the Lord? 3.Restorative (verses 17, 18). (Homilist.)
Christ is our song
I. In what sense Christ is a believer’s song.
1. He is the main object of hope and trust (Isaiah 12:2).
2. He is the main subject of praise and thanksgiving (2 Corinthians 9:15).
3. He is the main matter of joy and rejoicing (Psalms 137:6; Psalms 43:4). Three things are necessary.
(1) An interest in Him as our Saviour.
(2) The knowledge of that interest.
(3) Suitable walking.
II. What of Christ especially is a believer’s song? True believers sing, and ought to sing--
1. Of what Jesus Christ is in Himself as to His personal excellences and perfections.
2. Of what He is to us. He is our foundation, our food, our root, our raiment; and should we not sing of these?
3. Of what He hath done, and is doing, and will yet do, for us.
(1) He hath taken our nature upon Him, and in our nature suffered and died; He hath washed us from our sins in His own blood; called us with a holy calling; begun a good work.
(2) Is He not ever living to make intercession for us? Is He not guiding and guarding us, enlightening and comforting us, every day?
(3) He will perform the good work that He hath begun; He will come again and fetch us to Himself, that where He is there we may be also. Can ye name any other to sing of, that hath done the like for you?
III. What are the properties of this song?
1. He is the angels’ song (Job 38:7; Luke 2:13-14).
2. He is the most ancient song; the song of the ancients. They sung of Him as one to come, for they saw Him, though it was but as through the lattices, or as through a glass darkly.
3. He is the new song. Wherever ye read of a new song in Scripture, it points at Him (Psalms 33:3; Psalms 96:1; Psalms 98:1; Psalms 149:1). He is the New Testament song. Ever since His coming in the flesh all His saints have been singing of Him, as of one already come; rejoicing in Him, and showing forth His praises. As fast, as they have been made new creatures they have learned this new song.
4. He is their night song (Psalms 42:8; Job 35:10).
(1) In the night season, when others are sleeping, true believers are rejoicing in God their Redeemer, and solacing themselves in Him (Psalms 149:5; Song of Solomon 1:13; Acts 16:1-40.) Paul and Silas sang at midnight.
(2) In the night of sorrow and affliction. To be able to sing then, when everything looks sad and sorrowful round about us, is a great matter; as David (1 Samuel 30:6)
5. He is their song all the week, and their song on the Sabbath. We are bid to rejoice in the Lord always, every day, and they that have an interest in Christ, and know it, do so; but especially on Sabbath days (Psalms 118:24). Sabbath days are set apart on purpose.
6. He is their song while they live, and their song when they die. While they live, in all the turns of their lives (Psalms 146:2). And in a special manner when they come to die; upon sick-beds, and death-beds. As it is said of the swan, that she sings sweetest when dying, so it is with many of God’s people. At the death of Mr. John Janeway, one present said he never was in a room where God in Christ had more praises than there at that time.
7. He is their song in the world, and will he their song to eternity. What is the great employment of heaven, and what will it be for ever and ever, but to lift up God-redeemer (Revelation 5:9-13). Jesus Christ is to be our everlasting song (Isaiah 35:10). It is good to be found doing that, now that we would be glad to be found doing hereafter--world without end.
1. This may serve for an examining sign, or mark of trial, whereby to know what we are as to our spiritual state and condition. We are bid to try ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5). What, is Jesus Christ to us? What think we of Him? Hath He ever been our song? Do we rejoice in Him?
2. Here is a word of reproof to the true believers among us, that do not make Christ their song, that are in Him, but do not rejoice in Him; however, not with evenness and constancy, not in that measure and degree, that they should and ought. Thou shouldst chide thyself for it (Psalms 43:5).
(1) It grieves the Spirit of God.
(2) It blemishes the ways of God; makes thee a stumbling-block to them that are without, like the evil spies.
(3) It is weakening to thyself. The more Christ is our song the more is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Then search out the cause.
3. Exhortation, to all that call themselves believers. Make Christ your song, week days and Sabbath days.
(1) He is worthy that you should.
(2) The gain of it will be thy own, in present comfort, in eternal recompense. (Philip Henry.)
Making God our song
Instead of waiting until you get sick and worn out before you speak the praise of Christ, while your heart is happiest, and your step is lightest, and your fortune smiles, and your pathway blossoms, and the overarching heavens drop upon you their benediction, speak the praises of Jesus. The old Greek orators, when they saw their audiences inattentive and slumbering, had one word with which they would rouse them up to the greatest enthusiasm. In the midst of their orations they would stop and cry out: “Marathon!” and the people’s enthusiasm would be unbounded. My hearers, though you may have been borne down with sin, and though trouble, and trial, and temptation may have come upon you, and you feel to-night hardly like looking up, methinks there is one grand, royal, imperial, word that ought to rouse, your soul to infinite rejoicing, and that word is Jesus. (T. De Witt Talmage.)
The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous.
The joy of holy households
A believer in Christ is not long without finding joy. He is in the land which floweth with milk and honey, and he will get a sip of sweetness very soon. Like Nicodemus, he comes to Jesus in the dark, but the sun is rising. This joy is in him and abounds, so that he belongs to a happy people.
I. There is joy in the families of the righteous.
1. To some extent, this is in proportion to the salvation that is found in the family. Many among us can say, “All my children are children of God: they go with me from my table to the Lord’s table: I have a church in my house, and all nay household are in the church.” Here is a picture, a pattern, a paragon, a paradise. Seek, then, the salvation of the whole of your household.
2. The joy which is here alluded to is mainly spiritual: a joy of the father, because he is saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation; a joy of the mother, because she, too, has had her heart opened, like Lydia, to hear and to receive the Word; a joy of the dear children, as they offer their little prayers, and as they talk of Jesus, whom their soul loves.
3. This kind of joy, while it is spiritual, is not dependent upon external circumstances; it hangs not on wealth or honour. They said of old that philosophers could be merry without music, and I am sure that it is truer still of Christians that they can be happy in the Lord when temporal circumstances are against them. Our bells need no silken ropes to set them ringing, neither must they be hung in lofty towers.
4. Christian joy, whether in the individual or the family, can be abundantly justified. If God is pleased with us, we may well be pleased with Him.
II. This joy should be expressed. “The voice,” etc. We should put a tongue in our joys, and let them speak. The voice should be heard daily, from morn till eve, and till the silence of sleep steals over all; but it should never fail to sound forth in the daily gatherings for family prayer. It should be a happy occasion when we meet to read the Word of God, and to pray together. It is well if we can also sing at such times. Matthew Henry says, concerning family prayer, “They that pray do well; they that pray and read the Scriptures do better; they that pray, and read the Scriptures, and sing a hymn, do best of all.” There will be frequent occasions for holy joy in all Christian families, and these ought always to be used right heartily. Holy joy breeds no ill, however much we have of it. You can easily eat too much honey, but you can never enjoy too much delight in God. Birthdays and anniversaries of all sorts, with family meetings of various kinds, should find us setting life to music right heartily. Moreover, it would be well if our houses more generally resounded with song. It drives dull care away, it wards off evil thought, it tends to a general exultation, for the members of a household to be accustomed individually and collectively to sing. If you really cannot sing at all, yet the voice of rejoicing and salvation may be in your tabernacles by a constant cheerfulness, bearing up under pain and poverty, losses and crosses. God give you more and more of this spirit in all your households! The whole Church shall be blessed when every family is thus made happy in the Lord and in His great salvation.
III. This joy of holy households is a joy concerning what the Lord hath done.
1. How we should joy in God, in our families, when we think of all that He has done in conquering sin and Satan, death and hell! Christ hath led captivity captive; therefore, let us sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously.
2. Then let us think of what the Lord has done for each one of us individually.
3. Since then, the Lord has helped us in providence, and delivered us from fierce temptations, and made us to stand steadfastly when the adversary has thrust sore at us that we might fall.
4. And when you see great sinners converted, when the drunkard leaves his cups, when the swearer washes out his filthy mouth, and sings the praises of God, when a hardened, irreligious, sceptical man bows like a child at Jesus’ feet, should not our families as well as ourselves be made acquainted with it, and should it not be a subject for joy at the family altar? (C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. Its importance.
1. In reference to our avocations and cares. These are numerous and diversified, and demand relaxation and relief. Who could endure perpetual drudgery and fatigue?--and what so refreshing, so soothing, so satisfying, as the placid joys of home!
2. In reference to the afflictions of life. It looks like a general remedy, furnished by the kindness of Providence, to alleviate the troubles which from various quarters we unavoidably feel while passing through this world of vanity and vexation of spirit. How many little sighing vacancies does it fill up! How many cloudy nervous vapours does it chase from the mind!
3. In reference to the good things of this life. Without this, all will be insipid, all will be useless. Imagine yourselves prosperous in your affairs; trade pouring in wealth, your grounds bringing forth plentifully, your cup running over--misery under your own roof would be sufficient to canker your gold and silver; to corrupt your abundance; to embitter every pleasure.
4. In reference to the seductions and snares of the world. From the danger of these there is no better preservative than the attractions of a family. The more a man feels his welfare lodged in his own house, the more will he prize and love it. The more he is attached to his wife and children, the less will he risk their peace and comfort by hazardous speculations, and mad enterprises in trade.
II. To open its sources, and examine on what it depends.
1. Without order you can never rule well your own house. “God is not the God of confusion.” He loves order: order pervades all His works.
2. Many things will arise to try your temper: and he is unqualified for social life who has no rule over his own spirit; “who cannot bear the frailties of his fellow-creatures with common charity, and the vexations of life with common patience.”
3. The influence and advantage of good sense are incalculable. This will preserve us from censoriousness; will lead us to distinguish circumstances; to draw things from the dark situation of prejudice which rendered them frightful, that we may candidly survey them in open day.
4. We must go beyond all this, and remind you of those religious principles by which you are to be governed These are to be found in the Word of God; and as many as walk according to this rule, mercy and peace shall be upon them. God has engaged that if you will walk in His way, you shall find rest unto your souls. If it be said, There are happy families without religion, I would answer--
(1) There is a difference between appearances and reality.
(2) If we believe the Scripture, this is impossible--“the way of transgressors is hard: there is no peace, saith my God, unto the wicked.”
(3) Religion secures those duties, upon the performance of which the happiness of households depends.
(4) Religion attracts the Divine blessing--and all we possess depends upon its smiles. (W. Jay.)
The happiness o/ the righteous
I. Explain. The joy of the righteous is--
3. Abiding. You “rejoice” in that which rust cannot destroy, and which the tongues of men cannot injure.
1. How miserable is the state of the wicked.
2. How important is vital piety. (C. Clayton, M.A.)
The cultivation of piety
I. True piety has a voice ringing with the note of joy and health. Could we set forth the beauty of its offices, the beauty of prayer, the joyousness of worship, the peace of Divine fellowship; could we restore the bloom of health to its wan countenance; could we put the mountain air end breezes into our religion and make it a strong, healthy, living thing; could we make it a voice of rejoicing and salvation in the dwellings of our land, how grand, how triumphant, how sovereign a power it would become!
II. The place of true piety is the home. We need better homes; homes ruled in the fear of the Lord, where father and mother are prophet, priest and king; homes sweetened by the incense of prayer and worship and well-ordered discipline; homes where the Sabbath is honoured and all needless toil and travelling on the day of the Lord areavoided, and worship and edification as becometh immortal beings are the order of the day; homes where reverence has her abode, and holy beauty and the gladness of Christian faith and charity; homes that are none other than the house of God, none other than the gate of heaven. (H. F. Henderson, M.A.)
Union of gladness and goodness
It demoralizes life and religion to believe that God does not desire the happiness of His creatures, just as surely as it demoralizes life and religion to imagine that He has no higher aim for them than that they should be happy. It was a wise, as well as a Scriptural, answer which was given to the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism as to man’s chief end. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever.” It is not without reason that spiritual life and blessedness are always in some form joined together; for goodness and happiness were not meant to be divided. Culture and restraint. (Hugh Black.)
The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly.
Mighty to save
I. The triumphs of the Lord Jesus. He did not come as a man of war, for He is the prince of peace; He came not here with shield and buckler, but He came with a body fitted to suffer, and with a heart strong to endure. The Christ of God came in lowliness and in shame; but for all that He fought great battles in the midst of His weakness, and won for Himself wondrous spiritual victories.
II. The triumphs of the Church of Christ. The Church began with feeble numbers, with small wealth, and with comparatively little talent, but she was clothed with the Holy Ghost, and was therefore mighty.
III. The triumphs of grace in individuals. Do you remember when you sought to escape from the multitude of your sins? Do you recollect when they compassed you about like bees? You could not count your sins--you had forgotten them; they seemed dead and buried, but they all came to life again, and they swarmed about you. They buzzed about you at your table; they stung you in your sleep; in your dreams they harassed you; at your work you had no peace because of them. And dost thou mind the place, the spot of ground, where thou didst meet with Jesus? Oh let your soul go back to your spiritual birthday; ring the bells of your heart again; hang out the streamers of your soul for that happy day when Jesus washed your sins away. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The power of God displayed in the redemption of man
I. A sublime attribute of god. “The right hand of the Lord” represents His power in its loftiest manifestation, its sovereignty, its resistlessness, its omnipotence.
II. Signal achievements which, by the operation of that Divine attribute, are performed.
1. The personal history and work of the Messiah.
2. The application of the work of the Messiah to individual men.
3. The progress of the economy founded upon the work of the Messiah, and its wide diffusion throughout the earth.
III. The emotions which the contemplation of these achievements produces in pious minds. Our rejoicing is to be connected with, and ensured by, practical manifestations. They are these: implicit trust on the Saviour’s mediation; abounding gratitude for the Saviour’s goodness; devoted obedience to the Saviour’s commandments; zealous activity for the Saviour’s glory. And as those, who are set apart by Him to be the instruments in the advancement of His empire, by our self-denial, our activity, and our prayers, we are to attempt the ingathering of His people, and the advancement of those grand and wonderful designs we have presented, which are to be fulfilled in the recovery of the world. (J. Parsons.)
I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.
The power of recovery
This buoyant and hopeful language is obviously in place on Easter Day. The psalm which contains it was sung for the first time either at laying the foundation-stone of the new temple, or at its dedication: and it breathes, in every line, the spirit of thankfulness, of triumph, of hope. It is the hymn of the deliverance from the captivity, just as Miriam’s song is the hymn of deliverance from Egypt: it is such a Te Deum as was possible when as yet the Gospel had not been revealed.
I. The meaning of the words as used by Christ. Before His Crucifixion the words were a prophecy of the Resurrection. Unlike ourselves, out Lord throughout His earthly life knew what was before Him. From us the future is hidden in mercy: we could not bear the sight, it may be, if the veil were lifted. But our Lord surveyed everything. “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!” And yet the foreknowledge which surveyed His coming agony surveyed also the peace and triumph beyond. He was to die, yet He was to rise; it was the prospect of death modified by the prospect of triumph over death; it was Calvary, but already irradiated by the Resurrection morning. “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” But after the Resurrection the words must have a fuller meaning: they became to Him more literally true. “Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more.”
II. We listen here to an utterance of the heart of the Christian Church, again and again heard during the centuries of her eventful history. In many ways the Passion and Resurrection of Christ have been reflected in the later fortunes of Christianity; and especially the Church’s power of recovery from weakness and disaster is a note and proof of her union with Christ.
1. There has been the distress and suffering produced by outward persecution. At times it seemed as if the faith must be killed out from among men. But all through these dark and dreary years, the secret leaven of the Resurrection power of Jesus was working in the heart of Christendom. Never was the darkness so thick that no ray of light reached the soul of the suffering Church. Never was her cause so desperate but that she could, not boastfully or in scorn, but in the clear, albeit broken accents of faith and hope, utter her unfailing conviction: “The empire will pass, but Jesus Christ remains; ‘I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.’”
2. The Church has been exposed more than once to a more formidable danger,--the decay of vital convictions within her fold. This happened in the early part of the thirteenth century, when the Arabian philosophers of Moorish Spain were so widely read in the Universities of Europe, and caused for some years a secret but profound unsettlement of faith in the leading truths of Christianity. So again, at the revival of letters in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, especially in Italy. So also, and conspicuously in the eighteenth century, we may almost say, throughout Europe. The great anti-Christian campaign was opened in England by Bolingbroke, Tindal, and the English Deists. It was carried on in France by their pupil--for such virtually he was--Voltaire, and the Encyclopaedist writers. It found a powerful patron in Frederick the Great of Prussia. It closed, in Germany, with Lessing, who mistook criticism for faith, and to whom the search for truth seemed better than its possession; and with Nicolai, and other writers of the “enlightenment” period; while on the western bank of the Rhine, the worship of the goddess of Reason was keeping time with the horrors of the Revolutionary Tribunal and of the Reign of Terror.
3. Worst of all, the Church has been exposed to moral corruption. Here surely is an evil more perilous far than any persecutor’s sword, or even than any form of intellectual-rebellion. Good men always feel strongly the evils of their own day; it is their business to recognize and to combat them. But in doing so they are sometimes led to think that no previous age has been so weighted with energetic mischief as their own. Here there is a risk of losing a true sense of proportion; of not merely exaggerating the evils of present as compared with those of past times, but of forgetting the Divine resources upon which the Church of Christ may always fall back, and which are more than equal to her needs. Let us be sure that to believe that Christ has risen is to know that, come what may, His Church will not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.
III. In these words we have the true language of the individual Christian soul, whether in recovery from illness, or face to face with death.
1. This is the language of the convalescent. The legend that the risen Lazarus was never seen to smile expresses the sense of mankind as to what beseems him who has passed the threshold of the other world; and surely a new and peculiar seriousness is due from those who have all but passed it, and have returned to life by little less than a resurrection. Of what remains of life the motto should surely be, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” Surely such a life must be consecrated; like the Risen Jesus, and in virtue of His Resurrection power, it must declare the works of the Lord.
2. These words should express the feeling of every Christian soul, in the prospect of death and eternity. (Canon Liddon.)
Gratitude for deliverance from the grave
You know, perhaps, that this text was inscribed by Martin Luther upon his study wall, where he could always see it when at home. Many Reformers had been done to death--Huss, and others who preceded him, had been burnt at the stake; Luther was cheered by the firm conviction that he was perfectly safe until his work was done. May you and I, when we are tried, be able, through faith in God, to meet trouble with the like brave thoughts and speeches!
I. At the outset, here is the believer’s view of his afflictions. “The Lord hath chastened me sore.” On the surface of the words we see the good man’s clear observation that his afflictions came from God. It is true he perceived the secondary hand, for he says, “Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall.” There was one at work who aimed to make him fall. His afflictions were the work of a cruel enemy. Yes; but that enemy’s assaults were being overruled the Lord, and were made to work for his good; so David, in the present verse, corrects himself by saving, “The Lord hath chastened me sore. The enemy was moved by malice, but God was working by him in love to my soul. The second agent sought my ruin, but the Great First Cause wrought my education and establishment.” Next, the believer perceives that his trials come as a chastening. “The Lord hath chastened me sore.” When a child is chastised, two things are clear: first, that there is something wrong in him, or that there is something deficient in him, so that he needs to be corrected or instructed; and, secondly, it shows that his father has a tender care for his benefit, and acts in loving wisdom towards him. “What son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten.” There is not a more profitable instrument in all God’s house than the rod. Consider the psalmist’s view of his affliction a little more carefully. He noted that his trials were sore: he says, “The Lord hath chastened me sore.” Perhaps we are willing to own in general that our trouble is of the Lord; but there is a soreness in it which we do not ascribe to Him, but to the malice of the enemy, or some other second cause. The false tongue is so ingenious in slander that it but touched the tenderest part of our character, and has cut us to the quick. Are we to believe that this also is, in some sense, of the Lord? Assuredly we are. If it be not of the Lord, then it is a matter for despair. If this evil comes apart from Divine permission, where are we? Even while the wound is raw, and the smart is fresh, be conscious that the Lord is near. Yet there is in the verse a “but,” for the psalmist perceives that his trial is limited; “but He hath not given me over unto death.” Certain of the “buts” in Scripture are among the choicest jewels we have. Before us is a “but” which shows that, however deep affliction may be, there is a bottom to its abyss. There is a limit to the force, the sharpness, the duration, and the number of our trials.
II. The believer’s comfort under his afflictions. “I shall not die, but live.” Occasionally this comes in the form of a presentiment. How do you understand the story of John Wycliffe, at Lutterworth, in any other way than this? He had been speaking against the monks, and various abuses of the Church. He was the Morning Star of the Reformation. Wycliffe was ill--very ill, and the friars came round him, like crows round a dying sheep. They professed to be full of tender pity; but they were right glad that their enemy was going to die. So they said to him, “Do you not repent? Before we can give you the viaticum--the last oiling before you die--would it not be well to retract the hard things which you have said against the zealous friars, and his Holiness of Rome? We are eager to forget the past, and give you the last sacrament in peace.” Wycliffe begged an attendant to help him to sit up; and then he cried with all his strength, “I shall not die, but live, to declare the works of the Lord, and to expose the wickedness of the friars.” He did not die, either: death himself could not have killed him then; for he had more work to do, and the Lord made him immortal till it was done. How could Wycliffe know that he spoke truly? Certainly he was free from all foolhardy brag; but there was upon his mind a foreshadowing of future work that he had to do, and he felt that he could not die till it was accomplished. Forecasts of good from the Lord may come to those who are sore sick; and when they do, they help them to recover. We are of good courage when an inward confidence enables us to say, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” This, however, I only mention by the way. When a believer is in trouble, he derives great comfort from his reliance upon the compassion of God. The Lord scourges his sons, but he does not slay them. He may often put His hand into the bitter box, but He has sweet cordials ready to take the taste away. For a small moment has He forsaken us, but with great mercies will He return to us. You have an effectual comfort if your faith can keep its hold upon the blessed fact of the Lord’s fatherly compassion. Next, faith comforts the tried child of God by assuring him of the forgiveness of his sin, and his security from punishment. Please to notice the very distinct difference between chastisement and punishment. “The Lord hath chastened me sore,” and in that He has acted a fatherly part; “but He hath not given me over unto death,” which would have been my lot if He had dealt with me as a judge.
III. The believer’s conduct after trouble and deliverance. “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” Here is declaration. If we had no troubles, we should have all the less to declare. A person who has had no experience of tribulation, what great deliverance has he to speak of? Tried Christians see how God sustains in trouble, and how He delivers out of it, and they declare His works openly: they cannot help doing so. They are so interested themselves in what God has done that they grow enthusiastic over it; and if they held their peace, the stones would cry out. If you read further down, you will find that they not only give forth a declaration, but they offer adoration. They are so charmed with what God has done for them, that they laud and magnify the name of the Lord, saying, “I will praise Thee: for Thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.” This done, they make a further dedication of themselves to their delivering God. “God is the Lord, which hath showed us light.” It was very dark! We could not see our hand, much less the hand of God! We thought that we were as dead men, laid out for burial; when suddenly the Lord’s face shone in upon us, and all darkness was gone, and we leaped into joyful security, crying, “God is the Lord, which hath showed us light.” We were convinced that it was none other than the true God who had removed the midnight gloom. Doubts, infidelities, agnosticisms--they were impossible. We said, “God is the Lord, which hath showed us light.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Life in face of death
These words were inscribed upon the walls of Martin Luther’s study. They were the incarnation of his courage and his faith. Luther lived his strenuous life in the midst of dangers. Hour by hour as the years sped on he looked death in the face. Such a life of conflict and hazard irresistibly drives a godly man nearer to God. It is not under the impulse of some coward terror that he crawls to the feet of the Strong One. It is not the pitiful appeal of fear for deliverance from the ever-during dark. It is a sixth sense which has been developed in the soul of man. It is the sense of the Infinite, which demands its satisfaction in tones so imperious that the cries of all other senses are stilled. In the common experiences of life we need God, oh, need Him so deeply! But in these uncommon experiences we have God. No normal mind deliberately chooses the life of daily and nightly nearness to death; yet all men would choose it if the normal mind could see realities in their true proportion. For in the life which is lived in the presence of death, the man of God knows that he lives and moves and has his being in God. Any man who is called upon to lead a life in which day by day there is but a step between him and death becomes either a better man or a worse under the pressure of it. He becomes a worse man--reckless, dissipated, abandoned--as we see often in the life of miners, sailors, soldiers, and a hundred others whoso disdain of moral restraint appals us. You know how true this is of times of war, epidemic, or plague. Yes; he becomes a worse man, or he becomes a better. For life is never the same again. He has looked upon the heights and depths of things. He has endured as seeing Him who is invisible. That which he thought realest in the universe has crumbled at the breath of a new emotion, and the Unseen has become the one Reality. Henceforth, there is a deeper note in his thinking; in his feeling a fuller tenderness Psalms 118:1-29, from which I take this text, was written for some great national festival, and was chanted in the Temple thanksgiving service. Its praises and its prayers are alike the expression of national aspiration and gratitude. It is of Israel protected, ransomed, restored, Israel Divinely reinforced, Divinely saved, that the poet sings. It is united Israel which declares that His mercy endureth for ever. Each worshipper may say for himself what he sings for the nation, “I shall not die, but live.” Each devout soul may promise for himself what he desires for his Church and for his country, that in this restored life the first purpose shall be to “declare the works of the Lord.” If I were to read our poet’s feelings by the light of my own, I should be ready to say that all other considerations are lost in the overwhelming solemnity of the experience through which he has passed. He has emerged upon a new and different world. In that world he finds himself at first a stranger. Sky and sea, meadow and mountain, the grass on the hillside, and the flowers beneath his feet, have a new meaning for him. While that strange, unspeakable thing which we call life--life one and indivisible in its myriad manifestations--is so wonderful, so wonderful that he feels that he has never lived before. You never feel the awfulness of life till death has held you. It is through the darkness of death that we walk in the light of life. A baffled wonder is one of the elements of this deep solemnity. The foundations of life have been shaken. Earth’s base is built on stubble. The realization that one is mortal like his neighbours is the strangest revelation which comes to the heart of man. Almost too painful for analysis is the sense of humiliation which such an experience brings, the shrinking from the physical accompaniments of sickness and death. The pride of life has vanished in the twinkling of an eye. And of one other aspect of such an experience I do not trust myself to speak--the parting from those whose love has given us the purest joy which we have known on earth. Then, after all this, comes to our poet, has come, thank God, to millions of the sons of men who have passed through his experience and been the better for it, the exquisite realization of life again, the knowledge that all is yet possessed, the life of the flesh and the life of the soul, the desire of the eyes and the pride of life, the joy of thought, the power of aspiration, the delight of action and of service, the passion of labour, the potency of love! Surely this is the most solemn experience of human life, this in which the new-born man in a new-made world says to himself in amazement, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord!” You do not marvel that this vague wonder passes into fervour, into exultation, rapture, into consecration? “I shall . . . declare the works of the Lord!” Learn the lesson! There comes a time when all else fails you. The good that you have done alone abides. Learn that lesson well, for immortality is there. On the day when John Wycliffe died, while yet breath remained in the old man’s body, the friars crowded round his bed, and demanded of him that he should make confession of the evil deeds that he had done to them and to their craft. He raised himself upon his pillows, and gathering together the last remnants of his expiring strength, exclaimed, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the evil deeds of the friars.” That day the great reformer died. But the great reformer never dies! Wycliffe lives, like many another son of the Highest, mightier dead than when he lived indeed. (C. F. Aked, D. D.)
And declare the works of the Lord.--
Declaring the words of the Lord
I. Many are the works of the Lord.
4. Regeneration. Do not be ashamed to declare that work of the Lord; and do it mainly by exhibiting the fruit of it in your life, but also by clearly narrating your own experience whenever you have a fitting opportunity.
II. These works of the Lord ought to be declared.
1. For God’s glory.
2. For the comfort of His people.
3. To guide the anxious.
4. As a warning to the self-righteous.
5. To gladden the Church of God.
III. Who ought to declare the works of the Lord? We who have experienced the working of God’s grace should bear our own personal testimony concerning what He hath done for our soul. Personal witness-bearing is always effective. And if God does not get witnesses among those who have had their sins forgiven, whence are His witnesses to come?
IV. Now I want, with all my heart, to stir up your hearts and my own also to the duty of declaring God’s works.
1. I pray you to declare His works, and to be encouraged to do so because, first, it is a very simple duty. This work of glorifying the grace of God is a mosaic; I can put in my little pieces of stone or marble to form the pattern so far, but there is another part of that mosaic which nobody but yourselves can manufacture. It can be made out of the odds and ends of your spiritual experience, as you think them to be; but, insignificant and unimportant as they seem to be, they help to complete the whole design.
2. Then notice what a very manifest duty it is that you should tell out what God has done for you. Does this need any proof? Do you think that the Lord saved you that you might just be happy, keeping your joy within your own heart, ever feeding and fattening it?
3. Notice also that this is a very profitable duty. I hardly know of anything that is more useful to a Christian than to tell out what the Lord has done for him. You will never know the truth in all its fulness till with all your heart, and mind, and soul, and strength, you have attempted to inculcate it in the hearts of others.
4. Moreover, it is a very pleasant duty to those who practise it.
5. This ought also to be a constant duty with all who love the Lord. When we have once told the story, we ought to feel bound to tell it again and again. “But I cannot,” says one. What can you not do? If you were to be cured of a dreadful disease, I am sure you would be able to tell somebody who the doctor was. And if, to-night, a thief were to break into your house, and a policeman came and seized him, I am sure you would tell somebody tomorrow about what had occurred. Do you ask, “Whom shall I tell?” Well, good man, tell your wife, if you have never yet spoken to her about these things. Christian woman, do you inquire, “Whom shall I tell?” Why, tell your husband, and your children! You cannot have a better congregation than your own family. Are you in a factory? Tell your work-mates about Jesus Christ. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Lord hath chastened me sore: but He hath not given me over unto death.
The afflictions of God’s people
I. The condition.
1. The Author of it. Affliction comes not out of the dust; God is the Inflicter of all evils and crosses upon us.
(1) Look up to the Lord in every affliction and labour So see Him in it.
(2) Here is matter of comfort to the servants of God: that whosoever, or whatsoever may be the instrument, God Himself is the principal cause of every trouble to them. It is the cup which their Father gives them to drink, and therefore they may be sure that it is well mingled and tempered for them.
2. The nature of it--a chastening, for the better rule and government of His family. (l) To wean us from the world, and an inordinate love of things below.
(2) To embitter sin to us, and subdue corruption.
(3) For examples to others--
(a) of warning, that they may avoid and take heed of the like provocations;
(b) of patience, that they may be strengthened to endure the like afflictions.
3. The aggravation.
(1) The frequency of these chastenings, not once only, but often, even again and again.
(2) The multitude of these chastenings, not one single one only, but many, one in the neck of another.
(3) The grievousness and tediousness of them, not some light ones only, but such as were very irksome and hard to be borne.
II. The qualification. “But He hath not given me over unto death.” Consider these words--
1. In their connection, add so they are a qualification of those that went before, and they serve to show unto us the manner of God’s dealings with His people, which is to mitigate His afflictions of them, and to correct them still in measure; He chastens them but does not undo them. Thus (2 Corinthians 6:9; 2 Corinthians 4:8-9; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Lamentations 3:32).
(1) God’s aim and intent is not destruction but reformation, which death doth hinder and prevent the opportunities of, unto us.
(2) As God does thus mitigate His corrections in wisdom, so also in mercy, because He is a gracious God, and He continues still so to be without alteration (Lamentations 3:22; Malachi 3:6).
2. Absolutely. “He hath not given me over unto death.”
(1) Out of His goodness, and mercy, and love to His people.
(2) Because He has work and service for them to do.
(3) For the good and comfort of their friends. (T. Hereon, D. D.)
Open to me the gates, of righteousness.
The realm of righteousness
I. A felt obstruction to it. Open to me the gates of righteousness. ‘The gates of righteousness are closed to us--closed not by God, but closed by ourselves--closed by ignorance, prejudice, sensuality, worldliness, unbelief, pride. Who does not feel the obstruction?
II. A determination to enter the realms of righteousness. “The kingdom of heaven suffereth violence,” etc. We must agonize to enter in. We have to wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against powers, principalities and darkness, and crush them on our way to the gates.
III. A welcome into the realms of righteousness (verse 20). If this response is from within the sacred enclosure it may be taken as a welcome. Spiritually all within the realm of righteousness are ready to welcome us. Saints, angels, Christ--all are ready to welcome us. (Homilist.)
The gates of righteousness
Though by “the gates of righteousness” the psalmist mainly refers to the gates of the sanctuary, the words may be taken in a sense that will suggest truths of the most vital moment, and of universal application.
I. They suggest that a state of “righteousness” is a most desirable state for man.
1. The want of it is the cause of all the evils that afflict humanity. All physical, social, political, intellectual, and moral evils arise from unrighteousness.
2. The possession of it will secure all good. Let all men be righteous in the principles of action towards God, and man and Eden will bloom again.
II. They suggest that into this most desirable state there is a certain way of entrance. “The gates of righteousness.” One Scriptural expression will describe the gates:--“Repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” Those gates are difficult to enter. “Strive to enter in,” etc. (Matthew 7:13). Those gates are exclusive. There are no other ways of entrance.
III. They suggest that men require assistance to enter these gates. “Open to me the gates.” Whomsoever the psalmist, in the words might appeal to, in order to open the gates of the sanctuary, we know that spiritually no one can open the gates of righteousness but God Himself. He leads the soul unto repentance and faith--
(1) Through the revelation of His Son.
(2) Through the events of His providence.
(3) Through the work of His Spirit.
IV. They suggest that when the entrance is fully obtained the man will be taken up with worship. “I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord.” Worship is at once the great want and grand end of man’s existence. (Homilist.)
I will praise Thee for Thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.
A blessed consciousness, a marvellous providence, a joyous day
I. A blessed consciousness (verse 21).
1. A grateful assurance of answered prayer. “Thou hast heard me.” To know that God has heard me is, of all knowledge, the most, transporting.
2. A grateful assurance of personal salvation. “Art become my salvation.” Not shall become, or will become, but “art” become. Salvation is a present blessing. “This is life eternal,” etc. The consciousness that I am saved is indeed a blessed consciousness.
II. A marvellous providence (verse 22, 23). What man rejects, God accepts.
1. Man rejects insignificant, means with which to accomplish his chief ends. When man has a great plan to carry out, he looks out for the most gifted, the most mighty and skilful agents. Not so with the Almighty. By whom did He deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage? By Moses, a poor Hebrew exile.
2. Man despises the very agents whom God employs. This was pre-eminently the case with Christ. “He was despised and rejected of men.” Yet He was employed in a work of transcendent greatness.
III. A joyous day (verse 24). Man has to create his own Sabbaths, and when they come to him, he feels the Lord hath made them, and he “will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Homilist.)
The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
Christ, the head stone of the corner
The ode seems to have been sung in a solemn procession to the temple; and by the Levitical band in responsive chorus. The stone, styled the “head of the corner,” was not placed on the top of the wall, but in some important and conspicuous position. Now, when the temple was built, a stone, intended by the original designers for this purpose, seems to have been rejected by the builders, and cast away as useless among the rubbish: but as no other stone could be found to supply its place, either from necessity, or from Divine warning, the despised stone was sought for, and built into that honourable station to which by the heavenly Architect it had been destined. And when the gates of the temple were opened, and the procession was arranged in its courts, its massive buildings and golden ornaments are left out of view,--though the most prominent beauties of the wonderful fabric ,--and by the Spirit of God this truly wonderful event is commemorated, as being the most notable in the history of the erection of the sanctuary, as proving the minute and surprising care which God exercised over His house, and as being typical of future erections no less strange and worthy of celebration. The verse may now be illustrated by a reference to Christ as Prophet, as Priest, as King.
I. As prophet. The important office of teacher or interpreter of the will of God has been exercised by the Son of God ever since revelations have been made to the world. As Logos, or Oracle, the Son bears such a relation to the Father as speech does to thought. This mysterious personage was the Jehovah of the Hebrew nation, who gave the law from Sinai, and was worshipped on Sion, and came at length to “His temple,” which He had consecrated and inhabited. But when Messiah appeared in human form, and began his prophetical career, proclaiming the spirituality and extent of the law of God,--affording evidence of His divine mission by miracles so decisive, so public, so frequent, so peculiar,--then was the indignation of the builders excited. And as the stone despised by the builders might be cast away among the rubbish, and be at length buried and out of sight, so was Jesus slain, and committed to the sepulchre, and hid from view in its depth and darkness; yet, though rejected, has He become the head of the corner. To prove Himself the faithful and true Witness He rose from the dead; if by His own power, then He was God, and as God could neither deceive nor betray His creatures; if by His Father’s power, then Jehovah would not accredit an impostor. Now Jesus is exalted as the great Prophet of the Church, though He was once despised; and now, what with the descent of His Spirit to guide into all truth; what with the commission, “Go ye into all the world,” and the varied qualifications for that lofty enterprise; and what with the living ministry which He has founded, and perpetuated, and blessed to preach the Word; may we not perceive the truth of the psalmist’s declaration, and may we not add in adoring wonder and gratitude, “This is the doing of the Lord!”
II. As priest. The priesthood of Jesus is of eternal ordination. In virtue of His priesthood did He act with men as a prophet. It was necessary that He should assume our nature, that He might have somewhat to offer; yet, alas! how few recognized His sacerdotal dignity. Nor were they without warning from the typical language of their priesthood and sacrifices; yet, through prejudice, they would not recognize a priest in Jesus, for He wore not the sacred vestments, and was not sprung from Aaron,--nor an atonement in the death of Him who died on Calvary amidst the scorn and execrations of the multitude. This His noblest office was unseen, unvalued; and, in His decease, men saw nothing but the merited end of treason and blasphemy. Hoping to effect the extinction of His pretensions by His death, they assisted only in unfolding His designs. Immortal life to a dying world has flown from His blood,--yet, though the manner of His death combined the stigma of slavery with the degradation of crime, that death was a true and proper sacrifice, vicarious, perfect, accepted, successful. And now in heaven the great High Priest in the heavenly temple has become the head of the corner. Now does He pursue the great work of intercession in the realms of repose and glory; by His “own blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”
III. As king. The incarnate Jesus had been often depicted by the prophets as a monarch, “on the throne of His father David,”--yet “when He came to His own, His own received Him not.” Was not He who died on Calvary condemned for His treasonable aspirations to the throne of Judea? And who could fancy Him a king who wore no diadem and waved no banner, lived in obscurity and privation, and died in desertion and ignominy? But the stone, though disallowed of men, is chosen of God and precious. God hath raised Him from the dead, and placed Him at His own right hand, and endowed Him with universal government. The sceptre of all worlds is swayed by a human arm. So that if you consider what contempt was poured upon Jesus as a King,--how they crowned Him with thorns, and put a reed in His hand, and arrayed Him in garments of mock royalty, and bowed the knee before Him in contemptuous obeisance, and placed a tablet over His cross, and inscribed on it as His accusation, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”; and then again consider His present exaltation to the throne of the universe, angels obeying His word, and the countless armies of heaven rejoicing to execute His mandates, and the work of the last judgment committed to His hand; you cannot fail to perceive how truly the symbol has been verified: “The stone which the builders despised is become the head of the corner.” (John Eadie, D.D.)
The stone rejected by the builders exalted as the head atone of the corner
I. View the Church as a house or building (Isaiah 2:2-3; 1 Corinthians 3:9).
II. The character given to Christ with relation to this building. He is “the Stone” in a way of eminence and excellency. He is the matchless and incomparable Stone, for He is the chief Stone of the corner; the brightness of His Father’s glory is in Him, and the express image of His Person.
III. The workmen employed in rearing this spiritual building or fabric of the Church here called builders.
IV. The fatal errors of these builders spoken of in my text. They reject the Stone, without which their whole building was nothing but a medley of confusion, however glorious it might appear in their own eyes.
1. This fatal error of theirs proceeded from their ignorance of Christ, in the excellency of His person, and of the glorious mystery of redemption and salvation through Him (Acts 3:17; 1 Corinthians 2:7-8).
2. Mistaken notions of the nature of the Messiah’s kingdom was another cause of their rejecting this precious stone. What a dangerous thing it is not to have right conceptions of the spiritual nature of Christ’s kingdom.
V. Inquire what may be implied in Christ’s being made the Head Stone of the corner, notwithstanding the attempts of the builders to jostle Him out of His place.
1. It implies Christ’s exaltation and victory over all His enemies and opposers.
2. It implies that God has a great regard for the glory of His Son, as the Head and King of His Church.
3. It implies that the whole spiritual fabric or building of the Church hangs upon Him, as the superstructure leans upon the foundation and chief corner stone.
4. It implies that He alone is the centre of unity in the Church.
5. It implies that Christ is the beauty and ornament of His Church, for much of the beauty and ornament of the building lies in the corner stone.
6. It implies that they who would build the Church of Christ must still have Him in their eye, and that the whole of their conduct and administration in the house of God must be regulated with a view to His glory and honour.
7. It implies that God and corrupt builders are driving quite different measures and designs.
1. Let us beware of the fatal errors before mentioned, whereby the Jewish builders ruined their once glorious fabric, and buried themselves in the ruins thereof.
2. Let us seek the builders’ word from the great Master-builder; for there is a word which Christ gives to His faithful ministers, whereby the art of building is much conveyed (John 17:14).
3. Let us take care that every stone of the building corresponds with the foundation and corner stone. In order to which, let us examine our own and others’ doctrines and conversation by the plumb-line and infallible rule of the word (Isaiah 8:20). (E. Erskine.)
The crone refused by the builders
I. Notice the views here given to the rejection of the messiah.
1. The ignominy with which they treated His Person.
2. The opposition with which they met His doctrine.
II. notice the subsequent exaltation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
1. His Person has become highly exalted.
2. The victory gained by His doctrine, in rapidly subduing the hearts of men, and nations of men, to the faith.
III. Consider this change in the fortunes of the stone as the doing of the Lord, and not the doing of man; not the work of angels, not the achievement of angels, but the doing of the Lord.
1. It is the doing of all the persons in the Trinity.
2. It is the doing of all the attributes of the Godhead.
3. It is the doing of all the dispensations of Providence.
IV. The claim which this magnificent event--the exaltation of Christ--has upon the attention and admiration of men.
1. The exaltation of the Saviour’s mediatorial person is marvellous in our eyes.
2. The victory gained by the doctrines of Christ. “It is marvellous in our eyes.” There is a sevenfold marvel; whether you consider the doctrine which won the victory, the instruments employed, the weapons that were wielded by those instruments while they were propagating the doctrine, the opposition over which it triumphed, the number of those on whom it took hold, and over whom it prevailed, or the supernatural effects on all those of whom it took hold--whether you consider the one or the other, “it is marvellous in our eyes.” (J. Beaumont.)
The rejected stone
I. The fact. We have Christ’s authority for applying this spiritually to Him. The rejection of Christ foreknown. Rejection by man no proof of worthlessness: the rejected may be of God. Men reject the greater for the lesser; the moral for the sensual, all self-indulgent men risk their moral in gratifying their sensual; the spiritual for the natural, God has ordained us to life by faith, because that life is higher and nobler than the life of sense or appearance; the enduring for the sake of the temporal: all this in rejecting Christ. Hostility to Him worse than useless--ruinous.
II. The cause. “This is the Lord’s doing.” God works by man: through man as an agent: over man as the sovereign fjord. God works by the wrath of mum the child’s rebellion and anger will not frustrate the father’s purpose. That may be the Lord’s doing which looks very unlike it. Evil a mystery, but God’s doing through it, clear in the Gospel, though nowhere else.
III. The result. “It is marvellous in our eyes.” The scheme of salvation, marvellous in conception, unlike and beyond all human thought. All that God does should be marvellous to us, would be if we were His little children. Wonder plays an important part m our history and religion. (Homilist.)
The head stone of the corner
I. Christ rejected.
1. He was clearly placed before the Jewish people as the stone which God would lay in Zion as the foundation of their hopes, but they persistently refused Him. Alas, for the blindness of men’s hearts.
2. His rejection was rendered the more remarkable and the more sorrowful because He was rejected by the builders or leaders of the nation.
3. It was a violent and indignant rejection. They were not content to say, “He is not the Messiah,” but they turned their hottest malice against film; they were furious at the sight of Him.
4. This rejection was most unreasonable; they did violence to truth and justice by their evil deed.
II. Christ exalted.
1. At this moment Christ has the chief place of honour in the building of God.
2. Nor is He alone eminent for His position of honour, but for His surpassing usefulness. He is the head stone of the corner, that stone which joins two walls together, and is the bond of the building. Jew and Gentile are now one in Christ Jesus. Wondrous corner stone Thou dost bind all of us together who are in Thee, so that by love of Thee we are builded together for a temple of the Holy Ghost. Thou art the perfect bond, the eternal holdfast, the Divine cement which holds the universe in one. Is it not written, “By Him all things consist”?
3. Our Lord Jesus Christ then is brought up from all rejection and shame go which His enemies put Him to be by usefulness and by honour the grandest personage upon the face of the earth; and all this none the less, but all the more, because He was rejected. He lost nothing by His enemies. They scourged His back, but they did not rob Him of that imperial purple which now adorns Him; they crowned Him with thorns, but those thorns have increased the brilliance of His diadem of light; they pierced His hands, and thereby prepared them to sway an irresistible sceptic of love over men’s hearts; they crucified Him, but His crucifixion led Him to His greater honour.
III. The exaltation of Christ is due to God alone (verse 23). Jesus Christ’s name and work were at length had in honour in the world, but this was due to no man’s wisdom, eloquence, or power, but entirely to the Lord, who is wonderful in counsel and great in might. When I consider how hostile is human nature to the Gospel, the very existence of a true Church in the world is to me a miracle. Just think of it. Why, at this very day, we have all the wisdom, and power, and eloquence, and skill of the superstition of the world arrayed against the simple Gospel of Jesus. Though they are agreed in nothing else, they all unite against Christ.
IV. The exaltation of the rejected Christ commences a new era (verse 24). We date from our Lord’s resurrection even as the Jews of old counted from the night wherein they went out of Egypt. What is this day which the Lord hath made? I reply first, it is the day of the Gospel. Through our Lord’s exaltation pardon for the guilty is freely preached among all nations, and whosoever believeth in Him hath everlasting life. What day is this which the Lord hath made? Why, in the next place, it is a Sabbath day, the beginning of a long line of Sabbaths. The day in which our Lord Jesus rose from the dead is now sacred to rest and holy joy. Let us keep it with reverent love, and bless God for making it. Again, “This is the day which the Lord hath made.” The resurrection of Christ commences an era of triumph. We have spoken of the Gospel day, and the Sabbatic day, but it is also a day of victories. As Jesus Christ rose from the dead, so will His truth continually rise from the sepulchre into which men may east it. As he triumphed over the powers of death and darkness, so will His Gospel triumph over all opposition.
V. The exaltation of Christ suggests a prayer (verse 25).
1. A prayer for salvation. Put it in the present tense. Ask for a display of the present saving power of our exalted Head.
2. The other half of the prayer is for prosperity. “O Lord, send now prosperity.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Christ the head stone of the corner
The corner is the place where two walls meet, and the corner stone is that by which they are connected or combined. Hence the idea suggested by a corner stone is mainly that of union; and it is as uniting what was separated or detached that Christ is specially presented to us under such an emblem. And verily He was the Corner Stone. In His Person were combined the Divine nature and the human; and it was this combination, His being the Corner Stone between God and man, which alone fitted Him for the vast office He had undertaken to discharge. Did He not, moreover, unite Jew and Gentile, making both one, by removing all ceremonial distinctions, and founding a Church which threw open its gates to every nation under heaven? Nay, did He not unite God and man in another sense by becoming, in His own person, a Corner Stone? He reconciled the world to its Maker--He restored harmony where sin had wrought a fearful separation. Yes, He was, and He is, the Corner Stone between earth and heaven. But it is evident from the manner in which St. Peter has quoted the prophecy in our text, that it had especial reference to the resurrection of Christ. It was by and through the Resurrection that the rejected Stone was exalted to the head of the corner; and forasmuch as the alleged marvel lies evidently in the transition from the rejection to the exaltation, we are bound to conclude that the process through which the transition took place had much to do with the wonder expressed by the psalmist. And never ought the Resurrection of the Redeemer to appear to us other than a fact as amazing as it is consolatory; for there is a respect in which the resurrection of Christ differs immeasurably from every other recorded case of the quickening of the dead. Others were raised by Christ, or by men acting in the name and with the authority of Christ; but Christ raised Himself. He rose from the grave--rose by His own act. “Destroy this temple,” said He, “and in three days I will raise it up;” the evangelist adding, as a comment, “He spake of the temple of His body.” Marvel of marvels! that which we believe will not cease to be marvellous when eternity has been given to its contemplation--is that “the Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us”; but the marvel seems immeasurably heightened when the dead Christ, as well as the living, may be defined as actually a person of the Godhead. Divinity in the gravel--this is a stupendous thing. But Divinity was in the grave--Divinity was proved to have been in the grave, when the rejected Stone, by the exercise of its own power, came forth from the grave. Verily, we must exclaim with the psalmist--“This is the Lord’s doing.” The resurrection of Christ, effected through His own power, supersedes all necessity for any other miracle in evidence of the Divine origin of Christianity. How could that being be less than Deity itself, who, even when dead in human nature, was mighty enough to quicken that nature--who, by the strangest of all combinations, must have been dead and alive at once, and who was able, in that respect in which He was alive, to reanimate Himself in that respect in which He was dead? Need we ask whether this excites your amazement? Oh! which of you, when he thinks how, in rising from the dead, the Redeemer destroyed the curse and provided that “the creature itself also should be delivered from the bondage of corruption”--which of you can refuse to join in the exclamation--“This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes”? But amazement or admiration is not only the feeling which the fact before us should excite. The battle, the narrative of which is so surprising, was fought in our behalf, and the landscape, which awakens such lofty emotions, includes within its sweep whatever is most precious to ourselves. A Redeemer detained in the grave, would have necessarily been a Redeemer unable to redeem; a stone not exalted to “the head of the corner,” would have been one which failed to combine earth and heaven. We, then, who can rejoice, because there has arisen a Mediator between us and God, must therefore rejoice in the exaltation of the rejected Stone. It was in the rising to “the head of the corner” that this Stone swept down the obstacles to the forgiveness of man, and opened to him the pathway to heaven and immortality. And there is more to be said than this. The resurrection of our own bodies is intimately connected with the resurrection of Christ--connected, as an effect with a cause; “for since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection from the dead: for as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Therefore, if it be any cause for joy that our bodies are to rise, it is cause for joy that the Stone rejected by the builders was exalted of God to “the head of the corner.” And the resurrection of the body is a cause for joy. The body, indeed, is to be a spiritual body, and therefore will renovated materialism assume a more spiritual character, congenial to that of the celestial inhabitants; but a material system there surely shall be--a material world, with material loveliness, and an over-arching sky, in which, when the present constellations shall be quenched, their places shall be filled with others, more beautifully, more eloquently bright. If such, then, be the resurrection, and such our personal interest in the rising of the rejected Stone to be “the head of the corner,” it is not amazement only with which you will hear the record or look upon the landscape. The record is that of a stupendous victory, but a victory which secured you the means of grace and the hope of glory. Oh! then, delight must be added to amazement. If you have already exclaimed with a tongue of wonder, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes,” will you not now add with a tongue of exultation, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it”? (H. Melvill, B.D.)
This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
The Lord’s doing
The following appear to me to be evident marks, or strong indications of an immediate work of Divine Providence.
1. When great and notable events are brought about by causes apparently inadequate to produce them,--by means that, to all human reason and appearance, are unable to attain their end.
2. When nature herself seems to arm in defence of, or in opposition to, any cause, by operating for, or against the same, in an extraordinary and unusual manner (Joshua 10:13; Judges 5:20; 1 Samuel 7:10).
3. When the hidden works of darkness are brought to light in some sudden, surprising, and unexpected manner, as if by accident (2 Kings 5:20-27; Acts 5:1-12; Matthew 2:1-17; Esther 6:7; Acts 9:23-25; Acts 23:12-25).
4. When some great and notable mischief is not only discovered and prevented, but likewise when it is returned upon the heads of its first contrivers. Pharaoh, Haman.
5. When great, good, and noble ends are brought about by wicked men quite contrary to their malevolent intentions (Exodus 1:15; Exodus 2:1-10).
6. When events are well timed and highly seasonable. Learn--
1. That with God nothing is impossible.
2. Wherein the spirit and power of thankfulness doth chiefly consist: it consists in the life of those who are truly thankful. (D. McIndoe.)
This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
The day of days
The day of days in the life of Christ was the day of His resurrection; and to the early Christians Easter Day was the queen of festivals. Easter should provoke a joy in Christian hearts, greater than any event in our private lives; greater than any in the world’s public history; greater than any other even in the life of our Lord Himself. This is the immemorial feeling and sense of Christendom; but why should it be so? why has Easter, why has the resurrection, this extraordinary claim on the buoyancy of the Christian heart?
I. The joy of a great reaction; a reaction from anxiety and sorrow. So it was at the time of Christ’s resurrection. The apostles had been crushed by the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ. When He was in His grave, all seemed over; and when He appeared, first to one, and then to another, on the day of His resurrection, they could not keep their feelings of welcome and delight,--traversed though these were by a sense of wondering awe,--within anything like bounds. “Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.” And this joy of theirs is repeated every year in the greatest feast of the Christian Church. Those who have felt the sorrow feel the joy. Year by year we stand by, in spirit, while Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus lay Him in His grave; and the tension of sincere feeling, of sympathetic sorrow, of penitence and contrition which this implies, is followed by a corresponding reaction on Easter morning.
II. The joy of a great certainty. The resurrection of our Saviour is the fact which makes an intelligent Christian certain of the truth of his creed. And in this way it satisfies a real mental want, and it occasions keen enjoyment by giving this satisfaction. All else in our creed depends on the resurrection of Christ; and to-day when we remind ourselves of its historical certainty, which is scarcely less illustrated by the apparent contradictions than by the collective and direct force of the accounts which have come down to us, we experience a mental delight at the freshening touch of truth, and cry, “This is the day which the Lord hath made: we will rejoice and be glad in it.”
III. The joy of Easter is inspired by the hope which Easter warrants and quickens. Hope and Joy are twin sisters. Joy best enters the human soul when leaning on the arm of Hope. As the apostle says, “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” What is this hope which Easter most distinctly puts before us? and how does it spring from our Saviour’s resurrection? The great hope which Easter sets before us is the completeness of our life after death. The difficulty of believing in a future life is due, not to the reason, but to the imagination as controlled by the senses. Who of us has not made this discovery in some one of those dark hours, which sooner or later visit every human life? Who of us has not stood by the open coffin, and felt himself, or marked how others feel, the terrific empire of sense in the presence of death? At such a moment the most modest anticipations of reason are deemed an unsubstantial guess: the clear teaching of revelation a solemn fancy; the mind’s sceptre has passed to the imagination and the senses, and they decide that all ends with death, and that the grim secrets of the grave are the measure of man’s impotent aspirations after a future existence. Now it was to deal with this specific difficulty that our Lord willed to die, and then, by a literal bodily resurrection, to rise from the grave. Truly we may exclaim with the apostle, that God “hath begotten us again unto a lively hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” and with the psalmist, that “this is the day which the Lord hath made: let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Canon Liddon.)
I. This is the day which the Lord hath made great, by giving the most glorious proof of His own greatness; by rising on it from the dead, by being born again of the womb of the earth, to prove Himself God, as His first birth had proved Him to be man.
II. This is the day which the Lord hath made glorious, by displaying the glory of His everlasting kingdom, by taking possession of eternal life in His own person, and thereby assuring the same precious blessing to them who by faith lay hold on His promises.
III. This is the day which the Lord hath made a day of triumph and rejoicing, by subduing all the most formidable enemies of human nature, robbing death of its sting, the grave of its victory, spoiling principalities and powers, triumphing over them, and making a show of them openly: by flinging open the gates of death and hell, proclaiming liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.
IV. This is the day which the Lord hath made wonderful, by turning dishonour into honour, by converting the ignominy of His death into the glory of a resurrection, the cross on which He suffered into the trophy of His victory, the crown of thorns into a ray of glory.
V. This is the day which the Lord hath made comfortable to all that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heartiness. (A. Grant, D.D.)
The memorial of Christ’s resurrection ought perpetually to be celebrated
I. The import of the words--“This is the day,” etc. The everlasting mercies of God which are celebrated in the four first verses by way of repetition; Christ’s being set in a large place (verse 5), which the prophet elsewhere explains by God’s delivering him (Psalms 18:19); his exultation, because he shall see his desire upon them that hate him (verse 7); his declaring that it is better to trust in the Lord than to put any confidence in man (verse 8); the power given him to destroy all nations in the name of the Lord (verse 10). All these expressions, I say, import some effects of his royal dignity, more permanent and extensive, and more evident tokens of the Divine interposition, than can be attributed to the former event; though that was not ejected without the direction of a particular providence. But all these effects, as all other effects of Christ’s mediatorial Office, being fully accounted for from the truth of His resurrection, and such facts as were consequential to it; it is most reasonable to consider the text as respecting His resurrection.
II. Upon what reasons so eminent and peculiar a distinction of this day is made.
1. The resurrection of Christ did evidence the Divine authority of our Saviour, as it could not, upon the principles of the Jews themselves, have been ejected, but only by a Divine power.
2. But the proof, indeed of the Divine mission of Christ from His resurrection does not only affect the Jews, but all other persons indifferently; for granting a power to man of doing very strange and surprising things by means of the union of his soul and body, according to the laws of which they here act upon one another, or upon other bodies; yet, when this union is dissolved, when the soul is incapable of acting either upon its own former body, or any body whatever, how is it possible to conceive that it should be able to restore the bodily organs, which it before informed, either to their proper offices or order again? This can only be the act of God, who made us and fashioned us; by whom, as the psalmist celebrates His wisdom and power, we are so fearfully and wonderfully made; in whose hand is the soul of every living thing; of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things.
III. What are those proper acts of joy and gladness wherewith it ought to be celebrated.
1. The first and highest expression of our joy on occasion of so extraordinary an act of the Divine power and goodness, ought to consist in those inward and spiritual sentiments which the soul of a good man naturally feels when he reflects on any special mercy of God, or any spiritual good which it is the means of conveying to him; especially in so ample a manner that it is fruitful and diffusive of many other spiritual goods. Such is the Divine mercy which we now commemorate; and therefore, if we commemorate it as we ought, we shall inwardly rejoice in the Lord, according to the joy in harvest, or as men rejoice when they divide the spoil on occasion of so great a flow of Divine blessings upon us all at once.
2. This internal joy ought also to be expressed by some outward and proper significations of it. Acts of religious praise and thanksgiving to God; and acts of innocent festivity in other external respects. (R. Fiddes.)
The Lord’s day
I. This day is distinguished by His triumphs--let us hail Him Conqueror.
II. This day He claims as an offering--let us present it with joyful obedience.
III. On this day He advances with peculiar privileges--let us get forth to meet Him with all the ardour of hope.
IV. On this day we discern our interest in the triumph of the Redeemer. (J. Hughes.)
The blessings of a day
A day, what is it? A space of light between two mountain-walls of darkness; a time of redemption from the kingdom of Chaos and Old Night; the half or the two-thirds of life really given us to live; the season of consciousness, duty, trial; the end and aim for which sleep is given, and the veil of temporary oblivion and rest spread over our faculties so many hours. Wonderful and rich, far beyond the line of our usual appreciation, is the gift of a day. It stands like a monument between the eternity of the past and the eternity of the future. One day! It is little; a fugitive twenty-four hours, a hurried routine, a mill-horse round of cares and toils, a succession of meals,--breakfast, dinner, supper,--a miniature life, “rounded with a sleep,” a daybreak of childhood, a morning of youth and hope, a noonday of manhood and activity, a twilight of age and pensiveness, a night of death. How quickly it is here, how soon it is gone! But in this very shortness of a day we discern a benevolent intention. Constituted as we are, we could not bear the burden of a double day. Literally, our “strength is according to our day, and our day according to our strength.” They have been weighed and balanced by a sure Hand, one to the other. The mechanical arrangements by which the day is made, the position of the earth and the sun and their respective revolutions, and those of the other planetary and celestial bodies, the nature of the influence exerted on us by the sun through light, heat, and electricity and other elements, too subtle and delicate for our coarse senses to take cognizance of them, all are indications of the Fatherly care over us, and fitted to assure us that “this is the day which the Lord hath made,” and to inspire us to “rejoice and be glad in it” We discern a most beneficent intention in the separation and subdivision of our life into daily fragments. Each night is a gentle semi-oblivion, that our past lives may not tyrannize over us, that the door of progress may still be kept open, that we may have in some sense a new and untrammelled being every day. Every night is a faint death, every morning a fresh birth. The blessing of the day depends in no slight degree on the manner in which we begin it, on the key-note of the morning hour. It is well begun by the Almighty Disposer. He gives us a new world, bathed in dew, blushing with the dawn, vocal with the song of birds, while clouds of vapour and smoke rise like columns of incense from hill and vale and human homes to heaven. Fair and gracious world of ours, we feel like saying, how sad and strange it is that we should ever forget that this is a Divine handiwork, or that we should ever abuse such royal gifts by our ingratitude and disobedience! Devotion is the spontaneous service of the morning. To invoke the guardian care of Heaven, and to bless its new mercies, is but a fitting counterpart to all the other beauty, and solemnity, and hope, and renewed life of the world. Shall the birds arise and sing at the gate of heaven, and man feel no uplifting sentiment at the birth of a new day? “Man,” says the psalmist, “goeth forth unto his work and to his labour until the evening.” That work and labour, the heat and burden of the day, called, in the external and figurative language of the elementary dispensation, “a curse,” have proved on long trial, and in the wide experience of a world, to be some of the best blessings of the day. Who has the pleasant, consciousness of being useful? The worker. Who stores up the rich memories of many things done? The worker. Who sleeps sweetly? The worker. Who relishes his food more than the epicure? The hard worker. Who enjoys leisure? He who has used his time so industriously that he has earned a right to be idle. Who can understand the full measure of blessing in a day, bug he who has so earnestly pursued its opportunities that its minutes are to him as gems, and its hours as diamonds? There is great work yet to be done on this planet,--continents to be reclaimed, oceans to be navigated, wild elements to be yoked to the car of human progress, acres of brains to be tilled, Augean stables of moral filth to be purified, swarming multitudes of souls to be touched to finer spiritual issues, vast social Saharas to be clothed with verdure, new and grander organizations in Church and State, and family, and art, and labour, and literature, to be formed, that shall make our modern homes, and sanctuaries and schools, galleries and Crystal Palaces, seem to be but the bungling work of apprentices compared with the productions of the perfect Master-workman. The past history of our race has its representative in the night,--dreamy, sleepy, irresponsible, fearful, often riotous, artificially lighted, addicted to passion, meteor-led night. The ages have been dark ages, and history has been profane, and the earth has not been holy land. But the dayspring from on high hath visited us, and the future is to be a day of action, usefulness, progress, as the past has been a night of preparation, dreams, and darkness. (A. A. Livermore.)
First, it brings with it a spiritual delight. Secondly, an external gladness which opens itself in signs and tokens. The spiritual delight which we treasure up within the soul looking steadfastly upon Jesus that died for our sins, and rose again for our justification, is heavenly and unutterable, it is a superlative joy that cries down all other petty delights. The external utterances of a pious joy are these--
1. Days of rest from bodily labour; for the meaner labour must give way when a better and a worthier is to be undertaken. And while the mind hath just occasion to make its abode in the house of gladness, the weed of ordinary toil and travel doth not become us; therefore it is fit that ordinary labour should sometimes surrender itself up to the service of God.
2. To laud the name of the Lord, and to give thanks unto Him are the only language of our thankfulness (Psalms 42:5).
3. God doth not deny it, but he that offereth Him praise doth honour Him; but will you know how that honour is best exalted? Make a cheerful noise to the God of Jacob, singing and making melody to the Lord with psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. If the Jews might justly say, how can we sing the Lord’s song, while we are in a strange land, while we are in captivity? then we must acknowledge, on the contrary, how can we choose but sing the Lord’s song, being delivered out of captivity? Singing of psalms is a most proper exercise of our reasonable service.
4. Another effect of Christian joy is to give, because it abounds. A joy that will not distribute to the needy is a shrunken withered joy, nay, a joy that will carry the curse of God with it, because it wants fruits; and a joy that will carry the curse of the poor with it, because they are suffered to pine and languish in our public gladness.
5. All sorts of mirth and innocent recreation, wherein our substance is not exhausted, nor our time trifled away, are agreeable to our Christian conversation. At our times of respite from sacred offices, to delight our sullen nature with harmless pleasures, it rubs off the rust of melancholy, and puts alacrity in us to rejoice always in the Lord. (Bp. Hacket.)
Save now, I beseech Thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech Thee, send now prosperity.
The voice of the Church
I. The voice of the Church in relation to all. Here is the voice of prayer (verse 25).
1. It is a prayer for immediate salvation. “Save now, we beseech Thee, O Lord.” The great want of mankind is salvation from their sins.
2. It is a prayer for immediate prosperity. “I beseech Thee, send now prosperity.” There are different kinds of prosperity. Some prosperities become curses. Temporal prosperity is often spiritual adversity. The prosperity which is here prayed for is soul prosperity--prosperity in all that is Christ-like.
II. The voice of the Church in relation to those who are entering it (verse 26). Here is a hearty welcome. The true Church is always ready to welcome those who enter it in the name of the Lord. Nay, it goes further, it sends out messengers to the highways and hedges, cud seeks to compel those who are morally hungry and thirsty, to come to ira feast.
III. The voice of the Church in relation to all within (verse 27).
1. It is the voice of mutual congratulation. He “hath showed us light.” How blessed are we!
2. It is the voice of mutual exultation. “Bind the sacrifice with cords,” etc. We should all provoke one another to love and good works. (Homilist.)
Prayer for prosperity
I. What is the object to be thus ardently desired? A Church is prosperous--
1. Where there is growing knowledge and holiness among its members.
2. When there is the cordial exhibition of brotherly love amongst its members.
3. When there is a constant accession of new converts.
II. Why we should be concerned to secure this prosperity.
1. The proof of our godly sincerity requires it.
2. The value of the object itself demands it.
3. No system of means can alone ensure this prosperity. (W. G. Barrett.)
A prayer for spiritual prosperity
I. The blessing implored.
1. That peace and union may prevail amongst us.
2. That a spirit of zeal may be manifested by us.
3. That increased spirituality may be found in us.
4. That true disciples may be added to us.
II. The earnestness employed. “O Lord, I beseech Thee!” It is the language of one who feels what he says. What is prayer without earnestness and fervour? What is the outward form without the inward feeling? (E. Temple.)
The plea for prosperity
I. In what does spiritual prosperity consist?
I. A growth in knowledge. In a prosperous Church the members will manifest a growing acquaintance with the teachings of God’s Word--their views of the Person and work of Christ, of the spirituality of God’s law, of the privileges and duties of piety will be expanded and enlarged.
2. Where this growth in knowledge and in spiritual understanding obtains there will be found a corresponding growth in holiness. The two things are inseparable (2 Corinthians 3:18).
3. A quickened Church will, as the result of its deepened spiritual life, address itself to aggressive work--to evangelize the nations, to convert the world.
II. What is essential to such prosperity?
1. Purity of doctrine. Truth is to the Church what food is to the body.
2. The maintenance of godly discipline. What should we think of a gardener who allowed a diseased or a withered branch to remain on the tree, or of a general who tolerated in his camp the presence of known traitors? Far more perilous is it for us to tolerate in the Church that which is manifestly evil.
3. Union of feeling and of action. On the field of battle a small band of brave men acting in unbroken phalanx, with one common determination, and under one bold and resolute leader, will accomplish far more than ten times their number acting singly and alone. So a Church composed but of few members, if they be living to God, one in feeling and in action, will do more for Christ and for the salvation of the world than ten times their number who are alienated in affection and who work independently of each other.
4. The manifest presence and power of the Holy Spirit. A Church without the Spirit is like an engine without steam; the engine may be beautiful to look upon, perfect in all its parts, admirably adapted to answer the ends for which it was made, but without steam there is no motion, no power.
III. What can we do to promote and ensure the prosperity of the Church? We suffer, the Church at large suffers, from the great rush and hurry of life in the present day. Let us find time for thought. If we do this our minds and our hearts will become full of the subject, and out of the abundance of the heart the mouth will speak. (C. Garrett.)
Prayer for the Church’s prosperity
I. What are the elements of true prosperity to such a community as the Christian Church? First, “righteousness”; the great generic principle of righteousness living in the heart, rising up to its ascendancy in the heart, and working itself out in the life: “righteousness and true holiness,” as the idea is amplified and illustrated. Second, “peace”; holy tranquillity, “the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and keepeth the heart and mind through Jesus Christ”; “peace” in the Christian, and “peace,” too, among Christians. And, third, “joy in the Holy Ghost”; “joy “ produced by “the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us,” and by the hope of glory.
II. From whom does prosperity come to the Church? The work is as really God’s, as is the production of the animal life which pulsates in our bodily frame; and so is all that belongs to the preservation of the spiritual life, and to its progress up to perfection. Is it nourished? He nourishes it. Is it revived? He revives it. Is it developed and exercised in holy and useful activity? He draws it out, and guides and sustains it (Jeremiah 33:4-9; Hosea 14:5-8).
III. What is required on the part of the Church in order to the attainment of prosperity?
1. Prayer is required of us for this purpose. The psalmist knew this: nay, more, he felt the knowledge to he so working at his heart, as to bring warm from his lips the words that lie before us, “Save now,” etc.
2. With our prayers we must combine activity.
3. Another thing necessary to the success of social prayer is pervasive unity of purpose, giving rise to unity of desire. (D. Young, D.D.)
I. The salvation of men is the first plea of the Church.
1. Our increase depends on it.
2. The Church’s best joy lives in it.
3. Our riches in gifts and graces, labours, and in all variety of experience, will be found as the Lord answers this prayer. We shall value our spiritual wealth, our wealth of gifts and graces, all the more if we know they come to us in answer to our own pleadings.
II. Soul culture and spiritual life is the best prosperity of a Church. Not numbers, or social status, or human applause, or intellectual greatness; but the spirituality of her life, and all increase of saved men brought into her midst.
III. These two matters that come out of the prayer of the text are the highest glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. He Himself came to save. That was His one great business while here among men. He came on this one specific errand, and when He had made it complete He passed up into the heavens, still to give repentance unto Israel and remission of sins. He is coming again to gather us to Himself. Let us hope and trust, let us watch and pray, and we shall not be disappointed. (W. Cuff.)
I. It is not to be determined by the mere number of the congregation.
II. Neither is prosperity determined by the wealth of the Church. History shows us that the days of least usefulness of the Church have been the days of its greatest wealth.
III. Prosperity is not determined either, by the magnificence of the meeting place.
IV. The way to judge of the prosperity of a Church is to see if it accomplishes the purpose for which it was organized. (W. L. Harris.)
The prosperity of Messiah’s kingdom
I. The nature of the prosperity here desired. It includes--
1. A revival in the personal religion of each member of the Christian Church.
2. Numerous conversions to God.
3. Harmony, peace, and joy in the Church.
4. Liberal support to religious institutions.
II. The importance of this prosperity.
1. This is important in its relation to your personal happiness. The Christian should not only possess but enjoy religion.
2. It is important in its relation to our usefulness. Spiritual prosperity is important that the parent may be a blessing to his children, that the Sabbath school teacher may be a blessing to his class, that the minister may be a blessing to his people, and that the Church may be a blessing to the world. Eminent piety is essential to eminent usefulness.
3. This prosperity is important in its relation to our ineptness for heaven. There are two things essential to our ineptness for heaven, viz. justification and sanctification. The first refers to a change of our state, the second to a change of our nature. Justification is derived from the righteousness of Christ, sanctification from the spirit of Christ. The one is instantaneous in its accomplishment, the other is gradual in its advancement. Justification gives us a title to heaven, sanctification a ineptness for it.
4. This prosperity is important when viewed in its relation to God’s glory. The fruitful Christian exercises strong faith in God, which produces ardent love, meek submission, and cheerful self-denial; these, and the other graces of the Spirit, reflect the highest honour upon the character and government of God. “Herein is My Father glorified that ye bring forth much fruit.”
III. The means in the use of which this prosperity may be secured. The Holy Spirit operates upon the human soul through the medium of truth, this truth is contained in the Scriptures, and is to be presented to the minds of men by the Christian Church. (H. Hollis.)
I. Wherein does it consist?
1. The preached Word made effectual to salvation.
2. A steadfast, zealous adherence to the leading doctrines of revelation.
3. A universal observance of the duties of religion.
4. Where the bond of union is such as to promise permanent stability. Not custom, nor wealth, but love.
5. Profession in grace, love, humility, and general resemblance to God.
II. Reasons why this should be adopted as a prayer.
1. Because this prosperity is from God.
2. And when you look to your own characters, you will find abundant reason for this prayer.
3. Your cordial adoption of this prayer will prove the truth, and promote the growth of your own personal religion. (John Clayton.)
The prosperity of the Church
This is the language of a man of God, who, by “prosperity” intended the progress and triumphs of Divine truth, the revival of true religion, the enlargement of the kingdom of God, embracing the best interests of the children of men.
I. What is the prosperity here solicited, and when may the children of God be regarded as in a prosperous state?
1. When her borders are extended--when the light of Divine truth is carried into the dark places of the earth, making inroads on the seats of ignorance, of sin, and of Satan.
2. When her converts increase.
3. When her members are fruitful.
4. When her helpers multiply.
5. When the Head is present with the Church.
II. What is necessary to prosperity? On what does it depend?
1. The blessing of God--without which the most able, learned, and zealous minister, without which the most pious, active, and generous people, without which the most unremitting exertions of both, will be perfectly unavailing.
2. Those means which the blessed God has appointed, and to which He has promised His blessing for a portion of success and prosperity, are such as the following:--
(1) Pure doctrine.
(2) Strictness of Christian discipline.
(4) A praying people.
(5) A faithful ministry. (W. Atherton.)
Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord.
Christ received with great joy
The words are an acclamation of the people, declaring and setting forth the welcome of Christ to all believing souls; their joy and rejoicing conceived upon the coming of Christ among them; their gratulation and thanksgiving for Christ’s appropinquation and coming nigh unto them; their vote and exoptation of all prosperity., blessed and happy success to Christ in His kingdom. Christ’s coming proves most joyful to them that lovingly receive and entertain Him. In the words we have in the general two things considerable--
1. A gratulation uttered by the people, Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord.
2. A benediction pronounced by the ministers of the Lord, We have blessed you out of the house of the Lord. In the gratulation there is--
(1) The agent, the people, they bless, they rejoice, they are thankful for Christ’s coming. Man hath greatest cause of all creatures to rejoice in and for the coming of Christ Jesus.
(2) There is the act, Blessed, praised, exalted, magnified be Christ. Christ, is worthy to be celebrated with all praises for His coming to us.
(3) There is the manner of their gratulation, blessed, expressed--
(i.) By way of thanksgiving and rejoicing, and--
(ii.) By way of exoptation and wishing. Whosoever truly rejoiceth in Christ doth also wish well to the cause and kingdom of Christ.
(4) There is the party coming, He who is the Son of God by eternal generation, and by grace of hvpostatical union, the Prince of the kings of the earth by authority and dominion; He who is the Head of the Church by spiritual jurisdiction; He who is the Redeemer of man by the merit of His obedience and passion; He who is the Conqueror over hell, death, sin, and Satan by His resurrection; He who by His office is the Prophet instructing us, the King commanding and defending us, and the Priest offering Himself a sacrifice for us; He who is the Mediator between God and us by His intercession, the fountain of all mercy, grace, and peace unto us by Divine ordination. Blessed be He, welcome be He, in Him let our souls rejoice, His coming let us entertain with the chiefest and strength of our rejoicing. The Lord Jesus ought to be the prime and complete object of man’s joyfulness.
(5) Here is His motion, cometh. Christ as God is everywhere, and neither goes nor comes, but fills all places; yet He cometh by His laws and ordinances, as a Prince by His proclamations; He cometh by His ministers, as a King by His ambassadors; He cometh by His incarnation, as a brother taking our nature upon Him; He cometh by His gifts and graces bestowed on us, as a friend cometh by his love-tokens; He cometh by His Word and Gospel, as the sun cometh by his light, enlightening us, as a king cometh by his sceptre binding, bowing, and inclining our hearts unto obedience. (A. Grosse.)
The coming deliverer
During the dark days of the struggle for Italian liberty the people generally looked upon Garibaldi as their invincible deliverer. Prisoners, hurried away to loathsome dungeons, would be cheered as they passed along the streets by friends whispering in their ears, “Courage, Garibaldi is coming!” Men would steal out at night and chalk on the wails and pavements, “Garibaldi is coming!” And when the news of his approach near to a city was announced the people broke out into the rapturous shout, “Garibaldi is coming!” He came, and Italy broke her political and religious fetters never to be so enslaved again. A greater than Garibaldi is coming to God’s people. The Desire of all nations is on the way. Jesus is coming, coming to reign, and His kingdom is of icy, peace, blessing eternal. (H. O. Mackey.)
We have blessed you out of the house of the Lord.
A benediction uttered by the ministers of the Lord
1. The parties blessing, the ministers of the Lord; we, who are called of God to this sacred function, who are appointed to make prayer and supplication for you, to pronounce a blessing upon you. Holy and faithful ministers are the instrumental causes of great blessings to God’s Church and servants.
2. Here is their act, an act of blessing, We have blessed. Ministers bless the people sometime by way of vote and exoptation, prayer and supplication; sometime by way of vocal pronunciation, pronouncing good things in the name of God upon them; sometime by way of prophecy and prediction, foretelling great blessings to come; sometime by way of doctrine and instruction. They declare and open the blessings which God hath prepared for them, and the Lord by them, as by His ministerial instruments, communicates His grace and blessing to the people. It must be the care of ministers so to demean themselves in their function that they prove a blessing to the people.
3. Here is the object or parties blessed, you; you to whom Christ’s coming is acceptable, you who wish well to Christ’s kingdom, you who readily endeavour the exaltation of Christ’s name and Gospel, we have blessed you. The labours of God’s ministers prove a blessing only to such people as rejoice in, and endeavour the advancement of, the Gospel.
4. Here is the place from whence they blessed the people, out of the house of theLord, the place of God’s public worship, where His saints are assembled, His ordinances sincerely handled, His name invocated, His Word preached, and religious duties celebrated. God useth to dispense His spiritual blessings in the public and sacred assemblies. (A. Grosse.)
God is the Lord, which hath showed us light.
The light from God
I propose to consider how the words of my text may be used in an improper manner, and how, as I think, we may use them aright.
1. If in saying “God is the Lord who hath showed us light” we imply that we in any way have authority to dictate to our follow-men what they should believe, we are making a most pernicious use of them. Men like ourselves found by prayer and by the right exercise of their reason some precious belief which for all practical purposes may be called for them “the truth.” It was, we, will say, some great advance on the beliefs prevailing around them; it was the clear detection and straightforward repudiation of palpable error; it was as the lifting of a dark mist which had clouded their souls. In so far it was true; and native piety would make each pioneer and reformer in turn lift up his heart in gratitude and say, “God is the Lord who hath showed us light.” But whatever truth was thus discovered we may be very sure was only partial. At its best and brightest it was but a streak of dawn, only one ray of that everlasting sun of the truth of God which no man can look upon and live. This was not all. The truth, whatever it was, had to be proclaimed. It must take shape in words; and from that moment it was liable to be misstated or misunderstood.
2. I turn now to consider in what way we may use the words of my text aright. It is especially good for us to keep ever before our minds the source of any light that shines in our hearts. There is no more wholesome state to be in than in one of perpetual thankfulness, both as a safeguard against conceit and vainglory, and as an incentive to fresh effort in the pursuit of truth. We have to thank God and not ourselves for every step in our victorious march. He it was who gave the first impulse to our search for purer truth, who made us restless under the bondage of tradition and filled us with longings to know more of Himself, He it was who in answer to our cry poured upon us His blessed Spirit, enlightening our understandings, quickening our consciences and warming our hearts by His love. I believe it to be a fact that we cannot ask God for too much light. The more we ask, the more we receive; and although the sanctities of the soul are far too sacred to be exposed to public scrutiny, many a prayerful heart can bear witness to the ever ready hell? of our Father in heaven when His children lift up their cry for His strength and guidance. “Many are the perplexities of the righteous, but the Lord delivereth them out of all.” Still we must never forget that all this is between ourselves and God, and must never be used as a means of illegitimate influence, much less as a plea for authority over the souls of others. God has never promised to work a miracle to keep a man from error, must less to give him spiritual authority over his fellow-men It is enough that each uplifted seat is conscious of Divine illumination exactly in proportion to its own needs and for its own use alone. We know it does not render us incapable of error; we know how far it must fall short of all the truth which God has in store. But we, also know that in answer to one cry, God gives quite as much light as He sees fit, as much as He knows our souls can receive, and--most important of all--as much as we can make good use of in our service of our brethren. (C. Voysey, B. A.)
The use to make of the light
1. Rejoice in this light. Not as children, that come abroad to play in the sunshine, and make no more account of it. Nor as a people that never saw the sun, step out of their doors to gaze upon it, and then turn their backs on it. But rejoice with a solid joy, as they whom God hath “brought out of darkness into His marvellous light.”
2. Walk worthy of this light (Ephesians 4:1). Be children of the light. As the light shines on thee, let it shine in thee. Thou hast small comfort to be in the light unless the light be in thee. Saith the prophet to the Church (Isaiah 60:1). As God hatch showed His light to you, “so let your light shine before men,” etc.
3. Take heed of sore eyes. Pleasures, lusts, and vanities make the eyes sore that are dotingly fastened on them. The usurer with telling his gold; the haughty with contemplating his greatness; the drunkard with looking at the wine laughing in the cup; the lustful with gazing on his painted damnations, make their eyes so sore, that they cannot look up and behold this light.
4. Take benefit of this light while it shines. Either this light may be set to thee, or thou be set to it. That to thee, by removing the candlestick; thou to that, by the hand of death, which shall send thee to the land of forgetful darkness. Our Saviour taught us this, not only in precept, but in practice (John 9:4). Let us not do like some courtiers, that having light allowed them, play it out at cards, and go to bed darkling.
5. Lastly, help to maintain this light, that it go not out. If you would have the lamps of the sanctuary shine, pour in your oil. Grudge not a little cost to keep this light clear. Repine not you then at a little charge for the everlasting lamp of the Gospel. (T. Adams.)
Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.--
Binding the sacrifice
Bishop Wordsworth gives the most probable explanation of this difficult passage. “The Hebrew word ‘chug,’ translated ‘sacrifice,’ literally means ‘a feast-day.’ Probably the word is adopted here, because the expression is a figurative one. We do not hear that the sacrifices were literally bound to the horns of the altar, on which the blood was sprinkled (Exodus 29:16; Leviticus 4:7; Leviticus 8:15; Leviticus 9:9). Nor does it appear to have been possible that the immense number of victims offered on the day of dedication (Ezra 6:17) could have been so bound. The Targum, indeed, explains the words as meaning, ‘Bring the sacrifice bound until it arrives at the horns of the altar.’ But the sense seems to be, bind the festival of dedication to the altar of God--that is, let the joys of all Israelites be concentrated as the joys of one man in a great national act of thankful communion and self-consecration to God. Let the people of God be no more separated from one another by schism, as they were by the severance of Israel from Judah; let them no more be scattered, as they were in the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity; but let them all be bound to one centre of unity--the altar of God.” In view of this explanation of the expression as a figurative one, there is no need for inquiries concerning ancient customs of binding sacrifices to altars, or for the assumption that any new practice was enjoined. The passage is best treated as a poetical figure.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 118". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent