Click here to join the effort!
Blessed be the Lord my strength, which teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.
The Lord teaching us to fight
I do not know what that “Book of the Wars of the Lord” was which is referred to once or twice in the Old Testament; but I apprehend the Book of Psalms was such a Book to the Israelites, and that it has been such a book to Christendom. We may call it a collection of prayers, hymns, thanksgivings,--what we please,--but a record of fights it assuredly is. And this sentence, which occurs in one of the latest portions of it, is a fit summary of its contents, and a kind of moral to be drawn from the whole of it. I am far from thinking that this sentence applies exclusively to what we designate spiritual conflicts. I should suppose that David, or whoever the writer of the psalm was, gave thanks that he had been able to fight with the Philistines and Ammonites. Nay, I should think he gave thanks that he had been obliged to fight with them; that he had not been allowed to rust in the ease which he would have chosen for himself. Man is made for battle. His inclination is to take his ease: it is God who will not let him sink into the slumber which he counts so pleasant, and which is so sure to end in a freezing death. “Blessed be the Lord God, who teacheth the hands to war, and the fingers to fight!”
1. This thanksgiving is one of universal application: there are some cases in which we shrink from using it, and yet in which we are taught by experience how much better we should be if we dared to use it in all its force and breadth. There are those who feel much more than others the power of fleshly lusts. To withstand these is with them, through education, or indulgence, such an effort as their nearest friends may know nothing of. Oh, what help, then, may be drawn from the text! There is One who does know exactly what I am, and what I can bear. The constitution, the circumstances, are understood by Him; He has ordained them for me. And yet He is not tempting me to sink; He is tempting me to rise. He has allowed me to enter into this conflict that I may come out of it a humbler, sadder, stronger man. He does not desire me to fall in it. The falls I have had are all so many motives and goads to put that trust in Him which they show me that I cannot put in myself.
2. Violent desires or passions remind us of their presence. The fashion of the world is hemming us in and holding us down without our knowing it. A web composed of invisible threads is enclosing us. It is not by some distinct influence that we are pressed, but by an atmosphere full of influences of the most mixed quality, hard to separate from each other. How natural it is to yield to these influences! how very mischievous the effort to resist them often appears,--yes, and is! For how many a man becomes impatient of the habits of that particular society in which he is born; fancies that the habits of some other must be better in themselves or be better for him; flings himself eagerly into it, and finds that the chain which bound him before is more closely about him now. If it galls him, that is something to be thankful for. Blessed be the God of Israel for this! since surely it must be He, and no other, who shows us that we do not want to be loose from government, but to be under a stricter and a more righteous government than that of accident and convention and the floating opinion of an age; that we do not want to be more but less under the yoke of our own fancies and conceits; that self-will and vanity have been the great destroyers of all freedom and manliness in us and in our race; that these have built up that false world which has become our prison-house. Blessed be the Lord God for this! since to such awakenings of the conscience in men we owe all great and earnest reformations, all victories over desperate abuses which private interests established and sustained.
3. Least of all is there any natural energy in us to contend against that enemy who is described in Scripture as going about seeking whom he may devour. There is a natural, and therefore a very general, impression of his existence; there is a sense in all men that in some form or other he is not far from them. But the impulse among rude people is to conciliate the adversary who, as their consciences tell them, has had, and still has, such dominion over them. He is a god whom it is worth while to persuade with litanies and sacrifices that he will spare his victims. By degrees, if there is no counteracting force, he is certain to become the god: he will demand all services for himself. Among the civilized it is otherwise. They are inclined to regard the devil as a fiction of the nursery; it is the shadow of a name which cannot be banished from conversation, nor quite from the thoughts, but it means nothing. Yet something steals over these refined people which they know not exactly how to describe. Apathy, loss of power, despondency,--these are some of the names which they invent for it. Is it not true, then, that the time which boasts to have outlived the evil spirit is the one which is most directly exposed to his assaults? May it not be that our progress, which is not to be denied, and for which we are to feel all gratitude, has brought us into a closer conflict with the spiritual wickedness in high places than our forefathers were ever engaged in? Our progress!--cause for thankfulness, if this is the result of it! Yes; blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who teacheth our hands to war, and our fingers be fight. Blessed is He for bringing us into immediate encounter with His own immediate enemies, that so we may know more than others did of His own immediate presence! It is a terrible thing indeed to have the spirits of indolence and indifference and vanity all about us, and to think that they are mere names and abstractions. But it is a glorious thing to be roused up to the apprehension of them as real enemies, from whom none but a real Friend, an actual Captain of the Lord’s host, can deliver us! (F. D. Maurice, M. A.)
God as our General
During the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, Colonel Gardiner, the friend of Dr. Doddridge, and Christian soldier, who was afterwards killed at the battle of Preston-pans, went to Stirling to a meeting of the gentlemen of that town to devise means of opposing the Highlanders, who were approaching under Prince Charles. Wishing to encourage his listeners to make every effort, he dwelt on the deficiencies of the opposing army, showed them its weaknesses, and somewhat boastfully declared that if he were only at the head of a certain regiment which he had formerly commanded he would not fear to encounter the whole rebel force, and he was sure he would then give a good account of them. Just then the Rev. Mr. Erskine, who stood by the Colonel’s side, whispered into his ear, “Say under God, Colonel.” At once Gardiner turned, and the hero of a hundred fights replied, “Oh, yes, Mr. Erskine, I mean that, and with God as our General we must be conquerors.” Christians should never forget that God is their General. It is He who is in command, and who brings the victory.
Lord, what is man, that Thou takest knowledge of him!
The vanity of man; and Christianity its antidote
We must take care, in denouncing human depravity, and declaiming on human misery, not to decry human nature; for that would be a procedure of a plainly immoral and irreligious tendency, instead of being praiseworthy; and it would involve untruth.
The temple is in ruins, and “the Great Inhabitant is gone.” But still we meet, here with a broken shaft, and there with a mutilated wreath; although all only sufficient to awaken melancholy remembrances, and make us say, “Here God once dwelt.” And yet “man is like to vanity”; and the moment we have read the text it finds an echo in our bosoms.
I. The vanity of man. There are two words in our Bibles with which we are familiar, Death and Vanity. They are both employed to express the desolate estate into which man’s fall has plunged him. Death sometimes includes the sin of that estate as well as its penal consequences. So sometimes does vanity. It is sometimes used as but another name for sin (Psalms 12:2; Job 15:35; Romans 1:21; Ephesians 4:17). But it appears to be the more appropriate function of the Bible-word to express the penal consequences of sin (Job 15:31; Psalms 78:33; Romans 8:20). Sin has driven all the originally solid and desirable out of man. It has left him the lifeless, bloodless, unsubstantial ghost of what once he was.
1. The life of man is perishable and ephemeral.
2. It is very far from yielding him satisfaction while it lasts. Man cannot find what he was made to find. He is like a long-lost child, with faint and melancholy recollections lingering in him of a sunny land and a pleasant home. And, closely connected with this, man cannot make of life what he has shrewd suspicions it was given to him that he might make of it. It is soon to end; and yet he knows that he has not been turning it to the right account; and, what is worse, he feels that even yet he cannot do so. Go then it must, and he can make nothing to his satisfaction out of it.
II. Christianity the antidote of human vanity.
1. It brings redemption by the Son of God.
2. It brings regeneration by the Spirit of God.
3. It gives faith in God.
4. It opens up the glorious spiritual world to view, and intercourse, and hope. (H. Angus.)
I. An intellectual problem.
1. What is man in his constitution?
(1) What is he corporeally? Medical science, from the beginning, has concerned itself with this question, and, as yet, has reached no satisfactory solution.
(2) What is he mentally? Psychology has pondered on this question for ages, and has not, up to the present hour, reached a satisfactory explanation.
(3) What is he morally? Ethical science has employed its most earnest efforts in order to find out whether man is a moral being or not, and, if he is, what are his distinguishing faculties, and what his ultimate destiny.
2. What is man in his relations? His relations to the material and the spiritual, the human and the Divine.
3. What is man in his character? Has he fallen from a higher type of character, or is he gradually rising out of a lower? Is his moral character a progressive evolution? Here is the problem, “What is man?” “Truly,” says Sir Thomas Browne, “the whole creation is a mystery, and particularly that of man.” “Man,” says Carlyle, “stands in the centre of nature, his fraction of time encircled by eternity, his hand-breadth of space encircled by infinitude.”
II. A religious sentiment.
1. The exclamation assumes that the Almighty does take special notice of man. The shepherd is interested in his one lost sheep. The housewife in her one lost piece of silver. The father in his one lost son.
2. The exclamation breathes the spirit of amazement at this. It is so contrary to what might antecedently have been expected, so contrary to what a guilty conscience would have foreboded. (David Thomas, D. D.)
Worthless man much regarded by the mighty God
I. Scriptural solution of the question.
1. As a creature of God, man is--
(1) A piece of modified dust, enlivened with the breath of God (Genesis 2:7; 1 Corinthians 15:47).
(2) A potter’s vessel, that is easily dashed and broken (Psalms 2:9; Romans 9:21).
(3) Grass (Isaiah 40:6-23.40.8).
(4) The drop of a bucket, etc. (Isaiah 40:15).
(5) Nothing, and less than nothing (Isaiah 40:17).
2. As a fallen creature, man is--
(1) Diseased, overrun with a loathsome leprosy from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot: the disease of sin has invaded the very vitals, insomuch that the very mind and conscience is defiled and wasted, etc.
(2) Ugly and loathsome (Job 15:16).
(3) Impotent and helpless.
(6) Noxious and hurtful.
(8) Dead (Ephesians 2:1)
II. What is imported in God’s regarding man, or making account of him.
1. That he is yet not beyond God’s notice and observation.
2. That the regard God shows unto man does not flow from anything in himself.
3. That it is the fruit of His own free grace and sovereign will and pleasure.
4. That God has no need of man.
5. That God’s mercy and love unto man, and the son of man, is of a preventing nature: man is not seeking after God when He takes knowledge of him in a way of mercy.
6. That whatever man be, however despicable, low, and inconsiderable, yet God treats him as if he were some great and considerable person. Hence He is said to magnify him (Job 7:17).
III. Wherein doth God discover His regard unto man?
1. Take a short view of the regard that God shows in common unto all men.
(1) Observe what regard God showed unto man, that petty, poor creature, at his creation.
(2) Consider the regard God shows unto man in the course of His common providence, and that notwithstanding his apostasy.
(a) Although we be all transgressors from the very womb, yet He continues a succession of men upon the earth.
(b) See the wonderful care that God has in and about the formation of man in the womb.
(c) Whenever man is brought into the world, although he is the most helpless creature in himself, yet He has provided the best of help to cherish and preserve him.
2. Take a view of the good of His chosen.
(1) Before time.
(2) In time.
(3) After time ends, in eternity (1 Corinthians 2:9).
IV. Show that this is truly wonderful and surprising.
1. It is surprising, if we consider God’s infinite and amazing greatness and glory.
2. It is surprising, if we consider what man is, what a poor, inconsiderable, contemptible creature he is, both as a creature and as a sinner.3. It is surprising and wonderful, because it cannot be conceived or expressed; it runs beyond all thought and all words.
1. See hence the folly of all such as are taken up in admiring any created excellency, either to be found in themselves, or others of the human raze, without running up to the fountain head, an infinite God, from whom all being, beauty, glory, and excellency doth flow.
2. See hence the horrid ingratitude of sinners in waging war against God, who is so good and so kind unto man.
3. See hence the way and method that God takes to “lead sinners to repentance”: why, He just pursues them with His kindness, and draws them “with cords of a man, with bands of love; knowest thou not, O man, that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?”
4. Is God so good and so kind to worm man? then see hence, what a reasonable command the first command of the law is, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.”
5. See hence the criminal nature of the sin of unbelief, which is a saying upon the matter, God is not to be trusted, notwithstanding all His kindness, pity, and love to man.
6. Is God so kind to man? worm, worthless many Is the regard that He shows to us so surprising and wonderful? then let us discover a regard to Him, and to everything that belongs to Him.
(1) In His works of nature.
(2) In His works of providence.
(3) In His Christ.
(4) In His Scriptures.
(5) By attending His courts. (E. Erskine.)
The Divine condescension
I. The Great Being who regards--Jehovah.
1. Infinitely blessed in Himself.
2. He has dominion over all.
3. He is well acquainted with all our conduct.
4. He hates sin with an infinite hatred.
II. The object regarded--man.
1. A most mean object.
2. A most frail being.
3. Singularly poor.
(1) Spiritually destitute.
(2) Spiritually deep in debt.
(3) Unable to escape his creditor.
4. Spiritually loath-some.
5. Full of malignity.
III. The nature of the regard shown by God to man. God hath shown his love to man--
1. By assuming wonderfully gracious characters. David exclaimed, “Lord, what is man,” etc., immediately after he had been surveying some of God’s principal titles. “Blessed be the Lord my strength,” etc.
2. By conceiving many kind thoughts about his welfare.
3. By uttering many gracious expressions to him and concerning him.
4. By acting a gracious part towards him.
5. By conferring favours upon him.
6. By what He has endured for him. (E. Brown.)
A fourfold wonder
I. In a state of nature. “Of few days, and full of trouble.” “As soon as we are born, we go astray, speaking lies.” “Lord, what is man?” An immortal creature, and yet his immortality uncared for! A corrupt creature, and yet no holiness sought! A blind creature, and yet no sight implored! A redeemed creature, and yet that redemption slighted and forgotten!
II. In a state of grace. “Old things have passed away.” Old habits, old associations, old acquaintances, no longer please. “All things have become new.” The man has new motives, new desires, new feelings, and he delights in the society and friendship of new companions.
III. In a state of torment. “Man dieth; man wasteth away; he giveth up the ghost, and where is he?” The wicked will rise “to shame and everlasting contempt.”
IV. In a state of glory. “Whom He justifies, them He also glorifies.” He gives grace, and He gives glory, and no good thing will He withhold from you, if you are only His children, washed in His blood, sanctified by His Spirit, and robed in His righteousness. (C. Clayton, M. A.)
His days are as a shadow.
Human life a shadow
I. A shadow is compounded of light and darkness; for when no object intercepts the light of the sun, or when the light of the sun is withdrawn, no shadow is produced. In like manner, the state of man in the present world is made up of joy and sorrow; while, as in the emblem, the latter greatly preponderates.
II. A shadow seems to be something, when in reality it is nothing. If you grasp it, you prove its emptiness. The pleasures, riches, and honours of the present world seem important to the eye of the carnal mind when viewed at a little distance; they attract attention, excite desire, and are eagerly pursued. But when, the object being attained, they are closely examined, how empty and unsatisfactory do they prove!
III. A shadow is the subject of continual changes, till at length it finally and suddenly ceases. In the morning, when the sun first rises above the horizon, it is weak and extended to a great length. Towards noon it gains strength, and is contracted in its dimensions. From thence to sunset it gradually becomes less distinct, and at last suddenly and wholly disappears. Man, survey in this emblem thy life l How lively and affecting the description! (Cf. Job 14:1-18.14.2; James 4:14).
IV. A. Shadow cannot exist longer than the sun’s continuance above the horizon, and is every moment liable to annihilation by the intervention of a cloud. In like manner, human life generally lasts but threescore years and ten, or four-score years; and may, by a sudden accident or the power of disease, be much curtailed.
V. A shadow, when gone, leaves no track of its existence behind. This also is the case with the riches, pleasures, and honours of the world. This world is no further substantial, or of importance, than as it stands connected with the next. (The Christian Guardian.)
Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.
The kindling of the heart
It must be striking indeed to any one living in the neighbourhood of a chain of volcanoes to see those mountains which have long lain dormant suddenly tremble and throw up smoke. It must seem to them as though God laid His finger on the mountain peak, and called its hidden forces into activity, as the touch of a musician on the key of an instrument awakes a musical note. Some such scenes, transacted in the moral world, are quite as striking as those which occur in the material world. There are human natures which are cold and impassive, which become full of emotion and glow with heat at the touch of God. It was so at Pentecost. Before that day how faint-hearted, narrow-minded, short-visioned were the apostles. But how changed were they after the cloven tongues had rested on their heads. Fear was banished, their caution had disappeared, trampled down by their zeal, their understandings were illumined, their hearts burned with the fire of love, it was woe to them if they preached not the Gospel. “If He do but touch the mountains, they shall smoke.” And now, what are we to learn from this? That there are times when God touches the heart, and the emotions are stirred. Perhaps the conscience is agitated by remorse for sin, perhaps with a sudden pang of sorrow for wasted opportunities, perhaps it quakes with fear of the judgments of God, perhaps there comes the flame of Divine love touching the heart, as a taper touches the wick of a candle, bidding it flame. And what then? If the feeling be allowed to be transient, if it be not followed up by an act of will, accepting the call, responding to grace, if it be followed by no resolutions, no struggle for amendment,--then it is the old story of Felix, and Agrippa, and Simon the Sorcerer over again. But, oh! if the touch of the finger of God calls up the long dormant will, if resolutions of amendment are formed, and a struggle be entered on which is to continue through life, then it is the old and beautiful story over again of Magdalen penitent and loving much, of Peter weeping and rising courageous to die for his Lord, of Saul the persecutor becoming Paul the preacher of righteousness, of John Boanerges transformed into the apostle of love. If ever your heart is stirred, at once turn the emotion to account, transform the feeling into practice. Then the feeling does not pass away for ever, it has left its trace, it has stirred your whole being, and has begun to transform your life. The whole mount of your heart will quake with the consciousness of sin, and your affections will smoke altogether as an offering of a sweet savour to God. (S. Baring Gould, M. A.)
It is He that giveth salvation unto kings.
The care of Providence in defence of kings
God in the government of the world exercises a peculiar and extraordinary providence over the persons and lives of princes.
I. Upon what account any act of God’s providence may be said to be peculiar and extraordinary.
1. When a thing falls out beside the common and usual operation of its proper cause.
2. When a thing falls out beside or contrary to the design of expert, politic, and shrewd persons, contriving or acting in it.
3. When a thing comes to pass visibly and apparently beyond the power of the cause immediately employed in it.
II. How and by what means God does after such an extraordinary manner save and deliver princes.
1. By endowing them with a more than ordinary sagacity and quickness of understanding above other men (1 Kings 4:29; Proverbs 20:8; Proverbs 25:5).
2. By giving them a singular courage and presence of mind in cases of difficulty and danger (1 Samuel 10:9; 1 Samuel 11:6).
3. By disposing of events and accidents in a strange concurrence for their advantage and preservation.
4. By wonderfully inclining the hearts and wills of men to a benign affection towards them (2 Samuel 19:14).
5. By rescuing them from unseen and unknown mischiefs prepared against them.
6. By imprinting a certain awe and dread of their persons and authority upon the minds of their subjects (Daniel 5:12).
7. By disposing their hearts to such virtuous and pious courses as He has promised a blessing to; and by restraining them from those ways to which He has denounced a curse. And this is the greatest deliverance of all; as having a prospect upon the felicity of both worlds, and laying a foundation for all other deliverances.
III. The reasons why Providence is so much concerned in the salvation and deliverance of kings.
1. They are the greatest instruments in the hand of Providence to support government and civil society in the world.
2. They have the most powerful influence upon the concerns of religion, and the preservation of the Church, of all other persons whatsoever.
IV. Some useful deductions.
1. The duty and behaviour of princes towards God. It shows them from whom, in their distress, they are to expect, and to whom, in their glory, they are to ascribe, all their deliverances.
2. Does not God by such a protecting providence over kings point out to us the sacredness of their persons? and command a reverence where tie Himself thinks fit to place an honour? Does not every extraordinary deliverance of a prince carry this inscription upon it in the brightest characters, “Touch not Mine anointed”? (R. South, D. D.)
Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children.
A wise, patriotic prayer
I. The cultivation of moral worth amongst young people is of vast importance to a state. The moral character which the patriot here desiderates for the young people of his country is presented in two ways.
1. By a moral contrast (verse 11).
2. By a metaphorical description (verse 12).
II. The connection between the moral worth of young people and the physical prosperity of a country. The patriot prays for the moral excellence of the young people, not merely for their own sake, but also for the sake of the prosperity of the state (Psalms 144:13-19.144.15).
1. All the provisions necessary to the material happiness of mankind must come from the earth. All the food we require--vegetable and animal--and all the clothing we require, God has shut up in the earth, as in a chest, for our use. There in their rudimental elements are the corn and the cattle, the costumes to screen us from the scorching sun and protect us from the cold winds.
2. These provisions require for their development the suitable agency of man. It is for man to unlock the chest, to bring out the germs and to cultivate them into fruition. Even Paradise would not yield provisions without the tilling hand of Adam.
3. This suitable agency can only be guaranteed by the moral rectitude of the population. A high moral tone of character will stimulate the study of agricultural science, ensure industry, economy and temperance. Thus “godliness is profitable to all things.” Thus, and thus only, can a state prosper (verse 15). (David Thomas, D. D.)
That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth.--
Moral reform essential to national prosperity
I. What are the elements of national prosperity?
2. Competent affluence.
3. Sufficient and suitable means of employment for all classes.
5. Good laws, well administered.
6. Peace--internal and external.
7. A government and magistrates of a good and excellent kind.
8. A revenue competent to all the purposes of a wise and righteous government.
II. These elements of national prosperity and happiness cannot be obtained or preserved except by the influence of true religion.
1. The nature and tendency of what is opposed to religion.
(1) Selfishness, which makes the heart hard.
(2) Indolence and improvidence.
(5) Disregard to God.
2. True religion produces all those qualities which are the immediate spring and cause of prosperity and happiness.
(1) A regard for God.
(4) A deep sense of the value of time, and the end of human existence.
(5) Industry and diligence.
6. Attention to duty.
7. Temperance, chastity, etc. (J. P. Smith, D. D.)
Ideal youthhood: -
I. Its elements.
2. Beauty. Not veneered impotency, but polished power.
3. Religiousness. All must be inspired by the Divine.
4. Usefulness. No indolent living for oneself, but a self-sacrificing devotion to the good of others.
II. Its realization. Three things necessary.
1. Original capacity.
(1) Religious instincts.
(2) Moral capabilities.
(3) Intellectual faculties.
(4) Physical powers.
2. Appropriate culture.
(1) Based on a radical moral change.
(2) Suited to the varied constituents of our being.
Our religious nature must be cultured, by forming us to habits of worship. Our moral nature must be cultured, by forming us to habits of truthfulness, purity, honesty, and love. Our intellectual nature must be cultured, by forming us to habits of study. The mind must be disciplined and stored with useful knowledge. Our physical nature must be cultured, by forming us to habits of health. Suitable food, pure air, due exercise, and avoidance of sensual indulgence.
3. Voluntary co-operation.
(1) Realize the true object of life. Why are you here? Why are you to be cultured?
(2) Make the most of your opportunities. Yours, as English-born in this century, are very great. See that they are eagerly seized and diligently used.
(3) Be actuated by the highest motives. Not selfish, but benevolent and pious motives wilt lead you on to ideal youthhood and ideal manhood. (T. Baron.)
The ideal young man and young woman
1. The young man is compared to a tree which is, of course, not inside the house, but out in the open; not sheltered within the walls, but exposed to all the vicissitudes of the atmosphere and to changes of climate. He has gone forth to battle with the forces of the world, and to do his work in it. Firmly rooted in the ground, he grows up (as the psalm says) “in his youth.” He throws out his faculties and powers freely in every direction. The rough winds of life blow around him, but he wrestles with them, and heeds them not: indeed, the blast of difficulty only serves to fix him more deeply in the soil, and contributes to his courage and his strength. He grows upward: there is nothing interposing itself between him and heaven itself--no overhanging vice, no deadening sin or stiffing worldliness, to stunt and dwarf his development. He expands because he reaches out towards the sky. What a graphic picture of the ideal Christian gentleman in the prime vigour of his youth! with nothing squalid, or mean, or miserable, or petty, or unclean, or false about him; but with all his thoughts pure, and all his aims noble, and all his tendencies in the right direction: his life an example and a blessing, a help and a strength to those who come in contact with him.
2. Now turn to the other side and observe the contrast. Here we have something in the house, and not outside of it. It is not a tree: it is a graceful column. It is not intended for rough contact with the crowd. It is rather the ornament and the blessing of the house itself. And it is sculptured into forms of exquisite beauty. You will observe that no clumsy workman has been engaged in producing it, but that, although it may be intended for an ordinary household, it is hewn and fashioned in such a way as to be fit for a palace. The daughter--that is, the young woman here depicted--is spoken of as a column. Not characterized, as some columns are, by sturdy, massive strength, but rather marked by gracefulness; rather a slender-shafted column than anything else, she is yet no mere piece of ornamentation, but does her part in the sustaining and upholding of the household. If a girl cannot go out into the world and labour, so as to be able to contribute by her earnings to the maintenance of the family (and few can do that), at least there are many conceivable ways in which she may contrive to lighten the burden laid upon the shoulders of her parents. Parents grow old; and what in their younger days was easily borne becomes (occasionally, at least) irksome, and sometimes almost intolerable, to their failing strength and their clouded faculties. Or sickness comes into the household, and calls for patient nursing. Or little brothers and sisters require management, and perhaps teaching. Or it may be a blight falls upon the family prosperity; and then there must be a curtailing of accustomed comforts, and a necessary taking up of somewhat uncongenial occupations. But the imagery points net only, I think, to the work done, but also to the manner in which it is done. A pillar may support a rock, or help to support it, and yet be a coarse and clumsy sort of affair after all. It may be rough, instead of being polished. But this pillar spoken of by the psalmist is polished; and not only polished, but adorned with lovely sculptures. And there it stands before us, in its quiet gracefulness and beauty, a most engaging and most attractive object. Now, what is meant by this? External accomplishment? Well, yes, perhaps--nay, probably yes--the grace of a self-possessed and ladylike manner, the charm of a cultivated taste, of a musical voice, of a pure style--all the advantages, in fact, of a well-used education. These are things by no means to be despised. And, indeed, it were much to be wished that the girls of our ordinary English families, when their course of instruction is over, would take up, if only for their own sakes, some definite study--some branch of science, or some field of literature, or some period of history, or some foreign language, or some department of music, or of painting--something which shall find them occupation, and furnish a sphere for the faculties which God has bestowed upon them, and which at the same time shall not interfere with their duties, but rather make them more fit for any higher work for God and their fellow-creatures in which they may be called upon to engage. However, the polish and the gracefulness of which I speak is rather that of inward life and character, than that of outward accomplishments. It is the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is, in the sight of God, of great price. It is the tender consideration, the loving sympathy, the unselfish regard, the purity, and the gentleness, and the compassion which, if they are to be found anywhere in their highest perfection, are surely to be found in the women who are true followers and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. (G. Calthrop, M. A.)
Plants grown up in their youth
The ancients, in their building arrangements, did just the opposite of what we do. We construct our houses with the garden in front or behind. They build them with the garden inside. And so when you entered the porch you found yourself in a court, with the rooms all round. In the houses of the wealthy this court was laid out with wonderful taste, adorned with shrubs and trees, with fountains and fishponds, and elegant statuary. In some instances it was paved with coloured marbles, shadowed by olive and acacia trees, and surrounded by a piazza, whoso entablature rested on columns or pilasters (called by the Greeks caryatides), which were commonly carved after the figure of a woman dressed in long robes. Now, I think I catch the idea in my mind of the sacred poet. Two objects in that central court specially arrest his eye; the one being the young but sturdy trees that grow up so vigorous within the enclosure, and the other the polished pillars or pilasters that stand so gracefully around; and to his mind they are respectively the suggestive emblems of the sons and daughters of a pious and prosperous household. For young men David desired--
I. A healthful frame; a strong, robust, vigorous physique. It has been said that, as righteousness is the health of the soul, so health is the righteousness of the body. You who have a sound and well-disciplined body, with the appetite and elasticity that go along with it--even though you cannot boast of more than a mediocrity of talent, and are unpossessed of wit and imagination--will outstrip, in the race for real happiness and usefulness, those nervous and morbid creatures whose only compensation is the occasional gleam of a fitful and spasmodic genius.
II. A solid character. The figure in the text is tropical, and certainly the writer had in his mind’s eye some such tall and stately species of growth as he refers to by name in another psalm, where he says, “The righteous shall flourish as a palm-tree; he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.” “Character,” says Foster, “should retain the upright vigour of manliness; nor let itself be bent and fixed in any specific form. It should be like an upright elastic tree, which, though it may accommodate itself a little to the wind, never loses its spring and self-dependent vigour.” I have often seen mere youths whose dignity of bearing was like a coat of mail to them, and to others was a perpetual sermon. “Under whose preaching were you converted?” said one young man to another. “Under no one’s preaching,” was the reply, “but under my cousin’s practising.” Ah! a consistent life, whose manifest aim is not the pursuit of pleasure, but the performance of duty, is mightier in its testimony than all the eloquence of the pulpit. In like manner you may be lifted above the common level, notwithstanding all the natural difficulties which would keep you down; aye, these very difficulties may be ultimately the means of your elevation.
III. A hidden life. Doubtless, what chiefly struck the eye of the psalmist as he looked on those young trees was their exuberant vitality. Whence the height of their stems, the extension of their branches, the greenness of their foliage, the fulness of their bloom? There was a life within, which, springing from the root, made itself felt to the remotest leaf and fibre. Under the warm and genial influence of a tropical climate, sheltered within the enclosure, yet open to the light and rain and dew, those trees were no doubt pictures of full luxuriant life. That life came from God. It is equally so in the spiritual domain. Each of you needs that which no human power can communicate, and without which the fairest religious profession is only a painted corpse. Personal and saving religion is no development from within, no product of moral evolution; it is something whose germ must be imparted to you by the Holy Spirit; and without which germ you are, in the sight of God, absolutely dead. (J. T. Davidson, D. D.)
The education of character
1. Let me speak, first, to parents and to teachers. What ideals have we as parents for our children; and what ideals have we as to the kind of education which will best secure these ideals? I think it is true that we as a nation have an unreasoning distrust of ideals. We know ourselves strictly practical, and we condemn ideals as visionary and futile. But is it visionary, is it useless to try to form some notion of the best and truest and completest life possible for our children, and the best means of attaining it? What would we wish their lives to be? How may they best be trained for such lives? Knowledge, we say, is power; and too often it seems to be that the acquisition of knowledge is the goal of education. Our ideas of education are shaped by the periodical visit of the examiner or the inspector. The temptation is to aim at immediate results and plant the kind of crop which will spring up quickly and be easily harvested, rather than at such patient development and training of powers as will produce solid and permanent results, though we may have to wait for the harvest. But there is a greater power than knowledge--it is character. What tells in the long run is character. True education will be such a training as will draw out, develop, strengthen the faculties which each child possesses to fit it for its duty in life. It will aim at awakening intelligence and stimulating the growth of character. It will take account of the mysterious complexity of our nature--body, mind, soul, spirit--with their mysterious correlation and interaction, so that a due balance may be preserved; the flesh help soul, and the soul help flesh. It will remember, too, that each human being is a distinct personality, and true education is the individual’s development according to the truth of his own personality, or for the action which lies within range of his capacity. Such education of the character must be religious education--that is to say, it must be carried on in a religious atmosphere by teachers who regard it as a religious work and connect their teaching by their own examples. Religious education is not merely or mainly instruction in religious subjects, in Bible or Catechism for a certain time in the day, but education carried on in a religious spirit. “If I were to have to choose,” said Bishop Creighton, “between two systems of education, in one of which purely secular teaching was to be given by a religious man, and in the other religious teaching by a secular man, I should have no hesitation in saying which system I would choose in the interest of religion as well as education. I would rather have the religious-minded leader though the subject he taught were secular, because I know that the devotion of his heart would penetrate whatever he did, and perchance the fire that was in him might fall on others with whom he came in contact, and kindle a corresponding flame in their hearts.” Our ideal, then, will be an education which will develop the individual personality of each separate child for the action which lies within the range of its capacity, which will aim, above all, at the development of worthy character, and which will find its sanction and obligation for conduct in the relation of the child to its Father in heaven, who has taken it into covenant with Him.
2. I want to say a word, next, to those who, though not yet in a position of responsibility towards others, have left school and are emancipated from the discipline of education imposed upon them from outside. You are responsible for self-education. To each of us is entrusted the building up of our own character; to fulfil that duty we must not only guard against moral faults, we must improve every talent we possess, we must widen our interests, we must sharpen our faculties careful effort. And why? For your own sake. Many a life has been wrecked for want of taking a chart and setting a course and steering steadily along it with steady purpose instead of passing hither and thither, the sport of every wind and circumstance, until it was driven upon some sandbank, where it stuck fast hopelessly or was dashed to pieces against the rocks, which if they had known they might have avoided.
3. I just want to say one word to those who are still under the discipline of school life. Boys and girls, use your opportunities. It matters quite as much how you learn as what you learn; perhaps more. By the way in which you do your lessons you are surely acquiring, mentally and morally, habits of attention, concentration, thoughtfulness, industry, trustworthiness principally, or habits of carelessness, desultoriness, slackness, indolence, indifference. There are plenty of lessons which will not be of any direct use to you in after life; there are none which will not have served some useful purpose in developing intelligence and building up character. (Prof. Kirkpatrick.)
Plants and corner stones
This is a weighty prayer expressed in a poetical way. Poetry, it is scarcely needful to say, is not inconsistent with the deepest earnestness and the greatest solidity of thought. Indeed, it may be said that the highest degree both of solidity and earnestness finds its fit utterance in terms of the imagination. You will observe that this verse depends upon the preceding one--“Rid me and deliver me from the hand of strange children that our sons may be as plants.” It is implied that the separating of the strange and false is necessary to the true welfare of the others. Strange children are those of an alien spirit, who had a tendency and purpose entirely foreign to that of Israel. Their pleasure was in the unreal, the hollow, the false. Their life was not controlled by the truth of God, but swayed by caprice, passion, and false ideas. The young are peculiarly susceptible to such influences. They are sometimes absolute slaves of those of their own age who are more vigorous, confident, and aggressive than themselves. Hence the force of the prayer, “Rid me from strange children that our sons may be as plants.” This connection also shows, if anything were needed to show it, that the psalmist has in view the qualities of the soul.
I. Both figures express, in different ways, the notions of fixity and substance. Both plant and column are fixed and steady. The plant is fixed by its roots into the earth: the column fixed into the building. Fixity is essential to both. Young men and young women, will you remember this: fixity of root, of foundation, is the first necessity? Be rooted. Strike into the great truths and remain there; else there is no reality, no substance. All men acknowledge the need of fixed principles and beliefs. You must have a fixed belief about the rising of the sun and its setting. There must be a fixed belief in the seasons, in the coming of winter and spring and summer and autumn. If men did not hold these beliefs fixed as the basis of their activity the human world would come to a stop. So life must be rooted in fixed belief in God, and the way of reconciliation and fellowship with Him. This belief alone gives meaning and purpose and substance to life. The more you are rooted and fixed in great truths the stronger and more substantial you will be.
II. Growth and permanence are both set forth in the text. Growth belongs just as necessarily to the conception of a plant as permanence does to that of a column. I have been speaking of the necessity of fixity, of having the root fixed in great truths. Does this seem to any one inconsistent with growth? How can we be growing and changing if we are fixed? If we are indissolubly bound to anything how can we grow? I ask, how can the plant grow, immovably fixed to one spot? How does it grow but by being fixed? Growth of soul and spirit is the result of holding firmly to great central truths and drawing the very pith of them into the being. With the strength of these in him one lays hold of more. These great truths lead the soul to more. They cry for more; they guide and direct and clear the horizon, and give man a spirit, courage, and impulse for more. Growth and permanence must go together.
III. In the plant and the column we have represented individualism, separateness, independence, and, on the other hand, combination, unity, mutual help, and support. The true conception of human life is the union of these two tendencies. He is the best and strongest man who is individual, self-reliant, independent, and yet has the woman’s love for the general reason, generous trust, wide sympathies; and who trusts above all things the deep feelings which he has in common with all men.
IV. The text spears of two different kinds of beauty--that of the plant, the beauty of nature; that of the sculptured column, the beauty of culture. These are two sides of the same: the one is not to be attributed to man specially, and the other specially to woman. We are reminded that all beauty of soul must be the result both of nature and of cultivation. That the soul may be beautiful, it must be a living soul, living by contact with the infinite, in fellowship with God. This is truly the beauty of nature, the deepest nature. Young men and young women, let us think that we have a God who delights in our happiness, a loving God. And let this make us glad. Such a gladness has a powerful influence. The gladness of a devout heart has a healing, sweetening, purifying influence on the whole being. Remember also that you owe it to the world and to God to cultivate your mind and heart. This is your time to grow. Your first duty is to grow mentally, morally, spiritually yourselves. Your fresh enthusiasm is given you for the purpose of growth. Try both how devout you can be, and how well stored and educated your mind can be made, and you will be a mighty force in the world for good. (J. Leckie, D. D.)
Plants and stones
(To children): This verse is very easy to understand, because it teaches us what boys and girls ought to be like.
I. Boys. God wishes to see them like “plants grown up in their youth.” Like plants, not like weeds. Do you know the difference between plants and weeds? I will only name one or two. Weeds are not wanted; plants are prized. Some boys grow up like weeds. A whole wagonload of weeds is not worth anything. The best thing that can be clone with the weeds is to burn them up out of the way. Now, there are some boys who grow up like thistles, or like nettles, or like docks; there is no demand for them. They are not wanted in offices, nor in shops, nor on ships, nor in factories, or warehouses, or schools, or colleges. They are not wanted in America, or Australia, or New Zealand, or, in fact, in any part of the world beside. But plants are valued in many ways. Some are prized for their beauty and fragrance, as the flowers; some are healing, medicinal plants; and some are valued, like the strawberry plants, for the good fruit they bear. Boys may, if they will, be valued in all these ways at once. Now, boys, what will you be? Plants or weeds? This is the time in which to make your choice. Like Samuel, know the Lord from your boyhood; for (Job 28:28). The voice of Wisdom says to you (Proverbs 8:17).
II. Girls. Let us now see what message the text has for them. It desires that they may be “like corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.” What does that mean? First, it teaches that girls should have in their characters great firmness and strength. Like a rock, or a massive corner stone, they must never be moved from the place God has appointed for them. There is a great deal of difference between a rock and a sponge or an india-rubber ball. One is solid, firm, and unyielding, the others are soft, pliable, and may be pressed into any shape whatever. Some girls are like sponges; they will be persuaded to do almost anything, without thinking whether it is right or wrong; while others, having chosen the right way, are like a splendid corner stone that has been placed in the wall of a building, there to abide as long as the edifice lasts. Nothing can move them from their foundation. But a corner stone also unites two sides of a building. It looks along both sides of a wall, and joins them both together. In this way sisters may be the bonds of a household. In many homes that are commonly very happy little differences do sometimes occur. Let it be your special work to soothe and heal them. It is almost impossible to say how great is the power of gentle sisterly love in any home. There is one thing more for you in the text, and that is the phrase, “polished after the similitude of a palace.” This is a very beautiful figure. The daughters of the Church are not only to be firm and immovable in all that is good, and like bonds of union in their homes and everywhere else, but they ere to have a finish, a smoothness, and perfection of character about them that will make them fit to be placed in the palace of the King. (R. Brewin.)
Plants and cornices
If we alter “corner stones” into “cornices” we get a clearer meaning; and as one of our most eminent scholars prefers this rendering, reminding us that “Syrian architecture still delights in ornamenting corners of rooms with variegated carved work,” we may accept the charge without misgiving. (A. H. Vine.)
A piece of marble blasted from the quarry may stand as a symbol of strength, but when transformed by the skilful hand of the sculptor it changes into a thing of exquisite beauty. Education in its highest form blends strength with beauty. The higher life abounds in attractive graces. Soul culture develops and blooms into beauty. One of the poets of Israel, with the vision of palaces before him, offers a prayer that the daughters of Judah might be as corner stones, polished into brilliant beauty after the similitude of a palace. (R. Venting.)
That our daughters may be as corner stones, polished after the similitude of a palace.--
The model young woman
The charming young woman is one of the most useful and beautiful objects of earth; God’s improvement on man; His masterpiece; a being inspiring those who meet her with all good desires, and worthy of all reverential admiration when one beholds her adorned with the perfections that her Creator has ordained for her glory; Jehovah’s choicest gift to Adam was such a maiden.
1. The charming young woman whom we all know was a girl as long as she could be, and when she passed to the stature of womanhood she put on strength, but not a bit of coarseness or mannishness. She became a womanly woman. Now she is proud of her sex and makes others so. She is sincere and frank. There is no mask on her face and no humbug in her make-up. She loves truth for its own sweet sake. She is full of conscious moral power, and never feels the need of having recourse to that common weapon of weaker feminines--falsehood. Out of such materials the brave Deborah, the virtuous Vashti, the consecrated Esther, and the patient Virgin Mary were composed.
2. The charming young woman is full of fine feelings. She loves and cultivates the beautiful, and her soul naturally clings to the elegant in nature, as it does also to the spiritual splendours of God. Her fine feelings recoil from unreined gush and lawless sentiment, but easily run into the ways of generous charity. She has tears for suffering and kindly ministries for those who need. Yet in peril or necessity there are principles to guard, or to nerve to heroic effort. The days she tenderly played mother to her dolls were true forerunners of the devoted services of her maturer years. She may be beautiful of features, but is generally not so. “Beauty is vain.” Flattery or worshipping self before a mirrored shrine usually spoils our handsome girls.
3. The charming young woman does not rest her power of fascination upon her shapeliness nor her array of second-hand clothes borrowed from the ostrich and silk-worm. Her charm-power is from within. Her ideal is industrious. She abhors a sublimation of herself into a mere fitness to occupy a glass case, too fragile to move, too mightily fine for any vigorous use. She is a princely one, after the style of Rebecca the water-drawer; Rachel the shepherdess, and Tamar the maiden baker. These were all worthy daughters of kings. Our model is independent in the superior sense, not in the “I don’t care far any one” import of the term. She cares for everybody. She cares too much on the one hand to be a dead weight on any one, and on the other band she cares too much for herself to be the slave of a capricious “They say.”
4. Our charmer is pure in heart; the “racy” jest or double-meaning pun is quickly scouted out of her presence, even when she is among the intimates of her own sex. Her purity is her panoply; a glance of her sincere eye would be to the insinuating rake like a section of the day of judgment. She has principles, and lots of them. She knows why she has them, and keeps them for constant use and not for parlour dress-parade or donation to other people. She is pious. Religion and women were made for each other, and each needs the other. A young woman with no bent easily to accept the Saviour gives evidence of a radical defect in her nature. (A. S. Walsh, D. D.)
That there be no complaining in our streets.
English pauperism is a peculiar product of this island. You see nothing like it anywhere else. Those who have heard me speak on this topic know what an essential difference I draw between pauperism and poverty. Poverty is a relative term. Man may be poor, and yet may be healthy and very happy, and may not need your sympathy. But pauperism describes the conditions of those unhappy fellow-citizens of ours in such wretched circumstances that it is absolutely impossible for them to maintain themselves and their families in health and decency. Now, this kind of extreme poverty or pauperism is quite different from anything that you witness anywhere else. As a distinguished minister of my own church, Dr. Rigg, said a quarter of a century, ago, in a book which he published on the subject of Education, English pauperism is “a national institution, a legacy from mediaeval times and dregs of an outworn feudalism.” In other words, the peculiar pauperism which exists in this country arises from the fact that the people have been divorced from the soil. (H. P. Hughes, M. A.)
Remedy for pauperism
Many who have no sympathy with abstract committees would be delighted to help particular cases. If any such committee were able to put affluent men and women into direct relations with some starving families, it would be a great gain every way. This suggestion is not novel. It was made five years ago by a gentleman at the second conference we ever held. Suppose we could get every household represented here to look after one destitute household. Instead of giving their charity here and there, suppose I could introduce you to one family--husband, wife, and children--all in great need of work. You could in various ways assist with practical sympathy and advice as well as with money. I do not know how many families there are likely to be out of work. Suppose 20,000 or 30,000 are in this condition, and suppose I could get 20,000 or 30,000 men and women to undertake to be a real friend to one family each, it would not be a great strain upon their purse or time, and it would be an untold blessing. Oh, that we could do something to bring together into direct personal contact the unprivileged and the privileged! Their separation is the root of the want of social sympathy between them. But let me say that many of those who seem to be the most remote from the poor are deeply touched by their condition, and are extremely anxious to help them. And I think the way suggested by Mr. Arnold White is one of the most effectual. Further, it will be found that if we could only prevent the pauperism occasioned by intemperance, there would scarcely be any pauperism left. (H. P. Hughes, M. A.)
Happy is that people whose God is the Lord.
A happy people
I. Examine what is comprehended in the relation referred to. This may refer--
1. To God as the object of religious worship.
2. To Him as the author of every blessing.
3. To the covenant relation in which He condescends to stand to His people. This includes--
(2) Delightful intercourse.
(3) Pleasing satisfaction.
II. Illustrate and confirm the declaration itself. Such persons are happy--
1. Because all the Divine perfections are engaged in their behalf.
(1) Mercy to pardon their sins, and deliver them from guilt and misery.
(2) Wisdom to remove their ignorance, and guide them through the intricate mazes of this world.
(3) Power to assist their weakness, and be their guard and defence.
(4) Omnipresence to survey them in every possible condition.
(5) Holiness to conquer all their depravity.
(6) Riches to chase away their poverty.
(7) Plenty to supply all their wants. Faithfulness to perform all that has been promised.
2. Because in Him they are assured of finding a refuge in every time of need.
3. Because they are warranted to expect every needful supply.
4. Because in Him they have a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
5. Because to them all the promises of the Gospel are yea and amen in Christ Jesus.
6. Because they have a sure prospect of being with Him for ever.
1. How mistaken the men of the world are with respect to the people of God.
2. How insignificant is the worldling’s portion.
3. How dangerous is the condition of those who have not the Lord for their portion. (T. Lewis.)
There is in this psalm the outline-sketch of an ideal people. The tuneful seer pictures a nation whose every citizen is animated by the love of God, a community in which each separate soul is governed and guided by the wisdom which is from above. Redeemed by Divine grace, every man lives to the full the manifold life that is in him. There is no discord between a man’s duties and his desires, no disproportion and no inequity between the functions of the flesh and those of the mind and spirit. Every man achieves and sustains a large and harmonious life. Recognizing the fatherhood of God, every man realizes and ministers to the brotherhood of man. Freedom is unrestrained by law because conditioned by love. Selfishness is banished under the gracious constraint of truth and charity. Righteousness is wedded to peace. The sunshine of plenty is unsullied by shadows of want. Progress leaves in its train no accumulation of poverty. Law is no longer an imposed coercion but an indwelling and spontaneous rule. Culture is sweetened by piety. Power yields to the loving dominance of gentleness. Religion is crowned with humanity. And upon this happy nation bountiful Nature, as the minister of God, showers the blessings of abundance and content. This splendid ideal, lifted up by Hebrew bard and preacher, given them by inspiration of God, naturally found its clearest expression, its most attractive unfolding, in God’s Messiah. It was the declared purpose of our Lord Jesus Christ to inaugurate upon earth this kingdom of heaven. With suggestive repetition He spoke of this kingdom, this new society or body politic. He ever looked beyond, while He looked redemptively at, the individuals who gathered around Him. He saw as from a mountain-top the distant beauty of a new heaven and a new earth, and He saw that the path to it lay through the slow achievement of individual conversion. But the end was clear to Him, and certain. The kingdoms of this world are to become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ. And that is our dream because it is Christ’s.
I. Here, then, we emerge into the broader outlooks and ideals of a truly national movement in religion. It is a movement to win England for Christ through the regeneration of every Englishman by the Spirit. We may get, we ought to toil for, more Christian laws, fairer conditions and better prospects for the people. We may, through the social elevation of men, and through the cleansing of their environment, help to advance them to a higher stage of life. By the organization and impact of Christian opinion we may prevent national iniquity and promote public righteousness. All these instruments of battle and victory are within the Christian armoury. But only through new men can new nations emerge, and only through the patient evangelization of our people can our country become a truly Christian land.
II. Let me now remind you that we are moved to this high effort by reverence for Christ and loving passion for men. The first of these motives has already been emphasized. It springs from the belief that everything was made for Christ as well as by Him; that the nations are His inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth His possession. It proceeds upon a broad conception of Christ’s work as the redemption to God of all life’s departments and faculties, of all earth’s dominions and resources. It is fired by the determination to lay at Christ’s feet everything the world counts glorious, and to place on His head the many crowns. Nothing smaller can satisfy our gratitude or reverence. We cannot rest content till the world for which He died acclaims Him Saviour and King. And we are stirred to the same endeavour by our compassion for men, and by our belief that the Gospel holds the secret of all wealth and joy. It is new life men need, the new life of a pardoned and accepted and endowed soul. And because we possess the secret of it in the Gospel we cannot rest. Its possession is an impulse, its experience a contagion. Its incoming peace creates an outgoing sympathy. We can only keep it by giving it; the heart would break did the mouth not speak. Yes, the enthusiasm of humanity is the essential effect of Christ in the heart.
III. It is in no sense derogatory to the sublime spirituality of our theme to say that by love of country, not less than by promptings of piety, are we impelled to this broad mission. Our desire to see England, the land of our birth and love, foremost among the nations in the cause of Christ and humanity, is a distinct and legitimate factor in our zeal. “Patriotism” is a noble word, and it stands for a grand quality. The England whose glory shines through many clouds, whose fair fame has won affection and scattered blessing the wide world over, is the England of the martyrs, the confessors, those speakers for God who made room for man, whose blood has been the seed of religion and liberty. It is the England of the missionary, the explorer, the emancipator, the philanthropist; the land of the open Book and the free charter, of the pious home and the sacred sanctuary, of the day of rest and the progressive faith; the land where heroes and saints have wrought to make life possible and to stir the grand enthusiasms of a broad humanity. That is our England. Round her our affections cling. For her our prayers arise. In her our faith and hope find anchorage. Love of such an England is love of all mankind through her. The patriotism which is loyal to such a land is the initial form of an enthusiasm for humanity. Hers is the opportunity, and hers the obligation, to lead the world to the knowledge of Christ; to teach mankind how to blend culture with piety, intelligence with faith, spiritual aspiration with practical service, and freedom of action with gracious constraint of obedience. Yes, that, and that supremely, is England’s mission.
IV. Is it possible our dream may be realized? I for one dare believe no less. But as to its probability, that depends. Others before us were called to do God’s work, and they perished miserably because of failure. That fate may be ours. Should we grow into a nation of idlers, sensualists, atheists, our candlestick will surely be removed out of its place. It depends upon Christian men and Churches whether our sun is to sink in storm. If we would have England saved for her noble destiny, we must be more true in faith and practice. To that noble undertaking let me once more call you. Then shall the past of our country pale before its future. Our song shall be without discord, our glory shall be as the glory of the Lord, and in the gathering of the nations around the throne of the King our fatherland shall be foremost in service and reward. (C. A. Berry, D. D.)
The happiness of those whose God is the Lord
As a child in any of the families in our midst can only be happy by being docile and obedient and trustful to the wise and benevolent guidance of a godly father, or to the tender leading of a gentle and saintly mother, so, we all acknowledge at least, can we experience the highest good of the soul only by being reverent and truthful towards Him who is the Parent of us all--in whom we live and move and have our being. To be thus is to have Jehovah for our God; and only in this way shall we be happy. Now, if this is true, as unquestionably it is, of individuals, it follows that it must also be so of large collections of individuals or of nations; and this is the idea which the psalmist had principally in his mind when the words of the text were uttered. The true happiness--may I not go farther, and say the true prosperity?--of a nation will rise or fall, advance or recede, just as the love of God and the practice of justice and goodness and generosity and forbearance are or are not prevalent among the people, from the sovereign and the advisers of the crown downwards to the very humblest in the land. The true recognition of God or a conscientious regard for goodness and straightforward dealing, existing to any extent in a vast community, is a solid ground of hope in the midst of national distress or under the cloud of national calamity. If ten righteous men had been found in Sodom that city would have been saved from the destroying fire. Not only a ground of hope, therefore, but also a token of safety--of returning prosperity, of reappearing happiness. It was so as to the experience of God’s ancient people, commemorated in the psalm from which our text is taken. The wrath of God had kindled against the apostate race; the proud tyrant of Babylon had been permitted to carry them away on account of their sins; but by and by this affliction became a purifying process. The love of God returned to their hearts, and the darkness began to brighten; and here there is anticipated in lofty strains a renewed golden age of power and plenty, of prosperity and happiness. The youth of the land are to be marked by native strength and vigour and freedom, whilst the maidens in their polished gracefulness and quiet beauty are to resemble the exquisitely sculptured forms which adorn the corners of some magnificent hall or chamber of a palace. Plenty both in the produce of the field and in flocks and herds is to be granted by a kindly-disposed Heaven; the very streets of their towns and villages are to re-echo to nothing but sounds of joy and thankfulness. Happiness is to prevail, but that simply because goodness is to be the national characteristic. Not one of us can fail to see most clearly his duty in this connection. We love our country, and we desire to see it great and glorious and free and happy; but let us recollect that the only way in which this result can be obtained is by the individual members of the community devoting themselves to the honest service of goodness--in their homes, at their business, in the company into which they go, at their everyday work, always and everywhere. Thus only shall we be happy individually, and also as a people. (W. M. Arthur, M. A.)
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 144". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany