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I will extol Thee, my God, O King.
The Kinghood of God, and the glory of His providence: -
I. The Kinghood of God (Psalms 145:1-19.145.13).
1. Absolutely incomparable.
(1) Majesty incomprehensible.
(2) Reign perpetual.
(3) Power tremendous.
2. Supremely praiseworthy.
(1) By all.
(2) At all times.
(3) For ever.
II. The glory of His providence (Psalms 145:14-19.145.21). His kindness to--
1. Fallen man.
2. Universal life. The--
(4) completeness of His providential care. Whatever the wants--corporeal, intellectual, moral, social--He satisfies all.
3. His kindness to the genuinely pious.
(1) Its spiritual activity.
(2) Its transcendent privilege.
(a) Nearness to God.
(b) Satisfaction of desires.
(c) Salvation from all evil.
(3) Its worshipping spirit. (David Thomas, D. D.)
The happy duty of daily praise
If I were to put to you the question, “Do you pray?” the answer would be very quickly given by every Christian person, “Of course I do, and every day, and often in the day.” But let me change the inquiry, and say, “Do you bless God every day?” I am not sure the answer would be quite so certain, so general, so prompt. Praise is certainly not so common in family prayer as other forms of worship. Be this our resolve: “I will extol Thee,” etc. We ought to do this, for it is due to God, and praise is pre-eminently characteristic of the true child of God. It is singularly beneficial to ourselves; if we had more of it we should be greatly blest. Besides, unless we praise God here how are we preparing for our eternal home? Now to help in this joyful duty of praise let us turn to our text and see in it--
I. The resolve of personal loyalty.
1. He pays homage to God as his King.
2. He personally appropriates God to himself by faith. “My God.” That word “my” is a drop of honey, nay, like Jonathan’s word, it is full of honey. And--
3. He is firmly resolved to praise God. My text has four “I wills” in it. And--
4. He himself will do this. No matter what other people do. Let none of us lose our own personality in the multitude, saying, “Things will go on very well without me.” Each one of us must praise God.
5. And he will be always doing this In the second clause of our text we have--
II. The conclusion of as intelligent appreciation. “And I will bless,” etc.
1. He presents the worship of inward administration. Therefore he blesses the Divine name.
2. And he meant that he wished well to the Lord. To bless a person means to do that person good. If we cannot give anything to God, we can desire that He may be known, loved and honoured by all men. It seems that David studied the character and doings of God, so that he found nothing in God which he could not praise. And he is very intense over this. “For ever and ever.” The words run parallel with Addison’s verse which tells that “Eternity’s too short to utter all Thy praise.” Somebody cavilled at that once, and said, “Eternity cannot be too short.” But in poetry and in praise “the letter killeth.” Language is poor when the soul is on fire.
III. There is also the pledge of daily remembrnace. “Every day will I,” etc. For the greatness of gifts we have already received demands it. To-day it becomes us to sing of the mercies of yesterday. Each day has its mercy, and should render its praise. If we cannot praise God on any one day for what we have had that day let us praise Him for to-morrow. There is a seasonableness about the praising of God every day. For the praise of God is always in season. The last sentence tells--
IV. The hope of eternal adoration David believed, therefore, that God was unchangeable, and in the immortality of the soul. And his resolve was that while here he would ever praise. But yonder we will praise him better. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
God’s chosen people extolling their Sovereign King
I. The sovereignty here asserted.
1. In the heart.
2. In the Church.
3. Over all things--in heaven, earth, hell.
II. The experience claimed. “My God.” He is my Father, and has made me an heir of His kingdom.
III. The vow recorded. “I will extol Thee.”
1. With the praises of the lips.
2. With the vigour of the new and inner man.
3. With the valour of faith. (R. C. Dillon, D. D.)
Christ the King of saints
Rev. Thomas Spurgeon, preaching on “Ecee Rex,” tells the story of a soldier’s death. He was wasted with disease and just about to pass into the unseen world and answer to the muster-roll above. Despite his weakness he sat himself upright in bed, lifted his hand to his forehead in a military salute, and said, “The King,” and so died.
Every day will I bless Thee.
A goodly occupation
I. The duty imposed.
1. It is purely voluntary. Whatever we do must be done “not grudgingly, or of necessity.” To do it against our will is to render mechanical service. In that there is no manhood.
2. It is personal. David appealed to others (verse 21), for he would have others similarly engaged. But he did not wait for them. Commenced himself: led the way. So must we.
3. In harmony with his understanding, judgment, and feelings. Only so far as there is this agreement or harmony is there any hope of a successful performance of this duty.
4. But how can we bless the Lord?
(1) By extolling Him.
(2) Praising Him.
(3) Loving Him.
II. The time set apart. “Every day.”
1. This possesses considerable advantage. Clocks that require “winding up” once a week, or once in eight or fifteen days, or longer period, are more likely to be neglected than watches and clocks which require daily attention. Then no need of reckoning up. Cannot well go wrong, for it is an “everyday” work.
2. This is comprehensive; for does not mean, as in case of watch or clock, a particular Nine, but all the time. In other words, that all our life should be devoted to this purpose.
3. Nor is this unreasonable; for only according to the measure whereby we have been blessed.
4. Therefore makes a business of it. Not occasional or spasmodic, but the regular, uninterrupted course. Conclusion--“Keep, therefore, and do” this, “for this is your wisdom and your understanding.” (J. H. Thompson.)
I. An obligation. As such it calls forth--
1. Reflection. Providence is a great panorama; the Bible is a vast picture-gallery; the human race is an endless orchestra; and the whole an exhibition of infinite wisdom, power, and love. The true observer is filled with calmness, reverence, worship, and his soul ascends Godward in the incense of universal adoration.
2. Thanksgiving. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, and in the calmness of our forgiven heart we look up to the Giver of all our perfect gifts. Every day we bless Him for the Bible, for the Saviour, for the guidance of His Spirit, for the communion of saints, and for the hope of life eternal.
II. A fit accompaniment to daily duties. The late Princess Alice chose for her personal motto the lark. Her reason for it was that the lark soared high in the heavens to praise its Maker, and then descended to make its nest on the ground. It was a beautiful sentiment, and will apply to the godly: “Give us this day our daily bread”--that is the cry of devotion to be followed by work. Sir Thomas More stipulated when he took office under the government first to look to God and then to the king.
III. Our stay in trial.
IV. A witness for Christ. Our places of worship are only open at stated times, and the Gospel preached at appointed hours, but he whose soul knows the blessedness of communion with God is a daily minister of religion. Fletcher of Madeley and his brother, when they were boys, went on Lake Geneva in a boat. After a while the mist swept down, and completely enveloped the lake. The boys soon lost their points, and kept on rowing about in the dark. At eight o’clock all the bells in the town began to peal in honour of a great event. The boys heard the bells, turned their boat towards the sound, and were soon safely landed. Let every Christian peal the bells of grace to direct the mariners who are in the darkness towards the haven of rest. (D. Davies.)
Suppose some one entering heaven were to say to the redeemed, “Suspend your songs for a moment! ye have been praising Christ, lo! these six thousand years: many of you have without cessation praised Him now these many centuries. Stop your song a moment; pause and give your songs to some one else for a moment.” Oh l can you conceive the scorn with which the myriad eyes of the redeemed would smite the tempter. “Stop from praising Him! No, never. Time may stop, for it shall be no more: the world may stop, for its revolutions must cease; the universe may stop its cycles and the movings of its world; but for us to stop our songs--never! never!” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
His greatness is unsearchable.
The unsearchableness of God
God transcends all thoughts; notwithstanding this, men should search after His greatness.
I. Searching after His greatness is a righteous occupation.
1. It agrees with the profoundest instincts of the soul.
2. It is stimulated by the manifestations of nature.
3. It is encouraged by the declarations of the Bible.
4. It is aided by the revelations of Christ.
II. Searching after His greatness is a useful occupation.
1. There is no occupation so quickening to the soul. Feeling after God is an inspiration.
2. There is no occupation so humbling to the soul. The idea of the Infinite drives all vanities from the soul, and brings it down from the heights of pride into the deepest valley of humiliation.
3. There is no occupation so ennobling to the soul. The idea which brings us down into the valley of humiliation stimulates us to climb the heights of moral greatness.
III. Searching after His greatness is an endless Occupation. “Canst thou, by searching, find out God?”
1. All holy intelligences have ever been pursuing this work.
2. The endlessness of this pursuit agrees with--
(1)The inexhaustible powers of our nature.
(2) The strong instinct for mystery within us. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
One generation shall praise Thy works to another, and shall declare Thy mighty acts.
The law of the generations
The Church that stood aloof from missions would now be as much condemned as formerly it would have been commended. And how much has been done in the varied mission fields. Now, all this you inherit. Next to the Gospel of salvation, no generation of men have ever had such a trust committed to them as is committed to you. May God help you to be faithful. For, besides being an inheritance of natural succession, it is also a moral entrustment. It constitutes part of your stewardship. How, then, will you treat this missionary inheritance? Two extremes are to be avoided: you may slight and disesteem it, or you may stereotype and superstitiously regard it; you may treat it as a puerility, or you may embalm it as a relic. You may become men of faith, and hope, and charity, or men of captiousness and self-conceit; you may have an intelligent reverence that will wisely build on the foundation that your fathers have laid, or you may have a foolish self-conceit that will be contented with nothing less than to dig it up and lay a foundation afresh for yourselves. There was wisdom in the world, let us believe it, before we were born; and we may not unbecomingly sit at our fathers’ feet. Both these extremes you will avoid. As to your relationship to the future, it will be your duty--
1. To qualify yourself for thus standing in the succession of the generations. But this you cannot do unless you yourselves be personally converted to God. None but the spiritual can possess the spiritual. Alas, here is a possibility of the succession failing. The pious and devoted sire may have in you a godless son. You cannot succeed him in the work he did for God. You care not for your own soul, how, then, can you care for the souls of others?
2. Form missionary and self-denying habits. But these can only be formed in early life. Those who have done this have been, and are, the most useful in the Church.
3. If you would reap the present rewards of spiritual service, begin your spiritual sowing whilst you are yet young. Life will be too short for both sowing and reaping if you do not. To induce you to give yourselves to this glorious service, remember how much depends upon it. You, humanly speaking, are indispensable for the transmission of truth to posterity. Think of your honoured fathers, how they loved this work. Think what an honoured name you may leave behind you, and the gratitude that will follow you. Think of the plain Divine command and the “blood that will be required at your hand,” if you make not known the Gospel. Think of the moral grandeur and transcendency of your work. Think of the final issue and glory of it. By this motive Christ sustained His Spirit. Look on to that blessed time. (H. Allon, D. D.)
Duty of the present to the coming generation
I. The duty.
1. To declare, or make known, the works of God to succeeding generations, and especially to that generation which immediately follows us. His works of
2. For one generation to praise God’s works to another. While they communicate a knowledge of His works they must speak highly of them. While they tell what He has done, they must add, He has done all things well. When they describe His works of creation, they must extol the wisdom, power and goodness which are displayed in them. While they communicate a knowledge of His works of providence, they must applaud them as infinitely wise, holy, just, and good. And while they exhibit the wonders of redemption, and God’s works of grace to the following generation, they must accompany the exhibition with those glowing expressions of admiration, gratitude, love and icy which this grand display of all God’s perfections ought to call forth from those for whose benefit it was made, and whose everlasting happiness it is designed to promote.
1. The natural relations which exist between the present and the next generation.
2. Each of the successive generations of mankind is the natural and rightful heir of the generation which preceded it.
3. For the religious knowledge and the means of acquiring it which we possess, we are indebted, under God, to preceding generations.
4. We transmit to our posterity a corrupt and depraved nature which, unless its influence is counteracted by religion, will render them miserable hero and hereafter. (E. Payson, D. D.)
The praise of time
This is a glorious note in a noble strain, expressing a deep truth, a lofty thought. The psalmist looks down the whole stream of time. He beholds the world in all its various stages and conditions; pure in its first infancy, polluted in its fallen ruin; struggling through the gloom of ignorance and clouds of judgment; advancing in knowledge, in wealth, in power; reaching the zenith of maturity, and declining to the western horizon. Through all the entangled web of time he sees one continuous thread; he hears one note ever the same. The praise of God sounds forth unbroken and unchanged. Age answers ago in unfolding His attributes. Life to life, land to land proclaim His majesty and power, His goodness and love.
I. We may consider this as the decree of God. He who made the world has willed that it should praise Him. The Most High has imposed this task upon the ages. He who formed man from dust has decreed that by him His glory shall be shown. The works of God carry out His decree. The sun and moon proclaim His power. Day and night utter His wisdom. The seasons declare His bounty and His faithfulness. The fruits of the earth call forth thanksgiving. Even war, and famine, and pestilence work His will. And the history of man, even yet more strikingly, set forth God’s glory. This truth is ever written--“The Lord is King.” He rules. “None can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou?” Look at Pharaoh. Hear him ask, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice?” He little thought how his own history should answer the question. Listen to Nebuchadnezzar,--“Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hand?” Yet his burning fiery furnace has borne witness for two thousand years,--“Trust ye in the Lord for ever.” The mysteries of affliction teach the same lesson. The erring has been thus brought back, or the faithful confirmed, or God’s power displayed (John 9:3). And the Church of Christ is a standing witness of the same great truth.
II. We consider the text, also, as expressing the resolution and work of Christ’s Church. Praise is the rightful attitude of the redeemed (Psalms 107:2). It is the natural outpouring of the renewed heart. Mercy felt, love appreciated, salvation embraced and enjoyed is sure to beget true thanksgiving. So David wrote the matchless 103rd psalm. So Paul and Silas could not refrain from singing praise in Philippi’s dungeon. Nay, we are told that God has chosen His people to praise Him (Isaiah 42:21; 1 Peter 2:9). And even angels cannot sing the new song which belongs to the saved from earth alone (Revelation 14:3). And the people of God have ever claimed their holy privilege. They have sung of creation and of providence, and the wonders of redeeming love. God has never left Himself without this witness in the world. Conclusion--
1. What are we doing to make our generation one of praise? We have received a pure faith; are we taking care to hand it down?
2. Do we possess in ourselves that salvation which alone enables us truly to praise? Have we tasted that the Lord is gracious? Can we thus say, “O taste and see”?
3. How glorious shall be the praise of heaven! Now one age to another, one land to another, praises God. What shall be the glory of the song when every age and every land shall sing “Salvation”; when those who sang creation (Job 38:7), and redemption (Luke 2:13), and grace (Romans 8:1; 1 Timothy 1:15): shall all unite in praise; when teachers, taught; ministers, people; Jew, Gentile; bond, free; when prophets, apostles, martyrs, from Abel to the last saint of time, shall join in the song of Moses and the Lamb? (W. S. Bruce, M. A.)
And men shall speak of the might of Thy terrible acts: and I will declare Thy greatness.
How “the unspeakable” is spoken of
Various are the ways in which men speak of the Lord. There is an ascending scale in the four sentences of our text. We hear--
I. The awestruck talk. “Men shall . . . terrible acts.” There have been times m human history when men have thus spoken. As often the flood, the destruction of Sodom, the judgments on Egypt, on Canaan. So, too, in regard to Nineveh, Babylon. When such acts are abroad turn them into prayer that men may learn God’s lesson from them. Such acts leave deep impress; the boldest blasphemers are silenced then.
II. The bold discourse. “And I will declare Thy greatness.” After the many have spoken in awe I will deliver my soul with courage. It is the right time for this. I heard it said of a certain preacher by one who was no ill judge, though a simple countryman, “I have heard many preachers, but I never heard one that seemed to make God so great as that man does.” That was high praise--too little deserved in our day. All divinity is now to be shaped according to man, and from man’s point of view. Men are such wonderful beings in this nineteenth century that we are called upon to tone down the Gospel to “the spirit of the age”--that is, to the fashions and follies of human thought as they vary from day to day. This, by God’s help, we will never do. But after the awestruck people talking of God’s mighty acts, and then the child of God coming in with his personal testimony, we have--
III. The grateful outpouring of thankful spirits. “They shall abundantly utter the memory of Thy great goodness.” The Hebrew word tells of a bubbling up, as of a full fountain, a springing well. Did you ever tell the story of your life to anybody to the full? Did you ever write it? I am sometimes not a little amused, certainly not surprised, when I get, as I did this week, a letter upon foolscap, twelve sheets, twenty-four pages, all filled up with the story of a man I never saw, who lives far away in the backwoods. Nothing will do but he must tell somebody or other what God has done for him, and he has selected me to hear it. But I like the instinct that makes a man feel, “I must tell what the Lord hath done for me.”
IV. Listen to the select song. It is of “Thy righteousness.” David says in Psalms 51:1-19.51.19. that he will sing aloud of this. Is it not a strange choice? God’s righteousness is a terror to many. But see how God’s righteousness is preceded and succeeded by mention of His goodness. It is righteous mercy and merciful righteousness. What a horror it would be if we had an unrighteous God. But He is righteous in all that He reveals, commands, decrees, does; in all His judgments, but especially in Christ Jesus. To sing of God’s righteousness is in our day one chief mark of real conversion. If we were more sanctified we should be less tempted to cavil at the righteousness of God. Here is a man who takes down his Bible, and he reads, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” “Can’t bear it,” says he. It is because you do not know the mind of God fully, or else, terrible as it is, you would say, “It must be right if God determines it.” The modern men blot out from God’s Word what they like, or they lay it aside altogether. But when the soul is brought to know God it does not question His Word or His doings any more. Men dream, and then assert their visions as truth. If there be a “larger hope,” so be it, but let me not preach it as a doctrine. Let us each learn to say, “I will sing of Thy righteousness.” (C. H. Spurgeon.)
They shall abundantly utter the memory of Thy great goodness.
The philosophy and propriety of abundant praise
This is called David’s psalm of praise; all through it he is inflamed by strong desire that God may be greatly magnified.
I. The method of securing the abundant utterance of the Divine praise concerning His goodness. Our text gives the mental philosophy of such praise, and shows the plan by which it may be secured.
1. By careful observation. “They shall abundantly utter the memory of Thy great goodness.” Now, in order to memory there must first be observation. If we want to remember His goodness we must let it strike us, we must notice it, consider it. Too many fail to notice that the goodness they receive is God’s goodness. They put it down to other causes. If we are willing to see it we shall not lack for opportunities. It is everywhere. David notices especially its greatness. And this evident if we consider those who receive it. What have we done to deserve it? And then, the greatness of God the benefactor. “What is man that Thou art mindful of him?” And then the evil from which it rescues us; and the actual greatness of the benefits bestowed He giveth like a King; nay, He giveth like a God. Observe the goodness of God carefully for your soul’s good.
2. By diligent memory. Memory collects facts and afterwards recollects them. The matters before us are recorded by memory, but the tablet may be mislaid; the perfection of memory is to preserve the tablet in a well-known piece, from which you can fetch it forth at the moment. How are we to strengthen our memory as to God’s goodness? Be acquainted with the documents in which His goodness is recorded. Observe the memorials, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Treasure up your own personal experience. I have heard that the science of mnemonics, or the strengthening of the memory, lies in the following of certain methods. According to some, you link one idea with another: you recollect a date by associating it with something that you can see. Practise this method in the present case. Associate it with the objects around you. Let your bed remind you of God’s mercy in the night watches, and your table of His goodness in supplying your daily needs. All around us there are memoranda of God’s love if we choose to read them. There is the old arm-chair where you wrestled with God in great trouble, and received a gracious answer: you cannot forget it; you do not pray as well anywhere else as there. That thumbed Bible--that particular one I mean, all marked and worn, out of which the promises have gleamed forth like the stars in the heavens. Oh for a clear remembrance of the goodness of God. Classification is another help. Also making notes of things. You know the day in which you lost that money, do you not? The Black Friday or Black Monday up in the City; you have indelible notes of such things in your memory. Have like ones of notable benefits that you have received. Then, besides observation and memory, let there be-3. Utterance. “They shall abundantly utter.” The word contains the idea of boiling up or bubbling like a fountain. It signifies a holy fluency about the mercies of God. We have quite enough fluent people about, but they are many of them idlers for whom Satan finds abundant work. The Lord deliver us from the noise of fluent women; but it matters not how fluent they are if it be on the topic now before us. Open your mouths; let the praise pour forth. Be so occupied constantly. “Abundantly” means that. Just as the singers in the temple repeated over and over again, “His mercy endureth for ever.” Your memory will lose strength unless you utter what you know. Then--
4. Sing. “And shall sing of Thy righteousness.” Parnassus is outdone by Calvary; the Castilian spring is dried and Jesu’s wounded side has opened another fount of song. Lift up, then, your music till the golden harps shall find themselves outdone.
II. The motives for such praise.
1. We cannot help it. “If these should hold their peace,” etc. “Oh,” said one in his first love, “I must speak, or I shall burst.”
2. Other voices are clamorous to drown all such praise.
3. It will do you such good. The past, the present, the future will all be lit up with delight if we are wont thus to praise God. We shall find nothing to grumble at or complain about, but everything to rejoice in.
4. And it does such good to other people. “While here our various wants we mourn, united groans ascend on high”--so says Dr. Watts, and I fear truly; but very few will be attracted by such utterances. Is it good reasoning if men say, “These people are so miserable that they must be on the way to heaven”? We may hope they are, for they evidently want some better place to live in; but then it may be questioned if such folks would not be wretched anywhere. We have glorious reasons for being happy; let us be so, and soon we shall hear persons asking, “What is this? Is this religion? I always thought religious people were mournful people.” There is a blessed seductiveness in a holy happy life. And such happy utterance will help much to comfort others. Many are sorrowing from various causes: therefore be happier than ever you were. That venerable man of God, now in heaven, our dear old father Dransfield, when it was a very foggy morning in November, used always to come into the vestry before the sermon and say, “It is a dreary morning, dear pastor; we must rejoice in the Lord more than usual. I hope we shall have a very happy service to-day.” He would shake hands with me and smile, till he seemed to carry us all into the middle of summer. Lastly, let us thus praise, because it is the way in which God is glorified. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The goodness of God
Have you not known and felt the presence of that Being, whose Infinitude is not only displayed in power and wisdom, but also in Love? Remember the sweet hours of childhood, when the clear, blue sky of day, and the dark blue sky of night opened upon you like the eyes of your preserving angel. Think how a thousand reflections of the Eternal goodness have played around you, from heart to heart, from eye to eye of mankind, as one light shines from sun to sun and from world to world throughout the universe. (Jean Paul Richter.)
Memory of God’s goodness salutary
Augustine tells of one to whom God was so wonderfully kind, and the man was so wonderfully bad, that at last he grew astonished at God’s goodness, and since the Lord continued to load him with benefits, he turned round and cried, “Most benignant God, I am ashamed of being Thine enemy any longer. I confess my sin and repent of it.”
Slow to anger, and of great mercy.
Sin a provocation and a misery
I. The provocative power of sin. God is susceptible of provocation.
1. He is not cold intellect.
2. He is not indifferent to moral conduct.
3. His nature revolts at sin.
4. However great His displeasure, He controls it.
II. The misery-producing power of sin. It has turned our Eden into a vale of tears. (David Thomas, D. D.)
The Lord is good to all.
The goodness of God
Goodness is the same quality in all beings which have understanding, in God, in angels, and in men; it is, and it must be, the same in kind, differing only in degree. Now goodness in us is a disposition and an endeavour to promote the welfare and happiness of others; and from this notion of human goodness we may frame some conceptions of the Divine goodness, and say that goodness in God is a disposition to bestow at all times and in all places upon all His creatures all the good which, according to their several natures, they are capable of receiving, and which it is reasonable that He, as the wise Governor and Preserver of the whole, should bestow upon each individual.
1. That God is good appears from the necessary connection between goodness and other Divine perfections. God is supremely wise, and knoweth, beyond a possibility of mistaking, what is best and most beneficial for the whole; He is almighty, and able to execute His purposes; and possessing everything in which happiness consists, He can be under no temptation to hurt and to oppress others.
2. To suppose that God is not good is to suppose Him weaker and more imperfect and worse than the worst of His creatures. In men every sin is general, and in particular every sin against the rules of goodness may be ascribed to the temptation of present profit or pleasure, to a power which the mind hath of fixing its thoughts entirely upon the object which it desires, and of overlooking the ill consequences arising from it, and in some measure to error and mistake. But God, if He were an evil being, would be disposed to evil neither by mistake, nor temptation, nor passion, nor advantage, and would choose evil purely as evil. And upon this absurd supposition, instead of the Best and Greatest, He would be the lowest and the meanest of all beings; for nothing can be great that is not good.
3. That God is good appears also from the goodness which is seen in His creatures, in men. Goodness in this world is exercised in some degree by many, and is esteemed and commended by almost all. If this disposition be found in some measure in us, it must be most eminently in our Creator, from whom this and all other virtues must be derived. It is the observation of a great philosopher that the artist loves the work of his hands better than his work would love him if it were endued with sense and reason; and that the person who confers a great benefit upon another loves him whom he obliges better than the obliged person loves him. To which it may be added, that parents generally love their children more than they are beloved by them. And yet, in all these instances, gratitude, one would think, should make the love of the inferior to be the strongest; but experience shows that it hath not this effect. These observations may be reduced to this general truth, that love descends more than it ascends; and we may be permitted, I think, to apply this to God and to ourselves, and to say that our great and good Creator and Benefactor loves us far better than even the most dutiful of us love Him.
4. The goodness of God appears in its effects, in the blessings which we receive from Him.
5. Another proof of the goodness of God is to be taken from the testimony of Scripture. (J. Jortin, D. D.)
Objections to the goodness of God
1. Objections are taken from the evil that is in the world, which may be comprised under these two sorts, the evil of sin, and the evil of pain. God is either the author of all these evils, or at least He permits them. How can this be reconciled with His goodness, and how could they enter into a world created and ruled by a beneficent Lord, who is good to all, and whose tender mercies are over all His works? To this difficulty two general answers may be made, in which a humble and modest mind may acquiesce.
(1) We are so incompetent judges of God’s providence that we ought not to charge Him with want of goodness from those evils which we see and experience.
(2) In all questions of this nature it is the part of every prudent inquirer to consider the difficulties on both sides, and to embrace the opinion which hath the fewest. By this way of judging the question before us is soon decided; for there are many unanswerable proofs of God’s goodness, there are many absurdities which follow the denial of it; and the difficulties which attend it arise in all probability from our limited capacity and imperfect knowledge, which cannot discover the whole plan and system of Divine providence.
(3) From these general answers let us now descend to a consideration of particulars. It was an act worthy of our beneficent Author to create a variety of beings endued with reason and capable of immortal happiness. But a rational agent must be a free agent; for to reason and to act require and imply choice and liberty; and every created and free being must have a power of sinning, unless he had the perfections of his Creator; which is impossible. Thus the evil of sin entered into the world in such a manner that it cannot be charged upon God and prove any want of goodness in Him. If we consider the evil of pain as the consequence of sin, we must acknowledge that we are deservedly subject to it, and that beings who act perversely and unreasonably ought to suffer for it. The pain to which the good are liable, if it be to them an occasion of exercising many virtues, and of qualifying themselves for greater rewards in a better state, is profitable and desirable. The pain to which the bad are exposed, if it may, as it certainly may, be useful to them to reclaim them from sin, and to remind them to seek happiness where it is to be found, is also of great advantage; and, if it have not this effect upon them, it is a punishment which they deserve.
2. The doctrine of future punishments, as it is contained in the Gospel, hath often and often been made an objection to the Divine goodness, and to the truth of Christianity. Yet it seems not hard to weaken all its force by the following suppositions, which are founded both in natural and in revealed religion.
(1) There are, as we have shown, many plain, direct, and undeniable proofs of God’s goodness.
(2) The punishment of sin is not to be accounted an act of arbitrary power, proceeding merely from Divine appointment; for in all government correction is absolutely necessary for the reformation of offenders, or for the good of the whole.
(3) We are told that God hath committed all judgment to His Son, to Him who loved us, and died for us, and who cannot be supposed to join no clemency to justice.
(4) We know also both from reason and revelation, that the recompenses and the punishments of the age to come shall be and must be infinitely various, and proportionable to the good and to the bad actions and qualities of men.
(5) We are told likewise, that when judgment shall be pronounced every mouth shall be stopped, stopped not by outward violence, but by inward conviction. All nature shall assent to the equity of the sentence, and it shall be impossible to make any rational objection to it.
(6) The doctrine of the future state of retribution is usually delivered in figurative expressions, which of course are somewhat obscure and ambiguous, and it is of the same nature as prophecy, which is never fully understood till the event explains it. So we must wait for the event before we can form a sure judgment concerning it; and in the meantime objections must be unreasonable, and may be rejected as such. (J. Jortin, D. D.)
The goodness of God
I. What is the proper notion of goodness as it is attributed to God?
1. More general in opposition to all moral evil and imperfection, which we call sin and vice; and so the justice, and truth, and holiness of God are in this sense His goodness. But there is--
2. Another notion of moral goodness which is more particular and restrained; and then it denotes a particular virtue in opposition to a particular vice; and this is the proper and usual acceptation of the word goodness; and the best description I can give of it is this, that it is a certain propension and disposition of mind whereby a person is inclined to desire and procure the happiness of others; and it is best understood by its contrary, which is an envious disposition, a contracted and narrow spirit, which would confine happiness to itself, and grudgeth that others should partake of it or share in it; or a malicious and mischievous temper which delights in the harms of others, and to procure trouble and mischief to them.
II. This perfection of goodness belongs to God.
1. The acknowledgment of natural light. “The first act of worship is to believe the being of God; and the next to ascribe majesty or greatness to Him; and to ascribe goodness, without which there can be no greatness” (Seneca).
2. The testimony of Scripture and Divine revelation (Exodus 34:5; Psalms 86:5; Psalms 119:68; Luke 18:19).
3. The perfection of the Divine nature.
(1) Goodness is the chief of all perfections, and therefore it belongs to God.
(2) There are some footsteps of it in the creatures, and therefore it is much more eminently in God.
III. The effects and the extent of it.
1. The universal extent of God’s goodness to all His creatures.
(1) In giving being to so many creatures.
(2) In making them all so very good; considering the variety, and order, and end of them.
(3) In His continual preservation of them.
(4) In providing so abundantly for the welfare and happiness of all of them, so far as they are capable and sensible of it.
2. The goodness of God to men.
(1) That He hath given us such noble and excellent beings, and placed us in so high a rank and order of His creatures.
(2) That He hath made and ordained so many things chiefly for our use.
(3) His tender love and peculiar care of us above the rest of the creatures, being ready to impart and dispense to us the good that is suitable to our capacity and condition, and concerned to exempt us from those manifold evils of want and pain to which we are obnoxious.
(4) The provision He has made for our eternal happiness. (J. Tillotson.)
Man’s care of God’s goodness
“The Lord is loving to every man” (P. B. Version). Every man implicitly owns this when he says, “Life is sweet.” How much of unconscious enjoyment flows through us from day to day of which we take no heed, until some disturbance takes place, some obstruction occurs in the channel of communication with the world without. The blessing of sight, the joy of looking out on the green pasture and the trees--we can only fully appreciate when these windows of sense are darkened. We see the blessing and the joy of hearing by contrast with the deprivation of the deaf, and of speech by contrast with those of the dumb. If it were not for suffering, awakening reflection, we should ignore this great sum of unconscious good which the “long blue hours serenely flowing” have brought us from day to day. And then this good of reflection itself--how great! To hold up the magic mirror of memory, to see our past therein, not as it was when present, mixed with much that was painful and repulsive, but beautified, idealized, glorified by that poet-soul which is within us all. If we could all paint, or versify, or compose in music, we should all leave works of art behind us, the material of which should be drawn from our own experience. We should leave behind us songs like this ancient Hebrew psalm. Your own personal impressions must always be worth more to you than those of any other thinker, however profound. What, then, are our impressions about the world, about the existing constitution of things? May we venture to speak for one another on such a point, and say that while with each of us there are “mixed” impressions, on the whole the impression of good preponderates? We are governed greatly by our temperament in these matters; our minds are of different tone; but upon each and all of us, may it not be said, the world and life have left impressions of something exceedingly beautiful, exceedingly precious, though profoundly mysterious? In passing through a gallery of paintings, and studying the style of the different masters, we gain much insight into the turn of feeling and of fancy of the particular painters. One man steeps his views in light; another throws the sombre hue of melancholy thought upon rock, and river, and waterfall, and mountain height. One will suggest the majesty of Nature and the littleness of man; another will use the grandest effects of Nature but as the background to human passion and action. Each seer makes something different of the world and of man; each artist adds something to the world as we see it, or takes away something that we had found there. And all these different representations, suggesting feelings so various in the mind of the observer, from sadness to gaiety and exhilaration, unite in one point: they are all representations of that which is beautiful. And with all our diversities of natural feeling and experience--if we should try to describe the print that life has made upon our minds--we should, whether in stumbling accents or in eloquent strains, be describing something that has been, in part painful, in part pleasurable, but in both pleasure and pain profoundly interesting, unspeakably beautiful and holy; something in part severe, in part humorous in its expression, but in this mixture of severity and of humour, truly loving and gentle in its purport. These passive impressions teach us more than we can learn from books. Whether we leave our mark upon the world or no, it is certain the world leaves its mark upon us. And is it not the fact that the longer we live the better worth reading the inscription becomes? Do not men become more tolerant as they grow older? Does not the fact of evil give way before the far greater fact of good as the explanation of life? If men ever try to build up systems of theology again, they must choose out new ground and build on fresh foundations; on the ground and foundation of our text, that the Lord is loving to every man, and that His tender mercies are over all His works. Not only our passive impressions and the general pictures which insensibly form in our minds as the result of experience of the world--but in our active life we have evidence that points the same way. This little world within--what an undiscovered country it is still to every one of us! We never know what we can do till we try, the proverb says. We never know what we are until we have wrought ourselves into deeds. And the very power seems to come by the exertion. Cells full of energy seem to open in the mind at the touch of need, and not before. People are surprised at what they can do and bear upon an emergency. There is indeed a marvel in the life of mind, of soul. So long as we study this we shall be believers in miracles. All that is supposed to pass outside the mind that is marvellous can be but parables of the life of the soul itself. First and last, we must seek for God at that shrine; there the living oracles must be found; and it is the deepest superstition if we suppose that Scripture, however sacred, souls, other than our own, however inspired, can do aught for us except help us to bring to light and read a little more distinctly the inscription and record of God upon our own souls. The discovery of ourselves and of our vocation means some fresh discovery of the meaning of God to us. The return to Nature, the falling back on what is original in us, the exertion of ourselves according to the proper bent and direction of our faculties--all this, giving distinctness to the picture of ourselves, gives at the same time distinctness to the picture of the God who is good and loving to every man. Then we may extend these reasonings from ourselves to the rest of the creation. If I feel that God is good to me, I have a reason for believing that He is good to others like me. Some seem nearer to God and to know more of His secrets than I do. Others seem less favoured. Yet why should I doubt, concerning the most miserable and pitiable, that the tender mercies of the Eternal are over him, as over me? Thus may we reason from the particular to the general--from the truth learnt in our own hearts to the truth of the vast universe of which we form a part; and conversely. At times we may see more clearly the universal than the particular truth. We may see that the world is the expression of an infinite benevolence, we may need to see that our personal being is the expression of the same. Let us then remember that the great Power which throbs through the universe is the same Power which causes our heart to throb, our brain to think. So may we end in
“Feeling God loves us and that all that errs
Is a strange dream which death will dissipate,”
in endorsing from our own life-experience the words of the psalmist. (E. Johnson, M. A.)
Universality of God’s goodness
God’s pity is not as some sweet cordial, poured in dainty drops from a golden phial. It is not like the musical water-drops of some slender rill, murmuring down the dark sides of Mount Sinai. It is wide as the whole scope of heaven. It is abundant as all the air. If one had art to gather up all the golden sunlight that to-day falls wide over all this continent, falling through every silent hour; and all that is dispersed over the whole ocean, flashing from every wave; and all that is poured refulgent over the northern wastes of ice, and along the whole continent of Europe, and the vast outlying Asia and torrid Africa--if one could in any wise gather up this immense and incalculable outflow and treasure that falls down through the bright hours, and runs in liquid ether about the mountains, and fills all the plains, and sends innumerable rays through every secret place, pouring over and filling every flower, shining down the sides of every blade of grass, resting in glorious humility upon the humblest things--on sticks, and stones, and pebbles--on the spider’s web, the sparrow’s nest, the threshold of the young foxes’ hole, where they play and warm themselves--that rests on the prisoner’s window, that strikes radiant beams through the slave’s tear, that puts gold upon the widow’s weeds, that plates and roofs the city with burnished gold, and goes on in its wild abundance up and down the earth, shining everywhere and always, since the day of primal creation, without faltering, without stint, without waste or diminution; as full, as fresh, as overflowing to-day as if it were the very first day of its outlay--if one might gather up this boundless, endless, infinite treasure to measure it, then might he tell the height, and depth, and unending glory of the pity of God! The light, and the sun, its source, are God’s own figures of the immensity and copiousness of His mercy and compassion. (H. W. Beecher.)
His tender mercies are ever all His works.--
On the mercy of God
Mercy, as it is ascribed to God, may be considered and taken two ways.
I. For the principle itself; which is nothing else but the simple undivided nature of God, as it does manifest and cast abroad itself in such and such acts of grace and favour to the creature. Which very same essence or nature, according to different respects, is called wisdom, justice, power, mercy, and the like.
II. It is taken for the effects and actions flowing from that principle by which it does so manifest and exert itself. Which also admit of a distinction into two sorts.
1. Such as are general, and of equal diffusion to all.
2. Such as are special, and peculiarly relate to the redemption and reparation of fallen man, whom God was pleased to choose and single out from the rest of His works as the proper object for this great attribute to do its utmost upon. Now it was the former sense that was intended by the psalmist in the text, as is evident from the universality of the words. It was such a mercy as spread itself over all His works; such a one as reached as wide as creation and providence. It was like the sun and the light, to shine upon all without exception. And therefore we are not at all concerned here to treat of the miracles of God’s pardoning mercy, as they display themselves in the satisfaction and ransom paid down by Christ for sinners: for it would be a great deviation from the design of the words to confine the overflowing goodness of a Creator to the more limited dispensations of a Redeemer: and so to drown a universal in a particular. For the prosecution of the words there is no way that seems more easy and natural, and withal more full, for the setting forth of God’s general mercy to the creature, than to take a survey of the several parts of the creation, and therein to show how it exerts and lays itself out upon each of them How many and vast endearments might we draw from God barely as a Creator! Suppose there had never been any news of a Redeemer to fallen Adam; no hope, no after-game for him as a sinner; yet let us peruse the obligations that lay upon him as a man. Was it not enough for him, who but yesterday was nothing, to be advanced into an existence, that is, into one perfection of the Deity? Was it not honour enough for clay to be breathed upon, and for God to print His image upon a piece of dirt? Certainly it would be looked upon as a high kindness for any prince to give his subject his picture; was it no act of love, therefore, in God to give us souls endued with such bright faculties, such lively images of Himself, which He might have thrust into the world with the short and brutish perceptions of a few silly senses; and like the beasts, have placed our intellectuals in our eyes or in our noses? Was it no favour to make that a sun which He might have made but a glow-worm? no privilege to man that he was made lord of all things below? that the world was not only his house, but his kingdom? that God should raise up one piece of earth to rule over all the rest? Surely all these were favours, and they were the early preventing favours of a Creator: for God then knew no other title, He bore no other relation to us; there was no price given to God that might induce Him to bid Adam rise out of the earth, a man rather than a spire of grass, a twig, a stone, or some such other contemptible superiority to nothing. No; He furnished him out into the world with all this retinue of perfections upon no other motive but because He had a mind to make him a glorious piece of work; a specimen of the arts of Omnipotence; to stand and glister in the top and head of the creation. Wherefore all the hard thoughts men usually have of God ought by all means and arts of consideration to be suppressed: for the better effecting of which we may fix our meditation upon these two qualities that do always attend them:
(1) Their unreasonableness.
(2) Their danger.
1. And first for their unreasonableness. All such thoughts are not any true resemblances of our Creator, but merely our own creatures. All the sad appearances of rigour that we paint Him under are not from Himself, but from our misrepresentations: as the fogs and mists we sometimes see about the sun issue not from Him, but ascend from below, and owe their nearness to the sun only to the deception of the spectator.
2. The other argument against men’s entertaining such thoughts of God is the consideration of their exceeding danger. Their malignity is equal to their absurdity: for whosoever strives to beget or foment in his heart such persuasions concerning God makes himself the devil’s orator, and declaims his cause; whose proper characteristic badge it is to be the great accuser or calumniator. (R. South, D. D.)
All Thy works shall praise Thee, O Lord; and Thy saints shall bless Thee.
I. God’s works.
1. They reveal Him--as the building the architect, or the book the author.
2. They obey Him--never transgress His orders, or neglect His behests.
II. God’s children.
1. They reveal Him more fully. There is more of God seen in the rays of reason, the sparks of fancy, the sensibility of conscience, the volitions of will, of one soul than in all the beauty of the landscape, or the brightness of the heavens.
2. They obey Him more loftily.
(4) Happily. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
Do not throw yourselves back in your seats, and say, “This will be a sermon for saints, and therefore we need not attend.” For the first clause of our text gives you a fair word and a kindly hint. “All Thy works shall praise Thee, O Lord;” for if you are not Jehovah’s saints you yet are His “works.” Every created thing appears to praise God by its very existence. “The heavens declare the glory of God,” etc. Arouse thee, then. Thou art a creature, if not a new creature, in Christ Jesus. Adore thy Benefactor. Yet the text is mainly for a special people; “Thy saints shall bless Thee.” All throughout the Word of God there is kept up a very clear and sharp distinction between those that fear God and those that fear Him not. So note--
I. God has a people whom He calls His saints. Who are they? Are they all dead? It is supposed so, for it is the usage of the Popery around us to call men saints who have been long in their graves. Somebody wrote me the other day about his “sainted mother.” What did he mean? Had the Pope canonized her? Or did she become a saint by dying? When Paul wrote to the Churches he called the members of them saints. They were living men and women of whom he thus spake. They were like ourselves, and often inferior to ourselves. I believe that the Church of God to-day, as a whole, is better than the Church of Corinth. What is it to be a saint? Some people do not want to “know, for with them it is a term of contempt. They say, “Oh, he is one of your saints!” They lay emphasis on the word “saints”; as if it were something disgraceful or at least hypocritical. Whenever I have that said to me (and it has happened more than once), I take my hat off out of respect for the title. I had rather be a saint than a Knight of the Garter. I have sometimes heard of the “latter day saints.” I do not know much about them, but I greatly prefer the “every day saints.” Holiness must be a part of ourselves; it must be our nature to be saintly. Saints are not perfect people. Some will say of themselves that they are free from sin. But I have never met with such. A certain great painter had been accustomed to perform great feats with his brush; but one day, having finished a picture, he laid down his palette, and said to his wife, “My power to paint is gone! Oh,” said she, “how is that? Well,” he answered, “up to this day I have always been dissatisfied with my productions; but the last picture I have painted perfectly satisfied me, and therefore I am certain I shall never be able to paint anything worth looking at again.” To be dissatisfied with oneself is to be capable of higher things, but to be satisfied is to have lost the very faculty of progress. We cannot, therefore, be satisfied with ourselves; still we know, also, that sin has not dominion over us, and in this we do and will rejoice. But saints are--
1. Those whom God hath set apart for Himself.
2. Called effectually by His grace. And they are to be known--
1. By their holy life. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” A man is described in Scripture, not by his infirmities, but by the general run and current of his life. We say of a river that it runs to the south, although there may be eddies along the banks which run in an opposite direction. Still, these are an inconsiderable matter. The main stream of the Thames, wind as it may, runs ever towards the sea. And the main stream and current of the saint’s life is Godward. “But,” says one, “holiness is imputed.” It cannot be imputed. The righteousness of Christ is, but holiness is quite another term, and God’s Word never speaks of the imputation of holiness. Where shall we find these saints? “Nowhere,” says slander, but that is not true; there are many of them, the ornaments of our households, the pillars of our Churches, the delights of our communion and the glory of Christ. And they are God’s saints; “Thy salts shall,” etc. The devil has his saints, and Rome hers, and self-righteousness and ceremonialism theirs; but God has His own.
II. They are placed in the first rank. All God’s works shall praise Him, but His saints shall bless Him, because they are in a peculiar manner God’s works. He has twice created them: they stand in a covenant relation with Him. None but Christ’s own people can be said to be interested in the covenant of grace. “I pray for them,” said our Lord; “I pray not for the world.” God’s tenderest consideration is given to them. He cares for all His works, but His children, what care He gives to them. No farmer has as much care for his barn-door chickens as he has for his own little chicks indoors. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so,” etc. How God has loved us, and does so, even when we have forgotten Him. One said to me the other day, “What will become of Gordon?” I answered, “He is safe enough, I believe; for he has given himself into the band of God, and He will take care of him.” To this the questioner replied, somewhat flippantly, “It may be so; but, you see, he is so dashing that he gives God a great deal to think of and to do.” I did not like the expression, but still it is true of us all. The office of “Preserver of men” is no sinecure in the hands of God. And how God visits us. He visits the earth and waters it, but how He comes to His people. And at the end they shall be crowned with glory and honour.
III. They render a special homage. God’s works “praise,” but His saints “bless” Him. Praise has not in it those elements of warmth which belong to blessing God. You can praise a man and yet have no kind regard for him. No doubt after Waterloo the French soldiers praised Wellington, but none of them blessed him. They would say, “He must be a marvellous warrior to have overcome Napoleon,” but they could have no love for him. Praising God is good, but blessing him is better. The lily lifts itself upon its slender stem and displays its golden petals and its glittering ivory leaves; and so it praises God. And the sea, and the birds. But they cannot bless Him. Only His saints do that. Let us do so more and more. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom.
It is much to be regretted that true children of the Lord often talk too little of Him. What is the conversation of half the professors of the present day? Honesty compels us to say that, in many cases, it is a mass of froth and falsehood, and, in many more cases, it is altogether objectionable; if it is not light and frivolous, it is utterly apart from the Gospel, and does not minister grace unto the hearers. One of the great lacks of the Church nowadays is not so much Christian preaching as Christian talking,--not so much Christian prayer in the prayer-meeting as Christian conversation in the parlour. How little do we hear concerning Christi
I. A subject for conversation.
1. The glory of Christ’s kingdom.
(1) Make known His mighty acts. Tell it the wide world o’er that the Lord of hosts is the God of battles; He is the conqueror of men and of devils; He is Master in His own dominions. Tell ye the glory of His kingdom, and rehearse “His mighty acts.” Christian, exhaust that theme if thou canst.
(2) Then, in speaking of the glory of Christ’s kingdom, talk of its glorious majesty (verse 12). Tell of the crown of grace which He wears continually; tell of the crown of victory which perpetually proclaims the triumphs He has won over the foe; tell of the crown of love wherewith His Father crowned Him in the day of His espousals to His Church,--the crown which He has won by ten thousand hearts which He has broken, and untold myriads of spirits which He has bound up.
(3) Talk of its duration, for much of the honour of the Kingdom depends upon the time it has lasted (verse 13).
2. Christ’s power.
(1) Upholding (verse 14).
(2) Exalting (verse 14).
(3) Providing (verse 15).
II. The causes which will make Christians talk of the glory of Christ’s kingdom and His power?
1. One cause is, that it is the kingdom of their own King.
2. The Christian must talk of the King’s victories because all those victories were won for Him; he recollects that his Master never fought a battle for Himself,--never slew an enemy for Himself. He slew them all for His people.
3. The Christian must talk of it because he himself has had a good share in fighting some of the battles. You know how old soldiers will “shoulder their crutch, and tell how fields were won.” Recollect that you have been a soldier in the army of the Lord; and that, in the last day, when He gives away the medals in heaven, you will have one; when He gives away the crowns, you will have one. We can talk about the battles, for we were in them; we can speak of the victories, for we helped to win them. It is to our own praise as well as to our Master’s when we talk of His wondrous acts.
4. But the best reason why the Christian should talk of his Master is this, if he has Christ in his heart, the truth must come out; he cannot help it.
III. What would be the effect of our talking more of Christ’s kingdom and power?
1. The first effect would be that the world would believe us more.
2. If our conversations were more concerning Christ, we, as Christian men, should grow faster, and be more happy. In this way you would remove bickerings better than by all the sermons that could be preached, and be promoting a true evangelical alliance far more excellent and efficient than all the alliances which Than can form.
3. If we oftener talked of Christ like this, how useful we might be in the salvation of souls! Souls are often converted through godly conversation. Simple words frequently do more good than long sermons. Disjointed, unconnected sentences are often of more use than the most finely polished periods or rounded Sentences. If you would be useful, let the praises of Christ be ever on your tongue; let Him live on your lips. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Declaring God’s doings
Of one of the statues in the Campanile, Florence, it is said that Donatello, when giving it the last stroke of his chisel, exclaimed in enthusiastic admiration, “Speak!” So Christ, when He calls men from their sins and recreated them in His own image, says, “Tell what things God hath done for you.”
The glory of Christ’s kingdom
I. In its origin. It was the object of the divine and eternal purposes of the Father; an object to which all other purposes were subservient. It entered into the councils of the Eternal before the foundation of the world was laid. It was a grand design, intended to include the reign of God over the mind and heart of man; a purpose to establish a kingdom, the subject, s of which should be raised to be partakers of the same nature as their Sovereign.
II. In the manner and spirit of its administration (2 Samuel 23:1-10.23.4; Isaiah 11:4-23.11.5; Matthew 11:28; Luke 17:21; Romans 14:17; 2 Corinthians 3:3; John 10:4-43.10.5; John 17:24; John 14:3).
III. In the character of His subjects.
1. They are enlightened: they have just conceptions of things; they are delivered out of darkness, which envelops the rest of mankind, as the children of Israel had light in the land of Goshen when the habitations of the Egyptians were in darkness.
2. They are renewed: the Spirit of God changes their heart; they are made imperfectly, yet truly holy; they have a principle in them that aims at perfection; their characters are mixed, but the best part struggles against the worst, and will finally triumph.
3. They have in them a preparation for perfect blessedness.
IV. In the privileges attached to it.
3. Immortality. (R. Hall, M. A.)
The glory of God’s rule
I. In the universality of its extent. His kingdom extends over all, over all matter, and over all mind. It includes the microscopic atom and the mightiest orb; the lowest fiend and the sublimest angel.
II. In the righteousness of its foundation. God has a right to rule the universe.
1. On the ground of proprietorship He owns all.
2. On the ground of capacity. No one else has the power.
3. On the ground of character. He is infinitely good.
III. In the benevolence of its operations. Unlike all human kings, He rules not for His own aggrandizement or interest, but simply for the good of His subjects.
IV. In the indestructibleness OF ITS NATURE. Human kingdoms have in them the seeds of decay; they chase each other from the scene like the clouds before the wind. All of them are but as little bubbles on the stream, by a breath or a touch they are broken and lost. But His kingdom will endure for ever. (David Thomas, D. D.)
Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.
The greatness and condescension of God
What we admire in these verses is their combining the magnificence of unlimited power with the assiduity of unlimited tenderness. It is of great importance that men be taught to view in God this combination of properties. It is certain that the greatness of God is often turned into an argument by which men would bring doubt on the truths of Redemption and Providence. The unmeasured inferiority of man to his Maker is used in proof that so costly a work as that of Redemption can never have been executed on our behalf; and that so unwearied a watchfulness as that of Providence can never be engaged in our service. Whereas, no reason whatever can be derived from our confessed insignificance, against our being the objects whether of Redemption or of Providence--seeing it is equally characteristic of Deity to attend to the inconsiderable and to the great to extend His dominion throughout all generations, and to lift up those that be bowed down. No one can survey the works of ,Nature and not perceive that God has some regard for the children of men, however fallen and polluted they may be. And if God manifest a regard for us in temporal things, it must be far from incredible that He would do the same in spiritual. There can be nothing fairer than the expectation that He would provide for our well-being as moral and accountable creatures with a care at least equal to that exhibited towards us in our natural capacity. So that it is perfectly credible that God would do something on behalf of the fallen; and then the question is, whether anything less than redemption through Christ would be of worth and of efficacy? But it is in regard to the doctrine of a universal Providence that men are most ready to raise objections, from the greatness of God as contrasted with their own insignificance. They cannot believe that He who is so mighty as to rule the Heavenly Hosts can condescend to notice the wants of the meanest of His creatures; and thus they deny to Him the combination of properties asserted in our text, that, whilst possessed of unlimited empire, He sustains the feeble and raises the prostrate. What would be thought of that man’s estimate of greatness who should reckon it derogatory to the statesman that he thus combined attention to the inconsiderable with attention to the stupendous; and who should count it inconsistent with the loftiness of his station that, amid duties as arduous as faithfully discharged, he had an ear for the prattle of his children, and an eye for the interests of the friendless, and a heart for the sufferings of the destitute? Would there not be a feeling mounting almost to veneration towards the ruler who should prove himself equal to the superintending every concern of an empire, and who could yet give a personal attention to the wants of many of the poorest of its families; and who, whilst gathering within the compass of an ample intelligence every question of foreign and home policy, protecting the commerce, maintaining the honour, and fostering the institutions of the State, could minister tenderly at the bedside of sickness, and hearken patiently to the tale of calamity, and be as active for the widow and the orphan as though his whole business were to lighten the pressure of domestic affliction? And if we should rise in our admiration and applause of a statesman in proportion as he showed himself capable of attending to things comparatively petty and insignificant without neglecting the grand and momentous, certainly we are bound to apply the same principle to our Maker--to own it, that is, essential to His greatness that, whilst marshalling planets and ordering the motions of all worlds throughout the sweep of immensity, He should yet feed “the young ravens that call upon Him,” and number the very hairs of our heads: essential, in short, that, whilst His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion endureth throughout all generations, He should uphold all that fall, and raise up those that are bowed down. We would add to this, that objections against the doctrine of God’s providence are virtually objections against the great truths of creation. Are we to suppose that this or that ephemeral thing, the tiny tenant of a leaf or a bubble, is too insignificant to be observed by God; and that it is absurd to think that the animated point, whose existence is a second, occupies any portion of those inspections which have to spread themselves over the revolutions of planets and the movements of angels? Then to what authorship are we to refer this ephemeral thing? What it was not unworthy of God to form, it cannot be unworthy of God to preserve. But up to this point we have been rather engaged with removing objections against the doctrine of God’s providence than with examining that doctrine as it may be derived from our text. In regard to the doctrine itself, it is evident that nothing can happen in any spot of the universe which is not known to Him who is emphatically the Omniscient. But it is far more than the inspection of an ever vigilant observer which God throws over the concerns of creation. It is not merely that nothing can occur without the knowledge of our Maker; it is that nothing can occur but by either His appointment or permission. We say either His appointment or permission--for we know that, whilst He ordereth all things, both in heaven and earth, there is much which He allows to be done, but which cannot be referred directly to His authorship. It is in this sense that His providence has to do with what is evil, overruling it so that it becomes subservient to the march of His purposes. Oh! it were to take from God all that is most encouraging in His attributes and prerogatives if you could throw doubt on this doctrine of His universal providence. It is an august contemplation, that of the Almighty as the Architect of creation, filling the vast void with magnificent structures. We are presently confounded when bidden to meditate on the eternity of the Most High: for it is an overwhelming truth that He who gave beginning to all besides could have had no beginning Himself. And there are other characteristics and properties of Deity whose very mention excites awe, and on which the best eloquence is silence. But whilst She universal providence of God is to the full as incomprehensible as aught else which appertains to Divinity, there is nothing in it but what commends itself to the warmest feeling of our nature. And we seem to have drawn a picture which is calculated equally to raise astonishment and delight, to produce the deepest reverence and yet fullest confidence when we have represented God as superintending whatever occurs in His infinite domain--guiding the roll of every planet, and the rush of every cataract, and the gathering of every cloud, and the motion of every will--and when, in order that the delineation may have all that exquisiteness which is only to be obtained from those home touches which assure us that we have ourselves an interest in what is so splendid and surprising, we add that He is with the sick man on his pallet, and with the seaman in his danger, and with the widow in her agony. And what, after all, is this combination but that presented by our text? If I would exhibit God as so attending to what is mighty as not to overlook what is mean, what better can I do than declare Him mustering around Him the vast army of suns and constellations, and all the while hearkening to every cry which goes up from an afflicted creation--and is not this the very picture sketched by the psalmist when, after the sublime ascription, “Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth throughout all generations,” he adds the comforting words, “the Lord upholdeth all that fall, and lifteth up all those that be bowed down”? (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Christ’s kingdom everlasting
Bishop Galloway, in his book on “Missions,” gives this significant illustration: “In the published accounts of the burning of the famous mosque at Damascus a few years ago, there was a suggestive coincidence, if not a striking prophecy. It was built on the sacred spot where once stood the old Byzantine church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist. In building this Moslem temple one of the Roman arches was blended in the superstructure, on which was a Greek inscription from the Holy Scriptures. After the great fire the arch was found in place, bending over the ruins, bearing these words: ‘Thy kingdom, O Christ, and Thy dominion endureth throughout all ages.’” (The Advertiser.)
The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down.
The God of the unsuccessful
The Bible, being a book for humanity, is a book for the weak, the fallible, and the disappointed. A large part of it is devoted to the erring and the unsuccessful. Take its biographies. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Elijah, Job--every one of these biographies is the story of a faultful man. Then, so much of its counsel and warning is directed at servants of God and disciples of Christ. Not only guide-posts, but-danger-signals, are set up all along the way of life. It was to His own disciples that Christ said, “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” By far the larger part of its promises is to the sorrowful, and afflicted, and disappointed. When Christ invited the weary and heavy-laden to rest, He invited a restless and burdened world. When the Bible addresses the strong, it is to point them to the true source of their strength, to warn them against presuming on their own wisdom, and to commend the weak to their sympathy and helpfulness. The whole matter is summed up in the psalmist’s statement of God’s attitude toward His children at large. It is that of pity based on knowledge of their infirmity. I speak, as the psalmist does, of men and to men who recognize and honour the law of God, and are honestly striving to keep His laws. The words do not apply to the indolent who interpret the invitation to east their care on God as a “permit” to cast off all care about their own souls and lives. They do not apply to those who are indifferent to God and who wilfully defy His law. The psalmist settles that in verse 20. I am speaking, then, to you who honour God; who are making an honest fight for the truth and the right; who are trying to keep your lives pure and to make them useful. I know that you fall as I do, and are often bowed down. I know that you are not all successes, either from a worldly or a religious point of view. Now, first, in relation to your worldly affairs. You have stumbled and fallen in the path which you thought would lead you to success and victory. Well, look at the text. O merciful, wise, tender love, which, even while it denies what we long for, bends over us while we lie prone and weeping over our disappointment, and sets us on our feet again and bids us follow God and not the devices and desires of our own hearts. He may thus set us on our feet that we may walk another way from that on which we were going. The fall may be a blessing in disguise, a monition to abandon that way. Many a man has found that to give up the thing he desired and take something less and lower was not a sorrow after all. Or, suppose God means to admonish you by your fall to go more slowly after your desire. “He that believeth shall not make haste.” God will not let us pursue one remote end to the neglect of all that lies by the wayside. Success in life is not the gaining of that one end at the end. It is the right adjustment to all that lies in the track of each day. So God lets you walk, upholds you, teaches you to walk. He is doing you a greater service by upholding you, so that you can move on and win the strength, and discipline, and experience which come through walking circumspectly, than if lie had let you go straight to the thing you coveted and sit down and enjoy that. Disappointment need not mean wreck. It will not if God is in it. Sometimes it seems as if God’s policy toward a man is to keep him down, and yet keep him walking and working. That develops the highest type of moral heroism. It is a higher and greater thing for an unsuccessful and disappointed man to keep rising from his failures and to struggle on his way leaning on God’s hand to the very end, than for him to succeed before the world. God has a testimony to bear to the world through His sons and daughters no less than to them; and He bears that testimony most emphatically in showing the world that His hand can keep a man a man, with an honest soul and a persistent purpose in him, amid all his falls and disappointments. And as to the matter of Christian experience and the falls and stumblings which are along that line--I know that the ideal which at once beckons and reproaches us is that of a steady growth in faith, and love, and goodness, and Christian power. It is the true ideal too. Let us never lower it: never cease striving for it. Let us never admit to ourselves that yielding to temptation is anything less than sin: that sin is other than vile. Tried by the high ideal of the Gospel you are not a religious success, only trying hard to be. That is the saving clause. God is on the side of the unsuccessful but honestly-striving. You find in yourself a constant tendency to stumble. If Satan desires to sift you as wheat, Christ prays for you. He is bent, not on raising up you and your sin together, but on raising you out of your sin and making you a man in Christ Jesus in spite of your temptation and weakness. (M. R. Vincent, D. D.)
An Eastern parable represents a man as falling down by the way, and getting so broken up by his fall that he lay there eleven years. One day an old friend came along and began to commiserate and encourage him, and forthwith he poured out the story of his sorrows, and began to tell the ether what a dreadful thing it was to fall down. “Ah, yes,” said the friend, “but I know something much worse than falling down.” “Why,” said he, “what can be worse?” And the other answered, “Not getting up again.” Thank God for recuperative grace! When we were boys, at our wrestling matches we were not considered down until we said “Down,” and some of us refused to stay down long enough to count. Beloved, don’t make the mistake of not getting up again. Be brave in spite even of yourself and your own failures and weaknesses. Remember that “the Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up those that be bowed down.”
The eyes of all wait upon Thee.
The Divine dealings and attributes
We lose a great deal by taking verses by themselves, considering them as detached and isolated passages in place of noticing how closely they may be connected with the context. For instance, if we take as our text the last of these three verses, “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works,” no doubt we should find abundant material of important discourse, for when the psalmist throws in the word “all His ways, all His works,” there is a largeness of assertion, in reference to the Divine dealings, which displays strong faith and close examination. But when you read the two preceding verses, “The eyes of all wait upon Thee,” etc., you naturally ask, how came the psalmist to pass so directly from contemplating the goodness of God, as displayed in the arrangements of providence, to the expressing in such unqualified terms his conviction as to the righteousness of all God’s ways, and the holiness of all God’s works? What connection is there? How does the one thought or belief originate in the other? The word “righteousness,” as used of God, most frequently denotes that perfection whereby God is most just and holy in Himself, and observes the strictest rules of equity in every proceeding of His creatures; and when the psalmist asserts God to be “righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works,” he evidently means that every dispensation is marked both by justice and goodness, that, however unable we may be to discern or apprehend the reasons for each separate dealing, we are bound to infer, from the very nature of God, that there must be reasons worthy alike of infinite wisdom and infinite lovingkindness. Now the psalmist must be considered as using the language of faith when he speaks of God as “righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works”; for every one who observes and studies the actings and dealings of God, whether with our race generally or with individuals in particular, must know that there is much which cannot now be explained, whose fitness is matter of faith, but; certainly not of demonstration, the Divine judgments being, as they are elsewhere described by David, “a great deep.” In the course of His providence God frequently acts upon grounds, and orders things in methods, which we have no ability to discover and to trace; and we can exclaim with St. Paul, “How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out.” But whilst we allow that the language is the language of faith, let us consider a little more closely whether there is any reason for surprise that God’s dealings should be inscrutable, and utterly past our comprehension. You are to remember that even amongst men the dealings of the wise are often founded on maxims which are not understood or appreciated by the great mass of their fellows, so that conduct appears unaccountable which nevertheless proceeds from the very highest sagacity. Is it, then to be wondered at if God, whose wisdom is as far above the wisest upon earth as the heaven is above this lower creation, should be incomprehensible in His actions, often doing very differently from what ourselves would have done, and proceeding in a way which appears to us the least likely to produce the desired result? Besides, what place, comparatively, would there be for faith if there were no depths in the Divine judgments, if every reason were so plain, every design so palpable that no one could do otherwise than acquiesce in the fitness and goodness of all God’s appointments. In any case of affliction, when trouble is now laid upon a man, the difficult, but, at the same time, profitable, duty is that of submitting meekly to the chastisement in the assurance that God doeth all things well, though to our apprehensions His proceedings may be dark. Let God remove the darkness of His proceedings, and let everything be as luminous to us as it is to Himself, and this duty, instead of being difficult, would cease to demand any effort; we should then walk by sight, and not by faith, and there would be nothing in bearing sorrow patiently when we saw the precise end which it was accomplishing, or the precise benefit which it was securing. There is something very beautiful in the imagery of the psalmist, “Thy righteousness is like great mountains; Thy judgments are a great deep.” The “judgments are a great deep,” the immense ocean, unfathomable by any human line; but the “righteousness is like the great mountains,” giants of the earth, whose foundations are washed by unfathomable waters, whilst their summits lose themselves in the clouds. The mountains are to be considered as rising out of the waters and girding them around on every side. We know, from the parts of the mountains which are visible, that there are lower parts concealed from us by the waters, and are confident that the hidden parts meet the base around which the waters lie. And thus we should learn, from the righteousness which is conspicuous when we look towards the heavens, that there is a righteousness all around those lower obscurities which we are unable to penetrate, that the foundations which are beneath the waves are of the same material as the summits which are above, and which often glow with sunlight, though they may be sometimes shrouded in mist. God’s judgments are likened to the sea, whose depths we have no power of exploring; but out of this sea, at the same time encompassing and containing it, rise towering mountains, and these are the righteousness of God--that righteousness within which all His dealings rest, which may be said to hold them in their embrace, as the roots of the everlasting hills the multitudes of the waters, and which again, like the mountains, may be so discerned above the billows as to leave no doubt of its existing beneath. And as the hills which encircle a deep lake not only form by their foundations and sides the reservoir into which it is gathered, but make a mirror of their surface in which they glass their tops; so not only does the righteousness of God enclose and hold His judgments, but often so images itself that an attentive eye may catch the reflection. What, then, have we to do, when we launch out into the deep, but to remember the mountains which soar on every side, over whose massive, but far spreading, roots we may be sure that we are voyaging even when no line could take the soundings of the mighty abyss? We should never feel lost, as it were, in the judgments, if we kept in mind the righteousness of God; we should never be so far from land as to feel adrift on a boundless waste if faith were in exercise--faith in the perfections and attributes of our Maker--for there would be always some peak of the everlasting hills discernible by faith, some eminence coming out from the vast gatherings of cloud, serving as a beacon in the midst of the tempest. We can, however, imagine a man to have prepared himself, according to our foregoing directions, for surveying what is inexplicable in God’s dealings by fortifying his belief in God’s attributes. Still, when his eyes are on the great deep, it will be hard to keep faith in full exercise: he will be apt to forget, as he gazes on the dark, unfathomable expanse, the principles of which he thought himself so certain, and he will feel, “Oh for some distinct, some visible evidence of that goodness of God which seems so opposed by all this darkness, and all this confusion!” And you shall have it, the psalmist seems to exclaim; I will summon men of every country and every age, from the north and the south, from the east and the west; send hither the young and the old, I will summon every beast of the field, I will summon every fowl of the air; let the sea give up its multitude, let every leaf, every flower, every water-drop, pour forth its insect population--who feeds the innumerable throng? who erects their storehouses? who gives the supply for all these tenants of earth, sea, air? How comes it to pass that, morning after morning, the sun awakens huge cities to life, and causes the silent forest to echo with the warblings of birds, and calls into activity thousands of creatures on every mountain and every valley, and yet out of all this interminable throng thus revivified every dawn there is not the solitary being for whom there is no provision in the granaries of nature? “The eyes of all wait upon Thee; Thou openest Thy hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” Every planet, as it marches on, is moved by God; every star, as it revolves, is turned by God; every flower, as it opens, is unfolded by God; every blade of grass, as it springs, is reared by God--“He preserveth man and beast.” Aye, and if in place of suffering thought to wander across the spreadings of the universe, and nowhere can it reach the spot in which God is not busied, and nowhere find a creature of which He is not the life--if in place of this you carry it down to the inhabitants of this lower creation, what a picture is spread before it by the simple fact that in every department of animated nature the Almighty is momentarily engaged in ministering to the myriads whom He has called into existence--that from the king upon his throne to the beggar in his hovel, from the grey-haired veteran to the infant at the breast, from the lordly lion to the most insignificant reptile, from the vast leviathan to the tiny animalcule which we know only by the microscope, there is not to be found a solitary instance of a being neglected or overlooked by God, not a single case of life sustained independently of God, or that could last one second if God withheld His inspiration. And with this picture to turn to, after gazing till the vision has ached on the great deep of God’s judgments, ought you not to be always able to refresh yourselves in the midst of dark and intricate dispensations, and to get quit of the doubts and suspicions which may be raised by the apparent want of a strict moral government? Indeed, my brethren, there is not a morsel of food which we eat, there is not a bird which cheers us by its wild music, there is not an insect which we see sporting in the sun which ought not to reprove us if we mistrust God because His ways are unsearchable. Can it be that God is unmindful of the world, or that He is not studying what is for the good of His creatures, when He shows Himself attentive to the wants and comforts of the very meanest living thing, and whilst He regulates the course of the stars, and marshals the ranks of the cherubim and the seraphim, He bends down from His glorious throne and applies a guardianship as close to the ephemeral insect that floats by in the breeze, as though it were the only animate production, or the only one that required His providential care? (H. Melvill, B. D.)
The earnest Christian cannot look abroad upon the face of Nature with a careless eye or an unmoved heart. By him God is seen in everything, and what others ascribe coldly to the operations of Nature he traces directly to the finger of God. The most insignificant flower is eloquent to him of his Creator’s goodness; the meanest insect that crawls beneath his feet speaks to him of God; and as he stands upon some mountain height and surveys the outstretched landscape, as he gazes upon the gorgeous panorama of wooded forest and sparkling stream, well-cultivated plains and waving cornfields, his heart glows within him with a sense of devout admiration, and he readily responds to the psalmist’s language.
I. Our dependence upon God. In our calm moments we all acknowledge that without God’s help we are helpless; without His blessing we cannot prosper. But such is the monotony of human life, such the regularity of events, and, I must add, such the subtle pride of the human heart, that this truth often becomes obscured and lost sight of. We need some sudden shock, some reversal of our present state to convince us of our own personal nothingness and our entire dependence upon God. The man endowed with a strong and healthy constitution is scarcely alive to the value of health. If he thinks about it at all, he traces it to his own early rising and freedom from anxiety, his moderation in all things, his temperance and active exercise. But let the smallest portion of his bodily organism be deranged--let some secret fever germ enter the stream of life and poison the man’s blood--let him be cast upon a bed of sickness, so that the slightest effort becomes intolerable, and the commonest functions of the body are attended with pain, and he at once becomes sensible of his dependence upon a Higher Power. He learns now what he might otherwise never have learned, that his own health is not absolutely in his own hands, but that it is “in God he lives and moves and has his being.” Thus he rises from the bed of sickness a wiser and better man; he has more sympathy in his heart for others, and more gratitude towards the Great Giver and Disposer of all things. A similar danger attends those that are engaged in the cultivation of the land, the danger, I mean, of forgetting God. The honest farmer who rises with the lark and takes a praiseworthy pride in his earthly calling is, we will assume, on the whole successful. He is kind to his labourers, and these cheerfully perform the tasks assigned to them. The seasons come round, and each brings with it its own duties. The land is tilled, the seed sown, and at the appointed time the labours of the husbandman are crowned with an abundant, harvest. On the other hand, his neighbour--a farmer like himself--is thoughtless and thriftless. He desires to get on, but lacks common judgment and common energy. His plans do not succeed. His cattle die. His land is impoverished for want of proper cultivation. His harvests are poor, and there is a look about the whole place that tells of coming poverty and ruin. And then how great the danger to the successful farmer; the danger of tracing success in his case to his own energy and enterprise, his own skill and industry, and overlooking altogether the hand of God. It is true that honest industry is generally in this world, and through God’s own appointment., rewarded with success. It is true that God has promised that “while the earth remaineth, seed-time and harvest . . . shall not cease,” but we are surely abusing that promise, and as surely taking too high a view of our own powers if we fail to realize our dependence upon God, and to acknowledge His goodness in giving us the appointed weeks of the harvest.
II. The duty of acknowledging our dependence upon God. If it be wrong on the part of a son to despise or dispute his father’s claims upon his regard and affection; if it be contemptible pride on the part of a pensioner to be ashamed to speak of his benefactor or to recognize his obligations, then it is a sin of no ordinary character to forget Him upon whose daily bounty we live, and to whom we owe the varied blessings we enjoy, Hence, my brethren, to the Christian mind there is something peculiarly pleasing in our gathering together in the house of God this day. Whatever our occupation may be, we are all (indirectly at any rate) dependent upon the labours of the husbandman. We are all interested in a good harvest. A bad harvest means scarcity of bread, and scarcity of bread means suffering to many hundreds and thousands of our fellow-creatures; and on the other hand it is not easy to exaggerate the tendency of an abundant harvest to spread throughout the country a general spirit of peace and contentment. Again, our meeting together on this occasion may be regarded as an emphatic protest against, the scepticism of the day. Men of science are pushing their researches into the varied realms of Nature. Phenomena hitherto considered inexplicable are referred to general laws, and second causes are thus usurping the place of the first great cause. Thus the Creator is, as it were, thrust out of His own creation, and it is sometimes argued as though God had originally called this world into being, and then left it to itself--to be guided and controlled by those eternal laws that were at its creation impressed upon it. Now, against this cold and heartless philosophy our meeting together this day is an emphatic protest.. We thus acknowledge our belief in the universal presence and agency of a Personal God. (C. B. Brigstocke, M. A.)
God’s grace and bounty meted out
William Huntingdon told the story about, a farmer who, when one of his daughters was married, gave her a thousand pounds as a wedding present. There was another daughter, and her father did not give her a thousand pounds when she was married, but he gave her something as a wedding present, and then he kept on pretty nearly every day in the week sending her what he called “the hand-basket portion with father’s love.” And so in the long run she received a good deal more than her sister did. I do like when I get a mercy to have it come to me with my heavenly Father’s love, just my daily portion as I need it; not given all in a lump so that I might go away with it into a far country, as we are sure to do if we have all our mercy at once, but given day by day, as the manna fell, with our heavenly Father’s love every time a fresh token of infinite grace and infinite love. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Thou openest Thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.
The Creator ministering to the wants of His creation
How does the Almighty provide for His creatures?
I. Personally. “Thou.” The pseudosage ascribes the fruits of the earth to the elements and laws of Nature. But the Bible, which is true science, ascribes them to God. God has not left Nature, He is in it, the great Spirit in all the wheels of its machinery. There is a Personal God in personal action, in all Nature.
II. Easily. He has only to open His hand. There is no labour, no effort; simply “Thou openest Thine hand.” How easily God rolls ponderous globes and massive systems through immensity! To communicate good to His creatures is easy work to Him.
1. It is agreeable to His heart. He has not to struggle as we often do against inner propensions and habit in order to show kindness. It is a gratification to His benevolence.
2. It is nothing to His power. It costs Him no effort; the whole universe arose at first by His word.
III. Abundantly. “And satisfiest the desire of every living thing”--from the minutest to the largest, from the microscopic insect to the mighty archangel. (Homilist.)
Thanksgiving for harvest
I. The one great benefactor. He is named by David (verse 1) as his God and King; and such is Jehovah unto all His saints. Their Proprietor and Preserver, their Ruler and Portion in a gracious and peculiar sense. But in the text God is adored as good to all, the one great Benefactor of every living thing. We do not forget that the support which God vouchsafes unto all, and the supplies which He grants to every living thing are not direct and immediate. These, in many instances, reach the creatures through the intervention of numerous channels, various agencies and instrumentalities. God does not now, as of old, rain bread upon the earth--and neither while preserving man or beast in His precious grace is the hand of the Lord seen, or His voice heard, or His glory visible. Still, He Himself is the one great benefactor of all flesh, of every living thing. In Him our breath is, and His are all our ways.
II. The multitude and variety of the dependents. “Every living thing.” Yes, the king in his palace, and the spider which shares the chamber with the monarch; the old man, staff in hand from very age, and the infant smiling on its mother’s lap; the mariner in his ship in the midst of the sea, and the ploughman with his oxen in the peaceful valley; the senators in their council-hall, and the birds singing in the branches of the forest; the rich man feasting in his mansion, and the sheep which stray on its lawns; the cattle upon a thousand hills; the poor blind man begging his bread from door to door, the faithful dog which guides his sightless steps,--toward all these, and multitudes greater far, and in varieties more perplexing still, does our God open His hand and satisfy the desire!
III. The freeness and liberality of the gifts. “Thou openest Thine hand.” No doubt in the course of Providence there are seasons of famine or of scarcity. We are to have the poor always with us, and we discover constant instances of poverty or destitution. There have been years that the locust did eat, and the canker worm, and the caterpillar, and the palmer worm--God’s great army which He sends against us. Even mid the joy of this plentiful harvest we have to lament blight and failure in a portion of the produce of the earth. These, however, are exceptional seasons, and, as judgment is God’s strange works, as these occur they are to be regarded as reproofs for sin, meant to instruct the earth in righteousness, and that man having “cleanness of teeth” appointed him may be taught his weakness, and turn unto the Lord.
IV. The satisfaction which the gifts afford. “Thou satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” Is it any comfort, is it any relief to us to obscure the perfections of the one great Benefactor, and to conceal His administration in all the earth, to say that the satisfying of the desire of every living thing is the effect of natural laws, the order of the earth; and that while it remaineth “seed-time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease”? Thus may speak philosophy falsely so called, and with such crude and false reasoning many may be content. Natural laws, and the order of the earth, forsooth! Who ordained these laws, and who keeps them in operation? Who appointed that order, and preserves it from derangement or disturbance? Revelation teaches us to ascribe all this to God. Reason is fully satisfied only when admitting His dominion in the universe. (John Smart, D. D.)
The Satisfier of all desires
(with verse 19):--You observe the recurrence, in these two verses, of the one emphatic word “desire.” Its repetition evidently shows that the psalmist wishes to run a parallel between God’s dealings in two regions. The same beneficence works in both. Here is the true extension of natural law to the spiritual world.
I. Two kinds of pensioners.
1. “Every living thing.” Life makes a claim on God, and whatever desires arise in the living creature by reason of its life, God would be untrue to Himself, a cruel Parent, an unnatural Father if He did not satisfy them. “He is a faithful Creator;” and wherever there is a creature that He has made to need anything, He has hereby said, “As I live, that creature shall have what it wants.”
2. Then take the other class, “them that fear Him”; or, as they are described in the context--by contrast with “the wicked who are destroyed”--“the righteous.” That is to say, whilst, because we are living things, like the bee and the worm, we have a claim on God precisely parallel with theirs for what we may need by reason of His gift, which we never asked for--His gift of life--we shall have a similar but higher claim on Him if we are “they that fear Him”--with that loving reverence which has no torment in it,--and that love Him with that reverential affection which has no presumption in it, and whose love and fear coalesce in making them long to be righteous, like the object of their love, to be holy like the object of their fear. It comes to this--wherever you find in people a confidence which grows with their love of God, be sure that there is, somewhere or other in the universe of things, that which answers it.
II. Two sets of needs. The first of them is very easily disposed of. “The eyes of all wait upon Thee, and Thou givest them their meat.” That is all. Feed the beast, and give it the other things necessary for its physical existence, and there is no more to be done. But there is more wanted for the desires of the men that love and fear God. These are glanced at in the context, “He also will hear their cry, and will save them”; “The Lord preserveth all them that love Him.” That is to say, there are deeper needs in our hearts and lives than any that are known amongst the lower creatures. Evils, dangers, inward and outward; sorrows, disappointments, losses of all sorts shadow our lives in a fashion which the happy, careless life of field and forest knows nothing about. What is the object of desire to a man that loves God? God. What is the object of desire to a man that fears Him? God. What is the object of desire to a righteous man? Righteousness. And these are the desires which God is sure to fulfil to us. Therefore, there is only one religion in which it is safe and wise to cherish longings, and it is the region of the spiritual life where God imparts Himself. Everywhere else there will be disappointments--thank Him for them. Nowhere else is it absolutely true that that He will “fulfil the desires of them that fear Him.” But in this region it is. Whatever any of us want to have of God we are sure to get. We open our mouths and He fills them. In the Christian life desire is the measure of possession, and to long is to have. And there is nowhere else where it is absolutely, unconditionally, and universally true that to wish is to possess, and to ask is to have.
III. Two forms of appeal. “The eyes of all wait upon Thee.” That is beautiful! The dumb look of the unconscious creature, like that of a dog looking up in its master’s face for a crust, makes appeal to God, and He answers that. But a dumb, unconscious look is not for us. “He also will hear their cry.” Put your wish into words if you want it answered; not for His information, but for your strengthening.
IV. The two processes of satisfying. “Thou openest Thine hand.” That is enough. But God cannot satisfy our deepest desire by any such short and easy method. There is a great deal more to be done by Him before the aspirations of love, and fear, and longing for righteousness can be fulfilled. He has to breathe Himself into us. God’s best gifts cannot be separated from Himself. They are Himself, and in order to “satisfy the desires of them that fear Him” there is no way possible, even to Him, but the impartation of Himself to the waiting heart. He has to discipline us for His highest gifts, in order that we may receive them. And sometimes He has to do that, as I have no doubt He has done it with many of us, by withholding or withdrawing, the satisfaction of some of our lower desires, and so emptying our hearts and turning the current of our wishes from earth to heaven. Not only has He to give us Himself, and to discipline us in order to receive Him, but He has put all His gifts which meet our deepest desires into a great storehouse. He does not open His hand and give us peace and righteousness, and growing knowledge of Himself, and closer union, and the other blessings of the Christian life, but He gives us Jesus Christ. We are to find all these blessings in Him, and it depends upon us whether we find them or not, and how much of them we find. Expand your desires to the width of Christ’s great mercies; for the measure of our wishes is the limit of our possession. He has laid up the supply of all our need in the storehouse, which is Christ; and He has given us the key. Let us see to it that we enter in. “Ye have not because ye ask not.” “To him that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
It is God’s own word. It is not in the world’s vocabulary, much less in the devil’s. This, too, is love’s word. Love is never satisfied until there is a perfect satisfaction. So, then, here is the salvation of our wishes. Nurse your aspirations, encourage your desires. They cannot be too great since God waits to satisfy them. Wishing is not an idle folly when we bring our wishes to God. Then our desires do become pure prophecies; the whispers of God’s love to the soul. Be not afraid of your desires; let the soul be thrilled with the thought of heroism, adventure, nobility, grand deeds grandly done. Take these to God, for He hath need of them, and He knows how to turn these wishes to account. This is the very meaning of our salvation, to turn the idle poetry of our wishes into solid fact that blesses men. It is to inspire the very loftiest longing and to fulfil that which He inspires that Jesus Christ has lived and died and risen in His resurrection power. Do you but give yourself right up to God, and no dream of good is there, no blessed vision of service but shall come to pass. He satisfieth the desire,--the desire of every living thing. (M. G. Pearse.)
All needs freely supplied
A man who engaged a passage on a coasting steamer was in straitened circumstances, and had but a small sum left when his ticket was paid for. Part of this he invested in bread and cheese, thinking the cabin fare too expensive for his limited means. After a while his bread tasted fiat and stale, and his cheese became hard and mouldy. To aggravate matters, he was obliged, three times a day, to inhale the odours from the cook’s galley, and the delicious aromas drove him almost frantic. Finally, when within a day’s sail from the port of destination, he grew desperate. Seeing the steward bearing a huge platter with a turkey, he waylaid him at the entrance of the dining-saloon, and said: “See here, I haven’t much money, but I have stood this thing as long as I can. How much will a dinner like that cost? Cost!” exclaimed the steward; “why, man, it don’t cost you anything, it’s all paid for in your passage.” Our God has made abundant provision for our welfare on the journey heavenward. We do not need to live on dry bread and mouldy cheese. He sets a rich table for all who trust Him. Christ’s command is: Eat and be filled.
The Lord is righteous in all His ways.
The Divine ways
I. God has many ways of dealing with His universe. God’s ways are His methods of action.
1. He has settled methods of action in relation to His inanimate universe He has a way of managing the seas, and the stars, and all the blind forces of Nature.
2. He has settled methods of action in relation to His sentient universe. The smallest insect and the hugest mammoth He manages by their instincts.
3. He has settled methods of action in relation to His moral universe.
(1) With the unfallen. The myriads who retain their pristine virtues.
(2) With the fallen. These include the impenitent and the repentant. He has methods of dealing with them, they are settled and unalterable.
II. In all God’s ways He is absolutely righteous.
1. This is a matter of necessity. He could not but be righteous: whatever He does must be right because He does it, for there is nothing higher than Himself, nothing outside of Himself. He is absolutely irresponsible. What the infinitely wise, holy, and loving does, must be “righteous.”
2. This is a matter for rejoicing. How blessed the thought that He, with whom we have to do, on whom we are absolutely dependent, to whom we are amenable for all our conduct, and who will settle our destiny at last, will never do us wrong, will always act righteously. Moral--Trust in Him. (David Thomas, D. D.)
The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him.
God and His people
I. The persons who are favoured with the Divine presence.
1. They call upon God.
2. They call upon Him in truth.
3. They desire Him.
4. They fear Him.
5. They cry unto Him.
6. They love Him.
7. They praise Him.
II. The favours which the Lord manifests to His people.
1. He is near them.
2. He will grant their desires.
3. He will save them.
4. He will preserve them.
5. They shall be with Him for ever.
III. The destruction of the wicked. “He will destroy”--
1. Their expectation (Proverbs 10:28-20.10.29).
2. Their souls and bodies in hell (Matthew 10:28).
1. See what great encouragement there is for prayer.
2. What incitements to filial confidence in God.
3. What reasons for gratitude and praise.
4. And what terror to the unbelieving. (T. B. Baker.)
All them that love Him.
Love to God
I. On what account God is to be loved, and is loved by His saints.
1. For Himself (Psalms 8:1).
2. As their chief, yea, only good (Psalms 73:25).
3. For the blessings of His goodness communicated to them (Psalms 6:9).
4. For the various relations in which they stand toward Him (Psalms 18:1).
5. For His great love to them (1 John 4:19).
II. How, and in what way and manner, love to God manifests itself.
1. In a desire to be like Him (Ephesians 5:1).
2. In making His glory the supreme end of all their actions (1 Corinthians 10:31).
3. In desiring of, and delighting in, communion with God (1 John 1:3).
4. In a carefulness not to offend Him by sinning against Him (Psalms 97:10).
5. In parting with, and bearing, all, for His sake.
6. In a regard to His house, worship, and ordinances (Psalms 84:1).
7. By a value for His Word, His Gospel, and the truths of it.
8. In love and affection to the people of God.
III. The nature and properties of the love of God.
1. It is universal; a love of all that is in God and belongs unto Him; of all His attributes and perfections, not of His goodness, grace, and mercy, and of Him for them only: but of His holiness, justice, and truth; and of all His commandments, which are to be respected (Ephesians 6:23-49.6.24).
2. It is superlative; exceeds all other love, or love to all other persons and things.
3. It is hearty and sincere; a love without dissimulation; not in word, nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
4. Should be constant; such is the love of God to His people, He rests in His love towards them.
5. It may be increased; the apostle prays for an increase of it, and he thanks God for it that it did abound (1 Thessalonians 3:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:3).
IV. The happiness of such that love the Lord.
1. They are loved by Him (Psalms 63:3).
2. They are known of God (1 Corinthians 8:3; 2 Timothy 2:19).
3. They are preserved by Him (Psalms 145:20; Psalms 31:23).
4. They have many instances of mercy, kindness, and respect shown them (Exodus 20:6). Hence David prays (Psalms 119:123; Proverbs 8:21).
5. All things that occur unto them in the present life are for their good (Romans 8:28).
6. Great things are laid up and reserved for them that love Him. (T. Hannam.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 145". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany