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The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken, and called the earth, from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof.
The first of the Asaph psalms
This, the first of the Asaph psalms, is separated from the other eleven (Psalms 73:1-28; Psalms 74:1-23; Psalms 75:1-10; Psalms 76:1-12; Psalms 77:1-20; Psalms 78:1-72; Psalms 79:1-13; Psalms 80:1-19; Psalms 81:1-16; Psalms 82:1-8; Psalms 83:1-18.) for reasons that do not appear. Probably they are no more recondite than the verbal resemblance between the summons to all the earth at the beginning of Psalms 49:1-20., and the similar proclamation in the first verses of Psalm
1. The arrangement of the Psalter is often obviously determined by such slight links. The group has certain features in common, of which some appear here: e.g. the fondness for descriptions of theophanies; the prominence given to God’s judicial action; the preference for the Divine names of El, Adonai (the Lord), Elyon (Most High). Other peculiarities of the class--e.g. the love for the designation “Joseph” for the nation, and delight in the image of the Divine Shepherd--are not found in this psalm. It contains no historical allusions which aid in dating it. The leading idea of it--viz, the depreciation of outward sacrifice--is unhesitatingly declared by many to have been impossible in the days of the Levite Asaph, who was one of David’s musical staff. But is it so certain that such thoughts were foreign to the period in which Samuel declared that obedience was better than sacrifice? Certainly the tone of the psalm is that of later prophets, and there is much probability in the view that Asaph is the name of the family or guild of singers from whom these psalms came rather than that of an individual. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
The religion of man
I. A solemn judgment awaits the religion of man.
1. Its Author. “The mighty God,” etc.
(2) Absolutely righteous.
2. Its witnesses. “He hath called the earth,” etc.
3. Its grandeur. “Our God shall come,” etc. The Eternal seems now silent; souls deafened by sin hear not His voice, but He will speak in thunder to them in the coming day.
4. Its officers (Psalms 50:5). Who are the officers? (Matthew 24:31; Psalms 104:4). “Gather My saints;” what a gathering! From whence? To whom? What for?
5. Its rectitude (Psalms 50:6). We may deceive ourselves, as well as others now; but the undeceiving period draweth near, and a period of inexpressible solemnity it will be to us all.
II. The worthlessness of mere ceremony in the religion of man.
1. You can give God nothing in your offerings. All belongs to Him.
2. He requires nothing. He is absolutely independent (Psalms 50:14-15).
III. The value of right-heartedness in the religion of man.
1. The nature of spiritual religion.
(1) Hearty gratitude. “Offer unto God thanksgiving.” Not because our thanksgiving is of any service to Him; but because it is right that His moral creatures should appreciate the favours He bestows upon them. Because it is necessary to their own virtue and happiness. Genuine thankfulness of heart to God is the paradise of spirits. Heaven is praise.
(2) Hearty vows. “Pay thy vows unto the Most High.” Resolve to love, worship, and obey the great God; and in genuine earnestness carry out the vows in daily life.
(3) Hearty prayer. “Call upon Me in the day of trouble”--with thine own voice, in thine own language, from thy own heart (Philippians 4:6).
2. The advantages of spiritual religion.
(1) Divine deliverance. “I will deliver thee.”
(2) Divine approbation. “Thou shall glorify Me.” That is, thou shall honour Me. What a reward! (Homilist.)
Preparation to meet God
The whole business which we have in the world is this, to prepare to meet God. This is the meaning of the whole Bible, to warn us that we must meet God, and to afford us every assistance and encouragement in this preparation. It is this in which mankind differs from all other creatures of God which we know of. Angels have not this call made to them. Brute creatures have not to appear before Him. Every mall that is born must at last come into His presence. “Who may abide the day of His coming?” Our Lord’s warning is, “Be ye ready.” What it will be to “meet our God,” no heart of man can conceive; for what thought of man can ever understand what God is? But we may come to know Him even in this world far more than we think we can, as He is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. The thought of meeting God is of itself so awful that we might have been disposed to sit down in despair at the contemplation of it, were it not for this access to the Father which we have in Jesus Christ. It is of infinite consequence that we should be prepared, “lest that day should overtake us unawares.” And we know in what way we are to be prepared, what the things are which will be required of us. We cannot undo the past, which must all come before the all-seeing eye of the Judge; but, during the little time that remains to us, we can earnestly ask forgiveness, with lastings, and prayers, and tears, for the sake of Christ; and thus we may, with God’s mercy, gain some hope and comfort before we die. (Plain Sermons by authors of “Tracts for the Times.”)
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined.
Zion the abode of God
I. That God dwells in the church.
1. In the congregation of the righteous.
2. In the hearts of His people.
II. That the church is “the perfection of beauty” only when God dwells in it. Otherwise the Church is as the world without the sun; an army in battle without its general; a ship in distress without the pilot.
III. That the church is God’s most beautiful dwelling-place.
1. Here His love is most of all shown, and--
2. His praises most celebrated. (W. Nicholson.)
The beauty and lustre of the Church
I. Justify and illustrate this designation of Zion.
1. Its nature, not alone natural, but yet more spiritual. And so in regard to any Church to-day. Its beauty is not in that which worldly men admire--riches, rank, etc., but in the deep spirituality of its members.
2. Its source--Divine grace.
3. Its medium--Christ.
4. How wrought--by the Holy Spirit.
5. Its contrast to the deformity all around.
II. In what sense God hath shined out of Zion.
1. There His nature and character are revealed.
2. Thence the blessings of salvation flow down to men.
3. In her midst Christ will judge the world.
1. Value spiritual beauty beyond all else.
2. Such beauty is the glory of every Church.
3. Be concerned that God may shine out of the midst of the Church with which we are connected.
4. You unsaved ones, if God shines in the midst of the Church, what is to become of you who will not come to Him? (Joseph Davis.)
The perfection and beauty of Zion
I. The internal perfection and beauty of Zion.
1. It is because of the indwelling of the Divine presence that we have a Church.
2. Only as God dwells in us individually is it possible for Him to dwell in His Church as a body.
3. The Church of Christ is the aggregate of holy living; the aggregate of simple faith; the aggregate of personal consecration; the aggregate of personal devotion to God and to our fellow-men.
II. The external beauty and perfection of Zion, the Church of the redeemed, depends upon the shining forth or manifestation of this indwelling presence of God. Christ’s Church is not a dark lantern, but a chandelier with its lights trimmed and burning--a lighthouse. And what a responsibility this wonderful bequest to believers, this marvellous endowment of the Church, carries with it! (F. M. Ellis, D. D.)
Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence.
Our God shall come
I. The coming of our God. The expression is very striking: “Our God shall come!” Christ is God as well as man. His first coming was in His birth at Bethlehem. Here the psalmist contemplates His second coming. The cry may soon be heard, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh,” etc. It is of the utmost importance that we should be ready.
II. The manner of his coming. “A fire shall devour,” etc. It is impossible to describe the terror of that day!
III. The object of his coming. “He shall call,” etc. (R. Horsfall.)
The silence of God
I. Consider the marvellous, and, as some may think, mysterious silence of god during the present economy.
1. Rise in the morning, and go forth to look upon the world as the light reveals it to the eye. You see the sun mounting to his throne of glory, dispensing, as he goes, life and warmth and beauty over all the habitable globe. All nature awakes at his approach. But though there is a very orchestra of subtile sounds--the song of birds, the hum of insect life, the sough of the swaying pines, the rustle of the dewy leaves--yet nowhere in field or forest, on the green earth or in the deep blue sky, do you hear the voice of the Deity. God keeps silence!
2. Go climb some lofty mountain, until you have the clouds beneath your feet, and the world spread out in grand panorama before you, river and plain, hill and valley, city and hamlet. You seem to breathe the pure air of heaven, and to stand under its cloudless dome. But neither in that blue arch above you, nor among those vast ranges of billowy mountains which encompass you, nor from those yet loftier snow-clad peaks which tower up to heaven, arrayed in their white robes for ever as the high priests of nature, do you hear any whisper or echo of the voice of the invisible God. The cataract thunders in the gorge, the mountain-brook babbles in the valley, the sad sea-waves chant their dirge along the shore, the hoarse thunder reverberates from peak to peak, but God keeps silence.
3. Picture some of the scenes of shameful revelry nightly enacted in such a city as this, when the licence and impiety of Belshazzar’s feast are reproduced; when lips that were taught in infancy to lisp the name of God in prayer are made the instruments of ribaldry and blasphemy. Yet no handwriting on the wall rebukes the shameless revellers. God keeps silence!
4. Or, think of the deeds of wickedness daily wrought among men--“man’s inhumanity to man,” the heartless cruelty with which the strong prey upon the weak, “the oppressor’s wrongs, the proud man’s contumely,” deceit and falsehood, trickery and hypocrisy, wrong and robbery. God keeps silence!
II. Why does god keep silence?
1. A spiritual being cannot be apprehended by the senses. The eye of flesh, the ear of flesh cannot perceive the invisible God. It is the soul which perceives, hears, apprehends Him. Faith in God must remain a moral act; it must be the result of moral considerations, not of the formulas of logic. The stream cannot rise above its source; and belief in God, which should be the result of a logical demonstration, would remain an act of the logical faculties, and would have no moral value. Moreover, if the being and attributes of God were so plainly exhibited in the visible universe as to preclude the possibility of a doubt, a necessary element of man’s probation would be wanting.
2. The probationary character of human life. If God’s presence and power and retributive justice were forced upon the attention of men, so that they could not escape the consciousness of it; if God’s voice were ever sounding in their ears in warning; and if punishment followed swiftly upon transgression--men in that case would act as truly under compulsion as if bound hand and foot, and driven by the whip of the taskmaster. There might be obedience to the Divine law; but it would be enforced obedience, and hence its moral value would be gone. (R. H. McKim, D. D.)
He shall call to the heavens from above, and to the earth, that He may judge His people.
Nature, a witness against the sinner
But she seems, oftentimes, utterly insensible. The most bounteous gifts are bestowed on saint and sinner alike. No matter what outrages on all righteousness and goodness men may be guilty of, she takes no notice. No lightning-bolt leaps forth on the impious head, and the solid earth does not yawn to engulf the perpetrator of iniquity. But, nevertheless, Scripture speaks of Nature as if it were a conscious witness of the moral history of man, as here in our text (cf. also Isaiah 1:1; Micah 6:1; Deuteronomy 31:28). What is the import of this appeal, in which heaven and earth are called upon to bear record?
I. The material world may be thus summoned to witness, as containing the scenes of man’s crimes. Nature keeps a silent record of them in the associations of the places where they were committed. Bring the sinner to the scene of his past misdeeds, and he will sometimes feel as if all the objects around were endowed with a voice of reproachful reminiscence. How great is the power of local association, whether the deeds done there have boon noble or the reverse. There are places on which we wish never to look again because of that of which they remind us. Thus the whole earth may become full of such reminders, and so may be a faithful record to the eye that can read them.
II. By its fulfilling, in contrast with man, the end of its existence. All things are judged as they answer to the ends for which they were made. How, then, does the material world witness against us.
III. As affording proof of the unerring certainty and strictness of the divine laws. Their operation is invisible and uniform; slow, oftentimes, but sure. Only the interposition of a higher law, as in the Redemption of Christ, can save the sinful man. (John Caird, D. D.)
Gather My saints together unto Me.
The doctrine of a general judgment and of a final retribution is a doctrine of pure revelation, and is found both in the Old Testament and in the New. But before this judgment shall be issued the command given in our text.
I. The characters here described--“My saints.” How we become saints.
1. By Divine choice.
2. By a Divine change which is the necessary consequence of this choice.
3. Their character is evidenced by their Divine conduct, and--
4. By Divine consecration.
II. The command issued. “Gather,” etc. Now, God does this--
1. In their conversion.
2. In public worship.
3. “In times of danger.
4. In the service of His Church, and--
5. In death and at the Resurrection. (J. Sibree.)
“Gather My saints together unto Me”
1. What an expressive word--“My saints!” How the Lord appropriates them as His own! (Malachi 3:17).
2. “Gather My saints.” “He shall gather the lambs in His arms.” He shall “gather” them as a shepherd his sheep in the hour of weakness and danger. They shall not be weak or nervous then. The frail body shall be dropped for ever.
3. “Gather My saints together.” It is the family meeting; it is the grand reunion; it is the glad assembly. We shall not rise to meet the Lord individually--in isolation; we shall be gathered together. What heart does not bound at the thought!
4. “Unto Me.” What would that meeting be without Jesus? What is any meeting without Him? (F. Whitfield, M. A.)
The gathering of Christ’s saints
It is the Son of God who is the speaker in this psalm, which tells of His first advent at Jerusalem, and then of His second coming to take vengeance on the disobedient. In that second coming we all shall be deeply interested. Let us think how it will fare with us on that day. Our text refers to it. Consider--
I. The characters described.
1. They are Christ’s saints. We are to be a holy people, “without blame before Him in love.” How is it with us?
2. They have entered into covenant with God. Abraham (Genesis 15:9, etc.; Jeremiah 34:18). See also Noah’s sacrifice. And so God’s saints now covenant with God through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.
II. The command respecting them.
1. They will be gathered together. They are not so now.
2. They will be gathered unto Christ. “Gather . . . unto Me.” How blessed this prospect.
1. The duty of Christ’s ministers--to gather together saints, from sin and the world, by the preaching of the Gospel. Nothing compensates if this be left undone.
2. The privileges of Christ’s people. Eternal life in heaven is yours. (C. Clayton, M. A.)
Christ’s order for the gathering of His saints
This psalm certainly relates to the coming of Christ for judgment (Psalms 50:8). “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence; a fire shall devour before Him, and it shall be very tempestuous round about Him.” But whether to His first coming, to abolish the ceremonial law, set up the simple Gospel-worship, and to judge, condemn, and take vengeance on the formal, superstitious Jews, destroying their temple, and ruining their kingdom; or to His second coming to judge the world, is a question. I think it is plain it relates to both, the former as an emblem, pledge and type of the other; and thus we find them stated by our Saviour Himself (Matthew 24:1-51.).
1. We have the party in whose name the court is called and held. It is in the name of the Holy Trinity, Hebrews “God! God! Jehovah; He hath spoken,” etc. God will judge the world by the man Christ.
2. The issuing out of the summons to the whole world, called the earth from the rising of the sun, unto the going down thereof; from east to west, from the one end to the other.
3. From whence the Judge sets forth, making His glorious appearance. At the giving of the law He came from Sinai with terrible majesty (Deuteronomy 33:2). At this His appearance He will come from Zion, the city of the living God, namely, from heaven, the Church being so called as a heaven on earth.
4. His awful coming to the judgment. He is God, as well as man. Devouring fire shall be his harbinger (2 Thessalonians 1:8). But will any then bid Him welcome? Yes, His people will.
5. Whither the summons shall be directed. To the heavens, where the souls of the blessed are that are dead; to the earth, where the living are, good and bad, and where the bodies of the dead are (Revelation 20:13).
6. A special gracious order in favour of His people. See text. Now comes the time of setting all to rights with them. And they are further characterized as “those that have made a covenant,” etc.
From all which we gather these doctrines--
1. When Christ comes again to put an end to this world, and complete the state of the other world, He will publicly own the saints as His own, and they shall be honourably gathered to Him by His order.
2. When Christ comes again, this earth will be very throng, and a wonderful mixture will be in it more than ever at any time before; He having called to heaven, and the other receptacle of departed souls, and brought them all back to their bodies which are in the earth.
3. When Christ comes again He will put an end to this world ere He go. His very first appearance will put an end to the business of it. All trades, employments, and diversions in this world will end for ever. And, ere He leave it, He will put an end to itself by setting it on fire; so that it shall no more be capable of affording a habitation to man or beast; while withal the heavens that cover it shall pass away (2 Peter 3:10).
4. Saintship will be the only mark of distinction among men then. (T. Boston, D. D.)
The final saintly gathering
I. Here is the character of good men.
1. They are saints. By this expression, “My saints,” God claims a property in them, and expresseth His care of them and love to them.
2. They have made a covenant with Him by sacrifice. They have taken Him to be their God, their ruler and portion; and given up all dependence upon other objects.
II. The command. “Let it be thy care, O my soul! I have the honour and happiness to be gathered with His people; and to have fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ. This is the main thing; the source of my chief joy. I bless God that I am gathered with His saints, and united to His Church; and that I do not live in the total or general neglect of this sacred institution. I am willing and thankful to be laid under the most solemn engagements to be the Lord’s, and often to recollect and renew them. I know that my treacherous heart needs every tie, to bind it more closely to God and its duty. I would come, deeply humbled for past violations of my engagements, and with the renewed exercises of repentance and faith. Lord, I come, to join myself to Thee in a perpetual covenant, never to be forgotten; with a believing regard to Jesus Christ, the great sacrifice, here set forth, as crucified before my eyes.” Let us remember what is said of this gathering. They shall all be gathered from all places, the most obscure and the most remote; and brought to the presence of their covenant-God and Father, who will applaud and reward their fidelity. (Job Orton, D. D.)
A covenant with God
The psalmist’s idea of God, as herein expressed, is broad and spiritual, and indicates high spiritual development. It is an ennobling one for man. To have a covenant with God, to be partner with Him in a bond, is to make us, to a certain extent, equal with Him. Covenant-making is one of the earliest instincts in man, and intrinsically one of the noblest. The bargain-making spirit is not necessarily a low one, nor a selfish one, nor a worldly one. We have degraded it by our use of it, by our desire to over-reach, to get the better of our neighbours in our bargains. The first condition of existence is the establishing of relationship between self, and that which is outside self. During the early years of our life we are largely dependent on others for the fulfilling of that condition for us. When we grow older we realize that for a rich and full and strong life we still are dependent on others, but as they in their turn are also dependent on us, we make covenants with them to fix and regulate the mutual help which we are prepared to render and receive. This covenant-making denotes the recognition, conscious or unconscious, of the incapacity of our own resources to satisfy our own needs and desires. But it indicates also that the true nature of man is not that little portion which he has within himself, but is that great nature, of which each one of us has in himself but a little share. And such is the nature of man, that with all his own resources, and all he can draw from others, he is left still unsatisfied. He craves for a yet fuller life, to be filled out of the infinite nature. This leads us to think of the nature of the covenant between God and man, involving the duty of man. Our part of the agreement is that we sacrifice to God. The only true sacrifice is the one which is prompted by love. Love and sacrifice are a twin growth, and each loses its purity when severed from the other. The act of sacrifice is contemplated oftentimes when we are still in the enjoyment of comfort and peace and light, but the sacrifice itself is carried out when all our comfort has declined, when our peace has been turned into maddest strife, and when the light by which we entered the narrow path of self-surrender has been turned into a darkness deep as death. If we love God, we shall delight in every sacrifice which is a manifestation of love, and we shall rejoice to offer our dearest and best gifts to Him. In poverty and weakness we may now make such offering, but it will continue to complete itself. “And, at last, as the righteous will of man gains the final victory, as it unites itself in entire acquiescence with the all-righteous will of God, sacrifice will at once be perfected and abolished, immersed in one infinite ocean of joy and love.” What we are vitally concerned to know about God is that He is perfectly just, and true, and loving. And this we can never learn from any revelation to our outward senses, but by quick prophetic insight, by the intuition of the Spirit. When we realize that God and man are one in a covenant of eternal life, we shall have incentive sufficient and worthy for all noble effort; for we ourselves shall have then become “sons of God.” (A. H. Moncur Syme.)
The necessity of sacrifice
The history of sacrifice is as old as the history of sin; the idea of sacrifice much older. It is part of the inmost counsels of God. It finds its corresponding utterance, with differing degrees of clearness and truth, through all that is holiest, noblest, and most personal of all God’s creation. Time, study, thought, enter into every work of art that earns any real fame and perhaps it is not too much to say that no painter’s creation, no sculptor’s reproduction of all but life, no burning words of eloquence, no minstrel’s strain, no poet’s dream, no work of art, ever really touches the heart, kindles deep feeling, directs motives, or influences conduct, if it does not bear on or below its surface the evidence of labour, of travail, of self-devotion, of self-dedication, self-absorption in the object of beauty or of power. And only in proportion as those who look, or admire, or criticize, or are captivated, know the real principles of what they gaze upon, or estimate the suffering they cost, does the popular opinion approximate the true. And hence it is that God’s judgment, and God’s opinion of people and acts, differ so often and so terribly from ours. He knows on what grounds His professing servants claim to have a covenant with Him: in what manner they act up to their claim. But God is gathering together those with whom He has made a covenant by sacrifice. And why? For judgment. “God is judge Himself.” He has a heavy charge against them. They are His. They have made a covenant with Him. But herein is their sin. The first awful charge against them is opened thus: “I am God, even thy God.” The only sacrifice they had made had cost them nothing. And this day again God speaks. Again “out of Zion bath God appeared in perfect beauty”; but it is not the beauty of the world; it is “in the beauty of holiness” expressed in sacrifice. He gathers His saints together unto Him; “lifted up” from the earth upon the Cross, He “draws all men unto Him.” Standing before the Cross, gathered before God, can we compare our lives with that life of sacrifice? Can we say that we have really rendered to Him that which He knows it is a sacrifice to us to give? (G. C. Harris, M. A.)
I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices or thy burnt offerings.
“I will not reprove thee for thy sacrifices;” i.e. for thy neglect of them, but for thy resting in them, sticking in the bark, bringing Me the bare shell without the kernel, not referring to the right end and use, but satisfying thyself in the work done. (John Trapp.)
Go out into the woods, where the white oak is, and where the beech is. Their leaves died last November, but they all hang on the trees yet. The trees have not strength to slough them. They always make me think of a great many people. Sap does not run in them any more, but their duties hang on them like dead leaves all over. They would not like to drop their duties: they are not quite in that state yet; but those duties are dry, sapless and enforced. (E. P. Thwing.)
If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is Mine, and the fulness thereof.
The owner of the world
I. There must be a growing knowledge of God amongst men. Men once thought that God could be hungry, and that offerings of wheat, goats, etc., would appease His appetite: but when this psalm was written they had advanced far beyond this in their knowledge of God. And we now have no such idea. Science, learning, and the study of the life of Jesus, have classified and enlarged our ideas of God and God’s workings. Then we ought not to be afraid to say, “The teachings of our fathers, the associations of the old theology of creeds must be modified. We must not allow our spiritual life to be controlled by leading strings held in dead hands.” We must be ready to stand in the light of the revealed character of God, and accept our impulses and conclusions from that.
II. A statement of the rights of God over the world promotes that knowledge, How many of those who read inscribed on the portico of the Royal Exchange, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof,” ever ponder the large meaning of these words. All natural things are His. How we prize that which is ours--from our first children’s toys to our possessions now that we are come to mature age. And because this feeling of ownership is in us we know that it is in God. And not only the things, but the energies in them, are His. And all things that men produce, for they come out of the fulness of God’s world. What, then, can He wish for from us but that we come to know Him and to love and honour Him as we should? Therefore remember--
(1) All property is held from God. We are but His stewards.
(2) Everything in the world is a witness to God.
(3) God is the sustainer of all things. (D. O. Watt, M. A.)
Offer unto God thanksgiving and pay thy vows.
A thanksgiving mode of glorifying God
1. “Offer unto God thanksgiving.” For what? “In everything give thanks.” The propriety of this is seen at once when we consider that we owe everything to God. It is impossible, without a due acknowledgment of this, to appreciate our dependence upon and obligation to Him, “in whom we live, and move, and have our being.”
2. But our text enjoins us “to pay our vows unto the Most High.”
3. “And call upon God in the day of trouble.” Our fathers had their troubles, and we shall have ours. They may arise from sources anticipated or unanticipated; for the former we may to some degree prepare, or even, perhaps, by prudent forethought and action in some cases prevent; for the latter, we can only patiently wait upon God who sees and knows all things, and with whom is all wisdom and power. No intelligent observer can be unaware of serious dangers that threaten our God-given heritage. “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.” We think our cherished institutions well guarded in citadels of truth and righteousness, and if all who man the citadels are reliable and faithful, it is certain that no foes without can harm, for the God in whom we trust will never suffer the righteous to be confounded or finally overcome. And we must trust in Him for the protection and defence of all that is right; and we must, if we would be safe and secure, look to Him for wisdom to devise and strength to execute all our purposes in His fear.
4. “And thou shalt glorify Me.” Not “make Him glorious,” as if to imply that we can add anything to His glory that ever was, is, and ever shall be complete in itself beyond any comparison; but “show forth His glory,” by acknowledging it in our hearts, pro claiming it with our lips, exhibiting our regard for it in our lives, and diffusing it all abroad by the exertion of all our ransomed powers and possible energies in His service for the good of all within the range of our influence. For this we were created, for this we are preserved, and when we are told that we are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, we are exhorted “therefore” to “glorify God in our bodies and our spirits, which are His.” (J. T. Ward, D. D.)
Gratitude is a natural principle of the human heart. In every age thanksgiving has been offered. The songs of Zion have been often sung; the altar has blazed before the Creator of the universe, and the temple been filled with the odours of incense.
I. Creation is a proper subject of thanksgiving. With the beauties of nature you are surrounded on every side. The morning sun and the melody of the groves; the beautiful landscape and the blue sky; the roaring cataract and the spacious ocean; these are free. Untouched with gratitude can mortals behold them?
II. The benefits of providence demand your thanksgiving. Often has health been restored after sickness, and the mind solaced after the depression of sorrow. In some eases, misfortunes have been removed. Yes, calamities have been alleviated. Now, the return of tranquillity to the troubled mind is a blessing unspeakable; and the wounded spirit, which God hath healed, ought surely to praise Him.
III. The blessings of his grace claim your warmest gratitude. And, wherever such gratitude exists, it becomes a powerful principle of obedience, leading a pious man to combat every species of corruption, to cultivate every virtue, to maintain rectitude of conduct in every case, and preserve, in short, on all occasions, a careful and conscientious adherence to the commandments of his God. (T. Laurie.)
The duty of praise and thanksgiving
“Offer unto God thanksgiving.” Which that we may do, let us inquire first how we are to understand this command of offering praise and thanksgiving unto God; and then how reasonable it is that we should comply with it. Our inquiry into what is meant here will be very short: for who is there that understands anything of religion hut knows that the offering praise and thanks to God implies our having a lively and devout sense of His excellencies and of His benefits; our recollecting them with humility and thankfulness of heart; and our expressing these inward affections by suitable outward signs; by reverent and lowly postures of body, by songs, and hymns, and spiritual ejaculations; either privately or publicly. Our praise properly terminates in God, on the account of His natural excellencies and perfections; and is that act of devotion by which we confess and admire His several attributes: but thanksgiving is a narrower duty, and imports only a grateful sense and acknowledgment of past mercies. Now, the great reasonableness and obligation of this duty of praise or thanksgiving will appear if we consider it absolutely in itself as the debt of our natures: or compare it with other duties, and then the rank it bears among them; or set out, in the last place, some of its peculiar properties and advantages, which recommend it to the devout performer.
1. It is the most pleasing part of our devotions. It proceeds always from a lively, cheerful temper of mind; and it cherishes and improves what it proceeds from.
2. It is another distinguishing property of Divine praise, that it enlargeth the powers and capacities of our souls; turning them from little and low things, upon their greatest and noblest objects, the Divine nature; and employing them in the discovery and admiration of those several perfections that adorn it.
3. It farther promotes in us an exquisite sense of God’s honour, and an high indignation of mind at everything that openly profanes it.
4. It will work in us a deep humility and consciousness of our own imperfections.
5. A conscientious praise of God will keep us back from all false and mean praises, all fulsome and servile flatteries, such as are in use among men. (Bishop Atterbury.)
Thanksgiving due to God alone
A lady applied to an eminent philanthropist of Bristol, Richard Reynolds, on behalf of a little orphan boy. After he had given liberally, she said, “When he is old enough I will teach him to name and thank his benefactor.” “Stop,” said the good man; “thou art mistaken. We do not thank the clouds for rain. Teach him to look higher, and thank Him who giveth both the clouds and the rain.”
Call upon Me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me.
The true deliverance
Many an one, in the day of trouble, has called on God even with an exceeding bitter cry, and yet has found no deliverance. The “cloudy and dark day” has continued full of a gloom, which no light from heaven has broken through to relieve. The blow which we dreaded, and which we prayed might not fall, has fallen. But need our faith fail, so that we shall refuse any more to rely on God’s promise again? Can there be any real ground for that? It would be awful if there were; if we had to think of God, as we too often have to think of men, as not to be depended on, not to be trusted to make good His word. It would be almost better to be Atheists than to think that. But the solution of the difficulty is in the fact that what God means by “deliverance” is other than what we mean. We are asking for one thing when He means another. And perhaps, also, we misunderstand God when He says, “Call upon Me.” Do we not too often take it to mean that when we see no other help, then we should call on God for there is nothing else to be done? Is not this too much our idea; and is it a just idea? Have we any right to treat God in that way? to neglect Him and forget Him till we are in trouble, and then to call aloud on Him, simply to remove the trouble? I do not think we can interpret God’s Word as meaning that He will answer such a call by such a deliverance. He means that the trouble is to do the work which He desires it should; to lead us to Him, to break in upon our worldliness, self-sufficiency, and forgetfulness of our dependence on Him, and to help us to receive the blessing it is meant to bestow, so that through it we may be delivered, not necessarily from it, but from the evils which it was intended to correct, from the dangers against which it was the warning. A man, for instance, who had wilfully committed a crime and been visited with the punishment of his crime, might feel so touched in heart and so distressed in mind, as to be led to the thought of God, and to cry to God for deliverance; but could be expect God to open his prison door and let him go free, or to pay his fine and let him off without a penalty? Would that be indeed a “deliverance” to him? Would not the only real deliverance be a deliverance from the evil heart and unrighteous spirit which led him to commit the crime; and would not the outward trouble, from which God did not deliver him, be doing its proper work, if through God’s grace it was the means of delivering him from that evil heart and that unrighteous spirit? If it did that, could he say God had not heard his cry or wrought deliverance for him? (R. H. Story, D. D.)
Encouragement for the pious in the day of trial
I. The speaker. “The mighty God;” possessing--
1. Boundless knowledge (Hebrews 4:13; Acts 10:5-6; Matthew 10:30).
2. Infinite goodness (Psalms 145:9; Psalms 103:13; Psalms 147:11).
3. Omnipotent power (Psalms 148:6).
II. The persons addressed.
1. Those who fear and love God (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).
2. Those who are subjects of trial (Hebrews 12:6; Hebrews 12:10).
III. The duty suggested. “Call upon Me.”
IV. The declaration made. “I will deliver thee.”
1. At what time He sees best.
2. In what way He sees best.
3. By what means He sees best.
V. The grateful returns required. “And thou shalt glorify Me.”
1. By a devout acknowledgment of the Divine goodness (Psalms 34:1-4). Be careful not to ascribe that to human agency which is immediately the work of God.
2. By unreserved devotedness to Him (Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 6:20).
3. By promoting His interests--your time, talents, influence employed for God. Present them through the merits of Christ.
1. To those who love and fear God. How blessed is your state I The Lord is your God, call upon Him.
2. To those who are humbly seeking God (Matthew 11:28).
3. To those who are living without God. How awful your state! (Romans 2:5). (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
For the day of trouble
I. The day. “Day of trouble.”
1. All know more or less of this “day”--morning, noon, or eventide of it, or the whole “day.”
2. Trouble various:
(1) Business trouble--competition--dishonest traders--bad times, etc.
(2) Domestic trouble--family cares--sick child--wayward son or daughter--poverty.
(3) Soul-trouble--sins realized--con-science accusing--unworthiness and imperfections--doubts and fears, etc.
3. Only a “day”! not a week--month--year, etc.
II. The request. “Call upon Me.” Friends generally plentiful in prosperity, scarce in trouble. God wants us to come particularly then. Take your prayer-cheques and faith-orders to His Bank, and so ask and receive that your joy may be full. This the Divine cure for trouble. Don’t worry--chafe--fret--despair; simply give Him a “call”--He is always at home, etc.
III. The promise. “I will deliver thee.” Infinite ability and willinghood--power and love--are at the back of this promise. None ever called aright and were refused. Noah, David, Daniel, etc., cried and were delivered.
IV. The result. “Thou shalt glorify Me.”
1. By presenting praise (verse 23).
2. By publishing His fame--gratitude will constrain to this.
3. By trusting implicitly at all times. (J. O. Keen, D. D.)
Robinson Crusoe’s text
One book charmed us all in the days of our youth. Is there a boy alive who has not read it? I am not ashamed to confess that I can read it even now with ever fresh delight. You remember how Robinson Crusoe was wrecked. He is left in the desert island all alone. He is smitten with fever. He is ready to perish. Now he begins to think, and opens a Bible which he finds in his chest, and he lights upon this passage. That night he prayed for the first time in his life. It is a text which I would have written in stars across the sky, or sounded forth with trumpet at noon from the top of every tower. Observe--
I. Realism is preferred to ritualism. Note the content. How this is so.
1. Because there is meaning in it. There is none in ritualism when grace is absent. But when you call upon God in the day of trouble there is meaning, and God understands, and cares for it when all the pomp and show, and the gorgeousness of ritual are to Him as nothing.
2. There is spirituality in it, and worship in spirit and in truth is what God would have.
3. It recognizes God as the living God.
4. It is sincere. In prosperity we are apt to forget our prayers. Too many of us are like boys’ tops, that cease to spin except they are whipped. Certainly trouble gives intensity to prayer.
5. It is humble. Too often we are over-satisfied with our own performances in the way of worship, but when in deep trouble the soul bows down then.
6. And there is a measure of faith in such prayers. When faith does, as it were, only cross over the field of the camera, so that across the photograph there is a dim trace of its having been there, God can spy it out, and He can and will accept prayer for the sake of that little faith. Next we have--
II. Adversity turned to advantage. God cannot deliver a man who is not in trouble: even Jesus Christ cannot heal a man who is not sick. Now, if you be in trouble, you have--
1. A plea from the time. This is the day of trouble. Your case is urgent.
2. From the trouble itself. It is so great.
3. From the command. God bids you pray.
4. From His own character--so great, so good.
III. Free grace laid under bonds. “I will deliver thee:” thus God pledges Himself. The text is unconditional as to the persons. And God’s “I will” includes all needful power which may be needed for deliverance. But we are not told exactly when God wilt do this. You are in a great hurry, but the Lord is not. When the gold is cast into the fining-pot, there it must stay till the dross is purged away. But promptitude is implied. He will deliver you in the best possible time.
IV. God and the praying man taking shares. Here is your share, “Call upon Me”; here is God’s share, “I will deliver.” Again, here is yours, You shall be delivered; and then, again, it is the Lord’s turn, “Thou shalt glorify Me.” Here is a delightful partnership. Who would demur to these terms? If God will pardon and justify us, adopt and sanctify us, and bring us home to heaven at last, shall He not have the glory of it? Even some divines will give man a little of the glory. Oh, that Dagon of a free will! How men will worship it! Go out henceforth, you saved ones, and tell what the Lord has done for you. An aged woman once said that if the Lord Jesus Christ really did save her, He should never hear the last of it. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Prayer to God in trouble an acceptable sacrifice
God here reproves Israel not for keeping back from Him abundant ceremonial service--they were not at fault there--but for not rendering Him the worship of the heart. That was what He desired more than all burnt offering and sacrifice. And the reasons of God’s preference are evident. For--
I. It brings glory to him in itself.
1. It shows that God is a reality to the man.
2. There is spiritual intercourse in it. How easy it is to say a prayer without coming into contact with God! Year after year the tongue repeats pious language, as a barrel organ grinds out the old tunes, and there may be no more converse with the Lord than if the man had muttered to the ghosts of the slain. Many prayers might as well be said backward as forwards, for there would be as much in them one way as the other. The abracadabra of the magician has quite as much virtue in it as any other set of mere words.
3. It is filled with a manifest hope in God.
4. It exhibits a clinging affection to Him, and--
5. A most stedfast confidence. Therefore is it that such prayer brings glory to God.
II. Also, through the answer which it wins. The answer is personal, positive, practical, permanent.
III. And the Lord will be glorified in your conduct afterwards. Adoration, gratitude, trust, patience, a consecrated life. It is by the sharp needle of sorrow that we are embroidered with the praises of the Lord. The brightest of the saints owe much of their clearness to the fire and the file. We must be tried that the Lord may be glorified. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Our only deliverance
I. The duty enjoined. “Call upon Me,” etc. This bears fully upon our present circumstances (2 Chronicles 7:13-14). The word “call” implies--
1. Earnestness of heart.
2. Faith, which realizes both God’s truth and God’s grace.
II. The promise given--“I will deliver thee.” Who else can? Medical science seems of but little avail. But God can (Revelation 7:1-17.). The command to the angel of penitence; and 2 Samuel, last chapter. All show that the Lord can limit the powers of evil. Let us remember the love of God--His presenting, forbearing, redeeming, sanctifying love.
III. Practical lessons.
1. Acknowledge God’s hand in this affliction.
2. Do not exaggerate it.
3. Do not neglect it. Humble yourselves and help the poor. (H. Montagu Villiers, M. A.)
The Christian’s duty in the day of trouble
What an encouraging character does this psalm give us of the religion He would see in us. He represents it as consisting chiefly in thanksgiving and prayer.
I. A command for God’s people. They are represented as in trouble. There is “a day of trouble,” it is intimated, either come on them or coming. And it is a touching circumstance, that whoever else may overlook our troubles, the Lord does not. Call upon Me in the day of trouble. Afflicted souls should pray more and oftener, and to bring us to this is the design of trouble, and when we are brought thus to pray, it is one of the very best evidences that our trouble has been blessed to us. One thing more we must add--the Lord will assuredly bring all His troubled people to this, this calling upon Him. He will knock away their props from under them, or He will wither their strength, or He will add more and more to their burden; in some way He will make them feel that they cannot possibly stand without Him (Psalms 107:1-43.).
II. A gracious promise the lord gives to his people. “I will deliver thee.” This means--
1. Deliverance in trouble; or--
2. From trouble.
III. The happy effect which is to follow--“Thou shalt glorify Me.” And this will be both in and after our trouble. The believer ever recognizes God’s hand in such deliverance, and therefore glorifies Him. Let us all turn to God now, so that we may be able to turn to Him when trouble comes. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
The day of trouble
Why not “deliver” without calling? He knows the sorrow and need of His people, and if it be in His heart to “deliver,” why wait to be “called upon”? When a man is in “trouble,” and his neighbours help him out, he is not in much danger of confounding his benefactor with himself, or of questioning, after all, if the deliverance did not come in some other way. But if God delivered men without being “called upon,” they would soon become rationalistic, in their way of looking at things, and not only account for “the day of trouble,” but also for their “deliverance,” upon the mere principles of reason or natural law. It is the calling spirit which He seeks to evoke--the spirit which recognizes Him as the only “deliverer” of His people.
I. The time. “The day of trouble “does not appear to be governed, as is our natural day, by planetary revolutions, or the swing of the pendulum. It may come at any hour, and may stay long after the natural day is done.
II. The request. “Call upon Me.”
2. Believingly, etc.
III. The promise. “I will deliver thee.” God can always repeat Himself; He can always “deliver” more gloriously the next time you “call upon Him,” if you only honour Him by asking, and believing that He will.
IV. The result. “Thou shalt glorify Me.”
1. By our faith.
2. By gratitude.
3. By obedience.
4. By testifying of His goodness.
5. By devotion to His cause.
6. By praising Him. (T. Kelly.)
But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare My statutes?
The mere formalist and the spiritualist in religion
I. The mere formalists in religion.
1. They are religiously active--often very busy in preaching and praying. The less heart in religion, generally the more hand; the less vitality, the more voice.
2. They are morally wicked.
(1) No desire for knowledge.
(2) No reverence for God’s Word.
(3) No practical regard for the rights of society. Religious formality crucified the Son of God Himself. Religious form without the genuine spirit is law without justice--a tyranny; language without truth--a deception; an atmosphere without oxygen--a poison.
3. They are God-degrading. The God of the formalist is fashioned after his own character.
4. They are Divinely threatened.
(1) With a terrible conviction of their own guilt (Psalms 50:21). What calamity can be greater, than for a sinner to have all his sins, in all their awful enormity, brought before the eye of his conscience; brought into contact with all the tenderest and profoundest sensibilities of his moral being?
(2) With an irremediable destruction (Psalms 50:22). The language here is derived from a ravenous beast, tearing its victim limb from limb. “None to deliver.” “I called, and ye refused,” etc.
II. The true spiritualist in religion (Psalms 50:23, etc.).
1. He worships God acceptably. The sentiments of gratitude, reverence, adoration, that rise out of his regenerated heart are the praise that is well-pleasing to God.
2. He lives an upright life. He walks in all the commandments of the Lord, blameless.
3. He secures the true salvation--from all ignorance, error, selfishness, sin, and sorrow. (Homilist.)
The inconsistency, absurdity, and sin of professing religion without a corresponding conduct
By their talking of the statutes of Jehovah, and having His covenant in their mouths, the psalmist must have intended to denote their religious profession and hopes as Jews. They are men of an unteachable disposition and an untractable temper, rendered, by their vices, averse to religious and moral instruction. So far from attending to the Mosaic revelation, and consulting it as containing the proper rules for the regulation of their conduct, they, in fact, entirely neglected it; they treated it as persons do any worthless thing, which they throw from them with disdain.
I. The expectations and hopes of those, whose characters have been described, and who are here represented as wicked, must be vain and delusive. For the rewards annexed to any law are, certainly, intended to enforce its precepts, and to induce men, from the additional motive of interest, to practise their duty. To consider them in a different light is absurdly supposing the law to be constructed in such a manner as to counteract itself, and to destroy its own authority and influence. If it argued the highest presumption and folly to hope for the benefits and blessings of the Mosaic covenant, although the condition of “observing all the commandment of the law to do them” were not complied with, then, to retain these hopes, even while the prohibitions and threatenings of the law stood in full force against them, was certainly, of all others, the most unaccountable instance of infatuation.
II. How far the address in the text may, with equal propriety and justice, be applicable to any, who live in the present times, who acknowledge the truth of the Christian religion, and who profess to be the followers of Christ. If we entertain hopes of enjoying the blessings which the Gospel proposes to mankind, while, at the same time, our characters correspond with those described in the text, our profession, when compared with theirs, will be found equally insincere, inconsistent, and contradictory: our hopes, too, will prove to be equally presumptuous and vain. We, indeed, shall be more inexcusably foolish and absurd; because a subsequent revelation, wherever it agrees with the former, should certainly be considered as an additional confirmation of it. Every renewal of its prohibitions reminds us, in a stronger manner, of the offensive nature and dangerous consequences of the particular vices already forbidden. But, alas I how many are there who profess to receive the Gospel that are very impatient of religious and moral discipline I How many are there who sanguinely hope for the salvation which the Gospel offers, and yet knowingly live in direct opposition to its most sacred and important commands, with which alone this salvation stands connected! (A. R. Beard.)
These things hast thou done, and I kept silence.
The silence of God
I. Divine silence maintained. He does indeed speak to you by the eloquence of creation; by the kind lips of providence; by His own inspired Word, warning, inviting, entreating and persuading you to seek Christ. But he does not speak to you in the same startling way now as He will speak to you in the world to come. His present silence is a proof of His long-suffering. He is not willing that any of us should perish, tie is anxious that we should all come to repentance. How wrong, therefore, is it for any to abuse this silence!
II. Divine silence broken. The forbearance of God only encouraged the Jews in their rebellious conduct. At length the Lord made the Roman armies the instruments of His correction. He then indeed “reproved” them, and “showed them the things they had done,” in rejecting and crucifying the Lord of glory. And what God then did towards the impenitent Jews He will hereafter do to all who lived and died in sin.
1. The duty of mutual forbearance.
2. The blessedness of cheerful resignation. (C. Clayton, M. A.)
In this psalm we have a graphic representation of a court of justice: the judge, the court-house, the guards, the criminals. The accusations are of two kinds. Some are arraigned for formalism; others for grievous crimes. It is in connection with these that God says, “I kept silence.” Concerning the silences of God, there is that which is--
I. The effect of his patience. He is slow to anger, but this silence will not be for ever. Our duty is told in (Romans 2:4).
II. A judicial infliction. See Saul, whom God “answered no more.” Ephraim was “let alone.” Christ silent before Herod. And so with hardened sinners now. Let us pray, “Be not silent unto me, O God, but,” etc.
III. The appointment of his wisdom. “Secret things belong unto the Lord our God.” We are to trust when we cannot understand.
IV. A temporary discipline. His children wander, and God hides His face to lead them to repent. The power of silence is very great. “Be still, and know that I am God.” “Aaron held his peace.” (W. G. Lewis.)
The Creator and the Son of Man
I. God fully observes the development of human sin, This evident--
1. From His nature (Psalms 139:1-24.).
2. From the declaration of the Bible (Psalms 94:9-11).
3. From the universal consciousness of sinners: they feel that God knows their sins.
4. From the retribution that has overtaken sinners even in this world.
II. For a time he forbears with the enormity of human sin. “I kept silence.”
1. The spiritual improvement of humanity requires this, and--
2. The mediation of Christ explains it.
III. He thoroughly understands the reason of human sin. “Thou thoughtest,” etc.
1. Sinners act as if they could conceal their sins from God as from man.
2. As if God thinks lightly of sin, or that time will make him, as it makes men, forget sin.
IV. He will assuredly award punishment for human sin. cf. Ecclesiastes 8:11-13. In that day God will set man’s sins in order.
1. As to their real character.
2. Their terrible influence.
3. Their true desert. Sin, therefore, must either be punished or pardoned, as it can be in Christ. (David Thomas, D. D.)
The forbearance of God
It is true God keeps silence. We might expect as soon as the sin is committed, as soon as the lie has passed the lips, or while it is trembling on the tongue, the lightning flash of God would strike him down dead, or when the false oath is uttered, that God would make His thunderbolt strike the wretch to the dust! “He is not a man,” and therefore His are not the ways of man. Oh: the power of the silence of the omnipotent and infinite God, who could in a moment smite to ruin, to atoms, to annihilation the universe He has called into being, and yet poor, wicked, foolish worms dare to dash themselves “upon the thick bosses of His buckler,” and to rush on in sin and iniquity as a war-horse rushes into battle. But the day is coming--“God has appointed a day in the which He will judge the world;” and that day, that hour no one knoweth; and yet there is the day, there is the hour, therefore God says--and this is the issue of such sad misconstruction, if persevered in--“I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.” Some He sets them before in darkness and despair. I have seen a few such cases, and they are terrible to witness, when a man awakes up to see the catalogue of his sins and he has no hope, but is given up to despair, and is abandoned by God; then a man has a foretaste of “the worm that never dieth.” What must it be to have them set before us when it is too late? Oh! what a dark panorama of eternity passes before the mind, when, in the lurid light of eternity, a man reads the dread catalogue! Then turn to the Lord, now. (Hugh Stowell, M. A.)
God keeping and breaking silence
I. God’s keeping silence. Now, our God is Jesus Christ. And, therefore, if we judge of what He will do by what He has done, this silence was to be expected from. Him. It is all of a piece with His conduct while upon earth. After the Divine intelligence which our Lord showed when He was twelve years of age, we read nothing more about Him until He was thirty. Many things must have gone on around Him which pained Him, and stirred within Him His zeal for His Father’s honour; but the time was not yet come for Him to take notice of them. Now, what does such keeping silence mean?
1. That He seems to take no notice of the wickedness of men. It does often seem so. How many persons daily bring themselves by drunkenness and other shameful vices to a level lower than that of the beasts that perish! How are the poor ground down by their employers, as if those employers had a property in their flesh and sinews; nay, in their very life! How are God’s Sabbaths broken continually, the Sunday being spent by many thousands among us, at best in perfect idleness, and at worst in a state of sottishness and stupidity! “Shall not I visit for these things? saith the Lord.” And yet He holds His hand for the present, and merely stands by, looking on.
2. Another meaning of God’s keeping silence is, that He does not now-a-days interfere with the order of nature. He lets things take their course, in heaven and earth. This was not so in the olden time, of which the Bible tells us. We read of miracles, that is, of changes of the order of nature, both in the New Testament and in the Old. But miracles are only for a season; and it is not in reason that they should be otherwise. When God had some new tidings to tell to the world, which they could not have found out by their own sense and wit, He gave to the men whom He sent with the message the power of working miracles. The miracles were a sort of bell which they rung in the ears of their generation, that people might listen to what they had to say, and believe that it came from heaven.
3. But since we know God to be grievously displeased with sin, there is something awful in His keeping silence while it is committed under His eye. If a child comes home conscious of having offended a parent, and the parent says nothing all that night, but merely looks very grave, the child is more frightened than he would be by a sharp rebuke or severe punishment; for if such rebuke or punishment were inflicted, he would, at least, know the worst; but when the parent is silent he knows not what may be hanging over him. In countries where earthquakes happen, a dead silence always goes before the earthquake. Nature seems hushed into an awful stillness, as if she were holding her breath at the thought of the coming disaster. So it is with God’s silencer It will be followed, when it seems deepest, by the earthquake of His judgments. And so the holy apostle writes to the Thessalonians: “When they shall say Peace and safety” (from the fact of God’s being so still and so dumb), “then sudden destruction cometh upon them as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape.”
II. God’s breaking silence. “Our God shall come, and shall not keep silence.” We have seen that there was a great blaze of miracles when the Jewish dispensation was first set up, when Israel was called out of Egypt, and settled in the Holy Land. After they were fairly settled, God, for a long time, kept silence. And the silence waxed deeper and deeper, when the people were restored to their own lands after the Babylonish captivity, until at length His judgment came in the overthrow of Jerusalem, and the break-up of Israel’s national life. Josephus has some wonderful statements about that awful time. Now, so will it be with the Christian Church. At the first there was a blaze of miracles, as with Israel, but ever since God has been keeping silence: God never interferes, so men think and say. Now, one day, when these men are crying, “Peace and safety,” God will confound them by breaking silence. When our Lord comes the second time to earth, a far brighter blaze of miracles will shine around Him than that which ushered in His first appearance. The whole frame of nature will be rent in twain, as the veil of the temple formerly was, and we shall get a glimpse through the great cleft into the world of spirits; we shall see those things which here we have been called upon to believe without seeing--an innumerable company of angels, and a great white throne prepared for judgment, and Him who sitteth thereon. Examine your hearts as to whether you are among those who, when the Lord is thus manifested, will love His appearing? Is there no cherished sin, no darling lust, which you would dread above all things to have dragged into the light of His countenance, and laid naked and open under his eye? (Dean Goulburn.)
Abuse of the long-suffering of God
I. How the long-suffering or “silence” of God ought to be interpreted. Its perversion and abuse are most unnatural. This will be seen when we consider the principles on which God bases this administration. They are--
1. The appointment of a state of moral exercise and probation. Sudden punishment would render this impossible.
2. That we may see the evil of sin in itself as well as in its punishment. This also requires time.
3. That He may honour the sacrifice and intercession of His Son.
4. That He may manifest His love in seeking our recovery.
II. The corrupt perversion of this doctrine by sinful man. They think that God is like themselves.
1. Most men live in a state of almost total indifference to their actions; they are in almost entire ignorance both of God and of themselves.
2. Others are unbelievers, infidels.
3. Others take partial views of sin, and, so long as external morality and the ordinary law be not violated, they see no reason for penalty.
4. Religious formalists, who think that God is pleased with mere ceremonies and outward things.
III. The fatal result of all this. “I will reprove thee, and,” etc. Our sins shall be arrayed--
1. In their number.
2. In full light (Psalms 90:8).
3. As connected with their root, in the heart.
4. In their relations, for sins are related to each other. (R. Watson.)
Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such as one as thyself.
Ideas of God
I. The natural tendency of the human mind is to think of God’s nature as corresponding in some way with that of man. The anthropomorphic representations of God in the Bible appeal to this natural disposition of the human mind. Made originally in the image of God, we naturally think Him the image of ourselves.
II. The exercise of this tendency plunges the human mind into egregious errors.
1. The savage’s ideal of his God is like himself--revengeful, cruel, destructive. As nations get civilized and refined, they associate corresponding passions to their own with their representations of the deities they worship--e, g. Greece and Rome. A theologian with an arbitrary and iron disposition will speak and write of God as Sovereign--arbitrary and inexorable. A theologian with a tender and benevolent disposition will write and speak of God as a gracious Father, full of pity and love.
2. We need to be on our guard; we have elements and materials for our conception of God
(1) in our own consciousness,
(2) in the works of nature, and
(3) in the written Word; but all will be an apocrypha and not an apocalypse, without the light that comes along the pathway of intelligent obedience and unwavering faith.
III. This tendency is the shadow of a glorious fact that has occurred in the history of our world. In the Incarnation God took upon Himself the likeness of man, but He did not become altogether like unto ourselves. Christ was superior to the highest and best of men--unique, incomparable in purity and power. (F. W. Brown.)
Man’s conception of God
1. The state of a man makes his thought, and this thought has its influence on the present life and its prospects. Idolatry has its fictions of God, which are frauds upon men, who sink Him into grosser and more bestial forms. Superstition knows the same perversity, ascribing to God thoughts and practices that are unworthy His nature, concocted in a morbid imagination; ,as unreal as a system of belief would be which recorded your conceptions of men or your Maker formed in sleep while suffering from the nightmare. There is a tendency and habit of weakness to form God weak-minded; of cruelty to conceive of Him as cruel. To the pure He is pure, and to the froward, froward. To the prurient all is impure, and to the fraudulent all is deceit. The mummeries of worship, the follies of priestcraft, futile prevarications, cunning compromises and the stratagems of love and of war show this same fact in human life. Now transfer this lesson to the facts of another world.
2. Dire retribution may arise by simple reproduction: Keep the Word closed and every line and letter of your creed hidden, and look out over the face of the earth. You see various forms of animal life below, but none above, man. Before a closed Bible and a silenced Gospel what precludes the prospect that human life is to go to lower and yet lower grades according to its bent and bias? You see the loftiest summit rise from the plain and from among the uplands; and you see it steadily crumble and fall lower. What is there more congruous than the notion of transmigration? If there be evolution, there surely is devolution, a degradation of species. Nature teaches it. The spirit of man goeth--where? That of the brute--where? With the Bible closed we cannot answer. If there be no Gospel, no Heaven, no hell, no resurrection, no redemption, still there is no proof that there is no future. If you do not go upward, you do not prove that there is no downward. What is your hope? Where is your God? Is He a deceiver and the world full of illusions, with no relief, no redress, no rescue, no resurrection and nothing of us to be? Is your God fate? If so, hell, as men have printed it, is but a trifle to what is now already; just as when the merciless breakers dash the drowning man in their seething, swirling eddies, the glare of the volcano in the distance or a raging conflagration is nothing; just as the news of the burning of all his property is nothing to one about to swing from the gibbet. What is your God? Will He be what you make Him now? He is not what unbelief represents Him to be, but He is in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. Open now the Bible, build your altar, bind the sacrifice! Acquaint thyself with Him and be at peace, for this is life eternal to know Him! (H. S. Carpenter, D. D.)
We see as we are--in God
Some one has said, In the beginning of Scripture we read that God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”; and, all through history, man has been saying, “Let us make God in our image, after our likeness.” How apt the observation is, let the gods many of paganism, and the gods many of Christianity, testify. Men see as they are, and not otherwise.
1. What does the suspicious, distrustful person make God to be? He projects upon the Divine character his own character; and suspicion must therefore be a leading feature in the character of his deity. His God is a suspicious being, never trusting His creatures, but always distrusting them, and the suspicious deity has no friends.
2. What is the God of the selfish man like? His religion must be simply a branch of his selfishness--a thing of “all take” and “no give.” Can his God be the God who “so loved the world,” etc., and whose better blessedness it is to give rather than to receive?
3. What is the God of the hard, unforgiving man? A stern Shylock, for ever unbending as adamant, in his clamour for “the pound of flesh.” Without a moment’s hesitation, and without a thrill of pity, he can consign his best friend to a hopeless future, and think he glorifies the Divine justice thereby. Pity the man who can be content with such a conception of God.
4. What about the God of the superstitious? His God is perpetually his foe, and never his friend. He cannot help being a slave, in the service of such a deity. His one ambition is to appease His wrath, or court His favour. He must keep on good terms with a God so vengeful, that he may escape the punishment and receive the reward.
5. A grand, gentlemanly deity is the God of the mammon-worshipper. Majesty and dignity are in His every step. Almightiness encompasses His way. Marvellous display, imposing grandeur impresses His devotees. His robe--the rainbow; His crown--a circlet of stars; His chariot--the wind; His horses--the fiery coursers of the sun. What more magnificent and effective than such a God! But nothing attractive, nothing loveable about Him.
6. Contrast with these the God of the Gospels--the God of the simple, true and pure heart. His God is the good shepherd following the lost sheep out into the wilderness, the wise husbandman refusing to rush in wildly to pluck up the tares which an enemy hath sown in his wheat field, the yearning parent going out eagerly to meet the returning prodigal and anticipating his penitence and his pleading in the glorious glow of his merciful joy. These are the very highest attributes, of the highest and fairest earth has ever seen. These are some of the lights of the Exalted One in whom all fulness dwells. So the simple Christian clothes his God in that garment of salvation, and he walks side by side with Him on the earth, in the spirit of Him who said, “I and the Father are One.” (J. E. Hill, B. D.)
I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.--
Conviction of sin
It is possible to misinterpret the moral government of God, and many do so. It seems to some as if the world were so arranged as to offer facilities for sin. For sin is rampant everywhere, and yet God seems to take no notice, He does not interfere to prevent or to chastise. Now, if we let crime and wrong pass unreproved, our moral sensibilities become deadened, and we become culpably indifferent to the just principles of righteousness. On the other hand, if a man’s sense of right is strong, and his moral sensibilities properly quick, he will not be able to control the expression of his resentment against what is an outrage on common decency or justice. But since God sees far worse things and more of them than any man can see, and yet does not intervene, we are apt practically to form some very false conclusions about His character, though few would have the temerity to state them. We feel as if God could not think so very seriously of sin when He contemplates it with such composure. Surely if sin were so very terrible an evil its consequences would be more apparent; it does not seem such a very appalling or abhorrent thing to us, and apparently neither does it seem so to God. And this is because men misunderstand and misinterpret the majestic silence of God. “I kept silence”--this has been God’s rule, and upon it men presume. To guard against this let us seek to have a true view of this characteristic of the Divine government. Why does God keep silence, and show Himself patient as well as strong, although He be provoked every day? Not because He is indifferent to sin, and not because He does not intend to punish it, but because He has ordained certain conditions for our probation here, and He is not so inconsistent as to reverse them. Man was created by God in His own image, in this respect above all others, that he possessed from the first a power of independent volition, a capacity of free-will, by the right and dutiful exercise of which he was to be raised to his proper destiny, and fitted to share the glories of the Divine Being. Man, therefore, must not be forced to act rightly. If a highwayman demands your money with a pistol at your ear, you may exercise your will in handing him your purse, but it is hardly a free will. If an officer of justice catches you when you were just preparing to appropriate your neighbour’s property, your will may decide in this instance to be honest, but it is hardly a free will. And so God keeps silence, lets men do as they like, not coercing them by prompt penalty every time they transgress. How solemn and impressive is this silence of God. Slight natures may easily be stirred and goaded into frenzy, but it takes much more to awaken those of a grave and resolute character. But when such are moved, then their indignation is terrible. A silent God is not to be despised and trifled with. And lest His silence should mislead us, He does on rare occasions break His rule of silence. And because this is so unusual it is all the more impressive. A gentleman came up to me in the streets of Liverpool a few years ago, and told me of an incident in my dear father’s ministry, of which he was an eye-witness, many years before. “Your father,” said he, “was preaching on a then vacant spot of ground near where St: George’s Hall now stands. Directly opposite the place where he was standing an ungodly publican, finding his business interfered with, came out, and endeavoured to interrupt the proceedings, mimicking the preacher’s manner and gestures, and using very horrible language. I remember,” said the gentleman, “how solemnly your dear father turned round upon him and said, ‘Take care, my friend, it is not me, but my Master that you are mocking, and remember you cannot mock God with impunity; take care lest you draw down upon your head His just vengeance.’ He afterwards announced that he would preach in the same spot the next Sunday afternoon, which he did; and as he gave out his text, you may imagine the feeling of awe that settled down upon the crowd as they saw a hearse draw up to the door of the public-house to carry away the corpse of that very man who one short week before had been defying God and insulting His messenger.” Why are such things allowed from time to time to happen? Because God has made a mistake in keeping silence? Nay, verily; but because He sees it necessary from time to time to remind us that, though silent, He is not blind, and though self-controlled, He is not unconcerned. Now, the curse which came on the world when Adam sinned, and afterwards the flood, and chief of all the death of our Lord Jesus Christ--these are three stupendous facts in human history in which we may say, God has broken silence. The cross of Calvary is God’s reproof to a world, and from that cross there sounds forth through all time the admonition, “Now consider this, ye that forget God.” And God has sent His Holy Spirit especially to carry on this work of reproof, and when He lays hold upon us it soon comes to pass that there is nothing left in our past life that we can bear to look upon. We begin to see ourselves as God sees us, and therefore we abhor ourselves and repent in dust and ashes. In one way or other these solemn words of God will be fulfilled, “I will reprove thee, and set before thee in order the things that thou hast done.” Ere yet that terrible reproof “break your heart,” and the thunder of God’s voice shake the ground from under your feet, and leave you sinking in despair, yield to the gentler tones of His convicting mercy. Confess yourself a guilty, ruined sinner, and claim that pardon which shall cancel the record that is against you, and “purge your mortal archives.” (W. H. M. H. Aitken, M. A.)
The sinner’s mistakes exposed and reproved
I. The manner in which God treats impenitent sinners during the present life. He is continually speaking to them in His Word, inviting, counselling and warning them to repent and flee from the wrath to come; nor does he fail often to speak to them in the same manner, by the voice of conscience. But, as a Judge, he usually observes the most profound silence. If it be asked, why God thus keeps silence; I answer, because this life is a season of trial and probation. Men are placed in this world, that they may show what is in their hearts, and thus discover their true characters. He sets before them in the works of creation sufficient evidence of His existence and perfections; He lays them under obligations to love and thank Him by the blessings of His providence; He clearly prescribes their duty, and gives them directions for its performance, in His Word; He places conscience in their breasts, as an overseer and monitor; and then, wrapped up in His own invisibility, sits silent and unseen, to notice and record their conduct.
II. The opinions which sinners form of God, in consequence of his thus keeping silence. “Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself.” It is their opinions of His moral character, of His views and feelings with respect to themselves and their conduct, to which the assertion refers. In this respect every unawakened sinner supposes, or at least acts as if he supposed, that God is altogether such an one as himself. Feeling no immediate tokens of God’s displeasure, he flatters himself that God is not displeased. Finding it easy to justify himself, and satisfy his own conscience, he fancies that it will be equally easy to satisfy God, and justify his conduct at His bar.
III. The measures which God will employ to convince sinners that he is not such an one as themselves. “I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.” This He will do at the judgment-day.
1. It implies giving the sinner a clear and full view of all the sins of his life, in thought, word and deed, in the order in which they were committed. Such a view no sinner has of himself in the present life. He is guilty of ten thousand thousand sins, which he does not even suspect to be sins.
2. It implies giving him a view of all their aggravations. All the mercies he received, all the afflictions which were sent to rouse him, all the opportunities, privileges, warnings and means of grace with which he was favoured; all the sermons which he heard, and all the secret checks which he experienced from his own conscience, and from the strivings of God’s Spirit, will then be set before him, to show that he sinned wilfully and knowingly, against light and against love, and that he is, therefore, without excuse.
3. It implies giving him a full view of their dreadful malignity and criminality. Of this sinners see nothing in this world. They do not see what an infinitely great and glorious Being that God is against whom sin is committed. They do not see what an infinitely precious, lovely, and all-sufficient Saviour they are rejecting. They do not see what a heaven they are forfeiting, nor into what a hell they are plunging themselves by sin. They do not realize how short is time in comparison with eternity, nor how worthless the body when compared with the soul. But at the judgment-day they will behold every object in its true light.
IV. What improvement careless sinners ought to make of these awfully alarming truths. They should be led by them to consideration. It is owing to forgetfulness of God, and to the neglect of considering these important truths, that sinners live as they do. They consider not in their hearts, says Jehovah, that I remember all their wickedness. Is not this the case with respect to some of you? (E. Payson, D. D.)
Now consider this, ye that forget God.
Forgetfulness of God: It’s Evil
Forget God!--is this possible? What! when we see His “eternal power and Godhead” in all things above us and about us? If we look up to the heavens, “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handy-work.” If we look around us here, “the earth is full of His goodness.” But men, notwithstanding, do forget God. Forgetfulness of God is the source of their wickedness, and should this sinful conduct be persisted in, it will induce a sorer punishment than all created power could remedy.
I. An evil.
II. Its punishment.
III. A means whereby to correct the evil and to avoid the punishment. (W. Mudge, B. A.)
Whoso offereth praise glorifieth Me.
Songs of the Bible
I. The song of the new birth. Every believer has learned some of the notes of this song, for we enter the kingdom singing it. When in the world, the world’s songs--songs of merriment and glee--were in our esteem the richest and best; but when we saw Jesus, and heard the music of His grace, then the world’s songs could no longer express our joy. In all the miracles of Christ the first act of the healed one was to begin to praise. The leper, the paralytic, Bartimaeus, and all the others. And so with those whom Christ has saved.
II. The song of thanksgiving. How many of them we have in these psalms, but from some men you never hear them--they are always discontented and complaining. But think of our temporal mercies--our faculties of mind and body are daily mercies. Some never see them because they keep their eyes so fastened on the dark specks of disappointment and trial, and, seeing these only, they fancy these cover the whole of the sky. But it is not so. If God take from us one mercy, think how many we have left. Oliver Wendell Holmes has beautifully said, “If one should give me a dish of sand, and tell me that there were particles of iron in it, I might search for them with my clumsy fingers and be unable to detect them; but take a magnet and swing through it, and the magnet will draw to it the particles of iron immediately. So let the thankful heart sweep through the day, and, as the magnet finds the iron, it will find in every hour some heavenly blessings: only the iron in God’s sand is always gold.”
III. The song of victory. Listen to that song as it rises from Israel’s redeemed hosts on the bank of the Red Sea. No wonder that they felt like singing, for all the fears of yesterday had been buried in that sea. They did not sing thus in Egypt, for there they were slaves. And in the captivity, when a song was required of them by their captors, they said, “We cannot sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.” There are many psalms of David which are like a full orchestra of praise; but the majority of them are penitential cries, a singing as by the waters of Marah. And so it was with Israel of old, and it is so with the Church of to-day: the lamentations outnumber the praises; the defeats are more than the victories. And yet, though here they cannot be complete, we have our victories, and we ought even now to render praise for them.
IV. Songs in the night. See Paul and Silas in the prison at Philippi. But when we are free from the bondage of the world, we shall be as they, who at midnight sang praises. Let us also sing, so that the prisoners around may hear us.
V. The song before the throne--the heavenly song. What an immense company join in it. And it is a song without tears. Ours here are never that, But there they are tearless and eternal. (A. E. Kittridge, D. D.)
I. We should re concerned to glorify God. This is the great end of our existence. Even inanimate beings do this (Psalms 19:1-14.). And even wicked men may glorify God, for “the wrath of man shall praise Him.” But especially does He look for this from His own people. Now, one of the ways in which we do this is by offering praise. For in true praise exalted sentiments concerning Him fill the mind: there is a lively sense of His presence, and they speak well of His name. See the twelve exhortations to praise in the last of the psalms.
II. Our offering of praise will not be accepted unless it be accompanied with a conversation ordered aright. “Praise-giving is good, but praise-living is better.” But for this the grace of God is necessary.
III. Such conduct as this attracts God’s notice and regard. See text. To such persons God will show His salvation--temporal, spiritual, eternal. Have we interest in this salvation? (W. Jay.)
A subject, the importance of which it is not possible to overestimate, is here presented for our consideration--the offering of praise, connected more especially with the public service of the Church. Self-seeking in religion is far from being uncommon. It is chargeable upon numbers who may not be selfish in the grosser and more glaring forms of the commission of that sin. The almost exclusive consideration with such as are self-seekers in religion, is personal spiritual comfort. An essayist who wrote years ago, upon various forms of selfishness manifested in the conduct of professors of religion, has left on record this forcible description of those who make personal comfort in their religion not a means but an end. “Epicures in religious comfort, they grow impatient if the cup of consolation be, for a moment, removed from their own lips.” “The amplitude of the Divine love seeks to comprehend the universe in its large and life-giving embrace and calls on our affections to arise and follow it in its vast diffusion, but this selfishness stays at home, builds itself in, and sees no glory in that love, but as it embraces a single point, and that point itself.” To protect the spiritual system from so deleterious an influence, to prevent devotional exercises, whether public or private, from contracting the taint of selfishness, and to impart to them a healthy tone, it is expedient that there should be blended with them not only intercessory prayer but the homage of praise. As a faithful remembrancer, the Church ever puts us in mind of the fact that we are bound to praise Him for what He is in Himself, for the glory of His perfections, independent of what He is to us. Without the “right ordering of the conversation”--without practical evidence of sincere endeavour to “walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing,” no praise whatever can be offered to Him. The ever-living Intercessor, who has been exalted to the “right hand of the Majesty in the heavens,” imparts to praise as well as to supplication and giving of thanks and all other offerings the requisite value. “By Him let us offer the sacrifice of praise continually,” etc. Consolatory as sublime is the contemplation of the power and willingness of the ascended Christ to constitute our imperfect offerings worthy of presentation because of the infinite merit of His precious death and passion. There never rises within the breast of the sincere worshipper an aspiration of which He is unmindful, never is there formed a purpose of amendment of life, never is there heaved a sigh of the “sorrow that worketh repentance,” which is not observed by Him amidst the glories of that exalted estate in which He reigns as “Head over all things to the Church.” it is through Him that the adoration of the militant Church is united with that of those “powers and principalities in heavenly places “upon the purity of whose nature there never did, never shall pass a shadow of blemish. (C. E. Tisdall, D. D.)
To him that ordereth his conversation aright will I show the salvation of God.
Ordering the conversation aright
I. A man cannot order his conversation aright who does not seek and wait for the salvation of God. By the salvation of God we understand man’s deliverance from sin and death and condemnation, through the great work of the atonement wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ.
II. The man does not seek the salvation of God aright who does not seek it in ordering his conversation aright (Psalms 25:14; Hosea 6:3). A man who sets about it earnestly, doing the will of God as far as he sees it, does not rest in that; he still looks to Christ, he still looks for God’s quickening Spirit to give life to his obedience, and that man is ordering his conversation aright. The Word of God warrants us, and the experience of God’s children in all ages warrants us, in saying that as He has not said “Seek ye his” in vain, so no man that seeks honestly to order his conversation aright shall fail to have shown to him, sooner or later, the salvation of God. (Hugh Stowell, M. A.)
The necessity of revelation, and a holy life
I. It is most worthy of the salvation of God, that it be understood of the general redemption of mankind by Jesus Christ. Both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and man. And there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we may be saved, neither is there salvation in any other. This knowledge was confined to very narrow limits; to a nation exceedingly small in proportion to the inhabitants of all the earth. The Revelation, besides, was dark, even where it was best known; particularly as to the resurrection of the dead, which is the anchor of our hope after this life, as also by reason of the ambiguity of the law under types and shadows of things to come; which represented a salvation to be given many ages after by this general Redeemer, who was not commonly believed in by the Jews before His coming, nor known by them when He appeared.
II. The knowledge of this salvation is above the reach of natural reason, and not to be attained but by revelation from God. In this assurance we stand unmoved against all vain suggestions of the impossibility of there being any such mysteries in the Christian religion, and of our own incapacity to believe things which our understanding cannot comprehend. Which assertions proceed from a bold but mistaken philosophy; ignorant of the great power of God; and not rightly distinguishing between the measure of knowledge, sufficient for faith and for demonstration; nor knowing that where the veracity of the affirmer, and the power of the author of any miracle are unquestionable, there we have a good authority to believe His relation of anything, though it shall be wonderful, and far above our capacity to comprehend.
III. It is a holy life which will render us the most capable of receiving this knowledge.
IV. Concluding observations.
1. If we are firmly secure of our true knowledge of the salvation of God, in the faith of that Church which we do profess, let us then keep this faith in purity of heart and true holiness of life, without which no man shall ever see the Lord.
2. If any man is serious in his inquiries after that knowledge which is to lead him to eternal life, let him then in the sincerity of his heart make this trial; and, from a good life, begin his searches after the knowledge of the salvation of God.
3. Wickedness of life is the most fatal step to infidelity, and sets us at the greatest distance from this knowledge of the salvation of God. (W. Whitfeld.)
The first step towards salvation
If these words mean anything, they must mean that the man who wishes to save his soul ought to endeavour, at least, to cast out directly whatever may be wrong in his practice. The text may be read also thus, “Him who disposes or regulates his conduct, I will cause to enjoy the salvation of God.” Then the words prescribe something preparatory, something to be done by any one and every one who honestly desires the being converted and saved. He is not to sit still, as one who waits for irresistible grace: let him forthwith observe what is wrong in his “conversation”--that is, in his manner of living and conduct--and let him at once set about correcting it. Now, thus did Christ’s forerunner, John the Baptist, in his preparatory ministry. He bade men cease from dishonest and evil conduct. Men asked him what they were to do, and he plainly told them. You must see at once, that nothing could be further removed than this proceeding of the Baptist from what is mystical and unintelligible; neither publicans nor soldiers could plead that there was nothing definite in the answers which they received--nothing on which they were unable to take hold, and forthwith to act. By going straightway into the business of everyday life, giving men something to do, and something, moreover, which it were idle to dispute that they had power to do, St. John impressed on his exhortations a practical and a tangible character. All that we have to ask you, at this stage of our inquiry, is, whether you do not perceive how exactly the exhortation of the Baptist bears out the promise of the psalmist in our text--how the one is based on the other; for in prescribing as preparatory to repentance, that the publican should cease from his extortion, and the soldier from his violence, was not St. John proceeding altogether upon the principle, that “to him that ordereth his conversation aright shall be shown the salvation of God”? Now, then, suppose we pass from the days of the Baptist to our own, and see whether, in our dealings with unconverted men, we ought not similarly to insist on a right ordering of the conversation, as preparatory to genuine religion. In place of contenting ourselves with a general exhortation to repentance, ought we not to descend into particulars--or rather, urge men to the correction of open faults, if they have any wish to be brought to genuine repentance? It is not on repentance, strictly speaking, that we should settle, but on something preliminary to repentance, and the passing over which, so as always to begin with repentance, is what (as we believe) makes our sermons go beyond the mass of unconverted hearers. It is God’s rule to give more to him who improves what he has. He therefore who strives to obey conscience may humbly hope for the higher aid of the Spirit of God. And if all of you who have yet the great work of repentance to effect will thus immediately commence the reforming what is guilty and prominently wrong in your conduct, indeed we dare promise that you shall see “the salvation of God”--see it here in the sacrifice of Christ--see it hereafter in the glories of heaven. Thus “ordering your conversation aright”--going, like the publican to the receipt of custom, and banishing thence extortion, or like the soldier to the ranks, and there extinguishing violence, ye will stand ready, by God’s help, to the being made truly contrite. In real contrition ye will hasten to Christ, as alone able to deliver; and through Christ ye shall take possession of the kingdom of heaven. (Henry Melvill, B. D.)
For Asaph, see 1 Chronicles 6:39. He was a prophet, a musician, a poet. The main function of the prophet was to teach, illustrate and enforce the great moral and spiritual truths which lie at the foundation of all true religion. The main office of the Hebrew prophets was to preserve and enlarge that Gospel which, Paul says, was “before the law.” It is because this prophetic, this spiritual element pervades most of the psalms that the Psalter has become the hymn-book of the Church in all ages and in all lands. This is specially noticeable in Asaph’s three psalms, which treat of the spirituality of all true worship, and of the mystery of the Divine providence--themes which have always had a singular attraction for all deeply religious and prophetic souls.
1. The fiftieth psalm has for its theme the spirituality of all true worship. Asaph suffers his imagination to play round this great theme. Asaph reaches his fine catholic conclusion, that none but those who sacrifice thanksgiving, and dispose their ways aright, can truly serve and please the Lord. This prophetic truth is the common property of the human race.
2. In Psalms 77:1-20. Asaph, from slightly “different points of view, deals with a problem interesting to all thoughtful minds. The root of his sorrow is, that “the hand of the Most High doth change,” that it moves uncertainly, inexplicably, as if it had no set purpose, and were working for no definite end. Apparently, the blessings promised to the righteous fell to the wicked, while the threatenings addressed to the wicked were fulfilled on the righteous.
Asaph offers us one or two calming and helpful thoughts which any of us to whom this problem is alive and pressing will acknowledge to be of unspeakable value.
1. He holds fast his faith, let facts say what they will, in the law of retribution. He is sure that “punishment is the other half of sin,” that the two cannot be divorced for long.
2. Then he discovers that as sin is its own punishment, so also piety is its own reward, but a reward in a far higher sense than that in which sin is its own punishment. For here ha does not dwell on and apply the law of retribution. No; God Himself is to be his reward.
3. He looks, and bids us look, for an everlasting reward, an immortality of service and joy. “Afterwards receive me to glory.” Asaph’s two main contributions to the theology of his time, and of all time, were this doctrine of worship and this vindication of the ways of God with men. Neither of them was new. But they came with special force from the lips of one who was a minister of the altar, and who had himself passed through the agonies of doubt. They were not new then; they are not obsolete now. (Samuel Cox, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 50". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Sixth Week after Easter