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Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from Him cometh my salvation.
A testimony and an exhortation
I. A religious testimony.
1. Concerning self (Psalms 62:1-2; Psalms 62:6-7). His confidence in God was--
(1) Supreme. “He only is my Rock.”
(2) Steadfast. “I shall not be greatly moved.”
(3) Pacific. “Truly,” or, “is silent my soul.”
2. Concerning contemporaries.
(1) Malignant (Psalms 62:3).
(2) False (Psalms 62:4).
David’s testimony concerning his contemporaries is applicable to the men of our age. Read the malignity of our times in the bloody wars, etc. Read the falsehood of our times in the schemings of politicians, the tricks of tradesmen, and the hollow shams in all departments of life.
3. Concerning God (Psalms 62:11-12).
(1) His power. All kinds of power belong to Him--physical power, intellectual power, moral power.
(2) His mercy. God’s kindness is even greater than His power, inasmuch as it inspires, directs, and controls. It is kindness that nerves and moves the Omnipotent Arm.
(3) His justice. This testimony of God is sublime and meets our highest ideal.
II. A religious exhortation.
1. To self (Psalms 62:5). Man is a duality; in him there are two personalities in one. These often battle with each other, sometimes blame, and sometimes commend each other. Man is constantly exhorting himself, sometimes to be more industrious in business, more accurate in studies, more temperate in habits. Here is a man exhorting himself to wait only on God. This religious exhortation is--
(1) Most available. Every man has a preacher within.
(2) Most efficient. All outward preachers are only available so far as they can rouse the inner preacher, and make him thunder in the great temple of conscience.
2. To others.
(1) Concerning a right object of trust. “Trust in Him at all times,” etc. Trust Him, not only when the weather of life is calm and sunny, but trust Him amidst the rush of tempest, the roar of thunder, and the convulsions of volcanoes. Trust Him fully; pour out your heart. As all the roots of the tree strike into the soil, so let all the sympathies of your nature strike into God.
(2) Concerning a wrong object of trust. “Trust not in oppression,” etc.
Men do trust in oppression, not only tyrants, warriors, slaveholders, but unjust masters and mistresses that expect more service from employes than is just: hence the exhortation, “Trust not in oppression;” “If riches increase.”
(1) Here is a circumstance which most desire. Some for wrong reasons, some for right reasons.
(2) Here is a possibility which some may possess. “If riches increase.” In some it is impossible; the poor men often get rich in one or two ways, either with or without their efforts.
(3) Here is a duty which all should discharge. “Set not your heart upon them.” Why? Because to love them is unworthy of your nature. Because to love them is to injure your nature. Because to love them is to exclude God from your nature. Because to love them is to bring ruin on your nature. (Homilist.)
The psalm falls naturally into three parts of four verses each; and in the original each of these begins with the same particle, which unfortunately is either not translated in our versions, or rendered by different words. It means Yes, Surely or Verily, and expresses a conviction freshly acquired. This is the character of the entire psalm: it is a series of maxims hewn straight from life.
I. The silence of faith (verse 1-4). “Truly my soul waiteth upon God,” literally, “is silent unto God.” Silence is sometimes very eloquent. When one has suffered a great wrong or is accused of some outrageous baseness, there may be an impressiveness in dignified silence, which the loudest protestations could not equal. In the trial of Jesus there are three or four moments of silence which perhaps bring home to us the height of His moral grandeur as powerfully as anything in His life. So faith has its silence. It is not always silent. On the contrary, it sometimes cries aloud; it groans and complains; it argues and beseeches. Perhaps the faith of the psalmist had passed through these stages before reaching the silent stage, for he tells us (Psalms 62:3-4) that he had enemies, who bad pushed their attacks to the verge of murder. In such circumstances, faith may well have cried or groaned or argued; but these stages are past; and now it is silent before God. It lies before Him in perfect peace, confident that His will must overrule all. For (Psalms 62:2) He is a rock and a defence; and therefore, says the child of faith, “I shall not be greatly moved.”
II. Thy instruction of faith (Psalms 62:5-8). Having attained to such a height, he is seized with the spirit of a teacher.
1. He begins with instructing himself. “My soul, wait thou upon God.” When we get up to heights of experience, we ought to mark in the rock how high we have climbed, for we know--
“How difficult it is to keep
Heights which the soul is competent to gain.”
When we are high up, there are outlooks which we are unable to see at ordinary times; and it is well to record them as is done here. The truths about God which we thus learn in moments of great experience are the most precious portion of all knowledge: they are better than we can learn from books or doctors or sages. Blessed is he who possesses convictions which he has not been taught by men, however wise, but has wrung out of his own experience.
2. He also instructs others (Psalms 62:8). It is the natural way of experience to overflow into testimony; and when the soul has attained rest itself, it naturally seeks to assist the struggling. Thereby it not only proves that it has attained, but extends and strengthens its attainments; because we are never safer or healthier than when we have left off thinking of ourselves and are able to care for others.
III. The alternatives to faith (Psalms 62:9-12). In this last section the psalmist contrasts faith in God with the other refuges in which he was tempted to put his trust. These were men (Psalms 62:9) and money (Psalms 62:10). To one in David’s position, it would naturally seem a great thing to have men’s alliance; but he had tried them and found them wanting. This is a word for all times: by any one who has a great cause--who is fighting for Christ’s cause--democracy and aristocracy are alike to be distrusted; God alone is the watchword. The other substitute for God which David was tempted to trust was money, whether obtained by foul means or fair; and here he touches a still more universal chord. In thinking of the future and of the changes and chances of life, we are all tempted to look in this direction. How many are devoting themselves to the pursuit of money, caring little for scruples, but only feeling that, if they had enough of it, all would be well. Others, seeking wealth by honest means, have the same confidence. But the poorest man who has faith in God is safer. This is the testimony of Scripture, and it is the testimony of experience as well. So we come back to the wisdom of the man of God. Once, he says, he has heard, yea, twice--that is, it has been borne in on him again and again as a Divine truth--that “power belongeth unto God.” This is the end of the whole matter; this is the resource that will avail in every difficulty, which will last through time and through eternity. (J. Stalker, D. D.)
Silence to God
(with Psalms 62:5):--“My soul is silence unto God.” That forcible form of expression describes the completeness of the psalmist’s unmurmuring submission and quiet faith. His whole being is one of great stillness, broken by no clamorous passions; by no loud-voiced desires; by no remonstrating reluctance. That silence is first a silence of the will. Bridle impatience till God speaks. Take care of running before you are sent. Keep your will in equipoise till God’s hand gives the impulse and direction. We must keep our hearts silent too. The sweet voices of pleading affections, the loud cry of desires and instincts that roar for their food like beasts of prey, the querulous complaints of disappointed hopes, the groans and sobs of black-robed sorrows, the loud hubbub and Babel, like the noise of a great city, that every man carries within, must be stifled and coerced into silence. We have to take the animal in us by the throat, and sternly say, Lie down there and be quiet. We have to silence tastes and inclinations. There must be the silence of the mind, as well as of the heart and will. We must not have our thoughts ever occupied with other things, but must cultivate the habit of detaching them from earth, and keeping our minds still before God, that He may pour His light into them. Alas! how far from this is our daily life! Who among us dares to take these words as the expression of our own experience? Is not the troubled sea which cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt, a truer emblem of our restless, labouring souls than the calm lake? Put your own selves by the side of this psalmist, and honestly measure the contrast. It is like the difference between some crowded market-place all full of noisy traffickers, ringing with shouts, blazing in sunshine, and the interior of the quiet cathedral that looks down on it all, where are coolness and subdued light, and silence and solitude. This man’s profession of utter resignation is perhaps too high for us; but we can make his self-exhortation our own. “My soul! wait thou only upon God.” Perfect as he ventures to declare his silence towards God, he yet feels that he has to stir himself up to the effort which is needed to preserve it in its purity. Just because he can say, “My soul waits,” therefore he bids his soul wait. That vigorous effort is expressed here by the very form of the phrase. The same word which began tim first clause begins the second also. As in the former it represented for us, with an emphatic “Truly,” the struggle through which the psalmist had reached the height of his blessed experience, so here it represents in like manner the earnestness of the self-exhortation which he addresses to himself. He calls forth all his powers to the conflict, which is needed even by the man who has attained to that height of communion, if he would remain where he has climbed. And for us who shrink from taking these former words upon our lips, how much greater the need to use our most strenuous efforts to quiet our souls. If the summit reached can only be held by earnest endeavour, how much more is needed to struggle up from the valleys below. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Waiting upon God is the soul casting its anchor
It was the speech of Taulerus, one that Luther prized above all. Says he--Though the mariners may make use of their oars in the time of calm, yet when a storm comes down the mariners leave all and fly to their anchor. So, though at other times we may make use of resolutions and vows, and the like, yet when the storm of temptation comes down, nothing then but fly to the anchor of faith, nothing then like to casting of anchor into the vail. (Bridge.)
He only is my rock and my salvation.
God alone the salvation of His people
“My rock!” What a history the rock might give you of the storms to which it has been exposed; of the tempests which have raged in the ocean at its base, and of the thunders which have disturbed the skies above its head; while it, itself, has stood unscathed by tempests, and unmoved by the bufetings of storms. So with our God. The rock is immutable; nought hath been worn from it. Yon old granite peak hath gleamed in the sun, or worn the white veil of winter snow--it hath sometimes worshipped God with bare, uncovered head, and at other times the clouds furnished it with veiling wings, that, like a cherub, it might adore its Maker; but yet itself hath stood unchanged. The frosts of winter have not destroyed it, nor have the heats of summer melted it. It is the same with God. The ten thousand uses of the rock, moreover, are full of ideas as to what God is. You see the fortress standing on a high rock, up which the clouds themselves can scarcely climb, and up whose precipices the assault cannot be carried, and the armed cannot travel, for the besieged laugh at them from their eminence. So is our God a sure defence; and we shall not be moved if He hath “set our feet upon a rock, and established our goings.” Many a giant rock is a source of admiration from its elevation; for on its summit we can see the world outspread below, like some small map; we mark the river or broadly spreading stream, as if it were a vein of silver inlaid in emerald. We discover the nations beneath our feet, “like drops in a bucket,” and the islands are “very little things “ in the distance, while the sea itself seems but a basin of water, held in the hand of a mighty giant. The mighty God is such a rock; we stand on Him, and look down on the world, counting it to be a mean thing. We shall notice--
I. The great doctrine, that God only is our salvation.
II. The great experience, to know and to learn that “He only is my rock and my salvation”; and--
III. The great duty, which you may guess at, which is, to give all the glory and all the honour, and place all our faith on Him who “only is our rock and our salvation.” I must tell you a singular story, which was related at our Church meeting, because there may be some very poor people here, who may understand the way of salvation by it. One of the friends had been to see a person who was about to join the Church; and he said to him, “Can you tell me what you would say to a poor sinner who came to ask you the way of salvation?” “Well,” said he, “I do not know--I think I can hardly tell you; but it so happened that a case of this sort did occur yesterday. A poor woman came into my shop, and I told her the way; but it was in such a homely manner that I don’t like to tell you.” “Oh, yes, tell me; I should like to hear it.” “Well, she is a poor woman, who is always pawning her things, and by and by she redeems them again. I did not know how to tell her better than this. I said to her, ‘Look here; your soul is in pawn to the devil; Christ has paid the redemption money; you take faith for your ticket, and so you will get your soul out of pawn.’” Now, that was the most simple, but the most excellent way of imparting a knowledge of salvation to this woman. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
The Rock confers immovability to the believer
In the old classic story Hercules the giant challenged the whole world to produce a man who could wrestle with him and come off victor. There stepped forward a man of feeble build and almost dwarfish stature. Hercules disdainfully advanced and, lightly closing with this weak-looking fellow, put forth just a little of his strength, but the little man held his feet. Hercules, wondering at this, grappled with the unpromising wrestler, and put forth every atom of his strength to fling him. But, instead of being hurled to the ground, the stranger’s feet are immovable, and he still stands. At last, strength gone, amid the laughter and jeers of the crowd over their broken idol, Hercules slunk away, completely beaten, utterly humiliated. That night a traitor friend of the dwarf’s visited the tent of the discomfited giant and whispered, “Gold! Gold, and I will tell you why you could not win to-day, but why you can to-morrow. The man you are wrestling with to-day is Antaeus, the son of Earth. While his feet touch the ground all the strength of his mother earth passes into him, and he cannot be thrown. But only sever his connection with the ground by a hair’s breadth and you have him.” Next day the crowds gathered vaster than ever to witness Hercules’ defeat again. Antaeus is there, too little suspecting that his secret is betrayed. The giant advances to his opponent, and, before the dwarf is aware, with a sudden spring lifts him off the ground, and in a moment has his knee on his breast. Oh, take hold of the strength of God. Keep your feet on the Rock of ages. While you do so you are invincible. (J. Robertson.)
My soul, wait thou only upon God.
The waiting soul
The text applies to every believer.
I. Consider what it is to wait upon God. It is the act of the soul. Here, the soul means the whole man.
II. It is a waiting like that of a servant upon his Master.
III. It excludes all other waiting: “wait thou only upon God.”
IV. It is an act of spiritual intelligence. No man waits upon God until he knows God.
V. Of childlike trust.
VI. The motive of all this--“my expectation is from Him.” It is a great expectation: of guidance now, of eternal life with Christ hereafter. And it is from God,. derived from, warranted by, established in God. And all on account of the redemption which is in Christ. (George Fisk.)
“Silent unto God!”
“My soul!” Here is a man communing with his own soul! He is deliberately addressing himself, and calling himself to attention. He is of set purpose breaking up his own drowsiness and indifference, and calling himself to a fruitful vigilance. There is nothing like the deliberate exercise of a power for making it spontaneously active. We must challenge our own souls, and rouse them to the contemplation of the things of God. “My soul! look upon this, and look long!” But let us see to it that when we do incite the attention of our spirits we give them something worthy to contemplate. Here the psalmist calls upon his soul to contemplate the manifold glory of God. Let us gaze at one or two aspects of the inspiring vision. “He only is my rock.” Here is one of the figures in which the psalmist expresses his conception of the ministry of his God. “My rock!” The figure is literally suggestive of an enclosure of rock, a cave, a hiding-place. Perhaps there is no experience in human life which more perfectly develops the thought of the psalmist than the guardianship offered by a mother to her baby-child when the little one is just learning to walk. The mother literally encircles the child with protection, spreading out her arms into almost a complete ring, so that in whatever way the child may happen to stumble she falls into the waiting ministry of love. Such is the idea of “besetment” which lies in this familiar word “rock.” It is a strong enclosure, an invincible ring, a grand besetment within which we move in restful security. “He is my salvation.” Then He not only shields me, but strengthens me! Salvation implies more than convalescence, it denotes health. It is vastly more than redemption from sin; it is redemption from infirmity. It offers no mediocrity; its goal is spiritual prosperity and abundance. This promise of health we have in God too. He accepts us in our disease; He pledges His name to absolute health. “Having loved His own, He loved them unto the end.” “He is my defence.” The psalmist is multiplying his figures that he may the better bring out the riches of his conception. “Defence is suggestive of loftiness, of inaccessibility. It denotes the summit of some stupendous, outjutting, precipitous crag! It signifies such a place as where the eagle makes its nest, far beyond the prowlings of the marauders, away in the dizzy heights which mischief cannot scale. God is my defence! He lifts me away into the security of inaccessible heights. My safety is in my salvation. Purity is found in the altitudes. In these three words the psalmist expresses something of his thought of the all-enveloping anal protecting presence of God. He is “my rock,” “my salvation,” “my defence.” What then shall be the attitude of the soul towards this God? “My soul, wait--be thou silent unto God.” The spirit of patience is to be hushed and subdued. Our own clamorous wills are to be checked. The perilous heat is to be cooled. We are to linger before God in composure, in tranquillity. We are to be unruffled. “One evening,” says Frances Ridley Havergal, “after a relapse, I longed so much to be able to pray, but found I was too weak for the least effort of thought, and I only looked up and said, ‘Lord Jesus, I am so tired,’ and then He brought to my mind ‘Rest in the Lord,’ and its lovely marginal rendering, ‘Be silent to the Lord,’ and so I was just silent to Him, and He seemed to overflow me with perfect peace in the sense of His own perfect love.” “My expectation is from Him.” The word translated “expectation” might also be translated “line” or “cord.” “The line of scarlet thread.” The line of all my hope stretches away to Him, and from Him back to me! The psalmist declares that however circumstances may vary, the cord of his hope binds him to the Lord. Ever and everywhere there is the outstretched line! “My line is from Him.” Whether he was in trouble or in joy, in prosperity or adversity, on whatever part of the varying shoreline he stood, there was the golden track between him and his God. “Thine expectation shall not be cut off;” the line shall never be broken. “I shall not be moved.” Of course not! A man whose conception of God is that of “Rock,” “Salvation,” and “Defence,” and who is “silent unto Him,” and is bound to Him by the golden “cord” of hope, cannot be moved. But mark how the psalmist’s confidence has grown by the exercise of contemplation. In the outset of the psalm his spirit was a little tremulous and uncertain. “I shall not be greatly moved.” But now the qualifying adverb is gone, the tremulousness has vanished, and he speaks in unshaken confidence and trust, “I shall not be moved.” (J. H. Jowett, M. A.)
The inexhaustible fount
This is faith with its eyes open, seeing how great and how good our God is. If only we know God, and know Him as “our God,” we at once pass into the possession of a great inheritance. This includes safety, rest, transfiguration of soul, victory, eternal joy.
I. The soul is our chief concernment. The body of man has a value peculiarly its own, yet the soul is incomparably more precious. The body looks down and searches the ground for its delights; the soul looks up and culls treasures from the realms beyond the stars. Its home is on high; it is destined to soar.
1. The soul has kinship with God.
2. The soul has large capacities.
3. The soul has the possibility of endless life.
II. The soul is full of need.
1. This is a patent fact. Can the tree flourish without its root? Can a house stand without a foundation? Can a babe prosper without its mother? Nor can man without God.
2. We need Divine instruction. The first cry of the soul is for light.
3. We need God’s life within. Penitence is budding life; prayer is life; pardon is life; righteousness is life; sonship in God’s household is life; hope of heaven is life. “He that hath the Son hath life.”
III. The source of real good--God. This is a vital discovery; for there is a sad tendency to trust in anything rather than in God. But here we have--
1. Great resources. He who created out of nothing this vast universe can as easily create more. Can we hold the Atlantic in the palm of our hand? Neither can we measure the resources of God.
2. Great promises, God’s promises are the forthputtings of Himself. They are God’s character transposed into words. What magnificent pledges have we from God! “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to Me a people; My covenant with them will I not break; With that man will I dwell, who is of an humble and a contrite heart;. . . Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”
3. Great provisions. Everything is laid under tribute to serve redeemed men, viz. nature, providence, human history, angels, suffering, death, the cross of Jesus Christ.
IV. The channel of blessing, viz. waiting upon God.
1. This implies faith. In every transaction of daily life we exercise faith. We put our faith in men, though they have often deceived us. We put our faith in the processes of nature--in the revolutions of the seasons, in the stability of this very unstable globe. Shall we not much more put our faith in the everlasting God?
2. Waiting implies submission. “To wait” means that I defer to the good pleasure of God. Though He tarry, I will wait for Him. My range of vision is very narrow. His eye sweeps the universe. My idea of what is best is very imperfect; His idea is perfect. God is my King--my gracious Master; therefore I will “wait.”
3. Waiting means prayer. It is not essential that there should be words, though words are helpful to ourselves. The mightiest prayer is silent,--the outgoing of unconquerable desire. (J. Dickerson Davies, M. A.)
Waiting upon God
I. Exhortation--“wait.” It is easier for some to fret and fume. Waiting is a lesson taught in the school of experience. But we are often like children scratching in their gardens to see if the seeds sown yesterday are coming up.
II. Definition--“upon God.” To some, waiting is sitting with folded hands. This is not waiting upon God. In this, courage, resolution and other manly qualities are demanded--patient, prayerful use of moans.
III. Limitation--“only.” Only? yes, only! This is a limitation indeed. Is it not written, “It is better to trust in the Lord than put confidence in princes”? Also, “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no salvation,” and again, “Thus saith the Lord, Cursed be the man that trusteth in man,” etc.
IV. Illumination--“Expectation.” If the picture has been grey or dark hero is illumination. This may appear mercenary. Mercenary? Listen, was Moses mercenary? “He had respect unto the recompense of reward--he esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.” Remember Him also, who for “the joy that was set before Him endured the cross,”
V. Application--“my soul,” “thou,” “my”: this application is personal. This is the only fitting application, “My soul, wait thou only upon God,” etc. (Pulpit Treasury.)
My expectation is from Him.--
There is nothing that fills life with such joy and rest as expectation! It is the “beyond” of human history, and no landscape is beautiful without perspective. David’s light was dim, but there was a “beyond” in his life. So with Isaiah. But it was Christ that most of all kindled this expectation. Now, concerning it, note--
I. It will not be disappointed.
II. It will not be altogether defined.
III. It will not injure duty. Secularists say it will and does. But what would the present life become were there no expectation of a future?
IV. It will not die out. Man cannot else live. We have in Christ the earnest of it. (W. M. Statham.)
Truly my soul waiteth upon God . . . My soul, wait thou only upon God.
Silence to God
These clauses correspond: the “truly” of the first is the same word as the “only” of the second, and in each it stands at the beginning. Literally the words are, “My soul is silence unto God.” His whole being was one great stillness before God. This silence is--
1. Of the will. Resignation is its characteristic; is a silent will. Such will strong: it is no feeble passiveness.
2. Of the heart.
3. Of the mind. How we need to be still and let God speak. The second clause is an exhortation to the psalmist’s own soul, and such self-exhortation, if not the affirmation of the first clause, we can make our own. There must be conscious effort and self-encouragement would we preserve the highest religious emotion. As the constant wash of the sea undermines the cliffs and wastes the coasts, so do the wear and tear of daily occupation act upon and wear away the higher emotions of our religious life. Therefore stir up your soul to wait only upon God. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I shall not be greatly moved.--
The upgrade of faith
(with Psalms 62:6):--
I. The psalmist has already attained to a good degree in the school of faith. “I shall not be greatly moved.” And how did he attain to this degree?
1. He began by waiting upon God. “Only to God is my soul silenced” is the original, and it is expressive in that form, is it not? I have no one else in view, I am listening to God alone; my soul has ears, and they are open to hear what He will say unto me, for He will speak peace unto His people. This is the right attitude.
2. Having begun by waiting silently upon God, the psalmist soon enjoyed the realization of His power, His grace, His interest. “He only is my rock.” That metaphor means more than we imagine. David knew what rocks were, the use and purpose and comfort of them. What the hills and the rocks were to the conies, that the caves and dens of the earth had been to the hunted king, and that God was to him in all his soul’s perplexities. He further calls Him his salvation, adding this to the metaphor that he had already employed, as much as to say, “It is not mere metaphor. This is song, but it is not mere song; it is poetry, but it is practical for all that. God has been to me as this rock of my salvation, a Rock of Ages, a cleft rock, in which I have been secure.” Further, he says, “He is my defence,” a high tower, a lordly castle; something even better than the caves of the earth, though they served David’s purpose well enough when occasion demanded. But God is to us the best of the best, the noblest of the noble; a tower, but a high tower as well as a strong tower, not merely a rock-hewn shelter, but a lordly castle, behind whose bulwarks we are not only safe but happy.
3. This produces firm confidence. “I shall not be greatly moved.” The compass trembles and wavers and vacillates, but it trembles back to the pole; it is not greatly moved. I may fall, but I shall rise again. If I am perplexed I am not in despair. If I am cast down I am not, and shall not be, distressed. With such a rock--for who is a rock like unto our God?--may we not with confidence say, “I shall not be greatly moved.”
II. He has made immense progress (Psalms 62:6). “I shall not be moved.” That is not so long a sentence as the other, but if it is not as long it is as strong, and stronger, and I prefer strength to length. The omission of that word greatly marks a growing faith, and makes a world of difference. “I shall not be moved.” There is no qualifying adverb; it is absolute. “I shall not be moved in the least degree, not an inch, not a hair’s breadth. I shall not be moved at any time, while I live, nor when I come to die, nor when I stand before the judgment seat. I shall not be moved.” You see there is no qualification whatever. Do you wish you could get to this? Notice how swift the growth has been. I believe that the psalmist was just speaking his actual experience, and it could have taken only a minute or so to say the intervening words. Ah, but God’s plants grow quickly. The lilies of the Lord spring up in an hour or so, when He shines upon the seed and waters it with His grace. But how can we account for this growth? First on the ground that real faith is vital. It is bound to grow. It has the life of God, it is the germ Divine, and just as in the hands of the mummy the wheat, and peas have lain three thousand years, but when brought forth to light and planted in the ground they spring to beauty, their life being in them all the time, so faith cannot be destroyed. It is God’s own life; it is bound to live and conquer. Moreover, faith rises to occasion. It is like the stormy petrel that delights in the breeze, and is never so happy as when the storm is strongest. Moreover, it grows by exercise. The more faith is acted upon, the more active it is. Now let me say that nothing short of this should suffice any one of us. I know that half a loaf is better than no bread. I know that a feeble faith is infinitely to be preferred to none at all, but on that same line of argument you may well declare that such a faith as this we have been speaking of is greatly to be preferred to that we thought of at the first. Why should we be content with small measure when God will give it to us heaped up, pressed down, and running over? (Thomas Spurgeon.)
Trust in Him at all times.
The duty of trusting in God
I. As interesting fact asserted. “God is a refuge for us.” This is a fact in which all mankind are deeply interested. If God be not our refuge, we are undone, and must finally perish in our sins. But, thank the Lord, He has not left us without help. He “hath remembered us in our low estate, for His mercy endureth for ever.”
II. An important duty enjoined. “Trust in Him at all times.” This is both the imperious duty, and the highest interest of every human being. There is no season in the whole compass of human existence when it is not needful to trust in the Lord.
III. An encouraging direction urged. “Ye people, pour out your hearts before Him.” “Thou, God,.seest me,” is a sentiment that should deeply impress our minds at all times; but especially in our addresses to the throne of grace. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
Confidence in God
I. The object of our confidence--God. Trust in Him: in His perfections and prerogatives--His power, wisdom, goodness, love. Trust in Him at all times: prosperity, sorrow, etc. Trust in Him at all times. May I? You must. Is it not presumption? Nay; the presumption would be the other way. When your child trusts in your affection, and walks in obedience to your will, regarding your promise as truth, that child is not presumptuous. It is presumptuous when he disputes your authority or truthfulness, and is refractory. Filial affiance, humble love, lowly but perfect confidence, are not presumption, but obedience.
II. This is our privilege, that we may pour out our hearts before God. Pour out your heart in personal prayer and supplication. God sees the heart; yet open it yourself to Him. Spread your case before Him. It will be your comfort and relief, your solace and your satisfaction.
III. The safety which it assures to all who exercise that confidence, and avail themselves of that consolation. God is a refuge for us. There is our security. (J. Stratten.)
How are we to live by faith on Divine providence? -
I. Trusting in God is a believer’s duty (Psalms 65:5; Proverbs 3:5; Isaiah 51:5; Psalms 52:8; Psalms 78:22).
II. What it is to trust in God.
1. Generally. To trust in God, is to cast our burden on the Lord, when it is too heavy for our own shoulder (Psalms 55:22); to dwell “in the secret place of the Most High;” when we know not where to lay our heads on earth (Psalms 91:1); to “look to our Maker,” and to “have respect to the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 17:7); to stay ourselves, when sinking, on the Lord our God (Isaiah 26:8); in a word, trust in God is that high act or exercise of faith, whereby the soul, looking upon God, and casting of itself on His goodness, power, promises, faithfulness and providence, is lifted up above carnal fears and discouragements, above perplexing doubts and disquietments, either for the obtaining and continuance of that which is good, or for the preventing or removing of that which is evil.
2. More particularly.
(1) The ingredients of trust in God are--A clear knowledge or right apprehension of God, as revealed in His Word and works (Psalms 9:10; Psalms 91:14). A full assent of the understanding, and consent of the will, to those Divine revelations, as true and good, wherein the Lord proposeth Himself as an adequate object for our trust. A firm and fixed reliance of the whole soul on God.
(2) Its concomitants--An holy quietness, security and peaceableness of spirit, springing from a full persuasion of our safety. A steadfast, well-grounded hope, which includes--
(i.) A holy and confident expectation and looking out after God’s gracious presence;
(ii.) An humble and constant waiting on God’s leisure. An humble, holy and undaunted confidence.
(3) Its effects. Fervent, effectual, constant prayer. Sincere, universal, spiritual, cheerful, constant obedience. Soul-ravishing, heart-enlivening joy (Psalms 13:5; Isaiah 12:2; 1 Peter 1:8).
III. What is, or ought to be, the grand and sole object of a believer’s trust. The Lord Jehovah is, or at least should be--
1. The grand object of a believer’s trust. “Put your trust in the Lord” (Psalms 4:5). In whom should a dying creature trust, but in a “living God”? (1 Timothy 4:10). In stormy and tempestuous times, though we may not run to the bramble, yet we must to this Rock, for refuge (Isaiah 26:4). When the sun burns hot, and scorches, a Jonah’s gourd will prove insignificant: no shadow like that of a God’s wings (Psalms 36:7).
2. The sole object of a believer’s trust.
Holy trust is an act of worship proper and peculiar to a holy God. No creature must share in it: whatever we trust in, unless it be in subordination unto God, we make it our God, or at least our idol. True trust in God takes us off the hinges of all other confidences: as we cannot serve, so we cannot trust, God and Mammon. There must be but one string to the bow of our trust; and that is the Lord.
IV. What are those sure and stable grounds on which saints may firmly and securely build their trust on God--
1. God’s almighty arm and power. The Lord hath an arm, an outstretched arm (1 Kings 8:42); a hand, an omnipotent hand; a hand that spans the heavens (Isaiah 40:12), that strecheth them out as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in. On this Almighty arm may believers trust (Isaiah 51:5).
2. God’s infinite and free goodness, mercy and bounty. His bowels are as tender as His arm is strong.
3. God’s many, choice, exceeding great and precious promises.--These are the flagons that faith keeps by her, the apples [which] she hath hoarded up in store, to revive and quicken in a day of swooning. Who will not trust the word, the promise, the protest of the King of kings? (Hebrews 13:5; Isaiah 43:2; Isaiah 4:5; Isaiah 6:1).
4. God’s inviolable, steadfast, never-failing faithfulness (1 Corinthians 10:13). God’s goodness inclines Him to make good promises, and His faithfulness engages Him to make those promises good.
5. God’s most holy, wise, powerful, gracious providence (Acts 17:25; Acts 17:28; Proverbs 15:3). Faith reflects on former experiences, its own and others; and by the holy skill it hath in the physiognomy of providence, clearly reads and collects what God will do, in what God hath done. It casts its eye on--
(1) The experiences of others.--And judges herself to have an interest in those very providences of grace which they enjoyed.
(2) Its own experiences (1 Samuel 17:37; 2 Corinthians 1:10).
6. Those dear relations in which the Lord is pleased to stand and own towards His people cry aloud for their trust in Him. Hath He built the house, and will He not keep it up? He that made us will assuredly take care of us. We may safely give up ourselves, our trust our all, to Him, who hath given us ourselves and our all. This relation the apostle makes the ground of trust (1 Peter 4:19).
V. What are those special and signal seasons which call aloud for the exerting of this Divine trust? The wise man tells us there is an appointed time for every purpose under heaven: a time to kill and to heal, to plant and to pluck up, to weep and to laugh, to get and to lose, to be born and to die (Ecclesiastes 3:1, etc.). In all these, trust in God is not, like snow in harvest, uncomely, but seasonable, yea, necessary.
VI. How faith or trust exerts, puts forth, demeans, and bestirs itself in these signal seasons.
1. In times of fulness and prosperity. When it goes well with us and ours; when the candle of the Lord shines on us and our tabernacle; whern our lines fall in pleasant places, and our God makes us to lie down in green and fat pastures: now, now is a fair opportunity for faith or trust to exert itself, yea, and to appear gloriously. And, indeed, it requires no less than the utmost of faith’s skill to steer the soul handsomely in this serene and smooth-faced calm. And so--
(1) Faith or trust looks upward, and there fixeth its eye on God. And so holy faith delivers herself, in such expressions as these; namely--
(i.) How full soever my large cistern be, it is the Lord, and the Lord alone, that is the grand Fountain, or rather Ocean, of all my enjoyments.
(ii.) Since all that I have is received of God, I may not, I must not boast, crack, glory, as if I received it not (Genesis 4:7).
(iii.) Inasmuch as all that I have is from God’s blessing and bounty, this whole all shall be for His praise and glory,
(iv.) Because all my enjoyments proceed from God’s free-gift, or rather his loan, therefore they must and shall be readily surrendered to God’s call.
(v.) Now I enjoy most from God, now, even now, it is necessary that I should trust mostly, yea, wholly and only, in God.
(vi.) These outward enjoyments are indeed sweet; but my God, the author of them, is infinitely more sweet. On the things of God. Faith discovers a world beyond the moon, and trades thither; leaving the men of the earth to load themselves with clay and coals, faith pursues its staple commodity, and traffics for grace and glory.
(2) Faith or trust looks downward, on its fullest and sweetest temporal enjoyments.--And so it accurately weighs these enjoyments in the balance of the sanctuary, and so makes a just estimate of them as to their worth and value.
2. In times of sadness, afflictions, wants, sufferings, miseries.--When the hand of the Lord is gone out against us, and He greatly multiplies our sorrows; now, now is a time for a saint’s trust to bestir itself to purpose. (T. Lyre.)
Trust in God
You believe in God; that is to say, He has a place in your intellectual notions; you could not on any consideration allow His name to be blotted out of your creed; you are intellectually sure that He lives. Now, be true to your own creed, and trust in Him. You believe that the river runs to the sea, and that the sea is large enough to sustain your ship,--then act upon your faith and launch the vessel. If you keep your vessel on the stocks when she is finished, then all your praises of the ocean go for nothing; better never have built the ship than leave her unlaunched--a monument of your scientific belief, but also a testimony of your practical infidelity. This figure will serve us still further. This faith in God is truly as a sea-going ship. You have this great ship; she is well built; you know her preciousness--but there you are, hesitating on the river, running down to the harbour-bar and coming back again aghast as if you had seen a ghost: have faith; pass the bar; leave the headlands behind; make the stars your counsellors, and ride upon the great sea by the guidance of the greater sun. This is faith: not a mere nodding of the assenting head, but the reverent risking of the loving, clinging heart. To have a God in your belief is to sit in a ship which is chained upon the stocks; but to have a God in the heart, ruling the understanding, the conscience, and the will, is to sail down the river, enter upon the great ocean, and pass over the infinite waters into the haven of rest. Trust in Him at all times. Religion is not to be occasional but continuous. In the daytime our faith is to shine as the sun; in the nighttime it is to fill the darkness with stars; at the wedding-feast it is to turn the water into wine; in the hour of privation it is to surround the impoverished life with angels of hope and promise; in the day of death it is to take the sword from the destroyer and to give the victory to him who is apparently worsted in the fight. In exercising this trust there are two things to be remembered. First--We get some of the highest benefits of life through our most painful discipline. The very act of trust is a continual strain upon the understanding, the affections, and the will. The trust is not an act accomplished once for all, something that was written down in a book long ago and may be made matter of reference and verification; religious trust is the daily condition of the soul, the state in which the soul lives and moves and has its being, the source, so to say, from which it draws all its inspirations, the feast at which it sustains its confidence, and the whole condition which underlies and ennobles the best life. We must remember, too, that the time of full explanation is not until by and by. It is hardly to be questioned that our disappointments may one day come to be reckoned amongst our blessings. We need thus to be taught the lesson of patience, to be chastened, mellowed, and subdued, and to be taught how good a thing it is, not only to wait upon God, but to wait for Him, to wait through long days and weary nights, to stand outside heaven’s door and to abide there in the confidence that at His own time and in His own way tim King will come, and do for us exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think. The exhortation takes another turn “pour out your hearts before Him.” Though He knows all, yet He must be told all. Make God your confidant. Hannah said, “I have poured out my soul before the Lord.” The figure represents the act of giving up the whole of the contents of the heart to God’s keeping. It is not a word now and then that has to be spoken, or a hint that has to be given, or a signal that has to be held out; the action is a complete emptying of the heart, the outpouring of every secret thought, purpose, motive, desire, and affection, that thus the man may stand in a right attitude and relation towards his God. Our communion with heaven should be unreserved. The very first condition to true, profound, and edifying worship is that we should cleanse out our hearts of every secret and pour out the whole contents of our being in penitence and thanksgiving before God: then the vision of heaven will shine upon us, then the comforting angels will be seen with gospels from the throne of grace, then new heavens shall beam above us, and a new earth shall spread out all its flowers and fruits for our delight and our sustenance. Our communion should not only be unreserved, it should be long continued: “pray without ceasing.” As our breathing is continual so ought our aspiration to be unceasing. The only true analogy about the soul’s life in reference to communion with God is to be found in the continual breathing of the bodily life. We breathe without knowing it. When we are in health we are not aware that we have a physical nature at all; everything works harmoniously and smoothly, and without giving any reminder to the man that he is inhabiting a decaying or uncertain dwelling-place. It is even so with the soul. This is a sense in which we may enjoy an unconscious piety that has lived itself out of the region of statute and machinery, scaffolding and external upholding, and that poises itself as on strong wings at the very gate of the morning. This is not carelessness; it may be the very last expression of long-continued spiritual culture. There should be some difference of a most obvious and practical kind between those who believe in God and those who do not. Trust in God should express itself in calmness and beneficence of life. The Christian should live to give. Christianity is expenditure. We have nothing that we have not received, and because we have all things in Christ we are to give and labour with both hands earnestly, leaving God to provide for the future as the future may reveal itself. If we may so say it, we can give God no greater pleasure than to cast all our care upon Him, to entrust to Him every concern and every detail of life with absolute fearlessness and perfect consecration. The very hairs of our head are all numbered. Our down-sitting is of consequence to God, and our uprising is matter of note in heaven; yea, our going out and our coming in would seem to touch the solicitudes of our Father. All this will be romantic to the soul who has had no spiritual experience; but we must not consult the blind upon colours, or the deaf upon harmonies, or the dead upon the duties, the enjoyments, and the sacrifices of life. “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.” The natural man does not understand spiritual things; they can only be spiritually discerned. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Continuous trust in God
The emphasis must be put upon the continuousness of the trust. We are called upon to trust God where we cannot praise Him. It is in the Garden of Gethsemane that we can best show the reality and force of our trust in God. Even infidels may laugh at midday, and fools be glad in the time of abounding harvest; only he who lovingly trusts in God can be calm in the darkness, and sing songs of trust when the fig tree does not flourish. Trust of this kind amounts to an argument. It compels the attention of those who study the temper and action of our lives. Naturally they ask how it is that we are so sustained and comforted, and that when other men are complaining and repining we can repeat our prayer and sing the same song of trust, though sometimes, indeed, in a lower tone. We are watched when we stand by the graveside, and if there Christian faith can overcome human sorrow a tribute of praise is due to our principles. And many men may be prepared to render that tribute, and so bring themselves nearer to the kingdom of God. A beautiful refrain is this to our life-song, “Trust in Him at all times”--in youth, in age, in sorrow, in joy, in poverty, in wealth; at all times, in good harvests and in bad harvests, in the wilderness and in the garden, on the firm earth and on the tumultuous sea; at all times, until time itself has mingled with eternity. (J. Parker, D. D.)
God is a refuge for us.--
God our refuge
I. The representation here given of God. “God is a refuge for us.”
1. A secure refuge.
2. An ever-present refuge.
3. An accessible refuge.
4. The only refuge.
II. The exhortation grounded upon it.
1. We are to maintain a continual reliance upon God.
2. We are to make an unreserved disclosure of our wants to Him. “Pour out your hearts before Him.” (R. Davies, M. A.)
God the refuge of His people
I. The necessity of a Divine refuge.
1. As it respects man as a sinner, he needs a refuge.
(1) He is guilty, having broken the righteous law of God.
(2) He is condemned, and the object of pursuit (Galatians 3:10).
(3) He is helpless. He cannot give satisfaction (Romans 3:19-20); he is weak (Romans 5:6); he can give no atonement for the past (Micah 6:6-7).
2. As it respects the believer,
(1) With his own heart--Satan, his mighty adversary.
(2) Tribulation. “Man is born to trouble as the sparks,” etc.
(3) In a dying hour, and at the last day.
(4) The believer needs a refuge on account of his helplessness (2 Corinthians 12:10; John 15:5).
II. The nature and properties of this refuge.
1. God is a refuge for the guilty. Even as the cities of refuge were provided for the guilty manslayer. The most guilty--the vilest of the vile--find refuge and succour (Hebrews 6:18).
2. He is a refuge for His people in conflict. Such lie was to David (2 Samuel 22:1-3; Psalms 142:4-6). He will give grace sufficient to war a good warfare.
3. God is a refuge in tribulation (Psalms 9:9; Psalms 59:16; Jeremiah 16:19).
4. He is a refuge of strength for the weak and helpless.
5. lie will be a refuge in death, and at the judgment day. Then will He be recognized as a God in covenant, and He will save His people. (Helps for the Pulpit.)
If riches increase, set not your heart upon them.
The increase of wealth
I. Here is a circumstance which most desire. Who does not desire the increase of his secular possessions? This desire is virtuous, or otherwise, according to the grand reason that originates and governs it.
1. There is a wrong reason. When wealth is desired either for its own sake, or for purposes of display, ease, voluptuousness, and self-indulgence, the desire for acquisition is vitiated and corrupt. These are the ends of mere worldly men in the aspiration.
2. There is a right reason. He who desires wealth in order properly to discipline his spiritual nature, alleviate the woes of humanity, and help forward the cause of truth, right and benevolence, is righteous in this acquisitive propensity.
II. Here is a possibility which some may possess. The possibility is the increase of riches. This increase in the ease of many, perhaps, is all but impossible; still, in the case of others, it is not so. Poor men often get rich in one of two ways; either with, or without, their own efforts.
1. With their own efforts. By inventive skill, well-directed industry, mercantile forecast, and systematic economy, very often we find poor men rising from great poverty to immense wealth. When such a result is reached apart from fallacious representations, fraudulent transactions and unrighteous speculations, it is at once gratifying and commend: able.
2. Without their own efforts, Not a few indolent and worthless men become rich. By birth they come into an inheritance, or by a kind of “luck” they are endowed with handsome legacies. Seldom in such cases is wealth of any real worth to its possessors: and it often proves their moral ruin.
III. Here is a duty which all should obey. What is that? “Set not your heart upon them.” However in manner, or amount, they may increase, they should not occupy the heart. But why?
1. Because to love them is unworthy of your nature. The soul was made to set its affections upon moral, not material, worth, upon the Divine attributes of imperishable mind, not upon the qualities of corruptible matter, The money-lover prostitutes his affections and degrades his nature.
2. Because to love them is to injure your nature. The man who loves wealth offers violence to the dictates of his conscience, fills his heart with harassing cares and anxieties, and materializes the Divine affections of his nature. We become like the objects we love; the man who loves his gold becomes like a miserable grub or a lump of clay.
3. Because to love them is to exclude God from your nature. The soul is so constituted that it cannot love two opposite things supremely at the same time.
4. Because to love them is to bring ruin on your nature. The greatest agony of the soul is bereavement--the separation from the object we love. Such a separation is inevitable where wealth is loved; here the lover and the loved must eternally part. (Homilist.)
The heart in the wrong place
In one of the art galleries of Italy there is a curious picture, by an early painter, which represents a sick man stretched on his bed, and his physicians come to visit him. They have examined their patient, and ascertained his malady to be that his heart is gone--it has altogether disappeared. From a pulpit near by, St. Anthony of Padua is preaching on the text, “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” He announces where the sick man’s heart will be found; and the clue he furnishes is followed up in another compartment by a group of the sick man’s friends, who open his strong box, and stand amazed at discovering the missing member reposing among the abundant gold pieces. It is as true as though it was a literal fact, that the heart may be enticed from its rightful place to lie among earthly treasures.
God hath spoken once: twice have I heard this, that power belongeth unto God.
The omnipotence of God
First allow me to remind you of the definition of power which is adopted by the most approved writers. They instruct us to consider power as divided into two kinds, active and passive power. By active power we are to understand the capacity possessed by any substance or being of effecting change or alteration upon any other substance or being; so that it is an instance of active power when we speak of fire as having the capacity of melting gold, for we mean that fire has the capacity of effecting on gold that alteration of its consistency which we denominate melting. So it is also an instance of passive power when we speak of the capacity of any substance to undergo changes; as when we say of gold that it possesses the power of becoming melted, or of having its consistency altered by the influence of fire. From this statement of the most approved definition of power we advance to an attempt to illustrate the power of the Deity as far as we are enabled to do so, first, from the appearances of nature. The first of these is the vastness of its extent. According to the modern doctrines of astronomy, the solar system, of which the globe on which we live forms a portion, consists of several worlds, most of them larger than our own, and many of them very much so; and that these severally are carried round the sun in different orbits at an equable but rapid speed. The agency, whether immediately exerted or resulting from the constitution of self-acting causes, which could effect such amazing alterations of the originally confused and undistributed matter of the universe, which could continue them in this state of action, overwhelms the imagination. Another characteristic of the power of the Deity, as illustrated in the works of nature, is that of the variety of modes by which it is displayed. The insatiable variety of nature has ever been considered one of the most wonderful of the qualities of the universe. This is exhibited in nothing more strikingly than in the ability exerted to secure the same ends by widely different means. Astronomers, for instance, tell us that the general provision ,made for giving light to a planet during the absence of the sun is by moons similar to our own, differing in number in proportion to the size of the planet round which they revolve. In the case, however, of the planet Saturn, this purpose is accomplished partly by numerous moons, and partly by a most singular deviation--namely, by a ring of such size as would reach from our earth to the moon, which is suspended at the distance of twenty thousand miles above the planet itself, and revolves and reflects the light of the absent sun upon its immense regions. Another characteristic of the power of the Deity, as illustrated in the works of nature, is that of complexity. Nothing, perhaps, more effectually demonstrates power than the arrangement and combination of numerous portions of machinery so as to produce, by their relative action, one result. The display of power will, of course, be in proportion to the extent of the complexity, and will he augmented according as the materials adopted are of a varying nature; in proportion, also, as they are difficult of management, and as the result is successful. It may be most safely asserted that all these qualities pre-eminently distinguish the works of the Creator, (J. F. Denham, M. A.)
The reiterated message and the twofold hearing
“God hatch spoken once.” This is a description of sovereignty. The oriental despot speaks once, decisively, unequivocally, and only once. If the inferior does not instantly understand and obey, off with his head! But though ‘the old divines laid all the stress on the sovereignty of God, this does not constitute His chief glory. There are other and diviner elements in Deity than this. According to the psalmist, God stretches a point in pity for human weakness and incapacity. He speaks more than once. If His first message is misunderstood, He repeats it. “Twice have I heard this.” God spoke once as a Sovereign, the second time as a Father. And “twice” stands as a figure of speech, not for one repetition, but for many. “Once, twice.” Some people cannot wait for God’s second word. They seize on a text for controversial purposes, tear it out of its connection and proper sequence, and imagine they have proved something by it. But wait! Is there not another text? Has not the truth another phase? IS there not a New Testament as well as an Old? Is there not s Church as well as a Bible? Is there not a Spirit as well as a Church? The true “mind of the Spirit” lies in the consensus of all the texts, in the harmony of all the voices. Not only is there the reiterated message, but there is twice hearing for every message. “Twice have I heard;” once with the ear, once with the heart. It is the sympathetic intelligence, the spiritual faculty alone that hears. When you knock at a door, it is not the door that hears, but the resident within. Much truth falls upon men’s ears but as the tap of the knocker upon the unconscious door. Now observe the first element in that idea which had thus impressed itself upon his mind. “Power belongeth unto God.” That was a natural impression. That is, as a rule, the first truth that the human mind lays hold of in its attempt to conceive a first cause. It deifies power. But While the Hebrew conception began here, it did not stop here. It included the idea of mercy as well. Now, as it cannot be said that we find this idea in nature, it is all the more remarkable that these Hebrew seers and poets should have had, not merely a glimpse, but so firm a grasp Of it. This was the thought of God in which they exulted, and to which they sometimes gave utterance in sublimest fashion. “He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names.” “He bindeth up the broken in heart, He healeth all their wounds.” Isaiah 40:1-31. is a beautiful poem of reconciliations; of the reconciliation of the majesty and mercy, the power and tenderness of God. But now I ask your attention to the psalmist’s enlightened conception of mercy as well as of God, “for thou renderest to every man according to his work.” That is not at all the conventional idea. We rather think of mercy as “letting off” the criminal, and shielding him from the deserts of his transgression. But that is really an altogether mistaken view. The truest mercy is to let him suffer, and let him learn by his suffering. Otherwise, mercy to him is wrong to the other members of the community. Further, the unkindest thing to any man himself is to leave the roots of evil in his nature, there to spring up and bring forth all their baleful harvest. This is what we do, however, when we only relieve him from the painful results of his wrong-doing. The sooner he perceives the real quality and tendency of his actions, and the more rigorously he therefore seeks to eradicate the last fibre of evil propension from his being, the sooner will he come to a healthy and happy moral condition. And all this arrives through the experience of that suffering which is the inevitable consequence of moral guilt, and the purpose of which is disciplinary and not vindictive. And so the psalmist mentions it as an essential element in the Divine mercy, that it “renders to every man according to his work.” (J. Halsey.)
The power of God
I. What we are to understand by the power of God.
1. As to the principle. It is an ability to do all things, the doing of which speaks power and perfection; that is, whatever is not repugnant either to the nature of things, or of God; whatever does not imply a contradiction in the thing, or an imperfection in the doer; an ability to do all things which are consistent with itself, and with the Divine nature and perfection. To help our conception--
(1) Let us imagine a principle from which all other power is derived, and upon which it depends, and to which it is perfectly subject and subordinate.
(2) A perfect active principle, which can do, not only what any finite being or creature can do, but what all beings joined together can do; nay, more and greater things than they all can do.
(3) A perfect active principle, to which nothing can make any considerable, much less effectual resistance, which can check and countermand at pleasure, and carry down before it, and annihilate all other powers that we can imagine besides this; because we cannot imagine any other power that is not derived from this, and does not depend upon it.
(4) A perfect active principle, which can do all things in a most perfect manner, and can do all things at once, and in an instants, and that with ease.
(5) The most perfect active principle we can imagine, the utmost bounds and limits of whose perfection we cannot imagine, that is, when we have imagined it to be as perfect, and to act in as perfect a manner as we can imagine, yet we have not reached the perfection of it; but after all this, that it can do many things more than we can imagine, and in such a manner much more perfect than we can imagine.
2. As to the exercise of it. The Divine will determines it to its exercise, the Divine wisdom directs and regulates the exercise of it; that is, God exerciseth His power willingly, and not by necessity, and in such manner, for the producing such effects, and in order to such ends and purposes, as seem best to His wisdom. Hence He is said to act all things according to His good pleasure, and according to the counsel of His will; that is, freely and wisely.
II. This perfection belongs to God. This I shall show--
1. From the dictates of natural light. This was one of the most usual titles which the heathens gave to their supreme deity, “Optimus Maximus”; next to his goodness they placed his greatness, which does chiefly appear in his power; and they did not only attribute a great power to him, but an omnipotence. Now their natural reason did convince them that this perfection did belong to God by these three arguments--
(1) From those two great instances and expressions of His power, creation and providence; for the heathens did generally acknowledge the making of the world, and the preservation and government of it, to be the effects of power, determined by goodness, and regulated by wisdom.
(2) Because all other perfections, without this, would be insignificant and ineffectual, or else could not be at all. Without this, goodness would be an empty piece of good meaning, and not able to give any demonstration of itself; knowledge would be an idle speculation; and wisdom to contrive things, without power to effect them, would be an useless thing.
(3) Without this there could be no religion.
2. From Scripture.
(1) Texts which in general ascribe power, might, strength to God-- Psalms 24:8; Psa 29:1; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Matthew 6:18.
(2) Those which ascribe this to God in an eminent degree-- Job 9:4.
(3) Those which ascribe such a power as transcends any human or created power. Such as those which express all the power which men have to be derived from God-- John 19:11. And those which advance the power of God above the power of men-- Luke 18:27; Eph 3:20; 2 Chronicles 20:6; Job 9:4. Those which declare all things to be equally easy to him, and nothing difficult-- Jeremiah 32:17; 2Ch 14:11; 1 Samuel 14:6.
(4) Those which ascribe all power to Him, by the titles of “Almighty, All-sufficient”-- Genesis 17:1.Revelation 4:8; Revelation 4:11; Revelation 15:8; Revelation 16:7; Revelation 19:16. Job 42:2. “Thou ernst do all things”-- Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:27; Luke 1:37. (J. Tillotson.)
All power God’s
There are two theories, differing widely, with regard to the Divine power. According to the one view, the Almighty has lodged in the various agencies of the material world capacities and tendencies, by virtue of which they prolong the order and harmony of nature, perpetuate the races of organized and animated being, and work out a course of events, incidentally disastrous, yet in the main beneficial, and adapted to produce a vast and ever-increasing preponderance of happiness over misery, and of good over evil. According to the other view, God is actively present in the entire universe, upholding all things by the word of His power, guiding the course of events by His own perpetual fiat--preserving, indeed, a certain uniformity in sequences which we call cause and effect, so far as is needed to assist human calculation and to give definite aim to human endeavour, but behind the order of visible causes adjusting whatever takes place with immediate and constant reference to the needs, the deserts, and the ultimate well-being of His creatures; ordaining the seeming evil no less than the seeming good, making even wicked men His sword. I hardly need say that this last is the view directly sanctioned by the express language and the entire tenor of Scripture. Indeed, as much as this is admitted by the Christian advocates of the former theory, who regard the sacred writers as by a bold, yet legitimate figure ascribing to the direct action of the Almighty whatever takes place under a system initiated by His power and sanctioned by His wisdom. But there was, it seems to me, immeasurably more than figure in their minds. To them the curtain of general laws, which hangs in so dense drapery before the eyes of modern philosophy, was transparent, and they saw no intervening agency, no intermediate force, between the Creator and the development of His purposes in nature and in providence. Our view of the direct administration and perfect providence of God is confirmed by the results, or rather by the non-results, of science. Six thousand years of research have failed to reveal the latent forces, to lay bare the hidden springs, of nature. Gravitation, cohesion, crystallization, organization, decomposition,--these are but names for our ignorance,--fence-words set up at the extremest limits of our knowledge. That Nature pursues her course and events take place under such and such conditions is the utmost that we can say. We find it impossible to conceive of any innate or permanently inherent force in brute matter, but by the very laws of thought we are constrained to attribute all power to mind, intelligence, volition. But what shall we say of man’s power over outward nature and events? We are conscious of free volition. Is it ours to execute our own volitions; or is it literally in God that we live, and move, and have our being? I cannot conceive of divided power, of concurrent sovereignty, in the same domain--of our ability to do what He would not have us do, That we can will what He wills not we know only too well; but must we not reach the conclusion that He executes our volitions for us whether they be good or evil--nay, that the execution of these volitions, whatever they are, is always good--that He literally makes “the wrath of man” to praise Him, and “the remainder of wrath”--that whose mission would be unavailing for the purposes of His righteous administration--He will so “restrain” as to frustrate of its end? In thousands of ways His providence may and does make void the thought of evil, the counsel of violence--avert the blow which guilty man would aim at the peace of his fellow-men. Evil and death come to none for whom it is not the fit time and way in the counsels of retributive justice, or the best time and way in the counsels of paternal love. There are indeed mysteries in Providence--heights which we cannot scale, depths which we cannot fathom. We seek only to look between the leaves of the immeasurable volume, where Jesus has unloosed the seals. I have barely endeavoured to develop what we must believe, if we would receive our Saviour’s lessons, and imbibe His spirit of implicit trust and self-surrender. Where Reason fails, let Faith usurp her place, and let us rest in the calm assurance that what we know not now we shall know hereafter. This we do know now--that our times are in our Father’s hands, our path through life marked and guarded by His watchful providence, and that to the soul that stays itself on Him all things must work together for good. (A. P. Peabody.)
Also unto Thee, O Lord, belongeth mercy.
The mercy of God to miserable sinners His distinguishing attribute
I. Its properties.
1. Free and sovereign.
2. Rich and exceedingly abundant.
II. The proper results of this truth upon ourselves.
1. Let us take care to seek God’s mercy in time.
2. Be encouraged to pray.
3. Let humble believers trust and not be afraid.
4. Thank God for His mercy.
5. Imitate it. (G. Burder, D. D.)
The mercy of God
One is at first sight tempted to amend the psalmist’s saying, and for “mercy” to substitute “justice.” It seems characteristically just, rather than merciful, to render to men according to their works. But let us emphasize this word “his.” Let us reflect that in what a man does there are elements which others have contributed, and for which others are responsible. It then begins to dawn upon us that some discrimination is possible, and that such discrimination is merciful. When we separate from a man’s work that which is not strictly “his,” but the work of his parents, or his teachers, or of the spirit of his times, even a bad man seems less culpable. Some, but less than all, of the wrong-doing that we see in him was really his. The savage who delights in torturing his prisoners, the persecutor who kindles the fagots for heretics, need the benefit of this discriminating word, “his work.” Loss of sleep or dyspepsia may induce one to acts of peevishness or moroseness that are not wholly his work. The overworked pointsman who falls asleep causes a catastrophe not all his work. These discriminations society cannot always make and at the same time sufficiently safeguard public interests. But we may be assured that He who only is competent to unravel the complicated web does discriminate, and allots to each man retribution for no more than is strictly his. That there are such discriminations, however beyond our power to draw them truly, gives us a basis for charity in our estimate of those who excite our intensest reprobation. When we see a Nero or a Borgia, and are taxed to account for such an excess of wickedness, we may reasonably think it represents the accumulated contributions of more lives than one, and a responsibility in which more than one has share. Admitting all this, we must equally insist that no man can escape responsibility for the work which is strictly his. One may say, if he will, that man is nine-tenths environment, but one must not cancel the residual fraction for which the responsibility is his. No ship is started on the voyage of life with rudder lashed. In the most ill-starred, storm-crippled life, after all discrimination of the contributing forces which appear in the result, there is a certain remainder due to the free helm in the responsible hand--a work that is his, and a retribution due to that. What we have now to observe further is, that not only is the Divine discrimination merciful, but the retribution is also merciful. What should mercy seek first but to secure men against wreck and loss? And how can it secure them but by securing the moral order in its established lines of cause and consequence? We can do no more merciful thing for ourselves and our neighbours than to give the law of consequences full sweep, in rendering to each according to his work. To interfere, under however good a name, with the necessary trace of a growing character that is supplied by the law of consequences, is not mercy, but murder. For a man to imagine that he can lie, or steal, or scamp his work to his neighbour’s damage or danger, and escape the evil consequence, or any part of it, is to think the most immoral and dangerous thought. And it is merely helping somebody to think such thoughts--taking down the guard-rail on the path along the edge of the precipice--when we allow a weak sympathy to interfere with the hand that is laying on some guilty back the scourge of just consequence. Is there, then, no place for leniency? May not one say with King Arthur in excusing Sir Bedivere--
“A man may fail in duty twice,
And the third time prosper”?
Unquestionably; and yet who will gainsay that, as things go, the danger is not of too little leniency, but too much? No doubt it sounds charitable to say, “Let him off; he won’t do it again.” But mercy demands security for that, not only for society, but for the wrong-doer himself. Nature takes this security of us by enforcing her rule, Pay as you go. Plato profoundly remarks, “That it is better for a man to be punished than to escape. It saves him from a worse punishment in the degradation of his character.” So in Mrs. Ward’s Marcella, Raeburn says of the homicide Hurd, “I believe that if the murderer saw things as they really are, he would himself claim his own death as his best chance, his only chance, in this mysterious universe of self-recovery.” To maintain moral worth, to save manhood from degradation, true mercy prefers the sound way to the soft way, and renders to each according to his work. What, then, becomes of the forgiveness of sins? Certainly, no cancelling of the spiritual law, “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Forgiveness works no cut-off of consequences. It merely shifts the train of consequences from a down-grade to an up-grade, from direction toward the outer darkness to the Father’s house. It is the transformation of She consequences which issue from our indestructible past that forgiveness effects. The evil deeds which cannot be annihilated, and whose causative power must abide in our life either for evil or for good, cannot be cancelled by forgiveness, but only converted from a fatal to a vital issue. So the muck-heap, which above ground poisons the air, fertilizes the soil when put underground. The evil that is buried by forgiveness: becomes a source of fruitfulness to the new-sown seeds of better resolution. (J. M. Whiten, Ph. D.)
For Thou renderest to every man according to his work.
The mercy of God seen in judgment
We have no difficulty in accepting the merciful character of God until we enter the realm of retribution and judgment. In the nature of the ease our conclusions must be imperfect, from our meagre knowledge.
I. The general law. God administers in perfect equity the legitimate results of every man’s efforts to himself. The term “render” has the germinal sense of restoring, paying back, or making up the account of--“rendering judgment.”
1. This law--or method of God’s procedure--is universal in His dominions. “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Material, intellectual, moral. Yet we must not get the idea of law as above the Lawgiver or Executor. Unintelligent power is not a swaying sceptre: “Power belongeth unto God.”
2. Nor must we think of God as held by any force, aside from His own wisdom, in the production of successive events in the universe: “There is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God.”
II. There are two sides to the tremendous fact of law.
1. The awful side. The side which thrills with its tremendous import--which threatens and yet invites. In its security of the reproduction of human actions. In nature. The fifth reproduction of a grain of wheat is 25,600,Isaiah 25:0,Isaiah 25:0 grains. Plant a cottonwood tree beside a stream in western prairies, and soon you will fringe the streams for ten thousand square miles. Memory is a reproductive spring of power as lasting as the soul. Panoramas, words, acts, buried for fifty years, spring from their graves with the bloom of youth upon them. How subtle, majestic and awful this power in moral realms! How large a sum of human life is fashioned by the subtle power of potent influence!
2. The other side of this awful fact of law is a glorious one.
(1) Without it there would be no permanency in the domain of active matter or spirit. Permanency, and the sense of it, is essential to satisfaction in every field of pursuit. We struggle for it in our contest with nature, with the world, with life itself. This underlies our great hope of heaven: it will abide.
(2) Without it there would be no incentive to effort.
(3) Without it there would be no standing and universal warning against sin, or incentive to virtue. The Judgment Day is to test our whole being and doing. The mighty environment of law is to hold our destiny and establish our glory or seal our doom. Sin will generate an awful cyclone. Righteousness will sail into a quiet harbour of eternal placidity and safety.
(4) There seem difficulties. It is hard for us to see and say, at all times, “the Judge of the whole earth doeth right,” and “His mercy is unto children’s children.” In the chamber of death, specially of the young. In the wake of the cyclone. But think: it is after the war-cloud has cleared away that we see and feel the glory of results. When we are so infatuated with one department of life as to lose sight of the import of its outcome, it is difficult to see that mercy inspires justice and law. Yet so we teach our children by painful discipline, if necessary. Is it unkind to hold the boy to his books though he squirm and cry? No; the delights to come from acquired mental power lead us in kindness to hold him to toil now. When we judge of Divine administration from the narrow limitations of human judgment. How often, if we only knew, would our tears be turned into smiles! A mother prayed for her sick young son that “his life might be spared whether it Was God’s will or not,” and he grew up to curse her life and break her heart, Two lessons this life under law should teach us--
1. Faith in God: as an Administrator--Governor--wise, powerful, merciful, good. A personal Friend.
2. Obedience to His commands. How shortsighted the soldier who stops to question the orders from headquarters! (M. D. Collins, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 62". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent