WITH another hymn of praise, this late collection of Davidical psalms, previously omitted from the Psalter, terminates. Like verses 25. and 34; also Davidical, this psalm is alphabetic, and also, like them, it is incomplete, the letter nun being omitted. Like most of the ether alphabetical psalms, it consists of meditations on a single theme, which is here the righteousness and goodness of God
The metrical arrangement of the psalm is into three stanzas of seven verses each.
I will extol thee, my God, O King; rather, O my God, the King; i.e. the one and only King of heaven and earth. And I will bless thy Name forever and ever. An internal conviction of the writer's immortality is implied in these words.
Every day will I bless thee; and I will praise thy Name for ever and ever. An emphatic repetition of the second clause of Psalms 145:1.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised (comp. Psalms 48:1; Psalms 96:4). And his greatness is unsearchable; literally, and of his greatness there is no search (comp. Romans 11:33).
One generation shall praise thy works to another, and shall declare thy mighty acts. The handing down of God's mercies and deliverances from age to age is always regarded in Scripture as the principal mode whereby they are kept in remembrance (Exodus 12:26, Exodus 12:27; Exodus 13:8-10, Exodus 13:14; Deuteronomy 32:7; Psalms 44:1; Psalms 78:3-7, etc.).
I will speak of the glorious honor of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works (comp. Psalms 26:7; Psalms 71:17). It was the duty of every faithful Israelite to set forth God's majesty, and to "declare his works with rejoicing" (Psalms 117:2). David proclaims himself ready to perform this duty. Then, he thinks, others will join in.
And men shall speak of the might of thy terrible acts. Men will "speak of the might of God's terrible acts," which are those that attract them most—the plagues wrought in Egypt, the overthrow of Pharaoh's host in the Red Sea, the earth swallowing up Dathan, and the like. And I will declare thy greatness (see above, Psalms 145:3).
They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness; literally, they shall pour forth—as a strong spring—the memory of thy great goodness; i.e. the tale of all the mercies that thou hast vouchsafed them. And shall sing of thy righteousness; i.e. shall sing hymns of praise for thy righteous dealings with them.
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. Professor Cheyne compares the epithets in a Babylonian hymn to the sun-god; but a closer parallel is to be found in Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7, "The Lord God is merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin" (see also Psalms 86:15).
The Lord is good to all; and his tender mercies are over all his works. "The Lord is good to all;" he "maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and send-eth rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). He "wouldeth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live," And his "tender mercies," or "compassions," are not only over his human creatures, but" over all his works"—all that he has made—animals as well as men, "creeping things," zoophytes, all that can feel.
All thy works shall praise thee, O Lord (comp. Psalms 148:2-13, where all creation is called on to praise the Lord). And thy saints shall bless thee; or, "thy loving ones"—those who are devoted to thy service.
They shall speak of the glory of thy kingdom (comp. Psalms 22:28; Psalms 45:6). The "glory" of God's kingdom is such that the faithful are naturally drawn to "speak" of it. "His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion endureth throughout all ages" (Psalms 145:13). "His kingdom ruleth over all" (Psalms 103:19)—heaven and earth, and hell, and all space, and whatever space contains. There is no limit either to its extent or its duration. And its "glory" transcends all. human thought—much more all description. "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard," etc. And talk of thy power. "Power" is of the essence of kingship, and comes naturally to the front whenever the character of a kingdom is spoken of.
To make known to the sons of men his mighty acts. It is a part of the duty of "saints" (Psalms 145:10) to make known as widely as possible—if possible, to all men—the "mighty acts" and glory of God; primarily, for God's glory; and secondarily, to bring about their conversion to God's service. And the glorious majesty of his kingdom (comp. Psalms 145:5, Psalms 145:11).
Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom (comp. Daniel 4:3, Daniel 4:34). It is inconceivable that God's kingdom should come to an end. He cannot will it to cease, and so dethrone himself. Much less can any other, and necessarily inferior, power overthrow it. And thy dominion endureth throughout all generations. This is rather an anti-climax, since the generations of men will one day cease; but it was a customary phrase (Psalms 33:11; Psalms 45:17; Psalms 49:11; Psalms 61:6; Psalms 62:5, etc.), and brought home to men the thought that his special "dominion" was over them.
The Lord upholdeth all that fall. Lifts them up, i.e; and again "upholds" or supports them (comp. Psalms 37:24). And raiseth up all those that be bowed down (comp. Psalms 146:8).
The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season (cf. Psalms 104:21, Psalms 104:27; Psalms 136:25; Psalms 147:9). The constant supply of all living creatures with their necessary food is little less than a standing miracle.
Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. Not only are they given what is necessary for them, but every desire which they enter-rain is satisfied.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy (rather, gracious, or merciful) in all his works. Mercy and truth meet in God (Psalms 85:10). He is at once perfectly just, and absolutely tender and compassionate. "All his works" experience both his justice and his tenderness (comp. Psalms 25:8; Psalms 116:5, etc.).
The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him (comp. Deuteronomy 4:7; Psalms 34:18; Psalms 46:1; Psalms 119:151, etc.). God draws near to those who draw near to him; i.e. he makes his presence (which is always everywhere) felt by them. To all that call upon him in truth. A limiting clause. Mere formal prayer is useless, does not lessen the distance between God and man, rather augments it. If we really desire to enjoy the consciousness of his presence, we must call upon him "in truth," i.e. sincerely, with earnest desire and strong confidence.
He will fulfill the desire of them that fear him (comp. Psalms 145:16). What he does for "every living thing," he will do more especially for men, if they truly" fear" him, and love him (Psalms 145:20), and draw near to him in sincerity and truth. He also will hear their cry, and will save them; i.e. deliver them out of their troubles.
The Lord preserveth all them that love him (comp. Psalms 31:23; Psalms 97:10). But all the wicked will he destroy. The "severity" of God is always set against his "goodness" in Holy Scripture, lest men should misunderstand, and think to obtain salvation though they continue in wickedness (see Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7; Romans 2:2-11; Romans 11:22, etc.).
My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord. The "psalm of praise" (title) ends as it began (Psalms 145:1, Psalms 145:2)—with the strong determination of the psalmist that he at least will praise Jehovah. Others, he hopes, will join with him, and all flesh bless his holy Name (literally, the Name of his holiness) forever and ever; but for this result he can only wish and hope and pray—he cannot ensure it. But he can, and does, fulfill his own duty in the matter.
Psalms 145:1-3, Psalms 145:7, Psalms 145:21
Our response to God.
What feeling should the greatness and the goodness of God call forth from us, and how should we utter it? We will praise God in every way that is open to us.
I. CONTINUALLY. (Psalms 145:2.) "Every day" will we bless him: his praise shall be "continually" in our mouth (Psalms 34:1). Not that a man is necessarily more devout because the Name of God is always on his lips, but that the spirit of thankfulness should be always in the heart, and should spontaneously and freely rise for utterance.
II. CONTINUOUSLY. (Psalms 145:1, Psalms 145:2.) "Forever and ever." Through all the days and the years of life—and beyond. Many things eagerly undertaken will be allowed to drop out, but this, never. The tongue may well forget its office before it ceases to praise God. There is. no end to which language can be put which is worthy to be compared with that of rendering praise to the Giver of all good, the God of our salvation. We will bless God-
"While life and thought and being last,
Or immortality endures,"
III. HEARTILY. This may well be included in the "abundant" utterance of Psalms 145:7. For thanksgiving is fundamentally lacking if it does not come from the heart as well as from the lips. Praise should be abundant even to overflow, because the cup of the heart is full of intense gratitude, of filial love and joy.
IV. INTELLIGENTLY. Those who only recognize the more superficial blessings may be content with thanking God for his "benefits," for his bestowments, for those things that gladden the heart and enrich the life; but they who look deeper and judge more wisely will "sing of his righteousness" as well as of his kindness (Psalms 145:7; see also Psalms 101:1). For we have the deepest interest in God's righteousness, and should extol him for that quite as earnestly as we do for the multitude of his mercies.
V. INSTRUMENTALLY. (Psalms 145:4.) It should be our hope, our prayer, and our endeavor that our own praise of God be extended, through us, to our neighbors, and be carried down, through us, to our children and our children's children. It may depend on us, on our devotion and on the conduct of our lives, whether the praises of Christ shall be sung by lips that have so far been silent, by those who are now scarcely able to speak his Name, and by those who are still unborn. How much may a wise and earnest spirit do to enlarge and to perpetuate the praises of his Redeemer!
VI. INDIRECTLY. If all God's works praise him (Psalms 145:10), even those which are unintelligent and insensible, surely we may say that the pure and beautiful lives of the good, the kind, the generous, are ever unconsciously, but most effectively, praising God.
Psalms 145:3, Psalms 145:5, Psalms 145:6, Psalms 145:10-13
The greatness of God.
In this exquisite psalm the greatness and the goodness of God are celebrated, and the writer passes so freely from one to another, that it is very difficult to keep them separate. Nor is there much need to do so; for God's greatness, his glory, is in his goodness (Exodus 33:19), and the two are really inseparable. Endeavoring, however, to look at them apart, we are here reminded of—
I. HIS MAJESTY. We read of "the splendor of the glory of his majesty" (Psalms 145:5). The manifestations of God's presence, given in the earlier times, were those of radiant, insupportable effulgence; those who witnessed them shrank from them. God dwells in the "light inaccessible, to which no man can approach." The splendor of his glory is such as would dazzle and bewilder our mortal sight.
II. HIS POWER. We have "the might of his terrible acts," "his wondrous works," "his mighty acts." From the time when David looked up into the heavens and was awed by the tokens of Divine power shining down upon him from above, to our own time, when we first sang of him whose power "made the mountains rise," "spread the flowing seas abroad," and "built the lofty skies," men have been affected and subdued by the "almighty power of God;" and they always must be while the wonderful fabric of nature lasts.
III. HIS INFINITY. The kingdom of God is "everlasting;" it endures "throughout all generations." Nations rise and fall, dynasties appear and disappear, centuries begin and end, but God's dominion knows no bound at all. It continues from generation to generation. There is something which powerfully affects us as we think of that which lasts, and will last, while every other thing fades and vanishes away.
IV. HIS HOLINESS. (Psalms 145:6, Psalms 145:17, Psalms 145:20.) The psalmist speaks of God's "terrible acts," and he says that he "will destroy the wicked." History, sacred and profane, is full of proofs that the holiness of God is as great as his majesty and his power. "The face of the Lord is against them that do evil." "By terrible things in righteousness" God makes us to know that sin is hateful in his sight, that continuance in it will result in ruin, in shame, in death. On the other hand, God's greatness in righteousness is seen in the rewards he gives to the upright, in lifting up the lowly, in abundantly blessing the true and pure and good. Who would not fear God who is of such majesty, power, infinitude, holiness? Who would not worship him? How foolish and how guilty to refuse to listen when he speaks, to come to him in willing subjection when he calls us to his service!
Psalms 145:7-9, Psalms 145:14-16, Psalms 145:18-20
The goodness of God.
As the years increase we are inclined to review the past rather than forecast the future. What shall we dwell upon as we look backward? We should cherish not the recollection of past troubles and difficulties, but "the memory of God's great goodness" (Psalms 145:7). And we do well to extend the field of observation beyond our own experience, and regard—
I. THE VAST BREADTH OF HIS BENEFICENCE. "All his works praise him," for he is "good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works." On whom doth not his light arise? He makes his sun to shine on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. "The eyes of all wait upon him," etc. (Psalms 145:15, Psalms 145:16). To his care the insect owes its hour of pleasure, and to his goodness the strong beast of the forest its strength and swiftness, and to his skill and his remembrance the bird of the air its flight and its song. We, too, ascribe our life, our health, our comforts, our domestic joys, our social happiness, our intellectual delights, our spiritual satisfactions, to the bounties of his hand and the kindness of his heart of love. There is no living thing whose powers and whose pleasures do not testify of the goodness of the beneficent Creator. "All his works praise him" (Psalms 145:10).
II. HIS PITIFULNESS AND HIS TENDERNESS. (Psalms 145:8, Psalms 145:14.)
1. "The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion." This is another utterance of that invaluable truth contained in Psalms 103:1-22.," Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him" (see Exodus 3:7; Joel 2:18). It is one of the truest comforts in suffering and in sorrow that we are pitied by our Divine Savior; that he feels with us in our grief; is "full of compassion" for us. The presence of pure and strong human sympathy is, in itself, an assurance of the Divine; but we are thankful for this clear and express statement of it.
2. The Lord is gentle toward us. He looks upon those that have fallen into error, into fault, into disgrace, into defeat, and he "upholds them;" he regards those that are "bowed down" in sorrow, in weakness, in discouragement, that can "in no wise lift themselves up," and he "raises them up" (see Luke 13:11). The compassion shown by our Lord during his earthly life, his pity for those who were faint and hungry, and for those who were diseased, and for the children of sorrow, is the best assurance, as it is the perfect manifestation of the compassion of the Father himself; while "the gentleness of Christ" in all his treatment of those that were down and that were despised is, and will ever be, the most exquisite illustration of "the gentleness of God" (Psalms 18:35; 2 Corinthians 10:1).
III. HIS PATIENCE AND FORGIVENESS. (Psalms 103:8.) He is "slow to anger, and of great mercy."
1. The patience of God was illustrated in his forbearance with his rebellious people in "the days of old;" the patience of Jesus Christ was shown in his treatment of his disciples who were so "slow of heart to learn," not only what the prophets had spoken, but what their own Master taught them (Matthew 15:17; Matthew 16:9). The patience of our Lord is exemplified in his bearing toward us, whom, notwithstanding all our imperfections, he regards as his friends and fellow-laborers. Now, as before, he is "slow to chide, and swift to bless."
2. He is of "great mercy," pardoning those who have done the worst things, who have gone the furthest or stayed the longest away from him.
IV. HIS RESPONSIVENESS. (Psalms 103:18-20.)
1. He is very near in spirit and in sympathy to those who reverently and inquiringly draw near to him, so that those who seek him may feel that he is not afar off, but "very present" with them; nearer to them than they to one another.
2. He hears and answers his people's prayers; he interposes on their behalf. He gives them their hearts' desires; he saves them from all spiritual evil; he causes them to triumph; he preserves those who love him in their faith and in their love, and therefore in their joy and in their hope. He gives to them the heritage of the holy, here and hereafter.
HOMILIES BY S. CONWAY
The Te Deum of the Old Testament.
So this glorious psalm has been fitly named, and it is the germ of that great Christian hymn. "It is one, and the last, of the acrostic, or rather the alphabetic psalms, of which there are eight in all. Like four other of these, this bears the name of David, although some are of opinion that in this case the inscription is not to be trusted" (Perowne). One letter of the Hebrew alphabet—nun—is omitted; how this came to be, we cannot tell; the Septuagint, however, and other ancient versions (with one Hebrew manuscript) supply the omission thus: "The Lord is faithful in his words, and holy in all his works." The Jews were accustomed to say that "he who could pray this psalm from the heart three times daily, was preparing himself best for the praise of the world to come." It is the first and chief of the praise-psalms with which the whole Book of Psalms terminates. We have left the region of sighs and tears and piteous entreaties, and are, as one says, in the Beulah land, where the sun shineth night and day. How like it is to the life of many a child of God! There have been many long and weary years of vicissitudes and trials, and sorrows of all kinds, but at eventide there is light. As life went on it was a mingled strain that was heard, but now at its close it is all joy and peace. So is it in this Book of Psalms; so is it with many of God's beloved ones; so, when our eventide comes, may it be with us! And now let us notice—
I. THE VARIOUS ELEMENTS WHICH ENTER INTO THE HIGH PRAISE OF GOD which this psalm sets forth. Note:
1. Its different forms.
2. The object of all this high praise.
3. Fixed resolve. Four times in these two opening verses we have the words, "I will;" and so again (verses 5, 6). Praise, like faith, is very much a matter of the will. We are prone to make it dependent upon the emotions. If we feel happy, then we sing praise easily; but if we do not thus feel, then praise falters and dies. But let us remember that the dominant faculty in our nature is not feeling, but will. When God says, "My son, give me thine heart," he means not the feelings, but the will, and if that be ever on God's side, everything else will soon fall into its proper position. Let the will be right, the feelings will soon give way.
4. Its continuousness and permanence. "Every day will I," etc. Not only the bright days, but the dark ones. Praise, like prayer, must be a habit, a constant practice, or we shall fall out of both its use and blessing altogether. And this habit must be permanently maintained. "Forever and ever" (verses 1, 2). Here is the real test and trial of the religious life. Many are induced to begin, but, alas, how many show that they have no staying power! They get cold and indifferent, and after a while break away altogether. But the earnest, impassioned soul of the psalmist resolved that his praise of God should be every day, and forever and ever.
II. THE GROUNDS ON WHICH THIS PRAISE IS BASED. There are three divisions in this psalm, and each one tells of one special reason for this fervent praise of God.
1. In the first seven verses it is the greatness of the Lord. (Verse 3.) And when one thinks of the seemingly irresistible might of the manifold forces of evil, our hearts are apt to die down; but how greatly are they cheered and strengthened when we call to mind and do firmly believe in that greatness of God against which all these forces hurl themselves in vain!
2. Then next (in verses 7-16), the tender' mercies of the Lord are celebrated. When the soul thinks of them, what can it do but perpetually praise and bless the Lord?
3. And last of all (from verse 17), the righteousness of the Lord is the theme of thanksgiving. Without this even his tender mercies would be shorn of well-nigh all their preciousness, it is because we have a righteous salvation that our heart is glad.
III. ITS EXCEEDING BLESSEDNESS.
1. Many forget this. They pray to God, but too often fail to praise him. We say our prayers more often than we sing our praises. But this is wrong.
2. God deserves and delights in our praise. Love ever loves the response of love; and in regard to God, such response takes the form of praise.
3. And it is powerful in its influence with others. If they see that our God is one who fills our heart with joy, will not they be led to desire and to seek him?
4. And for ourselves its effect is as blessed as it is powerful. It gives us confidence before God, joy in the heart, drives away fear, prepares us for heaven, cheers us in all the work of life and amid its darkest trials.—S.C.
The charge of the generations.
How are we to understand these words? We may take them in either one of three ways.
I. AS A PREDICTION THAT HAS BEEN ABUNDANTLY FULFILLED. One generation has handed on to its successor its treasure store of knowledge and wisdom. We are the heirs of all the ages; it is their accumulated knowledge that has come down to us, and which we, with the fresh additions we shall make, are to hand on to those who come after us. And amongst the varied indebtedness under which we lie to those who have preceded us, chief of all is this—for the knowledge of God's ways. The Word of the Lord has proved to be an imperishable seed, which liveth and abideth forever. It has seemed at times to die out in some regions; but in others it has sprung up and borne fruit; and there have never been lacking those who stood ready to hand on the torch of truth to others who would keep it burning and then hand it on again.
II. AS A PROMISE OF MOST HEART-CHEERING NATURE. For what would have been our condition now, had not God been mindful of this promise? We might bare inherited vast wealth, and succeeded to chief place amongst the nations of the world; in the eyes of men we might have been exalted to the highest summits of earthly greatness and glory; but if we had lost, through the unfaithfulness of those that went before us, or from any other cause, the blessed knowledge of God, what pledge or guarantee should we have that even our earthly blessings should long continue ours? and what would have guarded us from the doom which has come on other nations who have not known God, or cared not to retain his knowledge? But so it will not be with us or ours; for as the past generations have declared to us God's mighty deeds, and praised his works, so likewise shall this generation, in regard to that which shall follow. There may be sad unfaithfulness here and there, and sore suffering must ensue; but God will not suffer himself to want for faithful witnesses who shall transmit that knowledge of himself, which is life eternal, to the generation that receiveth it. We need not tremble for the ark of God. We have many such blessed promises as this before us now, and we may rest confident that our generation, evil as many comprising it may appear, shall yet "praise God's works to another, and," etc.
III. A PRECEPT THAT EACH GENERATION MUST DILIGENTLY OBSERVE. Many read our text as a command; and it is a command, though a prediction and a promise as well. As a command, it enjoins:
1. That this service shall be undertakers, not by one here and there, but by the whole of the existing generation. It is to be a public—a universal service. It is a frightful condition of things for the coming generation if the present be careless about, or opposed to, such transmission of God's truth. Better that children should be brought up in any form of the Christian faith, than in no religion at all. God help our land, if the secularists of our day have their will in regard to our national education! The people at large are to care for the children at large, that they may be taught the truth of God.
2. But it is especially the business of the parents. This evidently is in the mind of the psalmist, that fathers to sons should teach the works of God. Nature, their own love for their children, regard for their own comfort; for what more rends the hearts of parents than in-bred, ungodly children? Justice and right demand it; for what parents are there that do not transmit much evil to their children? Therefore let them see to it that they teach them that which shall blessedly counteract the evil. And God plainly commands it. All these motives, and yet others, enforce this duty.
3. And the duty is urgent. We have not much time. One generation cometh, another goeth; our opportunity will soon be gone.
4. If we do not obey this command, no one else will. After all, if parents fail in this plain duty, none can really supply their lack of service or take their place; what the home is, that will, well-nigh always, the children be.
CONCLUSION. Let children, whose parents have obeyed this command of God, remember how great is the responsibility that rests upon them. "To whom much is given, of the same," etc.—S.C.
Psalms 145:5, Psalms 145:6
The one and the many.
It is interesting to note the alternations in this psalm, as in numerous others, of the one and the many. The psalmist declares what he himself will do, and then he tells also what the people at large will do. So it is here. The psalm opens with a personal declaration, "I will extol," etc.; "Every day will I bless," etc. Then in Psalms 145:4 he speaks of all the generations of men; then (Psalms 145:5) he returns to himself and his own purposes; Psalms 145:6 asserts both the general conduct and his own, and then again speaks of men at large. Then at the end the declaration is made, both as to himself and "all flesh." Now, what do such alternations as these suggest? Surely the relations in which the one and the many may stand to each other in regard to God's service.
I. AS HERE, THERE MAY BE BOTH The psalmist is not left alone, but his joy in God and his praises are sympathized with and shared in by a goodly company of others. How rarely can this be said of any nation? Some there will be who will be on the Lord's side; but they are very far from being all the people. It will be, as in this psalm, when we reach the heavenly world; there, there will be universal praise. But rarely is it so here. Still, there may be, and there are, oftentimes, approximations to this blessed condition, when not one here and there only, but when the people generally praise the works of the Lord. Let it be our prayer and endeavor to bring about such condition. It is the prayer of Psalms 67:1-7. Would that it were that of all the people of God!
II. BUT THERE MAY BE NEITHER. Not only are the voices of the many silent as to the praise of God, but not one solitary voice is heard anywhere. So will it be amid the abodes of those who have finally rejected the grace of God, and are therefore lost. And there are, alas I utterly godless communities even now! When Noah was taken from his generation, all the rest could not furnish a solitary servant of God. So at Sodom and Gomorrah. And when the Christian Church had left the doomed Jerusalem, and betaken themselves to Pella, there remained such another godless people. Thank God, amongst mankind at large, he has never left himself without witness in some region or another; but in different localities it may be that there are neither the many nor even the one on the Lord's side. If any servant of God knows of such a locality, that is where at once he should go and hear his testimony, and extol the Name of his God and King. The dark places of the earth are full of the habitations of cruelty; but woe betide that Church or that individual Christian who cares not for it, or seeks not to enlighten that darkness! Let us all remember that we are day by day fitting ourselves either for the abode where all men praise the Lord, or where none do, and each day sees us nearer the one or the other.
III. OR THERE MAY BE ONLY THE ONE. There have been scenes where but one solitary voice has been lifted up for God, whilst all the rest have been either indifferent or his declared foes. Elijah thought he was such a one: "I only am left alone." And our blessed Lord foretold that it would be so with him: "Ye shall leave me alone," he said to his disciples. And sometimes it is so with faithful servants of God, as St. Paul before Agrippa and before Nero, when he said, "No man stood by me." And many a faithful missionary has known this awful loneliness; and had not God, for whom they alone witnessed, come and revealed himself to them, they could not have borne it. But this is the encouragement of the faithful yet solitary servant of God, that God will never let him be really alone, because the Lord himself will come and manifest himself to such servants, and thus fill them with his own joy. "My grace is sufficient for you." So spake Christ to the much-tried Paul; and so he speaks still to every one of his lonely witnesses, wherever they may be.
IV. OR THERE MAY BE THE MANY, AND NOT THE ONE. The one may live in a very atmosphere of worship and service, and yet stand aloof from it himself. Have we not known families where every member is an avowed and faithful servant of Christ, and yet some one of their number stands separate and apart from all the rest? How is this? Sometimes such sad facts occur because, half unconsciously, but yet really, the reserved one is trusting to the godliness of the rest, and reckoning that that will serve for him without his becoming as they are. But let such remember that not one of us "can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him;" each one of us must personally and individually give himself to God. There is no praising in a crowd. There was but one at the wedding-feast that had not on the wedding-garment; but when the king came in to see his guests, he was at once detected, and cast out into the outer darkness. That is a never-to-be-forgotten fact. And what makes the sin of such the greater is that they were so favorably placed for gaining eternal life. Everything is in favor of an individual soul, if all those around him are pressing into the kingdom of God. He has but to go with the stream—not against it, as so many have to. How much increased, therefore, is their responsibility! Be thankful for such hallowed, helpful surroundings, and avail yourselves of them, as you should.—S.C.
Love's full-flowing spring.
This is what is meant by the abundant utterance told of in this verse. It is as the waters bursting out from a full spring—irrepressible, perennial, abundant; so when the memory of God's great goodness possesses the soul, it leads to such outpouring of grateful expression as the psalmist here tells of. Now let us speak—
I. OF THE SPRING ITSELF. It has two great sources.
1. God's great goodness. The psalm tells much of God's providential goodness—how "the eyes of all wait upon thee, and," etc. (Psalms 145:15, Psalms 145:16). And what a theme for never-failing praise this is! Who can reckon up the mercies of God given to us here and now, for the supply of our temporal wants, and for the comfort of our lives? Since this life is brief, earthly, inferior, of comparatively little worth; and yet how doth God care for it! He crowneth it with loving-kindness and tender mercy. But his "great" goodness has to do with the eternal life; and when we think of what he has done for that, we can see that his goodness is indeed great. Whether we contemplate the depths of sin and misery from which his grace has brought us up; or whether we tell of the glorious heights of joy, sanctity, and service, to which he is bringing us; or of the pure beauty and grace which prompted him thus to deal with us so utterly undeserving; or of the fearful cost at which he purchased us—even the precious blood; or of the present blessed help of his Holy Spirit, which we daily enjoy, and by which we are enabled to serve and glorify him, and to become channels of blessing to others;—when we think of all this, or of any part of it, our souls are lost in wonder as we gaze with awe and unspeakable gratitude on his great goodness.
2. The other source of this spring is God's righteousness. "They shall sing of thy righteousness." To the guilty soul, trembling with fear of God's condemnation, God's righteousness is a source of terror rather than joy. But to him who has received God's salvation aright, it causes his soul to sing for joy. For deep down in the heart of man is the conviction that nothing but righteousness can endure for ever; it is the permanent element in all things that do endure. Without it that which seems most stable, fixed, and sure will ere long perish and disappear. And even the goodness of God—his great goodness, unless there were righteousness at the heart of it, could not give the soul rest. It is because Christ is the Lord our Righteousness, as well as the Lord our Redeemer, that therefore we believe he is our Redeemer. In him we see how God can be just, and yet the Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus. And the righteousness of God is our soul's support amid the manifold and many sorrowful mysteries of life. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" That is our deep conviction, though we cannot understand all that he does. We are sure that in good time all will be seen to be right, which now often seems to us most wrong. And there is yet another clement of joy in God's righteousness—that it is sure to reproduce itself. "Good and upright is the Lord, therefore will he teach sinners in the way." Then he will teach me, he will satisfy my soul's hunger after righteousness.
II. ITS CHANNELS. They are pointed at in Psalms 145:6.
1. Men have been convinced of God's righteous judgments. They" speak of the might of thy terrible acts." A solemn fear of God takes possession of them, they tremble with deep alarm, they are pricked to the heart. "When thy judgments are abroad, then the inhabitants of the earth will ]earn righteousness." Like the men of Nineveh under Jonah's awful preaching, and like many a sinful soul since. Deep conviction of sin is wrought by the Holy Spirit, and it is along this channel God's great goodness flows.
2. The proclamation of God s exceeding grace. "I will declare thy greatness." The psalmist sees and seizes the opportune time; and now, when the conviction of the Holy Spirit has prepared the way, sets forth the grace; for that is the greatness of God. Of the greatness of his justice and his power they already know; now they are told of the greatness of his mercy and of his readiness to forgive. Well is it when the Christian teacher can find hearts thus prepared; for then it is speedily seen that God's Word does not return to him void.
3. For there follows the reception into the heart of the truth of God's great goodness. They could not have afterwards abundantly uttered the memory of that great goodness, unless first they had believingly received it. Thus along these channels of conviction, proclamation of the grace of God, and believing reception of it, we come next to—
III. ITS RESERVOIR. Its storage in the memory. The truth of God's grace had not merely glanced on the minds of those here spoken of, but it had come to stay. Hence it was treasured up in the reservoir of memory. Well is it when our minds are thus stored with memories of the grace of God—his great goodness to our souls.
IV. ITS OUTFLOW.
1. In abundant utterance. Some keep a wretched silence, and say never a word for God; others, it' they do speak, do so in such a half-hearted way that they might almost as well be silent. But those who have known the grace of God in truth, and realize the greatness of the salvation they have experienced, they will "abundantly utter," etc. Not alone their lips, but their lives, their look, their whole spirit and temper, will tell forth the vividness of their memory of God's great goodness. And:
2. In song. "They shall sing of thy righteousness." The utterance will be a joyful one—a glad sound,—not a dirge or any other such mournful strain, but a song befitting the glad tidings of great joy which have been made known to them. May we learn this song!—S.C.
The Lord is good to all.
I. NEVER WAS IT MORE NECESSARY THAN NOW TO INSIST UPON THIS BLESSED REVELATION OF GOD.
1. For one main characteristic of the days in which we live is men's sensitiveness to human suffering. From one cause and another they have become open-eyed and tender-hearted in regard to the terrible distresses which afflict such vast portions of the human race. And this sensitiveness and compassion are unquestionably from God, and are the product of that good and blessed Spirit of God, who "like as a father pitieth his children." He has been, so we believe, moving upon the minds of men, and has caused the bitter cry of human sorrow to pierce and penetrate, and rouse to practical help, many who before were but little conscious of, and less concerned about, the dark and deplorable facts that lay all around them. Here and there we find those who regard these sad conditions of society as inevitable, and therefore hopeless, and who look on with cynic doubt and disparaging suggestions; whilst others are bestirring themselves to find some sort of remedy.
2. But this very sensitiveness needs to be soothed and sustained, strengthened and guided, by the faith of the love of God. For else it will rush into wild schemes, which can do no good to those in distress, and will only recoil in many sad and terrible ways on those who devised them. Or else it will settle down into a hopeless despair, and to vain, frantic protests against what it deems the cruel laws under which men are condemned to live.
3. Nothing but confident trust in the love of God will avail. For all efforts to ameliorate the lot of our fellow-men demand patience and energy, and a hopefulness that nothing can quench. To face the gigantic evils of human life is no child's play, no holiday sport, but real, serious, earnest work, from which all but the true-hearted will turn away. Apart from this, men cannot and will not persevere in the often apparently hopeless task of lightening the burdens which oppress so terribly so many of their fellow-men.
II. FOR THE FOES OF THIS FAITH ARE FOUND, FOR THE MOST PART, IN THE FALSE OPINIONS OF MEN. Opinions which they seldom express openly, but which, nevertheless, paralyze their power for good, and hinder all the efforts which they make to mend or end the evils around them. These false opinions confront the truth of our text, and fight against it, and too often seem to get the better of it.
1. Now, one of these false opinions is this—that chance rules all. Life, according to this opinion, is as a mere chip on a stream, caught now by this eddy, now whirled about by that, driven by this current in one direction, and then by another in a different one; borne hither and thither, from side to side, the sport of every breeze and of every stray force that may bear upon it. Life, they say again, is a labyrinthine puzzle, the clue of which no man has found; and so men go groping on, hoping always to find the right turning, but quite as likely to take the wrong. The poor and the distressed are simply unlucky, the prosperous are but the favorites of Fortune, the fickle goddess who, they say, governs all our lives. Now, no doubt, there is much in human life that looks as if it were the result of mere chance. For it could not be foreseen, nor influenced by anything within our power; as, for example, of what parents we should be born, the kind of home which we should have, the circumstances amid which we should be trained, what constitution we should inherit, by what teachers we should be instructed. And many more and all-important elements in determining what our lives shall be, are, without doubt, beyond both our knowledge and control. Any hour of any day, in a moment, something may happen utterly unexpected by us, and which we could in no wise have helped or hindered, but which may have the effect of entirely altering, for the better or the worse, our whole future. Just as by one pull of a lever the pointsman shunts the entire train on to a different line, the effect of which will be to take it the whole breadth or length of the land apart from where it would have gone had that lever not been pulled. And so often is it with the effect of some seemingly insignificant and unforeseen event upon our lives. When, some years ago, the huge reef of rocks which barred one of the entrances to the harbor of New York was removed, who that did not know of the arrangements that had been made, would have imagined that there was any connection between the tremendous upheaving and shattering of those massive rocks, and the mere moving of a handle by a little girl on shore some miles away? But we know they must have been connected, and that, without the insignificant antecedent, the great result could never have followed. And similarly slight are many of the causes which make or mar a man's life. Observing such facts, the old Greeks came to believe in the doctrine of chance. The universe, according to them, was but the fortuitous coming together of the atoms which compose it. And still there are those who, if not professedly, yet really, do believe that chance, good luck, fortune, and mere accident govern all things. But the doctrine is horribly and utterly false. It is only our ignorance of the connection between events that makes us judge as we do. In any manufactory, our ignorance of the relation of one process to another never leads us to deny that there is such relation. We are sure there is, though we do not know what it is. Why cannot we reason in the same way in reference to the various processes which go to make up our lives? We are not the sport of mere haphazard or blind chance, but we are under the wise, firm, loving rule of our Father in heaven; he is ordering, directing, and controlling all our affairs, and causing all things to work together for good to them that love him.
2. Another foe to the faith that "God is love" is the doctrine of destiny. It teaches that our lives are all governed by irresistible Divine decrees, and that we are happy or miserable, good or bad, saved or lost, according to Divine determinations made concerning us from the beginning, and entirely irrespective of our merit or demerit, or any choice or will of our own whatsoever. A vast theological system has been formed upon this basis, and is still upheld by many. It was first sketched out by St. Augustine, in the fifth century; but it was elaborated and developed into a rigid system by the great Protestant leader Calvin. According to this system, the human soul is helpless. From the foundation of the world it has been elected either to eternal glory or to eternal damnation; and to this latter awful doom the great mass are predestined, whilst only the few elect souls are ordained to eternal life. The author of this frightful. system himself says of it, that it is "decretum horribile fatem attamen verum." Such is Calvinism, this doctrine of destiny. It is marvelous how men with human hearts in them, men who had ever known a mother's love or a father's care, could have come to entertain and maintain dogmas so horrible and so heart-crushing as these. The stern and awful days in which both Augustine and Calvin lived may partly account for it; for they were such as stirred the darker and fiercer moods of men's minds into terrible activity. And men, forgetting the whole spirit of the Bible, and oblivious of the great love of God in Christ, and failing amid their terrible days to see the innumerable proofs of God's grace and goodness, set up their poor logic and their interpretations of particular texts, and they heeded not the gentler teachings of their own hearts, and so they forged and fashioned that dark creed which has saddened and bewildered and injured in many ways all those on whom its grim shadow has fallen. But it is a false creed, and to be scouted and abhorred of every truth-loving soul. It must be false; for it has the whole of the deepest instincts of the human heart against it, as well as the spirit of the whole Bible and the revelation of God in Christ. Furthermore, it is suicidal to the very aim and intent of God's dealings with us, which is that we should love him with all cur heart, etc. But no man who really believes what this dreadful creed teaches can love God. If it were true, God would be a Moloch, and not our heavenly Father; a monster to be dreaded, and not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. A creed that has such result is thereby proved to be false, and it is therefore to be condemned by all good men.
3. The belief that we are the creatures of circumstances.
III. "MAN'S INHUMANITY TO MAN." Here is another fruitful cause of men's doubt of the love of God. Also—
IV. OUR SORROWS, AND YET MORE, OUR SINFULNESS. These stand—must do so—in the way of our faith. The sinful heart is ever an unbelieving heart. It is only when "our hearts condemn us not," that we have confidence towards God. But let Christ lake away our sin, and then we shall readily believe.—S.C.
The inner circle of God's worshippers.
This psalm brings before us the glorious picture of universal homage rendered to God, and the reason of such homage, and the effects thereof. How vast the choir which celebrates this high praise! How varied the notes of their song! How high the value at which God estimates their praise, and how great is its volume!—it is as "the sound of many waters." In this verse we are shown both the inner and outer circles of this choir of God's worshippers, and the intent is that we may be led to find and claim our place, not merely among all God's works which praise him, but also among his saints who bless him. Consider—
I. THE OUTER CIRCLE OF THE CHOIR. It is very large; for it includes all God's works.
1. Such as are inanimate—the outspread earth, the mighty mountain masses, the great and wide sea, the heavens, and all the stars of light.
2. And such as have life. From its lowest vegetable forms up to the most lofty of all the creatures of God; from the meanest insect that for one brief summer day flies through the air, up to man made in the very image and likeness of God.
3. And such as have intelligence and will and a moral nature capable of knowing good and evil; for these also are among the works of God, though at the head of them all. And they all praise him in so far as they are his works. This cannot be said of our works. Too many of them discredit and disgrace us, and the less seen or said of them the better. But of God we can say, "All thy works praise thee." Examine them how we will, subject them to the severest scrutiny, and the verdict of the psalmist will remain unchallenged. The power, the wisdom, the skill, the goodness of God, are evident in them all. And this not alone in the greater works of God, but in those that are less known and are on a smaller scale. Most of them have no power or choice in the matter, others act on the impulses of mere animal instinct, and yet others who have intelligence and will, but, alas! a corrupt heart likewise, even they, in those regions of their nature where their evil will has no power, are compelled to render their tribute of praise. As it has been said, the ungodly are creatures of God, even if they be not of his new creation; and all that is in them that is of God in the structure of their body, mind, and will, unites, and cannot but unite, in the universal chorus with which all God's works praise him. It matters not whether we survey his works in nature, in providence, or in grace. Of them all, when rightly understood, the same may be said—they all praise him. But all these—magnificent as so many of them are, and radiant with beauty and with ever manifold proof of the power, the wisdom, and goodness of God—these are yet but the outer circle. Consider, then—
II. THE INNER CIRCLE OF THIS GLORIOUS CHOIR, who ever worship God. This consists of the saints of God. "Thy saints shall bless thee." But:
1. Who are God's saints? The name has fallen into ill repute. It is a term of scorn, of contempt, of dislike, in the mouths of not a few. They hold and affirm that if a man is called a saint, it is because he is either a hypocrite or a fool. It is because the world has seen too many sham saints, that it thus speaks of all saints. Hence no one now would dare to say of himself, however much he might hope it in his heart, that he was one of God's saints. The Church of Rome professes to be able to make saints. Her canonization is held to entitle any deceased individual to a right to a place amongst God's saints. But will any one take upon himself to show that the saints of the Roman calendar are all of them thus entitled? We hope they are; but we cannot say there is no room for doubt. Man-made saints are ever of a questionable kind. Nor is it essential to be numbered amongst God's saints that we should no longer live here upon earth. Those of whom the psalmist speaks were not dead, but living people. They might be poor, tried, troubled, tempted; but amid all such circumstances they lived here on earth as God's saints. Nor were they absolutely Perfect. Some of them were very far from that; and we do not know where to find any such now. There have been self-deluded, though well-meaning people, who have professed perfection; but to other eyes their perfection has not been evident. They have been good, devout, kind-hearted, and truly religious people; but flawless, faultless, they have not been. And where are there any such? But if the name of saint belongs only to such, then there are no saints, and there never have been. But they are those of whom it may be said that the whole trend and aim of their lives is to do God's will. They trust him, they love him, they worship him, they seek ever to obey him. It is the steady aim and honest endeavor of their lives, and in the main and increasingly they do walk with God and are well-pleasing in his sight. And, blessed be God! there have been, and there are, many such—the good Lord make all of us such!—and these are the saints of God. Not flawless, immaculate, perfect People, but those who come nearest to it of all people living. They are the salt of the earth, the light of the world, the elect Church, God's best gift to our world. They are found in every Church, they are confined to none. No Church is without them; none has them all.
2. These form the inner circle of God's worshippers. Their prerogative and privilege the highest of all. For they are more than others. God has not dealt with any others as he has with them. To them he has opened the treasure-store of his grace, and blessed installments of what shall be fully theirs one day, they both here and now enjoy. They are the temples of the Holy Ghost; they are inheritors of eternal life. And they glorify God more than others. It is the aim and bent of their lives. Through them many other precious jewels of God are taken up out of the mire of sin, in which they have been long lying, and they witness for God amid the world of the ungodly. God is their exceeding Joy, and they are his beloved. For them God orders his providential government. They are as the apple of his eye, and for them God's well-beloved Son was given up to die, and the Holy Ghost was sent and yet abides in the world. "And it doth not appear what they shall be."
3. And they render special worship. The other works of God praise him, but his saints bless him. That is more than praise; for though we praise that which excites our admiration—as do skill, genius, wisdom, power—yet we only bless where our love is stirred. Admiration is good, but love is that in which God delights, and only his saints can render him that. Admiration, that which excites our praise, may leave our heart cold and uncheered; but love enkindles a blessed inward fire, which illuminates and cheers the heart wherein it burns. Those who bless the Lord are blessed of him, and blessed they are.
III. THE TRANSITION FROM ONE TO THE OTHER. From the outer circle to the inner.
1. For men it is possible. For it has often been accomplished. Every regenerated heart has been translated from the one to the other, and the transition is ever taking place. And the whole Bible is full of declarations and directions on the matter. To bring it about is the aim of all God's dealings with us.
2. And the means are plainly shown. Let there be the desire to enter into this inner circle, then the steps are the renunciation of all known sin; for it is sin alone that keeps us back. Then the surrender of the will to God, that which he means when he says, "Give me thine heart." This will involve obedience to God's commands, and then, for the maintenance of all this, and for the full entrance into the state of grace, let there be continual trust in God to do his work in your soul.
3. And how infinitely desirable all this is! For our own sake, for that of others, and for the honor of Christ.—S.C.
For the fallen and the falling.
How different are the ways of him whose everlasting kingdom and enduring dominion are told of in the previous verse, from the ways of the world and of hard and selfish men! Vae victis! is the world's verdict, and the facts of life too often confirm it; but the Lord, he is the Savior of the unsuccessful, the Speaker of heart-cheering words to the crushed ones in life's stern conflict, and the Performer for them of corresponding deeds.
I. CONSIDER THE TWO CLASSES OF PERSONS HERE SPOKEN OF.
1. Them that fall. How many of these there are in the secular struggle! The fight for mere life is not seldom so severe that many are beaten down, and unless men have some upholder, some strong support and prop, there would be no hope for any of them. And in the social struggle: there is the perpetual effort to advance in position; but there are many who are not only utterly unable to raise themselves to a higher social grade, but are unable even to maintain the position in which they now are; they are on the verge of a precipice, and they are in constant peril of falling over and down. And in the intellectual struggle: how the eager scholar strives, but the contests seem to get harder every day, and the overtaxed brain too often threatens to give way altogether! And there is the physical struggle: the conditions of life are often so destructive to health that they render full vigor of body an unattainable thing, or, if at first preserved, inevitably and speedily lost, and then what can a man do? And, above all, there is the spiritual struggle, to keep the garment of the soul unspotted, and the heart pure, and the will steadfast and true to God. Ah, how difficult is all this! How often we are compelled to confess, "My feet had well-nigh slipped"! How many are there of these fallen or falling ones!
2. And then, there are "those that be bowed down." They do not fall, but it is with bent form and weary feet and burdened spirit that they stagger on as they best can. How frequent are the cries and complaints of such bowed-down ones heard in these Psalms (see Psalms 42:1-11; etc.)!
II. SEE WHAT THE LORD DOES FOR THEM.
1. He upholdeth the falling ones. Illustration: the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-59.; Luke 7:37, etc.). He does this by, as in these cases, gracious words; or through human ministries of sympathy and help; or by the kindly ordering of his providence; or, and yet more, by the ministry of the Holy Spirit shedding abroad in our hearts the love of God.
2. He raiseth up them that are bowed down. (Luke 13:16.) The world says that the weakest must go to the wall; but the Lord's thoughts concerning them are far otherwise. And so, also, have been and are his deeds. The saints on earth and in heaven attest this.
III. WHEREFORE GOD THUS DEALS WITH THEM. Because God is love. So he wins trophies of his grace; and his most devoted servants, and successful workers; and thus he encourages all men to trust in him.
IV. IN WHAT WAY SHOULD WE RESPOND? By rendering heartfelt praise; by imitating his example; by turning to and trusting him for ourselves; by making known his grace.—S.C.
The opening of God's hand.
We are wont to admire much in our fellow-men the open hand, the free, generous impartation of what we have to those who have not. It is by no means too common a sight, but a very pleasant one when it can be seen. Close-fistedness is much more the rule than open-handedness. But God is the God of the open hand; the bounteous Benefactor of all, of good and bad alike. And not alone the love of God is shown, but his power likewise. With what toil and stress do we accomplish our works! what strain of effort we put forth! But God has but to open his hand: he speaks, and it is done; he commands, and, etc. All the processes and products of nature are but the opening of his hand; thus simply, and with the august and Divine spontaneity of omnipotence, he supplies and satisfies the innumerable, varied, ever-recurring, and vast necessities of all his creatures.
I. HOW ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND This? Certainly the broad declarations of this verse need explanation. Hence we remark:
1. That the desires which God will thus satiny do not mean all desires. Those of the wicked God does not satisfy. He may at times seem to; but ask the wicked themselves whether even then they are satisfied. They are not, and never can be. And there are many foolish and mistaken desires of good men which God does not satisfy; it would be ill for us if he did.
2. But they are the desires which he himself purposed that they should be satisfied. He created them, and designs that they should be met; they belong both to the body and the soul; they have to do with time, and with eternity likewise.
3. The universality of the text must not be insisted on even for these. For it declares only what is the general order of God's dealings with his creatures; it is his rule, but that rule has many exceptions. The lower and lesser purpose of satisfying our desires may have to give way to one that is higher and greater. This is the meaning of all the afflictions of the righteous.
4. Nevertheless, the rule holds good. God does open his hand, etc. We are apt so to gaze on the exceptions as to lose sight of the rule; this is wrong and hurtful every way.
5. And God acts in varied ways, not in any one way only. For all creatures other than man he ministers directly to their need; but for man he employs our own faculties, and thus only indirectly are our desires satisfied.
II. WHAT IS ITS PROOF? Many think in their hearts, and some openly say, that it is their own efforts that secure to them the satisfaction of their desires. God does not give to them their daily bread—they earn it; man is his own provider. Hence they demur to such declarations as in this verse. But a little reflection will show the fallacy of such thoughts; for:
1. Does not God provide both the tools—powers of mind and body—with which we work, and the material on which we work! Hence, were there only our work, where would our satisfied desires be? And the energy, too, the living force without which we could not work at all—is not this also from God? What a mere fraction of all that needs to be done is that which we do!
2. And were it much greater, what would that be in view of the magnitude, variety, and urgency of need that meets us on every hand? If God did not do as is here said, what could man do? How idle, then, is it to attribute to any other than God the supply of all our wants!
III. WHAT DOES IT SAY TO US? Very much indeed; God help us to give heed! And:
1. "Bless ye the Lord, praise him and magnify him for ever." That surely is the first claim which this truth makes upon us.
2. "Oh, put thy trust in the Lord." Does not that word come to us from all these bounties of our God?
3. "If God thus cares for my body, will he not much more care for my soul? " Will he thus minister to the short-lived, material nature, and neglect or forget the eternal and spiritual? It is impossible.
4. What must the abominableness of sin be that compels a God so gracious to inflict on us, because of it, so great and awful distresses? Not for a little thing would man have to suffer as we see he has.
5. If the opening of his hand be so blessed for us, what must be the result of the shedding of the blood of his well-beloved Son? Let us not be content with the lower gifts, as too many are, but seek those highest ones which are the purchase of the blood of Christ.
6. Let us be open-handed ourselves. (Altered and abridged from A. Fulter.)—S.C.
Preservation and destruction.
One or other of these lies before us all; the Bible gives no hint of a third condition or destiny. How important, therefore, to know whither we are tending, and what awaits us at the hand of God!
I. THE TRUTH HERE DECLARED.
1. As to those that love God. He will preserve them. He does this:
2. As to the wicked. He will destroy them.
II. THE NEEDS-BE FOR IT.
1. In the preservation of those that love God. It is so for the Lord's own sake; his love could not otherwise be satisfied, nor his promises fulfilled. And for the world's sake; they who love the Lord are the salt of the earth, and are his witnesses to men. And for their own sake, that they may be eternally blessed.
2. In the destruction of the wicked. If it be only a temporal destruction, it is needed for the vindication of the Divine Law; for the reformation of the guilty (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:32); for witness to men that verily there is a God who judgeth. And if the destruction be other than temporal, it is still necessary, for how else can heaven be heaven? Earth is the sad place it too often is only because of the presence of sin. Is sin, then, to have place in heaven, as it will if the wicked come there?
III. ITS WORD OF HOLY COUNSEL.
1. Pray: for so is our will strengthened to choose the right and refuse the wrong.
2. Act: break away from wickedness and commit yourself on the side of God.
3. Trust: day by day, yea, continually, give yourself up "to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless," etc.
"Help, Lord, that we may come
To thy saints' happy home,
Where a thousand years
As one day appears;
Where one day appears
As a thousand years,
HOMILIES BY R. TUCK
The praise of succeeding generations.
In the old times kings forwarded their despatches by running footmen, of whom there were relays (see Job 9:25; Jeremiah 51:31; 2 Chronicles 30:6-10; Esther 3:13-15). The statutes, ordinances, etc; of the Bible are the despatches of the great King. The generations, as they succeed each other, are the running footmen. The despatches are words of love and mercy. The runners read and publish as they advance.
I. THIS WORK OF PRESERVING AND HANDING DOWN THE TRUTH IS AMONGST THE VERY FIRST RELIGIOUS DUTIES THAT CONCERNED THE MIND AND HEART OF MAN.
1. Oral teaching. A patriarch's household (Genesis 18:19). It was a divinely enforced duty (Deuteronomy 6:1-25.; Isaiah 38:19).
2. Presently the pen of the historian, etc; employed. Moses, Samuel, etc.
II. THIS WORK IS NO LESS IMPORTANT THAN ANCIENT.
1. Human happiness involved (Psalms 78:1-8).
2. Glory of God advanced.
3. Hence Providence has, at different times, raised up supplementary aid to ensure its performance.
To the father of each family was added the prophet, scribe, etc.; and to these, in modern times, various organizations.
III. THIS WORK, SO ANCIENT AND IMPORTANT, IS AN EVER-PRESENT DUTY.
1. It belongs to the present generation, no less than to those of the past.
2. The world's progress in morality is built up by the workers of all ages. We must lay a stone or two.
We owe it to the past.
IV. THIS WORK, BEING RELIGIOUS, HAS TO OVERCOME GREAT DIFFICULTIES.
1. Various phases of skepticism.
2. Folly in the heart of children.
3. Home influence often bad.
V. THIS WORK REQUIRES SPECIAL QUALIFICATIONS IN THE WORKER. Not so much mental as moral.
1. Love of God and Christ (John 21:15).
2. Love of the truth.
3. Love of souls.
VI. THE WORK IS ACCOMPANIED BY SPECIAL ENCOURAGEMENTS.
1. The promises of God.
2. The help of God.
3. The improved moral tone of society.
4. The glorious future present to the eye of faith. (After Gray.)—R.T.
Psalms 145:6, Psalms 145:7
God's greatness is goodness.
"God's 'majesty' is his inherent greatness; his 'glory' is the manifestation of that majesty; and its 'splendor' in the brightness of this manifestation is seen by the eyes of men." "God declares his almighty power most chiefly in showing mercy and pity. The contemplation of simple majesty breathes awe; the sense of graciousness in majesty adds to it the glow of thankfulness." "If philosophy is to be believed, our world is but an outlying corner of creation; bearing, perhaps, as small proportion to the great universe as a single grain bears to all the sands of the seashore, or the small quivering leaf to the foliage of a boundless forest. Yet even within this earth's narrow limit, how vast the work of Providence! how soon is the mind lost in contemplating it! How great, then, must the Creator of all be, if his works are so great! Truly ' his greatness is unsearchable'" (Guthrie).
I. THE OPPRESSION OF THE MERE SENSE OF POWER. Only an overwhelming feeling attends the working of the great forces of nature, in tempest, flood, earthquake, etc. Only a crushing humiliation follows on the masterful workings of great conquerors—Alexander, Attila, Napoleon, etc. And oftentimes the almightiness of God is so presented, the majesty of his creation, his control, his judgments, that the mind and heart of man are simply crushed before him. See the sentiment we have in relation to giants, who are nothing but embodiments of physical power. There is no rest for man in God if all we can know of God is that he is almighty, "none can stay his hand." Illustrate by the slavish submission of Islamism before a God conceived as absolute power only.
II. THE RESTFULNESS OF A SENSE OF GOODNESS BEHIND POWER. Illustrate by the different feeling we have toward the giant when we see him tenderly toying and playing with a helpless babe. There is a character behind the power, which puts limitations on, and quality into, the acts of power. The giant is good. It is thus with God. We find no rest in the mighty things he has done, or does, until we see that love to us, and planning for our good, tones, qualifies, and directs all the forthputtings of his power.—R.T.
The slowness of the Divine anger.
"Slow to anger, and of great mercy." In former homilies it has been shown that the term "anger" can only be applied to God with extreme caution and precision. Anger is a part of the possibilities belonging to man as a moral being. He would not be a man if he could not be angry. Anger is the proper response which man makes to a certain class of related circumstances. And as man is made in the image of God, we must think that everything essential to man has its answering essential in God. Then there must be the possibility of anger in God. But man is suffering from the influence of willfulness and sin, continued through long generations. And one of the most decided influences has been a loosening of control over the possibilities of anger, so that a man responds too quickly, and anger degenerates into passion. Such anger must never be associated with God, who must never be thought of as losing self-control under any pressure of outward circumstances. Then he is "slow to anger."
I. THE SLOWNESS OF DIVINE ANGER IS MAN'S OPPORTUNITY. The type of man's anger is Cain, who, in a moment of passion, slew his brother, and gave that brother no opportunity of putting things straight. God waits, and in that waiting-time man gets his opportunity of recovery and repentance. He has the chance of "coming to himself." It may never be thought that God's slowness is the sign of his indifference. He feels responsively quicker than man does, but action on feeling is subject to judgment, and delayed by compassion. The slowness is mercy. The history of God's ancient people provides abundant illustrations of the opportunities given by the delaying of Divine anger.
II. THE SLOWNESS OF DIVINE ANGER IS MAN'S PERSUASION. There is something in man which instantly convicts him of his wrongdoing, and as instantly fills him with fear of God's anger. When that anger is held in, the man wonders. If he is a bad man, it leads him to presume. If he is a good man, it becomes to him a persuasion. It reveals to him God's anxiety about him. He feels to be in God's thought and patience, and he is moved to recover himself from that wrong state of mind and heart which brought on him the Divine anger.—R.T.
Recognizing God's universal goodness.
"We who recognize the loving-kindness, as well as the power of God, in what may seem the harsher and more forbidding agencies of Nature, ought not to be weary and faint in our minds if over our warm human life the same kind pitying hand should sometimes cause his snow of disappointment to fall like wool, and cast forth his ice of adversity like morsels, knowing that even by these unlikely means shall ultimately be given to us, too, as to Nature, the beauty of Sharon and the excellency of Carmel" (Hugh Macmillan). "The sun does not shine for a few trees and flowers, but for the wide world's joy. The lonely pine on the mountain-top waves its somber boughs, and cries,' Thou art my sun.' And the little meadow violet lifts its cup of blue, and whispers with its perfumed breath, ' Thou art my sum' So God sits, effulgent in heaven, not for a favored few, but for the universe of life; and there is no creature so poor or so low that he may not look up with childlike confidence and say, 'My Father, thou art mine' (Ward Beecher). Our Lord taught concerning the heavenly Father, "He maketh his san to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust."
I. GOD'S UNIVERSAL GOODNESS IS NOT THE APPEARANCE OF THINGS. From man's point of view the world is full of things that he cannot call good. And he often wonders why God made things as they are. How can he call calamities and disasters, bloodshed and war, pain and death, signs of Divine goodness? He can only see the appearance; and with that limited vision it is wholly impossible for man to realize the universal goodness of God. And in moral spheres he is equally puzzled. Crime constantly goes undetected and unpunished. The wicked succeed and the righteous fail. How can God be good to all when so many live lives of misery?
II. GOD'S UNIVERSAL GOODNESS IS THE FACT OF THINGS. But it can only be seen from proper points of view, and with the properly cleared vision. God's world is not a material, it is a moral world, and a material only for the sake of the moral God's universal goodness is clearly seen in the measure in which we can apprehend God's moral end in everything that he does and permits.—R.T.
Praising and blessing.
Matthew Henry indicates the distinction between these terms, and the appropriateness with which each is used. "All God's works shall praise him. They all minister to us matter for praise, and so praise him according to their capacity; even those that refuse to give him honor he will get himself honor upon. But his saints (beloved ones) do bless him, not only as they have peculiar blessings from him, which other creatures have not, but as they praise him actively, while his other works praise him only objectively. They bless him, for they collect the rent or tribute of praise from the inferior creatures, and pay it into the treasury above. All God's works do praise him, as the beautiful building praises the builder, or the well-drawn picture praises the artist; but the saints bless him as the children of prudent tender parents rise up and call them blessed. Of all God's works, his saints, the workmanship of his grace, the firstfruits of his creatures, have most reason to bless him."
I. PRAISING IS COMMON TO ALL BEING. Because all being is creation, and has its satisfaction in being what it was designed to be, and doing what it was designed to do. We must distinguish between what creation does, and what the poetic and the pious soul thinks of creation as doing. It is true that (perhaps) everything, animate and inanimate, has in it the capacity of sound; and its sound may be its voice of praise. But the praise is what man hears in his soul. It is the voice of nature translated by man. So marvelous, so perfect, and so mutually adapted, are all the creations of God, that every existing thing can be conceived of as praising God for its very being, because it finds pleasure in being.
II. BLESSING IS SPECIAL TO MAN. Because it indicates the intellectual apprehensions, and the heart-feelings, of a living moral being; one who can reason, feel, and bear relations. To bless a person is to recognize gratefully something which that person has done for us, and done as a sign of his love to us. And it is thus that we bless God. It is our recognition not of common good, but of special interventions, arrangements, and adaptations for us; and these as signs and proofs of his gracious and loving personal feeling toward us.—R.T.
God's everlasting kingdom.
"What is infinite in greatness must be infinite in duration." "Thy kingdom is a kingdom of all eternities." On the door of the old mosque in Damascus, which was once a Christian church, but for twelve centuries has ranked among the holiest of the Mohammedan sanctuaries, are inscribed these memorable words: "Thy kingdom, O Christ, is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations." It is evident that the psalmist is endeavoring to find the most comprehensive and expressive of all terms to associate with God's kingdom and we must therefore notice the all-inclusiveness of this term, "everlasting."
I. GOD'S KINGDOM IS SPIRITUAL. It is not the kingdom of things, created things, of which the psalmist writes. It is God's kingdom of men, and man is essentially a spiritual being. The glory of an earthly king is not material possessions, but the loving service of free-willed peoples. God's kingdom is the rule of God's will over men's wills. And so we pray, "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done." It is a sublime thought of God that he is the spiritual Being ruling over spiritual beings. "King of saints, the holy."
II. GOD'S KINGDOM IS ALL-HALLOWING. It can never be identified with any earthly kingdom. It covers and includes them all. It is as absolutely universal as the spiritual being man; and is consistent with, but independent of, all the varieties of forms in which men organize themselves into nations, and arrange governmental conditions. God's kingdom must not be confused with his Church, unless we make the Church coextensive with the kingdom. Every man, being a spiritual man, is a member of God's spiritual kingdom. Everything for him depends on what sort of a member he is.
III. GOD'S KINGDOM IS PERMANENT. It belongs to all generations, because the generations repeat spiritual beings, and God rules such, as long as, and wherever, they exist. The permanence of the kingdom is simply the necessity of it. It is not possible for us to conceive of any disintegrating forces that can possibly affect it.—R.T.
The universal dependence and expectation.
"Man is master. But there is a great deal in this world besides man. Nature takes a thousand darlings to her bosom. Every evening motherly Darkness puts to bed myriads of unnamed children of the sod, of the leaf, of the tree, bush, moss, and stone. Every morn she sends again to awaken her brood, and troops them forth to their dewy breakfast. We sometimes get nearer to God in proportion as we get far from men. These neglected treasures of Nature are a book of Divine things, and if we do not read, the Creator does" (Ward Beecher). It is full of a sweet significance that the same word should be used concerning God that we use to express the anxiety and pressure under which we so often groan. The Apostle Peter says, "Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you." God cares for his possessions and his family, even as we care for ours. But how complex, vast, and wonderful his possessions and family are! and how sublime must be his care!
I. GOD'S CARE OF HIS CREATURES SEES IN ADJUSTMENTS. All his creatures are put in their proper places, and kept in their proper places. The distribution of animate life, and the adjustment of creature to environment, and ministry of each creature where it is put, keep up, for thoughtful minds, unceasing wonder at God's ever-watchful care.
II. GOD'S CARE OF HIS CREATURES SEES IN LIMITATIONS. This point is not often presented. In order to be effective, the reproductive power in vegetable and animal life is bound to be so full and strong that there comes to be everywhere danger of over-production. Illustrate by the devastation wrought by rabbits when their growth is exempt from limitations. How seldom we think of God's goodness and care in keeping everything limited to strict efficiency; and providing destructive agencies to keep growths within safe bounds!
III. GOD'S CARE OF HIS CREATURES IS SEEN IN PROVIDINGS. This brings to us very familiar considerations. But point may be gained by dealing with some sample cases: e.g. the gnat of the summer evening; caddis-worm; or those insects that are unpleasant to us; dangerous serpents, etc. God "gives to them all their meat in due season."—R.T.
The absoluteness of the Divine righteousness.
"The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and gracious in all his works." This is not the impression every man has of God; it is not the impression even the good man has of God at all times. It is the good man's thought of God when he is at his best; raised by holy emotion above himself. He can say, "The Lord is righteous in all his ways"—
I. WHEN HE TRIES TO READ THE HISTORY OF THE PAST. The story of the ages is kept for us in order that we may find in it what God has been, and therefore what God is. History as a series of facts is but a poor affair. The philosophy of history is its intercept, and the Divine philosophy of history (God in history) is the supreme interest of it. But it is difficult work, because man can never fully take the Divine standpoint about anything. He is always obliged to get his faith to help his judgment. And yet, what is ever coming out more and more clearly to the devout student is the righteousness of God's ways. He sees how God has made things come right.
II. WHEN HE TRIES TO READ THE MYSTERIES OF THE PRESENT. This is always perplexing work, because of the disturbing influence of feeling and prejudice. God's ways are not always what we like, and then it is very easy to say that they are not right. The good man has constantly to fall back upon his absolute knowledge of what God is, and upon his deep, experimental conviction of God's righteous goodness, in order to undo the tangle in which things seem to have got, and to put things into an order and relation that bring to view the Divine righteousness.
III. WHEN HE TRIES TO READ GOD'S DEALINGS WITH HIMSELF. Under previous divisions we have had in mind the macrocosm, the whole world of things and people. Now we have in mind the microcosm, the limited sphere of the individual life. And the personal element so seriously influences a man that it takes a whole long life before an adequate impression of the absolute righteousness of God can be gained. And yet it is there, in every man's life. To see it, and live in the joy of it, is heaven.—R.T.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
God's greatness, goodness, and glory.
"Every one who repeats the Tehillah of David thrice a day, may be sure that he is a child of the world to come."
I. GOD'S GREATNESS. (Psalms 145:1-6.)
1. Unsearchable. (Psalms 145:3.) No searching can reach its bottom (Isaiah 40:28; Job 11:7).
2. It is, nevertheless, being continually revealed in history. (Psalms 145:4.) One generation declares it to another, through all the successive ages.
3. That which is so great and manifest cannot but be spoken of and honored. (Psalms 145:5, Psalms 145:6.) The eternally great things of God, revealed to our consciousness, cannot be regarded in silence.
II. THE GOODNESS OR LOVE OF GOD. (Psalms 145:7-10.)
1. It is full of compassionate tenderness towards the needy and sinful. (Psalms 145:8.) "Wrath is only the background of his nature, which he reluctantly, and only after long waiting, lets loose against those who spurn his great mercy."
2. God's righteousness and love embrace all his creatures, whatever their character. (Psalms 145:7, Psalms 145:9.) All must praise God; but the saints will bless God with their grateful love.
III. THE GLORY OF GOD'S KINGDOM. (Psalms 145:11-13.)
1. It is a kingdom of power and majesty. God will at length accomplish all his will and all his purpose.
2. It's an everlasting universal kingdom. (Psalms 145:13.) All things in heaven and on earth, and throughout the whole universe, shall forever and ever reflect and accomplish the infinite plan and purpose of God.
IV. THE GLORY OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE. (Psalms 145:14-21.)
1. He supports the weak and falling. (Psalms 145:14.)
2. He provides for the wants of all beings, great and small. (Psalms 145:15, Psalms 145:16.)
3. He is righteous and holy in all his gifts. (Psalms 145:17.)
4. He is near to all who truly pray, and will accomplish their salvation. (Psalms 145:18-20.)—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 145". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany