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THE forty-first psalm completes the first book of the Psalter. All the psalms contained in it are assigned to David by the titles, except Psalms 1:1-6; Psalms 2:1-12; Psalms 10:1-18; Psalms 33:1-22. The present psalm is closely connected with the other psalms of the concluding group (Psalm 38-41.), which seem to have been all composed a little before, during, or just after the revolt of Absalom. It consists of an introduction (Psalms 33:1-3), respecting the blessedness of those who "consider the poor;" a bitter complaint against his enemies generally, and one enemy in particular (Psalms 33:4-9); and a conclusion, in which prayer and an expression of confident hope are united (Psalms 33:10-12). The concluding paragraph (Psalms 33:13) is no part of the psalm, but a mark of division between book 1. and book it. (compare the terminations of Psalms 72:1-20; Psalms 89:1-52; Psalms 106:1-48.). Metrically, the psalm is remarkably regular, since it consists of four stanzas, each of three verses.
Blessed is he that considereth the poor. David had concluded the preceding psalm by calling himself "poor and needy." He commences the present one by pronouncing a blessing on all those who "consider," or tenderly regard, and, so far as they can, assist the peer and afflicted. It is not so much actual poverty, as humiliation and weakness, of which he is speaking. The Lord will deliver him in time of trouble; literally, in the day of evil. As he has pity on his fellow-men, so God will have pity upon him (comp. Matthew 6:14, Matthew 6:15; Matthew 10:42; Matthew 18:33; Proverbs 19:17; Ecclesiastes 11:1, etc.).
The Lord will preserve him, and keep him alive. Continuance in life is always regarded as a blessing in the Old Testament; it is only in the New that to "depart, and be with Christ," is pronounced "far better" (Philippians 1:23). And he shall be blessed upon the earth; i.e. his long life shall be a happy one. And thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies; rather, as in the margin, do not thou deliver him (comp. Psalms 27:12; Psalms 74:19). The psalmist changes from dogmatic assertion to prayer, not, however, intending to express any doubt that his prayer will be granted.
The Lord will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing. If he falls into a sickness, God will support him through it. Thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness; literally, thou wilt turn all his bed; i.e. rearrange it, turn its cushions, make it such that he can comfortably lie on it (see Kay, who quotes Bellarmine). Others understand, "Thou wilt change his couch from one of sickness to one of convalescence."
I said; rather, as for me, I said. The writer pointedly marks that he turns here from considering the blessedness of the compassionate man to contemplation of his own case—his afflictions and sufferings. Lord, be merciful unto me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee. The worst of all his woes—the root and origin of them all—fons et origo mall, is his own sinfulness. Unless that is cured, all other alleviation is vain. Hence, after the first general cry for mercy, he goes to the root of the matter, "Heal my soul." There, within me, in the depths of my nature, is the worst malady. Heal that, and soon all will be well with me.
Mine enemies speak evil of me. Another head of suffering, viz. misrepresentation, calumny, abuse, on the part of enemies. Absalom had stolen away the hearts of the children of Israel from David by misrepresenting him (2 Samuel 15:3, 2 Samuel 15:4). Shimei had followed the example, adding to his misrepresentation abuse and cursing (2 Samuel 16:5-8). Absalom's aiders and abettors generally, no doubt, joined in the chorus. This, then, is David's second subject of complaint, and one that he felt keenly—his enemies spoke evil of him. Farther, they desired and anticipated his death. When (they said) shall he die, and his name perish? David evidently was, or had been, when his enemies thus spoke, on the bed of sickness, prostrate, and in danger of his life. While he thus suffered, they rejoiced, expecting his early demise. When he was dead, they intended that his name should "perish;" i.e. that his memory should be utterly rooted out.
And if he come to see me, he speaketh vanity; rather, he speaketh falsehood (see the comment on Psalms 12:2). It is suggested that Ahithophel is especially aimed at. But there is no proof of this. All the enemies are probably intended, only distributively instead of collectively. His heart gathereth iniquity to itself. Dr. Kay's comment is, "He makes a show of friendship, using hollow compliments; but he is treasuring up every expression as material for misrepresentation." When he goeth abroad, he telleth it. He reports what he has seen and heard, but untruly.
All that hate me whisper together against me; i.e. gather themselves into knots, and hold whispered conversations about me—as conspirators are apt to do. Against me do they devise my hurt; literally, hurt to me.
An evil disease (literally, a thing of Belial), say they, cleaveth fast unto him. (On the meaning of "Belial," see the comment on Psalms 18:4.) The "thing of Belial" here intended may, perhaps, be the disease from which David was suffering, but is more probably some disgraceful charge or infamous calumny which had been circulated concerning him, and was now crushing him down. This calumny is represented as poured out upon him like a coating of molten metal (see Job 41:23, Job 41:24), and so cleaving to him. And now that he lieth; i.e. "now that he is prostrate upon a sick-bed." He shall rise up no more. He shall not recover, but die of his malady.
Yea, mine own familiar friend (literally, the man of my peace), in whom I trusted. Here Ahithophel is almost certainly intended. He is called "the man of my peace," since he was one of David's official counsellors (2 Samuel 15:12), and consequently on the most friendly terms with him (comp. Psalms 55:13, Psalms 55:14). Which did eat of my bread. At Oriental courts, the king's counsellors, together with many other members of the court, habitually" eat at the king's table". Hath lifted up his heel against me. (For Ahithophel's defection from David, and share in Absalom's conspiracy, see 2 Samuel 15:12, 2 Samuel 15:31; 2 Samuel 16:15-23; 2 Samuel 17:1-23.) His conduct is here compared to that of a vicious horse, which kicks his own master. (For the relation of type and antitype between Ahithophel and Judas, see John 15:18.)
But thou, O Lord, be merciful unto me (comp. Psalms 41:4). The writer passes from complaint to prayer, and once more calls on God to deliver him. And raise me up. Falsify the prediction of my enemies (Psalms 41:8); raise me up from my sick-bed, and re-establish me in a position of authority. That I may requite them. This was not private revenge, but David's duty as a king (Romans 13:4).
By this I know that thou favourest me; or, delightest in me (comp. Psalms 18:19; Psalms 22:8; 2 Samuel 15:26). Because mine enemy doth not triumph over me. David's enemies had not triumphed over him, and he felt assured that they would not be allowed to triumph. This assurance was so strong that he could make it an argument on which to ground his belief that God" delighted in him." David argues from effect to cause.
And as for me, thou upholdest me in mine integrity (comp. Psalms 26:1, and the comment ad loc.). And settest me before thy face for ever. So that there falls upon me the light of thy countenance (comp. Psalms 4:6). The expression, "for ever," is remarkable in this connection, and may be fairly taken as indicating a hope of immortality (comp. Psalms 16:11; Psalms 17:15; Psalms 23:6; Psalms 30:12).
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel from everlasting and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen. A similar doxology occurs at the end of Psalms 72:1-20; Psalms 89:1-52; Psalms 106:1-48; not (apparently) as part of the psalm to which it is attached, but as a mark of pause and separation. The Psalter is thus divided into five books.
"Blessed is he that considereth the poor." A double blessing waits for those who are worthy of it, in these words—a blessing of heaven above, and a blessing of the deep that lieth under. As Holy Writ,-they utter a Divine promise; as the voice of human experience, they breathe heart-felt gratitude. They are "the blessing of him that was ready to perish." This word "poor" is not to be restricted to what we specially call "poverty." It sometimes has that sense (e.g. Exodus 23:3), but also means "weak, miserable, downcast." The psalm expressly refers to bodily sickness and weakness, aggravated by the heartless cruelty of false friends. Consider
(1) the reasons, and
(2) the nature, of this blessing.
I. THE REASON OF THE BLESSING.
1. Considerate sympathy, helpful compassion for the needy, weak, or suffering, is "blessed," because it is a feature of likeness to God. it is "the mind which was in Christ Jesus." See the Divine example and the practical inference (1 John 3:16, 1 John 3:17). When our Lord rebuked the hypocrisy' of Judas (" not that he cared for the poor ), he took care to add, "The poor always ye have with you" (John 12:8). St. James keenly satirizes the mock charity in which words are not coupled with deeds (James 3:15, James 3:16). Compassion for the poor runs through the Bible. Care for the poor, for widows, etc; was one of the earliest and most sacred cares of the primitive Church. Our innumerable hospitals and asylums of all kinds receive munificent support from many who lay no claim to Christian faith; yet they rove their deep and sure root in Christian sympathy. They arc among those blessings which "Religion scatters on her march to immortality" (Robert Hall). Two of the main forms of human suffering are specially set before us in these words—poverty and sickness. Poverty begins where plenty ends. A man is not to be counted "poor" because he dwells in a cottage, lives simply, dresses plainly, earns his children's bread by the sweat of his brow, as long as his work is healthy, his food plentiful and wholesome, and he can keep out of debt, and have a little to give to God's work and to a needy neighbour. But when strength is overtasked, when toil and thrift cannot keep the wolf from the door, and work fails or health breaks down, and the question has to be faced how long the home can be kept together,—then, indeed, poverty is felt to be one of the bitterest forms of the curse which sin has brought into human life. For though this cruel form of suffering often falls on those who have not themselves to blame for it, somebody is to blame, or society is to blame. Trace it to its deepest root, and you shall find sin. And then it is that the pitiful eye of the All-giver rests on that darkened home, and his voice says, "Blessed is he that considereth the poor." Sickness often comes as the direct fruit of poverty. Often they terribly aggravate one another's burden. It would be a heart-rending sight to see all the sick-beds in a nation, or even in a single city; but a blessed and heavenly sight if we could see all the tender sympathy, self-sacrificing love, sleepless, patient labour, self-devoted skill, which sickness is hourly calling forth. None tread closer than the nurse and the physician in the earthly footsteps of him who "went about doing good." What a hard, selfish world, one imagines, this would become, were there no self-denying ministry to the helpless and suffering! So God brings good out of evil, and "blesses him that considereth the poor." Note the tender promise, verse 3, Authorized Version, which, I doubt not, is the true sense.
2. There is justice as well as mercy in this claim, enforced not only by Christ's example, but by his Law (Galatians 6:2). True, both poverty and disease are largely the direct result of sloth, intemperance, dishonesty, neglect, or other vices and follies—sin's wages. Yet even in these cases the heavy end of the burden very often falls on innocent shoulders. And in multitudes of cases these calamities come on those who have done their best. They fought bravely, but the battle of life went against them. The causes may lie far back in the past—in bad laws, misgovernment, wars, wasteful expenditure; or in trade disputes; or in far-off lands, by the failure of a crop or the origin of a pestilence. Then, since the poor and the sick are so largely the victims of the mistakes, follies, or crimes of society, nations, mankind; nay, even suffer often from the very causes by which others grow rich,—is it not simple justice that those for whom the great wheel of life is spinning a smooth and golden thread should step in to lift their burden," as good stewards of the manifold grace of God"?
II. THE NATURE OF THE BLESSING HERE PRONOUNCED.
1. One of the greatest of all blessings is to be like God (Matthew 5:45).
2. It is blessed to be God's almoner (Matthew 10:8).
3. The sweetest happiness is to make others happy.
4. it is blessed to have a place in the prayers of God's afflicted children. Perhaps, if the balance could be struck, it would not be always where the giver expects; he may be more a debtor to their prayers than a creditor by his gifts.
5. After all this, it seems an over-measure of repayment to speak of any future recompense; yet our Saviour does (Luke 14:14; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; Matthew 10:42).
HOMILIES BY C. CLEMANCE
The poor man's charter; or, a blessing pronounced on the benevolent.
Though there is no sufficient reason to question the accuracy of the title of this psalm, yet the blessing here pronounced on benevolent souls is entirely independent of its human penman. The two key-words in the first verse—"considereth" and "the poor"—are words of very wide significance. The first would mean "he who takes a kindly, continuous, intelligent interest in, and who cherishes a tender sympathy for, them; and the word "poor" would include the weak, sick, insignificant, impoverished, wretched, and unfortunate—even the debtor and the slave. Now, we are so accustomed to such kindly thoughts for the helpless, that we often come to regard care for the poor as one of the "ordinary virtues of humanity;" yet such is very, very far from being the case. Where the light of Divine revelation has not shone, it is no social sin, in the estimation of men, to trample on the poor. £ Thus the merciful consideration for "the poor, the fatherless, and the widow," shown in the Law of Moses, £ marked an immense uplifting in legislation; while the continuation of this same philanthropy, on religious grounds, was made of so much account by the prophets, that if it was neglected, men's external worship was an offence in the sight of God (Isa 50:1-11 :17; Isaiah 10:1, Isaiah 10:2; Isaiah 3:14; Isaiah 58:5-11; Jeremiah 22:3; Amos 2:6). The Lord Jesus Christ confirmed all this by his precepts, illustrated it by his life, and actually deems it of so much importance that, looking onward to the time when he shall be the Judge of all the nations, he declares that, according as men have attended to his poor or not, will be the stupendous distance between a "Come, ye blessed!" and a "Depart, ye cursed!", (Matthew 25:31-46). Hence the theme before us now is one that is vitally bound up with the essentials of true religion and of acceptable worship to God, so that we have the warrant of the entire Scriptures for dealing with this blessing, which is here pronounced on the benevolent, as being not only the words of David, but a continuous utterance of Divine revelation from beginning to end. Hence it would wonderfully enlarge and strengthen the basis of such an appeal as this verse suggests, to combine with it the two benedictions in Matthew 5:7 and Matthew 25:34, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy;" "Come, ye blessed of my Father!"
I. THE REVEALED WILL OF GOD SHOWS US HOW TRULY MAN IS THE OBJECT OF A. DIVINE REGARD. No one can study intelligently the book of God and compare it with the pagan estimate of human nature, without being struck with the amazing contrast between heathenism and Christianity, and, indeed, between heathenism and Hebraism. Often, indeed, both Moses and Christ are accused of indifference to the lot of the slave, because neither of them overthrew slavery with a single thrust; but they did a better and a nobler thing—they dropped those seeds of thought concerning man's dignity, concerning men's relation to God and to each other, that, in springing up and bearing fruit, would cause slavery to fall most utterly, never to rise again. And, even now, the kindly thoughts of and for us which pervade the book, given in germ in the Law of Moses, and in ripest form in the Epistles of St. John, are such that when they take effect in human hearts and lives, they turn selfishness to love; and if such, effect were to be universal, we should have a Paradise below! A common Fatherhood is over all; hence a common brotherhood should bind all in one. "There is no respect of persons with God." To despise the poor, to turn aside the right of a man before the face of the Most High, the Lord approveth not. And this pure leaven of the kingdom is gradually diffusing itself through the race, and will, till the care of God for us all comes to be mirrored in our care for each other.
II. WHEN AND WHERE GOD'S CARE FOR MAN AS MAN IS UNDERSTOOD AND COPIED, THERE WILL SPRING UP PRACTICAL BENEVOLENCE; and this will take effect in every form in which such kindness can be shown. The special feature noted here is that of "considering the poor," which would involve a looking out for cases in which we can render aid of any kind whatever; and when such cases are before us, making them the objects of our deep interest and practical concern. Briefly we may set these under four heads. We should be ready and ever
(1) anxious to be helps everywhere;
(2) anxious to help men for Christ's sake;
(3) anxiously caring for men as men, either because Christ died for them, or because Christ lives in them; and
(4) anxiously seeking out the cases of special sorrow and distress, that we may cheer the suffering and the sad. £
III. ON THOSE WHO LIVE A LIFE OF SUCH PRACTICAL BENEVOLENCE FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, THERE IS A BLESSING PRONOUNCED. It will be the blessing of both the Father and of the Son, yea, and of the Spirit too. The Spirit; for he pronounces it in the inbreathing of these sacred words. The Son; for he proclaims it now, as our Teacher, in the Sermon on the Mount, and will pronounce it, as Judge, at last. The Father; for the very words of the blessing which the Son pronounces are, "Ye blessed of my Father." In this love he blesses specially all whose love is the reflex of his own. And the people's blessing will attend him who lives to bless the people; in such a case, in a high and holy sense, "vex populi, vox Dei."
IV. THE BLESSING OF HEAVEN ON THOSE WHO LIVE TO BLESS OTHERS IS DIVINELY RICH AND FULL. What does it involve?
1. Divine approval; for God's heart of love has diffused its own glow of sympathy within.
2. The heart of the Lord Jesus is touched; for he feels kindness done to others for his sake as done to him. Wonderful, indeed, is his "Inasmuch."
3. Those who love like Jesus will find their home with him. How inspiring are the words, "Come, ye blessed of my Father"!
4. There will be the recompense of "a kingdom prepared." Oh, how infinitely do the recompenses of abounding grace outweigh any little acts of kindness the saints may have shown to the poor of Christ! Only "grace" can account for a reward so large.
V. OF SUCH IMPORTANCE IS THIS LIFE OF SERVICE FOR OTHERS THAT, APART FROM IT, ALL RELIGIOUS FORM IS EMPTY AND VAIN. To call Christ "Lord, Lord," and then to disregard his injunctions, will be of no use. Note: Here are three lessons urgently calling for enforcement.
1. Let the agnostic and positivist, who are calling out for a religion that means "living for others," see if they have not here the religion for which they call, and which is only waiting for its professors to act up to it, to revolutionize the world.
2. Let but the spirit of the text inspire man universally, and all struggles and alienation between class and class would forthwith cease.
3. Let some who have given disproportionate attention to doctrine, and who have paid too little heed to life and love, aim at a readjustment. We want doctrine and life; not one without the other.
4. Let Christian Churches learn that if they would commend themselves to the age, they must live to serve the age, by holy thought, pure living, and manifested love I
5. Let us thank God with all our hearts for the ameliorating influence on the lot of man, of this Divine command to care for others; e.g. homes, refuges, hospitals, etc.—C.
Psalms 41:4, Psalms 41:10
Ill treated by man, he flees to God.
(Cf. homilies on Psalms 7:1-17; Psalms 17:1-15. div. II; Psalms 26:1-12. div. III; Psalms 39:1-13, div. I. Psa 4:1-8.)—C.
David suffers from
The harshness and treachery of men.
(Cf. homilies on Psalms 12:1-8; Psalms 17:1-15. div. I; Psalms 26:1-12. div. H.)—C.
Here is an instance of
Very special treachery,
which would be regarded as black indeed in the light of Oriental hospitality. Yet he who was in all points tempted like as we are, endured treachery viler still. To this reference is made in John 13:18. The note of Bishop Perowne hereon is so truly helpful, that we quote it in full below) £—C.
He prays against his enemies.
(Cf. homily on Psalms 35:1-28.)—C.
The doxology of the Hebrew Church.
This doxology does not appear to be a part of the psalm to which it is annexed. The Psalms are divided into five books. The first book closes with the forty-first psalm. In all probability this was the earliest portion of the songs of the Hebrew sanctuary; and when made up (as we should say) into a volume, the collator added thereto a doxology—as was done also at the end of Psalms 72:1-20; Psalms 89:1-52; and 106. Perhaps the omission of any doxology after Psalms 150:1-6. is because that psalm is entirely one of praise. We have no information as to the name of the collator, nor as to the date at which this first division of the Psalms was made up, and the doxology appended thereto. But, nevertheless, it is of no small interest, and ought to convey no mean instruction; showing us, as it does, most strikingly what jubilation resulted from revelation. In pagan worship there is no delight in God; there is dread, there is homage to greatness, there is even thankfulness for a good harvest; but as for delight in God as God, there is none, and can be none, save where God has revealed himself; nor can there be any delight in adoring the Unknown, nor in the positivist's worship of humanity. Religious worship, as glad and jubilant, belongs only to those to whom God is known; paganism, whether in ancient or modern days, knows no such songs of delight or ascriptions of loving praise as those which rise up from the lips and hearts of the saints of God.
I. GOD, AS THE REVEALED GOD OF OUR SALVATION, IS THE FITTING OBJECT OF GLADSOME SONG. The declared name of God would yield delight to pious souls (Exodus 34:6, Exodus 34:7). The various terms added to the covenant name Jehovah show how the saints rejoiced in God: Jehovah-jireh, Jehovah-rophi, Jehovah-nisei, Jehovah-tsidkenu. Many expressions in the Psalms show what God was to his people—Rock, Fortress, Light, Strength, Refuge, their exceeding Joy, their Deliverer, their Sun, their Shield, pitying as a father, gentle and comforting as a mother, One who put beneath his people "everlasting arms." Well might their joy rise to songs of rapturous delight—as in Deuteronomy 32:26-29. This joy in God would arise
(1) from what God is in himself—as a God of power, wisdom, loving-kindness, faithfulness, pity, and love; and also
(2) from what he declared himself to be as Israel's God—giving pardon, help, strength, guidance, light, salvation. And now that, through the larger Scriptures, through the Person of Christ, and through the baptism of the Holy Ghost, our knowledge is so much the larger, our joy should be proportionately greater, and our songs the louder and sweeter, rising to such heights as Ephesians 3:20, Eph 3:21; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Revelation 1:5, Revelation 1:6; Revelation 5:9-13; Revelation 7:10; Revelation 15:3.
II. THE GLADSOME PRAISE OF THE SAINTS IS THE BEFITTING RESPONSE TO GOD'S REVELATION OF HIMSELF. "Blessed be," etc. Here believers have a changeless Object of delight. "From everlasting to everlasting." "The same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever." The response of believers to the revelation of so glorious a Being may be looked at in two ways.
1. As that which God desires to evoke by revealing himself. God, being love, yearns to be loved. Divine love yearns for its object to respond, even as our need yearns for a Being to meet that need.
2. With the Divine revelation of himself there is a power working in and on human souls, whereby such response is elicited. A mighty host of believers, whom their God has rescued from darkness and death, are now exulting in songs of praise to the God of their salvation, acknowledging that all good is from him, that all their trust is reposed on him, that all their love centres round him, that all their strength is derived from him, and that all their hopes are fixed on him; they know that he will never leave them nor forsake them. Yea, it is the revelation of a redeeming God to which we owe the happiest hearts, the noblest songs, the grandest music, and the highest inspiration. And this song will never die. First on earth, and then in heaven, the sacred will ascribe all honour to their God; while the vast redeemed host will never cease to add their grand "Amen." £—C.
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
here may be a good time coming, when the poor will cease out of the land; but it is not yet. The state of things in our day is much the same as in the past. God has always shown his care for the poor. Under the Law of Moses, special provisions were made for their help (cf. Deuteronomy 15:7-11). Besides this, there were manifold exhortations in the Psalms and prophets tending to foster a spirit of love and brotherhood. The duty of kindness to the poor is inculcated still more clearly and forcibly under the gospel. The Jews are remarkable for their charities, but they limit their care chiefly to their own poor. Christians are called to act in a more generous spirit. While we are bound to have special regard to the poor of our own blood and faith, we must not restrict our charity to them; but "do good to all" as we have opportunity, after the example and teaching of our blessed Lord. We may make use of this psalm to illustrate—
I. THE DUTY OF CARING FOR THE POOR. (Verse 1.) "Considereth." This implies thought, insight, and practical brotherly kindness. The very fact that there are so many "poor" should arrest our attention. Surely there must be great wrong somewhere, or there could not be such inequalities and miseries. The more closely we look into the matter, the more will it be impressed upon us that we are bound to take part in remedying the evil. Circumstances and needs vary. Indiscriminate charity is bad. We cannot relieve all. Our powers are limited. We need, therefore, to act circumspectly. But whatever we do should be done in the spirit of love. Consideration without sympathy is torture (James 2:15, Jas 2:16; 1 John 3:17; Romans 12:10).
II. THE BLESSING PROMISED.
1. The blessing is first to the man himself. We cannot do good without being the better for it. Every act of true self-denial and love raises us in dignity and strength. We are "blessed in our deed" (James 1:25-27).
2. There is also the blessing of the poor. We have helped them in the time of need. They feel that they have not been forsaken. They have still brothers and sisters who care for them, and they are grateful. It is better to have the confidence of the poor than their contempt; their gratitude than their hate; their prayers than their curses. Remember Job (Job 29:12).
3. Besides all this, there is the blessing of God. He is the God of the poor. He marks their state. He defends their rights. He provides for their relief. He counts what is done to them as if it were done to himself. The law and order of God in the world secure that a blessing will surely come to him who "considereth the poor."
III. THE DIFFICULTIES AND ENCOURAGEMENTS. We have not only the abstract, but the concrete. The doctrine is translated into fact. It seems as if the psalmist had been bringing the word home. Let each of us put himself in his place. Then we may not only consider the poor, but consider ourselves with regard to the poor. What are we, what have we done, and what has been the result? In this case there will be:
1. Consciousness of great shortcomings in love and duty. We have not done what we could, and what we have done we have done weakly and imperfectly. Pride and vanity and other unlovely things have mixed themselves with our best endeavours. Men may praise us, but before God we are grievous sinners.
2. There will also be disappointments. We should "do good, hoping for nothing again;" but few of us are so disinterested. Besides, it is reasonable to consider results. Perhaps we have "enemies," who misrepresent what we do. Or, worse still, there may be people who come to us in the guise of friendship, and profess to inquire as to what we have done—as to our plans and endeavours, and, finding out the secrets of our life, turn their knowledge to base uses. Instead of truth, they spread falsehoods. Instead of giving sympathy, they exaggerate our failures, and prate maliciously of our troubles. But there may be even a worse trial still. Our familiar friend, in whom we trusted, may turn against us (verse 9). Amidst all such difficulties there is always encouragement. We turn to God, and find comfort. We know what he is, and what he would have us to be. We know that he will surely perform his word, and that if we are true, and honestly try to do our duty towards others, and especially the poor, we shall in no wise lose our reward.
Learn a lesson of humility, as we think of our own sins, and ill deserts; of gratitude, when we remember God's goodness to ourselves; of charity, as we consider the evil ease of many of our brethren, and their claim upon us, if we are of the same mind with Christ, to help them as we can.
"The holy supper is kept indeed,
In whatso we share with another's need;
Not what we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare.
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three—
Himself, his hungering brother, and me."
This passage may suggest to us some thoughts as to influence. We have all the power of influencing others for good or for evil. This is the necessary result of our being and relationships. Our chief influence will be upon those with whom we are most closely associated; but we also influence others, often unconsciously. You cannot pay a visit, or reside for a short time in a district, without making some impression upon those you meet, and leaving them the better or the worse for having known you. There are differences as to the way people judge. Some over-estimate themselves. They have a high opinion of their own importance. You might think, from the way they talk, that the world could not get on without them. Others under-estimate themselves. They are poor, and think they can do nothing. They are modest and humble-minded, and set little value on what they can effect. Or it may be they have met with disappointments and reverses, and have lost hope. They have laboured in vain, and have not the heart to try again. It is well to remember that we have this awful power of influencing others, and while we confess our responsibility, we should be careful so to live and act as that our influence shall be for good, and not for evil; a blessing, and not a curse. How is this to be secured?
I. BY LIVING NEAR TO GOD. It is as God is merciful to us, and raises us up, bringing us nearer to himself, that we are able to "requite" others, not after the desire of our own evil hearts, but after the loving way of God (Psalms 41:10; Matthew 5:45-48). Pray God, that he may set you "before his face" (Psalms 41:13), and then as you receive his grace, you will reflect his goodness; as you rejoice in the light of his presence, you will bring sunshine into many a shady place, and hope to many a troubled heart.
II. BY HAVING A HIGH STANDARD OF DUTY. We must not make custom, or convenience, or the etiquette of the world, our rule, but we must learn the "perfect will of God" from Christ. The more loyal we are to our highest ideals, the more shall we gain of moral force, and the greater will be our power of doing good to others. Character settles influence. It is the salt that is good, and not the salt that has lost its savour, that is fit for use. It is the man who has the Spirit of Christ, and not the man who minds earthly things, who is the greatest force in the world. How weak was Lot as compared with Abraham!
III. BY DOING OUR WORK FAITHFULLY IN OUR SEVERAL PLACES. People are influenced more by what others do than by what they say. Example is better than precept. If there be a man of undoubted "integrity," he is not only respected, but his daily life has a salutary effect upon those with whom he is associated. It is the man we trust that we are disposed to follow. How many are there who do their duty quietly and unobtrusively, and who are never heard or' far from home, who yet prove a blessing in the society with which they are connected! Their lives are prayers towards God, and powers for good towards men. Virtue goes out of them, even when they know it not. God's favour is upon them, and they grow in favour with men.
IV. BY CULTIVATION OF THE SPIRIT OF BROTHERLY KINDNESS AND LOVE. Much depends upon the spirit that is in us, because our spirit determines our actions, and our actions are seen of men, and have their effect upon their minds. If we are proud and selfish, we cannot win the hearts of others. But if we are self-forgetful and kind, our influence will be beneficial. There are some who try to do good, but hold themselves aloof, and their efforts are of little avail. Let us strive, therefore, to follow Christ (John 13:12-15) humbly, lovingly, patiently, doing good as we have opportunity, and, above all, living ourselves according to the law of godliness, and let us leave results with God.—W.F.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
The aggravation and consolation of bodily affliction.
Written by some mighty man, probably by David, on his recovery from an affliction during which conspiracy and slander had been active against him. It may refer to the time of Absalom; and the "familiar friend" may have been Ahithophel.
I. THE AGGRAVATIONS OF BODILY AFFLICTION.
1. The consciousness of guilt. (Psalms 41:4 :.) But he was penitent, and prayed for forgiveness and spiritual healing.
2. The malicious conduct of enemies and false friends. (Psalms 41:5-9.) At a time when we are little able to contend against them.
II. THE CONSOLATIONS OF AFFLICTION.
1. That he had himself sympathized with sufferers. (Psalms 41:1.) He had not been like the enemies and false friends whom he describes, but had been a true friend to the weak and afflicted.
2. He is assured on this account of the Divine sympathy and deliverance. (Psalms 41:1-3.) The merciful are blessed in receiving mercy.
3. He has already received tokens of the deliverance for which he is looking. (Psalms 41:11, Psalms 41:12.) His enemy has not triumphed over him. God has upheld him in general right conduct or integrity. He does not forget his particular sins (Psalms 41:4); but he is conscious also of living in the sight of the Divine countenance, and receiving Divine help.—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 41". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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